“Wake up!” a voice called.
Mike and Callie awoke to find Rak standing in the doorway of their room. The windows in the building must have been uncovered, because gray morning light filtered in from the hall beyond.
“Time to get up.” Rak said.
“What time is it?” Callie mumbled.
“I don’t carry a watch; don’t believe in ‘em. We’ll be having breakfast soon, but Jon wants you to meet the rest of the gang first. We already told them all about you.”
“Everyone’s up but us?” Mike asked.
Mike and Callie got up, and followed Rak out of the room. In the hall, they could hear voices coming from downstairs.
Rak led them to a restroom. There were two dozen plastic gallon jugs on the floor inside; most of which were filled with water.
“The water’s clean.” Rak said. He picked up one of the full jugs, “We buy them at a nearby store.”
He plugged two of the sinks, then poured the whole contents of the jug into both; a half gallon for each.
“You can wash up here,” he said, “And dry up with those.”
He pointed to a roll of paper towels on top of a hand dryer.
“The hand dryer doesn’t work, of course. Here.”
He produced a small, sample size, bottle of mouthwash from his pocket, and handed it to Mike.
“You’ll have to share that. See you downstairs!”
He made to leave, but Mike tugged his shirt.
“What about the toilets?” he asked, a little embarrassed.
“You need to go now?”
“No, not right now.” Mike said, “But…eventually.”
“Well, the toilets don’t work. If you have to go, there’s a small wooded area behind the building. Or, if you can hold it, you could walk over to the MetroMart. They have restrooms.”
“What do you do if you have to go at night?” Callie asked.
“You go up to the roof and drop it off the side.”
“Kidding!” Rak laughed, “Look, just tidy yourselves up a bit, then come downstairs. All questions will be answered later.”
Rak exited the bathroom.
“Well, let’s not keep them waiting.” Mike said.
They washed and dried their faces, then rinsed with the mouthwash Rak had given them.
“I wish I had a comb.” Mike said. An unruly cowlick at the top of his head resisted all attempts at control.
“It ain’t like you’re pretty anyway!” Callie chuckled, pulling him away from the mirror, and out of the bathroom.
They walked down the hall, to the top of the stairs; and descended.
Morning light streamed in through the uncovered windows, and gave the ground floor a sense of hard-edged reality it had not had the night before. They were all there, the Dreadniks, twelve in all. They lounged around on tables and chairs in small groups of two and three.
“Here they are.” Rak said.
Heads turned and voices stopped talking, upon Mike and Callie’s arrival before them. The room fell silent.
“I trust you two slept well?” Jon asked, and stood up.
Callie nodded. “Uh huh.” she said.
“I want you to meet the rest of the Dreadniks.” Jon said. He moved amongst the groups to introduce them.
Jon tapped one of the boys on the shoulder. “This is Woodrow.”
Woodrow was short, dark haired, and had knitted brows just made to express irritation. He gave them a disinterested wave.
Jon tagged another; a brown-haired boy of about Rak’s age.
“This is Edward. He was the last of us to join up. He’s been with us now about…four months is it, Ed?”
Edward nodded shyly, but said nothing.
Next, Jon pointed out a bubbly-looking girl with long blond hair. She looked to be about fourteen. She didn’t wait for Jon’s introduction. “I’m Katherine Cosciddy!” she said, with gum smacking charm, “But everyone calls me ‘Kitty’!”
This prompted some nervous giggles to break out.
“This is Corrina.” Jon continued.
Corrina had short black hair, parted in the middle, and a pretty face marred by a deep scowl. “Hi.” she said, without much conviction.
Kitty whispered something in Corrina’s ear, and both broke out in the kind of cruel laughter only young girls can emit.
The last remaining girl was introduced as Peggy. She looked older than the two previous girls, about fifteen. Like Kitty, she had blonde hair, but hers was pulled back and ponytailed. She had freckles across the top of her nose, and a face that was plain, yet striking.
“Hi there,” she said, and gave Mike a wink.
“This is Spencer,” Jon went on, “Our resident smartypants.”
Spencer was a lanky kid with wild red hair and slouching shoulders; a smattering of tiny red pimples fanned across his forehead.
“Welcome to the freak show.” he said.
“Last, and certainly least, this is Kevin.” Jon said.
Kevin was the only other blonde male in the group, aside from Rak, and was possessed of a sleepy-looking countenance. He gave Mike and Callie a silent nod.
“Now that we all know each other,” Jon said, “I think it’s time for breakfast.”
“Finally,” Bear said, getting up, “I thought I was going to have to start gnawing on my leg.”
“There’s enough meat there for all of us, if you’d share.” Dom said with a grin.
“Remember I can break you like a twig, Hansen.”
“Promises, promises.” Dom replied.
Bear cracked an amused smile, as she and the others headed towards a single large table with chairs all around it. The table had been prepared with paper plates, juices, and various breakfast choices.
Peggy grabbed Mike by the arm, and steered him to a chair near the end of the table.
“You like pancakes?” she asked.
“Sure.” Mike said.
She pointed to a thinning stack of them on a plate in the center of the table. Mike was closer to it.
“Get some before it runs out!” she said, “Around here you either grab or go without. Get some for me too, would’ya?”
She grabbed two paper plates and handed them both to Mike, who had to stand to reach the flapjacks. He speared four with a plastic fork he found lying unused on the table, and brought the pancakes back to the space between he and Peggy. Peggy grabbed two juice boxes, and handed one to Mike. “I figured you for a Jandra person, like myself.” she said.
“You figured right.” Mike replied.
Meanwhile, Jon escorted Callie to the chair beside his, at the head of the table. He snatched some pancakes for her as well.
“To drink?” he asked.
“I’ll just get me one of those chocolate milk thingies there.” Calle said, “What about you? What are you gonna eat?”
“I’m getting something from the kitchenette. I’ll be right back.” Jon said, and sprinted over to a little room by the stairs.
Corrina showed up beside Calle; a plate of eggs in her hand.
“I believe that’s MY seat.” she said.
“Oh, sorry! Jon just sat me here and---“ Callie started.
“Oh, sorry! Jon just sat me here!” Corrina repeated in a prissy voice, while contorting her face.
Someone giggled. It was Kitty, who sat at Callie’s left. Callie turned to her and Kitty gave her an innocent “who, me?” look.
“Hey, subzat, I said that was my chair!” Corrina said, “I sit there all the time. Don’t I, Kitty?”
“All the damn time.” Kitty replied.
“Sorry, then.” Callie said, and got up.
“Well, now you know better, don’t you?” Corrina said.
Kitty brayed laughter.
Callie walked over to a seat at the end of the table. Mike and Peggy were there, eating their pancakes. They had not failed to see the exchange between her and Corrina.
“You okay, Cal?” Mike asked.
“Sure. I just wasn’t aware there was assigned seating.”
“Oh don’t bother about Corrina, or anything she says,” Peggy said in a half-whisper to Callie, “She’s a shank and everyone knows it. No one really likes her, except Kitty.”
“So what’s her damage?”
“Tell’ya later…” Peggy whispered, “Here comes Jon. Look.”
Jon returned from the kitchenette, and was surprised to find Callie at the end of the table. He walked over to her.
“What happened? Why did you sit all the way over here?”
“Oh, umm, there was a…misunderstanding…” Callie said, with vague gestures. She did not want to say anything that would get Corrina in trouble with Jon. The last thing she wanted to do was make enemies on her first day here.
“Oh.” Jon said. He nodded as if he understood, though the embarrassed look on his face suggested to Callie that he had understood wrong.
As he walked back to the head of the table, Callie put her head in her hands. “Oh booger,” she said, “I think I screwed that up.”
“You shoulda told him.” Peggy said, “I woulda like to have seen Corrina squirm.”
“She did the right thing.” Mike said, “We’re guests here. You don’t make trouble when you’re staying under someone else’s roof.”
“I doubt that makes her feel any better.” Peggy said.
Callie looked up to see Jon sit down at the head of the table and start eating breakfast. From her place beside him, Corrina glanced at him lovingly.
“See that?” Peggy whispered to Callie.
“Yes.” Callie whispered back.
“Now you know what all that was about, don’t you?”
Callie nodded. “Does he know?” she asked.
“Can’t tell.” Peggy replied.
“Has she made a move?”
“No, she hasn’t. I think she fears he’ll reject her, so she avoids the destruction of her romantic fantasies by not making her feelings for him known; though it’s obvious to everyone.”
“Would he reject her?”
“Oh yes. Without a doubt.” Peggy said, “She’s not his type.”
“What is his type?”
“You, silly.” Peggy smiled knowingly.
Callie considered the implications.
There may be trouble here, she thought.