Midnight Moon – “A Gifted Christmas” Scene One

“A Gifted Christmas”

I

Bedlam had descended, and it was armed with tinsel, turkey and stuffing.

In the kitchen of the normally calm house that Isabelle Flannery usually called home, Jessica Thomas stood frowning at the gravy she stirred with a wooden spoon. So deep she existed in her contemplation that she hardly noticed her younger brother peering over her shoulder.

Muttering under her breath about viscosity, Jessica grabbed a measuring cup full of water–just a yelp sounded from the dining room. Whirling toward the clamor, she nearly back-handed her brother and the water sloshed in the cup. Luckily, Eric’s reflexes almost matched her own–or he would have been on his way to the emergency room.

“Dammit–” Jessica began.

“Please don’t kill me,” Eric pleaded. “I was just checking on dinner. Do you need any help?”

Jessica pursed her lips together. “Let me guess. Miyori sent you in here.”

Eric shrugged. “I came on my own. You wouldn’t maim family would you?” A growl was Jessica’s response. At this point, who could be sure of anything, especially fratricide?

A crash preceded the hasty emergence of the man in question with three angry females hot on his heels. Narrowing her eyes, Jessica pulled out her cache of super-quick reflexes and did her allies a favor. Within a blink, Miyori lay on the tile, staring dumbfounded at the ceiling.

Samantha Dunne cheered. The windows rattled at the outburst of energy. “Hell fucking yeah, Jess! I knew you were always my favorite cousin.”

Beside her, Gretchen, Jessica’s little sister, pouted. “Hey, I thought I was your favorite cousin.”

“Not since you’ve got that dubstep shit stuck in my head,” Samantha retorted. This time Gretchen only fumed.

Miyori sucked in a breath before rising; his collision with the floor had been rather abrupt and highly uncomfortable. “I’ll have you know that I hardly deserve such treatment. The reports of my so-called shenanigans are highly exaggerated.”

Melanie Smith crossed her arms over her chest and cocked a hip to the side. “So says the asshole who decides to turn the tinsel into a snake while we’re putting it on the tree. I really oughta kick you right now and let you bleed!”

“I thought Mo was going to have to do CPR on poor Aurora,” Gretchen added.

Faced with the discomfort of his beloved princess, Eric punched Miyori in the shoulder. “What the hell, man?”

Miyori put his hands up in a gesture of defense. “It wasn’t poisonous. I don’t know what they’re so mad about. It wouldn’t have bitten anyone.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Gretchen said. “I don’t think it would sit well with anyone if their Christmas decorations metamorphosed into a slithery, hissing thing.”

“Real talk,” Samantha agreed.

A timer dinged; Jessica disentangled herself from the scene momentarily to extract the ham from the oven. Miyori stepped forward–only to meet with Jessica’s fist. Unlike Eric’s blow, this one had him staggering a few steps.

“What?” Jessica blinked innocently, all the while balancing the pan in one hand. “It was just a little punch.”

Glowering, Miyori’s mouth twitched; a split second later, the meat blinked up at the bemused cook and let out a distinctive oink.

Jessica’s eyes widened. She thrust the squealing dinner into her little sister’s arms and dived for the already moving Illusionist.

“What is going on in here?” Isabelle asked, looking every bit the part of the Mother with her long black curls unbound framing an expression of exasperation.

Melanie shook her head. “Miyori turned the tinsel into a snake, we chased him in here, and he turned the ham from cooked to spooked. Now Jessica’s pissed at him.”

As Samantha cheered on the beatdown and Gretchen chewed on her lip with the pan in her arms (the animated ham squirming all the while), Isabelle sighed. Why had she volunteered to host Christmas dinner at her house this year? Dios Mio!

Isabelle rubbed her temples, a tension headache beginning to form. “I think we may need to start dinner before someone dies.”

“No worries,” Melanie retorted. “If she kills him we can hide him in her wine cellar. No one will even notice he’s gone until after New Year’s. He won’t even be sober until then.”

No one is committing murder under my roof–especially not while I have one of Gracia’s finest sitting with a Guinness in my living room.” Stride full of purpose, Isabelle picked up the measuring up full of water and dashed it on the dueling duo.

Pause.

When they peered at her incredulously, fighting instincts to attack, she turned on her best hostess grin. “Time for dinner!”

Awed, Gretchen muttered, “Now why didn’t we think of that?”

 

TBC

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Sunday Snippet – Superhero (Mark and Abby)

Four years ago, around the time Alias entered my life (bringing Michael Vartan and Jennifer Garner in as well :D), I started making plans to write this story called Superhero. The tale centered around Mark Perry, a detective who loses his wife at the beginning to a tragic car accident, and Zora, the little girl he meets while in the hospital. At the end of his stay, he decides to take Zora in until her parents are found or someone adopts her. He eventually adopts her himself. Several years after Abby dies, Mark takes on an investigation that leads back to his and Zora’s pasts.

Maybe someday I will pick it back up–or integrate it into my other works.

Michael Vartan for Mark Perry! Tee hee.

________

He knew that he loved her from the moment he’d laid eyes on her.

He had been in uniform then, fresh out of the academy, working his way up through the ranks. This stint in the throes of the Traffic division was temporary and thankfully so; he was bored stiff with the prospect of signing speeding tickets for the rest of his life. He knew, much like most of his fellow graduates from the academy, that Homicide or  Vice were more coveted than Traffic. He planned to make his reputation in Homicide, and usually what Mark Jameson Perry set out to do, he accomplished.

But that day, he was thankful that he had the chance to cross her path.

It was a hazy, hot day, the sort of day that bred madness and mischief. Already he had stopped several reckless joyriders who thought that the weather was ample reason to speed through posted speed limits, and most of them were barely legal.

It was around two p.m. when a red Porsche Boxster came breezing past him going ninety in a seventy-mile-an-hour zone. He rolled his eyes, trying to squash his exasperation. After glancing behind him to make sure that no one was on the road behind him, he zoomed back out onto the highway with his lights flashing and his siren blasting.

Other drivers obediently moved out of his way as the Boxster wove itself through the light traffic so it wasn’t long before he’d caught up with the bullet on wheels. From his vantage point, he could ascertain that the driver was male, and he was accompanied by a dark-haired female. A dark-haired female it seemed, from here, who was quite exasperated with his love for speed. She glanced behind them and saw Mark following. She shoved him and made him swerve. Luckily there was no one around them except for the police cruiser so it caused no damage.

When the Boxster was safely on the side of the road, Mark pulled up a couple of yards behind it and cut his own engine. He got out of the car with his ticket-writing pad securely in his pocket.

The driver of the cherry-red Porsche was a young man who didn’t look any older than seventeen. His long hair was a dark blond, and his jeans were designer. There was a bit of an insolent twinkle in his blue eyes that put Mark’s hackles up.

He opened his mouth to speak, but then his eyes shifted upward. And found her.

She had curly dark-brown hair pulled back from her pale, heart-shaped face. Her full mouth was painted a rosy shade of crimson underneath an aristocratic, up-turned nose. Her slate-green eyes were apologetic as she stared at him anxiously. Unlike her male counterpart, which seemed to be a close relative after a further look, she was contrite and afraid of his presence.

“Is there a problem, Officer?”

The disrespectful voice broke through his reverie. His eyes drifted back to the pair of blue eyes staring impertinently at him. “Yes, there is a problem. Can I see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, please?”

Saying nothing, the guy leaned over and opened the glove compartment. He pulled out the required documents as the woman grabbed his wallet and pulled out his driver’s license. He rolled his eyes and took it and then handed it to Mark. The name on the ID was Eric William Rowan. The address that was listed indicated that he was of the platinum card set, and Mark’s estimation of him was right: he was sixteen years old. The Eric in the photograph was smirking just like the live one was now. It seemed that insolence was a chronic character trait.

“Eric Rowan?” Mark inquired.

“The one and only,” Eric quipped. “I think you can tell from that picture that it’s me.”

The woman sighed heavily in exasperation. “Eric…”

“Relax, Abby,” the guy named Eric said in a low, conspiratorial tone. “I’ve got this.” He turned to Mark with an arrogant sort of contrition. “Listen, uh…”—he paused to make a big show of reading Mark’s name tag—“Officer Perry. I’m real sorry about all this. It’s all a misunderstanding, I’m sure. I hope we can clear this up quickly.”

Mark merely blinked at the young man with flat green eyes for a moment before finishing the ticket. “You were going ninety miles an hour in a seventy-mile-an-hour zone. I hardly see how this could be misconstrued. You have eyes. You have perfect reasoning, though you act like you don’t because you’re too young to think about your mortality. The signs are posted for your security and others.” He tore some sheets from the pad, gave one to Eric along with his driver’s license and proof of insurance on the Porsche. “Have a nice day, Mr. Rowan.” He flicked a glance at Abby, hoping that he would look at her for as long as courtesy would allow before walking away. But his eyes would not move from hers for what seemed like the longest instant…

“Thank you, Officer Perry,” Abby said in a gentle tone, breaking the hold that she had on him.

He gave a slight nod as Eric rolled his eyes. “Good day, Miss. Rowan.” He turned and walked away, having no clue what had just happened and how it would change the rest of his life.

* * *

They met again three years later, but this time, it was in a more formal setting. He had learned a great deal about Abigail Rowan since that first meeting, and every morsel of information was as succulent as a finely cooked meal. His job gave him access to databases of information, but he mostly relied on information he got from articles written about Abigail and her family.

Abigail was the oldest child in her family. She had two fraternal twin brothers, Eric and Ethan, who were as different as black and white; Ethan was the intense, serious one whom everyone assumed would follow in Father Rowan’s footsteps, and Eric, even though he was the older of the pair, was the reckless one, always disappointing his father and causing trouble. Their parents, Robert and Katharine, had been married for nearly a quarter of a century; while her husband conquered in the political arena, Katharine Rowan spearheaded various campaigns for the rights and welfare of women and children, shown pictured on stone steps looking rather radical for a woman of her stature. It was rumored in gossip columns that Robert disapproved of his wife’s work, deeming it extremist and unnecessary. But Katharine, who had grown up on the opposite end of the spectrum from where she now resided, figured it was her right as a human being to help those less fortunate—those words exactly became a sound byte within mere minutes speaking them.

It was a cold night in February when they crossed paths once again. He’d donned a tuxedo for a charity event he was sent to provide security for as a favor for a good friend. Aside from working in the bullpen at work and going out with drinks with the guys after work every now and again, Mark’s life was filled with a jumble of time-passing activities. He was complacent, but not completely happy. There was a big difference. He could feel it every time he found himself on a date with another stand-in for the woman he felt was his soul mate. Still he went on and put it aside to act out his life, which was not all that bad.

Mark stood at the door, watching the guests as they walked in. Oscar Willis, one of Mark’s good friends and a fellow cop, occupied his post beside him, appraising the banquet’s guests with a bit of speculation in his dark brown eyes.

“Quite the party, isn’t it man?” Oscar asked in a conversational tone. “I heard they had Martha Stewart cater.”

“I remember you,” Abigail remarked, tilting her head a fraction. “You gave my brother a ticket three years ago.” Her chin lifted and a strange light came into her hazel-green eyes. “So have you sought me out to give me one?”

Mark looked startled. “Of course not, Miss Rowan! I…”

It was then that Abigail began laughing, the glorious sound flowing over him like sweet music. He realized that she had been merely joking and that she really didn’t think he’d come there to give her a speeding ticket. Feeling sheepish, Mark chuckled nervously along with her.

“I was merely jesting, Officer Perry,” Abigail assured him. “I’m sure you have your reasons for being here, just as everyone else does.”

Noticing something in her tone, Mark countered, “Do you have a reason to be here?”

It was Abigail’s turn to be startled, which intrigued Mark but she recovered quickly. “Whatever do you mean, Officer Perry? I have plenty of reason to be here. I am a part of the Rowan family and I must be here to back my father. We are a unit and it is important that we appear as such.”

The way she said it, the very deliberateness of it, was practiced. She had prepared the statement in front of a mirror, with her father’s approval. She was Daddy’s Little Girl, outfitted with expensive threads and clever phrases. The articles and the papers never hinted at this, never gave a clue that Abigail was the kind of woman that Robert Rowan wanted to be by his side—slightly different than the woman he’d married. Or perhaps her had been so smitten that he’d overlooked it. But now that he knew, it gave the glided image of the woman with whom he was secretly in love a bit of dullness. It was a scratch, an imperfection.

“That’s justified,” Mark commented, “and very admirable of you all, but what if you didn’t want to be here?”

Something in her eyes flickered as it had before, but she was one for a quick recovery. “It is not a question of desire, Officer Perry.” Her tone was slightly imperious now. “Giving in to desires is reckless. I have an obligation to my father to be here, and I am fulfilling it. It doesn’t matter what it is that I want otherwise.”

“So there isn’t something you’d rather be doing tonight? Hanging out with friends? Curling up on the couch with a book?”

“Those things, while nice, are a waste of time for me,” Abigail insisted. “I have no time to spend doing idle things. Every action I take has to take be a step forward. I am grieved to understand that you do not feel the same, Officer Perry.”

Mark, ignoring the scene around them and the implications, stepped closer to her. She drew up as if to make herself seem taller, and it didn’t serve to intimidate him. It, however, made them diametrically opposed.

“What has that man done to you?” Mark demanded in a low tone, watching her cheeks flame. “Have you no mind of your own?”

“I do have a mind of my own, Mister Perry!” Abigail cried angrily, her Mister as acrid as sulfur. “I choose to support my father in what he does, and I’m sorry if you think that is wrong.”

“It’s not wrong. That’s not what I’m saying. Giving support to a family member is not wrong by any means. But your heart has to be in it. You have to want to do it as much as you want to do something you like, not treat it as if it were a dental exam.”

“How dare you assume…? My heart is in it!”

Mark appraised her with the tough, observant eyes of a cop for a long-enough moment to make her fidget. She had looked more alive in the last few moments than she had all night long, her pale cheeks tinged with rosiness and her green eyes filled with fire, and she had the nerve to lie and say that her heart was in this façade?

“I don’t think so, Miss Rowan,” Mark disagreed, sidestepping her and walking away. With her lips pursed, she just glared at him and said nothing, but it seemed that her glare was tinged with a bit of humiliation. “Good night,” he added, as an afterthought over his shoulder.

* * *

Dear Mark,

I have given what you and I discussed the other evening a lot of thought. It is not every day that I cross someone that makes me question what I am and with what I have surrounded myself, and I have to admit that my anger came from my misapprehension. If there is one thing that I hate, it is to be told I’m wrong about something. I get that from my mother, I suppose. Anyhow, I offer you an apology because I feel that you have no cause to be ridiculed for your knack for questioning (something I think will serve you well in your occupation) and my anger was misdirected. You just happened to be there when it erupted, an unwitting trigger, perhaps, which was rather unfortunate.

I hope I have not alienated you and lost your companionship. That is what you wanted, isn’t it?

Sincerely,
Abigail J. Rowan

Mark looked at the note in wonder as the others looked at him with interest. The last line echoed in his head, sounding more sassy and shrewd than it had come off at first glance. That is what you wanted, isn’t it?

Had he been that transparent? Oh he could just kick himself.