The Surprise

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            Alice was woken up the next morning by several of the clocks on the living room wall chiming musically at the same time. She groaned, shoving one of her pillows over her ear, and then squawked in surprise as something bounced on the end of the bed, jostling her out of her sleepy stupor. She glared up at Altair, who was – for some reason – already up and dressed, his hair still wet from the shower. The only reason she didn’t punch him was because he didn’t have a shirt on and she was far too distracted. He crawled onto the bed and poked her in the side, and she squealed and tried to wiggle away, getting tangled in the sheets, “Quit it. Stop that! That tickles.”

            Altair growled playfully and threw one leg over her waist, sitting on her hips and pinning her to the bed, “Good morning!” He leaned in close and brushed his lips along her jaw line, and Alice tried to hold back a shiver. He smelled like cologne and shampoo.

            “Quit it!” She protested half-heartedly, “your hair is dripping on me!”

            He laughed, shaking his head vigorously so that droplets came flying off his shaggy hair, landing on her face and neck, “Hey!” She tried to drag the covers up to guard herself.

            “Get up!” He said, eyes glinting with mischief, “I have a surprise for you.”

            “Is it bacon?” Alice said hopefully.

            “It’s better then bacon,” he winked at her and leaned in even closer, and she finally gave in and reached up, running both hands over his back, enjoying the feeling of his warm skin under her fingers. He growled in his throat and nibbled at her neck, making her tilt her head back, hoping he’d continue. Altair drew back though, “No, no. Come on now, I’m not kidding. Get up and get dressed. I want to show you something.”

            She sighed and threw the covers off, and Altair hopped off the bed, “I’ll meet you downstairs. Wear a jacket.”

            “Alright,” Alice said, puzzled. She had a fast shower, curiosity burning, motivating her to pick her outfit – blue jeans and a green sweater – as quickly as possible. She threw her black jacket on before jogging down the stairs, through the back room – where she waved to Maya who was working behind the desk - and into the shop, which was already busy with customers. A couple of little boys were playing with the talking whoopee cushions, which screamed out “Ow! You’re sitting on me!” each time someone sat on them. One of them, a little black haired child with wide blue eyes was poking one and laughing uproariously when it shouted. Azura was explaining to a very large, sweaty looking man that the love potions didn’t last forever, and Gabriel was selling a group of gothic looking teenagers a crystal ball that lied to you, or insulted you, depending on its mood. One of the goth kids was holding it at arms length, his eyes – outlined in roughly a pound of black liner –were filled with awe as the crystal ball glowed brightly, the light slipping through his black nail-polished fingers. The voice that came from the glass ball was smoky and mysterious, and very very rude,

            “You’re a mealy-mouthed toad,” it said mysteriously, “a prancing, polish -wearing prat.” It continued, “a dish-water-drinking delinquent.” And then it finished off, in a very proper tone, “and you’ve the face of a rabbit.”

            The gothic kid’s jaw was hanging open, revealing very large front teeth, and he looked rather offended. Gabriel had one hand over his mouth, as if he were trying very hard not to laugh.

            She found Altair leaning against a nearby stand of head-warming hats, his arms folded, tapping his foot impatiently. “Come on, come on!” He waved her forward, “we can’t keep him waiting.”

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