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December 15th, 2008

Crissy: Act I

The Sunlit World


Crissy slammed the door behind her and stalked toward her bedroom.

"Hey, Crissibee, you okay?" her mom called from the kitchen. "Don't take it out on the door."

"I'll be fine," she called back, making sure to close the door to her room more quietly.

Crissy headed straight for her phone and dialed up David's room -- the second line he'd had put in for the short-lived BBS he ran. The line rang several times.

"Come on," she muttered.

The line clicked. "Y'ello?"

"What's gotten into Kevin?" she said. "He got all touchy when we talked on the way home from school, and yelled at me."

The voice on the other end went silent. "I dunno," he said. Then helpfully suggested: "Tell me more."

"Well, he's clearly pretty sensitive about --" Crissy stopped and squinted into the phone. "Who is this?"

"David."

"No you're not," Crissy said. "That's not his voice. Where's your brother, Darren?"

"Um," the voice wavered, then gave in. "He left. I think he got a call from one of his friends."

"And what are you doing in his room?" Crissy challenged.

"He, uh, borrowed one of my books. I need it back."

"Darren Jones, don't you give me that. You haven't cracked a book since 'Clifford, the Big Red Dog.' Now get out of there before I tell him what you're up to."

David's brother scrambled with the phone and the line went dead. Crissy huffed a sigh and threw her handset back onto the base; it bounced off the edge and hurtled toward the floor. She made a grab for it, missed, and knocked the falling phone into the pair of clear-plastic-boxed dice sets David had given her; they fell to the floor and the black tops popped off, sending various Platonic solids scattering around her floor and under her bed.

"Aargh!" Crissy said, and collected her dice back up before calling Trent.

He wasn't home, either. His mother said he had gotten a message from Kevin right before he came home, and then turned around and left again.

Crissy sighed, deliberated, and finally dialed Kevin's number. She waited through the phone rings, hoping Kevin wouldn't answer.

"Hello?" his mother said, and Crissy's anxiety eased.

"Hi, Mrs. MacArthur," Crissy said. "I'm sorry to bother you. I'm just trying to track down David. Is he over there?"

"Why, yes," Helen said. "Both of Kevin's friends came over a little while ago. I think he was expecting you, too. Did you get his call?"

"I-I don't think so," Crissy stammered.

"The way he was going on about it, it must have been important," Helen said.

Crissy felt a pang of guilt. For all that Kevin had yelled at her -- he had just been attacked by bullies. Maybe he just needed a little time with friendly faces. "Okay," she said uncertainly. "I'll be over in a bit."

She put her coat back on, chatted with her mother about her day at school, and headed outside. The MacArthur house was only three blocks away, and the dark, chilly walk passed quickly. When she got there, she let herself in the front door with a loud "Hello."

"Hi there, Crissy," Kevin's mom called out. "They're in his room."

Crissy walked over to his door -- silent, ajar -- and peeked inside. Kevin's usually-neat bed was rumpled and askew; some of his dresser drawers were open; and David and Trent's backpacks were leaning against the wall just inside the doorway.

"David?" she called out. "Kevin? Trent?"

Crissy walked back outside to the kitchen, where Helen was slicing one of the oranges that were always stacked up in the fruit bowl during the winter. "They're not there," the teenager said.

Mrs. MacArthur put her knife down. "Well, that's funny," she said. "I didn't hear them leave."

"Everyone's backpacks are still in his room. Are you sure they didn't go out to the garage or anything?"

"No," Helen said. "I'd have seen them. The only time Kevin came out was -- oh, that's right, he asked me to tell you something."

"He did?" Crissy said, trying to fit everything together.

Mrs. MacArthur lifted a corner of her cutting board, and held out to Crissy a simple business card that had been underneath. "He said that this might help with his suggestion earlier. He said you'd know what he meant."

Crissy thought back to their conversation, and intrigued despite herself, took the card -- which, she noticed, had what looked like a phone number written on the back. She glanced up to see Kevin's mother's expression, and flushed. "Yeah. He wanted to give me a lead on a college scholarship," she lied.

"Oh! How nice!" Helen said brightly. "Education is such an important thing, isn't it, dear?"

"Er, yes," Crissy said, uncomfortably changing the subject. "You're sure they're not here?"

Mrs. MacArthur shrugged. "I could have sworn they were. Maybe they went for a walk?"

"Oh. Right." Crissy shoved the card in her pocket, intending to look at it later with a little more privacy. "I ought to get home. Can you have David call me when they get back in?"

"Will do, dear. Want a slice of orange before you go?"

"Sure," Crissy said, and reached up to grab one. The juice-slick slice slipped through Crissy's fingers; she fumbled, missed the catch, and watched it splatter on the tile.

"Oh, horsefeathers!" Crissy said, mortified. "I'm sorry." She grabbed a paper towel and wiped it up.

"Crissy, dear, don't worry about it," Helen said, then took a lighthearted tone. "This isn't anything compared to the pot roast, right?"

Crissy's face turned bright red. "No, I guess it isn't, ha ha," she feebly joked back -- all thoughts of the card vanishing -- and threw away the rogue piece of fruit.

"Anyway, have a nice night, dear."

"Sure thing, Mrs. MacArthur." Crissy backed to the front door and hurried outside.

After the door slammed, Kevin's mother stood behind the kitchen counter and watched Crissy hustle away over the snowy front lawn. Helen started cleaning up the orange slices, then glanced up again to make certain Crissy was out of sight, and snapped her fingers. The cut orange vanished, leaving the cutting board dry and clean. Helen put the board and knife away and smiled.

"I hope, my muse, you didn't expect to be the only player in your little game," she said.

Helen clapped her hands and vanished in a puff of citrus-scented air. Outside, Mrs. MacArthur's car pulled into the driveway.

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Legend of Hero
[001]. Premonitions
[013]. Incursions
[026]. Companions
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