You’ve entered the world of The Realm Jumpers. The adventure with Riley and his trusty gang of genetic misfits continues…
“Time for some more lessons, Bean Pole,” Hope said. “Favorite ice cream?”
“What’s ice cream?” I held the door open for her.
She was still wearing soccer shorts from practice earlier, and her ponytail swayed like a horse’s tail, but I knew better than to tell her that.
Only took one punch to the shoulder to learn a lesson for this dummy.
“You’ve never had ice cream? I’d die without ice cream.” She pointed to a table for four off to the side. “Grab that table, I’ll get us some of the good stuff.”
I sat at the place she chose and watched her order. I could hear her, too, so that was good. She knew how to do everything. I hated that I didn’t know anything. I could only learn so much through watching TV and videos Janet set up on the computer for me.
It was like I could do everything a normal person could, talking, eating, and I knew things that I didn’t know I knew. Soccer for one. How’d I know how to play soccer before I’d watched and read before club practice yesterday?
All the stuff I’d seen and read was like a reminder. Like something I’d known all my life and had just forgotten.
“We’re going to try a few,” Hope said as she approached, holding a tray. “And you have to pick your favorite.”
“You have five bowls of ice cream. How hungry are you?”
“You’re a giant, you can eat tons. Together, we’ll finish these no problem.” She laughed and sat down.
“Here’s bubble gum.” She grabbed another one that was green with black specks in it. “Try that one first.”
This blue one looked and smelled good, too. Kind of like Hope. She smelled like sugar a lot. “I saw something called ice cream in Janet’s freezer. It was called vanilla?”
“Boring.” She rolled her eyes. “Unless there’s chocolate syrup involved.”
“Not sure. Nothing said chocolate anywhere.”
“She keeps a jar of it hidden behind the veggies.”
“How do you know that?”
“Ancient Chinese secret.” She giggled. “You know that phrase?”
“Nope. That’s a good one. Got to say that more than no. Especially more than no, sir or no, ma’am.”
“I heard Anthony say it at practice today.”
“You’re kinda like a sponge. Wish I was. I’d do so much better in school.”
“Middle grade. Right?”
“Seventh grade.” She squealed. “So excited. Okay, what’d you think of that one?”
“Blueberry, I mean, bubble gum is good. Do they have Peanut Butter and Jelly ice cream? Janet makes me Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. They’re yummy.”
“Yummy, good word. Go with that. And no. No PBJ ice cream flavor here.”
“P.B.J… Oh, that stands for—”
“Yep. You say PBJ not the full words. And you’re right. Mrs. J’s PBJs are awes.”
“What flavor do you have?”
“Chocolate chip mint.” She handed me the bowl then took mine. “What was your other foster home like?”
“Fine. J2 is nicer.” I tried the mint and really liked it. Even better than bubble gum, so I ate a few more bites. “Where are you from?”
“With your parents.”
She slouched. “My parents are dead.”
“Dead? But you—”
“Live with my crazy aunt and uncle.”
“Crazy?” I scooped up some more mint. The chips were crunchy, and I liked how they melted in my mouth.
“Never mind. Try this one.” She pushed another bowl my direction.
Obviously she didn’t like to talk about it. And she was always at our house, eating with us, watching TV.
She wasn’t kidding about the chocolate chip waffles, either. She ate the last of them this morning at breakfast before practice.
“You’re twelve, right?” I asked.
She nodded and scooped in another bite. “I can’t believe you get to start seventh grade as an eleven year old. So not fair.”
“I took a test, I guess I did okay.”
“I’d say. Can you take all my tests?”
I laughed. But really, it wasn’t funny. J2 said they’d found some information on the thumb drives that indicated I was eleven years old. At least mentally. I hated not knowing anything about myself.
“You’re so big, no one will even know you’re not twelve or eighteen. Here, try the strawberry.” She took my bowl again and handed me the pink one. “I turn thirteen in February, I can’t wait. Teenager!”
“Big life event I’ve read. It’s tradition—”
“Whoa, stop right there, Bean Pole. That’s a big no-no. Seriously. You can’t talk about big life events or tradition unless you’re super old. Where did you learn to talk like that?”
“Do you hear anyone who’s not four hundred years old talk like that?”
“People live to be four hundred years old?”
“Vampires maybe. Immortals. Werewolves. Oh, all kinds of things. Not humans, though.”
There were other things than humans? As in monsters? I thought that was only in the TV shows I’d watched.
She started laughing. “Man, we’ve got work to do. Give me your phone.”
I took another bite of the strawberry ice cream and dug my phone out. “I like the mint best so far.”
“Here, try this one.” She shoved a bowl filled with brown ice cream in front of me as she took my phone. “I’m gonna put my number in here because we might have to do some overtime to get you presentable in time for school. Hey where are all your apps?”
I hadn’t gotten very far on learning the phone Janet had given me yesterday. “Which apps should I get?”
“You’re the king of basicism.” She closed her eyes and let out a breath. “I should charge you double for this help I’m giving you. You’d be lost without me.”
“You’d be picked on without me. So we’re even.”
“True that. You are definitely a bully deterrent. We’re a good team.”
“That’s a good thing, right?”
She looked at me long and hard. “Riley, can I ask you something?”
Oh boy, she’d called me Riley. That was new.
“For realz, where are you from? You’re so different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good with different, we’re friends and all, but seriously.”
“Nowhere. I—just from up north. A foster home up north.”
“You always say that. I mean, like, where up north? What were your parents like? What—”
“I’m like you. I don’t have parents. Which totally sucks.”
She smiled at my use of slang.
Her bright eyes got dark suddenly, and she tapped her ice cream with her spoon. “It does suck not having parents.”
“Do you remember yours?”
She shook her head. “You?”
“Nope.” I took another scoop.
“Last foster home. Talk.”
“It was fine.” I was experimented on by crazy people.
“Must have been strict, though, huh? The way you follow the rules.”
That felt familiar so I went with it. “Lots of rules.”
“I can tell. But you don’t have to freak. J2 is awesome. I mean with the rules and things. They aren’t mean.”
“They’re nice people. They saved—rescued—um, came and got me.”
“You’re not a very good liar. And, just so you know, I’m well within my rights as friends to be totally pissed that you’re lying to me. I’ll cut you a break since we only just met. But you’re gonna have to tell me some day if we’re gonna stay friends. You got me?”
“Well, if it isn’t the orphan twins. Such a cute couple sharing ice cream. How sweeet.”
Nick and his little gang of friends, Race, Jones and Aiden, approached the table. They were nothing but trouble.
And mean to everyone.
“Buzz off, dummop,” Hope said, focusing on the strawberry ice cream she’d started eating.
A wave of nerves rattled through me. I tapped my foot to distract me and my knee bumped the bottom of the table.
I hated mean people. They made me mad. Really mad.
“Nice face plant out there today, Hope. It was pretty. Not to mention the juggling. What a joke.”
“Please stop it,” I said.
Nick glared at me then laughed. “What’s the little orphan kid gonna do about it? You were such a loser when your mom had you she gave you up. Yeah, what are you—”
I bolted to my feet. I towered these shrimps by almost two feet. It wouldn’t take much to squish them. But I couldn’t. I’d get into trouble. Maybe not be able to play soccer.
“Hey now. You kids knock it off,” a guy from behind the counter said. “I mean it.”
Nick snickered and stepped away. “Lucky we’re not outside, freak.”
“What? You gonna fall on your butt again and cry like a baby?” Hope asked. “Like you did the last time Riley shoved you?”
I glared at her. She had a way of egging him on, didn’t she?
The gang hustled to the counter and ordered some cones. I watched them as they goofed around, pushed each other and laughed. As much as Nick was a mean, bad person, it looked like they were having fun. Playing.
I remembered playing with someone. A girl. She was nice. I couldn’t picture her, though. It was more like a feeling. Like soccer. I knew it, but couldn’t quite remember until I was reminded.
“Gonna stand there the rest of the day?” Hope asked. “They won’t bug us anymore. Besides, I think Nick’s a little scared of you now.”
“I don’t like that.”
“Well I do. That means he won’t mess with me while you’re around.”
“Why does he?”
“He’s a jerk.” She finished off the strawberry ice cream. “So, what’s your favorite?”
“Mint. Chocolate chip.”
“Mine too!” She straightened. “Here. Your phone looks much better now.”
I clicked it and the home screen was a picture of Hope with her lips all fish-like and her eyes crossed. She laughed as I looked up. “Come on. It’s awesomeness.”
“If you like fish.”
She grabbed her sides. “I’m dying with laughter.”
“Oh. Another!” She fell to her side over exaggerating her laughter. “Stop. You’re killing me.”
She burst out laughing so loud the gang up front looked at us.
Okay, this felt pretty normal, too. And I liked it!
Join us Friday for Chapter 8 of Watcher of the Realms. Be sure to subscribe to the site to not miss a single chapter of Riley’s adventures.
A big thank you to Sizzling PR for the Realm Jumper graphics.
CLICK HERE to see previous chapters
See you soon….