Act 1: Chapter 5, Part 5

Posted on July 23, 2017

In Which Megan Doesn't Mind Her Own Business

Megan. First Day of School. Let’s All Go to the Food Court.

The trolley was pretty full; a number of other students had gotten on with them, surrounding a few Full Age adults. At the front and back were slightly elevated areas with seats facing the ends of the trolley, while in the center there was largely standing room, with rails and handles, as well as a handful of seats for the elderly and disabled. They had to stand next to the doors, which wasn’t unusual, but Megan felt weird; she didn’t know what to talk about with Angie and Ryan, not with so many other people around them.

Luckily, Ryan and Angie seemed comfortable with the silence between them as they rode the trolley. Ryan seemed to be subtly observing the passengers around them, while Angie stared out the windows as they passed houses, with the ubiquitous gaslights and deciduous trees lining the lanes.

Megan watched Angie look out the window in between stops, the five block hops shuttling them past the lines of tall three to five story tower houses (most of which probably had at least two basement levels), mostly square, but with enough variations in form and style that not everything looked exactly the same. Many front gardens were in the process of being harvested. Looking past Angie she saw hundreds of tomatoes looking ripe on the vine in front of one house, their weight straining what looked like pretty sturdy trellises, while the vines in front of the neighboring house were all fruitless, with folks out on the lane loading what looked like the last of their baskets full of tomatoes onto a motorwagon. Megan returned her attention to Angie. There was a remote look on her face as she watched the passing scenery. Megan wondered what she was thinking about. If she was thinking about Evan.

Megan felt bad. She’d been so excited about meeting Chris, and Angie and Ryan had also both seemed really interested in talking to him too, and she’d just... not... really paid that much attention to how Evan was reacting. She wondered if he was angry or upset about Chris for some reason? Or had it really just been about Beth trying to talk to him without having apologized first? Megan wished she knew.

Maybe she shouldn’t have gone off with Chris after his story. That had probably been a mistake. She wished Evan had just said something.

Angie turned her head, glancing straight into Megan’s eyes, surprising her, then gave her an impish smile. That was the Angie that Megan remembered. She didn’t seem too concerned about Evan, Megan supposed, as the trolley slide to a stop for a third time. The three of them stepped through the doors as they opened so they could switch trolleys, turning to walk back west across north-south lane to the southbound stop. They didn’t start talking again, because it was noisy as other people got off too, and because they could see the next southbound trolley a couple blocks away even as they crossed to get to its platform.

The southbound trolley arrived, and after a few folks got off, they stepped on, along with a few other transfers. This one was less full, and Angie and Ryan hopped into the back pair of empty seats, closest to the doors. The pair in front of them had a woman sitting in the window seat, so Megan gingerly sat next to her, turning sideways so that her legs were in the aisle and she could easily turn and look at the others as the trolley started moving forward.

Ryan raised an eyebrow at her.

“What?” Megan asked.

He put a puzzled cant on his lips and said, “Nothing. How’s tricks?”

Megan blinked in surprise, feeling herself blushing. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked. Angie was also looking at him askance.

“Um,” Ryan said, looking taken aback at her response. “How’s it shaking? How are things? Why, what do you oh, I get it,” he said, understanding dawning in his eyes. “I’ve been seeing that in some older sci-fi I’ve been reading. Did not think about what it might actually connote. My apologies.”

The woman next to Megan glanced over at her, or at them. Megan’s blush didn’t go away.

“It’s okay,” she said to Ryan quickly. “I get it.”

Stop. In and out. Start. Outside the trolley, the houses were giving way to storefronts and shops.

“Um,” Megan said. “Pretty good, I’d say. I feel bad about Evan still.”

“Stop worrying about it, Megan,” Angie said. “What’s done is done. He’ll get over it.”

Megan smiled at Angie in thanks. “I hope so. But he was super mad.”

“He’ll get over it,” Angie repeated. Then, an arch smile playing across her lips, she said, “So Ryan keeps asking, in his own unique way, ‘What’s up? What’s been happening with you lately?’ Besides, like, Lauren?”

“Um…” Megan said. “Well…” She sighed. “Like I told you this morning, we went to Mumbai this summer. Father went to work on some new supply chains with his counterparts with their suppliers there, and Mother went along to work with Doctors Without Borders out in the country,” and at this Ryan whistled and the woman took a second look at her, Megan sensed out of the corner of her eye. “And so I came along too. The people there were nice, but Fredonian Common wasn’t super, uh, common there, and I certainly don’t speak Marathi or even Hindi. Translators are too prestigious and in demand there to babysit some random Fredonian girl, so, um…” She trailed off with a shrug.

Megan glanced at the woman out of the corner of her eye again. She didn’t feel up to talking about this right next to a stranger. Ryan and Angie both nodded at her when she returned her attention to them. They fell silent again for the next minute or so, but that was about all that was necessary to reach the stop for the Food Court, so everything worked out, she supposed.

The three of them clambered off the trolley. The Court was still a couple blocks away, which was a pretty good distance; blocks varied pretty widely in size in some regions, lanes coming at odd intervals and sometimes odd angles. The grid mostly held, though.

Megan tried to pick up where she left off as they started walking past various storefronts; this was a shopping, dining, and recreational type area. “Um, so I spent a lot of time alone, I guess, just at the house we were staying in. I read all the books I had. I beat all the games on my GameBoy.” The streets could have been worse; there were a fair number of people out, but the distance between groups mostly exceeded fifteen feet. “I ended up watching inscrutable Marathi television a little, and daydreaming about being home, a lot.

“When I was daydreaming, a lot of the time, um, I was thinking about hanging out with you guys,” Megan said, looking down at her feet as they walked. “Thinking about stuff we used to do together when we were younger. Goofing off, playing games and watching movies and Nickelodeon and doing book club and listening to music and all the other fun stuff we used to do.” She glanced back up at them. Angie smiled at her as soon as she did. Megan smiled back and said, “I missed it.”

“We still do that stuff,” Ryan said. “We haven’t changed.”

“Don’t lie,” Angie replied, said, giving him a look. “We’ve changed a lot.” Megan giggled.

“Well,” Ryan said, sounding a little grumpy. “What we do together hasn’t changed.”

“That’s not true, either,” Angie said, smiling at him in a rather sultry manner, sort of waggling her eyebrows suggestively. Megan giggled again, but a bit of a nervous tone slipped through that time.

“You okay there, Megs?” Ryan asked, ignoring Angie, who waggled her eyebrows at him more even though he wasn’t looking at her. Megan giggled again.

“Yeah, I just didn’t really think too much about you guys doing, um, couple stuff until just then,” Megan said, hoping she wasn’t blushing too much. They were walking past a cafe that Megan might have preferred to the Food Court, but it was maybe a little early to express that preference. She looked through the window at the people inside rather than look at Angie and Ryan at that particular moment.

“Thought you complimented people’s butts all the time?” Angie asked, her tone teasing. Megan glanced back at her; she was wearing that arch smile again.

Megan blushed more, and shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about us when we were younger. And you’re right, you guys have changed. I mean,” she added, “You’re still definitely Ryan and Angie, but you’re different. I am too, I suppose. I’m just still adjusting.”

“Speaking of butts, you didn’t have that one when we were kids,” Angie said, admiration in her tone.

“Thanks?” Megan said, giggling again. “I think?”

“That’s what I was going for,” Angie said. “I think ‘luscious’ would be an apt descriptor.”

Megan felt warmth touch her cheeks, and she glanced down at herself. “That’s what you say about a pear. Which is appropriate I guess, since I’m shaped like one.”

“Yeah, but a really nicely shaped one,” Angie said.

Megan shrugged, still blushing a little. “Well, thank you. It hasn’t been the most effective at getting guys’ attention, though.” She made a face. “Derrek is dating Tara Baldersen now. With her awesome Tourney body. Sometimes I wish I’d actually gotten into Tourney as a competitor.”

“You hated weapons practice when we were kids,” Angie said, a dubious tone in her voice.

“Derrek?” Ryan asked. “Lauren’s brother?”

“Yeah,” Megan said to Ryan, the warmth in her cheeks intensifying. Then she looked back to Angie and continued, “And I know. It’s just that Tourney’s so much fun to watch, it seems like it would be really fun to do, too. And then I’d have rad warrior muscles. I just couldn’t get into it when we were younger.”

“Really into Light Bearers, aren’t you?” Ryan said, raising an eyebrow.

“Megan, you look great,” Angie said, eyeing her up and down. “I know you’re not like the Platonic fighting-woman ideal, but at least you have curves, which is more than I can say. Also, I wanna know what shampoo you’ve been using. I’ve been charming my hair, and yours still looks better.”

“Aw, I think your look is so great, Angie!” Megan replied, intentionally not responding to Ryan. “You can’t really compare your cut and color to mine. I think, Glindason’s Gilded Locks, from Glindason’s Apothecary? It’s a little place down in south Bellevue.”

“We’ll have to go sometime,” Angie said, smiling.

“Sure,” Megan said, wincing a little. “Just to warn you though, my mother really likes to spring for shampoo. Says my hair is too nice to use cheap shampoo on.”

“Well, I figured that,” Angie said, smiling. “I been doing grunt work for Mom, lots of little charms to keep the trinket shelves stocked. I’m earning a little gold from that.”

“Is that how Ryan has an iPhone?” Megan asked. “Was it a gift?”

“Aren’t we snoopy?” Ryan said, frowning at her.

Megan blushed again. “I’m just so curious. I’m sorry. You were always such a mystery about money stuff.”

“And we’ve been talking again for one day and you think I’m just going to reveal that mystery now, of all times?” Ryan asked, tone dry.

“I’m so sorry,” Megan said, her face flaming. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“It’s cool he has an iPhone,” Angie said. “I get it.”

“Yeah, that’s all it really is,” Megan said, her voice getting a little squeaky. “I was just excited.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Ryan said, grinning. “I’ve been learning some coding, earned a little money that way. Here we are.”

Megan made a face at him, then turned her attention to the Court. At the same time though, she considered his statement. What was he doing with coding that he was earning money with? Building people websites? He was fifteen!