1178 words (4 minute read)

Chapter 20

Chapter 20

And with that image came memories. Specifically, memories of himself hovering over that same tablet, over the Book, making two rather distinct wishes: a best friend and that he was the strongest boy in the world. I'd forgotten I even wished for that.

But. It can't have come true. That's...that's impossible!

But what else could it be? I'm not strong enough to fight Troy Smalls...not strong enough to...

Cary felt the hard metal of the padlock quiver and buckle under the force of his hand, again. I did that! But it's IMPOSSIBLE!

How else can you explain what you did to that lock? The nastier part of his inner voice chided. And to Troy earlier? And the window at Clearing's house?

Explain that!

Explain that!

Cary stared at his reflection, stared at his own mouth forming the words “explain that!” He shook his head between his hands, but it changed nothing and he knew it. He needed to talk to someone about it, had to confide in someone before it drove him crazy. His first thought was Bugs, but an upswell of fear rose within Cary.

“What if she doesn't want to be my friend anymore...” Cary said aloud.

She'll hate you if you tell her. She'll leave like Jonathan did. She'll fight you.

The nasty voice said.

“Shut UP!” Cary yelled at his reflection at himself. “I WANT YOU TO SHUT UP!”

A sharp tug under his heart caught his breath. A quiet calm came over him. Feet hitting the floor followed by a stall door opening turned his head. Cary saw in the mirror - Jonathan come out of a stall, staring hard at Cary. Feelings warred within him. He wanted to pepper Jonathan with questions, in the hopes he could find out what had gone bad between them and why.

Maybe even fix it.

Cary waited for the nasty voice to come back with something awful but it did not. There was only Jonathan, a sheepish look on his face.

But against that was anger. Cary had never expected much from Bird or Lana, had grown used to them, so their diffidence and haranguing were simple facts of life. Jonathan had been a different story. Cary had felt something new with Jonathan and had been terribly hurt when it was ripped, inexplicably, away.

“Why do you have to be so...” Jonathan started to say. His voice was conciliatory and beseeching, but his face said: “Crazy. Gay. WEIRD.”. Jonathan closed the gap between himself and Cary, but Cary grimaced and the older teen stopped.

“Be what?” Cary growled, surprised by his own confidence. Jonathan licked his lips nervously.

“You know, strange and stuff. You were just talking to yourself, Cary! And Lana used to tell us all the time about you doing that with dolls...I mean, it's weird, OK? If you would just be more normal, keep people from knowing, people Troy would leave you alone and bother someone else and then...”

“Then WHAT?” Cary shouted low.

Jonathan sighed, started to wash his hands. “Who's your girlfriend?”

Cary was thrown.

I don't have a girlfriend...I don't...wait, Bugs?

“Bugs. Why?” Cary asked. His fists clenched.

Jonathan licked his lips nervously, dried his hands with a paper towel. “I dunno, just surprised I guess. So seriously, try and be more normal and...”

Cary had had enough. Either he was going to give into his anger at Jonathan or he had to leave. As if he had not always wanted to be normal, always wanted not to have the other kids think of him that way.

As Ickie Queenie.

Did Jonathan think he had never tried? That it was so easy? Cary knew he could not explain that. And just as quickly he realized he didn't like Jonathan very much anymore, didn't want to like him anymore.

“Stay away from me.” Cary mumbled and left the bathroom, left Jonathan standing there, dumbstruck, with a crumpled up paper towel in his still hands.

The rest of the school day passed in bouts of awkward silences which bloomed wherever Cary went. Silence descended as he approached, followed by bustling whispers which came up after he walked past. Bugs cornered him at lunch, demanded an explanation of what had happened earlier. She was not satisfied with Cary's response.

“Later, B. I don't want to talk about it here.” Cary said, wide-eyed, aware of all the stares focused on him.

Bugs chewed her lip like she wanted to press him further, but instead nodded and sighed. They made plans to meet up at her house after school, whispered it quietly to each other.

After lunch Cary was cornered by Mr. Clearing.

“I heard what happened today, Cary...” Clearing said wearily.

“It wasn't my fault, sir.” Cary said. Clearing's eyes flashed at the word “sir” but he nodded and sighed.

“It doesn't have to be, Cary. When you let others push you into actions, particularly actions which aren't really you, you give them control over you. Now, are such people worthy of control over you?”

Cary gaped. He had no response. “I have some work on the computers we can do, if you'd like to come over this evening, Cary.” Clearing offered. Cary started to agree excitedly, just as he remembered he had to meet with Bugs after school.

“Um, Sir?” Cary asked hesitantly.

“Yes, Cary?”

“Would it be OK if I brought a friend?”

Clearing considered for a moment before he said, "Miss Edgecombe?”

Cary nodded.

Clearing considered for a longer moment. But he nodded. "I don't want you two nosing around my house, OK?”

Cary gaped, but he agreed. It had been partly his secret desire to show the tablet and the Book of Fates to Bugs. In the far off hope she would be able to read it as well. Even if she could not, he thought he might be able to explain his suspicions to her and confide in her. Cary paused, waiting for the nasty voice to emerge, but it stayed silent. His mind already worked out schemes to allow him to get a look at the Book with Bugs by his side.

He considered confiding in Clearing, but something held him back, something undefined, a thought which hovered just beyond his mind's eye.

“Alright then, Cary. Enjoy your afternoon, I'll see you and Miss Edgecombe at six and no more fights, OK?”

Cary nodded impatiently and dashed from Clearing's classroom and off school grounds toward his house.

Next Chapter: Chapter 21