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Chapter 2 -- Saturday Morning Cartoons
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

As it happened, that was a Friday night, and the support group met on Tuesdays, so I had a few days to think things over before undertaking the mission Mara gave me.

The next morning I slept late; my once-accurate circadian rhythm ruined by too many late nights, I no longer woke with the sunrise. After completing my morning routine in the bath I dressed, then found Mara in the kitchen eating breakfast, and I joined her. I had just begun when the doorbell rang, so Mara went to get it. Shortly I heard Mark's voice, so curious, I went also. He had a key, after all; why had he rung?

I found Mark and Mara in the living room, and Emily was with him. I had not yet met his daughter, and she shied away from me when she saw me. Mara saw, and said, "Emily, this is Solomoriah, my friend."

The little redheaded girl said, "He's your boyfriend, isn't he?" and giggled. Mara waved me over.

I kneeled down to Emily's level and said, "Yes, I am. I'm pleased to meet you, Emily." I held out a hand, and she came out from behind her father and shook it with all the grave seriousness only a little child can have.

"Do you have anything to play with here?" she asked.

Before I could answer, Mara said, "I'll turn on some cartoons if you like." Emily expressed her approval with a happy squeal and Mara turned on the television. As they looked together through the numerous channels for young people Mark led me into the adjoining office, and closed the door.

"I'm worried about Emily, Solo. Valerie is getting meaner; I thought she was gonna hit me last night when I picked up Emily, and Emily was crying. She cried until we got back to my apartment and I got her a snack, and then she watched some television and sort of calmed down."

"So you think your ex-wife is abusing her?" I asked.

"I'm sure of it. When I gave her a bath I noticed some bruises on her back, and when I asked she told me she fell down. She didn't sound like she believed it herself. They looked like handprints." By this time Mara had joined us, and the look of anger Mark's statement evoked from her was fearsome indeed.

"Call the Family Services people," she said.

"I don't want trouble," Mark began, but Mara interrupted.

"Mark, think about it. Who is more important here? You? Valerie? No, Emily is. You must do the right thing. If Valerie is abusing her, Family Services will take Emily away and protect her. You can probably get custody if Valerie is judged unfit."

I was unfamiliar with the laws governing this sort of thing, and really so was Mara, but Mark admitted that it probably was the best thing to do. He promised to take action Monday morning since he had her for the entire weekend. "I'll just keep her Sunday night. Valerie can scream all she wants, but according to the court decree I have the right to keep her that long."

I left Mark and Mara discussing the distasteful thing he had to do, since the legalities and customs were strange to me. I knew something I could do which was much more useful at the moment.

"May I sit here with you, Miss Emily?" I asked. She giggled and nodded, so I sat beside her on the couch. She was watching a strange cartoon depicting surreal undersea creatures who behaved as if they lived on dry land; though demented in appearance it seemed not to be harmful. I watched with her quietly for a time, then I said, "Have you seen my ring?" She turned and looked at the heavy engraved band with obvious interest. I removed it and handed it to her. "Try it on if you like."

She put the much-oversized ring on her index finger and made a fist to keep it on. "Ooh, it tickles," she said, wiggling.

"Where do you tickle?" I asked, and she pointed to her back and then to the backs of her thighs.

After a few moments she said, "It stopped. Make it do it again!" I shook my head and held out my left hand, and after making a face at me she put the ring back on my ring finger. Shortly the strange cartoon creatures captured her attention, and I quietly got up.

Mara was watching me from the doorway. "You healed her," she said quietly. "Now there's no evidence!"

"Mark said he'd call the Family Services people Monday... didn't you?" I asked, walking through the door into the office. He nodded. "In two days she'd be healed anyway."

"True," said Mark. "Guess I wasn't thinking. Now what do I do?" He sounded very frustrated.

I thought quickly. "Let's change plans," I said. "Take her back tomorrow like normal. I'll go along, invisible, and watch over her. I have some spells which might help."

In fact I had gained two new spells since taking over Dreamwalker's library. I had learned the spells of Aura Reading and Dream Contact. What I didn't have, indeed so far couldn't find, was the spell of AntiMagic he used for protection against me. Most of his books of magical knowledge were in languages other than English, a fact which was most frustrating to me. I shouldn't need AntiMagic for what I had planned, though.

"What will you do?" asked Mara.

"For starters, I plan to adapt a spell of Kinetic Shield to protect Emily from her mother. I may read Valerie's mind, or examine her aura. I don't really have any right, but I suppose I've not let that stop me in the past."

"Emily's well-being is more important than Valerie's rights, as far as I'm concerned," said Mara. Mark reluctantly nodded.

We discussed options for quite a while, until Emily came in and declared she was hungry. Mara and I quickly fixed sandwiches for everyone, and then Mara said, "Emily, would you like to come over tomorrow evening for ice cream?"

"Yes!" she squealed, "yes yes yes yes yes! Ice cream ice cream ice cream!"

"Whoa, sweetie, calm down," said Mark, and eventually Emily remembered the sandwich she was tearing apart and resumed eating it.

"It's settled then," I said. "See you tomorrow around, ah, four o'clock?" Mara nodded, so I knew I had the time right. I was still learning then... it was still easier to think in terms of sunrise, noon, and sunset than in terms of hours.

Mark agreed, then said, "Emily, we need to get going. We don't want to keep the elephants waiting, do we?"

"Ephalants!" she said with enthusiasm. "We're going to the zoo," she said to Mara with extreme seriousness, and Mara nodded, smiling. We walked them to the door and said our goodbyes, and as they drove away Mara said, "Now we can get to the back yard."

Ah, yes, the pleasures of home ownership. Mara had decided that terracing the sloping yard was the only sensible thing to do, and had acquired tools and retaining wall blocks (which we had ordered from a firm which delivered free... I was tired of loading and unloading trucks after removing all the refuse from the house).

So we had work ahead of us. I groaned a little, and Mara made a face which basically said "wimp." Then I had an idea...

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005