by Marco Craig
In the works. About a young man looking for purpose and the girl that helps him find it.
As Todd pulled into the driveway of his suburban home, he let out a sigh, grateful that another day of work was over. Ever since he graduated high school a few weeks prior, his work at a pizza shop was one of the only things that depressed Todd. He grew bored of it by the second week after being hired. Now was no different. He let it go though. At least it was a source of income.
He walked inside and greeted his mom She looked up from preparing dinner and gave him a warm smile. “How was work?”
“Boring.” Todd walked into the kitchen where his mom was, opened the fridge, pulled out a pop, and moved to the table. He practically collapsed on one of the chairs and cracked open his long awaited drink.
“Again? It can’t be that bad.”
“It is, always.” It was actually more boring now that his hours were longer due to the time afforded by break. “It’s always boring.”
“At least you get paid. And more than minimum.”
“Yeah, but most of it is going to college.”
“Do you still want to go to Crofton?”
“I guess. It’s the cheapest.” It was a liberal arts college, only twenty-five minutes away, with a tuition of only ten-thousand dollars. “I don’t know where else I would go.”
“Have you figured out what you want to study? That should be what determines your college.” She said this with in a parental kind of way, which helped not at all. She went to the fridge and put the night’s dinner in until later. “You need to figure this out,” she said looking at her hands as she washed them, “You only have so long. Have you applied to any other schools?”
Todd finished a swallow. “Only Harrisburg and OSU.” He finished off the can, somewhat saddened that it was gone already. “Neither has responded yet.”
She turned around and looked at him, giving him an expression to match her lecturing tone. “Well, you need to decide what you want to do with yourself.” She began to leave to attend another chore. Todd didn’t turn his gaze from the spot on the table.
Something moved in the window outside, catching Todd’s attention. The front door opened, and without waiting to be invited, Matt walked into the foyer. He looked to his right, the living room, and then to his left into the kitchen, “Hey!”
Todd turned around, grateful that something had come to fill up the time Todd had between then and the end of the day. “Way to not knock.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry. But it’s not like you would have not let me in.”
Matt took a seat across from Todd as his mom walked back into the kitchen. “Well, hello Matt. Todd, I’ll have dinner ready at seven. Do you think you will be eating with Matt, or,” she turned to Todd’s friend, “do you want to eat here?”
Matt answered first: “I’ll eat here, if you don’t mind.” She never did.
“Well you two can do whatever till seven. I think Jake isn’t using the TV.”
Todd looked at Matt at a loss for ideas of his own. Matt pulled out a hacky-sack from his pocket. “I say we go outside and do this until one of us comes up with a better idea.” Todd stood up, tossed his pop can into the trash, and joined Matt.
They had been at it for ten minutes when Todd noticed a moving van pull into the driveway of a house down the street. His momentary distraction almost lost them the three minute streak they had going. He managed to catch the oncoming hackey-sack with his foot. He bounced it up to his knee, then to his other knee, and back to Matt. He, who had noticed the van first, asked Todd if he knew who the family was yet.
“No idea. All I knew was that the place had been sold. The previous owners wanted to go out to Califonia.”
Shortly after the van had passed, a white minivan came slowly passing down the street. Matt kicked the hackey-sack up and grabbed it, wanting to see the new family that would share the neighborhood, and pointed toward it. Todd turned to look.
In the front were a couple; the husband looking around at the other houses, the wife turned around to look back at someone else. As the car came closer, the woman turned around and noticed Todd and Matt. She indicated this to her husband and they both smiled and waved. In turn, Matt and Todd did likewise. The car kept on and the two in front looked on to the rest of the neighbor hood, but then the back of the car came into view. In the back seat sat a little girl and a huge St. Bernard. Both of them were filled with the excitement of a new home. While the dog maintained a dog’s usual expression, the girl’s eyes were bright and wide. Then she saw the two. She made a huge grin and waved emphatically while the dog fixed his gaze on Todd and Matt. Eventually, the dog went back to looking around, but the girl kept smiling and waving at them. She only turned around when the car began to pull into the driveway of her new home.
“Well, they seem nice,” Matt commented as he began to bounce the hackey-sack around again.
“Yeah. I’ll bet they are.”
Todd, the next day, sat in front of his TV, looking at what he could find which was next to nothing. Not having to work that day, filling time was all he could think of to do. His mom walked in, taking note of his lethargic state, and leaned against the door frame. “Why don’t you go outside?”
Todd flipped to some random channel and kept his half-minded gaze on the TV. “What’s outside?”
“You could say hello to our new neighbors.”
“Who are they again?”
“Where are they from?”
“Montana. At least get outside and do something. You look pathetic.” He glanced at her, struck by her blatant honesty. She sat down on their lounge chair, picked up a magazine, and began to flip through it.
Todd stood up. She had a point. He pushed the OFF button on the remote and tossed it on the couch. “Well, I’m just going to walk to Matt’s house. He and I can figure something out when I get there.”
She continued to look at the magazine. “That’s fine. Call and let me know what you are doing for dinner.”
Todd walked outside. The sudden sun and breeze made him think of college again, but he didn’t know why. It angered him, though. He stopped, contemplating. No it wasn’t college that bothered him. Something else. Having not gone far, Todd sat down on his front lawn. Something was out of place. He thought back, thinking of something he might be looking for.
He went back to college. He was pretty set on going to Crofton. Harrisburg and OSU didn’t even seem like viable options for him. Todd didn’t really think that much about what he wanted from college. He wasn’t even sure he knew what he wanted to do with his life. Was that it, not knowing what to…
No. Even deeper.
It began to bother him more that he didn’t know what he didn’t have than not having it. What didn’t he have? He graduated, was going to college, could choose from any number of majors, had a family and friends. But what could…
Todd looked up from the spot on the ground. The new neighbor girl was walking toward him, dragging a shiny red wagon along with a stuffed bunny sitting within it. Beside her was the St. Bernard, just as droopy-eyed and tongue-baring as when Todd first saw him. “I was just thinking.”
She stopped in front of him. “What were you thinking about?” She had a strange worried look on her face.
Todd stood up. The girl’s questioning expression was still fixed on his face. He glanced across the street to where her house was. Her mom was sitting on their porch, reading a book. She looked over and waved. They both waved back. “I was thinking…well, what’s your name?”
“Jenny,” she answered with a sunny smile.
“Hello, Jenny. I’m Todd.”
She responded with a giggle, but then her expression grew serious again. “But what were you thinking?”
Todd began to answer, but the dog caught his attention. It began to move its head to look at something around its head. He looked at Jenny again: “What’s he doing? It is a he, right?”
Jenny began to pet the dog’s head, which lessened his trying to see whatever it was. “Yeah. His name’s Percy. He’s just looking at the fairies.” She turned her face toward his again with a smile.
“Yeah. He watches the fairies all the time. Even in the house. The fairies are always wanting to play with him.”
Todd went along with it. “Really? Do you like fairies?”
“Oh, I love fairies,” she said emphatically, “They are soooo much fun to watch, and they tell you things.”
Todd sat back down on the grass. “They tell you things?”
Jenny gently pushed the stuffed bunny to the back of the wagon and sat down on it. “Yeah. They say all kinds of things.”
“What do they say?”
“Well, sometimes they tell you what the weather is like in the desert or about the other forest animals and…” She stopped, stood up, and looked to her left, but then leaned to her left and made a face like she was straining to listen. “Uhuh, uhuh. Okay.” She looked at Todd with a big grin, almost laughing. “This one,” she held out her hands, cupped to hold something, “says he wants to be your friend.” Then she jumped in joy while her eyes grew even wider than they already were. “Do you want a fairy friend?”
Todd knew saying no would be mean, and he didn’t want to make the neighbors hate him already, so he agreed: “Yeah, I’ll take the fairy.”
“Okay,” Jenny said with another big grin. “His name is Ezemy, and he’s a red fairy. His favorite food is berries.” She said this as she stood in front of him and again held out her cupped hands. “Here are some berries to feed him.” Todd slowly cupped his hands and held them out under Jenny’s. “Here you go.” She opened her hands and let the invisible berries fall into Todd’s.
“Okay. Thank you. You said his name is Ezemy?”
“Yep. His favorite game is hide and seek and his favorite animal is a bear.”
“A bear?” asked Todd in an artificially interested tone.
“Yeah.” She paused for a moment. “Are there any bears around here?”
Todd smiled. “No, there are no bears around here.”
Jenny turned to the dog, which had lied down next to Jenny. “Well, that’s okay. Ezemy can find bears somewhere.”
Todd looked over to Jenny’s house. Her mom was waving for Jenny to come over. “Supper’s ready.”
“Well, I have to go eat. Take care of Ezemy.” She took the handle of the wagon and then bent over the dog, rubbing his head. “Come on, Percy, we need to go eat.” The dog stood up and walked with Jenny as she left, pulling her wagon along. She carefully looked for cars then slowly pulled the cart over the curb and continued on. Halfway through the street, she turned around to look at Todd, still sitting on his lawn. “I’ll see you later.”
“Bye.” She smiled and continued on. She left the wagon in the garage next to the house and ran up to her porch. He mom opened the door for her but before entering herself also looked at Todd. “Thank you for talking to her. We really appreciate it.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.”
“Thanks again.” She stepped inside. Todd sat there for a moment longer. Then, remembering why he was outside in the first place, he stood up, brushed off his pants, and continued to Matt’s house.
Darkness. That is all he sees. He cannot even see himself, just darkness. He does not know where he is or what he is doing. He does not even know if he is standing. He just is.
At first he hears nothing, but soon murmurs come from somewhere, nowhere, everywhere. He cannot make out at all what he hears, just that he hears it. The sound grows. It is laughter, but he cannot recognize the voice, yet he can tell it is a good laughter. It is all around him, even above and below. He realizes there is more than one voice, and that the number seems to grow, making it louder.
He feels surrounded by people he cannot see, perhaps thousands. The roar grows louder, but instead of becoming painful, it becomes more internal. He can now feel it in him, like water in a sponge. It grows till it is all he can think of. But then, the voices fade away till one is left laughing, one familiar.
But suddenly, a single light forms in the distance. The last voice disappears as the light shoots above him like a comet. It travels behind him in an arc, getting smaller until it is a mere speck. He turns to watch as it finally touches down in the distance to the unseen horizon and explodes, instantly engulfing the darkness in brilliant white.
Todd woke up. He didn’t wake with fearful gasping or with a sweat-ridden shirt like he thought he would have, but simply opened his eyes. He looked at his alarm clock. Three forty-seven. He looked then at the window, just behind the alarm clock in his view, thinking that a noise outside might have woken him. He climbed out of bed and stood in front of the window pane, looking out over the rest of the neighborhood. Moonlight painted everything silver, a somber black-and-white photo. Even the fireflies were gone. He didn’t remember leaving the shades up, but dropped the thought, looking on as everything seemed to sparkle. He looked across the street to Jenny’s house then returned to his bed.
“Todd, why don’t you go out and talk to your grandfather? He’s been wanting to talk to you.” Todd’s mom was standing outside of his room. After a while, he opened the door and stood in the opening.
“Where is he at again?” He had been watching TV, but it, like so much else lately, proved boring.
“Outside on the porch.” Todd headed down stairs. Todd’s grandpa wasn’t the most entertaining person in the world, but he was much better than a TV. He had gone through the Vietnam War, somehow avoiding the trauma that went along with his level of fighting, and it gave him plenty of war stories to share. However, Todd’s grandpa didn’t speak about his war experiences often. He preferred to tell what he had been doing recently or what was going on in the world. Instead, he would mention a brief experience of his to give an example for a point he was making.
Todd stepped outside. To his left sat Grandpa, rocking in one of the chairs. He was reading a book, one Todd guessed to be of. Grandpa looked up from his book and gave a quick smile as Todd sat down in the chair next to his. Grandpa leaned over slightly and asked, “So, how does being a graduate feel?”
Todd thought for a moment and answered. “Boring.”
“That so, eh? I don’t blame you.”
“TV’s boring. Work’s boring. All I can do is hang out with friends, but half the time that’s boring too.”
Grandpa gave a short laugh. “I can understand that, but let me ask you, what would you want to be doing?”
Todd opened his mouth to answer, but closed it again to think on it more. He came up with nothing. This annoyed him, both because he felt he should know and because Grandpa now knew he didn’t know too.
A sly smile came upon Grandpa’s face as he faced forward, assuming a pondering position. “Well now. You’re bored out of your mind, but you don’t know what you want to do. What about going to the moon? I bet that would be pretty exciting.”
“I can’t go to the moon now, though. And I don’t even know if I would. It would take a good part of my life to do it.”
Grandpa’s face grew more serious. “Well, you have to do something in life. I mean, what’s a life for?”
The question worried Todd. “I don’t know.” It was a default answer, but he realized it was completely true, and it made him worry more.
“Well, how would you find out?”
Todd saw the question coming, but he was blank yet again. He had subconsciously assumed he would find something he liked to do and would do that for the rest of his life. However, the online tests at school that attempted to determine his interests and talents seemed as ambiguous as they were inaccurate.
Grandpa began to speak, but was interrupted. “Hi Todd!” Jenny exclaimed as she ran along the side walk, her wagon and stuffed bunny rumbling along with her. Todd and Grandpa watched as she continued onward.
Her mother called out behind her, “Wait up, dear. I don’t want you to get too far ahead.” The noise of the wagon slowed. Jenny’s mother waved and said hello to Todd and Grandpa as he passed. They returned the greeting and stared at both as Jenny waited for her mom to catch up. Once she did, Jenny began tugging her wagon along once more.
Grandpa turned to Todd. “That Jenny is something else. I saw her earlier today when I was out here, and she has just as much energy now as she did then. She was out playing with her dog in her yard and came over here, I guess after asking her mom who was sitting on the porch. The dog was acting just as spunky as she was.”
Todd grinned a little. “She says that the dog can see fairies.”
“She believes in fairies, you say? She has an enormous imagination. Come to think of it, I remember her mentioning something like that earlier. She said that she gave you a fairy I think.”
“Yeah, she did,” Todd said in a tone of confession, “I was talking to her yesterday, and she asked me if I wanted to have a fairy.”
“And you agreed.”
“Well, yeah. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or anything.”
Grandpa didn’t respond immediately, but eventually broke his silence. “You know, she has a good idea of how to live, you know? She doesn’t-” he paused to find the word “-fear living. It’s an adventure to her.”
Todd absorbed what he knew to be true. “Wish I could say the same about myself.”
Grandpa gave a small laugh at Todd’s honesty. “Well, life’s different for everyone. Besides, you’ve got more on your plate then she does. Good thing you have that fairy.”
Todd laughed. “Yeah. I guess I do. Well, I have to go to work. I’ll be back after five.”
“Have fun with that.” Todd stepped into his car and pulled out of his drive way as Grandpa gave him a wave. Todd couldn’t remember work of any kind being fun, but he supposed that he could give it a try.
He is falling. Just falling. He cannot sense anything; not sight or sound or anything else. But he knows he is falling, and looking up. He does not wake. He just falls, not knowing how fast, and time means nothing. Nothing is there around him, and this is comforting. He can see no reason to fret about anything whatsoever. He relaxes, still falling. But something begins to worry him. There is nothing there to create worry, but neither is that which should be there. He looks around. Something is missing. He does not know what it is nor when it was lost, but something is not there.
It occurs to him that he does not know where he is going. He is sure that he is not just falling, but that he is leaving one thing and coming to another. Perhaps that was the thing missing, a destination. He isn’t sure how, but he turns to face where he is going, now falling face down. He sees a light ahead, bright as the sun. It nears at a pace he can’t discern, but he can feel its approach. The light begins to change. A hole forms in the middle. At first the shape cannot be made out, but soon it reveals itself to be a rectangle. It is a door, and light is lancing out along the edges.
As he comes to it, he slows. He finds that he is right side up, no longer falling face down or up, but forward. As he slows, he begins to walk upon the invisible bottom. He begins to see himself as he nears the door; two arms and legs, two feet, walking forward. He reaches the door and stops, and thinks. Something is still missing, but the answer comes to him quickly. He is missing. He has lost himself. But there is more to it; something else has lost him. He places a hand upon the door and slowly begins to push it open. The faint sound of laughter echoes outward and the light becomes blinding. He hesitates no more and pushes inward, embracing light.
Todd woke up in the way he did before, quiet and calm, and once again the window on the other side of the room was unveiled, pouring in bright silver. He stood and went to it once more, looking out into the rest of the world. It seemed so stark, so black and white. So straight-forward. He looked up into the sky and found that the Milky Way was there, a path of light along the heavens. He stared at it for a while, wishing that he could walk on it. For all he knew, it led to where he needed to be because, somehow, he was missing.
Todd had been sitting for quite some time when Matt found him. “Have you been here the whole time?”
Todd jerked his head around to see mark approaching. He realized that he hadn’t even heard the usual snap and crunch of footsteps on the ground that Matt had to have made coming into the woods, located on the outskirts of the housing allotment. He had been there for nearly two hours, having come there shortly after he finished his morning routine. Standing up, he brushed brown needles and leaves of his pants. “Hey.”
“I tried calling your cell.”
Todd pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “It was off,” he said, turning it back on and then sliding it back into his pocket.
“Sorry if I interrupted anything. I called your house when you didn’t answer and your mom said you just went off into the woods.”
“Nah, it’s alright. I just needed a break is all.” Todd took in a deep breath.
“Are you okay and all?” asked Matt, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I’m fine. But what did you want to find me for?”
“Well,” said Matt, feeling somewhat naïve, “I thought we might see a movie with Jen and Chris. They’re cool with it, but we were wondering if you were interested.”
“Oh yeah, I’ll come. What are we seeing?”
“We haven’t decided yet,” Matt replied, feeling the normality of things return. “We were also going to go to dinner before hand. I’m not sure, but I want to say that we were going to go around six.”
“And where are we eating?” Todd asked, feeling life pull him back into normality as well.
“We haven’t decided on that either, but I’m going for Mexican.”
“I’m good with anything.”
“Alright. Let’s go back to my house or something.” Matt began to turn around from facing Todd, violently reeled back just as he began walking.
“What the heck are you doing?” Todd asked, nearly laughing.
“Damn,” Matt exclaimed, regaining his breath from what happened. “Did you see that thing?”
“That was one freakin’ huge bug. Must have been a mutant dragonfly or something.”
“Really?” said Todd, still smiling, “I don’t even know if dragonflies exist around here.”
“Well, they do now.” Matt gave a final deep inhale and looked again in the direction the dragonfly flew, toward the housing allotment. “Let’s go back to your house or something.”
“Ok.” They started walking back, returning to normal life, until they reached the edge of the tree line. From there, a shallow hill slowly ran down to connect to the corner of one street and another. At the very edge of the woods was Jenny. Instantly, her face lit up at the sight of them. “Mom, Todd and his friend are here.” Her mother, sitting nearby on a white blanket trimmed in yellow, stopped sipping from a toy cup in her hands and looked up at them.
To fill the void, Matt introduced himself. “Hello, I’m Matt, Todd’s friend. Sorry to bother your tea party.”
Jenny’s mother shook her head. “No, it’s fine. Jenny seems glad you’re here.” She looked over at Jenny as she said this, who was petting Percy, lying down in the grass next to the blanket. He was looking up over the neighborhood, turning his head from one direction to anther.
Jenny looked up to Todd. “He’s looking for the fairy that just flew out of the woods.”
Matt picked up from her cue. “See, I told you it was there,” he said, turning to Todd.
“Sorry, Jenny,” Todd said, “I didn’t see it go by, but he did.” Jenny smiled again and then began to join the dog in looking for the fairy that flew by.
Her mother stood up and faced them. “Thank you so much for being friends to her. I was worried that there wouldn’t be anyone in the neighborhood for her to get along with. It means a great deal to me and my husband.”
Todd and Matt smiled at her appreciation. “Well, we’re glad to see she’s happy,” Todd said, “I just wish I was as happy as she is all the time.”
Jenny’s mother looked at Jenny, rubbing Percy’s upturned stomach. “Yeah, I don’t know how she does it. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’m thankful. I won’t hold you here.”
“Your welcome,” Matt said, “and, again, sorry to intrude. He,” he looked at Todd, “was just getting some time to think, and I went looking for him.”
“Oh, well, have a good day.” Jenny’s mother sat back down. “Jenny, don’t you want to have some of the tea?”
Todd and Matt began walking back toward the allotment. “Bye, Jenny. Have fun with your tea party,” Todd said as he and Matt passed Jenny.
Jenny looked up from sitting next to the dog. “Ok, Bye. Take extra-good care of Ezemy.”
Todd paused, remembering. “Ok. I am. He’s very happy.” Jenny smiled again and waved goodbye. Todd and Matt waved back and continued on their way.
When they reached the sidewalk of the street, Matt looked at Todd. “So who’s Ezemy?”
Todd inhaled. “He’s a fairy that Jenny gave me when I first met her.”
“I figured as much.”
Todd, expecting to land in another dream like he had been having, couldn’t sleep at all. He wasn’t feeling ill, nor had he consumed any drink that would keep him awake. He just wasn’t tired. He had decided to go to sleep shortly after returning home from the movie, which was some time shortly after midnight. Regardless of the good time he had with friends during the movie and the dinner, his mind was preoccupied with something else.
Lost. Something was lost. He had lost something.
He was lost.
After deciding it was hopeless to wait for sleep to come, Todd climbed out of bed and dressed himself. He quietly walked downstairs and outside, sitting in the middle of his front yard. Once again, the world was a sketch of dark and silver. Nothing moved, not even the little twitches of the wind, and there was nothing to be heard. Todd looked up into the sky, full of starts looking down at him.
He said nothing for the longest time, but just listened to the silence, waiting for something to speak. He asked himself why he was out there perhaps a hundred times, giving voice to the part of him that wanted to go back inside. But something kept him there.
Are you waiting for something to answer?
Do you think anything’s there to answer you?
…I don’t know.
What, like a fairy?
Come on. A fairy?
No. But something will.
Whatever was in the dreams.
No one was there but you.
No, something was there.
Did you see anyone?
The light was there.
The fairy? You think a fairy will help?
No one else was there.
Maybe you can’t see him. But I heard him.
You heard Jenny.
I mean I felt him.
Well what else was there?
You mean even more unbelievable.
But he’s missing. How can he not be real if the hole is?
And I’m missing. How can he not be real if I’m his?
But you’ve never really thought he could be there.
Why can’t he? Jenny believes.
How do you know?
It just feels that way.
But she’s just a child, an over-active imagination.
Maybe it’s still better.
No! It is better. I’m tired of not knowing what to do when I get up. I’m tired of wasting every day of my life. Of just sitting here, doing nothing, being nothing. Nothing! I want to be something. I’m dead here. Maybe he has some life to him.
So I am. It’s better than dead.
Todd stood up, wiping the tears from his eyes. He walked back into his house, up the stairs, into his bed. Sleep came easily enough.
Todd stepped out of his car, done with work for another day. Despite the relative lack of sleep from the night before, Todd was anxious to get things done. He didn’t bother to go inside, but started briskly walking down the sidewalk toward Jenny’s house. As he drew closer he could hear her playing outside somewhere. He eventually entered her yard and walked around the corner of her porch. There, sitting in her wagon with her feet dangling over one side, was Jenny. She was holding her stuffed rabbit and talking to it and Percy, who was sitting in front of her, her tongue hanging out as usual.
“Hello, Jenny,” Todd said as he walked up to her wagon. “Are you having fun?”
“Yep. Percy and I are talking about what color to paint my room. I like blue, but I think Percy wants it brown.” She propped her rabbit’s head up. “What do you think, Mr. Jibbers?” She leaned her head onto Mr. Jibber’s stitched mouth and held it there for a while. “Uhuh, uhuh.” She looked at Todd again, but with a less enthusiastic expression. “Mr. Jibbers wants green. What do you think?”
Todd sat down next to Percy, putting up his knees and clasping his hands around them. “I think you should paint it whatever color you want. They’ll be happy with it.” She screwed up her face a little and thought on it. Todd took the pause to ready his question. “Jenny, can I ask you something?”
Jenny’s face grew less concerned over color as her eyes opened at Todd’s request. “Yep.”
Todd hesitated, wanting to word it just right. “You remember Ezemy, right?”
“Yep,” Jenny said with a smile as she lightly twisted in excitement.
“How did you get that fairy?”
Todd pulled up in his old driveway and stepped out of his car. He exhaled a contented sigh as he remembered his old home. His mother insisted on having him over for lunch for his birthday. He walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. The wooden door opened as his mother welcomed him with a beaming face. “Welcome back home.” She gave him a big hug and a kiss. “I’m so glad you made it.” She pulled away from him and invited him in. “I have the chicken in the oven, but it only has a few minutes to go. Your brother is in the living room, watching something.”
Todd stepped in further and came to the living room. Indeed, Jake was watching a movie. However, upon Todd’s entry he stood, moved across the room and embraced his brother. “How is school going?” Todd asked as they released.
Jake maintained an upbeat expression. “It’s hard, but I’m doing alright. Crofton’s alright, but I wish I went out of state like you did.”
“Want to get away, do you?”
“Yeah. It gets a little boring around here.” They both sat down again on the couch. Todd took note of the new wall and carpet colors, blue and beige. “We finally got around to finishing mom’s project. I like it though.”
“It does look fresher in here. Anyway, are you still in computer science?”
“Yeah, but it’s full of opportunity. I could practically walk out of college and into a job.” Their mother called them from the kitchen. They entered, beholding a fully spread table, and sat down to eat.
Afterward, Todd managed to gain some time to himself outside on the porch, sitting in the same spot he usually took but using a new chair. The sun sank down to his left, luring a calm night. As always, he just listened. Eventually, he knew that the others would want him for cards, so he began to prepare for the shift in mood. “Hello, Todd.”
He looked up and to the sidewalk. Jenny stood there, holding the leash of a mutt of indiscernible mix. “Hey, Jenny. How is everything?”
She came up the driveway and stopped before the porch steps. “Good, except that Otis isn’t housetrained yet.”
He stepped onto the driveway and bent down to stroke the dog’s back. “Yeah, he’s got some learning to do. Did you get him right after Percy died?”
Jenny nodded. “He’s not like Percy, though. He doesn’t see fairies.”
Todd let out a deep sigh as he sat down on the porch steps. “Man. I remember he did that all the time. You weren’t much different. You used to talk about fairies all the time too.”
“Yeah,” she said, recollecting her childhood, “I finally got out of that when middle school started. You weren’t allowed to believe in fairies then, but fifth grade was pretty far by itself. I still can’t believe I went that long believing in fairies.”
Todd let the pause linger a little. “Do you ever wish that fairies were real?” Jenny was caught off guard by the question. “I mean, do you ever want them to be there? Do you ever feel like they should be real?”
She remained silent for a moment. “…Sometimes. Is this some weird thing that pastors do?”
He laughed. “Well, sometimes I wish the world would be more open to things.”