“Do you and Erin know one another?” you ask after considering your options and picking. “The way you were shouting down that path made it seem like it.”
Maggie snorts. “Oi, rack off. None of your bloody business if I do or not.”
“Oh, come on,” you say. “I did just help you up.”
She snorts again. “So? Helping me up was a stupid move on YOUR part, and I don’t see how that relates to whether or not I should bother telling you shite about myself.” She growls. “Don’t get cocky at me because you kicked me a few times, you bogan. I don’t owe you shit, remember that.”
You roll your eyes. You’ve dealt with this type of person before in your life, and you aren’t above arguing, although you don’t feel like it. You simply stand and wait for her to glare at you, and as the seconds slide by, her glare weakens, and you can tell she’s reluctantly weighing her own options on how to respond.
“Piss,” she mutters. “Fine.”
You smile a little. Maybe a tad smug, but, not too much.
“Aye, I know Erin,” Maggie says. “Clearly.”
You nod. “Guessing you two are friends? Or were?”
She makes a face of disgust. “Fuck no, we’re not mates in the least bit.” A pause, and, after her features smooth, she sighs. “Well. Not anymore, that is.”
Your smile drops. You wait, patient, to hear what she has to say.
Maggie grumbles under her breath. “Look, before we got into this… this…” She sweeps her arm around. “Whatever the hell you wanna call this bizarro world we’re in, we grew up next door to one another, her and I. Used to be thick as thieves, at least until high school started.” She folds her arms. “I ain’t babbling on about it, but we drifted thanks to a whole lotta reasons.”
“High school drama stuff?” you offer. You know that one well.
“Among other things,” Maggie admits. “We stopped hanging out, got into some nasty fights, and by senior year, we didn’t speak to one another. Then uni came along, and we tried to sort through it, yadda yadda.” She grunts. “Well, couple years of half-mending shite and all that, and then last year…”
She pauses and looks down at the ground.
There’s a lot of weight that seems to be hovering about Maggie - you’re no social expert, nor can you read minds, but you get the sense that a lot happened between the pair to sour what was once a friendship. You’ve seen that sort of thing during your life, experienced it a few times, too.
It’s an inevitable part of life, unfortunately. But you don’t want to press her, nor start shoving your random thoughts down her throat - you know better.
“She discovered this place first,” Maggie says after the silence. “Dunno how she came across it, she never told me. But she started randomly vanishing for days on end, only to turn up at uni. She seemed different. Wiser, more confident, more… experienced. Like she’d found something that made her life more interesting, and in return, it was helping her grow as a person.”
Maggie’s teeth gnash together. “She didn’t tell me. Didn’t tell anyone. She made vague excuses and weird reasons that only piqued my curiosity. I’d thought being friends and all that jazz, she’d fess up eventually, but no. She kept it to herself, and got pissy with me when I confronted her over it.”
Maggie shakes her head. There’s hurt and pain in her eyes.
“Look, long story short,” Maggie says, growling again, “I found this place by mistake one day, and after going through the doors and getting on a costume, I ended up here. And lo and behold, I ran into her during my first day…”
She trails off and goes quiet.
You can kind of hazard a guess as to what happened - the expression she gains and the way her posture shifts spells out that their run-in probably didn’t end on a positive note. You do wonder, though, what animal the women had become during that time. You doubt Erin has always been a kangaroo, or that Maggie here has always been a dingo. But, you don’t push any further.
“So yeah,” Maggie says. “This place has definitely created a nice little rivalry between the two of us. And no, don’t go expecting things will fix themselves, because that ain’t happening anytime soon, mate.”
You nod with understanding. “Thanks for telling me a bit.”
So now here you are, having met and talked down the dingo woman that was chasing after you. It’s clear that there’s some bad blood between her and Erin, at least from Maggie’s side. You know that, should you extend an offer for her to maybe be friends with you, things will NOT be easy should you run into Erin again. You don’t know HOW bad things will be, however, there’s that to consider.
‘I don’t feel like getting sucked into drama,’ you think. ‘And I know I’m not a counselor or the world’s best mediator. But, maybe it’ll do some good?’
You aren’t sure.
Maggie grunts loudly. “Alright, I told you my shite. You satisfied?”
You think a moment. “How long have you been coming to this place? Actually, wait.” Something she said sticks out at you. “You mean you can leave and come back? That you’re not trapped in this world forever?”
Maggie shakes her head. “Of course you can leave, dumbass. You have to stay the full time required for the costume you pick, but after that’s expired, you can find a way out.” She glances around, thinking for a moment. “Seems like it’s all internal stuff. Like, you can basically will a door to show up somewhere, and you’ll just ‘know’ it’s there, waiting for you. You go out, take the costume off, and then you can leave. It’s weird, mate. Like it reads your mind.”
“Huh,” you say. “That’s… good to know, honestly.”
You hadn’t been certain beforehand when you read the rules, so, it does create some interest since you can come back…
“Yeah, whatever,” Maggie says. She grunts and waves her hand at you. “Now would you let me leave? I don’t feel like standing around in this dark, stinky cave for the rest of my day. I’d rather go enjoy being a dingo and hunt. I’m hungry.” She pats her stomach. “And no, I ain’t interesting in eating you. Kangaroo is off the bloody menu for the rest of my life as far as I’m concerned.”
You look from her to the path that Erin went, and again, you start to ponder. Part of you is fine with going your separate ways, but, you admit that you want to see if she’d be open to tagging along anyways. It’s not a major decision by any stretch of the imagination, yet even so, what’s the harm in asking?
“I’m leaving either way,” Maggie mutters. “Enjoy your time as a kangaroo, or whatever. Doubt we’ll run into one another again, so, what’s it matter, right?”
She starts to head past you, and you frown.
“Wait a moment,” you say.
She stops mid-step and slowly turns to stare at you over her shoulder. “What?”
Now you have to decide: do you ask if she wants to join you? Or do you wish her well and let her leave on her own, and then go from there by yourself?
Written by Hollowpage on 13 September 2020
Teeth Clenched Teamwork II