It wasn’t even a very long dream!
Content warning for violence here.
The thing about the house her mother had — magicked up? Unfolded? — had unfolded was that, while it was plenty bigger than, say, an RV or a tent, it was not as big as their house back home, and that meant that Lina spent a lot more time bumping into her parents.
This was exacerbated by the fact that her parents were around more. Her father usually spent all day at work; now he was sitting on the porch making phone calls, or sitting in the back sun room making phone calls, or pacing in the living room… making phone calls.
She was beginning to think that all her father did was make phone calls. Endless phone calls with endless people, all of them full of endless jargon.
Or maybe he was feeling trapped, too, and phone calls were the only way he could get out.
Lina made pizza for her brothers, fancier pizza for her parents, and something in between for herself, glad the house her mother had unfolded had wide doors in the kitchen on one end and wide windows on the other so she wasn’t sweltering in the early-summer heat.
She was still stuck in a house with two pre-teens and her father, her mother and her mother’s books, and the endless phone calls, even if she wasn’t sweltering, though, and her conversation with the – with Ms. Jensen earlier – made the house seem even smaller. Tighter. Like she didn’t really fit anymore, like it was folding down around her shoulders to the size it had been before, or like her power was pushing at the walls even when she tried to keep it all in her pockets.
“I’m going for a walk, Dad, the conn is yours.”
It was a geeky joke, but it was the way she’d been trading off child-care responsibilities with her parents (and the occasional babysitter) since her brothers had been born.
“What? One second, Joe. I relieve you, Lieutenant.”
She mock-saluted and headed out the door before he could change his mind. The boys were in post-dinner torpor, anyway, lounging in their playroom, so Dad could probably continue his calls. Whatever they were for.
The campground was noisy in that constant-dull-roar sort of way, many of the campsites full of families eating at their picnic tables, muttering about their cookstoves, cooking on their little grills. There were so many people here she’d never had expected to see in a campsite — much like her father. They had RVs and fancy tents – two other people had houses something like the one her mother had pulled out, and one had a small house, but on a trailer — fancy vehicles — who expected to see a BMW at a campsite? — and golf clothes.
Lina felt a little grubby and a little bit out of place, which was nothing unusual. She felt the same way in her own neighborhood at home, and in her school, and — well, anywhere, really. She ran her fingers through her hair and kept walking, down towards the pavilion.
The voices stopped her. It wasn’t someone she knew, but it sounded worried.
She hurried her pace towards the voice, down towards the pavilion.
“Come on, Dylan, guys. Come on… he’s just a pizza guy…. and… it’s really really good pizza. I’m happy to share… just… let the kid go.”
The voice sounded — more than worried. Trying to be cool but —
The next sound she heard was a meaty thud. Lina skidded into the pavilion with a shout. “Hey!”
That was Dylan, all right, and a tall lanky brunette guy she’d seen around a lot. On the other side was another brunette, looking worried — rich, but worried. Holding a stack of pizza boxes and styrofoam take-out containers. And between them, on the ground, definitely a pizza delivery guy. He was curled into the fetal position, his nose bloody, whimpering.
Dylan’s friend pulled his foot back to kick the delivery guy again. Lina threw her shield between them and followed it quickly with herself, stepping into the space as her shield pushed the guy backwards. “Stop.”
The foot thudded into her shield. At least then the asshole looked surprised.
“Look.” On instinct, on whim, she scooped a shield around the tall guy’s throat and lifted it until his chin was forced in the air and his toes were almost off the ground. “You may be rich. You may be important. But you will not hurt this kid any further. ” She set him down and turned to to the same to Dylan. “You can kick me out of this place if you want, you can – whatever. I know who your father is. But leave the kid alone.”
Dylan hung in the air, toes dangling, making choked noises. The third guy, the worried rich one, moved closer to Lina – and helped the pizza guy up. “I’m really sorry about these guys, man.” He was ushering the pizza guy away, blocking his view of what Lina was doing. “Here’s a little extra for your troubles, and, ah, a little extra on top of that for exactly how troubling they were.”
The tall guy was moving. Dylan was trying to say something. Lina wasn’t sure she could do two shields at once.
“Guess I’m gonna find out,” she muttered. She pulled a shield around the tall guy’s knees and lowered Dylan so that he was mostly on the ground, all at the same time.
“I can’t-” he coughed. “I can’t kick you out. I was being a shit.”
What was she supposed to say to that. “No more beating people up.” She released him. “Understand?”
The tall one was staring at her. “What are you?”
“Not a bully,” she retorted. “What’s wrong with you, anyway?”
“There’s nothing to do here.”
“Go swimming. Climb the cliffside. Get drunk. Look, if you want drugs, at least three families here are dealing. Make a pizza. Graffiti the pavilion. Just stop beating people up.”
“Look,” the tall one started,” I don’t know what they do down in your trailer-trash part of-“
“Of Oak Boulder?”
Shit, why had she done that? She never did that.
They stared at her anyway. “-Yeah, sure, I believe you come from Oak Boulder.” The sneer from the tall one was cutting. On the other hand, Lina still had her shield around his ankles. “But where we come from, we’re not delinquents and hoodlums.”
“The blood on the ground says different.” She didn’t have a hand to gesture with, so she pointed her toe at the splatter of muddy blood.
“He doesn’t belong here.” The tall one tried to move and his face twisted.
Lina smiled. “And neither do I, according to you.”Want more?