Here is part II in this blog's 3-part Halloween story, following some of the characters from Popular as they celebrate All Hallows. For part I, Fireworks, click here.
The rain had gone and the wind calmed down by the following afternoon when Cameron stepped off the 8B Metro bus in the city centre. Saying a silent prayer that no-one from school would see him using the peasant wagon, he checked the road twice and ran quickly across it. Turning left, he very nearly collided with one of his best friends as she emerged from Rio and Brazil BT9 with a shopping bag slung over her left arm.
"Heysies," she smiled. "Where are you going?"
"I'm meeting a friend for coffee in town. I'm actually already kind of late. What are you doing?"
"Were we supposed to have coffee today?"
"No. It's with ... someone else."
A dark look crossed over Kerry's face. "Oh."
"It's one of the guys," Cameron explained quickly. "It isn't Imogen or Meredith. Or Catherine - obviously."
"I'm sure it isn't," she shrugged. Her eyes darted away and Cameron was seized with a terrible memory.
"It really isn't. Do not follow me to see if I'm lying."
"Fine! But I'll be calling them. I will be calling them, Cammy. Callingsorama."
"Fine. But I swear, we wouldn't make plans without you."
Kerry's face brightened into a pretty smile. "So, how excited are you for Mariella's bash ce soir?"
"So excited," he replied dutifully. "It'll be amazing."
"It will. I heard your ghost costume is super-hot? I'm going as an angel. I got new lipgloss for it. I was going to go as a mermaid, but I can't move in the outfit. Like, not even a little bit."
"You'll look amazing as an angel, Kerry. Good call. Listen, I'm running seriously late - can I call you later?"
"No problema," she smiled. "See you later. Enjoy having coffee with boring people!"
As Kerry sailed off down the street in search of her mother, Cameron dashed across the pedestrian crossing towards the city hall. A large gathering of indies, emos, goths and faux-Satanists were congregated on the black and gold benches nearby; one pubescent couple in matching hells' angels boots were making-out vigorously and Cameron repressed the urge to vomit. A group of girls looked at him with undisguised loathing as he passed by, although he had no idea if he had ever before seen or met them in his entire life. Blake was standing up ahead of him, on the cobbles near the main gates, looking at his phone. Cameron debated whether he should speed-up to show contrition for being fifteen minutes late or to slow down to appear non-chalant and cool. Unfortunately, he was still grappling with this decision and walking in a bizarre half-run, half-skip, when Blake turned to look at him.
His smile belongs in a Colgate commercial, Cameron thought enviously. "Hey. Sorry I'm late."
Blake extended his arms to hug him, but Cameron had already fallen in to step beside him and had to turn awkwardly for the embrace. Americans are huggers, idiot!
As they broke from the hug, Blake looked at him with a glint of amusement in his eyes, as if he knew the hug had been awkward, but they weren't quite close enough yet for him to tease Cameron about it.
"So, where are we going?" Cameron asked.
"I thought we'd go grab a milkshake or something... What?"
"You're so American."
Blake smiled again. "Thank you."
They were about to cross the road when Blake put his hand out in front of Cameron to stop him proceeding. When the black taxi that had been approaching passed by, they crossed over and began walking down Donegall Place.
"How are your classes going?" Cameron asked politely.
A little, rare smirk tugged on Blake's lips. "Do you care?"
"I mean, I’d definitely pretend to," teased Cameron.
Blake turned to look Cameron in the eye as they walked. After a few seconds, he smiled and looked down. "Class is good. The curriculum a big change from the one I had in America, but if I work hard, I should be fine. I think."
"And how are the guys in your form class? Still circus-worthy?"
"You said that, not me."
"They’re okay," Blake said neutrally. "But I think I’m kind of ready to start making some real friends now."
"Oh! Is that what this is? A mission?"
"Would that annoy you?"
Cameron shrugged and smiled. "I dunno. You are a Baptist. That's a bit gross. You might give me a W.W.J.D. bracelet and then, it'd all be over."
Blake ignored the jibe. "Do people usually have to make an effort to become your friend?"
"Yes. But they usually fail," Cameron joked.
"Which means you think I have a good chance of succeeding?"
Cameron paused for a moment and regarded Blake quizzically. "You’re far more confident than you seem at first, Blake."
"And you're far less."
"Shut up. By the way, Blake, quick question, since you've organised everything for today so well and are so familiar with Belfast - have you any idea where we're going?"
"Kerry!" Imogen's greeting contained a faint tone of confusion as she swung open her front door and found Kerry on her doorstep, Rio and Brazil bag still swinging from her arm. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing," she smiled, stepping in. '"Just checking you were here. I saw Cameron in town and thought... Anyway, how are preparations for tonight going?"
"Really well. I very nearly wobbled and changed my costume."
"Sookie Stackhouse. But I changed my mind, because she has a stupid name and, frankly, she's a whore."
Kerry had no idea who this Stackhouse creature was, which meant it must be something to do with either Harry Potter or vampires. "Cameron's having coffee with someone who's not us today."
Imogen shrugged and sashayed into her kitchen. "Must be Mark."
"He is very tall," Kerry mused. "And not fun. Imogen, I'm not kidding, wait to you see my angel wings for tonight. I truly look like Jesus's beffers."