‘Other’: Part VI

‘Other’

Part VI: Family

When I came to my face hurt. I winced as I sat up, rubbing my temples. I then made the mistake of gingerly touching my nose with the other, immediately wincing.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” mum said. I glanced at Sage’s bed where she was sat.

“Yeah, how long was I out?” I asked.

“Long enough for Daniel and one of your teachers to argue the roof of this place,” she laughed. “He’s calmed down now. We asked they expel that boy but it wasn’t something they could do. Honestly, this academy is so proud of the accepting culture they create for students, and then they won’t expel someone who is obviously a trouble maker.”

“Mum, it’s fine. I started it,” I said. She stared at me for a moment before exhaling loudly.

“And you want me to believe my unborn child will be safe around you?” I could tell the question was rhetorical, but it hurt.

“Mum-”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she stopped me. “I’ve tried to be a good mother and look after you, whatever you now are, but I can’t handle this stress anymore. Daniel and I did our research and we really think Myrindon is a better place for you. If you won’t go there then there is nothing more we can do to help you.” She shook her head and stood up to leave. I jumped up and blocked the door.

“How about just being there? You’ve never struggled being my mum before, what changed?”

“You did!” she yelled back. She clenched her fist against her mouth and lowered her voice. “You never used to be this stubborn or difficult.”

“I thought you wanted me to be my own person,” I retorted.

“There’s a difference between strong independence and wilful ignorance,” she answered. She pushed me aside to leave and I let her.

“At least stay for dinner, Caroline worked hard making it,” I asked. She hesitated before nodding.

“Okay,” she whispered. My family remained quiet, myself included, during the dinner. I’d never wanted time to pass faster in my life. When Mr Martin announced the gates would be closing soon my parents looked about as relieved as I did.

“I’ll stop by tomorrow,” Daniel promised, whispering just to me. “I can’t promise I can persuade your mother too though.” I nodded, waving half-heartedly as they left. I went into the kitchen to help Caroline with the dishes, where I was swiftly told to go upstairs and rest. Except I couldn’t sleep. I sat at my desk, revising old lessons. Now that I was on my own the events of the night were playing over in my mind. What I did to Sage… I shook my head. It was probably something to do with stress, my parents has turned unannounced and told me I was suddenly a big brother. Yeah, that made sense.

I heard the door open behind me and glanced over my shoulder. The sight of Sage sent a bolt through me and I stood up immediately. I tried to figure out what to say first, I know they hadn’t wanted it when I kissed them.

“Sage, I’m-” I started, ready to just let forth whatever spiel my mind thought up.

“Don’t worry about it,” they interrupted. I blinked but accepted their words, sitting back down. Based on the glare Allison sent me, they knew what had happened. I tried not eavesdrop but I could see Allison was upset by something. Whatever it was, Sage calmed them down fairly well. The moment looked intimate, and I felt intrusive being there.

A few moments later the door opened again and Rowan of all people walked in.

“Sage and Allison need a room,” they said by way of explanation. “So I’m taking Sage’s bed.”

“Oh, right,” I said, trying not to be alarmed that I was about to sleep in the same room as a somewhat terrifying paramorph. I reminded myself it was just appearance and that Rowan themselves weren’t going to hurt me. Unless I said or did something dumb, then it was actually a probability. I grabbed some PJs and grabbed a shower. When I returned they were already fast asleep, making a weird purring noise. I crawled into my bed and turned off the lamp on my bedside table. In the darkness the purring was intensified in my ears. I squeezed my eyes shut.

“You’ll get used to it,” I whispered to myself. I had to, since I figured Sage would avoid this room for a while.

I woke up early, pain blooming across my nose and cheek immediately. I was gonna need to grab some painkillers. I sat up and saw Rowan was still purring. I left them to it and grabbed a shower, getting dressed quickly. I returned to the room to check my phone. I had a text from Daniel telling me it was just him today. A glance outside told me it was at least a nice day. I shoved my phone into my pocket and headed to breakfast, running into Jaeger in the downstairs corridor.

“Morning,” I said, unsure what else to say.

“Morning,” he replied. He shifted awkwardly, which was something I’d never expected him to do around me.

“I’m sorry for punching you,” he finally said, surprising me. “You still messed up, but I’ll cover for you as Sage did,” he added, lowering his voice so those in the kitchen wouldn’t here. I hadn’t even considered how others would react to it. I made a mental note to thank Sage when they were next willing to actually talk to me.

“Thanks,” I said. The weirdest shift had happened overnight, with most people giving Jaeger the cold shoulder. The only one who seemed oblivious was Ahti, who continued to be nice to everyone. Mr Martin came by shortly after the gates were opened with our families and we all followed him.

“I managed to calm your mother down, she was in tears last night,” Daniel murmured to me by way of greeting as we walked side by side.

“Jaeger’s already apologised to me,” I replied.

“We’ve been reassured he will be punished appropriately by the faculty. Sounds as though he’s a natural troublemaker.” I mean, he was a bit quiet and made some fairly coarse jokes at times but troublemaker seemed a bit far. I didn’t say anything though, the last I wanted was for Daniel to be upset with me like mum. Caroline appeared at my side suddenly and introduced herself to Daniel.

“Nice to meet one of Allen’s friends,” he said. “I would’ve spoken to you yesterday but after the debacle I got quite caught up I admit.”

“Understandable, Allen’s your son after all,” she replied. “I know yesterday went badly but it’s the first time anything like that has happened here. I’ve been doing my best to look after everyone – make sure they eat their veggies.” At the last part she shot Charlie a look. Her response to stick out her tongue.

“Haha, little young aren’t you?” he asked.

“I’m fourteen, but my mum made sure I knew how to look after myself from a young age,” she replied. “I’ve also been going to church with Allen.” I blinked because that was an outright lie, not that I was going to say anything.

“Oh, you’re devout Christian?” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised. Caroline nodded, smile still in place. I’d known Caroline was personable but the magic before my eyes was insane. We reached the auditorium at that point so the conversation had to stop. Daniel seemed a lot less uncomfortable when we sat down and listened to the headmaster.

“Good to see a strong women of colour in a position of power,” Daniel murmured next to me as she spoke. “Speaks highly of the school.”

“It really is a nice place,” I whispered back. He considered my words as the headteacher gave a presentation on the school’s ethos, the staff and the lessons. I caught momentary disgust on his face at the site of aliens in powerpoint but he didn’t comment on it. After the presentation we walked around the grounds together for a bit, not saying much of anything.

“They really let Tzaris in?” he asked, frowning. I followed his line of sight to the gym. I recognised Shekaree and Sasha.

“She’s actually pretty nice once you speak to her,” I said without thinking.

“And that Itharii in your house?”

“Think a eight year old who asks questions about everything,” I joked. Daniel didn’t laugh though, lines deepening on his face.

“This school is diversity gone mad…” he murmured. “But,” he continued with a sigh, “You seem to be happy here, and you’ve made some good friends.”

“Does this mean you’ll drop Myrmidon?” I asked.

“For now. If something else like yesterday happens then it’s another matter,” he said. It was a negotiation I could live with. I walked him to the main gates where he had a taxi waiting.

“Can I come to the hotel? I’d like to say goodbye to mum,” I asked.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. We’ll see you home for thanksgiving,” Daniel replied, getting into the car. “Take care son,” he said with a nod. I returned it and the car left. I watched the headlights for a bit before leaving the gates.

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