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Something Wicked - Independence Day


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I

The next three days were a whirlwind for the Kids. Despite the revelations of the slumber party, normal life still went on and that meant summer jobs to attend for some, and chores for others. They saw little of Evelyn as she was helping her uncle with preparations for the big Fourth of July party, and due to that many of the questions about being a witch and about what they were going to do to find the missing Devil’s Book had to wait.

 

The Party, which all the Kids parents had been invited to as special guests of the Clairburn’s, was bigger than they had been led to believe. In fact, Clairburn’s little party was taking place at Meeks park and was folded into the Annual Fourth of July event which the county held there every year. Apparently, Warren had approached the mayor and volunteered to foot the bill and bring in some entertainment and a much larger fireworks display than the norm. His way of saying thanks to the county for welcoming them back with open arms. All of the prep and arrangements had Warren and Evelyn working hand in hand with the county’s events committee and most of them were older women and Warren quickly charmed them all, still it was a lot of work and kept Evelyn and her uncle extremely busy.

 

Back at the Clairburn property there was also plenty of work to keep Dylan and Silas, who had been hired on as a parttime grounds man, busy and even Quinn found herself being called upon to come over to the big house on the third. Dylan wanted her opinion on the best places for the horse trails they wanted to clear.

 

The third of July dawned bright and sunny, Hank and Jo, both had to work that morning and so had set off to their separate jobs together on their bikes, and by the time Quinn and Silas finished the morning chores at the stable the sky had turned cloudy and grey with the smell of rain threatening, though there had been none forecast. The two were to meet Dylan at the back of the house and take the horses into the back country to spot trails to clear, and had just ridden out of the stable and paused to study the sky before crossing the road. Down the street Roach saw her two friends leading a third horse saddled but no rider, she waved and they waved back, just then a car came down Gumdrop rd. and went around the corner passing the Clairburn road. It was not a car Roach recognized as belonging to anyone in the neighborhood, it was a bright red town car, Roach thought it was maybe a 2004 or 5, with very dark tinted windows, and Georgia plates. It slowed as it passed roach and came down the road toward the two horse riders, by the time it got to Quinn and Silas, it was moving maybe five miles per hour and then without signaling the car turned onto Walsh road and coasted down to Hannah’s old house where it stopped.

 

Jo and Hank had ridden off to work together and chatted animatedly as they rode until they came to the highway where they had to split off with each going the opposite direction to their jobs. Hank was closest and as he waved at Jo’s receding back  he started pumping the peddles to make up time. He wished his dad would let him drive all the time instead of just occasionally. He was old enough had a learner permit and if he could get his father to sign off could  probably get a work hardship exception. Lost in his grumbled thinking he almost ended his driving career but some sixth-sense tickled his mind and he glanced over his shoulder at a yellow missile headed right at him. He swerved had skidding to a stop on the shoulder  to keep from getting hit by the dirt covered yellow jeep that had careened past him and on into the parking lot of the Dollar General where he worked.  

 

Checking his bike to make sure it was not damaged he then peddled up to the jeep where he saw the driver had gotten out of the vehicle and was standing at the still locked doors. The girl was tall, not as tall jo but she was taller than most but unlike Jo she was skinny as a board, flat as one too. She was wearing torn jeans and a tank top with no bra not that she needed one anyway her short brown hair was cut funny to Hank’s eye and messy. Her name was Danielle Church, though she went by Dani mostly. Hank knew her from school though she was a year ahead of him and his friends they had a couple of electives together and he had seen her working out with the track team although to his knowledge she wasn’t on the team.

 

“We don’t open till nine,” Hank said to her reprovingly.

 

 She turned and he saw that she had a tattoo on her arm which was new to him, he did not know anyone with a tattoo, any kids at least. Maybe it was one of those fake ones. It looked cool it was a  dragon curled around a guitar.

 

“Hey,’ she said and gestured at the jeep,” sorry I almost creamed you the stupid thing wobbled and I almost lost control. Fucking jeeps man.” She spit off to the side. “You okay?”

 

“Yeah, no harm. I have to go around back, but we’ll be open in a little bit.” The harsh languages wasn’t something he was used to from a girl.

 

“Didn’t we have a class together last year,” she asked as she dug a crushed box of Marlboro’s with a lighter out of her back pocket and proceeded to light one up?

 

Hank nodded as he started toward the side of the building to go around back “Yes, we were in Mrs. Blum’s Mythology class, 3rd period. I liked that poem you wrote about the kraken. I got to go; I’ll see about opening up so you can get what you need.”

 

 With that Hank darted around the corner and headed to the back to lock up his bike.

 

Jo peddled fast and made good time arriving at the nursery ten minutes early. She had time to run across the street to the quickmart and grab an energy drink. She didn’t even glance at the motorcycle parked out side but to the side away from all the other cars. She ran inside and headed to the back glancing around taking in the other occupants of the store. As her eyes passed over a boy probably about her age, she felt a throb not unlike the silent pulse from the other night, just not as sharp or pronounced.

 

Daryll had gotten up early and headed out he had snatched a couple of twenties from his moms’ purse and he intended to stay away from the crappy house as long as possible. He had ridden the crazy backwoods hill country roads all morning and then decided to head to the lake. On the way he spotted a convenience store and decided to stop to get something to eat. He had been checking out the goods on the various isles wondering if he could get away with some five-finger discount when a girl came in and he could not help but stare. She couldn’t have been much older than him from the looks of her face, but damn he had never seen a girl like her she was huge and not fat huge but rather she hulk huge. As he stared she looked at him and they made eye contact and he felt a strange sensation deep in his chest like listening to a huge bass note blast from a fifteen inch subwoofer, but there was no noise just a silent pulse which left him breathless.

 

Spoiler

new scene - If you had anything to add withthe last scene do so here inthe form of a flashback. i will be avialable if youneed my input.

 

pick up here add a location label at the top of your posts since we are kind of scattered. Quinn, Silas, and Roach are at WALSH ROAD

 

Jo and Daryll  is at THE QUICK MART

 

Hank (which I will be writing for now) is at THE DOLLAR GENERAL

 

Also welcome our new member Kelindel who is playing Daryll

 

this scene will be introducing a new player character and several NPCs

 

enjoy the chaos

 

 

 

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WALSH ROAD

"Huh," Silas said, watching the car coast into Hannah's old driveway. "I guess we have new neighbors. I thought. . . well, I don't get how real estate works." He shrugged and glanced over to Quinn. Things were still tender between the two of them, but some time helped. "I hope they're not the nosey type. That could get real awkward." 

After a beat he added, "Clairburn's gonna pay me the end of each week. You. . . you want to come help me celebrate my first real paycheck?" Helping his parents didn't count, even if they'd slip him some extra allowance for doing it. "I though maybe I'd take some people out for ice cream floats and mini golf." Blairsville Ice Cream and Mini Golf wasn't original in it's naming, but the little golf course was fun and the ice cream was tasty and local - and it wasn't too expensive for some friends on a week's part-time paycheck. 

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THE QUICK MART

Darryl looked over the drinks with disinterest for the most part, nothing that he could get legally really interesting him. The beer however...now that was enticing. Glancing around to see who was about, see if the coast was clear, his eyes fell upon the girl. "Damn," he muttered to himself, feeling the odd feeling in his chest. Absently he brushed back his hair behind his ears, straightening himself up to not seem so small in her presence.

 

He took a breath and wrinkled his nose, ugh, morning breath, and as he started to walk towards her he casually palmed some breath spray from one of the nearby shelves, peppermint, and spritzed it into his mouth. Coming up near her he propped an elbow on the adjacent shelf and adopted his patented cool kid interested, but not interested, just there to hang stance that best showed off his nice leather jacket and nodded to Jo. "Sup," he said with a roguish smile. "Is your father a thief?" He waits half a moment for this to register before he follows up with, "Because he stole the stars from the sky  and put them in your eyes."

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THE QUICK MART

Jo stared at the boy as he approached, striding tall and with his chest puffed out like a bantam rooster, and unconsciously did the same, not letting any man try to dominate or impress her with his stature or presence. Broad shoulders thrown back, her red crop strained, edges of the straps of her black sportsbra peeking into view from the neck, the can of Monster forgotten in her hand.

 

Did that throb of soundless thunder mean anything? Could the boy feel it too? Evelyn had taught them some in the little time since the sleepover, but she'd hardly had time to teach them everything. Was he a witch too? Maybe one of the bad ones? Or just magicked in some way? Other than playing with the fun poltergeisty spells, Jo hadn't encountered any magic she noticed in the last three days.

So busy thinking about the boy and the pulse of energy, Jo was a bit slow on realizing what he'd said as he came to stand by her.

 

"Da ain't no - oh." Jo snorted, looking amusedly nonplussed, but there was a faint rosy glow to her sun-kissed cheeks. "That ever work?"

Darryl couldn't help them smile that crept along his features as he studied the girl before him, his chin tilted up to meet her gaze. "You'd be surprised," he says confidently, "Darryl, Darryl Higgins." His voice was rooted in Savanah but had a prep school vibe that lightened the accent.
 

Darryl's unabashed smile managed to coax a reserved grin from the unusually statuesque girl. Jo was used to guys - and girls for that matter - looking at her, but it was usually with a challenging air or one of disgust or dislike. Darryl's gaze was different from most. Unreserved, maybe?


"Jordan Johansson," she replied in polite return, her drawl more distinct with rural North Georgia. "Most call me Jo."


She gave him a frank appraisal, her rich blue eyes lingering on his leather jacket for a moment before flicking to look out the front windows of the store towards the motorcycle and back. It was a nice jacket, but she imagined he must be awful hot wearing it. Thinking herself wiser with her experience with Dex, Darryl's confidence didn't seem to have the condescending entitlement Dex's had.
 

"You new? Ain't see you - or your bike? - " She nodded her question towards the window and the motorcycle beyond, "hereabouts."
 

For just a minute, Darryl's features faltered as the subject of him being new was brought up. His mind went back to the crappy house and his fathers assurances that he would like it here, that he had grown up here and that it was a great little town. Ugh, this is not where Darryl wanted to be. However, he rallied a moment later and flashed the tall girl another patented roguish smile to show that it was all just a momentary blip in the system and all was well, "Yeah. Just moved here. Dad's from here."
 

Now the mention of his motorcycle, that had him excited, for the most part. Sure it wasn't the car he had been promised, and that still stung, but there is something about a motorcycle that has helped his new aesthetic. It played into the no fucks given attitude. Putting on a veneer of casualness he nodded and said, "And yeah, it's a Kawasaki, been taking it up the trails around here recently." He grinned for a moment, "Wanna go for a ride?"

Jo nodded, but it was clear to Darryl that the brand meant nothing to her. Just as clear, the idea of riding a motorcycle did. Keith and Craig wouldn't let her near the wheel of their Ford, and she'd only gotten a few lessons with dad.
 

"Yeah, fer sure. And I know the trails right well. I run and cycle. But..." Jo raised her arm and gave the remembered Monster Energy Drink a shake, a bicep bulging impressively. She certainly didn't seem concerned about a boy she just met taking advantage of her. 

"... I just stopped by for a drink before work. Got, like, three minutes. After work? Or after the Forth of July Jamboree at Meeks Park tomorrow?"
 

"C'mon Jo, me and you, the trails, chances like this don't come along every day," Darryl coaxed Jo with a gentle smile, stepping in a little closer to rest a hand on her impressively bulging arm. "What's a day of work compared  to a day of fun, riding, feeling the breeze in your hair, having fun?"


He grinned up at her and used his free hand to brush back through his hair once more. He seemed at his ease, as if he was used to things going his way most of the time and without much in the ways of cares or worries.

Jo didn't withdraw, didn't pull her arm away from him. Her hand tightened on the can of Monster, and she twisted her wrist, letting Darryl feel just how hard the coiling muscle in her arm was. Almost, almost, he had her, but her grin tightened, her expression going firm.


She'd let Dex talk her into things without really thinking it through. Not this time.


"Not ev'ry day, but often 'nuff," Jo said stoutly. "I gave my word. Still..." The big blonde chewed hesitantly on an underlip, fun warring with duty. "I'll call, see if I can beg off. If not, yah willin' to wait fer me?"
 

Again he couldn't help himself, he felt that muscle flex under his hand, giving it a faint squeeze and he nodded in appreciation. Damn, this girl could bench me, he thought to himself. Still his smile never wavered as he considered her in quiet contemplation for a moment.


He had felt the thrum in his chest, that was weird, something he had never felt before. He didn't know what it meant. Love at first sight? He didn't believe in that kind of shit, but it meant something, he was sure of it. Attraction certainly, I mean what else could it be. She wasn't his usual type, but maybe that was a good thing. She was pretty.


"Yeah, I'll wait,"


Jo nodded back, her grin returning briefly as she took a discreet step back and fished her phone from a tight pocket of her equally tight shorts and called work.

"Yeah, it's Jo."

"Um-hmm."

"Yeah, just callin' to ask:  Ah know it's last minute, but something came up and Ah was hopin' I could get today off? Ah ain't missed any shift 'til now, and Ah'll even take up another shift after the Fourth to make up fer it if yah can give me this one."

"'Kay! Thanks!" There was a definitely upward lilt to Jo's voice as hung up and pocketed her phone. There was a sparkle in her deep blue eyes as she glanced down at Darryl. "Ah've got the rest of the day. They were closin' early anyways. C'mon, gotta lock up mah bike 'fore Ah can ride yours."

Not one to dither, the huge girl strode over to the cash, Darryl trailing in her wake - and enjoying the view - and paid for her energy drink. Having thought she'd just be in and out, Jo hadn't locked up her bicycle, a sporty cyclocross model, but she did now, securing it to the small bike rack with a heavy U-lock and braided flex cable.

"Ready."

 

Spoiler

Written in conjunction with Kelindel. Welcome to the site and Something Wicked.

 

Edited by Asarasa
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The Dollar General

 

Hank pulled around back and went to the side door wich was beside the big roll-up loading door and knocked. Almost immediately the door was pushed up by Jeff Tate the other stocker who worked with Hank.

 

Jeff was a tall, muscular seventeen-year-old who went to school with Hank and played both football and basketball, and while obviously a jock was not one of those who wore a chip on his shoulder. He was also African American, one, along with his sister Natalie  who was in hanks class, of only a handful of blacks who attended Blairsville High.

 

“ I was wondering if you was coming today,” he said as Hank wheeled his bike in.

 

“I’m not going miss work, need the money for my truck.”

 

Jeff laughed, “When you gonna start driven that old thing instead of peddling around like a grade schooler?”

 

“I’m always going to ride my bike its good exercise, and it doesn’t cost gas. Truck late?”

 

“Nah we ain’t getting one today cause of the holiday tomorrow. Wish Julie would have said something one of us could have taken today off. I got things to do.”

 

The two teens went into the main part of the store and separated, Jeff went to the small refrigerated food section to see what needed stocking, while Hank went to the front where Julie Waters, the store assistant manager was setting up the cash register till.

 

Julie Waters was in her mid-thirties and looked to be in her forties. A lifelong resident of Union county she was originally from one of the small lower economic areas farther north. She had dropped out of high school when she was fifteen to have a baby and was typical of the worn-down stereo type of what people expected to see in the Georgia woods. But she had gotten her G.E.D. and married and now with a handful of kids she had worked at the Dollar General since the store had opened in the early ought’s.

 

“Good Morning Julie, there’s some customers waiting out front. I know it’s a bit early but its hot out there already, you want me to let em in?”

Julie glanced out the front plate glass window, but all she saw was what she thought was a boy smoking by a dirty jeep. “Yeah you might as well.” She handed Hank the keys then went back to setting up her till.

 

Hank cut across to the front doors flipped the old fashioned physical sign from closed over to open and unlocked the doors. He pushed one open and leaned out and called to Dani, “You can come in now.” He gave her a smile as she tossed the cigarette butt onto the ground and rubbed it out with the old work boot she was wearing. Hank noticed that the laces were untied.

 

“Your boots are untied,” he said as she walked past him into the store.

 

Dani grinned a lop sided grin at him, “I know,’ She said and chuckled as she went to the feminine hygiene section of the bathroom products aisle.

 

Hank watched her for a moment then a tingle made him shiver, that sixth sense that said he was being watched. He glanced around and saw Jeff grinning, watching him watch Dani. He felt his cheeks redden. Just then the store phone rang and after Julie answered it she called to Hank.

 

“Hank I gotta take this in the office watch the counter.”

 

“Yes ma’am.” Hank gave Jeff a look then headed to the cash register.

 

Jeff chuckled some more then went back into the store room which with Julie in the office, left him alone with the single customer in the store.

 

Dani Church.

 

Spoiler

Dani Church  9a540ce3750315cfb456f5cbfe8c54d3.thumb.jpg.84293787a368abbcb15a775d76f946c2.jpg          Jeff Tate  1972610651_JeffTate.thumb.jpg.7666beb286a833a72cef0cde7c0878af.jpg

 

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THE QUICK MART

 

Darryl did enjoy the view, though just for a moment, for he was now a man on a mission and that mission was snacks for the road. He grabbed that beer he was looking at as the big girl walked towards the counter and quickly set to pocketing it with a light little slip of his hand, using his body to conceal his action from any mirrors or cameras in the room. He then started to follow behind her, plucking a little snack here or there that somehow ended up in his pocket. In the end he ended up at the register with just a bag of chips which he paid for to cover the rest he had taken by five-finger-discount and attempted to make off with his ill-gotten gains to show the new found friend his motorcycle.

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Quinn pulled herself out of her stare at Hannah’s house. “Hm?”

 

“Mini golf. Ice cream. Fun.” Silas grinned. “Oh, sorry, no horses, so fun adjacent. You in?”

 

 “I thought you loved me,” Quinn grumped.

 

He hid a smile, knowing where this was going. It wouldn’t be inviting Quinn to a non-horsey event without a few dramatics. “I do?”

 

“The last time I did mini-golf,” she said, steering Bey-bey toward the Clairburn’s, “I twisted my ankle on the planter on the first hole.”

 

“Yes, but you were fine on the other holes.”

 

“Then the time before that, I hit myself in the head with my club.”

 

“These things happen.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “I was putting. I’m still not sure how it happened.”

 

“Okay, so the last two times you got hurt. You’re due a safe run.”

 

Quinn gave him a withering look. “The time before that I face-planted on the turf."

 

"Well, you shouldn't step on golf balls then." He shook his head.  "Messed up Jo's score."

 

Quinn rolled her eyes. "Yeah, poor Jo."

 

"Then just come for the ice cream," he finally offered up the compromise that might get her to go.

 

"Maybe. Who else have ya invited?" The question was asked with what passed for cagey from Quinn.

 

Silas shrugged nervously, trying to look nonchalant. "The group, I guess? All of us from the slumber party - except Mr. Clairburn. That would be weird."

 

"Not as weird as the slumber party was," Quinn muttered.

 

"Uh, speaking of the slumber party. . .there was this, um, other kinda strange thing that happened," Solas said, pivoting from the pending paycheck celebration. 

 

“On a scale from 1 to your-penis-fell-off-and-Evelyn-is-keeping-it-as-a-pet, how weird is it?” Quinn asked. Someone really needed to tell her to stop Googling ‘witches’.

 

Silas’ eyes widened and he (predictably) blushed deep red. “Wha-Qu-, you gotta stop reading those Facebook articles, Quinn.” He shook his head and chuckled; it was hard for him to stay embarrassed with her, they’d spent too many weeks on the trails together since they were young enough to remember but not old enough for their parents to separate them when they stopped at creeks and rivers for a chance to bathe. “Uh, I’d kinda say a solid 8 to 9. Dunnit ‘ave anything to do with Evelyn, but it’s. . .”

He ran a hand through his hair and rubbed at the back of his neck. “It’s about me an’ Dylan. About the past and what I saw when I touched that cross, but if’n you don’t want to hear about it ‘cause it’s him, I can not talk ‘bout it.” He wanted to talk about it with her - Quinn was his best friend, the person that knew him best in life - but he was giving her an out if she didn’t want to hear about her latest focal point of embarrassment. 

 

“If you need to talk about it, do it,” she said, managing to sound only mildly irritated. “I don’t want you to not talk about something if you need to talk about som’thin’.”

 

“I don’t know what you saw at the sleepover, but I saw me and Dylan. Up at the cabin, but a century ago. I was me but in a different life. It was. . .” he swallowed hard, the memory-vision still raw for him. “Like one o’ those Romeo/Juliet stories. He was a Clairburn, I was a Walsh, and our families were in a spat. When my- her father tracked us down, they got so angry they killed both of us. I. . .moved on.” 

 

He glanced down at his fifteen-year-old boy body and snorted softly, “Clearly, but Dylan didn’t get to. He’s been stuck, either at the cabin or the Clairburn house, for a century as a spirit. He’s. . .not, anymore, but that was only since the sleepover and it’s not the kind o’ thing anyone’s certain exactly what happened other than it’s tied up in me an’. . .an’ there’s more but yeah, so, Dylan and I are like soul-tied. Or something. Soulmates? Maybe. It feels like-like maybe that?” 

 

He shot Quinn a quick look, having spent most of his time talking looking anywhere but at her, trying to gauge her reaction. There was more - wasn’t there always? - but it was a lot to tell at one time and if she was going to call him stupid, he’d rather she do it now than when he was telling her the rest of it. 

 

Quinn opened her mouth, closed it with a sigh, and started again. “Only you, Silas. I swear. So are you really--” She glanced around to be sure they were alone. “--bi, or are you bi so that you can be soul-mated? And what does all that mean, anyway? Ohmigawd, Silas, are you dating a ghost?!”

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If Jo had noticed Darryl's shoplifting shenanigans, she gave no sign of it. On the other hand, as much as Darryl admired the view - front and back - he admired the big girl being an exquisite distraction, her sheer size drawing attention with no effort on her part. Leather jacket hiding his purloined goodies, Darryl watched Jo circle his motorcycle.

 

Jo was suitably impressed. She trailed her fingers over the seat, then played at twisting the rubberized grip. The bike wasn't a black over-priced, over-loud Harley that a middle-aged weekend warrior would ride only two or three times a year - if it just didn't live in a garage all year. And it wasn't one of those sleek, Japanese rocket bikes that are only good on a race track. It was a sporty, green number that looked like it could handle off-road just as well as asphalt, well used, but well cared cared for. Much like her own bike... well, except that her bike was grey and blue and the only motor it had was her legs.

 

"Nice ride!" She didn't really know if it was a high end model or what, but it looked like fun something awful.

Under Darryl's blithe confident expression, Jo didn't think he'd mind the presumption and swung a long, muscular leg over his bike and straddled the back of the seat. Wondering where in the world the girl found pants that fit, Darryl noticed how his bike sunk under her considerable mass, and reminded himself to take it into account when they rode.

"No helmets?"

Darryl shook his head as he swaggered over with a grin and inserted the key in the ignition. "Conveniently forgotten. It would ruin my hair. That a problem?"

"Not for me." Jo snorted a bit of laughter. When she competed officially, she abided by all the safety regulations, and truthfully, when there were others on the track, there was a higher risk of an accident. But when she was alone, she felt better and more alert without a helmet. This didn't seem any different. Maybe a little faster.

She leaned back, feet on the ground, and Darryl slipped onto his bike in front of her and started revving the engine. The bike began to purr and vibrate and Jo's blue eyes deepened as they narrowed to amused slits. Hmm... Darryl showed her where to put her feet when they started moving, once again all too aware of how solid the She-Hulkian blonde was.

 

"Make sure you hold on tight when we're going." He glanced at the breadth of her shoulders and the thickness of her arms. "Okay, maybe not too tight. I like my ribs."

Jo gave a low chuckle. "'Kay." As Darryl slowly started putting on the gas and picking up speed, Jo tentatively put her arms around his waist, barely touching him at first, then tightening his grip as he continued to pick up speed. "Take Mauney Circle," she said, nodding, then realizing he couldn't see where she was looking, added, "That way. I know a place. Lots of hills and trails by the lake. Little chance of having the share them with others."

 

It was private property, but Jo didn't think Silas would mind.

Edited by Asarasa
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Walsh Road

 

Quinn and Silas were so caught up in their conversation that neither had noticed the woman get out of the red town car and walk into the front yard of Their friend Hannah’s house. The woman was dressed in dark slacks and stylish boots, a colorful summer blouse with a red and yellow floral pattern, her ensemble was capped off with a scarf tied over her head and black cat rimmed sunglass. Her age was indeterminant mid thirties to late forties but could have been ten years younger or older. All in all, she looked like a modern version of someone from the nineteen fifties.

 

She stood there in the yard for a minute or two looking down at something on the ground then around along the ditch. At last she looked up the road and saw the two teens on horseback.

 

Silas and Quinn had just crossed the road and were still in front of Jo’s house they looked over at Roach in her open garage bent over the fender of an old chevy truck working on the engine. When they heard a car behind them stop.

 

“HEY! YOU KIDS!”

 

They turned back and saw the red town car stopped at the entrance to Walsh road the driver window down and the woman in the glasses and scarf yelling at them.

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Darryl started off a bit slow, but still faster than was probably strictly safe as he drove with Jo, but quickly picked up the pace as he got used to the balance of the bike with her on it, taking her off the streets and onto the back roads at her directions. He smiled, enjoying the attention to his bike and himself from his fellow teen. It was a nice change of pace from the bullshit back at home, it took his mind off of everything going on in his life, that and getting to show off was always nice. He glanced over his shoulder back at her as she clutched onto his waist and he flashed a quick, roguish smile and then turned back to the trail ahead as he raced the trails.

 

This wasn't how he had been intending on spending his day; not exactly, but it wasn't bad and he could feel his heart beating faster as he raced around a sharp corner and came across a crest that looked down on the lake and began to wind his way down around it, kicking up dirt behind them as he picked up speed. Calling back into the wind he says, "You know, maybe you -SHOULD- hold on tight!" He laughs giddily and then comes to a sudden little bump in the trail that is followed by a drop that, with the extra passenger, nearly causes him to lose it. However, he does right himself before he they could topple and his laughter just rises higher, as if the near spill just sends a thrill through him. And oh it does, the shiver that runs down his spine makes that clear enough. This was living, this was excitement.

 

He turns around another bend and calls back, "You hanging in there?"

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WALSH ROAD

 

Silas fish-mouthed for a moment, cheeks pink again. “I- uh-, he’s not now. We think. He used to be just like a poltergeist. Then, um, you remember in fourth grade with Craig dared me to go touch the doorknob on the Clairburn house? When Mom and Dad were out of town for that chef’s show?” He shrugged, “Dylan says he recognized me and after that he could manifest. Like, make himself seen and have a body for short periods of time. That’s what he was doing that first time he offered us lemonade, but he couldn’t keep it up for long.” 
 

“Then. . .at the sleepover. . .I grabbed his hand and-and ever since then he’s just had a body. Like he can’t flick between the Clairburn house and the cabin anymore like he could before, he’s just. . .embodied. So. . .maybe he’s not a ghost anymore?” The hopeful yearning in that question was pure Silas, wanting and wanting for someone else. 


“And he’s not the only boy I’ve liked,” he added. “If it were just Dylan. . .”


Quinn made a face. “I don’t ever want my brain to think ‘Dylansexual’ ever again,” she muttered, guiding Bey-bey around a rut in the road. “So, you need to figure out how to lift the curse and you’ll have your ancient boyfriend for the rest of your natural life? Or is it worse than that? Do you even know?”


“He’s not ancient,” Silas murmured under his breath. He pursed his lips, “And I don’t know. He doesn’t know. He said this whole ‘body’ thing was something Evelyn and Mr. Clairburn would have to look into because they didn’t know what was going on.” He was clearly keyed up on the uncertainty, his shoulders tight and his posture all wrong for riding. He looked like one of those uptight “glampers” her family sometimes did guide jobs for. 


“Relax,” Quinn told him. “If you don’t know what’s going on, that’s fine, and nothin’ different from your usual state of being.”


“Ha ha,” Silas muttered but he did loosen up a bit.


“Look, you know that the group’s gonna help fix this so you can be with your soulmate, or ghostmate?” Quinn growled softly, patting Bey-bey on the neck soothingly. “Seriously, it’s like we need a whole new dictionary for this witchin’ stuff, and Google ain’t as helpful as you’d think.”

 

Silas snorted. “Is that where the, uh, pet thing came from? Dr. Google: bad for medicine and witchcraft.” He glanced over at Quinn and quickly away, “And thanks.”
 

2 hours ago, SW Storyteller said:

“HEY! YOU KIDS!”

 

They turned back and saw the red town car stopped at the entrance to Walsh road the driver window down and the woman in the glasses and scarf yelling at them.

 

Silas' brows went up at the rude scream in their direction, but he nudge Clover over towards the woman and the car, calling back a polite, "Can we help you, ma'am?"

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Rochelle's eye was caught by the car as it rolled up. Nothing super special about the make or model, but the color kind of screamed 'I really wanted a race car but this was all I could afford,' and that gave her a bit of a chuckle. She was going back to tuning up the Chevy's engine a bit when the siren call of HEY YOU KIDS rang out.

 

She went back to the dividing line of garage and driveway and reached up with a slightly greasy hand to shade her eyes when she peered out at the car again. Silas and Quinn were going over, because of course they were. When strangers in strange cars call out, what do you do? Go over to them of course. Hop on in. It's fine.

 

It took only a second to duck back inside to where her workbench was and grab the home-made device she called Kratos off of it. Kratos was kind of one of those hand-buzzer things, kind of a stungun. It couldn't decide what it wanted to be, so Roach just gave it a dial. Now she slipped it on over her left wrist and tightened the strap of the palm contact just enough that it wouldn't slip too much. As she walked out towards the car and her friends she tucked the thumb of her left hand through a belt loop of her denim cutoffs to keep the device more or less hidden behind her arm and wiped some of the grease off her right hand on her already heavily smudged ex-white tanktop.

 

"Hey," she said as she came within earshot, "Everything okay over here?"

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WALSH ROAD

The woman had been staring up at the two kids on horseback and was just about answer the boy when a third child approached and spoke loudly, asking if everything was alright. The woman looked at the newcomer; she opened the car door and got out of the vehicle, still looking at Roach. She reached up and took off her sunglasses; she had dark brown, almost black eyes. She looked at all three again then focused on Quinn who looked the most normal. "This is Walsh road, right?"

 

Quinn raised an eyebrow and bit back a remark about Google maps. "Yes, ma'am. You lost?"

 

The woman smiled at Quinn, a little condescending, "No I'm not lost. That house I stopped at, that was the Harper house, right? It’s supposed to be for sale but I couldn't find the real estate sign.  Any of you children know anything about that?"

 

Silas glances away, a sure sign to Quinn that he knew something. "You looking to buy the house, ma'am?"

 

Roach raises her eyebrows at that. "Kids probably stole it," she says then. "Damn kids. So full of mischief."

 

That drew her attention back to Roach. She puts her finger up to the side of her nose, taps, "Dear, you have some grease." Then she focuses back on Silas and Quinn, "I was informed that it was up for sale but I wasn't given the realtor's number. I don't suppose either of you know who that is?"

 

"Oh shit." Roach quickly wipes her face with her hand...leaving huge smudges all over her face. "Did I get it?"

 

"Sorry, I don't do real estate," Quinn said with a shrug. She shook her head at Roach. Roach just grinned.

 

The woman thows back her head and laughs then shakes her head at Roach, "Oh i bet you are a hand full for your parents." She steps toward Roach as she whips the scarf off her head to reveal close cropped white har. She holds the scarf out to Roach, "Here hun, clean yourself up. I think there might be a pretty girl hiding in there. Maybe."

 

"There isn't," Quinn mumbled.

 

Roach rubs her tummy. "Yeah, well, only until I'm done digesting. Don't worry about the grease, I'm working. You'll mess up your dainty little hanky for nothing."

 

She studies Roach, shrewdly, her hand still outstretched lips pursed, then snatches it back and shoves the scarf into her pocket.  Lenas forward, she says in a low voice to Roach, "I think  she's wrong." She retreats back to her car, commenting, "I guess I'll just go check around town. Surely someone knows something."

Glancing at Quinn one final time, she remarks, " Nice horses." Then with one swift move she is back in the car, throws it into gear, stomps on the gas, and with a spray of gravel, takes off to the right on Gumdrop road.

 

Roach watches the car go, then laughs. "Dude, she was totally hitting on me."

 

"Ew, she's like a hundred years older than you," Quinn said, wrinkling her nose.(edited)

 

"Oh yeah, total creeper." She nods sagely. Then Roach looked at Silas and Quinn. "So...you guys hear about this house selling thing?"

 

Quinn frowned. "I think it was going to happen," she said sadly.

 

Silas tries to stifle a sigh. "Or she just thinks you should be baking cookies and sewing clothes. We should get on to the Clairburn house." He seemed restless again, glancing in that direction. He shook his head. "No, I hadn't."

 

Roach cackles at that. "She hasn't tried my cookies then. You guys remember that? The cookies?"

 

"No," Quinn said, mostly to mess with her.

 

Silas clutched at his stomach in memory - he'd actually finished his out of politeness. "Stick to cars, Roach," he teased.

 

"Aww..." Roach 'tches.' "PTSD. The memory block. Therapy. So seriously though, the house isn't for sale anymore? You said it 'was' going to happen. What's up? No one ever clues me into the hot gossip."

 

"I mean, her family moved. It wasn't like they were going to keep the house," Quinn said, frowning at her hands. "No matter how much we wanted them to, so they could move back soon."

 

With a sigh, Rochelle nods and looks away. "I guess not."

 

"I don't think she's coming back," Silas said softly, sounding forlorn and ignoring Roach's question except to shift slightly on Clover's back.

 

"I guess I can't really blame her after all that...stuff..." Roach says, then looks back at Silas and Quinn. "You guys want to come inside or something? Cool off? Dad's at an appointment so it's just me for a while."

 

"Sorry, we're going riding to help Dylan figure out where to lay down new trails on Clairburn's property." Quinn sounded like she had mixed feelings about it. "I could get another horse if you wanted to come."

 

"Or...OR...hear me out on this...we could drive up there."

 

"Or... OR... no," Quinn deadpanned back.

 

She looks up and waggles her head like a kid having a tantrum, "But horses are smellly and they poop everywheeeeere...."

 

Silas chuckled. "Cars just fart everywhere."


"Yeah, but it's like...good farts. Like..." She inhales through her nose and 'ahhs.' "Fried hydrocarbons and water vapor. The smell of power.” She shook her head, "Anyway, if you don't want to drive, I'll just grab my bike. . .and maybe wash up real quick."

 

Silas grinned. "Your bike is gonna be torture on the trails." He nodded to her to go get ready, though.

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The Dollar General

Dani had not been paying any attention when she almost splattered the bicyclist all over the road as she swerved into the store parking lot. Then when she saw him ride into the lot after she had hopped from her jeep and saw how cute he was she realized she had almost hit him and felt a bit of guilt. Plus, he was cute.

It wasn’t until they had started talking that she had recognized him, and as she watched him head off around the side of the building she wondered how it was that she had never noticed him much in school. Then when He had let her into the store early a little later, she found herself glancing over at where he was standing at the cash register as she went up and down the aisles until arriving what she was looking for. Dani reached down and grabbed the closest box of tampons with out as much as glancing to see if it was what she was supposed to be getting and then she went straight up to the counter and laid them in front of Hank.

She watched his face closely to see if he would be embarrassed by her shopping, but he did not even blink as he rung the item up. That impressed her, most boys would have been red to see someone they knew buying a feminine hygiene product.

She glanced up at the office door which was closed, she had seen the older woman, she assumed the manager, go in there before Hank let her in, and she was still in there now.

 

“That will be ten dollars and fourteen cents,” Hank said after ringing Dani’s one item up. He glanced at her and saw that she was looking at the office, then she leaned closer to him over the counter which made him pull back a bit.

“Give me a box of Marlboro reds, Okay,” She said keeping her voice low, one eye on the office door.

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Walsh Road and the Clairburn House

 

Roach ran in and quickly washed up while Silas and Quinn stayed by Jo’s house letting the horses graze along the ditch. It only took Roach about five minutes then she was peddling across the street to meet up with her friends. The here horses and the bicycle then proceeded down to the Clairburn road and up toward the gate.

As roach rode to the side to use the intercom to call the house to have them open the gate it started to swing open on its own, startling Roach.

“What the…” she started but stopped at the sound of Silas’s laughter. Roach looked back and up at the boy a scowl on her face when she saw him with a plastic remote in his hand.

“Since I’m working for Mr Clairburn they gave me a gate opener, “ Silas said through a grin.

“Could have mention that before scaring the crap out of me.”

 

A few minutes later and the three kids were in front of the old mansion and were just dismounting to go up and knock when the front door opened and out came Dylan, dressed in jeans, boots, and a blue and white checkered shirt with the sleeves neatly rolled up.

He smiled at the kids from up on the porch, “Hi y’all, It’s a pleasant morning for a ride.” He looks at Roach and her bike. “You coming with us, Rochelle?”

 

 

By the Lake

 

Luckily the trails they were on were made for riding horse back, as natural a rider as Darryl was he was still pretty new at it and this was the first time he had been ‘off-road’ with a passenger. Still it was fun and he followed the pointed directions of the muscular girl leaning against his back down this and that trail always moving closer and closer to the lake until they eventually broke out of the trees onto a clear area with a  dirt road leading off to the south east back toward town and west to a  neatly mowed grass clearing with buildings and a posted private property sign.

In front of them was  a small stable and beyond the stable two large buildings backed against a ridge. The first of the buildings was what looked like and old bunk house the other a full-fledged two-story lake cabin of indeterminant architectural origins. The clearing in front of the lodge narrowed beyond the house into a wide lane leading down to a small boat ramp witan a short  pier on the lake.

 

 

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LODGE AND LAKE

 

Not used to being on a motorcycle, nor not being in control, at first Jordan had trouble shifting her weight in time with Darryl, causing a pair of near spills. But the huge girl was an incredible athlete and soon adjusted, leaning into the turns with the boy. As Darryl poured on the speed and stopped slowing for the rises and bumps in the trail, Jordan didn't need his prompting to hold on tighter.

 

Her hands slid up his chest as she hugged herself close. Darryl could feel Jo's strong arms tightening against his ribs, her firm breasts pressing against his back through the leather of his jacket, feel them rise and fall with her rich, unabashed laughter. Her pale blond hair streamed behind as she ignored the occasional pebble or spray of dirt that glanced against her bare arms and legs. 

This was fun, and Jo was reminded that not everything with Dex had been bad. She even missed some of it. She sure hoped something awful that she wouldn't find out that Darryl was some sort of asshole too.

When Darryl called out over his shoulder all Jo yelled against the wind of their not quite reckless ride was, "Faster!"

 

As Darryl idled to a stop by the lake house, Jo clapped him on the shoulder then swung herself off the bike with a grace that belied her bulk. She pulled her eyes away from the bunkhouse and looked towards the pier.

"Don't worry, Darryl. This is a friend's place. His family's." To be fair, Darryl hardly looked concerned that he might have been trespassing on private property. Jo nodded at him then nodded towards the pier. "Just gonna dip my toes in for a spell, wash 'way the dirt an' sweat an' cool down some."

Arching a pale, expectant brow at him, Jo began sauntering down to the lake as she stripped off her shoes and socks.

Edited by Asarasa
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Hank shook his head.  "Can't, at least 3 cameras on us right now, and besides, it's illegal for me to sell them in the state of Georgia."   Hank was well-known to be straight-laced, he was a scout after all.   he wasn't gonna risk his job sellin smokes, even to someone he knew.  

"Anything else?"  he sighed inwardly, she wasn't the first who tried this, but still, with his reputation, you'd think people would have gotten the idea by now.  He wasn't really embarrassed by what she was buying, it was part of life, right?   Women having this made it easier on them.   He offered a thin, though still genuine smile, there were no hard feelings, he just wasn't gonna sell her the smokes.

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The Dollar General

Dani's shoulders slumped, she glanced at the door to the office, "Come on Leesford, the cameras don't know how old, I am hell you don't know how old I am. "

She fishes in her back pocket never looking away from Hanks face, and produces a thin pocket book designed to carry credit cards and IDs. Dani flips it open and pulled a card out and hands it to Hank.

Hank takes it and looks at it. It's a Georgia Drivers license and as far as he can tell it looks real. Hank does the math and sure enough it says that Dani is Nineteen as of the first of June.

 

Spoiler

It could be a fake probably is you don't know her well enough to know how old she really is but hank would find it hard to believe that she is 19.

 

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WALSH ROAD

"Sure!" replied Roach with faux cheer. "What a...great way to rui...I mean spend a morning. Woo..."

 

Quinn frowned at Dylan, noting that he'd brought out the Power of His Forearms today. "You know, you don't have to come," Quinn said sharply, but not in anger, to Roach. Silas and Roach both knew that was her 'practical' voice, offering what she thought was the obvious solution to a problem.

 

"Yeah, but then who would I torment" is Roach's return query. "Like, I have all this tormentiousness, and if you guys weren't around I'd just have to use it on myself. So...lets go!"

 

Quinn rolled her eyes at the made-up word and gathered her reins.

 

"Well I only see three horses and your bike ain't going do too well up in them hills," Says Dylan who then glances at Silas, "someone gonna have to double up."

 

Silas hadn't quipped and Quinn would be annoyed with why - he was just smiling at Dylan in that dopey way teens did when they forgot the world was still looking at them. At Dylan's pointed comment he nodded. "Clover can handle the two of us. And Roach, that bike'll get ruined up there and you'll always be lagging behind."

Roach dutifully leans her bike against the side of the porch, but goes over to Quinn's horse. "Scootch over, medicine woman."

 

Silas shot Roach just the tiniest bit of a reproachful look, but Roach was too busy awkwardly trying to rappel up a horse to notice. Silas sighed, watching her. Probably best, given her level of horsemanship, he told himself firmly.


Dylan sighed and moved over to the third horse, putting a hand on her head stroking gently, "What is her name?"

 

"Willow," Quinn supplied as she made room for Roach. "She's a rescue Mom fell in love with."


"That's a good name. Hey there Willow we gonna have us a good ride today you ready?"  The horse bumped her head against Dylan's shoulder and snorted; Dylan laughed and climbed into the saddle. "Well I must say it has been a long time since I sat a saddle but it feels like only yesterday." He rode up next to Quinn and handed her a map he had in his pocket. “This is the land back up yonder. I marked out a path, but this is gonna be your trail so you’re in charge."

 

Quinn paused in her efforts to help Roach before Bey-bey decided that the wiggling was too much and dumped both of them on the ground. "Roach, get down before you knock us both down. I'll get up by the porch and you can get on that way." She turned to Dylan next and took the map, then rode over to the porch and finally got Roach aboard. "Okay," she said, glancing at the map. "Any dangers we should know about now?"

 

Dylan shook his head, "Nah there shouldn’t be other than there ain’t any real trails yet just game trails but nothing we can't navigate on horseback. It’s heavily wooded and hilly but ‘long as we don't head north we won't have to deal with the ridge. If you want, I can lead off. I know the way I marked and if you see some other way just let me know and we can adjust."

 

"I can lead," Quinn said, shoving the map deep into the top of her boot. "Silas ever tell you what my family does?"

 

"Yes ma'am, he has." He nodded and moved aside so Quinn can take the lead.

 

Silas smiled at Quinn. "She'll find us the way," he said matter-of-factly to Dylan. His smile became a full on delighted grin - it was going to be a good day: out in nature, with some of his favorite people, and this was technically something he was getting paid for. He chuckled at that thought and fell into place as they started off.

 

"Okay so...shoe throwing protocol. We need to work this out in advance. If a horse breaks its leg, do we have a gun? Who is going to drag..." immediately she realized this might be going too far and backs off from Quinn's reaction. "...nevermind, I'm sure the professional among us has it all worked out. So. Nice...day? Isn't it?"

 

"If I had a pebble to chuck at you," Silas said in a mostly-joking growl.

 

"I have temporary boots if we throw a shoe," Quinn growled humorlessly, "and ain't nobody breaking a leg of one of my horses!"

 

"Yeah, no, I wasn't meaning like your horse didn't pay off Big Vinny on time," Roach complained. "I was thinking like...a hole. Or, I don't know, an owl? What breaks horse legs in nature?"

 

"God damnit, Roach, shut up!" Quinn snarled. "I don't wanna discuss that!"

 

"Okay okay!" She looped her arms around Quinn's belly to hold on as the horse sped up a notch. "Adamantine horse skellies. I got it. Unbreakable like Bruce Willis."

 

Dylan laughed, "Y'all kinda funny. The way y'all talk. Gonna take some gettin’ used to." His expression turned serious, "I know y'all ain't had much time for Miss Evelyn to teach y'all yet, but there’s things you can do just by the bare fact of who y'all are.”

 

He looked around at all three of the Kids. "That stuff Evelyn does with the lights, y'all can do that. It just takes concentration and thinking. Another thing is lookin ahead. If you think on it and you will it, you can ... not exactly see what’s ahead of ya, but ya can get a feeling. Eventually stuff like that will be second nature to y'all."

 

Quinn understood horses, but talking about stuff like this made her nervous. It was uncharted territory. "What do you know of it?" she asked, not aggressively for once.

 

Dylan looks thoughtful. "Well, now I can't do it myself, but I know how it was done and that y'all can do it. It's just like lookin’ or listenin’, but you do it inside. It’s all about thinking about what you want to see or hear or smell, you get that in your mind then you open yourself... like when your tryin’ to wake up from a dream and you do, but you don't. You’re really still asleep, you just shift to another dream that knows you was dreaming."

He paused, "Quinn, you'd be the best one to do it ‘cause you know what it is you got to watch for." He blew out some air and wrinkled his brow thinking. "When we are going along, just think ahead and picture in your mind the things you want to avoid, rabbit holes and such. If there’s any there you'll get a nudge or a feeling to avoid a certain direction, and if we stop and look most likely we'd find a hole. Hiding there."


"...does that work on, say...winning lotto tickets?" Roach asked avidly. "Asking for a friend."

 

Dylan looks at Roach with a frown. "Lotto ticket?"

 

"Yeah! Lottery! You know, thirty-three million dollar jackpot? Convenience stores? Witless idiots ruining their lives by getting what they think they always wanted when they can't handle it?"

 

Silas shook his head. "I doubt it. That's more than a vague feeling. Might work for winning scratchers, maybe?" He shrugged, clearly not that interested.

 

Dylan shook his head, not following the conversation between Roach and Silas. He moved up close to Quinn. "I'm sorry I ain't a very good teacher. If I could still do it I could show you but I can't." He shrugged and looked a bit dejected.

 

Silas pulled Clover up along Willow's side, reaching out to squeeze Dylan's hand.

 

"Hey. You guys remember when we scared the shit out of those guys at the cabin?" Roach asked, apropos of nothing.

 

Quinn shrugged at Dylan. "It's okay." Glancing back at Roach, she said, "Yeah, why?"

 

Rochelle grinned. "Good times, right? You had fun." She nudges Quinn's shoulder.

 

Silas rolled his eyes, knowing exactly where this was going.

 

"Silas, you too," Roach countered. "Dylan, you'd have loved it if you were there."

 

Quinn twitched slightly. "I'd rather Silas just told them to drop dead so we didn't have to do that in the first place.

 

"Come on, admit it. When they were freaking out, you cracked a smile," Roach pushed.

 

Dylan laughs as he squeezes Silas's hand. "I was there, with you, Roach, in the woods."

 

She looks at Dylan then, looking perhaps oddly unsurprised. "So that was you on the trail to the altar room too."

 

"Well, that's creepy," Quinn muttered softly.

 

"No,” Dylan shook his head with a frown. “Only a witch can go there."

 

"No no, not inside the room. On the trail up there."

 

"The cold." Silas said with a blink, thinking back to the night of the prank.

 

"And the eyes on us," Roach chimed in.

 

Dylan looks at Silas, a question in his eyes. "No, Rochelle, I could only go to the cabin then."

 

"Well now,” Roach said, considering. “That's interesting."

 

"In the woods that night, there was this fog and cold. I just thought of it now. I was. . . upset, so I didn't think about it then." Silas explained and shook his head, "Now it seems. . . more."

 

"There was a cold spot over me, but also I felt like I was being watched. You know, like you're just about to grab something and stuff it in your pocket from a shelf, and then you're like...waitasecond,” Roach held up a finger. “And sure enough, the register guy is watching you. I felt that again on the way up to the altar room."

 

"Yes that was me. I didn't mean to scare you if I did." Dylan blushed at Silas. "It had been a very long time since I had been that far. And there is - was - a connection so I could, but it took a lot of energy. I had to get some back."

Dylan’s embarrassed smile turns to a frown as he looks over at Roach. "But that wasn't me Rochelle. Maybe it was the witch who tricked y'all into goin there. I wish I had stayed at the cabin with you an’ seen all that. But after the older kids came out I couldn't hold myself there." His shoulders slump, "I'm sorry I maybe could have prevented all of this and y'all could have led a normal life."


"Eh, whatever,” like Rochelle had ever wanted normal. Silas just silently squeezed Dylan’s hand again in reassurance. Roach went on, “So you think this witch was...what? A ghost too? Astrally projecting?"

 

Dylan nodded as the horses picked their way through the underbrush. "Yes, that’s one ability a witch has. It's harder to do than the little poltergeist tricks, so she would have to have been powerful. It is very hard to stay invisible. Usually the witch would look like herself, but thinner like she wasn't all there. But still recognizable."

 

"Hmm. You can't do that? Can any of the others?"

 

Dylan nods again, "Both Miss Evelyn and Mr Warren could, but they won't. It's not something white witches do. It’s black magic; how covens search out and torment their victims. Appearing to them, trying to make them sign their book."

 

Roach rolled her eyes. "How are we going to figure out how it works and how to stop it if they won't do it?" she asks. "We need...trials! Measurements!"

 

Silas shivered at the conversation. "So, we were already being hunted? Or were they just looking for the map? That was the same night we found it. Quinn fell through the floorboards. . . " he trailed off, thinking how you might use magic to weaken boards.

 

"Just...they can just think of it as like Defense Against the Dark Arts. That makes it totally cool if they do it," Rochelle tried to insist.

 

Quinn bit her lip and looked worried. She dug out the map and looked it over again, listening even as she checked their path again.

 

"These witches are dangerous. They killed Evelyn’s parents and most of the rest of that circle. They know how all this works." Dylan reins in his horse and takes a deep breath. "They probably already knew who y'all were - that if Evelyn were called, y'all would be her circle. It's a blood thing." He looks around, "They needed the circle to open the cave and open the book. Once they had the book, they tried to break the circle. That’s what happened to Hannah. For some reason they took an indirect approach and her daddy got that fantastic job offer he couldn’t turn down. So she was forced to leave, which left the circle with an empty spot. Until a seventh can be found y'all are vulnerable."

 

"So...we put out an ad in the paper. Maybe the State Fair edition. No problem." Roach reached out a hand, showing how the ad could go: "Wanted. Witch or warlock. Serious inquiries only. Must bring own hat."

 

"If it's a blood thing, then it can't be just anyone, can it?" Silas asked. "It's got to be someone with a blood tie."

 

"We'll get a hundred loons lookin' to dance naked under a full moon with teen girls," Quinn grumped.

 

"Yeah, well...Alabama rules. I'm pretty sure most folks around here have some kind of 'blood tie.' " Roach shrugged, "Dancing naked loons, we can just sell the vids online. Win win."

 

"No, I don't want to see Hank, Silas, or Dylan naked. Or you," Quinn snorted.

 

"Your loss. I'm gorgeous."

 

Again Dylan laughs "I think Mr Warren already has seen to a replacement. I know he cast a spell pretty soon after he moved back into the Mansion to find any others with ties. Once a circle comes into being..." He lets that thought trail off. "Anyway I heard him talkin’ on the phone yesterday about the Harper’s house and that someone could move in as soon as they was ready. He would only allow someone close to all of us if there was a reason."

 

"Yeah, but he's not the only one working here," Roach reminds Dylan. "Otherwise Hannah wouldn't have left. Clearly any new member must be hazed. Loyalty must be assured!"

 

"They'd better like horses," Quinn muttered. After a second she said, "Wait, that woman at Hannah's house. Could she be part of a successful spell?"

 

"Ugh. Horses,” Roach made a face. “Quinn, there's literally not enough 'liking of horses' left in the world after accounting for you."

 

Dylan’s brow furrowed at Quinn’s comment. "What woman?"

 

"We met someone scoping out Hannah's place," Roach says, letting go of Quinn long enough to stretch her arms. "Kinda...milfy, I guess? Dunno if she has kids."

 

"She's a total Karen," Quinn grunted.

 

"Drives a Compensationmobile," Roach added. "Well, okay, not really. It's just colored like one."

 

Silas nods, "Yeah, Karen to the core. All 50's look and behavior."


Dylan looks totally confused now; he shook his head, "When did y'all see this Karen woman?" 

 

"Just this morning,” Roach supplied. “I'm surprised Mr Peace didn't brief you."

 

"Right before we came here,” Silas added, “while we were leading the horses. She wanted to know where the for sale sign was."


Dylan shook his head again clearing the confusion of trying to make sense of the vernacular used by the Kids. "Wait, she was asking about the house being for sale." He stops Willow in the middle of the trail.

 

"Let me guess, she isn't the Chosen One?" Roach asked sardonically. 

 

"She's not the right age." Quinn shrugged. "She'd definitely look weird hanging out with us."

 

"Well, I figured it'd be more like a daughter. But I guess she's a bit young for that?” Roach asked with uncertainty, then shrugged. “Still...she can dance naked with the loons if she wants. I would not tell her no."

 

"Yeah, maybe a real estate agent?" Silas said with a frown. The woman had creeped him out.

 

"Eww, she's like fifty." Quinn made a face.


"Psh. High thirties tops,” Roach shook her head. “And like, Hollywood preserved."

 

Dylan looks around, his expression serious. "The house was never put up for sale. As soon as we learned that Hannah was leaving, Mr Warren approached the Harpers and bought the house directly. He couldn't let just anyone move in there."

 

"So. . . who told her?" Silas said with a frown.

 

Roach frowned. "But...there was a sign, wasn't there?"

 

"I don't know." Dylan said with his own shrug.

 

"I don't remember one," Quinn said softly. "But I also admit I wasn't paying much attention."

 

"Right,” Roach said. “Insufficient horses."

 

Silence fell over th group then Dylan turned back up the path, "Let’s finish marking the trail, then when we get back I'll get one of you to call Mr Clairburn or Evelyn. Quinn, pull out the map. I need to show you how it works. At least I can do that. It was prepared by Mr Clairburn and it’s enchanted: the mark of the trails can be moved. All you have to do is..."

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Lodge and Lake

 

The ride was exhilarating and having the calls of faster from Jo in his ear just served to drive Darryl on. When finally they came by the lake house and he slowed to a stop he turned to watch Jo. Her mention of it being a friend's place has him quirking his lips faintly. He indeed wasn't too concerned about trespassing, though the information that this was a friends place was filed away. Maybe there were some worthwhile people in this town. At her comments about dipping her toes in and the expectant eyebrow he again smirks, but turns off the bike.

 

Kicking it into a parking position he swings his own legs over the side of the bike and begins to saunter after Jo, saying, "Alright, sounds good enough." He slips his own shoes and socks off as he goes, letting his bare feet hit the pier as he pads over to the end of the pier and settles down, dipping his feet into the water. Glancing over to Jo he asks, "So, what's the word on this town? Anything fun to do around here?"

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Lodge and Lake

 

The muscles in the girl's massive thighs rippled as Jo looked down at her feet and calves swirling idly in the cool lake, making silvery eddies in the water, spreading out from the pier. It was refreshing. The big blonde leaned forward and scooped up some water in hands and started rubbing the dirt from her legs, arms and shoulders that had been kicked by their ride, her tanned physique glistening under the sun before the heat of the day evaporated the moisture.

"'Pends on what yah call fun." Jo gave Darryl a small, private smile. Ah reckon Ah shouldn't say a mite 'bout the evil witches and the evil book and what all. She nodded back over wide shoulder. "You've seen some of the trails for ridin' and runnin', an' there's more." She nodded ahead of them and kicked hard with one leg, sending out a big splash of water that misted in the air and threw up a diffused rainbow for a moment. "Lacks to swim in and boat in, if you have one. Hills and cliffs to hike and climb. Can go see the Alpacas at Lasso the Moon. All sorts a stuff, and the regular, like movies and restaurants and such."

Jo pulled her pale blond braid over her shoulder and let it nestle between her breasts, then flopped back on the pier, feet still playing in the water, fingers interlaced behind head as she looked up at the sky, watched the sparse, fluffy white clouds for a bit. That one looked like the face of an old man. That one over there, a bird with too many wings. She turned her head slightly away from considering the clouds to consider the leather jacketed boy.

"There's gonna be a big to-do for the Fourth. Fireworks, food, games. Fun. If you'd like go to that, Ah'll be there."

Edited by Asarasa
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The Dollar General

Hank crinkles his brow he is very skeptical about the ID and he looks up at Dani and finds himself starting directly into icy blue eyes like deep pools in the arctic sea. He gives a little shiver, “This isn’t real is it?

 

Dani parts her lips and the pink tip off her tongue protrudes from between her very white teeth, with an almost silent giggle she crinkles her nose and snatches the card away from Hank.

 

“No,” is her single word reply.

 

The card goes back into the small flat wallet which disappears into her right hip pocket while she digs out several folded bills from her left front pocket. She starts counting them out, “You really are a boy scout aren’t you.” She tosses a ten and a five onto the counter and grabs the box of tampons, “Don’t need a bag and keep the change get yourself an ice cream or something.”

 

Before Hank can reply she spins away and hurries to the door, as she pushes through she raises the box of tampons and wave them like a banner and calls back over her shoulder, “See ya around boy scout!”

 

The Lake

Darryl glances with just his eyes at the girl beside him on the pier, did she just sorta ask me out?

 

“I don’t know maybe, I’m not much for fairs and stuff,” he shrugs, “not much else to do here, though.”

 

Jo laughs, “Hey it isn’t that bad we do have a super Walmart.”

 

Darryl turns to look fully at her and she looks right back, then thye both break out laughing. Jo hops to her feet, “Come on I’ll show where the fun places to go are in town and around the county if you got the gas.”

 

Darryl joins her as thye head back to the bike, “Don’t you worry I got plenty of gas.”

 

Clairburn House

 

Dylan and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon riding through the hills, marking trails for later clearing and widening. Dylan showed Quinn the first bit of magic she could do, how to mark the map. He explained that the paper was enchanted and produced a small needle which he handed to Quinn, “Prick your finger  just enough to draw a drop of blood, just let the blood set on your finger, and say these words, ‘Where my finger goes, the lines in bold should ever flow’.

 

She looked at him wit a mixture of skepticism and trepidation but when the others encouraged her, she did it mainly to shut them up. A quick poke of the needle and a drop of blood welled up. When she said the words, it was more a mumble because saying them out loud made her feel silly. But as the words were said she felt them in her head formed just as Dylan had said but in her own voice, a tingle on her finger and the drop of blood shimmered and seemed to evaporate. The tingle remained though not as strong and not too distracting.

 

“That’s it” she asked?

 

“Put that finger on one of the marked trails and slide it over to one o the unmarked keeping your finger on the map.”

 

Quinn did as she was bade and watched with astonishment as the line moved to follow her finger. Everyone crowded to see and wanted to do it them themselves.

“Not right now, this map is bound to Quinn, but maybe Ms Evelyn or Mr Warren will make some more or show y’all something else.” This satisfied them at least a little and then they were off marking trails.

 

Late that afternoon, after they had returned to the house and had sandwiches and chips Dylan had Silas call Mr Clairburn.

 

After putting the phone on speaker and they told Warren about the woman at the house with everyone interjecting their bit of the story. He grew silent then his voice came over the tiny speaker.

 

“Rochelle, You said it was late model Lincoln sports car red and that you didn’t know anyone with a Lincoln around the county with a car like that?”

 

“Yes sir.” For once Roach decided to be serious.

 

“It had Georgia plates, you said,” Warren asked?

 

“Yes sir, but I didn’t pay attention to the number, sorry I didn’t think it would be important.”

 

“The important thing Roach,” that was the first time Mr Clairburn had used her nickname, “is that you saw them. Now what I want you to do is sit on the floor Indian style and I want you to close your eyes and remember that car coming down the road, passing your driveway, turning onto Walsh road. Keep that in your mind now run it back from the beginning as if you had restarted a Blu-ray. When its clear in your mind and you can hear the car, smell the oil you were changing, when its clear as if you were standing there and it was happening start it over and look at that Georgia plate, keep doing it keep remembering until that plate is clear as day in your mind then pause that Blu-ray.”

 

Roach did as she was asked and listened to Mr Clairburn  and at first thought this is silly then she remembered the lightning and the lines moving under Quinn’s finger and then the image of the car snapped and became clear in her memory and she could hear the sound of the engine and heard a knock in the engine she had missed before, it’s low on oil,  she replayed it in her mind until she couldn’t hear her friends in the room with her or the sound of Mr Clairburn as he guided her, all she heard was the car and felt the wind when she stepped out of the garage and watch the car pass again and again then she saw the plate and she watched it time and again until suddenly it was there right in front of her and it froze in her memory.

 

“ASD-9328, ASD-9238, I can see it right there in my mind… ASD- 9238!” Roach was excited.

 

“Now Roach, you have something even more important to do. I know your interested in all that fancy tech stuff and computers and the internet. Do you think you can find out who that car is registered too?”

 

“You bet I can,” Roach said gleefully.

 

“Now I want you to be careful don’t do anything illegal or risk getting caught. But we need to know who that woman was. I’ll check a few avenues that I can and let’s compare notes tomorrow.”

 

There was another voice in the back ground they couldn’t make out what it said or who it might belong to. “Alright kids it’s getting late and Evelyn and I won’t be home until after dark so y’all had better head on home and we’ll get together at the party tomorrow. We will see all of you then.”

 

The connection was broken, and tomorrow was the Fourth of July, Independence Day

 

Spoiler

I wont be starting a new thread but this scenes is ended everyone take 2 xp

If you want to add any RP posts  to this you can as long as you stay within the time frame of the end of this post and your arrival at the 4th of july party.

Max i will get with you  to go over your investigation probably on discord.

as always any questions you know how to get ahold of me.

 

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II

The fourth of July dawned bright and sunny with a hint of clouds in the west. It wasn’t yet hot, but the day promised to be a scorcher.

 

All of the Kids, except Daryll, who was not yet one of the circle but would be, had chores to attend to before they could go be with their friends and head to the festivities which were set to begin around eleven am with the annual boat parade on the lake, followed by family fun at Meeks park with fair rides, games, and fair food and BBQ, as well as entertainment both amateur and professional.

 

Quinn and Silas had the Horses to feed and exercise, and Jo had to go with her mother grocery shopping, a chore she was not fond of. Hank was mowing grass, not only his yard but also the yard where Hannah had lived, Mr. Clairburn had called and offered him fifty dollars to do the yard early on the Fourth because the house had new tenants who would be moving in soon. And roach had to finish the tune-up on Mr. Greens old ford that she had skipped out on the day before to go into the hills with her friends.

 

Daryll had no chores and probably would not have done them anyway as he was still in a rebellious mood. He woke late but with a smile on his face he had had a dream of the big girl, Jo, and the memory of her pressed against him on the bike was pleasant. There had been other girls in the dream, but he could not remember their features as clearly as Jo’s. It had been a good dream even if he could not recall any of the details.

 

 He went to the bathroom, dressed, then went to the kitchen to see if there was anything to eat and stopped in the doorway. Both his parents were at the shabby kitchen table and so was an elderly man Daryll had not seen before. Both of his parents had big smiles and the old man was smiling too.     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dr. Edgerly1522446509_dredgerly.thumb.jpg.1fd8f9cfd721dcd5b67f5df527202574.jpg

There was a lot of smiling that morning, as introductions were made. The old man was Dr. James Edgerly, a seventy-two-year-old general physician who had been treating the citizens of Union county for over forty years. It seemed that Dr. Edgerly had decided to retire at the end of the year and had chosen Dr. Higgins to take over his practice. Good news indeed but better news was that they would be moving into a new house, a much nicer house, provided by the practice. All in all, a good start to  what would be an eventful day.

                 

Some of the Kids went to the Boat parade and some of them even participated but by one o’clock all of them, along with their families, had arrived at Meeks Park and all were amazed at what they saw. Usually there were a few food booths and a band stand with the fireworks set up and roped off a good distance from where the crowd would gather. But not this year, this year Mr. Clairburn had spared no expense, there were carnival and fair rides, games, food booths and a huge Traveling  BBQ pit from a world famous pitmaster from Tennessee. There were four band stands spaced through out the park various local amateur bands and professional groups from Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah would be playing throughout the day, with a headlining show at seven pm by award winning country artist Luke Combs. 

 

Then there were the fireworks.

 

Zambelli Fireworks was one of the premier fireworks display companies in the world and today they were doing the show in Meeks park which was scheduled to start at dusk, which would be around nine-twenty pm.

 

The cost, which supposedly was being paid by the Clairburn’s, had to be enormous, and how on earth did Warren Clairburn manage to get this all put together on such short notice. Not that anyone was complaining and if there were questions people were keeping it to themselves. There was no way anyone who came to Meeks park on this Fourth of July was not going to enjoy themselves.

 

 

Spoiler

Everyone will be at the Event and should arrive between one and two. Your families and just about everyone you know and many many you don't are present. Your next post should detail your morning and your arrival at the celebration. Special note for Daryll, you are there with your parents and dr edgerly who is going to be introducing your folks around. Throw as much fourth of July celebration into your posts that you want. once everyone has posted I will get all of you together. 

have fun there may be extra points awarded if i am pleased.

 

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11:36pm, July 3rd

McKendrick Residence

 

Roach was peeling her headset off after shaming a Destiny 2 server, reflecting to herself that she might be able to get some of the others into something like Among Us or Fall Guys...the 'pot' of online gaming, and then ease them into hardercore fare over time. She paused just as she was about to shut her computer down though as the events of the day replayed in her head. Wasn't she forgetting something?

 

A second later she slunk back into her room after sneaking out to the fridge to snag a few cans of soda and drag them back with her, like a cat might the carcass of a fresh kill. Popping the first one open, Roach got to work.

 

Despite what Hollywood liked to show, most hacks start with human beings being stupid. They click a link they shouldn't, or write their password down, or pick things that anyone could guess if they know just a few bits of public info. In the case of the Blairsville DMV office, it was a post-it note on the side of a monitor. Rochelle had spotted it while doing her vision test for the license, and had nearly failed the test as she tried to make out what was written on that little yellow square. Now it was a short hop to the county employee portal, and from there to the lookup screen. Sooner or later they'd change all the passwords on rotation, so this wouldn't work forever...but it was a lot of fun while it lasted.

 

She froze reflexively at a knock on her door. "You still awake, hon?" came a voice from beyond.

 

Roach called back, "Just for a little bit. Doing homework." Her voice had a long-practiced resigned ennui to it that was entirely the opposite of the thrill she felt on seeing the DMV records appear on her screen.

 

"...okay, don't stay up too late. Big day tomorrow."

 

"I know, wouldn't miss it for anything," she called back, then listened. The floors creaked just so. The whisper of another door opening, the clunk of it closing. Roach waited for a second longer. No other sounds.

 

She got back to work.

 

Now Rochelle had a name, and a make and model on the car, and a list of traffic violations that was exactly zero entries long. Huh. From here she went to Old Faithful, Google. The mysterious woman's last name was unusual, which helped narrow things down. That, plus an early image hit, guided Roach to the pertinent records. Teacher...Savannah High... More data flowed in, and armed with that Roach jumped ship to the .edu domain to consult student enrollment records. Thank the Lord on high for records modernization and digitization initiatives!

 

However, things started petering out after that. Social media was dry except for a few very boring posts. Virtually no followers or mentions. Local news, hell even a reverse image recognition search...all came up with nothing new. And what Roach had found was frustratingly pedestrian. The pictures from her gig as a high school teacher in Savannah were recognizably her, even if the person she was in those photos couldn't be further from the one who'd driven up to talk to them the other day. People didn't get through high school and college and then putter around for over a decade on grad school while teaching and get ZERO tarnishes on their polish. There was one footnote that was kind of a funny coincidence, and given the situation might be relevant? Maybe?

 

At the dead end though, Rochelle's options were limited. She knew a couple of places she could go sifting through a BBL and see if anyone with that name had turned up. A BBL was a 'big breach list,' one of the giant lists generated when some enterprising youth managed to exploit their way into a bank, or a credit reporting agency or something similar. The high profile 'hacks' that was all normies knew of the craft. But those lists weren't really meant for looking for info about someone specific. Usually you'd just shotgun the names in mass spam releases, or if they had password hashes you'd start cracking them to see who hadn't changed theirs recently and how much they had in their account.

 

Or...maybe a change in tactics? Know thy enemy, as the saying went.

 

In this case, Roach was investigating this gal because it seemed like she might be a witch. Like, an actual 'devil' worshipping witch with magic. Could magic scrub your online footprint?

 

Could it unscrub it?

 

For long minutes Rochelle sat there, staring blankly at the screen as wheels in her head turned.

 

Then she closed all her windows and tabs and lit a candle to put on her desk. For ambiance. The explanation they'd gotten for how magic worked made this seem stupid, but Roach felt like there was a pattern underneath that she could make work. Strip away the fancy schmancy stuff, and the principle seemed kind of simple. You wanted something. You put that want into words...though Rochelle felt that symbols might be a better way to put it. You expressed that desire in symbols, which could be words, or runes, or...whatever. Whatever had meaning. That was the important part. Then you had to give something up. There was a principle of balance at work that Roach didn't quite grasp the mechanics of, but could intuitively feel. It was metaphysical...what had value and what value it had was not based on a system she could grasp...but there was one thing that everyone knew was magically potent, for whatever reason.

 

So Roach wrote an email. She addressed it to the woman's name, and attached one of the images of her that she'd found online. The name and face...enough for a solid lock on the identity of the target. In the email body she wrote:

 

"This email has the name of a person as the addressee, and an image of them attached. Please respond to this email with a clear, concise description of any information about themselves that this person would like to keep anyone else from finding out, including any relevant links, pictures, or other supporting documents."

 

Baby's first incantation. It didn't have the smooth flow of expelliarmus, but give a girl a break.

 

Then she took the tab of her now empty soda can and twisted it off. This action gave it a nasty, sharp little metal jag where it had gotten twisted from. Once, Roach had accidentally cut herself on that little jag as a kid, and it took her over a year before she'd drink soda out of a can again because the sight of her own blood had freaked her out.

 

How times had changed. Roach winced as she jabbed her pinky's tip with the soft drink can's tab, and blood welled up in a thick, dark red bubble. After a second's hesitation, she followed her instincts and drew on the screen of her computer a five pointed star with the center-point facing up. Then she clicked Send. Obviously it was going to bounce. She hadn't even put an @ or anything after it. Just the name.

 

But it didn't bounce. Nothing came back. A couple of minutes after she'd sent the email, the red gunk on her screen started to smoke, or steam...give off a thin white vapor. And then it burst into flames with the sound of hot metal being pressed against cold metal. Rochelle jumped at that and frantically looked around her room for something to put it out with, finally deciding on smothering it with her pillow, which had a fire-retardant case.

 

But the fire was gone by then, and so was the blood. Her email client had a...a progress bar on it? Roach watched it for several minutes. Then more. Finally it ticked up to 1%.

 

By the time it got to 2%, she was fast asleep in her bed, still dressed...having slumped over as she'd tried to keep watching it.

 

====

8:22am, July 4th

McKendrick Residence

 

The next morning was almost physically painful for Rochelle. For one, the progress bar was only at 27%. After ALL NIGHT. For two, she wasn't allowed to sit around and pace and swear and watch it tick up. Mr Green's busted up old truck was still in the garage because she'd gotten lured away and now she had to finish the work on it. Nothing too extensive left to do on it...sparks and filters and oil mostly...but it was going to mean she couldn't sit by her computer while her SPELL WAS WORKING.

 

The bar hadn't moved much by the time she came back in to wash up before heading out though, so she took a shower and some clean(ish) clothes and some printouts of the meager dirt she'd managed to collect mundanely, and headed out to the park. On getting there, her first reaction was to roll her eyes and mutter, "Geez, Warren. Try hard why don't you?"

 

Rochelle then headed into the celebration proper, palming a kabob off the BBQ kart as it trundled past as she went.

Edited by SalmonMax
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The fair attracted pretty much everyone from town and the surrounding counties, and was the social highlight of the summer for the local high schoolers. This was doubly true for Heather McKenny, who used the fair to cement her spot as The Most Popular Girl in school, despite only being a Junior. As the Most Popular, she had to have the best of everything.

 

This year, the Best Boyfriend was the hunky new guy out at the Clairburn place.

 

She saw the guy waiting by the gates to the fair and with a smile and toss of her golden culs, she walked over. “Hello, we haven’t met,” she said, giving him the smile that no boy in the county had resisted yet. “I’m Heather McKenny.”

 

“Dylan Coventry,” he said, the lie coming easily to his lips a second time. “Miss Evelyn’s cousin. I’m visiting for the summer.”

The current queen bee of school pouted. “Only the summer? But it’s almost over!” Other kids were starting to surround them, eager to meet the boy and judge how well Heather roped him. 

 

“Well,” Dylan said, “there has been some talk of me stayin’ for the school year. I am fond of my cousin and there’s room at the house.”

 

Heather beamed and said, “Yes! That would be amazing if you could be here in the fall. What grade are you?” 

 

Dylan hesitated for just a moment before locating the information. “A. . .sophomore, along with Miss Evelyn.”

 

“Really?” Heather frowned, her soft pink lips making a sad little bow. “That can’t be right, you must be a senior, junior minimum.” There was no way this cute guy could be a sophomore!

 

He shrugged easily, giving the girl a patented smirk, “I’m afraid so, miss. I’ll be a junior year after.”

 

“That is so weird,” she murmured. Her eyes fell on the blue diamond. “Is that a blue topaz? Is it your birthstone, too?”

 

The boy gave a nonchalant roll of his shoulder. “No, it’s a blue diamond. I jus’ liked it,” he said with an easy confidence the teens could only envy.

 

“Pretty,” Heather said. “A real diamond? It’s so… big.”

 

“Came from Savannah,” he said. “Got it on a trip down there once.” 

 

“I’ve been to Savannah several times,” she purred, “to state cheerleading tournaments. The school’s team is never good enough to go, but I’m part of a private…”

 

She trailed off as she realized he was staring away from her, not even paying attention. “Hey,” she said, tapping his arm, “you should come see my squad practice some-”

 

She cut off again frustrated huff as Dylan simply walked away from her and the other dozen teens, mostly girls. Following his gaze, she saw Silas Walsh, the nature kid, walking up the to the gate. He wasn’t one of the popular boys, but through looks and a general inoffensiveness to everyone, he managed not to get grouped into the geeks, dorks, or rejects.

The Walsh boy smiled, flushing at the sight of Dylan - his heart not so much on his sleeve as made into a flashing sign complete with spotlights shining into the distance. Dylan’s smile in return left no question for the other teens where the newcomer’s attention, and affections, were.

“Wait, what? Hey, Dylan, you can’t- He’s a-a boy. . .” The last was said in a horrified whisper as half-laid plans of making Dylan her arm-candy Prom King dashed on the shores of reality.

One of Heather’s worker bees piped up, “Yeah, but it’s kinda hot.”

“Shut up, Deliah!” Heather snapped in irritation as she crossed her arms in disgust. Dylan had just dropped from Hot New Boyfriend material to Hot New Target in the space of one look between the two boys.

“Hey there, Silas Walsh,” Dylan said with that confident smirk of his, ignoring the inane chatter behind him now.

“Hey there, Dylan Cl-”

“Coventry,” Dylan cut in with a look.

“Coventry,” Silas corrected, his eyes sliding over to the gaggle of his peers. He’d missed them entirely and now he blushed beet red. So much for keeping a secret at school. He’d known he wouldn’t be able to anyways, not if Dylan actually attended. 

 

Dylan held out an arm to him, all century-old gallantry. “Will you walk the fair with me, Silas Walsh?” 

 

Silas laughed, a delighted sound of pure joy that changed the feeling in the pit of his stomach from dread to butterflies. He wrapped an arm around Dylan’s. Let them gossip - I have Dylan and that’s way better. The two set off into the fair, leaving the stunned high-schoolers in their wake as gossip and rumor followed quickly after. 

 

What Silas had forgotten in all this was that his parents would also be there: his mother tending one of the food booths for her restaurant and his father moonlighting as the handyman for all the fancy rides and food trucks that had been added to the usually small-town affair by Mr. Clairburn. Rumors spread faster than light in a small town and somewhere between the Tilt-O-Whirl and the Whack-A-Mole game with the large stuffed animal prizes, a voice called out to the pair. “Son. . .?”

There hadn’t been voices in Silas’ vision or Dylan’s illusion, but for a moment that felt like it lasted a full year, the hulking shadow and the sight of Dylan being blasted across the cabin room by a shotgun filled up Silas’ mind.

“. . .do you have someone you want to introduce us to?” his father asked gently.
 

Dylan turned first, forcing them to unlink arms. He held out a hand to Jeremiah, giving Esther a courteous nod. “Dylan Coventry,” he said pleasantly. “A pleasure to meet you, sir, ma’am.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Dylan,” Jeremiah said, shaking the offered hand. 

 

“Where are you from, Dylan?” Esther asked, her tone a little sharper than polite.

 

“Homestead outside of Savannah, Mrs. Walsh,” he said with a smile. “But I’ve got family up here I’m visitin’. Mr. Clairburn and his niece, my cousin, Miss Evelyn. I’m helpin’ ta restore th’ house and property.”

 

“Seems like a big responsibility for a such a young man,” Esther remarked. “How old are you, Dylan?”

 

“Fifteen, ma’am,” Dylan lied smoothly, just substituting Silas’ age for his own. “And I don’t mind. My father taught me well and Miss Evelyn, well, she could use family right now. Mama always said family’s all you really got in th’end. They’ll see you in and outta life.”

 

“Oh, but young men should be chasing after girls and having fun, not restoring houses,” Esther replied, her tone heavy with forced lightness. It was exactly the opposite of the work ethic she’d tried to instill in her son, so she got raised eyebrows from both men. Esther changed the subject quickly. “Oh, Silas, is Quinn here yet?”

 

“I don’t know,” Silas said quietly, having watched the entire exchange. He knew his parents and he knew what his father had been asking and his mother was trying to skirt around. He glanced at Dylan, who just gave him a small shrug, leaving the familial grenade firmly in the younger boy’s lap. Silas took a deep breath and then hesitated almost long enough for the conversation to move on to something else. He laced his hand in Dylan’s quickly and squeezed tightly for courage. “Dylan’s my boyfriend.” 
 

“I… I, uh, just was asking about Quinn because I promised to buy her a funnel cake, Silas.” Esther chose the “ignore it” route for now, though her pale face and trembling lip told how affected she was by her son’s announcement. “So if you see her, let her know I’m looking for her, Silas. I have to get back to the booth.” With that, she fled the nightmarish scene.

 

Jeremiah watched her go and shook his head; he put a hand on Silas’ shoulder, “She’ll come ‘round, once she has time to sit and think. You know how she is.” 

 

Silas nodded, not trusting himself to look up just yet. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, he knew that, but having your mom run away from you wasn’t a great moment in anyone’s life. Dylan squeezed his hand and said softly, “Why don’t we play some o’ these games? Mebbe you can win me one o’ those prizes.” 

 

“And I have to get back to work,” Silas’ father said with a sigh. He clapped both boys on the shoulders and nodded to the game booths. “You boys try to have fun, okay? Mr. Clairburn spent a fortune here, we likely won’t see a fair like this again for years.” And then he was gone.

 

Silas turned into Dylan, hiding his face in the taller boy’s shoulder. For a few minutes they stood there, Dylan with his arms around the shaking Silas, until the Walsh boy managed to pull himself together. He scrubbed his face and looked over at the Whack-A-Mole. “Want a stuffed bear? I really do kinda want ta whack sumthin’ real hard right now.”

 

Dylan laughed and nodded, “One a' the blue ones!”

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