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Part 28

Syed Residence

“I’m glad that you could meet with us” Raya opened the door. Ryan, Jetta and young Diana stood by
“Here, go ahead” Jetta guided Diana through the front door. Ryan gave their daughter a little nudge
“This is for you” Diana held out a folded piece of construction paper. The word “Sorry” was scrawled in glitter glue. Raya opened the handmade card, “Is sorry I caled the polis” had been painstakingly written in crayon
“How sweet” Raya smiled. It was a kind gesture
“Daddy scolded me” Diana piped up, “Mummy, too”
“Oh” Raya nodded, “Well, come in, please”
“Hi” Omar shook hands with Ryan, “It’s been a long time, bro”
“A long time” Ryan agreed
The couples sat down, Omar and Raya gave Ryan and Jetta first pick. They took the couch, Raya sat on the recliner while Omar took a chair from the dining table that he’d hauled over.
“Niños!” Raya shouted
Diana shuddered from the sound
After a few moments, Carlos and Oded came in. Diana stared at Oded’s wheelchair. He noticed her gaze, “Shiny, huh?” he grinned
The little girl just nodded solemnly
“Carlos” Raya didn’t skip a beat, “Go get your sister, now”
“Sure thing” he shrugged and left
“Hey, chica, get in here” he rapped on her door
“Go away” her voice wafted through the closed door
“Fine, whatever” he stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked back to the living room
“She’s not coming” he mumbled
Meanwhile, Diana was now engrossed in Oded’s wheelchair. Bordering on an obsessive fascination, the little girl ran her index finger up and down the several spokes on one wheel and then walked around the chair to do the same to the other wheel
“Oy” Jetta frowned at her daughter, “leave that be and stop bothering the nice boy”
“But Mummy” Diana began
“It’s ok” Omar interjected, “Why don’t I find you something to play with, huh?”
Diana’s eyes lit up like twin sparklers
“I had a feeling” he grinned and ambled off. He soon returned with some fashion dolls
“Nice” Ryan laughed
“It helps to be weird, right?” Omar joined in the laughter
“What do you say?” Jetta glared at the young girl
“Thank you” Diana smiled as she took the dolls in her hands
“You’re welcome” Omar reciprocated her smile. He glanced at the two women, who hadn’t spoken a word to each other but had already admonished their respective children enough in the last few minutes
“Bro” Ryan spoke up, “how about you show me where you keep the good stuff” he cupped his hand
“Sure” Omar got up and the two men went into the kitchen
Diana sat on the floor and played with the dolls. Carlos and Oded hung back in a corner of the room, unsure of what to do.
“Can I go play outside?” Diana asked Jetta
Jetta glanced at Raya, who reciprocated the gaze and nodded
“Sure, why don’t Oded and Carlos go take you to the backyard” Raya replied
“Ok” Diana smiled widely and skipped off while Oded and Carlos trailed behind and gave each other sour looks. Babysitting wasn’t their idea of fun
Finally alone in the room, the two women nearly stared each other down with no words between them. It was clear that neither of them knew how to begin the conversation
After what seemed like hours, but was really only mere moments, Raya cleared her throat, “Your daughter is very polite”
“Ryan and I made sure that she wouldn’t end up” her words trailed off
“Like you?” Raya was firm
“Yes” Jetta agreed after a pause
“What changed?” Raya asked
“I – don’t understand” Jetta seemed confused
“I had my first child and suddenly we went from finally being friends to – simply nothing” she struggled for the right words to express her feelings
Jetta opened her mouth, but nothing tumbled forth
Raya continued, “you mentioned it in your letter, and let’s not keep the sleepy dogs between us” she sighed
“Right, no sense letting sleeping dogs lie” Jetta agreed, “You must be wondering why I’m the daughter of a KG child and you, and everyone one else seem to be parents of teenagers”
“I assumed that she was your youngest”
“In a way, I suppose she is” Jetta held her hands together, interlaced her fingers, “I’d had a miscarriage, years ago, back when Ryan and I were doing better, were more financially well off”
“Oh” the words were full of emotion
“Yes” Jetta replied quietly
The women simply stared at each other, not out of anger, or pity, but simply because there was nothing more that could be said.

Starlight Mansion

“Grounded?” Jericho frowned, “For how long?”
“Indefinitely” Jerrica shot back
“Consider yourself lucky, son” Rio agreed, “Who knows what could’ve happened to you, or your cousins, not to mention Jessica or Passion”
“Nothing happened!” Jericho threw his hands up in exasperation
“Nothing happened?” Jerrica’s eyes grew big, “Falling out of a multi story building is nothing? Nearly being killed is nothing?”
“We were alright” Jericho’s voice quieted
“Sure you were” Rio was sarcastic, “A stolen car means you were alright”
“The point is, you’re grounded until we can figure out an appropriate punishment” Jerrica was firm, “I’m just glad nobody was killed”

Syed Residence

It seemed like hours had passed when Jetta finally spoke up, “It wasn’t easy, you know”
Raya wasn’t sure how to respond
Jetta continued, “It was so hard to watch all of you, talking about nappies and feedings and all that baby –“ her voice cut off
“I’m sure it was” Raya nodded, “still, I wish you’d talked. I would’ve been there for you”
“I know you would’ve, even after everything that happened between us”
“Just as you would’ve been there for me”
Jetta nodded
“Between the miscarriage, and my brother taking Roxy all over the world, I wasn’t sure who to turn to”
“You never mentioned him, not even when we were in Great Britain”
“He’s a bit of odd duck”
“Even your parents never said anything about him”
“I guess they were embarrassed with him, after all, they probably write off his behavior as nothing short of my fault”
“He went into music because of you?”
“My family seems to think so. We were dirt poor, as the Americans call it, and so music lessons and instruments were practically out of the question. Seeing my desire for rock and roll, they set their foot down when Shawn – Jett wanted to also pursue a career in music”
“It must’ve been so hard” Raya sympathized
“After my stunt with Sir Trevor, my parents wanted nothing to do with me, let alone my brother”
“And then—this – that is,” Raya sighed
“Yes, this seemed to be the final nail in the coffin, as it were. Ryan’s business went downhill soon afterwards” Jetta looked despondent, “but our little miracle” she glanced out the window at Diana playing with Oded and Carlos, “made any future hardships more than worthwhile” she smiled

Starlight Mansion

“It was really nice of my parents to at least let us study together” Jericho grinned from his desk chair. The appropriate punishment had been not to allow friends over at all, for a month, but with the upcoming History exam, Jerrica and Rio had relented, just this once.
“Yeah” Jessie smiled from her perch on the edge of Jericho’s bed
“I want to hear less talking and more studying!” Rio’s voice boomed from across the hall
“Yes, of couse Dad” Jericho mumbled hastily
“After everything that happened to you and your cousins, I’m not surprised” Jessie looked at her boyfriend, “I wish I could’ve talked more to Jemini before he had to leave”
“Come on, you talked to him at his farewell concert”
“You were barely there, how do you know that?”
“He told me” Jericho was quick with an answer
“So you two tell each other things like that?” Jessie stared at him
“Yeah, we do, sometimes”
“Did he tell you where he was going?”
“Nah, but he probably went to spend time with his family”
“And how would you know that?”
“It’s what I would do” Jericho was honest
“What you would do? Come on, you two are nothing alike”
“Good” Jericho smiled
“Good?” Jessie looked confused
“I mean big deal. It doesn’t matter” Jericho backtracked

Syed Residence

Raya smiled, “It does make it worthwhile” she glanced through the window and caught sight of Diana playing with her sons
There was an unnatural pause as the conversation lapsed into silence.
“It still hurts” Jetta finally spoke, “losing a child”
“Of course” Raya empathized, “I know how you feel”
Color flashed through Jetta’s face, “How could you possibly know how I feel?” she snapped, the old Jetta arriving in a split second
“Why not?” Raya countered, and leaned forward on the recliner
“Please” Jetta waved off the question, “You ‘ve got three beautiful children that you’ve seen grow up”
“You have Diana” Raya gestured to the little girl, who was now ordering the two teenage boys around the yard, as some sort of game played out
“But I lost a child!” Jetta fumed
Raya inhaled and knitted her eyebrows, “I nearly lost a child myself” she shot back
Jetta looked stunned, or as she might’ve said, gobsmacked. Raya continued,
“Oded was so sick when he was a baby” she sighed
“I thought – Omar, and” Jetta faltered for words
“It’s not hereditary” Raya explained, “Cerebral Palsy doesn’t work like that. This was just one of those fluke things”
Jetta was beside herself with a flurry of emotions, but couldn’t find the words to express herself. Raya went on,
“We were so happy when we found out. Omar came with me for many of the checkups, and when he couldn’t, his mother, or my parents, were there. I wish you’d been there”
“I, I do, too” Jetta finally smiled and agreed
“We were finally going to have a child” Raya explained, “Omar was thrilled” she smiled as she thought back, “he went a little overboard, buying nearly every baby outfit that he saw”
Jetta waited for the punch line in the story, with an emphasis on punch.
“I was three months along, and Omar and I were in a restaurant, having dinner. It was the first time out in a while, and things were going fine, but then suddenly, I felt something wet on my legs”
“Oh dear” Jetta involuntarily uttered
“I picked up the cloth napkin, and then the tablecloth from my lap, and nearly fainted from what I saw”
She stopped and sighed, as she remembered the horror
“There was so much blood, you couldn’t see the pattern on my dress. Omar was a real hero, and he called 911, and managed to get an ambulance there in record time”
“Was Oded alright?” Jetta sat on the edge of the couch
“He was” Raya nodded, “If you can call it alright. I’d lost a lot of blood, and the doctors were all rightfully worried about my health. Oded was born three months later, and that’s where the story really starts”
Jetta sat there, stupefied from Raya’s account
“Oh, he was so ill” Raya sighed, “the delivery was surprisingly easy, I was so – so”
“High?” Jetta suggested
“You could say that” Raya smiled momentarily, “I didn’t feel anything, but then they whisked him away” her face was awash with remembered fear, “Oh Jetta, I was so afraid that we’d lost him. It wasn’t until later, when I’d mustered the courage to ask the doctors what happened, that they brought me to him, and that alone was a journey in itself”
Jetta looked at Raya with a quizzical expression
“The doctors walked me down a hallway, and then we saw the regular nursery, with all the babies. Then we walked farther down, and then we saw the NICU”
“The--”Jetta hesitated
“Neonatal Intensive Care Unit” Raya explained, “and there were a few babies there, but they had various problems, and many were on ventilators or some other types of apparatuses to breathe”
“Shouldn’t it be apparati?” Jetta inquired
“It’s not” Raya shook her head, “and trust me, my husband’s a grammar ninja”
“Don’t you mean grammar nazi?” Jetta asked
Raya shrugged, “Omar doesn’t care for that term. He finds it racist”
“Do go on, about the story” Jetta urged Raya
“So we walked down, past the nursery, and past the NICU, and then, we walked into a room, where there was just one baby lying there, surrounded by tubes coming out of nearly every orifice, enclosed on a clear plastic cube.”
Jetta sat there, her mouth hung open
“I was beside myself” Raya went on, “I couldn’t believe that this was my baby. There were so many other, healthy babies out there, and this one, this sickly, weak, emaciated baby, this was mine”
“Oh, you poor dear” Jetta was genuinely empathetic
“Thankfully, Omar was a rock. He was with me whenever he could, but after a week and a half, I couldn’t take staying home anymore. I had to get out, had to go places, do work, just do something, anything to keep from thinking only about Oded. Of course, we both went to the hospital as much as possible”
“He didn’t come home?” she referred to Oded
“He stayed in the ICU for nine months” Raya was matter of fact

Syed Residence

While the mothers were talking downstairs, and her brothers were outside, forced into babysitting, Anissa was in her room, sprawled on her bed, texting to glory.
“Where you @” she wrote
“Cant get owt” he texted back
“Y NO?”
“rants” Apparently, it was his parents
“K” she acknowledged
“Got to C U” he seemed ardent
“Me 2”
“Can U get owt?”
“Not now”
“Then when?”
“Later” she wrote back, “Soon I hope” she sent another message right after the first one

Syed Residence

“Hard as it was having Oded, hearing what the doctors had to say was worse” Raya continued
Jetta sat on the edge of her seat, both literally and figuratively
“He’ll be a vegetable” the doctors had told her, “He’ll never walk or talk” they waved a collective hand at baby Oded, lying amongst a myriad of tubes in his NICU bed
Raya frowned, both in her story and while retelling it to Jetta, “No” she was firm, “That’ll never happen. Never”
They made sure of it, Omar and Raya. While days turned to weeks, turned to months, they waited for news, any news. Daily trips to and from the hospital wore them both out, physically, mentally and emotionally, but they were each other’s rocks, and helped the other cope with what fate had brought them.
“Omar’s mother, and my parents wanted to come down to Texas” Raya went on, “But there was nothing anyone could do while Oded was in the hospital.”
“Often times, we wondered why new parents were brought to see Oded, and then brought to see their own baby in the NICU” she went on, “Finally, we asked one of the nurses, who replied that other parents were distraught over their children’s plight, but then they came and saw Oded, who was the sickliest baby in the NICU, and then, those parents felt better about their own baby”
“Did it get easier once he was home?” Jetta sat, enraptured
“I wish I could say yes” Raya replied, “He wasn’t home until he was nine months old”

While the women were talking and Carlos and Oded were busy wrangling little Diana, Anissa stealthily creeped down the hallway. She inched closer and closer to the front door. Just as she had placed her hand on the doorknob, she thought, “Darn, where’s Dad? All I need is for him to show up with another lecture” She wasn’t sure if he was lurking around, waiting to catch her for disobeying him. “Oh, forget it” she yanked open the front door, and was out of the house.
Max Gets Ready

“Max, get up” Ruby opened the curtains, “It’s time for school”
Max frowned, “No”
“Come on Max” she shook her head, “You don’t want to be late do you?”
Max stared at her
“Let’s get you out of bed” she pulled back his blanket
“Go take a bath and I’ll get breakfast ready” she called from the other room
“No” Max frowned and hopped back into bed
“Uh uh Max” Ruby sighed and pushed him towards the bathroom. She turned on the hot water and picked him up. Then, she put him into the bath and left him alone.
“Are you done yet?” She called
“No” Max smiled from the tub
“Hurry up Max” she pulled him from the tub and the pair walked back to Max’s room.
“Here’s your uniform” Ruby had laid out Max’s school shirt and pants out. “Put it on while I make breakfast for you”
Max stared at the clothes, “No”
Moments turned to minutes, and Ruby shouted from downstairs, “Hurry Max”
Max grinned, and put on the shirt and pants. He pulled the pants on his head, so his ears stuck through the pant legs, and pulled the shirt on over his legs, so his feet stuck through the shirt sleeves. Then he walked downstairs
In the kitchen, Ruby saw what her brother had done, “Oh, Max” she shook her head. She undressed Max and dressed him up properly. “There you go”
Ruby sat Max at the table and placed an egg in front of him, “Come on Max, eat your breakfast”
Max frowned
“It’s an egg, you like eggs, don’t you?”
Max looked at her, “No”
“Fine, you can have strawberries, just for today” she sighed
Max grinned and ate his breakfast
“Now” Ruby pulled Max’s chair away from the table, “Get your backpack and hurry so you won’t miss the school bus”
She pushed him towards the door, but stopped when she saw the calendar that hung on the wall
“Oh, Max” she sighed, “Today is Sunday. You don’t have school today, do you?”
Max smiled broadly, “No!”
Max Gets Ready
Ruby gets her brother Max ready for school, but she gets a surprise at every turn.
Part 27

Syed Residence

“Almost got it” Omar stretched to place another novel on the bookshelf’s highest tier.
“Think we’ve got enough?” Raya smiled at her husband
“The way our kids go through them, we’ll need as many as we can get” he laughed
“You know” Raya mused aloud, “Maybe we should finally tell the girls about how you and I met” by “girls”, Raya didn’t mean her daughter or nieces, as she considered Kimber and Aja’s daughters, Kyra, Sherry and Lea, but rather her pseudo sisters, Jerrica, Kimber, Shana and Aja.
“Do you think they can handle it?” Omar grinned
“Handle what?” Anissa appeared at the end of the hallway, at the entrance to the living room
“Something between your mother and I”
“Oh, Dad” Anissa shook her head and turned to her mother, “Can I go see Paco?” she was blunt with her request
“It’s ‘May I’, and no” Raya was firm, “You’re still grounded for that stunt with Jericho and your cousins”
“He needed our help” Anissa frowned
“He could’ve been killed” Omar chimed in, “besides, your brothers aren’t complaining”
“Oded’s holed up with his drums and Carlos is happy with his books, reading about God knows who!”
“Whom” Omar corrected his daughter
“Who cares!” Anissa scowled, “Besides, you said that Paco was a nice boy”
“Maybe twenty years ago” Raya sighed, “But he’s no longer a boy, and you’re still very young”
“I’m almost fifteen” Anissa was adamant
“There’s nothing to discuss” Omar put his foot down, literally and figuratively, “If you want something to do, there’s still breakfast dishes in the sink”
Anissa was about to say something when there was a noise at the front door
“The post is here” Omar realized aloud, “Will you please go get the mail?” he looked at his daughter
“I have to do everything around here” she stormed off
“Three is such a nice round number, you said” Omar rolled his eyes
“We’re outnumbered” Raya sighed
“Mum” Anissa returned, “This came for you” she tossed the envelope on the coffee table
“Thanks” Raya smiled, “but you’re still grounded. Maybe you should try to read ahead in your History textbook. Isn’t there a test coming up next week?”
“Oh, alright” Anissa grumbled and left the room
“Kids” Raya smiled, sat on the couch and tore open the envelope, but her smile faded as she silently read the letter
“Is everything ok?” Omar put his crutches aside and sat on the couch next to his wife
“It’s from” she began, but couldn’t finish
“Who’s Sheila?” Omar frowned as he looked over Raya’s shoulder, at the letter
“Her stage name was Jetta”
“Oh yeah, I forgot” he laughed “Like the car?”
“Sort of” Raya guessed, “we’d fought bitterly years ago, and after the bands had split up, we each went our separate ways. It looks like she wants to make amends”
“Right” Omar knew the story of how the Alonso Nursery had been vandalized, and how Jetta had been the ringleader of sorts, “Well, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know” she rested her head on his shoulder, “I just don’t know”
“It’s been a long time since Ryan called us” Omar finally spoke
“A lot has happened over time” Raya agreed, “we moved”
“We had two more kids”
“We hadn’t spoken to each other since Oded was in diapers” Raya sighed
Omar glanced at her, “So, what did she say?”
Raya sat up and stared at the paper in her hands. She read aloud,
I know I've done and said some horrible things to you in the past, but I didn't mean to flip ya off for the most part. I still even think about when I had your father's greenhouse trashed and it haunts me to this day. I know you forgave me and we became close afterwards and nothing made me happier than seeing the look on your face when you had your first child. The truth is that I was jealous and that's partly why I shut you out for so many years. I would rather tell you why in person why I was so upset after the birth of Oded. If you could maybe meet with me sometime soon I would really like that. I miss ya and never had a friend like you Carmen. I know all of this sounds mushy, but there is a reason for it I assure you. Write me or call me if you want. Again I'm truly sorry and I never meant to hurt you or anyone else.
Love, Sheila”
“I just-” Raya flipped over the envelope and glanced at the address, “I don’t know what to say, let alone do”
“She wants to meet and talk with you”
“Apparently, she thought we were still in Houston” Raya pointed at the address written on the envelope, “this has been forwarded here”
“Maybe that’s why we didn’t receive it until now” Omar postulated aloud
“But that still doesn’t help me find a solution”
“You don’t want me to just listen to you?” Omar queried his wife
“Of course I do, but this is one time when I need to figure out what plan to take”

In Anissa's bedroom, Anissa sat on the bed impatiently, nervously playing with the ballerina fashion doll that lay on her night table. Her phone vibrated on the night stand and she reached over to answer it. The text message flashed, “Were U @”
“Hme” she texted back, “Miss U”
“Thnx” the reply beeped
There was a knock on the closed bedroom door and Anissa quickly slipped the phone into her jeans’ pocket, “Who is it?” she called out
“Me” Oded replied
“And me” Carlos chimed in
“What?” she stood up, perturbed at having been disturbed
The boys took that as a sign to enter, Carlos opened the door and he and Oded made themselves at home; Carlos sat heavily on the bed and Oded spun in a doughnut until he was pointed towards his sister
“What do you two want?” she sat back down on the bed
“I couldn’t read with his drumming” Carlos patted Oded on the knee
“And I couldn’t drum properly with his mumbling to himself”
“Not that you could hear it over that racket”
“I don’t see why you two are so upset” Anissa scowled at her older brothers, “Now that Jerry has quit being Jemini, there’s no reason for you to bother practicing” she looked at Oded
“Hey” he retorted, “I can be the next Keith Moon”
“Sure, a brown Keith Moon” she laughed
Anissa’s phone beeped again and Carlos picked up on it, “Mum’s going to be pissed if you’re texting”
“What else can I do in here? The computers in the living room, and we can’t even have televisions in here” she indicated her bedroom as well as her brothers’ room
“Try reading” Carlos suggested as he made a grab for her phone, which had slipped out of her pocket and onto the bed
“Who’s P2?”
“Nobody” she snatched her phone back
“Whoever he is, he can’t spell worth beans”
“Refried or pinto” Oded laughed
“If he’s white, they’re probably the beans that Jack used to climb to the giant’s lair” Carlos joked
“He’s not white, and even if he was, so what?” Anissa frowned
“Hey, take it easy, hermana” Carlos put up his hands in mock surrender, “I—we think you’re kind of young for a boyfriend”
“And you two aren’t too young to be dating”
“Well, we can’t all be the chick magnet our esteemed older brother is”
“Hey, it’s not my fault that you take after Dad” Oded grinned
“At least I don’t take after Mum” Carlos shot back, good naturedly, “what with your drumming; but then, it’s in the genes”

Chenoweth Residence

It had been scarcely a week since Jetta had mailed the letter. She busied herself at home, after her shift at the hospital, with mundane household tasks. Things had changed so much since she and Ryan had been young, since his business had been going well. Now, with him working several nights a week, and her meager salary at the hospital, times were tough, “How can I face Raya again, after everything I’d said to her earlier, after she’d seen my good fortune”. True, gold plated household appliances were now a thing of the past as Ryan and Jetta had a small house, albeit in a good part of Los Angeles, but still, it was a far cry from their days of mansions and luxury automobiles.
“Mummy” Diana’s voice pulled Jetta out of her thoughts and back to reality. The kindergartener entered the living room, clutching a crayon drawing on construction paper, “See what I made for you and Daddy” she thrust the paper towards her mother. Jetta held the drawing and smiled. There were four stick figures on the page, each with a different color of streaming hair. One figure had green hair, another had blue, a third had barely discernable scrawls of white wax atop her head, and the fourth had thick streaks of black at a right angle protruding from her circular head. The child’s scrawls proclaimed what Jetta knew, albeit with misspellings, “Pizza, Stromy, Roxi,” had been written over three of the figures, but the fourth figure had the caption in perfect capital letters, “Mummy”.
“Teacher gave us homework” Diana explained, “What do your parents do?”
“Well darling, I work in a hospital”
Diana frowned, “Hospitals are boring! Being a rock star is really cooler” she proclaimed
“Yes, I suppose so” Jetta nodded absently, “what about Daddy?” she pointed on the page
“You and Daddy didn’t get married until your band went away” Diana shook her head
“Ah” Jetta smiled, “How about we put Daddy here, anyway”
“Sure Mummy!” Diana took the paper and ran back to her bedroom

Syed Residence

In the living room, Omar and Raya looked at each other and then back at the letter
“I guess the best thing I can do is contact her” Raya shrugged. She fished her cell phone out of her pocket, “The last number that I have them” she scrolled down and pressed Send.
“It’s ringing” she glanced at Omar, “Hello?” she spoke when the line was answered. There was a pause as Raya listened, “I’m trying to reach Jetta—Sheila Burns. She might be Sheila Chenoweth” Another pause, longer now, “Oh, I see” she frowned, “Thank you” she hung up.
“Well, that was that” she shook her head
“Now what?” Omar looked confused
Raya pulled a heavy phone book out of the side table nook and set down heavily on the coffee table, “Now we let our fingers do the walking”
“Good, ‘cause my feet are killing me” Omar put his sneakered feet up on the coffee table
Raya didn’t smile. Omar’s grin left his face
“Ok” he sighed, “Let’s start looking”

In her bedroom, Anissa’s phone beeped again. She glanced at it and smiled, “Ltz tlk” the message read. Of course, to talk, meant to simply send text messages back and forth. Anissa never thought about actually calling him up.
“This is boring” Olded rolled his eyes, “Come on, bro” he rolled out of the room with Carlos trailing behind him.
“I wnt 2 si U” the next message chimed
“Wen?” Anissa texted a reply
“2nite” the message shot back

In the living room, Omar and Raya thumbed through the white pages of the phone directory, “Chenoweth, Chenoweth, Chenoweth” Omar ran his finger down a list, “Kristen, Jessica, here we go- Ryan” he jotted down the number on a pad of paper
Raya dialed the number, “Hello” she spoke up when the call went through
“Hello” a child’s voice
“Hi” Raya smiled, “Is your Mummy home?”
“May I speak to her?”
“No, she’s busy”
“Oh” Raya sighed, “Is your Daddy home?”
“May I speak with him?”
“He’s busy, too”
“Ah” Raya looked at Omar for support. Omar shrugged since he couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation
“Is there anyone else there with you?”
“A police man”
“Oh, can I speak with him?”
“No, he’s talking with Daddy and Mummy and the fire man”
“The—um” Raya seemed at a loss for words, “What are they doing?”
“They’re looking all over here”
“What are they looking for?”
Grab The Bully By The Horns

Angel Grove 1988

“Hurry up!” twelve year old Jason Scott gripped the ticket in his hand and ran ahead of his grade school friends to the podium that was set up just outside Angel Grove Youth Center. His red, splatter printed shirt flapped in the breeze as he raced towards the outdoor lectern
“Hang on” Billy Cranston slowed down and bent to tie the laces on his blue running shoes that had a special pocket on each sneaker
Zack Taylor didn’t run; he moonwalked to where the other boys stood in line, his black high top fitness sneakers scraped across the concrete. Zack and Jason both wore acid wash jeans. Billy had on reverse pleated pants.
“Race you” Kimberly Hart nudged her friend Trini Kwan and the two girls ran towards the others.
“Here you go” the ticket taker handed the children five ticket stubs and watched as they ran into the youth center. The youth center needed repairs, and the young proprietor, Ernie, didn’t have enough money to make the needed remodeling. The benefit concert revenues would help for the much needed renovations.
“Did you get Jem’s latest tape?” Kimberly turned to Trini. Both girls had on white t-shirts with the Jem logo on them. Kimberly wore acid wash jeans rolled up at the ankle and pink keds. Trini wore yellow stirrup leggings and jelly shoes with her Jem t-shirt
“Not yet, I’m still saving up”
“I have it and her poster” Kimberly grinned
“She’s certainly exceptional” Billy agreed
“I like the Misfits, just a little bit” Jason confessed
“Their music is good” Zack nodded, “but I like Jem more”
“Both bands have equally harmonious melodies” Billy chimed in
“They sure do” Kimberly gave Billy a friendly nudge
“Affirmative” Billy rubbed his arm
The group kept walking through the Youth Center’s hallway until they found the concert venue. The band was already setting up and the children could hear the bandmates practicing onstage.
“Look, there’s Jem!” Kimberly pointed
“Wow, she’s pretty” Billy gushed
“You said it” Zack agreed
“Let’s go talk to her” Jason started going over towards the stage
“No wait” Trini pulled him back, “They’re rehearsing”
“Oh” Jason realized
“Look, let’s just go find seats” Trini suggested
“Come on, gang” Jason agreed and headed towards an open space
The group found a table to sit at. Jason turned to the three children who sat at the table next to the five
“Hi,” he stuck out his hand
“Hi” the other boy shook it. He wore a red track suit and sneakers. His two friends, another boy and girl, waved at the larger group
“I’m Jason” he grinned, “and these are my friends Zack, Kimberly, Billy and Trini”
“My name’s Rocky” he pointed to the two next to him, “and these are my friends Adam and Aisha”
“Hey” Zack held his hand up and grinned. Aisha smiled back. Like the other girls, Aisha wore a Jem t-shirt, but with yellow keds and matching running shorts
“Do you attend Angel Grove Elementary as well?” Billy asked
“No” Adam shook his head, “we go to Stone Canyon”
“Hey” Zack piped in, “Which Hologram do you like the best?”
“I like Shana” Aisha nodded
“Wow” Zack grinned, “me too”
“I like Jem the best” Jason disagreed
“Same here” Adam gave Jason the thumbs up sign. He had on a black t-shirt and blue jeans
“Percussion has been an interest of mine” Billy explained, “even though I’m not musically inclined”
“I’m guessing that means that you like Raya?” Adam shrugged
“She is acoustically aesthetic, if that helps clarify things” Billy smiled
Adam forced a smile back
“I guess there’s no love for Aja, here?” Kimberly laughed, “but we love her”
“They wouldn’t know a good guitarist if one tapped them on the shoulder” Trini smiled shyly
“You said it” Kimberly agreed. The two girls high fived each other
The group’s newfound joviality was cut short as two shadows fell over the eight children
“Hey, we were sitting there” the larger of two boys frowned
“Yeah, we were here first” the thinner boy chimed in
“Oh no” Jason shook his head
“Do you know them?” Rocky genuinely asked
“They’re Bulk and Skull”
“They similarly attend our institute of learning” Billy shrugged
“They what?” Rocky didn’t understand
“They go to school with us” Zack interpreted
“Well, we want to sit there now” Bulk smirked
“Perhaps you could sit elsewhere” Billy suggested
“I could sit on your head” Bulk growled
“That would be most implausible” Billy wore a straight face
“Just forget about them” Jason warned the others

Meanwhile, across the youth center, Jem and the Holograms had set up and were practicing Take the Time. Raya looked across the stage and put down her drum sticks, “Those big boys are troubling that group of kids. Maybe we should go and say something”
“They’ll never learn to stand up for themselves if we go help them out” Aja tuned her guitar
“They look so sad” Kimber gazed at the children
“Just hold back a minute” Shana sighed, “we have to finish preparing for the concert”
Before the Holograms could continue their concert prep, the front doors of the youth center banged open and there stood, four young women with brightly colored hair
“You can start the party now, the Misfits are here!” Pizzazz bellowed
Across the room, Jem shook her head, “Oh no”
“Oh no, is right” Shana agreed, “Now what trouble have those four come to cause?”
“We’ll find out soon enough” Kimber sighed
“Those kids look like they’re having trouble” Stormer pointed at Jason, Rocky and the others
“Well, why don’t you go help them?” Pizzazz sneered
“I will” Stormer countered
“Hey, wait up!” Roxy followed her. Pizzazz and Jetta trailed behind
“Hi” Stormer smiled
“What do you want?” Bulk turned and faced her
“We—uh, thought you could use some help” Pizzazz pushed her way past Stormer
“Well we don’t” Bulk glared at her
“Yeah, we don’t” Skull agreed
“As long as these wimps move over, everything will be fine” Bulk turned and faced the eight children
“Oh yeah? What did they do?” Pizzazz smiled evilly
“They sat where we wanted to” Bulk informed her
“Yeah, where we wanted to sit!” Skull echoed
“You can’t let them get away with that” Pizzazz shook her head, “Don’t you kids know that winning is everything” The Misfits then sang a brief version of “Winning is Everything”
“Yeah, ducky” Jetta added, “Where would your America be if they hadn’t fought back against us”
“Us?” Bulk frowned
“I do believe she alluding to the fact that she’s British” Billy explained and pushed his glasses back up on his nose
“Who asked you, four eyes” Bulk shot back
“Yeah, four eyes” Skull mimicked his friend
Jason and Rocky stood up to defend Billy. Both were wearing red
“Look at these two” Pizzazz pointed at Jason and Rocky, “Twins?” she laughed haughtily
“Uh” Jason faltered
“Um” Rocky hesitated
“Don’t tell me you’re going to let these two keep you from your seats” Roxy interjected, indicated Bulk and Skull
“Well” Billy began
“Oh, pipe down” Pizzazz waved him off
“We can’t really back down now” Jason thought aloud
“They did want our seats” Rocky agreed
The eight realized that fighting Bulk and Skull might be the only way they could gain respect, however, the two bullies were just as ready, if not more
“Well, what do you geeks want to do?” Bulk sized up Jason
“Why don’t we take this outside?” Jason repeated a line he’d heard in an action movie
“Great idea” Bulk grinned
“Great idea” Skull echoed
From across the stage, Jem and her bandmates realized something was wrong
“I don’t like the looks of this” Aja put down her guitar
“You said it” Shana agreed, “Anytime the Misfits want to help anyone, there’s bound to be trouble”
“Maybe I was wrong about what I said earlier” Jem realized, “We’ll have time to rehearse, but right now, I think we’re needed down there”
The five women left the stage and made their way across the youth center
Bulk and Skull, along with the eight kids were nearly at the entrance and would’ve stepped outside if Jem hadn’t called them back
“Kids, hang on a minute”
Jason, Rocky and the others turned around
“What’s going on?” Aja asked them
“Nothing that concerns you” Bulk spat out
“It doesn’t concern you” Skull nodded
“Maybe it does” Shana countered, “It looks like you all were about to start a rumble”
“My stomach’s fine” Bulk frowned
“Mine too!” Skull agreed
“Not that sort of rumble” Shana sighed, “A fight”
“We were going to fight” Adam stepped forward
“Really?” Raya looked concerned, “Why?”
“They said that we took their seats, but we didn’t” Rocky explained
“The Misfits said that we shouldn’t back down” Aisha told them
“Hold on, there” Jem’s voice was firm, “Fighting won’t fix things. When there’s a disagreement, sometimes you need someone who isn’t involved in things to settle things”
“Instead of fighting when you disagree, look for a better way” Raya added
Bulk frowned and stepped forward
Rocky, Jason and the others sighed and shook their heads
“If that table means so much to you, we can sit at another table” Kimberly stepped forward
“Humph” Bulk grunted
Skull’s face broke out into a smile for a moment
“You found another way” Jem smiled, “and chose not to fight”
“I guess we did the right thing” Zack shrugged
“Doing the right thing, makes you a superstar” Jem added, “but right now, let’s get this concert started!”
All the kids agreed that that was a great idea. They all helped Jem and the Holograms back to the stage, but the Misfits weren’t to be out done.
Jem began playing “Share a Little Bit of Yourself”, but then the Misfits pushed their way on stage and sang their own lyrics along with Jem’s. Finally, Jem and the Holograms finished the song. Everyone clapped for the first set, even Bulk and Skull.
Grab the Bully by the Horns
It's 1988. When 13 year old Bulk and Skull try to cause problems at a benefit concert at the Youth Center, can Jem and the Holograms break a fight before it starts?
In the hallway, Fin caught up with Elliot. “Where’s Olivia?”
“She’s under the weather” he lied, “She said for us to go ahead” he already had his phone out and was searching for directions to the Royal Diner

Royal Diner

Bones, Booth, Cam, Angela, Hodgins, and Wells were already there when Fin and Elliot entered the restaurant.
“Why are we here instead of working at the lab?” Bones turned to Booth
“Cause of death isn’t just found in the body. Sometimes we have to hash things out” he leaned his elbows on the table, “You know that”
“True” she nodded, “I’m just glad that Dad could watch Christine and Michael tonight” she referred to her daughter and Jack and Angela’s son
“Yeah” Booth agreed belatedly
“So what’s the plan?” Elliot took the conversation lead
“We’re still stuck on cause of death” Booth replied
“I downloaded the scenarios onto this” Angela pulled a tablet from her handbag, “but we’re no closer to figuring who might’ve pushed her, or why she was dragged across the plaza”
“I think we have to consider that—“ Sweets began. Casey Novak opened the diner’s door. Everyone at the table looked up at her
“Sorry” she sat down hurriedly, “I had to take care of something” she shot Elliot a look
“I was just saying” Sweets went on, “that we have to consider that she might not have been killed for anything other than randomness”
“So you’re saying we have a serial killer out there and he just happened to drop his latest work where this lady could trip over it and sue us?” Booth looked at him as if Sweets was crazy
“I’m saying that perhaps it was an accidental death” he countered, “It may have been something as simple as her being unsteady on her feet and the slightest nudge would’ve set her tumbling down the stairs”
“But Humpty Dumpty was pushed” Fin interjected, “Everything else is just supposition”
“Unfortunately” Casey spoke, “all that supposition doesn’t make for a strong case against her”
“I hate to change the subject” Angela broke in, “If this is going nowhere, we can either eat something or just go home and tackle it tomorrow”
“I agree” Casey nodded, “we may get farther along if we rest and look at this with fresh eyes in the morning”
“You guys go ahead” Sweets picked up a menu, “I’m going to eat something”
“Still on your own?” Booth nudged him
“I’d rather not talk about it, but yes” he frowned
“Suit yourself” Booth stood up. Bones did likewise. The two headed for the exit with Angela and Hodgins trailing behind them as they spoke about their children
“Elliot” Casey turned to him and shot him daggers from her eyes
“What?” he looked quizzically at her
“We need to talk”
“What happened?” he seriously didn’t know
“Not here” she glanced over at Sweets and Fin
“Hey, don’t mind me” Fin held up his hands in mock surrender, “I just want to get something to eat” he eyed the menu that lay on the table
“Fine” Casey replied and she and Elliot stood and made their way over to the countertop and perched on a pair of stools
“So what is it?” Elliot asked
“You really don’t know?”
“I’m sure you’re going to tell me” he became surly
“Olivia called me just as I was leaving” Casey explained, “She was drunk, crying and couldn’t stop going on about how she’d made a mistake. You barged into her room while she was on the phone”
“I didn’t barge in” he became defensive, “I still had her room key after I brought her upstairs after she’d had a few too many drinks, tucked her in, and had left. I came back to check on her after Kathleen practically sent me there”
“And Liv was on the phone with Cassidy, going on about how she loved him, and I just didn’t feel like sticking around to hear all of it”
“You sound awfully jealous” she stared at the grill behind the countertop
“Who wouldn’t be? You spend twelve years with someone and then as quick as lightning, you don’t matter anymore”
Casey turned and stared at him, “Would you have left Kathy for her?”
“Would I – what?” he looked stunned
“Twelve years, your words, not mine” she went on, “I know how close you two are”
“Hide your feelings all you want, but you still managed to hurt her tonight”
“How?” She wants Cassidy, she can have him. I’m not holding her back”
“She wants someone she can grow old with. Elliot, she wants a family”
“I’m a little late for that” he was gruff
“From what I heard, Brian wasn’t ready for one” Casey nudged him
“What makes you think I need a family when I’ve already got one”
“Elliot. She needs someone. At least be a friend to her”
“I’ve been more than that for twelve years. Why do you think I’m so ---“ he dropped the conversation
“Forget about it” she sighed, “Where did the Washington people head off to?”
“I don’t know” he shrugged, “their kids, their families”


“I don’t see why we had to rush back here” Hodgins grumbled
“While we were talking to the detectives from New York, I realized that I had missed something” Bones admitted, “Look here, Mr. Hodgins, what do you see?” she pointed at Angela’s viewing screen
“I don’t know” he shrugged, “her medical history?”
“Precisely” she agreed, “yet her history says nothing of the damage we found on her phalanges, nor to the frontal”
“So she fell while trying to brace herself against the fall, but struck her head” he realized
“And as your photos with Mr. Wells showed, there were no bannister on the stone steps with which she could stop her descent”
“Hang on” Hodgins put his hand up, “Pull up her records again” Bones reluctantly did as he’d requested, “There” he pointed to the screen, “She worked at the same department branch that Maria Grazie did”
“Who would want to kill her and then leave her body where Ms. Grazie could find it?” Bones thought aloud
“Someone who wanted to make sure their work was seen. Maybe it’s a warning?” Hodgins suggested
“Doubtful” Bones waved off the idea
“Hang on” Hodgins dialed a number on his cellular phone, “Hi Angie” he paused, “No no, you go put him down again. Maybe he’ll sleep this time—before you go, how do I pull up the files on our victim?” another pause lapsed, “Ok, great. Love you too” he hung up the phone
“Did you find the information?” Bones drove straight to the point
“Yes” Hodgins keyed in a few instructions into the computer and the screen came alive with a tree of the victim’s contacts, “these are the people she knew at work” he inputted some more keystrokes, “and these are the people that also knew Maria Grazie”
“Merge the two lists” Bones instructed him
“Maybe I should call Angie back” he looked worried
“It’s not that hard” she took the controls from him, “You just—“ she paused
“Ok, I’m calling her” he smiled

District Hotel

Elliot entered his hotel room. Eli was fast asleep, as was Elizabeth, but Dickie and Kathleen were awake
“It’s late” he glanced at his watch
“It’s ok, we’re on vacation” Dickie looked up from his tablet
“Oh, we’re talking now” Elliot smiled
“You – you were right” he halted, “I had a chance with her, and I blew it”
Elliot opened his mouth to say something, but Dickie barreled on,
“And I know, it was stupid because there a billion other girls out there but she’s the only one I can think about”
Elliot sighed, and saw the result of his earlier anger at his adult son
“I know, I need to move on”
“Dickie” Elliot sighed, “Richard” he corrected himself and sat on the edge of the bed, “When I met your mother, I couldn’t get her out of my mind” he began
“But you like Olivia” he was firm
“I—“ Elliot couldn’t say anything else
“Dad” Kathleen interjected, “It’s not like Olivia broke you and Mum up. You can be happily married and still like other people”
“You can—what?”
“It’s complicated” Kathleen explained
“Apparently so” Elliot shrugged
“Dad, I was wrong to give you and Olivia such a hard time. It’s not easy when there are feelings running around like crazy”
“So now I’m getting lectures from my kids?” he smiled
“No” Kathleen shook her head, “We want you to be happy. Sure, it would be great if you and Mum got back together, but not if it’s going to ruin whatever you had before, or sour what you might have in the future”
“Where did all this come from?” Elliot seemed confused
“I guess being away from home, and our regular lives gave us a chance to think about things” Kathleen surmised
“And – “ Dickie tapped his tablet, “I had an argument with that girl I was telling you about”
“Oh” Elliot softened
“We’re not talking right now” he sighed
“It is hard when there’s feelings involved”
“What happened tonight” Kathleen broke in
“What do you mean?” Elliot turned to her
“With Olivia” she emphasized
Elliot sighed, “Nothing”
Kathleen looked crestfallen. Even Dickie looked hurt
“She had a little too much to drink. I took her upstairs to make sure she was safe. I forgot to give back her room key and when I did, she was trying to get back with her ex-boyfriend”
“Oh” Kathleen’s voice was small
“I knew the guy, a long time ago”
After a pause, Kathleen spoke, “What are you going to do?”
“Enjoy spending time with my children” he smiled, “Get this case solved, and go home”


Fin swiped his visitor badge and entered the lab. Hodgins looked up from his work
“What happened?”
“I just had to get away for a bit, so I thought I’d see if I could help out”
“Just trying to find some irrefutable evidence” he shrugged
Fin glanced at Hodgins’ slides and equipment strewn on the table, “Anything I can do to help?”
“Not right now” Hodgins didn’t look up from his microscope
“Nice” Fin glanced at some of Hodgins’ paperwork on the table, “Didn’t plug you for a conspiracy theorist”
“It keeps me sane” Hodgins smiled, still with his eye glued to the scope’s eyepiece
“You don’t really think this is one of those, right?” Fin wondered aloud
“Like the fluoride in our drinking water?” Hodgins looked up, a big grin on his face
“Just throwing it out there” Fin explained, “my old partner was like that”
“He put-” Hodgins began
“No” Fin shook his head, “he had all these crazy ideas, like ranting about the CIA, The Illuminati, being watched”
“We are being watched” Hodgins didn’t miss a beat
“Sounds like you two would have a great conversation” Fin joked
“Why not?”
“Why not put him on a call” Hodgins pointed towards the computer monitor, “If he’s as good as you say he is, he can shed some more light on this case”
“Wait, you don’t really think that there’s a conspiracy around that body showing up out of nowhere?”
“We’ve been spinning our wheels for days” Hodgins explained, “Maybe there really is more than a simple body dump”

District Hotel

“I know Brian” Olivia sighed
There was a knock on the door, “Elliot” she looked up from the phone
There was silence, and then a cough
“Brian, I’ll have to let you go” she mumbled, not realizing the double meaning, and stood to answer the door
“Fin?” she warily placed her hand on the doorknob
She didn’t have a chance to ask another name. The door was nearly blown off its hinges as it was kicked in. Olivia flew back from the impact. Before she could scream, a gloved hand clamped over her mouth. Struggling for air, she bit down on her assailant’s appendage, but it was to no avail. Soon, the heady vapor from the chloroform rendered her unconscious. Her last thought wasn’t about Brian, but rather was about Elliot.

Down the hall, Elliot bolted up from the bed as soon as he heard the door being broken down. He raced down the passageway, but he wasn’t quick enough. Somehow, whoever had come in had left just as quickly, but they weren’t alone. Elliot stared at the empty hotel room and felt a ache in the pit of his stomach. He dialed Fin’s cell phone number.


“I’ve got to go” Fin explained, “Something happened with Olivia”
“Anything I can do from here?” Hodgins wanted to assist
“Just keep working with the bugs” Fin smiled, “and talk to Munch, my old partner. Maybe the two of you can figure something out” he tapped the computer monitor
“Right” Hodgins agreed

Undisclosed location

Olivia lay on the medical table. She’d seen it often enough, as rape victims were prepped and prodded as their rape kits were built, piece by piece, as medical technicians looked for any bit of evidence. However, now she found herself strapped to the table, her feet in metal clamps, her legs splayed apart, her hands pinned to the table with metal rings. She was rendered immobile. She tried to scream, but couldn’t get any air past the ball gag that had been ruthlessly shoved into her mouth and strapped to her head. She looked down, her blouse lay in shreds and her jeans had been torn at the crotch seam, so that while her legs were covered, her pelvis lay open to the cold, dry air of the room.
She strained her eyes to see farther ahead, but could only make out the door. The rest of the room was outfitted like a hospital, with metal shelves lining the walls, replete with bedsheets, medical supplies and other paraphernalia. She struggled against her restraints but automatically froze when she saw the doorknob turn.


United States


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AVasquezArt Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2012  Professional Filmographer
thanks for the :+fav:
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Thanks for the fav!
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Thank you for the :+fav:
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Thank you for the faves!! :boogie:
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You're welcome. I don't want to make Tet Chan feel bad, but Satin's been my favorite for quite awhile. :)
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Thanks for faving "Janine Melnitz : Ghostbuster" [link] Much appreciated :D
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Thanks for faving Rapture & Minx :)
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Thanks for faving Riot :)
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