I slept for over seven hours, something I hadn’t done since I had triggered, some divergents did a 48 hour sleep cycle, but I'd never gotten into it.
Kenzie woke me up a little before we had to get to class with a breakfast platter containing scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and toasts. There was something about getting served breakfast in bed by my girlfriend that was just wonderful and it brought the first smile in two days on my lips.
“Thank you.” I gave her a kiss.
“Are you feeling a little better?”
“I think. I’m not tired anymore that’s for sure.”
“That’s good. We have about an hour before we have to go to school.”
I ate my breakfast quickly with Kenzie stealing a few bits of bacon before heading out and taking a shower to scrub away the filth from the past two days. I put on new underwear, jeans and shirt but kept my hoodie. It wasn’t the freshest and I didn’t have time to wash it like I did every morning at home but I needed it’s familiar, comforting weight so I compensated with a generous helping of deodorant spray.
I couldn’t focus at school. English and Mathematics went through at a crawl. During my studio art elective, I couldn’t find any inspiration for the freeform sketching lesson. The last class of the day was physical education, we were on a soccer block, which I couldn’t partake in since my ability was a danger to the other students so I spent it with Kenzie in the library studying and doing homework.
When school was over, we walked into the parking and I kept watch, frenetically looking for signs of my mom, she was probably working but I couldn’t shake the paranoia that settled in my guts making me think she would seek me out. She was nowhere in sight, yet it didn’t appease me.
“Alright. We’re going to the mall and we’re going to hang out with Chuan.” Kenzie said as we got into the car waiting for us.
“Don’t I get a say in that?”
“Nope, we are going to spend the evening outside having fun rather than stay cooped up and miserable at the headquarter.”
“Alright.” I didn’t protest. She was right but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to do anything.
The car driver drove us to the 5th avenue mall and we went in. With Kenzie's insistence, I never thought about how I wasn't supposed to miss training with my probation.
“If you see anything you want, it’s on me.” She said, lacing her fingers with mine. Even though we were in public I didn’t want to let go of her.
For our first stop, went to a pretzel stand and I got the largest pretzel covered with cheese I had ever seen while she got one sprinkled with nuts and we sat down to snack on them.
Chuan meet us halfway through our pretzel. His turquoise hair phase had come to an end and he now had dark purple hair. He wore simple jeans and another obscure band tee along with a binder underneath. He was accompanied by a Thai girl in a hoodie with obvious family resemblance.
“Paige, meet my favorite person in the world; My sister Mali.” He said. “Mali, this is Paige, I talked about her before. You know Kenzie.”
“Please to meet you.” She said with a smile.
Although Mali was very different from her brother -- she was big and curvy, had long hair, thick glasses and was a girl -- the two of them had extremely similar facial traits; the same nose, the same lips, the same eyes.
“Please to meet you too. You know, the two of you look remarkably alike.”
“That would be because we’re actually twins; the monozygotic kind, not the fraternal type.” Chuan said.
“So, what’s the plan?” He asked. “Personally, I need new shoes.” I noticed that his shoes were in an horrendously bad shapes, having the telltale sign of someone who dragged their feet on the ground when walking.
“At the speed you go through them you should buy them in bulk.” His sister said.
They made plans while I stayed quiet. Mali wanted to drop by the bookstore, Kenzie wanted to buy some new clothes since her old ones were getting tight, Chuan wanted to see for a new gaming laptop in addition to his shoes. Even though I didn’t say I needed anything, Kenzie gave me a wad of cash.
While Kenzie tried on some new clothes from a store catered to boys, Mali and I skipped over the the bookstore next door, browsing the aisles. I spotted two new volumes of my favorite books and picked them, Mali noticing my selection.
“You read Hell’s Gate too?”
“That means I have to ask you something that will determine if we have any chance of being friends.” She grabbed me by the shoulder and stared into my eyes. “What's your OTP?”
“Angenita...” I said, feeling a little cowered.
“Alright! Come here, you’re now my sister from another mother.” She said with a laugh.
She suddenly dragged me into a hug and I felt rather awkward.
“You like a lesbian ship?”
“Oh I just hate Quentin with a passion and wish he’d gotten acquainted with a cacodemon four books ago. Angenita is cute enough and he’s usually forgotten about. So it’s win-win.”
“Yeah, I hate him too.”
We paid for our books and walked back to the clothing store where Kenzie wasn’t done. So we sat down and talked for a few minutes.
“It has to be a little odd that your identical twin is now a guy.”
“Not really, Chuan’s been saying he was a boy ever since he learned how to speak. So when he told me he wanted to transition it was like being told water is wet.”
“How did that go at home?”
“Our parents are cool with it. For a long time they didn’t really get it, but they still let him pick his own clothes and hairstyle. After he joined the guardians he wanted to change his name and insisted on us male pronouns, our parents were a little reluctant but his doctor made them understand; transition wasn’t just a desire but a medical necessity and ever since they’ve been one hundred percent supportive.”
“That’s great, them understanding I mean, not the needing someone to vouch for him.”
“Yeah. Chuan told me your mom wasn’t so understanding.”
“Did he? What else did he say?”
“Not that much, just that you’re dating Kenzie and that you’re on probation for committing a crime.”
It was becoming very clear that Chuan had very little respect for my privacy.
Kenzie finished up trying her new clothes and I heard her put her braces back on, she came out with two piles of clothes; one to keep, one to discard.
“Do you always shop in the boy’s section?”
“Pretty much. The clothes are sensible; they’re cheaper, better quality, you don’t need to layer them because they’re extra thin. Oh and they have pockets too. I only buy undies and leggings from the girl’s section.”
Chuan found us as we were leaving the store.
“What do you think of my new shoes?” He had taken simple black canvas sneakers with purple laces.
“They’re nice.” I said flatly.
With the important part of the shopping done, we went to the top floor food court. I helped carry Kenzie’s bags for her. I picked the chinese food store, Kenzie went for wings, Mali for tacos and Chuan predictably went for Thai food.
Mali, Chuan and Kenzie talked while I just focused on the food. Chuan tried to ask me something but I didn’t answer, instead I just shoved more fried rice into my mouth while staring straight into my coke can.
I put down my plastic fork and glared at him.
“Geez, what’s with the attitude? Are you angry at me?”
“What did I do?”
“You keep babbling my secrets to people. You told Molecular I was gay, then the other guardians, now your sister whom you also told about my criminal record and what happened with my mom. I like her but it’s none of her fucking business.”
“So what? You’re out now, what does it matter if I tell people?”
“I came out to you. I wanted to come out to everyone else on my own fucking terms but you didn’t let me and it’s not just me apparently.”
“Fine, I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would be this big a deal.” He said, leaning into his chair and taking an extended sip of his bubble tea to cut any conversation.
I excused myself and went to the bathroom to clear my head. Kenzie came in a few seconds after I did.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m just having a bad week.” I said, staring into the mirror. She hugged me from behind and I put my hand on hers. “I just wish I could go home and erase the last few days from memory…”
“Do you want to go back to the headquarter?”
“No… We’re supposed to be having fun.”
We went back together and finished eating. When we were done, we went through a few more stores including a candy store to get treats for the others and some clothes for me, I had only brought the bare minimum to the headquarter.
When the mall closed, Chuan left us and went back home with his sister, which was for the best, I wasn’t quite ready to forgive him...