A refreshing change started the day after the festival for Katherine Walsh. It was the last Friday of the month and in Aslann that meant she got a reprieve from the piles of haphazardly written papers and hormonal teenagers.
Assembly Day, the school’s answer to important announcements and club activities. Thankfully, what that meant for Kat was that she only had to go in if she chose to. It was a strange thing to force herself to take a day off during the school week.
As she walked through the plaza toward the cupcake shop her roommate Ameya worked at, she thought about the festival. Her rambunctious friend dragged her out; practically kicking and screaming. She enjoyed the quiet of being home, reading a good book, and the solitude. That might have something to do with the busy and dramatic lives of teenagers that exhausted her weekly.
Still, she did have some fun. They had crossed paths with an unlikely pair. Brothers who introduced themselves as Bak and Kin of the Ishi. Kat had kept a kind smile, despite the apprehension the two men brought to her heart. Certainly there were teenagers in her class that gave her a chill, but nothing like those men.
Ameya on the other hand was in a rather right mood. She hated when Bak called her the little cupcake girl and pouted and glared at him most of the night; even when they went out for dinner the four of them. In a way it was a little amusing seeing Ameya get so flustered because Bak simply refused or could not remember her name. Kat, honestly was not certain.
After the night ended, Ameya had told Kat about the tall, dark, and mysterious Ishi that often stopped into the cake shop. She was young, still had hearts in her eyes, even for the bad boys. Despite her pouting and obvious frustration over being called the little cupcake girl there was a hint of something there that amused Kat. She sighed, having always felt like an old soul and the words that left her lips seemed oddly stated, “The sweet temptation of forbidden fruit only afforded to the young.”
“Forbidden fruit,” She heard a voice tease and realized almost instantly whom it was when she came face-to-face with the Ishi man she had met for the first time the night before. “Is not simply for the young, but for any that wishes to reach out and hold on.”
Kat found herself wondering if the expression upon her face was natural or if the inquisitive part of her heart and mind had forced its way upon her features. Her mouth opened and the way he smiled at her halted her from countering his words with some of her own. Kat was not some naive girl that had not seen a thing or two. No, this was the type of guy that had a forked tongue. Anything she said he would counter and tease as though he was whispering sweet nothings in her ear.
She was not young or foolish, she would not become his prey. That did not mean she would not remain that nice and polite Catholic girl her parents raised her to be, “Ameya said you stop here every morning.”
His expression had changed rather suddenly and Kat found herself wondering if she had disappointed him. “The little cupcake girl is pretty observant when she wants to be.”
“She hates it when you call her that.”
“Does she?” Bak questioned.
Kat tilted her head in a rather pensive moment. Certainly he was well aware she did. Guys like him knew how to read people. So, there was no doubt he was aware Ameya hated it, so, the question she found herself asking was, why? What did he get out of ruffling her feathers?
Her lips parted to boldly speak the question, but it would be Bak that shut her down. “Those lips of yours are rather teasing when they part like that.”
Instantly she stammered; a hue traveling to her cheeks. This man was as slick as snot, but Kat was bound and determined not to let him win. She was competitive and if this was going to turn into a game of tit for tat she was well going to play it. Casually she collected herself; he had caught her off-guard, but she just needed a moment to recover. “Words like those are called sexual harassment.”
“I call them a compliment.”
“How is that a compliment telling me what it does to you?”
“Don’t you like being flirted with?”
“Flirted…wait are you flirting with me?” A smile from ear to ear creased his lips which told Kat that he had won that round. She cursed under her breath, ‘damn him.’
Kat was not surprised when Bak did not offer her an answer. Of course he was not flirting with her. Guys like him were always the same. They charmed and teased anything that walked and lost interest just as quickly. She told herself to warn Ameya away from the type, but then realized he was not even looking at her any longer.
Her attention fallowed his as her body turned slightly. “What…what are they all looking at?” She asked as she stared at the crowd of people that had all stopped in place and were gazing up at the sky. It drew her attention with some apprehension. “Is that a meteor?” She was frozen, “Why…why is there no sound?”
Bak spoke in a hushed whisper, more serious than she had ever heard him. “Light is faster than sound. Sixty miles above the Earth’s surface a meteor burns up. Those that manage to enter the atmosphere produce a sonic boom, five minutes after they appear.”
“We should run…” Despite saying the words with urgency her body simply would not move.
“It is too late for that,” Bak respond. Was this it? The end of her life? Far from home on foreign soil, standing with a man she barely knew.
Kat felt a panicked whimper leave her lips as the sky darkened. She had repeated the words of running, despite knowing there was not enough time to leave the radius. Every part of her wanted to cry as she turned to face Bak, “I had a bucket list. I wanted to go to Toronto and visit the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.”
Bak chuckled as his arms wrapped around her. It irritated her that he found amusement with her words, so she pressed against his chest to try and push away. “Don’t fret little Kitty Kat. I am not ready to die yet.”
“You make it seem as though you have a choice in the matter,” She argued. ‘Seriously,’ she scolded herself, ‘You are arguing at a time like this.’
There was a defeated pause that fallowed as his hold tightened, “Does this count as a date or should I have bought you dinner before the big boom?” A part of Kat wanted to live in the moment and just kiss him; after all it was to be their last moment, but his words kept her focused. “Don’t do anything foolish little kitty.”
Why was he so composed? No fear displayed. Kat supposed that in her final moments she was given a glimpse into something she had never seen before; strength in the face of peril and siege. Somehow that brought her comfort enough to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Her body had been prepared. Given over to her lord and then nothing. There was no silence; crackling, sizzling, hissing. Kat’s lungs felt heavy as she coughed. This was not possible. Did the meteor not impact? No she felt it; heard the earth and the structures quiver and crumble as she buried her face into the chest of the mysterious Ishi man.
She could feel the heat. The arms of Bak still around her. Every instinct told her to pull away and run. Flee the flames that were threatening to overtake them. His embrace was tight; never did he hesitate or loosen his hold.
Kat could tell he was not afraid; not of the flames nor the meteor that had cascaded to the ground like a warm spring rain. “What are you?” She braved asking though her voice hardly sounded like her own. Fear which forced the sound to come out like an unforgiving cry.
“I am a Son of Rin.”
Her intellect told her this was not possible. Her faith that he was some sort of monster, but her heart swelled from the way he embraced her protectively while flames danced off his body and never scorched her. “I…I don’t know what that means,” She whispered.
Certainly she had heard stories of Rin, the Death God of Aslann religions. There was barely a moment to wrap her thoughts around the numerous questions circulating through her mind. Leave it to a guy like him to keep her distracted with one hand while doing something with the other, “Seeing we had a chance meeting here today, this is the perfect opportunity to ask you.”
“For your phone number. I had intended to inquire after dinner the other night, but you and the little cupcake girl seemed in a hurry to leave.”
“My…” Was he for real?
“I understand if you do not want to,” He spoke so casually, despite the situation they were standing in the middle of. “My brother is not great at these sorts of things, so, I thought I would ask on his behalf.”
Inwardly she chuckled with understanding and disappointment. Of course, someone like him would not be asking for her number for him. Why though did it have to be his brother. He seemed nice enough, but the guy had to be color blind or…‘Well hopefully color blind. I do not even want to consider the other options,’ She thought to herself. For the first time in her life, Kat did not take hours or days, weeks or even months to consider.
“Sure, you can give him my number.” Deep down she was certain it had more to do with the near death experience, but what could it hurt? After all, she had a bucket list to complete. Just in case.