XIII: Step & Misstep
School went out of its way to trudge by at a snail’s pace today. If I didn’t know better, I may even have thought that it was a safe bet that every second had gone and decided to become two, instead. Once again, Ty was nowhere to be found at lunch. I still had Bump following him around though, so I was less worried this time around. All the same, I’ll be glad once all this is out in the open. That is, assuming Ty doesn’t end up thinking that we’re all out of our minds…which is a definite possibility.
Tasha is waiting with me outside of Mr. Tanner’s office, but she hasn’t so much as uttered a word to me all day. Since her outburst yesterday, she hasn’t said much at all, not even to Daff. Part of me wonders whether I should attempt to break the silence, but the other part is all too keen to remember just how short her temper can be when provoked. Instead, with Daff nowhere to be found for whatever reason this time, we just wait wordlessly. Thankfully, for once Ty isn’t too late.
“What’s with the transfer chick?” my cousin asks, cocking his head toward Tasha.
“I’ll explain everything inside the office,” I tell him.
“That’s the other thing,” he says. “What does Tanner have to do with this? Is he like, your secret magic sensei or something?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Tasha agrees. To my astonishment, I look over to find that she’s actually smirking at Ty. She walks into the office without another word.
I exchange a perplexed look with my cousin, who is all too willing to cut through the tension with his trademark form of idiocy.
“So, uh…you got dibs?” he asks me.
I answer him with the largest eye roll that I can muster, and then turn and walk into the room without answering him verbally. This is mostly so that he can’t see the small smile working its way onto my lips. At least it seems as though his sense of humor is back.
Upon entering the office, I find that Bump and Daff are both already waiting for us inside, each relegated to their own corner. I exchange a glance with Bump, but sink a little inside when his eyes shift to avoid mine. Just another in a long list of things that I’m going to have to make up for.
Tasha is already seated in one of the two armchairs opposite Mr. Tanner, but I elect to remain standing so that Ty can sit down. He may need to after hearing all this.
“So, what’s with the grand show?” Ty asks, sinking into the remaining chair without missing a beat. “When Jimmy told me that he had something he needed to tell me, I figured I would just be talking to him. What’s with the English teacher and the transfer student?”
Mr. Tanner jumps right in, as though he had been eagerly awaiting his cue. It seems as though most of his theatric gusto has returned since yesterday. Planting a palm flat on either corner of his desk, he stoops down low and asks my cousin a complicated question, in simple terms.
“How much do you think that you know about Imaginary Friends?”
“So…ghosts?” Ty asks so calmly that I’m forced to wonder if he’s actually processed all of the information which has just been dumped on him.
“Yes and no,” Mr. Tanner says. He’s attempting to remain nonchalant about it, but I can see him awkwardly twiddling his thumbs while he waits for the severity of the situation to set in on my cousin. It doesn’t.
“You’ve got me between a rock and a hard place here, cuz,” Ty says, turning to face me. “On one hand, I want to be proud. Not only does it seem like you’ve finally grown a sense of humor, but you actually managed to get a teacher in on this. That’s pretty damn impressive—sorry about the language, Mr. Tanner.”
The English teacher waves it off, and my Ty goes on.
“On the other hand, your timing could really use a hell of a lot of work, Jim. I mean, seriously—now of all times? You thought that now was a good time for this? Really?”
“Ty, this isn’t a prank!” I insist. I want desperately to smooth this situation over, but I can’t think of any other way to explain this that will make it any less crazy. It had never occurred to me that the potential backlash for this conversation would fall squarely on me, but there it was.
“Enough is enough, James!” Ty shouts, using the name which he’s refused to call me for our entire lives.
I falter. I’ve never seen him like this before.
“You know, you’ve always been kind of a jerk,” he says, “but at the end of the day, at least I always thought that you had my back. Guess you were right. Maybe I really am just stupid, after all.”
Apparently, Ty has had enough of this conversation. He pushes himself out of his armchair, and seems prepared to exit the room right then and there. Just as he’s about to turn to leave though, he’s stopped by an unnatural, fluorescent green light which comes from nowhere and bathes all of us in its eerie incandescence. When the glow dissipates, Ty is left standing there with his mouth wide open.
“D-dude,” he sputters, “you’re a knight! Or—or you’re dressed like a knight. Or—dude, are you a knight? I mean—”
“Bump, what the hell are you doing?” I shout, cutting Ty off from continuing to fumble incoherently around his words.
This was faster, he says simply from that place somewhere deep inside my head.
“You couldn’t have asked first?”
I could have, he admits. He doesn’t seem all too bothered by his lapse in judgment though. That is, if it was really a lapse at all.
“Dude, who are you talking to? What are you wearing? Why did everything turn green? What’s going on?”
May I? Bump inquires, this time making a show of asking for my permission.
“Fine,” I grumble, still not pleased with him despite the results which he appears to have achieved.
Then, I’m speaking again. This time, it isn’t my voice coming out of my mouth though. It’s Bump’s.
“My name is Bump,” the spirit says. “I was Jimmy’s Friend when he was a kid. I still am…I guess.” The way he phrases those last two words sound more than a little noncommittal.
“Okay, Jim…I know I was mad before, but now you’re just freaking me out. You need to stop this, man.” He takes a step back toward the door, but Bump doesn’t move to stop him.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Ty,” he explains. “We just needed you to believe us, and this was the fastest way to get there. You do get that, right?”
My cousin nods slowly, but takes another step back all the same.
“Good,” Bump says, nodding my head in return. Then, there’s another green flash, and I have control of my own body once again. There’s a long moment of awkward silence. Of course, Mr. Tanner is the one who breaks it.
“So, uh…any questions?” he asks.
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