Burning Bright Part-2

Burning Bright
Part Two

by:
Enemyoffun


Shiloh Pierce made a life out of being nearly invisible to people around him but when a strange solar phenomena changes the whole world, Shiloh finds his invisible life gone.

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Author's Note:So sorry it took so long to get this chapter up and running. If anyone has been following my blogs, you'll know what's happening in my life. If not, let's just say the last two weeks have been absolute hell for me and I NEVER want to repeat them again. Unfortunately that hasn't really left me a lot of time to write or otherwise. I'm hoping to continue this story as soon as things settle again, whenever that might be. I would like to thank everyone for all their well wishes though and their advice, it really helped out a lot. I'd also like to thank SRGrace for beta reading and keeping me on the right track :).

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2.

“Hey, little dude!”

I hated when he called me that. That’s how brothers were though. They found a name they thought was funny, used it constantly and laughed every time they did. Hunter was no different. I would have protested but he was bigger and stronger than me. It also didn't really bother me as much as I let him think. Hunter was simple and easy to please. I’m not saying he was an idiot or anything. It's just that when he thought he was getting under your skin, it was just best to let him think it. It was easier to deal with him that way. Growing up four years apart, I quickly discovered that with Hunter it was best to let him get his own way and then pretend you didn’t care.

It was better for everyone involved.

Especially him.

I faked a groan as I climbed into the cab of his truck.

Hunter got the truck for his birthday last year. It wasn’t brand new or anything but it was a newer model. It had an extended cab with seats in the back too. I was always made to sit back there because well I was small.

In the passenger seat---as usual---was Jaxson.

Hunter’s best friend.

He watched me climb into the truck and gave me a knowing nod when I faked my groan. Jaxson knew the game. He’d been playing it with Hunter pretty much as long as I have. I’m not talking about basketball either. Hunter and Jax had been friends since kindergarten. The way Hunter tells the story, they met when Hunter saved Jax on the playground from some bullies. Jax’s story was a lot different and probably the truth. It wasn’t one nearly as exciting as bullies though---it was shooting hoops. Hunter was born with a ball in his hand. Dad was a basketball player himself when he was younger, Freddy played a bit in school too. Neither of them were as dedicated to the sport as Hunter though.

Well maybe except Jax.

They were on the varsity squad together at the high school. Hunter actually had a full ride basketball scholarship to State for next year. Jax was going to some Ivy League place on a scholarship of his own but a scholastic one. It was strange how two people could be so alike and so different. Hunter was six three, solid and shared the same dirty blonde hair as my father. Jax was six four, built like a tank and black. Both of them lived and breathed basketball but Jaxson knew there was more to life than the sport. That’s why he was willing to put it aside to pursue other things in life. Dad tried to convince Hunter to do the same but my brother wasn’t having any of that. Hunter was one of those kids who wanted to grow up as fast as he could and didn’t want to stop for anything along the way.

He also always got what he wanted.

Like the truck.

And his little nicknames.

It was hard telling him no.

“Stop calling me that!” I said, hoping it was enough to deter him.

Though I knew it never was.

“But you are a little dude,” he said with a smirk.

I rolled my eyes. I was already tired of playing his stupid game. So like usual, I just shut up and sat back. A moment later, the truck was moving. A moment after that the music was blaring. It was our typical afternoon. Hunter didn’t exactly like having to pick me up from school every day but he didn’t have a choice. Mom worked until after five most days and Dad didn’t have the time. With Fred and Charlie gone, Hunter was the only one. It also kept me from taking the bus too. Not that there was anything wrong with that but my parents didn’t want me to do so. There was an incident some months ago---at another school---where some kids on the bus got into a fight. It got out of control pretty fast, one of them even ended up in the hospital. Mom actually prosecuted the case.

So no public transportation for me.

Which was fine by me.

I didn’t like buses anyway.

Back at my last school, I had a bad incident on the bus. Some thug was pissed off that his older brother was discharged and he took it out on the first person he could find. That person happened to be me. It didn’t help that my Dad was my Dad. In fact, its what fueled his anger in the first place. He was angry at the military and I was a pretty easy target. The only thing that stopped him from kicking my ass permanently was one of the football players. His Dad was in the military too. When he saw the ass trying to rough me up, he stepped in. He put a stop to things pretty quick and made it his mission to keep an eye on me for the rest of the year. Greg was awesome like that. I wouldn’t really call him a friend but he was the closest to one I had. I returned the favor by tutoring him in a few subjects he had some problems with.

Of course, I never told my parents about any of it.

Well, the tutoring sure but not the bullying.

Mom would have gotten carried away as usual. Up until a few months ago, she was a partner in my grandfather’s law firm. When Dad finally decided to settle somewhere, she left the corporate law world and settled on a job with the District Attorney’s office here. I don’t think grandpa was too thrilled but he was happy that our family was finally going to be stable. It bothered him that Mom worked out of satellite offices all over the country. She took work on a case by case basis, never really had an office of her own. Until now of course. The DA here in Connor was an old college friend of hers. She’d been trying to get Mom to come work for her for years. Mom finally relented when Dad took his base position.
The only downside, of course, was that she was barely around.

So I basically had two absentee parents.

The ride from school to our house took about thirty minutes.

Connor wasn’t a very large town but my father wanted his privacy. He managed to secure a couple of acres. It was once an apple farm we were told but the farm fell on hard times after the owner passed away. His son wasn’t able to keep up with it and sold it to Dad. Most of the trees had been removed. The only thing left on the property was the barn and the large six bedroom farmhouse. It had been all modernized and updated before we moved in. Mom used some of her corporate law money to see to that. She even splurged on an in-ground pool. Not that we got much use for it. We moved in right before school started in September and now it was mid-November. We got maybe a week of good pool time before we closed it up.

We dropped Jax off first.

“So you good for tonight?” asked Hunter as Jax hopped out of the truck.

“Can’t tonight, I have a school thing.”

“Shit, seriously?”

“Yeah, it's pretty cool actually, we’re...”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Hunter, cutting him off. “What about Tracy and Cheryl?”

Jax shrugged. “You’re just going to have to entertain them yourself tonight.”

Hunter faked a sigh. “The things I do for friendship.”

They shared a laugh but Jax didn’t look like he was into it. I always suspected that Jax went along with Hunter because Hunter forced him too. Hunter liked to have fun but Jax was more down to earth. I think it was the reason Jax chose to go to a different college than my brother. He was tired of all the crazy crap that Hunter kept pulling him into. Jax distancing himself from Hunter was already starting too. In the last week or so, Jax has turned down at least three other attempted get-togethers. It was clear that he was done with letting my brother tell him what to do.

Jax said his goodbyes.

We shared a nod. It was that knowing look between two people who were stuck in similar circumstances. In our case, it was my brother. We both had to deal with him on a day to day basis so that made us comrades in the same fight.

“What was that?”

“What was what?”

“That look you guys shared?”

I shrugged.

“You plotting against me suddenly?”

“Yep,” I said sarcastically.

Hunter gave me a look but it wasn’t threatening. Our conversation was a farce. Hunter liked to play games, pretend paranoia and things like that. A lot of the girls found it charming and downright cute. Mom always told him it would bite him in the ass one day. Dad just grunted. Dad was a man of few words anyway, even more so when it came to Hunter. There was a hierarchy of affection when it came to us kids. As far as Dad was concerned it was all based on age. Charlotte was, of course, his favorite, Daddy’s Little girl. Well, she was the oldest so it stands to reason he’d like her best over us all. Fred, he respected a great deal because they were a lot alike---both of few words and both very motivated. He tolerated Hunter. He was the only one that Hunter couldn’t really play his games with. Dad didn’t fall for his crap. I think it only made Hunter try harder though. It was his vain attempt to get our father to notice him.

It failed most of the time.

I say most because well we were sitting in a shiny, new truck after all.

Then there was me.

Dad didn’t understand me.

Though he liked to pretend that he did, it was clear that he didn’t know how to act around me. I wasn’t really into sports like my brothers and I wasn’t manly either. Camping, fishing, hunting---I did all those things with them but I never really excelled at any of it. I was never a boy scout and I hated to rough house. I did try though, for his sake. I tried soccer and some T-Ball but I was never very good. I stuck with the karate lessons for a little while but I was just never very motivated. It got to the point where Dad stopped trying. He went through the motions still---told me he was proud of this or that---but it was just that. He loved me sure but he didn’t really know how to do so.

Not that I’m complaining.

I knew I’d never be the son my father wanted me to be.

Both of us had long accepted that.

We drove on in silence for a bit. Like I said, our house was pretty far out there. Jax’s neighborhood was the last one before the road turned to woods. Staring out the window, all I saw were trees.

Suddenly the music stopped.

“So how are you doing really?”

Hunter might play games and tease from time to time but overall, he was my brother. My older brother. One who looked out for me. We were after all three years apart. Hey, I was almost fifteen. Another month. Hunter looked out for me when he could. I was short and not exactly muscular. I was still convinced he asked Greg to look out for me even though he would never admit it. Not that I minded of course. I knew he had my best interests and all. Hunter tried his best to fight my fights for me even when he couldn’t be there to do it.

“I’m fine.”

“No you’re not,” he said, giving me a different look from before. “Your shoulder, you winced when you were climbing in.”

Damn.

Hunter was pretty observant.

My shoulder still hurt. Robby really did a number when he slammed into me.

The thing is, I bruised easily. Something as slight as him slamming into my shoulder---it would probably be sore for days.

I thought I’d done a good job hiding it from him but apparently not.

“It's nothing.”

“Who am I beating the shit out of?”

“No one!”

“It was that Barnes punk wasn’t it?”

I’m not even sure how Hunter knew about that but he did. Right after the incident with Robby that first time, Hunter was there. Ok so he didn’t beat the shit out of him or anything but he knew about it as soon as I got into the truck. I think my brother had someone spying on me for him. It was worse now more than ever. He thought I needed protecting. I liked that about him but it drove me nuts too.

“I can handle it.”

He shook his head. “No, you’re not. You want him to stop, you have to get angry with him. Let him have it. Maybe not physically but verbally lash out at him. Guys like that only respond to two things---words or fists. Let him have it either way and he’ll leave you alone. Get angry for once in your life, bro!”

I sighed.

We’d had this conversation before. I usually tuned it out.

I was too mellow as far as Hunter was concerned.

He wanted me to be some fiery hot head, exploding at everyone who looked at me wrong. Me, I was perfectly happy blending in and disappearing. Losing my temper, getting all hot and bothered, it just wasn’t me. For one it drew too much attention. For another, it made me someone I’m not. I was a mellow person and I liked it. If I got angry I bottled it up inside. It was something Mom always told me to do. Well, actually she told me to put it in my “fire jar”. That’s what she called it. She didn’t want me to get angry. She said losing my temper was never the answer. Another big thing she used to always say to me was “Never go into anything angry because you’ll never win”.

I took her philosophy to heart.

“I don’t want to get angry,” I said, more to myself than him.

“You’re hopeless then.”

He turned the music back on and stopped talking to me. I was fine with it. I continued to stare out the window at the trees.

We drove in silence until we got home.

@@@@@@@@@

Like I said before, we owned two acres of land. Most of which was old farmland where the trees used to be. So most of what we owned looked pretty barren. Well except for the house and the barn of course. The house was an old Dutch Colonial, totally refurbished of course now. It had been in pretty bad shape when my parents bought it though. I was present when mom was having a meeting with the Architect and contractor. Besides totally modernizing the place, she had them add a large addition. That’s where the other two rooms came from. She wanted to make sure Charlie and Freddy had a place to sleep if they ever came to visit.

The rest of the house was a large entryway/living room, an even larger kitchen, the dining room, my mother’s in-home office and the massive family room.

It was a pretty impressive place to look at.

The outside was all brand new brick and siding. The roof was brand new, the wrap around front porch still smelled of fresh paint. When we moved in there were flower beds and well-manicured hedges. The hedges were still there but a bit dingy now but the flowers were gone. It was supposed to be Hunter’s job, maintaining the lawn but of course, he never did it. The grass needed mowing as usual but I wasn’t strong enough to push the mower and Dad was always busy. No matter how much Mom got on his case, Hunter was still too lazy to get it done.
Mom was in the kitchen when we walked through the front door.

Her being home was a surprise.

It wasn’t unusual to see her home during a weekday but usually not this early. Mom generally stayed at the office until dinnertime. Most of our meals were store bought and premade. A chef, Mom was not. She would usually pick something up on the way home, preheat it in the oven and pretend. No one complained. Well Charlie did of course. Not that she and Mom didn’t see eye to eye, it was just a strained relationship. Charlie was almost nine when I was born. She just lost her mother and she wasn’t really looking to have a stranger come in to replace her. Mom tried her hardest but it wasn’t easy. It didn’t help that Charlie went out of her way to try and be better. Including learning how to cook.

Charlie was an awesome cook.

Though of course, I’d never admit it with Mom around.

“Hi sweetie,” she said, giving me a hug as I followed Hunter into the kitchen.

“You’re home early’ I said with surprise.

“Slow day,” she said with a smile. “Besides your teacher called.”

Hunter was drinking something and nearly choked.

“Wait, the little dude actually got in trouble for once!”

“No,” said Mom with a happy smirk. “He called because he invited your brother to the observatory tonight.”

“Boring.”

Hunter walked out of the room with his drink much to Mom’s annoyance.

She didn’t like us taking drinks out of the kitchen. Not that Hunter ever followed the rules.

Mom glared at his back as he walked away.

Mom could be a very intimidating woman if she wanted. While not very tall---five foot five---she often wore heels that made her look taller. It was her presence that scared people. Mom was forty now but she didn’t look a day over thirty. Even with the stress of being a lawyer, Mom found the time to take care of herself. She ran every morning and ate like a health nut. The only sign of age was a gray streak in her otherwise very lustrous red hair. It was strange really. I was the only Auburn one in the family. Dad and the others were various shades of blonde and Mom was a fiery redhead. Hunter always used to joke and tell me it was because I was a science experiment gone horribly wrong. For a small portion of my young childhood, I believed him and used to cry.

Dad was thirty-two when he met Mom.

She was straight out of law school and was running through the park. Dad was on a run also. The way she tells it, the two of them ran into one another, literally. There were some laughs, later a coffee date and a few months down the road, marriage. Dad never liked to drag things out. If there was something he wanted, he went for it. That’s why he proposed so fast. Mom said she was pretty reluctant to accept at first but in the end, she made the right choice. I came along shortly thereafter. It was a bit of surprise but Mom said it was a happy one. Sadly it took a bit longer for my older siblings to come around.

I still didn’t have a great relationship with them.

Freddy has always been distant with me. Charlie---well she doesn’t really do or say anything. Whenever we’re together, we talk but we don’t hug and she doesn’t treat me like her true brother. I wouldn’t say she’s cold but she doesn’t really know me. By the time I was old enough for us to bond, she was a teenager. Then she was off to college. Now it was med school. We just didn’t really have the time to be brother and sister.

“So can I go?” I asked as I sat at the table.

“I don’t know, it is a school night after all.”

I sighed. Exactly what I thought she was going to say.

“Maybe when your father gets home, we can discuss it more.”

Well, that settles it.

I knew where that conversation was going to go.

Dad would be all military on me. He’d start talking about responsibility and curfew and how the rules were there for a reason. He’d go on and on about it for probably an hour straight then, in the end, tell me “No”. I’d seen it before. Hunter wanted to go to Miami last summer during spring break. He tried to use the argument that he was old enough and mature enough to go off on his own. Of course, Dad wasn’t buying it. Well for good reason because he’s Hunter and there’s nothing mature about him.

There was no point sitting here, discussing it with her either.

I would never win the argument.

Not against Mom the Lawyer.

So I changed tactics.

“Are you going to see the solar storm tonight?”

She raised an eyebrow. I think she figured me out but she played along.

“Your father and I might take a look but it's awfully late and we both need to be up early tomorrow.”

So that’s how she was going to play it.

“I hear its a once in a lifetime event.”

“I saw that on the news.”

Ok time to step things up a bit.

“It would be a real shame if you” I emphasized the “you” just to get my point across. “miss it.”

She gave me another one of those eyebrow-raising looks.

“I know what you’re trying to do,” she said with a knowing smile. “And I understand how important this is to you. You also know your father’s rules and how he takes them so seriously. I’m not saying yes or no but I will promise you that I’ll do my best to convince him that just this once isn't going to be the end of the world.”

I almost squealed. That would have been a little odd. So instead, I jumped out of the chair and rush hugged her. Mom was surprised, to say the least. I was a bit surprised myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually hugged her. I don’t think she could either because a moment later, her arms were around me too. She held me for a full minute before she let me go. I stepped back, feeling pretty awkward about the whole thing. At the same time, it felt nice too. It was well needed what with the distance between us as of late.

I gave her a goofy smile.

She ruffled my hair, just like she used to when I was a kid.

It was pretty nice actually.

“Now then,” she said, getting serious again. “Why don’t you go do your homework then I’ll order some dinner and we’ll wait for your father together.”

I nodded.

Moment gone.

Oh well.

@@@@@@@@@

I was upstairs in my room, just finishing up my homework when I heard Dad come in.

I didn’t rush down to meet him though.

My father liked time to himself before he greeted his family. Usually, that meant retiring to the family room to sit and have a beer. He only ever drank one a day. Sometimes two on the weekends. Mom wouldn’t even let him keep the beers in the house. When the house was refurbished, they also had the barn remodeled as well. It became Dad’s Man Cave, not only did it have its own electricity out there but it also had a fridge where he kept his beer, an old classic car he was currently remodeling and a lot of stuff he owned from his youth. Dad was pretty secretive about all of it. I knew he had weapons out there too. I didn’t know how many but I knew he went to the range at least two weekends out of the month. He even took Hunter with him from time to time. He tried to involve me too but it was never my kind of thing.

So he stopped asking.

Right now Dad was still in the family room---which was directly under my room. I could hear the evening news playing up from the television. He’d be there until the news was over then head into the rest of the house to greet us. To an outside observer, it might look as if my father was cold. He sure came across that way sometimes but he cared in his own way. Sure he never hugged us boys or told us he loved us but he showed his affection in other means. Like trips to the range or out camping. At least that’s how he did it with Hunter and Freddy.

With me, it wasn’t so easy.

I finished up the rest of my work and waited.

I took the time to look around my room. It wasn’t the biggest room in the house---that belonged to my parents---but I liked it nonetheless. My walls were decorated with a few comic book movie posters and things. I had a desk and a laptop. One shelf contained some of those figurines I used to collect in elementary school. The rest of my stuff was still in the moving boxes. Call me lazy or call me optimistic but I knew the score. Even though Dad said this was going to be our last move, he’d said it before. It was always the same. I’d finally finish unpacking and he’d announce we were moving again. So I stopped altogether. This current time it was actually Mom who had unpacked the posters and the collectibles. Besides the desk and my bed, the room looked fairly plain.

Still sitting at the desk, I opened the top drawer.

I usually kept a bunch of pens and pencils in there, maybe some erasers. There was nothing really important. Well, save for one thing: my pilot wings. Ok, so they weren’t real ones, well not in the sense that an Airman ever wore them. When I was little, Dad took us to one of the bases for a tour. I think it was right after we moved. Back then I was obsessed with flying. I wanted to be a fighter pilot and shoot down the Red Baron. Hey, I was only six at the time. Well, Dad surprised me by presenting me with my very own pilot badge. It was the only time he and I really bonded over something special. It was also the only time he’d ever smiled and hugged me.

Sadly my pilot dreams faded with age but I still kept the wings.

They were pretty cool after all.

I gave the wings a little wishing rub.

Just in case.

Then uncharacteristically, I found myself putting them in my pocket. I couldn’t remember the last time I carried them with me. It just seemed right. Maybe Dad would be able to sense them on me and relent to break the rules just once.

Mom called me to dinner a minute later.

Heading out of my room and down the stairs, I smelled the food as soon as I reached the bottom step. Something Chinese I think. Once again, Hunter had influenced her in her meal selection. Not that there was anything wrong with it---I liked Chinese food---it's just for once I wish she’d ask me. Trying not to think about it though, I walked into the kitchen. Hunter and Dad were already at the table. Dad was reading the paper but set it aside when I sat in my usual chair. He was already giving me his trademark look. Thankfully he never grimaced at his family like he did some of his men. I’d heard more than one of them refer to it as “The Piercer” and for good reason, Dad’s stare felt like it could burn through your whole body.

Dad was still looking at me.

Dad was a large, intimidating man. At six foot four, he scared a lot of passerbys. His graying black hair was shaved close to his head, his shoulders were large and squared, his features looked to be chiseled from stone. At fifty-five he was still a very fit man too. His barn also contained a great deal of workout equipment and he often did the same run that Mom did every morning. Except he usually started about an hour earlier. He tried to talk Hunter and me into doing the same and whereas Hunter would when he got up, I was never able to pull it off. They ran a few miles every morning and I just didn’t have the endurance for it.

“Shiloh, honey, no hoods at the dinner table.”

I sighed and did as Mom asked, dropping my hood.

I’d actually forgot I was still wearing my hoodie.

“So, son, I received a phone call from a Mr. Bowman today. He says you want to accompany him to some observatory tonight?”

“Yes, sir.”

We always called him “Sir” when we spoke to him directly.

Dad gave me his look again.

And here’s where the lecture comes in.

I sighed, waiting for the inevitable response.

Dad paused before giving me his verdict, then:

“I think it's a wonderful idea actually.”

Hunter nearly choked, Mom looked visibly shocked.

Me, I didn’t know how to respond.

Was I in the Twilight Zone.

Dad continued. “As long as you….”

Of course, there were rules. Hell, I’ll take them. I was going and that’s all that mattered.

Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF



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