Lorcán Centauri sat at the dining room table which was, for the first time ever, in an actual dining room. He was glad for the familiarity – everything had changed so quickly. New house, new(ish) body and a new school on Monday. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the house, he reflected, it was just that it was a lot to take in all at once. So he sat there doing his homework at the old table and he pretended that he was back home.
“That looks a lot harder than the book you had before. Can you change it back?”
Lor laughed and turned to look at his grandma. “Only if you want to turn back time and change me into the smaller version, too.”
“Hmmmm…” Verixe said, pretending to consider the idea. “No, you can stay.”
“Thanks for the support” he said, turning back to his book with a smile on his face.
“Can I stay, too?”
“Of course you can.”
“So, caught any good moo-vies lately?”
“I see you inherited Morgan’s sense of humour” came a voice from behind him.
Lor turned to Lissa and winked. “You obviously don’t mind, you married her after all.”
“That is true” she said, turning back to the circuitry in her hands. “What do you think of the fence I built? Do you think it’ll keep him out of trouble?”
“I hope so – I don’t want to be living with a moo-derer after all.”
“Why do you do this?”
Lor walked back inside to the sound of his mama’s laughter. That was another thing that hadn’t changed, and he hoped it never would.
Verixe admired her canvas. She was improving, that much was obvious. Maybe in another life she would have been a painter, but she wouldn’t change the life she had lived for anything. She had her children, her grandson and her health. She moved the brush over the material carefully, adding swirls of cloud to the landscape.
“Grandma?” Lor’s voice came through the door of her room, slightly muffled by the wood.
“I was thinking of going to the park. Do you want to come too?”
“Has it been finished?”
“I think so. Mama’s been working really hard on it.”
“You should probably check with her first, then. If it is, then I’d love to go.”
She dabbed the paint into the last few areas with a flourish as the footsteps retreated. There. Now she had to figure out what to wear.
“Lets all go!” Lissa said, happily bouncing up and down. “The workers finished yesterday evening, so I’d like to see it. I hope my plans were good enough for them” she trailed off, a worried expression crossing her face.
“I’m sure it will look lovely, mama” he said, before his eyes grew wide.”Who’s that over there?”
“That’s your grandma, sweetheart.”
“But she looks so… different”
“Verixe?” Morgan looked at the woman in front of her in shock. The face shape was still there and the hairstyle was the same, but this was completely out of her area of knowledge.
“If we’re going out, I’ve got to look my best.”
“I know, I know, but I’m too old to be dealing with the fear and the staring and all the questions.”
“-is Lissa. She’s been here for most of her life now, and people slowly got used to her. But me? I’m an unknown. I don’t want to have to go through what she did, not now.”
Morgan looked back to her first meeting with Lissa. She’d been captivated by the beautiful woman with the blue skin, but she had noticed the stares that they received when they were together. She’d heard all about the insults and the anger that had been thrown at her wife in those early days, but it had never quite sunk in just how brave Lissa had been to stay anyway. She smiled at Verixe in understanding.
“You look beautiful both ways.”
“I know” Verixe said, smiling back.
Lor looked around in shock at the lot he had grown up on. It was beautiful. There was the house, newly converted into a toilet block of all things, but it still looked the same from the outside.
“Look who’s finally shown up to the party!” Siobhan ran up to them, a huge smile on her face. “I was wondering when you would get here. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Lissa took in the sight. It was one thing to design the place, but a whole other thing to see it brought to life. It was exactly how she had pictured it, down to the last detail.
“My my, are you new here? I think I’d remember seeing a pretty lady such as yourself before.”
Verixe looked at the man in front of her in astonishment. Was he talking to her?
“Yes, you” he grinned. “I’m Tomas, I’m the head gardener here. It’s lovely to meet you, Mrs..?”
“Verixe. You can call me Verixe.”
Lor looked over at his grandma, bemused. Did she realise she was being flirted with?
“Do you know them?”
He looked at the lady opposite him at the table and smiled sheepishly.
“I’m sorry for spacing out. It’s weird to see someone flirting with my grandmother.”
“I can imagine. Now, are you ready to get your ass kicked at chess or what?”
Lor grinned. Now that sounded like a challenge.
One hour and three losses later, he realised that it had not been a challenge. It had been a promise. He got up and stretched, said goodbye to Liberty and walked over to the other side of the park. He’d seen a familiar face on that spaceship.
“Wow! You got big!”
“I know, right? The sad thing is that I’m too big to be in your crew now.”
“You could always be the monster.”
Lor flailed about, doing his absolute best space monster impression. He was glad that Leonel had been willing to talk to him still – he was one of the few friends he’d managed to make as a child. He didn’t want to admit it, even to himself, but he had been worried.
Lissa lay down in front of the doors, just like she had so many times before. When she’d arrived she would never have dreamed things would come to this. She heard the birds and the slow movement of the river. She missed that river. The new house had a pond, but it wasn’t quite the same.Still, the sound of laughter and chatter that filled the air somehow made the familiar sounds even sweeter.
She sat up as Morgan walked over. There was an expectant look in those pretty green eyes, along with the mischievous smirk that Lissa had fallen in love with all those years ago.
“Come with me. We’re going to teach you how to swim.”
“Momo? I’m in the water, does that count?”
“No, star girl. You’re going to get those feet off the floor and swim by the end of the afternoon.”
“Nope” Morgan said, turning to begin her swimming demonstration. “Now-” she began, only to be cut off by a wave of water. She spluttered and looked back at Lissa, who was standing there with a far too innocent expression on her face.
“Did you just splash me?”
“Would I do that?” Lissa asked, then squealed as she tried to get away from the water coming her way.
Verixe just watched them, dodging the occasional shower of water that misfired in her direction. This was nice.
“Lissi? What in the world is our son doing?”
“I believe that he is still being a ‘space monster’.”
“It looks very similar to his sea monster impression.”
“It really does.”
“Oh and you’ve got to see this video – the kitten can skateboard!”
Lor couldn’t believe it. Not only had he met someone who could show him all the cat videos he could ever want, but that someone was also going to be his classmate.
“I can’t believe you haven’t seen these before” Clay said, looking over at the redhead in the matching glasses. That had been why he’d approached, actually. He’d been tempted to say ‘glasses buddies’ as an introduction, but that might have come across as weird.
Lor grinned at him as he bookmarked the website.
“I didn’t know the internet was for things like this. I’ve only ever used it for games or research.”
“Well, there is a whole world out there for you now, and it is full of cute animals doing stupid things.”
Verixe helped herself to another hot dog. They really were delicious! She could hear the giggling of the two boys easily enough from where she was, and in a way it was a relief to see her grandson so relaxed. She would have to ask him what kittens were at some point. They sounded hilarious.
Lor caught himself looking over at his new friend again, and shook his head slightly. It wouldn’t do to scare the boy off, and if he kept staring that is exactly what would happen. Still, he swam so elegantly.
“Checkmate” Liberty said, crossing her arms in smug satisfaction. She knew her opponent was distracted, but as her mother always said: you snooze, you lose. Lor looked at the table and groaned.
“That makes it 5 times in a row that you’ve won.”
“Yes you do, oh chess master.”
Little did Lor know that the staring wasn’t completely one-sided.
The sun set and the lights turned on, illuminating the park with soft glows – both natural and electrical.
It was time to go home.
Lor looked around one last time before they set off. This wasn’t his home anymore. It belonged to everyone. He smiled as they turned the corner and the new house came into sight. This was his home now. The walls and the roof and the pool and the garden might all be different, but everything he really cared about had come with him.
His parents were here.
His grandma was here.
So he would stay with them.
It may be cliche, but home is where the heart is, and his heart was here.