March began in Winter’s clutches still, Siberian weather flooding the British Isles with thunderous winds and snow so heavy it packed itself onto every available surface, a smothering blanket of flakes turning everything white for days. When the sky finally cleared from the apocalyptic yellow-tinged grey, the sun beat down on the snow with enough strength to tan skin. Still the cold persisted and it was days before it cleared, and weeks longer until the clumps in the shadows of buildings and trees bled away. The weathermen ended their frothing excitement over the beast and returned to their usual programme of apologising for the rain and forgetting that anywhere North of the border the temperature was never as balmy as they promised for the South.
After more than a week off school and work, the house was bustling again. Mornings were chaos, but it was the sort of chaos one would find in nature, and if you were to look closely you would discover delightful order, a pattern in the routines and rushing footsteps throughout the house, a sense of a dance, perfected years ago, being performed in the smallest of time frames.
Lukas was often out of the house before the others had yet to rouse. Sleepiness still clung to the rooms, the odd beep of an alarm being slapped into submission. By the time he was ready, Echo was awake, and they paused in their separate melodies to press their lips together, a wistful swapping of desires, their routines freezing the outside world for just the moment it took to weave together for the briefest of touches, and then they parted and the music sped up once more.
Echo always found herself yelling into the downstairs bedroom. Quinn’s bed, at this point, was already cold. He had sneaked out at the first alarm, cocooned himself in the warmth of a shower, and then found somewhere to curl up while he read or daydreamed. It was his brother that was hell to drag into the unforgiving cold of the day.
He would eventually slouch through for breakfast, bleary eyed and grunting, desperately waving a hand through his hair to tame the extraordinary bed head he cultivated each night. His food was often ignored in favour of bitter coffee, cupping the warm china in one hand while, on the other, he tried to rest his head and drift back into unconsciousness.
In contrast, Isabelle needed no such aid. Echo knew from experience that she would already be out of the shower by this time, the noisy whirr of the hairdryer creeping down the stairs, the quiet study of makeup following. Isabelle would float into the kitchen with a kind of grace that Echo secretly believed was reserved for vampires or for royals. She’d bless them all with a sweet smile and then reach in to tease her brother awake, pinching his cheek playfully and sticking out her tongue when he groaned for mercy.
The three of them didn’t always need words, as attuned to each other’s looks and behaviours as they were. Echo wondered sometimes if it was the bond of being triplets or if she was simply blessed with teenagers that tended to get along more often than not – although the consequence for this was that on the occasion when a storm was trapped inside the house, friction sparking off every touch, the triplets flung barbs at one another without mercy, knowing exactly how to dig thorns underneath skin.
Ayr finished his last scalding gulp after a black hole of a yawn, peeling his eyes open to watch as Echo put leftovers in boxes for her children. They were both bathed in the yellow light of the rising sun.
“Shanna?” he asked, scratching sleep away from his eyes. And this was where the dance could vary. If Echo shook her head, Ayr would drift to the study where he could doze to the comforting sounds of his brother’s breathing, the familiarity of his precise turn of a page lulling Ayr to peacefulness. Quinn’s finger would scrape the corner of a page, curl underneath, and then push it over, each movement accompanied by a whisper of paper.
If she sighed or murmured ‘please’ under her breath, Ayr would muddle his way upstairs, sleep making his focus – and therefore his dyspraxia – worse. He would catch his feet a couple of times on the lip of the step, dull metallic thuds echoing the complaints from Ayr. He’d scratch a couple of times at the door, alerting his youngest sister to his presence, and then he’d duck in to the room.
Isabelle’s and Shanna’s shared room was, to Ayr, a complete tip. It was different from his familiar pigsty; he had no idea how the girls found anything in this room. Despite the clear floors, every shelf and drawer was packed tight to the brim, the dressing table cluttered with Isabelle’s make up and textbooks. Shanna existed in a small corner. Ayr was convinced that she’d melt into the walls if she could.
Her little faced peeked out from under the covers, screwed up in annoyance when Ayr flicked the light on. He could see the bags under her eyes, the dark smudges a physical clue to her distress. With a wicked grin he would fling the covers back, cackling at her squeals, and bounce down on the bed beside her.
“C’mon monkey,” he said, tickling under her chin. She squirreled away from him but he pushed the duvet back further, giving her no reprieve, even going so far as to open the blinds next to her bed. “Up you get.”
“I don’t want to go,” she sniffed, burying into his side as the sun’s glow hit them full force.
Shanna – almost a full five years younger than the three of them – maintained that she loved all her siblings equally. Ayr not-so-secretly reckoned it was the Animal Farm sort of equality, where he was more equal than others, but Shanna firmly corrected him each time. Isabelle was her big sister, and anything girly she’d ask her about. Even though her older sister existed on another plane, as amazing and unattainable as celebrities, she would always bridge that gap for Shanna. And Quinn was there for any of her geeky needs, or for school work, or just for someone to sit in silence with.
But Ayr had replaced her teddy bear from the age of three, and Shanna treated him like a diary. She could tell him anything. And she would, too. This was how he ended up here some mornings, after her nightmares were so bad she didn’t want to get up, in perpetual fear of them becoming true.
“What was it today?” Ayr asked, drawing her close to his chest. He felt her shudder, a little wisp of a girl in his arms, and tightened his hold.
“That I was lost and all alone,” she whispered, clutching at his jumper.
“Let’s think about this,” Ayr said, as he always did, and rocked her from one side to another. “Where are you going today?”
“School,” she murmured.
“And how are you getting there?”
“The bus, with you and Iz and Quinn.”
“And how are you getting back?”
“On the bus,” she answered dutifully, wriggling out of his vice-like grip to peer up at him with mousey eyes.
“And do you know what we would do if you didn’t get on the bus at your school’s stop this afternoon?” Ayr prompted, his lips unfurling into the sort of grin one might expect was inspired by the Cheshire Cat.
“No…” Shanna said, freezing.
And then they both moved as one, Shanna leaping off the bed with a squeal as Ayr dove for her, clumsily snatching her back into his arms and pulling her up to his chest. She protested between giggles as Ayr swung her around, making the kind of noise more suited for someone’s fake Bigfoot video. Eventually Shanna squirmed enough that she fell out of his loosening grip, and she darted for her clothes and danced away from Ayr before he could grab her again.
“Would you really do that to the bus driver if I wasn’t there?” she asked, bouncing from one foot to the next. Ayr crouched down until he was eye level with her, snarling all the way, giving her his best fierce expression.
“Worse!” he growled, his hands inching towards her, fingers writhing like worms. She squeaked and hopped away from his tickling, running away from him and into the bathroom where she slammed and locked the door.
Ayr chuckled to himself and slid down the banister to return back downstairs, swinging by his room to slide his laptop into his school bag. Mornings weren’t his favourite, but some days they weren’t so bad.
“Let me see the drawing again, sweetheart,” Echo said, tucking wispy strands of hair behind her ears. In the warm light of the fire, roaring happily behind its grate, her son’s freckles were highlighted against his tan skin.
Quinn leaned forward to slip it off the table he was working next to and passed it up to her. She hummed and traced her finger over the outfit, imagining how to apply it to her son’s scrawny frame. There were many benefits to having Echo as a mother, and one of them that her costume design skills made her a perfect partner for creating cosplays. It was something they had bonded over for many hours over many years, a nice hobby for them both to share; an open secret. She crossed one ankle over another and made some adjustments to her own drawing.
“It certainly is an interesting weapon he has here,” Echo murmured, eyeing the coiled blade. Quinn grinned at her and bounced a little at the opportunity to share his particular facet of geekdom, introduced to him by his father who had one year discovered a hobby Echo could not share, no matter how much she tried. She loved the improvisation of story telling on the stage, in comedy, but when it involved make-believe characters that she couldn’t visualise so easily, a set piece entirely in the mind, it was one too many stretches of imagination for her. “I didn’t realise dungeons and dragons could be so, ah, flexible?”
“Sounds lovely,” she said, pushing a thread through the eye of a needle. “You’ve talked to your uncles about staying in Glasgow for the convention?”
“I think Law’s foaming at the mouth at the chance to talk to me one-on-one about his latest biological project,” Quinn snorted, remembering hearing his Uncle’s excitement down the phone. His uncle was a mild man, but it was easy to find the emotion once you knew what to look for.
“You are the only one in this house, other than your father, who has a hope of understanding it,” Echo laughed, reaching out for the warm drink next to her before remembering that she’d finished it half an hour ago.
“Even then, it’s a bit of a stretch,” Quinn muttered. “He tries his best to explain it in layman’s terms, but I think he’s forgotten what the average high schooler knows about biology.”
“You’re hardly average, love,” Echo hummed, glancing up when she heard movement in the kitchen. It was the light steps of her husband, a leftover grace from his days as a vampire – not that the children knew that, of course. Not yet.
Lukas drifted though the arches and leaned against the side of one. “Drink?” he asked.
“Please,” Echo said, picking up her cup and holding it out with a smile. “Tea, if you would.”
“Of course,” Lukas said, playfully posh, saluting her with the empty cup. On the floor, Quinn snorted at their banter.
“Me too, please,” he said, and his father nodded, leaning over briefly to look at the prop he was painting.
“Looks good,” he said. “I hope you didn’t listen to the new episode just yet.”
“Later tonight?” Quinn asked, glancing up as he held his piece a little closer to the fire to dry.
Lukas nodded in agreement and left to make their drinks, placing them into their eager hands and kissing Echo’s forehead on his way out again. Quinn went back to his work, contented warmth in every inch of his body.
“Would you like to invite your girlfriend around for dinner?” Lukas asked, glancing at his daughter over his glasses. She was painting her nails fastidiously, not even glancing up as she replied.
“Carey? No, I broke up with her last weekend.” Isabelle scrunched her face up, pushing her glasses further up her nose, and continued her precise work.
“Oh,” Lukas frowned, wondering why he was always the last to know these things. Well, he supposed, as the father, the answer was obvious. “I’m sorry, mija.”
“No, it’s fine.” And Isabelle did pause then, her brush hovering above her nail. She gave her father an unreadable look, or perhaps it was only unreadable because he didn’t want to see the sadness clinging there. “She just wasn’t – it wasn’t… ugh. It’s never been like I imagined. You know?” She wrinkled her nose and spread the brush with painstaking slowness over her thumbnail. “Maybe you don’t know. I mean, you and mum had such a romantic story…” Wistfulness pooled on her words, like dew on grass.
Lukas frowned as he reached over to turn the hob down. He tended to take care of the evening meals, though Echo loved to cook more than he did, but he maintained that it was only fair since she was the one to herd the teenagers (and almost-teenager) to school in the mornings. He had only had that privilege a few times and it had been worse than herding cats.
The story wasn’t as easy as Isabelle thought it was, and with any luck it would remain that way. He didn’t share Echo’s opinion that they should know. It was the only thing they’d ever truly argued about. “Everything is romantic if you romanticise it,” Lukas said, lips curling with faint amusement. “Sometimes its fireworks and sometimes it’s just a fire. Both are true.”
Isabelle blew on her nails. “I didn’t really feel like it was right,” she said instead, apologetically. Her father was right, and she knew that she probably put so much pressure on something perfect, but growing up with the stories of her family and their relationships, of all the books she’d read where everything seemed so much better, much simpler, more exciting – well, who could blame her?
“I’m going to head out and read for a bit,” she said, standing up and shaking her nails. “I’ll be back in time for dinner.” She blew her father a kiss and he murmured a goodbye, watching as she grabbed the book never too far from her person.
Isabelle curled her scarf tighter around her, slipping into a jacket and then out of the door. There was a hint of warmth in the air, but no more than that; the sky was cloudy but for a change there was no pressure associated with rain. The brush of wind was pleasant, though Isabelle still needed the extra layer if she was going to be still for a while, as was inevitable when faced with a good book.
She walked down the road and hummed to herself, curling an ear bud up through her scarf to hook into place, listening to something upbeat as she walked the mile that ended just outside the town hall of their town, which they lived on the outskirts of. There was an old oak tree that was some many hundreds of years old, which Isabelle had loved to sit against and read under for years. It was her typical haunt, and where she had met Carey as the girl had passed her and then backtracked to say hi. Isabelle had thought maybe this was it, only to find later that there was no spark. But a meet-cute like that should have lead to more excitement on her part, right?
It was as she was puzzling through this that she turned the corner and crossed the road with no more than a cursory look, the road and its many crumbling pot holes as quiet as usual. She rounded the wall and stopped in surprise.
Underneath the emerging buds of the oak tree, sitting on a folded blanket, a boy sat in her space. He was clearly not from around here – and that was no statement on his dark skin, but on the fact that Isabelle had never seen him before, and their town wasn’t a tourist destination by any stretch of the imagination. It was also unlikely that there was someone she hadn’t met before, as the town barely brushed a few thousand, and Isabelle had lived here her entire life.
He should have been in school, too, but more than that: there was no way she wouldn’t have noticed him before.
High, sharp cheekbones, small and dark eyes, long fingers flicking the pages of a book Isabelle didn’t recognise. He had an alien look about him, a sort of confident air that was rare – if not impossible – to find in a teenager.
“You could,” he said, and Isabelle started at the crisp, well enunciated words, “take a picture, if you’re really that intent in gaping at me.”
Isabelle reared back at the surly tone. The boy spoke English with the kind of care that came from not being native, a flawless pronunciation that spoke of no accent whatsoever. Despite the acidity oozing from him, Isabelle was curious.
And at a loss. Her usual composure failed her. “Sorry, it’s just… you’re in my space.”
The boy’s eyes flicked up from his book and raked over her. She had no idea if he liked what he saw, but she felt inadequate anyway. He made a point of twisting to look at the tree behind him.
“My apologies,” he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes back to hers, “but there doesn’t seem to be a sign here saying that. And so I will continue reading here, in peace, if it’s all the same to you.” He clearly didn’t care if it was or not, but he returned to his book and it was like she had stopped existing.
Isabelle narrowed her eyes and stomped over. The boy didn’t look up again, but she could see him tense; his shoulders became tight, jaw bulging as his teeth grit together. She went to the side of the tree instead, the one with a worse view and less shelter, and stubbornly set her blanket up to read for an hour before she had to return.
No more words were said between them, and Isabelle found it impossible to read with the obnoxious – but magnetic – personality next to her.
And so the generation truly begins!
For those who don’t know, dyspraxia is a condition which affects balance, co-ordination, and a whole host of other things. If any of you watch Dr Who (which you should absolutely be doing because its? actually good this season? what?) one of the companions, Ryan, has it. This was what inspired me, though I also know someone IRL with it.
I’m still messing around with ReShade and my editing style, so forgive any inconsistencies within the lighting of scenes, especially with Ayr/Shanna. I was just experimenting!
Finally with tumblr going tits up, I wanted to give a shout out to some lovely people new(ish) to wordpress. My dearest AureliaMoon, Igglemouse, and PixelatedDreamz are totally worth checking out if you’re looking for new friends. I believe Igglemouse will soon be posting on blogger as her legacy doesn’t shy away from NSFW, but I definitely recommend checking these wonderful people out if you haven’t already 🙂