// CHARM MANSION //

TRENTE GAGARIN returns to the CHARM residence. She and McCOY had fled in a panic after hearing the barking of a dog while scouting the MARSCAPONE house.

It is just as well; the sun threatens to rise. TRENTE shapeshifts in a puff of smoke and reappears in her human form. She is thin and tall, although her most impressive feature is a thick head of bright pink hair.

TRENTE collects the mail from the mailbox. It’s been about a month since the death of the CHARM matriarch, MINERVA CHARM. TRENTE, spinning a web of lies, has beguiled the young CHARM daughter GEMMA into accepting her residency. TRENTE is acting as a sort of surrogate mother and friend to the teenager.

The lights are out in the house, with the exception of an overly bright porch light. TRENTE squints and shuts it off as she enters the house with the use of a tarnished key.

Inside the house, the decorations are dimly glowing. There is an otherworldly aura about the place; the CHARM family has been practicing magic since before anyone can remember. The dim light is comforting to TRENTE.

TRENTE sits at a couch and flips through the mail.

TRENTE

(thinking) The taxes are due soon.

She picks up a small white cellphone from a sidetable. She scrolls through a list of contacts until she finds LENARD.

JUNIOR//

I got in safely.

TRENTE

(thinking) Not that I expect the old coot to reply…

TRENTE puts the cellphone down and goes upstairs. It is time for her to work at the computer.

~

The sound of a shower running lets TRENTE know that GEMMA is awake. She changes her screen in preparation. A handful of minutes pass after the shower shuts off and GEMMA enters the hallway.

TRENTE

GOOD MORNING.

GEMMA

GOOD MORNING.

TRENTE tries to summon her best face but she’s tired from the night flight.

TRENTE

I’M TRYING TO GET THE TAXES DONE TODAY. OR TOMORROW.

… NEVER HAD TO DO THESE ON THE MOON.

The joke is awkward, but it works. GEMMA reaches toward her face and fusses with her hair.

GEMMA

YEAH, I GUESS NOT.

TRENTE

EGGS AND TOAST?

GEMMA pauses for a moment, reflecting on the gift proposal.

GEMMA

… YEAH, I’D LIKE THAT.

I’LL BE DOWN IN A MOMENT, JUST GOTTA GRAB MY STUFF.

TRENTE shuts down the computer and goes downstairs to the CHARM kitchen.

She opens the fridge; sparse. A few foil-wrapped pieces of pizza. Some poorly fried fish. The eggs are sitting on the middle rack.

The marble kitchen is simple but adequate.

TRENTE

(thinking) Just barely scrambled. Let the whites coagulate, then whisk them together with the yolk, just so.

As the eggs are finishing, GEMMA enters the kitchen, a few scattered papers in hand. She sits at the table and leafs through her work.

TRENTE pops some pre-sliced bread into an antique toaster. She scoops the eggs on a clean, white plate. Her back is turned to GEMMA as she begins to talk.

GEMMA

I’M JUST GLAD THIS IS MY LAST YEAR OF THIS CRAP.

TRENTE

DID YOU FINISH YOUR HOMEWORK?

The toast finishes. TRENTE places it on the plate, careful not to allow the bread to touch the eggs. She puts it delicately to the side of GEMMA’s tangle of classwork.

GEMMA

ALMOST. I’M GONNA FINISH ON THE BUS.

TRENTE whisks around to retrieve a tub of margarine from the refrigerator.

TRENTE

(thinking) Lastly, silverware… Minerva had good taste in butter knives…

The butter knives are exaggerated, ending in a round florish.

GEMMA is standing up, shuffling about for some orange juice when TRENTE sits opposite her place at the table.

TRENTE

DO YOU WANT ME TO DRIVE YOU?

GEMMA

NAW, IT’S OKAY.

The room is silent while GEMMA eats her breakfast.

TRENTE

DO YOU WANT TO HAVE YOUR BROTHER OVER FOR THE HOLIDAY?

GEMMA

SIGH. I GUESS WE SHOULD.

GEMMA eats one and a half pieces of toast.

TRENTE

I’LL LET YOU FINISH UP. YELL AT ME IF YOU NEED ANYTHING.

JUST LEAVE THE DISHES. I’LL PICK UP.

TRENTE leaves the room, bound for her cellphone.

ERI//

My dearest Mini-Moon.

The child is growing magnificently.

He had some stomach upset at the change in formula but he seems to be adjusting.

He seems to have persistent gas but I hope this will reduce in time.

Thank you for sending over the babysitter.

She oft has quite a mind of her own, but it's not overly problematic.

Yours, Eri O'Lanna.