Monday, August 16, 2010
"Please, Aunt Jenna? Can I please spend the night in the Den with everyone?"
"But I just got here and I--"
"I'm sorry, but we have much to do at home, and likewise your brethren have much to do here," she said, but not unkindly.
"It's not fair," he whined. Just when something interesting was happening, it had to get cut short.
"My dear, you'll have plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny, I promise. But, right now we have to go."
He reluctantly followed behind her as they made their way back to the watery portal they had entered from. He stopped though and turned around.
"Where's my little..." he wasn't sure what to call his hatchling anymore.
"Don't worry, he will be staying here with his siblings."
"Can't he spend the night with me?"
"Please? Just one night! We'll be going back tomorrow, right?"
"Well I suppose, but--"
"Thanks!" He disappeared off to find him.
* * *
Later they all gathered around the kitchen table in much dryer clothes save for the little dragon, who sat nearby in a shallow baking pan of water, splashing playfully onto the kitchen floor.
"It's important not to let him get too dry. Especially when he's small. Gulariss need plenty of water to grow."
Andrew nodded, more watching him than actually listening, but he got the general idea.
A bell rattled loudly, making Andrew and his Gulariss jump in fright and Aunt Jenna chuckle. "Oh boys, that's just my telephone," she said, standing up carefully and crossing into the kitchen, stepping carefully over the baking pan.
Andrew's heart thudded loudly in his ears so he missed the first part of the conversation. Aunt Jenna's phone was very old and what his mom called "corded" which meant it had a very long spiral cord that kept it from going too far out of the house. He had only seen phones like that in old movies. It made person on the other line always sound like they were calling from somewhere far away like the Moon.
"Oh he's doing wonderful dear as always. Would you like to say goodnight to him?"
Of course it was his mother calling. She called often, though never as much as the first couple weeks, and always on the first night. Aunt Jenna shoved the receiver into his hands before he could come up with a good excuse.
"Honey are you being a good boy?"
"Yes, Mom," he said, trying not to sound as annoyed as he really felt.
"Are you having fun?"
"Yeah! Mom you wouldn't believe it but we went--" The phone was ripped from his hands, and Jenna gave him the nastiest look he had ever seen her give. "What gives?!"
"Oh look at him about to bust a gut! I've never seen this boy more excited, can you believe it? Yes, I know. We went swimming in the lake and he dove all the way to the bottom! Touched it. He's improved his swimming skills." All lies! What was she doing?! He leapt to get the phone back from her.
He chased after her and nearly got his nose clipped by a shutting door. The phone cord was caught into it, so he could still hear her talk. He gave up trying though and just stood there, listening.
"I got him a snorkel set - and you should see him, he's like a fish in the water. Yes! Yes, I know, it's miracle how much they change so fast. Yes, I know! I'm sure he'll be tall as the corn by Harvest. Yes. Well I should let you both go - I'm sure you've had a long drive and it's past Andrew's bedtime. Yes, I'll have him call you later this week. Alright, goodnight my dear!"
Aunt Jenna didn't speak to Andrew until the corded phone was resting on its cradle nailed to the wall, the tangled cords springing back together and swaying gently. He took a step back, feeling the wave of authority coming upon him, looking at his feet. Here comes trouble.
"Andrew! I can't believe you, were you going to tell her about the Den?"
"Sugar foot," she placed her hands hard on his shoulders, having him sit in a chair, "if you forget everything else I tell you, remember this: The Gulariss must be kept secret, that includes even our family, especially our family."
"I can't tell anybody?" What was the point in having dragons if you couldn't show them off?
"If people found out about them... they would take them away from us. They'd hunt them, experiment on them, do things that would make you sick to your stomach. We are their guardians. We have to protect them in the same way Erik did so long ago."
"But... I can't just... What do I tell everyone?"
She sighed. "I know how you're feeling, I was the same age as you when I hatched Esmeralda. But I made a big mistake Andrew. And..." Here she paused and he watched silently as tears trickled down them, "And I don't want you to have to learn things the hard way," her voice cracked slightly, "The way I did."
"I don't understand..." Why was she crying? He had never seen her cry like this and it frightened him. He hugged her tightly and she hugged him in return. She pulled back and made him look straight into her gaze.
"Andrew, promise me you'll never tell another soul."
"Promise me." All his life he had known her and never had she looked at him more seriously. It was almost like he was an adult in her eyes.
"I promise." What else could he say?
They both looked up. Jenna had heard it first, but now the car was slowing in the driveway. They could see the headlights flashing through the windows.
"Who is that?" Aunt Jenna had never had a visitor at night while he was there, and it couldn't have been his parents, they were home already.
"Oh no," Aunt Jenna stood up and now she looked more frightened than ever, "Andrew! Take him to your room and lock the door!"
"What's going on?"
"Don't argue with me, just do it!" She began to mumble to herself and race around, gathering items and shoving them in open cupboards. Tidying up? The lights flashed off and he heard someone walking up the gravel driveway. "Now!"
The last word got him moving and he snatched up the little Gulariss out of his pan and raced toward the guest room, which was technically his room since he was usually her only guest. He shut the door behind him and set the little dragon-fish on his bed. The little one yawned and curled up on top of his quilt. Andrew crept toward the door and grabbed an old waterglass from his nightstand, pressing it to the door and listening as Aunt Jenna answered the front door.
"Do you have any idea what time it is, Mr. Pender?"
"My dear Mrs. Huckabee--"
"For the last time, sir, I have never married. You may address me as Miss or leave."
"My apologies Miss," he said and Andrew could hear a hiss in it that sent a chill down his spine, "But I've come bearing Mr. Hastings latest offer."
"I believe I made myself very clear last time that I did not wish to discuss the matter any further."
The man paused a moment. "That you did, however, it would be in your best interest to--"
Andrew had opened the door just a smidge, but a smidge was all that was needed for it to creak loudly. Aunt Jenna and the man at the door turned in his direction.
This man looked like he hadn't eaten in days, his skin so pale with dark circles under his eyes, only barely covered by makeup that didn't quite match his reddened cheeks. His red hair was sharp and spiked, gelled all over, giving it a ridiculous shine. His business suit, however, was spotless and Andrew thought he looked like one of those lawyers in that TV show his mother liked to watch. The man's eyes locked in on him like a jet's targeting computer.
Andrew took a step back without realizing it. Something about this man made him feel nervous.
"Andrew! I told you to stay in your room!" Her voice was nearly hysterical and it scared him so much that he froze in place, unable to move.
"Andrew is it?" The man moved closer. "Come over and say hello Andrew," the man said, his words dripping with syrup-sweetness. How could someone like him be harmful? After all he was dressed so nice. Look at his smile. He could have been one of his teachers. Was someone calling his name?
Aunt Jenna suddenly stumbled between them, and Andrew stepped back again, feeling dizzy and hot. Funny, his fan was running in his room. He shouldn't feel hot. He then realized he was standing outside in his bare feet. How did he get outside?
"Get out of here!" Jenna shouted, picking up a piece of gravel and lobbing it at him. It nicked the brand new white Volvo on the hood.
"Hey!" He shouted and ducked as she threw another.
"You so much as look at my nephew again and so help me," she had a third rock, bigger than the others, clutched in her outstretched arm.
Now Mr. Pender was in his car. Bright lights blinded Andrew. He fell back onto the porch hard, covering his eyes. He couldn't see for a whole minute, blinking and rubbing them hard. He could hear more rocks and Jenna shouting.
When it was all over she sat down next to him. She held him tightly and he felt his nervousness slip away into the night.
"Who was that?" Andrew asked after they had both calmed down.
"No one," she said. "I'm calling the Sheriff's Office first thing tomorrow. You won't see that man ever again."
Nevertheless, Andrew had a feeling he would.
Continue to Part 10?