This really isn't fair. James is still convinced of this. He ought to be sunning himself by the Mediterranean, enjoying another week and a half of summer with the other cherubs his age. Instead, just because Kerry and Bruce had to take a stupid argument just a little too far -- and because he and Gabrielle were unlucky enough to be in the same room -- he's spending his mornings running laps, his afternoons mowing lawns, and his lunch breaks sneaking away to the end of the universe.
All right, Milliways isn't exactly a low point, but the rest brings it down plenty. At least today is the last day he'll have his sister and her friend "helping" with his mowing duties.
"Honk!" Lauren shouts, loud and obnoxious even over the buzzing of her lawnmower. "Out of the way, James!"
It's not easy to swerve with a lawnmower at short notice; all James manages is a few inches before his sister crashes into him, grinning the whole time. He fights to keep the mower upright and glares at Lauren. "What're you playing at? Get back to your section!"
"Bethany's doing the rest," she tells him brightly, and waves over at her friend. "Anyway, we're almost done. What's taking you so long?"
"Got more to cover," James says shortly, wrestling the mower past Lauren and continuing on his way. "Go on, get out of it. I've gotta get this done so I can finish my homework for tomorrow."
Of course she ignores him and follows, pushing her lawnmower alongside his. "What homework?"
James glares sideways at her, but softens it after a moment. At least she's not pushing her mower into him anymore. "Maths, English and Spanish. And I s'pose I should start my history essay..."
Yeah, that isn't going to happen and he knows it.
"You'll do your maths in five minutes," Lauren says dismissively. James supposes she's right. "But tell you what. Finish that last bit of mowing over there and I'll do your Spanish for you."
He looks at her, surprised, then glances over at Bethany to see just how much mowing is left. As far as he can tell, it's all done, and he gives Lauren another look. Is she having him on?
She looks back, clearly puzzled. "What? You know I'm way better than you at Spanish. Practically fluent."
He snorts. That's a mild exaggeration -- but she is pretty good. He nods reluctantly. "All right -- but don't make any stupid mistakes or I'll have to kill you."
"No fear, hermano." She throws him a sloppy salute before finally switching off her mower and turning to drag it across the field. Bethany follows, leaving, as James predicted, a completed section behind her.
He pauses in his own mowing to watch his sister go, and smiles faintly. Funny how little sisters can annoy the hell out of you one second and be ridiculously sweet the next.
He'll still be double-checking his Spanish homework before he hands it in.