I walk to the bus station by myself.
Well, not completely by myself, Baz is with me. He’s holding my hand like I’m a balloon he’s afraid will float away. I want to tell him that I’ll be fine, that I’m always fine.
But I can’t lie to him.
It’s been a tough few months. Between Baz and Penny stressing over me and avoiding magic to make me feel more comfortable (I told them it’s fine) and mysterious letters with quotes from the local paper appearing in my mail, I’ve been a little on edge.
So I stay silent until the bus comes, Baz releases my hand immediately. I’ve told him that in London they’re more progressive, but he won’t listen. We settle into our seats and I stare out the window observing the silver clouds blocking the sun. I don’t love the rain like Penny does, I prefer sunshine and days when you can go buy ice cream in the park. But living in England, I get very few of those.
Baz nudges my shoulder, “You alright, Love?”
I nod. He looks at me for a moment longer before returning to his book. He’s been checking up on me a lot lately, not that I mind any excuse to spend more time together. But I think he worries about me missing magic, and missing the world of mages. And of course I do, but normal life isn’t so bad.
I can go pick up groceries every week and I don’t have a wand pressed to my throat when I leave. I can watch telly in my flat without double bolting the doors and making Penny cast a protection spell.
It’s not a fairy tale. And it’s not perfect either, but it’s mine.
Baz gets off the bus for school a few stops later, he smiles at me. “See you later, Snow.”
I smile back and watch him leave, a girl joins him as he walks. Her hair platinum blonde and I feel a twinge of jealousy before remembering how completely gay he is.
Baz and Penny think that after Baz gets off the bus I head straight home, but they’re wrong. I rode the bus all through London, every day. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen so many tourist attractions that draw people to the city.
About five stops later, Magnolia gets on the bus. Her short pink hair is messily cut just above her shoulders and her red thigh high boots attract the eyes of some strangers, she glares at them and they look away quickly. I met her about two weeks ago when I realized she was bussing around the city almost every day like I was, and we decided to sit together.
Sometimes we sightsee in total silence, other times she’ll tell me about her hometown in America, and how she moved to London for her girlfriend, Lina. I offer advice as best I can, and so does she when I speak to her. It’s a good dynamic. I love the way she is wholeheartedly herself.
But today something is different, today she seems to be closing in on herself. When she sits next to me, her back is hunched, and her arms are crossed. Universal body language for “don’t talk to me”, (Baz says I’m bad at picking up signals, he’s wrong, obviously.)
Magnolia and I have an unspoken rule not to push boundaries, but today I feel brave. So I ask, “Is something wrong?”
She turns to look at me slowly, her eyes brimmed with red Before she nods and starts sobbing.
Oh fuck, okay. Be comforting Simon, I tell myself.
“How bad can it be, right?”
Not like that, you dolt!, this particular thought sounds a little bit like Baz.
She straightens up and laughs a little, but there’s no humor in it. “You’re right, it could be worse.”
I cock my head to indicate that she should keep talking. She does, “Lina’s mother is in town, so I have to stay at my place for the week, but she found photos of us online, she found everything. And now she’s threatening to cut Lina off unless she ends it with me.”
I gape at her for a minute before replying, “I’m so sorry, is she going to..you know-”
“End it? Break my heart? Literally tear me to pieces? She doesn’t know yet.”
I glance around a little. Not understanding enough to really sympathize, she senses my discomfort and smirks. “It’s okay So, you don’t have to say anything. Let’s just have a fun day today, alright?”
I nod, “Okay, yeah. Let’s do that.”
We spend the day eating fish and chips and riding the London Eye, it’s quiet, and so, so Normal. Magnolia checks her phone around three and stands up, clearly panicked, “I’m so sorry, I have to go.”, she says in a rush, speaking too fast for me to really comprehend.
She hugs me before she leaves, asking “Is this okay?” before looping her arms around my neck. It’s...nice.
“Same time tomorrow!” She calls, already sprinting full speed in the opposite direction.
I sigh and sit down, wandering around the park we walked to for a while before checking my phone for messages. On text from Baz wondering when I’ll be home, One text from Penny wondering when my boyfriend will start paying rent. Typical.
(Doesn’t boyfriend sound so juvenile? I regret phrasing it like that. And partners sound like we’re doing a lab experiment, there are no safe options)
I bus home and check the mail, another envelope with no return address, creepy. I walk upstairs before unlocking the door and taking in the scene before me.
Baz is sitting at the kitchen counter, worriedly running his fingers through his hair and pouring over a book that looks a million years old while Penelope tries (and fails) to recreate her mother’s recipe for dinner. When I open the door they both turn towards me. I put the envelope down next to the shoes, not wanting to explain anything quite yet.
Baz offers very little in terms of conversation, looking back to his novel as quickly as he looked away. He gives me an odd greeting, “Snow.”
That won’t do.
After Penny and I exchange “hello”’s and “How was your day”’s, I approach the stool Baz is sitting on from behind, snaking my arms around his waist. He glances at me from the side, looking both pissed off and a little amused.
“What do you want?”, he snaps.
“Wow hello, love of my life, how was your day?”
He sighs, “Yes, hello Simon. I’m really busy with a paper right now, sorry I’m a bit-”
Penelope finishes his sentence from the kitchen, “Fourth year Baz?”
He nods, and I brush some hair from out of his face before plopping down in the stool next to him. And answering my own question, “Well my day was great. Magnolia had a bit of a breakdown, but I rode the London Eye and took a walk around the park”
Penelope looks up, “Magnolia, the one you bus home with?”
I answer a little hesitantly. if Penny knew I had nothing more to do with my days than ride a bus around London, she’d lose her mind. “That’s the one”
Anxious to get back to the letter, I fake yawn and get up from the stool. “Well, I’m going to get in early tonight, good night, you two.”
Baz looks a little confused but is too immersed in his reading to really pay much attention.
I grab the envelope and walk ton my room a little faster than usual, earning a raised eyebrow from Penelope.
I tear it open as soon as the door shuts behind me. It’s a clipping from the newspaper again, except this time instead of just a clipped sentence, the sender has written on the back in black ink.
'We Know Who You Are, Simon Snow.'