"You know, there are easier ways to making a snowman than just taking a snow shovel and just dumping a pile of snow on top of each other."
Charlie huffed and stuck his snow shovel in the pile of snow and stubbornly said, "Well obviously. I'm just making a chair so I can sit on." He plopped down in the snow and sighed.
Fidelio shook his head, grinning. "Whatever you say Charlie, whatever you say."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Snow decorated the park with a fresh sheet of snow, or, it was once fresh. Now, Charlie realized, that there were many tracks left by everything. Footprints circled around trees and paths, late leaves that had chosen this time to fall even left slight prints in the snow. And many other little prints made little dimples in the snow.
"Are you sure this is allowed?" Fidelio asked, jamming his frozen hands into his pockets as he made puffs of evaporating breath as much as he pleased, obviously thinking that making breath puffs was much more entertaining (and a lot less work to be done) than making a 'snow chair'.
Charlie shrugged. He hadn't thought about that, but hey, he's done it and so far so good. He made himself a snow chair despite Fidelio's criticism and there were no adults around to question his motives. It was a perfect day to go and make himself a snowman.
Snow chair... Charlie thought firmly. It's a snow chair.
"Hey, is that Manfred?" Fidelio shifted his attention from Charlie to something pass Charlie. His hands fumbled, trying to get them out of the warm pockets but he gave up and nodded in the direction instead of going through the trouble of taking his hands out from a perfectly comfortable pocket.
Charlie turned around and watched a dark figure glance around quickly, as if trying to be discreet, and bounded down an icy alley.
"If he doesn't slow down he's going to end up with a broken back and a large medical bill." Charlie remarked, standing up. He brushed the snow sticking to his jeans and walked towards the alley Manfred or whoever that person was took. "C'mon Fido, let's go see who it is."
"Charlie, what is he or she is dangerous?"
Charlie slowed but he shook his head and quicken his pace. "Then I guess that means we're in trouble."
Charlie threw his head back to see Fidelio having an internal struggle. Either go with Charlie to be by his side in case of an emergency or stay back for safety precautions and be a horrible friend when you find out your friend has gone missing.
Going and be a good friend it was.
Fidelio groaned as he hurried to follow Charlie's footsteps. Charlie, expressing his pleasure, clapped Fidelio on the back. "You're a good friend, you know that?"
"I still don't know how I manage survive this long with you by my side." Fidelio grumbled. "In fact, how are you still alive?"
"Aw, come on Fido. What I do isn't THAT dangerous." Charlie teased, dragging Fidelio by the arm into the alley. The two boys slowed down when they came across ice. Charlie retreated to the walls and so did Fidelio, extending an arm out in case if one should fall, they'd be able to hold onto the rails the wall provided as it doubled as a stairwell up the side of the building.
They got to the end without slipping and looked around. "That way's a dead end so it should be this way." Charlie said, turning to the right. The right path had no ice patches so Charlie deemed it safe to run. And run he did.
"Charlie! CHARLIE!" Fidelio yelled as Charlie sprinted down the alley, weaving in and out of the laundry lines and the laundry itself. Fidelio followed in rapid pursuit. "Careful!" Fidelio yelled, wondering where Charlie was and how far he was away from him. The sheets of laundry blowing in the wind limited his view of what was up ahead and he could only see a few feet ahead. He had no idea if ice patches were ahead or not. And seeing that laundry dripped with water when they were first put up, there's bound to be an accident.
Fidelio slowed to a stop and ceased to take risks. "It's too dangerous!" he shouted. His voice echoed and bounced back to him. No response.
"Dang it. Where the heck is Charlie?" he hissed to himself, stuffing his pockets with his hands again.
Fidelio raised his head and yelled, "Charlie? CHARLIE, WHERE ARE YOU?"
He cocked his ear to the air and strained to hear his reply: "I'M STUCK!"
Fidelio couldn't help but smirk. "Good ole Charlie Bone... SIT TIGHT! I'M COMING!"
He cautiously maneuvered through the flapping shirts and trousers and made it to the very end of the alley where there was a high metal gate and a Charlie trapped by the spikiness of the wires underneath it. He had his head supported by his hand and he wore a red and yet indifferent look. His jacket was scrunched up, held firm by the loose metal wires and his back was exposed to the snow and frost. Luckily he wasn't scratched.
"Just get me outta here." he mumbled, tapping the ground with his fingers.
Fidelio suppressed a smile and tugged at the loose part of the fence to release the jacket and Charlie from under the gate.
Charlie scooted backwards and Fidelio let go of the fence. "How did that happen?" Fidelio asked, turning his back on Charlie, pretending to survey the hole but in reality he was trying not to burst from laughter. It was even just a feat to stop shaking.
Charlie sighed, brushing off the snow off his arm. "I saw the figure on the other side and I was running so I decided to dive and slide under that hole but I guess I couldn't fit through so I tried back up-"
"So that's how your jacket got caught." Fidelio reasoned.
"Yeah, and I tried to move forward again but I couldn't move."
Fidelio shook his head. "Charlie, let's go home. You've have enough drama for one day."
"I've actually have wo-"
"Whatever, let's just go."
Charlie glared at the fence. "I'm not climbing that thing."
Fidelio gawked. "So you want to go all the way back there? ALL THE WAY BACK THERE?"
Fidelio face palmed himself. "You do what you want. I'm jumping that fence."
Charlie huffed, throwing reluctant looks back at the fence. "Fidelio..." he whined. "Don't make me walk all the way back."
Fidelio grinned at Charlie. "The fence isn't that high Charlie. You can jump it." Charlie watched hopelessly as Fidelio latched onto the fence, fitting his foot into a hole and pulled himself up.
Charlie bit his lips and brushed off the snow form his jeans and said, "Fine, I'll jump it."
Charlie squirmed in his seat. He tried hard to enjoy the welcoming warmth that his kitchen provided but the cold and icy glare of his mother made it rather difficult.
"I tried to jump a fence and it caught onto some of the metal wiring and I fell."
He peeked up at his mom's face. She had a tired and weary look but she made her way to the medicine cabinet above the kitchen sink and reached for the box of band-aids. "Honestly Charlie, I don't know what to do with you." she said testily.
"I know...I didn't want to but...it was either that or go all the way back and it's really slippery there." Charlie said, fiddling with his fingers.
Mrs. Bone returned with a number of band-aids and one by one she peeled off the plastic and gingerly stuck the band-aids all over Charlie's arm and back.
Maisie, Charlie's maternal grandmother, watched from the stairwell. "Next time, zip up your jacket so it won't get caught." she said kindly.
"What were you doing in an alley anyway?" Mrs. Bone said, sticking the last band-aid onto Charlie's right forearm.
Charlie sat up abruptly, suddenly remembering why he had ended up in the alley in the first place. "I-" Then he stopped, wondering whether or not he should worry his mom and grandma. "I thought I saw Runner Bean and I thought he got lost somehow and I followed."
He sighed a breath of relief when Mrs. Bone didn't question him further.
That night, he prepared himself for school the next day, but he was deep in his thoughts.
Who was that? And why was he or she look so...suspicious? Fidelio had said it looked like Manfred, but Charlie hadn't seen him exactly, just the silhouette. He went to bed, still insanely perturbed, and after a few minutes still trying to venture deep into his memory of the chase, he fell to a gentle sleep.
Charlie smiled and slid into the seat beside Fidelio on the bus. Fidelio watched as Charlie pulled out his cape from his satchel and said, "You still don't like to be called 'Little Boy Blue'?"
Charlie nodded, fastening his cape securely around his neck. "It's annoying." he said.
The bus lurched forward and the two sat in still silence for a moment before Charlie broke the silence. "Are you sure it was Manfred?"
Fidelio glanced at him. "Well, now that you mention it, I'm not sure. It doesn't seem like Manfred to me anymore."
"Fido, are you telling the truth or are you trying to get me to forget it for my own sake?"
"Man, you know me really well. How long have we been friends again?"
When the bus pulled up to the dreary gray building, they stepped out of the bus and blended into a crowd of blue, green, and purple. When they entered the hallways, the crowd had gotten noticeably silent, due to the rules and the constant fear of Dr. Bloor or Manfred towering over them with a haughty face, eager to hand out detentions.
Charlie noticed a green haired girl with matching green cowboy boots wave at him from across the hallway. He waved back, smiling brightly at her. Fidelio raised an eyebrow, but said nothing, of course.
They approached their coatroom and Charlie engaged into another conversation. "Did you see the guy's face or was it blurry?"
Fidelio groaned. "For the last time, I can't tell anymore. Let's just forget about it."
He hung up his bag and pulled out two small books and a pencil. "Gotta get going or I'll be late for class. Reckon you better hurry too, before the stairways clutter again." Fidelio began to walk away, mumbling irritably about traffic jams and how it could make you tardy to class.
Charlie grabbed his supplies for History and dashed off into the hallway and around a corner.
Charlie stared at his salad and pushed it away from him. Gabriel looked up from his and said, "Are you feeling okay? You haven't touched your food."
"Yeah, I'm just not in the mood for vegetables." said Charlie, scrunching up his nose. "I don't like them very much."
"Can I have them?" Fidelio asked.
Charlie quietly pushed his plate to Fidelio. "Help yourself."
"You have to eat something." said Gabriel, putting down his fork in concern. "You can't just starve to death."
"Well where I'll be going is better than here." Charlie joked, trying to lighten up the mood.
Fidelio smiled a little and even Gabriel chuckled. "True..." he mumbled.
Billy, who had just gotten out of the endless long line, slid into his seat beside Gabriel and noticed Charlie's quiet state. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just not hungry." Charlie replied.
"Yeah, he's on a diet." said Fidelio jokingly.
Billy looked quizzically at Charlie. "You're not fat."
Gabriel and Fidelio bit their lips hard and shook with silent laughter, covering their mouths in order to suppress their roars. Charlie elbowed Fidelio in the ribs and said to Billy. "No, I'm not. I...already ate."
And as if on cue, his stomach rumbled and Charlie groaned in his head. Oh, so you choose now to growl? Stupid stomach...
"What did you eat, a bear?" Gabriel joked. "That growl could be heard from the other side of the room."
The four boys glanced to the other side of the room. Charlie knew that it couldn't be possible but for some reason a couple of students were looking around, bewildered. Fidelio, Gabriel, and Billy roared with crazed laughter, holding their sides while Charlie tried to convince them that is a a coincidence.
"Some coincidence!" Fidelio cried, biting his lips, trying to muffle his laugh.
"Hey, shut up." Charlie hissed.
"Charlie, we're only kidding around."
"I know but look up there. Manfred's looking suspicious."
"Eh?" Fidelio turned to look up at the main table. Manfred looked nervous and he kept casting anxious gazes at the walls and glued his eyes there for moments before shaking his head and looking around at the student body to see if anyone noticed this strange behavior. He stared at Charlie and his friends but they lowered their gaze to their neighbors as if they were listening to Johnny Wilkins beside Fidelio but they didn't lowered their heads, fearing that Manfred would notice their movements.
Charlie watched him out of the corners of his eyes. Manfred watched them for a while before he shifted his glare elsewhere.
"Safe." Gabriel breathed, poking at his salad.
After a disastrous hour in the King's Room, Charlie muttered under his breath about his detention for 'drooling over his textbook'. "If he's so worried about drool on the books he should have ordered textbooks with better subjects than history, like how to impress girls." he mumbled, undoing his cape and tossing it over his bed.
"Tough day?" Fidelio asked, looking up from his book. He sat perched at the foot of his bed and watched as Charlie kicked off his shoes into a pile by Charlie's nightstand.
"I got detention." he said.
"Drooling on the books." Charlie replied.
Fidelio bit his lips, trying not to laugh and lowered his gaze back to his book.
"Hey Fido, you up to some sneaking around?" Charlie asked in a hushed voice, trying not to let the others hear.
Fidelio slammed his book on his night stand and said, "Why do you always include me in all of this? All I wanted was to live a normal life but you just have to make it needlessly difficult."
"So is that a yes?"
Fidelio stared at Charlie. He sighed and gave in.
"Awesome. Midnight, make sure you have a flashlight with you. Thanks Fidelio, I knew I can count on you." said Charlie, grinning.
Fidelio shook his head and laid down with his hands over his eyes. "If you get me detention, you owe me big time."