Chapter 12 – Part 2

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Chapter 12 – Part 2

 

Chapter 12

 

POP

– The Path of Gimel - The Hegemone between the Pillars.
Preliminary: The Vision of the Unguided Universe.1

 

“My world was at peace, but it was cold and empty.
Now everyday there’s something new to fill that emptiness.
Without realizing it, I find myself buried and, although there’s enough air to breathe, I’m choking.
The emptiness from before was cold and lonely, but I miss its silence.
With effort, I try to regain my balance, certain that my mind
is like a trapezist, crossing an endless precipice over an invisible wire.”

 

 

 

 

Part 2

Although my friends received me and treated me like they usually did, the ogling and mute remarks accompanied me the rest of the day, whenever I stepped away from the protection of one of them.

Still, I remained loyal to my everyday routine, deciding I wouldn’t allow others to interfere with my life.

Since we’d promised to meet at lunchtime, I went to find Michael like always, although I went alone this time. Once outside the cold air felt good against my skin, and I took a deep breath. My eyes immediately found Michael’s group at a distance. I could always find him, wherever he was, almost as if some kind of magnetic force instantly pulled me towards him. And so I went to meet him, eager for the peace and quiet I always felt in his presence.

Steven was the first to notice me, greeting me with a welcoming smile. And when Michael turned to look at me it was as if the sun had finally dawned in my day. Lauren and Maggie, however, seemed even more displeased with my presence than before, or maybe they’d just stopped hiding their true feelings. Francis looked around and behind me and, as he concluded I was alone, a broad smile shone across his face.

“I thought you weren’t going to come,” Michael remarked, rapidly covering the space between us with two wide strides, and I took a step back to keep some distance between us. I was painfully aware I wasn’t strong enough to simply avoid him as I knew I should, but if that was the case, then I’d make sure to clearly maintain the line that marked our relationship as only friendship.

“I had to go and say something to Joe and the others. All this drama,” I added, wrinkling my nose in disapproval.

“They just don’t have anything better to do,” Steven said, approaching us, looking somehow angry, almost fierce.

“I’m really sorry, Mari. I never wanted to make you go through any of this,” Michael told me with a sigh.

“You’ve got nothing to be sorry about,” I countered, smiling up at his worried expression. “I did chose to spend the day with you. Besides, nothing happened. We just went for a walk. Also, I couldn’t care less about what other people say or think about me.”

Steven placed a friendly hand on Michael’s shoulder. “And here you were, worrying about her! Mari is dealing with all this nonsense much better than you!” Steven told him critically and smiled at my inquiring expression. “Just this morning I had to stop him from jumping two of our classmates.” Michael frowned, clearly displeased with Steven’s report.

“Really?” I asked in disbelief and Michael folded his arms.

“My patience has its limits,” he explained defensively and I couldn’t help stare dumbfounded at his disgruntled expression. It was almost impossible to imagine him getting angry, much less to the point of wanting to hit someone. Somehow it just was completely out of character. And then it hit me. All that was because of me.

“You mustn’t, Michael,” I told him, feeling guilty. I had the most depressing sensation that since we’d started hanging out together he’d begun to slowly change, and not in a good way. And of course he would, I thought, despising my own existence. I was far from being considered healthy company. “What does it matter what they all say? What matters is what we know it’s the truth. That’s good enough.”

Steven patted him twice on his shoulder and winked. “Exactly what I told him, right?” he inquired and Michael sighed, resigned. “Well, I’ll be going now, before Francis has a breakdown having to deal with those two on his own,” he said humorously, and turned to walk away.

“Steven!” I called out and he stopped to look back at me. “I never got to thank you for what you did the other day. And I’m sorry for ... my cousin’s behavior,” I added, awkwardly, and he shrugged with a friendly smile.

“No worries. Michael explained it to me. It’s all good,” he assured me and continued walking.

“Explained?” I asked, intrigued, and Michael smiled down at me, engulfing me in a soft wave of warmth.

“I didn’t tell him much of anything,” he answered evasively and I decided to let the subject drop. “Listen, Mari, about all this mess. I really ... “

“It’s fine. Like all the other rumors before, this one, too, will end up dying off. It’s just a matter of time.”

And we didn’t talk about unpleasant things anymore. Michael lent me the book we’d bought together and I asked him to forgive me, since I still couldn’t lend him mine, like we’d promised. I told him about Steph, how she still wasn’t talking with me, almost as if she saw me as a threat to her relationship with Gabriel. And Michael suggested we could all go out together, hoping that it might help mend our friendship. I told him it was a good idea, knowing it would never happen for the most obvious reasons.

I could hardly believe when the bell rang. Time had flown by unnoticed, like it always did when I was with him. We went back inside, as I silently basked in the warmth of his presence, and then I saw them, near the glass door; Stephanie and Gabriel, kissing. Michael, beside me, looked as shocked as I did, and we both stood there, nailed to the ground.

I’d forgotten how easily she could get close to him. She could even kiss him, just like that, while I had to always keep my distance under penalty of choking to death! But then I noticed it. He was slightly bending towards her, but his contribution towards that kiss ended there. His arms didn’t hold her. His hands didn’t touch her. Even his expression remained in that unmoving, unfeeling expression. Stephanie was the one doing all the hugging, her arms draped around his neck, pressing her beautiful body against his while kissing him passionately.

I felt guilty again at the thought of the agreement we had reached. It was almost as if Steph had been right when she'd claimed I wanted him for myself. And I recalled what Lea had told me, about how he disliked the company of Human Beings because he found us too frail. I wondered if that was why he didn’t touch her, if he was afraid of hurting her in any way.

Finally, she released him, smiling teasingly, and locked her arm with his, pulling him towards the stairs.

“Well, it would seem they’re really together,” Michael observed and only then I recalled his presence, standing right beside me.

“Ah, yes,” I answered, still bewildered, and Michael smiled.

“So, what’s the hardest part? Your cousin having a girlfriend? Or your best friend having a boyfriend?” he asked playfully, but I was seriously worried. Now that I’d seen it with my own eyes I couldn’t deny it any longer, nor minimize the problem.

“My best friend dating my cousin,” I replied unthinkingly and walked to the stairs. I had to keep Gabriel away from her at any cost.

[DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]

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