Brian had had some pretty weird experiences in his fifteen years.
The scariest would have to be the time a demon sent an assassin to kill Brian’s father, and the assassin had showed up in Brian’s closet.
The most trippy probably would’ve been the time his dad had to bring an experiment home to observe for a few weeks, and Brian had to share a room with an empath demon who got high off laughter and was constantly cracking bad jokes.
But in terms of what event left him thinking, “What the hell?” the most afterwards, getting flirted with by Mary probably took the cake.
“I finally found our dictionary and looked up what ‘score’ means,” she said by way of greeting. “I feel pretty dumb.”
Brian blinked a few times. “Uh… what?”
“We were talking with Hugo about The Jungle Book a few months ago. You said it had a good score and I said it had good songs. But you looked kind of funny when I said that, so I decided to look up the word score. But it took forever to find our dictionary. But I know it means the songs now. You must have thought I was such an idiot.”
“Oh. Um, it’s okay.” Brian took a sip of punch to save himself from saying anything else.
“So how was your Christmas?” asked Mary, staring intently at him. Brian had never fully appreciated how huge her eyes were before now. But man, were they big.
“Okay,” he said. “I got some socks and stuff from my relatives in Cleveland, but everything else was pretty good.” Except for his present from Hugo, which was AMAZING. But somehow, he didn’t think he should mention the Unreachable Star and the events following the Hugo-Brian Gift Exchange. Instead, he went with, “How about you?”
Mary smiled. “Oh, it was fun. I mean, it’s really just a birthday party, right? Except it’s kind of weird to have a birthday party for someone who’s dead. But Jesus Christ isn’t truly dead, because his spirit went to serve his Father in Heaven. Anyway, Hugo and I went skiing. You know ski ranches don’t even use real snow? I thought that was pretty weird when I found out. But it’s true. It tasted more like cotton candy than snow.”
“Oh,” said Brian.
Mary giggled. “That rhymed.”
“Oh. Uh, yeah, I guess it did.”
“Do you like slant rhyme?”
“Wait, what?” asked Brian, confused again.
“Slant rhyme. Like rhyming mess with best or something.”
“Um, I guess. I don’t know much about poetry, really.” Brian shrugged sheepishly.
“Really?” Mary seemed surprised. “But you like music so much.”
Luckily for Brian, at that moment, Erin called out, “Who wants to play a game?” and spared him from further blithering.
Brian picked up his punch and walked over to where Erin was making everyone sit in a circle on the floor and sat down next to Hugo. Hugo raised an eyebrow at him; Brian shrugged. He would explain the strangeness of talking to Mary later.
“We’re going to play Truth or Dare,” Queen Erin declared. She looked like real royalty sitting there, her red hair done perfectly, her court eagerly attentive. Her pajamas even had little crowns on them. Mary wondered how someone could be that confident-as if Mary knew she could do no wrong. But perhaps, she thought, so much confidence could be a mixed blessing. After all, Erin had still refused to go to confession-but no, Mary wouldn’t think about that tonight. She’d heard somewhere that the Jews held a ceremony at the beginning of each year-each of their years, anyway, which started in September-to atone for their sins. A sort of annual absolution. Maybe God would do the same thing for Erin. Please do, she asked Him silently. She really is a good Christian. I’m sure You know that. Please forgive her just this once. It was true, after all-Erin was a good Christian. And Mary couldn’t stand the idea of her best friend facing eternal punishment.
“Mary, truth or dare?” Carlisle had apparently been asking her this for a while now.
“Oh. Truth.” Mary loved the word truth. It held the importance of a word that meant something to God, without the harshness inherent in words like justice or the cruelty of the word sin. Mary would have loved to name her future daughter that, but Truth Holden would probably be a bit much. Then again, she supposed, that would change when she married. Truth Hannel wouldn’t be too bad, she thought.
“You still there, Mary?” Carlisle again.
“Yeah,” Mary snapped back to attention. “What was the question?”
“Most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done,” said Carlisle. Mary knew he wanted to be a preacher when he grew up; she supposed he was practicing for confessions.
“Hm…” said Mary. It wasn’t that she wasn’t embarrassed about a lot of the things she said, but none of them were really exciting.
“Well, I guess there was this one time. I was in Youth group, right? And there were all these bottles of lemonade on the table? So, about halfway through the session, I got up to go to the bathroom, but I tripped over a lump in the carpet and fell right into the table, and all the lemonade bottles fell off and broke. It was super embarassing.”
“That’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Carlisle said, giving Mary a withering stare. He didn’t seem satisfied.
“Well… um… I thought it was embarassing,” said Mary, looking down. Mary had privately named the look Carlisle was now giving her the shrivel-stare, because it made her feel like shriveling up and hiding.
“Okay!” said Erin-whether she was oblivious to the shrivel-stare or simply trying to diffuse the tension was unclear to Mary. “Mary, your turn!”
Mary ended up daring Brian to do a handstand for five seconds, which he did easily. Then Brian asked Hugo what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which he replied, “Everything.” And on went the game in a similar manner.
Mary was the first to fall asleep. Her mind had been wandering, and from there it was only a small step to dreaming. Had Erin not woken her up, she would have missed the start of the new year. Happy New Year, she said silently. Please, let this be Erin’s new start.
The girl didn’t know why they bothered picking a designated driver when everyone got so drunk they crashed at the party anyway. Having no wish to be the only one without a hangover in the morning-well, later in the morning-she had decided to head home. As she lived nearby, and the car wasn’t hers anyway, she had decided to walk. After five blocks, each street deserted and dead-feeling, she was beginning to rethink this choice.
A noise behind her made her nearly jump out of her skin. She clutched the small can of mace in her purse and told herself it was a stray cat. She was almost home, anyway. A hundred yards. Seventy-five. Fifty. Thirty-
The night was cloudy, so she couldn’t make out the features of the figure before her. It was tall, though, and the voice deep. She gripped her mace can tighter, ready to pull it out.
The figure chuckled. “Now, there’s no need to pull that silly little can on me. Come on, now. I won’t hurt you.”
The girl yanked her arm away from the figure’s hand and kicked him in the shins, years of Tae Kwon Do training at the local dojo kicking in. But it was like the figure was made of stone. Its only reaction to her attack was another chuckle. In an instant, without knowing how she got there, she was on the ground.
“Now then,” said the figure, leaning over her, his mouth gently caressing her neck, “I think we ought to start the year out right, don’t you?”
Notes-Yes, I just included the Truth or Dare scene so I could say Hugo wanted to be everything when he grows up. I do think it gives some nice insight about Carlisle, though. Also, that last scene does, in fact, have a point.
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