Cousin Bill was spread, large and untidy, across Talia’s beautiful new lounge. At least his clothes were clean, but the overnight bag dumped beside his feet suggested that he wasn’t planning to leave anytime soon – like before she was supposed to go out tonight.
Talia smiled brightly and asked, “So, to what do I owe the pleasure? I thought you and Geoff didn’t hold with cities and such.”
“Something came up and I need to be here.” Cousin Bill smiled broadly at her.
“Oh.” Talia tried another tack. “So, where will you be staying?”
“When I said I need to be here, I meant I need to be right here,” said Cousin Bill, still smiling.
“Why?” Talia was sure he wasn’t there just to ruin her Friday night plans.
“Grandad had a call from his ‘class.’ Apparently it’s time for their final reunion and they want everyone to turn up, including all the descendants.” Cousin Bill wasn’t smiling anymore. “You were the outlier.”
“You think those crazies might try and drag us into whatever they have planned?” Talia wasn’t so keen on going out now.
“We expect them to,” Cousin Bill shrugged. “They are crazy, after all. Any new acquaintances recently?”
Talia sank down to sit on the coffee table and was glad she had enough control not to thud down onto it. “Only someone I was going out to meet tonight.” She added, “He’s gorgeous but I haven’t told him where I live.”
“Good girl,” Cousin Bill smiled again. “Also, in case you don’t have any actual food in your kitchen, I brought pizza bases, passata, sausage, mushrooms, olives, anchovies and four sorts of cheese.”
“Is that what you’ve got in that bag? Food?” Talia eyed the overnight bag again.
“Not all of it,” Bill admitted easily. “Don’t answer your phone if your new friend calls. Grandfather thinks they have to be at Newkirk by just after midnight, so if we can make it to eleven without killing each other, we should be fine.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Talia told him. “You brought pizza makings. For that you get the spare bed for tonight and pancakes for breakfast.”
Early morning was looming brightly outside when Talia wandered out of her bedroom and turned on the television on her way to the kitchen. Cousin Bill emerged from the second bedroom just as the ad break finished and the presenter said, “More footage has emerged of the extraordinary scenes near Newkirk early this morning when an unknown object blasted out of the ground and was last seen still going upwards.” The screen showed shaky footage of something big and glowing rising above the trees and continuing skywards. “In addition, a veritable parking lot of cars has been found near the site,” the shot on the screen panned across cars left among the trees in neat rows, “leading to more questions.”
“When Grandad said he was never going back, this is not what I thought he meant,” said Talia.
“Yeah,” replied Cousin Bill. “Really not what I thought either. I think we should make some calls.”