Elijah and Eliot headed into the bus as soon as it arrived. During the wait, after Eliot stopped asking about the meeting with the professor, their conversation had drifted to other topics. They had talked about everything from the weather to classes to their other friends. Climbing onto the bus, they noticed a line of coloreds also waiting to board. Eliot smirked as he settled in beside Elijah.
“I really do not understand why these people feel the need to be a part of everything.” Eliot said.
“Who?” Elijah asked, confused.
“The niggers. Why do they want to be a part of everything? The bus, college, voting… it’s like there is no pleasing the ungrateful lots.”
Elijah said nothing as Eliot continued to grumble while the coloreds made their way to the back of the bus. He knew that it would get to a point he might say something he would regret and he didn’t want to do so surrounded by so many people. He had seen what happened to people like him who were indifferent about the coloreds. He had seen what happened to those who openly showed support for the blacks. He didn’t want any of that for himself.
“What do you have against them?” Elijah asked in a whisper the minute they got off the bus. He really wanted to understand what Eliot had against them.
“The negroes,” he said in an even lower whisper. Eliot was the only one who knew Elijah wasn’t in the least bothered by those people and he wanted it kept that way. He could trust Eliot with that little secret, same way Eliot trusted him with his own deepest secrets.
“We are not going to have this conversation again,” Eliot replied.
“The one where I have to explain why these niggers are a pest, weeds that we don’t need. And you would continue to stare at me like you have no idea what I am talking about. That one. That fucking conversation!”
“But I really don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t much like them. But I don’t hate them either. I feel nothing for them and I am just wondering why everyone is so angry. They are angry, we are angry, everyone is angry. There’s just so much anger.”
“Right. And before long, you’ll join them in carrying placards asking for equal rights, equal pay and all that bullshit. It’s only a matter of time,” Eliot said as they entered into Elijah’s block and headed to his room.
“I’d never do that,” Elijah said as he unlocked his room. “But then again, I wouldn’t just deal with every single one of them when they’ve done nothing to me personally.”
“You, my dear friend, should watch what you say in public before it gets you into trouble. Walls have ears and the outside world is not so favorable to unbothered kinds like yours.”
“I’m not asking for any trouble. I’m just saying, let them be.”
“And before you know it, they’ll be aiming to be president of our great nation. No can’t do! They are a greedy lot, those niggers. Now I’ve had about enough of this talk. Anything I can eat while we wait for those other two?”
“Help yourself to whatever bottle you prefer,” Elijah replied as he plopped himself down on the bed.
“Bloody alcoholic,” Eliot said, shaking his head.
“Whatever,” Elijah said and closed his eyes. He needed a little shut eye before the other guys would show up. But then, Eliot would not let him have it. His mouth kept spewing. In a few minutes, he opened his eyes again; he stood up and walked to his desk where he sat down. Elijah rolled his eyes as he tried to drown out his friend’s voice as he continued his ranting about how the coloreds were a scourge that needed to be cleansed away from their country. He could not help but wonder why on earth his friend was so bitter towards the colored. He had lost count of the number of times his friend had done harm to them and not once had they retaliated. He could not understand where the hatred arose from. If there was anyone that should even hate the colored, he would think it would be Nate. He had lost his great-grandfather as well as his great-great uncle in the civil war yet that notwithstanding, he never went overboard, he never went extreme lengths in a quest to damage the coloreds. To the best of Elijah’s knowledge, none of Eliot’s ancestors had participated in the war. Among all of them, Eliot was the only one with a stable family, at least one that truly showed how much they sincerely cared for him. The rest of them were from broken homes.
Nathan’s father was in the army and was rarely around. He being the only child had become a lonely and stubborn kid. He always sought for his mother’s attention since his father was never around. His mother was more interested in her beauty sleep, how perfect her nails were, how beautiful she looked on the outside and less concerned with the wellbeing of her only child. She was the perfect example of a trophy wife. She had let her son grow up under the care and guidance of colored staff. That probably explained the tolerance that Nathan had towards the colored. In some ways, he was like Elijah on that front though he was more open about his. He had gotten into series of arguments with Eliot over his behavior towards the colored.
He was not their biggest fan but that did not prevent him from standing up for them when they were not in the wrong. Still, he would never join their movement. Nathan had grown up surrounded by people who were paid to show him love. Due to this, he had developed apathy towards love. He did not believe that there was something like love and felt that if indeed it existed, it could easily be bought. He had no belief in it and had hardened his heart ever since he was a little boy. The nanny he had been closest to had gone away when she had found a better job outside the country. It had broken his heart and he had cried for days. On the fourth day, his mother had entered his room when she had got the report that he was sulking. That had probably been her first time in his room.
She had entered the room, carefully stepped over his toys strewn on the floor and sat beside him. The little boy had looked up with wide, moist gray eyes, surprised to see the stranger who he had been told was his mother in his room. She had looked down at him and shook her head of curly blond hair. She had taken Nathan’s chin in her hands and held it tight with neatly manicured nails. They had dug into Nathan’s chin and though he yelped in pain, she had still chosen to ignore his pleas. That was the only time Nathan’s mother had given him advice or held him close enough to an almost embrace. She had told Nathan in plain words that money ruled the world. The longer he stayed in his room sulking, the faster the world outside was moving. No one was going to wait for him. She had told him that it was about time he learned to use what he had to get what he wanted. Instead of staying in his room mourning what he had lost, why didn’t he go out there and replace it? Everything had a replacement. There was no need to ever get attached. That was what his mother had told him. She had left him after saying that he should never let anyone leave him; he should be the one to leave the person first. Those words had been Nathan’s watchword as he grew older. He applied them in every endeavor he embarked on, never getting attached to anyone. Meeting the guys had only made him a little bit open but it was only towards them. To others, he was still the same playboy who cared about no one’s feelings.
Eliot’s home was in no way broken as every one of them. He had two loving parents who were always at his beck and call. They were always ready to please his every whim. They worked hard at their jobs not because they wanted to achieve the highest rung in their careers; it was because they wanted to provide for him and his younger sister. He was close to his sister and had relatives who genuinely cared for him. So with all these, it baffled Elijah why his friend Eliot would choose to carry so much hatred, so many grudges in his heart. He could not for the life of him comprehend it.
“Elijah! Elijah!” Eliot tossed a pillow at him and it hit him smack-dab in the head, just where he had cut earlier in the day.
“Ouch! What did you do that for, man?” He threw the pillow back at him but he dodged it. Elijah let out a frustrated sigh and headed towards the kitchen. He could do with a fresh cup of coffee if he was expected to stand Eliot’s nonsense this afternoon.
“Coffee? At this time? What happened to the scotch?” Eliot who had followed him to the kitchen and was now seated on a bar stool at the counter asked him, motioning with his head towards the fridge where he knew Elijah’s booze lay.
“I intend to mix them together and gulp it all down. It should give a good kick, don’t you think?” he asked, now very annoyed. His friend looked at him but didn’t say anything and then, the next thing he said was, “I’m starving.”
It was very annoying to Elijah because his friend repeated it again and again, his smile getting wider as he noticed the exasperated look on Elijah’s face.
“You can start eating the blinds,” Elijah told him. Just then, they both heard a knock, followed by the door opening. It was the two other guys, Rachel and her friend, Kate. Elijah approached them immediately and plastered a smile on his face for the two ladies.
“Rachel, Kate,” he said with a nod towards them.
“Hi, Elijah,” Rachel said and walked over to his bed. The apartment was of an open floor plan. Rachel was almost always hanging out with them and she was a lot more comfortable around them than Kate was. As Rachel sat on the bed with careless abandon, Kate settled in with a lot more caution.
“I hear we’re going on an expedition,” Rachel said.
“You heard right. Found this place I think we need to check out. It’s too good to have been forgotten and no one talks about it. Ever.”
“How did you find it in the first place if it’s as forgotten as Paul makes it seem.”
“I was trying to find the shortcut to the bus station and I ended up on the wrong track. And there stood the house in all of its magnificence, calling out to me.”
Rachel and Kate burst into laughter almost immediately. The sly look on Paul’s face made him realize this had nothing to do with him and everything to do with something Paul had either said or done.
“You know, Paul said you’ve started hearing voices in your head and we thought he was just fooling around,” Kate said. “Looks like he wasn’t.”
Elijah shot Paul a look as if to tell him to go fuck himself, but Paul only smiled. He wasn’t about to be bullied into stifling his laughter. Not by Elijah. Elijah scowled and walked straight to the door.
“Well, can we leave now?” he said as he held the door wide open. “Or are we still laughing at me?”
“Don’t be such a killjoy, Grey,” Eliot said, laughing. “I’m sure none of them meant any harm,” he added and headed towards the door. “Shall we?” he said to the others.
“Before we go, I should tell you about something I saw in the house. I went in and found two dolls.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Paul asked.
“It has everything to do with everything. That’s the reason I want us to go back and look into that place. It’s weird enough to find old dolls that should have been rotten already in that kind of a place and see that they still look pretty… well fully intact. It’s another thing entirely to find out they’re blind.”
“So that’s what this is about?” Nathan asked. “Finding out why these dolls are blind? How the fuck can a doll even be blind? You’re even crazier than we thought.”
Elijah sighed. “It’s not about the dolls. There’s just something about the house that I can’t place. Can we all just go? Please? You’ll see when we get there.”
“We’re already here,” Eliot said. “We might as well just go.”
Without another word, the others got on their feet and started towards the door. They walked behind Elijah as he led them down the path that he had walked earlier that day. Soon enough, they were standing in front of the house. The house, painted in a color that used to be white but was now more or less cream, looked as abandoned as Elijah had described when he was leading them there. Creeper vines of ivy had grown over some parts of the house, some of which had dried off and turned brown. Somewhere on the ground was a pair of footsteps that led to the house.
“These weren’t here when I came here this morning,” Elijah said, pointing at the footsteps.
“Maybe it’s not as abandoned as you think, then,” Paul offered.
“No. There was no one here this morning when I came. And no footsteps. These are fresh. I’d better find out who is here.”
Elijah wasted no time in walking towards the front porch. Before anyone of them could stop him, he was knocking on the door. There was no answer from inside. The others started to walk towards him gradually as he knocked on the door again. There was still no answer. Just as he was about to turn to the others to tell them there was no one in there, he heard the sound of something dropping in the house.
“Did you hear that?!” he asked and they nodded. “That person is either a thief or a trespasser,” Elijah said.
“Which is exactly what we are,” Nathan said, shaking his head. “Trespassers too. So let’s just leave.”
“And let the thief get away? No way,” he said and immediately swung the door open. Standing right across the room from them was a young black man, of about their age. And right beside him was a black girl of about the same age.