Issue #28: The Beach Episode

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

“… probably religious, considering the body language. But the big thing this artist was into was how people interpreted her art.”

Tink tried to look attentive even as her eyes were glassing over. While Warrick was describing the painting in terms of contrast and implied meaning; she only saw a conspicuously white room with a pale skinned, white haired woman in a midnight black dress kneeling bedside the white bed, praying. It was photorealistic, but it wasn’t particularly pretty and she didn’t see much in the way of meaning behind it.

Warrick was giving her the tour of the gallery to show off the exhibitions done by some of the senior art students. Having just gotten off work, he was still in his employee uniform while she wore a reasonably modest green dress that laced up in back.

Warrick noticed her boredom and cut himself off before he launched into further detail. “You don’t like it?”

Tink shrugged, “I don’t get it.” She said. “I mean the ‘religious imagery’ and the feelings in the colors… It’s a picture of a woman in a room.”

As the words left her mouth, she saw Warrick deflate a little. “Well, maybe I could show you some of Riley’s stuff. She mostly does abstracts—“

“That’s probably going to make it worse.” Tink tried to give him a reassuring smile but it didn’t seem to help his spirits. “I gave it a shot though. That counts for something right? I mean you gave chess and Mina Trevor books a shot and they weren’t your thing. Art isn’t mine.” She gestured around at the painting in the alcove that held the ‘woman in white room’ picture. “I think it’s pretty cool that you get this stuff; there’s more to you than I even expected—but I… don’t.”

As usual, a speech did more for Warrick’s thoughts than simple gestures. He thrived on exposition. He gave her a small smile in return. “You’re right. Hey, we still have plenty in common, right?”

“Plenty.” She got up and rewarded his positive mood with a kiss. “And I don’t mind you trying to expand my horizons. Before we started going out, I pretty much kept to myself except for extracurriculars to pad my college applications. Speaking of which…” She sighed, running a hand through her copper hair while looking around the gallery, “ I’d better scratch ‘Art Analysis’ off my class load this summer.”

It took a moment for Warrick to process what she’d just said. Words that had meaning individually to him had just been presented in a completely alien and abhorrent context. Class load? Summer? His vocalization was only slightly more articulate than his train of thought. “Wait. What? Classes… in the summer?”

“I told you; I’m taking college credit courses.”

“I thought you meant Advanced classes once we get back to school.”

“I’m taking those too; we’re in the same Advanced Chemistry class. But I’m also taking advantage of Dayspring’s credit courses for the summer session. They’re really cheap for locals and Dayspring is impressive enough that taking them should really win me points at Cambridge.”

That wasn’t much of a surprise, all told. Most of Tink’s high school and even the later part of her middle school career was centered on her goal of attending the Colleges at Cambridge University. She wanted to go where her most admired scholars throughout history had gone.

Warrick gave her the understanding smile she’d come to know well. “So, how many classes are you taking?”

“Not counting the art class I just dropped in my head? Five.” She held out her open palm, ticking down fingers as she listed them. “Two during the day all week, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday night class, a Tuesday-Thursday night class and Introduction to Biomechanics on the weekends.” A proud smile stamped itself on her face. It had taken some doing to get into that last class, what with the wannabe spark-jockeys clamoring to get into it.

“Oh.” Warrick’s smile faded as he did the math regarding Tink’s study time. “So… you’re not going to…”

Tink finally understood. She hadn’t considered the ramifications of her packed schedule on her newfound social life. She picked up on his train of thought instantly. “… not going to be free during most of your time off here.” she finished for him.

The pair stood a silent moment in the gallery alcove, contemplating the space between them, literally and metaphorically.

“We’ll think of something.” Tink finally said, “I mean my night classes let out at ten. Plenty of time to go out and do something, right?”

They never stayed out much later then midnight in the past. Partly because Tink hadn’t gotten around to discussing the damper her curfew put on her with her parents, and partly because Warrick never bought it up because it gave him an excuse to disappear and go on patrol as Alloy. Something would have to give.

“Right.” Warrick lied. “but still, I think we should make the most of it before your classes start. When do they start?”

“Next week.” Tink said guiltily.

Warrick swallowed. He wasn’t expecting that. “Next—Okay, so we need to do something this week. Something big and special; just the two of us.” As he spoke, he got excited over it without even knowing what he was proposing and it showed in his voice.

“You sound like you’ve got something in mind.” Tink smiled, caught up in her boyfriend’s exuberance.

Too far gone to allow himself to stop and think, Warrick grinned and nodded. “I sure do!” he lied again. Something clicked in his head. He really did have a place in mind and it had been on his mind since he and the others had gone to rescue Joy Duvall from Project Tome. “How about the beach?”

“That’s a great idea…” The fire in her eyes dimmed as suddenly as it had been ignited. Something had occurred to her. “But how do we get there? You don’t have a car and mine’s not going to be street legal or at least a few weeks more.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Warrick pulled out his cell phone in a flourish. “I’ve got connections.”

***

Alexis hunched over the kitchen table across from Laurel, pouring over the proposal for the school they were putting together to present to Vincent Liedecker. It had taken two weeks and the intervention of William Brant, but they finally had an appointment with the man himself the following week and they had no intention of failing.

“I’m not saying you’re not qualified.” Laurel was saying, “God knows that I know you’re very qualified, but it’s his building and probably his capital involved in this; he’s going to want to staff it with his own people. I don’t think he’ll really accept you as Director.”

“And if he’s got trustworthy, experienced people, I won’t have any objections.” Alexis countered, “But I kind of doubt he does; at least not the ‘experienced’ part. He may be a good businessman and big into charity, but there’s no reason to assume he knows anything about teaching.”

Laurel cracked a smile. “You may want to avoid saying that when we go into the meeting.” She shrugged to herself, “I’ll leave that part in, but what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t get your hopes up.”

“I won’t.” Alexis assured her.

“Evening, ladies.” Ian entered from the downstairs commons with an amused grin on his face. “I just got a phone call and you’re not going to believe what it was about.”

“Sister Ann Marie wants you to help out with something at St. Drausinus again?” Alexis asked.

“The wife and child you’ve hidden from us all these years finally caught up to you?” Laurel smirked as Alexis tossed a handful of scrap paper at her. “Seriously, what’s up?”

Ian took a seat between the two. “It seems that one of Freeland House’s sainted sons wants to borrow my car to take his girlfriend to the beach.”

“Really?” It was Laurel’s turn to look amused. “I seem to remember you doing the exact same thing at his age.” At the mention of that episode, Ian started fidgeting in his seat.

“Penny Peterson, wasn’t it?” Alexis asked, her Cheshire grin mirroring Laurel’s. “I remember you begging Laurel all week to lend you her car. I think at one point, you said something like—“

“But Penny might be the one!” Laurel imitated a young Ian badly and melodramatically.

“She better not be anymore.” Alexis threw a fake glare in Ian’s direction and his reaction sent both women into a fit of giggles.

After she recovered herself, Alexis got up and put an arm around him. “Aw, poor Ian. All these years and you’re still so easy to tease.” With a subtle movement, she pushed off him and was back to standing. “It is interesting though…”

Ian raised an eyebrow. “What’s interesting?”

“A teenaged boy, going on his first long distance date with a girl…” Alexis mused as she plucked an apple from the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, absently polishing it with the hem of her shirt as she continued, “And out of three adults with cars to borrow, does he ask the one with the slick, silver SUV?” She inclined her head at Laurel, “Or the chick magnet convertible? Or the guy with the family man, workhorse sedan?” She punctuated this by crunching loudly into the apple.

“Maybe—“ Ian started.

“Alex is right.” Laurel smiled and leaned back in her seat. “And you know why, right, Ian?” When he couldn’t answer, she supplied the answer for him. “He looks up to you. He sees you as a mentor, like he did with the Whitecoat.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Ian scoffed. “He probably just figured you guys would need your cars; going to all these meetings and all, that’s all. Or maybe he wants to take some of his other friends along and needs the—“

“SUV.” Laurel pointed out.

“… room.” Ian finished lamely. “Okay, not that one. But the other one, most defiantly.”

“Why does that bug you so much?” Alexis asked, “I’d be flattered if one of the kids took to me like Warrick does with you or Cyn does with Laurel.”

“You said it yourself…” Ian said, keeping his gaze on the table. “The kid’s got parents, real ones. And a real mentor on top of it. It’s not my place to butt in.”

“That’s a pretty poor excuse.” Laurel’s tone was sympathetic. “We’ve been through a lot together; not just living together, but nearly dying together more times than is really healthy. It’s natural that we start behaving more like a family toward one another. We’re not a replacement family; just an extended one.”

There was no arguing with that, not at Ian didn’t want to try. “I still don’t think that’s the case here.”

Laurel rolled her eyes. “Be that as it may; if you don’t believe he’s looking up to you, maybe you can learn something from him.” Both Ian and Alexis looked at her askance. “Take your girlfriend on a vacation.”

“But we’ve got—“Alexis started, but was quickly shushed by a gesture from Laurel.

“But nothing. I’m pretty much a living computer. I think I can handle some paperwork by my lonesome. I’ll even look up a nice, out of the way beach for you to go to so you won’t be disturbed.”

Alexis looked forlornly past her apple to her laptop where the proposal sat, only partially written. Her eyes strayed from it to Ian’s hopeful eyes and finally to Laurel’s face. The expression she found there told her in no uncertain terms that the punishment for non-compliance would be one of Laurel’s patented Endless Lectures.

“What the hell?” She finally relented more cheerfully than she wanted to admit.

***

“That’s all they could talk about while Warrick was getting his things from the desk.” Juniper recounted earlier events as Cyn, Kay and Adel looked on. Lisa and JC were at the other end of the table, trying to decide which of them picked the movie they would be seeing later. The entire group (sans Warrick and Tink) had convened at the Dungeon to laze away the last few hours of daylight before getting on with whatever other activities they had planned for the night.

“Can you believe Tink’s never been to the beach before?” She sighed at her own memories of warm sand and bright sun. “Can you imagine never having gone to the beach as a kid?”

“I can.” Cyn shrugged, “And we didn’t even live that far from Nag’s Head.”

Juniper frowned. “You never got to go? Oh, that’s just horrible.”

“Not getting to go this time either.” Cyn rolled her eyes, “And what’s the point? We’ve got a pool at home. And a lake. We can have our own beach party at the lake shore. It’s not like we need Warrick and Tink there.”

“No one said we did.” Kay pointed out. “But the lake’s not the same as the beach; no salt air, no seagulls to harass, no hot guys in trunks and Speedos…”

“We could totally throw a party and invite some guys.” Cyn said.

“On such short notice?” Juniper asked.

“Well, no, but we could. We could do it next week!”

“No can do, Cyn.” Kay shook her head. “My mom’s going to be back in town and me and dad are spending as much time as possible with her next week. What we could do, see, is go to the beach this weekend. I mean, none of us have any plans, right?”

“I certainly don’t. And I’m sure, you don’t Cyn.” That earned Juniper a glare.

“How about you two?” Kay asked JC and Lisa who had finally started paying attention to the conversation.

“I think it’s a slick idea.” JC said, “I’m kind of surprised Warrick came up with it before I did, actually: We really need to do something out of town this summer, we didn’t get to do anything really last summer.”

“Yeah, count me in.” Lisa said. “Hey, Kay, how about we bring our instruments and see if we can convince some seaside café to let Snackrifice play?”

“Now that is a great idea!” Kay beamed.

“How about you, Adel?” Juniper asked as the others began jabbering among themselves and making plans.

“Can’t.” he said, giving her an apologetic look. “Babysitting.”

“Oh.” Juniper said sadly. Adel took turns with his older brother taking care of their twin younger brothers while their parents worked nights. “I understand. Maybe we can go to Ozzie’s when I get back.”

“Sure.” Adel nodded.

Back in the main conversation, Kay declared the consensus of the rest of the group. “It’s settled! And I know just the place we can go: my parents and I used to go there all the time when I was little.”

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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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