Lisa checked her bag again, making sure she had everything she needed. Wallet, check. Phone, check. Pepper spray, check. Was there anything else she was missing?
She made her way to where everyone else was watching TV again - they really needed something else to do, but given the other possibility, she wisely kept silent - as she racked her brain for anything else. They would be here soon and she had to make sure she had anything. There was a knock at the door and everyone was instantly alert, but Lisa was the one to open the door. Standing at the doorway was Mr. Thompson and Nancy.
"Ready to go shopping?"
"I came to pick up the keys."
Lisa looked between them before deciding to focus her attention on Nancy, "Don't you want to unpack your stuff first?"
"Nah, my brother's got it."
"I'll ask the kids to help." Turning head in their direction, she said, "If you help Mr. Thompson with moving stuff, I'll get whatever you want within reason."
They immediately perked up.
"Within reason," she emphasized, but she wasn't sure if they were listening as they spouted all kinds of things they wanted.
At least none of them sounded inappropriate. She had worried that Amanda would ask for more knives or if Pain could have cigarettes. Lisa had conceded that Amanda could be allowed one knife for protection though she would have preferred she carried pepper spray instead, but any more and that was just asking for trouble. Pain, on the other hand, she had no idea where he got the idea that smoking was okay. It must have been from all the TV he'd been watching. She had stated that it would be bad for his health and Phrynosoma sided with her, one of the rare times where he didn't say something was okay when it wasn't.
"They don't have to. I couldn't possibly make them do any work."
"You did offer to watch them and I doubt there would be anything exciting for them to do while you moved stuff."
"I suppose you're right."
Nancy butted in as she wrapped an arm around Lisa. "If that's all, we'll be going now."
Lisa managed to wave back at them before she was dragged off. She settled herself into the two-seater car - it must have been Nancy's car - and stared at Nancy.
"So where are we going exactly?"
"To the mall of course. You really need some variety in your clothes."
She glanced down and saw she was wearing her school uniform still. "What's wrong?"
"Wrong?" Nancy stared at her incredulously. "No one wears a school uniform more than necessary and you seem to practically wear it every single second of the day."
"That's not true."
How would she know? It wasn't like they've known each other for long. She had only seen her once and she suddenly knew what kind of clothes she wore?
"Bro told me."
Oh. That kind of made sense. Did he think the same as his sister? Did he think she was weird for always wearing her school uniform?
"Well, he did say you had other clothes, but that you rarely wore them. Is there a reason for that?"
"I have school. It's easier just putting on my school uniform than changing between outfits."
"You wear them even on the weekends." That was most definitely not true. She only wore it on the weekend sometimes. "That just sounds boring. Live a little. What about the holidays? Do you wear your school uniform?"
"Of course not."
When she had met Kali, she had been wearing casual clothes. In fact, she couldn't remember if she ever wore her school uniform whenever he was around. If she had, he probably would have realized she was still a minor. Actually, had she worn her school uniform when she met Shyloh? That would explain how he figured out what school she went to. There were not that many high schools that required students to wear school uniforms. Perhaps she was overthinking the whole situation. He seemed like a polite man, very businesslike. She probably was seeing things that weren't there.
"I hope you don't mind if I invite several others."
"I figured it'll be great to have a girls' night out except it's not at night and not all of them are girls so I guess it's more of a get together than anything."
Lisa opened and closed her mouth several times, failing to come up with anything to say. This isn't what she had in mind when they said they were going to go shopping. She thought it would be simple: talk a little, maybe buy some stuff, eat out, and that's it. It was supposed to be just the two of them.
"How many are we talking about?"
"Three others." That would make a group of five. "I actually met them not too long ago and I thought wouldn't it be great if we all hanged out."
Nancy didn't seem to noticed her uncertainty and continued to chat about the trio. Apparently, it was two guys and a girl with one of the guys being her father's age while the other two were the same age as Nancy. Lisa couldn't stop the thought of how she didn't know any nice people her age. Zemud was the only one in her age group that she knew and she would prefer not to interact with him in any way. Pain and Amanda might count, but they saw her as her mom so it would be strange if she tried to treat them as anything else.
Lisa ended up learning more about these strangers than she thought possible in a short car drive. Daniel was a doctor with an ailing wife and Carl was studying computer science while his girlfriend Patricia was studying to be a lawyer. They all met up a couple months ago which she didn't count as not too long ago, but didn't comment on it. How they met up had been an interesting story. They had bumped into each other during an alien invasion - she hadn't seen it on the news; it must have been either a small invasion or it was stopped before anything serious could have happened - and helped each other out.
"You wouldn't believe what a cute couple they are. Patricia is an actually idol. She sings and dance, and Carl is such a wallflower. You wouldn't think they would get together."
"What about you? Do you have anyone in your life?"
She sputtered. What? "N-no! Where is this coming from?"
"A girl like you should go find some romance. Maybe I can introduce you to some guys."
She paled at the thought. So many things would go wrong. The kids would tear them apart - Amanda would stab him to death; Pain would set him on fire - and that was only if Phrynosoma didn't get to him first. He would undoubtedly skewer him and then Mr. Thompson would get involve. There would be no way she would be able to keep Phrynosoma's status a secret and they would end up in jail. The kids would probably put up a fight before being taken away to find a more suitable guardian. She didn't even consider the possibility that she might like him. Whether that was because she more worried about being arrested, she wouldn't really get the chance to know them, she wasn't interested in romance, or all the above remained to be seen.
"Not interested. I'm way too busy for that."
"Maybe. Or maybe there's a guy you like."
Why weren't they already at the mall? It wasn't supposed to take this long. Was Nancy purposely prolonging her suffering?
"Come on. Your secret is safe with me."
"There's no one. Really."
"Is it the Phrynosoma guy? You like the older ones?"
"No." Where are earth did she get that idea? Did she somehow do something without realizing it that made her think that? "He's a tenant. That's all."
Nancy dared to glance in her direction as she said, "A tenant that lives in the same place as you."
"If it's the Ifrit, I would say forget it. Guys like that aren't good for you."
"He's just a tenant."
She gave Lisa another look. "And the other guy from last time? Is he a tenant too?"
She must have been talking about Kali. He was the only one left, not including Shyloh.
"Is your relationship with all your tenants complicated?"
"I think I see the mall."
Sure enough, it was right around the corner. With the conversation officially over, the rest of the trip continued in silence. The moment the car was parked Lisa was quick to get out. The possibility of being locked in the car and talking about romance was not what she signed up for. Hopefully, Nancy would not continue it now that they were at their destination.
"Have you eaten yet?" When Lisa shook her head, Nancy suggested, "How about we eat first? I'll ask the others."
"I'm okay with whatever."
They walked as she texted. It had been a while since Lisa had gone to the mall. She mostly went out only to the grocery store. It wasn't like there was any place she wanted to go to or have anyone to go with. Going out with your parents because you had no one else was plain awkward. No one did that unless it was a family reunion or you had no life outside of living with your parents.
With her eyes focused on Nancy, she didn't notice the other person until she bumped into him. Luckily, neither of them had been given the misfortune of being knocked down.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there."
"I would appreciate it if you didn't touch me."
She blinked as he sidestepped her, making sure he didn't so much as brush her.
"Talk about rude. He didn't have to be so mean about it."
"Maybe he was having a bad day."
She had long since learned not to pry too much; there were a lot of things best left unknown. Trying to go after him for being rude because she wasn't looking where she was going was just asking for trouble. There was no way she was going to risk angering him and possibly get into a fight with him. He looked like one of the gangsters. She already had enough on her plate thank you very much.
Pushing the encounter out of her mind, she put on a smile as Nancy waved at a group of people. Daniel was a lot more intimidating than she expected. He was easily twice her height, rippling with muscle. If it weren't for Nancy, she would have thought he was one of those monsters who would break people in half - he probably wouldn't even break a sweat with those bulging muscles - and devour them. Even then, she couldn't stop herself from quaking underneath his piercing stare.
"This the kid?"
"Yup." Turning to Lisa, she continued, "This is Daniel, he's a Giant."
There was no need for her to state the obvious. It was kind of clear. The only other way she could think of for him to be that size was if he was a human with the power to grow bigger.
The other guy in the group, must be Carl, said, "Daniel, you're obviously scaring her."
"Kids like her should be aware of possible dangers."
"Off," ordered the girl by Carl. This time Daniel relented.
"Sorry about him. He doesn't know how to take it easy." Carl gave an uneasy chuckle. "Your first time meeting a Giant?"
Her answer was a nod.
"You should always be on your guard."
"No one is out to get us."
"You never know."
Carl leaned in her direction as he whispered, "He's a little paranoid."
"Paranoid? Don't you mean bloodthirsty?"
Why was she not surprised. Another group of crazy people decided to show up in her life or at least one of them. She still wasn't certain about Carl and Patricia - they did seem to act like normal people - but, knowing her luck, they probably had some issues that would eventually reveal themselves. After all, why not? She was the universe's punching bag apparently. When did her life become such a joke? Just once she would like for there to be something normal for at least a couple months, even weeks. Was it really that much to ask?
Fortunately, the conversation quickly shifted to food and the group headed for the food court. The only real threat was deciding what they wanted to eat. Daniel wanted a full course of high class food despite the fact there was no fancy restaurants nearby. Carl just wanted a burger. Patricia, on the other hand, craved something spicy. Nancy added a buffet to the list of places they could eat at. Lisa just wanted to eat. It didn't really matter what kind. Food was food.
When it was clear that a decision couldn't be reached - Lisa adamantly refused to side with anyone; she honestly didn't care - Nancy suggested, "Rock, paper, scissors?"
She watched as the four battled it out by waving their hands. Some passersby glanced at them out of the corner of their eyes as they passed while others ignored their presence completely. A few even paused to stare before going on their way. Lisa wished she crawled into the corner or be able to at least pretend she didn't know any of them. At least it didn't take too long to see the results. Nancy won, but she wondered if the women really had telekinesis or if there was more to her power than simply moving things with her mind.
"Looks like we're going to a buffet."
They followed her lead when an explosion rocked the building. Immediately, people were screaming and running. What happened? Lisa couldn't tell where it came from, but she knew that an explosion was never good. Was it an accident or was someone attacking? Deciding there were more important things to worry about, she struggled to keep the others in her sight. She found herself being knocked down and by the time she was able to get back on her feet - the people knocking her back down had not helped one bit - they were gone.
Completely terrified, she made the decision to follow the crowd. It was better to stick with the flow. Trying to go look for them in a life threatening situation was just plain stupid. She had no doubt that they would be able to take care of themselves. She didn't know what or what powers Patricia and Carl had, but someone with telekinesis and a giant should be enough to keep them safe. Still, she kept her eyes peeled just in case she spotted them - how hard would it be to spot a giant?
Another explosion caused her to lose her balance along with most of the people around her. She couldn't stop herself from screaming. That's when the floor beneath her gave way and they all fell.