Issue #44 – It’s Official!

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 3

There was excitement in the house. Kareem knew this without leaving his room, without opening his eyes.

Not that he’d been asleep. The last time he’d slept in had been before his abduction by the Academy. He told everyone that he rose early now because something about his coma and the drastic escalation of his powers reduced the amount of sleep he needed to feel restful.

That was true. To a point. What he didn’t tell anyone was how uneasy he felt every time he lay down, every time he felt drowsy.

He’d learned to make the best of it though; using the extra two hours he found himself with nearly every morning to go through a range of mental exercises devised by Alexis to focus and stabilize his now formidable mental powers.

Progress was steady; it was rare now for him to accidentally hear stray thoughts, no matter how intense, and he was able to block out a good deal of the ambient mental noise the usually surrounded people.

But it wasn’t perfect, as he was learning now. There was something, some news going around that was causing emotions to run high and largely positive. They played off one another, vibrating like harp strings in the medium of the Astral and resonating with those already imprinted in Freeland House over the years.

Without even knowing what was causing it, he found himself smiling too.

In the midst of the euphoric storm, he nearly missed sensing another mind awakening. Melissa. He knew her mind better than any other, so often had they conversed while he was caught out of his body.

Good morning. He sent to her and was immediately disheartened to receive a sense of temporary surprise from her. There was a time, the period when he’d been out of his body and immediately following his return to consciousness, where greeting Melissa when she awakened had been a daily occurrence. At the very least, she’d become used to it, if not welcoming.

Had they really drifted so far apart? He hoped not.

Melissa finally got her head about her and returned the sentiment, if awkwardly, with the same stilted matter as when she first started speaking with him.

Kareem’s heart sank despite the continued aura of positivity pulsing at the edges of his senses. Somehow, he decided, this reflected on his neglect of his friends in favor of Desiree. Now wasn’t the time or place to show it though.

The rest of the house seems to be in a good mood. He understated it only because he didn’t know how to do the feeling justice.

A wave of drowsiness washed across their psychic connection. It had nothing to do with me. The tone was mildly defensive and the observation was unnecessary; slippages in her control were more rare than almost anyone else’s in the house as far as active powers were concerned.

I did not think so. He replied gently. But I am curious.

Without breaking his link with her, he sought out one of the minds he sensed down in the kitchen. He didn’t know their minds as well as he did Melissa’s, but with a bit of study, he picked out Warrick and Tink and Cyn. With but a thought, he sent a greeting to the latter, along with a query as to what had everyone so upbeat.

The answer surprised him enough to almost break his concentration.

You will not believe this. He informed Melissa. Wonderful news!

Instead of words, the red headed healer only replied with a sense of lazy curiosity. She was contemplating going back to sleep. Kareem was sure his news would bring an end to that.

Mr. Smythe proposed to Ms. Keyes last night!

Again, he got a reaction he wasn’t expecting. In fact, it was one he’d never seen occur naturally. It was like watching a sports car go from ninety miles per hour to zero while still trying to spin it’s wheels.

For a brief moment, it was as if Melissa wasn’t thinking at all. Then came fits and storms of emotions; disbelief, jealousy, the distinct feeling of abandonment. The state of her mind was suddenly near to what it was when they first escaped the Academy.

Once more thrown off kilter from this highly irregular conversation, Kareem could only convey his confusion and concern for her.

Something clamped down on her end of the psychic connection and the sensations he received dulled. Undoubtedly, she was employing some of the anti-mentalist exercises the whole group had been practicing.

I’m fine. She said quickly.

Kareem chewed his lip and counted the seconds before saying, I can tell that this is not true. Please. I am here for you.

Melissa tried again to stifle the link, but with little greater success. You wouldn’t understand; I should be their age. I should… these things should be happening for me, Kareem.

No real solution came instantly to mind, so Kareem hesitated again. What can I do to help?

Just don’t tell them. With that, the emotional maelstroms in her mind started to subside and stunningly, even peeks of contentment started to come through.

With slowly dawning shock, Kareem realized what was happening. He hadn’t even been aware that it was possible, but Melissa was using her emotion elevation power on herself!

***

The eagle and gavel logo of the law offices of Mallory, Wells and Brown was typical of every other pseudo patriotic iteration of the same that Ian had seen over the years and, he assumed, that his father’s father had seen.

It was made all the more trying due to it being used as the placeholder image that came up when they put a video call on hold. And it had been there for ten minutes, accompanied by an instrumental not-quite-copy of Free Tonight by Calvin Kennedy.

Part of Ian wished he was still talking to General Pratt. Anything was better than holding a staring contest with a photo-realistic eagle while listening to a song about a melancholy breakup on the day after he’d proposed. Evidently, the song had been chosen for its title only.

After a few more grueling minutes, the logo disappeared and was replaced by the face of Issac Smythe.

The elder Smythe brother had shaved his beard and left only a soul patch and thin mustache. He’d also darkened his hair, not that it in any way mitigated the family resemblance. The tailored suit, however, did, contrasting with the ‘nice’ t-shirt and slacks Ian had on.

He smiled slyly. “A video call. Nice to see you’re finally only fifty years behind the times, little brother.”

Ian ignored the jab. He could point out that most people never actually used the video capability of their phones, or the many reasons they didn’t try, but it wasn’t important at the moment. Nothing Issac could say or do could bring him down at the moment. “It’s a special occasion. Hold on a second, I need to get dad on the line too.” With a few taps on his computer, he added that number to the call queue.

Unlike his oldest boy, Max Smythe was always prompt on answering if he was able to and picked up on the third ring. The window his call was in remained blank. As was the well mannered, but vaguely paranoid style of his generation, he answered merely by repeating his phone number.

“Hey dad, it’s Ian. Listen, I’ve got some big news—”

“Ian. Good to hear from you boy. Did you get my thank you card for my Christmas present?”

“Yeah, but I—“

“I’ve been meaning to get a new hydration oven. Didn’t realize I needed a new one ’til I hooked the one you gave me up and found out how long it’s actually supposed to take to bake a potato.” The Smythe patriarch chuckled.

“Um Dad, actually, I’ve got Issac on the line, I—” Ian tried again, but was once again drowned out by his father.

“Issac? It’s good to hear you two actually talking like men for once instead of throwing childish insults like boys.”

Even though the calls weren’t connected yet, Issac’s call was still active and that last part made his face screw up petulantly. As far as he was concerned, it was both his right and duty to give his younger brother a hard time as long as it was all in good fun, or failing that, revenge.

Ian couldn’t help but smirk at this. “I couldn’t agree more. Let me link the two of you up now, okay? I’ve got big, big news.” He connected the two calls while his father was still uttering his consent. The two separate windows became a split screen; Issac on one side, the placeholder logo for Pacific Coast Communications on the other.

“Issac.” Mr. Smythe said brightly the moment they were connected. “How’s the firm?”

“Business as usual.” Issac tried to look modest about it, but failed miserably. “I was actually preparing the Nostrum-Riddle class action case when Ian called.”

“Right, the big news.” said Mr. Smythe. “Well let’s hear it, son.”

“Yes sir.” Ian grinned. “But first… can you turn on your vid capability? I want to see your face when I tell you. It should be a blue button with a monitor symbol.”

“I know how to work my own appliances.” Mr. Smythe reprimanded Ian. There was a long pause, several clicks and tones, then he cleared his throat. “Blue button you say?”

“With a monitor symbol. At least that’s the standard.”

“Not on mine. There’s a teal button like that.”

“Okay, try that one.”

“You said blue.” Mr. Smythe pointed out.

“Teal’s a kind of blue.” Ian suppressed a sigh.

“No it’s not, it’s green.”

“He’s right, Ian, it’s part of the green family.” Issac chimed in.

“How do you get that?” Ian asked, “It clearly looks blue.”

“A greenish blue.” Issac pressed.

“So it’s still blue!”

Max Smythe’s image took the place of the PCC logo. Lean and weathered by age, he ran his fingers through hair that was still more brown than gray and fixed his offspring with a scowl. “There, I’m on. Issac, stop arguing. Ian tell us this news.”

Both men were instantly cowed by a lifetime of knowing exactly what it was to incur the old man’s wrath.

His general high spirits managed to keep Ian from having the wind knocked out of him entirely. “No preamble?” He asked with a boyish smile. “No fanfare?”

“You’re testing my patience, son.” was the flat reply. “And from the looks of it, your brother needs to get back to work.” Rudeness was a cardinal sin in the Smythe household and wasting someone’s time was one of the prime examples as far as the patriarch was concerned.

Ian ducked his head. “Yes, sir.” Clasping his hands, he sat back in his chair and took a deep breath, not for theatrics, but because this was the first time he would be saying the words out loud.

“Okay, here goes…” He muttered to himself. “Um, last night Alexis and I had dinner and I… I asked her to marry me.”

Both father and son on the other side of the line reacted instantly; Issac looking as if he’d just been doused with cold water, Max with the biggest smile either of the brothers remembered seeing on their old man.

“Congratulations, son. She’s a good woman and I think the two of you’ll make one another just as happy as your mother and I made each other.” He mad a noise somewhere between a chuckle and a grunt. “I’m gonna admit though, I didn’t think you’d move that fast.”

“It wasn’t that fast.” Ian shrugged, feeling his face heat up. Throughout high school and college, he’d stumbled his way through relationships and his family knew it. There were glaciers known for making moves faster than him.

“Fast for you.” his father pointed out. “Then again, I suppose we’ve got to take into account the lady in question.” That was another thing that wasn’t exactly a secret among the Smythes; Ian’s infatuation with Alexis during high school. Even his mother, Krista, had given him more than her fair share of teasing over it.

Then he took note of his other son’s silence. “Issac, don’t you have something to say to your brother? Maybe something starting with ‘con’ and ending with ‘gradulations’?”

Being directly addressed brought Issac out of his thoughts. “Oh, I’m sorry. Congratulations and about damn time, I’d say.” He folded his arms and affected a snooty demeanor. “You’d probably be celebrating your anniversary if you’ve manned up enough to say something to her way back then instead of chauffeuring her to dates with guys who were better than you.”

Ian snorted at the possibly true insinuation. “Someone’s jealous. Always the best man, never a bride?”

The jab elicited a shrug from Issac. “Maybe a little. I mean hell, my baby bro’s getting married; that’s bound to make a guy feel old. Sort of felt like I would be getting married first…” He shot Ian a wicked glance, “After all, I’m the handsome brother.”

“Handsome like a bag of rocks.” Ian quipped.

Their father sighed at their typical antics and decided to move the subject along. “So how did you ask her, son? Did you do it the old, old traditional way? Ask her father for her hand and all?”

Ian blinked. “Wait, huh? You’re supposed to do that?”

“Only if you want to go by strictest tradition. Don’t worry though, even I didn’t do that. Krista’s old man hated me something fierce in fact.”

That got a chuckle from Ian. He fondly remembered his grandfather’s barely concealed disdain for the father of his only grandchildren. “The funny thing is, Mr. Keyes loves me. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Alexis, I can see him trying to get one of her sisters to marry me to have me over more.”

He grinned. “Too bad I didn’t think of asking him. He would have gotten a kick out of it. It’s probably too late now; Alex has probably called them already.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #43 – Love You MadlyIssue #45 – The Gremlin and The Game >>

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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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