Hello, once again to the fourth day of this 30 day endeavor. And you know what I just realized? I should keep a comprehensive word count. The whole point of the National Novel Writing Month is to complete your 30 days, but another big factor is whether you can breach a 50,000 word mark and “win”. Current word count : 6890. Not bad. I’m starting to really get into this as well, however, I worry that my getting into this might affect my time for other work. This chapter in particular was probably the most drainage I’ve felt in a while. But nonetheless, here you go, Chapter 4 of “Home For The Unwanted”.
Fortunately for Ryan, Runner had escorted him out of the forest that fateful day. He was sprung into their norm, and he didn’t know how to respond. However, Ryan did understand one thing; that he would never be satisfied if he left now. On the next day after school, Ryan decided to wait at the road he had found Runner at. He didn’t expect an escort, but he got one anyway. It made him feel indifferent. To have someone meet with him, and have someone bring him along after school was weird for Ryan. It was almost like he had friends.
“Oh look, it’s our newest member. Glad you showed up,” Lorna said with a small smug smile.
“Didn’t expect the entourage.”
“Didn’t get one. I’m just out to get some supplies. The route should be clear. I broke some branches for you.”
“Food, water, shelter, you know, things we need to live. Except, not the latter. We have the latter.”
“If you need help, I can go with you.” Ryan didn’t understand why he offered his assistance. His words came off as shallow, something out of courtesy, not common concern. It felt weird for Ryan. Since when did he ever care so much for a stranger, he thought. Never, he concluded.
“No. I’m fine. I told them that you were coming today, so I can’t let you be killed out there.”
“Thought you were just out to shop.”
“Exactly. You don’t look like you get out much, can’t have you growing out of your shell that quickly. Adapt. Learn. At your own pace.” Ryan could sense a strange sense of hesitation in Lorna’s voice. He could also tell that Lorna was a bit wary, and perhaps was trying to keep something secret from Ryan. However, Ryan didn’t press on, and went into the forest.
“In that case, I’ll be going now.”
“I’ll be back. I don’t know if you’ll still be here when I’m back, but, I’ll be back.”
Ryan followed a path of broken branches just as Lorna had said. He still wasn’t quite familiar with the area, nor did he ever think that he would come accustomed to it. Nevertheless, he followed the path of broken sticks, and thought about the new norm that he had broken into. It was something, that he could get used to, he thought. However, the nature of learning a new path, especially one that is meant to be hidden, didn’t bode well with Ryan. He was horrible with directions.
“Hey!” Before Ryan could even finish walking to the building, he heard a voice. It was Runner. Ryan turned around to greet him.
“You came! Just like Lorna said.”
“Yeah. I had nothing better to do anyway.”
“Lorna said that you were a temporary worker. But I don’t get it.” Ryan didn’t understand it either, but he had a vague idea of what she could have meant, and it gave Ryan a sudden chill. The thought did appear to Ryan that coming to Lorna’s building was wrong. It was a home first and foremost, and Ryan did have his own home; no matter how much he hated it. Ryan couldn’t leave his home to join another’s for he carried a burden, and knew not to trouble his benefactors. Ryan understood the simple concept of give and take, and his way of life had nothing but the latter. Even so, Ryan couldn’t call it disgust, but necessity.
“Let’s go and play!” Runner’s energetic spiel turned Ryan’s attention back into reality, and he quickly found himself being dragged along to Runner’s antics.
“Where are we going?” Ryan asked.
“Towards the fields! Where Sunflower is.”
“The fields?” Runner didn’t answer and simple continued along. Ryan couldn’t do anything but follow him. The area was all new to him, and if he lost Runner, then he would be short of a guide. Luckily for Ryan, the run wasn’t that long, although he did find himself heavily panting at the end of it. Runner yelled out in the distance as they entered the clearing.
“Sunflower!” Sunflower was crouched down on the clearing a little ways away from where they had entered. Ryan couldn’t tell what she was doing, but as they walked closer towards her, Ryan noticed that it wasn’t just a grass filled clearing that they had entered.
“Runner!” Sunflower seemed to have completely ignored the fact that Ryan was trudging along behind him.
“What’s that?” Runner asked.
“This is for mister.” As Sunflower said that, she looked over and noticed Ryan staring directly at her hands; which had a small interwoven circle of flowers. Sunflower immediately tucked the ornament behind her in embarrassment, but Ryan didn’t give up, and gave her a questioning look.
“Fine.” Sunflower finally gave up and took out her hands, revealing the ornament once again. Ryan walked over and crouched down so that he was the same height as Sunflower.
“It’s supposed to be a crown.” Sunflower placed it on top of Ryan’s head. Although Ryan couldn’t see what he looked like, he could get a good sense by the way Runner and Sunflower had began giggling at him.
“Didn’t you hate me before?” Ryan asked Sunflower.
“Lorna said that you weren’t a bad guy. She said that you were our newest family member. I didn’t like you at first, but I think you’re okay, mister.” For some reason, that made Ryan smile.
“Thanks,” Ryan said.
“Let’s go and play now! Lorna said that you would play with us too!” Sunflower suddenly began sprinting away from the clearing.
“Come on, let’s go!” Runner began following Sunflower, and to Ryan’s disapproval, he had to follow as well.
“Where are you going?” Ryan yelled out.
“Over there!” Sunflower replied while running and laughing.
“That’s not helping! Why don’t we play something that doesn’t require me having to relapse my asthma!?”
“What does that mean?” Runner replied.
“I’m getting tired!” Ryan retorted back with half as much breath as he did moments before. Despite the situation, and despite Ryan’s physical deterioration, he surprisingly found himself to be smiling and laughing along with them.
“I found it!” Suddenly, Sunflower, Runner, and Ryan all stopped. Ryan nearly toppled over with the sudden loss of acceleration, but he was glad that he was given a moments rest. Sunflower walked on ahead, and picked up a peculiar stone from the ground.
“Oh! That’s what Lorna dropped the other day, right?” Runner asked.
“Yeah! She said it was a small blue rock. I wanted to look for it.” Lorna held the small gem in her hands and brought it towards her eyes. It gave off a small gleam, and Ryan was certain that Sunflower had just dragged him along to physically torture him. As Ryan had finally stopped panting, he walked up towards Sunflower and inspecting the gem closer.
“Did Lorna say what it was for?”
“I think she said that it was a heirloom. But I didn’t get it.”
“Mind if I hold it?” Sunflower handed Ryan the gem. Ryan held it towards the sun, and watched as the gem began glowing vibrantly in his hands. It was a beautiful gem, however, Ryan couldn’t quite believe the story that it was a heirloom. For some reason, Ryan thought that if it was anyone else, he might have believed them. Lorna was just too elusive and aloof for Ryan to let his guard down, he thought.
For the remainder of the day, Sunflower, Runner and Ryan all played in the forest. Ryan had successfully convinced them to play less active games, and in the midst of all the energy and fun they had, Ryan had slowly realized that he had never even made it to the building that day. He got caught up in the pace of Sunflower and Runner, and his original goal had been altered. His norm had been shattered yet again, but this time, Ryan felt relieved. The norm that he had been adjusted to didn’t quite feel like an anomaly or a change. Ryan understood this norm as interchangeable; a variable.
“Hey! Looks like you stayed,” Lorna said as she crept up on Ryan as he began leaving the forest.
“It was more fun than I expected. I give you that.”
“Glad to hear. Would hate to see you go that quickly when you hadn’t even gotten comfortable yet.”
“I think I’m getting there.”
“Good. Good. ”
“Is that all?”
“Quite ready to run from me now are you?” Ryan couldn’t quite respond to her claim, but he didn’t need to as Lorna laughed and added, “Kidding.” Ryan sighed a breath of relief, and continued walking back towards his home.
“But, I do want you to know something. And, I should have told you this before, but, I do run an orphanage. That kind of responsibility entails looking after kids that have nowhere else to go. I harbor those that are unneeded, unwanted, and unattended. But really, that’s just a fancy way of saying those that were abandoned. You, on the other hand, are not fit for any of those categories.” Ryan stopped to listen to Lorna, but he couldn’t quite find the right words to respond to her. She was just too abrasive for him. Lorna was a person that despite being in the norm, was still very much in charge of her own rules, and worked at her own pace, Ryan thought. She was a person who not only created norms, but was also separate from them. Lorna’s norm, was Lorna, Ryan concluded.
“The reason why I welcomed you wasn’t to keep a blackmail on you either. But it’s because I know you’re special. And special people tend to do special things. For one, you picked up the card, and you gave it back. Two, you didn’t rip the paper. And three, you believed in us. I think that’s why you even bothered coming into the forest, and that’s why I can trust you. You may not be an abandoned child, but you can come by anytime. This is your second home, and you can treat it as such.”
“I don’t quite understand it myself but…. I think I’ll follow you up on that. It was fun, really, and…. I think I might come to enjoy myself here. It’s a feeling that…. I never had in a long time.” It was a feeling that Ryan never realized that he had lost. The feeling of joy, and the feeling of being able to interact with people he just met; to not have to brand them as annoying or overly pretentious. Without any words, Lorna understood Ryan’s gratitude towards her, for bringing him in, and for trusting him. Ryan himself understood that gratitude as well, however, for him, it was stuck in the back of his mind.
As Ryan got home that evening, the only thing on his mind was what Lorna had said. The idea of a second home was appealing to him, even more so appealing than trying to please his benefactor. However, Ryan himself couldn’t find it in him to break from this norm that he still held close. It was a norm that needed more time, and it was a norm that Ryan didn’t think he needed to break form. Nonetheless, aside from all of these thoughts, Ryan did realize one thing that night. The crown Sunflower had made for him, was still stuck on his head.