This weekend's blog post is Chapter Six! Luca has a temporary crisis of confidence before trying to figure out what's really going on between Devin, Gabe, and Mina. You can catch up on any of the previous chapters via the New Series label at the top of this post. Thank you very much for reading ☺.
6 A Snapping Point
time we returned to perform in front of the rest of the class I was a wreck. I could
only hope the chaos inside my head didn’t show on my face. I delivered my
lines, holding on to Benedick’s self-righteous indignation and sarcasm just long
enough for us to earn a round of applause.
want to make a casting decision so early in the semester, but you two have incredible
chemistry,” said Miss Randall. “I’m going to give you a couple more scenes to
try, and if you can perform them equally well, the parts are yours.”
sat down, I attempted to shield myself. I turned my face into my shoulder,
whispering, “Contego,” and gradually, my awareness of her energy and the
history between us retreated behind the spell. When Mina stood up to perform I
had calmed down enough to pay attention. She was good, presenting herself as
the villain, Don John, with a sinister intensity that was very compelling. Miss
Randall offered her the part there and then.
bell rang for lunch, I didn’t get up straight away. The prospect of reading
lines with Cass, playing out the story of two proud characters who started as
enemies and ended up as lovers, was like some hideous nightmare where our
shared past would replay over and over. How could I deal with that while I was
chimed with a text. Slowly, I removed it from my pocket, knowing what I would
find when I turned it over.
“Hello, Luca. How do you like my third
restriction? Yes, I chose the play. Yes, I paired you together. Let’s see if
your oh-so-serene Light Mage objectivity can withstand an emotional onslaught
of this magnitude. Can’t wait to find out :)”
message didn’t make me angry. Still reeling from what had just happened, all I
felt was despair. I wondered if I should just give up. I only had the smallest
chance of success anyway. No matter what I did, he would never stop
presenting me with obstacles. For a few seconds I wallowed in self-pity.
the matter with me? I never give up. I’m not going to start now. Besides, I
wanted more time with Cass and now I have it. This is a good thing.
fell over the screen. “Avi. We should swap details.”
Cass. She was holding her phone and looking down at mine expectantly.
want my number?”
want this part. Being able to contact you is unfortunately a necessity if that
is to happen.”
“I… er… it’s new. The phone. I haven’t… I’m
not set up yet.”
suppose you’ll have to text me, then.” She reeled off a series of numbers and I
rather laboriously typed them in. I hesitated before deciding on, “Hey,” and pressing Send.
she said, before putting her phone away. “I’ll send you an invitation later.
Miss Randall will set up a messaging group for the play as well, just so you
know.” She walked off, not saying another word to me or anyone else. We’d still
only made eye contact that one time.
departure I felt better. I promised myself I would devise a different coping
strategy before we met up again. A couple of students spoke to me on their way
out, praising my performance. It was getting easier each time: the
introductions, the casual banter. Avitus Sequani was becoming more like a real
well, well.” Mina, the last to leave, took a seat next to me. I noticed that her
caramel skin had a dusting of freckles, visible even through her makeup under
the harsh overhead light. “She doesn’t date, y’know. So don’t get your hopes
were great,” I said, ignoring her insinuation.
She looked me up and down. “You’re not turning out like I expected.”
her up and down too. “You never met me before Friday. How would you know what
always prejudge. I can’t help it.”
yeah? It’s entirely beyond your control?”
“Maybe not. I guess it’s a habit.”
suppose I prejudged you too, a little,” I admitted. “Anyone with half a brain
can see you have a… position at this school.”
I’ve earned it, too. And I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it. It’s all I…” She
stopped talking and frowned. “I don’t know why I said that.”
no one can hide their true nature from a guardian. I stood up. “Why don’t we get some lunch and you can
tell me how to get along better with Gabe,” I suggested.
looked up at me. “Why would I do that?”
it would make things easier for Devin. Your friend.”
sighed. “Even if I wanted to help you… you have no idea how complicated things
are right now.”
Mina laughed. “You’ve got some nerve for a new guy.”
I’m just stupid. You should probably take pity on me.”
shook her head. “More like too smart for your own good.”
arrived at the cafeteria I hardly recognized it from the Friday before. It was
like walking into a living wall of noise and smells that overloaded my senses. Since
I’d crossed over, everything was in high definition. I was grateful I didn’t
need to eat. Appetizing, it wasn’t.
and Gabe were sitting together, not talking. There was an extra tray alongside
Gabe, and Mina sat down in front of it. She told the person next to Devin to
get out of the way, and I took their chair with a muttered apology.
Avi,” said Devin. “How’s it going?”
his smile, glad to see he was more relaxed than he’d been earlier.
leaned into Gabe. His blond hair was wet at the back and she curled a strand
around her finger. “Your shampoo is so amazing,” she said, breathing in. “I
love the smell of coconut.”
“Since when?” he said.
always. Don’t look so worried. I’m not going to proposition you right in the
middle of the cafeteria.” She dropped her hand.
worried,” he protested.
course you’re not,” she replied, pulling the tray closer. “Thanks to whoever
got my lunch, by the way. How was basketball?”
Devin replied. “I think I might make the first team this year. Gabe’s going to
help me with some one-on-one practice after school.”
was a beat of silence. “I bet he is,” Mina said in a low voice, and Gabe’s face
turned red. He shifted in his chair.
play any sports, Avi?” said Devin. His gaze shifted down my torso. “You look
like you… do you?” He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. It
was very cute. Not that I cared one way or the other, of course.
know how to answer. I don’t think fighting to the death is a recognized
spectator sport in this school.
to do a bit of track and field. I’m not all that good, though.”
something about Avitus Sequani,” said Mina. “Ordinary, from Europe, isn’t
really much to go on.”
you want to know?”
being deliberately evasive?” she said, raising her eyebrows.
what you want to know?” I said, deadpan, and Devin laughed. “I’m not that
interesting,” I lied. “I moved here very recently, so I’m kind of clueless
about the local area and the school and everything. I’ll be eighteen in
October. I’m good at Math and History and terrible at anything IT-related.”
color?” said Mina.
Two.” Avi’s parents were a slave and a Roman citizen who should have kept his
ego under his tunic where it belonged.
you ever been in love?” Mina traced the top of her soda can with her fingers,
round and round.
sure that’s any of your business, considering we only just met.”
that’s a yes. Are you in a relationship now?”
none of your business.” I folded my arms. Gods, she’s persistent. Who the
hell does she think she is?
me a thoughtful look, completely unintimidated by my irritation. A couple of
girls came up to the table, asking Mina about a party she was apparently
planning for her birthday in a couple of weeks’ time. It was like watching
senators pay court to the Roman emperor. On a much smaller scale, of course,
but the basic principle was the same.
helped me to calm down. I suppressed a smile. Imagine Lucius Verus as a high
school teenager reduced to planning parties and debating wardrobe and makeup choices.
the girls turned to me. “Are you going?”
As I can’t
leave the school grounds, it’s unlikely.
haven’t been invited,” I said.
go with me,” said Devin. No one said anything. “Can’t he?”
nodded. “If he’s that important to you,” she said. The girls giggled and
one of them whispered something to Mina before they left.
have to check,” I said to Devin. “Thanks, though.”
watched us exchange smiles and his face darkened. He gave the empty table in
front of me a pointed look. “Aren’t you going to eat anything?”
the room, pretending to consider the food on offer. “I guess I’ll eat later.
First day nerves, you know…”
You? Yeah, right.” He picked up his fork and moved the pasta on his tray back
Gabe, grow up,” said Mina.
down the fork. “So now you’re a fully paid-up member of the freak fan club
God’s sake,” said Devin, pushing his chair back. “Let it go, will you?”
something,” said Gabe. “Prove that you’re human.”
laughed. “Seriously? Gabe, I think you might be taking this a little far.”
didn’t see what he did.”
saw it because he didn’t do anything!” said Devin, his voice rising. “I don’t
know what your problem is, but you need to get over it. So he’s not hungry. No
no big deal, then why doesn’t he just eat something?” said Gabe stubbornly.
reached forward and grabbed a handful of chips from Gabe’s tray. After I
stuffed them in my mouth, I held up my hand as if to hide my chewing. The background
noise was enough to cover my “Dispareo,” and the chips melted away.
I asked him.
you don’t want to see if he sparkles in the sunlight? Or maybe check his
pockets for the key to an alien spaceship?” said Mina.
up,” Gabe muttered.
changed the subject, and I sighed with relief. She talked about Drama class and
Miss Randall’s unexpected choice of play. Devin congratulated her on her
casting. “It must not be denied, but I am a plain-dealing villain,” she said,
delivering one of Don John’s lines with a wicked grin. “Oh, and Cavi is now a
thing. I’ve decided.”
stared at her. My relief vanished. “Cass and Avi,” she added, coating one of
her fries in mayonnaise and eating it slowly. “Yum.”
not… That’s not funny,” said Devin.
not supposed to be. They’re getting the lead parts. The chance of life
imitating art at some point has got to be high, don’t you think?”
know why I’m friends with you. You’re such a bitch lately,” said Devin.
You love me, really.” She ate another fry.
will go postal when she finds out,” said Gabe.
won’t. She’s on a final warning, and she wants this part.”
would you do that?” I asked. My anger was rising. I couldn’t help it.
don’t, someone else will. The angry loner and the gorgeous, enigmatic new guy…
practicing their lines together… the gossip’s inevitable.”
things are inevitable. But who are you to decide when they happen?”
sorry, Avi.” She gave me an innocent smile. “I thought you wanted me to help
you get along better with Gabe. He’ll be happy if you and Cass are an item,
won’t you Gabe? Rather you and Cass than you and D—”
Just stop!” Devin half rose out of his chair and students at the
surrounding tables turned to look at us.
few more seconds, Devin grabbed his backpack and all but ran out of the
cafeteria. Gabe looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. Mina took a
slow, careful sip from her soda can. I would have believed her unconcerned by
Devin’s reaction, if the can hadn’t wobbled as she set it back down on the