“Cover me. Cover me. Cover me!” said Ryan, his voice rising as the sound of gunfire echoed through the room. “Dude!”
“I was reloading!” David dropped his controller into his lap and stretched his hands above his head, groaning in defeat. Then he grabbed his controller again and leaned forward in his banana chair. “Okay. Grenades first this time.”
“So,” Laurel said, pulling Chelsea’s attention back to her. “I had the best idea for our story today.”
The biggest problem with Chelsea knowing about Laurel was keeping everyone in the loop–between her parents, David, and Chelsea, Laurel couldn’t always remember who had heard what, and it wasn’t always easy to get Chelsea one-on-one. Laurel and David could talk whenever, but when they got together with Chelsea, Ryan was usually there, too. Talking on the phone worked okay, but between cross country practice and hanging out with Ryan, most of Chelsea’s home time was spent doing homework.
Chelsea had proposed that their creative writing class provided the perfect cover. When Ryan was around, instead of talking about Laurel, they talked about Rose–student by day, troll-hunting faerie by night, and the subject of Laurel and Chelsea’s creative writing assignments.
“Well,” Laurel said, glancing over at David, “we talked in class about Rose’s faerie guardian going undercover at her school. But what if there was another faerie?”
“Another faerie? Like, another friend.”
“Not a friend.” She hesitated. “Maybe a spy?”
Chelsea’s face went white.
“But maybe not a spy,” Laurel said quickly. “A mystery.”
“Where does she come from?”
“Well, that’s how I got the idea. We got new foreign exchange students today. What if the new faerie was being passed off as a foreign exchange student?”
“A girl faerie or a boy faerie?”
Chelsea stared at Laurel. “Iiiinteresting,” she finally said.
“Why?” David asked suddenly.
“Why what?” Laurel asked.
“Why would someone do that?” David’s attention was still fixed on the sixty-inch plasma screen, but he appeared to be having trouble with his aim. “Even though it’s fiction, there has to be a reason. Who sent her, and why?”
“That’s for Rose to figure out,” Laurel said. “But wouldn’t it be interesting if the new faerie came from someone Rose had met before. Someone she owed something to. Maybe someone who saved her life.”
“So . . . the faerie’s not a spy?” Chelsea seemed confused.
“I don’t know,” Laurel said, frustrated. This form of communication did have its limits. “I’m just . . . brainstorming.”
“I can’t believe you’re letting them drag you into this,” Ryan teased. He took one hand away from his controller just long enough to shove lightly at David’s shoulder. “Get out while you can, man. I’m telling you.”
“They need a good editor,” David said. “Because no matter how cool it sounds, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Maybe it’s for the new faerie’s protection,” Laurel countered. “I mean, Rose knows what she’s doing–kind of, at least–and whoever sent the faerie thinks Rose can help.”
“Dude, you can’t cover worth crap! You take point this time.”
David nodded, but continued talking to Laurel. She could hear the strain in his voice as he asked, “Does this person know Rose is a faerie?”
“No,” Laurel said. At least I don’t think so. “Rose works very hard to keep her identity a secret.”
“Then why introduce a new faerie?”
“I know,” David said, his face focused back on the television again. “She could be a love interest for the guy faerie–the protector.”
This plunged the whole room into tense silence. Even Ryan looked away from his game, momentarily, looking confused.
“I’m kidding,” David said, darkly. “Ryan, you can’t snipe these guys! Use the shotgun or something.”
“No, I think you’re right,” Laurel said. “It’s a dumb plotline.”
“It’s not dumb,” David said, his voice soft now. “You just need to figure out the ending. Then it’ll all make sense.” He turned to Laurel. “Just make sure you don’t let her hurt Rose. That would ruin everything.”
She met his eyes and smiled. He died again.
“Dude, bow before my leet skills,” Ryan said, breaking through the line of soldiers on the screen.