January 14th, 2013
News! Real news!
So, last night Kevin and Annelies were watching a movie that none of the rest of us wanted to watch, so we went upstairs to the kitchen to make lunch.
While we were getting stuff out, I mentioned how much stuff was on the outside of the fridge, trying to hint at the fact that they still haven’t told me anything about themselves or the other kids who used to live here.
Cameron, the one who seems to get me so far, said, “We can tell you about the other people if you want.”
Terin and Jerico stopped what they were doing and looked at him, but Cameron didn’t back down. “Why not?”
Terin shrugged, and Jerico bit into a pickle.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to reminisce.”
“Does that mean I get to hear your story, too?” I asked.
Wrong question, apparently, because Cameron didn’t answer.
When we all had our lunches ready, we went upstairs to our room, which is very full, by the way. It’s kind of unfair that Annelies gets a room to herself while Terin and Jerico are sharing the biggest air mattress (I think it’s a full-sized one instead of a twin) just so Cameron, Kevin, and I can have our own and we actually fit in here.
Cameron decided to start at the beginning with a girl named Corinn, who only Terin remembered anything at all about. He just said she was nice and she played with him when he was little, but Mrs. Parker had told him that she had been abused before she came to their house. I asked where she went, and Terin said that her aunt somehow found her or something and Corinn went to live with her, but that was all he knew.
Cameron interrupted to say that Kagan came before Corinn left. I recognized his name from the suicide note on the fridge, and I realized that I didn’t really want to know how he had gotten to that point. But I also felt like asking Terin to skip someone would end the whole thing. So he and Jerico and Cameron talked about him, even though Jerico didn’t have any real memories of Kagan. Kagan just watched him while Mr. and Mrs. Parker slept at night, which I thought was crazy. I had to ask to confirm, but Jerico has apparently never been on a normal sleep schedule.
“Kagan really loved us,” I remember Cameron saying, looking like he was going to cry. “He had nicknames for us and everything.”
“Little Man,” Terin said.
“Baby Boy,” Jerico said.
“Bubba,” Cameron whispered. “I miss him.”
Terin put his arm around Cameron, and I realized just how long they had known each other. “I called him KB,” Terin said, “which stood for ‘Kagan Brother.’” He laughed. “I don’t really know why.”
“But he wouldn’t let anyone else say it,” Cameron said, smiling as tears began to streak down his face. I wanted to hug him, and not even because he was sad. Just because he trusted me enough to be that vulnerable in front of me.
They went on to talk about a guy named Vlad, who apparently dated Kagan. When Terin said it, I jumped on the inside. The thought of two guys kissing has always, and will always, gross me out. Fortunately, Terin continued talking like nothing had happened, and I was glad because it meant that I hadn’t externalized my reaction. He, Jerico, and Cameron treated the fact that Kagan and Vlad had been gay like it was so normal, and I didn’t want them to be mad at me for feeling differently.
Cameron cried when Terin talked about Kagan killing himself, saying he wished he could have stopped him. I asked how old they had all been, and Cameron said seven, Terin was pretty sure he was five, and Jerico said he was just a baby. At that point, I was already confused.
“But wait,” I said. “Cameron, when did you get here?”
“Oliver and I got here after Vlad, and not long before Kagan died,” he said.
Again, I recognized the name Oliver from a note on the fridge. “Are you and Oliver brothers or something?”
“No, they’re not.” Terin answered. “They met in a park.”
“Oliver was nine,” Cameron said. “He found me, and he was the one who talked to Mrs. Parker first. She convinced me to come here.”
I tried to imagine finding a 9 and 7 year old in a park and offering to take them home, but I couldn’t. It all seemed very weird. Cameron said he and Oliver were desperate, and that he himself just really didn’t want to go back to where he had come from.
“Don’t you think it’s crazy that you and Oliver happened to find each other, and then happened to meet Mrs. Parker, of all people? It just almost doesn’t make sense.” I said.
No one really responded, which I thought was weird. It’s still weird. Like, how did I actually decide to come to Minnesota? How did I end up in their park? How did I find the only people in America who would actually offer me a home? But I didn’t say any of that, because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy or something.
Cameron talked about Vlad leaving and how he and Terin took over being the caretakers at night, feeding Oliver and Jerico. Then Jerico talked about Roderick, the other guy from Oliver’s letter. He had been different because he was already an adult when he came, so he wasn’t really hiding from anyone. Apparently Roderick and Oliver just hit it off, bonding over physics and stuff, which they taught to Terin and Cameron.
The worst part about reflecting on this night is that I don’t know when much of it happened. In my head, I just keep imagining everyone going through this as they are now, even though they were much younger when this all happened. And that’s really what doesn’t make sense. Terin and I are only 13! And Cameron is just 14 or 15 or something. How did this all happen years ago, when they were all, like, 8, and they were learning complex concepts in the fields of math and physics? I’ve always been someone who considered themselves smart, but I’m just not sure that I am anymore.
Anyway, I guess a lot of people came and went before Roderick and Oliver left, including the kid named Boston, who Mrs. Parker had mentioned when I met her. I felt bad for making Jerico talk about someone he really missed when the pain was still pretty fresh. But at the same time, I didn’t hear him saying that he didn’t want to talk about it. They told me that he was 11 when he left, and that he was just a couple years older than Jerico. I guess his mom spied on the Parkers or something before she brought her son to them, which made me scared. I started panicking, wondering how many people had seen me and how long it would be before I would have to go home.
When I voiced my fears, no one seemed worried. Terin even said, “Even if the cops, or something came, we could just go hide in the shed.”
“The shed?” I asked. The surprises never end here. I guess they have a secret hiding place in the shed in the backyard or something.
After Boston came Lavender, who was mean. They made it sound like the only good thing she ever did was exposing them to their neighbors, who are apparently super nice. They even let us swim in their pool! I’m stoked to swim when it gets warm and to meet these apparently super nice people.
After Lavender came Jenna and Reina, who I guess weren’t actually troubled kids like the others. They had a good laugh about Boston’s crush and “relationship” with one of the girls, but I was reminded of my crush on April, and I realized that, while I’m here, the odds of me meeting a girl my age, and one I actually like, are super low. Just another reason that I’m going to have to stop being scared someday and go out and face the world.
Jenna and Reina left quickly, then Lavender went to live with her uncle, and then a girl named Leia came here. I made a Star Wars joke, but no one laughed. Terin even almost cried, because Leia was his girlfriend. Leave it to me to make jokes at all the wrong times. The way Cameron talked about her made me wonder if he had a crush on her, but I still don’t know on that one.
Cameron and Jerico argued about Leia, because apparently Jerico hadn’t been a fan of her. It was funny until Cameron went on to bring up Kevin.
“Not even Jerico wanted to be friends with him when he got here,” he said.
“He’s all right,” Jerico said. “You guys just never gave him a chance.”
“A chance?” Cameron asked, raising his voice. “You shouldn’t have to give someone a chance to be a halfway decent person!”
“Oh, just because he teased you one time, --”
“One time? What world are you living in?” “You’re the one who tried to kill him!” Jerico accused him, now yelling.
“You’re the one who laughs when he makes fun of me!”
“No I don’t!”
Jerico lunged at Cameron, and they ended up on the floor, hitting each other and trying to pin the other down. Terin jumped into the fray and pulled Jerico off of Cameron. “Enough!” he whisper-yelled, glaring at Cameron, who looked like he was going to jump at Jerico. Jerico shook free of Terin’s grip and crossed his arms. “Cam started it.”
“Oh, shut up,” Terin hissed. “You did laugh that one time in the pool, and you’re just going to have to live with it.”
“You always side with him!” Jerico said, his fists clenched.
“It’s not about sides,” Terin said. “It’s about facts.”
Jerico shoved his brother, and Terin fell backwards into Kevin’s air mattress. Jerico left the room, and Cameron sat down on the edge of my bed, his head in his hands.
When Terin recovered, he sat next to Cameron and whispered to him. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, and I didn’t know what to do. Should I go after Jerico? Should I help Terin talk to Cameron? I didn’t even know for sure whether he was comforting him or chastising him.
After a couple minutes of me worrying, Terin got up and went back to his air mattress. He smiled at me. “Sorry. That doesn’t usually happen.”
I gave him a small smile and apologized for making them talk about everything, because I suddenly felt bad about the crazy emotions I had watched them go through while we talked. Cameron promised it wasn’t my fault, and after calming down, he and Terin kept talking about the other kids, like Kezia, who was kidnapped at a young age but found her real parents eventually.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what my life would have been like if Uncle Jack and Aunt Merida would have just adopted me and pretended to be my parents. I think, once I found out that they weren’t my birth parents, I would’ve tried to find my birth parents. I would’ve gotten my hopes up, only to be crushed, because my family would still hate me, even after all those years.
I think it was better that I never really had a chance to get my hopes up.
Anyway, they went on to tell me about Annelies, which I really tuned in for, because I could put a face to the story.
“We think she and her mom were homeless, and then her mom died, so Annelies was all alone with nowhere to go. But not even Annelies can say what happened for sure.” Terin said.
I had never understood why Annelies got so anxious every time someone left, even if it was just to go to the bathroom, until now. Her mom, her only protection and only person she loved, had just disappeared, and she was afraid we were all going to do the same thing. Annelies is such a sweet little girl, and I wish I could shield her from the world.
“The sad part was that she got really close to Leia and Kezia,” Cameron said, “but then Leia found her grandparents and went to live with them, and after that Kezia left, leaving Annelies without friends again.”
“Before Kezia left, though, Boston left.” Terin corrected. “He didn’t even tell us. He just disappeared, and none of us know what happened to him.”
“Jerico was devastated, of course.” Cameron said.
“But that’s it,” Terin said. “That’s the story until you showed up.”
I thanked them, but for the record, I still have a billion questions. I appreciate that they at least gave me a skeleton. I’m sure I’ll get details out of them in the days, weeks, months, years? to come.
I don’t know.
Jerico and Cameron made up later, and it wasn’t really a big deal. It’s crazy that Cameron’s not actually their brother by birth, because he might as well be. I wonder if he’ll ever leave this house.