Another Hero's Journey: Decisions - Part Three
Reuben stumbled into the dining room, yawning. Somehow, he knew that he was the last to get up.
“Miss Melissa, this is really good! It’s like everything you touch becomes delicious!”
“If that were true, Devin, we could even eat the table, and the chairs, since she touched them too...”
“’Ben, did you just step on my foot?”
“Sorry, Andrea, I was trying to step on Omar’s. He was about to take that last bit of cheese.”
“No, I wasn’t!”
“Good morning, Reuben.”
Melissa and Andrea were the first to greet the white Blumaroo as he roughly pulled the nearest empty seat and plopped himself into it. He sighed, staring at his reflection in his plate – were those dark circles beneath his eyes? Before he could find out, a slice of bread obscured the image.
“Here you go, sleepyhead,” said Ruben, grinning. “Would you like some cheese with that?”
“Nah, maybe a bit of butter will do, ‘Ben.”
The white Kyrii ended up spreading more than a bit of butter on the bread, but Reuben didn’t seem to notice. But as he was about to eat, his mother spoke.
“Is that all you’ll be having?” asked Melissa, raising her eyebrows. The older white Blumaroo had stood up with an empty serving plate that once held a slab of cheese. “You need to eat if you’re going to work today.” But instead of swooping down on her son and chiding him, she turned toward the kitchen.
Before she could even leave the dining room, she heard him say something that made her stop in her tracks and nearly drop the plate.
“I won’t be working today.”
And it elicited several more simultaneous reactions. In fact, the only one who didn’t respond was a purple Lupe who sat up straight with her eyes shut. She looked as though she was sleeping... and at the same time, didn’t.
“Excuse me?” Ruben abruptly stood up, his voice rising by an octave.
“Why?” Devin and Omar asked together.
“Reuben!” Andrea chastised him indignantly, but the red Kyrii looked more appalled than angry. “You can’t just...”
In a flash, Melissa was beside Reuben, and she felt his forehead. “You’re not running a fever... do you feel well, dear?”
The younger Blumaroo wriggled out of her grasp, pushed himself away from the table and stood up. “I’m... uh, actually... not really. I think I’ll just go to my room.” He walked away as everyone else watched in stunned silence, and Melissa followed, leaving the empty cheese platter beside her elder son’s untouched, meager breakfast.
Before anyone else could say anything, the purple Lupe opened her eyes and surveyed the table with a piercing hazel gaze.
“Never interfere in the affairs of mother and child,” she proclaimed in a delicate yet commanding voice. Blinking, Olivia added, “I saw this coming. Change is coming, and they must prepare themselves. The Hills of Trest have spoken to me.”
“What kind of change, Mother?” asked Omar. The brown Lupe scratched his head and traded looks with Andrea.
“A kind of change neither Reuben nor Melissa will ever forget.”
* * *
Melissa shut the door behind them. She faced Reuben, who sat at the foot of his bed, and the two of them stared at each other.
“Don’t think I don’t know what’s going on with you. You’ve been like that ever since you got Rohane’s last letter, when he and his little friends were sent to the Lost Desert. I was just waiting for you to say it... but now...”
“No, you’re right,” said the younger white Blumaroo, conceding before the argument even began. “Even Andrea and Ruben think so, and when Devin, Omar and Miss Olivia came to visit, they also noticed. At least, I think Miss Olivia noticed...” He paused, burying his face in his paws, which muffled his voice slightly.
“I don’t know... I’m really worrying about Rohane now. He’s been gone for too long. I thought he would come home after dethroning Ramtor, but then he had to get taken to Terror Mountain, and I was all right with that too, and now he’s in the Lost Desert. He said that he, Mipsy, and Talinia are off to stop those sandstorms. But why them? More importantly, why him? And I thought that after Andrea brought this up yesterday I would feel better... she cornered me before you did...”
Melissa placed a reassuring arm around her son. “It’s all right to worry; I’m sure Andrea already told you that.” She either didn’t seem to notice that Reuben had talked to his friend first before his mother, or didn’t mention it. “But this kind of worrying is too much. And now you’re skipping work...”
“Actually, there’s a different reason why I skipped work, but it’s going to take a while to explain, and I’m sorry, Mother.”
“Well... you might not like what I’m going to say.”
“Why not?” The female Blumaroo gave him a concerned look, her forehead creasing ever so slightly.
Reuben bit his lip and clenched his fists. “I got this idea just last night, but...”
* * *
“What do you mean, you can’t find it? Of course, the dagger is there, where all the other customized daggers are supposed to be! It’s the one with the curved blade and the little bits of crystal in the hilt!”
“Calm down, Devin,” said Omar, pushing the curtains aside and gripping the green Kacheek’s shoulders tightly. “I’ve got it right here.” Turning to the blue Hissi, the Lupe said, “Here you go, sir. We’re sorry Mr. Reuben Deivrann – “
“Isn’t his last name Terraflare? I heard it was changed after they realized their ancestors were...” Devin disagreed as he took the package and gave it to the Hissi.
“Whatever. Anyway, the maker of this fine blade, who also runs this shop, can’t see you today, so we’re filling in. There.”
The customer narrowed his bright yellow eyes as he plunked a large bag of Neopoints onto the counter. He grabbed his package and left in a hurry, his nose in the air and banging the door behind him.
Omar rounded on his comrade. “Idiot, now look what you did! Yelling at others doesn’t give the customers a good impression of how we run things here!”
“We’re not supposed to be running things here, anyway! This is Reuben’s job, and we’re supposed to be behind the scenes! And someone else could have taken over!”
“Reuben didn’t want to show up today; is that my fault?”
“Cut it out, you two,” said Ruben, peeking in from the smithy. “Clarence is in a corner whimpering that he’s no good at all, thanks to all that yelling.”
The brown Lupe glared at the Kacheek. “Someone shouldn’t have yelled at him, you know.”
Ruben sighed. “Look, you two can cool off; it’s the lunch shift, and we can take a break. Come on. Miss Melissa’s sure to have something so good that you will instantly forget about arguing. I’ll just get my sister – “
“No need,” said the red Kyrii, who just came back from the display of crossbows. “Let’s go. And we can see Reuben and find out if he’s willing to come this afternoon.”
“He’s been acting pretty weird lately – as in, before you guys came to visit,” added Ruben. “It’s been a while, a really long while. I wish I knew what was going on with him. Do you think it had something to do with that scroll he got in the mail months ago?”
Unsure of whether she should tell the truth about Reuben or not, Andrea answered, “Maybe.”
“What did Rohane say in his letter that could have upset his big brother like this?” asked Devin as he held the door of the shop open for them. “Or is this classified information?”
“Classified information,” said the red Kyrii, narrowing her light blue eyes. “It wasn’t addressed to any of us; therefore, we have no right to snoop.”
“I wish we could, just so we could find out what’s bothering Reuben,” grumbled her younger brother. “It’s starting to bother me, too...”
The four of them finally reached the front door of Melissa and Reuben’s house. Four paws rose to knock, but a brown one actually did. The door was opened by a purple Lupe in a long navy robe dotted with silver moons, golden suns and colorful stars. She looked at them as though she had been expecting them – which she most definitely was.
“Ah, here they are, Melissa.”
“Right on time,” said the white Blumaroo, smiling widely as the hard workers quickly headed for the table, grabbing seats. And as they did, they noticed something, or more appropriately, someone, who had already taken his seat before any of them.
With a more serene, unfathomable expression on his face, he waved them over and said, “Um... before anything else, before we eat, I have something to tell you guys. It’s really important, and I already discussed it with Miss Olivia and my mother. I ditched work today so I could think about it, but in the end, I did more talking with them than I thought I would.”
The boys nodded and took their places first, but Andrea hesitated before doing the same.
“Will you finally tell us why you’ve been so down lately?” asked Ruben.
“Yeah, if you don’t come to work tomorrow, Omar is going to drive all your customers away,” Devin commented, and winced as the brown Lupe stomped on his foot. “Ouch, watch it!”
“Work? Oh, about that...” Reuben paused and stroked his chin, trying to figure out the best way to say it. “I might need you to do counter duty for a bit...”
The green Kacheek gaped at him. “What? Why?”
“I’m leaving for the Lost Desert tomorrow.”
To be continued...