Bitter 525

“Why do you want to see my Dad, Rick?” Britta was careful not to admit anything. He could be fishing, trying to get her to confirm a guess. No one knew Dad’s game identity, not unless Dad had gone around telling people, which wasn’t very likely.

All she knew for sure was that Rick had found out Dad played. That information he could have got from Lewis. Everything else would mean he had to have met Dad in-game and got the information personally. Or, that he’d found a way to hack the game.

“Just take me home with you,” said Rick. It was an odd demand from an odd person.

“What happened to your face?” She switched subjects to buy herself more time. She wanted to know how he had figured this out, and what his plan was. Even if he knew about Dad, why did he want to meet him?

“Nothing. I got into a fight.” He seemed almost proud of himself.

“With Toby?” He was the prime suspect, but there might be any number of people who would want to beat him up. He had an aloof way of speaking that immediately put your back up. He was probably just doing it as a self-defence mechanisms, like most weak people trying to stand up for themselves and overdoing it, but it was still aggravating.

“No, not that idiot. I have a rough life, we can’t all live in a pretty street with nice trees.” He was getting odder by the moment. What had the trees got to do with anything?

“You’re being weird and creepy. I don’t like it when people are pushy and rude with me, and you’re being both.”

“I’m not being rude,” he said, eyes twitching. He was offended, like most people when they’re accused of something they feel is unjust.

“You’re following a girl home, sneaking around so she doesn’t see you. How do you think that looks? Have you any idea what it’s like being a girl on her own with some weirdo following her?”

The blank look on his face suggested he didn’t.

“I don’t care about you, I just want to talk to your dad.” He was honest, if not very tactful. Britta believed him. He wanted to talk to Dad about the game. He was as bad as Lewis; obsessed.

“I don’t care what you want. You aren’t entitled to get whatever you want just because you want it. Nobody owes you any favours.”

“I didn’t ask you for any favours.”

Britta could see the problem. In his mind, following her home was him not bothering her and doing things himself. He didn’t feel entitled, he thought he was earning the right to what he wanted by putting in the effort. The effort of following her home like you would follow a character in a game.

“You can’t follow people around, it’s wrong.” His face was blank. “It’s a bad thing to do, understand. It’s… it’s evil.”

He baulked, like he’d been stung. “No, it isn’t.”

“Yes. It is. It’s what bad people do to get what they want. They ignore other people’s feeling. You’re making me uncomfortable and upset, and you don’t care. That’s what an evil person would do.”

He stared at her, thoughts going around in his mind. “I… didn’t mean to upset you intentionally.”

“Okay, that’s good. But when you aren’t aware of the effects of your actions, when you don’t consider how the other person will feel, it’s called being inconsiderate, and it isn’t a good excuse for bad behaviour. Being thoughtless doesn’t get you a pass, it means you’re selfish and put yourself before everyone else.”

His mouth tightened. Britta regretted being so forthright with him. She thought it might make it easier to get through to him, but she was upsetting him. He might even get violent. People who were forced to face their own failings when they weren’t ready often lost it. A sharp tongue was often what set them off.

“If I don’t put myself first, no one else will,” he said through clenched teeth.

He may well have been right. His determination to get his way even though school and society had marked him out as an undesirable was probably the only way he’d get anywhere in life. There were plenty of heads of companies and even countries who had used the exact same mindset to achieve success. It was a completely valid strategy, if you had no shame and no empathy. It was dangerous, too. People with a grudge could easily place the blame on those who didn’t deserve it.

“I don’t like being followed, Rick. It isn’t acceptable. You might know you aren’t going to do anything weird to me, but no one else does. I don’t. The police won’t.”

“What are you talking about? Police? You’re crazy.” Rick look baffled. “Just because that’s how your mind works doesn’t mean everyone else is a depraved lunatic, as well. Sometimes, I think the whole world is crazy. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you, any of you. Sending each other dick pics and videos of breasts. It’s disgusting. You all think it’s normal. I can’t turn on my computer without someone trying to show me something I have no interest in seeing. I hate this world. I wish I could leave it forever.”

Rick stared at her, adjusting his glasses like he was trying to get a better focus. Then he turned around and started walking away at speed. He looked weird walking so quickly with such short strides.

He stopped at the corner. “I’m not evil. You have no idea what the word even means.”

And then he was gone.

Was that a threat? She had thought of trying to help him. Just as well, it was unlikely she’d be able to talk sense into him. He was like any number of socially awkward boys, unable to communicate very well or see how they came across. He was probably convincing himself she was the one in the wrong for not just doing what he wanted.

It was all a bit scary, but she refused to let it get to her. Dealing with irritating boys who thought they could do as they pleased was another thing she would need to get used to. The world was full of them.


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Afterword from Mooderino
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