1976. Another Saturday night in Eric Foreman's basement.
Steven Hyde sits in the left corner on the dingy fold out chair he faces the television and listens to the static buzz. some commercial about a used car dealership. who gives a crap?
No one can see behind his maroon tinted sunglasses. from a distance, hyde looks like he's staring into space. maybe he is. maybe he’s stoned. he’ll never tell.
Arms cross tight against his chest, feet shoulder width apart. Foot taps against the rug to the beat of a Pink Floyd song, playing softly on the record player. Eric has been teaching fez how to play poker. Hyde glances over at Fez, one hand holding the card, the other knuckle deep in a bag of Swedish Fish. Kelso snores in the adjacent seat, head lolled to the side, drool glistening on the corner of his mouth.
But Jackie? The girl sits behind colored lenses at the forefront of his mind.
Donna and Jackie are having a slumber party. Doing each other's nails, all that preppy shit the boys don't wanna hear about. It doesn't stop hyde from thinking about her.
He recalls her last week. Off to cheer practice, twirling in a short skirt. She wanted to show him her high kick, and he was eager to watch. A part of him wanted to say fuck cheer practice and show me how flexible you are on foreman’s couch. But he let her go. She kissed him on the cheek before leaving. Sticky from too much lip gloss, yet sweet with the scent of bubblegum.
Blink open to the morning, with Jackie curled up in his bed. After Red caught them once, Hyde made sure to listen for footsteps. She was still fast asleep, and he used the side of his thumb to caress her cheek. She looked so peaceful, as if she wasn't a spoiled brat during the day. She was clean, fresh faced. Unlike Kelso, who screamed in agony at the sight, Hyde is partial, almost prefers her without makeup. The girl let out a groan and Hyde draped his arm around her. He couldn't resist. Five more minutes wouldn't hurt anyone.
His last memory feels like the present. She’s in his arms, dancing on prom night. Her head rests on his shoulder, fingers lazily slipped through his own. The ribbon on her corsage matches her lavender dress -- Steven made sure before getting it. He stole the money from his mom’s purse. Her eyes are still puffy, ringed red from crying, and he thinks fuck, she deserves better than Kelso. Someone who gave a damn, someone who would drop everything to see her smile. Those little dimples at the sides of her mouth and eyes as joy overtakes her, in that special Jackie Burkhart way.
He wants to hate it. He wants to hate her -- but he can’t. He doesn't hate her. He more so hates how he can't figure his feelings out.
The phone rings and jolts Kelso out of his nap, jolts Eric and Fez from their game of poker. Unfortunately, Hyde plummets back into reality, away from Jackie. While Kelso reacts with flailing arms, Fez reaches for the phone.
So much for a moment of serenity.
"Hello, this is the phone sex hotline," he grins.
Hyde recognizes the lower octave and grabs the phone from the other boy.
"Donna," he breathes out. "Is Jackie there?"
"Yeah, she's almost done braiding my hair. But after you finish professing your love to her, I wanna talk to Eric."
"Whatever," he grumbles. Is it that obvious?
He recognizes her high-pitched voice, a mixture of nasally and grating that makes him cringe, but can be soft and sultry and make him melt.
When his fist clenches, he cracks it open.
"I need your opinion, Steven," she answers. "Cosmopolitan says it's necessary a girl knows her aura. Donna says my aura is green, but i think it's pink, and everyone knows green is disgusting. Don't you agree my aura is pink?"
Hyde can practically feel her glare through the phone. Eyes that demand to agree, the same eyes that plead to stay a little longer.
"Jackie -- we need to talk about us. Not now. But later, okay?"
A pause. His heart leaps into his throat. He hates it.
"Fine. But you need to answer my question."
He wonders why she always comes to him. He wonders why tonight he came to her.
"If I say pink, do you promise never to talk about Cosmopolitan again?'
It's not like he doesn't care. Well, he doesn't. But as long as they can talk, and he can figure these feelings out. Maybe she'd feel the same way. Maybe she'd get scared and crawl back to Kelso, get freaked out and talk about it with Donna. Either way, she needs to know.
Eventually Fez eats all the Swedish Fish and beats Eric at poker. Kelso gives Fez a ride home. The other two boys get ready for bed, and Hyde wishes Mr. and Mrs. Foreman good night. They had been sitting on the couch. Red had his arm around Kitty, a rare sentimental moment. Domestic life used to make Hyde grimace, but now it provokes a longing that stirs again.
He lies in bed without Jackie by his side, blue eyes still wide. On his back, staring up at the ceiling, he continues reimagining prom night. Their slow dance, her head on his shoulder, fingers intertwined. It still feels like the present when Jackie murmurs something and he dips his head down to hear.
When she repeats it, he doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t need to.
His dreams aren't as empty as his conscience seems to be.