(TMC) friends are the best, off the page and on.

Luke’s got some great friends, let me tell you. Mark and Wood, who you’ve met. And now Gwen (Wood’s twin sister, who you’ll meet below). Each character is fiercely loyal, sincere in spirit, and ready to follow our hero through the thick of it. Only the best of the best sign up for a job like that. Glad Luke found a few.

* * *

“You must be Luke,” said a girl, suddenly appearing by his side. She looked remarkably like Wood: same ashy blonde hair; same clear green eyes. And strung around her neck on a dark chain was a bronze key.

He nodded.

“I’m Gwen, Wood’s twin sister. He was hoping you’d come.”

A cheer suddenly rang out.  A group of kids, huddled around a large couch, were staring excitedly up at the two boys, seated in the center. It was Wood and fro boy. They were each cramming pizza in their mouths. Excellent. He grinned. It was a race.

“Just so you know, they do this all the time,” she said, picking up empty plastic cups and tossing them into the trash. “They race, they get sick, they yell at me to get them water, and then they move on to dessert.” She rolled her eyes, but Luke could see a grin tugging at her mouth. “Plus, if you’re not careful, they’ll drag you into their psycho racing, too.”

“I’ve crammed five rolls in my mouth before, does that count?”

“No wonder Wood spoke so highly of you.”

They joined the crowd by the couch, but no one seemed to notice. Everyone was too enthralled with the two pizza racers, who were now turning a slight shade of puce and clutching their stomachs.

“How many have they had?”

“I lost count after seven.”

Hours later, the twins had introduced him to everyone there, including Dakota or “Ko”, the kid with the fro, and their dad, Denton Ryder.  He had a warm face and curly hair, a definite indicator that he was related to Wood. But after a brief introduction, he excused himself, and headed back to work.  

“Does he always work on a Friday night?”

“Always. He works way too much.” She sighed, picking at the carpet. “At least he could work from home today—since I was sick.”

Wood and Ko, who had finished with the pizzas, were slung over the couch like two slugs. Then, just when no one thought the two would ever move again, they bounced back up, darted to the kitchen, and returned with a chocolate cake. The group began its cheering once more, the boys began slicing the cake, and Luke, having so much fun feeling included, forgot entirely about the list in his pocket.

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