“Seems so,” she said, confused, but she didn’t fight back and went for her register. “Sorry about that,” she apologized, and scanned in their packs of ice cream. “So much? You’re having a party I see?”
“Something like that.” Alik provided with a grin and pulled out his wallet. He payed for the five packs without a word and they quickly returned to their bus, where the amount of ice cream created quite a fuss from the women. The ice cream landed ungallantly on the bottom of the cold bag before Maksim breathed out with a loud sigh and the second the boys were back on their seats, he took the bus out of the parking lot.
“Perfect! You got me peppermint!” Tessa hummed, inspecting the bag when Alik sat by her side.
“So!” Alik turned to the boys and gave them a wide smile. “Who earned their personal ice cream?”
The awkward glance Kaspar and Ergo shared was enough to sharpen Laura’s attention. “What do you mean?” Laura demanded, straightening on the seat and her glare burnt into the duo. “What did you do?”
“I did!” Maksim shouted, feeling suddenly relieved to be able to say it out loud. “I did.” He repeated and breathed easier while his heart kept pounding in his chest. “And I am never doing that again! You better have a good explanation for it!” He shouted back, forgetting the sleepers, but then he saw her frown through the mirror and his good mood vanished. More like, HE better have a good explanation after they got back.
The ten minutes to home was not enough time to come up with anything plausible, or finish enough prayers to stop her from isolating him from the group the moment the bus had stopped. Her grip around his elbow was surprisingly strong and he winced, when he realized there was no way out of it. Alik wasn’t much help, running off in the opposite direction, making a call while Tess led the way inside.
“What was that about?”
“I wish I knew!” He mumbled, scratching the back of his neck, but her frown said she expected more. “He asked us to create a diversion, that’s it.”
“A di- what? Why would he-” Her eyes widened. “Oh god, please tell me you didn’t let them do anything bad! They’re already in trouble, why would you-” She cupped her mouth with her hand, her eyes wide. Second later he was cradling a nasty bruise on the chest, where her fist landed. “You let your brother use my brothers for a scheme, you shithead!” She yelled.
“Laura, they didn’t do anything!” She swung at him and hit harder. “Laura? Calm down! Laura!” He locked her wrists. She fought, pushing him back and trying to hit him once more with her leg, but he hopped aside, whisked her around and prisoned her against his chest. “Shh! They didn’t do anything! I wouldn’t let Alik use them like this, I swear! I did it!”
She kept struggling, pushing back to shake him off balance, but it didn’t work and after couple more tries, she relented, letting him have his way. He tried to calm down, slowing his breathing one intake at a time. After a minute, when he felt her breathing echo his, he let her wrists go, tentatively moving his palms from the grip to lay flat on her chest close to her heart. He drank in the mix of her shampoo and something soft and light.
“Exactly what did you do?” She asked quietly, leaning on him.
“I burnt a hole in a oil bottle on the shelf.” He whispered without thinking and moment later he howled from the pain in his left knee. She was free and jumped out of his reach.
“You stupid oaf! You could have lit the entire place with that poor woman and boys inside! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“She’s not someone you should feel sorry for!”
“That gives you NO RIGHT to set her shop on fire!”
“No, I didn’t mean it that way! Besides, it wouldn’t light like that! The ratio of oil and the oxygen has to be just right for the flames to start! I burnt it near the bottom and I was careful! I wouldn’t have let the flames rise!”
“Of course! Because nature laws can be overruled by your majesty Empty-Headed Idiot here!”
“God! Did you need to hit my knee?” He groaned, holding it in one place so it wouldn’t move as he wobbled to stand.
“You got lucky, when you could have burnt the whole place down! Woohoo! You make your parents proud! But you did it in front of the greatest copycats in the world! What if they try it again and it doesn’t work? What if the ratios are right the next time, huh? What then? Did you think about that when you pulled your little stunt?”
She wouldn’t listen, but instead hit the sand on the road at him and stumped inside, furious. She had every right to be angry. He’d done something utterly stupid in front of an ten-year-old, who could easily imitate this. He hadn’t thought about it then, but she was absolutely right and the sudden realization hit him to his core.
“Damn.” He huffed, pushing his back straight and hopping towards the front door. He had never liked violent women, but for the first time in his life, he understood her reaction. He doubted he’d act any different if he was in her position, having to watch after punch of pre-teen boys, who he exposed to criminal activity that could potentially put them all in danger. Right after Ergo got accused of stealing on the car show!
“Need help?” Alik appeared behind him, pushing his phone back in his pocket. He didn’t wait and grabbed his arm, supporting him. “Wow, she was pissed!”
“You saw the whole thing?”