Midnight Wishes ~ Chapter 4
Gordon was in love. That was it, sweet and simple. It was absolutely hypnotizing, to watch that angel glide about the room. The way she walked, talked, looked. . . Gordon wished he knew how Alana thought, as well. That had to be equally beautiful. Oh, to follow her around all day! Well, he had done that a few times, actually. But that had been an assignment. If he wasn't under specific rules, maybe he would have the chance to talk to her! And what if she confessed her love for him? (He didn't bother to consider the chance that Alana did not have any sort of romantic feelings for him.)
Instead, Gordon followed Alana Flores around like a helpless puppy dog, and in vain, she tried to lose him. She experimented with various methods: ignoring him, glaring at him, talking with others. She even tried to ask Ian to dance. Of course, Ian had refused, and although she had explained to him her dilemma with Gordon, there had been no convincing him. Nothing worked!
With luck, this night would be over sooner rather than later.
The ten minutes passed quickly, and Amy felt the dread building in her stomach. Why did such a simple thing have to drive her to such anxiety? Dan already had a resolution, and no doubt everyone else did, too. But what was there left of her life other than the 39 Clues? In all honestly, the only reason she was here was because–
Her thoughts were cut off by Mr. McIntyre's voice. "I hope the time I gave you has been ample. Now, if the person who has number one would come up?" The room quieted as Mr. McIntyre scanned the room. Lilya strode forward and mounted the stage elegantly, flashing a winning smile to the Cahills gathered.
She was glad to be first, for she could get this over with all the sooner. Although, really, she didn't see much of a point to it. But what was the harm? So, Lilya had considered carefully, determining what the best thing was to say to the others. She couldn't just say anything. After all, she was the first one! Besides, she didn't want to seem childish.
Lilya observed the small crowd for a few seconds. Her parents were no longer down there. They had simply come to say hello to a few relatives, make their presence known, be polite, and then off they were to who-knows-where. Lilya, however, stayed there. She hoped the party would get better as the night wore on.
"My resolution," she said into the microphone, "is to see more of the world in this upcoming year." She gave another smile, and the Cahills clapped respectfully. It was possible that they would guess why she wanted to travel so much, but at least she hadn't mentioned the 39 Clues, as the Lawyer had forbidden before.
Mr. McIntyre called for number two, and Ivan Kliester stepped up. "I want to win," he stated.
There was silence for a moment. Then somebody, who Amy suspected was Dan, called, "Win what?"
He shrugged. "Everything." After a few moments, the polite applause came again, and he walked off the stage feeling proud of himself. xD He just hoped that the Holts didn't mess this up.
Next came Yasmeen Badawi. She told everyone that she wanted to win the Ekaterina award again that year. After that came Charlie Wallace, Paul Addison, Lan Ngyuen, Ophir Dhupam, and Mateo Sanchez. Amy didn't particularly pay very much attention to them. They were pretty standard, and Amy didn't know them very well. Her mind had soon wandered, until Dan prodded her.
"Hey, did you doze off already?" Amy glared at him, but didn't say anything. She looked up to the stage, where a girl who looked like a cheerleader at prom had just gotten on stage.
"Who's that?" she whispered. Dan shrugged.
"That is Chrissy Collins," a voice said.
Amy turned her head. It was Ian. She turned back around quickly and focused on the girl, who seemed to be hopping up and down with excitement. Maybe she was a cheerleader.
Chrissy Collins was indeed excited. Wicked excited, in her words. What a wonderful idea! New Year's resolutions. How creative, too. And what a way to bring the family together! Usually, Cahills were so. . . What was the word? Maybe. . . stuck-up? Yes, they were usually very stuck-up, and didn't care about anyone but their branches and ultimate power.
All right, so sometimes, she was a bit like that too. But it came out more through her regular teenage cheerleader girl life. And it wasn't like anyone resented her for it. If anything, they probably respected her because of her awesome leadership skills. Who wouldn't, really?
"I hope to cheer all my high school sport teams to victory! Woo! Go team!" She grinned, and hopped off of the stage.
Definitely a cheerleader, Amy thought.
Then Sinead Starling walked up. Here was someone Amy knew. She looked confident, and like most that had come onto the stage before, she flashed a friendly smile before she spoke. "I would like to catch up to everything I missed while I was in the hospital," she said sweetly.
Amy gave a small applause along with everyone else and then inwardly groaned as Jonah Wizard came up next.
"I'm number eleven, yo!" he grinned. "A'ight, let's get this party stahted!" He gave a small chuckle, but no one seemed to laugh with him. He kept up his act of confidence and friendliness, but inside thought: Tough crowd. . .
"Well," he continued, "I got a resolution for the next year! It's gonna' be a blast! Blow ya' minds. Can't wait. Any-who, I'ma gonna' try to get my next album triple platinum. Peace! Wizard, out!" He walked off the stage confidently, and the applause followed. Amy almost chuckled as she wondered if they were just clapping because he was leaving the stage, along with his typical gangster talk.
The next one to go up, though, really made Amy shudder. It was Bae Oh. Amy didn't have very many fond memories of him. Come to think of it, she didn't have any fond memories of him. Not even close. She was glad that Mr. McIntyre had made sure that no one could harm another here. She didn't know how he had convinced everyone, but it provided her with a very good sense of relief.
Amy suddenly realized that she had missed Bae's resolution while she had been thinking. She had only become aware of her surroundings again by the clapping. She hurriedly added a few claps of her own, and then waited for the next person to come up.
A few impatient whispers were exchanged. Someone began tapping their foot. Everyone had been going up for a while without needing Mr. McIntyre to call them forward, so it was a little strange for there to be a sudden lull.
Mr. McIntyre came to the microphone. "Could number thirteen please come up? Does anyone have number thirteen?"
No one answered. No one came onto the stage. No one suddenly said, "Oh, that's me! Sorry for the wait, everyone!"
Amy looked around curiously, wondering what had happened to number thirteen. No one had left the room, had they? An strange, unpleasant feeling of dread settled in her stomach. This didn't make sense. Hadn't everyone drawn a number? Was someone just playing a joke? It would be just like Dan, but he had number thirty, she remembered.
"Oh no," Reagan suddenly spoke. Her eyes were wide, and her face seemed to pale slightly. "Guys, don't you get it?" Everyone stared at her. "It's number thirteen! And no one is going up. Number thirteen. It's an unlucky number!"
Whispers started to fill the room, and Dan nudged Amy. "Whoa, this is so cool! It's like a ghost story! Where's the blood?"
The volume of the crowd increased, and a few Cahills seemed to be hyperventilating.
"Everyone, please, calm down!" Mr. McIntyre pleaded. He looked around, worried. "Didn't everyone take a number? No one has left the room, have they?" Everyone shrugged or shook their heads, or even voiced their answers with a "no", "nope", or "no, mah peeps!" Mr. McIntyre hurried down from the stage, and again, the voices arose, louder than before. Amy saw the old lawyer make his way through the crowd, and realized that he was heading towards her. But then he grabbed Dan by the shoulder, who had been standing beside her.
"Occupy them!" he hissed in his ear.
Dan raised an eyebrow. ". . . Occupy?" he asked, clearly mystified.
Mr. McIntyre nodded. "Yes! Distract them. I need to sort this out. I must find that servant who passed around the numbers."
Dan grinned. "I can do that." Mr. McIntyre thanked him, and then exited the room as quickly as he could without running. Dan, meanwhile, mounted the stage. The Cahills quieted down somewhat when they saw him, and those who had noticed him looked up at him expectantly, and in the case of some, with confusion.
"Hey, everyone!" Dan called. "What's up? Anyways. . ." He looked around the room, trying to think of what he could do. Then he did the first thing that came to his mind. "Dorothy the dinosaur. . . Who's that knocking on your front door?" he sang.
Amy groaned and wished that she could disappear. Her brother was singing a song by a group that entertained toddlers who were called the Wiggles. She didn't even realize that he would remember watching that show when he was little! But of course, her brother just had to be a dweeb and do the most embarrassing thing he could think of. He continued to sing it, sometimes pausing a bit, improving a line if he forgot it.
"Is it. . . Henry? The purple ooooctupus? Is it. . . um. . . Amy? My dweeeeeeeby sister?"
Amy groaned again and put a hand to her eyes. What insanity had driven Mr. McIntyre to ask him for help? "Kill me now," she muttered.
"Only if you return the favor," someone sighed behind her. Amy turned, and again, it was Ian. He had been looking at Dan with a trace of despair and disgust on his features. He shifted his gaze to Amy, and gave her a small smile of pity. "It can't be easy to live with him."
Amy wasn't sure if she should glare or agree. "Well, sometimes, it isn't. But it can't be easy to live with your family, either."
Ian raised an eyebrow. "Not always." He looked arrogantly around at all the Cahills who were regarding Dan with mixed reactions. Some were laughing; some were staring at him strangely, or just ignored him and talked amongst themselves, still rather confused about the missing number thirteen. Reagan still looked as if she were hyperventilating. He switched his gaze back to Amy when she spoke.
"I'm tempted to go and hide," she whispered. "Did you see how they all stared at me when he sang that?"
Ian nodded. "Normally, I might think it hilarious, but then he sang about me, too."
"Is it Ian? Tha-at twooooo-faced jerk?"
"Well, it was true," Amy muttered.
Ian narrowed his eyes. "How so?" he challenged.
Amy flushed slightly, almost feeling embarrassed. "W-well. . . I-it isn't that hard t-to figure out. I mean. . . Are you even aware of some of th-the things you've done? Or d-do you always tend to d-defend yourself on m-matters like these?"
He stared at her for a moment, and then sighed. "Look, I've told you before, I deserve harsh words."
"You just barely countered me, th-though."
"I simply asked why you thought I was a jerk," Ian protested.
"Y-you're a smart boy. You can figure it out," Amy told him sarcastically, trying to keep her voice from quivering.
Ian bristled. "No need to act so harsh."
Amy glared. "Why so contradictory today?" she challenged.
"You seemed perfectly fine with my company not two hours ago while we were dancing!"
Amy didn't have an answer for that, and glanced away. "W-well. . ." She looked back up at him. He was smirking with triumph. "That was. . . I . . ."
"Exactly," Ian sneered. "You have no reason to lash out at me."
"Of course I do!" Amy froze as people turned to stare at her. Had her exclamation really been that loud?
Dan paused for a moment in his singing, and then said, "Remember, don't eat chickens. They're nice! Except for when they're not nice. . ."
Amy groaned. "Let's continue this conversation elsewhere."
"Is there some reason we can't continue it now?" Ian asked coldly.
"Now just might not be the best time," Amy replied between gritted teeth, "what with all these people here."
"Then let's leave."
Amy's eyes widened at Ian's suggestion. ". . . Wh-what? But we. . . We can't just-! M–m-mr. McIntyre i-is bound to come b-back any. . . any moment!"
"So? We can sneak out onto the balcony, and converse for however long we need to. No one will miss us."
She stared at him. "Are you insane?"
"Everyone will be distracted by Daniel's . . . performance."
"Dan," Amy automatically corrected.
". . . Right, Dan. Mr. McIntyre might need a little longer to clear this up, and even more to calm everyone down and restore this night back to order," Ian explained quickly. "And if we add just a little more chaos, we could easily be granted ten minutes. I am sure that that would be plenty of time."
Amy bit her lip, hesitant. It made sense, in a way. If Ian could pull off the chaos, like he promised, then it could be tempting. . .
To do what? Sneak out and talk with him? That sounded absolutely crazy! Sure, it might feel nice to vent a little bit and shout at him for being such a horrible person. But for all she knew, it would all come out in stutters, and he might just listen to her without expression. Then he would chuckle softly and say, "Oh, Amy, you are so foolish. Why don't we go back inside, then, and have some tea?"
. . . Alright, so maybe he wouldn't say that. But still, what would be the point? Would she even have the guts to do that in the first place? . . . On the other hand, what if he actually apologized for what he did? Yeah, like that would happen, Amy thought. But maybe she wasn't the only one who wanted to vent a bit. She had no way of knowing exactly why he wanted her to agree. There must have been something, though. She knew enough about him to realize that he wouldn't suggest this on a whim. He was a Lucian, after all, and they rarely did anything without constructing some sort of stable plan first, however hurried it may be. Not to say that it would do her any good, but how was it supposed to do her anything extremely bad at a New Year's Eve party?
"What sort of chaos?" Amy asked slowly.
Ian grinned. "Oh, just watch. . ."
Amy shifted a bit uncomfortably, but didn't object.
"Tomas are so ugly," he said, loud enough for any Tomas to hear, in an altered voice. "And stupid, and slow, and fat. . ."
"Who said that?" Eisenhower yelled at the same time as Ivan Kliester.
"Whoever it was," Cora muttered, "Truer words have never been spoken."
Amy's eyes widened. "What are you doing?" she hissed desperately at Ian.
"Creating chaos," he replied innocently, as if it were obvious.
Now her eyes were narrowed. "I should have known-" she began, but she was cut off when Ian pulled her back.
"Look out!" he warned. Eisenhower came barreling past them, knocking people everywhere as he tried to find who had insulted his family branch.
"I'LL KILL YOU!" he shouted. ". . . WHOEVER YOU ARE!"
Amy stared at him, terrified. But before she could do anything, Ian was pulling her away again. The Cahills were suddenly all over the ball room. Isabel and Ivan were screaming insults at each other. Sinead was berating Hamilton, who was flushed with anger. Jonah and his father had run for the cover of a table, while Gordon was running towards Alana with a crazed gleam in his eye, declaring, "I will save you, my love!" Eisenhower was ballistic, and those who tried to stop him in his rage were very brave indeed. Or perhaps just stupid.
"My DRESS!" Natalie shrieked as Ned- or was it Ted?- bumped into one of the refreshment tables that she herself was about to hide under, however degrading the floor was. As a result, a salsa stain had appeared that she knew would never come out. Not that she was going to be wearing her dress ever again, but she would have to carry the embarrassment for the rest of the night! So much for her stupid resolution that she had planned on. . .
Dan stood frozen on the stage, staring at the spectacle in wonder. ". . . Was it something I said?" he asked weakly.
The whole ballroom was a maze of people and food. It actually worked, Amy realized as Ian dragged her away. If the whole place doesn't end up blowing to pieces, it will take ages for McIntyre to stop all of the fighting and calm everyone down. And then he would probably have to arrange for them to relocate, or something. And then Reagan might still be freaking out over the missing number thirteen thing. . . It will take a little effort to find us, even.
Finally, Ian and Amy stumbled onto the balcony, and Ian quickly shut the door leading to it. Amy leaned back on the balcony rail, breathing a little heavily after the sudden rush.
"Well," she noted, "that was certainly ch-chaotic."
Ian turned to face her, straightening his tuxedo jacket. "I suppose that is supposed to be a compliment of sorts. Thank you."
Amy nodded weakly, and pushed away from the railing to stand up straighter. "Well, we're out h-here now."
"Yes, how observant of you," Ian commented sarcastically. "I suggest we continue our conversation before someone comes out here to look for us. I believe that you had said that you had reasons of your own to be angry with me."
"Of course I do!" Amy snapped, reminded of her fury. "You've been trying to kill me and Dan nonstop ever since Grace's funeral! Not to mention all of the times you've lied and tricked us."
"Not all of that was voluntary!" Ian protested. "Not nearly half of it."
"Oh really?" Amy asked sarcastically. "Well, that's what it felt like from my point of view. Almost too voluntary. . ."
"Of course it did." Ian rolled his eyes. "I was acting. Not a gift lost entirely to the Janus."
"Well, if you were acting," Amy mused, "then you could be acting at this very moment, couldn't you?"
"I could. But I am not."
"You don't have any proof!"
"Well, it certainly doesn't take much for you to buy it. You showed plenty of your gullibility in Asia."
Amy bristled. "Cut me some slack! I'd only been looking for clues for what, one week?"
"Amy, our family does not, has not, and will not ever cut anyone any amount of slack, no matter who they are or whatever circumstances they are under. Have you not learned that?"
"Of course I have," she hissed. "Thanks to you."
"You are welcome."
"I was being sarcastic!"
"You needed the lesson anyways," Ian waved a hand indifferently. "Otherwise, you and Dan would cry over every little thing that happened to you."
"So everything you did in Korea was just to teach me a lesson?" Amy stared at Ian, her eyes hardened. How could he just stand there and say things like that? She shouldn't have expected any better. Not that she had. But he didn't even care! He didn't even think! He just said anything he pleased, and he didn't care if it hurt you or not. Either that or he said everything precisely so that it would hurt you the most.
"No!" Ian protested. "Korea. . . That was different."
"Oh, I'm sure it was. You'd probably never been so disgusted with someone in your life." Amy turned away from Ian and leaned against the balcony. She knew that the tears were beginning to accumulate, and she didn't want them to spill over. There was a better chance of keeping them at bay if she didn't have to look at him.
"Well, let's face it. That dog took out a pretty large portion of my pants." Ian gave a small grin, but it soon fell when Amy didn't react at his attempt to lighten the mood. He sighed and came to stand beside her. She jumped away, and turned her head so she still wouldn't have to face him.
Ian looked down, trying to think of what to say. She was making this difficult. But what had he expected? That he could really just apologize to her and that everything would be alright? This wasn't some fantasy or fairytale. Even if she did forgive him for everything–or even some of the things that he had done, it wouldn't make it better. She would still be hesitant to have anything to do with him.
But then again. . . Who said he did want anything to do with her? She was everything he had been taught to stay away from. She was common. She was horribly shy, and the clue hunt had hardly done much to help her in public. It would be hilarious to watch her give try to give her resolution, Ian thought. Aside from her bringing up and personality, she wasn't very attractive, to say the least. Her face was tolerable, he supposed, but her acne did at times seem to be a bit out of control. And her right eye was smaller than her left. Ian suppressed a groan, realizing that he wouldn't be able to look at her now without staring at her eye and wishing that it would somehow grow just a little bigger to be symmetrical.
He shouldn't want anything to do with her.
And yet he did. Even with her flaws, her personality did strike some curiosity every now and then. Fascinating at times, even, and as entertaining as a clever farce on the tellie. Of course, his family would kill him for having a soft spot for her. Or they would try to take this to their advantage, to pull ahead in the hunt for the clues. But that would break her heart even more. Using her over and over again; lying, stealing, cheating. The process would continue until she finally stopped trusting him altogether (if she hadn't already), or until he could stop obeying his parents without the threat of them trying (and most likely succeeding) to kill or disown him if he didn't obey.
Amy finally broke the silence. "I. . . I don't want you to lie to me, Ian."
Ian looked up. "I haven't lied to you once this whole evening."
"How do I know that isn't a lie?"
He sighed. "Well, if you want to be difficult..."
Amy turned to face him, frowning. "Fine, I'll try to be agreeable. So for the moment, I'll consider that everything you've said has been true. Th-that still doesn't prove much."
"You have a point," Ian conceded.
After another few moments of silence, Amy spoke again, softly. "Ian, why did you really bring me out here?"
Ian rubbed his lips together, considering his answer. "Well, I did want to know why you thought I was a jerk."
"I told you, it's not that hard to figure out!"
"Well, yes, but as I then pointed out–"
"I was trying to be polite," Amy hissed.
"You could have mentioned that earlier. Or did you just think of that excuse a few seconds ago?"
Amy flushed. "I. . . No. . ."
"Now who is the liar?"
"Hey!" Ian protested. "Please. Tell me the real reason why you weren't glaring daggers at me throughout that whole dance."
Amy paused. She thought back, trying to remember her specific thoughts and feelings from that moment. "Well. . . M-maybe because I was a little distracted."
"I was right in front of you."
"Yes, but I was. . . sort of–" before Amy could get another word out, however, the doors to the balcony swung open.
"There you are! Come on, we're ready t–!" Dan cut himself off. "What are you two doing out here? Alone?" he asked slowly, looking back and forth between Ian and Amy, who were standing next to each other. Amy jumped away, blushing, despite the fact that she and Ian hadn't been standing very close to each other anyways. Why did Dan have to find them? Of course he would assume something. Just about anybody would. And then he would probably make fun of her for weeks, and pester her with stupid questions.
Ian just gave a small smile. "She was simply telling me that I was a jerk. Let us go back inside. We shouldn't keep anyone waiting, should we?"
. . . Then again, it could have been worse.
"Please settle down," Mr. McIntyre said to the small crowd. They were now in the second ballroom of the Kabras Mansion, and although it was smaller, it was still remarkably spacious. Servants were quietly setting up the tables and some new refreshments near the back of the room. "The reason there was no number thirteen was because Ned and Ted decided to share a number, which left one other, which just so happened to be thirteen. It was completely coincidental."
Most of the Cahills then turned to glare at the two auburn haired boys, who were grinning sheepishly, and contently fist bumping each other.
"However, in my absence, you somehow managed to get into a fight," Mr. McIntyre continued, his tone growing annoyed. "Those participators have been punished accordingly." No one turned to stare at Eisenhower this time, except for Amy, who couldn't help trying to sneak a peek. But then Mr. McIntyre called up number fourteen, who was actually both Ned and Ted Starling, so Amy turned her attention back to them. She tried to suppress a grin, and she wanted to laugh at how ironic the situation was, them getting called up right after they had been blamed for the incident.
"Sorry for the little . . . inconvenience," one of them said. No one except Sinead, and their parents, who weren't there anyways, could tell them apart, so no one really knew who was speaking.
The other one didn't say anything, but nodded.
"You see, Ned is a little hard of hearing, ever since a little mishap we got caught in," Ted explained, "so I just signed to him that we could share a number. Anyways, we decided that once Ned gets his hearing back, we're going to switch places for a day and try to fool as many people as we can." He grinned. "But we're not telling you which day! That would ruin the surprise."
Amy saw Sinead roll her eyes, but she clapped politely with everyone else. She also noticed a small smile on Sinead's face. Maybe she didn't always find Ned and Ted's antics as annoying as she let everyone think.
The next one up was Cora Wizard, Jonah's mother, and the head of the Janus branch. When she got up to the microphone, she flashed a brilliant smile, which Amy suspected she had practiced in front of a mirror before.
"Hello, fellow Cahills," she said, almost as if she were singing a song. "I am pleased to be up here and share my resolution for the upcoming year with you. I am sure it will be wonderful, and my goal is to have the most successful one I can manage." She gave another seemingly fake smile, which most of the Cahills were doing, and then gracefully stepped off the stage.
Number sixteen was Gordon Klose.
"I want to get married," he announced breathlessly. He, of course, was thinking of Alana, who cringed, knowing that he was thinking of her. She didn't clap politely. She hadn't clapped the whole night, but after this particular resolution, she glared at Gordon. He mistook it for a loving gaze again.
Victor Wood mounted the stage, trying to ignore the awkwardness in the air after Gordon had stated his goal. He cleared his throat and said, "I would like to continue to make scientific discoveries this year." Polite applause rose again, and then Alana came to the stage.
It was rather terrifying, for Alana was fuming. Her eyes were bottomless pits of hate, and narrowed into a hard glare. Her lips were pursed, and she breathed deeply through her nose a few times to keep herself from screaming cuss words at everyone, specifically Gordon, who silently concluded that he had never seen her look more lovely. Had Alana heard this particular thought, she might have really screamed. It was hopeless.
"I intend to kill someone," she seethed. Everyone but Gordon knew who she was talking about. Hands clenched in fists, Alana left the stage while Alistair Oh took his place in front of the microphone.
He glanced around the ballroom, looking slightly nervous. He tugged at one of the cuffs on his sleeve, and cleared his throat. "My goal is to live another year," he said shakily, glancing at his uncle, who was in turn glaring daggers at him. He quickly left the stage, and another Cahill replaced him.
Eisenhower stood there, not saying anything. His beefy face looked slightly pale, for once, instead of its usual angry red. It took Amy a moment, but she finally realized– He was scared. Well, maybe not scared exactly, but nervous, at the very least. As the silence continued, people started getting confused. They shifted on their feet, whispered to their neighbors, or peered anxiously at him.
"Uh. . ." Eisenhower blinked. "Um. . . My resolution. . . is. . ." He trailed off, sounding very uncertain of himself. And then Amy realized why he was so nervous. He hadn't been able to think of a resolution, either. After coming to this conclusion, she felt a bit of pity for him. It was odd, feeling pity for a Holt, especially after he'd tried to kill her so many times as well. But she reminded herself that she hadn't thought of a resolution yet, either. She was in no position to mock him and become a hypocrite.
"The idiot doesn't have a resolution," Amy heard someone say. And, of course, it was Ian she heard again. She rounded on him, glaring.
"Just because he hasn't thought of one doesn't give you the right to insult him!" she hissed. "Imagine if you were up there, without the slightest idea of what to say. Can't you imagine how nerve-racking that would be?"
"Oh, have a soft spot for a Holt, now, don't you Amy?" Ian chuckled. Instantly, he regretted criticizing her. Amy's face fell, before hardening once more. Giving him another glare, she turned back around. He knew she must be thinking that he most definitely was a jerk, and that he really never would change.
And that was exactly what she was thinking.
Finally, however, Eisenhower spoke again in triumph: "I'm going to make my branch proud of me!" Ivan Kliester put a hand over his eyes and sighed dejectedly. He had been afraid of something just as ridiculous as that. But he was more afraid of the Lucian's branch leader then the bumbling Holt, who walked onto the stage after Eisenhower had left it.
Vikram Kabra was an intimidating man. Although neither Amy nor Dan had met him before, they'd never really wanted to after their various encounters with the rest of his family. He was probably worse than all of them, though it was hard to imagine someone more cold-hearted than Isabel. Amy secretly hoped that he was somehow the nicest of the Kabras, but she didn't think her hopes would do much good. But she reasoned that he couldn't do much harm to her or Dan by just making a New Year's resolution. So she tried to calm her fears and stop her knees from knocking together underneath her dress. It didn't really help that Ian was probably smirking at her quivering figure behind her back. She groaned inwardly when she realized that it would just get worse when Isabel went up.
As Vikram gazed over the crowd, he seemed to be looking for someone– But the expression left nearly as quickly as it came, and his eyes stopped sweeping the crowd. "I intend to lead my branch to victory in all things," he said without much emotion. It was similar to Ivan Kliester's resolution, but nobody dared to object.
Amy shivered as he left the stage. It felt as if he were staring straight at her, daring her to do or say anything against him. She took a deep steadying breath, and watched him cautiously until he was back in his place, and Madison Holt stepped up. (Although most of the Cahills weren't sure if it was really her or her twin sister instead, Reagan.)
"I want to find all of the 39 Clues!" she declared.
"Reagan–" Mr. McIntyre began, stepping forward from his spot next to the stage.
"I'm MADISON!" She shouted with a stomp of her foot.
"Oh, yes, my apologies," he amended hastily. "However, I asked before that none of you mention the 39 Clues in your resolution. Please state a different one." Although Madison glared at him, she knew not to mess with the Lawyer. His tone was cordial, yet there was something in it that she didn't like.
"Fine," she mumbled. "Um. . . I want to break a world record," she shrugged. She walked off with a scowl. Mr. McIntyre just stepped back and didn't comment again. He nodded to her as Madison passed him, but she just huffed and went back to where she was standing before.
There was now another Cahill on the stage, a man that Amy didn't recognize. His name was Leslie D. Mill. He was a famous director, and yes, he was Janus. A very close friend of Cora Wizard, he had produced a movie starring her son, Jonah.
"I want to release as many movies as I can this year!" he said with a gleam in his eye, using hand gestures to add to the effect of his resolution. From this, Amy understood who he must be.
After Mill came Mary-Todd. "I want to perfect my Body Builder Brownie Bites recipe!" she said cheerfully. Polite applause followed a little late, as most of the Cahills were wondering just what her recipe was. . . Then most decided that they didn't want to know.
It was Natalie's turn. She started walking towards the small stage, making sure to keep her back straight and her head high. "Take even steps," she told herself silently. "Remember, you are far better than the commoners gathered here." It was slightly difficult to obey herself, though. Her heels were practically stilts, and while the shoes were absolutely gorgeous, she felt that she was beginning to gain a few blisters. Her dress was the most expensive one she had ever worn in her life, and that was really saying something. However, as delicate as it was, the fabric was tight against her skin, and it had taken all of her willpower this whole night not to let anyone see how hard it felt to breath.
Not to mention the fact that it now had a large and embarrassing salsa stain on it.
Natalie finally made it to the steps of the stage, but when she did, a hand clasped around her arm. She turned her head to see that her mother was glaring down at her.
"Do not dare to say anything that would embarrass your father or me," she hissed into her ear. "Do not say anything petty, anything common, or anything stupid. You are a Kabra, and you cannot afford to look weak in front of the competition." Isabel then let go of her daughter, and allowed her to walk again.
Taking as deep a breath as she could, Natalie walked onto the stage in a bit of a daze. Had her mother really just called her weak? Stupid? Embarrassing? What had Isabel thought that she was going to say, to buy the world? Now that was ridiculous...
Was that the way that her mother saw her?
Stepping up to the microphone, Natalie surveyed the Cahills. They were looking up at her expectantly, some with indifference, others with contempt, while still more with hatred or fear. She had to say something. And most importantly, she could not disappoint Isabel.
"I," she began, but hesitated. There were her mother and father, standing together, watching her carefully. They could probably see through right her confident disguise, and knew that she was feeling uneasy. Vikram and Isabel thought that she was weak.
She would show them.
"I will do what I can to improve the Lucian branch, and ultimately, add to the legacy of my family." Natalie spoke smoothly and proudly while keeping an eye on her parents. She hoped that her façade of certainty was still strong on the outside. On the inside, however, she could feel her stomach churning. As Natalie walked off the stage, she prepared for Isabel to hiss into her ear again. When she didn't, it was a relief.
That must have been a good thing to say, then, Natalie thought. She barely paid attention to any other resolutions for the rest of the night.
Hamilton looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. It was crumpled, sweaty, and there was a number twenty-six on it. He had been keeping track of the numbers in his head as the Cahills went on and off the stage to give their resolutions. Natalie had been the twenty-fifth person that he had counted.
He mounted the stage and stepped up to the microphone. He had been wondering what he should say during the ten minutes they had all been given. He could just say something stupid. Nobody would have expected better. He could come up with something smart or significant, and everyone would be shocked that a Tomas—and a Holt, no less—had said that. It would be funny to see their faces full of surprise. Hamilton had made up his mind about what he wanted to do soon enough, though, and he didn't like the feeling of everyone looking at him like they were. He just wanted to get it over and done with, and so he said, "I want to be a good person."
After Hamilton had hurried off the stage, ignoring the whispers that followed his resolution, Ian came up the steps. His and Amy's conversation was still fresh in her mind as she watched him. He looked calm and composed, as always, however. Amy wondered how much of Ian's actions were really just a mask. Ian was capable of surprising her, she knew, just as Hamilton had surprised everyone else just a moment ago. Although it was hard to believe that he could be sorry for anything he did, Amy felt anxious to hear what he would say. Like Hamilton, would he just want to become a better person? Then again, his definition of 'better' could just mean making more money and always having a mirror around to admire himself. As silly as it seemed, Amy wouldn't put it past him.
Ian let his gaze travel around the room, taking pleasure when various Cahills seemed to shrink away or look down. His parents were nearly glaring at him, warning that if he made a mistake, he could never live it down. It was ridiculous, he thought, the way they had worked themselves up over this. Naturally, he could understand them not wanting him to seem weak in front of the competition. But it wasn't as if anyone here was actually taking this seriously. Not even the Tomas could be so stupid.
Although Amy did seem just as perplexed by this, he thought as his eyes found her pale face. She was obviously frightened. Her ensemble did nothing to improve her. Again, the thought of how she was considerably less attractive then the majority of the world. Usually. He did give her credit for making a valiant effort tonight, though. The way she was glaring up at him didn't make him any more inclined to call her "pretty", however. With that thought, he was inspired to change what he was going to say at the last second.
"My resolution for the coming New Year is to gain the trust of one once lost," Ian said with what could have been a smile.
Isabel's high heels clicked on the polished marble floor, and she hissed to her son as she passed him to mount the stage. "What was that?" She couldn't tell if he had meant it to help him gain the clues or for his own petty preferences. Ian merely shrugged and went back to where he had been standing before, and didn't turn to look at her until he had reached his destination and stared up at her coolly, expectantly.
Amy felt as confused about Ian's resolution as Isabel. She turned her head to give Ian a puzzled look, but he didn't seem to notice. She turned back to listen to Isabel and felt Dan clutch at her hand tightly. Squeezing it back in what she hoped was a reassuring way, Amy took a deep breath. Up on the stage was the woman who had killed her parents. That was the monster who had tried to kill her and her brother relentlessly, and no doubt would continue to until she was behind bars. Even then, she wouldn't give up on finding a way out and get revenge. She was driven by power and power alone, and Amy and Dan didn't have to take any wild guesses as to what she would say.
"Good evening, my fellow Cahills," Isabel began.
"Faking," Dan breathed to his sister, referring to Isabel's polite tone. Amy only nodded.
Isabel directed her gaze towards Dan, as if she had heard his comment, but her voice betrayed no hostility. "My husband and I are very pleased to offer our home as a place of celebration. It is such an honor to welcome so many respected family members. Many accomplishments that have occurred in the world are because of us and our ancestors. We have such a grand legacy!" Isabel paused. "And hardly anyone outside of our family even realizes that." Her cold gaze swept around the room, and the room was silent.
Why won't she just say her resolution already? Amy wondered. She knew that Dan was thinking the same thing, however more annoyed it may sound in his head. He also probably wanted Mr. McIntyre to kick her off the stage, and Amy would be lying if she said that she didn't want that very same thing.
"For generation upon generation, we have improved humanity and propelled our race to greatness!" Isabel's arms were now spread wide, and her eyes held a fiery light, such that she didn't look quite human anymore. Amy shuddered. All of this at a stupid New Year's Eve party?
"And now," Isabel said triumphantly, "now, I shall finish my family's legacy, once and for all." As Isabel lowered her hands to her side again and the light in her eyes died, she flashed teeth of the most brilliant shade of white in a smile. "Happy New Year!" She strode off the stage confidently, leaving most of the Cahills confused by her speech.
"Wait, why'd she give a huge rant?" Dan whispered to Amy.
Ignoring his question, she asked, "What did she mean by putting so much emphasis on 'my'?"
Dan shrugged. "I don't know. But that was pretty scary. . ."
"Weird," Amy nodded in agreement.
The others in the room had gradually recovered from Isabel's speech as well, and had begun to whisper to each other as Amy and Dan had. They were clearly stunned by her words, and it took Reagan a while to realize that she was next. She nearly tripped as she hurried onto the stage to take her place in front of the microphone. She smoothed out her skirt awkwardly and tugged at her shirt.
"Hi," she said. Then, continuing in a rush, "My New Year's resolution is- is to be more open with my family." Polite applause came, but when she returned to where her family was standing, Amy could make out Eisenhower barraging her with question after question. "What did you mean by that? Are you hiding things from us?"
"She was number twenty-nine," Dan muttered. "I'm up!" He ran up to the microphone and grinned.
"Oh, no," Amy sighed dejectedly.
"I'M GOING TO BE A NINJA LORD, EVERYBODY!" He yelled. "WOO!" Everyone covered their ears as the sound system went out of sync. Dan leaned away from it, and when the sound died down, he tapped it cautiously. When nothing out of the ordinary happened, he shrugged and hopped off the stage.
"Your turn," he told Amy.
Looking out over the audience was terrifying. There were so many faces and expectations, and the worst thing was that almost every single one hated her.
Amy tried to take a deep breath, but she still felt lightheaded. She could feel her body shaking, and her stomach seemed determined to create the largest knot that it could. Her mouth was open, meant to say something, but nothing came out. She couldn't do anything, and she hated herself for it.
Then again, it was quite the accomplishment to have actually gotten on the stage in the first place. It had taken a few pushes and prods from Dan, but eventually her feet started to move. Now here she was, without a resolution. She was the last one to say anything. Everyone was going to remember what she said. Yes, something like this wasn't supposed to matter. Not everyone would follow their goals, and it would be easy enough to say something general and just move on with it. There wouldn't be anything to condemn her with, and no more reason to think she was weaker than everyone already thought she was.
But that wasn't what she wanted.
I think I understand what Mr. McIntyre was trying to do when he brought us here, Amy realized. The Cahill family was one long tragedy of a broken family. One night had changed the world, and misunderstandings had led the original Cahill siblings to blame each other for it. Amy thought of all the times that innocent people had died because her family was so power hungry. Her family. So much bad had happened, and the good hadn't been enough to outshine it. Gathering so many here in one night had been a miracle. Yes, the chaos that Ian had only enhanced had been a bit of a draw-back, but no one died!
Tonight they were celebrating the beginning of a new year. Here was a chance for a change, an improvement. For some in the room, there was only way to go. How could she not want to become better herself?
Amy's rapid train of thought was interrupted by the chiming of the clock.
"It's almost midnight!" someone cried. "It's almost the New Year!"
All attention was quickly diverted from Amy, standing small and terrified in front of the microphone.
Dong, dong, dong.
Had time really passed so fast that night?
Dong, dong, dong.
Everyone was staring at the clock, waiting for the final ring to announce the New Year.
Dong, dong, dong.
Amy made up her mind.
Dong, dong. . .
"I wish I could make Grace proud," she whispered.
Mr. McIntyre shook Vikram's hand. "Again, I must thank you for your hospitality," he said.
Vikram nodded respectfully. "It was an honor, William."
The two men parted, and the large entrance doors to the Kabra Mansion were closed behind the old Lawyer's back. He stared thoughtfully at the gently falling snow. Despite how well he knew the Cahill nature, he had been surprised that night. Not only had no one died, but some of the resolutions had been genuine. Some longed for peace, and some hated the hostility between the branches. Some wanted to change.
Giving a grim smile, Mr. McIntyre carefully walked down the icy steps leading to the vast driveway below, where a limo awaited him.
It was a step forward. And that was all that mattered.
I have been writing this story for so long- over a year. I must thank LOP for asking me to write it in the first place. I went completely over the top, and had so much fun along the way.
But I must apologize for taking so dreadfully long to write the last chapter. Most of you probably understand that for quite a while I actually wasn't able to access this story because of computer problems, but other than that, it was just procrastination. Heh. My most sincere apologies. I've kept you all waiting long enough.
You have no idea how much time I have spent agonizing over this story, though. It's ridiculous, but true. I wanted it to be absolutely fantastic, and while I've been writing this story, my style and knowledge of writing has evolved so much. I really hope you didn't mind the length, but... personally, I love it.
Other than my petty excuses... Oh, yes, a round of thanks is in order. First, I must thank .Pie. (LOP) again, for asking me to write this story in the first place. :) It's been so enjoyable, and I hope you've enjoyed it as well.
The Irish Nymph (also known as LucianWriter77) as well as Cascading Rainbows (who is also called Joyce) should be absolutely showered with praises, because they helped me edit and edit and edit again. Thank you for being such wonderful friends, writers, and editors!
I would also like to thank Lambent Penumbra. Yes, ridiculous as this is, your review of the previous chapters really made an impact on me. I'm very thankful that you were so honest, and that you enjoyed this story, too! And, of course, I've been worried about what you'll say. Heh. Don't pay any attention to the girl freaking out in the corner over there...
And, of course, I must thank all of the readers and reviewers, both online and off. People have reviewed begging me to finish, and while that is annoying, I'm thankful for love. It always amazes me that so many people look at this story every month, just waiting for an update. I'm flattered, and I hope this last chapter was worth it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for dealing with my flaming, hypocrisy, and procrastinating. I'm so thankful to be able to have improved my writing so much among such supportive (if anonymous) people, and I'm thankful that you love my writing regardless of anything else. I hope you've enjoyed the story- I certainly have!