After talking to Chase, Neil has a short conversation with Cynthia, then heads to bed with the promise to text her when he wakes.
Morning came early in a household with a seven year old. Neil was sleeping soundly when his bedroom door banged open and a little blonde missile landed on his bed, bouncing.
“Unka Neil! Unka Neil! Brea-fist!”
Groaning, he rolled over, putting the pillow over his face. “I’ll be up in a minute, Sugar. Let Unka Neil sleep a little longer.”
“No. No. No. Got to be up for brea-fist! Mommy said!”
Neil doubted that. More likely, Dora had said not to wake him. The bouncing intensified as Lucy pulled the pillow off his face.
“Now, now, now, Unka Neil!”
“Lucy Lou, leave Uncle Neil alone. He’s tired. He drove a long time to get here,” Chase said from the doorway.
“But it’s brea-fist, Chase!”
“He’ll be up for lunch, Peanut. Go.” He lifted his sister off the bed, carrying her to the door. Setting her down, he told her to run up stairs.
“Thank you,” Neil mumbled into his pillow. “Would locking the door help?”
“No. Then she just knocks a gabillion times.”
“She usually do this to you?”
“Why do you think I chose the basement? The stairs slow her down a few seconds.” Chuckling softly, he closed the door.
Neil dozed a little longer, but his room was directly under the kitchen. Lucy seemed determined to have him up to join the family. If it wasn’t deliberate, then she was the noisiest child he’d ever met. Then again, he hadn’t been around that many kids, at least not early in the morning. Groaning, he rolled over with the pillows pressed to his head. There was an all mighty crash, followed by scolding and wailing.
“I’m UP! Dammit!” He got dressed and went upstairs, walking into complete chaos.
A huge dog was galloping around the kitchen with Lucy in its wake. A string of puppies followed, at least six of them, and another huge animal tried to get in the door, but Dora held it with flagging strength. He grabbed the dog at the door, dragging him outside. He took the collar of the other and hauled her out onto the deck. The puppies followed, all but one that Lucy had scooped up. The mother dog tried to get back in after her baby, so Dora grabbed the puppy from her screeching daughter and set it on the deck. Neil swung the door shut. Silence settled over the house.
“What was that?” Neil gasped, pointing at the deck where the enormous dogs frolicked. “Since when do you have Shetland Ponies?”
“Those are the puppies,” Lucy yelped. “Not ponies, silly.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Neil waited for a reply.
“They help the Circle,” Chase said, handing him a cup of strong, black coffee.
“Their names are Janus and Zofia. They’re our Guardians. When there’s trouble, they come to our aid. When there isn’t, they hang around different houses and procreate.” Chase nodded at the puppies. “They were born at Jordan’s house. We all went over to witness the miracle of birth.” His tone implied he hadn’t found it very miraculous.
“Yeah, it was three in the morning and freezing cold. Jackie insisted.” Chase chuckled, pouring his own coffee, adding lots of cream and sugar.
Pancakes appeared on a plate in front of Neil, decorated with berries and butter. He said his blessing and took his first bite.
“Holy wow, these are delicious. I’ve missed your pancakes, Mama.”
She beamed. “Katie and I made those just for you.”
“Katie’s a cook? Didn’t take after her mama, then.”
Dora giggled, swatting her brother. “I’m a good cook. You should taste my possum supreme pie.”
“Mommy’s teasing. She doesn’t cook possums,” Lucy explained.
“When you were Katie’s age, you burned the pancakes, as I recall,” Neil winked at his sister. “Darn near set the kitchen on fire.”
“You know that was your fault,” Dora countered.
Neil feigned innocence. “Mine? Just how?”
“Cliff was over and the two of you scared the bejeezus outta me! I ran and hid in the pantry.”
“Wasn’t me. All Cliff’s doing.” He took an innocent bite, chewing as silence followed.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
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