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 These Little Things [solo]

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Posts : 557
Beata Bucks : 5547
Join date : 2013-03-30
Age : 21

PostSubject: These Little Things [solo]   Sat Jun 04, 2016 8:15 pm

A solo presented in 5 parts.

Part I - Looking Back

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick. Tock.

Agonizingly slowly, as though time itself had decided it had a personal vendetta against every living being, the clock on the wall moved. The small hand stayed stubbornly in place. Very clearly, it seemed to say it didn’t plan on moving anytime soon, and so it stayed firmly on the eleven. Its lengthier partner in crime chose to move almost as slowly, although if one stared long enough, it did move, whereas the smaller of the pair did not. They dawdled, taking their time as if they weren’t meant to be keeping it, gravity working much harder on their movements than it normally would.

Owen could not wait for this class to be over. It had lasted too long already, his ability to focus having drained its last drop of fuel twenty minutes ago, and he desperately wanted to leave. Through the window behind the teacher’s desk, the sprawling grounds shone bright with the rays of the midday sunlight, glowing tauntingly. They were supposed to be learning theory. How to control their gift, how to strengthen it, all of the mental exercises that came with such a thing. But he learned so much easier when he was touching it and feeling it, not staring at it longingly through a window.

Leaning forward, chin in hand, elbow on desk, he stared hard, studying the grass and the way the light hit it outside, the trees in the distance whose tips were bright but closer to the trunk was covered in shadow. Streaks danced in his vision, blinding him with white light, light that he managed to look past and see through at the same time. There he was, standing in the middle of it, arms outstretched, calling the light to him and pushing it away. He was glowing from the inside out, looking every bit the part of the human flashlight, something that made him chuckle inwardly, the small reminder of Nicola somehow endearing in this moment. He felt at peace in this light, away from everything with nothing but gleaming thoughts full of joy, full of friendships and shared memories, of a childhood long before this gift became an unwanted one. . .

“Owen, are you listening?”

Eyes snapping open before he realized they were closed, Owen found the teacher directly in his line of sight, standing behind her desk with the receiver of her phone held to her ear. Other students in the class were looking at him, too, and he thought he heard a couple of snickers behind him, soft whispers about how he had been caught daydreaming in class. They would have bothered him if the expression on the teacher’s face wasn’t frightening him. She was pale and getting paler, a dumbfounded and worried look coming into her eyes, her mouth hanging open slightly as she thought on her feet. What would she say? What could she say?

Before speaking to him when he could hear her, she spoke quietly into the receiver, muttering quick words, urgent words. Once she had hung up, she asked Owen to pack his things and go to the office. The boy’s mouth opened, his brain supplying a rapid question, confusion muddling his thoughts, but she interrupted him, something she normally would not have done. It was a signal, a signal that through the chaos of the silent room, he understood. This was an emergency.

Wordlessly and less than gracefully, he dumped his belongings into his bag. In a strange stupor, he stood and turned, leaving the room behind him full of whispers and stares that were desperate to know more, desperate to know about things they didn’t really care about more than to have gossip material. They didn’t see the thoughts whirling through his mind like a rainstorm, the sunlight from moments before gone without a trace, replaced with thundering clouds of uncertainty. What was so important that he had to leave class without an explanation? Why was his teacher so distraught-looking? Surely nobody had died.

Fear and panic were foreign to the boy. He was all the more frightened as he gripped the strap of his backpack, his footsteps making a hollow sound as he walked down the hallways, trying to move quickly without breaking into a run. The panic in his mind told him to, but he forced himself to remain calm. It won’t be that bad. It won’t be that bad. It will not be as bad as you are trying to make it, he kept telling himself. But something in the back of his mind was still racing in an attempt to find a solution.

Owen liked to think he kept in touch with his family. At least his parents, anyway. They had called on his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and his mother on Valentine’s Day because it was tradition. His siblings had never bothered to call or write a letter, although his older brother, Jason, had said a thing or two on his birthday call. Yet as he thought more about it, the lengthening hallway stretching for miles ahead of him, he began to realize he didn’t know as much about their current situation as he would have liked. They were never very thorough, his mother telling him the main gossip and drama, his siblings and father never talking with him, he never knew the gritty details of everything that happened. The vague idea behind current events at home was enough for him to understand.

But it had been so long. Too long, now that he thought about it. He couldn’t bring himself to think about the possibilities that would have him collecting his things and heading to the main office, the possibilities that would put such a pitying look on his teacher’s face, all the possibilities that were causing his heart to race at a dizzyingly painful pace. Every day at home was an accident waiting to happen. He hoped it wasn’t his mom, but even the thought of it being anyone else was enough to make his chest tighten.

You don’t know, he reminded himself as he rounded the corner. The sight of the office should have been comforting, Owen thought, but the closed door made his heart pound worse. His stomach turned and he considered making a dash for the bathroom instead. It wouldn’t solve anything, he might never know what had happened, but at least then he could take care of this overwhelming nausea, this feeling that he was about lose what little he had left in life. You don’t know if you’re losing anything. You don’t know that. He tried to make it his mantra as he walked right past the bathrooms, pushing the office door open.

The next thirty minutes passed in a blur. There was a teacher he’d never seen before, some older lady with kind eyes and thin lips, and she gave him the same pitying look his last teacher had, her eyes swimming slightly with tears as she delivered her speech. Her tone was soft, gentle, as though afraid she may break him if she spoke too loudly. A thick barrier akin to a brick wall separated him from the things he knew he should’ve been feeling. Robotically, he nodded and thanked her in the appropriate places, wondering why he wasn’t reacting the way he wanted to. The way he should’ve.

A different teacher entirely escorted him to his dorm where he packed an overnight bag. They didn’t know how serious it was, how long he would be away, and in a daze, he threw whatever he saw into the bag, barely noticing whether it was clean or dirty or in between, whether it was clothing or school items. By the end of it, it weighed more than Owen was prepared for, but still, he shouldered it and walked back through the common area. Nicola and Madison’s dorms were in his peripheral vision, one door ajar and the other closed tight, but he couldn’t think about anything, couldn’t focus on anything. It felt like a dream as he returned to the teacher, mumbled something about being ready to go, and followed them out, listening to their silence and taking it in stride, positive that crying lady had told them about his predicament. A flash of anger scorched his chest, but it was gone immediately, quickly replaced by the numbness once more, and he traipsed behind this quiet figure.

It wasn’t until he was in the car, speeding down the road he had only ever come up, that the fear and worry started to return to him. His childhood, his happy living situation, his home, his family, everything positive in his life away from Beata began to flash rapid-fire through his mind, wrapped in a neat, golden box, glimmering in the unnaturally bright sunshine that was coming through the windows. He squeezed his eyes shut and the box shattered, pieces flying everywhere. He hadn’t even realized it was supposed to be glass, meant to be fragile, the certainty that it was unbreakable still fresh in his mind, but nobody had told him it was unbreakable. He had merely assumed, hadn’t he, assumed that it was meant to be in one piece forever? Even after leaving home for here, he had held onto the firm belief that the box would remain whole forever. And now it was gone.

His driver made no sound. Owen did nothing to prompt him. The drive was long, something he knew from his drive to the school, but it was the fastest way. Waiting for and taking an airplane still meant spending half the time in a car to get to his home, and the airport process was too long to deal with. Still, it was torture, waiting in the car, driving past hours of nothing familiar, of nothing that eased his concerns, of nothing that offered reassurances or gave new information. It was halfway through the ride that he realized he’d left his cell phone at the school. He pictured it sitting on his bed, likely buzzing with information from his mother, or perhaps inquiries from his friends. A glance at the clock told him it was time for them to be returning to the dorm. What would they think when they saw his room dark and empty, so different from how it usually was, without a note or some sort of subliminal message to let them know where he was? Would they really notice? Did he really care at this moment?

That was stupid. Of course he cared. But sitting here in the back of a darkening car that was speeding down a two-lane highway to his home where he knew nothing of what was really happening, the anxieties he never knew he had worried his mind and made his hands shake. His worst childhood fears were coming to life and he couldn’t bring himself to think or feel anything besides the fear and the panic. Madison and Nicola were distant worries to this.

An agonizing two hours were spent trying to sleep in the car. It was dark outside, the only lights coming from the dash in the front with whoever his driver was, and the motion of the vehicle was usually more than enough to put him to sleep. Lying there with his stomach turning, his heart pounding, and his palms sweaty, Owen couldn’t catch the sandman. Sheep didn’t want to be counted, and he didn’t even have his phone to listen to music. His mind kept racing, whirling around with all the possible outcomes of this situation. He gave up a couple hours outside of his home town.

At last, they drew closer. Forehead pressed against the cool window, having given up on feeling much of anything but impatient, the boy hadn’t realized where he was until they passed a familiar road sign. They were only 20 miles outside the edge of town, and suddenly, all the fear was renewed. Memories he’d repressed from his last week were beginning to resurface, only they were distorted, like they had happened in a dream instead of in real life. Voices were garbled, the sting taken out of them, and faces were cartoonishly designed, expressions exaggerated, as though imagining them this way made it less real. They mixed with his nerves, twisting into nightmares, and not even the light of the moon making the fields of wheat look silver was enough to distract him.

He didn’t recognize familiar landmarks until after they had passed them. They looked different from this direction, and washed in the white light, the shadows across their surface were shaping them differently. The large boulder with the copper plaque announcing the town appeared black and the plaque was covered in such sharp light it was impossible to read. His eyes followed it idly as the car slowed and passed it, but he did a double take, his forehead coming away from the glass as he craned his neck to get a better look. A temporary excitement filled his chest, taking away the negative feelings for a brief while. It had been months, yet it felt ten times longer than that, years seeming to separate him from home. Longing filled his already aching heart.

Owen sat forward as they neared the road that led to his home, several miles off the main street, but they drove straight past it, and his reason for coming returned, tugging his heart down further. Surely this was a bad dream. It was inching past midnight, the green digital clock on the dashboard blinking slowly at him, and he was exhausted. Maybe he’d fallen asleep back in his dorm, the same green numbers blinking at him in the same lazy way. But the car was real. The ten hour drive was real. His uncertainty was real. He knew they wouldn’t go home right away. There was real business to take care of first; his escapes would have to wait.

It was another ten miles to the hospital. Speed laws being what they were, it took another twenty minutes to get there, another twenty minutes that he got through merely because he had already suffered for ten hours. Even as they pulled into the half empty parking lot, the driver of the car said nothing, sticking to his silence as he had the entire drive, stopping the car, finally, in an available spot several yards away from the entrance to the hospital.

Numb from the drive and drained from his emotional day, Owen sat forward, his hands resting on the shoulders of the front seats, giving a weak smile to the driver.
”Thanks for driving me all the way out here,” he said. He wondered vaguely if he ought to pay the man, or even give him just a tip, but he had no cash or cards. Just as he was about to sit back and exit, a voice sounded in his head.

It was my pleasure. I only hope your family is alright. Please, let me know when you return to the academy. The voice had a strange lilt to it, a tiny accent that was lost in the ease of the words, and Owen briefly wondered if he had encountered one of Madison’s strange hallucinations until he realized it had come from the driver. Pushing his lips together, he nodded and cleared his throat. He muttered a thank you as he reached for the door handle. His stuffed bag slung over his shoulder, Owen waited until the driver had left, lifting a hand and watching the headlights fade down the road. Turning to face the building, he inhaled deeply, whether to take in the warm earthy smell or to steel himself for what he was about to face, he wasn’t sure, but knowing he may never be fully prepared for what might be inside, he entered anyway.

Immediately, the air changed. A clean, sterile smell hit him, one of hand sanitizer on reception desks, of cheap foaming hand soap found in rest stop bathrooms, of tongue depressors, hospital gowns, and of flowers bought at a gift shop. Reality began to sink in. Desperate not to let it overwhelm him, the boy stepped up to the desk where a calm woman in her late forties was clicking away on a keyboard, shuffling papers occasionally and generally looking tired while attempting to appear busy. A half-empty mug of coffee rested near her elbow. At Owen’s approach, she looked up, eager to talk to someone face-to-face. With a jolt of strange pleasure, he felt glad that this was the one place in town he didn’t know anybody.

”How can I help you, dear?” the woman asked politely, a smile stretching the lines on her face. Swallowing hard, he returned her smile, although his was tight from exhaustion and worry.

”Hi, uh, I’m looking for Paul Darcy’s room? He’s my dad, and I… I just need to see my family.” His voice had cracked. It hadn’t done that since he was in middle school, shortly after discovering his gift, and he was embarrassed. The crack showed how vulnerable he felt, and even though this was just a receptionist with a kind smile and tall hair, he didn’t want to break down in front of her. He felt like he was five again.

”Ah, yes, he arrived much earlier today,” she commented, leaning towards her computer. She didn’t seem to be in a hurry, something he tried to take as a good sign, but every nerve was screaming for her to just tell him, shouldn’t she know by now? The hospital was deader than… Than… He set his jaw and blinked hard, leaning against the chest-high counter and watching her. ”Yes, he’s on the third floor. Room 314, you should see it. Although the rest of your family has been there for hours already, did you know? Your mother asked about you once or twice, thought you would’ve been here by now.” The woman’s tone was implying things that normally would have angered him, but he felt like Death incarnate, his eyelids heavy and tears threatening to spring forward, and he was sure his appearance wasn’t helpful.

The smile dropped as he muttered, ”Thanks,” and sped towards the elevator. Owen redoubled his grip on the straps around his shoulders, sniffing hard to discourage his nose from running. Things were fine. His dad was fine. His family was fine. Things were definitely fine, he was sure of it, it felt positive, things were okay…

The elevator arrived at the proper floor and the doors opened with slow mechanical sounds. He stepped off to find a waiting room with the amount of hustle and bustle that he had witnessed in the main lobby, although there were less people here than downstairs. No receptionist sat at a desk, though a sign politely requested visitors sign in and take a name tag. His impatience bordering on irritation, Owen grabbed a pen and scrawled his name under a list of his family’s names, following up with the scribbling of vague letters on a sticker and slapping it onto his chest. It was upside-down, but he didn’t notice as he finally, finally, made his way down a hallway that seemed to stretch forever, many doors open with empty rooms, but a few doors closed and an occasional cough reaching after him.

There, near the end of this tiled corridor, one door stood ajar with a couple of chairs propped strangely outside of it. In the chairs, two small bodies with blond heads not unlike his own were curled up, sound asleep, no doubt exhausted from their own long days, too young to be staying up so late. It was nearly one in the morning now, he realized as he approached the door. A tall piece of glass with crosswire inside the pane was set in place beside the heavy wooden door, giving an open view of the room. Peaking through, he could see his other family members. Taylor and Luke, both old enough to understand but young enough to be tired, were leaning on each other on the couch against the outside window. His mother was in a chair drawn up directly beside the bed, her hand resting on top of the hand of his father, who also appeared to be fast asleep-- that’s what Owen told himself as he looked over the figure, head lolling to the side-- and whose arm was attached to several tubes, leading to a monitor and bags that hung from thin metal arms.

After another pause, Owen took a deep breath and pushed the door open enough to allow himself entrance. His mother looked up as he came in and her face immediately split into a relieved smile. It was impossible to prevent his eyes from tearing up as she stood and pulled him into a tight hug, murmuring about how glad she was he was there, about how he hadn’t been answering their calls or texts. He was pleased she made the effort to say “they” as though his siblings were involved, when he knew it was primarily just her. As she released him, he could tell she was ready to say more, but something over his shoulder caught her eye and she merely patted his arm, returning to her seat with the promise of talking later.

He turned to see what had made her stop and he found himself freezing to the spot. His older brother Jason was there, standing tall with his hands in his pockets, an unpleasant look on his face. With just an incline of his head, he gestured for his brother to follow him out into the hall, something Owen did without hesitation, though he was filled with trepidation. Depositing his bag in the chair he hadn’t seen Jason occupying, the younger boy exited the room once again, following his brother a few paces down the hall so they were out of earshot of the room.

”Dad’s fine,” he said, shrugging towards the room. Nodding and attempting to appear surprised, Owen shrugged as well, copying his brother and placing his hands in his pockets, hoping to hide his fidgeting hands. ”They said we were lucky to get here when we did.”

”Wait, ‘we’?” Owen asked, his eyebrows contracting. He hadn’t thought Jason was already there. His older brother was regularly away at school this time of year. ”How long had you been here?”

”Mom called me about three weeks ago, said something felt off,” Jason said, shrugging again. It was beginning to irritate Owen. ”So I came. I was about to go back when today happened. I can’t even imagine what might’ve gone down if I wasn’t here.”

Like the receptionist downstairs, Jason’s voice was laced with poisonous implications, implications that made Owen sound like the bad guy. Sure, he could’ve been there to help out, could’ve received the same call from his mother, but he hadn’t. Didn’t Jason know that? He wasn’t at fault. Silently, he waited to hear what his brother would say. Never one to mess around or drag out a point he was attempting to drive home, Jason finally came out with it after scuffing at the linoleum with his shoe.

”Why weren’t you here earlier?” And there it was. ”You know, we’ve all been here since 1, waiting for you to arrive, and you’re just now bothering to show up. Mom really counts on you, you know? You’ve always been her favorite, and I thought it was with good reason, especially after you revealed your powers. But today just baffled me. We called and called, and you didn’t answer. So what were you doing at that secret school of yours?”

”Look, man, I would’ve been here earlier if I could teleport, I swear,” Owen insisted. ”The school told me as soon as they could, I packed my stuff, and was trapped in a car for ten hours. That’s it.”

”You haven’t called in months, alright?” It felt like Jason was switching tactics, leaving Owen spinning circles attempting to find arguments, attempting to defend himself against wild accusations that led nowhere. The younger boy hardly noticed the hint of worry that lined his brother’s words. ”So when you didn’t answer, we just assumed you stopped caring. I mean, you were so apathetic before you left, the kids weren’t surprised.”

”The kids? You mean Taylor and Luke, who stick their noses into business that isn’t theirs? Or Derek and Kelly, who’re too little to understand much of what goes on in our house?”

”Come on, you know what I meant--”

”No, I don’t, Jason.” Owen was trying to keep his irrational anger towards his entire family out of his brother’s face, but with very stinging claim, he felt worse and worse, the pent-up feelings from the past ten hours bubbling over. ”When I left here, it felt like nobody wanted me to stay. You weren’t there, so you don’t know all the details. I couldn’t talk to you about it because you take one look at my weird gift and don’t try to understand it. I barely understand it myself, and I have to live with the damn thing! Do you think I enjoyed myself all the way here, wondering if things were alright, knowing I had to come back here and face everyone again after such a heartbreaking goodbye? I don’t call because Mom is the only one who ever wants to talk to me, and even she started to sound distant, so yeah, I haven’t called in months, but only because nobody else will talk to me. You wouldn’t believe the storm I have been through at that ‘secret school’, but I can’t tell any of you because nobody will listen, and even if they did, I’d sound absolutely nuts.

“I’m exhausted, alright? It’s been a long week and a long day, I’m pissed off that you would pull me aside and try to antagonize me when we’re all so high-strung, and I don’t deserve any of this. I didn’t ask for this shit to happen to me, it just did. So if you want someone to blame for what happened today, look somewhere else, alright? I just want to be with my family. The family I had before I discovered this… this mutation. I just want things to be normal. I want to be here and worry about my dad getting better while supporting my siblings and my mom. Is that too much, Jason? Because I can turn back around and leave again. I don’t even care, I’ll call that driver to come back and--”

”Alright, alright, point taken.” Having ranted without paying much attention to his accuser, Owen was startled into looking at him again, and was surprised to see Jason smiling tiredly. He was no longer hostile; instead, he seemed amused by his brother’s monologue, brushing it off as though it was nothing more than a kid complaining about a bad day. It drove a nail somewhere into Owen, but he was too tired to do much more than return the smile, staring at his feet somewhat sheepishly. It felt ridiculous, his being here. It felt like nothing with the school had happened. They were here to help and support one another, that was all.

”Come on, let’s go back in there,” Jason said, slinging an arm around Owen and pulling him in close with a squeeze. ”We gotta convince Mom she needs to sleep, otherwise she won’t.”

Without another word, Owen followed Jason back into the room, an uneasy feeling settling in his gut. Jason’s words felt empty. There was no apology or remorse there. Still, they were family, and family had to stick together. Right?

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