These things just keep getting longer.
A month had gone by since Melanie had taken revenge on Steve for putting her mother’s depilatory cream in her conditioner. There had been another hour long lecture from Mom when she came home to find Steve trying to clean up the mess his landing in that restaurant crap had made. To top it off, Mom had taken Melanie’s allowance for the entire month to pay for the cleaning company she called to take care of the carpet and the wallpaper, before going off to a “month-long fashion extravaganza” in Las Vegas. There had been no response to the battle from her father. As usual, the man was completely holed up in the basement lab working on something meant to “make the world a better place,” and so on. Melanie’s hair was even starting to grow back. As for Steve, his response to Melanie’s revenge had been earthshattering.
He had ignored it and her.
Melanie wasn’t fooled for a minute. She knew he was planning something. He might even be trying to give her a false sense of security before he made his next sally in their little battle. She’d beefed up her room’s security system twice, even going so far as to steal electronic components and chemicals from Dad’s lab, which, ordinarily, she wouldn’t do. She’d tried to do research on Steve’s father, sure he must be some kind of ultra-villain like Lex Luthor or Magneto, but got nowhere with it. Apparently, Steve’s father was just a garden variety accountant, arrested for multiple counts of fraud and imprisoned for life. Steve had only been put into the system because he had no other family and no place else to go. Melanie almost felt sorry for the little squirt.
But Melanie didn’t have time to be sympathetic now. It was final’s week at school and she had to keep her eyes open for Steve’s next move. She just wished he’d get it over with. A month was just too long to wait.
It was breakfast time now, nearly a month after Melanie had made her move and she was starting to feel nervous. Dad was putting an electronic something-or-other together on his end of the table and not really paying attention. Melanie was so used to this, that it didn’t bother her at all. Steve had mentioned it a time or two when he’d joined the family, but quickly seemed to get used to it as well. Just as she was about to leave the table having finished her cornflakes, Steve bumped against her chair.
Melanie just about jumped sideways.
“What’s the matter with you?” Steve asked, glaring at her.
“Nothing,” Melanie replied, hastily retrieving her phone from the table and tucking it into the pocket of her jeans.
“Fine,” he sneered, reaching for an empty bowl and the box of cornflakes. “Have a great day at school,” he added.
Melanie stared at him. For a month, he’d barely spoken to her and now, out of the blue, he was wishing her well at school? Something was up. Once out the door and sitting in her car, she powered up her phone and switched on her room’s security system. Nobody but Melanie would be able to get within a foot of the door without setting it off. It was a good thing they had no pets. Dad was allergic to pet dander anyway.
About lunchtime, Melanie’s phone gave a little chirp and the lavender box popped up. A new text!
Lillian.Ward775: Have you and Steve patched things up, hon? I’m coming home tomorrow and I’d like to find the house more or less in one piece when I get there. Okay?
Melanie smiled. Much as she felt slightly superior, intellectually, to her mother, she did love her. She’d done her best to impress the fashion forward woman with her own sense of style since she was fourteen.
Melz1229: The house is still standing, mom. Steve and I haven’t done anything to each other since U left. Miss U. CU soon.
Lillian.Ward775: Good. Let’s keep it that way, okay?
Poor Mom. She didn’t have a clue. Things weren’t going to get any better between herself and Steve, though Melanie did sometimes catch herself wishing they could. Then again, it would be nice if Dad would surface from the basement sometimes. But that was a lot like wishing you could teleport to the moon and live there without some kind of life support system.
Melanie had a hard time on her finals, because she was so busy worrying about what Steve had up his sleeve that she couldn’t concentrate. At last, however, the ordeal was over and she could head home. When she got home, she went to her room, turned off her security system, powered up her desk top computer and set her phone in the I/O cradle on her desk as she usually did. Pressing the sync button, she went to fix herself a snack.
When she came back, however, inexplicably, her computer screen was dominated by the face of the Joker. It expanded and contracted on a neon purple background while her speakers blared maniacal laughter. Melanie held down Control and Alt while she hit the Delete key. The computer went on laughing. She pressed the Escape key several times. The computer apparently thought this was extraordinarily funny as well.
Panic thrusting her heartbeat into her throat, Melanie reached for the power button and pressed it. Instantly, the screen went dark. The room was bathed in silence. She pressed the power button again. There was a brief hum, then her monitor screen informed her that it was “going to sleep” and everything shut off again.
“Steve,” she whispered, almost a growl, “I know you did this, but how?”
Picking up her phone, she switched it on preparing to dial the family’s IT expert. However, instead of her usual background of lilac flowers, there was a video of Steve seated in his newly cleansed room.
“Hello, Melanie,” Steve smiled, pleasantly, “I’ll bet, right about now, you’re wondering how I managed to kill your computer. I think, if you search your pockets, you’ll find the answer waiting for you.” He leaned forward, eagerly adding, “And just so you know? I don’t feel sorry at all.” He leaned back again, “I do feel a little sorry for the people you’ve texted between now and breakfast time this morning.” He smiled, then chuckled then finally began to laugh, an irritatingly familiar maniacal laugh, that continued as the phone’s screen shifted to the familiar Joker pulsating on the neon purple background. Digging in her pocket she withdrew a tiny device made from Lego pieces and micro-computer components.
Oh, crap, she thought, barely registering the laughing phone in her hand as she remembered her last text of the day. Mom’s going to kill me.
“Something wrong?” said a hatefully smug voice.
Melanie whirled and flung the now useless phone at him. It landed with a satisfying smack right in his face. “I hate you,” she growled, dropping the Lego device to the floor and grinding it to a powder beneath her foot. “I HATE YOU!”