or check out Skyla's books!
"This isn’t working," she insisted.
Merri sighed, scooped up the book, and placed it in her friend’s hands once more. "The point is to relax. Just take a deep breath and—"
Gen gestured over her shoulder to where Michael and Sage were sparring on the other side of the room. "The amount of noise they’re making is not exactly inspiring a sense of ‘relaxation.’"
"That’s a good thing," Merri countered. "Being calm and able to focus in the face of distraction—"
"Goddamn!" Sage swore loudly, pounding the floor with her fist in annoyance when Michael won their match.
Meredith met Gen’s look of, "see, I told you so."
"No excuses," Merri continued. "Focus on your work and let everything else slip away." She watched Gen scowl down at the paper and lean over her sketchpad to try drawing again.
After complaining about not just being scared but having difficulty focusing as well, Meredith had decided earlier that Saturday afternoon that the best way to help Gen was to not even start with magic. The spells frightened her, therefore it made sense to find ways to build up any necessary skills without the use of anything supernatural. Her art seemed the way to go.
Michael had overheard them discussing this tactic, but didn’t object. He seemed too busy with Sage anyhow. Meredith couldn’t say whether or not he actually cared in the least bit that the two of them were huddled in the corner with Gen trying to draw rather than play with putting out candles, though she imagined she’d definitely hear about it later if he did have a problem with it.
"This really sucks," Gen complained, glaring at her drawing thus far.
"That’s not the point," Merri reminded her.
"Fine, fine…just stop moving."
"No, you’re right, it’s terrible."
They looked up to see Michael standing over them. Beyond him, Sage sat at the kitchen table for her break, gulping down a large glass of water.
"I don’t think we asked you to be in on this conversation," Gen snapped. "And it’s not terrible!"
"Ten seconds ago it was, and I tell you that you’re right and you suddenly disagree?"
Here they go. Merri leaned against the wall waiting to see if she should jump in or not.
"Yeah, ‘cause you don’t know what you’re talking about!" Gen insisted.
Meredith figured that was easily the worse thing she could say; no matter the subject, Michael certainly didn’t like to be told that he was ignorant of it.
He crouched next to Genevieve, leaned over her shoulder, and snatched the pencil from her grasp. "You don’t have the slightest clue what the hell you’re doing. Are you even looking at her, or just guessing based on your flawed memory of what Merri looks like?"
"She keeps moving—"
"That doesn’t matter. She can move all she wants—her features should stay the same." He slid the tip of the pencil around the page, and though Merri couldn’t see what changes he suggested, the frown on Gen’s face suggested she realized he was right. "Honestly, do you have even the slightest concept of negative space?"
Meredith tuned out their bickering after that. She didn’t need to listen to guess what was being said: Michael would call Gen stupid and then point out something obvious, and follow it up with another insult. Gen would insist he was wrong, perhaps make some vague or idle threat about murdering him in his sleep, then when he didn’t throw something at her, she’d get brave and say something about him being a prick and possibly an idiot. They were like an old married couple, if one half of the couple was a teenage lesbian who was terrified of the much older other half, and rightfully so because he loathed her and possibly plotted to kill her on occasion.
And yet, Merri suspected that he was afraid of Gen, even though he professed her to be so useless. Every so often, Merri caught his gaze straying to the witch, watching her warily. Definitely fear. That had to be the real reason why he didn’t tell Gen what she did to the assassins at the farmhouse that day, and why he seemed so unconcerned about her lack of confidence in her abilities; ultimately, he wanted her kept in the dark, wanted her unsure of herself. Because as soon as she accepted her power and grew stronger…well, precisely what would happen, Merri couldn’t say, except that she was certain Michael loathed the thought of that day ever arriving. And she hadn’t lied the night before when she warned him that things wouldn’t end well. He needed to tell Gen the truth. It was all bound to come to a head at some point, and Merri just sure as hell hoped she wasn’t in the general vicinity when it did.
"Would you just go away?" Gen snapped finally, snatching her pencil back and tearing the book from his view. "Look: Sage isn’t doing anything. I think she needs you to go order her around some more."
Michael did stand to go, but it came as little surprise that he wasn’t finished speaking yet. "If you can’t just pause and actually focus on something as simple as this, you’re not touching another spell book. Ever."
"Promise?" Gen gave him a mockingly sweet smile.
Ignoring her, he met Merri’s gaze instead. "This had better be going somewhere."
"Promise," she replied with a grin.
"Oh, and we’re totally busy again next Friday," Gen called after Michael as he walked away from her. "So you’ll have to criticize someone else’s art work for awhile."
"Uh, what are we doing on Friday?" Merri asked, not realizing she had any plans. Going out the night before to On the Map was about the only extra-curricular outing she’d been a part of since moving to Newhaven, and this sudden surge in activities was a little strange.
"Halloween dance at school—we go every year," Gen said, almost as if Meredith should already know. "It’s like a really crappy masquerade. You have to come."
Christ, that sounded as though it would be even lamer than the dance club had been.
"But that’ll require a costume, which I don’t have and I’m sure it’s impossible to find any in the stores this week—"
"Don’t worry about it, we’ll find something. But you gotta go. And Sage—" she called suddenly, looking to where Sage sat, "—you should come too."
Merri had no idea what planet Gen resided on, but Sage seemed highly unlikely to attend something as frivolous as a school costume party.
"You should come to the dance at the high school," Gen continued. "They’re doing this…thing…"
A touch of sadness seemed to come over Genevieve all at once, and suddenly Merri understood.
"They’re using the dance as a fundraiser thing," Gen continued, despite the noticeable clouding of her eyes. "Half the money is going to the Greenes to help pay for…for the tombstone, and the other half is for Crimstoppers ‘cause apparently everyone still thinks it was due to gang violence or something. You should be there."
"You’re not coming here," Michael said, to everyone’s surprise.
"What?" Sage said, doubly confused.
"I have plans."
"You should go with them."
Gen and Merri exchanged curious glances. Although Genevieve was clearly mystified by this development, Merri knew better. It was Krysta. Had to be—she wasn’t sure Michael actually knew anyone else in town. But though she understood his desire to get away, it seemed a little odd that he’d actually instruct Sage to hang out with them.
"I don’t want to go," Sage said coolly.
"He was your boyfriend," Michael said. "You should be there."
Silence descended on the room. Sage and Michael stared at one another, and neither Merri nor Gen wanted to interrupt them.
"I don’t want to," Sage said again, quieter this time.
Michael shrugged, as if he truly couldn’t care one way or the other. "Your choice. Now it’s time to get back to work."
It wasn’t until the two of them were sparring once more that Genevieve dared to speak. "That was kind of spooky. Think she’ll go?"
Merri shook her head. "I really don’t know. She might show up on her own, but if I were you, I wouldn’t bug her about it."
"I guess we’ll wait and see. Hey, what are you doing tonight?"
Well, my very empty schedule is certainly filling up in a hurry. "Haven’t decided yet. Why?"
"Me, Lev, and Stephie hang out every Saturday night to watch crappy movies and stuff. We haven’t for a few weeks, but Levi says he’s up for it again starting tonight. And our rules state that whoever is hosting the night can invite one other person to attend. It’s at my house so I’m inviting you."
"You have rules for your evening gatherings?"
"Well, just a couple," Gen explained. "Lev and I came up with that one ‘cause Stephie would end up inviting like twenty people then we’d have a big party. My mom wouldn’t go for that, and neither would Levi’s. So do you want to come?"
"Are you sure you wouldn’t rather invite Peyton?" Merri asked. The two of them had seemed to get along well the night before, and it seemed odd—at least to Merri—that Gen wouldn’t want to invite her if she had the opportunity.
"Can’t. It’s the other rule."
"You have a rule against inviting Peyton?"
"No—that would be silly. The rule is that we can’t invite someone we’re dating or have a crush on. Not like I’m ever dating anyone or anything, but that’s the rule."
"Seems kinda…" Bizarre, she thought, though she avoided saying it aloud. "Arbitrary, I guess."
Genevieve shrugged, as if the rule was the most natural thing in the world. "Bro’s before ho’s."
Merri laughed at this, and nodded at last. "Okay. Should I bring anything?"
"Nope. Stephie’s doing a beer run and Levi’s on snack duty. Now hold still—I’d like to get this sketch done and move onto the next one before Mr. Perfect comes back with some more of his expert tips."
Merri did manage to sit fairly still for the next half hour as Genevieve sketched throughout the many distractions in the room. Just as Merri started itching to get up and move around, Gen put down the sketchbook at last to stretch her arms and neck.
"There. It doesn’t completely suck."
Meredith leaned forward to take a look at the drawing. Though she couldn’t tell which parts were Gen’s original work and which were Michael’s suggestions, it seemed a good likeness.
A sudden knock at the door startled both Merri and Gen. Turning to look at Michael, Merri found his questioning gaze already on her. After someone burst in shooting at them a couple of weeks ago, they couldn’t be too careful, and unless Michael was expecting a guest, he immediately looked to her for guidance. Nothing warned her this time, however—no frightening flashes, no sudden sense of foreboding… She could only shrug her shoulders.
Michael went for the door, and Merri tensed as he opened it, prepared for the worst. Thankfully, no gunshots followed, only speaking in hushed tones. Then she caught a, "Yeah, come in," and Michael stepped back to let Thad—of all people—into the house. The air seemed to leave her lungs just then and it took most of her concentration to take in another breath.
Oh God, what is he doing here…
She thought at the very least he’d at least chance a glance in her direction, but not once did he even acknowledge he saw her sitting there. Instead, he followed Michael to the kitchen.
"Uh, hi Thad!" Gen called.
"Hello Genevieve." Thad turned and flashed her a quick grin, but still paid no heed to Merri.
"Shut up and get back to work," Michael barked, and as Thad returned his attention to whatever conversation he and Michael were having, Gen suddenly tugged on Merri’s arm.
"What’s he doing here?" she whispered in Merri’s ear.
Meredith shrugged. She still struggled to listen in on his and Michael’s conversation, but was unable to make out any actual words.
"Did you two have a fight? He looks mad at you."
She shrugged again, having no desire to actually explain what went on.
Unfortunately, she could easily guess what brought him all the way down to Newhaven. It was all probably to tell Michael face to face not to send his little whore fishing for information. Whatever. Best case scenario, maybe Michael would smack him for it and throw him out of the house. Worst case scenario, he would berate Merri for not getting them any information. She leaned more towards the first scenario, however, since Michael has warned her against contacting Thad in the first place.
Tense moments followed, with Merri unable to tear her gaze from Michael and Thad, until at last the two men parted and Thad left the house again without another word.
"Whatever you did, it worked," Michael said as the door closed.
Meredith locked eyes with him. "What?"
"He gave us Shaw’s number and address, as well as recommended a way to convince him to see us. Well done."
Sickness washed over her suddenly. "Fuck you." She stood and bolted forward without another word. Ignoring Gen’s curious gaze, Merri threw open the door and slipped outside.
Thad was already several feet from the house, moving toward his car parked at the curb.
"Hey," Merri said softly, closing the door behind her.
Dark eyes gazed back at hers as Thad paused and turned around. Merri took a few steps forward, and after studying her for a moment, Thad did the same.
She opened her mouth to speak, though couldn’t quite find the words she wanted. Yelling at him the night before had been easy…but she wasn’t so good at apologies. Biting at her bottom lip, she cast her gaze down to the sidewalk in thought.
"He just told me why you came here." She risked a glance up at him. Thad’s expression was pretty much unreadable, however—even to her. His eyes were guarded, lips set in a straight line, and he seemed to be…waiting. That had to be it: he waited for something. Was it just for her to get to the point? Or was he looking for something else?
When he didn’t acknowledge she had spoken, Merri swallowed a bit of pride and continued on to what she figured he wanted to hear. "I just want you to know…yeah, I got your number from Michael last night, and yeah, he knew about it. But he didn’t ask me to do anything and that’s not why I called you."
Thad still didn’t say anything—nor did his expression change—and her annoyance grew.
"Look," she said, a bit of an edge to her voice and glaring up at him now. "You may not believe me, but I didn’t sleep with you just so you’d tell Michael about Shaw."
Expression softening ever so slightly, Thad cracked a faint grin. "Prove it."
He moved forward so only a step or two separated them. "Go out for dinner with me tonight. Like a date."
"I told Michael everything he wanted to know, so the thing with Shaw is out of the way now. If you really are interested, and calling me out of the blue wasn’t just to get some information, then let’s go out."
She might have said yes if she didn’t remember she promised to go to Genevieve’s house that night. Though she was pretty sure she could get out of it if need be, a twinge of guilt hit her at the very thought of it. That Gen had asked her to take part in a gathering with her friends actually meant a lot to her, and she didn’t want to be the kind of person who blew her friends off for a guy. Especially not considering it was the first time in her life that she’d actually had girl friends.
"I can’t. I have plans tonight."
His smile faltered just a bit, but he took a deep breath and plastered on a grin. "Well, I’m working tomorrow evening and I’ve got an early class on Monday, so that’s out. Maybe Friday?"
Shit. "I’ve…kinda got plans for Friday too." Wow, it was like the God of Bad Timing was really pissed off at her or something.
Sadly, he didn’t appear surprised, and she found herself scrambling to come up with a solution.
"Next Saturday, maybe?" she suggested. "Or—"
He shook his head. "Forget it."
She found herself silenced as he suddenly reached out and ran his fingertips along her cheek. In a perfect, romantic world, perhaps she could interpret the gesture to mean he understood she wasn’t trying to blow him off, but there was no mistaking the disappointment coming off him in waves—disappointment in her. He leaned forward and brushed his lips across her forehead gently.
"Bye," he said softly into her hair, then left her without another word, walking swiftly to his car before she could react.
So he was indeed a good guy.
And what the hell did that make her for just breaking his heart?
Footsteps thumped on the floor above the living room, about where Gen’s parent’s bedroom lay. Her mother was doing the stomping, and Gen glanced over at where her father sat in his favourite armchair.
"Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready?" she asked impatiently. Merri sat on the couch with her, and Levi and Stephie would be showing up soon. Why the hell couldn’t her parents just leave, like they were supposed to? "She’s only stomping around up there to get your attention."
Her father shrugged. "Plenty of time."
Like hell he had time—ten minutes ago her mother yelled that they should have already left. Leo Weist clearly had no desire to attend whatever function his wife sought to drag him to, however, and made no move to leave his chair.
"You know the deal," Gen warned. "I have friends over. You can’t be here ‘cause you’ll be in the way of the orgy."
"In my day, we still had chaperones for orgies," he replied.
"That’s ‘cause you’re old—we modern teenage orgy participants are much more independent."
"I met your mother at an orgy, you know…"
"God, would you please get ready and go out with Mom now!"
The doorbell rang, and seconds later Levi and Stephie walked inside. A quick glance told Gen that, thankfully, Stephie had enough sense to hide the beer bottles in her backpack.
"C’mon," Gen whispered, nodding for Merri to follow her toward where the others stood. "And you," she swung back around to face her dad, "had better be gone by the time we get back from the kitchen!"
"I think I’ll stay home tonight," he replied. "Keep you kids out of trouble."
"I’m sorry," she whispered to Merri. "He thinks he’s being clever. Hopefully he’ll be leaving soon."
"It’s okay, I like your dad," she replied, though Gen found that idea hard to believe.
Levi handed Genevieve the grocery bag of snack foods and one glance at the contents made her curse his name.
"What?" he asked with an amused grin. "You like nachos and cheese."
Right—she also liked stuff she didn’t have to prepare. With a sigh—and trailed by Merri—Gen carted the bag to the kitchen to preheat the oven and prepare their snacks. Christ, he even expected her to grate the cheese—what was up with that? Thankfully, Merri took on that task, while Levi and Stephie stared uselessly from the doorway.
"So what movies did you get?" Levi asked, still annoyingly watching them rather than…well, Gen couldn’t think of something for him to do, but he at least should have asked.
"Re-animator and Bride of Re-animator," she called over her shoulder as she spread the tortilla chips on a baking pan. "And because I adore you so very, very much—or did before you brought snacks that I actually had to prepare myself—we got Bloody Murder 2 featuring a topless Tiffany Shepis." She squealed with surprise as Levi suddenly grabbed her from behind, his arms going over her waist in a hug.
"I do sometimes like it when we have the same taste in girls," he said, head resting on her shoulder.
"Yeah, well, the old movies were three for five bucks, and we couldn’t find another Re-animator one," she teased, only half meaning it. The fact that he was ready to get together as a group again and try to have some fun was important to her. Did it alleviate any of her guilt over Hayden’s death? Not in the least bit. But seeing Levi genuinely smile the last couple of days was a welcome development…and a topless Tiffany Shepis was bound to make him smile even more.
"Besides," she continued when he let her go to pull some glasses out of the cupboard. "We all know your real love is for Jeffrey Combs."
"Um, isn’t your dad supposed to be going with your mom?" Stephie said in a low voice.
"Heard that Steph," Gen’s father said from the other room. "And I was just noticing your bag strangely looks like it has a large box in it—about the size that would hold a dozen bottles…"
Stephie’s eyes got big. "Just Pepsi."
When Genevieve and the others returned to the living room to wait for the nachos and cheese to cook, she found her father still sitting in the same spot, and her mother across the room glaring at him. Her hair was done up, she wore a simple black cocktail dress, and Gen recognized her grandmother’s pearl necklace about her neck. Wherever they were going, it was formal, and her mother was going to kill her father if he didn’t get up and get dressed.
"Jesus, you haven’t even showered—we were supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago!"
"I’ll be ready soon," he said, not making any move to go. Gen had seen this way too many times before: rather than just say he didn’t want to go, he was going to wait until her mom got fed up and left by herself. That had better not mean he planned to stay home, though…
Her mother stormed around and ranted for another ten minutes, then sure enough, she stomped out of the house, slamming the door behind her, meanwhile her father sat there calmly, gazing at the weather channel. Gen sent an uncomfortable glance to her friends; Levi and Stephie were used to her parents, but it was all new territory to Meredith. None of it seemed to be bothering her, however—she didn’t seem weirded out in the least bit.
"Um, dad…" Gen began, but he put up a hand to stop her.
"Give it another…thirty seconds or so. She’s waiting in the car for me."
Sure enough, less than a minute later the headlights passed in front of the window as Rebecca Weist pulled out of the driveway. Just as the sound of her car faded, Leo stood and went to the door to put his shoes on.
"You promise you’re leaving?" Gen asked.
"Yes Genny—poker game. Don’t tell your mother. No smoking in the house, Steph, and be good, kids." He barely finished his sentence before he was out the door. It all seemed a little odd to Gen, though she wasn’t about to complain. The house to themselves, Merri offered to serve up the nachos while Gen put on the first movie and Stephie cracked out the beer.
"So you gotta tell me something, Lev," Stephie said casually as the first movie ended. She had been stretched out on the floor in front of the television, and turned over on her back to glance at Levi, who sat on the couch. "I heard you drove Kourtnee home last night?"
"I have to tell you if I drove a girl home?" Levi said, confused. Gen had to agree the question seemed odd—she couldn’t see what Steph was getting at.
"Well, I’m asking ‘cause I wanted to know if she popped your cherry or not—"
Gen burst out laughing and Stephie continued grinning like an idiot.
"C’mon," Steph continued. "It’s Kourtnee. Legit question."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
"It means she’s boned half the Phoenixes, so I was curious if she added you to her list of conquests."
Perhaps it was the beer, but Genevieve found the whole exchange hilarious, and she doubled over in laughter.
"She’s not like that," Levi insisted. "And no, I didn’t sleep with her."
Stephie pulled herself onto her knees, an excited grin lighting her face. "You’re lying. Look at him, Gen—he’s lying."
"Aw, leave him alone…" Gen’s sentence trailed off as her gaze fell on Levi. His face was slowing reddening and he avoided her eyes. "Holy shit, you slept with Kourtnee?"
"No!" he said again.
"You totally did something with her, or you wouldn’t be looking so freaked," Stephie said. "So what was it? Blowjob in the car?"
"It’s okay; she’ll probably screw you properly on the second date—"
"I can’t believe you didn’t tell me," Gen said, honestly a little hurt. It was Levi…Christ, he told her everything. Not that she was particularly interested in details about that skank giving him any sort of attention, but it still seemed like the sort of development he’d tell her about.
"I already know you guys don’t like her," Levi returned. "But you don’t know her—she’s nice."
"Did you come to that conclusion before or after the blowjob?" Stephie asked.
"She’s a skank, Lev," Gen said.
"She’s led an interesting life," he said instead.
"Yeah, with her vagina."
"I’m not discussing this with you anymore." Levi slumped back on the couch and crossed his arms over his chest.
"It’s okay, you can make fun of me after I tell you who I slept with last night."
Gen did notice Stephie slipped out of the club early the night before, and she hadn’t seen her afterwards. It came as little surprise that she left to apparently go home with someone.
"Who?" Levi asked.
Gen’s jaw dropped wide open. "The math teacher? Seriously?" She shook her head in disgust as Stephie nodded. "You are such a slut."
"Yeah, but if I find myself needing another credit to graduate, I’m pretty sure I can get one for Calculus without even showing up."
"Jesus Christ—did everyone get more action than me last night?" Gen looked to Meredith, who had been sitting silently in an armchair across the room for the duration of the conversation. "I suppose that’s why you and Thad disappeared too?"
Merri shook her head. "Please, I hardly know the guy. We just went out to talk."
Gen sighed. "Well, I’m depressed now anyway. I’m making more nachos." She gathered up the plates and went for the kitchen, while Stephie continued teasing Levi.
Leaning against the warming oven, Gen crossed her arms and looked at Merri expectantly as she followed with a couple of empty glasses in hand.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Merri asked as she set the dishes in the sink.
"You should call him."
Meredith looked a little startled at the blunt statement.
That’s right—you’re not the only observant one, Mer.
"Who?" Merri asked, apparently deciding to play dumb.
"Uh, Thad. Who else?"
Mer shook her head. "I don’t think so."
"Are you at least going to tell me what went on with you guys? You were more than friendly last night, then today he completely ignored you."
"It was just a misunderstanding," she said quickly, offering a smile that Gen didn’t completely believe.
"Quite the misunderstanding considering you ran out after he left. Michael still wouldn’t tell us what was going on, even when Sage asked, so—"
"You’ve seen Sage?"
Both Gen and Merri turned, startled, to see Levi standing in the kitchen doorway. If he looked mad before when Stephie teased him about Kourtnee, he was right pissed now.
"What the hell are you doing around her?" he asked, stepping into the room rapidly, face a dark red.
"Remember a month ago when you told me you thought I should take some self-defense classes?" Gen said quickly. "Well, that’s what I did. And so did Merri. We sometimes see Sage there—that’s all."
"Sage got one of her teachers to give us exclusive lessons really cheap," Merri added. "Because it’s during the time when he’s got his advanced students—like her—there. And he’s not supposed to do that, so we’ve been keeping it a secret."
Damn, she’s good, Gen thought. Coming up with lies on her own, Gen usually had to scramble to think of something and hope it sounded innocent enough, but Merri…Merri was smooth enough about it that Gen almost believed it herself.
Gen and Levi stared at one another for several long seconds. She couldn’t be certain if he believed her or not, and she loathed lying to him but…
But could she tell him the truth? She’d always just assumed he’d think she was crazy. Witches, warriors, magic, apocalypses, assassins… Though she sometimes wanted to confide in him, realistically it wasn’t a conversation she had the slightest desire to have.
"Goin’ out for a smoke," Stephie called from somewhere in the other room.
"I’ll join her," Merri said quickly, leaving the two of them alone to Gen’s dismay.
"How often have you been seeing her?" Levi said after they heard the front door close.
"I saw her a couple of times this week, including this afternoon," Gen said with a sigh. "Barely spoke to her, ‘cause she’s not exactly the talkative type."
"I can’t believe you didn’t tell me," he muttered under his breath, dropping his gaze to the linoleum floor.
"And what would that accomplish, besides you being pissed off at me? I know you’re mad at her, but she—"
"She knows what happened to Hayden!" His eyes snapped up at hers again, blazing with anger. "It’s her fault—"
"She loved him," Gen cut in. "If she could have done something to help, don’t you think she would have?"
"She could’ve gone to the police."
"Except no one snuck into his room and killed him," Gen said. God, it hurt to talk about all this again, and fresh feelings of sadness and regret welled to the surface. "If she did know something, and if she did go to the police, how would that have stopped a blood clot? And if she was, in some way, responsible for what happened, don’t you think she probably hates herself even more than you hate her at this point?"
"So you’re taking her side?"
"There aren’t any sides in this, Lev."
Silence welled up between the two of them—silence of the awkward variety. It was the kind of thing Gen never thought would happen between them; in over eight years, there never came a time when they didn’t know what to say to one another. But here they stood in her kitchen, where they’d stood a million times before over the years, and somehow in the past month enough of a chasm had developed between them that she was truly at a loss for words.
Levi moved to the nearest chair at the maple dinette table and dropped down into the seat, his shoulders slumped forward and head hanging down. Gen fidgeted for a few minutes longer, praying the nachos would hurry up and cook so at least she’d have something to do. Should she go over to him? Give him a hug? Did she want to risk pissing him off and making everything worse?
"Sage asked about you," Gen said at last, tensing as she awaited his response. When he didn’t say anything, she continued. "When I saw her on Monday, she asked how you were."
"So?" he muttered.
"So she didn’t ask about anyone else. I figured she was…like, concerned about you."
"Yeah, I’m sure she really cares," he muttered. They heard the front door open and close as Stephie and Merri returned from their smoke break, and Levi stood. "We should probably put one of the other movies on."
"Yeah, I’ll just get the food…"
He was gone before she’d finished the sentence, however.
So her continued association with Sage was going to be a problem. And how the hell would she solve it? Avoiding Sage wouldn’t work, but lying to Levi just made her feel awful.
She turned off the oven and opened it, then slid the baking sheet out with a folded towel.
"Gen, get in here!" Stephie called. "Hurry!"
With a sigh, Gen left the nachos sitting on the stove, then returned to the living room. Stephie, Levi and Merri all stared at the television, each looking concerned. Jeez, she knew the movie was bound to be pretty bad and everything, but they were looking like someone died or something…
Her gaze moved to the television screen, where rather than another Re-animator movie, she found them watching the news. A reporter stood out in front of a brick building, and after a few seconds Gen recognized it as the club they had been at the night before. A caption at the bottom of the screen said, "Body of teenager found."
Oh, great, someone did die…
"The body was found in the field behind the popular club On the Map just hours ago," the reporter said into a microphone. Beyond her, Gen spotted police cars and officers, and yellow tape marking a crime scene. "We have confirmation that this is being treated as a homicide. No word yet on persons of interest…"
"Is it someone from town?" Gen asked, looking at the others. "Someone we know?"
"It’s Warren," Levi said quietly.
"Warren Humber?" she repeated. "But…we just saw him last night—"
"And today he’s dead," Stephie said.
Except for Hayden, Newhaven hasn’t seen a murder in at least four or five years, Gen thought, recalling one mention of a homicide years ago when she was in elementary school. Weakly, she sat on the couch next to Levi to listen to the rest of the story, all the while keeping her fears to herself.
What if this too was somehow connected to her, Merri, and Sage? And if it was…precisely what the hell were they going to do about it?