Christmas with a side of Gold Rings
There was a celebration feast at the college. Now that the enemy was gone forever, everyone could live in peace. All of the students enjoyed all of the food that was being served. Jack and Carlyta served a buffet, because they were still anticipating the Christmas feast in Secret City next month, so they didn't want to serve turkey twice. They were all having small talk and general conversations. Jack was more interested in those who followed Victor. There was the tall, blond French girl, Saleen Fleur, who was a highly Gifted technopath. There was Jerry Volteski with his lighting and electro blasts. The last person was Alexsey Volikov, a young Russian man who also had superintelligence.
One month later, in Secret City.
Today was Christmas. Jack brought the students to the Christmas Festival. The city was decorated with many colored lights and decorations. There was a nice layer of snow on the ground and there was festive music in the air. Before the feast in the city's main community center, Rikki stopped by a store to buy something. He met up with the others in the building a while later.
"You better get some turkey," Dan told him.
"Oh!" Rikki said as he went toward the turkey and he grabbed the last leg off the last one. "That was close," he laughed to himself as he got himself some mashed potatoes and gravy. He sat next to Suzy at their table.
"Where have you been?" Suzy asked him.
"I was buying some things," Rikki answered.
"Buying what kind of things?"
"You'll find out soon enough." Suzy's heart skipped a beat, as she wondered what exactly it could be. She resisted the urge to read his mind to see what he bought. The entire population was enjoying the city-wide feast. Yin and Aaron were sitting a few tables over enjoying their food.
"How's your turkey?" Yin asked Aaron.
"It's really good. Best I ever had," Aaron said with a smile. Yin looked over Aaron's shoulder and she gasped happily. Aaron looked behind him and he saw a couple walk in. The wife was carrying something and she set it on the floor. Aaron saw a familiar orange blur move along the floor and it came over to their table.
"Flame!" Yin enthused as she picked up her cat. She held her close to her face. "Oh, I missed you so much!" The couple then walked over to their table. It was Damianus and Emmalyn.
"Flame's been very good," Emmalyn told Yin.
"Thank you so much for bringing her," Yin said. Flame looked at the table and she jumped out of Yin's hands and onto the table top. A few other students nearby watched as the cat made her way over to Aaron's plate. She sat down and looked at Aaron, then at his plate. Aaron looked at Flame in the eyes and the cat looked at him then at the plate and back up at him.
"What, you want some?" Aaron asked the cat. The cat meowed in response. Aaron took his turkey and he pulled a small piece off of it and he held it forward. The cat ran up and clawed into the bigger piece and it came right out of Aaron's hand. The cat grabbed it and pulled it away before Aaron could retrieve it, leaving him with the tiny piece. "Hey!" Aaron said with an upset look and Yin laughed. A few of the other kids watching laughed too.
"I guess she's hungry," Yin said. The cat was using her claws to cut off thin slices of turkey and she ate them in a refined, cat looking way.
"She's been a very nice cat, and she even help out a little," Damianus said as he and his wife sat down.
"How?" Yin asked.
"Because she's so friendly with people she helped attract some more customers."
"Well, aren't you just the nice little helper," Yin said to the cat, who looked at her as if saying 'I was a very good kitty.' She stroked her soft orange fur.
"You must really like that cat," Jack said to Yin as he was walking over. "Are you the couple who took care of her?" he asked Damianus.
"Yes, Mr. Trades," Damianus said, standing up and shaking his hand. "I see you've been well."
"That was very generous of you."
"Oh, it was nothing, really," Emmalyn said.
"Well, then, I may have some rules to update," he said with a small smile as he walked away to some other table.
"Thanks for taking care of Flame," Yin said to them.
"No problem," Emmalyn said.
"How much do I owe you?"
"Oh, you don't have to pay anything," Damianus said. "Doing something nice for someone shouldn't require any sort of payments."
"Are you sure?" Aaron asked.
"It's fine, really," Emmalyn said to him. "So what happened at the college?"
"You heard about that?" Yin asked.
"Yes," Damianus said. "We were students there ourselves about 15 years ago."
"Oh, you were?" Aaron asked.
"Yes," Emmalyn answered. "It was the best place in the world. Oh, I remember like it was yesterday." She closed her eyes and sighed.
"So anyway, what happened last month?" Damianus asked.
"Remember what I told you, Damian," Jack said coming back over. "Don't ask questions-"
"Yeah, I know. 'Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to.' I remember."
"You see," Jack said to Aaron and Yin as he sat down, "We were friends, that year. It was my first year teaching there."
"Yeah. I decided that after Emma and I got engaged, we would retire and move here," Damianus said. "It was his first year and it was my last. I taught him how to be a good teacher, even though he's a few years older than I."
"I wasn't older by that much," Jack interjected with a laugh.
"Yeah," Damianus laughed. "I was also able to hook him up with Carlyta," he emphasized her name because she had to be walking by.
"Oh, hi!" she said to them, "You talking about the good old days?"
"Yeah," Emmalyn said. "How you been?"
"I've been great, Emma. You?"
"Just fine!" They continued with their small talk for another few minutes.
"Uh, Aaron?" Yin whispered to him.
"What?" he whispered back.
"Have they completely forgotten that we're still sitting here?"
"I'm sure they know."
"Yes, we do," Jack said.
"So then tell us, what happened last month?" Damianus asked.
"You remember Victor?"
"That troubled boy?" Emmalyn asked.
"Yeah. He went insane all those years ago?"
"Well, he raised an army and he attacked the school."
"Gosh, was it bad?"
"Not at all. It was actually quite easy. He died but we all lived."
"From the surprising turn that happened to Aaron," Jack said pointing to Aaron.
"Wow, what happened?" Aaron and Yin went on to explain exactly what happened. Emmalyn sat back, astonished. "So… you almost died?" she asked Aaron.
"Yeah. Twice actually," Aaron said.
"What did it feel like?" Damianus asked. "When he stabbed you?"
"It was a pain like no other. It really hurt a lot."
"Well, I imagine it did."
"So, how'd you come back?" Emmalyn asked.
"Well, the details will have to be told another time. It's a really long story," Aaron told her.
"I'm so glad that he didn't die," Yin said hugging Aaron's arm. "When Victor stabbed him, I thought I would lose him forever." She leaned on his shoulder and looked at him dreamily.
"I did too," Aaron said to her. "I didn't want to die." He stroked her hair.
"Aw, are you two in love?" Emmalyn asked. Aaron looked at her. Yin sighed happily and she began leaning on Aaron as if he was the softest bed in the world.
"Yes," she breathed, "we are."
"Aww, that's so sweet." Just then something caught Aaron's attention. He looked over Jack's shoulder and they all looked over. Yin sat up and looked.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Look in Rikki's hand," Aaron told her. She focused in on his hand. He was holding a small square box.
"Is that a-?"
"Yes. I think he's going to propose to Suzy."
"Can he do that?"
"They are old enough," Jack said. "And I could tell, the way they are always together, that it would only be a matter of time."
"How long have they been dating?"
"Their whole life," Emmalyn said.
"How do you know?"
"Suzy told me all about it, when they stopped at our store. It's such a sweet story."
A few tables over.
Rikki was not nervous at all. He was holding the ring box between his fingers. He was holding it under the table so Suzy couldn't see it. She noticed that Rikki was only holding her with his left arm.
"Rikki, what's in your right hand?" she asked him.
"An important question," he said. She gasped and her heart fluttered. Rikki brought his hand out from under the table and she saw the small box. She then knew what was going to come next. Rikki climbed out of the chair and he got down on one knee. People around them gasped and looked. The whole room went quiet. "Susan Marianne Garrison," Rikki said opening the box revealing a diamond ring, "will you marry me?" Suzy's face turned red and she leaned in close to him.
"Is this some kind of joke?" she whispered to him.
"No, my love," he whispered back. The redness from her face disappeared.
"Yes," she said with passion. The room broke into applause.