Steven was usually the first in the house to arise, and today was no exception.

He slid out of bed, allowing his small feet to touch the floor, before rummaging through the pile of clothes on the floor. Each item was a hand-me-down from his great-uncle Stanley, which left him wishing for the privilege of wearing brand new clothes like most other children his age.

He rather sloppily put on a shirt, overalls, and trousers, then ran from the room to check his reflection in the bathroom mirror. A freckled face was something else that he'd inherited from his uncle Stanley, and coupled with his frequently unruly hair, many assumed him to be the archetypal rascally orphan.

The keyword was 'assumed,' for both of his parents were very much alive, and as such, Steven hardly appreciated it when teachers attempted to mother him against his will.

He spun his head toward the door, knowing that his mother, Grace, and father Ross were still lying disoriented in bed.

It simply wouldn't do for him to go hungry all morning, so he visited their room to get some advice.

Upon entering and creeping over to the side of the bed where Grace was still struggling to open her eyes, he summoned the courage to speak.

"Mom, what's for breakfast?"

"There's some sliced bread in the pantry. Knock yourself out..." She muttered wearily before rolling over to face in the opposite direction.

"Okay," He replied with a nod, despite feeling quite dejected.

Nevertheless, he dashed into the kitchen to follow her instructions. Unfortunately, the bread turned out to be a little stale and foul-tasting, but he forced himself to eat two slices, knowing that there was no alternative.

"I bet Barbara gets to have warm toast and porridge every day," He thought in misery upon finishing, but soon found that he just couldn't retain ill feelings towards the girl who was his only real friend.

Afterward, he entered the living room, where scorch marks in the carpet reminded him of when he'd accidentally lit a curtain on fire while playing with some matches. Grace had been furious that day, and despite his father's pleas for her to be lenient, she'd bent him over her knee and smacked his behind so many times that it ended up hurting each time he sat.

The memory made him shudder, and he sought to distract himself by turning on the television to endure a dull weather forecast.


His parents still hadn't risen after an hour had passed, and he had heard a familiar-sounding engine outside. A loud knock on the door prompted him to get off the sofa and rush forward to let the visitor in.

It was his stuffy old grandmother Edith who, as always, regarded his appearance and that of the house with shock. She seized him by the arm while bemoaning the sorry state of things.

"It's a shame that I can't have custody of you. Go and tell your parents that they need to get up. This is appalling..."


After a heated argument with Grace, Edith succeeded in getting him sufficiently well-groomed enough for church. Then, she dragged him out of the house and into the car, where his rather portly grandfather Thomas waited behind the wheel.

He barely acknowledged the boy's presence and simply urged Edith to hurry so that they wouldn't be late.

The church they attended was predominantly populated by working and middle-class folk of Irish descent, such as themselves. Upon arriving, Steven suddenly remembered a time when Barbara had complained about having to attend Mass every week.

He realized that he'd likely be seeing her soon, and it was enough to make his day seem much brighter.

Sure enough, he spied her sitting in one of the front pews with her well-dressed parents. She turned around in boredom halfway through the service and, upon recognizing his face, gave him a friendly smile and wave.

She looked pretty indeed in her blue dress and ribbon, and he blushed despite himself before she spun her head back around due to a disapproving look from her mother.

The service went by at a slow pace, but they were finally able to meet each other directly in the lobby after it was over, and it seemed that she was still quite happy to see him.

"You've never come here before. Where's your Mom and Dad?"

"They're at home. My grandma drove me."

"Oh. Where is she?"

Steven glanced around and was able to locate Edith conversing with two other elderly women. He pointed them out, and Barbara looked surprised.

"I...I see. It makes sense now. Do you want to get some cookies with me?"

"Sure, I'd like-" Steven began excitedly, before they both received an unwelcome interruption.

A slightly taller boy by the name of Kevin pushed his way out of the crowd while they talked and, without any consideration at all, grabbed Barbara's hand as if she belonged to him.

She shook Kevin's arm away and stomped hard on his foot in retaliation, but nevertheless, the interruption roused an emotion within Steven that he had never experienced in such intensity.

Nobody was as special to him as Barbara, and the possibility that someone could take her away from him at any moment filled him with nothing but jealousy and resentment.