“Sweetheart, how can you eat all of that?” Carmella asked her nephew, staring in horror at his…breakfast. For lack of a better word. He shot her a look, melted marshmallow dripping from his lips. “I mean…don’t you think the triple chocolate cookies are a bit much?” Her toast popped out of the toaster, and she considered it, not quite feeling like eating anymore.

“Auntie, I’ve got all the food groups.” Timothy pointed to the marshmallow. “Dairy.” The jelly beans. “Vegetables.” The Glossette peanuts. “Proteins.” And finally, the caramel popcorn. “Grain!” There was a honk outside. Timothy jumped up, plate in hand, and shoved the leftovers of his – teen salad? – into his mouth. His plate clattered into the precariously full sink, and he bounced downstairs to change out of his pyjamas. And hopefully wash his face.

It was hard to believe he was almost twenty. She tried to remember whether his mother ever fed him or his sister any fruits or vegetables when they were children, and drew a blank. She supposed it wasn’t really the poor boy’s fault. People stuck to what they knew.

Carmella took her toast and whistled. “Platinum! Who’s a good boy? Who wants toast for breakfast? You do!” She let the German shepherd snatch it out of her hands. Even the dog was spoiled. He didn’t even wag his tail or lick her hand, just clipped out the back door onto the patio to bury his treat.

With breakfast over with, she considered yesterday’s dishes in the sink. Better left until tonight, she reasoned, as she had the last few nights, so that they could be done all in one shot. She turned to the phone for the seven hundredth time to check the messages. Although she hadn’t heard it ring, she could never be too sure that she hadn’t simply been daydreaming and missed the call. Surely it would come soon. It was past eight. Garnet was supposed to have arrived at the airport five hours ago.

“Hey, when is mom coming home, again?” Timothy asked as he blew through the kitchen, backpack barely clinging to one shoulder. In her opinion, his pants were in a less than respectful position on his long frame, but she held her tongue.

“I’m not sure, sweetie. Maybe I misheard what she told me. I’m sure she’ll message you when she’s in.” She wondered if he could tell she was worried. Probably not. He was surely thinking about whether Isabella, his girlfriend, would like the new shoes his she had bought him last night. After ten minutes of begging and arguing, she said a painful goodbye to two week’s wages, and Timothy had his shoes. Two minutes after they got home he forgot his promise to do the dishes and had gone to play baseball with the guys.


“Okay well, I may not be home at lunch today. Isabella and I are going to the mall to shop for prom.” He tried to keep his voice light, but she could tell that he would rather get his wisdom teeth removed. Which he was supposed to do last week, but he had pestered his mother until she agreed to postpone it until she got home.

She hoped Garnet would be back soon. She had thought that taking care of the kids would be a fun chance to bond and show them that she was a wonderful aunt. A chance to show her sister that just because she still worked a menial tech job didn’t mean she wasn’t responsible enough to handle the kids. Being an aunt was turning out to be less than glamourous, when it came to these kids anyway. They treated her like their mother had when they were kids. She wasn’t sure how she could convince them that she was worth listening too. She had ended up being even more of a pushover than Garnet, despite all the criticism she had freely given over the years as to their upbringing. And now her stay was over and it didn’t matter anyway.

In an hour, she would have to try and get Olivia out of bed and ready for school, and if she was lucky, get to work on time. If Garnet wasn’t there by the time her shift was over, Carmella was simply going to go home. The brats could fend for themselves for a few hours until their mother got back.

Why Olivia didn’t have her driver’s license yet was anyone’s guess. It seemed to Carmella that Garnet babied the girl too much, and let her spend all her time reading instead of getting out and experiencing the world. The poor girl would end up just like her brother, skimming through life with her wits dripping down her face.

A blaring newscast assaulted Carmella’s ears as she passed Timothy’s room on her way to the shower. Cursing, she threw open the door. How many times did she have to nicely tell him not to leave the lights on, the shower dripping, the window open, or the radio on when he wasn’t in his room before the kid actually bothered to listen? And the stereo was playing the same dreary garbage – reports on the “civil unrest” in North America, and what some such politician had said to whichever diplomat that had apparently blown up in everyone’s face. Now they said something about threats to airspace and a quarantine of international airports. Carmella stabbed a button to silence the irritating report. “Get a new story,” she muttered to the unresponsive stereo. These reporters were like teenagers – making as much noise as possible to get your attention, and then changing the subject before you could deny their claims. The South Americans had been threatening North America for who-knew-how-long.

When she was back in the kitchen after her shower, Carmella took pause. They had said something about quarantining airspace. She checked her watch. Garnet was now five and a half hours late. Before her panic could fully develop, the phone rang. Carmella nearly collapsed with relief.

Her voice was shaking so much she could barely say “Talk” into the receiver.

“Garnet, I was getting so worried about – ”

“Carmella LeGrange?” interrupted a voice, cutting her off.

“Yes?” she replied after a pause to feel foolish.

“This is Selina Carver at Edmonton International Airport. Am I correct to identify you as the sister of Garnet Kearne, who flew to Canada on the third of May?”

The words chillded her. Carmella’s knees gave out, and she fell against the cupboard doors. “Oh, my God, Garnet – ”

“Ms. LeGrange, I must be brief so I can inform other families. We are being threatened by Chile and its allies. Airspace both here and in Lower America. has been quarantined, and national communication is being strictly controlled.”

“Garnet! Where’s my sister?”

The untouchable voice carried on. “And so I need to be the one to inform you that she is safe, but she won’t be returning home until the threat has been resolved. She also will no longer be able to communicate with anyone.”

A long time ago, Garnet had fallen down the well at their grandparent’s house. Carmella had laughed and laughed, until she realized that the water below was silent. She ran and got her grandfather and they had hauled up her sister’s limp body. Carmella had never thought she could possibly hold so much terror into her heart again.

“Let me talk to her right now!” Carmella screamed.

“I cannot let you talk to her, for security purposes. She’s safe. That’s all I can tell you.” The dragon lady paused, and let emotion into her voice for the first time. “I’m sorry.”

Click-click. The connection died.

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