Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Fourteen

Previous chapter: Bad Omen.

Chapter Fourteen: An Upsetting Week.

Several things happened days after Isabel put up that angry picture. The first was Hera getting scared by rodents. She was searching for guides to write an Actionscript program when a fuzzy thing brushed by her foot. "Did Francesca leave one of her stuffed clockwork toys running again?" thought Hera, as she leaned down to check her foot. The fuzzy thing wasn't there.

Hera scanned the room with her shocking blue eyes, and spotted a little gray ball of fur. It squeaked and looked back with little black eyes, and something clicked in Hera's brain. She started screaming at the little gray blob of fur in the corner. The mouse squeaked in fright and scurried out of Hera's room. The blue-eyed woman screamed even harder, "MICE! HELP!"

Isabel rushed inside when she heard Hera's yelling, although she had to leave the flowers half-done. "It's mice," Hera said with a shudder when Isabel came in. "Heaven help me, or rather, you help me get rid of the mice."

"What makes you think mice are infesting the house?" Isabel asked. In reply, Hera got up and walked out of her room. Isabel followed her to the side of the house, just outside the kitchen. "Well?" said Isabel, a little impatiently. "If you're going to scream like a baby at every creepy crawly that comes by, mice, lizards, et cetra, what does that make you?"

Mice, we must get rid of them.
Hera pointed at the base of the house. "I think the mouse came from a hole there. I'm scared," she said. Isabel looked at where Hera was pointing. There was a hole, just big enough for a mouse's head.

The Lion remarked, "I'll get some mousetraps soon."

Hera replied, "Oh, thank you!" and hugged her friend in gratitude. Isabel patted her back and stood back.

"I'll buy those traps after work tomorrow," said Isabel.

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The next day, Isabel woke up late, just half an hour before work was supposed to begin. "Oh no! I'm late for the art con!" Isabel exclaimed when she saw her phone. She hurriedly dressed and rushed off to the museum, forgetting all about her breakfast. When she got there, the pavement was crowded with tables, and the supervisor was tapping her foot impatiently.
"I'm so sorry," Isabel said to the supervisor. "Is there room for one more display table?"

"You'll have to set up on the road, and I can't guarantee that your samples will be safe," the supervisor replied, showing Isabel to the street. The Lion set up her things on one of the empty tables, then waited around for her coworkers to arrive. She looked around, there were various samples of work on the desks. Pictures of monsters, fashion sketches, scenery photographs, and portraits of people, some of them in lingerie.

Her stomach growled. "I'll just take a snack break," thought Isabel. She went to the cafeteria after asking one of the con staff to watch her table. The guests continued to mill around the various stalls and desks. Isabel helped herself to a ham sandwich and a glass of cool clear water.

Next thing the con-goers knew, a motorcyclist knocked down the outer tables by mistake. Papers, markers, and art books spilled all over the road as the biker sped off. Some of the visitors chased after the biker while the artists hurriedly picked up their works. Isabel ran out of the cafeteria when she heard the commotion about spilled work.

She couldn't believe her eyes, her table had been completely knocked down with the drawn portraits and scenery lying miserably on the road. Isabel screamed when she saw the damage done to her works, "My paintings! They're ruined!"

The paintings in question were covered in tire marks, spoiling the subjects. The Lion burst into tears as her coworkers helped her back into the museum. Isabel then spent the rest of her shift brooding about her ruined paintings.

She bought the mousetraps as she had promised Hera to do so, but went home in a black mood. Hera didn't dare to ask what happened when Isabel handed the traps to her and told her to set them herself. Attie didn't want to upset her twin further, either.

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The day after the spoiled paintings, Isabel stayed at home, too upset to go to work. She lay around watching a cooking show, the news, and then a round of Indiana Jones. It didn't help with her gloom.

"Isabel?" Francesca asked timidly. "Shall we run?"

"Run? I don't feel like it," said Isabel. "Go ask Attie. Oh, wait, she went to work as usual. Nine to five, some way to make a living."

"You sound like Hera when you rattle off random lyrics like that," said Francesca. She pulled her cousin up to her feet. "Come on, you can vent your unhappiness on the punching bag upstairs."

Isabel dragged herself up after her cousin, too sluggish to snap at her childish enthusiasm. Francesca leaped on to the treadmill and started running for it, while Isabel slouched over to the punching bag and slapped it weakly. "You can do better than that" Francesca yelled. "Maybe some metal will help."

"Hmph," Isabel snorted. Francesca turned up a certain emo anthem and the noise irritated Isabel into kicking the bag. Isabel started punching the bag hard as she thought about avenging her spoiled paintings. The two women continued exercising in silence, the music was the only noise in the hall.

"I'm bored," thought Francesca after a while. "I should run higher." So she set the treadmill to its highest tilt and kept running. When she noticed she could keep her balance, she swelled up with pride and called out to her cousin. "Isabel! Look!" Francesca yelled. "I can run, I can run, I can run!"

But as Francesca was caught up in her excitement, she forgot to keep herself safe. She let go of the handles.

Crash! Francesca fell down and landed head first on the treadmill. Isabel didn't notice Francesca's yelling or falling at all.

Embarrassed, Francesca hopped up on the steep treadmill and hurriedly lowered it. She jogged at a lower incline until an hour was up.

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It was a straightforward mission, get into a local crime boss' hideout, grab the evidence, and get back to base. Only snag in the plan was that the criminal in question came back earlier than expected. Three team members altogether, and Attie was the leader for this mission.

Footsteps? One pair of them? Attie looked around the attic worriedly, and she whispered to her team mates to run away, she'd face this person alone. Despite their protests, she pushed them to get out by the skylights in the ceiling along with the necessary evidence. Just as the skylight shut behind the second team member, the attic door opened. The Lion stood there like a deer in headlights, looking at the young man who entered.

Attie whimpered softly as the criminal approached her. She shrank back, hoping that her team had at least escaped to safety. "Heaven help me," she thought as the scoundrel leaned over her, picked her up, and carried her downstairs to the lounge. She turned her head away as she was carried down, trying to scan the large room for escape routes.

Attie guessed that whatever the criminal wanted wasn't cash. It was something much more personal. She pretended to swoon when he put her down on a chaise longue in the center of the room. He muttered, "You're really cute for a wannabe hero. Pretty little eyes."

Attie murmured nonsense in reply as the man went on about wanting some loving. She let him feel her skinny arms through her blouse, and purred when his hand went to her waist. Emboldened by the encouragement, the youthful-looking man sat beside her on the chaise longue and leaned in to caress her face.

The younger Lion immediately stabbed his hand with her hidden pin, and darted up from the chair. The man was too dazed to stop her as she opened the window and hopped out. She ran out of the house without looking back, worried about how she had messed up the mission.

After getting berated for a messed up mission, Attie went home, feeling the barbs her supervisor had used on her. She slunk into her bed and hid there until her housemates finished their dinner. Isabel came up to sleep and found her twin huddled under the blankets.

"Looks like you're not okay," the elder Lion remarked. All she got in reply was a whistle. "There's supper for you in the fridge, Fran made fried sandwiches," Isabel said again.

"Oh, thank you," said Attie. "Please don't spread this, but I really messed up today's mission." Isabel nodded her head to tell Attie to continue. "I almost got caught by the criminal I was supposed to track," the younger Lion said, peeping out of her pink blanket.

"But you're back safely," said Isabel.

Attie replied, "Yeah, I got yelled at by my superiors instead. Oh, what a day."

"Several days of rotten happenings. First Hera yelling about mice, my paintings ruined, now your mission messed up? How much more will happen this week?"

"All I know is that I don't want any more crud to happen, at least until next week," Attie said and got up. "I'll have my late dinner, then. Good night, sis."

Isabel turned over and tried to sleep as her twin went downstairs. She hoped Attie was right this time.

Next chapter: A Resolution of An Upsetting Week.

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