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Chapter XIII:

Chapter XIII:

It was even worse than I thought it would be.

Pieces of glass scattered on the ground - furniture destroyed on the ground, some stuff even missing, but the thing that pained me the most was that most of the family pictures and stuff were gone or vandalized.

“Wh-what. . .” I mumbled - trying to control my tears.

“Oh . . . You’re in here.” I suddenly heard from my left side. I expected to see an upset or guilty look from the mystery person, but when I turned around, I saw Jayden with a straight expression on his face.

“Did you find anything yet?” I asked, trying to hide the drops that were about to fall from my eyes.

“No, but I wanted to look down here, because the other two are upstairs.” He answered, slowly backing towards the kitchen.

“Where did you look already?” I asked - slowly sitting down on the last remainder of a kitchen chair.

“Uhm . . . I have no idea which room is from who. . .” He mumbled, slowly looking up from a cabinet, scratching his neck slightly.

“You can show me later.” I answered, my voice not so pitchy anymore.

“I’ll help . . .” I murmured, jumping from the highchair, willing to help him, but being stopped immediately.

“No, Alice please sit down, I will do it. I swear.” He answered, taking my pulse in his hand from across the kitchen island.

“No, I will help. I swear.” I mimicked him, a little annoyed at his behavior. I knew I was really emotional before - and still was - but I needed to help. This was sort of my ‘case’, so I needed to help.

“No, Alice sit down on that freaking chair.” He said, raising his voice.

“You.” I said – pointing at his chest and looking up. “You have absolutely no right to say what I have to do.” I said, sounding too harsh, my eyes standing cold.

I wasn’t supposed to attack him like that. And I have no idea why I had these mood swings so suddenly.

“I do. I do have the right to tell you what to do.” He fired back.

“Why?! What in your head does think that you can command me, you’re my boss or master, something like that?!” I yelled back.

“No!” He yelled, but that when he suddenly grabbed the counter corner, trying to manage his balance. “Of course not.” He continued, his voice softening. “There just may be something that could make you ‘more’ emotional or freak out, and I just don’t want that to happen to you. I just really do care about your safety and feelings, and that’s why I lashed out on you, which I am truly sorry for.” He confessed, sounding so vulnerable and truly sorry.

“I-You . . .Uhm . . .” I wanted to apologize, the words were ready on my tongue, but nothing came out of my mouth.

“It’s okay . . . I get it.” He smiled softly, his eyes not really showing it, yet.

“I am sorry, too.” I finally mumbled, unwillingly, almost inaudibly.

“So, you aren’t goi- . . .”

“Nope, I am still helping.” I stood up, ignoring the glare he sent my way.

He wanted to protest, but I cut him off before he could’ve said anything. “You said you were my friend, right?” I asked, sounding like it was the most obvious thing ever.

“Yeah . . .?” He answered, sounding really unsure.

“Well friends are supposed to support one another. So, will you support me?”

“Yeah . . .Of course.” He stuttered again, looking me confounded in the eye.

“Even when I make stupid decisions?” I questioned – talking to him like a mother would.

As answer he just nodded his head, still a puzzled look on his face.

“Are you trying to manipulate me somehow?” He asked, something shinning in his eyes.

“So, you will stand behind me even when I do this?” I asked, ignoring his comment.

He didn’t answer me, but he just shook his head, his eyes showing sadness.

We both stayed quiet for a really long time. Me, not daring to say anything and Jayden because he was probably mad. Without any words he started to search, again, making my eyes follow every move he made.

***

“Nothing.” he sighed, a little frustrated, almost slamming the last drawer door.

“Did someone already go to my room?” I asked, ignoring the glances he was shooting my way.

“No, I don’t think so. They wanted you to be the first one to enter.” He answered, monotone like.

“And my parents’ room?”

“Neither did they go in there.” He answered.

“Can we go to my room first then? I think I am ready.”

“Yeah, sure.” He answered scratchily, then clearing his throat.

***

“Okay . . . I am . . . I can do this.” I stuttered; my hand already ready on the door handle.

“You ready?” Jayden asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“Yeah.” I breathed, heavily, still not opening the door.

“Are you going to open the door or are we going to stand here?” He asked, a joking tone in his voice. “Hey are you okay?” His voice softened after reading my facial expression.

“Yeah, sure . . .” I breathed, sighing deeply.

“Do I have to go in first?” He asked, almost inaudibly.

“No please.” I begged, turning my head slightly his way.

“Do I have to leave you alone then?” He asked – a confused edge in his voice.

“No!” I almost yelled. “No . . . Please don’t leave . . .” I sobbed – not wanting to be alone.

“I won’t leave, I am here, I will stay.” He encouraged, slowly sliding his back against the wall, to sit down.

***

“Okay . . .” I whispered, after maximum five minutes of trying to cool myself down. Jayden’s head shook up at the sound of my voice. “We can go in.” I announced, already on my feet.

“Okay.” He sighed, slowly crawling onto his feet.

I expected the room to be extremely bad, messy or that some stuff was missing, but the room was just how I left it - still messy, but it was my type of a clutter.

I stepped deeper inside the room, letting my index-finger follow the baby blue wall on my right side.

It looks like someone had been here not so long ago, there was no dust on the ground – which really surprised me.

“Someone has been here.” I whispered, slowly looking around, scared that someone was still in here.

“What do you mean . . .?” Jayden whispered – sounding really confounded with my statement.

“It’s never been so clean here.” I stated, still keeping my voice low.

“Let’s look around.” He then suggested, already stepping to my bookshelf – in the corner of the room, next to a beanbag, while I just stood still, looking over the room from that one spot. Everything seemed normal so far, until I saw a sheet of paper lying on my desk.

I never have anything lying on my desk, I always work on the floor.

I slowly stepped to the letter, taking tiny steps, one by one.

On the envelope was written my name in ornate, big letters.

So, I tore it open, scared of what to expect.

But I saw nothing.

It was a blank piece of paper.

“What . . .?” I heard Jayden’s confused voice whisper behind me. “Why is there nothing on it?” As answer I just shrugged.

“I’ll figure it out . . .” I answered, something darker in my voice. “Did you find something?” I asked, trying to ignore the idea what was on the white paper in my hands.

“Uhm . . . No, I was standing behind you.” He answered – matter of fact like.

“Oh, sorry.” I confessed, followed by a small chuckle.

He didn’t continue the conversation; he just nodded his head once and showed me a small smile.

“I am surprised . . .” I suddenly announced, slowly sitting on my bed - that was pointing to the window.

“Huh . . .?” Jayden hummed - looking up from the bookshelves.

“I am surprised by many things.” I continued – looking at my folded hands that I placed in my lap.

“One, that I am not bawling my eyes out at the moment.” I answered his unspoken question. “And two, that nothing changed from position. Everything remained on exactly the same spot.”

“Nothing . . .?” He asked dumbfounded at my statement.

“Yeah sorry about the trash . . .” I apologized – thinking that he reacted like that because of the messiness.

“No, no that’s not the point.” He encouraged, reacting directly after my statement.

“It’s just that it surprises me that nobody went in here and messed some stuff up . . .” He shrugged. It felt like a small weight had been lifted from my shoulders after hearing that, I was really scared that he would think some ‘bad’ things about me – that I wasn’t clean enough for him.

“I don’t get it either . . .” I answered, slowly standing up from the foot of my bed.

“I don’t think anything is in here . . .” Jayden’s voice called from my bathroom, while I was still looking at my letter.

What could possibly be written in it, that someone would break into my house to just place it on my desk? And not even really write in it.

“Is that okay, Alice?” That suddenly woke me up.

“Huh?” I answered immediately. “What?”

“I was telling you that I haven’t found a thing. So, I think we should go to your parents’ room.” He answered, a small grin showing on his face.

“Yeah, sure.” I sighed – already being tired of this everything.

“Did you already figure out what’s in the letter?” Jayden asked – following me towards my parents’ room.

“No, and I absolutely hate not knowing what’s in it.” I answered, my voice full of frustration.

“Gimme that lette’.” He said - stretching his arm, waiting for the blank piece of paper. “Did you have any secret way to write to each other, when you were younger?” He asked after inspecting the letter.

“Uhm . . . I don’t really rem- . . .” But I cut myself off, remembering something. “Wait. I once saw Levi doing something with some ink. I don’t remember it so well, but I think she was writing something with a . . . lemon? Could that be true?” I asked, seeing the vague memory in my mind.

“Yeah . . . I once did it myself, for a game, with Brook." He croaked out. “You have to hold it above a lighter or a candle, just something warm.” He continued, a minute later. “We can do it after we checked the rest. Maybe there are other letters.” He suggested, handing me the letter back.

“Okay, you’re probably right anyway.” I sighed – not realizing that we were already standing in front of my parents’ chamber.

“Your honor.” Jayden said – bowing lightly, which made a small giggle come out of my mouth.

“Cheers, sir.” I thanked him – using my British accent, letting a small smile find its way to my face, again.

It’s been such a long time since I entered this room – my parents never really allowed us to go in there.

I opened the door slightly, lightly leaning against it. “I don’t know what to expect . . .” I whispered, closing my eyes for a second.

“You’ll know when you open the door.” Jayden whispered, a joking plus serious tone in his voice.

“Yeah, okay sorry . . .” I apologized, opening the door wider. Just like before, I expected the room to be messy or dusty, but it wasn’t – everything stood ready to be used. The cleanness was even a little frightening actually, because it looked like someone had been there not so long ago.

“This doesn’t seem normal . . .” I murmured, stepping closer to the center of the room.

The last time I was here – that was like more than five years ago – it wasn’t as clean as it is now.

“What do you mean?” He asked puzzled.

“Don’t you see it? It’s too spotless.” I answered, slowly turning around to look in his eyes.

“I see your point, I think. We probably should look around then.” He suggested, already noticing a painting on the left wall.

“Autumn painted that.” I announced, turning my back towards him to look at a closet.

“It’s amazing.” He sighed, still looking at the painting in awe.

“I think we’re missing something. We haven’t found a thing in both the houses, isn’t that suspicious?” I asked, after a while of searching impatiently.

“Yeah, other than the letter we’ve found, there was nothing else at all.” He sighed, a little frustrated.

“I know-feel that something is in here, so, they’re probably using another technique on us. What ‘ways’ or ‘manners’ did you use back then?” I asked, genuinely confused now.

“I think they were pretty old-school back then, but that could’ve changed. They never chose me for the ‘big missions’, so, I don’t really know.” He answered, not really comfortable with the subject.

“I see . . .” I mumbled, chewing on the inside of my cheek.

“Maybe Harper and Ashton found something.” I stated, a minute later.

Without further ado we searched for our two other friends.

“Hey, did you guys find something?” Ashton’s voice rang from the hall.

“Yeah, a letter, you?”

“We have four letters, all found in your siblings’ room.” He announced – holding up the four letters.

“Can I see them?” I asked, slowly nearing closer. “Thanks.” I answered – accepting the letters.

The letters were just the same, neatly folded, our names written in graceful, big letters.

“Is it a handwriting you recognize?” Now it was Harper that spoke up.

“I-I don’t know . . .” I squeaked, not making eye-contact with anyone.

It was familiar – making a warm feeling rise up – but I did not recognize it, not yet.

When I slowly unfolded a letter, it was also blank.

“Jayden knows how to see the hidden message.” I announced, after opening all the white sheets of paper.

At that two pairs of eyes looked at him, expectantly.

“Uhm . . .” Jayden blushed, not being used to the attention.

“It’s nothing out of the ordinary, you basically put the papers over something hot: a candle or lighter and then your text will appear.” He shrugged, not turning to anyone specific.

“How do you know?” Ashton asked, sounding a little suspicious for some reason.

“I used to do it, sometimes.” He answered, now turning his way.

“Wh- . . .”

“No time for questions.” I butted in - sending a reassuring glance Jayden’s way.

‘Thank you so, so much.’ He mouthed to me, followed by a small smile.

“Are we going to read the letters then?” Harper asked awkwardly - looking me seriously in the eye.

“Uhm, we can try to do it, I guess . . .” Slowly turning to the end of the hall, to walk to the kitchen.

“Wait, is there a room you guys didn’t check yet?” I quickly asked, spinning back to look at my friends.

“Cellar and attic.” Harper answered, trembling lightly at the thought of going back there.

“Why didn’t you go to these places?” Jayden asked, amusement shinning from his face.

Harper shook her head, while looking at the ground.

“Jack and Will.” She hissed faintly.

“What?” He asked really confounded, looking me expectantly in the eye.

“You know that my brothers, Jack and Will were the biggest prankers ever. And with that I mean of all times. Right?”

“I think so . . .” He murmured – giving Harper a glance every once in a while.

“Okay, so it was nearly Halloween.” I started, giving everyone a quick glance.

“And Jack and Will were -like always- planning something big, and for the first time they wanted to pull it out on me and Harper.” I chuckled at the memory, quickly shaking the thought away.“But I caught them, making the prank – like most of the times. So, it was really hard not to trick me anymore, but I still had to play along or else they would’ve done something worse on me.” I said, smiling lightly at the remembrance again.

“Reasonable . . .” Jayden mumbled, looking me intensely in the eye, again.

“Can you explain it another time? Maybe when we’re sure of not being watched.” Ashton butted it, surprising me slightly.

“Uhm? Yeah sure.” I chirped, not being accustomed by the tone he used.

“Jayden and I will go to the attic and cellar, so you don’t have to go.” I reassured Harper – seeing her shoulders fall down lightly. “And you guys can either heat those letters up or look around again, in both the mansions.” I suggested, turning myself toward Jayden, wanting to discuss where to go, when something came into my mind.

“Oh, could you only make my letter ready, please? I want to give the rest some privacy.” I pleaded, giving them both a pleading, hopeful look.

“Thank you, and we won’t look at the letters.” Harper answered, smiling sweetly.

“Attic?” I questioned Jayden, when I felt like I lost Harper and Ashton’s presence.

“Doesn’t truly matter.” He shrugged.

“Okay.” I said – following the brown walls of the hall.

“Can you continue the story, it’s kind of interesting.” Jayden’s voice echoed from behind me, with a hint of enjoyment in it.

“If you want me to . . .” I murmured, looking at the hole in the ceiling that lead to the attic.

“There is supposed to be a ladder in one of the closets.” I said pointing to my sides where the brown build-in closets were, the entire corridor was built with those cupboards.

“How do you open them?” He asked – noticing that there were no handles.

“Push.”

“These things are awesome.” He breathed – letting a small smile appear on both our faces.

I tried to take the ladder out of the cupboard but failed miserably.

“Lemme do it, tiny.” Jayden grinned – pushing me gently aside.

“I am not that little . . .” I groaned – crossing my arms stubbornly over each other – looking like a little kid.

“Yeah, right.” Jayden snorted – jokingly.

“Okay, come on.” He said, holding the ladder against the opening.

“So, you want me to continue Harper’s ‘horror experience’, as she would call it?” I chuckled, now searching for the light in one of the two darkest places of this house.

“I can’t find that stupid thing.” I mumbled – still looking blindly for the switch.

Halfway I suddenly froze.

“What the hell . . . Jayden?!” I yelled - feeling something hard, warm under my fingers - I instantly flinched my hand away, scared of what it was.

I slowly scribbled away, still calling Jayden’s name, but all I got was silence.

I scrambled backwards – trying to find something to shield myself with, but again I felt the same warm, hard thing under my fingers.

“Jayden!” I screamed again – backing away again.

‘Where the hell is he?’

I finally found something solid against my finger – the wall.

I kept trailing my fingers against it, until I finally found the light switch.

I happily turned the switch with a deep sigh, glad that I can finally ‘see’ again.

Still with my head towards the gray, dusted wall, I turned around with a deep sigh.

I opened my eyes but closed them directly after seeing the most horrific thing ever – a clown.

I immediately started screaming on the top of my longs.

I slid my back against the wall to prop my knees against my chest, letting some tears fall in my lap.

“Hey, hey, you’re okay, it’s just me.” I heard Jayden’s voice trying to encourage me, but it didn’t work, the memory already stuck in my head.

I couldn’t think straight again, nor could I sit still – I kept rocking back and forth. Scared of the thing that once was meant as a joke - made by my brothers - that then became my worst nightmare.

“I am so incredibly sorry.” I noticed Jayden sitting beside me – still keeping a little distance – whimpering.

“I’ll leave you alone.” He whispered – already on his feet - not bearing the silence anymore, also noticing that I was not reacting to anything he was telling.

I developed this fear for two main reasons.

One: Circus is just scary as hell.

Two: My two Idiotic brothers, they even gave me more reasons to fear clowns.

I’ll sum the two main ones up: Halloween is just as spooky as hell with them under the same roof and the other one is just their jokes – that also explains the mask. Some people will say that I am overreacting, but I’ll switch places for a week immediately, just to see their reaction.

After ‘the clown fiasco’ my brothers more or less stopped pranking me – which I never complained about - they only did the milder things on me.

After I cooled down – which took like ten minutes- I slowly stood up – my legs still a little weak.

That’s how I stumbled my way to where Jayden was looking in a cardboard box. “Hey . . .” I breathed, letting my arm rest on his shoulder - searching for balance.

“Alice, I am sorry, are you okay?” he rambled, stopping himself after spotting my annoyance.

“Yeah, sure.” I sighed, not wanting the attention to be on me. “So, did you find anything?”

“Uhm, no, sorry, I was a little distracted.” He answered – uneasily rubbing the back of his neck. A confused look was showing on my face, but I quickly shook it away.

“Where did you even find that mask . . .?” I spoke – without really thinking about it – actually becoming inquisitive.

“The closet, there were also some other masks in there.” He shrugged – guilt easily heard in his voice.

“Hey, please, don’t feel sorry, it wasn’t ‘truly’ your fault I never told you about my fear, so please do not be mad at yourself.” I murmured, now leaning my head under his arm, so I was basically lying against his chest.

No words were spoken for a while, the only thing that happened was him placing his chin gently on the crown of my head.

“I am still sorry . . .” He whispered, breaking the peaceful moment.

“Don’t be.” I followed directly, quickly moving from my spot to look him in the eyes.

His eyes became softer and softer – looking in mine more intense by the second.

His face also came closer – thinking that it was an illusion – so as reflex I quickly backed away, but when I saw the shocked and slightly hurt expression on his face I threw my arms instantly around his neck, letting my chin rest on his shoulder - needing to stand on my tippy-toes.

It felt nice to be in arms you felt secure in, it’s like a place you can call ‘home’. Most people would say that home is your house, but no that isn’t.

Home is a place where you’re supposed to feel loved, home is the place where you can go to when you have trouble with things, home is for some the only place you feel safe.

I don’t have that kind of place, but I don’t care, because home in my case are people I like to be with, people who welcome me with open arms no matter what, people that will always stand by my side, people who love and care for me, people who can see my pro’s and con’s, the ones who will help me despite my being ridiculous sometimes.

My home, my family: Ashton, Harper and Jayden.

I could never replace any of them and I am so grateful to have them in my life. I know that there are so many other people like my siblings that would kill themselves for me, but they never understood and will never understand me as good as these three people.

-Kito

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