"I'm tellin' ya, you'd be one heck of a Kid's Next Door operative!"
"I'd be one heck of something, alright." Jodie sighed and stared at her mother, who blinked back and shook her head slowly- back and forth. She hated it when she did that.
"You know, they could really use somebody like you."
"It'd be too easy." She shrugged her shoulders and pulled her book-bag onto her shoulder, some of her raven-colored hair getting stuck in the strap. She could care less, though. "Everybody knows you. You were freaking Numbuh Five, Mom! Do you know how easy it would be for me to move up in the ranks with that kinda rep?"
"I know, I know."
"And then Dad was, like, the smartest of the smart!"
"Invention-wise, anyway- there are some things like the concept of a healthy diet your father still can't understand." Abby stood from her seat and stared down her daughter. "Man, fifth grade already. I can hardly believe it."
"You and me both. We'll get used to it, though."
Abby smiled and bent down to kiss her youngster on the cheek. "Honeybunch, you're my baby girl and you're your daddy's little angel; we'll never get used to it."
Jodie grinned and grabbed her lunch, wrapped in the stereotypical brown bag. She made a mental note to work up her allowance to pay for a new one, herself, considering she didn't want to take the chance of her dad getting her one instead of her mom. The last time that happened she had to walk around with a rainbow donkey (yes, donkey- how that was a thing she'd never figure out) lunch-box all throughout kindergarten.
She and her mother both agreed to never let that happen again.
"I'm off, then!"
Abby nodded. "You have your cell, right?"
"Snug in my pocket!"
Jodie slipped her feet into her black sneakers- the ones with the high-tops- and turned around to wave. Abby smiled and waved back, braid swinging to and fro as she twisted to go wake Hoagie up for work.
The fifth grader ran out the door, stopping at the end of the pavement that led up to her house. She sighed and took in a deep breath to replace the air she had lost as the door shut behind her.
She proceeded to lift an eye-catching walkie-talkie out of the pocket she claimed to hold a cellphone in and switched it on.
"Fourteen calling twenty, you read?"
Timothy Terris spun the wheel to the hovering car around, forcing the car to do a 360 as he picked the talkie out of his pocket, dropped it as the car spun, and then caught it again as the turn ended. "On my way, blue eyes."
Jodie huffed and crossed her arms. "Stop talking to me like that."
"Ugh…" She hung up as quickly as she could upon seeing the shape of the car in the distance. Tim pulled up and honked the horn. "I get it, you're here! Don't wake my parents up!" The smirk he donned was contagious, though, and as she climbed into the car she couldn't keep her frown. The sides of her lips turned up against her will and she found her arms crossed while she faked a pout. Knowing her for so long, Timothy simply ruffled her hair, messing up the braids that ran to her shoulders and making a rats nest of the rest of it- which went to her chin. In turn, she screwed up his chestnut locks.
"Hey, even if it gets messy, it still makes my eyes glow. You don't have that comfort." He grinned and poked her.
"Whatever, just get going. Clare'll kill us if we're late for school."
"WHERE ARE THEY?!"
Clare clutched both sides of her head and pulled the short, blonde hair frantically- painfully. "If they're still not here in two minutes we seriously have to GO!"
"What's the big deal?" Daisy pouted and held her light-blue-furred stuffed bunny to her chest, clenching him so that it was a miracle he hadn't been torn to shreds, yet. "So we'll be late. It's the first day of school. Nobody'll care."
"Nobody WILL!" She corrected. Tank grimaced and ran a hand through his blonde hair, his light-brown (almost yellow) eyes glaring at the flipping girl before him. "Look, it may be all 'oh, so you're late, well we don't care, HAHA' at YOUR school, but at my school we have little things called RULES! RULES imply that there are PUNISHMENTS for BREAKING THEM!"
"It's a clean slate- the start of the year. It'll be the first time." Daisy comforted, setting a hand on her shoulder (cautiously- if she were anybody else). "Yes, but then this'll happen AGAIN! Or what if we get called on a mission before the bell rings and we're late to class and we've used up all of our other tardy slips? Then we'll have todays tardy wasted when we could have used it THEN!"
"Oh, SHUT UP already!" Tank screeched and held both hands to his ears. "JEEZ! If I wanted to hear people be all anal about tardiness and stupid stuff like that, I would go to that private school down the street! NOW LET US HAVE SOME PEACE!"
Clare and Daisy blinked at the boy, Clare fixing her hair and Daisy flattening her skirt from the sheer force of wind his rant had produced. "Fine, fine… but if they aren't here in one minute-!"
"Yeah, yeah, keep your socks on!"
The three turned to see Jodie and Timothy approaching them, hover-car crashed in the background and all. "Well it's about freaking time!" Tank's arms flew up in the air dramatically, his smile betraying his attitude and tone. Daisy squealed and ran to hug Jodie, her black hair falling around her shoulders. Jodie spit part of Daisy's giant red bow out of her mouth and smiled. ("HOW MANY OF THOSE CARS ARE YOU GOING TO CRASH?!" Timothy screamed for dear life and covered his head, hiding from Clare's wrath. "SORRY, Alpha! SORRY!") "Did you miss me?" Jodie nodded as her friend's big, green eyes blinked up at her. "Yes, Daisy. I missed you."
Clare sighed and ran a hand over her face, massaging her temple as her dark, dark brown eyes closed. "Can we please get to school, now?"
Clare groaned and took her seat, head dropping into her arms the moment her butt met the chair. "Feeling lethargic, are we?"
The voice was deep for a fifth grader, and it didn't take her long to identify the voice- she knew who it was. She told herself to keep her head down- not to make eye contact- but she betrayed her brain and brought her eyes up to meet his. They were the same color hers were, almost hidden behind his burgundy hair. He was too old for the fifth grade, and she remembered and made a note to herself that he was in the seventh grade, now. She winced. "Frontrunner 720, sir…"
"We're in school, Clare. It's Jess."
She nodded and sat up, back hitting the end of her seat.
"Yes, sir… what do you need?"
"Speak to Marcus about joining the AM."
"Huh?" She blinked and twisted to look at the kid. He was four seats back from her, in front of the bookshelves that adorned the walls of the classroom. He was happily chatting away to anyone who would listen, eyes bright and unknowing of the attention he was getting from across the room. "Y-You mean the kid that… that LIKES me?"
"Yes. I've been watching him for a while. He has potential."
"But it'll be so awkward! Why do I have to talk to him?!"
"Frontrunner Prime had me do it with you when I was your age."
"That was two years ago! You remember how it felt!" She grimaced and stood up, whispering to him as to not leak information to possible opposing spies. "Look, there are other operatives in this classroom! 46 is here!"
Jess pulled away and wrapped his hands behind his back. "Yes, but there isn't a single person in this room besides you I'm considering taking under my wing for the role of Frontrunner- of Leader. If I am to have you follow in my footsteps, you must understand that you will go through what I have gone through."
"But- but FRONTRUNNER- be REASONABLE!" Clare stopped, froze, and then melted and simply tensed. "Wait… did you hate the idea of talking to me this much when you were in my position?" Jess raised an eyebrow and she felt her heart drop in her chest. No, she couldn't let herself think like that. That was back then. He surely had a different opinion of her, now! "Oh, right. I suppose I'll go see him, then."
"That would be in your best interests, yes."
Clare grimaced and turned on her heel, making her way to Marcus.
It wasn't that the boy was unattractive. It was far from that. The boy had long red hair that reached his shoulders with hints of brunette all throughout the strings. His eyes were the color of a majestic blue- pretty much purple- and his face shape was sharp, but soft at the same time. He had an inviting look about him. It was the fact that he liked her as much as he did that deterred her. She had to admit that she was about the chase, and he was giving her none. She bit her lip. That and he wasn't the type to stand up and take charge. That was what she'd decided she liked, after all.
His head twisted to see who was calling him and he beamed, rotating in his seat to speak to her face-to-face. "Clare, good morning to ya!"
"Good morning, um… may I speak with you in the hallway?" She berated herself at the feeling of her cheeks heating up. She was blushing? Why was she blushing? Her eyes widened as his own grew in size, his mouth opening in the shape of an 'o'. If she looked hard enough, she could see a spark there and a curve upward at his lips.
He was about to answer when the bell rang.
Well, saved by the bell…
"S-S… SORRY! BAHAHAHA!"
Tank turned and glared daggers at Daisy, who was on her side, laughing hysterically. "I missed ONE slam dunk- ONE and you laugh like this?!"
"Y… you're… you're just… HA!"
"I'm just what?!"
"You're just… to… too…. Too dang TINY!"
"SAYS THE ASIAN!"
She sat up from the concrete and smirked, pointing an accusing finger at him, mildly calming down from her laugh-fit. "H-Hey, I'm only half Japanese and I'm small because of genetics! You just don't drink your milk!"
"Whatever!" Tank angrily threw the basketball to the ground and crossed his arms. The basketball hit the already loose wooden bin of balls and broke it, sending the entire collection flying all over the court. Children that were playing in the grass off of the concrete started grabbing the balls as they rolled to play with them.
"What's up now?"
Jodie caught one of the rolling basketballs on her way to them and began bouncing it on the back of her leg, eyes observing her friends carefully. Tank growled and pointed at Daisy. "She's being a NUTCASE!"
Daisy laughed and pointed back at him. "He has no sense of humor!"
"Maybe his sense of humor isn't lining up to yours, Daisy? Maybe he doesn't think the jokes are funny? What did you say?"
"She told me I was short!"
"No, I said you were too tiny to make a slam-dunk! You're not short, stupid, you just have no muscle!"
"That did not help your case!"
Jodie groaned and caught the basketball she had been balancing.
"Why do I even bother trying to help you two?"
A sound reminiscent of a fire alarm sounded from her pocket, vibrating at such a level it shook Jodie's whole body and made her drop the ball. "Oh, great. Trouble. The Alliance of Minors needs our help! Where's Timothy?"
"Uhh…" Daisy meekly pointed to where Timothy sat on a bench, winking at a few passing girls, one of which giggled and winked back while the other nervously waved and got away as fast as she could. Jodie slammed her hand to her face. "Of course…" She started a stride towards him, calling back to Daisy and Tank.
"Get the hover-car ready. We'll meet you at the front of the school."
Tank and Daisy looked at each-other and shrugged, walking in the direction of the entrance. "TAAAANNNKK!"
The boy stopped abruptly, face scrunching up in pain of what was about to come. "Yes, sir?" The coach stomped up to the player and pointed to the mess he had caused. In turn, Tank moaned and kicked non-existent dust from the floor. "Oh, fine. I have to clean this mess up. I'll catch up with you guys when I can."
Daisy simply laughed at him and continued on her way.
Timothy glanced upwards and offered a rather large smile to the oncoming second-in-command. "Hey, Jodie! What's u- UHHHPPP?!"
He grumbled and complained as Jodie threw him over her shoulder, walking him to their destination. "It's days like these that I thank whatever higher power there may be that you aren't my dad's size."
"A high metabolism helps."
"The Delightful Adults from Down the Lane…" Clare hissed, readying her weapon. "What have we done to deserve this intrusion?" Clare spared a glance at her school and, seeing as they had struck during the time school was in session, resolved to not make a mess of the public ground.
"We're not here to mess with you, little girl." The creepy voices meshed together, sending shivers down Clare's spine. "We're here for the Kids Next Door Operatives that have recently broken into our home to steal the birthday cake."
"Oh!" Clare slapped her forehead. "THIS again?! You're full grown adults! I'd heard stories but I didn't think it was true!"
"It wasn't our birthday cake- it was our nephew's!"
"And you think he cares… why?"
"Nobody steals from the Delightful Adults from Down the Lane!"
"Oh for Pete sakes, his birthday was a week ago!" Daisy landed next to Clare, using her hands, although one was burdened with a paint-ball launcher, to speak. "You all got a piece and nobody was eating the left-overs! That's a crime! No wonder they just took it!"
"No kidding! Cake sounds really good right now, doesn't it?" Timothy asked as he advanced, hand rubbing his stomach. Clare thought for a moment then nodded. Before another move was made, Jodie stalked up behind them, simply firing her gun at the delightful adults without so much as a word, her face dropped to an evil, almost tired look. "I'm too young for this stuff." All thoughts Clare had of asking where Tank was were diminished.
It was then that a war was engaged in the front-yard of AL Pre-Collegiate School.
Kids and teachers alike were piling out of the school to be a witness to the battle, eyes wide and inquisitive- some with fear- as the battle waged on. "Gah!" Daisy went shooting across the school, landing on a rose-bush. She yelped and jumped back up, gripping her backside as she ripped a few thorns from it. The DAFDTL reached somewhere behind them to pull out what seemed to be a machine-gun that shot party favors at painfully high speeds. "Take cover, now!" Clare just barely dodged a flying set of vampire teeth while Timothy and Jodie ducked behind the hover-car. "She's gonna be pissed if we ruin another one of these." Jodie feebly commented, body twisting over the seats to get a good look at the battleground. "Yeah, well we could always blame it on the maniacal adults walking around shooting party favors at children." He reached his arm around in an attempt to get a shot at them, only to fail and miss completely. "Man, I hate this freaking revolver! It has such a bad aim!"
"Well then make a new one! EEK!"
Jodie quickly moved her hand to dodge a flying flashlight got a little too close to her hand. "What the- HOW IS THAT EVEN A PARTY FAVOR?!"
"I- I CAN'T make a new one, Jodie! I'm not your dad!"
(Somewhere in front of them, Daisy was pulling a few James Bond moves, only to slam herself against the wall at the fake snakes decorating the grass, her paint-ball gun entirely forgotten on the ground beside her. "YEEK!")
"Not yet, you aren't. But that doesn't stop ya from learning!" Jodie looked to him and casted a scowl, not a harsh one, but one that was serious- motivating. "Are you two done over there?" Clare commented, adamantly firing at each shot the adults blasted. "Ah, yeah! Sorry, Clare!"
Timothy blinked and gasped. "Jodie! Give me your gun!"
"What?! Are you crazy? I'm no walking arsenal like Clare is, dimwit! I'll be completely unarmed!"
"No, you won't."
Timothy reached over and snatched the weapon from her hands. "This shoots pez candies, right?"
"Yes! Give that back!"
"Jodie..." She stopped reaching over him to look him in the eyes. He stared back at her, eyes filled with the determination that she had placed in him. "I won't let anybody hurt you. You should know that."
(A few meters away, something clicked to Daisy and she put her weapon away, smacking her middle finger and thumb together to snap. "That's it!" She muffled a quiet 'thank you' to her friends and ran into the school.)
Clare grunted as she missed a shot and narrowly missed being hit by a clapper. "Feeling down, Alpha?" The hair-raising voice chimed. "Maybe our treats will help you with that!"
Clare gulped and landed on her butt as a cookie was sent flying past her head. "YEEP!"
The teachers began rounding children inside for safety, some attempting calls to the police, only to find that the school offered no service.
Clare bit her lip and backed away as the adults closed the space between them, their laughs echoing and sending shivers down her spine. "Aw, what's the matter, Alpha? Are you scared of us?" They paused for dramatic effect, watching her face light up in fear, her eyes darkening and her skin paling rapidly. Then, when they were sure she was frozen to the spot, they aimed their weapon right for her head. "CAUSE YOU SHOULD BE!"
Clare shut her eyes tightly in preparation for the impact.
As one could guess, she felt none.
Instead, she heard the scream of the adults as they were pushed back.
Slowly, Clare opened her eyes and looked up.
Marcus was standing before her, a slingshot in his hands. He pulled peanuts out of his back pocket and began shooting more at the enemies. From the looks of it, he had shot a peanut into the gun to clog it up and cease fire. "M-Marcus!"
"I've got your back, Clare."
"You're lucky I got him in time!" Daisy breathed in and out, heavily. "He was one hard sucker to find!"
Marcus turned around and offered a hand. Clare smiled weakly and took it gratefully. "Thanks, Daisy. I think this may be our winning advantage." Clare smiled and pointed a thumb at the sudden soldier behind her. He smiled and raised an eyebrow. "Is that all I am?"
"Depends..." Clare started, readying her weapon. "... Are you ready to prove you're more?"
Daisy and Marcus both took their places on either side of her, eyes unwavering as they watched the adults attempt to get the peanut out of their gun. "Ready when you are, Clare."
And from there, the battle continued.
"Did you hear the news?!"
Abby looked up from her clothing designs to see a rather excited Kuki standing there, waving around a letter. "I don't think I've seen you this excited in a long time, Kuki. You actually let yourself in! What's going on?"
"It's Nigel! He's coming back!"
Abby jumped up from her seat, so quickly she almost lost her hat, and maneuvered her way over to her friend, taking the letter and looking down at it. "Oh my god… Let me call Hoagie! Where's Wally?"
"He's on his way home from work. I already called him."
"Did you tell him yet?"
"No, I think he's under the impression I'm pregnant again."
"But… you are."
"Yeah, but he doesn't need to know that- not yet. He'll stop me from working again. That was a long, torturous nine months, Abby. I won't go through it again."
Abby rolled her eyes and scanned over Kuki's attire of a black pencil skirt and matching blazer above a white tank top, reminding herself that while some things change (she spared a glance at her loose blue long-sleeved shirt and fitted black pants), others do not. "Follow me into the kitchen. I'll get out a few sodas and we can talk about our plans for the party."
"That sounds wonderful." Kuki's voice trailed off as if she were in a romantic daze and Abby could tell she was delighted by the idea of a reunion- much like she was. "What theme should we go for?"
"Memory, maybe? We could post a bunch of pictures from when we were kids on the walls and everything."
"Oh, I like that idea! We should make sure to get our hands on that naked one of him, too! You know, the one with his butt hanging out?!"
The older women shared a laugh as they made their way into the kitchen.
"Alright, so speaking of children, how's Daisy doing?"
Kuki took a seat at the round, wooden table and crossed her legs, folding her hands in her lap like the business woman she was. "She's doing alright. She keeps talking about this boy, though. I think she might like him."
"Well you know, we all started out young, too."
"I know. From what I hear she's repeating history. The boy sounds just as much the tough guy as Wally is."
"I know what you mean. Jodie keeps coming to me complaining about a guy, too- says he flirts a lot."
"Hah, doesn't that smack of Hoagie?"
Abby laughed and nodded in agreement, opening up the fridge to search for the promised refreshments. If she knew her daughter, there weren't many cans left.
"What are you planning on naming your next one?"
Kuki shrugged. "I don't know yet. It's a boy this time and I'm… not very good at dealing with boys."
Abby took the seat across from her friend and placed their drinks on the table. "Didn't you plan names for a boy in case you had one when you were pregnant with Daisy?"
"No." Kuki shook her head. "We knew it was a girl."
"Right… so you have no ideas?" Kuki shook her head. "I swear, if Wally tries to name it something like Excalibur, I'm going to run one through his head."
"Is he really still that bad?"
"Oh as he's gotten more intelligent he's only gotten worse, Abby."
"I'm surprised you haven't smacked that outta' him yet."
"I don't really want to, though." Kuki smiled and opened her can, taking a long sip from it before setting it down. "While I admit, his ruffian attitude does get maddening from time to time, it's one of the things that made me fall for him in the first place. And I know that if he were gone tomorrow it would be one of the biggest things I'd miss."
Abby nodded. "I hear ya. I feel the same way about Hoagie's bad jokes. They get on your nerves, but you love them."
Kuki smirked. "It's all part of being a wife. I'm sure there are things about us that annoy them just as much."
"Cheers to the wives of idiots!"
"Speaking of Hoagie, didn't you say you were gonna call him?"
"Oh, right. Slipped my mind."
"Finally!" Jodie spun her head from the action to look at Timothy, alerted by his cheer of success. "What? Finally, what?"
"It's done!" He grinned and got up as well, aiming the strange-looking gun at the adults. Jodie's eyes widened. "You made that?"
"What did you make?"
"My gun had bad aim- yours didn't. Your gun wasn't very quick- mine was. Combine them together…"
Jodie's eyes lit up and she gasped in delight. "Nice!"
"Clare, look!" Daisy pointed ecstatically to the hover-car, jumping up and down giddily. "What, what is it, Daisy?! Oh!"
The leader's eyes landed on the new weapon and then to its creator. "Timothy, nice work!"
He beamed. "You're about to see just how nice it is!"
"FIRE IT, NOW!"
Timothy followed Jodie's orders and shot as accurately as he could.
For the most part, the Delightful Adults were hit. Only a few shots missed.
It wasn't very effective, however, and it only served the piss them off.
Marcus pulled back another peanut just as he eyed what weapon they were pulling out next and gulped. "O-Ohhhhh boy…"
"What? What's wrong?"
Clare glanced at him from the side.
"Their next weapon… it's a… a…"
"EEEK! A FANCY-FY GUN!" Daisy squealed and laid on the ground, covering her head in her arms. "Uh oh…"
"You will NOT get in OUR WAY!"
Suddenly, the battleground was less fierce.
Tank walked out into the square middle, facing the adults, and crossed his arms as he pouted. "What do you think you're doing?!"
"Getting back the cake!"
"I don't care about the cake!"
"I don't care if you do! It's my cake! If I wanted it that badly, I'd take it back, myself!"
"I TOLD you he didn't care!" Daisy stood and wiped herself clean of the grass and dirt.
"And put that fancy-fy gun AWAY! Why would you try to make my friends like you when you know it would make me miserable?!"
The Delightful Adults seemed ashamed of their actions, their feet scuffing along the dirt. "We're sorry, our dear nephew. We only want what is best for you."
"Well then stop doing things like this over cake! If somebody actually physically harms me- then FINE! Do as you like with them, but not over a cake! We could just make more!"
"I can't believe that scolding lasted an hour…" Clair groaned and slapped her face, trying to keep herself awake as she closed the door to her house. "Mom, I'm home…" She muttered weakly.
She was surprised that she didn't get an answer, but then again, she knew why. Clare smiled.
That was her mother, always working so hard.
She didn't know whether it was because she was trying to keep her mind off of something, or because she was just that much of a workaholic, but the woman worked constantly- so much so that it was rare to see her sleeping. The smile slowly turned into a frown. Outside of the usual mother and daughter exchanges about daily life and serious conversations about AM, her mother never really told her anything involving work, about what bothers her… about her father…
She shook the thought from her mind rapidly and walked passed her living-room, trudging up the carpeted stairs to the hallways above that lead to her bedroom.
A woman stood on her balcony, arms folded neatly against the fence that stood between her and a long fall. The warm summer breeze skirted across her face, blowing her hair in the direction of its animation. Her eyes searched the stars in a daze, observing the small changes in the positions of the clouds as the night rolled on. She'd faintly heard her daughter's bedroom door close and decided that it was time to go say hi. She smiled dimly, reaching up and pushing the blonde strands behind her ear.
Clare opened her eyes at the indistinct knocking on her door. She sat up on her bed and called the person on the other side in.
Her mother opened the door and beamed at her child, closing it behind her when she was in the room. "How was your day, honey?"
"It was alright. The Delightful Adults kinda came outta nowhere. Can you believe Tank is the son of one of them?! I still can't! How did THAT happen?!"
The parent shivered at the thought. How indeed... it's bad enough nobody knows how they get dressed or use the restroom together, but to do... THAT in each-other's presence must be... ugh. Let's not think about that anymore.
"Speaking of parents…"
Clare raised an eyebrow and swung her legs over the side of the bed, intent on hearing what her mother had to say.
She watched as the woman took a seat on the small lazy-boy that was really a light green, but painted a dark blue in the heavy moonlight. Neither of them had cared to turn on the lights, both silently preferring the darkness of the night and the shine of the stars. Half of her room was casted out by the shadows while the other half, the half she and her mother resided in, was in the light of the moon.
"So… you know your father was a hero, right?"
"The best the Kid's Next Door had to offer."
"Right… and you know he's still alive?"
"I assumed so?"
"You were right to assume."
"Mom," her voice was hesitant- scared, even. "What is this about?"
Come on, Rachel… you're a big girl, now. Clare deserves to know.
"Have I ever told you his name?"
"Nigel Uno, otherwise known as Numbuh One."
"WHAT?! You mean… the… the Numbuh One that… that… oh god I'm related to Father and Numbuh Zero!"
Rachel sighed and shook her head. "And Grandfather- don't forget Grandfather."
Clare reached for her pillow and hit herself with it multiple times. "I'm THE Numbuh One's daughter! Why didn't you tell me before?!"
"I was afraid to. When you were smaller, you were very loud and… weren't able to keep secrets."
Clare stopped in-between poundings and looked at Rachel.
"Wait, why does it have to be a secret?"
"Because nobody knows where Numbuh One has been- but I do. And if word was to get out that you were his kid they'd look to your mother, me, for where he is and, well, his location is a secret."
"But why is it a secret? Why can't I know where my own father is?!" Rachel nor Clare didn't know how it had happened or when, but Clare was standing then, hands fisted at her sides, eyes glaring into her mother's.
"Because, honey, we'd both be in trouble with the Kids Next Door. It's bad enough your friends can't tell their parents about you or me because the Kids Next Door considers me a traitor. I don't need to make what they say true and make it so that they never will be able to bring you home. I want you to be able to experience everything, Clare. I want you to go to sleepovers and birthday parties. I want you to be able to have a family away from home- with a friend. If they ever find us, I can't give them anything else against me." Rachel shifted uncomfortably in her seat, eyes drifting everywhere but the disappointment on her daughter's face. She found her eyes drifting to the window behind Clare's head- the one the bed was pushed up against from the side.
Her daughter budged and relaxed, visibly slumping at her shoulders. Slowly, she sank back onto her bed, knees buckling below her.
"So… why are you telling me now?"
"I have a feeling, Clare. Call it mother's intuition but something is happening or going to happen."
"Something having to do with Dad?"
"Yeah, something to do with Dad."
Clare sighed and laid back onto her bed again, eyes scanning the ceiling. "You've never been wrong before, Mom. I wonder what it is?"