Lissa hunched over her plants, sobbing into her hands. She’d hoped that gardening would take her mind off of things, but nothing was working. She didn’t want her family to see her like this – she had to be strong for their sake.
Lor buried himself in his school work. He kept imagining her voice as she tried to help with subjects she’d never learnt – it helped.
Morgan dealt with things in her own way.
As for everyone else, well…
“I’m sorry for being so down all the time. I can’t believe you’re still hanging out with me – I can’t be much fun.”
“Lor, your grandma died less than a month ago. I’m not expecting you to get over it so quickly. Besides, what sort of friend would I be if I only stayed around when you were ‘fun’?” Malik said, quirking an eyebrow at him. The corner of Lor’s mouth twitched up.
“At least you’re being honest.”
“Hey, would I lie to you? For all I know you’ve inherited Lissa’s mind reading abilities. You haven’t, have you?” he asked, looking slightly alarmed at the possibility.
Lor laughed. “No, I haven’t. Not yet, anyway.”
“Promise you’ll tell me if you do, ok?”
“Got it.” He leant closer to Malik, nudging his friend’s shoulder with his own. “I wouldn’t read your mind, anyway.”
“It’d be a bit rude, wouldn’t it? Hang on, I thought you didn’t like wearing glasses…”
“I don’t – my sister hid my contact lenses.”
“Well, I stand by what I said. Glasses suit you.”
“I still think you did it to void my blackmail material though.”
Malik laughed. “No, that was just a happy accident, Mr Bunny Slippers.”
“You’re cruel, you know that? I’m going to go and plant those seeds mama gave me and you can sit here and think about what you’ve done.”
Malik did his best to look contrite as Lor stalked off, but it didn’t last long.
“Come on, little trees. Grow up big and healthy for papa.”
“I swear, you get weirder every time I meet you.”
“Leonel?! You’ve grown!”
“Isn’t it great!” he said, grinning. “Sorry to hear about your grandma by the way – she was cool.”
Lor felt the sadness bear down on him again, and his shoulders slumped. “Thanks, Leo. I appreciate it.”
“Right, I need to go over there and keep an eye on my little sister. Ugh, kids, am I right?” Leonel shuddered and walked away, tossing a casual wave over his shoulder. Lor knelt back down in the planters and carried on working. He was relieved when noticed that he was crying.
“What’s wrong, handsome?”
Lor looked up from his food at the woman opposite him. Surely she couldn’t be talking to him – she was at least twice his age. He looked back down and carried on eating.
“You know, I could cheer you up~”
“Right, we’re leaving.” The woman’s friend got up and dragged her by the arms. “I’m sorry about that, I don’t know what’s gotten into her. I’m Alondra, by the way. Now, come on and leave the boys alone, Tiff.”
Lor watched them go, confused and slightly alarmed. “Was that woman drunk?”
Malik stifled a laugh at the confusion on his friend’s face.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Then why would she flirt with me?”
“Maybe she likes them young and sad?”
Lor choked on his mouthful of potato, coughing and laughing as his eyes began to water. He swallowed and smiled reassuringly. “I’m fine, sorry.”
“You might not want to be eating when I tell you this next part then – I think that was Clay’s mother.”
“Please tell me you’re kidding.” Malik just shook his head.
Lor just laughed. He hadn’t laughed so much since Verixe had died. All the emotions began to flood out and he couldn’t stop them – he laughed and laughed until tears were running down his cheeks. Eventually, the laughter stopped. The tears didn’t.
“Hey, hey. It’s ok.” Malik looked around to see if they were alone, and then swept him into a hug. Lor’s tears soaked into his shirt, but he just held him closer. Lor’s shoulders heaved as he tried to stop. It didn’t work. They stayed like that for a while, until the sobbing and shaking subsided.
“I’m sorry,” Lor said, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand.
“You’re my best friend, you don’t need to apologise.”
Lor looked at him, hope and disbelief in his eyes. “I am?”
“Yeah, you are.”
“I’ve never had a best friend before.”
“Well, you’ve got one now.”
Lor sniffled and pulled away, smiling slightly. “I’m really happy.”
“Yeah, I can see that. The puffy eyes give it away” he teased, dodging as Lor aimed a mock punch at him. “Rude. In your own words: ‘Sit there and think about what you’ve done’.”
“I’ve done enough thinking for one day.”
Lor was surprised at how much lighter he felt. All the grief he’d locked away was out in the open. He still hurt, but he could breathe again. It was time to get back to living.