Chapter 21: Or Whatever

A few weeks had passed since Sawyer had moved back into the house, and Faeron’s pregnancy was proceeding smoothly. Whereas during her first two pregnancies, the strain in her marriage enhanced her discomfort, this time, she spent most of her days smiling, in spite of the morning sickness or aching muscles. This was a pregnancy and a baby she did not dread experiencing, which allowed for her to relax or indulge when the time called for it.

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Still, feeling content didn’t mean her life had no problems. She still had two young sons, who, for as much as she loved and cared about them, could be a bit of a handful at times.

Richter had been beginning to act up again. He was leaving his homework unfinished and picking fights with his older brother whenever they were left alone together. When Liam approached his mother to complain about Richter’s behavior, Faeron immediately devised a plan to deal with the problem. She rung up her neighbor Olivia on the phone.

Faeron could not attest to being particularly talented at reading others, but her husband was slightly more able. He had mentioned to her on occasion that he had noticed Richter’s mood would always improve when Olivia came to visit and that the two seemed to get along quite well. Faeron wondered if she would be up for the idea of becoming Richter’s tutor.

After she pitched the idea to Olivia over the phone, the girl agreed to give the idea a test run before considering it more thoroughly. The two made plans for Olivia to drop by later that evening to see how things worked out.

When Richter caught wind of Faeron’s plans, he rushed outside to his chemistry station. Liam, who had been munching on an early dinner, saw this and followed him outside curiously.

Richter squinted his eyes in irritation as he watched his brother approach him. “What do you want?” he demanded.

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“To see what you’re doin’,” Liam replied honestly. He stared wide-eyed at the bubbling mixtures in the glass tubes before him. The science table had never really been his thing—too dangerous, he thought.

But Richter was a pro when it came to knowing what chemicals caused what reactions, and more importantly, what he could create with said chemicals. He grinned proudly and said, “I’m making a potion.”

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Liam gasped. “A potion? For what?!” Reminders of his brother’s threats to him from the past few weeks flashed through his mind. He worried for his safety.

Richter smirked, mischief twinkling in his eyes. “It can make you stink super bad!” he declared. Focusing his attention back on the potion in front of him, he confided, “I’m gonna give it to that lame-o Olivia.”

Liam gasped again. “What?!” he shouted, appalled. “You can’t do that!! That’s naughty!”

“Puh!” Richter scoffed. “Who cares! She thinks she’s gonna be my—“ He paused to make air quotes. “—‘tutor’ or something. I don’t need a tutor!”

Upset, Liam pouted his lips. He made a silent promise to himself that he wouldn’t let Richter get away with this. He had a reputation as a pseudo-superhero to uphold, after all.

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A couple hours passed before Olivia arrived at the house. She exchanged pleasantries with both Sawyer and Faeron and congratulated them on mending their marriage. When it came time for her be alone with Richter to guide him through his assignments, Liam insisted on joining them for their homework session.

Liam started things off light. “And that’s how come I lost my shoe in the river!” he recounted a tale he’d heard in school, playing the narrator.

“And here I thought you just had slippery feet,” Olivia joked in return.

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Liam noticed Richter was staying silent for the most part. He’d expected more resistance from his brother when he’d forced his way into the tutoring group and was surprised to see him still acting complacent. This realization only made him more afraid of the devious plans Richter must have stowed away in his mind. He decided to attempt to communicate silently, so as not to alert Olivia of what was transpiring.

He nudged Richter’s foot under the table to get his attention and made an “I know what you’re up to” face.

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But Richter quietly shrugged, ignoring his brother’s silent protests.

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So be it, Liam thought. He’d have to go for a more direct approach.

With a loud cough, Liam directed Olivia’s attention to him. He inhaled deeply, trying to find courage. Using barely intelligible speech, he hurriedly confessed, “Richter’s hiding a secret potion somewhere but I know about it and he’s gonna give it to you and it’s gonna make you stink really bad!!” His eyes had been shut during his confession, but he forced them open slowly after he finished speaking, preparing himself for his brother’s wrath.

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Enraged, Richter stuck his finger out towards Liam. “What are you—“ He snapped his mouth shut and left his question unfinished in an attempt to feign innocence, but the look on his face gave away his guilt.

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Olivia looked at Richter with mock disappointment. “Is this true?” she asked with exaggerated emotion.

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Feeling a bit guilty upon seeing Olivia’s sad eyes, Richter exclaimed, “No! I mean— Sort of. I mean… Well…” He fumbled over his words, not sure how to respond. If he admitted the truth, would Olivia stop coming over? Not that he liked when she came over or anything, but it would just be kind of a shame, you know? ‘Cause she was fun to laugh at.

Olivia’s face broke into a grin. “So you think you can punk me, huh, kid?” she asked him. “Think you can trick me into drinking some funky potion you made?”

Richter’s face went pale as his eyes widened. She talked like she had so much experience with this kind of thing. Maybe he had bitten off more than he could chew, trying to pull this on her. Opting not to say anything, he shook his head sheepishly in response.

At seeing Richter’s sudden change in attitude, Olivia had to laugh. Deciding to let his actions slide, she instead asked if she could see the potion. “I’ll bet it’s really gross-looking,” she whispered to Liam as Richter dug in his pockets to pull out the foul weapon.

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Liam covered his mouth in shock when he saw it. Olivia’s prediction had been true.

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The bubbling concoction sat in a jar on the table in front of the three of them. A rancid stench emitted from it, like none of them had smelled before. It was a wonder Liam and Olivia hadn’t noticed it sooner.

“That’s pretty impressive!” Olivia choked out in between covering her face with her jacket to avoid the smell. “You made that yourself?”

“Well, yeah!” said Richter, as if it should be obvious.

Liam was too busy covering his face to say anything.

“Can I see it?” asked Olivia.

Richter felt proud to hear she was interested in examining it. He nodded quietly in affirmation but wouldn’t look her in the eye.

When she grabbed ahold of the jar, she stood up, stepped away from the table, and walked over to the kitchen sink to immediately dump out the jar’s contents.

“HEY!!” shouted Richter, furious. “That took a long time to make!!”

“And it was very well-made. There’s no denying that.” Olivia inspected the jar, making sure it was completely empty. “But you should concentrate your efforts on making something more useful, ya know? Like a potion that cleans the toilet!”

Richter was at a loss for words. Who cared about some stupid toilet-cleaning potion? He wasn’t a cleaner person. He crossed his arms angrily and glared at his brother seated across from him. This is your fault, he thought.

Olivia peered into the sink, then instinctively turned from it, offended by the smell still present near the drain. “You might wanna stuff some orange peels down the garbage disposal later. Tell your mom.”

“I’m not telling my mom anything!” Richter huffed.

“Oh? You want me to tell her? That you tried to get me to drink your trick potion?”

“Wait, no!” Richter stopped her. “Fine. I’ll tell her about the orange peels or whatever.”

“Good. Now, let’s finish up this assignment, all right?”

Satisfied that the threat had been thwarted, Liam bid Olivia goodnight and snuck off to his room. This made it easier for Olivia and Richter to focus, and they were finished with their session in no time.

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Afterwards, they stood near the table, getting ready to say goodbye. Richter stared at the woman in front of him. He was disappointed that he didn’t have the chance to use his stink potion, but at the same time, he was relieved that Olivia didn’t get angry with him over it. She was a weirdo, for sure. If he had been in her shoes, he so would have pinched the kid who had made the potion! Plus, she helped him understand his math problems a lot better, though he hated to admit it. What was her deal?

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“I think tonight went pretty well,” she said. “What do you think? Do you want me to be your tutor?”

Richter twiddled his thumbs. With a shrug, he mumbled, “I mean, since my mom’s probably gonna keep trying to get me a tutor anyway and stuff… I guess you’re okay. To be the tutor or whatever.”

She smiled when she heard that. “Cool.” She took a step closer and said, “Well, see ya later, kid.”

Before Richter could respond, Olivia crouched down and pulled him into her arms, enveloping him in a warm hug.

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Richter didn’t know what to say. His cheeks flushed as he tried to hide the smile that was taking over his face.

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He scoffed slightly, trying to appear tough. “Yeah, bye I guess,” he stammered.

As Richter watched Olivia leave the house, he slapped his cheeks, willing his smile to go away. But it wouldn’t.


lol Olivia was actually in a flirty mood when this played out in game. There were some creepy moments, like this one.

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