“Think about it.” Jackson grinned brightly. “Showing them this when you’re already good enough to do something like that!”
Lina twisted her face up. “I’d uh, rather not. I mean. If they wanted this, they’re going to be pissed. If they didn’t want it, ditto.”
“Why would they be pissed if they wanted it?” Jackson’s brow furrowed for a moment before he frowned. “Oh.” He sounded like it tasted bad. “Because you didn’t tell them?”
“Yeah…” She watched him carefully. Was he mad at her about keeping it a secret? What would she do if he was?
“So you have to have a reason that it’s okay to tell them now and not before. School? I mean, hrrm…” He shook his head. “No, they’d have lied to school and you probably can’t pretend to not know that.”
Lina found herself smiling. “You’re gonna help me find a way to tell them?”
“I think you ought to – because of our current situation, at least,” he admitted, “but I don’t want you to get in trouble. That’d suck, and it’s really mostly their fault, since they didn’t tell you that this was a thing. Amazing how many parents don’t.” He shook his head. “I mean… Anyway. I’ll keep thinking about it. There ought to be a way for you to tell them. Maybe we’ll come up with something at this meeting. Which,” he checked his watch, “we’re late for. Guess we’d better get going.”
“Not that anyone’s going to notice,” Lina muttered. She stood up anyway. Whatever they’d missed, they could pick up from someone who was already there, she was sure. There’d been two meetings already and they’d been stultifying pep-rally sorts of things that, of course, said nothing of substance. “You think they’ll actually tell us something this time?”
“To be honest, I find it rather unlikely. The whole thing stinks, and I do mean that in addition to being an apocalypse cult made up of over-rich snobs.”
Lina coughed out a laugh. “I would pay money to hear you say that again.”
“I’ll say it all you want, unless you want me to say it in front of other people. Well, certain other people.”
She grinned at him and was a little surprised at the warmth his smile sent through her. “I’m not trying to get you killed, you know. I mean — you’ve been nicer to me than anyone else here – or, uh.” She cleared her throat. “Than most people back at my school. I almost said my old school,” she admitted, “like this is some sort of transfer program. Leave the world, save your life, get a new principal…”
“I don’t know.” He winked at her, clearly still playing around. “I don’t really think they’ve planned things like educa – no, I lie.” He put his hand over his face. “I bet they have, and I bet the plan was written in nineteen-oh-one, and I bet it’ll be horrible.”
“Oh dear lord.” She mirrored his gesture. “We have to stop this end of the world so we – so we don’t have to go back to the one-room classroom and the whole learning on slates and — that’s about all I know about early education,” she admitted. “I was not going to be a teacher.”
“What are you going to be?” He dropped his hand to peer at her.
“You mean, if the world doesn’t end? Well, if my father didn’t force me into the family business, I was going to go to work for a charity, make something really useful, you know, instead of a lot of crap and PR work.”
“Well…” She rolled her eyes. “I like helping? I mean. I like the idea of helping, I guess.”
His smile now was thoughtful. “I think I could guess that about you, considering – everything.”
“How we met and everything?” When I tried to choke someone?
“That, yes,” he agreed. “I- do you hear that?”
Lina held her breath and listened. There was – shouting?
“I think we should hurry,” she suggested. “I think maybe we missed more than we ought to have.”
“I think….” He grabbed her hand, paused just long enough to check that she wasn’t going to complain, and started running. “..that you might be right.”Want more?