”Look at me, I'm Emmy. I'm a nurse! I diagnose myself with I'mabuttitis.”
”Kelly, come on,” the rat grumbled. “That was serious, Justin and that other girl had to go to the med clinic.”
Kelly-Elly let the soles of her shoes hit the sand on the arc of her swing, to slow herself down. “Isn't there like, a disease or something,” she said, slowing down more on the next arc, “where, like, you do something to cause a catastrophe, just so you can come in and save it like a super-hero?”
”I think it starts with Munch.” Said the chipmunk to the left of the rat. “Much-something.”
”Or maybe you're;”
”Just hungry for;”
”Lunch.” The twins said, finishing the sentence in unison.
The rat closed her eyes, resting her head against the chain of her swing. It quivered as the bar overhead bounced from Rosa's less-than-graceful back-swing.
”Don't make the whole swingset collapse on us,” Kelly-Elly jibed.
Rini opened her eyes, looking to her right, and then her left when she remembered where nine o'clock was.
Lyza was easy to spot, even far away. She had picked a small muumuu with blues and light-greens, and orange leggings.
The girls slowed their swinging to a halt over the next moment, and even then it took the rabbit several more seconds to approach the swingset.
”What do you want?” The poodle questioned, even as Lyza was still several paces away. “You can't impress us by pretending to know big words you just looked up in the dictionary.”
Rini held the rabbit's gaze as she was approached, except when she caught Lyza moving her left hand, balled into a fist, behind her back.
”Hey, Rini,” the rabbit said, calmly. “Can we talk?”
The rodent let just a few seconds go, before her hands slid down the chains, and she put weight on her feet. “Sure.”
The other chains rattled as the girls got to their feet.
”Anything you say to her, you can say in front of us,” Kelly-Elly told the rabbit.
Lyza shrugged. “Fine,” she agreed, without hesitation or emotion in her voice, and turned.
”You talk here,” the poodle said, pointing to the ground at her feet.
The rabbit paused, and looked back. “No. We're going to the picnic tables, where it's shady.”
Rini walked away from her swing, and kept pace behind the rabbit. After a moment, she looked back, and saw that the others were still at the swingset. “Guess they didn't want to lose their swings.”
”I'm not going to take very long,” the rabbit remarked, situating herself on the seat at the picnic table.
”I don't think I'll go back to swing, anyway,” Rini replied, taking her spot across from the rabbit. She sat up straight, with her hands in her lap, and looked to Lyza. “So... What'd you want to talk about?”
Lyza's lower-lip fell a bit, exposing her bucked teeth. She thought, for a moment, before taking in her breath to speak. “So... I've been... Kinda frustrated, about stuff, the last... I dunno, for a while, and...” She rested her hands on the table. “I was... Some of that was kind of... Taken out on you in... In a not-fair way, so...” She looked back up at the rat's face. “I'm sorry.”
The rat's posture broke, and she chuckled. “Really? I couldn't tell,” she remarked.
”So this is just funny to you?” The rabbit asked, seriously.
”It's not funny,” Rini replied, her demeanor snapping to match the rabbit's. “I'm...” She also matched Lyza's posture, resting her hands on the table. “Let's... Not mince words. For a long time... I've... Been a raging bitch to you.”
They let the statement settle between them for a moment, until the rat shifted in her seat.
”So... Honestly, I don't... I mean, to me, I think it's... kinda fair, in a way.”
Lyza looked away. “Well, either way... Just... I'm sorry. I'll try not to...”
”Hey, I'm... Fine,” the rat reassured, releasing her hands and clasping them back together with a soft clap. She sat up a little straighter. “As long as... Long as I can say 'I'm sorry,' too.”
The rabbit sniffed, wrinkling her nose and scratching at it. “It's... Whatever.”
”Liz, c'mon,” Rini said, leaning forward. “I mean... You and me, we go, like... Way back. Maybe not as far back as you and Emmy, but—”
”I only knew Emmy since second grade,” Lyza interrupted.
”Well, okay, but... I mean, I remember you were there, when I awkwardly told Mrs. Minelle I wanted to go by Rini instead of Becky.” She looked up. “Probably cuz that was one of the few days I remember you even being in class.”
”What does us 'going way back' matter?” The rabbit questioned.
”Well, cuz,” Rini squirmed a bit, not really having her thoughts formulated as well as the rabbit's. “I already told you, like, right now... You're not really how I remembered. Maybe the... Whatever was frustrating you, or whatever; maybe that was what I was noticing.
”But, I kinda started noticing... At least right after Spring Break.” She looked down at her hands. “When I... Put your name down, for the spelling bee, I was thinking, like... 'Ha, she'll have to tell Ms. Hupp she doesn't want to now.'” She squeezed her thumbs. “But... Then, when Goren said you showed up for the practice, I was... I was actually really worried,” she admitted.
”Cuz you thought I'd make a fool out of myself on stage?” The rabbit asked, interpreting ahead.
”Exactly,” Rini answered, honestly. “I think I've made fun of you mispronouncing words, like, what? Maybe every other week?”
The rabbit shrugged.
”Well, anyway... Foot, meet mouth,” she said, with another nervous chuckle. “That... Made me kind of... I starting wondering if... If maybe you were always like that, in a way, and I was just... Ignoring that, so I could keep making fun of you.”
The rabbit swallowed, her fingers fidgeting.
”So, all I'm trying to say is... I feel like—” She paused, and her head tilted from left, to right, correcting her last few of words: “I know, that I'm part of... Whatever else was frustrating you. Heck,” she shrugged, “Maybe you're just trying to be nice and make me feel like it's something else, when I was all of it.”
”Don't give yourself that much credit,” Lyza replied, a scathing flick to her tongue.
”I don't want any of that credit,” Rini remarked.
The rat and the rabbit looked about for a moment, and then looked at their hands for a moment. The sounds of the other kids playing and bickering over whether a goal actually counted or not passed through their bubble of stillness.
A warm breeze rustled the trees above them The dappling of sunlight-and-shadow ebbed and flowed over them like a gentle wave.
The rabbit broke the silence with a deep breath.
”Okay, well...” She pulled up her legs and turned about on the picnic bench. “I'll let you get back t—.”
”Wait a sec,” the rat interrupted, just as the rabbit had started to stand up.
Lyza lowered back down, but her back remained to the rat.
”Just, real quick,” Rini said. “I get it... If we can't be friends,” she began. “I'd like to, but... I get it. But, I don't... I don't want us to be enemies anymore, at least. Like, you're going to Redcliff, right?”
”...Yeah,” Lyza answered, after a pause.
”If we see each other in the halls... We don't have to wave and say hi, but... I don't want us to move to opposite sides and look away... You know what I mean?”
Rini waited with a bated breath as she looked at the back of the rabbit's head. She relaxed just a little when Lyza's ears swiveled back, and she looked to the right.
”I'll think about it,” she replied, before standing up.
Rini closed her eyes, listening as the rabbit's footfalls disappeared into the mist of the other sounds of recess. She laid her hands flat on the table, and let her breath spill out, carrying with it a great deal of her tension.