House of Lies–Chapter 23

Now, this is the end. I’ll keep you entertained with another story soon. Thanks for being fans! If you like my stuff, see what else I have on Wattpad. I also have the first book of The Plague Legacy coming out with Fox Hollow Publications for your ereader. Stay tuned!

Chapter 23—Busy

Her chins jiggled as Mrs. Farnes yelled at a kid to take notes on the paper he had just asked her for since he had forgotten his notebook. Again. She peeled a spitwad off of her puffy cheek and flicked it onto the floor.

Lucas had never been more excited for English class. He smiled at her as she waddled through the aisles of desks and slapped a ruler on his copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. He hadn’t read it, obviously, but he didn’t care.

He was at school. And right now, Mrs. Farnes’ nasal accent was the sweetest sound he had heard in days.

Glancing at Lucas’s grin, Mrs. Farnes faltered in her monologue on literary themes and shook her head, her whole body jiggling a little like jello inside of her flower print dress.

The bell rang and the room exploded like someone had screwed the top off of a warm soda. Kids rushed out of the door, banging their backpacks against each other as they pushed and pulled their way free. Lucas waited for them to clear out, then squeezed out of his desk and swung his backpack over one shoulder. He stapled a couple of papers and then handed them to his teacher, the backs of her arms hanging like dough below her short sleeves as she reached up to take them.

“Mr. Desmondo, what have we here?”

“My essay. Sorry it’s late. I worked on it when I had time.” It wasn’t the whole truth, but it wasn’t a lie. After getting home and spending a night watching tv with Pa, it had taken most of the weekend for him to write the essay, but he had managed.

“Well, well. How’s your pa? Out of the hospital?” Mrs. Farnes tested.

“Yeah, he come home after a couple of days. Fluke illness, they said.”

“Uh-huh.” Her eyes narrowed above her puffy cheeks.

“I’m telling the truth, I swear,” Lucas crossed his finger over his heart then held up his hands, “and hope to die.”

“I’ll be asking your father about this.” She slapped the essay down on her desk, then shifted to a smile. “Good afternoon, Mr. Desmondo.”

Lucas smiled back at her, genuinely. “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Farnes.”

Outside the air was warm, but not so hot that it made Lucas sweat streams down his back where his backpack sat against it. He caught a glimpse of Parker and Tyler walking together and sped up into a jog. He caught them at the corner of the block where they waited for the traffic light to turn.

“Hey, guys,” Lucas stopped, working to catch his breath.

“Lucas!” Parker held out his fist for a bump. “How’s your pa?”

“Good. He’s already back at work. Where are you guys headed?”

“Nowhere,” Tyler scowled at him.

“We’re headed home, then Tyler has a soccer game later. You wanna come?” Parker’s eyebrows lifted.

Lucas smoothed his bangs out of his eyes, and hooked his thumbs in his backpack straps as he shifted his weight to one leg, watching Tyler. “You sure?” He met Parker’s eyes again.

Tyler huffed and stepped into the street. Parker followed, waving for Lucas to keep up. Their shadows stretched before them, the afternoon sun warming their backs, but still not too hot.

Lucas watched his shadow briefly for a hint of eyes, then shook his head.
It’s over. Devon and Jayden told you what happened to Zagan.

He hung his head, watching the heels of Parker’s tennis shoes peel up off the cement as he took long strides to keep up with Tyler. Lucas had to jog a few steps not to be left behind.

A car screeched to a stop on the curb just ahead. Tyler moved over to the far side of the sidewalk and kept on walking. Parker slowed, enough that Lucas almost ran into his backpack.

“Hey, Lucas!” Someone called through the open window. The car was long and rusty, the black paint peeling up on the hood.

“Manny?” Lucas breathed out. Smoke curled up on the other side of Manny’s open window, his arm dangling out of the car. Tyler came back, standing next to Parker and glowering.

“Hey, Lucas, whatcha doin’? Wanna hang?” Manny brought his hand in and took a deep breath on a stub of cigarette.

“Uh,” Lucas’s stomach dropped. He hadn’t expected this. In the adventure at Mendacium, he had almost forgotten about Manny completely.

Tyler leaned his hand on the passenger door and leaned in to glare at Manny through the open window. “Lucas is busy. He’s coming to my soccer game.”

Flicking the cigarette butt out into the street, Manny stretched back against his seat and ran his hand around the steering wheel. Looking at Lucas, he nodded. “Later, then.”

“Not later.” Tyler stood up and stepped back by Lucas. “He’s pretty much busy the rest of the year. I play a lot of soccer games.”

“Fine. It don’t matter.” He hit the gas and pulled into the lane without looking, almost hitting a guy on a motorcycle who swerved around the black car and yelled something that Lucas couldn’t quite make out.

“Man, I’m glad that kid is gone.” Parker shook his head. “Why did you ever hang out with him in the first place?”

Lucas shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess it seemed like you guys were always busy.” He looked down at his shoes, poking at the sidewalk with his toe.

“Well, you’re busy now, too.” Tyler held out his fist for a bump. Lucas made a fist and knocked his friend’s knuckles. “I think my mom would take us out for pizza after the game. Think your pa would come?”

Biting his lip so that he wouldn’t give it all away with a goofy grin, Lucas shook his bangs out of his eyes and nodded. “Let’s stop by the store and ask him.”
***
Lucas dumped his backpack by his bed, light from a street lamp streaking in through the open blinds. He walked past his dresser and pulled the window open to its regulatory four inches, fresh night air rippling down the neck of his tee shirt.

A chill made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He turned around and peered into the shadows.

Nothing. The room was still. Lucas skirted around his bed and opened his closet. Inspecting the corners carefully, he didn’t see anything more than his dirty laundry.

We have got to get to the Laundromat. Lucas slid the doors closed.
As he turned back toward the window, the thin light glinted off of something on his dresser. Lucas stepped over to check it out, his spine tingling.

There, resting next to an old little league baseball trophy was the tiger’s eye marble. Lucas picked it up and held it in the light between two fingers.

As he walked over to flip on the light, he swore he heard the shadows chuckle.


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