The bottoms of Tory’s Converse sneakers slapped loudly against the asphalt as she sprinted down the alley. She’d always been faster than Kahlan, and consistently stayed five or six paces ahead of her cousin the entire way to the line. Her heart was pounding with the typical mix of anticipation and apprehension; her lungs were working overtime as she pushed her legs to go even faster, enjoying the burn that was beginning to erupt in her tight calves.
When the trio reached the line a small crowd had begun to form on both sides.
“Move it!” Kahlan ordered and instantly the majority of her fraction parted as she made her way through the center, Tory and Serenity on her heels. T.D. and Julie were waiting when she reached the front. “Good morning.” She greeted casually, as if nothing was amiss. Her sharp eyes hastily searched the gathered. “Where’s Cara.”
“Doing a quick sweep.” Julie answered. “The only reason T.D. and I are here is because Cara told us the little chancers had an audience.” Her eyes indicated further back.
On the other side Marissa Blackwater gave an indignant grunt, unbelievingly that she wasn’t the first thing Kahlan would direct her attention towards. Beside Marissa, Carynn stood with her hands crossed over her chest, watching the entire situation with only the slightest bit of interest.
Noses nearly touching two young boys, probably no older than twelve stood glaring at each other: both daring the other to lean closer while keeping their own toes firmly planted in place. Surrounding both boys was a small retinue of likeminded youths, all jeering at the sets of eyes looking directly across from them. “What’s going on?” Kahlan asked.
“He crossed the line!”
“No you crossed our line!”
The troops erupted in to a fresh argument, their vigor renewed as they screamed obscenities at one another. Most members of the Barrows had established the Blackwater and McDara territories by where West Beacon blended to East Beacon. But everyone besides the young and the stupid knew the line kept next to nothing out; both sides crossed with trouble only really arising when people went looking for it: like now.
Rules stated that once a Blackwater crossed into McDara territory, or vice versa they became far game and risked facing street justice for breaking street rules. Instinctively the older girls had pushed the handful of boys back from the line, surrounding them like a pride of lionesses corralling their defenseless cubs. Younger kids typically just saw it as an excuse to fight, but on rare occasions a disruption sometimes led to real violence.
That was exactly what Kahlan wanted to avoid, no matter how deeply she secretly wished Carynn or Marissa would cross over so she could somewhat justify bashing the smug expression off their faces. Without another word she grabbed the lead boy by the scuff of his shirt collar and sent him reeling backwards. “Get out of here or I’ll hit you myself.” She threatened.
The boys on the Blackwater side began to titter softly, their laughter growing even louder when the boy Kahlan had chastised began to blush a deep scarlet. Tory stepped forward then. She lit a cigarette and took a long drag before leaning forward and blowing a thick stream of smoke in to the lead boy’s face. “Something funny?” She asked darkly, her O’Rourke eyes ablaze like lightning.
Though Kahlan took notice that Carynn seemed to be arguing with her own cousin, Marissa Blackwater stormed forward. She shoved the boys out of the way and glared at Tory. Kahlan swallowed nervously. Neither of the two girls were reasonable when angry, and if it came to blows Kahlan was too loyal to injure Tory’s pride by trying to stop her. Her eyes met Carynn’s who didn’t look particularly happy about how things were beginning to take shape either. She and Marissa were outnumbered where it mattered, and worse she knew the cousins had righteous anger fueling their adrenaline. It was one thing to mess with one another during games; but this could potentially escalate to levels she had no desire to reach. She doubted Kahlan would follow through on her threat from the other day, but she didn’t feel lucky enough to take the chance.
“Tory…” T.D. rested a firm hand on Tory’s shoulder. “Come on, there’s nothing to do here.”
Marissa smirked. Like Laila, Marissa Blackwater was olive skinned with dark hair, Black Irish some called it. Carynn though, like most in the Barrows was on the paler side with mousy light brown hair. She was a fast skater, a hard hitter and as much as it begrudged Kahlan to admit it, a solid ice hockey player.
“Why don’t you listen to Storm over here? Wouldn’t want to get hurt now, would you?” Her dark brown eyes flicked devilishly to Tory’s bound hand.
Tory’s pallor was rapidly darkening. At the back of her throat a queer scratching sound could be heard, like a cat when it was watching a bird through a window, imagining itself breaking its neck. Carynn decided to act.
“Marissa!” She snapped. “Let’s go.”
But Marissa couldn’t be swayed, even without Carynn to back her up. She took another step closer to Tory, wavering dangerously close to crossing a line that suddenly became very,very visible to both parties. Marissa and Tory were like two attack dogs whose chains had grown fully taunt; fueled solely by rage and snapping their jaws all the while refusing their masters’ calls to heel.
“Tory!” Now Julie, who usually loved watching such exchanges, seemed on edge. “C’mon girly let it go.”
Kahlan gently brushed past the older girl and cupped her hand around Tory’s upper arm. “Cousin…” She said, for privacy’s benefit switching to Gaelic. “We’re leaving.”
Older by only two hours, it didn’t matter: Kahlan was still older than her cousin. Half O’Rourke and half McDara, Kahlan’s word held just enough extra weight to tip the scale out of Tory’s favor. She could feel her cousin shaking beneath her touch, rippling with fury. Finally, Tory took a deep breath.
“Alright.” She said and nodded. “Alright.” Tory repeated in English and took a step backwards, the anger steadily receding from her blue eyes. “It’s not worth it.”
“You’re fucking nothing!” Marissa screeched as Tory walked away. “Hear that O’Rourke? You’re nothing.” She grinned, her white teeth gleaming. “You can’t do anything to me, can you?”
Kahlan looked at Tory and knew it was too late. Nothing she could say now would make a difference, but still she said; “C’mon just walk away.”
Tory pivoted and in three quick strides was nearly pressed chest to chest with Marissa Blackwater. “Go ahead.” Marissa taunted. “Threaten me all you want O’Rourke: You’re all talk.”
Instead of rising to the bait, Tory smiled. It was a soft smile, playful almost. But Kahlan knew the difference: that was their grandmother’s smile. They’d called it her ‘viper smile’. Tory let out a loud sigh, as if all her anger could be so simply dispelled. “No, no my friend, this isn’t a threat.This…” Tory pointed towards the asphalt. “This…is a threat.”
Without warning Tory’s arms snapped forward and Marissa hit the ground. For a few seconds pure silence reigned as if the air itself was afraid to be noticed. There was no rippling of leaves on the trees surrounding the nearby houses, and of the nearly dozen gathered Kahlan couldn’t hear a single soul, herself included, breathing.
But the silence broke and within seconds as both sides grasped what they had just witnessed. The handful of the Knights as well as the kids who had started all the trouble broke out in to fits of hysterical laughter. The young boys on the other side of the street were floored by their rivals’ reactions, unsure what or who they were laughing at exactly. Marissa Blackwater’s face burned with embarrassment as she lay half stunned flat on her back.
Kahlan saw her face twinge and slowly Marissa’s hand began moving towards her waist. She felt the laughter die painfully in her throat. Kahlan grabbed Tory roughly by her shoulder and forced herself in between her cousin and the Blackwaters. The other girls caught her mood and stiffened. But surprisingly Carynn moved first. She yanked her cousin up by her arm and whispered something too low for Kahlan to hear before shoving her further down the street,“not the place” being the only coherent bit she caught.
Without another word the Blackwater cousins turned heel and left, leaving the children on their side suddenly leaderless and frightened. Kahlan could almost pity them for the panicked looks of abandonment that flashed across their faces as they frantically scattered.
T.D. and Serenity were saying something to the young boys behind them. But Kahlan was deaf to everything but the roaring that had erupted through her ears. The way Marissa had moved and the look that had flickered through her eyes…a million different scenarios rushed through Kahlan’s mind.
“Kahlan.” Julie shook her gently. “Hey, you look like Vancouver just scored in OT.” Her voice was concerned.
You’re imagining things.Kahlan thought to herself. She shook her head as if it were that simple to clear herself of her thoughts and smiled. “I’m good Jules, don’t worry about me.” When she turned she met eyes with Tory.
“Sorry.” Her cousin mumbled.
Kahlan reached down and squeezed Tory’s hand. She turned to her captains as if awaiting instruction. “We’re going to head out now. We’ll see you guys later tonight.”
“What? It’s over already?” Panting, Cara Fields put her hands on her hips as she tried to suck air in to her lungs. “Whew, what did I miss?” She glared angrily at Julie. “I can’t believe you made me run perimeter and I missed the good stuff.”
Cara looked very similar to Julie, far more so than the McDara-O’Rourke cousins did to one another. Both girls had honey gold hair and light green eyes and despite the two years the separated them, the Fields cousins were more or less the same height. Once Cara caught her breath she turned to Kahlan and Tory and beamed.
“Hey!” She threw her arms around Tory and squeezed tightly. “So tell me, what happened?”
If there was one person who encouraged Tory’s escapades, other than Kahlan of course, it was Cara.
“I knocked Marissa Blackwater right on her ass.” Tory could hardly suppress her grin. “Didn’t know what hit her.”
“And I missed it!” Cara scrunched her brow in disappointed. “Oh my God, I can’t wait to call Celeste and tell her! She hates that witch.”
“Alright kiddies, time to dissipate.” T.D. gave Tory’s shoulder a playful shove. “Kay, get Taz out of here before she get’s herself shot please.”
Kahlan nodded. “Do me a favor; don’t mention this to Laila and especially not to Aislin.”
It was asking a lot, Kahlan knew that. Especially since T.D. and Aislin were good friends.
“What about Aria?” T.D. lifted a dark eyebrow teasingly.
“Please.” Kahlan rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding me? Aria probably already knows.” She looked at Cara. "We're heading to Plymouth with Terra, want to join? We'll probably hit up Celeste's house and exploit her pool."
Cara nodded. "I'm in!"