Breakfast in this house is much louder and a lot more chaotic than what I’d grown accustomed to back in our trailer. Usually I’d eat languidly while reading, sometimes even taking a nap afterwards. There was no point in rushing when I had nowhere to be and nothing important to do. Resu would keep me company sometimes by reading novels we uploaded into its system, but overall, breakfast was a quiet affair.
It feels like an eternity since I’ve been in that trailer. I miss it terribly already, but as I watch the two youngest children chase each other around the table and listen to Bo and Avias bicker, all while Oleander laughs after them, I’m wildly entertained. By the sixth morning here, I’m even looking forward to it, walking into the kitchen with less trepidation and more enthusiasm than I have thus far.
“Morning Charlie!” Bo calls to me from her seat, Cyra in her lap. “Mum made bangers! And there’s plenty of boring fruits and dairy for the vegetarian too.”
She looks past me to Tirigan, who saunters in behind me after sleeping later than usual. His lips twitch at Bo’s comment about his chosen diet as he moves past me toward the counter where the food is laid out.
Avias and Oleander are already eating, dressed in loose fitting shorts and T-shirts. Their shins are bulkier than usual, padded somehow, with thick socks covering them.
I raise an inquisitive eyebrow. “What’s with...?” I extend a hand and gesture at their outfits.
“Practice,” Oleander replies, mouth full of apple. “Got a match later today.”
“Oh, right,” I respond, filling my plate. “Football, right?”
“Yes,” Avias answers. He’s hunched over the table and reading Swann’s Way while he eats. “You should come and watch. Could be educational.”
“Yeah, sure.” I glance at Tirigan and he nods along. “I think Tirigan’ll pick it up pretty well.”
“Is that right?” Avias questions. He puts his book down and gives us his full attention as we join them at the table. “We’ll have to wait until you’re fully healed, of course.”
“I heal quickly,” Tirigan informs simply, voice still thick with sleep. “I’m fine.”
“Good to know.” Avias’ eyes dust over Tirigan’s injury site for a moment, which is no more than a scratch over his belly now, before delving back into his breakfast. “Our parents should be back shortly.”
“Went for a hike at sunrise,” Oleander says, eyebrows wagging and lips curled into a smile. “Bit of a date, I think.”
“How romantic.” I grin back at him.
“Oh yes, you’ll catch those two snoggin’ all over the house if you aren’t careful,” Bo jumps in, shaking her head and pointing at me dramatically. “Always knock on closed doors in this house, Charlie. Always.”
I laugh. “Thanks for the warning.”
It feels natural, the way we all talk over breakfast like we’ve been doing it for much longer than a week. It’s almost like Tirigan and I belong here, like we fit in with these people and the lives they’ve already built for themselves.
I know I’ll have trouble leaving when the time comes. I like it here too much for my own good. And it’s not just the people; it’s the house, too. I’ve never lived in a real house before, but even without proper experience, I can tell what a lovely one Tirigan and I have been accepted into.
It’s been a week since we first arrived here, and I am no closer to my goal. I haven’t even mentioned Calla to Kor yet, too afraid to break the peaceful routine we’ve set for ourselves.
I look over the breakfast table to Tirigan and open my mind to him. Maybe I should try and talk to Kor about Calla when he gets back. Open the dialogue a bit.
Do you know what you will say? Tirigan spoons yogurt into his mouth and doesn’t look up at me, presumably not to give away that we are communicating.
I don’t know, I thought I’d ask something simple to start. Like what she was like as a child or maybe just go for it and ask something more difficult.
More difficult? What would be your definition of ‘more difficult’?
I roll my eyes, but try to school my features as quickly as possible. Beside me, Bo’s talking Oleander’s ear off about a spin kick she’s working on while he listens attentively.
I have a feeling Calla left in a way that made Kor very upset.
And why would that be hard to ask Kor about?
Maybe because it would say a lot about our mother if she just disappeared, leaving people who care about her to worry.
Why would you allow a choice she made almost two decades ago affect your feelings for her now?
Annoyed, I send Tirigan a scathing look. Avias notices, having had his eyes on Tirigan already, and sees Tirigan’s confused expression. I don’t worry about an audience of one, though, especially when he’s already aware of how Tirigan and I communicate.
Tirigan shrugs. Not necessarily. It was a long time ago and she was much younger. Would knowing the answer to that question make you want to stop looking for her?
Of course not. I just think-
Then I don’t see the problem.
“Of course you don’t,” I mutter under my breath, gritting my teeth.
“I said, of course you don’t,” I repeat it slowly and much louder than necessary, making my point in the most dramatic way possible. Everyone stops eating and stares at me with wide eyes.
“No, you know what Tirigan?” I stand up from the table. “I’m tired of having to defend my feelings just because you can’t think like a normal person for even five seconds!” The sound of spoons dropping in bowls and forks clattering to the table echo throughout the kitchen. I barely hear them. This feels good. It feels like doing something.
“You may think it’s fine to rationalize my perfectly legitimate emotions away, but it’s not!” I continue. I don’t know when I started shouting, but I’m definitely shouting now. “I shouldn’t have to justify my emotions to you just because you don’t know what it’s like to have any!”
As soon as the words are out I regret them. Guilt overwhelms my anger, and it’s through clear eyes I see my brother’s crushed expression. It’s fleeting, but it’s there.
“Tirigan, I—” I’m sorry, I shouldn’t—
Tirigan stands abruptly and picks up his bowl of fruit. He stares at me for a long moment, his expression cold and his mind now completely closed.
“Don’t trouble yourself, Charlie,” Tirigan replies robotically. “I clearly don’t have the emotional capacity to be bothered by your outburst anyway.” He rounds the table and leaves the kitchen before I can get another word out.
“Well that was...” Oleander starts, clearly bothered but not really sure how to proceed. “Bracing.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologize, picking up my own plate and bringing it over to the basin to wash. After I invoke them the way Vi taught me, the Néro stones above the clay basin pour soapy water over my dirty dish. I use a cloth to scrub it clean. “I kind of had a moment.”
“Apparently,” Avias says, his disapproval obvious. He comes in behind me and places his own bowl in the sink. “If you’ll excuse me.” He leaves in the same direction as Tirigan.
“Great,” I mutter, picking up Avias’ bowl and washing it too. “Two for five. Anyone else? Cyra? Care to run away from me too?” I look over my shoulder at the toddler, who’s still sitting on Bo’s lap and stuffing blueberries into her mouth. Bo looks like she wants to say something, but she doesn’t.
“I think you could bribe her to stay with more berries,” Oleander replies, standing up from the table and joining me at the sink. He grabs a dish towel and dries the dishes I wash.
“I should probably defend myself or something, but I don’t think I could do it properly.”
“Siblings fight,” Oleander says simply, as if it excuses my behavior. “It’d be strange if you didn’t.”
“I guess so.” I rinse the last plate under the Néro stone that dispenses clean water, and then hand it to Oleander to dry. “I stepped over the line though, talking about him like that.”
“That happens too.” He dries the plate and puts it away. “When you know someone’s weaknesses, it makes it easier to hurt them when you’re angry.”
“I should probably apologize again anyway.”
Leaning against the counter, I catch Bo’s sympathetic eye.
“Let him cool off a bit,” she suggests, standing up with Cyra on her hip. “I bet Avias will take him down to the pitch, knock a few balls around if he’s feelin’ up to it.”
I nod in agreement, and then look back to Oleander, who’s staring at me intently.
“Do you want to come down with me?” he asks. “I’m sure this squabble is nothing a little footie can’t fix.”
I smile at his offer, but shake my head no. “I think I should just give him some space. It’ll give me a chance to come up with a way to make it up to him.”
“Pie,” Oleander says, eyes widening. “I’d forgive murder if you made me a good pie.”
“Good to know,” I reply with a reluctant smirk.
“Definitely save that piece of information for later,” Oleander leans in a touch, whispering slightly. “Just in case you find yourself in a bit of a murder situation.”
I can’t suppress my chuckle at the ridiculous statement. I slap Oleander playfully on the arm.
“Don’t do that,” I chastise. “I’m supposed to be feeling bad right now!”
“Well that sounds like an awful way to start the day.” A gravelly voice replies from behind me. I turn to find Kor and Vi walking into the kitchen. “Obligatory sadness is never the answer!”
I laugh again. Honestly, in this house, it’s impossible not to.