Glowing Ember: Part 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This continuation of the Old Wood story (Moonlight Howls) carries on the story of Levina Cooper and Matthew Gold on another adventure providing some interesting twists and new characters, starting out wiht Levina's family and ending with an unlikely friendship.

Submitted: February 09, 2012

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Submitted: February 09, 2012

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I woke up and smiled. At first I couldn’t figure out why. Then I remembered: it was the weekend, finally. I rolled over and looked at the clock, it was 8:30. I groaned and forced myself up, I had to be at work in an hour and a half. I stood up and walked to the bathroom where I took a shower and returned to my room to get ready. Once I was ready I headed downstairs to grab breakfast.

I got down to the breakfast table and was pouring myself some apple juice when I noticed that there were people at the table. I put the juice away and I came and sat down with my family. With just a single look at my parents faces. I knew they had a fight. I set down my glass and asked the inevitable.

“What happened?”

“Why don’t you ask your father?” my mother practically screamed at me with a shrill voice that broke at the very end.

“We received some bad news this morning,” my father began slowly, looking warily at my mother. “And now your mother doesn’t want me to leave.”

It took awhile for the words to sink in and for me to finally realize what they might mean. I spoke quietly, “Please, tell me it’s not about Michael.”

“It is,” my father paused before pushing forward, “They came today with his dog tag and a purple heart.”

I felt a tiny trickle leak out of my eyes. I turned when I heard a whimper beside me, there was my little brother with a newly formed bruise on his cheek.

“You let Leon get caught up in your fight,” I spat out venomously, channeling my sorrow into anger. I swiftly got up and wrapped some ice in an old rag and gave it to Leon. I then asked him, “Have you finished your homework?”

“No,” he grimaced as he placed the ice on his bruise.

“Okay, I’ll take you to work with me. Which reminds me, I’ve got to go,” I mentioned standing up and grabbing my purse and backpack. I found myself finding any excuse to leave and forget everything for awhile. I turned to Leon, “Let’s go.”

“You aren’t going to work,” my mother spoke, for the first time in five minutes, sternly. “I already called in for you.”

“You had absolutely no right to do that,” I replied hotly, my voice reflecting my anger. Then I remembered I was trying to make peace with my mother. In a calmer voice, I said, “I’ll take Leon while you two work things out. Let’s go Leon.”

I stalked out the door before either of my parents said anything more. Leon followed me and caught up with me. He sounded genuinely confused when he asked, “Why are they fighting? And why are you trying so hard with mom?”

“It’s … complicated,” I said failing miserably in my quest to find the right word as we took a shortcut through a small park.

“What in the world are you talking about?” Leon asked as we crossed a street.

“It’s really complicated,” I said, thinking back two nights.

“You’ve been acting really weird since the night before last.”

“You’re weird.”

“Why did we take the long way?” Leon asked after a silence in which we covered a couple of city blocks.

“Because I want to,” I replied, then looking at my watch, “Damn it, I’m going to be late.”

“So let’s cut across the field. It’ll cut down our journey by five minutes.”

“Well aren’t you the smarty pants,” I mentioned looking out across the field at how close we were to the Old Wood Nature Reserve and feeling remorse pull at me from a memory of my older brother and a memory that I would prefer to stay hidden. “Fine, I’ll race you.”

“All right. You’re on… Go,” Leon said and took off.

“No fair,” I yelled after him and ran after him. I caught up with him just as we got to the front of an old brick building. I smiled and led Leon over to a side door and let both of us in. We walked in and Leon immediately went and slipped into a booth. I ran upstairs and placed my bags in the employee room, while I was up there my boss looked up at me from his magazine.

“You’re cutting it close,” he smiled at me, twitching his blonde hair out of his eyes. “I heard you weren’t coming in today.”

“Well I am,” I replied, irritated.

“Well no need to bite my head off.”

“Sorry,” I said slightly ashamed. The feeling goes away, “Do you want me to open up the store?”

“Probably should,” he replied returning his bright blue gaze back to his magazine.

As soon as I got to the safety of the stairwell, I let out a sigh of exasperation and headed down and unlocked the front door. I then went behind the counter and started up the machines. I called over to Leon after I realize how silent it was, “You can turn on the music.”

He stood up and moved over to the awesome stereo system just as the phone rang.

“Green Café, how can I help you?” I asked as I picked up the phone.

“Yeah, I have a question,” A shrill girl’s voice squeaked into the phone. “Do you serve any vegan drinks?”

“Yes, we do. We even have a whole menu for vegans and vegetarians,” I replied as two men came in through the door and sat down at a table with some travelling backpacks.

“That’s it. Thank you,” the shrill voice said into the phone and then they hung up.

I quickly got on my waitress ‘belt’ and walked over to the men’s table. “Would you like a menu?”

“No, we would like two large caramel lattes and some of the double chocolate biscotti,” the larger of the men said.

“That will take a few minutes,” I said turning away and going behind the counter and starting on their lattes. I turned away from the door while Leon come up to me.

“Can I have strawberry banana smoothie?” he asked me as the door opened and closed. I shot Leon a dirty look as I put the finishing touches to the lattes. He added, “Please?”

“Fine,” I muttered writing the order down.

“Can I have an Iced white chocolate with French vanilla coffee creamer, please?” a familiar voice said. I turned around and there was Matt sitting on a counter stool.

“I guess,” I replied stepping out from around the counter with the men’s lattes. I returned and got Leon’s smoothie ready and gave it to him. I came back and was about to start on Matt’s drink when the phone rang, “Green Café, how may I help you?”

The same shrill voice as before, met my ears, “Hi, my friend wants to see your menus, do you have any that we can take?”

“We have some here at the café, and we have some on our website,” I replied calmly.

“Okay, and do you have a wireless internet there?”

“Yes, we do. But you need a password to get in.”

“That’s it.”

“Thank you for calling,” I mentioned, remembering what the ‘correct’ phone conversation is.

“Bye,” she said, hanging up.

“Yeah, bye,” I said as I placed the receiver down. I then turned back to Matt’s drink. I started it just as Leon came up to me.

“I can’t get on the internet,” he complained.

“That’s because the password changes daily,” I replied guessing at what he was complaining about.

“Well, what is it?” Leon asked.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Lawrence,” I mentioned finishing Matt’s drink. “I’ll call him down.”

I went over to the phone and called up to the office. Lawrence answered, “Hello?”

“Hi, someone wants to connect to the internet.”

“Okay, I’ll be down in a minute,” Lawrence’s low voice muttered form the other end of the line.

“He’ll be down in a minute,” I told Leon as the two men came over to pay. “That will be six dollars and eighty-five cents.”

They handed me the money, then left through the door, just as my coworker Sharon, walked in. I turned my back as she walked behind the counter. I mention drily, “You’re late again.”

“So?” she snapped back as she went to the stairs just as Lawrence came down them. She said in a sickenly sweet voice, “Hi Lawrence.”

“Hi,” Lawrence said looking confused as he gazes at the back of Sharon’s head. “So who wants the password?”

“My brother,” I said pointing at my brother.  I finally turned to Matthew again. He smiled and pointed at the full cup sitting three feet from him. I handed it to him and muttered, “Sorry.”

Matthew took a sip, “It’s fine.”

I sensed he wanted to talk more, but somebody came through the door, “Sorry, but I have to get this.”

“Its fine,” he said looking slightly hurt. He picked up his bag and looked at his watch then me, “What time do you get off?”

“Four- thirty,” I replied trying to control the heat that had suddenly crept up my neck.

“All right,” Matt turned towards a booth and got out his school work.

During the afternoon, more and more people (normally teenagers) came into the Green Café and stayed around. Just after a wave of new comers came in, Sharon asked, “Why does Matthew Gold keep looking at you?”

“What are you talking about?” I said in a tired voice, though I knew perfectly well that Matt kept looking at me.

“I mean that Matt seems to keep looking at you… a lot.”

“Oh, I haven’t noticed,” I mentioned as another wave of people came in, thankful to stop having this conversation, especially with Sharon of all people.

Finally four-thirty came around and I hung up my ‘belt’ and ran up the stairs to the employee room. I grabbed my bags then went back downstairs. I maneuvered my way through the tables and sat down by my brother. Matt walked over just as Leon asked me, “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t I sit by my brother?” I questioned sweetly.

“No,” Leon replied with disgust.

“We need to talk,” Matt said.

“Okay, what do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“Could we talk privately?” Matt questioned pointedly.

“Fine, since I’m not wanted here,” I replied feeling the heat start to creep back up. I glance at my brother who raises an eyebrow at me. I shoot my brother a look as I pick up my bags again and move to Matt’s booth. “What do you want to talk about?”

“We haven’t talked one-on-one at all, since that night at the old wood,” Matt stated leaning in to make sure no one else heard in the crowded room.

“Well we’ve been kind of busy,” I replied noticing a few people looking at us. Looking for an excuse to change the subject, “How close are we to finishing the project?”

“It needs a little work yet,” he sighed glancing down at his computer screen.

“Can we work on it now?” I asked. He nodded and turned the computer towards me. “Looks like we have all the information. All we need is to put it together.”

“Well thank you Captain Obvious,” Matt replied.

“You’re welcome, Private Sarcastic.” At that moment a slim, mahogany-headed figure came up to our table. “Um… may we help you?”

“Yeah, I was wondering what you guys were working on?” the teenage girl said. Even though she addressed both of us, she aimed it at Matt, which made me not like her right away.

“Levina, this is Asha Scarlett,” Matt said looking at my expression. “She’s a new student. Asha this is Levina Cooper.”

“Hi,” I said, she just nodded and kept looking at Matt.

“So what are you doing?” Asha asked.

“Well Levina and I are working on a school project,” Matt said bringing me back in the conversation.

“Well, can’t it wait till next week?” she asked with a trace of a whine.

“No, it’s due on Monday and I’m working tomorrow,” I replied.

“Well maybe I could help you?” Asha said slipping in by Matt, and I had the impression that she was trying to cut me out.

“Um… you’re not in our class, and we don’t need your help.” Matt said looking uncomfortable and trying to discreetly move away from Asha.

“Oh. Are you sure? I could add something to it,” Asha said doubling her efforts to get closer to Matt. “What is it on anyways?”

“It’s for English,” I said wary of giving away too much, “for our Folklore unit. We decided to do ours on Legendary Creatures.”

“Legendary Creatures,” Asha said slightly stunned, and then her phone rang. She answered it and we only heard one side of the conversation, “Hello…What!...Fine, I’ll see you in ten.”

“What was that about?” I asked trying to make conversation.

“I have to go home and unpack some more stuff, and help out,” Asha said standing up, within seconds she was gone.

“Well thank god she’s gone,” Matt said, relief evident in his voice.

“Why are you glad that she’s gone?” I asked trying to keep my face straight.

“You saw how she kept trying to get close to me. It’s been like that ever since I met her last Thursday. Do you know how annoying that is?”

“Nope, I tend to stay in the outer ring. So… it’s been going on for three days now.”

“Yeah. She keeps showing up at everywhere I go. It’s like she’s stalking me. Well, between that and her trying to force everyone out of conversation so it’s just her and me.”

“I guess that would be extremely annoying,” I said and he nodded. “Why don’t you get a girlfriend to put a damper on her persistence?”

“Well that could work,” Matt said thoughtfully as he looked at me writing out an article for our project.

“Why don’t you have one?” I asked diverting his attention away from me. “I mean, you’re the most popular guy at school, so naturally you should have a girlfriend to discourage every girl throwing themselves at you.”

“I suppose girls do throw themselves at me quite often,” Matt said, looking in the distance.

“Exactly,” I said slightly triumphantly.

“But Asha Scarlett is different, she keeps coming. I swear I’ve done everything to discourage her, except of course coming straight out and telling her.”

“Well why don’t you do that?” I asked finishing up a controversial article about ‘fire and mystical animals’. I reached over and grabbed his laptop and started typing it in.

“That would be rude.”

“What would be rude?”

We both looked up at the voice that had spoken, my brother, Leon. I replied to his question, “Little brothers who barge into conversations.”

“Well in that case… can I go over to Henry’s?”

“Give me a moment,” I muttered. I brought out my cell phone and called home. “Hey mom, can Leon spend the night at Henry’s?”

“Yeah, I guess so. Bye sweetie,” my mom said, her voice slightly hoarse.

“Bye,” I said and hanging up. I turned to Leon, “You can go.”

“All right. See you later,” Leon walked over to his booth and grabbed his stuff and left with his best friend. A wave of sorrow washed over me.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked, looking at my face with concern.

“Nothing is wrong,” I said trying to discreetly wipe the tear that was forming in the corner of my eye. I looked around to avoid looking at Matt.

“Something is wrong and you won’t tell me,” Matt said slightly hurt. “You should at least tell somebody, if not me.”

“Well, first off, I’ve known you less than a week,” I said feeling guilty at being blunt, even if I felt like I’ve known him all my life. “And it’s … family problems.”

“So you won’t tell me?”

“No, like I said its family problems,” I said in a voice that indicated the end of the conversation. “How far are we on our project?”

“One more article and we’re done,” Matt sighed still looking concerned as he finished writing in his notebook. “Done. Do you want to look at it?”

“Yeah, I do,” I replied as he slid his notebook over to me. I noticed is eyes never left my face while I read his article. I made a few minor changes before I passed his notebook back. “Looks great. Type it in and we can finally get this over with.”

He typed it in and within five minutes he was done. He printed it off at the community printer and put it away in his folder for Monday. He then looked at his watch, “I’m starving, want to grab some dinner?”

“Yeah, what do you want to order?” I asked.

“I thought we could go to the Dragon Grill. You know the new restaurant that opened on Willow Avenue,” he said searching my face for a reaction.

“That would be great,” I replied genuinely smiling for the first time that day.

“I’ll pay this time,” he replied standing up. I followed suit, grabbing my bags and following him out. He led me over to a bright blue SUV and he placed his stuff in the back seat. “You can put your bags in here. Do you want to walk or ride there?”

“We can walk, it’s only ten minutes,” I replied placing my backpack next to his stuff.

“So what is your ‘family problem’?” Matt asked as we started to walk away from his vehicle. I shot him a look. “You’ve looked close to tears all day.”

“We received some bad news this morning,” I sighed, wondering how he could read me so well, “About Michael.”

“Are you telling me…? Are you sure?” Matt asked, with sorrow creeping into his voice. He didn’t even need to finish his thought. “I’m sorry to hear. He helped me out a lot when I was a freshman.”

“I know,” I said. “Every night, he’d come home and go on and on about how much potential and promise you held. He was really proud of you. I think you should come to his funeral.”

“When is it?”

“I don’t know, I got out of the house before I could get the details.” I saw Matt open his mouth, “My mom doesn’t want my dad to go to Afghanistan. They were fighting when I woke up.”

“Oh. You said you were working tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah, from one until ten. Why?”

“I was just wondering if you wanted to come with me into the Old Wood tomorrow. But if you’re working…” Matt trailed off, looking both embarrassed and disappointed.

“That would be great, especially after this hectic week,” I replied, silently giggling at his reaction.

“I know… do you want to meet tomorrow morning at say eight?”

“Yeah. Where though?”

“Um, what if I came by your house?”

“Sure. Looks like we’re almost at the Dragon Grill.”

“It smells delicious,” Matt commented opening the door for me.

“Thank you,” I murmured, standing by the ‘Please wait to be seated sign’.

“You’re welcome,” Matt replied, smiling at me.

At that moment a hostess appeared, “Table for two?”

“Yes please,” Matt said.

“Follow me,” the hostess, said checking a chart and grabbing some menus before leading us to a booth for two. “Your waitress will be with you shortly.”

We sat down and I looked down at the beverage menu. Matt cleared his throat and asked, “What do you think you’ll be getting to drink?”

“Um… I was thinking about getting a rosewater lemonade, what about you?” I said smiling at his lame conversation starter.

“I was thinking about getting a coke. What do you want to do tomorrow at the Old Wood?”

“I’m not sure, what do you do there?” I asked.

Before Matt could reply our waitress came up to us. A familiar voice spoke, and I looked up and saw fiery mahogany hair, “Could I get you something to drink?”

“Yeah, I would like a coke,” Matt replied looking at Asha as well.

“And I would like pomegranate lemonade.” I said.

The moment I spoke Asha finally looked up at us. She goggled at us for a moment and then stuttered, “Y-y-you two are h-h-here…together?”

“Yeah, is that a problem?” Matt asked, slightly confused.

“No, of course not,” Asha recovered swiftly. As she walked away, she glared at me, that if looks could kill I would be dead.

“That was awkward,” Matt said, looking down at the dinner menu.

“Yeah, but that might just be your solution of getting rid of her.” I replied looking down at the salad menu.

“What are you talking about?”

“You were complaining about how she always was hanging around,” I looked up at him and our eyes connected before I glanced back down. “Besides, you still didn’t answer me. What do you do in the Old Wood?”

“It depends on the day and what I feel like doing. We don’t have much homework do we?”

“No, we finished it today, I think.”

“Then we can do whatever we want to do.”

“Any suggestions?” I asked as I saw Asha walk back towards our table.

“No,” Matt said as he followed my gaze. We were silent as both of us were watching Asha’s approach.

“Here are your drinks,” Asha said, slightly venomously, as she put our drinks down. “Are you guys ready to order yet?”

“Yeah. I will have the…Mongolian Burger,” Matt said looking slightly uncomfortable, because the moment that he spoke Asha glared at him with a look that could freeze hell.

I decided to annoy her with being overly optimistic, “And I will have the tropical salad with grilled chicken.”

“Fine,” Asha said turning away sharply.

“You know I think that going to the Old Wood tomorrow will be good for me and my stress, especially after a week like this past one,” Matt said looking at Asha’s back.

After that our conversation took a turn for the better so much that we didn’t leave for another hour and a half.

Matt picked up the bill and fished for his wallet. “Are you about ready to head home?”

“Yeah, head back to your vehicle now?” I said standing up and grabbing my purse.

“I suppose so,” Matt said putting his wallet away as he stood up. He started towards the door then turned back to me, “Ready, Levina?”

“Yeah,” I said moving past him. As soon as we were outside of Dragon Grill, I asked him, “What is your home like?”

“It’s quiet. I’m an only child, and my dad won’t get over my mom walking out on us twelve years ago.”

“How are you coping with that?”

“I’ve tried to come to terms with it but that hasn’t really happened. Dad’s not really the talking type of parent. Nor the nurturing.”

“How does your father cope?”

“Dad spends his days at the factory, and then he comes home and places himself in front of the television. He waits for me to come home and make him dinner. We’ve had more than a couple fights over that.”

“I know I have no place to ask, but what is your family yearly income like?”

“Not good. I’m not going into specifics, but if I need money for something I find spare jobs to do to get the money.”

“Have you ever thought of getting a job?” I asked genuinely concerned for him. “Has your dad saved up enough for you to go to college?”

“My dad spends all of his spare money on beer, tobacco, and lottery tickets. So no I’m probably not going to college right away, unless I get a full scholarship somewhere.”

“What about getting a job? Surely your dad will allow that.”

“No, whenever that comes up we fight. He believes that he should provide for his family, I don’t see how.”

“I could help you get a job at the Green Café.”

“That would be great, if my dad would allow it,” Matt added.

“Well he doesn’t have to know. Lawrence gives people a chance at strange hours,” I said with a mischievous grin. I spotted Matt’s SUV up ahead and that triggered another question, “Out of curiosity, if you are struggling, how did you get such a nice vehicle?”

It was Matt’s turn to smile mischievously, “It’s nice to have family connections. My uncle got it for me for my birthday, and he is also insuring it.”

“Awesome uncle,” I said waiting for Matt to unlock his vehicle.

“Yeah, he seems to be the only family that actually cares about me…he also spoils me,” Matt said unlocking both sides.

“Now why on earth would your uncle spoil you?” I asked as we both got into the vehicle.

“Because I’m his only nephew and he’s not married nor does he have any children,” Matt said turning on the vehicle and putting on his seatbelt.

“So why don’t you have him pay for your college?”

“Because he believes in paying for your own education and everything else, except on holidays or special occasions when they are given as gifts.”

“Okay, I like his way of thinking.”

“Me too,” Matt said before lapsing into silence.

Within ten minutes he pulled up in front of my house. I looked up at the dark windows in the second story and felt a stab of sadness. Matt cleared his throat and I looked at him, “So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow at eight in the morning.”

“I guess,” I said opening up the passenger door. I looked at Matt before I stepped down and noticed that he looked like he wanted to say something else. I turned and grabbed my bags from his backseat, and got out of his vehicle.

“Levina,” I turned and looked at him. “I … just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night, Matt.” I replied walking up the front sidewalk. I paused when I got to my front door; I turned around and waved back at Matt, who was still waiting outside. Then I went inside, eagerly looking forward to the next morning.

 


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