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Cousin Aurora Lenore
Balki Bartokomous was thirsty for vengeance. He lowered his weapon and waited patiently as the victim came into his sights. Finger steady on the trigger, he closed one eye and aimed at the smirking creature in front of him. “You have elevated me for the last time!” he cried out before pulling the trigger expertly, the bullet quickly finding its target.
“You mean evaded and that was really good, Balki,” Lydia Markham cheered as she sat beside him on the sofa. “Now let me at that little monkey. I’ll pretend it’s my ex-boyfriend Trevor’s butt!”
Balki and Lydia had been playing the small shooting range game for almost thirty minutes now and Balki had already lost track of how many ex-boyfriends she ‘shot’. Balki had found the game at a rummage sale on his way home from the grocery store and couldn’t wait to play it with his cousin, Larry Appleton. Larry, however, was working late at the Chicago Chronicle, so Balki called Lydia to see if she wanted to play.
“So, Balki, is it just me or is Larry working at the paper all the time? Ever since the two of you got back from your trip overseas, he’s been glued to his desk chair,” Lydia pointed out.
“No, Cousin didn’t glue himself to the desk chair. He just working a lot to get his mind off of –- ” Balki stopped before he mentioned Bianca Pierson’s name. Only a week ago, Balki had found out that she and Larry were more than just friends, despite the fact that Larry already had a girlfriend. But while Jennifer Lyons had been away with Balki’s girlfriend Mary Anne Spencer in Canada, Larry and Bianca had developed feelings for one another. Balki was disappointed in both of them for cheating on Jennifer, but Larry was hurt that Jennifer hadn’t called more than two or three times. Mary Anne had called at least seven. Larry assumed that Jennifer had found someone else and had told Balki “turnabout is fair play”. While Balki wasn’t sure what that meant, he figured it meant Larry was trying to ease his guilt by blaming Jennifer.
“Oh, that’s right. Jennifer and Mary Anne are still in Canada. How silly of me,” Lydia replied bashfully before handing him the gun. “Well, it’s your turn. I nailed Bobby, Ricardo, Trevor and Peter right in the –-”
Suddenly, the door opened and Balki turned to see Larry, looking haggard and frail. He still had stubble on his face and his clothes were wrinkled. “Oh, hi, Cousin. Lydia and I were just –-”
“Balki, what are you doing? Put that away! Put it away now!” Larry rushed over to Balki, his eyes wild. “I don’t want to see that thing ever again!”
“Cousin, it’s only a toy –-” Balki began, but Larry cut him off.
“I said put it away, Balki!” he shouted angrily before storming off to his bedroom and slamming the door.
“What’s his problem?” Lydia scoffed, jerking her thumb towards the bedroom door.
Balki felt bad for not being able to tell her the truth. He hated keeping Bianca a secret from everyone, but Larry and Bianca convinced him it was for the best, considering Bianca was from the year two thousand thirteen. “He just fell on the wrong side of his head this morning,” Balki replied, staring at Larry’s bedroom door sadly. How he wished that was the only thing wrong with Larry.
Larry lay back on his bed and swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. How could Balki bring home that–that thing, knowing what Larry had witnessed? Had Balki no heart? No soul? No consideration? Ever since he watched as two people were shot and killed, their bodies lying on the ground in a pool of blood, just the mere sight of guns made his stomach turn in knots. Knots so complex, that even his antacid couldn’t cure it. Larry rolled over on his side and glanced at the picture on the round nightstand by his alarm clock. It was a photo of him and Jennifer, taken only four months earlier. Their smiles were bright and their eyes shone of mutual admiration. Feeling a pang of guilt, he placed the frame with the picture side down and pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket. Quickly fishing through the contents, he found the photo of Bianca, the same one he showed to strangers when she had been abducted. He smiled at the copper ringlets of hair that framed her porcelain face, that perfect smile that would have melted ice cubes in Alaska and those sparkling blue eyes that he found himself lost in many times. He saw her two days ago, but his heart literally ached for her already. He remembered how excited she had been when she found out Greg Kitchens, her grandfather’s apprentice, had saved her robot R.O.B. from the fire that destroyed her home. He hated that she was living with Greg in the year two thousand thirteen while he was stuck without her in nineteen eighty seven. Not that Greg was a bad guy. Quite the contrary, given that he had helped Larry uncover the truth about Bianca’s grandfather and helped them all when Bianca and her grandfather were held captive by her half-cousin. Even though Greg was practically a saint didn’t mean that Larry had to like Bianca’s living arrangements. He would have preferred her living with her grandfather, or better yet, living in the apartment with he and Balki.
Suddenly, a knock at the door startled Larry and he quickly shoved the photo back in his wallet and threw it on the nightstand.
“Cousin, you asleep?” Balki asked softly on the other side.
Larry thought for a minute about remaining quiet in hopes Balki would think he was asleep, but he sighed. “No, Balki. I’m just resting.”
Balki took that as a sign to enter and gently opened the door. “Cousin, I’m sorry about that carnival game Lydia and I were playing. If I knew it would make you jump off the deep end, I wouldn’t have brought it home.”
“It’s okay, Balki. It - it wasn’t the game that upset me as much as it was the –-”
“The dart gun,” Balki finished. “Oh, Cousin. I should have realized you were still shaken not stirred by the thought and sight of guns. Can you forgive me?”
Larry sighed and sat up. “Of course I forgive you, Balki.”
“Oh, boy am I retrieved!” Balki clutched his heart and sighed in relief before sitting beside Larry. “Cousin, I’m worried about you. You work all day and the only times you come home are to sleep and when you know Bianca is visiting. And I tell you why Mary Anne say Jennifer hasn’t called you: she has Larry-ite-is!”
“That’s laryngitis, Balki and I understand that, but she’s not calling me now, is she? Just face it, the woman who I thought loved me has changed. She doesn’t give a damn about Larry Appleton anymore.”
“Oh po po. Cousin, that is such a far crime from the truth. If anyone changed, it’s you. Cousin, I know you like Bianca, but you already have a girlfriend! You know what you and Bianca are doing is wrong. You should either break up with Jennifer or Bianca. You can’t go around silly stringing them along.”
Larry ran his hand through his hair. “You think I don’t know that, Balki? I realize I have to choose, but I – I just need time to process everything. I love them both.”
Balki stood up and stretched. “As long as you know you have to choose, Cousin.”
Larry looked up at Balki, a flash of hope in his eyes. “Did, uh, Bianca come while I was at work? Have you heard from her?”
“No, Cousin. But Bianca say she will be here tomorrow with bells on. I hope she will play us a nice jingle,” Balki replied before laughing and raising his arms in the air. “Where do I come up with them?”
Larry smiled wryly. “I really have no idea. But I wonder what Bianca is doing now? Knowing her, she’s either working on a new invention or working on her web design business.” Whatever it is, it’s got to be more fun than what I’m doing, Larry added silently to himself.
Bianca pressed her cheek against the cold tile floor and moaned. How many drinks did she have? Five? Six? Ten? She remembered pouring the bottle of whiskey into a tiny shot glass she found in Greg’s cupboard, but the only thing she remembered afterward was the whiskey coming back up. Why did she even decide to drink, anyway? Normally, she hated alcohol. But I guess when you and your grandfather get kidnapped by your sick half-cousin, you watch your friend die and the man you are falling for already has someone else, you find new hobbies, she thought bitterly. It didn’t help to learn earlier that her aforementioned sick half-cousin succumbed to the tumor that affected his behavior. Her hateful-yet-remorseful Aunt Liv’s dying request was for Bianca to protect her son Jacob “J.J.” Langley at all costs and she couldn’t do it. Even though it was his fault mostly. If he hadn’t been so jealous and sick enough to kidnap her, she might have been able to help him before it was too late.
As she heard Greg’s cuckoo clock strike eleven, she knew she needed to peel herself off his bathroom floor and brush her teeth. She had a meeting with a potential client tomorrow, thanks to her biggest fan and flamboyant friend/art dealer Serge. Serge had promised her more business and he had delivered. She already had five calls in less than forty eight hours from people interested in her web design skills. If only time-hopping and binge drinking weren’t so exhausting!
Suddenly, the phone rang and she moaned, reaching her arm out as if to grab it in mid-air. “R.O.B., answer the phone,” she slurred loudly to her loyal robot.
“Miss Bianca, an Alek Remmler is on the phone asking for you,” R.O.B. entered a minute later, extending the cordless phone to her.
“Hello?” she asked, placing the phone to her ear with as little movement as possible.
“Bianca, are you alright? You sound ill,” Alek queried.
“Oh, yeah. I’m staying alive,” she slurred. “What’s happening?”
Alek laughed nervously and Bianca knew he realized what was wrong with her. “I just wanted you to know that Jacob’s will is being read tomorrow and I thought since you and Henry are family, you would want to come.”
“You really think he left anything in his will to us? He hated us! Besides, I have a meeting with a client tomorrow if I can get rid of this pesky hangover in time.”
“You don’t have to come, but the invitation is open to you, Henry and even Greg if he wants to come. Usually it’s just for family, but I figured what the hell, you know?”
Bianca closed her eyes and mentally nodded in agreement. “Okay. I’ll see. What time?”
Alek chuckled. “Think you can get rid of your pesky hangover by four o’clock?”
“I’ll work on it. Thanks, Alek. Bye-bye,” she replied before pressing the button to end the call. Not thinking, she quickly sat up and handed the phone back to R.O.B. “Here you – ohhhh,” she moaned before once again hugging the proverbial porcelain throne.
“Ah, Greg; what brings you by?”
Greg entered into his mentor Henry Pierson’s home and followed him into the living room. “Well, I was just wondering if –- ”
“Sorry. Just move the Selective Memory Eraser out of the way and have a seat,” Henry interrupted, gesturing to an amber easy chair where a mechanism that looked like a cross between a cross bow and a dart gun lay.
Greg gingerly picked it up as if it would bite and carefully laid it on the floor next to him. “Cause that’s not creepy at all,” he muttered before sitting down. At least knowing an inventor meant there was never a dull moment. “Actually,” he began again in his normal voice, “I was hoping you could help me out. Remember when you gave me that pill to slip into Larry’s drink to alter his dreams? Well, I don’t need that again, but I was hoping for something similar.”
Henry nodded before leaning forward in his own chair. “Continue.”
Greg folded and unfolded his hands nervously on his lap. Why was this so difficult? It wasn’t like he was asking for marijuana or opiates. “Well, you see, Bianca has been having a bit of trouble sleeping lately, but she won’t take anything. She says the same about Larry. I mean, Larry might have a little Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the whole – you know – but I just thought that maybe … ” Greg trailed off, wanting to kick himself for rambling.
Henry leaned back in his chair and scratched his chin. “Greg, I understand you want to help B and Larry, but do you really think drugging them is the best way to go? When I asked you to slip my REM sleep alteration pill into Larry’s tea, it was because I wanted to warn him and help him save Bianca and tell her I was still alive. But to drug two people just because they can’t sleep? That’s dishonest.”
“No more dishonest than doing it to Larry, help or no help,” Greg found himself blurting out. Oh, crap; I just said that out loud to my boss. Well, it was nice knowing me, he thought bitterly, wishing he could use an invention to rewind his famous last words.
To his surprise, shock, horror, and relief, Henry threw back his head and laughed. “Greg, I like you. You are a funny guy. But you’re right; it was dishonest to slip the drug into his drink. Truth is, I was thinking about doing something similar for Larry just the other day. Bianca says he can’t even look at a gun without getting rattled.”
“So, you’re okay with it? You’ll give me a couple?” Greg asked hopefully.
“I propositioned the thought regarding Larry, but B is my granddaughter. I’m not sure I feel good about you drugging my girl. Are you sure she’s not sleeping?”
Greg wasn’t sure what felt worse: sticking his flip-flop covered foot in his mouth or feeling as if he were about to be interrogated. “Of course I’m sure. S-she lives with me, so I see stuff – wait; not like that – I mean, you know. I hear her raiding the fridge at three in the morning and working on her web sites from dusk till dawn. She is going through at least four pots of coffee a day and I think she’s taking up residence at Starbucks, too.”
Henry stood up and patted Greg on the shoulder. “I think you need to lay off the coffee, my friend. The pills are in the medicine cabinet in my bathroom. They should be labeled accordingly. I think there should be a new bottle of sleeping pills. Take them, but if you get caught, I know nothing.”
Greg stood up. “Thanks. I promise I’ll be careful with them. I just want them to sleep well.”
As he made his way into the bathroom, he felt glad he had stopped by to ask Bianca’s genius grandfather for assistance. Even though Bianca and Larry would never know that he was behind it, he would feel better just knowing they got much needed rest.
Okay, he said it was labeled accordingly, but my God! he thought as he opened the cabinet and saw at least sixty generic brown pill bottles lining the shelves. He could feel his eyes growing blurry as he scrolled past label after label.
“A-ha!” he cried as he finally found the one he was looking for. As he reached for it, however, he knocked the bottle next to it off the shelf and both of them tumbled to the floor. Cursing, he grabbed them and put the other bottle back before closing the medicine cabinet and stuffing the original bottle in his pocket. “Thank you, Henry. I owe you,” he whispered as he exited the room, whistling.
Larry stirred the pot of vegetable soup and glanced at the phone. “Come on, Appleton; just call your girlfriend in Canada and tell her the truth,” he chastised himself. “Tell her that you met someone new and get it over with.”
Placing the wooden spoon back on the spoon holder and wiping his hands on the dishtowel over his shoulder, he picked up the phone and dialed the strange numerical number for her room in Ontario. One ring. Two…
Quickly Larry hung up. “Oh, well; she’s not home. What a shame.”
“Do you always talk to yourself or is it just the soup making you do it?” a voice from the living room joked.
Larry jumped. “Greg! What on Earth are you doing here?” he asked. “Is Bianca here?”
“Well, hello to you, too, and no Bianca isn’t here. She’s feeling … under the weather today,” Greg replied. “She asked me to check up on you and so here I am. Soup smells delicious.”
“Well, there’s not enough for you,” Larry retorted, although he knew Greg could see by the depth of the pot, there was more than enough.
“Didn’t come for veggies and broth. I just came to say hello. Bianca said to tell you hello and that she is thinking about you.”
Larry smiled involuntarily. “I’m thinking about her, too. She’s not very ill, is she? If she wants, I can have you take her home some of this soup.”
“Oh, but yet, there wasn’t enough for me,” Greg laughed. “No, she’ll be fine. She’s just really tired. You know her; works too long and too hard and then crashes for hours on end.”
“Greg!” Balki cried happily as he exited his bedroom and saw him. “It’s so good to see you!”
“Good to see you, too, Balki,” Greg nodded as he was embraced by Balki‘s hug.
Larry rolled his eyes and returned to stir the soup. Balki liked anybody, whether they be serial killers or nice guys who are just too close to other people’s girlfriends.
“Look, Balki and I need to go pick up our laundry and run an errand really quick. Can you stay here and mind the soup?” Larry finally asked with a sigh.
“Cousin, I don’t think the soup is going to tell Greg what to do, but he can watch it and make sure it don’t boil over,” Balki replied.
“Yeah, I think I can do that,” Greg nodded again, walking over to the kitchen.
“And Greg? It doesn’t need any more salt or pepper,” Larry stated as Greg was just reaching for the small shakers on the bar. “Just watch it.”
As Larry left the apartment with Balki in tow, he couldn’t help but wonder if the task of watching soup would be too much for Greg. If Greg couldn’t watch soup, what made Bianca’s grandfather possibly think he could watch over Bianca?
Greg breathed a sigh of relief as soon as they were gone, but he knew he had a job to do. All he had to do was make a nice cup of tea for both of them and then make sure Larry took the cup with the sleeping pill. No big deal. So easy, a baby could do it.
Humming the theme song to Mission: Impossible, he found the tea bags and began to put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. He involuntarily stuck out his tongue at the plain Lipton tea bags. One of the many reasons he enjoyed being from the year two thousand thirteen was that Greg much preferred eucalyptus tea to just plain hot or cold tea.
A few minutes later and Greg had set two teacups atop two saucers on the bar. “We’ll have Larry’s on the left,” he mumbled, pulling the medicine bottle from his pocket.
“What is the matter with this lid? It won’t come off,” he grunted, as he struggled with the small white cap. “It says childproof, but I think it means Greg Kitchens proof!”
Suddenly, the lid flew off and pills went everywhere. Greg looked down into the vegetable soup and gasped. At least four pills had fallen in the pot and were dissolving rapidly. “Oh, no. Now what am I going to do? This is a disaster.”
“What’s a disaster?”
“Nothing, nothing. I – aah!” Greg jumped to find Larry in the doorway. “Geez, you scared me!”
“Yeah, it’s not fun, is it?” Larry quipped. “I just came back to get my clipboard. You never know when you might need it. So, what did you mean by saying this was a disaster?”
Greg frantically searched his brain until he found a plausible excuse. “I was just thinking about everything with Jacob. He died yesterday and now Alek asked Henry and Bianca to go to the reading of his will. Total waste of time, but the whole thing is just a big disaster.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. Tell Bianca I’m sorry for her loss, but I still can’t feel a lot of sympathy toward the guy. He was crazy and made our lives hell. Tumor or no tumor, he is still responsible for – well, everything,” Larry replied, physically shuddering before grabbing his clipboard and leaving quickly.
Greg stirred the pot of vegetable soup and laughed bitterly. “Well, by tonight, you won’t even remember we had this little chat. You and Balki will be in a vegetable soup and drug-induced coma. And this accident was brought to you by the letters oh-em-gee.” At least he hoped Serge was having an easier time with Bianca.
“And so I thought we could move the photo of the rotating Zeus with the top hat over there and slide that marvelous painting of the half-alien-half-mermaid up to the top because it is too spectacular of a piece to have to scroll down to view, don’t you think?” Serge knew he was gushing as he and Bianca sat in his penthouse in front of his laptop, but he couldn’t help it. He knew he had Bianca to thank for his recent boom in business at the gallery. As he looked to his left, however, sitting in one of his outlandish martini-glass shaped chairs, he could tell that her mind was elsewhere. “Bianca, my dear, are you even paying attention?”
Bianca jumped at her name and looked over at him. “Uh, yeah; sure. You want the painting thing moved,” she murmured.
Serge clapped his hands together briskly, like a flamenco dancer would do. “You know what you need? You need one of my famous espressos with a leh-mon twist. I’ll make you one right now; I got the time.” He then grabbed her hands, pulling her to his feet. “You, come, come; look at my music collection, breathe in the enchantment of the room, take a load off. I’ll be right back, so don’t go anywhere.”
As soon as Serge entered his kitchen / mini-bar, he got busy making his infamous espresso. He missed the old Bianca Pierson; the one with the fire in her eyes and passion in her soul. She was a firecracker with reddish-brown hair and he grew to love her dearly. But after she left the Longhorn Castle in England, she had become but a mere shell of her former self. “But hopefully, all she needs is a good forty-winks and she’ll be as good as new,” he whispered as he took the pill Greg had given him from his pocket and slipped it into her drink. He hated drugging people, but his old boss, Victor Maitland had forced him to do it many times. Now that he was his own boss, he was doing it yet again, but this time, there was no threat of life or limb. Just the possibility to save a dear friend’s smoldering flame. In fact, her flame was dying so quickly, Serge decided to slip in another pill, just for good measure. What harm could one more sleeping pill in a caffeinated drink do?
“Cousin, wake up; you’re going to miss the part where Murdock escapes from the mental warden again,” Balki yawned as he sat on the couch next to Larry.
“Balki,” Larry moaned, waving him off as he sat with his head resting against the back of the sofa, “I’m too tired to watch The A-Team. I’m too tired to even say it.”
Balki yawned again, but was determined to watch the rest of their favorite hour long show. He had to admit that he was just as exhausted as Larry, but they didn’t have a VCR or a futuristic DVR like the one Bianca had, so Balki had no other option but to finish. He looked over at Larry, who had his eyes closed, mouth open and a bit of drool forming on the corner of his mouth. “Cousin! If you can’t wait another forty-five minutes to get your forty tiddlywinks, then at least go to bed! You’re drooling on the couch.”
Larry jolted awake. “Wha – ? Did you say Bianca was here?”
Balki sighed. “Cousin, go to bed. Put on your pajamas and go to bed!”
“But the bedroom is so far away,” Larry whined.
Balki rolled his eyes and yawned again before he effortlessly picked his cousin up from the couch and carried him in his arms to the bedroom. Once inside, Balki dropped him onto the bed before collapsing across the foot of the mattress. “Cousin?”
“I have nothing more to give!”
Larry groaned. “Balki, why are we so tired? All we had was vegetable soup and water … or was it tea?”
Balki didn’t move from where he lay on his stomach, face pressed onto the bedspread. “Cousin, Greg made us tea, remember? He said he’d watch the vegetable sop while we ran our earrings,” he mumbled.
Larry yawned. “Errands, Balki; while we ran our – oh my Lord! Remind me as soon as I wake up to murder Greg Kitchens.”
Balki managed to pick himself up and stumble to the bedroom door. “Cousin, you can’t kill Greg. It would be a federal defense and you would go to jail. Can’t believe you would want to hurt a nice man like Greg who made us tea and watched over our soup and Bianca –-”
Balki’s sentence was interrupted, however, by the sound of Larry snoring. He wasn’t sure why Larry disliked Greg so much, but he was too tired to care. Right now, his biggest feat would be to retreat to his own room, put on his pajamas and curl into bed before passing out.
Bianca couldn’t hear what Serge was saying on the phone to Greg, but it sounded serious. Which made her giggle like a schoolgirl. She liked sleeping over at Serge’s house. Not that she’d ever done it before, but she made a mental note to do it more often. His guestroom had a large circular bed in it and the ceiling above was mostly windows, so she could look up and see the stars twinkling in the night sky. In the daytime, he had a button on his wall that made a little piece of the ceiling slide and cover the skylight. She smiled wistfully at the thought. When she was able to build her new house, she would have a room just like this, sliding ceiling and all. It’s a good thing I skipped Jacob’s silly little will-reading today. Spending the day with Serge was much more fun. Just saying his name is fun: Serge, Serge, Serge. Serge the art-dealer. Serge the espresso-making Wildman. Serge the ladies’ man. Or is that not right? Who cares? He’s got great hair, she thought, giggling sporadically. She couldn’t figure out why she was so sleepy. She wasn’t just sleepy. She was “I stayed up so late that I now find everything hysterical and am seeing pink elephants wearing polka-dotted underpants” sleepy.
“Serge!” she called, although she could barely hear herself for the mental voice screaming to go to sleep.
“You are still awake? Oh my,” Serge rushed in, but Bianca could barely see him for the thick fog in front of her. She waved it away and giggled.
“Was I supposed to be asleep? Shhh, I think I am,” she replied before flopping back on the bed laughing hysterically.
“Please go to sleep, Miss Bianca,” he whined.
Bianca buzzed her lips together. “Okay. Let me just get a glass of water. You won’t have to twist my arm or anything. Cause that would hurt,” she giggled again.
“No, no. You stay right there and I will get the glass of water,” Serge stopped her before exiting the room, mumbling something inaudible.
“Tell the pink elephants to pull up their britches!” she called out before wildly fluffing her pillow and resting her head on it. “Night, little elephants. Night, Serge,” she whispered before sleep enveloped her.
Larry sat up and rubbed his face with his hands. How long had he been asleep? As he took his hands away from his face and his eyes focused, he looked out to see bright blue sky and white fluffy clouds. What a beautiful day for a ride!
Wait; a ride! he thought as he looked down to see he was still in his bed and wearing his pajamas. “Oh my Lord! My bed – it’s … flying!” he exclaimed, grabbing the sheets and looking terrified as he continued to smoothly levitate in the air.
“Wheeee!” a voice called out behind him. Larry forced himself to turn his head to see who the voice belonged to, although he already knew.
“Balki? Balki! What is happening? Beds are not supposed to fly!”
“Oh, Cousin, don’t be such a fish stick in the mud,” Balki replied as his bed caught up to Larry‘s. “This is fun!”
Larry glared at Balki. “Fun? This is fun? Balki, this is not fun; this is dangerous! We could be killed by a – by a seven-forty-seven jetliner or a wayward gaggle of geese! We have to get down – NOW!”
As if on cue, Larry’s bed begin dropping at a fast rate of speed. Larry flopped forward onto his stomach, holding onto the sheets and blankets for dear life. “Oh God … oh God,” he kept saying over and over, trying to ignore his fast heart rate and Balki’s childlike laughter.
Minutes later, the bed landed on the ground – thankfully not too harshly – and Larry forced himself to look up. “Where … are we?”
“I don’t know, Cousin, but look who’s here! Bianca!” Balki cried, leaping off the bed and running to their friend.
“Bianca!” Larry gasped, doing the same. When he reached her, he hugged her tightly and kissed her as if his life depended on it.
“Larry!” she giggled. “What was that for? And where are we?”
As the three of them looked around, Larry had to admit it was beautiful. There were green meadows as far as the eye could see, with white picket fences and quaint blue, white and yellow houses all in a row a few yards from the fields. A large windmill stood in the center of the fields and two dogs frolicked around the windmill, barking and playfully yelping at one another. The blue sky and cotton candy clouds were still overhead and the sun shone down on them brightly. Larry had never seen anything more beautiful in his life and he instinctively grabbed Bianca’s hand.
“Cousin, this looks beautiful! If only you had your camera; this view is a Kojak moment!” Balki exclaimed.
“It does look amazing, doesn’t it?” Larry repeated.
“Well, except for that,” Bianca stated, pointing to their left.
Larry followed her gaze and finger until he saw a very black cloud in the distance. He could see flashes of lightning and the haze of pounding rain falling below it. It looked as if it were heading slowly in their direction, but Larry couldn’t quite tell.
“Wwoww!” Balki cried out as seconds later, a gust of wind blew so hard, Bianca’s copper curls were going every which direction. Even the dogs took notice, for they ran off, yelping as if they had been injured.
“Um, guys?” Bianca asked as calmly as she could. “I seriously think now would be a really good time to –-”
“Run!” Larry shouted for her as the cloud suddenly appeared much closer than before. Still grabbing Bianca’s hand, he grabbed Balki’s arm with his other hand and the three of them jumped over the white fence and towards the row of houses. “Maybe one of them has a storm shelter!” he yelled over the howling wind.
“Look out!” Bianca screamed as the windmill began to wobble back and forth before falling forward, barely missing Balki by a few feet.
“Cousin, I can’t feel the ground!” Balki hollered.
Larry looked over at him, about to say something sarcastic when he saw that sure enough, Balki was off the ground! “Balki!” he screamed, trying to pull him down, but the wind was too strong. “No! No!”
“Larry, you have to let go!” Bianca cried out.
Larry looked at her as if she’d grown two heads. “Are you crazy? He’ll be sucked into the cloud from Hell!”
“Larry, you have to! Just let go!”
“No! I can’t and I won’t!”
“Cousin!” Balki cried, his feet up over his head as he was hanging on as tight as he could. “I can’t get a grip!”
“Balki!” Larry screamed as his cousin lost his grip completely and was sucked up into the cloud. “No!”
Suddenly, the dark cloud disappeared and Bianca looked over at Larry. “Now it’s just the two of us,” she smiled.
Larry’s jaw dropped as soon as the words came out of her mouth. As he looked at her face, however, her white teeth transformed into green sharp teeth with protruding fangs and her eyes turned from their perfect blue into evil slits with red flames. Her hair then changed into venomous snakes with three heads and Larry screamed with all of his might, trying desperately to run, but one of the three-headed snakes wrapped around his torso and picked him up. He closed his eyes, waiting for death to come …. and it did.
“Calm down, Serge; deep breaths,” Greg instructed over the phone as the flamboyant art dealer tried frantically to explain what had just happened.
“I cannot calm down; Miss Bianca ran out of here as if my penthouse were aflame, yelling something about giant snakes and that she didn’t kill anyone. Greg, I am terrified of snakes and serpent-like creatures and she said there were more than one!”
Greg tried a different approach. “Where are you now?”
“Where do you think I am, the Grand Palace? I am standing on top of my counter in the kitchen inside my penthouse, terrified of the snakes Miss Bianca saw before she shot off!”
“Where is the machine?”
Greg sighed. “Her special car! Where is her special car?”
“Oh, that,” Serge replied. “She took off inside it and I don’t see it now. Look, Greg, what are we going to do about these snakes? I cannot spend the rest of my time standing on counters. Are you going to call a snake charmer?”
Greg shook his head. “A snake charm – you mean an exterminator? Serge, I’m in Chicago and you are in Beverly Hills. I think you should call.”
“Listen, Greg,” Serge growled. “You owe me. I did what you asked and put the sleeping pills inside Miss Bianca’s espresso – with a leh-mon twist. My telephone directorial is in the other room and so is my laptop and cell phone!”
Greg sighed again. “Okay, okay. I’ll find the number – wait; did you say pills? Pills with an ‘s’, as in plural? I told you to only give her one!”
“Well, you gave me two pills and I thought what harm could it do? The girl was so on edge if you were to blow on her, she would’ve fallen into the great abyss. Did I know that the two pills would make her crazy? Well of course I didn’t and you know why? Because that would have been ridiculous!” Serge defended.
“Serge, if you gave her two sleeping pills, odds are the snake thing was just a bad dream. Look, she’s not here but I think I know where she went. Just get down off the counter. I am ninety-nine percent sure there are no giant snakes in your penthouse. She woke up from a bad dream and panicked. That’s all,” Greg explained, trying really hard not to say what he was actually thinking. If Bianca didn’t like Serge so much, Greg would have told the crazy-accented dude to stick his head in a paint mixer a long time ago. But Bianca did like Serge and it seemed as if he reciprocated her feelings. So Greg had no choice but to ask for his help and play nice with him.
“Are you sure? You know where Miss Bianca is? I hope she wasn’t too under the influence when she drove away, because that is a very dangerous thing to do.”
Greg grabbed a candy wrapper off the kitchen counter and began to rub it between his fingers, causing a crackling sound. “Serge, I’m sorry …. we have a … connection … you back … find Bianca …,” he said before hitting the End Call button.
Well, I honestly don’t like her time traveling under the influence, either, but I know where she went, so I feel a little better, he thought to himself.
By the time the machine had appeared inside the apartment, Bianca thankfully had managed to catch her breath. She saw Larry sitting at the kitchen table with his back to her, eating cereal and drinking coffee. She knew it had just been a terrible dream, but she instantly felt better when she saw him for herself. “Larry?” she asked slowly as she exited the machine.
Larry turned around and blinked when he saw her. “Bianca? What a nice surprise!” He walked over to kiss her, but before he could, Balki ran out of his room as if he were on fire.
“Cousin, Cousin! Beware the – oh, hi, Bianca – beware the – BIANCA!” Balki gushed.
Larry walked over to Balki. “Balki, what is it? What’s the matter?”
Balki grabbed his cousin’s arm and tried to catch his breath. “Oh, Cousin; I just had the most horrible dream that you, me and Bianca were in this giant meadow with a fence, dogs and a –-”
“Windmill,” Bianca found herself whispering aloud, causing them both to look at her, wide-eyed.
“How did you know?” they both asked in unison before exchanging looks of their own.
“Because that’s why I’m here. I dreamed it too. Balki got sucked into the twister and I –-” Bianca stopped herself, visibly shuddering from the memory.
“Wwoww,” Balki breathed. “I didn’t know we were all watching the same show in our heads!”
“But how is that possible? Three people having the exact same dream?” Larry questioned, scratching his head.
Bianca sighed. “I’m not sure, but something tells me this has Serge, Greg and my grandfather written all over it. What I’m not sure of is why.”
“Well, Greg was here earlier,” Larry recollected. “He said he was checking up on us and we left him with the soup boiling.”
“Yeah, and when we came back, he had made us two very nice cups of tea,” Balki added.
Larry’s eyes grew wide and he snapped his fingers. “That’s right! I knew that Greg had a twitchy eye for some reason! He drugged us!”
“And I spent the night at Serge’s house,” Bianca said, ignoring the jealous look from Larry, “who was very insistent that I drink his espresso with lemon. The little artsy troll drugged me, too! But why would they drug us with pills to make us dream the exact same thing?”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but other than the fact it was a horrible dream, it was kind of nice sharing it with you both,” Balki smiled.
Bianca looked at Larry as he shuddered. He wasn’t the only one. That dream had been something else. She now looked at her shoulder-blade length copper hair and wondered if she should chop it off, lest it remind her, Balki and Larry of serpents. “Well, at least my hair isn’t trying to kill you,” she said aloud before she could stop herself.
Larry laughed nervously. “Yeah." He then shook his head as if to clear his mind. “The good thing is that it was only a nightmare and you’re here now.”
Bianca allowed Larry to kiss her, but she knew that he hadn’t told Jennifer the truth yet. If just knowing it by Larry’s body language wasn’t enough, she could see it in Balki’s disappointed gaze at him after the kiss. “I should go,” she whispered sadly, her forehead touching Larry’s.
“No, please; stay,” Larry urged, but Bianca walked away with a tear in her eye. She almost wished she was asleep again. Even if Larry was in her dream, maybe she wouldn’t feel her heart breaking in her subconscious mind.
“Cousin, Cousin, Cousin,” Balki tsked. “Po po po po po. Why you not call Jennifer right now and tell her that you fell in love with someone else? Jennifer deserves to know the truth, even if it’s gonna chew up and spit out her heart.”
Larry followed Balki to the couch. “Balki, that’s why I can’t tell Jenn the truth. I don’t want her to be so hurt and crushed. I mean, there’s no telling how long it will take her to get over me. I don’t want her to die from heartbreak because Larry Appleton, the man of her dreams, left her for another woman. I mean, think of the guilt that will put on me, Balki!”
“Cousin, normally I would fall apart at the thought of Jennifer having a rack with guilt, but cut the babasticki! I don’t want Jennifer to be heartbroken, either, but you don’t want to tell her for another reason and that is because you are afraid she won’t fall apart. Cousin, Bianca deserves your heart but if you are not willing to give her yours with no yarn attached, then the two of you should not be kissing and whatever else you two like to do behind folded doors.”
Larry gave Balki a double-take before standing up and going to the kitchen. “Balki, I don’t want to talk about this any longer, okay? Can you just back off?”
“Because you know I speak the truth,” Balki retorted before muttering in Myposian. While Balki wasn’t sure if Larry would really choose Bianca or Jennifer, he knew one thing for sure: someone was going to wind up hurt. He just hoped it wouldn’t be his Cousin, for waiting too long and to have both Bianca and Jennifer dump him. Things were so much simpler in dreams.
He could feel her eyes boring into the back of his head, but Serge refused to turn around and look at her. Even after she had told both he and the man sitting across the table from him that she had a bone to pick with them. He would not turn around and look into those accusing eyes for fear he might fall apart and confess to everything.
“First off, I know about the pills,” she continued.
Damn, Serge thought. She should work with Detective Foley. He glanced at Greg, who stared off into space, a look that clearly stated he was as guilty as sin. Which he was.
Finally, Serge turned around, unable to take it anymore. “It was his idea; he made me do it!” he confessed, pointing at Greg.
“Oh yeah, Serge; I really held a gun to your head and made you do it,” Greg spat.
“Don’t be speaking of putting a gun up to my head. I had enough of that with Victor Maitland. I am so sorry, Miss Bianca; I had no idea the trauma that it would cause you and –-”
“No, I wanted to thank you,” Bianca interrupted. “Well, not about the sneaking around part, but the whole sleep thing. You’re right. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I want to thank you for taking good care of me, Larry and Balki. I just didn’t exactly like your methods.”
“Wait; you’re okay with it?” Greg gaped.
“Were you not listening?” Bianca asked, wide-eyed. “In fact, can you get some more for me and the guys? Just so we can have them off-hand?”
“Well, you would have to ask your darling grandfather, since that is where Mr. Drug Dealer got them,” Serge replied.
Bianca laughed. “I figured that much. So can you get some more, Greg? Please? Maybe not so much for me, but for Larry. He’s having a hard time dealing with the whole ‘gun’ issue and I need to make sure he sleeps and doesn’t have any nightmares.”
“Uh, sure,” Greg replied slowly, scratching his head. “Yeah, let me just go do that now.”
As Greg stood up, so did Serge, but Bianca quickly placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “Not so fast.”
“What? What’d I do? I thought I was off the hook?”
Bianca laughed. “Not until you take me out for a chocolate milkshake. You owe me that much for adding a new twist to your espresso.”
Serge smiled at her and kissed the back of her hand. “It would be my pleasure.”
What a wonderful, forgiving woman she was!
As soon as Greg knocked on the door and Henry answered, he knew he was in trouble. “I was expecting you back a lot sooner, Greg,” he said sternly.
“Really? I didn’t get a call,” Greg replied, his voice slightly higher as he walked in the house.
“Do you have any idea,” Henry began, “what you gave my granddaughter and her friends?”
Is this a trick question? Greg thought. “Uh, sleeping pills?”
“Wrong, Greg. You gave them pills that allow the three of them to be connected in their dreams!”
“What?” Greg wracked his brain and immediately face palmed himself when he remembered dropping the two bottles. “I accidentally grabbed the wrong pills. I’m sorry. But what harm could it do? So they sleep better and now can be with each other in dreams. I don’t see a problem.”
Henry sighed. “That’s not the point, Greg. I trusted you with Bianca’s safety and you botched it up. What if you had mixed up another medication, huh? I have pills in there that will make your body go numb, pills that will make you tell the truth, and even pills that will cause a woman to be infertile!”
“Wait; why would you need a pill to make a woman – you know what? Never mind. I came back because B asked me to get some more. If I bring back just plain sleeping pills, she’ll know something’s different. Please tell me you have more of the pills I accidentally switched.”
“Here,” Henry sighed again, shoving the bottle in his hands. “Next time, please be more careful.”
Greg looked down, feeling like the teacher’s pet getting sent to the principal’s office. “Yes, sir. Bianca wanted me to ask you one other thing next time I saw you. She was invited to go to Jacob’s will reading yesterday and she played hooky. Did she miss anything?”
Henry laughed. “Not a thing. All I got was a lousy ‘Sorry I was a jackass’ from him. Alek got most of it. Bianca didn’t get a thing from him. It would have been an hour of her life she would have never gotten back.”
Greg smiled, glad he was saved by the Jacob question. “Okay, well, I had better be going. I’ll take a look at that D47 transmitter real soon, I promise.”
“Okay, Greg. And remember to be more careful, huh?”
Greg nodded as he walked backwards and out the door, never happier to leave Henry Pierson’s home and presence.
“Ohh,” Larry muttered after he took a gulp of his antacid and sat on the sofa, head in his hands. He didn’t think things could get worse after Bianca left and Balki lectured him, but they did. Without intending to, Balki had been watching TV when a John Wayne movie came on. Normally Larry loved John Wayne movies, but as soon as he saw the infamous actor pull his gun out of his holster and shoot the bad guy, Larry had to leave the room. For the rest of the day, images of Jacob holding the gun and firing it, killing both Quinn and Valeena plagued his mind as if they were on constant replay. He went for a walk, worked on his article for the paper, but nothing helped. Balki, who felt miserable for causing Larry’s breakdown, had left to go mail a package at the post office to his mama. He longed for Bianca to come back and just hold him in her arms and tell him everything would be okay.
“Everything with Bianca might be okay if I could just get up the courage to call Jennifer and tell her the truth,” he scolded himself, shooting up from the sofa and going to the telephone. There on a notepad beside the phone was the number to where Jennifer and Mary Anne were living in Ontario. Taking a deep breath, he picked up the receiver and quickly dialed the number. One ring. Two rings. Three rings …
“Hello?” a familiar voice answered and Larry felt his heart sink down into his shoes.
“Hi, Mary Anne. It’s Larry. Can I please talk to Jennifer?”
“Oh, hi, Larry! I guess you can, but she’s not here right now. Can I take a message?”
Larry sighed. “Uh, no. No message.”
“Alright,” Mary Anne’s bubbly voice replied. “Well, I can tell her you called.”
“You know what? I’m sure she’s really busy, so you don’t even have to tell her I called.”
“Oh, okay. So you want me to forget you called?” she asked.
Larry wrapped the phone cord around his finger. “Yeah, just forget I called.”
“Okay, I guess we better hang up now so I won’t remember.”
Larry raised his eyebrows in question. “O-kay. Bye, Mary-Anne.”
As soon as he hung up the phone, he cursed out loud. The one time he had managed to find the courage and Jenn wasn’t even there! He stood there a moment, placing his head on the bar, but the image of John Wayne and Jacob came back into his mind and he spun around to go lie down on the sofa.
Suddenly, he saw a small medicine bottle and a note on the coffee table. “Well, that wasn’t there before,” he muttered, walking over and picking up the note. “Larry, saw you were busy but here are some more sleeping pills in case you or Balki are still having trouble sleeping. Bianca said she needed more, so I thought I’d give you guys a few. Later, Greg,” he read before throwing the note back down on the table. “What, you think the only thing that will help me now are pills? Thanks but no thanks, Greg,” he snorted.
Bianca said she needed more, his mind recalled from the note. He hated that she was having trouble sleeping, too.
“But there is no way that I am going to bow down and live my life around stupid sleeping pills,” he told himself as he opened the bottle and popped two of them in his mouth.
Bianca had never been more nervous in her life as she stood with Larry and Balki on the front porch of the large two-story house.
Before she had the chance to flee, however, the front door opened and an older woman with friendly eyes and brown and grey hair smiled at them. “My Larry boy! Oh it’s so good to see you!” she cried, hugging him.
“Nice to see you, too, Mom,” Larry returned the hug.
“Aunt Lois!” Balki shouted, giving the woman a warm hug. “You look amazing!”
“Well, thank you Balki. And who is this young woman here, Larry?”
Larry’s chest practically swelled with pride and Bianca felt herself blush. “Mom, this is Bianca Pierson; my girlfriend.”
“Bianca Pierson,” a male voice called from inside the house. “Well, don’t just keep her outside, Lawrence; let her in.”
“Oh, yes, Dad,” Larry replied, quickly grabbing Bianca’s hand and leading her into the house. Bianca nearly whistled aloud when she saw it. The living room looked almost exactly like something straight from a Donna Reed-esque sitcom. Everything was neat and tidy and seriously lacked of technology. The massively huge television was from the early nineteen seventies and the black telephone on the wall was still a rotary dial. “Dad, I’d like you to meet Bianca. Bianca? This is my dad, Walter Appleton,” Larry continued, snapping her back to reality.
“Lawrence, I think she knows who I am,” the tall, grey-headed man said in a no-nonsense tone.
“Bianca, you want something to drink, hon? We have tea, water, and fresh-squeezed lemonade,” Lois asked as Bianca, Larry, Balki and Walter took a seat in the living room.
“Lemonade sounds fine, thank you,” Bianca replied, wishing the butterflies in her stomach would calm down.
“So, Bianca. Lawrence here tells me you’re an inventor,” Walter began. “Is this true?”
“Y-yes sir. My grandfather was an inventor and I guess I was also born with the knack.”
“So, you’re probably going to be the bread-winner if you and my son were to get married, then,” Walter said as if he were telling her it was probably going to rain later.
Larry’s eyes grew wide. “Dad!”
Walter cleared his throat. “Well, I’m sorry, son, but you don’t exactly make enough at that paper you work for to really provide for a family, but with her inventions out on the market, I’m sure she –-”
“I don’t sell my inventions, sir,” Bianca interrupted. “I’ve actually only sold one invention but the rest are for personal or creative purposes. My source of income comes from my web design business.”
Walter looked over his glasses at her distastefully. “What good is inventing things if you have no plans to sell them to the highest bidder?”
Lois handed her the lemonade and sat down next to her husband, but Bianca was beginning to wish she would choke on the lemonade and pass out. “Well, I don’t sell because of the point you just made, sir. If I sold to the highest bidder, then how do I know if my inventions were placed into the right or wrong hands? I prefer just to keep them in a secure place with me and stick to my web design business for the money.”
“I see,” Walter said, obvious disapproval in his voice. “Lawrence, what happened to – what was her name – Jennifer? Now she had a steady income being a flight attendant.”
“Dad, I broke up with her. I met Bianca and we fell in love. Now would you please stop being so difficult? Mom, will you please tell Dad to lighten up?”
“Oh, honey; your dad means well,” Lois said sweetly. “But Walter, back off a little. She’s our son’s girlfriend, not someone who we need to interrogate.”
Walter sighed. “Perhaps. So, Balki, are you still seeing Mary-Anne?”
Balki beamed with pride. “Well of course I am, don’t be ridiculous. She’s my little lamb kabob.”
Bianca frowned at Larry, knowing where this part of the conversation was headed. It was becoming more clear to her that Larry’s dad did not approve of his new girlfriend.
“Lawrence, you don’t find that a tad uncomfortable that Balki is dating your ex-girlfriend’s best friend? I mean, I can only imagine the awkwardness in those situations,” Walter chuckled.
“Well both of them are in Canada right now, so it doesn’t matter,” Larry replied through gritted teeth.
Bianca stood up abruptly, just about to tell Mr. Walter Appleton exactly what she thought, when she accidentally bumped Larry’s bag. “Oops,” she said as a bottle of pills fell out and rolled across the floor.
Lois stood up and picked up the bottle. “Why, Larry; this prescription is in your name! Are you ill?”
Bianca watched as Larry turned a bright shade of red and reached to take the pills from her. Unfortunately, Walter grabbed them first, placing his glasses down to the end of his nose to read the label.
“Oh no, Aunt Lois; Cousin Larry’s not ill. He’s just taking those when he feels he is losing his mind to bad thoughts,” Balki explained.
Larry glared at him. “You’re not helping, Balki,” he seethed.
“I’ve heard of this medication before, Lawrence, and Balki has a point. Are you having mental health issues?” Walter asked.
“No, your son is not having mental health issues. They help him sleep because he witnessed a tragic event and he has flashbacks. That’s all, okay?” Bianca defended her boyfriend, snatching the pills out of Walter’s hand and putting them back in the bag.
“Oh, honey. What sort of tragic event did you see?” Lois asked, concern on her face.
“I – I saw a guy shoot and kill two other people in front of us, Mom. This guy named Quinn was going to kill me, Bianca, Balki and several others when Bianca’s cousin shot Quinn and killed both him and a girl he was holding at gunpoint.”
“Oh, honey, that’s awful! I’m just glad you are okay,” Lois walked over, brushed Larry’s hair back and hugged him. Bianca was glad at least his mother had some sense about her.
“But taking medicine to try and mask the pain is just … well, it shows weakness. And if Appletons are anything, being weak or showing signs of weakness is not one of them,” Lois continued, causing Bianca’s jaw to drop.
“Lawrence, I am ashamed and embarrassed. This family doesn’t handle life with pills! We suck it up and take it like a man; you know why? Because we are Appletons!” Walter affirmed.
Larry’s face turned ashen. “But Dad; you gotta understand; I saw two people die! And I didn’t have a doctor prescribe them for me! Bianca’s grandfather gave them to me just for a little while! Mom, please don’t think I’m less of a son because I’m having trouble coping.”
“Lawrence, if you can’t handle your problems without medications, then I’m afraid we have no choice other than to shun you,” Lois told him stiffly.
“And getting your girlfriend’s family to be your dealer is even more shameful. Goodbye, Lawrence. Please don’t darken our doorstep again,” Walter stood up, pointing to the door.
“Uncle Walter, am I shinned too?” Balki asked.
“Balki, you and Mary Anne are welcome back anytime,” Walter smiled, clapping him on the back.
“But Mom; Dad –-,” Larry begged. “Please–”
“We are no longer your mom and dad. Goodbye, Lawrence,” Lois interrupted him before she slammed the door in Bianca and Larry’s face.
Bianca turned to Larry. “I can’t believe your parents did that to you! That was single-handedly the most terrible thing I’ve seen!”
Larry just stared at her, tears forming in his eyes. “If only you hadn’t knocked over my bag, B. If only they hadn’t seen … ”
Continue . . . .