It's Saturday, and easy to say I have somewhere to be, someone to see. When in all reality, I don't. Leland's father had made his way into the dining room as breakfast was being served. He paid no particular attention to me, and didn't go out of his way to make me feel welcome. I was alright with that, surprisingly he'd made me feel more welcome than Maria. He'd shuffled into the room like a dead-pan monkey, rustled some papers, grabbed a Sudoku book and with his breakfast, headed back to the bedroom. Maria glared after him.
"You'll have to excuse James, Lena. He's not so interactive this early." It was only seven, but to me it felt as though I'd been awake all day. I nodded as though James, Leland's father needed a rational reason for not talking to the complete stranger at the bench. She bustled about, cleaning.
"I have school, now." She said looking up to Leland; the gentle tone in her voice used on me disappeared for Leland. "I'll see you both this afternoon?" She looked to me now. And my eyes must have appeared shocked, surprised, overwhelmed. Because I wanted to leave at sunrise, and not come back.
"Of course she'll be here, mum." Leland said, rolling his eyes. "I can set up the spare room for her today. Isn't that right, Lena?" He looked to me and smiled.
What if I had somewhere important to be? What if my parents wanted me home? What if I was a juvenile delinquent and he was just hiding me away here with his family? Of course none of this was true. But I felt a hot flash of anger as I realised, I could've been needed elsewhere.
But I wasn't, and my parents wouldn't be able to tell the morning from the night. Not that they'd notice I was gone, in any case. And who was I to ignore such a generous offer of another night's refuge? Warm bed, away from the rain, hot food and most importantly, a shower. Why would I ignore that? One night couldn't hurt, and then tomorrow, I would be gone. Earlier than sunrise.
Lena left early. She'd left her bag here, but taken a sketch pad and pencil with her. In leaving her bag here, I knew she'd be back. When I knew she was really gone, I moved into the spare room and looked around.
For starters, the room wasn't under total destruction. The bed was still made from months ago, and mum came in here regularly to dust the blinds. But the closet had gathered moth balls, boxes of my old stuff piled in corners, and books scattered everywhere. I didn't know where to start on the mess.
So I began picking up books. There were old bits and pieces that I would've loved to have read, had I known we even owned them. I had seven piles of stacked, hard-cover books around me. Some had faded, some were dusty and some had the perfect 'old book' smell.
There was Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Dean Koontz and Steven King. I flipped through the old books continuously, keeping Shakespeare for last, as he was always my favourite.
I leaned against my old bed, sitting on the carpeted floors with my books around me. And when I finally reached Shakespeare's plays, the first on top was Macbeth, and I hastily read through that. I could make sense of all the 'thou', 'thy' and other Elizabethan words. It was a breeze. I'd always secretly loved Shakespeare. By the time I got to the bottom of the pile, I was reading Hamlet. It wasn't nearly as dust covered as the others before it. Laertes and Hamlet were speaking before Gertrude when I felt a breeze ruffle my hair.
I looked up to the doorway, only to see Lena walk past. I glanced at a wall clock, only to see it was five, and a whole day had passed in just the presence of Shakespeare. I tried getting to my feet, but Lena saw me move before I could get too far. Busted. With books. I had to be the weirdest looking guy right now.
She still wore my sister's clothes, only now her hair was messed from a breeze, and her face was as blank as ever. Maybe in her absence I had forgotten all about this new, sleep-deprived, loveless Lena.
But it was clear on her face that's exactly how she felt.
She approached me, slowly without a word, and I settled back onto the carpet.
She bent over and picked up Hamlet where it had fallen from my lap in a heap upon her entrance.
"The Tragedy of the Prince of Denmark: Hamlet?" She looked at me oddly for a moment, single eyebrow raised. I tried not to laugh at her face. But at least she showed emotion.
"Uh I was just sorting." I said, clearing my throat, and trying to get up.
But she sat down beside me, and with a single hand, pushed my right knee back onto the carpet. Despite my long jeans, I could feel her cold skin on my knee, as she balanced the book in her other hand. Her eyes never wavered from the book.
"This scene," She said, settling it on our knees. "Was one of my favourites as a kid. The way Hamlet portrays a crazed man is flawless, throughout the whole of Hamlet. And then he dies."
She looked up to me expectantly. "What's your favourite scene?"
I mockingly laughed, and I felt rude. "I don't like Shakespeare." I said, rolling my eyes.
I pushed the book onto her lap, the book smell curled around my nose as the dust entered my lungs. This time, Lena didn't stop me from standing. She continued to read the book on the floor. I looked around the room, in search of something else to clean, and when I noticed plastic boxes, I felt Lena tug my hand back down toward her.
"Leland." She said, quietly. She didn't look up, and I couldn't see her face through her hair.
"Yeah, Lena?" I ask, kneeling beside her. I thought maybe she was crying. But her voice didn't waver, and the ancient paper of the book wasn't tear-stained.
"What's your favourite scene?" She repeated. She looked up now, and her striking eyes struck a chord in my heart.
"When Hamlet and Ophelia are at the theatre. And Hamlet rests his head in her lap. Hamlet loved her the entire time, but he was… crazy. So it never worked out. I guess that's a tragedy."
Lena half-smiled, happy she'd gotten the truth out of me. "I love that too." She said.
And without another word, she stood up, and left the room, dropping the closed book on the bed. As she left, she tapped a book on the nightstand.
"Read this one." She said smiling, as she turned to leave.
I hadn't noticed the book on the nightstand, or else I would've grabbed it. It didn't surprise me that I hadn't seen it. The dust covering it was almost the same colour as the stand. As I dusted it down, I read the gold calligraphy on the cover.
Romeo and Juliet.
When I left Leland in what I assumed was my 'room-to-be' my smile dropped back to its usual grimace. I barely carried my sketch pad in my fingers. I just wanted to throw it. Throw it so hard across the room, it might just break a window, or dent a wall. But this house wasn't mine, and I owed these people everything.
I found my bag in the living room, where I had left it this morning. I slung it over one shoulder and headed back to Leland.
"Leland?" I popped my head into the doorway. I heard him shout out to me from the walk in wardrobe.
"Lena? What's up?"
I bit my lip, a little embarrassed.
"Is there someplace inside I can go, that's private, I have some um… school work to do, and can't do it around others, without music."
Leland peered out from the cupboard.
"Yeah, of course." He came out of the room entirely, and stood across from me. "You'll have to mind the mess, but it's all yours."
By mess, he meant four cardboard boxes, duct taped and sealed, Shakespeare stacked on a dusted bookshelf and the blinds wide open to reveal the grey lights illuminating the street. It was perfect.
"Thanks Leland." I said, standing at the window. I half expected him to leave then and there, but he pointed inside the cupboard.
"Over there, the iPod dock is in there, and sound comes from here." He gestured to two speakers in built to the wall beside the bed head that I hadn't noticed. I was amazed.
"Geez thanks." I said, smiling. He smiled back, and gestured to the boxes.
"Anything in there was my sister's. It'll all fit you, some clothes for tomorrow, pyjamas. It's all there, you use anything you need. Something you wanna keep put it in the cupboard. The rest we'll throw."
How long did he expect me to stay for? It was only tonight, but I thanked him again.
The first thing I did, after he shut the door after him, was check out the iPod dock. Nothing out of date, in fact I was sure I'd seen this at the electronics store earlier today in the shopping centre. In the 'nothing over 100' sale.
I plugged my almost flat iPod into the dock, and as the familiar sound of ACDC flooded the room, I finally felt content and relaxed.
I started to cry as soon as I was relaxed. As soon as I could be me again. I buried my face into the pillows and cried relentlessly. It'd been a horrible day today, and I wanted to just bury myself in the mattress, and never surface again. My eyes began to hurt with all the waterworks, and a headache pounded above my eyebrows. I sniffled, as I turned my head to look at a black and white painting of a woman. No one I recognized from Leland's family, at least, as this woman was naked.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes, and I grabbed my sketch pad with shaky hands off the floor. I skipped the first few pages, knowing there were photos of last year there, of Dimitri and me when we were happy. Even though the next sketch wasn't much better. Dimitri, on guitar.
It'd been today, in the food court in the mall. I'd been sipping my chai latte considering the 'what now?' benefactors when they welcomed the 'uprising talented guitarist, Dimitri Elvive." I almost suffered whiplash when I turned so suddenly in my chair, jerking my head to the right. I'd sat, and watched the entire performance, ordered another tea, and a cookie, and started to sketch. I'd always loved people sketching, but I hadn't seen Dimitri since the beginning of the year. His hair was shorter and darker, and I could've sworn his skin had gotten whiter.
"If you can hear me now, I'm reaching out to let you know that you're not alone. And if you can't tell, I'm scared as hell! Cause I can't get you on the telephone. So just close your eyes, here comes a lullaby, your very own lullaby. Oh honey here comes a lullaby, your very own lullaby."
I bit my lip as I listened and sketched. If he'd noticed me sitting way in the back, he didn't waver in singing. I kept my head down, sketching from memory and heart. If he'd seen me, he might think I didn't know it was him. And as the thought that he might know entered my mind, I felt a rush of sickness, and the oncoming sweat I always got around him broke out. I swallowed my fear suddenly, my throat dry. I sipped my tea, only to find it empty. I hadn't finished my drawing of him, and I didn't want to leave. But I was out of money for more coffee and without a drink; my body would soon clam up.
Then what? What if he came over here? What if he had something spiteful to say to me? Would he laugh at how alone I was, sitting here? Would he pity me, and roll his eyes? I think just his ignorance of me would be enough to make me break down right here, in the middle of a shopping centre. I quickly grabbed my things and quickly walked from the mall. Dimitri didn't look to me as I walked, he continued to sing melodically, beautifully, and I knew I loved that voice, that I could never love another quite like this, and it tore at my heart. Just as he was almost out of sight, I peered a quick glance, only to see him looking back at me.
There was no recognition on his face, no remorse, no sadness. There was just a blank expression one gives a total stranger. At least he wasn't laughing and pointing, but the blankness on his face was enough to break my heart all over again, to scratch at the already bleeding wounds, I cried all the way home as I realised how in love with Dimitri, I was.
And so here I was, on my bed, all alone. I looked at the mid shot of Dimitri, he wasn't smiling, and he didn't look angry. He looked blank, like I had last seen him. To him, I was a stranger. To me, he was everything I was missing and needed in my life.