The car eased up next to the curb and slowed to a complete halt. Several girls adorned in graceful uniform strode confidently past the tinted windows, long hair swinging in synch with their hips as they chattered side-by-side. Eve stared at them in distraction, her gaze distant and thoughtful. Had it really been that long ago that these children wore pigtails and walked together holding hands like little girls do? The bell began it's warning toll and the pace of those reluctantly heading towards the proud redbrick building increased significantly. This day was not like any other. Keiko should have been inside already but she sat patiently in the passenger side of the yellow Mustang, quiet and composed, entirely used to the occasional awkward silence that happened between them when Eve became immersed in thought. It seemed that the woman never entirely realized she was doing it and so in that Keiko found comfort in her adoptive mother's company. It didn't escape her attention that two conspicious bodyguards were standing to her immediate right, waiting with their hands in front of them without words for her to emerge.
"I have a lot to talk to you about after school today, Kei and so you will have to come straight home. I know your team is important to you but you will have to miss this practice. I have already informed your coach of your absence. I can't explain everything right now but I need you to listen to Deryll and Madri -- don't you give me that look, I know you -- it's for your own good and I need you to promise me." Eve's knuckles took on a paler sheen as her grip increased on the leather clad steering wheel. Damn that insane woman, damn their idiot campaign, damn everything. It was one thing to be scared for your own health, it was an entirely different issue to be worried about someone else. Eve could stand up to some of the worst punishment known to man, but it only took one carefully aimed shot at Keiko to cripple her.
Kale had smiled once and said that the little girl was Eve's Achilles heel, the soft spot in a suit of inpenetrable armor, but he hadn't been that far off from the horrible truth.
"Please, promise, Keiko. You're too damn good at evading those two, or anyone else, and I need your word or I can't let you get out of this car."
At this point she'd succeeded in creating worry lines around the girl's eyes, her expression too serious to belong on someone her age. The dark pools of golden-flecked burgundy bored into Eve's own and the Deathseeker readied her defenses for a head on stubborn collision with the younger girl. That was one of the less admirable traits she'd adopted from her.
"I won't promise until you tell me why you're scared. You can't just drop me off here with your best muscle waiting outside and expect me not to think something is wrong and keep my mouth shut!"
Eve removed one hand to pinch the bridge between her nose. "I just need you to trust me, Keiko."
"Then you need to trust me, Mom. This isn't fair! I'm not just a little kid anymore and if something is going to pop out of the bushes to take my head off I'd like to know what it is!"
Another genuine silence proceeded after her words and Eve stared out the one-way mirrored glass, her eyes shadowed by the thick ebony and copper curls. Everything was cold sweat and denial, protection and evasion. The leather seat rustled uncomfortably beneath her blue jeans and Eve debated the truth versus something that would be easier for Keiko to swallow for now. Was she being too paranoid? Maybe she took the crazed woman too seriously. Seconds ticked by and all the teenagers disappeared from the courtyard into the silent building that served as the most prestigious private school in all of Sector 3 - it was immense enough to overshadow the front walkway and most of the vehicle itself - but Eve still felt hot. The entire walk home from Faust's had been a mixture of dizziness, fury, sorrow and flagrant confusion. How could he possibly still be there with that woman, mother be damned, tolerating her constant refusal to allow any of them happiness or peace?
"Mom.. you're spacing out, again."
"I know. I apologize. I have a lot occupying my thoughts."
"So, what's going on? Why the whole 9-1-1 approach with dumb and dumber?" Keiko glanced over her shoulder with a half smile. They'd watched her since she was very small.
Eve stared straight head. "Your birth mother is in town."
It made her heart wrench to see Keiko's face drain of color as she weighed just what those words meant in her head, against the heavy fact that her mother had never been a fan of practical jokes and regardless would never laugh about Keishen and the horror and curiousity that flowed freely at the idea. There wasn't an excess that she remembered about the solemn warrior, but she could always see in her head the intense violence that roamed in that woman's eyes - the way she commanded and demanded from those around her - the confusion that never really cleared. It never occured to her how both she and her father could share a mother. It never dawned on her to find out why or to look into the matter further. Normally she was either too awed or terrified by Keishen to utter more than a handful of words in the woman's presence. Keiko fought to keep a calm hand of control, shuffling some papers into her backpack as she slid the seatbelt backwards to free herself.
"It's okay, Mom. I'll be fine."
Eve reached forward and received the hug that her daughter offered, squeezing her a little tighter than usual, prolonging the moment of release a little more. It took her a minute when she did finally let go to notice that she was shaking. Is this what it felt like to truly be afraid -- to love something or someone so much that you could not reconstruct the world around you without them as a part of it -- or was it something else? After this she would have to drive home and explain everything to Kale and direct the soldiers around her to be ready for hostilities. The taunting whisper of violences' presence lingered on the air and turned Eve's stomach into a construct of steel and ice.
"I'll see you after school. Love you Mom." Keiko smiled as she kissed Eve's cheek and climbed out of the car. "Don't have too much fun with Kale while I'm gone."
Eve managed a half smile at the teasing. "I love you too, Kamikaze."
And then the door came to a close with a subtle 'thud' and Eve reclined completely in her seat, her eyes closed and hands reoccupied by the steering wheel. The pain between her temples was reaching an all new high and she knew she'd have to return home immediately and bring it all out into the open, or it would lay her up for days. A sharp crackle brought her back to attention, pupils dialating, as a voice crossed from an earpiece into her thoughts. It took her all of a split second to recognize the voice on the other end and remember.
"All signals safe and affirmed - no cross wiring found on the network - proceeding to relate message. The cat's in the cradle and all the stars are in the sky. I repeat all stars are in the sky."
"Madri, is that you? What the fuck are you talking about? Speak English, man."
"Er. She's in class and all the men are in position. Nothing to worry about here, Eve."
"All right." Eve gazed at her windshield, stomach churning. "If anyone approaches her that isn't a teacher or kid, shoot them. Watch for her father and if he comes, make sure he's alone. Do not let anyone, I don't care who it is, escort her off of the school grounds and if they attempt it, retrieve her. Don't think, just do it. I trust you, Madri."
The line of communications went quiet as she turned up the volume on the stereo and Eve's flashy yellow Mustang tore out of the parking space and roared past the private school in a black-silver cloud.