A day passed. Then two and by the time Kahlan’s cell phone blared like a siren to signal it was time to wake up on Saturday, an entire week had passed since the Blackwater cousins had issued their threat. T.D. had cancelled all practices that week under the guise that she wanted the team to use the extra days off to rest while in reality she wanted them all to lie low for the time being.
Just keep your heads down. She had told them. She’s just trying to scare you.
A few inches below Kahlan’s bed, Tory pulled the covers on the futon higher over her head, using the blankets to cocoon herself.
“Hello?” Kahlan croaked, her eyes still blurred by sleep.
“You and Tory have fifteen minutes to get your butts out of bed.” Aria’s voice was nearly drowned out by the typical sounds of Boston traffic. “You guys promised that if I drove your hung over butts to hockey practice last week you’d help me paint the baby’s nursery today.”
“We’re up.” Kahlan lied. “Don’t worry we’ll both be ready when you get here.” She hung up the phone before Aria could get another word in. “Go! Go! Go!” Kahlan leapt out of bed, nearly tripping over Tory as she went. She tore open her dresser drawers headed towards the upstairs bathroom. “Hurry up and get changed! She’s going to be here any minute!”
Tory hastily stripped out of her pajamas and grabbed her jeans from the back of Kahlan’s desk chair. Fumbling through the dark she grabbed blindly at one of Kahlan’s shirts and forced it over her head. Tory gathered her hair up in her hands, her teeth clenched around a hair tie before wrapping the whole thing up in a neat ponytail. Kahlan returned a few seconds later and flipped her lights on.
“Do you realize your shirt is backwards?” She asked Tory the moment the room came in to focus?”
“What?” Tory looked down. “Oh damn it…” She grumbled and quickly adjusted herself.
Downstairs in the breakfast nook Brian Sr. was already skimming through his morning paper, tweed hat and jacket hanging neatly on the hook beside the door and loafers tucked out of the way. Kahlan could smell the lingering pipe tobacco scent on her father’s shirt long before she gave him a hug.
“Morning Da.” She said brightly, rubbing her face across his cheeks. “You need to shave.”
Kahlan’s father stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Tomorrow maybe. It isn’t that bad yet.”
“Mum’s not going to want to kiss you.” Kahlan warned.
Brian Sr. smiled, his eyes twinkling. He was a big man, both tall and broad like his oldest boy; his body etched from years of disciplined training as both a boxer and hockey player. He was not a man people were eager to cross, but when it came to his daughters Brian McDara IV was helpless. “Alright.” He agreed. “I’ll shave it later.”
Just then the heavy locks on the door that lead from the upstairs to the Céilí’s kitchen began to click open. Due to the circumstances, Kahlan felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck momentarily rise in alarm. The panic didn’t faded until Aria walked through the doorway.
“Oh good, you two really are ready.” She smiled. “Let’s get going, there’s a lot of painting to do!” Aria eyed them both up and down.
“Don’t worry, we picked clothes we don’t mind getting dirty.” Kahlan reassured her eldest sister.
“You shouldn’t be doing anything too physical Aria.” Their father warned his first born. “So if you get tired, kick their butts in to overdrive.”
“Please Da, you act like I’m already swollen like a balloon.” Aria laid her hands across her stomach. “I’ll be fine, but if it makes you feel better I’ll make sure the wonder twins over here do all the work on the ceilings.”
“Did you finally choose a color?” Kahlan asked she buttered a piece of toast. “Or is that on the list too?”
“I have one.”
Aria’s house was a twenty minute drive across the city. Kahlan next beside her sister in the front seat of Aria’s dark green Jetta while Tory stretched out in the backseat, head nestled against a folded sweatshirt. Since Murph had been gone on assignment, Aria mostly lived back home in the Barrow with the rest of her family, returning to her empty town house once or twice a week to clean and check her mail. But a week ago she’d found out the sex of her unborn child at long last, and was determined to get the nursery appropriately decorated to surprise her husband when he returned home in a few months.
“It’s a boy!” Kahlan and Tory screamed in unison when Aria set the paint can with the label ‘Odine Blue’ on top of her kitchen table.
Unable to control her smile Aria nodded. “It’s a boy.” She confirmed. “But Murphy doesn’t know yet; so keep your mouths shut!”
Kahlan and Tory were beside themselves with the news. “You and Murph were hoping for a little boy first, weren’t you? What are you going to call him?” Her words were bubbling with joy. "Do you have a name picked out?"
“Not yet.” Aria admitted. “But there’s plenty of time until I have to decide.”
They went to work spreading a large white tarp across the hardwood floor of Aria’s guest room and then went to work taping around the edges of the windows and the door. Kahlan and Tory pried open the cans of paint and portioned them out in to the flimsy aluminum pans while Aria unpackaged the rollers. And for almost two hours they worked away at the walls.
“Hey Kay what’s red and smells like blue paint?” Tory asked.
“Really cousin, you’re hilarious.” Kahlan said dryly.
Tory flicked the end of the roller. “But more importantly I’m fresh out of this paint.”
“Yeah, I’m out too.” Aria set her pole down on the tarp. “Just in time too, my back is starting to ache. Let’s break for now and head over to the hardware store. We only need enough for one more coat.”
“Do you want me to drive?” Kahlan offered. “You can stay here and rest.”
“I’m fine.” Aria insisted. “Really, I’m only three months along. When I’m in my third trimesterthenyou can pamper my insane hormonal self as much as you please, if you can still stand me of course.” She gave her stomach an affectionate pat as the trio made their way through the front door. “The hospital is only giving me another three months there until they want me on official maternal leave.” Aria explained and locked up. “But this little guy has giving me plenty of energy. The store’s close enough that we can walk so let’s hit the road.”
The nice weather had held up all week. It was still sunny but the unseasonable warmth had almost completely abandoned the city. Kahlan zipped her black and gold Bruins fleece up midway and stuffed her hands in to her pocket. She whistled a high tune as they went, enjoying the budding signs of Spring as the last days of her and Tory’s school break were rapidly coming to a close. Soon they’d be back at their dorm room at Boston University. Terra, who was brilliant, was busy following Aria’s footsteps at Tufts University only a quick subway ride away so it was easy enough for the three to get together.
“You two can just wait outside. This’ll only take me about five minutes, and that’s only if there’s a line inside.”
Tory leaned against the side of the building. The moment Aria disappeared inside she pulled a cigarette from her back pocket.
“Stressed?” Kahlan asked, deciding against pestering her cousin about her habit as she usually would have.
The past few days, it had been a wonder Tory hadn’t tore through pack after pack of her unfiltered Marlboros. Kahlan couldn’t even image the burden that must have been crushing Tory, even though her cousin refused to admit it. Of course, Kahlan knew better. There was little the two could hide from one another.
“I saw Marissa Blackwater the other day.” Tory admitted. “When I went outside to get the paper, I swear she was right in the alley across from my house. The look she gave me…” Tory shivered. “You could almost think she had been serious.” She took a long drag. “This just isn’t working.” Frustrated Tory extinguished the butt on the sidewalk.
“Have you even been sleeping?”
“Last night was the first time I made it through a full night all week.” Tory admitted. “The first night I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat.”
“Does Terra know?” But Kahlan knew the answer long before she even asked. No one in the family knew; no one but them. Nervously Kahlan reached in to her pocket and fiddled with her stone. “We go back to school this Tuesday and by the time we get home for the summer everything will have long since blown over.”
Tory reached upwards to her neck and fiddled with her necklace. “You’re probably right.” She murmured as she gently tugged at the small silver triquetra: the symbol of the Celtic Trinity. “I can always count on you to make me feel safer.”
Kahlan smiled and opened her mouth to agree, and to add that she was always right when something stopped her. Instead she gave a gentle nod and said, “Fortitudine et prudentia, mo anam cara.”
“Dree yer ain wierd.” Tory responded. "Mo anam cara."
The gunshots erupted before either girl had a chance to say more.
The first bullet clipped Kahlan across her hip, the second exploded just above her knee. The third buried itself in to the wall behind them.
The fourth and final bullet took Tory right in the center of her gut.