Em and I were eating at Hanna’s, just sitting and chatting. Town meeting had just adjourned for lunch. I was really enjoying it (town meeting, that is – the lunch was just so-so). I remember going to a couple when I was a kid, with the whole family. That was back when grampa was governor, and me and dad and mom would go with him and gramma. Grampa was well respected, but at town meeting he was just another citizen, and he always said he wouldn’t have it any other way. And now we were making a government from scratch. Grampa would have loved this.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Em and I were having lunch at Hanna’s while the twins were eating with dad and Kaiya. That was going to take some getting used to. Since mom died he hadn’t so much as looked at another woman. I want him to be happy of course, but the fact that she’s closer in age to me than to him is a little unsettling, I guess. All right, enough getting sidetracked.
So after a few minutes Lester Reye walked in the tent, obviously looking for something. Us, as it turns out. As soon as he spotted us he started walking over, though not particularly purposefully, stopping to chat with the few people who didn’t think he was a complete douche (he rather pointedly skipped Buchanan and Jack’s table though). Obviously he was up to something, but I doubted he was looking for another fight. You never knew though. I stood up as he got to our table.
“I assume you’re here to apologize?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. I don’t know what got into Burt. I’m just glad you stopped him before he did anything. And Jaisa, I know you did your best in cataloging the plants. It’s not your fault you missed a couple.” He wrung his hands. “I’m so sorry there was a misunderstanding about my intentions. I don’t blame you at all for overreacting when I started to correct Burt.”
“Liar.” Emily breathed, standing up. “You w-” I touched her arm. As she glanced at me I shook my head slightly and started talking.
“Of course, Lester. We both overreacted a bit. Let’s just call it a wash, all right? I’m really sorry if I hurt your wrist, and I appreciate you understanding about the plants.” I clapped him on the shoulder, gently squeezing a pressure point. He winced. “I’ll see you around, alright?” I turned around, sitting back down dismissively. Em took my cue and did the same.
“Why did you let him get away with that? We both know that he was going to shove me, at least. And now he just gets off the hook?” Emily asked, almost whispering. The tent was packed with everyone who just got out of town meeting and noisy as hell, and none of the slackers or snakes were near us, so I figured there was no harm in talking about this here.
“That’s the thing. You know and I know and so does my dad, but other than that that’s not what people saw. I realized what he was doing and reacted. Even the people looking right at us wouldn’t have been sure what happened. So now it’s the three of us and whoever believes us, which means Sinopa, the Stuarts, my family and your family basically. Maybe the Yamasaks, Kara, Joe, Bart and Janie as well, but that’s it. Beyond that as far as people are concerned I did overreact. The best we can do is downplay it and move on.” I laughed. “That’s not to say we can’t have a little fun with it though. I bet he’s fuming after we just dismissed him like that.”
“But…now you look like the bad guy.”
“Yup, and it’s my fault. If I had waited instead of just reacting everyone would have known what he was doing.” I shrugged, “Live and learn. I’m not used to all this politics crap.” I noticed Maylin and Liza coming over.
“What was that about?” Liza asked, putting her tray down and taking a seat.
“Reye just came over to ‘apologize,’” Emily said, obviously still smoldering.
“Ah. By your tone I assume the apology, um, wasn’t one.” May commented. Em nodded glumly. “Oh don’t worry about that little pissant bureaucrat. What goes around comes around, and that’s never more true than when you’re in the minority. And with this pit bull watching him,” she jabbed her thumb in my direction, “he ain’t gonna try nothin!” That prompted a giggle from Liza and an eye roll from me.
“Look, fresh meat!” May nodded towards Kaye, the white haired youth who got me to trip over my own tongue, the Reyes’ teen son Mike (who I had so far avoided meeting) and another boy (man?) I had seen around but not met yet. He was Asian and looked not quite twenty, probably six feet and you could just tell he was ripped even through his t-shirt. And handsome besides. May raised her hand to wave them over.
“No, don’t!” I hissed through my teeth, grabbing her hand down. “Kaye by himself is bad enough, but if both of them came over here at once I think my brain would just turn to mush! Oh god, they’re coming over.”
“Poor Jai. You could beat em up but you can’t talk to them. Aww.” May said. They laughed, while I turned red.
“I call dibs on the hottie,” May whispered, giggly.
“Which one?” Liza asked dreamily as they walked over.
“Mind if we join you ladies?” Kaye’s friend asked.
“Terribly, terribly. No, of course not! Take a load off.” May laughed. “I’m May, and let me introduce you to these lovely ladies of Liberty. This is Jai, the one with the temper – you may have heard of her,” she gestured towards me, “and this is Emily and Liza.”
“Ryu. It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. I think you already know who Kaye and Mike are.”
“G’day,” Kaye nodded.
“Hi,” Mike raised his hand awkwardly. “Don’t hold my parents against me, ok? They’re basically good people, but they’re in over their head. And I don’t know what dad just said to you just now, but he really is sorry for the other night. They sure managed to make a lot of people mad at them, so just pretend I’m an orphan or something, k?” I was expecting a mini Lester, but he didn’t seem all that bad, really.
“It’s good to meet you Mike. And you too Ryu.” Emily said. “I won’t hold your parents against you Mike, if you don’t hold their opinions against me.” She smiled.
We finished up lunch, talking about everything from what we’d been doing (sounds like Mike had actually helped out on the town hall, so he had one up on his dear old dad there), to where we had all come from to who we were thinking of voting for for the council. It looked like the voting age was going to be sixteen, which meant that all of us but Mike and Liza were going to be able to vote, and we weren’t taking the responsibility lightly. Buchanan and company might want to dismiss us as “kids,” but I think we get as well as anyone here the enormity of what we’re doing. We kids are going to be contributing members of our little society, whether everyone likes it or not.