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Anime Fuel Newbie
A Darker Tale: Chapter Two
“Ren!” Allison broke into a jog to catch up to her friend, nudging the red-head on the shoulder once they were side by side. “Hey. Missed you in class yesterday. We had an in-class essay, but Dickerson says you can do a take-home instead. Since, you know, it was the anniversary and all the day before. He told me to give this to you.”
Brennan gave the blonde a small smile as she accepted the prompt. The two were quite a pair to behold, Allison all long legs, graceful arms, towering height. She positively dwarfed Brennan, who was, at 5’2”, eight inches shorter. Allison was everything Brennan wished she could be, tall, perfect skin, blonde, with an easy confidence that made boys smile and girls jealous.
Brennan was freckled, short and painfully shy. But somehow, the two seemed to bring out the best in each other. They had known each other for twelve years now, and hopefully would for twelve more. After all, Allison had been the only one who hadn’t apologized when Ren had said “my parents died”. For some reason, it had meant more to her than profuse but un-heartfelt “I’m sorry”s.
“Thanks Alli. I appreciate it.”
“Yeah, no sweat. Hey, sorry that I couldn’t come with you day before last. Want to go today after classes?”
Brennan stopped abruptly, her hand going to her pocket reflexively. But no, no. It was gone. She had thrown it. Instead there was an emptiness, a strange hollow feeling like the echo of the ocean in a cave.
“Yeah. I think I’d like that.”
The seat of Allison’s little Toyota Echo was much more comfortable than that of Aunt Zelda’s Cadillac. Brennan folded her legs beneath her, watching the trees fly past ten miles above the speed limit. Allison turned the radio up to cover the silence, and sang along full-blast, her off-key notes made all the more painful by high decibel. Allison never minded the silence, not any time around October Twelfth. Any other month and she would poke and prod Ren, nag until she had discovered what was wrong. This time of year, she always knew.
“So do you want me to wait here or can I come?”
Allison turned off the ignition, large brown eyes looking not at Brennan, but out at the lake just visible through the trees beyond.
“Come, please. I don’t want to be alone.”
Allison nodded and together, the two crunched their way through the gravel.
“Whoa,” Allison stopped short and grabbed Ren by the arm, tugging her back behind the line of trees. “Someone’s there. How weird is that? No one goes to the lake in Fall! Even if it is early Fall.”
Brennan’s heart leapt. Someone was there? Could it be? Had they come back for her? Had they heard her somehow? She shrugged out of Allison’s hold and darted like a minnow towards the whispering promise.
She halted, nearly tripping over her heart as it fell out of her chest. No. It was just a boy. Not a boy, not really. A young man. He was probably their age, maybe a little older.
Allison came up much more sedately behind Brennan. She snorted, eyeing her friend.
“I mean he has nice hair and all but no need to get so excited. You don’t even know if he’s cute.”
Brennan swallowed the tears that burned in her chest, tears filling where her heart had fallen.
“S-sorry,” she whispered, trying not to cry in frustration, “I just thought…”
Allison watched her with open eyes, and when Ren stopped, did not bid her to continue. Instead, she laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed.
“Come on. Let’s ignore him. Let’s go visit Mom and Dad.”
Trusting Ren would follow, Allison strolled up to the waters edge, her gait sure and quick. Brennan held her breath until her eyes stopped stinging, then followed. Her gaze slid to the boy sitting maybe thirty feet away, his legs drawn up against his chest, eyes brooding as he looked across the water.
Who was he? Their town was small, Ren knew everyone by name, but this boy was a stranger. Slowly, in no hurry, he turned and looked at her.
Brennan stood up straight and her head snapped forward. There was something about him that made her breath skip out of her lungs. Maybe it was the way his black hair fell into his eyes, or the odd pallor of his skin. Or maybe it was just the way he smiled, like the sun maliciously piercing a cloud, with no thought as to what it would do to the poor little cumulus. Ren felt like she would melt, just like the cloud.
Blindly she reached out and found Allison’s hand. She gave it a quick tug before releasing it.
“Alli,” she whispered as quietly as she could, “is he staring at me?”
Allison, completely unabashed, looked up and over Ren’s head. Sure enough, the boy was staring at Brennan.
“Yeah,” Alli hushed back, “he is. Want to pretend to be lesbians and see if he stops?”
Brennan smacked Allison in the arm, glowering up at her. “Not funny, and no, I don’t. Besides, you don’t have to pretend. You’re half-lesbian.”
“Bi-sexual,” Alli said, pushing her shoulders back and drawing herself to her full height, “is not ‘half-lesbian’. I just like to think of myself as an equal-opportunity dater.”
Brennan rolled her eyes but was unable not to smile. “Of course. Now stop. We’re here for a reason, right?”
Allison’s face instantly grew somber. “Yeah, we are. Do you think they’re watching us? You know, from the clouds?”
Brennan shrugged, stuffing her hands into her pockets. She suddenly felt very cold.
“I dunno, maybe.”
There was a pause, then, “do you think they care that I’m bi?”
Brennan snorted, smiling up at her brown-eyed friend. “Really, Allison? Of all the things to ask, that? I doubt they’d care. I mean, if they were cool with Zelda being a full-on lez, why would they care about that?”
“Zelda’s a lesbian?” Allison said, startled.
Ren eyed Allison with a small, half-smile. “Yeah. You didn’t know? I mean, she’s dating Gertrude from her work. You really didn’t know? I never mentioned it?”
“No, actually, you didn’t.”
“Huh. I guess I just didn’t think it was important.”
Shrugging, Allison looked out over the clear surface of Widow’s Lake. “It’s not, not really. Who you screw, it’s up to you, as I always say.”
The two dissolved into quiet, each taking in the lake in her own way. Ren, unable to help herself, glanced over at the boy once more. But he was gone. She sighed, hunching her shoulders a little in her jacket. So he hadn’t been interested after all. She could have laughed; here she was, in the middle of some great mystery involving the disappearance of her parents, her very origins as something possibly other than human, and she was worried about whether or not a boy was interested in her. She could have kicked herself.
Both of the girls turned, startled, neither having heard his approach. He was smiling, his teeth too white, his eyes too sparkling a green.
“I apologize, I did not mean to fill you with surprise. It is only that I am new to this area, and am desirous to be shown about.”
“Aw, it’s okay. You can fill me with surprise anytime. Ouch!”
Allison grinned down at Ren, rubbing her side where Brennan had elbowed her.
“What? I’m only saying—”
“I know what you’re saying but keep it in your pants, Alli.”
The boy smiled placidly, and quite suddenly stuck out his hand between the two as if to shake with them both at once. “Hello, my name is Jessyn,” he said, as if reciting a speech, “What is it that you call yourselves?”
“I’m Allison,” the blonde said with a smile set to stun. She took his hand and gave it a slow shake, fingers lingering around his own. “But you can call me Alli.”
She finally released him, and smiling, Ren offered her own hand. He took it, nodding his head.
“I’m Brennan. But please, call me Ren. Everyone does.”
“Brennan,” Jessyn said, holding onto her hand as if to keep it for himself. “Brennan,” he said again, and then after a pause, “Yes. Yes.”
Ren tugged her hand back, frowning lightly as she rubbed it. He was cold, so very cold. And he was smiling again, but it was different somehow—it was a satisfied smile, and reminded her of the time Allison had hounded a boy, Brian, for weeks. When she had finally gotten him, she had grinned just like that, as if she had won some great prize. It made Brennan…scared.
“I am new to this area,” he repeated, “and am desirous to be shown about.”
Allison looked sideways at Brennan and grinned slowly. “Ooookaaaay,” she said, nudging Ren lightly, “as long as my buddy here doesn’t mind.”
Jessyn turned his green eyes, greener than the grass at Easter, to Brennan. “Is it so that you mind this thing? No?”
Ren swallowed, feeling very small and very frightened. She imagined that this must be how a mouse would feel, when cornered by a cat.
“No, I uh, I guess I don’t mind.”
“I am ever so happy to hear this news!” Jessyn’s eyes never left her face. “I apologize in this advanced stage, if my language is wrong. English is not my native speaking.”
“Yeah, we could tell.” Allison smiled, wrapping an arm around Jessyn’s shoulders. The two were almost the same height, Jessyn only a few inches taller. They looked natural together, a perfect couple; one light, one dark, but both slender and beautiful. And yet…his eyes sought Brennan.
“Come on, Ren. Pizza is on me.”
Allison’s words were tinny in her ears, as if heard from a distance. Brennan could have sworn the earth had just swung a little out of alignment. But she followed anyway.
“And is this how this food is to be eaten?”
Jessyn was hesitantly eyeing the slice of cheese pizza he held delicately between his thumb and forefinger, trying not to allow the thing to drip sauce onto him. He gave it a stern look, as if that would supplicate it into submission. Allison laughed and nodded, swooping up a slice of pizza and nipping off a bite with her front teeth. Brennan always thought Allison ate like a bird, small quick bites.
“See? Just like that.”
Jessyn glanced at Allison then back to his pizza and nodded. He imitated her action, but more slowly, with greater care. When his teeth sunk down, sauce squirted and dribbled down his chin. Allison burst into laughter, only stopping when Ren kicked her under the table.
“Here,” Brennan said sympathetically, offering him a handful of napkins from the dispenser. “Never had pizza before, huh?”
“It is not a native food stuff to my culture,” he said miserably as he dabbed at his chin. “Tell me this, pizza—it is to be found on trees or bushes?”
Allison let out a peal of delight, clapping happily as if it was all a game.
“Oh good god, no Jessy, no. You don’t grow pizza. You make it, out of flour and tomatoes and cheese! Geez, where are you from anyway?”
“I am coming from Aleu…” Jessyn’s eyes slid to Brennan. She had frozen, one hand half-way reaching to her drink. She stared at him, face suddenly pale, waiting for him to say it; to say he had come from Aleutia. Just like her father.
Allison glanced between them, her smile dying slowly.
“Did I miss something?” she asked, unsure.
“I am coming from the Aleutian islands,” Jessyn corrected, smiling once more at Allison. “My parents moved to that place when I was just a thought in my mother’s belly. But this is the place from whence they have come and I am to stay here until I can find what it is that they have lost. They have been looking for this thing for a long time, but the situation is such that they cannot come to claim it. So I am here. To claim it.”
Brennan sunk low in the booth seat, and she was quite certain her heart had stopped beating. She couldn’t catch her breath, couldn’t get enough air. Were they having an earth quake or was it just her body that was shaking so badly?
“Oh, they lost something? That sucks. What was it? Maybe Ren and I can help you find it.”
Ren swallowed, shaking her head over and over. She would not have part in this—how could she? No, no she wouldn’t go, she couldn’t go—
“It is the most precious thing that they are to be missing now. More precious than the moon rocking the tide. But I am not under permission to speak of what it is to be.” He smiled, holding a finger over his lips. “Secret.”
Allison put her chin in her palm, smiling at Jessyn. Clearly, she was captivated. Ren could understand; he was gorgeous, and it was so rare to meet someone new. New was exciting in a town so small.
“So where are these Aleutian islands? It sounds familiar, but I’m not sure.”
“Far, many bathymeters of distance.”
“That isn’t a word,” Ren said, her voice a shock to her own ears.
“I beg pardon of you?”
“‘Bathymeter’ isn’t a word. Bathymetric is, or bathymetry. But ‘bathymeter’ doesn’t exist, certainly not as a measure of distance. It doesn’t exist. It isn’t real, Jessyn.”
“Whoa, Ren, calm down,” Allison put a hand on Brennan’s leg, gently patting her. “It’s okay. He doesn’t speak English very well.”
“No, it isn’t okay because it isn’t a word and if it isn’t a word it doesn’t exist—”
She cut herself off, breathing heavily. Jessyn was giving her a considering look. After a moment of reflection he spoke again, carefully.
“I am grieved to have caused some displeasure in your heart and spirit. I do not mean to speak as to not be understood. But Brennan?”
Brennan swallowed, waiting. When it became clear he wouldn’t continue without her prompt, she nodded at him.
“It is real.”
“Where should we drop you off?” Allison asked over her shoulder, to Jessyn in the back seat. He blinked, turning his head from the window to look to the front of the Echo.
“You are going to drop me?”
Brennan didn’t turn around to look as she spoke to Jessyn. “She means where do you want us to bring you? Where are you staying, Jessyn?”
“Oh! I beg forgiveness of you, I was not understanding your words. These expressions I learn with time. If you would take me to the lake, I would feel my heart swell with gratitude.”
Allison laughed, looking at Jessyn in the rearview mirror. “Jessy, you can’t be staying at the lake. Just tell us where you’re staying, or who with.”
“With whom,” Ren muttered under her breath.
Allison’s brown eyes rolled but she smiled at Brennan. “With whom then.”
“If he’s going to learn it, he may as well learn it properly and well.”
“Yeah, yeah. I get it. So, Jessy, answer the question.”
Jessyn adjusted his position in his seat, squirming as if uncomfortable. His hands tugged on the hem of his wool-knit sweater, as if they didn’t know what to do. He did not raise his eyes as he spoke this time.
“Just by the lake, if your gracious spirits will of this allow.”
Allison’s brow scrunched but she nodded just the same. “Sure, Jessy. If that’s what you want.”
“Yes,” he said wistfully, “that is my current desire.”
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