“It’s cold out there today, Law. Make sure you take a jacket with you,” Kane said, as he came into the kitchen. He rubbed his hands together to warm them up; moments ago he had been taking their bins out for the morning and watched as his breath had condensed in front of him. It looked likely to warm up later in the day, as it had been in the week, but for now the cold was a bite in the air and frost hugged the ground.
“I’m not five,” Law snapped back, and he sensed more than heard his father sucking in a deep breath. Law shoved the cupboard closed with more force than necessary, the loud bang echoing in the sudden silence.
“Alright,” Kane muttered, rubbing his forehead in irritation.
“Shall we talk when you’ve calmed down, later?” Kane said reasonably, but it had the opposite effect; Law saw a red mist descend on his vision and spun around.
“What if I don’t calm down?” he asked through gritted teeth. “God knows I’ve been calm and careful about asking you questions before now. Where did that get me?”
Kane’s lips thinned and in an uncomfortable flash Law saw the hints of evidence that his father wasn’t as young as he once was in some faint wrinkles. Not that he was old by most parents’ standards, but it gave Law reason to pause as he wondered if he was being inconsiderate.
But wasn’t his father the one being inconsiderate?
“Law,” Kane said, voice firm, as if just saying his name would placate the teenager. “There’s nothing you need to know about your mother, I promise you. She’s not important.”
Law made a noise of disgust and turned to retrieve his toast, brushing his father’s useless, empty words off with a wave of his hand. “Nothing I need to know? A name, maybe? Since you must have known her for nine months at least, I’d be surprised if you managed not to learn it. Unless I was just a random kid you took in from a woman, I guess.”
“LAW!” Kane’s raised voice made him look over his shoulder, and Law was satisfied to see his father was shocked. “You are not a random kid. You’re my son.”
Law decided that if he had to choose between going to school without breakfast or with breakfast (and more arguments with his father), he’d prefer the former. He abandoned his toast, his stomach grumbling in disappointment, and as he passed his father he turned to him.
“You know, I’d understand if I was adopted, or a secret baby, or a mistake, whatever. Life happens. But the fact you don’t want to tell me makes this an issue. Everyone else knows who their mum is. I must be one of the only kids in the damn world who doesn’t.”
Kane sighed, hands fiddling with the hem of his top. He couldn’t meet his son’s eyes, because he was right. “Law, please, just –“
“I’m done listening to you,” Law snapped, grabbing his bag on the way out.
Kane wiped a hand over his face and wondered if all parents felt this shit after arguing with their child. He had to have known this was coming, but what could he say? He didn’t want to lie to Law, but what if he gave Faye’s name out only to have Law track her down? She hadn’t wanted anything to do with him, and she didn’t deserve him now even if she’d changed her mind.
Kane couldn’t perceive a world in which Faye had grown as a person. She was Faye, and Faye was a constant. Even if she wanted to spend time with Law, she’d probably change him irrevocably just because that was her nature. And what would Law think if Kane told him not to track her down? To have to tell his son that he hadn’t been wanted by the woman who brought him into the world…
Kane knew what it was like not to feel wanted. He’d do anything to spare his son that experience, no matter what.
“I get your reasoning,” Jasmine said slowly, sipping her beer in the afternoon sun. The weather was on the cusp of being too cold to sit outside, and indeed they were the only people doing it at the bakery-slash-café-slash-pub, but the peace was nice.
Kane took a swig of his cider and leaned back in the chair, its plastic creaking in quiet disapproval. “But?” he asked with a sigh.
“But Law doesn’t, because he doesn’t know Faye. I think if you present the issue in the right way, he’ll get it. He’s a curious boy, Kane, I can’t imagine him dropping this any time soon.”
Kane stood up and tucked one of his hands into his hoodie pockets, the fleece warming the cool tips of his fingers. He stared over at the stage which sometimes hosted live music or comedians for the village, lost in thought.
“Do you think he’s asking because he wants to know his mother didn’t want him? No, he’s asking because he wants the answer that she had to give him up, or she loved us but – I don’t know – was already married, or whatever. In what world is being told you’re not wanted by your own mother not going to hurt?”
Jasmine clasped her beer in both hands, sidling up to him. “I don’t know that ignorance is better, though.”
Kane took a drink and let the fizzy liquid slide down his throat. “I do,” he said darkly.
Jasmine sighed softly and Kane glanced over to her, struck by the way the low sunlight illuminated her cute face, making her green eyes dance. He felt himself relax as she smiled at him, noticing that he was looking at her, and Kane was thrown by the wave of gratitude and fondness that rushed him. Could he imagine a life where Jasmine had never rented his extra bedroom? Could he imagine not having her by his side as his closest friend? She was patient and warm and abundantly kind. She loved finding the fun in things, and she was so fun. She was bright sunshine and comfy breakfasts in bed and, best of all, she adored Law.
“I love you,” Kane murmured.
Jas’ cheeks turned red. She brushed hair behind her ear, head ducking, and gave her secret, small, true smile. “I love you too, Kane.”
She half hugged him, leaning against his back as they watched the colours in the sky change as the sun dipped closer to the horizon. Both of them fell silent, listening to the distant noise of the other patrons from inside, the spitting of the fire, the twittering birds, and the babbling of a close by brook.
“I’d never thought I’d love this place again.”
“This building in particular, or the village?”
“The village,” Jas murmured, resting her head on his shoulder. “There was just so much out in the world that seemed better when I left. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, now.” She curled her fingers into his pocket, linking with his. “I want to stay here with you, Kane. I want to have a house with you, and I want to have a lovely summer wedding with you, and I want to make a bigger family with you…” She giggled suddenly. “And do all the things that helps to make a family…”
Kane – who had been holding his breath as he’d listened to her declaration – chuckled. “You can put me down for all of that. All of it, but especially the last bit.”
“Half an hour?” Law interrupted, knowing Rhoan was going to overexaggerate the time like he was prone to do. Usually Law would play along with him, but today he wasn’t in the mood. He hadn’t spoken to his father at all the day before, after their morning argument, and had successfully avoided him before school today. He knew that he’d been difficult to deal with today especially, but couldn’t quite bring himself to care.
“It felt a lot longer,” Rhoan said, squinting up at the sky as he thought. “By at least a few years. Anyway, I thought I’d walk you to the bus stop.”
Law paused and narrowed his eyes. “The bus stop that is right outside the school?”
“Well, okay, keep you company until your next bust came. Jeez. Is this the Spanish inquisition?”
Rhoan tilted his head to the side. “What?”
Tutting, Law shook his head. “How do you never get references?”
“How do you never…” Rhoan screwed up his face as he flailed for a comeback. “Get… a B! Hah, fucken got ‘em.”
Law rolled his eyes at his friend’s antics. “What are you really here for? Eilidh’s number, or something?”
Rhoan pressed his forefinger to his lips thoughtfully. “If you’re offering it to me, I’ll definitely not say no. But I’m not entirely sure she’s into me. I tried to ask her for coffee and she shot me down without even blinking. Shot me through the heart, dude.”
“She probably didn’t realise you meant for a date. She’s as oblivious as you are,” Law laughed.
Rhoan grinned. “Well, that makes me feel better. But,” he said, punching Law playfully, “I’m not that oblivious. Okay, so I can be, shut up, what I’m trying to say is that I think you could use some cheering up.”
“So are you going to take me hostage with your poor company until I agree to smile?” Law asked, raising an eyebrow, and felt his cheeks warm as Rhoan gave his best, most dazzling smile and hooked an arm around him.
“You got it, friend. But I twisted my ankle in PE. So you can carry me to the bus stop. Bridal style or piggyback, it’s your choice.”
Rhoan hopped onto Law’s back, hooking his arms around his front. “My foot really does hurt though.”
“I thought you said it was your ankle?”
“Foot, ankle, it’s all the same.”
“It’s really not,” Law said, straight faced, and shrieked as Rhoan bent down to blow a raspberry in the crook of his neck in retaliation.
Rhoan gasped in delight. “You’re ticklish!” He repeated his act and Law dropped him, reaching up to clear his neck of saliva with an outraged laugh.
“Aw, my foot-ankle!” Rhoan cried.
“I hate you,” Law returned, still laughing.
“Mr Savio?” Law asked, ducking into the science lab where his meeting was to take place. Mr. Savio – or Luke, as Mr Cooperman had referred to him as – was a young looking professional who, Law reckoned, had some continental blood in him if the last name was any clue. He was dressed in smart casual, and yet he looked like he could go to any kind of function in the outfit. It must have been tailored to him, or something, because there was no way he looked that much like a model in high street clothes.
“Ah, Law, is it?”
His accent marked him as a typical southern Englishman, though there was a hint of something Law couldn’t quite identify.
“Brilliant. I’ve heard Solomon sing your praises many times, Law. I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but he’s very impressed with you. From a man that deals with exceptional young people every day, that is no small thing.”
Law felt himself blushing at the compliment. “Thank you, sir.”
“Please, call me Luke. I’m too used to university lecturing to respond to ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Savio’.”
Rather than apologising, Law nodded. “How long have you been lecturing?” he asked in surprise.
A secret smile. “A while,” Luke replied.
Law filed this away for later. Alongside Mr. Cooperman (or Solomon) telling Law that he and Luke were old friends, this piece of interesting information made Law wonder if Lukas had once been a student here.
Before he could ask, Luke went on. “I’m going to be honest with you, Law. What I’m really looking for is someone who is passionate and brilliant enough about viruses to help me with a project that I’m very interested in. Of course I am very happy to lecture you in all areas of biological science that I teach at university, but this is my true hope for our work together.”
“Sir – Luke, sorry – I can tell you that I’ve loved science since I was little. I don’t expect that to change, whatever I’m learning. I’d love to work with you, if you think I’m capable.”
Luke smiled knowingly. “Law, I think of all the students I’ve met, you’re the most capable. I’ve seen your essays and literature reviews. I’ll let you in on a little secret-“
“In the faculty of sciences, when marking papers, you are advised never to give out anything above an eighty five or ninety for papers. There is always room for improvement, and students are rarely insightful or knowledgeable enough to surprise the lecturer. However, I think your papers could have attained those scores. And higher, with some more tutoring.”
Law flushed again, trying to keep the smug grin off his face.
“Now, if you have any questions…?”
“Nothing I can think of,” Law said honestly. “At least not about our work together. I have plenty about your work, but I think they’ll be answered in time.”
“Most definitely,” Luke smiled warmly. “Let’s get some chairs and look at our schedules.”
They spent the remaining time trying to wrangle their various busy schedules to fit together, and by the end of it Law had scribbled all over his printed planner about which electives he needed to change the times of and when he had to squeeze lunch into a twenty minute period. He would sacrifice lunch altogether if it meant he got more time with Luke, who was both a very interesting man and a very good opportunity, but Luke insisted he wouldn’t let that happen. Besides, he would have to travel from the university over lunchtimes, although one of their sessions would take place over video chat due to the time constraints.
Law left feeling both elated and, very quickly, unhappy. He would have loved to have gone home and share the news with his father. Kane had always supported Law with everything he wanted to do, even when Law knew money was tight or he was tired. Law knew, of course, that not everyone had brilliant parents. In fact he had no idea if his father had even had good parents but he’d assumed they’d been dead before Law was born. Now he wondered if his father wasn’t mentioning any relatives for a reason.
What if after all this time he found out that he had them?
Law blinked out of his thoughts to realise that he was no longer alone in the study room that he frequented whenever he had time to kill. It was less used than the other room, primarily because of its awkward position in the school (it was pressed between classrooms and had no natural light) but also because students weren’t allowed to tack things onto walls like in the other one.
“I heard you landed a really cool opportunity to study biology with a professor, or something.”
“Yeah… I did.”
Chase frowned. “So where’s the Piña coladas?”
“It’s fine,” Law shrugged. “Just home stuff.”
Chase’s concern doubled, which was not what Law had intended. His gaze zeroed in on Law’s discomfort and ran up and down his exposed skin, eyebrows drawing together in worry.
“Everything’s fine,” Law quickly said, though Chase remained unconvinced. “It’s just my dad. He’s… annoying me.”
“Oh,” Chase said, relief relaxing his features. He leaned his chin on his hand, his other resting on the cream fabric of the sofa. He fiddled with his black rings and asked, “do you want to talk about it?”
“There’s not much to talk about,” Law grumbled. “Hence why I’m so mad at him.”
Chase frowned again, but rather than it being borne of concern it was confusion.
“My dad… doesn’t talk about my mum. Like I told you. But it’s… I mean… Literally, he doesn’t talk about her.” Law suddenly stopped himself, wondering what on earth had come over him to open up about something he hadn’t even fully explained to Rhoan yet. Chase blinked as he realised Law wasn’t about to go on, but Law hurriedly stood up. “I need to head to my next class. Sorry.” It wasn’t a lie, at least, but he just could have left it another five minutes.
“Hey, slow down,” Chase said soothingly. “Sometimes things help if they’re talked about. Not that you have to, but…” He shrugged. “If you need an unbiased ear…” He left the suggestion hanging, looking up at Law with an open and encouraging expression, and Law found that he didn’t want to leave as much as he’d first thought.
“Thanks, but… I’m fine.”
Chase pulled himself back and gave a slow nod, his eyes still searching Law’s. Law felt himself grow warm and uncomfortable.
“The offer’s there.”
Law tried to make light of the situation and forced himself to smile. “Are you like… the family therapist?”
Rather than his poor joke getting even a pity grin, Chase rubbed the line of his nose up to his forehead a few times with a sigh.
Law felt a wave of awkwardness come over him, which was a rare and unwelcome change. He shuffled from one foot to the other and bit down on his lip. “Sorry, I was just…” Law told himself to ask the question, not to be a coward, but sometimes it was hard to know what to do in a situation with a person you didn’t really know well. “Hey, are you okay?”
Chase looked up and caught Law’s indecisive (but still genuine, he hoped) expression, and laughed. “Yeah, kid, I’m fine.”
“Kid?” Law muttered, which only made Chase grin further.
“I’m almost two years older than you, right?” Chase laughed at Law’s disgruntled expression. “Well now I know it annoys you so much, I’ll make sure to use it more.”
“Seriously though, are you?”
Chase smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Cross my heart and hope to die. I appreciate your concern, though. Thanks.”
The conversation was getting a bit open and weird for Law, so he decided he best quit while he was ahead, and get to his next class on time. He waved to Chase and slipped out of the door.
So last weekend I wrote like three more chapters. We’ll be having a chapter a week for a little while!