Ryker went over a lot of the details from his life, explaining what it was like growing up with his power hearing songs coming from people, and thinking it was normal until they realized it wasn’t his imagination and he realized it wasn’t normal. He talked about his mother, father, and brother. How she had died when he was ten, how his brother and he had been attempting to repair their relationship when his father shipped him off to Copper Cove Academy so he didn’t have to see or deal with him really.
We talked about how we met and how I learned about his power. I wasn’t sure whether it was a power or condition at this point even. I was surprised more scientists weren’t interested in Ryker, or at least one, they couldn't all believe he was crazy even if that was what his parents had enforced to them.
Eventually, the three of us began to get tired. It was 9:30 pm and we hadn’t had supper since we’d left Hilana’s before it was served. Hilana laid down on Ryker’s air mattress and Ryker lay in my bed that he’d been sharing with me for the past few nights rather than sleeping on the air mattress. Hilana fell asleep within minutes, I covered her with an extra blanket from the hallway closet.
By 10:15 pm Ryker was asleep. I got up to go to the bathroom and make sure the front door was locked, I knew my parents had keys to get back in but for our own safety, I locked it. I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water.
That was when I heard the front door open.
“Porter?” my mother called.
I walked out of the kitchen with my glass of water.
“Are Ryker and Hilana with you?” she asks.
She was rubbing her arms, clearly cold from the walk home in low degree weather. But considering the fact they had been drinking wine for a good portion of the night, it was the smart choice.
“They’re upstairs sleeping,” I replied sipping from my glass.
“Why did you guys leave?” she asks concerned.
“Parties aren’t really Ryker’s scene,” I reply. “It was a little overwhelming.”
“Oh, honey. You should have told us. I wouldn’t have made him play if I knew,” she reasoned.
“He’s fine now,” I reply.
It wasn’t a complete lie, Ryker was overwhelmed by all the people who came to listen to him playing, just not by their presence mainly.
“I’m going to call Hilana’s mother and tell her so she doesn’t worry,” she replied pulling out her phone.
I drank the rest of my water and put the cup in the drying rack.
“I’m going to bed, see you in the morning,” I reply.
“Good night, son,” my father called after me.
“Good night, honey,” my mother calls.
I go upstairs and change into shorts and a t-shirt and crawl into bed next to Ryker. Hilana is next to us on the air mattress. She’s curled up under the blanket, I worried I’ll see her chest stop rising and falling in her sleep even though it’s unlikely. I reach over and pick up my phone and find a missed call from an unknown number. I just delete my call history, it’s probably some scammer. They never give up, they’re even calling on Christmas eve.
I set my phone back down and snuggle up next to Ryker facing Hilana and drift off to sleep.
I wake up the next morning and Ryker’s half of the bed is empty, Hilana is still sleeping. It’s about 8:00 am. I can hear the shower running, and Ryker’s suitcase is open. He must be in the shower.
My parents might not be up until ten or eleven because of their late-night and drinking last night. I don’t know if they had anything planned for breakfast but I’m hungry because none of us had dinner last night so I go downstairs to get some food.
The Christmas tree is set up, lit up with its rainbow lights, before I came out I’d like to think the tree was supporting me silently. It was happy I was who I was before anyone else knew. The bottom is buried in presents for the four of us. Hilana would come over tomorrow and give me mine.
I rifled through the cupboards looking for something to eat. Ryker walked into the kitchen with his glasses slightly foggy and his hair damp. He took his glasses off his face and wiped them off so he could see.
“You excited for Christmas?” he asks, leaning against the counter.
“Yeah, despite everything. I get to spend it with you, my family, and Hilana. Why? Aren’t you excited?” I reply.
“I guess, maybe I’m kind of homesick. Maybe I’d rather be spending it with Ezra, too instead of just your family and you, I don’t know,” he replies leaning against the counter.
“Maybe you should give Ezra a call sometime,” I reply. “Maybe you can go spend spring break with him or something.”
“Yeah,” he replies.
I grab a snack pack of cookies and open them.
“That’s your breakfast?” he questions.
“I’m trying to eat something small so I last to breakfast. I don’t know if they have anything planned. I haven’t eaten in over twelve hours, give me a break,” I reply.
He laughs a bit and steals a couple of my cookies.
“You could get your own,” I reply pointing to the box.
“Where does your brother live?” I ask.
“In Hastings, both my father and brother live there, it’s about an hour and a half from here,” he replies. “It’s a little bigger than this city.”
I grab an apple from the bowl on the kitchen table.
“I guess the only good thing about Copper Cove is it's smaller, I don’t have to deal with as much hate there,” he continues.
“And you met me,” I reply smiling, I pick him up and put him on the counter and stand between his legs. He smiles and laughs a bit.
“She’s coming,” he whispers as he pushes me back a bit.
Hilana comes around the corner rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. I step back from Ryker a bit, but I can see the blush spread across his face.
“Your mother will kill him if she sees him on the countertop,” she states with a mischievous smile knowing she interrupted something.
I lean forward and give him a peck on the cheek which makes him turn redder. I step away and he hops down embarrassed rubbing the back of his neck.
“He’s cute when he’s embarrassed,” she comments smiling.
“Okay,” Ryker says sarcastically. “Pick on someone else.”
“It’s his fault, he put you in a compromising position,” she replies.
“That makes it sounds a lot worse than it was,” he replies.
“I should get home before Liam wakes up,” she replies.
“Who’s Liam?” Ryker asks.
“My little brother, he’s about eight. He’s obsessed with Christmas. You didn’t get the chance to meet him,” she replies. “You know those Christmas houses and villages and people you can get? He has like a whole city in our basement.”
“We’ll walk you home, just let me leave a note for my parents in case they wake up,” I reply.
“I’ll go get our sweaters,” Ryker replies slipping away.
I grab a pen and sticky note and write a quick note and leave it on the kitchen table.
“He’s a good person,” she whispers.
I glance at her.
“He is,” I reply honestly.
Ryker comes back with three sweaters, we put them and our shoes on and exit the house. I take Ryker’s hand and Hilana prances ahead through last night’s snowfall ahead of us, leaving footprints in her wake.
When we arrive at her house, she lets herself in with the spare key in a fake rock that she had to dig out of the snow. Once it’s unlocked she puts the key back in the fake rock and buries it back in the snow so robbers can’t find it as easily.
“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she says waving.
“See you,” we both say.
She goes inside and waves to us from the window. We wave before turning around and walking the block and a half back to my house. Our hands and fingers intertwined. Even though we're in a bigger city, were still mainly in a republican state so I’m still concerned that we’ll be attacked for simply holding hands in public in the early hours of the morning.
We make it back to my house without incident by 8:45 am though. We go inside, safe from the cold that has turned our cheeks red and caused goosebumps through the rest of our skin. We hang our coats and take off our boots, scarfs, and mittens.
I dispose of my note, seeing that my parents are still very much asleep. We go upstairs and hide back under the covers to warm up. Ryker smells of the coconut lime shampoo in my shower that he must have used this morning.
We lay together in the bed for about two hours, Ryker’s head nestled in the crook of my neck, his lips close to my Adam’s apple, he’d taken his glasses off so it would be more comfortable for both of us.
I study his small form as he lays still halfway between sleeping and waking, with his eyes closed. I kiss his forehead. His eyes flutter open and his eyes narrow trying to focus and get a clear sight of me without his glasses.
“Sorry,” I whisper closer to his ear.
He shifts and kisses me on the earlobe. I smile and move to kiss him on the lips. He lays his head back down after, a knock comes on the door.
“You kids up?” my father calls.
“Yeah,” I respond.
“Breakfast will be ready in half an hour and then we’ll open presents, okay?” he replies.
“Okay,” I reply.
I hear him shuffle away down the hall and I feel Ryker relax next to me.
“I guess it’ll be kind of hard to have someone walk in on us if you always hear them,” I joke.
“It’s warm under here, I don’t want to get up,” he replies sarcastically.
“Come on, we’ll bundle up and go down,” I reply.
I slide out from under the covers to the closet to find bigger hoodies and socks. When I come back out Ryker has managed to crawl to the end of the bed, completely turning around the blanket. He’s still all wrapped up in the blanket. I smile and laugh at him. He’s also retrieved his glasses from the bedside table so he can see clearly again.
I throw a hoodie from my wardrobe at him and some of his own socks from his suitcase. He shuffles around under the blanket until he gets them on. The hoodie is clearly too big for him but hopefully, it will keep him warm.
He wraps the ends of the sleeves around his fists to keep them warm. He finally crawls off the bed as I finish changing. I offer him my hand and he releases the fabric in his hand so he can take it. I take a step towards the door but he stops me. I turn back to him.
“I’m grateful you and Hilana believe me,” he says quietly.
I step back towards him, I take his other hand in mine and kiss him.
“I’m grateful you’re different from most people,” I whisper.
I said it not in the sense that I had wanted or needed to know Hilana’s life was short but if Ryker was a different person, he wouldn’t have liked me or become my friend or more. He may have harassed me like all the others and I could have been in the same boat as I was at my other school, I would have been miserable and completely alone, because I didn’t have Hilana and I didn’t get to go home to my parents every day.
“Let’s go downstairs,” I said quietly releasing him. He keeps hold of my hand but follows me. I open the door and we step out into the hall. I close it behind us. We walk down the hall to the stairs and down the steps.
When we reach downstairs, my father is sat on the couch with his coffee and computer. My mother is in the kitchen making breakfast.
“Good morning, Ryker,” my father states.
“Good morning, Mr. Hollow,” Ryker replies.
“Call me Oliver, please,” my father adds.
“Okay,” Ryker replies.
We both take a seat on the couch, Ryker curls up on one end and I sit beside him.
My father has always disliked being called Mr. Hollow, as if he had no emotions, I like to think he went around making hollows wherever he went, little homes, comfortable places for people and homes for himself and them. He welcomed people. I realized, at one point I had a different last name. I wonder if my birth family would accept me, if they would accept Ryker.
My mother called us into the kitchen to have breakfast and after we sat around the tree opening presents. My parents had gotten me some clothes, accessories, and a large present I didn’t expect.
When they first handed it to me, I had no clue what it could be.
“Open it,” my parents encouraged.
Ryker looked on with mild interest but I think he knew what it was. I ripped off the wrapping paper and inspected the box. It was an electronic keyboard piano. I had my own now, I didn’t have to use the school’s, Ryker’s, or Hilana’s. I smiled.
“Thank you,” I said earnestly.
“You’re welcome, honey,” my mother replies.
I give Ryker his gifts and he opens them. He was obviously overjoyed to get gifts in general because he hadn’t been given gifts or spend Christmas with anyone in three years. He had one of the biggest smiles on his face I’d ever seen. My parents had got him a few small things, too, because they didn’t really know what to get him.
We thanked them and Ryker helped me carry the smaller gifts upstairs while I carried the keyboard. When we got back upstairs I set the keyboard down in my room and Ryker sets everything down on my bed.
I start to assemble the keyboard. Once it’s built I sit down in front of it and attempt to play “I Found” by Amber Run.
I’ll use you as a warning sign. That if you talk enough sense then you’ll lose your mind. And I’ll use you as a focal point. So, I don’t lose sight of what I want. And I’ve moved further than I thought I could. But I missed you more than I thought I would. And I’ll use you as a warning sign. That if you talk enough sense then you’ll lose your mind. And I found love where it wasn’t supposed to be. Right in front of me. Talk some sense to me.
Ryker sits on the edge of the bed behind me.
“But I missed you more than I thought I would,” he repeats.
I continue to play.
“And I found love where it wasn’t supposed to be,” he says quietly.
The drums and snapping that are supposed to be playing during the lulls and in the background sound in my head with the physical piano rhythm I’m playing.
“Talk some sense to me,” He continues.
I finish playing and turn to Ryker. I climb off the piano bench and approach the end of the bed. I push him gently down into the mattress and kiss him. I lean on my elbow and run my hand through his hair. He reaches up and touches my face. Our noses touch. His green eyes hid behind his eyelids his hands moving to my chest. I pull back a bit and just look into his vibrant green eyes hidden behind brown, thick-framed glasses into my dark eyes.
His phone rings suddenly, he digs it out of his pocket and looks at it confused. I think he hits “ignore” and stuffs it back into his pocket.
“Who was it?” I ask.
“Unknown, probably a wrong number,” he replies. “Do you want to go for a walk?”
I lean back on my knees.
“You could show me around Lexington,” he continues.
“Okay,” I reply.
We climb off the bed and go downstairs.
“We’re going out,” I tell my mother.
“Where? Everything’s closed,” she replies.
“Just to walk around,” I reply.
“Okay, dress warm and be home by five,” she replies.
“We will,” I reply.
We slip our coats and boots on and slip out the front door.