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Chapter 10: The Princess of LakeShore.

Litha rouses from his sleep, lightheaded. He heaves himself upright, rubbing the haze from his eyes. Bleary-eyed he looks over at Cece with the duvet cover drawn over her head. She normally wakes before him, but she was on a call with Meeko throughout the night until eventually, he passed out.

On his way out of bed, he pockets his phone, leaving the bedroom. In pure spite, and with all the strength his lame arm can muster. He purposefully slams the door shut behind him—jolting Cece awake. Litha trudges ahead with heavy steps like there are weights tied around his ankles.

Through the archway, he glances to his right to see gran manning the kitchen, speaking expressively, phone on her ear. He takes a beeline to the living room and moves to plop down on the long couch, adjacent from gramp’s favourite armchair.

After a brief interval of sitting numbly in his seat. He hears a familiar door slam, followed by a procession of stomping steps that thud on the wooden floors.

"You did that on purpose!”

She marches forward and moves to stand in front of him, her eyes burning with an accusing look, glinting widely.

He shrugs innocently, his gaze venturing through the view beyond the sliding door. “Well, if you weren’t acting like a desperate hoe and slept at a decent hour, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

The remark strikes a livid look on her face. “Do even hear the crap that comes out of your mouth, or is talking shit the only language you understand?

“At least I have my integrity, a word not found in a thot’s vocabulary.”

"You're such an asshole!"

Gran spins on her heels and slaps the face of her phone on her chest. “Hey,” she whispers harshly. “Shut up before I beat the black off you ya'll. Unless you two want to spend your days here sleeping in the shed, you will not use that foul language in my house. Sit. Down.”

Like a flower under the scorching sun, Cece wilts from her glower, shrinking until she settles herself opposite from Litha. Scowling, she crosses her leg over the other.

Still fresh with anger, she asks, “Do you want flapjacks or pancakes for breakfast?”

“Pancakes,” both Cece and Litha mutter.

She resumes her conversation and after the clanging raucous of hauling the pan from the large draw stacked with pots, a fleeting silence ensues.

Shortly, the front door opens and gramps shuffles in, whistling a cheerful little tune, then he closes the door behind him. A russet flat beret cap bedecks his head, outfitted in a short-sleeved shirt and three-quarter pants with a bundled newspaper inserted between his rib and elbow.

He looks up and sees his grandkids with rancid looks rotting their faces.

“After I convinced your gran to let ya’ll sleep in, I’m surprised to see you up already,” he says and walks over to join them in the living room. He swivels and slowly sinks into his favourite chair, situated between them both.

Taking the passive-aggressive route. Litha locks eyes with Cece and says, “Well, some people were too busy yapping on the phone to care for other people’s beauty sleep.”

Cece snorts and breaks her gaze away. “Why do you care? It didn’t work for you anyway.”

Gramps lets out a deep chuckle. “You two are no different from the last time you were here. Still get grumpy when you’re tired.”

What?” Gran shouts, alarm bellows in her tenor.

All eyes snap to her.

She revolves and extends her hand to snap her fingers at gramps, then signals to the tv remote on the glass coffee table interspaced between the couches.

And she mouths, "Check the news."

Closer to it, Litha leans forward to pick it up and hand it to him. Gramps nods a thank you and switches on the tv.

The tv screen blinks to life, already on the news channel with an alarming red banner at the base. Breaking News. The female news anchor sits behind a desk with a taken photo of a girl in the top right corner.

This just in, local authorities have officially declared twenty-two-year-old, Jessica Nolan, as missing. It was shared and confirmed by her Uber driver that she arrived home earlier this week on Wednesday the fifteen, and she has not been heard from since then.”

From the kitchen, gran lowers the phone from her ear.

Her suitcase was found in the entranceway of the Nolan manor, but there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. The LPD has classified it as a high-profiled missing case. In collaboration with the media, LakeShore combines its effort to locate the beloved Nolan daughter. If anyone has information pertaining to the whereabouts of Jessica Nolan, please contact the police. Wherever you are Jessica, we will find you.”

Remote in hand, gramps outstretches his arm, and the volume bars in the corner decrease before he allows the remote to fall unto his lap.

Thee Jessica Nolan is missing?” He asks as if he didn’t hear the news anchor just confirm it. “Jessica, Jessica? The sweetheart of the town, daughter of thee Nolans?”

Gran places her phone on the island counter. “There’s only one,” she says, equally baffled.

Litha lifts up his arms to fold them behind his head. “And who are the Nolans?”

“An influential family,” gramps says as he unfurls the newspaper without looking. “A prominent figurehead in the town, they come from old money. Both Mr and Mrs Nolan are known to be ghastly, but their daughter is a director or something of Nolan foundation and she is known to be...nothing like her parents.”

He lets out a laugh, scant of a humour. “So much so that she was nicknamed—” his gaze wavers and he looks down at the article. At the town-rattling news echoed onto its flaccid paper. He fans it out to give them both a quick flash.

The bold headline read: LAKESHORE’S PRINCESS MISSING.

“She was known as the princess of Lakeshore, publicity garnered from her charity work: soup kitchens, donations and developments. And that’s just the thing, she never did it for the publicity, she did it to help people. Heart of gold that one, strange, compared to her parent’s black hearts.”

Brenda,” gramps scolds.

She waves him off with a flippant hand.

“Oh.” Her face brightens with a look of remembrance. “I need you to take me to the shops, I promised the boys I would make them lasagne for the barbeque.”

Cece perks up. “The Jameson’s barbeque today? This evening?”

She nods suspiciously. “Yes, why?”

Cece shrugs theatrically. “Just wondering. Do you think it’s an open invitation to us as well? We would like to come if they’ll have us.”

Litha drops his arms beside him and looks straight at her, spearing her with a disapproving glare. Her shoulders slump and she tempers him with a placating hand gesture.

“Are you sure you want to come? Its just going to be us with a few other close friends of the family along with their kids… I thought that was the teenage definition of uncool or lame.”

Cece beams at gramps. “Its not like we have anything better to do.”

Litha shakes his head at her with a furious look. Because he knows why she’s really doing this.

He rolls his neck and hits the back of his head against the cushion.

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