An E flat echoed around the park where Ivy and her friends were playing Egyptian War. It was one of the few times they could play without the Gordon-Richard-Kushal trio busting in on them.
Christine was about to play a card but jumped up instead. “What was that?” she said in alarm.
“I don’t know,” replied Persia, wringing her fingers.
“Uh, Persia, you’re doing that, that thing with your hands again,” added Ivy.
Persia looked down. “Oh, right.” Her talent was more of a curse: in times of stress her Dominant Personalities came out. Each one had a defining attribute that set it apart from the others. There wasn’t a way to stop them once they came, but wringing her hands helped to avoid it in the first place.
“Oh, this is useless.” Christine threw her cards down in annoyance. “Why can’t I have a talent?”
“There’s no shame in not having a talent,” Ivy said surreptitiously.
Just then Flora entered the scene, like a new character who had not yet been introduced. “What? Talent?” she interjected, “Ivy, why do you have Christine’s cards?”
“She, um, gave them to me?” Ivy looked guilty and shuffled her feet. Actually, it was more like an abbrieviated tap dance.
“Ivy, what did we tell you about that kleptomania business?” sighed Christine. Ivy’s talent was being exceptionally good at stealing things, which of course gave her kleptomaniacal tendencies.
Ivy ignored Christine and flipped over another card. “Jack of Hearts,” she said, “What’s that mean again?”
“Some kind of love story,” said Flora. As far as any of them could tell, Flora had no innate talent, unless it was getting headaches. She knew too much for her own good.
“Oh, my head,” she continued. Ivy groaned before Flora did; this meant she was about to say something unintelligible.
“Did anyone else hear a plot device a few minutes ago?” Yup, there it was. Ivy watched as Persia and Christine looked politely confused.
“There’s gotta be something we can do around here,” said Persia, putting her cards down as well and totally, totally ignoring Flora. But then again, she did this all the time.
“Actually, she only started doing it today,” said Ivy, but no one payed attention to her.
Christine jumped up. “You guys can do what you want, but I’m going to find a talent.”
“But I thought you had to be born with a talent,” objected Persia, more rationally than usual.
“I know I have a talent, I know it!” said Christine, annoyed.
“I’ll go,” Flora spoke up unexpectedly. She put a hand to her forehead and winced. “After all, that’s where the plot’s going.”
“I’ll go too,” said Jin.
“I was right here the whole time,” Jin said, mildly offended.
“So that’s where the other cards were going,” Ivy mused.
“All right, then, let’s go.” Christine made as if to start off right then and there.
“Whoa, hold on!” said Jin, “You know where you’re going?”
“I’m going to find the Avatars and make them tell me what my talent is.” Christine tossed her hair back determinedly. How exactly that made sense no one was quite sure, but everyone knew she was determined from the way she did it.
“The avatars?” said Persia questioningly.
“Don’t worry, we’ll learn about them in the next chapter or so,” Flora assured them, grimacing once again. “Does anyone have any aspirin?”
“Sorry, aspirin hasn’t been invented yet,” Christine said regretfully.
“What do you have?”
“Just willow bark. I’ve got some here, do you want any?” Ivy reached inside her jacket and pulled out a little baggie filled with what looked like wooden chalk.
“I’ll pass, thanks. Are we going?” Flora looked to Christine.
“Yes, let’s go.” Christine strode forward determinedly (that word again). Jin shrugged, then he and Flora followed.
About 8 and a third minutes passed before Persia got tired of playing (3-card) Klondike solitaire. “So that’s what it’s called?” she said, somewhat surprised.
“Hmm?” said Ivy, looking up from the hairband in her hands.
“Wait a minute, isn’t that Christine’s hairband?” Persia looked incredulous.
“Wasn’t she wearing the hairband?” Ivy didn’t say anything, but turned the hairband around and around in her hands.
“Oh, Ivy!” Persia stood up and started pulling Ivy to her feet. “Now we have to go catch up to them. We’ve wasted almost nine minutes, we could have given a speech in that time!”
“Ow, quit pulling me, okay, okay.” Ivy struggled to her feet, reluctantly handing the hairband to Persia. “Which way did they go again?”