This week’s Friday Fiction is hosted by Julie @ her blog, The surrendered Scribe. Click here to read and share more great fiction!
Author’s Ramblings: Hey everyone! I think I’m pretty close to this being the earliest I’ve ever been for Friday Fiction. I’ve been working on Rachel’s story since last night, so that may have had something to do with it. ^_^ Some good news-I have a fansite I’ve been working on, with character profiles and a few “spoilers” for the curious. Here’s the link : Raising Rachel Extras. Enjoy-and have a great weekend!
The new unfamiliar surroundings were rather scary in comparison to some of the streets Rachel had walked in her life. She was grateful for Ben’s arms around her and when they dropped to his sides, she took a careful breath.
“Don’t breathe too deeply.” Ben cautioned. “You don’t want to know what’s really been there.”
Rachel shuddered. “Then don’t tell me.”
“You can’t go in there looking like that either.” Ben frowned. “Next time remind me that you’ve got girl stuff to do.”
“Girl stuff?” Rachel paused in mid-brush. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“You just got juiced by an unknown amount of voltage that, roughly translated into, you look as if you’ve been shaken, fried and steamed, because the crust that covered you afterwards was too crispy.”
Her stomach rumbled and she grimaced. “Are we talking about food or how awful I look?” She tugged at her mussed hair. “Don’t you have a holo gear or something that’ll give me a decent image projection?”
Ben shook his head at once. “You don’t want to go in there with that.” He rubbed his chin. “Okay…do you like…pink?”
“Pink?” Rachel repeated incredulously. But her answer didn’t get much further than that. A soft shower of golden sparkles twinkled over her, replacing her grimy outfit with a smart black pants matched with a white dress shirt, finished off by a flowing pink and purple scarf. She swallowed, turning to face him. “Great taste.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s standard wear for where you’re going.” He took a step backwards. “I know you’ve got your head screwed on straight, but still…watch your back, okay? I’ve got paperwork. I can’t run down here every half-second.”
“You’re going now, I guess?” Rachel shuffled forward. “Thanks.”
He half-shrugged. “Yeah, whatever. You look good, kid. Go knock ‘em dead. I’ve got other things to dabble in before the day is done.”
Rachel caught his arm as he reached for his rope bracelet. “Ben…that missing body…I know you were listening. You didn’t take it…did you?”
He looked at her for a full moment. “What if I said yes?”
Her eyes closed and she let go of his arm. “You did?”
“No.” He patted her shoulder. “But don’t ask who did. Just mind your side of things and don’t get involved in the bigger picture…it’s safest this way.” His fingers curled around the rope bracelet and pulled. As the rope snapped, a sudden flash of white burst through the darkness.
Rachel shielded her face, blinking to readjust to the darkness when he’d gone. She sighed. “This is not the way my life is supposed to go.” She told the brick wall in front of her. “And where exactly am I?” She inched out from the ally and was pleasantly surprised to find herself in the lower half of the old downtown district.
There were several people milling about, dim lights illuminating dirty windows. Rachel rubbed her wrist, it was aching again. She studied the names, some familiar and some not. The soda shop at the corner she remembered from childhood trips with her uncle.
Her wrist itched again and she looked down as she prepared to scratch it and then stopped. The words “Soda Shop” were clearly inscribed on the inside of her wrist. She swallowed. “Okay. I can take a hint.” She started for the soda shop.
A few curious stares followed her, but Rachel pretended she couldn’t see them. The bell above the door chimed, the wooden floorboards creaking as she stepped into the shop. It was almost full, except for two booths in the back. Rachel mentally flipped through her mission file in her head.
There were two small photos coming to the front of her mind, followed by names and topics to cover in their conversations. She stood in line, her mouth-watering as she decided on a strawberry-crème sundae. It would be nice to have something to snack on while she took care of business.
Her gaze flickered quickly over the occupants of the establishment. A shudder passed through her as she took note of several people she sincerely hoped had nothing to do with her mission. One in particular, was an elderly lady with a bright pink plastic hat and matching plastic jewelry. Rachel winced. “That is way too much pink.” She muttered to herself, moving onto the next curious person.
She realized, with sudden twinge of uneasiness that in spite of the busy soda shop, there were no children as customers. There were no children around period. Her mind quickly double-checked what she’d seen as she crossed the street. There had been no children around there either. One hand clenched into a fist, fingernails digging into the palm of her hand to help her keep her face as blank as possible.
When her turn came, she ordered the sundae with a smile and waited while it was scooped into pretty rose-colored glass dish. A little mermaid plastic spoon was stuck in one corner and a napkin was pressed into her hand, a little harder than necessary.
Rachel took the napkin and sundae with a careful smile, moving out from the line and pausing to crumple the tissue paper when she caught sight of faint colored smudges. She started towards the two back booths when she realized what the napkin said. Her stomach rumbled as she grimaced and did an about face.
Walking deliberately to the booth with the pink-plastic-hat lady, Rachel hovered at the edge. “Mind if I sit here?”
The wrinkled face looked up, the thin-lips parting to reveal a gap-toothed smile. “You bought me a sundae!” The woman chirped. “How precious of you! You are the bestest granddaughter a woman ever had.” Veined hands reached out and grabbed the pink sundae.
Rachel plopped into the booth, still holding the dish. “That’s mine-!” She started to say and then reluctantly released it. “You’re very lucky,” She began, then stopped. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time, can you hurry it up? I have a few more places to be.”
“A few more places?” Crackling lettuce green eyes drilled into her. “Or a curfew?”
“Aren’t you a little too young for this kind of business?” A huge spoonful of strawberry ice cream disappeared inside the gaping mouth.
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “Really? And aren’t you a little too old for this kind of thing?”
The woman cackled loudly, drawing the stares of several brave enough to look in her direction. “Impertinent little thing, aren’t you?” Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “Impatient too.”
“Take it however you wish it.” Rachel said, meaningfully. “But you’ve got five minutes before I’m walking right out of here.”
The woman snickered into a pink-checkered kerchief. “Running through life like that, honey, it’s never evah gonna turn out good.”
“So they tell me.” Rachel mutely handed her a napkin. “It’s dribbling down your chin.” She turned away as the woman froze, then snatched the napkin and swabbed angrily at her face.
She muttered under her breath, and continued to scarf down the ice cream. Rachel checked her watch and when the allotted five minutes were drawing near, the woman began to eat more frantically.
Rachel sighed. “You owe five bucks.” She shifted to her feet. “But I’ll send you the bill, alright?”
One gnarled hand reached out and captured her wrist. “Not so fast, my pretty. I doubt a certain fellow would be too pleased if you were to leave without what you were supposed to get.”
Rachel tried to pull her hand away. “I doubt he’d be any happier if I wasted my time, when I could be doing something more useful.”
The hand refused to release her. “Come now, my dear, I doubt that’s the way you talk to the Pearl Dragon.”
There was a split moment of silence.
“You’re the Dragon Lady?” Rachel took a deep breath and let it out. She didn’t bother to count to ten. “Then excuse me, you weren’t in the job description. I’ve got work to do.” Rachel gave her hand one extra hard jerk and succeeded only in pulling the lady to her feet as well. The vise-grip refused to relinquish what was rightfully hers.
“Then I am sorry they did not fully inform you.” Her speech had suddenly grown soft and eloquent, yet barely above a whisper. A kindly smile touched the aged face. “Would you please see me out?” The hand moved from her wrist to her arm.
For lack of something clever to counter that, Rachel simply kept her mouth shut. The atmosphere in the shop seemed to shift, but her mind had moved beyond that. They exited the shop and continued down the street. “Shouldn’t I be asking where you’re taking me?” Rachel murmured.
They stopped at the street corner. “Should you?” The cackle had returned.
“I don’t know, you tell me.” They rounded the corner, starting towards the darkened end of the rundown street. Rachel felt her senses heightening and she tentatively reached one hand towards the necklace.
“Pretty little bauble you have there.” The eloquence had returned to her. “Did a friend give it to you?”
Uneasiness overtook her as the lady’s hand suddenly dropped from her arm. Rachel felt herself stiffen. “I’m here for information, Miss Dragon Lady.” Rachel stopped, taking two steps backwards. “A package, a download, however you want to give it to me.”
“Information? You ask Pearl for information?” The cackle gave way to a lilting laugh. “It is extremely unwise to ask Pearl for any information. She sees nothing, she knows nothing. Pearl is a very good person. Pearl believes in the goodness of every heart. There is nothing to-”
“My ears are open too.” Rachel crossed her arms over her chest. “And I’m waiting to hear.”
“Pearl wishes she knew what the rude little girl was trying to ask her.” The polite smile changed into a smirk. “But the rude little girl should learn to have better manners.” The woman began to back away. “Peal is sorry, but she must go now.”
Rachel let her arms drop to her sides. Her head was beginning to hurt. She didn’t want to deal with that now. “Look, Miss Dragon Lady, I really-”
What a foolish little girl. I can’t believe the Great Mark of Denson sends me a little earthling girl. A human! Of all those he has available…and he expects me to simply hand over all the information in my possession? What a foolish man. As if I would tell him everything in the first place. Pysch is not my problem…and Mark will never look for the answer staring him straight in the face. Ugh. I do not have the time for this. I am going to be late for my brunch with the Grand Councilman’s wife. What do I have to do for those idiots to attack on time!? They are a full twelve seconds late!
Rachel blanked, her mind whirring furiously to understand the new information. Her body reacted to the training Ben had drilled her with, several years before. She backed immediately to a wall and began to undo the scarf from around her neck, threading it through the thin belt loops on the pants. She reached one finger up and licked it, testing the direction of the wind. Her mind did the calculations and she rolled her neck to the side. “Why can’t trig be as simple as this?” She muttered, casting a glance around her.
The streets were empty.
Shadows began to melt up from the ground. Taking form, each darkened wisp-like creature began to take shape into tall, slender beings with pointed ears. Their bodies remained entirely composed of the black shadow wisps, while their eyes burned a fierce, bright red.
Rachel groaned. “Aw man! You had to bring shadow creatures?” She turned to where she’d left the lady, but there was only a slight scorch mark left on the sidewalk. Rachel sighed. The headache was gone too. “You know I’m going to win, right?” She asked the creatures, as she painstakingly unbuttoned the shirt-sleeve cuffs and rolled them up. The blue-black tattoo glowed brightly and as they closed in, Rachel launched herself forward.
It was a matter of minutes before the streets were littered with shapeless forms of gray clay-like matter. Rachel gingerly picked her way over them and tried to shape her hair back into something recognizable.
She was still fumbling with the shirtsleeves when she walked up the streets, back towards the general direction of civilization. She reached for her cell phone, finger hovering over Ben’s speed dial. Her shoulders drooped. It was one phone call she didn’t really want to make. She plopped down on the edge of the sidewalk and stretched her feet out.
“Oh that feels good.” She wiggled her feet, then hugged her knees to her chest. “You’re smart, self.” The pep talk began. “All you have to do is use that brilliant mind of yours….yeah right, as if I’m brilliant.” There was a breath of silence. She scuffed her shoe along the edge of the sidewalk. “And if I was brilliant, I’d think.” She told the empty street. “I’d think….I’d think and I’d know that some things don’t really change.” She half-laughed. “That’s why no one’s really figuring this out, right? Because they’re not really using their heads? If I were an addict…and I wanted…no…that’s too weird, then again…” A slow smile crept across her face. “If I were kid on drugs…I already know the answer to that.”
She surged upwards to her feet and began walking, her mind retrieving and sectioning information as it came to her. “High school kids, they have more access than anyone realizes, good grief, I know that for a fact. There’s got to be a high school still open around here…I’ll just find someone to interview, in fact I should probably know a few of them.” She frowned. “At least I knew a few of them before-” She rubbed her arm absently. “Maybe they’ll have some interesting information…there’s always a kid who knows too much, one who wants to know and one who doesn’t want to be mixed up in the whole mess.” Her lips pursed. “I wonder which one of them will talk to me.”
Armed with this new direction, Rachel emerged from the darkened streets, scanning the road before quickly crossing. Her mind was busy sorting and arranging every bit of information she could pull from her experiences with the Waynesburg High Schools. Her mother had sent her to spend a few summers and a semester once, it hadn’t been pretty, but her younger years had rarely ever been worth remembering.
She stifled a shudder, as a familiar prickly feeling swept over her from head to toe. She rubbed her neck with one hand, unable to keep from turning to look over her shoulder. The feeling of being watched was increasing with every careful step she took. Her eyes continued to adjust to the still darkening surroundings as she trotted down the empty street, passing empty warehouses and buildings sectioned off with lines of caution tape.
Angry voices caught her ear and her head swiveled in their direction. Her brow furrowed as she focused, trying to make out the words. Something crashed, then someone swore and Rachel shrank back against the building, inching up to the corner.
It was the kind of thing she always wished she didn’t have to witness, mostly because she’d been on the receiving end of it a few times too many. Her stomach churned as she slowly made out the figures, punching and kicking a fallen shadow on the ground. Her head throbbed fiercely as she yanked her head back around the corner, forcing herself to take careful breaths.
It didn’t help.
The headache grew worse as she argued with herself, slowly losing the debate. One hand curled into a fist and she thumped her head softly on the brick wall.
I am so going to regret this.
She curved around the corner of the building and slowly walked towards the fight. It wasn’t exactly much of a fight, in fact, it was most decidedly one-sided. She stopped when the first scout noticed her and quickly alerted the others. They hesitated in their motions for a mere half-second, before someone jerked a head in her direction.
Three detached from the group and began to migrate towards her. Rachel sighed, flexing her toes inside her sneakers. It was going to be painful…on both sides.
“Hi.” She said, when they were close enough where they couldn’t mistake her. “Mind if I ask what you guys are doing?”
“None of your business-”
“Please don’t start any name calling…I don’t do very well with name calling.” Rachel rubbed her elbow with one hand. “I actually don’t do very well with this sort of thing either. Um…why are you picking on that?”
“That!” Rachel pointed. “Him, her…whoever…what’d they do?”
The taller one glared at her, one eye strangely glassy as his searing gaze burned through her from head to toe. “That’s a real dumb question, little lady.”
Rachel forced a smile. “And here I thought I was being cute.” She tensed, waiting.
And the next few minutes blurred.
In the seconds it took them to move into formation to attack her, Rachel moved faster than them. She dropped to a crouch, lashing out with a kick to her left, before Ben’s training took over. She moved, seamlessly, dodging, punching, kicking in all the right places as her head continued to throb.
Her victory was short-lived when the noise drew the attention of the rest of the group. They dispatched as a blob, moving menacingly towards her, armed with the common variet of various street implements.
Rachel tilted her head to the side and rolled her shoulders back. Her gaze was fixed on the fallen figure left in the street, with one lifeless hand trailing in a dirty puddle. “That person better be alive.” Rachel growled, as they began to circle.
They closed in faster than before.
She saw stars in the one blow that reached her aching head and tasted blood in the punch that split her lip. Her temper sparked and she felt the throbbing ease as she reared up from the sea of hands and taunts with a sudden release.
The light blue ring of energy exploded outward from her chest, knocking them back into the brick buildings around her. Rings of blue energy snaked up the chains and wooden planks, causing cries of pain from their operators as the second wave of energy tackled those brave enough to stagger forward again.
With sudden gasp, Rachel felt the energy within her immediately fading as her limbs refused to move. A choked gurgle escaped as her body twitched, jerked and then slumped forward. The mocking laughter ringing in her ears only added to the humiliation sweeping over her as her eyelids began to slide shut. This wasn’t going to have a happy ending after all. There were too many of them. Too many things going wrong.
This regret would haunt her for the years to come. Her head began ache again as her mind feebly sputtered through her quickly failing options. The foremost thought in her mind, was not to scream. The second thought was the rope bracelet Ben had given her. Her trump card.
Got to reach it…
Shouts and cries began to fill the air. Rachel struggled to keep her eyes open and focused on directing her fingers to use the bracelet. She was vaguely aware that the shouts were growing more muffled or possibly farther away. The cold, wet pavement carried a faint scent, reminiscent of a memory she didn’t want to remember.
There was a loud, distinct slurp. And Rachel coughed.
She could move.
Tears of joy could have sprouted and spilled down her cheeks if she’d had the energy for such gratitude. As it was, her common sense was mostly intact and so Rachel did the logical, human thing.
She staggered to her feet and charged the first few steps away from the fray now taking place behind her. It had only taken one terrified shriek to coax her eyes over her shoulder to see the battle taking place. It was one-sided again, but this time, to the newcomers, whoever they were. Melting from the shadows, crawling out of the broken windows from the surrounding buildings, they poured into the street, with singular intent.
Rachel couldn’t bear to watch, relieved to know that their current occupation kept them from noticing her escape and new objective. She hurried to the fallen figure, crouching near the body, her fingers automatically slipping around the damp collar to feel for a pulse.
A sickening feeling washed over her as she realized there was none, and from the chilled pavement, the coldness seeped in. Swallowing back the bitter taste in her mouth, Rachel gritted her teeth, methodically checking the pockets and then the shoes. Her fingers closed around a peculiar piece of bright paper, crunched into a ball. She stared at it for a moment, squeezing it and then about to unravel it when footsteps crunched on the loose gravel behind her.
“I wouldn’t take that if I were you.”
Rachel jerked to her feet, tucking the paper inside her shirt sleeve and under the rope bracelet Ben had given her. Her fingers toyed with the rough twine and she turned slowly. “Depends…finders keepers, isn’t it?”
There was a scoff. “Isn’t that just like a girl.” The speaker growled. “What kind of stunt was that back there? You could’ve gotten yourself killed if we hadn’t stepped in!”
“I kind of doubt that.” One hand curled into a fist. “I had it under control.”
“Yeah, with your face planted on the pavement after throwing out that kind of energy? Suuuure you had it under control.”
Her fist flashed out in the moment his hand swept up to block her. A stray flashlight beam briefly illuminated their smudged faces and they jerked apart, Rachel skittering several steps back. “Cobra!” She hissed.
“Viper.” The fellow snarled back. “This was a Cobra op, what are you doing here?”
“Minding my own business-why did you interfere!” Rachel took another step back, trying to count the heads slowly moving towards her. There was far more of them than she wanted to acknowledge.
“You’re in Cobra territory.” The speaker stepped forward, clicking on a flashlight aimed in her direction.
She shied back, leaning away from the beam. “Yeah…my bad…I guess you have a good explanation for that guy back there, huh? You know…the dead one?”
“an unfortunate…occurrence.” The fellow seemed to hesitate. “One that will be taken care of and if you cooperate, we’ll even let you go, as soon as you hand over that.”
“Hand over what?” Her fingers closed securely over the rope bracelet.
“You’re not exactly in a bargaining position, Viper.” The light grew brighter as the speaker approached. “Just hand it over-”
“You don’t even know what it is!” Rachel snapped the bracelet and waited.
Come on. Come on! Now!
“And you do?”
A spattering of laughter echoed around her and Rachel realized, belatedly that she was completely surrounded. They wouldn’t be letting her go, not even if they had what they wanted. Her arm began to burn and she absently reached up to rub it. Her pretty outfit was most certainly ruined. She thought, Ben would pitch a fit.
“Keep your hands where I can see them!” The fellow barked, as another beam of light cut through the darkness, illuminating her figure pressed against the dead end.
Rachel resisted the urge to stick her tongue out. “Yeah, yeah!” Her arm was beginning to burn even worse and she moaned softly, the rubbing turning to a frantic itch. “Stop it!”
There was a sudden sharp pain and then the familiar pull and tug. Rachel closed her eyes as the energy flashed and blackness rushed to meet her.
* * * * * *
Mark watched the street fights with interest, nodding as Rachel had worked her way through each situation and then finally pulled on her last resort. He frowned when she broke the bracelet, but didn’t explode in the customary shower of glittering sprinkles.
When another moment passed, with nothing happening, Mark turned away from the surveillance screen and touched the tattoo etched on his left bicep. His eyes closed as he focused solely on her, then completed the summons.
He felt the ripple of energy when she was admitted to the headquarters and then slowly materialized in front of him, unconscious. The frown grew deeper as he knelt beside her, feeling for a pulse and then retrieving the scrap of paper she’d tucked inside her shirt-sleeve cuff.
It was a curious little square of paper, crumpled as if it had been crushed several dozen times over, but speckled with pieces of neon color. He turned the paper over in his hands, examining it before pocketing the specimen and rising to his feet.
He motioned to the surveillance guard standing at the doorway. “Send Cherry in.”
The guard leaned outside the door and knocked twice. Cherry hurried in, jabbering on her communicator until she was standing directly before him. She mumbled a few more things, then clicked it off. “Sir?”
“Just taken care of, sir.” She offered a tentative smile. “The last conversation was confirmation, all should go according to plan.”
“Few things go according to plan, Cherry.” Mark murmured, motioning for the guard to advance. “See that Rachel is taken to Terry and given a complete body healing and a mild memory suppressant to insure she sleeps well without interruption. I also need Quinn from forensics and Dayton from the Earth dispatch, for some new…just call them.” Mark brushed past heading for the door, he paused half-way through. “And Cherry? Put out the alert of Cobras in Viper territory…I want to know what they’re doing here and who sent them.”
“Yes sir.” Cherry swallowed, waiting until his footsteps echoed further along the hallway, before turning her glare to the girl now cradled in the guard’s arms. Her jaw slowly clenched tighter as she gave a jerk of her head and stalked out of the room.
* * * * *
Rachel stirred, sleepily. The warm softness wrapped around her was so good, it had to be a dream. She snuggled closer, while mindless pink fluffy things danced through her thought-stream.
Her brow furrowed, signaling her awakening as her mind began to connect together the previous night’s events and compute them with her strange whereabouts. Her eyes popped open and Rachel found herself staring up into her uncle’s worried face with Jeanette’s curious expression hovering over his shoulder.
“Rachel!” His eyes closed and he rubbed his forehead. “Thank you, Lord.” He murmured. “I thought I’d lost you…again.” There was an extra touch of annoyance on the last word as he shifted to his feet. “How are you feeling?”
Rachel tentatively wiggled her fingers and toes, relieved to find them in proper working order. She slowly eased upwards, wincing with the twinge of aches from pains she didn’t want to remember. On impulse, one finger went to her lip and she traced the throb for a moment, amazed to find the skin smooth. “I…you…when did I get here?” She croaked.
Jeanette giggled. “You sound awful.”
“I feel awful.” Rachel glared at her. “stop laughing…you’re making my head hurt.”
The giggles disappeared at once, turning to a look of disgust mingled with boredom. “Right.” She rolled her eyes. “And just looking at you, makes my eyes hurt.”
“Girls.” Thom said warningly, emerging from the kitchen with a platter in hand. “Rach, you need to eat something.”
Rachel sat up eagerly at once, and her body took over as she literally devoured every morsel on the plate, finishing with a soft burp and a quiet “excuse me.”
Another giggle spurted out from Jeanette. “Wow, you must be really hungry. Isn’t there any food at that motel?”
Rachel blinked. “Motel?” Her mouth went dry. “I’m not at the motel…” She whispered. “I’m home…how did I get here? Uncle Thom?”
He gently tugged the platter from her fingers. “You turned up on the doorstep, while I was fumbling for my keys.”
“What?” Rachel could only stare at him, her hands were slowly rearranging the blankets around her to form a comfortable cocoon of comfort. Her head grew heavy and she leaned back against the sofa. This was not the way things were supposed to be going.
Jeanette burst into laughter. “Boy, you are funny!” She managed, between giggles. “You’re better than-”
“Jean, could you bring me the carton of fried rice, with a spoon?” Thom nudged her off the sofa. “Now, please.”
There was another tragic roll of her eyes, couple with a sigh. “O-kay.” Jeanette took the empty plat, reluctantly shuffling towards the kitchen.
Thom fixed her with a penetrating look. “Rachel, do you have an explanation for why you appeared on the front porch, unconscious?” A soft chime sounded throughout the house and both heads turned towards it. Thom sighed. “I’ll get it.” He hurried the front door and happy exclamations filled the hallway.
Rachel buried her head in her hands. “Calvin.” She moaned between fingers. “I thought he wasn’t going to arrive until…” Her stomach rumbled and she whimpered. It hurt.
The happy greetings continued all the way into the living room until Rachel felt them standing in the living room. She turned, wearily to focus on an all-too-familiar face and a shock of blond hair, with a tattoo just below his left ear.
Her eyes grew wide and she tore off the blanket cocoon, backtracking to the stairs in the same movement. “Cobra!” The word hissed through her teeth.
Calvin’s head jerked up and his own expression mirrored hers as he took a step forward. “Viper!” He dropped his duffel bag and sport jacket. “You!”
“You!” Rachel shrieked back. “What were you …you’re…that’s…this is just plain wrong!” She danced up a few steps, maintaining a distance between him. “You could have killed me!”
“I?” He repeated, incredulously. “I could have killed you? You were the one with the heroics-and do you have any idea what that stupid stunt of yours cost me!”
“What stunt…don’t you dare come closer!” Rachel gripped the banister for support, the adrenaline fading.
“Rachel!” Thom stepped between them. “Calvin? What’s going on here?”
“He’s a Cobra!” Rachel whined.
“And she’s a Viper.” Calvin scowled. “Do the math.”
“He doesn’t understand that kind of math.” Rachel retorted. “Stop talking!”
Jeanette’s laughter spilled over from the kitchen as she stood, holding a carton of Chinese fried rice with a soup spoon in one hand. “Wow, drama!” She sing-songed.
“That’s enough!” Thom’s voice rang through the house with sudden force. “That is quite enough.” He repeated, quieter now. “Am I to understand there is some sort of enmity between you two on account of snakes?”
Rachel inched down the stairs, angling towards Jeanette and the necessary food carton, now standing beside her uncle. “Um, something like that?” She tried to shrug.
“Sit down.” Thom barked. “All of you. Now!”
Rachel immediately plunked down on the nearest sofa, then reached one hand upwards and pulled Jeanette down with her, snatching the food carton and spoon.
“Hey!” Jeanette protested.
“Calvin?” Thom directed his annoyance towards him. “Are you going to sit down?”
“Not in the same house as her.”
Thom deliberately inserted himself between Calvin’s line of sight. “I see.” He turned over his shoulder. “Rachel?”
His mouth twitched. “Good girl. Stay. Both of you.” He added when Jeanette began to rise. “Calvin, upstairs, now. I’ve had it with all this cloak and dagger business and it ends here!”
© Sara Harricharan