Kayla arrived home to a driveway full of cars and several of her cousins in the living room. Not as many as there could have been—she’d had twenty-three cousins originally. Twelve were still living. Only three had died of natural causes. Things got messy when your family was, essentially, a crime syndicate.
She called out a greeting as she entered the house with Goldie. The only answer she got back was a cacophony of voices from the living room.
As usual, everyone was trying to talk over each other, arguing over what to do. There was a vault full of golden eggs downstairs, worth more than they could every launder in their own lifetimes, but everyone was taking the chance to air their grievances, big and small.
“If you’d put in better fencing, this never woulda happened!”
“Except that’d look suspicious as all hell, Addie. Thousands of dollars worth of fencing for a goose and few chickens?”
“Then get some more animals in here.”
“Yeah right, who’s gonna look after them? You? We can’t hire anyone in and–”
“This is pointless! We need to figure out getting Goldie back, not fences!”
Kayla didn’t try to get anyone’s attention. She went to the middle of the room and pulled Goldie out of the carrier, setting her down on the carpet. A couple of the closer cousins noticed and exclaimed, but everyone else was still too busy arguing to notice.
Goldie stood for a moment and then raised up her wings and shook herself, spraying a fine mist of water in a wide circle. That finally got the majority to shut up, at least until they started yelling in celebration instead. Everyone tossed out questions but Kayla raised to hand to get a moment’s silence.
“There’s a bunch of eggs hidden in the old hunting blind south-east of the big pond,” she said. “You know the one I’m talking about?”
A couple of cousins sprang into action. They’d been trained from childhood to put the business of Goldie and her eggs before anything else. Kayla rested secure that within half an hour the bag of golden eggs would be tallied and delivered to the vault in the basement, added to the growing pile. Then she gave a quick account of finding Goldie, leaving out the fact that outsiders had discovered the secret of their golden-egg-laying goose.
Everyone still had a lot to say, but her brother Alex promised they’d hold a family meeting about further securing Goldie’s enclosure. It took a bit for people’s excitement to wind down but they eventually began to head back to their homes.
When everyone had finally cleared out, Kayla adopted a carefree tone she didn’t really feel to let Alex know that two of the neighborhood kids might have seen some eggs. She deliberately left out names until she could gauge his reaction.
“They could have been talking about Goldie’s eggs or it could have been something they made up. Either way none of the adults believed them. They’re really young; younger than your girls.”
Alex’s jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed but after a few moments of thought his face relaxed again.
“I don’t suppose anyone would believe 'em,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it without drawing attention anyway.”
As soon as he said it, Kayla felt a wave travel from her neck down, uncoiling a physical tension she hadn’t realized was there. Her torso swayed slightly as her muscles relaxed.
She helped Alex’s wife straighten up before escaping upstairs to her room. Changing out of her grubby goose-hunting clothes, she came across the egg she’d slipped in her pocket that morning.
It wasn’t the first egg she’d kept for herself. She didn’t doubt all of the others had their own stashes as well, despite the family’s strict rules and harsh penalties concerning egg collection and distribution. But today was the first time she really thought about what she could do with her personal collection.
She’d agonized over telling Alex about the children, weighing the strong possibility they might never mention the eggs publicly with the slim chance he might do something rash. In the end she’d been positive enough Alex wouldn’t hurt innocent children, especially if he found out from her instead of being surprised by a distorted version from someplace else.
It had worked out, this time; he’d shrugged it aside as she’d hoped. Still, it brought home what an unnatural life she led. She didn’t want it anymore.
Many times she’d thought about moving away, but that meant irrevocably cutting all ties to her family. The Hoopers never let anyone move too far afield and loosen their ties to the family, for fear that shifting loyalties would lead to revelation and betrayal. To pull it off she’d need to fake her own death or do something equally drastic. Before now the price had felt too high, but she knew her soul would be chipped away if she stayed, always struggling to balance loyalty to her family with the terrible things they did to keep themselves safe.
She held onto the gold egg, warmed by her hand, and lay back on her bed. She closed her eyes and imagined that warmth was radiating out from the sun in a distant place. Maybe a beach in South America? Or standing in the square of a tiny village in Greece?
That’s the end of this story for now, finally! It didn’t quite go where expected, I’d originally pictured more action, but that’s the way it goes with freewriting.
Image by pixel2013.