Raven’s dreams were interrupted by the scent of fire and ash and lemon cream pie.
He opened his eyes.
The scent still hung in the air.
He got out of the bed and followed the trail to the teacher’s desk. He stopped and looked underneath.
“Miss?” His pupils widened.
Missy was under the desk, huddled up against the back. Her arms glowed an angry red orange in the darkness.
She looked up at him. Her arms glowed just bright enough so she could see him.
“I…I…Your arms. What…?” He tried to form the words to complete that question and failed.
“Go on. Ask me.”
“Ask you what?”
“The question you want answered: What kind of freak am I?”
He shook his head and crawled under the desk .”I don’t think of you as a freak. I simply don’t understand.”
She chin-propped on her knees. “Neither do I.”
Silence fell between them as he struggled to find words for all of the questions he had in his head. “Did someone do this to you?”
She grinned. “That’s a surprising first question. I was expecting ‘Are you human?’ to come out first. Yes, I am human. I mean. I was. I don’t know what I am now. I think.” She bowed her head. “I think I’m a monster.”
“Who did this to you?”
“Why? For what purpose would they—”
“They’re just a bunch of mad nerd scientists in mirrored sunglasses. Do they need a reason for the mad scientist jerk junk they do?”
He watched the red-orange fade. “Does it hurt?”
She shook her head.
The red-orange went out completely and they were in the dark.
For five minutes, there was nothing to be heard. Just the sound of their breathing.
She spoke first. “I guess you’re going to leave me.”
“I can’t. It’s day.” He edged closer to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “I’ll stay here with you, miss.”
“They call me XQ.”
“I will call you Missy.”
She smiled – a slight thing of a smile – in the dark.
Elsie entered Hildreth’s hospital room and found him surrounded by nurses.
“Yep. And that’s how that happened.” said Hildreth.
“Wow! That’s amazing.”
He shrugged modestly. “Well, I did have some help.”
“Oh, but to take on so many!”
He looked up and saw Elsie standing there. His face lit up. “Elsie.”
The nurses turned as a group and looked at her.
She barged through them and stopped at his side.
She dug her fingers into his hair and kissed him.
The nurses got the message and left.
She eventually released him.
“Well.” He grinned. “Hello.”
“Hello yourself. Let me guess. That was part of your fan club.”
“Nope. That, my dear Elsie, was part of my harem. Lucky me.”
She swung her hand to slap him, but he blocked her in time. “Darn it. I love you.”
“You are getting out today.”
“Or what? You’ll headsmack the doctor and my lovely, lovely nurses?”
“If it knocks sense into them.”
He chuckled. “Elsie Vansing. You’re jealous.”
“And you’re jealous. Oh, so jealous of me and my awesome nurse troupe of loveliness.”
“I think the recycled air in this hospital is getting to you. It’s making you talk crazy.”
“No. It isn’t the air.” He put his hands on her waist. “It’s you. I’ve missed you. Flirting with the nurses has been my coping mechanism.”
“Is that what you call it?”
“Mm-hm.” His expression softened into adoration. “Oh, Elsie.” He closed his eyes as she caressed his face, his neck, his shoulders.
“Hildreth. You are such an idiot. But, come next month, you’ll be my own precious idiot.”
He laughed softly. “My. My. I think I’ve been upgraded.”
She kissed his eyelids, his face, his mouth.
And the doctor barged in.
“Darn it. Darn it. Darn it.” Hildreth said under his breath.
“My feelings exactly.” Elsie got out of his space.
“Well! Mr. Mayhew! Are you ready to go home?”
“You have no idea.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Yes, anyway. Your numbers look good. Your spirits seem to be good.” He shrugged. “I see no reason to keep you here. Do you have any questions?”
Elsie and Hildreth said, “No.” in unison.
“Ha. Ha. Ha. I guess not. Okay! I’m going to process your paperwork. The nurses will come in and disconnect you. And…you’ll be free to go.”
The doctor shook Hildreth’s hand. “Stay out of trouble, young man.”
“Absolutely. Give all those lovely nurses all my love.”
Elsie punched his arm.
“Uhh. Ha. Ha. Yeah. I’ll do that.”