55 - Where There is Good and Bad

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55

         I ran up the stairs with the letter scrunched in my hand without telling Dandy or Squid anything. I felt reproachful towards them for being excited to hear about something anyone could’ve predicted to be bad news. The underground room felt like it would collapse on me, fill every single open pore in my skin with sand.

         “Hey, you okay?” Jacoby caught my arm as I just about flew past him. He’d been gradually wandering closer to the main trail. “The meeting isn’t over yet.”

         I stopped in my rush and nodded. I dragged him back down the trail to Port 2. The grass there seemed pretty comforting at the moment, so I walked over and found a spot a good distance away from the door, while still keeping it in sight.

         “Do you want me to stay with you? While you talk to him?” Jacoby asked, arms hanging at his sides as he crouched in front of me.

         The answer came to me without much thought. “No.” He looked taken aback by my abrupt answer, so I added, “That was enough. Back at the hotel. You listened to me when I needed you to, and that’s good enough.” I reached out and touched his hand, grabbing his finger when he started to trace circles around a familiar dark green plant that was just starting to reach towards me.

         He met my eyes and gripped my hand at the same time.

         I had to voice it. I had to.

         “Since when did you start caring so much?”

         He was surprised for a moment, a baby pink on his cheeks, before the plant spiralled up his arm and onto mine. A lily bloomed where our hands met, and as it blushed, so did I. I felt silly sitting there with a plant entwined around my arm, like I was taking an oath.

         I squeezed his hand, a prompt to answer my question.

         Maybe he would confess something deep and meaningful, and it’d be so romantic, everything would be great again. Maybe he’d harboured a crush on me ever since we’d met. Maybe…

         He shrugged his shoulders, his lily an alarming shade of red now. I stared at it, too. Perhaps it would answer me.

         It opened its petals and puffed out a cloud of bronze pollen.

         Jacoby gave it a nudge with his free hand, murmuring something that was too low for me to hear.

         The lily kept shaking its head, feebly at first, but slowly building up to a violent thrash. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.

         Jacoby finally sighed and left his flower alone. He scrubbed his face and cast his eyes to the sky.

         “When?”

      His gaze snapped back onto mine, and he pressed his lips together. “A little bit…” He trailed off into a mumble and I caught nothing but his first few words.

      “What was that?”

      The lily squeaked in protest, dropping its head onto the back of my hand so that it looked like a cone.

      “A little bit before…”

      I rolled my eyes. This had gone from romantic to drawn-out and, frankly, a little frustrating. I didn’t know how to face him. How was I supposed to wring the truth out of him when it was so personal?

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