The semester was just called to an end by the time the week was end. The teachers were in disarray and they knew that it was smarter and easier to just let the students have an extra week to their winter holidays, than trying to make them go into a classroom and teach them something… not after the crazy week they’ve had.
“Do you want to get the rest of your things from next door?” Lily asked at breakfast on the Saturday morning.
Alex had gotten into the habit of making everyone breakfast in the morning, something Lily and Robert have told and insisted that he didn’t have to do, but it was something that Tia and Chris demanded he continue with, they liked his cooking so they wanted him to continue. The sad, sad truth was cooking was one of the few things that stayed constant over the last few years of his life, so he wanted to continue cooking… where he could. It gave him some sense of normality and he was still on edge over what happened, and waiting for word on what would be happing to his dad. So, today he made scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, bacon bits and French toast, Alex had learned that Chris and Robert had bit of a sweet tooth.
“Are you sure?” Alex asked looking up from the stove, where he was waiting for the French toast to finish cooking.
“Of course darling.” Lily smiled at the cute boy “Why not?”
“I think Alex is making sure you want this.” Tia interrupted shallowing some of her breakfast, she loved Alex’s cooking and was happy with the fact that her mum let Alex cook breakfast at the very least, across from her mum. “He’s giving you the change to back out, by leaving his things next door, he’s giving you the opportunity to change your mind. Alex doesn’t want to believe that this is actually happening until it’s conformed that his dad has been removed from the picture.”
Lily gave her daughter an apprising look, while all Alex did was stuck his tongue at her and went back to his cooking.
“Well… we’re not going to change our minds.” Lily firmly said “So, if you want to bring all your stuff over, you may, but if you want to wait, you may do that as well. Nothing is going to change our minds, ever, you got that sweetie.”
“Alex wants to bring his stuff over.” Tia asked pushing back from the table and stretching “I’ll help. I’ve got nothing better to do.”
With that she put her plate in the sink and dragged Alex out of the door and to his old house. Chris was still asleep at the moment, having stayed up really late working on some invention. Tia herself used to sleep in late like her brother, but ever since she found out what was going on at Alex’s place, she started to get up as early as he did, at first to make sure he was okay when he lived with his dad, then when he moved in with them it was to keep him company.
Tia liked being in the smaller boys company and had come to see him as something special, he may be a few months younger than her, but it didn’t explain her feelings towards him. What made her like him more was that he had no idea how to react to it, he didn’t know how to react to love, care and any other form of positive interaction or use it, because Alex always acted so young it was almost like a mask.
“I don’t really need help.” Alex said as he walked up to his old bedroom “I already have most of my stuff at your place.”
“You can’t seriously have all your clothes at my house by now.” Tia laughed pushing her dark hair out of her face, please tell her he was
lying about that.
“Well… I do.” Alex said scuffing his pale toes on the tan carpet “I don’t own a lot of clothes or a lot of anything really.”
“Why not?” Tia asked, she was genuinely curious “Do you hate shopping?”
“No.” Alex told her getting a worn trunk from under his bed “I actually really like grocery shopping. I just never had the money to get new clothes. It was always between bills, groceries and clothes, so I always picked paying the bills and buying food. I was left in charge of the budgeting, since my dad was so bad at it.”
It broke Tia’s heart with the way Alex so casually explained another aspect of his life that revealed how poor it was and how bad his living conditions had been for years; he talked about it as if ever teen had to choose between starving and being clothed, it was only then did Tia see how lucky she has been… she had two parents that loved her more than life itself. To Alex that concept was probably so foreign that he never thought about it, and never considered why anyone would want to help him. It always sadden her to think about how little Alex thought of his value and self-worth.
“Well… what do you want to bring with you?” Tia asked wanting to get past the awkward conversion.
“Do you think your parents would mind if I bring over some of my family photos?” Alex asked swinging his hands at his hips nervously.
“I think they would love that.” Tia said an encouraging smile on her face “Where are they? I’ve only seen that one photo of your sister.”
“Oh… that’s easy, they’re in the secret room!” Alex told her with a snarky smile on his face “I told you about that room when you came in last time.”
“Chris and I couldn’t find it.”
“It’s in here.” Alex said as he opened his empty closet and slide aside a small bookshelf that was shocked full with mystery novels revealing a small door. Tia followed him on her hands and knees into the faded red room, lit by soft white limps. The surroundings captured her attention for only a few moments before she took in the shrine that Alex had made. There weren’t a lot of pictures up, most were in box that sat in the corner. Some had a younger Alex, they went up until he was eight, there were pictures of a smiling woman with warm brown hair and eyes with a small replica of herself. Tia thought that Alex would have had that colour if he was born with pigment in his hair, but then thought he looked better with his white hair and blue eyes.
Over the years more things had been added, like perfect school papers, a small article highlighting Alex’s achievements at a local art contest, and a lot of notebooks, all of them hand written and when she looked closer it looked like Alex’s handwriting.
“What’s with all these books?” Tia asked, pointing to one of the piles in question.
“Oh… that’s just a pile of personal journals.” Alex explained “I’ve kept a journal for as long as I could write, you know, so I would never forget who I was. I don’t want to look back at my life and not remember what happened and when and if I get to a point where I’m not the type of person I want to be, I want to be able to look back and see how I got here, so I can change. The other stack is just stories I’ve written, and the last is songs, music and poetry I’ve written.”
“Okay then.” Tia said in complete awe.
“I’ve had a lot of time to myself.” Alex shrugged, it was if that explained everything.
“Well… let’s get everything out of here.”
They had moved everything into Alex’s old room, and into the trunk, which Tia carried and Alex the box of the pictures that weren’t on the wall. When the two got back to his new room Chris was still asleep and Lily was anxious to help her new son settle in. In her mind, Lily felt everything would be better when Alex had moved in for good.
“Is this everything?” Lily asked, she was shocked at how little Alex had in the way of personal belongings.
“Yes.” Alex replied, he was a little bit… fine, really embarrassed by how little he owned.
While it was one thing to admit it to the girl who was quickly becoming his best friend and a very important person to him that he owned very little and another to tell or admit it to the women he wanted so desperately to like him, who he saw as a mother figure.
“Okay,” Lily told him “Well… may I help you unpack your trunk , since the rest of your things are already here?”
“No!” Alex exclaimed, shocking everyone even himself along with Lily and Tia “I mean… I’m sure you have other things you would rather be doing.”
“Nonsense!” Lily laughed, what could be more important than helping him settle in.
Before Alex could put any protest again, Lily opened the lid of his trunk, revealing notebooks, but more importantly the pictures… of happier times. The effect of it had on Alex was instantaneous, he was glad that she didn’t see the box which he had already put under the bed, the blood was drained from his prominent checks, he started to tremble uncontrollably, and his unique coloured eyes grew wide in anxiety.
“Mum… I think you might want to give Alex and me a moment… okay?” Tia asked, stepping up to physically shield the boy from her mum’s gaze “I’ll get you when we’re done, but I need to talk to him, alone, first.”
“Okay.” Lily agreed, leaving the room as soon as she realized how out of her league she was with this child.
Lily found her husband in his study shortly after, reading a small print paper by his desk lamp in his high back gold leather chair.
“Sweetheart.” Lily said, perching on the edge of the desk “Do you think we may have bitten of more than we can chew by taking Alex in?”
“What do you mean?” Robert asked putting aside what he was reading to study his wife “Are you saying that you don’t want him to live with us after all.”
“Not at all” Lily reassured “It’s just that… when we adopted Harmony we knew she had a medical issue and with me being a doctor… we knew we could handle it. Alex is different… he’s not physically ill and different things will send him into panic mode. Just now, for instance when I was helping him unpack, he began to have a panic attack when I opened a trunk filled with family photos.”
“Well… is he okay now?” Robert asked in alarm.
“I don’t know… Tia is with him.” Lily said, a trace of pride in her voice for how mature her daughter was acting “She seems to be the only one Alex truly trusts and she pays attention to him. Have you noticed that, sometimes they act like they’re married or something.”
“I have… I’m really glad that Tia had Alex. I’ve been concerned about her ever since Harmony passed away, because she just seemed to close herself off and become hostile to the world around her, it was as if she was afraid of feeling that pain again. I really can’t blame her… but I was worried that she would never move passed it and then she meet Alex. I know for a fact she loves that boy more than life itself. The thing is Alex will never know how much we are indebted to him… for getting Tia to open up again. If we’re lucky they’ll get married and he’ll be our son in law.”
“They may be the only ones who can get the other and I think you’re right about that Robert.” Lily softly said.
“Give them both time.” Robert told his wife, kissing her hands and checks “They’ll get better and the only thing we can do for them is to be patient, understanding and let them heal in their own time.”