Tag Archive | 2012

When Tis Done – Part 35

When Tis Done coverBrian and Jordan have a very frank talk about Marissa and Chase. He also tells her that he feels the position of The Voice is a shared one. Even if he was claimed by the Powers That Be, he sees it as including her.

“Who’s the Voice for the Center Circle? Your dad? Mine?”

“I don’t know if it’s ever been chosen. But I think Neil.”

“Why? Because David is for his group?”

“No, or it would be Chase for ours. I think which ever one the Circle perceives as having the qualities needed to guide the group.”

“And it’s always a guy?”

“Babe, I don’t know. I feel like it’s shared. I don’t want to do this job without you.”

“You decided about Marissa without me.”

“Fine! How would you handle that? We’ve all tried talking to them. They keep seeming like they’re okay, then they get all wonky again. I can’t handle the drama anymore. I have enough on my plate without them. I can’t do it alone anymore.” He wanted to cry. Instead, he pounded the steering wheel. The ground around the car shivered.

Jordan laid her hand over his, squeezing his fingers. “You don’t have to do it alone. What ever made you think you did? What am I here for, eye candy?”

He chuckled softly, kissing her hand. “You make some good eye candy.” Brian allowed himself a brief leer at her breasts.

Jordan smacked him. “Would you stop that? I don’t go eyeing your zipper and drooling.”

“I won’t stop. I’m a man. As to that, you’re welcome to anytime. I don’t happen to mind.”

“You’re an idiot and I love you.”

“Thank you. You’re short and I love you.”

Jordan burst out laughing. “I have no control over that.”

“I have no control over being an idiot, so we’re even. Only I’m a foot taller than you.”

“Are you going to kiss me good night?”

“That was more or less the plan.”

“Good. Porch swing?”

“Sounds good.”

They walked to the porch hand in hand. The side where the swing hung was shaded by the rose trellis. As they stepped on the porch, the door opened and Jackie poked her head out.

“Good. I’ve been expecting you. We need to talk about a few things.”

Sighing with disappointment, the teenagers followed her inside. Neil and Cynthia sat in the living room with Heath, Miles and Maribelle.

Miles saw his son and his face clouded. “What’s wrong?”

“I gave Chase three days to square things with Marissa or I’m going to throw her out.”

The adults sat in silence.

Neil cleared his throat, looking at Miles. “Are you going to let him?”

“I have no control over his Circle. Neither do you.”

“So, he can arbitrarily decide to get rid of a member?”

“Not often, but it does happen. In times of extreme need.”

“That’s entirely unfair,” Neil said.

“I’ll do for my Circle what I think is best,” Brian said. “I gave him three days. If it can’t be resolved by then, she’s gone. I can’t afford to put the rest of us at jeopardy.”

“And if it were your dad, or Jordan’s mom, would you still throw one of them out?” Neil continued.

“They’re married couples. No. And I have no control over your Circle. That’s on you.”

“What do you mean, on me? What is?”

“Control,” Miles said quietly. “The Circle is yours. Well, more like you’re its Voice. It tells you what it needs and you do it. You and Cynthia lead.”

“Why me? Why not you?”

Miles shrugged. “We did it for awhile, so did Heath and Jackie. It kind of switched around because it was waiting for you.”

“But I wasn’t the one chosen. I’m confused.”

“The Powers That Be have their own way of doing and their own time frames,” Heath added. “I’ve found it easier to roll with it and not ask too many uncomfortable questions. Because I don’t get answers more often than not.”

“I can’t operate that way,” Neil countered. “So, what will you do with Chase if he can’t patch it up with Marissa?”

“I just said. She’s out.”

“That seems awfully callous,” Cynthia said quietly. “What if someone decided to throw you out instead?”

“If they were the Voice, I’d accept it. It would damn near kill me to see Jordan with someone else, but I’d go for the good of the Circle. I’m hoping that Chase’s feelings for Marissa, and hers for him, will prompt them to work things out. My Circle needs to be strong, that means having all the members at a hundred percent. Right now, we don’t have that. I can’t afford to be patient and coddling. There’s a war coming.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 34

When Tis Done coverBrian has been claimed by the Circle to be The Voice, its leader. In that capacity, he tells Chase that he and Marissa have three days to resolve their problems, or Brian will throw Marissa out of the Circle, and replace her with Sweet’s sister. He and Chase get into a fight. Brian knocks his friend down with a blast of air, and leaves before it gets ugly.

“So, with Chase and Marissa fighting, things aren’t running smoothly. I told him that he has three days to solve things with Marissa or I’m throwing her out.”

“What? What!” Jordan punched him, hard. “You can’t do that! Can you? Don’t they have a choice? Don’t we have to vote on it?”

“In extreme circumstances, the Voice can make that happen. I need Chase. I don’t need Marissa. They have to set their issues aside for the good of the Circle.”

“So, if you and I had issues like they have, would you throw me out, too?”

“No. If you and I were the ones having issues, someone else would be the Voice, and they would throw you out.”

“Not you?”

“I’m the Dreamer. No one would throw me out of the Circle.”

“Arrogant at all?”

“Honest. If it weren’t me, I wouldn’t throw the Dreamer out of the Circle. And neither would you. It would weaken us too much to lose either you or me.”

“But you can toss Marissa out like she’s nothing?”

“Yes.”

“And would you?”

He paused, not wanting to get punched again. “Yes.”

She hauled back to hit him, but he caught her hand, gently, but firmly. “I don’t want to. Weird as it may seem, I like her. She saved my life, and for that I’m eternally grateful, but the Circle needs Chase more than it does her. I gave them three days to work things out.”

“That’s not long.”

“That may be too long, if things go the way I think they are.”

“You’re scaring me, Brian.”

His eyes met hers, holding her gaze for nearly a minute. “Good.” He got out of the car.

For the first time in their relationship, he didn’t open her door for her, but walked inside, spinning his keys on his finger. Jordan followed him, not sure whether she should be angry at his callous attitude, or afraid.

Brian was morose, eating his ice cream sundae in silence. Jordan licked her cone, watching the people around them with interest. She marveled at how at ease they were, not cautiously watching the doors and windows for trouble. Jordan couldn’t sit comfortably in public anymore, not after all that they’d been through. For a long time after the Halloween Ball, she’d been wary of eating food prepared in an anonymous kitchen. It took Brian adding blessed salt to her food every time they ate out, before she got over it. Now, she carried the salt with her wherever she went and added a pinch to everything before eating.

“Do you think they can?” she asked as they were leaving, as if twenty, uncomfortable minutes hadn’t intervened.

“I hope so. I would hate to replace Marissa at this stage. We’re a unit. We’ve fought several battles together and we know what to expect. Nothing against Sweets’ sister, but we don’t really know her.”

“Wouldn’t it be hard on the balance to have two siblings in the group?”

“Yes. But it would do until we found a different replacement.”

“You make it sound like we’re all interchangeable parts.”

“To a degree, we are. You’ve seen it first hand. One of us dies, there is someone else to fill in and take his or her place. It happened with Cliff. It could happen with one of us.”

“How awful for the one left behind. I can’t even imagine being without you. We’ve known each other two years, and it feels like a lifetime.”

Brian nodded, swallowing hard. He couldn’t imagine his life without Jordan. If something were to happen to her, he’d rather die. Kind of like losing my balls.

“Hm?” Jordan asked. “Did you say something?”

“If I did, it wasn’t intentional. I was thinking about us. If anything happened to you, I’d want to die.”

“And wouldn’t that be the selfish thing? What if we had kids? What would happen to them? And the Circle? We might have people who step in to take our places here, but what about children? If they lost both of us, it would be horrible. Better one parent than none.”

They pulled up in her driveway.

Brian hadn’t thought of it that way. “That’s why I need you, Jordan. You help me keep my balance.”

“Is a woman ever the Voice?”

“I don’t know. I kind of assumed we both took that role, since we’re a mated pair. I know that I was called, but I figured it meant you, too. David doesn’t do stuff without Myra.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 33

When Tis Done coverBrian gives Chase an ultimatum. Get his relationship worked out, or Brian will remove Marissa from the Circle.

“Who? Just who will you get?”

“Sweet has a sister our age.”

“You could throw me out and find someone else for Marissa,” Chase suggested, taking a step toward his friend. “Louisa has a brother our age.”

“I need you. I don’t need Marissa.”

You need? Since when is any of this yours? We’re all in this shit together.”

“And I claimed the Circle. Or, I should say, it claimed me. Someone has to be the Voice of the Circle and that’s me. And I’m telling you to resolve this problem immediately, or I’ll solve it for you. I’ll toss Marissa out on her shapely ass and initiate Sweet’s sister in a heartbeat. Don’t think I won’t. And you’ll be stuck with her instead of Marissa. Is that what you want?”

“You can’t do that! It has to be our choice.”

Brain pursed his lips, shaking his head. “Nope. It really doesn’t. It’s nice if you choose, but for the good of the Circle, the Voice can throw out a member.”

“That’s what you’re calling yourself now? The Voice?”

“That’s what the Powers That Be call me.”

“How are you so sure that you’re the Voice? Could be I am.”

“You’re too intent on fucking things up. The Voice has to be calm and reasonable, not wingeing about his balls all the time. Get a grip, dude. Do you think it’s easy for any of us? I want Jordan so damn bad, I can hardly breathe, sometimes. But I’m not badgering her to get laid. I’m really sorry Marissa’s like she is. God knows I’ve heard enough about it from both of you to last me a lifetime. But you get this resolved, put it behind you, or she’s out.”

“I love her!” Chase stepped aggressively forward, nearly toe to toe with Brian.

“Prove it!” Brian roared. The ground trembled slightly and the wind picked up. “Prove it by working it out. I don’t care what you have to do, or what it takes. You have three days. If it’s not solved by then, I’m replacing Marissa. Tell her that.”

“You tell her! You’re the fucking Voice.”

“Fine. I’ll tell her she has three days to get her act together, or she’s gone.”

“You can’t say it like that! You’ll break her heart.”

Turning sharply, Brian headed back to the house.

“Brian!” Chase called to his friend. “You can’t do that!”

Brian spun around, walking backwards. “Watch me.” Arms out, he sent a challenge Chase’s way.

Growling, Chase lowered his head and ran at Brian. He was fast and agile, but no match for Brian’s blast of wind. It knocked him off his feet, setting him on the ground. Gasping for breath, Chase glared at his friend. Strands of air solidified and wrapped around Brian’s legs and arms, pinning him in place. Calmly, with a flicker of his fingers, Brian freed himself. Another slight movement and the ground at Chase’s feet rose around his legs, anchoring him. Brian advanced, pointing at his friend.

“You will solve this. You have three days.”

“If you throw her out, I’m leaving too. You can put Sweet’s sister and Louisa’s brother in instead. I’m not doing this without Marissa.”

Brian cocked his head, shrugging. “You can’t leave. If Marissa is the source of your problem, she’s gone. Problem solved. Sweet’s sister is hot. Another blonde. You like those, right?” He turned toward the house, releasing Chase’s legs as he went.

A ball of solid air hit him in the back, making him stagger. Since he’d anticipated an attack, Brian wasn’t surprised. He didn’t want to take on his friend, but Chase wasn’t backing down. Another whoosh of wind, he knocked the air from Chase’s lungs, making him stagger and fall. Instead of speaking, he flashed three fingers.

Hopping in the car, he sent a text to Jordan. “We’re leaving.”

She dashed down the steps and got in the car, the door barely closed before she was settled. She saw Chase in the rearview mirror, picking himself up and dusting off.

“What did you do?”

“Made a point,” Brian sighed. “I need ice cream.”

“Okay.”

They rode in silence most of the way to the ice cream parlor.

“Are you going to tell me?”

Brian flashed a glance her way. “Taking care of Circle business.”

“Could you be anymore enigmatic?”

He turned into a parking place and shut off the car. “You know when I told you a couple weeks ago, that the Circle claimed me?”

“Yeah. The Voice thing. What about it?”

“Part of my job is to make sure things run smoothly in the Circle. Interpersonal relationships, and so on.”

“Yeah, like the Circle HR. So?”

“So, with Chase and Marissa fighting, things aren’t running smoothly. I told him that he has three days to solve things with Marissa or I’m throwing her out.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 32

When Tis Done coverAt the Braxton house, Brian and David have a very honest chat about being part of the Circle.

David didn’t say anything. He reached out, taking Brian’s hand in his. His knuckles were swollen with age and gnarled by hard work. He wasn’t much over sixty, but his illness had aged him. He projected peace and contentment at Brian and watched as the red maelstrom eased and subsided.

“You’re right. I let my boy down. I honestly thought he’d be the one. He was always so much stronger than his sister, not just physically, but emotionally. Cool as a cucumber even in the worst circumstances. Grace under fire, I guess you could call it. He’s come round the hard way, but here he is, full circle. And I do believe you’re right about Chase. Next to you, he’s the strongest member you’ve got. Boy doesn’t know his own abilities fully. And he needs to get a grip on his libido.”

Brian chuckled, nodding. “Yeah. We all have that problem though, right? Swear ta God, he keeps it up, I’m gonna have to flatten him.”

“Then do.”

“Excuse me?” Brian couldn’t believe David condoned him fighting Chase.

“The boy has to learn not to let it distract him. If that means you give him a smack down, do it. This is your Circle and you have to know your people will do what needs doing. If he’s too busy worrying about his willie to take care of business, he needs an attention grabber. A puff of air would be the thing. Don’t wanna bruise him too bad.”

Brian chuckled. “Did you ever have to do that?”

“To your grandfather, as a matter of fact. Maribelle’s daddy. That man is the stubbornest fella in three states, and that’s including me—and you. You got a lot of his better qualities. You’ll make a hell of a leader, Brian. You have the skills and the confidence. Just keep your temper.”

“Not always easy.”

“No. Don’t let it get to the point that you get angry. Take care of it before you lose control, or you’ll end up hurting someone by accident.”

Brian nodded. “Thanks for asking us over tonight. I know the invitation came from you.”

“Yep. You and I needed our chat. Now we’re on the same page. You do me a favor, though.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Straighten out my grandson if you must, but try not to humiliate him too bad. Do it in private.”

“I’ll do my best, sir. I’d never intentionally embarrass him like that.”

David nodded, shaking Brian’s hand. “Good man. Now, tell me what you found out at the archives.”

Brian told the old man about listening to Evangeline’s diary and viewing the portrait. “I need to ask Chase for the disc so I can listen to it. I should listen to them all.”

“Tell you what. Cliff and Dora gave me a full set for Christmas. He had them made up and ready before….” He batted away a tear. “See that black box up there?” He pointed to a high shelf. “They’re in there. You take ’em and have a listen. Bring ’em back when you’re done.”

“Thank you.” Brian put the discs in his car and came back in just as Chase and Marissa arrived.

She looked flushed and flustered, he looked cross. Neither of them spoke to one another all through the meal. David gave Brian a pointed look after dinner and asked Jordan if she would play the piano for him while the others cleaned up.

“Brian, you help Chase put the trash and recyclers out, if you would. I’m sure he’d like the help.”

“Happy to, sir.” Brian plucked at Chase’s sleeve.

They walked to the trash cans at the side of the house. Since they were rural, the county only picked up once a week. The heavy duty plastic bins were packed full and several bags sat on the ground beside them. Brian tugged a can while Chase lugged a couple of bags. They made two trips just for garbage. The recycling took only one. When they were done, Brian dusted his hands on his jeans. Chase stood still, shuffling his feet.

“Thanks. Takes forever when I do it by myself.”

“Oh, I know. I’m the trash guy at my house, too.” Brian eyed his friend. “You and Marissa have to stop this fighting, Chase. It’s bad for the Circle.”

“I know, Brian. But….”

“No pathetic excuses. I’m done with that. Get it solved. We have no idea what we’re up against or when it’s coming. If you’re not able to work in a unit, I’ll throw Marissa out and get someone else.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 31

When Tis Done coverA discussion follows about Luminous and Opal. Luminous was unhappy for many years with her, but she used a compulsion spell to get pregnant with her last baby. Brian tells them she had her husband under a spell in order to keep him with her. Once again, Chase annoys Brian by talking about the sex he’s not having with Marissa.

“I told you to jack off. It’s not ideal, but it helps. Trust me on that, okay?”

“Brian!” Marissa screeched.

“Oh, shut up. I’ve got you both whining on your various troubles and I don’t care. Either fuck or shut the fuck up. Those are your options.” Turning abruptly, he strode from the room.

Jordan followed quickly, leaving Chase and Marissa in stunned silence. Skipping and hopping, Jordan caught up with him in the parking lot, only because he halted.

“Sorry,” he said without turning around. “I’m sick of their bitching. I’m just as hot for you as Chase is for Marissa, and you don’t hear me complaining about it all the time.”

Jordan touched his shoulder, leaning her head against his arm. “No. Of course, I’m not as big a cock tease as Marissa.”

“Thank you for that. I know it’s not the time yet. I can feel that, too. But it doesn’t make me want you less. Sometimes, when we’re at school, I see you walking down the hall ahead of me and I drag my feet, watching you, thinking, One day, that girl will be all mine. It excites the hell out of me knowing that.”

“Do you really—a lot?” She made distinctive hand gestures which were readily understandable.

Brian blushed. “Yeah, well…. I’m a guy….”

“Must have a hell of a porn stash, Casey.”

Brian pulled her close, lifting her by the elbows as he kissed her. “I don’t use porn,” he whispered. “I think about you and that’s enough.”

Shocked to silence, Jordan tried to catch her breath. Brian set her down on the ground, kissing the top of her head. Strangely flattered, she followed him to the car. She could hear Marissa and Chase arguing and was just as glad to get away from there. The idea of having dinner with them was really more than she could handle. If it weren’t that they were expected by Dora and Myra, she’d beg off.

Brian drove aimlessly, finally going to the park. Jordan hopped on a swing and he pushed her, watching her smile and laugh in the late afternoon sunshine. Her dark hair fluttered around her like satin ribbons. Her jeans fit just right and her top clung to her curves. It was almost more than he could bear, but he smiled and comforted himself with the fact that she was his. One day they would be together, and he had to be grateful for that.

The sun was sinking low as they pulled into the driveway at the Braxton house. Katie and Lucy answered the door, grinning.

“I lost a tooth,” Lucy told them.

Jordan made a big deal of it, talking to Lucy about the Tooth Fairy and how much money she would make. Brian went to the family room to chat with David before dinner. Chase and Marissa weren’t there yet, and he felt compelled to speak to the older man. He found Chase’s grandfather sitting in his recliner, TV on, but muted. He looked up, smiling.

“Been expecting you,” he grinned, pointing to the chair nearby. “How’s my son?”

“Better. He’s got a long way to go, sir, but I think he’ll be okay if we give him a little time.”

“Boy, we may not have that time.”

“He’ll step up. He has to find his balance. This isn’t easy for him. I know how he feels, having so much responsibility thrown at him all at once.”

“We all go through that, Brian.”

“Respectfully, David, no you don’t. He wasn’t the chosen one for his Circle. For whatever reason, Dora was the one. I think that it wasn’t so much for her and Cliff, but because the Powers That Be knew my Circle would need Chase.”

Your Circle?” The old man’s face pulled into lines of deep disquiet. “You’ve been claimed by it?”

Brian nodded. “By virtue of who and what I am, it’s mine as sure as the Center Circle is Neil’s and the Outer Circle is yours. But you didn’t have the shit handed to you that I did. I’m a Dreamer who had no idea what that meant. My folks could have prepared me. I was their only child, their heir, yet they didn’t. You prepared your children, Cliff taught Chase, but I got it thrown at me and it’s damn near killed me more than once. I had another person possess me. I tried to kill the girl I love.”

David sat quietly watching the young man work through what troubled him. He could see the anger and frustration inside him, swirling like a dark red cloud.

“You can bet when Jordan and I have kids, we’ll teach them all and even those who aren’t chosen will know enough to protect themselves. And I won’t allow the others to be cast off and ignored like Neil was. You could have done something about that, but you didn’t. Not because your callous or unfeeling, but because none of us knows how he feels. We aren’t the ones on the outside. I can’t even imagine. But in my darker moments, I think he was the lucky one, because this is a horrible responsibility that’s thrust on us. If I had a choice, I might have said no. But no one asked. A quirk of the universe decided that this is my life.” He laughed harshly, shaking his head. “Some cosmic joke, huh?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 16

When Tis Done coverMorning came way too early for Neil. He was woken by his 7 year old niece, Lucy, yelling and jumping on the bed. At breakfast, he’s talking to Dora about burning the pancakes when they were children, and flippantly blames the incident on Cliff.

“Wasn’t me. All Cliff’s doing.” He took an innocent bite, chewing as silence followed.

He’d forgotten that he and Cliff used to blame one another for everything. Even after he moved, Cliff would blame things on Neil. He, himself, had continued to blame his brother-in-law for problems, even after becoming a Marine. His buddies used to tease that he had an imaginary friend who did things just to mess him up.

Noticing the silence, Neil looked around the room. “I’m sorry.” He swallowed, setting down his knife and fork. “For me, it’s like he’s still here. He was with me every second I was gone. And I can still feel him in the wind. When I was in the desert, I could hear his voice in the sand…. More than once, he kept me sane.”

Dora hugged her brother, kissing his cheek. “He said he talked to you whenever he heard you call.” She hugged him again. “Eat your pancakes before they get cold.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He chuckled. “I remember you and Mama always telling me to eat before it got too cold, or watch it cause it was too hot. Took me a full year to realize I could judge the temperature of my own food. Not real well, as it happened. I burned myself more than once.”

His mother giggled, dabbing at her eyes. “It’s so good having you home, son. When you have a chance, pop in and say hi to Daddy. He’s got some things to tell you. You too, Chase.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused.

Neil ate enough pancakes to please his mother, and carried his third cup of coffee into the den. Neil’s father, David Braxton, looked up, smiling, gesturing for his son and grandson to sit.

“Son, I hope Cynthia and Chase have brought you up to speed.”

“More or less, yes. Sounds like y’all have had a hell of a time.”

“More so than in my day. Things were pretty quiet for us. We were lucky. Your generation saw some trouble, but Chase’s—whoo, boy!” He gasped, wheezing. Doing a lot of talking was hard for him. “But there’s more coming—a storm that’s going to lay waste. Don’t ask how I know, you live long enough, you learn to feel the signs. We faced a hailstorm before. This is a full blown hurricane—of massive proportions.”

“An actual hurricane, Dad? Or a metaphor—”

“Both. Hush up and listen. I don’t have breath—for much.”

They sat down, waiting for David to speak.

“This stuff with Mr. D. and Opal, it’s just the start. Once every thousand years or so, the Dark leaps up, seeking leverage. Cause we get lazy, lax. We don’t prepare our young until we know who’s chosen.”

“You didn’t do that,” Neil said. “Neither did Dora and Cliff.”

“No, because the Earth told us and we listened. So you have a lot of what you need already. Only training you need, is stuff you didn’t have skills for before. But you do now. The Circle called you here, gave you to Cynthia, brought you home.”

“Gave me to Cynthia?” Neil chuckled, thinking his father was joking. “I gave myself to Cynthia damn near twenty-five years ago.”

“All this, and that’s what you latch onto?” His father’s laugh wheezed from him. “You two were meant to be together—all along. Even if you weren’t the chosen, the Circle had plans.”

“But I took my hurt and ran.”

“Boy, none of us here would have done different. We don’t know why the Circle picks one over another. Chase is oldest, Jordan youngest. Dora’s five minutes younger than you. Mama and I are smack in the middle. I’d say it’s random, but I imagine there’s a pattern if we look hard enough. Doesn’t matter now. You have to take your sister’s spot immediately—tonight. Because the storm that’s coming—it’s soon.”

“When?”

David shook his head. “I wish I knew. I’m hoping when you join, you’ll have a sense.” He turned to his grandson. “You get things settled with your girl?”

“I think so, Papaw. We’re working on it.”

“Work faster. You need to help train Neil.”

“Me? I don’t know shit….”

“I’ll tell you both and you demonstrate. Your daddy taught you a lot, you just didn’t know it at the time. What’s the weather forecast?”

Chase glanced at the window. “Partially sunny, wind south-southeast at five miles an hour, eighty percent humidity. Eighty-six degrees with a feel of ninety-two. Rain in thirty minutes. Heavy, with thunderstorms.” His eyes grew round. “How did I know that?”

“Same way you know you could make it snow if you took a notion. Or change the tides, or halt that rain. We can do it….”

“But just because we can, should we?” Neil finished. That was one of his father’s favorite sayings.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 15

 

When Tis Done coverAfter talking to Chase, Neil has a short conversation with Cynthia, then heads to bed with the promise to text her when he wakes.

Morning came early in a household with a seven year old. Neil was sleeping soundly when his bedroom door banged open and a little blonde missile landed on his bed, bouncing.

“Unka Neil! Unka Neil! Brea-fist!”

Groaning, he rolled over, putting the pillow over his face. “I’ll be up in a minute, Sugar. Let Unka Neil sleep a little longer.”

“No. No. No. Got to be up for brea-fist! Mommy said!”

Neil doubted that. More likely, Dora had said not to wake him. The bouncing intensified as Lucy pulled the pillow off his face.

“Now, now, now, Unka Neil!”

“Lucy Lou, leave Uncle Neil alone. He’s tired. He drove a long time to get here,” Chase said from the doorway.

“But it’s brea-fist, Chase!”

“He’ll be up for lunch, Peanut. Go.” He lifted his sister off the bed, carrying her to the door. Setting her down, he told her to run up stairs.

“Thank you,” Neil mumbled into his pillow. “Would locking the door help?”

“No. Then she just knocks a gabillion times.”

“She usually do this to you?”

“Yep.”

“Lucky you.”

“Why do you think I chose the basement? The stairs slow her down a few seconds.” Chuckling softly, he closed the door.

Neil dozed a little longer, but his room was directly under the kitchen. Lucy seemed determined to have him up to join the family. If it wasn’t deliberate, then she was the noisiest child he’d ever met. Then again, he hadn’t been around that many kids, at least not early in the morning. Groaning, he rolled over with the pillows pressed to his head. There was an all mighty crash, followed by scolding and wailing.

“I’m UP! Dammit!” He got dressed and went upstairs, walking into complete chaos.

A huge dog was galloping around the kitchen with Lucy in its wake. A string of puppies followed, at least six of them, and another huge animal tried to get in the door, but Dora held it with flagging strength. He grabbed the dog at the door, dragging him outside. He took the collar of the other and hauled her out onto the deck. The puppies followed, all but one that Lucy had scooped up. The mother dog tried to get back in after her baby, so Dora grabbed the puppy from her screeching daughter and set it on the deck. Neil swung the door shut. Silence settled over the house.

“What was that?” Neil gasped, pointing at the deck where the enormous dogs frolicked. “Since when do you have Shetland Ponies?”

“Those are the puppies,” Lucy yelped. “Not ponies, silly.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Neil waited for a reply.

“They help the Circle,” Chase said, handing him a cup of strong, black coffee.

“Okay.”

“Their names are Janus and Zofia. They’re our Guardians. When there’s trouble, they come to our aid. When there isn’t, they hang around different houses and procreate.” Chase nodded at the puppies. “They were born at Jordan’s house. We all went over to witness the miracle of birth.” His tone implied he hadn’t found it very miraculous.

“Lucky you.”

“Yeah, it was three in the morning and freezing cold. Jackie insisted.” Chase chuckled, pouring his own coffee, adding lots of cream and sugar.

Pancakes appeared on a plate in front of Neil, decorated with berries and butter. He said his blessing and took his first bite.

“Holy wow, these are delicious. I’ve missed your pancakes, Mama.”

She beamed. “Katie and I made those just for you.”

“Katie’s a cook? Didn’t take after her mama, then.”

Dora giggled, swatting her brother. “I’m a good cook. You should taste my possum supreme pie.”

“Mommy’s teasing. She doesn’t cook possums,” Lucy explained.

“When you were Katie’s age, you burned the pancakes, as I recall,” Neil winked at his sister. “Darn near set the kitchen on fire.”

“You know that was your fault,” Dora countered.

Neil feigned innocence. “Mine? Just how?”

“Cliff was over and the two of you scared the bejeezus outta me! I ran and hid in the pantry.”

“Wasn’t me. All Cliff’s doing.” He took an innocent bite, chewing as silence followed.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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