Kenzie's parents had largely stopped telling him about the investigation. Meals at the dinner table occurred without conversation, and Tara's toys remained in the pile by the couch. No one touched them. His father had started going back to work, his mother spent much of her time at the station, asking and answering questions that she didn't talk about when Kenzie was within earshot. Now he was out of school for the year, and without the closest friend he had... there was little for him to do. Warned not to wander outside of town, he spent a lot of his time inside, reading, or watching TV when the good shows came on and the signal was stable. Usually, it wasn't. He did what he could do to keep his mind occupied, not wandering to the topics and images that he'd do anything to avoid.
His parents hadn't warned him against wandering in town, however. He hadn't seen that woman again, and any attempts at asking his parents about her led to clumsy topic changes and long silences. He figured he'd ask people in town about it- maybe go down by the corner store and spend some of his pocket money. His parents hadn't given him any for the past few weeks, understandably, but he was the sort of kid who liked to save, so he had plenty to spare if he wanted to buy a cupcake.
The shopkeeper's bell jangled as he walked into the local store, and the ringing had barely begun to fade when Allen greeted him.
"Hey, Mac." It must have been a quiet day today, usually there was someone else at the counter mid-conversation.
"Hey," he smiled back. Allen's insistence on calling him Mac was about the only irritating thing about him- at least from Kenzie's point of view. He'd been running this store for as long as Kenzie could remember, and he'd always been good to them. Occasionally he'd let he and Tara get a pack of lollies (or one of their lovely cupcakes) for free. "You have any cakes left today?"
"You're a bit late, but I do have a few left. Do you want the one with the chocolate icing, or the strawberry? All out of vanilla, I'm afraid." That was a shame, the vanilla ones were his favourite. If he ever got hold of the recipe, he probably would have made bowlfuls, and set about eating it with a spoon.
"Strawberry." He barely paused for a moment before getting to the other reason why he was here. As much as Allen was good at talking, he had a tendency to steer clear of serious topics, and the conversation wouldn't go in the direction Kenzie wanted it to unless he nudged it that way himself. "Have you seen anyone new around town lately?"
Allen was turned, back to the counter, to get the last strawberry icing cake from the fridge, so his voice was somewhat muffled as he answered.
"Well, there was the Boyle funeral last weekend, so I had a few people in buying tea and things." He stood back up with the cupcake in hand, giving Kenzie a searching look. He knew the kid well enough to tell he was up to something- he wasn't usually the type to ask about strangers. "Are you looking for someone in particular?"
"Yeah. She's a relative, I think. Looks like Mum, but younger." This was probably the first time Kenzie or any of them had mentioned their mother's side of the family, fraught with drama as it was, but Allen didn't bring that fact up. It showed in his expression, however. There was a pause just a second too long before he replied.
"You wouldn't want your mother to hear you say that, hey?" He said, with a little laugh, then quickly sobered. "I have seen her, though. I thought it was a little odd, you having family over after so long, but with Tara... I thought they might be coming to give you some support."
"She isn't staying with us," Kenzie pointed out, a little awkwardly. "I don't even know who she is."
"Oh." That made him pause again, considering exactly why that might be so, then dropping the question. "She didn't give me a name. She just came in here... oh, what day was it, probably a week or so ago, and bought some things. A newspaper, some food... some of those lemon lollies. Nothing unusual. But the strange thing was, she paid for all of it with loose change. Just a whole lot of little tarnished silver coins. Haven't seen her since."
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Red Petals (Open Novella Contest Entry)Fantasy
It used to be tradition, to tell the children stories of the gods that lived down in the river. It had been generations since those stories had even closely resembled the truth, but they lingered, until finally they were no longer told at all. Kenz...