Act 1: Chapter 1, Part 3

Posted on March 05, 2017

In Which an Understanding is Reached

Megan. First Day of School. Still a Bit Till School.

Evan glanced at Ryan and Angie again, studied them for a moment—they were both well composed, both watching Megan and Evan, not telegraphing their thoughts or feelings about the situation. He returned his attention to Megan, inhaled noticeably, and then, after a pause, let it back out. “I don’t know what to say, I guess,” he said. “This is weird. I wasn’t prepared for this.”

“It’s okay,” she said, her voice too soft still. “I was, and I don’t know what to say, either. I’ve missed you guys, though.”

He nodded, processing that. “Okay.” He looked her in the eye. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. We missed you too.” Another pause, and he chewed on his lower lip for a second before saying, “It would have been pretty easy for you to not have to miss anyone, though.”

She looked away, closed her eyes as tears threatened to well up again. “I know. I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes still closed.

“So we’re done with that?” he asked, and she opened her eyes again. She couldn’t read him, but that was partially because her vision was blurry.

“I hope so,” she said. He began to frown, and she elaborated. “I mean, yes. From my end. If you guys will forgive me. That’s what I hope.”

“Okay,” he said. A trace of that longing returned to his eyes. “Even if Lauren and her party1 exile you?”

She nodded, a small tilt of her head first, and then more emphatic. “Yes. Absolutely.” She paused. “I was alone most of the summer. We went to Mumbai for Father’s work.” She paused again, searching for the right words. “I realized, in my loneliness, it wasn’t Lauren and the other girls I wanted to see. It was you guys.

“I just…” she glanced at Angie and Ryan. “Ryan put it well, earlier. I was a coward.” Ryan raised an eyebrow and she rushed on, “I mean, he didn’t say that directly, but that’s what he meant. I was scared and I pushed you guys away. I couldn’t deal with… with, with middle school,” she finished. Still wasn’t ready to bring it up in the middle of the street. She hoped they wouldn’t.

Evan considered that. “Scared. Okay.” Slowly, he nodded, “Yeah, middle school sucked. I wouldn’t have wanted to be us in middle school, either. You couldn’t deal with being ostracized, and when they decided we needed to be ostracized, you bailed on us.” As he spoke, a bell started ringing. The trolley was approaching.

The tears returned again, rolling down her face as the trolley hummed by, but she managed not to completely lose it. Looking down at her feet, she said, “Yeah. That’s it. I was a coward.” The trolley hissed to a stop thirty feet away; on the side closer to the school people poured out, almost all of them teenagers, while the people at the stop shuffled on board. “I don’t want to be a coward anymore. I want…” She struggled with words, still not looking at them, the emotions once again wiping all the different speeches she’d thought about over the months out of her mind like cobwebs. “I just want… I want to be your friend again. I want you guys to be my friends again. More than I care about what Lauren thinks.”

She turned her body, stepped back so she was facing them all, looked at them through her tears. “I was always happiest with you guys, when we were kids. Angie’s my- Angie was my best friend.” She looked at Angie as she spoke. “I want that to be true again.”

Angie gazed back at her, the uncertainty and longing on her face not unlike Evan’s. “I would like that,” she said, her voice sad. “But you have to prove it first.”

“I will,” Megan said, her voice steady despite the tears on her face. “Whatever it takes.”

The was another moment of silence, punctuated by the bell of the trolley as it pulled away from the stop. Ryan checked his phone. “Not to be insensitive, but we still have schedules to grab, and this reunion is threatening to make us late. We better get moving.”

“Yeah,” Megan said, as she wiped her face with her hand. At least she hadn’t started snotting again. “We should do that.”

They started walking. Ryan and Angie, still holding hands, moved slightly ahead, and Evan fell into step next to Megan. She glanced at him; he wasn’t looking at her, probably purposefully. “Ryan says I should see you shoot,” she offered.

He glanced at her, and quirked a corner of his lips up. “Yeah, you probably should.”

He failed to continue, so she asked, “You’ve been practicing a lot, I take it?”

“I have scores in the top ten in each category up at Yusei’s, in Kirkland.” he replied. “Um, didn’t mean that to come out like bragging, though.”

She stared at him, impressed. “Seriously? Sacred shit, Evan. Why haven’t I heard about that? Why weren’t you on the Gunner’s team in middle school?”

He gave her a dubious look. “The Gunner’s team? Um. I don’t know that that’s my scene.”

“Evan is definitely still Evan,” Ryan said, glancing over his shoulder.

She put two and two together, and concern crept into her voice despite her desire to be casual about it as she asked, “Okay. You must be getting a license to hunt, then?”

He tilted his head a little bit, his voice and eyes puzzled. “Yeah. Of course. I’m fifteen. I have it already.”

“Oh.” She was quiet for a second. “I didn’t… have you done it yet?”

He shook his head, and sounded annoyed. “I haven’t found anyone willing to take me. I’m not, uhm. I mean, you know. I’m not great at dealing with people. No one in our middle school is—was—focused on it the way I am. At least no one I know about. Ryan is—“

He stopped as Ryan looked over his shoulder again with a furrowed brow. “Sorry Ryan,” Evan said, and shrugged. “Not yet, I guess is the answer.”

He was looking ahead again, pointedly not looking at Megan, and she shifted her gaze between him and Ryan, who had turned forward again and resumed talking quietly with Angie. She was missing something, but she had no idea what. Was he lying? Were he and Ryan hunting together, and that’s how Ryan could afford an iPhone? And they didn’t seem to want to tell her.

There was something going on in their lives they didn’t trust her with. It hurt to realize it, which was totally ridiculous. She hadn’t been a part of their lives as anything other than a painful gap since seventh grade.

Looking for something else to avoid the silence, she decided to go back to the well and started saying, “How’s my li—“ and then stopped herself. Amazing at how easy it was to revert to how she used to talk to Evan. “How’s Cali?” she finished lamely.

He eyed her sideways. “Like a runaway train.” She blinked at him. “She’s happy to no end to not be a Light Bearer. But other than that, she’s impossible to stop or steer, so you better get out of her way.” He shrugged. “For what it’s worth, I really wouldn’t try that old nickname with her if you see her. She took… um, you... everything. She took it at least as hard as any of us. Maybe harder.” He fell silent, but just as she was deciding he wouldn’t go on and that she should say something, he went on. “She really looked up to you. Especially after Virginia was… was gone.”

Megan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There it was. “Fuck,” she said after a long moment, trying not to let herself lose control. Virginia was—had been—Evan and Cali’s older sister. Megan tried to not to think about Virginia.

She could hear Evan’s nod in his voice. “Yeah. I wouldn’t expect much forgiveness or understanding from her. Not right now while she’s still in the thick of it.” ‘It,’ it went without saying, being middle school.

Megan kept her eyes closed, focused on the younger, not the older sister. California. Two years Evan’s junior, she’d been the whole group’s little sister. Megan was an only child, as was Angie, and Ryan obviously didn’t have siblings either. Cute, spunky, and opinionated, Cali had frequently been a part of their activities as children, filling the classic younger sibling roles of sidekick, annoyance, and toy.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, eventually, returning her attention to where she was going.

  • 1. A colloquial term for a group of friends / social circle / clique, derived from hunting, expedition, or delving parties (known collectively as adventuring parties). Used similarly and alternatively to team (as in fireteam), crew (as in the crew that you run (or if upper class, stroll) with), or squad (as in squad goals).