I wasn’t completely sure what was going on inside Rem’s head, but I knew that the shaman-thing was still bothering him a lot. He seemed absent-minded and sombre. He was avoiding Patrick and spending a lot of time alone. I knew he was avoiding dad because he didn’t want to talk to him about what the fairies had suggested. He didn’t want to break our family, and I really appreciated that. But I also didn’t want him to break himself while doing his part in keeping us together.
I tried to talk to him one evening when we were doing homework together. Rem had been mostly quiet and kept frowning at his notebook. He had erased his writing so many times and so violently that there was a hole in the page. That was very unlike him. Usually he treated paper – and anything else that could be drawn on – with almost reverent care.
“Telling Patrick doesn’t mean that it’s somehow decided,” I said after thinking intently on what to say.
Rem chewed his lip and didn’t answer.
“Didn’t we already agree that running away from things and pretending they don’t exist is a terrible idea? You were the one who said that, remember?”
“I just have a really bad feeling about all that. And I… in a way I want to help them. But I really don’t want to leave. So I’m afraid that dad will just stop me from going anymore, or then worry himself sick over it all.”
“Oh come on! Patrick wouldn’t make you cut ties to Alvar just like that! He wants to be a part of his life too!”
Rem tapped his pencil against his head, a contemplative expression on his face.
“I was thinking that I’d figure out what I want first, and then talk to dad. But I’m not sure I can do that fast enough.”
“Well, yeah, figuring out one’s future at age fifteen isn’t going to just happen in a few days! That’s why we talk to other people.”
“I get it,” Rem said, “It just isn’t easy.”
“I can imagine,” I said, my voice getting surprisingly gentle, “But… we’re not going to stay here forever. We’re going to get lives of our own. Grow up, you know. And dad knows that too.”
“I mean, you’re not going to disappear right away. Think about it as a career option!”
Okay, so I knew that it wasn’t that simple. But at least my words made Rem laugh – albeit weakly.
“Thanks, Lynn. Really. I’ll talk to dad soon.”
A week passed, and he still hadn’t talked.
I could have said something about it, even rat out the fairies and their shaman plans to mum and Patrick. But I adamantly decided that this was something my stubborn brother had to do on his own. He at least had to man up enough to talk to his own dad for crying out loud! And it seemed like he tried, sometimes, but then he always backed down and settled for sadly observing a moment of our daily lives as if he needed to memorise it as well as he could.
Meanwhile, Patrick seemed to know that something was wrong. Or then he just had his own issues with Rem being so awkward and quiet – which was totally understandable. He slyly tried to get Rem to open up. Usually he was very good at it. He spent time with us like he always did, but now he seemed to use a lot of that time to lead his conversations with Rem to worries and Rem’s other family. He talked about it while teaching Rem how to cook, and he managed to even work it into their idle chatter during the chess matches Patrick had recently got a habit of challenging us into. And Rem always kept his answers vague and smiled and said nothing was wrong.
It was annoying, really.
I guess Rem hadn’t been kidding when he’d said he wanted to get his own thoughts sorted out about it first. He seemed to be seriously thinking what he’d want to be when he grew up, at least. His uncertainty about the future surprised me; I’d always figured that Rem would become an artist. I mean, his lifelong passion for painting certainly made it seem that way. But apparently he didn’t think it was that obvious. So he experimented; he signed up to his school’s afterschool shop class and started bringing home small wooden sculptures and butter knives and other random things he made there. He read lots of books, most of which focused on different fields of science on nature and plants. He went camping again after a long break from it. He even made new friends. It was certainly a healthier way for a teenager to try to find themselves than clandestine underage drinking, I supposed. Maybe that was why mum and Patrick didn’t complain and happily paid any fees Rem’s new activities required.
I guessed I too should just let him try new things and find himself, even though I figured randomly getting new hobbies wasn’t going to be the sure-fire way to self-discovery. At least not in a short enough time. I was getting worried about Patrick; he was so obviously waiting for Rem to talk, even though waiting was making him sick with worry.
I hoped that seeing Alvar would help things, because then Patrick could get closer to his biological son and the life that was trying share Rem with us. And Patrick did seem happy when Alvar and Kielo visited.
He talked with them, asked questions, and even taught Alvar to cook with our stove – Alvar was much better at it than Rem. But after they were gone, Patrick would go back to quiet melancholy he tried his best to mask.
One day I caught snippets of a conversation through the door of my parents’ bedroom. I knew I should have already grown out of eavesdropping, but I really hadn’t. I stopped and heard tears in my stepfather’s voice. Really. Tears. Patrick almost never cried.
“It feels like we’re family with people we know nothing about. My son was taken from me, and now this… this stranger occasionally shows up and I try to connect him to the baby I saw for a few moments before he… how could they take him away back then?”
“They gave you Rem,” said mum’s voice. She sounded so gentle and quiet, as if Patrick had suddenly turned into glass and would break apart if she spoke any louder. I had to strain my ears to hear her.
“I know…” Patrick said, “I’m immensely glad about that. But I… sometimes I almost
wish that this never happened. That we didn’t know about Alvar…”
“Don’t say that. You love him too.”
“Yeah… but I never have time to get to know him before he’s whisked away again. And now Rem’s slipping away too.”
“No, he’s not. The kids are just at that age when they have to find out what they really want. You know that.”
I backed away from the door at that point. It was what I’d been fearing, but also what I hadn’t even considered before.
Maybe we’d been naïve to think that we could invite a pixie family into our lives and expect it to be all sunshine and whimsy. Well, we hadn’t really thought that, actually. We’d known it would be tricky. Because what else could one expect when both of our families were so complicated? Still, a part of me had thought that things would have calmed down by now. That the fair folk would finally play nice. I shook my head at that thought. Sometimes, when I started blaming the fair folk too much, I had to remind myself that they too were grieving so many losses and lamenting so many troubles.
In the end I decided to stop losing sleep over it and to just watch how things would develop. After all, things could be – and had been – much worse and much more confusing. Besides, I had things in my own life I wanted to think about too. Like turning eighteen years old. That magical birthday was just a few weeks away. Soon I’d be an adult in the eyes of SimNation’s law. That meant more freedom, less adults watching me – at least in theory, though I doubted things would really change that radically in just a few weeks – and of course, more responsibility.
What excited me the most about the whole thing was that then I’d be free to get more tattoos in pretty much any tattoo place I wanted. Though the vegan place, Bridgeport CMYK, where I’d got my first tattoo – and the second one, which I’d managed to get about a year ago to cover more of my scars – was good enough to become my regular place. But even the people at CMYK had insisted that I waited until I was eighteen before I got more. I could see their point, really. The flowers on my arm had felt like a good idea back then, and I still mostly liked them, but I also had a feeling that I might want something else once I was a bit more certain about what kind of a person I’d grow up into.
I mean, I’d already grown so much, but sometimes I had moments of clarity when I knew that this wasn’t the final result. That I’d always be building myself. In some ways I was fine with that. There were plenty of things I’d like to change about how I saw the world and myself, but I hadn’t yet found out what I’d like to change them into. But when I thought about the things I actually liked about myself – which weren’t very numerous – I felt afraid. Afraid that I’d change so that those things would be lost or warped. Maybe a few years from now I wouldn’t enjoy writing or books, and I’d be missing a piece of myself. Maybe I wouldn’t be friends with the people I was friends with now. Maybe the silly moments I could sometimes find a special kind of happiness in wouldn’t make me feel anything anymore.
When those thoughts got too bad, I usually talked with Michel. He was going through a transition in his life too. He was already nineteen – almost twenty – and he had graduated from high school almost a year ago. He had spent the past year travelling to other countries, and then sending applications to universities he wanted to attend. He seemed to be so okay with being him despite clearly knowing that his life was about to change so much. It made me feel at ease, most of the time. And he was great company, even though he had somehow managed to rope me into helping him study for his entrance exams. He wanted to earn his money by building cyborgs, so he was applying for bioengineering and robotics programmes all the way in places like La Fiesta Tech, a university I had only vaguely heard of before this. Apparently it was close to Strangetown, a place that was rumoured to be inhabited by hidden aliens.
I chuckled at those rumours, but also realised that I didn’t completely dismiss them. Compared to hidden fairy villages, a hidden alien community was… well, just as likely, really.
Michel’s upcoming exams forced me to read a lot of tiny text that didn’t really make a lot of sense to me because it was about advanced technological things I knew nothing about. But Michel seemed to be okay with that. He kept saying that I was good at quizzing him on the stuff because I was a fast reader and actually understood more than I thought I did. All I knew was that it was nice to help a friend, and nice to get reminders that people could take directions in life.
And it was definitely nice to take a break to play video games after an intense studying session too.
“Man, you’ve had days to practise this game while I’ve been gone and I still keep kicking your ass!”
“Hey, I’ve been studying!” Michel grinned at my friendly barb, “Some people have more important things in their life than video games.”
“Like being a sci-fi geek?” I said, “Because you’re totally trying to get into studying sci-fi stuff that’s just a bit less fi and more sci.”
“I know. Awesome, right? Also I just blew your head up.”
I returned my focus on the screen too late and watched Michel’s character taunt my character’s now headless body.
“Hey! I was distracted.”
“You’re the one who started talking.”
I opened my mouth to fire a sharp retort, but I was interrupted when Michel’s door swung open and Carla walked in. She was dressed even more fancily than usual, in an admittedly pretty Chinese-style dress.
“Michel!” she said in a somewhat whiny voice, “Did you take my phone charger again-“
She suddenly fell silent when she realised her brother wasn’t alone. Her eyes fell on me, and she gaped at me as if I wasn’t a regular guest at her house nowadays.
“Oh, hi,” she said tensely. She had mostly stopped bullying others as the years had passed, but I couldn’t say that we really liked each other yet. She was still kind of a bitch and definitely too much of a snob for my tastes, and I was too much of a loser in her eyes.
“Hi,” I said, and then turned to Michel, “Another match?”
“Sure,” Michel looked at Carla, “I don’t know about your charger. Maybe mum used it and left it at our gym.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Carla said, “You know what, enjoy your game. I’ve got to be somewhere.”
“Going on a date?” Michel guessed.
“No!” Carla snapped, “Just out… to eat. With my usual friends.”
She spun around as if she didn’t want to talk about it. I got a distinct feeling she was hiding something from her brother.
“Well, enjoy your murder simulator, I’m off,” she said and hurried out of the room.
“This is a fighting game, you know!” Michel shouted after her.
Michel looked at his closing door for a while, and then shrugged.
“She’s so totally going on a date. Who’s she with nowadays anyway? That Mark-guy is ancient history, right? Then was that brief time with that Kevin-fella. But I think she told me she’s single now, like… three weeks ago. You hear any gossip about that?”
“No”, I said, “I don’t really care about that stuff.”
And I would have continued not to care about it if we hadn’t heard Carla and Michel’s mother loudly welcoming a guest, and the guest answering in a voice that was so familiar it made me jump right up from my seat and hurry out of the room to see what was going on.
I made my way across the Faroffingtons’ third floor and then froze at the top of the stairs. In the kitchen below us stood three people. One was Sindy Faroffington, behind whom stood a very nervous-looking Carla.
“Mum, we should really be going already…” she muttered, but her mum was ignoring her.
The third person, the one Sindy was talking to, was-
“Rem?” I managed to cough out.
Rem looked up and waved cheerfully. He was still dressed in his winter clothes, and his cheeks were red from biking through the snow.
“Hey, Lynn! Fancy seeing you here!”
My mouth hung open in shock. Sindy beamed at everyone in the room.
“Okay, Carla, Rem, get in the car. The Bistro is going to be really busy if we wait for too long.”
Michel burst into laughter. Carla buried her face into her hands.
“This is so frickin’ embarrassing!”
I still couldn’t say anything. My brother was going on a date with Carla? Just hearing they were sort of friends was shocking. But dating? There were so many things wrong with that.
First of all, Rem was only fifteen – okay, almost sixteen but still. Secondly, my protective big sister instincts stated that Rem didn’t date. Thirdly, Carla. Fourthly, what the hell was going on?
Michel was still laughing. I realised that Rem, Carla, and Sindy had already left the kitchen and probably the house altogether.
“Oh man, this is so funny! My sis is dating the weird hippie-kid!”
“Hey, that’s my weird hippie brother you’re talking about!” I said, finally getting my vocal cords to work again.
“I know! That’s even weirder!”
I narrowed my eyes.
“Since you find this so amusing, you probably won’t mind helping me.”
Michel managed to calm down, and he cleared his throat.
“Helping you with what?” he frowned.
“Finding out where they’re going.”
Now Michel was completely serious, and I could see disbelief sneaking on his face.
“What? You’re going to stalk them on their date?”
When he put it like that, it all sounded really wrong. But not as wrong as Carla and Rem going on a date. It was just… I could smell a disaster miles away from a setup like that! Sure, Carla wasn’t as bad as she had been when we’d been twelve, but she was still too preoccupied with being perfectly what others expected her to be that she didn’t even want to admit she was friends with Rem. They’d been having talks in secret, as Rem had sometimes told me, and the whole setup bothered Rem to no end, yet he still kept doing it because he was too sweet to stop helping someone talk about their problems. It sounded like a very lousy friendship. So how could this possibly work? I took a deep breath and then answered Michel’s question with a simple:
By using our detective skills – and mostly by remembering that Sindy had mentioned a Bistro – we figured out that Rem and Carla were going to the Bistro Bretagne. It was located close enough to the Faroffington’s house that we dared to brave the winter cold in our sweaters. At least if we were discovered and had to make a hasty retreat, we didn’t have to stop to grab our coats.
I hadn’t been to the Bistro before. It looked pretty nice from the outside, and the inside wasn’t too bad either. Though the painting of a couple in front of a very Parisian landscape was a bit tacky and ill-placed in my opinion. Michel and I took a table at the corner and tried to be as discreet as possible. The staff wouldn’t let us just sit in the restaurant without ordering anything, so Michel ordered a coffee with some kind of caramel foam and a complicated name. The waiter raised his brows, but didn’t comment on it. Maybe he just didn’t like people using a restaurant as a café.
“Okay, there they are,” Michel said and nodded towards the table where my brother and his sister were talking, “And we’re at the perfect vantage point for your silly soap opera-level scheme.”
“Whoa, whoa, hey!” I raised my arms and sputtered incoherently while trying to think of a witty answer, “I… this… it’s not soap opera -level!”
Okay, so I couldn’t think of a witty anything right now, apparently. Michel’s mouth quirked into a lopsided smile.
“Suuuure. Look, I get you’re being an overprotective big sister, but… seriously?”
I looked at Michel’s annoyingly amused expression. Hey, Rem was too young to date like this, and Carla was too old for him. Not to mention she was still mostly a bitch, and- Okay, sure, I was being overprotective, but considering what our lives had been like so far, it was just rational and sensible, right? I tried reminding myself that Michel didn’t know everything about our lives, but he did know that we’d gone through a lot. I had told him about the fire and my crazy stepdad because that was something that could be found out by reading some old news on the web. But fairies, changelings, fragile psyches and tangled families… he didn’t know about any of that, and I wasn’t about to tell him either. And now that I sat here, I started to think that even all of what had happened really wasn’t enough to warrant this… well, stalking. I started feeling silly, for the most part. But I still had one card that made me feel less stupid, so I played it:
“Carla turns eighteen in like… how many months? And Rem’s still barely sixteen!”
Michel’s face scrunched up.
“Oh yeah, that’s a thing. But seriously, I’m pretty sure this won’t last even that long. Carla switches boyfriends almost as often as she changes shoes.”
He was exaggerating a bit – even I knew that – and his words didn’t make me feel any better.
“Although,” Michel went on, “I’ve got to admit that she seems to be happy now.”
I looked at Carla as well, and I realised that there was something really weird about her. Weird only because I hadn’t associated it with Carla until now.
She was smiling, and it wasn’t the forced, fake, or sarcastic kind of smile I’d seen on her face before. Her smile was… she actually looked pretty.
Okay, so maybe my be-friends-with-everyone -brother could make even our high school’s bitchy princess’s heart melt. Still, it didn’t make it much less iffy.
“I have to talk to him about this,” I muttered.
“Oh, sure, you do. And I’m pretty sure your parents have to too,” Michel leaned to the table, “I’m just surprised you didn’t do it right away. You’re usually smarter than this.”
I frowned at him, but then I got something else to think about when Carla turned her head and saw us.
“What the hell are you two doing here?!”
Michel was suddenly up.
Before I could say anything, Michel was running, and I bolted after him before my mind could catch up with what was going on.
We raced out the door – and I was thankful Michel had paid for his coffee when it had arrived, because otherwise we’d be in so much trouble right now. Still, I couldn’t help thinking about how weird and suspicious we must have looked, sprinting out of a restaurant as fast as we could and without proper winter clothes.
We stopped to catch our breath at the Bistro’s snow-covered terrace. Michel started laughing so hard he almost doubled over.
“Why the hell did we do that?” he managed to wheeze out between frostbitten, breathless bouts of laughter.
“You’re the one who ran!” I said.
“But you’re the one who wanted to come here!”
I was quiet for a moment. Michel grinned.
“But hey, the coffee was good.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“C’mon, let’s go back to my place and get you some coffee too. We’re freezing out here without our coats.”
I couldn’t help smiling back at him.
I managed to corner Rem the next day after school, when mum and Patrick were still at work and Merrill was in kindergarten. We sat down in the living room, and Rem was talking before I could even really make my case:
“This is about Carla, right?”
“I guess that’s pretty obvious.”
“You were spying on us at the Bistro,” Rem crossed his arms, “That was… weird.”
My cheeks felt warm.
“Okay, so it wasn’t one of my best ideas, but I was worried! Carla’s way too old for you, and you’re-“
“We’re not dating.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“Then what was it?”
It was Rem’s turn to blush. He fidgeted in his seat and twisted his fingers together. I noted the stiffness of his right shoulder. It had sometimes been acting up ever since he’d been shot there. Thankfully he could still paint – I couldn’t possibly imagine Rem without a paintbrush in hand, and I had a feeling he couldn’t either despite claiming he didn’t know what he wanted out of life.
“She asked me out,” he admitted, “She said she liked me… because I’ve been nice to her and listened to her all these years.”
“Oh yeah… so you decided to go from secret friend-dates to secret… date-dates?”
Rem was quiet again. I knew he didn’t really want to talk about this, but I also knew I was probably the only one who could have any chance of getting the truth out of him at the moment. So I waited. And waited. And waited until Rem finally muttered:
“Just to… try it out. Dating, I mean. We weren’t going to… do anything. Just talk, but more officially. I told her… I told her that if she wanted to go out with me, we shouldn’t hide it. She told her mum, so I figured it was alright…”
He fiddled with the hem of his autumn-coloured sweater and then added hastily:
“I did tell her that it would be just a sort of trial run. For the… dating. I wasn’t going to give her the wrong impression.”
I stared at my brother.
“You used Carla Faroffington to ‘try out’ dating and got her to even go out in public with a tree hugger two years younger than her… voluntarily?”
“Wow, that’s pretty badass.”
I smiled, and then switched myself back into serious-mode.
“But really, we have to talk about this. You’re not going to keep this a secret from mum and dad, are you?”
“No! Well… I’m going to tell them eventually. It’s just… a part of trying to figure out what I want.”
“Rem…” I sighed.
Rem closed his eyes.
“Fine, I’ll tell them. And I’ll talk to Carla too. We’ll… get this sorted out.”
It was the best I could get out of him before he claimed he had a lot of homework to do and left me alone in the living room.
I figured I’d give him a few days to “sort it out”. But no more than that.
So I reluctantly let the matter rest.
Unfortunately some other people didn’t.
Apparently someone at our school had found out about Carla and Rem’s short, amicable date at the Bistro, and this being high school during social media age, rumours started to fly almost instantly. It seemed that even Princess Carla wasn’t immune to mean words and gossip if she just gave enough fuel for it.
It was definitely an odd sight: Carla sitting a bit forlorn on the couch in the school’s hallway, with only her eternally devoted supporter Mina Jones for company, and with a group of other students whispering behind their backs.
“Wow,” I said to Min, who was glaring angrily at the rumour mill that was spinning in front of us, “I never thought I’d feel sorry for Carla.”
I paused for a thoughtful moment.
“It does help that they’re also making fun of my brother.”
“It’s getting nasty pretty fast,” she said, “At least for a stupid little thing like that!”
“That’s high school for you, I guess. Makes you think how boring our lives are when this is something that warrants so much gossip.”
“Should we do something?”
“Like what? Learn hacking so we can destroy their Simbook accounts?”
“We could tell some of the teachers.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, maybe this’ll die down soon so we don’t have to contribute to the drama.”
I could always hope.
It didn’t happen.
A few days later the rumours were still going, and they were getting worse. It was getting pretty systematic, really. I’d thought that this kind of thing had mostly died down at the early years of high school, but here we were; almost adults and dealing with nasty psychological bullying.
At the head of it was Lisa Bunch, who was a bit less influential, but just as much of a bitch as Carla was – maybe even worse now that Carla had mellowed out a bit. I caught her openly making fun of Carla and her “scruffy jailbait fairy -boyfriend” and calling Carla a bunch of really unflattering names.
I didn’t know if it was just my memories of being bullied, or if it was because of Rem or because I just wanted to show Carla that I was a better person than her. Or maybe I even wanted bury the hatchet and maybe take steps to end the nowadays very passive-aggressive not-war between us. Whatever it was, something made me go up to Lisa Bunch and stand up for the person I’d never really liked.
“Hey, cut it out!” I snapped, “Isn’t that getting really frickin’ old?”
Lisa blinked a few times before she realised that the quiet bookworm from Carla’s class was now standing in front of her. She frowned at me.
“Why do you care?” she said.
I crossed my arms.
“Well, first of all, because what you’re going is really pathetic, and second of all, the ‘scruffy jailbait fairy’ is my brother!”
Lisa snorted, her face twisting into an angry scowl. I glanced at Carla, and I wasn’t sure what I‘d expected to see. Probably not the odd mixture of disbelief, worry, and disgust that was on her face right now.
Maybe she was worried that she’d now be labelled as the loser who had been defended by a bigger loser. But hey, it wasn’t really her I was defending, right? I stepped towards Lisa.
“So back off!” I said, “Or I’ll tell everyone you’ve been cyber-bullying and harassing a lot of people in your sad free time.”
“Yeah! And she’s not the only one who’ll tell!” Min yelled from behind me – I could always trust her to have my back, “You want to keep being a bitch? Then get ready to face us!”
Okay, so that was maybe needlessly dramatic. And my threats really weren’t all that impressive. But they seemed to do the job. Or then Lisa just figured she didn’t want to risk getting in too much trouble – because at this point we knew there would be trouble. I could already hear our maths teacher coming through the door to her classroom, asking what was wrong.
Lisa took that moment to flip her hair angrily and storm off the scene, muttering something that I couldn’t make sense of, but that I probably didn’t even want to hear.
Carla looked at me one more time, and then she too walked away a bit too quickly. Mina Jones followed her like a puppy. The rest of the students that had gathered to follow the scene scattered now that the drama was over. Soon only Min and I stood in the hallway, and I heard our maths teacher, Miss Rodrigues, berating Lisa and others in a gently chastising tone as if they were ten-year-olds.
Min let out a whoop of joy.
“Aaw, yeah! We showed her! That was awesome! I didn’t think you’d really do it!”
I managed an unsure smile in return.
“Me neither… I’m not sure it was even worth it.”
“Oh, trust me,” Min gave me one of her amazingly beautiful smiles, “I’m sure it was.”
That afternoon Min and I went outside to wait for the bus despite the snowy, cold weather. Sunset Valley’s winters were usually pretty mild, but this year it had been snowing like crazy. Sure, the snow was usually sticky and soggy because it didn’t get cold enough, but it was still snow. Patrick blamed global warming again.
Min and I chatted together about normal things like afterschool activities and homework when I heard footsteps approaching us through the snow. It was unexpected because no one else usually braved the snowdrifts just so they could sit on the bench outside at this hour. I looked up and saw none other than Carla Faroffington. She was dressed in her winter coat and had an odd expression on her face. Like she was forcing herself to sniff a decaying salmon.
“So…” she said slowly, “I just wanted to say… thanks. For standing up for me.”
I blinked. Many times. Min had to be the one to speak:
“Yeah, sure. No problem. And no hard feelings. You didn’t get in trouble, right? We heard Miss Rodrigues telling you and Lisa off for yelling in the hallways.”
“Whatever,” Carla scoffed, “I land on my feet.”
That was all she said. Then she turned around and swiftly walked back inside. I stared after her for a long, baffled moment.
“Should we somehow take note of this time?” I finally asked, “As the moment Carla was actually genuinely trying to be nice?”
“Told you it was worth it.”
I rolled my eyes at her, but she had just crossed her legs and stared nonchalantly into the wintry sky. I smiled.
“Okay, fine. I guess it was.”
I told Rem about the incident after school. He seemed upset.
“I never wanted that to happen,” he said, as if he needed to clarify something like that, “I just… she wanted to go out with me, and I wanted to know if that was what I wanted. I didn’t…”
“That’s high school for you,” I repeated the words I’d said to Min the other day, “At least in the beginning. You should be prepared for it.”
“I’ll try,” Rem frowned at the walls, “It’s stupid. We weren’t even dating. I told Carla that the dinner was nice… She really can be nice too if she just feels safe enough. But I don’t like her that way.”
“You have no idea how much drama you just spared yourself and our family by saying that.”
“I think I do… maybe,” Rem smiled, “Alright, I get it. I’ll tell dad about the shaman-thing, and I’ll try my best to figure myself out in ways that don’t hurt others… even accidentally.”
“Good luck with that,” I said, “So… if you learned something, I’d say it was maybe worth it?”
“I think so too.”
And that night it occurred to me that maybe it had been worth it for Carla too. I remembered her smile at the restaurant, and her genuine gratitude at school, and I figured that even small moments of decency counted for something.
The next evening it was cold enough for mum and Patrick to take us skating at a nearby pond. The ice on it had finally become thick, and we could try to forget our worries while we skated across the ice and the setting sun dyed the sky pink. Merrill giggled when Patrick tossed him around in the snow, and Rem laughed when he asked me to race him across the pond.
It was another moment of decency and clarity in the confusing and uncertain world.
As was the moment afterwards, when we drove home past Sunset Valley’s beach and I watched the lighthouse’s spinning light and realised once again that our hometown was beautiful.
We got home and mum started making hot tea for all of us – well, except for Merrill, who had hot cocoa instead. We sat down around the dining table with our warm mugs, and Merrill excitedly clambered onto the “big boy chair” to drink his cocoa, and we all stopped to enjoy the moment and us as a family. That was when Rem decided to say:
“Dad, there’s something I want to talk about.”
I worried that it would break our family moment. But Patrick just nodded and calmly finished his tea and then climbed upstairs into his and mum’s room to talk with Rem.
“Do you know what that’s about?” mum asked when she was putting our cups away into the dishwasher and I was tasked with keeping Merrill distracted so he wouldn’t want to disturb his dad and big brother’s talk.
I did know, but at that moment I didn’t want to talk about it. I was feeling tired after the skating, and warm after the tea. Too happy and pleasantly sluggish to start thinking about family drama. I pretended I didn’t know anything, made Merrill laugh by tickling his sides and handed him over to mum. I then excused myself, went upstairs and grabbed a book to read.
I didn’t eavesdrop on Rem and Patrick’s father-son talk, as much as I wanted to. I lingered outside our bedrooms and waited for Rem to get back.
The door opened about an hour later, and Rem walked out with a peaceful smile on his face.
“How’d it go?” I asked.
“Dad wasn’t happy I’d kept it a secret.”
He sat down and grabbed a toy robot Merrill had left on the floor. He started pretending the robot was a futuristic pizza delivery boy, and moved it to and fro in front of him.
“But all in all, it went well,” he said, “Dad isn’t that angry. He said he’d do whatever he could to help. He just needs some time to think.”
“See? I told you so.”
“Mm-hmm… I still don’t know what to do, though.”
I watched him play with the robot and thought about how much of a kid he still was. I hoped he didn’t even need to know yet. Not for a few years, at least.
Author’s Note: I realised after doing the school –photoshoot that I’d used Lisa Bunch as an extra in a chapter where Lynn was still a kid, so she shouldn’t be the same age as Lynn. Buuuut I never mentioned her name or showed her face so it was totally another blonde teenager with the same outfit. Yeah. *shifty eyes*
Also yay for long chapters with lots of nothing going on. Except for character development I guess. I hope it’s not too disappointing considering I most likely won’t be updating in November because NaNoWriMo.
I changed the restaurant’s name because why not. Making the interior for it was pretty fun! But man, I don’t know… I should probably actually do something plot-related here. I just keep thinking that the plot I have planned is sort of a rehash of arc 1… but I’ll think of something different.
Anyway, I hope you find something to enjoy about this, and have a lovely time!
PREVIOUS Chapter: Family Ties
NEXT Chapter: Eighteen