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The Gray House

Thea:

I didn’t like how the bruise looked on his face.

A part of me was grateful that I had chosen to sit outside and enjoy a rare day of the warmer weather to paint. Another part wishes that I hadn’t.

It was simple. I was sitting outside my house on the porch, paintbrush in hand, when someone came running onto the street.

I’ve seen this guy briefly from outside my window sometimes. One time I created a painting, that painting ended up being for Reece when I first showed him my art.

It was quite a shock when I recognized Alex’s form running down the street. It makes a little more sense now that Benny told me he lived not too far away but it was still hard to picture.

What wasn’t hard to picture was the look of sheer panic on his face when he recognized me. That was a look I wasn’t sure I would ever see on him.

His head tipped down as I waved to him and he waved back almost timidly.

“Hey Alex” I called as he came closer

He cleared his throat and took a breath to even out his harsher breaths from running ”hey Thea”

His head was still down and I felt a little nervous why he seemed like he wanted to ignore my existence and run in the opposite direction. “Are you okay?” I asked as I tried to meet his eyes

He looked away and started taking steps away from me “I’ve got to go. It was nice seeing you”

“Yeah” I said weakly as I watch him turn away. He picked up to a jog and I don’t think he expected me to still be watching his retreating figure, but he looked back at me and my eyes widened at the sight of a dark bruise on his cheek traveling up towards his eye.

He looked back towards the front and he ran the rest of the way down the street while I just stood there looking at his retreating figure while trying to process what I saw.

Did he get into a fight? Maybe he hit it on something?

I don’t know what to think of the information but I know I wasn’t happy. I don’t like seeing him hurt.

My curiosity was bubbling but it’s clear he didn’t want me to see it, much less talk about it. So I did my best to put a cap on the growing curiosity, but it didn’t stop the concern.

Did it hurt? Was he okay? Does he need help?

I’m not a trained professional, but the bruise was fairly prominent.

I can only hope that it was more minor than major and he’s taking care of it.

My artistic thoughts are significantly duller than usual due to the sadness I felt towards Alex. I don’t know why he wouldn’t show me, why he looked so worried.

I don’t want to start another painting. I can think straight right now. So I look at the painting I had just about finished before Alex came by. It’s a view of the street looking down at the rows of houses. All the houses are a different color, each person who stands outside their house wears a color to match their own house’s color.

There are flowers that grow all around and an array of colors. They grow from minimal sizes to unrealistic sizes. They grow from the walls of houses, the concrete, the gardens.

That’s the thing about paintings, they don’t have to be realistic. They can bring out inner thoughts and imagination in any way shape or form.

While I preferred to work off of a real setting, it was always nice to either try and add something personal or try a new style altogether.

I packed up all my things and went inside my house. I hummed a quiet song as I put my things away. I looked wistfully out the window which had sunlight coming through it, lighting up the whole room.

We weren’t going to get many more days where I would want to go outside with my materials like I did today without the fear of them freezing. Winter is sure to roll in quickly and soon enough the ground will be covered in a layer of snow.

Deciding to take advantage of the warmer weather, I collect my keys and put them into the pocket of my jacket. Walking back outside, I’m sure to lock the door and I hop down the few stairs leading up to my house.

I’m not sure where I’m going but I turn left down the street and just enjoy the sun.

It’s times like these, the moments where there’s nothing occupying my mind and no one around to distract me where I’m taken back into the feeling of ‘nothing’

My life used to be less than mundane. I was always alone. No one talked to me, and I didn’t do anything besides paint. There was a point where I didn’t even do that.

With nothing happening in my life, I didn’t have much to think about. It was like I was simply floating. Just moving through the standards of life without anything going on.

But one day it all changed. I don’t know what it was, but that one day Ethan decided to talk to me, was when everything turned around. Suddenly I have six friends who want to talk to me. I’ve been to a park for the first time in years, I’ve been to an arcade, I’ve gone to a school baseball game.

All these things which I never thought about since the worst day of my life. When I was left alone, I left my life in the past.

I put a pause on doing anything that wasn’t mandatory because I felt like there was no point in doing anything.

But it’s all different now.

My eyes snap to the right to a grey house. It’s paint is seemingly fresh but I can tell that the layer over the chipped layer was done with little skill.

The paints don’t match and the stroke of the brush is off in different directions. It makes me almost want to repaint it.

The garden doesn’t have much happening. The plants look like they’re being watered, but whoever tried to maintain the garden seems to not know what to do. The plants are cut at odd angles and are planted either a little too high or a little too low.

My eyes are pulled away from the garden and back to why I stopped in the first place. A loud crash sounds through the walls of the house and my eyes go wide.

More crashing comes from the house, each time making me wince. This time, voices reach my ears.

I’m about to move on because I know I shouldn’t be listening but the faint shouting sounds familiar.

“I’m not fucking paying for that shit!”

Alex?

“The hell you’re not boy! This house is your fucking responsibility! I let you live here, you pay your part!” Another voice yells

“You breaking things is not my responsibility!”

My breath catches. That sounded a lot like Alex. What is going on?

There was another sound, something breaking, and I hesitantly take a step back. Should I do something? Is it really Alex? Who is in there with him?

“I do everything around here! You ungrateful little shit are gonna fix this and get the hell out! I don’t want to see your face here tonight!” The other person says

I don’t want to get caught. I mean, it’s none of my business right? I take a few more steps back to a point where the yelling is now muffled and I’m no longer able to make out the words being thrown out.

My backward steps speed up before I turn around fully and jog away from the grey house.

I don’t like how that sounded. The fight sounded violent and I don’t want to think about it, but dangerous. Alex or not, I don’t want anyone getting hurt.

I can hardly believe this. I wouldn’t know what to Do with myself if I was placed in that situation. I was scared just being on the other side of the walls.

I slow my jog down to a more casual walk in the direction back towards my house. The more I walk away, for some reason, the more I feel like I should have stayed. I feel like a coward.

I ran away. Maybe I shouldn’t have, I don’t know what I would have done if I stayed, but I don’t like the feeling of running away.

The rest of the walk was bitter. I couldn’t enjoy the warmth because the recent events made me feel so cold. What if someone needed help? Should I have knocked?

I close my eyes tightly as a tear falls. I feel ashamed. Ashamed of myself.

I wipe it away as I basically stomp up the stairs toward my house.

I open the door and basically throw myself on the couch. Not having the energy to make it upstairs.

I can’t go down this road again. No more blame. It was minor, no big deal. It had nothing to do with you.

I chant this in my head as I stare at the ceiling. It’s times like these I wish my parents were here. Here to tell me what to do, give me any sort of reassurance, keep me from getting lost.

But I am lost. I’m lost in my head and I’m lost without them.

I take a deep breath, I need to calm down. Push it down Thea, keep it locked away, and don’t let it back.

I did my best to pull my thoughts away from the events in the grey house. I poured a bit of cereal for myself and ate it while busying myself doing homework. While it may have not been the most interesting of plans, physics was certainly taking my mind off of the recent events.

When I get tired enough of homework, I glance outside and decide I most likely should get out. I haven’t been around Coffee & Co much, so I decide to go there.

It’s a coffee shop, a lot like Starbucks, but they serve minor meals in a cafe-like setting.

I take my coat knowing it’ll be late when I come back, and I make my way outside and down the street.

It takes a little while to get into town but life is still buzzing. It’s actually usually at its peak around this time. It’s just about five in the afternoon and people are either out to get dinner, shopping, hanging out with friends, or generally walking around.

This part of town is quite beautiful. The shops are all colorful and have display cases which give the place a bit of flair. At Christmas, there are lights all around and snow on the ground. It’s like walking into Santa’s village.

The bell chimes as I walk into the cafe. Holly, who I know well enough, smiles at me in disbelief from behind the counter. “And here I thought I lost my best customer” she teases

I shake my head “never” I will admit it has been a long time since I’ve been here. When my parents were still alive I would come here all the time. However, when they died, coming here was nowhere on my to-do list.

I walk over towards the counter and Holly places her elbows on it as she places her chin on her hands. “What can I get you?”

I used to always get the same order every time. But I figure, my life is turning around, so it’s time for something new.

“I’ll have the banana bread and the strawberry smoothie” I say as I inspect the menu

Holly nods and begins typing it into the register “alright, then it’ll be seven eighty five”

I pull out my wallet from my back pocket and count up the money before placing it in Holly’s hand.

She hands me the banana bread from behind the display case and I thank her.

“If you want to have a seat for a moment, I’ll have your smoothie right out” she tilts her head in the direction of the chairs and tables towards the right side of the cafe and I nod.

I take a seat and nibble at the bread. I wish I had brought something to do. I don’t want to be thinking. I want to be focusing.

Unfortunately, I can’t stop my thoughts from spiraling down a path I don’t want to go.

The grey house. I’m not sure what I heard, an argument of course, but to what extent? Things were breaking and I’m nervous if escalated, someone could get hurt. I’m sure I would blame myself. If I could have stopped it and someone got hurt, it would be my fault.

And that voice, it sounded so much like Alex that it makes me scared. I care about Alex, I don’t want him in that situation and it makes me sad that anyone is.

But Alex, if he had that bruise- would the dots connect?

“Hey Thea, smoothies ready” Holly calls

And suddenly, I’m not so hungry.

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