Part VI: An Old Friend
After an evening of dancing and excitement, we left the Annex together save for Jaeger and his date who had disappeared on us. I offered to treat everyone to a late dinner and they accepted so I guided everyone to Dean’s Dinner, the retro-styled place that was a popular stop late at night. The place was pretty packed so we had to wait a few minutes for a pair of tables.
Dean’s dinner operated twenty four hours a day and specialized in all day breakfast and seafood based dinner fares. I ordered some battered shrimps and Caroline a country fried steak. I didn’t pay much attention to anyone else’ order except for Yougen and Yikaru. While Yougen took some food, Yikaru chose not to but opted to share a milkshake with Yougen, which I kind of envied her audacity but I wasn’t going to copy her move, that’d be weak.
I was almost done eating when someone approached our table. A tall Latina wearing a hoodie, baseball cap and jeans ripped at the knees. My heart stopped once I realized who it was; Marian. My best friend… Whom I hadn’t spoken to in months…
“So that’s why you haven’t called.” She said, disgusted. “Guess you found better friends…” She turned around and ran out of the diner.
Everyone shot me a quizzical look but I didn’t have time to answer them, instead running after Marian. I found her not too far, she’d stopped and was crying, a heavy flow coming down her cheeks.
The moment I opened my mouth she turned around and drove her fist right into my face, hitting just under my left eye. I stumbled down with the force of the blow.
“I deserve that. And probably a lot more…” I said, dusting myself and slowly getting up. “I’m the worst friend ever, I was so caught up in my own things I just abandoned you. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t answer, her fist still tensed up into a ball.
“I won’t ask you to take me back. I can’t, I don’t deserve your friendship. You were always there for me and I wasn’t for you.”
“Why… why did you leave?”
“Do you remember the trial of Zachariah Blackthorn, how he was acquitted?” She didn’t answer. “He murdered my parents, right in front of me.”
In the years we’d been friends, I’d never told her the exact details, just that they had died in the line of duty. While Zachariah Blackthorn hadn’t pulled the trigger, but it had been on his order.
“After he walked, I was just so broken and angry, I didn’t want to see anyone. I shut down and by the time I was better, I didn’t feel as if I had the right to see you.” I paused and there was silence. “I know it’s a crappy excuse, and I’m sorry. I’ll go now if you want me to.”
She didn’t answer and I turned around, my chest becoming tight enough I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was about to take the first step back toward the diner when she grabbed me by the wrist.
“I don’t want to let you go, Charlie…”
“And I don’t want to lose you either…” I answered.
“But I don’t want to be hurt again…”
“I promise I’ll try not to.”
I turned back and felt tears flowing down my own face, Marian was crying silently too. I wrapped my arms around her frame and she returned the hug tightly enough I felt my ribs hurt a little.
“I’m not asking for a blank slate. I don’t deserve that.” I declared once we let go. “Just another chance to make up to you for being such a crappy friend.”
“You have it.”
“Do you want to go inside? Food’s on me and you could… meet my girlfriend?” The last few words were hard to say.
“I’m… Gay.” I answered looking away. In the eight years since I had known her and the five years since I’d figured my orientation, I had never had to courage to come out to her.
“Oh.” She answered, visibly surprised.
“I know, another secret I kept from you… I was always worried I might lose you if I had, and I didn’t want to risk it.”
She gave me a quick hug. “As if I’d ever hate you for something so silly.”
“Why don’t we go inside? It’s like crazy cold and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain any second.”
“That sounds good.”
I offered my hand and she took it, lacing our fingers together. We walked back inside and walked to the corner of Dean’s diner we had claimed for our little gang.
“Guys, this is my best friend Marian.”
“Hey.” She said, raising her hand into a tiny wave.
We sat down next to each others, squeezing Marian, Caroline and I into the same booth and she picked a menu, ordering fish and chips with a coke.
“I’m Caroline.” My girlfriend declared, extending a hand.
“Are you Charlie’s girlfriend?” Marian asked.
“That’s me.” She answered with a smile.
“Are you all Ravenhold students?”
“Pretty obvious, eh?” Caroline said, only for Jenna to mention she wasn’t one, just visiting the island.
“Well there’s only one normal school on the island and Charlie’s not attending it. Wasn’t hard to figure out where she was, what with her dad.”
That had been one of the things I hadn’t hidden from her. Then again it wasn’t much of a secret among resident of the island. Thankfully the islanders had enough tact not to make our identity any more public than it had to be.
We chatted for a while, catching up the last few months, most of which hadn’t been too exciting on Marian’s part, save for the fact she had a new guinea pig.
“Ugh, I’ve got to go.” Marian declared after a while. “Stupid ten pm curfew on weekends.”
“I see your folks aren’t any more lenient.”
“You’d think the superhero dad would be the overprotective one, but apparently paper mill managers are worst than mama bears.”
I chuckled at that and escorted her outside. There was a taxi stand not far, typically waiting to pick up the inebriated patron from the nearby bar coming to have food. I gave her some money for the fare home.
“How about we hang out tomorrow?” I proposed as she sat down. “Whatever you want to do, I’m game.”
“I’ll take you on that offer.”
“Call me in the morning.” I gave her an awkward hug, her sitting in the back seat and me still standing on the curb. “Good night.”