Claude set the last few floral plates into the dishwasher- faded and chipped as it was, still standing as an original member of the house- and kicked the door closed, standing in the dining room doorway to the kitchen as the familiar sounds of the water swooshing inside filled the room. She took one peek at her nails, painted and polished that morning, before rubbing her eyes.
“Claude!” LaJean stormed in, part of her skirt balled up in her hands and exposing her simple shorts underneath layers of ruffles. Her darkened eyebrows drew together as she stomped towards Claude. Not a single thought crossed her brain before she planted her hands on Claude’s chest and pushed her backwards into the hard edge of the kitchen counter.
“What was that for?” LaJean backed away from her charge, allowing Claude to straighten herself and brush off her dress, which was now splattered with wet drops from the few dishes that couldn’t withstand a cycle in the dishwasher. She massaged the spot where her body had collided with the marble with one hand. “Whatever did I do to you?”
“Were you consorting with Anders late Saturday night?” LaJean crossed her arms, adding a stern edge to her voice. “The security system shows that you left the house after most of us went to sleep, and the GPS data from your phone says that you were in the general vicinity of the Laboratory at midnight, which is well past curfew.”
“You say it like I was committing adultery, which I wasn’t.” Claude retreated through the doorway to the adjacent dining room, bumping her hip on the table and sending a new wave of pain through her hip. She grimaced as she inquired, “We have a security system?”
“Yes, we do.” LaJean sighed, taking a few seconds to blink. “I thought that this was common knowledge, but apparently not.”
“And you-” Claude pointed a finger at the woman in front of her, struggling to retain a normal breathing pattern. “You’ve been spying on me, haven’t you?” Her eyes softened, and she placed one hand on the chair behind her. “Why?”
“This is my house, Claude, in case you’ve forgotten.” LaJean pointed one finger in the direction of the front door as Jeaneé crawled into the room. “You’re free to evict yourself whenever you decide that you don’t want to play by my rules anymore.”
Claude’s lips trembled as she wiped away the tears forming in her eyes. She snivelled for a moment, LaJean tapping the fingers of one hand against her own hips, before darting past the woman and snatching the keys to the van off of the kitchen table. “Fine! I will! And I’ll make sure that Anders gets the best funeral that a man of his prestige could want!”
“You-” LaJean darted out of the kitchen and desperately grabbed for the skirt of Claude’s dress as she whooshed by, but she was unsuccessful in her endeavors. Collapsing onto her knees, overcome with exhaustion, she could only bow her head as Claude started the van up. As a final swipe at her dignity, LaJean spat, “They aren’t going to take anything you do seriously without Miranda, Claude. And that’s what you really want, isn’t it? Anything that will get you under the good graces of Anders and his bastards.”
“Why so paranoid, LaJean?” Claude cackled, and Miranda peered out from behind the house, dirt from the garden on his jeans and Maine in a similar condition not too far behind. “Every human being acts irrationally when somebody important to them has died. Besides, I have no vendettas, unlike you.” She spread her hands on the steering wheel before gesturing for Miranda, who had listened in on the whole outside exchange, to get in the vehicle.
LaJean shook the hair out of her face, stadning up and reaching for the door handle back into her own house. “I’m reporting that vehicle as stolen the very minute you exit the driveway. Don’t think that this infraction will go unpunished.”
Claude released a giggle as Miranda pulled the van side door open. “And we’ll remember to dispose of the license plates as soon as I get somewhere safe. I’ve been an outlaw before.”
“I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but…” Miranda wiped his jeans off before settling himself in the back row of seats. “You two both sound irrational. Just shut up and focus on driving.”