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Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Cary was walking towards Clearing's house when he heard a loud call from a girl's voice. “Hey, YOU!”

Cary went rigid. He looked around for the source of the cry and saw a short girl with short curly hair walking down the sidewalk towards him. She wore glasses and clothes several sizes too big, as though they were hand-me-downs, despite the fact they looked rather new. She rushed towards Cary.

Carise Edgecombe.

She waved excitedly at him. Once she stood in front of him, he didn't know what to say to her. She chuckled.

“Some service, eh?” Carise said.

When Cary didn't reply or even lift his eyes, she said, “You're... Cary, right?” Cary nodded. She stayed quiet for a brief moment. "Don't talk much do you?”

Cary shrugged.

“It's cool, I'm kinda used to people not wanting to talk to me. It's a hazard of being brilliant and adopted.” Carise said. “My name's Carise, but everyone calls me Bugs. You can call me Bugs.”

Cary's head shot up. Both at the fact Carise was adopted and her nickname being “Bugs,” two things he found extremely interesting. Bugs smiled at him.

“Yeah, I know, weirdness, right?. But there's a reason behind it, see...” Bugs said. She held up a bag she had been holding. It was full of squirming insects. Cary had a horrified moment where he wondered if they called her "Bugs" because she ate insects....

“I collect insects.” Bugs offered as though she had known exactly what he had been thinking. Cary laughed at himself. Bugs laughed as well.

“So... I don't really know anyone here, we just moved here two weeks ago from Louisiana. D'you think you could... you know, be my friend?”

At these words something electric charged through Cary. He met Bugs' eyes. They were a startling shade of blue magnified by her glasses. “I just figured we'd... get along you know. I'm kind of a weirdo and people get annoyed with me, maybe because I talk a lot and I know more than they do. I'm not totally sure, but I figured you might not have a problem with all that.” Midway through this speech Bugs got distracted by her sack of insects, though this did not stop her talking.

None of this was what had caused the electric feeling and Cary knew it. She had said “..be my friend.” The word friend had caused it. The Book of Fates hovered prominently in his mind again. A friend. A real friend. I can't believe it WORKED!

“OK.” Cary said.

Bugs laughed. “You really don't talk much. I was just being funny about it before, but it's cool. I'll talk enough for both of us.” She laughed. Cary snickered. He liked her already. “What are you up to, can I come with?” Bugs asked.

Cary didn't know what to say. Would Clearing care if I brought Bugs along? He had known her for only a few minutes and he already felt he needed to have her along. So he told her where he was going. “To Mr. Clearing's. The Physics teacher. We're building a super-computer.”

Bugs smiled. “That was three whole sentences! Amazeballs!” She smacked Cary playfully on the arm. “Well, Clearing seems like a cool teacher, he won't mind if you have a ridiculously smart tag-a-long, right?”

Cary nodded at her. As they walked the short distance to Clearing's house, Bugs talked almost the whole time. “See my dad got this job, like out of nowhere three weeks ago. Dream job working for NASA over in Houston. He has to drive a ways to get there, but Happy Endings just called to him, he said. My um...Mom agreed, they both said it felt like where they needed to live. Parents can be so stupid some times.”

Cary listened her talk, found he really enjoyed listening to her. “And I was all for it. My other school was crap, no Physics, no computer classes and no AP Biology. But Happy Endings High has it all. Louisiana education is apparently a joke. Luckily, I'm brilliant.” She beamed at him. “...And a crazy Pentecostal Pastor to boot!” Bug said.

They both chuckled.

“He wasn't like anything I'd have expected though, really. Using physics like that, I mean that's radical stuff, right? And then to use it to heap all that praise on the 'Dark', like it was a capital 'g' god or something. That's kinda creepy, right?” She never seemed to care to wait for Cary to respond to her repeated “right's.”

Finally, they reached Clearing's and to Cary's dismay, the man was not home. He was faced with a real quandary. Cary knew he could break-in but he had to consider two things: first, Bugs. She's my friend now, and will she think less of me if we did it? Second, Clearing. He had been so cool, how messed up would it be to break-in to his house a second time? While he wrestled with this quandary, Bugs said, "He's not home, right? Too bad we can't just break-in. I love computers and I bet he's got some really cool ones. Always wanted to see a super-computer!

That did it. Cary smiled said, “I know how to get in.”

But he didn't make eye contact with her after he said it. She laughed. “Right on! Let's do it!” They looked around, sneaked back into the backyard, and sure enough the fifty gallon drum was still there, Cary hadn't been sure it would be. But the window was closed. “Maybe it's not locked...” Bugs said.

Cary nodded and watched as she climbed up on to the drum. She heaved at the closed window, but it did not budge. After a minute or two she gave up and said, “Oh well, guess it's not meant to be, unless you want to give a try?”

Cary didn't think it mattered, he wasn't much bigger than her and he certainly wasn't any stronger. But she seemed eager for him to try, so he did.

He grabbed the sill and pushed open. The window slammed upward with tremendous force, shattering glass everywhere. Cary screamed and fell backwards, hitting his butt on the ground for the second time in less than a week. Bugs rushed over to him, concerned she leaned over, to say, “Are you OK, Care?”

Cary was stunned and didn't reply until he had gotten to his feet. “Yeah.” he muttered.

“What happened?” Bugs asked, looking from Cary to the window. “Either you're way stronger than you look or that window is booby-trapped! That was mad cool!” Bugs said. She laughed and it was infectious. Cary laughed along with her. The realization of what he had done came back to him.

My fingerprints will be on that sill! Will the police look for them? Will Clearing hate me?

The anxiety of it crashed on him and he shook.

“Care, really, it's OK! It's not like we'll go to jail for breaking a window! I'll say I did it! I'll say you and I were here... looking for Mr. Clearing and decided to wait for him back here or something and it was an accident. No one will doubt me. I've never made less than a B in my whole life.”

It sounded convincing, enough Cary stopped shaking and smiled cautiously. Bugs nodded avidly. For a fleeting moment Cary stood wondering if they should go ahead and go inside. Bugs might have felt the same, but Cary decided not to suggest it.

“Guess we'll have to come see Clearing another time, right?” Bugs said. Cary nodded, "Yeah.”

“So you wanna come hang out at my house?” Bugs asked eagerly. Cary found he did.

Maybe I should show her Pottermore?

“Do you like Harry Potter?” Cary asked.

“OMG, I LOVE those books! Are you on Pottermore?

Cary's mouth slapped shut and his feet went still. Bugs was several steps ahead before she realized Cary was no longer at her side. She trotted back, her sack of insects swinging. “Something wrong?”

Don't tell her! She'll hate you! Don't tell her!

Cary struggled to keep emotion off his face, he didn't want Bugs to think he was crazy, listening to random voices in his head. But worse, he knew if he started talking about Pottermore with her, that eventually he'd let it slip about the tablet at Clearing's, the Book of Fates and his most fervent wish. Then she really will think I'm nuts and we'll never be friends.

So he lied.

“No. I don't have Internet at home.” Cary admitted, not making eye-contact.

“Wow. That's crazy. Well, you can use it at my house ANYTIME. You'll LOVE Pottermore! JK has all these new things she posts about the characters, it's great, but you have to search for it, like go to the Great Hall, and Potions class and Diagon Alley and Ollivander's, it's almost like playing an MMORPG.”

Cary had no idea what an MMORPG was but didn't want to look stupid by asking. “Wow, sounds like fun.”

Bugs twisted her mouth up and cocked her head at him, confused. “Well, we don't have to do Pottermore if you don't want. I just thought you might...”

“No. I mean. I do. We can.” Cary stuttered.

“Great!” Bugs said. She reached over and grabbed Cary's hand and pulled him along towards her house. “C'mon!”

Next Chapter: Chapter 18