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Chapter 13 - Jane

Ever since that first week when I recruited the team, I’ve been having some rough mornings. That morning I woke up with a song in my heart and a spring in my step? Total fluke, one–time only. Now it takes an hour for me to fall asleep, and then I have these really messed up dreams where I’m being chased through a garden by a woman riding a dragon or sometimes a whole bunch of crows. I can’t people look for meaning in dreams, it’s such a waste of time. Maybe this is just what competition does to your brain – all those highs and lows just stretch your sanity until it breaks. It would explain a lot about the people at Northwest.

The worst of it was Tuesday. It was a stormy day that produced a lot more rain that anyone predicted, but other than that it was pretty shitty. That’s the second day of registration, one of the rare quiet days in the big Trivia Master ritual. All the crazy serious competitors (which included Isabel this year) show up on the first day, while the casual types wait until the last minute on Wednesday. So with the lull, I got a little too relaxed. I made the fatal mistake of assuming that I could walk down the hall without being ambushed by any crazy people. And I foolishly turned a corner without checking for any psychotic, overcompetitive pests.

“Good morning, Jane.”

Aaron Bellamy. I really could have gone the rest of the year without having to deal with this specimen. “What is it, Aaron? I’m not in the mood.”

“Bad night?” Aaron was smiling, which never exactly made me feel any comfort. “You seem a little out of it.”

“Sure, it was a long night. Now why are you here? Something to do with Trivia Master, I assume?”

“I’m not that single minded, Jane. Actually, I was hoping you might make a little delivery for me.” It was then I noticed Aaron was holding a sealed envelope. “I’m sure you’ll run into the recipient, if you wouldn’t mind handing this off.”

I took the envelope out of his hand. “‘To Miss Morelli, my queen.’ Cute. A little old–school, isn’t it?”

“I have an old soul.”

I took a moment to examine the envelope – always a wise idea when Aaron is involved. If it was going to Isabel, then it probably wasn’t blackmail. And this was at least a lot more low–key than his usual efforts. At least it didn’t involve literal fireworks. Still, I had no interest in doing any favors for this one.

“Right.” I shoved the envelope back at him. “Send it yourself Aaron, I’m not having anything to do with your shit.”

Aaron shook his head. “What’s your issue? We have a problem in common, you’d think we could get along just a little bit.”

“Yes, we do have a common problem. It’s you. And Izzy doesn’t want anything to do with you, either. Get lost, Aaron.”

There was a buzzing sound from my pocket, loud enough for Aaron to notice. “Is that Isabel?”

“Probably.”

“Are you going to reply?”

“Are you going to leave?”

Aaron narrowed his eyes. “You know, the day will come when you regret being so rude.”

“Oh why? You gonna put my name on one of your little revenge lists?”

“That won’t be necessary.”

“Because it’s already there?”

Aaron smiled again. “Good luck in the game, Jane.”

Oh, the things I do to not anger psychopaths. “Give me the damn letter, I’ll deliver it.”

“Thank you.” He handed the envelope back to me. “Oh, and if you were thinking about throwing that away as soon as I leave –”

“I wasn’t.”

“...If you were thinking of tossing it, you should know that there are ways of knowing if a letter has been delivered.”

“...Sure.” There was another buzz from my pocket. “I’ll see that she gets it.”

“See you at the tournament.” Aaron turned to leave. “And answer your phone.”

I stared at the envelope for a moment before going for my phone. Sure enough, it was from Isabel: You there Jane? Please reply. There were several messages backed up, all from her. She can be pretty damn persistent when she wants something. Once I was sure Aaron had left, I rang her up.

“Jane?”

“Yeah. Where are you.”

“Back entrance.”

“That’s like ten yards away. Why are you texting me from down the hall?”

“I saw Aaron nosing around. I ain’t walking around the halls until he’s gone.”

“Fair enough. I’ll be right down.”

“No, stay there. This is fine.”

I’m glad she couldn’t see the eyeroll. Times like this, it’s really not productive to question her. “You wanted something?”

“Just wanted to tell you that I got us registered. You don’t have to do anything.”

“Thanks. Uh...” I glanced at the envelope. “Aaron gave something to give to you. A letter.”

“Tear it up and ditch it.”

I looked around – could he really know what I was doing? Was it worth the risk? “You do it. I’ll take it to you, you throw it out.”

“I gotta go.”

“Izzy, I don’t want to hold this anymore.”

It was too late, she’d already hung up. I went and looked for her, but she was gone – no doubt hauling ass to her first class while Aaron was absent. I went ahead and held onto that letter for the whole day, just in case. Morbid curiosity made me curious about what Aaron might have written, but I decided that ignorance was definitely bliss in this case. I delivered it to a trash can halfway between the school and my house. A chill ran down my spine when I tossed it, but nothing bad happened...yet, anyway.

Crap like this is why I’m getting the hell out of Solace. Some days I swear this place is cursed.

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