Act 1: Chapter 2, Part 3

Posted on April 02, 2017

In Which Megan Rings That Bell

Megan. First Day of School. Who Even Knows What Time It Is?

“So I hear your dad’s an officer of the Pacific India Company?” Chris said after a moment of companionable silence. “What’s that all about?”

Megan had to laugh again. She couldn’t help it. “You hear? Just now from Lauren, yeah?”

“I mean, I don’t want to divulge my sources,” Chris replied, a twinkle in his beautiful eyes.

This didn’t help the uncontrollable laughter; after several moments of giggling, she managed to compose herself enough to say, “Of course, that’s fair. You wouldn’t want to compromise their decisions. The Russians have eyes everywhere.”

This in turn took Chris off guard, forcing several peals of laughter out of him, genuine and joyous. “The Cold War ended before we were born! Who are you, Anastasia Nikolaevna reincarnate?”

Megan slowed, staring at him, baffled and impressed. “I don’t know who that is, sorry.”

“Oh, uh, Princess Anastasia from that animated movie? The one you’d think was Disney but it’s not? Only she disappeared or was murdered or something in real life.” He gave a lazy wave of one hand. “I just have a knack for learning names, I don’t know that much about her. Or Russia, for that matter.”

“Really?” she said, studying him, intrigued. “Is it true then that you’re planning on learning the name of every kid in the school by the solstice?”

That got another big laugh from him. “By Solstice? By Solstice I’ll have learned everyone’s name whether I try or not. By Halloween. Even that’ll only take a mild effort.”

“That’s really impressive,” Megan said, absolutely sincere.

“It’s just a thing,” he said, raising one palm upward. “I wish I could apply it to my math studies. It doesn’t even work as well with memorizing, like, the names of different species of birds or foreign language vocabulary. It’s literally just people’s names.”

“Still useful, though. It’s so embarrassing to forget someone’s name who you’ve met before,” Megan said.

Chris nodded. “I suppose that could be. Though, like, people shouldn’t beat themselves up about it. I have a hard time remembering plenty of stuff. It can’t hurt to ask again.”

“I guess.” Megan couldn’t contain her curiosity. “So you’re in Freshman Lit. So you’re a freshman?”

“Do I look sixteen?” Chris asked. “Just an old, wrinkly upperclassman already, am I?” He grinned as he said it.

She whacked him playfully on the arm. “Don’t be silly! I couldn’t be sure. You’re really muscular!” She said it without thinking about it, then felt blood rush to her face immediately as she realized what she’d said.

By the grace of the Powers Above and in spite of the Powers Below, he didn’t seem to notice her turn pink. He instead looked thoughtful, as if this was new information he had to consider. “Yeah,” he said after a bit of a pause, “that’s true. That’s what ten plus years of combat training gets you.”

That should have been a braggy statement, but he clearly wasn’t intending to brag. It was just a statement of fact. Megan looked at him with continued wonder.

They were approaching the hall their class was in. “Anyway,” Chris said with a shrug. “Yup. Freshman, as charged.”

“Um.” Megan had to gather her thoughts, and found herself pausing. He went a couple more steps, then turned around to look at her. “That makes you our class’s official Light Bearer. There wasn’t one before. Each of the upper classes has one, we were the odd class out. You’ve come to our rescue.” She smiled as she said that, liking the image.

He nodded appreciatively. “Good to know. I’ll have to touch bases with the others, get a sense of their normal turf.” He tilted his head toward the building. “We better keep walking.

“Oh, sure.” As Megan jolted into motion, her overwhelming sense of wonder continued. “You… um. You’ve gone out hunting.”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Most nights since I turned fifteen back in June.”  

“Get out!” Megan’s head whipped toward him, amazement spiking into her wonder. He was younger than her! “You didn’t turn fifteen until June?”

Yup,” he said, his tone wryly glum. “June 19th. I’m almost definitely the youngest person in our year.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Megan cried, stopping and spinning toward him and leaning in, absolutely blown away. “The fucking 19th! Are you for serious?! Interrobang?!”

“Ye-yes? Interro-?” Chris said, giving her ground by a step and a significant amount of side eye, as he was still facing fully forward and had stepped directly sideways, his movements like a dancer’s. Or a swordsman’s.

Megan was completely stunned, considering the implications. “Five? Five of us. Oh my Powers. Five. Or four? Maybe Ryan’s…” she trailed off, and realized she was just staring into his gorgeous eyes and had totally lost her train of thought.

“What, and pardon my Français here, the fuck are you talking about?” Chris’s voice was deceptively mild, belying his language, as he turned to face her, rotating his body while keeping his gaze fixed on her.

Megan’s eyes unfocused, her hand rose and clutched the solid silver bell on the copper chain around her neck. “Probably five of us. Four was murky. Five is much clearer. Five Nineteens. Two months apart each.”

Chris blinked. Tilted his head slightly to one side, like a intrigued cat. “You’re shitting me, surely.”

“No! No shit.” She stopped, and breathed, “My friends… I left so they could be three!” Her voice was raising, becoming higher pitched like she hated so much, but she couldn’t help it. “I came back only when you arrived! We are five!” She threw her hands above her head, her voice ringing out like a bell.

She’d torn off her own necklace, raising it too, and when she lowered it gently jingled.

And the school bells rang. They were late.

Evan. First Day of School. Start of Fourth Period.

Settled in his world history class, Evan sneezed and shook his head. He only was offered a couple of gesundheits, as his sneeze had taken place at the same time the bells rang.

Ryan. First Day of School. Start of Fourth Period.

Scoping out the classroom they were about to have English in, Angie and Ryan sneezed simultaneously as the bells rang. Their gazes whipped together, puzzled looks spreading across their features.

In the breath after the bells stopped ringing, they both hiccupped simultaneously.

“Okay, seriously? The fuck was that!?” Ryan said. “Interrobang!?”