Family Ties: So-called Alex

“So is Alex not going to be around for two entire weeks?” Tara asked.

Tamy carefully lowered the bedframe back to the floor. “You mean we shouldn’t move the bed?”

“No, keep going.”

Tamy sighed, but lifted the frame, straining for leverage so she could pick the entire thing up and lean it against the wall.

“But if this so-called Alex has been living here for months, why is she not around the two weeks we’re here?”

Tamy grunted.

“Doesn’t that seem a little weird to you?”

Tamy heaved the bed off the floor, shifting her feet slightly forward to balance it better.

“She is.”

Startled, Tamy leapt backwards and the bedframe screeched and banged to the floor. The woman in the corner winced. “Okay, I admit that was bad timing.”

“Wha–how long have you been–gahk–” Tara’s voice apparently gave out. Tamy’s hadn’t been working in the first place.

Presumably-Alex slowly lifted her hands. “I’ve been here since this morning,” she whispered. Pounding came at the door.

“What did you do?” Quinn shouted.

“Uh, nothing!” Tamy called. “Just trying to move the bed!”

The door swung open. Tamy gaped at the place, now taken up by the door, where Alex had just been standing.

“Quit moving stuff!” Quinn shouted, face a chiseled mask.

“Jeepers, it’s fine,” Tara said, standing up. “It just banged the wall a little bit.”

Quinn let go of the door and slowly exhaled. “Just…be more careful, alright?”

Tamy nodded vigorously, still staring at where Alex had disappeared from.

Quinn slowly retreated. As soon as the door clicked, Alex reappeared in the same spot.

“What was that?” Tamy hissed.

“Quinn?” Alex’s dark face flashed in a grin. “He’s grown quite protective of me.”

“No no no, not that,” Tamy motioned toward the door. “You disappeared.”

Alex shrugged, twin braids bouncing. “Just invisibility, after a sort. Including phasing through objects.”

What are you doing in our house?” Tara asked. Tamy nodded in agreement.

Alex’s green eyes narrowed. “Asking for your help.”

“Wait,” Tamy said, fingers balling into a fist. “You just lost me. Asking for our help?”

“How about we all sit down and I’ll explain?” Alex spoke. “Fist fights won’t help any of us,” her eyes narrowed further. “Especially with Quinn around to hear.”

Tamy glanced at her sister. She recognized that stance. Elbows and knees curved like rubber. She did it almost every time she had a sword. “Okay,” Tamy said, turning back to Alex. “We’ll listen.”

“But don’t think I won’t punch you still,” Tara added.

***

“It’s like this,” Alex began, cross-legged on the rug. “I was sent on an assignment to watch your brother. Long story short, after unsuccessfully tailing him to and from school for a few days, I felt I could get closest by rooming with your family–”

“How’d you get our mom to let you do that?” Tara cut in.

Alex blinked. “Um, she was advertising space for rent. Bedroom and bath.” Tara glared. Alex continued, “I actually offered to clean this room up instead of taking the room downstairs, since I overheard Audrey talking about remodeling the downstairs one as an office when she had the time,” she smiled. “Getting people to like you isn’t as hard as you would think.”

Tamy stared suspiciously at her. Alex’s smile faded away. “Sorry. Guess I should’ve…” she scooted slightly backward. “Anyway. Quinn and I did most of the work in here.” she motioned to the far corner. “The candles were his idea, actually.”

“So let me get this straight,” Tara said. “You were assigned to watch Quinn, so that means you’re asking for our help…tailing him. But it doesn’t seem like you need help. He likes you.”

“Nick,” Alex said.

“Sorry, what?” Tara asked. Tamy put a hand on her sister’s bouncing knee. Tara pushed it off.

“I’m supposed to watch Nick, not Quinn.”

That made Tara’s knee stop bouncing. “Ah,” she said.

“Um, why?” Tamy asked. “He’s six. Why does he need somebody who turns invisible stalking him?” She paused, then added, “do you still follow him to school?”

Alex shook her head and glanced between the two of them. “He’s like you.”

“That answers all my questions,” Tara muttered, planting her chin in her palms.

“He’s like us,” Alex clarified. Flourished, and briefly flashed invisible. “We think.”

“He’s got powers?” Tamy and Tara simultaneously asked.

“Jinx,” Tamy muttered under her breath. Tara jabbed her in the arm, and she squirmed away, accidentally banging the desk. She carefully pulled away. “You don’t think Quinn heard that, do you?” she whispered.

They all fell quiet, listening. The house remained silent. “I don’t think so,” Tara said.

“Well,” Alex resumed talking, “we think Nick has unique abilities. That’s why I’m here to watch him.”

“So…you want our help watching Nick.” Tamy stated.

“Yes,” she nodded. “Unlike Quinn, Nick doesn’t like me. He hardly speaks to me. I can’t test him if he won’t talk to me.”

“You just changed what you were doing,” Tara pointed out. “You said before that you were watching him. Then you just said you were testing him.”

Alex clasped her hands in her lap. “I wasn’t aware my word choice mattered that much. But okay, fine, I’m testing him. I’m trying to gather definitive proof.”

Tamy glanced at her sister. Then back at Alex. “How do we do that?”

Tara sighed loudly. “I don’t like this. You want us to spy on our little brother? It’s already weird here.”

Alex grimaced. “I know. I’ve been there too, believe it or not.”

“The worst is Mother trying to treat us like nothing’s different,” Tara muttered, leaning against the wall. “When everything’s different.”

“Everything is different,” Tamy agreed, “but I was going to say the worst is Quinn acting prickly all the time.”

“He’s just jealous,” Alex said.

“Jealous?” Tamy’s eyebrows furrowed together. “Of what?”

“Well,” Alex again went invisible, and flashed back, grinning. “He can’t do that. And his little sister is stronger than he’ll ever be. His other sister can stretch taller than he’ll ever be.”

Tamy tapped the desk, brow furrowed.

“That’s…” Tara muttered, “stupid.”

“He never got kicked out for being strong,” Tamy said. “Or spaghetti-ing in the hallway.”

Tara fleetingly grinned. “You did snap the dining room table in half.”

“It wasn’t very hard. It already had a crack in it.”

“So can I count on your help?” Alex asked. “It might help distract from the weirdness, having something to do.”

Tamy met Tara’s gaze. Tara sighed. “Sure,” she held up a finger before Alex spoke. “As long as you explain exactly what we’re doing, and we’re both okay with it.”

Tamy nodded. “Yeah. We’re not doing anything to hurt Nick.”

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