Author's Note – Don't hate the player hate the game. Not really, you can hate me if you want but at least the second chapter is finally here. Enjoy. Sorry for the late, late, late, late update.

Sidewalks

Chapter Two

Mint Chocolate Chip

March 18th, 1987

Was he shaking? Hand extended in front of him he could see the tremors running through the flesh like worms underneath the skin. His fingers twitched and tensed as if they had minds of their own, despite his desperate attempts to keep his motions in check. Why did his arms feel so heavy? He looked down to see his legs behaving in a similar way, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain standing. He needed out, just a few minutes outside. Some fresh air, that's all he needed. This place was smothering him. What they were going to do here would not be forgotten easily.


It was windy outside, but Mary always claimed that a breeze made a story more dramatic. The gusts shook the foliage above and cast dancing patterns on top of Mary's brown head as she played in the grass. The small girl lay amongst numerous toys on the lawn, two dolls gripped in her hands that she pranced about happily, expressing a pretend adventure of her own making. She spoke loudly for the toys and sometimes even sang, using twigs and grass as props. Blue eyes focused intensely on the scenes that played out before she hardly acknowledged the world around.

From the front porch steps of the house Wendy watched in silence. The teen sat with her legs crossed and a weathered novel gripped tightly in her right hand; chin resting gently in the palm of her left. It was her unspoken duty to supervise Mary on Saturday's and she took up the responsibility without complaint, whether it was at the park or on the front lawn. It was their time to get away from their argumentative parents and find solitude in one another. If her little sister was content playing by herself today Wendy could finish the book she had been working on for the past week. Her dark brown eyes settled onto the words of the page and she resumed reading.

"Wendy," small blue orbs peering over the tip of her novel, fingers curling over her hand. "I'm bored." Guess the reading would have to wait. Wendy folded the corner of her page and set the book down. She glanced down to see Mary rubbing the ears of the stuffed tiger underneath her arm, staring up hopefully.

"Well, is there something you want to go do?" The girl squinted and pondered over her options. After a few beats she smiled and raised her head.

"Can we go get ice cream?" The oldest Jennings delved a slender hand into her pocket and fingered the folded bills that lay there, trying to recall the amount of money she had without stealing a glance. Four dollars.

"… Sure," she stood up, "but only single scoops, okay?" Mary squealed in delight and took a hold of her sister's hand, ready to usher her off the porch steps. "Hang on." Wendy tugged her arm from the grip. "We can go get ice cream but I have to stop by Shutterfield for a few minutes." She turned to slip her bare feet into a pair of sandals when Mary's hand closed around her arm once more.

"Shutterfield? Why?"

"What's with that tone? I thought you liked Shutterfield?" Wendy had volunteered at Shutterfield numerous times before Matt began his weekly rounds. She brought Mary along with her on a few occasions and hadn't seen any signs of negativity towards the place. Then again, she wasn't the best at reading people. She looked down to see her sister's face screwed up as she pondered over what to say.

"It's weird. The people there are strange and it upsets my stomach."

"Only for a few minutes, Mary." The oldest Jennings attempted to convince. "We'll get ice cream and then I'll just stop by. Okay? You can hang out with Allison."

"Can we just not go?"

"Come on, Mary." Said with frustration.

A stubborn pause before:

"Alright, alright." Mary held up her hands in defeat before taking a hold of Wendy's arm and walking forward, her other arm keeping a tight grip on the stuffed tiger. The eldest kissed the top of her little sister's head gently and smiled at the 'bleck' sound Mary made. It was seven minutes to the ice cream shop and fifteen to Shutterfield. By five minute the siblings were chatting amiably as if there had been no dispute only moments earlier. It was always difficult for either of them to hold a grudge against the other.

Especially on Saturdays.


"Fudge chocolate or sweet strawberry?"

"Mint chocolate chip."

"Alright." Wendy pointed at the gallon of ice cream as notice for the attendant, laughing quietly to herself. "That's quite a change." She was handed two cones and passed one to her sister before paying. "Fair warning, it tastes like toothpaste."

The only response was a tongue pointed in her direction.

"Let's go." They stepped out of the small sweetshop and back onto the sidewalks, both too entranced with the quickly melting ice cream to engage in any conversation as they walked. The race to catch rivulets of melting chocolate was somewhat entertaining until it made their hands sticky. By the time they reached Shutterfield all that was left of the treats were the soggy bottoms of the waffle shells.

As they neared Mary would glance up anxiously, her fingers fidgeting with the hem of her floral shirt and the tiger underneath her arm. The building was still the same; lurid graffiti decorating the usually bleak bricks and wads of gum compressed so far into the cracks of the structure they were probably helping to hold the building up anyway. A loud noise drew Mary's attention away from the monument and over to the back door where a figure had just burst through and now stood hunched over the pavement, retching onto the asphalt with a sickening wet cough.

Wendy wrapped a protective arm around her sister, watching the figure warily as he resumed to empty his stomach. He was skinny and the same height as Matt, but it was the shock of dark hair and bright blue eyes that set him apart. After a few more heaves he wiped his mouth and let out a shaky breath, glancing up to the two girls watching him from a few yards away. His pale skin flushed almost instantly. Wendy stared straight back at him, trying to distinguish him from all the other faces she had seen at Shutterfield. He must have been new, because she couldn't put her finger on a name.

"I'm so sorry." The boy stammered quickly, brushing back his hair with a hand and attempting to straighten his shirt. Wendy never diverted her gaze, keeping her grip on Mary tight.

"'Excuse us." She stepped forward with a fake authority and the boy stepped to the side quickly. Something about him put her on edge, creating a pit in her stomach that twisted into coils and braids. The back door was wedged shut from being opened and closed so furiously and it took a few good yanks for Wendy to open it. She pulled Mary in front of her and ushered her into the building, casting one last glance into the boy's electric eyes before shutting the door.

"Told you we shouldn't have come."

"Oh, hush." Wendy pushed her sister playfully but Mary didn't react, choosing instead to fold her arms and keep her eyes focused on the ground as they walked. Allison stood by one of the serving stations, loading trays with food. Her lips were pulled back in a smile, making her eyes squint and even more wrinkles appear on her already aged face. If anyone could cheer up Mary it was Allison.

"Hello, Wendy!" Allison called out from over the loud bustle of the shelter. "I see you've brought Mary along too! I haven't seen either of you in quite some time." She paused to load a few more trays and push them out onto the counter before stepping out and embracing both Wendy and Mary one after the other.

"Hi, Allison. I came here to get the clothes I left in the back."

"Of course. Your stuff is in Matt's locker, so you're going to have to find him to get it out."

"Okay. Can you watch Mary while I go find him? I've been dragging her around all day." Allison nodded and took Mary's hand to lead her back over to the serving station. After a few jokes and laughs she had Mary smiling and helping just as Wendy had expected. The older sister sighed before turning her gaze over to the dining hall, eyes scanning for her cousin.

It wasn't difficult to spot him. Matt was sitting at one of the long tables with Jamie at his side, both entranced by a game of cards set out before them and two regulars across the table. Jamie was laughing and being boisterous as usual while Matt remained quiet, playing the game in a thoughtful silence as was customary for his personality. Wendy had met Jamie her first day volunteering at Shutterfield. At first she had found the girl abrasive but after a few weeks she warmed to her eccentric tendencies and eventually considered her a friend. Matt's first day the girl had clung to him like a stain on a shirt and ever since then the two were always seen together on Saturdays, whether Matt wanted to have it that way or not. He showed a certain disregard towards Jamie, something Wendy had noted ever since his first day. She brushed the observation aside and made her way over to the table, sliding onto the bench next to Matt.

"Basra?" "Always." Jamie answered for him.

"I need the key to your locker."

"You could at least buy me dinner first." He retorted smartly.

"My clothes are in there, asshole." Wendy punched Matt's arm, surprised when he flinched at the relatively small contact.

"Sorry."

"Just a bit sore. Don't apologize." He laid out the last three cards in his hand before reaching into his pocket. "Here." A key was procured from his pocket and thrown in front of her. She took the object with muttered thanks, stood up from the bench, and trudged through the thinning crowd towards the back. Her eyes moved from person to person until they fell upon the boy she had seen outside. It was subconscious, attempting to find him in the crowd. He stood straight, blue eyes staring straight back at her. Although a tad startled, she continued to walk, bringing her gaze to the floor only to glance up again and again to that stare. An older man stood behind him with a hand on his shoulder, his face unreadable but strangely unsettling. He was looking at her too. The new ones were always the strangest.

A chill breathed at the bottom of Wendy's spine and tickled at the back of her neck by the time she reached the backroom. She opened and closed the door as quickly as she could manage without looking awkward, finally exhaling once she reached Matt's locker. Her hands shook slightly as she inserted the key and they continued to shake as she emptied the clothes into a plastic bag. Her thoughts drifted back to those two faces. There had been such genuine concern shown by the boy with blue eyes, but the older man standing behind had no emotion in his dark, seemingly dead gaze. Such a steep difference bothered her.

A hollow clack brought Wendy's attention to the ground where an empty bottle of Ibuprofen rolled to tap against the bench behind her. She hesitated momentarily before bending down to retrieve it. As she moved to place it back into the locker she noted three more bottles stuffed between the T-shirts. Upon further inspection it was discovered that two were Advil, (one nearly empty) and the last was another Ibuprofen. The bottles were stuffed back into the locker before it was closed with slowly steadying hands. Wendy snatched up her bag of clothes and walked resolutely towards the door.

"Grab Mary, then go home. That's it." She steeled herself and pulled quickly on the handle, pushing back any reluctance to see those on the other side of the door. Her eyes stayed focused on her feet as she stepped into the main hall and made her way back over to where Matt was sitting. Sliding onto the bench she placed the key in front of him before gently tugging on his shirt so that he leaned over for her to speak into his hear. It was something he had learned to do after years of their passing secrets.

"Can I talk to you later? It's important."

"Yeah. Tonight." He said before pulling back. Jamie leaned in closer with an inquisitive look and the conversation ended there. Wendy smiled at her and stood, patting Matt on the shoulder.

See you two later." She smiled, tossing the bag of clothes over her shoulder before setting off to find where Allison and Mary had disappeared off to.

She found them still at the serving station, playing their favorite game now that the morning rush had died down.

"Platypus.

"Autumn."

"A dress."

"Grass!" It was a ridiculous game they had introduced several months ago. The idea was to continue spouting nonsensical words that didn't relate in any way to the word that the other person had said. Once Wendy's presence was made known they slowed the pace of the game before stopping completely after a few quick and clever words.

"Thank you for watching her, Allison." Wendy said, grabbing onto Mary's shoulder as the younger girl came to stand in front of her sister.

"It's nothing. I love visiting with her." She paused, looking at the siblings thoughtfully. "When do you think you two will be back?"

"Oh, I don't know." Wendy opened her mouth to continue but her gaze shifted and met with the emotionless countenance of the older man she had seen earlier. He had his hand on the shoulder of the young boy with blue eyes, imitating the way Wendy kept Mary close. The boy watched her with genuine concern in his features. He nervously stole a glance at the older man behind him before looking back at her, mouthing four words towards Wendy she could hardly distinguish. She looked back at Allison, smiling apologetically for the lapse in her attention.

"… Probably not for a while." Allison nodded understandingly. She hugged each of the sisters goodbye before leading them towards the back door. Wendy said thank you once more before stepping out of the building, an inexplicable relief washing over her as the door closed behind. She let go of Mary's shoulders and the two trudged down the sidewalks back towards home. Mary, relieved as well to be out of Shutterfield, chatted amiably as they walked but Wendy wasn't listening. She rubbed her hands together nervously, pondering over those four words mouthed at her from across the room and hoping that maybe she had just deciphered them wrong.

"... Wendy?"

"Yes, Mary?"

"Don't let me get that toothpaste ice-cream ever again."

"Told you."