He could hear his pulse racing in his ears. After the catastrophe that had been his first teenage friend, Lor didn’t have much hope for any better from the rest of his classmates. He’d awoken from a dream about being chased through the hallways by a pair of glasses with fangs – there hadn’t really been much point staying in bed after that. He ate the last bite of stir-fry and stood up, stretching his muscles. Maybe boxing before bed hadn’t been such a wise idea. A shower would help.
When the time came for Lor to head to school, he was feeling a lot better. He was focused and ready to face the day head on.
Verixe woke to the sound of the door shutting and called out a sleep-muffled goodbye – before burying her head in the pillow again. One thing she loved about being older was that no-one expected her to be anywhere by a certain time anymore. She could stay in bed as long as she liked.
Five minutes later, she got out of bed.
Maybe on Sixam she would have enjoyed a lie-in properly, but here there was so much to see. She stretched, wiped the sleep from her eyes and changed into her swimming gear. Lissa was by the letterbox when she walked outside, looking through the bills that had just arrived. They’d gone up vastly since the move, but it could have been a lot worse.
“Good Morning, Lissa”
“Morning, Mum. Sleep well?”
“Like a Triple-horned bugbeast.”
Lissa nodded in understanding. “The heaviest sleeping of all amphibians. If you don’t have any plans for this afternoon, I’m heading over to the picnic area for lunch. You’re welcome to come with me if you like.”
“We’ll see, dear.”
“Hello, pretty lady. I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”
“Tomas? You look different without the uniform.”
“That happens, sometimes” he said, a teasing lilt to his voice. “Would you like to sit down with me? I’ve just made some food, and you’re welcome to share it.”
“Thank you, Tomas. I’d like that.”
Lissa smiled as they went and sat down together. She’d find another table.
Siobhan waved her over impatiently. “It’s about time your two came over, that man has been staring wistfully over at your house for days. I think he likes her.”
“I think you might be right.”
Lissa looked at Siobhan, realising just how much time had passed since she’d arrived.The young woman she’d met so long ago was now an old lady, though no less confident or beautiful. She hoped that she would age that well – if it weren’t for the youth potion she may have already found out.
“You should come over this evening, we can all watch a movie together. Sergio, too, if he’d like.”
“He’s got to stay late at work today, but I’ll be there. How’s my nephew holding up?”
Her nephew was holding up far better than he’d expected when he set off for school that morning.
He’d actually made a friend! His friend might be the most eccentric dresser in the school, but there were far worse things to be known for. Malik, from what Lor had been able to tell after a single day, was a genuinely kind person. Where most of his other classmates had been nervous around him and kept their distance, Malik had simply walked up to him and started talking. He would have been lost without the other boy’s help – both literally and figuratively. Directions, he had found, were not his strong point.
“…so then the teacher said ‘That’s not my cat!'”
Lor laughed, he wasn’t quite sure what the point of the story was, but it felt nice to be included. Still he had to be cautious – Clay had made him feel like this, and he knew how that had turned out. They’d passed each other in the hallway and the tension had been far too uncomfortable for him to stick around.
“Is it ok if I go for a swim?”
This was going to be more difficult than he’d expected. Why did he have to have a pool? It was going to be the death of him.
Lissa was in the middle of a conversation with Summer when her phone rang. She looked apologetically at her friend before answering.
“Mama? I need your help.”
Lissa immediately went on alert.No one was going to hurt her son. “Lor, where are you? What’s happening?”
“Mama, it’s fine. I’m at home, I just need hep figuring out if this friend is actually worth keeping. He’s at the house with me, but I need to see how he reacts to you.”
“Lorcán Centauri, are you using me as a guinea pig?”
Lissa laughed. She could practically see his shifty expression through the phone line. “I’ll be there soon. Don’t start without me.” She heard splashing in the background, and then his voice came back on the line. “Sure, Mama. Thanks.”
“I’m sorry, Summer, my son needs me. I’ll be back around tomorrow.”
“I’m here every day, don’t worry. This is my normal jogging route. Go rescue the boy.” She turned to carry on her way, then turned back and yelled at Lissa’s retreating form. “What re you rescuing him from, anyway?”
“Himself, most likely.”
“Mama bird to Smol Irish, I’m in position.”
“Mama, stop messing around and come say hi.”
“I’ve got to get changed, first. You’re at the pool, after all.”
Lissa, of course, ignored him. She’d grown rather fond of her swimsuit. She walked over to the edge of the pool and sat herself down next to her son, taking the opportunity to observe the other boy’s reaction as he saw her.
“Hello, Mrs Centauri!”
My word, she thought, he doesn’t seem phased at all. Lor allowed a tiny smile to pull at the corner of his mouth. So far, so good.
“Hello. It’s nice to meet you, Mr…”
“Oh! I’m sorry, my name is Malik. I hope you don’t mind me coming over unannounced.”
Lissa had to forcibly restrain her eyebrows from raising. “Not at all. Any friend of Lor’s is welcome here.”
Malik smiled up her, then his eyes drifted over to Lor. His expression seemed to be asking whether he’d done ok. Lor allowed himself to smile back, and relaxed. Lissa, sensing that her work was done, got up and went into the kitchen. If they were going to have guests, she wasn’t going to let them starve. If they got too hungry they would be tempted by the cake of death. Moo would be happy, though.
“Are you sure?”
“Just sit down and watch it. Simton Abbey is one of the best shows ever, you’ll love it.”
Lor finished drying himself off and sat down next to Malik. What could be so interesting about a group of people in a house, he wondered?
Two hours later:
“No, you can’t go! We’re about to find out whether the surgery was successful!”
“It’s fine, Lor, I’ll watch it on Simtube later. My parents will get really annoyed if I’m not home soon. I’ve had fun, though. Can we do this again sometime?”
Lor turned and smiled up at his new friend. “Definitely.”
Morgan smoothed her hair down and took a deep breath. Her workday had been… well, awful. They’d cut the funding mid-shift, leaving her alone with a criminal in chains and nowhere to put him. It had been one of the most awkward afternoons of her life. The man had heckled her to no end. Still, she was home now, and her sister would be here any minute.
The doorbell rang less than a minute later, and there she was.
“Hey sis! I missed you.”
“I missed you too! Retirement leaves me far too much free time.”
“Well, you’re always welcome here, you know that.”
“Brings back memories, doesn’t it?” Morgan said, pointing at the stars and tracing the constellations with her finger.
“It does. You used to drag me outside when you were little and get me to tell you all the stories behind the stars.”
Morgan laughed softly and reached out to hold her sister’s hand. “Tell me them again?”