Here be Dragons: Chapter 12

Enter the world of the dream chasers. It is a dark place where nightmares can kill you and if the dream chasers don’t stop them, you may never wake up…

Now enter, as here there be dragons and they’re waiting for you….

****

Hours later, after calming the anger filled creature that was Riley’s aunt, Alice, she was home. She wished she was home and in her bed, but her aunt was quick to say no to that idea. “Just because you have a cast on your leg doesn’t mean you can’t wash the dishes.”

It had been hard, oh so very hard to bite back the retort that ‘we have a dishwasher, so I don’t need to lean against the sink and my crutches washing them by hand.’ Riley had wanted to point it out to her, but it had only taken a look at the glare on her aunt’s face and she closed her mouth.

Her hands were pruny and her wrists kept itching, begging to be scratched as she worked and it was a trick to keep her balance. More than once she thought about going into the other room and telling Aunt Alice what she thought about doing the dishes when she had barely figured out how to walk with the crutches. Riley would plan it out, picture it in her head as she scrubbed at another dish that had dried on leftover when she would realize that she could barely walk with them. For her to go in there and tell Aunt Alice off, it would require walking, something that was still a challenge.

But still, it shouldn’t me doing these dang dishes, and where in the hell did they come from? When she left yesterday the dishes had been done. Her dad wasn’t home last night. Had Aunt Alice stayed there last night and then dirtied more dishes that morning? What was she doing, hosting a dinner for all her bible thumping friends? It had to have been as how else could there be so many?

“I swear, these kids today don’t know how easy they have it. They just want to sit around and play on their phones. None of them have a clue as to what real work is.” Riley could hear her as Aunt Alice was in the other room talking on the phone. Riley knew she was sitting there at the dining room table, talking to one of her friends about her. “She’s as lazy as a cow in a field and has no clue as to how to be a young woman. Her dad’s gone too much, lets her get away with it, but not while I’m here.”

Riley slammed a metal pan down into the dish rack. It clanked loudly and she winced, knowing her aunt had to have heard it, but come on! Could Aunt Alice really believe this garbage she was shoveling, and that pan had been filthy, like she had been making sludge in it and had forgotten to discard it when she was done.

“You better not be breaking anything in there!” Alice called to her. Riley could hear her own teeth grinding as she was physically biting back what she wanted to say. It would only be a week or two and then her dad would be back and she wouldn’t have to put up with Aunt Alice’s endless nagging. She only had to survive the week.

Survive the week! She wasn’t sure she could survive the next five minutes. She needed to escape, find someway out of there, but then where would she go? She wasn’t going to make it too far on those crutches.

Yeah, she could just picture it. She would be hopping down the street and her aunt would chase after her tackling her probably in front of kids her own age creating even more embarrassment. She didn’t look like much, but women that mean, they could surprise you. She’d run after Riley and break her other leg for trying to get away. Then she’d be hoisted to the kitchen sink and hung there to do dishes. There was no way she was ever going to let Riley out of it.

Why couldn’t she just go back home. Riley was thirteen and could take care of herself. She didn’t need anyone staying there. She cooked her dad’s meals for him half the time as her dad was always working late. She could manage. Just nobody ever trusted her or thought she was old enough to do anything. It’s always, look after Riley, or Riley, I know you know how to do this, but let me tell you how to do it anyway because you’re your too young to figure it out.

No one ever trusts me to figure it out on my own, she thought as she set the pan into the drying rack.

“Riley? You hear me? I said you better not be breaking anything.” She yelled again and Riley realized she’d been so frustrated he has forgotten to call back to her. Before she could, she heard her talking again to her friend on the phone. The frustration was evident as she heard that disapproving tone as she talked about Riley again. “I’m sorry Judith, just give me a second.”

“Nothings broken.” Riley called back. “Except for maybe your sanity.” However that he said under his breath. Unfortunately she hadn’t heard Aunt Alice get up, and didn’t know she was in the doorway until she cleared her throat.

“I will have none of that tongue. You know, when I was your age, our father would never have allowed us to sass him like you kids get away with nowadays. I would have had to eat a bar of soap if I said the things you say.”

“That’s child abuse.”

“That’s discipline. You say it once and you’d never do it again. You should ask your dad about it. He went through plenty of soap, and when they gave up on soap, they started putting peppers on his tongue.”

This wasn’t going well, and at this rate, Aunt Alice would have Riley locked up until she was thirty and she would never get a chance to go to the book store.

Hey, maybe that was it. It was perfect, maybe she could get there after all. A plan was forming in her head, and she could tell Alice could see the gears moving in her head as she cocked her head. She didn’t realize that she had his tongue in his teeth again, something she did only when she was intensely figuring something out.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re only sorry because I’m standing right here.”

She was right, but her plan wasn’t going to work unless she believed him. Crap, this was going to be hard.

“No, I mean it. I got upset and I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, you shouldn’t have.”

Riley hopped as she turned until she could face her. Then she leaned back against the counter. The silence stretched on in agony as they now stood there staring at each other. It took Riley a minute to realize that they were each locked on the other and she was in a stare down with hers.

Riley broke the contest of wills and looked sheepishly at her feet.

“I’m sorry.”

“What did you say? Don’t mumble.”

She spoke again, this time putting more energy into her voice while working to keep any hint of her anger and frustration out of her words.

“I’m sorry.”

“Sure you are.” She still wasn’t accepting Riley’s apology, but at least this time, she could hear some of the bite leave her voice, and when she looked up, her aunt was no longer glaring at her. She thought about turning back to the dishes and struggling with it, to really play up the sympathy from her, but then she remembered who she was dealing with. She didn’t do ‘sympathy’ and was not about to all of a sudden agree with her that she shouldn’t be doing the dishes. It also might backfire heavily on her plan. She needed to do it, say something, but she wasn’t quite sure what.

“Aunt Alice, I was wanted to ask, do you think it would be okay if you… I mean, could you take me to a store tomorrow. It’s a book store on the other side of town. A friend of mine works there and we’re supposed to…” She realized she didn’t know what she could say. She was going to say study, but school doesn’t start until next week and. What could she say they were going to do?

Oh crap. What if Bruce, or Raz, or whatever he wanted to call himself wasn’t out of the hospital yet? Riley hadn’t thought about that. She just wanted to get there and see what was up as last night was still so fresh in her mind and it was all so exciting. She had to get down there and be a part of it. Riley couldn’t wait to tell Suzy about it. Bruce told her she couldn’t, and she hadn’t in front of him at the hospital when she had arrived in a hurricane of excitement, but this was Suzy. Riley had to tell her. They told each other everything.

“You two discussing books or boys? You’re too young to have a boyfriend, but you need to read more. Kids now seem to only want to play their Xbox’s and be mean to one another.”

“A little of both.” She stammered. In truth, if they actually did sell books there, she wouldn’t mind picking up the latest in her favorite series. She knew the latest book was coming out soon, and with luck it already had. Maybe Bruce read as well, and they could talk about it.

It would be cool if Riley could take Suzy when she went, but knew Bruce would have a fit. Though why they were being so secretive didn’t make sense. Who would believe them, or who would even care. Sure, it was cool that they fought nightmares, but what did that even mean? It was nice and all, but it wasn’t like nightmares were actually dangerous.

“Well, maybe after your chores, we’ll go tomorrow morning.”

“Is there anyway you can drop me off?”

“Oh, you don’t want your aunt hanging around? Think I might embarrass you?” Some of the hardness crept back into her voice, and she caught herself biting back another retort, though it was getting easier. She was actually talking to Riley, not just shooting back barbs about her. She still insulted her generation, but it seemed like that’s what all adults did. Like they were any better when they were kids. If you listened to the adults say it, they didn’t even have tv’s in their rooms or game systems. It was like they lived in the dark ages.

“No, just I really want to hang out there for a little while and I figured you would want to get going.”

“I do want to go to Amelia’s tomorrow.”

“See.”

Aunt Alice gave her a questioning look, her eyebrow raised in that familiar way that told Riley that she didn’t really trust her.

“You better not run off from there and do something stupid after I drop you off. I might drop by just to check on you.”

“Nope, not planning on doing anything stupid.”

“You sure?”

“Definitely.” She looked down at her broken leg, “I think I’ve had enough of stupid for a little while.”

“Good.” Aunt Alice said, nodding her approval.

She turned and left the room, leaving Riley to wonder as she worked her way back around to the dishes.

“Okay Bruce, hope you’re out of the hospital because otherwise I just wasted my ‘get out of jail free’ card on getting over to see you.” She picked up the next grease covered dish, grimaced, and went back to work on washing it. Ugh, this stuff was nasty.

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