Polly don't need your cracker...
Zoe sat in the soft grass along the edge of the pond and skipped another stone across the flat mirror like surface. She was good at it, and this one resisted gravity and the pull of the water until the 4th contact before at last being pulled down to the muddy bottom some 15 feet below.
There were still ripples from the last stone just now reaching the edges of the lake where she sat. She pondered a moment on how the little waves reacted with the long shoots of grass that waved above the surface here even as their roots lived beneath the water.
Bugar was late and she was growing tired of waiting. She had a lot to do, and though her task here was unpleasant, in her customary style she had determined to get it done first. She was about to head toward his farm and meet him along the path when she heard him approaching, the unmistakable sound of a boy riding wildly through the corn on a bike. She got up and wiped the light dirt from her butt. She wanted to be standing for this. She suspected Bugar would not take it well and she didn’t want him standing over her in a superior position. Besides, she thought better on her feet and wanted to be thinking at her best when he started trying to change her mind.
She turned around just in time to get fresh dirt sprinkled generously on her as he barreled toward her at top speed before locking up the brakes and skidding the bike to a stop, turning the front wheel hard to the left and laying the bike over on its side as the rear wheel came forward past the front, spewing dirt before stopping inches short of Zoe’s feet.
“Idiot”. It was barely more than a whisper, allowed from her lips as she brushed the new dirt lightly from her legs.
“Sorry”. His reply was with a smile, and totally insincere.
“About throwing dirt all over me or being an idiot?”
“The dirt of course. I’m proud of being an idiot. It makes me special.”
“I’m going” she said suddenly, surprising herself. She hadn’t intended to just blurt it out like that but his lightness aggravated her. She had made it clear that what she had to tell him was important, yet he had showed up late and with a cocky attitude. That told her he wasn’t taking it seriously.
Bugar raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Because I got a little dirt on you?”
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m going. I’ve decided.” She spoke matter of factly without letting any emotion into her voice. He was taking her seriously now. She could tell from the sudden flatness in his eyes. It was like all his boisterous energy had suddenly leaked out. For just a fraction of a moment she felt that little evil tingle of satisfaction that always came at someone else’s expense, but it passed quickly. Bugar’s eyes looked away, across the lake, as if to something in the far distance that only he saw. Zoe knew it was to try and regain control of his emotions and she regretted her coldness. This was hard for her too. Bugar was without doubt her best friend, and the person that had been the longest in her life. She had to say goodbye to friends frequently, as her ‘family’ got adopted away, sometimes leaving so suddenly she didn’t even get to say goodbye. It was like cutting the same spot over and over. Each time it healed over tougher than before… and much less sensitive. But that wasn’t the case with Bugar.
“Oh”, he said softly, still not facing her. He fell into a cross legged sit with the slow grace only a limber boy of 12 could possess, never taking his eyes off whatever imaginery distant object he had focused on. “So that’s it, huh? You’re going to trust the bug?”
“Tiffen is not a bug!” Her aggravation was back, as keen as ever. She didn’t want it to be like this, but if this was how he wanted to spend maybe their last time together, then so be it. “I don’t belong here, Bugar. You know I have always felt that way. I’ve told you that long before Tiffen showed up.”
Bugar nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Yeah, you’ve mentioned that. Nobody belongs in an orphanage, Zoe, but that doesn’t mean they belong on a different planet, in a world of…” his voice began to break and he trailed off without finishing.
Zoe pretended not to notice how distraught he had become. She sat down in the grass beside him. “I’m going to miss you… the most.” she said softly.
He looked at her now and the pain in his eyes was clear. He spoke quickly, almost spitting out the words like snake venom. “Really, then why go now? Didn’t Tiffen say you wouldn’t be the queen until you were grown? What’s the big hurry all of a sudden? If you are here for protection why leave now?” His eyes dared her for answers, but deep behind them she could see the fear. He didn’t want to lose his friend.
His questions, rattled off in such quick succession and with such anger, shocked her into silence, but only for a moment. She had anticipated each of them, but not the emotional force.
She took a deep breath and looked directly into Bugar’s face. “Tiffen says there is a great deal I need to learn about Aveena, and about being a queen. She says it’s already late for me to get started.”
Bugar was being calmed by Zoe’s demeanor, but not placated. “Why can’t you continue learning those things here?” he asked, the anger gone from his voice.
“I need education that can only come by experience.”
“Yeah”, Bugar replied with a resigned sigh. “That sounds like something Tiffen would say.”
Zoe looks away suddenly, as if she had seen whatever held his attention on the horizon. It was indeed the same nothingness he had focused on. Bugar noticed.
“What else?” Bugar asked.
Zoe looked back at him and presented a doubtful smile, as if not quite sure, or embarrassed by what she was going to say. “Tiffen says I have to go now, while I still believe.”