Episodes VI: Star Charts and Surprises
Zach watched Nova pluck a rose out of the bouquet, spinning it delicately between her nimble fingers.
“What are you thinking?” Zach asked, grabbing a handful of chips out of the bowl.
“Who do you think they’re from?” Nova ventured.
Zach shrugged in response. “Could be anyone honestly.”
“No signature attached. Isn’t that kind of weird?”
“What about it? Anonymous condolences aren’t that unusual,” he quipped, turning around in his chair to face her.
Nova leveled him with a look. She didn’t want to be the one to say it. She would just keep tiptoeing around it, waiting for him to come to the same conclusion, to have the same idea that wouldn’t stop tugging at her mind.
“Just say it,” Zach sighed, pushing the bowl of chips to her.
She put down the rose and grabbed some hesitantly. “They could be from the murderer.”
He didn’t respond for a very long time, instead fixing her with a strange, glazed over stare. Nova’s face burned fiercely as the silence went on. Had she overstepped her boundaries? They were barely friends, united by this odd incident and she didn’t want to make him feel worse than he already did.
“Come with me,” he said abruptly.
“I haven’t given you a house tour yet. It would be a shame for you to miss the wall to ceiling portrait of me that my dad had commissioned on my 6th birthday. Not just anyone gets to see that.”
“Well, how could I possibly say no. Consider my interest piqued,” she teased, standing from her chair and following him out of the kitchen. They went down the carpeted hallway as she marveled silently at the tall ceiling and ancient-looking columns that accompanied it. They stopped at the foot of a spiraling staircase, so seemingly untouched that Nova was afraid to take a step.
Zach turned back to look at her with a sly smile and then took off, not waiting to see if she followed. He knew she would. They stopped on the second floor, and as promised, mounted on the wall was a giant painting of young Zach. He looked mostly the same, except for the little pink overalls he sported and his cheeks, rounder with baby fat.
She couldn't keep herself from turning to face the 18-year-old Zach standing before her now, and trying to match him with the baby version on the wall. It was weird to see the shell of a boy standing next to her. His eyes were bright in the painting, not yet dulled by the death of his father. But he was undeniably handsome now with a sharp jaw and upturned cheekbones, accompanied by short wavy hair. She had the sudden urge to hug him, to help him get the light back in his eyes.
“Glow up of the century right?” he prodded, wiggling his eyebrows.
“I don’t know Zach, those pink overalls are quite a look,” she fired back.