Byron bounced up and down in his chair. He couldn’t wait to see Cylde again. Like his mom had promised, she had talked with Aunt Mandy who said they should set up a play date. Andy had wanted to hear all about Cylde and after hearing what happened, Andy’s tail was practically crushing him in excitement.
Aunt Mandy was quick to untangle him from Andy’s tail. She apologized for Andy losing control of his tail, but he thought it was fine. He really liked Andy’s tail. It was so smooth and warm unlike what he thought a snake would feel like. If it weren’t for Andy’s tendency to crush things with his tail, Byron wouldn’t have minded being wrapped up.
As soon as his mom set down his breakfast, he attacked it with his fork and knife. “Slow down sweetie. Your breakfast isn’t going anywhere.”
“But I want to play with Cylde and Andy.”
“Not if you don’t slow down.” He slumped underneath her stern gaze. “You’re going to choke and you won’t get to see them today.”
Begrudgingly, he ate much slower. Every time it looked like he wasn’t chewing enough before swallowing, his mom would send him another look until she was satisfied. Trying to stuff his face didn’t work either. It made it harder to chew. With every bite, his eyes kept glancing at the clock. They were going to be here any minute.
Swallowing down the last bit of milk, he hurried of the chair. He grabbed his plates and placed them in the sink. Before he could turn on the water, he could hear someone ring the doorbell. It was them!
“Why don’t you answer the door while I wash the dishes?”
Rushing out, he barely caught his mom saying that he needed to wash his hands first. He had to open the door though. It would be rude to make them wait. Placing his sticky hands on the doorknob, he turned it and swung the door open. On the doorstep were Cylde, Andy, and their moms.
“Hey there sport, where’s your mom?” asked Aunt Mandy.
“She’s in the kitchen.”
As if being called, his mother materialized behind him. It was like magic. He had asked her once if she was secretly a witch. She only laughed and told him that she wished. He had been a little disappointed, but she promised to introduce him to a witch she met. That hadn’t happened yet. Maybe her witch friend was just like Cylde’s mom.
“Ready for your play date?” This time it was Ethel.
Three voices shouted, “Yeah!”
“First, Byron, clean up and grab your jacket.”
“But it’s not that cold.”
His mom gave him a look. “Are you immune to cold?”
“Can you produce fire or otherwise keep yourself warm?”
“Can you heal yourself if you get sick?”
“Jacket mister.” Byron groaned, but ran off. “And don’t forget to wash up. I don’t want you going around with sticky hands.”
When he returned, he saw their moms talking to each other while Andy and Cylde were sitting on the couch. Walking up to them, he asked, “What happened?”
“Mom wanted to talk. They’ve been talking like forever,” said Andy.
They turned their attention back to their moms. Their moms were now laughing about something they didn’t understand. Well, it looked like they weren’t going to stop talking any time soon. Byron decided to join them on the couch and to wait for their mothers to finish.
“Want to play Chopsticks?”
Cylde’s answer was to hold up both his index fingers. Andy was quick to lose the round and he glared at the both of them. Byron was so close to winning when their moms finally noticed that they were waiting for them to finish.
“Byron, when did you get back?”
He didn’t look up from the game. “A bit.”
“So sorry about that boys. You must be so bored.” Aunt Mandy laughed awkwardly. “Do you want to head to the park now?”
They scrambled off the couch and raced out the door. Their mothers’ laugh followed them. “Wait up you three.”
They slowed down. Turning around, they waved at their moms to hurry up. Reba locked the door before the trio walked towards their three children. Once they were together, they made their way towards the park. The kids couldn’t help but notice that everyone was moving out of their way. In fact, some people even went the opposite way.
It was kind of weird. They shrugged it off. Maybe people were just being nice today. That just meant they’ll get to the park that much sooner. There was so much they wanted to do. They could play tag or go on the swings or play in the playground or whatever they wanted.
Upon arriving, they saw that they weren’t the ones. Some of them looked like kids from Andy’s and Byron’s school. Byron’s first instinct was to see if there was anyone else that wanted to play with them. Well, he didn’t get a chance to ask. Once everyone saw them, the kids immediately started screaming and running. Confused, he looked around to see if there was an alien or monster or villain attacking.
When he saw none of those happening, he looked to Andy and Cylde. They looked just as confused as he was. Soon the park was empty. It looked like it was just going to be just them.
Reba patted Byron’s head, drawing his attention. Ethel and Mandy were doing the same with their own kids. “Now be good. We’ll be at those benches if you need anything.”
After giving his mom a hug, Byron ran off towards the playground. Andy and Cylde followed after him. They both managed to beat him. He pouted at their smug grins. Cylde made sense because he was a ghoul, but Andy was a naga. Byron never understood how he could move so fast with a tail. At least he could saw he could go up and down step easily. Andy once slipped trying to go up the stairs and slid all the way back down.
“So what do you want to play?”
“How about hide and seek?” suggested Cylde.
Andy scoffed. “That’s boring. It’s so easy. What about hide and seek tag?”
They nodded. Byron was the designated ‘It’. He frowned. He didn’t want to go first, but Andy and Cylde were quick to point out that the game would be over quick if they went first. They had a point. The both of them could find him quickly and run or slithered in Andy’s case faster than him.
Facing a ole and hiding his face with his arms, he counted down from twenty. He could hear them laugh as they searched for a place to hide. The minute he finished he ran for the benches. They didn’t say he couldn’t ask for help.
Aunt Mandy was the first to notice him. “What is it squirt?”
“Do you know where Andy and Cylde are?”
“Shouldn’t you be looking for them instead of asking us?”
“No one said I couldn’t ask for help.”
Aunt Mandy laughed. “Good on you.” She rubbed his head. “I’ll give you a hint to find Andy.” She pointed towards the trees. “He’s hiding behind some trees.”
There was a squawk. “You can’t help him idiot mom!”
“Watch your mouth young man!”
Giggling, he thanked her before running off. Realizing his hiding spot was compromised, Andy slithered away. Soon Byron lost him. Well, he would just have to find Cylde then. It didn’t look like Cylde had been hiding on the playground or behind the benches. That left the woods. Maybe Byron would get lucky and bump into Cylde.
Making sure to remember where he came from, he went deeper into the woods. It wasn’t until he walked quite far before he decided he should head back. His mom would get upset if he got too far away and he already walked a bit. She must be so worried. Byron turned around and glanced up. He wondered if Cylde was hiding up in the trees.
There was a scream. It sounded like it was further in the woods. Someone could be hurt. Byron hesitated before curiosity and concern won over him. He’’ explain to his mom when he got back. As he walked towards the scream, he started hearing voices.
“Lisa, are you okay?”
“No, I’m not fine. I think I sprained my ankle.”
“Let me see.”
“That’s it? You have to be tougher than that kid.”
“This is your fault. Why are we even here?”
“Because you said you wanted training and what better training is there beside survival training.”
“I asked Phrynosoma for training.”
“Well, he thought it was a good idea.”
“Of course he would.”
Byron finally spotted them. There was a group of five people. One of them was sitting on the ground with their leg outstretched while another was looking at their ankle. He nearly gaped at the size of one them. They were a giant. How could someone be so big?
“Someone’s here.” Suddenly, one of them turned to face and point in his direction. “There.”
The giant man was in front of him. Before he could get a chance to react, he was being picked up. He struggled as he found his feet dangling away from the ground.
“Well, would you look at that, we got a kid.”
“Put him down Daniel. You’re going to scare him.”
“If he’s not screaming now, I doubt he’ll start screaming any time soon.”
Byron puffed out his chest as he crossed his arms. “If you don’t put me down, my mom is going to find out and get mad at you.”
“Oh,” said Daniel as he brought Byron closer to his face. “What’s your mom’s name?”
He was startled when the giant man started laughing. “So that punk got herself a kid. I’m surprised you’re not trying to break free with your super strength.”
“You know my mom?”
Who was this person? How did he know his mom?
“I knew her alright. I met her while she was still part of the AWG. I suppose she’s no longer part of it if she has you.”
Byron found his head spinning with the news as Daniel set him down. AWG? What was AWG? Was it some kind of super-duper secret? Why didn’t his mom tell him about it? Why wasn’t she apart of it anymore?
Hearing the name, Byron saw the injured person from before being carried by the person who had pointed him out earlier.
“It’s a famous gang around in these parks. Mess with them and you’re just asking for a load of trouble,” said Daniel.
The injured person gave Daniel the same look Byron’s mom had at breakfast. “And you wanted to pick a fight with child who is related to someone in the gang.”
Daniel just shrugged. These people were...different. They kind of reminded him of his own mom and her friends. He still hadn’t decided if that was a good or bad thing when he heard shouting. A tail wrapped around his midsection and pulled him away before setting him down next to Andy and Cylde.
“Are you okay Byron?” asked Cylde.
“I’m fine. Why are you two here?”
“You were being an idiot and wandering away from us. We had to make sure you were okay,” said Andy.
“Where did all these kids come from?” asked the one carrying the injured person.
“Carl, this is a park, you doofus,” said the one who had been doing anything.
The injured person took one good look at the situation before covering her face with her hands, “You’re picking a fight with children.”
Byron couldn’t help but say, “We’re not children.”
“Huh, aren’t you like four?” asked Carl.
“You’re so small!” The injured person stared at him in surprise. “What about you two?”
“I’m seven,” said Cylde.
“I’m eight,” said Andy.
Carl turned to the person next to him and asked, “Patricia, is it just me or are kids getting smaller these days?”
“Meanies,” said Byron before he stuck out his tongue.
“Guys, that’s how they’re supposed to look like. Haven’t you seen a kid before?” Patricia turned to look at the one who had checked the injured person’s ankle. “You should be surprised Nancy.”
Nancy’s response: “I didn’t say anything.”
“Yeah, but I can’t tell how old they are.”
“Shouldn’t we be making sure the kids don’t think we’re bad people first? I don’t think we’re making a good impression,” said the injured person.
Honestly, Byron was having a hard time keeping up. They really did remind him of their moms. Andy and Cylde appeared to agree given the looks they were given him and each other. Someone clearing their throat grabbed their attention and the injured person waved at them.
“Hello, I’m Lisa and shouldn’t you be with your parents. You shouldn’t be playing out here alone.”
“Our moms are in the park and they’ll beat up any bad people,” said Byron.
His answer seemed to bother her as she asked, “Doesn’t it bother you that your mother beats up people?”
“Not really. She does it all the time.”
“That’s not normal.” She turned her attention to Andy and Cylde. “How about you two?”
“What’s wrong with you children? There’s nothing normal about that.”
The kids didn’t really get what she was saying, but it sounded like she was insulting them and their moms. Before they could tell her off, Daniel interrupted them. “It’s not really surprising considering the area. It’s a lot more hectic compared to where you live.”
“I find it hard to believe that moms beating up people are normal. I refuse to believe there’s a justifiable reason for it.”
“Your mom and dad did name you a landlord even though you were a minor at the time,” Nancy pointed out.
“I refused to believe they were completely sane when they made that decision.”
Carl said, “Maybe the crime rate is higher here so people have to learn to defend themselves.”
“Like what? Terrorist attack?”
Byron had heard the word terrorist used before. “Well, there was this one time someone attacked the school and there were explosions everywhere.”
Lisa paled as she asked, “Was anyone hurt?”
“We just ignored it and continued with class.”
“B-b-but you could have been killed! What were the teachers thinking?” She looked to the others and asked, “Why aren’t you guys a little bit more worried or concerned?”
“The kids are fine. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t,” said Daniel.
“That’s not the point.”
“Guys, what’s that sound?” asked Carl.
Instead of answering him, Patricia shouted, “Get out of the way!”
They scrambled as a tree sailed across the air. It landed in the spot where the group had previously been standing. The only person who looked disturbed by what happened was Lisa. Everyone else was looking in the direction the tree had come from and three figures stepped out. Andy, Byron, and Cylde shrank underneath their mothers’ furious gaze. They were in so much trouble.