Acceptance

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Chapter Fourteen

[ETHAN]

We heard excessive barking as we pulled up at Mr. Collin’s bungalow. He was out on the porch with Roxanne who ran into the small garden barking, with tail wagging fast in the air as she approached the car.

“Calm down,” Andrew laughed as Roxanne tried to fit her nose into the tiny space Andrew was creating as he wound down the window.

I smiled, glad to see utter relief and joy on Andrew’s face as Roxanne attempted to give him a dog kiss through the window.

My smile soon turned upside down at the sight of Mr. Collins approaching Andrew’s window with Hector in hand. The half-grown chick was tweeting noisily as Mr. Collins passed him through the window to Andrew.

“Thanks for taking care of them,” Andrew thanked Mr. Collins as he rubbed Hector’s head with the base of his thumb.

“Are you glad to see him?” Andrew asked, looking from Hector to me. I grunted, making Andrew chuckle slightly.

Roxanne was still barking noisily as she ran from Andrew’s door to mine. She started clawing at the door in an attempt to stand on her hinge legs.

I opened the door, letting her in. She jumped in, settling on top of me, as she let her paws rest on the dashboard.

“You’ll be off now?” Mr. Collins asked, making Andrew nod as he placed the chick inside the cup holder. I smiled to myself, noticing Hector had gotten a little bit big for the cup. With time they’ll be no car rides for him.

Mr. Collins waved us off as Andrew pulled into the road.

The ride back home was uncomfortable. Roxanne kept sticking her snout in the air and barking. Andrew reasoned that something probably smelled wrong or different and Roxanne was just panicking like she usually did when something was off.

We got to the cabin a few minutes later. I opened the door to let a very eager Roxanne out. She jumped about before running to the rare end of the booth to continue her barking fit.

“It’s probably something we bought,” Andrew said as he got down the car. Although he was being suggestive that Roxanne was worrying about nothing, there was something in his look that told me he thought otherwise.

I looked worriedly at Roxanne who was still barking and snarling at the booth. I’ve seen the things she capable of doing. Form sniffing out an oil leakage in the car to spotting a very small gas leak in the stove. It could be something minor — or really serious.

“We’ll have to check though,” Andrew said, taking a hold of the booth’s hinge. “There’s no helping by just staring at it.”

My eyes widened in sudden panic and confusion when Andrew lifted the booth door to revile our luggage and a body.

I snapped out of my thoughts at the sound of Andrew cursing, and the more frantic barking from Roxanne.

“How the hell did she get there?” Andrew asked, looking from me to the booth, Where Roxanne had climbed into to sniff the body of the girl. The child was immobile, even when Roxanne barked directly into her ear.

I furrowed my brows realizing I’d seen her somewhere — the convention.

“Shit,” I muttered under my breath, making Andrew look at me with worry as I climbed into the booth with Roxanne.

“Is she—Is she alive?” Andrew asked in a whisper, clearly not comfortable with the idea.

“Yes,” I said, feeling her pulse. “I think she just passed out from car sickness or something.”

“We should take her to the hospital, don’t you think? And call the police—”

“No,” I said firmly, cutting Andrew mid-sentence. He frowned at me, clearly not liking my tone. My mouth fell agape in an attempt to explain myself, but nothing reasonable came out and I just ended up sighing.

“Let’s suspend that, okay? I’ll revive her and then you can decide.” I suggested as I massaged the top of the girl’s chest.

“Ethan—”

“I know her, okay? Let’s just get to talk to her first before we take her anywhere,” I said, giving him a pleading look. “Please,” I added, receiving a sigh and a quick nod from Andrew.

“Thank you,” I sighed in relief. I watched as Andrew beaconed to Roxanne to follow him as he muttered something about getting somewhere ready for the past out girl. He retrieved Hector from the cup holder soon after, before disappearing into the cabin with Roxanne.

From time to time I gave the girl mouth to mouth to improve her breathing. I moved back when she started coughing violently a few minutes later, holding on to her chest as she struggled to sit up.

“Thank goodness,” I sighed in relief, as she continued to cough with a pained frown on her face.

“It’s okay,” I said, trying to calm her down as she continued to cough. The coughing soon seized and was replaced by deep breaths and gasps.

“You’re fine,” I murmured as she preoccupied herself with looking around with a confused look plastered on her face.

“How did you get here?” I asked as her eyes met mine. She frowned slightly before her mouth formed a small ‘o’ like she’d just remembered why she was here in the first place.

“You’re that nice stranger,” she said plainly, before giving me a toothy grin.

I sighed, giving her a little shake before repeating my question. “How did you get here?” I asked again.

“I snuck into the train, then the next, and the next—”

“How on earth...?” I asked, widening my eyes in disbelief.

“My mates and I do it all the time. It’s no biggy,” she said, shrugging as if it was normal to sneak into public transport.

“Okay then. How did you get in the car?” I asked, making her give me a confused look that said she’d already explained that.

“I hoped in when you guys were talking. There’s sure no other way to explain it...” she muttered with a shrug. It was then I remembered the odd thumping sound Andrew had asked about when we were still in the train station’s parking lot, it must have been her.

“That was dangerous. You fainted,” I stated plainly. She looked away from me and down at her dress. Fidgeting like a deer caught in headlights.

“I didn’t think I’d get so dizzy. I’ve never been in a booth before,” she muttered, still not looking at me.

“Why?” I asked, giving her a frustrated look. She’d snuck into three trains and a private car and she was acting as if it was nothing.

“I didn’t want to stay with the gang no more,” she confessed, rubbing her eyes with balled fists.

My expression softened at the confession. I sighed, scratching the back of my head not knowing what to do.

“Is she awake?!” I heard Andrew ask from the house. I turned to find him poking his head out the cabin door.

“Yeah, I’m bringing her in,” I informed him, looking away from him to the girl.

“Come on.” I encouraged, getting out of the booth. She came down in her worn out sandals, adjusting her dirty purple dress before making an attempt to fix her hair. After a few run through with her fingers, she sighed giving up on the hair.

“Come on,” I said again, motioning her towards the door. She followed me to the door of the cabin before stopping right in front of it awkwardly. I pulled at her hand, making her stumble into the cabin.

I let her hand go afterward, letting her wonder about the cabin on her own. She was giving the cabin a half excited half scared look. Like she was happy to be here but too scared to touch anything in case of getting it damaged.

Her head snapped towards the kitchen door when Andrew walked through it with a glass of water in hand.

“Here,” he said, handing it over to her. She took the glass, eyeing him oddly before muttering a thank you.

She drank from the glass noisily before handing it back over when it was emptied.

“You’ve spoken to her?” Andrew asked, looking over at me with an expectant gaze.

“Sort of,” I sighed, heading to sit on the living room sofa. The girl stood in the center of the room awkwardly, eyeing Roxanne that had strolled out of the kitchen and was now settling at my feet.

“What’s your name?” Andrew asked as he dropped the empty glass on the dining table.

“Devein,” she said, fidgeting with the sleeve of her dress. It was rumpled and looked as if it had been worn more than once.

“Did you run away from home?” Andrew asked, pulling out a seat for himself from the dinning. I could tell that his ankle hurt from the way he avoided putting pressure on it.

“No, I ain’t got any home to run away from,” she said, shaking her mass of dirty blonde uncombed hair. Andrew frowned, looking from her to me.

I gave him a look, saying I would explain later.

“Okay. I’m a little confused, but I’m sure we’ll be able to clear things up in the morning when we get to the station—”

“You can’t!” the girl yelled on top of her voice as she balled her hands into fists at either side of her.

Andrew frowned, giving the girl and irritated sigh. “Look, I don’t know about you but I find it very odd to find a passed out girl in the booth of my car. We’re heading to the station first thing tomorrow and that’s final,” Andrew said in a firm voice before getting up.

“Ethan, she can have your room for the night. I’ll fix something up for her to eat in the kitchen,” Andrew said before calling on Roxanne with the click of his tongue.

“We’ve had a long day, let’s handle this tomorrow, okay?” he said before getting up and leaving the room into the kitchen with Roxanne on his heels.

I got up soon after, leading Devein to my now abandoned room. Most of my stuff had been moved to Andrew’s room already and the study table, closet, and drawers were almost as empty as I’d met them when I got here.

“I don’t like him,” Devein said plainly as I walked into the room’s bathroom to put on the heater.

“Why?” I asked, stepping out. There was still some bathing soap and toothpaste in the bathroom for her to use later, but I needed to get her a toothbrush. I might also have to ask Andrew for one of his old shirts for her to wear for the meantime.

She shrugged, taking a seat on the bed. “He’s mean,” she finally blurted out before biting her bottom lip.

“He’s been responsible,” I corrected, looking through the drawers for the extra new toothbrush I’m sure I had.

“I don’t like it,” she said raising her hands to catch the new toothbrush I eventually found and tossed to her.

“Well, you’ll have to get used to it,” I stated calmly, looking about for anything I wanted to take away with me. I found a cigarette fag on the floor, right beside the bed. I hastily kicked it under the bed, hoping Devein didn’t see me.

“Take the food in the kitchen. I’ll get you something to change into so you can take a bath,” I said, moving to adjust the windows and nets to let in air, before leaving the room.

I walked into Andrew’s room to find him sitting up in bed with Roxanne. He was stroking her head idly with his free hand as he read from his tablet.

“I need something for her to wear,” I said, walking up to the drawers.

“She can have any of my worn out shirts,” Andrew said, not taking his eyes off his phone.

I found something to give Devein and returned to the room she was now staying in soon after.

“How is she?” Andrew asked as I came back to the room.

“Fine, she’s taking a bath,” I replied, heading to the foot of the bed to sit down. Roxanne crawled to me, nosing her head into my lap.

“She’s confused,” Andrew said, taking his eyes off his tablet to give Roxanne a worried look. “She’s not quite sure what to make of the girl.”

I rubbed Roxanne head in understanding. It was obvious she was confused by the way she was whining and moping.

“You said you knew the girl, how?” Andrew asked, giving me a steady look.

“She was wondering about the convention,” I said with a laugh. “She tried to steal my wallet.”

Andrew raised a brow, making me smile at him. “Don’t worry, I caught her beforehand.”

“So she’s a street urchin?” Andrew asked, adjusting the pillow under his head. He was still in the clothes he came back in, meaning he hadn’t taken a bath yet.

“I guess that’s the term,” I answered with a sigh. Andrew didn’t ask any more questions, he just returned to reading from his tablet.

“I haven’t taken a bath yet,” Andrew suddenly said, stating the obvious.

“I noticed,” I replied, as I rubbed behind Roxanne’s ears.

“I’m going to take one now...” Andrew trailed, making me look towards him. I knew he wanted a reaction from me, but I wasn’t sure what.

“Do you... do you want to take one with me?” he finally asked, making my cheeks rush with warmth. It was odd for Andrew to be so direct with me. I didn’t trust my mouth to make any sense at the moment so I just nodded.

We left Roxanne clawing at the bathroom door as we took a bath together.

I knew how hard the whole situation was for Andrew from the way he was shaking involuntarily. I tried to make small talk as we showered, and tried my best to avoid staring at him for too long not to get him uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to spoil things for him. I was happy he was trying to get out of his shell, conquer his fear of being seen.

“I love you,” I muttered as we dried off with our individual towels. Andrew just gave me an odd look, wrapping his towel tightly around him before exiting the bathroom door.

I smiled, wondering how someone who could be so strict and mature most of the time could be so childish at others.

I shook my head, following him out the door. Andrew was by far one of the best and most interesting things that had ever happened to me.

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