Wandering around Lakegate
An insistent voice kept breaking into the nice deep sleep I was having. I groaned and pulled the covers over my head.
“Helen!” The voice became whiny now, and appropriately annoying.
“What?” I mumbled under the covers.
“You slept through breakfast.”
“And you are in danger of sleeping through lunch. That can’t be healthy.”
“Whatever, ‘Mom’.” I buried myself deeper under the covers.
There was silence, and I felt a supreme sense of satisfaction of chasing off the cat. Though chasing was being a little too optimistic. I don’t plan on getting up for another four hours.
School had been tiring, especially to be working at a pace someone else sets for me. But I survived my first week, even though I hadn’t made any friends.
Now it was the weekend, my school was done for two days, no homework, and I was going to take as much advantage of it as possible.
The side of my covers lifted up and a large, wet ball of slush hit me straight in the face.
“Gah!” I sat straight up, trying to get the water out of my eyes. I looked around the room and saw Boston floating in the air just to my left, with another dripping handful of slush in one of his paws.
“You little-” I made a grab for him, which he easily dodged, and fell straight off the bed onto the freezing cold floor.
Well, if I wasn’t awake before, I certainly was NOW!
“What are you doing?!” I snarled, struggling to get up even though the covers had me tied.
“It’s not healthy to sleep for sixteen of twenty four hours in your day.” He said, lowering himself to the ground. His floating had returned two days after I named him, and he used it to excess.
“It’s not healthy to be woken up by freezing ice, either!”
“But it’s one of the only proven methods of waking you I have!” He protested as he helped me untangle my legs.
“Maybe I like sleeping, have you ever thought of that?”
“I have, but then I realized that I don’t really care. It’s time you got a new hobby.” He said, waving a paw at me. “Let’s go to the library!”
“What? You woke me up to go to the library?”
“Yes. And to see more of the town.”
“I’ve seen as much of this town as I want to.” I got up and yawned, which took the space of about twenty seconds. Boston hopped up onto the bed.
“That’s a sort of designated antisocial behavior. I think you have more deep seated neuroses than your parents.”
“I do not!”
“Hah! Childhood regression.”
“What?” I said, confused with the sudden change, then I threw up my hands, “You are impossible.”
“I know.” He said smugly. “So we going or not?”
“Let me sleep on it.” I said grabbing the blankets. He immediately took a fighting stance.
I looked up to my ceiling. Then a small smile graced my lips.
Boston was looking a little disturbed. “Why are you smiling?”
Quickly I threw the blankets at him, getting him stuck under the pile. Then I picked up the pile and dropped it on the floor, and got back into my bed without blankets. But there was still a nice warm space, and I quickly settled into it.
“Of all the people…Hah!” Boston crowed.
I opened my eye slightly just in time to see the pillow swat me in the head.
“Rise and shine, Helen!” He said triumphantly, preparing to strike me again. I grabbed my pillow and defended myself.
“I am a champion of pillow fights.” I said, kneeling on my bed. “You have no chance of victory.”
“It’s only because you’re one of them.” He stuck his tongue out at me.
At that we quickly engaged in a pillow fight that neither of us won, I being experienced and he being able to fly kind of evened the odds on both sides.
“Well, that was fun. You awake now?” He said, panting against the window sill.
“Yeah, I’m awake. Lemme go get a shower.” I pulled my closet door open and pulled out a new pair of red pants and a black tank top. These I would wear until I was ready to leave. I threw the grey flannel shirt on the bed and rushed downstairs for a shower.
The shower was quick, and I tied my hair in a ponytail again as I climbed back up the stairs. When I got back in, the bed was made. Boston, for some reason, liked to keep the room as clean as possible, doing things I would have done after a few minutes. It may have been something he got from me.
I plucked the flannel up and put it on. Boston was floating near the window, spying, I think, on the next door neighbors. They were a happy couple with the brattiest bunch of kids I’d ever seen. Everyday, it was some sort of screaming or howling, usually directed at the parents. I hope I was never like that.
“How’s the brat brigade?” I asked.
“The little boy just cut one sister’s hair and has planted the evidence, scissors and all, by the other sister.”
“Master criminal in the making.” I commented as I buttoned up the long sleeved flannel. It was incredibly warm and made me think, inevitably, of the nice warm spot that was no longer on my bed.
I picked the choker up and put it around my neck. It looked a little odd, with a charm that big, but it wasn’t all that bad. It was actually kind of stylish.
“Where is the library?” I wondered aloud, realizing I didn’t know.
“I’ll give you directions.”
“How do you know?”
“When your mom was asleep I went downstairs and looked through the phone book and some other books, earlier this week.” He said, nose still to the glass. “Heh. It backfired, he got caught.”
“He getting punished?”
“No. His parents are just trying to reason with him.” He turned from the window. “Kid’s gonna grow up to be a righteous pain in the ass, I think.”
“Well, that’s neither of our problems.” I said to him as I pulled on some socks.
“True. Almost ready?”
“Yeah.” I looked at my trash can, full to the brim of draft homework that didn’t make the final cut of actually being turned in. “I better empty the trash.”
We can always do that later. His voice echoed in my head.
I looked around. It was unnerving when he did this, be walking in my room one moment, then when I turn my eyes, he disappears into the marble.
“Okay, let’s go.” I climbed down the stairs, popped my head into the kitchen and told Mom I was going. She gave me some money and told me to be careful of insane people that roam the alleyways. I thanked her for the advice, put on my shoes and my coat, and left just as she realized that I hadn’t eaten, and told me to eat something healthy while I was out.
“I will Mom!” I closed the door after me and walked down the drive, which was cleaned by me yesterday evening. It was part of my new chore system. I’d cut the grass when it wasn’t snowing, shovel the drive, whatever, and she’d take care of the car and the inside of the house.
The neighborhood was nice, even though the snow was a foot high on either side of the sidewalk. I had to shovel the sidewalk in front of the house too. By the time I got back in, my hands were threatening to fall off. Luckily, Mom had the instant remedy. Instant hot chocolate, just add water.
I kept walking to the end of the street, my breath coming out in white puffs. An elderly couple waved at me from their doorway, and I waved back, just to be nice.
“Kind of creepy.” I murmured back.
Turn right at the stop sign, go two blocks, then take another right, and we’ll be at the library.
“Kay.” I kept walking.
In no time at all, following his precise instructions, I found myself in front of a very large iron gate. At the very top of the gate were a couple of gargoyles.
“Are you sure this is the library?”
“Hey, who are you?” A voice barked out suddenly.
I whirled around to see an older, balding man in a gray jacket walking along the stone fence that sprouted from either side of the gate.
“Hey, I’m new…Is this the library?”
“Library?” He squinted at me. “You’re on the wrong street missy. Go about four blocks back thataway, you’ll get to it.”
He was pointing back the way I had come.
“Okay, sorry for bothering you.” I said, quickly beating a retreat. I didn’t want to stay in that guy’s company any more than I had to.
What was that about? Boston wondered.
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to. I thought you said you knew the way!” I hissed when I thought we were out of his range.
I do! It must have been you turning me around!
“Oh yeah, blame it on me, just because you can’t read a map.”
Kind of hard to give directions when you’re looking at life through a marble.
“Too bad. I feel out of place enough already, if you pop out, I’ll have real problems.”
He snorted but didn’t say anything. I hurried back through the streets until, four blocks away, just as the old man said, I was in front of the Public Library. A few people had just come out, and I caught the door before it totally closed and stepped in.
It wasn’t anything big, but it was packed with books and the hushed murmur of dozens of people poring over books.
“Are you lost?” A young woman with short cropped straight brown assaulted me before I could get farther into the building.
“Yeah, I’m new to town, and I want to check out some books.” I said, rehearsing the same line I’d used a dozen times in a dozen different places, give or take two or three places.
“Okay, you need to get a card, it won’t cost you a thing, and you have two weeks to bring them back,” She kept going on. I politely nodded, knowing that most libraries have the same rules. Do not bend, break, mutilate, or tear the books. Do not cause problems in library. If you do, you will be dragged outside and your card shall be ripped to tiny bits to show all of your painful disobedience. Or something like that.
“What is your name?” She asked as she put some information into the computer.
“Helena Harrick.” She asked my address, which I gave, along with all of the other information she asked. She then handed me a card, to use for the good of all library going kids everywhere. I thanked her and went off to explore.
The fantasy section was huge, but also packed with adults and kids. The mystery section was the same, and the biggest group of people was a bunch of ladies, picking out their latest romance novel. I never really liked them. I mean, I like the light dash of romance, but only when it’s in a book that also has a plot that usually involves bag guys that are really bad, not Duke Alfred that wants the heroine because she’s marginally cuter than the one he already has tailing him, and a storyline that could stand on its own without romance, and only uses it to enhance the story. Only a few romance novels that I have ever picked up had any sort of interesting plot, and those, if I remember correctly, had backstabbing evil courtiers that had the idea that if the heroine wouldn’t be theirs, she wouldn’t be anyone else’s.
But it seems like all the ones I find are nothing special.
After a couple of hours, most of the sections cleared out and I managed to pick up a few books, which I quickly checked out and left.
Wow, Libraries are popular.
“No, some people don’t have anything better to do.” I said. “Didn’t you notice half of those people didn’t leave with anything?”
“I wonder if there is anywhere to eat around here?”
Doesn’t look like it. It looks like we’re trapped in suburbia.
“Wait, that looks like a food place.” I pointed down the street to a building with a whole bunch of cars in front of it. The sign was obscured, and it wasn’t until I got in three feet of it that I could read it.
Candy’s Soda Pop Diner.
It was an old fashioned looking restraint, or diner, but there was the familiar smell of burgers permeating the air.
I suddenly realized that I was absolutely starving. I pulled out my money and counted thirty dollars. More than enough.
I gently pushed open the door, ringing the cowbell above the door. Some people turned to glance at me, but quickly turned back to wolfing down their food. There were booths, tables, and a bar full of stools. Only a couple of the stools were left, and I took one closest to the door. I scanned the menu above the work area, and selected a burger and fries and some soda whose name I didn’t recognize but looked like either a Coke or a Dr. Pepper.
The waitress, an older woman, popped up in front of me, almost scaring me off the stool. She had gray hair in a hair net and the sort of air about her that she had dealt with a lot of people in her lifetime, and buddy, you don’t even rank above half.
“What you want, honey?”
I gave her my order. She nodded and wrote it down, slapping the note on a stove in front of a woman with arms about as big around as I was, who was using these arms to flip burgers with practiced ease.
As I waited for my food, I sipped on my soda the waitress had handed over (it was more like Cherry Soda) and looked at all of the people.
Burgers were the most popular, it seemed. Just about everyone had one. I also saw a few salads, and a chicken sandwich or two.
The people, though, were all different. Old ladies, some of the football players and whatever sport players, two different groups of girls that were intent on glaring each other down, for whatever reason, some people in business suits, eating carefully to avoid dropping food on themselves, a few truckers, a group of gothic teenagers, and some other people to fill in the cracks.
“There are a lot of people here. Are you usually this busy?” I asked the waitress. She nodded.
“Twelve is always our busy hour, even more than the dinner hours. You’re new in town, aren’t you?”
“Is it that obvious?” I asked jokingly. She gave me a toothy grin.
“You look like you walked off the wrong bus stop.”
“Naw, I just moved here a couple weeks ago.” My mouth began to water and my stomach protested mistreatment when she set a big plate of burger and fries in front of me. I had already paid her for the meal, and dug in with gusto.
It was very good. Very good. I tore into the burger hungrily.
“Don’t choke honey, it isn’t that good, no, wait, it’s that good, but if you choke you can’t enjoy the fries.” The waitress said across the bar from the register. I forced myself to slow down, but it was hard. I had missed breakfast and hadn’t eaten in over twelve hours.
“Candy! That loser Roger is parked in front of my car again!” A girl yelled as she opened the door. The waitress rolled her eyes.
“Well, don’t park it in the lot for that long a time!” She scolded. Then her eyes widened. “What the hell did you do to your hair, girl?”
A girl about my age with shoulder length blonde hair that had green streaks in it sat down in the stool next to mine and slammed her bag on the counter. “It’s those brats at the Dersen place, they booby trapped the entire house. I got through all of them except the pan of egg die the stuck over the front door.”
She had a stubborn face that was clouded over with her bad experience of the morning, and her eyes were brown, but glared at the grain of the bar with so much intensity, it looked as if she would destroy it by blinking.
“Well, if you hadn’t crashed into the sign at Ice cream Palace, you wouldn’t have that problem.” Candy scolded her before setting a drink in front of her. Then she glanced at me in surprise. “You can put it away, can’t you? Didn’t think someone small as you could eat that much that fast.”
I blinked at her, confused. Then I looked down at my plate and saw that my fries were all but gone.
“Where did you put it all?” She asked. I shrugged.
“Boston.” I said a little nervously.
“Un hunh.” She shrugged off my odd answer and turned back to the girl. I glared at the plate and vowed to keep a good grip on my burger.
“I swear, there is a beast in every one of those kids, waiting to suddenly explode from their husks like some sort of invasion of the body snatchers.”
“Didn’t they have pods?”
“I don’t remember, you expect me to remember any movie as old if not older than me?” The girl rolled her eyes. “You know I’m all into new stuff.”
“So I take it you don’t like the diner?” Candy challenged. I took another bite of my burger, eager to finish it before Boston, however he did it, could leap in and snag it before I could finish.
“No, the diner’s fine, Candy, besides, nothing I say will make you change it, now will it?” The girl sighed.
“No it won’t.” The older lady sniffed. Then she turned to me. “How d you like the diner?”
I swallowed the last piece of burger. “It’s very interesting.”
“That’s the kind of thing people say while they think, ‘this place sucks.’” Candy said severely. I put up my hands in defense.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I really do like it.” I said earnestly.
“Cowing another customer in submission.” The girl beside me smirked into her straw. I ignored her.
“You want any desert?” Candy asked me.
“No, thanks, I better be getting home. The food was great.” I left a three dollar tip and hoped off the barstool and walked out, bell ringing.
I got about three blocks before I heard someone running up behind me.
“Hey, wait up! You walk too fast.” The girl with green hair panted as she caught up with me.
I stopped for a few minutes as she gasped for breath.
“You’re not really in shape, are you?”
“Hey, you chase little brats around the entire morning and walk almost a mile in uncomfortable shoes and see where it gets you!” She panted. “What’s your name?”
“What?” I said confused. “Why do you want to know?”
“Candy, she’s my aunt, said you were new, I figure, I don’t have a lot of friends, wouldn’t hurt to try to make an acquaintance, hunh?” She said, taking gasps to return her breath to normal.
“I guess so.” I said a little doubtfully. I could see why she didn’t have friends, she was loud and a little on the rude side.
“So what’s your name?” She asked, smoothing out her black jacket.
“Helena? I’m Pepper.” She put out a hand and I shook it. “So you go to school? I haven’t seen you there.”
“Yeah, I got stuck in a lot of left over classes.” I said as I kept walking.
“That explains it. I barely got into my classes. I mean, I’m not supposed to be in those classes until next year, but I’m smart enough that I weaseled my way in.” She sounded proud of this fact. “So where did you go to school before you decided to come to the great and happy town of Lakegate?”
“I was home schooled.”
“Really? I would love to do that, but my parents, they keep saying to me, ‘learning with other kids will give you a better future’. But you know, a lot of the other kids try to pick on me because I’m older, but they’re just dorks. I just hope when I’m majorly successful and they have to scrub my aunt’s floors, I’m not to mature to gloat.”
The more this girl talked, the more I had to stop a smile from twitching from my lips. She really did like to talk. She only stopped every few minutes to ask me a question before launching herself into something else.
Pretty soon I had to stop. Pepper kept walking and talking, almost a quarter block away before she realized I had not followed.
“I live here.” I pointed to my house. She looked it over with an appreciating eye.
“That is nice. I live in a duplex about six blocks away with my parents and my cousins next door. It’s probably only little over half as big as that place.”
I felt a little chagrined, but she didn’t notice.
“What floor is your room on?”
“Cool. I live in the basement because that’s where I can play my music loud without getting caught.” She said, then smacked herself in the forehead and looked at her watch.
“Crud! I have to go, another babysitting job in twenty. See you later, Helena. See you at school!” She dashed off down the street before I could say anything.
“I’ll say.” I said as I walked up the drive and opened the door. “She can talk your ear right off though.”