xi. meteorites

9 1 7

"Oh, Jenna, baby, you're finally home!"

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"Oh, Jenna, baby, you're finally home!"

I pushed open the door, stifling a yawn into one elbow when I saw her walk into the hall. She rubbed a dish towel over her dripping hands, which were bare; her sleeves had been pushed all the way up to her elbows. She wore her trademark brilliant smile, and squeezed shut her eyes in greeting.

"Hey, mum," I replied, dragging my jacket off and depositing it on one of the shiny brass hooks beside the front door.

My limbs felt like they were moving in slow motion. Every shuffling step I managed to make felt like the whispering of a spirit in my ear, urging me to my bed. I could barely lift my head to smile weakly at my mother.

She walked over, hooking one arm around my shoulders and pressing a kiss to the corner of my forehead. "I missed you so much, baby girl. It seems like we've been playing tag, lately." Her eyes darted over my face; investigating, questioning, and worrying. I'm sure if we had the time to sit down and talk every day after school like most families, she'd probably launch into her interrogation right now.

Well, we weren't like most families.

She squeezed me tight, letting go and ushering me towards the kitchen.

"I have some amazing news!"

My mother rarely gushed, so when her eyes lit up and pinched at the corners, almost making contact with the severe curl of her grin, I knew it must have been important. Nodding as best I could and trying to stifle another yawn that rose in my throat, I followed.

Sounds of Harlow banging together pots and pans emanated from the kitchen doorway. Slipping in behind my mother, I saw her hastily whip them behind her back. She grinned with an embarrassed chuckle.

"Hey, 'Low," I greeted, leaning against the doorjamb and rubbing the back of my hand across my eyes.

Harlow set the pots down, a small frown twisting from her smile. She glanced briefly at Winn, who blinked and turned to look at me again, and made her way across the kitchen. Harlow took my hands in hers, rubbing her thumbs along the backs and bringing them up for a kiss.

"Hey, there, chickie. Long day at work?"

Her warm eyes narrowed briefly, and Harlow shuffled ever so slightly. Suddenly my mother was hidden from view. Harlow dropped her voice, tilting her head towards mine.

"The school called," she said in a whisper, one of her prim eyebrows creeping up her forehead.

Uh oh.

I'd never played hooky from school before, so I had no clue how to keep my cool. Apart from a few nights ago, I'd never lied to Harlow, either. I wasn't intent on making a habit of it. Biting my lip and sucking in a deep breath, my eyes searched my aunt's inquisitive face. She didn't look angry, but the slope of her frown and the heaviness in her gaze told me she was worried. Very worried.

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