Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(13) by Connie Suttle
"I think so, too," Adele laughed.
"Dude," Sali was standing in the driveway, his hands stuffed in the pockets of cutoff shorts when Adele pulled in.
"Dude," Ashe nodded at his best friend.
"Is there cake later?" Sali asked.
"Around seven," Adele said. She'd stopped to allow the garage door to pull up.
"So, what's up?" Ashe hauled bags from the trunk, hiding his surprise at Adele's words—he hadn't expected anyone to be invited for a birthday celebration after he'd said no. Sali grabbed a share of the parcels and followed Ashe inside the house.
"Wynn and me," Sali began, reddening at the admission.
"Yeah, I saw," Ashe grumped. That wasn't the best thing to say to Ashe after being quarantined for three days.
"Dude, you don't like Wynn?" Sali settled bags of clothing onto the kitchen island.
"I like Wynn just fine," Ashe said, carefully laying the bag that held his laptop box on the granite-topped island. "Sali, I hope you're happy." Ashe's voice held a bit of pain.
"Marco said he'd take us to the beach tonight to look for crabs," Sali said, oblivious to Ashe's discomfort. Ashe blinked at Sali. Would he refuse an outing because he didn't want to see Wynn with Sali?
"Sounds like fun," Ashe said instead.
"Good. We'll go after cake," Sali grinned.
"And ice cream," Adele added, smiling at Sali. "Salidar, tell your parents and Marco that they're welcome, too. Bring Wynn and Dori if they want to come. And their parents."
"Dude, is this what you got?" Sali was impressed with the laptop when Ashe pulled it from the box.
"Yeah. Let's go to my bedroom and hook it up," Ashe grinned.
"Take these bags of clothing with you; we need to wash some of it before you leave tomorrow night," Adele stopped both boys from racing up the stairs.
"You're leaving tomorrow night? Where are you going?" Sali grabbed a handful of bags.
"Didn't Marco tell you?" Ashe gaped at Sali.
"No. What was he supposed to tell me?"
"We wanted to make the announcement tonight over cake and ice cream," Adele said. "So you'll just have to wait until then," she gave Ashe a meaningful look.
"Okay," Ashe couldn't hide his disappointment. "Come on, let's hook up the computer and see if it works." He and Sali clumped up the stairs.
"Dude, I can see the gulf from my bedroom," Sali said, looking out Ashe's window. Ashe could only see the back yard from his. "You need to come see the house."
"I saw it, remember?"
"Did you?" Sali gave Ashe a quizzical look.
"Yeah. Remember, I called you, when Mom and I got here first? You asked me to go check out your house. I told you about that bedroom, dude."
"Must have forgot," Sali said, shrugging. "Anyway, Marco got the bedroom that looks down on the back yard. He says he doesn't care, since he won't be home much."
"He's a member of the Dallas Pack, Sali. That's his home now."
"Yeah. I know."
"He's still your brother. That won't change."
"But I like him loads better now. He takes us places and we actually have fun together."
Ashe didn't want to remind Sali of the rivalry between Sali and Marco when he was younger. Sali had been in constant competition with his older brother, it seemed.
"I'm going to take the driver's test tomorrow morning," Ashe said.
"I want to come."
"They won't let you in the car while I take the test."
"I don't care. I'll wait with your mom."
"If she doesn't care," Ashe said. "And as long as you don't make fun of me if I flunk it."
"Me?" Sali pretended to be hurt, a finger pointing at his own chest.
"Don't give me false commiseration," Ashe teased.
"You're not even going to give me credit for knowing what that five-syllable word means, are you?" Sali took the computer cord from Ashe and plugged it into an outlet.
"Sali, I learned long ago that you're smarter than people think. And that pretty much includes all of Earth's population."
"What, you're not venturing past our own solar system?"
"Well, maybe the Wookiees don't think you're smart, but they haven't met you yet."
"Wookiees are shapeshifters," Sali reopened an old argument.
"Nope. Chewie wouldn't go around bumping his head on stuff if he was. He'd just go back to humanoid or whatever and forego the bruises."
"Says the guy who turns into a bat. A teeny, tiny bat."
"Do not dis the bat," Ashe said, booting up the computer.
"Come on, you weigh less than a dime, man."
"And I can make you whine with pain when I send out echolocation signals," Ashe reminded his friend.
"If you're close enough," Sali pointed out.
"Ashe?" Cori's voice floated up the stairs.
"In here, Cori," Ashe called out. Cori walked in, went straight to Ashe and gave him a huge hug.
"He's out of the slammer now," Sali sang off-key.
"I don't consider house arrest the slammer," Ashe grumped when Cori let him go.
"Got one of those ankle bracelets?" Sali asked.
"Monitors," Ashe corrected. "Dad thought about it."
"What did you do, dude?"
"Talked back," Ashe admitted unwillingly.
"Gets you every time," Sali nodded sagely.
"Is this the birthday present?" Cori looked Ashe's new laptop over.
"Sali?" Wynn's voice, this time. Ashe breathed a sigh. Sali poked his head out of Ashe's bedroom door.
"In here," he said. Wynn walked in, followed closely by Dori.
"How's your shoulder?" Ashe asked.
"Fine. How did you know about that?" Wynn's hand went to her right shoulder.
"Word gets around," Ashe muttered.
"Ashe, show me the house," Cori grabbed his arm and hauled him out of the bedroom.
"She doesn't remember anything," Cori hissed. They stood inside the hall bathroom.
"I'm surprised you remember," Ashe muttered.
"Dad," Cori said.
"Oh." Ashe hadn't thought about that. Nathan would certainly know what happened to Wynn. His memories hadn't been removed like everyone else's.
"Dori doesn't know, either, so don't let it slip, okay? Dad wouldn't tell her because she and Wynn are so close."
"Yeah. I get that," Ashe said. "Cori, what do you know about that?"
"That you were there. I can figure out the rest for myself."
"Thank God." Ashe wrapped his arms around Cori and squeezed her hard, lifting her off the floor.
"Hey, now," Marco stepped inside the bathroom.
"Just thanking Cori for the birthday gift," Ashe laughed, slapping Marco's shoulder. Ashe was taller than Marco, although Marco was more solid. Ashe was still thin.
"It's not anything I need to worry about, is it?" Marco teased.
"Not in the least, lummox," Cori hugged Marco. "Ashe just needed a little moral support, that's all. He's been locked up for days."
"Homemade cake is always better," Dori said later. Denise and Marcus had brought burgers and hot dogs to grill and the whole thing turned into a neighborhood party. Ashe got a gift card from Sali, so he could add music to his MP-3 player. A T-shirt came from Dori and Wynn. Cori and Marco gave him a hat.
"See, you look like Frank Sinatra now," Cori grinned.
"Stylin'," Ashe grinned, running a finger along the brim.
"You'll look good in Dallas, dude," Marco said.
"Dallas?" Sali was quick to pick up on Marco's comment.
"Ashe is coming to Dallas to work for Mr. Winkler over the summer," Marco made the announcement. "Mr. Winkler appreciates his computer hacking skills."
"Are you kidding me?" Sali huffed. "He breaks into Billings' computer and he gets a job?"
"Sali!" Ashe hissed. Marcus, Adele and Denise all looked at one another before bursting into laughter.
"Something amusing?" Aedan appeared, Nathan not far behind. Adele looked at her husband and broke into fresh peals of laughter.
"I wish your father could be here," Adele said the following morning as she, Ashe and Sali waited for Ashe's name to be called for the driving test. The written exam had gone very well, but the driving test came next. Ashe had giant butterflies in his stomach. Giant mutant butterflies, in his opinion. He'd practiced a parallel park before going to Corpus Christi for the test. Doing it at home was certainly not doing it for the testing officer, though. Ashe waggled a leg nervously as he waited. The plastic chairs in the waiting area weren't comfortable, either, making his discomfort more pronounced.
"You'll be fine, honey," Adele tried to calm him. Ashe's name was called. He rose, cast a helpless look at Sali and followed the officer.
"Nice car," the officer commented as Ashe climbed in on the driver's side of the Cadillac and buckled his seat belt. Ashe drove out of the parking lot as instructed, made turns, changed lanes after looking over his shoulder, stopped properly at stop signs and lights and was then instructed to get on and off the highway. He drove back to the testing facility afterward for the dreaded parallel park. Nervously chewing his lip, Ashe pulled alongside the front curb, looked behind him and began turning the wheel.
Ashe watched later as the officer made notes on his clipboard. Did he pass? The man wasn't saying anything.
"Congratulations," the officer handed Ashe a piece of paper. "You passed. Turn that in to get your license." Ashe whooped, causing the officer to chuckle.
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