It was Friday evening and Elijah found himself sitting in a house that he had not been in a while. As soon as the doors had opened, Elijah had headed back to the college. He had made a decision for himself. He wanted a future for himself and not just any future, he wanted a happy one. He had met the professor in the college parking lot. As soon as he finished his discussion with professor Boxton, they had driven straight to the Greys’ home.
Elijah sat on the couch in the Greys living room, waiting for the result of the conversation that they were having with Professor Boxton. He knew of course that they would be greatly pleased to get rid of him, to have him and his troubles away from them but a little part of him hoped that he was wrong and maybe just deep down, the Greys cared about him and would refuse to hand over his welfare to someone else. But who was he kidding? He could not be more wrong.
Just when he was thinking about going to eavesdrop on their conversation, he saw Professor Boxton approach him. Elijah quickly stood up.
“Well...? Did they agree with you, Professor Boxton?” Elijah asked. Professor Boxton walked towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Yes they did, Elijah. They agreed with me, come on, let’s get going.”
They went out to the professor’s car and he started it up immediately they entered it. The ride was quiet and in about ten minute’s time, they arrived at Elijah’s apartment complex.
“Let’s go,” the professor said as soon as they alighted the car. Quietly, Eliot followed the professor into the building. The sun was almost setting.
“So, thanks for the ride, professor,” Eliot said as they entered his apartment.
“No problem, Eliot. Now, why don’t you go put together your things?” Professor Boxton encouraged Eliot. Eliot looked at the older man in surprise,
“Yes Eliot. You are coming to live with me,” the professor nodded.
“Ummm... Professor Boxton, I…”
“I know that you enjoy your privacy and all that and that the Greys gave you as much freedom as you wanted but that is not to be the case with me. I intend to oversee your studies and everything associated with your upbringing. In so doing, Eliot, I am not going to let you live away from me. So, go on, go pack up your things. We have to be on our way by twelve,” the professor looked at his wristwatch as he said so.
Eliot nodded and with a sigh, he left the professor’s presence and headed to his bedroom. He knew better than to argue with the professor when it came to this issue. The look on his face said it all.
Eliot stepped into his room and looked around. He had no idea where to start from. He pulled out his suitcase, the one he had never used ever since he moved into the apartment complex. He had never had any reason to go home for the long holidays. He understood that he was not wanted. The only times he went home was during festive seasons and he usually spent about a day or two.
Eliot sat on his bed and thought about his past, the Greys had taken him in happily at first but along the way, they had rejected him. Would the professor do same too? Would he also reject him? He sighed and got to work throwing his clothes into the suitcase. When his closet was empty, he stared in at his stash of alcohol. There were about five bottles in there. That day at the haunted house, he had made a promise to himself that he was going to stop drinking and he intended to do so. He shut the closet door and as he did so, he felt like he was shutting his past life away, he was going to move on to better things and a better life.
Elijah rolled his suitcase out of his room and held his heavy backpack in the other. In the hallway, he stopped by the framed picture of the Greys. He raised his hand up and pulled it back. He was not sure if he should take it or not. With a sigh, he took it and tucked it into his backpack. He might as well take it, he decided.
They entered a neighborhood of sprawling grounds and large houses. Soon, the professor turned off the road. They passed through wrought iron gates and then onto a dirt road, surrounded on either side by fruit trees. The grounds were large and then finally, they pulled up to a large remodeled prairie house. The professor alighted the car and gestured for Elijah to do the same. The sun had already set and darkness was approaching.
Elijah did and followed the professor into the house. He placed his bags in the foyer and looked around the house. It was very large. He walked down a couple of steps and walked down a hallway. There were a few framed paintings on the walls.
“Elijah!” Elijah heard the professor call his name. Before he could reply, he saw the professor heading towards him.
“Maria?” he motioned with his head at the painting that was in front of him. The professor nodded and smiled. It was a painting of a white woman and a black man.
“Yea, that’s Maria and her husband, Arthur.”
“Her husband? She married a black then?” Elijah asked as he turned back to look at the picture.
“Yes. Don’t worry, I will tell you more about Maria’s story tomorrow. Right now, you need to settle into your room and get all your things arranged. So, come along. Let me show you to your room,” Professor Boxton said heading down the hallway. He had Elijah’s luggage with him and Elijah followed him.
They went to the second floor and the professor opened a door and stepped in. Elijah followed him in. The professor dropped his luggage on the floor and patted Elijah’s back.
“Go on, get to work arranging your things.” The man headed to the door and Elijah’s voice stopped him.
“Thank you so much, professor, for everything. I am extremely grateful,” Elijah told him sincerely.
“That’s okay, Elijah. You don’t have to thank me with words. Make up your mind and work on yourself. Make yourself into an upstanding person, someone who would contribute to his society in a good way and not as a nuisance. That is the best way that you can thank me,” the professor told him.
Elijah nodded, “I’m going to get to work unpacking.”
The professor nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind him. Alone, Elijah walked around the room. He stopped at the window and stared out. From there, he could see an orchard of fruit trees. Before now, he had had no idea that the professor owned an orchard. He turned back to his bags. He had to get to work unpacking them. Elijah looked forward to staying in the house. He hoped that staying with Professor Boxton and being under his care would be the start of great things in his life.
Paul raised his hand to the knocker and then, he pulled it back. He made to turn away. He actually started a few steps down the driveway but then, he turned back and headed to the door. He knocked on it and a few seconds later, he heard footsteps. The door was pulled open to reveal, Amy, the maid.
“Hi, Amy,” he nodded at her as he stepped into the large foyer; his duffel bag slung over one shoulder. He smiled down at the woman. “Are my siblings around?”
The woman’s eyes bulged. It had been so long that she had heard any of the siblings ask that question. She swallowed as she tried to get over her shock.
“Only Miss Cassandra is around, sir. Your brothers are still at classes, sir.”
“Thank you, Amy.” Paul nodded and ran to the stairs taking them two at a time. He was done being in competition with the whole world and most of all, he was done being in competition with his siblings who he was supposed to love and take care of. He was done letting his parents subconsciously ruin and rule their lives. As soon as the door had opened, he had hurried back to his apartment, packed his bag and headed home to his siblings. And here he was.
He stopped at his sister’s door and knocked on it. He got no answer and he knocked again. He knew Cassandra all too well. When she was in her room, she hated Amy disturbing her. No other person bothered to disturb her. In fact, the four siblings were like strangers to one another. They all use to be very close but as they grew older and as their parents further hammered on them being perfect, the best and as they spent less time with them, so also did the siblings drift apart from one another.
He knocked on the door again. He heard a frustrated groan as he heard the lock being pulled.
“Amy, how many times have I…?” Cassandra’s words stopped as soon as she saw her elder brother. Her big brown eyes widened as well. They all had the same feature, brown hair, brown eyes, gotten from their brunette parents. The shock wore of and she finally found her voice. “What are you doing here, Paul?”
Paul stepped into the room before she could say otherwise and looked around the purple walled room. She was still standing by her door and when she realized that he had no plans of leaving anytime soon because he sat on her bed, she sighed, left the door a little ajar and sat on her reading chair.
“What am I doing at home for the weekend or what am I doing in your room?” Paul asked his little sister. She had grown up so much and he could not help but kick himself. Where had he been all the times she needed someone to talk to? All the times that she needed a shoulder to lean on? All the times she needed his advice? When she needed him to defend her? His parents had not been around but he should have been. He should have been there for her. He should have been there for all of them. He should have held them together. He could have died today and would not have been able to tell his siblings that he loved them because he had been too caught up in his own life.
“Paul, Paul,” Cassandra snapped her fingers in front of him. His head shot up and he looked at her apologetically. She sighed as she repeated what she had been saying. “I said, are mother and father coming home soon? Do you need something from them? Is that why you are home?”
Paul could not help but smile bitterly. This was where things had resulted to between them all. The only times they saw each other was when they needed things from their parents. Paul shook his head. Enough of the pity party, he needed to fix this.
“I came to see you guys, my siblings. Not mother and father. I have no idea when they will be back home.”
Cassandra looked at him in surprise. “Are you okay, Paul? You came to see us?”
“I am sorry, Cassie. So sorry. I know that it so probably too late to apologize for everything, for not being there, for not being the parent our parents refused to be, for letting us all drift apart, I know words can never make up for all the years that we have grown up and apart. I am so very sorry, sister. I really want to make it up to you both and…” before Paul could say anything else, Cassandra flung her hands around his neck as she sobbed.
She pushed away from him and said, “I am so sorry Paul. I really am. Do not blame yourself for everything, you get that? It is not your fault alone, it is ours. It is the fault of every one of us.”
She hugged him again. When she finally removed her hands, he wiped her tears away with his thumbs. “Stop crying, baby sister.”
Cassandra laughed and said, “Brother, we should never have let ourselves drift apart, no matter the influence our parents had on us. So, we are going to start all over brother. We are all going to have a new beginning.”
“Yes, yes, a new beginning.” They hugged each other again.
Paul was the eldest among his siblings, Cassandra who was his immediate younger one was a freshman and the last two, Peter and Todd were in twelfth and eleventh grade respectively.
Todd was the first to arrive home. With his large backpack strung over his shoulder, and his head down, he trudged down the hall to his room. The boy’s ears perked up when he heard laughter. Where was that coming from? He had not heard that in a long time. Was it the television? No, it could not be. They were always so into their books in the house that they never had time for anything else. So, where on earth was the sound from? He turned the corner and saw a door slightly ajar. Cassandra’s door was never open. He walked slowly towards it and put his ear to the door. The sound was not coming from there. He was able to get a quick peek of his sister’s room. He had not seen it in a long time. He made to push it further when he heard a door open behind him and then, footsteps. He was about to turn around and just then,
“Hey kid.” It was Cassandra’s voice. He turned around in surprise. He looked in the direction of where she was coming from. It was his big brother Paul’s room. She ruffled his hair and pushed the door open and walked into her room. She left the door open and sat on the bed. Todd watched her as she pulled out a little glittery box from her almost empty duffle bag on her bed. She walked towards him and at the door, Cassandra snapped her fingers in front of him. “Are you not coming?”
“To where?” Todd scratched his head. Cassandra pointed at Paul’s room and Todd quickly drew back. Cassandra laughed and took his hand, dragging him towards the room.
“Oh, Todd, you’re back,” Paul said as soon as they returned to the room.
“Yes, not a ghost bro.” Paul grinned at him. He looked around, not finding Peter he asked, “Where’s Pete?”
Before Todd could reply, they heard feet padding down the hallway. Paul quickly stood up from his bed.
“I’ll go get him.” He went out to the hallway and came back a few seconds later with a frowning boy.
“What’s going on here?” Petr looked at Todd who shrugged. He too had no idea what was going on.
“We would like to apologize,” Paul started. He looked at Cassandra who nodded.
“We have not been the best of older siblings to you. Rather than be there for you in the times you needed us, we chose to go about doing our own things. We let us drift, the four of us used to be so close guys, but slowly, we are becoming what we despise in our parents. Paul and I are truly sorry. If there was anyone who could have prevented it, it should have been us,” Cassandra chipped in.
Paul nodded. “We are sincerely hoping with all our hearts that it is not too late to fix things with you, is it?” Paul asked. He and Cassandra looked at their two younger brothers. The boys looked at each other and smiled.
“I have missed you guys too, so much. I have missed having my older ones who took care of me,” Todd said sadly. Peter nodded in agreement with him.
“It is not too late you guys. Let’s do this, let’s rebuild our family again. Shall we?” Peter grinned as he stretched out his hand. The other three yelled ‘yeah’ as they all placed their hands on each other’s and on the count of three, they separated chanting, ‘Davis!’
“Okay, I cannot believe that all that happened, it is completely preposterous, brother.” Peter shook his head in disbelief. It was Friday night and they were seated in the family room, toasting marshmallows in the fireplace, drinking hot chocolate and telling stories. It was just like a camp out in the woods except that this was a camp indoors. Paul had just told them about how he had spent the day trapped in the haunted house.
“I have to agree with Pete, I do not believe that story one hit.” Cassandra shook her head. “Really? Horror dolls do exist? That’s so unreal.”
Paul shook his head and he said, “I guess the gene of skepticism is actually a trait of the Davis clan. Well… if I had been told that story instead of experiencing it, I never would have believed it but after experiencing it, now I definitely believe in ghosts.”
“Well, I believe you, bro,” Todd nodded.
“That’s good, little man, because it is the truth. So, the next time you are out in the woods or wherever, do not stray into a forlorn, old house. You never can tell what is in it, good ghosts? Bad ghosts? Who knows?” Paul said the last part in a hushed whisper. Just then, thunder struck and a sharp wind blew the shutters against the wall, spraying rain droplets into the house. Cassandra jumped at the suddenness of the action. Her brothers broke into laughter.
She pouted. “That was not funny. You know, this is your fault, Paul. Telling us such stories that are untrue.”
“If you like, I can take you to the house, sis. You can see the blind dolls, if you want to…” Paul said the last part in yet another creepy tone and lightning flashed again.
“Why exactly is the weather on cue with all you have to say?” Peter asked.
“I did not rig some tower somewhere if that is what you mean, silly.” Paul threw a cushion at his brother’s head, one he Peter did not fail to send back.
“How are you feeling now, Cassie?” Todd smiled at his big sister.
“A bit better. Thanks a lot guys, for just being here. Finally, I feel what it’s like to have brothers, siblings.”
“Yeah, I missed this a lot,” Peter agreed with her.
“Don’t cry anymore, sis.” Todd hugged his sister and she hugged him back. Todd smiled and said, “We are a family, with or without mother and father.”
His siblings nodded in agreement. “Always a family.”
Cassandra was very distressed because of a news bulletin that the four of them had watched earlier in the day, shortly after they had all reconciled. There had been a fire at the dormitory she resided in, in school. The building had burnt to the ground. She had been trying to reach her friends on the telephone at their homes and the student building but she was getting no reassuring reply. She could not even try calling again because they had lost power. All the lightning and thunder had probably pulled down the power lines. It was when everything went off that they had pulled out candles and lit up the dusty fireplace. They had settled in the den and began their camp night. The boys had even made forts out of bed sheets and blankets.
The four siblings talked and stayed up into the early hours of the morning. They finally laughed themselves to sleep. They ended up sleeping on several cushions and blankets on the floor of the den.
The Davis children woke up to the aroma of frying bacon on Saturday morning. They all raised their heads sleepily and let out yawns. Cassandra was the first to notice the aroma.
“What’s that smell?” she asked as she stood up sleepily, stretching her hands backward.
“Bacon!” Todd squealed as he ran out of the den, in a beeline for the kitchen. His older siblings followed him.
The four of them almost arrived at the same time and it was the same look of shock that was registered on each of their faces. The sight that they beheld baffled them greatly. Their mother was at the stove, in an apron; an apron for goodness sake! Not only that, she was humming as she tossed pancakes into the air. Then, their eyes moved to their father. He sat at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in his hand, the morning paper in the other. What surprised them greatly was that their parents were not in their usual business suits, they were in robes. They were not hurrying to some meeting of some sort; they were preparing breakfast, something that they had not done since the four of them were kids. Four pairs of brown eyes moved left to right, oven to table, man to woman, from mother to father, from one person to the other. Four sets of minds were pondering over the same thing in that moment; had their parents been replaced by alien lookalikes?
“Hey kids, you are up,” their father said excitedly. As soon as he said that, their mother’s attention was drawn and she turned to them, a smile on her face.
“Hey dears. You all were fast asleep when we got in. We did not want to wake you up,” their mother said.
“Uh… thanks?” The four siblings said in unison.
Suddenly, their parents approached them and hugged each and every one of them.
“My babies,” Mrs. Davis cooed as she hugged Paul.
“Okay. Uh… Is something wrong? What happened to the two of you?”
“My money is on them being brainwashed,” Todd said thoughtfully as he tapped his chin.
Peter shook his head and said, “Na… I would have to say that our parents have been abducted by aliens and replaced by their doppelgangers. These aliens have no knowledge about the real character of our parents.”
Todd nodded and slapped Peter’s back as he said so. “Yes, you are right. That’s the perfect reason why they are acting like this,” Todd said in a hushed voice.
To the surprise of Paul and his siblings, their parents apologized to them for their actions.
“What’s going on? I repeat, what has happened?”
“The thought of possibly losing one of you was unbearable and enough to snap us back into our senses,” Mrs. Davis told her children. They looked at her, at them, still confused. Mrs. Davis sighed as she said, “We watched the news segment last night. We have been trying to call the house and the college but we still could not get to you. We got very worried and started our return trip last night.”
The four kids looked at each other and shared a grin. They explained to their parents why they had been unable to reach them. It was due to the weather but they all could not help but be glad. The inability to get through to them was what made their parents very worried and then, snap them back to their senses. The Davis family hugged each other. Little by little, they were getting better.
Paul felt very thrilled. He did not regret his decision to be back with his family, not one bit. He was with his family, he felt blessed. He was right where he needed to be.