This is not a good morning. It hasn’t been for a while, because at two-thirty the fire alarms went off in the building, and for the first time there was smoke in our hallway on the eleventh floor. It was smoke that smelled a great deal like someone was cooking and then fell asleep, allowing whatever it was on the stove to go up in flames. Don’t laugh: that same thing has happened twice before, and I suspect this morning was the third.
I didn’t get back to sleep until about four, which means I never really got back to sleep, so at the moment I’m feeling really slow . . .
On top of that the evening didn’t turn out to be the greatest, either. It was one of those “Let’s Cry, Shall We?” moments from just about the time I walked out of work until I fell asleep. I actually had to stop on the walk home and let it out for about five minutes, and then it was another five minutes after I got in the place, and another five while I sat out on my balcony and watched the lightning storm pass, and . . . you get the picture. Lots of sadness; lots of crying.
And, yeah: lots of writing.
Since I hadn’t written the night before I needed to make up for it last night, and penned–is that still a word? We’ll go with it–a little over thirteen hundred words. I took my time on it because, really, my mind was in other places. Still, I got it done, and finished the scene.
And it doesn’t disappoint–I hope.
(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
Most people were either in the covens or in the Dining Hall, leaving the Rotunda empty. They’d covered nearly half the distance from the transept to the East Hallway when they heard a familiar voice speak in a low tone. “Kerry.”
He turned towards the East Rotunda staircase where Nadine stood at the top of the flight leading to the lover levels. She waved them over. “Come here.”
Figuring there had to be a reason why Nadine was being so secretive he took her suggestion and headed towards her with Annie next to him. “Hey, what’s up?”
Nadine nodded in the direction of the downward flight. “Let’s talk in private.” She bounced down the fight, with her two friends close behind.
The lower levels of the Great Hall were much like the majority of the tunnels under the school: stark, dimly lit, and quiet. Kerry knew this section well, as the tunnel leading to Cernunnos Cover was a few meters to their right. Nadine turned left instead and walked towards the storage areas under the jaunt station and the school archives. As soon as they found a quiet passage she ducked inside and waited for her two followers. She didn’t bother with preamble. “Did something happen between you and Emma yesterday?”
He groaned quietly, hoping the unpleasantness that happening in Queens had died. “Yeah.”
Annie lightly touched his arm. “You should tell her everything.”
Nadine did a quick double-blink. “Must have been bad if Annie’s telling you to come clean.”
“It was . . .” He shrugged. “We landed in New York City—”
“I know: I helped set up your Scavenger Flight locations.”
“Right. We took a flight break when we were getting picture of the Unisphere, and she decided—” Kerry stared at the floor as he sighed. “She hit on me—”
Annie turned a cold stare towards Nadine. “Again.”
It was the older girl’s turn to scoff. “Yeah, I’ve heard the rumors in our coven.” She turned to Kerry. “I guess she didn’t take it well.”
“Not at first, but . . .” He cleared his throat as he shook his head. “She was okay by the time we were off Long Island and on our way home. I figured it was over.”
“What happened, Nadine?” Annie knew the whole story of what happened during the flight; after dinner, but before they got ready for the Midnight Madness, he told her everything that transpired earlier in the day. She’s suspected that if Emma tried anything Kerry would set her right, and he’d done that. However, there appeared to be a lingering aftermath . . .
“A couple of girls told me this morning that Emma started going on last night about today’s race.” Nadine turned and leaned back against the passage wall. “She was talkin’ shit about how you guys were tied at one, and this was going to be a deciding race.”
“What?” Kerry’s face twisted about, unable to hide his disbelief. “What is she talking about?”
“One of the girls said that Emma told them that since you won your first race last Saturday, and she’d won the week before, this was going to be the chance to see which of the A Team B Levels was better.”
“Ah, jeez.” It became completely clear to him now. Two weeks before Emma won her first race as an A Team member, in a twelve lap heat on Class 2s against Ceridwen, making her the first B Level to win an A Team race in almost a decade. Then last Saturday Kerry won his first A Team race during a eight lap heat on Class 2s against Åsgårdsreia. “What is the big deal? We both have a win—so what?”
“It seems like it means something important to her, dude.”
Right off the bat we know that (1), the flight back from New York was cool, (2), Annie knows everything, (3), both Emma and Kerry have won races. Of course there’s (4), Emma is totally talkin’ shit about Kerry, and it sounds like she’s letting people know that since this is the first time they’ve raced together, there’s gonna be some kind of showdown for the crown. In other words, Emma’s acting like a twelve year old girl who’s been scorned, but instead of texting “Screw You, Kerry!’ to his iPhone, she’s gonna whip his ass on the race course.
All does not look that smooth in Wingmate Land.
Also, Nadine called Kerry “dude”. Total teenager shit, yo.
Annie has a way of seeing something that Captain Clueless can’t–
“If I may . . .” Though not a racer, Annie had certainly lived through events at home and heard enough stories from her mother that she could venture a guess. “Even though Emma was on a Class 2, she was racing the Green Line, whereas you—” She touched Kerry’s hand. “You raced the Blue Line. You also won against the coven second in team standings, while Ceridwen was third at the time—”
“And still is.” Nadine slide her feet out a little and looked down at them. “I got a feeling Emma thinks your win is seen as being more important than hers—”
“But it isn’t.” He stepped back and looked down the long underground corridor to see if anyone had heard his rising voice. He sharply exhaled, getting himself under control. “We’re the only two B Levels on the A Team, and she won before me. It’s no big deal.”
Annie chuckled. “You’re still a bit clueless, aren’t you?”
He turned to her. “What do you mean?”
“She’s acting this way because you hurt her—”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It doesn’t matter. She’s hurt, and she’s looking for a way to get back at you. And the race today—it’s the first time you’ve completed against each other since you both had your wins.”
Nadine nodded. “Annie’s right: Emma wants to get back at you somehow, and she’ll do it by making a point of showing everyone who’s the better racer.”
Girls understand girls, and they both seem to understand Emma. Kerry’s still learning the tricks of the trade, and he’s getting there, but it’s still a bit of a struggle. And now he’s feeling the pressure . . .
Kerry sighed, his eyes closed. I didn’t want any of this to happen. He opened them and stared at a section of the wall to Nadine’s left. If she’d just not said anything—or if I’d said something a year ago . . . “Oi. What a mess.”
“Yeah, it is a bit.” Nadine stood away from the wall. “I’ve already spoken with Erywin, and she said she’s gonna speak with Emma—though I don’t know if she’s gonna speak with her in person, or if there’ll be something said in the team meeting where it look like she’s not being called out.” She rotated her right shoulder, working out a kink. “She’s a bit pissed about all the blocking Emma does in the races, so maybe she’ll work in something about keeping your mind on the race into her speech.”
He ran his fingers through his short hair. “I hope so.”
“Is there anything you can do?” Annie decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask. “You are the team captain.”
Nadine frowned. “That’s true. But about the only thing I can do is tell her to lay off the blocking and shit like that. Still, I might pull her aside and tell her not to get cute out on the course today—it’s Fifteen on the Green, and the race is enough of a bitch without someone turning it into a grudge match.” She patted Kerry on the shoulder. “Look, just race your race today and don’t worry about her. Right?”
“Right.” Kerry managed a smile. “I’ll keep it clean.”
“Like you always do.” She gave his shoulder another pat. “See you on the course. Take care, Annie—and thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Nadine.” She waited for the older girl to vanish up the staircase before turning to Kerry. “What’s wrong?”
The problem Nadine has is that it’s known she’s somewhat friendly with Kerry. In fact, what she did here could be viewed in some circles as fraternizing with the enemy, so to speak. Nadine is her coven’s racing team caption, and warning a member of another team–well, all’s fair, right?
Nadine doesn’t play that game. She knows a grudge match because of a broken heart could lead to something else getting broken, and she doesn’t want that to happen. So she tells Erywin and Kerry, just so they know. And she doesn’t leave Annie out of the mix, either.
Once Nadine’s gone Annie moves in to comfort Kerry, who is probably worried he won’t keep his cold yogurt drink down now. And he’s being himself, which means . . .
He rubbed his forehead, covering his eyes. “I really screwed up.”
“Don’t ever say that.” Annie took his hands in hers and pulled him to her. “You did nothing wrong, my love. She decided to pursue you, and you told her it wouldn’t happen.” She kissed him before whispering in his ear. “Don’t blame yourself for her actions.”
Despite knowing that Annie was right, Kerry still felt some responsibility. “I should have told her last year to leave me alone and cut her out.”
“And we have no way of knowing if that would have changed anything.” She rested his head against her shoulder. “For all we know, love, things would be even worse. Things are where they are because things are meant to be here.” She patted his hair. “You’re going to do well today.”
He smiled as he wrapped his arms around Annie’s waist. “I’ll do my best, darling.”
She kissed his forever. “You always do, my love. You always do.”
Don’t blame yourself, Kerry. None of you kids are really responsible for your actions as this age, mostly because hormones make you crazy. But still–
What could go wrong in a race called Fifteen on the Green that Nadine calls “a bitch”?
Oh . . . many things.