Haley and I stepped into the dining room. The table was already set—white dishes, blue placemats, and even though no food was out, blue hot pads were already waiting to protect the table from hot dishes. I also noticed that the water had already been poured.
“Why don’t you sit down?” My mom opened the door of the oven. “Everything’s ready. I’ve been keeping it warm.”
I looked at Haley, “We’re not late, are we?”
She said, “No,” but then looked back toward my mom who said, “No, I wanted to be ready in case you were early.”
Haley gave a small laugh, knowing by now that while I wasn’t consistently late, I was more likely to be late than early.
Mom laughed too, adding, “I know it’s not likely, but I also knew that Haley was driving you over.”
And that meant that Mom had been texting or talking to Haley because I hadn’t told her that. Mom probably also knew that we’d been training because unlike Dad, her block had failed during my senior year of high school back when Ray and his team of assassins held her captive.
It would have been nice if Dad’s block had fallen back then too, but Mom had a weakened version of Rachel’s ability to turn intangible and was the daughter of two superheroes, giving her a greater weight of life experience to ignore.
Within a few minutes, Dad had prayed over the meal and we’d started eating. For a while, that’s all we did. It was long enough after practice that I had time to notice what my body wanted beyond being less tired and food was on the list. Plus, I’d noticed that after talking with Kee or doing the exercises she gave me I needed more food, much like Haley or other supers.
It wasn’t as true for me as Haley or Cassie, but I felt the difference and I definitely felt it today. The talk with Kee must have done it.
As I thought about that, Dad asked, “How’s the business you started with Chris going? You were saying that you had clients already.”
I looked up from my plate, “It’s going okay. Easier than I would have expected. We didn’t get anyone at first which isn’t too surprising since I just graduated, Chris isn’t done yet, and neither of us has a lot of experience outside of internships.”
At that, Dad grunted, no doubt thinking about my internship with Higher Ground. He hadn’t known I’d been gathering evidence for the FBI, but he did know that it had ended in a fight with the Heroes’ League, and the prosecution of both Higher Ground’s leadership and Russell Hardwick.
I kept on talking anyway, “Fortunately, it turns out that Chris’ grandfather had contacts who needed work done, basically auto parts and the machines that make them. Also, Vaughn told his mom what we were doing, and you know how Grandpa Vander Sloot did a lot of work for Hardwick Industries? He basically created the ultrasound technology that they’re still using? She decided to give us a chance. It’s a small contract, but if we do a good job, it could turn into something bigger.”
“Gerald Cannon?” Dad lowered his fork and Swedish meatball to his plate. “The former supervillain? It’s legal work?”
I nodded, “I know it sounds bad, but when he wasn’t in costume, he built a regional auto parts chain. It wasn’t the biggest, but he does have legitimate business contacts. We checked them out.”
Dad shook his head, “I get it. It’s work. I remember when I was building my practice. I was everywhere, taking any business I could get, even some I shouldn’t have, but taking business related to superheroes is different than most. It ropes you into situations that are beyond anything you could expect. I’ve counseled a few teenage superheroes, sometimes at government request. I think I did some good, but my worry was that their enemies would find out he was talking with me. I don’t know what would have happened then, but it could have easily put the whole family in danger.”
With a sigh, he added, “Between the two, I’d hope for more work from Hardwick Industries. Vaughn’s parents are good people even if his uncle wasn’t.”
He opened his mouth again, blinked, and stopped, “You know, there was something else I wanted to add to that, but it just went clean out of my head. Don’t you hate it when that happens? So, Haley, what are you going to do after graduation this year?”
Haley frowned, “My dad thinks I should work in the main office of our holding company. I’d be designing menus, signs, and ads. I’m not sure that I want to. I feel like I’ve worked for my family for years already and it would be nice to do something on my own.”
My mom smiled, “I understand the feeling. When I was in college, all I wanted to do was get out of Grand Lake and I did. I got a job reading unsolicited manuscripts for an agent in NYC and a few different jobs with publishers until I helped promote the book of a therapist from Grand Lake… I moved back then and I’m still here.”
Haley grinned for a second before frowning again, “I don’t want to go that far away. I just don’t want to owe my dad for every job I ever have.”
Dad stared into the distance, “Something else happened in New York, something important, but I don’t remember it. Joanie? Do you remember it? I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
At that moment, I felt a quiver of whatever sense I used when I was in Lee’s or Kee’s presence. It didn’t feel as strong as when I was with them, but I felt a whisper of their power.