Act 1: Chapter 6, Part 3

Posted on August 20, 2017

In Which a Confusing Complement is Discussed

Ryan. First Day of School. Story Time.

“Significantly better, actually,” Ryan said. Too smarmily. Cut it back.

“Yeah, it was kind of nice, just really confusing,” Angie said. “Last autumn, we were out for a run just after daybreak, when there’s not too many people out, and we were sort of on the outskirts of Bridal Trails where there would be even fewer people, and--”

“All three of you?” Megan asked, glancing between Angie and Ryan.

“Yeah, Evan and I dragged Ryan along,” Angie said. “We manage to do that like once a month.”

“Running’s just such a time commitment,” Ryan said, wrinkling his nose. “Put on workout clothes,” Ryan said, “Then go for the run, which sucks, then you’re all sweaty, then because you’re all sweaty and tired it’s hard to even take the workout clothes back off, then you gotta shower--”

“I get it. I don’t like running either,” Megan said, smiling a sweet smile despite cutting him off; Ryan was a little annoyed, but supposed he’d probably made his point.

Angie continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “And we were just running along the lane, starting to head back toward the Grove, when a manhole cover like thirty feet ahead of us pops up off of its hole and this kobold starts climbing out of the hole. You know much ‘bout kobolds?” she asked Megan.

“Um, a little,” Megan said, hesitant. “There’s the four kinds right? Rat-headed, dog-headed, um, lizard-headed… and… and…”

“Stoat-headed. Yeah, and they belong to the autumn, spring, summer, and winter courts, respectively,” Angie replied, nodding, “But I’m here to tell you, it’s not really that clear looking at them. Like, this guy had a pretty elongated face, with some fairly rodent-like nostrils, but the jaw was like doglike, and the eyes were really lizard-like, unblinking, just that lizard blink with the weird membranes. And his arms were pretty scaly, but there was this, uh, sparse, fine, long fur growing from between the scales, and like…” she shook her head. “He was wearing a waistcoat, old-fashioned trousers, boots, and gaiters.”

“I’ve never really been sure what gaiters are,” Megan said, blushing a little.

“I didn’t know what they were until I asked Ryan about what those things were,” Angie said, with a sly smile and a wink at Ryan. He winked back. “They’re like little boot and pants covers, sorta up to the knee. I guess some people riding horses or mules might use them rather than long riding boots or chaps.”

“Oh yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about,” Megan said, nodding and beaming, grinning wide. When Megan had beamed like that when they were kids, it seemed like more than half her whole face had been taken up by that grin. Ryan’d found it cute, charming, even infectious, sometimes, when she was laughing at some dumb thing one or another of them had said.  

Now, it transformed her from lovely to radiant. Ryan was taken off-guard, a catch in his breath. He briefly felt guilty and then dismissed that; Megan was too much a sister to tease and act the foil to for him to really be attracted to her. She was beautiful, but not his type.

But Ryan recognized anew that she was gorgeous now, and registered a faint surprise that she was even single to be romanced by Chris, as he was convinced was about to happen. Things were going to get Flames of Love up in Persephone for a bit, but Ryan would (if he got the chance) put good money on Chris and Megan being an official couple before the month was out.

Angie, too, had gone silent for a moment when Megan beamed, but she finished whatever her own thoughts had been and continued. “So the kobold climbed out of the sewer as we all stumbled to a stop like fifteen feet away from him. He was humming a, I think a Beatles song?”

“It was ‘Hard Day’s Night,’” Ryan supplied. “Also I don’t think kobolds have gender the way we think of it.”

“Yeah,” Angie replied with a nod. “That was it.”  She wrinkled her nose at him as she continued: “He was wearing a waistcoat and trousers, so I’m going to go with male pronouns; I feel weird calling a thinking entity ‘it’ and a single creature ‘they’.” She paused again, staring off past Megan with a thoughtful half-smile. “Not like a woman can’t wear a waistcoat, I think I’d look boss in one,1 but--he just felt male, okay?”

Angie shook her head. “So he got all the way out of the manhole, still humming, and dusted himself off while his scaly-tail pushed the cover back onto the hole. We were just standing there, staring. I would personally say I was agog, but I wouldn’t want to speak for the boys.”

“Let’s say that my attention was commanded,” Ryan said, as wryly as he could manage. Megan giggled.

“Then, he looked around and saw us, and he… perked up, I guess I’d say?” Angie shrugged one slender, heavily freckled shoulder. “He took a couple steps toward us, and he said, ‘Hey, you’re Angie McMillan, yeah?’ ”

Megan’s mouth dropped open. “Whaaaaat?” she whispered. Ryan couldn’t stop himself from snickering at her reaction.

“Yup,” Angie said, matter-of-fact. “That’s what I thought too. I, of course, was totally stunned, so all I could really manage was, ‘Yeah?’”

“Of course, I’d be blown away,” Megan replied.

“Yup,” Angie said. “So then he said, ‘We’ve been hearing a lot of positive chatter about you lately! Keep up the good work, kid, and you’ll go places!’”

“Whaaaaat?” Megan said, at a higher pitch, her already big blue-violet eyes wide and astonished.

“And then he walked away and disappeared into the park, because we were all too, just, flabbergasted to do anything,” Angie said, a rueful smile on her face. “I wish I’d had the wits to say anything at all to him, ask him anything.”

“Oh my spirits, of course,” Megan said, an appropriate amount of both awe and commiseration in her voice. “So you don’t know anything about what that was about?”

“Nothing,” Angie replied, shaking her head. “I wish I did, it was so surreal. I would have thought it was a dream if Ryan and Ev hadn’t been there to confirm it was real.”

“My best guess,” Ryan offered, “Is that ‘they’ are hearing about you from the birds and other little critters you can talk to.”

“Except I spend more time arguing with those little shits than I do helping them, getting their help, or even just having a pleasant conversation,” Angie pointed out. “Small critters are dumb as hell.”

“Maybe arguing with birds constitutes a ‘good work’ as far as a kobold is concerned,” Ryan said.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Megan said, giving him a skeptical look.

“Well, sure,” Ryan said, “And there’s so many stories about the Fair Folk where their behavior is rational or logical.”

“Well,” Megan said, “There is that.”

  • 1. “Totally,” Megan responded here.