YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 13
When I returned home the following evening, it was to find the household in a state of near chaos, the kind we always got ourselves into each time Mum was about to leave for a sudden out-of-town assignment. The television, channeled to Music Hop, was blaring out Dimmesdale’s latest video, ‘The Hell In Our Hearts’, featuring a black-lipsticked, black-togged Gothic girl looking gloomy and doom-ridden in a bat-infested cavern. No one was watching her attempts to get the bats to drink her blood. The boys, voices raised above the din, were tearing up and down the place, fetching things for Mum, dodging Mack, Polly, Slugger, and Mugger, who, caught up in the excitement, were getting underfoot at every available chance; Daddy, home early for once, was upstairs, on his phone, talking to Maia.
“Yes, Mother, I can pick you up on the way back,” he was saying, while Mum hurriedly packed and worried about missing her flight.
“Krievstaad this time,” Tavi, home for the weekend, had told me on the stairs. “Mr. Benson can’t go to cover the Peace Conference, because he has had a family crisis – his daughter was injured in a car accident – so Mum has been asked to go in his stead. Her plane’s leaving in two hours.”
She barely glanced up at me, wearing the tense, harassed expression she always assumed when she had to leave on such short notice. Traveling was one part of her job as a journalist that she did not particularly care for. It was not romantic, she had told me often enough, it meant traveling fatigue, living out of a suitcase, putting up in an impersonal hotel room, and eating at odd hours. It also meant setting aside her personal writing work, which was always a wrench for her. She had been working very satisfactorily on her new book these past few weeks, a book on the history of Kirzheik cuisine of all things; she wanted a breather from politics, she had said. It had to be utterly annoying now to have to break the creative thread and go dive back into political reporting. Duty called though, and, when it did, Mum never shirked. This was a big step up too career-wise. Mr. Benson was a very senior journalist and being asked to take his place at the Peace Conference was a singular honor. Mr. Charles Lyndhurst himself had phoned to offer her the assignment, and, of course, even if Mum had felt like shirking, she wouldn’t have turned him down for anything.
As she often reminded us, she owed him a great, great, great deal. He had stepped forward and hired her, after all, at a time when all the other media companies that she had applied to were dithering under the N.S.A.P.’s pressure and intimidation tactics. These hadn’t, of course, worked with Mr. Lyndhurst. When they had sent over a goon to his office to warn him against hiring her, he had asked him to wait and made a few calls, and the next thing, the goon had received a call from the N.S.A.P. leader, Baran Khodorov, asking him to return back forthwith to goon hall. We had heard the story from Tim Kennedy, but nobody knew who Mr. Lyndhurst had called and any other details. Mum had asked him, of course, but he had laughed and shrugged it off and merely told her to have no further worries regarding her employment with his company, he would always look out for his people. It was an indication though of how powerful and well-connected he was. Just like the Caraindons.
“He probably ordered a hit on Baran Khodorov,” Billy had said, and had received a sharp smack on his arm from Mum and a strict warning to not go around repeating such libelous nonsense. It hadn’t impressed him. “Oh, c’mon, Auntie, the N.S.A.P. can’t have slunk back into the shadows without a whimper just like that, without a strong incentive, surely?”
Mum had refused to entertain that idea and discuss the matter any further, but I had the same suspicion as Billy. Or, rather, I wanted that to be the case. It was reassuring to know that there was someone out there who could and would crush Baran Khodorov under his heel if it ever became necessary. Mr. Lyndhurst was a gentleman of the first water, no doubt, but even gentlemen had to protect their hides when threatened. There was nothing at all wrong about ordering a hit on a goon that was attempting to spoil your life. Gawd, if I had a gun, I would have shot him myself.
Right now though, I was entertaining thoughts of murdering Billy himself. We had traded insults nearly all the way down from Offenbach County, ignoring Yvon’s attempts at intervention and not ignoring Kuno’s snide interjections. I think I had quarreled with him nearly as much as I had quarreled with Billy. When we had dropped him off at the corner of his building, he had informed Yvon that he had never had a more enlivening trip and that we ought to do it again sometime soon.
“And I won’t mind too much either if you bring my greatest fan along,” he had said, twiddling his fingers at me. “She’s got talent for entertainment at least, if not art.”
“Yeah?” I had shouted after him, half-leaning out the window. “Do something about that massive ego before it crushes all your bloody talent!”
He had turned to make a face at me. Yes, at his age. Half the public had turned to stare at me, but I had been too angry to care. Billy had snapped at me, because he cared about being embarrassed. I had snapped back that that was rich, given how little he cared about embarrassing other people. Yvon had put a hand over her forehead and sighed in weariness. When we had finally pulled up at Billy’s place, I had grabbed my bag, jumped out, and slammed shut the door hard. And Billy had shouted at me for this maltreatment of his car. He would never give me another ride in my life if this was how I was going to behave. And I had shouted back that he would be doing me a favor. Who the hell wanted a ride with him ever again in his stupid car? Who the hell had asked for a ride in the first place? I should have taken the train back with Alex Waldner and company. And he had shouted that I could go join the bloody N.S.A.P. myself next since I was so keen on their thuggish members. At that, I had turned back and informed him that the only thug in the picture at the moment was he himself. Not just a thug, but a bully too. And, with that, I had reopened the car door and slammed it shut even harder.
Now, on reflection, I regretted this loss of self-control. I didn’t think Yvon would mention it to Mum, but I had no doubt that Billy would. He had already been calling for Aunt Zarrin as I had walked off. I had heard him refer to me as ‘that absolutely wretched girl’.
“What?” said Mum, looking up.
“That was a strange look you had just now. What have you been up to?”
“Nothing. How can I be up to anything? I just got in.” I stooped to hug and kiss Mack and Polly as they nudged into me from either side.
“We heard the shouting outside.”
“Over this din? Incredible! TAVI! TURN THAT OFF! Tell him, Mum. I can’t even hear myself, never mind the noise outside. And it’s not like he’s even watching that crap. Oh, c’mon, it was nothing major, I just had words with Billy, that’s all.”
Mum shook her head and said, “I don’t even want to know!”
“I thought you wouldn’t. You never do. You only have to bring it up.”
“Go and have something to eat,” said Mum, refusing to be baited. “There’s fried rice on the counter. Tavi! Get your sister some rice!”
“Can’t the Princess shift for herself?” came back the reply.
“Get it! And turn the volume down!”
I notched down from the confrontational mode and said, “How long are you going to be away?”
“For the duration of the conference. Ten days. Hand me that blouse, Hansin.”
“What happened to Mr. Benson’s daughter? How did she get into an accident?”
“A drunk driver jumped the signal and rammed her car. She’s in the ICU right now.”
“Oh. Is she going to be okay?”
“Let’s hope so. Poor Mr. Benson. You bring up your children as best as you can, and then some idiot decides to drink and drive and you are left to pick up the pieces. The police are still looking for the driver. He ran, of course.”
Tavi came in and deposited a plate of rice none too gently on my lap, and said, “I hope they catch the fellow and put him away for life.”
“They should just hang him and be done with it,” I said. “Why waste tax payers’ money keeping such scum alive?”
Mum paused to give me a look and continued with her packing. Tavi patted my head and said, “Eat. That will make you feel less murderous.”
“Not likely,” I retorted, knocking his hand away. “I’m thinking of getting a gun and going on a rampage. Will Mr. Lyndhurst know where I can obtain one, do you think, Mum?”
“Shut up,” said Mum.
“You’ll just have to use the trusty old search engine,” said Tavi. “I’m sure there will be a step-by-step tutorial somewhere about how to make one.”
“Yeah, no doubt, but what about the bullets?”
“Make them at home as well. Freeze their shit,” he said, waving at the animals. “Dog shit for big caliber gun, and cat shit for pellet gun.”
“Bang, bang, bang!” said Hansin, delighted. “Really?”
“Truly,” said Tavi. “You won’t even have to shoot. Just the stink will cause the enemy to flee. Hey, Mum, you want to convey that idea to the peace delegates?”
“Which peace delegates?” I asked him. “You’re batting for the Kheranish as usual?”
“Aren’t you? Lieutenant Shaughnessy shoots from this side.”
“Do something about them,” Mum said to Daddy.
“Children! Children! I’ve to see to the children, Mother,” said Daddy into his phone and switched off. “So! How was the painting trip, Lea?”
I glowered a moment longer at my grinning brother and said, “Horrible. It was horrible.”
“Oh, c’mon, it can’t have been!”
“I told you yesterday, didn’t I? I did awful work. And I couldn’t concentrate at all today, but that was to be expected, with Billy there. The next time I go anywhere, he’d better not turn up! I told him that, and he said, don’t blame me for your lack of focus, and, by the way, I can go anywhere I want, whenever I want, it’s a free country still, not your personal property. He said I don’t even own this section of it, because the house belongs to his aunt and she’s not likely to ban him from it either any time soon. Well, we’ll see about that, I said. You need to tell him, Mum...”
“Oh, for Gawd’s sake, Lea, stop being so juvenile, I don’t have time for this.”
“Juvenile? Juvenile? You think I’m juvenile? What about him?”
“You inspire him, of course,” said Tavi. “Except for your immature influence, our Billy would be a totally model sample. Ahm, that’s his excuse anyway.”
“Isn’t this what is known as the blame game, Mum?” said Hansin. “Everyone blames everyone and nobody improves.”
“Take him and Tavi with you,” I said to Mum. “They’ll be a hit at the Peace Conference. Take Billy along too while you’re at it.”
“Now, kitten, try to see it in a positive light,” said Daddy. “If Billy wasn’t around, where would you get such a constant practice in patience and self-control?”
“True,” said Tavi. “Actually, be grateful that it hasn’t occurred to him to demand a payment for the training.”
“Why is it so hard for you people to understand? HE MESSED UP MY ENTIRE WEEKEND!”
The dogs, startled, started barking and racing about the room, and the cats, startled by that, began spitting and hissing.
“Oh, great,” said Mum. “Be quiet, all of you! Lea, never mind Billy! I’ve told you again and again and again to ignore him, so why don’t you ignore him? What’s the matter with both of you anyway? You were getting along so well recently. Oh, hell, I’ll miss my plane!”
“So what?” said Tavi. “There will always be another.”
“If I don’t catch this one,” said Mum, “I’ll get sacked.”
I said, “A second time can’t hurt.”