I searched for Max, hoping he could tell me what was going on; nobody else seemed willing to stop their hurried preparations to tell me just what they were preparing for. Max was nowhere to be found and my anxiety grew stronger; I had a very bad feeling about what was going on. I decided the next best place to find answers would have to be the council building, so I headed in that direction.
On my way to find Clara, as I knew where she always was, I heard small parts of what people were saying to one another. Things that included "vampires", "full moon", and "attack them first". These words and phrases made me quicken my pace; I wanted answers and Clara would have to give them to me.
Finally, at the council building, I ran up to Clara's office. I walked in, as I did any time I needed Clara's help. Little did I know, Clara was holding a meeting with all of the higher-ups and I had just walked into the middle of it. I felt my cheeks turn bright red with embarrassment and I backed toward the door, stammering.
"I-I'm sorry everyone! I had no idea- I didn't know...."
Clara stood up at the head of the table, "It's fine, dear. I expected you came to find out what's going on in the village!"
I nodded, feeling too embarrassed to speak.
"As you have a right. Max, I know you're well prepared for what we are going to do, will you take Amelia out and inform her of what is going on?"
Finally I saw Max. He was sitting halfway down the table. Nodding, he got up and walked with me out of the room. His face showed slight anxiety, as had everyone else I had seen that day. When he turned to me, I did not wait for him to speak first.
"Max, what's going on?"
"We're planning an invasion. We'll be leaving later today; probably about two in the afternoon, actually."
"We're invading?" I gasped, the word invasion had pure danger etched in every syllable, "But, Max! You've only been training me for-"
"Mel, you can't think you're going along? You're right, you've only been training for a very short time. I wouldn't let you risk your life to come along."
"So... You expect me to stay here. Alone. While you and everyone else goes out and risks your lives?"
"Yes, I have to expect that of you."
"So, What about the children. If you don't dare to let me go, surely you're not bringing them?"
"The other teenagers have trained for long enough. We only have a few kids here who are certainly not old enough to come along. That's where I have to give you your first task for our society."
"... You want me to play babysitter, right?"
"Not want- need. We can't leave the kids here alone and we usually go out a little short-handed, because one of our fighters has to stay behind with them. Mel, don't you see how important it is to us that you stay here with them? We have an extra fighting hand and we will know the kids are in good hands!"
I sighed, seeing his point and knowing I wouldn't be of much help to them out there. He was absolutely right about that. I nodded and said, "I'm not gonna like knowing all of you are putting your lives on the line, while I'm sitting around here playing Barbies or whatnot, but I do see why you can't have me helping this time, so I'll stay."
Max nodded, and gave me a hug, "Thanks for understanding, Mel. Maybe next time you'll be ready to go out with the rest of us."
"Where do I watch these kids and how many are there?"
"There are only three. They're siblings. You can watch them in their basement, that's where they always go when we go on invasion missions. They're pretty good kids."
Soon, Max took me to a large cabin near the center of the village. He opened the door and led me inside. I felt a little awkward just walking into someone else's house; I'd been here almost two months, but still wasn't used to the idea that anyone could come and go from anyone else's house at any time they pleased. It didn't creep me out so much anymore, at least.
"Mel, I want to introduce you to Gina. She's the one you will be babysitting for, while we're out."
A tall, slim woman smiled at me, her hazel eyes shone with kindness, "It's very nice to finally meet you, Amelia."
I blushed a little, realizing how antisocial I'd been with everyone but Clara and Max, "It's nice to meet you too, Gina."
"So, Where are the kids, Gina?" Max asked.
"Already sitting in the basement, playing games. " Gina said, brushing a lock of her wavy, golden hair off her shoulder, "Come on down and meet them, Amelia Max, they've been dying to see you all day!"
`Gina led us to a door at the end of the hallway and opened it to a wooden staircase that led downward, into a well-lit basement. The three of us walked down and I finally heard the voices of the children.
"Come on Frankie! It's my turn!"
"Stop fighting everyone," Gina told them, rounding the corner, so they came into view. The three kids jumped.
"Mom, Frankie won't let me take my turn!" one of the little boys cried, running over and wrapping his arms around his mother's legs.
"Sweetie, go sit with your brother and sister. I have someone I'd like you to meet."
The child sniffled and went to sit next to his siblings- choosing a place next to the little girl rather than the other boy who I presumed was Frankie.
"Kids," Gina said, leading me towards her children, "This is Amelia. She will be taking care of you guys today, while everyone is out."
The little girl finally spoke, "Mommy, why does everyone leave town together so much?"
"Business, honey. We'll be home soon though."
"How come you're going this time?" Frankie said.
"Because they need me this time. Maybe I'll bring you guys home something special from the trip though."
All three children's faces lit up at the thought of a special gift when their mom got home. They looked a little more willing to let her go along with everyone else and stay with me, than they had before. The happy looks on their faces made me smile.
"Okay, so come here," Gina said, ushering me in front of the kids, "Okay, so from left to right: This little trouble maker here, is Frankie." Frankie looked up at me with hazel eyes just like his mother's, "My little angel, Heather." The little girl looked down, shading her eyes under long lashes, "And the baby, Keith." Keith smiled at me.
"Amelia? Are you gonna play 'Sorry!' with us today?"
"Sure, I will." I said, feeling a sudden warmth toward the youngest boy.
Gina stepped back and went to talk to Max, while I got to know the kids a little bit.
"So, Frankie, Heather, and Keith... Do you guys mind having me hang around here with you for the day, til your mom gets back?"
"No. I don't care." Frankie said, shrugging his shoulders.
"Sure," Heather said, shyly.
"Yeah! It's gonna be lots of fun!" Keith said, leaping out of his seat.
I smiled and excused myself from the kids in order to go see Max and Gina, "Your kids are adorable, Gina. I'm actually looking forward to spending the day watching them."
Gina smiled a little mischievously, "You might rethink that opinion by the time we get back tonight. They can be a handful."
"I can imagine they will be, where there are three of them."
"Okay, ladies. It's about time to get going," Max said, "You sure you're all set for the day?"
"Alright. Gina, let's head out."
Gina walked to her kids to say goodbye, and I turned to Max, "Max...be careful today."
He chuckled, "You sound like one of those girls in movies whose hubby is going to war. Chill, girl!"
"I mean it, though. It can't be safe out there and I want you to be careful. Please?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be careful as I can be, Mel."
I nodded and they left. I walked back to the kids, my mind filled with fear for Max, but trying to show none of it on my face, "What do you guys feel like doing?"
"Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Keith immediately began to chant, running over to the forgotten game board on the floor.
"Is everyone else okay with that?"
The other two kids got up and walked to the board, not saying much. I tried to make small talk with them, as I re-set up the board, "So... How old are you guys?"
"I'm six!" Keith said, happily.
"I'm ten," Heather said, as she decided which color piece she wanted to play with.
"Eleven." Frankie said, in a bored tone of voice.
So, I had a happy six-year old that appeared as though he would make today eventful, a shy ten-year-old girl, maybe I could break her out of her shell a little? And an eleven-year-old boy who, I got the feeling, didn't like me very much already. I had some work ahead of me.
We played several games of Sorry!, much to the delight of Keith. Our fifth game was abruptly brought to a halt, when Frankie decided he'd had enough of it and tipped the board over, sending pieces and cards flying everywhere.
"What was that for, Frankie?" I asked, as Keith began to cry.
"I'm tired of this game! We've been playing it all day long!"
"Why didn't you just say you didn't want to play anymore? We could have thought of something different to do, but now you've made your brother cry."
I gathered Keith in my lap, as he sobbed and sniffled, Frankie just folded his arms and glared at me, mumbling something about "taking Keith's side". I tried to think of something to make all of the kids happy but, seeing as I barely knew them, could think of nothing that would be agreeable to each of them.
"Amelia?" Heather said, quietly.
"What's up, Heather?"
"Can we watch The Lion King?"
Keith lifted his head up off my shoulder with interest. Even Frankie stopped looking so sour. I smiled, thinking maybe this was something that would keep the peace for a little while. Heather ran to get the movie while the other two kids settled down to watch. When she got back, I popped the DVD in and sat down on the sofa with the three children.
As the movie began, Keith decided he needed to sit beside me, but there was no room, so he settled for sitting on my lap, instead. I thought I heard the creek of a floorboard through the basement ceiling, but I brushed off the thought, thinking I must be imagining things. A sense of fear suddenly made my spine crawl.
Visions of what could be happening to Max and Gina. Were they okay? Maybe they had gotten injured, it had been a few hours and they still weren't home. Just as my fear was rising to panic, Frankie looked towards the door.
"Hey, what was that sound?"
I turned my head in the direction he was looking, "What sound?"
"It sounded like some one's walking upstairs..." He stood up, "I'm gonna go look. Maybe mom and the rest are home."
"Frankie, no. Stay down here." Something told me his mom wasn't home, but I had no real reason to give him when he challenged me.
"Why? I want to go see my mom. I wanna know how the fight went!"
I bit my lower lip, thinking of an excuse, "Just... Let me go up and see them first, okay?"
Frankie glared at me, "No, I'm going. You can stay here. I'm gonna go see Mom."
He turned and bolted up the stairs; I could hear his quick footsteps, but there was no sign of anyone else up there. The other sounds of walking had subsided. I walked to the door, anyway, "Keith, Heather? I need you guys to stay put down here. I'm gonna go see where your brother went, and I'll be right back, okay?"
There was a general murmur of consent from them, but they were engrossed in the movie to the point where they barely registered Frankie and myself getting off the couch.