Chapter Three - Paternal
Standing on the stool at the kitchen counter Elias was tugging at his Mom’s cardigan. He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t let him mix the cake batter, he was nearly five after all. His Mom dabbed some mix on his nose, “stop pulling my sleeve or this cake’s going to be all over the floor.” She said it with a smile on her face that let him know that she wasn’t angry. But he really did want that cake so he stopped yanking and watched his Mom stir the batter, he could almost taste the orange sponge.
There was a harsh noise from the lounge. Elias’ Mom told him to wait where he was and guard the cake mix whilst she went to check where the noise had come from. Again she spoke with the smile that always made him feel safe. He dipped a finger in the mix and quickly swallowed it and at that, his Mom rushed back into the room, a look of horror on her face. Elias had never seen his Mom look so scared and even at the age he was, he knew something was going on.
“Ruben, what are we going to do? You can’t go alone and I can’t go with you. We can’t leave our son alone.” Elias’ Mom was moving in a way that made him think of a bird taking flight. “He won’t survive alone!”
“There’s no other way Morgan, we’ve got to go and if he came - if they knew about him, he would never be safe and he would never have anything that could even partially resemble a normal life. You know what they would make him do!” His Dad’s face was almost purple with rage.
Without saying anything more, Elias’ Mom looked away from his Dad, ran upstairs and returned with a large suitcase. She was throwing clothes and photos onto the pile within and zipped it without hesitation. “You’re not going alone. My Mother will watch Elias until we get back-”
Ruben cut her off, “You know there’s no guarantee we will come back Mo. Do you really want him to be orphaned?”
“All I know is that you need to go to Avi and you won’t make it alone. I’m coming and we’re both coming back.”
Later that night Elias was dropped off at Grandma’s house and every night for a whole month he waited at the living room window waiting on his Mom. She said they were coming back, he’d heard her say it. They will come back. They didn’t come back.
Elias ran out of school as the bell sounded as he always did and saw his Grandma waiting at the school gate, as she always did. “How was your day sweetheart?” His Grandma asked. It was always the same question, said in the same way but Elias loved her for it.
“School sucks Grandma” Elias replied in his saddest voice. “Hey I know,” His voice perked up “why don’t you teach me at home? All the smartest people are homeschooled.”
“Grandma has to work when you’re at school my darling. If I could keep you at home all day, every day you know I would.” His Grandma had the same eyes as his Mother and every time he looked into them he got a sense of family, of love, but this time he got a strange sensation coursing through his veins. A feeling that something was going to happen, something horrible but his Grandma seemed not to feel it.
As Elias and his Grandmother walked towards the house that he’d called home for the previous six years Elias stopped dead in his tracks. “Mom?” He instantly dashed forward and stopped halfway up the path noticing that her expression didn’t change when she saw him. There was no emotion in her eyes and no smile on her stoic face. “Mom?” this time said with the twinge of heartbreak.
Elias’ Mom looked at him for a second and walked towards him but didn’t stop when she reached him like he expected her to. As his Mom walked past he wanted to shout- to scream but he couldn’t, he could only stare. She kept walking and eventually stopped when she reached his Grandma who was still stood at the garden gate. His Mom was carrying something large, it reminded him of a laundry hamper but shorter, wider and had no lid. His Grandma’s face dropped as his Mother handed her the basket and walked away without even a second glance back at her Son who had until now thought her dead.
Elias’ Grandma walked slowly towards him still shaken, her face so white. “Elias... I’d like you to meet your sister, Sarah.”
“What you thinking about?” Jay had decided that he was bored of his music and wanted a chat. “Jay to spaceman, Jay to spaceman.” It made Elias feel awkward when Jay called him pet names. It almost felt like flirting and as his oldest friend, he couldn’t risk it even if he wanted to.
“Remember I told you about my parents disappearing on me when I was just a kid?” Elias didn’t look away from the spot on the wall whilst he spoke.
“That.” Elias’ face looked somehow older to Jay, if only for a second. Elias continued “My Mom was never the same once she came back. In the first few months, she never spoke a word to me or anyone else, only Grandma. Slowly but surely she started noticing me as more than a piece of furniture when she came round Grandma’s and every week she’d pay a visit and I’d get more conversation each time. I still don’t know where she went, I still don’t know why my Dad didn’t come back. There’s something off about the whole thing.”
“Elias you were just a kid and, you say you remember your Mom choosing to go with your Dad but... Maybe she was chasing him? Maybe he was trying to leave-” Elias’ head turned like something from a scary movie and looked straight at Jay cutting him off.
“No. I remember,” Elias snapped. “Sorry, Jay. It’s just, I know there’s something going on that I’m probably ‘too young’ to know or some crap like that but I need to know, it’s my right to know what happened to my Mom and where my Dad is.”
“Okay puppy eyes, take a look at this.” Jay shoved his phone in Elias’ face. On the screen, there was a photograph of Noah in his swimsuit from last night. Elias looked away quickly with a look of disgust. Disgust not at the image but at Jay for doing this to him yet again. It was like Jay wanted him to want Noah.
Elias turned his head back to the empty space on the wall he had been staring at earlier whilst daydreaming and he got such a shock that he let out a short yelp.
“What’s up?” Jay inquired holding off a laugh.
“Jay, that doll? It wasn’t there a minute ago. Or am I going crazy?” There was a hint of fear in Elias tone.
“It was probably there the whole time. Chill.” Jay’s reply nonchalant as always.
Elias stood up from his crater on the sofa, grabbed Miss Holly and headed upstairs to Sarah’s room. He had a full speech prepared about how she should tidy her things away and not leave them cluttering up the living room - where they can scare the shit out of people, but she wasn’t there. Elias started to wonder if the doll had been there the whole time, surely it had to be. Sarah wasn’t home, Grandma was next door and Jay didn’t tend to play with dolls... He had been more of an easy bake oven kind of guy. The thought lifted Elias’ mood slightly. He threw the doll down on Sarah’s bed and closed the door behind him.
When he arrived back downstairs, Jay had already sat out his and Elias’ homework for Monday. It was the tradition that they done it on a Friday after school so that the rest of the weekend was theirs for the taking.
“I don’t get it.” Jay proclaimed throwing his hands over his face. Drama queen.
“Jay your book isn’t even open so if you’re trying to get me to do it for you, it ain’t happening.”
“Fine,” Jay sighed. “I wish I had the brains for all this Social Studies crap but unfortunately God took my smarts and turned them into extra beauty. P.S. thank you, God.”
Jay had always been cocky. Elias remembered the time last year in school when he had tried to use that as an excuse for not doing his homework... To say the least it didn’t take and he had to do double for the next day for his attitude. Miss Prune had said something along the lines of - ′if I teach you anything it’ll be that your looks will get you nowhere Mr Volk.′ The lesson didn’t take.
“what the hell are you doing?” asked Jay looking confused. “What is that?”
Elias followed Jay’s glare to his homework book and Elias saw what was confusing Jay. The pad was a jumble of lines and squiggles forming what looked like words written in an alphabet that he had never seen before.
“If you’re gonna write in code so that I don’t copy, you could at least tell me. I copied your first answer... thought it was a Russian town or something.” Jay said in an annoyed tone as he looked for his eraser.
Elias continued to look at his book and the letters were almost recognisable to him yet he couldn’t understand them and didn’t remember writing it. He could feel a lump slowly make its way from his stomach to his throat and sprinted for the bathroom.
After spending half an hour in the bathroom vomiting on and off, Jay finally decided to pay him a visit and let him know that his Grandma was back from next door with Sarah so with a final flush Elias stood up shakily and left for the living room.
“Well if it isn’t my two handsome boys”. Elias Grandma had always treated Jay as one of her own Grandkids. “Homework as usual I suppose? Well not for me. I was over at Mr Harvey’s. You’ll never believe what he found in the goodwill store? An original Elvis Presley Record!”
Only old people could get so excited about finding an old oversized disk that played the music that you could find in any CD store and all over the internet. “That’s so cool Grandma. How is Mr Cree- Harvey?” Elias loved seeing his Grandma happy and would fake a mountain’s worth of interest rather than make her think her excitement was over something stupid.
“He’s fine, he’s fine.”
“Has anyone seen Miss Holly?” Sarah rushed into the room looking flustered.
Elias replied in an accusing tone. “Yeah, you left it in here earlier so I put her back on your bed.”
“No, I didn’t, I always put her back on her seat at the table in my room when I’m done playing with her so she can talk to her friends. And besides, she isn’t on my bed.”
“Jay I swear if you’ve moved that doll to try and freak me out I’m going to kill you,” Elias whispered under his breath so Sarah wouldn’t hear. “I’m sure she’ll turn up somewhere.” He said to his sister.
Sarah ran back upstairs to look again for her doll. Every now and then they could hear something being dragged across the floor or something crashing out of a toy box. Elias packed his school things away and walked Jay to the garden gate as he always did when his friend was leaving. As he turned to walk back towards the house he thought he saw an odd pair of eyes from behind his neighbour’s curtains. They were almost glowing but it couldn’t be eyes so he put it down to Christmas lights gone rogue, probably fallen off of the curtain rail.
He saw his Grandma at the table, “Grandma you should let Mr Harvey know that some of his Christmas lights have fallen down at his window. You know how he likes everything to be perfect.”
“Mr Harvey doesn’t put any Christmas decorations up, dear. He’s such a humbug.”
“He must have had a change of heart, there were definitely some at his window... I thought they were eyes at first but they were glowing bright purple-” Elias turned to see his Grandma but she wasn’t there and the front door was wide open.
Elias approached the door just in time to see his Grandma, his Grandma kick in Mr Harvey’s front door. Too astounded to move he stood on his front steps and waited for his Grandma to come back out of the house and after around ten minutes, she did. Her hair was messy, her glasses sat in her pocket cracked and her posture, normally hunched and weak, was straight and strong.
“In the house” She commanded, “now!”
Elias ran without a second thought followed by his Grandma who slammed the door behind him. “Call an ambulance Elias” she instructed, “Mr Harvey has been attacked.”
Elias stood and watched as his neighbour was taken away on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance and his Grandma paced the garden, stressed, thinking, plotting? He had never seen his Grandma move so fast, stand so straight or kick someone’s door off its hinges before. The more he thought about it, the more abnormal it seemed. His fifty-eight-year-old Grandma just kicked a door off its hinges!
She looked at him from outside with a face of stone and he could tell at that moment that she wasn’t the woman he thought he knew.
“Elias, Miss Holly was in your room! If you wanted to play you should have asked!” Sarah smacked him on the leg as she walked past and charged up to her room.
Elias spent the rest of the weekend in his room. He had switched his phone off on Saturday morning when Jay wouldn’t stop calling. He felt empty and betrayed but how could he? His Grandma was kick-ass. She had kicked a door down and possibly saved a mans life. But something wasn’t right. The something in his Grandma’s eyes when she looked at him from the garden and those glowing balls of purple light he saw at the window. There was no shaking the feeling that those purple orbs were eyes and his Grandma’s, at that moment, mirrored them like they were one and the same. He had hardly spoken to his Grandma since the incident. She still cooked his dinners and made pointless small talk but there was something different.
The weekend came and went in a flash and it was Monday morning again. His alarm sounded and he started to get out of bed. Normally his Grandma would have been in by now pestering him awake. He completed his usual routine of showering, dressing and heading downstairs but when he approached his Grandma at the table she didn’t move. She was sitting staring at the same place on the wall that he had been the other day when he was with Jay. “Grandma? where’s Sarah?”
“She’s already on her way to school. Emma’s Mother picked her up ten minutes ago.” His Grandma still didn’t remove her gaze from the wall.
“Okay, I’m going to head out now. I’ll see you later.” He planted a kiss on his Grandma’s cheek and left. His Grandma remained sitting at that table, staring at the exact same spot for what seemed like no time at all to her but in reality had been hours.
Whilst his Grandma sat staring at her wall, Elias was in Social Studies class at school. Jay who spent hours doing his homework, after Elias refused to do it for him, was rubbing it in his face because after scrawling a page of symbols that he had never seen before, Elias had forgotten to go back and do his actual homework. Elias opened his book to take another look at those symbols and they were gone. The page had been ripped out and by the looks of it without much care. There were remnants of the torn page still attached to the book but only ragged edges where it had been split and there was only one symbol that he could still make out. It looked like an “A” but with a line coming out of the bottom left leg of the “A” going upwards to the right at a forty-five-degree angle cutting through the main body of the letter. Elias could swear that he’d seen it before. The rest of the class he doodled the letter... or symbol... or whatever it was in the margins of his workbooks over and over.
Lunchtime - God Elias hated school lunches. The canteen smelled like powdered potatoes had been attacked by out of date seasonings and thrown on a plate along-side deep fried, so-called, fish. The dinner woman at his school was always pleasant and always had some semblance of a smile on her face. Clearly, she must have good meds. As Elias moved with the wave of people waiting for their food to be splattered on to a dinner tray Jay was telling some story about a chick he’d met at the party the other night. Elias wasn’t really listening but he could work out what he was saying. Jay’s party stories were always the same. He was the life of the party, dancing with all the girls and always the first one in the pool but at any party that Elias had actually attended with Jay, he had done none of the stuff that he always did. A good storyteller always adds a little extra to the truth.
“Elias?” Jay was talking to him directly now, shit, ”You weren’t even listening were you?”
“Nah sorry man, I’ve got a lot on my mind right now.”
“Well, you really SHOULD have been listening then!” Jay sounded excited, “I was just telling you that at the party, Noah was getting chatted up by all these girls, and I mean the cream of the crop, everyone wanted a piece of him.”
“And why would that cheer me up John-boy?” Elias retorted
Jay arched an eyebrow as if to say that he was stupid to not know the answer to that question, “Because... he’s... not... into?”
“Girls...” An enormous smile had just erupted onto Elias’ face. What do you know, Jay can be right now and then.
They had finally reached the front of the line where they paid for their food and left to find a table. Looking around the room always made Elias chuckle. It was like in all the movies about high school said. There were tables of jocks, geeks, pretty girls, not-so-pretty girls, and then there were the outcasts. No points to the guy who guessed where Elias and Jay sat. He and Jay were currently the only occupants of this outcast table. Although Jay was a jock and played on the sports teams he could never be himself with those guys, Jay was unbelievably geeky when he wanted to be and none of them understood that side of him like Elias did, so he opted into sitting with him and the outcasts.
They spoke and laughed as they always did and Jay, as he always did, tried to guess which colour the girls’ underpants at the other table was. School skirts seemed to be getting shorter and shorter so most of the time Jay was actually able to see if he was right when they stood up to leave. Elias was halfway through his pudding when something strange happened. Something so strange that it forced the pudding to get caught in his throat and render him unable to talk. Noah sat across from him at the table.
“Sorry man, I didn’t realise I looked that bad today” Noah jested.
Elias was still choking on his food but felt the rush of colour to his cheeks as he thought that Noah looked anything other than bad right then. His ginger curls unravelled gracing the top of his left cheek and were tucked neatly behind his ear on the other side. His style could only be described as intentionally chaotic. Elias just wanted to reach over and touch him. Tell him how beautiful he was with his amber eyes and his freckled nose. Once he stopped choking on chocolate pudding that is.
“Anyway, I was wondering if you’d like to come shopping with me sometime?” Noah asked staring straight at Elias “we have a similar style and I could really use the hand.”
“Sure we’ll come” butted in Jay as Elias opened his mouth to answer.
“Actually jock boy, I meant your pretty friend here.” Noah looked from Jay back to Elias, “So? what d’you say? If you say yes coffees on me and I’ll hear no arguments about it.”
Elias couldn’t believe what was happening. This had to be a joke right? Someone else noticed that Elias liked Noah and put him up to it. That’s got to be it. Did he really want to say no though? What if it was really him asking. Before he could think any more Noah lifted his hand from the table and leaned towards Elias, his brain went into overdrive. What was happening? Noah smiled and wiped some pudding off of Elias’ face. “humm,” the high noise escaped Elias before he could stop it.
“I’ll take that as a yes then Blondie” Noah chuckled and stood up from the table.
Elias stared after him for a second before swinging his hand out and grabbing at Jay beside him. “Why didn’t you tell me I had pudding... on my face?”
“Thought it was funnier this way,” Jay said laughing.
Elias got up, slammed his tray onto the pile and headed to his next class.