Devin Daniels sat in the backseat of his paternal grandparents' Buick saying little during the ride. There wasn't much left for him to say. His grandparents buried his mother and hired a company to clean out the apartment and now here Devin was moving in with them because there was nowhere else for him to go.
He was grateful to be released from DSS Custody but his life had fallen apart and he was now a seventeen year old orphan.
Devin hadn't seen his grandparents for several years. It was awkward visiting them given that their son – Devin's father – had been a lowlife convict loser and his grandparents' didn't think very much of his mother whom they blamed for their son's addictions, troubles, and ill-fated decisions.
Now Devin, the product of that unhappy union, was going to live with them full time, mostly likely serving as a constant reminder of that miserable past.
Devin thought it was ironic that his grandparents had outlived both his parents. Usually it was the parents telling the kid to be kind to their grandparents because "They won't be around forever".
Devin didn't know his grandparents well but he figured he'd get the chance to bond with them now, unless they blamed him for everything and treated him with distain and regret. He felt guilty already.
The backseat and trunk of the car was full of what was left of Devin's life – his clothes and other belongings packed up in boxes and bags – as he was being taken to a different town in a different state to begin his life all over again. He had been to his grandparents' house before, but he hardly remembered those visits.
His grandfather drove the car off the interstate exit ramp and into Greenville and then they crossed the Blue County Bridge into downtown Hillsboro which didn't look familiar at all despite it's comfortable small town New England feel to it.
The car passed through the downtown and into neighborhoods until his grandfather pulled the Buick into the driveway of a modest brick home and it was only then that Devin's gut began to churn.
This was really happening – this was his new home. It was actually much better than the dumpy tenement he and his mother lived in but it was still a strange and unfamiliar place. Devin felt like he was about to take a roller coaster ride but he wasn't sure if the journey had a safe ending.
It took a while to unload the car. Devin did most of it himself as he didn't want his grandparents hurting themselves dragging all his junk inside.
He was given a small room on the second floor of the house which featured a bed, a desk, and a dresser, a Crucifix over the bed, and a photo of The Virgin Mother Mary over the dresser.
The house was strangely quiet even though Devin could hear his grandparents shuffling about below.
Devin knew there was no point in complaining about his situation because nobody was going to listen and there was also no point feeling sorry for himself because it didn't matter anyway. This was his new life and he might as well get used to it.
He acclimated himself to his new domicile and his grandfather gave him a tour of the town the following day, showing him what was where, including a drive past Hillsboro High School where he would be attending his senior year of high school though he had barely succeeded at his old school.
Devin's grandparents lived a rather docile, routine, and uneventful life. Both were retired and while they participated in various activities and volunteered some, they were mostly home.
Devin's mother had the good timing to die a week after school got out so Devin had the summer to settle in although his grandfather hinted that he should probably find a job.
Devin found a used motorcycle first, using the money he had saved from his previous job as a janitor at the bus station to fund the purchase. His grandmother wasn't thrilled with the noisy addition but went out of her way to accommodate and placate her grandson during his awkward transition.
Devin feared his grandparents were judging him and holding him accountable for his parents' sins so he tried to be on his best behavior. He followed his grandparents' rules and expectations and he found a summer job washing dishes at Zapuka's Restaurant.
He made it a point to answer his grandparents' questions although they didn't seem to be much interested in hearing about what happened in his life with his mother. Sometimes, Devin wondered if his grandparents were trying to get a glimpse into his soul to see if he was destined for the same sort of tragic life his parents had lived.
Several weeks passed but Devin still wasn't accustomed to his new life. He had trouble sleeping at night and he often awoke before his grandparents even though they were early risers. He didn't think about the past often although he knew he was grieving his mother's death.
Devin didn't have many friends so he really hadn't left much behind except the memories of his mother. He remained respectful of his grandparents and he tried to prove himself to be a trustworthy and dependable member of the family.
His grandmother kept a white board on the wall in the kitchen and Devin was consistent in making sure he wrote down where he was going and what he was doing.
He had his own cell – still a foreign concept to his grandparents who kept the landline to the house with the phone on the kitchen wall, an extension in the living room and another one in their bedroom. There was no computer in the house (although Devin brought his) and the television consisted of only basic cable.
There was no air conditioner on the second floor (only window fans) which might explain one of the reasons Devin wasn't sleeping well although he sensed that he was depressed as well.
He enrolled himself at Hillsboro High School and the building was much newer than the school he previously attended. Maybe a new start would give him the chance to finish high school strong although Devin had no idea what his future held – joining the military, probably.
He didn't want to burden his grandparents beyond high school, he didn't have the grades or the money for college (even community college) and he didn't want to be a janitor or dishwasher the rest of his life. He thought about the Tech School but there was no point trying to transfer there as a senior with no previous trade experience.
Devin rode his motorcycle home from his shift at Zapuka's and he found himself riding behind his grandfather who turned his Buick into the driveway. The old man had done some shopping at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store and Devin helped him carrying the bags into the house.
His grandfather was a man of few words and he grumbled a thanks when they were done, helping his wife unpack and put away the groceries.
Devin went back outside to close the trunk lid and he was surprised to see a pretty teenager standing at the foot of the driveway.
"Hello?" He said tentatively.
"Hello," the girl replied, smiling slightly.
"Can I help you with something?" Devin wondered, closing the car trunk.
"You live here now?" the girl asked. "I've seen you coming and going on that motorcycle." She gestured to the bike parked on the side of the garage.
"I live here now," he confirmed, leaning his backside against the car bumper and folding his arms across his chest. "I'm their grandkid. Devin."
"I'm Miko," She said. "I live next door."
"Miko?" He asked, confused.
"It's Japanese," she explained. "I'm Japanese."
She didn't have to tell him that, obviously. All he had to do was look at her to know she was Asian although he could have mistaken her for Korean or Chinese. In addition to the observable facial features and skin color, she had long silky black hair and a slender frame.
"You sound American," Devin remarked.
"My father's American," Miko explained. "He was in the Navy, stationed in Japan. That's where he met my mother. I was born here, in Newport RI when he was still in the Navy."
"Sounds like a World War II story," Devin replied.
"They're not that old," Miko said sarcastically.
"I'm sorry," Devin said. "I was trying to be funny."
"That's fine," she replied. "Maybe try harder."
Devin burst out in laughter, probably for the first time since he moved to Hillsboro.
"Do I amuse you?" Miko asked, raising her eyebrows.
"Do you go to Hillsboro High?" He asked.
"Yes," she replied. "I'll be a senior."
"Can you show me around?" Devin asked hopefully. "I don't know anybody here."
"Sure," she agreed. She gave him a long look. "What are you doing here?"
"I live here now," he explained.
"You already said that."
"My mother died in June," he revealed. "My father died long ago."
"I'm sorry," Miko said.
"Yeah," He sighed. "Thanks."
"Is there anything I can do?" Miko asked. "Is there anything else I can help you with besides the school thing?"
"I pretty much know my way around the area now," Devin said proudly. "I wash dishes at Zapuka's Restaurant. Otherwise I'm pretty much here. I don't know anybody."
"Do you want to know me?" Miko asked.
Devin's grandmother stuck her head out the door. "Miko!" She said enthusiastically – much more fervor than she showed Devin he couldn't help but think. "Come in here! I baked cookies!"
"I look in on them from time to time," Miko explained as she started for the house.
Devin rolled his eyes and followed Miko into the kitchen. His grandmother already had a plate of cookies on the kitchen table and she was pouring two glasses of milk.
"You're not too old for milk, are you, Devin?" She asked.
"No Grammy," he replied, trying not to sound annoyed.
Miko took two cookies and the glass of milk. She soon had a milk mustache on her lip and Devin suddenly realized that he was attracted to her.
The three exchanged small talk while Miko and Devin ate their cookies and drank their milk, like two nine year olds instead of two seventeen year olds. Devin hadn't seen his grandmother so animated since his arrival and he knew his grandparents had to idolize the girl. He was surprised that their paths hadn't crossed before but maybe she had visited when he was working.
When they were finished with the snack, Devin's grandmother suggested that Devin walk Miko home "for safety's sake."
"She lives next door," Devin frowned.
"Just do it," his grandmother snapped.
"Don't you want me to be safe?" Miko teased and Devin couldn't help but grin.
"Come on," he smirked. "I'll walk you home."