“Sully, you’re wonderful but please don’t get distracted by the ice cream parlor.” I told him politely and felt completely at home here in Redcliffe. The memories that I had tucked so far back from when I visited with my father were starting to come back and thankfully not much of the town had changed besides renovation and fresh coats of paint that I could still smell in the air. They were good memories, thank God.
“Well, I don’t get to come here all that often, Nat. Redcliffe doesn’t get a lot of crime. It’s a safe haven, really. Besides, Bren makes the best ice cream.” He said, smiling wistfully and I looked at him, startled.
He stopped smiling, holding up a hand in a caring gesture. “Oh, yeah. She runs the ice cream parlor here and it sells baked goods. You know about the one she has on the other Earth too. She normally just uses extra money for the future or helps towns that have been attacked by Red.”
“Oh, ok. That makes sense, knowing my Gram.” I replied, smiling softly at him.
J and Griffin wanted to go do some more painting with Miss Wren so they didn’t come with. It was just me and Sully. I didn’t mind. He didn’t make me feel too awkward since he was that himself.
He was a quiet guy, honestly. I liked it.
He grinned widely back at me and I lead him past the ice cream parlor, down a street lined with white roses that didn’t want to be painted red and in front of a home that screamed comfort. The shingles were a soft brown, made of grey bricks and lined with birch wood. It was beautiful, to say the least.
He looked at me, confused and asked how I knew how to get here. I sighed, saying it was memories I had locked away a long time ago. He smiled softly at me again and gave me a quick hug, which surprised me but I accepted it.
I knocked on the door, clutching the satchel that J had given me. She had stopped by one of the many shops that lined the streets and saw it, immediately getting it because it reminded her of me. I didn’t want it because I don’t like the idea of people gifting me things but she insisted and this was J, I didn’t really have a choice.
Although, it was rather pretty. Simple dark leather with silver clips that matched the design of my bow. Nothing complicated but enough to catch eyes. Not that I wanted that but I was glad for the bag as I needed something to carry the clock in. Aaand any flowers that Sully wanted me to carry because his satchel was full. I didn’t argue though, it was too cute to say no. I recommend he dry-press the flowers in a book and he replied with the statement that it wasn’t a bad idea. So yay?
The door opened to my Gram, who seemed a little frazzled but the look of surprise on her face was something I would cherish for as long as I lived, honestly. Sully muttered a soft hello and Gram smiled at him then looked back at me.
“How did you get here so quickly?” She asked me as I pulled out the clock.
“We had some help from Auggie. Apparently Reflection cards can be used to do what you do, which is pretty neat. Although, apparently, even though he’s a full meta, he can do magic? I dunno, it’s confusing. But I brought the clock. And Sully.” I replied with a slight smile and pointed behind me, hearing Sully wave hello again behind me as my Gram softly took the clock from me and told him that her roses were off limits.
She lead us in, still looking at the clock as we both plopped down on a couch. We soon noticed the candy jar in the middle of the coffee table and practically tackled each other to see who could get the blue jolly rancher first that sat on top of Fizzle Wizzles and Derby’s Delicacies.
Sully got it, to say the least but gave it to me anyways and I thanked him, happily savoring the sweet taste of the raspberry candy that would make my mouth as blue as the ocean.
My Gram sat across from us after having gently set the clock down on the glass-topped coffee table, trying to make sure it didn’t clank loudly against the pane. She looked at me, trying to gauge my mood.
“Why are you here? And where’d you get this clock? It’s obviously custom made for you but -” She stopped talking as Ace came walked in, almost too quietly. It spooked Sully but I had heard his soft-tipped footsteps from the moment he left that back room.
I smiled widely at him but that soon faltered as I remember why I was there in the first place, not just because of the clock; even though that was another good reason.
Ace’s grin was welcoming though as he meandered over to one of the cupboards and fished out a box Lucky Charms, shoving a hand down and scarfing down the entire fistful of cereal as he poured himself a glass of orange juice.
Gram scolded him but he only shrugged it off, being over a foot taller and a rather brute of man, he sat down in front of us with a wide smile at Sully and a glass of orange juice that didn’t seem to have any pulp.
Sully grinned just as widely back at him but his fingers started play around with the strap of his bag as the thick book prodded through the top. I really wanted to see what other stuff he had in there. I bet it was magnificent.
It was silent for minute as I tried to hear if Blitz was anywhere but I couldn’t quite pinpoint her footsteps or breathing. Maybe she ran to the store? Either way, it was just the four of us in this living room that became more familiar by the minute.
“I made the clock for you. Once you find a schedule to stick to the clock should start memorizing it and wake you up whenever you need it. Mark helped me with it but I’m not quite sure what he did to it. Most likely something with the hands though, since there rather odd compared to the rest.” He told me, shrugging his shoulders with a curious look on his face and went silent once again.
“Thanks, seriously. Never been the best at waking up, even if it was a fun day ahead.” I replied and Gram laughed, reassuring my response.
Sully sat beside me still, playing with the strap of his bag. But he soon took out the book and began drawing, quick lines and smooth layers of ink. It was calming to watch, relaxed the nerves, you know?
“I’m really here though because…” I paused, feeling my blood run hot as I glanced at Gram who was eyeing me up. Now was not the time to get scared. “Because memories I’ve locked away are coming back in waves, from memories of Redcliffe to the trial; specifically the trial.” I told them and Ace raised an eyebrow at me, my Gram not showing a single emotion.
Ace motioned his hand for me to continue as Sully stopped drawing and bookmarked his page. He was getting the answers he wanted and that was good. I was glad he was willing to listen before making assumptions, like the other two seemed to be.
“I remember being at the trial, there wasn’t a lot of family there but I do remember seeing an odd couple with tattoos that have a striking resemblance to your’s and Blitz’s. What would you two be doing at that Earth?”
He didn’t respond right away. Just sipped his orange juice as Sully frowned, opening back up the book to start sketching again. He repeated one line over ten times before finally settling on it. It looked like he was drawing a woman’s hand and was look spectacular, from what I could tell.
“We were there for Jesse. We were good friends with him, helped him through the divorce and with Muluth’s stubbornness on not wanting you here. There were a lot of nasty fights that Auggie normally had to take you here so that it didn’t affect you all that badly.” He said bluntly and it was evident that he wasn’t going to say anymore about the subject since he got up with the glass of juice and paraded into the backroom and I heard him plop onto a bed with a soft hello to Blitz.
Sully had stopped drawing again and he was looking at me with those pity eyes. But his had a softer tone, more caring then that fleeting kind of caring, you know? His brow furrowed as he looked at me and his lips turned into a thin line for a second before he spoke.
“I’m sorry. That’s all I can really say. I’ll get you some Purple Snow after this, I promise. Best ice cream around. And I won’t tell J or Griffin because it’s not my business to do so.” He stated and smiled softly. I smiled back, grateful for his response.
My Gram, on the other hand was just staring at me.
“So you were aware of the divorce?” she asked me, drumming her nails against the glass surface of the coffee table.
“Yes. I was seven years old, even seven year olds know what that is, to some degree. I never questioned it because half the time Auggie or you or Ace or Quintis was-” but I stopped, realizing more memories were trickling in.
One of Auggie taking me to the Morrow docks to fish and instead I made friends with a meta that could turn their legs into a giant fin and gills on their neck. Another one of me and Ace in the desert of Blunder, I watching as he used those chains to break open the ground to make thousands of glittering gem-backed beatles erupt from the caverns below. The last one was of me hanging out with Quintis as he showed me a bow he had made for me, small and made of enchanted stone. He showed me how to shoot, how to hold the bow as my parents sat at home arguing over what was best for me when I already knew where I wanted to be.
Even if I didn’t know the completeness of the issue in itself.
I startled myself, slowly itching out of my haze as Gram repeated my name. I muttered a sorry and shoved my hands beneath my thighs. She looked at me with a frown and sighed as Sully got up abruptly and rummaged around in her freezer until he pulled out a tray of ice cubes and popped a few out after running them under warm water, putting them in a dish and shoving one in his mouth.
I looked at him, startled by his sudden want to eat an ice cube but soon the loud crunch of ice breaking sinked its way into my ears and I just didn’t even bother with it anymore. If he wanted to eat an ice cube, let him eat an ice cube.
“Anyways, you know my stance on dad’s death. You know that the divorce and how things were handled and the time he disappeared was odd. You know I think that. And I’m sorry, ok? But atleast I’m where he wanted me to be, right?” I responded, feeling a sense of dread spread over me.
I didn’t really like talking about it. I never had. It wasn’t something that I enjoyed talking about nor did I want the attention. Who would? And it always made me feel antsy when I talked about it. It wasn’t comfortable to say the least. Why the fuck would it be either? Do people really expect me to talk about what happened freely, even if I did have to tell the police? Good try, seriously.
“Yes, you’re right where he wanted you to be. But… you never told anyone the complete story and we need that. Not the court, not the police. They closed the case a while ago. I think you need it the most, telling someone everything that happened. Maybe then you can completely move on and so can your mother - but that’s just slim hope. Don’t walk on that tight rope for too long or it could snap, Nat.” She replied handing me back the clock and giving me a quick, reassuring hug that I gladly embraced as my stomach began to tie itself into knots.
I did want to tell people. Every fiber in me screamed but the only person I had told the entire truth was police officer Grim and he passed away from a heart attack three years ago. It was boiling up inside and I was dying to tell someone but how? How could I bring that up to J or Griffin or Sully?
I tucked the clock away in my bag, my fingers lingering on the metal straps of my bag. I shuffled my feet uncomfortably, itching to leave. I had gotten my answers and wanted to explore Redcliffe for a bit before leaving.
Gram smiled at me. “Go ahead, come back when you need to head home.”
I smiled widely in return and said thanks, asking her to thank Ace for me as well since we could all hear loud snoring coming from one of the rooms in the back and she obliged, shooting us out of her home as Sully grabbed another ice cube for the way out.
Looking around, I wasn’t sure what to do. There was a park that I really wanted to check out because there were swings but I was also tempted to just stand in the sun that was shining through the large opening of the ravine.
I could hear people bickering about prices, deciding on what was better to do when it came to vacation to Blunder or to the Morrow docks, children chasing after those weird snakes because the snakes had stolen a hat or piece of jewelry and someone that was shuffling around something that made crinkling noises as they tried very hard to not have it fall out of their bag.
But I didn’t get to decide where we would go because Sully grabbed my hand out of nowhere, leading us to my Gram’s ice cream parlor and the smell of freshly baked cones came wafting through and overriding all other senses that I had focused elsewhere.
He lead me to counter of glass that was etched in frost, childrens hand prints and wet noses of dogs appearing if you got a good look at the glass through the sun that shined in from the window.
A woman came walking out, smiled widely at us but her eyes lingered on me for a second and I just tried my best to smile warmly back at her. She opened the ice cream house, asking Sully what he wanted.
He asked for a large Purple Snow with two colas and the woman scooped out three huge hunks of the purple ice cream that I remembered I had eaten with my father. It smelled sweet to me and my mouth had started to water as she quickly as someone to get two colas ready.
Sully then asked me what I wanted on it, topping it with whipped cream, oreos and adding a few cherries to his side of the ice cream. He lead us outside to some of the umbrella-suited seats and handed me a spoon as he took a bite using a fork as the two glass cola bottles glittered like golden marshmallows in the sunlight.
He sighed in enjoyment, encouraging me to take a bit of the half that was mine and I did so, the ice cream the kind of creamy you could only dream of. The white goop was oddly a wonderful contrast to the blandish ice cream, sparking with sweetness and felt like the texture of blue cheese dressing. It worked surprisingly well.
I took another bite, making sure to include oreo and watch as Sully took out his draw book as he shoved a large forkful of ice cream into his mouth and opened it to a page of a beautifully draw girl, woman? I dunno at this point, felt kinda hopeless.
A slender figure, she was draw to seem somewhat snarky but also put-back and nervous. She was staring at the ground as she rested her arms on her knees, the nervous sneer matching well with the sparkle in her eyes. Horns were the only thing that showed what she was, the blue and black contrasting well with the white and red outfit Sully had her wearing. She was relaxed, a little cocky in the image as well but it suited the person.
Until I realized who she was and I just about choked on the melted ice cream in my mouth and Sully’s eyes went wide while I had to quickly wave my hands about to keep him from putting the book away.
“No, no, no! I love it! I love it! I just wasn’t expecting it to be… Me, is all. It’s really a good drawing. Like, really good. What else is there? If you don’t mind me asking, is all.” I blurted out and quickly shoved another blob of sweet ice cream before I could say anything else as Sully just stared at me in curiosity but he smiled as if he had gotten the complement of a lifetime and opened to a page that showed the above view of Redcliffe, the sand sweeping into the nets above and the sun sharply cutting through what slits it could find as the edges of the ruby-color quartz dripped with dew.
He showed me clean-cut images of towns on rainy days, small lines of ink and graphite never bleeding into the next page as he turned to drawing after drawing of towns and people and animals. Some spiked with colors to make features pop out, like eyes or nails. Some were of images, like a place called Morrow Tavern and of creatures with large eyes and no teeth.
I was captivated by the images, flipping the pages as if I was holding a baby in my hands. The paper didn’t wrinkle or tear either, even though in my careful turning of said pages there were a few moments that I should have done so.
I turned to a drawing of Griffin, unfinished in its lustrous, overthought projection of ink and pencil. He seemed to close in on himself, his head hanged. Room was left for whatever his form was to be. I stared at that page for a bit, wondering how Griffin was doing right now, being stuck with J. I hoped that he was ok and not freaking out on the inside over the fact that he didn’t know what his form was yet.
Sully then yanked the book from my light hold and shoved it into his bag and gave me an exasperated sorry and nodded his head to motion behind us and I just about screamed out of excitement from the people behind me.
“Surprise! Class finished early! And Griffin wanted some ice cream,” J said joyfully, raising an eyebrow at the bowl in front of me and Sully, one spoon leaving my mouth and the other taking a bath in the purple ice cream.
I laughed an almost choked on my ice cream but managed to calm down. It was a nice surprise, I must admit. It made some of the tension fade away as the sun began to set. The golden light was ricocheting off of the red rubies and quartz, engulfing everything in a beautiful goldenish-red tint.
I took another quick bite of the ice cream and remember that there was a park just down the walkway and up a makeshift flight of stairs with swings. I couldn’t remember if the sunlight shone down to it but it was worth finding out.
My feet started moving for me and I was dodging people leaving the park, others carrying baskets of jewel-like apples and spikey berries that smelled heavenly. It was pleasant, a familiar atmosphere that seemed to wrap its arms around me and give me a hug and whisper welcome home.
My fingers ran along the walls of quartz and rubies, scattering like a rock as I hopped around people and snakes that stared at me as i ran by them. I could hear three sets of footsteps behind me, one light and quiet, another sharp and quick, the last one a little loud but prominent.
I stopped, hearing three pairs of footsteps settle beside me. Sully’s soft breathing was heavy but nothing that said he was out of shape. Everyone was breathing normally, considering we had climbed a rather large flight of stairs.
We were rather close to the nets at this points, them being only maybe twenty-five feet above us. The sand would occasionally blow down and sprinkle into hair or make little sparkly dots thats shined in the sun.
It was five-thirty and the sun was starting to set. It was still a little warm, especially since the sun engulfed the entire park that contained a bunch of swings, slides and a pool that could be covered with a moving glass roof. A simple place that hadn’t changed once.
I sat on one of the swings, running my sneakers along the shredded rubber. It felt nice to be on a swing. They always felt nice to just softly move myself back and forth, you know? But eff slides.
I wished that things could’ve been done differently That I wouldn’t of been stupid enough to of gone along into the forest. The weight of Ripper was sitting on my chest and my past was being shoveled up like a corpse and I was just waiting for the tears to start.
“Nat? You ok? You tryin’ to kill your foot or somethin’?” J asked me as she sat in the swing beside me, Griffin to my leg and Sully beside him. I hadn’t realized that I had dug past the rubber shreds and ripped a part of the tarp below it.
“Oh, um, no. Just, just thinking J.” I replied with a faint smile.
She looked at me for a second and I could tell that she was unsure of how I had replied.
Griffin nudged my shoulder with a sly smile and Sully looked at me with soft eyes that made me smile back as I realized that I could talk to these three. We had already been through a good amount together and who better talk to the people who I knew would genuinely try to understand?
“I’m not.” I said with a sigh. “I’m not ok. How am I supposed to be with Ripper and then Red raiding the camp because I was there and then, of course I can’t forget this, my damn memories that I’ve kept locked away are coming back and just you know that’s so much fun.
“And I just I feel so lost here being shoved into this new world and I’m willing to bet Griffin does to and i can’t breathe how am i supposed to deal with the fact that my father grew up here and i was dumb enough to not realize that i’m an idiot for not and i just he’s not dead he can’t be i can’t accept that i can’t i have to think that something about me is good…” And soon I felt warm tears pouring down my cheeks and my chest felt heavy and heaved as I started bawling.
J got up from her swing and hugged me, rubbing my back. She didn’t say anything, just let me cry as I babbled and babbled.
“And Ripper, oh god J. Oh god. I saw a man with eyes that showed he had given up on life. He let the guards kill him and the sound of that sword going through his chest, oh god I can’t forget that. I can’t and it feels like it’s my fault. I didn’t have the gull to kill him when I was in that arena. I can’t do that, J.
“How am I supposed to move on from my father’s death when I’m learning more about him that makes me believe more and more that hes alive and he could be so close to me, right in front of me, that I couldn’t even know it.
“And Red, oh god. Oh god J. It’s my fault that he was there. He followed me, hes after me and I don’t know why. Do you think hes after me? I think he might be because why would he have gone to the camp. He had already tortured Ace and Blitz enough. So why? J, why?” I said, unable to say more and I cried, tears drying as new ones fell. It made my skin feel odd when I went to sit on the ground and curl into ball my head between my legs.
I felt another pair of arms wrap around me with silent crying from Griffin. I could tell it was him. His skin was abnormally warm and he was shaking the way people do from after they were crying.
Sully sat down in front of me and pushed everyone out of the way and gave a really tight hug and I laughed hoarsely at how he made everyone move out of the way. J then made him move and gave me another hug and handed me a small jar of something that looked like bright pink jam.
I ate it without arguing, feeling my nerves die down and as if I could breathe and think clearly. It was peaceful in my head for once and I was grateful for that.
“It’s ok that you’re overwhelmed. Everyone gets like that, even if your reason are a bit out of the box. But that’s ok, you’ve got us. The jam will help keep your nerves under wrap so you can keep it, I have plenty.
“Red is a very cunning person. Some of his plans aren’t well, planned but he always knows what he’s doing. ANd maybe you are apart of his plans, maybe you aren’t. But we can keep on our toes. BUt we;ll be here if you need to talk and trust me, all of us are freaked out because of the raid.
“We don’t know what his plan is but for now we need to go back to school, get you two some lessons and such because even though its mine and Sully’s first year, we had a lot of early learning from our mother and father before he passed. Besides, you’ve still got your uncle and Gram!” She said, smiling brightly and gave me a shoulder-hug.
“And your dad might just be alive. We’re keeping middle ground but we have to eventually hear your side of the story to know why you might think that. And other things that go along with that, ok? And after we deal with Red we can try and find your father, aight?” J finished up and Griffin grinned at me widely with an encouraging nod. Sully smiled at me and looked at the ground, moving around some of the rubber pieces.
I chuckled softly and nodded in agreement after shuffling my nose and wipe the snot on my arm. I didn’t have a tissue or napkin, ok? What was I supposed to do? Jeez. Judgmental much?
Griffin helped me up off the ground and J gave me another tight hug as Sully followed up behind her. We traveled slowly down the stairs as the sun was almost done setting. It had been a decent day, in the very least I could admit that.
But I didn’t know what the classes would be like. I was nervous as all heck. I had, wait… what did I have tomorrow? I couldn’t remember. I needed to ask J then. I think it was Seeking though and I was guessing that since I could do Seeking they would have me practice with my form and weapon. Yay. Because I wanted to flaunt my full form around students that could agree with their judgmental parents that may or may not agree with Red.
So. Much. Fun. Can’t wait!
"Painting was fun! And I figured out that it's really good for planning out tattoos. Did you know that..." I heard Griffin muddle on to Sully as J walked beside me, giving me a reassuring squeeze as she grabbed my hand and bumped shoulders.
Things would be ok. That had to be, right?