When Tis Done – Part 78

When Tis Done cover smallNeil sets Marissa and Chase on a task of charming the necklaces, while he and Brian prepare the meeting area. They talk about why Chase is so obstinate, and Brian blames himself.

Neil smiled. “Kid, this is not all on you and you aren’t allowed to take the blame. Sure, that hurt. It probably affected him some, but that isn’t enough. I wonder, sometimes, looking back, if our folks started teaching us too early. I was four when I started my first lessons. Chase was five or six. It changes your perspective somewhat. I believe it’s important to teach our children, but maybe some middle ground before they mature, but after they have a few years on them. Trouble is, we don’t have a handbook for this. We play it all by ear.”

“How did they do back in the day?”

“Back in ancient times, we lived in closed communities and raised our young to know what was what from birth. But we weren’t trying to fit into normal society. Some of the remote Circles, those that live in less developed areas of the world, can do that. Around here, they’d think they had another Wako on their hands and send in the FBI to rescue our kids.”

The door to the shed opened below, Chase and Marissa came out smiling and holding hands. Neil and Brian pretended not to notice. Neil popped the top off a couple of IBC root beers and handed them each one when they sat down.

“Done. Good job on the necklaces,” Chase said. “They needed a little tweaking, but otherwise, they were fine. Marissa got the charms on them and they are ready to get the new stuff tonight.”

“I got to thinking,” Marissa said quietly. “These necklaces are good, but they can be damaged or torn off. What we really need is some sort of ward on our skin—like a tattoo.”

“Only not quite as archaic,” Chase concluded. “Mar had an idea.”

“There is a spell for a charm to be infused in the skin. I’m not entirely sure how it’s done, but I bet one of our parents would know. If this is something we’re really worried about, we should do that.”

“I agree,” Neil said. “We’ll discuss it tonight when the Texas party arrives. I think the necklaces would make a good option, but I’m not averse to two lines of defense. Brian?”

“I agree. Good idea, Marissa.”

“I’m going to go check on Jordan,” she said and stood up rather suddenly.

The men hopped to their feet as she left, settling back once more. No one knew what to say. Neil was waiting for the boys to bridge their gap, only acting as a moderator. When it became obvious that neither of them knew what to say, he decided he should.

“Brian and I laid the wards around the fire pit, but it wouldn’t hurt to double check them. Do you know what your dad used to use?”

“Yeah. I could do that.”

“Why don’t you and Brian work on that? I’m gonna go see if the ladies need help.”

The boys put their empty bottles in the recycling bin and trotted down the steps. Neil stood on the deck, casting his focusing spell before going inside. The women didn’t need his help, but he knew the boys needed time alone. He also knew that if he helped out, they would let him act as official taster, a job he had always loved. Not only that, he needed to be close to his wife. He’d never experienced this sort of thing before. Whether it was part of their bonding, or because he was finally able to show her how much he loved her, he didn’t know. He’d learned not to question.

The women were in the kitchen. Cynthia was next to the stove, stirring something mysterious in a big pot. It smelled good, but he had been taught as a child, not to taste things without asking what they were. A useful lesson, since sometimes his mother wasn’t preparing food. Sidling up behind her, he put his arms around her, nuzzling her cheek.

“Smells almost as delicious as you.”

Giggling, Cynthia gave him a taste. It was smooth, silky and sweet. Licking his lips, Neil tried to analyze the flavors as Brian had.

“Chocolate….” that was obvious and easy. “Cinnamon. Little bit of orange essence.” He licked his lips once more. “What is that? It’s delicious.”

“A pudding to go between the layers of the cake. I’m glad you like it. It’s my own recipe.” She gave him another taste.

Neil closed his eyes, savoring the flavor. “I wouldn’t mind licking that off…um. Sorry,” he whispered.

“I’ll save some,” she whispered back.

Marissa tightened up, but Jordan patted her hand. Neil and Cynthia were newlyweds, after all. She could only imagine how she and Brian would be once they finally gave in to their passion. Looking outside, she saw Brian and Chase coming up the back steps. They were laughing and joking like they had before the intensity of their reltionship drove them apart. Unable to stop herself, Jordan rushed to the sliding glass door and let them in. She gave Brian a quick kiss, hugging him tightly.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Truth, As Strange As Fiction: What’s In A Name

Cereal Authors

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I never liked my name. I can’t really say why but I thought it might have something to do with my father always teasing me. He turned my name Janice into a twisted version of it but calling me Janoose The Goose! Yes, a goose.   babyhueybh

From the start I acquainted it with the cartoon character, Baby Huey, a large goofy duckling unable to fly. Baby Huey was meant to be laughed at. So you can see why I was upset.

My father smiled when he said it, and I’m sure he didn’t mean it the way I took it. Every time he’d come into a room I was in by myself he would greet me with, “Hello Janoose The Goose.”

 Why it was so amusing to him, I’ve never figured out. But I was five and did not know how to explain it to him. But maybe he didn’t like…

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When Tis Done – Part 77

When Tis Done cover smallThe teens head to Neil and Cynthia’s house. Jackie is there, waiting, and helps comfort Jordan. Neil takes Brian, Chase and Marissa to the backyard, setting Chase and Marissa the task of making necklaces, while he and Brian talk. He tells Brian that he has the skill to keep people on task, and was able to do it, even when he wasn’t in the Circle.

“How? That would be handy.”

Neil grinned, showing Brian what to do. After a few false starts, he managed to cast the easy, basic spell. Nodding approval, Neil led him to a table near the picnic area.

“We need to scatter this in and around the fire, as well as around the circle where we sit. I have no clue what any of it is, so don’t ask. I’m doing what my wife told me. I’ve found it’s easier just to say yes, ma’am, and do the job without arguing. Not that I would…. I don’t ask questions, either.”

“I recognize this stuff. Salt with cumin,” he pointed to one bag. “This is ground, dried rowan berries that looks like it’s been mixed with something else.” He sniffed delicately, closing his eyes. “Oak, Ash and Thorn.”

“How can you tell by smelling it? Or looking at it?”

Brian shrugged, shaking his head. “I can smell things and identify them. I can see the resonance of each one, all blended together. I’ve never used it like this before, but I see the advantages of powder. That is ivy and holly leaves and berries.” He pointed to another soft cloth bag. “And this….” He sniffed delicately. “Ew! Not sure what that is, but it stinks. Bitter.”

“That one I know,” Neil said. “That’s alum, also known as potash. Like I said, I have no clue what this stuff is for, I’m just putting it down.”

They each picked up a cloth bag and started scattering the contents as Cynthia had instructed Neil to do.

“The oak, ash and thorn is a blend of sacred woods, often used for protection. It’s a trinity, of sorts. The rowan is also for protection. The ivy and holly serve a similar purpose. All of them combined make for extra layers of protection. I don’t know what the alum is for and I’ve never heard of the fairy dust. I wish that my parents had taught me more when I was a kid.”

“I learned all kinds of stuff, but I don’t remember it. I put that behind me.” Shaking his head, Neil stopped working. “You have no idea what it was like, not being chosen.”

Brian clapped a big hand on the other man’s shoulder. “No, I don’t. And you have no idea what it was like to have all these weird things happening with no clue what it was all about. I don’t know why my folks kept me in the dark—or Jordan’s.”

“I think I know why. They had to know that there was something different, unique about you. The Dreams, nightmares, that wasn’t normal. Maybe something that Claude told them made them think that keeping your powers secret was safer for you? I know with Jordan, Heath and Jackie didn’t want to accept that she was the one, but they also recognized that she had special gifts that set her apart. If they raised her as a regular kid, she wouldn’t view herself as anything else. She wouldn’t stand out and become a target.”

Brian nodded, realizing that was true. As much attention as they attracted when their powers woke, it had probably been a good idea. “One thing that our folks did teach us, was how to fight. I’m grateful for that. Even if I didn’t have special powers, I know how to kick someone’s ass.”

Neil chuckled. “I’ll bet you do. You look like a man who knows what he’s doing. Can you shoot a gun?”

Brian snorted. “You grew up with my dad, what do you think?”

“I think you’re a crack shot who won’t fold under pressure.”

“I do okay,” Brian smiled modestly.

“I’ll set up a range one of these days. Then you can show me what you’ve got.”

They finished their job and put the bags away, leaving Chase and Marissa on their task. They sat on the deck and popped open a couple of root beers.

“That should take another hour or so,” Neil said with a smirk, tipping his head at the shed. “You still intent on throwing them out?”

“I don’t want to. Next to Jordan and me, they’re the strongest and most skilled couple we have. The others are good, but there’s something special about those two. I don’t want to throw them out, and I don’t want to lose either of one them, but if they can’t fix their relationship, they’re no good to me. They make us vulnerable.”

“Agreed. I’ve tried talking to Chase, but he’s unreachable. I don’t know where it went wrong. Losing his dad hurt him, but that’s not the only issue. Sure, he’d like to get laid, but what man doesn’t? You’ve been around him more than anyone. What do you think?”

Brian shook his head. “I’ve asked myself a million times. I don’t know—except…. Shit, could it really be that simple?”

“How simple?”

“We were talking once, when we were kids. He tried to tell me how he was special, things he could do, that sort of thing. I laughed at him and told him he was making it all up. I didn’t believe him. You know how kids are. I teased him unmercifully for a full summer over that conversation. I think we were seven? I made all kinds of fun, putting him down and giving him shit. The entire time, I really did believe him, but I didn’t want to, because I wanted to be special, too.” He put his face in his hands, groaning softly. “I was horrible. When my dad found out, he tore my ass up and gave me a big lecture about how it wasn’t right to make fun of others. That lesson stuck and I backed off. But I wonder now. Did I do that?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 76

When Tis Done cover smallBrian and Dora go to the security office and view the security tape. They realize that Lien might have done this so that she will be put in jail near her father. They decide that’s the worst thing that could happen, so Dora alters the recording. Also, they find out that Steve Wilke, the security guard, is the brother of a Circle member in Ohio.

“Thanks, Mar. You’re a good friend.”

“Was it Lien?” Marissa asked.

“Yes. Oh, funny thing about Steve Wilke, he’s one of us. Well, his sister is the chosen one for their Circle, but he knows about us.”

“I never got that vibe off him,” she admitted. “You’re sure?”

“Positive. I’m still not sure….” He shook his head, not wanting to give in to his paranoia. “We’ll treat him as a friend an ally unless he proves he’s not. He gave me a copy of the footage and Dora blurred the other stuff.”

“Why? Don’t we want this bitch locked up?” Jordan demanded.

“Not if it means she’ll have access to her father. She could do some mojo of her own and get him released. Do we really want that?”

“No,” Marissa said. “I can’t help thinking the best place for that girl is far away from her brother, father and us.”

“Couldn’t agree more. Let’s see if the cops will let us go. If our dads are here, maybe we can leave. I’ll ask.” Brian hopped out of the car and approached the police officer in charge.

“Sure, kid. You take your little girlfriend home. She seems pretty torn up.”

“She’s miserable, sir. Thank you. Dad, can I borrow your car and take her home?”

“Sure. Heath can give me a ride home. Jackie’s waiting at Aunt Cynthia’s house.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you there.” Brian shook hands with the officer and took his father’s keys.

Chase joined him. “I guess we’re going to Aunt Cynthia’s.” He chuckled as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Looks that way. You okay, babe?” Brian asked, gazing at Jordan in the rearview mirror.

“Yeah. Mostly.”

“It will be okay. Your mom’s not going to be angry. Your dad’s not mad at you, she won’t be either.”

“I know!” She burst into tears again, clinging to Marissa.

Brian drove cautiously out of the parking lot and rushed a little to get to Cynthia and Neil’s house. He pulled up near the steps and was met by Jackie and Cynthia. Flinging the door to the backseat open, Jackie dragged her daughter out, enfolding her in comforting arms.

“It’s okay, baby girl. Mom’s here now. Don’t worry. It’s okay.” She hugged and kissed her daughter until Brian was afraid she’d strangle her by accident.

Cynthia seemed to have the same thought. She pulled Jackie away and led them into the house.

“Boys, meet Neil in the back yard. Marissa, you go with.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused.

Neil was by the bonfire, sprinkling a sparkling, gray powder on the ground. “Careful. Not too close. I’m not sure how stable this stuff is. It already sparked a couple times.” He finished what he was doing and washed his hands at the outside tap.

“What is that?” Marissa asked.

“Not sure what’s in it. Cynthia simply calls it Fairy Dust. It’s this stuff that she and Cliff used to mix up for spells and rituals. Not used very often, because its volitile and sparks easily.”

“And you put it by the fire?” Marissa yelped.

“As instructed by my wife,” Neil said. “Me, I’d keep it locked up like explosive ordnance.”

“What can we help with?” Chase asked.

“I heard we needed more necklaces, so I’ve been working on them. Cliff made me one years ago, but the ones he made y’all are a little different. I need for y’all to check them and then help me put the basic wards on them. I’m not too good at that yet.”

“I’m shit at that,” Brian confessed. “Marissa is really good at it, though. Chase—he’s garbage.” He chuckled as his friend punched his arm. “But he knows how to make the necklaces.”

“In here,” Neil said, guiding them into the shed. He pushed Marissa and Chase ahead, pulling Brian out as he closed the door.

They were so engrossed in the task, they didn’t notice that they were alone. Neil tugged Brian a little further away before speaking.

“I think they need some time to work together and not fight. This is a simple task they can work on together. They won’t notice we’re missing for awhile.”

“How do you know?”

“Cause one thing I’m damn good at is keeping people focused on a task. Even when I wasn’t in the Circle, I could do it. I kept my people on task and alert with very little effort. Simple as making toast.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 75

When Tis Done cover smallAfter school, they come out to the parking lot to find out that Lien has vandalized Jackie’s car by throwing eggs on it. She also wrote a nasty message on the windshield, with a crosshairs over the driver’s side.

Once the police took over and started going over the car, Officer Wilke took Dora and Brian to the security office. Chase didn’t feel comfortable leaving the girls on their own, so he stayed in the parking lot, watching the crowd, which hadn’t dispersed as they’d been told. Trying his own mind mojo, he spoke a few key students, telling them to get their friends and go. Surprised, he watched as they walked silently away. He was feeling a bit cocky when he felt a creeping sensation up his spine. Turning around and spotted Lien not far away.

Her face was twisted in a snarling smile as she watched Jordan sob over the car. Not trusting himself to speak to her, Chase simply glared in her direction, projecting his anger toward her. It was satisfying to watch her flinch away. Go, he thought at her. Go away now. Once again, he was startled when she complied. He put his arms protectively around Jordan and Marissa, adding his comfort.

In the security office, Dora and Brian waited impatiently for Steve to find the pertinent footage. He backed it up nearly an hour, then ran it fast forward until he saw the first splat of egg land on the car. One camera didn’t give the proper angle, but another one, on the other side of the lot, did. The resolution was a little fuzzy, but it was still quite obviously Lien. But another person was with her, the so called housekeeper, Su. Both women seemed to enjoy the activity a great deal. Lien climbed on the hood and wrote the message on the glass with red paint. She laid one hand fully on the glass to support herself.

“She left a perfect set of prints,” Brian said. “Who would be that sloppy?”

“Either she doesn’t know about fingerprints,” Steve Wilke said, “Or she doesn’t give a damn. That right there, plus the footage, is enough to bring her up on charges. Throw her in jail next to her dad.”

“What if that’s what she wants?” Brian said. “Could she want to see him so badly, she’s willing to act out like this? She told us that she’s not allowed to see him. He doesn’t want her at the jail. What if she wants to go there?”

“Then it’s probably the one place she shouldn’t be,” Wilke concluded. “Look, I know there’s weird shit going on. I haven’t had this job for three years not to know when things aren’t normal. Not that things are ever quite normal here.” He sighed, shaking his head. “I watch and I know, but I won’t say anything. I have family members who are special, too.” He eyed Brian. “I look like an ordinary school security officer….”

“Steve, you’ve been a huge help,” Dora interrupted him.

Brian could tell she was trying her mind mojo on the security officer, but he just smiled.

“It doesn’t work on me, Dora. I go along with it, but it never has. Trust me. My sister belongs to a Circle in Cincinnati. I will help you in any way I can. Right now, I think that the worst thing in the world would be for that girl to have access to her father. What do you want me to do with this footage?”

“Save us a copy and I’ll deal with the original,” Dora said.

“Sure thing.” Steve copied the entire day for them, handing it to Brian on a disc. “I can erase this,” he suggested.

“No, I think we need to simply alter it a little,” Dora replied. “If it’s erased, it will be suspicious. I can’t manipulate everyone who comes in contact with it. And sorry about that.”

“It’s okay. I know you’re only doing it to keep the kids safe.” He finished making a copy of the video, handing a disc to Brian.

Dora sat down and did some quick fiddling with the video, somehow blurring the image of Lien and Su.

“Nifty,” Steve complimented. “I’d better get back out there before someone starts to ask uncomfortable questions. You call if you need me.” He handed Brian a business card with his name and number. “I may not be in a Circle, kid, but I still know a few things.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll remember that.” He shook Steve’s hand, smiling.

Reaching out with his other senses, he took a reading of the man, hoping that Steve wouldn’t mind. Instead of meeting a wall of confusion or deception, he found an open door and Steve invited him in. Approaching warily, Brian looked around a few seconds before retreating.

“Sorry,” he whispered in his mind. “I had to be sure.”

“I understand, kid,” the officer replied.

Brian didn’t let on, but he got the impression that although Steve Wilke was doing his best to be open with them, he was hiding something. Whether it could hurt them or not, Brian didn’t know. He’d treat Wilke as an ally, but watch him, too.

When they got back outside, they found that Miles and Heath had arrived and were talking to the police. Jordan was in her father’s car with Marissa. Chase was near their fathers, listening and watching intently. Brian joined the girls, hopping in the back seat with them. Jordan flung herself at him, burying her face in his shirt. Sobbing and gulping, she clung to him. Brian stroked her hair, talking quietly to her.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 74

When Tis Done cover smallLien’s behavior is much less sweet and more snarly today. Brian collected a hair off the housekeeper’s clothing, and Jordan figures out how Scott might help. He’s a zoologist, but he also has vast knowledge of Asian mythology.

“Hi, Scott!”

“Baby sis, to what do I owe this rarity?”

“Oh, please. I text you all the time.”

“Yeah, well….” he waited for an explanation. “How can I help?”

Very quickly, she gave him a rundown. Scott listened intently. She could hear computer keys clicking as he looked something up.

“You said you got a hair sample off the woman?”

“Yes.”

“Can you get one from Lien?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

“It would give us more to go on. If not, we’ll use what we’ve got. I have a couple ideas already, but let me do some more investigating. Jordan, watch your back. If this is what I think it is…. Be careful.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t want to speculate. Just watch yourselves. I’ll call you after school, okay?”

“Okay. You’re scaring me, Scott.”

“No fear allowed. Lemme talk to Brian?”

“Okay….” She handed the phone over. “He wants to talk to you.”

“Hi, Scott?”

“Yeah, hi. Listen…. If this is what I think it might be, Jordan could be in serious trouble. Does she have protection against posession?” He mumbled the last word so quickly, Brian almost didn’t hear it.

“Um…. yeah. I mean, as much as it’s possible. I think?”

“Okay, I’m going to talk to Mom and bounce some ideas around. I’ll be there by six. I’m leaving now.”

“Thank you, Scott.”

“Family takes care of family,” he replied. “You watch out for my baby sister, or there’s no hole deep enough for you to hide in.”

“I understand. Count on it.”

After school, the four of them walked out to Jordan’s car together. A crowd had gathered around the vehicle. When one of her theatre buddies spotted her, she rushed over.

“Jordan, oh, honey, it’s awful!”

“What? Kayley?” She started running.

Brian followed her, catching up as she saw her mother’s car. It was covered in dozens of raw eggs. Still fairly fresh, some of the mess dripped off the bumper onto the hot pavement. Some sizzled in the Mississippi sun. Across the windshield, someone had scrawled: “I’ll get you, Bitch!” in red paint, with cross hairs over the driver’s side about where her head would be if she were in the seat. There was no other apparent damage to the car, but that was enough. Roaring with fury, Jordan searched the crowd until she spotted Lien not far away. The smug expression on the Asian girl’s face told her that she’d spotted the perpetrator.

“You evil bitch!” Jordan screamed. “What’s wrong with you?”

Everyone turned to see who she was yelling at. With a toss of her long hair, Lien walked off as if she wasn’t the center of attention.

“Did she do that? How do you know?” the questions fired at Jordan rapidly, leaving her confused and breathless.

“Mom is going to kill me,” she whined.

“No, she won’t,” Chase said. “This is a mess, but it will wash off. At least you weren’t hurt. Let me call Mom.” He took out his phone and placed the call.

“Already on my way,” his mother said.They saw her at the top of the school steps, coming down quickly. “Was it Lien?” she asked as soon as she walked up.

“We’re sure. Proving it won’t be easy.”

“Easier than you’d think,” Dora replied. “After all the trouble last year, the school upgraded the security cameras.”

“How did they swing that?” Jordan asked, staring at the egg still dripping off the bumper.

“An anonymous donation,” Dora smirked. “Ah, there’s Officer Wilke. Steve, can we see the security footage?”

Steve Wilke blinked slowly, obviously absorbing that request. “Sure, Dora. The police will be here any second, then you can have a look.”

“Thank you. Don’t you think these students should leave?”

“Move along,” Steve Wilke said, waving the students aside. “Here are the guys now, Dora. Whose car is this?”

“Mine. Well, my mom’s. She’s gonna be so mad!” Jordan burst into tears.

Marissa enfolded her in her arms. “No, she won’t. She’ll be glad you’re okay. Don’t worry. I’ll stay with her,” she volunteered. “Y’all go and see what you can find on that video.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 73

When Tis Done cover smallWhen they arrive at school, they find a car in Jordan’s parking space. It turns out to be the car of the Fēng’s housekeeper. Though, the way she acts, Brian and Jordan are pretty sure that she’s much more than she tries to appear.

Brian strolled to the car, laying one hand on the roof, not far from her head. “I’m moving, not because you told me to, but because I choose to. I don’t know who or what you are—yet, but be assured, I will. There’s an other worldy stench about you, lady.”

She glared up at him, narrow chin defiant. Brian brushed her shoulder with his hand.

“You have a lovely day.” Backing up, he let her go. They watched her drive away, obviously upset. “Got another plastic bag?”

“Yes. Why?”

Brian held up a hair. “We never did show our folks that note I found. I think we need to do some sleuthing.”

“Couldn’t agree more. You feel like taking the day off?”

“Unfortunately, I can’t. If got a test in chemestry and have to work on a group project in English.”

“Okay. Then right after school. Good thing we don’t have practice.”

“Yes. I’d say so. You be careful today.” He touched her cheek, running his thumb over her lips. “That was a very disturbing woman.”

Jordan frowned. Brian kissed her softly.

“She’s very strong, Jordan. It was all I could do to shake her off. Whatever we’re up against, if it’s anything like her….” He didn’t finish the sentence, merely shivered. “Let’s get your car moved.”

As they walked into the school, they saw Lien on the phone, chattering rapidly in Mandarin. How either of them knew what language she was speaking, they didn’t know, but were certain. Listening closely, Jordan got the gyst of what she was saying, though she’d never heard the words before.

“It won’t be much longer. Just go home and be careful. They aren’t smart enough to— You worry too much, Su. I have to go. One of us has to keep up our cover.” She hung up and scurried into the building as the first bell rang.

Jordan and Lien had their first class of the day together. Fortunately, Marissa was there too. Jordan wasn’t able to talk to Marissa before class started, but passed her a note as they went to their next class. As they went into their second class, Marissa walked up to Jordan, pinching her arm silently. She tugged urgently on Jordan’s elbow.

“Mrs. Harvey, may I go to the restroom?” Jordan asked.

“Didn’t you have time between classes?”

“No ma’am.”

“May I go, too?” Marissa said. “I feel a little queasy.”

The teacher sighed. “Really?” There was distinct disbelief in her tone.

“I think the sushi I had for supper must have been off. I really need….” Marissa faked a gag.

“Go.” She handed them a hall pass and shooed them out before anyone else got the idea that they had to leave too.

“What?” Jordan whispered as soon as they had checked the stalls.

“I saw that woman last night. She was on the street near my house, walking along. For no reason. The Fēng house is on the other side of town. Why would she be on my street?”

“No idea, but that makes me very nervous. Okay, inseparable today. Do you need to pee?”

“Yeah, I do now. I’m so scared, I’m about ready to wet myself.”

They used the bathroom and washed their hands as the bell rang. Scurrying back to class, they got in before the teacher closed the door.

“Not again,” Mrs. Harvey reprimanded.

“Sorry,” Jordan whispered. “Lady’s time.”

Nodding, the older woman pressed her lips together. “Plan better.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The rest of the day passed in a fairly quiet fashion, but they kept a surreptitious eye on Lien all day. Chase was the only one to see anything odd in her behavior. He reported at lunch how she’d acted in class.

“She was really squirrely. Couldn’t sit still. And the guys she usually flirts with, she snapped at them all, nearly took Bobby Farnen’s head off. Poor guy. She’s been leading him around by his pecker for days and all of a sudden, she snarled at him.”

“Really snarled?” Marissa gasped.

“Teeth bared like an animal. And she sort of growled and snapped. Scared the piss out of me, if I’m honest.”

“What are we dealing with?” Brian asked himself, more than the others.

“I don’t know, but we’ve got to find out, and quickly,” Marissa said. “I don’t like this and I think we’re up against something really dangerous.”

“Mr. D isn’t dangerous?” Chase scoffed. “Opal wasn’t creepy enough for you?”

“Stop it,” Jordan commanded. “You’re not helping. I agree with Marissa. And I think I know how Scott can help. He’s got a weird combination of skills. He’s a PhD zoologist by profession, but his masters was in mythology—particularly of the Far East. You know, Japan, Korea—China.”

“You think he can help us?” Marissa asked.

“Only one way to find out,” Jordan said. She whipped out her phone and sent her brother a text.

Seconds later, her phone rang. Since they were outside, Jordan didn’t feel she had to be quite so careful with her call, but she was still cautious of who might overhear her. The others watched while she answered.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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