Amanda beamed as she licked her ice cream while Pain sucked on his popsicle. Phrynosoma and Lisa ended up getting ice cream for themselves as well and were enjoying the cold snack on their way back to the apartment. Apparently, none of them had ice cream before and only demanded it because they had heard it was a delicious treat. She hadn't dared say anything earlier, but she wondered how Pain and Phrynosoma would take to eating it. Would it melt in Pain's grip and wouldn't Phrynosoma be adverse to cold since he seemed reptilian? There was no way she was going to ask, but she did keep a close eye on them as they walked.
She hoped that Kali and Shyloh weren't too upset about the wait. It had ended up taking longer than she would have liked and it wasn't because of a long line. It had started like that, but it quickly changed the moment they made their appearance. While Amanda and Lisa looked relatively normal, Pain and Phrynosoma did not. No one was willing to stand in front of them - their survival instincts must have kicked in - and the group ended up in the front of the line. The part that took so long was deciding what ice cream they were going to get. She had put her foot down when they asked if they could get more than one.
Amanda tugged on her arm as she said, "Mom, mom, can we watch a movie? Please, please, please!"
"I have to talk to the guests first, and then maybe."
"Can I pick the movie?"
Tiredly, she gave a nod which resulted in Pain and Amanda fighting over who got to pick the movie. Lisa tuned them out as she let her thoughts wander. She was a mother before she had even turned 18. How could the world get so complicated? At least the school year was almost over so she didn't have to worry about studying for tests anymore which she needed to do soon since they were practically around the corner. With everything that's been happening, she hadn't had much time to prepare. Most of her studying took place during breaks and lunch at her school instead of at home.
No, teaching Pain and Amanda was what had replaced her previous studying time. Sometimes Phrynosoma attended the lessons too. It usually was an attempt to teach, but he ended up mostly sitting behind the two kids learning along with them since he was just as clueless. Teaching kids how to skin a person wasn't a proper lesson that they needed to know or should be taught. Another thing she had put her foot down. What she didn't know was that those lessons took place at night when they were sure she was asleep or when she was in school. They made sure to leave no evidence behind.
Truthfully, she didn't know how much they did understand. It wasn't meant as an insult, but she really wondered if they were just humoring her or it was just hard for them.
Letting the trio back into the apartment and telling them they could start watching without her, she headed straight for the office.
"I'm sorry it took so long." She immediately noticed that Shyloh wasn't around. Glancing at her watch, she winced as she realized how long it's been since they first arrived. "Did Shyloh already leave?"
"Unfortunately, yes. There was a situation requiring his attention."
"Oh, I'm surprised you stayed."
"I thought it impolite to not let you know."
They stared at each other, unsure what to do next.
Kali broke the silence first. "I shall be going."
"Wait!" The rest of her words died on her mouth as he turned to stare at her. Swallowing the lump down her throat, she asked, "Would you like to stay for dinner?"
He fidgeted. Kali fidgeted.
"I don't believe that would be a wise decision, but thank you."
Before she can ask what he means, he's gone. Bothered by what he said, she returned to screaming. They had apparently decided on a horror movie. Then again, that was the only kind of movie they could agree on. Lisa, on the other hand, either couldn't take the movie seriously - that scene was obviously fake - or she would run out of the room - I think I'm going to be sick. At that moment, however, she didn't care. She collapsed onto the sofa which had been left unoccupied; everyone had decided to sit on the floor as close to the TV as possible despite her warning about their eyes.
The trio glanced at each other before the movie was put on pause. "Mom, are you okay?"
She made an unintelligible noise.
"Do you need something?"
Another unintelligible sound.
"Did something happen?"
It was obvious they weren't getting anywhere. What had changed in the brief moment between dropping them off to seeing her visitors? If they had done her wrong, Phrynosoma would show them no mercy. She was his to protect and this was his home. No one was allowed to sully it. Pain and Amanda were thinking along them same lines. This was the first time anyone gave a damn about them and no one was going to ruin it.
They were being suspiciously quiet and Lisa rolled her head to see the murderous expressions on their faces. Startled by the sudden change, she knew she needed to act. "Are all you done with your movie? If not, I'm going to turn it off."
Their answer was the shaking of their heads before they returned back to the movie. She couldn't see their expressions from her position, but she hoped it was enough. The idea of accidentally painting a target on Kali and Shyloh's head was unpleasant. Well, she still was unsure about Shyloh. He seemed polite, but she would never want to be in the same room with him alone. She didn't know why except her instincts were screaming something was off about him. Hopefully, she wouldn't see him as much after they went over the properties.
Later that week, they called, thank goodness, to make an appointment this time to avoid the disaster from last time. They settled for meeting next week, but they intended to bring more people with them. Even though she had been concerned about meeting even more people, they assured her that they were employees. She conceded that it would be a good idea to meet them so she had an idea of who else would be living on the properties. They never stated how many people would be joining them and she wished she had thought to ask them before signing the contract.
It was the next part of the call that kind of scared her a bit though she didn't realize it until later. Shyloh had asked what her plans after high school were and, in response, she said she was going over her options. Shyloh then apologized to her and gave his farewell, adding in that he was available to talk to if she ever needed advice. Lisa smiled awkwardly at the phone and said her farewells before hanging up. Even though his intentions seemed good-natured, Lisa couldn't help but think that it was laced with an intimidating interest. It was after she talked to Mr. Thompson about school that she realized she had never told Kali or Shyloh what school she went to.
She tried not to think about it too much, but she found herself glad that she no longer lived alone which was pretty sad considering who the people living with her were. What would have happened if Phrynosoma and the kids weren't around? All sorts of horrible ideas bounced around in her head with each subsequent one worse than the last. It got to the point where the trio noticed that there was something off considering how she didn't react when one of them made a comment about how they were going to do questionable activities.
"You're holding the knife really tightly."
Looking down, Lisa saw that she was right. She loosened her death grip on the handle before chopping the vegetables. Surprisingly, the kids didn't have a problem with eating vegetables. That had been one of her concerns with cooking them meals, but they ate anything she made. Their plates were always spotless, almost as if they had licked their plates clean. Phrynosoma's plate also received the same treatment and she eyed them suspiciously the first couple of times, but she quickly realized none of them were the type to waste food.
"Is something wrong mom?"
If she had been looking up, she would have seen Amanda's sweet expression twist into sneer. "It wasn't that weirdo was it?"
"Weirdo?" Amanda schooled her expression before Lisa could see.
"That big guy who showed up last time."
The only person she could think of was Kali.
"You shouldn't say things like that."
"It's his fault. He made you all pouty before."
"I was not pouting." She gave her a disbelieving look. "Kali has nothing to do with it."
"Then why are you so jumpy. Is it the flaming guy or maybe the guy with his sister?"
"It's none of them and if I find out you're bothering them, you're grounded."
Amanda instantly deflated at the sight of Lisa waving a knife in her direction. Whether it was because of the knife or the threat of being grounded was debatable. Neither of them broached the subject for the rest of the day, but Pain and Phrynosoma were quick to pry into her affairs.
"Is someone hurting you?"
Sighing, she set the book down. "Where is this coming from? Did Amanda tell you that?"
"No." She didn't believe that one bit. "You act scared of your own shadow and you're always texting one of us every other hour."
Lisa hadn't realized she had been doing that. The idea that someone might be spying on her, mostly Shyloh, had her hyperaware. She had been on the lookout for any suspicious characters and had wanted someone to know where she was if anything happened to her. Initially, she had thought to let Mr. Thompson know, but she wasn't sure that was a good idea. He technically hadn't done anything wrong - it might have been a lucky guess - and she might end up offending him, something she didn't want to do. If only she hadn't signed the contract before meeting Shyloh, then she wouldn't be in this predicament.
She gave an uneasy smile as she said, "I'm just worried."
"Dad won't let anything happen to you."
Pain instantly pointed to Phrynosoma and she could already feel a headache coming on. Realizing he had said something wrong, he wisely left the room to avoid whatever was about to happen. Amanda was quick to follow despite not understanding what was going except that it was time to go if Pain was going, leaving the two of them alone to talk privately.
"They're good kids."
She doubted she could convince the kids to stop calling Phrynosoma dad just like she couldn't get them to stop calling her mom. Quite frankly, she was used to them calling her mom and she should have realized they would have called Phrynosoma their father since he was the one who found them. Actually, she was surprised they hadn't called him dad sooner. It would have made more sense for them to be closer to their "father" than their "mother." Maybe they had been calling Phrynosoma father when she wasn't looking.
"Just to be clear you're their dad and I'm their mom, but nothing else."
Phrynosoma gave her a confused look. "Of course."
Maybe she was over thinking it. Phrynosoma seemed like the kind of person who cared about honor - kind of like knights from long ago except his morals were sort of skewed - so perhaps he really didn't have questionable intentions. She watched him return back to cleaning his sword and pretended not to notice the blood - blood? what blood? - that stained the blade. Yeah, he definitely wouldn't do anything like what she was thinking of. She couldn't believe she even thought that about him. The stress must be finally getting to her.
She grabbed the mug of hot tea and the hot tea with a sigh. "I need a vacation."
"Can we go to the beach?"
Spitting out what little tea she managed to drink, she coughed as her throat burned. Pain smacked the back of Amanda's head. She immediately yelped in pain and rubbed the spot on her head that had been hit.
"Look at what you did idiot."
Lisa instantly said, "No hitting your sister."
She sighed. "I have to think about it." Seeing Amanda pout, she added, "It will have to be during the summer."
"She didn't say yes."
Seeing how excited she was about going to the beach made Lisa remember the text she got earlier. Mr. Thompson's sister had somehow got a hold of her phone number, her personal one, and wanted to remind her about moving in and going shopping tomorrow. Fortunately, Nancy had checked out and was free to move in though she would have preferred a little more notice - she had said next week didn't she? Lisa had needed to make arrangements to make sure nothing happened while she was gone, but Mr. Thompson was kind enough to offer to watch the kids for her while she was out. He was a really good man and she was lucky to have him there to keep the kids somewhat under control. It was obvious she couldn't ask Phrynosoma to do it.
She needed to tell them before she forgot.
"Mr. Thompson and his sister are coming tomorrow." They were immediately on edge. Why were they coming tomorrow? "Mr. Thompson promised to stay and watch you while I go with Nancy."
"Where you going?"
"Why can't we come?"
"Why is he watching us?"
"One at a time!"
They immediately quieted down and stared at each other. She really wondered if they had some kind of telepathy or mind reading power with how they seemed to understand each other just by looking at each other. It would be nice to be able to understand what was going through their minds. Thoughts of all the trouble they've been through flashed before her eyes - chasing after someone while waving around a knife, walking home covered in blood, accidentally setting things on fire - and she quickly changed her mind about wanting to know. It was best left unknown.
"Nancy has invited me to go shopping with her so I expect you all to be on your best behavior."
"No buts. If I hear anything bad, you're all grounded."
They reluctantly nodded their heads. Good. Hopefully, things would turn out well.