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Friends (part Three)

by Euna Park (Age: 24)
copyright 08-15-2005


Age Rating: 7 +

Jenna sighed again. “I wish Mom and Dad wouldn’t go out every night like this.’
Amber agreed. “It would be nice, but it does give us the advantage of being able to do what we want in the evenings.” She didn’t sound particularly thrilled.
“We never follow the rules,” Jenna explained to the very confused Rui that clambered out of her pocket.
“Oh,” stammered Rui. “But she seemed pretty nice during dinner.”
“Mom likes to have ‘a spot of sles’ before she goes anywhere for the night,” said Amber darkly.
“What’s that?” asked Rui. She felt sometimes that she was always asking questions about a language she only half-understood.
“Wine,” said Karen.
Rui stared in astonishment at her friends, each of whom had a different expression on her face. Karen had an uncomfortable look on her face as if she’d rather not be here, Amber had a bitter look that was best to not be looked at to long, and Jenna looked tired and wan from the previous scene from happening every night. Rui was forlorn that her friends were sad, and comparing their faces to the previously smiling and happy faces earlier in the day, this was a very big change to be making all at once by the twins’ tipsy mother.
“Anyway,” said Jenna, breaking everyone out from their gloomy thoughts. “We’d better walk Karen home.”
Even Rui understood what Jenna was really saying. She was really saying “Let’s get out of here.”
The girls automatically stood and started walking, almost robotically, towards the door. Rui flew up, and settled in Jenna’s pocket again.
Rui’s emotions were in turmoil, and choking in a writhing mass. She was not supposed to have bonded in any way with these girls, besides…something she didn’t want to think about right now. She couldn’t grow attached to the girls! Not with what her assignment was! She just couldn’t! Her sisters were the priority right now! Not the humans! But they had been kind to her, more so than any other creature she had met before. Rui knew she was in trouble, and she would have to make the decision soon. But she should keep herself for her sisters, shouldn’t she? They were family after all. Rui felt like she was the rope in a tug-of-war between two wrestling gnomes; breaking, and about to snap.

~*~

“Bye Karen, see you tomorrow!” said Amber.
The general mood of the group had perked up at the smell of fresh air, and more so by the ice cream man, who knew about the twins’ parents, as everyone in the neighborhood did, and had given them free Strawberry Shortcake bars. They asked for a spare Popsicle stick, which he gave to them, though he was wondering what they were going to do with it. He didn’t ask, because the girls would probably say it was a secret. It had happened so many times before; he just gave up on asking them.
They had said goodbye to him, and each of them broke off a part of theirs to stick onto the spare Popsicle stick, which was obviously for Rui, as soon as he left. When they had reached Karen’s house, they all went inside for a half an hour so Rui could eat her Strawberry Shortcake bar before it melted. They had talked about what was going to happen the next day. Amber wanted to go swimming, but Karen checked the weather, and it was supposed to be a thunder and lightening storm the next day. This news was greeted by groans. If it rained, their schedule was already planned, always starting off with a visit to the tree house. They needed to cover up everything so it wouldn’t get wet and be destroyed.
Next, they would hang out at Karen’s house for a while, playing board games, and UNO. Sometimes, Karen’s parents would join in, and they would be laughing, and happily accusing one another to breaking specific rules that would be somewhere in the fine print, if there was any. If not, the instructions would vanish, reappearing a couple of seconds later with fine print in between the lines, that had not been there before.
This way, several hours would be spent win laughter and fun, while the rain poured itself out.
Karen’s parents usually asked the twins to stay for dinner, and they always accepted. Then another hour or two would pass while happy chatter filled the table, occasionally breaking out with some accusations from the board games, and who should have won or not.
Of course, it isn’t always this way. Sometimes, the girls would go to the apple orchard, and grab a few apples to eat as they went around the pet shop, watching the rabbits, or swearing right back at the parrots (they never did it when there were other people besides themselves in the shop). Other times they would play chicken for about a half an hour and stay in the tree house while there was thunder and lightning and rain. When they’re in a really silly mood, they’ll go outside, dance like crazy, and sing “I’m Singing in the Rain” at the top of their lungs, or random songs like Christmas carols, and nursery rhymes. Occasionally, in the teaspoon of times they had done this, they would do “Phantom of the Opera”, which Amber had taken a liking to, and made the other two memorize the main song.
Though the rainy days were more restricted, the girls never failed to have fun every time they were together.
Rui was going with Amber and Jenna to their house, so again, she was riding in Jenna’s pocket, waving goodbye to Karen. Rui suspected by now that if the girls could live together, they would. Rui thought to the future for a second, and quickly reverted back to the present. She did not want to think about the future now.
Karen waved goodbye, then went back into her house, while Jenna and Amber began the walk home.

~*~

The Lady looked into the crystal ball that was her bond to her spy. This ball was large in size, about the size of a piano. The reason of its size could be clearly seen within its depths. The captured elves huddled together within the thin, rainbow colored fog that was inside in the crystal. There were several infants, toddlers, and children, but the majority was young adult or adult. There were perhaps forty or fifty in total, all female. Some flew around, exercising their wings, but slowly, and cautiously, not in the regular zipping manner of the elves. It was not just because these were all Rui’s sisters, but also because they were Rui’s sisters, they gave the Lady a direct link in seeing what Rui was doing at the moment.
The Lady drew out her rose-framed mirror from thin air. She found it easier to just project the image onto a mirror, instead of thin air, because a mirror has a reflective surface. Teleporting her mirror was a simple matter of concentration, and took so little effort, she did not feel any difference in her strength.
She commanded the mirror to show her Rui, and there she was, eating pizza with Amber and Jenna, laughing and chatting.
No, thought the Lady. Surly the spy would not betray her own kin. She knows that she was not to come into direct contact! And yet, the Lady mused, pondering it. And yet, she will be able to move more quickly now that she had the girls’ trust. Perhaps she has come up with a plan of her own to lure them here. Maybe…maybe…The ‘spy’ had looked up, and the Lady knew Rui was aware that she was watching her. Swiftly, she broke the spell, and strode back to her chambers. She had much thinking to do.

~*~

“Mmmmm, this is SO GOOD!!” exclaimed Rui. The twins had heated up some pizza for themselves and Rui, who really liked it. Amber had a taste for pepperoni and broccoli, while Jenna liked onions and green peppers. Rui had tried all of them, and decided she preferred plain. So now Rui was now happily eating pizza with tomato sauce all over her face, at the dinner table with Jenna and Amber.
“I still don’t understand why you don’t like broccoli and pepperoni,” said Amber after taking a huge bite and swallowing with difficulty.
“The thing that I can’t understand is Rui not liking onions and green peppers!” said Jenna.
“Onions gave me a strong feeling of throwing up; green peppers gave me the same feeling; broccoli would be nice without cheese, and pepperoni is sort of spicy,” Rui explained somewhat wearily. She had explained her taste preference lots of times to an astonished audience of Jenna and Amber.
Jenna shook her head. A bit of cheese was stuck underneath her lip, which bobbed up and down as she spoke. “A wonderful taste you have Rui. I still can’t understand.”
This conversation had been going on for quite some time.

~*~

Later, the twins had taken showers while Rui had enjoyed a hot bath in the sink. This was yet another new delight for Rui. Rui said that in the Hollow, the way you got clean was flying around in the rain, or if you were in a daring or desperate mood, you would sneak downstream, and take a bath in the stream. As a privilege when you turned eight or nine years old, you could fly to the pond that the stream flowed into, and swim with the fish and ducks. The pond was several miles away from the Hollow, so it was far enough from the Hollow that animals could live there in peace.
Amber was dressed in her fuzzy pink pajamas that had cow faces, with fuzzy bunny slippers, and Jenna was dressed in purple silk-like material decorated with yellow moons, and Rui was dressed in her usual. Her clothes could be rejuvenated by her magic, so they were always clean.
At this moment, Jenna realized they had never seen Rui without her hat. But this seemed to be a minor discovery, so she decided to keep quiet. She pushed the new information to the back of her mind.

~*~

A few weeks passed by in this manner, with the new friends growing closer and closer together. They grew almost to a family; a small family of three. It grew to the point where Rui would create little images from magic just for their entertainment. This friendship grew like a flower in the sun, yet seemed solid as rock.
Rui had so much information for the Lady, but she didn’t want to give it anymore. She didn’t know what to do when the time came, and it was only a couple days away now, and she wouldn’t be able to hold off any longer. Not at the risk of losing her sisters. Rui knew she would have to choose between family, and the friends that had been like a family. There was another variable to this already overloaded equation, but Rui didn’t really want to think of that. She could give herself to save both of them, but she didn’t really know how. She knew in her heart, which was trying to tell her, but deep in her subconscious, she already knew, but didn’t want to know, so she kept pushing her heart away. She desperately, with all her heart, did not want to see the faces of her friends when they found out that she had been the cause of death to everything that they had held dear, the looks of the betrayed, the looks of hurt, and anger she was sure would come.
Of course, Amber, Karen, and Jenna had no idea of the mental three way tug-of-war that was pulling her heart to pieces, but Rui had been acting strangely these last few days, and they didn’t quite know that to make of it.
Rui had taken to meditating whenever the girls slept, so whenever the girls had a sleepover, they would discuss it together. Rui seemed deaf to them, but in truth, she always heard every word. It hurt her, the fact they were so worried about her. They really cared, in a way she had never thought before.
On a night like that, in Karen’s house, the girls were doing their conversation under the covers, with a flashlight on. They sat in a circle, and made a little tent with their heads and cover.
“I think there’s something big coming. Rui’s not eating like she did. Remember when we first met her, she ate four chocolate chip pancakes, three glasses of milk, and a glass of orange juice? She only ate half a pancake, and a glass of milk this morning,” said Amber.
Rui was hovering above the tent, listening. She didn’t know that they had noticed, because they hadn’t given any outward sign of it.
“Yeah, I was really surprised that she didn’t eat that much. She’s also more alert though. Every time we make a noise that she doesn’t know is us, she’ll fly up with purple balls of fire in her hands, like she’s going to battle or something,” said Karen.
Rui cringed inwardly. She had been doing that too much for comfort lately. She was constantly terrified that Lady would send one of her monsters to remind Rui that she was a spy here.
There was a pause that seemed to hang in the air. Then Jenna whispered, “I have a feeling that Rui’s not telling us something that we should know.”
“I’ve got that feeling too, like my stomach is going to drop into a bottomless pit or something,” said Amber.
“Maybe whatever Rui’s keeping secret has to do with us.”
You could have heard a pin drop on the other end of the room at the silence that followed after Karen’s suggestion.
“What if it’s something really bad, like, I don’t know, the end of our world as we know it, or the universe is going to explode?” said Amber, her voice growing higher as she neared the end of her question.
This thing which is normally said so casually because of the impossibility of it happening, of the world exploding, or the universe, now hit home in the three girls and the eavesdropper. The full meaning of what would happen if it did. It would be a fairly small loss compared to what was surely to be out there, but it would be the end. The end of everything, and that might be only a short time away.
Then Karen swore so violently that Jenna and Amber jumped at their friend’s seemed ferocity, and Rui momentarily forgot she was hovering, so she fell out of the air onto the tent. The twins were even more surprised when the roof of the tent sagged slightly, and Karen gave a sob that almost could be describes as a bark, and began to cry.

~*~

Rui felt like the room’s walls were closing in on her; a pack of wolves, surrounding her, no escape. There had to be something. There was always something to help you. Rui couldn’t see any way out though. This time, there seemed like there was really nothing. She didn’t want to betray her sisters, her family, but she couldn’t lie to the friends who had been the best family she had ever known. Rui felt lightheaded, and she didn’t quite know what to do.
The girls were sitting in the tent again, this time with Rui inside. They were waiting for Rui to speak. There was no real pressure, no prodding, no staring, or suggestive hints. They just waited in silence, as they had for the past few weeks. This time, however, Rui seemed like she was finally going to tell what the girls had wondered for weeks. Why was Rui here? What was going to happen?






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