The regular little boy in jeans and a pink My Little Pony shirt was begging his mother to buy him a cherry cream croissant with drizzled vanilla icing. The mother sighed and told her son no. That she only had the time to get a coffee.
I already did not like this mother. It was obvious she had the money and purchasing one extra item would not take long. Only the retrieve out of its container, surrounded by other deserts and arrays of cakes into the hands of a little boy that obviously seemed neglected as the mother had spent the entire time on a phone while the boy stared at the cabinet of baked goods, whining loudly enough that the few stragglers looked over.
“That’s five-fifty, ma’am.” I told the woman as I handed her her coffee. She went to rummage in her bag and I quickly pulled out one of the croissants and wrapped it up neatly into a bag, giving it to the boy who smiled widely. The mother only glared at me but paid.
Gram came storming through at this time, carrying a five layered cake for a local wedding. She wanted me to icing it and noticed the little boy munching on the croissant. Shaking her head she set the cake down on a counter behind me and I got to work. They wanted it to have a Borderlands 2 like style to it.
“We’ve talked about handing out free treats, Nat.” Gram scolded me as I had gotten the base of wasteland brown icing onto the cake. “You know we lose money over it.”
“Yeah, well, the mother wasn’t nice and the boy was politer than her.” I stated, applying the black outline to the cake. A small part had fallen out of place and I gently brushed it away.
“How do you know the mother wasn’t nice? And I doubt that.” Gram replied but had a soft tone to her voice as she grabbed some more icing for the cake.
“The mother was on the phone the whole time, ignoring and swatting away her son. She had this… this look to her.”
Gram only chuckled and came over to help me work on the cake after grabbing icing as the bell above the bakery door rang.
She pushed me aside and took over the work, I telling her what was needed and turned to help the costumer.
It was one of our daily returners. Morning for coffee and evening for time to relax and eat a Bluebug tart or five. He was two hours late today.
“Claric, wonderful to see you. The normal?” I asked him and he nodded with a slight smile. That was odd. He normally grinned widely and waved hello. Sometimes he would compliment Gram or me.
He mostly took a vanilla iced coffee with that glorious extra vanilla and a plate of my Grams' Bluebug tarts. Claric normally sat in one of the corner booths, surrounded by notebooks and pencils, pens and markers. The whole shebang. He spent a good two, three hours just drawing then would leave when we closed at eight. He always beat the rush of people coming for evening coffee or college students coming for ice cream and cake.
He normally wore a light brown jacket, perfect for the fall weather. Jeans and Converse was what he also sported, not caring about his slate grey beanie hat that always looked like it would fall off. He had striking green eyes as well that always got brighter in the sunlight.
At the moment, as I retrieve a plate of Bluebug tarts and some coffee for him, Claric was bobbing his head to Roaring 20s by Panic! at the Disco that I had playing from my spotify over the speakers. Sometimes he stayed after hours but that was hardly ever.
It seemed like he might stay late tonight though. Something about how he entered made me feel uneasy and I wasn't about to not try and figure out why.
Gram nudged me as I hadn’t notice I was standing still, holding the plate of tarts and coffee. I mumbled sorry and walked over to Claric who was drawing designs. They seemed like they would be tattoos - simple lines and complex patterns making hundreds of different images scattered throughout a book.
I smiled at the images and walked back to Gram who was cleaning up. We were done baking for the day and only had the cake to finish.
“Griffin seems off today, Nat. Don’tcha think?” Gram asked as she started adding the final decorations of the cake. I quite liked the groom and bride on the top. They were Maya and Krieg. I found it funny that they shipped those two characters but I went back to work as little of the wastelands, charming cartoon cake was left to finish.
“Claric, dear. That’s his last name but most people in town just call him Griffin.”
“Oh… yeah. Sorry. I forget about that. I noticed it right away though. He’s gonna stay late so I’ll stay here to close up once he leaves. I might let him play some music…” I mentioned to Gram as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen started playing.
She only smiled but had this look on her face that worried me.
“Well, I’ll come by in about and hour or two to help you close up then. And I don’t want you walking home alone. The Benson’s girls are out on the town tonight from what I’ve heard and I don’t want them targeting you. Griffin could walk you home, I trust that boy.” Gram said, wiping down her hands, the ink from her tattoo as bright as ever.
My Gram, for as long as I could remember, had a tattoo on both of her arms. It was made to look like gears on her arms then slowly turned into keys, like a dispenser. It was weird. Some wacky cyborg ninja shit, really. But it looked cool. A ribbon was tied around the base of the tattoo. In ink, of course.
As the flour washed off her arms and the icing dripped away, I started to wonder what I should do while I waited for Claric. Or Griffin. I should really ask which he prefers…
Gram left, waving bye to Claric who waved back weakly in response then sipped some of his coffee, his brows furrowing. He was running low. People have that look once they start to run out coffee. It’s almost murderous, really.
Griffin's parents were close to my father. And my Gram likes him. I don't really mind him being around, specifically since he's one of the few people that haven't bother me about my father.
The heat kicked in right on time but I didn’t really notice. I never really noticed when a summer’s day was hot as the devil’s ass or when heating came on in a building.
Claric took off his beanie hat and jacket. He seemed to be sweating. Gram noticed but didn’t turn the heat off. When I tried to go do that, she just swatted me away. She can be rather confusing at times to be honest.
I sighed, resting my elbows on the counter as the cake sat, the icing slowly obtaining a semi-hard outer shell. I loved icing. Some people don’t, which I get; too much could ruin the cakes own flavor and too little meant you had nothing to help give pizzaz in some peoples brains.
And sprinkles. I liked sprinkles. Wait… can you put sprinkles on cake? I can’t remember…
My thoughts startled, I looked up to see Claric with wide eyes as a shattered plate laid on the ground with two tarts as its victims of a sinking ship.
I quickly grabbed a cloth and a trash can to clean up the mess and he just sat down as I uncomfortably kneeled down in order to clean up sharp, pointy shards of glass.
Claric looked at me then back at the plate then the tarts.
“But… the tarts.” He said, slowly reaching out as I grabbed one. I raised an eyebrow. We kept the floors clean as possible but not that clean. Well, who would even want to eat food off of the floor anyway? That’s not very healthy.
“They were on the floor.”
“But the tarts!” He said again and grabbed the one in my hand, shoving it into his mouth before I could react. He then grabbed the towel from my hand and started cleaning up the rest of the glass.
I just sat on my knees as I held the bag open, frowning in disappointment. Or what I could muster of it, honestly.
As the last of the glass was put into the bag, I cut myself on the palm of my hand. It stung like batcrap crazy but I took the bag out as my blood ran down my wrist and arm. I could clean it later.
The moon began to show, the sound of crickets chirping one of the few sounds left outside besides the straggling car or two and laughter of a junkie.
It just turned to nine o’clock and Claric sighed loudly and threw a pencil across the room, hitting me. I was just peacefully watching some Adventure Time, am I not allowed to enjoy a show with a gay bubblegum princess?
I ignored the pencil and kept watching but another pencil flew my way. It hit my cheek and bounced off, clattering softly against the stone-tiled floor.
Turning off my phone and shoving away my earbuds, I picked up the two pencils and launched them back at Claric whose eyes widened in surprise while he ducked the mini stakes of graphite.
He looked at me, raising an eyebrow in question of my reaction.
“I didn’t mean to. You know when you’re writing and then your pen or pencil decides to go flying for no reason? That’s what happened.” He told me, leaning down to pick up the pencils.
I chuckled lightly at his response, wondering why my arm felt sticky and skin restricted.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to wash off the blood.
“Shit in my cereal... I’ll be right back, Claric. I forgot to wash off the blood.” And I stumbled over toward a sink, grabbing a paper towel and running it under warm water with soap. I brushed off my arm, the water turning pink as the blood washed off. A few small cuts were left in my hands, fresh and stinging from the air around it.
After digging around in the cabinets I found a bunch of band-aids and I plastered them on, checking tables and counters for any lingering blood to scrub down.
The band-aids were Finding Dory and my cut was now covered in smiling Dory’s sided with a grumpy-faced Hank. It was really odd, since there was about five band-aids.
“All better?” Claric asked, munching on a pencil of his.
“Yeah, thanks.” I replied softly as the bell rang above the bakery door, two blonde haired, terrified looking kids running in.
The girl had curly hair and I mean curly. Bright green eyes with specks of grey, blue jeans and a flannel that seemed torn in places. Freckles covered her face, sun-kissed and bright. Her one ear was covered in piercings but it was her collar bone that struck me odd.
From what I could tell, it was a crest of roses. A tattoo. Each one had some gold tint to it, twisting and turning around one another to make some sort of chest guard. It seemed like it may have gone behind her back as well but I couldn’t tell because I was then distracted by the boy.
His hair was rough, like Harry Potter style rough with a mix of blue in his natural blonde. He had those cute sun-kissed freckles as well but his eyes had this purple tint to them, a light brown mixed in. He wore blue starfish pajama pants with a plain grey t-shirt. A satchel with a large book poking through the top and the sides bursting with pencils of all kinds was at his side; the tips of his hands were tattooed to seemed like they would be dripping ink and it curled up his arms and behind his back, from what I could tell.
“Is Bren here?” The girl asked, whisking her head around.
I had never seen them both in my life and they somehow knew my Grams name.
“Um…” I looked at Claric. He help up his hands, not knowing what to do. Saying it was all on me. “No. She’ll be back in about… ten minutes? At best. I actually need to start closing up.” I said, looking at them both, silently pleading they would leave.
The girl looked at me, calming down while the boy just kept staring at me. He seemed immensely worried.
“Do you mind if we stay here? Its urgent.” The girl asked, eyeing up the leftover tarts and keeping a hand on the boys shoulder. He relaxed a bit but the tension was obvious.
I thought it through. They both seemed panicked in a way, one dressed in pajamas, the one in everyday clothes. They could be tricking me for all I knew.
But I couldn’t say no. Customer is always right.
“Sure. Tea, coffee or cocoa?” I asked, heading back behind the counter to get drinks.
“Co-mff-co!” Claric interjected with a mouthful of tarts. He held out the plate, offering some and both of the blondies grabbed a few tarts, shoving them down their own throats.
They both agree with coco but the girl wanted some coffee added to hers. I nodded an ok but the combination sounded disgusting to be quite frank.
I watched as they sat, their anxiety of an unknown situation emmeting into my emotions. Even Claric seemed to be bothered by it. He didn’t eat anymore tarts and just glanced back at me from time to time.
I brought out the two cups of cocoa, a third one for me. All three piled high with whipped cream and with a choice of sprinkles, cookie crumbs or chocolate shavings. The girl had chosen rainbow sprinkles, me and the boy oreo cookie crumbs.
The tension in the room grew, Claric finally saying something to help break the tension.
“So, names? I mean, I can’t keep calling you blondies in my head.” He asked, grinning.
“Oh, yeah! I’m June but you can call me J. And this is my brother, Sully.” She said, smiling widely but her eyes still showed unease. Her brother looked at me and smiled shyly, Claric nodding with a smile.
“Well, I’m Claric. I prefer Griffin though.” And he shoved the last tart into his mouth, chewing as quietly as possible.
“I’m Nayleth. Call me Nat. Please.” I told them and took a long sip of my cocoa as the whipped cream gave me a mustache.
J chuckled at the large goop of whipped cream on my upper lip, her laugh contagious.
She started to snort from her loud yet cheerful laugh.
Then the bell rang and in came my Gram who stood frozen, a deer in headlights.
She looked from me to Griffin, J to Sully.
“J... what are you doing here?” She asked, her eyes boring into J’s head. J just looked right back at her but her hands began to tremble.
“Mark needed you. He saw something-” She stopped looking at me and Griffin. “I can’t tell you with these two in the room. Sorry!” She whispered at the end to the both of us.
Sully just kept staring at me and Griffin, cocking his head like he was making a mental note to himself.
I looked at my Gram and I felt so lost. I didn’t like it. I hated being confused and out
of the loop with things. It meant that people were hiding something from me, lying maybe, depending on the situation.
“Gram, what does she mean? And whose Mark?” I asked, looking at her but she didn’t look back at me.
Then J whipped her head around to look at me. “She’s your Maw-Maw?!”
J scoffed. “Your grandmother!”
“Ohhh, yee-up.” I told her after she cleared away the slight confusion but her face just kept becoming more and more flabbergasted.
My Gram just kept looking at the four of us, huddle with our mugs of cocoa and whipped cream covered faces.
She pointed at J and Sully, silently asking them to follow her.
As they walked away Griffin looks just as perplexed as I was. And how did these people even know my Gram? I mean, she was fairly well known in town but J nor Sully seemed like they would be living in this weird, city yet suburbian like area.
Griffin started chattering, saying that both J and Sully seemed intriguing. I just nodded along, trying to ignore the growing earache in both of my ears.
Right as Griffin said something about my Gram acting weird, all three came back in and J seemed calm and Sully was just… staring into space. Again. He had this wistful look in his eyes. Then J looked at me and her face seemed sad almost.
“Nayleth, head home. The three of you,” She said and pointed to the Griffin, J and Sully. “You will go with her. I don’t want the Benson twins getting after her again.”
I was about to protest but Gram had already bolted out the door toward her car. Why she didn’t bring me with was anyone’s question but her car was the cleanest thing in the world.
The Benson twins were Kara and Bina. They both played soccer but weren’t anything special. Both disliked me because I didn’t really care about them. I didn’t give them the attention they so badly desired and just the fact that I wasn’t who they thought I should be. I was friends with them once. Before things changed.
I wrapped my coat around me, shivering. I felt freezing, more than normal anyways. J and Sully both sighed, Griffin making varying raspberry noises.
As we walked through the streets I stayed relatively close to Griffin. I still had no clue who the two blondies were that were now helping me home, even though I didn’t need it. I could handle myself. After all, I had been doing that for ten years now.
I yawned as a raven flew overhead, cawing loudly as the moon glistened in the night sky, stars winking back at the man in the moon who only smiled. Leaves crackled and scattered as we stepped on them, the wind only light. Clouds gently caressed the sky and floated over the moon from time to time, making the night darker for a few seconds.
I put my hands over my ears which had begun to ache horadly again. Maybe they were just too cold? I looked over at Griffin who had a snug beanie hat and furrowed my brow. Lucky. Sully didn’t seem cold, even with a t-shirt and pajama pants. And J just skipped along, humming some heavy metal tune to herself.
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I quickened my pace. And then I stopped. The alleyway to the left of me - chattering was coming from it, laughter. Cackling laughter.
I went to turn around but Griffin pushed me forward and we turned into the alleyway, it being a well known short cut to the house. (People often brought fruit and supplies for my Gram to make them their own cake).
One had a pencil skirt and a white blouse, covered by a heavy winter coat. The other just wore boots, jeans and a simple insulated jacket. But both had those same, dagger-like hazel eyes.
They saw me and grinned devilishly. Then they noticed Griffin. Then J. Then Sully. Their smiles faded into distaste but Pencil Skirt looked at me, whispering the most popular insult to them - “Momma’s next depressant”.
My mother took a few different medications, one of them an antidepressant. But she has a tendency to not take them and finding other ways to make herself... upset. She blames me for most of what goes wrong. Some others in town seem to think I cause her bad moods.
I don’t. You wouldn’t blame the knight for being captured by the dragon, would you? After all, in the tale, he was only trying to help.
We pushed past them and kept walking, the clicking of heels slowly falling away as the backroad to home came into view and then upon our feet.
Leaves fell from oak trees and yet the pine trees still stood tall, giants of splendor across the vast world of concrete and plastic. The smell of fall was imminent from the road to the house as most could normally smell something baking like pumpkin or apple pie, sometimes apple fritters.
“So,” J began, looking over at me while her hair bounced with every step she took. “You’re Bren’s granddaughter. You know, I never made the connection. I’m sorry about your father, even though it was a long while ago. And your mother…” She trailed off, Sully nodding in agreement.
I just slowly nodded my head. I was used to the sorries and the ill-spoken truth, the backlash and criticism. It wasn’t like it was just yesterday my dad died, I had time to process it after all.
The wind picked up, blowing the scattered leaves and few lone pine needles across the path as the house came into view.
An old brick house, scattered with open windows filled with sweet, sugary goods and the sound of a Beatles record would normally be seen or heard as you approached the old dwelling. The swinging bench on the porch softly rocked in the wind as my Gram came out, wiping her hands on her apron. She had gone back to baking, per the norm when something was bothering her.
I waved and smiled weakly as Gram waved and walked back into turn the lights on. The moth-killers poured over the brick house, cascading down the grass and illuminating the surrounding area.
The three others shouted hi or hello, startling me but I laughed. My Gram was one of
those people that could just make something - someone feel better.
We all brushed our shoes on the worn welcome mat, pilling inside to get to the kitchen as to see who would figured out what my grandmother was baking.
But she stopped us, instead leading us out toward the sun room that looked over the garden and swing set.
Flowers melted into bright reds and dark blacks, sparkling in the moonlight as other plants, like succulents, waited below the towering beauties for the sun to rise. Moths fluttered about, landing on roses and butterfly bushes while my Gram sat down in one of the wicker chairs, the rest of us following suit.
“I have tarts in the oven, so relax. Now, explain.” She said and sipped from her mug.
We all looked at one another, confused. Explain what?
She looked at each of us and waved her hand about like she was trying to summon something. “Explain why you are here!” Her eyes looked electric, a sort of ecstatic that I hadn’t seen from her in a long while.
J looked at me and than her jaw tightened. “You don’t mean? But it would be late!” She exclaimed, Sully just as lost as me and Griffin.
My Gram chuckled and set her mug down, steam still rising from the ceramic object. I heard clicking, like metal and the reload of some video game gun but before I could pinpoint the noise my mother came barging in the room, her hair frizzled and eyes sunken.
My muscles tighten and I could feel something in my chest. The pain in my ears sparked up again, agonizingly so. My back hurt as well, like I had slept weird and pulled muscles but I didn’t say anything.
She bore her eyes into mine, her posture aggressive. Griffin was practically toppled over his chair. J stayed calm and seemed to be shooting daggers at my mother while Sully was looking at me, his eyes soft like a deer.
Then my mom noticed J and Sully. Her stanced softened but she looked at me as if I was nothing more than a roach in front of a box of Captain Crunch.
My Gram got up and approached my mother who walked away before she could approach her. She sighed, shaking her head and sat back down.
She looked at me and her eyes said sorry. How her lips curled down and her shoulders sagged in defeat. We were both so tired of my mother. It had been ten years… I had gotten over it. And he meant more to me than anyone else.
The crickets chirped loudly, the violins of the night. Stars were winking again as the clouds covered the moons smiled. A chill swept over the room, an intruder to disrupt the sudden tense atmosphere.
My Gram stood up, beckoning for us to follow. I did and the others followed me, the sound of shoes against a cobble path echoing in the song of the crickets.
She stopped at one of the many mirrors she kept in the garden. She said they were for watching the plants. So the plants could admire themselves. And for the spirits to visit.
I supposed the spirit part could be true. Weirder things have happened.
She tapped the mirror with one of her nails, the clacking sending a spike of pain through my ears. I couldn’t help this time but try to cradle them.
Gram looked at me weird, I shaking her off when she tried to ask what was wrong.
I then looked at Griffin, who was rubbing the bridge of his nose.
Nausea poured over me, I having to sit down to try and breathe. It was like someone was crushing my lungs, panic spreading then leaving again and again.
I heard my grandmother huff indignantly, then the same clinking and that similar sound of a shuriken going shing!, a small quip from J that sounded more like a startled dog than anything else.
Taking a deep breath, I stood back up and faced Gram who currently was trying to unlock a mirror with a key. From her tattoo.
I just about screamed when I saw her arm, covered in sleek, steampunk like brass with knuts and bolts, a dispenser that looked like a pianos innards. The ribbon layed limp but was a bright red, a warning flag almost. The whole arm just reminded me of the Tinman from the Wizard of Oz, to be honest.
Griffin then saw it too and in response he backed-up and tripped over his own feet, landing in a butterfly bush. His eyes went wide, legs ready to scramble away faster than an egg.
J and Sully just didn’t care. J was too worried about Griffin falling and Sully was just looking at me again but he was smiling slightly. It wasn’t one of those stalker smiles. It was like he was telling me something important with slightly spread lips and shiny teeth.
I shook my head, rubbing my eyes. I had to be dreaming. No person could have that kind of arm yet, It wasn’t possible was it? All I knew was that something weird was going on and I did not like it at all.
My Gram looked at me and smiled but the look in her eyes said something else.
Then you could hear footsteps behind us. Loud, angry ones. And my mother’s voice not far of.
I felt everything freeze and I began to make myself as small as possible when she approached but her glare was not fixed on me or Griffin, not J or Sully. It was on Gram who only stared back with that same glint in her eyes. It was the look of determination that neither had ever lost.
J looked at my mother and pursed her lips, crossing her arms. Sully only looked at his sister and was shaking his head.
My mom then looked at over at me. Her nostrils flared with anger and she dragged me inside, my Gram following after while we left the other three outside with the moths.
My mom kept her arms crossed but the look in her eyes was murderous.
“Nayleth, what are you doing? Did you go out of town? You know you aren’t supposed to!” She said while my Gram stood behind me, I hearing her breathing rapidly.
I took a deep breath, confused. I thought she wasn’t upset with me for once. “Um, no. I-I didn’t. I swear to god I didn’t.”
That only made her worse, her grabbing my arm and nails digging into my skin. “You little... You’re lying aren’t you? Did you go see a therapist? Because I’ve told you, you don’t need one. You can’t be that tired or that emotionally worn out, you know.” She said again as I just stared at her in agony and tiredness.
Then my Gram grabbed my other arm and yanked me back, leaving four long nails marks across my skin. My grandmothers face was that of pure anger as my mother then realized what she was actually upset about.
Her screeching was enough to make my ears bleed as she told my Gram that I shouldn’t go there, that it was unhealthy and would only bring back unhealthy memories. Her response was that of, “Do you want your last thing of Jesse’s to die? Do you want your own flesh and blood to die? Is that what you want?” And all either of us could do was stare at her, mouths agape as she dragged me back out to three wide-eyed teenagers who stood in front of a liquid-looking mirror.
“J, go. Before Muluth comes back out.” My Gram hissed at J, still shell-shocked and she effing jumped into the mirror, Sully following suit. I stared at it, basically trying to not implode from the days events.
Griffin looked at me and was just completely dumbfounded as my Gram then tried to force him into the mirror. She ended up having to tell him she would make him a whole plate of his very own Bluebug tarts if he was to go through the mirror to get him to actually go through with it.
Then she turned to me, telling me sorry more times than anyone else had ever said it to me in my life. She said she would explain everything and that I would be safe and gave me a hug before pushing me through the mirror, a cool gelatin feeling to it that took my breath away.
I wasn’t going to be safe, obviously. Otherwise, how would a story go? How would one start if there's no issue to start it?