He that I wanted lay beneath a tree, his gang surrounding him. They all looked up when they saw me coming, and one of them grinned with the mixture of malice and debauchery that is inherent in spoiled rich white boys.
“Hello, Tourney,” the boy leered. “Come for a chat?”
“Pipe it. Locke, I need to speak with you. Now.”
“Why?” he asked lazily. “Is it important?”
‘Reel him in,’ I thought. “Extremely.”
“How important is extremely important?” the louse replied.
I huffed and began to walk away. “Fine. I thought I’d share a link that I found with you, as it appears to be related to Stoltzfus, but since you’re not interested, and God forbid you be inconvenienced—”
I dimly registered that it wasn’t a request, but I went a few more steps and then turned.
“What sort of link?” The look on his face wasn’t quite greedy, but it was dangerous.
I shrugged. “Oh it’s not as if you really want to know.” I kept walking.
“Tourney, don’t you dare leave me hanging.”
I laughed. “What are you going to do? Spank me?”
“Don’t tempt me,” came Owens’ voice.
“Shut up, Owens,” I said sweetly, throwing a smile at Orcus before continuing on my merry way. It had to work, it had to work, it had to—behind me I heard him whisper something to his gang and then the rustling of the grass as somebody got up and began following me. It had to be him, it just had to be.
When once again we were up in the safety of the dorm hall, I turned, half-expecting to see the predatory Michael Owens following me. I won’t lie, I was quite happy to see it was Orcus. Not that I let him know.
“Oh, you took me seriously?”
He slowed. “No, I simply enjoy following you all over the school.” He hesitated then. “Were you mocking me?”
“No, of course not,” I replied, feeling slightly offended. “Why on earth would I joke about something like this?”
“Mallory—” he warned.
“Well, really, Orcus. Would I do something like that to you?”
“Yes,” he deadpanned. “You would.”
“Okay, yeah, I would, on a normal day,” I retorted. “But I’m not now; I promise.”
He gave me a dubious look and then nodded. “Fine then. What have you got? What did you find?”
I twisted the handle on my door as though to go in, but turned to face him at the last second. Aiming for what I saw as a humorous dramatic suspension, I said, “Actually, it found me.”
His eyes narrowed. “Found you?”
I pushed open the door and turned to look about the room.
To my complete and utter horror I found Michelle, the afore mentioned secondary roommate, sitting in Stupid’s lap, snogging him. My horror intensified when I noticed how askew the blanket was in his lap. ‘Raechel, you’d better hurry up with those clothes.’
I felt my eyes narrow. The idiot girl. “Michelle!” It came out louder and sharper than I had anticipated. ‘Get her gone, get her gone; kill her if she talks.’ The girl jumped six inches and fell off his lap, threatening to take the blanket with her. I averted my eyes, preemptively studying the room. “What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
“I promised I’d kiss him,” she said. “Remember? Earlier? And he’s so cute, and he told me all sorts of things about himself…. Really, Tourney, you should give him a go.”
“So you came back?” I yelped. “Why?!”
“Well – like I said, he’s cute. And I wanted his name, and possibly his number.”
“Oh, so you told her?” I said, turning on the idiot boy sitting on the bench next to the window.
He raised his chin defiantly and crossed his arms over his chest. “She didn’t pummel me.”
I felt a snarl roiling in my stomach, but bit it back. “So what’s his name?” I asked Michelle.
She shook her head. “I promised not to tell.”
This time I did growl. Not only was the dumbest girl in this school (and possibly the world) privy to information for which I was so desperate, she had actually promised the boy that she would keep her mouth shut.
“In return for what? A lousy kiss? He can’t be that good—”
She collapsed against the boy dreamily. “He’s wonderful!” And she faded off into her typical post-make out bliss.
I felt the onset of dry-heaves just thinking about it. I looked over at Orcus, who was standing in front of the closed door, looking an almost amusing mix of confused and dangerous.
“Now what?” I thought aloud.
“Michelle,” he said softly, “darling, this is extremely important.”
“How important?” she said, beginning to pout.
Orcus crossed and pulled her gently off Stupid’s lap. “We think he may have some special information that we need. Now, I know you promised not to say, and I won’t ask you to,” because she had opened her mouth to protest, “but we will need the room for a bit, d’you understand?”
Michelle looked like she would hesitate, and then nodded, giving Orcus the worst goo-goo eyes I’d ever seen. “Yeah, of course.”
“Thank you, darling,” said Orcus. “And would you mind not saying anything about this to anyone else? It’s important it stays a secret.”
The girl nodded, looking something close to tears as she left the room and closed the door gently behind her; it was damned disgusting. As I said, he can twist people to do his bidding.
“Well that’s all and good and well,” I said as soon as she was gone, “but what do we do about him? He does have a name, and I can’t call him ‘Stupid’ forever.”
Orcus nodded as the boy behind me made a noise voicing his gall at being termed ‘stupid’. “And research is that much easier when you know what it is you’re researching.”
I turned to Stupid. His hair was tousled and his mouth was slightly swollen, but his eyes twinkled with challenge. “So what’s your name?” In response he touched his lips, eyes grinning. “You see?!” I squeaked. “You see what I’ve been dealing with all morning?! Completely unhelpful!”
“Oh, Mallory, just kiss him.”
“Ew, no! He just kissed Michelle! She could have herpes.”
“You’ll get his name.”
“I’ll torture it out of him!” I said, snatching up Raechel’s baseball bat.
“Oh for God’s sake, Mallory,” Orcus snapped, taking the bat from me. “The sooner you do, the sooner we know his name, and the sooner we can start searching.”
I glared at him. “Why are you endorsing this?”
He shrugged. “Partly because it’s quick, partly because it’s giving you so much grief, and partly because I’ve never heard of you kissing anybody and I don’t really think you can do it without botching up the experience miserably.”
That was really all he needed to say. I felt something flare up and begin smoldering in my chest at his words. With a huff I took Stupid’s face between my hands and crushed my mouth to his, hoping to put on a good show, but also that it would be unpleasant enough that Stupid would just cooperate.
Michelle hadn’t been lying when she’d said he was good. That girl had plenty of experience, so there was no way she could tone down the gravity of that statement. I hated to admit it, but she was right.
I’d kissed lots of boys in my life, starting in the sixth grade, when I was ten. My parents never knew, of course, effectively turning each and every ‘relationship’ into some little tryst. On the whole, though, kissing is actually quite nice if both parties knew what they were doing, and in my experience with boys, that didn’t often happen. I was usually forced to teach the ignorant whelp what to do and what not to do. This whelp was an entirely different math equation.
He’d obviously had more than his fair share of experience, and he used every bit available to him. It was the first time in my life I didn’t pull myself away after the first three seconds; Orcus did that favor for me. I would have hated to admit, too, that I was enormously grateful to the rat for doing so.
I looked at Orcus in a kind of daze, and shook my head, trying to clear it. It didn’t help much, and I guess it was obvious, because Orcus slapped me. It wasn’t hard, but just enough to clear the fog.
“Thanks,” I muttered. We both looked back at Stupid, who looked remarkably like a boy being forcibly removed from a candy store.
“So what’s your name?” Orcus asked after a moment.
Stupid squared his shoulders and said, “Sebastian Thaddeus Ulric Percival Ichabod Degas.”
I blinked. “S.T.U.P.I.D.? Seriously?”
He sneered. “I didn’t choose them.”
Orcus snorted. “Your parents clearly weren’t fond of you.”
Stupid—although I guess I should start calling him ‘Sebastian’ now that we’ve established who he is—shrugged. “They had wanted a girl when I was born.”
I cocked my head to the side. ‘Odd, that.’ But I could identify with his plight. My parents had wanted another boy, but they got me instead. I was supposed to be Edmund Spencer, so I knew exactly how that went with him.
“Well, now that we know his name,” continued Orcus, plopping down into a chair, “we can grill him. Keep your lips ready, Tourney, just in case.”
I kicked Orcus and glared at Sebastian, whose eyes were once again twinkling. As good as he was, I didn’t want to give him any ideas.
“You’re not going to demand a kiss every time we ask a question, are you?”
He shrugged, pulling the blanket tighter about his middle. “That depends.”
“On what?” Orcus seemed to be a little too excited about this whole thing.
“The depth of the questions, of course,” Sebastian retorted.
“Asking your name wasn’t a very deep question,” I snapped.
Sebastian smiled. “Priceless information nonetheless. In my country, a man’s name is everything. Much is attached to a name: titles, ownership, reputation, position. . . .” he left it hanging.
“All right,” Orcus answered. “Fine. How about you how you got in? Does that have anything attached to it?”
Sebastian shrugged. “That is not so easy to say.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I queried.
“I know not by what means I invaded your rooms. Is that vital information to you?”
I couldn’t decide, so I turned to Orcus, looking for his thought son the matter.
He shrugged. “It could go either way,” he said. “For now let’s pretend that it confuses us and we don’t know what to make of it.”
“Oh, yeah,” I quipped, “because it’ll be so difficult to pretend on that account.”
Orcus glared at me, and I glared back. “All right,” he finally replied, “let’s test the waters and see where that takes us. Questions requiring something we’ll save for later. Anything we can get immediately we’ll have answered now, and see where we can go from there. Agreed?”
I looked between the two of them and knew in a second I was outnumbered. “Fine,” I acquiesced, “fine; I’ll go with you on this. But, Orcus, we finish at lunch. Raechel gets to teach our dearly beloved lunatic here how to read.” And I had every intention of forcing her to do it because she felt bad for me.