Through the Looking Glass, Part Nineteen

Jack woke long before he wanted to. The alarm clock diligently performed its duty and Jack had to convince himself not to hurl the thing out the window. He settled for slapping it harder than necessary to turn it off.

Breakfast didn’t improve his mood but did improve his consciousness. Still sipping on his juice, Jack returned to his bedroom to dress. He glanced at the notes he’d made the night before. This thing was more convoluted than a plate of spaghetti. First he’d bought the idea that these things were somehow after him and then it had occurred to him that there was one huge coincidence he hadn’t accounted for and now he was abandoning that for the idea that they were after something else entirely. He wondered if whoever they were, they were mucking around half as much?

Mucking around – of course! Jack sat quickly and began to write. He wasn’t up against some omniscient supergenius – it was a plan in flux. This was still the opening and not the mid game as Jack had been assuming. It was a battle for position with both sides feeling each other out and having to respond to the unexpected.

Jack grabbed his phone and dialed. He got lucky and found Ethan at home. Forty-five minutes later, Jack hung up and pushed back his chair. He had to dress now if he was going to make it to work at all.

On the way home after work, Jack made a quick stop by the phone shop. He grit his teeth as he purchased his first cell phone. The last thing he wanted was a way for his family to be in constant contact – a guy needs some time to himself, after all. But the night before had convinced him of the necessity. He picked the best replacement plan he could find – chasing vampires over rooftops would eventually result in cellphone destruction, that seemed obvious.

Crystal’s day had been uneventful, unless you counted the A on her logic quiz. She was on air for the first ten minutes after class let out. School, friends, homework, home, friends, family – Crystal’s day was pretty much normal.

On the stoop, Crystal sat chatting with Donna, Jack’s sister. They waved dutifully as Mr Wolff passed by on his way to the building. A few kids skateboarded past, one failing to pop a wheelie as planned but recovering before falling. Kids played on the sidewalk and people went about their lives. Crystal smiled, enjoying the normalcy.

She saw Jack coming up the sidewalk first but Donna called to him before she could. Jack looked over and waved but went inside his own building. Crystal felt momentarily stung then silently chided herself. He was just busy so there was no reason to wonder about everything he did. He’d be back out.

Jack did indeed come back out, but he went down the street instead. Crystal stifled the urge to sigh. This was silly – she hadn’t known Jack three whole weeks yet and they’d only been on one date. Yet she was already worried about breaking up – how silly can you get?

But silly or not, Crystal still had an uneasy feeling. She tried not to let it show as she continued chatting with Donna.

Jack came back, waving again at his sister and Crystal before running back into his parent’s apartment. He took the milk he’d just gone to the store for to his mother. Unable to answer her next question, Jack took out his new cellphone and dialed Crystal’s number. He grinned as she answered and grinned wider when she squealed her approval of his new acquisition. He was never gonna get tired of making her laugh like that.

He relayed his mother’s question and waited as Crystal went in to ask her own mother. A bit more back and forth and it was decided: Jack would be having dinner at the Abernathy’s tonight. With a quick peck on the cheek for his mother, Jack left to get ready.

Jack had hoped to talk to Crystal which was usually easy enough at the Abernathy’s home but her father had brought home a couple of acquaintances from work so conversation was limited to normal people things. The two men lingered long enough that by the time they left Jack also had to leave. He begged off, promising to make time to see Crystal before she came over for supper the next night. With a sigh, Jack closed the Abernathy’s door behind him and headed for home, knowing full well there was someone waiting for him by now.

Tossing his keys on the shelf, Jack grunted at his brother. Tim grunted back without looking up from his magazine. Jack took care of a few odds and ends before sitting down across from his brother.

Neither spoke for more than a minute. Jack wasn’t sure where to start and Tim wasn’t going to say anything until Jack did. Jack finally sighed heavily and began, "So, it’s like this…"