The Best Foot Forward?



Neat was a bit of an understatement. Mostly I was super inquisitive from that moment on until when we all left. Question upon question streamed from my mouth about her and then about her brother. When the patrons started to rouse, Junk ducked out to go and wait by the car. Rook stayed and pretended to be a customer as we dropped the Q & A and went into acting mode as customer and barista.

The groggy people started looking around from their seats as if they had just dozed off into a quick and unexpected nap. Most simply played it off as if it was something embarrassing they had done. All except Eric, who was more fearful something was done to him.

“What the hell?!” he exclaimed to the coffee shop as he addressed no one in general.

I decided to treat him like the crazy idiot I always thought he was. “Whoa, you okay Eric?”

His eyes looked at me as if to relay a resounding hell no and instead tried to seek the comfort and solidarity of thought from his cronies. To his dismay, they were all trying to think whether the scenario was an uncomfortable recollection of what had just taken place or some fictitious memory they had promptly forgotten.

With no affirmation from his cohorts, Eric didn’t bother to stay put and get the crazy looks from the people around the coffee shop. He stomped out with tipping over a chair and flinging the door wide open as the guys he came with calmly got up and left as well.

As Ally came from out of the backroom she had a dazed lack of clarity. She was carrying the tray of cups that spilled previously and been reassembled. She was playing off the notion she set down for a small catnap for whatever reason in the back and is now ready for work.

I gave Rook a coffee I pretended she ordered and wrote on the side of her cup that I would be off at 7:00 and to meet at my house at 8:00. I wrote the address as well.

The remainder of my shift was taking the normal amount of orders while going over the answers Rook gave me in my head. Apparently, her ability can destroy as well as repair objects by snapping her fingers. The largest of which being a small sedan belonging to an ex-boyfriend. The ability to put things back together is limited. Things with moving parts are pretty much out; solid objects only. And for her, she needs a reference or has to have seen it before.

The last thing I got out of her was they were variants of Eventuals. There were no real mental powers, they simply channeled a form of telekinesis and used a “tick” as they called it. Junk shushes people to activate his and Rook snaps her fingers.

As my cleaning duties got checked off and the closer came in, I was more excited to leave than ever before, in part because I was never quite fond of this occupation. Another was I wanted to get home and fill Mo in before she met Junk and, particularly, Rook for the first time.

We didn’t own cars, we relied on city transport when we lived in Lincoln Center, but Temple Falls was much smaller and bus traffic was the only mass transit available. So, the normal cross-town, ten minute venture now resulted in a thirty minute commute while sitting next to some rather large and sometimes smelly individuals.

After a longer than usual ride home thanks to the lady who noticed what I did for a living and then proceeded to tell me how the coffee business is ruining the economy. There was a lot of restraint on my part from not putting her on any given sidewalk along our route. I decided to promptly have a vacuous sense of listening after she started saying how buying coffee was funding drug cartels and terrorism.

After a thankfully quick departure from the bus, I promptly walked home. Mo and I rounded our respective corners at roughly the same time. Her face brightened with a smile and the unlit wick in my chest ignited. For a few moments I had no cares about the day, no memories and no other person enters my mind. I love Mo. I’ve been in love with her I think since she first started poking into my thoughts nearly six months ago.

“My barista, how was your most aromatic day?” Mo greets me when she is within talking distance.

Immediately, I had a small flush of guilt. Not really because there is anything I would do to endanger the relationship I have with Mo, but mostly because I found an attraction in the looks of another woman. And like blood in the water, Mo’s shark sense detected an injury in my emotions and her ravenous precursors were in full gear.

“What are you feeling guilty about, Carter James?” The inquisition had already begun and like anything in this world, the only way to feel guilt free is full disclosure. And this was going to be an unfortunate mantra to live by.

“Okay, I first off want to say how I love you and you are the most beautiful creature in the world to me.”

A scowl was my initial returned response. “You’re not making the best impression so far.”

There was truly only one good way to let this out before I murdered it with too much thought and zero explanation. I walked closer to her and a small fear settled into her eyes. Not like I was going to harm her, more like I was prompting to abandon her. I wasn’t an Eventual like her, but I knew she had a small thought treading water in her mind that I was going to leave her. And for that, my heart burst partly out of pride she loved me enough to be afraid of such a thing and partly in sorrow that she even thought I would leave her at all.

I held my hand, palm up and motioned to it with my eyes in the most assuring look I could gesture without words. Timidly, she placed her own petite hand within mine and we connected. With her as a Conduit, she was able to siphon out the earlier portion of the afternoon and into the evening.

Mo learned all about Rook and her brother, Junk. She knew they were on their way there and what they were capable of doing. She also peeked into me showing off a little, my initial thoughts of Rook’s appearance and me freaking out a little internally on how Mo would react.

She let go of my hand and opened her eyes with relief. “That’s it?”

Confused, I had to clarify, “that’s it? Isn’t that enough?”

“I mean, you felt guilty because you thought she was pretty? Carter, please. You’re a boy and I don’t expect you to keep your eyes off of every pretty thing that strolls by you. I only expect you keep your hands off them.”

Well, that made sense on a far more adult level than my plane of thinking. But that was Mo, my mature powerhouse of a woman. She was leaning in to kiss me on the cheek and stopped short of contact by only her breath.

“And if I catch a finger of yours on someone while we are together, I will dig into both of your minds and remove any recollection of the English or any other language for that matter.” And to seal it off, she planted that paused kiss on me.

“Um, okay?” I was dumb struck and slightly turned on by her violence wrapped in sugar paper.

“Plus, I flirt way better than you when boys talk to me. Yours was a little on the pathetic side,” she mentions while skipping by me and shooting a devilish wink in my direction.

Stab and twist. I was immediately on the offensive side and suddenly wanted a detailed accounting of any and all flirtations ever taking place, which I was not previously informed of knowing.

I flashed briefly from the sidewalk in front of our house to the steps in her path, thinking this would make her stop and force the start of an explanation. She barely stopped her pace and side-stepped by me after delivering a hefty smack on my left buttock while saying, “Good game, champ!”

I mean, how could I be mad at her? Anything up until this point is exactly what she mentioned. Of course I have looked at other women thinking of different aspects of their beauty. From their walk to their talk to the way their bodies curved. It was almost un-American not to, really and any guy saying something different than that is plainly lying right to your face.

Well, women are no different. Granted I have no idea what they look for when spotting a man except low body fat and large muscles. I have never asked and really don’t want to know. I have Mo and she has me. And as her threat stands, mine would be far messier and less repairable if a finger of hers lands on any other man while we’re together.

Once we’re both inside, Eva calls from the back of the kitchen for some help. I would have been there sooner except a small red-headed missile collided with my knees and firmly wrapped itself around me in the largest hug two small arms could give.

“Scarlett, my little ginger snap! How was your most excellent day?” I salute to the small mess of curly red locks firmly attached to my person.

“Mom and I baked a cake!” she exclaims into my kneecaps without releasing me.

I reach down and pick her up under her shoulders and lift her into the air. “You did? That’s great! Did you save some frosting for me?”

She smiles in a slightly wicked way, “No! Mommy let me lick the bowl as long as I showered before bed.”

I generally made it home from my shift in time to see Scarlett being coerced and pulled to bed by Eva. No kid thinks sleep is any fun. In their minds, the party starts just as soon as they their eyes are closed.

“Well, it looks like you still need to put your jams on,” I mention while taking her wardrobe into account. She was wearing a lime green pair of yoga pants with a bright red tutu over it and a bulky sweatshirt of Eva’s draping itself over her more like a blanket than actual clothes.

“Make me fly, Carter,” she giggled.

“Hon, you know your Mom doesn’t like me doing that,” I say quietly, trying to bait a pretty please out of her.

“Please, Carter? I promise I won’t tell her,” she begs with large green tinted eyes.

“I don’t know…”

“Pretty please?” Boom, magic words right there. “With sugar on top?”

Well, with that kind of a bonus incentive, how can’t I oblige?

“Okay, but just this last time,” total BS right there. Scarlett and I both know I’ll do this a thousand times more in the course of her lifetime.

She holds up her pinky as if to initiate a solemn vow, even though she will forget it within a couple of days. We hook pinkies and I look around to see if the coast was clear. Eva’s house had high ceilings, I couldn’t touch them if I strained a vertical jump. I held Scarlett out a ways from my body and gave a cursory pump.

“You ready?” She smiled in anticipated glee as she prepared.

I pumped a second time and on the third I pushed her high up into the air. She soared up to almost three times her body height and as she descended I placed a hand on her polka-dot socked foot and flashed her from the living room downstairs to just above her bed upstairs. I could hear the soft thump followed by sheer happiness in her laughter.

My cue that a safe landing had taken place. I continue to make my way to the kitchen before Scarlett tries to sprint downstairs for another round. I walk in to witness Mo plucking a few green grapes off of their stem and trying to catch them in her mouth. About one in three made it.

“Carter,” Eva announced.

“Hi, Eva. How was your night?”

“I don’t want to have to ask you not to teleport my daughter into her bed again.”

A small trickle of sweat broke out as I was reminded how Mom-vision always worked. They basically see everything in the house. I think there is some neural network symbiotically feeding information between household and mother to relay all wrong doings in real time.

“Wha – How did you even –” I began blundering out while Mo giggles at my circumstance.

“Carter, I know all of my daughter’s laughs at this point in her young life. I stay with her roughly twenty hours a day and I know when she thinks something is funny, cute, hilarious, gross and exciting. She has a different laugh for them all. She made a unique laugh for when you flashed her up to her room the first time and has carried it on ever since.”

Eva turned away from the pot she was stirring on the stove and looked me square in the eyes. She wasn’t like Mo or myself, but she held a power within her to terrify me. I don’t know why or how, but when she had this look, I recalled all of the times I didn’t have an explanation for something and how it frightened me.

“She could get hurt sometime, or worse yet she could start telling her friends at class how her ‘cousin’ puts her to bed sometimes.”

We assimilated into the neighborhood as long lost cousins from her late husband’s sister, whom he didn’t have. It was easier than anything else we concocted. Either way, I saw her point. Scarlett wasn’t aware of the danger we brought to their home or the possible issues she could face herself later in life.

“I understand Eva. I won’t do it again.”

She laughed as the look in her eyes lightened up. “Yes you will. Just don’t do it every time she asks. You’ll become more of a slave to her than you already are.”

I smirked and made my way to snatch a couple of the remaining grapes before Mo littered the floor around her with them. Still, I thought of Scarlett and wondered if she would be safe or if she would start developing any abilities soon.

Her dad, Red, was an Eventual like Mo. He was very gifted at reading into people and delivering suggestive thoughts. Eva was normal and possessed nothing except a fierce love for Scarlett and an eternal desire to help others. She volunteered at a local mission to help the poor and lived off of the life insurance Red left behind. It was enough to pay off the house and expenses for her and Scarlett for the rest of their lives. Even though he was completely unaware of Eva being pregnant, Red wanted to insure she was safe and comfortable if anything happened to him.

As we finished a helping of soup Eva had made, the doorbell rang. Even though we were expecting company, we never had been comfortable with visitors since we moved. Each knock on the door was someone from the Program looking for us or a Hunter who had found our trail. Even with my father working inside the Program to keep us safe, nothing stopped the tension.

Eva wiped her hands on a dish towel while standing up from her chair and making her way to the door. Mo and I followed in tow. A glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye caught Scarlett sitting down on the top step looking to see who had come calling.

Eva opened the view panel as Junk and Rook stood outside waiting for someone to answer. Putting her hand up to the door scan identified her acknowledgement to unlock and open the front door since it was after her normally set curfew she put on the alarm system.

The door unlatched and slid across into the door jamb unveiling our guests. Eva smiled curiously at them and waited for one to announce themselves. Rook stepped forward as the oldest and did the honors.

“Hi, I’m Rook and this is my brother, Junction. Carter told us to swing by,” she stated as she looked past noticed me standing behind her. She made no attempts to look at or care for Mo.

“Carter explained earlier,” Eva mentioned, “he also says you go by, Junk? Is it okay to call you that?” she addressed the rather peculiar dark-haired boy beneath the red hoodie.

“Oh, sure! I don’t mind at all,” Junk stated. Only issue was Eva never heard the last part as she was lying on the ground.

“Crap! How long does caffeine last?” I asked both brother and sister.

Not sure how great of an impression either has made on Eva at this point. As it seems, this might not be the best foot going forward.


As always, I look forward to any comment you may have

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