“Aren’t you cold?” Cassandra asked once they were outside.
“Nah,” Chris waved his hand and began to jog in place. “I’ll warm up when I head home, anyway. Cold’s a good motivator for me to run.” He grinned.
Cassandra zipped her jacket up. She paused, blushing, realizing she forgot to tuck the scarf in.
Chris cocked his head to the side. He nodded at her. “That scarf. I see you and your friends with them, but different colors. Did you make them?”
“Huh? Oh, no,” she shook her head, re-zipping her jacket. “Seth did. When he was in the hospital.”
Chris paused. “He was in the hospital?” He thought for a moment. “I’ve seen you guys wear them since…well, forever. So this wasn’t recent, then, right?”
She shook her head. “We were in eighth grade when it happened. One thing led to another and he got jaundice.” Cassandra shrugged, looking away. “He’s okay now.”
“You guys just can’t catch a break, can you?”
Cassandra snorted. That was one way to put it.
Chris glanced at her. “Uh, sorry, that was–”
“No, it’s fine. You’re right.” Cassandra said. She hugged the book close. “How about you? You always wear a necklace, but I’ve never seen what the pendent is.”
“This?” Chris fished out the necklace. It was a simple, Chinese coin. “Oh, I have a baby cousin in China. Well, he’s not a baby anymore. But we first met when he was two and apparently he cried for days after I left. When he was three he made this and had my aunt and uncle mail it over.”
“That’s adorable,” Cassandra couldn’t stop the smile.
Chris laughed. “Yeah, it kinda is.”
“How old is he now?”
“Has he ever been to America?”
“Not yet. It’s gonna be his twelfth birthday present,” Chris tucked the necklace back into his shirt. “It’ll be a few months.”
“Well, happy early-birthday to him.”
“I’ll tell him that,” Chris replied.
They walk together in silence, save for the cars on the busy street.
“So what video games do you play?” Cassandra asked. “You never did answer that.”
Chris cleared his throat. “Oh, uh, just, games.”
“Uh-huh…?” What on earth could he be embarrassed about. “Like, Pokemon?”
Chris stared at her.
Great. She said something stupid. Of course. He was implying those adult games that she knew Icarus played–
“Red’s my favorite what about you?” Chris said in a rush. “I also play the old DOOM games and Commander Keen and Mass Effect is bad ass.” He looked away, tugging at the collar of his shirt.
Cassandra’s eyes widened. She grinned. “Crystal. Cyndaquil or get out.” She eyed him. So. He was embarrassed to be a gamer, was that it?
Chris’s attention snapped back to her. “Paragon or Renegade?”
“Kingdom Hearts. Sword or staff?”
“No shield?” Cassandra feigned offense. “And here I thought I could find somebody to keep me safe!”
What on earth was happening here?
Chris’s look was like the one back in the cafe. It made her insides twist and heart beat faster.
“What about Red Alert? Fallout?”
“Ah, uh, well–” Cassandra floundered. “My computer. It’s old. It’s really, really old. I play Mass Effect whenever I’m at Icarus’s.”
“Oh.” He nodded. “Yeah, having a good computer for games is pretty expensive.”
“I mean, it’s not too horrible. GOG has games that are cheap and ones my computer can handle.”
“You use GOG?”
Cassandra mentally winced. Great. Did she come off as some cheap, stereotype now? Or was GOG the loser thing–
Chris stopped. “You’re even more cooler than I thought!” He exclaimed.
Cassandra blinked. That was good…right? Wait, he thought she was cool to begin with?
“So you like Second Gen Pokemon, eh?” Chris resumed walking.
“Yeah–Crystal’s the best.”
“Awesome,” Chris grinned.
The silence resumed.
“Um,” Chris broke the silence. He had been saying a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘uhs,’ today, Cassandra noted. “So, if you and your friends are friends with Seth and John, then that means you guys are friends with…”
“Liridon?” Cassandra finished for him with a sigh, knowing what was next. “Don’t worry,” she waved her hand. “That only happened with Zelde and that guy deserved it.” She paused. “Well, and those jerks picking on Icarus and Raphael. Them too. … Oh, yeah, and that Rod guy.” Cassandra nodded. “Yeah, you’ll be fine.”
Chris shook his head.
“Oh, right. His real name was Ryan. Yeah, he picked on me throughout middle school. Liridon caught him picking on me first week of school.”
Chris’s eyes widened.
Her heart sank. Great. She made herself weird again.
“Huh. I didn’t know Ryan ever picked on you.”
“Well, he learned his lesson after that. It’s why they were both suspended for a week. Not what the rumors said.” Cassandra ran a hand through her hair. Why would Chris ever be worried about Liridon? “If it makes you feel any better,” she began, “I’ve mentioned you to him a couple times.”
“Yeah. Told him about what happened in art class. He thinks it’s unfair you got detention too.”
Chris shrugged. “Yeah, well, I mean, it was only a day, not what you got…”
“Still didn’t deserve it.”
He waved his hand. “It’s whatever. I know it’s been a while, but how’s your hand?”
“Fine now.” She clutched the book.
Another awkward silence. What was wrong with her? Why did this have to keep happening? They never had trouble talking in art class. Maybe he wanted to walk with her because he pitied her. That was probably it. He asked about Liridon because he was afraid he had offended her and she’d tell Liridon. Not that’d be an issue, given that Liridon was a legal adult and not a minor any more…
“Shame that this place is closed today,” Chris said.
Cassandra looked up, realizing that they had already arrived at the library. Was that sadness she heard, not sarcasm?
“Yeah,” she said with a sigh. “Shame the library’s hours are getting cut more and more, really.”
“Well, um, yeah that too. But, like, if it was open, you could show me that 1984 book and maybe any others you think I might like.”
Cassandra walked over to the book deposit bin, Chris close by.
“Oh. That, yeah…that’d’ve been nice, huh?”
Chris shrugged. He was looking up at the hours sign.
“Anyway, tomorrow’s an A day, right?” Cassandra put her hands in her pockets.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Guess that means I won’t see you until Tuesday, huh?”
Chris rubbed his arm. “Yeah, guess that’s the case.”
Cassandra could feel her face turning red. “Okay, cool. See you in art class. And English. Lemme know if you need help with any other book stuff!” She turned and scampered off. It was the wrong direction from home, which was fine. She needed to to talk to Zelde about all this insanity.