It rained the next day. Heavy droplets that pooled in deep puddles. I stepped in one and watched as muddy tendrils from the woods dissolved into the water.
"Are you coming?" Dad asked. He was holding the keys to my parents car, rain dripping down his hair and he shook his head, scattering them.
"Yeah," I said quickly. I opened the passenger side and got in. I wasn't allowed to use my car, so he was giving me a ride to school.
I felt exhausted. Everything felt heavy. My own body felt heavy. And there was only a long day ahead, and a conversation with Natalie I was dreading.
The rain pelted down even harder and I couldn't help but feel a little twinge of anxiety, that immediately went cold and shot into my side. Rain could uncover things. And while I didn't think it was likely any bodies buried six feet under would resurface, anxiety isn't exactly rational.
Dad was quiet on the drive over. He always was kind of a quiet type, not willing to get too deeply into his personal thoughts and feelings.
I was a lot like him, in a lot of ways. I thought it was more of my 'manliness' than anything, but I didn't really talk about my feelings. Natalie was currently the person who knew the most about those. Then again, I did talk to my friends quite a bit. I guess in that way I took after Mom. Some kind of mix between the two of them. I guess that made sense considering the whole evolution and genetics thing.
I stared out the window on the way, kind of enjoying the solitude of not talking. But before anything really happened, we were at the school. I picked my bag up off the floor and went to get out.
Dad didn't really say anything, but gave me an encouraging nod.
I swung my bag over a shoulder and walked in.
It felt kind of strange today. It was one of those Mondays where everybody was tired and wanted to go back to sleep, and the smell of the rain blew in through the halls. I waited in the security line, yawning.
I pulled the sleeve of my sweatshirt back when I got up there and the security guard nodded as I dropped my bag into the bucket and stepped through the metal detector. Nothing went off. My bag was returned to me on the other side, I continued on my way.
The whole security thing seemed a bit pointless, especially since it shut down after school hours, and on top of that all the windows in the school were easy to get in and out of without being detected, making it easy to bypass entirely. The only thing checking were the ID bands around our wrists. They tracked every step we took. Anything suspicious, and they'd send security after you.
Such was the challenge I'd learned to work around over the years. I stopped at my locker and put my stuff awa,y gathering my books, and then drifted over to Natalie's.
She didn't see me and gave a shocked gasp when she shut her locker and I was there.
"Zeke," she sighed. "Don't scare me like that."
"I need to talk to you after school," I told her. "Or rather I need you to come over after school," I explained better.
"IS everything… okay?" he asked, understandably wary.
"Uhm… yeah, it's just you know… stuff we'd normally do in my car, but I can't drive my car right now, so we'll have to do it at my house."
"Ew," Andrew's voice was directly behind me, making me flinch away. "I've ridden in that car."
At least he didn't know about the actual fluids that got tracked in and out of my car.
"Uh, yeah," Natalie told me, ignoring his comment, recognizing our conversation as being more important.
Andrew looked annoyed at being ignored but I turned to include him in our conversation.
I had been talking like we were doing naughty things in my car, more to keep attention away from the strangeness of me requesting Natalie to come over, with an urgent need for her to do so.
I glanced at the clock on the wall. There was still a few minutes before class. I wasn't used to being here so early. I leaned against one of the lockers.
"So, Zeke," Andrew started. "Did the FBI confiscate your car?" he asked.
"They didn't confiscate it but they did seal it as a possible crimescene," I told him.
"Wait, what?" Natalie asked, completely taken off guard.
"Oh, yeah, Andrew told the FBI about all my serial killer jokes," I explained to her. "But it's okay. I told him he could."
Andrew nodded. "You know they were very eager to hear about you, Zeke. Like they weren't really interested until I mentioned your name then they were all over me with pens and papers. I even had to sign a statement."
I gave a nervous chuckle. "My parents both have records, but I'd rather not talk about it."
"But…" Natalie trailed off. "Weren't you embarrassed about how filthy your car was?"
"Nah." I shrugged. "I'm sure they've seen a lot worse. After all, my trunk doesn't have any bodies in it or anything."
She looked at her feet, thinking about things, but she didn't press for more details. Not with Andrew there.
"So what did they do?" Andrew asked. "Are you even supposed to talk about it?"
"Probably not but since when did I care about the law. You know, as I go murdering people every Friday." I only smiled at my own joke, but he laughed.
"I'm glad you can take this in good humor," he said. "I was really worried, you know."
"But no, they came to my door and they nocked, you know it was all pretty casual and they were all like 'we know you know something about the Friday Killer,'" I said dropping my voice into a mocking gravelly one. "And so I was like okay, what do you want to know. 'Are you Zeke Phoenix,'" I had to stop for a moment here, as my own voice made me crack up. I hadn't realized how stupid of a question that had been. Agent Stepaski and I had met before. He knew my name. "I'm serious he asked me that," I said once I'd gotten my breath back. I didn't realize how good it felt to viciously mock the FBI. I was starting to understand why my parents were legendary for pickpocketing cops and drawing moustaches on their IDs. It was fun. "But more seriously they asked me a bunch of questions about where I'd been on certain dates."
Andrew hadn't found my joke as funny as I had, but he was still amused by it.
We were cut off from further conversation by the bell, and went our separate ways.
We ate lunch together, and Andrew requested a detailed account of how they searched my car. I told him everything. There wasn't anything incriminating there after all.
"Wait," he said after we had thoroughly discussed how much of a waste of their resources it was to go to such lengths with me. "You don't think they went to all of this length because of your last name, did they?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
Natalie was listening in, curiously.
"Well, your last name's Phoenix, isn't it?" he asked. "Wasn't there like a big criminal who had that as a last name who never got caught?"
"Uh, maybe." I told him. I knew that occasionally people narrowed their eyes at my father. Zachary Phoenix. the same name that permeated news stories with Samantha Servester, but my father was good at not drawing attention to himself.
"That would be stupid though," he said.
I shrugged. "Again, my parents do have records."
"Huh. You never mentioned that before," he said.
"It's not really something I want the world to know about," I told him.
He nodded. "I get it."
The rest of lunch was fairly uneventful. But I appreciated the fact that Andrew no longer suspected me as the actual Friday Killer. Regardless of whether or not he was right.
The end of school came, and Natalie was notably more nervous.
I had a feeling she sensed the presence of my parents being involved in her coming to my house.
Dad was going to give us a ride back, and I led her out of the school to wait under the overhang. The rain had stopped but it was still damp and chilly out.
She swallowed next to me and I took her hand for a moment, wanting to give her some comfort, but I didn't want Dad to see us like that so I let it go before he could get here.
"It'll be okay," I told her. "It's just a talk."
I seemed to confirm her feels because her face went a bit pale and she swallowed again, but by the time Dad got there, she had restored some color to her cheeks and put on an oblivious attitude.
It didn't matter. My father didn't say anything, just drove. I sat in the back with her, trying to keep her as comfortable as possible.
But there was only so much I could do.
AN: Update on my cat with the kitty heart condition: He pooped outside my door in protest of not being allowed outside anymore. It's a really big pile of poop too.