Chapter Nine

Zoey had just finished watching one movie out of a stack of movies at Rebecca’s place with Zabrina. Rebecca was joining them at school on Friday, just to start out again, and had been studying with Lynda a bit as well. They were socializing with her in order to make her feel a bit less jumpy, and Ferris was skulking about, reading a book in the corner and eating chips while they watched a marathon of cheesy films.

            Zoey had to say that when Rebecca really smiled at you, you melted. You felt like she was someone you could trust, and that she trusted you as well, all in that one look. She couldn’t imagine how the people had thought to kidnap her and hurt her in the first place. At least Zoey could admit to herself she was snarky at times, but Rebecca was like …so sweet and nice. Zoey glanced over at Ferris and then back at Rebecca, trying to figure that out. She decided to ask before the next movie started, knowing Rebecca liked her and that she had some sort of immunity from Ferris’ wrath since she was dating Doug.

            “Rebecca, how did you start dating Ferris? You both seem so different,” she asked, feeling Ferris’ eyes glaring at her but trying not to sweat. Maybe the immunity she was banking on was less sturdy than it seemed.

            Rebecca stood up and wandered over to where Ferris was eating and snagged a handful of chips. She smiled, popping one in her mouth before saying, “I literally ran into him at school. Like, books flying everywhere.”

            Ferris sighed as if he didn’t like the story, or didn’t want the attention, burying his nose back in the book.

            “He was really short with me, as expected, but I think I was so apologetic I made him feel badly about it, and he decided to apologise,” she told them, looking at him.

            “Yeah I was already smitten by then, you don’t have to make a big deal of it. I might be snarky but I’m not heartless,” he mumbled, not lifting his head up. Rebecca turned her smile back onto him and returned to the group of girls as the next movie started.

            Zoey had to admit that Ferris wasn’t as bad as his cold exterior portrayed; she’d seen that enough by now to know she should give him more credit. Rebecca’s parents still thought the sun shone off him, as they kept coming by and refilling his chip bowl every few minutes as he ate.

            Rebecca was texting Zoey every few minutes on Friday morning while they were getting ready for school. Well, while Zoey was getting ready for school. Rebecca had been ready since 6:00 that morning, excited, but also nervous to be going back. Zoey was trying not to drag her feet at the whole process of getting ready, having had enough of school in her opinion. Tonight, they were going to the drive in theatre for a double date but also to help calm Rebecca down and to give her something to look forward to at the end of the day. Zoey wasn’t going to lie to her; there was a hubbub at school over her coming back. She was worried for Rebecca, but knew that after a few days the clamoring should die down. She was also able to find out through this double date that Ferris actually owned a car, and that it could seat four people, which was good because Zoey didn’t want to end up sitting on the roof of Doug’s truck to watch a movie. Especially since they were going to watch a zombie film and sitting out in the open like that might make her a bit jumpy, but she didn’t want to admit that.

            Zoey heard Doug ring the doorbell from her front door and she dashed towards it, nearly forgetting an English essay she had printed out and waiting on her desk for today. She shoved it hap hazardously into her book bag, crinkling one of the back pages and wincing a little internally, as she had tried really hard to keep it flat all of the day before

            “I hope the teacher doesn’t take off points for that,” she whispered, continuing downstairs. Doug was smiling brightly as usual as she joined him and they both headed to Ferris’ car. Rebecca had nervously asked that they all stick together today and Zoey couldn’t help but oblige. They were on their way to pick her up before classes, and Zoey tried texting her to reassure her about what was going to happen. Recalling how the student body had acted earlier last week when she had been kidnapped, even for a few hours, and then trying to multiply that reaction by like, a year, she wasn’t sure if she could confirm that it would ‘be fine’. Ferris wasn’t looking as troubled as Zoey had expected, but she wondered if he was internalizing it as he parked outside Rebecca’s house, walking up to say hello to her parents, who were still looking unsure by the window. Doug mentioned it was good to send Ferris to pick her up, as they’d be more likely to let her go with him, since he was the one that brought her back.

            Rebecca hurried out to see them, and slid in next to Zoey happily. She had taken to Zoey quite strongly, and according to Doug, that was probably because Zoey had been so important in her rescue. She glanced up at Zoey and gave her a quick smile, and Zoey returned it as close to reassuring as she could.

            “My parents said I could come home part way through the day if I wanted to, but I hope it doesn’t come to that,” she told them, and Zoey saw Doug give a slight nod.

            “It shouldn’t be nearly as bad as you’re all imagining. I hope our school actually has something more important to bide their time with,” replied Ferris dryly.

            Zoey had no doubt that Ferris was nervous but she was suspicious that he felt like he could deflect everything, which was possible due to his chilly personality, but looked a little overly hopeful as they pulled up and she saw the clusters of students whispering outside. She thought she saw him grit his teeth, and Zoey sent a quick text to Zabrina to explain where she was in case she wasn’t able to make her way through the crowd.

            “We just have to find Lynda, she will be in some of your classes,” Doug told Rebecca, who was glancing at her schedule as if she hadn’t been looking it over and over for the past few days already in anticipation.  She looked up as if she wanted to say something, but then thought better of it, as they got out of the car and heads swiveled in their direction.

            “I’ll come walk you to all of your classes,” Ferris told her, shooting the closest students a glare that made them turn their heads a bit in fear.

            “Can you really manage to do that without being late to your classes?” she asked, looking hopeful. Ferris merely shrugged in response, and Zoey caught Rebecca smiling a little more, even if it was still directed towards the ground.

            They headed towards the school, most of the younger students staying back and whispering, and Zoey caught sight of Zabrina and Aisha sending them a friendly wave from across the schoolyard. Rebecca and Zoey returned their wave, but only a second after, a bolder female student walked up, followed closely by a gaggle of friends who appeared too nervous to approach on their own.

            “You were the one who was kidnapped for like, a whole year, right?” she asked Rebecca, whose mouth twisted.

            Ferris stepped in between the two of them, turning his head to the side slightly. “Is that how you normally greet people?” he asked, eyes cold.

            “Hey, people want to know. They have a right to know,” the girl tried, leaning to one side to peek around him, but he moved to whichever side she leaned, blocking her view. He shot her an even angrier glare, waiting until she made eye contact with him again.

            “No they don’t. That’s the weakest argument I’ve ever heard,” he told her bluntly, as if unimpressed.

            “Why are you speaking for her? Maybe she wants to talk about it!” she tried again, shuffling her feet, beginning to get antsy.

            “No she doesn’t, I’ve spoken to her, believe it or not. We came up with an entire plan for this day. You just want to listen to the gory details, so you can tell your little group over there,” he told her, pausing to wave in a threatening way towards the group that acted as if they hadn’t wanted to be noticed. “Go to class. You’ve probably seen reports on the news and you’re tiring everyone here,” he added, rolling his eyes.

             Realising he wasn’t going to back off, she sulkily walked away and they managed to make their way to where Lynda was waiting, mostly by ignoring the rest of the people with questions. Zoey wasn’t quite sure how Lynda was going to deflect the questions, but as she watched Rebecca and her wander off she realized that Lynda was dancing around her, telling her about their classes. This was distracting enough for Rebecca, but also blocked off other people from interrupting in a very natural way. Well, natural for Lynda. For anyone else with less energy it would be difficult to pull off. Zoey mentioned this to Doug, who nodded.

            “It was very good that Lynda could share some classes with her. Lynda is way more mature than she seems with the bright colors and the beads. She cares about her friends very much,” he told her. He let out a small laugh, and added, “she’s probably really excited to have one of us in her grade too, she does get along with other people in her classes but we’re really her best friends.”

            Zoey nodded before she heard the first bell ring and she realized they had to head to class. She dashed towards the door, having met Lynda by the doors to go inside.

            Doug called after her, “If you’re late I’m sure your teachers would understand if you explained you were helping Rebecca!” and then he headed down another hallway. Ferris had managed to disappear silently along the way.

            She was surprised in her first class when people actually tried to talk to her about it. She had to crumple up quite a few notes that made their way under the desks towards her, hoping their teacher didn’t notice and get angry at her. She knew she shouldn’t, but she sent a text to her friends complaining about the attention and the notes.

            People can be so childish, responded Zabrina immediately.

            Just keep doing what you’re already doing and ignore them. They will realize it is futile to get information from you and give up, Aisha told her, referring to the growing pile of crumpled notes.

            Some of the notes had become a little haughty as they realised she wasn’t going to send a response. She hoped the teacher didn’t notice all the little wads of paper littering her desk, or that the piles were growing. She felt the back of her neck grow warm and she hoped the other students weren’t going to hold a grudge over this. She traced a pattern of flowers on her notebook paper to try and distract herself, not receiving a response from Brie other than a confusingly worded, Must be so awful to be the centre of attention. She wasn’t even sure what to respond with as she hadn’t thought she sounded like she was bragging about the whole thing, but maybe it had sounded like she had been.

            She decided to ask Doug to sit with her group of friends at lunch, so then they could walk to Oceans together which was right after lunch. He told her that he could, but asked if Ferris and Rebecca could join because he didn’t want to leave them alone today. Of course she agreed to that as well.

            When they joined her at lunch, Rebecca was looking slightly more relaxed, probably at being over halfway through the day. Aisha hadn’t met her yet, and neither had Brie, and they both greeted her, although Brie a bit more distantly than Aisha. She was probably hoping this attention didn’t rub off on them, as students stared them down while they ate. Zoey asked her how she had liked her first classes, and Rebecca told her that Lynda’s tutoring had prepared her quite well for what they were learning.

            When Rebecca mentioned that they were going to have a double date that night at the drive-in theatre, Brie huffed noticeably. Rebecca paused, as if unsure of what she had said to cause that reaction, and Aisha encouraged her to continue by asking what movie they were seeing. She told them, and mentioned how exciting it was to be getting back into a normal swing of things. Zabrina nodded, mentioning that adjusting would be hard but with support from her friends, things would get back to normal soon. She did this while passing her a small sachet of peppermint tea, which might have been strange, but Rebecca accepted it without asking questions. When you were friends with Zabrina, you got used to small, unexplained gifts.

            Brie rolled her eyes and scraped her chair nosily across the floor as she went to leave, twenty minutes before lunch was actually over. They exchanged a confused look, and Aisha asked, “where are you going, Brie?”

            “I really just don’t get why we arrange our schedule around everything that’s happening in Zoey’s life. This doesn’t concern me, and if we’re just going to pander to her sad little friend it’s not worth my time,” Brie told them, flicking her hand towards Rebecca as she spoke.

            Cold rage solidified in Ferris’ eyes, and he rolled his shoulders, but before he had a chance to speak, Zoey had to say what was on her mind, “what in the world has made you so spiteful? I’m not trying to make the world about me; you’re the one trying to hurt people for no reason.”

            “That’s the problem, you don’t even notice when you do. You don’t notice other people’s problems and instead focus on your own. And what made me so spiteful was maybe listening to your problems one too many times. I have a test I could be studying for, but instead I’m doing this? Sometimes people want to do more than be the background character, Zoey,” Brie spat, glaring at her, and looking like she wanted to walk away.

            That took the wind out of Zoey’s sails as she wasn’t sure what she could say in response. Was she being too self-centred? What had been going on in Brie’s life that would be causing her so much pain? She had to admit she didn’t know how Brie was doing right now, and wondered if that was because she hadn’t been paying close enough attention.             Ferris had been waiting for his turn to speak, and gave Brie a look that was seething with contempt. “If you have nothing more interesting in your life than to start drama at school maybe you are a background character,” he mused, causing Brie’s eyes to flare and her cheeks to get red. “If you need to storm off and have a time out, go right ahead, try to think of something more productive you could be doing with your time while you’re at it.”

            Brie’s eyes blazed but she said nothing in return, storming off.

            Zoey felt Doug grab her hand and give it a slight pull and she realized she was still standing. She sat down and turned to Rebecca who looked devastated.

            “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I would cause this much of a kerfuffle,” she started but trailed off.

            Zoey shook her head, “that’s been building since the beginning of this year I think. Maybe longer. It’s not your fault that it ended up spilling over today,” she told her.

            Zabrina looked unimpressed at the whole display and Zoey could tell that Aisha wasn’t quite sure what to say. She was closer to Brie than the others, but maybe she hadn’t predicted this blow up. Zoey wondered if she had been an attention hog and considered apologising for it, but didn’t want to make the lunch hour more awkward than it already was, and figured her friends would deny it if she asked them. Aisha kept checking her phone to see if Brie was going to respond to them eventually as the lunch period went on. She didn’t, or at least Aisha didn’t relay what was said if she did.

            Zoey wasn’t surprised when Rebecca suggested they get ready together for their date, and she readily headed over with a small makeup bag in tow, not sure if she would actually use anything in it but eager to hang out. To Zoey’s surprise, Rebecca’s parents were way more enthusiastic about them heading out tonight then they had been this morning, possibly because they had seen how happy their daughter was to be returning to her normal life. There was also the possibility that they were so excited because she was going to be surrounded by three of the four people that rescued her.

            In fact, Rebecca’s parents were the only ones acting like they’d done something impressive by doing that. Zoey felt a little stung by that, but then wondered if it was self-centred to wish for that positive attention. The girls sat in Rebecca’s bedroom and Rebecca began putting soft curls in her normally pin straight hair with a curling iron, while talking to her. Zoey was thankful for her own naturally wavy hair, but not so much when it decided to misbehave on her.

            “Do you think the movie is going to be super gory tonight?” Zoey asked her, making small talk while wondering absentmindedly if she should have changed earrings.

            “I don’t know, maybe? I honestly haven’t been out long enough to look at many trailers for movies. I’m sure it won’t be too bad though? Are you good with scary movies?” Rebecca asked her, and Zoey winced a little for having asked her something so awkward.

            “Sorry, that should have been obvious. I should have looked up the trailers myself,” she told Rebecca, who shook her head.

            “Honestly you don’t have to tip toe around it. I am a lot tougher than I look, at least, mentally,” she replied to Zoey, giving her a small smile, and jokingly flexing her arms, “I mean, I survived there for like a year, so I’ve gotta be something.” She frowned for a moment, and then added, “I was a lot stronger before that, though. They weren’t known for their kind treatments, and neglect came naturally to them.”

            Zoey nodded sympathetically, and tried to change the subject from something so painful by replying to the previous question, “I am not too bad with scary movies myself, and so I think I’ll be okay tonight. If I start making fun of the costumes or bad effects, it means I’m scared and I’m trying to tell myself it isn’t real.”

            Rebecca gave her a good natured smile and they continued to chat before the guys came to pick them up.

            Zoey was holding her popcorn like it was a lifeline, barely able to hear the crunching of the kernels over the crunching of bones on the screen in front of them. It wasn’t terribly packed that night in the lot, and glancing around into spots that weren’t illuminated by headlights she thought she could see movement, but told herself she was being silly. However, the last time she told herself she was just being silly, she was right, but this was most likely motivated by the horror on the movie screen.

            Ferris was showing no emotion towards their current film choice, but Doug kept glancing at him almost as much as Rebecca was. Zoey tried to think of something to pick apart in the movie but it was surprisingly well written and the special effects were impeccable. Curse the time and attention to detail paid to this film, thought Zoey, wondering what she would do in a Zombie apocalypse. Then wondering if she could use popcorn as a weapon against zombies, or at least, partially crushed popcorn, she thought, opening the bag slightly peering inside. Maybe she had been gripping the bag a little too tightly.

Doug leaned over and she almost jumped out of her seat. He pulled back immediately, and whispered, “sorry, I just wanted to ask if you’re okay?” he looked at least as scared as she was, but she appreciated the sentiment.

“I-it’s pretty realistic. I can’t think of what I would do if I was in this situation… DID IT JUST GRAB HER LEG NO!” Zoey replied, yelling as she was distracted by the screen.

Doug winced at what was happening in the film, and then replied, “yeah, me either.”

Zoey could hear Ferris roll his eyes before he turned around to look at his friend, “Doug, you can literally fly away from zombies,” he told him dryly.

Doug looked as if that had just occurred to him, and he blushed a little. Zoey was a little concerned by the fact that he had brought up the point of dragons and thought back to what he had claimed earlier about magic in this world.  “ARE ZOMBIES REAL?” she squeaked, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.

“Not that I know of,” was Ferris’ non-committal answer.

Doug shot him a dark look, saying, “Ferris that is anything but reassuring.” Before turning to Zoey and adding, “we’ve never heard of anything like that in the real world.”

“And that was so much better?” grumbled Ferris, turning back to the screen. Rebecca was silent in the front seat, knees pulled up to her chin, still strapped into the car as if she expected them to have to drive away from attacking zombies any second. Ferris looked over at her and extended his hand, and she immediately grabbed it with both of hers.

“It’s going to eat her,” she told him in plain tones, almost as creepy as the movie.

“Probably, but that’s because it was written in the script. If it’s really bad, we don’t have to stay,” he offered, sounding far less harsh than he normally did.

 Zoey slid closer to Doug as someone had their arm bitten off on the screen, deciding to put her popcorn down before she dumped it all over Ferris’ car accidentally.

“No, it’s okay,” Rebecca told him, and Ferris watched her another moment before turning back to the screen.

The female protagonist was trying to get away from the zombies but she was badly injured, outnumbered, and in the narrowest hallway ever possibly designed. Zoey realised she was possibly sitting too close to Doug, but then another zombie jumped out on screen and he leapt back a little in his seat and she assumed he was pretty glad to have her that close anyway. The zombies continued to get closer to the protagonist and she was now cornered, trying to sift through boxes in an attempt to find a weapon, but the stores had been cleaned out long ago. She picked up a heavy pipe, sighing in determination and turning to where they would enter the room from, her barricade beginning to break under the pounding of many zombies trying to get in. That was when the screen went blank, and Zoey screamed for a second before realizing it wasn’t part of the movie. She was very glad she hadn’t had the popcorn in her hand at that time, and almost mentioned it to Doug, but one glance at him told her he was trying to think over what just happened. The movie did not resume playing, and people in their cars began to file out, some honking their horns in protest, clearly frustrated.

As the first couple of people left an announcement came over the intercom to tell them that they had run into certain difficulties, and would no longer be able to show the film for the remainder of the night. More of the sparse decoration of cars began to file out before the man spoke again. “I-I am also supposed to leave, but before I do there is someone here who wants to make an announcement,” he told them, sounding nervous. There was a muffled sound as the microphone exchanged hands, and the thud of feet as the first person swiftly left the room housing the intercom.

In this moment, Ferris and Doug exchanged a dark look, and Zoey could tell the date wasn’t going according to anyone’s plan. That was when the new voice took over the intercom, telling people to leave, despite them already on their way, before adding,

“Also, I think there is a lost girl here by the name of Rebecca Danners? If she could report to the front of the stage, that would be great,” before the audio cut out.

Ferris looked over at Rebecca quickly as she paled and started shaking her head slowly.

“Do you have any idea who that is?” Doug asked, watching the remainder of the cars leave the parking lot.

Rebecca closed her eyes, but then nodded.

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