Like Sunday Morning
Chapter 1The party was going well: everyone was happy and enjoying themselves. Well, almost everyone. Ebony was in her room, sulking: Jay was with Amber now and Ebony didn't like that one bit. Lex was at the food table, desperately trying to avoid getting drunk: Tai San still remained elusive and Siva had finally given up and left him. Jack was leaning against the wall, watching Luke and Ellie dance.
"Come dance with me," cried Gel, tugging at his shirt.
"Nah, nah: I don't do dancing," the red haired boy stammered, rubbing the back of his neck and staring at his feet.
"Yeah, so what? Neither do most people here it seems," the younger girl said, wrinkling her nose at the current dancers in distaste, "Everyone in the Modes could dance!"
Jack laughed: a short, tired laugh. He had heard nothing from Gel other than how much better her old tribe had been than any other ever since the day he'd met her. He had been baby-sitting her ever since then too. Grudgingly, he allowed himself to be dragged onto the dance floor, next to Mouse and Sammy. Further over, Jay and Amber were dancing close together.
"It's not even a slow song," Gel complained.
Jack merely rolled his eyes in reply and shuffled from one foot to the other, with his hands stuffed into his pockets attempting what he hoped would pass for dancing.
"Huh!" Gel sighed, "You're hopeless!"
"I warned ya!"
Gel rolled her eyes and turned to dance with Mouse and Sammy. Jack shuffled off, thus mercifully released, to regain his post against the wall once more and observe. Every one of his old friends, who had so far returned anyway, had someone. Amber had Jay, Trudy had Ryan (he was still trying to work out how that happened), May had Pride and Ellie had Luke. Only Lex and Ebony were alone and that was entirely their own fault. Even Sammy had one almighty crush on Gel, although Jack couldn't see why: Gel had more innocently derisive remarks for Sammy than any other Mall Rat, apart from Jack himself of course.
Jack looked around him, taking stock of what he saw. There were others out there not so happy as this lot, give or take Lex and Ebony, he thought. Slade had gone off on his motorbike, leaving Ruby to her crossword puzzles and the saloon bar in Liberty. Salene was still out there somewhere whilst both of her beaus had moved on. KC had never quite made it back to them, nor had Alice, Tally or Andy. Ved, Cloe and Bray were dead, as was, most probably, Tai San. Mega and Java had disappeared off somewhere with a pack of Technos after Ram had been killed once and for all and the mystery of Zoot had finally been solved. Everyone had everything in hand. The mall was safe. Jay could fix anything that needed fixing: he had spent enough time working with Jack on the alarm system and other electronics of the mall to know them like the back of his hand. There was no need for Jack to stay. They didn't need him any more, not here. There were others out there who did.
Jack slipped out of the room and up the stairs, heading for his father's old electronics shop. Gathering some stuff into a rucksack, things to trade, some tools, some clothes and a few personal items, he headed back along the corridor. Stopping off at the old cafe, where the food was once again stored since the city returned to peace, he shoved a few tins into the rucksack, along with some vegetables and turned to leave. Stopping inches from the stairs, he stopped, sighed and turned back to the cafe. Walking over to a set of drawers, he opened the top one and took out a knife, fork, spoon and, most importantly, one of the mall's many can openers. This time, when he reached the stairs, he didn't hesitate and went straight down to the side of the old fountain.
When he reached the phoenix statue, after which the mall was named, Jack stopped, hearing a familiar tune playing in the room across the entrance hall. It was a tune he and his father had loved. His father had always loved Jazz of any form and had been responsible for Jack's love of the music. This had been one of their favourites. Jack drew closer to the door as the intro played. As he looked through at his old friends, his eyes settled on Ellie and Luke, kissing passionately in the middle of the dance floor. When the song finally reached the lyrics, they seemed to take on a whole new meaning.
it sounds funny but I just can't stand the pain,
Girl I'm leavin' you tomorrow,
Seems to me, girl, you know I've done all I can,
You see I begged, stole and I borrowed.
why I'm easy,
I'm easy like Sunday mornin'.
That's why I'm easy,
I'm easy like Sunday mornin'."
As the song played on, Jack turned and walked away. Not tomorrow, he thought, today: now. He made his way out of the mall quickly and quietly before any of the others noticed him. He didn't see Ebony on the balcony, watching as he paused at the entrance of the mall for the last time, listening to the familiar and well loved tune of his life before the virus. He was gone by the time she returned with a bag of her own things to follow him.
"I wanna be high,
I wanna be free to know the things I do are right,
I wanna be free, just me..."
Ebony picked out Jack's voice as he sang quietly to himself. It's funny, she thought, he doesn't stutter when he sings.