Hello once again for the final stretch. We have….. 7 days left, and for me, that’s 7 more chapters. Things are falling apart, and pieces are coming together. The finale I have is coming up, and the two final arcs are coming to an end. How will I be able to fit all of this in 7 chapters? Well….. Will i? No. I probably will ,but, we’ll see how I do this. I have some sort of a plan. Or an idea of a plan. A speck of a plan? Anyway, buckle up, because as you will read, you will come to realize things. Or maybe you won’t. Because the real fun is only starting now. God, I wish this wasn’t just a simple novella. Word count: 49,104. Here you go, chapter 23 of “Home For The Unwanted.”
The room was still, the clock tricked in the distance, and Ryan would never have expected the room to ever feel so stagnant again. Ryan would never have expected the house to ever feel so stagnant again. It felt like he was arriving to this home for the first time. It felt completely different.
“Doing well?” Ryan’s mother asked. The question was directed towards his uncle.
“Almost as well as you, surprisingly.” Ryan’s uncle looked over to Ryan’s mother, and examined her profile. Ryan’s uncle was surprised by her sudden appearance as well. Apparently, her presence had been long forgotten within Ryan’s family, for good reason, he thought.
“Haven’t seen you in a century, Ann,” Ryan’s uncle said.
“It’s already been a century,” Ryan’s mother repeated
“So, why are you here?” Ryan’s uncle didn’t waste time in small talk. That’s not why Ryan’s mother was here, nor was it why his uncle was here either.
“You know me, Len.”
“Always up and around?” Ryan’s uncle paused, and placed two fingers on the bridge of his nose. He then lowered his hands and sighed.
“Never telling us much–” Ryan’s mother shrugged and gave him a shrill smile
“And then showing up in the middle of the thicket.”Ryan’s uncle had started slipping into an accent. It was a worn accent, one that showed his previous life on the fields. Ryan’s uncle had also started speaking in an assertive manner, almost towering over Ryan’s mother; who was much taller in retrospect. This was a strange prospect for Ryan, as his uncle never really came off as a strong man, he seemed to be more reserved, Ryan thought.
“Anna,” Ryan’s uncle paused, and took a deep breath. He looked between Ryan and his mother, and finally sighed. Ryan’s uncle was happy that Ryan was changing. He was happy that Ryan could open up to him about the things he did at school. He was happy that he could see color in his eyes again. He was happy that he could see him smile.
“You have the nerve to show your face again. You’re lucky I’m not bringing this up with ma and pa.” Ryan’s uncle paused; almost flinching at the thought of their parents, Ryan thought.
“And boy would they be proud,” Anna replied sarcastically
“And boy would they drive you in the barrels.”
“They can’t touch me anymore, Lenny.”
“Oh you watch. If they catch wind of you, you’re being hunted faster than wolves on herding day.”
“Your country is showing.”
“Focus!” Lenny raised his voice in an annoyed manner, but quickly eased his expression. He took another deep breath, and closed his eyes to gather his thoughts.
“Look. I don’t know what you have going for you.” Lenny made a gesture to point out her suit and hair.
“But whatever you want now, is only going to get increasingly difficult to ask for.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“I know–” Anna paused, looked over to Ryan and continued.
“That what I’ve done is horrible,” Anna fixed her gaze back to Lenny
“And let’s face it. You’ve done worse.”
“This is about you. Not me,” Lenny defended.
“Oh, but this is just as important to you as it is me After all, which one of us herded the lost lamb, shepherd?” Anna’s mother gave Lenny a devious smile.
“Let’s not forget who broke the pen,” Lenny growled back, which made Anna give off a playful frown.
“And I know that I’m only going to get one chance at this.”
“You’ve already lost it.” Lenny seemed to have already grasped the situation, and had a good guess as to what Anna wanted. It was something that Lenny knew wouldn’t make either of them proud to say, and it was something that Lenny knew he would disapprove of. Anna knew this as well. Ryan only had a small grasp of the situation, although, he did have an array of theories pertaining to what Anna could have wanted. One of which involved his norm changing forever, and involved his norm being shaped by a factor not his. It involved someone else’s decisions and it involved leaving everything he ever knew. That situation, was one that Ryan feared, but knew would be asked. It was a situation where Ryan thought impossible, a situation where Ryan thought he left in the enclaves of his past. Apparently, those enclaves were not very well hidden. If Lorna was here, Ryan thought, then she surely would have already known her answer, even before coming over to his home to talk. Just a simple glance would have been all Lorna needed, Ryan concluded. Unfortunately, Lorna had to be left. Whatever she needed to say, Ryan would have to hear it later, and whatever that may be, Ryan figured was important, urgent even. Ryan didn’t want to leave Lorna alone, Ryan didn’t want to leave Lorna to walk by herself back to the building.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” Lorna had said to Ryan before she left him with his mother. For some reason, those words still lingered within Ryan’s mind, and before he knew it, they had stung him more than anything he can remember.
“Okay,” Ryan replied, but even Ryan wasn’t sure whether those words had made it to her. Lorna had simply trailed off, her head held low, her expression completely drained. Lorna was down, she was sad, and she was devastated. What Lorna wanted to do was tell Ryan everything she knew, and to prepare him for what was to come, but as Anna came into the picture, she slowly realized how much Ryan wasn’t involved in her case. Ryan was in a norm all his own, and he had no real reason to stick around and see to any of her problems. Lorna had to do what she needed to do alone. Lorna had made up her mind. As Lorna walked back to the building, she told the kids to prepare. She told the kids that their time was ending, and that they needed to be ready for the worst. She told them that the ‘bad guys’ were closing in on them. Lorna wasn’t wrong, but what she didn’t know, was that there was still one more person at the orphanage who wasn’t present. That one person, is a person who has become integral to the orphanage, whether he realizes it or not. His second home, and his new norm will all come to an end, and he won’t stand to see it go like that. Not after all the work he’s done, at least, that’s what Ryan concluded.
“Lenny,” Anna dragged Ryan back to his current reality. He had much more problems than just the orphanage dissolving, he had to deal with his mother.
“I want you to listen to me.”
“Listen without yelling.” Lenny leaned back.
“I want to take Ryan back.” No one in the room was surprised, not even Ryan. The only emotions stirring up within the two were anger, and confusion.
“I work for the government. I have a job now. Can you believe it?” Anna gave off a weak smile to Lenny, who only looked at her with pity and understanding. Anna’s voice became starched and even she couldn’t hide away from her watery eyes.
“This old ditch has a job now, aren’t you happy, ma, pa?” Anna spoke as if they were in the room, as if they had ears skies away, and were watching her, judging her.
“I can make money now. I can buy clothes, food, I can even be warm during the nights. Isn’t that amazing?” Anna gave off a weak smile to herself, it was a smile filled with grief and a smile filled with angst. It was a smile that she had been saving up for years, it was a smile she wanted to show her parents, and even as they were not there, she acted as if they were. Anna couldn’t help but feel like they were, and even Lenny thought the same. Ryan was the only one left out of the loop, and the only one found bordering the edge of the norm these two were involved in.
“I have a place to stay. I can provide Ryan a place to stay. I can take care of him now.” Anna pleaded to the air, to Lenny, to Ryan.
“I won’t make the same mistake twice. I need–” Anna paused, and reconsidered her words, “I have to do this. I have to do this in place of him. I won’t let you down. Please. I’ll stay, I won’t go off. I won’t–” Anna suppressed tears from rolling from her eyes, which made it even harder for her to speak. Lenny was already squinting his eyes as he couldn’t stand to see Anna the way she was. Lenny didn’t know much about government affairs, and that played a crucial part for Anna. What made it even worse, was that Ryan didn’t know either, and the only person in the room who would figure out Anna’s real intentions would have been Lorna. After all, Lorna has protected them before, and has even been paid by them before. If anyone, Lorna would be able to help Ryan make his decision, and would be able to turn Anna down without a hitch.
“I won’t break again. I won’t fall into shambles. After all, I can’t anymore.”
“Anna. That’s enough. Talking about it won’t change the past–” Lenny paused, and waited for Anna to wipe her eyes.
“What you want right now is a huge burden. But it’s not only a burden, it’s an unpayable debt. You know that, right?”
“Yes. I know, Lenny. I really do. But even if I can’t amend for what I’ve done, I still want to make a better future.” Lenny sighed. It seemed like he had enough of the situation, and couldn’t stand to see Anna grovel anymore. Lenny’s mind had already been made, and his answer still stood firm. Anna knew that cracking Lenny wasn’t easy, and no amount of sympathy could change his unwavering attitude.
“Making a better future, amending your past, all of that, is up to you. In my opinion, you’ve already made up for all the stupid things you did–” Lenny paused, and a pained look came on his face before he finished.
“But ma and pa will never forgive you. They’ll have your head off faster than you can realize it. No matter how much you beg them, they’ll just have you eating dirt.”
“I know. And this is why I came to you.” Lenny sighed again. Out of all the relatives, and out of all the people, it was Lenny, Ryan’s uncle, who took him in. That spoke leagues about him, Anna thought. It was the unthinkable, and it was a debt that Lenny will carry with him to his grave, Anna thought. Ryan felt confused about the situation. He knew that he needed to let his mother try, and he knew that he needed to at least hear her out, to let her have this chance. But Ryan had long but disconnected himself with his past. Ryan has moved on, and he’s found new family, new friends, and even a new home. All of that, and all of the things he’s come throughout his time with Lorna and the children, slowly devoured him. They threatened to collapse, and Ryan wanted to stop it. Ryan wanted to run and to talk to Lorna, to figure out what she was saying. And at the same time, Ryan needed to give his mother an answer.
“Well Ann. Even if you give me a penny, I won’t have much to do with anything, do I?”
“But I would still give you a penny.”
“Right. And that wouldn’t dissuade you at all, would it?”
“It wouldn’t. Because after all–”
“It’s all up to him.” Lenny and Anna turned towards Ryan, the former looking at him with blank eyes, and the latter looking at him with wanting eyes. Ryan stood in the middle of chaos. Without knowing why, and without given much compromise, he has been thrown in the middle of the streets. Cars pass him by without much regard, and the only thing Ryan can do is cross without being run over. However, Ryan is too jaded, and too strung on everything around him that he can’t even move his legs. And when he does, he can’t feel them. Ryan is stuck between worlds, between norms crashing into themselves. All Ryan wants to do is run.
“Know that no one is forcing you,” Lenny adds.
“You’re doing this because you want to. You have a choice now. Just remember that whatever choice you make, we’ll be supportive of it. Especially this one.” Ryan couldn’t make a decision. He didn’t want to. He wanted his days to go by as they always did. He wanted to laugh, cry, run until his lungs gave out. He wanted to see Lorna, he wanted to see her ecstatic playful smile. He wanted to see her get hungry, he wanted to see her get sad. He wanted to see everyone grow up. He wanted this norm. It was crashing. The world was crumbling. Ryan ran. Ryan got up from the table, no words, and not a single look to either Anna or Lenny. Ryan simply walked away, washing away the words that followed behind him. The world was crumbling.