Power and Fury: Just Warming Up
Super powered college sophomore Jan Caufield may have mellowed a bit, but a friend learns that she still packs a heck of a punch.
The punch bounced off of Jan Caufield's cast iron abs.
She chuckled, put her hands on her hips, and flexed her abs even
harder. The ridges around the eight solid blocks of muscles on her mid
section deepened. The next punch was slightly harder, but the effect
was the same. The fist smacked against Jan's stomach and bounced off.
Date: September 2005
Nine year old Timmy Rogers shook his hand and wrinkled up his face. "Yeah, I guess they're hard enough", the little boy allowed.
Jan laughed and patted the boy on the shoulder. She was dressed in her black and silver basketball shorts and her black sports bra. She'd just finished her workout and Timmy had caught her coming from the weight room. Inside the weight room, Jan's sculpted arms and tight midriff had turned heads. Timmy had seen her as she turned the corner towards the stairs. He was determined to make one of his punches hurt her stomach. After trying twice, he walked next to her as she headed up the stairs. He screwed up his face and punched her quickly while they walked. "Did that hurt?", he asked with hope in his voice.
Jan shook her head. "Sucker punch, huh? And, no, I can't say it did. You better stop before you get in trouble with your mom again." Jan wiped her stomach with her towel. There wasn't even a mark where Timmy's nine year old knuckles had hit her. She let her abs relax, and the deep ridges disappeared. Only hints of the muscles showed as she walked.
"Aw, she's trying to make me a wuss."
Jan chuckled. "No, she just wants you to be safe and grow up right, that's all." Timmy followed Jan all the way to the ladies dressing room. "Well, young man, this is where you stop."
Timmy didn't wait for Jan to go inside. He turned and rushed back down the stairs to the gymnasium. Jan smiled and watched the little boy go down the stairs. He seemed like a nice kid. He was a little small for his age, but he had spunk.
Jan went inside and sat down in front of her locker. She sighed when her butt hit the seat. It was five in the afternoon, and she was tired from her own personal workout, but her day wasn't finished yet.
She sat down on the bench for a few moments thinking about how her life had changed in just the last two months. In that time, Jan had been captured and nearly killed. No nineteen year old wanted to die, but what was worse for her was the fact that a team made up of friends and family had risked their lives to save her. Jan had to admit that the group that had saved her had been more than capable, but some of Jan's closest friends had nearly died including Sara and Alisha. Both of them had only been moments from the end. After that night, Jan, Alisha, and Sara knew that they had changed, not in ways that anybody else would have noticed, but in some small ways inside their own minds. They all had powers that so far had been used to great effect as agents for the Treasury Department, but they all realized that they were more than just their powers. They wanted to have regular lives, and to be able to use their powers and other talents to help the people around them. Before her abduction, Jan had already decided that she was going to teach piano lessons for free, but after it, she decided to teach something else as well.
Jan sighed and pulled herself together. She reached into her locker and pulled out her blue gi. She put it on top of her other workout gear and wrapped her brown belt around it. She was pretty proud of that belt. She'd only had it for two weeks.
She walked out of the dressing room to the large aerobics room just two doors down. There were fourteen women in there waiting for her, including Timmy's mother Mary, but they weren't waiting for an aerobics class. Since Jan had moved back to Atlanta for college, she had been teaching women's only ju-jitsu and self defense classes. She'd gotten the idea from her friend Lisa, and these days she had the time to do it. All of the women in the class were older than Jan, but they respected her. The class was milling around when she came in, but they quickly formed a semicircle. Jan smiled and walked towards the front of the room.
"How's everybody today?", she asked as she tied her hair into a pony tail. After a few moments of chatter, the class started. Jan loved teaching these women moves and holds that didn't rely on strength, but on technique. They had been hesitant when the class had started, but now they were confident and eager to learn. On Tuesdays they learned with the gi and sparred against one another, but at the second class on Thursdays, they wore regular clothes and learned more practical self defense methods. Jan was great at showing them how all the things they learned fit together to keep them safe. Most of the women had been victims of some sort of violence in their past. Some had been battered spouses and others had been the victims of assaults. Jan had to include herself in the victim category too, but in a different way. For most of her life she had been on the giving end of beat downs. She'd knocked out more teeth and broken more bones than ten people combined. She'd been in some tough fights in her life, but even without her powers, Jan had been able to kick ass since she was a girl. Finally though, she'd met somebody who could give as good as she could and could take near as much.
There were precious few things that Jan Caufield had been afraid of in her life. But for a year after their first fight, Jan had been afraid of a man named Mel Johnson. He was the biggest human being she had ever seen. He was 7 feet tall and 400 pounds of solid muscle. On top of his natural size, Mel had been taking the 'juice' for years. His natural strength had been enhanced to the point that in the first fight he was actually able to injure Jan with his bare hands. He hadn't been able to tear her shoulder from the socket, but almost. Jan admitted to herself that she'd gotten lucky to beat Mel. She could have killed him at the end of the first fight, but she didn't. She had never killed when she fought Mel the first time.
She thought about her second fight with Mel as she watched her students using some of the same techniques she'd used against Mel in the second time around. Jan could throw blows with almost anybody, but Mel had gotten even stronger by their second fight. He was clearly stronger than her, but that didn't matter. Jan had used all her fighting knowledge to wear Mel down and nearly pummel him to death. By the second fight, Jan had killed many times over, and she had every intention of killing Mel. Just as she was going to kill him, he had tricked her into helping him break her own neck.
Jan grinned as she walked around the large room observing her students. They were all doing so well. Jan smiled at how stupid she had been, but she didn't consider herself a victim because of her fight with Mel. That had been a pretty fair fight, as street fights went. She had lost and so what, if only that had been the end of it, but it wasn't. Jan could empathize with these women because after her fight with Mel, she had been taken to a secret lab in Oklahoma and tortured for almost two weeks. Those days in Oklahoma had been the hardest days of her life. The scientists there had nearly broken her will and her spirit. They had made her curse her power to heal. She had prayed to die more than once before she had been rescued.
Jan's body had healed completely before the plane from Oklahoma had landed in her home state of Maryland, but the ordeal had taken a toll on Jan's mind. Jan was nervous and suspicious in the days after her rescue. She'd gotten through that just by the force of her own personality, but there were deeper problems after going through what Jan had been through. She had talked to therapists and even had some sessions with some of the telepaths who worked for the government. She had pronounced herself fine after a few meetings. She knew she wasn't her old self, but she was determined to face challenges as they came at her.
To most people, Jan seemed normal, but the people
who knew her saw the differences. Jan was still Jan, but it was like
everything about her had been taken down a notch or two. She was still
as drop dead gorgeous as before, but her confidence had been as
alluring as her body itself. Jan had had a swagger that threw off
confidence that was contagious. She was still confident, but in the
past Jan's confidence could have been mistaken as arrogance, not so
much now. It still wasn't too hard to get a rise out of Jan, but these
days her rises weren't quite as fiery as they used to be. She wasn't as
intense as she used to be either. Before her ordeal, a simple stare
from Jan's deep blue eyes was enough to give grown men pause, but these
days most people just marveled at how beautiful her eyes were, not at
the sparkle of the personality beneath. Sometimes her old self would
come out, but Jan just figured that the things that used to matter to
her just didn't matter as much anymore.
Just as Jan's class was starting at the gym, Sara Hewitt's extra long shift was coming to an end. Sara usually got off at 3:00 on Tuesdays, but she had agreed to step in for another girl who had to take off with her sick 2 year old. Sara didn't mind. She liked working where she did.
The last few months had opened Sara's eyes to possibilities that she hadn't even thought of. Sara was one of the most powerful telekinetics in the world, but she was also a powerful telepath with unique abilities. It was Sara's ability that had first sparked interest from the people who ran the secret spy school under the Livingston Academy where Sara, Jan, and their friend Alisha von Edder had all attended high school. It was Sara's use of her power that had ultimately lead to Jan and Alisha joining the government as a secret agents, but that part of their lives was behind them. The three of them had killed for their country, but no more. They had quit in August and turned in their badges, but it wasn't the work for the government itself that had caused the three of them to resign. In a distant way, Sara felt partly responsible for what had happened to Jan in Oklahoma. In the end, they had all escaped with their lives. When they had decided to put their powers and skills to good use, there was only one place that Sara wanted to go. She knew that this is where she could do the most good. Sara worked as a tech at the Cherry Glen Long Term Care Facility. It was easy for her to get the job. The government had trained her to be a certified EMT.
Sara was on her last round of the day on the second floor where she worked. Most of the people on her floor were not elderly, but rather younger people who had been in injured in one way or another and gone into a coma never to wake again. There was always a flickering of hope that someone would wake up. Some of the long time employees still talked about a guy who woken up from his coma in 1990 and spoken with family and friends before slipping back under. Chuck Thornton was only 31 then; he was 46 years old now, and he was still on the floor. He hadn't said a word since, well not out loud anyway.
"Hey, Sara", he greeted her with a thought as she walked into his private room.
"That's wonderful you recognized me", Sara thought back to Chuck.
"Yeah, you have a unique feel."
Sara sat down in the chair on the left side of his bed opposite the window. She was tired of walking around. "So, have you been doing the exercises I taught you?"
"Of course", was Chuck's bemused reply. "I'm in this damn bed 24 hours a day, I'd do them just to occupy myself."
It had taken Sara a couple of weeks to get through to Chuck. What was left of his consciousness had been locked deep in his damaged brain. Sara had coaxed him out day by day until now he could carry on a normal conversation with his thoughts. He still faded in and out, but mostly he was in. Sara hoped that one day soon he could train his brain to rewire itself and allow him to enter the real world again.
She looked at her watch. "Well, I'm heading to the gym, Chuck. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Ok, you know where to find me."
Sara chuckled, but Chuck didn't really hear her. "You'll be up before you know it. Goodnight."
"Goodnight", Chuck thought back. Sara started to walk out the door. "Hey, I've been meaning to ask you this, Sara, but... Umm... Are you hot? You know like the hot nurses in the movies?"
Sara closed the door quickly as she laughed out loud. She walked back over to him and took his hand. "You're going to have to wake up and find out for yourself. Besides, you're a married man." She leaned over and kissed him gently on the forehead. "Goodnight, Chuck."
Sara chuckled again as she walked down the hall towards the elevator. Some of the other staff wondered what she thought was so funny, but they didn't ask. Most of the staff liked Sara, but they thought that she was sort of strange. She stayed in the rooms a little longer than the other staff members, and she always seemed a little distant. They didn't know that Sara kept her mind open all the time she was at work. She strained to hear the slightest thought from any of the patients on the floor. So far only two people spoke to her regularly. There was Chuck, who she believed had a real chance to wake up, and there was Amir, but she didn't have as much hope for him. Some of his organs were starting to fail. He would probably die before the end of the month. He knew it too and was preparing himself for it. The only thing he wanted, was to hear the Qu'ran read to him one more time in Arabic. Sara didn't know the first word of Arabic, but Alisha had gotten quite good at it in the last year. Alisha had sat down and read it in her mind and Sara linked them so that Amir could hear it. The feeling of peace he had while Alisha had been reading was noticed by even the regular staff.
Sara looked at her watch again and hurried to get into her new blue Hummer H3. She'd only had it for a couple of months since school began, but she loved it. At first she didn't think that she wanted a vehicle at all, but Jan's 350z only had two seats, and she was tired of sitting in the back of Alisha's BMW because Jan's legs were too long to fit, so somebody had to have a practical vehicle. Sara drove the ten miles to the gym. Everything in Atlanta seemed so spread apart. She guessed that Atlanta had either been planned by a drunken guinea pig covered in ink, or by a three year old with finger paints. After fighting traffic, she pulled into the parking lot, grabbed her bag from the back and rushed inside.
Jan glanced up while showing one of her students a move in time to see Sara looking through the small window in the door. Jan smiled and Sara waved. Sara hurried down stairs to the weight room. Sara and Alisha often assisted Jan in teaching her class, but Alisha was busy this night and Sara was running late.
The class ended at 6:30, and as soon as it did, Mary's son Timmy rushed inside. Jan covered her stomach with her arms and pretended to be afraid. Timmy smiled and hurried to his mother's side. Mary wrapped her arm around her son and pulled him close; the same thing she did after every class.
"Did you tap anybody, Mom?", Timmy asked with the enthusiasm of a child.
Mary looked down at her son and nodded. "Twice", she reported.
Timmy looked back at Jan with the question unasked, but written all over his face. Jan smiled and nodded. "She's one of my best students." Mary beamed and gathered her small bag before she and her son walked out the door. Jan talked to a couple of ladies for a few minutes, but after a while she was alone in the room. She sighed and looked at the mats on the floor. She pulled her arms out of the sleeves of her gi and tied the top half of the gi around her waist as she started folding the mats. Jan stacked the heavy mats one atop the other before she pushed them over to the side of the room.
She didn't notice, but there was a set of eyes peering through the window watching her move those mats. Jan was tall, and she walked around looking like an athlete with naturally great proportions and terrific natural lines, but when she flexed or exerted herself, her muscles seemed to pop from nowhere. As she moved the mats to the side of the room, the heads of her deltoids rippled and a vein that hadn't been there before appeared running across her left shoulder and down her arm and over the crown of her bicep. It puffed up more as Jan bent down and shoved the mats hard against the wall. Her biceps flexed then. The muscle just rose up out of her arm from nowhere. A vein ran over the peak, but her arms weren't even flexed really. Jan's muscles could really expand when she wanted them too.
She took a deep breath as she finished moving the mats. She looked around trying to see if she needed to sweep the room or not. She judged it clean enough. She was about to turn the lights off, but she saw a pair of boxing gloves laying against the wall. They must have been left over from the kick boxing class that met before Jan's own ju-jitzu class. She picked the gloves up and slipped them on. She used her teeth to pull the velcro straps tight before she walked to the other end of the room and took a half hearted swing at the smaller of the two heavy bags. Jan used to train multiple martial arts including boxing, and Thai boxing but she wasn't sure if she was going to continue, but just throwing one punch had made her miss the training. She turned towards the bag and got into a real stance before she threw a quick one two.
Jan settled into her breathing rhythm and even started bouncing a little as she turned and threw a right cross that shook the bag and it started swinging before Jan stopped it with a left hook. Jan backed up and jabbed the bag a couple of times before she tightened her core and slammed another right into the bag. The leather dented in from the blow. Jan leaned down and felt herself entering a zone. She threw an uppercut with her left and then a right hook. Her forehead perspired and the sweat rolled down Jan's hard body as she bounced around the bag throwing one hard punch after another. She was really enjoying herself until she heard the door open. She turned quickly and saw her friend Brian Pronger.
"Man, I hope you don't ever get mad and hit me like that", he said as he came in.
Jan was breathing a little heavily, but she smiled as he came close. "What? You mean those love taps I was giving this bag. I'm not even warmed up yet."
"They sounded pretty hard from the hall way."
"You could hear them in the hall?"
Brian walked across the room. "Yeah, you could. Sounded like somebody was slapping a leather belt against the floor."
Jan smiled. "Well, it wasn't a belt and it wasn't against the floor, but there was some leather being slapped." Jan turned towards the bag, squinted her eyes and sent a powerful hook into the side of it. Brian couldn't help but stare. Jan's entire upper body had hardened as she threw that punch. He had seen her biceps bunch up, and he had seen her shoulder turn to cords of muscle as the punch flew. Her obliques had striated to the point of looking like razor blades. Her pecs had striated too and flexed, making her sports bra stretch a bit as the punch hit the bag. The whole thing had only taken an instant, but in that instant Brian had seen a lot.
"Show off", Brian said. He had been taking the kick boxing class at this gym for the last month or so. He was trying to learn how to handle himself in a fight better, but he realized right then that he had a long way to go.
Jan's grin turned into a full fledged smile as she stood there with her hands on her hips. "I've been called that before. So what brings you in here?"
Brian looked down at Jan's waist and hesitated. He stared at the muscles flexing and relaxing as she breathed. His eyes traced the twin veins that ran up her abdominal wall. He followed the veins with his eyes until they disappeared beneath her gi and shorts. He wonder just how far down those veins ran. Jan frowned at him, but he couldn't see it. "Those are my gloves", he said. He looked up finally. "I just came back to get my gloves and then I saw you in here."
"Why do I think you're lying?"
"I'm not", Brian defended himself. "I have my initials on the straps.
Jan turned her wrists over and saw that he was telling the truth. "Well, I had to put these gloves through their paces, let them know what throwing a real punch is like."
"So you think you're big stuff? Well yeah you might bang the 50 pound bag pretty good, but in class most of the guys hit the big bag." Brian pointed over to the 100 pound Everlast bag hanging a few feet away.
Jan grinned like she usually did when challenged. She walked over to the 100 pound bag put up her fists before she sent a sharp blow into it. The room echoed with the sound of the punch. Before the sound had even faded, Jan had sent another right into the bag. There was now a dent a little larger than the size of the glove in the bag and it swayed a bit. "What do you think about that?"
"So was that a punch? I don't think the bag even felt it." Brian walked over next to the bag and put a hand out to steady it.
"Hold that bag then while I lay into it", Jan said as she took a step away. Brian took up position behind the bag and leaned into it like his teacher had showed him. He didn't lean too much because he guessed that he wouldn't need to. Jan was talk, and had great muscles, but how strong could she be?
Jan tightened the straps on the gloves and bounced around before she got into her boxer's stance again and jabbed the bag a couple of times. Her jabs would have made the smaller bag move a little, but they didn't even make the 100 pound bag shake. Brian smiled as Jan sent a couple of short, but hard punches to the bag. He could hear the impacts, but he could barely feel them. He took a breath to say something. He didn't know that was what Jan had been waiting for. As soon as she saw his chest fill with air, she sent a bone jarring cross into the bag.
All the air that Brian had sucked in, whooshed out of his lungs. Jan didn't give him a chance to recover. She dug deep and her body expanded with power as she sent a left into the bag that sounded like something had exploded. The boom was deep and hollow. Her fist buried itself in a pit she had created in the side of the bag. Jan hopped away from the bag so she could really step into the next punch. She spread her feet slightly and turned her hips into the straight right that rocketed forward. This punch made Brian's teeth clatter together.
Jan bounced to her left and to her right before she threw a quick sequence of lefts and rights. Brian felt himself being lifted off the ground just a little as Jan's punches slammed into the bag, but at least he had recovered enough to be able to take breaths between punches. Jan had totally zoned in, and she threw her punches crisply and with great power. Her body was on automatic as she let the leather fly. She threw a series of punches so hard and so fast that the impacts sounded like machine gun fire. Each punch was hard enough to make Brian groan, but he was hanging on. Jan saw that Brian's face wasn't quite as red as it had been a moment ago. Her punches were still coming hard, but Brian had compensated for Jan's power. She decided to throw him off guard again.
She bounced away from the bag, and Brian saw all her abs tighten, especially her lower ones. It was a sight to see. All the muscles of Jan's awesome midsection defined and writhed as she moved. He had seen some athletic girls, but none had muscles to match Jan's. Her bare midriff was so hard, so ripped, and so sexy that Brian was forced to stare. He didn't even notice her leg whipping in a tight arc. It slammed into the side of the bag harder than any of her punches had. It sounded like a bomb had detonated as her leg struck the leather. A deep impression was left in the side of the bag and Brian was knocked back. He stumbled a couple of steps before he regained his balance. His face was beet red now, and he waved his hands in front of his face.
"Enough, enough. You win", he croaked, starting rubbing his chest.
Jan grinned at him before she raised her arms over her head and then lowered them into a double biceps pose. She snarled and smiled at the same time as she flexed her arms hard. Her biceps had been nice and rounded before, but this time her peaks really grew until both of her upper arms were swollen with jagged vascular peaks that made Brian's mouth water. Her felt himself stir in his shorts as Jan straightened her arms at pumped her biceps. The muscles just seemed to get better and bigger by the moment. In that moment he wanted nothing more than to go up and put his hands on her muscles.
Jan sucked in her abs and held the flex for a couple of seconds before she brought her arms down in a crab flex. He watched her pecs tighten and then bunch up. The cuts ran out from the center of her chest out towards her shoulders. She sucked in her stomach making her chest, lats, and delts look huge, only to slowly crunch on her abs. The defined muscles of her stomach revealed themselves again like armor as she held the flex. Brian pulled his long loose t-shirt down to try to hide his raging harden. He hoped Jan didn't notice. She sort of noticed but didn't let Brian know that she had. After a few seconds, Jan relaxed and pulled off the gloves. She gave Brian's shoulder a squeeze.
"I was just having some fun with you. You did pretty well though. A lot of guys couldn't have taken those shots."
Brian rubbed his chest. "I didn't take those blows", he began as he walked around the bag to see if Jan had put a hole in it. "The bag did." He looked and saw that there was no hole, just a bunch of deep imprints where Jan's blows had landed. He had held the heavy bag many times, but never for anyone who hit as hard as Jan did. Only the instructor's blows sounded like Jan's when he hit the bag, and he outweighed her by at least 35 pounds. Brian just stared at the imprints and shook his head.
"If you ever hit me like that, I'll sue. Or my family will sue, cause I think I would die."
Jan laughed. "Now why would I ever hit you like that?" She was a little winded now and she had to talk between deep breaths.
"I don't know, I might say something you don't like."
Jan put her long arm on Brian's shoulder as they walked towards the door. "Brian, I have to not like a person to hit them that hard."
"That makes me feel better."
Jan looked over her shoulder at the bag, and was fairly impressed with her work. That was the first time she had done any striking in quite a while. At least her punching power hadn't waned. During her little demonstration, Jan had been tempted to use just a little bit of her super strength to really impress Brian, but she had decided against it. She had already had a bad experience with Brian almost finding out about her powers, and from the look of him, she was glad she hadn't used it. He could barely stand her punches with just her normal strength.
They walked down the hall together and saw Sara coming up the stairs. She looked tired, but happy. She saw Jan wearing her gi, and she saw Brian holding some boxing gloves. "So who got worked over?", she asked as she come closer.
Brian raised his hand. "I did. And all I was doing was holding the heavy bag. I don't think I'll do that again. How the hell can she hit that hard?"
Sara chuckled. "Her muscles don't show like this all the time. But trust me, she's as strong as an ox." Sara looked at Jan's face. "A very attractive ox", she added.
"Well, I refuse to stand anywhere near the bag when Jan really gets going. You're braver than me", Sara said as she wiped her forehead and neck.
"Not braver, just ignorant. Like I said I will never do that again. I couldn't imagine you holding the bag, Sara. There's a lot more of me than there is of you, and she was bouncing me around like I was a little kid."
"I just held on for dear life last time I held the bag for Jan."
"Wait a minute. I didn't even hit it that hard when you held for me, Sara. I really let Brian here have it."
"Jan, sometimes you just don't know how hard you're actually hitting."
Jan seemed insulted.
"Well, I better get going. I have some studying to do tonight", Sara said.
"Yeah me too", Brian admitted. He started down the stairs, but turned quickly. "Hey, are you two going to the party this Friday?"
Jan and Sara looked at each other. "Probably."
"Good, its going to be fun. And make sure you bring Alisha. She goes to Tech, but we're even letting them in the party too." They agreed to tell Alisha about the party before they turned and walked into the women's locker room. Brian watched as the two beautiful young women turned and walked out of sight.
Jan and Sara both showered before they left for home. They walked out of the gym together. Jan had her large gym bag slung over her left shoulder and her ever present laptop bag hanging over her right. Sara only had the one bag as she walked towards her Hummer. She'd parked close to Jan's 350z. Jan was talking to Alisha on the cell phone while they walked towards their cars, trying to find out where she had been. Alisha was too busy to talk for long, so Jan just hopped in her roadster. Jan and Sara pulled out of the parking lot one after the other and drove to the apartment complex where they now lived. Jan, Sara, and Alisha had all thought of living on campus one more year, but the idea of living together appealed to them more. They'd found a really nice four bedroom apartment in a North Atlanta suburb. It was the first time that all three of them had been room mates. Jan had lived with Alisha in high school, and she had roomed with Sara during their first year in college, but now all three of them lived together. They had envisioned being able to live without having to hide their powers or their pasts. That had been the case for the first couple of weeks they were in the apartment. They had played jokes on each other and even experimented with their powers, but they couldn't do that now. They couldn't even talk about them.
Jan followed Sara up the stairs and waited for her to fish out her key and open the door. The front door opened before she found it. "Hey, Avery, you're home early", Sara greeted her first cousin. Jan came in right behind Sara.
"Yeah, no studying tonight. They just had me doing paralegal stuff down at the firm, since I'm not licensed yet to practice law in the great State of Georgia. So I just left whenever I finished the busy work they set out for me." Avery tried to put a happy face on, but the frustration was plain. He slumped onto the living room sofa. Sara dropped her gym bag on the floor and sat down next to him. She grabbed him by his curly blond hair and pulled his head to her shoulder, just like he used to do to her years ago when she was grieving after the death of her stepmother.
"Its going to be okay, Avery. We just have to have faith."
Avery pulled his head back away from her shoulder, but he wrapped an arm around his favorite cousin's shoulders. They were closer than cousins. Sara was like his younger sister. They had even been mistaken for brother and sister more than once. He wiped back the moisture in the corners of his eyes and tried to straighten his face. "Thanks, Sara, its just that today I was sitting at a desk in the bullpen of this firm going over utility receipts for a simple small claims case in Clayton County. I just sat there for about an hour wondering how the hell my life got to this. I aced law school. I breezed through the bar exam, I was on my way to making partner. I got my name all over town." He paused and raised his head a little. "When I first started out, I was pulling every pretty face in Nawlins. I don't have to tell you that. But then I met Melissa. I was building a life, and a home. I asked Melissa to marry me a month ago and she said yes. She said yes, and we went down on Bourbon Street that Saturday and partied until we were sick the next mornin. Then a week later, Nawlins drowns. Everything's... Everything's just gone."
Sara gave his arm a squeeze. There was nothing she could say. Avery had tricked Melissa into going to Baton Rouge before the storm, but as soon as he had dropped her off at her brother's house, he had driven back to New Orleans. The levees broke two days later, and Avery had been stranded for nearly a week. In that week, he'd seen things that most Americans would never see. He had helped people and even saved a few lives, but a despair had built in him that had never been there before. Even in the worst of times, Avery had been Sara's own personal rock, but she didn't feel sorry for herself. She felt like this was her chance to be his rock.
Once Avery escaped New Orleans, he and Melissa realized that they couldn't stay in Baton Rouge with her brother; there just wasn't enough room. They were going to stay at the Hewitt family estate of Clover Bottom, but Avery had a friend at a firm in Atlanta, so they had come to live with Sara, Jan, and Alisha, until they got back on their feet.
Melissa was in the kitchen. It was her turn to cook. She didn't mind. It kept her mind off of her problems for a short while, and she was a pretty good cook. Everybody in the household tried to make it to the evening meal. In the early days it had built up a sense of family that all of them had left behind, and it was a way for Jan and Alisha to get to know Avery and Melissa better. Melissa, had known Sara for several years, but she had only met Jan and Alisha during Mardi Gras earlier in the year. She had to admit that at first she had been threatened by the two beautiful young women being around her fiancee everyday, but Alisha had gone out of her way to make Melissa feel comfortable. Plus Jan already had a boyfriend who had come to visit, before going back to Israel. Melissa was ashamed to admit that Avi was a pretty handsome guy with a great smile and easy manner. More than once, she had to chide herself for thinking about Avi.
That night, the five of them sat down at the large table and ate dinner. Alisha even came out of her room. She was working on a big computer programing project that no one else in the house even understood, but she assured them that she was making progress. The five of them made the usual talk of how their days had gone. Sara was itching to tell the group of her breakthrough with Chuck back at the nursing home, but she couldn't. She would tell Alisha and Jan later on that night, but she wouldn't tell Avery and certainly not Melissa. Avery knew that Sara had some telepathic abilities. She had used her power to talk to him in his mind, but not too often. He didn't know anything about Jan's powers or Alisha's. It was strange not being able to talk freely about who they were and they could do, but the girls had promised each other when Avery and Melissa had moved in, that they would keep up the charade as long as they had to.
coming very very soon!!
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