NaNoWriMo: The Runaway Queen, Day 2

“Wouldn’t it be easier if you used your cellphone?” Jonathan asked as he watched her almost violently stab the numbers.

Cass glanced up just long enough to glare at him. “It’s at the bottom of the backpack you almost dented the floor with. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s destroyed.”

Moments before the phone was wrestled from her grasp, she thought she heard Jonathan darkly mutter about a psycho roommate. A second after she stabbed herself with her own fingernail, she found herself being forcefully pushed to sit on the couch.

Startled, she stared up at Jonathan, who loomed over her like a giant tsunami wave. His eyes were stormier than usual and the hand gripping the phone was shaking.

“Stop it, Cass! What’s going on?”

“I need to talk to Arnold.”

Lips pressed into a thin line, Jonathan looked at the phone and then threw it to the couch next to her. She could have grabbed it, but he didn’t look like he was going to let her. Instead, she sat silently, her hands clasped together until her knuckles were white, a storm brewing in the pit of her stomach.

“That’s not what I mean,” he said, crossing his arms. “Cass, you’re sweet and kind. Almost nice to a fault. You’re witty, but never tease. But, as soon as you got home, you’ve been almost belligerent and kind of a jerk. What’s going on?”

As he spoke, her hands began to shake and, no matter how hard she clasped them together, it wouldn’t stop. He was right. She hadn’t been particularly nice. Usually, she would have carried her backpack in on her own and tried to walk him through cooking spaghetti for the thousandth time. She would have thanked him for dinner and wouldn’t have been so rough with the phone.

Her gaze dropped and her shoulders sagged. The need to talk to Arnold still ate at her, but Jonathan deserved an explanation. She wasn’t sure she had one, though.

She felt him sit beside her. One long arm snaked around her shoulders and pulled her tight to his chest. Her cheek rested against his soft, well-worn T-shirt and every breath drew in more of his warm, calming scent, reminding her of the waves crashing into the shore.

“The wind,” she said softly. “I’ve only ever told Allison, who thinks I’m nuts, but sometimes I hear things on the wind and sometimes I feel like it wants to carry me away. Today, on my way home, I heard a man and a woman mention a queen who must be ready whether or not she really is. It was forceful and almost angry. I’m sure I’m just hearing things, but it still disturbs me. And then you and Allison talk about the wind wanting to carry you away. I need to know if Arnold felt the same.”

Jonathan was still and quiet next to her. She waited , almost impatiently. After all, she still had a call to make.

“Sometimes,” he said slowly, “when I step into the ocean, I hear voices in my head. I don’t know what they say, but I know they’re not talking to me. I spent years trying to hear them better, but it always became more muffled.”

She pushed away from him and studied his serious face. He wasn’t looking at her, his gaze instead focused on a spot on the rug under the coffee table. His arm fell limply behind her as she moved, but he was otherwise still, his too long dark hair partially obscuring part of his face.

“I never told anyone because it sounds nuts,” he said softly. “Not even my mom knows.”

“No more crazy than me hearing things on the wind,” she said softly.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, he handed her the phone, still not looking at her, seemingly still lost in the waves he loved. “You should talk to Arnold. I’ll go dig out your phone.”

She took the phone from him and started dialing Arnold’s number as he rose and left her field of vision. Dimly, she heard his footsteps shuffle across the hard floor.

“By the way, ” he called out, “I’m going home for Spring break. Mom asked me to.”

Cass nodded as she raised the phone to her head. “Mine, too.”

Two rings later, Arnold’s soft, melodious voice drifted through the phone and into her ear. While Jonathan’s voice reminded her of a bubbling brook, flowing and golden, Arnold’s was like a gentle breeze, there and gone, but the sensation lingering.

“Hi, Arnold. It’s Cass. Some wind we’ve been having, huh?”

If they were getting wind and Allison was complaining about it, then she didn’t see why Arnold wouldn’t be experiencing it, too.

She could almost hear his grin. “Amazing, isn’t it? I almost let myself go flying away with it. Gosh, if I had a kite, I would be out flying it right now.”

She smiled. “Well, don’t let yourself get too carried away.” She paused. “Are you going home for Spring break?”

“Yeah. My parents asked if I would. Honestly, I didn’t have any plans this year, anyways. I figured it’s my last Spring break and I’ve already stayed here and traveled, I may as well go home this year. Are you asking because you’re going home, too?”

“I think we all are. Allison called and said our mom asked us to go home and Jonathan’s mom asked the same.”

“Well it can’t be for our birthday. You’d think they would have asked us to go home and celebrate last year when we turned twenty-one. ”

Cass bit her lip. “True. I wonder what’s going on.”

“Well, whatever it is, we’ll find out in a couple of weeks. I’ve got an article due tomorrow, so I’ll see you then? ”

“Of course. See you then.”

She replaced the phone in its stand and then went to go find Jonathan. He had been quiet for a little too long and it worried her. He was a bit accident prone unless he was out on the water, so the saying about children and quiet held true for him, too.

She found him sitting cross legged at the front door. The contents of her backpack had seemingly exploded out around him, complete with open textbooks and notebooks. Her smashed phone sat directly in front of him, but he was peering at one of her open textbooks instead.

“Learn anything interesting?” she inquired, mildly amused.

He shrugged and looked up. “Not really. I think this is about the history of psychology?”

She leaned over and flipped the book closed. “Well, that’s what it’s called, so I hope so.”

He put the book aside and stood. “I’m sorry about your phone.”

She waved a hand. “That’s okay, Jon. This must have been why my parents insisted we have a landline even though they’re going the way of the dinosaurs. Besides, I shouldn’t have been so mean earlier. I’m sorry.”

He offered a weak grin. “Did you get what you wanted from Arnold?”

“Yeah. Turns out he’s the only one enjoying this wind.”

“Figures. He could always be found flying a kite on windy days.”

“And it turns out we’ve all been asked to go home this year.”

“Hmm.”

“Hmm indeed.”

Chapter 2

Jonathan and Cass arrived home in Ocean View, California, a small town along the coast, Saturday morning, having taken a late flight. They were the first to arrive, but Arnold was due later that morning and Allison would be there for lunch.

They had stopped at Jonathan’s home first, but found a note from Jade Verglos instructing him to go straight to the Matthews’ house. They shrugged it off, knowing their mothers still spent an inordinate amount of time together.

Perched just outside of town, the Matthews’ house was Victorian on the outside, modern on the inside, and overlooked the beach and ocean beyond. A well-tended and brightly flowering garden greeted them upon arrival and the once solemnly blue house was now a dark shade of green, though the cheery yellow curtains certainly promised the interior hadn’t changed.

Alyssum Matthews, an older version of her twin daughters, and Jade Verglos, with the same raven hair as her son, fell on their children as soon as Cass and Jonathan entered the house.

Cass gave her mother a questioning look as Alyssum framed her face with her soft hands. Her sky blue eyes studied her daughter’s face with a hint of sadness.

“Mom, we were just here for Winter break. It’s not like we’ve been gone for four years.”

It didn’t stop her mother’s roving gaze, almost as though Alyssum were trying to remember every detail of her daughter’s face.

“Yeah, Mom,” Jonathan said uncomfortably, telling Cass his mom was doing the same behind her. “And we’ll see you again at graduation.”

Alyssum’s gaze rose sharply as she looked past Cass. “Not until Allison and the Witherworks get here,” she said, almost sharply.

Cass frowned. “Mom?”

Alyssum finally released her daughter and ushered her into the living room, still tastefully decorated in neutrals with accents of green.

“Not now, darling. Why don’t you and Jonathan go say hi to your brother? He’s looking forward to seeing you. He’s out on the patio. Jade and I will go finish making lunch.”

Suddenly finding themselves alone, Cass and Jonathan traded looks.

“Do you think they’re okay?” Jonathan whispered.

Cass shrugged. “I don’t know, but I would like to say hi to Daniel and see if he knows anything.”

Jonathan grinned as he followed her to the French doors at the other end of the living room. Even though Daniel was four years younger, he had always loved spending time with him and, now that he was almost eighteen, they seemed to have even more in common. Not least of which was their interest in the local cemetery where Jonathan’s father was buried. They had spent countless hours pacing up and down the rows, peering at the old and new gravestones, wondering about the lives these people had led.

Cass pushed open the doors, welcoming the bright sunlight into the house. She stepped out onto the stone patio, looking around to see it hadn’t changed. The pale gray stones sparkled in the morning sun and the low stone wall surrounding the patio was lined with flowering pots where purple, blue, pink, and yellow blooms bobbed in the gentle ocean breeze coming up from the beach below. A lone wrought iron table sat in the middle, capped with a brilliant yellow umbrella and surrounded by five wrought iron chairs lined with floral cushions that almost perfectly matched the flowers blooming around the patio

A young man with dark hair shining in the sunlight sat with his back to him. Even though he was seated, Cass knew he was now taller than her, but still as skinny as her. He had their father’s dark hair, but his eyes were identical to their mother’s.

At the sound of the door opening, Daniel Matthews turned and jumped up to run to greet his sister. They had always been close, so Cass braced herself for his always enthusiastic hugs. Despite being a month away from turning eighteen, he was still full of childlike exuberance and had seemingly been untouched by the storm and stress of adolescence. For that, she was glad for him, but also secretly jealous, especially since adolescence hadn’t always been kind to her and Allison’s relationship.

“Do you have any idea why Mom wanted us home?” Cass asked as her brother greeted Jonathan.

Daniel shook his head and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Nope. They just told me you guys would be home this week, but wouldn’t answer any of my questions. It was kind of weird, if you ask me. I don’t remember them ever being so secretive.”

“They’re not,” Cass said as she went to sit at the table. “I’m a little worried, especially since Mom seemed to serious when we arrived. Where’s Dad?”

“In town, at the hospital,” Daniel said as he and Jonathan joined her.

“Why’s he working on a Saturday?”

Daniel shrugged. “I don’t know. He just said he had something to take care of and left. Both of them have been kind of weird for the past couple of weeks, but get cagey whenever I ask too many questions.”

2 Comments

  • nopoodles

    The description in this chapter/part is amazing. Really clear and just enough to let me see the places and people without being longwinded.
    Working hard to pace myself with this so I don’t just spend all day reading it and not doing all the other things I should be doing.
    Can’t wait to see what happens next!

    • kat

      Thank you so much! I’ve spent so many years writing and rewriting this story that I reached a point where every is familiar and I can’t tell what details I need, so I’m very glad you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for reading!

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