“Boys, we have something important to tell you” Mom said, standing beside Dad.
Hadley and me were on the couch. I’d not long been twelve and was at that bitchy stage where I wasn’t quite a child but wasn’t a teenager, either. Hadley was still blissfully unaware of such things what with only being eight, and therefore more interested in simple things.
“Are you having another baby?” he asked cheerfully.
Dad chuckled and shook his head. “No, we’re not having another baby. Boys, do you like living here?”
I started paying more attention at that. I didn’t like the sound of where it was heading. Hadley was still clueless, nodding his head at Dad. I gave a vague nod, knowing he wouldn’t go on if I didn’t give some form of answer.
“How would you boys like to move to America?” Mom asked softly.
Hadley’s eyes almost lit up. “America?”
“Yep” Dad nodded.
“We were thinking Hollywood”
Hadley’s eyes lit up even more. “Hollywood? Like where all the famous people live? That’s so awesome”
I clenched my jaw, resisting the urge to glare at my fucking stupid parents. What was the point in moving when we were happy where we were?
“What do you think, Cayden?” Mom asked cautiously.
“What do I think? I think it’s a stupid idea” I said harshly, my arms folded over my chest.
“Cayden, we thought-” Mom started but I interrupted her.
“I don’t care what you thought! I’m not moving”
Hadley looked at me innocently. “Why not? It’d be like an adventure, right?”
“I’m happy here. What about Ava?”
“She’s staying here. She is eighteen, after all” Mom said gently.
“So I’ll stay with her”
Dad sighed. “Cayden, you can’t stay with her”
“Why not? You said it yourself, she’s eighteen”
“You just can’t. That’s the end of it, Cayden” he snapped.
I clenched my jaw and got up, storming outside. Why did we have to move? I was perfectly fucking happy where I was. Why couldn’t I go live with Ava? I was twelve years old, I could look after myself well enough if I had to. I ran through the long, wild grass, tears stinging at the corners of my eyes. All my friends were here, why should I have to make new ones all of a sudden? I ran past Hadley’s tree, not entirely sure where I was going. Anywhere would do, as long as it was home. I kept running, ignoring the darkening sky and the fact that Mom and Dad would worry if I wasn’t home soon. It wasn’t til the sky was a deep inky black and my legs were sore and aching that I stopped running. The grass was short and patchy, the exposed earth cracked in places. I tried to catch my breath as I looked around me. It was hard to see in the half light of the moon, but I could vaguely make out a few spindly trees nearby. I walked towards one, my fingers brushing against the rough bark as I wrapped my hand around one of the branches. I sighed, shivering a little in the cool night air. I honestly had no idea where I was, but I wasn’t scared. I walked through the blackness, enjoying the peace and quiet when I saw a faint light. I headed towards it, intrigued by the soft glow. I followed the light for what felt like an age but was more likely to be about five minutes. Now, I know what you must be thinking. The source of this light was something inspirational and my twelve year old mind had something akin to an epiphany, right? Wrong.
This light was coming from a kind of run down little farmhouse with a tin roof. The light was filtering out through some thin net curtains which, upon closer inspection, had holes in various places which was why it was letting out so much light. I’d heard about that place at school. They’d never said why, but all the teachers had told us to stay away from it. And naturally our young minds had warped the story until we were convinced some child eating monster liver there, although I’d found out everyone hated him because he’d gone out with a fifteen year old when he was around nineteen, so everyone assumed the worst. I bit my lip, pulling my face away from the window. I wasn’t exactly scared but a little nervous. I froze as I heard the door open. I could’ve run if I needed to, but in the dark I couldn’t have been sure if I was heading the right way. The door creaked as it closed and I held my breath, staying as silent as humanly possible. After a minute or two I heard footsteps crunching through the patchy, dried out grass. I was rooted to the spot, my eyes wide, and soon enough the owner of the house was stood in front of me. He didn’t look like a child molester, as everyone had assumed he was, but then again, do any of them? He wasn’t that old, thirty at the most, and was kind of muscular. He stood with his hands on his hips, towering over me.
“Can I help you?” he asked, his voice cold.
I stammered, not really capable of anything else. His gaze was icy and really fucking creepy.
“If you’ve just come here to make fun of me, you can fuck off” he said harshly.
“I don’t know the way back home” I said, sounding a little desperate.
His gaze softened and one of his hands dropped from his hips. “Where do you live?”
My mind had gone blank in the presence of this potential kiddie fiddler. “I... I...”
“Okay, don’t worry about it. Tell you what, come inside and we’ll call your folks”
I shook my head. There was no fucking way I was going in his house.
“I’m not a paedophile” he said softly. “Give me their number and I’ll call them for you. You can stand in the doorway and watch if you don’t trust me”
I shuffled towards him a little and he smiled, heading inside. I stood in the doorway shyly, watching him as he called my parents once I’d given him their number.
“Well, they’re gonna be about an hour. You really are a long way from home, kiddo”
Something about that sentence sparked worry in me. He seemed to notice this and held up his hands kind of defensively.
“I’m not gonna do anything. What’s your name?”
“Cayden” I said cautiously.
“Nice to meet you, Cayden. I’m Oliver” he said, holding his hand out towards me.
I shook it for a second before pulling my arm back to my side. He chuckled and sat down on the dry earth, turning his head to the sky. I watched him for about five minutes before my curiosity got the better of me.
“Hey mister, what’re you doing?”
“Call me Oliver. And I’m just thinking”
I cocked my head to one side and sat next to him, looking up at the stars as well. He pointed out a couple constellations and soon enough the two of us were talking as if we were old friends.
“I’m not really a child molester, y’know? They just think I am because I went out with someone a little too young for me. They only reacted the way they did because I’m gay”
I looked at him. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. I mean, I’d heard the vicar blaming a natural disaster or two on “the gays” but then we stopped going to church.
“Um... Mr Oliver?”
“What’s gay?” I asked nervously, not wanting to insult him or anything.
“You don’t know?” he asked and I shook my head. “Gay is when a man loves another man”
“So... Do you have a husband?”
He chuckled. “Not yet, Cayden. Maybe some day”
“I’m gonna be a husband” I grinned.
I nodded. “And we’re gonna have a puppy called Alexander. Or maybe Sebastian”
“And who’s this ‘we’? A boy or a girl?”
I shrugged. “I dunno yet”
He ruffled my hair as we heard a car in the distance getting closer. “Well whoever it is, I hope you’re happy. You’re gonna be such a cutie when you grow up”
I giggled at that, wrapping him in a half hug. Mom and Dad rushed over, then. Dad picked me up, even though I wasn’t done hugging Oliver, and I vaguely saw Mom give him some money so long as he never spoke to me again. Dad bundled me into the back of the car and I wound down the window enough to stick my head out.
“I hope you find your husband!” I shouted as we sped off back home.