#Chapter 190: Imagination Run Wild
As I sat there in the bar, seeing the two new transfer students kiss like that made me feel not only sad, but also jealous for some strange reason. I didn’t understand it; why would I feel jealous over two new students who I had never even met?
That feeling wouldn’t go away, either. I found myself hardly able to enjoy the evening, and eventually decided that I needed to get out.
“I’m gonna go home now,” I said, pushing my chair back once I’d finished my second drink. “I’ll see you all later.”
My friends frowned up at me. Justin checked his watch. “It’s not even ten o’clock,” he said. “You’re really leaving now?” “Yeah. I have work in the morning,” I replied, which wasn’t a lie. I did promise Phil I would work at the diner in the morning. With things getting back to normal in town, businesses were opening back up and he was even able to get a shipment of food so he could get the diner running again. I needed the money, too.
“I’m actually pretty tired myself,” Jessica said. She glanced at Lori, who nodded in agreement, and they both stood. I could tell that they weren’t actually tired and really just wanted to be there for me as my friends, but I wasn’t complaining. It made me feel better to have them by my side; I just needed to get out of this bar.
As we began to walk home in the cold winter air, it seemed that my suspicions were correct as Jessica immediately began questioning me.
“So,” Jessica said, “what’s going on with you? You kept staring at those two new transfer students all night.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know exactly,” I replied. “Maybe they remind me of me and Enzo. I’m not sure. But… Don’t you think there’s something a little, I don’t know, off about them?”
Lori furrowed her brow and exchanged glances with Jessica. “They seem pretty normal,” Lori said with a shrug. “I even talked to the girl a little bit at one point when I went up to the bar. She seems nice enough. A little full of herself, maybe, but that’s about it.”
“Did they mention where they came from?” I asked. “I mean, why would two new students suddenly transfer here now, not only almost at the end of a semester, but also right after what just happened? That doesn’t raise any red flags for you guys? I mean, what if Selena sent them-” “Nina.” Jessica stopped and took me by both arms, staring at me intensely.” You’re just being paranoid. We know you miss Enzo and you’re worried about him. And if he doesn’t come home soon, then we promise we’ll all do everything we can to find him and bring him back. But for now, you need to try to take a chill pill and have a little faith that maybe not everything is doom and gloom. Maybe, just for once, two students just like Mountainview and wanted to come here.”
I swallowed as I processed Jessica’s words. Sure, maybe she was right that the new students were here without any sort of ulterior motive or connection to Selena; but I just couldn’t shake off that strange feeling about those two students. And even more so, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I swore, for even just the briefest of moments as I locked eyes with that boy in the VIP box, that Enzo was staring back at me. Had Selena and Enzo returned, somehow? Was it possible that they were wearing disguises?
“When I look at that boy for long enough, I swear he looks just like Enzo,” I said, feeling hot tears begin to prick at the backs of my eyes. “You guys don’t see it?”
Lori sighed then and stepped forward. She took my hand and squeezed it with concern drawn across her face. “I think you’re imagining things, Nina,” she whispered. “You’ve barely been sleeping. All you do is sit in the infirmary all day and all night, trying to replicate Tiffany’s antidote. Don’t you think that maybe it’s starting to get to you? The lack of sleep? Hell, even the fumes from all of that chemical mixing you do all day?”
heart sink. Lori was right; I
hadn’t been sleeping, and I had been spending my days mixing chemicals in the infirmary. Maybe it really was just starting to get to me, and besides: why wouldn’t Enzo come and see me or his friends right away if he was here. Unless Selena somehow made him forget…
No, I thought to myself as I realized that I was starting to reach for answers again. I need to stop this.
Maybe I did just need some sleep, and then I would feel better. I couldn’t find Enzo, Luke, or create the antidote if I was so exhausted I was hallucinating that Enzo and Selena were right here, in Mountainview.
The next morning, after somehow managing to get almost a full night of sleep, I made my way to work. Cleaning the diner and serving customers gave me a sense of normalcy that made me feel a bit better, and a few hours into my shift, I started to feel like myself again. In fact, the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that Lori and Jessica were right; I was just imagining things. And somehow, coming to this realization filled me with more drive to find Enzo; I already had plans to do another sweep of the town after my shift ended to look for Luke so that he could open a portal for us.
Around noon, my shift was coming to an end and I was excited to get to work in the infirmary. But only twenty minutes before my shift ended, the door opened and Justin walked in with a grin on his face.
I was standing behind the counter, wiping it down with a wet cloth, when I looked up to see Justin standing there. He was holding what looked like a big white piece of posterboard in his hands.
“Hey, Nina,” he said, smiling and blushing like a teenager. “I wanted to ask you something.”
I furrowed my brow and set down the cloth I was using to wipe up the counter. “What is it?”
Suddenly, Justin turned the sign around with an even wider grin. On the sign were big letters, written carefully and neatly, that read: “Nina, will you go to the dance with me?”
I couldn’t help but blush a bit. It was honestly cute seeing how much effort Justin had put into the sign, and the sweet look on his face made me smile.
“Well?” he asked. “Will you?”
I hesitated for a moment, biting my lip.
I wasn’t even planning on going to the dance, as I needed to focus on the antidote and trying to find a way to get to Enzo; but at the same time, seeing how excited Justin was made me soften a bit. He was beaming like a little kid as he held the sign.
I didn’t want to be with Justin as long as I knew that Enzo was out there somewhere, but maybe a night of fun would be necessary to clear my head. I supposed that we could go as friends, at least, and I knew that Enzo wouldn’t want me to kill myself with exhaustion.
Finally, I nodded. “Sure,” I said, managing a stiff smile. “I’ll go with you.”