We sat down in the living room and I had a flashback to almost a year ago, before things got complicated. And difficult. But happy. And then things got difficult again. And now we were back in my living room, sitting on opposite sides of a couch, facing each other with awkward expressions and tense air between us.
"So...how are you?" he asked slowly, gauging my reaction with his eyes like he always did. I was careful to keep my voice steady.
"Fine. Really, just fine. California's great. It's always sunny here, and I have a lot of friends, and it's just really great." I couldn't control the words spilling from my mouth. It's like when you have a cold and you can't stop blowing your nose, like a leaky faucet with no hope of turning off. But he just waited patiently for me to stop talking. "And school is going great. Yeah, my grades are better than ever. And my parents are really supportive. You know, when they're around." I laughed slightly, embarrassed.
He nodded his head easily, taking in this information. I wondered if he could tell I was lying.
I met his eyes again. "And how are you?" He didn't say anything at first, furrowing his eyebrows in concentration. He didn't break our gaze, either, and I could tell something was the matter. But I decided to let him tell me only when he was ready. His hand moved to brush back the hair from his face, and the movement was so familiar to me that I wanted to say something, anything, that would make him talk to me. But I didn't know what.
Then he sighed, long and hard, and the hair fell back into his eyes as he buried his face in his hands. "Listen, Jenn, I'm not going to lie to you like you are to me. I know the way we- well, I ended things before wasn't right. But I need you to forget that now, and listen to what I'm about to tell you." He leaned forward, his face serious. All previous charades were broken down. And I knew I was about to hear something bad.
"Alright. I'm listening."
"We need your help. The Kingdom needs your help, and I need your help." He shook his head, frustrated. "I know this is very abrupt, and you don't have to give me an answer now. But I'm asking you to come with me to assist the City of Morphentine.