I gave Meggie a bemused look as she pulled me along by the arm. She was sixteen, but she sometimes would become so young; being bubbly was her personality, being hyperactive was her weakness. She could show her merriment so easily, mainly because she didn’t care to be more dignified.
I had seen her act on stage, or sing with such deep emotion; I knew she could be placid, I knew she could change her face at the flick of a hand, the bat of an eyelid, the swing of a door…
Suddenly, she stopped beside a bar-table and the woman she had been conversing with before Erica and I had entered the building. The lady looked up, a little surprised at Meggie’s return.
“Aidan, this is Mai, do you remember her from the bus?”
“I…” I stumbled on what to say, but Meggie was off already:
“Mai, you were right, my life really isn’t that bad. This is Aidan, he’s one of the stars who pulled me out of the hole!”
Mai blinked a couple of times, but sweet Meg was continuing her tumble of worlds.
“He’s, well, he’s dear to me- kind of like that Belinda Carlisle song, ‘Heaven Is A Place on Earth’- he’s my angel!”
“Meggie, Meggie, Meggie. Slow down! Take a deep breath…” Mai managed to interrupt. I shot her an apologetic and thankful look.
“…And don’t forget to pronounce each word clearly…”
Meggie just giggled.
“Mai, stop it. You sound just like a silly teacher!”
I frowned, offended. Meggie just blushed.
“I... No offence, Aidan.”
And then we stood in silence for what felt like minutes. At least it had shut Meggie up.
Certainly awkward. I tell you, what am I suppose to say? I still… I don’t know if I can face Meggie right now.
Luckily, Mai came to our rescue. She invited us to sit and even wanted to buy me a drink, but I just sat there, staring into my pint of cold American beer. (Not as good as the Belgium stuff where my best friend lives). Mai seemed a girl wise beyond her years; having been through much, I guessed that she had gathered logic and experience like the rest of us.
“So… Aidan, you work in England?” Conversation was running low.
“I used to work,” I replied glumly, and probably very spitefully. But I wasn’t in the mood for petty small-talk, right then, “Then I hopped onto a bus with my class, somehow found myself in Switzerland, and then America, and got fired. I took risks, they backfired.”
Mai blinked at me a couple of times, obviously confused, and perhaps not used to that brisk way that I was talking. Taking yet another risk I glanced at Meg, who was quieter now and tracing a wood-knot with her fingers. She was pitiful and regretful, probably cursing herself inside for letting go off the restraint again. And, for some reason, I was glad of that.
“Meggie?” Mai whispered, leaning towards the girl across the table (I noticed that the latter girl had marks- a scar possibly- on her left arm), “What about you? When do you return to your education?”
Meg continued tracing the patterns.
“I dunno,” she shrugged, “Time no longer exists in this microcosm that is my new world.”
She looked up, and looked straight at me as she next spoke the new words, in a rather drear tone:
“Excuse me,” I said.
I got up and walked away.