The sun had long risen, the birds singing their loud annoying song across the town when he woke.
Cracking an eye open to squint through the sunlight shining through the large gap in his curtains, the unhappy teen scrunched his face up and turned to bury it in his pillow again. Whining in annoyance as he felt the hair on the back of his head sticking out of place, he curled up and stubbornly refused to join the rest of the world in wakefulness.
Was that even a word? ‘Wakefulness’? Whatever, it was now.
Tugging his blankets further over his head, too lazy and comfortable to break up the nest he’d built overnight, he yawned and started to drift off again. When footsteps started stomping up the stairs he groaned pre-emptively, tucking his head under his pillow in the hopes that the Disturbance in the Force would just go away and let him sleep. It was the weekend, and it was totally against multiple laws to wake a sleeping teenager during the weekend. And last he remembered, the punishment was said teenager making his parents regret even conceiving him, which still applied even when the teenager was adopted like he was.
When the owner of the heavy steps moved past his bedroom door, he grinned and made himself more comfortable, relaxing his clamped shut eyes and going limp. Although… what was his Dad (for only his father stomped like that) doing up this early? What had happened to sleeping in on a Sunday? Nobody in his family was the kind of person who’d be up and about before noon on a Sunday unless the world was ending, and even then, they’d probably decide ‘To hell with this shit’ and go back to bed to die in comfort anyway.
Oh lord, he hadn’t forgotten anything, had he? Mum would be pissed if he slept in and missed the party.
His pillow went flying as he sat up suddenly.
The party. Shit. How could he have forgotten the – wait, the party was tomorrow tonight, some business thing that he was expected to make an appearance at.
He dropped back down onto the bed, grimacing at the lack of a pillow. And now he was awake, the small surge of adrenaline washing all traces of sleep from his system. Glancing at his alarm clock, he pulled another face and felt an indescribable noise escaping his lips in protest. It wasn’t even ten yet, what the hell was he doing awake and aware at this time in the morning?
He was dying, he had to be. It was the only viable explanation.
Able to hear the sounds of dishes being washed in the kitchen beneath his bedroom, he lay there for a moment longer before kicking his blankets back with a groan. He could already feel his back beginning to ache, a clear sign that he’d been lying in bed for too long. His body stupidly disagreeing with his inbuilt desire to be lazy. So, after pulling on some clothes and absently combing a hand through his hair, he headed downstairs to seek out some life-giving coffee.
“Oh my – HARVEY!” his mother snapped, flicking soapy water at him with a scowl. “What have I told you about doing that?”
“I dunno,” he admitted, picking up a cup of what looked like cold coffee and giving it a sniff. “But to be fair, I probably wasn’t listening.”
“You have a bad habit of doing that,” she muttered in response, turning back to the water-filled sink with a sigh. “And that’s your father’s drink.”
Grunting in acknowledgement and shoving it into the microwave, Harvey glanced around the kitchen as his claimed drink reheated, ignoring both the glow shining behind him and his Mum’s unhappy glower. “So, what’s going on?” he asked slowly, taking in the cleanliness of the usually disorganised room, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen my own reflection in the fridge before.”
“We’re having guests over,” his mother explained, “And I don’t want them to think that we’re incapable of looking after you properly.”
“They don’t even need to know I’m here,” Harvey dismissed lazily, grinning at his now steaming coffee. “Because I won’t be. Caleb wants to spend the day together, something about making the most of our time together before school starts.”
“Actually, you’ll be sitting between your father and me,” Mum corrected, making him freeze. “They’re coming here to see you.”
“Uh… yes,” his mother insisted, turning and raising an eyebrow at him as he shook his head. “And if your father and I have to tie you down, then we will.”
“No, you won’t,” he argued smugly. “Because if you care so much about their opinion on your ability to raise me, then chaining me up is only counterproductive to your cause.”
Harvey smiled at his Mum as the woman froze, brown eyes staring into hazel ones before she was turning and dropping her hands back into the dishwater with a splash. Oh yeah, he knew big words too. Smile turning into a smirk as he leant back against the counter, watching his mother staring into the water silently, he glanced over towards the staircase as heavy footsteps thundered down it.
“Liam. Discipline your son for me.”
His father froze, foot hovering inches over the bottom step as he looked around the room with wide eyes. “Why is he my son all of a sudden?” he asked hesitantly, shooting Harvey a look that asked what he’d done.
“He’s being a smartass again.”
Dad snorted, entering the room properly. “You’ve got a better chance of teaching pigs to fly than stopping that. Nice bedhead.”
“Nice tie,” Harvey shot back as he combed his fingers through his hair again, eyeing the piece of fabric his father was adjusting around his neck. “These people can’t be that important, can they?”
“You have no idea,” Dad muttered, rolling his sleeves up to his elbows. “When are they arriving?”
“They should be here in around an hour and a half,” his mother answered quickly, draining the sink and beginning to dry the dishes immediately.
As he took a drink from his cup, excuses and lies to get out of this meeting floating through his head, Harvey faltered as his Dad shot him a suspicious look. “Is that my coffee?”
“No,” he denied immediately, brushing past the man before he could ask any other questions. Heading up the stairs with a snigger as he heard his father cursing downstairs, Harvey slipped into his room and hip bumped the door shut.
Why the hell was he being involved in this meeting? His parents had meetings here often, meetings and business dinners that he had never before been forced to go to before. What was different about this one? It wasn’t like Harvey had a head for numbers and words like his parents did, he was a physical kind of person, spending his time outside playing sports rather than sitting in a stuffy office trying to read. Not that he was very good at reading in the first place, swinging a bat at a ball just came easier to him and with less embarrassment.
He’d much rather spend the day with his grandparents than sit in on a meeting. Seriously.
Pressing the power button on his computer and listening to the sound of it whirring to life, Harvey slumped down into his desk chair and stretched. It shouldn’t be hard to convince his Dad to cut him loose, so long as his mother wasn’t around to put her foot down he could be free in merely two sentences. The hardest part would be getting his Dad alone long enough to blackmail him into it.
Someone knocked on his bedroom door just as he double-clicked the Skype icon, his Mum swinging it open to fix him with an annoyed look. “I said,” she began in greeting, “They should be here in an hour and a half.”
“Then clean this mess up, I don’t want them thinking we let you live in your own filth,” Mum ordered, casting a judgmental eye around his room. The woman paused and moved over to his unmade bed, picking up a framed picture on the side table. “Treat today like you treat Caleb,” she suggested gently, “You may not understand it right now, but this is important, okay?”
Frowning slightly as he stood, Harvey followed his Mum to the doorway and watched her moving down the hallway. “I treat Caleb like furniture,” he confessed bluntly, “You’ve seen us together. If he’s around, I usually end up sitting on him.”
“Then treat them like you treated him when you first met,” Mum shot back, straightening all the pictures scattered up and down the hallway. “Actually, act like your grandparents are in town,” she corrected quickly, no doubt remembering the week of nearly painful flirting she’d suffered through when he and Caleb had first bumped into each other, with a car. “But be nice to them, they’ll actually recognise your snarky comments for what they are.”
“So basically, pretend I’m in church?”
His mother immediately looked horrified. “Heavens no! I remember what happened the last time you were in church.”
Harvey cringed, remembering what happened as well. “Pre-Incident Church,” he clarified. The Pastor’s son still leered and gave him a ‘come hither’ look every time they saw each other, boyfriend on his arm or not. And he thought the religious types were supposed to be prudes.
“Just,” Mum exhaled, “Just behave. The more you behave, the quicker you can leave. Okay?”
His answer – which was going to be sassy and amazing, he was sure of it – was cut off as a whistle echoed down the hallway. “We don’t have any milk,” Dad reported from the staircase, “I can’t find your mother’s china, and there’s cat hair all over the couch despite the fact that we don’t own a cat.”
“And I spilt coffee on my shirt,” Dad added absently, rubbing at the stain with a frown.
Oh wow… and Harvey thought he had problems. His father was just hopeless.
Watching his mother begin to breathe heavily, trying to calm herself down before she lost it, Harvey took a cautious step back towards his bedroom door again. If he had to, he’d run and leave his father behind. Against an angry woman, it was every man for himself.
“Liam,” Mum said slowly, her voice doing that thing where it was both calm and angry at the same time. “Go get changed. I’ll get the china from exactly where I left it on the counter and set the table. Harvey.”
She was looking at him now. Crap.
“Can I trust you to return if I let you out of the house?”
“Of course,” he agreed, “What do you need me to do?”
His mother just stared. “Get the milk. Idiot.”
Regular milk… trim milk… lite milk…
Was there even a difference between them? Did it matter?
He normally drank the light blue stuff – the lite milk, apparently – at home, but being the only lactose tolerant in a family of lactose intolerants (the perks of being adopted) meant he had no freaking clue about what’s what when it came to milk. Did their guests drink lite milk? Or were they lactose intolerant too?
God, he felt like such a retard for not knowing this.
Grabbing his usual light blue and then adding a second normal one to the basket after a moment’s thought, Harvey glanced around the aisle curiously. Did they need anything else? Mum had only told him to get milk, but was there something else they’d forgotten? Shrugging it off and adding a couple of cans of energy drink to the basket as well, he set off down the aisle.
Would today be like when he met with his grandparents, where he would wait a couple of hours before being allowed to leave? Because Harvey could think of a lot of better things to do with his time than sit there bored during a business lunch. And sure, most of those things involved Caleb in some way or another, but soon enough they’d both be going back to different schools and get no time together.
Harvey wasn’t the clingy type, but when his boyfriend lived two hours away he totally became the clingy type.
Rounding a frustrated woman with a screaming baby, the sound of cans hitting the ground made his basket almost slip from his fingers as he jumped. At the end of the aisle, completely ignorant of the cans rolling around his feet, stood a man with…
A man with transparent skin.
Blinking slowly the man solidified again to reveal olive skin, Harvey swallowed nervously as the man’s stare didn’t move away from him. Hesitantly taking a couple of steps to the side as one of the market’s workers appeared to start trying to clean up the mess, the man’s eyes followed him and he decided to cut his losses and get the hell out of dodge.
Hearing a startled yelp from the employee as Harvey hurried towards the front of the store, something told him that the man was following him. Pulling out his phone as he went, he quickly dialled his Mum’s number, using his free hand to get him through the self-service checkout.
“Mum. I need you to come pick me up. Now.”