The front door was thrown open and a group of six teens waltz through it, laughing loudly. Rebecca heard it all from the kitchen where she was on her laptop. She heard them move through the living room, bags dropping and the laughing settling down a bit. The group continued moving and were soon crowded around the back of her seat peering over her shoulder.
"And how was everyone's day at school?" she asked, closing her laptop.
"It was alright," Ian answered, picking an apple out from the bowl. "English was the best."
"English is always the best," Rye informed him, leaning his head on Rebecca's shoulder. "Cause it's the only class you have with me."
They all laughed and Rye cracked a small grin. Rebecca tapped his arm and stood up, the group moving back as she did. She then shooed them all out, stating the Rye had an appointment. They grumbled about it but followed as she led them through the kitchen and back into the living room.
"Bye guys!" Rye waved as Naomi, Annabell, Simon and Ian headed for the door. They waved back and smirked at Ricky who was hanging back. Rye stepped up to him and wrapped his arms around the taller boy's waist, resting his head on his chest and sighing. Rebecca headed back to the kitchen, letting them have a few minutes of privacy before Ricky left as well. Only when she heard the front door close shut did she head back to the living room, laptop in hand. Rye was still standing in the spot where she had last seen him, arms dangling lifelessly by his sides.
"In here or your room?" she asked softly, placing her free hand on his shoulder.
The boy sighed again. "My room. Can… can I have some hot chocolate? Please?"
"Sure thing. You head in and get ready. I'll be in there in five."
Rebecca waited till she heard Rye close his bedroom door before heading back into the kitchen again. Her hands moved without thought as she measured the cocoa powder in sugar in a mug, heating the milk and whisking them together. She had done this plenty of times since Rye moved in a month ago and would continue doing so for as long as he needed. Placing the mug on a tray, she grabbed a plate as well and arranged a few freshly baked cookies in it before heading down the hall. She knocked on the door and waited till Rye gave the affirmative before going in.
The boy was curled up on his bed, a picture frame clutched tightly in his hand. Rebecca didn't need to see it to know who was in the picture. She placed the tray on the bedside table, picking the mug up and pressing it into Rye's hands, taking the picture frame out of his grasp. He didn't try to stop her and she gave a quiet sigh of relief. Today would be a good day. She sat down on the edge of the bed and Rye shuffled over, resting his head in her lap. Rebecca waited for Rye to speak first, gently running her fingers through his hair and working out tangles. There weren't many.
"Will… will it ever stop hurting?" he whispered hoarsely after a few minutes. "Sometimes I think it's easier and then… then I see something that reminds me or her and the pain comes back."
"The pain will always be there," Rebecca told him. No point sugar-coating it, he's too smart for that. "And some days will be easier then others. Some days you'll just want to scream and cry and hate the world. And there will always be something that reminds you of her."
It was silent again except for the slight sounds Rye made when he took a sip of his drink. Rebecca reached over and picked a cookie up and soundlessly handed it to the boy. He took a bite and brushed the crumbs that landed on her leg. It was silent again until the front door opened. They both turned to face Rye's bedroom door and Nathan poked his head in, grinning.
"You will never guess what I just got," he said excitably. "Come on, come see!"
He help the pair up from the bed, being mindful of Rye's still half-filled mug and led them into the living room. Rebecca tried not to groan when she saw the cage on the floor next to the dog bed, bowl and biscuits.
"A puppy!" Rye gasped, pushing the mug into Rebecca's hands and kneeling in front of the cage. "I've always wanted a puppy."
"You could have at least called me about this," Rebecca muttered to Nathan as Rye opened the cage door.
Nathan's smile faulted a bit. "I thought… I thought it would make him happier. Take his mind of things."
Her eyes softened and she wrapped an arm around his waist. "No, it is a good idea. I just wish you had called me to let me know."
"Okay," he nodded, grinning again. They watched as Rye played with the golden lab puppy, rolling it over a tickling its tummy. He was smiling and his eyes were brighter than Rebecca had ever seen them. She placed the mug on the side table and knelt next to him.
"What are you going to name him?" she asked, petting the puppy's head.
"You mean he's mine?" Rye breathed, looking at Rebecca and Nathan in turn with wide eyes.
Nathan kneeled on his other side. "Sure. It's not like I bought him for myself. But you'll have to take good car of him. I picked up some books for you to read over and I'm sure you can research some stuff on the Internet as well."
"Thank you," Rye grinned, picking the puppy up and cradling him in his arms. "It will take some time to think of a name. He needs a good name…" He trailed off, heading back into his room.
"Well, I guess that's where the dog will be sleeping," Nathan chuckled, standing and picking the dog bed up. "I'll help him set things up."
Rebecca nodded, standing as well. "Tell him to bring the tray out as well. Or you can do it if he's busy with the puppy."
"Right," Nathan nodded, pecking her on the cheek before following Rye. She heard the door open and made her way to the kitchen as the phone rang.
"Rebecca speaking," she answered, cradling it against her cheek.
"Officer Likton here" a gruff voice said. "We've arrested everyone involved and recalled the drug. Just thought you'd like to know."
Rebecca frowned. "That's good. Thank you so much."
"No problem ma'am." There was a pause as the officer hesitated. "How's the kid doing?"
"It's hard to tell," Rebecca told him, leaning against the bench top. "Some days he seems fine and others he'll refuse to get out of bed in the morning. Most days he's just very quiet.""Well, I'm sure with your help he'll start getting better. He'll probably never be the same," at this Rebecca snorted and Officer Likton let out a dry chuckle, "but he's got good friends and you and Nathan around him."
"That's true," Rebecca agreed, a soft smile flittering across her face. "Anyway, I better go. Nathan bought him a puppy and they haven't emerged from his room. I'm a bit worried."
"I'll let you know how things keep proceeding," Officer Likton promised. "Bye Rebecca."
Rebecca hung up the phone before making her way down the hallway. Rye's door was closed and she knocked lightly on it. A happy bark replied, followed by a giggle and a low chuckle. She pushed open the door and raised her eyebrow at the sight that greeted her.
Rye, Nathan and the puppy were on the bed, the puppy squished between them. It kept wiggling and squirming, leaping up to lick Rye's cheek or bark at Nathan's face. Rye was giggling, eyes bright and smile wide.
"Hey Bec, come join us," Nathan said, waving his hand. Rye looked up and nodded in agreement."I thought of a name," he told her as she settled next to Nathan. "His name is Aloysius, pronounced allo-wishus. He's named after a character from one of my favourite books." "It's a nice name," Rebecca smiled, petting the puppy's head. It was silent for some time. Rebecca didn't realise how much time had passed till she looked over at Rye's alarm clock. They had been sitting there for almost forty-five minutes, five o'clock fast approaching. She glanced over at Nathan, whom had his head tipped back and eyes closed, before looking at Rye. He was still petting Aloysius, the puppy having calmed down considerably. " Hey Rebecca," he whispered. "Yeah Rye?" she answered, watching him carefully. "Thank you… you know… for adopting my. Kinda," he told her. "Ricky told me you couldn't have kids so…. I don't mind being your kid. You're… you're a pretty good mum. Maybe… maybe you could adopt some more." Rebecca smiled even as tears filled her eyes. "No problem Rye. And you know, Nathan and I might just do that."