She had been intentionally sitting on the floor by her dance bag, using it strategically to hide. Emma looked up to see who had dared intrude within five feet of her, mouth still wrapped around the straw protruding from her water bottle. She’d been expecting Jane, Paul, Hidgens, maybe even Norah, probably to yell at her about something.
Zoey was unexpected. Zoey and Emma… they never strictly hadn't gotten along… but they’d never been friends.
“Zoey?” she asked, wary of the girl, who had a history of acting like she was all that because she was Norah’s daughter.
“Hi,” she said, stepping around Emma’s bag and the rack of costumes that had mostly been blocking her from Emma’s sight. She was wearing her company jacket, hands balled up in her pockets, an unusually contemplative look on her face. Usually Zoey was the type to be worried about frowning because it gave her wrinkles.
“Do you, uh, want something?”
“No.” Zoey shook her head, then paused. “Well, I guess I do.”
A smirk itched to form and Emma did nothing to hold it back. “Spit it out, Zo.”
Zoey flushed at the use of the nickname, which was something that a six-year old Zoey had briefly insisted everyone call her. “And I regret coming here.”
“Nobody forced you into my corner,” Emma said, her cool gaze staying on the invader. “I don’t know if you’re here to gloat about God knows what--”
“I’m not,” Zoey said, loudly. The words sounded forced. She shut her eyes, took a deep breath, and opened. “I just wanted to say that you did a really good job in your duet with Paul.”
Emma’s harsh words died before their delivery. This was unexpected.
Her confusion must have come across, because Zoey chuckled. “I’m not a demon created only to bother you in times of need, you know.”
Emma looked at Zoey, assessed the overall mood of the conversation and decided to risk the joke. “Could’ve fooled me.”
Thankfully she’d read the room right, and Zoey grinned again. “You’re funny, Perkins. You’ve always been funny.”
It was surprising to hear that Zoey had information about Emma stored away other than ‘Jane Perkins lesser stand-in’, but also kind of reassuring. A demon wouldn’t say that, would she?
“Got anything else stored away from when we were four?”
“Yeah,” Zoey said bluntly. “That one time you threw up in the middle of class and had to leave early.”
Emma laughed at the event she’d forgotten up until just then. “Oh, God,” she said, smiling as she leaned back, the memory flooding back. “I totally forgot about that.”
Softly, Zoey smiled.
“You know what I remember?” Zoey didn’t speak, just raised an eyebrow, so Emma went on. “That time in acro when you tried to do a back walk-over and you broke your nose.”
“I can do one now,” Zoey said, frowning.
“I’m not saying you can’t,” Emma said. “You couldn’t when we were eight, though. There was blood everywhere.”
Emma muttered, “So cool,” at the same time that Zoey muttered, “So gross”. Once she’d gotten over the wrinkle in her nose, though, Zoey seemed mollified that Emma had been able to recall anything at all from their rocky past relationship.
"Then you had that cast on your nose for months," Emma said, grinning at the memory of how large Zoey's nose had been with all the padding and protection.
"It wasn't a cast, it was a--"
"Bandages, whatever." Emma waved a hand. Slowly, Zoey smiled at her, and Emma found herself smiling back.
The silence was just leaning on the cusp of awkwardness when the sharp command of Norah’s voice echoed through the dressing room. “Zoey?!”
The girl scrambled to her feet, hastily waving to Emma and making her leave, calling, “Here, Mom.”
Emma shook her head in her newfound lonesome, popping her water bottle back open and taking another sip. Zoey. Who would have thought?