Blood in the Fire (Timelaws Trilogy)

BOOK: Blood in the Fire (Timelaws Trilogy)
11.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Blood in the Fire

By
Marise Ghorayeb
Edited By
Laura Kingsley
And
Wayne Purdin

 

Chapter One
Mark’s Cooking

Earth - June 1981

Elizabeth

 

The hospital had refused to discharge me, but one night in that thin bed had been plenty. I hate hospitals more than I hate wizards. It wasn’t hard to convince Mark to fetch me a snack from the vending machine. I snuck out while he was gone. Luke, my other brother, would give me hell for it, but anything was better than spending another minute in that sterile white room that reeked of disinfectant.

I tried to lie to myself about why I left. I told myself I couldn’t stand to be in a building where people were dying. I told myself it was the smell and that I was freaked out by the sad, old folks who suffered from dementia. Deep down, I knew I hated that place because being hospitalized made me feel weak. There was nothing more uncomfortable than to lie under white sheets and be coddled by nurses, fretted over by my brothers and subjected to sympathy visits from my friends. I’d rather rumble with a gang of street thugs, weapons and all, than listen to one more concerned person ask me how I was feeling.

The bus rattled most of the way home. As the city scenery rolled by my window, I tried to think of something to say to Mark and Luke that would justify my escape. I had nothing. A passenger rang the bell and the bus screeched to a halt. Only then did I realize that this was my stop. An older woman bumped into me on her way up the bus steps and didn’t even turn to apologize.
And they say kids these days have no manners,
I thought absent-mindedly. I jumped off the last step onto the curb and looked up at the gray sky. It seemed appropriate that a drizzle would start just as I was getting off. The clouds were getting darker and soon the drizzle would turn into a full-on storm. I wasn’t in a rush. I let the rain soak through my long black hair and bloodstained tank top as I meandered along. Luke had promised he would bring me a change of clothes the next time he visited the hospital.

Mark and Luke had parked their cars out front so I knew they were waiting for me when I walked up to the small house we shared. The living room light shone through the window by the door. I debated not going in.
They’ll worry more if I don’t get home.
I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and headed in to take my punishment.

Once inside, I closed the door behind me and waited. Mark was sitting on the couch and Luke was in the kitchen holding a wet dish in his left hand. For a moment, they both stared at me. Mark wore a stony expression, but Luke was livid. I swallowed and wondered if it were too late to run. I don’t think my legs would have moved if I’d tried.

Then Luke exploded. “What the hell were you thinking?” he roared as he closed the gap between us in four long strides.

I didn’t have a good answer so I kept my mouth shut and stared back. Luke waited for a reply. When none came, he continued to holler. “Or
do
you think?” He was standing above me, still gripping the white plate in the air. Strands of soft brown hair, normally neatly combed back, hung down over his forehead. “Nothing crosses your mind. It’s as though there’s no danger or anyone else in the world. Blades, fire, car accidents, does nothing stop you?” I looked away from his blazing eyes and focused on the plate vibrating in his unsteady hand. “Does anybody matter to you?”

Luke saw me concentrating on the plate and spun to throw it at the couch. To my surprise, it didn’t break when it bounced off the cushion next to Mark and clattered to the floor. I still had nothing to say. I considered asking him what the plate had done wrong, but I didn’t think my humor would go over too well. “Wake up, Elizabeth,” he roared. He thrust a muscular finger in my face. “God help me, I
will
find a way to make you behave like an adult even if I have to punish you so hard that you have no time left to do anything but chores.”

Thunder erupted outside, causing me to shiver in my wet clothes.
Maybe I’m better off out in the storm?
I looked to Mark for comfort, but his expression was cold. In fact, without his mischievous smile, he looked like a tanned and more athletic version of Luke.

“I’m sorry,” I finally whispered. The apology sounded feeble.

Luke erupted again. “No, sorry means you wouldn’t do it again. Sorry means you care. But, lordy, I know if you’re in that same situation again, nothin’ would change.” He paused only for a second as though he was hoping I would interrupt to deny it. He wasn’t wrong. I would do it again.

Suddenly, the anger in his voice disappeared. “Aliens tried to kill you,” he said. He was pleading with me. “You call them wizards, and from what I saw, they were powerful enough to deserve the name. Never seen creatures appear out of nowhere, conjuring up fire and God knows what else. All of it, to kill you.” A moment ago, I’d thought an angry Luke was the worst thing I would have to face tonight. Now, I would have given anything to see him yell and throw another plate. This terrified version of Luke scared me to the pit of my stomach. “You ended up in the hospital this time. What happens when they come for you again?” he asked. My eyes avoided his helpless gaze.

After a pause, Luke took a deep breath and his normal voice returned. “Elizabeth, for the rest of this month, you are grounded.” He wasn’t loud when he said that. He was quiet, but it was a dangerous kind of quiet. “But that isn’t enough. Not this time. Not for all the mischief you got yourself into.”

What mischief?
He was making it sound like I was some out-of-control, teenage punk.
Could that be what he thought of me?

I stared at the wooden floor and held back tears, but Luke didn’t stop. “I want you doing the dishes every night. The lawn and all yard work are now your responsibility.” His voice grew louder. “You’re to clean the bathrooms twice a week. Elizabeth. When I am done punishing you, you will wish to God you had stayed in that hospital.”

I folded my arms across my stomach for warmth. A small puddle had formed below my feet where water from my hair and clothes pooled.
Just get it over with.

Luke continued to holler punishments at me as I stood stiffly in my spot. Mark eventually went into the bathroom and brought me a towel. I looked at his face when he handed it to me. There was some sympathy in his eyes, but that didn’t mean the anger was gone. Then, he went to finish the dishes while Luke continued to lecture me.

 

***

 

When I woke up the next day, I was still tired. Luke had managed to yell for over two hours and he might have never stopped except that his voice gave out on him. By the time he was done doling out punishments, I might as well have been responsible for cleaning the entire city with a toothbrush. I don’t know what got to me. Perhaps the rain and cold outside added to the gloom. For whatever reason, I cried in my room when he was done. I’m sure he’ll amend the list once he’s had a chance to cool off. Otherwise, I’ll have to stock up on toothbrushes.

It was ten a.m. Mark was standing over a skillet, making an omelet. I watched him for a second, then put a smile on my face and joined him in the kitchen. “I’ll cook,” I offered while grabbing more eggs from the fridge for Luke and myself.

Mark glanced over his shoulder at me. “Was that part of your punishment from last night?” he asked.

“Heck if I remember,” I replied as I carried the eggs over to the counter and grabbed a bowl to break them in.

“I’ll take care of it,” Mark said as he reached to take the bowl from my hand.

“I’ve got it,” I countered and refused to let go. He locked eyes with me and I saw a strange combination of concern and anger written on his face. Then his hand relaxed and he turned back to his skillet. He didn’t want to start an argument.

My brother didn’t say anything so I started breaking the shells and emptying the contents. The room was so quiet, I could hear the wall clock ticking from the other side of the kitchen. Finally, I tossed the shells in the trash and turned to face him. “I’m sorry about sneaking out on you, but you know you wouldn’t have let me go if I’d asked.”

Mark continued to fiddle with the heat dials as he replied. “Hmm, I wouldn’t have let you go if you’d asked. Does it occur to you that perhaps that means you shouldn’t have gone? I know I ain’t the brainiac in this family, but that sure makes sense to me.”

I considered pointing out that peanut butter and applesauce sandwiches made sense to him, but I thought better of it. Mark took in my silence for a moment, then softened his tone. “Elizabeth, every now and then, we get to decide what’s best for you.” It wasn’t like my eighteen-year-old brother to lump himself in with Luke as my caretaker. Luke had turned into the parent after Mom and Dad passed away two years ago. Mark was still my older brother.

“Mark, I know. But you hate hospitals as much as I do. You’ve got to understand.”

He dropped the skillet back onto the stove and spun to face me. “Do you understand how it felt when I walked into that hospital room and didn’t find you there? Not knowing where you were?” I looked away, but Mark continued. “What if wizards had gotten to you? The way you were hurt, you would have been at a huge disadvantage.” He was referring to the third degree burns on my back and the symptoms that the doctor had mistakenly diagnosed as exhaustion.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered while staring down at the blackening edges of our breakfast. That word,
sorry,
never expressed enough reasons. Words poured out of me in the form of a feeble explanation. “You know I didn’t mean to scare you. I just really, really hate hospitals.”
I sounded pathetic.
My face grew hot and red so I reached for the whisk and turned to my bowl of raw eggs.
What else was there to say?

I didn’t look back to see what Mark was doing, but after a moment, I heard him speak, “Well, I’ve got to hand it to you, that escape took courage. I’ve never seen Luke so mad.” I could hear the sympathetic smile in his voice. “Why don’t you go get some rest and I’ll call you in when breakfast is ready?”

My eyes turned back to the food he was working on. “Well, for one reason, because I don’t really like charcoal with my orange juice.”

Mark smiled. He studied his work ruefully but hesitated to leave the kitchen. I suspected he was gearing up to send me back to bed.

“They’re just eggs,” I said. “And at this rate, there won’t be much edible food left when you’re done.” He couldn’t argue that point.

“Alright, but that’s your one activity for today,” he acquiesced. “You can start on the rest of your punishment after you’ve had a few days to recover.” He gave me a light pat on the back to let me know I was forgiven. I resisted the urge to grimace as pain shot up through my spine. Mark didn’t need a reminder of why I was hospitalized in the first place. “I’d better have one damn good omelet waiting for me when I get out,” he demanded as he left the kitchen to me and headed for the shower. I tossed out the burnt dish he’d been working on.

 

***

 

The omelets were ready by the time Mark was done with his shower, and I sent him to wake Luke up for breakfast. Luke still looked tired when he dawdled out of his bedroom. His face was unshaven, and he rubbed his eyes to wake up. I noticed that he hadn’t bothered to put on his glasses this morning.

I always knew it would be a big deal for me when Luke found out about my powers, but it surprised me to realize that I’d never considered it from his perspective. Two days ago, he was enjoying summer vacation, oblivious to the existence of magic. Then, wizards trapped us in a classroom and nearly killed the three of us. I was hospitalized. For me, that kind of drama was normal. I could shake it off in a couple days, even the drama of Luke finding out about my powers. But for him, it was a traumatic experience.

Luke was bright enough to be a Dark, but I always knew he hadn’t inherited powers from our parents because he couldn’t handle the stress. That knowledge never rung truer with me than it did as I watched him drag himself to the breakfast table. Luke was tough, but responsibility had forced him to live with fear. Worrying was so much of a habit for him that he wouldn’t know how to do anything else if he had powers. It would consume him.

He plopped down in his seat and didn’t say anything as I handed him a plate of food. Mark grabbed his plate off the counter and we started eating. Mark and I chattered away, discussing what had come to be a recurring topic in our household: TV commercials. Luke never said much at breakfast. However, he did ask if I could show them commercials from the future. I could. It was technically against the rules, but that particular rule was often bent for TV and amusing videos. The one with the egg and the frying pan was my favorite.

Luke didn’t move when Mark got up and started to clear the table. He just waited for the cleaning to be done.  I tried to help, but Mark pulled me back into my seat and handed me a second glass of orange juice. My brothers thought vitamin C was the solution to all ailments, and I’d never bothered telling them otherwise. Afterwards, Mark headed over to the living room to watch TV, but Luke stopped him. “Would you mind giving me and Liz some privacy?” he asked. Luke had never felt the need to talk to me without Mark around.

“Can he stay?” I asked, afraid. Luke looked at Mark like he was considering saying no, but he saw the puppy-dog expression on Mark’s face and hesitated. Mark’s big brown eyes often got him his way, both with girls and with his older brother.

BOOK: Blood in the Fire (Timelaws Trilogy)
11.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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