“I’m heading out to the department store to get some things with Devein,” Andrew said as he and Devein walked into the sitting room. Andrew was in a huge sweater, the hands so long that the hung around his hands in sweater mittens.
Devein seemed to like the way it looked on Andrew because she kept trying to stretch the arms of her sweater over her hands. She pouted when she didn’t succeed and tugged at Andrew’s sweater.
“Can I have a bigger one?” she asked, making Andrew look down at her.
“We’ll see,” he replied, making Devein break into a grin before she an out the cabin’s front door.
“She seems happier, right?” Andrew asked as he settled down beside me on the sofa.
“Yeah,” I agreed as Andrew rested his head on my shoulder. The police station had called to find out if Andrew could keep Devein for another month or two. They were apparently having problems with finding an orphanage with free space for her.
“I should be going,” Andrew sighed before giving me a quick peck. My face visibly reddened as he got up. I watched with no atom of shame as Andrew adjusted his jeans that had been riding down on his hips. He gave me an eye roll when he caught me staring before heading to open the front door.
“Hey...” Andrew trailed in a sing-song voice as Hector poked his head in as the door came open. He’d started hanging outside recently with the other chickens but came indoors once in a while.
Hector clucked before sidestepping into the cabin.
“Don’t kill him,” Andrew ordered, giving me an accusing look before heading out.
In the next few minutes, I heard the sound of Andrew’s car drive off. I looked at the clock noticing it was barely nine in the morning. Irrespective of how long I’ve stayed here with Andrew I never knew what to do with my weekends here. The area was practically a ghost town and everything including the supermarkets and my college was located in the next one.
I took a shower before studying. I’ve been trying to bite down on my craving for cigarettes so I settled with a stick of gum or a toothpick instead.
I looked up from the dining table when I heard a knock on the front door. The knock was followed by the sound of envelopes slipping through the letter hole.
Roxanne got up from her sitting position under the table, crawling out before walking up to the letters with a wag to her tail. She sniffed at the three individual envelopes before maneuvering them into her mouth with her paws. When she was done she headed up to me before dropping them at my feet.
“What’s this?” I asked, patting Roxanne’s head before picking the letters up from the carpet. I placed them on the dining table before Roxanne gave a satisfied bark and ran towards the TV.
I narrowed my eyes at the white envelopes. On closer examination two belonged to Andrew and one was oddly addressed to me.
My expression changed from slightly puzzled to completely annoyed when I recognized the address of the writer.
What on earth does my mother have to say to me now?
I sighed before tearing the envelope open to read the contents of the typed up letter.
I’m officially married now. I’ve pleaded with Bruce to consider you relocating back here to stay with us. We’ve checked up on some colleges, and we’ll be ready to plan your return in a few months. Please reply to this, stating the dates that would be comfortable for your return.
I want you to understand that no matter how many times we fight we’re still mother and child. You came from me and I’m taking my responsibility as your mother by making the decisions I feel are the best for both of us.
I groaned, scrunching the paper into a ball. Why did she have to ruin every good thing that happens to me? Sure I was resistant when I first got here but I was happy now. There was no way she was making me leave Andrew, and definitely not right now that he was easing up to me when we were getting closer.
I shook my head, trying to get over the turmoil that was threatening to consume my senses. I wanted to hit something, I wanted to call my mother up and curse hard at her.
I needed a smoke.
I got up in frantic haste to discard the letter. If Andrew found out, he might ask me to comply.
I walked into the kitchen before walking out again deciding that he might find it if I threw it in the kitchen bin. I soon settled for stuffing it into a drawer in the room that was once mine but now Devein’s.
I walked into the room’s bathroom, reaching up for the cabinet I knew Devein couldn’t get to. I let my hand wonder about until it hit the pack of cigarettes I’d hidden away from myself.
I searched for the lighter, sighing in relief as my hand came in contact with it behind the cosmetic bottles and tubes. I left the cabin with my inhaler with Roxanne looking after me as I shut the door after myself.
I wondered about the sparse neighborhood before settling behind an empty summer house I’d found next to the stream early in my stay here.
I lit a cigarette, drawing on it as if my life depended on it before letting out a stream like a puff of smoke from my mouth.
I slipped. I just rendered a year plus of therapy useless, but it didn’t matter now. I just needed comfort — relief.
I rubbed my chest as the feeling of inert pain and lack of breath began to hit me. I took a few puffs of my inhaler before drawing on my cigarette again.
I listened to the sound of the stream as water rushed by rocks and fallen leaves and twigs. The morning was just being fully bathed by the sun. The sound of birds and their young in a nearby tree keep invading my thoughts.
I pulled my hair out of the band that was restraining it, letting my hair fall freely around my face as it settled on my shoulders. I looked down at the muddy pair of chucks I’d slipped on in my haste to get out of the cabin.
Why? Why was my mother so determined to ruin anything that made me happy?
I rested my head against the wall of the brick house, looking up at the sky and remembering how Andrew had opened up to me that night.
His attitude towards me had changed for the better after that. He’d become more affectionate. Open.
My fingers recoiled into each other as I tried to imagine Andrew’s smaller hand cozied up in mine. He’d started holding my hand in public. He’d started calling me by names of endearment like dear and love.
That one made my heart slam violently against my rib cage whenever he said it and it wasn’t often, but it was enough.
He was initiating kisses and caresses and rejecting my own advances less. He’d stopped pulling away from me when Devein walked in on us and he’d kissed me full on the lips right in front of everyone when I’d won him something at the town fair the other day.
I couldn’t help feeling happy at the fact that Andrew was making our confusing yet existent relationship known to the people around us.
Mr. Collins seemed to have noticed or overheard something about us. News spread fast in such a small town. He’d become harsher on my papers, and somehow his façade of niceness had turned to one of sarcasm and unfriendliness.
I didn’t mind though. The bags under his eyes and the redness that came with them every morning were evidence that he was hurting. It was okay to feel hurt — to be angry.
I buried the fags of the cigarettes I’d lit before getting up and leaving. I reached the cabin in a few minutes, spotting Andrew’s car. They must be back.
I walked in to watch Roxanne watching the nature channel keenly and Devein rattling on to Hector that was sitting on her lap about how nice her sweater was.
I weak smile found its way across my lips as I closed the door behind me. Sometimes Devein seemed like a normal thirteen years old — even younger — and sometimes she seemed well over her years.
“Ethan’s back,” Devein announced as I took a seat on the sofa beside her.
“Nice sweater,” I muttered, earning a smile from Devein.
“Thanks, it looks like Andy’s,” Devein said as she hugged the sweater to herself. When she’d first came She’d been a little hesitant to ask for stuff but she’d eased up to Andrew’s generosity soon after.
Although she called Andrew and me by our names she’d confided in me the fact that we felt like parents to her.
“Then who’s the mum and who’s the dad?” I’d asked as we chuckled over her confession on her bed. She scrunched up her nose, giving me a queer look.
“No one. Does someone have to be the mum or dad? You feel like parents and that’s just about it,” she had said as she crawled under the duvets.
“Besides, two pas probably kicks as much as a mum or dad, mums, and dad, dads, and mums, two mums, or a family with a bunch of the two,” she had said as an odd silence fell on us before I excused myself out of the room.
“Oh you’re back,” I heard Andrew say as he walked out of the kitchen with a cup of juice I had.
“I was taking a walk...” I trailed although he hadn’t asked me for my whereabouts.
Andrew nodded, taking a sip of juice from his cup. “I saw my letters,” he said before walking towards me.
“I have a lot of counter offers for my new books. These stubborn publishers won’t here that I won’t leave my present publishing house,” he said as he sat on my lap. My face warmed up as I let my arms snake around his waist.
I sat there all hot and bothered as we watched the nature channel with Roxanne. She had discovered about it recently and barked frantically whenever anyone tried to change the channel.
“Can I have your tab?” Devein asked out of the blue, making Andrew mutter a small yes. She soon disappeared into the hallway, making Andrew chuckle lightly.
“I should get her one of her own,” he muttered as she reappeared with his tab in hand. She came up to the sofa I and Andrew were sharing before taking a sit on the armrest. She then asked Andrew to input the password. She stayed there after he did, the noise from the game blending with that from the TV.
Andrew lay back on me half asleep. I wrapped my arms around him a little more tightly so he wouldn’t slip off my lap. At the moment I couldn’t help feeling that we felt like a family; I, Andrew, Devein, Roxanne and even Hector. They felt like the family that I didn’t want to lose. The family my mother was unknowingly trying to take away from me.
I sighed, deciding to enjoy the make-believe family for as long as my mother let it last.