Vim & Vigor 8
Hours later, near-evening, I’m stuck at home. The painkillers are mostly working, but I was still feeling a dull throb where I’d been stabbed. Not to mention I feel like crap after everything was said and done.
I had gotten in touch with Taylor once I arrived at the hospital that Cienna took me to. I told her I survived because Circus left me for dead after I passed out. It was a lie, but I felt it was the best that I could come up with that kept the promise I made with Cienna and didn’t want Taylor to know that I got exposed.
She didn’t exactly question it, but she did tell me my parents called her. She stuck with the excuse I gave her, that she didn’t know what happened to me after we parted ways. That gave me some relief, right up until I called home.
Mom had sounded frantic when she picked up the phone. Her voice rasp and cracking like glass on the verge of shattering. And, when I told her that I was at the hospital because I was attacked by a bunch of ABB members who thought I was a member of the Empire Eighty-Eight because of how I looked, it was as if the glass itself shattered along with her heart.
I wasn’t proud of it. I wish that I was smart enough to come up with a better excuse. But I couldn’t at the time, so I had to listen to her crying over the line after telling her they stabbed me in the hand and stole my wallet before leaving in an alley somewhere.
I think she would have had a heart-attack of I’d revealed the full extent of it. That I had been nearly shot, crushed, and literally set on fire, while being chased by an apparently murderous villain.
A police report was filed for obvious reasons, but all I could do was tell them that I couldn’t really describe the attackers outside of being Asian. Again, I wasn’t proud of it and sincerely hoped that they chalk it up to being a random crime and didn’t bring anyone in. If they did, I’d feel even worse about getting someone else arrested for the lie I told.
Dad ended up leaving work afterwards to pick me up from the hospital, since knowing I was safe was enough for Mom to finally get some sleep after she had been up all night worrying about me. The conversation with him was just as awkward, what with me having to lie to his face about it. They thought it was just bad luck that I had ended up being targeted, but if they knew I had gone out specifically looking for trouble I got the feeling that all of that worrying would turn to anger.
Still, I needed to find some way to make it up to them. Not sure what I could do exactly about it, but hopefully I’d think of something by the time my hand could fully heal. The pain flared every now and again, but thankfully there wasn’t any nerve-damage.
While Mom was still sleeping and Dad was at work, I checked online for information to pass the time. Circus had been known as a burglar, but not a murderer. But like Taylor stated, they simply never found a body—and I imagine that a corpse would be easy to hide with her hammerspace power. That might be why Nemean and Heimal go after her so much.
Bzzz! Bzzz! My burner phone ringing in the desk takes my eyes off the computer and onto it. The number on the screen is probably Cienna’s, after she made me give her it on the way to the hospital to cash in those favors I owed her. Giving her my actual number wasn’t happening, and a dummy number was pointless since she knows my name and where I live.
‘It’s Cienna,’ was the first thing she said when I picked it up.
“I know.” After all, there were only two people who knew this number aside from me. “So I’m guess you want a favor now?”
‘What, I can’t call just to check up on you?’
“And the other part is a favor, right?” The line went dead at that, leaving me to wonder if I pissed her off or something. That could be a problem since she knew one of my secrets and I couldn’t really do anything to silence her. Leaving aside the fact that she did save my life, she actually had powers unlike me.
Then I heard knocking on my window. The timing couldn’t be a coincided, could it? I found myself sincerely hoping so, considering the implications.
Tck. Tck. Tck.
Unable to ignore the fact that the volume increased that time, I got out of my swiveling chair and pulled open my blinds. She’s standing outside of my widow with a duffle bag slung over her shoulders. Crap.
“What are you doing here?” I asked as I opened the window and stuck my head out to look around. A lot of the homes in the neighborhood were landscaped to have natural barriers or fences. So while I don’t think someone spotted her, she really sticks out in this neighborhood and the last thing I needed right now someone calling the cops.
“I’m just calling in one of my favors,” she said, unslinging her bag from her shoulder and pushing it through the window. “Now let me in before someone spots me.”
I tried to get in a word against her coming into my room, but she pulls herself in through the window before I can. Just like that I have a girl in my room… while my mother is sleeping a room over and could wake up any second and find her!!! My mouth opened and closed as I looked between her and the door and tried to figure out what to do.
Do I kick her out? No, that’s a bad idea when I thought about it for more than a second. She had powers, I was currently powerless, and pissing her off while she had my secret identity and address will end up endangering my folks. That’s out, along with calling the police or anything else.
Okay, approach this carefully. I took a deep breath to calm down and looked over to her. She’s looking around my room where she’s standing, eyes wandering over the posters and books and stuff. I might not be the best at reading people, but I’d like to think I could at least recognize when someone’s about to kill me. She doesn’t look the part, and she’s been mostly reasonable, so violence wasn’t the immediate threat as long as things stayed as they were.
I walked over to the door and locked it to keep it that way. If Cienna went any further into the house, she could possibly wake my mom. Mom needed her sleep after last night and there was no way I could explain this so that it ended without the cops being called, yelling, and disappointment—or the house being torn down.
The sound of the lock clicking into the place caused her to turn her attention me. She frowned. “I’m not going to go steal anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
I shook my head and held both my hands up. “That’s not it. My mom is asleep after being worried sick about me going missing last night. I already went with the story about getting mugged by the ABB, so if she finds you here…”
“A lot of secrets come out that no one wants,” she finished, nodding her head. “Saves everyone trouble if they stayed a secret.”
Good, she at least understood why I did it instead of jumping to the telekinesis and tearing my room apart. I breathed a little easier at that and asked, “Okay, now what favor is it that you needed that was so bad that you tracked me home?”
She pointed to her duffle bag. “I want you to do my laundry for me.”
…What? “You came all the way here for laundry?”
“I did tell you this morning I’d need to use your washing machine and stuff.” She brought a hand to the collar of her shirt and pulled it open. “And I’ll want to use your shower, and some food.”
They weren’t unreasonable requests exactly. Simple things really. The kind that you would offer a friend, like if Taylor came over and spent the night. The only real worry would have been the twenty-questions Mom would put her through… at least before last night.
But I barely knew Cienna and having her here was just asking for trouble. “Can’t I just pay for a motel room or something?”
Her back straightened and she crossed her arms, giving me a sharp look. “Look, Kid. I’m not asking for much this time. Just do these little things for me and everyone comes out ahead.”
I noted the ‘this time’ part and the implication that there would be more requests in the future, but I don’t argue with her further. She held all the cards right now and, aside from the fact that I didn’t like being blackmailed, they weren’t that big of demands. But I was going to have to think of something eventually to cut things if she got to the unreasonable requests.
“Fine, but you can’t leave my room and you need to be gone before Dad gets back tonight,” I tell her, pointing a finger to the door opposite of my closet. “You can use my shower there.”
“Sounds good.” She nodded in approval and then turned her attention to her duffle bag, unzipping it and pulling out a smaller bag. She sat it on my bed before tossing over the larger bag. “Go ahead and put those in. I’ll leave the clothes I’m wearing in the smaller bag for you to dump in with them while I get into my clean ones.”
I caught it and cringed as the scent coming from inside of it catches me off-guard. That distillery smell from when I first spotted her was strong enough that the bag itself was probably in need of a wash. I hold it out at an arms-length by the straps as I opened the door and went out into the hall behind the Living Room to where the washer and dryer were.
I turned the bag upside down and dumped her clothes into the washing machine without sorting colors from whites, or really looking at it all since I didn’t want to ruin the illusion I’ve built up of what women should be like. Sure, I’ve handled Mom’s laundry at times, but your own mother doesn’t count as a woman—they’re different. Once the last of the clothes were in the wash, I poured in the detergent and left the machine to fill up with water.
That out of the way, I took the duffle bag back into my room. Leaving it around for my parents to find or smell was asking for trouble. I flipped it inside out to let it air and then hung it outside of my window as the door to my bathroom opened just a crack and the smaller bag was tossed out haphazardly onto my carpet.
“Greg?” Cienna stuck her bare arm out of the door with my bottle of body wash in her hand. “Why do you have a woman’s brand of body wash in here?”
“I like the smell after I take a shower since it helps me relax.” Plus, that brand doesn’t aggravate my skin the way the normal stuff does.
“Hmm… I’ll give it a try then.” Deciding that on her own, she pulled her arm back in through the gap and shut the door.
“There’s nothing saying men can’t use it,” I mumbled as I picked the smaller bag up. Just like before, I dumped the contents into the washing machine without looking, and shut it so that it could start. That just left me needing to fill the time until she got out of the shower.
Mom cooked last night so I checked the fridge for leftovers. It’s her favorite from the look of it, but it was almost untouched. Did… did she even eat while she was waiting for me?
…Tears sting my eyes as I took a deep, shuddering breath. I was careless and Mom had been worried herself to the point of starving. If she knew what I was doing, she’d definitely have a heart-attack or something.
But, at the same time, I owed Taylor for screwing up her leg. And she’s happy that I’m helping her. Or she appreciated my effort at making up for that. We’re on better terms than before at the very least.
And I was doing something meaningful for once, even if it was a little dangerous. I think I could deal with myself being at risk. But if this was what happened after a close call, how would Mom act if I ended up being killed?
…It was frustrating.
I wanted to keep helping Taylor. I had to, if only to make things right. But I couldn’t put Mom through this sort of thing again. I couldn’t let myself get caught like I did before, screwing up from the moment that can got crushed and turning my back on Circus before I put her down.
But first things first, I had to deal with Cienna’s demands until I could get her out of here.
Please note, if you haven’t seen it yet, there was a bonus chapter posted Wednesday that started off this arc. You may want to use the Previous Chapter button to check that out if you happened to miss it.
“Have you ever wondered why they’re all first-year teachers?”
Blinking across the library table at Vanessa as the blonde girl finished speaking, I asked hesitantly, “Wondered why who are all first-year teachers?”
It was Tuesday, January 16th, a couple days after Avalon, Shiori, and I had met with Seth and Calvin (and Buddy, of course). They had promised to get in touch once they actually had a meeting set with Fahsteth. So on that front, all I could do was wait as patiently as possible.
In this particular case, waiting patiently partly involved working on a project for a Heretical Geography that Vanessa and I had been assigned to…
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