Friday, June 26, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 17] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Sherri Ward @ her blog, A Candid Thought. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Thanks so much for help with the spacings *coughHoomicough* ^_^ If I did this right, then this should work. If not...my apologies again! Anyway, at the rate the story is progressing, I would wager there is only one or two more installments to bring Rachel's wonderful story to a close. I've had sooo much fun today, helping her "screw her head on straight" from all her issues. ^_^ Anyway, I'm glad to have finished this post early for today and I'm looking forward to the weekend ahead. Please enjoy the read-and let me know what you liked or didn't. I love your feedback! Have an awesome weekend! ~Sara


It took awhile for the tears to stop bubbling out of her eyes. By that time, her face and shirt were soggy enough to warrant a few minutes of pity. Lights flashed through the window, playing across the room and Rachel straightened up, realizing Thom had returned home.
She played with the new cell phone for a moment, opening it, closing it and turning it about in her hands. The simple action helped in terms of bringing her back to a consciousness she’d desperately needed. A part of her wished to run downstairs and greet the man standing on the front porch, while the other was torn between the explanations to keep her day’s activities a secret.

So many lies.

The thought threw a hiccup into her steady stream of musings. Rachel slowly rose from her spot by the window and headed for the bed. She aimed for the edge, but missed and instead sat rather hard on the floor. Something crackled and she winced. “Don’t turn the lights off, don’t turn the lights off…” She struggled to focus on something happy. Anything that would keep her powers from sparking off on her again.

Her head tilted back and as a matter of course, the tears began to fall again.

Ben…I’m sorry.

* * * * * *

Thom whistled as he turned the key in the lock, balancing a paper bag and briefcase in the other hand. A happy smile overtook his face as the eager welcomes of four furry companions jostled him around. “Hey there, guys? Miss me?” He paused to pat a few heads, then opened the front door. “In you go.” The dogs bounded into the hallway, stopping and waiting for him to enter as well.

“Someone had a busy day.” Thom commented, noting the haphazardly jumbled line of shoes by the doorway. “And apparently everyone is home.” He paused to remove his boots, setting the bag on the entryway table. “Hello? I’m home!”

The dogs hurried to the kitchen, with Thom trailing behind them. He was surprised to see Calvin and Jeanette seated at the kitchen table playing checkers, the gamebox for Connect Four tossed beside them. Relief was the expression on Jeanette’s face, while Calvin looked as if he’d just eaten something that didn’t quite agree with him.

“Mr. B!” Jeanette was out from the table to throw her arms around his waist. “I’m starving! Did you bring food? Did you hear from Mom? What took you so long?”

“Give him a chance to answer, Jean.” Calvin offered a smile. “Hey Unk.”

“Hey yourself.” Thom set the paper bag on the table and hugged Jeanette back. “Who’s winning?”

“Calvin.” Jeanette made a face. “He let me win two of them.”

“I did not!” Calvin protested. “You were just…lucky.”

Thom chuckled. “Lucky or not, do you want to finish that before we eat or-”

“Let’s eat!” They exclaimed as one.

Jeanette giggled. “What’d you get?”

“Take out.” Thom hid a smile. “Want to guess?” He took two large containers from the paper bag. “Or should I just tell you?”

“Lasagna!” Jeanette exclaimed, pouncing on the first container. She yanked open the plastic top and took a deep breath. “Mmmm! We haven’t had lasagna in so long!”

“And I suppose the fact that I took you to an Italian restaurant that makes a dozen kinds of lasagna means nothing?” Thom turned from the table to find plates in the cupboard. Calvin slid out from behind the table, rummaging in the drawers for silverware and serving spoons.

“I mean here at home.” Jeanette happily inspected the other dish. “oooh, yum!” She folded the paper bag, depositing it in the plastic bin besides the door leading to the garage. “So did you hear from Mom?”

“Standard report.” Thom handed her a stack of plates. “She says she’s fine and everything’s okay and hugs and kisses.”

Jeanette smiled, but the reaction was automatic as she took the plates turning towards the table. She'd been hoping for something more....something personal. “That’s nice.”

“She’ll be done with all of that before you know it.” Thom reassured her. “Don’t worry. I'm sure she missed you.”

“I know.” Jeanette began setting the plates out. She made a face when she placed the fourth one at the farthest corner of the table.

Thom tried not to smile. “Where’s Rachel?”

“Upstairs with her boyfriend.” Jeanette wrinkled her nose. “They probably already had dinner…can I have her share of lasagna?”

“She what?” Thom froze. “Boyfriend? Calvin? Would you care to explain that?”

“I can explain-” Jeanette chirped. “She just-”

“I’d like to hear Calvin’s version.” Thom interrupted. “Why don’t you go wash up? I’ll have everything in plates by the time you get back.”

“Huh?”

“Go, kiddo.” He gave her a push towards the hallway. “Hurry up.”

Calvin set the handful of silverware on the table. “It’s just some guy…I’m not sure who he is, but he said he had something to discuss with Rachel and I haven’t seen her since then.”

“Which was…?”

“An hour or so?” Calvin frowned. “Awhile, I guess. I don’t remember exactly, I was trying to beat Jeanette at connect four.”

* * * * * *

When she’d cried out just about everything that she could possibly handle, she began praying. Granted they weren’t fancy prayers, or very coherent ones, but it was a necessary outlet and she’d officially hit rock bottom.

“It’s really never supposed to be about me, is it?” She asked the empty room, hiccupping. Something thumped gently on the door, followed by a whine. Rachel sniffled at it, waiting, the shadow visible on the crack at the bottom was rather odd. “Hello?” She said, miserably. “I’m not really-”

Soft scratching began, followed by a tuft of fur visible from beneath the door. Rachel sucked in a breath. It was several steps to the door. She didn’t feel like getting up just to see what was on the other side. Her head lifted partway and then dropped, she stared at her fingers.

Puzzlement settled over her. “Metal.” She mumbled. “Electricity…” Her gaze fastened on the metal doorknob. She stretched on hand towards it, focusing on turning the knob.

Please work…please work…I can do this, can’t I?

And to her surprise, it did.

There was a click, then the door popped open of its own accord. A snout appeared, then a pink tongue hanging out. A moment later a friendly, furry face burrowed through, pushing the door open wider to wriggle into the room.

Wide, chocolate brown eyes stared up at her, the face somewhat comforting as the dog settled down beside her. They looked at each other for a moment. The dog whined and Rachel sighed. “Trust me, pal. You don’t wanna know.” She squinted at the doorknob, a tiny spark of blue left
her fingertips, bouncing on the doorknob to push the door shut. She almost smiled, letting the hand now rest on top of the dog’s head. “I don’t even really like dogs, you know.” She told it, beginning to stroke the soft head.

A long sigh dribbled out from her lips. “Actually, there’s a whole lot of things I don’t like.” She smirked. “I don’t like sugar. I hate poptarts. I hate that I can zap things when I least want to do that. I hate Mark. I hate people being mad at me. I hate Unk’s girlfriend who doesn’t like me.” She heaved another sigh. “And that’s just a whole lot of hating…nothing about dislikes or things that just plain…bug me.” She fingered a soft ear, tracing the shape slowly. “I mean, it doesn’t even have to make sense, does it?”

The dog gently nudged her feet and her fingers slid further down, hooking around a collar. “Hey…you have a collar.” She rolled her eyes. “Well duh, you belong to someone, of course you have a collar.” She tried to make out the name etched on the silver plate. “A-d-e-m-u-s.” She spelled aloud. “Ademus?” The head cocked quizzically, as if waiting for a command to be attached to the end. “Uh…good boy.” She patted the head awkwardly. “I’m so not good at this you know…this whole…thing. Would you believe a whole month ago, I was just a normal person? Well, normal for me anyway, I’d go to school, worry about tests and pop quizzes and occasionally I’ll get a mission like, pick up this from point A and take it to point B. It was actually fun and pretty simple, you know? I mean, I even had my bike then…can you believe Mark took it away? He can be such a jerk! I don’t care if he’s the head of whatever, or how much power he has or how smart he thinks he is.” She scowled. “He’s always picking on me and I’m just sick of it-you know?” Ademus nodded solemnly. Rachel stared at him. “Oh never mind…I don’t even try to get mixed-up in this kind of stuff, it just happens to me. It’s like I’m a magnet…then again, I didn’t have this many issues until I met Ben. I guess the issues are part of his deal…I don’t care. He’s gone too, you know. Mark said he didn’t shoot him again.” She half-laughed. “The great Mark of Densen…actually telling the truth? I’m shocked. I didn’t know he knew how to do that.” She winced. “And there I go again…do you know…no, do you have any idea how hard it is to be nice to people?”

Ademus stood, shaking himself all over. Rachel leaned away. “Whoa! Take it easy, big guy…” She waited for him to settle down, then continued patting his head. It made it much easier to think. “Then again, you’re a dog…you can’t help being nice to people, right? It's like genetically encoded in your brain.” She sighed. “This whole stupid mission…it’s my very first mission, you know? Something different, something other than just being a little errand girl and guess what I do? I screw it up without even trying…” She made a face. “And I lose my bike. I didn’t even have it for a full day!” She thumped her head on the side of the bed. “Now I don’t have any wheels…and I still have to go and do this whole report and then I have to go buy a dress to go to dinner.” She shuddered. “I bet it’s a formal affair. I hate that, you know. Maybe he forgot.”

They exchanged a glance. “Yeah…you’re right. Fat chance of that happening.” She gave a bitter laugh. “You know, the strangest, weirdest things always happen to me. Like today? I tried to buy a box of mints, okay? Just a plain little box of mints and you know what? It was the animal shelter…no wait…a dog kennel, but it was really, like, totally rundown, and they were selling these herbal mints in collectible tins to raise money to build the place up and guess what? She wouldn’t take my card! I mean, like okay, maybe it is weird to just pay things with a piece of plastic all the time, but do you have any idea how dangerous it is to have cash? Like, real money in your pocket? In my line of work, it gets you killed!” Her brow furrowed. “Or almost killed, anyway. Never mind, here’s the thing, I was going to buy the mints, ‘cause I was hungry-and she says they don’t accept cards of any kind, only cash.” Rachel frowned. “You know, Ademus…I don’t think she was telling the truth, but how would I ever prove that? You’d think she’d jump at the chance for any donation and you know what? I couldn’t even get the mints, or upgrade Jeanette’s kennel.”

Gray-splotched ears perked up. “No, not your kennel, if you have one.” She frowned. “Where were you anyway? I haven’t see you…or your little buddies since the first day I got here.” A yawn sprouted. “I’m off subject again, I was just trying to explain that I can’t even buy a box of mints in this place-I’ve been to three whole-” Rachel stopped. Her mind twisted and clicked the last piece of the puzzle into place. She slapped her free hand down on the floor. “Oh. Sugar. Snap. I did not just totally miss this!” Scrambling to her feet, she skipped over Ademus to reach the dresser drawer. It took a few minutes of shuffling through the printed reports of her daily activities to find the one she was looking for. She scanned it quickly and felt her stomach sinking with each line. “No!” Slamming the folder back in the drawer, she elbowed it shut, turning back to face the room. She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths to calm herself down before she blew any other electrical appliances.

“I did it.” She told the dog. “You won’t believe it. I actually did it. I had the answer staring me right smack in the face and I was just being a-” Rachel launched herself towards the bed, tackling a pillow to absorb her frustrations. In a few minutes, she was spent from punching, yanking and pummeling the cotton square. “I am not pitching a fit.” She told Ademus, calmly. “I’m just trying not to scream.” A laugh slipped out. “That crazy dragon lady wasn’t really that crazy…she did keep her end of the bargain and I’ve just been blindly stumbling through this whole town, mission and everything…I know how they did it Ademus…can you believe it? I know how they’re passing Pysch off!” She leapt to her feet, pillow tucked under one arm as she began pacing. “There’s got to be a reason though…I mean, all those kids…they died because…” She stopped in front of the window. “They died because they were underage.” Her breath caught in her throat, a grimace twisting across her face. “Needless deaths…they didn’t have to die…they just weren’t old enough.” Her expression brightened. “Which means this isn’t entirely an earth drug…if it affects underage humans, then there must be a foreign additive.” Rachel pumped a fist in the air. “Yes! I’ve got it!” She danced around the room, finishing with a happy wiggle in front of Ademus. “I’m a genius, can you believe it?” She laughed, deliriously. “I’m crazy…let me guess, I’ve successfully crossed over into the crazy hour!”

The laughter died away as Rachel plopped on the bed, hugging the pillow. “I’m going to need proof.” She told Ademus. “I don’t even know how I’d get over there…I don’t have a failsafe anymore.” She rubbed one wrist, absently. “Good grief, I don’t even have wheels.” She sighed, loudly. “and he’ll never listen to me, at least not unless I have some sort of proof. The kind you can touch, feel and smell. Wait…if I went in the night, I could probably just slip in an out.” She wiggled her fingers. “There’s bound to be some sort of evidence somewhere…and I bet at the kennel they wouldn’t even care if someone broke into their office, I mean, how would they even prove that?” She paused. “I know they definitely wouldn’t be able to catch me…what do you think, boy? I’m good at night stuff.” She flashed a grin. “Really, you don’t see me at night…it’s my element. Okay, I’ll have to slip out after dinner, I guess.” She frowned, sniffing the air, carefully. “I bet Unk brought take-out.” A silly smile slapped itself on her face. “ Yeah, some nighttime fun after I eat!” She nudged the dog. “Come on, let’s go.”

“You’re not going anywhere.” Mark growled.

Rachel jerked around. “You!” She took a few steps backward. “I mean…Mark…um, hi? Again?”

“It escaped me moments ago to mention that Allison McVain may be, to put it delicately, in a spot of trouble, at present. Should this news reach you before it does, us, kindly keep your head straight and don’t go larking off in search of revenge or otherwise.”

“What? Wait a minute…my uncle’s girlfriend? What does she have to do with anything?”

“She’s in the wrong place at the worst possible time.” Mark said, smoothly. “Ben was supposed to mention this to you, but I suppose he didn’t have the chance. However, now you are aware of this, for whatever purposes necessary. I also came to inform you that your new handler will arrive sometime tomorrow. She’ll be briefed on your entire circumstance. I didn’t expect to overhear that you were planning extracurricular activities.”

“W-who? Me?” Rachel held the pillow in front of her. “Actually, it’s a new lead on my casefile, I should check it out while it’s still fresh.”

“You should stay in and pursue it tomorrow.” Mark said, darkly. “In broad daylight. So I don’t have to take your liability issues into consideration.”

“I have liability issues?” Rachel stared at him. “Whoa! Hold up here, you’re taking what I said again and totally turning it out of proportion, I’m just trying to-eep!” the squeak escaped as Mark blurred forward just inches away from her. His blue eyes faded to purple as she watched and tiny spark leapt from his ear to her forehead.

“Oh that hurts.” She started to say, but her eye began to close. It felt too good. She felt herself falling backwards.

Mark watched as she tumbled backwards onto the bed, out cold. He sighed. “Not taking it out of proportion.” He muttered. “Tonight’s just a very bad night to be out on the street.” He headed for the window pausing, his gaze landed on the dog who had silently witnessed the exchange between them. His eyes narrowed. “You…” A hiss escaped his teeth. “This is my business…stay out of it!” In a flash of purple, he was gone.

* * * * * *

Thom took the stairs two at a time, Rachel’s plate in hand with a fork and napkin tucked under it. He hesitated, briefly in front of the closed room door before knocking. He waited a moment, listening, then tried again.

Silence greeted him from within.

He sighed. “Rachel?” Turning the knob slowly, he pushed the door open. The room was eerily dark, with no nightlights or clock lights, a faint sliver of moonlight filtering through the filmy window curtains. A low growl came from the foot of the bed and Thom froze. “Ademus?” He asked. “What’s wrong?”

The dog trotted over to meet him, with a glance cast backwards towards the bed. Thom set the plate on the dresser and hurried to the bedside. Rachel lay sprawled across the middle, still dressed in her day clothes, clutching a pillow to her chest. Her eyes seemed to be half-open.

Thom gently tugged the pillow away from her, feeling for a pulse. It was there, normal enough from what he could tell. He took a few minutes pulling the blankets free, removing her socks and then checking the window lock. Ademus hovered at the door and Thom followed him out after retrieving the plate.

Together they walked down the hall until they reached Thom’s room. Entering, Thom locked the door behind them, politely studying the plate of lasagna until the golden glow disappeared from the room.

“Ademus?” He tried again, venturing to look towards the bed.

The silver-haired man sitting on the edge, had his head buried in his hands. “I’m sorry, Thom…I didn’t think I had to…it was too fast.” He rubbed one bare arm, tugging at the sleeveless shirt collar.

“Too fast?” Thom crossed the room and paused. “Lasagna?”

Ademus half-smiled. “Might as well, it’s probably good to remember what your earth food tastes like.”

Thom shared the laugh. “I try to leave things out for you, but I think Jeanette’s been scavenging when I’m not around.”

“No matter. I survive well enough without much.” Ademus delicately cut into the noodles and sauce. “I’m sorry about Rachel.” He tried again.

“What happened?” Thom asked, bluntly.

“She figured a few things out.” He shrugged. “Mostly jabbering to herself about all sorts of things. Said her bike was taken, she missed a normal life and she knows how they’re getting Pysch on the street.”

A very pale shade of white stole over Thom’s face. “She knows?” Ademus nodded. “And she didn’t say anything?”

“She just figured it out, Thom. Give her a break…she didn’t realize it was that simple, that the answer was staring her in the face, as she put it.”

“How’s it being transferred?” Thom demanded, one hand clenched into a fist.

“That part didn’t make sense.” Ademus chewed thoughtfully. “She said something about mints and a kennel. She's very easily distracted, but I suppose you're used to that by now. She loves changing the subject on herself.”

“And?”

“She didn’t exactly finish all her sentences, Thom.” He frowned. “She thought she was talking to a dog. She’s got a date sometime soon too, something about a dress and dinner. She said the kennel was really rundown and they wouldn’t accept her donation by credit card, which she thought was very odd.”

“Very odd?” Thom repeated. “Angel Eyes.”

“What?”

“That’s the name of the kennel were Jeanette’s dog is staying. Teetu. Ally insisted he board there, because she’s friends with the lady from church…the one who owns it.” Thom sighed. “I didn’t like the place either…but how does selling drugged mints fit in with a dog kennel?”

Ademus happily finished off the remains of his lasagna. “That, my dear friend, I do not know. Rachel can be very…enthusiastic. It took her several minutes to settle down once she connected the dots in her head. She also read something from a file in the dresser drawer in her room. I think it was a report, or at least written evidence.”

“A file in her drawer?” Thom repeated. “She had a file folder…when she first arrived, they found it the day she blacked out upstairs with Jeanette. Remember I told you about that? She had photos that I’d just seen in my own office and papers with information on them.”

“Plain basic?” Ademus asked.

“Hmmm?”

“Basic.” He repeated. “English. I’d imagine you would have already found and read this file if you could, meaning that there must be a specific reason you did not.”

“True.” Thom agreed. “Who or what knocked out Rachel? Did she do that to herself?”

Ademus chuckled. “No, she does have gifts as I told you the day she arrived, but she doesn’t quite grasp the enormity of them. Even if she did, she could not use them to render herself in the position you discovered her. She is actually doing quite fine.”

Thom sighed. “I know…original question, please?”

“It was Mark.” Ademus carefully guaged his reaction.

“Mark?”

“Rachel was planning to sneak out tonight to verify her suspicions. Mark overheard her when he came to tell her about her new handler arriving tomorrow.”

“She has a new handler?” Thom frowned. “What was wrong with the old one? That Ben fellow. He was okay enough.”

“I don’t know. I missed that part of the conversation.” Ademus stood, resting the plate on the edge of the bed. “But she’s getting a new one tomorrow and Mark told her she couldn’t go out tonight. Then he shocked her out.”

“Shocked her out?” Thom repeated.

“You really should stop repeating everything I say…makes me feel like an echo.” Ademus moved to open the bedroom window. “Yes, shocked her out. Remember her gifts of electricity? Did you not see her room? How everything is dead there? Her body has finished the converting process of accepting her abilities, she’s leeching off the energies around her to sustain herself.”

Thom stifled a groan. “I thought I had this under control.”

“You do.” Ademus said, gently. “But you can’t be everything to everyone, Thom. Let some of the control go, I know it’s important to you and it helps to keep things running smoothly, but at least for Rachel…let her go. Don’t push her away, but don’t try to take her apart either. She’s screwing her head on where it belongs. I’d wager she’ll be a little more back to your version of normal by tomorrow.”

“Even with that shock out thing?”

“It’s not like what you were thinking.” Ademus stuck a hand out the window, testing the temperature. “He fed her the energy her body was craving. She made it through the whole day without eating much of anything.” He paused. “She doesn’t like poptarts by the way, I would suggest pudding or something else.”

“Pudding?”

“Yes, the chocolate vanilla kind.” His face twitched. “It makes a good snack.”

“Right.” Thom perked a brow. “Anything else I should know?”

“Offhand…no, but stay inside tonight of all nights. I’ll keep watch from the air.” A faint row of gray feathers began to appear along his bare arms.

“What about that Mark fellow? I don’t like him-and I can’t even say I’ve met him.”

Ademus sighed. “I’ll deal with it for you. Don’t stay up too late.” The morph completed as he launched himself from the window, streaking upwards into the night sky.

I’ll take care of him, Thom. He’s my son…

© Sara Harricharan

4 comments:

Patty Wysong said...

Wow. You have THE most active imagination of ANYone I've ever known! Wow.

(Rachel reminds me of someone--can't quite remember her real name though...LoL) I love Rachel!
Hugs!

Dee Yoder said...

I agree 100% with Peej--your imagination has to be the most active one EVER! Now some of Rachel's past stories are coming together for me. That's saying a lot coming from barely-activated-imagination-me!

Joanne Sher said...

ooooh man! Uber creative!! SO loving this, girlfriend! Can't wait for next week! JJ

BethL said...

Sara, you have to be one of the most prolific writers I know. I'm always amazed at what you write and the quantity as well as quality. Wow! :)