The Beacon Scouts hunker down as a storm passes through the town.
| Dark clouds gathered. The sun was no longer visible. In the distance thunder could faintly be heard. A storm was brewing. A powerful and terrible storm. It was the day of a maelstrom. Or as the citizens of the town of Rhodes knew it, a bi-weekly occurrence.
In the basement of All Saints Episcopal Church the Beacon Scouts were almost oblivious to the gathering storm outside. They were focused on finishing up their meeting.
"And so, that's why you never bring a honeycomb into a restaurant," explained Scout Master Steward. He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall and then said. "Alright, that's it for today. Get your stuff and get out." The Scouts by now had learned that 'get your stuff and get out' meant 'Today was a good meeting, I hope you have a nice weekend.'
It helped that Scout Assistant Jenna acted as a translator. "Great job, everyone," she said with a large smile. "Have a great weekend, and remember to make good choices!"
Zuri and Ruth jumped up and zipped towards their bags even as Dominic played the final bugle call. Tonight was no ordinary night for them. Zuri was coming over to Ruth's house to hang out.
The last few notes of the bugle call had a slightly bitter air to them as Dominic saw the other scouts ignore the call and instead gather their things and chat with one another. As he finished the only scout that had respectfully stood for it, Lola, approached him.
"Hey Dominic, how's it hanging?"
Dominic began to put away the bugle and replied, "Fine, I guess. It's been a long week..."
"Because of Noah?"
"Yeah, because of Noah. What is his problem?"
"There's got to be a reason, dude," said Lola, beginning to stare out into space. She looked extremely pensive.
"Maybe," said Dominic with a sigh. "Maybe."
Once they had their things, Zuri and Ruth dashed out the door and upstairs into the dark day. Felix and Addie were already outside and waiting for the two of them.
"So, you're walking home with us, Zuri?" asked Felix.
"Yep," replied Zuri, practically bouncing. "Well, as far as Ruth's house at least. You sure you can't hang out with us?"
"Yeah, family gatherings are mandatory for us," explained Addie.
"That means we have to go," added Felix.
"Obviously. I know what mandatory means," Zuri lied smoothly.
In the distance there was the faintest rumble of thunder. "Hmm...seems like a big storm is coming," observed Ruth. Her tone had just a hint of joy in it.
Zuri managed to pick up on the happiness in Ruth's statement and asked, "Wait, do you like storms, Ruth? Like, lightning and all that stuff?"
"Well, maybe not lightning," said Ruth thoughtfully, "but the rain. I love rain. All sorts of rain. Stormy rain, light rain, misty rain, hot rain, cold rain, spotty ra-" Ruth abruptly stopped as she finally noticed that the others were staring at her. "Uh, so, uh, yeah. I like rain," Ruth finished lamely.
"Ooookay," said Addie. "I guess it's good you live in Rhodes then. Rains all the flippin' time here."
"Yeah, seriously," Zuri chimed in, "It rained a lot where I lived before, but it rains so much here!"
"Speaking of rain," said Felix, "maybe we should actually go home before it starts, instead of standing around like a bunch of weirdos."
The three girls glanced around and noticed that the rest of the Beacon Scouts had already gone home. They all nodded at each other and started to head home.
Dominic was one of the Beacon Scouts who walked home. It took him a short while to make his way to his house. As he did the sky grew darker, turning from overcast grey to an almost black color. Dominic fished the house key out of his pocket and unlocked the door. He entered and threw his backpack on a nearby chair.
He had been thinking about what Lola had said about Noah. Ever since Dominic had moved to Rhodes at the beginning of the summer Noah had been a thorn in his side. He hadn't questioned it at first. He knew from experience that people could be cruel for no reason. But lately he had gotten the feeling that there was a particular reason Noah messed with him.
Dominic flopped down on the sofa and began to think. He thought he had left things like vengeance behind him when he moved to Rhodes.
At the same time as Dominic made it to his house, in a different direction from the church, Zuri and Addie made it to Ruth's house. They waited outside the modest split-level house for Felix and Ruth to catch up with them.
"You two are so sloooow," complained Zuri.
"I have short legs," replied Felix indignantly.
"And I like talking to him," said Ruth. "I mean, I can go a lot faster."
"Well not all of us are half-giants, Hagrid," growled Felix, looking up at the much taller Ruth.
"I'm not that hairy," replied Ruth, sounding slightly offended. "I'm like that French lady in the fourth one."
"Come on you nerd," said Zuri, dragging Ruth by the sleeve towards the house.
"Oh, uh, see you guys," called Ruth as she was dragged away. Zuri stopped briefly to wave goodbye and then pulled Ruth into the house.
Inside, Zuri and Ruth took of their shoes and backpacks and then headed into the kitchen. There they were greeted by Ruth's mother.
"Hi Ruth. Ah, you must be Zuri."
Zuri looked up (and up, and up) at the nearly six foot tall woman in front of her. "Hey, nice to meet you Mrs. Franklin."
"Please call me Delilah", replied Mrs. Franklin. "I like your mohawk by the way."
"It's a faux hawk, actually," explained Zuri. "I've still got some hair on the sides of my head, see?" She turned and pointed to the side of her head, as if it wasn't obvious.
"My bad. I'm not up on hair styles, I guess." Delilah glanced at the kitchen table, which was covered in papers. "I've let grading slide a little, so I'm doing some catch up right now. So I'll be here if you need anything."
"Sure thing mom," replied Ruth. She and Zuri left the kitchen as Delilah sat at the table and began to mark papers.
"Wait, is your mom a teacher?" asked Zuri
"Yeah, she teaches physics at the high school."
"Oh, cool. What do you want to do?"
"Well the storm is a little ways out, so we could go swing in the backyard."
"Good idea!" With that, Zuri dashed out the door.
Ruth stared after her and then mumbled to herself, "I wonder how long it will take her to realize she ran outside without her shoes."
Dominic was still sitting on the sofa, lost in thought, when his father came in.
"Hey Dominic, how was the scouts meeting today?"
"It was fine," replied Dominic absentmindedly. "Hey dad, have you ever had someone hold a grudge against you? Besides mom, I mean."
"Dominic, your mother doesn't-" Dominic's father was caught up short by Dominic's unnerving stare. He awkwardly continued, "Well alright, but I guess a couple people. Nothing serious. Why, is somebody holding a grudge against you?"
"No," replied Dominic, still deep in thought, "Just thinking about something that was said by one of the other scouts in the meeting." His father looked at him skeptically, before shrugging his shoulders and leaving Dominic to his thoughts.
The sky had finally stopped threatening rain... because now it was making good on its threat. The rain had started to come in a sudden downpour and showed no signs of stopping soon. The thunder, which had been far off, was now getting closer. And standing in front of Delilah Franklin was a pair of soaked Beacon Scouts.
"Why on Earth did you stay out that long? Or even go out in the first place?!" she demanded.
"To have fun," replied Ruth casually as she hung up her wet jacket, "And we didn't stop when it started because the thunder was far off."
"But now you're all wet."
"Yeah, but it's rain, and that's fun."
"You're totally soaked!"
"Yeah, but rain."
"It wasn't a good idea!"
"Yeah, but mom, rain!"
Delilah let out a long sigh and then looked at Zuri. "And you were okay with this?"
"Okay with it? I suggested it!"
Delilah massaged her forehead for a moment before saying, "Alright, you two stay here in the foyer for a moment while I grab some towels." With that she quickly headed off to fetch the much need towels.
Ruth turned to Zuri and said, "You might want to call your mom to get her to pick you up. This is a big storm and the roads could get bad."
Zuri shrugged. "I guess so."
Delilah returned with towels for the girls. They took them and Zuri asked, "Hey, can I borrow your phone so I can call my mom?" Delilah handed Zuri the phone. Zuri took a slightly damp piece of paper out of her jacket pocket with her mom's phone number on it.
"We used to remember important phone numbers," remarked Deliliah as Zuri dialed.
"Do you remember dad's phone number off the top of your head?" asked Ruth. Delilah shot her a look which was returned with an innocent gaze.
"Hey Mom, it's Zuri. I'm at Ruth's and I thought I should call you, since there's a lot of rain," said Zuri.
In the breakroom of a diner across town Zuri's mom was looking out the window, obviously worried. "Yeah, it's pretty bad outside. I can't get you right now though, I still have the rest of my shift."
"What about Lydia?"
"She's still working too. I wish we could have known about the weather before she agreed to cover that shift."
Zuri was beginning to look antsy when Ruth suddenly had an idea. "Hey Mom, if Zuri is having trouble getting a ride home, then maybe she could stay over here... you know, tonight."
Zuri brightened up, "Ooh, a sleepover would be fun!"
"Can we Mom? Please?! It's not a school night."
Delilah thought for a moment and then said, "Well, okay, but first I want to check with Zuri's mom." Zuri quickly explained the plan to her mom and then handed the phone to Delilah. The two mothers had a boring adult talk while the two girls dried themselves some more with the towels. Finally they finished and Delilah gave the phone back to Zuri.
"I'll go get the sleeping bag ready," said Ruth as she dashed off.
"And you're sure you'll be fine?" asked Zuri's mom. "I mean with the thunder and everything..."
"Mom you know, I'm not scared of that anymore," said Zuri irritability.
"Alright, just making sure."
Ruth returned shortly, now wearing a flamingo themed shirt and floral pajama pants as Zuri said her goodbyes. "Alright mom, I'll see you tomorrow morning, yeah, bye." She hung and handed the phone back to Delilah.
"Come on," said Ruth, "I'll find you something to wear to bed."
As she followed Ruth back to her bedroom Zuri eyed the much larger girl up and down. "Not sure that will be easy, Ruth."
"I have faith," replied Ruth as she led her friend into her room. The purple room was very clean except for the plastic desk opposite the bed, which was covered in all sorts of pencils, paper, books, and other odds and ends.
"Your room is a lot cleaner than mine," remarked Zuri as Ruth strode over to her dresser. Ruth dug through her dresser to find something. Zuri meanwhile took off her shirt. "At least my undershirt stayed dry."
"Pretty impressive given you decided to jump into that puddle like a moron," said Ruth. Zuri responded to this comment by throwing her shirt onto Ruth's head. An unamused Ruth threw the shirt to the side. Finally she pulled something out of the dresser. "You can wear this." She held up a large white, blue, and red hockey jersey. "I think it's big enough that it'll cover all you want covered."
"Good thinking!" replied Zuri. Some lightning flashed from outside the window. Ruth glanced over and as she turned back her face was met by Zuri's skirt.
"Gah! Why do you not want to wear pan-" As Ruth pulled the skirt from her face she saw that Zuri was wearing a pair of slightly damp cotton short-shorts decorated with colorful pineapples prints. "Oh, you're wearing pants. You wore shorts?"
"Duh," said Zuri, "I move around a lot and I don't like people looking at my underwear. So my mom suggested I wear these."
"Oh. Huh that makes sense," said Ruth as she handed Zuri the Jersey. Zuri held it up and saw it reached down to about her knees.
Zuri slipped the jersey on and as she did she noticed something. "Oh hey, that's a cute stuffed rabbit." She motioned over to the bed where a slightly loved (read: beat-up) blue stuffed rabbit lay next to the pillows.
"Oh yeah, uh, yeah, he's mine. Obviously," stammered Ruth. She was blushing slightly.
Zuri gave her a mischievous smile. "Are you embarrassed? Worried that having a stuffed animal will ruin your tough image?"
"Well if people found out about Benjamin it might." As soon Ruth said the rabbit's name Zuri giggled, causing Ruth's face to turn fully red. "I mean it's not like I have a cool reputation, but people think I'm mature. Mostly 'cause I'm tall. And I am mature I guess. But I want to be, but I want to still be a kid. It's...complicated."
"Nah, I get it," said Zuri. "Sometimes people think I should be more mature because of stuff that's happened. But I just want to be me."
"Yeah." Ruth smiled, the color of her face returning to somewhat normal. She began to fluff her pillows. "You can be immature, like jumping in that puddle or throwing clothes onto my head." As soon as Ruth turned back around Zuri's shorts whapped her in the face.
Later that night Dominic was sitting down to dinner with his family. He was quietly eating his chicken while his dad and step-dad talked.
"I did tell you, Ryan, that Rhodes was known for storms like this," his dad said.
"Well yeah, but we were here for the whole summer and nothing was this bad," replied Ryan.
"From what I can tell we got lucky, basically. Isn't that right Dominic?" Dominic didn't respond and instead mindlessly poked at his peas. "Dominic?"
Dominic finally looked up, "Yeah I guess. May I be excused?
"You sure you're okay, bud?"
"Yeah, just need to think. May I be excused?"
The two adults exchanged glances, but they let him get up. As he cleared off his plate Ryan said, "Before you go, take out the recyclables though, please." Dominic nodded and gathered up the assorted recyclables and headed out back. He stepped outside under the cover of a covered patio.
He took a moment to enjoy the cool air. Then, as he was putting the recyclables in the bin he heard a voice behind him. "Hello Dominic." He spun around to see it was none other than Noah, standing there in a red rain coat.
"Noah!" Dominic was taken aback for a moment before realizing something. "Wait, how long have you been standing here?" Thunder sounded overhead.
"Oh, like half an hour," admitted Noah. "Thanks for finally coming out by the way. I figured you'd have to take out the trash or something. My parents always make me."
"That was quite the gamble; you're lucky it paid off," noted Dominic.
"Well what I have to tell you really couldn't wait much longer. Hardly as long as two days." Dominic nodded in understanding. For eleven year olds two days may as well have been two weeks.
"Alright, creepy as it is to hang out on my patio, I'll consider this neutral ground. So, what do you have to tell me?"
"Well..." said Noah, smiling in an unnerving way, "I'm sure by now you've begun to wonder why I don't seem to like you very much."
"I assumed it had something to do with my beating your face in."
Noah's smile vanished. "I disliked you before that!"
"Oh, I figured, I just like to remind you of that."
Noah growled but continued, "You've probably been trying to think about what you've done to me to tick me off. Well you didn't do anything to me."
"Oh, so you're just a jerk then."
The smile returned to Noah's face and he stepped closer to Dominic. "Oh, but I know who's the real jerk. You see I have a cousin named Aaron. He's basically my best friend. Kind of like a little brother. And he lives...in Hadrian." Thunder boomed overhead again, this time much louder. Dominic's eyes widened at the mention of town's name. "That's right Dominic, I know what you're really like."
Dominic was silent for a moment before saying, "So it's revenge on behalf of a family member." He shook his head, almost in disgust. "I'm not that person anymore Noah. But if you feel you have to pick on me because of family I get that." He then started directly into Noah's eyes. "I'm warning you though, you keep messing with my friends because of me, that beatdown I gave you will be nothing compared to what I'll do." Thunder rang out again, dwarfing the previous two bursts.
The two stared each other down for some time, to the point it began to get awkward. Neither one wanted to back down. Finally it was broken when Ryan called from inside, "Dominic, where are you?" The boys, grateful for the excuse to stop, went their separate ways.
A week after the storm the Beacon Scouts had gathered on a much more pleasant day. Zuri hurried to the meeting. She was running late. Finally she made it to the other scouts.
"Hey guys, sorry I'm late," panted Zuri. The other Beacon Scouts exchanged awkward glances.
"Uh, Zuri," said Ruth, "You missed the second sign-up. If you didn't do it, you can't be a Beacon Scout anymore."
"What?!" shouted a surprised Zuri. "I signed it though!"
Felix shrugged, "Sorry Zuri. I'll try and see you in school. If they didn't change our classes."
In the distance Scout Leader Steward called for the scouts to assemble. "Sorry Zuri," said Ruth, "we got to go." The Beacon Scouts all ran off to their meeting.
Zuri watched them go, but she couldn't go after them. Her head was spinning. She had signed...what had she signed? She had to find her mom or sister. She tried walking back, but stumbled rather than walked.
"Mom?! Lydia?!" She called. One of them brought her here, but they were gone. Everyone was gone. Zuri fell and couldn't get up, now matter how much she struggled. "Hey, help! Someone! Where is everyone? Where is is everyone?!"
Zuri woke up as thunder sounded over the house. She was breathing heavily and for a moment couldn't move. She almost felt like she had to throw up. She managed to calm down somewhat and glance over to the bed next to her. Ruth was looking down from it, obviously concerned.
"You were shouting in your sleep and thrashing around, and stuff. Were you having a nightmare?" asked Ruth as Zuri sat up.
"Yeah," she replied. Her breathing was returning to normal. She was glad she didn't sweat a lot when she was scared. Nothing worse than waking up all sticky with sweat.
"What was it about?" asked Ruth. She blushed slightly then followed up with, "Was it the one where everyone's laughing at you, then you realize it's because you're naked? I have that one a lot."
"No, I don't usually have dreams like that. Well, I did once, but I wasn't naked, just in my undies." Zuri sighed. Talking made her feel better. Suddenly some extremely loud thunder rang out, causing Zuri to jump slightly.
Ruth noticed the jump. "Are you scared of thunder?"
"No!" said Zuri defensively. She sighed and then admitted, "Well, I used to be, and I guess it still makes me a little nervous."
"So, what are you afraid of then?" asked Ruth. "I mean you were having a nightmare about something." Zuri looked away and didn't answer. "How about I tell you what I'm afraid of?" offered Ruth. Zuri looked back, interested. "But you, can't laugh, okay? Promise?"
"I promise," said Zuri solemnly.
Ruth took a deep breath and then said, "I'm afraid of whales. And other big sea creatures." She looked over at Zuri who, to Ruth's relief, had a straight face.
"Why though?" asked Zuri.
"They're so big," replied Ruth, "And I just get a bad feeling. Why were you scared of thunder?"
"Because it's loud and lightning can kill you."
"Whale calls are loud and their tails can kill." Zuri nodded, admitting the point. "But what were you having a nightmare about?" asked Ruth.
"Well..." Zuri hesitated, but then pushed forward. "I dreamed that I couldn't be a Beacon Scout anymore, and you guys left, and then my mom and sister disappeared, and I was alone, and couldn't move, and, and..."
Ruth noticed Zuri getting more and more upset. So she reached down and pulled Zuri out of her sleeping bag. Zuri felt what Ruth was doing and scrambled up onto Ruth's bed. Ruth pulled Zuri close to her. More thunder boomed and Zuri buried her head in Ruth's chest. Curled up with her Zuri felt safe.
"I won't leave you," Ruth reassured her, "and the Beacon Scouts won't either." As the girls cuddled, Ruth asked, "Want to sleep here tonight?"
"I am sleeping here," Zuri pointed out.
"I meant with me, in this bed."
Zuri snuggled closer to Ruth. "Fine, but only because you're like a giant teddy bear." The two girls laid down on the bed, which to Zuri's surprise had enough space for the two of them. Ruth handed Benjamin over to Zuri, who grabbed the stuffed rabbit. Ruth pulled the thick covers over the two of them. She then wrapped her arms around Zuri, and yawned. Zuri felt super cozy. She had cuddled with Ruth before, but not like this; this was next-level cuddling.
"Goodnight Zuri. Again"
"Goodnight Ruth," replied Zuri, stifling a yawn. Ruth may have been able to get right to sleep, but Zuri was more resistant. She wasn't about to just conk... right... out... zzzz...
At the same time, in Dominic's room, he had woken up as well. Not due to a nightmare, but just his insomnia. He sat in bed trying to get back to sleep, listening to the rain and the thunder. He thought about what Noah had told him. He came to a conclusion. Whatever he had done before, he had left it behind. He was part of something bigger, something more important. He was a Beacon Scout.
Early the next morning the thunder and lightning had passed, and the rain was no longer quite so strong, but it was still falling steadily.
In Ruth's home, Delilah had woken up early, and, after getting some strong coffee, quietly peeked into Ruth's room. She saw that Ruth and Zuri were in the bed together, snuggled close. She rolled her eyes and shook her head at the sight, but couldn't help but smile. She quietly closed the door, leaving the two girls to support one another. Therein lied the strength of the Beacon Scouts.