In the Beginning, There Were Three
The sun was screaming in the sky. When she pried her swollen eyes open, it spat right into them.
She woke up choking, more with every breath. A hell of grinding metal and shrill car alarms blasted her eardrums. She tried to lift her head to cough.Wave after wave of pain held her down. Her mouth flooded on the verge of vomiting. She couldn’t move.
But, she was going to have to move- because there was fire. She could hear it crackling and smacking greedy lips, smell burning clothe and flesh. From the bottom of her heart, she hoped it wasn’t hers.
Five Minutes Ago
Beatrix swung the goody bag she was toting from her right hand to her left. It was a great day! Aiden was doing the cooking, check. She had on her uber cute new Bears t-shirt to watch the game in, check. A million people had already called to tell her she was the best dancer in Alice last night, check. And, it was a sumptuous fall day out, check-check-check! She swung the bag-left to right this time. Laughter bubbled up inside her and she wanted to spill it, right here in the middle of the sidewalk, where everyone could see her. Nothing was going to ruin her mood-the day was just too perfect.
And, of course, that’s when she saw him, Mr. Fingers, aka. Michael Keen, Aiden’s best friend, walking towards her in that annoying way he had. Why did he always have to spoil everything? She walked faster. If she hurried, she could make it to Aiden’s before he saw her. Not for the first time she cursed the fate that had them all living in the same damn neighborhood.
Well, that was fine, let him walk down any sidewalk he wanted to. She’d just get to Aiden’s, shut the door, and forget all about Michael Keen and his obnoxious fingers and the way he was always running them up her spine and tugging with them on her fiery red hair.
Temper, Red, She slap her hand to the rough concrete balustrade and wished it was Keen’s smug, knowing face.
“Temper, Trix,” he caught her at the bottom of Aiden’s stoop, tapped the blunt tip of one broad finger on the back of her hand where she still gripped the railing.
Involuntarily, she flicked her eyes the tiniest smidge in his direction. And, there was the smile- just inches out of reach.
“Why can’t you just call me, Bea, like Aiden does and everybody else? Why do…?” Her eyes dropped to where his right foot was lifting. Now, it was stepping down and the other one was lifting. Good Lord! He was walking up the stairs with her.
That’s when she’d realized that he meant to go in, that he was going to watch the game with her and Aiden, probably eat with them, maybe even stay after and help clean up! Well, no, not that last part. But the rest!
“I’m not, Aiden.”
“What?” a quick brain re-shuffle, “Of course you aren’t Aiden! You’re nothing like, Aiden.” She snorted just to impression on him how very much she didn’t think he was anything like Aiden.
His fingers tugged on the dangling ends of her ponytail. When she turned, jerked from his grasp, he was one step below her. Beatrix found that she’d turned into his body. She was eye-to-lip with his mouth and could watch the sensual way his lips puckered and purred over the syllables of her name, “Beatrix…”
Later she’d chastise herself for the way she let her gaze roam his face, she always did. But she knew she couldn’t help it-there was just- nothing conventional about Michael Keen. He was half this and one sixteenth that and whatever… it had all worked together to create the most beautiful boy Beatrix had ever seen. His eyes were green, like the river, always changing, always reflecting, and always flowing away.
Another silent damn and she was slapping her palm hard against his chest, “Oh no you don’t, Buddy! Just where do you think you’re going?”
“To Aiden’s-- to watch the game,” he chin nodded to the Bears jersey peeking between the lapels of her jacket, his smile teasing her. He knew how much she wanted to stop him-and he wanted to see her try.
Her legendary temper flared at his sarcasm, “What makes you…?Do you see that?” She was looking over his shoulder where the sky had stretched the clouds thin and just beneath, hovering over the cityscape something-- shimmered.
In just seconds their whole lives would change. They’d be forced to witness things they couldn’t even imagine, forced to do things they would hate themselves for afterwards. They would learn that survival is everything...
“Trix, what’re you looking at?”
A slight vibration began and the first car alarm went off three blocks over.
“What is that?”she didn't even notice the tiny hairs lifting from her scalp as ions charged the air. “It’s pretty.”
“What are you talking about?” Keen turned, squinted against the glinting light.
“There, that, all those colors.”
Around them, people were going about their business-shopping, driving cars, walking home on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
“Look at the way it glows…”
“Look Trix, I think we should…” a soft, resigned exhalation, “Maybe it’s the Aura Borealis?”
They stood on the stairs- watching-as the colorful strikes rolled closer, like children watching fireworks on the fourth of July.
“We’re in Chicago, Michael, not Alaska.” Beatrix scoffed and looked over to read how his ego took her jab.
He’d gone incredibly still, still as stone.
With dawning horror he reached for her. His tension traveled from his fingers to Beatrix’s wrist and she felt fear for the first time. “I think we should…run!”
But it was far too late for that.