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When Tis Done – Part 42

When Tis Done coverJordan invited the new students to go for ice cream, but it went badly. Jian is decidedly interested in Jordan, and Brian wasn’t happy about that. When Jian grabs his sister’s hand in a painful grip, Jordan steps in, doing the same thing to him. Later, she and Brian are talking about the incident.

“Because she’s scared of something. And because he’s a jerk. I’m not sure he’s the one she’s afraid of—entirely. There’s a shadow around her. Didn’t you see it?”

Brian shook his head. “I was too busy being battered by Jian’s bad vibes. We had a moment when he told me about his father’s pottery business, then he focused on you and asked if you had a sister who liked Asians.”

“Is that what you got so angry about?”

“You didn’t see the look on his face. Like he wanted to eat you, in a totally non-cannibalistic way.”

“Oh, my God. Ew! Seriously!”

“He practically licked his lips. I wanted to clock him. But he’s been an ass since I met him. Second I walked in the room, he took offense and nothing I said made any difference. He’s all about challenging.”

“You’re a very confident man, Brian,” Jackie said from the doorway. “You have an aura about you of strength and power. If he’s at all sensitive, he’d feel that. To some men, that’s a challenge of itself. It wouldn’t matter what you did or said, it would be seen as a threat.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s just wild about me,” Jordan said. “Since I nearly broke his hand.”

Brian pressed his lips tightly together, meeting Jackie’s knowing glance. “Actually.” He cleared his throat sharply. “I think it turned him on.”

“Oh, yuck! Guys are so weird! Would that excite you?”

Ears burning, he turned his head aside. Jackie smirked.

“Honey, how do you suppose he knew?”

“Oh, my god, Brian. Seriously?” She punched him in the chest.

“Strong women are my weakness,” he admitted. “I always had the hots for Wonder Woman.”

“You’re freaking weird. I want you to know that.” She smacked him again.

He shrugged, smiling. “I’m a guy. Sue me.”

“Honey, stop hitting the boy.”

Jordan paused, her hand halfway to Brian. Blushing furiously, she hopped up and ran to the small bathroom under the stairs. Strange sounds came from inside. Brian couldn’t tell for sure, but he thought she was giggling.

“Yeah, laugh at my pain,” he mumbled, adjusting his jeans.

“This is awkward for her, too,” Jackie said quietly. “In many ways, she’s still a little girl. She isn’t used to a man’s interest.”

Brian nodded, swallowing hard. “Excuse me.” He walked out to the front porch and sat on the swing.

Jackie let him go, watching to be sure he was safe. She knew he could defend himself, but she still worried. Part of that was normal motherly concern, the rest was very real fear for his safety. Something in the atmosphere had become super charged in the last few hours. From what she could tell, it coincided with Brian meeting Jian and Lien. She hoped she was wrong, that it was some coincidence, but she’d given up believing in those decades ago.

Dinner was delicious, but conversation was somewhat subdued. Brian, as always, helped clean up afterward, thanking Jackie politely for the meal. Heath still wasn’t home, but they’d been told he was working with Neil.

“Your folks should be back soon. Do you want to take Elise home?”

“I don’t have a carseat at the moment. She did a nuclear poop in it and I had to wash it out. Forgot to put it back in.”

“Okay. Do you want to stick around until they get here?”

“Yeah. I don’t feel like going home to an empty house tonight.”

“I could use more math help,” Jordan hinted.

“Babe, you need more than just math help, but I’m not here to criticize.”

Jordan raised her fist to punch him, but rethought that action. Instead, she scurried ahead and got out the paper and math book.

Her father had converted the formal dining room to a study space and office, with Brian’s help. It was a blend of antique furniture and high tech equipment that was very comforting and welcoming. With the exception of the crystal room, this was Brian’s favorite spot in the Barrett house. The walls were a creamy yellow above and dark wood wainscoting below. The floor was red oak, covered with a Persian style carpet that picked up the warm browns and yellows of the room, adding brilliant red, blue and green to the mix. The walls were covered with family portraits going back to when Jordan was a little girl. Her brothers were in their teens and she was in elementary school. Brian loved to see all their faces smiling at him.

“Scott and Ryan are coming for Thanksgiving,” Jordan said, standing at his elbow. “Ben can’t make it this year. He’s going to be in Japan on unavoidable business, but his wife and their kids are coming.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 41

When Tis Done coverJordan meets the Fēngs and invites them to go get ice cream. She takes Lien around, leaving Jian and Brian together. The two boys aren’t happy with one another’s company, but find that they have a little bit in common after all.

“I’d like to see his shop sometime,” Brian said, glad to have something to talk to the other boy about that wasn’t full of resentment.

“He is very secretive, but perhaps he can be persuaded.”

“I don’t want to invade his privacy. I’m simply interested. If I weren’t learning woodworking, I’d learn that. Just there weren’t any potters around until now.”

Jian flashed a quick smile. “I will speak to him.” He watched his sister with Jordan. “She is a very kind person,” he said, lifting his chin at Jordan. “Have you been dating long?”

“We’ve known one another two years, dating for just over one.” His smile softened as he watched her talking to Lien and some others. “There’s no one quite like Jordan.”

“You are in love with her?”

Brian blushed, ducking his head. “I guess it’s obvious, huh? Head over heels.”

“I don’t suppose she has a sister who likes Asians?” He smirked, his dark eyes watching Jordan with a hunger that Brian didn’t like.

“Only brothers,” he said sharply. “All older and very protective. I couldn’t tell ya how they feel about Asians. I never asked.”

“You don’t like me much,” Jian challenged.

“You haven’t exactly made yourself likable,” Brian countered. “I’m trying to be civil, but you aren’t even trying to be polite. So I’ll ask again, you have a problem with me, Fēng?” His voice was louder than he’d intended.

Jordan and Lien turned suddenly, drawn by the sound. Brian leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his broad chest, legs splayed, ready to leap to his feet. Jian was in a much more relaxed position, watching carefully, his dark eyes taking in details. A sly smile played at his lips and Brian knew he’d been tested and probably found wanting. Suddenly, Lien was at her brother’s side.

“Be nice!” She smacked his arm.

His grin turned into a grimace. Snatching her hand, he twisted, making her cry out. Jordan stepped up, taking his other hand in a similar hold, twisting sharply. Jian flinched, but didn’t make a sound. He released his sister.

“That shit might be okay where you come from,” Jordan said, increasing the pressure on his hand. “But here, that’s considered abuse and assault.”

“And what you are doing, is not?” his voice was tight with pain.

“I’m defending someone else. The police would see it as a public service.” She leaned closer. “They take domestic abuse very seriously here in Mississippi.”

Jian looked like he wanted to spit in her face. Instead, he jerked his hand away from her, standing quickly. “Come, Lien. Time to go home.”

Lien followed reluctantly, dragged from the building by her brother. Everyone watched them go and burst into chatter as soon as the door closed.

Who is that guy? What’s his problem? Were he and Brian going to fight? Did he really do that to his sister? Damn, Jordan rocks!

After much congratulations, Jordan and Brian went back to her house to study and have dinner. He was surprised to find his sister there with Jackie.

“Your folks had some things to do in Jackson today. Didn’t they tell you?”

“No. But I got up way before they did. Hey, Munchkin!” He lifted his sister, swinging her around.

Elise giggled, tipping out of his arms to see Jordan, then lunged once more at her brother. She used him like a jungle gym while he lay on the floor talking to Jackie and Jordan. They told her about the new students.

“What was with Jian?” Jordan asked. “He was being so weird!”

“He’s a conceited ass. He’s got the hots for you, by the way. If he comes near you….”

“I’ll put the creep in a headlock,” Jordan finished. “You don’t have to defend my honor.”

“Well, I want to. May I?”

“If it makes you happy,” she said, giving him a kiss. “But you don’t have to.”

“That’s the only problem with having a girlfriend who’s a bad ass,” he remarked to Jackie. “Can’t protect her.”

“You can still do it,” Jackie said. “A girl likes to know the man she loves will take care of her. And she can take care of you, too.”

“She’s good at that,” Brian said, his expression dreamy as he looked at Jordan.

Jackie picked up Elise, whisking her away to the kitchen. Jordan crawled over to where Brian lay. He propped himself on his elbows as she kissed him. Nothing but their lips touching, it was one of the best kisses, to date, that Brian had ever experienced. He felt his love for her flow from him and felt hers in return. Jordan rested her forehead on his, licking her lips with a smile.

“Why did you invite them along?” Brian murmured. “I mean, Lien, she’s nice enough. But Jian is a jerk.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 40

When Tis Done coverAfter school, Brian meets Jian and Lien Fēng at the debate club. Lien seems to like him, but Jian doesn’t. After the meeting is over, he confronts Jian to find out why the other boy is angry with him.

Jian’s lips twitched and a shy smile flickered. “My sister has a way of making friends instantly. She’s never met a stranger. Walk in a group like this, she’s everyone’s best friend when she leaves. She instinctively attaches herself to the alpha male.”

“And you think that’s me.”

Jian shrugged, shaking his head. “Aren’t you? You walk in like you own the room. Everyone listens when you speak.”

Brian was surprised. He’d never considered that before. He knew he’d changed from the shy freshman he was three years ago, but had no idea it was so much.

“Wasn’t my intention to offend,” he apologized, bowing slightly. “We’re all equal around here.”

“But some garner more respect than others.” Jian challenged, moving into Brian’s personal space.

Exasperated, Brian moved back half a step, stopping before he retreated too far. He wasn’t scared of this young man, and he didn’t want to give that impression. He was more afraid he’d lose his temper and hurt him.

“You think whatever you want, Fēng. You’re going to take offense to anything I say. Fine. I’m trying to be polite and welcome you to the team.”

“You are so sure of yourself, so cocky.”

“If my confidence offends you, you’re welcome to leave. I’m not keeping you here.” Brian spread his arms, taking a step forward, sending an unspoken challenge to the other boy.

Fēng Jian straightened, his dark eyes flashing dangerously. He took a step toward Brian, who held his ground.

“Brian, who’s your new friend?” Jordan said from behind him. “Hi, I’m Jordan Barrett, Brian’s better half. And you are?” She held out her hand to Jian, smiling and bubbly. It was an act, but a very good one. No doubt, Jian had no idea.

“Fēng Jian,” he replied, bowing over her hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Jordan Barrett.”

Lien walked over, smiling, angling for an introduction. Her brother did the honors. Brian was too annoyed to do the polite thing.

“Do you two know your way around?” Jordan asked. “Maybe you’d like to go out for ice cream?”

“Today?” Brian asked, hardly able to contain his irritation.

“Sure, why not?” Jordan asked. “Do you have a car? Do you need a ride?” she asked Jian.

“I have a car. I drive,” Jian replied with pride. “Lien hasn’t been taught.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Jordan said, taking Lien’s arm, propelling her toward the door. “I don’t get to drive either. Brian always drives.” She wrinkled her nose.

“But you know how?”

“Yes, Dad taught me. Mom is far too emotional to do something like that. She took me out once and I thought we were both going to die of a fit of vapors.” Giggling, she tipped her head at Brian. “You should see about signing up for driver’s ed.”

“I don’t have a permit and Papa won’t allow it.”

“Oh, well. Nice idea. You guys coming or not?” Jordan cast over her shoulder at Brian. “I hear a hot fudge sundae calling my name.”

The Fēngs’ car wasn’t far from Brian’s, so Jordan walked the entire way with Lien, leaving Brian with Jian. The two boys didn’t talk much, each quietly taking the measure of the other. Brian still couldn’t get a firm read off Jian, but he was pretty sure the other guy was used to being the alpha male, as he’d labeled Brian. That being the case, he was probably going to fight for the position all year. It wasn’t so much that Brian wanted the spot, he was annoyed that someone wanted to challenge him for something he cared so little about. It got his back up.

Jian followed them to the ice cream parlor where Jordan introduced Lien to everyone. Jian stood by, looking sullen and frustrated. Brian didn’t feel compelled to take him around. If Jordan wanted to, that was her prerogative. He ate his hot fudge sundae in silence, watching Jordan with Lien. He had no idea why she was so taken with the girl. She seemed nice enough….

“Do you work?” Jian asked rather abruptly.

“I work with a carpenter part time on weekends and pretty much full time during the summer. He wants me to apprentice with him when I graduate.”

“You will not go to college?”

“Yes, I will. But every man needs a trade, something to help support his family if things go to shit. People always need builders.”

Jian nodded. “That makes sense. My father is a craftsman. He makes pottery. Some is art, but he has contracts with many restaurants all over the world. He has been teaching me.”

“That’s a pretty cool trade,” Brian admitted. “Something about shaping earth that’s very satisfying.”

Jian’s expression changed to one of surprise. “Yes. He fires his pots in a pit or an outdoor oven, the old way. They have more character that way.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 39

When Tis Done coverWhen Brian and Jordan get to school, they are greeted by Marissa, who is furious with Brian. Jordan tells her to get over herself, and channel the energy into working through her problems with Chase.

Brian planted a soft kiss on her forehead. They tried to avoid too much intimacy at school, but he couldn’t keep from touching her. “Have I told you lately just how incredible you are, Jordan Barrett?”

“Nope. Slacker.” She grinned up at him, making a kiss face at him.

She opened her locker as he fiddled with his. There was a note in his locker, his name written in scraggly, black pencil. He didn’t touch it, examining it with his powers first. Determining that it wasn’t something tainted, he flipped it open with a pencil.

“I’m watching you,” it said. That was all.

“What’s that? Fan mail?” Jordan asked, ducking under his arm.

“No idea. See anything?”

He said see in such a way, she knew what he meant. Examining it with her own powers, Jordan sensed something, but couldn’t pinpoint what.

“I think this is just some garden variety weirdo. Doesn’t mean that it’s not something to watch.” Pulling her sleeve to cover her fingers, she plucked the note from the locker and put it in a clean Ziploc bag she had in her purse.

“You always come prepared with evidence bags?”

Jordan giggled. “No. Just happen to have one today.” She sealed the bag. “And isn’t it handy that I did? Put that in your backpack and we’ll have Mom look it over later.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” She popped it in the pocket of his backpack and they walked to class together.

The storm intensified around noon, making the lights flicker unpleasantly. Marissa wasn’t in any of their classes, as she should have been. They found out later she’d gone home before school started. Chase wasn’t around either. Brian hoped that meant they were together, working it out. He felt uneasy about it, but he had quizzes all day and didn’t have time to stop and worry.

The bell rang to end school. He and Jordan met up at their lockers. She had drama and he had speech and debate. She’d talked him into joining the speech team the year before. Finding he had a facility for it, he’d continued in their senior year. He walked her to the drama room and wandered to the debate coach’s room, two doors down. The coach, Mr. Wymore, was talking to a couple of dark haired students. Their features, especially the eyes, pegged them as Asian. A boy and a girl, they looked so close to identical, Brian figured they were twins.

The girl smiled when he walked in. She was very pretty, in a China doll sort of way. Her brother was handsome, but he wasn’t a smiler. Instead, he glowered, pulling a face when Mr. Wymore introduced them.

“Brian, meet Lien and Jian Fēng. They’re new to school this year and are thinking about joining debate.”

“You are good at debate?” Lien asked, tossing her waist length hair.

“I’m learning. Won’t say I’m the best, but I hold my own.”

“He’s being modest,” their teacher said. “He’s quite good and came in second at the state competition. We’re expecting first from him this year. No pressure, or anything.” He chuckled.

Mr. Wymore was in his early thirties. Also the tennis coach, he was tall and lean muscled with brown hair and blue eyes. He looked like he’d stepped out of the 1970s because he sported full sideburns, his hair brushed his shirt collar and he wore vintage bell bottom pants a lot. Today’s were an eye-assaulting dark mustard yellow and pond scum green. His shirt was dark red and he wore a hemp necklace with ceramic beads and shells on it. Since he was one of the smartest men Brian had ever met, he figured the guy was entitled to his eccentricities.

The rest of the team arrived and the twins were introduced all around. Lien seemed taken with Brian and stayed close to him the entire time. It made him somewhat uncomfortable, because she was very touch oriented. He knew that Jordan would sense it, but he didn’t know a good way to tell Lien to back off. Her brother was sullen and kept to himself, glaring frequently in Brian’s direction. Determined not to start the year off badly, Brian decided to talk to him after practice. Lien was talking to some of the girls, so Brian approached her brother.

“Did I do something to insult you, Fēng Jian?”

The Asian boy was surprised by the formal address. He tilted his head, meeting Brian’s gaze with his own. He was several inches shorter, but Brian sized him up as having more muscle to him than he seemed.

“Why would you ask such a thing?” Jian countered.

“Because you’ve been giving me the ugly eye since I walked in. I’m not in the habit of insulting folks, so I wondered if I’d done something by accident, or if you just didn’t take a shine to me, Jian.”

Jian’s lips twitched and a shy smile flickered. “My sister has a way of making friends instantly. She’s never met a stranger. Walk in a group like this, she’s everyone’s best friend when she leaves. She instinctively attaches herself to the alpha male.”

“And you think that’s me.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 38

When Tis Done coverBrian has a conversation with his grandfather, who tells him that he did the right thing with Chase and Marissa. It makes him feel better about the decision. After they hang up, his grandfather decides that he and his wife need to go for a visit.

Jordan answered the door, smiling up at him. Going on tiptoe, she planted a kiss on his lips and pulled the door to her house shut. “Sleep okay?” she asked when they were both in the car.

“Better than I have in a long time. Had a late night chat with Granddad. Gave me some perspective.”

“Good.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “You look better. I worry about you.”

He kissed her palm, closing his eyes. “I worry about you, too.” He put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.

“I had a long talk with Marissa last night. I hope I said the right things—what she needed to hear. It wasn’t an easy conversation. Apparently, Chase dropped your bombshell. He tried to be kind, but there’s not an easy way to say any of that.”

“No, but maybe it will shake them up enough to make them try.”

The first drops of rain started falling. Jordan swiped the windshield clear, using her powers. Brian winked at her and started the wipers.

“Won’t it look weird if we’re the only car with a dry windshield?”

“We tell people you use that rain ban stuff. Besides, no one’s around. I’ll let it gather when we get near school.”

“Gross misuse of powers, Miss Barrett.”

“Like you don’t ever.”

He chuckled, nodding. “I had an hour long shower with constant hot water last night. Needed to think.”

“Water always calms you down.”

He silently agreed. His needs and habits weren’t what was most on his mind, however. “Tell me about Marissa.”

“She’s furious with you.”

He shrugged. “I’m a big boy, I can take it.”

“I tried to tell her that she needed to channel her energy into working things out with Chase. They both seem to think the only way to do that is to have sex, and she’s unbending on that point.”

“They need to communicate,” Brian said. “Honest to God, Jordan. I don’t want to throw her out, but I will.”

“Hurricane Marissa on the starboard bow,” she said as they pulled into the high school lot.

Marissa stood between her car and Brian’s, arms crossed, brow lowered in fury. Her blonde hair whipped around her in the wind, though the heavy rain hadn’t soaked her. Brian had cautioned his friends about that sort of thing, but he figured she was so angry, she hadn’t thought about it. Prepared for an attack, he got slowly out of the car, keeping the vehicle between him and the angry girl.

Jordan let herself out, closer to Marissa than she cared to be. At least none of the anger was directed at her. However, the wind picked up and the rain grew sharp, when Brian appeared. She stepped forward, catching the other girl’s arm.

“Not here,” she scolded. “What are you, five, having a temper tantrum? Do you want everyone to know?”

“I don’t care if anyone finds out. How could you, Brian? How could you say that? I was up half the night, just fussing at you!”

“You should have been up half the night trying to figure out how to make it work with Chase, not mad at me. I’m not in this equation. It’s you and him, but you’re too damn stubborn to figure that out. It’s someone elses fault, it always has been. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to inside. If you haven’t noticed, it’s pissing rain.”

Air slammed into Brian, knocking him back as Marissa faced him, an angry snarl twisting her lips. Jordan got between the two of them, pushing Marissa back with her hand, breaking the other girl’s concentration.

“Stop that! I won’t have you endanger the rest of us by having a snit. Go inside and dry off—the old fashioned way. And stop acting like a spoiled, self-centered brat! Think about what he said and why he said it, not about anything else. You’ve used up half a day being angry with the wrong person.”

“And who’s the right person? Hm?”

“Got a mirror?” Jordan crossed her arms, tilting her chin. Marissa was a few inches taller, but Jordan managed to make herself seem bigger and more intimidating.

Grabbing Brian’s arm, Jordan shoved past Marissa, who was now soaked. Jordan and Brian remained remarkably dry, only mildly damp when they got inside. Stamping and shaking off the moisture, they walked to their lockers.

“Thank you. I’ve never hit a girl, but I was about to.”

“I begin to see what you mean. Not that I disagreed…. Just, wow.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 37

When Tis Done coverBrian heads home, upset with what he’s had to tell Chase. Mulling it over, he is overwhelmed with emotion, knowing what he’s asked of his friend. But he knows that the words came from the Powers That Be, and he had no choice. As he lies in bed, his phone, which he thought was off, rings.

“Granddad?”

“Brian.” The gruff, bass voice was full of concern. “You’re on my mind, son. What’s got you out of sorts?”

With a sob, Brian told his grandfather everything. He wasn’t sure how coherent he was, but he had to unload everything that was on his mind.

“So, you’ve given your friend the worst ultimatum in the world.”

“Yes.”

“Did it kill him?”

Brian paused, unsure where the conversation was going. “No, sir. But….”

“Yes, it hurt like hell. Did it make an impression?”

“I hope so.”

“Son, you did what you had to. In our Circle, it was David with the dirty jobs. Before he was chosen to be the Voice, I had the job for awhile. It’s the worst job in the Circle, having to be the boss. Everyone looks at you for guidance, everyone blames you when things go wrong. Which they do—a lot. I didn’t want the job, and I was just as glad he took it from me a couple years later. He wanted to give it back, but I couldn’t. I’ve been in those shoes and they pinch. But you did and said what had to be. No fun being the bad guy, is it?”

“No, sir.”

“It’s worse than being a parent, and that’s the toughest job in the world.”

“Granddad, if you’d had to give up the Circle, and lost Grandmom, could you have done it?”

The old man paused, considering his words with care. This wasn’t just an idle speculation. Brian knew, his grandfather had heard the leaders speak, too.

“It would have torn out my heart to leave, to lose her. Comes a time, the woman you’re intended for, becomes a part of you. I don’t mean because of the sex—don’t lie and tell me that’s not on your mind. I mean your spirit and hers merge and you become part of each other in ways that other people will never experience. To lose that would have damn near killed me. What you’ve asked of your friends, it would tear them up plenty, but right now, they’d survive. They aren’t married yet. They aren’t fooling around. It would be hard, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Once you make love the first time, that’s pretty much it. When you marry, it’s a done deal. Can’t separate a married pair unless death takes one.”

“Do you think they can do it? Can they pull it together?”

“Given the alternative, to lose one another or to make it work, I think they’ll make it work. I’ve known Chase his entire life. Marissa, less so, but a good long time. Yes.”

“You’re only saying that because I need to hear it,” Brian stated, knowing it was true.

“Boy, you’re too damn perceptive. But I do believe they will try.”

“Why would the Circle put two people together who are so completely different?”

“That, I don’t know. I wish I had an answer. Might as well ask the sun why it shines.”

“I was just thinking that….”

“Get some sleep, Brian. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

“I do? What do you know that I don’t?”

“Go to sleep,” his grandfather repeated.

Brian felt his eyes grow heavy. His thumb disconnected the call and his phone bounced on the bed as he lay down, falling into a deep sleep.

Vaughn Casey held the phone to his lips, thinking. Rising with determination, he walked into the living room from his study. His wife looked up, concerned.

“What’s wrong?”

“Brian needs our help.”

She looked at her watch and got up. “Well, don’t just stand there, Old Man. Let’s pack.”

Smiling, he followed her to their room, admiring the way she moved so spryly around the room, folding shirts and socks for packing. He pulled out the luggage, helping her gather what they needed. Once they were packed, he grabbed the car keys and they were on the road within the hour. Setting out at 10:00 on a weeknight seemed a bit odd to them both, but they felt compelled to go. Relaxing behind the wheel, Vaughn pushed a CD into the player. The strains of Echoes by Pink Floyd, filled the car.

Brian’s alarm woke him at 6:00. He rolled over, turning it off. His body felt well rested and relaxed. He got up and dressed, going down to breakfast with a smile on his face. He was alone in the kitchen, since his parents slept in until 7:00, unless Elise woke them. Moving about as quietly as he could, he prepared his breakfast and went to pick up Jordan. It was unusually dark that morning, the sky overcast. Thunder rumbled and he saw lightning playing in the clouds. Sending out feelers, he determined that it was simply a late summer storm and not an attack by the dark. Having been attacked by the elements more than once, every time they got a storm, he worried.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 36

When Tis Done coverBrian tells his and Jordan’s parents, as well as Neil and Cynthia, about his ultimatum to Chase. Their parents are accepting of it, Neil and Cynthia aren’t.

“That’s harsh,” Neil said.

“That’s tough,” Brian countered. “Good night, Jordan,” he said, giving her a kiss. Waving to the others, he left the rest of them in the living room.

“You’re just going to let him do that?” Neil appealed to Jordan.

“He’s made up his mind. If I interfere, he’ll just resent me. Putting aside emotion and looking at it logically, he’s right. As much as I love Chase and admire Marissa, it’s the right decision. I’d hate to see it happen now. So would Brian. He believes that by making the threat, it will force them to work together.” She paused, listening as Brian drove away. “I hope he’s right.”

Brian walked into an empty house. Elise was with his parents at Jordan’s, so he had the place to himself. Heading to his room, he tried not to think about everything the day had held. It made him sick when he thought about how he’d spoken to Chase. The anguish in his friend’s face had wrenched at his soul, but Brian knew he’d done and said the right thing. It was his hope that out of desperation, Chase and Marissa would make more of an effort. As much as he liked and admired his friends, he knew they were both shallow and stubborn, wanting what they desired at the expense of the other. Jordan wasn’t like that, and neither was he. At least he hoped not.

He had a long shower, standing under the water until it ran cold. With a flicker of his fingers, he warmed it up in the pipes. Nearly an hour later, he dried himself with blasts of warm air and pulled on his boxers. He started music playing on the stereo, an old album of his grandfather’s, Meddle by Pink Floyd. The strange, trippy music washed over him as he lay in the dark. Brian closed his eyes, not to sleep, but to let Echoes fill him. To him, really good tunes were like magic. He could get pumped up or mellowed out by the right melody. Right now, he needed to relax and let his spirit heal. He’d hurt Chase terribly and he felt his friend’s pain. He couldn’t afford distractions either.

His mind’s eye filled with swirls of color, playing across his vision like an internal kaleidoscope—shifting and changing every few seconds, in time with the music. His breathing deepened as he entered a trance-like state. Voices filled the music, which weren’t normally there. He felt himself floating, buoyed by the air around him. Dozens of voices spoke to him at once, none more compelling or louder than the others, all on the same level. Though he didn’t focus on any single message, he heard and comprehended them all. These were the spirits of the other Circle leaders, giving him their knowledge. He wondered, fleetingly, if they had spoken to David this way. Would they also speak to Neil?

“Why me?” he asked them. But he received no answer.

Though he’d hoped, he hadn’t expected one. It was like asking the sun why it continued to blaze, or the moon why it rotated around the Earth. Because. Because someone had to, and he had the genetic fortune, or misfortune, to be chosen for the job. He didn’t want it. Most days, he’d have given it all away to have a normal life with every day teenage problems. He’d love to be completely oblivious to spiritual things and think about his chemistry exam or how to ask a pretty girl on a date. Instead, he was thrust into something he couldn’t even begin to comprehend, with powers that most people would consider freakish, if not evil.

“If you had to, could you give it up?” One voice said louder than the others. “If you had to, could you give up the girl?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered.

The voices all picked up the words, speaking them over and over. He felt them closing on him, coming nearer with each repetition. First, they spoke in unison, then in a cacophony of chaotic disunity, circling and nudging him.

Could you give up the girl? Could you give up the girl?” Over and over, with different emphasis each time.

“No!” Brian bellowed, sitting up in bed. “No! I couldn’t give up the girl. I couldn’t. I couldn’t.” Weeping, he curled over, holding his head. “I know what I asked him to do,” he whispered. “I know. I only said what you told me to say. Help him. Don’t force him to choose. Don’t make me choose. Help us all.”

He’d never considered himself particularly religious, though he’d grown more spiritual over the last couple of years. Impossible not to, given what he did. But he found himself praying, without knowing who the prayers were directed at. Was it God? Was it another omnipotent being, whose name he didn’t know? He and the others spoke of the Powers That Be. What were they, exactly?

“I don’t know anymore,” he whispered to the night. “Show me the way. Please.”

His phone rang, startling him. He’d thought he’d turned it off. It wasn’t his mother, but his grandfather on his father’s side. Thumbing the screen, he answered.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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