Beads of sweat were gathering about his neck by time Peter had reached the bakery. The sun was at its biggest, brightest, and most violent at the scalding hour of noon. The sign of “Emma Sweetwater’s Bakery” had not yet dimmed to black, meaning that whatever happened to the strict closing time on Sundays at noon had not been enforced today.
Upon seeing that, Peter slowed his pace down to a walk, inhaled, and went through the doors.
I laughed at his face; I thought this drippy boy was about to drop dead.
Emma and her older brother Jace were hybrids to Peter. With a father sporting ebony skin and long, dark curls along with a porcelain-skinned mother with waist-length blond hair and green eyes, they truly were a fascinating sight. Whilst Emma got the milky skin and straight, raven hair, Jace had received a different set of genes.
“Here’s the little guy I was waiting for. How ya doin’, buddy?” Peter did not know what Jace was saying. His golden skin and emerald eyes had him lost. Instead of speaking, he dropped the money onto the counter, eyes locked and jaw rocking side-to-side in waiting. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see the darkened ambiance of the bakery, completely empty apart from the seventeen year-old hybrid and the sad thing.
Jace flipped a dark curl from his eye. “What’s this for?”
“Summer program. Costs… fifty. Right?” His blue eyes began to waver.
“W-well, it is, but, Peter, can you even afford this? What did your mom say?”
Peter shook his head and began to mumble even quieter. “She’s gone. Won’t come back until September. She’s in India, on a yoga trip.”
“What about your dad?”
“He’s gone too. Maybe at the bar. Maybe with the police. I don’t like him.”
Jace sighed and looked the twelve (who could pass for eight) year-old boy right in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Peter. I can’t even… imagine going through—you know—any of the stuff you are.”
Peter stayed silent.
The older boy ran a hand through Peter’s jagged blond hair, in turn making him flinch. “You’re cool, Peter. You don’t have to pay for this.”
Peter was still quiet.
“Well, I’m sure you already know, but the classes start tomorrow till Thursday at eight, sharp.”
“It’s not required to bring equipment, so don’t think you have to. It’s all provided here—”
“Jace,” Peter said hardly above a whisper.
“What’s wrong, Peter?”
He reached across the counter and grabbed one of Jace’s finger. “Thank you.”
For a moment, he was lost. Then he laughed, a delicate sort of thing. “No problem, little guy. Hey, are you excited for middle school?”
Peter frowned and returned his hands down to his side. “No. I cried when I started elementary school. I’ll cry harder when I start middle school.”
“Nah, it’s not that bad,” Jace began to say as he untied his black apron. “You stay with your own friends, the classrooms are big, and the teachers give you a little bit more space. Not a lot, but, you know, it’s cool. Trust me.” Jace gave the younger boy a wink before turning his back to him to face a stack of dirty dishes.
Peter’s faint brows pinched together. “Don’t do that.”
Jace turned. “Do what?”
“Nothing.” Peter cast his gaze down to his dilapidated shoes.
He left Jace to close the bakery.
Little Peter Johnson is quite the bore, isn’t he? A yawn in a universe of infinite possibilities. Another depressing sight that makes his way upon the world, silent and bumbling.
Oh, do you think you’re so much better?
It’s later in the day, I growing stronger as the sun begins to set. Peter had been gazing at the lake in Clementine’s backyard, dipping his naked toes into the water. She had sat alongside him and decided not to speak for a few minutes, then a few hours. It would have been a failed attempt if she had, anyway; it’s not like Peter would have said anything back to her. The most the boy had talked all that week was with the hybrid baker; truth be told, he actually had not spoken at all that week until he saw Clem earlier that day.
He had been entrapped in the lonely chamber that was his flat for nearly the entire week. Peter had asked his father for fifty dollars the following Sunday.
He was struck across the face with a belt for asking.
Later on in the night, Peter awoke to a few loud swears and the slam of the front door. A couple hours later—around three in the morning—his father came into his room and slapped the money across his face. He called him a few awful, awful names before leaving Peter to feel absolutely shaken.
I know I’m no saint, but the things he says and does to that boy is truly despicable.
Nonetheless, Peter had his money, and his father had left the house for a whopping six days. Six days! This had left him plenty of time to procrastinate going to the bakery and isolate himself from the rest of society. He would stare out the cream-colored blinds, peeking between the gaps at the bright sunlight. He would be brave and take his father’s shirt, which hung down by his ankles, and then run his hands up and down the broken radio. Then he would eat a bit of mustard and (if he was lucky) a few stale saltine crackers. By the time the day had ended, he had lost another pound. If he kept his diet conditions up, 100 pounds would soon shrivel down to double digits.
“Peter,” Clementine mumbled, watching the orange reflection of the sun bounce off the water. “I… I know he’s probably going to be back soon. You can sleep over here if you want. My parents don’t care.”
He nodded. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” She splashed her toes about in the water and waited till the sky was a deep black. “We should head inside. I don’t feel like scratching off anymore mosquito bites. C’mon.”
“Well,” the girl announced much too loudly in the deep of night. “You’ve got that class tomorrow. You should practice.”
Clementine began to rifle through her cabinets and scour through her fridge. “We’ve got some flour, eggs, sugar, and a couple chocolate chips. Can we make cookies?”
Peter hopped off the toddler stool. “Do you have any baking soda? Powder? Salt? Vanilla? Is the butter softened or will we have to microwave it for thirty seconds?”
The left side of her mouth curled upward. “Is this the only way you’re gonna talk to me?”
He nodded. “Can you answer my questions?”
She began to tie her hair back into a tight bun. “Nope, nope, double nope, and I don’t know what that means.”
Without another glance, he began to preheat the oven to 325 degrees, find bowls and spoons and sifters, and began to slowly and precisely measure ingredients into a large pink bowl.
“So… am I gonna help you, or…”
“Crack two eggs in a different bowl. Pick out the shells.”
Clementine snorted. “Yeah, like I still get shells in the batter.”
“You do. You did it last time.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine.”
As she cracked the eggs, with Peter’s back facing her, she shot him a long glance.
Not a thing of lust, but of worry, mind you.
She dumped the cracked eggs into the bowl and watched Peter stir it exactly fifty-three times. They placed them on a tray, put them in the preheated oven, and waited for a few minutes.
Whilst they waited, they sat down on her living room couch and stared at the flashing screen above them. Peter had never watched T.V. before he befriended Clementine, so it confused and captivated him greatly. They said nothing throughout a full episode of Voltron.
“Clementine,” his hoarse voice croaked.
“Yeah?” She turned the T.V. down a few notches.
“I’m scared to fail.”
“In front of people. In front of…other people.”
“You’ll be fine, Peter.”
“How long are these episodes?”
He slumped into the couch. “I failed already.”
The two shared a burnt cookie before dumping out the rest of the batch. They fell asleep to Lance, one of the paladins of Voltron, talking about how much he missed his family back on Earth.
Peter, before he fell asleep, thought to himself that there were very few people on Earth he would miss if he had the opportunity to leave it.