Chapter 8: Real Subtle
Several hours had passed by the time that Michelle and Twilight returned home. I had my entire collection of firearms on the kitchen table in various stages of disassembly; the scent of Hoppes #9 hung thickly in the air. I was rubbing the slide of my dad’s Sig Sauer with an oily rag as Michelle kicked open the door from the garage and stumbled through with Twilight right behind her. Both were weighed down by several bags apiece.
“Hey,” my fiance started, setting down her bags and wiping her brow with the back of her hand. “What’s up?”
“I made a couple of calls,” I said, looking back to the slide in my hand. “And took care of everything. Did you get it all?”
“Yeah,” she replied, pressing her lips together into a thin line. “I think that I did.”
“Good,” I nodded and looked back up at her, my eye meeting hers. “We’re leaving tomorrow.”
“That soon?” she gasped, her shoulders slumping.
“Luna’s being picked up from the hospital tomorrow, so we have to move fast,” I said as I stood and moved to her, putting my hands on her shoulders. I paused for a moment, my eyes searching her face before saying: “You don’t have to come with me you know? You could-”
“Stop,” she commanded, putting her hand over my mouth. “I knew what I was getting into when I walked out that door with Twilight this afternoon. I have no intention of leaving now.”
I smiled and pulled her into my arms, relief flooding through me.
“So,” she said, pulling away from my embrace. “What are you up to in here?”
“You and I both know that they are going to come and bust down the door here in the hopes of finding us, right?” At her nod, I continued. “Well, the last thing that they’re going to want them to discover is a bunch of guns in my safe in the office. I’m gonna leave them out for them to find safely. Slides and bolts back and empty. All my ammo will be in nice containers and counted and everything.
Michelle walked over to the table, I could tell that she was looking everything over.
“But, not everything’s here,” she said, turning to look at me. “You’re not bringing any with us, are you?”
“We’re already breaking enough laws as it is,” I said with a sake of my head. “The last thing that we need is more attention. No. I took grandad’s M1 and 1911 to mom’s place. Emma too.”
I could see the pain that the loss of Emma brought to her, the same little hollow that had been left in my heart as well.
She shook herself, muttered under her breath for a moment before marching over to the bags and beginning to pull stuff out.
“I think that I have everything that we’ll need,” she said as she pulled a good sized backpack out of a Walmart bag. “Went to the surplus store to get some durable bags for Twi and Luna. Got some clothes for the both of them at Macy’s, they had a sale. And I couldn’t resist... This!”
With a flourish , she shoved a large grey and brown furred-thing into my face.
“I saw him at the Build-a-Bear in the mall and couldn’t resist,” she squealed happily, still forcing the thing into my face. “His name is Noodle!”
I coughed and took the thing from her before I inhaled it.
“Is it,” I paused, taking a good look at the stuffed animal, “an anteater? Really?”
“I thought that it was a good idea,” said Twilight, coming in from her room. “After Michelle suggested a bear, I suggested something else that was not related to a star beast of legend.”
“That makes sense,” I mused, still looking at the stuffed anteater. It was by no means anatomically accurate from the little that that I knew of anteaters, more cartoony and friendly and very soft. I couldn’t help but smile at the thing.
“I’m sure that Luna will love it,” I said, handing the toy back to Michelle with a smile. “There are a ton of things that we’re going to need to buy once we get wherever we’re going.”
“Why can’t we get that here?” asked Twilight, who had dropped herself onto the couch and was helping Michelle pack Luna’s bag. “Can’t we just take everything with us?”
“Normally,” said Michelle before I could respond. “We would take everything with us, try to save our money for emergencies and that kind of thing. But considering what we’re about to do, we can’t afford to wait for luggage claim and check baggage. We need to get out of the airport as fast as possible.”
“Its easier to show you once we get there,” I cut in, seeing Twilight about to ask the obvious question. “Let’s just say that bags over a certain size had to be stored underneath the plane instead of with the passengers and the unloading time for that would be unnecessary time spent near law enforcement.”
“Ah,” replied Twilight with a nod. “But that wasn’t my question.”
“Oh,” I said, turning my whole attention to her. “Sorry ‘bout that, what’cha need?”
“I was going to ask: What’s a plane?”
It was the early morning when I was awoken from a fitful dozing by a series of thumps coming from down the hall.
With a quiet groan, I extracted myself from the blanket nest that Michelle built in her sleep and padded out of our room and down the hall. The door to the office was slightly ajar and I could hear the sound of books being tossed around randomly and the slightest sounds of sniffling.
“Twi,” I said softly, pushing the door open and stepping into the warm light of my office. “Is everything okay?”
For a long moment, Twi stood with her back to me, facing the thoroughly rearranged bookshelf.
“I don’t know anymore,” she sighed, turning to face me, her eyes were slightly red. “There are so many things wrong here that I don’t even know where to begin.”
“Okay,” I replied, holding my hands up in a placating gesture and trying to remain as calm as possible. “That’s why I’m here, you know that you can ask me anything that you want,”
“Why are you doing this!?” she all-but exploded at me, her voice loud for the small room. “Why are you throwing everything away for ponies that you think are fictional? You had a life here, a career, everything that a stallion could ask for and you’re about to give all of that up for Luna and me!”
I sighed, a little surprised that this hadn’t come up before then.
“Because,” I said, stalling. I wasn’t completely sure of my reasons myself at that point. “It really is the right thing to do. Before he died, my dad would always tell me that there would come a moment in my life, a choice that I would have to make, that would change everything that I knew about myself and my world forever.
“For a while, I thought that that choice had come and gone when I asked Michelle to marry me. I was convinced that learning to be a good husband and, eventually, a good father would be that change that my dad was talking about.”
I looked her in the eyes before continuing: “But when I look at you and Luna, when I see the you sitting here before me, I can see you as you are now and I can see the you that was on the cartoon. I know that this is the moment where I make the real choice that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. I have to believe that this is bigger than anyone would ever dream. That if you and Luna are here, then so are your friends and Princess Celestia.”
Twilight nodded, following my reasoning.
“I cannot leave the eight of you to the flow of the human world, you are not compatible with our nature. You still see the good in everyone when, more often than not, there isn’t enough good to salvage. Without your magic, this realm or whatever would chew you and your friends up and spit you out like gum that has lost its flavor.”
I looked over at the clock, it was well after three in the morning.
“You’d better get some sleep Twi,” I sighed, rubbing my face with one hand. “Its going to be a very long day tomorrow.”
“But I have more questions,” she protested, nearly letting the book in her arms drop to the floor.
“I’d be surprised if you didn’t,” I chuckled. She gave me a small smile in return. “But if we’re not on our best tomorrow, we’re going to have even more problems than we’re already going to have.”
With a small sigh she nodded and set her book on the shelf.
“I know,” she said in a small voice, staring at my feet. “I’m just scared.”
“Me too Twi,” I said, putting my arm around her shoulder and walking her out and over to her room. “Me too.”
True to his word, the package was on my doorstep by the time I went to fetch the morning paper. Inside of the plain yellow envelope were four Canadian passports and a set of business-class tickets from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to the Sydney Airport. Boarding time was scheduled for just after noon. Also inside of the envelope was a set of two MasterCards in the names on the passports.
Things we going to be messy.
Twilight and Michelle both walked into the living room at the same time. Twilight’s hair was damp from having just gotten out of the shower. Both of them had their backpacks slung over one shoulder and Michelle had Luna’s in one hand.
“Where are we going?” asked Michelle as she dropped her and Luna’s bags on the couch.
“Australia,” I replied, looking at the note that had been included. “Interesting.”
“What?” Twilight asked, looking up from her bag. I assume that she was rechecking that she had everything.
“Hopefully, the way that we’re going to get through the airport,” I replied, sliding Michelle’s passport to her and tossing Twilight hers. “The two of you are sisters: Michelle and Twilight Bell. Twi, you have a daughter from your late boyfriend, that would be Luna.”
Michelle and Twilight both giggled.
“I never said that my friend was creative, just go with it,” I snarked through a grin of my own. “Luna has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and the two of you hired me, Nathan Juarez, a nurse with an independent medical company to make sure that she gets to Australia with as few problems as possible.”
I help up the boarding passes, my new ID badge, the tags and notices for the items in the first aid kit that I had planned on bringing, and a new hospital bracelet for Luna.
I looked up at the two of them, catching their eyes, and nodded.
“Let’s load up.”
The three of us grabbed the five bags that we would be taking and tossed them into the back seat of Michelle’s four-door sedan, then we took off.
I somehow knew, right then, that I would never see my house again.
The drive to the hospital was uneventful, but nerve wracking. Even Twilight seemed nervous in the way that she watched Austin go by through the car window. I reached over from the back seat and gave her shoulder a slight squeeze, she placed her hand over mine and gave me a small smile in return.
“Everything’s going to be okay Twi,” I said in what I hoped was a reassuring manner. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Neither of the two women in the front responded.
It was just after seven in the morning by the time that we pulled into the parking lot. Traffic hadn’t fully set in yet, and wouldn’t for a little while. At least, not on the highway toward the airport. With luck, I would be able to get into Luna’s room before anyone I knew noticed me. It shouldn’t have been too hard, with the nurses switching shifts at that point in time and the chaos that always ensued.
I walked up a side staircase that would put me in front of the entrance to the Children’s Ward and made my way past the entrance desk while a large family group signed in at the desk. My goal was to not be seen by the staff, but I knew that there was no way that the electronic security system would miss me.
Luna was sitting on the bed with her face buried into her knees, just like the first time that I met her. There was a coloring book in front of her and an unopened box of crayons.
“Princess,” I whispered, shutting the door very softly behind me. Her head snapped up and the biggest smile erupted across her face.
“You came back!” she cried, jumping off the bed and running over to me.
“I told you that I would didn’t I?” I whispered again, putting a finger over her mouth as I picked her up and sat her on my hip. Seeming to get the hint, she nodded and buried her face in my shoulder. “You ready to get out of here? My fiance and Twilight are waiting out in the car for you. We’re going to help you find your sister.”
“Find Tia? Really?”
If possible, her smile got even wider; so big and happy that it lit up the room. I pulled her a little closer into my arms and quietly opened the door out of the room, staring at the fire exit in front of her door. The red light on the bar indicated that it was active and that the alarm would sound if I opened the door.
I stepped out into the hall to see the most unwelcome sight that I could have imagined. The social worker, Judith Ratchet, was standing at the front desk, talking amicably with the head nurse. As if alerted by my eyesight on her, she turned and our eyes met. I could see the confusion and shock there, but I didn’t stick around to see anything else.
With a quickness that surprised even me, I kicked the emergency door open and started sprinting down the stairs, taking as many as I could at a time, the sirens shrieking behind me.
Michelle pulled her car around the moment that she saw me fly out of a different door and I hurled the two of us in shouting: “Go! Go!”
Luna and I lay gasping in the backseat for several long moments as Michelle flew down the highway as fast as she dared. It wouldn’t be long before they came looking for the her car, and eventually for the two of us.
“Crazy social worker,” I groaned as I sat up and buckled Luna into the middle seat. “Coming to pick up a kid at seven in the morning.”
“Were you seen?” asked Michelle as she exited onto the toll road.
“Yeah,” I sighed, running my hand over my face. “But with the fire alarm and everything we should still be good.”
I turned to look at Luna. She had taken my arm in her tight little grasp as I smiled at her.
While nerve racking, the rest of the drive to the airport was uneventful. We left the car in the airport paid parking and checked into the flight.
Due to Luna’s ‘medical condition’ and my status as her nurse, our bags were given a manual prod through by the TSA and we got by with an unenthusiastic wand check. Twilight and Michelle had to go through the full security check while the two of us waited on them; Luna clutched Noodle to her chest like her life depended on it. In all of the excitement at the hospital, Michelle had forgotten to give the plush to the little girl and the TSA agent had, unwittingly, spoiled the surprise.
We were right on time.
Twilight didn’t have time to be fascinated by the plane’s construction before we were told to buckle-up and prepare for takeoff.
The business section was, thankfully, mostly empty, and the four of us were surrounded by a bubble of empty rows. I don’t think that there were many people on the flight in total, even in coach.
Luna was happily scribbling away in a new coloring book, hastily purchased by Michelle in the airport after learning how long the flight was, Twilight had her nose buried in another book, and Michelle was sitting with Luna, one arm around the girl’s shoulder while ‘helping’ her color.
With all three of my girls safe and sound, I took a long drag of the earl grey that the attendant brought me and opened my throwaway copy of Don Quixote, identifying more with the main character than I ever had before.