Calvin stood in the open doorway rubbing at the back of his neck where the small hairs stood up and made him itch like he had shaved it. The apartment was wrecked and Rain stood in the middle of it, her arms stretched over her head running a duster across the ceiling while her foot dragged the running, canister vacuum along behind her, it’s cleaning attachments strewn about like they had been vomited up. She had braided her long, nearly black hair and it lashed the air behind her like a thick tail. A large, black trash bag, half-filled, lay under the dining room table, its top edges rolled down to hold it open. He could see last month’s cell phone bill, considerately mailed to him despite his repeated requests for paperless billing, laying on the top of the heap.
His eyes tracked her movements like an unseen feline tracked a dog. Should he just back out and close the door? Come back later? He still had a few bucks in his wallet. He could just wander over to the gas station and get one of those overly sweet concoctions they called a cappuccino and wait this out. His conscious prickled uncomfortably and he looked toward the small hallway, trying to spot his cat. It wouldn’t be fair to leave Hobbes by himself with Rain right now. The small, gray tabby was nowhere to be seen which probably meant he was huddled inside the box spring of the bed, thinking hatefully of the vacuum. Thoughts of the torn fabric under the bed brought to mind the promise he had made to Rain about removing it. Hobbes had made quite a furry, nest in there. A smile tugged at his lips as he remembered the look on Rain’s face when he had explained the hole as being the cat’s only real place where he could get naked and be himself.
The vacuum turned off, aided by a swift kick from Rain’s work-booted foot. Calvin locked his eyes on her face and closed the door carefully behind him. He had lost his chance. Keeping his voice carefully neutral he greeted his beloved.
“What’s going on Rain?”
“Your mother called.” Rainbow rolled her shoulders backward then forward, her long, usually friendly face tightening with pain. The dust sweeper hung down from her hand, its asbestos-like covering nearly black with dirt and cobwebs and cat hair.
“Huh?” Calvin felt in his jacket pocket for his cellphone. It was there. “How?” He squinted slightly, suspicion dragging his eyebrows a little downward. “What do you mean?”
After a final stretch with both arms in front of her Rain poked the duster at the computer in the corner of the living room. It looked innocent on its chipboard desk. Calvin stared at the screensaver, a green and black simulation of The Matrix. He loved it.
Rain gave him a withering look and extended the duster to prod the mouse, sending the screensaver away. A vaguely familiar window was open on the monitor, it’s short list of contacts running downward on the left. Calvin stared blankly for a second as he processed what he was seeing.
“She Skyped you.” Stabbing the duster down onto the carpet Rain leaned on it like it was a cane and gouged him with her eyes, her braid rolling ominously over her shoulder. Calvin blinked. Did her braid just twitch on its own? “She fucking Skyped you!”
“I didn’t know she would do that.” His voice was soft and apologetic while his heartbeat picked up. “She never seemed to like the program.” If The Queen had Skyped Rain then she had seen the apartment. That explained why Rain was cleaning but, why was she so mad?
“She invited us to dinner. Sean is coming home.” Rain’s eyes flashed lightning bolts.
“Sean’s coming home? When?” Carelessly Calvin forgot about everything in front of him as excitement over his brother’s homecoming blossomed in his stomach. “How long?” A huge smile spread over his face.
Rainbow seemed to relax a little, her anger diffusing just a bit. She smiled back at him.
“He’ll be here Wednesday and he’s staying for a week.”
“Wednesday is the start of my weekend!” Calvin smiled even bigger. He would have two full days to spend with his brother and hear all about the Army’s boot camp. His mind filled with visions of what Sean might look like now that he was well fed and exercised. His little brother had always been a bit stringy. Muscle would probably look good on him. Calvin tried to picture Sean with a military haircut and fatigues and couldn’t do it.
“Yes.” Rain nodded. “And dinner will be at six o’clock sharp.”
Dinner. Calvin’s smile saggged a bit. Dinner with The Queen and her golden son.
“Ugh.” He stepped fully into the living room and sat down on the orange recliner. “God, we have to go to her house.”
“Now you’re getting it.” Rain chuckled.
“Is that why you’re so mad?” Calvin looked up at her and nodded toward the mess that was Rainbow’s cleaning project.
“Oh that?” Rain lifted the duster and began twisting the handle between her hands like she was actually wringing out a wet cloth. She looked a little guilty but still managed to send off a sheet of anger like a solar flare. “That’s just because of what she said.”
“Huh? What did she say?” Calvin tensed. His mother had a gift for saying exactly the right things to get under someone’s skin. It was like she had no social-buffer or, deliberately ignored it.
“Just the thing about me having two mothers.” The duster handle creaked faintly, the plastic straining in her hands.
“What? Did she say it again?” Calvin remembered the first time his mother had met Rainbow. It hadn’t gone well. Rain was Native American and had grown up on the Rez. Her parents were Mr and Mrs Starshine.
“No. I just got to thinking about it after we hung up and got mad all over again.” She looked around her as if just then noticing the destruction. Every piece of furniture was a bit off from the indents in the carpet and the drawers of both the computer desk and the endstand were ajar and lacking the normal view of their heaped contents. Calvin suspected his small collection of Harry Potter trading cards had found a new home in the trash bag. It probably didn’t matter, he never really did anything with them anyway.
“I guess I got a little over-zealous.” Rain laughed and propped the duster against the table before sitting down in the golden overstuffed chair that was normally covered in Hobbes’ hair.
Calvin grinned and thought she looked more beautiful than ever when she was angry. Her life-force shimmered off her like a heat mirage when her emotions were jacked up. Was that his t-shirt she was wearing under her button-down? He thought it might be his favorite blue one. A warm, happy feeling spread out in his stomach.
“She said that months ago. I thought you were over it now?”
“Yeah, well… I don’t actually get over things.” Rain looked at the television, it’s black screen off and not looking back. “It’s how I am. Five years from now I’ll be watching something on tv and somebody will say something or do something and it will remind me of what your mother said and – BAM! – I’ll be pissed off all over again and yanking the stove out to clean behind it.” She grinned back at him, all teeth and honesty.
Calvin felt his heart leap into his throat.
“You plan on still being with me in five years?” In spite of The Queen? Was she saying she loved him unconditionally. He wanted to wriggle like a puppy but forced himself to hold still like an adult, setting for letting his feet arc upwards onto the toes a couple times.
“I don’t have any other plans at the moment.” Rain pulled her face into an overly serious expression. “Where have you been anyway?”
“Talking with Chaz.” Calvin snorted.
“Chaz? Who’s Chaz?”
“You know, my good buddy, Chaz. The guy I have been friends with since he was a little girl? The guy who normally tells me everything?” Calvin felt a little of his happy feeling going away as he snipped out the words.
“Chaz?” Rain stared uncomprehendingly, reminding Calvin of himself only a few moments ago.
“Yeah, Chaz. That’s what he wants to be called now.”
“What? Why?” Rain eyed the duster across the room and leaned forward in the chair, shifting her weight toward her knees. “He hasn’t even spoken to you in a month. Did he say where he’d been?”
“Well, when you get a new life I guess you get a new name too – and he explained his absence.” This was going to be the biggest bomb of the day, even bigger than the news about Sean coming home. Rainbow waited expectantly, looking ready to launch back into a cleaning frenzy. Calvin felt his neck hairs stand up again as he made his lips form the words.
“Charles is a werewolf.”