Kelly shuffled into the room, interrupting Alora and Tina, and Sharon Bhandari in their dissection of "Be My Valentine" and LaCroix's resemblance to Barney.
"See, he's the embodiment of evil," said Tina.
"More evil than LaCroix?"
"Has LaCroix been in the business of corrupting small children over public television?" countered Tina.
"Hey!" exclaimed Kelly. "Want a shake?" she said, a tall glass in her hand.
"What is that?" Tina asked, backing away uncertainly.
"It's a banana-strawberry-peanut butter shake!" Kelly said. "I just made it! Doesn't it look great?"
"I don't know, Kelly," said Tina. "Banana-strawberry I could see, but if you add peanut butter to it, I don't think it'd be that great..."
"Yeah," said Alora hesitantly. "It looks decent, but I just ate, so why don't I have it later?"
"I'll take it!" said Sharon. "I'm a vegetarian, and I'm always looking for good sources of protein." She took the drink from Kelly and sipped at it. "I like it!" she said, taking a bigger swallow from the glass.
"That's great!" said Kelly. "Oh, Tina, while you're here can we go to Nat's apartment?" she asked. "I need to get her copy of 1001 Ways to Make Protein Shakes. There was one in there she told me about--spinach, yogurt, and egg--that I wanted to try making."
"Sure, sounds good to me," said Tina. She watched Alora pull out a small box of matches and light the candle on the table in front of them. "Want to come along, Alora and Sharon?" she asked.
"Huh?" asked Alora, looking up from the candle.
"Sure," said Sharon B. "Let's go."
"Go where?" asked Alora.
"Out to Nat's apartment," said Tina. "Kelly needs Nat's copy of 1001 Ways to Make Protein Shakes for some weird recipe she wants to try."
"Sounds good," said Alora, hopping up from the sofa. The four of them went into the main room of the NatPack hostel and saw Sharon Himmanen playing "Bash the Brick" on The Guy.
"Where are you going?" asked Sharon.
"Nat's apartment. Kelly has decided that she has to have Nat's copy of 1001 Ways to Make Protein Shakes," answered Alora.
"I'm going along," she said, leaving her computer. NatPackers all over the room dived for it, just waiting for a chance to bash Nick. "I think I need to keep you four out of trouble! Besides, we may see that lying, undependable bloodsucker near there looking for Nat!"
"LaCroix?" asked Tina. "Why would he be looking for Nat?"
"I mean Nick," corrected Sharon.
"I see," said Tina. 'I am hooked up with a weird bunch!' she thought.
The NatPackers piled into Jinx (Tina's beloved mini van), Sharon Bhandari in the passenger seat, Alora, Sharon Himmanen, and Kelly tumbling unceremoniously into the back, sharing the spare tire which doubled as a backseat.
"I need gas," said Tina as she pulled out of the parking lot.
"I think there's something about a mile to the east," said Sharon H. Tina turned the car towards the gas station. She pulled up to a gas pump and got out to began refilling the tank. The rest of the NatPackers piled out to keep Tina company.
"Let's try and hurry this up," Kelly said a little impatiently, interrupting the jumble of voices. Everyone turned to her in concern, only to be faced with Kelly's look of dreamy hunger. "I'm really in the mood for an almond-banana-yogurt shake."
"Don't worry, " Tina reassured her, "we're almost done." Kelly gave a vague nod, apparently still anticipating getting her hands on Nat's book, and ignored the laughter of the rest of the 'Pack.
Unaware that they were drawing attention to themselves, the low murmer of their discussion had steadily gotten louder and louder. An orange-haired lady at the next pump began to whisper in earnest to her companion, all the while shooting periodic looks in their direction.
After unsuccessfully trying to draw both Sharons into a debate about the delights of flaming plum pudding, Alora leaned against the car and withdrew a matchbook from her pocket. She gleefully held her prize aloft and began to light matches, blowing them out as they began to burn her fingers.
Taking one look at Alora's game, the orange-haired lady caught hold of her friend and ran into the gas station store. Tina and the Sharons were so busy trying to shake Kelly out of her dream-state, that they never even noticed what was going on.
"Ok, people, get back in the car," Tina said as the resounding click of the pump announced that the tank was full. She removed the gas pump, swinging it away from the car in order to put it back, and came face to face with Alora. Or actually, the dripping gas pump came face to face with the matches, and everyone began to shout at once:
"Watch it!" shouted Tina.
"What are you doing?!" this from Sharon H.
"Put that away!" ordered Sharon B.
"Eeeekkkkkk!" from Kelly, finally shocked out of her fantasies.
Unfortunatly, this was the moment the the frightened women, the store owner, and the store owner's rather large shotgun chose to exit the store and head in their direction.
"All right ladies, move away from the gas," the owner shouted slowly as he waved his gun back and forth. Later, much later, they would talk about how it was actually kind of funny to see the portly man inching towards them as the women flanked him like guards. But not now.
Now, stunned into silence by the unforseen threat, Sharon H. quickly moved into action. Hooking one hand into the back waistband of Alora's pants and placing the other on her shoulder, Sharon brandished Alora and her matches like a weapon. The owner only lifted his gun higher until he spotted the dawning joy on Alora's face as she realized that she was in a position to actually show everyone her skills with fire.
"Don't you move," Sharon shouted as she thrust Alora closer to the now still trio, "I'm not afraid to use her." She turned back to the rest of them and rasped, "Get in the car!"
The Natpack jammed into Jinx, Tina dropping the pump where she stood in order to get to the driver's seat as quickly as possible. As Sharon B. took the passenger seat and Kelly jumped into the back, Sharon H. and Alora moved backwards towards the car. When they finally stuffed themselves in the back in a tangle of arms and legs, Tina sped out of the station with an earsplitting squeal of tires.
"Give me that," Sharon H. said, and she snatched the matches out of Alora's hands.