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Ch. 11 - Out of the frying pan, into the fire

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A/N: Sorry I rushed this one out...I am sure there are grammar mistakes and whatnot. Hopefully you can still enjoy it. I am going to try to post a new chapter every Sunday. Even with all my work overload and health issues, I usually have free time on a Sunday. Let's see if I can keep to that schedule. I will make a reminder on my phone. 

It was strange how things kept working out in Rhianna's favor. Not big things of course. Mom was still gone. She was still stuck here. But little things like the food in Barton's soda shop, and getting out of doing laundry. It's almost like every time she wished really hard for something small she got her wish.

And she kept having that dream. The one with all the people standing around her bed, watching over her, discussing her, making plans for her.

An irrational thought had begun to take root that they were making these things happen, and if she asked them for things, she would get everything she desired. Almost everything.

It was Friday and she was pulling the last of the laundry from the line. Chores could only be put off so long even with wishes. She folded the last sheet and put it on top of the over full laundry basket. Then picked up the handle to the red wagon she had found in the barn while taking care of Kasubia. At least she had worked out a way to make the work a little easier.

She kept one hand on the bouncing laundry basket as she trundled the wagon back to the house. The heat had shifted to the slightly less oppressive degrees of the late afternoon and the buzzing of insects had settled to a sedate drone.

Rhianna had settled into the routine of life on Gran's farm, chores and all, but she found herself looking forward to a break. Gran had given her a reprieve from chores while her friends were over as long as they all cleaned up after themselves.

Just as she reached the porch steps, car tires crunched on gravel and she whipped her head around. Her heart lurched a little even though she knew she would not see her mom's red Tercel. A big old sedan pulled slowly up the drive from the road. The girls were here.

Rhianna waved and rushed up the steps hauling the laundry basket inside. She set it on the kitchen table and ran back outside to meet her guests.

Gran was standing next to the driver side window chatting with Gretch's mom as the three girls tumbled out of the car with sleeping bags and backpacks.

How strange it was to feel almost normal for half a second. She, Rhianna, was about to have a sleep over—to have friends her age. She felt a pang at the thought of leaving them behind in a few months, and another pang at the thought of never getting out of this place.

The girls were squealing and bouncing as they ran up and crushed Rhianna with a three-way hug. Rhianna couldn't help but smile.

The car honked and Gretch's mom waved out the window and she swung her boat of a car around in the turn about and pulled away.

"Rhianna, why don't you show your friends to your room, get them settled and wash up for dinner. I'll put away the laundry." Gran walked up the porch steps and the kitchen door clacked behind her.

"Your Gran seems nice," Gretch said, tickling Rhianna's side with spidery finger.

Rhianna snorted and jumped away. "She is putting on a show for you. She normally never does a chore that she could make me do instead."

She led the girls upstairs as they clamored to fill her in on their lives since she saw them last, an update to an ongoing saga that she hadn't even known she was missing.

The girls tossed their bags on the floor and flopped onto the bed. Rhianna sat in the floral patterned chair opposite the bed.

"Gawd, I would say open a window, but it's hotter outside. And whats with all flowery stuff. The decor in here has got to be a couple decades out of date." Gretch yanked her hair back, producing an elastic to tie it up off her neck.

"Gran doesn't believe in AC."

"My dad neither," Jenny said, making a face. "That is why we usually go to Gretch's house. She has AC and a pool."

"Yeah, but no haunted faery woods."

The other girls nodded.

"Seems right that we have to make a sacrifice to enter the faery woods." Gretch sat up with a solemn expression. "We must prepare ourselves. I have been doing some reading—we finally came to a consensus that it's faeries out there," she informed Rhianna"—and all the websites say we have to take precautions. We can't eat or drink anything we didn't bring with us, we need to follow the same path in as out, and we need to protect ourselves." She produced a ziploc bag full of gray soot.

"What is that?" Jenny crinkled her nose.

"Ash. Apparently faeries don't like it."

"I thought they didn't like iron?"

"Well, who the heck knows what is iron and what isn't? And I don't think I could fit my mom's cast iron pan in my backpack. This was the next best thing."

"I think I would rather have the cast iron frying pan to bean one over the head with than a little sprinkle of ash," Raisen said.

"How do you even know any of it will work or if its all just superstitious hooey?" Jenny asked.

Gretchen shrugged.

"Uh, guys. We aren't allowed into the woods. It's one of Gran's rules."

"Haven't you ever snuck out of your house to do something the adults say you shouldn't?" Gretch asked with genuine surprise.

Until recently, Rhianna hadn't had a house to sneak out of. Eager to change the subject she said, "Hey, do you guys know a boy with a motorcycle named Grayson? He gave me a ride home the other day and I wanted to thank him."

Gretch bolted upright. "You've met him?"

The other girls were wide eyed.

"I-I didn't feel like riding home after I met you guys on the, er, bike Gran gave me, so he gave me a ride home."

All three girls sat on the edge of the bed, uncharacteristically mute.

The silence was a void that needed to be filled and Rhianna found herself describing the ride home and the way he tossed his blond hair when he took off his helmet. She felt silly, but the girls' excitement was rubbing off on her.

"Weren't you worried about getting on a bike with a stranger?"

"I would have done it," Gretch said. "And I would have gotten more than just his name. We have been dying to know who he is since he showed up. We've spotted him around town a couple times in the last week."

"You mean he isn't from here?" Part of the reason Rhianna had jumped on his bike so quickly is she assumed he was a local country bumpkin and safe. What if he was here with Roscoe? Did that mean Roscoe knew where she lived now?

"None of the boys in town are that cool," Gretch said.

"What's wrong Rhianna? You look really pale." Jenny came over and patted her shoulder.

Rhianna felt pale. And shaky. But she couldn't explain. She had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire in this conversation.

Thankfully, Gran chose just that moment to shout up stairs and remind them all to wash up.

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