Eli, Vincent and Shane Deut quietly shuffled along the seemingly unending corridor. The patter of near silent steps was broken by Shane occasionally shifting the weight of a small black backpack slung over his right shoulder. Even though neither of the teenage triplet brothers made even small talk, they shared the same thought. All three of them were glad to be done with the long cross country flight.
Malcolm Deut stood quiet; still. Moments earlier the last of the passengers from flight 18 trickled out of the jet-way leaving three faces unaccounted for. Even though the middle aged man dressed in business-casual clothing felt silly for standing alone, he still waited in the same spot holding a white paper sign with 'Deut' written in black marker. His coffee colored eyes scanned everything around him with a hawks precision.
Step by step the triplets made the final corner of the hall and emerged into the South Harbor International Airport terminal. As they emerged into the large and open area the brothers paused and looked around. With nothing more than a quick glance to the others, they continued moving along until they reached rows upon rows of empty seats perched by walls of glass reaching from floor to ceiling.
"You three look lost. You need a chauffeur?" Malcolm asked with a raised tone of voice causing the triplets to turn to their left. As soon as they laid eyes on Malcolm, the brothers trotted over in a hastened pace, the laminated 'unaccompanied minor' signs hanging loosely from their necks swayed in perfect time to their steps. "How was the flight?" Malcolm asked giving the teens a familial hug when they were within reach.
"Ugh! It was looong!" Vincent was the first to respond as he pulled the sign over his head, his casual clothing rustling ever so smoothly with his movements.
"Long doesn't even begin to describe it..." Eli was the next to chime in as he too pulled the tag from around his neck. His bright colored sports clothing were a stark contrast to Vincent's clothing. "...uncle Joe got us up at three AM so we could get to the airport and clear security early. We then left Gravel Valley at like six in the morning, had half-hour long layovers at D.F.W. and Ohare, topped off with an emergency landing at Boston International for medical reasons." Following his train of thought, Eli yawned and shook his head. "And now it's what; four o'clock in the afternoon? Poof; most of the day; gone! But hey, at least we got to fly first class the whole time, that was pretty fun."
"When we get to the new house first thing I'm doing is setting up my bed and sleeping!" Shane mumbled yanking the sign from around his neck. "Might as well spend the rest of the day in this stupid thing..." His voice dropping off as he adjusted his black jeans effectively covering up any rustling sounds that came from within.
Before long the small group gathered their luggage. Malcolm led the triplets carrying one piece of luggage each out of the bustling terminal and to the parking lot. Eventually they made it to a blue minivan parked a far distance from the building, and as they neared, Malcolm used the vehicles remote control to unlock the doors and unlatch the tailgate. Without a word spoken, the triplets set their bags in the back of the van then climbed into the passenger space. As usual, Eli claimed the front seat leaving Vince and Shane to flop down in their normal sitting places in the two middle seats.
"I tell ya, you three are going to love the house." Malcolm chuckled breaking the stillness of the drive around city streets. Making several turns and heading along straight stretches of road he found he could barely keep a straight face. The triplets watched as he pulled off into a small trailer park; each mobile home sat perfectly in line and spaced apart from others next to and across the street. The boys glanced to each other then to Malcolm as he slowed the van to a gentle stop in the driveway of lot number eight.
"What the hell!?" Eli muttered in flat tones as he looked out the windshield to a large mobile home. Its former white paint marred by black smoke marks, several of its windows broken, gaping holes let in sunlight through its roof and walls. Every inch of the inside covered in black soot was a silent witness to the fire that ravaged the unit. "No dad...just...no! Not just no, but oh-hell-nah!"
"You can't be serious!" Vincent hissed in angered tones, his eyes narrowing as a scowl came over his face.
"Yeah you're right. I'm not serious." Malcolm chuckled turning to his boys. "Gotcha! Oh man I had you three going pretty good didn't I?" He cackled in laughter slapping the steering wheel with the palms of his hands. "No guys, I'm only joking, we're not living here. It's been condemned by the city."
"That's not funny dad!" Eli shouted pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
"I thought it was hysterical..." Malcolm kept laughing as he put the van into reverse and backed out of the driveway. "...okay I'm taking you three to our home. No jokes." He then slid the gear selector into drive and drove off. Miles passed. With the late afternoon sun starting to descend towards the horizon Malcolm turned off of the paved road and onto a stretch of concrete driveway. With their destination in site the boys leaned forwards to take in the spectacle before them. Seeing the stunned and shocked expressions on his sons faces, Malcolm smiled and nodded. "You guys like what you see?" He asked driving the van closer to the two story home dotted with flower gardens, stretches of neatly trimmed grass yards and a gazebo erected a few yards away from the front of the home.
As the van crept closer Eli and Vincent whistled in low sustained tones at the house the size of a small mansion with red brick walls and stone corners, a large front porch stretched with width of the house and an awning over it provided shade from the sun. "This place is just...wow..." Vincent gasped as Malcolm turned the engine off and looked to the boys.
"Welcome to your new home guys. Get your stuff, pick a room and settle in. I want to at least get your beds setup and some dinner in you before you three fall asleep on me. With that, Malcolm and the triplet brothers emerged from the van, gathered their luggage and took their time to get to the front door. As the boys stepped along, their eyes darted in every direction allowing them to appreciate the grandeur of the construction.
"Damn dad, this can't really be our place now can it?" Eli asked making Malcolm stop halfway through turning the key in the deadbolt of the wooden front door with a glass inlay.
"Why not?" Malcolm asked looking back at Eli with a tilt of his head and a questioning glare.
"I dunno." Eli came back just as quickly. "It just seems so, you know..."
"Big? Fancy? Expensive?"
"All of the above and then some." Eli cornered, a growing smile creeping across his face.
"I don't believe it myself, really. When I first saw it I thought it was going to be one of those multimillion dollar loans that I would start payments on, then you and your kids would have to keep carrying the financial weight. But the bank practically gave it away for about the same price I paid for the van when it was brand new."
"Lucky score dad!" Vincent chuckled bopping Malcolm on the upper arm as he finished unlocking the door and opened it wide. There was a sudden thunder of pattering steps followed by a blur of black and brown fur; Malcolm, Eli and Vincent backed out of the way as the streak came right for them. Instantly Shane was on the hard wood porch deck cackling in laughter managing to muster the occasional 'Daisy' in his amused fits. Standing over him, the families pet rottweiler mercilessly licked his face and neck, a series of almost happy whimpers emanating from her throat as Shane did what he could to pet the dog and sit up at the same time.
"I think she missed you." Vincent grinned at the site.
"Right then guys." Malcolm turned to the boys. "There are only three rooms available; I hereby invoke the claim for keeps rule. GO!" He shouted the word go and before he knew it, the teen triplets were running along hard wood flooring of the huge living room towards a staircase along the far right side of the space. In their haste, neither of the three bothered to take notice of the off white paint on the walls, or the polished wooden handrails and steps as they went up towards the second floor.
Reaching the top of the steps first, Eli thundered along more hardwood flooring of the hallway until he came to the first open door on the left. Acting on instinct he darted into the spacious room and stood in the doorway, facing the hall with arms crossed. "Mine! Keep going!" Eli shouted out then pointed further down the hall.
Running past Eli, Vincent focused on the last door on the left and charged full force towards it. In a flash he flung himself into the room using his hand on the doorjamb to help carry his momentum. In a victorious pose he stood in the doorway facing the hall with his hands on his hips. "Mine! Keep going squirt!" He called out to Shane coming upon him fast.
Shane slowed to a stop and glanced around. His gaze fell upon Eli and Vincent standing in two of the only three open doorways. With a resigned sigh he turned and trotted back towards the steps and the only door left open. Upon entering the room, Shane again sighed dropping his backpack to the carpeted floor. Much to his surprise, the only light in the small room came from an overhead light fixture and a small window in the wall to his right. To his left, a door leading to a small closet stayed open parallel to a twin sized bed sitting square in the middle of the room. He then turned to the window and peered out. From his vantage point he managed to make out part of the driveway and nothing else but unending grass yard. Lowering his eyes, he lazily shuffled over to the bed and flopped down then rolled onto his side using his arm to prop his head up. "Home sweet home..." He muttered then fell into a quiet stillness as he listened to everything else going on around him.
'Oh my god. Dude! This room is like, so huge!' Eli's voice lofted across the hall from his room to Shane laying on the bed in his own room.
'Yeah I know, the view from my room is spectacular! I can see as far as the forest line at the end of the back yard.' Vincent's voice was the next to echo into the space. 'No way dude, walk-through-bathroom!'
'Jackpot!' Eli snapped back 'I don't even have to go through the hall to use the bathroom, it's right here!'
"Room service." Malcolms voice rang out followed by a gentle knocking on the door frame. Seeing Shane sitting up on the mattress, Malcolm stepped in placing a laundry basket on the floor. "Pillows, pillowcases, sheets, blankets, and two new packs of your supplies."
"Thanks." Shane mumbled sliding off the bed while reaching for the basket.
"And the few boxes you do have are sitting with your brothers stuff at the end of the hall. Dinners in two hours." Malcolm spoke before turning to the door and the patter of shoes coming his way. Shane watched as Malcolm was promptly ushered across the hall to the other rooms.
'You know how I said lucky score earlier?' Shane listened to Vincent's voice fading across the hall. 'I stand corrected; it's an epic jackpot!'
In his emotionally reserved state Shane went about gathering his suitcase and the three small sized boxes perched neatly under a window at the halls far wall. Laying in the doorway, Daisy's soft brown eyes tracked his every movement as he spread a plastic liner across the mattress followed by a deep blue sheet tucked around for a form fit then a black blanket finally the pillows draped in light blue covers. After a few short grunts Shane stepped back to admire how the bed looked along the wall with the window in it. As time passed, Shane kept working to unpack his clothes and most of his personal possessions; even as the scent of cooking food lofted into the room he kept moving and organizing his belongings until everything felt right to him.
Evening turned to night. Nearing ten PM Malcolm came up the steps to the second floor to check in on things. During his first stop at Eli's room, Malcolm peered in through the open door to find the oldest triplet bouncing around with a foam ball in his hands. "He drops back, fakes left shoots right, it's up...up..." Eli muttered aloud as he shot the foam ball to a small plastic hoop hanging over a closet door. "...and it's nothing but net for a solid three point shot!"
Chuckling, Malcolm then turned and roamed further down the hall to Vincent's room where he again paused and poked his head in. As usual, Vincent lay on his bed with a sketch pad and pencil in his hands; a plastic art supply case sat at his side while a small alarm clock radio played heavy metal style music.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary Malcolm turned and stepped back towards the stairs only to pause at the doorway to Shane's room. Glancing in, he found Shane laying in bed facing the wall. Approaching softly, Malcolm studied the site of his youngest triplet son curled up into a tight ball clutching the blanket close to his chest, his his left hand curled into closed fist close to his face. With nothing more than a smile seeing him fast asleep, Malcolm reached out yet held his hand where it was. For a few moments he studied the glimpses of skin on Shane's lower back covered by a lime green elastic band attached to a plastic cover. Before he did anything else, Malcolm lowered his hand outwards and gently pulled the back of Shane's shirt downwards to meet his black house shorts then he quietly pulled the blanket up to his sons shoulders. After a subtle and quick rub to Shane's back Malcolm stood up and retreated to the door, turned off the overhead light and left making sure to keep the door ajar.
In the early morning hours Shane sat up blinking several times. Trying to focus in the dark environment he listened to thumping steps in the hall. Risking the dare, he climbed out of bed while grabbing his trusty flashlight and clicking it on. As quietly as possible he shuffled his bare feet along the cool carpet towards the door, all the while his dampened Depends rustled with every step. Reaching the door, he opened it slightly and peered out into the hall. Still hearing the steps, he cautiously he panned the beam of light around the dark hallway. Even though he saw nothing, the steps continued until it sounded like they were approaching him. Not sure of what to do, Shane backed into his room and closed the door as quickly and as softly as possible before trotting to his bed. With the steps coming closer to the door Shane hopped onto his bed and covered himself with the blanket until his entire body was cloaked.
From his concealed perch Shane listened to the steps growing softer and closer still. It's in the room... He thought to himself before silence overtook the house once again. Not wanting to expose himself, Shane kept the blanket drawn over himself then closed his eyes. After five minutes, he was sound asleep.