35 - Where They Reflect and Plan

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         “So what’s the plan, what’re you guys going to do? How long’ve you been travelling?” Beatrice asked, eyes flitting to all the bags we had with us, then over to the side, across the street.

         I began to feel nervous. The Guiders looked like they were about to cross over to our side, something Jacoby and I, at least, could not afford to let happen.

         “Today’s the twelfth,” Jacoby replied. “Our plan was to head east and stop in all the towns along the way,” he explained. “Obviously that’d take years. But then we heard about Sandra Oakensfield, and we came back to Caston to look for her.”

         Beatrice nodded, taking a step towards the apartments. “I need to get packing if we’re leaving today.” Her face broke into a grin. “Well. I shouldn’t be asking. Doesn’t look like you guys have much time.”

         I hated her use of “we”. But Jacoby already had my upper arm in his grip, and was promptly dragging me after Beatrice.

         “Yeah. We just checked out of the youth hostel a couple blocks away,” he replied. A risked glance down at his feet told me he was struggling to keep his flowers under control.

         “Did ol’ Mrs. Lynn drive you crazy?” Beatrice unlocked the door and held it open with her foot for Jacoby to step through. She promptly let go when I moved forward, nearly flattening my nose. Jacoby caught the door before it did and held it open for me, giving me a light touch on the arm when I walked past.

         I glared at him and he drew back, hands held up. He let me slide past him, and I turned to see him peering through the glass doors. The Guiders were still standing there, unmoving, save for the constant cracking of their necks.

         We followed Beatrice to the elevator and up to the eleventh floor. This time, Jacoby let me walk ahead of him, his thumb holding down the “Open” button on the elevator. I murmured a thank you and was smacked in the stomach by Beatrice’s bag.

         Does she have a baby in there or something? I thought furiously, rubbing my midsection and trying to regain my breath. We rode the elevator up to the ninth floor.

         “Sorry,” Jacoby muttered, and when the doors pinged open, he fell into step beside me.

         I shook my head at him and walked on in angry silence.

         Beatrice turned around at the end of the hallway and waved to Jacoby. “Hurry up, Flower Boy, I don’t have all day.”

         I wanted to elbow his face when he smirked again.

         “Thought you weren’t going to call me Flower Boy anymore,” he called.

         “I changed my mind. Flower Boy has a nice ring to it. Better than Jacoby.”

         I followed their exchange without speaking a word. They were flirting, and it was weird to see Jacoby participating. He was so…Jacoby. I couldn’t picture him teasing like he was doing with Beatrice.

         “Me and my dad don’t live together,” she explained once we’d entered her apartment. She went about her own business, hanging up her coat, dropping her keys into a little bowl on top of a shelf of shoes. “Pretty sure he didn’t hear about my mum. And even if he did, he wouldn’t call. He’s got a girlfriend.”

         Jacoby and I stood awkwardly at the door until she waved us in, telling us to take a seat on the couch.

         “You guys can eat if you want. If we’re leaving today, I gotta get rid of all the food in the fridge.” She disappeared around a bend in the wall, where I assumed her room was. She popped back out a couple seconds later, squinting at our bags. “How much stuff did you guys bring?”

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