Juno led me around the house quietly, mumbling introductions for each room - the living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom. And then we came to my room.
She leaned against the open door way casually and gestured to the entirety of the room with a wave of her arm. "Here you are, home sweet home." She announced. It was small, like Ixabel had warned, yet it was perfect. There was a tall, alcoved window with a cushion on the windowsill that was low and wide enough for sitting. Against the wall was a slim bed, wide enough for two people with drawers and storage space below. The blankets and pillows covering it were a cute orange and blue color scheme. In the opposite corner was a small closet, the door shut and a white desk with a small lamp and a comfy chair.
I looked back at Juno and smiled gently before entering the room - my room. "I've never really had my own space before." I admitted softly, feeling a sudden pang in my heart for the girls I left behind. I wondered idly what they were doing.
Juno stepped into the room beside me, ignoring what I'd said and interrupting my thoughts. "First things first," she began. "we have to get you out of those clothes." She gestured with her hand palm up, fingers pointing at my clothes.
It was true, the facility uniform we were provided wasn't entirely flattering. She led me to the closet and opened the door proudly, revealing brightly colored clothing already hung up neatly. "Mom made me fork over some of my old stuff," she admitted, obviously annoyed. I couldn't help but feel guilty.
"Go ahead and pick something." She offered, along with a gentle reassuring smile. I chose a black shirt, accompanied by plaid and some blue jeans. After tossing the clothes onto the bed, momentarily feeling like a normal teenager, I began to lift my shirt to change.
Juno gasped and put her hand over her eyes. "Whoa, hey!" She yelled. "I'll wait outside." Her hand stayed over her eyes as she exited the room and shut the door behind her.
I looked after her, confused. Did I need to be alone to change my clothing? How strange. Looking around, I became increasingly aware of the deafening silence. I had never before been in a room entirely on my own. It suddenly felt so huge, and growing.
After dressing quickly, I stepped over to the door and opened it a little harder and quicker than I meant to, breathing heavily.
Juno stood on the opposite side of the hall, leaning against the door frame of the bathroom. "Ready?" She asked, choosing to ignore the way I had burst from the room. I nodded, slowly holding and releasing my breath in an attempt to get it under control.
We walked awkwardly silent down the hall to the very end where two rooms sat opposite of each other with a tall window in the middle, overlooking the neighbor's house.
"This one," she began, opening the door on the right side first. "is Jett's room." The room was nearly twice as big as mine and was decorated in dark colors, mixtures of black, red, deep blue. His bed was bigger than mine and sat in the middle of the room, the headboard against the back wall. He had a large desk and an armoire against the opposite wall. I took a simple breath, not even a deep one, and the scent of him filled my nose, making my knees weak.
What is this? I barely know him, why am I reacting in a way I never have before, just because he is a boy?
Still, I couldn't help but imagine him in here, just living his day to day life. Sleeping in his bed, sitting at his desk, changing his clothes. The thought of him removing his clothing sent a chill down my spine that I fought to conceal from Juno.
Abruptly, she stepped back and out of the door frame, shutting the door, practically in my face, ceasing my fantasy. She turned and gestured to the room directly across the hall. "This is my room." She said flatly, without bothering to open the door to show it to me. She then pointed to a room we had previously walked past. "That's the staircase up to my parents' room," she explained. "There's no need to go in either rooms."
Suddenly, my mind was on things that were said earlier, and Jett's reaction to meeting me. I looked at her quizzically, uninterested in bedrooms anymore. "Who do I look like, Juno?" I demanded, no remorse in my words. The question had been secretly eating away at me ever since I had arrived.
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"I heard you, today when I got here. You started to tell me that I look like someone, but you didn't say who." She stared incredulously back at me, visibly shocked at how unapologetically direct I was. "Her name is Gemma." She said finally after a long pause. "It doesn't matter though, she's not important."
With that, she walked past me down the hall, practically shoving past me. Clearly the tour was over.
A few hours passed as I anxiously explored the house alone. There were photos everywhere - on the walls, tables, all over the house. The frames faded in and out, changing pictures every few moments, a slideshow of their perfect family.
While exploring, I briefly visited Jett's room a couple different times, breathing in his scent and wondering what kinds of things he did in there.
My new clothes were uncomfortable and I wasn't sure if I liked them. Though they were a bit loose on me, they were almost stiff and didn't move as easily as the facility uniform I've worn for the past sixteen years. They didn't feel like me. Did that mean that I would never feel like more than another clone from the facility? Will I ever develop a life and personality of my own?
I walked into the living room, where Thane sat reading a digital newspaper, and I could hear Ixabel in the next room cooking. Were they going to expect me to call them mom and dad?
From the corner of my eye, I noticed movement out the large front window. Stepping closer, I realized it was Jett. He wasn't alone, though. A girl was with him. She had raven dark hair with purple and blue pieces meshed and shoved between the black, yet flowing and fitting well. I had never met anyone with blue hair before. I wondered idly if it was a genetic mutation for hair to grow such a color.
I stepped up to the front door, checking behind me to ensure that Thane hadn't noticed my spying. My face was flat against the window on the door, shaped like a sunset near the top, just small enough that half my face could fit against the glass and see out.
Standing on my tip toes, I peered out at the two together. The girl smiled up at Jett in a way that made my insides boil. Were they together? I wasn't sure what that was called. Marriage is usually when someone lives together and they have babies, right? There's no way they're married, they don't live together.
Then he reached out and hugged her and it felt like I had been punched in the stomach.
How can I feel so intensely over a person? I hardly know Jett, he could be a terrible person. What are these feelings I'm having? I wanted to force my thumbs into that girl's eyeballs until they fell out.
"Rona, honey, what are you doing?" I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard Ixabel's voice behind me. She stood before me in her apron, with concern in her eyes. I realized that she was worried that I was going to try to leave. Is that not allowed here, either? I should have known.
"Nothing," I said softly, weakly, offering her an innocent, reassuring smile. "just looking outside." She nodded suspiciously and retreated back to the kitchen.
My breathing was quick once again and I took a moment to calm myself. When I finally turned back to the window to look, I saw Jett's face, inches from the door and opening it. Before I had time to react, it was open and he hit me with it, pushing me against the wall.
He jumped and apologized quickly, looking back at the door and outside before down at me, the wheels in his head turning. Oh, God. He knows I was watching him.
When he asked the question, I was unsure how to respond. Should I run? Lie? He just hit me with the door, what else could I have been doing? Everything in me wanted to take off out that door and not look back.
Instead of responding, I chose to hang my head and offered a weak apology. My cheeks suddenly felt warm, the embarrassment I felt for being caught was rising and coiling in my chest.
Quickly, I turned my attention to the photographs on the shelf beside us, my back to him, looking at the different pictures that illuminated the screens. Does every family have this many photos of them?
Looking at the photos, I saw that in each one they were showing their teeth. Were they trying to smile?
I asked Jett about it, he explained that they were smiling. Smiling? I know what smiling is. Smiling is something you do when you're happy, or something you do to be polite when someone is talking to you.
Ixabel called us to dinner, shouting "kids" loud enough for the entirety of the house to hear. Does she consider me to be one of her kids now? Jett smiled down at me, genuinely, making my heart flutter. I looked up at him, feeling fuzzy, enjoying the sight of his smile. He invited me to come and eat and I returned his smile.
At the table, Thane sat at the head while Jett sat across from him and Ixabel sat beside Thane, with Juno between Ixabel and Jett. This left two options for me - beside Thane or beside Jett. I hesitated, unsure where to sit. I wanted more than anything to sit beside Jett, to maybe get a whiff of his comforting, warm scent, but would he think I was being too much, first spying now sitting by him?
Deciding for me, Ixabel sat a plate of food at the setting beside Jett and across from Juno. "Go on, dear. Have a seat." She told me with a smile. "What would you like to drink?" She asked. I looked at her, confused. Isn't there only one option? I chose not to risk making a fool of myself, and told her water would be great. She scurried into the kitchen to fix me a glass and brought it back with enthusiasm.
I thanked her and smiled softly. She was so kind and maternal, she reminded me of Gwendolyn. The thought drove a small pang through my heart. Homesick, not for a place by any means, but for a person, and for my bunk mates from the facility.
The food on the plate was odd looking, wet and colorful, nothing like the dry, practically inedible food I was entirely accustomed to. Before me was a pear-shaped piece of what looked to be some kind of meat, and then some veggies and a pile of mush that was gray-ish tan. The vegetables were very different though, they were darker and richer in color and seemed to be cooked. At the facility, we had pale, cold and crunchy vegetables.
Suddenly, I was aware of everyone watching me as I inspected the food with my fork. "It's okay, hon," Ixabel said finally, breaking the judgmental silence and reassuring me. "it's chicken breast, mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes." She explained. I pushed a pea back and forth with my fork, watching as it slid and rolled easily rather than seeming frozen.
"I'm sorry it isn't anything too exciting for your first meal," She added. "It's just been crazy around here and I didn't have much time to prepare and I wasn't sure what you liked or if you had allergies-" I cut her off as politely as I could with a smile and raised my hand up gently.
"Everything is perfect." I reassured her. She smiled back enthusiastically, obviously relieved that I didn't hate everything about being here.
We ate quietly for the most part, the food was amazing and warm and flavorful and I was lost in it. Jett had to show me how to use a knife as we were not allowed knives in the facility.
I couldn't keep myself from glancing at Jett when I could, there were a few times I thought I noticed him looking at me, too. He was so handsome, even when he was just doing something as simple as eating.
"So," Ixabel began suddenly, breaking the silence. "next weekend we'll be going to the beach house for a surprise getaway." she declared with a wide, enthusiastic smile. Juno smiled back at her and did a small dance to show her excitement. Jett offered a smile as well.
I know what a beach is. A beach is where there's the ocean, and sand. People swim in the ocean sometimes, but there are sharks. A beach house, though, I wasn't entirely sure what that was. Was it a house that floated on the water?
When we finished the meal, Ixabel and Thane gathered up all our dishes and went to the sink to wash them together. Suddenly feeling exhausted, I wondered when lights out was.
"Hey," I tapped Jett on the arm as he began to walk past me. "When do we go to sleep?" He looked at me, a little confused, and then shrugged. "Whenever you want, I guess. Are you tired?"
The way he looked down at me made me want to let out a loud scream from all the tight fuzziness it created in my tummy and in my throat. I nodded and said, "A little."
"You can go to sleep if you want." He told me gently. I stopped for a moment, staring at nothing, nervous and afraid to ask my next question. Finally, I looked back up at him and said, "Will you lock me in there?"
My question was so quiet it was nearly a whisper and hung heavily in the air with quiet hope that the answer was no. Jett shook his head with a gentle look on his face. "Of course not. You can just go to bed whenever you're ready."
I smiled up at him. "I like the way you make me feel." The words came out of my mouth before I could even think twice, much less take them back. He stuttered a little before saying "Thanks." quietly back.
"Well, goodnight." I said quickly, desperately wanting to escape after saying something so stupid.
With that, I turned on my heel and headed to my room for my first night sleeping alone.