Chapter 85

Within an hour of the Melbrook group’s arrival, most of their friends had shown up and been led to the seating area. Jill, Sasha, and Selena hadn’t hung around for long, staying only long enough to drop off purses, say some hellos, and then head out into the thick of the party. Mary noticed that Selena and Alex managed to chat cordially for a bit before the other two dragged her to action, a sight that put her somewhat more at ease. After the roughness of Alex and Selena’s breakup, it seemed for a while that they’d never be capable of coexisting around one another. Time had, thankfully, begun healing their wounds.

Camille had come with Thomas and Violet, who were dressed as a fighter pilot and a sexy ladybug, respectively. Neither would admit it, but with Stella gone they hadn’t quite been able to muster up the same gumption for Halloween costume shopping as before. She hadn’t been huge on the holiday either, but their three-way grumbling had been something of a tradition. Now, with her gone, faux disinterest in the holiday had transformed into the genuine article.

Camille had actually put a bit more thought into her own costume than in years previous. Whether it was the influence of Alice’s tutorials or the merely breaking out of her shell, she decided to put on a get-up that would invite a little attention. With her now shorter hair gelled and spiked, she wore a grungy outfit that was illuminated in various points by neon tubes sewn into the fabric. Accessories included a pair of goggles resting on her forehead and thick boots that added a few inches to her height, not to mention an endless variety of wrist bangles. She’d gotten Will’s help for the effects, but the construction had been all her. It all worked to make the small healer into a tough cyber-punk, a costume Alex gave her endless compliments on.

As the rest filtered in, they followed a similar pattern. There would be greetings, Alice would give them the low-down, they’d thank her for setting things up, and then most of them would ogle Chad in a mixture of shock and interest once they caught sight of his costume. Some were told that the earlier version was far worse, which spurred terror in some and curiosity in others. Once that was out of the way, they would disseminate to their respective locations. Some went to mingle at the bar, others were set on dancing, but the majority took time to appreciate the relatively tranquil space they’d been provided.

It was while sitting peacefully that Camille noticed Alex, still wearing the large brown coat that had to be too warm in the heated club atmosphere, jerk up from his seat like he’d sat on a needle. His eyes darted about furiously, an expression of confusion, then concern, flashing across his face. Before anyone noticed, Mary was there, at his side. The two said nothing, which confused Camille only until she realized a pair of telepaths didn’t need words to have a conversation. Lack of speech didn’t keep the expressions off their faces, at least not entirely. Alex still looked confused, but his face was moving more and more in the direction of anger. Mary almost kept her usual calm facade, however every now and then she’d show a twitch of nervousness. Finally, after several moments of standing in seeming silence, Alex gave a small, begrudging nod, then walked away to sit with Vince and Will. Mary surprised Camille, instead of returning to her seat, she walked over to the couch where the fellow short woman was watching and plopped down next to her.

“I know you’re wondering what that was all about.”

“A little bit, yeah,” Camille admitted. “Why was Alex in such a tizzy?”

“Because I’m an idiot.” Mary leaned her head back, resting it against the black leather seat. The red hood pulled away slightly, revealing the tight braid she’d worn for her costume. It conjured up a momentary, unexpected pang of loss in Camille’s heart. That hairstyle would forever be something she associated with her former-steel-shifting friend.

“I forgot about Alex,” Mary continued. “He’s just so… not like me and the professor, that I honestly forgot how good he was recognizing people. I’m trying to do something a little risky tonight, something I wanted to control every aspect of. Alex has graciously agreed to go along for now. Hopefully it all works out.”

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Camille said. She patted her friend on the leg anyway, if for no other reason than Mary seemed like she needed a bit of reassurance.

“So I’m aware. Just needed to vent a bit to someone, and you already noticed our talk, so I had to give you an explanation anyway.”

“It must be hard, not having Hershel around when you really need someone.”

“Even if he were, I couldn’t talk to him yet either. But yes, it is hard.” Mary took a long breath and pulled her head up, readjusting her cloak so it was almost, but not quite, covering her face. “And there is still a lot of night ahead, so I’m just crossing my fingers that Alex is the worst fire I have to put out.”

“It seems a bit daring to try… whatever you’re doing… on Halloween. Given your group’s track record and all.”

“You think so? The way I see it, we’re long overdue for a bit of good luck on Halloween. This is just me trying to cash in on it.” Mary stood up from the couch and adjusted her outfit slightly. “Maybe you should do the same. You’re looking very eye-catching tonight, and I’m keenly aware that a few people have noticed.”

“Trust me, I know. Alex wouldn’t stop fawning.”

Mary let out a small, devious chuckle. “I wasn’t talking about Alex, but you’re close. In fact, I’d say you’re at the right table, if you catch my meaning.” As she walked away, she passed by Alex and the two exchanged a furtive glance. Sitting next to him were still Will and Vince. Camille noticed something when Mary walked by, as her eyes naturally followed her friend’s path, they caught sight of another stare, this one observing her. Vince’s bright blue irises darted away the moment he realized he’d been caught, an action which made Camille blush.

Vince had been looking at her, and he was at the same table as Alex. Mary’s words still hung in Camille’s mind, lingering like tendrils of daring fog amidst the first rays of morning. They were overdue for some Halloween good fortune.

Maybe she’d try and grab a piece of that too.