A/N: Well that took a while... Tell me if you guys see any mistakes in there, and I'll fix it right away!
Allan and Elena Bird.
They were nothing more than a cute couple, weren't they? They met in high school, studied in different colleges and found each other again later in life. They married, had a son called James and lived happily ever after.
Except they didn't.
When Elena's doctor told her she had uterus cancer, it felt like the end of the world. He tried to reassure her and informed her that removing her uterus would save her life. Unfortunately, it also meant she would never give birth again, so it did little to consol her.
Life, however, offered her the chance to be a mother once again. As a nurse, she had seen so many young women realizing a few hours before giving birth that they were too young to take care of a baby all by themselves. One of them, a seventeen years old girl, particularly touched her. Elena didn't know what came to her on that day, but she promised the young girl she would take care and raise that baby in her place. It took Allan a while to accept the child, but when he finally did, it felt like he really was the father. But Elena didn't stop there, not at all. Another promise was made, and then another. The couple realized their house was way too small for the amount of children they already had, and knowing Elena would always bring more home, they knew the next home needed to be big.
Then an idea formed in their head. A place where all those unwanted kids could grow up together.
On James' seventh birthday, with the mayor's approval, the Birds opened the Orphouse.
It wasn't really a house, and it wasn't really an Orphanage. They transformed an old but very small office building, with only two floors, into a huge house with enough room for 15 kids, not including James. The Orphouse would adopt any unwanted but healthy baby as long as it had room for them. At first, financial help came from the city, the birth parents and everyone else who thought it was a good idea... but soon they got bored with it, and the Medias quickly found something else to talk about. The kids never stopped appearing on their doorstep though, and soon enough they had 23 children to take care of. What could 23 kids in the same house do in their free time?
Nothing but trouble, people said. Nothing but trouble.
What was that feeling called? Like before an important exam, but ten times worse. If she had to guess, she would define it as Panic. Panic because one; there was a real, living teen coming straight from the Orphouse in the flower shop, and second because, well, she already knew this guy.
"Oh, Anna, there you are!" smiled her boss as she followed the Orphouse guy down the creaking stairs. "Just in time! Let me introduce you to Victor; he's the one I told you about yesterday."
Oh God, why...
When Mrs. Manson said another shop owner had recommended him, she didn't think it would the store from across the street. And she didn't think she would have to spend the whole weekend with this guy.
Under his faded Superman t-shirt and his worn out jeans was the confirmation of what Anna had seen from afar yesterday; kind of muscular but mostly thin limbs. His dirty blond hair looked exactly the same, pulled in a ponytail, but from up close, it also looked messy. And his eyes... well, now that he was standing three foot away from her, they looked a bit less dangerous than on the first glance. Now they just looked dead tired... and dark blue. Funny, but of all the things to be noted about this stranger, the first thing she noticed was the old pair of working gloves sticking out of his jeans pocket.
Was he stupid enough to worry about fingerprints? If he stole anything they would know the culprit right away anyway...
Realizing how awkward the silence was starting to be, she hesitantly extended her hand and stretched her lips in a fake smile.
"Hi, I'm... I'm Anna..."
He didn't shake her hand, which made her both furious and relieved. He just intensively examined her face and raised his eyebrows in what seemed to be a realization, whatever it was about.
Mrs Manson didn't seem to notice how uncomfortable the atmosphere had become and grabbed her helper by the shoulder. "Well! Enough introduction; we have a lot to do today. Come with me, I'll show you the garden."
He disappeared with her boss by the backdoor. For the first time since she entered the store, Anna finally noticed the old, rusted bike rested against a wall in a corner, hidden from the costumers. Most likely his.
"...Um... What was that?" asked Erin, confused by the awkwardness of the scene she had witnessed, finally leaving the bouquets to walk to her.
"What was what?"
"That! What just happened! It's not like you to be so... so... I don't know... Fake? Especially with strangers."
"But this time it's different; he's from the Orphouse."
"And that's bad because...?" she trailed off.
"Because everyone knows they're nothing but trouble," explained Anna.
"You don't really believe that, do you?" Asked her co-worker, clearly amused. "They all go to my school, and I'm telling you, the rumours are greatly exaggerated. Vic's a cool guy. Not very talkative, I admit, but still cool."
"I'll believe you if the cash register is still full by Monday."
Erin stopped arguing right away, unable to form any coherent sentence between her giggles.
Anna blushed with annoyment and went to spay water on the flowers to calm herself down. No one wanted to believe her in this shop! They would regret it soon enough, and she knew it. Being a nice guy in school didn't mean it was safe to trust him outside the educational system... At least she was going to be behind the counter the whole day, and there was no way she would give him the chance to go past her.
Anna had been disappointed many times in her life. Like when she realized she and her sister would never along no matter how hard she tried, or like the time she almost failed her history class. But she had to admit, being disappointed at how occupied the orphouse was might be the strangest feeling she had ever felt. Even since he had disappeared in the garden, he hadn't been heard of. About every hour, Erin and Andrew went to check on them, but they never said anything to her; either to tease her, or because there was simply nothing to say.
Around 4pm, Mrs Manson came back inside with dirt all over her clothes and her hands. She looked cold and starving, but satisfied.
"You're finally taking a break?" asked Anna, guessing her helper shouldn't be too far behind.
"Oh no, not at all. We're ready to plant, so I'm going to get the pots upstairs."
"Right now?" Asked Erin from afar, excusing herself from her client. "But it's already four, we're closing the shop in a hour."
"Already?!" The owner frantically looked her watch, which she had taken off in the morning. Once she found it in her apron's pocket, her eyes widened. "Oh dear... I didn't think it was this late already!"
Great, the orphouse was leaving soon then!
"I guess Victor will have to come back tomorrow..."
Not great, he was coming back.
"Hm... I'll have Victor organize the flowers with Andrew then... At least they'll be in order for tomorrow."
Mrs Manson turned and walked back the way she came, Erin returned to her costumer, and Anna was left alone again for a romantic date with her History homework. Truth to be told, she was about to give up. How on earth was she supposed to know the exact date of the Canada Act? Was this ever going to be useful for her? Probably not...
The backdoor opened once again, but this time, it was that delinquent. As soon as Erin saw him, she offered her help to carry the pots Mrs Manson had left near the door back upstairs, which he silently accepted. They both grabbed as many as they could and made their way to the stairs, Erin first. But then he walked in front of the counter... and he stopped.
He stopped. Right in front of her.
This was it, the moment she had feared the whole day. He was going to do something, wasn't he? Maybe analyzing her body to guess how long it would take for her to faint from the pain. And then he'd take everything! She wasn't ready for t—
She raised her head, resigned to look at him. That wasn't the look he was supposed to have on his face... Did anyone really looked this bored when they were preparing an attack? His dark blue eyes were just tired and bored, like this morning... exactly like this morning, actually... Was there even a trace of anger on his face a few hours ago? Now that she tried to remember, nothing came to her mind. He wasn't even looking at her; his eyes were glued to her homework.
"Um... What?" She asked, a bit hesitate.
"Canada Act. It's in 1982," he repeated with a deep, hoarse voice. He then followed Erin without another word.
She felt a bit silly now (scratch that. A lot.) Here she was expecting the fight of her life, for which she wasn't prepared, and he just gave her the answer for that damned question. Well, at least no one else heard what was going on in her head, so she wouldn't have to admit she was wrong (and no one would accuse her of being paranoiac.) Alright, so maybe he never had the intention to attack her. That didn't mean he wasn't a delinquent.
Erin came back to the first floor, but this time alone, to fetch the last pots left on the table in the back. Anna stopped her before she could reach the staircase again. "Hey Erin, um... Do you... know the exact date of the Canada Act? It's for my homework..."
"Exact date? Gee... Around 1980."
"Yeah, I think that's it! Why did you ask me if you already knew?"
"Oh I... I just wanted to make sure."
Erin gave her an uncertain smile and carried the last flowers to the second floor, leaving Anna once again to her thoughts (and the last costumer, who quickly paid for his bouquet and left.)
Anna summarized the things she had learnt today; Victor, or whatever his name was, wasn't going to attack her, knew how to read upside-down, and apparently had a good memory for dates... Not that it was useful information nor did it ensure that he wasn't the type to steal their money.
She blinked, and her co-worker's big green eyes appeared out of nowhere in front of her. "I don't remember seeing you so thoughtful. You're trying to figure what's Vic's darkest, deepest secret?" Erin guessed. "Or you have a crush on him! Wow, I didn't know you liked the silent type, but hey, I'm okay with it. I'm just not sure Matthew will appreciate you falling in love with another guy after just two weeks—"
"You just had to stop me if you wanted silence."
"...You said... he was a cool guy?"
Erin looked caught off guard for a moment. "Oh... I didn't think you were really—"
"What? No! Don't be ridiculous!" she scoffed. "It's just... Well, he hasn't tried to steal anything yet so I thought..."
"Did you actually think he'd try?" The pigtails girl chuckled at her friend's silence. "Girl, you have to stop believing in rumours, especially in your school."
"So... There's nothing to worry about?"
"I don't think they can afford having one of them being in jail for shop lifting. Just give him a chance, you'll see!"
Anna sighed. She didn't know what she meant by 'can't afford having one of them in jail,' but until now he hasn't done anything to make her think he couldn't be trusted. Another sigh escaped her nostrils as she looked up to Erin, resigned. "Fine. But he only has one chance."
"Don't worry, he won't need more," smiled her co-worker, delighted. "Anyway, it's just for tomorrow. After that, you can forget all about him. You don't even go to the same school anyway."
Anna hummed, realizing it wasn't such a big deal after all. He was just coming back for another day, and then they'd never see each other ever again. That seemed fair enough.
And to think she had panicked like that for nothing... it was embarrassing somehow.
When the phone rang fifteen minutes later, Anna jumped out of her skin. They never, ever got calls so late. Let's just say it sparked her curiosityé "Manson's Petals, how can I help you?" she answered. The voice on the other side of the line sounded deep and casual, but she couldn't help but note the incredibly annoying amount of noise and voices in the background. Where was this guy, at a party?
"Hey, is Vic still there?"
"Great, can I talk to him?"
"S-sure," she stammered, confused.
Too shy to call his name out loud, she sent Erin to go get him upstairs (which she did silently, but not without rolling her eyes before.) When Anna heard him loudly walk down the stairs, she felt the obligation to say something nice, or at least casual to... well, to break the ice. But when she handed him the phone, the only thing that came to her mind was;
"You forgot your cell phone?"
And it didn't sound that bad, it felt ice-breaking enough for her, until she noticed he was staring at her with a half amused half sarcastic look on his face. She turned to her friend, ready to call him a jerk, but Erin was smiling at her fondly, trying her best to suppress her giggles.
Right, he was too poor to afford one.
Nice going there.
"Yeah?" said Victor to the phone against his ear. "Yeah, I'm almost done, why...? Again? Okay, sure, whatever. What's his name...? ...You're serious? No wonder he didn't get along with the other dogs. I'll go fetch him as soon as I'm done here... Awesome, see you later."
Dogs? What dogs?
"Is it about that thing with the dog shelter?" asked the pigtails girl as she took the phone back from Victor's hand before Anna could.
"Yeah. Apparently, this one bites."
"Are the flowers pots organized upstairs?" Mrs Manson came back inside, bringing a chilly wind with her. Victor just nodded. "Well sweetheart, I think you're done for today! I'll see you tomorrow morning." She made sure to throw a motherly smile before she disappeared in the staircase.
An awkward silence passed in the air when Victor walked between them to go fetch his old bike in the back store. He politely nodded to Erin before leaving, but he didn't spare Anna a glance. Now that she thought about it, she still hadn't thanked him for his help with her homework...
"Wh-what's the dog's name?"
Right, so that wasn't really a 'thank you', but he still stopped, right in the doorway. He turned to her, looking a bit unsure. "They called him Puffball..." he mumbled. Half a chuckle escaped his throat before he regained his blank expression. "See you tomorrow." And he left, confused by her sudden interest. The sound of his bike's tires on the street got fainter and fainter, until it got swallowed by the sounds of footsteps and cars.
"The dog's name?" repeated Erin once Vic was far enough for her taste. "What was that all about?"
"Well, I-I always wanted a dog... What's the 'thing' with the shelter you mentioned, anyway?"
"Nothing much; once in a while, the shelter gets a dog so out of control they're scared it'll hurt the other animals, so they made a deal with the Orphouse. The Orphouse takes care of it until it's well-trained, then they put it up for adoption."
"But... why would they bother with that?" wondered Anna.
"Because they get paid to do it. Only it's not actual money, it's food. You know, for the animals they already have."
Anna hummed and stopped the flow of questions, not wanting to sound too curious or pry into business that weren't hers (she actually really wanted to, but Erin would quickly tell her that it wasn't really important, so it wasn't even worth trying.) But weirdly, her mind changed about Victor at that precise time. Suddenly, it didn't really matter where he lived, or what school he went to, or how worn out his clothes were. It didn't even matter if he really was a delinquent or not.
He had a dog at home. And that was enough for her to feel a small pang of jealousy.
She always wanted a dog.
A/N: There you go guys! Second chapter! Please leave a review if you liked it, it always make me really happy to read them, no matter how short they are.
Have a nice day!