Chapter 3.4 – Rivals

“I’m sorry, Flynn, but enough is enough!”

The sadly familiar sounds of shouting from downstairs interrupted my morning study break barely five minutes in.  Sighing, I left my room and stumbled downstairs, searching for the source of the commotion.

“Mum, chill out,” my brother’s panicked voice drifted out from the entrance hall.  “I’ll do better, I promise!”

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Mum sighed.  She and Dad had always had a soft spot for Flynn.  “Honey, the school is ready to do something drastic.  You’ve known it could come to this for months now, and nothing’s happened!  You’re going to boarding school, and that’s final.  If the schools here couldn’t manage to discipline you, maybe the best schools in Sunset Valley will have a bit more luck.”

Flynn hung his head in defeat, and waited silently while Mum pulled out her phone.  I had always known that Flynn had no motivation when it came to school, and his grades had been seriously bad for several years now.  It looked like Mum and Dad were finally coming good on their promise to send him to military school if it ever got bad enough.

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While Mum talked on the phone with the directors at Fort Starch Military school, I turned and went silently back upstairs.  The shouting had stopped, at least.  And my baby brother would leaving for boarding school… tomorrow.

It took a few weeks after Flynn had left for the rest of the family to settle back into their normal routines.  Mum especially seemed to regret her decision at times, and it was always Dad or I who reassured her that everything was for the best.

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I still hadn’t spoken to Luc in the weeks since we had argued.  Occasionally we passed each other in the hallway at school, where his attendance had improved dramatically, but I ignored his smiles and apologetic looks alike.  As far as I was concerned, our brief friendship was over.  If he couldn’t trust me enough to tell me even the smallest of things, I couldn’t trust him with anything.

That was, until one afternoon when he managed to corner me at my locker.  I had stayed late at school to finish some work, and was just about to head home.  The halls were deserted; aside from a few teachers, I was convinced I was the last person left in the building.  As I snapped the metal door shut, however, I heard a familiar voice call my name.

“Di?”

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I turned my head towards Luc, who was standing against the lockers a few feet away and looking more sombre than I had ever seen him.  He made a move towards me, but I backed away.

“Di, please!”

“Leave me alone,” I hissed, angrily slapping away the cautious hand he had placed on my arm.  “I have nothing to say to you.”

“But I do!  Hear me out… please?”

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I ignored him, deliberately turning my back on him and walking away in the opposite direction.  Behind me, I heard him let out a small sigh.  That was the end of it, then.

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Or not.  Seconds later, footsteps – and then Luc was there, blocking my path again.

I let out a growl of frustration, and tried to sidestep him, but he moved to block me again.  “What the hell do you want?!” I almost yelled in his face.

“I want you to forgive me.  Di, I didn’t mean those things I said!  I’m sorry I said them!  Please, if you just hear me out, I promise I’ll leave you alone and never bother you again.”

My scowl only deepened, but the offer of never having to see him again was too tempting.  I consented to stay put.  Luc seemed to take that as a positive sign as he began to talk.

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“Look, I didn’t mean to say the things I said.  I know people say those things to you all the time, and it must be hard to hear it from someone who… well, someone who I hoped you might have come close to considering a friend.”

The accuracy with which he managed to pinpoint my feelings surprised me, and I softened my expression without even realising it.  Apparently encouraged, he went on.

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“I know I’m not the best at controlling my temper in difficult situations.  And I’m not the best at apologising either.  But I know I’ve really missed you these past few weeks.  All I can say is… I’m sorry.  And I… I hope you can forgive me.”

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I had missed him too – more, I realised now, than I had allowed myself to feel at the time.  But I wasn’t quite ready to forgive him – there were still some things I needed to sort out.

“You don’t trust me,”  I stated.  “How can we be friends again if you don’t trust me?”

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He looked genuinely surprised.  “What makes you think I don’t trust you?”

“Oh, please,” I scoffed.  “You won’t tell me anything.  ‘You’re too good’. ‘You wouldn’t understand’. ‘You’re not my mother’.”  Luc recoiled, as though his own words were causing him as much pain as they had caused me.  For a few moments he stood silent, his eyes downcast.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you,” he said at last.  “I do.  It’s just that… I’m not good at letting people in.  You’re not either, that’s why I thought you’d understand.  There are some things about my past that I’m just not ready to talk about.”  He paused.  “But I do trust you.  You’re my best friend, Di.  You have to believe that.”

He stared pleadingly at me, waiting for my response.  As much as I wanted to be friends again, I hesitated before answering.

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I did understand what he was trying to say… and I knew how he felt about opening up to other people because I often felt the same way.  I still wondered about the things he wouldn’t, or couldn’t tell me, but for now, I knew he was right.  If we were going to be friends, I had to trust him.

And I did.

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Without another word, I moved forward and wrapped my arms around his neck.  For a moment he stood still, frozen in surprise, but then his hands slid hesitantly around my waist and pulled me close.  Breathing in the warm, familiar smell of his hair and jacket, I wondered how I had let myself get so close to another person in such a short time.  But there was no denying it, even for me… here in his arms, I felt safer than anywhere else in the world.

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When we pulled apart, we were both smiling.  “So… does this mean we’re friends again?” Luc asked me with a grin.  I laughed, and nodded.  “Good,” he said, “’cause, um… I was wondering…” he looked very nervous all of a sudden, and I squeezed his hand to reassure him.

“What’s up?”

He took a deep breath and blinked a few times before continuing.  “Well, you probably know the prom’s coming up in a few months.  I was just wondering if you wanted to go together… you know…” he cleared his throat, “…as friends.”

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Wow.  I certainly hadn’t been expecting that.  I hadn’t even been planning on going to prom, and I assumed Luc hadn’t either.  But if I was going to go, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather spend the evening with.  I smiled at him.  “Sounds good.”

Luc visibly relaxed.  “Cool!  Well, that’s… that’s settled, then.”

I nodded.  “Yep.  Listen, Luc, I’d love to stay and talk, but I have to go.  I’ll be late for work.”

He nodded his understanding.  “Sure thing.  See you later, Di.”

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When I got home after work, Patterns was waiting for me.  Even though he had been my best friend for as long as I could remember, I hadn’t seen him in a long time, especially since I had become a teenager and more or less grown out of ‘imaginary’ friends.  Seemed like today was the day for mending friendships.

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“Hey, Pat.”  I greeted him as I stepped into the kitchen.

“Diana!” His enthusiasm was unmistakable, a big grin spreading across his cloth-like face.  “It feels like we haven’t seen each other in forever.”

I nodded my agreement.  Patterns had been given to me as a doll when I was a very small child, but I had known something was special about him from the moment we laid eyes on each other.  He was my closest friend and most reliable companion growing up, and even now, though we rarely played together any more, it felt good to have him around.

When we had first ‘met’, I had been too young to have seen any scary movies or heard any stories about possessed dolls.  Even as I grew older and started to be exposed to them, Patterns never frightened me.  I knew I wasn’t crazy, but I never figured out what made him sentient… or why I was the only one in the family who could see him.  Either way, I was convinced that if he was possessed by anything, it was surely the friendly ghost of a child.  And he meant too much to me to ever give him up.

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Today was different, though.  Today, I wasn’t just too busy to play – we had more important things to do together.  Earlier that week, I had found a mysterious potion next to Dad’s workbench with a mysterious label… “Metamorphium Potion – Turning ? into Humans.”  It wasn’t too clear, but after reading the label carefully and researching the Metamorphium Potion, I was almost certain that it would work to turn Patterns into a real human.  Even on the off-chance that something did go wrong, it wasn’t like he could be killed – he was a doll, after all.  I was determined to give it a try, and now all that was left was to tell Patterns the good news.

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“Pat, listen.”  I grabbed him by the hand, and dragged him into a corner of the kitchen where we were less likely to be seen.  I still wasn’t sure how I was going to explain everything to my family if this plan worked, but I definitely didn’t want Dad to find out any sooner than he had to that I had stolen one of his experiments.  It sat lightly on my conscience, since it wasn’t like he had any use for it anyway, but I wasn’t sure that he would see it that way.  “I have something really important to tell you.”

“Really?” His blue eyes went wide.  “What is it?”

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I glanced quickly around the room to make sure no one else was in sight, then hastily retrieved the potion from its hiding place under the sink and handed it to Patterns.  He stared at the beaker in his hand for a few minutes, looking utterly nonplussed.  “What’s this?” he asked after a while.

I explained to him, as quickly as I could, how I had found the potion and what I thought it meant.

“So, you’re telling me,” he said slowly, his excitement building with every syllable, “that this… potion… will turn me into a real human?”

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“That’s the idea,” I grinned.  “How does that sound?”

“Amazing,” he breathed.  “I can’t believe… thank you so much, Diana.”

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“Not a problem,” I said happily.  “So… are you going to drink it, or what?”

He nodded eagerly, and lifted the potion to his lips.

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The moment the golden liquid entered his mouth, sparks of light began to dance around his face and body.  I held my breath as I watched him drain the contents, bubbles bursting from his open mouth, along with a cloud of thick purple smoke which swirled around his body and engulfed him within seconds.

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Instinctively, I squeezed my eyes shut and turned away to protect myself.  By the time the smoke had cleared and I felt it was safe to look up again, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A young man stood before me where my beloved friend had been just moments before, dressed in a suit that matched his bright violet hair, and examining his own body as though he, too, couldn’t believe what had just happened.

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“… Pat?”  My hesitant call came out as a whisper.  The boy looked up shyly, and I noticed that his eyes were the same brilliant blue that they had been as a doll.  I grinned.  “Pat,” I said again, a little more surely now.  “Is that really you?”

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His smile was dazzling.  “I think so.”

“I can’t believe it…” I murmured.  “How do you feel?”

“Amazing.”  A wide grin spread across his face.  “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

I felt oddly like crying.  “Pat… I’m so glad…” I managed to choke out, before throwing myself into his arms.  He caught me easily, laughing, spun me around once before setting me back down on the floor.  I grinned and hugged him tightly.  My idea had worked – my oldest friend was finally human.

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In the end, things worked out a lot better than I had thought they would.  Hiding in my room only worked for Pat for a few days, before I had to come clean and tell my parents everything.  They were, understandably, shocked and a little upset, Dad especially since I had taken one of his potions and used it without asking, but overall they were surprisingly accepting of the whole situation.  They agreed to let Pat stay in the house with us indefinitely, sleeping in Flynn’s old room, until he and I were both adults and could decide what we wanted to do after that.  He had, after all, been my best friend for most of my life, even if they had only ever seen him in his stationery doll form.

Patterns, for his part, fell immediately in love with his new life.  He had always wanted to go to school, so we went together the next week, and he loved it, in spite of all the strange looks and some nasty comments he got about his suit and his hair.  The same afternoon, I introduced him to my small group of friends; Mandy he adored, so much so that I almost felt the need to remind him that she was already dating someone (my cousin, Ethan), but with Luc he was uncharacteristically cold and hostile – a feeling which, to my dismay, appeared to be mutual.  Some days I was almost glad when one or the other couldn’t make it to school, so I wouldn’t have to witness their constant squabbling all the time.

The end of the school year was fast approaching, and with it, our final exams as seniors.  In spite of Mandy’s protests, I had already begun studying seriously several months in advance.  As a new student, Pat was exempt from exams for this year, so ended up spending most of his time distractingly staring over my shoulder, or, as he called it, ‘keeping me company’.  One rare afternoon, however, he seemed to have decided to keep out of my way – with the result that I finished all the work I wanted to do within half the time it normally took, and decided to get myself a snack and a break as a reward.  I had just finished my snack, and was heading towards the television, when Pat came downstairs.

“Diana!” he called when he saw me.  I suppressed an impatient sigh with difficultly.

“Hey, Pat.  Listen, I was just about to-”

“There’s something I have to talk to you about,” he blurted out before I could finish.

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I raised my eyebrows, my curiosity piqued.  “Shoot,” I said, after a moment’s hesitation.  He twisted his hands nervously, avoiding my eyes, apparently in no hurry to begin.  “Is everything all right?” I asked him, concerned.

“Yeah… Yeah, everything’s fine,” he assured me.  Then he took a deep breath.  “I just wanted to tell you I’ve really been enjoying school these past few months we’ve been going together.  I’ve learned so much!  And there’s this ‘prom’ thing coming up soon and I heard we were supposed to take a girl, so I was wondering if you might, um, maybe want to come… with me…” he trailed off, looking at me hopefully, and my heart sank.

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“Look, Pat, it’s really nice of you to ask, but…” I bit my lip nervously, not wanting to hurt his feelings, but knowing I had no choice.  “I kind of already said I’d go with Luc.”

“Oh.”

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He was obviously trying to hide his disappointment, for my sake, but I could tell that he was pretty crushed.  It was no secret that he and Luc didn’t get along, and I suddenly had the odd feeling that I was stuck in between two love rivals.  I looked away from Pat, hating to see the hurt on his face, but unable to think of anything that could make it better.  After a long and awkward pause (at least, that was how it felt to me), he spoke again.

“Well, it’s fine, right?” his voice sounded oddly small, and my heart twisted with guilt.  This was my fault.  “It’s not like we won’t see each other… we can still spend time together on the night.”

“Definitely,” I agreed eagerly.  Even though I knew it was silly, I couldn’t shake the guilt I was feeling, as if Pat had just confessed his love to me and I’d had to turn him down.  I mentally shook myself.  This situation was nothing like that – Luc and I were just going as friends, and that was all Pat had in mind as well.  I shouldn’t be making such a big deal out of this.  And yet…

Pat smiled at me reassuringly.  “It’s okay, Diana,” he said.  “I understand.  Don’t worry about it.”

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I tried to smile back, but my muscles wouldn’t quite cooperate.  “I’m sorry, Pat,” was all I could manage to say.

“It’s fine,” he said again.  “It’s not your fault.  I was just too late, that’s all.”  He turned and went silently back upstairs, without so much as a backwards glance.  I was left standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room, turning over his last sentence in my head… I was just too late, that’s all… and wondering, for the first time in the months I had known Luc and Pat together, if there was possibly something more to this than just a silly high school prom.

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6 thoughts on “Chapter 3.4 – Rivals

  1. Yay, she forgave Luc ❤ Still don't know what his secret is though…
    And I totally forgot she had an imaginary friend! He's cute, but he's definitely going to cause problems between Luc and Diana, I think…
    Great chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’ll be a while before we find out what’s been going on with Luc. I kinda forgot about Pat too, until James made the metamorphium potion lol. Thanks for reading, Lila! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked Pat! Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether or not to include him in the story. Di and Luc both have issues with trust, but hopefully they’ll eventually be able to get past that with each other.

      Like

  2. A new guy. I didn’t expect an imaginary friend turned real out of sudden. Pat is cite and I felt bad when Diana has to turn him down. Maybe things are bad between him and Luc because they both like Diana too much?

    Like

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