Sunlight trickled through the drapery, as the scent of cooking food drifted through the house. Aeris had been awake since 8 AM, but had only just started making food for the children who were sleeping in her living room. She moved through her kitchen, prepping ingredients, and checking other dishes to see if they were done. The kitchen she was working in was rather spacious, allowing her room to move even with how much she was trying to cook.
Granite-topped counters lined the walls, with cabinets above, and below them. In the corner of the kitchen sat a refrigerator with two doors, and a drawer that served as a freezer on the bottom. On one of the doors of the refrigerator was a small, 6” LED panel that could tell you what she had in the appliance, and what she needed to get at the store. On the left side of the fridge, there was what looked to be an open closet door. In actuality, it was her pantry, which was simply a room completely lined with shelves. On the other side of the pantry door was her stove, its burners all covered by something she was cooking. Above the stove, her microwave was mounted into a small section of cabinets. Next to the stove, a counter moved along the outer edge of the wall, forming an L-shape as a barrier around the majority of the kitchen. Nearest to the stove there was a double-bowl sink laid within the granite, and presumably pipes, and plumbing in the cabinet beneath it. Next to the sink nestled into its own space beneath the counter was a top of the line dishwasher. On the other side of the L-shaped counter were several chairs for people to sit and eat at the counter if they wished to, though the dining room was clearly visible from the kitchen itself.
As Aeris cooked, she couldn’t help but think about things she’d likely have to do today. The children would need clothes, so she’d probably have to take them shopping if they couldn’t get back into their apartment to grab their belongings. She had to drop by the office, mostly to save face since she hadn’t gone into work the previous day. She was the CEO after all. The question was: could she bring the children with her? Or, would Mai be able to watch them for an hour or so?
Most importantly, however, her mind wandered to their father. How long would it be before he came to get them?
Her hand reached up and thumbed away the sleeping grit in her eyes. Blurriness faded from her vision while she sat upright. Her memory was unable to place the unfamiliar surroundings.
The question pushed and pawed at her heart in a dark fashion. Something bad had happened. She knew this, but her thoughts couldn’t fathom what quite yet. Trying to understand it, Olivia couldn’t fully grasp it. It was like smoke within her fingers. Elusive and distant, but always present in right front of her.
Not lingering on the sickening twist in her core, the young girl pulled her legs over the sofa edge and rose to her feet. Hunger gurgled at her middle causing her to frown at her middle.
Being in a strange place, she concluded this wasn’t the best time to consider eating. Not until she found out more about where she is.
Olivia took a breath then glanced over to the recliner. She relaxed upon seeing Emmett, dozing away. At least her brother was with her. Her nose scrunched and inhaled, noticing a wonderful aroma. Curiosity driving her, Olivia edged toward the source.
Exiting the dining room, she stopped at the door frame when she spied a lithe, pretty woman cooking. Her stomach growled deeper in protest at her stalling. “Hello?”
Olivia said quietly.
Upon hearing the small titter of footsteps, Aeris’ head lifted from one of the vegetables she was chopping, to see who was coming. When she saw Olivia, she smiled warmly at her, blue eyes resting on her face as she spoke. “Good morning, Olivia. Would you like something to eat?”
Her voice was warm, though her head moved to keep track of the chopping she was doing. Once the vegetable was chopped, and without another word, Aeris walked over to the stove and began removing pans from its burners.
Delicately, she plated what was in each of the pans, then sat them on the counter facing Olivia.
Olivia’s eyes wandered over the various foods. Several were very common to her as her mother often cooked them. Others felt more exotic. Her eyes lingered over a few blueberry pancakes and a stovetop quince.
Ignoring everything she was taught, aside from manners, Olivia took a seat at the counter. “Yes…. Please. I’m starved. Is there any strawberry and blueberry short cake?”
She looked for the red and blue fruit laced bread among the various foods. It wasn’t hard to miss the skillet. It looked surprisingly too gorgeous to eat in her opinion. Olivia smiled as she leaned forward to catch a whiff. She loved the sweet scent when the dish was done in the skillet. The butter seemed to add a crispy, baked-liked quality to it.
The girl plopped back down on her seat before she looked to Aeris. Her eyes studied the woman a moment as the name popped into her head. “Your name is Aeris, right?”
Olivia’s arms folded under her chest before she began to fix herself a plate, her curiosity overwhelming her need for food.
As Olivia sat herself down, Aeris simply smiled, and continued working on other various dishes. Though, she did watch the girl from the corner of her eye while she worked. Before she could answer her question about the shortcake, Olivia seemed to spot it, and then began fixing herself a plate.
Upon hearing the question about her name, Aeris nodded. “That’s right. Let me know if you need any help with that.”
She spoke, momentarily digging through a drawer and retrieving a knife, fork, and spoon, and setting them down beside Olivia’s plate.
She then returned to preparing more food.
Olivia nodded then tucked in. The knife sliced through the bread-like substance and into the fruit. It was soft and juicy. The dish was moister than she expected. She leaned in to take a bite then smiled. It melted on her tongue causing her to hum in delight. She chewed it a bit and watched Aeris return to her frying. “Can I help? Emmett doesn’t like spinach in his omelets. He prefers mushrooms, cheese, and pepperoni in his. He says cooked spinach is weird.”
Olivia stated when she noted Aeris about to place the green vegetable in.
She really thought it was odd that Emmett didn’t like spinach in his omelet. Especially when he couldn’t taste it among the other ingredients. Shrugging that off, she bit into another piece of her meal. Her pace showed how hungry she was as her meal was gone in a flash. “Aren’t you going to eat as well? Do you want me to set you a plate? What do you enjoy to eat?”
Questions flew from her lips, driven by the desire to feed her inner knowledge. Olivia had picked up a few scoops of another skillet. The egg yolks broke and spilled over bacon and sausage, all of it cooked together.
Aeris chuckled a little, pulling back from putting the spinach into the eggs. Quickly, she walked over to the refrigerator, and grabbed pepperoni from one of the shelves. After chopping, and then dicing a few slices, she placed it within the omelet, which she sat on on one of the back burners to cook. “Thanks for the heads up.”
The vampire spoke with a grin just as Olivia asked if she’d be eating as well. “Ah. I do plan on eating, but I’d rather you enjoyed your food. I wouldn’t be a proper host if I let my guest serve me, now would I?”
Aeris smiled at the girl, and then took a few moments to think about the other question she’d asked. “Hm… I have a pretty big sweet tooth, so I think my favorite thing to eat is probably chocolate cheesecake.”
Olivia nodded, happy to help. Her fork went for some of the sausages and once more took a few more bites before commenting. “I hope you bake it better than my mom. She burnt the last one during Emmett’s birthday last year. My dad tried to eat it. It was funny watching his face.”
A smirk erupted across her lips as she thought about her parents, savoring the memory. She picked at her food a little before she asked another question. “Did you get a hold of dad? Is he coming to get us? Or someone else coming?”
Olivia knew better than comment on Alice, her mom’s whereabouts unknown. The dark sensation seemed to grow in her gut over the thought of her mom. It didn’t help last night was a complete blur. She partly thought it was a dream until she woke up here.
As Aeris meandered around the kitchen, listening to Olivia all the while with a small smile on her face, she sat the last thing in the oven to bake: A chocolate cheesecake.
When the child asked about her father, however Aeris frowned, “I haven’t been able to, but I left a message on Mairyell’s cell, so I’m sure he’ll go and look for your dad. Until your dad comes to get you, though, I’ll be taking care of you. I hope that’s alright.” “I won’t have a problem with it. Emmett might get restless and antsy, but he’ll be fine.”
Olivia bounced a bit in her seat. Her figure leaned around the counter and spied the cheesecake being placed into the oven. She couldn’t wait for it. As she settled back down and continued to eat her meal, her mind drifted to last night. “Last night was really weird. What happened?”
Any additional questions were dismissed when she spied movement in her peripheral vision. Her body spun in place to face Emmett edging into the room. He was pale in color causing her eyes to narrow in concern. He didn’t look well. “Emmett, you alright?”
Before Aeris could answer Olivia’s question about what occurred the previous night, she heard movement, and turned around just as the girl was asking her brother if he was alright.
It was clear to Aeris he wasn’t feeling well. “Morning, Emmett. Are you hungry?”
She asked, the concern clear in her voice.
Emmett rubbed his eyes. This fingers worked to clear the watering from them and see better. It took a moment for him to speak as his head was light and unbalanced, like a case of vertigo. His arm stretched out to use the wall to keep him steady along the way to the counter. “I just slept terrible is all, Olive.”
Olivia frowned, not fully liking the nickname, as she turned back to her meal. She immediately reached for the cottage-cheese for a side and tried something she hadn’t yet. Meanwhile, Emmett managed to get up on the stool without falling. His movements were sluggish and uncoordinated, but he managed not to fall. “Any word from dad or Alice?” “Nope. We’re staying with Aeris until dad calls, I guess. Try some toast without butter.”
She said as she passed him a half slice, hoping he will eat it.
Grudgingly, he eyed it a moment then took it and started to nibble on it. The coiling of his middle began to slowly pass but the lightheartedness remained. He closed his eyelids for some relief as he rested his cheek upon his propped up arm. "Who's Aeris?"
Emmett asked, clearly forgetting what Mai had told him last night.
Aeris, largely unfazed by the boy’s reactions spoke, “I’m Mairyell’s little sister.”
Her voice was gentle, and a little more on the quiet side so as to lessen its impact on his head. She knew that the adrenaline rush he’d been through the night before would cause some form of trauma, but she hadn’t guessed that it’d make him sick.
Emmett nodded weakly. He continued to nibble on the toast as Olivia decided to take up the conversation. Mostly because she hated quiet when she could talk and ask questions. “Aeris made you an omelet if you want something else, EZ. And Aeris, what’s this called?”
Olivia pointed to a large, silver pot with several floating slices of pinkish fruit. It had a spicy, but sweet scent to it.
When Olivia pointed at the silver pot sitting on the counter, Aeris glanced at it. “It’s called Quince. It’s boiled fruit in a sweetened syrup. I think it tastes really good on waffles, personally.”
After answering Olivia’s question, Aeris glanced at Emmett, studying him.
Emmett’s stomach rumbled then churned at the mention of the food. He shook his head, the toast only half was eaten. He knew he should eat but he didn’t feel well enough to risk it. The boy didn’t understand why he felt so crappy. Was it because of last night? “Maybe later… Aeris, wasn’t it? Where is the bathroom?”
Olivia paused and looked at him. On impulse, she did something her mother had showed her last time her father was sick. Her hand came out and pressed against his forehead. There no fever. The girl’s expression slipped into a confused one.
Memories, hazy still, surfaced into her attention. Instinctively, she pleaded at Aeris for help then back to him. “Emmett, that…thing did hold you up by the neck. You still have bruising.”
Olivia gestured to the fading purple marks on his neck. Emmett hunched in his seat a bit and pulled his shirt closer to his neckline to hid them. “I just… I don’t feel well. It will pass.”
Aeris watched the two siblings silently, her hands resting on the counter. She could feel he didn’t have a fever, but she wouldn’t interrupt the girl trying to help her brother. She understood the sentiment. Once Emmett had withdrawn into what she presumed to be a bubble, she answered his earlier question. “Walk out of the dining room, turn left, walk down the hall until you see two doors, it will be one on your right. There’s a couple of steps once you open the door, so watch your step. I’ll call the police station later and see if we can drop by your apartment to pick up some of your belongings.”
She paused, looking at Olivia, and then back at Emmett. “If we can’t, then I’ll take you shopping to get some things. I’m sure you don’t want to be stuck in those clothes, after all.”
Olivia couldn’t help the smirk at the mention of shopping. Her mother often had let her pick her own shirts and jeans out before trying them on in the back. It was one of her favorite things to do. Especially when they would find something they both liked.
Emmett nodded then carefully pulled off the stool. His feet dragged across the floor and disappeared into the hallway. After he left, Olivia tilted into her seat to notice he had really left. Snapping upright once more, she looked at Aeris. “I hope EZ is going to be alright. Do you have any chicken noodle soup?” “Mai and I don’t really get sick, so I didn’t have any reason to keep around. When we go out later, I can pick up the ingredients, though.”
Aeris replied with a sympathetic smile.
Olivia pressed her lips thoughtfully together. She found it hard to believe neither Mairyell or Aeris ever got sick. Her dad was among the healthiest she knew, and even he got ill occasionally. “Why? Even dad got sick and he was usually eating carrots and stuff.”
Her nose crinkled at the thought of the orange root vegetable as she leaned once more into the counter. Her fork toyed with her food during her wait for an answer.
When Olivia asked why, Aeris shrugged, “I work for a company that makes medicine, and I take my vitamins everyday.” “That’s pretty cool. Lots of people look to you to make them healthy, right? Ever come across something weird?”
Olivia asked as she began to eat again.
After a bit of conversation, both women heard Emmett step back into the kitchen. He still looked pale, but some coloring had returned to his face. Moving into a seat near Olivia, he started to fill his plate with a few odds and end breakfast items.
Olivia noted it wasn’t a lot, but she was grateful his appetite had returned. “Emmett, are you going to feel well enough to go with us? If we go clothes shopping. You could rest.”
Emmett gave her an annoyed look. Olivia raised her hands, non threateningly, into the air. “It was just a thought. Don’t get mad and cool it. You don’t look good. We can bring you some soup back.”
Emmett rolled his eyes and grumbled under his breath, “I’m fine.”
Olivia shook her head and just ceased the conversation, mostly to avoid arguing with him. She hid her head from Emmett when mouthed her words to Aeris. He throws up, I’m not cleaning it.
Aeris chuckled a little, a small smile on her face as the two siblings bickered. Emmett reminded her of a younger Mairyell with how cool he was trying to act. Then, as if on cue, the oven went off, and she hurried over to it to pull out the cheesecake she’d placed inside. Triumphantly, she placed it on the counter, inhaling deeply, clearly enjoying the smell of chocolate.
While she left the cake to cool, she started filling her own plate with food, finally. To start, she put a few different fruit dishes on one side, then a healthy stack of pancakes, which she topped with the Quince Olivia had asked about earlier. She wasn’t sure if she should eat more than that, or if eating less would make her look strange. She didn’t usually have to pretend to be Human, and it’d been so long since she was one, she was struggling a bit.
Olivia’s eyes widened at the amount of food Aeris placed on her plate. It wasn’t an unreasonable, but rather more than she had seen most adults get. Especially her mother. “At least I feel better about how I eat.”
Emmett stared a moment, a mixture of surprise and suspicion on his face. He wasn’t sure what to think. As Olivia commented, he turned to her and couldn’t help a comment from escaping his lips. “If you’re that worried about it, don’t eat like a horse.” “I’m not the only one that does… EZ.”
Her tone hinted at his similar eating habits when she stressed his nickname. Emmett just grumbled again and lowered his focus to his meal. Feeling proud of her comeback, her fork took a few waffles and plopped them on her now empty plate. Mimicking Aeris, she scooped some of the quinces on top. Drowning the crispy waffle in sweetness.
Aeris, mouth full of food, chuckled quietly at the siblings. It would be evident to the both of them that her cheeks were slightly more red, indicating a bit of embarrassment at how the children reacted to how much she put on her plate.
Once the three were done eating, Aeris made a phone call to the police station as she’d promised. After several minutes on hold, she spoke to one of the detectives working on the case, and found that they wouldn’t be able to go back to the the apartment until later that week. Dismayed, Aeris gave the children the news.
She’d have to buy them a week’s worth of clothes, not that that was a problem.
Once it was determined that they’d be going out, Aeris placed a call to Mairyell again, and left a message asking if he’d heard from Raiden.
She hoped he would answer soon.
After calling Mai, the woman called her office to let them know she’d be dropping in at some time in the afternoon, and then she called her driver to bring the car to the house.
Emmett stared out the car window most the car ride. His eyes drifted along the passing buildings. Boutiques for jewelry to wedding gowns floated past. Each became blurs in his attention before fading past. His lids closed to shield him from the dizzying effect as he flopped back upon the seat.
Olivia, on the other hand, had kept close to Aeris. To her, this was temporary and something to experience. They were chattering about likes, dislikes, or anything that caught their attention. No worries at all.
It was the total opposite of what Emmett felt inside. Something was wrong and he couldn’t shake that sensation. It grew when their father hadn’t answered his phone earlier.
Maybe he was being too paranoid. After his father picked them up, it would fade.
He tried to push it from his mind while the car began to slow and finally stopped. Emmett was the first to crawl out. He held the door open for his sister and Aeris, a polite behavior pounded into him by his stepmother. When Olivia moved out, she smiled at where they arrived: the Mall.
Both children had only been here occasionally. Mainly whenever one of their parents had time to take them and usually for a special event. Emmett raised his right eyebrow at the building then turned his head to Aeris for her to take lead.
As the car drove through the city, Aeris looked through her cell phone, noticing that she had two unread text messages from Mairyell that she hadn’t previously seen. With a sigh of relief, she continued to entertain Olivia, though her mind did wander to the question of why he didn’t answer his phone when she called him earlier.
Once the trio had arrived at the mall, Aeris lead them inside. As the three walked through the corridors of the building, the children would likely notice many of the store managers standing outside their respective workplaces, trying to get Aeris’ attention to come inside. She would stop and greet the individuals, but the choice to enter the store was left entirely up to Emmett and Olivia.
Olivia’s attention idled on one shop. It was called ‘Teens and Tots Boutique’
, but she knew it best as TNT for short. Outside the entrance, a small dwarf sized woman shouted out for attention. Dressed in some examples of the latest, but more modest fashions, she smiled at the younger girl while greeting Aeris.
What really caught Olivia’s attention was the fact the woman was or barely over her own height. It was a pleasant surprise. Olivia’s eyes darted back to Aeris’ direction as if asking her permission to check it out.
Emmett rolled his eyes then reached for Olivia’s arm. “Come on. I know that look.”
He tugged her into the shop, nodding to the smaller woman who followed the trio in. Emmett led Olivia to the preteen/teenager section. An entire room was dedicated specifically to boys and girls of his and her age. “Go wild. I know you want to.”
Emmett stated as Olivia smiled.
Her arm pulled from his grip and reached for the nearest jeans before she turned to Aeris. “Can you help me pick a few outfits out? Then we can do the same for EZ?”
Emmett’s lips puffed out in annoyance.
Aeris chuckled to herself as Emmett pulled Olivia into one of the shops, and elegantly followed behind. When the girl asked if she could help pick out some outfits, the vampire nodded, and leisurely followed her through the store. With each item Olivia picked up, Aeris would hold it against her body to see if the size was right, and then ask if she liked it or not. If she did, the woman would simply smile, and place it on her arm. If she didn’t, she would agree, but not supply much information as to why.
A few hours later
Emmett’s eyes widened at the number of clothes that sat in Aeris’ arms. The petite woman was underneath the mountain causing Emmett's lips to tighten. Alice wasn’t going to be happy about this, but their father would’ve laughed. He found this type of situation amusing. Especially how Aeris was currently spoiling his sister.
He wasn’t even sure how to tell Olivia to put them back without risking offending Aeris’ generosity. Mentally he groaned. The thought of making more room for the ridiculous number of clothes hurt his head. “Do you know how much you made Aeris spend?”
He hissed under his breath at Olivia. His figure leaned into her space as they waited at the register.
The small shop owner beamed with a victory over the purchase. She hopped onto a ladder then began to ring up each individual item up.
Olivia shook her head. She wasn’t pleased with Emmett’s concern. Aeris offered and she was taught not to be rude, important things she felt her brother forgot. “Dad’s not going to be mad. He’ll likely chuckle.” “No, but Alice won't. Where are we going to put all this?”
His hand gestured to the twin miniature mountains on the counter. “We’ll figure it out? Don’t be a jerk, EZ.” “I’m not swimming in your clothes to get to my bed.” “You have as many as I do!”
Olivia protested. “Not by choice. Most of them are what you and Aeris picked out. So don’t go getting me in trouble for this!” “No offense, Emmett, you stink a bit when you’ve worn the same outfit for a few days. You need them.”
Emmett groaned, unable to find the strength to argue with Olivia. Why did he had to have an annoying little sister? “Fine. You win. But I’m not moving out of our room just to make more space.” “Never said you needed to…”
“Your total comes to about... one thousand, three hundred and sixty-nine pounds and sixty-eight cents. Cash or credit card?” The woman pleasantly asked. Her lips curled into a friendly smile and the clothes placed into bags, waiting for payment.
At the price tag, Olivia swallowed in surprise. Her eyes turned to Emmett’s ‘told you so’ expression as he folded his arms across his chest. “Alright… I got carried away.”
As the two bickered behind her, Aeris watched the manager intently as she rang up the items. Once the price was spoken allowed, she responded as though the number was nothing at all. “Credit.”
As she spoke, she pulled her wallet from her jacket and slid her debit card through the reader, then signed the little machine. Once all the clothes were bagged, Aeris dialed a number and spoke to someone quietly for a few moments. Once she hung up, she looked at the children with a warm smile.“The clothes will be there when he get home, I’m having someone come and pick them up for us so we won’t be bogged down. Is there any where else you’d like to go?”
Emmett raised an eyebrow at Aeris. While they weren’t exactly poor, their father had been more conservative with their money. Mostly to please Alice who planned for the future.
For him, it was weird to see someone indulge openly. Shrugging it off, his attention to return to Olivia. She was still in her nightshirt causing him to twist on a heel and walked back into the shop without a word.
Olivia blinked. Her head angled to watch him and bit her lip, trying to figure out what he was doing. Flipping back to Aeris, she looked for answers at her. Realizing she wouldn’t find any, she decided to make her own guess. “I guess he forgot something?”
When her statement finished, Emmett returned with two pairs of jeans, a tee shirt and a frilly shirt in his hand. He was biting the tags off so they wouldn’t poke her. As he stopped beside Olivia, he passed her the clothes. “Here, slip on the jeans. Then we’ll find a dressing room so you can change shirts.” “Thanks… And what about you? You’re still in your PJs too…”
He lifted his own clothes up, located in his other arm. “Step ahead of you. I’ll change when we find the dressing rooms.”
A thought crossed his face causing him to ask something at Aeris. “Aeris, what time is it? About noon isn’t it?”
Aeris didn’t seem at all confused when Emmett walked back into the store, as she had had the same thought just after him. When he returned with the clothes, Aeris noted that there were still stickers on them, and gently peeled them off before Olivia took the jeans. “There’s a dressing room in the store we can use.”
The woman commented with a small nod back toward TNT.
When Emmett asked her what time it was, she pulled out her phone, and read the display, “It’s about 12:43, do you want to get something to eat?” “Yeah. I didn’t eat much at breakfast, but I’m feeling better now.”
Emmett mentally cursed forgetting about the ones in the shop but tried not to show it on the surface. It was pointless to berate himself now. He would only look stupid as he nodded instead. There was nothing more he could say.
His mind wandered to his father’s and Alice’s whereabouts. Namely why the prior hadn’t picked them up yet. It was strange. He scratched the back of his head to distract himself and stop from voicing his worry.
Olivia perked up at the mention of food. “I would like that too. Where are we going to head? And can we get dessert? Father found this little ice cream shoppe. They hand crank their stuff and it’s soo good.” “First, we need to get dressed…”
Emmett reminded her, then began to walk back into TNT.
While the children went to get dressed, Aeris thought about different places they could go to have lunch. Most of the places she went to were more of fine dining establishments, and she wasn’t sure the kids would enjoy them. After a bit, she settled on a hole in the wall diner Mai had once brought her to. It reminded them of when they were younger, the thought made her smile.
Once the kids had returned to her from getting dressed, she walked them out to the waiting car, and told the driver where to go. It took another 45 minutes, but when they got there, the scent of freshly cooked cheeseburgers and fries filled the air outside the establishment, and Aeris looked at the children with a genuinely bright smile. The worn sign above the door read, Sunny Side Up Diner
.“I love the food here. It reminds me of when I was younger.”
Aeris’ voice was filled with what the kids would likely figure to be nostalgia.
Emmett’s eyebrow raised at the worn sign, clearly depicting its name. He had never actually heard of the restaurant until now. A good thing because he didn’t want to stir any memories. Their parents hadn’t come to pick them up and this made stomaching any reminders difficult.
Olivia, still smiling, bounced in excitement. “Neat. Come one, I can’t wait to try it. It smells terrific.”
She always loved new places and it showed. He watched his sister pull open the door for Aeris and him, her arm waving for them to head inside. His head shook as bit while he followed Aeris into the place.
Inside there were about three large tables with connected benches. A few families and individuals were scattered along the sides. It seemed the busiest time over and the leftover customers were enjoying themselves. Either waiting for their meals to be ready or devouring the burgers and fries.
The aroma wafted into Emmett’s nose. His stomach began to growl loudly, the vibration drawing his attention to how to starve he was. It seemed whatever he had possibly passed. At least, he hoped so.
Ignoring the memory, he pointed out an end at the first table to Aeris. “There’s a spot.” “They have cheese fries on the menu. Aeris, can we get some?” “Olivia, don’t you think you’ve asked for a lot already today?”
Emmett’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
Olivia, her thoughts trailed back to the price tag at the boutique, didn’t reply to this point. She chose to pretend she didn’t hear him as she took a seat. Sighing, Emmett plopped into the place beside her.
His eyes drifted to the large billboard that listed all the food options. “I’ll have a double bacon burger. Cheese, pickles, tomatoes, but no lettuce or onion… Please.” “Isn’t that asking for a lot?”
Olivia asked in a begrudging tone.
Emmett frowned but managed to hold his temper. Barely. He had been taught enough not to snap at his sister, but boy did he want to. Usually, he wasn’t so moody. He knew last night’s events and his lack of a decent sleep only increased his irritation and attitude.
Olivia, not willing to pour more salt on the building fight, began her order. “Can I have some cheese fries, coke and for my burger… Just one patty with mustard, ketchup, pickles and sweet relish. Please?”
Emmett’s stomach growled at the description. He wished he had ordered more because he felt famished.
Olivia noted the loud sound, her small moment of anger gone and replaced with concern. “Aeris… could you make that two cokes and two big cheese fries? Emmett, you sound like you’re about to eat the table.”
He grumbled under his breath.
Aeris, bemused by the siblings’ exchange, simply smiled and nodded to the waitress to give the kids what they wanted. Then, she ordered herself. “I’ll have two doubles with no lettuce or tomato, extra pickle, a chocolate milkshake, and an order of cheese fries. Also, we will be ordering dessert once we’ve finished our meals, if you could bring us a small menu with those on it, I would appreciate it.”
After writing down a copious amount of food, the waitress smiled, and nodded, heading into the back.
A few minutes before their food arrived, the same waitress sat a small menu with all of their desserts on the table for them to peruse. Before they’d even gotten a chance to look at it, though, multiple large plates of food were set down before them. “Ah, I should’ve warned you how big their servings are. Sorry.”
Aeris apologized, a small laugh escaping her lips. “I’m not. I’m starved.”
Olivia said then raised the delicious looking burger to her lips.
A huge bite disappeared from it as she chomped down. Grease and condiments dripped down her mouth side causing her to reach for a napkin. It was clear Olivia was a big eater despite her thin frame.
Even Emmett had to wonder where she put it at times.
His fingers curled about the cheese covered fries. He dipped them some more into the sauce, covering every inch before he popped them into his mouth. The salty and cheesy flavor exploded on his tongue. It melted well with the crisp fries as he sipped some of his coke. “So,”
Olivia asked between bites, “You’re Mairyell’s sister? Is he anything like mine? A pain, I mean.”
Emmett rolled his eyes but continued to eat. Nothing made him queasy, a fact he was thankful for. He didn’t really want to taste his meal a second time. The cheese covered fries would be the worst.
Aeris laughed a bit at Olivia’s question, carefully taking any fry that didn’t have cheese on it, and dipping it in her milkshake. The sweet and salty flavors melded well together in her opinion, she couldn’t help herself. “I used to think so, but now… I don’t think I could see my life without him. He’s always had my back when I’ve needed him.”
She paused, carefully thinking about her words. “We learned young that if we couldn’t count on anyone else, we’d always be able to count on each other.”
Olivia scrunched her nose at the thought of counting on Emmett. She looked at him from top to bottom. It seemed she found the idea hard to accept. Emmett chose to ignore her little display while he continued to eat.
Several of his toppings kept slipping off whenever he took a bite. He immediately paused, pulled apart the bun and shoved them back on. The tissue-like wrapping on the plastic baskets was covered in small stains.
One of the best burgers he had ever, Emmett couldn’t stop himself from occasionally licking his thumbs. “I think I got the short end of the stick... Mai is way cooler.”
That earned Olivia a glare from Emmett. The younger girl shrugged it off as she started on her fries. She wasn't at all bothered by the blunt insult she caused to his pride.
Aeris laughed, fully for once in all the hours the trio had spent together, her voice full of glee. Thankfully, even with her laughter, her fangs were quite well hidden behind her lips, keeping her secret for just a bit longer. She hoped she could keep it until Mai got home, so that he could tell them in a way that wouldn’t scare them since they knew him better than they knew her.
Once the group had finished their meals, Aeris looked at the children, “So, can you stomach dessert, or should we head home?” “I think I can.”
Emmett said, his voice questioned his own stomach’s stability.
Things seemed fine for now, much to his relief. He considered for a moment then decided to push things against his better judgment. Olivia didn’t need additional encouragement. “I want to try that.”
She pointed to a chocolate chip biscotti. A very crunchy, twice-baked biscuit filled with chocolate chips, it was cut into oblong shapes. It had the option of being served with warm milk for dunking. “Can’t you just enjoy something simple? Like plain vanilla ice cream.”
He then addressed Aeris, “I’ll take just plain chocolate ice cream.”
Aeris nodded, “You don’t have to be worried about me spending too much, honestly, it’s fine.”
The vampire stated simply, before ordering a slice of chocolate cake with strawberries and a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and a cup of coffee. “I still don’t think we need to. It’s not really how we were taught.”
His ice cream arrived in a waffle cup with a plastic spoon. There even was a cherry on top. Emmett frowned then picked it off. It wasn’t a fruit he didn’t really like because it was too sweet, passing it to Olivia.
It naturally disappeared in a heartbeat. Silence enveloped them as they wrapped up dessert. Emmett was actually happy for this because he didn’t feel like talking much. Though the day had been fun, he couldn’t shake the sensation something wasn’t right and it only grew.
Olivia didn’t seem bothered in the least. However, Emmett suspected it was a mask. His little sister was good at bubbling over her negative emotions with positive ones. “Well, that was pretty good.”
Olivia said as their dessert came to an end.
As the trio finished their respective desserts, Aeris paid the bill. Soon enough, they were on their way back to her home. The city whirred past them as the car moved through the its streets. It wouldn’t be long before they reached their destination.
Pulling up to the house after a brief trip, they exited and approached the doorstep with Aeris in the lead. After a moment to get her keys and open the door, the trio entered her lavish home to find a number of bags--presumably from their shopping trip--strewn in neat rows in the room just beyond the entrance. Upon their entrance into the house they’d hear the sound of a TV droning on. While the children would hardly be able to make out the voices properly, Aeris would clearly hear that it was the news.
A few moments later the sounds ceased as, presumably, someone shut the TV off.
As Aeris entered the house, and heard the news turn off, she tilted her head. Slowly, deeply, she inhaled, taking in the scents of her home. With a small smile on her lips, she called out, “Mai? S’at you?”
Though she didn’t actually have to ask.“‘Course not, the mailman decided to drop in after delivering packages,”
Mairyell replied, entering the room with a smirk. He grinned down at the children, though in the back of his mind he had no good news for them. Far from it.
He glanced at the menagerie of bags near the entrance, moving his arm in a sweeping gesture, “I mean c’mon, you can’t ask a man to just leave after he hauls all of that for you. Or you can. I guess that’s what the pay is for.”
They could feel the eyeroll as though it had cascaded through the entire house.
Olivia leaned forward, her arms pulled behind her and a smile still on her lips.
[color=pink] “I don’t think we’re that mean, Mairyell. Thank you.”[color]
Emmett was the last to walk in, his eyes rested on Mairyell. He seemed to want to ask something but resisted for a moment. The boy’s head turned to the wall and stared a moment before he gained the courage to approach the dark subject. “Did it escape?”
It would be clear what he was talking about to Mairyell, but Olivia shot him a confused look. She didn’t know about the shade’s last encounter with him because both Raiden and Alice never mentioned it. They felt it was best left in the past.
He stepped around his younger sister to better face Mairyell for the answers.
Part of him feared the shade had gotten away and would return again. He had been wanting to ask these questions burning inside his head since this morning. Now might be the only time to get them.
As the boy asked if the shade had escaped, Aeris simply watched her brother, and the children, wordlessly.
Gaze falling to the boy, Mairyell’s smile became more gentle somehow. “No. It’s in the custody of the IHO. It’s not going anywhere ever again,”
he replied, before meeting Aeris’ eyes and then looking down to Olivia and then at Emmett. He approached, ruffled Emmett’s hair before, rather unashamedly, hugging Aeris, then turning away and walking back into the house. He waved over his shoulder for them to follow.“So how was your day kids? Aeris treat you to anything fun?”
Slightly surprised by her brother’s sudden hug, Aeris was a little slow to reciprocate, but she did so eventually. “Welcome home, Mai.”
Her voice was gentle as she spoke to him, a small note of relief hidden within it. As he walked away, she followed after him, being careful not to trip over any bags as she moved.
Emmett let a relieved smile crack his worried expression. Things were going to be alright, he thought. It was a temporary hope. Emmett’s eyes followed Mairyell as he hugged Aeris then gestured for them to follow him. The boy didn’t need encouragement. “Aeris took us shopping, then out to eat. Emmett felt sick this morning though. I think it was something he ate last night.”
At Olivia’s last mention, Emmett flinched slightly. He didn’t want to remember last night as he struggled to find a reply. Olivia didn’t seem to notice. Her attention on Aeris and Mairyell while she reached for one of the things Aeris bought.“Shopping eh? For clothes it looks like,”
he said without glancing back, or down, at any of the bags. He glanced over his shoulder at Aeris as he walked, “You trying to drown them in a mountain of clothes or something?”
He winked at the kids.
At Mai’s remark, Aeris shrugged. “They can’t go back to the apartment until later this week, so they needed clothes, and toiletries. I just let them pick out what they wanted.”
After a moment of thought, she clarified, “Well, Emmett didn’t really pick much of his things out, if I’m being honest…”
The vampire trailed off awkwardly, glancing away from her brother’s back. She hadn’t picked out all his clothes, but it felt wrong to foist the responsibility on Olivia. It wasn’t a problem, but it could’ve come off as her blaming the girl.
Mai only chuckled in response, before spinning on his heel and plopping himself down in one of his sister’s incredibly expensive--incredibly comfortable--armchairs. “Ahh, man these always hit the spot, so to speak,”
he said, sighing as he relaxed into the chair. After a moment or so of organizing his thoughts, the hunter opened his eyes and looked between the two.“Sit down,”
he said, and the geniality of before had faded considerably. There was steel in his gaze as he regarded them, his attention flickering to Aeris briefly. The subtle movements of his hands, the position of his body in the chair, the way his gaze shifted from her to them, to the couch, seemed to imply that he wanted her near to them when they sat.
He didn’t like it, but it was time that he explained to them the situation they were in. It would perhaps spoil the wonderful day they’d had so far, but...well, it needed to be done and the longer he waited the worse it would be.
When Mai told the trio to sit, Aeris placed herself in the middle of the couch, taking the hint, and waited for the children to sit down as well, gently patting the cushions on either side of her. “I thought you two were going to buy the whole store…”
He was happy he wasn’t the only one to notice a number of clothes being ridiculous. His hands pushed into his jean pockets while he followed Aeris and Mai.
Seeing Mai get comfortable, Emmett decided now was the time to ask about his dad.
Before he could get the question out, Mairyell asked them both to take a seat. He didn’t like the look on the hunter’s face. That dread and fear returned to his very heart once more. Something was wrong.
Cautiously, he took a seat where Aeris indicated. Olivia, unsure about this sudden shift in mood, settled in beside Aeris too. She looked at the older woman as if the look would gain some understanding.
Emmett heavily doubted it. “Something happened, didn’t it? Alice?”
He naturally assumed the worst.
Why wouldn’t he? The last time he encountered the damnable Licenti, it killed his own mother. There was nobody there, so had something worse happened? So many questions. Emmett closed his eyes and inhaled, letting his nerves calm.
Watching the two children, Mairyell let the silence hang for a moment while he decided on the words to use. For what was not the first time, he realized that there was simply no easy way of putting things. “It appears that the shade got to Alice before it reached your room,”
he said, lowering his gaze for a moment before looking at them again, “...she didn’t make it.”
Well, there was the first bomb dropped.
Aeris looked down at Olivia, a placid expression on her face. She didn’t have the answers the girl wanted. That duty unfortunately fell to her brother. When he dropped the first bombshell, that their mother was dead, Aeris’ arms gently pulled both the children a little bit closer to her. She didn’t know how they were going to react, but she wanted to be sure that they knew she was there if they needed it.
Emmett heard Olivia gasp. Her eyes widened and all color drained from her skin. Her hands raised up to cover her mouth. “No…no..”
Tears formed in her eyes, trickling down the edges and staining her cheeks. As Aeris pulled them in closer, Olivia just broke down. Her face buried into a shoulder and muffled her cries. This was her brush with a loss.
This was Emmett’s second one.
Emmett just swallowed the thick sensation at the back of his throat, letting Aeris hold him close. He felt a mixture of numbness and pain spread from his core. Why? The question always came to him in his darkest moments and always left without a proper answer.
It took all his strength to keep the eye contact with Mairyell. “Does dad know yet?”
His voice seemed distant.
At the mention of the boy’s father, Mairyell had to resist the urge to react. Still his jaw clenched, then relaxed. A frown formed on his features and he sighed before meeting Emmett’s gaze.“Yeah, that’s..."
he trailed off, looking away as he saw how hard the boy was trying to hold it together, probably for his sister. He breathed a moment then met Emmett’s eyes again. “I’m not exactly sure what happened, but...Emmett, Olivia. Raiden’s gone."
There were few things harder than what these kids were going through, but damn...telling them was definitely difficult, even for him.
He was glad he wasn’t a doctor.
Whatever strength Emmett had managed to hang onto fell from him. His stomach sank into his legs as the stoic face he wore crumbled. A spirit didn’t break easy, but this news seemed to slice his in half. He paled worse than his sister. A flicker of pain darted into his eyes, but was then devoured by bitterness and anger. “No. NO!”
He shouted in denial.
Emmett shoved away Aeris’ touch and rose to his feet. He didn’t want her comfort. Not now, or ever. His eyes fought the hot tears rushing to them as he glared at Mairyell, blaming the messenger. “You’re LYING! Dad… Dad is a hunter. He isn’t dead! He can’t be…”
Emmett’s fists clenched at his side until they were white. He wanted to hit Mairyell- or anything- to make the painful truth go away.
As Mairyell told the children their father didn't make it, Aeris prepared for the worst. The woman held Olivia close as she cried, watching Emmett from the corner of her eye.
She didn't have to wait long for an outburst. When the boy pushed her away, her body didn't move as he wasn't strong enough to displace her, but she did let him go. She listened as he yelled, and gently squeezed Olivia. Though the children wouldn't notice, Mai would be able to detect the subtle amounts of Brisn that had begun to fill the room. It would help diffuse Emmett’s anger, and hopefully calm him down enough to listen to her brother. She knew how badly he must’ve been hurting, but lashing out wasn't doing anyone any favors.
Watching the boy’s reaction closely, he listened as Emmett expressed his outrage, even going so far as to yell at him. He had to admit he had spirit, but still it didn’t faze him at all.
Meeting Emmett’s eyes he spoke once more, tone quiet, but hard, unyielding. “No, I’m not, Emmett. I wish I was. I cared about your father too. You’re not alone in your pain."
His gaze was trained on the boy as he noticed the Brisn that his sister was releasing. He didn’t react, instead waiting, weathering the storm.
When Brisn swept over Emmett, it was like water touching fire. A cool, soothing sensation washed over the burning, painful anger. It pounded at his insides. The boy’s body tensed, fighting the gradual change.
He didn’t want to be here. Not now. Not in front of Olivia, Aeris or Mairyell. “Why? Why is this happening? First mom… then Alice… now… Just, no. This can’t be right. It’s not true.”
Emmett’s voice seemed to plead for the facts to be a lie. A nightmare he would wake up from and everything would be as it was. Why did he keep losing everyone he cared for? He was no closer to answers than when it all started.
The Brisn finally seeped into his very core.
The calm etched into his heart as his fists started to relax. He wanted to feel anything but the numbness. Try as he might, he couldn’t win over Aeris’ magic.
In the background, Olivia’s crying had dulled down to a gentle sobbing and finally ceased. Her eyes were still an ugly red. She pulled up from Aeris’ shoulder and wiped her eyes clear. “W-what happens now?”
It was a question Emmett both dreaded and couldn’t answer. “I’ll be honest with you both because you deserve that, despite how young you are. I don’t know, not just yet. The authorities are still sorting out this case and we haven’t been contacted as to what is to happen to either of you. However, I can say this. This isn’t either of your faults. We live in an unfair world. Bad things happen to good people. You deserve better, but unfortunately this is the hand you were dealt. It’s hard, but you’ll get through it."
He glanced at Aeris, thanking her silently.“If you don’t have any relatives that can take care of you, well...I’m not sure what will happen exactly. We’ll probably know more by tomorrow though."“Well, until we know if you have relatives you can stay with, I have full authority to take care of you. So, if you want to, you’re more than welcome here. If anything comes up, we’ll go from there.”
Aeris added on to her brother’s statement calmly.
Mairyell nodded in response.
Olivia nodded her understanding. The pain was still clear, but she hid her worry well. Her eyes glanced at her brother, the only close relative she had left. She leaned back into Aeris for comfort.
Emmett’s reply was silence.
He didn’t know what to say or how to react to the way things were. He just wanted to hit something, but even that was painful now. Life was unfair. It was a fact, but he still hated it. He couldn’t stop that. “You said the shade got Alice… Did it get dad too?”
The words felt thick on his tongue as he asked his question.
The boy remained standing and his tone had calmed somewhat.“It wasn’t the shade,"
he said, but didn’t elaborate. It was clear that he didn’t intend to say more.
Emmett studied Mairyell a moment longer than necessary. His eyes softened into depression before he turned around. Feet dragged him to the couch nearest Mairyell as he plopped down into the cushion.
Elbows on his knees, He pressed his head into his hands and tried to accept everything. Emmett still wanted to hit something, but he could rein in the urge now. “I’m sorry.” “You have nothing to apologize for, Emmett. We’ve lost people we care about to Licentia as well. It hurts. Mai and I understand that.”
Aeris’ voice was soft and gentle, as she spoke, still holding Olivia. Mairyell made a small sound in his voice, agreeing with her.
Emmett just nodded, but the words didn’t seem to ease his struggle inside. He raised his head up to glance at his sister. Olivia looked as bad as he felt. Her eyes just kept quietly tearing up and holding onto Aeris. The whole time, she was using the woman’s strength to keep herself together. It hurt even more because he couldn’t.
Once the children had calmed down enough, Aeris left them with Mai so that she could show her face at Kasio Korp. Once she got there, she interacted with several smaller business moguls whose companies Kasio Korp was looking to acquisition. After working through their terms, and setting her own, she was told they would contact her within the week. With those meetings done, she filed several hours worth of paperwork.
When she finally made it home again, it was 12 AM. As she entered the house, she would find Mairyell sitting on the couch, body pressed back into it, eyes closed. However, his breathing revealed that he was awake. After a moment he opened his eyes to look at her.“Kids are asleep...or well, in bed. We’ll see how tired they are in the morning."
He looked away, staring up at the ceiling. He seemed kind of drained. Sighing to himself, he pushed himself off of the couch, getting up.“I guess we should get some sleep too, even if we don’t need it nearly as much as most."
Aeris simply nodded, and took Mairyell by the hand. With a sympathetic smile, she led him up the stairs to her bedroom, and shut the door.