A/N: Well, here you go! I hope you've enjoyed my foray into my first modern phic! Thanks for coming along for the ride, thanks again to my beta Biskiuts, who rocks awesomely, and thank you again to anyone and everyone who reviewed! ~Kryss
Chapter 9: The End
They stopped by Kir's cabin long enough for her to grab her sleeping bag and pajamas, and headed to bed. "It's been a really freaky night," Kir had told Janet, "And I really don't want to be in there all by myself." Megan was being kept under the counselors' observation, just in case. "Besides," she added to the others as she spread out her sleeping bag on their floor, "It totally reeks of onions and garlic and stuff in there. It's like we killed a vampire in the middle of the Olive Garden or something."
They accidentally slept through breakfast, but Mrs. McKay had kept a plate of pancakes warm for them, so at least they didn't starve. The schedule was a bit off for the lessons, anyways. Miriam looked even more tired than they felt, and, for the first time in days, the sun was out. The kids were in a party mood, and Miriam seemed too worn out to make them settle down.
"I guess the friendly spices worked, then," said Su, shading her eyes with her hand as they stepped out into unaccustomed warmth.
"Yeah, them and Sarah," Randy added conscientiously.
"Hey, Sarah," Kir asked quietly as they walked down the path to their first lesson, "Did the friendly spices help? I mean, do they actually do anything? Or are they just, you know, like some sort of confidence builder? You know, like Dumbo's magic feather."
"Oh, they helped," replied Sarah. "The banishing was a lot easier with them there."
"Yeah, but, I mean, Megan still got pretty beaten up. I mean, she reeked of the stuff; we all did. Do." She wrinkled her nose. There was still a lingering smell of garlic about her hands. "And he still totally grabbed her and stuff. Did it help at all?"
Sarah sighed. "Yeah, they did help, but, well, like, if you've got a tool box in your trunk, it doesn't stop you from breaking down, right? It just means you've got the tools there to help fix it again. The herbs are like that."
"So they helped, but you had to do stuff with them? Like, when you did the banishing and stuff, but not so much when we just had them in our pockets? And on our hands and stuff, ugh…" She was pretty sure she'd smell for the rest of the week.
"For banishing a ghost, they helped me. If he really was just some nutbar serial killer or what, though, you'd have wanted them in your pocket, too, though, right?"
Kir thought about what it would have been like to get a handful of the mushy mess in the face. "Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense, I guess…"
"Why? Did you think I made us all raid the kitchen just to distract Megan and make her feel better?"
"No, not really… Well, maybe a little bit…" She grinned.
"Well, I didn't. Okay, maybe a little bit." Sarah grinned back as the class arranged itself.
Kir spent the next two nights with The Rationalists again. There was still no sign of Megan; camp rumor had it that she was either holed up on the first aid cot in the Hut, or that she had been driven into emergency in the middle of the night. The other kids seemed pretty agreed that it was because she had hurt herself falling out of her bunk, though, which made Kir wonder if the counselors had spread that around themselves. She did hear two girls giggling in the can that Megan was sick because she was pregnant, and that she had been kicked out of camp because she'd kept sneaking off to meet some guy.
"God, that's so stupid," Kir told them as she cleaned her hands. "She just had a nightmare and fell out of bed. I was there; I helped carry her out. God, where would you even get such a retarded idea? I promise you, she totally never ever even once snuck out to meet up with some guy. I know. I'm sharing her cabin."
"Yeah, right," one of them whispered to the other.
"Just ess tee eff yu, okay? God, who the hell would she be meeting, huh? There's nobody else for miles around. What was she supposed to do, huh, call her boyfriend up on the phone and then meet him in the pouring freezing rain for some hot sex in the middle of the woods? God, try to not be so stupid, okay? There aren't any helmets out here for you to wear. Try not to walk into a tree and break your neck or anything, retards." She stalked out, trying her very best to make the crappy spring-loaded door slam behind her.
Megan showed up again on Wednesday morning. Kir saw her climbing gingerly down from the camp minivan. She had a foam brace around her neck, and her eyes still looked a bit bruised, but she seemed okay.
"Hey, Megan!" Kir jogged over. "How're you doing? Are you okay? Where have you been?"
Megan smiled, a bit wanly. "I'm fine. Well, I mean, I've got a bit of almost-whiplash, and I had a minor concussion, kind of, but basically I'm okay, I guess." She winced and touched the brace. "I can kind of turn my head, but they're making me wear this stupid thing so my neck gets better quicker." She rolled her eyes. "I look like a total dork in it."
"Naw, you look like someone who fell out of their bunk," Kir told her.
"Oh yeah? Is that what they're telling people? That I'm a total klutz? Great."
"No; apparently you had a nightmare and fell out of bed. I guess you just landed really badly. You're probably lucky you didn't break your neck." She grinned.
"Well, I guess that's not so bad," Megan said grudgingly. "At least I didn't, like, trip over a shoelace and fall on a tree or something." She kind of half-grinned back.
"So, are you back to stay now, or what?"
"Yeah, I'm here for the rest of it." She pulled a face. "The doctors wanted Mom to take me home, I think—oh em gee, they totally wouldn't tell me anything! Seriously, they treated me like I was, like, five or something. But, like, Mom's totally on her summer holidays and couldn't get home any earlier. Whatever."
"So you'll be back in our cabin again?" Kir asked hopefully.
"Yeah, I guess. Why? You sound sorta happy about it."
Kir laughed, a little embarrassed. "Well, it's been too creepy in there all by myself, after all this; you know. So I've been crashing over at The Rat—over with Su and Randy and them. But there's, like, totally no spare bed, and my back's been getting really sore…"
"Jeez, Kir, why didn't you just haul your mattress over from the bunk?"
"Because there's totally no room for it. And I totally didn't think of it. Thanks a lot, Megan," Kir laughed. "Way to make me feel like an idiot."
Megan laughed too. "Well, at least you don't have to haul it back again for tonight, anyways. Come on. I'll help you carry your stuff back if you like."
"Forget it, gimp!" Kir grinned. "I don't want to get blamed for you hurting yourself more! Besides, it's just my sleeping bag and a few clothes. I got it."
"Yeah, yeah, fine. Refuse my help. See if I care."
"I'll cope somehow. Just don't start going on about how hot the Phantom is! I don't think I could handle that right now. It's been so nice and quiet and peaceful…"
Megan sobered. "Yeah, I don't think you need to worry about that," she said, looking away. "I mean, I still think Gerry's pretty hot, but… well. You know."
"Yeah, I know. Sorry." Kir was silent a moment, then added, "Just don't start up then about how hot Gerry is, okay?"
Megan rolled her eyes. "I'll try to restrain myself." She paused, then added casually, "So how do you feel about Star Trek..?"
Kir laughed. "Forget it! I've already heard how that conversation ends up."
Megan grinned. "Okay, fine then, Captain!"
What with one thing and another, despite the classes, Kir almost forgot about the recital. After everything that had happened, to be sitting outside in the sunshine again doing breathing exercises made it feel like they were back in the first week, with another two weeks to go before they had to stand up and sing in front of everyone. And her mom. Okay, and probably her dad, too. Well, possibly. Luckily, he didn't really come out to school plays and things all that much, so she didn't have to worry so much about embarrassing herself in front of him. Just, like, totally embarrassing herself anyways, and then having to tell him about it afterwards. Or having to listen to her mom tell him about how cute she had been when she'd, like, fallen off the stage or totally lost her voice or something.
She clenched her hands together in an effort to stop the shaking, and hoped that if she did go and fall off the stage, she'd at least be lucky enough to break her neck and die right there…
"Hey, Kir," Sarah came over. She looked pretty in the dark blue choral robes the counselors had handed out. They went well with her dark hair. Kir felt like she was wearing a bag.
"Yeah, a bit… Does it show?" She tried to grin, but she was pretty sure she failed. Her tummy was doing unpleasant flip-flops.
"Yeah, a bit…" Sarah regarded her with sympathy for a moment. "Hang on. I'll be back in a sec."
Everyone was waiting out behind the dining hall, set up now as a basic auditorium, while their parents filed in and arranged themselves in the neat rows of wooden dining chairs. In a minute, Miriam would, if all went as planned, shuffle them into order and lead them through the back door and onto the little dais. Kir was glad that they'd start with one of the few group songs; she really didn't want to be the first solo act. But she really more didn't want to go out there at all…
She heard the kitchen door slam shut, and looked up. She still couldn't hear it without jumping. But it was just Sarah, dashing back with her robes held around her waist, out of the dirt. She was still wearing her jeans underneath. Kir wished she'd thought of that.
"Here!" Sarah held out a small bottle. "Smell this."
Kir eyed it. "More friendly spices?"
Sarah laughed. "Yeah, I guess. It's just thyme. It's an anti-anxiety. Go ahead and smell it; it'll help with the nerves. It's like aromatherapy."
The thyme had a pleasant, slightly grassy aroma, and it did seem to help. Kir was still a bit nervous, but after a few deep sniffs she felt better about it, and her stomach settled down. "Wow, this is pretty good stuff!" she exclaimed. "You should totally market this."
Sarah laughed. "Dude, there's no point. You can buy it in bulk at the grocery store."
"Yeah, but still. That's just for, like, cooking. You could sell it as some kind of a magic calming magic herb or something." She tried to hand it back, but Sarah waved it away.
"Aw, it's been done. No, hang onto it; if you start feeling all nervous again just have another sniff. Just make sure you give it back to Mrs. McKay after, 'k'?"
"Okay," said Kir gratefully. She still had her nose to the jar a few minutes later when Miriam arrived.
And surprisingly, Kir didn't suck. She didn't fall off the stage, or lose her underwear in the middle of her solo, or forget the lyrics, or any of a hundred other terrible fates she had imagined. She was tempted to credit the magic herb, but privately she figured that she was just due some good luck for a change.
And her mom just smiled and nodded along with the music when she sang 'Impossible Dream', and the applause was pretty decent after, considering that she wasn't related to most of the audience. Like, her mom pretty much had to clap, right? But the rest didn't. Kir curtsied and walked back to her place in the line of girls behind her in a nice warm glow.
She did have a bad moment during the next girl's solo, though, when she imagined her mom's face if she had sung the Aldonza song about all the guys she slept with instead, but she managed to suppress the incipient giggles before anyone noticed.
And then they sang one more group song, something from some French show or something, called 'One Day More,' and then it was over.
There was a general reunion of girls and families, all grinning broadly and hugging. Mrs. McKay had set out coffee and snacks at the other end of the hall, behind all the chairs, and Kir was wandering over for something to drink when she met up with her mom.
"So, honey, how was music camp?" her mom asked with a smile after the obligatory (and not too annoying, this time) hug. "Did I condemn you to a fate worse than death?"
"Well, maybe not worse than death," Kir smiled back. "I guess it was okay."
"Just okay? Didn't you have any fun at all? No adventures?" Her mom seemed a bit disappointed.
"Oh em gee, you have no idea. Yeah, I guess I had fun, mostly. And adventures…"
"Well, just so long as you enjoyed it, then." Her mom gave her a one-armed cuddle as they headed over to the snack table.
"Yeah, I guess I did. Did you and Dad have a nice break?"
Her mom laughed. "Oh dear. Your father… Well, let's just say that he really wasn't in any shape to be here today."
"What? No, no… No, he just went and pulled a muscle. Dancing, so don't go 'eww' again, kiddo."
"How do you pull a muscle dancing? I've seen Dad dance. He doesn't move around that much."
Her mom laughed again. "He was dancing to a Golden Oldie. I won't go into details, but… let's just say, if he ever shouts out, "Hey, Baby, watch this!" while he's dancing with you, you should probably stand back. And have some ice handy."
It was good to see her mom again, Kir realized; plus, it was really pretty cool to have her tell Kir embarrassing stories about someone else, instead of listening to her telling embarrassing stories about her.
So they talked a bit, and packed her stuff up and got it out to the car, and then it was time to say goodbye.
"So, um, any of you guys coming back again next year?" Kir asked. The little group—her, Megan, and The Rationalists—had gathered to one side of the parking area, out of the way of the others scurrying back and forth with armloads of bedding and poorly-packed bags. "I thought I might see if Mom would let me come back again…"
Megan looked at the ground. "No," she said, "No, I don't think I'm going to sing anymore. Maybe I'll concentrate on gymnastics or the gymkhanas—I was kind of spreading myself too thin, anyways." The neck brace had come off that morning. It was still sort of weird to see her without it now.
"Oh. Well, what about the rest of you?"
Sarah and Su exchanged a glance with Randy. "Probably not," said Su. "All this was just a little too weird, you know? I mean, people we know died. So no, probably not."
"I don't even think they'll be open next year," added Sarah, looking unhappy. "I think a lot of parents are going to be asking for their money back once they find out about it, you know, even with them saying it was just suicides, and what with all the bad publicity and what…" She trailed off into silence.
"I'm going to go to Paris," Randy said with a grin. "Well, I hope to, anyways… If I save up I can probably afford a month, at least, especially if I stay at a youth hostel."
"I wish I could go to Paris," Kir said, envious. "The shows, the shopping…"
"The research possibilities…"
Randy pushed her glasses back up with a grin. "Well, I know for a fact now that Leroux did base his book at least partly on a true story, right? So I want to go over and prove it." Her grin got a little wider. "I might even publish a book. In fact, I think I will—I can always use a vanity press if I can't find someone to buy it. 'Phantom of the Opera: The True Story, by R. Oppenheimer.' Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
"I'll keep my eyes open for it," Kir promised.
"Heck, I'll blog about it. You on Facebook?" At Kir's nod she continued, "Well, then. Look me up!"
"We're all on Facebook," said Su. "Keep in touch."
"There's my Mom," Megan said suddenly. "Gotta go. Tee tee wuy ell, guys."
They watched her jog across to her mom's waiting arms.
"It's for the best, really," Su said at last.
Randy laughed. "Yeah, I've never seen her ride, but she's much better at gymnastics than she ever was at singing. Even has some medals."
"Then why'd she insist on singing?" Kir asked.
Randy shrugged. "Who knows? Wanted to be good at everything, mom forced her into it… I don't know why she started in on it." She paused, then added, "I guess she wasn't too bad. I mean, okay, she was never cut out for opera, but she could hit the right notes, at least. She might have been okay if she'd stuck to pop."
"She'd have been fantastic at pop," Su said dryly. "She has the personality for it."
"Yeah, I guess." Kir watched as Megan pulled the car door closed. "Shame she said she can't sing anymore without seeing him grabbing her throat. Maybe she would have been famous someday."
"Yeah, she's gonna need therapy," Su said. "God knows I will."
"Hey, Captain!" Kir's mom called, coming over and sweeping her into another hug. "Ready to go? Said all your goodbyes?"
"Yeah, Mom, I guess." Kir smiled. "Hey, this is Su, and Randy, and Sarah."
"Where's Tennille?" asked her mom, returning their grins with a smile.
"You know. That blonde girl."
"You mean Megan?"
"Yeah, I guess…"
"She left already. Who the hell is Tennille?"
"You mean you've never heard of the Captain and Tennille?" blurted Randy.
"You know. Big '70's music duo. Sang 'Love Will Keep Us Together'? You know? Just stop, 'cause I really love you. Stop, I'll be thinking of you. Look in my heart and let looove keep us togeeether…" She trailed off into an embarrassed silence. "Well, I bet her Mom knows it," she added, defensive.
"Good lord, you really are a student of ancient history, aren't you?" Su said, rolling her eyes.
"It's not that long ago," Kir's mom interjected. "Kirsten's father and I used to dance to this all the time. Besides, they played it in the grocery store last week."
"I rest my case," whispered Su, and Kir giggled.
"Well, I gotta go, guys!" she said. "I'll totally look you all up on FaceBook!" She waved and headed off, as Randy yelled after, "You'd better, or I won't autograph your copy!"
"So, tell me," her mom said as they bounced down the gravel driveway to the rutted road beyond, "What was it like? Tell me of your adventures. What did you do?"
"Well…" Kir debated skipping over everything and just talking about the classes, but she decided that that would be a really bad idea, if her mom happened to read something about it in the paper or something later. So instead she gave her mom the official story: Two suicides and an injury from a nightmare-induced fall. Ghosts and heavenly voices were not mentioned.
"I'm sorry," her mom said finally, once she'd calmed down a bit. "I should have listened to you. I should have asked you if you wanted to go, and not let you go somewhere so remote and without a phone. When I think what could have happened…"
"Mom." Kir grinned. "It's okay. Actually, I kind of had fun." She snuggled deeper into the car seat and grinned out the window at the power lines.
A/N: Okay, ya caught me: all the chapter titles are Evanescence songs. I do like the one song I've heard, and their website is very artistic, but I'm not particularly a big fan. Not that I dislike them; I'm just not really familiar with their work. I used the song titles for my chapters because I thought it might be neat to use appropriate titles for them, and because Googling a phrase that I sort of wanted to base a title off brought me some Evanescence hits, and then I remembered that the band is a bit of a cliché in certain song!phics, and so… Well, all the titles are Evanescence songs. No, don't read anything into any of them beyond the title itself (unless it ends up that it's really deeply appropriate and you are in awe of my subtle depth, lol, then by all means, yeah, it was on purpose) because frankly, I just Wiki'd them and looked for titles that'd work with my chapters. XD
"One Day More" is, of course, from Les Miserables, an excellent musical with a wonderful and stirring soundtrack.
Oh, okay: I know your morbid curiosity is wondering. He tried to spin around and drop into the splits. To Olivia Newton John's 'Let's Get Physical'. He failed. XD
Thank you for reading, and remember, if you were involved enough to make it this far, then please leave me a review! The more reviews I get, the more I end up writing, so it's in your own best interests! ;-) Hope you enjoyed it. :-D ~Kryss