*This story involves some of the characters from my Graveyard Shift series. Hope you enjoy it!*
Small Town Holiday Fun
Each year, on almost every holiday, the town of Phantom Creek hosts a type of fair event that includes carnival rides, parades, live music and a ton of other events for the townspeople to have fun with. For the entire day, the street is closed off along with all the stores and businesses in town. Vendors line the streets with tents to sell their wares and there’s a play area for the kids where they can get their faces painted, and squeal on the carnival rides. There’s even a fireworks display scheduled at the end of the night. Which isn’t surprising. You can’t have a fourth of July celebration without fireworks. This is my first year attending the town’s parades with my mate and son. Anakin is only a few months old but with his magic abilities and penchant for mischief, it’s like dealing with a curious toddler only, he’s an infant.
Making my way through the crowd with the cotton candy my mate asked for, I head for the play area where Ethan is supposed to be. Somehow, my poor mate got saddled with entertaining all the young children while their parents shopped around. When I left him, he was answering the frequent ‘why’ questions young children are prone to asking. I was tasked with procuring junk food for all the little ones and have an armful of cotton candy to show for it. It’s a child favorite…besides, I can only carry so much. If I tried to get funnel cakes and snow cones too, I’d have needed four extra arms. When I reach the play area, I’m surprised to find all the kids running around playing while my mate looks around frantically and tugs at his hair, a panicked expression on his face.
One child spots me and shouts, “Yay! Cotton candy!” Then rushes over with the other children before I can ask my mate what he’s so panicked about. After I’ve passed out all the cotton candy, I walk over to my mate, who is looking more panicked by the second. “Ethan love, what’s got you so worked up?”
He turns to me wide-eyed and says, “I can’t find Anakin. He’s just a baby. HOW COULD I HAVE MISPLACED A BABY!!??!!”
Trying not to laugh, I stroke his arms in an effort to calm him down. My mate is so frazzled from dealing with the other children he seems to have forgotten that Anakin is sleeping in the carrier attached to his chest.
“It’ll be alright.”
“No, it won’t! I lost our son. Again. What kind of father does that make me? What if he was kidnapped while I was preoccupied with the other children? How can I handle having another in the future when I can’t even keep track of the one we’ve got now?! Especially, if the next one inherits my abilities again and starts teleporting themselves to unknown locations when I’m not paying attention.”
Leading him towards a bench, I sit him down and say, “Honey, you’re an amazing father and I know you won’t have any problems with any children we have in the future. Anakin is too young to know what him disappearing does to you. When he’s old enough to know that it’s not a fun game he’s playing and is actually something that causes you to worry about his safety instead of having fun, things will change. This time, I think you got overwhelmed a bit by the number of children, that’s all. If I had to keep track of fifteen children plus Anakin, I’d have lost one or two myself. Stop worrying and look down.”
Ethan looks down and sighs in relief at Anakin’s sleeping face, then he grins and says, “Well, at least he didn’t teleport himself into the fridge for a bottle this time.”
Laughing, I say, “I still can’t believe he did that.”
“I know! I was on my way to the kitchen to get it and I guess he decided he couldn’t wait long enough for me to bring it back and decided to get it himself. He was not happy with it being cold.”
Hearing a noise, I look down to find Anakin watching us with those pretty eyes of his. Grinning at him, I nudge Ethan with my elbow and say, “I think he knows we’re talking about him.”
Ethan looks down and laughs at Anakin’s wide-eyed expression. “Looks like it.”
“There you guys are!”
Ethan and I turn towards the source of the voice and find Dimitri walking towards us with his mate Mufasa, and a young man with black hair.
When they stop in front of us, Dimitri pushes the young man forward and says, “Look who I found.”
Grinning at the young man, who I now realize is Dimitri’s mysterious assistant Stefan. “Stefan, good to see you.” Then turning to Dimitri, I add, “What did you do to get him to venture out?”
Dimitri grins and says, “Bribed him.”
“The best sushi money can buy. His animal half wouldn’t let him refuse.”
Turning back to a blushing Stefan I say, “I’m glad you decided to come. You can’t spend all your time in the morgue after hours where none of us can see you.”
Stefan’s blush deepens, but he stands tall, grins, and says, “Maybe now I can get rid of that god-awful moniker you guys gave me.”
Dimitry bumps Stefan’s shoulder with his and says, “Hey ‘The Ghost’ isn’t that bad!”
“It’s not great either. I’d have preferred Phantom or something way cooler than just ‘The Ghost’. Someone lacks imagination.”
With a grin, Stefan elbows Dimitri letting us know exactly who he’s talking about. It’s obvious that once he gets to know the rest of the guys, he’ll fit right in.
Ethan chooses that moment to say, “Speaking of the other guys, where are they?”
Mufasa says, “They’re getting ready for the fireworks display. They got a bunch of food from the vendors and are waiting for us to join them. Apparently, it’s never too early to pick a good viewing spot.”
Laughing I say, “You got that right. The fireworks will be starting soon anyways so let’s hurry and join them.”
Letting Mufasa and Dimitri lead the way, I take Ethan’s hand in mine and follow them to the park where the fireworks will be let off. Everyone from the mortuary is sitting at a spot on one of the hills surrounded by tons of food.
Dimitri introduces Stefan around and once the good-natured ribbing is out of the way, we sit down to enjoy our meal before the fireworks start.
Zephyr is the only one missing, so I ask about him.
“Has anyone seen Zephyr?”
Jericho says, “I don’t think he’s coming.”
“He seemed really on edge about something when I saw him at his flower stand earlier. When I asked him about it, he said it was nothing, but I could tell he was lying. I know he’s one of the most secretive out of all of us, but I think he’s really struggling with something.”
Nodding in agreement, I say, “I think it has something to do with his animal half. I don’t even know what kind of shifter he is, but I can tell by his actions sometimes that it’s a dangerous animal spirit. It seems to be a large influence on his personality and despite inviting him out to shift with us, he never does. I think he might be something as rare as you Jericho.”
Jericho nods. “It’s possible. It would explain his reluctance to shift with the rest of us but it’s not like it’s a secret that we’re all sort of rare too so I kind of feel like that’s only a small part of the larger picture.”
Triton says, “Enough about that. We can spout theories about Zephyr all night and it still wouldn’t change the fact that we hardly know anything about what goes on in his head despite being friends with him and working with him. He has his pride and will probably try fixing his issues on his own before daring to ask for help. Throwing around ‘what ifs’ isn’t going to help the situation any. When Zephyr is ready, he’ll come to us. In the meantime, it’s the fourth of July, we’re supposed to be having fun not discussing gloomy things like our friend shutting us out about what’s going on with him.”
Nodding, I say, “You’re right.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
Turning towards the voice, I see a disheveled looking Zephyr walking towards us with a beer in his hand. “We were talking about you actually. Jericho didn’t think you were coming.”
Zephyr plops down on the ground next to Triton and says, “I wasn’t planning to since I had the stand to run but I sold all my flowers and despite feeling exhausted, I wanted to spend some time with you guys. It’s been too long since I did so.”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
He shakes his head and says, “Nah. It’s personal bullshit. I’ll be fine. Eventually.”
Dimitri says, “Ooh….I get it. You had another bad break-up huh?”
Zephyr sighs and says, “Yeah. Apparently, I’m ‘too much’ whatever that means. I know I can be intimidating because my animal half influences my personality, but I’d like to think that despite that, someone will love me as I am. It didn’t happen this time around unfortunately. You know what they say, plenty of fish in the sea. So, don’t worry about me guys. I’ll be just fine after I’ve drowned my sorrows with comfort food and alcohol.”
Darius grins and says, “In that case, you should probably get yourself a plate now, before my mate takes it as a sign you don’t want any and scarfs down all the good stuff.”
Jirga elbows him and says, “Hey! I don’t ‘scarf’.”
Darius laughs and says, “You do so.”
Jirga folds his arms and says, “Fine I ‘scarf’ but at least I wait until I’m sure everyone has had their fill before eating the rest.”
“Tell that to the bucket of baby back ribs you swiped at the last barbeque we had. No one even had a chance to smell them before you whisked them off.”
Jirga sighs and says, “Fine…you win. But at least I didn’t swipe the entire bowl of macaroni salad like I wanted. I let everyone else have some. I’m improving…promise.”
Darius pats Jirga’s arm and says, “Says the guy who just grabbed the whole bucket of chicken wings while everyone else was talking about Zephyr.”
Jirga blushes and says, “You saw that?”
Darius nods and I can’t help laughing. Soon everyone has joined in. Even though it was at Jirga’s expense, we needed the laugh to lighten the heavy mood caused by discussing Zephyr’s potential issues. Hopefully, Zephyr will find his fated mate soon and will no longer have to worry about being ‘too much’ for others and instead can focus on being ‘just enough’ for his mate.
Looking around at our little group, I’m happy to see every member of my makeshift family having fun. With some of us already mated, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of them living happily in mated bliss.
A loud boom sounds over-head and I look up to see red sparks falling through the sky. Grinning at the sight, I pull my mate closer and settle in to enjoy the beautiful display with the men I consider family even though we work together. If the fates are watching, I hope they won’t wait too long to provide the rest of my family with mates.
(Keep an eye out for Zephyr’s story titled The Florist. Now available at all major retailers)