Lazuli's Point of View
"I don't know Zuli..." Cobalt was looking rather queasy as we walked home from school that afternoon. I'd been telling him, in all the glorious details, about the upcoming frog dissections in biology. Any minute now he was going to throw up his lunch in the neighbor's bushes.
I shifted uncomfortably under the uniform sweater and thought longingly of my t-shirts at home. "I swear Cobalt! Next week Mr. Tangerine said we'd be pairing up and then he showed us all these slides! It was ghastly...and yet...not." I grinned. Cobalt was a brave kid - went along with just about everything I tried out of some twisted brotherly affection - but he had a weak stomach.
Lotus and Turq were already sitting on our front steps by the time we got home. They said they knew a shortcut and Turq and I made a bet about who would get home first. Of course given that Lotus was still trying to catch his breath, it's possible they ran the entire way. The four of us went inside and settled around the dining room table to do our homework.
The four of us went everywhere together and did everything together. Grandma had tried to get me involved in a girl's club of some sort a few months ago but I refused to go because the boys weren't "allowed". Besides, all the girls did was gossip and makeovers! No. Thank. You. So instead I joined the Berry Scouts. I was the only girl in Sugar Valley to EVER join the troop but after I showed up just about every boy in troop, they couldn't really refuse me. Cobalt joined with me - though I know he hated it. He wasn't really the outdoorsy type - Grandma says he takes after Mom in that respect. I wouldn't know seeing as she ditched us when we were babies.
After all the homework was done, we ran out into the yard to play until Grandma called us for dinner. "Okay Zuli - you lost the bet...time to pay up!" Turq said with a smirk.
Lotus and Cobalt both groaned but I shrugged. "Doorbell ditch?" I asked, practically reading his mind.
Turq nodded, "Doorbell ditch!" He scanned our neighbors' windows and houses until he picked the one place even I had never pranked. "Wonder if the ole colonel is in tonight? Only one way to find out!" And he took off toward old Colonel Frost's house.
Colonel Frost was probably the most cankerous men in all of Sweetland. He was retired military but had never really given up the regime and lifestyle. He was fastidious about his yard in particular and was known to turn the hose on kids who strayed just a bit too close to his finely tailored grass.
"This is a bad idea" Lotus whispered. They could have watched from the safety of our own yard but Cobalt, ever the loyal brother, had dragged Lotus along and Turq was always up for a bit of trouble.
Without a word to them, I started up the walkway, trying to stay out of the door's line of sight. Of course the Colonel had large glass doors so that was pretty much impossible without walking in the yard. The yard that was very likely wired with some sort of alarm...or explosive. The closer I got, the more I had to agree with Lotus. But ya know, I was a bit stubborn - a trait my Grandma also attributed to my mother - and refused to let Turq see me back down from a challenge. The stairs creaked under my weight and my breath caught with each movement I made.
There was no way to hide from the light spilling out of the glass door so I just had to hope the Colonel wasn't looking this way at this particular moment...he would be soon enough though. With a quick gulp of air, I pressed down the doorbell and flew off the porch, bypassing the creaking stairs completely. The boys were already on the run as I hit the sidewalk and I couldn't blame them.
I heard the door squeal open just as I turned around to the side of the yard. He could still see me if he stepped only a touch out of his house. Ignoring the cramp in my calf, I ran faster, hoping beyond hope that he looked the other way first...
The boys were panting on the steps as I ran up to them. Turq let out a whoop and Lotus rolled his eyes. Cobalt chuckled and patted the spot beside him on the steps so I could catch my own breath.
"So...think he saw you?" Turq asked, leaning back against the railing casually.
"Not sure, didn't stop to look back." I said.
"Good thing too, he may have set the dogs on ya." Lotus said a little grumpily. If anyone were ever going to leave our little group it would be Lotus. I think he only hung around because of Cobalt.
"Well I think you're King of the Doorbell Ditch!" Cobalt said with a laugh.
"King?! She's a GIRL!" Lotus was exasperated.
"Maybe so, but I could still beat you - any time." I grinned at him but he didn't return my smile. After a moment of silence we all went inside where dinner was waiting for us.
"And who is the King of tonight's feast?" Grandma asked once we'd all finished our plates. All their eyes turned toward me and I grinned. As "King of the feast", I was exempt from cleaning up the night's dishes - a tradition that seemed to have started before I could even remember. After everything was cleaned up, it was time to preside over my court, so to speak. Grandma and Grandpa were happy to get in on the act as we paraded around the house and climbed on the dining room furniture.
"Just be careful..." Grandma always cautioned us. "I think the four of you are getting a little too old to be climbing on the table though..."
"No no, she's right...you can preside over court from the ground." Grandpa chimed in, helping us climb down.
On the whole, she was the best Grandma ever. She was always up before dawn working in her garden so she had breakfast waiting for us when we woke up. I don't think she would have stood for us going to school without breakfast. "It's the most important meal of the day" she informed me as she placed a plate of french toast in front of me.
And as long as our homework was done and we came back for supper - she and Grandpa trusted us not to get into trouble...well not MUCH trouble at any rate. Perhaps their trust was a little foolish given the circumstances.
We spent a lot of the afternoons alternating between Peppermint Pier and the park. By we I mean Lotus, Turq, Cobalt and I of course. Despite his often sour attitude and growing need to remind the world that I was, in fact, a girl - Lotus was usually an okay person to hang around with. On his happier days he could come up with the best games.
It was near dark and I was in the middle of a high flying contest with Turq when the idea struck me. Once I was relatively certain I wouldn't break my leg, I let go of the swing and land in a small plume of sand. "I have an idea!" I said triumphantly.
Lotus shook his head and groaned but I could see the corners of his mouth twitch up a bit. Cobalt sighed "That can't be good for us."
"I'm in." Turq said, landing beside me with ease. I was a little sad I'd missed seeing his dismount but brushed it aside.
"You don't even know what it is." I pointed out.
He just shrugged. "Don't care. I'm always in." he said with a smirk.
"Good! Let's go!" I was off and running without explaining, leaving the others to decide if they wanted to follow along or not. Thankfully they all did!
"Suppose you tell us why we're standing outside the school now." Lotus said, his good mood seemed to be fading by the second.
"The frogs! We're gonna release the frogs!" I said proudly.
"Because we can...and they're gonna get dissected tomorrow so we'd be saving their little frog lives..."
"I thought you wanted to do the dissection?" Cobalt pointed out.
"Well I do...but I also wanna see Principal Sunshine's face when a frog jumps out at her." I replied with a giggle.
"Okay then, let's go!" Turq was always my biggest supporter in these adventures and Cobalt was my brother so I had my back up.
Getting into the school was surprisingly easy. Nothing was locked up except the offices really so we just had to avoid the cleaning crew. Thankfully a little recon revealed that they were busy in the new wing at the moment so we were good to go.
"On of these days I'm going to regret following you Zuli." Cobalt said with a laugh. He then popped open the top of the tank while I climbed up on a chair and started scooping the slimy critters out.
"Maybe...but not today!"
"You're assuming the cleaning crew won't get them all overnight ya know." he said, raining on my gleeful imagination.
"Point...we'll have to do something to make sure they don't...." After scooping them all out into a plastic bucket we'd borrowed from one of the cleaning closets, we deliberated on where best to let them loose.
"Library." Lotus said with a mischievous smile. "They librarian is one of the last to arrive but they clean it first since it doesn't need much usually. By the time it's opened, half the school will probably be here...it'll be chaos!"
"Perfect!" And so we set the plan in motion and then made a run for it!
For the first time in years, Lotus and Turq had been sent away by Grandpa. He didn't really offer an explanation, "Just not today kids. Maybe tomorrow will be another day." He looked a little tired as he said it and disappeared upstairs.
Without them, homework was done and Cobalt and I were just plain bored. There was nothing on TV and every suggestion I made was shot down. "I'm going to go do...something." I said standing up and looking around the living room helplessly.
"Don't know...but something. You can sit there and sulk..." I hurried away, sure he'd follow but for once...he didn't. It took awhile before I settled on something to do and then it took even more time to rig the sink. I was sure I'd be interrupted by Grandma coming in to make dinner at any moment but by the time it was all done, she was nowhere in sight. I returned to the living room to wait; Cobalt kept looking at me curiously but I offered nothing. To my surprise, Grandpa was the one to come down to make dinner though...but he'd work just as well. I grabbed Cobalt by the wrist and dragged him behind me, shushing him all the way.
We had to wait while Grandpa pulled out a number of things to cook and kept ducking out of sight but then the moment came when he moved to wash the vegetables...
Cobalt's eyes were wide and then we both started giggling as Grandpa sputtered in the water and attempted to shut it off.
When the water finally stopped spraying Cobalt grabbed me and yanked me away from the archway just as Grandpa turned around and would have seen us.
Of course we didn't consider the fact that he may have HEARD us. A few shouts later and we could hear the click of his cane on the fine wood flooring. "Cobalt! Lazuli!"
I grimaced but stood with Cobalt and looked up at Grandpa. "Yes?" And then he yelled at us in a way he'd never once yelled at us before. "I want you to tell me which one of you did this!"
We both stayed silent. I started to speak up but Cobalt shot me a look - I'm not sure if he wanted me to stay silent or if he was thinking I'd pin it on him but I shut my mouth and hung me head.
Dinner was downgraded to sandwiches and we were sent to clean up the puddles of water while he made them. "You could have just told him it was me..." I said quietly.
"No I couldn't." he said, fiddling with the mop again. "I'm your brother - we have to stick together." I would have hugged him if he weren't all wet and soapy.
After serving us our unglorious dinner of sandwiches, Grandpa slowly went upstairs, his shoulders slumped. Once again I noticed how tired he seemed. "Cobalt..."
"I don't know Zuli." he said, his eyes trained on Grandpa's retreating form as well. "I haven't seen Grandma all day either..."
I frowned and worried about them. It was no secret that our grandparents were far from young but it was hard to see them this way. And where was Grandma?
Neither of our grandparents came down for the rest of the night. Cobalt and I passed the time in silence, fearing what may be going on upstairs and trying to distract ourselves with the television. I think we were both too afraid to speculate out loud - as if speaking about it would give it more power.
I was barely paying attention to the commercials and in my own world of thought when Cobalt jumped out of his chair and started pointing frantically at the TV. "Hey look! It's Mom!" he was grinning from ear to ear as Mom's zombie movie commercial played. "So coooool!"
Violet's Point of View
"Drive damnit!" I shouted as my costar landed in the back of the fake pick up truck. Mirage was at the wheel and I was loading the gun for another round. The truck roared and rumbled beneath me and I was hard pressed not to grin - I was supposed to be fleeing from zombies after all.
The zombies in question were expertly made up by a highly paid staff of artists. I don't think they could look more like zombies - ya know if zombies were real and all that. Apple and Cello were two of the "regular" zombies in the movie who seemed to have a personal mission to kill us. I don't think that was in the script exactly but we crossed paths...a lot. And then there was Jade who, I had the great pleasure in taking out in this particular scene. I had nothing against him of course...I just pretended he was Mirage and it made the whole thing so much better.
"Okay....and cut! Brilliant everyone! Let's take ten before we start the night shots..." the director called. Suddenly the zombies righted themselves and stopped groaning. They smiled and chattered as they made their way to the little catering table to grab a bite...of food, not brains obviously.
I climbed out of the truck as Mirage helped Rose out from the other side. I did my best to avoid contact with him between shots but that was pretty much impossible.
"Do you think we'll be here longer than another hour or two?" Apple asked, pulling out her phone to check the time.
"Why, hot date?" Jade teased.
Apple chuckled. "Hardly. I'd just like to de-zombiefy before I tuck my kids in tonight and it takes forever to get all this stuff off."
"You've got kids?" I asked. "How many?"
"Three - all girls." She said with a proud mommy smile. I smiled weakly at her and looked away. I probably shouldn't have spoken up at all.
"What about you Violet? You have kids?" Mirage asked, with a cocky smile on his face. Berryhole.
"Shut up Mirage," I said simply, starting to get up and head for the catering table.
"Come on Vi..." he goaded.
"I said shut up!" I whirled toward him, unfortunately this wasn't the first time we'd ended up fighting on set, nor would it be the last.
Filming could not end soon enough for my tastes. Working with Mirage - despite the opportunities I had within the script to put him in his place - was not something I wanted to ever do again.
We'd been wrapped for almost a year when the premiere finally took place. As most of it was filmed in or around Torea Bay, there was a special premiere here first.
Every second of the red carpet was specially scripted - almost more so than the movie. Mirage, Rose and I were not allowed to arrive until our allotted time so they could have all the reporters and photographers ready and draw the whole spectacle out.
Of course Mirage and Rose had become an item during the last few months so it threw a monkey wrench into their schedule. Rose absolutely refused to arrive separately from her boyfriend so the two of them arrived together in what might be considered the "peak" time.
Unfortunately Jade's driver wasn't paying much attention to the time so he and I ended up arriving at nearly the same time and every seemed to assume we were there together.
After the flashes died down, I was yanked away from Jade by someone and pushed toward where Mirage and Rose were standing for a group picture. Rose pouted and then stomped away in a huff when all the agents and managers insisted that they NEEDED a picture with the three of us. Which left me standing with Mirage...fabulous.
Thankfully, after that we were ushered into the theater and I was allowed to put three would-be zombies between me and them.
A few days after the premiere, the news broke that Mirage and Rose had broken up. This news was quickly followed by Rose being found dead in her own swimming pool. There was no foul play involved but I couldn't help but feed my hatred of Mirage.
So when he called me just a day after her death, I was mostly inclined to hang up on him but Autumn suggested - re: the TOLD me - to answer the damn phone. "Can we talk?" he sounded broken even over the phone and my heart softened a fraction. "Please Vi..."
"Fine..." Which is how I found myself standing in a bar, drinking with Mirage as he talked constantly about Rose and himself.
"I think I'm a berryhole..." he said after three or four toxic green drinks.
"I could have told you that." I said, trying to hold back a burp.
"You have told me that." he pointed out with a sloppy grin.
"So I have." I could feel my head buzzing and shoved the drink in front of me away. Last thing I needed was to fall to pieces with Mirage as my only company. THAT could only end badly.
"Let's dance!" he slapped his hand down on mine and yanked me from the barstool.
"Violet! I think you'll wanna get down from th-there..." Mirage called up at me. Yes, up. I was dancing on the counter.
"I think you're very bad for me Mirage." I shouted back, still dancing awkwardly.
"Yeah well, I think I'm bad for everyone...Toxic really." he said. "Come on down now...please?"
"Would you catch me if I fell?" I asked with a giggle. I could just imagine Mirage as the white knight...then his armor changed to black and it made more sense.
"Probably not..." Mirage confessed.
"Nice...very nice." I muttered.
One wrong step...that's all it takes for your world to come crashing down around you.
My eyes fluttered open to complete darkness. I fumbled around in the dark for a light and after knocking over a book of some sort and an alarm clock, I found it and flipped the switch. That was a bad idea!
My head pounded under the harsh onslaught of the light and I started to reach back for it to turn it off. My hand stilled as I took in the now illuminated room. This was not my apartment...I quickly surmised that it was a hotel room of some sort and groaned. "Not good." I whispered.
I tossed back the covers only to find things were even worse than I thought. What had happened?!
My clothes from the night before were strewn over the chair and the other side of the bed was empty. As my head began to clear, I recognized the sound of water running in the shower. "I didn't do this again" I told myself. I had to believe that what I was afraid had happened...well hadn't.
I stumbled from the bed and pulled on my clothes quickly. If I was fast I could just leave before he came out of the shower. I didn't need to see his face right now or I might kill him on my way out the door.
I had the door swung open when I heard the shower cut off and the bathroom door opening. "Violet wait!" he said.