18 - Where the Day Ends Badly

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(**A/N: Boring filler warning. All you're going to read that's of consequence is some inner debate within Jasslyn. The rest is all filler-y fill-filler. A big, boring filler. I guess you could skip if you'd like, unless you like my writing that much. Bah. It'll pick up the chapter after the next. I'm hating this as much as you guys, but it's how I chose to transition things. Thanks for all the love!)

18

         I didn’t even look back. Instead, I took a deep breath and forced myself to join the line-up of kids that were putting their plates away. Lunch was almost over.

         My sudden decision had shaken me. I didn’t think I had it in me to say “no” so abruptly and surely.

         I begged the line to move faster.

         Move faster so I can find Nic and get out of here. Move faster so I don’t have to see Jacoby’s expression.

         But of course, some kid had accidentally thrown his plastic plate into the garbage instead of the recycling bin and was now being lectured by one of the cooking ladies.

         I saw Jacoby walk into the mess hall from the corner of my eye. There were only two other kids lined up behind me.

         I felt the back of my neck prickle, sure that he was boring holes into the back of my head. I breathed a sigh of relief when I spotted Nic leaving her table, chatting with Brendan.

         “Hey, excuse me, could you put this away for me?” I said to the guy in front of me. He looked perplexed as I shoved my plate and fork into his hands. As I was leaving, the kid behind me, and the kid behind him, both dumped their plates with the guy as well, taking off gleefully before he could do anything more than open his mouth.

         “Nic. Nic,” I shouted.

         She turned and saw me, waving me over. “Hey, how was your lunch?” she asked, and reeled Brendan backwards when he made to leave us alone. “Not so fast, Mister,” she said with a laugh.

         He smiled and tucked his hands into his pockets, content with letting her keep her hand on his arm.

         “It was all right,” I answered on autopilot. I was too busy seeing if Jacoby was still lined up. I wouldn’t have given her an honest answer, anyway. “How was yours?”

         “It was great, right, Brendan?”

         He smiled and gave her a small nudge with his shoulder. “Yeah, it was great.”

         “Brendan was telling a really funny story of how, when he was little, he had a habit of…” And she was off, retelling the story of how Brendan used to run back and forth along his apartment’s balcony clad in nothing but his birthday suit.

         I wasn’t particularly interested. I was still a little jarred at how easily I’d turned Jacoby down, and, even more taken aback by how easily he’d let me just walk away, like he didn’t need me to go with him at all.

         I frowned and gave my head a shake. I tried to focus on Nic’s wild hand gestures and cheerful voice, but found I was unable to process any of her words. I heard her, all right, but I wasn’t listening. I saw her, but wasn’t seeing.

         The more I tried to herd my thoughts away from my Imaginer friend, the more they wanted to drift back to him. My mind was on Jacoby for the rest of the day. Another tour, two hours of free time, a visit to the recreated trading post, and all I could think about was Jacoby.

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