1.2: Party Car

“Was it this empty last year?” Nuria asks, looking around the train car, not one seat occupied. She absently hands Rum her suitcase as she views the vacancy as a foreboding sign of her immediate future.

     “Well, think about it. Sakela is a pretty fantastic city, so not many kids would want to leave it for just school. They can still go to arcades, movies, and restaurants after school. FHA is great, but in this scenario, we’re the outliers,” Rum explains as he shuts their luggage in the overhead bin.

     “Maybe we shouldn’t be,” Nuria says with a huff, making another one when she drops down into her seat. She pulls her seatbelt tight as it’ll go. Not like I’ll need to get up to hug anyone anyway.

     “You don’t think that for real. You love Four Hearts,” Rum replies, sitting across from her in a forward lean. “Just wait until you see Tyra again.”

     Nuria gives him a venomous side-eye. “Fasten your seat belt. We don’t want any encore performances from last year.”

     “How’d you even…oh, yeah. Tyra saw it happen.”

     “Stop saying her name and do what I said!”

     “Aye, aye, captain.”

     The click of the buckle locking into place calms Nuria as she turns to look out the window. She watches Sakela City fall away in the distance with wanting, thinking that without Tyra, her home away from home is no longer complete. Rum tries to argue the opposite when she voices that fear, using Auriel’s tactic to remind her of Shuri and Stark. Like before, she smiles and knows the salve is temporary. Yes, she appreciates having those two in her life but Tyra was the one forever by her side, no matter what she needed.

     “You know what I’ll miss about her the most,” Nuria says.


     “She never gave me all the answers. She let me unravel my gifts on my own. From the get-go, I feel she understood I’m the kind of person who doesn’t need handholding. And on top of that, flying is awesome! Without her, I have nobody else to fly with.”

     Rum hums thoughtfully as the train comes to a halt.

     “We have now arrived in Sanlow City,” an announcer says through the car speakers. “Please allow all passengers to deboard before entering. Once in your assigned car, swiftly place your luggage in the overhead bins, buckle up, and do not move around until the train has come to a complete stop.”

     Nuria blinks incredulously when Rum does the opposite and stands in the middle of the car with arms open wide. “What are you–”

     “Rummy!” Pan cheers when the automatic doors split to grant her access to the car. She drops her bags right before leaping into his arms and embracing him back. “So good to see you again!”

     “Ditto! How was your spring?”

     “It started off boring and long as hell, but then you wouldn’t believe what I did! Just look at my–”

     Nuria loudly clears her throat, slicing their reunion in two.

     “Oh!” Pan says. “Sorry, Nuria, I didn’t expect to see you here. Kinda thought you’d run to school again. Nice shirt, by the way.”

     “Thanks,” Nuria says. “And I like your shirt, too.” Nuria points to Pan’s green jersey where a stylized arrowhead on her left shoulder and breast points toward her right ones. Her matching sweatpants have the same arrowhead design on the left pants leg and it points upward.

     “Why does it look familiar?” Rum asks.

     “Okay, so…” Pan dives into her explanation but Nuria tunes it out while Rum is all in. The phoenix is happy her brother has his freshman year bestie by his side; however, she’s forced to lament the conversations she and Tyra would have. It’s all she can think of for the next few stops. She doesn’t even know why she looks when the automatic doors hiss behind her since Tyra isn’t Ibri.

     “Well, well, look what we have here,” the newcomer says.

     “What are you doing in this car?” Rum asks.

     “The dick probably snuck past security,” Pan states with a grin, rising to greet the gentlemen with a hug. “Have a good spring?”

     Aven blows out an exasperated breath. “I’m just glad it’s over. Need a change of pace like you wouldn’t believe.”

     “Try me,” Pan says as she directs him to their group’s little section, the rest of the car still vacant.

     Aven nods to the siblings as he takes the seat beside Nuria. “Sparks, Feathers. Long time, no see.”

     “You can call me Rum, you know.”

     “It’s Sparks or it’s Rummy.”

     “That’s a no-no,” Pan says. She leans on Rum’s shoulder possessively. “Only I can call him Rummy.”

     “Roger that, Eagle Eyes. Sparks it is.”

     Rum just shakes his head. “What’s with you two and nicknames?”

     “They’re fun,” Pan replies. “Though the dick probably just uses them to annoy people.”

     “Not true…entirely, anyway,” Aven states. “I never gave one to Tyra. Isn’t that right, Feathers?”

     Nuria rolls her eyes, then leans back and stares straight up at the ceiling, hoping gravity keeps her tears stuck where they form. It gets harder and harder as the conversation goes on without her.

     “What’s wrong with her?”

     “Tyra’s name is taboo,” Rum elucidates.

     “What? Why? Aren’t they thick as thieves?” Pan asks.

     “Not anymore.”


     Aven whistles to express his astonishment. “That’s a bummer and a half. Sorry…Nuria.”

     Nuria thanks Drijad that the train enters a tunnel at that very moment. Her tears fall without any witnesses as she successfully keeps herself from whimpering and sobbing.The second we leave this tunnel, I’m leaving my hurt here, too. Tyra’s gone. Get over it, Nuria. Like Mom said, I’ll meet other people. And this time, I’m not gonna put a priority on anyone.

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