Friday, March 15, 2013

Chapter 2 - Toby

            The sounds of the buzzing market and the heat from the street engulfed Toby as he helped the last of the customers pack their groceries. “Have a nice day!” he greeted them cheerfully on to be countered with a stern look and a pointed finger.
“One of the last,” the elderly people in the village would say. “Ought not to trust the warm yellow sun too much. This late in the season the sun is a devil, tricking you with wawrmth one day only to take it all away in a sharp freeze the next. Mark my words, boyo. This time next week we’ll be eye deep in the snow.”
Toby would smile and nod, not letting their warnings ruin what had already been a lovely day. He enjoyed the weather, taking in the last of the warm sun with a wide grin and a sigh of relief. The air always seemed cleaner, sweeter perhaps, without the summer’s dry heat. Days like today were ones to be enjoyed no matter the occasion. Today was an especially beautiful day, even if it was one that found him working at the busy market.
            The Gallagher’s Open Air Market was the only place in town where fresh fruits and vegetables were grown and stocked all year long. Toby knew it was all due to the Gallagher’s talent in magic but they were different from the wizards that visited from the city. Those men and women in their fine robes and fancy cars always held an air of contempt over the simple farmers and their wares. Even the Gallagher’s were looked down on by their peers, not that you could ever tell by looking at them. Luna and Aidan were special and in more ways than just their kind and warm nature.
            For as long as Toby had known them the Gallagher’s had opened their home to the people of the village, offering them food,, shelter and aid whenever they needed it most. They were the doctors when none could visit the village. They were the caretakers and teachers when parents needed a trusted soul to look after their children. They used their talents and their magic on any who needed it. In a world where most humans viewed wizards with distrust and suspicions, the Gallagher’s were loved and revered by the community. It was here that Toby felt safe and honored enough to call Luna and Aidan his parents.
            Of course, they weren’t his true parents, not by blood but to Toby there really wasn’t a distinction. He wouldn’t know his birth mother from any other woman who passed through the village yet he knew Luna. He knew her laugh and her smile and the way she hummed to herself as she baked Toby’s favorite cookies. It was possible that his father could have been one of the rich, noble wizards who occasionally shopped in the market for the “atmosphere” but Toby wouldn’t have cared. The only father that mattered was Aidan and the way he ruffled Toby’s brown hair, sitting next to him as they poured over one subject or another, devouring books and discussing them late into the night. It was Aidan and Luna he loved, and it was them that he owed everything.
            Toby took a deep breath, his mind filled with warm thoughts just as his body was bathed in the heat of the lovely autumn day. There was the smell of freshly pressed cider and spiced cookies passed by his nose and left him with a large smile on his face, pausing to enjoy the moment even though he should have been finishing up sweeping the floor. It was just about time to close up the market when his thoughts were interrupted by a large thump on the back that nearly had him stumbling into a large pile of potatoes.
            “Sorry, oh, Toby, I’m sorry!”
            A pair of hands reached out to steady his shoulders before he landed face first in the bin. Toby laughed, turning to see the concerned face of his friend. Finnean Doyle, Finn to his friends, could be clumsy at times, but his kind nature always served to make others forget any harm his ungraceful feet could cause. “I’m fine,” Toby said, brushing dirt from his apron. “Really, I’ve been pushed into worse things.”
            “I know,” Finn said a wry smile on his face as he shook his head. “I’m usually the one who accidentally sends you flying into those things.”
            “Not all the time,” Toby grinned, clapping a hand on Finn’s shoulder and watching as a cloud of dust puffed up and into the air. “Most of the time, yes, but I can’t say that you are always the culprit. Your brother shares some of the blame in that arena.”
            “When it’s Gabe, it’s more intentional than accidental,” Finnean replied, rolling his eyes. Toby couldn’t help but laugh. Gabriel Doyle was Finnean’s identical twin brother and as much as they looked alike, they were each other’s polar opposites. Where Finnean was a touch clumsy and gentle in nature, Gabriel was light on his feet with a sharp wit. Both intelligent and bright, they were as different from each other as night was from day. Still, they were both his best friends and their differences only served to create hours of adventures.
“Speaking of Gabriel,” Finn continued. “Has he been by? He said something this morning about wanting to see you.”
            Toby shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen him since last night. Why, is something wrong?”
            “I’m not sure,” Finn said and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s difficult to tell, though, so perhaps there is something wrong. You know Gabe; it’s probably nothing. Anyway, he said something about a job but he was very cryptic about it.”
            Toby sighed. Whenever Gabe spoke about a ‘job’ it typically was code for needing a lookout. It was one of the secrets that Toby held regarding the twins. They had been outcasts once upon a time, living in the streets of Cafall. During the day they would attend the local school but at night, instead of returning to the home for boys which was where the three had met, they would go out at night and run jobs for the local criminals.
 Thieves and pickpockets were what they were but Toby had never been very good at it. Neither had Finn but Gabe had excelled, finding more and more dangerous jobs as the years passed. It wasn’t odd to have Gabe ask Finn or Toby to come and be his look out. Toby never enjoyed doing it and he had tried his best to push Gabe off, reminding him that his life was different and he was trying to play it straight. That didn’t mean Gabe stopped asking.
 He leaned the broom against the nearest box and looked over Finn’s shoulder at the late afternoon sun. It was such a beautiful day but it seemed that he may not be able to enjoy it for very much longer. “I already have a job, Finn,” Toby said. “Gabe knows that. He also knows that I don’t fancy his games any longer.”
            “It’s different this time,” Finn said but it was clear that even he didn’t believe that. “Look, he doesn’t have anyone besides us to really look after him. We can disagree with him all we want but even he knows that we won’t let him go off on one of his adventures on his own.”
            “He has a damned six sense when it comes to guilt,” Toby frowned, watching as the sun began to sink behind the houses. He should say no, he knew that, but Finnean was right. No matter how many times Toby insisted that he was through watching Gabe’s back, he would because Gabe was just as important to him as Luna or Aidan. Finnean and Gabriel were a part of his family, the only ones that he had. He didn’t have to be blood related to call the twin boys his brothers - they just were and he would do anything to keep them safe.
            “Tell Gabe that I’m in,” Toby said, turning to point a finger at Finn. “Whatever it is, I’ll go along with the scheme. But this is it. I’m serious, Finn. If this ends up going pear shaped...”
            “It won’t,” Finn promised. “And if it does, you can blame me.”
            Toby snorted before he smiled. “I’ll put the blame where it belongs - on your brother for using you to talk me into these messes.”
            Finn shrugged and tried to ignore that fact that he was embarrassed Toby was able to see through to the heart of the matter which only served to make Toby’s smile widen. While the two brothers were fiercely loyal to each other, they knew how to use the other’s weaknesses to their own best interest. Gabriel was the best at it, using Finn as a trusting middle man whenever Gabe was in the mind to try something bold and all too risky. Toby knew this and yet, he felt sorry for Finn. He was only trying to look after his brother, after all, and while Finnean wasn’t stupid, he did tend to think the best of Gabriel even when his brother didn’t warrant that trust.
            Toby clapped his hand on Finn’s shoulder and handed him a broom. “Help me clean up the store otherwise I’m likely to be here all night. Whatever Gabe has in store for us, I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it if we were late.”
            “It’s Gabe,” Finn said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I don’t think it matters to him either way.”
            “Then he won’t mind if we stop home before we head out,” Toby winked at Finn. “Luna said she was working on a new batch of spiced cookies. I can think of two hungry mouths willing to test them out.”
            Strangely, Finn looked down at the floor, sweeping quietly instead of responding. That was odd, considering that Finnean and Luna always got along famously. The boys were always welcomed over at the Gallagher’s. It was a home when Gabe and Finn were down on their luck and needed a roof over their heads. “Something wrong?” Toby asked him. “You don’t like spiced cookies?”
            “What? Oh, no, it’s not that,” Finn said, biting his lower lip as he leaned against the broom, idly kicking at the ground.
            “Then what is it?” Toby said, growing more concerned with the way Finn was acting.
            “Nothing,” Finn said, shaking his head and offering Toby a smile. “Really, I think I’m just nervous about Gabe, that’s all. I’m afraid that he might be getting himself into trouble.”
            “When is he not getting into trouble?” Toby laughed but he saw that Finn didn’t share his smile. It was usually very easy to get Finn to cheer up but for some reason he still looked as though something on his mind. “Is there something else going on?”
            “No,” Finn replied quickly. “It’s nothing. Really, just forget about it. I’m sure I’m just reading into things. You know how I can do that from time to time. Never mind, yes, I will be happy to try Luna’s spiced cookies. I don’t know what I was thinking before. It’s just been a strange few days, that’s all.”
            “Has it?” Toby said, watching his friend carefully. Something was bothering Finnean, he could see that very plainly but what could it be that Finn felt the need to hide it from him? Not to mention the fact that he seemed visibly concerned about visiting Luna and Aidan’s home. Maybe this trip tonight wasn’t just another of Gabriel’s little adventures. Perhaps it was something more, something dangerous.
            “What aren’t you telling me?” Toby asked Finn gently, his focus intent on his friend. He could see that whatever it was needed to work its way out but Finn just shook his head.
            “It’s nothing,” he said again, this time the words were accompanied with a smile, albeit a sad one. “Besides, it’s not mine to tell. Ask Gabriel if you get the chance. Perhaps he’ll talk to you.”
            Something was definitely going on but if Finn was reluctant to speak about it than no amount of prying would get him to open up before he was ready. Toby nodded and offered his friend a smile in return. “Let’s finish up and head on back,” he said, reaching out to squeeze Finn’s shoulder affectionately. “Have a few cookies; convince Aidan to let us have a pint. It sounds like if we’re going out tonight we may need it.”
            “Gabe’s going to be sore he missed out on a pint when he finds out,” Finn said, his tone cheering up a little.
            “That’s the spirit! Let’s rub his nose in his lost opportunity,” Toby grinned, even though his head was spinning. Whatever was going on wasn’t good, that much was certain. Finnean was rarely so out of sorts and when he was it usually meant that Gabriel was in trouble. If that was the case then he was going to have his work cut out for him tonight. He only hoped that the adventure that Gabriel planned for them was merely a boy’s night out and not something more serious.
            The sun had nearly disappeared below the horizon when Finn and Toby had finished closing up the market for the day. The streets were empty as they walked towards the edge of the village where Luna and Aidan’s house was situated. Finnean seemed to grow more and more agitated the closer they walked to the house until Toby couldn’t keep quiet any longer. He turned suddenly and stopped Finn, his eyes narrowing as his usually slow to burn temper was on the rise.
            “Tell me what’s going on,” Toby demanded. “You’re lying to me, I can tell and you never lie to me. What is Gabriel doing that is so bad that you have to lie to me about it?”
            “I can’t,” Finn said, shaking his head. “I promised. He said that he wanted to be the one to tell you.”
            “Tell me what?” Toby snapped.
            “Gabe didn’t send me to invite you to go out on some wild night he had planned,” Finn said, his voice soft and apologetic. “He asked me to come here and distract you.”
            Finnean winced at Toby’s tone. “There was something at your house, something that Luna and Aidan were talking about a few days ago. Gabriel overheard them say something about your past and he... he didn’t want you to get upset so he wanted me to keep you busy while he went into the Gallagher’s private store room at the Market-”
            Toby’s eyes went wide and he suddenly felt betrayed by two of the people he trusted the most. He opened his mouth to speak when he realized there weren’t enough words to express how wrong this felt. Instead, he made a frustrated sound and he turned on his heels, heading in the direction of the market once more, leaving Finnean to rush to catch up with him.
            “Wait, Toby, just wait, would you? I’m sorry, ok, I am but if you could just hear what Gabe did you’d understand-”
            “No,” Toby said shortly. “I don’t want to know. I don’t. You don’t get it, neither of you ever did, but I don’t care about my past. For all I care, Luna and Aidan are my parents. That’s all I ever want to know.”
            “That’s what I told him but-”
            Toby stopped and whirled around, pushing Finn’s shoulder so that the boy stumbled back. “No,” he said again. “I don’t really care how important you think it is or if you’re looking after me. Did you honestly think I’d be ok with Gabe breaking into the Market? No, you didn’t which was why you concocted that story. Gods above, Finn, I had hoped you had more sense than that.”
            “Please, Toby, just talk to him,” Finn pleaded, not wanting his friend to be cross but at the same time understanding why he was. “That’s all you have to do is just talk. He has his reasons and for once I don’t disagree. Please, would you just see what it was he heard?”
            Toby wanted to hang onto his anger. He had every right to be pissed at Finn. He didn’t like to be tricked and when it was by his friends it felt even worse. Still, he would be lying if he said that he wasn’t curious as to why Finn had abandoned his honest nature in favor of deceiving Toby for the afternoon. That just wasn’t like Finn. Gabe could talk him into a lot of different things but lying? No, Finn was far too honest for that. There must have been something valuable or at least incredibly important for Gabe to convince his brother that lying was the best option. Toby wondered what it was and yet, did he really want to know? He wasn’t entirely certain and  now that seed of curiosity was planted in his mind. Even if he didn’t speak with Gabe, the thought would constantly be there, nagging at him and causing him to worry. Could he just keep going on knowing there was some grand mystery hanging over his head?
            No. He couldn’t.
            “Fine,” Toby said a frown still on his face. “But just remember that I’m not happy about any of this. I don’t like being lied to. If you both had something to tell me you should have come to me. Gabe sneaking into the store room on my behalf is not something I want done, do you understand? Luna and Aidan trust me and the last thing I need is for them to think I was helping you both steal from the store.”
            “He didn’t take anything,” Finn said swiftly in Gabe’s defense. “Or if he did, it isn’t any merchandise from the store, I promise you that.”
            “We’ll see,” Toby replied, not wanting to argue with Finn any longer. “Where is he now?”
            “Back at the Circle,” Finn said, his voice sad. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”
            “Save it for later,” Toby sighed, still feeling anger and hurt bubble beneath the surface. “First, I need to talk to your brother.”
            He turned and walked away, heading towards the nightclub known as the Circle, knowing that Finnean wouldn’t be far behind. He was feeding the curiosity even though a small voice in the back of his mind said that it was such a bad idea. Still, he couldn’t help it. The doubt would always be there and if he didn’t satisfy the craving to know now, it would just grow all the more worse until one day he was the one breaking into the Gallagher’s private store room. As it stood, he still had a chance to put it to rest once and for all.

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