The next morning found Alex sitting in his yard. He had hidden his bruised arms by the sleeves of his dark blue jacket, while his legs were covered by dark denim. He wasn’t in his treehouse as he was hoping that he would see Tia and Chris. Luck was also on his side today, his dad left for his job early; leaving the house free to Alex to shower and clean the mess that was left from last night, which was done in record time. Being in that house made him go on edge, it didn’t matter if he was by himself, or someone was with him, it made no difference to how he felt in that house.
“Hey Alex.” Chris shouted his greeting as he took the trash out “I was hoping that you were outside. Mum wants to know if you want to join us for breakfast.”
“But I had dinner with you last night.” Alex said, extremely confused at this point, why would they want him over for breakfast.
“Mum likes to feed people.” Chris said, holding back his laughter when he saw Alex’s face, the poor thing looked confused.
“Alex, is that a… treehouse.” Chris said; staring up at the rope ladder, thus he had looked up the tree, his face light up, making him look more excited than someone his age should have been.
“Awesome! You know I’ve always wanted a treehouse, but we never could find the right tree for it. Did you and your dad build it?”
“No, a part of it was here when we moved, and I build the rest myself.’
“That’s so cool!” Chris shouted; the way the boy was looking at Alex was like he met the present himself, or someone who was just really important “Can I see it?”
“What about breakfast?”
“That can wait; please Alex?” He stared at him with his only weakness; puppy dog eyes, it made it hard for Alex to say no to him, since his eyes were blue, it made more effective. How in the seven seas someone as big as Chris was able to pull of the puppy dog eyes, was beyond him.
“Fine.” Alex sighed “Follow me.”
Alex led the way up the ladder, when the two were on the platform, Chris looked around and he was impressed by the level of workmanship that was shown.
“Jeez, Alex.” Chris laughed when he saw the pile on blankets in one corner “do you live up here or something?”
“Wouldn’t you if you had a treehouse this cool?” Alex joked back “Chris can I ask you something?”
“You just did.” Chris said; his ever present smile on his face “But you may ask another one.”
“Lily, your mum, is she always emotional?”
“Alex, there’s something you need to understand about my family.” Chris said, his smiling face turning serious, his hand running through his hair, as if think of the best way to say what he was going to say; without bringing anyone to tears “We moved here, because two years ago, our sister; Harmony…… she died from Cancer, she was our age when it happened, after it happened mum went into depression… but she was able to get back on her feet a year later. Dad managed to get her back to herself… but we needed to get away from Harmony’s memoires that seemed to haunt every room that we entered.”
“That’s so sad… I’m sorry Chris… I shouldn’t of….”
“It’s alright, we loved Harmony… but we needed to physically remove ourselves from her memories. You see when my parents adopted her, she was only seven years old and she was already sick, it’s always hard for sick children to get adopted. Mum and Dad fell in love with her, I couldn’t understand, maybe I’ll never understand, how hard it must have been on them. Tia was infant when Mum and Dad took her in. Her mum was my aunt, so Tia was out in their care. She knew her parents loved her, but what happened with Harmony was different; her parents abandoned her, I couldn’t even start to understand how she felt and what it must have been like… I’m sorry we met just yesterday and already I’m telling you our sob story.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s this place.” Alex said, while nodding towards the tree house “This is a safe place, and people are always more open when they believe that they can’t be touched and can’t be harmed.”
“I’ll admit that it’s peaceful up here.” Chris agreed “Alex, what happened to your arm?”
Alex brushed his bangs out of his face, before looking at his jacket sleeve, which had rolled up showing some of his beaten forearm.
“Oh.” Alex said, as he pushed the sleeve down “It’s nothing.”
Chris raised an eyebrow, but didn’t push the question further.
“Breakfast.” Alex said, with a small smile on his face.
Upon entre of the Peterson home, Lily the two of them, warmly, while she helped Robert put out the freshly cooked pancakes onto the five plates.
“I’m so glad that you were able to come over, even if it’s just breakfast!” Lily said, jumping up and down, clearly over her tears from last night. “We forgot to tell you last night, but you’re welcome to come over any time you want.”
“Thank you.” Alex said, he was truly touched by what Lily said, but still he didn’t know why he was offering, most people want nothing to do with him. “That’s really kind of you, but you barely know me.”
“You helped us move in, and you didn’t know us.” Tia said, her pale blue eyes giving the younger boy a challenging stare “Fair is fair.”
Alex just smiled, while he enjoyed his second meal with his new neighbours. Robert had to leave for work soon after, doing what Alex didn’t know, when they were done eating, Alex helped Lily with the dishes, –after telling Lily that it was only fair, since he couldn’t do it last night- by drying and putting them away while Lily cleaned them.
“Where do you go to school?” Lily asked
“I go to the Garcia High School of Advance Studies.”
“Oh, that’s were Chris and Tia will be going! It’s wonderful that they already have a friend; I was so worried about sending them in the middle of the semester.”
“What are they going for?” Alex asked, as he dried his hands on a tea towel, Garcia High School of Advance Studies or GHSAS was one of the two high schools in the small town, and the students who went specialized in a subject whether it was Music, Dance or Art.
Lily looked so happy, that it was hard to believe that she was very depressed, everything about her screamed happy and excited, that even Alex found himself relaxing in her presence, even only slightly.
“Chris is good at wood work; he’s just so talented at making things, such as models and inventions.” Lily said, bumming like a proud mother “And Tia’s good at painting. She enjoys doing it so much, so much in fact that when she was younger she’d paint on anything she got her hands on. Both of them are talent, what do you do dear?”
“That’s marvellous! You must show me some of your work; later.”
“Oh, mum.” Tia sighed as she walked into the kitchen “Let the poor boy breath, he only just met us.”
“I don’t mind.” Alex said, in fact he was glad that someone was showing an interest in what he was doing, well he knew that his dad didn’t care how he was doing, didn’t even care if he was passing school. “Do you want me to show you where the school is?”
“That’s a great idea.” Lily sang “You’ll have fun, oh and here’s some money for lunch.”
“Would you like to come with us?” Alex shyly asked Lily, as Tia took the money that was offered.
“Oh, no Sweetie. I still need to put the house together, but thank you for the offer.”
“Chris!” Tia yelled from the front door, putting on her black flats “We’re going out!”
Chris came running down the stairs, sadly he sounded more like an elephant than a teenage boy, kissing Lily on the check, he hoped on one foot as he put on his one of his black sneakers. Alex smiled at the boy’s enthusiasm; he was as cheerful as Lily.
“Where are we going?” Chris asked looking at Alex for the answer.
“School.” Tia answered instead “Alex’s going to show us where it is.”
The three set out, walking left of their house, passing Alex’s in turn.
“Do you always walk to school?” Tia asked, sticking to the side of the street that was closer to the side walk than the road.
“Yes, the schools only a mile away, also I don’t own a car.” Alex replied, not knowing way Tia was asking him that question.
“So, none of your friends gives you a ride?” Chris asked
“I don’t really have many friends.”
“That’s okay, we’ll drive you to school and back.” Chris told the small boy, he looked at the old fashioned houses around him, taking in the mostly old styled house, a mix of centuries of different architecture.
“You’re dad isn’t that great is he?” Tia observed, almost making Alex freeze in his tracks.
“What makes you say that?” He asked, and what little colour he did have in his face fled.
“The way you act.” Tia said, not looking at him, so she didn’t see his panic “You’re jumpy, quite, you don’t have a car and just spend the last day with a family you hardly know. He hasn’t called once to make sure that you’re okay, so he doesn’t care or he’s a bad parent.”
“He’s busy.” Alex said, striding forward “He’s just really busy.”
“Tia, leave him alone.” Chris whispered to his sister. His mum and sister may not be blood related, but Tia acted a lot like Lily when it came to being worried about someone else.
“He’s hiding something.” Tia hissed back.
“Well, that might be because we just met him yesterday, so of course he’s hiding something.”
“I want to know what it is.”
“Curb the curiosity, for a little bit sis. I’m sure he’ll tell us when he’s ready.” Chris tried to reason with Tia, he did, but all she did was glare at him. She did what was asked and bit her tongue.
The two followed Alex to the school, it was large, intricate and surrounded by a field, which would remain empty until Monday morning.
“Is the school unlocked?” Chris asked, looking at the random buildings; some were older than others, like most things in this town
“No.” Alex replied “But at least you know where it is and that part of the black roof is the theatre and that’s the outdoor café. Those doors will lead to the main office.”
“Now what?” Tia asked, fixing the dark chocker around her neck.
“Can we show her the tree house?” Chris asked; he wanted her to see it.
“Um… sure.” Alex said, a little bit worried, just a little bit.
Once they had reached the treehouse and climbed up the rope ladder, Alex making sure to pull the ladder behind them.
“This is incredible!” Tia shouted, as she swang on the hammock.
They spend the Sunday afternoon munching on sandwiches, which they had brought on the walk back from a milk bar, chatting and relaxing. Time seemed to stop for them, fears and worries about tomorrow, gone, unable to reach them as the ladder was pulled up.
“Aren’t you warm, Alex?” Tia asked, as she looked at what he was wearing.
“No.” Alex told them, he hugged his jacket closer in spite of the warmth that summer had left behind.
“Okay, why don’t we tell each other things, which we don’t know about each other?” Chris shouted with a large goofy grin on his face
“I’m allergic to artificial smells.” Alex admitted.
“Wait, so like perfume and the like?”
“Perfume, gas, air fresheners, house paint, anything that nature doesn’t make, leaves me feeling sick to the stomach or I pass out with there’s too much.”
“That really must suck.”
“I’m terrified of spiders and hedgehogs.” Chris said, ignoring the sneakers that came from his sister, and to get back, pushed her playfully “Tia.”
“I went by my full name, Laurentia, when I was younger until I got sick and tired of most of them saying my name wrong, then one of them started to call me ‘Lauren’, most kids would tease me about it, so I’ve come to hate it, so people can call me by my full name or ‘Tia’”
“That does suck, I promise not to call you that, but why do you hate the name?”
“I really hate the way it sounds, even when I was little.” Tia said “Guess, it’s you turn Alex, or should I say Alexander.”
“No, just Alex is fine, I don’t know.”
“You can tell us about the school?” Chris asked, wanting to know what it’s like.
“What do you want to know about it?”
“Why don’t you have many friends?” Tia asked and she was given a warning from her brother, but she needed to know, he’d seem just fine to her.
“People think I’m strange, that and my eye colour is different, so many people don’t want to be seen around me, my hair was a problem in Middle school, but now people have stranger colours than white, once saw a girl who dyed her hair green.”
“If you don’t mind, but why are your eyes red or pink?”
“I was born with no pigment in my hair, eyes and skin, but I’m one of the very few that don’t have problems with my eyesight, so I’m lucky.” Alex explained as best he could “It’s your turn Chris.”
This continued for a bit, sharing trivial facts about themselves to each other, while eating a tray of brownies, wasting the afternoon away.
To Alex, this was the most fun he had in years and the closet he’s come to pure joy since he moved here. Chris was sweet and kind, never pushing the subject if the person didn’t want to tell/ talk about it. Tia was different; she was blunt, honest, but she was very local and caring. Alex didn’t hear a negative thing from the siblings all afternoon. They were happy to talk about Harmony, their old life, so Alex thought that it would be fair to tell them a bit about his.
“I once had a sister.” He began “Her name was Arianna, but she liked to be called Anna. She was a year younger than me, but when I turned four; she got sick and then she passed away from the illness.”
“I’m sorry.” Tia told him, knowing the pain of losing a sister older or younger; it was hard just the same.
“Me, too.” Alex sighed “I miss her, but I don’t feel sad, well not anymore. She’s in heaven with mum, so they must be happy up there together. There are times I wonder what kind of person she would be if she lived.”
“How did your mum pass away, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chris said, worried that he crossed a line.
“She was very sick.” Alex replied; his tone was cold making it quite clear that he didn’t want to talk about it, at least not for now.
“What do people wear to school?” Tia asked; worried about the tone Alex had used and was worried for him, why, she didn’t know, but she was.
“Just whatever.” Alex shrugged, looking up as he thought about it “It’s an Art and Sciences School, so people wear a lot of things. What you’re wearing at the moment is just fine.”
“It’s dinner time.” Tia said, as she looked at the time on her watch.
“Oh, no!” Alex gasped, almost kicking himself, while he bolted right up “I’ve got to get his dinner ready.”