Chapter Four

The next school day flew by with something to look forward to, especially with Zabrina involved. At lunch time, however, Zabrina did have a few questions for her, that Zoey should have seen coming. Zabrina, ever the mom-friend, cornered her before they met with their other friends in the cafeteria. She gave her a bright smile, and Zoey returned it innocently enough, knowing she couldn’t get out of this conversation.

“You and this Doug guy seem to be getting along, I mean, since you were just doing a project together and now you’re hanging out outside of that?” Zabrina said, sounding questioning. Another smile was possibly trying to break free from her friend, who was obviously trying to stop it.

“Hey, I told you earlier not to read too much into this, and it’s not just him it’s his friends too,” Zoey replied, joking a little.

“Oh, I’m SO sorry, well his friends make all the difference,” Zabrina replied, laughing.  “Look, maybe I’m just suggesting, as your friend, that you consider asking him to the dance if you guys are getting along so well? I know the whole Tim thing was only a few days ago, but you’re handling that really well, and you deserve to have fun at the dance.”

“I could certainly do that, even if it is just as friends,” Zoey reluctantly agreed. In her head she knew that it wasn’t a poor idea, but then there was that small question of whether or not he was hanging with her because he was polite and somewhat had to, or because he actually enjoyed her company.

When Zabrina pulled up to Doug’s place, she mentioned how pretty the landscape was.

“I’m not surprised,” Zoey replied without thinking, and then stopped talking.

“Uh, why?” Zabrina asked. She had just left that remark kind of hanging there in the air.

Zoey couldn’t believe she was going to spill the beans before even setting foot in his house. What a great friend she was. “Oh, he’s actually got a real interest in plants, he probably does the yard work himself,” Zoey said, remaining calm. It wasn’t even a lie, really. Zabrina accepted it and they got out of the car, heading towards the house. Zoey let herself in, and Zabrina gave her another strange look, but followed after her.

“You seem pretty chill here,” Zabrina mentioned, quietly. She looked as if the wheels were turning in her head, and Zoey knew she had to put a stop to that.

“Everyone is like that here, its fine,” Zoey whispered back.

Around the corner popped Lynda’s head, and she shot them a grin. She bounded forward, giving a bracelet of bright orange, yellow and teal to Zabrina, then dashed away again.

“That means you’re friends now,” explained Zoey, a small smile emerged as she showed Zabrina her own bracelet she received only the day before.

“…alright then,” replied Zabrina, sliding it on. She was beginning to look wary and Zoey hoped this was going to work out.

Zoey decided the best course of action was just to bring her in and introduce her to everyone, which turned out to be Ferris, Doug, Lynda and Oscar. The others apparently had plans, but Zoey felt that they might still be testing the waters with who they let into their friend group. As Doug and Ferris went to grab snacks before the movie started, having chosen some strange horror film that Zoey had never even heard of, she found herself sitting on the floor between Lynda and Zabrina, allowing Lynda to craft and add more complicated bracelets to her wrist with her little, deft hands.

Zabrina eyed this warily, and mentioned, “you still seem pretty chill here; I mean you have been spending a few afternoons here, but still, it hasn’t been that long since the projects were even assigned.”

“Aw, they’re really great at making you feel welcome,” Zoey claimed, rattling her arm of beads at Zabrina. “I mean, look how many bracelets I got already.”

Ferris and Doug returned at this point and they started the movie. Zoey didn’t have a huge fear of horror movies, and this one seemed to have some funny parts, so it wasn’t too bad. She was a little nervous about Zabrina, who sometimes was scared of them, but her friend seemed happy, cradling a thermos of tea she had brought between her legs. A monster jumped at the screen and they both jumped back, out of surprise rather than fear, Zoey ramming her back into Doug’s leg as he sat on the couch behind them.

“Sorry!” she whispered, turning back to the movie quickly, trying not to miss the next part. She saw Ferris lean down and point something out in the movie to Lynda, who laughed. She had to comment on that, saying, “Ferris am I seeing right? You’re socializing!”

She snickered and he shot her a well-earned glare back, claiming,“I’m behaving because Doug told me to.”

“I tell you to behave every day what makes today so special?” Doug shot back with a smirk. Then his face softened, and he added, “Ferris is just happy to be relaxing for a change I think.”

Ferris snorted at this, but probably because Doug was right and he didn’t want to admit it. Zoey was starting to see why Doug and Ferris were such good friends. They knew each other well, obviously, knowing what struck nerves and what would make each other laugh, but she secretly had a theory that both of them were kind of soft hearted, Ferris just hated to admit it.

She noted that Lynda had leaned over and started stringing beads on Ferris’ arm, he rolled his eyes and shot a glare to Oscar, but did nothing to stop her, even as the bracelets began to reach his elbow.

As the movie ended, Doug flipped the lights on and they all delved into talking amongst themselves. Zabrina asked Doug how their project was going. Without missing a beat, he smiled and replied that they were almost done, but saying he was glad he could make a few friends out of what had promised to be a less than amusing project.

Zoey wasn’t surprised he wasn’t mentioning the other stresses that this project had caused, as of course that was a secret, but she was a little surprised about how honest he sounded about making friends through it, and how he wasn’t letting the stress he was under show at all.

She noticed Ferris looking to the windows every once in awhile, even though the curtains were drawn, and Oscar had excused himself twice to go to the washroom, but she heard him faintly go to the backdoor and outside, in order to patrol around the house and make sure everything was in order. She wondered if Doug was just relying on his friends to look after things, or was more relaxed than them for some reason.

After they had been talking for a few minutes, they heard the door open, Oscar still beside them. She saw the three dragons freeze for a moment, but not long enough for Zabrina to have noticed. Oscar moved first, plastering a huge grin on his face and leaping off the couch. He rounded the corner to see who had entered the house.

“You missed the movie!”

Doug and Ferris tensed again and were quiet, until Oscar added, “Brinly, I thought you were busy today, come on in!”

She entered briskly but didn’t seem to be stormy about anything, taking a seat across from Zabrina and extending one of her elegant hands. “I’m Brinly, are you Zabrina?” she asked, her voice even and cheery enough, even if the gesture was a bit formal. Zabrina nodded and shook her hand, finding it a bit strange, but noticing the joy in which Lynda took her arm and started talking to them all as she beaded.

“Are you guys excited for the dance coming up at school?” She asked, beginning to string tiny pearly beads on a thin piece of clear cord, adding either a black or blue bead every few inches. “I’m hoping they finally take some of my advice on the music this time,” she added, wiggling her eyebrows as if they were going to agree with her.

Zoey glanced at the beads being used and wondered if Lynda was choosing those colors for a particular reason. Had Doug mentioned if Brinly was one of the dragons? What were her powers if so?

“Not everyone likes techno, Lyn,” Brinly murmured, returning the smile in a more calm way, but not patronizingly. Zoey wished she could ask but she couldn’t in front of Zabrina.

“It’s not just techno, its happy hardcore too,” countered Lynda, but she laughed after she said it, as if she knew they weren’t going to include her musical selections but was good natured about it anyway. She turned to look at Zabrina and Zoey, as they hadn’t spoke.

“I don’t know who is in charge of picking the music…” tried Zoey, but Lynda laughed.

“No, no, sorry, that was more of a joke, I meant to hear your answer to my first question. Are you excited for the dance?” Lynda asked, having no idea about the whole Tim fiasco because she was in a younger grade. Oscar cleared his throat behind her and she turned, not so subtly. Zoey realized with a slight flush that he was trying to signal to Lynda that this might be a touchy subject, based on what he had heard in class. Zoey interrupted this, not wanting to be pitied for that or make anyone feel awkward.

“Well my friend Brie is going with a guy named Chad, Aisha is taking Stacy, and I think Zabrina was thinking of asking someone too?” she blurted, turning to Zabrina in expectation, hoping her friend didn’t mind the attention now turned on her.

Zabrina, picking up on social cues as only good friends do, began talking about this Ted guy in her math class who seemed really nice, and how she was planning on asking him on Monday. “What are you guys planning on wearing to the dance?” she asked, returning the conversation to Brinly and Lynda.

Zoey gave her a thankful glance, at least having had planned enough to narrow down her dress choices so she could contribute to this conversation. Apparently, Lynda had chosen a lime green dress that flared out, and lime green sneakers to go with it, along with her numerous strands of beads. Seeing as how Lynda had dark brown hair with neon green tips on the end, her bright choices seemed very fitting.

Brinly said she was going to wear something lavender, but she hadn’t decided on if it was a skirt or a dress yet. Glancing at her pearly beaded bracelet, Zoey added that decision to her information regarding what type of dragon Brinly might be.

As the afternoon continued, Zoey was surprised when Zabrina was called home quickly, due to her brother not feeling well and her parents needing her to bring home some cold medication on her way home. Doug offered that he could drive Zoey home if she wanted to stay a bit later, and she accepted, wanting Zabrina to get the medicine to her brother right away, as it was rare for them to call her suddenly for this type of thing. Zabrina headed out after thanking them for having her over, and then raced away to her car.

Zoey decided this was probably a good time to ask Doug something, but didn’t want to ask him in front of his friends, a little nervous of what his answer might be, even if she was only asking him as a friend, and he seemed to like her at least that much. Or so she guessed. This was not the time for guessing, this was not the time for doubts. Steeling herself, she texted him quickly if they could talk in private somewhere for a second. Placing her phone down and trying to make her face look as blank and unreadable as possible, she absentmindedly played with the edge of the grey rug in the middle of the living room, noticing one of Lynda’s bright orange beads had rolled into its soft grey interior and gotten stuck. She removed it carefully, feeling almost a little bad for it because it had looked so cosy in there, and wondering why she felt a little like she wanted to trade places with the bead.

Maybe this was a bad idea, and she was being a little too bold. They’d only really been speaking for a few days. She felt a buzz at her side, and waited a few seconds before looking, of course, he had agreed, and stood up when she did. He walked past the bathroom, the others not really looking up as they left, or as they went into his room. His room was painted a moss green, and most of his decorations were either white or some shade of green. She paused, having to address this.

“Okay, do you like green because of your powers or is this just co-incidence?” she asked, picking up a small wooden figurine of a tree, also painted green.

“Okay, there might be a small connection, I guess,” he told her, trying not to laugh, She had noticed the others, sort of color coordinating with their powers as well, and even though she didn’t know all of their powers she could guess some of them due to this weird hobby they all seemed to have. He smirked, adding, “you don’t think it brings out the color of my eyes, though? That one is just luck, at least I’m fairly sure.” He didn’t sound so sure at the end and she gave him a strange look.

“Well, as much as I hope they didn’t alter your eye color, they are very nice,” she added in an attempt to bring him back. “I was trying to figure out what Brinly’s powers were as she seems to have a similar affinity for pastels, but don’t tell me, I want to figure it out.”

She placed the figurine down and wandered farther into his room, noticing a large safe in the corner but instead walking over to the bookshelf, noticing a lot of books about botany.

“I’m not even surprised” she whispered. Looking back at him, he shot her a comically guilty smile.

“There’s nothing wrong with liking gardening,” he responded, and she laughed, admitting that no, there wasn’t.

“Do you like other things, though?” she asked.

“Yeah, I do, I like reading books involving adventures, playing video games and hiking,” he listed, completely serious. She nodded at that, noticing he did have a few framed photos that looked like they had been taken from different nature paths, probably from different hiking trips.

“We should go hiking sometime, I’ve never climbed a mountain or anything,” she admitted, pointing to one picture that was taken from the top of a high mountain. Again, he looked at her sheepishly.

“I may have flown to get that one, but we could hike it,” he admitted, and she gave him an odd look before remembering about his ability to fly. He seemed so completely normal and human most of the time, so it was easy to forget that he could just shift into a dragon in the blink of an eye. She was quiet for a few minutes, still looking around, hoping he didn’t feel awkward about her being in his room.

Finally, he asked, “what did you want to talk about, though? If it was about the colour green, I’m not embarrassed about liking it, but you could have mentioned that out there.”

“Ohhhh, no, it wasn’t that…” she responded, her voice suddenly small, as she nervously remembered the matter at hand. “I was, maybe… perhaps wondering, if you wanted to go to the dance coming up… as like, friends of course?” she managed to say, looking down at his floor when she did. She glanced up at the end, trying to look nonchalant, but her stomach was doing flips. She knew this time she wouldn’t suffer the same harsh rejection as before, even if he did turn her down, because he didn’t have a mean streak.

He smiled at her, but then it slipped off his face. Her stomach dropped. “If you don’t want to that’s okay,” she squeaked, wondering where all her fire from before had gone. He jumped, realising how his reaction had looked.

“No, no, no, it’s not that! I would love to go, believe me, and if you want to go to the next one with me I would for sure, but that day I have to report to some actual dragons living –I’ll say near to here but to be honest it’s going to take me the whole day to fly there- who want to be kept updated about everything that is happening in regards to the issues we’ve been having with the scientists. Not that they want to help us or anything, dragons just like to um, organize things…” he trailed off, realizing that this sounded like the strangest excuse he could come up with.

“If I could reschedule I would but… dragons don’t hold much importance to school dances,” his shoulders sagged as he finished speaking, and she could tell he was chewing the side of his mouth in thought.

“Oh, well that’s okay,” she told him, mind spinning about who else she could ask, but trying to mask her disappointment. She didn’t have a lot of guy friends, and she didn’t think she could make one in the bit of time they had left.

He noticed anyway, and bit his lip, thinking. He seemed to have a great idea. “I may not be able to go with you, but I can provide a date, one second,” he told her, grinning, as he started out of the room.

“FERRIS!!” he called, and her face paled. She tried to call out no, that she was okay, but she stopped as he had already bounded away. Her stomach twisted, realizing that she wasn’t fully sure that Ferris could even stand her, and worried that he really didn’t. She briefly pictured herself catching a bus to another town in order to avoid the dance, but then told herself she was being melodramatic.

She heard footsteps down the hallway, Doug had returned with a begrudging Ferris trailing behind him. Ferris stopped at the doorway and leaned on the door frame, peering into Doug’s room.

 “Ferris, Zoey needs someone to go to the dance with her, as a friend, and since I can’t go that day because of my meeting would you go in my stead?” he asked, honestly thinking this was a great idea.

Ferris gave her a blank look, then a slight smile, for maybe a second, then nodded.  He turned around to leave, and Doug called out, “make sure you’re nice too!” He received a muffled grunt in return.

Zoey told her friends that Ferris was going to the dance with her, knowing that this would mean that Zabrina wouldn’t feel bad about asking Ted. She knew that Zabrina had held off from asking Ted in case she wasn’t able to find someone to go with in time. She was somehow still excited to go to the dance, because even though she was nervous about this new outcome, she felt good about having made the plans at all.

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