The bed squeaked loudly as Zayne changed position for what felt like the hundredth time. How can this mattress be so damn lumpy and uncomfortable? He wondered. It’s brand new!
With a sigh, he pulled himself from bed at last. There was no point in trying to fall asleep at this point. He’d been unsuccessful for hours now. Why try to force it any longer? He reached over, retrieving his cellphone from the bedside table. It was already 1:17 in the morning. He had to be up in less than six hours to make it to school on time.
Shivering slightly, Zayne fumbled his way through the darkness to find the bathroom. The cold air was so still. So silent. He hadn’t even heard the sound of any cars passing outside for a while now. It was strange – unsettling, almost. And it had made finding sleep that much harder.
I wonder if Remi and River’s apartment is this damn quiet. How the hell can they stand sleeping in a place like this? !
After his aunt and grandfather dropped him off that afternoon, things seemed to be going just fine. Zayne hadn’t anticipated his first night alone would be so difficult… Especially after how well the rest of his day had gone.
He finished unpacking the rest of his clothes, stopped by Remi and River’s apartment for some dinner, and spent the rest of the evening battling with his crappy little TV, searching for decent reception (and, much to his delight, was successful at long last).
As he’d crawled into bed that night, Zayne had half-expected to be awoken from his sleep by the sounds of a wild party downstairs, or rowdy neighbors across the hall. And he was ready for it. Zayne was no stranger to the annoyance of living in a noisy house.
But the silence was so much worse.
There was no Charlie giggling on the phone with Ben in the wee hours of the morning.
No soft tapping of Tony’s keyboard as she typed up some late-night story ideas.
No Alex snoring so loudly that the sound echoed all the way across the hall.
No cheesy horror-movie music as Jocelyne and Mark enjoyed a movie together.
No footsteps of someone retrieving a midnight snack downstairs.
No whispered nighttime conversations carrying out into the hall.
And as much as he hated admitting it, Zayne missed every single one of them. Every laugh, every snore, every footstep, every whisper… But more than anything else, he missed the ones making the noise. He missed his family.
I wanna go home.
The thought came and went before he even realized it. Zayne shook himself mentally. No, you don’t. He told himself firmly. This is what you want. Privacy. Independence. No Tante Joce breathing down your neck all the damn time!
Tante Joce… The thought of his aunt sent yet another wave of loneliness washing over him.
Was she still awake? What if he called her, just to hear a familiar voice? That would make him feel better, wouldn’t it?
Jesus, Zayne! Stop being such a baby! You can’t call her. Not unless you want her to think this was some huge mistake and make you come back home because you’re too much of a pussy to handle ONE FRIGGIN’ NIGHT ON YOUR OWN. This is what you wanted, so suck it up and grow a pair!
Jocelyne sighed in frustration, closing her book and placing it on the arm of the chair beside her.
It was no use. She hadn’t gotten one wink of sleep, and her attempts at focusing on reading had been just as unsuccessful. Her mind was simply too far away – all the way across the city, in fact. In a crappy little apartment with a sixteen year old boy she loved like her own son.
Oh, Zayne… She almost wanted to cry as she thought of him all on his own. What the hell was I thinking?! How had she fooled herself into thinking this was a good idea?
“This is what he wants.” Mark had reminded her earlier that evening, when her panic first began to set-in. “And this is what you wanted too, wasn’t it? To give him a chance to try this thing out for a while? Maybe learn a lesson or two along the way?” He’d laughed. “Zayne’s less than twenty minutes away, honey. He’s right near Remi and River. He’ll be fine.”
But would he?
What if someone tried breaking in? How would he defend himself? What if there was faulty wiring in his apartment? What if a fire started? What if he went to a party and got drunk? What if he did something stupid? What if he hurt himself? What if something bad happened and she wasn’t around to protect him?
Screw ‘tough love’! This is a mistake! …Isn’t it?
Jocelyne shook her head slowly, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself. No it’s not. This is the right thing. A small voice in the back of her mind seemed to say. You’re giving Zayne a chance to prove himself, just like he wanted. If he succeeds, great. And if he doesn’t, he has Remi and River to look out for him. And he has you and Mark to come home to. So suck it up and stop worrying!
But that was so much easier said than done.
Before Jocelyne could continue arguing with herself, her thoughts were interrupted by a soft buzzing sound coming from her bedside table.
What the hell?! It was well past one in the morning. Who could it possibly be?
Jocelyne practically ran across the room, a thousand panicked thoughts suddenly flooding her mind. What if it was the police? What if something had happened to Zayne? For a moment, she thought back to the most horrible phone call she’d ever received in her entire life. A wave of nausea rose up in her stomach at the memory.
Her fears were only alleviated slightly at the sight of her nephew’s name on the screen. At least it was him calling… But why? What could possibly be wrong?
“Hello?” She fought to keep her voice in a whisper as she lifted the phone to her ear. In the bed beside her, Jocelyne could already hear Mark stirring slightly. “Zayne?!” Jocelyne crossed into the bathroom as she spoke, shutting the door behind her to muffle the sound of her voice.
“Hey, Tante Joce.” Zayne’s voice was steady and calm. “Sorry for calling so late… Did I wake you up?”
Jocelyne shook her head, forgetting for a moment that he could not see her. “No, I was reading.” She replied, her heart rate finally slowing down slightly. There was no way he’d be so calm if there was a real emergency. “Honey, what’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything’s fine.”
“Oh… Then… Why’d you call?”
Her nephew seemed to hesitate uncertainly before replying. “Um…. Well… it’s the pipes.” He muttered. “They’re making kind of a weird sound, I guess. It woke me up.”
A vision of bursting pipes and a flooded apartment suddenly filled Jocelyne’s mind. “Uh-oh. What kind of sound?”
“I dunno. A weird one?” She could almost picture his shoulders shrugging. “I just didn’t know if you had an idea what it might be?”
For a moment, Jocelyne almost laughed. “I can’t really give you any advice if you don’t tell me what it sounded like.”
“It’s just hard to describe, okay? You kinda have to hear it for yourself.”
“Well, plumbing isn’t exactly my expertise anyway.” She explained gently. “Opa’s pretty good with that sort of thing though. Want him to stop by in the morning and take a look?”
“Uh, no. No, it’ll be fine.” He replied almost hastily. “I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll let the landlord know. I… I don’t even know why I called. It’s stupid.”
“Not stupid.” Jocelyne assured him. “You’re just being careful. Better safe than sorry, right?”
“Y-yeah, I guess.” Zayne fell silent for a few moments then.
His aunt did too. She wasn’t quite sure what to say. ‘I miss you’ and ‘Please come home’ came to mind, but she quickly shook the thoughts away. Stop being ridiculous!
“Well, I guess if everything’s alright, I should let you go.” Jocelyne broke the silence at last, keeping her tone calm and casual. “But I’ll talk to you later this week, okay? And let me know what happens with the pipes.”
“Yeah. Okay.” She could sense the hesitation in his tone. “And, um… Tante Joce?”
“I, uh… I just… Well…” Zayne sputtered awkwardly for a few moments. “Th-thanks anyway. About the pipes. I really appreciate it.”
This time, Jocelyne did laugh. “Well you’re welcome honey. But I didn’t really do anything.”
“I know, but… Still. Thanks.”
She just shook her head in confusion. “Goodnight, Zayne.”
“Goodnight, Tante Joce.”
Going back to four updates a week for a while 🙂 I anticipate flip-flopping back and forth between three and four, but I’ll always let you guys know before the change happens 🙂
This means our current schedule will be Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday 🙂