PREVIOUSLY: Julie told Clarke’s sister that she had a way to not cut herself off completely. Chartreuse struggled with how to admit her feelings to Carrie.
PART 75b: MORE QUESTIONING
Tim shook his head. “All discussions with L-Luci about L-Linquist’s l-language have been in my room. M-Might as well keep the weirdness confined to that part of the house.”
Clarke frowned. “What’s Julie doing that’s weird?”
“Nothing. S-Sorry, that’s not what I m-meant…” Tim pushed open the door to his room then gestured at his desk chair, moving to sit on the edge of his bed. Clarke closed the door after them before sitting. “It’s just, everything’s kinda connected,” Tim finished. “And I don’t want m-my parents walking in at a bad time.”
“Right. Okay.” Clarke rubbed his neck. It felt like they should ease into the conversation. “So, how are your studies?”
Tim smiled. “Fine. Also, Julie appreciated your birthday card.”
Or Tim could cut to the chase for him. “She… said that?”
“Not at first,” Tim admitted. “I’m still trying to understand her m-mannerisms. Her exact words were, ‘At least he didn’t send a gift too’, but she seemed flustered. The way L-Luci gets sometimes when explaining to me about a l-linguistic time travel thing that once included Frank.”
“Ah. And her parents, did they…”
“They d-didn’t do anything. They d-didn’t even come back to town this year. Jeeves got Julie a cake, that seemed to be enough.”
“Right,” Clarke said, feeling relieved. He’d hated the idea of not being there for Julie while her parents were around. A thought occurred. “How much has she told you anyway? About her family?”
“She said they were t-terrible to her in p-private, hence Jeeves is acting as her father. And not to spread that around the school.” He smiled. “She t-tells me the stuff that she knows you’ll be worried about. Clarke, this whole staying c-connected to you through me? I think she really means that.”
Clarke nodded. “Except she won’t tell me directly.”
He licked his lips. “I think she knows that, unlike me, you’d end up pressing her for m-more details. Or m-maybe that she’d hate herself m-more for not giving them.”
“Right. Well, what about you, are you okay with this arrangement?”
Tim uncrossed then recrossed his legs. “I was getting pulled back in anyway, through L-Luci. This is a g-good way for both you and Julie to be happy without j-jeopardizing whatever Julie’s doing. Plus I get a better idea of what’s really going on with all my f-friends.”
“That’s not exactly an answer.”
“Hm. Right.” The shorter blonde ran a hand back through his curls. “I’m okay with this,” he decided. “I mean, it’s one m-more thing on top of Corry’s band, but we’re high school seniors now. I gotta get better at r-responsibility and c-conversations and the like.”
Clarke nodded. “You will let me know if it gets uncomfortable though, yes?”
Tim smiled again. “For sure.”
After a bit more talk about Julie’s state of mind, discussion shifted to Linquist’s language, Corry’s band, and finally the courses they were taking that year. Clarke was struck by just how much Tim was becoming a part of their circle of “temporal friends”, while – like Lee – still managing to stick to the fringes of the action. He wondered how sustainable that situation was.
“What can I get you?”
Chartreuse looked up at the redheaded waitress. “A whiskey?”
Theresa lifted an eyebrow. “Unless you’ve had a few extra birthdays, I think you’ll need to try again.”
Chartreuse smiled weakly. “Right. Then, like, a water. Actually, two waters.” Just as well – she had no idea what she’d be like while drunk.
“You got it.” Theresa smiled. “And hey, whatever you’re working up the courage for? I’m sure you’ve got that too.”
As the cafe waitress moved off, the pink haired mystic turned her attention towards the cafe window beside the booth. The cold November wind was blowing leaves and scattered newspaper pages down the street outside. The pages reminded Chartreuse that midterm report cards would be out soon. Which in turn reminded her that, one year ago, Carrie had been in the hospital. Heck, about a month ago Carrie had been back in the hospital! So what if it happened again, and Chartreuse STILL hadn’t said anything? No. She wasn’t going to back off today. She couldn’t.
“Hey, Chartreuse,” Carrie said, shrugging off her jacket and hanging it on the peg by the booth before sliding in to sit across from her.
“Carrie,” Chartreuse acknowledged, watching her through the reflection in the glass of the window. She closed her eyes, counted to three, then turned to face her friend while simultaneously reaching out to grasp both Carrie’s hands.
“I’m sorry, but I gotta, like, say this now. See, you are, you know, so VERY important to me. Like, more than friends important. And, you know, it’s important for me that you know that, even if I can never, like, show you those important feelings in public.” Chartreuse swallowed. “Or maybe even in private. But I couldn’t keep holding it in, you know? So I hope you knowing about my feelings doesn’t, you know, destroy our friendship forever?”
Carrie raised her eyebrows and blinked her blue eyes, her gorgeous blue eyes. Seemingly on the verge of making a quip, with the corner of her mouth turned up, she then thought better of it, and instead said, “Actually, Chartreuse, I suspected you felt that way.”
Having not anticipated that particular response, Chartreuse wasn’t sure where to go with the conversation. She released Carrie’s hands from her grip. “You… but… h-how long?”
Carrie reached up and started to do that cute thing where she looped strands of her hair around her fingers and started tugging. “From when Clarke’s sister was in town. I got to thinking more about how you’d been reacting to me then, and as such I started paying more attention to how you were looking at me presently. To be honest, when I clued in as to your true feelings, I was squicked out. Initially.” She paused.
“Initially?” Chartreuse squeaked out, her insides feeling like they were being compressed in a vice.
Carrie sighed. “When did it start for you? Like, all summer, were you undressing me with your eyes while I was obliviously–”
“NO!” Chartreuse gasped. “It was, like, the dance, at the end of September. When we were, you know, doing that reading on Corry, and I worried I’d almost lost you. That’s when I really felt connected, when I really felt… felt us…”
Carrie let out a breath. “Okay. Okay, good, that makes me feel better about things. I think.” She yanked hard on her hair, hard enough to start grimacing. “Thing is, we BOTH know I date guys. So if that’s my preference, you know what that HAS to mean for us as a couple, right?”
Chartreuse reached into her pocket, squeezing the meditation crystal she’d placed there. Seeking a measure of tranquility in the inevitable end. “Carrie, I can’t say it. You have to, you know, say it to me.”
“Chartreuse…” Carrie’s eyes flickered all around the room, checking for anyone listening, or perhaps seeking a distraction, before finally bringing her gaze back to Chartreuse’s face. The blonde bit down on her lip. “Chartreuse, I… I… damn it, the fact is, I don’t know. I actually don’t.” She winced. “Ohh, no, please don’t do that.”
“That crazy hopeful look, don’t do that.”
“What look am I SUPPOSED to, like, get?!”
“Not that one.” Her already low voice became a whisper. “Chartreuse, seriously, I don’t think I like girls, not the way you do.”
Chartreuse slumped in her seat. “Carrie, you’re killing me here.”
“I don’t like girls – but honestly, with you I don’t know! So maybe you’re… different?”
“Carrie, I’m still a girl!”
“But you… go both ways.”
“That doesn’t, like, make me not a girl! Look!” Chartreuse straightened, stretching her arms out. “Girl parts. Same as you.”
“I… I know.” Was Carrie’s gaze lingering a bit on her body? Or was that wishful thinking? “Okay, let me lay it all out here,” Carrie sighed, looking out the window.
“Like I said, at first I was squicked out by the thought of the two of us. Particularly given how you’d been training me. But then I realized, the first guy I decided to really commit to, Glen? He turned out to be a trainer too! Worse, he’s mostly seeing me as Future Carrie, making him the latest in a LONG chain of guys who never did it for me emotionally. And with that realization, coupled with your apparent interest, came a questioning of my entire gender choices. Leading to me no longer being squicked, but more, uh, curious.”
She returned her gaze to Chartreuse, her cheeks colouring in a way that made Chartreuse want to hug her. “But DON’T get excited, because following that I, uh, looked up a couple stories. On the internet. And reading them didn’t turn me on. I just couldn’t picture myself doing, um, those things. In that way. So I’m pretty sure I’m straight. Except the girls in those stories weren’t like you, heck, NO ONE is like you, so… so we’re back to damn it, I don’t know. You know?”
“Not really,” Chartreuse admitted, wishing for all the world that she did. “I never, like, went through a questioning phase. My parents talked to me, I read some books, and it all kind of, you know, snapped into place.”
“Lucky you,” Carrie sighed.
“Could you two keep it down here, please? You’re bothering the other patrons.”
Chartreuse jerked her gaze over to Theresa, who was now setting a couple of water glasses on their table. She tried to keep from looking too troubled herself, figuring Carrie’s horrified, wide-eyed stare said it all.
As soon as the water glasses were down, Theresa raised both hands. “Wow, sorry! That was a joke. I don’t know what you said, you two girls have been as quiet as church mice. Quieter, even. CSIS is worried you’re planning some form of espionage. I’ll assume you need another few minutes before you order, okay?”
As Theresa moved off, Carrie let her bright red face drop down until her forehead was touching the table. Chartreuse reached over to give her friend a pat on the shoulder. “Carrie, would you like to, I don’t know, sleep with some of my crystals tonight? To, you know, relax your mind?”
The noise Carrie let out was either a laugh or a sob, it was hard to tell. Then she raised her head, and it was even harder to read her expression. “Sleep with your CRYSTALS? Oh, Chartreuse.”
“Carrie… um, look, that wasn’t, like, a euphemism…”
“I know. Oh, I know.” She reached out to grasp Chartreuse by the arm, and now her smile was genuine. “Please, keep being the random, confusing ray of sunshine in my tortured, temporal existence. Just know that, as far as any relationship goes…” Her voice trailed off.
“You’re still, you know, figuring things out?”
Carrie slowly nodded, then pulled her hand back. “I am. I will say something though. Something that’s going to break all the rules I set in place, including us not talking about powers any more. So promise not to tell Glen about this?”
Chartreuse nodded. “Of course!”
Her hair looped around her fingers again. “Okay. Here it is. I… last month, I… oh hell. I wiped an entire timeline out of existence. To save a single person.”
Carrie’s face had become neutral, but something about her eyes seemed to be asking ‘could you love a person capable of that?’. “Carrie…” Before Chartreuse could complete the thought, she was struck by a realization. “Was the person Frank?”
“Ow!” Carrie untangled her hand from her hair. “How did you know?”
“This, like, impression I had last month. When the two of us were checking on you in the hospital. In retrospect I thought I had, you know, misread his upcoming breakup with Luci, but if your condition back then was, like, linked to this wiped out timeline thing…”
“It was. And if you were that close to working it out? Maybe it explains why Glen seems to know something now too…” Carrie shook her head, then made a decision. “Chartreuse, I can’t handle this alone. After we order? No more secrets.” She smiled sadly. “I’m going to lay a timeline theory on you that will blow your mind.”
NEXT: Bad Signs. Care to cast the weekly T&T vote? At least one person found us there this month.
ASIDE: This was the first new part (separate from the original T&T writing) to be written since Part 48, and the “LoN” guest post, which started off Book 3; more Chartreuse was necessary here. New commentary coming this Sunday.