Monday, January 28, 2013

Fire Lily, Issue Two - Chapter Six


Lily rolled the meatball around her plate. Her thoughts had switched from sad to drab, not much of an improvement. Even her unappeasable appetite had nothing to say, apparently sitting silent to leave Lily to think. With a sigh she cut off a chunk of meat and plopped it on her tongue. The spices soaked in her mouth, stimulating all her senses, but she didn't much care. She swallowed it without proper chewing, a decision her throat wished she hadn't made.

“What's the matter, Flower? You used to love my meatballs.” Her grandmother sat across the small table, a deep frown dragging down her old face.

“Mom's coming,” Lily groaned, rocking the meatball with her fork.

“Oh, is she?” Her grandmother pushed off the table, forcing her creaking elbows to lift her from the chair. “I suppose I'd best make another plate then. How do you know that she's coming?”

A ziti spat sauce as it was flattened beneath the lolling meatball. Normally the cartoonish display would have made her giggle, but now all Lily saw was her noodly figure being crushed beneath rolling stones. She sighed but kept her gaze fixed on the plate, away from her grandmother. “She called while you were cooking. There's a message.” She waited a moment. “What did you t-tell her?”

Looking over her shoulder, Lily saw her grandmother go rigid. “What do you mean, dear?”

“She thinks I-I-I slept over h-here last night. What did you tell her? Why did yo-ou...?”

Hammering blows struck the front door, barking across the sitting room and into the kitchen, over Lily's frail voice. They came without stop, impatient and bold, demanding to be satisfied quickly.

“That must be her,” Grandmother said, dropping the sauce ladel into the pot. She scurried across the kitchen, her slippers dragging with a “shriftshrift” noise. “Never was one for waiting—or courtesy. I'll let her in, honey. You just eat your supper.”

Oh great, thought Lily as she stirred her pasta. She pressed her forehead into her arm, wishing she could just fall asleep and when she woke up everything would be gone. No fire, no rockmen, no lies. The sweatshirt shifted suddenly, irritated the scratches on her face. She'd nearly forgotten them. What could she tell her mother? The scratches covered her nearly head-to-toe. They'd be discovered sooner or later. With her luck, probably sooner.

“Well, come on in,” she heard her grandmother say. Then came the shriftshrift of shuffling slippers, accompanied by a muffled fwopfwop as her mother padded along behind.

“Lily.” The shrillness of her mother's voice made her shoulders jump. She suddenly wished her powers involved turtle shells. “You can't just run off and spend the night without telling anyone. You didn't leave a note or anything. That's not acceptable, Lily. I thought you knew better.”

“Er, yeah, I...”

“Oh, be quiet.” Lily's grandmother threw her hands, as if discarding her daughter. “She was here with me and not causing any trouble. Besides, I told you about it at a reasonable time. Just sit down and eat your dinner.”

Lily held her breath. These were the makings of another long and loud argument, the ferocity of which she had no desire to witness. She snatched her plate off the table and turned to duck into the living room when her mother grabbed her by the shoulder and tilted her head back, studying her face closely. “What happened to your face? Where did all this come from?” She ran a finger over one of the longer scratches. It burned at her touch.

“She got it from the cat,” her grandmother offered with a tone that begged for a challenge.

“What cat?” her mother asked cooly. “You don't have a cat.”

“I do now. Found her on an alley behind the laundromat. Not a very friendly critter, and you know how Lily likes to play with the furballs. Caught her good at bath time.”

Her mother's fingers bit into her shoulder as she tried to slip away. They pinched her skin with sharp nails. Lily thought she felt blood. For a brief moment there was a spark inside her, a heated pressure in her gut. She pushed it down, cooling it to just a simmer.

“Where's the cat?” Her mother's voice was stern. There was an odd look in her eyes, cold and fierce.

“I let her out.” Her grandmother crossed her arms. Her eyes held the same iron glare. “Now let go of my granddaughter and come eat your supper.”

They were both silent, but the rage in their eyes was deafening. It was like two warriors locked in deadly combat, both harboring blazing scars from previous clashes. At last Lily's mom let down her sword, and turned to her daughter with a chilly reluctance. “We'll talk later.”

Lily slipped off without a word, eating her dinner in the company of the nine o'clock news.

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