Septemus 73

Saturday Night with Sis

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“Hi, Mr. Sevens!”

Panda arrived on a purple cloud of enthusiasm. We’d been preparing all day for her visit. Pops made a fresh batch of ice cream, I cleaned the house, and we all took naps so we could stay up all night, if we wanted to.

Pops laughed at Panda’s politeness. I don’t think he’s been called Mr. Sevens since… ever.

“‘Sebastion’ is fine,” he said. “And welcome, Pandora.”

She giggled.

I kept trying to think of jokes, but, really everything was funny without them.

“I almost got lost on my way,” she said, “but I asked a strawberry bush for directions. Plants are very helpful here, don’t you think?”

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“I like strawberry!” Octy said. “Berry funny!”

We stood out in the yard and talked about everything: Harmony and her bees, the trip from Forgotten Hollow, Caleb and his floppy hair.

When Panda found out we had a punching bag in the back, she got so excited. Harmony had been a boxer, and Panda couldn’t wait to give boxing a try. She ran inside, changed into her workout clothes, and dashed out.

Pops’ boxing gloves were huge on her!

“I think I’ve got smaller gloves inside,” I said, “like from when I was ten.”

She’s so fun to tease. She pretended she hadn’t heard me, but I saw her nose wrinkle.

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“I’ve gotta learn to defend myself. Mum said so. It’s fun, though, because I can pretend that I’m a superhero. BAM! Down goes the giant wasp!”

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She jokes, but when it comes down to it, she’s actually pretty serious about learning to defend herself. She doesn’t want Harmony to have to worry all the time. I won’t have to worry, either.

Gorgeous sis gets all sorts of attention, and soon, she’ll have a left hook to back up her “Move along,” when needed.

I’ve only been wanting to shop with her forever, since I first saw her in that adorable little kedi dress, so I cut short her boxing practice so we could run across the street to the clothing store before it closed. Just being around her makes me feel more trendy.

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The store was having a fitness special. Neither of us really needed more workout clothes, but it was fun to talk with the mannequins.

“Why, Miss Mannequin, did you forget your clothes?” Panda asked. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we can find some on the clearance rack.”

So many people hovered around us, listening in. I felt self-conscious, and the moods I picked up from them weren’t the most comfortable to be around. Is it xenophobia? Paranoia? Or is it just that they’ve never seen two good-looking teens like us in the same room before?

Salim was there, so I wasn’t really that worried. He’d have our backs, if anything ugly started up. But the others were strangers. And they didn’t seem all that friendly.

“I think they’re spying on us,” I whispered to Panda. “It’s because you’re so shiny!”

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Panda giggled. “What are they, magpies? If they steal me for their nests, I expect you to mount a rescue, ok?”

“Ever at your service!” I said with a bow. Then I whispered, “Let’s give them a show!”

“Freedom!” Panda shouted, and we jumped for a high five. That bought us a bit of space.

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Looking back on it, I guess we got a little wild. I mean, yes. We did. I felt giddy, and Panda was silly, and next thing I knew, we got out of hand.

“Where’s your nose?” she said, reaching out to grab it. “Got it!” she yelled, wiggling her thumb between two fingers. “Oh, wait. That’s not your nose. Your nose is much, much smaller!”

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A noogie-match ensued. Before I got thoroughly trounced, the sales clerk, who had a magnificent nose, quite grand enough to inspire nose-envy in tiny-nosed guys like me, told us to “take it elsewhere.” Something about inside voices, outside voices, and publicly sanctioned quiet areas.

“Let the paying customers shop in peace,” he muttered, as we tumbled out in a jumble of laughter.

Back home, Panda found an old rocket kit left over from grade school. She and Pops put it together. I brought out my homework, so I could be close, but still give them space, just the two of them.

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“I love chemistry,” I heard Panda say. “It makes sense. If you put things together in the same way, you’ll get the same thing every time! Unlike people – they get all messy at least half of the time.”

Pops was quiet. I’m sure he was agreeing inside.

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“I like the compounds, though,” Pops said at last. “Mix different elements and you come up with something entirely different. Surprising, even. You’re a charming surprise, you know, Pandora. A one-of-a kind, luminescent element!”

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As they were finishing up, Octy started fussing over at the doll house.

Panda got there before Pops or me.

“Hello, little Octypuss. What’s wrong?”

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“My doll wants up,” he said. “She lonely.”

Panda took the hint and hoisted Octy.

“Oof! You’re a heavy little thing, aren’t you? That’s good! It means you’re growing. Come on, sweetie, how about you give me a house tour?”

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He nestled his face into her hair.

I think Octy misses this, I realized, being snuggled by a woman. Pops and I give him loads of attention, but we seldom hold him like that. And we don’t smell good, like Panda does.

“Hair bubbo gum!” Octy said, happily gnawing on her locks. “Panda is berry yummy.”

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After the house tour, we sat on the porch and played chess. I admit, I suggested a two-player game so I could get her to myself again. I’ll share her a little bit, but I’m not ready to share her a lot.

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Pops put Octy to bed while we played and talked.

Four’s a good number. I decided that when Xirra stayed with us. With four, someone’s always got someone else, and nobody has to be left out.

“Can I have my knight eat your rook? You know, to gain its power?” Panda asked.

I just laughed.

“That’s how the vampires play it!” she said.

“It is?” I asked.

“… No,” she admitted. “I made it up. It’d be pretty cool, though, wouldn’t it?”

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It was nearly dawn, and I was starving.

When I came downstairs with my snack, Pops and Panda were sitting together, chatting.

“You want some ice cream, Pandora?” Pops asked. “It’s creamy vanilla.”

“With sprinkles and a cinnamon stick!” I added.

“I’d really love to try it, but I can’t risk it,” she said. “Stupid tummy.”

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“You’re skipping ice cream?” I asked. “With rainbow sprinkles? You not feeling well, mopagoto?”

“I think it’s more that my body isn’t used to its new shape yet. It’ll settle, I’m sure of it.  Until then, I’ll just have to live ice-creamily through you, bagoto. Still …”

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“Ah, well,” she finished, staring forlornly at my ice cream cone. “It’s fine.”

But it wasn’t. It was rude to eat in front of her, and I was too starving to quit now, so I took my ice cream cone, with all the sprinkles, back upstairs to finish.

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“Oh, well,” I heard Pops say before I reached the top step. “There’s more to life than ice cream!”

“That’s true.”

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By the time I returned, they were laughing like old pals.

“So then mum was being chased by all these bees, because they thought she was a flower! She kept yelling, ‘No! I’m not food,’ so I grabbed the smoke thing we use on their box and blasted her with it. She looked ridiculous, all foggy and annoyed, but at least the bees left her alone after that. I had to herd them out of the house and back into their little boxy home.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a beekeeper,” Pops said wistfully.

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When she left, shortly before sunrise, Pops made her promise to come back soon.

“Bring Harmony with you!” he said. “I’d love to meet another gotojo!”

“She’d love that! I promise, if you don’t like her, we know a thing that can reverse invitations. Caleb taught us it before she turned. She’s sweet, though, honest.”

Our home felt so quiet after she left. Pops went to the computer and started working on his novel. As the computer keys clacked, I pulled out the memories of Panda’s laughter and Xirra’s humming. Even Shésti’s sharp voice didn’t seem so bad.

It’s something to have a house full of the energy of beautiful women, old and very young. No wonder the rebels haven’t been defeated. Nobody can quell the power of the feminine.

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Author’s notes: Look! It’s Panda! We had such a great time when she visited! She really does sparkle, inside and out! All her actions in-game were autonomous, so this is her, in all her loveliness!

Many, many thanks to Thymeless for writing this with me! Panda’s portions of the dialogues were created by Thymeless, as were many of the ideas and sequences of pictures and events. We had a blast, and I hope we get to do this many more times in the upcoming sequel and over in Thymeless’s Pandora’s Box.

If you haven’t yet met Panda and Harmony, please head over to Thymeless Challenges to read Pandora’s Box! You’ll also enjoy Thymeless’s other stories there!

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