“Whatcha doin’?” Freesia asked.
Fennel smiled, which only irritated his Hot-headed little sister.
“Not mad at me anymore, huh?” he asked.
Freesia glared, just to let him know she could still be mad if she felt like it.
“I’m sorting these plant samples so that I can try to identify them,” he answered finally, placing a few more unidentified plants on the table.
“How are you gonna do that?” Freesia asked.
“Well, I’ve ruled out most of the likely toxins by color and leaf shape. Next, I’m going to taste them.”
Freesia’s eyes got big. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Yep. If I’m wrong, and Grim comes,” he added for impact, “you can have my stuff.”
“Yep, even my computer,” Fennel said. “Here goes!”
“WAIT!” Freesia yelled.
“What about your bed?” she asked. “I like your bed better than mine.”
“You can have my bed too. Okay, I’m really gonna do it now.”
Fennel slowly raised the bloom to his mouth, closed his eyes and took a nibble.
Freesia watched her brother closely for signs of imminent demise. He looked okay.. but she couldn’t be certain.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“That wasn’t so bad,” he said.
Fennel kept tasting until there was only one flower left. He seemed to be teasing her, now.
Freesia remained cautiously optimistic that this last sample might be the one that did her brother in. But it was obvious right away that that wasn’t gonna happen.
“I guess these weren’t the brother-killing variety after all,” Fennel said. “Good thing I ate them and not you!”
“I could eat one if I wanted,” said Freesia. “It’s no big deal.”
“Great!” he said. ” ‘Cause I saved one for you. Here, take it.”
Freesia was nervous, but she didn’t want to lose cred’ with her brother. She paused a moment, shut her eyes tight and slowly brought the stem end to her mouth.
“Wait!!” he called out.
“What do I get if you die?”
“You can have my homework,” she offered.
“Hmm..” Fennel considered. “That’s not much, but I’ll take it. Go ahead, then.”
Freesia turned away and gulped it down before her brother could interrupt again.
“Well?” Fennel asked when she’d finished. “How was it?”
Freesia took a deep breath and exhaled deeply, tasting the air as it left her lungs.
“That tasted like your socks smell,” she said.
She sucked in breath again, the exhale even more pronounced.
“Now I have sock breath,” she said flatly.
“That sounds like a good nickname,” he joked. “May I call you ‘Sockbreath’ from now on?”
Freesia stared at her brother for a good long minute before answering.