Echo of Chaos: Ch. 7

Saturday, July 13, 2019



Captain Fancy Pants joined us for dinner. He showed up just as we all sat down to eat. I had been hungry after the day’s intense events, but seeing him sit down in the seat at the head of the glass table--the seat my father used to sit in--made me immediately lose my appetite.

“This is nice, isn’t it?” Captain Fancy Pants asked, his gaze flicking from my mother’s chest to me, deliberately passing over my brother. “I should come by here for dinner more often, I know. But being Captain isn’t an easy job.”

Neither is having multiple families, I thought. I only wished I could be brave enough to say it out loud, but Maxi’s presence in the seat next to me was enough to keep my lips glued tight together.

“We understand,” my mother says, looking down at her food as she speaks. She places her hand on his forearm briefly, and smiles at him for the smallest fraction of a second. “We’re glad you’re here.”

There’s silence for a moment. The clink of silverware against the plate, the slippery sound of food meeting mouth and then throat. I take a sip of the water in my glass, a slow, measured movement, trying not to be aware of the way Captain Fancy Pants is watching Maxi like he's eating human flesh.

“How was work today, Echo?” Captain Fancy Pants asked, and the fingers on my glass twitch slightly in shock as I place the glass down. “You did go to work today, right?”

“Of course,” I said. “Work was excellent, as usual.”

“Yes, I suppose it isn’t so exciting these days. One can adapt to anything with the right intelligence, and I hear you are one of the best in your class.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t sound too excited. It’s okay. You can sing your praises here. I welcome bragging at the dinner table. Why shouldn’t we be proud of our accomplishments, after all?”

He looked at my mother, and she grinned and nodded nervously. Like his gaze was an accusation, and she was admitting guilt. He looked back at me, his dark eyes meeting mine. I tried not to look away. It was hard.

“I’ve been talking to Felix, your Elite, and he’s going to be increasing your rank sometime in the next few weeks. But you didn’t hear that from me,” Captain Fancy Pants said, giving me a wink before shoveling another forkful of food in his mouth.

I would have been surprised, perhaps even flattered, if I didn’t know what his words meant. Felix and Captain Arnold have been talking about me. Nothing good could come of that. Nothing at all.

“Do you have nothing to say? I thought you’d be ecstatic,” Captain Fancy Pants said.

“I am!” I said, too quickly. “I am, sorry. It’s just such a shock. I wasn’t expecting such good news.”

“Ah, yes,” Captain Fancy Pants looked down at his food. “We have been full of surprises lately, haven’t we?”

He looked back up to meet my gaze again, and there was a harshness in his eyes that made me flinch. He grinned satisfactorily, and sipped his water.

“Dinner was excellent, darling. I wish I had time to stay. Meet me in my chambers later? Perhaps around hour twenty?” Captain Fancy Pants asked, and my mother nodded.

“Of course, darling” she said.

“Stay wise,” Captain Fancy Pants said, looking at me.

Then, he got up, kissed the top of my mother’s head, and disappeared out the door. The silence that washed over us was like an exhaling of breath, the relief palpable.

“He didn’t say hello to me. He didn’t give me permission to speak,” Maxi said, breaking the silence with his brow furrowed in concern. “Is he mad at me?”

My mother placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Of course not, honey. He’s just busy.”

“But he talked to Echo.”

“He had good news for Echo.”

“And not for me?”

My mother and I looked at each other. She dropped her hand from his shoulder, and stood up to clear the plates.

“Maybe he's waiting for next time,” she said.

But we both knew there wouldn’t be a next time.

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