School didn’t feel real. It felt surreal, as if nothing there was quite real. Or as if none of it mattered. It wasn’t like I was going to have a career.
Realism had settled in. I might be able to hunt monsters, but my money was going to be coming from flipping burgers, I’d be staying with a roommate if I was lucky…and I couldn’t and wouldn’t live off of Thea’s charity.
That reality hit me even harder as I sat through a math lesson. I was doing better than normal, mind, as if my mind was clearer than it normally was. Maybe it was. I did have a feeling all the running around and fighting was good for me, being natural to who and what I was. That it had made me…stronger?
No. More myself. And this stuff was suddenly a lot easier. Not that I remembered it, it was just flowing better.
Which made me realize right away that I needed to hold back. If I suddenly got good at math, people would be suspicious or something. Or they’d think I was slacking before.
Improve, I told myself, but not too much. It wouldn’t be too hard. Right?
Right. But that still brought reality down around me. I couldn’t graduate. Well, maybe they’d social me out, but with my GPA, I might not even be able to get a job flipping burgers. I must have looked pretty disconsolate as I stepped outside…to bump right into Barry Clark. “Uh, hi.”
“You look miserable.”
“Guess I’m just feeling the weight of reality today. You look ungrounded. Did they finally believe you didn’t take that crap?”
“Not exactly. I’m on probation.” He shuddered a bit. “Thanks. I never got to thank you for that.”
I let out a breath. “No problem.” I opened my mouth to tell him to stay away from me. Then I closed it again. He probably thought the entire thing was a hallucination. I didn’t want to disillusion him on that fact. He was safer ignorant.
“No. I wouldn’t like to hang out. I had a couple of scares over the summer. I still have stuff to work out.”
His metaphorical crest fell. He had really been about to ask me out and I felt a bit of regret. He was pretty hot, after all. Which reminded me that I liked boys.
“I get that. I mean, so did I. And…yeah, I get why you wouldn’t want to go with probation boy.” He turned and walked away, mostly looking at his sneakers.
Well, maybe that would get him to stay away from me. I tried not to admire the view, possibly successfully, as he walked down the corridor.
“Wow, you shut him down.”
I turned. “Oh. Hi, Priscilla. Nah. I’d shut anyone down right now.”
“Well, if you aren’t interested in him.” She produced a catty smile.
“He’s all yours, although I have to admit…you broke three hearts last year.”
“Just trying them on for size. I mean, how can I pick the right one without dating all of them?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. And it was the first time since all of this started that I’d felt, well, normal.
Which meant it couldn’t possibly last.