So we’ve been sort of on hold for a while. Last has been keeping us in the dark, with just an occasional nod and wink and statement that he’s working on something big. So I’ve been playing board games with Phones and hanging out with Maggie. I guess Last’s insisting we’re dating now (not happy about that), but I wouldn’t call it that. I’m not going to say we won’t end up dating, but I don’t think we are right now.
He disappeared for a few days recently. Now, however, he’s returned, cackling madly.
“Everyone!” he announced. “Operation Alice was a huge success!”
“What happened?” I asked.
“It’s a surprise! You’ll have to read about it on my blog. C’mon, everyone of legal drinking age, we’re gonna celebrate tonight!”
“You don’t have a blog!” I called after him as he danced (not a metaphor—he was literally dancing) up the stairs.
“I meant your blog, obviously!”
I kind of slunk off to my room for the night, since I knew Last wasn’t going to give me any answers and, well, I’m still only 19 and I didn’t really want to be one of the only sober people in the room. I’m sure Last would have let me drink with them, and it’s not like I never tried alcohol in high school, but…I don’t know. It’d be weird drinking with these people. I’m not actually friends with most of them.
I guess that was a bad idea, since I ended up having another dream. One of those Cold Boy/Wooden Girl/Grotesque dreams. The details aren’t important, and I don’t remember them now, but it was a knock that woke me up and saved me from a potential dream death.
“Kenny? You okay in there?”
I went to the door and opened it to find Maggie, dressed in just an oversized t-shirt.
“What time is it?” was the question I finally decided on.
“I dunno, about 2 AM, I think? You okay? Sounded like you were having a bad dream.”
“Uh, yeah. It was, um…one of those. So thanks. Uh…what are you doing up?”
“Got thirsty. That and apparently it’s supposed to prevent hangovers or something.”
“Oh. Are you…drunk right now?”
“Hmm. Not sure.” She thoughtfully poked her cheek a few times. “Well that’s not doing anything for me. Guess I’m either just tired or a little tipsy. Can I come in?”
She sat down in my desk chair and swiveled it back and forth. I sat down on my bed. “I thought you weren’t having these dreams anymore,” she said.
“Not very often. I have one every now and then, but…not like tonight.”
“You’d think the party Last threw would have helped with that some.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so, really. I mean, you guys aren’t really my friends—”
“—so it’s not like I really feel comfortable around all of you. I just feel…a bit on the outside, you know?”
“I think it goes deeper than that. You have problems trusting people, Kenny. When you’re alone, you see enemies everywhere, and when you trust people as allies, you don’t trust yourself. And I guess we’re kind of to blame for that.”
“That’s still only part of it, though. With the Cold Boy and Wooden Girl working together like this…I think the Wooden Girl might really be after me too. For her own reasons. I just…I don’t feel like I’m in control anymore. I’m supposed to be some sort of hero, but Last’s the one with the plan. And I just…do what he says. Because yeah, killing the Fears is probably a good idea, but what if I don’t want to be the one who has to do that? And what if I leave? What does Last do then?”
“Rock and a hard place,” she said, nodding. “Listen, Kenny…do you trust me?”
“I…I guess. Mostly, at least.”
“Good. Because the Masks? We’ve all got your back. And as long as you trust me, or Crimson, or even Phones, I guess, you should be able to rest easy knowing we’ve got your back. And hey, if you ever feel the need to take off, seize control of your own destiny or whatever—I’ll have your back then, too. We’re friends, if nothing else. That make it better?”
“Of course it doesn’t. It’s a promise that’s a drop of piss in an ocean. But I hope it at least helps. Think you’ll at least be able to get back to sleep?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. I think I might.”
There was a pause.
“You’re still scared, aren’t you?”
She sighed. “Here, scoot over.”
“I’ll keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re not going cold.”
“Are you sure…I mean…is this appropriate?”
“Oh madre de dios, Kenny. It’s not like I’m naked under this.”
She snuggled up to me, and…I don’t know. I couldn’t really complain. I thought it’d make me feel uncomfortable, but it actually really helped me calm down. After the chilling (like, literally chilling) dream, her skin felt really warm. “Just shut up and let me have this much, okay Kenny?”
For the record, I slept fine for the rest of that night.