Secrets: Chapter 28

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Chapter 28

For two days, James had no time for anything but work. Tuesday was visiting day, but he didn't have the energy to act upbeat for his mother, so he skipped.

Wednesday rolled around; arena closed for maintenance, pool hall shut for the holidays, and Tokyo Sunrise didn't need him. Four hours at the library passed in a blur of dusty shelves, and then freedom. James found a drive-thru and scored a BLT bagel that he bolted down while driving home in a rush.

When he arrived, he realized he had no idea what to do.

The task was to get August's flash drive into Donald's home computer. Simple enough, but James almost never went to Donald's place. When he did, it was because Donald had dragged him there. It would be out of character to suggest a visit for no good reason.

Good reason? Ask and ye shall receive: Christmas was in two days.

Christmas had slowly lost its meaning for James. His mother had been the heart of every celebration. He had a particular memory of being fourteen years old, singing carols with his mother and even his father. Angela had been there, beautiful and warm, but mostly beautiful—always playing with her outfit or makeup or hair, every inch the high school queen. Donald had been there, too; despite having just finished his first degree at Columbia, he was childish in many ways, always trying to sneak a look inside the presents under the tree. Even Gordon and Linda Marsh had been there.

Had it really been twelve years since?

Subterfuge and deception were at painful odds with everyone holding hands to sing O Holy Night and drink spiked eggnog, but a better opportunity wasn't likely to come along. It was just a matter of who to invite.

***

When James logged in to Shattered Land, just about everyone he knew was online. Not surprising—most people were on holidays, but the parties wouldn't start until tomorrow.

Fuck yeah, man, had been Donald's response to the proposed party. Let's load the place up with chicks and get hammered. Shit, just like old times.

James couldn't remember any old times like that, but wasn't about to argue. Now the trick was finding more people to attend.

His finger was hovering over the contact list when the phone rang up at him. He almost dropped it. If he had a heart attack in the game, would he have one in real life?

"James here."

"H-hey," said a vaguely familiar voice. "It's Alicia."

Alicia? Of course: Thunder and Spite. "Congrats on your finish at the tournament," James said.

"Bah. Fourth isn't that great. I'm still annoyed we didn't get to fight you guys. Why did you lose in the quarter finals?"

As if they had lost on purpose. Though since it was Alicia, she probably believed it.

"Sorry," James said.

"Grrr. You know I get pissed off when you apologize."

"Sorry."

"Grah!"

James couldn't suppress a light exhalation of amusement.

"Don't laugh!"

James tried to imagine her expression. Maybe something like a saber-toothed tiger. It was tempting to say sorry, but at this rate the conversation might last until Christmas was over.

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