Friday, April 24, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 8] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Vonnie @ her blog, My Back Door. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: A little late today this piece took much longer than I thought to write, but there are some very important bits of information inside and of course, we get to explore the relationship between Rachel and Ben a little deeper. Enjoy! ^_^

The tall gray metal beams crisscrossed over each other, with the funny slinky shaped things in between. She had seen these before. Something wasn’t right here. Rachel tried to compute what her mind was telling her, but it wasn’t quite coming out the way she wanted it to. “B-ben?”

His arm clamped down around her shoulders, steering her up towards the metal fence with the sharp wiring above it. “What now?” He pressed the remote over his shoulder at the car and the locks clicked shut behind them.

“Why are we here?” Rachel scuffed her feet, but he kept nudging her forward.

“Stop that.” He hesitated for a fraction of a step, then frowned. “You really are slow today, aren’t you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rachel tried to pull away, then stopped when she saw the yellow sign, proudly declaring ‘High Voltage. Keep Out!’ “Uh, Ben? I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.”

“Says who?” His grip tightened.

“The sign says keep out.” Rachel felt her

“It’s just a sign.”

“It’s dangerous!”

“Is it really?” He twirled her around to face him. “Is it really? Is it any more dangerous than that stupid stunt you pulled back there?”

“Back where?” Rachel leaned away from him, her mind sluggishly struggling to reboot and find a distraction, or anything to get herself way from him. “Have I mentioned that I still don’t know what you’re talking about? And stop pulling me!” A new underlying feeling of fear was slowly trickling into her.

“Oh, I’m ever so sorry.” Ben let go of her arm to grab her shoulder instead. “March! Dead ahead.”

“I don’t think I should.” Rachel tried to stop, but his grip on her shoulder grew deathly cold. Her minds screamed nonsense at her, but her feet kept moving. “Tell me again, why we’re here?” Rachel tried, stalling. “I don’t quite understand what’s going on.”

“You will now.” Ben growled. “Take a hint!”

The surge of fear came several seconds too late. A strong push from Ben sent Rachel reeling backwards and straight for the metal fence. She cringed for the impact that would not come, because the green glow accompanying Ben’s hands, enveloped her, passing her through the fence. Rachel tumbled to the ground, gravel digging into her palms and through her jeans.

This is bad. Very, very bad.

One hand reached towards her shoulder as she scooted backwards from Ben and stopped when her fingers touched something cool. A yelp froze on her lips and she swallowed as the glowing figure approached her.

An expression of pure annoyance registered on his face as he scowled down at her, stopping just short of stepping on her feet. “Stop looking at me like that!”

“L-like what?” Rachel scrambled to her feet, brushing at the tiny pieces of gravel clinging to her jeans.

“Like that.” Ben snapped. “Like you think I’m going to-” He stopped abruptly. “You think I’m going to…what do you think I’m doing?” He took a step backwards, arms crossed over his chest. “Just out of sheer curiosity, tell me, what do you think I’m-we’re-doing here?”

Rachel took a deep breath. “Well, I’m sure I wouldn’t know, since you haven’t told me yet.”

“Yes, that could be a problem.” Ben tilted his head forward in acknowledgement. “But I know you…and you’re as easy to read as an Astro Boy comic book. The look on your face says that you think I’m betraying you.”

“It does?”

“You’re crystal clear to me, Rock. That’s where you get the nickname from…now, I know I took your memory from your first uh…escapades, which is why we suggested you return to school to fill in any possible memory gaps, however, I don’t have the time explain and neither do you.”

Rachel jerked backwards in the same instant he lunged forward. She tried to twist, tried to pull, but couldn’t get away from the strong hands that shoved her backwards, deliberately, towards the danger.

The sensation of falling could have been in slow-motion. As it was, Rachel had plenty of time to notice the reaction on Ben’s face, the expressions he cycled through and to feel every piece of metal that slammed into her back. It should have hurt worse, but Rachel only felt it as an annoyance between her and sanity. “Ben?” Her voice was fading.

Something crackled behind her and Rachel knew she’d stopped breathing. As she’d stopped breathing, she must have been dead, though at the moment, it didn’t seem to matter. Backing right into a tower of metal wires, with huge yellow signs loudly proclaiming their hazardous nature wasn’t exactly an intelligent course of action. On top of that, Rachel only had a split-second to be horrified at the fact her brain was thinking in larger words than she remembered.

Ben lifted one glowing hand and with an expressionless face, one truly blank and empty, he curled the hand into a fist and fired a thick bolt of energy to shove her further back and keep her pinned to the metal.

Resistance desperately what she wanted, but exactly what she could not have. Her eyelids grew heavy and her limbs began to lose control of their functions once more. A sickening feeling washed over. Déjà vu. It was happening all over again. She tried to lick her lips, but a sudden loud crackle straight in her ear, properly scared the wits out of her.

The scream that left her lips was silent. The look on Ben’s face was priceless. The green energy bolt retracted at once and he leapt backwards, horror showing clearly in his eyes.

As quickly as it had come, the strange feeling left her. Instead, it began to feel as if she were literally pumping herself full of energy and all other sorts of necessary things to return herself to her own control. Her hands returned to her sides, the sleepiness hovering tentatively, before vanishing as quickly as it had come.

The warm fuzzy feeling spiraling over her felt so good, Rachel leaned further back to absorb it all. She could no longer feel the metal cutting into her shoulders and all thoughts of some horrible death by execution had left her. She closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling.

Oh it felt good!

“Rachel!” Ben’s frantic voice cut through the happy haze. “Rachel, listen to me! Don’t do that. Don’t go further in, you’ll be stuck there. I won’t be able to get you out. Rachel!”

Annoyance slowly built up inside of her until his pleas were collected into a heap just big enough for a worthwhile peek. She lazily opened one eye and a new jolt of terror rack through her. She’d never seen him like that. Tall, fierce…and glowing the brightest green she’d ever seen, from head to toe.

She gaped at him for a moment, and then shook her head. “I am dreaming.” She muttered. “Ben? Is that you? What’s going on?”

“Rachel?” A half-smile returned to his face. “Good girl…I need you to walk out of there and come back to the car. We’ve got to get you back to the hotel before your Uncle realizes you aren’t there.”

Rachel blinked, slowly, trying to absorb the information he was giving her. Her mind worked sluggishly, an opposite to the sudden surge of movement and aliveness in the rest of her limbs. Her Uncle. The Hotel. A groan bubbled up and she lurched forward, her body immediately remedied that with a coordinated walk and a matching expression of disdain. Rachel moved forward, stopping a few feet away.

The green glow slowly dimmed and then disappeared altogether. Ben stuck out his hand, a wide smile plastered on his face.

Rachel stared at him, uncomprehendingly. “What?”

“Congratulations, Kid. That was your third power.”

A soft twinge of dizziness touched her and Rachel shook her head. “No, no, no!” She began to back away, as the reality of what had just happened slowly settled over her. She turned to look over her shoulder and gave a frightened yelp at the sight of the charred, black metal structure behind her. The last ounce of warm fuzzies left her completely. “B-ben?” Her voice wavered once more.

Strong arms wrapped around her and Rachel turned willingly to bury her head in the understanding shoulder. “He gave me electricity.” She told the shoulder. “Of all the powers on the face of the earth!”

“You mean in the universe.” His voice rumbled from overhead. “Shhh, it’s okay.”

She shuddered. “No it’s not…I did that? I really did that?”

“W-e-l-l, that and uh…” His voice trailed off.

“And what?” Rachel demanded, pulling away. “What else did I do?”

“Blacked out half the city, I’d expect.” He said matter-of-factly. “Your powers are leeching. You need the energy to live. Which is why I brought you here, which I'm sure makes perfect sense and what you must understand by now. Which is one reason we’d best get out of here before anyone comes along to investigate.” He started towards the car, rubbing her shoulder. “How’s the headache?”

“What headache?” Rachel bit her lip.

“The one you didn’t tell me you had.”

Rachel nearly stumbled over her own feet. “The girl…” She swallowed, feeling the goosebumps beginning to start. “I killed her.” Ben didn’t answer. “That’s what you meant…when I grabbed her…that same, feeling…” She began to shake.

Ben paused long enough to swoop her into his arms. “Rachel, not now, c’mon kid, don’t do this to me.”

Rachel tried to answer him, but she couldn’t. She was frozen again, in a moment in time that she didn’t want to remember. A flare of pain shoot through her head and settled just above her temples as her eyes welled with tears. She’d electrocuted someone. No wonder Ben had been yelling at her. “I deserved it.” She croaked.

“What?”

The tears burst forth in full-force.

Rachel couldn’t recall how he got her into the car and where they went, she just realized when he gently pulled her out and guided her to a big, gray rock to sit down that her mind began to return enough for her manners, whatever was left of them, to speak up. “I’m sorry.”

Her voice was so soft, Ben almost thought he’d been hearing things. He dug two bottles out of the woven sack he’d been carrying and climbed up on the rock behind her. “here.”

Rachel turned to see him offer a drink bottle. She grimaced. “Sweet tea?”

“It’s that or lemonade. Anything else with sugar and caffeine and you’re already too wired to sleep tonight. One or the other, you need to drink something.”

She eyed him wearily for a moment, then handed the bottle back. “Lemonade.” He unscrewed the bottle and handed it over. She took a few sips, then thirsty gulped half of it down. She wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and smeared away a few of the still-spouting tears.

He rummaged through the bag and produced a roll of paper towel. “Here.” He tore off a sheet and stuffed it into her slack hand. “Blow your nose and stop the waterworks.”

She sniffled into the paper, soaking it before she reached the blowing her nose part. Ben dutifully ripped off another sheet and handed it over. When she’d managed to compose herself enough, she snuck a glance in his direction, only to see him staring out in the far end. She followed his gaze, only seeing a neon-colored sunset in his line of view. Her brow furrowed. He was too serene and calm for what she’d just said. “Didn’t you hear me?” She cleared her throat, hand tightening around the plastic bottle of lemonade. “I said I was sorry.”

His head turned towards her and the serene expression melted to a look of extreme sorrow. “That would make two of us.” He said quietly. “You okay now?”

“What are you sorry for?”

“For knowing what you’ve gone through.”

Her stomach dropped, it seemed, taking all her common sense with it. She stared at him, open-mouthed, until he reached over and tipped it shut. She tried to find a suitable answer, but could not. His eyes searched her face for a good long moment and then he turned away.

“The first time is always the worst…don’t beat yourself up over it. It was purely self defense, I’m sure.”

“How can you even say that? How can you even be sure? You weren’t there!”

“I saw your reaction to your powers…you were completely unaware of them. If you were to be tried at all, it would be in a Chakleun court, and they would not find you guilty.”

“What?”

“You reacted. You didn’t know and you couldn’t help yourself. Sometimes that’s how life and new powers work. I’m also sorry that I scared you.”

A blush tinged her cheeks. “You didn’t.”

“Liar.” He reached over, taking the squished bottle from her hand. “The idea is to drink it, not mutilate it.” The bottle was tucked back into the sack and he offered her another sheet of paper towel before stuffing it into the bag as well. “I’m sorry I scared you to the point where you thought I was actually going to kill you.”

Her lower lip trembled. “I kept telling myself you wouldn’t…because I knew you too well, but I-I’d never seen you like that.”

“I know.” He said simply. “But I had to do it.”

“Why?”

“Peak emotional surge.” He slid from the rock and offered a hand down.

“What?” She took the hand. “Where are we going?”

“To a certain motel, where your uncle might try to strangle me for making you disappear from the civilized world for awhile.”

Rachel leapt lightly from the rock, relieved to land on her own two feet without a wobble. She followed him to the car and walked around to her side. When they’d started driving, she forced herself not to mentally rerun the memories still streaming through her head. She stared out the window at the blurring scenery. “What’s a peak emotional surge? I mean, what’s it mean?”

“It means to spike an energy surge in oneself, or to trigger a transformation to another level, a peak emotional surge is useful…or necessary.” He sighed. “In most cases, you were human and partially transformed when I reached you. That’s why I gave you the cream. It’s a temporary fix. You were playing with the light switches weren’t you?”

“I was?”

He gave her a look. “The power in the house. It’d been tripped at least two or three times. You did that.”

“I did that?” Rachel gulped. “Okay.” Her voice was small. “That would explain…some.”

“You’re lucky you’re clueless about it.” He gave a half-smile. “Or else I really would’ve given it to you.”

“I take it, I don’t want to know what ‘it’ would be.” Rachel was surprised to find she could tease back. “Thanks, Ben.”

He reached over and gently squeezed one hand. “It’s okay, kid. You’ll be fine.”

“Will I?”

“Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “You will, ‘cause I’ll keep a better eye on you from now on.”

© Sara Harricharan

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 7] (Friday Fiction)

This weeks' Friday Fiction is hosted by Peej herself @ Patterings. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: In a rush this week and can't fix the spacing, I'll work on it later, or else I'll be late. Not sure when the next installment will come, I've got finals coming up, so bear with me and enjoy!
NOTE: I made and I'm back, just have a few minutes to fix the spacing, and hopefully, leave a delightful twist for all my faithful readers. ^_^ have a great weekend!

The silence in the car was awkward, but Rachel couldn’t bring herself to fill it. As it was, she was just barely processing the events of the last few hours, much less the actual reality of what had happened.

Her head was still spinning when Pete escorted her up the motel stairs and offered a smile, holding the door open. He hesitated in the doorway. “Can I uh, get you anything?”

Rachel forced a smile. “uh, no thanks. I’m fine. Thanks.”

Pete nodded, then backed out of the room. “I’ll be getting back to uh-”

“Tell Uncle Thom I’m fine. I’ll be here. I won’t go anywhere.” Rachel closed the door behind him, turning the locks and hooking the chain. She bit her lip once, then stopped, pinching her finger as she turned.

It didn’t stop her heart from pausing several beats.

Ben stood scowling in the center of the room, arms crossed over his chest.

Rachel winced. “I wasn’t running.”

“You weren’t?”

“No.”

His arms slowly uncrossed, falling to his sides. “I’ll take your word for it. This time.” His gaze shifted to the window. “Who’s that? Your uncle’s second partner?”

“Yeah, that’s Pete.” Rachel started for the window and stopped halfway there. “How did you know he was Unk’s second partner? You never even met him!”

“Did I have to?” He asked, matter-of-factly.

“N-no. I guess not…what are you doing here?”

“Thanks for the welcome, I think.” Ben scowled. “I’m here to ask what did you think you were doing? Were you trying to get yourself killed? Because you almost succeeded! In all the years I’ve been working and believe me, I’ve been working at this far longer than you’d care to know, I have never seen such a stupid stunt where-”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Rachel whined.

“Yes you do.” He glared at her. “You most certainly do!”

“I do?” Rachel stared at him miserably. The negative events were beginning to pile up on her. “How do I know that?”

“Okay, let’s back up really slowly.” Ben said. “Let’s try, you blacked out for three days…what normal person does that?”

“A normal person who makes a dumb mistake and gets mixed up with people like you.” Rachel glared back. “What kind of normal is that?”

“The kind that is entirely clueless and doesn’t realize that every little thing like a one-time-save-your-life kind of deal is usually the kind that requires that life to be used for the rest of that-”

“Mark doesn’t have that kind of hold on me.” Rachel said hotly. “And neither do you!”

“I never said any of us did.” Ben said evenly. “But we do have a protection over you and if you’d like it to stay active, then you’ll have to work off your end of the bargain to pay the coverage fees.”

“So you’re really just here to rant at me?”

“No, I’m here to yell at you. Let’s talk about that intruder. What happened there? Please, do tell. I would so love to know.”

Rachel shrugged. “Well, there’s not really much to tell at all. Some lady came in the house.”

“Lady?” Ben cut in.

“Yeah…Unk said it was a lady.” Rachel frowned. “At least I think I heard him say that…”

“Go on.” Ben encouraged.

“yeah, well she came in the front door and then somehow ended up coming upstairs and I was hiding with Jeanette under the bed.”

“I take it Jeanette is that insufferable brat that never turns off her hyper mode?” Ben asked dryly.

“Something like that.” Rachel blushed. “She’s not really all that bad…I think.”

“Go on.” Ben sighed. “and try not to slow it down a bunch for my sake, I’m sure I can keep up with the plot twists.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. No problem. We just hid under a bed and she came under there and yanked Jeanette out.”

“Jeanette or you?” Ben had suddenly grown rather still.

“Um…Jeanette.” Rachel frowned, thinking back. “I’m pretty sure it was Jeanette, though I don’t know she didn’t grab me first, I mean, I was there first and I was the one who was sticking out of there the most.”

“You killed her.” Ben said quietly.

“What?” Rachel stared at him.

“The intruder.” Ben turned away for a moment. “A peak emotional surge…oh, Rachel!”

“What? I killed what? What are you talking about?” But the sudden anger was fading and a new tremor had come to her voice.

“The lady, Rach.” Ben rubbed his face with one hand. “you killed her.”

“No I didn’t!”

“Don’t, Rachel…you’ll make it worse.” A soft moan escaped and then his head raised up. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t…this is what I’m talking about, this is what you should have known.”

“I might actually know something if you weren’t always talking in riddles.”

“Am I?” He asked. “Rachel, did you honestly think you weren’t going to get changed at some time or another.”

Rachel felt the new energy slowly draining away from her. “What?” Her voice was a whisper. Now some of it made sense. “I have a power.” She swallowed. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

“Yes, you have a power.” Ben was struggling to keep his voice even and light. “And you just made a mistake that trumps all-”

“Shut up!”

“Excuse me? Don’t you dare take that tone with me, young lady. If I didn’t care a fraction of a billionth for you, I wouldn’t be here right now-”

“Just shut up and go away!”

“I can’t.” Ben said simply.

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut, images now replaying in her head. The sudden shock, the scream and the limp body falling to the floor. “I didn’t kill her. I didn’t.”

“That’s funny, because she sure looked dead to me.” Ben snapped. “That’s it, you’re getting out of here.

“What?”

“I mean, it you’re going out.” Ben moved towards the door and began to undo the locks.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“We. Not I.” Ben opened the door, slowly, without so much as a sound. “Hurry up.”

“What? No, Ben! I can’t leave! I just told Pete that I’d stay here.”

“Did you promise?”

Rachel stared at him, her brain struggling to understand exactly what he was suggesting. “I said I was going to!”

Ben nodded slowly. “So you swore on your honor that you would stay?”

“I-I…you’re mixing me up!”

“I’m not doing anything of the sort. If you didn’t swear it, you are now hearby released of your duties on my account. Out.” Ben held the door open, pointing to the hall.

“I’m not going out there!”

One bushy eyebrow slid upwards ever so slightly. “Would you like me to yell at you here?”

“I’m not going out there.” Rachel repeated, gritting her teeth. “And if you-”

“Then have a seat.” Ben shut the door, gesturing towards the armchair near the window.

“Because we need to have a little chat.”

Rachel cautiously eased backwards into the chair, smoothing her jeans over her knees with her hands. Her hands were cold. She swallowed. “About what?”

“Your attitude is an excellent starting point.”

“Quit it, Ben! I don’t have the-”

“I don’t care what you have or don’t at this particular moment.” Ben interrupted. “You’re completely failing to grasp the gravity of the situation.”

“which is?” Rachel challenged. “Which is really what? I’d sure like to know!”

“You love to know what you don’t really need to.” Ben countered. “I’ve had enough of dealing with all the invisible backlash that you don’t care to think about.”

“How can I care to think about something that’s invisible!” Rachel popped up from her chair. “Would it kill you to quit jabbering in riddles for once in your life? Why can’t you ever just talk to me?”

“I’m trying.” Ben took a deep breath. “believe me darling, I’m really trying. However, you don’t seem to be doing much on your end, at least as far as trying is concerned.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“That’s supposed to be a cue for you to shut up and me to keep talking. Rachel, I understand that there is a great deal going on right now that may be too much for you to take in all at once. I’m sorry. But, there’s not much anyone can do about it and you don’t really have a choice.”

“Hold it right there!” Rachel held up a hand. “It’s my life and I don’t have a choice?”

“Not when you trade your life in order to live!”

“What?”

Dark eyes drilled straight into her. “You heard what I said. Would you like me to repeat it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s supposed to mean that when I come in here and I ask you to go somewhere…you go. No questions asked. It also means that when you have a job to do, you get it done, without someone having to come along and twist your arm or your heart, with the option of breaking either.”

“A-are you trying to tell me something?” Rachel licked her lips. “Because if you are, why can’t you just-”

“I’m suggesting that you might want to go for a walk after all.” Ben deliberately turned back to the door and held it open. “Coming?”

Her feet seemed to meld to the floor as Rachel gazed out the open doorway and into the hall. Her emotions were torn in different directions already and now here was Ben ripping her loyalty apart as well.

“Rachel….”

“Let me get my duffel.” Rachel moved forward, pausing long enough to retrieve the duffel she’d dumped near the door. “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere to finish this conversation.” Ben waited for her to duck under his arm, stepping out in the hallway to lock the door behind him. “Whether you realize it or not, you nearly killed yourself.”

“So you keep saying.” Rachel hoisted the bag over one shoulder.

“Can you manage that?”

“It’s not my backpack.” She shot back. “What are you talking about?”

“your powers.” He said simply. “Or have you not noticed that you can do more than read minds?”

Rachel stopped short, stumbling forward when he collided into her. “I can what?” The precious overdrive reserve for her mind had just maxed out and then some common sense clicked in. “Wait a minute, if I can read minds, why can’t I read yours?” She whirled at once to face him and then her brow furrowed as she attempted to concentrate.

He rolled his eyes.

“What?”

“That’s so typical.” He snorted.

“What?” Rachel demanded. “Stop laughing.”

“I’m not laughing…and if I am, then I genuinely can’t help it. You can’t get a read on me, because I’m blocking you.”

“You can do that?”

“Of course I can.” One hand slipped over her shoulder and tugged the duffel off. “Now let’s play a guessing game.” His voice was dangerously calm. “What other power do you suppose you have?”

“I have more than one?” Rachel swallowed, allowing him to take the duffel from her. “How many do I have?”

“How many do you think you have?” He countered.

Rachel hesitated. There was a certain cold, calculating way in how he asked that question. She wasn’t sure she wanted to answer, but it didn’t appear that he’d let her off so easily.

“Well?” He guided her through the lobby and out the front doors. “Are you still thinking?”

“Yeah.”

“Then stop.” His grip tightened on her elbow. “You over think too many things.”

“Oh yeah? For real?”

“Stop.” He directed, halting at the walkway and waving the car past. “Yeah, for real, kid. Get in.” He let go of her arm long enough to open the door and then dump the duffel on her lap when she was safely seated inside.

He tipped the valet before climbing into the driver’s seat and pulling out onto the busy street. “Have you done any work at all since your arrival?”

“No.”

“No?” He repeated. “That’s all you have to say? No?”

“What do you want me to say?”

There was a moment of silence, before Ben suddenly sharply turned the corner. “Get out.” He said, pulling the car to the side of the road, near a stop.

Rachel pretended to fiddle with the fabric handles on the duffel bag. Ben reached over and yanked it from her lap, tossing it to the backseat.

“Out. Now.” He slid out from the driver’s seat, keys in his pocket, walking around to her door.

Rachel scrambled out of the car, trying not to twist and wring her hands together. She did a double take when she saw where he’d brought her.

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An Easter Break

Happy Easter!

I do hope you all are enjoying this weekend as I am. In honor of Easter, I ate a cadbury chocolate creme egg. LOL. Whether you believe me or not, that was actully only the second time I've eaten one. Thanks to a rather persuasive and very good friend, I went on a hunt to find and try this and the experience was quite enjoyable. Obviously Easter is more than candy though and since I'm trying not to do a specific "Easter" post as I could pretty much be here all day doing that and there's so much more inside my head to get out, not to mention to other things I do want to mention. I'll just mention that my family celebrates the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" and this morning has been an interesting debate in what to cook and bake. I've been having a wonderful time so far, and enjoying some of the more creative solutions. For instance, there are quite a bit of sweet things to make that do not require any "leavening" of any sort. I think I'm dreaming, as I haven't had so many home-baked goodies for the entire year!

Of course now that the month is evening out, I have some extra time to write and relax. The relax part, being the most fun. This month, April is ScriptFrenzy(http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/) and I've been having a blast so far. The idea is to write 100 pages of script during the month of April. Last year's project was so very fun, I've been looking forward to this year since last May!

I use the scriptwriting program Celtx to take the headache out of formatting and have just been letting my extra creative juices flow into there. While I currently have 15 pages, I plan to significantly boost that page count by tonight, as I've been playing with several new twists inside of my head and well, I figured I'd give y'all a quick summary of the story. It's titled "Housemother Anne" as an alien woman who takes in troubled, orphaned children and helps them work out the wrinkles in their lives. The twist to this story is from the very beginning, whenever any child enters the house for the first time, they must give her a handshake, which is when she reads their minds, and then a hug, which is where she offers a full-body healing. This automatically creates some drama and of course, puts Housemother Anne on a more leveled playing field to reach these "unreachable children".

If I'm up to it this month, I might post an excerpt. The story has been fun, since scriptwriting is bascially blocks of dialog with descriptions and props inserted here and there. Those of you reading my sister blog, Fiction Fusion, may have noticed my unintentional overflow, where the current serial of "Raising Rachel" has had several long blocks of simply dialog. My apologies! I've got scripting on the brain. ^_^ That, and I quite want to whack Rachel over the head for being such a dork. Oh well. I've done stranger things, I suppose.

Anyway, thanks for reading through my ramblings. My mind is a creative explosion at present and I only just realized it's been quite near a month since my last post. My original aim was to post at least once per week, but my life has a way of turning me upside down without warning at any given time. It's been a wild ride, but things are calming down enough for me to breathe. Two rather bittersweet songs come to mind, one of them being Steven Curtis Chapman's "Cinderella".

Happy Easter, God bless!



P.S. Prayers during the TN Tornado watch yesterday were very much appreciated. Thankfully, my family and I are all well and safe and it appears there are no serious damages, just lots of brush and branches in odd places, along with our missing garbage cans. Thank you so much! ^_^

Friday, April 10, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 6] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her blog, An Open Book. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: Happy Easter everyone-may you have a blessed weekend and some of those wonderful heart-stopping, completely-totally-God moments. ^_^ Sorry this week's installment is late, I've been fiddling and rewriting and fussing with our faulty internet connection. I couldn't quite flesh this piece out the way I wanted to, but hopefully the gist of the message comes through. I had a bit of fun with this piece, I do hope y'all enjoy it. Happy reading!

The face seemed faceless at first. Rachel didn’t bother to process beyond that, because the masked head stared at her for all of a split-second. Then reached around her and caught hold of Jeanette’s arm, dragging her out from under the bed.

“Hey! Let her go!” Rachel lunged for her legs, tangling up her arms in the straps of the duffel bag.
The carpet burned beneath her toes as Rachel was yanked out along the ground, holding onto Jeanette’s ankle.

“Oww! Let go!” Jeanette kicked Rachel’s hand away, failing against the masked assailant who was dragging her from the room.

Rachel staggered to her feet, shrugging off the duffel with another frantic wriggle. “Let her go now!” She threw herself forward before she saw the flash of silver. The blade grazed her arm as her hands clamped around the slender pair of shoulders.

She heard the scream, heard the snap and crackle, heard something slam into the wall. Her vision fuzzed, her head seemed to swell as if it would explode and then everything blanked out.

When her eyes could finally struggle open, she was lying flat on her back, gasping for breath and realizing that the room was upside down. When she tried to turn her head, a blinding pain rippled through her neck. She moaned. “Jeanette?”

It hurt to move her neck, but it hurt worse to stay as she was, so Rachel twisted again and the room righted itself as she tumbled over to the ground. She lay there, awkwardly sprawled as her mind reoriented itself with reality.

The scream had been hers. The slam had been hers…and the aching head. Rachel winced. She’d conveniently lost every ounce of energy coursing through her body and now wasn’t sure she wanted to know what had just happened.

There was a moan from somewhere behind her and then a whiney voice whimpered out. “W-what d-did you d-do t-t-o my h-hair!” The last word turned into a full-blown wail, before the speaker herself came into Rachel’s twisted line of sight.

A poof was the first thing Rachel saw and then somewhere in the middle of the crazy hair, was a small, familiar round face. The face had a mouth attached to it and words were streaming out, albeit somewhat stuttered at times in a way that Rachel didn’t really want to understand.

Thankfully, she didn’t have to, as the footsteps pounded up the stairs made her head ache even worse, but their arrival brought waves of relief that she desperately needed.

“Rach? Jean?” Thom’s voice echoed in the hallway. “Rachel! Jeanette?” The bedroom door burst open, chocking halfway with a muted thud.

Rachel winced. The pounding of the footsteps was louder now and the insistent padding was making her head hurt even worse…again. “Unk?” The word leaving her lips left a horrid taste in her mouth.

“Rachel!”

She felt him before she saw him and then his hands were feeling her forehead, neck and gently lifting her from the floor, supporting her until she was sitting straight up. Her lips tried to move to form an answer.

“Mr. Marsten!” Jeanette hovered at his elbow, both hands behind her head, trying to wrestle with her poof of hair.

Thom’s face slowly tightened into an expression of sudden and he grabbed his phone. “This is Marsten, emergency! Code twelve, point. Immediate response needed. Three females. Rachel Banner. Jeanette Ellis. Unidentified intruder, wearing black. Masked. Please advise.” He turned his attention towards the girls at once, apparently satisfied the intruder wasn’t about to revive and surprise them. “Rachel! What happened? Who’s that on the floor over here?”

“Mr. Marsten, he tried to choke me!” Jeanette danced around the room, arms flapping.
“Jeanette! Calm down!” Thom hurriedly swooped Rachel up to deposit her on the bed and then to chase the anxious pre-teen. “Jeanette! Jean! Please…calm down…you’ll need your inhaler if you keep that up!”

“I won’t need anything!” Jeanette twisted, trying to pull her wrists out of his strong grip. “I don’t know what’s going on!”

“Well that makes two of us.” Thom muttered. “Sit.” He tugged her towards the bed and gently pressed her shoulders downward for emphasis. “Sit now…please?”

Jeanette sat, then bounced up and sat again. Her eyes darted wildly about the room and then she finally stuck a finger in her mouth and began chewing the fingernail expertly. She couldn’t seem to settle down and Thom finally stepped back to let her bounce on the bed.

“Rachel?” Thom pressed a few buttons on a his pager and turned to cross the room to examine the fallen intruder. “What happened? Can you talk?”

“Mmmhmmhuphfff.” The words jumbled out of her mouth and Rachel was somewhat alarmed to find that even directing energy for the necessary actions of causing her lips to properly form to pronounce words was more than she could manage.

He frowned. “I’ll take that as a no…and no, Jeanette! No talking until you’re calmed down, I don’t need the exaggerated version of your story!” Jeanette scowled and then her finger dropped from her mouth and her lower lip stuck out in a pout. Thom merely raised an eyebrow in the direction of her twiddling toes. “Calm all the way down.” He added, pointedly.

“I take it that fellow in the corner isn’t here on an invitation?” His gaze swiveled back to the two girls occupying the twin guest bed. “Rachel?” A note of worry touched his voice. “Jeanette? Just nod…badguy?” But as he spoke, he was already cautiously inching forward, alert.

His cell phone rang before he reached the figure and he answered it quickly, the exchange taking no more than a minute before he flipped it shut and knelt to feel for a pulse. “He’s out cold…what did you girls do to him?” There was no answer and Thom didn’t bother to repeat himself as he reached for the black mask. “Now to let’s see who you are!”

A double gasp filled the room and Jeanette hopped up from the bed, her arms flapping again. “It’s a girl!”

“A woman.” Thom corrected. “Jeanette! Sit down….you’ll hurt yourself!” He tugged the mask all the way out and then felt her wrists. “Strange…I’ve never seen anything like it.”

His pager beeped and he hurried to the window, opening it to stick his head out. “Jared! Lucy! Up here…bring the others.”

There was more feet pounding through the house and upstairs and all around her. Rachel didn’t particularly care for them, but she didn’t have much of a choice either.

“Thom!” Pete took a quick inventory of his partner and then his gaze swept the room, settling on Rachel’s limp form on the bed. “Her or her?” He gestured towards the bed and then to the woman on the floor.

“Both…her first.” Thom pointed to the floor. “and then Rachel. She’s out cold...too cold, Rachel’s conscious.”

“What happened?” Pete leaned out the door to wave over the rest of the officers.

“Don’t know.” Thom moved aside as the paramedics took over, transferring the woman to a stretcher and beginning their work.

“I meant what were you doing here. You were on break.”

“The power failure.” Thom nodded towards the brightly lit

Lucy came and examined her, pronouncing her condition as unusually lucky with a hint of complete exhaustion.

Jared merely grunted and turned his attention on the still fussing Jeanette who’s story of the happening grew more exaggerated with each excited retelling.

“Complete exhaustion?” Thom stared at her in disbelief. “Lucy…I’d…I…you’re sure?”

Lucy shrugged. “Well, what else do you want me to say? She’s fine as far as I can tell!”

“Fine.” He repeated. “Okay, I’ll take fine.” His gaze flitted back and forth from her to Rachel, a slight smile tugged at his face. “And her voice? What’s with that?”

“She’s too tired.” Lucy repeated. “Complete exhaustion. She can’t even work up the energy inside of herself to construct a verbal response.”

“And that’s possible?” Thom brushed a few stray strands of hair from her face. “Rachel, honey? Did you hear that? You’ll be okay.”

There was a lot of whispers and even more mumbling, all of which was too low and quiet for Rachel to hear. And also, which was frozen solid in silence at the newest arrival. A distressed woman in an expensive suit. She pushed through the gaggle of paramedics and detectives at once, angling straight for Jeanette.

“Jeanie!” She grabbed her in a hug and promptly burst into tears.

“Mom!” Jeanette’s greetings were muffled in the burgundy shoulder and the childishness seemed to slowly melt away from her. “Mom…”

“Ally!” Thom exclaimed. “What are you doing here? Your mission…?” His face traveled through a kaleidoscope of emotions and colors, finally settling on a somewhat purple shade. “Please tell me the months of work we put in to set up a credible background and op for you wasn’t just ruined by overhearing a page you shouldn’t have paid attention to.”

The burgundy suited woman whirled around on him, her arms protectively around Jeanette. “That’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say, Thom? I entrust my daughter, my only child, my most precious thing on earth to you and when they’re nearly killed by some lady ninja, all you have to say is-”

The words were clear enough for Rachel to hear, but she found herself wishing that they weren’t. She didn’t really care to hear or see her already stressed uncle getting chewed out by some strange woman that could be his girlfriend.

“You weren’t supposed to compromise the mission for any reason!” Thom’s voice rose several octaves.

“And saving my daughter’s life wasn’t important enough for you?”

“She was with my niece!” The sudden rise of temper was slowly transforming into calculated replies. “Who, I might also add, was also included in this situation. Excuse me if I’m just as close to this situation as you are!”

“Your niece? You have a niece visiting here now? Which one, I must ask? The sensible smart, hard-working one or the troublemaker?”

“Take that back, Ally. You don’t know anything about-”

“I’ve read all your family files, Thom! Rooted out all your little family skeletons, I thought a girl ought to know all about a fellow before she got involved. Apparently in your case that does very little in ensuring-”

“You accessed my family files? On me? On Rachel?”

“Rachel? That’s the one? The troublemaker?”

“She’s not a troublemaker, Ally.” Thom was struggling to keep his temper.

Ally snorted. “Let me be the judge of that.”

“Thom…you might want to see this.” Pete cut into the argument. “Look at these photos…in this file…how’d they get here?”

“Wait a minute-” Ally tore away from Jeanette long enough to cross over to the room to see what Pete was showing. “Aren't these your case photos, Thom? What are they doing here? I thought the Cheif said they weren't supposed to leave the office." She flashed a red-lipped smile. "Very nice, Pete…what do you have to say to that, Thom? Huh?”

Rachel winced. That was enough confusion for the day, or so she thought, until she heard a new voice, talking very quietly, just into her ear in the corner of the bed where no one was paying any attention. A very familiar voice…one she desperately wanted to place.

“That was an extremely foolish and reckless thing to do.” It was Ben’s voice and Ben’s face, but he shouldn’t have been anywhere near her. Rachel tried to turn only to hear his growl. “Don’t! You’re exhausted to a point that shouldn’t exist!”

Tears pooled up and rimmed her eyes, the pain inside overwhelmingly trumping the confusion and aches on the outside.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Ben…and now’s not really the time.

“You’re lucky Mark’s keeping such close tabs on you.” He unscrewed something near her ears and a cold daub of something was liberally applied to her cheek.

A shudder passed through her, but she couldn’t coax her lips to protest and ask what it was and what he was doing.

“Don’t ask.” He murmured, dipping out another fingerful and slathering it generously across her face. “It’ll revive you and that’s all you need to know. I shouldn’t be hear, except for you’re on my watch and under my wings, therefore you’re my responsibility, but I don’t have to answer to Mark for you. Did you get the file?”

A burning dryness ripped through her throat and any other thoughts on actually answering vanished with a grimace. The coolness being applied to her face was helping in terms of motor control, for at least she could think clearly enough to understand where she was and what was happening to her.

Ben sighed. “I’ll take that as a yes, don’t try to talk yet, you haven’t absorbed enough of this goop yet. How’d you end up in this room? What were you doing here? I thought you’d at least try to be smart and hit the streets to keep things from heating up around here!”

Rachel tried to glare at him, pleased when it didn’t take as much effort as she thought it would. Her lips trembled and relief flooded through her again at the proof that her body was slowly returning to her own control.

“Never mind, don’t try to answer either of them.” Ben matched her glare with one of her own, rising to his feet in the crowded room. No one seemed to even realize the interaction between them and she was glad for that, because this new wave of disapproval completely wiped away any traces of earlier relief, nailing her to the guest bed with a look that promised painful things to come. “You’ve been carrying with your happy little normal life for awhile now.” His voice was dangerously calm. “Your time’s up, okay? Mark gave you a mission and my head was almost on the line when you nearly flat-lined because of a stupid rookie move. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about, because you’ll know a whole lot more than that, when I’m through with you.” He grabbed her hand, folding it so one finger stuck out. “Swallow this and zip it.” He ordered, dunking her finger in the small white container and transferring the finger to her mouth.

Bliss exploded inside her mouth and Rachel could only describe the feeling as everything being so beautiful, she thought it would break. White light seemed to be streaming down from everywhere and everything was so crystal clear, it almost hurt to hear it.

The yummy tasting glob slid down her throat and straight to her stomach with a frightening speed. As it traveled through her, Rachel felt a new tingling sensation spreading all throughout her until it reached her toes. A sudden sharp twinge on her feet jerked her upwards, clutching toward her ankles. “OW! Ben!”

The quiet conversation in the room halted as several pairs of eyes registered on her. “Who’s Ben?” Jared’s gravelly voice broke through her embarrassment.

“Glad to see you up…again.” Lucy forced a smile, hawk-like eyes sweeping over her entire form. “I don’t suppose you are feeling well enough to tell us your side of the story, are you?”

Rachel blushed. “Actually, um, I uh-” Her eyes landed on her duffel bag, open on the floor, the contents strewn about the floor around it. The clothes were tossed to the side and there were two officers examining the papers and speaking to Thom.

The blush deepened as Thom stepped away from Ally and moved towards her. “Rachel! I need some answers! Power failures, intruders and what else am I forgetting? What on earth happened here?”

Rachel wiggled a few fingers experimentally and then her toes, relieved to find that the foot pain was gone, a momentary distraction while she searched for an answer to satisfy the question she didn’t want to answer.

“Rachel.” Thom began warningly. “Now isn’t the time for one of your stories.”

Rachel closed her eyes for a moment, working up her temper. Her hands slowly curled into fists. “Why do you always assume that I’m lying?” She stumbled free from the bed, lurching to her feet. “And what are you doing to my stuff!”

Thom followed her line of sight to the duffel on the floor and the contents displayed beside them. “That’s yours?” Puzzlement showed clearly in his face. “Since when?”

“Question isn’t when, Thom.” Pete frowned. “It’s how.”

“Right.” Rachel said slowly. “Um, let’s just stick with that’s my private stuff and I don’t want anyone rooting about inside of it and if you don’t mind, I’d like to have it back, all of it and if you’ve got a problem with that, then you’ll need to get warrant or arrest me or something, because-”

“No need to get all uptight kid.” The junior officer offered a friendly smile. “We’re just curious.” His expression hardened. “Very curious how you managed to come across these photos.”

“Yeah, curious, isn’t it?” Rachel snatched the papers from his hands, dropping to her knees to retrieve her belongings.

“Rachel.” The iron had returned to his voice, with a commanding note she knew better than to ignore. “A word, please?” He moved to stand near the door, motioning out into the hallway.

Rachel hesitated. “Not without my stuff.” She crammed the clothes and papers into the duffel and forced her feet to carry her to the doorway and out into the hallway. Her Uncle was not happy in a way that made her stomach flip upside down.

There was a moment of silence between them.

He stood with his back to her, arms crossed over his chest, his head turned to the side.

Rachel slowly inched up to stand beside him. She couldn’t bear to meet his eyes, fearing to see what she was sure was there.

He gave a soft sigh and then finally he turned, arms unfolding. He reached over with one arm and pulled her close, whispering in her ear. “Rach, don’t answer until I tell you to. I understand you’ve been in some…unusual things before…and I’d wager this is one of them. Now, I’m not going to pretend I understand, but I’m not going to pretend I’m stupid either. Are you safe here? Just blink once.”

Rachel swallowed. Then blinked.

“Good girl. In case you haven’t noticed, you aren’t exactly making a whole lot of friends or good impressions on my friends. I’ll have Pete escort you to the motel safehouse. You should be fine there. I’ll be over soon and we’ll talk. Keep yourself together until then. Understand? Blink twice.”

Rachel bit her lip, processing the request. The last thing she wanted to go was go somewhere alone, where Ben would have more than an ample opportunity to pop in and make good on the threat she still didn’t quite understand. But staying held nothing but embarrassment on two different sides and a whole lot of questions she couldn’t answer without endangering more people than just herself.

She blinked twice.

“Good girl…now pretend you’re throwing a little temper tantrum.” But as he spoke, he rolled his eyes.

Rachel struggled to keep her expression neutral. “Okay.” She said slowly, hesitating. “Um, right.” She cleared her throat, speaking clearly. “So let me get this straight…you’re sending me away? I’m your niece! I came here to stay at your house and you’re sending me away? I don’t believe this!”

“There is to be no discussion on this, young lady.” Thom turned on his heel. “Pete! Need you to do me a favor.”

Pete appeared in the doorway, scowling. “Is it the kind of favor I don’t want to do?”

Thom forced a smile. “Maybe. Take Rachel to the safehouse at the Brick Motel. Make sure she’s safely inside before you head out.”

“Locking her up in a motel?” Ally muscled her way into the doorway next to Pete. There was a half-smirk on her face. “Some family you’ve got, Thom. When you’ve got to order them out of the way…lock them up in motels.”

Jeanette snickered. “That isn’t the half of it, Mom…you should have heard her this morning.”

Rachel felt her temper prickle and couldn’t help it. “Yeah, Mrs. Ellis…you should have heard Jeanette, whining and carrying on like a bratty little ten year old. Real smart kid you’ve got, no manners, no respect, doesn’t know when to quit. In fact, I think she’s taking right after you.”

Ally bristled. “That’s all the mouth I’m taking from you young lady, keep that up and I won’t need anything to-”

“To what? Throw me in jail? You judge me before you even see me? You talk about me as if I don’t exist? You’re treating me, an influential person in the life of the man you’re dating, as if I’m just trash? Junk? Useless? Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt, huh? People with good hearts who didn't just take strangers at face value? The last of a kind, I suppose. Well guess what? Uncle Thom's one of them and I have news for you-”

“And it’s called follow Pete right now before things get out of hand.” Thom’s hand clamped down on her shoulder, physically turning her around. “Go Rachel, now.” He gave her shoulder an extra squeeze. “Pete?”

His partner sighed. “I’m going…Thom, of all the…” He stopped. “Why do I bother?”

“Hey Marsten!” Jason’s head appeared over Ally’s shoulder. “I think you should take a look at this…the girl…she uh…” He swallowed. “You’re not going to believe this.”

“Try me.” Thom muttered, turning back towards the room. He paused in the door way. “Excuse me?” Ally shifted to the side, one arm still wrapped tight around Jeanette. “Thank you. Jason?”

“Right here. Stand right here and here…take a look at this...”

Thom shuffled to the side, copying the pose, tilting his head to the side and squinted at the chalk outline etched on the carpet floor. There were faint burn marks in several places, marks that showed very clearly through the chalk marks with his head held sideways. He swallowed. “Did you call the Chief?”

“Yeah.” Jason shrugged. “He’ll be over here in five minutes…hey, you okay? Marsten? Thom!”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

Friday, April 3, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 5] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by none other than the very person who started all this wonderfulness in the first place! Peej Wysong @ her blog : Patterings. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Well, I'm mostly on time for this week. Added a few really subtle twists, I won't get to the good ones until next week, because I'm still workin' on them. I hope you enjoy this 5th installment, I'm not quite sure how close the end is now, but it'll get there soon, lol. Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments and especially your feedback on the characters. I love hearing what you have to say. Thanks a bunch and have a lovely weekend! ^_^

Rachel thought she saw the funny little green men dancing before her eyes again. She summoned the energy to blink, twice and was relieved to see their faces fade away. A groan bubbled up and out at the sound of the doorbell’s insistent ringing echoing throughout the house.
Her mind ordered her to get to her feet and so she obeyed, even as it seemed her body rebelled. A fierce burning pain ripped from her shoulder to her arm, running down to her fingers. “Owww!” She slapped her hand on the wall, surprised, but then relieved as the wall was pleasantly cool and her hand was still burning.

A quick examination didn’t show much more other than her hand was perfectly fine on the outside and the doorbell didn’t stop ringing to allow her the luxury of examining it further. She hurried to the living room windows first, to try to get a peek at who was standing on the front stoop and when that failed, reluctantly inched to the front door.

A peek through the peephole didn’t help much, because the head belonging to the person ringing the doorbell was several sizes too small to be a sensible person, at least, Rachel reasoned. She winced at the sight of neon pink ribbons streaming from identical blonde pigtails.

I never should have gotten up…I should have stayed asleep. Always stay asleep…if I’m lucky, I’m hallucinating, right?

Her thoughts were no more coherent than her coordination, because she fumbled with the locks, fumbled with the deadbolt and couldn’t make her fingers wrap around the actual doorknob. The metal seemed to burn her fingers and finally, she tugged her shirtsleeve down and wrapped it around the knob to safely turn it.

The moment the door swung open, she saw the annoyance in person. A pre-teen girl, with eerily straight pigtails, a white denim jacket over a sparkly pink butterfly shirt and blue jeans with butterflies stamped along the seams, the sneakers, of course, were white and pink with butterflies as well.

Rachel blinked. All things dealing with pink and fuzzy things were beginning to make her head swim.

“It took you long enough!” The neon pink lips popped open to spurt out the answer. “What took you so long?”

“huh-wha?” Rachel jerked back as the girl pushed past her into the house. “Whoa! Hold up a minute here!” Her feet somehow moved quick enough to block the girl in the hallway. “Look, um, I have no idea who you are and um, there’s a power failure in the house right now, so actually-”

“The power’s on.” The girl snapped a wad of pink bubblegum. “And I like, practically live here!” She pushed past.

“What?” Rachel winced as little miniature stabs of pain dotted up and down her entire body. This was bad. She grimaced, staring at the disappearing pink and yellow polka-dotted backpack as it bounced merrily down the hallway on the shoulders of the little brat. “Um, wait! You can’t-” Her eyes traveled to the open door, and then back to the hallway. Another groan welled up inside. “This is so not happening!”

Rachel hurriedly yanked the doors shut, turning one of the locks and hurrying towards the kitchen, she skidded to a stop in the entry way, nearly tripping over the pink and yellow backpack littering the tiled floor.

The girl in question was standing on a wooden chair and rooting through the top of the cupboards. “Make sure you lock the front door.”

The cranky side of Rachel shoved itself to the front and she stepped over the backpack into the kitchen. “Gladly…as soon as you’re on the other side of it! Down and out! Just walking into random people’s houses is a really bad habit to cultivate.”

“Not any worse than being perpetually rude all the time.”

“I’m not being rude, you are! I don’t know who you are and yet you’re here inside my-”

“I’m not supposed to tell that to strangers.” The pig-tailed hair snapped around to glare at her with light green eyes. “Who are you?”

“I asked first!” Rachel began fumbling in her pocket for the cell phone. “Look, um-”

“I’m supposed to stay here because my mom is off trying not to get killed while she’s makin’ the world a safer place for kids like me.” The head turned back to the cupboard and a moment later, she stepped down from the chair, triumphant, with a box of poptarts in her hand.

“And your mom is…?”

“None of your business.” The girl said cheerfully. “And since I don’t know who you are and I’m not supposed to be talking to strangers, and Mr. Marsten said not to-”

“Mr.Marsten? As in Thom Marsten?” Rachel flipped the cell phone open, her finger hovering on the redial button.

“Yeah.” For the first time, the girl stared up at her and a flicker of something different skimmed across her face. “What’s it to you?”

Rachel tried to keep her voice even. “He’s my uncle.” She smiled as nicely as she could. “And I'm his niece. I'm visiting, which means that currently, I live here. He didn’t tell me anything about you…which would mean that-”

“Yeah, well that’s probably because you were asleep.”

“What?” One hand clenched into a fist.

“Oops.”

“What oops?” Rachel took a step forward. “Look, what’s your name, kid?”

“Um, well…I don’t exactly have a name, my mom calls me berrybunch, Mr. Marsten calls me-”

“What. Is. Your. Name?” Rachel bit the words off one at a time. “And how did you know I was sleeping?”

“Because you’re always sleeping.” The girl flashed a smile, ripping open the box of poptarts and heading for the toaster. “Which is kinda dumb, because-”

“What?” Rachel jammed the redial button and closed her eyes for a moment, as she leaned against the counter. “I wouldn’t exactly call sleeping, dumb, because-”

“I’m sure Mr.Marsten would’ve told you something if you’d just wake up once in awhile. Really, I mean, who sleeps for three days?”

“How did you know I slept for three days?” Rachel was surprised to hear her voice becoming rather calm as she listened to her uncle’s cell phone ring repeatedly.

“Because I’ve been here for the past three days? Duh!” The girl plunked the two sugary specimens into the toaster and jammed the handle down.

“You knew I was sleeping, or I would be sleeping and yet you still came and rang the doorbell?”

“Well, Mr. Marsten is usually here, or at least Jared and Lucy.”

“Jared and Lucy.” Rachel repeated. Her headache began to work its way back into her head. “And anyone can sleep for three days.”

“and stay alive?” The girl rolled her eyes. “Yeah right.” She jammed the toaster handle again. “What’s wrong with this thing?”

“It’s broken.” Rachel scowled. “Which you should know, if you’ve been coming here for the past three days…the crumbs in the bottom are way old.” She scowled and snapped the phone shut. Her uncle wasn’t answering…yet. “That stuff’s way too sweet you know, it’ll give you cavities.”

“Yeah, yeah and drinking club soda will make my eyebrows fall out.” There was another eye roll. “Been there…heard that, nice try, but you’re not my mother.”

“No, but I’m pretty sure that I’m older than you. Much older!” Rachel moved to the other side of the counter to retrieve her ceramic mug. She filled it with the bottled water on the counter next to her uncle’s coffeemaker.

“Are you making coffee? Can I have some?”

“NO!” Rachel glared at her. “I’m just making some….some…” She scanned the kitchen cupboard still open, in front of her. “Some cappuccino and no, you can’t have any.”

“Why?” The girl was now rummaging through the utensil drawer.

Rachel felt the queasy feeling in her stomach return. “Because you’re….too young…shouldn’t get addicted to caffeine this early in life.”

“You’re addicted?” The green eyes grew wide. “Oh my-”

“Don’t finish that!” Rachel snapped, she flipped open the cell phone again and began to dial her uncle’s number manually.

“Isn’t cappuccino, like, really sweet though?”

“No, those are lattes.”

“Lattes are sweet?”

“I guess.”

“How can you guess?”

“Because I don’t like them?”

“Why don’t you like them?”

“Because they taste like coffee!”

“Why don’t you like coffee?”

“Because I drink cappuccino.”

“Why do you drink cappuccino?”

“Because I’d rather drink my sugar than eat it.” Rachel frowned. “and don’t you dare poke that knife in the toaster, you’ll electrocute yourself!”

“Says who?” The girl griped. “I’ve done it a million times and I’m still alive…unlike you.”

Rachel paused in mid-movement towards the microwave. “I’ll pretend,” She began. “That you didn’t say that, because if you really did, I don’t care whether I really do know who you are and whether you’re really telling the truth, but I don’t have to-” Her cell phone beeped and she quickly put the phone to her ear. “Unk? It’s Rach…actually, um, there’s this kid here…”

There was a smug smile on her cherub face when Rachel slowly flipped the phone shut. “Told ya.” She smirked. “But ya didn’t believe me.”

“Because most sensible people, Jeanette, actually properly introduce themselves and don’t go around insulting strangers.” Rachel whirled on her heel, yanking the microwave door open to deposit the cup of water. Her fingers had no sooner graced the keypad for the minute long operation, when the traditional flicker traveled through the lights and everything blacked out. Again.

“Yikes.” Jeanette snickered. “You really know how to make things exciting, dontcha? No wonder you’re so grumpy, I’d hate myself too if I had to live a life like yours.”

“I am not even going to dignify that with an answer.” Rachel forced the words through gritted teeth. “And I like my life, there’s nothing….wrong with it.”

“Sure.” Jeanette drew the word out. “I know. So, can you turn the power back on?”

“No.”

“What?”

“It’s a breaker tripped or something…and it’s in the laundry room, I don’t go down there.”

There was a snort in the now half-shadowed kitchen. “Why not? Scared I’ll lock you downstairs?”

“Locking you downstairs actually sounds like a good idea.” Rachel frowned. “We must be using too many appliances at once.”

“I thought you said the power was out before.”

“It was.”

“But then it came back on.”

“Yeah…?”

“By itself?”

“Well…” Rachel felt her face heat and she was glad for the sudden lack of light.

“So all we have to do is wait for it to come back on by itself?”

“I don’t know!”

“Well you should!”

“Says who!”

“Says me! I’m starving!”

“Eat your poptarts.”

“Want one?”

“No! I hate poptarts.”

“Why?”

“Jeanette, I really don't want to discuss this right now."

"Wow. You're getting all serious on me."

"I am dead serious!"

"I know!" There was a giggle. "You're like this, um-"

"Jeanette…!”

“So this breaker thing is in the laundry...”

“In the electrical box near the washing machine.” Rachel sighed. “Uncle Thom said he’d be over here on his break, so all we have to do is wait for him to come so he can go downstairs and flip the switch back.”

“Why can’t we go and flip the switch back?”

“There is no ‘we’.”

“You said it first.”

“Just eat the poptart!”

“Why do you care? I could starve to death and you wouldn’t care!”

“I care right now, because if your mouth is full, then you can’t keep talking.”

“I can too.”

“No, you can’t. Because it’s rude and bad manners.”

“So?”

“Are you completely clueless about-”

“I’m fourteen years old. Just because I look small doesn’t mean I’m stupid! Good grief! You treat me like a ten-year-old!”

“maybe because you’re acting like one!”

“Am not!”

“I am not going to say, are too!”

“D2.” Jeanette chuckled. “Haha, gotcha!” She chomped down on an untoasted pop tart. “Tell you what, where’s the flashlight?”

“I’m not telling you.”

“Why not? It could be important to-”

“If you come here often enough, you should know and if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell
you, because you’re not going down stairs to flip that breaker and I’m not going to bother to go through the motions of pretending to stop you!”

“Do you always talk this much?”

“Only when provoked.” Rachel couldn’t take the exchange another minute. “I’m going where there’s more light. Don’t stay here by yourself.”

Jeanette snorted. “Well, it’s sure not like I’m coming with you!”

“Acutally.” Rachel whirled around, one hand reaching out to clamp on the skinny jacketed arm. “I think you are. March.” She pulled her forward.

Caught off guard, Jeanette stumbled forward, awkwardly behind her. “Hey!”

“Just shut up, would you!” Rachel pulled her to living room and let go when she flopped onto the sofa, facing the front windows.

“Touchy, much?” Jeanette growled. She pulled her feet up onto the sofa and munched her poptart with a dark glare in Rachel’s direction.

The ringing of her cellphone caught her off guard and Rachel quickly answered it. “Unk?...oh…um, hi. Sure. Actually, now’s not a really good time…no, I mean that now really isn’t a good time for me to-what? That isn’t funny-I…okay, okay, I get the message.”

She flipped the phone shut. There wasn’t too much she could do with that. At least not anything she really wanted to do. Her gaze automatically flickered in Jeanette’s direction and her shoulder’s drooped. The sofa was empty and Rachel didn’t exactly feel like tracking down the smart-mouthed tween.

Her conscience pricked her after a long, quiet moment and with a stifled groan, she rolled to her feet once more. The strange prickling sensation dotted her arms and legs, for a moment, then faded away as she strolled back to the kitchen.

She checked the junk drawer to verify that a flashlight was missing. Jeanette really had been around long enough to know. Rachel shook the thought from her head. Her uncle did favors for people, yes, but he’d never, ever taken in a stray before.

A slight shudder traveled through her.

Surely he couldn’t be…dating someone? Nah…that’s ridiculous.

But the thought refused to leave her and Rachel wearily trooped towards the spare kitchen pantry. The door the basement beside it was wide open. “Oh come on!” Rachel armed herself with one flashlight and inched towards the first step.

“Boo!”

“Ahhh!” Rachel yelped, jerking back as light exploded in front of her face. She found herself sitting on the brightly light tile floor with a laughing Jeanette lounging against the doorjamb. “You little-!” All thoughts and good intentions flew at once from her mind. The annoyance was indeed a brat.

“Hey, no name calling!” Jeanette frowned. “Dudette…can’t you take a joke?”

“That wasn’t a joke.” Rachel painfully eased forward, now the pounding in her head was worse and her tailbone hurt. “Jokes don’t hurt people.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” Jeanette asked, sarcastically. “Yeesh, it was just a joke! I was just trying to scare you…besides, we needed the power back on.”

“Correction, you needed the power back on. I was just fine without it!”

Jeanette shrugged. “Okay, so I needed the power back on-”

“That’s not all you’re going to need!” Rachel growled, surging up from the floor. “You might need a whole lot more than you-”

The lights went out.

Rachel blinked. Her eyes had only just begun to readjust to the brightness and now her surroundings had been returned to darkness. Her stomach rumbled. Rachel frowned. “Jeanette?”

“I’m right here in front of you!” Jeanette sighed loudly. “Right here!” She waved both hands in front of her face.

“Hey!” Rachel jerked back. “Don’t do that!”

“I wasn’t going to, but you were the one that couldn’t see me.”

Something clicked, echoing through the house and Rachel heard the front door creaking open. “Yes!” Jeanette pumped a fist in the air. “Mr. Marsten!” She exclaimed, turning and running for the entry way.

The bad, queasy feeling quadrupled and Rachel launched herself after her without a second thought. The reason for the phone call was making sense. She caught the tween before she could round the corner and surprisingly wrestled her back towards the linen closet. “Wait!” She hissed into her ear. “Unk should’ve called me if he arrived…”

Jeanette twisted away from the hand over her mouth. “and why would he call you? Nobody would ever call you! Nobody would ever want to talk to you!”

Rachel replaced her hand over her mouth. “Shhh! I just have a bad feeling about-” She froze and felt Jeanette stiffen beside her. Rachel had pulled them into the little alcove near the linen closet and the crouching shadow approaching them didn’t look very uncle-like.

The breath in her lungs threatened to expire, but Rachel didn’t dare breath. Breathing was too loud…too dangerous.

Jeanette squirmed closer as the owner of the shadow rose to full height and passed right by them, continuing into the house. A soft squeak was muffled in Rachel’s hand as Jeanette grew unnaturally still.

Rachel took a cautious breath and swallowed. Her mind was clicking into gear, in spite of the atrocious headache and it was screaming every possible defense at her that she could take. “Need to get upstairs.” Rachel mouthed, when the shadow detoured towards the kitchen.

“Out!” Jeanette argued, fear showing plainly in her eyes.

“Noisy.” Rachel whispered back, pantomiming the door.

Jeanette inched closer, shaking her head.

Rachel pointed towards the stairs and crept forward, cat-quiet. She motioned for Jeanette to go first and put a finger to her lips. Panic registered on Jeanette’s face, but Rachel pushed her forward anyway, turning to keep watch.

They made it upstairs quickly and Rachel pulled her down the hall to her guest room instead. “Under the bed.” She hissed, softly. “Quick.” She darted to the dresser and retrieved the file folder and duffel bag, shoving it under the bed after Jeanette. “Stay as quiet as you can.” She fumbled with the cellphone, crawling down under the bed with her.

“Isn’t this a bad idea?” Jeanette inched closer to her. “I mean, couldn’t we be cornered?”

“Burglars don’t look under guest beds in strange houses.” Rachel whispered back. “Especially if they’re really just here to steal something.” She dialed the emergency number for her uncle and keyed in the number code he’d given her. It was answered with two short beeps to mean he was on his way.

“What if they do now?”

“Shh!” Rachel tugged the bedskirt down a bit, checking to be sure no feet or hands were visible from where she was.

“What’s in the duffel?”

“Nothing. Hush.”

“There’s something in there.”

The door creaked open and Rachel pinched her arm to focus clearer. Jeanette curled her fingers around her wrist, gripping tighter as the footsteps crossed the room. They listened in silence as the intruder rummaged through the empty closet and opened the dresser drawers.

They almost let out a breath, as the steps went towards the door and then stopped. There was a deliberate pause and then the footsteps came back and stopped right in front of the bed as the intruder knelt down and lifted the bedskirt.

For the second time that day, Rachel lost the ability to think coherently as her breath froze and Jeanette cut off all circulation in her left arm.

Oh sugar snap!

© Sara Harricharan