Wednesday, September 27, 2000
“You should watch out for him, you know.”
Alexander had brought his friends today, a tall blonde boy with tusks, a shorter, darker boy with sandy hair and bright green eyes, and the skinny kid with the white scales and green hair. They weren’t surrounding Cynara, as if they knew it was a bad idea to trap someone you were trying to help. But she still felt a little cornered. And, for the first time, she felt like she was back in some normal school, with normal teenaged politics.
“So you said.” She took a step backwards. “But he’s been nice to me. He’s shown me around. He and his roommates made me dinner. So far, he’s been nicer than… than anyone else I’ve ever met.” It sounded a little pitiful, so she raised her chin and glared at them. “Dysmas might be a little creepy-looking, but I don’t think he’s the only one in the school who ended up a bit strange out of the Change.”
“You want nice?” The darker boy, the short one, stepped forward and offered a hand, turning it into a sad little bow. “I’m Melchior. I’ll be nice to you in any way you want, if only you will not go back to Dysmas’ room.”
“We all would.” The blonde made a much better show of the bow, even thought it looked like it was the first time he’d tried something like that. “I’m Nikolai, and you’ve already met Alexander.”
“And you all think that, what. Dysmas isn’t the right sort of guy? What, does he play D&D on the weekends instead of football?”
“So do I.” The pale boy stepped forward. “Anwell. That is, I’m Anwell. It’s not the D&D, it’s just… well, his other girlfriends didn’t do so well.”
Cynara chewed on her lip. That was the first reasonable thing any of them had said. “And… maybe he’s changed? He hasn’t been grabby or… or anything.” She flushed and looked away. She didn’t want to be discussing all the awful things guys could do around these three.
“No.” Anwell sounded sympathetic. That might be almost worse. “No, he wouldn’t.”
“See?” She glared around the circle. “There’s nothing wrong with him except the fact that he isn’t you, is there? I mean, so he didn’t get along with his girlfriends. None of us are here to find our One True Love or anything like that. It’s high school.”
“These guys botherin’ you, darlin’?” Suddenly a large presence loomed behind her. Cynara twisted to look up – definitely up – at the presence.
Howard grinned down at her. She had never seen someone who so completely filled out the word cowboy, right down to the fact that he seemed to have Changed into a bull, horns and hooves and all.
“Howard.” She smiled broadly. “No, they were just explaining how I was making a horrible mistake.”
“Well, I’d say it was that you weren’t dating me, but, ah…” He touched the magnolia tucked into the hat band of his white cowboy hat. “Seems that I’m taken.”
Cynara smiled up at him. “That’s a pity.” She’d met Howard in her gym class, and he’d already been taken then. Coming to school a week late seemed to mean that half the place had already paired up – well, that, at least, was nearly normal. Him wearing a big sign saying ‘taken’ in the form of his girlfriend’s namesake flower, well, that was a bit weird.
Then again, if Cynara had a boyfriend who was as much of a flirt as Howard was, she might want him to wear a sign saying “taken”, too.
“Aww, man, she likes ‘em tall,” complained the shorter guy. “That puts me right out of the question.”
“I like them friendly and respectful,” she countered. “Tall’s a nice bonus, though.”
Howard’s smile had gotten an edge to it, no longer friendly. “They are bein’ respectful, aren’t they, darlin’? If they’re not…” The threat hung unspoken in the air like a storm that hadn’t quite broken yet.
“They’re doing that thing that upperclassmen all do, that’s all.” She rested her fingers on Howard’s bicep gently. He was so protective. Nobody had ever glowered menacingly at people for her before. “They’re certain they know better than me what I know and want, and they’re going to keep talking about it until I listen, walk away, or punch someone.”
“Not all upperclassmen, I hope?” Dysmas walked up to them, smiling with his lips closed. Cynara found herself smiling back. “Alexander, I thought we agreed you had nothing you could say to Miss Cynara here.”
“Dysmas.” Howard’s voice rumbled and his hand tightened on Cynara’s shoulder. The hall seemed to rumble with him, the walls creaking and the lights flickering. “You still sniffin’ around Cya here?”
Cynara touched Howard’s fingers lightly. “Don’t you start too,” she teased. “He’s not doing anything he’s not welcome to do, Howard. He’s not bothering me, and, like you said, you’re taken. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be taken, too, is there?”
“Oh, darlin’.” He looked pained, but he moved his hand off her shoulder. “If that’s what you want, I can’t stand in your way.”
“No, you can’t.” Dysmas sounded a little too aggressive for Cynara’s tastes. “Like the lady said, she’s taken, and she likes it that way. Right, Cynara?”
He held out a hand to her. The rattling in the walls got louder, and the lights flickered on and off, on and off.
“Cynara…” the pale boy with the scales started.
“Ditch it, Anwell,” Dysmas snarled. Cya almost took her hand back. But he turned back to her, smiling. It was such a nice smile, and he’d been so nice to her.
And Howard was taken, and showing no signs at all of changing that status. “Yeah,” she smiled. Dysmas was a nice guy. He might not be ideal, but he was nice. And not taken… yet. “Taken.”
He pulled her into a hug. It felt nice, chilly but comforting at the same time. “You’re mine, aren’t you?” He looked into her eyes, and it was as if the world disappeared.
She’d never been someone’s before. She tried to say that, but nothing wanted to come out. She had to say yes, that was it. His eyes were swirling like a kaleidoscope. How did he do that? She worked her mouth again.
“You want to be mine, don’t you?” His voice had dropped down into a husky whisper. Somewhere very far away, she thought she heard someone shouting, but she didn’t care. She had to answer him. That was the most important thing. The most important thing anywhere.
“Yeah,” she whispered. The lights flickered again and did not turn back on.