Chapter 13- Smeraldo

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After hours of cleaning and laughing, the group finally stands back to admire their hard work. Even Alwin pitched in, coaxed into joining the fray by Poppy.

"We did good," Sidney says, wringing his shirt out into a bucket.

"Good enough anyway," Alwin jokes, relaxing around them for the second time today.

"So tell me," Alex begins, looking up at Alwin. "Why are you finally becoming yourself around us?"

"I was always myself," He starts, but stops. "At least, I try to be. You guys are, well, special. Not like other people around here. I appreciate that. And I don't know, maybe I see what could be through you."

"So you calmed down because...?" Alex says, pushing Alwin to get to the point.

"Because I could. Because for the first time in a long time, it doesn't feel like I'm always being watched. Because ever since I "became" an adult, my life was no longer fun. It's almost like I wasn't allowing myself to feel because I missed being a kid and didn't want to recognize it. It's a funny thing, how when you're 17, you're still a kid but one day later, you're 18 and you have to figure out what you want to do with your life, just like that. Everyone expects you to know all of the sudden, as if you've been planning for this for years, but you weren't. No, you were busy playing, we all were. And now, they say, "you're too old to play." But you guys proved me wrong, that we can still have fun."

"Damn," Jordan says, "that was... really honest."

"I'm too tired to lie," Alwin replies, closing the door to the bathroom. "You're all free to go for the rest of the day. See you tomorrow, I believe."

"Yeah, sounds good," Alex says, grabbing his bag. He puts in an earbud and reaches for a small music player, almost like a mini record player. He turns around when he realizes no one is following him. "Well, are you coming or what? I thought we were all anxious to get out of this place."

"Hold your horses." Noah jokes, "Don't we have to clean up or something?"

"You did, but I did it while you were all talking," Sidney replies, walking out of the closet from behind them.

"Don't wait up!" Alex yells, Poppy on his heels.

"Race you to the door!" She shouts, slapping him on the back.

Alwin walks towards another exit, laughing quietly.

"Oh come on, don't leave me out!" Riley groans, racing after them.

"Oh god, are you going to make me run?" Sidney mutters, waiting to see if Jordan and Noah will take off as well.

"Yep, just because you said that." Noah smiles, getting into a running position like an old track star off of the posters he had seen.

"Last one there is a rotten egg!" Jordan says, mimicking Noah's stance.

"Wait, what does that mean?" Sidney asks, genuinely puzzled.

Jordan pauses, looking down at the floor. She can see her reflection in the tiles, messy hair and all. "It's something my father used to say."

"Used to?"

Jordan runs off, not answering the question. She pretends that she's running after Alex, Poppy, and Riley, but she's really doing something quite different.

"I wish I could always run. God, why did I have to bring that up? I just... should've known better. Go ahead Jordan, tell them you're an orphan. Go tell them that you can't even remember why they left you, why they're gone. Go tell them how it haunts you, how you can't have anything more than a vacant space in your head where your memories should be. No, you just have a stupid book and a trailer."

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