We walked in and sat down.
I was just about to explain when a blonde waitress walked up. “What can I get for you?” she asked chipperly.
“I’ll have a coffee, please, sweetheart,” George said, winking. The waitress looked surprised, but she blushed and smiled. I groaned internally. I hated George. She glanced at me as though she was confused. Then it hit me.
She thought we were together. I had the sudden urge to laugh. But I held it in as much as I could and said, “Uh, I’ll just have a Coke, thanks.” I gave her a smile to let her know she could hit on him all she wanted.
For some reason, though, she just gave me a wary glance, and rushed away. When I heard him laugh, I turned back to George. He was practically dying of laughter. “You haven’t smiled in a long time, have you?” he asked. I thought it was a weird question, but I had to admit I hadn’t. I shook my head. “You’ve forgotten how to smile,” he explained. “You kind of grimaced at her.”
I blushed. I felt bad. I grabbed my headband and took it off, before replacing it. Oh, great. I forget how to smile, but I still have the same nervous habits.
“Well, anyway… Since when are you Lieutenant Colonel of the Pack?” I asked. “You were still a First Lieutenant when I left, if my memory serves me correctly.”
He looked away. “I’m surprised you remember,” he said quietly. “Well, I uh – I was told that I had to go after you… My commanding officer at the time, Brian Wilson, made me swear I would. Then… some terrible things happened, and Brian was killed, along with a lot of other people.” I gasped. Whatever went on back in Evening Shade, it was obviously not good. “The new ‘recruits’ told me I had to be a Lieutenant Colonel to leave. So I forced my way up, to keep my promise.” He shrugged.
“Why did Brian make you swear to go after me?” I asked. I barely knew Brian at all. Every time I’d seen him, he’d just given me a funny look and walked off without a word.
George started to say something, but the waitress returned with our drinks. She handed George the coffee and some milk. She set a Coke down in front of me. This time she didn’t flirt, just hurried away.
I watched, unsurprised, as George’s eyes followed her body until she turned the corner. He looked back at me. “What?” he asked innocently. I rolled my eyes and started on my drink.
He just coughed. “I can’t explain about Brian or anything until we get back. But that tattoo on your face?” He gestured to the purple and silver star-like markings that lined the outside of my left eye, curved behind my ear, and continued in a thick line all the way down to my left foot. They’d created so many problems throughout school. The principals didn’t want to see tattoos, but they also made me wear a skirt and wouldn’t allow a hat or makeup. The kids made fun of me for it for a while, but they all began to think it was really cool in junior high. By the time high school rolled around, nobody even noticed anymore. Except George, who continued to torture me about it.
“Well, I know it has something to do with it, but I don’t exactly know what,” he admitted. “But I’m not going back home without you.” His voice turned hard and confident when he said that. He took a huge gulp of coffee.
"Look, I'm not going anywhere until my mom's back home. I..." I hesitated, but I supposed I didn’t really have a choice. I had to tell him, or he’d make me go home. "I found out that she was kidnapped."
George blinked, caught off guard. "Really?"
I nodded. "I don't know why, or how, but I'm close to finding out who."
"Let me help you. We need you home," George said, his voice breaking strangely. I tried to decipher his face, but he'd always been a mystery to me.
I tried to say no, but there was no denying it. I needed help. And, no matter how much I hated him, George was the most trustworthy person I would be able to find.