The Reunion and the Flood, part 2

Half an hour later, the room had quieted a bit as people found chairs to plop down in and chat from in a more subdued manner. A few guests had shuffled into the kitchen with thoughts of poking at the leftovers of the potluck lunch.

All the while, Claire hadn’t left the bathroom.

Their mother didn’t want to hear anything about it when Mary prodded her. “If she feels that way about her kin, then she can stay there all day for all I care!”

“I think she’s actually sick,” Mary said. “Didn’t she look a little green around the gills to you?”

“She’s just being a drama queen again. You know how she gets.”

Mary sighed and began to walk over the bathroom to check on Claire. But as soon as she’d made up her mind to investigate, the bathroom door opened slowly. Out stumbled Claire, looking sheet-white and all around worse for wear. Mary picked up her pace and intercepted Claire before she could step out into the living room.

“Are you alright? You don’t look so hot.”

“I’ll live,” she said quietly. “Let me just… I’m gonna sit down for a minute.”

Claire wobbled forward and Mary shadowed her, guiding her to the only remaining seat in the room. Unfortunately, it was a short ottoman that had been shoved in front of the fireplace, situating her awkwardly in front of all the guests in the living room. A few family members near her saw her appearance, mumbled, and turned away discreetly as Mary tended her.

“Do you need something?” Mary said. “Stomach medicine maybe?”

“I actually already took some,” Claire said. She held a hand to her head and winced. “God. Could you find me something for this headache, though? That noise is killing me.”

The volume of the party was picking up a bit again, though Mary didn’t think it particularly loud. “Sure,” Mary said. “I’m sure Aunt Arlene has something around here.”

“Thanks, Mary,” Claire said. Mary walked away.

But the truth was, far over the sound of party guests, the noise that filled Claire’s ears was the sound of rushing water, like a river pushing over the final rapids before careening over falls, or the swell of floodwaters uprooting homes. Claire fumbled around in her purse, wondering if she’d missed the bottle of ibuprofen she usually kept with her — but she paused when her fingers ran over something peculiar, something that she was sure hadn’t been there before: the cold touch of steel.

Before she even took it out, she could recognize what it was by its heft and grip. As she slowly drew it out to inspect it, everything clicked and she knew what she had to do. The rush of water quieted and she could hear voices rise around her as she looked at the length of the weighty pistol in her hand.

A large shadow passed over the windows and the house lurched.