26 - Where Girl Squats

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26

         “I wish I was a Swindler,” I said as we got off the bus, laden with our belongings. I wanted to find somewhere to stay as soon as possible.

         “Why, again?”

         “Don’t you think it’d be the most hilarious thing to just keep messing with everyone?” I said, a grin cracking my face. “Just imagine, um, no pun intended, standing outside a store you don’t like or something, and every time a customer comes by, you put your powers to use, and they completely forget what they’re doing there. If I had the persistency to go to the store every single day, I bet I’d make them bankrupt,” I said with a cackle.

         Jacoby stared at me and shook his head. “Is this how your thought process goes when you’re thinking up pranks?”

         I made a face at him. “Come on. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t pull some kind of a practical joke if you had the power to make people forget what they were going to do.”

         The corner of his mouth twitched. “Nonetheless. Your mind’s a scary place.” He coughed when I elbowed him and steered me in the opposite direction of where I was going.

         “If you could be anything other than an Imaginer, what would you be?”

         Jacoby paused. A wry smile appeared on his face. “I wouldn’t mind being anything else. It’s pretty damn frustrating like this. Out of all the Others, Imaginers are the most easily spotted,” he said sourly.

         “But if you had to pick one?” I said, accidentally knocking into several people with my sleeping bag.

         “I would pick…Alterist. If I really wanted to pull pranks, that one would be the best.”

         I feigned horror. “Jacoby Harold, pulling pranks? Is the world going to end tomorrow?”

         “Ha. Ha. Ha.” He slapped his knee robotically. “I have a sense of humour, too, y’know.”

         I let my mouth drop even further. “No way!

         He huffed and nudged me with his bulging knapsack. “Yeah, let’s make fun of the kid with flowers.”

         I hooted and really pounded my knee. “You’re such a knee slapper. Yup.”

         “Shut up or I’ll trip you with my vines.”

         I burst out in genuine laughter. “Do you have any idea how weird that sounds?” I said, grinning and giving him a nudge with my elbow.

         He shook his head and looked away from me. He sobered up from laughing a whole lot faster than I did. Between the two of us, he played the adult figure.

         “I think,” he said slowly, eyes roving from place to place, “we should look for tour guides.”

         Caston was a busy little town, the entire street squished with boutiques and cafés and bakeries. I liked the feel of it.

         “Why?”

         “If you were a Guider and wanted to make an easy living, wouldn’t you just be a tour guide?” he asked, muttering an apology to a stout middle-aged woman that had bulldozed between us, arms laden with shopping bags.

         “Good thinking,” I said. As our conversation died, so did my laughter, and I was overcome with a feeling of being, well, useless. Jacoby could travel a lot faster if he was on his own. He was doing all the thinking, and here I was, giggling over some silly comment.

         “Can we stop by 7-Eleven?” I asked.

         “What for?” he mumbled distractedly, probably looking for an information booth or a tourist shop.

         “I need to use the internet.”

         “Do you have a laptop?” he asked without missing a beat.

         “Er, no. I was hoping I could borrow your phone.” My face flushed when he tore his eyes away from his investigating and looked at me.

         “Why?”

         “I just want to search something up.”

         He studied me for a long time. It made me feel uncomfortable. What did he think I had to hide?

         “All right. I see it over there.” He pointed in front of us, and when a tall man moved to the side, I saw it too, sitting at the very top of the slight uphill we were climbing in all its convenience store glory. “There’s a market across the street from it. I think I’ll go pick up some food we can take to go. Or something microwavable, at least.”

         “Sounds good.”

         When we neared the chain of markets and grocery stores, I held out my hand and asked sheepishly, “Can I have your phone?”

         He fished it out of his pocket and slapped it into my hand. He eyed me for a little while, stopping in the middle of the street and causing the stream of busy shoppers to part around him. I wasn’t quite sure why there were so many people out and about. In Portsdale, the only place that was even close to comparable to the hustle and bustle of Caston was the supermarket on No Tax Day.

         “I’ll meet you outside 7-Eleven, then, okay?” he said.

         I frowned at him. “What’s up with you? I’m not going anywhere,” I said, realization slowly dawning on me. “Are you afraid I’m going to leave?” My voice rose an octave.

         He pulled a hand through his hair. “Kind of.”

         I had to give him some credit for being completely honest.

         “Here,” I said, shoving my bag of belongings at him. “If you’re so afraid I’m going to pack up and go, take this.” Frankly, I was hurt that he thought I would abandon him. What was the point of asking me along when it only made him paranoid I was going to leave?

         He accepted my bag, slinging it over his shoulder.

         I could hurt him if I wanted to. I could board a bus back to Portsdale. I realized with a sinking feeling that he felt beyond vulnerable in the position he was in.

         “I’ll see you later,” I promised, adjusting my sleeping bag on my shoulders. I gripped his arm and gave it a hard squeeze. “I promise. I swear on Horace.”

         A ghost of a smile appeared on Jacoby’s face and he dipped his head. “Fifteen minutes?” he asked the ground.

         “Okay.”

         I wanted to be of some use to Jacoby. I picked a seat outside 7-Eleven and sat down, accessing the Internet from his phone and going straight to Google. Even if they kicked me out for using their Wi-Fi without buying anything, I’d squat outside for as long as it took to find a youth hostel in Caston.

(**A/N: Yay, this is an actual break in the chapter. I've taken to uploading a few chapters ahead and saving them as drafts, so I can update quickly instead of hunting around for my USB--which usually results in me being to lazy to go get it and not updating HAHA. Question of the chapter: Is their travel realistic? Do you buy the idea of two teens being able to travel around alone? And hooray, thank you guys for 300 votes! :D)

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