Jared sniffled, I think he was trying not to cry, it was pretty pitiful. He walked over to me, it was only a few steps. He looked like he wasn't sure whether to hug me, or kiss me. He just stood there awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck. I wanted to laugh, but it came out more like a cry than a giggle.
"Um…" he said.
"Yeah?" I raised my eyebrows at him. His eyes were blue. I hadn't known that for so long. Jared had blue eyes. His hair was brown, but lighter than mine. I was smiling uncontrollably, and my own eyes were getting a little watery. I looked around at the storm of color again, trying to give him a minute to compose himself. "So, butterflies?"
"Yeah…" one of them flew over and landed on my hand. "Well, not only butterflies, all kinds of insects. But really, they seemed appropriate for the uh, situation…" I laughed a little. "You know, Rachel, I'm a bit older than you." I nodded, just watching him. I was more listening to his voice than his words.
"So, I'm twenty, and you're sixteen. That's a bad idea in the first place…" The movement of his lips drew my attention away from his eyes. "and since my power can get out of hand… Rachel, you aren't listening, are you?" I laughed.
"Sorry, I just… I really want to kiss you right now."
He sighed, smiled at me, and said "Go ahead."
When we walked out of the park, there were still butterflies everywhere, a few had landed on Jared and I, but they had dispersed fairly well. The news crews were still sitting in the dead end street I had come from. Nathan was animatedly talking to police across some orange cones, while Aaron was standing resignedly in the background, talking to Kay. Shawna looked like she was trying to teach Blake some made up dance. We were holding hands and some reporter started jumping up and down. Cameras immediately turned on again, and swiveled towards us. It was easy getting past the police, there was really not much for them to say, butterflies were obviously immune to human laws. All the reporters were immediately on us, but didn't seem to actually have anything to say. We breezed through and into the enormous white creeper van.
After a stop at a grocery store and a brief detour to a convenience store to buy more Mountain Dew (and of course, Kay insisted on "actual food"-although her definition consisted of sandwich ingredients and Ramen) we all made it back to the condo alive, and fairly happy. I tumbled out of the car and ran into the room laughing, Jared following me and complaining that he didn't get to eat my eggs because he didn't go to Denny's with us.
"Good thing I didn't order eggs then!" I shouted at him. I heard Kay mumble something about "cracking codes" and suddenly it was just the two of us.
Jared stared at me, dumbfounded. "Really?"
"Really what? I got pancakes!" He looked suspicious.
"You really didn't get any eggs?"
"No." I flopped down on the couch and hugged a pillow.
"Catnap?" asked Jared, bemused.
Jared moved my legs off the couch and sat down next to me. "Why is it always a cat?" he wondered aloud.
"Why is what always a cat?" I mumbled into my pillow.
"Well, you could just as easily have ant powers- you know, super strength, walk long distances without getting tired, but you have cat powers. Why a cat?"
I yawned. "I don't know, I like cats okay. Never been attacked by one."
"Hm," said Jared, and turned on the TV. The news was on, and sure enough, there was a massive cloud of butterflies.
"Rachel- Rachel, oh crap, look-" my face was on the screen and a reporter was talking.
"New information is coming in that this girl may be Rachel Dowling, age sixteen, who was recently kidnapped from the Pacific Regency bank just Thursday afternoon from Sand City. If you have seen this girl anywhere, please call the number on your screen now-"
"Holy crap." Jared's tan skin looked a little whiter than usual.
"Someone's actually looking for me?" I felt a little sick. My steps wouldn't actually care, but my dad would. Maybe not enough to file a report, he was always shy and hated any drama, but he would still worry. My mom… It was hard to say. She'd long since moved on to bigger and better things, after divorcing my dad. She hadn't seen me since I was eight.
"Apparently. We haven't exactly been keeping you quiet either…"
"Yeah, but won't they be looking for a… more pale, black-haired, southern-accented version of you?"
Jared smiled. "Liked that accent, did you, missy?" he drawled. I smiled a little and got up, effectively hiding a slight blush. When he had first kidnapped me he was just some guy, but now he was Jared… Now I knew him. Now I was starting to like him.
Wait. I was starting to like him. Hadn't he warned me about that? If he could pull off something like that with butterflies… Somehow, all I could think of was a mental image of Jared summoning a biblical swarm of locusts. I snorted and went off to the bathroom to see what I could do about my beyond matted hair.
Jared would never try to hurt me.
I heard knocking on the bathroom door and Jared yelled, "Uh, Rachel? I think I found your, uh… clothes?"
I opened the door to see Jared holding up the glow-in-the-dark thong at arm's length. I grabbed it and slammed the door on him before I fell over laughing.
Poor Nathan. He missed it.