I started coming around when I heard Matt’s voice. “Was the violence really necessary Marion?”
He growled, “She wasn’t being respectful.”
“So what’s new? You know Lydie’s style. I feel sorry for her. She’s probably been scared and lonely and living off of scavenge out in the country. She didn’t say much when we were on the radio, like she was afraid to find out the truth. Maybe like she was afraid that we wouldn’t want her if we knew how low she had sunk.”
“That’s another thing Maestro. How am I supposed to keep you safe if you don’t keep me informed about stuff? Who else have you been talking to?” he demanded.
Wow. Bad move Thor-baby. Suddenly Matt sounded a whole lot like his dad had at the PTA meetings. He told Sas, “You’re my man at arms, not my overlord. You’re offline for a week!”
Sas yelped, “What?! But I’m about to take it to the next level! If I have to be offline for a whole week my sim will die and I’ll have to start all over again!”
Nastily Matt told him, “Should have thought about before ignoring the hierarchy.”
I tried to sit up as Sas slammed out of the room then jumped as Marty pushed me back down. “Take it easy Lydie. Sas really caught you a good one. He forgets when he is real worlding that people don’t always get back up.”
“No kidding,” I groaned. “What’s his damage?! All I did was call a golf cart what it was. Is he on drugs or something?” Then I got my first look at Matt. “Holy carp! What are you supposed to be? Oh wait … he called you Maestro.” Slowly standing up and shaking my head I said, “You’ve got to be kidding Matt … you’re dressed up as your sim counterpart? You look like ‘Gordon Freeman’ on drugs.”
Matt sighed, “Same old Lydie.” He shook his head and I thought at first he was putting on an act.
I laughed and stumbled forward to give him a hug. “Seriously Matt, what’s going on? Why’s everyone acting so weird … and dressed … er … well, not normal that’s for sure.” Catching another look at Marty’s Xena warrior princess get up I had to giggle.
Wrong move and apparently not the first … or last … one of the day.
“The one that is acting weird is you!” Marty snapped. “Maybe there is something to what Sas was saying. You waltz into town like it’s the way it used to be, like you can just pick up where you left off!”
“Whoa,” I said putting a hand up to hold off the anger in her face. “I live fifteen miles outside the city limit sign. I didn’t just waltz in. I had to ride my bike half the morning to get here you know? I had to go around road blocks. And like you haven’t exactly made an effort to come check on me. Not to mention the reason I didn’t know how bad you guys have had it is because Matt never let me in on it. I would have found some way to get here sooner and help if I had!”
Matt patted my arm like it was OK but then went to sit behind a desk and that’s when I realized we were in the principal’s office. Great. Could this scene get any weirder?
“Lydie,” he said. “Sit down. We need to get a few things straight and since you are being your normal Alyx Vance self I guess we are going to have to do it the hard way.”
I was getting a little irritated at the constant gaming references although being compared to a female character from Half Life 2 wasn’t the worst he could have compared me to. I sat but more because I was feeling dizzy and not because he told me to; however, I decided not to let him in on that little secret. I was starting to get the feeling that Matt’s ego had somehow been inflated into the stratosphere.
“First off,” he began. “I didn’t want to break it to you this way but we’re quits. Marty and I are together now. Don’t cry because it won’t do any good.”
Was that supposed to be a shocker at this point? Part of me had suspected something … but my best friend? Really? I was too mad to cry and wasn’t sure I would have anyway, especially not after Marty ran over to Matt and sat on the arm of the chair.
In the past Marty had never been Matt’s biggest fan, or so I had thought. After hearing – and seeing – the way they were being now my head started spinning with the possibilities. The only half way sensible thing that my brain produced was an irreverent but silent, “This has got to be the worst teen movie ever. I’m living it and don’t believe it.”
After a moment or two of me just staring at them Marty said in a confused tone, “You don’t look mad.”
Refusing to let either of them know just how hurt and mad I really was I shrugged. “I’m a big girl. If the best friend I’ve ever had and the guy who I thought was my boyfriend decided to make it behind my back I can deal. But how the heck the two of you can trust each other knowing what the two of you are willing to pull on someone else I don’t know. I certainly don’t trust either of you anymore. Which reminds me, I want my bike, I’m leaving.”
Angrily Matt said, “Sorry. Anything inside the city limits is Central’s property which makes it mine.”
Despite my best intentions I nearly spat at him when I said, “You better not consider me part of town property because I can guarantee I’ll make things … difficult.” My temper was quickly taking over and with adrenaline running through my veins like a double shot of Red Bull I told him, “You forget Matt … I know these guys too. A word here, a word there … then maybe they won’t think you are so all that. Apparently they’ve just forgotten they are capable of thinking for themselves. Must be some reason why you haven’t shared the radio with Sas or the others. By the way, nice tactic to pipeline the info and keep some of it secret. But now that Sas knows he’ll start thinking; and he may be slow but Sas isn’t stupid. He’s going to wonder about that and wonder what else you are holding out on.”
Matt sneered, “He’ll keep it quiet or he’ll stay off line.”
“Oh woo woo. Off freakin’ line.” I snorted in derision making them both flush in anger. “Get a grip. You can’t keep them living a fantasy forever Matt. You can’t keep living this stupid fantasy you’re trying to build either. Pretty soon they are going to wake up and see what is really going on and they are going to be ginormously hacked. Assuming you can hold it together that long. How stupid is it to tell them that those lame golf carts are the only moving vehicles for hundreds of miles? A quick listen to the radio would prove that is a lie.”
Marty’s face went blank and she hesitantly looked at Matt and then asked, “What is she talking about?”
“Nothing,” he muttered sullenly.
I looked at her and said snidely, “Keep on thinking what he tells you to Marty … while you can. But if he is lying about this, what else is he lying about? How long until you get replaced as easily as he replaced me? Huh?”
I tried to leave but Matt came around from the desk and pushed me back hard. “Where do you think you’re going?”
I looked at him and I think he finally saw how angry I was. My temper wasn’t exactly legendary but it was pretty bad. “Do not try this gamer fantasy crap with me … Maestro,” I told him with a hiss. “I don’t need a controller to kick some butt.” I used the flat of my hands and gave him a good thump on his chest making him jump back. I told him, “No one owns me. I fought long and hard to get my emancipation and I’m not going to just give it up to anyone … certainly not to you.”
I turned and in two steps wrenched the door open and stepped into the front office where a lot of people I knew … or thought I had … were lazing around with ear buds in and plugged into small electronic devices. A few were hooked up and playing some kind of game on a huge flat screen. Only a few noticed I was even on the planet. From there I slammed out the door to the courtyard and nearly ran straight into Sas.
“Oh give me a break!” I yelled frustrated.
Nastily he started to say, “Find out you aren’t …?”
I cut in with, “You mean did I find out about Matt and Marty banging like bunnies behind my back? Yeah. I’m pretty relieved that I never went that stupid over him if you want to know the truth. Now here’s one for you. Did you know that Matt is lying through his teeth about some things he has heard on the radio?”
Marty rushed out and said, “Wait! Lydie … don’t!!”
I yelled, “Why? Because Matt doesn’t want people thinking for themselves? Or because your cozy little kingdom will crumble when they do? Because they will Marty. Like I told you before Sas isn’t stupid and neither is anyone else I’ve seen. There are a couple of dorks and dope heads but no one is truly brainless.”
Marty said, “I’m … I’m sorry Lydie. I didn’t mean for things to happen like this. You don’t have to be so mean.”
Incredulous I asked, “Mean? You think I’m being mean?! Have ... you … completely … lost … it?!!” I stopped myself and tried to control my breathing.
A guy named Aston strolled up. He looked halfway normal until I realized he was dressed like Leon Kennedy off of Resident Evil. “So Lydie … what’s up?”
“So Aston … shrink in the wash or what?” He used to be one of the biggest guys on the football team but he’d lost some weight for sure.
He snorted a real laugh. “Good one. Mostly I just miss my mom’s cooking.” Then I realized he wasn’t daydreaming like the others were. He might have been dressed for play but his mind was still in the here and now. “Seriously, what’s up?”
Aston was not my favorite person in the world, mostly because he was as big a smart aleck as me but I liked his girlfriend Ashley who had come over to me with him. “Yeah Lyd … what’s up? We could hear the fit all the way down to the parking lot. Geez I mean … wait … it’s good to see you. Here.” She proceeded to give me a hug and for the first time that day – in a long time really – I felt someone really was glad to see me.
“Hey Ash,” I told her hugging her back. It was tight enough for her to know I was grateful if not sappy about it. Looking at Aston and Ashley I replied, “Let’s just say I found out about Matt and Marty the hard way and that I think everyone really needs to start unplugging the ear buds and start listening to the radio instead of letting Matt tell you what is going on.”
Matt had finally joined us. Marty had started to say, “Stop trying to scare everyone …” But Matt interrupted her and asked, “Why should they listen to you Lydie? You’re just angry about me and Marty.” He draped his arm around the girl in question and I found that it didn’t bother me as much as it probably should have. I was actually starting to feel relieved in a weird sort of way.
I told him, “What I found out is that I can’t trust you two. If you can’t be trusted over so simple an issue as friendship why should anyone trust you about anything else?”
I noticed a few of the kids had started listening … really listening.
“Don’t be a bad loser Lydie,” Matt said, trying to sound cocky. Wrong tact to take when there were other girls around.
Ashley and another girl named Ginger said at almost the same time, “That’s awful Matt!”
The guys with them started to get cautious, no doubt not wanting to mess up the same way Matt was messing up.
I decided to push the issue. “Like I said, it’s a matter of trust. Why don’t you let them listen to the radio with you Matt? What do you do? Keep it locked up where only you can get at it?” And another little push. “I mean, poor Sas here is just trying to do his job and you keep hiding things from him. I can’t believe you really told them those golf carts are the only moving vehicle for hundreds of miles. There’s farmers out in the countryside with tractors and they’re farming for pity sake. Not a lot, but enough. They’re going around draining all the diesel storage tanks they can find and while it may not last forever, they’re not doing too bad right now. And when they need parts and stuff you don’t really think they are going to come asking nicely to get what they want do you?”
“They’ll do what I say if they want those parts. We’ve got them hidden …”
I’d caught him and he’d all but admitted it. “A ha! So you did know that other people were still around and would need that stuff!”
Aston looked at Matt and said, “Yeah Matt … why did you have us moving that crap into all the old classrooms?”
“Shut up!” Matt yelled.
Figuring it was time for me to get while the getting was good I turned to leave but Sas grabbed my arm. I looked at him prepared to wrench my arm free but he just looked at me like a lost puppy. “I … I hit you.”
I took my arm out of his grasp and said calmly, “Yeah, you did. Did it make you feel good or did you think it was just a game and all you cost me was a few game points?”
He just continued to look at me blankly so I turned and walked away. When I was two blocks away I started to run. I was at the outskirts of town before I stopped running and the only reason I stopped was because I was pretty sure no one would be able to see the tears on my face.