By now, Leon had finished putting everything he had in the right places, the room looking a little less empty. A few pictures where hung on the wall, his desk prepared with everything he needs. Even his bed was made He finally sat down on the bed, inhaling deeply as his phone began to ring. He looked to see who it was. It was his mom, and with some hesitation, he answered.
"Hey sweetie, how are doing?" Sharon asked, her eyes on the road, as she made her way home. Her voice was gentle and she sounded exhausted, probably from work.
"I'm okay; I just finished unpacking. I'm going to bed now. I start class tomorrow."
"Oh, okay…" Sharon replied, adjusting her earpiece at a stoplight, a saddened expression coming over her face. She knew this conversation wasn't going to last very long. Nowadays she couldn't get him to hold a conversation lasting longer than a few minutes. Sure, it was strange that she allowed Leon to move out at such a young age, but after what happened almost a month earlier, he would deliberately avoid her when she was home.
"Well, make sure you don't get into any trouble at the academy; I don't want to hear anything bad from either the faculty or Ms. Anne, okay?"
"Okay Mom," Leon said with some annoyance, his grudge against her now sitting in the forefront of his mind. He remembered the day he found out, his anger toward her, the depression that followed. He couldn't come to forgiving his "mother" for the lies she had fed him in the past few years. Sharon's reply only came in after another stretch of awkward silence, her voice meek and exhausted.
"Good night, Leon. Be good."
The phone hung up without a reply, Sharon's mind going blank as she turned into the garage of the modest two-story home that she had been living in ever since she stopped working for the military. She entered her home, passing into the kitchen, looking around the place, so quiet and empty. She began to see the past, the days when she played with her little boy, the time they spent together.
"If he really is who I want to assume he is… maybe, just maybe"
She shook her head and headed to her bedroom, not even bothering to take a shower. She flopped onto her bed, the cool sheets unable to bring her any comfort, thoughts racing through her mind as she finally allowed herself to dowse off from sheer exhaustion.
Leon found himself wandering in a black abyss, a light seemingly ahead at the end of what appeared to be a long, back tunnel. When he finally reached the end, he found himself in the warmth of the sun, a dirt path under his feet. He began to follow the path, tree cover above him for what felt like an eternity of walking until he heard the laughter of children nearby. He followed the voices to a clearing by a small lake. The children he followed went to their parents, a man and woman settled on a bright, white cloth. Next to them was a basket with food in it. Leon's eyes tracked the children running past another woman, seated on a bench, her appearance seemingly familiar to him. He walked closer, noticing that she had an infant child in her arms. Her breast seemed exposed, and he presumed she was feeding the child. Now, Leon was standing in front of her, and he could see her face: elegant and for some reason faintly recognizable, her form thin and elegant. Her eyes were crystal blue, her hair long and silky brown.
He started to hear a familiar hum, one that has haunted him all his life, ringing into his ears. He looked the children, eating happily with their parents, though the boy seemed to be staring off into the distance, the parents laughing with their daughter. The boy resembled himself, but his hair was blond, the only thing he shared with him was the eyes, green like shining emeralds. His attention returned to the woman on the bench, the world slowly going dark around him. The only source of light in the renewed darkness was radiating from the woman and her child, the lullaby growing louder and louder, a voice calling to him
"Leon! Wake up already!" cried Rose, fresh from the shower. The boy's alarm was ringing, so the girl pushed the snooze button for him, Leon beginning to stir from the strange dream. She placed her hand upon his shoulder, rocking him back and forth gently. The boy finally came around and slowly opened his eyes, noticing that he was sore and somewhat unrested. His exhaustion was not just from a lack of deep sleep, but how thought-provoking his dream had been.
"It's past six thirty. If we want to walk to school, you need to get ready." pleaded Rose. Leon nodded sleepily as he began to get up, sitting in just his boxers and a white tee-shirt he wore under his normal shirt. "You have the school uniform, right?" Rose asked. Leon nodded once again as he stood up and stretched. Taking note of the sun that was beginning to peer into his window.
"Yeah, I have it; don't worry. Do I smell pancakes?" Rose chuckled and nodded, going back to her room via the bathroom. Looking back to the new tenant and classmate, she smiled. She had known about him for quite a while, but this was the first time she had ever spent time with him.
"You better get ready, mister! I'll be waiting for you downstairs!" And with that, she closed her door into the bathroom. Leon, left to scratch his head, felt a mix of feelings that left him confused as he entered the shower and bathed quickly. By the time Rose finished packing her bag with her books and homework, he was already drying off, slipping into the first set of school clothing with relative ease. When she passed the threshold of the first stair-step, he walked out his door, following her quickly down the opposite staircase to the kitchen.
"Good Morning you two!" said Ms. Anne as the children came into view. She smiled gently as she finished plating a big breakfast for the both of them: pancakes, eggs, and bacon. She sat down at the table with them, drinking what appeared to be some kind of dark berry juice. Leon smiled sheepishly as he sat down across from her, with Rose sitting between them.
So, this is your first day of class, Leon?" Anne asked softly. Leon nodded politely is response as he took a stack of hotcakes and added them to his plate, and then held his glass out for Rose, who was offering him orange juice. Feeling a bit awkward, he couldn't help but blush when he looked at her. A real morning breakfast was unusual to him nowadays, but what made him feel strange was the fact that he was now living with a mother and daughter who seemed to know a lot about him. It seemed unfair that he knew so little about them.
"I'm hoping to find out a little more about my past by going here, as this ring on my necklace belongs to the school." He said, putting down his fork as he held up the ring for Rose to see. Anne's eyes opened up slightly, her expression neutral as she zoomed in aggressively on the ring; examining every detail of it. She recognized it immediately, a conversation from long ago playing back in her mind, her husband's voice haunting her, talking about a ring he had lost while creating her original coding. She shook her head and remembered that she had to give something to him.
"Oh, speaking of school, your mother dropped something off for you," Anne said, standing and walking out of the kitchen. Rose and Leon watched the door and she returned just a moment later with a brand new backpack. Leon's eyes traced the bag as she handed it to him.
"This is yours. She said this was the backpack you always wanted, right?"
Leon looked it over, the black-leather supple and smooth, the bag already filled with everything he needed. Rose looked over to see it, taking note of its contents and what it looked like. The bag was the size of any other backpack she had seen, textbooks, binders, the normal contents of a student's bag, all packed away inside it, Anne continuing to speak.
"I filled it last night with supplies from my office, but don't hesitate to ask me for anything if you run out. Your mom also got something else you wanted; it's in the front pocket." He opened the front pouch and pulled out a journal, brown-leather bound with a metal clip lock holding it shut. He looked at it, his expression never changing as he placed it back into the bag. Anne, noticing how quite he was, placed a hand on his shoulder. Her expression concerned, she asked. "Is something wrong, Leon?"
He looked up to see her face, his mind flashing back for just a moment to the dream he had. He closed his eyes and shook his head, clearing his thoughts as he spoke up. "No, nothing's wrong. I'm glad she remembered about my journal; I already filled up the last one she bought me."
Anne nodded, deciding not to question him as she looked at the clock; it was time for them to go. Rose took notice as well, finished her last bite, picked up her back, and gestured toward the door. "C'mon, Leon, we need to go now." He stood and pushed in his chair, then took his new back and slipped it over his shoulders. When his eyes found Rose again, her hand was extended toward him. Surprised at the gesture, he slowly held his own hand out for her to take. With little prelude, she grabbed it and began toward the door, dragging him along with her with surprising force. Though he wasn't sure if it counted, he couldn't help but marvel at the fact that she was actually holding his hand.
"See you later Mom!"
"Okay honey, be good! And take care of Leon, okay?"
"I will!" replied Rose, Leon lagging along behind her, trying hard not to look like he was being dragged all the way there. As the young ones left, Anne watched from the big front window, she could hear Leon begging her daughter to loosen her grip on his hand, shaking her head in slight amusement as she turned down her hearing, heading back toward the kitchen to wash the dishes. As soap and water ran over her hands, her skin immune to pruning, she started to become more concerned about Leon, remembering what Sharon had said about him the night before. The way reacted to her question this morning reminded her of herself, how he took a double take, it made her question everything she knew. She stopped thinking about it so hard, sighing to herself as she placed the last dish, perfectly dried, onto the stack on the counter next to the big metal sink, heading back to her office to finish some paper-work for the rest of the week. She hoped Leon would be alright.
"Keep up, Leon! We're almost there!"
"Okay, Okay!" cried the boy, the two having covered several blocks, crossing a few streets, finally approaching the school. The building appeared ancient, and even with the brick and stone cleaned on a monthly basis of mold and discolor, it stuck out amongst the more modern businesses and offices that were built around it. Leon looked around in awe as they entered the courtyard, the students standing around conversing noticing him, their eyes tracking the two as they passed through the giant oak-doors that served as the main entrance to the academy.
"When I heard you were attending my school from my mom after your mom talked to her, I decided to arrange some stuff for you before you got here. I hope you don't mind" she said, passing by other students in the hall, many waving hello to her, but she ignored them for the moment as she approached her locker, stopping finally to Leon's relief. He had attempted to struggle out of her grip, but her grip was strong, the entire walk to school spent with her hand clamped around his like an iron band.
"Okay then, here is your locker Leon, right next to mine." She said with a smile, finally letting go of his hand. Leon wanted to sigh in relief, but he kept it to himself as Rose turned the lock with amazing speed, her door opening, her hands going for the books she would need for the first few classes of the day. "I also got your schedule and locker code with me as well, let me give it to you." She pulled out a manila folder, Leon's name on it, handing it to him. He nodded, looking through it, not noticing Rose's devious expression as he read it, the girl remembering the day she had rooted the school's database for his information.
She had known about Leon for the longest time, her mind drifting to the day she had met his Mom. She remembered how she took care of her mother; how she made sure she was healthy…well, in the sense that she isn't going crazy, something she didn't want to think about. The mere thought of that limitation with her programming snapped Rose out of her daydream, the small, but highly disturbing thought dissipating when something insider her head bleeped on her internal radar, something she dreaded every single day.
"Thank you Rose. I guess my Mom put you up to-"a fist slammed into the locker next to him, startling the boy. Rose did not dare to look in the direction of the sound.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?"