An urban fantasy serial.
Part 2 - Reality Checks Out
"Seriously, what is it?" Andrew asked. He always pictured a dragon egg looking something like this. That thought was ridiculous though. It couldn't be real. He was old enough to know better.
Aunt Jenna shrugged. She had to be hiding something.
"Is this a joke?" he asked.
"Andrew, now would I pull a prank like that on you?" Aunt Jenna asked, grinning.
She had pulled a few good pranks on him before. None of them ever went this far though. How could she make something that moved like that? But it felt too real to be a bunch of Mexican jumping beans or something like that. He knew this because one time he had secretly handled one of Jenna's incubating chicken eggs that was ready to hatch, just to see what it felt like. This egg moved like one of those. He had felt life inside.
"Sissy!" That was his mother calling.
"It's about time for your parents to get going," Aunt Jenna said, "Let's go see them off, shall we?"
Andrew looked down again at this present. He was about to ask her something more about the egg, but she had already disappeared inside. He didn't know what to do with himself. Andrew was afraid to take the egg out of its box. It wasn't that he thought he might drop it or that he would break it somehow. He didn't want to touch it again. He put the lid back on and had to press it down hard to get it to shut, making the air squeal out. The box rattled in his arm and he nearly dropped it. If this was just a painted Mexican jumping bean, it was worthy of a Guiness World record.
"Andrew?" That was his father that time.
He didn't want to make him mad, so he put the present down, nestling it behind a patch of rosemary and hurried up the back porch steps into the house. They were all there waiting for him in the living room.
Just like the start of all of his summers, there they all were, lined up like a photograph. His parents, standing behind his luggage and his Aunt Jenna exchanging some last words with them in hushed tones. They gave him their attention as he entered. Had anything changed this time? He supposed their hair mostly, especially his father's which was receding further every year.
"Did you thank Aunt Jenna for your present?" His mother asked.
"Thank you Aunt Jenna," he said very quickly.
"Don't forget to give your parents a hug and a kiss goodbye," Jenna said.
How did she disarm a conversation so easily? It was one of the reasons why he didn't run away from the farm every summer (although admittedly he had tried once).
It wasn't that his parents weren't nice, they were just strict. Jenna said it was because he was an "only" child. Andrew hated that term, because everyone said it made him selfish and greedy behind his back. He pretended not to hear. Jenna seemed to be the only one who didn't think so.
He dutifully gave his mother and father a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and they returned the same. He could tell his mother was a little choked up, she always was when she wasn't going to see him for a while, but she managed a smile this time.
"Take good care of your aunt," his father said, "You're a young man now."
"I will." His dad smiled and Andrew stood a little taller. "Have a good summer," Andrew added and then, "I'll miss you."
"We'll miss you too," his mother said as they walked out arm in arm to the car.
Andrew stood on the porch with Aunt Jenna to watch his parents' car back down the gravel drive. Andrew and Jenna waved as his dad turned the car around and drove back across the boards bridging the stream, his mother looking back one last time before they were out of sight. The rumbling of the car's engine faded under the buzzing cicadas and then they were gone. He wondered if he didn't just imagine his time off the farm. That new thought scared him a little. He may have been older now, but it didn't make things any easier to deal with, that was for sure.
A hand rested on his shoulder. Jenna's touch comforted him a little, but it didn't completely drive away his thoughts. He blurted it all out before he could stop himself: "Aunt Jenna, why do I have to stay here every summer?"
"No one's making you stay," she said. Technically his parents were, but he knew what she meant: I'm not making you stay.
He looked away. He didn't like seeing her sad, but still, it just wasn't fair. "I didn't mean it like that," he said.
"Where did you put it?" she asked.
Now he felt really guilty. He pointed to the backyard.
"It needs you," she said, and he swore that she had a different look to her then. He didn't know what it was but he felt an urgent need to go outside to check on it. She went into the kitchen. He could hear the faucet running as she clambered in the cabinets searching around for a pan.
He knew when she was cooking like that she wanted to be alone, so he headed back outside and sat down on back porch steps, staring at the present between the rails of the porch. He blinked. Did the present just move again? Maybe this was some kind of dream and he'd wake up back in his bed at home. It would be the first day of school and summer would be a memory.
When it lurched forward and toppled out of the garden, over the low bricks, he rushed forward, tripping over his feet. He scooped it up out of the rosemary and pried off the lid, throwing it aside. What he saw nearly made him faint, his vision turning dark for a moment in his excitement.
He traced the crack running along the egg with his fingertips. The egg lurched again, the crack lengthening, branching off into several smaller tributaries. He dug his fingers underneath and lifted it gently from the box. It felt like a warm mug of hot cocoa and he held it close to him, being careful not to crush it, listening for a heartbeat.
He only knew one thing for sure as it started to hatch. This was no practical joke.
Continue to Part 3?