My Brother's Gut Is Never Wrong

Submitted into Contest #21 in response to: Write a short story about a work Christmas party that goes... awry. ... view prompt

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Holiday Fantasy

      I stared at all the people. All I wanted was to go home. It was Christmas Eve for goodness sakes! Mom was busy though, and Dad was too. And Mom wouldn’t let me stay home alone. She said it was too ‘dangerous.’ Wow, Mom. Way to put your trust in me.

       Mom was ignoring me, as usual, but still I had to sit here while she worked endlessly. I didn’t care if her work was important, or that it was necessary ‘for the greater good.’ I wanted to be home, painting or reading or watching tv with Dad. Miley, my little sister was at a friend’s house, and Jake, my older brother, was studying, even though semester exams had been over ages ago. Why they were allowed to hang out wherever and whenever they wanted and I wasn’t annoyed and confused me to no end, but I quite obviously wasn’t in charge here.

        Mom’s computer beeped, signaling low power. Mom began digging through her bag.

        “Does that mean we can leave?” I asked hopefully. Mom shook her head. She held up a charger.

        “No, honey, it doesn’t. I still have another hour or so’s worth of work. Besides, after this we have your father’s holiday work party.” Mom replied, turning back to her work.

         “Can invite a friend then? Jake and Miley got to.”

         “Didn’t I say yes already?”

         “No! You said I couldn’t! I have no idea why though, I-“

         “Fine. But only one.” 

         I shrugged. That was fine with me. My bff, Lexine, Lexi for short, was at a beach with her family, and I didn’t have a ton of other close friends. The only other person I might want to invite (but never would) would be Carlos, my long-time crush. He always had a mob following him around, so I never approached him, and besides, I was too shy. He seemed pretty cool though, cute, athletic, but also pretty nice. Once, a super nerdy kid had been getting bullied hard. Carlos has stood up for him, and I haven’t seen that kid been bullied since, and the bullies, lets just say they haven’t bullied anyone since. Another time, a mangy stray had wandered by the school. Some kids had thrown rocks at him, and he was cowering in the bushes. Carlos noticed, and immediately took the dog home and cleaned and fed him, even though he then got in trouble for skipping school. I think he named the dog Cloud.

           I nodded off to sleep, which I tended to do when Mom made me watch her work. A dreamless hour later, Mom shook me awake. 

“Ugh.” I stood up groggily as Mom tapped her foot impatiently. I frowned. Mom was always moving from one thing to the next, never mind what the people she dragged along wanted.

I perked up quickly though, knowing that we were heading to Dad’s party, which was sure to be slightly entertaining. Something nearly always went wrong somehow, despite Dad’s coworkers dullness, which was totally funny. Mom grabbed my arm and pulled me through the building and parking lot and into the car. She didn’t hesitate to hit the gas, and zoomed out of the parking lot before I was even buckled. 

When we finally arrived, my heart dropped into my stomach. The room was filled, but not enough that I couldn’t see someone I considered pretty important. Carlos. 

Luckily for me, Mom, in her suddenly glorious impatience, dragged me over to Dad, who had evidently forgotten to pick up Jake and Miley on his way here.

“Hey, Meg.” Dad said to Mom sheepishly. Mom just glared at him.

“Well, are you going to go pick them up or not?” 

“Um, well, I need to stay here to manage the party.”

“Your children are more important! I will manage the party. Skyler will go with you to make sure you don’t get lost.” Mom told him sternly. I breathed a sigh of relief. I would avoid talking to Carlos, at least for a little bit.

I followed Dad from the party, managing to not glance at Carlos. Dad hurried to his car, eager to get away from Mom’s menacing stare. Dad was a more relaxed driver, waiting until I was buckled, and actually going the speed limit. 

We picked up Miley first, who said goodbye to her friends tearfully, as if she was never going to see them again, when in reality, she was probably going to see them tomorrow.

Jake was another story. He practically ran from the house when we came to get him, and his eyes were wider than normal. I went to ask what was wrong, but he nodded pointedly to Dad and Miley, which I knew meant he would tell me later (he knew didn’t have a choice, I was kinda nosy and would bug him until he told me), when they weren’t around. I doubted either Dad or Miley noticed, which I privately was grateful for, because it meant I got to hear all the news before them.

When we returned to the party, it was as if time had stopped. Everyone was completely still, exactly how they were before we left. I could tell Jake noticed it too, but everyone resumed moving before I got a chance to point it out to Dad. Again, Dad and Miley were completely ignorant. Jake pulled me out to the hall, pleading a need for water, rather than sugary punch.

“What do you know?” I asked once he caught his breath. Jake didn’t question how I knew he knew something. I had always been able to analyze people well, especially Jake.

“Right, so I had been messing around with some guys, making a fortune teller thing, when-”

“Weren’t you supposed to be studying?” I interrupted, smirking. He rolled his eyes.

“You knew I wasn’t. Anyway, the fortune teller made a prediction for each of our nights. Mine wasn’t good.”

“It doesn’t mean anything, most fortune tellers are completely phony.” I tried reassuring him, but I had a feeling there must’ve been some authenticity to the thing.

“Maybe not, but I had a bit of a gut feeling it was real.”

“I was afraid of that.” Just like I could read most people, Jake’s gut was smart, like his ‘gut feeling’ was never wrong, and Miley had a knack for making friends. Mom and Dad never showed any sort of innate, I don’t know, intuition, of things like we did. “So what did it say exactly?”

“It went something like ‘your, though bad, night will be extraordinary.’” 

“What? That sounds soooo phony.”

“I know. But my gut begs to differ.”

“Does your gut have any hints for what on earth to do?”

“Um, no. But that’s your job, ‘cause you’re smarter than me.”

I snorted. We both knew that wasn’t true. He was the one always studying, and acing exams, and watching documentaries, which again, annoyed me to no end. “Why don’t we go back to the party and pretend like nothing happened.”

Jake sighed. “Ok. You know that’s not an answer though, right?”

“Yeah. But whatever. Dad’s gonna start to worry what happened to us.” I replied, going to the door. Jake followed, and then we split off to do our own thing. After all, we were siblings.

My eyes quickly found Carlos, who looked unhappy. I casually moved towards him, grabbing a bag of chips on the way. I wanted to know what was up, partially because I was nosy and partially because I liked him.

I walked by him discreetly, acting like I was just going over to see my parents, who might actually need me, since their faces were bright red and they were waving their arms wildly. Or maybe they were just playing Charades.

As I walked by, a voice called out to me. “Hey.” I looked over my shoulder. It was Carlos. “Skyler, right?”

I had to work to keep from blushing.

“Yes?” I replied, turning around. Carlos stood off to the side by himself.

“What’s up?” 

“Not much. You?” I said, keeping my voice level, even though what I really wanted to do was to hide and scream and squeal.

“I dunno. What’re you doing here? There aren’t many other kids.”

“My dad organized the party, and my mom’s paranoid about leaving me home alone.”

“You dad works here?”

“Course. He loves it and I can’t imagine why.”

“Mine too.”

We stood there for a second, in what would’ve been awkward silence if not for the party going on around us.

“Hey, where’s your paparazzi?” I said, almost as an afterthought. I winced, hoping he wouldn’t take offense. To my surprise, he smiled.

“This is the only place I can get away from them, but I have no idea why they don’t like it here.” 

A giggle escaped from me. “Me neither. After all, it’s so lively and- Hey, what’s wrong?” Carlos blushed when I said that. He seemed a tiny bit upset, although he did well hiding it.

“How could you tell?” He asked me, obviously avoiding the question.

“I have a knack. Now seriously, tell me what’s up.” I replied. “I’ll find out, take my brother’s word for it.”

“Who is your brother anyway? I can’t take his word for it if I don’t know who’s word I’m taking.” He said, still avoiding my question.

“Jake Charles. What’s wrong?”

“The Jake Charles? As in always-top-of-his-class track star Jake Charles?”

“Yeah. And I’m Skyler Charles and my little sis is Miley Charles. Now you know my family, now answer my question!” I nearly shouted, getting frustrated. Obviously something was actually really wrong, but he was being secretive and not telling me anything. It’s getting super annoying. Did I mention I’m nosy?

He blew out. “Ok. You know how I have a paparazzi? Well, I don’t like them.”

“Me neither.” It slipped out before I could stop it. Even though I thought he was being a bit a jerk a second ago, I’ve still liked him for forever. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to notice.

“They never leave me alone, and they bug me with offers of doing my homework, or money, or other gifts I don’t want or need.”

“So they’re trying to bribe you.” 

“I guess so. But I really just want a normal life with normal friends.”

I frowned. This was somehow messed up. Super-popular Carlos was coming to me for advice, when I was hardly anybody. “So what’re you gonna do about it?”

“I dunno.”

I looked at the ceiling. Why was everyone so helpful all of a sudden? “You could scare them off.”

“That’s mean.”

“I could scare them off.” My own offer startled me. How was I going to scare that many people? I could hardly sit through a horror movie.

“Really? You’d do that for me?”

“Course.” Again, I didn’t think before I talked. But fortunately, he didn’t seem to think it meant anything. 

Carlos smiled. “Thanks.” He held his hand out.

I was about to take it when I heard a loud crash and rumble, as well as a flash of light. I looked around frantically for Jake, trying to find him in the crowd of now panicking people.

“Jake!” I screamed. I turned to Carlos. “Help me find my brother. Hopefully he can give me some insight.”

Carlos just nodded. Together we took off through the crowd. I found Mom, Dad, and Miley, who were huddled together under a table.

“Dad! What’s going on? Please tell me this is just special effects!”

Dad shook his head. “No good. I think it's a supernatural earthquake!”

I rolled my eyes. Of course Dad was able to bring his favorite tv show up despite the pandemonium. Wait. That’s it! I found a way to scare off Carlos’s paparazzi. I continued looking around for Jake, but Carlos spotted him first.

“There!” he shouted to me, pointing Jake out. I rushed over to Jake, completely furious.

“Help me find a solution for this mess NOW!” I yelled. He just looked away. 

“I think hiding is our best bet. I called the police already.” He told me. I just stomped away, grabbing Carlos’s wrist. 

“Where’re we going?” he asked. I ignored him completely. I dragged him over to a corner, then quickly briefed him on what I thought. He went pale.

“Ummm… I don’t know what to say.” Carlos said, staring at me. I felt good that Carlos trusted me, at least a little, except I didn’t have time for silly girlish feelings right now. I could deal with them later.  

I heard police sirens scream, and the building shook. A cackle erupted from an old woman, and she suddenly disappeared.

Everything was quiet.

The dust had settled.

Sirens shrieked.

Police barged through the doors, which had somehow been barricaded, followed by EMTs. After making sure everyone was ok --which they were-- the police began investigating the situation. It was completely unexplainable, but most of the eyewitness accounts matched and the police were forced to admit magic as the culprit until further notice.

When the police had finally left about four hours later after forcing everyone off the premises, I turned around to see Carlos looking at me. I smiled at him, then turned back to find Jake so I could yell at him. 

Carlos came up behind me, and touched my shoulder lightly. I spun around, startled. 

“Skyler, I-”

“Oh!” I gasped, suddenly remembering. “Carlos, I came up with a way to frighten off your paparazzi, at least a little.”

“Oh, thanks. What was your idea?” he replied politely, but I got the feeling that there was something more he wanted to say.

“We take this absolutely terrifying situation, and say I had something to do with it.” I said mischievously. “Nothing that will cause for actual alarm, just little tidbits and hints that point to it having happened because of me, or something along those lines.”

“But how does that help me?”

“Well, we are friends now, right? I’ll hang around you, which will hopefully intimidate them to keeping their distance.” I explained. He nodded, but there still seemed to be something troubling him. “What’s up?”

“Well, I was just wondering if-” he started, but Jake interrupted.

“Mom and Dad are arguing again. Also Skyler, before you launch into a tirade, I would like to remind you that I’m your older brother, and you need to respect me.” Jake told me. I rolled my eyes.

“Jake Michael Charles. You have got to get your gut in better shape. If having a bad feeling about a party leads to that, then you seriously need to be able to get some actual information.” I replied sternly. “Now go away before I start yelling.”

Jake scurried off to where Mom, Dad, and Miley were standing. It looked like Mom and Dad disagreed about what had happened. Oh well. Jake would help them figure it out, because I sure wasn’t.

When I turned back to Carlos, he was slightly blushing. What was that about?

“What’s up?” I asked him, wondering what he wanted to say.

“Hey, um, Skyler?”

“Yes?”

“Would you, uh, like to go out sometime?” 

My eyes widened, my mouth dropped open, and my hands flew up. I was completely shocked. I knew he wanted to say something serious to me, but nothing like this.

“It’s totally okay if you don’t want to, I was just wondering, and your plan says we should hang out so I just thought-” 

“Yes! Yes! YES!” I exclaimed happily. “I would love to go out with you! You know, I’ve had a crush on you for forever!”

Now his mouth dropped open. “Seriously? Me too! I mean, sort of, I had a crush on you, that’s why I named Cloud Cloud, it reminded me of your name and-”

“You should stop talking.” I said to him playfully, and he looked down sheepishly.

I pulled out my phone and immediately texted Lexi that I had a date with Carlos, the guy I had had a crush on for forever. I would tell her about the rest later.

Then I slipped my hand into Carlos’s, and smiled at him. “So, the movies?”

“Totally.” he replied, his smile matching my own.

December 27, 2019 21:12

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