Today was the day: the start of the #GreatAmericanRoadTrip extravaganza. It was warm and sunny and the day felt endless. Except the day wasn’t really endless and it was already well after noon and they hadn’t left yet. They were way behind schedule and Blue Sargent couldn’t deal. Henry was surprised she was the one who was worked up about it and not Gansey, but Gansey had been different since, well, you know. He just couldn’t be bothered to let most things bother him anymore.
They were gathered at the curb in front of 300 Fox Way, loading their bags into the Green Pig. “Ganseeeeyyyy,” Blue whined, digging through a massive duffle that she could have easily fit inside. “Where are my blah blah blah…” Henry couldn’t make out the rest of what she said, since she had now climbed into the trunk in pursuit of the missing object. He looked at Gansey, who shrugged.
“Jane, I can’t understand you when you’re half buried in the trunk like that,” Gansey said.
Blue jumped out and glared at him. “My purple leggings. I can’t find them.”
Gansey laughed, which only infuriated Blue more.
“Jesus, Sargent, there are like fifty pairs of leggings in here. How do you even know a pair is missing?” Ronan asked, leaning over the trunk to poke through the bag.
Blue smacked his hand. Hard, too, by the sound of it. “Trust me. I know.”
“Ow,” Ronan whimpered. He held his wounded hand out to Adam, who rolled his eyes playfully, before grabbing it and kissing it gently.
Henry was unaffected by the public display of affection, but Blue teased, “God, you two are disgusting.”
“Disgustingly beautiful,” Gansey gushed.
“I can’t wait for you to leave,” Ronan retorted.
“Oh shut up, Lynch. You know you’re going to be blowing kisses at us as we drive off into the sunset.”
“SUNSET?!?!” Blue cried, as Ronan said, “That was one fucking time, man.”
“Well, there was another…” Adam started to say, but Ronan quickly covered his mouth with his hand, which Adam promptly licked.
“Stop trying to ruin my reputation, Parrish,” Ronan said, wiping his hand off on Adam’s sleeve.
“Too late for that, Lynch,” Henry added.
Blue grabbed Gansey’s arm and twisted it so she could look at his watch. “Oh my God, we were supposed to be long gone by now,” she said, exasperated, pulling at some of the shorter tufts of her hair, making them stand on end. Henry thought she looked adorable when she was stressed.
She ticked off her mental to-do list on her fingers. “I still need to pack the snacks in the kitchen, and then Jimi wants to smudge the car before we go and I have to find my leggings. Urgh.”
“Smudge the car?” Henry asked.
“You know, clear the bad energy.”
“Hey! That car has great energy,” Ronan protested. They all looked at him funny. “Whatever,” he waved them off.
“Jane, relax. We have all the time in the world,” Gansey said, attempting to gather her in his arms.
She pushed him away. “Not if we want to make it to the Smoky Mountains and set up camp before it gets dark.”
“Ok, let’s figure this out then. You go look for your leggings,” Gansey told Blue. “I’ll go get Jimi. Adam can help her clear the car’s energy. Henry can pack the snacks. You,” he gestured to Ronan, “should probably go find Opal. I haven’t seen her in awhile.”
“Shit,” Ronan said, taking off for the backyard.
Henry was glad to see Gansey take the lead. It felt natural and right. He thought Gansey looked adorable when he was telling people what to do.
Henry headed towards the house, expecting the others to follow, but when he looked back, Adam was directing Blue and Gansey on how to rearrange the bags in the overstuffed trunk. Knowing Adam, it was probably so the bad energy could escape more easily during the smudging, or something.
And Henry did know Adam now. Just like he knew Gansey and Blue and Ronan. They were his friends. No, they were more than that now. They were his family. He smiled at them and then turned back to the house.
Inside, he found Maura and Calla in the reading room, bent over a spread of tarot cards.
“What’s the good word?” He asked, stopping in the doorway.
They both looked up at him. Maura frowned. Calla smirked. “I just can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t go,” Maura sighed.
“Told you,” Calla said.
“That should make you happy, right?” Henry asked Maura. “And yet, you are sad.”
“She’ll get over it,” Calla answered for Maura. “The chick’s gotta leave the nest at some point.”
“I think Blue would take offense to being called a chick,” Henry pointed out.
“Blue takes offense to everything these days,” Calla said.
This made Henry laugh for longer than it should have. Finally, he asked, “I’m supposed to pack the snacks?”
“Oh, I set everything out on the table in the kitchen. It’s all ready to go,” Maura instructed, still shifting around some cards.
“Thanks,” Henry said. “I’ll bring them out to the car then.” He followed the hallway the rest of the way to the kitchen, dodging a cat that tried to weave between his legs. He spotted the reusable tote bags and small cooler on the kitchen table and was about to grab them when he heard a rustling sound coming from under the table. He peered below and saw Lynch’s dream child struggling to open a bag of Tootsie Pops.
“Hey, Opal,” Henry said, crouching down. “Ronan is looking for you.”
She didn’t say anything, but she dropped the Tootsie Pops and held out her finger for Henry to inspect. He could see that she had a thin cut on the grubby pad of her index finger.
“What did you do? Get a paper cut?”
She mumbled something in Latin, maybe, while still holding her finger out to Henry.
“No, I’m not one of your dads. I can’t understand you. Can you say it in English?”
Opal shrugged and kissed her own wound lightly before picking up the bag of candy again.
Understanding dawned on Henry. This was something Ronan and Adam must do for her when she gets hurt. Which means it was likely something Ronan’s mother used to do for him. Which explains why Ronan held out his own hand to Adam earlier. It was the world’s most precious inside joke. Henry thought he might die from too much cute. Ronan Lynch thought he was such a badass punk. I’ve got your number, Henry thought with a smile.
“You want one of those?” Henry asked, pointing to the Tootsie Pops. Opal nodded and handed him the bag. Her refusal to use words to communicate in that moment was all too familiar to Henry. He had struggled with words too when he was younger. Was she young though? Henry wasn’t sure. She looked like a child, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she had a child’s brain. Did she even have a brain? Henry shook off the thoughts. There were too many possibilities to consider and he didn’t think even Ronan fully understood what she truly was. Right now, she was a kid who had a craving for sugar. That was easy enough to understand.
Henry tore open the bag and handed Opal a Tootsie Pop without thinking. She shoved the whole thing in her mouth, stick, wrapper and all, crunching loudly until it was gone a couple of seconds later. All he could do was gawk at her stupidly. She held out her hand for another. Henry unwrapped this one for her and told her not to eat the stick, but she did it anyway. It was only after the third one, that he thought this might be a bad idea. Would she get high off the sugar and then crash dramatically like his little sister used to? Lynch would have to deal with it later and Henry would be miles away by then. He grinned evilly and gave her a couple more suckers.
Henry stood up and put the remaining candy in one of the tote bags with the other food. Through the open window, he could hear Ronan outside calling for Opal. He looked back down at her under the table and she stared back at him with her big, black eyes. Henry had a thought. If a dream object had helped him communicate, maybe something similar could help her as well. He held out his hand to her and she let him pull her up from beneath the table. Her hooves slipped clumsily on the slick floor of the Fox Way kitchen at first, but she got her bearings and steadied herself.
“I want to show you something, Opal,” Henry said. He reached into his pocket and clutched RoboBee in his hand. He sat down on one of the mismatched chairs so he could be at her level and opened his palm. He briefly worried that she might try to eat RoboBee too, but she just stared at it in wonder. Maybe dream things recognized other dream things - like they had a special kind of kinship with each other. Then he had the absurd thought that Opal was RoboBee’s niece if that was true. Now he was just making it weird.
“What is it?” Opal asked.
“I speak multiple languages too, just like you. Sometimes my brain has a hard time translating my thoughts into words. RoboBee helps me communicate by turning my thoughts into actions,” Henry explained. Opal watched in amazement as RoboBee stirred to life, wings whirring, and lifted off Henry’s palm, hovering between them. She tentatively reached out with her paper cut finger and RoboBee landed gently on it. She squealed with delight, which turned into hysterical laughter. There’s the sugar, Henry thought, but her laughter was so pure that he couldn’t help but laugh along with her. If it weren’t for the hooves and magic, he would record a video of it and post it on YouTube. It would go viral for sure.
“What languages do you speak?” Opal asked when she finally settled down.
“Korean, Cantonese and English,” Henry said. He hadn’t taken Latin at Aglionby like the nerds outside. He considered himself lucky though since Aglionby only seemed to hire murderers to teach Latin.
“I don’t speak any of those, except for English sometimes,” Opal explained.
“I know,” Henry said. RoboBee lifted off her finger and rose high into the air. She looked up with longing, but didn’t ask to keep RoboBee or throw a tantrum like a normal child might.
“Maybe Ronan can make one for you, like his dad made this one for me.”
Her face scrunched up like she was thinking hard about it. “I don’t think it would work for me.”
“You’re the only one,” She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight.
Henry choked up a little. He couldn’t help it. It was overwhelming at times to feel so known, so accepted, by all of them. Even by Opal. He composed himself quickly and stood up. “We should go outside. I have to take these bags to the car.”
“I will help you,” Opal insisted. He gave her the lightest bag and it was still too big for her, but she was stubborn, so he let her struggle with it. She reminded him a bit of Blue in that moment. They made their way outside into the bright summer sunshine with RoboBee trailing behind them.
“Don’t tell Ronan how much candy I let you have, ok?” Henry said, as an afterthought when they reached the car. Adam watched as Jimi finished up the smudging, but the others were missing in action.
“Okay,” Opal agreed, handing her bag to Adam.
“What did you do?” Adam asked, warily.
“Nothing,” Opal and Henry said in unison. Henry gave her a thumbs up.
She beamed at him, but then the look on her face quickly turned to one of horror as she pointed and shrieked, “Kerah!”
Jimi screamed and clutched her chest. “Heavens, child,” she said, fanning herself.
Adam had just enough time to snatch RoboBee out of the air before Chainsaw dove for it, beak and talons bared. She wheeled in mid air before regaining her balance and landing gracefully on Adam’s shoulder. She hobbled down Adam’s arm and pecked at his hand, knowing that he held what she wanted in his closed fist.
“Holy shit,” Henry said, breathing a sigh of relief as they carefully exchanged the endangered cargo between their hands, so Chainsaw couldn’t see. So much for that idea about kinship among dream things. “Nice reflexes, Parrish. I forgot about the other niece.”
“The other niece?” Adam asked, confused.
“Oh, nothing, forget it,” Henry said, waving him off as he stowed RoboBee safely away in his pocket.
Adam laughed. “You should have known better than to let it loose like that around her.” Chainsaw glared at Henry from her perch on Adam’s shoulder.
“Devil bird,” Henry said, glaring right back.
“There you are, brats,” Ronan called, as he walked across the front lawn. “What was she shrieking about?”
“Chainsaw almost ate RoboBee,” Adam explained.
“What a tragedy,” Ronan said. “The world could have used one less creepy spy bot observing our every move.”
“Hey, don’t reduce my very specific magical ability to one of your anti-government conspiracy theories, Lynch,” Henry retorted. Adam snorted with laughter.
“I’m going to miss you, Cheng,” Ronan said, an evil grin spreading across his face, as Opal ran circles around him. “Jesus Christ, what has gotten into you?” he asked her.
Payback, Henry thought. “She may have had some of the candy we packed. I tried to stop her.”
“Liar!” Opal cried.
“I’m sure you tried really hard.”
“That’s the beauty of being the uncle. I let her do what she wants then I give her back to you to deal with the consequences,” Henry said.
“Speaking of consequences, there are going to be severe ones if we don’t get on the road now,” Blue demanded, strolling up to the car from the house, clutching a pair of purple leggings in her hand. Gansey was close behind, along with the rest of the Fox Way contingent.
The remaining bags were loaded into the car and group pictures were taken for Henry’s Instagram account. Fists were bumped and hugs dispersed. Henry settled in the back seat for the first leg of their journey, while Blue curled up in the front and Gansey slid behind the wheel. He started the Camaro and the loud rumbling of the non-existent engine fueled their growing excitement. As Gansey pulled away from the curb, Henry turned to look out the rear window just in time to see Ronan blowing them a kiss. Gansey and Blue must have seen it in the mirrors too, because they turned and looked at each other and laughed. They rolled down their windows and stuck their arms out into the warm summer air, waving and whooping with glee, while Henry pounded on the ceiling. It was finally starting. This was going to be a great trip.