Chapter Fifty-Seven: My Best Friend

The young man groaned. The only seat left in the science class was next to the new girl, and everyone knew she was crazy. She'd already been kicked out of three schools that year for violence.

"Please take a seat Mister Schnider." The teacher said. Sighing, he took the seat next to the crazy new girl, who merely glared at him.

"Excellent, we've managed to fit two to a table. You'll be spending the rest of the year working with your partner, so make sure you get to  know each other." The teacher beamed.

"Tough luck Webster!" The young man heard a voice from behind him. He could hear whispers around the room. "Poor Webster! Getting stuck with Markington!"

It couldn't be denied; the scowling, isolated Tate Markington next to him was a dangerous young lady. Or so everyone said, Webster really hadn't had much to do with her.

The teacher set them their assignment and started reading his book as they started to "work" (read: Do whatever they liked, it's not like the teacher cared). Webster gulped.

"Scared of me, are you?" Tate sneered, turning away from him to read her own book.

"I don't even know you!" Webster protested.

"Well, I'm Tate Markington. Now you know me." Was the short reply.

"I'm Webster." Webster smiled, trying to connect with the young lady in front of him. "So, the sheet says we need to pick a plant species and write a report on it. Any suggestions?"

"Cactus." Tate replied snappily.

Webster tried not to laugh. Tate raised an eyebrow at him.

"I'm sorry." Webster giggled. "I don't know why I find it so funny."

Tate shook her head, but started laughing too.
"And they call me mental." She shook her head. "Seriously, though, cactus would be interesting, and no one else will do them. They're all about trees and flowers."

"You mean things that people actually like?" Webster finished chuckling.

"Hey, cactii might not look appealing, but they're super-hardy and can be useful if you're stuck in the desert and don't have any water." Tate defended her choice.

"Cactus it is then." Webster wrote it down in his notebook. "You know, you're nothing like what people say you're like."

"How so?" Tate blinked.

"You actually seem to have a sense of humour." Webster poked her. Tate grinned, but then looked downcast.

"Yeah, unfortunately it's only on good days I have a sense of humour. The rumours are true you know. I got kicked out of a few schools because of my temper and my ability to hold a grudge." She began doodling in the margins of her notebook. "It's just when I know people are trying to hurt me or the people who I care about I go spare."

"Well, you just need to learn how to NOT go spare. Do you see a doctor at all?" Webster asked, flicking through his textbook to see if he could find anything cactus related.

"My foster parents can't afford it. Besides, it's not like I'll be with them for much longer anyway, they said if I got kicked out of one more school they'd send me back to the orphanage." Tate stabbed at her notebook with her pen. Obviously, she'd spent a lot of time at the orphanage and didn't want to go back.

"Well, we're friends now, so I'll try and help you keep your temper." Webster smiled.

"You mean it?" Tate looked up at him, hopeful.
From that day forth, Tate and Webster were inseperable. Nothing could get between them.

Except Tates feelings.

Webster sighed. It had been a long day, between his horror lectures and keeping people from picking on Tate. It had been six years since their first meeting, and she had made awesome progress – she had a few friends now and was much happier. Alas, mud sticks and she was victim of many taunts and pranks.
Webster tried to stick up for her, but it was hard work with her flash-bang temper and nasty habit of holding cold, long grudges. Also, Webster had a sneaking suspicion that Tate had a crush on him.

He walked into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him, before flinging his bag onto his desk and flopping face first onto the bed.  Tate was his best friend. She was his sister, the twin sister he had lost to death in early childhood. He groaned at himself – Tate and Wendy were two completely different people, and Tate could never be Wendy and Wendy could never be Tate.

He sighed. That wasn't the real issue at all. The real issue, although he was ashamed to own it, was that Tate was just too weird. She was rapturous, imaginative, spontaneous, and completely and utterly insane. He often laughed, not with her, but at her, because he could never follow how she got from one thought to the next. He couldn't understand her ideas, he couldn't understand HER. While he could have lived with that if it was just her, he couldn't live with people laughing at him, pitying him, turning up their noses at him because of her. He loved her – of that there was no doubt, despite her loopy ways, but public pressure was too much for him to bear.
He lifted his head and looked at his laptop, which was on the bedside table next to him. He reached out and grabbed it, flipping himself over, making himself comfortable and turning it on. He opened up one of his favourite chat rooms, where he often went to try and forget about the rest of the world.

He soon got into an argument about the latest sci-fi movies with a couple of idiots. He had a feeling he was being trolled, but it was fun, so he continued. A private message window popped up after a while.

"Why are you entertaining those idiots when you could easily squash them?" The message said.

He typed back. "I've got nothing better to do. My assignments are all done and there's no tests to study for until next month."

"And trolling in chat rooms is the best you can do? You're a bit pathetic." Was the response.
Webster smiled to himself. He was a bit pathetic really.

"So why are you wasting your time with me? I'm Webster by the way."

"I'm Madison. I get the feeling there's more to you than you let on. Like you're trying to hide something from the world."

Understatement much? Webster sighed again. He could always tell this anonymous person about his problems with Tate, about how she loved him and how he was trying not to love her back lest he become an outcast like her too.

"I'm complicated." He said.

"So make it easy for me."

Why was she so interested?

Webster was curious. After a while, he discovered that Madison was a year younger than him and lived up north in a city called Pleasantville, which was a bit of a crime haven.

"Yesterday one of the local gangs tried to take over the private school. Two kids named Belle and Charlie stopped them though. At the same time, the other local mobsters tried to rob a bank. Both gang leaders were killed, but I doubt it's the end of the gangs." Madison told him. "My dream is to study law and eventually help the local prosecutor Peter Masters become the Mayor and finally clean up this city."

"That's a pretty noble dream. I'm just doing a Bachelor of Arts right now, I don't really know what I want to do." Webster typed back, feeling for the first time like he was connecting with someone other than his psycho best friend.

"Don't you have any ambition at all?" Madison asked.

Now she was starting to sound like Tate, who often told him how he was wasting himself due to his cowardice.

"You're starting to sound like my nutcase best friend. She's always trying to get me to push myself."

"Maybe you should listen to her. Anyway, I've gotta go and have dinner and do my homework, I'll talk to you again sometime!"

Webster smiled to himself. For the next few months, when he got home he immediately went for his laptop to talk to Maddy. She was an outlet for his pent up emotions, and she in turn often asked for his advice. He found it easier and easier to put aside his feelings for Tate, who was starting to get a bit desperate.

"Hey Webby, I'm going to go out for dinner, would you like to come with me?" Tate asked after a lecture one day, about a year after that first conversation with Maddy.

"Um, probably not Tater. I've got a lot of study to do." Webster lied.

"We never hang out any more. I miss you." Tate grabbed his arm and cuddled up to it, making people stare at them. Webster tried to shrug her off, but she wouldn't budge.

"Look, I promise we'll go to the arcade this weekend and go and play computer games. I might even let you win." Webster tried. Tate grinned.

"You're on!" She punched his arm before running off in her stupid, almost skipping way. For a moment it felt like old times again, before her stupid feelings got in the way. Webster smiled, and went home to talk to Maddy.

"I'd really like to meet you. I'm going to be in Brisvegas next week to look at the University, would we be able to meet then?" Maddy asked that night.

Webster couldn't wait to say yes.

Of course, everything went smoothly when Webster met Maddy, and after a fashion they became a couple. Of course, Webster never told Tate about this.

Several years later, Webster announced that he was moving to Pleasantville. Tate was distraught.

"But WHY do you want to leave?" She asked Webster as they sat in his room while he packed.

"Because I think my future lies there." Webster replied, silently adding, "With Maddy."

"I guess you need to follow your dreams. I hope you make it, whatever they are." Tate said quietly.

"Thanks buddy." Webster hugged her tightly, before forcing himself to let go. 'You can't stay here with her.' He told himself. 'You know what she's like.'

"Maybe someday you'll come back." Tate tried to smile, for his sake.

"Maybe." Webster shrugged non-commitally. There was no way he was going to come back here as long as Tate was around.

"I'm sure you will." Tate hugged him. "When are you going?"

"Day after tomorrow." Webster lied. His bus left the next morning.

"Then I guess we'll still have tomorrow, right?" Tate kissed his cheek.

Webster felt awful for lying, but he really didn't want Tate there to say farewell and make a scene.

The next time he saw Tate, she was surrounded by destruction, less than twenty-four hours from her own death.

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