Eugene couldn’t sleep.
Each night his tummy would twist and turn leaving him wiggling around in his sheets like a severed worm that still hadn’t figured out how to die and only when the morning did eventually creep in would his feet grow limp as the dread of a new day weighed him down.
He could not pinpoint the exact minute it began but had to admit that it was becoming a Big Problem when he couldn’t even complete a ketchup portrait with any enthusiasm. Naturally, his first instinct had been to suspect foul play - were the ghost’s drugging his food?! - though hesitant to dismiss the theory altogether, he knew in his heart that on this occasion it was something internal haunting him.
The guilt Eugene felt towards Norah had been left unchecked at the back of his mind and in his neglect had been allowed to grow enormous. He had known the relationship required work, had even been advised to end it before anyone got hurt, but Eugene in his carelessness had sat back waiting for Norah to do all the heavy lifting; because, surely, anyone with eyes could tell that Eugene had the upper body strength of a twig? Except Norah hadn’t done anything. She appeared to know even less about relationships than Eugene. It was clear she expected Eugene to take the lead.
During half-term he’d hoped that his older brother, who had famously spoken to at least four women in his life, might give him some direction, but in a bout of unfortunate timing Leopold had become a traitorous toad and was now dead to him.
A person who only bothered to write you once a month - even though everyone knows they write to Petra twice as much - and claims they can’t come home for the holidays because of ‘seasonal work’ - which actually turns out to be code for a ‘not-so-secret girlfriend’ who doesn’t know anything about sheep, and therefore totally sucks - is not a person who deserves to be informed of your relationship drama. But with Leo out of the running Eugene wasn’t left with a lot of options for his confidant. Elisa was obviously not a contender, nor was JJ as he was still learning how to hold a spoon, and since Amybeth had begun calling him ‘Eggy’ in a cruel call-back to the childhood game of ‘Egg Eugene’, he wasn’t loving her as a prospect either.
He decided he needed someone who understood relationships. A person who knew when a situation required flowers or chocolate, or both. He needed to speak to a man. Jeb and Eugene didn’t have many opportunities to bond. Aside from a shared enjoyment of enchiladas, he didn’t have much in common with Jeb and Eugene knew from experience that there were only so many enchiladas a boy could eat. But the girlfriend thing had gotten Jeb all excited and suddenly he was giving Eugene extra bacon at breakfast and ruffling his hair. Eugene enjoyed the extra attention that came with being a Man so much that he began to think that dating Norah was a good thing and forgot all about his plans to break up with her after half-term. He hadn’t suddenly developed an urge to stand outside her dorm with a boombox ( the ultimate declaration of love - Brandy assured him ) but he thought he might share the corner of a cookie with her or something.
And for a time that had been enough. But now sleep was eluding him once again. And this time Eugene knew he had to end things. But breaking up with someone was proving to be a very difficult thing. Even more difficult than hiding a family of mice in your pantry. Norah was nice and funny and everything a person should want in their girlfriend, but for some reason, Eugene didn’t want her. She didn’t make his stomach flutter or his cheeks flush, he never dreamt of her or felt a sudden urge to lean across and kiss her lips. And she had a fiancé, so what else was a boy to do?
When someone got old or married or dead they always got cards. Cards were a good way to send a message when you wanted someone to know you cared even if you couldn’t, like, hang out with them at the moment. So Eugene felt certain that sending Norah a break-up card was the best way to show that he cared - even if he didn’t care enough to date her anymore. And just to keep things the right mix of somber fun he planned to find a charm to allow the card to spit black confetti at her whilst she was reading. So Eugene filled his rucksack with all of his favourite crafting supplies and wandered off to find a quiet place to create his card in secret. The lecture hall had seemed like a great spot because like most places of learning it’s atmosphere held an acceptable level of gloom and it was less likely that Norah would stumble across him there. After all, they wouldn't want to ruin the surprise too soon.
Now that he had settled on a plan Eugene was beginning to feel his spirits rise, and no longer weighed down by indecision, he skipped down the corridor to the lecture hall. He smiled big and wide when he saw Elliot within. The other boy’s presence lifted his mood higher. It was the closest to a sunbeam Eugene had ever been. “Hey, I like your hat!” he chirped, swinging his bag onto the floor and approaching his friend, only to find his smile wavering in confusion at Elliot’s strange manner.
Here at RMI?!
Was Elliot homesick? Eugene didn’t get homesick very much anymore but it was a rotten feeling and could make you cry at all sorts of silly things. Eugene hoped Elliot wasn’t going to cry. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Elliot cry and wasn’t sure what he would do. Maybe he could magic a hanky? Or offer him some candy? That always worked with Amybeth. “Er, no not really,” Eugene answered hesitantly, before hastily adding, “but my mom says it’s so we don’t set too many fires.” Accidental magic had led to some serious property damage over the years.