I raised my head, squinting. Head rush.
Ms. Powers stood at the head of the classroom, displeased.
Delayed, I made a sound in response. “Hmm?”
That didn’t help any.
“I’d be less offended if you spent my class on your phone the whole time, rather than sleeping.”
But I don’t care what you have to say.
Sleepily, I pulled a strand of hair out of my mouth, pushing some back behind my ear. I rubbed my thumb right under my eye.
“Sorry, didn’t mean-”
The bell cut me off.
Everyone started getting up, gathering their belongings, chatting amongst themselves. I followed, sweeping up my binders and journals into my arms, keeping them close to my chest. I got out of my chair, and started leaving the classroom, looking for Brittany. I wanted to walk and talk with her as we headed to our next class.
I stopped, then turned. Ms. Powers was at her desk, sitting. She motioned for me. She looked stern.
Reluctantly, I walked up to her, I clutched my school stuff tighter, closer.
“Yeah, Ms. Powers?” I asked, my pitch a bit higher.
She took a look past me before saying anything. Waiting until everyone has filed out of the classroom?
Ms. Powers put her hands together, resting them in her lap. “What’s going on, Alexis?”
I answered her like I did before. “Hmm?”
She pressed her lips to a line, and tilted her head to the computer beside her. “You’ve missed several homework assignments in the last few weeks, you haven’t done very well on the last few quizzes, and you’ve been out of it in that time, too. We have a test coming up, do you know that?”
“I do, yeah.” I vaguely remembered Ms. Powers mentioning something like that, but I was pretty confident that it wasn’t for another week or so. I’d study later.
She had an eyebrow raised at me. “There’s a lot of material there that I don’t you have a grip on, yet. Are you going to be okay?”
I considered my chances. I could make a passing grade on it, possibly. Worst case scenario was that I’d have to beg Katy to help and tutor me, even though she might not be entirely familiar with the material. She was taking a more advanced class.
“I think I will be.”
Her accusatory expression remained. “We’re only in the first half of the school year, so you have time to turn things around, but, if you don’t get a handle on this soon, it’s going to be a lot harder on you later.”
Are you already saying that I’m going to fail this class?
“I’ll make sure that it doesn’t come to that,” I said, trying to remain cheery. We only had five minutes for a passing period, and it took three minutes to get to my next class. I’d end up being late if Ms. Powers didn’t end this soon.
“I’m asking if there’s anything you’re having trouble with. I have after school hours, so I can help with whatever you’re having trouble on. Some students from the math club show up, too, so you can get help from your peers if you’re uncomfortable with me over your shoulder.”
I wanted to roll my eyes, but there was no way I could get away with it. Plus, she was actually being reasonable. I’d feel awful if I kept up an attitude.
“Sure, definitely. I’ll swing by if I need it.”
I wasn’t sure if I meant that. I’d still prefer Katy helping me out.
Ms. Power’s whole, rotund body relaxed some, like I had just let go of holding mochi, and was watching the snack slowly return to its original shape.
“I’d really recommend it,” Ms. Powers said. “You were a good student, Alexis, you just need to get your priorities straight.”
Oh, I know.
“Is it because you’re in the middle of volleyball season?” Ms. Powers asked. “Is Coach T running you too ragged to study at home?”
I drummed my fingers on my binder, four quick successive taps. “It’s not volleyball. It’s something… more personal.”
Ms. Powers made a face. Concern, I recognized. “Oh, alright then.”
I could hear them behind me. Kids from the next class coming in to take their seats. The bell would ring again soon, and I’d get a tardy.
“Uh, Ms. Powers? I gotta head to my next class. Otherwise…”
Her eyes widened, slightly. Ms. Powers rocked back in her seat, then forward, using the momentum to get to her feet.
“I apologize for keeping you. Go, go.”
“But don’t forget what I said!” She called out as I left the classroom.
“Sure thing!” I said back. With seconds on the metaphorical timer, I rushed to my next class.
Valerie had her elbows on the table. She whined.
“Man, this is terrible. I wanna go out for lunch.”
“Can’t,” Eve said. “Staff and teachers have upped their game during lunch hours. They’ll check anyone walking outside, asking for a school ID. I’d rather not take that chance.”
“Right?” I agreed, “These new rules are such ass.”
“Watch what you say,” Jenny said, grinning. “Someone might be listening.”
I agreed with her. Sometimes, being secretive was more important than any ounce of honesty. I glanced around in the bustling cafeteria.
The school’s atmosphere had changed in recent weeks, a certain electricity in the air that made everyone antsy. The new rules, the stricter policies, stricter teachers, and the addition of another school cop made for a particularly new environment that the student body hadn’t quite adjusted to just yet. I could almost say there was a sense of paranoia, if I wanted blow things out of proportion.
All because of one person.
I would have found it interesting, if I didn’t have to keep watching my back.
“You gonna be okay with just that?” Eve asked, pointing to the apple I had in front of me. I hadn’t taken a bite out of it, for reasons known only to me.
“I’m not hungry right now, so I’m gonna save this for later, probably during Mr. Richard’s class.”
“That’s your prerogative,” Eve said, “But you’ll turn to dust if you keep up with that diet. You actually have to settle and stop, you know?”
“I do know.”
“Coach is going to get on your case about it, too, if she hasn’t already.”
“If I’m not at practice, it’ll be harder for her to do that.”
Brittany cut in, this time. “You’re not coming today?”
I put my hand on my notebooks, set beside the apple. “I have to start super studying for tests and stuff, especially math. If I don’t, I won’t have a practice to go back to.”
I was sitting in a group of my volleyball teammates, but, if this cafeteria wasn’t so full of people, and was also a lot smaller, I would’ve felt like I was suddenly being interrogated.
Not that I didn’t love these girls, but I couldn’t find Katy and Maria in time. My teammates found me first.
“It’ll be alright,” I said, both lying and deflecting. “Pretty soon, I’ll be back to warming the benches for you.”
The table laughed.
The other girls went off into their own conversations with each other, and I decided to look into my notebook. Maybe I’d try to get some studying done, for once.
“By the way, Alexis, how were things with Brandon, before…”
Valerie, sitting across from me, had asked that unfinished question. But that was enough to get the attention of the others here.
“What even happened there, anyways?” Eve asked.
Jenny answered, “Got caught with armed robbery, along with other accomplices that belong to the same gang. That’s more than enough to get him expelled, but, even if it wasn’t, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him anymore. Not for the rest of the school year.”
“God damn, you seem to know a lot about this, Jenny.”
Jenny flipped her hair. “What can I say? It’s juicy stuff. I even heard that The Bluemoon helped catch him.”
There were gasps from everyone at the table.
I tried to mimic their shock as much as I could, but I was more concerned over the fact the conversation moved to that topic.
“Yeah, Alexis, didn’t you go on a date with him, just before that?” Valerie asked, bringing that topic back to me. Which I feared.
Word spreads, doesn’t it?
As much as I didn’t want to answer that question, I’d earn some unneeded suspicion if I refused to address it.
“We did, I guess, but it really didn’t feel like a date, to be honest. It was more like two friends hanging out.”
“Ouch. The friend zone?”
That was a small revelation. Oh, it so totally was that, wasn’t it? That blows.
I let it a fake chuckle. “Yeah, that exactly. It… just didn’t work out. Simple.”
Not the full truth, but the general strokes were there. I didn’t mention Jillian.
“But did you know he did gang stuff?” Valerie asked.
“That was a surprise to me,” I said. That part, was the complete truth. “He didn’t seem like that kind of guy.”
“Ah, what could’ve been. Such a tragic love.” Valerie stuck her tongue out.
I recalled the time I saw Brandon. It was the first time Hleuco and I worked together. What luck. I was floored when I saw him, couldn’t quite process it. I freaked out, and I ran, unintentionally leaving him hung out to dry. Maybe I thought I gave him a good enough chance to make his own escape, but I could have been guessing under my own metrics. A personal price, a personal consequence, for being Blank Face. It was hard to get over, but I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me so soon.
As awful as that thought was.
“It was never going to work out, looking back at it now,” I said, “But it’s still heartbreaking, hearing about what happened.”
Valerie then looked deflated, “Man, stop trying to make me feel bad for wanting to joke around.”
Everyone at the table laughed again, but it was more downplayed, this time.
The conversation continued, but over another subject. It wasn’t before long the bell rang, and everyone had to leave for class.
My group split apart, saying goodbye, then we went to our respective classes.
Before I got to the stairs to reach the second floor, I came across the scene.
Two teachers, and a cop, were in the middle of stopping a student who was also leaving the cafeteria. They were talking to him, and he had a serious expression on his face. Upset that he was caught? He might as well have painted a target on his back.
Most students minded their own business, and kept moving, but a few watched as the teachers led the boy down the hall, in the opposite direction of where he was originally going. He looked forward, and I saw in detail why they had stopped him. Everyone did.
He was wearing a blue hoodie.
The school had rules that prohibited wearing colors that might insinuate gang affiliations, but what could you do if the whole spectrum of the rainbow was used for colors? It was never the most well-enforced rule, but recently, the school had updated the dress code. No one color was allowed to dominate an article of clothing. It had to either be all-black, or have some design or pattern that allowed another color to be incorporated. No blank shirts with strictly one color, pretty much. A hard rule to follow, honestly, it made a third of my wardrobe unwearable at school. Today, I had to wear a black school sweater, with the school mascot across the chest. A bat.
In the face of that rule, another update to the dress code was that you weren’t allowed to wear blue hoodies.
The Halloween Riots were still going, after all, and the school didn’t want any reference or image of that appearing in the building. Why? I wasn’t sure. Maybe the administrators didn’t want a possibility of a riot breaking out here, but that seemed unlikely to me.
Maybe it was an extension of the gang affiliation rule.
Either way, this student broke a rule, now he was being reprimanded for it.
He passed me, and he broke his forward gaze to glance at me.
I felt a spike in temperature, however slight.
He doesn’t know, of course he wouldn’t.
Impossible, absurd, didn’t make sense.
But I was still about to sweat.
The cop was following behind the teachers, and addressed me as he walked by.
“Nothing to see here, go to class.”
I stuttered, “O-okay.”
I hurried along, like a good student was supposed to.
With each step up the stairs, my paranoia increased. If that was what the school wanted, then they passed with flying colors.
The bell had sung its last tune for the day. Every student did their best to try to make it out of the building as fast as they could, and be free… until the next morning. I was more lax in my step, walking at a pace that the elderly would have been annoyed by.
My last class of the day had me in the back of the school. Because of that, the gym wasn’t far, not much of a walk. But today, I wasn’t going that way.
After getting to my locker, and stuffing all of my belongings into my backpack, I took one of the side doors, leading outside. Figured I’d get some fresh air while I wrapped around to get to the front of the school.
Crossing the back parking lot, I passed some kids standing around, smoking cigarettes. I turned the corner, and nearly bumped into someone who was absentmindedly standing too close to the turn.
“Oh, Harrian, hi,” I said.
“Hello,” he responded, as despondent as ever. He was in black, too, but his clothes were baggier, his hair covering his eyes. He reminded he of a grim reaper. If he actually was one, though, I’d suspect there would be even more people on Earth. Not a lot of energy or pep in his movements.
“Watchu doing here?” I asked. “Waiting to be picked up?”
“I, um, I’m meeting with those two guys?” He phrased his answer weirdly.
“Those two guys?” I asked back. I tried a guess. “Eric and Evan?”
Slowly, he nodded.
“Neat, how’s that going? Do you hang out with them a lot?”
Doesn’t exactly answer the question.
“But you’re going to go chill with them today, right?”
Harrian shrugged. “I guess so. Eric just ask me to come here after school ended, today.”
“Sounds fun,” I said, with not a lot of fun inflected in my voice, admittedly. I should probably move along, but something compelled me to stick around for a little longer.
“You went to the barbeque, right? How was that?”
“Good. There were games and food and stuff, a lot of the Asian kids from here went to it.”
“Oh? Who went? Jasmine, Mary?”
“I only recognized their faces.”
“Okay,” I said. “Did you do anything there?”
“I volunteer. Help out at different booths, and organize different events.”
“Wow, that’s actually really impressive.”
“I was so tired, I thought I was going to die.”
I almost laughed at the statement, but I didn’t, even though I was sure it was a joke. “Been there, almost done that.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“I was trying to say to that I’ve been so tired I thought I was going to die.”
Harrian paused, in thought.
“Oh no, isn’t that a big deal? People die every year from overwork, especially in Japan.”
“Wait, no, that’s not, that’s not what I was getting at.”
“No? Because it’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about a lot. Did you know, according to the Japan Times, that 23 percent of 1,743 Japanese companies surveyed said that they have employees who worked more than 80 hours of overtime a month? And twelve percent said that some employees work more than 100 hours? And that last year, 96 people died from brain and heart illnesses linked to overwork? Other countries across the world have a similar issue, too.”
I frowned, “And the two of us, talking here, isn’t going to help solve it.”
He actually frowned in return. “No sadly.”
A second, then several, passed.
How did we go from a barbeque to the overwork epidemic plaguing Japan?
Is he just dense, or a genius?
The conversation was losing air, and I wanted to abandon it. I had other things to get to, after all.
“I have to go, I’ll see you around, Harrian,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to keep you from the boys when they get here.”
I moved to leave, but Harrian had begun to speak, and that gave me pause.
“… zài jiàn.”
I scratched my head. “Didn’t catch that, exactly.”
“I just wanted to say ‘see you later.’ In Mandarin.”
“How nice of you,” I said, genuine.
“What’s ‘good bye’ in Japanese?”
Put on the spot. I didn’t have a response prepared. My knowledge of Japanese was pathetically sparse, despite all the years of my mom trying to teach me.
I searched in the recesses of my memory.
I put my hands in my pockets, and I tilted my head.
“The only word I can think of is ‘sayonara.’ But I think people don’t typically say that. It implies a sort of finality. Don’t quote me on it.”
Harrian accepted that. “Good enough.”
He stood, almost in anticipation.
Did you actually want me to say it?
If I say that, will you let me leave?
I tried not to look fazed. I’d entertain him, for the moment.
He waved, and I left, going towards the front of the school.
Harrian was an odd guy, with an odd way of speaking and with an odd way of presenting himself. But, he seemed well-meaning. In only a few minutes, I had the oddest conversation I would ever have ever. And somehow, I doubted it was going to be my last one with him.
“How does this look?” Katy stepped out of the changing room, wearing a dark blue gown, black heels. She struck a pose.
I laughed until I started coughing. Maria cackled.
Katy puffed out her cheeks with a pout, turning red. “I’m being serious, here.”
“I’m being serious here, too,” Maria said, “You look like a host for a game show.”
“Katy, sorry, but I’m with Maria,” I said, “But I am ready to take that cruise to the Bahamas.”
Between the two of us, we made even more of a racket. Women from other changing rooms poked their heads out to stare, but we hardly cared.
Katy, however, was not so enthused. “Screw you guys. I like it, I’m buying it.”
She went back into the changing room.
“Wait, wait,” Maria said, trying to catch her breath. “Did you even check the tag, it’s not on sale.”
“I don’t know the price, and I don’t care to know,” she said from inside the changing room. “I’m buying it, screw you guys.”
Through our pointed teasing, we pleaded with Katy to not buy the dress. She didn’t listen. She left the changing room, storming past us to get to the register. After she purchased that extravagant piece of fashion, we exited the pricey store from the upper end mall known as the Realm.
Instead of taking me straight home, Katy took us here. Maria agreed to tag along.
The Realm wasn’t strictly a part of the upper districts that made up a richer part of town, but it was a start, a sort of hub where the upper middle class citizens liked to spend their time, and where the upper class would go to kill theirs, when there was nothing else to do. The stores here were nice, the employees were nice, everything looked nice. It was a good place to be. To be. Purchasing anything was another question entirely if you were just a normal working person.
We continued to walk around, Maria and I took in the glitz and glamour of the stores and pretty people. Granted, we were probably taking things too seriously, but it wasn’t like we got to be here every day, much less right after school. For myself, anyways, I tried to enjoy my time here.
I was following advice given to me.
“Now we need to find dresses for you two,” Katy said, pointing to me and Maria.
“Why?” I asked, “And like we can afford anything from here. As if.”
“We can find what you like, and we’ll look for cheaper alternatives elsewhere.” Katy tapped her head. “Trust me, I got this.”
“What is this for, again?” Maria then asked. We stood in a line to take an escalator down.
“My mom’s planning a small gathering on the weekend,” Katy explained, almost coming across as tired.
“I’m not willing to believe anything your mom does as ‘small,’” I said.
“It’s for my dad, Mom wants to celebrate.”
I had a feeling she was understating things.
We reached the fourth floor, and checked out other stores, here.
“Celebrate what? Their anniversary?” Maria asked.
“No, it’s lamer than that.”
“Doesn’t sound like any party I want to go to.”
“Shut up. I want you to go, Maria, consider this your invitation. You can’t refuse either, Alexis, my mom’s already invited your mom.”
“Wasn’t planning on it?” I said in a funny way. I had a feeling I knew what Katy was referring to, and if I was right, that could really screw me over.
Part of me wanted to refuse.
“But what is it?” Maria asked, more adamant.
Katy looked reluctant to share, but she couldn’t withhold details forever. Through an uncharacteristically bashful look in her eyes, Katy explained.
“My dad’s been running for public office for the better part of the year, now, and the day for voting on it is about to come up. My mom is so confident that he’s going to take it that she’s been planning the whole thing ahead of time.”
“Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?” Maria asked.
“My mom won’t stop talking about the polls, and I’ve seen it myself. It’s pretty dismal for the other guy.”
“If that’s so, then congrats. What’s the job?”
“DA. District attorney.”
“What do they do?”
“In the case of this city, he’s going to go up against the gangs. Personally.”
Maria looked like she just got shot. “Oh shit. Good thing I’m…”
Maria stopped, but she didn’t know what Katy and I already knew.
“Why’d you never bring it up before?” Maria asked instead, grilling into Katy at this point.
“It wasn’t relevant to bring up, and I didn’t think he’d actually get this far.”
We continued towards another store, checking the options inside.
I could see why Katy was so apprehensive about bringing this stuff up. She knew all too well about her dad’s public efforts over fighting the crime in the city. Officially making himself a public figure would complicate matters even more, and give him a wide scope of enemies and detractors to deal with.
If she only knew what else Thomas was up to, in the midst of this.
More than twenty-four hours since the attempted ambush of Styx’s Gang, and I was trying to follow Thomas’s advice, to help myself before I could help out others. I was… working on it. In my time as Blank Face, I had neglected some personal stuff that I should have been on the ball about. School, friends, my personal life, they were all put on hold while I tried to figure out these powers… and this thirst.
Things were starting to fall apart, and if it wasn’t for Thomas’s intervention, it was liable to get worse.
In the end, we all have secrets we want to keep.
“Anyways,” Katy said, disappointed with what this store had. “It is what it is, now. Let’s keep checking around.”
We took another escalator down. We checked a store, the name Italian, and the prices made the dresses not desirable at all. Not that they weren’t pretty – they were – but they were so unobtainable.
Even with the money Thomas had paid me for my nights as Blank Face. I felt guilty for accepting it before he knew, guiltier still after he did know. I offered, but he refused to take it back.
Right now, despite it being in cash, I couldn’t use it now, not with Katy and Maria being curious. Especially Katy.
Which had raised another concern I didn’t know I should have had.
Does Katy know I’m Blank Face?
Thomas admitted to figuring out who I was the second he saw me in person. Was there a similar case with Katy? She was smart, she could have pieced things together as the weeks passed. Dammit.
I was afraid to ask, afraid to find out. Because if I tried, and I was wrong, then I would have inadvertently spilled the beans before I was ready.
Thomas was a unique case as far as revealing my identity went. We went through a considerable amount in a short span of time, more than anyone should go ever through. And, in more ways than I could imagine, Thomas had saved my life.
Even if they were my friends, even if they were my best friends, I wasn’t ready to just tell Katy and Maria everything. Not yet. Once I got a grip on the other stuff in my life, the stuff I had been neglecting, then I’d consider it.
Katy was smart, insightful, and Maria had a way of surprising me. For now, I’d have to be wary of them.
As shitty as that was…
“Katy, let’s call it a day, we still have time to find a dress,” Maria said eventually. She pointed to the window roof, where the sunlight peeked through. An evening glow.
“Fine, we can head out,” Katy said, caving in. “I refuse to believe you’ll find anything that works.”
“Fuck you, I already have dope shit at home, believe that.” Maria sounded confident, and I could bet she had every reason to be. “It’s her you should be worried about.”
She directed that to me. I had to defend myself.
“Hey, I can clean up nice when I want to. Don’t you fret, Katy, I saw some decent pieces here, I’ll use those for inspo for finding something later.”
Katy huffed. “You two better be smoking when I see you there.”
Maria and I almost synced up. “I’m insulted that you’d question that.”
With that, we decided to make our way down to the first floor. Our way out to a parking lot was through a large department store. Of course, we had to at least look at the clothes they had, and smell the perfumes they had available. Worth it.
After some time, we took to leaving the Realm, getting outside.
A girl was standing outside, around the doors, trying to get people’s attention.
“Any information on the Bluemoon, please! We’re looking for any information about Stephenville’s watchful protector! Any help is appreciated!”
She was trying to hand out fliers, papers of differing, bright colors. Hardly anyone took them.
“Crazies,” I heard Katy mutter. I wasn’t willing to go that far, but to think there were fanatics just as much as there were detractors.
As if she could hear us, the girl came our way, stopping us. She held out a flier to us.
“If you have any information, please don’t hesitate to contact us!”
Is this some kind of organization?
The girl wasn’t any older than the three of us, though strangely familiar.
“Not interested,” Katy said, handling it quickly. She stepped past the girl, and Maria followed. I was a step behind, looking at the girl, still curious at her curiosity about the Bluemoon. As I passed, I took the flier from her hand.
Her glance to me turned into a hard, intrusive stare. Then, a wide-eyed stare. She looked me up and down.
She grabbed my hand.
“I know you!”
My heart sank.
I looked at this girl again. Loose denim jeans, striped shirt, with each stripe a different color. But I recognize her hair. Dyed a deep purple, cut into a bob that bounced.
The girl from Braham Barn, from when I went back after discovering my powers. I scared off her and her friends. They saw me. I didn’t have a mask, back then. I wasn’t Blank Face yet.
Stephany? Her name was something like that.
Her hold on me was tight. If I tried to be forceful, it might cause a bigger scene.
“Yeah, oh my god, it is you! I can’t believe I finally found you!”
I looked back. Katy and Maria were staring back, confused.
“Come with me, just for a second,” Stephany said, tugging at my arm, “I just want to talk. It’s really you, the-”
I couldn’t let her continue.
Everything would come to an end if I let her. Everything.
I didn’t have a lot of cards to pull, except one.
“Hey, excuse me!” I said, getting her attention, and stopping her.
“I don’t know you, and we’ve never met. We don’t all look the same, you know. If you have an Asian friend, that doesn’t mean you can pick on anyone else and say you know them. That’s messed up.”
Stephany’s face turned as red as a tomato. Others were looking at us as they went on with their day.
“I didn’t, that’s not what I was trying to get at,” Stephany said, distressed. Her grip loosened. “I thought-”
“Oh, you thought. Clearly not enough thought went into what you just did.”
Someone else came up to us. A mall cop.
“Is there a problem, here?”
“No, officer,” I said, “I was just leaving.”
I pulled, and my arm went free. I walked away, leaving the girl and the cop behind. I returned to my friends.
“What was that about?” Maria asked, half-grinning.
“Mistook me for someone else,” I explained. “Happens all the time.”
“Hah, I feel you.”
We continued down the parking lot. My heart beating like it was about to jump out of my chest.
Such a small encounter, but that was still too close of a call.
I checked the flier I took from her. Bright orange. ‘The Bluemoon Fan Club’ was printed across the top, followed by an address, contact information, and meeting times.
“A bunch of crazies,” Katy commented, seeing that I was reading the flier. “Following a bigger crazy.”
I folded the paper, and put it in my back pocket. Might have to deal with this later.
“Man, I ain’t gonna lie,” Maria said, “The Bluemoon freaks me the fuck out.”
We’re still on that subject?
“Yeah?” Katy said.
“I mean, yeah, but… don’t really want to get into it right now. Just wanted to say that.”
She trailed off. She had another point, but she didn’t want to say.
Couldn’t press her on it.
“I can see where you’re coming from,” Katy said. “That Bluemoon proved that two plus two equals five. Nothing makes sense, anymore, and people are still trying to cope, however they can.”
“If you think two plus two equals five, Katy,” I said, “Never mind about asking you to help me with my math class.”
“Ha, ha,” Katy said, flat, “What did you need help with?”
“What do you know about Algebra Two?”
“Enough to write the book on it.” Katy grinned. “I can help, just tell me when.”
Good, the conversation went elsewhere, away from myself, essentially. Maria’s car was parked closest to the mall, so we split up with her first, before heading into Katy’s car. We started the drive back to my place.
A whole day, working towards getting my life back together. A whole week without the mask. Somehow, it felt like it was going to be harder than anything else I had ever done.