Chapter 7: Kenneth
The 15th day of the second month.
It was lunchtime at the cafeteria. The weather was clear.
“We have the photo we need, but I’m kinda iffy on using one with Seron on it.”
“It is no matter! Just give it to SC Kenneth!”
“Calm down, Megmica.”
“Indeed. You have some sauce on your face.”
Everyone but Seron was sitting at the same table.
The table was at a corner of the cafeteria. Because it was so far from the counter and close to the walls, it was poorly heated. That kept other students away from the vicinity.
A single black-and-white photograph lay in the middle of the table, surrounded by empty plates on platters.
The photo was 25 centimeters by 30 centimeters in size. It depicted Seron and Bridget standing in a classroom.
Though Bridget’s golden hair covered their faces, from the way they stood it was clear that they were kissing. Seron’s face was almost completely concealed. Only someone who knew him in person would recognize him from the photo.
But the newspaper club, naturally, could tell who he was. Nick and Natalia were shocked when they arrived at the table (having been told by Jenny over the telephone the previous night to meet up at lunch).
“It is unforgivable!”
But their shock was overshadowed by Meg’s continued outrage, giving way to calm.
“Well, in a way this might be a good thing,” Natalia said, having finished two servings of food, “we got our job done quick. The guy being Seron might make it look like we goaded SC Bridget into this, but what SC Kenneth doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”
“Indeed. I suppose we have completed SC Kenneth’s request, then,” Nick said nonchalantly, “that was easier than I had expected.”
Larry was silent the whole time.
“It is unbelievable! SC Bridget, who is doing this even though she has a fiancé! And Seron, who is kissing happily without running away!” Meg cried, holding the edge of the table in a vise-like grip.
“Oh?” Natalia raised a playful eyebrow. “Getting angry at SC Bridget I can agree with, but why’re you so angry at Seron?”
“Pardon? What is it?”
“Even if Seron has a crush on you, you’ve never really talked with him about it. So Seron’s free to think you turned him down, and he’s allowed to kiss or date or marry whoever he wants. Right?”
Megmica could not retort. Instead, she picked up her platter. “I have my next class now. Excuse me first!”
“Come to the office after class, okay?” Said Jenny, “we’re gonna have a strategy meeting for tomorrow.”
“I understand… Please excuse me.”
Larry hesitated for a second, but he decided to speak.
“Seron’s coming too.”
“I understand. But I am not angry. Please excuse me.”
The others watched as Meg walked away with puffy cheeks.
“Seriously…” Larry sighed.
“Your lunch not going down, Larry?”
“You’re the only one who’s always got food on her mind, Lia.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“Today’s meeting’s gonna be tense.”
“Oh, that’s what’s bothering you? Don’t worry, you’re probably right,” Natalia said nonchalantly.
“Finally, a true confrontation,” Nick said with a smiled and a nod, “I’m looking froward to—er, I mean, I am quite worried.”
“You don’t have to bother acting nice, Nick,” Larry sighed. “Is this really gonna work out for the best, Seron?” He wondered quietly.
* * *
“How many more times do you intend to skip practice, Natalia?”
Immediately after school, Natalia had been caught at her locker by Lena Portman, who was now a sixth-year and still the president of the orchestra club.
“I will drag you to the music room on a leash if I have to. It’s such a relief that you’re not a woodwind or a brass.”
“Sorry, SC Portman, but I don’t think I can make it today.”
“And why is that? Just try and convince me if you can.”
“Sure. Thing is—”
“The newspaper club’s holding an important meeting today to determine Megmica’s fate.”
“I have to be there to calm her down.”
“Otherwise she’ll lose her mind. Might grow to ten times her size and go on a bloody rampage. She’ll destroy the campus, the Capital District—I’m sure the Confederation Army’ll bring in their tank brigade to take her down in the end, but no one wants that.”
“Which is why I’ll be ditching today.”
* * *
The members gathered one by one at the office.
As usual, Larry was the first to arrive. It was essentially a given as his last class of the day was closest to the office.
“Good afternoon.” “Hey Larry.”
Nick and Jenny were next.
Natalia was next. As usual, she had brought snacks—a box of large donuts and her so-called ‘purifying chocolates’.
And as usual, Larry got to work brewing tea.
“I am here… Good afternoon, everyone,” Meg said, stepping inside with a complicated look.
Several minutes later.
“Sorry I’m late.”
Seron entered the office. It had been a long time since the six members were gathered together.
Seron sat on the sofa, but Meg—sitting across from him—made a point of looking away.
“There, there, have a donut. Or some chocolate.”
Natalia tried to push a piece of chocolate into Meg’s mouth, but Meg leaned away in a show of refusal, allowing the chocolate to go to Natalia instead.
“All right,” Jenny began, “now that we finally have everyone together, let’s get down to business. Ready?”
“Yeah!” “No objections here.”
Amidst the enthusiastic responses, however, Seron and Meg remained silent. Like Roxche and Sou Be-Il locked in a cold war over the Lutoni again, they sat quietly across the table. Jenny looked at them both.
“Today, we’ll be discussing the two requests that SC Kenneth and SC Bridget have given us. I explained the request from SC Bridget to Megmica yesterday, too.”
“Yes, I listened to the explanation,” Meg said cooly, “it was a very big surprise, but I understand the reason it was secret from me.”
“But that does not mean I can forgive SC Bridget’s cheating! This and that are very different problems!”
“Indeed. We have yet to confirm the allegations of SC Kenneth’s verbal abuse,” Nick said with a nod.
Natalia stopped mid-donut. “We’ll get our answer tomorrow if we’re lucky. Something about SC Bridget tells me this won’t be too hard for us,” she said, reaching for more chocolate. Seron stared.
“No thank you.”
Jenny continued the conversation “I asked Mr. Kurtz and it looks like we’ll have the recorder at the office by tomorrow morning. We’ll set up the cables at lunchtime. It won’t be as hard as before.”
Thanks to the recent bout of warmer weather, the snow on the grounds had melted to the point where people could cross without difficulty. It would be much easier to set up the cables than it was with Stella’s case, when the club had to bury the cables all the way to the tree.
“So we’re going ahead with the plan. After school tomorrow, we’ll have SC Bridget call out SC Kenneth. Then we record their conversation and see if he really is abusing her. If her accusations turn out to be true, then we have our evidence.”
The others nodded again.
Meg seemed very displeased, but she said nothing.
“We have two possibilities,” Jenny said, holding up a finger. “First, SC Kenneth is a gentleman who is not abusing SC Bridget. In other words, SC Bridget is lying. In that case—”
“It is unforgivable!”
“Easy there, Megmica. Keep going, chief.”
“Right. In that case, it’s simple. Hand this photo to SC Kenneth and explain everything we found out. SC Kenneth can break off the engagement and live his own life. As for SC Bridget, well, she’ll have to own up to what she’s done but she’ll be free too, so it’s not all bad. This possibility will solve everything.”
Everyone but Seron nodded. Meg gave an especially pronounced nod.
“The problem is the second possibility,” Jenny said, holding up another finger, “if SC Kenneth heaps verbal abuse on SC Bridget when they’re alone, just like she said. In other words, they’re both tormenting each other. We’re gonna have to take one side or the other.”
“Of course it is SC Kenneth! She is cheating like so, so he can be angry to her!” Meg argued, but Nick had a rebuttal.
“But Megmica, we still have no idea about the extent of his verbal abuse. For all we know, tomorrow we may hear profanities and insults that make us cringe. What would you do then?”
“Then…” Meg quieted down, and fell into thought. “I do not know…”
“Or maybe we should just expose it all to both families,” Jenny suggested. No one responded.
After a time, Natalia finally broke the silence.
“Well, no need to rush into anything. Have some donuts.”
Seron reached for the tin of chocolate instead. “May I?”
Once he had permission, he picked up a piece of chocolate and popped it into his mouth.
Just as Seron finished the piece, Larry spoke.
“What’s your take on this?”
All eyes fell on Seron.
“I can’t tell you,” Seron confessed.
Larry raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”
“What’d you mean?” Asked Natalia.
“You’re sounding real funny, Seron,” said Jenny.
Nick simply smiled.
“What do you mean, Seron?!” Meg cried. “This is a newspaper club activity. You must tell your opinions!”
Seron remained silent even in the midst of Meg’s angry arguments.
“We are all working hard to solve this problem. So you must say clearly what your thoughts are too, Seron!”
“This time, I’m afraid I can’t agree with that.”
Again, he was being honest almost to the point of foolishness.
“That is not right!” Meg exclaimed.
Next to Seron, Larry scratched his head. There was a look of defeat on his face.
Meg and Seron’s stubborn argument continued for some time.
“You are disgraceful, Seron! You are very smart, yes, but you can tell us what you are thinking, no?”
“Not this time, I can’t.”
“What is the reason?”
“I can’t say that, either.”
“Then when can you say it?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t have enough information.”
“On whose side do you wish to stand, Seron? SC Bridget? Or SC Kenneth?”
“I can’t say yet.”
“But from your kiss yesterday, are you not leaned to SC Bridget?”
“That’s not true.”
“I cannot believe! And about what did you speak with her yesterday?”
“I can’t say yet.”
“You are leaned to SC Bridget, then! Because you kissed?”
Meg was beginning to take her frustrations in the wrong direction. Natalia cast Jenny a look just as she was putting a piece of chocolate into her mouth.
“I wish to break this engagement for SC Kenneth’s happiness!” Meg declared. Something was clearly wrong with her argument. “Of course there is the suspicion that SC Kenneth is a verbal abuser, but put this aside, and I am clearly on SC Kenneth’s side.”
Seron listened silently.
“To say honestly, SC Kenneth’s verbal abuse suspicions will be removed tomorrow, I think! It is a thought and not a conclusion, and it is just a feeling! But SC Kenneth is the innocent!”
Though Kenneth was not on trial and there was no real evidence yet, Meg was being an excellent defense lawyer. Tears welled in her eyes and her voice came out in half-sobs.
“Well, hopefully you’re right.” “We do not yet have concrete evidence.” “Yeah.”
Natalia, Nick, and Jenny each threw out a comment. Larry wisely opted to remain silent.
“On whose side are you on, Seron? Say it clearly!”
‘On yours,’ Larry thought, but he did not say so. Seron’s expression remained inscrutable.
“A person who cannot say it clearly can look like a person with no opinions! It cannot be helped!”
Only then did he look slightly crestfallen.
Larry cast Seron a glance. He could imagine his desperation.
But Seron stubbornly kept silent.
Several seconds later,
“If I had to say—” Seron finally spoke, as though against his will, “I’m also probably on SC Kenneth’s side.”
“What? Pardon?” Meg asked. The others seemed just as surprised as she was. “Please wait, what did you just say?”
“If I had to say—if I really had to pick one or the other, I’m on SC Kenneth’s side.” Seron repeated himself.
Meg could not say anything. Jenny spoke instead.
“Wow. So you’ve been thinking that way from the start?”
“Been cooking up a theory behind our backs? Creepy,” Natalia said.
“I cannot say I would call it ‘creepy’, but I do think it is very much like Seron to be this way,” Nick remarked.
“That’s a relief!” Cried Larry. “You didn’t want to say anything conclusive until you had evidence, eh? You’re always so cautious about everything. You wanted to wait till you could be 100% sure.”
“Whoa, Larry’s being useful for once!” Natalia cheered, taking a donut in each hand. “Here’s your reward, boys.” Leaning forward, she stuffed one into Larry’s mouth and the other into Seron’s.
“Cheese-flavored with cheese filling. It’s good. Creative. Moved me to tears. Now enjoy it!”
The boys were forced to chew before they could speak again.
“S-Seron is on SC Kenneth’s side? I do not believe it!” Meg cried, rising from her seat. “But Seron kissed!”
Seron seemed to want to say something to that, but he had not finished the donut.
“And you kissed twice!”
The others stared at Meg.
Larry, who finished his donut first, asked the question on their minds.
“Huh? He kissed her once yesterday after school, we know that. But when else?”
“On the 8th day! At the central stairs! SC Kenneth said to us when he came to request, he saw something sad!”
“Come to think of it…” “I remember that.” “Indeed. He did mention something to that effect.”
Jenny, Natalia, and Nick seemed to remember what Kenneth had mentioned. Larry turned to Seron in shock.
“That was you too?!”
Seron chewed as fast as he possibly could so he could finally swallow the donut and respond.
“Everyone!” He cried in an unusually loud voice. “SC Kenneth said that? Really?”
“He did!” “Indeed he did.” Meg and Nick replied. The others nodded.
“Megmica. Where did you see us from?”
This time, the question was directed solely at Meg. She was taken aback for a moment at Seron’s sharp gaze, but she quickly recovered.
“At the top of the central stairs! I was in the halls at the time, you see. I coincidentally saw your back in the new building and followed to talk with the two of us alone, but…I saw you happily kiss SC Bridget at the landing and went home then.”
Seron’s gaze on Meg grew even sharper. But even when Meg moved away his gaze remained fixed to the spot.
“Was there anyone else there?”
“Pardon? No… I was the only one at the stairs.”
Meg’s tone returned to normal, spooked by Seron’s sudden show of emotion.
“The landing I met SC Bridget at isn’t visible from downstairs,” Seron said.
“Yeah.” Larry nodded.
“And you’re saying SC Kenneth saw us? From where?”
“The grounds, I think. You know how the landing’s totally visible, what with the big glass wall. Heck, you can see the entire staircase top to bottom,” Natalia pointed out. Everyone else nodded in understanding.
And as for Seron—
He nodded in even deeper understanding.
Then he said nothing.
“Oh? That it for your defense, Seron?” Natalia quipped, but Seron still did not respond. Jenny took over in his stead.
“Anyway, I’m surprised she kissed you twice. I’m sure the first time she got you by surprise too—”
—Meg was visibly angry, but she did not interrupt Jenny—
“But more importantly, about tomorrow,” Jenny changed the subject, holding her notepad. She went over their plans.
They would have Bridget call Kenneth to the big oak tree behind the building, which was clearly visible from the office window. The meeting time would be one hour after classes ended.
They would have Bridget bring up the topic of the arranged marriage, which was sure to bother Kenneth.
The newspaper club would listen to the conversation and record it, and even take photographs in case Kenneth decided to resort to physical violence.
After that, it was up to the club to decide what to do with the evidence.
“Is everyone clear?” Asked Jenny.
“Sure.” “Yep.” “Excellent plan.” “I am clear.”
Everyone but Seron responded.
“And what about you?” Jenny asked to the barely-present Seron Maxwell.
“Nat, stuff a donut in his mouth.”
“Sure. Which flavor?”
Larry gently elbowed Seron.
“Sorry to bother you, man, but Jenfie’s asking you a question.”
“Yes. About tomorrow’s plan. We’re setting up microphones and recording the conversation. Sound good?”
“Oh. Er…yeah, sure,” Seron finally replied. Jenny sighed.
“So what’ll it be?” Asked Natalia. “Chocolate or black tea?”
* * *
That evening, at the Strauski residence.
Meg and her brothers were eating on their own as their parents were both out.
On the table in the large dining room of the luxury apartment was a Roxchean-style meal prepared by the housekeeper.
The meal included vegetable salad, apple juice, and chicken-and-macaroni gratin with sliced onions and a heaping helping of cheese.
It was Meg’s job to move the gratin into the plate and bake it in the oven.
“More cheese, Big Sis! Y’gotta add more!” “Yeah!”
Kurt and Johan begged their sister.
“Oh, all right.”
In response, Meg dumped a veritable mountain of grated cheese onto the dish. As putting it in the oven would inevitably result in a cheese avalanche, she had to move the gratin to a larger dish.
“May peace be upon the royal family, the people, and the land of the setting sun,” the siblings prayed in Bezelese before digging in.
The boys were not quite young enough to stuff themselves full of the piping-hot gratin in their excitement—they made sure to blow on their food before taking a bite.
“It’s sooooooo good!” “It’s good! I love cheese!”
The boys cheered as they cooled off their food just enough to not burn themselves, shoving the scrumptiously browned cheese into their mouths.
Meg, on the other hand, simply stared at her gratin and the cheese for some time.
“Your food’s gonna get cold, Big Sis,” Johan pointed out.
Meg snorted and stabbed a piece of chicken through the cheese. And she began to eat.
She was not even trying to hide her anger at the cheese—or perhaps something else. Kurt noticed.
“Are you gonna overeat again and get sick, Big Sis? You stuffed yourself yesterday too,” he said in Roxchean.
“No,” Meg replied in Bezelese. She had gorged on food at her birthday party the previous day.
“That’s good. Hope you don’t hafta go back to the digestive medicine again today. That would suck.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll eat slowly,” Meg replied, slowing down to a normal eating pace.
“I guess being in secondary school is rough. It’s good to be young.”
“Kurt, you’re only in first year. Don’t act like you know everything.”
Brother and sister conversed in different languages over the dinner table. Johan, meanwhile, paid them no attention as he downed his gratin.
“I’m a secondary school kid too, Big Sis.”
“It’s only going to get harder for you from here on out. Stuff happens in school that’ll make your stomach hurt.”
“For example,” Meg said, putting down her fork, “I have this friend.”
“What’s she like?”
“She says there’s this guy who likes her.”
“It’s good to be young.”
“But the guy just can’t work up the courage to ask her out.”
“That’s stupid of him. If I were him I’d just go up to her and say ‘I love you’!” Kurt mused.
“I love you!” Johan parroted his brother, still wrangling his gratin.
“Anyway, that’s what he’s like. But one day someone found out that he likes my friend, and—”
“I see. Other people got fed up with this guy being all wishy-washy and told the girl for him. Must’ve made them feel better.”
“Wh-why do you say that?”
“Obviously, cause it’s frustrating to watch. Both the guy who can’t confess and the girl who doesn’t notice.”
“Life is short. You gotta get out there and get the girl or fail in a blaze of glory, basically.”
“A ‘blaze of…’?”
“Oh, it means you gotta try as hard as you can and go down fighting,” Kurt replied, mixing in Bezelese to simplify the explanation. Then he shoveled gratin into his mouth.
“But it’s too much of a risk to take if failure means dying,” Meg pointed out.
“Maybe,” Kurt replied,” but it’s better than just dragging things out forever. And besides, love isn’t like a war. Even if you lose you don’t die or anything. You can just get back on your feet and move on. Waste less time. Am I wrong?”
Meg had been argued into submission by a 12-year-old. She put lukewarm gratin into her mouth.
For some time the meal continued in silence.
But Meg spoke once again.
“About that girl.”
“Huh? That friend you were talking about?”
“Yeah. Apparently the guy didn’t actually confess properly to her even after he got found out.”
“He’s such an idiot.”
“Yeah. I thought that was the end of that, but…”
“Apparently the girl doesn’t know why, but she keeps feeling frustrated, she gets angry when she looks at him, and keeps acting cold to him. She doesn’t know herself why she feels like that, which is frustrating her even more,” Meg said firmly, and very quickly.
Kurt stopped mid-salad.
“What do you—”
“That’s totally simple, though. You wanna know why the girl’s so angry?”
“Y-yeah, that’s why she consulted me in the first place!”
“Then tell her as soon as you see her tomorrow,” Kurt said, putting down his fork and reaching for the apple juice. He sounded very bored. “She’s madly in love with the guy. So she’s waiting for him to ask her out, although she doesn’t even realize it.”
“You okay, Big Sis?”
“I-I have to go to the bathroom.”
“C’mon, we’re eating here!” Kurt complained as Meg took off.
“We’re eating here,” Johan parroted his brother.
* * *
<So the day finally came.>
<Are you asleep, newbie?>
<No, I was just too shocked to say anything.>
<Are you getting tired? Should I tell you the rest later?>
<It’s all right. I have the right and duty to listen to this story to the end.>
* * *
The 16th day of the second month.
On the day of the plan, heavy snow once again enveloped the Capital District.
Though there was almost no wind, snow piled up endlessly on the roads that had only just begun to dry.
It was lunchtime.
“I guess he couldn’t possibly see us from here, so there isn’t much to worry about.”
“The weather report says the snow’s going to ease up in the afternoon.”
“I hope it does.”
Larry, Seron, and Jenny were preparing the recording equipment.
Snow fell in clumps from the branches of the massive oak tree on the grounds behind the building.
“I’m surprised it’s managed to grow this big through so many winters,” Larry remarked, hiding a microphone and remembering how he had once climbed the tree. This time, the club was hiding two microphones in snowdrifts and one between the branches.
They covered the microphones with white cloth and scattered snow on top to conceal them.
“We have to dust off the snow once before we start using them. Could you do that, Larry? It has to be straight after class,” said Jenny.
“Sure thing,” Larry replied with a smile.
Their coats covered in snow, Jenny, Seron, and Larry buried the microphone cables in snow all the way back to the office. It was not difficult—all they had to do was step on the length of the cables so that snow would cover them. The snow falling later on would cover the cables completely.
The cables led directly to the newspaper club through an open window.
Jenny and Larry shook off the snow from their clothes and connected the cables to the recorder.
The recording device was a machine the size of a small suitcase with two reels sticking out of it like arms. Jenny’s bodyguards had received permission from the school to bring it onto campus in the morning.
The desks against the wall had been cleared completely to make room for the recorder.
“Wow. I’d kill for one of these babies,” Larry said.
“It’s my uncle’s. You break it, you buy it.”
“I don’t think my allowance is gonna cover this.”
“Then you can pay once you’ve gotten ahead in life.”
“Ah, so you think I’m gonna get ahead? Thanks.”
“Correction. Work off your debt working for free at one of our factories,” Jenny said, and promptly checked the recorder. “All right. Give it a try.”
Larry turned a flashlight on and off to signal Seron, who was still outside.
Though Larry was fluent in Morse code, Seron was not. So they decided on several signs to use ahead of time.
Because of the heavy snowfall it was hard to make out Seron in the distance.
<Testing. Testing. I’m standing next to the tree and talking at normal volume. Can you hear me?>
Seron’s voice was carried all the way through the cables and came out clearly from the speakers.
The recording test was a success as well. Larry signaled at Seron for him to return.
Once Seron was in the office, Larry brewed tea. Then the three club members had sandwiches from the cafeteria as a late lunch.
“Good work, guys,” said Jenny, “and Seron Maxwell?”
Seron caught her glare mid-bite. “Hm?”
“You better spill your guts before the others get here.”
“What do you mean, Jenny?”
“Seron. What are you planning?”
* * *
The weather forecast was proven correct as the snow let up, slowing to a mild flurry.
Larry took off the moment class ended to check the microphones. First he dusted off the snow piled on the cloths, then covered them again.
He even brought a broom with him, which he used to hide his tracks completely.
When Larry returned to the office he found Jenny and Seron checking the recorder again.
“I let SC Bridget know about the plan,” said Jenny, “and she said that SC Kenneth agreed to meet here today.”
“Great!” Larry cheered.
Seron nodded silently.
“So we’re going ahead with the plan as scheduled. I’m leaving photography to you this time, Larry.”
“Just leave it to me! It’s an honor to get to use this baby,” Larry said, casting a glance at the sturdy tripod by the window and the telephoto lens and single-lens reflex camera mounted on it.
The other club members arrived earlier than usual as well.
“Today’s the day! Here—nothing like macarons for an eavesdropping session,” Natalia said, holding up a shopping bag stuffed with sweets.
Then came Nick. “It’s good to see the weather has improved. I hope the mystery will be solved once and for all today,” he remarked with his usual smile, hinting that there was a mystery to be solved.
“Today the truth will come to the light!” Meg declared as she entered, trying very hard to not make eye contact with Seron. “I believe that my intuition is not wrong!”
Though preparations were complete, there was still another half an hour to go before Bridget and Kenneth were scheduled to arrive.
So they had no choice but to follow Natalia’s suggestion. The newspaper club sat around on the sofas and relaxed.
“This is taking the wind out of my sails,” Larry said, sitting alone by the window and keeping an eye on the oak tree with a pair of sunglasses and binoculars. The oak tree simply stood alone in a world of white.
The hands of the clock continued to tick and tock, and the macarons disappeared into mouths at a rapid pace until it was five minutes before the designated time.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” Seron said, getting up.
“Hurry back or you’ll miss the conversation,” said Larry.
“It’s all right. We’re recording everything anyway,” Seron replied, grabbing his coat from the wall hanger.
Then he turned and called the name of the girl he loved, to whom he had not said a single word all day.
“Y-yes!” Meg replied, looking up.
“Do you believe in SC Kenneth?”
For several seconds Meg looked into Seron’s grey eyes, unable to answer.
Seron waited without averting his gaze.
Eventually Meg gave her reply.
“I do! Because he does not look to be a bad person!”
“I see. I think so too.”
The others thought they saw a hint of a smile on Seron’s lips.
The door opened. Then it closed.
Once Seron had taken his coat and left—
“Let’s get into position. I hate rushing at the last minute,” Jenny said, heading to the recorder.
The others moved to the window as well. Placing a rug on the floor by the window, they squatted or knelt and wiped the glass and adjusted the lace curtain for a better view.
Finally, everyone picked up binoculars from the desk and checked their lenses. Larry checked the oak tree once more through the camera viewfinder.
The hands on the clock continued to move until it was one minute to the scheduled time.
“You think they’ll get here on time?” Natalia wondered, casting glances out the window.
“Yeah.” “I am certain they will.” Jenny and Nick replied simultaneously.
Jenny let Nick explain.
“Sc Kenneth seems almost serious to a fault. He will arrive exactly on time. As for SC Bridget, however, I wouldn’t put it past her to arrive late.”
“Right,” Natalia said with a nod, reaching for a macaron on the desk—
“There! SC Kenneth, from the left,” Larry hissed. Everyone picked up their binoculars.
“Mhm?” Natalia picked up her macaron anyway and put it in her mouth.
Jenny put a hand on the record button, but did not press it.
Kenneth appeared in the scene beyond the binoculars, crossing the snowy grounds from the left and approaching the oak tree. There was a hint of anxiety on his handsome face.
“SC Bridget’s not here yet,” Larry said, shaking his binoculars left and right.
The others looked around for her as well, but Kenneth was the only person in sight.
When he reached the oak tree, Kenneth checked his watch. The minute hand on the office wall arrived at the designated time at that very moment.
“Talk about accurate!” Natalia exclaimed.
“It is rude, being late after calling out someone oneself,” Meg snapped to someone who was not within earshot, puffing up her cheeks.
“By the way, it seems Seron is taking quite a while in the bathroom,” Nick noted. The others finally remembered Seron’s absence.
“Maybe he’s got a stomachache?” Larry said, covering for his friend, “we’re practically done anyway, so let him off easy.”
Five minutes passed in bored silence.
“How much longer?!” Natalia complained.
The club members waited in the office, and Kenneth waited by the oak tree in the cold.
Not once did Kenneth look back down at his watch. He stood upright, his breath rising in puffs, as he quietly waited for Bridget to arrive.
“Hey, there she is!” Larry cried, discovering their second target. “That’s gotta be SC Bridget. Jenny!”
Jenny began the recording. The reels began to turn with a click.
And sound flowed from the speakers.
The sound of footsteps crunching into the snow grew at a slow crescendo.
Beyond the binoculars Bridget walked towards the tree, wearing an expensive coat and carrying her bag.
“She’s here!” Natalia mumbled, excited. She was holding a macaron in one hand.
“This will be interesting. Let us keep our ears on their conversation,” said Nick.
Meg glared into her binoculars.
The footsteps suddenly came to a stop.
In the distance, Bridget stopped about three meters from Kenneth.
The first thing to come out of the speakers was a simple greeting.
Bridget’s voice carried across clearly. The tape recorded everything.
And as Meg, Natalia, Larry, Jenny, and Nick listened, Kenneth’s voice emerged from the speakers for the first time.
<The hell do you want, you whore?>