“Excuse me sir, but do you happen to know Malcom Tilio? He is a boy about my age, nineteen to be precise, shaggy black hair, gray eyes, an inch taller than me.”
“I’m more than an inch taller Amelia,” he cut her off. “A lot’s changed. Not your injury though. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll fix it for you. I have a feeling you’ll want to be sitting while we talk.”
She gazed at the man in front of her. It didn’t fit. He was older than she expected him to be. He wasn’t suppose to be in his late twenties. He was a teenager, just like she was. Yet here he was. A grown man, using a bit of his undershirt he ripped off to bind her gun shot wound. That still hurt like it just happened. How was that even possible? If time had passed for him then it should have for her too. Ergo she should not still be this dizzy from blood loss. She noticed he was staring at her. Still acting as if he had seen a ghost. A terrible apparition that would not go away.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. She suddenly discovered she was embarrassed of her inattention. That’s how it had always been between them, her half off in a day dream or in research, him fully present and focused on her. Now she sat next to a stranger. A man who felt obligated to stay but no desire to. His body language made that quite clear.
“Sorry,” she repeated. “I was distracted, would you please repeat that.”
He stared at her a moment before beginning again, “Sure sure. You’ve been….gone for almost a decade. Lots of things have changed. We can cover the major things first. The Department Against Extreme Emotion has grown. If that drone that gave you the ticket there doesn’t speak enough of how much I can enlighten you further later. All you need to know to get by is that any show of emotion is suspect. Even smiling too much can present problems. Just be as neutral as possible when you are around people and within city limits. Here in the outskirts there are fewer sweeps and even then it’s just drones. The worse they can do is ticket you. The officers, well, just steer clear of them, alright?”
“Right. Sure, but what about you.”
“What about me?”
“You haven’t said a single thing about yourself. What have you been up to?”
“Amelia, not to be rude, but you didn’t much care what I was up to when we were kids, why would you care now?”
That shut her up. How could he say such a thing? He was her best friend. Of course he had mattered. She understood him better than she understood herself. She was a hot mess of random notions and weird knowledge, but not him. He was calculating and careful.
“Your favorite dessert is an baklava,” she whispered.
“Baklava, it’s your favorite dessert, or it was. Last I knew you had only ever had it six times. Twice with your grandmother, who made it for a couple of funerals you went to as a kid. Once when your mother made it for your sixteenth birthday and three times with me. I made you baklava to cheer you up when you broke up with Claire. Once after a movie we randomly found a deli that had it. The last time was that night we were cramming for our college entrance exams. It was late, we were tired but we needed to keep going, so we baked to keep ourselves awake. We then proceeded to eat nearly the entire pan as ‘rewards’ for passages covered in the text. I was so sick I nearly had to miss the exams themselves.”
“I don’t see what this has to do with-”
“You love to wear plaid, even if it makes you look hokey. You like it because you like how the blocks and lines intermingle, you spend part of each day deciphering the pattern of each shirt you wear. Your favorite color is sea green, like my eyes, your words exactly. Your favorite reading place is the secret nook you built under the stairs in your house, unless it’s raining, then you insist on sitting under the overhang of your house. You’ve had approximately thirty-eight pet gold fish. All of whom have suffered tragic deaths at the hands of your younger brother Rennie. He just has a weird knack of killing your fish. You broke your arm twice as a kid falling out of a tree house you and your father built. You then broke it again in junior high when you tried to skateboard-”
“Enough Amelia. What are you going on and on about?”
“You mattered,” she whispered, completely dejected. “I cared. I might not have shown it or expressed it as I ought, but you mattered to me. Mattered more than anyone else. You were my best friend. The one constant in my life.”
He looked at her blankly. She couldn’t stand it, she was about to completely melt down, she could feel it coming. Before she could he reached out and patted her on the shoulder. The way you might placate a child. That was the last straw, she could handle two options: yell at him or leave. Hitting his hand away she stood and stormed off. She didn’t need this. She didn’t need him. He had done what he could for her, fixed her arm and warn her about the DAEE. She couldn’t change the fact that he was now an emotionless blob who wanted, apparently, nothing to do with her. Fine by her. Even as she stormed off she knew she was overreacting, but she couldn’t help it. She had just time jumped two decades and there was no way to go back. Way to go Amelia.
She stopped herself cold. Was there? Was there a way to go back? She felt her pockets, feeling like there should be something there. Turning them all out she realized they were empty. However, she did remember the pages. The pages and the book. Perhaps that was the key. Maybe she could get herself out of this mess after all. She turned on the spot, ready to go back to Malcom to ask him one last question, when she ran into him head on.
“Oh, sorry.” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“Don’t be, it was an accident.”
She gritted her teeth remembering that the ‘decade under the rule of the DAEE’ Malcom was a really sucky version of her friend.
“Where will you go?” He asked benignly.
“There is a house in this forest, you may recall. Might as well set up shop there.”
“You cannot be serious.”
“It’s not like I have any other options. A ward of the state that went missing a decade ago shows up, out of the blue, having not aged a day. How do you think that will go over with anyone?”
“I’ll be fine out here. I know this forest well. I know where to go for the edible plants, and I can come up with some simple traps if need be.”
“You knew the forest well. It might have changed over the years. I could help, bring you supplies if you need.”
“No thank you, I need to start figuring things out. I just have one question for you before we part ways again.”
He looked utterly relieved which annoyed the girl a bit, “Yes?”
“Do you know what happened to the book pages?”
Found via Pinterest.
Prompt: He was older than she expected him to be