Why is a room warmer, chocolate richer, and life better all together with someone you care about? Legs crossed and fingers clasped around scalding cups of cocoa, we swap tales and secrets - non assassination related of course.
"Your brother did what?"
Rory giggles and leans in conspiratorially. "For two years, he milked Samuel Henderson's cow, Jessie, at the crack of dawn. He thought she was just getting old - couldn't get a drop out of her. He decided that she was just too much for getting so little, told us he'd sell her for real cheap. Imagine his surprise when -" She and I burst out laughing, unable to hold our rowdiness in.
"What... what have you and your brother been doing for a profit? I mean, to afford chocolate?"
My laughter dies out and I give her a look of dazed humility. "We do what we need to, you know, making ends meet any way we can."
She narrows her eyes into a playful glare. "Don't give me that, I know you must be doing something." All at once, a sober look washes over her face. "You steal, don't you?"
I lean back, rubbing my face. The lie comes naturally, and the muscles in my face align to finish the act. "Not usually. We've been in a pinch lately and... like I said, ends need to be met." I drop my eyes and sigh. "You hate me, don't you?"
"No... no, of course I don't! I just think that..."
"That you're smart. Smarter than me or anyone I know. Heck, you can hear it in your voice! I sound like a hick from - we're getting off topic. What I'm trying to say is that I'm sure you could find a better way if you tried. You go to school?"
I shrug. "Not since I was little. I never fit in much, mainly due to my supposed mental illness." I leave out the fact that my brother was the one to create that very rumor.
"But you don't, do you?"
"Well..." At a loss for words, I let my voice trail off.
The front door suddenly flies open, slamming loudly against the back wall. Rory jumps, her eyes wide with fight, and her shirt drenched with steaming chocolate. I, myself am startled. Not too often does that happen because I've never been in this situation before.
"Alice, they caught on. Jose, he had a partner, the name's Rick -" His heavy footsteps and his loud words cut off mid-sentence. "Who is she?"
I open my mouth to explain, but Rory beats me to it. "You must be her brother! I'm Rory, and since you and her had a thing today I thought-"
He gives her a look that could kill and me one of pure betrayal. I imagine he's plotting my inevitable murder.
"You know what? I don't care. She's coming too."
She pales and glances at me. "I don't think -"
I shake my head and shoot him a look of pure anger. I know what he means by that, and I don't like it one bit. "Harold, I agree with her. This really -"
"I disagree." Yup, definitely not going to listen to me. He's past reasoning. "I think this is the only option. Get up, we're leaving."
Rory looks to me for reassurance, a look of confusion and fear much too present on her face. I know that, however wrong I may be, she needs it. Harold is in one of his moods, and he may force me to take action, or maybe this is just a plan to scare me into submission. I can't let him know it does. What I need to do is plot her escape - even if it means I take the bullet.
I turn to Rory, and harden my blazing orange eyes until they're just a dull glow. They're the part, the only part, of me that I can't mask perfectly with lies.
"You need to come with us."
"Please, I need you to trust me."
After a moment, which I'm fearful Harold will step in on, she nods slowly.
"Okay... I-I trust you."
Harold's voice, deep with meaning, calls for my attention. "Are you done? We need to go."
I narrow my eyes. "Of course. Have you started the truck?"
"It's purring like a kitten." He gives Rory a sickly-sweet smile. "Rory, was it? After you. We're in a bit of a rush."
"I'll get a suitcase." I volunteer. "Rory should come with me. She'll need something to wear other than a chocolate stained nightgown."
Harold grins. "Not at all. I have a bag prepared. She'll use your things."
I narrow my eyes and grab Rory's hand. "I show her the way - there's snakes on the path to the truck."
"Oh, please do, I hate snakes." She says, nodding gratefully. I wish I could tell her to shut her mouth. If she despises snakes, she has no business speaking with or around my brother.
"I'll be right behind you."
I practically wrench Rory's arm from her socket. "Sure thing!"
Once free from the stuffy enclosure with Harold, I pull Rory close. "You must promise me, you won't talk to him. I can explain - will explain - later. You must promise me."
She nods, hardly understanding the importance of her answer. "Yeah, sure. You need to promise me something too, okay?"
I flare my nose. "What?"
"You and your brother know what you're doing?"
I grin, letting a smooth, confident composure coat my face. My eyes must be dripping with fear and uncertainty, but her relaxed composure tells me she buys it. I know the difference between her death and mine is in how I respond.