Chapter Thirty-Five: Epilogue

"So I says to him, I says Teddy, let it go! It was a one time thing and it happened six years ago and this man, would ya believe it, will not let it go!" the woman said to her friend at the adjacent teller booth in the train station as she flicked a blonde curl from her face.

"Rosie, I don't wanna hear it if you're not gonna leave him," her friend said and continued sorting through the money. "He's been doing this to you for way too long already. Ya need to get rid of him if he's never gonna trust you again."

Rosie leaned forward, resting her ample chest, much too revealed under her cotton blouse, on the counter and sighed. "Yeah, I know, but I'll never find anyone like Teddy." She tucked the unruly curl behind her ear with a flat tipped acrylic nail and finished bundling her money and adding up they day's profit. "So how much you count today, Cindy?"

"Less than I oughta." She stacked the bundles with an unnecessary force.

"That's becoming a habit, Cynthia."

"Yeah, but it's not like Harry on the other side is fairing much better. It ain't even so bad this time." She put the money in the vault beneath the register and stretched. "I'm ready to go home. Oh girl," she said, clapping her hands together, "Stu made ribs and corn tonight and I—what's that?" She pointed to an envelope that seemed to suddenly appear by her register. She was fairly sure she hadn't seen it there a minute ago.

"A secret admirer for me on the wrong desk?" Rosie smirked and took up the blank envelope, sliding her nail beneath the glued flap. Cynthia looked around for who could have put it there without either woman noticing. No one was in the small urban station besides her and Rosie and two kids outside that hadn't moved for a good half hour. They sat on a bench beneath the window probably waiting for their friends so they could do whatever it was those hoodlums did at night. She had seen her fair share of roving gangs and made sure there was accessible mace in her purse.

Rosie took out the folded notebook paper, oblivious to her friend's fleeting concerns, and started reading the note beneath a smudge that looked like a poorly erased picture.

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you.

Sincerely,

AOA

"AOA?" she said.

"Hey Rosie, looks like my admirer left me some cash. Enough for two one-way tickets to the City." She looked at Rosie who was still frowning at the letter. "What's it say? Lemme see." Cynthia snatched up the paper and skimmed it. Her curious smile dropped to a disappointed pout. "Oh, I thought it really was an admirer. Oh well. This should get me up to my quota for the month. AOA. What could that mean?"

"Adam Oliver Abbott?" Rosie pieced together a name from scratch and shrugged as she locked up her register.

"Eh, who cares? Thank you, AOA!" she announced to nobody and kissed the letter, leaving a red, pursed stain. She tucked the note back into the envelope and into her pocket, then closed her register. The women grabbed their coats. "So are ya coming by tonight? I'll break out the cot with some fresh sheets. My new fabric softener is heavenly!"

"Yeah. I may as well. Teddy will be out with Jim and the others. It's poker night. God forbid us women should interrupt."

"Men. Well, we've got plenty of wine for you to—" Then Cynthia started again; her head jerked so fast it loosened a limp hair clip that fell and clicked against the floor. She paused and cocked her head to the side.

Had she just seen what she thought she saw? Those two kids who were sitting on the bench outside were gone. She wouldn't have thought twice about it—in fact she would have been glad for it—if her eyes weren't trailing them as they left. Vanished might be the better term. One moment they were there and then they weren't, sliding into a shadow and disappearing.

Rosie snapped her fingers near her friend's face. "What's the matter, Cindy?" Cynthia didn't answer. "Hey! What's got you spooked?"

"Uh…" No. She couldn't possibly have seen that. It was just getting late. That was all. Fatigue could do funny things to your eyes. "It's—it's nothing. Let's get going. I think I really need a drink."

Tsed Evre


Here's a sneak peek into the second installment of The Agents of Alcarion

The Agents of Alcarion: Field Trip

"Yo, Ita," Zack called, breaking the silence. "We still have a mission. You ready?"

"Oh, uh, yeah." Looking at Zack brought other issues storming back. "But—" Ita shut her mouth as she realized she wasn't sure what she had meant to say next. Zack raised an expectant eyebrow.

"But what?"

"Well, you heard the Captain. What are we supposed to do about this break we're supposed to have from each other?"

"You heard her too. We live our lives normally when we're not on missions. We hang out with our friends. We fill our roles. We just do everything like we would normally as if we weren't partners."

"As if we weren't—? So we're supposed to pretend we're not friends?"

Zack shook his head. "You know, if you're not running into things blindly, you're over thinking them. Everyone knows we're friends, but we're not best friends or anything. You're Ita that everyone knows. I'm Zack, the new kid that sort of found a crowd. You hang out with your friends. I'll hang out with mine. At least then we'll have a break from just us. That ought to stop the fighting. Just play it casual."

A lot of conflicting thoughts beat on Ita's mind. She was glad that they had a plan to stop fighting, but she was annoyed that they had to actually schedule their lives to interact properly. How different would things be with such significant distance between them? Would it really help them find their 'issue?' Then another bombarding thought brought a flickering smile to her face. If she and Zack were distanced, maybe a certain annoying jock would notice and lay off on the insults. It seemed like whether she liked it or not, the break would benefit them both. Predominantly though, she was a little disappointed that Zack didn't consider them best friends and the smile faded. Although without magic—

"Zack?"

He looked up from his WriComp. "If you're about to mope or huff or something, spare me. I really just want to get this mission over with."

"I wasn't going to—I just—" She sighed. "Never mind."

"Low blow," Zack said. "You can't just say never mind with a face like that. What's up?"

Ita shook her head as if to brush off the question, but Zack didn't budge either so she caved. "If we weren't partners," she said delicately, "like if we weren't forced to meet because of magic, do you think we'd still be friends?"

Zack's mouth opened and shut as he tried to think of an answer to the sudden question.

"I don't see why not. I mean, our friends deal with each other. I'm sure we'd click eventually. Can we go now?" He gestured to his WriComp and the portal diagram that he needed her shared energy to fuel and still be alive on the other end. Ita frowned despite his response that should have made her happy. She fit the connecting cord into the port below the start command keys of their WriComps and gave her share of magic to the spell.

He didn't see why not. Lira didn't see why not. Unfortunately, she did.