“Lisa, thank you for bringing lunch,” said Phrynosoma.
She smiled as she said, “No problem. I didn’t realize you knew these people.”
“We met at the apartments. They requested my services.”
“I see. They must be the wives of the new tenants. They mentioned them.” She faced the three mothers. “It’s nice to see you again.”
Reba answered for all of them, “It’s nice to see you too. I’m sorry we couldn’t meet you right away. We had some things to take care of.”
Byron, Andy, and Cylde shared a look. They thought for sure a fight would break out. Not to mention that Byron’s mom was lying through her teeth. The reason they avoided meeting her was to avoid the very situation they were in. Considering how things were turning out though, maybe they were wrong about trying to stay away from each other. It didn’t look like anyone was going to be throwing punches.
“That’s alright. I suppose it’s natural. First impressions are important after all. It wasn’t like you’re trying to run away. That would be what cowards would do.”
“You’re quite right.” This time it was Mandy. “Cowards would run, but someone with brains would know when to pick their fights. Only a brainless idiot would confront someone for no good reason.”
It appeared that they spoke to soon. They didn’t understand how it happened, but they could feel the tension between the two women. If they weren’t so used to their mothers’ antics, they wouldn’t have noticed it. They weren’t the only ones as they saw everyone else staring at the pair. It was as if, at any moment, a fight would break out between the two groups.
“Well, this is awkward,” said Nancy. “While this is unexpected, I think we can take the time to get to know each other.”
All eyes turned to her. The previous tension dissipated, leaving everyone with mixed feelings. Some wondered if she had a few screws loose. Others were just exasperated. The kids stared, thinking that she might be their new hero. She managed to stop the fight before it could happen with just a few words. That had never happened before.
“We can take a break,” said Phrynosoma.
“It’s a little earlier for lunch, isn’t it?” asked Lisa. “Besides, I didn’t exactly bring lunch for everyone here.”
Looking at the food she had in her hands, they saw she had a point. She only brought lunch for one person: Phrynosoma. The kids weren’t hungry anyway. They had a large breakfast not too long ago. Admittedly, they did throw up a bit during the training session. If they had known it would be so bad, they wouldn’t have eaten so much or at least eaten earlier.
“The children need a break. I doubt they can handle anymore.”
Andy wasn’t going to take that lying down. “Yes, we can. We can keep going.”
“You need time to recover from the head injury I gave you.”
“What? What head injury?” demanded Lisa. She rushed over to Andy. “Phrynosoma, they’re just children. You can’t go around giving them concussions.”
“It’s training. It’s better for them to start young. Amanda and Pain go through the same training.”
“That makes it way worse.”
“You never complained about me training the kids.”
“That’s different. They’re old enough to make their own decisions.” She muttered the next part under her breath. “Not that you seem to listen to me anyway.” Pointing at the three kids, she said, “They’re just in elementary. There’s no way they could handle the same level of training as Amanda and Pain. Why are you even training them?”
“Their mothers can be quite persuasive.”
Lisa glared at Mandy. Mandy glared right back. Andy bristled at the sight. He didn’t like the look she was giving his mom. It was the same look his mom gave him when she suspected he was doing something bad and wanted him to either stop or fess up. His mother didn’t do anything wrong.
“So, how long will you be staying?” asked Patricia.
Lisa answered, “Their lease is for the summer.”
The kids didn’t know that. They figured they would only stay a few days. Their parents hadn’t told them that they would be staying for the whole summer. What about their usual summer camps? Every summer they went to separate clubs to for their special needs. Andy went to a serpents camp where he met all kinds of other snakelike people. It’s where he got the idea to try to petrify people.
Cylde went to an undead camp despite not being exactly an undead. Apparently, people still classified ghouls as undead. They weren’t exactly wrong since there were several types of creatures that were considered ghouls. Some examples were the ones that vampires failed to turn into vampires or purposeless turned into minions. They were no longer alive, and people called them ghouls.
Byron went to a pretty plain camp. It wasn’t like he had many options. Lots of camps tended to have limitation about who could join like the ones Andy and Cylde went to. They required him to be a certain species or have certain characteristics. It was a safety thing. Cylde had mentioned how another camp had gotten into trouble because they allowed a living person in, and they had nearly gotten eaten by a zombie.
As if sensing their confusion, Ethel said, “Since you’re starting self-defense, we decided not to sign any of you up for any summer camps. It would take up too much of your time. You can go back next year.”
They were fine with that. None of them really had a preference about going. They didn’t really have any friends at the camps anyway. Of course, they knew a couple of kids, but that was it. They didn’t talk with them outside of the camps or share contact info so they could keep in touch. It had always been Andy and Byron and now Cylde.
“If you’re teaching them self-defense, why is Phrynosoma training them?” muttered Lisa.
She hadn’t meant for them to hear her, but apparently, Mandy picked up on it. “They need more experience learning under someone else, and he was fit for the job.”
“I’m surprised you let your son get a concussion, but I suppose such violence doesn’t bother you.”
“If my son and his friends had been in any danger, we would have stopped the training session.”
“You seem confident that you could stop Phrynosoma.”
“Of course. We’re not weak like you.”
“That’s bold of you to assume.”
“With those noodle arms of yours, I’m surprised you can even lift up a knife. Then again, you seem like the type to let others do the fighting for you.”
“Just because I don’t automatically look like a gorilla doesn’t mean I can’t defend myself. Besides, I don’t need to use violence to solve all my problems.”
“Oh, I would like to see you try. Don’t go hiding behind your merry band to do the fighting for you.”
There went the calm atmosphere. One thing was clear. Lisa and Mandy were never going to get along. That meant one of them had to go. The question was who was going to go. More importantly, should they stop them from fighting or let them duke it out instead of postponing it. Seeing how they were throwing death glares at each other, most were leaning towards the former.
Already, a couple of them were making mental bets on who would win. The bets favored Mandy heavily. Reba and Ethel knew their friend quite well so they had no doubt she would win. Carl, Daniel, Patricia, and Nancy knew Lisa enough that she wasn’t ready to fight someone. In fact, they didn’t think she would ever be ready. Amanda and Pain rooted for their mom. Phrynosoma chose to reserve judgement.
It didn’t take long before the first punch was thrown or rather tail. Lisa ducked down to avoid her attack before fleeing. Mandy screeched after her, calling her a coward who couldn’t finish her own fights. The answer she got back threw her into a rage. She refused to accept that Lisa was doing a strategic retreat. In her eyes, Lisa was all bark and no bite.
Chasing after her, she snarled as she was forced to zigzag around to follow Lisa’s path. She was taking advantage of knowing the terrain to stay a few steps ahead of her. The longer she stayed out of reach, the angrier Mandy got. Even if she didn’t have any legs and she had to watch she was going, she should have been able to catch up to her. There was no way Lisa could be fit enough to keep running.
Her chance came when Lisa slipped, forcing her to catch herself. Mandy lunged at her, tackling to the ground. Or at least, that was what she had planned to do. Instead, Lisa threw herself to the side and Mandy crashed into the ground. A moment later, she found herself trapped in a net, hanging from a tree branch. She thrashed and hissed as she tugged on the ropes.
“Didn’t expect that, did you? Phrynosoma had set up traps throughout the park for training. Since it’s been closed down, he didn’t have to worry about holding back.”
“You think you’re so smart. You just got lucky. This means nothing.”
“Don’t be a sore loser. I beat you.”
The group stared in disbelief. They couldn’t believe Lisa had actually beaten Mandy. While they had mostly been unconcerned, a few of them had opted to follow after at a leisurely pace. The moment they had heard Mandy’s shriek, they had bolted in the direction of her voice. They had believed Mandy had caught her or they were in trouble. Instead, they found themselves staring at the impossible.
Andy felt so betrayed. It was his mom. She was supposed to be unbeatable. The fact she lost so easily shattered his expectations of her. Byron and Cylde comforted him, understanding how he felt. If it was their mom who lost, they would be just as devastated. They still couldn’t believe that Mandy had lost to Lisa, but considering she was swinging from a net with Lisa mocking her, it was reality.
Reba and Ethel had mixed feelings. On one hand, they couldn’t believe Mandy got herself beaten. Their trained instincts told them to come to her aid and fight Lisa. On the other hand, they had to say they were impressed. She had played it smart. They couldn’t fault her for her tactics. While they preferred a frontal assault, she did win the fight. If she had been the same age as them and met while AWG was active, they would have recruited her.
It would have been difficult getting Mandy and her to work together, but they would have figured something out. The groups had done it plenty of times when members couldn’t stand each other. They were paired up with a third partner to keep them from fighting each other, kept as far apart from each other, or find a way to get them to like each other.
Amanda and Pain knew their mom could do it. If she put her mind to it, she could do anything even if it was fighting. They had watched and helped Phrynosoma train her. She was the toughest person they knew. Phrynosoma had wanted to see the results of her training, and he wasn’t disappointed. If she had lost, then it just meant she wasn’t ready for a real fight. While this fight was nothing compared to a real life and death situation, he could see she was making progress.
Lisa was just relieved to get out in one piece despite all her bluster. She didn’t have a backup plan in case this one had failed. It was the only thing she could think of at the spur of the moment. She didn’t want to lose to Mandy especially with her attitude and behavior, but she had been so certain she would be taken down in the end. Of course, she would put up a fight, but she didn’t think she would win.
“It doesn’t count. This was Phrynosoma’s trap so you had help. You really can’t do anything on your own.”
“I helped him set them up. Besides, all’s fair in a fight. You didn’t have a problem picking a bit with an injured person.”
She had a point. When they first met, she had sprained her ankle, and none of them had a problem fighting with her around. Carl had even charged into the fight with her. Not to mention, the children had been sitting ducks too. They could have been seriously injured. Well, their mothers thought they would have been fine. Their kids had been around them long enough to know how they’re supposed to react.
“You shouldn’t have picked a fight if you couldn’t back it up.”
“How bad is your memory? The one picking the fight was you,” she said as she jabbed a finger in Mandy’s direction.
Had she? The kids barely remembered how exactly all the fights their moms had gotten into went. They couldn’t be sure who threw the first punch. Looking at the others, they saw either the same clueless expression or a disinterested look. It had been so long ago that it was hard for them to remember. For some of them, they didn’t really care who started the fight.
“Seriously? Am I the only one who can remember how the fight went?” She scowled when she saw them shrug her shoulders. “Do you not remember how they accused us of kidnapping their children? What about how they refused to listen to reason when we tried to explain we weren’t kidnappers?”
At their blank stares, she was about ready to tear out strands of hair. How could they forget such a serious fight? Even if it had been a couple months ago, it was certainly hard to forget. She forgot how desensitized they were to fighting. A look of clarity appeared as they vaguely recalled the fight. She was completely right. Mandy had, in fact, attacked first while Lisa had been the one trying to avoid a fight.
“She has a point Mandy. You lost. Just accept it,” said Ethel.
Mandy gnashed her teeth together as she looked away. She refused to admit defeat especially to someone like her. She would rather claw Lisa’s throat out than admit she had lost to her.
“What now?” asked Pain. “It doesn’t look like she’s going to give in.”
“Well, I’m not going to let her down anytime soon,” said Lisa.
“Now, now,” said Nancy. “You shouldn’t be so mean. You can’t leave her up there.”
“I don’t trust her to not attack me once I let her down.”
“She has a point,” said Carl.
“This is a problem.” Nancy crossed her arms. “We can’t just leave her, but at the same time, we can’t let her down until she promises not to get revenge on Lisa.”
“I can hear you, you know.”
Reba sighed before she said, “We’ll take responsibility for her. It’ll be bad for her to attack our landlady.”
Didn’t she already do that? “If you say so,” said Lisa.