Shivi (shivi) wrote in grantmewings,
Shivi
shivi
grantmewings

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damn it all, 'wildfire' means destructive. d'oh!

Mary wondered if she would find herself heading back into the city automatically, convinced that it was her home. She could picture herself waiting for hours for a bus to take her somewhere she didn’t want to go. Trudge, trudge, trudge, trudge, trudge.
Mary hoped she would be able to keep Sir Edward. But she and Helen would probably get into a fight over him. Mary wondered who would win. Mary started picturing a fight between her and Helen. Mary had never been in a real fight before, she’d just been shoved around a lot. Mary wondered if Helen had ever fought anyone. She didn’t think so. Helen didn’t seem like the person who got into fights. Mary ’s idea of a fight between the two of them changed, as they both became more realistic, and much less skilled in their competence at fighting. Trudge, trudge, trudge, trudge, trudge.
There was a sound behind Mary. It was so unexpected, and so welcome that Mary stopped walking, turned around to face the sound.
It was a car. A blue car speeding down the road towards them.
Mary held out her thumb in the gesture for hitchhikers that she had known almost her whole life, but never used.
As the car reached them, it stopped.
Sir Edward scampered off a bit at the noise and the car. Helen hurried after him.
A tall woman stepped out of the blue car. She wore a simple grey summer dress. She also wore large dark blue sunglasses. These two details were all Mary noticed before the woman’s hair caught her attention.
It was green, all over a perfect, all the same shade, no roots, deep forest green. It was elf hair, forest sprite hair, pixie hair. This woman had the most beautiful hair Mary had ever seen. Mary could not tear her eyes away from the woman’s hair, having seen it. She could not have told any one who was curious how tall the woman was, or what shoes she was wearing, or even what her voice really sounded like.
“You guys need a ride?” asked the woman.
Mary nodded.
The woman began to walk to the other side of her car, and gestured for Mary to follow. She opened the passenger side door and Mary climbed in. She fastened her seat-belt and placed her bag by her feet. The car was air-conditioned, and felt deliciously cool.
The woman walked back around the car and climbed in the driver’s seat. Then she closed her door. Then she pressed the magical driver’s button that locks all the doors. Then she began to drive away with Mary, leaving Helen standing at the side of the road, holding the cat, and looking confused.
What is going on, wondered Mary.
“Um . . . Miss,” began Mary politely, feeling that politeness wouldn’t hurt in this strange situation.
“Rule one. I talk, you listen,” said the woman, in a voice that sounded increasingly familiar.
The woman emphasised this rule by showing how she would enforce it. She rummaged by her seat, in her purse, guessed Mary, and removed a gun. She set the gun down on her lap, away from Mary, and then removed her dark blue sunglasses. She picked up the gun again, and brought it near Mary ’s face.
Mary was staring down the barrel of the woman’s gun.
Mary was alarmed.
The previous statement was a gross understatement.
Mary tried to look past the gun, to become less afraid, to feel a little bit better about the current situation she was in.
Ignore the gun, thought Mary, ignore the gun.
Past the gun, Mary saw a familiar pair of beautiful emerald green eyes. They matched the woman’s dye job well.
“Guess who, Shrimp,” Sophia said calmly.

“Fuck!” screamed Helen.
“Fuck!” she screamed again.
It didn’t do a thing. It didn’t bring Mary back from her mysterious kidnapper. It didn’t really make Helen feel better, and it kept scaring the cat.
Helen was walking, walking and following, walking and spending every minute insanely frustrated at her own slow pace. But she couldn’t go any faster.
Maybe the car will stop, thought Helen, and then I’ll catch up with her. Yes, whispered the evil, evil parts of Helen’s brain, maybe the car will stop, so her kidnapper can kill Mary outside the car, and not ruin the upholstery. Shut up, shut up, screamed Helen inwardly.
Helen didn’t appreciate cynicism at the moment.
The previous statement was a gross understatement.
There was only one word that Helen knew that could come close to expressing her feelings at the moment, her pain, and her anguish, and her worry. And that word didn’t even come that close, it was much too overused. And she knew it was crude, and she knew it was stupid and childish, but she didn’t care right now.
“Fuck!” screamed Helen for the twenty-first time, if anyone had been counting.
Sir Edward of Owl Thorne skidded away from her at her outburst, also for the twenty-first time.

Sophia stopped her car.
She opened her door.
“Get out, Mary,” she said.
Mary didn’t, couldn’t move. She was numb from head to toe.
“Mary, I don’t want to hurt you,” said Sophia, while she gestured with her gun, “I just want to talk.”
Mary got out of the car, moving woodenly.
This can’t be happening, she thought. But she knew it was.
“If you just want to talk, why do you have the gun?” asked Mary.
“Because I want to make sure you pay attention to everything I say,” answered Sophia, as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
Mary stood silently. She didn’t know how to answer that.
“Shrimp,” began Sophia, and then she shook her head. She started again. “Mary,” she said, “I know I owe you an explanation for how I’ve behaved. Mary, I’m an actress.”
You dragged me out here at gunpoint to tell me that, thought Mary, in the foolish part of her brain, that wanted to make her snicker, to see what Sophia would do.
Mary stayed silent, through tremendous amounts of will power. She was feeling a bit hysterical.
“I know you know that,” said Sophia, “but I don’t think you understand how big a part of my life that has been. Growing up, the only times that I felt alive, that I felt real, was when I was onstage. I needed, I craved . . . an audience, Mary. An audience to perform for, people to watch and to applaud. This was . . . is . . . my addiction. I wanted it to always be like that. And that’s when I met you. You were so shy, and looked so desperate. I watched you for a while and I developed a character. She had the same name, of course, as me, but she was different in other ways. I created her for people to love, to adore. She was larger than life, a goddess to be feared and admired. And so you became my own personal audience, Mary. You made my life seem real, so much more special. I started to meet other people, and my audience grew, but you were always its core. And once we were sharing an apartment, I was even eating and sleeping ‘in character’, all in a production for you. I was so surprised when Donny turned on me like that, because that had never happened to me before. When I learned that you loved me, I was surprised, but realized that that was something I had been considering all long. I toyed with you, Mary. And I’m sorry. When I found out about Helen, I was . . . jealous, that she would steal you away, and I would lose my real life . . . I think . . . I loved you, Mary . . . in my own fucked-up way, I loved you.”
That was a lot of information to take in. Mary didn’t know what to think, what to say, what to do.
Mary looked at Sophia, her defences laid bare. Gone was the confidence, the pride, the aliveness that had surrounded her for all of her and Mary ’s friendship. Strip all that away, and what was left?
A young woman, trying not to cry, baring her soul, trying to stand tall.
“Oh, Sophia,” Mary said, filled with sympathy for the friend she was just learning to understand. She walked forward to embrace Sophia, who seemed now so frail.
Sophia lifted up her gun and pointed it at Mary. Mary stepped back, confused. Suddenly, while not completely changed back, she seemed more infused with strength.
“This is the response I get from you, Mary? Pity?” she said, seeming to on the verge of both anger and tears.
Mary didn’t answer. It had seemed like a rhetorically question.
“Is that what you think I did this for?” asked Sophia, the anger now dominating her voice, “No, Mary. I did it for love, for hatred, for worship, for fear. Strong emotions, Mary, always strong emotions.”
Now came the tears, tears that slowly trickled down Sophia’s face, but did nothing to diminish her beauty.
“But, pity, Mary? Pity from you? That wasn’t what I wanted at all.”
With that statement, she quickly raised the gun to her right side of her head and fired once. Mary rushed forward as soon as she noticed Sophia’s hand moving, but too late.
Sophia toppled left, her arms and legs at awkward angles.
She was dead, Mary knew that.
Mary knelt behind the body of Sophia, her own tears mingling with that of Sophia, the actress.
“Why?” she whispered, “Why?”
Her voice rose in volume slowly.
“Why?” she asked, “Why?”
Silence surrounded her.
“Why, Sophia, why?” Mary screamed, tears running down her face.
But Sophia couldn’t answer.

Helen heard a scream nearby. She began to run. Thousands of horrible scenarios flashed through her mind. Mary dead in hundreds of ways. Mary tortured. She shook her head, trying to banish those evil thoughts. It didn’t work.
Sir Edward scurried behind her.
Helen came into a clearing. There was the blue car. And there was a huddled something by it. Helen was running towards it when she saw the blood on the ground, extending from the huddled something. She started to run faster.
Here is an interesting fact. As Helen was running, she had no idea what she would do once she reached the huddled something. And this time, it was not that she could not decide what she should be, out of the many ideas she had. No, this time, Helen had no plan, no strategy, no tactics.
Helen was now close enough to identify that the part of the huddled lump was Mary, who was sitting up right. Helen slowed up, and walked the remaining feet towards Mary. It seemed more appropriate that way.
Now Helen was close enough to see what the rest of the huddled something was. She knelt down beside the sobbing Mary and gently put her arm around her.
She wanted to know what had happened, but she knew it would not be a good idea to pull Mary. She would just have to hear it all at Mary ’s pace.
“She . . . she . . . she killed herself, Helen,” said Mary tearfully, “because . . . because . . . because I . . . I pitied her.”
Helen held Mary silently. She knew it was all she could do now.
“She . . . she just wanted people to love her, Helen!” said Mary.
Helen resisted the urge to say anything there. She did not know what had just happened, so she should not comment.
Helen knew her job was just to hold Mary silently, for as long as necessary.
Helen wondered about death. Well, Helen wondered about a lot of things, but death, or life after death seemed to be one of those things with the most acknowledged possibilities, and the least proofs. In fact, there were no proofs at all, with the possible exception of people who had undergone a ‘near-death experience’. If these people could be believed, then when you died, you went to a wonderful glowing light, which is in no way a hallucination of the lights in the hospital, with all your dead friends and family there, who are in no way your living friends and family who are visiting you in the hospital while you are quite out of it, and drugged up.
Where would Sophia go? What would happen to her? What would happen to Helen and Mary ? What had happened to anyone?
Helen didn’t really find these thoughts comforting, but she felt that they were worthwhile things to think about.

Mary knew it had to be her. Sophia would have wanted it that way.
Mary struck the match. It burst into flame. Mary used the match to set small fires in several places on blankets. As it began to burn to the end, she put it under the blanket-wrapped bundle, in the birch bark and kindling.
Mary walked back to where Helen stood. And together both of them watched as Sophia’s funeral pyre burned brightly, contrasting the dark night sky. Helen had wrapped Sophia’s body in the blankets that had been used in Sir Edward of Owl Thorne’s bag.
Mary thought of all her memories of Sophia as her eyes watched the dancing flames.
When only the dying embers remained, she and Helen retired to Sophia’s car. They had put both the passenger and driver seats’ in a reclining position that was almost vertical, and thus had created two separate beds.
Mary supposed that sleeping in Sophia’s car should have felt different, but it didn’t. It felt natural.

Maybe something like this might not have happened, if either Helen or Mary had noticed how the clearing they were in was so circular, as to be unnatural, or that it already contained a perfect fire pit, and had taken precautions, like driving the car to another location before falling asleep.
If either of them had stayed awake, on guard duty, or just had been unable to sleep, then things would not have progressed as far as they did.
If they had not been completely at my mercy, as they must definitely are, their stories may have been happier, but far more dull and uneventful.
If one of them had been awake, they might have noticed that a small group of scouts were sneaking around in the bushes around the edges of the clearing.
One of them might also have noticed when one of the scouts, armed with a straightened coat hanger, opened the door of the driver’s side, where Helen was sleeping.
If Mary had been awake, she would have seen Helen being carefully slid out of the car, tied up, then loaded into a sled, to be pulled to some as now unnamed location.
If Mary had not been so cold as she was getting ready for bed, and thus had not covered herself almost completely with her clothes from her bag, to the point where, at a cursory glance, she appeared to be only clothes, she would have been taken as well.

Mary woke up quite warm. She quickly shed her clothes blanket and sat up. She looked over at where Helen had been sleeping. Nothing was there.
She’s probably out taking a morning stroll of something, thought Mary.
Mary got out of the car, and completely randomly, you understand, wandered by the driver’s side door. There were some things she saw on the ground that made her pause.
These things were: a straightened coat hanger, tracks that were parallel lines, and many footprints, from shoes of different styles and sizes.
Okay, maybe she’s not out taking a morning stroll, thought the ceaselessly sarcastic side of Mary ’s brain.
Mary wasn’t really in the mood for sarcasm at the moment.
The previous statement was a gross understatement.
Mary wasn’t sure what she should do, so she just did what seemed to make sense. She packed up her stuff, and items from Helen’s bag, like food, water and matches. Then she set off to follow the tracks.

Helen’s world was dark. She tried to open her eyes, but this had no effect. She was blindfolded. And judging by the way her arms and legs were positioned, and the way she could not move them, she guessed that she was also tied to a chair. And from the way she had just been kicked in the shin, and the voice that was asking her questions, Helen guessed that she was being interrogated.
“How did you learn of the Bhalalites?” asked a voice that seemed almost familiar to Helen. Helen thought she had heard it before, but she could not be sure.
“The Bhalalites?” asked Helen, “I’ve never heard of them.”
Judging by the pain she received, that was not the right answer.
“Are you sure your little newspaper didn’t send you to investigate the Bhalalites?” the voice asked again.
Helen thought fast. Newspaper plus investigate plus strange cult thing with long name equals . . . drum roll, please . . . Shangri-La. So now she knew where she was.
“Okay, newbie, you’ve proved that you can knock a woman around. It’s my turn now,” said a second voice. This voice Helen recognised right away. This voice belonged to Raymond.
“Now, Helen, are you going to be a good girl? Or are you going to make me do naughty things to you so you’ll behave?” asked Raymond. The sheer disgusting slickness of his voice made Helen nauseous.
Helen felt a hand on her ankle. The hand slowly creped upwards.
“How did you find out about the Bhalalites, Helen? Who told you?” asked Raymond. His hand was just below her knee.
“No one,” said Helen, almost sobbing at his touch, “I didn’t know anything about this halates thing! Nothing at all!”
Make him stop; she pleaded with anyone who was listening, make him stop. Helen strained against her bonds, but they did not loosen.
“It’s the Bhalalites, Helen! It’s not that hard a name to remember,” said Raymond, slapping her across the face.
“Now, Helen,” Raymond said, “there are two different ways to go about this. In the first way, you tell me everything now. In the second way, you refuse, and I make you tell me. Either way, I get what I want, Helen. I always get what I want.”
Helen, stupidly, foolishly, hating herself for it, began to cry.

Whoa, thought Mary.
The tracks and footprints had let Mary back to Shangri-La. But how changed it was. It now looked less like a farming commune that a small military base.
Um . . . what’s going on, wondered Mary.
The buildings were labelled with their new functions, like ‘Planning Room’ and ‘Mess Hall’ and ‘Interrogation Building’. At the doors featured a new design, some sort of artistic squiggle with a circle around it.
Mary guessed that Helen must have been taken prisoner or something.
Now, thought Mary, if I were a prisoner, where would I be? What sort of things happened to prisoners? Interrogation!
Helen must be being interrogated. Oh dear god, thought Mary.
How could she get Helen out of there quickly? She couldn’t just walk over there. Mary was currently hiding behind the ‘Mess Hall’. In order to get to the interrogation building, she would need to walk in between buildings, in plain sight of anyone who happened to be walking around.
She needed a distraction. Mary scrounged through her backpack, looking for some thing, any thing that could be useful.
And she found it.
Excellent, she thought, as she looked at the pack of matches. There were plenty left.

God, how I would love to chop off that hand of Raymond’s, thought Helen.
Always the questions, and always him touching her.
What is this, thought Helen, my own personal hell? If she concentrated hard enough, she could even smell smoke.
Helen could hear sounds of scattered panicking outside, and shouts of “Fire!” Ah, Helen thought, then it is not in my head.
Raymond went away, taking his hand with him.
But all too soon, Helen heard the sound of footsteps approaching.
And hands removed her blindfold. Helen stared into the face of Mary. She blinked a little, then realized that all her problems weren’t solved yet.
“Do you have a knife?” she asked Mary.
Mary shook her head.
Helen felt like she wanted to cry again.
“Well,” said Mary, “you know how they always solve this in movies, right?”
“You mean with a magnifying glass?” asked Helen confused.
“Or matches,” said Mary, cheerfully waving the packet of them that she had.
“That, too” said Helen. Mary carefully burnt the rope that bound Helen’s hands and legs to the chair.
Helen was freed. She and Mary began to walk out of the dark room that Helen had been in.

Mary and Helen were running. They were running a quick, panicked run, while at the same time trying to be quiet, so as not to be noticed by the crazy thirteen warlords of the circle, or whatever they called themselves now. Their destination was the car. They were three quarters of the way there.
The two of them were just entering the clearing when they heard the shouts the warlord people behind them. Helen’s escape had been noticed.
Neither of them looked back. Both simply ran towards the car as fast as they could. They knew that the Bhalalites, or whatever they called themselves, the former Shangri-La people, had no vehicles. Once they were in that car, driving away, they were safe, home free, whatever term you wanted to use.
Mary looked back when they were a few feet from the car. She could see some of them were about halfway across the clearing. There was Fred, and Peter, and Lydia, and some man that Mary didn’t recognize.
Mary turned her attention back to the car. Luckily, the doors were unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition. It didn’t seem very smart, but it was incredibly convienent.
Both of them climbed in the car that had belonged to Sophia.
Helen was in the driver’s seat. Mary was in the passenger seat.
Everyone else was meters away.
They shut both the doors and drove away.

“So,” asked Helen, “where are we going, Mary?”
They had already driven past the city. That decision did not even need to be discussed.
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “Where do you want to go?”
There was only one response to that line. This was one ocassion when Helen didn’t mind give the answer that was pre-scripted.
“I don’t know,” said Helen, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” said Helen, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” said Helen, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “Where do you want to go?”
Helen broke form first.
“Mary, I . . . wanted to thank you for rescuing me,” she said.
“Any time,” said Mary with a small smile. “And Helen,” she added, “I am really sorry I accused you of writing me those notes. I know that Sophia wrote them, now.”
“That’s okay,” said Helen, “with all the proof you had, you almost had me convinced. Besides,” she added, “it seemed like something I’d do.”
There was silence in the car.
Mary spoke first.
“Helen,” she said, “you know that it’s too early . . . for me . . . to be thinking about relationships . . . don’t you?”
“Yes I do, Mary,” answered Helen.
Once again, there was silence. And not amusing silence either, like mines, or tap dancers on mute. This silence was like a concrete blanket over everything.
“So, Mary, where do you really want to go?” asked Helen.
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “I only really have one criteria that I’m looking for, and it is very hard to find.”
“What’s that?” asked Helen.
“Acceptance,” said Mary.
“I guess I’ll have to do a bit of research on that,” said Helen, “How about we stop at the next library?”
“Sure,” said Mary, remembering the long discussion on books they had had when they first met. Mary shifted through the memories she had happily. Then one fact brought itself to her attention.
“Helen,” she said, practically screaming, “Where’s the cat?”
Helen pulled over to the side of the road.
“Okay,” she said, “Let’s think this through calmly. When was the last time you saw him?”
“Um . . . I guess that was last night. Didn’t he sleep in the car?” said Mary.
“I think so,” said Helen.
“So, he could still be here,” said Mary.
“Or . . .” began Helen.
“He could still be here,” said Mary said firmly, refusing to consider any other possibility.
So now they both searched the car for Sir Edward hoping that he was hiding somewhere in the back of the car, and hadn’t been left out at Shangri-La.
Helen had been almost ready to give up, convinced that he was not in the car, and then she heard a small meow. She investigated, and saw that Sir Edward was hiding far under her seat.
“It’s okay, Mary,” she said, “I found him.”
Mary reached out, gesturing for the cat. Helen delicately picked him up, and passed him to her.
Mary chided him gently for making them worry.
“Sir Edward,” she said, “now that wasn’t very nice of you, was it? Making me and Helen worry like that? We were worried we had left you behind.”
So she and Helen continued on their drive to ‘any place but here’.

So, wondered Helen, what exactly am I looking for? Mary wants some place where she can fit in. But doesn’t that depend on the people there, more than anything else?
Yes, Helen realized, that was true. If only she could bring Mary to a school where already had friends. But how could she do that?
An idea struck Helen. It was still early August, wasn’t it? Yes, it was. So she and Mary could go to a city, and Mary could find out about all the local haunts, and she could meet people there, people her own age. And if they became friends? Then all Mary had to do was to ask her new friend what high school she went to. And if Mary didn’t make any friends, then on to the next city.
“Mary,” Helen said, “I have an idea I think you’ll like.”
“Oh?” asked Mary, raising her eyes from her book to look Helen in the eye.
“I was thinking . . . well, you can’t really find out how acceptant people are until you actually meet them, face to face,” she began.
“Uhuh,” said Mary.
“So,” continued Helen, “I thought it might be a good idea to do a bit of travelling. There are about three weeks left in August, so we’ll be able to check out a lot of places before school starts. I was thinking we’d go into a city, and ask around about where the teenagers usually hung out. Then you could go talk to them right away, or watch them first, and see if you wanted to know any of them. And if you made some friends, and you wanted to stay, and we’d stay. If not, then out to the next city.”
“I like that plan,” say Mary, “but I have a question.”
“Go right ahead,” said Helen.
“So we’ll be definitely living together still?” asked Mary. Helen could tell that the answer she wanted was a ‘yes’.
“If you want to,” said Helen, “If not, then you need to find someone else to be your ‘guardian’, at least for high school forms.”
“I want to,” said Mary quietly.
“Okay,” said Helen, “then we will.” She paused, and then asked cheerfully, “where do you want to go first, Mary?”
In front of Helen, there was a map that showed where they were, right now. Helen took a pencil and drew a small circle around the town they were in.
“Pick a city in there, Mary, and we will start from there,” said Helen.
Mary closed her eyes and twirled the pencil around in the air aboce the map. The pencil stopped moving, and Mary opened her eyes. She looked at the city that was closest to the pencil’s tip.
“Let’s go there,” she said to Helen.
And so they did.

This was their third city.
Mary hoped it would be better than the last two. She was sitting a small café, with a lot of of teenagers. But Mary was sitting by herself.
There was one group of people who seemed to be having the most fun, the strangest conversations, who cared the least about what other people thought. They were also the loudest, but Mary didn’t mind being near to them. Most of them looked like they were dressed in thrift store clothes.
Mary wanted to get to know them, this group of boys and girls among others with only one gender each, who seemed determined to look more depressed than their friends.
Mary looked at the book she was holding in her lap, as her way of pretending she was not spying on any one. She had not read even a word on its pages. She decided it was useless. It wasn’t really a book she wanted to actually read. She decided to go to the café’s small book shelf and choose another book.
She walked over, past the group that interested her so. If Mary had looked behind herself as she stood at the bookshelf, trying to choose another book, she would have seen heads turned in her direction, and suggestions made.
On her way back to her lonely table, Mary was intercepted by a voice.
“Excuse me, could we have your unbiased opinion on something?”
The owner of the voice was a polite, but tough-looking boy with long blond eyelashes that Mary envied.
“Um . . . okay,” said Mary, “On what?”
The boy reached to the table in front of her for a set small headphones, connected to a Discman.
“Just listen to this one part, and tell us what you hear,” the boy said.
“Okay,” said Mary. Everyone at the table, all eleven of them, were looking at her curiously.
She put the headphones in her ears and music began almost immediately. Then, in a few seconds, the music died away, and only this strange sound remained. It was a harsh sound, and Mary felt a little better when it was over.
“Now,” said the boy, “tell us what you think the sound was.”
“Didn’t you think it was –” began another boy, who was dark haired with a pale complexion.
The first boy, the eyelashes boy, silenced him with a wave of his hand.
“Remember, we want to hear her completely unbiased opinion, Sam,” he said.
Mary tried to think of what the sound had been like.
“Hmm, maybe a chainsaw, with slight undertones of tortured screams.”
“Interesting,” said the boy, gesturing to every person he mentioned, “you agreed with both Natasha and Sam about the chainsaw, and you agreed with Heather abou the tortured screams.”
Natasha and Sam seemed pleased to have been agreed with.
“Come sit down,” said Natasha. She had dark hair, and had beautiful almond-shaped eyes. She pulled up a chair for Mary.
“Thank you,” Mary.
“What’s your name?” asked Natasha.
“Mary,” said Mary.
Introductions were made all around the circle. Mary learned that the boy’s name was Alex.
“I haven’t ever seen you around,” said Alex, and some of the others nodded. “Where have you been hiding?” he asked with a smile.
“I lived in another city,” said Mary.
“And you live here now?” prompted Alex.
“I’m not sure. We might keeping moving, onto somewhere else, but I don’t think so,” said Mary.
“Where do you guys go to high school?” she asked, feeling bold.
“Saint Geraldine’s,” they said, almost in a monotone unison.
“Is that a religious school?” asked Mary.
“No,” said Natasha, “it’s just a religious name.”
“What’s it like there?” asked Mary.
“It’s not as bad as we say it is,” said Alex, “Most of the teachers are mediocre, a few are good, and a few more suck. All in all, pretty damn average. But really, what else can you expect from high school? The way I see it, high school is just another one of those necessary evils that needed to be endured before any one will listen to you. No sense complaining. The way I see it, if you don’t like it, then try to change the system, don’t spend all your time complaining about how horrible it all is.”
The others groaned. It seemed they had heard this lecture often.
It may have been a mundane thing for the rest of them, but Mary was fansinated by Alex’s opinion. She wasn’t sure if she agreed with him, but it gave her something to think about.
The time passed quickly, with unsual discussions about everything from totalitarianism, to eggplants, to whether everyone saw the same colour blue.
Mary was surprised to look up at the clock and realize that she was almost an hour late for meeting Helen at a nearby restaurant.
She made her goodbyes, and left, but not before several of the new people she had met had pulled out pens and insisted that she write her phone number on their hand, arm, knee. Once Mary revealed that she currently had no phone, then they began to write on her, phone numbers with names.
“Listen,” said Alex, “we’re going to be here again two days from now. Will you stop by?”
“Sure,” said Mary, “sure.”
This was definitely the city she wanted to stay in.

What was she? Helen was worried that something had happened to Mary.
She was an hour late. Helen’s evil imagination whispered of dark possibilities, but was silenced by Mary entering the restaurant.
Mary sat down across from Helen. She was beaming. There was writing on her arms, and possibly on her legs.
“What’s this?” Helen asked.
“All my new friends who want me to call them,” said Mary. She was almost bursting with joy. “Can we stay here, Helen?” she asked.
Helen thought about her day, about how there hadn’t been any jobs that she had wanted in the local newspaper. She looked back into Mary’s face, and she couldn’t bring herself to say a thing.
If it makes her this happy, it’s worth it, thought Helen.
“Why don’t we go look for an apartment after we’ve eaten?”
“Oh, thank you, Helen!”said Mary, “thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome, Mary,” said Helen.
“And I’ll need to enrol in Saint Geraldine's . . .” said Mary, clearing visualizing her new life here.
“Is that a religious school?” asked Helen. She hadn’t thought Mary would go to a religious school.
“No,” said Mary, “It’s just a religious name.”
“Oh,” said Helen.
When the two of them were walking of the restaurant, Helen began walking towards the blue car, but then she stopped. There was a squad of police cars around it.
Sophia must have stolen it.
Helen began leading Mary away, in a random direction.
Keeping her voice calm so as to not alarm Mary, Helen asked, “Did you have any personal items left in the car?”
They had taken their stuff and put it in a day locker in a nearby mall. Helen knew that all her stuff was in that locker, but was all of Mary’s?
“No,” answered Mary. She was still in her happy bubble. She had not seen the police, or noticed that they hadn’t gone to the car.
“Good,” said Helen. She pulled the car keys out of her pocket and dropped them into the sewer. They made a minute slasph as they hit the bottom.
Well, thought Helen, as she and Mary walked towards the mall that contained the day locker that contained all the possessions they had, I guess we’re staying.

“Trust me, you look beautiful,” said Helen.
“Oh, you’re just saying that to make me feel better,” said Mary. Tonight was her high school graduation. She was dressed in a beautiful black dress that glinted in the light when she moved.
In mere hours, she would be going to her graduation ceremony, and then after to the dinner and dance, where Alex would be her platonic escort.
“I’m so nervous,” said Mary. She nervously fingered the cue cards that contained her valedictorian speech. Mary, and another boy, Thomas, had been chosen, not just by their teachers, but also by their peers, to speak at the graduation ceremony.
“You’ll do great,” said Helen.
“You think so?” asked Mary, a pained expression on her face.
“I know you will.”
Helen looked straight into Mary’s eyes, and Mary looked straight back. All worry smoothed away from Mary’s face.
“Helen . . .” Mary began.
“Yes, Mary?” said Helen.
“ . . . I love you, Helen,” said Mary, for the first time.
Mary kissed Helen gently on the lips, for the first time.
The kiss was like wildfire.
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