CHASE — No Show
The waiting was starting to get to her. Chase leaned up against the curved wooden wall of the old wishing well. Stood up by her own twin—nice, real nice. Her butt was falling asleep so she flopped on to her back, stretching her legs up the inside wall of the wishing well. The old structure was perfectly maintained like everything else in Papa V’s garden. She couldn’t see a single cobweb in the triangle of roof above her, and the decorative bucket looked like it might actually be watertight. The wood of the interior was painted gray and smooth as an icicle, yet Chase had managed to get a ginormous sliver embedded in her palm. The dull throb of the intruding wood was a complement to her mood.
Growing up, the well had been like a playhouse. Back then she and Charlie had been little enough to fit inside together. Chase hadn’t really thought about the wishing well in years—until this week when it suddenly began starring in her dreams, and she woke up with a feeling that she needed to keep a close eye on the wishing well. Dreams were a touchy subject with Chase. This wasn’t the same as a Real Dream she told herself. She hadn’t had one of those in a long time (eleven years ago tomorrow, not that she was obsessed or anything.) She had to admit, she’d been kinda vague about why she suddenly wanted to hang out in the middle of Papa V’s garden, but Charlie seemed game enough for a while.
Chase couldn’t believe he ditched her already. She knew it wasn’t his happenin’ social life that was keeping him. It was pretty safe to say they were each other’s only friend. It was also pretty safe to say that Charlie had found something better to do today. No doubt something in the kitchen or replenishing his ever-present fanny pack in the woods. Every time he passed something even remotely green he had to take a sample. It had gotten especially bad, almost obsessive, since Nana Viv died. Chase could deal with the herb gathering—the fanny pack was seriously embarrassing.
Chase picked at the sliver, but her palm was too sweaty to get a good hold of it. She undid the vintage button that read “Future’s So Bright…” from the strap of her backpack. Papa V always sang that song to her and given the button to her as a gift. It was pretty funny—considering. She flipped over the button and picked at the sliver with the pin on the back.
She could have sworn that it was getting hotter as the sun went down, which made no sense at all. Unzipping her hoodie, Chase stuck her head up over the lip of the wishing well. The air definitely seemed cooler on her face. She lifted her baseball cap and fluffed up her dark spiky hair. The sun was behind the trees, but she didn’t remove her dark glasses.
Light was not her friend. It didn’t matter if it was electric or sun powered, her eyes couldn’t handle it. The briefest exposure brought her to her knees, and it took forever to recover from the migraine that followed. It hadn’t always been that way, she used to be able to play outside and be normal, but it had steadily gotten worse as she grew older.
The shades and hat were a combo that Chase wore at all times, earning her the nickname “paparazzi” at school. This had naturally been shortened to “pap” and then made the perfectly logical jump to “pap smear.” So creative. Not much she could do about it; the hat and glasses were functional, not stylish—keeping out the sun and hiding her freakazoid eyes. If her classmates ever got a good look at her silver irises and hyphen pupils, nicknames would be the least of her worries. She’d made peace with her modern day armor, and she had almost made it to senior year. Charlie was homeschooled by Papa V. Chase could have joined them but was determined to make it to graduation. Although they looked embarrassingly alike, her brother had been spared the alien eyes. He did have panic issues which lead to ritual repetitions; he didn’t talk, and their small school didn’t have the resources for ASL, so homeschooling was obviously the right choice.
It was kinda cheesy, but Chase was determined to graduate from “regular” school for both of them. Plus, she hated the idea of certain name calling losers thinking they had any power over her. Victory would be walking across the stage with the class of 2010, the only one allowed to wear shades. Probably at least half of them would still be wondering if she was male or female. The physical changes of puberty had so far been a no show. Boobless, bug eyed and bitchy, even if she had a phone—it wouldn’t be ringing.
Chase frequently joked about the discount sperm bank their mother must have visited to turn out freaks the likes of them. It always earned her the death glare, and Annika was the master of the death glare. Chase wondered if her mother ever regretted it. There were a lot of things her mother didn’t like to talk about, but the circumstances surrounding their birth were a minefield. Tomorrow was their birthday; she and Charlie would be 17 and very nearly adults. Maybe she could convince her mother to talk about it now. Maybe ninjas would fly out of her ass.
She looked out over the familiar garden filled with cheeseball lawn ornaments from gnomes, to flamingos, to a snoozing fawn. It was just what you would expect in the midst of a garden like this, although none of the girly stuff really fit with Papa V’s image. He was more of an old hippie than a plastic flamingo kind of guy. But he cared for them all as much as his plants because they had belonged to Nana Viv. “Miss you Nana Viv,” Chase whispered. She always felt connected to her in this garden.
The shadows were getting longer as the sun slid behind the tops of the trees, yet Chase could feel sweat trickle down her back. Weird. She sat back down and with the help of the metal pin finally conquered the sliver but not before she stabbed herself pretty good. Blood oozed from the puncture, and she let it drip onto the dirt floor as she rummaged in her backpack for a Kleenex. Pressing the tissue to her hand, an unfamiliar feeling creeped across her skin like a spider. She felt dizzy, and it was suddenly inferno-hot inside the wishing well. Panic clenched her stomach. Chase snagged her backpack and scrambled out into the garden. What was that all about? Blood never bothered her that much before, and panic attacks were more Charlie’s thing.
Hearing footsteps, she crouched down. Papa V was headed out to his herbs. She took care that he didn’t spot her. She didn’t feel like explaining herself and wasn’t exactly sure she could. Chase shivered as a breeze blew across her neck. As soon as Papa V turned his back, she ran the familiar path to home.
Chase and Charlie lived with their mother in an apartment on the top floor of the converted barn that went with Papa V’s old farmhouse. The bottom of the barn served as a training space where Annika held classes. When not working in Nana Viv’s store selling all things herbal, her mother trained people in medieval battle techniques for movies, plays, and renaissance fairs. It wasn’t hard to guess which job suited her better. It was also where she trained Chase and Charlie in the evenings. Knife work and combat skills were strange family hobbies. Chase had been tempted to use her ass kicking skills on the Pap Smear Crowd but refrained. Just knowing she could went a long way.
It was dark and quiet on the first floor; she could smell the organic cleanser Nana Viv had made to disinfect the mats. Chase was a dark blur in the mirrors lining the walls as she ran up the stairs to their apartment and blew through the door with satisfying bang. Her mother spun her chair away from the computer as Charlie shot out of the kitchen growling and waving his hands above his head. It was a like looking in the mirror—though she was pretty sure she looked cooler.
“Oh puleez, Charlie. Don’t even try to act like you are making a soufflé because we both know you aren’t. One slammed door never hurt a chocolate cake. Sometimes you are such a damn diva,” Chase vented.
“Save it.” Her mother stood, switched off her desk lamp, and started lighting candles. “What is with you two?”
Chase rolled her eyes, safely hidden behind her dark lenses.
Their mother walked into the kitchen and secured the blackout shade. She paused on her way back to the computer, taking Chase’s glasses and cap off and rubbing her knuckles a little too hard on top of her head.
“Figure it out, brats, and don’t get blood all over the kitchen.”
“Well, I certainly can’t kill him until after I eat his cake,” Chase crossed towards the kitchen. Charlie snapped her forearm with the dishtowel draped over his shoulder. Chase smacked him upside his genius head.
“You were supposed to meet me after school,” she said closing her eyes and reaching into the fridge for a soda. She could sense Charlie cringe at the reminder.
A pointed look from her, and he allowed access to his head. Another checkmark on Chase’s “yes-I-am-a-freak” list. She and Charlie could communicate directly into each other’s minds. Pretty cool considering Charlie didn’t speak in real life, and it kept their mother out of things, not that it was easy or reliable. It only seemed to work if Chase initiated it. If Charlie would let her practice some more they might actually be able to hold a decent conversation. He had some kind of mental mute button he could use to shut her out, and it was always activated. She knew he hated it when she invaded his mental space. Charlie was barely willing to share his kitchen, letting Chase into his thoughts really creeped him out.
It really burned that he resisted so much. They were freakin’ twins, and he wouldn’t trust her inside his head? There was nothing she wouldn’t trust Charlie with and it stung knowing that it didn’t go both ways. The fact that he was feeling guilty was the only reason he was relenting so easily now. Charlie, sniffing her emotions, looked concerned and apologetic, but he didn’t stop working on his frosting.
Narrowing her eyes she imagined a tube connecting from her brain to his and thought “Way to ditch me, jerk!”
“Sorry,” she heard him think. “I got involved…”
“With a recipe,” she finished. “Shocker. When aren’t you making out with your mental cookbook?”
Charlie glared at her. He never shied away from looking right in her eyes, not that she was giving him any points for that at the moment. “Stick your nose back in the blender if your recipe is so goddamn important.” Oops, that one had been out loud.
“Language!” Her mother called from the other room. Chase never figured out why her mother pretended to care about swearing. Annika could curse like a sailor and had let loose with some pretty inventive stuff during their training sessions.
“I really am sorry,” Charlie mind-whispered. “It’s not like anything happened…”
Chase thought about the strange heat and the creepy crawlies she’d felt, he didn’t need to know about that. “Whatever!” she sent back with too much volume.
He solemnly held out a frosting coated beater and the fight drained out of her. Charlie hardly ever allowed sampling. Anyway, he was right. There wasn’t any point in getting bent out of shape. Dreams were tricky, and it wasn’t like anything had really happened. Maybe the dream meant nothing.
Chase set down her soda and accepted the beater. The frosting was freaking amazing.