Ch. 29, A Wondrous Place

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Bastien

"Bastien... I... It's so..." Rell stared, speechless, and I laughed when I saw tears filling her eyes.

"I've never seen something so beautiful," she whispered, staring up at the bright, cavernous ceiling and long white aisles. "What is this wondrous place?"

"This would be Walmart."

"The Great Land of Wallll-Mart," she said slowly and solemnly. I tried to bury my laughter at the way she stared, her head tilted back in wonder at the white fluorescent lights above, bright after the storm darkened night. We'd spent an hour eating pizza, and then took an Uber back to my dad's car (which thank my ass was still there) and then I had cruised around, showing her the sights of the city, before I decided we might as well spend some of that enormous wad of cash. The only problem was it was 2 in the morning.

Thus, Walmart.

"Okay, so, umm, maybe we should start with school supplies." I steered the metal cart to the left, glad I had insisted I push it as Rell walked around like a zombie, crashing into displays at random in her desire to see everything. We'd prolly need that cash sooner than I thought.

"Okay, so backpack first. Which one do you want?" I pointed to a wall full of backpacks, and her face lit up like a kid's on Christmas.

She walked down the wall, looking at each one until she stopped at the end, and laughed and picked one up. "Ha! What is this small yellow creature? Why have I never seen one here before?"

"Oh, that's a minion, from Despicable Me... ummm that's kind of more for a kid. Here how about one?" I held up a grey, outdoorsy looking back, lined with teal. She looked at it skeptically, then back at the minion backpack.

"I choose this one," she said confidently, and shook the backpack, so that the minions' googly eyes wobbled.

"Whatever floats your boat, I guess." I tossed it into the cart with a smile. We spent the next hour picking out school supplies, with probably more than she would need to make it to college. But it was fun to see the way everything seemed new and wondrous. I helped her pick out a pack of fifty colored pencils, a graphing calculator that she literally called "magic", pens, highlighters pencils and notebooks. Picking out folders was most fun. She picked one with a Lisa Frank unicorn that was "woefully inaccurate but adorable", several kitten and puppy folders, and one with spiderman and three of Batman.

It was only when we reached the clothing section that I had a brief heart attack.

"So, ummmm, you can pick out some clothes? I'll go wait in the electronics department."

She laughed at my obvious unease, and then took the cart away from me, her eyes lighting up at the wide expanse of clothes before her.

Thirty minutes later I was surprised when she steered the cart down the aisle where I was playing the newest game. The cart was filled with colorful clothes. I saw a bright red button down peacoat, some blue jeans, and shirts and even a bright, yellow dress.

"One of the ladies in a blue vest helped me pick out stuff. Imagine, having it all pre-made like that!" She grinned as she held up a pair of flips-flops and tennis shoes. "And look, I even picked out shoes. Imagine having THREE pairs of shoes!"

"Yah, crazy," I said, not entirely sure if she was joking.

"What's that," she pointed at the blue basket at my feet, and I blushed as I lifted it. "Oh um, I uh, picked out some stuff for you. Hope that's okay. Just random, stupid stuff." I'd thrown in a poster of a unicorn, because I thought it'd make her laugh, and a bag of skittles, a snickers and kitkat bar, some headphones, and a rotating globe that was supposed to project stars on the ceilings and walls. I'd thought it was funny, but now I felt stupid. But Rell only did that thing where she looked at me like I'd done something amazing, and then smiled in a way that made my stomach twist.

"Thank you."

We wasted another hour in the electronics section, me trying to teach Rell how to play the newest version of Mario Kart. She was terrible, and not in the way some girls pretended to be bad while flirting. It was like she had never held a controller before and kept exclaiming and trying to look behind and under the tv to figure out how it worked.

It was 4 a.m. before we sat in the car again, still dark yet dawn not far off, driving back to my house. She had the window rolled open, her fingers spread wide as the wind rolled over her fingers and then played in her hair. Her eyes were closed, and I turned to look at her when suddenly her eyes flew open, and she screamed "Bastien!"

A dark form stood in the middle of the road.

I slammed on my breaks, hydroplaning across the road, thrown hard against my seatbelt. Rell cried out, the car out of control, and then stopping with a horrible thud. Adrenaline pulsed through me, the seatbelt tight across my body, my breath coming hard. Whatever we'd hit, I couldn't see it anymore.

"Are you okay?" I turned to Rell, but she wrenched open the car door, stumbling out .

"Wait! Rell!" But she didn't stop, and so I undid my seatbelt, forcing the door open, panic pounding through my blood at the thought of her rushing into incoming traffic, or whatever animal we'd just hit attacking her. I dove around the car, and then I saw her, lit by moonlight, rain already streaking down her face, staring down at whatever we had hit.

When I saw what it was, I knew.

Knew what I'd suspected, but never, wanted to voice.

Her eyes met mine, whether it was the shock, lack of sleep, or Dasan's heavy handed hint that finally made sense, the words suddenly spilled out of me: "You're hunting for the Blood Rose too, aren't you?"

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