Chapter 68 - How To Talk
For another two days after the Guardians returned Brandon was determined to stay in his room. Electing to skip out on patrols with Ezekiel and stay in seclusion...until the third afternoon came and passed him by.
Needing to stretch his legs and knowing that the Mansion tended to be empty in the evenings Brandon finally came down to the parlor, turned about in the open area, taking a few moments to decide which direction he would go in. Weather a trip back up the steps to his room would be his choice....or if he would take a seat on the steps and just watch the sunlight glancing inside from the windows around the door?
But his choice of activity was decided for him in the next few moments. Brandon nearly jumped out his skin when a slim arm wrapped around his and yanked him down the hall.
“Glen!” Brandon blurted in surprise as he stumbled. Along behind her small, but surprisingly strong and sure skip.
“Come on, hurry!” Glen cried. Brandon felt an urgency in her insistent pulling....but he couldn’t help noticing that this urgency was at odds with the small smile and the determination on her face.
Not exactly prepared to push the Leopards away or to fight his way free Brandon let himself be drug, back, and to the right of the stair case....into a part of the mansion he hadn’t felt the need to visit.
Suddenly he was in the Day room. He knew this because the moment that they steeped into it Glen proudly exclaimed as much.
“Brandon....this is the day room, one of the quietest and handsomest places in the whole house!” Glen told him, stopped and softly amended. “Well aside from the library of course.”
Brandon glanced about the room, quickly taking in the area. It was a room twice as wide as his bed room, but just as narrow was the parlor, with the short ends of the room sporting small shelfs, filled with various vases, trinkets and books, while the long right side of the Day room, was lined with five large, crystal clear windows, covered by the same white gossamer curtains that covered all of the other windows in the Leopards mansion.
While on the long wall of the Day room sat a large, and unlit fireplace, which looked to Brandon like it could fit half a tree. The middle, or filling of the Day room consisted of long short backed couches, three arm chairs centered about a small brown table top and two other tables and shelfs.
Some of the tables held intricate silken table mats while others were covered in flowers, pottery, candle holders and even a few simple board games. In the back of his mind Brandon noticed the chess board, open far to the left of the room, when it looked like a game had quickly been abandoned by one of Glens family member’s. Still noticing that Glen hadn’t thought to release him, Brandon firmly, if gently removed himself from her clutch and asked her. “What are we doing in here?”
Completely unconcerned with his suspicious tone, Glen took a twirl around him and walked over to a table, where two high backed, drown chairs had been centered across from each other....and a tray stacked full of sandwiches and two very specific cups sat. “Sit.” Glen offered, Green eyes indicating the chair to the right. Indicating that it was for him.
Brandon didn’t move. He didn’t respond. And he didn’t know how long he didn’t do it. He was out of his element....he was suspicious...and just a little intimidated.
“What are you doing Glen?” Brandon inquired, uprooting his feet from their spot and finally nearing the chairs and the table....as the silent hesitation in him slowly eroded beneath Glen’s soft gaze and patience.
Glen shrugged and motioned to the food and drink she had apparently prepared for him and her. “Were just....talking and drinking tea....” She said simply.
Brandon stopped next to the table and next to the leopardess, still feeling a little unsure and ambushed. “Oh...but...Why?” he asked her.
“Why not?” She shot back softly. Then bending down and taking the tray of sandwiches and offering it to Brandon.
Brandon had no response, and no true argument so with some apprehension he took her offer, and grabbed a sandwich. And with a small smile Glen replaced the tray back on the table top.
While she straitened up Brandon took a bite of it, tasting a wonderful burst of ham and tomatoes on his tongue. He swallowed the bite, shook his head as he felt Glen’s eyes on him and sighed. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?” Brandon asked her. Everyone wanted something.
“Do I want something from you?” Glen tilted her head to the side and smiled so charmingly that Brandon couldn’t feel too suspicious of her motive any longer “I just....I don’t know much about you and we’ve been around each other for nearly a month. I was practically up to my elbows in your blood and guts, and I haven’t said more than a few sentences to you since we met. Please sit... If possible I was hoping we could talk for a little while?”
“Oh...I guess it does sounds odd when you say it like that. Im soory I wasnt thinking about all the work you did on me.” Brandon mumbled to himself. Completely unable to argue with that line of thinking....Brandon did as she asked him, taking a seat in a large, wide backed cushioned seat, sequestered directly in front of Glens chair and after a few seconds he said. “I....I never actually thanked you for working on my injuries....Did I Glen?”
Glen didn’t respond to that, she simply took up a cup off the tray, filled with the light brown liquid and a yellow slice of fruit handed him a cup and smiled. ” You can thank me now..” She softly expressed as she sat across from him with her own cup and a sandwich.
They are and drank....separately dancing about the slight awkward silence that prevailed from one minute to the next....until, finally clearing his throat, and reaching out for another sandwich, Brandon put forth the first question.
“Are....are we just having lunch here Glen? I thought you wanted to talk about something....?”
Releasing a pent up breath, Glen suddenly sat down her own food and sighed. Looking sudddntly guilty, the healer soothed a hand down the front of her dress and to her knee, absentmindedly removing crumbs. “First....let me say....I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ambush you sweetheart.” She began, looking away then back at Brandon with a look that was asking for understanding. “But every time I get a free moment I find that you’ve gone back to that guest room and locked yourself away for a few days. I can’t ever seem to catch up with you, and yesterday you just ran off on me...and....I don’t mean to be so forward.”
“I....” Brandon began, then stopped. He didn’t know what to say.....or what Glen wanted him to say. She had an earnest nature....like her son. And like Ezkeiel....it took him off his guard. He wanted to just do as she said and fall into her simple rhythm...but Brandon didn’t get to do that.....ever. He had to remember that. “I like the guest room. I know Im a little wooden, but I didnt mind being brought in here..” He finally replied lamely.
Glen shook her head.“Im glad you like it in here, please feel free to come back in here when ever you want? And your wooden” behavior doesn’t bother me at all. Im actually more worried about how u took off on us yesterday after all the boys returned from patrol. Things like that....Do they bother you?” Glen asked him suddenly, pulling him out of his thoughts.
“What things?” He asked her, following the leopardesses lead, since he didn’t really know what to do or say. Conversation over tea....was like an alien language. He resolved to just listen to Glen and do his best not to do anything strange or unkind. He took a bite of his sandwich as she talked..
Glen tilted her head, pinpointing his gaze with her own. “Affection.” She replied after a moment. “Open affection....you seemed terribly put off by that kiss Mantilo gave me.” She said mostly hitting the nail on the head as to Brandon’s reasons for fleeing. “And you definitely dislike touching or being touched.” Glen stopped, took a breath and looked at him again.
“Are....are the birds and the bees still a mystery to you? I know that your kind ages so slowly. Is that why you’re so...put off by these things?” She asked him softly, and with a smile, but there was just a hint of seriousness there. The edge of a mother in her tone.
Unbelievably Brandon actually felt heat on his face as her words came to him. In the middle of taking a swig of tea out of his cup....he nearly choked on the sweat liquid that Glen called “Tea”.
Is she asking me if I know about sex?
Brandon asked himself and felt a small shiver of horror as he slowly put the cup back down on the tray before him. Sex education wasn’t a talk Brandon wanted to have....or needed to have. He knew enough. He may not have had parental guidance. But Trial and Error were some of the best teachers in the world.
He shook his head at Glen rapidly to show her that he really meant what he said next. “Of course not...” He said. “I know about the birds and bees. I just...find stuff like that to be....weird. I didn’t mean anything by it...Did I offend you?”
“No its fine. Ill assume that you didn’t exactly have parents who went around doing that kind of stuff?” Glen replied with a small smile.
“No....not at all.” Brandon told her truthfully, but perhaps not truthfully. Affection didn’t exist where he came from. But in his own way Brandon had had parents.
Glen nodded as if his words fit into some puzzle in her head perfectly. “I guess that’s why you seem so out of place here...”
“I...am?” Brandon asked, reluctantly. He felt a small prick of apprehension about what Glen would say to him next. If she would start interrogating him about his actions a few nights ago.
But if Glen had question s about the night before, she kept then to herself. Instead she stirred the conversation in a completely different direction. “You act like it.” Glen replied with a soft nod. “You stay hidden for days, you eat in your room and you never just....walk around in the halls out go out on the porch for air.” Glen tried to capture his gaze, but Brandon wouldn’t let her. “You’re not a prisoner.” She told him softly.
No.....but I still need to be locked up....
Brandon thought to himself.
He sighed though. Knowing that Glen was honestly trying to put him at ease he set her a small smile. “I know.” He told her. “I know my manners may not be the friendliest.....”
“I’m not saying that. ” Glen quickly interrupted. “You’ve been alone, so you don’t know how to function here. My family must seem so strange to you.” Glen said, tilting her head. She didn’t have to make it a question, because it was a fact and Brandon knew that his behavior had already validated her thinking.
So he shrugged and looked right back at her. “I’ve never been around a family Glen, so I wouldn’t know.” He replied and agreed. The tray of sandwiches and tea sat mostly eaten and forgotten between them so there was little to occupy Brandon eyes and hands so he had no choice to look at Glen directly. And see how his words affected her.
Glen looked like she was sad to hear that truth about his life. “Well, Mortal and Shifter families must seem like they would be night and day to each other, but I think we’re just as normal as your kinds.” She said, turning form his heavy statement with a softer point.
“I guess....but how so?” Brandon asked her, both happy to be moving away from any more questions about him and also happy to learn more about how the Shifters lived in the villages
“We fight, we argue, we eat togeather...we celebrate holidays.” Glen ticked off on her small fingers. “We tend to celebrate a lot of ones that I believe the mortals participate in too.”
“Like what?” Brandon asked her, settling back in his arm chair.
“Well there is only one or two that we actually care for that are mortal.....” Glen put a hand to her chin and looked away then with a laugh and a sparkle in her gaze she said. “Oh! You’ll know his one! Mother’s day!?” she slightly exclaimed and questioned.
Brandon didn’t have a clue what she was speaking about, but he smiled slightly at her enthusiasm and replied. “I’ve heard of it. Is it special for Shifters as well as mortals?”
“In this house it is.” Glen said with a flourish of her right hand and in the next moment she had dropped her hand and leaned forward in her chair slightly. “Do you want to hear about the fiasco that destroyed our home last year?”
“Why not?′ Brandon said with a half shrug, and with little more urging Glen began to tell her tale.
“So....this is how mother’s day normally goes. It’s like a game. The boys and Mantilo get togeather and try to buy me something from the villages, usually without me knowing about it....and every year they’d fail.” Glen shook her head softly As if in sympathy. Then she continued.
“Now, it was a week before Mother’s day, last year....and to my surprise...I still had no idea what gift the boys were going to try to sneak on me. And no matter how much I pressured them....no one was talking.” Glen chuckled. “You see one year....I got Nate to flip on the others....”
“Oh?” Brandon said raising his eyebrow in surprise as he thought of Ezekiel’s brother with the odd eyes. “How did you manage to do that?”
Glen scoffed and lifted her feet off of the floor and into her seat, tucking her head on her knees, she said “Well I’m not proud of it, but I played on his weakness a little bit.”
Brandon shook his head to indicated that he didn’t quite follow her and Glen sent him a smug little smile and confessed “Bones.....I smoked up a giant bag of deer bones on the grill and Nate was like putty in my hands...”
Still not following her, Brandon tilted he head back on his seat. “So....Nate is obsessed with bones or something?”
At this Glen laughed. “Well...” She began with a shrug. “He is a wolf at heart....and I think all wolves have a bit of a soft spot for deep meat.”
“Wait....Excuse me but....” Brandon said leavening up out of his seat and putting his chin in his hand. “A wolf? Nates a Wolf....?” He asked her and with a soft smile Glen nodded her agreement. Surprised and curious Brandon then asked her. “But....I thought that this was the Leopard Clan. I thought that all of you were Leopards...? Is Nate....the only Wolf here?”
“Well Duh...” Glen exclaimed doing nothing to clear up the confusion. “Nates adopted!” she further informed, but instead of going into any elaborate details Glen rolled her eyes and waved a hand in front of her. “But....” She said next. “Were getting WAY off subject here Brandon...the point I was trying to make was that I had no leads about what kind of gift the boys were going to give me for mother’s day....and it was driving me crazy!” Moving along with the rest of her tale Glen untucked her feet from her seat and leaned forwards on her knees.
“Then....” She said dramatically, big green eyes shining so beautifully that Brandon couldn’t help but pay attention and be pulled in. “The day was upon me. I woke up early in the morning and....do you want to guess what the first thing I smelled was?”
Caught off guard by the question Brandon thought for a moment, shrugged and took a meaningless stab at an answer. “Um....flowers?” he guessed.
With an eye roll she blew a breath. “Yeah...I wish....” She said. “What I awoke to was the choking cloying clouds of smoke, billowing up out of my kitchen!”
“Was...was it serious?” Brandon asked her frowning at the image she was painting. But Glen once more just rolled her eyes.
“No...it was a fiasco though, as I said earlier.” Glen sat up and out a hand out in front of her face, palm towards her. “I had to cover my nose as I went down to the kitchen...and when I got there....” She began, dropping her hand.
“There was black smoke coming out of the stove that smelled of burring cakes....and in the middle of the kitchen, amidst broken plates and a spilled vase of flowers...were the boys. OH!” Glen exclaimed with a chuckle. “They were all, wrestling and fighting.....aaaand throwing fudge.”
“What!?” Brandon scoffed at the turn Glen’s story had taken. Trying to imagine the chaos.
“Oh yeah... “Glen sighed, twirling her tongue across her front teeth in remembered agitation before she continued. “The entire kitchen....and every inch of my boys was covered in thick fudge! Can you imagine it?” Glena sked him smiling softly. “All those big serious men covered, absolutely drenched in fresh fudge, it was a nightmare!! I didn’t know what to do....or what to say....of honestly what to think!!”
With a small chuckle Brandon said “Oh no.”
Glen laughed behind her hand, before she sat back and sighed. “Oh no is right! I spent days scrubbing chocolate off the stove and floors....! And...apparently the entire thing got started....when the cake caught on fire. Im told that because Walter had ruined the cake Lander pitched a fit and from that point on....it was a brawl, which somehow ended with all of them in a fudge rumble!” Suddenly Glen sobered. “And to this day....” She said softly. “God is my whiteness I still haven’t figured out what my present was going to be that mother’s day....but I hope they never try to make it again!”
At this point Brandon threw in an eye roll of his own and asked her. “Did they even explain what they were trying to do that day?”
“A little...” Glen responded. “Apparently....they had discovered my recipe book....and everyone knows that every year I create these little treats for the Clans Celebration. They are round, soft and filled with fudge.....good fudge.....fudge from heaven....If I do so say myself!” Glen elaborated with so much animated energy that Brandon found himself laughing.
“Apparently....the boys had SOMETHING planned and were going to use my own fudge as a present topper....but.....” Glen sighed, smiling. “It’s okay....I still remember the day in good conscience....even if it was a fiasco.”
Brandon and Glen exchanged a few more words about the incident on mother’s day and as they talked it was easy for Brandon to....enjoy himself. Glen didn’t pry....or question him anymore. She didn’t ask for any personal stories in return. She just....talked. And Brandon felt the endearment and the warmth in her words for her family. It was moving and a bit painful to see. He had never known parents or love or family the way that Glen painted it.
Suddenly Brandon felt something.
IT was a fluke that he sensed anything at all. He had no control, he had no way of even understanding what was inside of him.
All he ever managed to do was shut it out or hold it down. But every once and a while he felt something he shouldn’t be able to feel. He could read what no one should be able to decipher. The energy inside forced him to sense these things.
Energy was all around....and in that one moment the energy that he sensed disturbed him.
It was beyond him and in him. On the fringes of his mind and deep in his core where the power burned like a never ending flame. He pinpointed it, even as he smiled calmly back at Glen.
Out in the night. He didn’t see it in his head or smell it. It was simply a feeling. Eyes and movement beyond the confines of the Leopards mansion.
A mindless energy that was familiar to him.
A feeling so ingrained in him that Brandon couldn’t ignore it, no matter how subtly it came to him. Hunting. Something terrible was hunting him.
Unlike the doubt that had plagued him while he hung out with Ezekiel on his Clans horse ranch. Brandon had no doubts now. Something was out there.
Every never ending in his body shifted to a darker, colder setting. His hands clenched, his teeth ground together, his thoughts flipped completely away from the Leopardess sitting in front of him and went to thoughts of things that he could use to cut and to slash and to kill.
“Glen....” Brandon quipped with false levity, cutting off her next sentence as he stood, took her small hand softly and partially pulled her to her feet out of her own chair. Ignoring that he didn’t want to touch her Branson put a second hand on Glen’s elbow and began to lead her towards the hallway, all while he said. “I’m starving suddenly, and after listening to that story I’m dying to try that fudge you were talking about. You go and get the chocolate and I’ll meet you in the kitchen....ok?”
“Oh, well...Sure. I didn’t think that my story would make you hungry.” Glen said then smiled as he released her elbow. “But...Ok. I’ll go get the supplies. None of the other boys ever take an interest in cooking. And I’ve never had a mortal in the kitchen.”
With a little bounce she pulled away from him, her big green eyes positively lit up. “Come on, this is going to be interesting!”
“You bet!! I’m right behind you.” Brandon smiled. He held that encouraging grin on his face until her small figure slipped out into the candle lit hall, and down the hallway to the foyer. Then with a sharp glare at the large window across the room; Brandon balled up his fists, walked over to the window and peered out into the heavy night.
The energy inside of him swirled out of control bubbling up. It sensed his worry. He couldn’t grasp it. He prayed that he could contain it. The warm leather resting over his hands settled him, helped him hold down the power that wanted to pour out of his core and he waited as the feeling of eyes on his body continued to grow.