“Did you say, one penny?” The woman stood dumbfounded, looking directly at the counter clerk.
“Yes ma’am, that’s the remaining balance on your layaway,” replied the clerk politely. The woman’s eyes quickly welled up and tears began flowing down her cheeks. She stumbled out a few words, “How did this happen?” To that question the clerk smiled. “An anonymous donor wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and covered most of the remaining balance,” she paused, “except one penny.”
“Triple kill baby! Suck that you bastards,” yelled Theo into the microphone dangling in front of his mouth. The sound of gun fire and recorded voices spilled out from the headset and into the rest of the room. Kaylee was pouring over some calculus homework at the kitchen table, her books and papers spread out and covering 90% of the available surface area. She looked up with an apprehensive look at the coach where Theo was sitting.
“Boom, got another one!”
Tara poured over all of the details of the map, one inch at a time. The light from the flashlight gripped in her teeth gave off a focused cone of light, shedding very little extraneous light. The sound of moving water was echoing through the chamber around her. Tara grabbed the flashlight out of her teeth, swallowed, and looked up at the ceiling above.
The glowworms brought the stars indoors with their shimmer. After traveling from the Isle of Man to Machu Picchu, she had stopped briefly at Cape Horn before realizing she was at the wrong location and catching the next flight to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Even after all of that traveling, she hadn’t bother to look up at the night sky in the last few weeks. Now she was in the heart of New Zealand’s north island, at the Waitomo Caves looking at the larvae’s version of the night sky.
Penny threw another shirt onto the pile on the bed. She was pacing back and forth between the bathroom and closet mirrors like a squirrel collecting nuts. She curled out her bottom lip and exhaled quickly, sending her bangs into the air for a moment. She looked into her full walk-in closet, “There is nothing to wear!”
Penny grabbed a navy blue dress with medium white polka dots all over and pulled it off of the rack, laying it flat against the rest of the hanging clothes. “Too flirty.” She tossed it toward the bed and pulled out another dress for scrutiny. “Too shiny.” She selected and then disregarded another 5 dresses before returning to her pacing. The decision was tricky; she didn’t want to seem to anxious, but also wanted to still draw some of his attention. If it was just a normal date, she would have chosen the polka dot dress and known that she would have had his full attention. The trouble was, this wasn’t a normal date, it was an invitation to a group outing. She wasn’t sure how many people would be attending, but she still wanted to get his attention. After all, she was sure that she wanted him.
“But Dad, I’m tired! Can we stop, please?”
“No honey, we are still on the Lorax’s property. We will be able to stop soon enough.” It wasn’t a lie, but he had left off some very important details. When the Lorax had sent the Brown clan of Bar-ba-loots away, it wasn’t an act of compassion; it was a threat.
Jack glanced down at the timer wrapped around his wrist: 4:59 and dropping fast. “Shit.” He was in a full on sprint down the trail, leaping from rock to rock while bracing against the scattered trees along the sides of the path. His hands were covered in sap and dirt and a few small cuts from the dried bark of the trees, but Jack was ignoring the pain and focusing on staying upright as he descended.
Natalie sneaked up behind Matthew and wrapped her hands gently around his head, covering his eyes. “Guess who,” she said with a flirtation tone as she pressed her body against his back. A smile crept along Matthew’s lips, “I don’t know, but I’m going to call the police and report you for assault.”
Natalie pulled her hands away and slid her body around him, looking up into his eyes with a demure look. “You wouldn’t do that… would you?” She raised her hands to his chest as she spoke, walking her fingers up towards his face slowly with each word. Matthew looked at her, trying to stay serious as Natalie’s fingers bopped him on the tip of his nose.