Digging out

Ben and I were woken up at dawn once again by the twins. They were poking at us and whispering to each other.

“Boo!” I yelled and grabbed Peter’s shoulder when they weren’t looking.

They screamed and fell backwards. I laughed and hauled myself upright. I looked down at Ben and saw that he was still asleep. That man could sleep through a brass band parade. The twins and I ended up making breakfast for ourselves, then we all got cleaned up and met back downstairs. Ben surfaced about eight and with a quick kiss for me, disappeared to get himself clean. He was back down in less than an hour to report that he’d called the weather hotline and the blizzard was going to blow over by nightfall.

It was more like three in the afternoon and by that time Ben and I were out shoveling our way to the garage while the twins played with the dogs in the snow. We hadn’t seen Miles or Mark all day, but when they mushed up on a dog sled, it was a little surprising.

“Well? Explain this one then.” I said as I stuck my shovel in to the snow.

“Um, I really can’t. It showed up this morning. So Mark and I, uh, ‘borrowed’ it and went in to town.” Miles said, looking a little sheepish.

“So a strange mode of transportation just shows up out of no where and you decide to use it?” Ben asked. We shared a look over the heads of the twins who were petting the dogs.

“Um, yes?” Mark said.

I turned to Ben and rolled my eyes. “It’s so tragic that they should lose their minds as such a young age, don’t you think?”

“I agree. Maybe it’s best we get them a sitter instead of the twins.” Ben said as he put his arm around my waist.

I sighed and looked at the two still on the sled. “Think for a sec about what’s happened the last couple of weeks.”

I watched their faces go white and they jumped off the sled.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t know who could have sent that sled! You could have been killed!” I shouted.

When I saw the twins faces go white I knew I’d gone too far. I sighed and picked up Peter. Ben picked up Bonnie and we walked in to the house together. Miles and Mark followed after unloading the sled of everything they’d bought in town. It included the mail and packages for both Ben and I, as well as dinners from Murphy and Miss Maggie.

I was loading the fridge when I saw Ben’s face as he opened a letter. His jaw was slack and his mouth a little open. Concerned, I put my hand on his arm. He looked up at me, eyes a little wider than normal.

“My parents are coming to visit,” he said quietly.

I cursed. I knew what it meant, of course. We’d talked about what Ben was like when he first came to Blueville. He was withdrawn, moody. According to Murphy, who I bribed on the sly with my grandmother’s stew recipe; if it wasn’t an animal, he wouldn’t talk to anyone longer than necessary. From what I gathered from Miles is that he spent the majority of his time in this house.

Ben is the one who told me what really happened to him before he left New York.

Six years ago, Ben was happily completing his final year of veterinary school and doing his internship at a local vet hospital. One night after losing a dalmatian who was about to pup, he lost all of the pups and the mom from complications, he arrived at his apartment to find it cleaned out and a note saying that he was officially moved home and to forget this “dog doctor” nonsense. He was going to go to Medical school the following semester like he was supposed to and start a completely different career that the one he wanted. When Ben arrived at his parents home, They were just sitting down to dinner. It was Ramadan, so they were breaking their fast after sun down.

Yes, Ben came from a Muslim family. No, I don’t give to flying frogs from Pinks Pumpkin Patch about this fact. I love Ben for who he is, not where he came from.

Anyway. He unloaded on his father, who at that point told him about his impending marriage to a family friend’s daughter. That was a shock because as far as Ben knew, he was a single man who had no time for a family or dating anyone. Words were said, Ben snatched the key to the storage unit full of his things and stormed out of his father’s house. He crashed with a friend for a few days and when his mother arrived at the friend’s house, words were said, a check was exchanged and Ben finished his internship at the hospital. He left for Blueville a month after graduating and hasn’t been home since.

The only person he still speaks to on occasion is his mother, so when I curse because his parents are coming for Thanksgiving – it’s really his father I’m worried about. Not his mother.

I sent the twins off with Miles and Mark to play that new video game system with the plumber brothers in the Great Hall. I closed all the doors to the kitchen and walked over to Ben, wrapped my arms around his waist and leaned my head on his arm.

“We’ll get through this together. I’m not leaving just because your father couldn’t see the value he already had in you.”

Ben moved so that he was hugging me and murmured in to my hair, “I love you. Without question, I’d propose tomorrow if I knew it wasn’t going to freak you out.”

“Wait until Thanksgiving. Toss it back in their faces that you found your own happiness with the freaky ass family we’ve built.” Ben went still and I continued on, “besides, if you wait until then I’ll win the betting pool.”

That broke the ice and Ben started to laugh. “When did you bet on Thanksgiving and who hold the pool?”

“Sheriff Stiles and the night you changed.” I said with a grin.

“You already knew?” He murmured as he looked down at me and brushed my hair away from my face.

“I clean up after you. Those ring catalogs were not well hidden.”

“So that’s how those rings ended up circled.” He said with another laugh.

“Well if you’re going to get me something, I might as well give you hints about what I like.”

“It’s a good thing too, I almost went with the one you crossed out.”

I wrinkled my nose. “That thing was hideous.”

Ben laughed and kissed my nose. “Well, I could probably be mad that you found out before I could say anything. I was hoping to surprise you by Christmas.”

“At least you know I’ve been thinking about it just as much as you have.”

“Since Halloween?”

“Well, it did bring in to a certain perspective when I mangled the laundry cart.”

“He sent me a photo of the cart, by the way. I can’t believe you twisted it like that because you were so upset about not being able to get to me.”

I tightened my arms around his waist and looked up. “I was scared. Terrified. I don’t ever want to feel that way again. You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in years.”

“Not of all time?”

I laughed and raised up on my tiptoes to kiss him. “You’re getting there.”

Ben picked up the letter. “What do we do about this?”

“Invite them for the full moon.” I said with a wicked grin.

“Oh, you devilish woman. I knew I loved you for a reason.” Ben kissed me, hard. “That’ll put the fear in to the old man for sure.”

“Can you imagine? His son the dragon, cuddling his read-headed metalmancer girlfriend on the full moon? Heads will roll and it’ll be so much fun to watch.”

“You thrive on trouble.”

“Only when it comes to making your uptight father regret losing you? Damn right. He lost you, I got you and I have no intention of letting you go just yet.”

“Just yet?”

“Well, if something cuter comes along..”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence, Ben scooped me up and hauled me upstairs laughing.

-Marlowe

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Mountain Snow

Sometimes I think of Blueville as a snow globe.

Right now it’s white and there’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground. It might be gone tomorrow, but right now it looks like someone shook the globe and it’s falling down.

That’s what I woke up to this morning. Well, that and the twins jumping on the bed. Gibbs and Winston joined them and pretty soon we had a tumble of bodies, both furry and clothed, on top of Ben and I as we woke up. After chasing everyone out so that Ben and I could get dressed, we joined them in the kitchen for breakfast.

“Since there’s no flour left, how about bacon and eggs?” I said as I pulled out the bacon from the fridge.

There were gagging noises coming from Peter. I raised an eyebrow at him and he looked sheepish.

“I really don’t like eggs. May I have oatmeal, please?”

“Since you asked nicely, yes.”

Ben and I were halfway through making breakfast when Miles and Mark stumbled in from upstairs. They’d looked as if they had showered some time in the night. They slid on to stools and Miles promptly slumped over, laying his head on his crossed arms. It took me all of five minutes to slide a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of either. Ben placed a glass of whatever juice we had in the fridge in front of them.

When the Twins had finished eating, they went off to explore the games closet with Ben as I cleaned up breakfast. I eyed the two sitting at the counter still.

“I wanted to thank you two for what you did last night.”

“Ben told us why they’re here last night. He caught us as we were stumbling up the stairs.” Miles mumbled.

“It’s a damn good idea, Marlowe. I hate being so out of the loop.” Mark said.

“Thanks. Now I want the two of you to go back to bed.”

“Can’t, gotta work.” Mark said as he got up from the table.

“Well, you’re not going anywhere in that mess.” I said as I pointed at the backdoor.

It was coming down even harder. It looked like the weather man was wrong about the snow. Miles and Mark swore in unison when they saw the snow coming down.

“I’m going to call in to the library and see if they’re opening. If they aren’t I’m going back to bed. This is bananas.” Miles said as he shuffled out of the kitchen.

“I guess I’ll be in the library, catching up on the paperwork I have here.” Mark said.

“That’s a good idea. Ben and I will be in the Great Hall with the twins. Their father asked us to keep them again tonight. He’ll be pulling double shifts because of all the snow.”

“So early in November though?” Mark asked.

“With all the strange business that’s been happening lately, I’m not surprised there’s an out of season blizzard building up out there. I already did the shopping this week so we’re okay for a few days at least.” I said as I finished cleaning up and set the dishes to dry.

It’s a shame that Castles don’t come with dishwashers, I thought as I went to join Ben in the Great Hall.

I walked in on a rousing game of Munchkin going on and was content to watch as they played. It was a deceptively simple game and Ben managed to get trounced by Bonnie who got up and did a little dance to celebrate. I laughed and looked over at Ben, who nodded at me and mouthed that we’d talk later. The rest of the morning went by like that, then around noon we broke for lunch. Ben and I went for the whole grilled cheese and tomato soup standard. After lunch we sent the twins off to explore the castle. They had more than enough rooms to find trouble in, while Ben and I sat down on the sofa for some rest.

“Two, maybe even four.” Ben mumbled.

“What?” I said with a yawn. I wasn’t used to kids.

“Kids. We need to have kids.”

I snuggled in to his chest. “Really? I was thinking we’d just go until the castle couldn’t hold us any longer.”

Ben snorted a laugh. “Yeah right. You’d lose your patience after while.”

I yawned again. “Fair point. I’m not known for my limitless patience.”

My yawn caught on, because Ben soon followed and pulled me down so we were laying on the sofa, rather than sitting on it together. I nuzzled his chest and didn’t hear what he was saying because I passed out cold.

I woke up to whispers later and someone draping a blanket over us. I smiled and snuggled back in to Ben’s warmth, falling asleep again.

The rest of the night went like that. We didn’t move until morning.

-Marlowe.

The Shop

It was hard pulling myself away from Ben yesterday morning.

We’d spent all weekend relaxing and just taking it easy, but it was Monday and I finally got the go head from the Doctor and the Physio-therapist to go back to work. I was excited to get back under the hood. Ben was not as pleased as I was to get out of the house. He was still stuck in it for a few more days.

I’d only been at work five minutes when Miles sent me the first photo of Ben hanging upside down. The rain gutter had him by the leg and put him within reach of Miles so that he could bring him back inside. I received two more as I went through the motions of opening up for the day.

Ben outside being held by a gargoyle.

Ben outside being chased back inside by the stone lions at the doors.

I finally gave in and called home at noon when I got the one of Ben, covered in dirt and being dragged back inside by Mark.

“This place is a prison and I can’t take it anymore.”

“You can and you will. The Doctor’s orders say rest, Ben. The photos I’ve been getting are not rest. They are the exact opposite.”

“Come home. I’ll rest with you.”

I sighed and tapped my forehead against the wall. I got a brilliant plan when I heard him whine that he was bored.

“Come to the shop. I need someone to go over my books.”

There was silence on the other end, then Ben cleared his throat. “On second thought, maybe I’m not that bored.”

I started laughing. “Ben, I know how much you love your work and I know this is killing you being stuck at home, but I’m not letting anything happen to you again. I need you to say there.”

Ben sighed. “One more day, then I have to go back to work.”

“One more day. We’ll go out to dinner tonight. Just you and me.”

“You’re on.”

“I’ll see you at home.” I was about to hand up when I thought of something wicked. “Oh and Ben?”

“Yeah, Lowe?”

“I’m out of underwear. Can  you do laundry today? I had to go without.”

I heard cursing on the other end as I hung up. That would keep him busy. I turned my phone on silent and tucked it into my back pocket. The Judge had brought in his hearse for a tune up and I wanted to get my hands dirty.

I picked up a socket wrench and was halfway through changing spark plugs when I heard the shop door open and someone shout my name. I shouted out for them to come to the back and grunted when the Sheriff came around the side.

“Hello, Eric. Any news?” I asked as I pulled a plug and chucked it in to the bin of used parts that couldn’t be reused.

“Yeah. Every single one of the dragons homes had Hex Bags and all 13 of them changed.”

“You said that before.”

“Now I’m sure. I was just guessing before.”

“You do an awful lot of guessing these days. Is there something that you’re not telling me that I can not tell Ben?”

“We still don’t know what’s going on and who’s doing all the incidents. The best we can do is call a specialist.”

I stopped what I was doing and looked up at the Sheriff. He looked like he hadn’t had any sleep in a few days.

“Bonnie keeping you up at night, Eric?” I said, trying to keep the mood light.

The Sheriff smiled. “No and neither is Peter. Both sleeping like angels now. It’s easier now that I have help at night.”

“I was sorry to hear about Sue being caught in that mess back in October. Is her sister helping out?”

He rubbed a hand over his face and looked at me. “Yeah, though she blames me for what happened. Like I could have known Sue was going in to work that day.”

“If you need a break from her and the twins, bring them over to me and Ben. We’ll watch them for an evening. The whole evening.”

“You’d take on twin eight-year-olds? For me?” The look on his face was priceless.

“Think of it as a trade. I’m plenty angry about what happened to Ben. Someone could have been hurt, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and I’ve come up with a deal. I’ll babysit for information. You keep me in the loop, I’ll make sure your twin witches don’t go turning people in to toads again or making the dog fly around the house.”

I watched the Sheriff consider my offer for all of five seconds. “Done. Tomorrow night okay? I need a break and so does Sandy.”

“Done.” I said. “You have my phone number, call when you’re ready to bring them over.”

“Thanks, Marlowe.”

“You’re welcome. Now about your car..”

He laughed. “I’ll bring it in next week. I know I’m behind on my oil changes.”

“You also need new brakes.” I pointed out and smiled when the Sheriff sighed.

“Next week. I promise.”

I nodded. I was about to ask him if he remembered to change his wiper blades when his phone rang. He nodded at me and then stepped outside to take his call. I went back to changing spark plugs. I didn’t notice when the Sheriff stepped back in.

“I might have to take you up on your offer to sit earlier than tomorrow night, Marlowe.”

I jerked and slammed my head against the hood. Cursing, I pulled myself out of the car’s guts and looked up at the Sheriff.

“What happened?”

“Sandy’s in the hospital. Heart attack. It seems the twins made her fly.”

I coughed to hide a giggle and that got me a look from the Sheriff. “I’ll close up early and pick them up. Who’s watching them now?”

“Miss Maggie. She says to pick them up at five. No rush.”

I snorted. Miss Maggie obviously didn’t know how long it took to get grease out of my hands. “Okay. Five it is. I’ll pick them up.”

“I hope I didn’t ruin any plans for you this evening.”

I thought about Ben and what I’d promised earlier. I really hoped he wouldn’t be angry. “Nothing that couldn’t be changed.”

The Sheriff left then and l went back to work on the Judge’s hearse. I worked steadily, letting my mind cycle through of all the memories that came with touching the metal that old. I was deep in the memory of a woman who pressed herself up against the hearse, begging to be taken with her husband when I felt a hand grab my shoulder. For the second time that day, I slammed my head against the roof so hard I saw stars.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I tried calling your name but you weren’t paying attention.”

I pulled myself out from under the hood and glared at the person who interrupted my day. It was Sally Kolodney from the ice cream parlor. I nearly lost my temper, but reined it in. I kept telling her there was no hope for her car, but she kept insisting I try to fix it the poor thing.

“Hey Sally. How can I help you?”

She looked down and well, bashful. “Well, I finally took your advice and got another car.  I was hoping you could give it a tune up this week.”

If anything would surprise me yesterday, that’s all it would have taken. “What’d you buy, Sally?”

“Oh, that little Geo you said would be great for me. You were right. It’s perfect. Between that and the van, I’m all set for cars.” she was babbling, but I let her.

I was stunned someone in this town actually took my advice about cars. Sure, they’d let me fix them. Take my advice about what to buy? Not until today.

“Sure, Sally. I can tune her up for you. You’ll need to replace those breaks before we get too deep in to winter though.”

“Oh I’m sure. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you sooner, Marlowe. You were right about that car. We’re perfect for each other.”

I smiled. “Come back on Thursday. I’ll give you the whole morning.”

“Thanks!”

I watched her scoot out of the shop and then saw the clock. Swearing, I pulled off my coveralls and made my way around to close the doors. It was nearly four thirty. I had to hurry to get over to the Sheriff’s place to get the twins before five. I hurried through the motions, managing to close up shop in fifteen minutes. I broke every speed limit to get to the house and was only five minutes late.

Miss Maggie came out of the house with Bonnie and Peter, who ran up to the car, laughing.

“Miss Marlowe! Dad told us we’re going to your castle for the night because Aunt Sandy is sick!”

“All true poppets. In the back with you. Maybe the two of you eight year old terrors can tire my puppy out.”

They laughed and climbed in to the back with their bags, buckling themselves in before I could tell them to do so.

Miss Maggie coughed then and when I looked at her, she smiled. I knew that smile.

“No hints. Not even for you.”

“But haven’t put anything in to the pot yet on the date!”

“If you don’t know your own adopted grandson by now, then I can’t help you.” I said with a laugh.

“Now you’re just being mean.” She said as she put her hands on her hips.

“I am.” I replied with a laugh. I dropped my voice and leaned out of the car window as the two in the back started to squabble. “How is she?”

“Fine, fine. I saw her collapse when I was walking by. They didn’t see a thing. She’d started that movie about the talking things that look like Twinkies for them.”

“Ah, That one. I like that one. I’m glad she’s okay and that they didn’t see anything.”

“Me too. They’ve already been through enough.” When I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Peter raise a hand to his sister I raised an eyebrow and made the middle seat belt wrap around his arms so he couldn’t hit her.

“Hey! No fair!” He shouted. “You promised!”

“It’s not me!” She said and looked at me in the mirror.

“That’s right. It was me. You don’t hit each other, understand?”

They both looked down and sullenly replied, “yes, ma’am.”

Miss Maggie chuckled and patted my arm. “You’ll be just fine.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow night. Ben and I will need a night out.”

“I look forward to it. See you then.” She said as she stepped back from the curb and waved good-bye to me and the twins.

I headed home with the twins in the back and prayed that Ben wouldn’t be too angry about not getting his night out just yet. When I pulled in to the drive, he met me at the garage and got a look at what was in the back seat.

“Well, well. Where’d you get these two?”

“Jail birds. I broke them out for fun in a haunted castle and to tire out Gibbs.” I replied as he kissed me. There was gagging sounds from the back that made Ben pull back, laughing.

“That’s enough, you two. Inside.” He smiled when they got out of the car with their bags and ran for the door.

I got out of the car and as I locked it, I found myself turned around and pressed against the door.

“That was a naughty thing you did this morning, Marlowe.” He said.

“Did you do laundry?” I asked as I nipped his lower lip.

“Yes.” He said as he kissed me.

“Then it worked.” I said against his lips.

“Still dirty.” He said with another kiss and pulled back. Taking my hand in his, we walked in to the house together.

-Marlowe