The message I sent was vague enough: “rly need 2 talk @ my hous asap.” More would have been too much to risk over text.
Sure enough 3:30 rolled around, and so did the green beetle by the curbside. Tanya stepped out of the driver’s side blinked at what remained of the door, and ran in to where I was sitting on the stairs.
“KC! What the actual hell!?”
“Dr. Vortex,” I told her. “He was at school, then here, and when I tried to go to go after him…”
Tears burned down my cheeks as I gasped for breath. Funny, but the rest of me was freezing, like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. My arms trembled as they supported my forehead, the last thing keeping me from collapsing into a ball. The sobbing was uncontrollable; not even Tanya’s support could stop them.
“Tell me everything,” she said.
I clung to her like wreckage in a storm and buried my face in her shoulder. “H-he took my Mom and Dad,” I stammered, “and others… something like a hundred random hostages from around the city. The news is reporting them all missing; they don’t know it was him.”
Tanya lifted her head but her jaw stayed slumped. “Do you know if-”
“Your mom, your step-dad and your sister are safe,” I choked; “even your step-brother if you were worried. He’s hanging with his douchebro friends; your Mom was running groceries, Angie’s still at pre-school…”
She blinked before dropping to the step beside me, and continued to rub my back. This was getting to her too.
“We need to go to the cops, KC,” she whispered. “This is so much bigger than you and me now. We’re just a couple of kids. Lives are on the line. This is a job for professionals.”
I brushed her away. “No. No police. No FBI. No army or whatever. This is about me and him, and it can’t be any other way.”
“Because if I don’t play it his way…”
My head grew heavy. Why couldn’t I call the police? Why couldn’t it be somebody else’s problem? Gods, what had I gotten myself into?
A fresh stream of tears welled in the corners of my eyes, and burned. “Because if I don’t play it his way he says he’ll start killing people; not just my Mom and Dad, but random people. He says their lives are meaningless; all he wants is Glimmer Girl… me.”
She stood and paced across the foyer, and kicked the shoe stand by the door. Tanya’s hands were shaking too, but not for the same reason as mine.
“That son of a…” Her jaw tightened, as did her brow. Tanya could be an angry person sometimes, but gods, I’d never seen her so wound up. “What are we going to do, KC? Tell me we have a plan.”
I shrugged. “Nothing. I do what he says and I meet him at the dockyard. We have our confrontation and whatever happens just happens.”
“Uh-huh, and where am I while all this is going down?”
“You?” I blinked, not understanding the question.
Tanya huffed and crossed her arms, posing almost defiantly as she placed one foot up on the step. “You seriously think I’m going to sit back while my best friend from grade school charges in and gets herself killed? I’ve been watching your back for a long time, KC, and I don’t care how big the bully is; I’m coming with.”
Suddenly the tears stopped and I was upright. Even though I had several inches over her it was hard to stare Tanya down, but I was trying.
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes,” she insisted, “I am.”
“Tanya, you’re not going to follow me into a situation where a crazed murderer who can bend space is trying to end my life. What if something happens to you?”
“Then something happens to me,” she growled. “It’ll be worth it if I can keep you safe. I’m not scared of getting hurt.”
There was nothing to say after that. Tanya dropped her head and ground her teeth; she probably knew that I wasn’t going to be convinced, and even though she was putting up a brave front I knew that she was scared out of her mind. Who wouldn’t be?
She pressed her head against the wall and huffed. “If you don’t want my help, then what the hell did you call me here for?”
“Because,” I whispered; I paused while I searched for the rest of what I had to say. “I need someone here… just in case I don’t come back.”
Again, silence. Tanya breathed heavily, and sniffled.
“Do you really think it could have been anyone but you?” I tried to smile. “Like you said, you’re my best friend. You’ve always had my back. I’ve trusted you with things that I could never trust to anyone else in a million years.”
Tanya threw herself away from the wall and wrapped her arms around me. I hadn’t seen her cry like this since junior high. “What do you need me to do?” she asked.
I held her back and rubbed her shoulders. “Make sure they know that it was me out there,” I said. “Not some guy named Justin; me. If I’m going to die I’d rather be remembered as a real person and not the guy I spent all that time pretending to be. Can you do that?”
She nodded and pulled away. “Yeah, I can do that.”
I pulled her back in, and we clung as tight as we could. “Thanks, Tanya. I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
“Just do me one favor,” she whispered. “Don’t die, okay? Come back, and we can remember this conversation as a bunch of stupid feels we had one time for no reason at all; then we’ll laugh and be all cool and junk.”
“That,” I told her, “sounds like an awesome plan.”
We pulled away from each other sometime in the next hour; like it or not I had places to be. I stepped away and watched, then charged for the sky. Maybe the neighbors saw, but who cared at that point?
“Tell your Mom I said hi!”
To think, those might have been my last words to her.
To be continued…