Episode 38: Happy New Year

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It was morning, I think

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It was morning, I think. I was in my room with Del and Raymond. It was quiet. None of us really said anything. Del had been leaning on the wall most of the morning.

Eventually, Raymond broke our comfortable silence. "Are you sure you don't want the chair?"

Del nodded. "You're using it. I don't need it for anything."

I grew up with Del, so I knew there was another meaning behind his words. 'I can't sit. It's cramped in here. I'm cramped. I'll go mad if I stay any more still.'

If this had happened before Del started at that private school, he would've gone batty a long time ago. There wasn't much for him to do in here.

"If you say so..." Raymond said.

"Hey, Del." I sat up. "When was the last time you talked to Hannah or En or Vi?"

"I haven't gotten to talk to Vi in years. Last time I talked to En was when you saw me off. As for Hannah, she's why I knew you weren't home anymore."

Oh... I was hoping he could tell me something about them... I hadn't gotten to talk to them since I left...

Del came and gave me a big squeeze. "I'm sure they're doing alright. You know they can take care of themselves."

I wanted to cry. Being homesick stunk.

"Mister wants to get you home. I'm sure he'll do it soon..." Raymond said.

In that moment, I didn't care. I wanted to be ten again, so I could cry in Del's lap without judgement. I just wanted to cry in his lap.

I felt like a child. One who would fall apart without his parents or siblings. I hated that feeling.

I napped after their conversation. Doing nothing could be exhausting. Anyway, I went to bed around ten or so as I did most nights. I didn't know this was a special night when I fell asleep.

Pop!

"Happy new year, boys!" Arthur shouted.

My heart hammered in my chest. Arthur woke me with a start. My breathing was ragged.

Raymond looked at Arthur sideways. "You stink at surprises, mister."

"Agreed." Del climbed into my bed with me and smiled. "It's alright, Alastair. Nothing happened."

Arthur tilted his head. "Don't Earthlings do that, too?"

"Not all Earthlings." Del rolled his eyes. "Do you still go in your room before they do it?"

I nodded. I never liked those things. Why did other people them?

"Sorry..."

"You could've asked..." Del mumbled. "Anyway, happy new year, buddy."

"Happy new year, mister," Raymond said.

Arthur crossed his arms. "What do you do for new year's on Earth then?"

"Our family often got ice cream to share. We usually played this game called telephone in the afternoon. Uh... The younger ones usually made some sort of art project. I enjoyed some tag with a few of our siblings."

"What's telephone?" Raymond asked. "Can we play it right now?"

"I'm pretty sure he's going back to sleep in a minute. It wouldn't be much fun with only four of us, anyway."

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "How does this game work?"

"You take a phrase like 'The queen sat on her throne and ate thorny kumquats.' and whisper it in somebody's ear. Then they whisper it in somebody else's ear. Then they do it again until they get to the end of the line."

"I stink at telephone," I said. I sounded tired.

Del rubbed my back. "Star. Everybody stinks at telephone."

Arthur and Raymond stared at us.

"At the end of the game the phrase sounds nothing like it started out as." Del was laughing to himself. "Something like, 'The scene hat on the hone and hat come tots'."

Covering my mouth, I was laughing. That totally sounded like something our siblings would say at the end.

"Did you like telephone?"

"Better than tag, at least," I said.

Arthur raised an eyebrow.

"A game usually isn't very fun if people catch you all the time," Del said. "I loved tag cuz I was fast and needed to burn energy all the time."

"I guess so..."

"It's not so bad now, but that's because only Hannah and En are older now."

Del added to my point. "Most of our siblings left home after they went to work or came of age."

"What did they do after they came of age?"

"Hannah was still taking care of everyone from afar, but most of them got jobs and started families like everyone else."

"What were you planning to do, son? Your job must be done if you're here now."

Del shrugged. "I didn't really have any plans or anything when I left. I wanted to see my family first. Star and En are eighteen now. I might not recognize En next time I see him."

"Sounds like family is important to you."

"It is. Unless I was visiting friends all the time. I could never live on my own. It'd go mad."

I laughed inside. He probably would. Del loved conversation. It didn't matter if the other person wasn't ready to carry on a back-and-forth yet. If they were willing to listen, that was good enough for him.

I pulled Del closer. I was cold and he was so warm. I missed his warmth. There were nights I couldn't sleep without it.

"Alright, you two." Del stroked my head. "I wanna go to bed too. I was just waiting for midnight since I wasn't sure if people set off fireworks here or not."

"Some people do but not here at the base. We don't really have a safe place to do it."

That was good to know. I only liked fireworks if they were on a TV. I never liked the noise or bright lights.

"Well, then, good night. I'm tired, too." Del yawned, so I did too.

If Raymond was tired, too, then he did a good job hiding it. He stayed in the dark with us 'til I dozed off. Del was still up then, too.


***


Happy not-new year, minna! Thoughts on what Arthur did? The character dynamics? Theories? Predictions?

~Shino out!

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