Chapter 44

So far, Chad was feeling relatively confident that things were going well. He based this on the fact that the night was, for the most part, largely the same as how things usually went with Angela. They talked, she made crude comments, he interjected actual logic here and there. It was their standard dynamic, the one he’d been enjoying for years without even realizing. The only genuine alteration he documented was his own attempts to allow his emotions slightly more free rein. That was why, upon completion of ordering their dishes as they sat in the well-lit seafood restaurant, Chad felt a stab of nervousness when Angela’s face grew a bit serious and she asked him a question.

“Not that I’m complaining, but I’ve been dying to ask, what made you decide to ask me out all of a sudden? Kind of came out of nowhere.”

“I suppose it did,” Chad agreed. He wondered how much he should tell her, then immediately dismissed all attempts at obfuscation as idiotic. Part of why he liked Angela was that she understood his strange way of thinking, what point would there be in hiding a story that centered around that very idiosyncrasy?

He told her everything that had occurred on their first night working together. How his stomach had hurt, Roy’s advice, his realization of how he felt, and his own uncertainty of what to do next. By the time he concluded the thorough report, the salads had arrived and been consumed. Angela was an attentive listener, never interrupting, always paying attention. It was only when Chad finished that she spoke up.

“So I actually won you over a long time ago, you just didn’t realize it?”

“That would be a fair assessment,” Chad agreed. He allowed himself a small smile, hoping it came off as playful.

“Son of a bitch, I’m even better than I thought I was,” Angela said, her own expression a far less innocent type of playful than Chad’s. “And to think I owe a meathead like Roy for finally bringing you around. Ain’t that a kick in the teeth.”

“Roy is surprisingly adept at helping me equalize my emotions,” Chad replied. “After the birthday party incident last year, he provided alcohol and commiseration.”

“Ah yes, your little snafu with Vince,” Angela recalled. She paused to take a sip of her wine. Chad, not surprisingly, was drinking water. “It seems like those guys cause you more trouble than anyone else in your class.”

“They aren’t bad people,” Chad defended.

“I didn’t mean it in a bad way,” Angela explained. “Trouble can be a good thing. Trouble is messy, conflicted, unexpected, and chaotic. Let’s be honest here: I’m trouble. You’re the opposite. Ordered, organized, and thoroughly predictable. I’m glad they cause you some trouble from time to time. It’s good for you. And if Roy hadn’t, then you wouldn’t be sitting across from me tonight, now would you?”

“I suppose there is a certain amount of truth to that theory,” Chad admitted.

“I’m like a two-glass savant, after a pair of wine glasses I can wax eloquent all night. I kind of lose the mojo after the third though, that’s when I start thinking dirty jokes are hilarious.”

“You already love telling dirty jokes,” Chad reminded her.

“Yeah, but I mean three-glasses-in Angela loves the absolute shit out of them.”

“Any other transformations I should be aware of?”

“Not too many,” Angela said, pausing to polish off her second glass. “After I hit the fourth glass, they all pretty much have the same effect.”

“Which is?” Chad reached over and took a sip from his own glass.

“I get really horny.”

Chad choked on his water, flinging a hand to his mouth in an unexpected reaction to try and stop the clear liquid from exiting through his nose. Angela laughed so uproariously that no less than three other tables made a point of glaring at her.

 *              *              *

The actual party portion of the group sleepover was rather subdued. Margaritas were downed, a movie or two enjoyed, and a single board game attempted. Most college students would have deemed it a waste of a perfectly good Friday night, but most students were not in a program with constant stress and regular physical battles, with the possible exception of architecture majors. While bars and outing were enjoyable, on occasion a simple night of friends and conversation was good for recharging everyone’s batteries. No wild revelations, no crazy surprises, merely a night of regularity. For a few hours, the young women were able to make believe that this was their life, not a world of Supers and Powereds and Heroes and battle.

Of course, that delusion was somewhat shredded when the time to sleep came and Mary tied her hand against Alice’s. It reminded all of them what they were really doing there, and that even on the most normal of nights none of them was like the rest of the world. None of them said this as they laid down, Mary and Alice carefully arranged, the rest merely crawling into their sleeping bags and lying however felt most comfortable.

Sleepiness and Violet’s margaritas soon won the day and each person began drifting off to sleep. Mary was the last to go, something she knew by the fact that everyone’s thoughts ceased being coherent and became the muddled mumblings she had long ago learned as the sign of a slumbering mind. She lay awake for some time, staring at the ceiling, a knot of fear in her stomach refusing to let her leave consciousness. What if this didn’t work? What if she never learned to control this aspect of her power? Mary liked to present a strong, put-together image around the others, because she knew they needed that, but in her heart she still had the same worries as the others. She wondered if she would ever get to sleep.

Eventually even worry proved no match for biology, and the small woman fell into blissful slumber. She laid like that, within her own dream, for the majority of the night, until somewhere in the hour of four in the morning.

That was when Jill, turning over in her sleep, stuck out a hand that landed on Mary’s forearm.