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The New Guy

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When Feste woke up that afternoon, the very air of the house felt different. Toby was yelling at someone on his phone. Maria was on her phone, too, trying to get someone out of jail, or so they figured from her side of the conversation. They had to go to the soldiers to find out what was going on. The boys filled them in on Andrew’s arrest, and the reasons behind it.

Feste needed to know more about it, so they took a bike and rode to the base of the hill, where Monkey was sitting on a low rooftop. He had probably gathered all the information about it by now. After all, he was never half hearted about gossip. So they climbed the wall, and sat with him on the rooftop to hear his take on the morning events.

Monkey told them all he’d heard from Tie-dye and Big Hair, and from Snout. The more Feste heard about it, the angrier he became with Andrew. “How can anyone be so stupid?” they were perplexed. “Why the hell he waved his gun at Cesario? That fucking idiot!”

At first they thought Monkey was laughing at their anger, but then he said: “I heard he was defending your honor.” The boy laughed some more. “So, were you really crying all night because Sweetie dumped you?” He didn’t wait for an answer to go back to laughing.

Feste grimaced. “Ha ha,” they said, crossing their arms, which only made Monkey laugh harder. “So Andrew just confessed?”

“You know he can’t shut up,” Monkey said, when he stopped laughing.

Later they stopped by Snout to hear it from him, but there wasn’t much else to it, the consequences were likely to be much worse than the cause. As they drank a beer and listened to Snout’s account of the events, Willow found them. “What’s that in your ear?” the kid said, and proceeded to show how much improvement had been achieved over the weekend.

“That’s very good,” they said, taking the candy, and eating it, before Willow had to protest. “Ready to try something bigger?” the kid nodded excitedly. Feste did the trick using Snout’s pen, which was lying on the counter, but their apprentice wasn’t impressed. “What’s the difference?”

“It’s more difficult,” Feste explained. “But candy’s more fun than a pen,” Willow argued, visibly disgusted by the idea of a trick as boring as making a pen appear.

“Fine,” said Feste, standing up, acting exhausted for the theatrics. “We’ll be right back, Tom, I’m taking my glass with me, but I won’t be long,” they told Snout. And to Willow: “Let’s get some school supplies for our lesson.”

“School?” the little devil whined. “Trust me,” they said, guiding the kid to a candy shop. And because Feste wasn’t so grown up they weren’t tempted by candy every once in a while, they both left the shop with a lot more than strictly necessary for the trick.

Back in Snout’s bar, Feste taught Willow how to hold lollipops without showing them, and how making jokes about it improved the show. They were watching and encouraging Willow’s efforts, when Maria called them, making Feste responsible for letting Cesario and Valentine know it was safe to come home.

Making the best of their mission, Feste called Cesario with the excuse they were following Maria’s orders. The distant, short answers Cesario gave them sounded a lot like anger to Feste, but even when they apologized for Andrew, Cesario still spoke in a monotone. By the time they ended the call, Feste felt restless.

They needed to be somewhere, they needed to do something. It just wasn’t clear what. They texted Valentine, telling him what they’d told Cesario, except for the apology. It didn’t keep them busy for long. So, as they watched Willow’s skills develop, Feste realized what the problem was: Cesario was having a terrible day, and now they knew it, caring about anything else was impossible.

If they went on a date, maybe that would get Cesario’s mind off the stressful events. They’d probably like to go to a quiet place, where they wouldn’t have to think about the strange neighborhood they lived in. But when Feste thought about the previous night, they couldn’t help but think maybe Cesario didn’t want to be with them. Being told off was bad enough once, and they weren’t ready to risk a second. There was nothing Feste could do to make Cesario feel better, if they didn’t want them around. Or was there?

They made a deal with Willow, who would be paid to make Cesario laugh. They rehearsed for the rest of the afternoon in Snout’s bar, practicing on his patrons, who thought Willow was cute. Feste didn’t know what gave them that impression, maybe the kid was a better illusionist than they realized.

They left Willow by Cesario’s doorstep when Monkey gave the sign. “Do it like we rehearsed, ok?” The kid nodded. “And don’t tell him I paid you to do this.” “But you didn’t pay me,” Willow reminded them.

“Fine, don’t tell him I’m paying you as soon as I hear you made him laugh,” Feste corrected the instruction. The kid nodded again. “See you later.”

They left with Cesario in mind, hoping they would enjoy the show. It was much more important of a concern than Andrew’s drunk shenanigans. When they got back to Toby’s, however, the boys started calling them Lady Feste, and laughing at their own joke. “You guys know you can’t offend me with ‘lady’, right?” they reminded the others. They just laughed even harder. One of them said: “You should check your phone.”

They didn’t even have to ask what to look for: someone had drawn them as a damsel in distress and Andrew as a knight, defending them from Malvolio. And the picture was being shared everywhere. It was kind of funny, but not even close to what had really happened. But when they commented that to the boys, all they said was “Who cares?” And having everyone thinking they had something going on with Andrew was perhaps the most embarrassing situation they’d ever been in.

Toby and Maria were off their phones, but they were angry and tired. Toby was pacing the living room and kitchen aimlessly, and drinking. Maria stood by the kitchen counter, eating aggressively. “News from Andrew?” they asked, wondering if there was more than just the arrest troubling the two of them.

“Balthasar’s taking care of it,” Maria said, shrugging. “But it’s gonna take a while, and a lot of money.”

“Is that why he’s so angry?” Feste pointed at Toby, who was cursing continously, as he kicked the air and punched walls. “He’s angry at Duke for saying Malvolio was right.”

Feste nodded, they’d heard many stories about Toby’s negotiations with the chief of police Duke, extra official agreements that kept Toby and his men in Illyria, and the police out. “I thought Duke didn’t like Malvolio either,” Feste said, confused about why they couldn’t find a solution.

“He says they need a real good excuse, they can’t just get rid of him for no reason,” she explained. “And Andrew didn’t help, either. He had everywhere else to have his fit, but he did it where Malvolio could see him. I mean, he’s right, Andrew fucked up.”

“But Malvolio didn’t take him because of that,” said Toby, his voice angry. “He did it to provoke me, and he’s not getting away with it. He’ll pay for it. I promise. He thinks he can fuck with me? He’s gonna learn his lesson the hard way!” He slammed his fist down the kitchen counter.

“What are you gonna do?” Feste asked him, trying to sound more curious than worried, which was actually their dominant emotion upon hearing Toby’s words.

“Send some boys after him,” Toby said, with a shrug, like his plan hadn’t been made beyond the decision that it had to be bad. “Get him when he’s far from here and his guard’s down.”

“No,” Maria told him in all seriousness, holding his wrist, and looking him in the eye. “If you do that, they’ll know it was you, and use that to start a war, please, don’t fall for it. That’s what they want.”

Toby’s anger faltered as she pleaded and locked eyes with him. Without his anger, the man was just miserable. “I have to do something,” he reminded Maria, but his voice was much more subdued. “If Malvolio gets away with it, I’ll look weak.”

“We’ll have our revenge,” she promised. “But we have to get it some other way than by force.” “Like what?” Toby asked, impatient at his own inability to understand what she meant. “Laughter,” Maria said, raising her index finger, looking suddenly inspired. “If we can’t get rid of him, we’ll make him regret being here.”

“I like that,” Feste said. “What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know yet. You have experience making fun of Malvolio, what should we do?”

Toby looked interested, his eyes going from Maria to Feste and back again. They really preferred some kind of vengeance that wouldn’t result in war with the police, so it was time to comb their brain after a good prank that would sate Toby’s thirst for revenge without engaging the rest of the police force (hopefully, they’d laugh at Malvolio as well.)

“It has to be something embarrassing,” they began, “even better if someone gets it in video, like last time.”

“But how we’re making something like that happen again?” Toby wondered.

“I don’t think we can just make it happen again,” Feste considered. “We didn’t plan it last time.”

“And It wasn’t embarrassing enough,” Maria reminded them. “We need to dig up some dirt on Malvolio.”

“Dirt?” Toby laughed. “The reason Duke’s men don’t like him, is because they have nothing they can use against him.”

“Maybe we can’t find anything illegal, but everyone has the right to be as ridiculous as they want, right?” Maria said. Both Feste and Toby nodded, wondering at the meaning of her words.

Although they didn’t have a plan yet, the idea of getting revenge through laughter worked for the moment in getting Toby’s mind away from his most dangerous ideas, which was a small relief, in Feste’s opinion. The three of them were drinking whisky and trying to come up with something, when a soldier came to the door and asked: “Hey, Feste, do you know this kid?” It was Willow.

“What are you doing here?” they asked, resenting the sudden worry they felt in seeing the kid all alone and far from home. “I made him laugh,” Willow said, proudly, “now you have to pay me.”

“Fine,” Feste said, giving the kid the amount they had agreed on. “But you shouldn’t be here, you have to go home.” Willow shrugged.

Maria, however, was another one of those who thought the kid was cute, and started asking Willow questions. Feste could see their apprentice was annoyed by that, and dodged Maria’s questions doing the magic trick for her amusement.

“Why you’re sad?” the one trick magician asked Toby, as he applauded half-heartedly. He chuckled, mildly surprised the kid would pick up on that. “I’m not sad. I’m angry because Malvolio arrested Andrew.” Willow nodded, and turned to Feste: “Which one is Malvolio?”

“Remember the other day when you showed the trick to that cop? Malvolio is the other one.”

“The one who likes Titania? He didn’t want to see my magic trick,” Willow said, unaware how those words would influence both Feste and Maria’s ideas. Their eyes met, and they both could guess at the other’s machinations.

*

When Feste woke up, they found Titania and Maya in the house, doing Maria’s hair and nails, and joined them for some educational morning gossip. It wasn’t as refreshing as usual, however, since they were part of the topics discussed. Thanks to the disturbing popularity of the Lady Feste/Sir Andrew drawing that had been going around, they had to deny rumors of a secret affair between them.

And because Feste’s love life was suddenly a popular topic, Titania commented: “I hear you and Cesario broke up. Is that true, or just part of the rumors?” Feste shrugged, not wanting to commit to an answer, sure, things looked bad now, but Cesario had texted to thank for the laugh, so there was still hope. “There’s a rumor going on that you did,” she insisted.

From her smile, Feste could tell what she was talking about. “You mean the one that I cried all night because he dumped me? That’s so the story works better, never happened. I was also nowhere near when Malvolio took Andrew away, I was sleeping safe and sound in here.”

“So he didn’t break up with you for taking Oberon to Fabian’s?” Titania insisted.

“I have no idea where you heard such a thing. Why you’re always so interested in Cesario, anyway? I find it suspicious.”

Titania laughed, and Maya muttered under her breath: “So defensive!” Feste just rolled their eyes, frustrated, because she was right, but they didn’t want to admit it.

“Don’t worry, I have my eye on something much juicier than Sweetie,” she said, making her love life sound very interesting, and eliciting questions from Maria, which Feste interrupted by saying: “Let me guess: Oberon III?”

“Well, thanks for spoiling the story,” she said, not angry at all. “Yeah, we’ve been chatting, and all, but we haven’t gone on a date yet.”

“Who’s this Oberon you’re talking about?” Maria asked.

“The rich guy I took to Fabian’s,” Feste said.

Maria went on to ask many questions about Titania and Oberon, sounding very supportive and saying Titania should invite Oberon to Fabian’s next friday, because they were planning a huge party to spite Malvolio. Feste pretended Maria hadn’t come up with that on the spot, and played along. They actually thought seeing Oberon with Titania might convince Cesario to take them back more easily.

At some point, while Titania was still talking about Oberon’s charms, Maria deviated from the topic a little. “This Oberon sounds like a real catch. I’m glad I don’t have to worry you might go for Malvolio after all.”

Titania laughed hard at the idea. “Malvolio?” she said with undisguised disdain. “I hear he likes you,” Maria said. “That’s his problem, not mine.”

“Who could blame him?” Feste said. “You were acting all sweet on him the other day. I don’t know many who could resist.” The girls laughed. “Tell us the truth, did he send you nudes?”

“Ew! I’d block him at ‘hello.’” She looked so disgusted by the idea, it was funny. And Feste could see Maria’s plan refining itself behind her smile.

As soon as the girls left, they turned to her. “I know you’re planning something, tell me what it is.”

“A trap, isn’t it obvious?” she said. But it wasn’t that obvious to Feste. “Walk me through it.”

“First we have some fun catfishing Malvolio. I mean, Titania has a lot of material out there we can use, let’s see if he falls for it.”

Feste smiled. “What about the big party at Fabian’s?”

Maria smiled back deviously, and said: “A public place full of people with cameras? Let’s hope the good lieutenant doesn’t embarrass himself, right?”

So they spent the next hours finding Malvolio’s number, something Maria’s contacts had access to, and creating a fake account with Titania’s picture for the profile. And so they both started sending him flirtatious texts, until he finally answered. And that was when the real fun started.