Bumble(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 1)(2) by Connie Suttle
"Everybody else always knows what I should be doing." Ashe rubbed his forehead.
"Dude, just forget it. Can we go into Cordell this afternoon and help your mom?" Sali gave Ashe a hopeful look.
Ashe's parents owned Cordell Feed and Seed. Sali's seventeen-year-old brother Marco could drive them; he had a car and welcomed any excuse to drive the short distance into Cordell to visit a human girl who worked at the Burger Hut. It was nearly spring break and Cordell Feed and Seed was busy—people were buying plants already. If Ashe and Sali came to help, Adele usually put them to watering trays of seedlings and sweeping the greenhouse.
"I guess," Ashe mumbled an answer to Sali's question. Sali jogged off to find his brother, who sat with a group of friends on the other side of the small cafeteria.
"He says he'll drop us off," Sali was back in no time. Ashe didn't answer; he merely nodded his head.
Ashe wasn't sure he'd live through his last three classes. He did, but barely. When Principal Billings sent for him during the final class of the day, Ashe became more worried. Was it because he hadn't been paying attention in class? His parents would certainly be upset over that.
Principal Benjamin Billings, PhD, werewolf, sat behind a desk too large for his small office, dressed in a three-piece suit and tie. With dark-brown hair that held no hint of gray and brown eyes capable of boring straight through any mischief-bent student, Principal Billings ruled Cloud Chief Combined with a growl and an iron will. If Ashe hadn't known he was werewolf when he turned, he may have guessed that Principal Billings was a bull. With a thick neck and compact, muscular body, Principal Billings evoked such an impression.
"Ashe, take this note to your parents," Principal Billings smiled as he handed the sealed envelope to Ashe. Satisfied over something Ashe couldn't immediately define, the old werewolf leaned back in his leather chair, causing it to creak annoyingly. "Make sure they get it," Principal Billings said with a wave of dismissal, sending Ashe back to class. Sali had an eyebrow lifted, asking the nonverbal question as soon as Ashe slouched into his seat in Social Studies. Shoving the envelope inside his book bag, Ashe pretended to pay attention to Miss Campbell and didn't look in Sali's direction once.
Later, Ashe was glad he was sitting by himself in the back seat of Marco's car on the way to Cordell. The snow had melted off as the day warmed up, leaving only a scattered, well-shaded patch here and there. Sali sat in the front passenger seat, restlessly turning his head this way and that to see everything as they drove past it. Ashe figured it was the wolf in him; Sali liked to poke his head out the window during warmer weather as long as his mother didn’t catch him doing it. Just the thought of Denise DeLuca getting onto Sali for hanging his head out the car window made Ashe smile for a moment.
"Dude, you think your mom will have cookies?" Sali was now peering over the seat at Ashe.
Adele Evans had a small kitchen at the back of the store and often baked cookies when Sali and Ashe came to help. When Ashe didn't say anything else, Sali mumbled, "I hope she made oatmeal raisin," before sliding down in his seat.
The familiar scents of fertilizer, chicken feed and live plants greeted Sali and Ashe as they stepped inside Cordell Feed and Seed. Rows of shelves stocked neatly with gardening and farming needs lined the store's polished, concrete floor. Just inside the door, Adele stood behind the register, helping two customers when both boys walked in. Noticing Ashe's slumped shoulders immediately, Adele frowned slightly as she closed the register drawer.
"Sali, there's a plate of cookies on the table in the back." As soon as her customers were gone, Adele sent Sali toward the rear of the store before stepping in front of Ashe. "Honey, what's wrong?" she touched Ashe's face briefly before taking her hand away. Tendrils of Adele's honey-blonde hair had escaped the clip she'd used to tie back her shoulder-length locks, telling Ashe the day had been a busy one; his mother hadn't had time to tidy up. Now her pretty, golden-brown eyes gazed worriedly at her son.
"Principal Billings sent this." Ashe pulled the sealed envelope from his book bag and handed it to his mother, stepping around her quickly to follow Sali. He didn't miss his mother's expression, however; Adele stared at the envelope in shock. Ashe joined Sali at the tiny kitchen table, and ate one cookie while Sali ate four. Ashe pushed Sali toward the greenhouse afterward to water tomato and pepper plants.
Flats of tomatoes and peppers were lined up neatly across slatted wooden tables. Sali loved to use the sprayer hose, sending a fine mist over the small, tender plants. Ashe left him alone; he'd already swept beneath the tables so Sali wouldn't create a river of mud when the water dripped down. While Ashe swept the rest of the greenhouse, he weighed his options. Perhaps he could do gardening or landscaping someday, since he didn't have any shapeshifting ability. He could certainly open a gardening shop somewhere. He'd worked with his mother since he was six—he'd learn everything about the business and support himself somehow. Sali, moving on to spray larger plants in pots at the back of the greenhouse, left Ashe alone to consider his probable human future.
* * *
"Sali, your mother's here to pick you up," Adele stood in the greenhouse doorway an hour later with Denise DeLuca.
"But mo-om," Sali turned one syllable into two, his dark eyes pleading with his mother to leave him with Ashe.
"Sali, come along, I'm sure you have homework to do," Denise DeLuca held out a hand. Sali wasn't about to take it; he was too old for that. He waved at Ashe and walked out ahead of his mother, ducking away from the hand she placed on his shoulder. Ashe went to put away the broom.
"Ashe, we'll sit down and talk when your father wakes," Adele said. Face paling at her words, Ashe nervously chewed his lip as he studied his mother's frown. "Honey, don't look like that, you're not in trouble. Not that much, anyway," Adele said, giving Ashe a smile that didn't reach her eyes. Ashe attempted to school his face; he'd been depressed all day over Transformational Arts. "Come on, let's close the store."
Adele closed the store at six. Always. She might have made more money by staying open later, but she wanted to be home when Aedan woke every day. The store was closed every Sunday no matter what, giving Adele a day off. Ashe set to counting out money from the register and adding up checks—he loved that part of closing down the store.
"Here, Mom. The deposit slip is filled out." Ashe handed the bank bag with the cash and checks inside to his mother. Smiling a genuine smile this time, Adele took the bag and slipped it in her purse. She made a stop at the bank every morning before opening the store for the day.
"At least the snow melted off," Adele observed as they climbed into her old and battered Ford truck. "But that's Oklahoma; freezing in the morning, hot by afternoon."
"Not hot," Ashe huddled into his sheepskin jacket.
"I know, baby. But it did get into the high forties." Adele put the truck in gear and pulled out of the tiny parking area behind the store.
Ashe and his mother kept a calendar in the kitchen that listed sunrise and sunset times, so they'd know when Aedan would wake. Thursday, March twenty-sixth listed sunset time as seven forty-six. They'd gotten home a quarter to seven and Adele set about making dinner for herself and Ashe—spaghetti with garlic bread and salad.
Ashe chuckled softly. The old myth that vampires were allergic to garlic was just that—a myth. He and his dad had laughed many times over the vampires portrayed in movies and on television. Still, he'd never seen his father's fangs. Or the claws. His dad always said someday, when Ashe was ready. Ashe guessed that twelve-going-on-thirteen wasn't ready.
Dinner was done at seven-thirty and Adele got Ashe seated at the table with a plate of spaghetti in front of him. "Go ahead and eat, Ashe. I'll get your father up." Ashe watched his mother as she unlocked the door into the lower level of the house and walked down the steps. The locked middle door was to protect his father while he slept during the day. Aedan was very strong and could punch right through the heavy steel door if necessary.
* * *
"Aedan?" Adele called softly before walking into her husband's steel and concrete bunker. Concealed below the underground portion of the house, the entrance to Aedan Evans' bunker was hidden beneath a cleverly designed trap door. Any bit of sunlight that hit Aedan's skin could cause it to blister and disintegrate within seconds. He, Nathan Anderson and Old Harold, who claimed no last name as his own, all had hidden rooms beneath their homes to protect them from sunlight. Aedan watched his wife carefully as she let herself down the ladder into his bunker.
"What's wrong?" Aedan asked, shrugging into a shirt. He knew something was; Adele never came down to the bunker, she always waited for him to come to the top floor of the house.
"That's exactly what I asked Ashe earlier," Adele held the envelope out to Aedan. Aedan's gray eyes flared briefly as he examined the handwritten address in near-darkness. Lifting the envelope from Adele's fingers, Aedan carefully opened the letter to read.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans, the note began, I hesitate to place labels upon any child who studies in my school, but I cannot turn a blind eye to the status of your son. In no time during my lengthy tenure as an educator have I actually witnessed a child born of supernatural parents who had absolutely no ability. Children born to a human-supernatural mix, yes, but this—not until now. Ashe holds no ability. He has produced no sign of it during the entire year and my initial fears are now confirmed. I suggest you search for an alternative method to educate your child beginning with the fall semester, as he will not be allowed to continue at Cloud Chief Combined.
Benjamin Billings, PhD, Principal.
Adele backed out of the way while Aedan punched a hole through the black cinderblocks of the bunker, denting the sheet of thick steel behind.
* * *
"Son, why didn't you tell us you were having trouble?"
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