I'm Runner: Part Six
It is strange how attached one can become with others in the space of a couple days... I don’t want to leave them once this is all over. Sadly, and quite literally, they are the only friends I have now. Not that they aren’t good friends; I just know I have nowhere else to go. I smile inwardly as I jump off the carriage. A few days ago I would’ve waited for someone to help me out. Now I don’t need anyone’s help.
I’m changing... I’m changing for Abbie.
I will save you, Abbie. I won’t go back.
There’s a mob of Neopians from all parts of the world; I feel like I’m being shoved into a painting, a canvas of splattered color. Neovia isn’t exactly the busiest of towns. It’s very... quaint. Everybody knows everybody; when a house is made or someone new comes to town, it’s a pretty big deal. Crowds like this aren’t normal, and I haven’t heard of one since the Tale of Woe.
Someone bumps my shoulder, and I stumble a bit.
I’m pushed from behind, and I almost fall on my feet. Busy crowd, huh?
This time I fall to the ground and I, instinctively meek, cover my face. So... many... people... I’m pretty sure I’m going to die now. It’s like a stampede! Or a gigantic tidal wave! Or-
I breathe a sigh of relief as I’m dragged through the crowd by force of Roxanne’s hand, smiling apologetically in her wake as she starts to shout, “Move it, people! Get outta my way!”
“She means well, you know,” I manage to say to anyone who’ll listen, feeling bad for being a pain. A shadow Grarrl hears, smiling in an amused manner before I lost sight of him. What was he smiling about?
I guess I’m not as good at interpreting people as I thought.
The room is much less compacted once we’re in and dim, colored lights float everywhere. It’s hard to blink away the daze and Roxanne isn’t helping me at the speed she’s pulling me by. It’s all a blur. A colorful, dark blur. A very loud blur. I’m starting not to make sense.
Dante and Oliver are already seated at a table, like many of the others. They beckon for us to join and I hide behind Roxanne, a little nervous to see that the table is already packed with strangers. Oliver stands up, gesturing in our general direction casually. “You’ve met the lovely Rox, haven’t you?” The Neopians listening nod their heads, smiling and saying cheerful hellos while Roxanne herself rolls her eyes good-naturedly at him.
They laugh a bit.
Oliver continues anyways, smiling deviously at her. “And this, my friends, is wonder woman number two. Meet Runner.”
I step out demurely from behind Roxanne, waving, as outgoing as a Miamouse. The Neopians, thankfully, smile and wave warmly. “Heh, I’m not so sure about that.” I fight the impulse to cover my mouth with my paws. Or eat my arm off. This is way more social then I’m used to. One or two people... that’s okay. Three or four? That’s... okay. But going on fifty?
It’s never even BEEN going on fifty.
I only begin to blush when someone says, “So... what do you play?”
“Um...” My foot kicks the ground in an “aw shucks” kind of way.
They stare at me expectantly and I feel like a bug under microscope.
“I don’t really have... one... yet...”
“Don’t worry,” says one, a green Blumaroo. “This convention isn’t just for musical nutjobs. We’re open to anybody.” That wasn’t too painful. The others nod and laugh agreeably, weirdly quiet compared to the other groups of the room.
Actually... all the groups of the room are pretty quiet. I wonder why.
“Well, she’ll find out once she’s on stage, won’t you?” I shrug demurely at Oliver, who’s rubbing his hands together like an evil villain. Great.
I take a seat, sliding back into my old state of a shy and quiet mind. I feel strange with them... I feel like I definitely don’t belong here.
But the Blumaroo DID say...
The performances has already begun and my hands are getting sweaty. I try not to think about them too much because frankly, it is starting to gross me out and I’m beginning to wonder why there isn’t a stain from me rubbing my hands so often on my dress-
-pants. They’re pants, Runn-
I mean, Fantasia.
Double identities can get annoying.
The current drummer and guitar duet bow after their song is done, rushing and jittering their way offstage. Dante told me that, since it’s just the pre-convention party and not everybody was here yet (which is astonishing, considering the fact that we’re so crammed the room is running out of air)- it’s an open stage and anybody is free to go up. Roxanne stands up, smiling nervously. “I’ll go next.”
Dante smiles encouragingly. “You go, Rox.”
Oliver howls excitably. “What he said!”
Roxanne nods, taking one last look at me. Then she walks towards me and I look at my hands. I hear her voice as she looms over me. I am still seated and can see the shadow she makes that stretches over me, rimmed by the colored lights. “Runner... I’m sorry. I really am.”
I look up at her face. Her eyes are shimmering; she looks completely distraught. I’m still mad. It still hurts. What she did wasn’t fair but...“It’s okay.” I partly said this for Roxanne. Because I’m not sure what she would do if I didn’t. I also did this for myself; it was the right thing to do. It would be rude to do otherwise, wouldn’t it?
But I also did it for us; we understood each other. I need her to keep a secret. And I think... she needs me too.
“I’d like to come up there with you.”
Oliver practically dies in the corner of my eye.
“Of course.” She smiles, reminding me of a little girl. “I’d be honored.”
I walk up with her slowly, nervously, heart fluttering away wildly. Butterflies in my stomach? More like rocks with wings. With horseshoes on.
You can do this, Runner.
I remember Candy, fainting dramatically as TNT left the letter.
I remember Reagan, looking at the baby for the first time.
I remember Rasui, pushing back his glasses.
Madeline, opening the letter.
...I remember Abbie. I remember her watching me walk away. And though it hurts to think about it, it’s all right now. Everything’s changed. I’ve changed.
I’m on the stage now. The lights seem suddenly a little too warm and their glare blinds me.
Wait a second...
...what am I going to do now?!
The sea of faces blinks as one, mind bogglingly large pile of eyeballs, waiting expectantly.
My voice carries over the microphone loudly. A few people cheer in a corner. I swallow, and-
“Wait! Wait! I know who you are! Aren’t you the Aisha from the lost posters?”
What?! No! Not now! It can’t be!
It’s all over.
In the space of three seconds, it ends. I can’t believe it. I stare into the darkness, unable to identify the speaker of those words.
“Well, aren’t you?” the voice prompts, surprise dying away.
Someone else pipes in: “Yeah! I remember her! Weren’t the posters pink or something?”
“The Aisha from Neovia?”
“Her poor owner!”
“Why’d you run away? How could you?”
I start to panic, backing away from the glare of the lights slowly, shocked beyond all belief. Roxanne catches me as I trip back over a stray cord, carry-dragging me off the stage. “Fantasia? Fantasia? Are you all right?” The room has erupted into a confused mass of chatter now, wondering what’s going to happen. A few try to look at me, leaning forward as Roxanne pulls me to our table.
I look up, seeing Dante and Oliver stare incredulously at us. They’re on their feet now. Oliver is looking at me with crazed bewilderment and Dante...
He stares at me with cold eyes, the blue Krawk’s hands clenched into small fists. “What’s this?” he says, waving around. “What are they talking about?”
Roxanne jumps in before I can say anything, desperately trying to cover for me, “Dante, it’s not what it looks like. She was just trying to-”
Dante whirled on her, pointing an accusing finger at her. “You too? What IS this?” He looks at Oliver, practically snarling, “And what, you actually a faerie in disguise?”
Oliver steps back, an apologetic smile on his face as he waves his hands defensively in front of his face. “I knew nothing of this, I swear.”
Dante looks at Roxanne and me angrily. “Rox... why’d you keep this from me?” Then he looks at me, just as I gain enough composure to stand up, poking me in my pink nose, coloring it with red as I blush fearfully.
Yes, you can blush with fear.
“And you... I thought me and you, we were friends, huh? Guess not, huh? Because friends-” He steps back, anger turning to sadness. “Friends don’t lie, ‘kay? You didn’t have to tell me what you didn’t want to... but you didn’t have to lie. If you really were a runner...” He shakes his head. “...ARE a runner, runnin’ away from your owner, then you could’ve told me on our way here or somethin’. How do I even know you? If someone offers you a trip and food, the least you can give them is your name.”
“I’m outta here.”
To be continued...