Chapter 87

                When Mary stepped into the seating area, she did a quick scan of those present. Angela and Chad were talking on a couch, Will and Alex were standing near the entrance, clearly waiting for her. She spotted Roy leaning on the side-railing, talking with Alice, Violet, and Thomas, as he ogled girls in skimpy costumes. The rest, it seemed, were out getting drinks or dancing. That was okay for the most part, though she wondered if she should wait for Vince to come back.

                “I don’t think you’ll get a point where everyone is present,” Alex said, answering her unspoken thought. “This seems like almost everyone who would care. Might be good to strike while the opportunity is here.”

                “I suppose you’re right,” Mary sighed. She stepped the rest of the way into the section moving to the middle of it, then addressed her friends. “Everyone, could you come in close for a minute? There’s something I need to talk to you all about.”

                Curious glances were exchanged, but the request was complied with as people wandered to within arm’s reach of Mary, who was taking measured breaths to stay calm. She wasn’t scared of speaking to a group, not after having been captain of a team for a year, but the proposition of what lay before her still conjured a minor aura of nerves. It didn’t help that the constant dull thrum of music pounded against her head, reminding her of the days when she couldn’t shut the voices out. Mary pushed those thoughts away, as she pushed away the fear and worry. This was not the time for getting caught up in her head. This was the time to deliver.

                “I ran into someone a few minutes ago. Someone we all know, or, at least, used to know. Nick is here. Nick Campbell. He came back to Lander as a regular student after the expulsion, and he’s at this club tonight. His memories are still wiped and all, I just… I thought you all should know that he was here. I talked with him for a bit. He’s a little different, losing two years will do that, but he’s still the same guy he always was underneath. If anyone wants to meet him, I’m going to go visit with him some more in a bit.”

                “Mary, you know the danger in what you’re doing,” Chad cautioned. “Those who leave the program often hold bitterness toward the ones that stayed. Outing former friends isn’t unheard of.”

                “I know, Chad. That’s why I came here to tell you all like this, rather than bringing him over. Anyone who wants to take that risk can come with me, but I don’t think anyone will look down on someone for being cautious.”

                “Count me in,” Angela declared.

                “You barely ever spoke to Nick,” Chad reminded her.

                “So what? Still seems like it might be fun. I’m always up for fun.”

                “Then I suppose I should come as well, and see this fun for myself,” Chad said.

                “I’ll go talk with him too,” Roy said. “To be honest, I always figured it was a matter of time before he pulled something like this. Nick loves stirring shit too much to go out quietly.”

                “I’ll go see him,” Alice said, her simple words belying the storm of emotions inside her. She didn’t like lying to her friends, didn’t care for pretending to know less about Nicholas than she did. That was why she’d kept her response so simple. It was one of the ways Professor Pendleton taught to mentally trick themselves: if everything you said was true, then you weren’t lying. All she did was agree to go talk to him, nothing untrue was uttered.

                “I will sit this one out,” Thomas told the group. He looked at the ground, not wanting to see any reaction in their eyes. “While Nick and I were friends, we were not tremendously close. I don’t begrudge him a new life here at Lander; however, I have too much on my own plate at the moment to add another risk. I’m sorry.”

                “You have nothing to feel bad about,” Violet said, softly placing a hand on his wide, muscular shoulder. “That’s a smart decision. So smart, in fact, that I’m copying it and staying put with you.”

                “As am I,” Will added. “Give Nick my best, but I’m afraid it seems unnecessarily dangerous to interact with him anymore.”

                “Makes sense,” Alex agreed. “But I’m going to say hi. If his memories are sealed, it isn’t that dangerous. And I kind of miss that wild-minded jerk.”

                “That’s everyone here then,” Mary said, noting each person’s decision. “Would one of the people staying tell Vince and Camille when they come back from dancing?”

                “I’ll do it,” Thomas volunteered. “I believe I can explain it to Vince in the easiest way possible.”

                “I don’t doubt that. Okay then, everyone else ready to go say hello to an old friend?” Mary asked.

                “Sure, let’s get this show on the road,” Angela said, hopping out of her seat in a motion that might have left her chest exposed if she were wearing a more modern bra with less coverage. “We have to knock out the big reveal before the inevitable bar fight.”

                “Bar fight?” Alice asked.

                “Yeah, Chad filled me in about you hooligans and your Halloween havoc. Two throw-downs in two years, seems to me we’ve got decent odds of a threepeat.”

                “For everyone’s sake, I dearly hope you’re wrong,” Mary said. Inwardly, she reminded herself to do another mental sweep when walking everyone over to Nicholas. If their bad luck was going to strike again, Nathaniel Evers seemed a likely agent for it to use. She began walking toward the stairs, indicating that the others should follow.

                “I just don’t understand you guys; fate goes out of its way to give you a battle-rich tradition and you try to avoid it. Kids today, no appreciation for the finer things in life.” Angela still followed Mary, despite the grumbling.

                “If we can get through this night without a punch being thrown, I’ll consider it a rousing success,” Alice said, heading to the stairs.

                “Now I wouldn’t go that far,” Roy said, following as well. “I mean, I’m not saying I want a full-out brawl, but it is still a party after all. A little scrapping would liven things up.”

                Angela turned to Chad, and jerked her thumb in Roy’s direction. “New plan: when I’m not around, follow his lead. I like the instincts on this one.”

                Chad merely shook his head and continued walking, wondering if perhaps his plan to liven up his life hadn’t succeeded a bit more than he’d intended.