Chapter 33: Friendship

(Floor 1...)

"You remember when I asked you and Mel on a scale of one to ten, how annoying are your siblings?" Rahim decided to ask me, as the two of us walked down the hallway towards the elevator. "And I said that it was an 8 for Jade, and she said it was a 5 for Paul?"

"Course," I answered kindly, despite a wave of sadness bombarding me. I hope he's having the time of his life with my siblings, Amir and Zere...

"Well, I take it all back," My best friend revealed. "Jade now has a score of 20,"

"20?!" I glowered in shock. I beg your pardon?!

"Yep," Rahim confirmed bitterly.

I couldn't help but scoff in disbelief. "Right, I get your point - but don't you think that may be a little extreme? I mean, we're all dealing with a lot at the moment,"

"Yes, true," He agreed, before continuing to complain. "But she doesn't get to treat us like sh*t, because of that,"

"She could come around, you know?" I offered hopefully, as we took a left and entered the elevator. I mean, I don't know how likely that is - but it's possible. Fingers crossed, touch wood - that it'll happen.

My best friend gave a defeated sigh. "Probably, after she tortures Crane and enjoys every second of it," Hargh, don't put that image in my head! I don't want to think about what she might do!

"Let's just, let's just hope that he gets to stick with us, okay?" I tried reassuring him, secretly hiding my anxiety over his comment. "And if he does, we'll get her off his back,"

"How so?" Rahim questioned, whilst also hiding his concern.

"I don't know, yet. Maybe keep them separated, until she snaps out of it?"

"Yeah, maybe,"

It didn't take very long for the elevator to slow to a halt and the two of us stepped out onto the first floor, where everyone was going about their lives as usual. Glad to see that they're in good spirits too. Alrighty, first things first - check out the board. The latter was a pretty handy thing to have, to be honest - because if someone here needed something, they could just jot it down on a piece of paper and stick it up for one of the scouts or runners to take. Yes, it may sound simple, but it was another way for us to help each other out.

Speaking of which.

"Oh, hey! I see someone took your note, finally," I happily pointed out.

"Yeah, that was Mel," Rahim said in an equally pleased manner. "She should be onto it, as we speak,"

"Ah, I see," I replied kindly, shortly feeling a tad remorseful. Argh, why didn't I find some time to do that - when I had the chance? "I, um, I'm sorry that I couldn"

"No, no, it's okay," My best friend interrupted with a grin. "I mean, you've been helping me a lot already and I know you have to work in the Sickbay as well, so we're good,"

"Alright," I chuckled with relief, shortly coming across a note on the board. Oh, wonder what this is?

Big reward for a brave runner! I have several important items that I must retrieve from my apartment at Ivy Road. I will pay well. Come talk to me for more information. Khaliq

"Did you find something?" Rahim caught my attention.

"Yeah, I did," I answered positively. "You wouldn't happen to know where someone called Kahliq is, would you?" Please tell me I pronounced that right!

"I'm sure he's hanging around here somewhere," The older boy responded, flashing a confused frown. "Why, does he need help?"

"Yeah," I confirmed. "He wrote that he needs a couple of items, which are in his apartment,"

"Ah, right," My best friend replied, briefly turning from the board to observe our surroundings. "He's a pretty cool dude, you know? I've talked to him a bunch of times before and he's quite the reader,"

"He has a lot of books lying around?" I questioned curiously.

"He's rarely seen without one,"

"That sounds cool," I commented with a smile, going on to curiously ask: "What kinds does he have? Historical stories set in the 1500s, something like that?"

"I don't know," Rahim answered. "Would be interesting to find out, though,"

Yeah, it would be.

It didn't take very long for my best friend to spot Khaliq and once he did, he gestured for me to follow him with a pleased "Found him," Oh, sweet!

I turned to do so and sure enough, we discovered a man (who was clad in a blue tank top, beige tracksuit bottoms and white trainers) perched on a makeshift wooden bed next to three stacks of boxes housing a broken laptop and multiple smaller boxes, all of which were accompanied by a single marked door sat behind him. Oh, dear. It isn't in my place to think this, but wouldn't he feel better if he had an apartment room on Floor 20? That looks quite uncomfortable. I could tell that Rahim also felt worried and despite our concerns, Khaliq didn't appear to be all that bothered.

He did however, seem a bit ticked off and quite frankly, none of us could blame him.

"Hey, Khaliq," Rahim greeted, catching his attention. "My friend and I saw your notice on the bulletin board, is everything alright?"

"I'm afraid not, Rahim," The man revealed sadly. "That idiot, Dawud, sat on my glasses and now, I'm blind as a bat. How can I help Alfie if I can't see anything?!"

I suddenly felt a sting of fear and subconsciously glanced at my side, whilst he continued: "Anyway, I've got a backup pair at my place - it's not far away, it's just, y'know, I can't get there myself,"

"Need anything else whilst we're there?" My best friend asked.

Hearing this, my acquaintance's eyes lit up. "Oh my god, you two will do this for me?"

"Sure,"

"Thank you!" Khaliq smiled. "Oh, and one more thing. See, I'm hoping to start a vegetable garden on the roof - y'know, so we can maybe not starve to death,"

"Hey, that's a good idea," I commented with intrigue. That would definitely come in handy, come to think of it.

"Yeah," My best friend agreed, equally interested. Cue him addressing me in a confused manner. "Why didn't any of us come up with that sooner?"

I simply shrugged in response, whilst Khaliq went on to explain: "Who knows? But the thing is, nobody here really knows how to do it - as far as I'm aware. On my birthday, I got a book on gardening. I never read it. It's Growing Vegetables for Dum-Dums, or something like that. It should be on a bookcase, but y'know - you might have to look around for it,"

"That shouldn't be a problem," Rahim told him with a grin. "Expect an update, alright?"

"Course," The man replied happily. "Thank you so much, kids,"

"Don't mention it,"

With that, the two of us bade him a fond farewell and left him to it. But just as we stepped into the elevator, a familiar voice greeted our ears - accompanied by a set of footsteps jogging in our direction. "Hey guys, wait up!" Oh, hey!

I immediately reached out to hold the door open, and in stepped an appreciative Melanie. "Thank you, Lib,"

"That's okay," I spoke as I closed the elevator door behind me, whilst Rahim pressed the button for Floor 19 - prompting our method of transport to begin ascending. "How are you doing?"

"I'm alright, relatively speaking," Mel replied positively. "Though, I'm still trying to get used to being here after so long,"

"I don't blame you there," I remarked in understanding.

Rahim and I were both glad to see her feeling more happier than she did a month ago, and her overall appearance seemed to reflect that too. Her short hair was still as fiery as ever and she was clad in a green hooded jacket, grey graphic tee, blue denim jeans with a pistol holster strapped to her right leg and a pair of dark brown boots; all of which were accompanied by her blue watch, butterfly ring and brown rucksack.

After she flashed me a smile, Melanie quickly addressed our best friend. "Oh! By the way - I got the stuff you asked for, Rahim,"

"Cool, thanks!" He grinned happily.

"You're welcome," She responded kindly. "Where did you want me to put them?"

"My room will be fine,"

"Okay," Melanie then curiously changed the subject. "So, where are you guys off to?"

"We're just getting our bags and heading to Ivy Road, because a friend of mine wants to start a vegetable garden on the roof,"

Hearing this, the older girl's eyes slightly widened with intrigue. "Wow! That sounds like a smart idea,"

"Yeah," Rahim chuckled in agreement.

"You're welcome to tag along, if you'd like to?" I offered kindly.

"Alright," Melanie grinned happily, earning equal smiles from us. "Sure, that would be great,"

Yes! Whoo!

Following our conversation, the elevator soon slid to a halt and we stepped out into the nineteenth floor. Okay. Floor 20, then we're out. Go. Cue my two best friends and I to take a left down the hallway towards the Sickbay, only to freeze in our tracks about half way, when we noticed a concerned Brecken exiting said location ... with someone visibly wracked in pain, but nevertheless spitting curse words like they were dancing in a bl**dy cartwheel.

"What the f*ck?!" Rahim glowered with shock, just as his sister emerged from the hospital with an angry yet... relieved? frown. And of course, she's still there!

Meanwhile, I was left rapidly blinking in a dumbfounded manner, which prompted a worried Mel to reach out and place a hand on my shoulder. "Lib, are you okay?"

"I-I-I don't know...!" I stammered nervously, completely unaware that Jade was approaching the three of us with equal concern.

Yep. Guess who's back?