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       Venom, p.2

           Adrienne Woods
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  Suddenly, like a shot ringing out, a familiar voice yelled over the crowd, “Becky!”

  She jumped up, and moved like a tornado toward the sound of her name.

  Lucille lifted her hand to get the waitress’s attention and paid for our drinks. I gulped down the rest of my hot chocolate and followed Lucille and Sammy as we exited the coffee shop quickly.

  When we reached Becky, her legs were curled tightly around George's waist.

  Seeing us, Becky climbed off George, kissing him one more time before she pulled him in our direction. “Mom, this is George. George, the perfect Mom.” She gave him the same introduction she’d given me the first time I’d met Lucille with a huge grin plastered on her face.

  She’s back!

  “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Johnson.” He reached out his hand to Lucille in greeting.

  “Very Polite,” Lucille said. “But please call me Lucille.”

  “Okay, sure thing… Lucille.” He hovered, saying her name like it was a forbidden word. We just laughed. “Elena,” he greeted me, and I nodded. He gave Sammy a warm, friendly hug.

  “Where’re your bags?” Becky asked looking around quizzically.

  “Sorry, my parents took them.” He looked back at Lucille. “I apologize for them not staying. My sister just got her human form and tires quickly.”

  “It's understandable,” Lucille accepted his apology and we made our way back to the parking lot.

  I walked right next to Sammy keeping pace with her long strides. I couldn't help but to glance back at George and Becky. He had started to tell her immediately about his trip and I was intrigued. He described what type of weather they’d had and how much he loved Acapulco.

  Lucille just smiled as I climbed into the front while Sammy took the back with George and Becky.

  On our way home we listened to Becky giving George the ins and outs of what had taken place over the last couple of weeks in Paegeia and how much she’d missed him. She spoke softly but we could hear everything she said as if she had been shouting it. I froze and my mind stopped its whirling when she mentioned Lucian and my name. I’d only seen him the day after they came back from vacation, and had to deal with being without him once again as his father had whisked him away on another hunting trip. At least there was reception this time so we could talk whenever he didn’t have a rifle in his hands, tracking some poor animal.

  “Don’t ignore my calls,” his voice played inside my head again. What was I going to do if they were never going to accept me? Would I really be able to watch him say “I do” to Arianna Kinsley?

  HE SILVER AUDI stopped in front of two big metal gates which led to the Johnson’s large home. Ornate metalwork wrapped around the tall metal bars, creating an interwoven pattern of two dragons locked in battle.

  As we waited for the gate to open enough to allow the car through I noticed that Becky wasn’t rapping her fingers on the dashboard or sighing every six seconds, as she had only a few hours before when we’d left. Her fly was finally at her side. I looked up through my window at the canopy spread out above us as we made our way up the winding path. The huge trees leading up to the house always took my breath away. Round ball lanterns run on a line throughout the trees and at night, Lucille lit them and the effect transformed the big oaks into a fairytale landscape. She drove down the driveway and I smiled again at the water feature looming in front of the entrance.

  Lucille was a true artist. She sculpted and I guessed her taste in art leaned more toward the twisted side of things. The water feature consisted of a head and torso of a fish arching its back, while the bottom was a pair of women’s legs doing the can-can. The latter, was a magical spell that made her art come to life as water streamed in a bow out of the fish’s mouth.

  The first time I saw it, I couldn’t stop staring at the sculpture. Thinking back I had found it a bit creepy, but the more I got to know Lucille, the more I loved it.

  She parked the car in front of a three-door-garage and we all climbed out in a heap.

  “Rosa, we’re home,” Lucille yelled as we entered the large oak door and she put her bag on a mahogany table in their dining room.

  Rosa had worked for the Johnsons the past fifteen years. She didn’t seem like the help and was treated more like ‘a hands on Granny’ that made a mean coq au vin, just like the way Dad used to.

  Turning away from all the excitement, Sammy followed me up the stairs to my room so George and Becky could have a bit of ‘alone’ time.

  Walking into my sanctuary, deep orange trimmed in black lace drapes welcomed me.

  Sammy opened the door that exited onto a small balcony and fresh air blew the curtains back into the room in a flowing wave of fabric.

  I put down the purse Lucille had bought me during our first shopping spree on the dresser and glanced quickly at myself in the colossal mirror.

  Sammy made herself comfortable on the king-size bed covered in a matching orange comforter with black, vertical stripes. Black and white pictures of cities hanging from one bright orange wall opposite the bed and small lights mounted into the ceiling had been my room for the past two weeks.

  Lucille said it was mine whenever I came here with Becky. I’d never had a room of my own, or let me rephrase, I’d never had just one room to truly call mine. I’d had close to sixty-something rooms while living on the road with Dad.

  “Elena, are you sure you want to come home with me next week?” Sammy asked paging through the TV device on her lap. “We don’t have this.” She waved to the entire room. “Or this.” She lifted the device in her hands to further her point.

  “I don’t care what you have,” I said as I brushed my hair and tied it up into a sleek ponytail. “For the next four weeks, Becky will be glued to that boy’s ass.”

  She laughed because she knew it was true.

  “Besides, I told you before, I’m not a materialistic person.”

  “Yeah, I know. Still, you won’t have your own room and our house is the exact opposite of Becky’s.”

  “I don’t care. I’m actually looking forward meeting your Mom and Dad,” I smiled.

  “You mean the infamous Night-Villain King Albert claimed.”

  I giggled. Sammy’s father was the dragon the greatest King alive had claimed two hundred and twenty years ago. The king hadn’t been born with the mark of the Dragonians but it hadn’t stopped him from claiming a dragon with the most ferocious abilities of all the dragons.

  “I can’t wait,” I joked, but deep inside my nerves were doing some sort of twist. I’d disrespected her father and the King on our mission when I insinuated that Blake might have a Dragonian, just not one born from the Queen’s womb. How was I supposed to know the guy was his father? I just hoped he’d kept his mouth shut about our conversation that night.

  Turning from our chat, I felt in need of a shower for tonight’s “Welcome Home George” party Becky had started to plan just a couple of days after we came home for the summer. I walked to the closet and searched for clean underwear, and something to wear for tonight. I even took out clothes for Sammy to wear. I had so many now, thanks to Lucille and her big heart.

  The party was going to be held at Longbottoms. Although I’d never been there before, I heard that it was the place to hang out on the weekends and holidays.

  Stepping into the hot shower my thoughts started to untangle. In one week, I would leave to stay with Sammy for the remaining three weeks of summer. I was excited, even though she kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to come with her. A part of me was over the moon as I would finally meet her mom and dad, but a part of me was a ball of nerves, knowing that her brother, Blake, would be there too.

  We shared a funny type of relationship. For some reason he always despised me, but always came to my rescue when I needed it. Like a couple of weeks back, he almost died saving my life. Nothing he did made any sense and it was seriously bugging the hell out of me. Why, I didn’t know.

  I closed the taps and dressed in a pair o
f loose pants and a t-shirt. I slipped on my slippers and exited the bathroom.

  Jumping next to Sammy on the bed I watched how she paged through the TV device in search of a good movie to watch.

  I’d thought the one in our room at the Academy was modern, but when I came home with Becky for the summer, I realized the minute she showed me how this TV worked that the Academy had old hand-me-downs.

  The TV had a small device that digitally linked to the big screen mounted against the wall. The device reminded me of an electronic book and it stored all the movies, channels, and programs Becky recorded to watch later, and so much more. You could page through it and browse or, if you knew what you wanted, you could speak to it and it would automatically take you to there. Then when the selection was made, you had to pick it up and send it to the screen.

  My mind hadn’t been able to comprehend it at first, until I saw the small, tiny name of a movie Becky held between her thumb and index finger. Walking to the TV she then placed it gently on the screen and a huge play sign appeared. When she touched it, the movie started.

  We made our selection and Sammy placed the name of the movie gently onto the screen. Becky had this flick move she did with her index finger that threw the program onto the TV without even getting up. I wasn’t as talented as her so Sammy walked the selection over and I pressed the play button on the device as Sammy jumped back on the bed.

  Around four, and once the movie was finished, we started to get ready for the party.

  Sammy decided to wear one of my short, black skirts, tall boots and a white top with a denim jacket. She pulled up her hair with pins until they were all in small knots all around her head. It reminded me of her dragon figure, but she looked absolutely beautiful.

  I decided on a pair of skinnies with pumps and a top that fell slightly over my right shoulder. I grabbed my leather jacket just in case. The weather in Tith had a tendency to grow considerably cooler at night.

  George reluctantly went back to his place, not far from Becky’s house, around half past four. Around five it was time to go.

  “Mom, we’re going!” Becky yelled.

  “Bye,” both Sammy and I yelled after Becky.

  “See you girls later,” Lucille yelled from the kitchen. “Becky don’t drink and drive, please.”

  Becky didn’t answer but she did give her mom her famous unbelievable stare through the wall. It made Sammy and I giggle.

  “Yes, Becky, don’t drink and drive.” Sammy teased her.

  “Oh, shush,” Becky said and nudged her playfully forward to the garage.

  I looked at Becky’s Mini-Cooper and took a deep breath as I climbed into the passenger’s seat. A prayer flashed through my mind fast as Becky climbed behind the wheel.

  The guy that had given her a license must have been smoking Dragon-weed or something.

  I grabbed the safety belt as the engine ignited and hurried to attach the buckle. Loud music blared from the speakers and she reversed with a ghastly speed.

  I turned around and gave Sammy the eye. A small smile broke on my face as I found her holding one hand on the window and one on the seat next to her.

  She shook her head softly and I knew she felt the same way about Becky’s driving skills.

  My heart pounded as Becky charged down the driveway at a break-neck speed and I sighed as her fingers tapped on the steering wheel, waiting for the gate to open.

  As unimaginable as it may seem, the road was ten times worse.

  I closed one of my eyes and peeked through the other as the first car in front of us came into view. She swerved to the left without indicating and a horn from the car she’d just barely missed honked loudly behind us.

  “Oh, for crying out loud! Learn to drive.” She scolded the other driver in vain.

  “You know that little device next to your steering wheel can go up and down. It’s called the indicator, Becky,” Sammy chirped from the back.

  “I don’t need a backseat driver, Samantha.”

  A couple of horns, swerves, and a heart attack later, we made it safely to Longbottoms.

  I kissed the gravel as I climbed out of her car thankful to be in one piece.

  “Ha ha, you are such a drama queen,” Becky said as Sammy climbed out of the car with a huge smirk on her face.

  The name Longbottoms was displayed in thick, white bubble letters with a freaky little man with a white beard, wearing a tangerine attached to the sign. I liked the name and for some reason the little guy reminded me of the twins in the Sacred Cavern.

  We took the stairs on the left and stopped right in front of the entrance. Becky opened the door and she was greeted by a giant of a man in his mid-thirties with a bronze shimmer in his hair.

  Sammy greeted him next.

  “Elena, Jimmy. Jimmy, Elena.” Becky made a quick introduction and I waved shyly.

  “Hi, Elena.”

  Turning away from us he grabbed the nearest waiter by the arm and told him to lead us to one of the booths.

  Becky and Sammy started babbling away after we slid onto purple sofas and a huge wooden table. I kept staring at all the décor on the walls. There were millions of photos stacked on one wall depicting a variety of people in various stages of festivity. On the other side there were saddles, which I assumed belonged to dragons. Signatures were scribbled all over them and two of the saddles even had flying goggles and gloves spiked on the wall next to them. A small podium stood in the furthest corner where a band was tuning their guitars and musical equipment.

  “He’s playing tonight?” Becky asked.

  Sammy nodded. “It keeps him out of trouble.”

  “Who’s playing?”

  “My brother.”

  A shrill laugh came from the door and Sammy and I looked past over our shoulders at Tabitha. She was wearing a really short denim skirt with high boots and a leather jacket that suited her perfectly. Her makeup was laid on thick but she was still by far one of the most beautiful girls I’d ever seen.

  Sammy’s upper lip slightly rose to one side. “Urgh! Just one more week and she’s gone.”

  Tabitha’s eyes caught mine and she raised one eyebrow slightly as if she was thinking ‘what the hell are you looking at?’ I quickly looked away.

  My eyes went back to the podium as I watched Blake’s band tuning their instruments. There was no sign of him and none of the other members looked familiar.

  The disco lights that dangled from the roof started to produce a show and different colors flashed from all of them. The lights were placed in five rows that pointed to the outside seating. On the verandah there were more tables filled with people. Big mirrors reflecting the entire club were mounted against the one side of the roof and my eye caught on stairs leading up to them and a private room jumped into my head. I wished Lucian was here.

  Loud laughter came from the opposite direction and I looked again. I found an oak bar stretched across the length of the entire room. It was a mahogany color and had a sixteenth century feel to it. A couple of people perched on stools chatted with one another and the bartender was throwing some sort of cocktail show with three other bottles twirling in the air right next to him. A group of girls in their early twenties really loved it and they all clapped their hands and cheered every time he caught the shaker.

  The photos on the wall close to us stirred my curiosity and I got up from the table and walked over to investigate a bit. The dim lights made it difficult to see them properly but I could still make out some of the figures having fun. Some had sparklers in their hands, other pictures showed tall drinks and party hats.

  Longbottoms seemed like the type of place to throw a party.

  I jumped as Jimmy’s figure appeared right beside me.

  He laughed and apologized. “If you step towards that wall,” he pointed in the opposite direction toward the podium. “All of these photos form the word ‘Longbottoms’.”

  “Are you serious?”

  He nodded and I went to see if for myself. I walke
d over to the opposite wall and as I turned back, the pictures faded away and the word ‘Longbottoms’ was spread over the length of the wall.

  A smile spread over my face as I stared at everything around me in pure admiration.

  Jimmy joined me.

  “So this is all yours?” I asked.

  A lopsided smile appeared on his lips and he looked at the ground for a millisecond. “It used to be my brothers too, but he’s stuck behind Etan.”

  I swallowed hard, not knowing what to say or what he must be going through.

  “You must really miss him.”

  “I do. I think the worst part is that I have no idea whether he’s okay or not. I pray for that knowledge every day.”

  Standing in silence for a few seconds, a waiter soon came over and whisked Jimmy away. He excused himself before I could say anything more. It was a good thing too because I always ended up saying the wrong things in situations like that.

  Leaving my perch, I joined Becky and Sammy again.

  George had finally come in and he plunged himself on the sofa next to Becky. When they’re faces touched, it looked like they were stuck to one another.

  I fiddled with my hair and kept staring at the people who were beginning to fill the place.

  “You speak to Lucian yet?” Sammy asked.

  “No, if he hasn’t phoned by now, he’ll probably phone tomorrow. His Dad is watching him like a hawk.”

  “They’re going to meet you soon, Elena, and then they’ll regret ever being so harsh on the both of you.”

  “I hope you’re right, otherwise in less than two years, everything will have been for nothing.”

  She shook her head. “It’s the twenty first century for crying out loud. They should seriously wake up.”

  Sammy always found a way to make me feel better as she gave me a hug and squeezed me tight. I didn’t know how on earth I would’ve coped without my two besties.

  “Everything will work out the way it should,” she said in my ear confidently, “you’ll see.”

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