More than Enough
The cafeteria quickly filled up with talking students who hurried to get their lunch. Virgil Fox waited in the lunch line like he always did, but it was different this time.
"Hi!" a cheerful voice called out from behind him. He turned around.
"Oh, hey Jeanette."
Virgil sighed. "He's at home, he got sick."
"Oh." Jeanette frowned. "Tell him to get better soon, ok?"
"Yeah, I will." Jeanette left, and Virgil finished getting his lunch. Balancing his lunch tray he wound through the people until he reached his table. Zeke was already there, eating.
"So Charlie's sick?"
"Yeah," Virgil said as he sat down. "Did you hear me talking to Jeanette?"
"Yeah," Zeke answered, taking a bite of a homemade sandwich. The two ate in silence for a while, then Zeke set down his sandwich and leaned back.
"Dude, we need Charlie," he exclaimed, running his hand through his dark hair. "I don't know what to do when I'm not stopping you two from fighting or trying to keep him from practically destroying the world–again."
Virgil smiled and nodded. "I know. It's way too quiet without all his talking." The two continued to eat in silence while Virgil looked around the cafeteria. He looked over at Stephanie and smiled when she looked at him. Then he looked over at Derek and his smile quickly disappeared. Zeke watched him closely.
"It's really weird," Virgil said softly, "to think that all of this could be different right now. Sometimes I think about what might have happened if I had changed things when we went back. Do you ever think about that?"
Zeke looked down and didn't answer right away. After a little bit he answered quietly. "Honestly? I think about it almost every day."
Virgil looked at him and nodded. "What do you think it would be like?" he asked.
"It would be totally different. We would all be different places, eating with different people. I don't think anyone in this school would really be the same. They would all be affected, even if it was only a little bit." Zeke stopped talking and continued eating.
"I wonder if I would be popular," Virgil said softly, looking over at Derek and Stephanie's table again.
"You would be sitting over there right now, Virg," Zeke said, looking up. "Who knows, you and Derek might be doing that dorky handshake or you'd be telling everyone some lame joke."
"Hey!" Virgil said with a laugh. Zeke smiled but then his face became serious again as he continued talking.
"Me? I most likely wouldn't even be in here. I'd probably be off welding something. If I was here I would be sitting right where I am, but no one would be with me. Charlie? If he were able to be here he would probably be over at the dork table. Maybe he would start rambling about one of his newest inventions occasionally, but I doubt anyone would listen for very long. And even though he would be with all of them," Zeke nodded toward the table, "he would be just as alone as I would be."
Virgil was quiet for a little bit, thinking about what Zeke had said. "It's so weird to think that I could have changed things so much," he said, thinking out loud more than anything.
"Would you have wanted to?" Zeke asked.
Virgil looked over at him before answering. "For three years of my life I would have answered yes in a heartbeat. That was all I ever thought about, really, was how much I wished I could change what happened that day. I never really payed attention to what was going on in my life at the moment. I always thought about what had happened and how it had affected me, never about how it affected Charlie, or anyone else. I spent so much time thinking about myself and about the past. There are things I regret in my life. The day of the incident was one of them for a long time. It isn't any more. Now I just regret that I'll never get those years back."
Zeke nodded. "There are always gonna be things you regret in your life. It's that way with all of us. We can't change it anymore. But whatever it is that you regret, you just have to be sure you don't do it again, dude."
Virgil nodded. "I just wish I could make it up to Charlie."
"Look," Zeke said, "maybe you can't get those three years back. Maybe you should've been there for Charlie more. So do it now. Everyone can see how important your friendship is to him, so just do what you didn't do before."
Virgil nodded again. "Yeah, but Charlie's not the only friend I have now."
Zeke smiled. "I'm glad you left things the way they are, man."
"Thanks, Virgil," Zeke said suddenly.
"Thanks for what?"
Zeke sighed. "Right after the FBI let us go the first time, honestly you were being a jerk, but you said that you had given me a life. I didn't want to listen to you, but to some extent you were right."
"Zeke, I am so sorry about that, man," Virgil said quickly.
"I didn't bring it up so you would apologize, and I know that you're sorry, but I do want to thank you, because you were right. I was just a big guy everyone was afraid of. And even though I'm better at being alone than most people, everyone wants to be accepted to some extent. I don't care about being popular, I never have, but you and Charlie have been my friends when no one else would, so thank you."
"Listen, Zeke, I know that you think I don't have to apologize, but I just realized that I never did. I'm so sorry about everything that I said to you and Charlie and I'm sorry that I was only thinking of myself for so long. You've been an awesome friend to both me and Charlie, so thank you, too."
"I have quite a few friends now," Virgil said. "But I sort of wish Derek was one of them."
"Woah, hang on a sec, Virg, ya lost me," Zeke exclaimed. "I heard you stand up to Derek in the library the day we came back. I still don't understand everything you said to him, but you didn't exactly sound like you were jumping at the chance to be his friend."
Virgil sighed. "I don't want to be friends with that Derek. I wish he was the same guy he used to be, but he's changed so much, it's like he's a totally different person."
"So he wasn't always like he is now?"
"You mean a complete jerk?" Virgil laughed a little bit and shook his head. "He used to be a really great guy. That first day of freshman year he totally changed."
"So, if you don't mind my asking, why did you stand up to Derek like that when you never did before?" Zeke asked.
"Because I didn't realize quite how much he had changed until we went back. I saw him down there on the football field. While me and Charlie got carried away to be hung on the ram statue he stopped the other football players. I thought he was going to stand up for us. Turns out he's the reason we ended up wearing lipstick."
Zeke slowly nodded.
"I just don't understand how someone can change that much," Virgil said.
"Popularity, or wanting to be popular, can change people," Zeke answered. "Like I said before, everyone wants to be accepted. I think most people are tempted at some point to change themselves or the things they do in order to be popular or to be liked. Still, it's a stupid thing to do when you think about it, because even if people 'like' you, they'll only be liking the person you pretend to be, not who you really are. You probably don't want to hear this, but if Derek didn't stick up for you then just so he could save his own rep, I would be wondering if he was really a friend worth having."
"You're right," Virgil said quietly. "It was like he was slowly changing over time and I didn't realize it. But when I think about it, Charlie has been a better friend to me than Derek ever was, and you have too, even if I haven't known you as long. You're right about the popularity thing, too, and I never really understood any of it for a long time. I always thought the popular kids were having way more fun than I ever would. I got to hang out with them for a little bit when we were the minutemen. Thinking about it now, I would rather hang out with you guys any day. Even if I'm not popular with you guys, I know that you're my real friends, and I know you'll stick up for me, and that's more than enough."
Zeke nodded. He looked down at his watch, then up at the teens clearing out of the cafeteria. "We better go, dude."
"Yeah," Virgil agreed, gathering his things and standing up. "Oh, hey, it's Friday, isn't it?"
"Me and Charlie always get together on Friday nights. The weather network counts down the top 10s. Tonight it's the top 10 earthquakes of all time, so if Charlie's feeling ok do you want to come?"
Zeke smiled slightly. "Top 10 earthquakes?"
Virgil smiled. "I know it sounds really corny, but it's kinda cool in a dorky sort of way. If you don't want to come you don't have to, I just-"
"Virg," Zeke interrupted with a smile. "Call me and let me know if Charlie's feeling good enough. If he is, well, you can count me in." After a pause he added, "Ya know, lunch wasn't as bad as I thought it might be."
The two friends smiled and quietly walked to class.