And she had learned that there was a big difference between the brothers. Paul had a kind smile and gentle, almost mournful, eyes. Eyes that melted you. He was a reasonably good football player and a captain of the wrestling team. And he was very good-looking. But unlike most of the jocks, sometimes Paul would talk to her, mostly about sports, and treat her just like any other girl. Paul was a really "cool guy." Chris, who was a year younger than Paul, had steel-cold eyes that always seemed to be looking beyond her. He almost never asked about her basketball and Softball, and he always had a sly grin when he was making conversation with her.
Chris chatted her up, his big smile radiating high spirits and camaraderie. He said to her, C'mon over to the Scherzer house, the guys just want to talk to you. C'mon over, we're going to have a party. Chris's invitation raised a red flag in Leslie's mind: Why would they want to party with me when they always called me retarded?
Chris, never at a loss for a new angle, kept trying. "He said that his brother, Paul, was there," Leslie remembered later. "Chris told me that Paul would go out with me. I like Paul. So I went with Chris."
Gathering up her radio and her basketball, Leslie set out on the three-minute walk to the house. On the way to her "date" with Paul, Chris "walked with me and put his arm around me," Leslie said. "He was like really romantic." When she was asked how Chris made her feel as he accompanied her to the Scherzer house, she replied, "Wonderful."
It was too chilly on the first of March to hold a deck party; it would have to be in the basement.
A group of boys entered 34 Lorraine Street first. Trailing them were Chris and Leslie. Chris opened the door, and Leslie could feel his hand on her back, prodding gently but insistently. In the hall, pegs had been set in the wall, and when the boys took off their red-and-white varsity jackets, they hung them on the pegs. What a rush! Leslie could hang her jacket there, too, just as if she were part of the team.
Chris led her forward, toward the stairs to the basement. On the way she glanced into the kitchen, where she thought she saw the figure of an elderly woman. Chris guided her down the stairs, past the younger kids who were clustered on the steps. As she reached the bottom, Leslie had a view of the entire basement. She had arrived. She was entering the boys' special place, the "clubhouse" of the stars of Glen Ridge.
The room had a musty, wintry feel. It was lit by a dim overhead bulb, turning ruddy outdoor complexions into gray pallor. The athletic trophies awarded over the years to Kyle and Kevin and their two older brothers were displayed on shelves, along with family photos. In one alcove there was a refrigerator. Up against the wall, near the refrigerator, was a broom. Leslie, with her excellent memory for details, would always remember that it was "fire-engine red." In the back of the basement was a shelf under which was a jumble of athletic equipment: basketballs, gloves and baseballs and bats. Quite a few bats, including a fungo bat used for practice.
Leslie would later remember that five boys, all seniors, were already in the basement when she arrived. Among, them was the one she adored—Paul Archer. Others joined them, including sophomore and senior baseball players and, of course, one junior, her friend Chris Archer. Some of them sat or stood on the stairs. A couple of boys huddled around the TV and the Nintendo game. Leslie also saw some of the boys arranging folding chairs in front of the couch. To her, it looked like they were getting ready to "watch a movie." A movie in which she was the star.
Chris leads her to the sofa where another senior heartthrob, Bryant Grober, is sitting. She has seen Bryant play football, and she sometimes passes him in the corridors when she goes to Glen Ridge High for basketball practice. She knows the girls think he is really cute. Sit here, Chris the idea man says, handing her over to Bryant.