Dad pulled his minivan up to the front of the police station and unlocked the doors. “We should put our stuff in the trunk,” I told John. We were lucky, the bodyguards who had brought in our stuff had chosen rooms facing away from the airport.
Dad turned around from the front seat. “Nate,” he asked, “what’s on your face?”
I was confused for a moment, then remembered about the batter fight. “Oh yeah,” I said. “We were cooking biscuits in the plane on the way down here. Things got kind of out of hand.”
We walked into the car, John by the sliding doors and me right next to Dad. As I got in, I considered how lucky I had been that this was the only damage of the day. The last time I had been in a fight, I had my leg perforated by shrapnel.
“You had me worried,” Dad said. “I mean, I’ve been hearing all this stuff about a shooting at TF Green, and I had no idea where your plane was landing. I mean, that’s scary stuff.” I looked at his face. He looked a bit like an older version of me, except with curlier hair. His hair used to have been jet black, but was now mostly gray and white and was starting to leave a patch of silver fluff on the top of his head. “Then,” he continued, “we spent hours waiting for you to call, wondering if you got shot.”
“Sorry,” I said, looking away, “but the police wanted to take us in for questioning.” I paused, debating how much I wanted to tell him, then decided on, “The police don’t want me to go into details. Something about keeping the investigation under wraps.”
“I see,” Dad said. “So how was school?” He was trying to sound casual about it and non-judgemental, but I could tell the real question he wanted to ask was why didn’t you call? Luckily, my cellphone rang.
“Sorry,” I said, pulling it out and flipping it open. The caller ID said Watanabe Legal. “I have to take this.”
“Nathan,” I heard Charlotte’s voice ask, “is that you?”
“Charlotte!” I said. “I didn’t expect to hear you so soon.”
“And I didn’t expect to be talking to you so quickly,” she said. “I was just bailed out by a Mr. Watanabe. Apparently, Jennifer sent him.”
As she talked, I cover the microphone with my hand and said to Dad and John, “Its Charlotte, the girl who owns the plane we came in on.” Dad nodded.
“…Anyway,” Charlotte said, “we don’t really have a place to sleep tonight. Do you mind if we come over with you for a bit? At least until we decide what we’re going to be doing? I hate to bother you with this, but we don’t have access to any funds at the moment so we can’t afford a hotel.”
I relayed this information to Dad. “You know,” he said, “we barely have enough room for John. I’m not sure we can fit two more people in the house.”
“They flew us across the Pacific Ocean and lost two employees for us,” I said. “I kind of owe them.” I instantly regretted my tone.
“Sorry,” Dad said. “We just might not be able to fit them.”
“John might be able to fit in my room,” I said, “and we have the two couches downstairs.” I paused. “Sorry about snapping at you.” I was. “I just kind of had a long day.”
“That’s ok,” he said, “you’re actually being very understanding for someone who got shot at. I probably wouldn’t be as calm as you are.”
“Thanks,” I said. Then I turned back to my phone. “Of course you can,” I said to Charlotte. “We’re right out in front.”
When they got out, Charlotte seemed very excited and Eliza… not so much. When John opened the door she said, “My word, that is quite ingenious! I wonder, do the front doors open like a McLaren’s?”
“It’s a sliding door, Char,” Eliza sighed in exasperation. “It isn’t exactly something from James bloody Bond.”
“And there’s a back row!” Charlotte continued, heading back to said area. “But how does one sit in the middle… Never mind, I think I know how! My word, that is clever.”
As she began to figure out the weird center seat buckle, Eliza rolled her eyes. “She’s a bit weird when she’s around people ‘oo make less money than her father.”
“Forgive me,” Charlotte said, somehow managing to get that buckle assembled, “but unlike Eliza, I’ve never been in a minivan before. Oh, and before I forget, Mr. Jacobs, my name is Charlotte Blackmoor-Ward, and the cheeky Lupine with the ears is my adopted sister, Eliza Henderson.”
“Hi,” Dad said, “I’m Abe Jacobs. Nice to meet all of you.”
John, suddenly realizing that he hadn’t introduced himself said, “I’m John. John Marshall.”
Dad started the engine. “I see you all were involved in the batter fight.”
“Ah, yes,” Charlotte said, somewhat embarrassed. “Not one of our more dignified moments.”
The rest of our trip was spent pretty much lying to Dad. Instead of knowing that Eliza, John and I had spent most of the first few months living in crowded barracks, he believed we had been in our current four-person dorms since we had gotten there. Instead of hearing about the hell I had been through, he thought I had been taking English classes with Charlotte. Instead of me having to explain what Power Sludge was, or why I had started drinking, Dad instead believed that I was now eating healthy.
That last part was to explain why I was now so much more muscular. Before I had gone into Hell Semester, I had been slightly overweight. Now, I was much more fit, at least, on the surface. I was wondering if my leg would always twinge a bit. Luckily, though, that and the wound I had from being stabbed in the stomach hadn’t scarred due to one of our friend’s inventions. It also probably saved my life.
I suddenly realized I would have to do a lot of lying. I had essentially invented everything that had happened to me since I had last seen my family. The realization made me somewhat sick to my stomach.
When she saw my house, Charlotte was enchanted. “Oh, how lovely!” she said. In my humble opinion, she was right. It was a white colonial-style house with purple shutters halfway up a hill. We were on a cul-de-sac and surrounded by similar houses. Like much of the scenery we had passed, it was dusted in snow (which was a nice change of pace from being buried in it.) It was a bit big for Maynard, the town we lived in, but from the Eliza talked about the Blackmoor home, our house probably was a fifth of theirs, if I was being generous.
Dad parked in the garage. “So,” he asked Charlotte and Eliza, “how long are you planning on staying here?”
“Well,” Charlotte said, “It turns out my father is abroad, er, not in in England, and both of my brothers are planning to go off with friends on holiday. We might be recalled, so to speak, but for the moment we might want to stay here. Your government has promised to provide protection while we’re here, so please do not worry.”
Dad nodded, his eyes widening a bit. “Well, that’s… comforting,” he said.
“We should be able to find alternate lodgings by tomorrow,” Charlotte said. “Don’t worry, you’ll only have to keep us for one night.”
As she said this, Eliza’s phone vibrated. She pulled it out, and opened it up and suddenly stiffened. Dad didn’t notice her reaction, or tactfully ignored it. If it was the later, I knew he’d bring it up again at some point.
John, meanwhile, also said, “Same here. My dad’s picking me up some time tomorrow.”
“Well,” Dad said, “let’s get your stuff inside.” We got out. John and I grabbed our stuff, then headed up. I noticed Dad was moving quickly out of the way.
I didn’t realize why until I got in and the small form launched itself at me. I looked down. A person with long brown hair had tackle hugged me. “Esther!” I said, trying to catch my breath, “Did you miss me?”
“You should have called,” was her answer, somewhat muffled from the fact that her face was buried in my chest. From behind me, I could hear Eliza laugh.
“Can you let go?” I asked. “I kind of need to put my backpack and my suitcase away.”
After I had finally got Esther off me, mom came over and hugged me. I heard Charlotte let out an “Awww…” from behind me. Again, she looked like an older version of me and Esther. She had also had cut her hair shorter since I was in pre-school.
“Your sister’s right,” she said, squeezing me tight. “You should have called.”
Finally, I was able to extricate myself from my family. I went upstairs to dump my stuff in my room for the time being. After I had dropped my stuff in my room, I turned to leave. However, Eliza was standing by the door, a serious expression on her face and her ears flat. “We need to talk,” she said, “in private.”
“Sure,” I said cautiously, “come on in.”
Eliza walked in, closing the door behind her. “Me an’ Charlotte weren’t the only ones in our family to be attacked today,” she said quietly. “Galahad and Lancelot got attacked, Gal while ‘e was at Eaton and Lance while ‘e was in Oxford. The security at the schools managed to drive them off.” She paused, then said, “They also attacked our home. A good chunk of our guards died fendin’ the wankers off.”
“That’s awful,” I said. “Are your parents all right?”
“Well,” Eliza said, “Mother has been dead for three years from the cancer, and Father…” She paused. “Let’s just say those bastards’re lucky ‘e wasn’t at home.”
“Or unlucky,” I said. “If the point of this operation was to take you guys out of play, then him not being there would be a huge setback.”
Eliza laughed. “Like those cunts could’ve taken Charles Blackmoor-fuckin’-Ward.” She paused. “They probably pissed him off even more, though. That text I got?” I nodded. “That was Ken, the lawyer Jen sent us. They made another attack as they were moving the rest of our entourage.” She paused. “They succeeded this time.” I could hear the rage and anguish in her voice. These must have been people she had known since joining the Blackmoor-Wards.
We stood awkwardly for a little while. After a little while, I realized I was in my bedroom, with the door closed and an attractive girl standing right in front of me. “So,” I said, “maybe we should rejoin the crowd downstairs. Y’know, so my parents don’t think…”
“That we’d been having sex in that?” Eliza said playfully, indicating my bed with a nod of her head. It was a loft bed, only reachable by a ladder. The mattress itself was probably a tiny bit smaller than a twin. “Maybe get a normal queen-size and I’ll consider it.” As she turned the doorknob, she flashed her signature grin over shoulder.
Good, I thought, she’s bouncing back. If she breaks down, I’m gonna follow. I followed Eliza back downstairs, to find Charlotte in the midst of an animated discussion with my mom.
“Really,” she was saying, “I actually quite like the mess. Have you ever been in a house that looks like a catalog? It’s oppressive.”
Mom, somewhat in a state of shock that a girl dressed in expensive shoes, a Ralph Lauren t-shirt, Ray-Bans sunglasses and carrying a Prada bag was in her house. Mom seemed to have decided it was best to remain silent and observe this strange girl ramble.
“Another thing that I absolutely adore about this house, Mrs. Jacobs,” Charlotte said, “is that every room is a library. In my house we have this dedicated library to make ourselves seem civilized, but it’s really more of a broom closet.”
“Well,” Mom said, “most of us are readers. Also,” she said, laughing a bit, “we have a hard time getting rid of anything.”
“Oh, of course, Mrs. Jacobs,” Charlotte said.
“Actually,” Mom said, “It’s Blanchett. I never changed my name.”
“Oh.” Charlotte said, looking a little startled.
“Sorry,” I said to Charlotte, “I forgot to tell you that.”
Suddenly my phone rang. I fished it out of my pocket. My phone was an old flip phone, but there was a screen on the back of it to see who was calling. Dad didn’t really like the idea of upgrading, as evidenced by the fact that the phone was in black and white. I glanced at the screen. “Hey Charlotte,” I said, “Your other roommate is calling.”
“Is it the creepy one?” John asked.
“We’ve got two other people in our dorm,” Eliza said, “and they’re both right creepy.”
“The one with the dead eyes,” John said, “always wears white, has long dark hair, hangs around Ulfric a lot.”
“That’d be Alma,” Eliza said. “I’m bettin’ it’s Jen. There’s no way Alma could be callin’ us ‘ere.”
“It’s Jen,” I said, flipping my phone open, and accepting the call.
“She’s the one who sent us lawyers,” Charlotte said.
“Hi, Jen,” I said. “How’d you get my number?”
Jennifer’s seductive contralto came over the phone’s speaker. “Hello, Nathan,” she said. “Interesting opening there. I thought your response would be more along the lines of ‘what do you want?’”
“Sorry,” I said, “that was a little rude of me. I figured you’d tell me what you wanted, maybe in an oblique, mysterious way. However, I still am curious about several things.”
“We can talk about it later,” Jennifer said, “at the party.”
“Yes,” Jen said, “my father’s hosting a New Year’s party. I’d like some of my college friends to be in attendance, and who else is better to invite than the people who nearly died?” She sighed, and continued with genuine sadness, “I suppose Charlotte and Eliza might be continuing on home, but my offer still stands.”
“I’ll have to talk to my parents…” I began.
Jen cut me off. “They can come too,” she said. “In fact, I’d be delighted to have them come.” She paused. When she continued again, I could almost hear her smirk. “I hope you come. It could be very fun.”