"What was the price the Blind Man was talking about?" I asked Last when we were on the road again.
"That? Oh. Old memory. From my old life. One that was probably better off gone."
"I don't know," he said. "I don't remember what it was anymore. Probably not. But if it was from that old life, I'm probably better off without it."
"You'd do that to yourself? Destroy a memory just for information on how to beat the Rake?"
He gave me a hard look. "This isn't the first time I've had dealings with the Blind Man. He's given me a lot of information in the past. He was even the one who gave me tips on getting here from...you know. There. It's cost me memories every time. You know what, Kenny? The only way I know I had parents is that everyone had them. I don't know if I was raised by one or the other or both. I don't know if I had any siblings. I don't even know how or when they died. Only that they did. And you know how I know that? Because I know, Kenny, and I will always know no matter how many memories I lose--that they're all dead. Everyone from that old life, except for me."
He continued almost without breaking stride, speaking to everyone instead of just me. "Okay, so, we've got who I think we'll refer to as the Magi helping us out, Benjamin here acting as bait for the Black Dog--"
"Thanks, boss," Benjamin deadpanned.
"--but we're hitting a little snag, in that we kind of have no clue how to find the Rake. So there's that. We'll need to work on that. Kenny, I may need to borrow your blog for that. Hey, anyone else want to use it?' There was a chorus of mostly apathetic responses. I raised my hand.
"Do I get a say in this? It's kind of my blog."
"We'll talk. Anyone have any ideas? No? Okay, we'll keep thinking on it. Anyone need the bathroom?" A few hands shot up. "Okay, great. Boston, pull over at the next rest stop."
We pulled up to a rest stop a few minutes later and poured out of the bus, some of us heading to the bathroom, most just stretching our legs. I checked out the visitor center. You know, the ones that consist mostly of pamphlets for tourist attractions and a few vending machines? Places with signs of human life, but no actual humans. It made me realize just how empty human structures feel without the humans.
I glanced up at the clock and date display and had a moment of realization.
"I missed her birthday," I said to myself.
"What now?" Maggie was standing just off behind me, sort of shadowing me like she tends to do.
"Lily. I missed Lily's birthday. By almost a month. I...oh god, I've just been so busy with all this going on, I...I forgot and...she...she would have been nineteen...almost...almost a full month...." I stammered to myself as I started panicking. I had forgotten. How could I have possibly forgotten the birthday of the girl I loved?
Maggie gave me an odd sort of stare. "Calm down, Kenny. I mean, it's not exactly like she cares."
"What? You...you realize what you just said, right? You don't even--"
"Kenny! Calm down! Sometimes people get busy and they forget things. In this case...there was no reason to be reminded. I'm sorry, Kenny. I know it sounds hard and it's harsh for you, but...it's no big deal. She's not getting any older anymore. You can't beat yourself up over this."
It didn't help. "What, and disrespect her memory by forgetting her? I can't do that, Maggie. I loved her."
She gave me a blank stare for a second, then, when an expression formed, she looked...hurt. Genuinely hurt, like my words had offended her somehow. "No," she said, just loud enough that I could hear. "No, you...you still do. Oh my god. You still love her." Her voice rose, and she started speaking in Spanish. I couldn't understand any of it, but from her tone of voice and the way she grabbed at her head and started pacing in tight circles, I'm pretty sure that most of it was cursing. "Oh my god," she said. "Oh my god. I get it now. That's why. That's why you're so fucking blind." Before I could react, she grabbed Lily from my hands, walked outside, and chucked it as far as she could across the parking lot.
"Maggie! What are you doing?" I scrambled after it.
"Yeah, go run after it," she yelled after me. "Go after your stupid staff. Cling to the past. You are literally using her as a fucking crutch." She sat down on the curb and buried her face in her hands in exasperation. "Oh, god, I can't believe I didn't see it before." She looked up at me, venom in her eyes. "You don't realize how selfish you are. You're blind to everyone around you because you because you're still in love with a dead girl."
She stormed into the bus at that point and refused to talk at me anymore for the rest of the day.
I...I think I get it now. She's right. I've been...really blind. No, that's not even the right. I've been in denial. And I...need to think. I think I may need to move on. But I don't know if I'm ready. I really have a lot to think about.
I'm sorry. To Lily. To Maggie. To everyone.