"Get down there and eat it!" Joe shoved Daniel to the ground, but the foreign teen kept his mouth shut.
"Go on, eat it," Morrison said from where he stood in front of Daniel, holding Arty's thermos at his side.
"Wait, amI supposed to record this?"the third wheel,Kaiden, asked. Joe scoffed from behind Daniel, his foot on the teen's backto keep him grounded.
"Yeah," he said.
Daniel brushed his teeth at home, the sound of the bristles on against his teeth filling the bathroom.
Daniel looked down, at the dead bird that lay before him, for him to "eat". Then he looked back up at Morrison, who was watched him with a proud sneer, his fake eye making his expression look off.
"Go on," he said. "Eat it." He brought the thermos up to drink whatever was inside of it. Then one of the boys laughed and Daniel was kicked in the head.
Daniel spat into the sink, bracing his hands on the sides of the porcelain. He stayed like that for a second, just breathing; the toothpaste in his mouth made his mouth cold with each breath, the mint overfilling his senses.
He turned on the sink faucet and ran his toothbrush under the water to rinse it before putting it up. Scooping water into his palm, he brought it to his mouth to rinse before spitting into the sink.
Then he glanced back into the mirror, his eyes grey from his exhaustion.
"I'msorry, Daniel- I didn't mean to get up so late; I meant to beon time,"Arty said to Daniel as he drove him home, the teen looking out of the windshield. He didn't let Arty know what happened, just that he was upset for beingforgotten.
"I was supposed to be there," Arty sighed and shook his head.
Daniel tilted his head, watching his reflection do the same. There was a forming bruise on his skull beneath his left ear, spreading to his neck. Purple and yellow.
The teen left the bathroom to the storage room, where he heard Jack and Arty's voices from their bedroom.
"It was his second day, Jack- IpromisedI wouldn't be late and I was," Arty sounded.
"Hey, you didn't mean it; Daniel knows you didn't mean it. That is a very specific promise, though. It's bad luck, I'm telling you," Jack replied. He knew from experience that promising to ever be on time was a wedding ring for misfortune. He had to be late seven times before he deemed it evil and stopped promising it. Now, he just said "I'll try".
"But I just-" Arty's words stopped, meaning that Jack was probably trying to ease him down. Instead of listening further, Daniel went into the storage room and flipped on the light, where he looked at the boxes inside. The box that the recorder came out of said "old tech", so the teen knelt beside it to look inside.
There was an old typewriter, some video cassette tapes, old speakers, and what Daniel was looking for: a camera. It wasn't digital, but a Polaroid would do perfectly fine.
Pulling it out of the box, he checked it to see that it was working. He pressed the power and clicked a picture of the room, where the camera then made a noise before spitting out a sheet. Daniel took the photo and waited for the picture to appear; and it did. It worked.
The teen took the Polaroid camera with him back into the bathroom and took a picture of the bruise.
Arty knocked on Daniel's bedroom door, which was already open. Daniel rolled in bed to look at the man.
"Hey, it's uh, time for school," Arty said. Daniel sat up in bed.
"Yeah. I'm thinking..," Arty walked into the room, to the bed, where he sat on the edge beside Daniel. "We're gonna tell Jack to skip the gym and that way we can all... watch a movie or something. Like, at the theaters." He smiled at Daniel, his eyes reading that he was still upset about yesterday. Daniel smiled.
"That sounds nice," he said, his smile making Arty visually perk up.
"Really? We aren't harboring grudges or anything?"
"I'd never hate you, Arty."
"Thanks, bud," Arty chuckled and stood up, and held out a hand to the teen. "Come on, let's get going."
Daniel took the hand and looked up into Arty's shining blue eyes. "Alright."
The sitter was there, knocking on the door. Arty walked to the door, pausing before answering it to look back at Daniel in the kitchen.
"Did you finish your breakfast? We're about to head out," he said. When he saw Daniel nod, he answered the door. "Hi," he greeted the sitter.
Daniel turned in the kitchen to the counter, which held his bag of lunch. He walked over and opened it to look inside. It held a grilled cheese sandwich in aluminum foil to stay warm, strawberries, an orange, a bottle of fruit juice, and a yogurt. He could hear Arty chatting with the sitter, laughing at something.
Walking away from the bag, Daniel went and grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, where he opened it and set it on the countertop. Pulling Arty's necklace from his pants pocket, the teen opened the locket and pulled out a pill. Putting the small pill on the counter, Daniel placed the water bottle's cap flat over it and smashed it, so that it were crumbs.
He then grabbed the water bottle and brought it to the side of the counter, so that he could dust the pill into the nozzle. Once he got it all in, he put the lid back on and shook the bottle, mixing the powder and water together.
"Okay, thank you again for coming," Arty said the to sitter from the living room. "Daniel, hurry up!"
Daniel took the bottle to his lunch bag and set it inside before taking it with him to the front door. The sitter was currently taking her jacket off to hang up. She had dark hair and looked young, like a college student.
"Oh, I thought he was younger," she said to Arty after looking at Daniel. The man shook his head and pat Daniel's head.
"No, he's the big brother."
Jessica, the sitter, looked at Daniel again, her gaze dropping down his body. He looked at Arty.
"We should go," he said, quite aware of the girl's gaze. Arty blinked and nodded, patting his pocket for the car keys.
"Yep, we should! Alright, I'll be back in a bit to pay you," he waved to Jessica and slipped passed to go outside. Daniel followed after. Jessica called a goodbye after them.
Once they were in the car, Daniel looked at Arty, who had just put the key in and was turning it in the ignition to start.
"I don't think I like her," the teen said, and Arty immediately burst into a sputtering laugh.
"What?" he looked at Daniel, an eyebrow quirked. Daniel simply repeated.
"I don't think I like her."
"Well, I heard what you said, but... really? She's so nice."
"Yeah. I don't like her."
"...Alright. I'm sorry about that," Arty looked out the windshield and started pulling out of the driveway, "But she's the only one who comes on short notice. I've needed to hire babysitters before, but they don't like the risk of driving on these roads at night, or when it's-"
Daniel looked out the passenger side window to ignore the rest of what Arty was saying. He didn't like her; the way she looked, or smelled, looked athim. But he also didn't like Morrison.
When they got to the school, Arty walked Daniel to the front doors, so that he could make up for the time of yesterday. "I'll be on time," the man said, looking at Daniel. The teen nodded, peering inside of the school from the doors' windows, where he could see Morrison and his friends teasing a shorter boy. "Hey," Arty tapped Daniel's chin, making the teen look at him. The man smiled. "Okay? Third day's the charm."
"I think it's "time's".
"See? Okay, I'll be back on time and then we'll all go to the theaters when Jack gets home."
Daniel nodded, offering a smile to ease the trying man. "Okay."
Arty then pat Daniel's head, ruffling the teen's hair, before leaving back to his car. Daniel entered the school and was greeted, expectedly, by Laura.
"Daniel!" she exclaimed, running up to him. He nodded in greeting and walked to his first hour, which she trailed along for. Throughout the morning, she walked him to his classes and to lunch, where they sat together.
Laura got a hamburger for lunch. "I like cheeseburgers, but I can't have them because I'm lactose intolerant," she said. Daniel watched her as she took a bite. Then he looked at his own bag, contemplating. He wanted to eat it, but he was waiting for Morrison. And since yesterday's charade, he would be sure to mess with Daniel some more.
Laura looked over the table at Daniel and pressed her lips together. "...Hey, I heard about what happened yesterday."
Daniel looked at her again with his dark eyes. He gave a light shrug. "It wasn't that bad."
"I heard it was rotten."
"It was. But we're just teenagers."
Morrison sat down as if on que, thudding into the seat next to Daniel.
"Yeah Laura, just kids being kids," he said, flashing a grin across the table at Laura, who didn't flinch even as his ruined expression made her uncomfortable. Then he looked at Daniel. "How you doing, Danny?" His eye looked down at Daniel's lunch bag. "Oh, what's this? Brought me some lunch?"
Daniel didn't say anything, watching as Joe grabbed the bag and tossed it to Morrison. The teen caught it before dumping its contents out onto the table. Sifting through the things, he spoke to Daniel some more.
"So, who's that faggy dude 'dropped you off at school? Boyfriend?"
"Morrison, stop it," Laura glared at the teen, scoffing at Kaiden when the boy flicked a piece of broccoli from his plate at her. He was the one who didn't mind hygiene, his face oily and hair greasy, but his clothes new which said that his family had money, despite his lack of a good shower. Laziness. "You guys are assholes."
"Hey, we maybeassholes, but at least we don't like 'em. Ain't that right, Dan?" Joe elbowed Daniel, who looked at him. "Seriously though, who was that dude?"
"My dad," Daniel said, looking at Morrison as the teen grabbed the bottle of water, popping the cap off. The bigger teen laughed.
"You're fucking kidding."
"No. He's my father."
"Then you've got one fucked up family." Morrison drank the water, watching Daniel like he was just a peasant, while Daniel watched him too, because he knew that Morrison was just an idiot.
In science class, Daniel followed Morrison inside. The bigger teen stumbled in his steps and shook his head, like he was fighting sleep that kept rolling in. He walked to his desk and doubled over as his eyes fluttered shut, but he grabbed the table top for support and shook his head to wake up again. Then he took his seat, setting his bag on the floor beside him.
Daniel sat in the desk next to Morrison, which was already claimed, but the kid who usually sat there was too timid to tell Daniel off, so he sat in another.
Looking at Morrison while the class waited for their teacher, Daniel could see that Morrison was trembling, like he was cold and had the shakes. The brunette stared at the chalkboard, struggling to stay awake.
A problem that Daniel noticed, though, was that the shaking got a little more violent, the bully's body racking with tremors like he was cold.
One problem that Daniel noticed was that the shaking became violent, Morrison's body racking with tremors and his jaw chattering. Glancing down beside the bully, Daniel looked at his backpack, which held Arty's thermos.
He leaned over in his seat and grabbed the thermos, slipping it from the bag and pulling it to himself, where he put it in his lunch bag and rolled it up. Then he heard athunkand looked back at Morrison.
The teen had passed out, his head hitting his desk as his body went slack. No, it hadn't gone slack. He was still shaking. Someone in the room seemed to notice, because they spoke up, "Is he okay?" and then more students started talking, standing up and looking over.
It got severe enough that someone ran out to get the teacher, who hurried into the room and to Morrison.
The teacher sat Morrison up in his seat and pat his cheek. "Morrison, can you hear me?" they asked, but the teen didn't respond, trembling in their hold. A girl student called out, "His lips are purple!"
The teacher immediately pulled Morrison from his desk and lay him on the floor.
"Emily, call the nurse in!" the teacher called and the girl ran to the classroom's telephone.
Looking Morrison over, Daniel could see that his lips were gradually turning blue, the same with the tips of his fingers. His body didn't stop shaking.
Daniel walked to the car, Arty being right on time and standing outside of it, waving to the teen in greeting.
"Hey!" the man greeted, smiling. "Third day's the charm."
Daniel nodded and got inside of the car, Arty following. The man looked at Daniel and rose an eyebrow.
"Did I see an ambulance here?" he asked. Daniel shrugged.
"I don't know, but probably. A kid in my science class got hurt."
"Well jeez, how? I knew a kid back in college who lost an eye from a bad chemical reaction."
"It wasn't that kind of hurt; I think he overdosed."
Arty blinked. "What?" He man shook his head. "Wow. Well, you know about drugs and alcohol, right?"
"To not use them?"
Jack was home when they arrived, sitting on the couch and flipping through a magazine. When the front door came open, he looked over and smiled. "Hey, you two."
Arty took off his coat and hung it up so that he could walk to the couch and sit beside Jack, leaning against him. "Ah, the handset man I never get to see," the brunette sighed, glancing at his husband and smiling. Jack chuckled.
"You find a lot of ways for me to make that up."
"What time are we going to the theaters?" Daniel asked, watching the two from the front door.
"Yeah, what time are we going,babe," Arty asked Jack, laying a leg over the man's lap. The blonde rolled his eyes and pinched Arty's hip.
"Probably at six.Babe," he replied.
Daniel nodded before going to the kitchen. "I'm going to paint then, while I have time," he called, walking to the fridge, and virtually out of sight. Once hidden, he took Arty's thermos from his bag and looked it over, to find the man's name. If it were ever there, it was gone, now. There was a scribble of black permanent marker, and Morrison's name written above it; on the bottom of the thermos.
"Damn." Daniel put the cup back in his bag before leaving the kitchen, going upstairs to the art room. Before he could start painting, the door opened, and he glanced over.
Geil stood in the doorway, with a pencil and paper in hand, sniffling from his pink nose. He gave Daniel an open mouthed smile, the teen quirking an eyebrow.
"Yes?" he asked the child.
"Can you help me?" Geil asked, Daniel's dark eyes slipping down to the paper.
"Homework." Daniel took his canvas from the easel, hiding it between two old paintings, and walked to Geil. The blonde boy walked Daniel to his room, where he went to his desk and sat in his chair, putting the paper on the table top. Daniel got on his knees to look.
It was a paper of matching words to things. Daniel looked at Geil.
"You can't do this?"
Geil shook his head. "No."
"Well, that's a little silly, isn't it?"
Geil looked at Daniel, confused by his words. Then he looked back to the paper. "I need help," he murmured softly. Daniel gave him a look.
"What's this?" he pointed at a snake.
"Okay, now where does it say "snake"?"
"There," Geil pointed, but it it wasn't the right word.
"No, that's "soup".Thisis "snake"."
Daniel stood up and started venturing from the desk. "Keep working," he said, looking around at Geil's room. There were child things; toys, clothes, play sets.
"I can't spell "elephant"," Geil sounded. Daniel walked to the boy's bed and sat on it, where he looked at the side table.
"Sound it out," the teen said, looking at a photograph. It was framed, of a young Arty and an older man. The man's hair was dark, and he had a hand on Arty's shoulder.
"El-e-fent," Geil said.
"No. It's a tricky word: E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T. "Ph" can make an "f" sound; like "phone", or "photograph"." Daniel picked up the picture and turned it over, where he opened the frame to pull the phot out. Flipping it over to look at the back, written words read "Grandpa" in black ink, but down in the corner, there was a faded penning of "Dad, 2005".
"Where's Daddy's father, Geil?" Daniel asked, looking at the child. Geil didn't look at him. Daniel had to repeat it.
"I don't know," he finally answered. Daniel put the photograph back into its frame and set it on the table again. Then he stood from the bed and went to Geil's dresser. Opening the top drawer, he started sifting through the child's socks and underwear. Grabbing a pair of underwear, Daniel slipped the pair in to his pants pocket before looking back at Geil.
"Are you done yet?" he asked, stepping over to look. Geil had two more, but he looked like he wasn't paying attention to it anymore. Daniel took the pencil and drew the last lines before tapping Geil's head with the pencil. "Done."
When Daniel left to his bedroom, he pulled the underwear from his pocket and stuffed it underneath his mattress, with Arty's necklace. Then, he went back to paint.
"I want to watch that movie," Geil said and pointed at the movie poster for Cocoa. Daniel looked at the child with a skull face and gave it a look. He looked at the other posters.
There were thrillers, drama, horror, romance, and another children's. He glanced at the poster forIt, a remake of a natural classic.
Arty clicked his tongue. "I'm thinking the idea forCocoaisn't mutual," the man said, noticing Daniel's expression.
"Well, I'm not really one for kid shows," Jack said, which was true. He had grown tired of the childish toilet humor. "I can take Daniel and you Geil," he added. Daniel blinked in surprise and spoke up, desperate to face himself from two hours alone with Jack.
"It's alright," he said, watching as Arty started leaving them, "I can stay with you guys." He was too late, though; Arty made his way to the ticket booth and started buying tickets.
"Two forCocoaand two forIt," he said.
"Loks too late to stop him," Jack said. Daniel sucked his teeth. He'd much rather be stuck with Arty. Hewantedto be stuck with Arty. The older brunette came back to them all with four tickets and a smile, to further add to the disappointment. Daniel sighed.
The four split into their own ways, and Jack led Daniel to the theater box 4, after buying them each their own snacks of Skittles, popcorn, Dr. Pepper, and Coke.
While they waited for the movie trailers, Jack sighed, the typical father breath that let you know they didn't know what to do or say. "So..." The typical starting line. "How was school? I heard a kid had an accident."
Daniel looked at Jack, who looked at him. The teen nodded and dropped his gaze to the popcorn that sat between them.
"He had an overdose; they called an ambulance for him."
"Hm. A freshman?"
"Well, I guess kids are still as adventurous as they were back in my day," Jack sighed, leaning on his chair's arm. Daniel looked at him again, a sudden thought for talk coming to mind.
"Jack," he said, making his father look at him, "How many children do you have? From your previous marriage."
Jack cleared his throat, like he didn't want to talk about it. There wasn't particularly a reason as to why he couldn't, though, so he answered.
"Three. Johnathon, Laurence, and Avery."
"How old are they now?" Daniel asked, his voice sounding of pure curiosity. Jack brought a hand up to scratch his chin uncomfortably.
"Johnathon and Laurence should be twenty eight and twenty five now. And Avery would be twenty one."
"...Is he the one who came to stay for college?" Jack gave Daniel a look at this and the teen motioned slightly. "Arty told me- we were talking about the art room."
"Yeah. ...He came to stay. Mathilda, his mother, wouldn't fund him anymore because he had a substance abuse problem. So I brought him in," he sighed, "That way, we could monitor his progress; he needed a good environment to thrive in, is what the doctor said. But, I just didnt know he was so...depressed." Jack rubbed an eye and sat back in his seat, gazing over at the rows of chairs in front of them.
"You must have made him feel at peace," Daniel said after a moment.
Jack shook his head. "I should had found him... I..." He sighed and looked at Daniel. "You're a really good kid, Daniel. I'm sorry for not being around much, but I just... It's been so long since I've raised a teenager that I don't really know how."
"It's alright, Jack. Could I ask you something else? Where is Arty's brother? The one who gave him the necklace?"
Jack cleared his throat, wanting to get off of the morbid conversation but not knowing how to say no.
"He passed away four years ago, from bacterial meningitis. He and Arty were really close, so it took its toll. That may be why he's so affected by Avery's death: they both passed at nineteen, and Arty was the one who... found Avery."
Thankfully, the movie started before Daniel could ask anything else.
When it was over, the two still had popcorn left that they gave to Arty when the four met back up, which the man happily accepted, because he loved popcorn.
"How was your movie?" he asked and popped a piece into his mouth. Jack shrugged.
"It was good, I just... like the original more."
Arty laughed and looked at Daniel, Jack picking Geil up because he wanted him to.
"And you? Did you like it?" he asked.
"It was good, but I also like the original better."
"Woah, you've seen that? You really are too good to be true!" Arty ruffled Daniel's hair before looking at Jack. "Ready to go home? Geil got tuckered out from singing too much."
Jack nodded and let Geil rest his head on his shoulder. "Yeah, let's go on." He held Geil with one arm so that he could hold Arty's hand in the other. Daniel looked elsewhere so that he didn't have to see the affection, but his eyes landed on Kaiden; one of Morrison's friends. He was looking over from a trashcan, his mouth gawking open.
He had seen Jack and Arty's hands. Daniel followed his family out of the theater before Kaiden could laugh at them or call them out.