(Author's Warning: Like everything else, this takes place in my series, set up by the events in my first story "More Than My Friend" where the big event is that Frankie adopts Mac. If you haven't read that story yet, I strongly suggest you do so now, or else you might get terribly confused.)
"…And that was how I managed to make my first million. Ha! Quite the smashing tale, wouldn't you say?"
The portly old fellow asked before he began chuckling so hard for a moment it looked as if his bulging gut was about to pop out of his tuxedo for all to see. As he shook like a bowl full of gelatin, the lanky redhead who had been forced to feign interest through his entire story just nodded politely as she pretended to be riveted.
"Yes…yes, very interesting." Frances "Frankie" Foster expertly lied and flashed a phony smile before seizing this pause in the conversation as her chance to escape. "Um, hold on a second, I just...I just need to-"
"Oh come now, miss!" he laughed as she started to slowly back away. "You haven't even heard of how I…uh, miss? Miss?"
In just a moment, the young woman had successfully slipped off and disappeared into the throngs of wealthy folks and representatives form a multitude of charitable organizations who packed the massive ballroom of the local country club to near capacity. Frankie, wearing a simple combination consisting of a skirt and a black sweater over a white collared shirt, squeezed her way through the chatty crowds, searching about until finally, she managed to spot a flash of silvery gray amidst the swarms.
"There you are!" she whispered with a sigh of relief, and in no time had maneuvered her way over to where a large imaginary rabbit chatted with an aged couple that appeared to have done quite well for themselves, if their exquisite attire was any indicator.
"…Really?" the husband asked curiously. "You mean to say that Foster's takes in every abandoned imaginary friend without-"
"Without question, yes." Mr. Herriman answered with a warm smile. "It hardly matters to us where they came from, or who imagined them, because we honestly pride ourselves on providing the best care we can for any abandoned figment who comes in through our front doors-"
"Excuse me?" Frankie inquired as soon as she was close enough to give him a tap on the shoulder. "Mr. H?"
"Hmm?" he murmured as he craned his head around. As soon as he spotted her, he nodded back to the couple and asked graciously, "Would you two be so kind as to excuse me for a moment?"
"Oh please, its no problem at all." The wife, or at least what Frankie assumed was a person, replied politely from underneath a bulky fur coat. After flashing a grateful grin, Mr. Herriman allowed Foster's resident caretaker to take him aside a bit before he asked,
"Well, Miss Frances, how are you? Enjoying the festivities I hope? I must say, the turnout this year has been quite-"
"When are we going home?" Frankie cut to the chase and nearly begged in a low whisper. The aged imaginary friend immediately elicited a long sigh of deep exasperation and shook his head before he promptly launched into one of his infamous lectures, much to her chagrin.
"Oh for goodness sake, Miss Frances, what on earth is the matter? Many of the most prominent local philanthropists are here at the annual gala; you should feel honored that I asked you to come and represent Foster's, instead of whining like a fussy toddler-"
"I'm only here because Grandma was feeling under the weather." The young woman reminded unenthusiastically with a groan.
"Miss Frances, please." he was swift to reprimand. "When else are you going to get such an opportunity to mingle with such fine specimens of society and-"
"Hit them up for money?" she finished dryly, to his plain annoyance.
"Goodness child," he huffed. "What is wrong with simply trying to find some new donors to help support the house-"
"Because we don't need to." Frankie protested as she adjusted the tight bun she had done her hair up in. "We're doing just fine without having to schmooze around these people and beg for-"
"I'm sorry if you feel that way, Miss Frances, but I will not embarrass Foster's like this by leaving just because you're getting cranky." He scolded. "This is a prime opportunity for us to forge new contacts, and-"
"But I -" she tried to object once more before he grew weary of butting heads with her. After shooting her a stern glare, he promptly whirled about and resumed his conversation.
"Now then, where were we? Oh yes, I remember…now, Foster's prides itself on…"
"Mr. H?" Frankie tapped his shoulder and tried to seize hold of his attention yet again. When it soon became apparent he was blatantly ignoring her, she rolled her eyes and groaned again.
How she absolutely despised being here, trying to wheedle members of the upper crust who looked like they already had one foot in the grave. As far as she was concerned, most of the so-called philanthropists here were only trying to boost their egos by giving away what basically amounted to their pocket change. Of course, she knew some were genuinely generous folks, but apparently she hadn't found them yet amongst the pompous blowhards who kept bragging about their achievements.
A waiter bearing a tray loaded with filled wine glasses strolled by, and for a moment Frankie had the impulse to grab one and chug it down in an attempt to numb her agony. Fortunately, self-control quickly won out against the irresponsible urge. Not only would she have to drive home, but also she'd be setting quite the atrociously poor example for-
"Uh oh…." Frankie gasped, and her heart skipped a beat once she realized she had completely lost track of a certain child. As she began to feel the initial twinges of panic, the redhead started glancing about the masses frantically, praying desperately for some soon-to-arrive sign of-
Apparently the heavens heard her loud and clear, for just a moment later her ears picked up a familiar yelp. Immediately she was on the hunt, clumsily dodging about crowds of gala-goers in her high heels until seconds later she spotted a brown-haired little boy not too far off, squirming about painfully as a cooing dowager pinched his cheeks with her long, finely manicured nails.
"Oh, aren't you just precious!" the wealthy widow gushed sickeningly sweetly. "And who are you here with, you little angel?"
Clad in a little suit and fidgeting about in agony under the, Mac struggled to keep from crying out again while he endeavored to answer as politely as he could, "I…I'm here with-ow! Ma'am? M-ma'am, please, that… that hurts-"
Before the torture could drag on any longer, Frankie was amongst them in a flash. Sick to death of playing courteous, the young woman bolted over, snatched up Mac, and actually snarled at the old woman like a rabid dog.
"Hands off!" she barked.
"Oh good Lord!" the startled dowager backed away with a hoarse cry of fright. "What on earth…?"
In an instant, the dumbfounded soul found herself staring at no one. Frankie had long since vanished back into the crowds, using them to her advantage as an excellent source of cover. Once she had snuck her way to the other side of the massive room, she burst out gasping for breath before she began fretfully examining her charge.
"I'm so sorry, pal!" she sputtered remorsefully as she checked him over. "Are you all right? I'm sorry, I had no idea we had gotten separated in the first place! I'm sorry, I seriously thought you were still with me!"
"It's okay, honest! I'm fine Frankie." Mac tried to assuage her misery with a weak smile. "I only left to go to the bathroom, but…on the way back, I kinda-ouch!"
He yelped and winced uncontrollably as she tentatively touched one of his aching cheeks, which were both so red from being grabbed they resembled a pair of ripe beets. Moaning unhappily, Frankie squeezed him close in a quick hug.
"How on earth the rabbit talked me into dragging you along just so you could be attacked by a pack of old ladies, I'll never know." She lamented. "Yikes, what happened? Did they go after your cheeks with a monkey wrench or something?"
"Well…a lot fo them were pinching." Mac answered ruefully as she set him down. While he didn't ever really like to appear whiny, the child couldn't help but inquire as he gazed imploringly into her eyes, "What time are we leaving?"
Frankie glanced up at a large ornate clock hanging on the walls and sighed disappointedly. "As far as I know, this thing should wrap up in about an hour…so in other words, not soon enough."
"…Greaaaat." Mac murmured sarcastically as she herded him protectively close and started leading the way towards the array of delicacies set out on several long tables nearby.
"We might as well make the best of it while we're trapped here." She suggested. "C'mon, let's go pig out some more on the cocktail shrimp."
Trying to keep a low profile, the two made their way over to the exquisite spread, all the while hoping silently that no one wanted to strike up a conversation so they could boast about their earnings for the year, or spot the child and decide he was too adorable to leave alone. Fortunately, it didn't seem like Frankie had to worry too much about the latter, seeing as how the boy was now sticking to her like glue.
"So…did you find anyone to donate to Foster's?" Mac asked curiously as she passed him a plate.
"I got one guy who said he'd be interested, and I talked to some lady who wanted to talk to Mr. Herriman first…and it was then that I started feeling dirty." The young woman replied with a shudder as she grabbed a few grapes off a massive platter of fruit. " "If I can help it, this is the last time we get pranced out to try and…"
The words died upon her lips, and the child beside her likewise went dumbstruck once they both spotted something quite odd. Together they stared quietly, with neither one uttering a word about what they had just seen lest it was only an illusion or something of that sort. Alas, such simply was not the case, and to their shared shock, both watched a small blue arm rise up from behind the table, feel about blindly for a second or so, and then grab a handful of cocktail wieners before vanishing from sight.
For a few seconds more the two turned and unblinkingly gawked at each other silently, both quite unwilling to guess what they had just witnessed, even though they a few very good ideas. Finally though, after a couple deep breaths, they nodded at one another, squatted down, and after they were sure no one was looking, raised one of the tablecloths and ducked underneath to immediately find no one else but…
"Hey, guys!" the familiar azure blob laughed and flashed them a massive toothy grin. "Glad I finally found you!"
"BLOO?" the others yelped automatically in horror before instinctively shushing one another lest they attracted any commotion.
"Who do you think, the Queen of Canada?" Bloo chortled before he popped down a couple shrimp, making it perfectly clear he didn't understand what the problem was, or that there was a problem to begin with.
"What…w-what are you doing here, Bloo?" Mac managed to sputter as his eyeballs nearly popped from their sockets in gargantuan dismay.
"What?" he replied, as his tone got a little huffy. "You think you guys can have a blast here at your fancy shindig without moi? Puh-leeze, everyone knows it's not a party 'til the Bloomiester shows up! Well…if you wanna call it a party, I guess. I dunno, but between you and me, by the looks of the guests I'd say this looks more like a funeral then a-"
"How did you got from home to here?" Frankie interrupted as she appeared to be on the verge of a panic attack while she rested upon her hands and knees.
"Well, I sure didn't rent a car, I'll tell you that." He joked cheerily. "How else? With you guys, of course! It wasn't that hard, all I needed was a good strong belt, a nice perch underneath the bus, and voila! Here I am!"
"…You tied yourself to the bottom of the bus?" the redhead murmured incredulously with bulging jade eyes.
"Yup!" he affirmed. "It was no problemo! I gotta say though, I'm kinda disappointed with the bash here so far, except for all these tasty goodies that got everywhere!"
With a contented squeak he bit down into what resembled a flaky pastry stuffed with white meat.
"Mmm-mm! This is one heck of a fantastic spread they got here! These lobster puffs are simply scrumptious!" he gushed before he picked up a small plate bearing a slice of cake. "And don't tell me you guys haven't had any of the awesome cheesecake yet! You gotta try it!"
"Bloo-MMMPH!" Before Frankie could fit in another word, the figment unceremoniously tried to shove the entire slice directly into her open mouth.
While her cheeks puffed out like airbags as they were filled to capacity, Mac meanwhile exclaimed in an astonished whisper, "So you've just been sitting here stuffing your face the entire time?"
"Pretty much." His creation answered calmly as pointed to the stacks of plates and half-eaten morsels strewn about. "Hey, you wanna try the lobster puffs?"
"No, I don't want to -" Mac tried to refuse snappily, and almost immediately his imaginary friend tried to cram at least four of the treats down his throat.
"See? Good, huh?" Bloo laughed. His friend however was currently unable to comment as he struggled to swallow the hors d'oeuvres all at once. After a few seconds though, with a massive gag Mac managed to cough up the lot.
"Oh, ewww!" Bloo recoiled with a squeal of disgust. "Yuck, didn't anyone teach you any manners? You don't just spit everything up like a-"
"Bleah!" Frankie, whose complexion was nearly violet at this point, spat out the mess of cheesecake onto the floor. While she took a few moments to gulp down a few gasps of air, the blob just rolled his eyes and tossed his arms up in the air in exasperation.
"Oh, now I see where he gets it from! You know, Frankie, sometimes you're not exactly the greatest role model for-HEY!"
After wiping her mouth, the redhead thrust out her arm, grabbed him roughly by the scruff of his neck, and dangled him in front of her with a snarl.
"You listen, and you listen good, got it?" she hissed. "I do not want to be at this rotten event, I do not want to be here with you at this rotten event, and most of all, I do not want to be at this rotten event choking on overpriced garbage because you shoved something down my gullet, kapeesh? You better march your little blue behind right back to the bus and leave Mac and me here to try and endure this last hour without worrying about you wandering around, or I will-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!" the thoroughly surprised little imaginary friend gestured for her to settle down. "Whoa! Hold on…you guys don't want to be here?"
"My face can't stand another assault from those creepy old ladies." Mac grumbled as he nursed his cheeks, which were still quite sore.
"Are you kidding me?" Frankie spat at the incredulous figment. "Of course not! If we could've, we would've headed for home hours ago, but the rabbit won't let us leave unless it's an emergency, and until that happens, we're stuck here-"
"…Really?" Bloo interrupted, wide-eyed in utter astonishment.
"Yes, Bloo!" she snapped impatiently. "We don't like it here, and we don't want you making things worse by-"
"Ohhhhhhhhh! Oh, now I get it!" Bloo announced with a triumphant smirk. "No wonder you guys didn't look like you were having a good time! Now I get it!"
"Finally!" she groaned. "Now, either you get out of here and-"
"Don't worry guys, I'm on it!" he whooped with a sly wink.
"You better be!" Frankie grumbled as she released her hold on him. "Now, get going outside, and wait there until the event's over, all right?"
"Gotcha!" Bloo affirmed with a thumbs-up and fat smile. With that, lifted the tablecloth that provided their cover, glanced about furtively, then when he decided the coast was clear he rolled out of sight.
"Hey!" Mac cried worriedly as he tried to follow. "Wait, Bloo-"
"Mac, shh!" Frankie hushed as she nabbed hold of him and slapped a hand over his mouth. After waiting a few seconds to see if they had attracted any attention, she whispered reassuringly, "Don't worry; if he got in here unnoticed, then he shouldn't have a problem getting back out. Now, we just have to get back out there."
Mac responded with a wordless nod, deciding he could trust her on this one. She then promptly released her hold, and the two quickly followed Bloo's example and peeked outside cautiously, waiting for just the right moment. Unfortunately, that moment came far too later than either would've liked, and, only after an obscene amount of time, the moment finally came where it appeared that no one was looking at where they were.
"Okay, let's go!" Mac whispered urgently. Like two finely dressed commandoes, they rolled out into the open and were up on their feet as soon as possible, neither one stopping for a moment as they headed back into the crowd.
As she made sure to keep her charge close, Frankie heaved a weary sigh and begged the child, "Please tell me that didn't just happen."
"To be honest…I'm really not that surprised he pulled it off." Mac replied truthfully. "Actually, I'm just amazed he was able to lay low for so long."
"Well, I guess that's one thing that's going for us tonight." She granted as they wormed their way around the crowds. "C'mon, maybe we can find a nice place to sit and wait out the-"
She was interrupted in mid-sentence by a chorus of startled screams erupting from the far end of the ballroom. Quickly, she craned her neck towards all the commotion, took one glance, and promptly went as pallid as a corpse with dismay. "Oh no…"
As she finally realized far too late, she had made the error of believing that she and Bloo had been on the same wavelength earlier when she ordered him to leave. Apparently though, her warning that he was not to cause any mischief had been his green light to help his family and save them from the unpleasant time they were having. At least, that was what Frankie assumed the second she saw the dozen or so horses trot in, after someone had apparently freed them from the country club stables.
"What? What is it?" Mac cried as he leapt up and down to try and get a good look at all the chaos. "What happened? What's everyone yelling about? What's-AUGH!"
He finally got a glance at the herd and immediately hid behind Frankie. Meanwhile, the horses, looking as positively confused as could be, ambled about the room willy-nilly, either searching for some corner where the screams of terror wouldn't frighten them, or sampling the delicious spread. Meanwhile, the gala-goers bellowed and screeched as they tried to get out of their way and dashed towards the doors in a mass exodus.
As everything seemed to collapse into total pandemonium all around her, Frankie just gazed stupefied at the sheer madness for a few moments before murmuring softly to the spooked child hugging her legs, "Um…something tells me the party's over…"
"Oh, thank goodness!" Mr. Herriman exclaimed with immense relief as he hopped through the parking lot over to the Foster's bus, where he found a familiar redhead and her charge waiting patiently.
"Miss Frances! Master Mac!" he gasped, heaving for breath after his mad dash from the mayhem. "Are you two all right?"
"Uh…yeah, we're fine." Frankie answered calmly as the badly shaken imaginary rabbit shook his head in utter disbelief.
"My word! Who on earth was the fool who didn't get locks strong enough to keep those beasts in place? I mean really, how can you run an establishment like this when you can't even keep your animals locked up? That was utter insanity, Miss Frances! Pure, unadulterated turmoil! That was no way to end such a pleasant night! No way! Oooh, I do hope they find the wretched rapscallion responsible for this havoc, I really…"
Hopelessly caught up in the injustice of it all, he slipped into a furious rant as he hopped onto the bus, grumbling angrily to himself all the while. With heavy sighs, the others were about to follow when a low whisper grabbed their attention.
"Psst! Hey! Hey, guys! Psst!"
The two glanced down just in time to see a blobbish appendage poke out from beneath the bus, flash them a thumbs-up, then withdraw from sight. As they could hear a certain imaginary blob burst out into a jubilant fit of the giggles, the young woman and little boy just gazed wordlessly at each other for a few moments, as if silently begging each other for some answers to help make sense of what had just happened.
"So…do we punish him when we get back home…or thank him?" Mac whimpered. Frankie patted his head, grimaced, and just shrugged before they boarded the bus.
"I don't know, but until we figure that out…please help me make sure I don't run into any speed bumps on the way back…."