Chapter 202

               Despite the surge of action on Friday, the rest of the weekend passed relatively without incident. Most of the students headed off on Saturday morning, bound for houses that no longer quite felt like homes or exotic destinations that would leave them with foggy memories, a few bruises, and massive hangovers. For the Melbrook dorm, little changed from a regular weekend, save for the fact that most of their non-resident friends were gone. Even Alex’s ever-presence was interrupted as he decided to take a week at home with his folks. Only Nick, Camille, Shane, and Angela were also still at Lander, though the pair of siblings were planning to head home to see their family on Wednesday night.

                By the time Tuesday rolled around, the threat of Nathaniel’s attack had lost its sense of imminence and was relegated to a small worry that tickled the back of the student’s minds as they filed into the Melbrook kitchen to find Chad already at the stove, preparing an almost cartoonishly sized stack of pancakes.

                “Morning,” Chad said, greeting the sleepy-eyed fellow students as they wandered in. Life at Lander had gotten everyone used to waking up a certain hour, and it would take more than just a lack of classes to break that habit.

                “Mrrfrpuhph,” Alice mumbled, shambling over to the coffee maker only to find a fresh pot already brewed. She poured herself a generous mug, eschewing things like cream or sugar that might slow her buzz, and then passed the pot to Hershel, who was not so stingy with the sweetners.

                “Good Morning,” Mary said. Unlike most of the others, she was capable of putting on a more affable appearance in the light of morning. Part of it was from her inclination to rise with the sun anyway, years in the woods will cultivate such habits, and the rest she credited to her preference of tea over things like coffee.

                “Wow, something smells great,” Vince said. Despite over three years of steady meals, a part of him always reacted to food instinctually, as though he never quite believed this seemingly endless supply would still be around the next day. His eyes seemed to widen at the sight of so many flapjacks, and that was before the scent of cooking bacon hit him.

                “I wanted to start my day off with what is generally considered to be an average wholesome breakfast,” Chad explained. “Generally, it is my understanding that this is what many people eat before large, group outing days. Also, my mom was willing to give me her recipe.” As he spoke, Chad flipped another pancake from the skillet and onto the ever-growing stack, then paused to check a large pan of eggs.

                “That was a very sweet gesture,” Mary said. “Though you didn’t need to get up so early and cook for us.”

                “I’m always awake at this hour. Usually I spend the mornings running across campus, however for today I decided this would be a better use of my time.”

                “There are probably a lot of confused groundskeepers wondering where the speedy blond guy is,” Hershel remarked, his mind beginning to function as it took hot sips of his highly caffeinated beverage.

                “Or they’ll just think he went home for spring break.” Alice’s words managed to come out this time, though her tone was still quite grumpy. The scent of impending food was beginning to perk her up, though. “Anyway, now that the big day is finally here, do we get to know what’s on the docket?”

                “The most usual, unexceptional youthful experiences I was able to find in my research.” The others very much wanted to ask Chad just how much research he’d had to do to come up with mundane experiences, but he kept on talking before anyone got the chance to find a non-offensive way to phrase the question. “We’ll begin the morning going to an arcade, which in high school I was led to believe was filled with games that were entertaining. Afterwards, I was thinking we could hit a beach, since everyone seemed to enjoy themselves so much on the big trip last year. There is also a small boardwalk amusement park we could visit, as those are supposedly enjoyable. Come evening, we can find an unassuming restaurant at which to dine.”

                “Is that how normal people really spend their days off?” Vince asked.

                “He’s cramming a lot of stuff into one day, but overall Chad actually hit the nail pretty well on the head,” Hershel told them. “It’s all stuff we’ve done and took for granted.”

                “Never been to an arcade,” Vince said. “Too much electricity, plus delicate electronics, to say nothing of the fact that we didn’t have the time or money for it when I was growing up.”

                “I’ve actually had to avoid amusement parks,” Alice added. “If I got too excited at the top of a rollercoaster I was likely to slip right out of my seat. My father once offered to rent out an entire one and have someone accompany me with safety straps on each ride, but the idea just depressed me more than not going in the first place.”

                “To the shock of none of you, I’ve also steered clear of both those places, as well as many others, since the concentration of people made even functioning hellish, to say nothing of enjoying the experience.” Mary snagged a box of tea bags from an overhead cupboard, grabbing them telekinetically rather than trying to climb atop the counter and pull them down.

                “Wow.” Hershel took a long sip of still steaming coffee. “Sometimes I forget that I’m the only one among us with a semi-normal childhood.”

                “Mine wasn’t especially odd,” Chad said. “I was simply dedicated to training at the exclusion of activities I deemed to be frivolous. The only times I participated in normal childhood events were when my mom forced me to, but even then I didn’t try much to enjoy them.”

                “Sounds like this day will be good for all of us then,” Vince said. “When are the others getting here?”

                “Angela said she and Shane would arrive by nine, and I believe Camille should come around the same time. As for Nick, I know he is hesitant to visit us here, so I gave him the arcade’s address and told him we would call when departing from the dorm.” Chad easily lifted the massive stack of pancakes from the counter and set them on the small table. “Bacon will be out of the oven in five minutes and the eggs should be done in three. In the meantime, help yourselves. We have a long day ahead of us and it would be a shame if anyone lacked the necessary nutrients to keep their energy levels up.”

                Chad had barely gotten the words out before the first of the pancakes began flying off the top of the stack.


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