It was several weeks since then, and the school year was practically over. Byron couldn’t wait for it to be summer. Cylde’s mom mentioned something about going on a trip together which everyone agreed to. He wasn’t sure where or exactly when they would go-all he knew was that it would be once school was over-but it had him bouncing off the walls in excitement. He had never gone anywhere outside the city before.
Andy and Cylde were the same. The three of them had gotten together and tried to figure out what their moms were planning, but every idea they came up with got more and more outrageous. Byron’s last suggestion that they were heading to another planet all together sent them into fits of laughter. As if their moms would even think of letting them go into outer space for their summer vacation.
Admittedly, it would have been very cool. They didn’t know any aliens though Cylde said his dad worked with some. Unfortunately, his dad never let any of his coworkers come over or let Cylde go to his workplace at least without his mom and he never saw any aliens when he was there. Something about it wasn’t safe for him. His mom agreed too so he couldn’t ask her to convince dad to let him meet some aliens.
As summer grew closer and closer, it grew harder to focus in school. The school notified their parents, and they had gotten chewed out for not taking school seriously. They did try, but school paled in comparison to their mysterious trip. The suspense was killing them as their parents kept refusing to them anything. Well, their moms did. Their dads said they didn’t know what their moms had planned. Apparently, it was going to be a surprise for everyone.
The only break in their boredom was when they received some coupons in the mail. It was addressed to Byron, and that immediately set off his mom about possible stalkers and pedophiles. He didn’t know what either of those were, but they couldn’t be anything good. Cylde knew what it meant and simply said they were very bad people that went to jail.
Byron quickly learned the coupons were not from stalker or pedophile. They were a gift from the policeman they had met several weeks earlier. He didn’t know what they were for, but he accepted the gift anyway. While he didn’t know why he would use a coupon to go to a beauty salon, he was sure his mom would like it. It was going to be his gift for his mom’s birthday.
On the final day of school, they practically ran out the building and into their moms’ arms. Byron asked, “Where are we going?”
“It’s a secret,” said Reba.
“We’re not going to ruin the surprise for you. Just get into the car kiddos.”
“Yes, Aunt Mandy.”
They clamored into the white van. Since they were all going together, their parents decided they only needed one car. Where they got such a van big enough to fit a house never crossed their minds. If they had thought to ask, the answers would have differed depending on who they asked. Reba would have said it was a secret. Mandy would have said it was a gift. Ethel would have said they were just borrowing it from a friend.
The truth was the higher ups had heard what they were planning and graciously allowed them to use it if only to have some idea where they were. AWG was under the city’s jurisdiction, and any trouble they caused would be reflected on them hence why they wanted to keep an eye on them. They had tried to convince them to stay-why on earth were they leaving the city; they never seemed interested in going anywhere else-and it didn’t exactly work out.
“What are we going to be doing mom?” asked Cylde.
“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt to tell you,” she said as she faced the three kids. “We’re going on a training trip.”
“A training trip?”
“It’s like in the movies where the hero goes on a journey to get stronger.”
Their eyes practically sparkled at the thought. Already, images of all the movies and show they watched passed before their very eyes. It was going to be so much fun. Ignoring how their dads muttered how they didn’t need to go on a trip to do some training, they demanded to know more. Ethel just laughed and said they should guess and see if they got it right.
This kept them distracted for the majority of the car ride. Byron thought they were going to go on camping trip where they were going to learn to survive in the wilderness. Andy thought they were going to meet strong people to train under and defeat them once they learned everything. Cylde thought they were going to be vigilantes who fought against crime while dodging the police and heroes.
They were disappointed to learn they were all wrong once they reached their destination. It wasn’t the woods like Byron had thought nor were they going to meet strong people like Andy hoped for. Cylde’s father had immediately crushed the idea of vigilantism. What they were currently doing was standing in front of an apartment complex, waiting for the landlord so they could get the keys to their apartment.
“What’s the meaning of this hag?” demanded Andy.
“What did you say you brat? Who on earth taught you such words?”
“None of your business!”
“Of course it’s my business. I’m going to teach them a lesson for teaching you such bad language.”
“Just try it.”
While the two bickered, Byron and Cylde looked around. This wasn’t what they imagined when they heard they were going a trip. It wasn’t that the apartments looked bad. It was just not what they expected. Reba was tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for signs of the landlord. She was getting annoyed. They weren’t going to wait all day just to get the keys. Where on earth was the landlord?
The sound of footsteps drew their attention, and they saw two teenagers making their way towards them. The girl squealed. “Look Pain. We have guests.”
“I can see that,” he said to the girl before turning his attention towards them. “I’m guessing you’re waiting for our mom.”
This time the girl butted in, “Mom’s the landlord.”
“Isn’t the landlord supposed to be a boy?” Byron asked.
“Yeah,” said Andy as he stopped arguing with his mom. “Isn’t it supposed to be landlady?”
Pain shrugged his shoulders. “Same thing.”
Byron was confused. If they were the same thing, why did they have two different words then? That just seemed silly. It would like having two different words for school. Wait. They did have two different words meaning school. In fact, there were several. Andy and Cylde seemed to agree with him considering how their faces scrunched up in confusion. He looked up to his mom to ask, but was stopped when Pain spoke up.
“You seem familiar.”
“I don’t think we’ve met,” said Ethel.
“No, we haven’t. I think I heard about you guys from somewhere.” He scanned the group. “Nagas...by chance, do any of you have super strength or bend metal?”
Mandy narrowed her eyes. “I don’t see why you need to know.”
“If there is anyone with super strength or can bend metal here, then I definitely know who you guys are.”
“We do,” said Ethel, cutting off Mandy before she could say anything else.
“Then that makes you the crazy ladies that picked a fight with mom.”
What? Byron couldn’t believe this stranger dared called his mom crazy. She wasn’t crazy. Neither were Aunt Mandy and Ethel. If anyone was the crazy one, it had to be this stranger’s mom. Andy scowled, and Cylde frowned. Their whole group glared at the duo who didn’t appear to be bothered in the slightest by the looks they were getting.
“I doubt mom would have rented out any apartments to you guys if she had known which means someone else had done the talking.”
“So you’re just going to kick us out after taking our money? Is that it?” snarled Mandy.
“Nah, I’m just warning you that it’ll get ugly if she recognizes you guys and she will.”
Reba stepped forward an asked, “So what are you suggesting me do then?”
“Just have the guys be the only ones to see and speak to mom. It’s not like you all need to be there.”
He had a point. While it was expected for all parties to have their names on the lease and sign it, it wasn’t illegal to only have some of them sign it. Mandy couldn’t stop wondering who on earth was the landlady. If she knew them, they had to know her, but she couldn’t think of anyone recently that they had a fight with. The only thing that came to mind was the police station, and she doubted a policewoman would also be a landlady.
The group gathered around to make a decision. The men would sign the lease and carry all the liability. It didn’t really matter since they were spouses, but the landlady might argue otherwise. Mandy, Reba, and Ethel didn’t like that they were avoiding the landlady. It seemed underhanded and like they were in the wrong somehow, but their husbands argued that they didn’t want any problems.
They already paid the deposit. Even though Mandy had made it seem like the landlady was stealing their money if she didn’t let them have an apartment, she was well within their rights to do so. Since they hadn’t signed the lease before paying at their insistence, she wasn’t under any obligation to return their money especially since she warned them it would be nonrefundable and that they hadn’t signed the lease yet.
Coming to a decision, they broke apart into two groups. Pain would lead the men and let them into the office to wait for the landlady while everyone else went with Amanda, the girl with him, to wait elsewhere. With promises to see each other soon, they went their separate ways. Amanda hummed and skipped as she led them to a place where they could sit down and rest.
“So...you’re the ones who upset mom,” said Amanda as she spun around to face them while walking backwards.
Reba frowned. “I believe we already established this.”
“You’re not like I imagined you when mom complained to dad. Something about child abuse.”
They frowned. Child abuse? None of them would abuse their own children, and the very idea was ludicrous. It made Mandy eager to head back to give the landlady a piece of her mind for slander. Strangely, they felt like they had heard the words directed at them before. After several moments, they were still unable to come up with any names and decided that the landlady couldn’t be anyone important. That didn’t change how angry they were.
That’s when someone passed them by, and Byron couldn’t tear his eyes away. There were plenty of strange looking people back in their city, but this was the first time he’d seen someone who looked like a lizard. He even had a humongous mark that covered half his face. It was so weird. Andy and Cylde seemed to think the same thing as they stared at the stranger who paused to talk to Amanda.
“Why is there a group of women and children following you?”
“They’re new tenants. They’re just waiting for ma to show up.”
“We’ve been getting new tenants lately,” he murmured.
“I know. Isn’t it great?”
Unable to control himself, Byron blurted out, “Mr. Lizard?”
Amanda and the stranger stopped to stare at him. Under their intense gaze, he wilted just as his mom reprimanded him for calling a stranger a lizard. Even if the stranger looked like a lizard and he wasn’t trying to insult them, he still shouldn’t have said it. A simple mister would have been fine. He quickly apologized and was relieved to see the stranger wasn’t offended.
“Mister, why do have the thing on your face?”
“Are you referring to my tattoo?” He wasn’t sure what a tattoo was, but he assumed it was whatever the mark on the stranger’s face was and nodded. “It’s the mark of my people.”
“Phrynosoma is an alien.”
The children’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. There was a real like alien right in front of them. What were the chances of meeting an alien? Technically, not very hard, but since it was their first time meeting one, it felt as if they had just won the lottery or got struck by lightning. Immediately, they clamored around him, wanting to know more about him.
“Where are you from?”
“Does everyone look like you?”
Amanda suddenly got between them with an annoyed expression. “Oi, stop bugging dad.”
Was she an alien too? But she didn’t have the tattoo thing on her face. In fact, she looked nothing like him. While it was true that children don’t always look exactly like their parents-there had been a case where the parents looked completely human, but the child looked like they were made of stone-it was certainly reaching with one parent being an alien. The only thing the mothers could think of was that she was adopted.
Reading the confusion in their expressions, she said, “I’m adopted.”
They blinked. She had said so nonchalantly that they weren’t sure what to think. At least for the mothers. The kids didn’t really understand what she meant by adopted and had to look to their moms for an explanation. Well, it wasn’t any of their business so they didn’t push. It was at this moment that Byron realized something.
“I know you!” Everyone stared at him with wide eyes. He did? “You’re Li-Li-You’re related to Lisa, the weird lady at the park.”
“Yup. Took you a while to remember. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.”
As soon as he said her name and park, they instantly remembered who she was. They had completely forgotten all about it. Mandy gnashed her teeth together, looking eager to chew the landlady out. Reba and Ethel were quick to remind her that she couldn’t pick a fight with their landlady and if she really wanted to go after her, she would have to wait until the trip was over.
Phrynosoma and Amanda immediately didn’t like where the conversation was going. They had heard about what happened from Lisa and the others. The only thing they got out of it was AWG was a dangerous group and possible threat towards Lisa’s wellbeing. If they were going to be a threat to Lisa, they would deal with them right then and there. The kids just looked around confused, wondering if maybe they should have just stayed at home.