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Thread: This thread for parallel stories not directly linked to "Disturbing News"

  1. #81

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 33

    "Good. I want you to meet Jordan and I've got a story that'll turn you white."

    Andre's laugh was tense. "Man, that only works for a brown skinned boy like me. But I feel ya. We'll be there soon. I finally gave into the impulse and hopped in the truck forty-five minutes ago. Meet at the same place?"

    "No, the Miracle Moon Café on Main Street."

    "You seriously have a Main Street there? Didn't think it was big enough."

    "Aw, shut up and drive. We'll see you soon."

    Laughing, the boys hung up. The smile faded from Brian's face when he thought about the implications of that conversation. Something had prompted Andre to drive up for a visit. Had he sent out a psychic message and not realized it? Forty-five minutes ago, he and Jordan had opened the first of his father's files and started to read. Could Andre have sensed that somehow? Had the amulet Brian wore projected his fears?

    Whatever was the case, they had a more immediate danger facing them. Evil was in Jordan's home and it was up to them to drive it out. But what could four teenagers do against something like Gavin Deidrich?

    On an impulse, he called Chase. His friend answered breathlessly. "Are you okay?"

    "For the moment, why?"

    "Cause I'm itching all over. Something isn't right. Are you sure?"

    Brian filled him in on Mr. Deidrich.

    "I saw that guy around town when Dad and I were at the gun store. He asked us where you were staying. We said we didn't know—hell, we didn't. But Old Ms. Hooper said you were at Jordan's."

    Ms. Hooper was the Casey's next door neighbor and a terrible, gossiping, busybody.

    "Dammit! Thanks for letting me know. Jordan and I are on the way to the café. Can you get here? Andre's coming from Louisiana."

    "Yeah. Give me a minute. Dad will bring me."

    "Ask if he can stay. Chase—I think Mr. Deidrich drugged our folks. We could sure use an adult right now."

    "After what happened at the fire, my dad's totally behind you. You and Jordan are his heroes."

    "Thanks, Chase."

    "Anything for a friend."

    At the café, Jordan and Brian ordered hot chocolate. By the time it arrived, so had Chase and his father. Brian rapidly filled them in on what had happened the night before and all about Gavin Deidrich.

    "That sounds like the tramp I've seen hanging about the last few weeks," Mr. Finley said. "He stays out in the swamp not far from us. That's why I give Chase a ride every day. His bus stop is remote and he's the only one who goes there."

    "I'm kind of worried about tomorrow," Brian said. "If he's around and our parents aren't acting right, what are we gonna do?"

    "I'll come get you," Cliff Finley said. "And I'll make it a point not to associate with this Deidrich person. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a few errands to run. Call me when you're ready to go home. I'll give you a lift."

    "What if he's still there?" Jordan asked, her eyes wide with fear.

    Mr. Finley pursed his lips, thinking. "I'll have to study some about that, Jordan. Maybe we can figure a way to get him to cut loose."

    "I doubt that," Brian said. "But thanks."

    Cliff Finley clapped Brian on the shoulder. "Don't give up before you start, son." He nodded and left.

    Andre walked in shortly after Mr. Finley left. Ginnifer, dressed all in black, with heavy kohl around her eyes and blood red lipstick, joined him. She gave Jordan a once over with a snooty sniff.

    "Who's the perky one?"

    Jordan was dressed in low riding jeans and a clinging, dark pink sweater. Her expression wasn't exactly perky, unless one compared it to Ginnifer's morose one.

    "Andre, Ginnifer, this is Jordan. She's had the same things happen to her that we have. She and I fought a fire elemental last night. This is Chase. It happened at his house. And he helped."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  2. #82

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 34 & 35

    (I was at an appointment on Wednesday, and couldn't get this posted, so I've put up 2)

    "Wow, for real?" Andre sat, clasping hands with Chase. His eyes fastened on Jordan and her clingy sweater. He smiled. "Delightful to meet you, Miss Jordan."

    She smirked, raising a wary eyebrow. "Of course it is. What color are my eyes, Romeo?" She closed her eyes before he could peek.

    "Um.... Green?"

    Ginnifer punched Andre—hard. "My eyes are green, you idiot!"

    Jordan snorted before taking a sip of her hot chocolate. Ginnifer glared at her. Brian didn't want to see the day explode in their faces. There was too much going on for them to fight.

    "Doesn't matter," Brian said. "I don't care if you hate each other, we have to work together—now. Serious stuff is happening. There's been two very targeted attacks on Jordan. First the fire elementals, then the ice last night."

    "Whoa—on me? We were both in the house."

    "But it was your room," Brian said. "And the fire elemental headed straight for you."

    "That's true," Chase said. "It wasn't interested in me and Bri at all."

    Jordan paled. Her hands shook as she put her cup down. Ginnifer, in an uncharacteristic moment, took it from her before she spilled it. She put a gentle hand on Jordan's shoulder.

    "All this time, I saw it differently. I thought of it as attacking us, coming after us—not me!"

    Ginnifer patted her hand. "When Louisa and I got attacked, the creatures ran past her to get at me. If it hadn't been for the dog, we wouldn't have gotten away."

    "That reminds me," Jordan said. "Where were the dogs last night? We sure could have used them."

    "I wondered the same thing," Brian said. "Weird that they didn't show up. They always have before."

    "You don't think—could that Deidrich guy have anything to do with that? Chase's dad said he's been hanging out in the woods. What if he hurt them or something?" Jordan said.

    "We can't really focus on that," Andre said. "Seems to me we need to see this information and learn what we can about Brian's amulet."

    "Can we get our own?" Ginnifer asked. "I'd feel safer if I had something."

    "We have no idea what we're doing," Chase said. "We could come up with something that had the total opposite effect. We could kill ourselves."

    "They aren't that tricky," Jordan said. "My mom has made them and she showed me how. I'm not perfect at it, but I think I can imbue a few stones. I don't know how much help they will be, but I'll try."

    "Meanwhile," Andre persisted. "The files."

    Brian nodded. He booted up the computer and took the flashdrive off his wrist. Once the computer was ready, he plugged it in and went to the menu. He accessed the file marked stones. The file opened, but it was gibberish. It was completely unreadable. Each successive file was like that. They couldn't read a thing.

    "I don't understand," Brian said, near panic. "It was fine when we looked at it earlier."

    "Deidrich," Jordan said. "I bet he did something. I felt all tingly when I touched him, like electrical current running through me. What if he did something?"

    "How could he?" Ginnifer complained. "He didn't touch the flashdrive."

    "No, but he did touch Brian. I wouldn't put anything past that man. He was so creepy. I hope you never meet him, but if you do, you'll understand."

    "I have another copy," Brian said. "It's safe, for now, but I'd sure feel better if we could make a backup."

    "Where is it?"

    Brian and Jordan exchanged a look.

    "I'd rather not say in public. I should have made a copy already. I wasn't thinking straight."

    "What will we do if it's corrupted too?" Ginnifer asked.

    Licking his lips, Brian shook his head. "I don't know. Start from square one, I guess."

    Since they didn't have the files to look at, Jordan and Brian told the others what they'd read. They talked about the properties of stones.

    Jordan showed them her mother's site and they read a lot of useful information there. They still didn't understand what they were supposed to do with it. Knowing about the stones didn't tell Brian how to use his amulet and didn't protect the others.
    After a couple hours, they decided to head home. It was going to be dark soon and looked like it was going to storm some more. Andre didn't want to hit bad weather driving home. He and Ginnifer said goodbye. Ginnifer hugged everyone. She was far less confrontational and even hugged Jordan. Chase called his father after Andre and Ginnifer left. Cliff arrived a few minutes later.

    "Can we go by my house, Mr. Finley?" Brian asked. "There's something I need to do over there."

    "Sure thing, kid." They drove to Brian's house. "Want us to come in?"

    Brian hesitated. He wasn't sure how to answer that.

    "Yes," Jordan said. "Why wait in the cold? Even with the heat on, it's nicer in the house. And it saves gas."

    They went inside together. Brian was glad Jordan had done that. He hadn't wanted to admit that he was a little nervous about going in the house alone. Mr. Finley was big and muscular. He reminded Brian a lot of his father. By his mere physical presence, Brian felt better.

    "I have to get something in Dad's office," he said. "Y'all make yourselves comfortable."

    "Want something to drink?" Jordan asked, playing hostess as if it were her house.

    Brian appreciated her taking over. He walked down to his father's office, hands in pockets. When he got to the door, he saw it was slightly ajar. He knew he'd latched it tightly when he left. His mother hadn't been near it when they came home to pack. Wary and curious, he opened the door and headed toward the desk. The computer was gone. Frustrated and upset, Brian groaned. Moments later, the others rushed down the hall.

    "Are you okay?" Jordan asked.

    "It's gone! Dad's computer isn't here. What am I going to do? That was the only other copy of the research!" Frustrated, he knocked papers off the desk. They fell, skittering across the floor.

    Jordan bent to pick them up, and froze. Slowly, her hands reached for a piece of paper. Its glossy finish caught Brian's eye. Jordan stood, handing the picture to Brian. With a trembling hand, he took it from her. It was the photograph from the stones file. Closer inspection showed that the entire stack of paper was a complete print out of the files his father had left him.

    "I swear," he whispered to Jordan. "That wasn't there yesterday."

    She shivered. Taking a deep breath, Jordan bit her lip. "You know what you're saying, right?"

    "I'm saying—someone printed that out and left it there for me."

    "Hidden in plain sight," Jordan breathed. "Your dad's a genius."

    "Too bad he has such a dummy for a son," Chase said as he sifted through the papers.

    "Thanks so much," Brian said, sounding hurt.

    "I'm serious, dude. Stupid. How is any of this important?"

    Mr. Finley took the papers from his son. "Because you're looking only at the surface. You have to look for the deeper meaning. Can you do that, Brian? Can you look below the superficial facts and see the pattern?"

    "I don't know, Mr. Finley. I don't even know what the pattern is."

    The older man closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. "Read this, absorb it. Don't consider it at face value. You have to look deeper. I can't tell you more than that, Brian. You have to figure this out on your own."

    "But why?"

    "Because that's how it's meant to be," Mr. Finley replied. "I want to tell you, Brian, but I can't. Believe—you must believe, or none of this will mean anything."

    "Can't you give me a hint?"

    Mr. Finley said nothing more. Shaking his head, he gathered up the rest of the papers and searched the office until he found a satchel for them. It was battered and old, red leather that fastened with brass clasps. Brian recognized it as his father's. He used it for all his most important papers. It was fitting that these should be housed in it.

    "Don't let that Deidrich fellow anywhere near this," Mr. Finley cautioned. He closed his eyes again, laying his hand on the case. He murmured a few words before opening them again. He handed the case to Brian. "Probably the best place for this is with you at all times. Take it to school, leave it in your locker. Sleep with it, if you have to. Keep it in this case."

    Brian didn't know what to think. It was obvious that Mr. Finley knew more than he was saying. He couldn't help wondering why he didn't tell them.

    "There's another storm coming," Mr. Finley said as they walked back out to his car. "There won't be school again tomorrow. You two read through this tonight and tomorrow. I don't care how long it takes you. When you're done, if you don't see the pattern clearly enough, I'll do my best to explain."

    He dropped them off at Jordan's house in time for dinner, cautioning them not to eat anything Mr. Deidrich touched. "Don't let him serve dishes, set the table or handle the glasses. If you can't avoid it, say this—glan dom. Can you remember that?"
    "Yes, sir," they answered together.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  3. #83

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 36

    Cliff made Jordan and Brian repeat it.

    "Good. Be careful. And if you need me, call. I can be here in less than five minutes."

    "Thank you." Jordan hugged him, kissing his cheek. "I wish you could stay with us."

    "I wish I could too. Oh, nearly forgot." He dug around in his pocket. "This is what I went after. You add this to the food before your parents eat it. It will help against whatever Deidrich's put in the food."

    Brian looked at the packet of pale pink powder. "What is it?"

    "Taste," Mr. Finley said with a grin.

    Brian licked his finger and took a tiny bit of the powder on his finger. "It's salt!"

    "Yes, but a very special kind. It will purify the food. Just a pinch per dish. Another pinch by the doors and windows will help keep out evil. And this." He handed each of them a small bundle of what looked like twigs, bound in red string. "I know it doesn't look like much, but it will protect you. That's oak, ash and thorn tied with string dyed with rowan berries. Carry it with you." He handed each a small bag, also dyed red. "That's also dyed with rowan. A great deterrent for evil. I've made them for your parents. Slip it in a pocket or put it in their beds. It will help."

    "How do you know all this, Mr. Finley?" Jordan asked.

    He looked directly in her eyes. "Because I read the information and I saw the pattern," he replied. "Now you do the same."

    "What about Chase?"

    "He's got his own things to read and learn. Better get in for dinner now."

    "Thank you," Jordan and Brian said once more.

    They got reluctantly out of Mr. Finley's car. Brian suddenly remembered that his dad and Mr. Finley were close friends and wanted to cry. This was his father's job—watching over his son and protecting him. It wasn't he responsibility of Jordan's father or Chase's, but his own. How could he leave when he knew his son was vulnerable? What had been so important that he'd left like he did?

    He saw the pattern, Brian heard in his head. And the pattern can't be denied.

    The house seemed calm and quiet when Jordan and Brian walked in. Mr. Deidrich sat at the kitchen table while Jackie fixed dinner. Maribelle sat there, sipping her tea and smiling. Heath sat at the table too, but his expression was hard to read. Mr. Deidrich flickered his fingers before he spoke.

    "Heath, why don't you get the children something to drink?"

    "Yes, why don't I?" He got up and grabbed two sodas from the back of the refrigerator. He handed each child a can.

    "Why don't you pour it in glasses for them?" Another flicker of his fingers.

    "We're fine without them," Brian said. "Thanks, Heath."

    Mr. Barrett nodded. Was that a wink or did he blink more slowly with one eye than the other? Jordan rinsed the cans at the sink, drying them with a paper towel. Mr. Deidrich frowned, saying nothing.

    When dinner was served, Mr. Deidrich handled the plates and serving dishes. He didn't touch the flatware, which was silver, Brian noticed with glee. He ate and drank very little, but plied the others with food, offering to serve the children as well as the adults, holding the serving spoons with his napkin. Brian and Jordan refused, murmuring the words Mr. Finley had taught them, when he insisted. Brian made sure that any food that passed his hands got a sprinkle of the salt.

    Deidrich sat next to him, and flinched every time a salted dish came his way. It looked like it caused him real pain. His dark eyes grew harder and colder as the meal progressed. It was pretty obvious that his hold on the adults faltered when Jackie and Maribelle started having a normal conversation about the weather. His face showed the strain more and more as the meal drew to a close.

    Brian had quite a bit of salty residue on his fingers. When Mr. Deidrich reached for a platter, ostensibly to pass it to Maribelle, Brian touched his hand. Hissing, Mr. Deidrich pulled his hand away. The platter clattered to the table, the food scattering. An angry, red welt the size and shape of Brian's fingers, rose on the black man's hand. Furious, he got up from the table and ran to the sink.

    Heath winked at Brian, very definitely that time. He nodded slightly at the women. Brian got up, offering to pour some more lemonade for his mother. When he handed her the glass, he let the salty fingers touch her palm. She flinched slightly as if she'd received a shock. He did the same for Jackie. Even though Heath seemed fine, Brian made sure to shake his hand as he went back to his seat.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  4. #84

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 37

    "You know, Deidrich," Heath said pleasantly. "We really don't have the room for you to stay here, old man. Why don't you head over to the Super 8 for the night?"

    "I'm going to stay with Maribelle and Brian at their house."

    Heath rose from the table, tossing his napkin down. "Well, no, you're not. I let myself believe that was for the best, but I've had a change of heart. You've been here long enough. It's time to go."

    "Honey, there's no need to be rude," Jackie said, blinking slowly.

    "Oh, but there is, dear. You see, he's worn out his welcome. I don't want you here anymore, Gavin Deidrich."

    Mr. Deidrich flinched. He dried his hands on a paper towel before turning from the sink. "I believe you'll find that I haven't." His dark eyes glowed.

    "You heard him," Jordan said bravely. "The head of the house, told you to leave."

    Shaking violently, Mr. Deidrich walked to the back door as if he were being pushed. He tried to fight it, doing his best to convince Heath to let him stay, but the energy of their combined wills was too strong for him.

    "And don't come back," Heath commanded. "I don't want you even setting foot on my property."

    "You aren't welcome at my house," Brian said boldly. "While my father is gone, I'm the man of the house. Don't come around there."

    "You can't stay in here forever," Deidrich said. "You have to come out sometime."

    "You can't stick around forever either," Brian said. "You'll have to go back where you came from sometime. Save us all the bother, do it now. Leave!" He pointed away from the house. "Leave now." He took him a moment to realize he'd spoken words of power, not English.

    Deidrich looked like a deflated balloon. He turned sharply, walking jerkily as if he fought every step. Muttering and cursing, he crossed the street and headed toward the woods.

    "What did you say to him?" Jordan whispered.

    "I have no idea. It's like with the whirlwind. I heard these words in my head, so I said them."

    "It worked, whatever it was."

    As he prepared for bed, Brian thought about all the things he'd learned that day. He was still very puzzled by it all. He also wondered who Mr. Deidrich was and how he had influenced the adults in the house. Why hadn't his compulsion affected Brian and Jordan?

    The door to the den opened and Jordan walked in. "I visited our parents and left the charms with them. I told Dad what it was and he promised to talk to Mom. I put the one for your mom in the pocket of her sweater. She hangs it on the bedpost."

    "Good idea. Thanks."

    Jordan flopped on the side of his bed. Brian moved to the other side, far away from her. She didn't fail to notice.

    "I don't have the plague or anything, Brian."

    "I know—it's just...."

    "What? You think I'm gonna bite you? Jump your bones? What?"

    "I'm not worried about you. I don't want your dad to worry about you."

    Jordan laughed at Brian's flustered expression. "Oh, dream on, homeboy! Never gonna happen."

    "I didn't say it would," Brian's tone was wounded. "I said, I don't want your dad mad at me. You're my friend, Jordan. The best friend I've ever had. I don't want to screw that up."

    "Dad likes you. It'd be okay." She lay down, her feet toward the pillows.

    "No, it wouldn't be okay if he thought— Dammit, Jordan! Are you really that dense?"

    She sat up, glaring at him. "Dense? Am I dense?"

    "Kids younger than us are already having sex. It's not inconceivable."

    "It is for you! You must have a high opinion of yourself if you think I'd ever!" She snorted in disgust.

    "You have the listening skills of a turnip. I'm not saying that's what I want. I'm saying your dad might think that if you stayed in here tonight!"

    "How do you know? You're not my dad."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  5. #85

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 38

    "How do you know? You're not my dad."

    "I'm a guy! That's how we think. And he'd assume—Oh, never mind. I can't explain it."

    "If you think I'm staying in that creepy room by myself, you're totally wrong."

    Brian angrily threw a blanket at her. "Then you can sleep in the chair."

    "Me? Why should I?"

    "Because you're the one who wants you in here."

    "A gentleman would let the lady have the bed."

    Brian pounded the pillows and lay down. "Well, when you see either of those, let me know. Get the lamp, would you?" He turned his back to Jordan and closed his eyes.

    The light went out and Jordan pulled the blanket around her. A few minutes later, Brian heard her sniffling. He put the pillow over his head and hunkered down in the bed. He could still hear Jordan. His anger melted and he rolled over. Folding back the blanket, he turned over on his side again. The bed gave a little bounce when Jordan sat down. She curled up on the edge of the bed, pulling the covers to her chin. Neither of them said a word, but Brain could feel her relax and fall asleep.
    Brian couldn't get comfortable. In spite of the fact that it had been a long day, he wasn't tired. He wanted to sleep, but couldn't drop off. He felt compelled to get up and do something, but he wasn't sure what. It felt like someone was calling his name, faraway and faint. He took Jordan's blanket from the chair and wrapped it around his shoulders as he walked into the living room. His bare feet made no noise as he walked across the scattered area rugs.

    The compulsion continued to pull him to the far corner of the room. This was the area the Barretts had for their meditation space. A tall quartz crystal sat on the floor, surrounded by other polished stones and small, carved stone skulls. His hands reached for one of the skulls. He picked it up without consciously intending to. It was a brilliant purple, but he knew it wasn't amethyst because it wasn't translucent.

    The stone skull resonated in his hand. He could feel a strong vibration from it. He'd seen Jackie hold a skull on her palm as she concentrated on it. Brian did the same, placing it on his outstretched, left palm. The skull vibrated and jumped on his hand. Brian jumped too, nearly dropping the stone skull. His muffled cry of astonishment sounded loud to him. Sitting up straight, he tried again. This time, the stone hummed and vibrated comfortingly.

    "He likes you," Jackie said from across the dimly lit room.

    Mrs. Barrett's voice startled Brian, but at least he didn't cry out or drop the stone.

    Jackie sat across from Brian, smiling. "I never got a reaction from him before. He must have been waiting for you. He likes you."

    "It's a rock," Brian said, puzzled. "How does it like anything?"

    "That would take too much time to explain. Think of it as a spirit in the stone. He reacts to vibrations and energy in us."

    "Why is he a he?"

    Jackie giggled. "Because he is. Some skulls and stones have female energy. This one is decidedly male."

    "Does he have a name?"

    "He's pretty new. He doesn't have one yet. What do you think his name is?"

    Brian held the skull in his hand and gazed into its eyes. A name drifted into his mind. He waited a moment to see if anything else came up. When it didn't, he glanced at Jackie.

    "Lester," he whispered. "His name is Lester."

    Jackie smiled at Brian. "Welcome, Lester. Did you call us for a reason?"

    The stone shivered and Brian thought he saw it glow. A comforting, quiet hum surrounded them.

    "Lester is very responsive," Jackie breathed, smiling.

    "Do you just ask questions? Like a Magic Eight Ball?"

    Jackie laughed. "Not necessarily. But you can. It just depends. Lester called us both for a reason. Let's see if we can figure out what he wants to say." She lit a a stick of incense and put it in a holder. "Sit closer to the mother stone. Hold Lester in your left palm and take my hand with the other."

    "What do I do?"

    Jackie smiled, closing her eyes as she took his hand. "Breathe."

    "That's it?" His eyes widened. "Really?"

    "And listen. He wants to tell you something. Clear your mind and be open to it."

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  6. #86

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 39

    Brian did what she said. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply and waited. The skull warmed in his hand and his mind's eye filled with images which moved jerkily, like an old silent film. Soon, the movement smoothed and Brian saw his father. Miles Casey stood on the road to the swamp, about the same place where Brian had first seen the dog. He held out his arms, palms facing the woods, and seemed to be talking. Brian couldn't hear any sound, but his father's lips moved rapidly.

    Two dogs appeared, a female to his left, a male to his right. Brian recognized the dog who had protected him. His father knelt, greeting them like old friends. The dogs licked his face and hands, grinning and barking. Again, there was no sound, only movement.

    Suddenly, the image changed. Dark clouds formed. The dogs took up defensive positions with Miles. The clouds became black birds, circling and diving at the trio. They swooped low to the ground, rising suddenly. Behind them, Mr. Deidrich appeared, forming from the flock of birds.

    Brian saw the black man's lips moving as he pointed at Miles. The birds attacked. The dogs and man fought bravely, but Brian watched his father fall. The birds flew away as soon as he quit fighting. Mr. Deidrich leaned forward, obviously taunting the downed man, before disappearing in a puff of black smoke.

    Terrified, Brian didn't want to see any more. He tried to break the connection with Jackie Barrett. She held his hand tightly and he directed his gaze back to the vision. His father rose slowly, staggering to his feet. Bruised and bloody, he spread his arms. Again, Brian saw him speaking. A whirlwind sprang up, racing after the birds, catching them in the vortex. The birds were torn apart, turning to fog and leaves. A few escaped, but most were destroyed.
    Brian saw his father bend over, hands on his knees, gasping and panting. The dogs circled around him, licking his wounds. The vision faded.

    Brian jumped up, nearly knocking over the tall crystal. "I have to go! I have to find my dad. He needs me."

    Jackie caught his hand, tugging him back to the floor. "No, Brian. That was something that already happened. Your dad isn't there anymore."

    "How do you know?" he yelled at her, fighting to rise.

    "Think about it, Brian. It was daylight and there was no snow. It looked like early fall."

    Brian sank to the floor, sobbing. He covered his eyes, rubbing hard, fighting against the tears. Men don't cry. Isn't that what he'd always been told? But he had to. The pain was too deep.

    Jackie held him, letting him cry. She spoke soothingly to him. After a little while, he felt better and leaned back, her hand still in his.

    "This is so hard for you, but you're strong, Brian. You can do this."

    "I can't do it on my own."

    "No one is asking you to. There will be individual challenges, but you have friends and family. You're not alone."

    "I'm scared," he admitted quietly.

    "Good. The fear will protect you. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. Being afraid makes you careful. It's when we don't fear that we fail to pay attention to that inner voice—like the one that called you in here. Listen to that voice, Brian. It will tell you what to do."

    As far fetched as it sounded, Brian knew it was true. Suddenly exhausted, he said good night. He put Lester down by the crystal and headed to his room.

    Jackie Barrett watched the boy close the door and sighed. He'd been given so much responsibility. It was too much to expect from a boy his age. There was no avoiding it. This was a time that he, and others, had to endure. They would learn from it and grow—or it would consume them. Quietly, she went upstairs and got back in bed with her husband.

    "Hey, babe. All right now?"

    "Everything's fine. Go back to sleep." She cuddled next to Heath and fell into a troubled sleep.

    Brian noticed Jordan as he got in bed. She lay, facing him, curled on her side, with a hand tucked under her chin. She looked like a little girl when she slept, but Brian could see lines of worry in her face. Had they always been there? Or were they new? Did he have them too? He hadn't noticed, but he hadn't spent a lot of time looking at himself either. He lay down on his stomach, arms under the pillow, and fell soundly asleep almost immediately.

    Brian woke with a start, his dreams full of unnamed horrors. Lying there, covered in a cold sweat, he wondered what time it was. There was no clock in the den and he didn't wear a watch. He reached for his cellphone, deep in his pants pocket. 6:15. Groaning, he huddled under the covers, feeling Jordan at his back. When Brian moved, she stirred around and sat up.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  7. #87

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 40

    "You okay?" she asked dreamily.

    "Had some bad dreams. Don't remember them, though."

    "You kept calling out. You had me worried a few times."

    "Sorry. I'm okay right now. I had some strange things happen after you went to sleep." He told her about the vision he'd had of his father.

    "Wow! Really? So, he's alive, then?"

    "Of course he's alive. Why wouldn't he be?"

    "I don't know. I just had it in my mind that he was dead."

    "All this time you thought my dad wasn't alive?"

    "Why else would he leave and not come back? He obviously loves you guys a lot or he wouldn't have left all this information for you. I know if my dad left like that, he'd come back if he could."

    "Maybe he can't yet," Brian said tersely. "My dad's a lot like yours. He's strong and takes charge. He doesn't let his family suffer if he doesn't have to. He's a good man, Jordan!" Tears burned in his eyes. It was important to him that she understand what his father was like.

    "I get it, Brian. I know your dad is a good guy. I don't know how I know that, but I do. I know that whatever he's doing, it's to protect you and your mom."

    "It's more than that. This stuff that's happening, it's evil. I got that from the vision. He's not the only one fighting, but he's the main one going on the offensive right now. He needs reinforcements. He needs us. Not just you and me, but your parents, my mom, Chase and his dad. I think Mr. Finley knows a lot more about all this than he's said."

    "I think so, too. It's time to get him and Chase together with our parents and have a talk. We need to know what they know. But first, we need to read everything your father left for you. Maybe something in that research will give us a key."

    "Mr. Finley kept saying we needed to see the pattern."

    "Not we, you. He was pretty specific."

    "Maybe so, but I have a feeling that even if I'm at the center of this, we all need to see it. We all bring things to the table."

    "And we're all in pairs. There's you and me, Andre and Louisa, Sweet and Ginnifer, Mom and Dad, your parents, and Chase...." She paused. "Does he have a girlfriend?"

    Brian's eyes widened and he stared at Jordan. "You're gonna laugh when I tell you."

    "Why? Is he dating that Marissa girl?"

    Brian nodded slowly. Jordan's jaw dropped.

    "No way! Chase and Uptight Barbie? You're kidding!"

    "They were, anyway. I don't know if they're still together. They had a big fight a few weeks ago. She's a religious freak and he's—well, he's a guy."

    "So, he wanted sex and she's too frigid to give it up?"

    Brian snorted in disgust. "Something like that."

    "Good thing you aren't like that. You'd be sadly disappointed."

    "We aren't dating," he reminded her. "That puts a different spin on things."


    "Because it would mean that I was actually attracted to you," he replied casually, turning away from her.

    Brian was teasing, but clearly Jordan didn't think so. A pillow hit him in the back of the head. Jordan's shriek very likely woke the household.

    "You bastard! I'm not deformed or anything! You seemed pretty interested in my chest!" She continued to hit him with pillows, scrambling to her feet, on the bed, to get better leverage.

    "That was an accident." Brian moved away from her, laughing. "Your coat hung up on the Velcro." He put his arms up, laughing as she battered him with two pillows now.

    "Oh, you!" Jordan launched herself at him. Her trajectory was off and she missed him.

    To keep her from landing in a heap on the floor, Brian caught her. His hands slipped and he had a handful of her chest as she slid down, kicking and cursing. He tried to help her up, but she struggled up on her own, narrowly missing his chin with the top of her head. Still angry and fighting like a wet cat, she knocked him over. Brian made a grab at her and they tumbled on the bed together, with Jordan lying on top of him. Their faces were mere inches apart.

    For the second time since they'd met, Brian felt an undeniable urge to kiss her. He watched as her angry gaze softened. Her dark hair cascaded around them smelling like dusky flowers—a scent that was uniquely Jordan. She leaned closer, eyes drooping closed. Brian raised his head, meeting her halfway.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  8. #88

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 41

    Their lips met with a little spark, making them both jump. The tingle wasn't unpleasant, in fact, it added to the pleasurable sensations they felt when their lips met once more. Jordan put her arms around his neck, cushioning his head on her arms. Brian's hands held her hips tightly. He rolled to his left, sandwiching her body between his and the bed.

    Brian's boldness grew and his hands slid up to Jordan's waist and higher, to her ribs. His fingers moved of their own accord, touching her full chest. Suddenly, he stopped. His eyes flew open and he sat up.

    Jordan squeaked angrily, grabbing for his face. Brian's gaze was fixated on the door. Tilting her head, Jordan saw what had him transfixed. Maribelle Casey stood there, framed by the door, waiting expectantly. She might not be able to see them, but her other senses were more alert. She knew something was happening. The air was charged with raw energy, heavy with the scent of pheromones.

    Brian jumped up, as far from Jordan as he could get. "It's not what you think, Mom. We were just playing around and fell over."

    "I see. And when you fell over, you just felt compelled to put your tongue in her mouth?"

    "Mom, I swear!"

    "Out," she said calmly. "Go have a shower."

    "Are you going to tell?"

    "Go," she said again.

    Brian quietly gathered his things and left the room. His mother closed the door behind him. He heard her speaking to Jordan, but not what she was saying.

    While he was in the shower, Brian thought of all the things his mother would say when he got out. He lingered as long as he could, until his conscience got the better of him. He dried off and dressed, combing his fingers through his hair. He'd forgotten his hairbrush in the den.

    When he got back, the door was open and his mother waited for him, sitting primly on the edge of the recliner's seat. She looked up when he got to the doorway, smiling.

    "Jordan told me what happened," she said quietly. "I won't say anything, but I do think we need to go home. The weather's cleared up and the radio said the freak storm has lifted."

    "I'm sorry, Mom. I never intended...."

    She held up her hand, stopping him. "I know. I was fifteen once, I remember what it was like. All those raging hormones."

    "It wasn't like that, Mom." Obviously, she really didn't get it. "We were talking and Jordan got mad at something I said, and hit me with the pillow. We fell over and she landed on me.... I made a mistake."

    "What if it had been Heath or Jackie who caught you, and not me?"

    Brian shook his head, shrugging.

    "Can't hear a shrug, son," she teased.

    "I don't know," he replied, somewhat tersely.

    Jordan appeared in the doorway behind him. He stepped aside, letting her in. Maribelle focused her attention on Jordan, though the girl hadn't made any noise. She'd just showered. Her hair was wet and pulled back in a loose bun.

    "Maribelle, Mom said to tell you that the coffee is ready. May I get you some?"

    "I'll get it, honey. Thanks." She stood, looking more like herself than she had in quite awhile. "You," she pointed to Brian. "Hands and lips to yourself," she said quietly. "And you," she turned to Jordan. "Keep him on a short leash."

    "Honestly, it's not like that," Jordan protested.

    Maribelle put her finger on Jordan's lips, smiling. "Maybe not, but you still need to try to control him." She walked toward the kitchen with unerring accuracy.

    "It's spooky how she can do that with such confidence. I can see perfectly, and I'm still clumsy as hell," Jordan said.

    "I think she sees more than she lets on," Brian said. "But not well enough to do all the things she used to."

    "What caused it?"

    "Doctors don't know. It just kind of happened. One day, she was fine. The next, blind. Right after my dad left."

    "Weird." She shuffled her feet. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened. Did she get mad?"

    "No. It was strange. I thought she'd be yelling. She just told me to control myself and she wouldn't say anything. I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have taken advantage of you like that."

    Jordan laughed lightly, grinning up at him. "As I recall, it was a pretty mutual thing. But she's right. Self-control."

    Brian chuckled, shaking his head. "Yeah. That's gonna happen." He walked off.

    "What's that supposed to mean?" Jordan called after him.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

  9. #89

    Default He Thought He Saw by Dellani Oakes Part 42

    Brian merely continued to laugh and shake his head. A pillow hit him in back of the head. That seemed to be Jordan's major method of communication when she was angry with him. At least it wasn't painful, even if it was annoying. Another pillow hit him, and another.

    "How many of those doggone things are there?" He whirled around and the next one caught him in the face. "Jordan, dammit!"

    Whap! Another pillow.

    "Tell me what you meant." Whap!

    "Dammit, Jordan!" He ducked the next pillow, catching it as it whizzed over his shoulder.

    Apparently, she'd run out. The pillows stopped coming at him. Instead, she stood in the doorway, looking for all the world like she wanted to cry.

    "I didn't mean anything bad, jeez! What is this? Death by Stuffing?"

    "You're not funny," she whimpered. "And you're laughing at me."

    "I'm not—no. Not at you, silly. At myself." He walked over, taking her hands in his. "I didn't mean what I said before about not being attracted to you. You're all kinds of hot, Jordan. If I were a different kind of guy, I'd be all over that. But we have to stay focused on whatever it is we're supposed to do." He moved a step closer, gazing down at her. "It felt good kissing you. And sometime, I'd like to do that again. But not in your parents' house."

    Jordan nodded, biting her lower lip. Her dark eyes filled with tears. She came toward him, putting her arms around his waist. Brian held her close, arms around her back. She was so short, he could rest his chin on her head. Jordan pressed her cheek to his chest.

    "I'm really scared, Brian. What are we fighting? How do we do it?"

    "I don't know, Jordan. We'll read Dad's papers today and see what we can find out."

    "Life was so much easier before."

    "Yeah, but it was boring as hell. Being a social pariah isn't all it's cracked up to be."

    Jordan laughed, loosening her hold on Brain. She smiled up at him. "Speak for yourself, dweeb. I rocked being an outcast."

    Brian's stomach growled, then Jordan's. They laughed at one another and themselves as they headed to the kitchen.
    Their parents sat around the table, sipping coffee and eating scones. Jackie had prepared three kinds—blueberry, cranberry-orange and lemon. Brian heaped his plate with one of each. He put a couple on a plate for Jordan as she served them each a mug of coffee.

    "That's what I call teamwork," Heath said with a grin. "Sorry there's no school again today."

    "Ah, well," Brian said, sighing. "I do miss the excitement of the classroom. All that learning. Blissful."

    Jordan nearly choked on her scone. Brian helpfully patted her on the back. Heath chuckled, raising his coffee in salute.

    "I'm sure that it's extremely enlightening and enervating," Heath mused.

    "Oh, Daddy. Using all those big lawyer words! How do you do it?" Jordan gushed, batting her eyelashes at her father, her tone sarcastic in the extreme.

    "Jackie, my love, we have a smart-alec as a daughter."

    "Do you think so, honey? What gave you that idea?" She also batted her eyelashes at her husband.

    Heath threw up his hands in defeat. "I swear, Maribelle, if you pull the same thing on me, I'm gonna retire."

    "Retire from what?" She asked innocently. Her beatific smile was as disarming as the fluttering eyelashes.

    "That's it." Heath threw his napkin into the middle of the table. "I've officially conceded the battle."

    "What battle are you conceding, darling?" Jackie asked.

    "The Battle of the Sexes. I'm out gunned. Brian, throw in the towel now before they gank you, too."

    "Gee, golly, whiz, Heath. You folded awfully fast. If that's the kind of backup I've got, I don't stand a chance."

    "Pick your battles, son. It's safer that way."

    Brian laughed at his mock defeat. It was exactly the same kind of thing that his dad would have said. Heath reminded him a lot of his father. They were only slightly similar in looks, but the way they viewed the world was very much the same. Their warm, bantering way with their wives and children, even the way they laughed. Brian suddenly missed his dad, so much that it actually hurt. His chest tightened and he thought he was going to cry.

    ©2016 Dellani Oakes

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