Descendants Special #2: Promenade

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Twin Timbers sat on the very edge of Mayfield, just blocks from Wagner Park where it straddled the line between ‘urban and ‘sub-urban’ which pushed out further every year as Mayfield grew. The Twin Timbers (and most other non-ornamental trees) had long since had an axe taken to them and the subdivisions had transformed into blocks upon blocks of three story town houses.

It was still light outside and the heat of the day made Warrick even more uncomfortable than usual in his gunmetal jacket and matching dress pants. Some guys looked suave and debonair thus attired, but Warrick just looked as if someone else had dressed him.

As he rang doorbell, he wondered why he was so nervous. He and Tink had been going out for the past few months; he’d already met her family and even had dinner with them a couple of times. There was no reason that junior prom would be that much of a make or break deal; especially when Tink was apathetic at best toward the emphasis other girls put on it.

Of course, the high school grapevine had grown prodigiously during Prom Week, watered by Lily Goldenmeyer, who would inevitably be the queen of the junior prom and would, the following year, just as inevitably be queen of the senior prom as well. Everyone (the ubiquitous and largely faceless ‘everyone’ that are the sources of most baseless information) was talking about how important prom was and how many losers got dumped during or after prom because they couldn’t cut it. That was to say nothing about the real losers who couldn’t even get a date to prom.

Warrick knew on a basic level that he didn’t have much to worry about and knew for a fact that that last part was a specific swipe at Cyn, but still he felt like he was going to flop sweat any moment as he waited for the door to be answered.

It was answered by a tall, sturdily built woman with a thick braid of red hair that was tossed over her shoulder and reached to her waist. A credit card sized digital camera was held in one hand while the other held the door. “You’re a few minutes late.” Allie Carlyle chastised him. She’d done so in the past, as well as for being early. ‘On time’ meant on time to her and while her admonishments were never severe, she was very serious about punctuality.

“S-sorry.” Warrick stammered. “My friend, JC… he’s in the car,” he motioned to Laurel’s SUV which was on loan to him for the night, “and he… sorry.” He fought down the urge to explain that JC and Lisa were doubling with him and Tina to dinner and prom; he knew his date had already explained it to her parents.

Mrs. Carlyle nodded and stepped back to let him in. “Okay, I understand. Let me just call Christina—“

“I’m right here, Allie.” Tina’s voice came from the stairs. It was a mystery to Warrick as to why she called her mother by her first name, but Allie didn’t seem to mind. “You’ve had me standing up here and posing for the last ten minutes waiting for him.”

Warrick’s gaze drifted up to see his girlfriend and his mind quickly came to a screeching halt. Tina was dressed in a silver, figure hugging, sleeveless gown with matching evening gloves. Her normally unruly hair had somehow been vanquished and made to lie in smooth layers atop her head; a pair of lacquered chopsticks prevented it from attempting to revolt. Of her entire standard wardrobe, only her glasses had managed to escape being upgraded in some way.

“She sure looks nice, doesn’t she?” a friendly, booming male voice said as an elbow nudged Warrick in the arm. Whatever neurons the teen had left that weren’t busy misfiring recognized him as Tina’s father, Warren. Another nudge came a few seconds later when there was no response. “This would be where you say something or nod. At the very least, you’d better pick your jaw up off the floor before you catch a fly.”

Finally, Warrick took notice and turned toward Mr. Carlyle sharply. The older man was closer to him than he’d thought and he found himself staring into a chin-full of red-grey beard, causing him to leap back with a small ‘eep’. Embarrassment made his face turn red as he nodded. “Yeah, yeah, she looks…” he realized he was definitely addressing the wrong person. “I mean you!” he said to Tina, “You, Tink, you look—amazing!”

Tina smiled and started to descend the stairs. “Thanks. And you’re looking handsomer than usual yourself. Nice suit.”

Warrick looked down at himself as if seeing the jacket for the first time. “This? Yeah, Ms. Brant knows this site and… wow you look good.” Now that she was closer, another round of misfiring synapses began.

“You can lay off that now.” Mr. Carlyle said with a smirk. “I don’t want her looking too good to you.”

“Huh? No… no, of course not, sir. I mean—I meant to say that she looks nice. You know, not amazing, but nice in a totally innocent, totally good and pure kinda way. Like a really hot nun. Wait, strike the hot part. Beautiful nun. That isn’t to say…”

Mr. Carlyle burst out laughing and silenced Warrick by dropping a hand onto his shoulder. “God, I love doing that. Every time, you completely lose it when I even hint at the stern father routine.” He shook Warrick by the shoulder and pointed him out to Tina and his wife like a prize trout. “I like this kid. He’s a lot better than the punks your sisters brought home, Chrissie.”

He ruffled Warrick hair and leaned down to speak into his ear. “Listen, I trust you, Kaine. Because you’re a good kid. A kid I can trust. You understand? You’re going to be good to my youngest, make sure she has a good time at her prom and you’re going to have her home by eleven, understand?”

“Oh, Warren, give them ‘til at least midnight.” Mrs. Carlyle protested.

“Okay, midnight.” Mr. Carlyle corrected. “And I know you’ll be good for it because you’ve always been good on getting her back by curfew before. But just to remind you because I know all about proms; this is a kind of Cinderella thing, except if she’s not home by midnight, I turn into a man without humor. Understand, Warrick?”

Wide-eyed, Warrick nodded. His mind was already concocting horrible scenarios that would result from being late. On the up side, they would counter any ideas JC came up with later in the night.

“Now that dad’s done scaring you senseless…” Tina stepped between the two men and took Warrick’s arm. “How about some pictures Allie?”

Tina’s mother smiled, “I thought you’d never ask. I just wish I’d remembered to bring my equipment home from the studio.

Tina smirked. “Just remember that JC’s in the car waiting, mom, we really can’t spend an hour getting the lighting right.”

“Okay.” Mrs. Carlyle pouted, “But when senior prom rolls around, I expect you to let me do these professionally.”

***

“Ladies,” Cyn held up a glass of iced tea, “To the three hottest girls any of the guys at Northpoint High have ever seen.” She and her companions were fresh from the salon, decked out in their prom dresses and having dinner at a Thai restaurant. Her dress was, as promised by Laurel, cloth of gold with white satin panels on the skirt, cinched by a white belt. Her white hair was up in twin braids that circled her head.

Kay, sitting beside her at the table raised her glass as well. “Damn, we look good.” She beamed, admiring her reflection in the window. A simple, black evening gown showed off her figure, set off by a faux gold braided belt and contrasting rather violently with her pink dyed hair.

Cyn glared across the table at Melissa who was ignoring her two captors to dig into her noodles. The pouty redhead had, after a full week of hounding by Cyn, allowed Laurel to order her an extremely unflattering white dress. Even afterward, it took even more harassment from Cyn to get her to actually go to prom with her and Kay as well as the trips to the salon and restaurant that it entailed. Her hair, at least looked the part of a girl going to prom, swept gracefully to the side in a rolling mane.

“Ahem!” Cyn said, kicking Melissa under the table. “We’re toasting here.”

“Very nice.” Melissa shrugged.

“That means you toast too.”

“Yeah, up with the cup.” Kay chimed in.

Rolling her eyes, Melissa complied. “There, happy?”

“Some date.” Kay said, sticking her tongue out at Cyn. “Not only did you bring another girl, but she’s such a stick in the mud.”

“Are you two still pretending to be lesbians? That wasn’t’ even funny when you did it in front of Kay’s father.”

“It was funny when her mom told me that I better treat her baby right.” Cyn countered.

“Geez, lighten up.” Kay sneered between devouring pieces of chicken. “If it makes you feel any better, I’d totally choose you over her if I liked girls.”

“Hey!” Cyn protested.

“Just stating my opinion.” Kay laughed, “You’re great and all, Cyn, but seriously, how can you resist a redhead? And the way she acts? You just know she’s a real spitfire once she gets going.” She and Cyn laughed uproariously at Melissa’s expression for a full three minutes before calming down.

“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Melissa said drolly, leveling a glare at the two troublemakers. “With maturity like that I’m floored that neither of you got asked to this dance.”

“Oh, we got asked.” Kay said. “But his royal dadness is only paying for my car if I don’t date until college and thus he ‘doesn’t have to see it’.” She pointed to Cyn, “But this girl… I don’t know what her problem is. I think she’s signed up for some kind of ‘cute eligible guy catch and release program’. She’s turned down Jonas Griffin not once, but twice, not to mention Brett Helmsly, and the Chris-es: Frost and DeMico. The only other excuse I can think of is that She’s just the best friend ever and blew those guys off to keep me company since Lisa and JC have managed to stay together this time. But that’s totally not it.”

It was Melissa’s turn to give Cyn an odd look. “Seriously? I mean, I knew about Jonas, but all those other guys too? Never mind why they asked you; why didn’t you go?”

“I just didn’t want to go with any of those guys, okay?” Cyn said, managing to stop a blush before it could begin.

“No, seriously, if none of those guys is your type, what is your type?” Melissa asked, “At this point, we’re nearing the ‘bizarre fetish’ level aren’t we?”

“We’ll find out tonight.” Kay said offhandedly, “You’re going to dance with every unattached guy there. And as many with dates as we can manage.”

“What will that achieve?!” Cyn demanded.

“The way I figure, you’ll hit it off with some guy or other. It’s the law of averages.” Kay concluded. She put a finger over Cyn’s mouth when she tried to speak. “No arguments, Cyn. I may not be able to scam guys, but there’s no reason for you not to. Especially with the two of us as your wing-girls.”

Melissa blinked at her. “Wing what?”

***

“Wing girls.” Kay began explaining for the third time that night as the unlikely pair stood by the snack table. As the watched, Warrick and Tink as well as Lisa and JC were on the dance floor among the other young couples. Cyn was at a table talking with Juniper while Adel had been dispatched to retrieve punch. “Basically, we’re going to spy out guys and get them over to Cyn.” Kay said, scanning the crowd.

“And how do we do that?” Melissa asked, chomping on a pretzel. “More importantly, why am I doing this?”

“Listen, ice queen,” Kay huffed, “I don’t get why, but Cyn bends over backwards trying to be nice to you; to get you to hang out and stuff. And for the most part, you just throw it in her face. Now, I’m not asking why—I don’t really care, okay? But Cyn’s my friend and you’re going to thank her for everything she tries to do for your frosty ass. And the best way to do that is to bag her the gift that keeps on givingL a man.”

Melissa screwed up her face and readied another caustic barb. Only she didn’t feel like it. Kay was right, really. Just like Alexis before her, Cyn was only trying to be her friend, regardless of if she wanted that or not.

And she didn’t really want that. She wanted to just go about her business and not be reminded all the time about how ‘behind the times’ and ‘old fashioned’ she was even after a year. Kay’s solution would let her make it up to Cyn without encouraging her behavior. It was effectively perfect.

Sighing, Melissa nodded. “Okay, I’m in. What do I have to do?”

Kay smirked and looked over to a wall that seemed to be collecting its share of flowers. “Hmm, let’s start you out easy. See the guy over there in the cream suit?” Melissa looked and saw a young man in a fitted cream suit sitting in a chair that was tilted back against the wall. He was overweight, but carried it well and was watching the dancers with passing interest while sipping punch.

“Yeah, that’s… Todd? Is that it? I’ve got Calculus with him.”

“Terry.” Kay corrected, “Terry Whitman. He’s the captain of the debate team and founder of the after school book club.”

“Huh. That was one of the few clubs I considered joining.” Melissa thought aloud.

“Let me guess; you don’t even like people enough to even talk to them about books once a week?”

Melissa glared at her. “No, I checked out their book list, I’d already read half of them.”

“Well next year you should join early and vote on new ones, right?” Kay asked. Melissa didn’t react. “Anyway, here’s the plot; go over there and ask him to dance…”

“What?” Melissa snapped a pretzel stick in her hand.

“No, seriously. This is all bait and switch territory here, ‘lissa.” Kay said, “After one dance, tell him you’ve got a friend who would love to meet him. Like all guys, he’ll pretty much do anything for the girl that chooses him when none of the others are biting. Then all you have to do is deliver him to our girl over there.”

Melissa gave her another sour look even as she nodded “Fine, but you have to come up with a better approach with the next guy.”

“Of course.” Kay said, smiling her ‘I’m so not innocent, but I sure look it’ smile. Melissa huffed and walked off. “Of course there won’t be a next guy…” Kay said through her smile.

***

It was amazing how two people with no sense of rhythm managed to still synch up with one another to create their own, personal zone of anti-rhythm. Cyn pondered this as she watch Tink and Warrick on the dance floor. The first slow dance of the night had come up and they were desperately trying to mimic the other couples, managing to be exactly one full beat out of synch with the rest of the room. It was mesmerizing.

So much so that Cyn actually started to forget why she was watching them until Tink leaned over and whispered something to Warrick, which made him grow a dopey, happy smile. Then she saw red.

“Really going great…” Juniper’s soft, timid voice was saying as Cyn pulled her eyes away from the couple. “I mean, we went to dinner at San Martin’s and we talked!”

Cyn didn’t know to be sad or amused that Juniper and Adel’s relationship was such that having a conversation was a major milestone. “Really.” She forced herself to asked, even if the answer would bore her to tears. “What did you talk about?”

“Well, mostly about the kinds of shows and movies I like.” Juniper said.

“You liked?” Cyn cocked her head quizzically. “Nothing about him?”

“Well, no… But the point is that he asked!” Juniper defended, “And that’s some progress, right?”

Cyn smirked. “Yeah, I guess it is. And hear comes the mute Prince Charming now. I’m going to fly. Have fun, Jun.”

“You too!” Juniper said happily as Cyn got up and swanned across the dance floor to where she had noticed Kay waving to her.

“Mission accomplished?” She asked the pink haired girl as she sidled up.

“Done and done.” Kay said, nodding toward the wall where Melissa was trying awkwardly to convince Terry to dance. “You are a genius, Cyn. How did you convince Whitman to try and chat up Chilly Jilly anyway?”

“Well, the thing you need to understand about Terry is that he’s always up to a challenge. He’s in my gym class and any dare or any taunt people point at him; he’ll take, even if it’s impossible.” A predatory grin spread over her face, “So I bet him twenty bucks that he couldn’t keep Melissa’s interest all through prom. Then I bet Jonas that Terry could do it. So either way, I lose nothing.”

Kay blinked for a few seconds then clasped her hands to her breast and bowed dramatically. “Please, O wise one, take me as your student and teach me your ways.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Cyn chuckled. “Terry’s into 60’s stuff just like Melissa. If all goes as planned, they’ll get together and the ice on Mount Melissa will melt.” With a sharp nod, she grabbed Kay’s hand. “Now come, Grasshopper, let us troll for guys and make all the other girls jealous.”

***

“You’ve been practicing.” Lisa said as JC managed to dip her smoothly. She was dressed in red and black with a tastefully slitted dress and puffed up sleeves.

“Kaine’s idea.” JC admitted. “the arcade across from the Dungeon has a ballroom dancing machine that no one uses. So last week, we took a roll of dollar coins and played it until we didn’t suck.” For once, he was dressed appropriately for the situation, in a rented tux that managed to look tailored.

“Is that the one with the virtual partners? Waltz of Destiny?”

“That’s the one.” JC said. “but between me and you, the virtual girl doesn’t have anything on you.”

“That line was Warrick’s idea too, wasn’t it?”

“Kinda. That bad?”

“No, but defiantly not you.” Lisa smiled and pecked him on the cheek. Then the world fell away.

Suddenly, the school gym was gone and she was standing in the middle of a business plaza, amid towering skyscrapers and boxy service buildings. The sky was blotted out by a vast spiral of black clouds, centered on a tower directly in front of her.

As she tried to reach out with her mystical senses, the vision ended. She was back in the gym, back on the dance floor with JC. Unlike the last time, she hadn’t started at what happened and JC was oblivious to it.

The last time it had happened, she had come face to face with a man who had almost killed her. She knew what the visions were now – premonitions. Somewhere, black clouds were gathering and Occult would face death again.

But for the night, she resolved, Lisa Ortega would live her life. It was all that she could do and all she wanted to do.

End Descendants Special #2

Series Navigation<< Issue #20: The Irrepressible SparkIssue #21: Come the Black Clouds >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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