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       Venom, p.4

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  She laughed. “I know. We need to balance this trio out some way,” she said over the sound of the Beetle’s gearbox groaning as she shifted it into third gear.

  The drive wasn’t as long as I expected and Sammy entered a neighborhood that appeared to be the complete opposite of Becky’s. She had to swerve left and right to miss all the potholes in the road and the houses all had huge visible cracks running down the walls. Some of the paint had started to peel and roofs were decaying while others were left in ruins. I now understood why she was so determined to not have me come visit her; still I wasn’t the type of person who cared about outward appearances.

  It was hard to think they used to have everything back in Etan, and now Sir Robert struggled to barely provide for them.

  The Beetle turned onto another dark street where only one or two street lights worked to illuminate the path. Dark shadows danced off the walls as her Beetle’s lights drove past the houses. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure another car wasn’t following us. I hated this feeling.

  In the distance, I notice a small light burning. As the Beetle neared, she turned into the driveway of the house with a single light shining in the darkness.

  It was a decent sized house with a rusty, dented gate.

  The Beetle idled as she jumped out to open it. The gate squealed loudly, got stuck, and I watched her fiddle with it to get it to move again. When it opened Sammy jumped back into the car and gave me an unsure smile. “I warned you. It's not paradise, but its home.”

  “At least you have a home,” I said, and hoped that she wouldn’t feel ashamed of it anymore. She parked the car underneath an old carport that seemed like it was going to collapse at any time. I thought about the wannabe cockroaches and was glad that nothing came of it and that we’d gotten here safe. I chucked my purse over my shoulder and got out of her Beetle.

  When we reached the front I followed her up huge, stone steps to the porch. She opened her handbag to search for her keys.

  I looked over my shoulder again at the other houses in the neighborhood. They were massive but none of them were in good condition. This neighborhood really needed some tender loving care and I wished that I had all the money in the world to help them.

  Keys rattled in her hand as she unlocked the door. Swinging the door open, the inside was as black as night and I bumped my knee hard on the first object I came into contact with.

  Sammy snorted, trying hard not to laugh. “Sorry, Elena,” she whispered in between giggles.

  I rubbed my knee, and had to bit hard on my teeth to keep from cussing. Sometimes bad words help make the pain go away. As I was pondering this phenomenon a light switched on, casting the entryway into a bright light. I cursed at the small coffee table right in front of me.

  “Oh, hi, Mom. Did we wake you?” Sammy asked.

  “No, I was losing myself in a book,” I heard her mother whispering in her British accent, and I looked up to introduce myself. I just stood there staring like an idiot.

  Constance?

  “Is it fine if Elena stays over tonight?” she asked.

  “Of course sweetheart,” Constance said.

  I looked at Sammy, who gave me a huge smile.

  “Is your knee okay? Mom’s really good at healing broken bones,” she teased. I squinted at her. I knew that. She was the doctor at our school. Constance just looked at me with a confused look on her face. “Elena, this is my Mom, Isabel.”

  I look at Sammy confused. She’d finally understood what I was thinking and laughed. “Mom is Constance’s twin.”

  “Sorry,” I snapped out of it, as Sammy said the word twin. My hand reached out to shake hers.

  She was still staring a bit but it turned into a smile I was familiar with. “It's okay, Elena and welcome. It’s not the Johnson’s but it’s home.” She had the same British accent as her twin and I smiled softly as Sammy’s impression of her Mom’s voice the day I started at Dragonia popped into my head. They both looked identical and I had no idea how to tell the two of them apart. She giggled and it had the same effect as Constance's.

  “Please don’t, I feel at home already.”

  “Why are you back? It’s still early. The party’s not that interesting?”

  “A spoiled little Princess brat that doesn’t want to leave Elena alone ruined our fun,” Sammy moped.

  Isabel laughed. “Come. Let me make you girls some hot chocolate. Maybe you’ll feel better.” I dropped my purse on the couch, and followed them into something that resembled a kitchen.

  Sammy plunged onto one of the chairs around a wooden table that stood in the middle of the room. The cupboards were old and had huge cracks covering them. It wasn’t a big kitchen either and one of those old, coal stoves took up most of the space. Isabel took out a small pot and poured some water in it. Putting it on top of the stove she looked over at her daughter.

  Sammy giggled and crouched in front of the stove. Bending over she took a deep breath and let it out in a steady stream of fire, lighting the oven while Isabel took out three cups from the cupboard above her head.

  “Mom makes a mean cup of cocoa,” Sammy said in a singsong tone as she sat back on the chair.

  Isabel waved Sammy’s compliment off. “So, how’s Becky?”

  “She’s happy now that her fly is back.” Sammy’s voice was thick with sarcasm.

  “Honey?” Her Mom sounded apologetic.

  “What, Mom. The two of them couldn’t leave each other alone.”

  “He’s her dent. That kind of bond is hard to ignore.”

  “Still, it’s like she doesn’t have friends when he’s with her.” She sighed.

  “Samantha, you’ll spin another story if you are part of one too.”

  “A dent? There is like two in a lifetime, and it hardly happens with our Metallics.”

  “Still, you will know then what it’s like for Becky without him.”

  “I guess.” She looked back at me. “So what did Arianna say?”

  I told her the entire story not missing a beat.

  Sammy sucked on her words and anger flared in her eyes when I told her that she’d claimed to have saved all our butts on the mission.

  “I shouldn’t have been so sarcastic with her. For all I know they hang commoners for just talking back to royalty.”

  “They are not that royal,” Isabel said in a cold tone. “Besides I never liked her family that much.”

  It was nice to know we had another grown-up on our side. Lucille wasn’t so fond of them either and Isabel didn't like the fact that Arianna pushed her wedding thing with Lucian in my face.

  “Issy!” A deep voice came from the room down the hall.

  “Hi Dad,” Sammy yelled back, but he didn't reply. It didn't look like it bothered her, and my heart started to bounce in my chest.

  Blake, I hope you kept your mouth shut.

  “Just one sec,” Isabel said as she handed us each a cup of cocoa and disappeared down the hallway. Sammy got up and went to the cupboard. She returned with a plastic jar and took out a spoonful of red powder.

  “So that’s what Fire-powder looks like,” I asked nodding to the jar and she smiled.

  She took her place again and drowned herself in her cup.

  I lifted the cup to my mouth and took a small slurp as steam emanated from it. Sammy was right about this cocoa, it tasted sweet and amazing, almost better than the one I had at the Wall.

  Isabel came back and took out another cup. Sammy raised her eyebrow in shock. “Dad wants cocoa?”

  Her mother pouted her mouth and lifted her shoulders slightly.

  I heard footsteps coming from the hallway as Isabel poured the hot water into his cup. It was suddenly my turn to drown myself in my mug. Heat waves rushed over my body just knowing her Dad was in the same room.

  I raised my gaze over my mug and saw him kissing Sammy softly on her head as he took the chair opposite of me. “Dad, this is Elena. Elena, my father.”

  I looked at him. He looked n
othing like the wax doll in the museum. Blake looked a lot like him, except for his eyes; they were the same hazelnut as Sammy’s. Her father also carried a jagged scar that traced a path over one cheek.

  His eyes slightly narrowed and his brows knitted together; probably trying to put two and two together about which one I was.

  “She’s going to live with us from next week on,” Sammy said.

  Her father looked at her as he finally realized what she was talking about.

  “Oh, sorry, Elena, nice to finally meet you,” he sounded friendly.

  Phew.

  “Likewise, Sir Robert,” I replied. They all laughed.

  “I haven't heard that in a long time,” he whispered.

  I didn't understand and gave Sammy a questionable look.

  “They don’t address my father as Sir Robert anymore,” Sammy explained.

  “Sammy,” her mother called her name in a scolding tone.

  “What? Dad deserves the respect, Mom. He was King Albert's dragon for crying out loud.” Her hands were flying angrily up in the air.

  “Honey, that’s enough. We don't want to burden Elena with this nonsense,” Sir Robert spoke in a gentle tone.

  “It's not nonsense,” I said softly, and he just stared at me with soft eyes. He was nothing like I’d imagined. Why were people treating him this way? I smiled softly, and took another sip of my cocoa.

  It was silent for a minute before Sir Robert downed his cup and said goodnight. It felt as if I could breathe again after he closed his bedroom door.

  “What was that about? He never drinks cocoa.” Sammy asked her mother softly.

  “Maybe he was just in the mood for one,” she said back, and we laughed as Sammy rolled her eyes.

  “I guess there is always time for firsts,” she spoke into her cup.

  We said goodnight after the cocoa and I followed Sammy up the stairs. They were creaking with every step we took and we giggled all the way to the top.

  “Blake is so bloody good at this,” Sammy whispered, and my throat tightened as I remembered he would be sleeping here too.

  She led me to the second door on the left. Entering the space the first thing I noticed was that her room was so Sammy. Absolutely nothing matched. In the middle was a huge wooden bed with an old dresser and a mirror in the corner. Posters of dragons and a couple of humans wearing sports gear on raiders were stuck on her walls.

  Her room was perfect. It had that teenage feel to it and, if I’d had one of my own for longer than three months, mine would probably looked similar to hers.

  “You can choose, bed or mattress?”

  “I’ll take the mattress.”

  She smiled back and pulled one from under her bed. She went back into the hallway and I could hear a door creaking. Pillows and blankets filled her arms when she came back and she helped as we made my bed on the floor. Sammy gave me a t-shirt and a pair of nighty shorts before she ran to switch off the light. Her bed squeaked as she climbed into it.

  It was silent for a long time and I watched the moon shining through very thin curtains hanging in front of her windows.

  “Why isn’t Paegeia addressing your father as Sir Robert anymore?” I asked as I finally made myself comfortable.

  “Some of them still believe that he had something to do with the King's death. Even after King Helmut told them it was Goran,” she said. “I was just a baby dragon when it happened, but my Mom told me that it was the most horrible time in her life. She didn’t know whether my father was going to live or be slain.”

  “That’s so wrong.”

  “Tell me about it. The worst part is that my father does absolutely nothing about it. It's like he lost a piece of himself the night the King died. Mom says he’s never been the same. I'm glad that I only know him like he is now. It would have been too sad if I knew the old Sir Robert.”

  “Your Dad really cared about the King, didn't he?” I asked.

  “More than you know, Elena. Some even say that they shared their own kind of dent. They had a really strong bond,” she sulked.

  “I'm so sorry Sammy, I shouldn't pry so much,” I apologized and felt bad that having her telling me about it had made her tone sound so sad.

  “It's fine. I just feel sorry for my Dad. He really does deserve more respect than what he is getting at the moment. King Albert would turn in his grave if he saw how everyone is treating his dragon.”

  I didn't say anything. What could I say?

  “So, what do you think of Dean? We all know what Becky thinks.” She looked down at me quizzically.

  “He's cute.”

  “Really?” The tone in her voice carried a little tune which made me giggle. “He is cute,” she finally admitted.

  “The two of you are perfect for each other.”

  “Then should I go for him?” she asked with trepidation.

  “You would be stupid not too.”

  Beginning to feel the stress of the day, our conversation stopped there and I dozed off only to be awoken by Blake and Tabitha's loud entrance.

  They laughed so hard that it was a wonder he didn't wake up his parents.

  “Oh, spare me, please,” Sammy said, and grunted into a pillow. “Prepare yourself. We’re not going to shut one eye until five o’clock. Tabitha’s really loud.”

  My eyes grew bigger as she said the word ‘loud.’ “Wait, you mean they’re going to do it right now?”

  “It's my brother in the other room not Saint Peter,” she joked with a displeasing tone.

  We listened to laughter and bumping sounds against the wall and I had to suppress my laughter with Tabitha’s groans. She really was loud. I felt like a Peeping Tom but had no choice.

  After a half hour, Sammy got up and hit the wall hard. “Shut the hell up. We’re trying to sleep.”

  It was quiet for a short while, and then it started all over again. Sammy sighed loudly which made me laughed even more into my pillow.

  “Your Dad doesn't have a problem with this?”

  “My Dad is deaf when it comes to some of Blake's shit. This is on the ‘some’ list,” she said through clench teeth. She got up again when it got out of hand and kicked the wall this time.

  I laughed so hard that I almost wet my pants.

  “Elena, it’s not funny!” She said, before she gave up and joined me.

  “What if she got pregnant?” I wanted to know. Surely Blake didn’t want to be a father.

  “Tabitha lays eggs. She can't become pregnant in her human form while with a dragon, if Blake was human, it would’ve been different.”

  “She lays eggs?” I was bowled over.

  “Dragon, Elena? You know that. He’d have to fertilize her eggs if they really wanted one,” Sammy’s tone sounded like eggs were a plague.

  We laid there for I didn’t know how long. I had to give it to him; he really had a lot of stamina. The boys on the other side used to tease one another about only lasting like ten minutes.

  Unfortunately, Blake was not a boy from the other side so I hardly slept.

  HE SUN SHONE brightly across my closed eyelids pulling me from my dreamless sleep. Thank you I whispered softly. Dreamless nights were not something I experienced often.

  When I opened my eyes the first thing I noticed was that Sammy wasn't in her bed anymore. I dressed and was determined to find her, making my way downstairs.

  When I came around the corner of the kitchen, I found Becky and George around the table. My arm wrapped around her neck and I gave her a soft squeeze. As I was leaning over my eyes caught on what she was reading.

  They grew in horror as a huge picture of me with my hand blocking most of my face filled the first page. “Oh crap,” I snatched the newspaper from her more forcefully than I intended.

  “It’s just a picture of a hand, Elena,” she assured me as I broke out in a sweat and my panic began to grow.

  “I know, but look at this heading. They make me sound just as evil as Goran,” I pleaded, gesturing to headline
splashed across the page in vivid black ink.

  “Breakfast, Elena?” Isabel asked interrupting my rant, and I nodded as my gaze still lingered on the newspaper.

  My eyes began scanning the article. It was full of pure nonsense. The paper described Arianna as if she was the best magic wielder there was, and if it wasn’t for her insisting on coming on the mission, none of us would have made it out alive.

  “This is so much. . .” I bit my tongue halting the cuss before it could break my lips.

  “Tell me about it. I can’t wait to hear her speech at the revealing,” Becky said sounding almost as irritated as I was.

  I shook my head as I read the last sentence, describing in vivid detail how she saved Lucian’s ex from certain death. “Ex! Ex!!!! She didn’t do anything. She was just as helpless as all of us! If it was up to her, she would’ve left me there to bleed out.”

  I chucked the paper down as if it had burned my skin. As the words “Lucian’s ex” swam around in my head I began to feel woozy and I plunged myself onto the only open chair, which was unfortunately directly across from Blake. I glanced up through my eyelashes to see how he was handling my outburst.

  Thankfully he was reading a bike magazine and seemed generally uninterested in my passionate display.

  Walking over with a look of concern, Isabel gently placed a cup of coffee in front of me.

  “Thanks,” I said with the small smile.

  “You’re welcome, and don’t let that article bother you so much,” she whispered, while still keeping a close eye on her son across the table. I was sure she’d heard last night's commotion and disapproved of his actions.

  “What?” he caught his mother's glaring eye.

  She huffed and turned around, shaking her head as she walked back to the oven.

  Yep, she’d heard it.

  Looking back at Blake for his reaction, our eyes met for a second before he buried his face behind his book once again.

  With the drama from the newspaper forgotten, we all happily dug in to a healthy breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, sausages and hash browns. Sammy had fish giblets, or something else on her plate, and the stench coming from it forced me to stop inhaling through my nose.

 
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