Half an hour later the front door opened and closed. Muriel's soft voice called up the stairs. Jordan left his screen, telling his online friend he'd be back soon. Muriel was unpacking stuff into the fridge, Jordan joined her silently, putting stuff in the cupboards.
“How was school?” she asked at the sound of his footsteps.
“Boring,” he shrugged. She shook her head at him, but a smile was on her face. There was a thump overhead where Alivia's room was.
“I hope she remembers to eat before she heads off,” Muriel frowned.
“Don't worry. I'm sure she'll grab a slice of toast before she goes,” Jordan joked.
“If she tries to do that, I will tie her to the chair and spoon-feed her myself. The girl is far too skinny as it is,” Muriel joked back. Jordan laughed, leaning against the counter and looking up as another thump sounded.
“Looking forward to tomorrow?” she asked. Jordan didn't miss the way her tone was guarded. Ever since they're thirteenth birthday that tone had cropped up. As if she was afraid of something. Muriel was their foster mum. But their real mum had died before he knew her. Muriel was his mum, but she insisted he and Alivia called her by his first name. He pushed it away as a parent worrying about their kids growing up like he usually did.
“I guess,” he murmured with a shrug. It was hard to really enjoy birthdays when you were aware it was also the day someone died. Jordan knew he should feel bad about that, even though he couldn't. How was he meant to muster sadness for someone he never knew? No one was able to track down a living relative and their dad was a complete mystery. When he and Alivia were younger they used to imagine him turning up out of the blue to take them away. But while time had made Jordan indifferent to their real father, it had made Alivia bitter.
“I know Alivia was planning to spend the day with friends. Have you planned anything?” Muriel asked.
“I was thinking I'd just stay up later than usual playing something,” Jordan shrugged again. “Though I saw a new art display going up at the gallery I might check out. Though it feels kind of pathetic going on my own,” Jordan continued. He didn't have many friends. Alivia's friends spoke to him sometimes but that was about it.
“I'm free tomorrow evening, if you don't mind a boring adult for company,” Muriel replied with a grin.
“You're not boring. I still remember most of the stories you made up and told us growing up,” Jordan replied with his own grin. They were usually about angels and demons, and involved good beating bad of course. Her grin faded to a small smile. Jordan thought there was something oddly sad about it.
“You should head back upstairs. Let Alivia know dinner will be ready in half an hour or so,” Muriel said, shooing him up the stairs with a hand gesture. Jordan leaned over to peck her on the cheek and raced upstairs. He knocked on Alivia's door and passed on the message.