wasn't sure if it was a blessing or a curse to be seated around
the lunch table with four girls, but two weeks into the new
school year he was leaning towards curse. This wasn't universal,
of course, but given his particular situation and his particular
relation with these four particular girls... he really missed
have been worse, namely not having any real friends at all.
Regardless of gender, he was thrilled to have four in his inner
circle. Good make-up too: one significant other, one childhood
friend, one loudmouth and one irritatingly cute mascot. But
losing Kurt to the workplace changed the dynamic completely. The
balance had been disturbed and he was now the oddity in the
group, a pretty daunting label considering the group included a
twelve-year-old sophomore. Far too often, the context of their
conversations skewed toward the feminine side, sometimes
forgetting that Troy was listening.
example, Troy was aware of a certain special time in every
girl's life involving biological functions that immediately
signaled to him that mere awareness was more than enough. When
it happened to Yuki a week into the school year, oh he got all
the details, plus anecdotes, product comparisons and a sudden
lack of appetite. By the time Marie caught on, wrapped her arms
around his shoulders and joked, “Having fun?” he was gone.
Unbelievably, that wasn't the worst of it. Troy didn't think the
topic of romance would be too much trouble. Kamila was single,
Marie couldn't gossip about her boyfriend as he was privy to the
conversation and Yuki, blossoming or not, deterred anyone from
getting too risqué. At least in theory: turned out that Kamila
was bent on dating vicariously through Kathryn. Kathryn tried to
be discreet out of respect for Troy and Yuki, but modesty was
not her nature. She let enough slip out accidentally to make him
uncomfortable, with the only reassurance that Marie seemed to
feel the same way.
particular day, Troy might have thought himself off the hook if
he hadn't been so surprised at Kathryn's absence. She normally
had a study hall before lunch, was first out the door, and had
the fastest sprint time to the cafeteria.
brought up, Marie said, “I saw her coming out of her math class
third period. She didn't look so good. I'm guessing she didn't
do very well on that test.”
test,' and Kathryn's dread of it, had been the conversation du
jour the previous day, omitted because it classifies as generic
high school stress and not one of those girly topics that
would she miss lunch? She wouldn't go home sick over that,” Troy
her a call,” Kamila suggested.
want to bother her if she did. I'm sure it's no big deal.”
we can take care of things without her for a day,” Kamila
declared, as if their lunch group had some far-reaching mission
statement. “So, uh... what's up with you, Troy?”
since yesterday,” Troy replied. Silence ensued.
Eventually, Marie said, “Boy, Kathryn really does keep things
they held their own talking about various classroom travails,
again omitted due to lack of relevance. To their surprise, their
savior arrived ten minutes later. Contrary to Marie's report,
Kathryn seemed healthy, happy and satisfied with life.
I'm late. Did you miss me?” she said, taking her usual spot next
already suspicious. “We did. Where were you?”
“Recharging after I bombed that math test. I feel a lot better
want to know what you mean by recharging?”
grinned and said, “No.”
groaned. “Don't suppose it has anything to do with Kurt?” she
asked, somewhat accusatory.
held back a fit of laughter. “Might have a lot to do with Kurt.”
groan from Marie, this time burying her face in her hand.
“Wait...” Kamila was more amused than appalled. “You saying you
ditched study hall for a booty call?”
to restrain herself, Kathryn replied, “That's one way of putting
wasn't so nice for Troy and Marie, who both looked away and
shook their heads, Marie with a severe blush.
that cutest thing? Both of you reacting the same way,” Kamila
incredulous, Marie said, “You don't even have a car. How did
opened her mouth, but froze. Suddenly, she wasn't feeling
naughty so much as busted. After a moment of stammering she
mumbled, “I walked.”
Yuki caught it immediately and stared back, shocked. Marie was
less informed: “But he lives all the way on Cherokee. How do you
get there and back in an hour?”
jogged a bit of it.”
raised her eyebrows. “You must have went pretty fast.”
Kurt went pretty fast,” Kamila quipped.
Kathryn choked on her bite of imitation steak, Marie needed a
second... but then she got it. “Oh, God!” she cried. That sent
Kamila in a fit of uncontrolled laughter as Marie continued to
act scandalized. “That's awful!”
is!” Kamila shouted between laughs. Kathryn, for her part, was
trying not to chuckle too much, but couldn't help but
acknowledge a snappy comeback, especially from Kamila.
um... not gonna comment on that...” she said, generating more
Yuki was shaking her head. “Marie, you forgot to cover my ears
for that one.”
somebody would have covered mine!” Marie replied, with both her
and Yuki caving in and laughing herself.
the din of a conversation now completely and irredeemably in the
toilet, Troy stared back at Kathryn. Yes, he was now tortured
once again by a group of girls laughing at Kurt's alleged
performance, but frankly he was too bothered by the truth to
care. When Kathryn saw him, she stopped laughing and raised an
eyebrow. With Marie and Kamila distracted, he motioned through
his trigger gesture. She nodded, somehow more bashful about that
than the inadequate boyfriend jokes.
Troy's not laughing,” Kamila said, drawing his eyes and ears
back to the conversation. “Sensitive subject?” Even Kathryn
snickered at that.
hey!” Marie stepped in to defend that, but Troy was still in the
than dwell on the thought of using magic for something so
selfish, Troy shrugged. More obligingly than anything else, he
said, “What can I say? Kurt's into racing.”
punched him in the shoulder, but Kathryn and Kamila's reactions
ensured there was no saving them.
other tables in the cafeteria weren't immune to their antics. As
the five continued to joke, laugh and raunch up the place, they
drew more and more attention from their neighbors. Across from
them, Renee watched the proceedings, fascinated with the lowbrow
entertainment that had been drummed up.
can I say? Funny 'cause it's true,” she heard Kathryn say, to
more snickering from the table. She didn't catch what had
started the uproar and had no idea what they were all talking
about, but their behavior was amusing on its own.
at least. “Jeez, shut up already,” Madison said with a haughty
scoff. “Acting like a bunch of children.”
ostentatious head-shaking ensued, part of her drawn-out
posturing to sell the notion that their social circle was far
more civilized. Then she faced Renee and said, “Hey, you know
what Donna told me in the bathroom this morning?”
wasn't listening. She was still fixated on the plebeians
out of it, Renee turned to her friend. “What did she say?”
Madison didn't become part of the snobby high school elite by
ignoring little non-verbal cues and failing to overreact. She
took another look at the loudmouths and saw Troy. Cuing a smile
that would have awed Kendrick, she said, “Oh... it's that boy
from the beach you were chatting up.”
herself exposed, but knowing the game well enough to avoid
denials and defenses, Renee looked down. “Um... yeah.” The less
said, the less fuel for the gossip column.
kept observing the subject, as he wrapped an arm around Marie.
Marie, in turn, rested her shaking head on Troy's shoulder and
wished things would go back to a G rating.
looks like he's spoken for,” Madison said, almost reveling in
who's the girl?”
wasn't a question for Renee. Madison snapped her fingers twice.
On cue, a third girl in the group whipped open a reporter's
notebook and read, “Marie O'Donnell. Sophomore. GPA 3.45. Set
designer for the drama club and second chair clarinet in the
school orchestra. Steady with Troy Monroe since last September
with no scandalous activity reported.”
nodded. “Thank you.”
need minions,” Renee muttered.
like you could take him if you wanted.”
sighed. The way Madison put it, it sounded wrong on so many
levels. She'd be breaking up Troy's happy group, testing Molly's
patience, undermining her relations with her MST teammates and
potentially breaking the heart of what sounded like a decent
girl. And yet, Renee had already made her initial move back at
she relented. Clearly, she was going to have to put more thought
into this. If she was going to 'start something,' she needed to
make damn sure it was worth it.
you've definitely got her beat in looks and in smarts. It's all
in how you use it. Frankly, that guy doesn't look too hard to
tame. What's up with him anyway?” Again, Madison wasn't asking
Jordan had her notes. “Troy Monroe. Junior. GPA 3.00. Mostly
Well, that settles it. If you want him, go get him.” Before
Renee was able to take in such profundity, Madison was onto more
important matters: “The real question is how do we get your
sister to give us a more civilized lunch period.”
leaned back; naturally this subject was much more controversial
to Madison. “Well, it's probably difficult. Unless you did
something to piss her off, she wouldn't meddle with your
schedule. It's a bit late to tinker with it now.”
whimpered. “See if you can get something arranged anyway. I
don't think I can make it the whole semester with these idiots.”
okay.” Renee nodded. Normally, she brushed off Madison's
passive-aggressive bullying, but the prior talk of 'stealing'
Troy had her a little on edge. She'd make a good faith effort as
a token of friendship, but Molly was the one person Madison
deferred to unconditionally.
rowdy table, meanwhile, had slowly simmered down as the group
ran out of jokes and Marie started to coerce some decorum.
“Seriously, though, do you think it's a good idea to sneak out
scoffed. “Probably not. But it was either that or mope for the
rest of the day.”
you made the right call,” Kamila said. “Ballsy, awesome, and
sure made this table more entertaining.”
unhappily at Kamila, Marie went on: “Aren't you worried about
what happens if President Pearson found out?”
Shrugging, Kathryn replied, “Maybe, but I can't imagine she'd
throw the book at me for skipping a study hall. I wasn't really
thinking about it.”
know. Isn't Molly friends with Kurt?”
your point?” Kathryn narrowed her eyes.
outside the council, is Molly friends with anybody?”
chuckled. “You saying Pearson might have the hots for Kathryn's
raised her voice in defense. “I'm not saying that at all!”
Softer, she added, “But whatever friends she does have are
probably pretty close to her. I don't know if it's a good idea
to get too out of line with one of them.”
Yuki remained silent. Even knowing the true connection, they
weren't entirely sure what Molly and Kurt really thought of each
other. This was just idle speculation anyway, so they both
figured it best to sit it out.
take chances, that's all I'm saying,” Marie continued. “I mean,
what if she does have feelings for him? You sure don't want to
flaunt your relationship in her face. I mean, bad enough that
she'd ruin your life but... well, that's just mean.”
with her,” Kathryn grunted. “I'm not tiptoeing around my
boyfriend just because of Pearson. Frankly, if she is trying to
land somebody, maybe she should stop being a manipulative,
God spoke: “Kathryn Santos, please report to the student council
Kathryn could do was glare. At Marie, at Troy, at the
loudspeaker- it didn't matter. In the end, her opinion on how
she should handle the Kurt situation deferred to Molly's. That
didn't sit right, and this time she wasn't playing along.
bull,” she spat, standing up and abandoning her half-eaten tray.
By now, the rest of the cafeteria was staring at her, part of a
timeless 'dead man walking' tradition.
a pat on the back from Kamila. “You go tell her that. Fight for
your right to screw around!” Her voice was boisterous enough to
echo throughout the room. The room echoed back with a great
flames of rebellion were stoked, and they fed Kamila. “You got
her this time. Why should she care who you go off with? You
didn't do anything wrong! Go get her! Kathryn! Kathryn!” The
masses picked up the chant, rallying around whatever cause
Kathryn was fighting. So long as it was against the Pearson
regime, they didn't need details. In fact, knowing the details,
Troy and Marie remained silent.
Kathryn was moved by the show of support, and spurred on by
Kamila she nodded. “You're right. I got this. And I'm gonna tell
her for once!” Propelled forward by the cheers, Kathryn marched
onward, accepting the encouraging slaps on the shoulder and
back. She reached the student council office, threw the door
open and shouted. “All right, Molly, what the hell's this all
about?” And there was much rejoicing as she slammed the door
shut behind her.
Claude didn't look up from his desk. He just pointed to Molly's
office and went on eating his lunch.
“All right, Molly, what
the hell's this all about?” Kathryn tried again when she entered
Molly looked back, not
defiantly as Kathryn had expected. Just confused.
today?” she asked, somewhat mockingly.
“You know what? I am.”
Kathryn dropped herself into a chair. “Because I know why you
called me in here and it's absolute bull. And everybody in that
cafeteria's got my back.”
The despised tyrant just
stared back cluelessly. She was used to getting the occasional
rebel in her quarters, but normally it was justified and thus
Her intercom buzzed.
“The students are a getting a little too loud. Permission to use
the ops?” Claude asked.
“Yes, yes,” Molly
replied, dismissively. She eyed Kathryn. “That takes care of
your back-up. Now would you like to know why I called you in or
are you confessing to something I don't know about?”
Now Kathryn froze. She
took a moment to calm down, then asked, “You're not calling me
in because I skipped fourth period?”
“Yes, but did you think
you were a revolutionary because you did?”
Kathryn was tempted to
say yes, but now that she thought about it, simply skipping a
class hardly constituted class warfare. It all depended on where
Molly went with it.
“Frankly, I'm not
interested in you skipping a study hall. Mrs. Carlton can deal
with that. But I got word that you used a teleportation spell in
Smirking, Kathryn saw
more potential now. “Please, you use magic all the time for
stupid stuff. If you're going to drag me through all this, I
might as well use it once a while.”
“Having a change of
heart all of a sudden?” Molly flashed half a smile too. To
Kathryn's shock, it was sincere. “Thought you weren't interested
It threw Kathryn off
until she realized it: Molly wanted her to get better at magic.
To do so would be falling into the MST's order. No way that was
happening: “Look, I was having a bad day. I just... dammit.” She
shook her head in defeat. No matter where she went, Molly would
win. Molly always won.
After a moment to revel
in Kathryn's undoing, Molly continued, “I've already gotten
through to Renee and I've got my hands full enough with Donovan,
so I hope to only explain this once. As long as you make sure
not to get caught, you can use all the magic you want. The
problem is that teleportation like that introduces spacial and
continuity gaps. If someone were to ask where you went and how
long it took, you have to have answers. Otherwise people get
“So I noticed,” Kathryn
muttered. Marie and Kamila had already proven Molly's point.
“You have an alibi
Chuckling but far from
jovial, Kathryn replied, “Yeah, I stumbled my way through it.”
“Good.” Molly took a
breath. The hard part was over. The rest was simple curiosity:
“Where did you go anyway? You can't get anywhere interesting
blurted. Defeated and miserable, now it was just a matter of
spite. “I went to see Kurt. He cheered me up.”
Molly wrinkled her nose.
“You can spare the details.”
Kathryn leaned in. She
could sense Molly's revulsion and wanted more. “Why? Can't
handle us being together? Pissed that you can't stop me like you
stopped Troy? Jeal-”
The glare stopped
her cold. By the time she could away from those heartless eyes,
she already regretted everything she had said. Kathryn caught
her breath, sat back and waited anxiously to be put into place
Molly's words were
careful, but firm. “Now that Kurt is our field agent, it is
absolutely essential that I maintain a professional working
relationship with him. I have no business in his personal life,
nor do I want any. I will not be influenced by some petty
sentiments and must assume that Kurt will not be either.”
When Kathryn felt able
to move again, she nodded slowly. She opened her mouth to say
something, but Molly wasn't finished.
“And furthermore, please
drop the rebel act. I'm already stressed enough over the
Hageshoni; I don't need you plotting a coup.”
“The Hage-what?” Kathryn
snuck in as Molly took a breath.
“Kurt didn't tell you?”
Kathryn shook her head. “They're the most temperamental demon
faction you'll ever come across. And there's a good possibility
that for the last year they've been quietly establishing a
presence in town.”
Kathryn gulped. She was
well beyond wishing she had never gotten involved with the MST.
Either way, Kurt was and that sounded awfully dangerous.
“Yeah,” Molly said,
gravely. “Clearly, Kurt and I may have some very serious
problems to deal with. And as one of the few students aware of
the MST, I certainly hope that you'd know better than to get the
masses worked up over whatever is it they blame me for.”
mumbled, looking to the floor. To her surprise, she was sincere.
“Besides, Claude and I
are seniors. We'll be gone in a year and I'm trying to keep
things moderately peaceful. You don't want the next president to
be determined through violence, I assume.”
“Then just attend school
like everybody else. No uprisings, no insubordination, and
please no skipping class to magically facilitate some sordid
Kathryn heaved a sigh.
Molly wasn't even yelling and it still stung.
A knock on the door
disrupted the conversation, followed by Claude wanting in. Molly
assented and the assistant entered... followed by two of the
special ops carrying a languid, disoriented Kamila. Kathryn's
“Once we tased the
ringleader, the populace quieted down,” Claude reported.
“Fair enough,” Molly
said, barely interested.
“Um... what should we do
A scoff later, Molly
replied, “Take her to the nurse's office to recover. The point
has been made.”
“Uh...” Claude looked at
the door. “I don't really want to drag her back through the mob.
The symbolism would be quite intense.”
Molly closed her eyes
and exhaled the irritation away. Slowly, she replied, “Then use
the secret passage.”
“Ah. Right. Thank you,
Madam.” Claude and the ops hauled Kamila out of the room as
Molly sighed and returned to Kathryn.
“Anyway, it's our last
year. I would rather things be peaceful.”
For all the talk of
Kathryn and Kurt's escapades, Troy and Marie were much more
traditional, at least on paper. That night, the two sweethearts
got dressed up just a little more than usual, Troy borrowed just
a little more from his mother for flowers, and they would have
eaten at someplace a little more fancy had such a place existed
in L. B. Gould. They were fine with Rosa's anyway.
“One year down,” Marie
said, raising her glass of Sprite.
“So far, so good,” Troy
replied, smiling as he klinked it with his Coke.
were typically big occasions in relationships, particularly in
high school where nobody can fathom time beyond one year anyway.
Troy and Marie were proud of the achievement- 365 days of
relatively stress-free dating, spared from the pressures,
betrayals and hormonal imbalances that usually doomed such
couples. As they toasted, they looked each other in the eyes,
focused on nothing but each other and both fully aware of the
secret to their success.
Marie gasping when she
realized it. “Shoot, I forgot to bring your Lost box. I finished
it last week.”
“That's fine. Not like I
haven't seen it already.”
Innocuous as the
revelation was, it called attention away from their relationship
and onto less pressing matters. For them, it worked like a
They didn't spend a lot
of time dwelling on what exactly they had going for each other.
They just went there. Perhaps open, honest communication was the
key for most successful long-term relationships, but the 'knock
on wood' approach suited these two fine. After all, they were
only in high school, had their entire lives ahead of them and
honestly weren't concerned about being together forever. They
were happy with 'together indefinitely' and to think otherwise
would be a jinx.
That's where the pair
were a little unorthodox. Both Troy and Marie had long
recognized that dating had an extra benefit beyond being with
someone they liked. L. B. Gould High's students were always
looking for an easy path to survival. Troy and Marie had one in
each other. Neither were considered hot property when it came to
the lookers in the class, nor were they considered defectives.
By being together, it effectively took them off the market,
spared them the embarrassment of scrambling for dates at social
functions, and assured the populace that at least somebody
considered them a catch.
Across the street,
Kathryn almost shed a tear as she watched them talk eagerly.
Granted, Troy and Marie were actually discussing the episodes in
that box set, but they could have been sweet nothings to
An arm draped around her
shoulder. “You raised him up right,” Kurt said.
“Damn right I did.”
“Too bad we can't eat in
there now. Don't want to bother them.”
Kathryn shrugged and
started walking away. “Eh, I'm not that hungry anyway. Let's
just go to McDonald's and hit up the dollar menu.”
Kurt chuckled. “Again?”
“No sense spending too
much when you're not hungry.”
He followed her down the
street. For some reason, he didn't want to let this go. “That's
not what I meant. One day I should take you someplace out of
town. Someplace nice.”
She scoffed at the idea.
“Us? At a fancy restaurant? You're joking.”
“We don't have to get
that fancy. Olive Garden's an upgrade over where we're going.”
Kathryn spun around,
smiling back mockingly. “You really want to drive thirty miles
and spend twice as much on the same stuff they got at Rosa's?”
Kurt shrugged, keeping a
straight face. “Well, sure. Something different. You're really
okay with the same crap in this town all the time?”
She chuckled, shaking
her head as Kurt caught up to her. Poking him in the stomach,
she said, “Are you complaining about me being a cheap date?”
He took a step back,
throwing his hands up. “You know what I get paid; that's not the
problem. But don't you want to mix things up a bit once in a
while? Don't you get bored doing the same thing all the time?”
“Why? I got good
friends, starting to get better grades, the football team's 3-0,
and I'm constantly having awesome sex with my hot boyfriend.
What's not to like? Get me out of this magic business and I'm
As Kurt looked up to
ponder that, Kathryn continued walking. Holding back a laugh, he
said, “You know, you were the one who teleported from school to
my place today to have this awesome sex.”
“Yeah, and Molly got on
my butt about it,” she muttered.
He nodded. “Continuity
“You've gotten it too?”
She stopped to let him catch up.
“I've given it to
Donovan a few times.”
She shook her head.
“Well, she gave it to me. Then she went on about how she's so
stressed out and wants us to be nice and obedient for her sake.
Kamila starts one silly riot and suddenly I'm this big
Kurt raised an eyebrow.
“Have you considered the possibility that maybe Molly really is
under a lot of stress right now?”
“Yeah, right,” she said,
dismissive. “If some demon attacks, we all get dragged into it.
And maybe she'd have it easier in school if she'd stop lording
over all of us.”
“Well, there's a chance
that some bloodthirsty demon is lurking around town. I don't
blame her for being worried. I am too.”
She frowned suddenly,
holding back a sneer. “Don't you dare defend her. Molly is a
ruthless, conniving bitch. I gotta wonder if she's trying to
sink her claws into you.”
Kurt sighed and put his
hands on her shoulders. In a moment of rare morose, he said,
“Kathryn, I love you, okay? And there's no way she can change
that. But between the Hageshoni, Donovan's grimoire and just
what she is capable of, there's more on Molly's plate than she
deserves. Whether she thinks so or not, she can't handle it
alone, but who else does she have? So I'm going to protect her,
and I'm going to worry about her and I'm going to be there for
Kathryn looked away. She
knew it was the truth, but it still seemed like there was too
much gravity being applied. Molly didn't seem incapable of
anything, especially with a unit of subordinates around and the
full might of the MST watching.
“Still, you don't have
to be that close to her. Doesn't she have a sister she can talk
to? Let Renee handle Molly's inner torments,” Kathryn replied,
saying the last two words mockingly. “Why do you have worry
about all that?”
He shrugged. “For
starters, because it's my job. And I don't know if Renee
understands half of what's really going on. She and you have
only been in this for a bit more than a year. I've been around
magic my whole life, so I can appreciate just how bad a
situation she's in.” After a moment, he sighed. “That we're all
Finally, Kathryn just
shook her head and continued walking. “Whatever. Let's get
going. Sooner we get some food, the sooner we can go back to
Kurt sighed. All that,
and she just dropped it. “Can't argue with that.”
In a weird way, he
almost wanted to.
“Your wish is granted,
long live Molly.” Renee handed Madison and Jordan their revised
class schedules. After a week of sucking up and negotiating with
her sister, then several days of Claude rearranging the cosmos,
Renee had come through for her friends.
By that time, Madison
had forgotten all about it. “Hmm?”
“You wanted to get back
into the first lunch period?”
“Oh... right. Thanks,”
Madison replied, obligingly.
“They couldn't change
mine. I'm a junior so I have, like, classes and stuff.”
Madison frowned. “Right,
classes.” She remembered those. “That sucks.”
“You gonna survive on
your own?” Jordan asked.
Renee smiled. “I'm a big
girl, Jordan. I'll be fine.”
They shared a group hug
and Renee's socialite friends were out of the picture. The
revised schedules took effect immediately, and postdated to the
beginning of the semester. No one questioned this: Madison and
Jordan had always been at war with Eurasia.
As for Renee, it wasn't
that she was a big girl so much as she was an outgoing girl. Her
many club involvements and superb networking skills meant that
she would have no problem finding a new social circle. In fact,
if word ever got out that she was a free agent, she'd be in high
demand. Normally, she'd have been selective about her tables, or
even alternate between several.
But you all know where
she's gonna sit, right?
They didn't. In fact, it
came as quite a shock when Renee set her bookbag next to Yuki,
smiled brightly and said, “Hey, guys! Mind if I sit here?”
While Kathryn and Troy
were left stunned, Marie impulsively gulped and inched a little
closer to her man and Kamila glared at the interloper, Yuki
smiled back. “Sure!” said the precocious little idiot.
It's not like anyone had
veto power, so Renee sat down and explained, “The friends I
usually sit with got switched out, so I thought I'd hang with
you guys. We never get to chat outside...” She stopped to do the
requisite search for any non-magi within earshot and realized
there were two. “We never talk at school,” she said.
“Since when did you talk
with us losers?” Kamila replied, then noticed Kathryn taking
offense. “Okay, Kat's not a loser...” So she pointed across the
table at Yuki, Marie and Troy. “These three losers.”
“Oh, we all know each
other,” Renee answered, all the while thinking of ways that they
know each other. “Yuki and I were in science club together, I
was in the motor club for a bit with Troy back when Kurt ran
it... um... and Marie's in the orchestra! Woodwinds for life!”
“You're not in the
woodwind section,” Marie said, flatly.
“Oh yeah, I switched to
cello this year... and Kathryn and I were on the softball team.”
“Kathryn's not on the
softball team. I am,” Kamila said, just as skeptical.
“I mean freshman year.”
Kathryn shook her head.
“I wasn't on it freshman year either.”
“Yeah you were! Molly
kicked you off, remember?”
“Oh yeah...” Kathryn
rolled her eyes. “Good times.”
Troy, of course, was
keeping his damn mouth shut. But he couldn't stay out of the
conversation any longer, as a major point had yet to be made.
“Uh... is anyone watching for Claude?” he said, looking over his
shoulder as he watched for Claude.
“He eats at his desk,”
Renee answered, well prepared. “He only monitors the other lunch
period. One of Molly's other underlings watches this one.”
“Still, don't you thinks
it's a bit much to just barge in on us and expect us to be your
replacement friends all of a sudden?” Kathryn said bitterly.
Renee was taken aback.
“Well... I thought you were. I mean...” She raised her eyebrows
a few times. “You know...”
“Look, if you need a
place to sit, that's fine. I just don't get why you're all
buddy-buddy with us all of a sudden.”
“We have a nice little
circle here, Renee. There's a good balance between the sane
people and these two,” Marie said, pointing to Kathryn and
“That, and it's already Troy and four chicks.” That got Troy to
look up, but he didn't say anything. If anything, he was glad
someone sympathized. “Add one more and he's got a freaking
Okay, scratch that. His
eyes narrowed. “There are so many things wrong with that
statement,” he said, returning to his food.
“Oh, don't act like you
wouldn't enjoy us all fawning over you,” she joked.
Troy looked up, leaned
forward and turned his head, making it clear to Kathryn that he
was staring at Yuki. She nervously leaned back and waved at him.
He returned to Kathryn, who was sufficiently convinced.
“Okay, good point,” she
said, a little hushed.
Marie cleared her throat
and stood suddenly. “You know, I have to go to the bathroom,”
“Look what you did,
Troy, you made your real girl sick,” Kathryn joked.
“No.” Marie shot Kathryn
an exasperated look. “Just have to go potty.” She turned to
Kamila, who wordlessly stood up and joined her.
Troy watched them
warily. “I hate when they do that,” he muttered.
Kathryn smirked. “Hey,
this time at least you know they're talking about Renee.”
“Wha...” Renee was
shocked at that, and at her reception in general. “Come on,
guys, just because we have to keep it secret from those two
doesn't mean you have to pretend you don't know me.”
Kathryn shrugged. “Far
as they're concerned, we don't know you. Honestly, why are you
“Like I said! Madison
and Jordan got moved to the other lunch period and Molly
couldn't get me changed too.”
“So her powers are
limited after all.” Kathryn replied, snickering.
“I've got calculus
during the other lunch period. It's the only time it's offered.
There's not much she can do about that.” Leveling her voice,
Renee continued, “But with them gone I thought I'd try to spend
a little more time with you guys. Get to know you a little
better. Sounds like you do a good job hiding it from those two.
Why can't I join in?”
“Because it never comes
up. And 'those two' are very good friends of ours, and one of
'those' is dating Troy, if you haven't been keeping up.”
Yuki had been darting
her head between Kathryn and Renee. As Renee searched for words
to volley back, Yuki jumped in. “I don't see the problem. We
spend three weeks with Renee at Central then never see her again
Kathryn looked up at the
ceiling and sighed. “Yuki, we could say the same thing about
Donovan. You wanna invite him, too?”
Now Renee was just plain
offended. “Are you saying I'm as unwelcome here as Donovan?”
“You might be as
dangerous,” Kathryn muttered.
“What?!” Whether Kathryn
meant it to be heard or not, Renee was perceptive.
Kathryn was not prepared
to elaborate. In fact, she was a little flushed that Renee had
heard it at all. Not that an explanation was necessary.
Everybody, with the possible exception of Yuki, knew what she
had meant. It was the same reason Troy continued to keep his
damn mouth shut, even with Marie gone.
“I... I don't believe
this,” Renee said in a hushed voice. Whether intended or not,
Kathryn's verbal warfare had landed a strong blow and Renee was
genuinely hurt. “I'm trying to make something out of this
situation and talk to you more and the only one who's welcoming
me is Chiyo-chan here.” She gestured at Yuki, frustrated.
Finally, Troy had
something to say... to Kathryn, at least. “That was a bit much,
Kathryn. I mean... I know what you're trying to do but... she's
right, we should all be friends.” He turned to Renee, who sighed
and flashed a coy smile. Troy turned back to Kathryn and raised
his eyebrows. “And she sure as hell isn't Donovan.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Kathryn
sighed. It was hard to accept, but it was hard to argue against
common decency, especially with Yuki and Troy defending it. She
turned back to Renee, apologetic. “Renee, I'm...”
In the moment every
stubborn individual needs before actually saying 'sorry,'
Kathryn noticed something amiss. She tilted her head and pointed
at the bare part of the table in front of Renee. “You planning
on actually getting lunch?”
After a moment of
bewilderment, Renee's eyes flashed open. She checked her watch,
exclaimed “Crap!” and ran off to catch a meal before it was too
The distraction let
Kathryn turn back to Troy. “You know we're just asking for
Troy shrugged. “Then
we'll just have to deal with it. I don't know what's going to
happen, but we're tight. We'll get through it.” Kathryn nodded.
That much she could count on.
It just left Yuki. “One
question though...” Kathryn and Troy looked over as she asked
it: “Who the hell is Chiyo-chan?”