Becoming Robin Book Four: Chapter 1

Bk4C2012ZoeTaylor.png~* Take it Easy *~

Chelsea grinned as she hugged me. “Hey you!”

Brittany smiled and hugged me next. “So this is where you’ve been hiding, huh? We heard you were in the hospital. How are you feeling?”

“Sore, but getting better. I um... I had surgery to correct my birth defect,” I answered, blushing softly.

“Oh wow,” Chelsea answered. “So does this mean no more hiding in the coaches’ office?”


“Thanks for keeping me company all this time Ally,” I said as Allison lowered an ice cold can of red cream soda over my shoulder. I had begun to go stir crazy being stuck lying around Margie’s all day for the last couple of weeks, so with Kelly and Allison’s help had relocated to the Jones’ basement for a change of scenery.

Allison giggled as she sat down beside me with a freshly popped bowl of popcorn. “You so don’t have to thank me. You know that.” She smiled broadly. “It’s been fun reconnecting. I can’t believe it’s been a year since you came here.”

“God I know. So much has changed in such a short time.” I had to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Allison started to giggle too. Laughter is contagious.

“I just realized this all started with a hospital visit - granted it was Mom’s. And now a year later... I just can’t believe this is real. I feel like a real girl now.”

Allison shook her head. “You were always a real girl, goober.” She paused and grinned. “But I know what you meant. Kelly was the same way. It was like there was this tension about her that wasn’t there anymore after her surgery. She seemed happier. Part of that could be no more private school though,” she added with a giggle. “God, those ugly uniforms!”

“I couldn’t do it. I’m not shallow or anything, but my sister is a fashionista. It runs in the family. I’d die if I had to limit my wardrobe to the same thing five days a week.”

Allison laughed as she tossed a piece of popcorn at me. “Y’know, that’s one thing I’ve always been secretly jealous about.”

I stared blankly back at her, causing her to giggle.

“I’m talking about your fashion sense. I mean, the heels were a little extreme - of course I don’t wear heels at all because of my damn height. Chelsea’s the same way though, but yeah, you have a talent for finding cute stuff.”

“So that’s why you always drag me along on your shopping adventures, huh?” I teased.

“Darn right. Well, that and you’re great company, of course!”

I took a sip of my soda as a calm silence fell over the room for a moment. “So how are the renovations going?” I finally asked.

“Nikki’s managed to talk Trent into helping with the heavy lifting. He and Laura are both really excited to help out, from what Nikki’s said. But we’re kind of holding off on doing anything major right now. There’s so much that needs to be done that we really need to do a full walk through and evaluate it.”

“Doesn’t your dad have a nice HD camera? It might be easier to either borrow it or ask him to film for us. And I wouldn’t have to physically be there to pitch in ideas.”

“Yeah, but it’d be so dark... Hey, wait a minute. I think it might have a night vision mode! Robin, you’re a genius!” she giggled and hugged me, nearly knocking the popcorn out of her lap.

I had to laugh. “Glad I can help, I think.”

I suddenly and abruptly squealed as I felt a pair of cold hands on my neck. Nicole giggled and leaned over to kiss my cheek, and I reached up to wrap my arms around her as she nuzzled my shoulder. “Hey cutie,” she giggled. “Sorry I’m late. Didn’t the doc tell you not to overdo it?”

“It’s fine. And she did,” I started, pointing at a pair of lightweight aluminum crutches propped against the wall beside the TV, “But I cheated. Plus Ally and Kelly helped.”

“It helps that Robin’s in such great physical shape,” Allison added with a grin.

“I just needed a change of scenery really badly. I wish I could go with you guys to check out the old asylum. I really feel okay to walk - provided I keep my crutches handy, but Jen would kill me.”

“That’s why I’m gonna talk to my dad about using his camera. This way we can all meet back here and talk about what we need to do.”

“Hey, why not video phone conference it?” Nicole asked. “I mean, in addition to doing the HD cam thing, so we can drag Robin along without having to drag her out of the house?”

Allison giggled. “Oh, that could work. Does your phone do video?”

“No, but I have a tablet that does. It doesn’t do HD or anything fancy though, but it does have 4G unlimited.”

“Sounds good to me. Call me when you get there so I can get to my laptop for the link?” I asked

“Sure thing,” Nicole answered. “Need any help getting back to Margie’s?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Um, yeah if you don’t mind. Kelly had to help me down the stairs earlier, but it was so worth it.”

Nicole smiled as she sat down beside me, with Allison on the other side. I wrapped my arms around their shoulders as each put an arm around me. “Count of three - one, two, three,” and we stood together. Allison grabbed my crutches as they helped me upstairs.

“Man what I’d give for an elevator in here,” I giggled as we reached the top of the stairs, and Allison handed me my crutches. “Thanks guys. I’ll be okay from here. Luckily my laptop’s downstairs at Margie’s.”

I had only just gotten in the door when someone knocked. I shook my head. “Guys, you know you don’t ever have to--” I started, but stopped myself after opening the door to find Chelsea and Brittany standing on the other side. Chelsea had on a bright blue tank top from Margie’s teen style collection that she’d modeled awhile back, and carried a large flower arrangement. Brittany had a big plush bear wearing an Alpine Springs-style basketball uniform, with a balloon tied to its wrist that read in big cursive red letters on a white background, “Get Well Soon!”

Chelsea grinned as she hugged me. “Hey you!”

Brittany smiled and hugged me next. “So this is where you’ve been hiding, huh? We heard you were in the hospital. How are you feeling?”

“Sore, but getting better. I um... I had surgery to correct my birth defect,” I answered, blushing softly.

“Oh wow,” Chelsea answered. “So does this mean no more hiding in the coaches’ office?”

“May be,” I replied with a bit of a giggle. “I kind of hope so, but it depends on how the healing process goes. Anyway,” I quickly changed the subject, “Do you guys want to come in? I’ve got fresh iced tea, soda, juice... I’m going to be doing a video conference with Nikki and the others in a bit too. They’re going to tour the haunted asylum to see what kind of work we need to do.”

“What’re you guys interested in that place for?” Brittany asked.

“Well, I was going to let it be a surprise, buuut... The girl scouts are helping renovate it in exchange for permission to put on a haunted house this Halloween. It’s going to be huge! The owners also want to turn it into a general youth center.”

“Oh, that’s so cool,” Chelsea answered. “Sure, we can stay awhile. But may I get the drinks? You look like you can barely stand,” she added with a slight frown.

“That’s fine. The kitchen’s through here. I was over at Allison’s earlier so I’m a little drained. The doctors want me to rest as much as possible, but being stuck inside all day for two weeks straight was getting a little old.”

“Considering how active you were last semester,” Brittany responded dryly, but grinned. “But if it wasn’t for you my dad wouldn’t even know I existed so I can’t really say too much.”

I laughed a little as I sat down on the sofa. “Yeah, well, I’m planning on taking it easy this semester.”

“What did you guys want to drink again?” Chelsea called from the kitchen.

“I just had a soda at Ally’s - just water for me, thanks,” I called.

“Nothing for me,” Brittany added.

“So, um, can I ask you a really personal question?” Brittany asked. I kind of expected this sooner or later, and had already prepared a simple, mostly true response, so I nodded.

“Sure. Go ahead.”

“Are you still trying out for cheer this year? I heard some rumors that … well,” she trailed off. Brittany, the biggest loud mouth on my basketball team, was completely speechless.

“Yeah, I’ll probably try out. I thought about just doing basketball though, and maybe doing volleyball in the Spring.”

“Aw, you should totally try out,” Chelsea answered. “But I know how hard it can be. Just balancing work and cheer has been kind of a challenge for me to be honest. Mostly getting my work schedule set around cheer camps. I’m thinking about quitting basketball.”

Brittany frowned. “Please tell me you’re not serious.”

Chelsea nodded. “I’m burned out, Brit. You and Katelyn would make fine captains - or you, Robin,” she added with a grin.

“Oh, heck no,” I balked and shook my head. I had just finished setting up my laptop to accept the live video feed, and glanced up at her. “I love basketball. It’s so much fun, but I’m not captain material. I think Brit and Katelyn should do it. And you and Sasha for cheer.”

“Speaking of Katelyn, I heard she’s back in town for awhile?” Brittany asked.

“Yeah, she has been for awhile. I think she’s going to stay here when Sarah goes back to Ireland, and then surprise her - but you didn’t hear that from me!”

“It’s weird, how much you’ve affected our lives,” Brittany replied thoughtfully as she lay her hand on my shoulder. When I looked over, she smiled. “Sorry again for how I acted when we first met.”

“Brit, would you stop apologizing? It’s water under the bridge; I mean it. Nothing you, or even Katelyn, said to me was any worse than the crap I went through at my old school. Jason’s the only one I had any real problems with, and even then, I can kind of understand where he was coming from. I mean, you guys know about his parents right?”

“Yeah,” Chelsea answered. “Maria’s one of my best friends. I know all about the rather messy divorce, and his mom getting sick.”

“Wait, divorce?” I asked. Chelsea frowned. “You didn’t know? Crap. Don’t get the wrong idea. They divorced before she found out she was sick. They just couldn’t make it work. Jason took it pretty hard, and then his mom having cancer made it even worse. He told Maria that he even thought about taking his life at one point, before he met her.”

“Wow,” I whispered. Chelsea nodded.

“She really turned his life around.” She paused to smile. “I mean don’t get me wrong, you helped too.”

I giggled. “Honestly I’d rather think that she had everything to do with it. All I did was introduce him to Kenpo, and the girl scouts worked together to get his mom out of her slump and get some help before it was too late. Oh, hey, the video feed’s live. I wonder why they didn’t call-” I started, but my cell phone started to play ‘Kiss the Girl’ from The Little Mermaid - Nicole’s private ringtone.

I quickly answered it, blushing as my houseguests looked over at me, both of them grinning. “Hey vampire.”

“Hiya cutie. Did you get the video feed?” She stepped in front of the camera and waved.

“Yeah, but there’s no sound.”

“Oops! Hang on a sec.” She stepped closer, giving us a nice close-up of the black tank top she had worn that day, as she fiddled with her tablet PC. A moment later we could distinctly hear Trent in the background.

“... the big trash bins you asked me to pick up. I’ve got to go meet Laura, but we’ll be around to help next time, I promise.”

“Hey, before you go say hi to Robin,” Nicole called, pointing the camera at him.

“And Chelsea and Brittany,” I added. Nicole giggled.

“Oh! Hey Chels, Brit!” she responded.

“Hey Nikki!” Chelsea answered.

“Hiya Nikki,” Brittany added.

“So here’s what we’re going to do. Jen, Ally, Kris and me are going to walk through once. We’ve got our flashlights and stuff, and Ally’s got her dad’s camera,” she paused to turn her own camera on Allison, who waved and grinned, “So we’ll have a proper high def video to show you later, but right now you’re seeing what we’re seeing.”

“Also remember,” Kris added, “This place housed criminals as well as mental patients, according to the few records that survived. Some of the old locks will need to have a locksmith look at them, so try not to get locked inside anywhere.”

“Has anyone actually gotten locked in here before?” Allison asked as they began walking down the first hallway. Graffiti lined the walls - everything from pencil marks to spray paint. Papers seemed randomly scattered, and Jennifer nearly tripped over the remnants of what was once a wooden chair, and they’d only gone fifteen yards.

“Actually yeah. Heh. Some dumb kid took on a bet to come in here with his buddies, and they took it a step further. They dared him to crawl into one of the corpse drawers in the morgue, and the door got stuck. Poor kid was locked in there for two hours while firefighters worked to pry the heavy door off.”

“Jesus,” Brittany whispered.

“Yeah, you can say that again,” Chelsea answered.

“Hey Robin, how’s it look on your end?” Jennifer asked.

“Dark,” I answered. Nicole had apparently put me on speaker because I heard my answer follow over the video feed, and Jennifer’s giggle a second later.

“Yeah it’s definitely dark down here. Ally’s got the HD camera in night vision mode using the viewfinder to see - cheater!” she teased. Allison laughed.

“Darn right. This is an expensive piece of gear. I don’t want to trip over a chair and drop it,” she shot back playfully. Suddenly everyone stopped, as a loud banging, like a heavy door being slammed shut, resounded from further inside.

“What was that?” Allison asked at the same time Chelsea and Brittany did.

“Hello?” Kris called, shining his flashlight further down. Allison squealed.

“There’s someone there!”

A moment later, Marry called from the darkness. “Sorry! That was my bad!”

“Marry? Give a girl a heart attack!” Jennifer laughed. “What are you doing back there?”

she held up a flashlight as she approached. “Looking for something. But my batteries went dead so I’ve been stumbling around trying to find my way back out.”

“Sure you weren’t just trying to sneak up on us?” Kris teased causing Marry to laugh and shake her head.

“No, if I was trying to sneak up on you I wouldn’t have walked right into that big ward door.” She had a fresh bruise on her forehead to prove it, too. “Anyway, let’s continue with the tour. I want to show you guys the morgue.”

“Yeah Kris was just telling us about someone getting locked in there,” Nicole answered. “I’d love to set up some kind of cheesy boo scare in there, like someone banging trying to get out, and then anyone who gets too close, there’ll be someone else waiting to jump out at them, maybe dressed like a surgeon in a bloody lab coat.”

“Wielding a dull scalpel,” Allison added.

“And a severed head,” Jennifer concluded.

“... Your friends are so weird,” Brittany responded.

“Aren’t they just the greatest?” I teased, causing her to laugh.

~oOo~

Chelsea and Brittany sat rather enthralled by the video feed and the discussion as we watched my friends tour the asylum. I’d occasionally toss in ideas, but I wanted to wait until I could see the video before getting too deeply - or better yet, seeing the place for myself, once my body healed enough to let me.

A couple of hours had passed since they left, when Allison, Jennifer and Nicole appeared in the doorway. Jennifer approached first, holding something behind her back. She grinned as she produced a Burger King bag and a tall cup. “We brought you something! Actually our burgers are in here too, but we didn’t want to eat without you. Here, this’ yours too - chocolate milkshake!” she announced, handing me the cup.

“Aww. Thanks guys!” I giggled and accepted the cup, as Jennifer opened the bag, passing out burgers.

“Extra pickles no onions, extra lettuce no pickles, double-cheeseburger extra mustard,” she went down the list while Allison hooked up the video camera to my laptop.

“Okay, I had Robin on speakerphone the whole time,” Nicole added around a mouthful of burger, “So her comments should be recorded too. I’m kinda excited because even with our flashlights, we couldn’t see CRAP down there.”

Allison laughed. “Well, you couldn’t see crap. I could see just fine,” she teased, sticking out her tongue.

Jennifer quickly tore open one of those little self-contained packets of mustard and squirted it on Allison’s tongue.

“Ack! Hey!”

“Well you did want extra mustard,” she teased. Allison giggled and threw a french fry at her, which she caught between her teeth and crunched down on with an innocent grin.

The difference between what I saw on webcam and what Allison recorded was literally like night and day. We could see every crack in the drywall, every pencil scratch, and every speck of dust in the air that they had kicked up, and despite knowing it was coming, we still jumped when Marry bumped into that door causing it to slam shut.

“Gawd, I knew it was coming and it still scared me,” Nicole giggled.

“God me too,” Allison added. “I’d SWEAR she did that on purpose if I didn’t see the bruise myself.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes, “Heck, I still think she did it on purpose. There was just too much force behind that sound to be an accident. Plus I know Marry. She can be worse than Nikki about practical jokes like that when she wants to be.”

“Hey!” Nicole laughed, “I’ll have you know I haven’t pulled a prank in...” she paused, counting on her fingers. “Three weeks!”

“There’s so much that needs to be done. We’re definitely going to have to clear out that debris that’s all over the place, clean the walls and floors, and that’s before we can even start talking about setting up the scares.”

“You’re not going anywhere until you’re completely recovered, Missy,” Jennifer replied, but smiled. “We’ll handle the cleaning. This was just to give us an idea what we’re dealing with. Kris says they’ll have the power back on in a week or two, once they can get someone to inspect the wiring and make sure everything’s up to code.”

“I thought about whether we should take down the boards covering the windows,” Nicole added thoughtfully, “But isn’t that part of what gives the place its charm? I mean sure, it’s dark as all Hell without any natural light coming in, but it makes it creepy.”

“I agree. Plus we can start earlier and not have to wait for the sun to go down for a good, proper scare. And once Kris and Marry get the power sitch straight,” Allison reasoned, “We won’t have to think about lighting anyway.”

“I’ve been thinking,” Nicole started as she wrapped an arm around me, “Since we’re going to be renovating the place for our own needs, maybe we can do something to help them after it’s all over too.”

“Like what?” Jennifer asked.

Nicole smiled. “Well, they want to turn it into a youth center, but as it is right now, with all the cell-like rooms and junk, they’re going to have to knock down a lot of walls. Contractors could get expensive.” She turned to look at me. “So Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“I think so, Brain,” I answered without missing a beat, “But how would we get the cows into the space suits?”

Jennifer giggled as Allison threw her arm around me. “God, you guys and your P-and-B references. But I couldn’t agree more. Besides, what’s more relaxing after a stressful day at school than breaking down walls with giant sledgehammers? Oooh, there’s a Freudian metaphor in there somewhere - I just know it!”

Jennifer tossed her wrapper into the Burger King bag and nodded. “It’s a great idea. I mean they’re letting us use their building completely free. We should do something for them besides just cleaning the place. I’ll go talk to Marry about it.”

Nicole grinned. “And I’ve got to see a lady about a car soon. LeAnne knows someone with a 1969 Shelby Mustang. She swears it’s in good condition too.”

“Aww,” Allison frowned. “You’re not getting rid of the one you have are you?”

“My baby?” Nicole balked. “Gawd no. I’ve been looking for a ‘69 for my Dad for his birthday, but the ones I’ve looked at so far were either unsalvageable rust piles, or the owner wanted ten times what it’s actually worth. Money’s not a big deal, but it’s the principle of the thing.”

Allison glanced at me with a grin. “I guess it’s just you and me girl.”

“So, Monopoly?”

Allison fake-groaned. “Oh fine. I guess I can drive you into bankruptcy again.”

“Hey,” I laughed, shooting back, “Don’t forget the game before that where you landed on three of my hotels in a row.”

“Ooh, now you’re so not getting a discount to ride my railroad,” Allison giggled. Jennifer and Nicole looked at each other and started to laugh as they left us to our rivalry.



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