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Sonuachara Chapter 3

Trina was waiting for Zoe in the parking lot on Monday. One of the nice things was that they got out of school an hour early to do their community service, which meant one less hour of boredom. Zoe dropped her bag in the back seat and hopped nimbly over the door, wincing slightly as she hit the seat.

"You okay?" Trina asked.

"Mm? Yeah, moved wrong. Let's get out of here," Zoe said.

"Okay." Trina was silent for a few minutes as she drove. "You want to tell me the truth? Or at least pretend I'm not an idiot? If you don't want to tell me, that's fine, but at least say so."

Zoe shrugged one shoulder. "Shoulda stayed gone a couple more days, but I needed some stuff from the house."

"What happened?" Trina asked. "I noticed... well, it didn't look like you went home Thursday night, but I didn't just want to ask. But if you're hurt..."

"Eh, no big deal. Folks I'm staying with aren't bad, actually. Guy's gone, usually... traveling salesman, I shit you not. Woman's all June Cleaverish and maternal. Fusses a lot, but she's sweet. Their son, though, is a total shit-head, and every once in a while, his girlfriend gets fed up with him beating her up and threatens to call the cops if he doesn't leave. So he heads for 'home', and if George isn't there, he takes over as the 'man of the house'. Jackass."

"Oh," Trina said. "You like it there?"

Zoe shrugged. "Definitely been in worse places. They let me be, mostly."

"Would you stay there if you had a better option?" Trina asked.

"It's not a matter of options," Zoe said. "The state shuffles you around when they feel like it. Probably they'll move me out of this place in the next month or two. They don't want you getting 'attached', see."

"How much longer are you going to be stuck in the system?"

"Eighteen's the official age, but if I can get and hold a job enough to pay my own way, I can go to court to get out at 17," Zoe said.

"How old are you now?" Trina asked.

"Fifteen. Sixteen in a couple of months."

Trina blinked. "Really? I figured you were older. You must have skipped a grade or something?"

"Didn't actually start school until I was 12, and they tested me to see where I belonged and put me in 7th."

"Ah, that makes sense." Trina pulled into the parking lot in front of the home. "Look. I need to talk to you about something."

Zoe looked at her watch and frowned. "We should really go on in."

"We've got a few minutes. And it's important," Trina said.

Zoe sighed. "Okay. Five minutes, and I don't promise to answer anything I don't want to, or do anything unless I think it needs doing."

"It's not like that," Trina said. "It's...look. If we're going to be friends, we've got to get one thing straight from the beginning."

Zoe gave Trina a look that very clearly said, 'There was an assumption we were going to be friends?', and Trina tilted her head.

"I'd like to be your friend."

Zoe shook her head. "Table that for now, and go on with what you were saying."

"It's money," Trina said. "I've got it. I spend it. If I have a friend who needs something and can't afford it, I'll help them out. It doesn't mean I'm trying to buy your friendship or anything, but it's stupid for you to do without if I can help you. I've got enough I won't miss it, and I'm not going to be some dog in the manger hoarding something I don't need. I mean, I can't help everyone, but if my friends need help..." She shrugged. "Why not?"

"If they need help, I can see that," Zoe said. "But there's a difference between a need and a desire, and between helping and giving."

"Well, yeah," Trina said. "But... I just don't want you feeling all defensive about it."

"I'm not. But I don't need help, either."

Trina raised an eyebrow. "Oh? So you skipped lunch Thursday because you really were on a diet? C'mon."

"Never said I was. Just asked if you considered I might be. Skipped because I didn't feel like going home Wednesday night. But I didn't need lunch. I was far from starving, and it wouldn't have hurt me to do without."

"But there wasn't any point to skipping, either," Trina said.

"You're not getting my point," Zoe said. "Lunch was a want. Not a need."

"Okay, I see your point," Trina said. "There still wasn't any point in missing it when I could help."

"Yes, there was," Zoe said. "It's my preference to earn what I get. Sometimes that means I go without. That's my choice, and no one has a right to take it away from me."

Trina sighed. "Okay. I understand. Can I make a deal with you?"


"I don't want you to go without when there's no point, not for small, trivial stuff, or even bigger stuff if it's important. You don't want to get stuff you haven't earned, and you don't want to take advantage of other people's generosity. You let me help you out, and I won't let you take advantage of me. And later on in life, you help out other people the way I'm helping you out— if it's no hardship to you, you help them out. Give them a ride, buy them dinner, whatever. That way you're still earning what you get, you just get to do it with people who actually need it. Deal?"

Zoe sighed. "Sorry. I know you mean well. But... well, the thing is, I don't do anything on credit, and I never intend to. If I can't afford it now, I don't want it. Because I might never be able to afford it. I might not be able to earn it. So I live within my means, in all ways, in case I never get a chance to balance the books."

Trina blew out a breath, her bangs fluttering. "Look. I've got money. I didn't do a damned thing to earn it. Money's only useful for what you can do with it. Maybe you'll get a chance to pay it back, maybe you won't, but if you won't let me give you the chance to try, what the hell good is my money? Honestly, you'd be doing me a favor."

Zoe smiled. "If I needed something, maybe I'd let you. But I don't. So if you want to help, do it where it's needed."

"Not even need. It's stupid for you to go without lunch, when I could buy your lunches for the next month and not even notice it. I mean, where's the sense in that?" Trina asked.

"I could do your math papers for the next month and not even notice," Zoe said. "It'd be so easy as to be relaxing. I'd enjoy it, and it'd be easier on you. Why shouldn't I?"

"Well, you couldn't, but the reason you shouldn't is that I wouldn't learn anything. What are you learning from not eating? That the only person you can count on is you? Maybe it's time to learn another lesson, like maybe life is easier with friends."

"Well, we all pick the lessons we think are valid and important," Zoe said. "It's more important to me to make my own way than it is to eat every day."

"You can't do it all yourself," Trina said. "Nobody can. What's important isn't the fact that you have to depend on someone else to help, it's picking the right people to depend on. If you try to be totally self-sufficient, you're going to fail, unless you intend to go live up in the mountains and live off the land. Otherwise you're depending on other people to grow your food, pick your food, deliver your food to the supermarket...."

"And I'm paying them for their effort with money, or services I can render," Zoe said. "It's very important to me that if I can't earn it myself, I'll do without it."

"And it's very important to me to spread... um... goodness, I guess, throughout the world," Trina said. "Some people do that by giving money to organizations. I'd rather do it by helping out my friends, so they can help out other people later on, so that those people can help other people...."

"So help other people," Zoe said. "You've got plenty of friends. Your generosity won't suffer atrophy due to one person refusing it."

"Most of my friends don't really need it," Trina said. "The ones that do, I do."

"Then continue to do so, or step it up a bit if you feel like you aren't doing enough," Zoe said. "No problem."

Trina smiled at her. "I'm trying to."

"So?" Zoe said. "See, you don't need me, you've got plenty of targets. Now, can we go in? I promised I'd be here before 4."

Trina sighed. "Okay. But we aren't through here."

"Yes, we are," Zoe said, hopping out of the car and grabbing her bag. "Oh, and yes, I could. They only offer up to pre-calc here."

Trina smirked at her as she got out of the car. "Okay, I'll make you a bet. If you can do my next month's math homework, I'll admit I was wrong. If you can't, you pay up."

"Oh?" Zoe asked. "Pay up how?"

"By not arguing with me about the money."

"No. Sorry, not arguing is against my religion," Zoe said.

Trina laughed. "Okay. You can argue, but you still let me spend it."

"Okay," Zoe said. "But when I win, you drop it totally. Take no for an answer."

Trina smirked. "Fine. I win."

"No, you won't," Zoe said.

"I already have."

Zoe raised an eyebrow. "And how do you figure that?"

"Because I've already done it through the end of the semester."

"Then that makes it really easy for me to win," Zoe said. "I don't have to do a thing to win."

"Nope," Trina said. "You said you could do my homework. You can't, because it's already done. You could maybe do the problems, but that wouldn't be my homework. The bet wasn't 'the homework that I haven't done', it was 'my homework'. That would be the homework that was assigned to me."

"No," Zoe said, "Actually, I said that I could do your math papers. I made no assumptions as to the nature and number of said papers. If none are assigned that haven't been completed, I've still fulfilled the bargain, and thus, I win."

"Ah, but I have had math papers assigned," Trina said. "You can't do them because they're already done. Therefore, I win."

"Even if that were the case..." Zoe said, "I did not say 'unfinished papers', either. Just because you've already done them doesn't mean that I couldn't also complete the assignments. Now, if I'd said 'I could do all your math papers for the next month for you,' then I'd agree you had grounds to claim victory. But all I actually said was that I could do them, not implying in any way whether or not you also did them."

"But if you did the problems on the paper, they still wouldn't be my math papers, because my math papers are already done. Therefore, logically, you can't do my math papers."

"Depends," Zoe said. "You might have done the problems, but I doubt they've let you turn them in. They get pissy about working ahead. So if I put your name on them and handed them in, they would, indeed, be your math papers."

"Nope," Trina said. "You have to turn them in in class, and as you aren't in my math class, you can't do that."

"No, I just have to say I found them," Zoe said. "No problem at all. Or give them to you... if I give them to you, they are, by definition, yours. To turn in or not. A gift. No longer mine, is what I'm getting at here."

Trina laughed. "Okay, fine. Shall we call it a draw?"

Zoe smiled. "Well... I don't know. It'd ruin my record."

"Mine, too," Trina said. "So we'd be even."

"All right then, draw," Zoe said.