Chapter 24:

Book 1, Ch. 24: Everybody Hates Mondays

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~


***THANKS FOR READING!!!***

BOOK 1, CHAPTER 24: EVERYBODY HATES MONDAYS

Monday morning introduced a partly cloudy day with comfortable temperatures. The news headlines were already littered with coverage featuring heavy damage in a large plaza near downtown Chicago, and of signs of a wildfire with additional damage in Miller Meadows Forest Preserve.

Robbie trudged to school, flexing and stretching his right arm. After he had awoken in the middle of the previous night on his doorstep in miserable pain, he had noticed a strange crystal in his pocket containing his house key. Upon realizing it resembled the crystal Al had eaten to fix her battered hand, he had promptly consumed it, hesitating only for a moment.

Now, during the walk to school that following morning, Robbie’s arm showed no signs of being injured at all. In fact, all of his injuries and fatigue from the showdown with Erik had been completely erased. On top of that, not even a trace remained of the formidable illness he had contracted from Erik’s bio bomb.

All that had suffered from the fight was his phone, which was crushed beyond repair, and the clothes he had worn were now in the trash.

At the main gate of Lyonbole Public High School, a friendly nudge greeted him from behind. Tinashe Bronson appeared by his side, looking chipper and in a positive mood.

“Hey, boo,” she said sweetly with a smile.

“Hey, good mornin’,” Robbie replied.

“You didn’t answer my texts last night.” She wore a slightly pouty face. “I tried calling, but it went straight to voicemail. Is your phone off?”

“Oh,” Robbie chuckled, “my phone ain’t doing so good. I broke it by accident.”

“Broke it? What’d ya do, Robbie?”

“Uh, just horsing around, I guess.”

“You guess?”

Robbie stopped walking, doing his best to wear a playful expression to overwrite the memories of last night’s event.

“I do guess,” he said with a goofy grin.

Tinashe laughed.

“What’d I tell you? That careless nature would only cause you trouble.”

“Yup, you warned me.”

They continued walking, approaching the entrance to the school building, flowing with the herd of lazy students.

“What are you doing tonight?” Tinashe asked.

“Uh, studying?”

“Boring!”

“But also smart!”

She brushed his right arm with hers, making him thankful the pain no longer existed.

“Would you wanna study together?” she asked. “I got some terms to review for chemistry and some history stuff.”

To Robbie, school-related activities meant nothing at the moment, with the exception of basketball, although his mind was saturated with unpleasantness. Feeling that time spent with Tinashe would be his only remedy, no matter what the occasion was for spending time together, he readily agreed.

“I’m down with that,” he told her, “but on one condition.”

“Oh, one condition? What would that be, huh?”

Robbie smiled.

“Don’t expect me to climb that fire escape at your place today.”

“It’s been closed off for repairs, so you can’t anyway.”

“Then we have ourselves a deal.”

*******

Andrew Norris, Beth Sonnet, and Ned Jackson were in the teachers’ lounge before homeroom. Mrs. Sonnet was snacking on some grapes, a late breakfast due to a rushed morning involving an embarrassing curling iron incident. Mr. Jackson was sorting through the morning newspaper, curious about an article covering a wildfire; it was at a forest preserve he had forgotten about. Mr. Norris was standing at the counter, lamenting the assumed demise of the coffeemaker he couldn’t fix.

Principal Charles Stark stepped grumpily into the room. He immediately noticed Mr. Norris having problems with the coffeemaker and cleared his throat dismally.

“Charles, we have a crisis,” Mr. Norris stated.

“Coffeemaker being a hunk o’ junk?” Principal Stark grunted.

“That it is.”

There was a nonverbal trade of mutual despair between the two.

“I’ll be sure to add a new one to the school’s budget,” the principal said. “A nice, big one. With a percolator.”

Mr. Norris’s eyes widened.

“Y-you mean it?”

“Sure.”

“Indeed, you are a saint!”

“No I’m not,” Principal Stark murmured with a slumped frown.

“It’s true, he’s no saint.” Leon Kampton was standing in the doorway. He walked over and placed a hand on the portly principal’s beefy shoulder, looking at him with a bright smile. “The man … is an angel.”

The principal felt the need to swear, so he simply walked out of the teachers’ lounge. When everyone else didn’t notice the chastising gestures between the principal and vice principal, Mr. Kampton exited the room as well.

“Lavi,” Principal Stark said in a low voice, “let’s chat in my office.”

“As you wish.”

Lavi and Baal entered the principal’s office. The demon closed the door and enchanted it so none could enter, channeling evil energy from his hand into the door. Holding his arms out in front of him, palms facing forward, he then effortlessly and quickly constructed a sound-blocking barrier to prevent the conversation from passing through the walls. That was a common practice whenever the two discussed their most secretive topics.

Baal stood with his arms crossed, staring at an abstract painting on his wall. He had no understanding of abstract visuals, and the painting was nothing more than garbage on a canvas to him, just a hodgepodge of colors and shapeless forms.

“What are you up to?” he asked the angel, not looking away from the pointless painting.

“A lot of things,” Lavi said casually.

“Like what?”

“Well, I plan to leave a review for a book I ordered off the Amazon website.” Lavi clasped his hands together and smiled. “It’s called American Kitsune, and it’s fascinating! Leaving book reviews on websites such as Amazon is a fantastic way of supporting the writer. If you enjoy the book, you should leave a review! Six stars out of five!”

“That’s not what I’m getting at,” Baal said darkly. “What are you really up to?”

“I’m not telling.” The tone of Lavi’s voice was almost playful, but definitely ill-mannered.

Not saying anything, Baal looked at the floor and took a rattled breath.

Lavi studied the demon. It was normal for him to appear impatient, always being suspicious of Lavi. In turn, Lavi had good reason to be suspicious of Baal as well. However, there was something different about Baal, as the undertones of his attitude suggested.

“Something wrong?” Lavi asked, not really feeling concerned, but merely prodding. “You always seem upset and short-tempered. Today, though, you seem rather … troubled, on a different level.”

Baal clenched his fists, spinning around to face Lavi. The veins in his neck and forehead bulged out as he grew redder.

“Don’t mess with me, you impudent weasel!” the principal spat, pointing his fat finger at Lavi.

“Hit a nerve, did I?”

“I know you’re up to something, Lavi!”

“Pfft, of course I am,” Lavi said with a grin, still clasping his hands together, “but that’s because you’re always plotting something too, Baal.”

Baal loosened his collar, attempting to cool himself off.

“It’s always like this, I know,” he said. “Fine, so be it. We’ll continue to play this game.”

“I’ve no idea what you’re referring to,” Lavi replied with an exaggerated shrug.

With a sputtering guffaw, Baal said, “Right, right. Let’s get this Monday over with. I hate Mondays.”

“Everybody hates Mondays.”

Baal cancelled the barrier in the office without any bodily movements or gestures. As Lavi opened the door to step out, Baal called to him.

“Oh, one more thing.”

“What is it?”

“Tell the accountant to add a coffeemaker to the school’s list of urgent expenses. And make sure it’s the best one, but for a budget.”

“Aye.”

When Lavi closed the door, Baal saw the smug expression he wore. Sinking into his luxurious office chair, which was bought for a magnificent bargain (only $349.99!), the demon gripped the sides of his desk in frustration.

He opened his desk drawer, removing a manila envelope and reading the letter contained within it. It was his third time reading it since he received it in the middle of the night just hours ago.

“Well, well, well,” he muttered to himself before eating the letter greedily, along with the manila envelope. “Erik Hawthorne wasn’t a good contender … but what exactly happened to him?” He spit the envelope’s metal fastener into the trash and looked back up at the abstract painting on his wall. “Damn you, Lavi. If this isn’t your doing, then I don’t know what is. And I really mean that.”

On his way to the accountant’s office, Lavi couldn’t help but grin the entire time.

“Oh, Baal,” he said to himself. “I really hope you’re involved with these events. If not … then I might be a failure.” The grin gradually faded from his lips. “And that would not go over well.”

*******

Police were already buzzing at the plaza which was sealed off by the iconic yellow tape. When Detective Ulysses Townshend arrived, he observed the apparent damage and destruction. Taking a deep breath, he smirked at the sight. Something fun had just then presented itself to him.

Officer Duke Harrison noticed the enthusiastic detective. He pardoned himself from the small group of officers he was talking with and made his way over to Townshend.

“Detective,” he greeted with a simple wave.

Townshend looked at Harrison and shrugged.

“What in the blazes happened here, Harrison?” His curiosity was matched by his eagerness to get the case started.

“We’re still unsure,” Harrison replied. “A natural disaster seems unlikely, and the possibility of terrorism hasn’t been ruled out.”

“Any witnesses?”

“Not a single one so far. And there haven’t been any leads yet.”

“I find it unbelievable,” Townshend said, “that this level of damage could happen in a busy place like this without any witnesses.”

“It was an officer who noticed it,” Harrison explained. “No civilians reported it.”

The large crater in the stone-tiled ground was the first thing Townshend approached. Brandishing his notepad, he began to draw basic geometric shapes while examining the damage up close, kneeling down and checking the material of the debris.

“This looks like a blast happened,” Townshend said to Harrison. “The surrounding debris matches the stone that probably made up this part of the ground, and the trajectory of the debris indicates outward force, like from a bomb.”

“That’s what we’ve gathered,” Harrison said. “The forensics team should be here any moment now to take samples and do tests to determine what was used for the bomb … if it was a bomb.”

“Eh, it could’ve been.” Townshend looked at the damaged bits up close. “I don’t see any signs of scorching in this spot or on the debris, though.”

“Scorching on rock?” Harrison scratched his head.

“If there were any carbon deposits or ash from combustion, it could be indicated on the rock. I wonder if it’s a coincidence, though ….”

“A coincidence?”

Not looking up, Townshend said, “Just like at the medical lab we investigated on Friday, there’s evidence of mysterious explosions.”

A woman approached them. She wore a formal, gray dress and had short, reddish brown hair. Her name was Kendra Giles, and was a leader on the forensics team.

“You suspect an explosion as well?” Mrs. Giles asked Townshend.

“Ah, just in time, Mrs. Giles.” Townshend glanced at the crater. “Yes, an explosion. Don’t you agree?”

“That’s what it looks like,” Mrs. Giles replied. “We’ll begin taking samples now.”

A team of forensic investigators went to work, going over the site and gathering samples and evidence.

“The ground appears to be made of marble,” Townshend said, mostly speaking to himself. “I look forward to indications of scorching. However, we’ll need to determine if this marble is true marble, or cultured marble. Cultured marble may be easier to clean away any burn damage, and would have been much cheaper to use in an area this large.”

“Detective Townshend,” Harrison called from afar. “Look at this. I think this is evidence of high heat exposure.”

There were some stone structures several yards away from the crater. Although the structures and ground were mostly intact, there was discoloration on the stone, some of which looked misshapen like it had been molten for a short period of time. The nearby planted flora had been withered and burned to nothingness.

“Ooh, this looks like something really hot happened!” Townshend said joyously. He felt the stone structure with his hand. “This is most likely travertine, a commonly-used type of limestone for construction.”

“You know a lot about rocks, Detective,” Harrison said flatly with a grin.

“I indulge in home improvement from time to time,” Townshend said. “Mrs. Giles, have your team take a sample of this structure. Also, I’d like to learn more about the chemical properties of all these materials. If there was a lot of heat or explosives, I wanna know.”

“Yes, Detective.”

A man on the forensics team approached Mrs. Giles. He presented a small object he had placed in a bag, holding it with a nitrile glove. Mrs. Giles and Townshend both put on nitrile gloves as well before taking the sample.

“What is this?” Kendra Giles examined the small piece of plastic fitted to a chintzy chain.

Townshend took the sample and looked at it closely.

“A necklace, it seems. And this pendant … hmm.”

“You notice something?” Mrs. Giles asked.

“This pendant is the shape of a mathematical symbol known as aleph-null, sometimes called aleph-naught or aleph-zero.” He continued to look at the necklace through the plastic. “‘Aleph’ is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is this symbol. However, the subscripted zero associated with it represents a mathematical symbol. In mathematics, aleph represents sets of infinity. Aleph-null refers to the smallest sets of infinity, which includes the numerical integers and their negatives. The higher the aleph number, the larger the cardinality of the infinite set.” With a cheesy grin, he concluded, “For you see, not all infinities are equal. That is, to say, according to the theories defined by the German mathematician Georg Cantor.”

Kendra Giles chuckled.

“I forgot about your intimate fascination with math, Detective.”

“Eh, blame it on my numerous late-night affairs with Wikipedia,” Townshend replied. “But still,” he held the item up to the light as he stared at it with deep interest, “why would somebody want this for a necklace? Do they actually understand what this symbol represents? I wonder ….”

*******

Tranquility resonated throughout the corridors of St. Baptiste Monastery, touching the highest reaches of the ceilings and permeating its stillness in every courtyard.

In his quiet, minimally furnished office, Father Buck Dood engaged in conversation with Sister Farrah Elaina. The steady ticking of the clock on the wall ceaselessly set the room’s tempo at the never-changing sixty beats per minute, an ambient heartbeat Father Dood had adjusted himself to long ago.

Father Dood stood in front of his bookshelf, glancing at the limited number of books he had nearly memorized over the years.

“I’ve been thinking about your words with deep consideration,” the sturdy priest said to Sister Farrah. “This ‘ultimate truth’ you spoke of concerns me. However, choosing to embrace it may be in our best interests.”

“If you believe so,” the young nun replied. “I’ll admit that I, too, am unnerved by the events I have witnessed.”

The priest approached the nun and offered a reassuring smile.

“Have faith, Sister,” he told her warmly. “We have overcome many trials in the past.”

Not wanting to speak right away, Sister Farrah said, “For so long, I have had unwavering faith in the abilities of my prayers. I feel like I have nothing to turn to.”

“I understand how you must feel right now,” Father Buck Dood walked behind his desk, eyeing his chair and unable to decide to sit or stand, “but I believe this is a mere trial, and one I trust you are capable of passing.”

“Thank you, Father.”

He decided not to sit.

“Regarding the boy,” he continued, “he must be a key figure behind these current events. If I am interpreting your explanations correctly, his actions are the one and only instance of your powers being disregarded. That leads me to believe he must be taken into consideration.”

“I agree.”

“What was his name?”

“Christopher Joshua Findale,” Sister Farrah said. “That is according to our informant, Aleph-Naught.”

“Yes, but I am concerned about Aleph-Naught. We have been unsuccessful in contacting her since yesterday afternoon. Her whereabouts are unknown. This lack of feedback from her goes against her orders issued by her superiors. Very troublesome.”

“My prayers have not returned any information on Aleph-Naught.” The young nun looked away, feeling ashamed. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know if my prayers are failing me again, or if she is truly no longer within my prayers’ range, which would place her outside the city.”

“As I said, you must continue to have faith.” Father Dood spoke sternly. “I am still waiting to hear back from Aleph-One. Until then, we must remain patient and not let our fears shake us.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Get some rest. You’ll feel better.”

After the young nun exited the office, Father Dood opened the drawer to his desk containing the meteorite-carved cubit rod. Running his finger over it and feeling the engravings, he sighed.

“Stay strong, Sister Farrah Elaina,” he said. “You are much stronger than you may know. Until you realize that you are more than worthy of surpassing even myself, you will continue to be weighed down by your youthfulness and naiveté.”

*******

Bret was sitting on an old, saggy couch in his living room with a blanket over his head and wrapped around him. He was shivering with a thin film of perspiration on his face, nervously fidgeting with a PlayStation 2 controller which had its cord chewed through by something that was never caught. While grinding his teeth together, he stared at the CRT television, turned off. His heavy eyes were dry and burning, but he never thought to blink, not daring to look away from his surroundings.

His mind was occupied by the memory of Erik Hawthorne and the white-furred, bulky quadrupedal monster. He pressed his fingers into the useless video game controller buttons, not noticing the tremors running up and down his arms and legs.

The last of the Nikolai vodka and Tanqueray was squeezing its way out of his pores, and the need to sleep was a mythical endeavor and a hapless farce. Sleep had eluded him, and he wanted nothing more than to erase the knowledge of the inhuman world he now found himself in.

Surely, he thought, there were things which knew of him, out of his sight, observing him for a chance to swoop in and whisk him away.

If he could only score some cocaine, then everything would be fine, tolerable, perfect … but he had no way of contacting Guy, as his phone was dead because something had chewed through the charging cable he had recently stolen. However, just before his phone’s battery had drained, Bret had received a text message from an unknown number explaining Vixen was in the hospital due to a drug overdose. The grinding of his teeth was audible.

Footsteps grew louder and closer, and his heartrate soared as he snapped his attention toward the kitchen, letting the game controller fall to the floor.

Bridge Snow entered the living room carrying a glass of water. Bret realized he must’ve been paranoid to have noticed her soft footsteps; her movements and mannerisms were like window curtains overlooking a sunbathed valley. Her simplest motions were always done with such grace and elegance that she appeared, by illusion, to sashay at all times, as if in a constant state of slow dancing with the world, with her every activity. Bret’s oversensitive ears overrode that universal fact, even with the colorful, striped cotton socks on her feet muffling her already silent approach.

“Bridge Snow?” Bret could practically feel the dust in his throat while speaking. “When … did you get here?”

With a gentle, mesmerizing smile, Bridge Snow delicately handed the glass of water to Bret. He gripped it, watching the beads of water drip down the outside of the glass, much like the sweat on his face. Water was what he needed most at that point, but it wasn’t very appealing to him in the least. He stared at it the way a child stares at a bitter medicine, letting some of it spill out because his hands couldn’t remain steady, and because Bridge Snow had filled it to the brim. How did she carry it without spilling a drop?

“I wrote a new poem today.” Her smile was small, but her dazzling blue eyes were full of vitality, and her enticing voice and French accent made her impossible to ignore.

“Oh ….” Bret sipped from the top of the glass, spilling some of the water on his blanket. The imaginary tastes in the water were strange, acrid, and possessed chlorine characteristics.
Bridge Snow watched him sip the water, the blanket over his head and wrapped around his body. She stared, seeing his trembling. She caught glimpses of the sweaty sheen on his face. In her mouth, she rubbed her tongue ring against her top incisors.

“Would you like to hear it?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, y-yeah … sure, sure.”

Her frilly, red and black plaid skirt had straps and leather pockets she had made and added herself. She unfastened the snap button to her custom-made, leather pouch pocket and removed a folded piece of notebook paper. Looking at the page after unfolding it, her pupils dilated as her smile almost extended to her eyes, and she recited the poem aloud:

“They present themselves.
To the masses, they present themselves,
Barreling from the celestial sect,
To attack the anomalies we protect,
Will come a slate soon washed anew,
And man replaced with what is true.

First is proclaimer,
A messenger bereft of empathy,
With words as wings,
And wings as swords,
Bloodshed they invoke,
And nightfall they convey.
Offer us no recompense —
The messages have long been sent.

Secondly and leisurely,
Patrons borne of crass conviction.
Gavel-wielding punishers,
Architects of jurisdiction.
Voracity for sentences.
Our cage, our pit.
Resound! Lament!

They know but one life:
To expunge.

Suddenly numberly risings took reign;
Another perversion is ready to aim.
Blazingly brass-colored polished attire;
Aberrance branding with means besting fire.
Dastardly juggernauts dripping with wrath;
Bestial wardrobes of satchel and sash.
Cross-stitching crosshairs, acrylic approach;
Tear down the fourth wall dividing us both …”

Bridge Snow paused. Bret looked up at her, feeling the quakes in his stiff neck before falling victim to the magnetic gaze peering at him over the top of the page she held. She locked his eyes into hers for a few unending seconds, and then recited the final line of the poem:

“… and they present themselves.”

*******

“What happened to your face?” was the first thing Marilyn said to Chris as they entered their homeroom class.

There were two large adhesive bandages, one on Chris’s cheek and one just above his eye. The other cuts and bruises on his body were covered by his jeans and long sleeve shirt.

“Uh, skateboarding accident,” Chris lied.

“I didn’t know you skateboarded.”

“Well, I don’t. That’s why I look like this.”

Marilyn reached into her pocket, removed a sandwich bag, and handed it to Chris.

“I made some oatmeal raisin cookies last night,” she said cutely. “Those are for you.”

Chris didn’t know what to say.

“Oh … uh, thank you!” He smiled, looking at the three cookies of baked goodness in the plastic bag. “You make the best baked stuff, Marilyn.”

“Better eat ‘em quick before Mr. Jackson gets here,” she whispered. “We can’t have food in the classrooms.”

Promptly, Chris shoved the first two cookies into his mouth, and Marilyn giggled as she watched him. The soft, crumbly, mildly chewy texture, sweet tartness of the raisins, molasses-imbued brown sugar, and hints of vanilla with cinnamon careened across his palate. With his mouth full, he handed the last cookie to Marilyn.

“No, they’re all yours,” she said. When Chris waved it in her face, she remembered its decadent, buttery, oaty, raisiny flavor. She loved oatmeal raisin cookies. “Okay, if you insist.” She took the cookie, smiling blissfully as she took a bite. “I thought about making a maple glaze for them, but I didn’t have any syrup.”

Much of the class was utilized studying and working on assignments. However, Chris wasn’t focused on his schoolwork, and spent the entire period thinking about his current life situation. As Lavi had told him, he was in for a very long school year.

“Erik is absent again,” Marilyn said during the last several minutes of homeroom. While standing next to Chris’s desk, she looked at the empty seat where Erik typically sat during the few occasions he attended school.

Chris had prepared himself for any mention of Erik.

“Are you surprised?” he asked, forcing a chuckle.

“Mmm, no. I just feel really bad for him. Like last night, I think I caught some kind of bug, or something. I thought I’d have to take today off from school, but I’m totally fine!” Marilyn looked at Chris with a sympathetic dullness on her face. “Poor guy. I can’t imagine being so sick all the time that you have to miss so much school.”

Chris wondered what Erik had meant when he talked about “the deal” to obtain his powers — he could only speculate Erik must have been desperate to pay such a price, and had to have been hurting greatly to wish his suffering to be pushed onto the world.

“Must be tough for him,” he said quietly.

“So, anyway,” Marilyn smiled brightly, turning the mood around, “I submitted my photo today.”

Chris perked up.

“Oh, that’s great.”

“I chose the one Drake picked out,” she said, “but I still used your name suggestion, ‘Eden’s Lance’, because I love it. Where did you come up with that?”

“It just sorta popped into my head.”

The bell rang, dismissing the students. Chris and Marilyn kept talking with each other as they walked down the polished hallway. Her naturally burnt-orange hair flowed behind her, and the smell of cinnamon radiated from her and met Chris’s nose.

“Did you see Drake this morning?” Marilyn asked.

“No, I didn’t.”

“He was in a really bad mood. When I told him that I submitted the photo he picked, it made him happy, but he still seemed pretty upset.”

Chris thought about it.

“I don’t blame him, though,” he said. “You know about his parents, right?”

“Yeah,” Marilyn replied with a slow nod. “It’s only been three months since his mother passed. You’ve known him longer than me. Would you say that he’s … changed since then?”

“For the most part, he’s the same,” Chris said, “but yeah, has been much moodier. Um, he’s always been kinda moody, though.”

“I want to do something for him.” Marilyn looked at Chris with her hazel eyes. “Something to make him feel better, you know?”

“That’s a good idea, but what should we do?”

“I don’t know,” she said with a smile, “he’s your best friend, so I’ll let you decide.”

From behind, Katie Vickers called out to Marilyn and rushed over with sparkling excitement all over her face.

“Mary! Come quick! Mont Blanc is back!”

Marilyn’s eyes lit up.

“Really? He came back?”

“Really for reals! He and Garret have been reunited!”

“Aw, I gotta see this!” As she and Katie took off, she turned around and waved to Chris. “Later, Chris! See ya around!”

Chris waved back at Marilyn and watched her disappear into the crowd of students, then he headed to his locker. After quickly organizing his books, he took out his phone and synched it to his Bluetooth earpiece.

“Hey, Excalibur.”

“Hello, Christopher.”

“Are there any threats nearby?”

“I am not detecting any threats.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Chris added, “One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Do an internet search for Chicago Cubs baseball tickets. I have a friend who needs to be cheered up.”

“I thought your friend is a White Sox fan,” Excalibur said.

“Huh? W-what are you talking about?”

“It was a joke.”

“It wasn’t a funny joke. You can tell me the search results after next class.”

He put the earpiece away and closed his locker, ready for his next class. When he turned around, he saw none other than his best friend walking up to him, well-dressed with a gray polo shirt, tight-fitting blue jeans, and white trainers.

“What’s up, bud?” Drake greeted.

“Hey.”

They bumped fists.

“What happened to your face?”

“Skateboarding accident.”

“You skateboard?”

“Not really.”

“Oh. Did Mary tell you?” Drake asked. “She submitted her photo. The one I picked out.”

“That’s what she told me,” Chris said with a smile. “I wish her luck.”

“Me too,” Drake said. “She’s … very talented. And I think she deserves to win.”

“Yeah.” Chris couldn’t help but bring up the subject. “So, she told me that you were down in the dumps today.”

With a sigh, Drake shrugged and said, “Kinda.”

Chris playfully punched Drake’s shoulder.

“Dude, I’ve got your back. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”

“Thanks, man.”

“What are you doing tonight?” Chris asked. “Wanna hang out? Get some tacos? Play video games? Drive through Aurora and listen to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?”

The solemn expression Drake wore was hard to miss.

“I would,” he said, avoiding eye contact, “but I don’t have a lot of free time. It’s been hard.”

“Oh, okay.”

“But when I get some free time,” Drake said, perking up. “I’ll definitely let you know. Maybe catch a baseball game again. It’s been too long, man!”

Chris grinned.

“And that’s why I know you’re my best buddy,” he said happily.

Drake was confused, but Chris didn’t bother explaining. He didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

dovita
badge-silver
Reduke12
badge-bronze
James K.
badge-bronze
Jio Kurenai
badge-gold
The Only One
badge-bronze
Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.