Chapter 31:

The Wizard and the Teacher


December 29, 2022 AD. Dyson Household, California, USA, Earth

The atmosphere in the Dyson’s home had been frosty ever since the fight on Christmas day. Everyone acted polite to each other whenever they interacted, which to Cam was the biggest indicator that something was wrong. Normally, the girls would have joked and messed with each other, but the frosty politeness completely eliminated that dynamic. They all interacted with Cam normally, but always seemed to find an excuse to be in different parts of the house whenever another was around. D&M, naturally, was out of the question.

Annette, Bekah, and Ella all moved out after a few days, despite the repeated insistence from Dinah’s family that they were welcome to stay as long as they liked. They all had different reasons: Ella’s dorm was finished with remodeling, Bekah claimed she wanted to make up with her family, and just Annette sort of disappeared one day, only leaving behind a short note that she would spend a few days with her mother. By the 29th, the only ones left in the house were Dinah, her family, and Cam. Cam had finished with all his work in preparation for the upcoming semester—the first day of class was in four days, on January 2nd. As a result, Cam had a lot of free time in the last few days, which he spent hanging around the house. A few times, he played games with Dinah, but he couldn’t put his heart in it, and neither could she. What used to be heart-pumping contests that tested both of their gaming skills to the max was reduced to simply mashing the same attack until the game ended one way or another.

Still, Cam woke up on the 29th in a good mood. He had slept in late, so it was almost 11am by the time he rolled out of bed. After getting dressed, he drifted into the kitchen to get something to eat. When he arrived, he found Dinah with an apron on and ingredients spread around the countertop, evidently baking something. “Where’s the rest of the family?” Cam asked idly, taking a bite of an apple from a collection of fruit the family always had out.

“Ingrid is with a friend, and Mom and Dad are at work,” Dinah informed him without looking away from her baking.

“Huh, so your parents don’t even get the week between Christmas and New Years off? Rough.” He wandered into the living room where he turned on the TV to what had been on last: a series of YouTube videos about the history of heavy metal that Dinah’s father had watched the previous day. The videos were surprisingly interesting, so Cam idly watched them while keeping an ear out for the sounds of disaster coming the kitchen. Surprisingly, nothing exploded and no poisonous scents were created from Dinah’s cooking.

Cam was flipping through social media on his phone in boredom when Dinah entered the living room. She had taken off the apron and was clearly holding something behind her back. For a moment, she stood uncertainly at the threshold of room, refusing to make eye contact with Cam but clearly glancing at him repeatedly. After a moment of confusion, Cam turned off the TV and put down his phone. “Dinah? What is it?” he asked.

Still refusing to meet his eyes, Dinah revealed what she had concealed: a plate with a pile of cookies on it. “I made these for you,” she said, setting the plate on the couch next to Cam.

A bit nonplussed, Cam said “thanks, that was thoughtful of you.” Although he wasn’t hungry, for politeness’ sake he took a bite of a cookie. It was decidedly…ok. Not the best cookie he had ever eaten by a long shot, but it was certainly edible and even mildly enjoyable. He ate a second cookie as Dinah steadfastly refused to look at him. “They’re really good,” Cam said lamely. “Want one?”

“They’re for you,” she said quietly.

“Ah.” Cam popped another of the crumbly cookies into his mouth, wishing the atmosphere in the room was a little less tense. Deciding to crack a joke to lighten the air, he said “this situation is set up like you’re about to confess your love or something.” At that, Dinah fully blushed and hung her head lower. “Sorry,” Cam said. “Bad joke.”

“It is.” Dinah spoke in a whisper.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“I said it is. Just like the scenario you said.” As Cam gazed at her, flabbergasted, Dinah suddenly raised her head with determination. Although her cheeks flushed scarlet, she looked Cam directly in the eyes as she told him “Cam, I really like you. Mm-mm,” she corrected herself, shaking her head. “I love you.”

Their gaze lasted a long, long time. Finally, with an air of resignation, Cam said “Did Annette put you up to this?” Dinah didn’t respond. “That would be just like her. Making up after a fight with a prank like this—”

“Cam, you jerk!” Something hit him across the face, hard. Dinah’s outstretched arm made it clear what had happened: she had slapped him with all of her might.

“Ow, what was that for?” Cam said, rubbing his cheek.

“I cannot believe you!” Dinah’s eyes glistened with tears, although they could have been an indicator of sadness or rage. “I tell you how I really feel about you, and you respond like that?!”

“I’m sorry, geez.” He stood up to face her.

“By saying it was a prank?!” Dinah’s voice was high-pitched.

“All right, all right, I shouldn’t have said that. And I appreciate the thought behind it.” Whatever that is.

“What do you mean ‘thought behind it?’” Dinah asked, her voice dangerously unstable.

“I…I appreciate the attempted confidence boost. Really, I do. But you shouldn’t lie about your feelings like that, Dinah.” Yes, that’s it. She doesn’t seem like it, but Dinah really is a sweet person. She saw I was feeling down and decided to cheer me up. He turned to walk away.

Dinah grabbed his arm to prevent him from leaving. “Why can’t you listen? I didn’t tell you I love because I’m trying to boost your ego, I told you I love you because I love you!” She was blushing furiously but looked determined anyway.

Cam just shook his head. “I know you don’t really.” She slapped him on the other cheek, looking even more furious. “Because,” he hastened to explain, “I know you all put up with me for D&M. I know that you all enjoy hanging out with each other, and since you’re all nice enough to tolerate me hanging around, I try to live up to your expectations, but…” He took a deep breath. It hurt to say out loud, but at the same time it somehow felt good to expose the truth. “It took constant repeating from, gosh, how many—ten, eleven?—ex-girlfriends, plus an I-forget number of failed friendships for me to get the picture, but I did get it. I’m not totally stupid. I’ve figured out that I’ll never be lovable, and that’s ok. I can settle for being an almost-friend to you all. But you don’t have to pretend that you’d ever want our relationship to move beyond that.”

During this entire monologue, Dinah stared at Cam in astonishment. “‘The Sunviewers and Cyon,’” she said.


“I always wondered why you phrased it like that whenever you narrate for D&M. Whenever you describe what’s happening in the game, you always say ‘The Sunviewers and Cyton do whatever.’ Like the two are different. I thought maybe it was just a mistake or something. But all this time, you really thought Cyton wasn’t a member of the Sunviewers? You really thought you weren’t one of us?”

“I didn’t think it. I knew it,” Cam said. He couldn’t keep the hopelessness from creeping into his voice. He hung his head, somehow ashamed to look Dinah in the eye.

“Pft!” Dinah made a strange sound. Cam looked up in curiosity to see her shaking. Was she crying? No, he realized, she’s laughing. For the third time this conversation, Dinah smacked him. However, this time, she gently hit him on the top of the head, like he was a faulty machine that she was trying to smack into usefulness.

“What was that one for?”

Dinah smiled fondly. “For being an idiot.” Before he could move away, she pulled him into a hug, her head resting on his shoulder. Oddly, he was reminded of that rainy day a few months ago, when Dinah had forgotten an umbrella. On that day, by coincidence, he had ended up embracing her and noticing how small and fragile she was. Today, with this forceful hug from Dinah, he was struck that while she was small, she was firm, not fragile.

“Since you’re an idiot, let me spell it out,” she whispered into his ear. “Annette cares about you. Bekah cares about you. Ella cares about you. So does Jordan. And I love you. I love how you can be the biggest idiot while also being a genius, I love your sarcasm, I love how to make different voices for all the characters in D&M, I love how you get flustered when Annette teases you but you push through and snark back, I love how you committed to getting ripped just because Ella suggested it, I love how you’ll put up with church for Bekah. And I love how you got an awkward shy girl with no friends to come out of her shell and be bold enough to do this.” She lightly kissed him on the cheek. After that, the two broke apart and stood a few feet away.

“Wow,” Cam said. “Uh. That was…”

“W-well, definitely it was…”

For some reason, Cam found it hard to look Dinah in the eyes. Or anywhere near her, for that matter. The floor is great. Yep, nice floor. So clean! I’m definitely not avoiding looking in her in the eyes or anything.

“So—” both said at the same time. “Sorry, you go first!” they said again simultaneously.

Dinah chuckled, incredibly awkwardly. “Go ahead.”

“Right, thanks. Um, wow. I was a real jerk there for a second, huh.”

“You kind of were.”

“Yeah. Sorry about that.” He shifted his vision from the floor to the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “Dinah, how I feel about you, it is—”


“Sure, that’s a nice way to put it. I don’t really know myself.”

“That’s all right, Cam.” At that, he gazed right into Dinah’s eyes again as she said “I can tell you have a lot to sort through. You don’t have to give me the answer right now.” Not trusting his voice, Cam nodded.

They stood there awkwardly for several seconds. “I have a thing, or something, to do,” Cam said, now acutely aware of how unbelievably awkward this moment after was.

“Right! Me too! A thing, yes! A very real thing that I need to go do right now.” Dinah bolted up the stairs to her room, slamming the door loudly enough to rattle the TV downstairs. Cam was thankful that she had left, because he himself had been on the verge of running off in embarrassment himself, and he figured that would not be a good look after receiving such a heartfelt confession of love.

Now in something like shellshock at the realization of everything that had just happened, Cam sat down on the couch, absentmindedly munching on Dinah’s cookies. He was still sitting there when, over an hour later, Ingrid burst through the front door yelling “I’m home!” She stopped in front of Cam. “What’s wrong with you? Did your girlfriend break up with you or something?”

“Not exactly,” Cam said, still in a daze.