ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]
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CHAPTER 17: THE COLLECTIVE CHAOS
It was customary for everyone in Saint Baptiste Monastery to wake up no later than 8:00 AM every day, at which time Father Dood and Sister Farrah woke up their guests Saturday morning. Chris and the others were fed a simple breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, although they felt out of place eating in the long, narrow refectory among the many quiet monks and nuns. Even so, the residents did not stare at nor intrude on the “outsiders,” and were courteous toward them.
After breakfast, Brother Samuel escorted Chris, Robbie, Bret, Sandra, and Al to the monastery gate. As the sun shone through the partly cloudy sky, Al addressed the group once they were outside the monastery grounds.
“Because I’ll need to assist with the restoration of my bandalores,” Al said while they stood on the sidewalk close to the gate, “let’s plan on meeting later this evening. When we do, we’ll discuss putting things into action.”
“Meeting again tonight?” Robbie gave Al a pained expression. “You don’t even wanna give us a full day to recover?”
Al raised an eyebrow.
“You are recovered,” she told Robbie impatiently, “because of Sandra’s healing technique. And, unlike me, your powers should have fully recovered because you don’t require magical restoration or rely on regenerative tools, like my bandalores.”
Bret yawned. “You’re gonna be a little slave driver, ain’t ya?” he told Al curtly.
“We need to act quickly,” Al said, keeping her anger in check. “I’ve given you guys a place to sleep with water and food, and I’m giving more than half a day to do whatever you’re all gonna do. That’s enough, I’d say. In fact, I’ve completed missions with far less.”
“We’re not in your damn organization,” Bret grumbled, pointing his finger at Al, “and we were all normal people before this stuff, so piss off.”
When the redness flared up on Al’s cheeks, Sandra quickly stepped in.
“Bret’s saying we need to take it easy,” she said. “I agree. We weren’t raised in a hardened lifestyle like you, so we need to be slowly introduced into this. Our entire way of life has been flipped on its head.”
“Hmph.” Bret shook his head. “Whatever. Just show me the enemy and I’ll pound ‘em. And damn, do I need a cigarette…”
Chris heard his phone indicate a received text message. Wondering who was texting him so early, he was surprised to see it was from Marilyn.
["Hey Chris! R u busy today? Maybe we can meet up and study together if u want. Katie and the Canadian beaver kid might join us"]
Marilyn wants to study with me? That might be okay if we do it early enough.
Chris glanced at his companions as they talked about a time and place to meet that night, and he sent a text back to Marilyn.
["Id like to. What time and where?"]
In seconds, Marilyn replied:
["Noon? I was thinking of the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature"]
“Chris,” Al said, catching the boy’s attention. “We’re meeting tonight at six here at Saint Baptiste.”
“Oh, okay,” Chris replied passively.
“Pay attention, will ya?” Al told Chris huffily. “Your eyes are glued to your phone and we’re having a serious discussion here.”
“Sorry,” Chris said.
“Yeah, yeah.” Bret stuffed his hands into his pants pockets and shuffled down the sidewalk, the others looking after him. “I’m outta here. Later.”
“What a dickhead,” Sandra grunted when Bret was out of earshot. “Do we really need him around?”
“Unfortunately, yeah.” Robbie shrugged, zipping his green and gray sports jacket halfway up. “We could use all the help we can get.”
Around the corner, after everyone had gone in their directions, Chris replied to Marilyn’s text message.
["Noon will work. I never been there. Im meeting some people later so I should have enough time. Did you ask Drake if he wants to come with?"]
He continued the walk home, deciding not to take any public transportation. After all, Al had said the distance between his house and Saint Baptiste Monastery was walkable. All the way, he worried about what his mother would say about his ripped clothes.
Another text message came:
["Yay! And yes I asked Drake but he said he was too busy but would try to make it. He has a lot of stuff to do lately doesnt he?"]
A fluffy cloud moved in front of the sun, casting a chill down on Chris as he typed another message on his phone and sent it.
["He does. I hope he doesnt push himself too hard"]
Marilyn beamed as she approached Chris a block away from the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature. He was staring at his phone, not doing anything on it, when Marilyn robbed him of his absentmindedness.
“Hi!” she greeted eagerly.
Chris deliberately needed to shift his thoughts to the present situation, and seeing Marilyn’s smile served as a great beacon to guide him back to reality.
“Hey there,” he said, putting his phone in his pocket.
“Katie and Garret couldn’t make it,” Marilyn said. “It’s too bad. It would’ve been fun with more people.”
“Heh, oh well.”
Marilyn adjusted her book bag hanging from her shoulder. “I brought all of my books and notes, so, uh, if you forgot anything, you can borrow from me.”
There was a downcast edge in Chris’ mannerisms Marilyn could pick up on, but it was so slight that she hardly knew she had noticed at all.
“Worried about school?” she asked somewhat automatically.
“Huh? No, not really,” Chris said somewhat instinctively.
“I haven’t seen you wear that hoodie in a while.” She looked at the Callout 89 hoodie Chris wore.
“Oh yeah. My jacket got ripped up last night.”
“Skateboarding accident again?”
The intersection was unusually busy as they crossed to the other side. When the two of them approached the main entrance to the Stadium of Rad-Tastic Literature, the first thing Chris noticed was its spacious, inviting vibe that compensated for its blatant, off-putting size. Passing through the doors, he was greeted by lunchtime smells and down-home sights reminiscent of visiting his grandparents’ house; cozy, secure, and suspended in timelessness.
Marilyn giggled when she saw Chris’ stupor.
“I can’t believe this is your first time here,” she said.
“I’ve heard a lot about it, but never actually came.”
“Are you awestruck? You seem like it.”
“You could say that.”
Chris followed Marilyn through the book emporium that was the ground-level floor. In the elevator, the spectacular view through the glass walls gave Chris a perspective on the expansive interior and the noteworthy customer base that filled it. The scent of warm cinnamon coming from Marilyn was the perfect complement for the smells already occupying the air, like a puzzle piece from a different set that somehow worked better than the original piece.
“Whoever thought of making this elevator with glass,” Marilyn said dreamily, “kudos to them. It makes it worth not taking the stairs.”
“It’s really cool. You can see almost the entire first floor.”
“And that’s just the first floor. Wait until you see the second.”
The elevator dinged when it reached the top. Chris stepped out, finding it hard to believe he was in a bookstore with so many games and activities taking place. Every aspect of the social atmosphere was playful. Throughout the area, unlicensed remixes of songs by the American electronic band Krewella were gently pumping out from overhead speakers.
Chris looked around, pleasantly surprised.
“This isn’t what I expected.”
“Isn’t it amazing?” Marilyn absorbed the surroundings while buzzing with the enthusiasm that seemed to compose the very floors and walls. “That’s why I wanted to have a group come. We could totally have game nights here with everyone, don’t ya think? Or big study parties and stuff.”
“Yeah,” Chris said, smiling. “I’m down for that.”
“Let’s go find a place to sit. I think I see some open spots at those tables back there.”
They made their way through the congregation of college and high school students, and it was easy for Chris to feel like he fit right in. Seeing and hearing everyone enjoying themselves made Chris happy, and he took a mental note to come back with more people as Marilyn had suggested.
Marilyn suddenly stopped walking. Before Chris could ask why, Marilyn pulled him closer and whispered in his ear.
“Hey!” She pointed to a person sitting alone at one of the tables. “Do you see that girl?”
One look was all Chris needed to recognize who it was. The girl in question wore an outfit so mismatched that it harmonized. Her long, black hair with accents of seafoam blue and frost white was styled such that it resembled an ocean wave, and was memorable enough to be picked out in a crowd of people.
“Yeah,” Chris said indifferently.
“She’s a local author,” Marilyn explained. “Bridge Snow.”
Chris chuckled. “I know. I’ve met her before.”
“You have?” Marilyn’s hazel eyes widened with fascination. “C’mon, let’s go sit by her!”
“Uhhh…” Not necessarily against the idea, Chris was merely concerned about being thrust into another awkward conversation, just like when he had met Bridge Snow and Bret at the café in Uptown.
Marilyn hurried over and approached the vibrant novelist like an excited puppy; if she had had a tail, it would’ve been wagging.
“Hi there!” Marilyn greeted without a second thought. “I have to ask…are you Bridge Snow?”
Bridge Snow was reading from an e-reader in a blue suede protective case, a cup of cappuccino steaming on the table. She looked up—her dazzling electric blue eyes were magnetic and stormy, like lightning in marbles. The smile she gave Marilyn could have been on her face the entire time, as if anticipating the encounter and preparing her response ahead of time.
“I am, thank you for asking.” Her French accent added her soft speech to her exotic nature.
Marilyn proceeded without missing a beat.
“I’m a fan, especially of your poetry. And your newest novel, When Shadows Bite, the Darkness Feasts was, like, ooh…so good! I mean, it’s all good. It’s all so vivid and super creepy…I mean that in a good way, of course.”
With the most subtle of nods, Bridge Snow replied, “Thank you.”
“Do you mind if we sit here?” Marilyn asked, already pulling out one of the chairs on the other side of the table. “We’re just going to do some studying.”
It seemed to take ages…uncategorized measurements of time, in fact…before Bridge Snow said, “Be my guest.”
During this standstill, the novelist directed her stormy-night gaze toward Chris, sweeping her eyes across the table before moving up to him. The motion of this gaze had a strong mutual relationship with her smile, which broadened without moving, all while her eyes evolved into moonlit reflections below the tide of her oceanic hairdo.
Chris took a seat next to Marilyn and directly across from Bridge Snow.
“How are you?” was all Chris could say to the novelist.
Bridge Snow took a sip of her cappuccino. “Well.”
To occupy the silence, Chris removed his history textbook, notes, and study guide. Marilyn fanned out a rainbow of colorful mechanical pencils (the pencils were colored, not the graphite), figuring out which one she wanted to use first. The color of her pencil usually decided the subject she would work on.
“The yellow one,” Bridge Snow said, not looking away from her e-reader.
“The yellow one, huh?” Marilyn picked up the yellow mechanical pencil with a decisive smile. “That would mean I’m starting with history.”
“We have that test on Monday,” Chris said, opening the textbook to the section with scant information about the Illiniwek Juncture.
“Yup. There are a few tests next week, math and social studies, too.” Marilyn saw Chris had his history textbook open. “You’re starting with history, too?” Turning to Bridge Snow, she added, “What a coincidence that you’d pick the yellow pencil.”
Looking at Chris’ history textbook, Bridge Snow replied, “The cover of that textbook has a color scheme with purple as the dominant. The subtractive color model, known as CMYK, is the color model for inks and paints, such as the ink on the book’s cover. Referring to the CMYK model, purple is the opposite color of yellow.” She looked at Marilyn’s yellow pencil. “That’s why I picked yellow.”
Marilyn’s mouth was open. She was fascinated.
“No way! That’s exactly how I choose which pencil goes with which class.” She leaned over the table to get a closer look at Bridge Snow, as if examining a tantalizing test subject. “How’d you guess?”
Bridge Snow took a slow sip of cappuccino.
“Patrons of the creative arts share the collective chaos,” she said in a mystical tone with a tiny, yet profound smile.
Overjoyed and elated, Marilyn squealed.
“Holey cheeses, you know I’m an artist! Yeah, I paint and do photos and stuff like that. I have this awesome camera,” she presented her camera with impressive speed, which Chris didn’t realize she had with her, “and I’m waiting for the results of this photography contest I entered for a magazine.” She slammed her palms onto the table with a dutiful, passionate expression on her face. “This…is…too…cool…” She stood up and grinned at Chris and Bridge Snow. “I’m gonna buy some snacks and stuff! I’ll be right back!”
And like that, she hurried off to the food stand, leaving Chris alone with Bridge Snow.
“So…uh,” Chris said, trying to think of a conversation topic that could possibly pique the interest of the person across the table, “what was that you said about creative artists sharing the collective chaos?”
Bridge Snow looked at Chris over the top of her e-reader. Her smile widened.
“The chaos,” she said, almost whispering, still smiling, “weeps itself to sleep.”
“I don’t know what that could possibly mean,” he said flatly.
That response seemed to amuse Bridge Snow, and she returned to her e-reader.
“You wouldn’t know,” she eventually told him. “You’re not a creative one.”
Not allowing himself to be perturbed, Chris looked around. However, his mind was wandering more than his eyes, and he found himself revisiting the events of the previous night in Seward Park. Going back further, he began to contemplate the various things leading up to last night’s event. If, indeed, the chaos wept itself to sleep, then the order slapped itself awake—somewhere in between, Chris believed he had ended up.
He looked down at his textbook, then across the table at Bridge Snow. She had one hand on her cappuccino as it rested on the table, and held her e-reader with the other hand; she didn’t seem to be paying attention, but she seemingly never seemed to be anything denotative.
“I want to ask you something,” Chris said to her.
She looked at him, and actually “seemed” to be curious and interested by whatever question was about to come her way. Chris’ mind was a gust of scattered papers—each page an essay on a different thought, topic, and notion—as he kicked himself for bringing up the subject.
“You’re a fiction writer,” he continued. “Does that mean you’re familiar with all sorts of fiction? I mean, not just the type you write.”
“I have knowledge and interests of all sorts of stories,” she replied, placing her e-reader on the table, folding the blue suede cover over its screen. Her full attention was oddly intimidating in a lavish way, but did not deter Chris from saying more.
“Well, uh,” Chris gave it some thought, “let me say it like this. Let’s pretend I’m a superhero.”
“I like to pretend.”
“…Cool. Anyway, we’ll say I basically act out this superhero thing in real life. It’s kinda hard to explain, though.”
“You’re talking about LARPing?”
“What?” Chris asked.
“Live action role-playing,” Bridge Snow explained. “It’s when you act as a character, possibly in any role-playing game, and incorporate the game into real life.”
“Basically, we’ll go with that,” Chris said. “So, I’m like a superhero. Not really a distinct one, but also not just a basic, generic comic book superhero, but more realistic.” He paused, glancing at the open page of his textbook with the Illiniwek Juncture introduction. “How do you think I stack up to other fictional superheroes?” He paused again and laughed, feeling embarrassed. “Sorry, it’s a weird question, and kinda vague. I just have this weird thing on my mind.”
To Chris’ surprise, Bridge Snow was quite invested in the discussion and replied without hesitation.
“Do you have a tragic backstory?” she asked.
“Um, not really,” Chris answered. “I’ve had it really well, up until recently when I learned about my powers…and my enemies.”
“Anything tragic happen so far?”
“No, not permanently.” Chris shook his head. “Nothing truly tragic. Not yet…”
Saying “not yet” didn’t settle well in his stomach.
“In most genre fiction, such as those containing superheroes,” Bridge Snow explained, “the focus is on action and moving plot, and less on the characters themselves. Still, if there is no emotional connection to a hero that the audience feels, then the story’s integrity will suffer. In such stories, having a tragic past or despairing life is vital to connecting the audience to the characters…” she took a slow sip of cappuccino, “unless the characters’ development is central and effective, in which case it risks cessation of being true genre fiction. Importantly, satires and parodies of genre fiction may override those points for humorous effects.”
“I don’t really think my character is designed for development.”
“That’s unfortunate. Do you have allies?”
“Yeah, they’re really helpful. They…also are very unique from one another.”
“Are they more interesting than you?” she pressed. “This is only crucial if you’re the main character, which you probably aren’t in a live action role-playing game, because it’s equal for all players.”
“It’s hard to say if they are at this point in the game,” he told her, “but…I think of myself as the main character of my own story—my own life. I wonder if they think that way about themselves, sometimes.”
“Do your allies rely on you?”
Chris gave it some serious thought, so seriously that he plunged far below the surface of the brightness surrounding him and drowned it all out.
“That’s yet to be seen.”
With a smile that could have been insulting, possibly bored, Bridge Snow held his attention with nothing more than her own attention.
“If you ask me,” she finally said, “you’re a boring superhero, and if you were the main character, you’d be an utter failure.”
Chuckling, Chris said, “People tell me similar things all the time.”
“There’s hope, though,” she added. “There are no rules to telling a story, only rules of telling a marketable one.”
“Ah.” Chris suddenly felt as if the conversation was treading somewhere he didn’t intend to take it. “I guess I could be appealing because I’m different.”
“Many wish for that. It’s not very different to think you’re different.”
“I don’t really care, though,” Chris said with a shrug. “As long as I’m doing what feels right, I’m fine with it.”
“Yes…a truly boring superhero.”
“You don’t even know my powers.”
“They don’t matter at this point. They’ve all been done before.” Bridge Snow finished her cappuccino; the sound of an empty cup being placed on the saucer was very distinct compared to that of a full cup. “But your confidence and intuition of what’s right is what makes you a better person than a character.”
“So, I shouldn’t worry about it too much,” Chris replied, half to himself.
Bridge Snow put her hands together and gently interlocked her fingers, saying, “This has been very enjoyable to speak with you about this topic.”
“That’s good.” Chris smiled. “So, what’d you find enjoyable about this conversation? I actually like superhero movies and games and stuff.”
“You asked me to critique these characters and the genre,” she replied—a moonlit tempest caught an updraft through her eyes, and her lips curled playfully, “yet this feels like I am critiquing you.”
Chris stared at Bridge Snow, and she returned a gaze equally as electrical as her colorful outfit and attire.
“Maybe we’re all just characters in something pointless?” he said, shrugging.
Bridge Snow’s playful, watchful expression didn’t budge, her teasingly restrained smile holding its form. However, it was this very lack of reaction that gave away her excitement. She had difficulty looking away from Chris, and the boy was aware of it.
“That was a melancholic remark,” she replied, “and yet, you did not say it as such.”
“Well,” Chris said straightforwardly, “it doesn’t make me upset. I don’t even think it’s a bad thing if it’s all for nothing…I think…”
“Do you consider yourself a nihilist?”
Blinking, Chris answered, “Huh? What’s that?”
Bridge Snow didn’t reply, but only looked at the table while wearing an amused face. Marilyn arrived with a platter of something that looked and smelled delicious, but had no discernable characteristics worthy (or possible) to explain.
“Here we go!” Marilyn said happily, putting the food on the table. “Muzzleloader Bacon Bombs! I only had enough money for one order, but I swear I had enough for two…maybe the price went up.” She took a seat next to Chris. “So, did you guys have an engaging conversation about writing? Did Bridge Snow tell you about her craft, or what she knows?”
After a moment of nonverbal dialogue with the stormy-night eyes across the table, Chris smiled at Marilyn and said, “Actually, we did. It was…” It was what? “…in-depth.”
“I’ve been trying to read different kinds of books,” Marilyn said, “but some of it is, like, over my head.” She blew on a bacon bomb to cool it down. “I’m having a hard time with Marcel Proust, although the descriptions are really good. Have you heard of Proust, Bridge Snow? The French author.”
Bridge Snow focused on the question, feeling immensely entertained.
“I love Proust,” she said, her eyes staring into an unspecified point—her lips were again curled playfully upward. “I plan to do a third read-through of In Search of Lost Time, in German this time. I have read it in French and English.”
The bacon bomb’s route to Marilyn’s mouth was thereto delayed by her marvel.
She gasped. “Isn’t that the book that’s, like, crazy big?”
“Nearly one million, two hundred seventy thousand words in the English translation,” Bridge Snow told her, “spanning seven volumes. By comparison, the seven main Harry Potter books are just over one million, eighty thousand words.”
“And you’ve read it twice? In two different languages?”
Bridge Snow nodded. Chris couldn’t tell if she was proud or not.
There was a study guide to help prepare for the test, which Chris ignored. Instead, he brought up the internet browser on his smartphone and did an online search. He wasn’t there for actual homework.
Marilyn noticed Chris slide his study guide back into his class folder and get on his phone.
“Whatcha doing?” she asked curiously.
“I’m doing extra research on the Illiniwek Juncture conspiracy theories,” Chris said, being honest.
“The Illiniwek Juncture.” Marilyn thought about it for a moment. “That’s the big thing that happened in Chicago in the early 1900s. Or supposedly happened, I mean.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“But it’s just a conspiracy theory, or something.”
“There are lots of conspiracy theories about it,” Chris told her, looking at the list of online search results on his phone.
“I didn’t know you were into conspiracy theories.”
“Well, I’m not, really,” he replied, remembering Lavi’s obvious hint about researching the infamous event. “I just had a sudden curiosity.”
“What about your study guide?” Marilyn asked. “You get extra credit for filling it out.”
With an assuring smile, Chris replied, “It’ll be fine. This counts as studying too, doesn’t it?”
Marilyn didn’t look very convinced as she glanced at her open history book, but she nodded.
“I guess,” she said.
Selecting a search result, Chris opened an article aptly titled “Top Illiniwek Juncture Conspiracy Theories” on a website called The Allium Layers. It started with a brief introduction of the Illiniwek Juncture, summarizing the information contained in Chris’ history textbook.
Reading further, the article soon dived into what Chris had been looking for. Despite knowing better, he looked across the table at Bridge Snow, and their eyes met briefly before she again engrossed herself in her e-reader.
Bracing himself for whatever he was about to read, Chris delved back into the conspiracy theory article:
[“Many conspiracy theories encircle the Illiniwek Juncture, all of which are entirely or partially rejected by official entities and mainstream academia. Although conventional Chicago historians refute these theories by use of official documents and records, many theorists believe those records to be incorrect, intentionally fabricated, or incomplete with many portions hidden or destroyed.
“Here are some of the most popular conspiracy theories. Remember, this is only a compilation of information from various unofficial sources (as conspiracy theories, they themselves are ‘unofficial’). The sources are difficult to verify, so understand that this article is not the source of information, but a compilation.”]
Chris looked away from the screen, realizing he was about to venture into something he normally avoided.
This is gonna get crazy, he thought. I don’t usually buy into this stuff…but Lavi knows something, and I think he wants me to know it, too. But why can’t he just tell me these things himself?
When he looked back at the screen, his heart skipped a beat as he read the header for the first theory.
[“THEORY 1: A Secret Society Caused the Event”]
The notion of a secret society hit uncomfortably close to Chris’ circumstances, and he instantly thought of Al and her mysterious organization as he read on.
[“This is one of the more accepted theories. While there is no solid proof of such a secret society, there is a bevy of information circling around the web about what is commonly referred to as the Alliuminati.
“The Alliuminati is believed to have orchestrated much or all of the Illiniwek Juncture, and used any combination of politics, urban development, economics, social reform, and religion to shape the Chicago metropolitan area in an advantageous favor.
“There is no unanimous agreement among theorists as to what goal(s) the Alliuminati wished to achieve, but commonalities include creating a society headed by an ideological figurehead, concealing knowledge deemed too dangerous for the general public, and guiding the evolution of the human race to create a new species capable of building a utopia; some theories involve all three of these points.
“One valuable piece of evidence for the Alliuminati theory is the Saint Baptiste Monastery located in Chicago. Built in 1902, the monastery was controversial because it did not adhere to any previously known denomination of Christianity, although it is sometimes speculated that the observed religion within is not Christian at all.
“Originally deemed a ‘cult,’ the residents are notorious for having no traceable communication with the outside world. This includes taxes, from which they typically should not be exempt, and there is no proof of the monastery having a financial income. All monasteries require money to operate, and the discipline of ‘work for a living’ is a common and ancient teaching of monasteries around the world. Therefore, it is strange for Saint Baptiste Monastery to be operating at all, and questions arise as to how the IRS handles the monastery’s lack of taxable financial responsibility. This opens up the possibility of the monastery having some sort of connection with (or as) a secret society that has influence over Chicago’s socioeconomics.”]
Chris looked up from his phone. He blinked, feeling as if his eyes had gone dry.
It mentions Saint Baptiste Monastery. It all is connected. Al…who are you?
The following headlines for the other theories involved ancient aliens and a time-travelling Adolf Hitler. Staring at his open textbook, Chris was now completely uninterested in his schoolwork.
More online searches for the Illiniwek Juncture either turned up similar information, or were so heavily biased that they actually confused him. Eventually, he was searching for other Chicago urban legends, such as random campfire smells within the city, the origins of Cold Fjord’s mascot, and the alchemist abilities of the local musician/radio personality DJ Kenny Streets.
After a while, Bridge Snow received a phone call, had a short conversation in French, and excused herself. Marilyn had a college boy use her camera to take a picture of herself, Bridge Snow, and Chris. Minutes later, Chris and Marilyn wrapped up the study session, Marilyn feeling confident about the upcoming tests, and Chris feeling even more insecure toward Aleph-Naught and her organization.
While packing away his supplies, Chris received a text message from Drake.
“Drake just texted me,” Chris told Marilyn. “He said he’s available to study with us now.”
Marilyn pouted. “Aw, but we just finished.”
“We can still hang out, can’t we?” He focused on Marilyn. “I…really want to see my friends while I still can…”
“Um,” Marilyn checked the time on her phone, “actually, I need to get home. My dad is treating us to a late luncheon thing his job is holding, because he just got promoted, and I need to get ready.” Her face became slightly sullen. “My stepmother wouldn’t be happy if I missed it.” She perked back up. “But I want to go anyway! I’m so happy for my dad, he’s such a hard worker!”
“Oh, good for him,” Chris said. “I’ll hang out with Drake. You go do that.”
The ride down in the elevator was shared with other people, and another girl complimented Marilyn’s cinnamon aura. As Chris and Marilyn walked out of the main entrance, they said goodbye, then Chris called Drake to arrange a meeting.Chris needed to make as many arrangements with his friends as possible, because he knew there would be fewer opportunities with each passing day.