“I can’t step between them, Chey.” Thomas cringed at every word that came from the closed door. “I can’t leave, but I can’t intervene.”
“Then what good is a bodyguard?”
Chey must have screamed it at just the right time. The door opened and Tamera was shaken.
“How long have you been out here?”
“Almost an hour ma’am.” He would have rather been anywhere else. The woman opened the door and extricated herself as if she were extremely embarrassed. Her heels clacked loudly on the marble of the kitchen area.
“Do you always eavesdrop on us?” Everette’s French accent was especially heavy tonight, as it does when he has been drinking in excess.
“No sir. Your daughter is wishing to go see Benjamin. We were afraid to interrupt.”
“Of course not you sot. I do not know why I continue to surround myself with such imbeciles. Est-ce le mieux qu’ils pouvaient faire?”
Everette had a bad habit of forgetting his English when he was drunk as well. Thomas felt his face draw from anger, but hitting his boss would be futile at best.
“Ma’am?” He tried to direct his focus from the alcohol fumes that were beginning to pervade his senses. He felt Chey’s hand squeeze his. She didn’t want to be here.
Everette didn’t allow himself to be inebriated often, but when he did, he always scared the girl. She didn’t like to see her father so ‘out-of-control.’ Truth be told, he scared Tamera too, she just hid it very well.
“I don’t see why not, just be back before late. We have an early day tomorrow,” she said.
Chey only nodded. Thomas nudged the girl toward the door, away from her father.
“Do you need anything Ma’am?” Thomas cut his eyes in Everette’s direction with out moving his head.
With a cloud of fear in her eyes she smiled and said, “No, Thomas, we will be fine.”
He nodded and opened the door for his ward.
Everette waved in a complete loss of panache, “N’oubliez pas mes chaussettes la buanderie.”
“Comme vous voudrez, monsieur,” Thomas said.
Once the door was shut, Chey eyed him, “Socks? At the laundry?”
He shook his head and widened his eyes in a manner that he tried to suggest that she should never mention that event.
The elevator took them down two levels and they knocked on Ben’s door. Cici answered with streaked mascara.
“Good, maybe the two of you can get him out of here,” she said.
Chey was squeezing his hand again.
He liked being her bodyguard. It had it’s perks sure, but even after the situation in Russia, she felt like his little sister. Maybe even more like the daughter he never had. He hated to recall these feelings though because the intense, maddening sorrow that washed over him every time he watched that bomb go off in his mind drove him to the brink of craziness. All of those little children, nearly naked and shaved from the single room being infested with lice. They didn’t deserve what was happening to them. They certainly didn’t deserve to die.
The knock on Ben’s bedroom door shook him out of his nearly suicidal thoughts. Ben opened the door and let them enter the room with the complacency of a dead fish. He sat back down on his bed and began typing again without saying a word.
“Anything new?” Chey was trying to break the ice. The ice that covered Ben’s train of thought was much thicker than an ice rink. He never lifted his eyes from his newsfeed.
“Nothing you really want to know about.”
Thomas sat down on the end of his bed, barely missing his feet. Chey follow suit after crossing the room, to crawl on the bed from the opposite direction.
“Then is it something you really want to know about?” she asked.
With a frown he looked up at her. But something changed. Thomas could tell what expression she had on her face, but it must have been profound. His face melted from the angry interrupted scholar to a bemused little boy. He smiled at her and shut the laptop.
“I guess it can wait a bit.”
What transpired in the next two hours was like the beach yesterday. Thomas was lost in the interaction, wishing he was a child himself again. Bewildered at how grown up they acted, but still – such innocence. The long moments the two of them talked seemed like mere seconds.
Finally Chey said, “Oh, Thomas we weren’t supposed to stay too late.”
“So what was it that was so important when we came in?” asked Thomas.
Ben’s lips pursed. “Did you notice the lights flicker about an hour ago, and then earlier this evening?”
“Yeah the first time even shut off my TV.” Chey said.
“You’re lucky the TV came back on. We were being bombarded by solar X-rays the first time, then the second time was a shower of highly charged particles. If the next one hits us, we won’t be so lucky.”
“Next one?” Thomas asked.
“The actual solar flare. The energy released by those storms I was talking about last night.”
“So they did hit each other?” she asked in a monotone voice, making Thomas think that she really didn’t want the answer.
“What are the chances of that thing hitting us?” Thomas was trying to find an excuse to shrug off the chills that were running down his spine.
“About eighty-four to ninety-two percent is what SOLO and NOAA are saying. But it has already wiped out one of the Triad satellites that are orbiting the sun. And it was built to withstand some heavy crap.”
“So that thing may hit us?” She was scared. Thomas didn’t like it when she was scared. She tended to say things she didn’t mean, lashing out at everyone.
“If it does it will be about the time you are leaving in the morning.”
“No,” she yelped, “It won’t happen. It hasn’t happened before and it won’t now.”
“Suit yourself.” Ben nodded toward the door, “Don’t you have a bed to get to?”
“Just like that?” Here she goes, “Just like that you’re going to drop a bomb on us and then send us out the door?”
He shrugged. “I can’t do anything about it and neither can you. So go get a good night’s sleep.”
She screamed, “I’m not going to be able to sleep now. You idiot! How can I sleep now? The world’s gonna end and I’m supposed to sleep on it?”
As Thomas tried to herd her from his room Ben stood from the bed again. Thomas wasn’t sure if he should block the finger headed for Chey’s nose or not.
In a voice that rivaled anything Thomas ever heard in boot camp, Ben shouted with his index finger mere millimeters from Cheys face, “You asked me! You asked me! I tried to keep quiet about it, it would have been better that way. But you had to know! The rich brat just had to know!”
She pushed him away from her. “I hate you!”
Thomas guided her by her shoulders and headed for the door of the condo, giving Gary and Cici a shrug.
Out side the apartment Chey fell to her knees. “Why does he do that?” she whimpered between sobs.
He picked her up like a baby and carried her to the elevator. “Why do you have to be like that? You two really are two peas in a pod. He wouldn’t have told you if he didn’t care, Cheyenne.”
“But we can’t do anything about it.”
“And it may not hit us, either.” With her still in his embrace he pushed the button awkwardly.
“Why did I yell at him?”
“Because he scared you.”
“But I like him.”
“And he scared you.” In the car and doors closed the momentum of the box made his knees weak with the added feather in his arms. He looked down into her eyes. “Look, Chey, he means well. He’s good for you.”
“But tomorrow is our last day, and he won’t wake up that early to see me off. Especially now.”
“I don’t want to hear anymore. Dry those eyes. You don’t want your drunk father knowing you were crying over a boy, do you?”
Her eyes grew wide, “Oh god, no!”
The shouting from the boy’s bedroom had quieted their own argument. Now with Chey and Thomas gone, both Gary and Cici sat in bewilderment. What could he have possibly have told her that made them both react like that?
Gary shook the haze from his head. “Think I should talk to him?”
Cici couldn’t make the fog lift from her mind. She wanted to argue about something but for the life of her, she couldn’t remember what the argument was about.
“Don’t know. Maybe it will blow over.”
“Cici. He has a crush on her. He wouldn’t blow up at her like that without a damn good reason.”
Now she remembered what the fight was about. Benjamin. She boiled over again. She drew a breath to start a new berating volley toward Gary, but he halted it with his finger.
He rose to his feet and went to the slightly open door. Curious to see if the argument even phased the brat, she rose to follow. What she saw when she got to the door next to Gary, shook her. Shook her to her core. The brat that had caused her so much trouble without hardly batting an eyelash sat on the floor.
Not with his computer in his lap. No. His face was buried in his hands and he was weeping uncontrollably.
“Gary? I’ve never seen him like this. Is he okay?”
Again Gary held his hand up to her to silence her. “Ben?”
He couldn’t talk. He would take in a breath to speak and just wheeze it back out.
“Ben are you okay?” Even she was starting to worry. He looked as if in terrible pain; like someone had just shot him.
It took several minutes with Ben in such agony over whatever this was that he was turning blue from lack of oxygen. There were no tears in his eyes.
Finally with both of them holding him tightly he finally calmed down enough to start babbling about not wanting to hurt her and that he had scared her.
“All of this because you scared her?” Cici felt like she had just been lied to. He tricked her again. “You scare me all the time and hardly phases you.”
“Not like that Cici.” It was the way he said it. He turned her heart inside out. “I scared her to death and broke her heart at the same time. Her eyes. I killed all of her hope.”
“Hope?” Gary eyed him warily. “What are you thinking you are now? Some kind of mystical guru?”
“I didn’t even get that one, Gair,” she said.
“There isn’t much that you do get, Cici,” Gary snapped.
Ben was even turning Gary against her now? No, she knew better than that. He had been doing that for a long time now. A lot longer than this week.
“I told her what might be coming.” Ben’s lungs shuddered in grief.
“About the sun?” Cici laughed, “You told us all that fairy-tale – last night?”
“The electric flickering a few hours ago? The TV getting shut off by itself a little while ago? All of the news casts? People on ski slopes in t-shirts and shorts, when it should be a blizzard? Last night was idle chatter. This is real. It doesn’t look like it’s going around us.”
It sank in. What he was saying; sank in. “We’re gonna die?”
Ben shrugged, sniffling. “Even if it misses us, there will be huge storms from the near miss.”
“What should we do? Where can we run?” Gary was starting to panic.
“Run?” Ben shook his head, “If it hits us dead on, we’d all be better off not knowing it was coming. There is no where to go to.”
“You mean like the movie, The Knowing?” she asked. “The only hope is that aliens come down and save us by taking the kids some where else?”
“Only there are no aliens to save us,” Ben grunted.