Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Don and Sancho

Summary: A day in the life of Callie Marcus, set to the music of Radiation Canary.

Callie woke up an hour before her alarm and got out of bed just long enough to retrieve her iPod. She went through her Radiation Canary albums and decided on Rome Burning. It was just long enough that she could hear the whole thing once through and still have time to put “Say a Prayer (If You’ve Got One)” on repeat. She knew she wouldn’t get back to sleep but it was too cold to get up. Besides, it was the first day of Christmas break, and she wasn’t going to waste the chance to just stay in bed.

There was a framed poster hanging where she could see it from her bed. Michael bought it for her at the Radiation Canary concert he took her to back in October. The girls in the band were standing on a breakwater, with Lana front and center and the others lined up behind her. They waited in line for almost two hours to get it autographed, so the sky above the band’s heads was filled with signatures like black-smoke skywriting. She smiled when she thought about actually meeting Lana, Karen, Nessa, and Codie. And Michael had made it happen.

That night, walking away from her favorite band, was the first time she told Michael she loved him. She’d never said that to anyone outside of her family, and she was surprised by how right it seemed. She was scared of how right it seemed. The night was also the first time she’d… well. She smiled at the thought and pressed her cheek into the pillow.

The downside came the next afternoon when she got home and filled her parents in on (most of) what had happened before, during and after the concert. When she mentioned how happy she was with Michael, her father had offered only one comment to the conversation: “Enjoy it while it lasts. No one marries their high school sweetheart. And if they do, they ain’t happy about it.”

Callie refused to let his cynicism dampen her spirits. Plenty of people found the one they were meant to be with early-on. Her friend Amber’s parents had been together since, like, middle school and they were super happy. She let her eyes drift away from the poster and focus on the framed picture propped up on the little vanity next to her TV. Michael had been waiting by the exit closest to her last-period class, but she’d gone the long way to sneak up on him. She snapped the picture as he stood against the wall, people moving around him, his head turned toward the doors waiting for her to appear. Not impatient or irritated, but content to wait as long as it took. It was her favorite picture of him.

She ended up listening to the first half of the album in bed before she got up. She showered and brushed her teeth, pulled her hair back so that she wouldn’t have to worry about the frizz, and listened to the second half of the album as she got dressed. She repeated “Say a Prayer” twice, let it proceed to the last few tracks, then left her room. She knocked on the door to the room next to hers, then reached in and turned on the lights.

“Up and at ’em.”

Tommy growled from his bed nearer the door and swiped at her hand. “It’s Christmas break.”

“Then you can help Mom with breakfast. C’mon, get up. You too, John.”

She went down the hall to the sound of her little brothers mumbling and grumbling, confident the fight would soon be with each other over who got the bathroom first. In the kitchen, their mother was already preparing breakfast for the family.

“I got the boys to come help you. They’ll be here in, like, an hour probably.”

Sheila Marcus smiled and offered her cheek for a kiss, which Callie provided. “What time do you have to be at work today?”

Callie had consulted the calendar before leaving her bedroom. “Three. But I want to get there early in case Mrs. Butler has a lot of orders to process. And I’m going over to Michael’s after breakfast to help them with the move.”

“Okay. Here, you can have the first serving.”

“Thanks. Where’s Dad?”

“Still asleep.”

Callie rolled her eyes, knowing that anything vocal would just cause her mother to become exasperated. She poured a glass of milk, took her eggs and pancakes to the table, and sat facing the window. Her father worked at the garage down the street for a boss that let him choose his own hours. That meant he went to work around noon on the days he actually went, and sometimes he decided it “just wasn’t in him” that day. Her brother John came into the kitchen, grudgingly taking Callie’s order to help with breakfast.

She finished eating before Tommy got out of the bathroom or her father made an appearance, kissed her mother goodbye, and headed out. Her car was low on gas so she stopped at the store to fill up, then went on to Michael’s house. A truck she didn’t recognize was parked in the driveway so she parked at the curb, assuming they had just borrowed it to help with the move. The front door was open and partially blocked with boxes, but she still knocked on the door frame.

Nicholas Costa came out of the living room and smiled when he recognized her. “Hi, Callie.”

“Hi, Mr. Costa. What are you doing here?”

“I came to pick up Michael. We’re leaving at noon.”

Callie nodded. “I know. I wanted to spend some time with him before he left for the week. Are his moms here?”

“Patricia is in the kitchen. I’ll let her know you’re here. Jill went to get some more boxes.” He stepped to one side to let her in. “Mike’s in his room. You can go on back, but–”

“Both feet on the floor, keep an open door.”

He winked. It was the rule he’d given when she and Michael spent the night at his apartment after the concert. They had followed the rule. Technically. Behind Nicholas, she could see the living room looked like a model home. There were seats, a television, a Christmas display, but all the personal touches were gone. Books, DVDs, magazines, the most comfortable and worn-in chair were all missing.

Michael’s bedroom door was already open. It too had been stripped pretty bare, and she saw him kneeling on the other side of the bed going through the bottom drawer of his desk. She knocked. “Hey. Put away the naughty stuff.”

“Hey!” He stood up and kissed her hello. “I didn’t even hear the doorbell.”

“I knocked. Your dad let me in. Your house looks gutted.” She pulled out the chair from his desk and sat down.

Michael looked around his room and nodded. “Most of the little stuff is over at the other house. We’re going to have Christmas here, and then New Years over there. Mom says it’s symbolic. I’m leaving to go to Dad’s at noon.”

“I know. I thought maybe you could use a hand moving your stuff. I didn’t know your Dad would be here with a truck.”

“No, Mom and Jill will be grateful for your station wagon. It’ll save a lot of time. Thanks.”

“Sure.” She looked toward the door to make sure no one was lurking, and lowered her voice. “So what’s your dad doing here? Don’t they usually make the exchange on the ferry? I thought he didn’t like coming to the island.”

“Mom asked him to come. Usually he gets me for a week or so before Christmas and then I come back to spend the actual day with Mom. But this year she asked if he wanted to celebrate with us. Olive branch, I guess.” He shrugged.

Callie smiled. “That’s kind of cool.”

A few minutes later Patricia appeared in the bedroom door. She had on an old button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, her hair clipped back. She looked harried and tired even though it wasn’t yet noon. “Callie. Hey. Nick told me you were here. Do you mind if we use your car to tote some things over to–”

“She already offered, Mom,” Michael interrupted. “That’s why she came over.”

Patricia gave a thumbs-up. “I appreciate that, Callie. We’ll reimburse you for the gas. And it’s good to see you. Just in case I was remiss with my manners a moment ago.”

Callie chuckled. “It’s fine.”

“I’ll come find you when we’re ready to start loading up.”

“Okay.”

Callie spent the next half hour with Michael, listening to music and helping him pack up his books. She noticed a package wrapped in red-and-blue paper – her favorite colors – in the top drawer of his desk but he pushed it shut too quickly for her to see any real details. She hid her smile and forced herself not to speculate on what it might be. She and Michael each took a box and carried it down the hall to the front door.

Jill Hood-Colby was coming into the living room from the kitchen and waved hello to her. “Hey, Callie. Trish said you’re letting us indenture you into servitude.”

“Just for this morning, Mrs. Hood-Colby. I didn’t sign a contract or anything.”

Jill chuckled. “Just wanted to make sure you remembered what you learned from me all those years ago. Thanks for loaning us the car. You’re a life saver. We don’t have all that much left to take over. Everything not in boxes by now is going to stay until we make the big move.”

“Let me know if you need the car then, too. Michael, you want to ride over there with her and help unload?”

“If I gotta.”

“Yeah, you gotta,” Jill mocked, smiling as she rubbed Michael’s arm. “Nicholas and I will help you load it up. Lift with your legs.”

They stacked the boxes by the front door into the back of the station wagon Tetris-style. Most of the boxes from Michael’s room went into her car and, when she was loaded up, she told Jill they were heading over.

“Okay. Michael has keys to the other house, and this is for your gas.” She pressed a ten dollar bill into Callie’s hand. It was a calculated figure; Jill knew that it would be helpful, but it was so low that it wasn’t worth arguing over giving it back. So she smiled, thanked Jill, and got into the car. Michael got in the passenger side and waved to his mother as Callie pulled away.

“Must be kind of weird, huh? Your moms and your dad all in the same house?”

“It’s not so bad. It’s better than it used to be. Mom is making an effort.”

Callie said, “I was always confused that your dad is made out to be the bad guy. I mean, no offense, but your mom is the one who cheated on him. And she ended up with full custody and the house.” Early in their relationship, she had realized he wouldn’t get offended if she just came out with what she was thinking. Still, she looked askance at him at the stop sign to see if he was mad. He didn’t seem to be angry, but he contemplated the question for a long time before he answered.

“When they first broke up, it was really civil. The whole custody thing, and the house. But then when Dad moved away, he started calling her a lot. I don’t know what he said, but it made her sad and angry at the same time. I don’t think I want to know what he said. But he stopped calling, and now that Mom is with Jill, it’s like they can settle in. Oh, turn in here.”

“Shoot.” She nearly missed the turn-off into the driveway of the mayor’s house. The gate was open, and Callie felt a sudden rush of anxiety as she pulled up in front of the house. It wasn’t palatial, but it was certainly a step above most residences on the island. The Dugans had passed it around their family for a few decades, and each incumbent added their own special touch. The result was a patchwork mansion that seemed to have a life of its own. Callie parked under the portico and got out.

“So you guys have a valet yet, or can I just leave it here?”

“Smart-ass,” Michael said. “Come on. We’ll take my stuff upstairs and leave the rest in the foyer.”

Callie took one of the lighter boxes – DVDs, she thought – and Michael took a box of books. She followed him upstairs to a room on the east side of the landing. He braced the box against the wall, balancing on one foot as he opened the door and led her in. Callie stood in the doorway and took a moment to admire the room. It wasn’t as big as she had feared. It was a nice size, of course, with a desk built into a nook on one wall. The bookshelf was also built-in, and Callie sat her box next to it. Directly across from the bedroom door was a window covered by sheer white curtains. It took her a moment to realize that it wasn’t a window but a set of doors.

“Get out of here. You have a balcony?”

“Not really. I have a ledge.” He pushed the curtains apart and opened the doors. He gestured for Callie to investigate and she bowed mockingly to him as she stepped outside.

There was just enough room for Callie to stand with her hips against the iron railing. She looked down at the backyard, the small guest house, and then scanned the island beyond the property walls. She grinned and pointed.

“You can see the school from here.” She looked north and saw that the view of her neighborhood was blocked by trees. She was grateful. She was nervous enough about the difference in their lives without knowing he could see her little hovel from his home on the hill. She breathed deep and turned around to look back into the room. Michael was watching her, and he smiled when she did.

“So. You gonna dump me now? Start looking for someone more your speed?” The question had been running through her mind during the election, but she’d been terrified of voicing it. She felt like if she said it now, while they were both relaxed and smiling, she would be able to take whatever the answer was.

Michael said, “More my speed?”

“You know. Mayor’s son, living in a mansion, and some girl from the wrong side of town. We don’t exactly go together.”

“I know,” he said. Callie felt something twist inside her. “But the way I see it, moving into this house and having Mom as the mayor just gets me closer to deserving you.”

Callie looked away, wishing her hair was down to cover her face. “Aw, shut up.”

He moved to her, hugging her and kissing her cheek until she turned her head. Their lips met, and Callie put her arms around his neck. A thought occurred to her.

“Your moms sent us over here to your new bedroom without adult supervision.”

“They did.”

Callie smiled and pulled away from him. “Is it weird that that makes me more likely to behave? I don’t want to take advantage of their good faith, I guess.”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “I know how you feel. They’re devious that way. I’m going to go down and get the other boxes. You can hang out up here, if you want.”

“I think I will.”

He slipped out of her embrace and left the room. Callie took out her iPod and looked for a place to put it, finally deciding on a bare bookshelf. Since she already had Rome Burning queued up, she started the album again. The first song opened with Karen Everett’s cello playing along with Nessa Grace’s piano, and she hummed along as she walked back out to the perch. Michael came back with two boxes just as “Sancho Panza” started playing.

“This song is awesome.”

Callie turned and held out a hand. “Then dance with me.” He scoffed, but she snapped her fingers. “Come on. One good thing about being unsupervised is that no one is going to see you. Please? One dance.”

He put down the boxes and they began dancing with each other. It was a slow song, so they basically held hands and swayed against each other in the middle of the room. Callie put her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes as Lana Kent sang. “Between madness and reality, we’ll conquer every knight we see. We’ll never wake from this impossible dream. Take me with you when you go, I’ll call you Don, you call me Sancho.”

“Which one am I?” Michael asked.

She smiled. “You’re totally Sancho.”

“Wasn’t he the fat sidekick?”

“And Don Quixote was tall and thin. Think twice before you ask about trading.”

“Fine. Sancho it is.”

She rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She knew how unlikely it was for someone’s first boyfriend to also be their last, but she couldn’t imagine anything better than a boyfriend who could make her feel at ease with just a few words, who was willing to take her to Radiation Canary concerts and dance to their music in an empty room.

“I’m going to miss you when you’re with your Dad.”

“I’ll be online. He has that great computer, so we can even Skype.”

“Cool. I love you, Michael.”

He kissed her just above her ear, where her hair dipped and twisted back around on itself. “I love you, too.”

They heard a car door close downstairs and Michael stepped back. “We probably shouldn’t give them any reason to suspect we were abusing their trust.”

“No need doing the time if we didn’t do the crime, huh?” She winked and squeezed his arm before she turned to the nearest box.

Moments later Patricia appeared at the bedroom door. “Everything good up here?”

“Yep,” Michael said. “How many more loads?”

Patricia shook her head. “No more. Nick got the last of the boxes into his truck, so we just need pack mules to unload them into the house before you head off.” She pointed her forefingers at Michael and Callie, nominating them for the lifting duties. She dropped one hand, but pointed the other at the iPod. “Is that ‘The Man of Many Wiles’?”

Callie was shocked, both that she identified that right song and that she hadn’t realized ‘Sancho Panza’ and the song after it had both ended. “Yeah. You know Radiation Canary?”

“Jill and I listened to some of their songs when Michael wanted to take you to their concert. They’re really fantastic. Callie… you want to join us for lunch before Michael leaves? We’re getting takeout from Spartan. Jill’s going to call in a few minutes.”

“Yeah. That would be really good. Thank you, Mrs. Hood-Colby.”

She winked and gestured at the boxes. “Get yourselves settled before you come down to deal with the rest.” As she walked away, she began singing the Radiation Canary under her breath. “…the man of many wiles would walk a thousand miles just to get you safely home.”

Callie chuckled at Michael’s expression of pain. “Hey, as far as embarrassing parents go, you got off easy, bub. Come on. Let’s go downstairs and help them unpack.”

He put his arm around her and guided her out of the room. Callie didn’t care how long she had with Michael. If it was until graduation, or if it was the rest of her life, she wasn’t going to worry about the expiration date. For the time being she was just going to pay attention to the present.