December 24th, 2008
Cassandra sat on the blanket, her legs crossed and shoes off.
“You’re gonna get cold,” Zelde said, nodding to Cassandra’s feet.
She shrugged. “Thick wool socks, I’ll be fine,” she smiled.
Zelde frowned. “Are you sure?”
Cassandra nodded, trying to not feel irritated. Zelde was trying to be herself again.
“Hey,” Icarus plopped down between them. “Guys, did you try my dad’s brownies yet?” he held up two, large, steaming brownies. They seemed to be leaking some kind of chocolate sauce.
Cassandra’s eyes widened. “No,” she stared. “I don’t think I could eat all of that, though.”
“Same,” Zelde said, looking away.
“So just share it.” Icarus handed them one plate instead of two. “Don’t be so difficult, jeez,” he rolled his eyes and jumped up. He ruffled Cassandra’s hair with his now free hand before running off to pedal the other brownie on Miro.
Cassandra blinked. She began to reorganize her hair, her expression giving away her thoughts.
“Yeah, that was weird,” Zelde said with a nod. She leaned over and began to help.
Cassandra didn’t wave her away. She took a deep breath. This is what this meeting was all about. To be friends again. All nine of them. Never mind the fact that five of these people decided to just one night off themselves without warning. Nobody was going to bring that up, now were they?
Of course not. Seth and Raphael both agreed saying nothing was the smarter choice. They could bring it up when they felt like it. In fact, that was the best way according to their therapists, too.
She let out a huff.
“Sorry,” Zelde said, pulling her hand back.
“No, not that.” Cassandra shook her head. “It probably looks fine now. Thanks.” She picked up Zelde’s plastic knife and cut the brownie in half. “Here,” She separated the now two triangular pieces.
“I’ll get milk,” Zelde said instead of accepting it. “I know you hate anything chocolate without it,” she said with a small smile.
Cassandra returned the tiny smile. She twisted to look towards the road, where John was supposed to be coming from at any moment. He was different. John had done nothing to himself, yet he locked himself up anyway. For the longest time, too.
But she couldn’t say that to anyone. There was nobody to articulate that too.
Unfortunately, she was awake, which meant no way to communicate with him.
“Hey,” Nao knelt down next to her. “What’s up?”
Cassandra looked up. Nao was wearing her blue scarf over a new jacket. The two items clashed. Her jacket was neatly sewn, tailored to fit her slight frame, and of some fancy fabric Cassandra couldn’t possibly know. The scarf, on the other hand, was made of acrylic yarn and starting to pill.
“Well?” Nao cocked her head to the side, her satin black hair spilling over her shoulders. Her hands, gloved, were neatly folded in her lap.
“Tired,” Cassandra said, not wholly lying. “Woke up pretty early to make sure all the cookies and fudge were as fresh as possible.” She yawned.
Nao smiled. “Well, it all tastes amazing. Thanks.”
“No problem. The potato rolls are really good,” Cassandra forced a smile.
Nao jumped to her feet, her gaze past Cassandra.
Cassandra twisted around again.
John was walking over, his cousin, Aaron close behind him.
Aaron stopped next to John at the edge of the collection of blankets. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and his lighter. “I won’t tell if you don’t,” he said, popping one in his mouth before turning. “Your father expects me to collect you in two hours, but you deserve more than that. Our cover story is I got lost in this stupid park.” He patted John on the shoulder and walked away. The click of his lighter echoed in the fog.
John grinned. “Thank you, Aaron!” He then looked to his friends, the grin widening. “Sorry I’m la–”
Nobody let him finish his sentence. A flurry of Nao’s, Icarus’s, and Miro’s legs replaced where John had stood as they tackled him into a hug.
Cassandra jumped up to rush over and help untangle the mess, Seth at her side.
“Let the poor guy breathe,” Raphael said over the cacophony of laughter and crying.
“But the docs say I have separation anxiety!” Icarus replied, clinging to John’s arm with a grin.
Cassandra let out a sigh and looked to the sky. “Icarus, John needs his arm so he can eat food.”
“He’s got two!” But Icarus let go and jumped up. He held out a hand to John, who was still buried beneath Nao and Miro.
Seth looked to Miro, hands on his hips.
“I, uh…” Miro sighed and let go. “No excuse.” He looked at Nao.
She pouted and sat up. “Icarus wins.” Nao dusted herself off and stood up.
John sat up, slightly dazed. “Hi, guys!” He looked up at everyone before taking Icarus’s hand. “Is everyone really here?”
“Yup,” Liridon called out, still where he was seated.
Zelde had been watching from a distance. She walked over, the small jar of milk she had gotten for Cassandra still in her hand. “We were worried you weren’t going to be let out,” she said.
John ran a hand through his hair, completely knocking off his disheveled hat. “I thought so too.”
Cassandra knelt down and picked up the hat. It was the one his oldest sister had knitted for him.
John stood on his tiptoes and waved at Liridon. “Nice to see you too,” he said, his grin returning.
Liridon smiled and motioned at them. “C’mon, everyone sit down again.”
The mass of people walked to the blankets and sat down.
Cassandra removed her socks. She had forgotten all about her shoes and now they were wet.
“Alright,” Liridon said, looking over everyone from the base of the tree. “I’m glad we’re all happy and here again, but,” he glanced at John. “Due to our time constraint, I want to get started on this ASAP.”
Cassandra looked to Rapahel. He shrugged. She turned to Seth. He also shrugged, just as confused as her.
Liridon looked at everyone, studying each person’s face before speaking. “I want ask you guys a question: Is anyone here familiar with a guy named Uriel?”