Sep strolled down the aisle of the IKEA, humming christmas carols in his head. His cart was already part-way full with presents for his parents. Now, he just had to find a suitable one for Leek. Because even though that feeling of fear and excitement still accompanied his name, Sep wasn’t going to leave his only friend because of a stupid feeling. That wasn’t how it worked. As long as no one ever knew, everything’d be ok.
But now someone did know, Maxwell Talus, the man from the murder party. Sep hadn’t seen him since, but there was a sinking feeling knowing that he wasn’t the only one who held the keys to his deepest secret. He tried to push it to the back of his mind. But it kept resurfacing. The only reason he was at christmas shopping at 11:00 pm is because he’d left the Winthrop Christmas tree lighting as soon as Maxwell had made his appearance. Now, he eyeballed miscellaneous gifts, searching for a good one for Leek. A random sock puppet-No, a set of stained glass cocktail glasses-No, a desk-No. Sep came a shelf with a little stuffed dog. On its paw it had a red: “press me” button. So, Sep did. “Everybody dance now…” The dog started to sing and dance. Well, the dog didn’t sing. An automated voice message inside it did. But, regardless, Sep was laughing out loud at the ridiculous tune. Yes, this was the right gift, no doubt about it.
He made his way to the checkout, and zoomed through the short line. As he was walking out the door, a man in a Grinch suit sprinted past him carrying what seemed to be a lamp. Yeah, Sep thought, it was definitely sad to be at the IKEA by himself with only insane Grinch shoppers around. He decided that even a sighting of Maxwell, and some bad food at the christmas party would be worth it for a change of scene.
He showed up at the party 15 minutes later. Everyone was standing close to the tree, watching it with bated breath, as if they were half a expecting a murdered man to pop out of it like the last time they’d all been together.
“Hey,” Sep said turning to the tall man next to him. “When is this supposed to start?” The man turned around. It was Maxwell. Sep blanched.
“11:30, so any minute now.” Pause. “And I’m sorry for writing on your hand at the party. I was curious about why you looked so preoccupied. I didn’t mean to, you know,” See into my mind, and uncover my deepest secrets? Sep thought angrily. “Yeah,” Maxwell finished. Sep looked down at his hand and saw the faint mark of a pen.
“You can still hear my-?”
“Yes. You might want to wash your hand with some stronger soap.”
“No kidding.” Sep turned away. Maxwell grabbed his shoulder.
“And Sep?” Sep glared at him and raised his eyebrows.
“You might want to chill about what you were all freaked out about at the part. It’s really not a biggie. No one here is going to care.” Sep nodded curtly. But inside he was soaring, if Maxwell didn’t care, that was one less thing he had to worry about. Now he could just sit back and watch the tree lighting.