Issue #44 – It’s Official!

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

Part 4

The office of the Liedecker Institute’s Student Life Coordinator, Stephanie Carroll was on the ground floor, across from the library.

Sitting in the woman’s chair, Alexis reached the conclusion that Stephanie was either the most spartan woman she’d ever known, or that she still didn’t feel at home in the office. The place looked almost exactly as it had when the school opened. There were no pictures of her family or friends, no knick-knacks or posters to personalize the place; there wasn’t even any trash in the trashcan.

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t had time to settle in either. Never mind being on the job since the start of the school year, SLC was an extremely undemanding position. Her primary duty was making sure the janitorial staff came and went on time and relaying repair orders to the maintenance staff. Beyond that, the position was little more than being a highly paid hall monitor.

The job was so low priority that Alexis hadn’t batted an eyelash when Liedecker placed the daughter of one of his old college friends in it; she thought it was tailor-made for that purpose. In fact, if she hadn’t met the woman and seen her intense, no nonsense attitude herself, she would have expected the office to be full of creature comforts and entertainment.

No one could be entertained in that office.

Which was a problem for someone trying to fill in for her. There was no work; the kids were either celebrating the weekend off campus, sleeping in, or otherwise being quiet. Even the refrigerator in the lounge was stocked.

Alone in that room, she had no excuse not to call her family with the good news. Not that any of that stopped her stalling.

It wasn’t that it wasn’t great news. It was and she wanted to share it with them. Nor was it the guilt she’d felt for disappearing for two years. Unlike other issues, she’d worked past that with a healthy regimen and weekly calls to her parents and more often than not, at least one sister.

Problems like that could be quickly and simply solved with self berating and stubbornness, the same way she’d gotten her degree.

She opened her phone for what was probably the tenth time and opened the directory for her family’s numbers. Her problem presented itself right there in the black text: The number of her childhood home followed by the number of the restaurant where her father worked.

Her original hope had been to catch both of her parents at home and tell them both at the same time. But she was fairly sure she’d missed that window of opportunity. Calling them in turn and conferencing the call was also out, an earlier attempt having already failed; her parents’ local voice service provider was one of the most corrupt in the country and purposefully did a poor job supporting the services offered by other providers.

Put it all together and it meant she had to decide who to call first. And that would mean getting an earful from the one she called second.

If she had been any of her sisters, the answer would have been simple: their mother lived for things like this. It hadn’t been that long ago that Alexis’s sister, Nicole had gotten engaged and it made their mother’s year asking after all the details of the proposal and doing whatever she could to plan the wedding.

To be sure, Anita Keyes liked to take an active role in the lives of her daughters.

But as much as she loved her mother, Alexis had always been closer to her father. She had been named after him and took more than a few personality traits from his side too. And it couldn’t be overlooked that she alone out of all of her siblings inherited his psionic powers.

While the others spent time with their mother, following her to the dozens of odd jobs she held over the years, Alexis was in the kitchen; fetching, washing, peeling, grating, rolling and pressing ingredients to help their father along on his quest to be a professional chef.

Alejandro Keyes had been and would be proud and happy again to hear that any of his daughters were getting married, but hearing he would be giving Alexis away would affect him an order of magnitude more.

While she was contemplating her predicament, someone knocked on the door.

As usual, the door was standing open, making it necessary for her visitor to lean slightly into the room to knock on it.

“Faith. Come in!” Alexis recognized that terminally slim form of Faith Duvall even through the dingy ‘I heart NY’ sweatshirt and khakis that hung off it as if on a wire rack. She wasn’t an attractive women; with a nose more suited to someone trying to ensnare children in gingerbread houses and unevenly cut brown hair, and she made no effort to fix that.

But she was hands down the easiest member of the teaching staff to talk to and at the moment, Alexis would have paid her weight in gold for a distraction like her. “I didn’t expect to see you here on a weekend.”

The Institute’s teacher of computer science smiled and strode into the room. “That’s because I’m not here. Not on the job anyhow. I’m here to pick up Joy; we’re meeting Charity in the city for lunch.”

She shoved her hands in her pockets while she gave the room a casual look around. “I’m a little surprised myself; seeing you in Steph’s office.”

“I’m filling in for her.” Explained Alexis. As she did, she closed her phone and set it on the desk. Crisis averted. Temporarily.

“You’re a braver woman than me.” Faith rocked back on her heels with a silent laugh. “Just make sure you don’t sharpen any of her pencils in the wrong direction or get the ass groove in her chair out of alphabetical order.”

Alexis snorted at this. “I’ve heard tales, but she can’t be that bad. Have you ever sat down and talked with her?”

“When would I have the chance?” Faith chuckled. “She never hangs around the teacher’s lounge, she brown bags and eats at her desk, and she always, without any equivocation, blows the other teachers off when we invite her to meet somewhere after work. I only took freshman level psychology, but I’m going to go ahead and label her antisocial.”

“Or a workaholic.” Alexis countered with a grin. “Though I’m not one to talk about that.”

“Hmm…” replied Faith, “I’m not sure if I should agree or not, you are pretty much the boss here. I don’t want this to reflect badly on my tenure.”

They shared a laugh at that. Alexis’s official title was Powers Training and Creativity Coordinator, which made her both a teacher and an adviser the other teachers would consult when it came to dealing with the students’ powers. Unofficially, it wasn’t a secret that she and Laurel had Vincent Liedecker’s ear when it came to curriculum and personnel.

“I think it’s safe to agree.” Alexis finally managed through her laughter. “All my friends say the same thing.”

“There’s something else.” Faith cocked her head to the side and rocked forward, curiosity glittering in her eyes. “You’re in a much better mood than usual. Laughing at jokes is one thing, but you can’t seem to keep that smile off your face.”

Alexis felt her face heat up. She hadn’t even realized it and now she was acutely aware of the girlish grin she was sporting. “Oh.” She stammered. “I was going to mention it at the staff meeting Monday morning, but… well my boyfriend proposed last night.”

Faith beamed. “Oh, wow, congratulations! That’s the guy that picks you up for lunch sometimes, right?” Alexis nodded. “Ah. Not my type, but he’s kind of cute.”

Leaning on the desk, Alexis cupped her chin in her hand. “Very cute. And sweet. We’ve know each other since high school, but we’ve only been… er… together for about a year.”

“Ah.” Faith bobbed her head. “Childhood friend makes good. So what took you so long? Or has he not always been cute and sweet?”

This had Alexis avoiding her gaze. She considered it a stroke of good fortune that Ian never asked that question. Ian thought it was because he had changed. He had, but not in the ways that attracted her to him… the non-physical ways at least.

The true was…

“No, he’s always been sweet and smart.” She admitted. “And sort of cute in a gangly sort of way. It’s more that I wasn’t always the kind of girl that appreciated sweet.”

“I’m having trouble seeing it.”

“No, I’m serious.” said Alexis, “Do you have Kura in any of your classes? Or Tammy Kaine?”

“I’ve heard the legends.” Faith said. “Joy talks about them and their friends all the time.”

“I was the Kura of my generation.” Alexis said, then instantly amended, “Without the powers, of course. And I only dated the popular guys. Ian wasn’t, so I never even considered. Plus, by the time we graduated, it would have been like dating my brother.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling.” Somehow, Alexis doubted there were many guys pining over Faith Duvall, but she didn’t let it show.

“But now, you know, things have changed and now we’re engaged and the big thing is figuring out which of my parents to tell first.” Alexis waved casually toward her phone.

Faith sighed wistfully. “Wish I had that problem. Then again, it’s easy for me, Father is the only real parent we have so…”

“Also your sisters!” The new voice was accompanied by a ball of flying fur gliding in and catching Faith in a hug.

Joy Duvall, like her sister, wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but despite her protomorphic body, she managed to be downright adorable from her fuzzy pelt to her bat-like ears to the cute little fangs that poked out of the sides of her mouth.

The gliding ambush and hug was her usual method of showing affection and she’d only gotten better at it, more precise. While she wasn’t built for true flight, the muscles in her second set of winglike arms were developing nicely and with a training regimen designed by Alexis, she was learning how to better use the air currents to stay aloft longer.

Faith wasn’t caught off guard by being pounced on for even a second, wrapping her baby sister in a hug of her own. “I was just on my way up, kid. Ready to go see Charity?”

“Mmm hmm.” Joy relinquished her hold on her sister and dropped to the floor. For the first time, she noticed Alexis. “Hi, Ms. Keyes!” She chirped while waving enthusiastically.

Alexis returned the wave. “Hi, Joy. Remember, your report on how you use your powers in your day to day life is due Monday; two pages, double spaced.”

“Already done.” The fuzzy girl said brightly.

“Great.” said Alexis as she turned her attention back to Faith. “I should let the two of you go. It was nice talking to you though.”

“Likewise.” Faith nodded with a small wave. “Sorry I couldn’t offer any advice on your situation. Um, flip a coin?”

Alexis laughed and waved them off. “Thanks. Enjoy your lunch.”

After they were gone, it was at least a count of ten before she picked up her phone again. Her eyebrows furrowed in frustration. How could so simple and happy a task be so irksome? Heaving a sigh, she set the phone down once more.

And reached for her purse. There should be a coin in there.

***

Elsewhere

The recording they were watching stopped playing, leaving the wall it was being projected on blank once more.

There were only two souls watching it. One sat behind the large desk in an executive model office chair. He was an elderly black man, dressed in a smart suit with a cane across his knees. His expression was a tight-lipped smile that showed every wrinkle and line in his face.

The other was younger and darker of complexion, his skin the rich, dark black of middle Africa. He sat on the end of the desk, dressed in rough cloth pants, an open, hide vest, and a tattered, dark gray cloak that bunched up around his neck. Fresh, white bandages were wrapped around his wrists and feet up to his calf. His balance was split between the desk and a slim wooden pole gripped in his left hand.

“So that’s what comes to pass.” the younger man asked, his voice heavy with a Caribbean accent.

His companion, the man called George, nodded. “We never know for sure, but it doesn’t came back as not happening anymore. All other avenues seem to be closed.”

“But you still don’t know how it works.” the other pointed out, raising an eyebrow at George and cocking his head to the side. The motion made the beads and shells woven into his dozens of braids chime and clatter.

George frowned at him momentarily, but couldn’t keep from smiling again over what they’d just watched. “When you showed up, I was hoping I’d get some answers, actually. It’s taken me years to get this far with it.”

His companion shrugged again. “Sorry. Things are still a blur in my head at times. I might never remember. Might not have anything to remember about it.” He glanced at the still blank wall. “Something I notice though. You were invited.”

“I noticed too. It doesn’t happen every time, but it happens enough that I’ll have to act on it.”

The younger man grinned at this and extended his hand for a congratulatory handshake. The gesture revealed a spider tattooed in his palm. “Then it’s official. You have a wedding to attend.”

End Issue #44

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

About Vaal

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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