“You better keep training, so you are ready when we need you,” Samantha told Kevin as we turned to leave.
“I’ll be ready.” He gave her a half-wave goodbye. I could tell that he wanted to say more, but something had kept him quiet. It was strange to see my brother at a loss for words; I had never seen him as anything but confident.
We walked in silence until we were almost home.
“So where is Henry going to live?” Kevin asked, as we neared the gate.
“I suppose with us, we can say he’s an exchange student.” Monty smiled because no one would realize just how big of an exchange it would be.
“Wow, having three teenagers under your roof, you’re going to be the uncle of the year.” Liam laughed.
“Yeah, and when you consider how often you are over, Liam, it’s more like four teenagers.” It was so good to see Monty laugh. I had seen the pain on his face when I first ran over to him; I knew he had really worried that he would never see me again.
“What do you think Dad will say, though? Do we even tell him?” I asked hesitantly. I had thought of my dad infrequently over the past few days, but thoughts of returning to Charleston made me think of him instantly.
“We have to tell him about Henry,” Monty said, looking at me.
“Why?” I asked, confused.
“With everything else going on, I never mentioned it, but your dad is coming to visit next week. He wants to be the one to take you to your road test.” Monty smiled.
“My road test?” I was suddenly nervous. I had forgotten all about the fact that I was finally old enough to get my license. My previous life seemed like a distant memory even, though it had been less than a week since I had left home.
“Oh, come on, Charlotte! You can’t seriously be nervous about a road test after all of that.” Kevin gestured behind us.
“I’m not; I’m just surprised.”
“By the way, happy belated birthday. We’ll celebrate when we get home,” Monty said lightly.
“Thanks, but I don’t really want to celebrate,” I told him honestly.
Monty let everyone walk a little bit ahead of us. “I know it’s hard, Charlotte. I know that you miss Calvin, and it must have been nearly impossible to leave him.”
“It’s all fake, Monty. I know that,” I told him, trying to make myself to believe it.
“Fake? Charlotte, it is not fake; your feelings are real,” Monty said gently.
“You sound like Ruth.” I teared up at the thought of never seeing her again.
“I was there when your mother found her Gerard. I have seen how true that love is. I also see it in you.” He looked over at me as we walked.
I didn’t want to talk about Calvin anymore. “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
“No, I suppose there’s not. But if you ever want to talk…”
“Yeah, I know.”
We caught up with everyone else as we neared the gate. I pulled out my necklace and inserted the crystal key. I pushed the door open, and we walked through into the early morning light of a beautiful Charleston day. I decided to ask the question I had been mulling for a while. It certainly wasn’t the most important thing to think about, but I was still curious.
“So do my eyes still look really bright?”
“Yes,” everyone said in unison.
“Do you think anyone will notice?”
“If you mean people in Charleston, probably not. It will be harder for people from outside of Energo to see the changes in you,” Monty answered.
“Oh.” I wasn’t exactly disappointed, just a little sad. I guessed I was hoping something would be a little different about me after all of this, like somehow everyone should realize I was no longer the same person.
I stopped to sit in my usual spot by the fountain, and James sat down next to me just like he had after the party that night. “Don’t worry, Charlotte. No matter what everyone else sees, you will always have the afterglow.”