Guest Week Day #2: Mathtans

TOUCH AND GO
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“Hey Azure. What’ve you got there?”

Azure Vermilion turned to face her friend, who was now standing in the doorway. “Hi Faye. It’s just a necklace with a pendant,” she said, holding it up.

“Huh.” Faye came the rest of the way into the Vermilion living room, dumping her book bag onto the floor by the coffee table. “Where did you get it?”

“Second cousin,” Azure said. She looked back at the pendant as Faye sat on the couch next to her. The two Grade Nine girls had decided to study together that weekend, and at Azure’s house for a change, rather than meeting at the library.

Azure saw it as a step closer towards having a best friend. Since Faye was one of the few girls who didn’t seem to care that the Vermilion family had a reputation for being a weirdness magnet. A reputation largely due to Azure’s older sister, Chartreuse.

“Second as in you have more than one cousin, or as in you share a great-grandparent?” Faye asked.

“The latter,” Azure clarified. Holding the necklace up by the clasp, she flicked the pendant with her other hand. It was small, and seemed to be shaped like an hourglass. “Second cousin once removed to get all technical.”

“Huh,” her brunette classmate repeated. She leaned in for a closer look. “So why are older relatives sending you stuff? Is it your birthday or something?”

“No.” Azure grimaced, as she realized that she was slowly painting herself into a corner. How much more could she say here without freaking Faye right the heck out? She probably shouldn’t have opened up the package while waiting for Faye to arrive.

Chartreuse had been so insistent though. Almost as if her older sister had sensed that it needed to be opened that morning. To the point of shooing Azure off, saying to go do it, and that she’d get the door for Faye whenever she arrived.

“So what’s the deal?” came Faye’s natural follow-up question.

Azure sighed. “Stupid mystic stuff. Actually, you want this? I don’t want it.” She dropped the pendant and chain onto the coffee table.

Faye crossed her arms. “Won’t your cousin get upset if you don’t send back a picture of you wearing it or something?”

“No. Bridget lives down in the United States somewhere. We’ve never talked before. In fact, I don’t even know what she looks like.” Azure hesitated before adding, “The accompanying letter simply said she got this ‘impression’ that I should have the thing.” Azure made the appropriate air quotes. “Well, stuff that nonsense, yeah?”

“I guess?” Faye lifted an eyebrow before reaching out to pick the pendant up. “It doesn’t even look valuable,” she admitted. “Does this sort of thing happen to you often?”

“No, no, no, thank goodness,” Azure said, raking a hand back through her dyed-blue hair. “In fact, having anyone pick up vibes through the family line is pretty rare. I don’t think it’s happened to us since that time Chartreuse foresaw Fluffy’s death.”

Faye leaned away from her. “Death?”

Azure froze as she realized what she’d said. Crud, crud, crud. “It’s fine,” she said quickly. “The death was just that vision stuff my sister Chartreuse gets into. I’m not into it, not like her. I don’t even get impressions. Not from people like she does, or from ghosts like mom, or from objects like Bridget. I only have the historical-parlour-tricks-with-playing-cards thing as a handicap to being normal.” Still, it was enough to reveal things she didn’t want to see from time to time.

Faye eyed Azure. “Don’t talk to me like you think I’m going to run out of your house screaming about you being a witch. I’m not.”

Azure winced. “Sorry.”

“Don’t forget, I know all about family stuff that we can’t control, with both our sets of parents sucking at picking names. Plus you put up with my attitude, so we’re cool.” Faye straightened her posture. “But if you really don’t want it..." She pulled the hourglass pendant back against herself, reaching behind her neck to clasp it in place. “Does it look any good on me?”

“Looks fine,” Azure said with a shrug. The both of them were wearing typical T-shirts and jeans, though she supposed that Faye’s preference for black helped the small silver hourglass to stand out more.

Before Azure could say any more, a blonde girl wearing a white blouse with blue slacks marched into the living room. Acting like she owned the place. Chartreuse’s girlfriend. “Hi!” the senior student said. “Apparently you’ve got a new pendant, Azure? Can I... oh, your friend is already wearing it. Looks nice. Mind if I...?"

Faye reached up to smack the back of the blonde’s hand as she reached out to touch the silver item around her neck.

Azure jumped to her feet. “Carrie! What the hell? Go upstairs and make out with my sister or something. We’re studying here.”

Carrie cleared her throat as she rubbed her palm. “Yes. Well. Need to touch the pendant is all. Won’t take long. Then I’m gone.”

Azure turned to Faye, feeling equal parts anger and horror. “I am SO sorry, Faye. If I’d known that Chartreuse or any of her friends were going to act like lunatics today, I’d have had us meet at the library instead.”

“Feh. I know where the library is too,” Carrie pointed out. “Faye’s brother works there.”

Faye also glared at Carrie. “Azure, don’t apologize,” she said tersely. “It’s not your fault that certain high school seniors have delusions of grandeur.”

Carrie sighed and wiggled her fingers in the air. “One touch. Then gone.”

“Why?” Faye challenged. “You think you can do impressions like Azure’s cousin Bridget or something?”

Carrie blinked. “Is Bridget Irish? I can kind of mimic an Irish accent. But it’d probably offend a real Irish person.”

Azure palmed her face. “Go. Away. Carrie.”

“How about this. You can touch my new pendant if you get Chartreuse to do Azure’s chores for the rest of the month,” Faye decided.

Azure looked back up. Faye was now grinning, while Carrie seemed annoyed. The blonde teen muttered something that sounded like, “You try and be a good samaritan,” before nodding to Faye. “Fine, fine.”

Faye flashed a grin at Azure as Carrie reached in. But rather than tapping at the hourglass with her finger, Carrie closed her hand around the whole pendant, then closed her eyes. Her expression implied that she was concentrating on something.

“A-hem?” Faye said pointedly, after about ten seconds of that.

“Didn’t specify how long I’d touch,” Carrie muttered. “Don’t interrupt. Almost got a time that works... aha, there.” She smiled, finally releasing her grip, opening her eyes and drawing back. “Thanks. Also, Azure? You’ll need to call as soon as they clear out tomorrow. Otherwise the deal is off.”

Azure failed to come up with a witty retort as Carrie ran back out of the room. Namely because she was slowly coming to realize that this whole incident didn’t make any sense. How could Carrie have known about the pendant? The trinket had been removed from it’s shipping box mere minutes before Faye had arrived. Even Azure hadn’t known what it had been before that.

Had Chartreuse foreseen it or something, and then told her girlfriend about it? To prank them? That was the only explanation Azure could think of. I mean, it wasn’t as if Carrie had mystic abilities. Strange phenomena being a real thing wasn’t even known to over 99.9% of the world’s population.

Unless, had being with Chartreuse for all those meditation sessions mystically influenced Carrie somehow? Was that even possible?

“Ignore it,” Faye suggested, snapping Azure out of her confusion. “Ignore your sister’s obvious shenanigans and let’s get to the studying.”

“Uh, right,” Azure agreed. She shook her head and picked up her classroom binder from the corner of the table.

***

The robbery had been well planned. Azure had to admit that. The two guys had been in and out of the bank in less than five minutes. One of them had taken cash from the tellers, one had taken jewellery from the customers, and then a third person had driven them away in that black van. They hadn’t wasted time waiting for anyone to open the vault.

Which also made sense, Azure reasoned. This wasn’t a big town, so there wasn’t a whole lot in it worth robbing. The thieves were probably fleeing the community even now, leaving random chaos in their wake.

“Sorry Faye,” Azure moaned, tuning out whatever the bank manager was saying about the police having been called, and to please stay on the premises to make a statement. “If I hadn’t wanted you to come with me to the bank after school, you never would have been mixed up in this.”

“It’s fine,” Faye grumbled. “All they got from me was that pendant of yours, which I’ve had less than two days. And it was worth, what, not even twenty bucks?”

“I guess. They got my watch,” Azure lamented. Even as Faye’s comment about the pendant reminded her of Carrie’s remark from the previous day. Wait, ‘Call as soon as they clear out’...?

“You gotta react faster,” Faye said, pulling up her pant leg. She reached down to yank her phone out of her tall socks. “I got this hidden away almost before the guy finished saying ‘nobody move’. I am NOT letting anyone take it from me, took me forever to get enough to pay for the thing.”

“Faye, can you let me use that phone? I need to call my sister,” Azure said. It still didn’t make any sense, but then, neither did any of her family’s mystic issues. Such as the way having cellular phones in their house could interfere with their divinations.

“Your sister? I thought your whacky family didn’t own cell phones,” Faye pointed out as she handed it over.

“We don’t, but I bet I know who Chartreuse is with right now,” Azure said. She punched in Carrie’s number.

Carrie didn’t pick up until the third ring. “Hello?” came a voice ladled with suspicion.

“Carrie, the bank’s just been robbed. Is Chartreuse with you?”

There was the sound of Carrie repeating the information, then a beeping sound.

“You’re on, like, speaker, and I’m totally here,” Chartreuse’s voice said. “What happened at the bank?”

“Two guys plus a driver, they grabbed what they could from both tellers and bystanders, then took off in a van. We’re fine,” Azure added. “But they got a lot of stuff here, including that pendant that you and Carrie were obsessing over yesterday. So what’s the deal?”

There was a pause. “What pendant is this?” Chartreuse asked.

Azure rolled her eyes. “The pendant our second cousin sent me. The one you made me open right before Faye showed up on Sunday. The one Carrie fondled minutes later. Can you finally tell me what that was all about?”

“Wait, you saw me yesterday?” Carrie mused.

Azure glared down at Faye’s phone. “Oh, don’t. Don’t even pretend like you don’t remember what you did, Carrie.”

“Azure, I simply, you know, had the sense that you’d need to, like, open that package on Sunday morning,” Chartreuse said. “You’re saying it was a pendant? And that it was totally stolen minutes ago? By, you know, bank robbers?”

“YES. And if I weren’t stuck here at the bank needing to give a statement, I would track you both down and throttle you for playing games at a time like this.”

“Chartreuse,” came Carrie’s voice. “If this pendant was enough of a blank slate..."

“It looked like cheap jewellery,” Faye offered up, leaning in next to Azure. “I don’t even care. The thieves will probably junk it as soon as they realize.” She frowned, then looked more directly at her classmate. “Uh, look, Azure, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate the gift. I did, if that’s what it was. Just... yeah. Don’t sweat it, that’s all?”

Azure flashed Faye a quick smile. “I get you.”

Chartreuse was saying something on the other end, but with Faye speaking, Azure only caught, “...too dangerous. Azure, were the robbers armed? I bet they were, like, armed.”

“The two in here had guns, yeah,” Azure confirmed.

“So no, Carrie,” Chartreuse said. “No way.”

“Except it sounds like I’ve already done part of it,” came Carrie’s smug voice. “Don’t worry. Got a plan. Nobody messes with our town so long as I’m living here.”

“What are you two talking about? Will you lovebirds start to make a lick of sense any time soon?” Azure fumed.

Chartreuse sighed. “Not really. I’ll, like, be there as soon as I can though. I’m glad you’re safe, Azure. It’s important to be SAFE, right Carrie? Thanks for calling.”

With that, the connection cut out. Azure glared at the phone until Faye plucked it back out of her hands. “Gotta say,” Faye remarked, “as much as I hate my family situation since the divorce, at least my siblings are easier to read than your sister.”

“Next time, bargain freedom from a full month of chores for me, rather than the rest of the current month,” Azure suggested.

***

Sid chuckled as he pulled the van away from the bank. They were right on schedule. That made three robberies in six months. Enough to qualify as a crime spree? Well, he hoped the banks had been spread out enough in terms of location so as to not be connected.

It’s not like they were grabbing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Honestly, for him, it wasn’t even about the money, but rather the thrill of doing the deed. The money simply made it easier for him to recruit a couple of accomplices to do the dirty work, while he analyzed the best time of day to act, engineered a plan of attack, and so forth.

They hit a red light heading out of town, and Sid stopped. Not so much because of the single car of cross traffic, more that there was no immediate sign of pursuit, meaning no sense in getting fingered for a traffic violation. Blending in, that was the key now.

All the same, Sid tapped at the steering wheel as he looked at the countdown on the pedestrian crosswalk to the left, to get a sense of when he’d be able to get underway. 10... 9... 8... Zero? The light ahead of him was green. Startled, Sid mashed his foot down onto the gas.

He felt the van bump up over something in the road, the entire vehicle shuddering despite the very low speed collision. Then there was a popping noise as at least a couple of the tires blew out, and something hit the van’s undercarriage. He began to fishtail. Damn. Had he just struck a pedestrian? He hadn’t seen anyone.

The steering wheel was becoming unresponsive. Sid moved his foot to hit the brake. He was now in the middle of the intersection. At least this wasn’t a high traffic area.

“Guys! Bail,” Sid shouted to his associates in the back. “I hit something.”

He threw the driver’s side door open and jumped to the ground. Except as he turned to get a better look at whatever he might have run into, he nearly fell over. He’d stepped onto a large strip of adhesive paper, which was sticking to his shoes and hindering his movements.

Yanking his right foot free and stumbling back, Sid saw the problem. The van had run over a long board, covered in nails. No, TWO boards, as he now saw one jammed across the back tires as well. How was that even possible? There had been nothing in the road as they’d driven up. Certainly nothing that he’d seen, at any rate.

“Hey! Something grabbed my gun,” came a voice from the other side of their getaway vehicle. His two partners must have jumped out of the van’s sliding door. “Where did it go?”

“Mine’s gone too,” Sid heard moments later. He instinctively reached for his holster, pulling out his own gun and holding it tightly. He’d noticed a car coming down the road some distance behind them. Maybe he could get them to pull over, to make his escape that way. He turned.

That’s when she appeared. A teenager with long, blonde hair, wearing a white blouse with blue slacks. “Appeared” being the only possible word for it, because he hadn’t heard the girl approach, and yet now here she was, by his side. Holding onto his gun, apparently trying to pull it from his grasp.

Sid snarled, and tried to elbow her away, clutching tighter at his weapon.

“Oh hell,” the blonde girl gasped. She looked to be out of breath. In fact, moisture was streaming down her face, and there were sweat stains on her top. Almost as if she’d stopped by while in the process of running a marathon.

Her grip on his gun tightened too, probably to keep him from drawing a bead on her. Except she had to use both hands for that. Sid still had a hand free, which he now used to smack her across the face. He wouldn’t have hit a girl under normal circumstances, but right now, all that mattered to him was getting away.

She fell back in surprise, losing her grip. Sid quickly stepped away, heading to where he expected the approaching car to be. It had already pulled over to the side of the road. When had it had the time to do that? The guy inside seemed to be phoning someone. Probably the police.

Fine. “New plan,” Sid said, clicking the safety off his gun. He turned back towards the blonde teenager, reaching for her with his other hand. “You’re my hostage.”

“I gotta better plan,” the girl panted. For a moment, Sid could have sworn her eyes gave off a yellow glow.

She moved fast. Impossibly fast. The blonde’s hands were back on the gun before he could pivot away, to get it out of her reach. Now holding onto it again, she continued the turning motion he had begun, while pointing his weapon down, towards the ground. Her fingers reached the trigger, and she fired the weapon harmlessly into the asphalt.

Sid drew back his free arm to hit her again. Except he somehow couldn’t get his muscles to behave properly. It was as if his left arm was now underwater, meeting incredible air resistance as he tried to move it. In essence, his fist was moving at half speed compared to what his brain expected.

The gun fired again, and again, and then clicked. He was out of bullets. He hadn’t bothered to check if he had a full clip.

Finally, his arm decided to resume normal speed. Sid clocked the girl in the face, but the irregularity of his own arm movement made him stumble, off balance. As the blonde faceplanted into the roadway, his right foot hit that stupid adhesive paper again. With both his feet stuck again, he began to completely lose his balance, and found he was unable to throw his arms out in time to break his fall.

The last thing Sid heard as he hit his head, and felt himself losing consciousness, was the girl’s voice mumbling, “That could’ve gone better.”

***

“Chartreuse, please speak to me.”

The older Vermilion sibling said nothing, continuing to dab with the facecloth. Carrie tried not to wince as the cool object pressed against her wounded face.

“Aw, c’mon. Not even a tiny ‘like, you know’, huh?” Carrie said.

The pink haired girl in the rainbow dress finally pulled back, glaring with pursed lips.

Carrie sighed. “Okay. You want me to admit it? Fine. I did a stupid. But consider, I have to get better at using my weird time powers. People from the future might still come after me, and I can’t risk going nuclear on them every single time.”

Chartreuse flung the facecloth towards the sink. “Damn it, Carrie,” she said at last. “That’s why we, you know, train. Not run off and play at being, like, Supergirl!”

Carrie winced. “But training only goes so far. And to be fair, at no point in my plan did I think I was bulletproof like in that TV show.”

“Which only highlights the, you know, stupidity.” Chartreuse stamped her foot. “Carrie, you could have been shot. AGAIN. What plan did you even have there?”

Carrie raised her index finger. “Step one, time trip back to yesterday, to get a bead on Azure’s new necklace. Pinpoint it in the temporal river, and target a time shortly after the robbery, when it was not in motion.” She raised another finger. “Step two, obtain boards with nails. Time travel to the stationary necklace, aka the thieves’ vehicle, and time freeze it long enough to put the boards down to take out their tires.” A third finger came up. “Step three, repeat the time suspending to put down some flypaper as the doors opened, and disarm the villains in the ensuing chaos.”

“Except you couldn’t hold the time freeze,” Chartreuse challenged.

Carrie dropped her arm back to her side. “Actually, I think I could have held it. It was the coordination that tripped me up. As I dashed around, I had to keep flipping the temporal hold pattern on and off, so that I could grab the guns, and to keep the approaching car from seeing a freeze frame. That was more draining than I thought. But c’mon, even if the one robber who got a good look can describe me, they’ll never believe him.”

“And what about the, like, traffic camera?”

Carrie tensed. “There was a camera?”

“No, but there totally could have been. You didn’t even, you know, think.”

Carrie let out a quick breath. “Chartreuse, don’t scare me like that.”

“Don’t scare YOU? Ohmigod, Carrie, seriously?!”

Carrie raised her palms up. “Okay! Okay, Chartreuse, I’m sorry. Really. I wouldn’t have let myself get shot though. As it was, I sped up my personal time long enough to discharge the driver’s gun before my plan went too far south. I think accidentally including him in the time field even worked to my advantage, because his extremities moved weirdly. So, yeah, I got away, and the police were pretty quick to arrive.”

Chartreuse was back to glaring. “You got lucky. I don’t know whether to, like, smack you for what you did, or kiss you for, you know, surviving and helping all those people get their valuables back.”

“I vote kiss,” Carrie said, grinning. “Come on, happy ending.”

Chartreuse planted both hands against the bathroom counter, on either side of Carrie. “Oooh, don’t you tempt me, Carrie Waterson! I mean, the other two crooks might have, you know, gotten away, if they hadn’t been weighed down trying to, like, take the sacks of valuables.”

Carrie shrugged. “They were caught.”

“You might have, you know, been knocked out and taken hostage.”

“I wasn’t.”

Chartreuse stamped her foot again. “Your ego is, like, driving me crazy here!”

“Crazy with loooove?”

Chartreuse let out a long breath. “Carrie, my temporal goddess, can you at least promise me that you won’t, you know, deliberately put your life in danger like that again? Not until we find a better way of dealing with nasty things like guns?”

Carrie gingerly probed at the largest scrape on her face. “That’s fair. And I am sorry for making you worry, Chartreuse. Really, that was not the plan. I learned a lesson today.”

“Good.” Chartreuse sighed. “I mean, I like that you’re feeling more in control of your power, and I know that you’re worried about being unprepared for the future. But you’ve gotta, like, think about the present too.” She made a face. “Because I’m not used to being the, you know, responsible one.”

Carrie nodded, hoping she sounded as contrite as she felt. “Understood. Thank you, Chartreuse. Seriously. Kiss now?”

“Love you too,” Chartreuse sighed, at last moving in close enough to brush her lips up against those of her girlfriend. And once their lips disengaged, she pulled Carrie into an embrace.

The two girls squeezed against each other, Carrie moving to run her palms up and down Chartreuse’s back. Then she cleared her throat. “Oh, one other thing. You kind of have to do Azure’s chores for the rest of the month. Because that was the deal for me getting a read on the pendant. Okay, Chartreuse?”

The hug became tighter.

“It’s just, your sister’s friends are sneaky. Look, I’ll help you, okay? Um, you’re squeezing a bit much now. Chartreuse? We’re still good, yeah?”

*

See more of Mathtans work at https://mathtans.wordpress.com/