September was crisp and golden as an apple
J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The screen that showed all the flight arrivals and their corresponding information was broken, Vega was sure of it. Flight 116 had landed an hour ago, the screen should have said 'baggage in hall' but it didn't. She wasn't that patient a person, especially when it concerned airport logistics. Squinting her eyes at the screen she tried to use pure mental power to change it. After all, Jean Grey wasn't better than her.
"Staring at it isn't going to make it change," Robert commented from beside her, clearly amused and not at all frustrated with the waiting.
"Oh, ye of little faith," Vega replied, concentrating harder until, believing it to be a trick of her mind gone mad, the screen showed the flight's baggage was in the hall. She looked at Robert and then back at the screen, fingers touching her forehead carefully.
"Holy..." Robert's mouth dropped, his hand grabbed hers and he squeezed it. "Do it again, look at the Moscow flight!"
"Ok, I'm going to change it...give me a minute," Vega replied, taking a deep breath and staring at the screen. She stopped the laugh that threatened to erupt at how silly they were both being. It was fun pretending. It was fun just hanging with Robert, in a sea of people they didn't know, in a place as wonderful as an airport. She focussed on the flight and mentally willed it to change, just so their game could continue. In that instant it flickered and complied with her silent order.
"You've got super powers!" Robert cried out, attracting the attention of the kids sitting opposite them. He smiled sheepishly when they began to laugh behind their iPad.
"I always knew I did," she sighed cooly, taking a sip from the water bottle she held. Leaning into him the two sniggered quietly amongst themselves. "I have a powerful tool, Rob, you should watch out!"
"Oh no, what will you do to me?" he said with mock fear, returning her stare.
She watched him, trying to figure out a good thing to make him do. She could make him get her another hot chocolate to replace the one that had cooled before she could drink it. All because he started the make-stories-about-strangers game that she always got carried away with. She saw his face creep closer out of the corner of her eye, absently wondering about how amazing it would be to have the ability to warm up cooled hot chocolate. His finger, warm against her chin, pulled her face towards his before he planted his lips over her. She smiled and savoured the kiss for a little before pushing him away.
"That wasn't what my power wanted you to do," she whispered, seeing the kids sitting opposite them point and giggle.
"Oh, but, I've got an ability too!" he said, winking dramatically. "I can block out other abilities...with my lips...amongst other things."
Vega pursed hers and held back her laugh. She looked at him in amusement and shook her head in mock disappointment.
"That's so lame, Rob," she added, putting her palm over his lips when he tried to kiss her again. "Really, you should be ashamed."
Robert's eyes turned big and round. Her hand muffled out the words but she was certain he was not ashamed and somehow defending his choice of imaginary ability.
"Is this going to be worth it?" Vega asked, letting out a sigh when he nodded excitedly. She let him pull away her hand and smiled when his breath hitched.
"Basically, kissing powerful females to sponge away their powers is the pleasure bonus," Robert said, eyebrows lowering seriously, hands moving around in reflexive emphasis of his speech. "The real gift is everything the lips do. That means that when they move to talk, or eat, they are doing something powerful. Like...the ability to control through speech, like persuasion. The saliva - that's a whole biological weapon on its own. It's awesome."
Vega frowned at him wondering just how much time he'd spent thinking about that. It sounded like it was something he'd wanted since he was 15. Being honest with herself, if she had to pick one super thing about him it wouldn't be his lips. They were actually amazing but not super. She would have chosen a psychic ability for him, since he was always so good at reading her mind.
"That's weird, Rob," Vega said finally, laughing at the dismay on his face. "Like...super weird."
"It's original and imaginative," Robert chuckled, scratching his cheek where his dimple was. "You should be proud I didn't pick something lame like super-hearing."
Vega smiled at him warmly and played with the tufts of hair that came out from under the rim of his baseball cap. She was proud. She was grateful too, that he was in her life and that she was spending her Sunday morning at the airport waiting to pick up Rose, his aunt and cousin. He seemed to think it was a much bigger deal than she did when he came to collect her at five-thirty that morning. She just liked the fact they got to see sunrise on the drive there. It had been a pretty laidback and romantic few hours.
"Hey, Super Mouth," Vega said, nudging her head in the direction of the automatic doors that opened and shut with the arrival of the passengers. For some reason they just looked like Americans to her, regardless of the ethnicities that they belonged to. It could have been the clothes but Vega was certain it wasn't a physical feature but rather the air about them. "I think the New York passengers have started coming out."
Robert stood up and assessed the situation, moving a little closer before turning back to her and grinning widely.
"I think you're right," he said, holding out his hand to help her up. He held onto it as he led them to the metal barriers separating the waiting families and the arriving passengers. "I'm a little nervous."
"Why?" Vega asked, feeling her stomach turn in anticipation, as if answering her own question. She felt silly for asking such a pointless question.
"I haven't seen them in ages," Robert replied, seemingly unconcerned by it. He sounded rather grateful in fact. "People change, you know?"
"Rose changed over summer?" Vega said, playing dumb.
Robert chuckled and rolled his eyes. "It's just...it's the first time they come to visit. What if we just don't get along anymore?"
"I don't think family really changes. We alter individually but when we are together again, we all revert back to how we were originally. No matter how big or old we get," Vega drifted off wondering if she'd ever be able to stop Caprice from controlling her like she did when they were little. It seemed unlikely but worth a shot. After all, Vega was not the same impressionable girl she used to be. She was wiser and not without a battle scar or two. She was a badass, and she knew what was good or bad for her much better than her sister did. "Like with the guys. When we are together, we all revert back to how we were at 16. You've seen how silly we are!"
"Oh, I love it when you're around them," Robert said laughing, hugging her to him and kissing the side of her head. "I finally got to see you let loose completely at the wedding. I doubt you would have if the gang wasn't all there with you."
"I suppose not," Vega grinned at him, remembering their tango together. It rocked the whole crowd of guests and somehow revved up the party. After Robert got crowned the King of Dance, everybody went for it...especially Uncle Al. She was certain he was going to damage his back but the man was far too excited to be stopped. "I certainly would not behave that way if I was invited to a wedding of one of your friends."
Robert's head snapped in her direction and a smile crept up his otherwise surprised face.
"Famous last words," he said slowly. His eyes squinted. "Are you warning me that you're going to be a little more reserved around my family than you normally are with me?"
Vega pursed her lips and stopped herself from singing out a 'maybe'. It was almost a certainty. Firstly, she had to make a good impression. Secondly, she was always a little quiet at first. Thirdly, she could not imagine charming his family the same way Robert did to hers and to her friends. He was magic at it whereas she just stuttered and stumbled publicly. She was an artist and they were world renowned unsociable recluses.
"I can't wait to see who you are around your family!" Vega said, rocking on her feet excitedly. "Not just big bro Rob."
"Hmmm," Robert looked at her through slit eyes. It was like he could read her discomfort and like he found her normally smooth attempt at changing the subject clumsy. Nevertheless, he sighed and gave it up. "Don't judge me too harshly."
Vega nodded and laughed, looking out as a new batch of people walked out through the doors, none of whom were Rose and company. Robert had shown her pictures of his aunt Lola but they were old and unclear mostly. All she could make out was the light brown hair and the short stature – a complete opposite of Robert and Rose both.
"You think they'll want to go out tonight?" Robert asked Vega worriedly. "I'd rather spend the evening at home, just catching up. Clubs will be really loud, no?"
"Don't you think they might be jet-lagged a little?" she shrugged, wondering if all the wild stories of Lola and her College friends were true or just exaggerations on Robert's part.
"That's a good point," Robert said with continuous nodding, eyes seemingly far away and not at all focussed on anything.
Vega held back a laugh and hugged him tightly. She found his fretting cute and a surprising turn-on. His crinkled up eyebrows always made her mind fuzzy and her insides warmed up. Before her mind could get carried away, her phone vibrated in her pocket and stopped her thoughts.
"Hey, do you mind if I get this?" Vega asked Robert after seeing the name flash on the screen. Caprice. It was one call she did not want to take but could not miss.
"No, of course not," he replied with a quick peck.
"I'll try not to miss their grand entrance," she said, moving away a little and answering it.
"It's 7am on a Sunday," Caprice said sounding as if she had just woken up and wasn't at all happy. "Where, the fuck, are you?"
"Sheesh, Caprice, what a way to start a conversation!" Vega muttered, holding a hand over her face and chanting mentally to get herself calm again. "I'm at the airport with Robert waiting for his family to arrive."
"Who told you that you can do that?"
Vega let out a sigh and reminded herself that while she had managed a firm grip on reality, her sister had not. It was the only reasoning Vega could swallow to keep her sane while living with Caprice. She did not want to pity her sister but in doing so, it made her a bit more bearable to deal with.
"I did, Caps. I don't need permission from anyone," Vega replied calmly. "Dad told you to drop the bossy behaviour, remember?"
"Fuck it, you're out of control," Caprice spat out. "Besides, why do you need to meet his family? You're never going to be a part of them."
"So what if I'm not?" Vega replied, losing a little bit of her cool. "I'm supposed to become a social hermit, not allowed to meet old friends or make new ones?"
"Exactly! You're just so sensitive, Vega," Caprice replied in full seriousness. "You give your heart to people, willy-nilly. You're not going to have any of it left."
Vega rolled her eyes and wondered when she was going to run out of heart. According to Caprice, she should have been dead years ago. Vega stayed quiet, unwilling to partake in the conversation that was heading somewhere terrible, and fast.
"Remember when you tried to warn me about Martin and I didn't listen?" Caprice said, resuming her unfaltering attempt to cage Vega in with her. "I'm warning you about this Robert guy. He's hiding something, trust me."
"Is he?" Vega replied, pretending to be uninterested but Caprice's words struck a chord with her. They hit her fear head on. Her mind began to wonder about what Robert could be keeping from her, it began to question everything.
"I know he is," Caprice responded assuredly.
Vega frowned trying to think of what he could be covering up behind his wonderful smile and easy, undying patience. He had told her a lot about his past but only skimmed over points that would cause friction. She wanted to know those points, not simply to satisfy her curiosity but also to put to bed her worries. Caprice was right, he was hiding something. Vega suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
"You need to come back now."
Vega snapped back to normal, putting away all her sister's attempts to unnerve her. She got a hold of her senses and stopped her mind from creating monsters from shadows. Of course Robert held some things back, she thought, he had a right to. Vega sighed and realised she was guilty of the same thing and had no sinister intentions.
"No, I don't need to," Vega told her calmly. She mentally kicked herself for being so gullible to fall for her sister's attempts.
"Don't be a mule," Caprice replied bluntly. "Leave the fuck with his family and come back to yours."
Vega let out a sigh. She wouldn't give her sister the pleasure of falling in line with her ill intentions. She didn't want to fight. She didn't want to pull away even further from her sister than she already was. But fair was fair, and right will never be wrong.
"I'm sorry, Caprice," Vega said softly. "I will be spending the day out. Don't wait up."
Hearing a grunt, she hung up the phone with a quick 'bye' before Caprice could really lay into her. Shaking her head at the exchange, she decided to put it to one side and cry about later. Things between her and her sister were only getting worse by the day no matter what she did but what hurt most was how she almost let her get under her skin.
The sound of a squeal stole her attention and she looked up to see Robert leaning over the barriers and hugging a red-head. A man about Robert's age stood behind her, smiling widely, waiting by the luggage trolleys. Obviously it was Robert's cousin, Lyle, although there was no real family resemblance but for the blonde hair. Vega sucked in a breath, about to take a step towards them when she felt the wind rush out of her lungs. Arms wrapped around her from behind and lifted her body off the ground in a tight grip. Her heart began to panic, her mind trying to work out who it was instead of giving into the initial fears.
She heard Rose scream and laugh behind her and lost all tension. She rolled her eyes and told herself off for being so silly. She should have figured it was the young girl straight away.
"Wait, Rosie, wait!" Vega said, feet finally on the ground again. She spun around on the spot and took a good look at the extremely golden and perfectly changed Rose. Her hair was tied into a messy plait, much blonder than before she left. Her cheeks lived up to her name and yet seemed more defined than before she left. Giving her the once over, Vega noticed she'd lost a little bit of weight and frowned despite herself.
"It's because I've been playing sports all summer," Rose replied quickly, giggling behind her hand. "I still eat like a teenage boy!"
"Well, that's reassuring," Vega laughed, jumping up and giving her a proper hug. She had missed her more than she realised. Her absence had been...sore.
"I've missed you!" Rose said as bubbly as ever. "You need to tell me about the wedding! Mouth's shown me one picture. Can you believe it? Only one! And it's of this mirror with nobody reflected on it! How lame!"
"Actually, that was a really special mirror," Vega laughed, thinking it great that out of all the pictures Robert chose to send that one. "It was in the middle of the foyer but whenever somebody looks through it, it transforms them into HD versions of themselves but with no wrinkles or pores or imperfections of any sort. It made people thinner or curvier, as appropriate. It gave people a glow, man. It was magic."
Rose stared at Vega for a moment before bursting into giggles.
"Boy, I love the way you tell stories!" she said, American accent a bit more prominent than it had been a couple of months previous. "It's awesome."
"Hey, Vega? Rose?" Robert called for their attention.
Vega turned around again and smiled at the man she loved more than anything. She couldn't help but smile, even after noticing the cautious look his cousin threw her way. Robert filled her with bliss and hope. He made her feel like everything was beautiful and the world was really worth living in.
"This is Aunt Lola," Robert said, bringing forward the red head he had his arm wrapped around.
Vega smiled at the young woman who didn't look more than a couple of years older than them. She was petite and on a first look she appeared to have a baby face and a cheeky smile. Yet her eyes were something to be painted and her look dragged into a stare. Vega immediately felt the heat of her gaze and felt a little flustered by it. Lola was a woman who was in control of herself, every aspect of herself. She walked with a twist and she smiled with a slight pinch to one side of her full lips. Her eyes never really opened fully or shut completely. She was a real life version of Jessica Rabbit.
"Vega, it's great to finally meet you," she said with a rich voice and a subtle New York accent. "I've heard so many great things about you. I wish I could say from Rob but actually it's Rose that wouldn't shut up."
Vega laughed, hugging the young girl closer to her side. She thought of a couple of things to say along the lines of how much she loved Rose or how surprising it was to find Robert was quiet about anything. She wanted a couple of jokes to lighten the atmosphere and to show she was a carefree woman but nothing came out. Lola was just too intimidating. Vega simply quietened her laugh and blushed wordlessly.
"This is Lyle," Robert said, looking like he was holding back a laugh. "He's my Aunt Emily's son, remember in the pictures?"
Vega nodded and shook his hand politely. He hadn't changed much from when he was a teen in the pictures Robert showed her, only a finer hairline and a perpetual frown.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both," Vega said finally, grateful her voice sounded more powerful than she felt it would.
"We're so excited you're here," Robert said, an arm around each of them. "We've been planning to show you all the best London has to offer! I'm thinking we'll drive around the sights, a little teaser of what's to come the rest of the week and then we'll drop everything off at the apartment?"
"Sounds great," Lola said, frowning a little. "But at the risk of sounding really old and boring, can we stay in once we get there?"
Robert chuckled, passing a look of relief to Vega. It was exactly what he wanted and she was glad for it. A sign of a good couple of weeks ahead of them, she believed.
"Old and boring?" Robert said, cocking his head to one side. "What's with the hair?"
"Well," Lola said, slender fingers combing through a thick strand of fiery red so slowly it attracted everybody's attention around her, Vega's especially. "Not that boring."
"Wait 'til you hear what she's getting up to," Rose said with a snigger. "Lyle almost choked on his peanuts when he overheard us on the plane!"
Vega was enraptured with the woman. She felt herself gulp and looked down embarrassed at the possibility it was audible.
"Let's get going!" Robert said with a couple of claps. "The sooner we're home, the sooner we can be stunned. Baby sister, the silver chariot is all yours!"
Rose rolled her eyes and mumbled, laughing as she took control of the luggage trolley and led the way to the car park, Lyle in tow with the second trolley.
Robert took the backpack off his Aunt and held out his arm so she could link it, his free hand holding Vega's as they walked behind the other two.
"So, Vega," Lola began, leaving Robert's side and shuffling to Vega's left. She linked her arm instead and leaned in comfortably. "I hope you don't think too badly of me. My brother's kids have a tendency to blow things out of proportion."
Vega smiled and shook her head, too impressed to speak.
"Tell me a little about yourself. All I really know about you is that you are more stunning in person than descriptions tell me you are," Lola resumed, unaffected by Vega's bout of shyness. "You have lovely eyes."
Vega raised her eyebrows a little and smiled politely. Out of all her features she picked the ones she disliked the most. She wondered whether it was an honest compliment or a disguised insult.
"I do?" she said unsurely.
"I've told her that, she doesn't believe me," Robert piped in from beside her.
Vega smiled and scrunched her nose at the telltale. She suppressed a giggle when he winked and blew a kiss at her, turning her attention back to Lola before she did something silly like stick her tongue out at him.
"You know why we call him Mouth?" Lola said with a smirk that only grew when Robert let out a groan.
"I thought only Rose called him that," Vega said with confusion. She was sure he never mentioned it before. "Because he likes to talk?"
"Well, he likes to talk, that's true," Lola laughed. Her eyes pulled together in mirth, exaggerated by the long stroke of eyeliner. "But Mouth came to be because he was always willing to use it. Ever since he was a baby, he used to love kissing! He would come up to someone, put a hand on either cheek and smooch. It was slobbery and yet so cute."
Vega smiled up at Robert warmly, realising that Super Mouth suited him perfectly. How right he was to choose something to complement him so perfectly. How in tune with himself he was. Vega was attracted to him all over again.
"Mouth's greatest asset was his infallible trait of telling the truth," Lola said, smiling proudly at her nephew and then back at Vega. "So if he tells you that you have lovely eyes, I'd believe him."
"Thank you, it's a very nice thing for you to say," Vega said to her, biting her tongue and hesitating.
"What?" Lola laughed, coming closer and pushing her towards Robert a little.
"Well, I hope this doesn't come across as weird or rude," Vega said, feeling Robert squeeze her hand, hearing his chuckle, as if he knew what she was going to say. "You remind me of Jessica Rabbit – in a good way."
Lola smiled, resembling her cartoon doppelganger even more when her fringe fell over her eyes. She brushed the hair and hooked it behind her ear with a laugh.
"Well, thank you, I guess," she soothed, eyebrow raised at a perfect angle.
Vega smiled and suddenly remembered all the stories Robert had told her about Lola. She no longer doubted their credibility. Lola was a woman capable of all the things she was told about. She must have seduced that professor with one flick of her lashes.
"Are you really an artist?" Lola asked, a delicate hand placed on the necklace draped around her neck.
Vega couldn't help but hang on her every word and action. She suddenly realised how it was possible Lola had more than a few advances from members of her sorority.
"Yeah, although my technical title is 'graphic designer' at the moment," Vega said, looking away before she got the urge to do something unchristian. Her cheeks burned red at the thought. "As long as I'm sketching and drawing, I don't mind what it's labelled as."
"You don't care about what you're called or you don't care for labels in general?" Lola asked, shivering against the cool wind as they walked out of the building and crossed the road towards the car park.
"Well, I don't care much for labels in general. Most of the time they are given and not earned or deserved," Vega said, surprised by the question. "People rise to the top based on labels and some are pushed down because of them. They are a nuisance when used misguidedly but powerful when used rightly. Of course, then, I mind what I'm called."
"Fair enough," Lola said, nodding in agreement. "Great answer."
Vega let out a breath and looked at Robert from the corner of her eyes. He seemed pensive as he stared ahead of him. Vega pursed her lips and waited for someone to say something. Robert was unusually quiet, it bewildered her. Normally he was the conversation starter, the man with a million stories. All at once he became Mr Mysteriously Silent. It was unnerving.
"I have a strange request, Aunt Lola," Vega said, half turning to her.
"Oh, gosh," Lola laughed. "You're going to call me Aunt, too? I've been trying to stop Robert doing it for years now and he still won't. Talk about undeserved labels!"
"You're a brilliant Aunt," Robert said smoothly.
Lola winked at him and laughed again, hugging Vega's arm now rather than just linking it.
"What's your request, sweetie?" Lola asked her, blinking in excitement.
"Do you mind if I draw you?" Vega asked, already having memorised all her features. She'd be able to recreate her as soon as she got home that evening. "And to use that image in a commission I've got?"
Lola smiled warmly and nodded slowly. She leaned forward a little and caught Robert's eyes. The pair exchanged hard to read looks and smiled widely.
Vega watched the interaction and realised that the super power she wanted wasn't to change data on a computer screen but to be able to interpret cryptic looks.