Act 1: Chapter 5, Part 3

Posted on July 09, 2017

In Which Angie Chats With a Butcher

Ryan. First Day of School. After School.

“Okay,” Angie said from beside Ryan on the grass. She’d been talking with a Northern Shrike1 that had flown up a few moments before. “This guy says Evan has headed home maybe. He definitely stormed off campus after talking to first Chris and then Megan.”

“Hmm,” Ryan replied, pondering what the hell had gone wrong now. The day had already been way too eventful, as far as he was concerned.

Then his phone bonged like a gong, indicating a text. Angie’s phone sprayed a string of bird song. The actual bird on her finger chirped something too, and Angie laughed and said, “No, man, that’s my phone. It’s a recording.” A pause, then, “No, a recording. Like, a copy of a noise that you can reproduce at any time.”  

Ryan in the meantime had already read the text, and now interjected, “And Chris has to go do an extra practice with his dad.”

“So Chris saw whatever went down with Evan and Megan, and decided he’d rather stay out of things for a bit,” Angie said.

“Even odds, at least,” Ryan said, nodding. “You still wanna hang?”

Angie was silent for a long moment, then said, “Yeah. Evan’s probably processing. Was a crazy day. He won’t mind if we hang with her some. You can maybe even go home before I do if you want.”

“Sure,” Ryan said. “If Evan’s cool with it.”

“Of course.”

Ryan sent a message to Evan: Mind if we still hang, or want company? Taking you at face value.

“Any guesses?” Angie asked.

“Hard to say,” Ryan replied, eyes still on his phone. “He was a little weird at lunch. I was having a hard time getting a read on his opinion of Chris.” The phone gonged, and he read Evan’s response: “ ‘Don’t let me stop you.’ Hmm.”

“Well, you said you were taking him at face value,” Angie said, watching the bird hop across her fingers, a warm smile on her face. “You’re kinda early this year, are you?” she asked the bird. It chirped in response. “Fair enough,” she replied. “See you.” As the bird flew away, she said, “There’s Megan.”

Ryan glanced where she was looking, noted Megan’s shame-filled approach, and waved.

A moment later, Megan opened her mouth to say something as she stepped within speaking distance of them, and Ryan cut her off. “What’s shakin’, Megan?” he said, raising an eyebrow at her.

“Um, Evan left,” she said, ignoring the question. She was pretty bummed, then. Probably--Ryan needed to not rely on past behavior for reading her anymore, as he’d missed a lot of behavior in the past three years. “Went home, I think.” She looked back down at her feet.

“Yeah, that can happen,” Ryan said. “Evan is being, like, extra Evan today.”

“So…. His father died?” Megan said, sitting down next to them, her head drooping.

“That explains a lot,” Angie said, satisfied. “I said that if you’d known, you would have surfaced from your bullshit at least long enough to say something to him. Yeah, remember the Winter Solstice Breach in eighth grade?”

“Sweet Illuminator,” Megan said, whispering. “That’s awful.” She looked up at the two of them, tears in her eyes. “I’m so awful.”

“Don’t make this about you,” Ryan said, firmly. “Evan actively worked to keep it suppressed. He was surprised Lauren knew, but then again of course Lauren knew. Her uncle and cousin were involved in closing that breach. Evan and Cali both have absolutely closed off about it. None of her friends know, that I know about. They talked to their dad’s friends in the militia to keep the school from being informed, and he’s not close enough to anyone but us anymore that most folks’ parents would bring it up, even assuming they knew about it to bring it up in the first place.”

Angie, quiet, said, “Evan said, ‘He was just one casualty among over a thousand. No one will notice.’ And he was right.”

“That’s… kind of fucked up,” Megan said.

“Neither one of them wanted to go through what they did after Virginia died,” Ryan said, noting Megan’s flinch when he said Evan and Cali’s sister’s name. Just a tiny bit, most people might not have noticed, but Ryan did. “Cali told us she has no use for strangers’ pity, that she got enough of that the first time. Evan still hasn’t talked much about it.”

“I wonder if my parents knew,” Megan whispered, her eyes on the ground. After a moment, she looked back up, focused on him and Angie, distraught. “Why did neither of you tell me?”

“Don’t even get me started, Megan,” Angie said, shifting abruptly to face away from Megan. Megan gave her a hurt look.

Ryan looked at Megan with an expression intended to convey an intentional lack of sympathy. “He asked us not to,” he said, “Obviously. Evan wasn’t going to make first contact, nor let himself to be used as a pretense.”

“We were united,” Angie said, still facing away from Megan.

Megan looked sadly at the back of Angie’s head. “Right. Well, I didn’t know. I do now. I’m sorry.” She looked down.

Angie’s phone twittered. She glanced at it, then glanced over her shoulder at Megan, before scootching around a little so that she wasn’t entirely facing away from her. “So what happened just now?” she asked.

Megan looked back up and tried for a smile for moment. It didn’t last long, though. “I may have gotten my phone taken away in Life Science, and been walking with Beth on the way back from the office from where I reclaimed it; we have Français together last period. We saw the tale end of a conversation between Evan and Chris, and then Chris left and headed toward the freshman locker hall. And Beth may have decided that if I was going to talk to Evan like nothing had happened, she could too. I guess. I don’t know what goes through her head sometimes.” She shook her head.

“Beth. Naturally. Of course it was Beth,” Ryan said with a sigh.

“Well. It wasn’t. Just. Beth,” Megan said, forcing the words out, or acting at it.

Uh oh. “And?” Ryan replied, eyebrow making its familiar trek up his forehead.

“Well… I kind of called him December.”

Ryan just stared at her until she continued.

“He, uh, drove Beth off, and I…” Megan was squirming, her cheeks flushed a dark red. “I didn’t think. I just dropped into…”

“Blessed face of the Moon!” Angie said. “Seriously, Megan? I always told you you were too bossy of Evan--”

“You’re one to talk,” Ryan interjected smoothly.

Angie just kept right on going, “That you were going to regret it one day, and now here we are!”

“Old habits die hard,” Megan said, looking at her hands, face still flushed.

“That’s exactly what I was talking about!” Angie said.

“Also, you two don’t know this,” Ryan said, buffing his fingernails on his shirt. “But Evan had a crush on Beth in seventh grade right around that time.”

Both girls looked at him. “Fuck, really?” Angie said.

“She was very attainable, I think,” Ryan said, trying not to smile. “They were already friends. He was pretty focused on gunning at the time, you’ll remember.” He paused, contemplating. “I should have said ‘already’ before ‘pretty.’ I think he was interested in dipping his toes in the waters of dating while still being mostly focused elsewhere. And Beth had a certain mousy cuteness back then. She’s glossed herself up a lot since.”

The girls continued staring back at him, so, rolling his eyes, he said, “I’m just saying that if it had been Katier or even Katie Kay, this probably would have been less of a thing. Beth’s the one who hurt him the most besides Megan. We never really got on with Kay, and none of us know Katier at all.”

“Great,” Megan muttered. “This’s just perfect.”

After a length of silence, just before it got too weird, Ryan said, “I would say that neither one of you are or were ‘bossy’ with Evan. You were both very assertive and Evan is not, and was used to minding his sister before you even met him.”

Angie heaved a great sigh, and looking at her feet, said, “Sorry Megan. That wasn’t very nice of me.”

Megan’s eyes had gone almost glassy for a moment, when Ryan had again mentioned Evan’s older sister. Now she blinked and sighed as well. “It’s okay,” Megan said, her expression now nearly mirroring Angie’s. “I just feel really bad anyway. I really made him mad.”

Another sigh from Angie. “He’ll survive. And he’s probably just processing. It’s something we’ve been trying to teach him how to do.”

“Yeah, he sent me a text saying something like that,” Megan replied.

  • 1. Shrikes tend to be more polite and well-spoken than many small birds, which gives them a bit of a Hannibal-vibe when considered alongside the fact that they regularly impale their prey on thorns and other available small spikes to save for later. Supposed to be rare in Seattle, Angie seemed to run into them a lot.