I reached up to brush my wispy black bangs that had fallen in my eyes aside. I lifted my left hand, studying the piece of paper for the twenty-sixth time since waking up this morning at 7:03 a.m. The paper depicted my own drawings of the Google-provided satellite information from the Google Maps system. I had made sure to map out all of the streets and their names, any possible memorable landmarks, and a detailed miniature of my destination on the bus ride here. I hadn't been able to do it on the five-hour flight I'd taken from Sacramento, California to North Platte, Nebraska before catching the bus to Oakley here in Missouri. Lowering my arm, I folded the paper clumsily with one hand before slipping it back into my jeans pocket.
Honestly, I hadn't even needed the map, as far as directions go. But it had given me something to do on the five-hour bus ride and anything seemed better than really letting my mind stick to the main problem right now.
Just be friendly, Seok, I told myself firmly. Friendly means smiling, being understanding about their situation, and trying not to be a bother. I tapped the tip of my left shoe against the wood of the porch I was standing on while waiting for the inhabitants to answer the front door of their home as I shifted to a slightly less stiff position. Settled in both my body posture and my mental attitude attempt, I tried to let my lips lift into a smile…
I shrugged. Whatever, it's not like it matters. It's too much effort, really.
That thought centered in my mind, as always, I let my face relax back into its normal expression of impassive boredom. It was how I existed, honestly. I'd barely felt anything when my father had passed away…
Which brought me back to the current problem.
Here I was, standing outside of Mackenzie Arnold's home, the mother of two girls, an old friend of my deceased father. According to my father's last will and testament, I was to be taken in by Mackenzie and live out the rest of my singular minor year. As of this moment I was seventeen years, two weeks, and three days old. My father, Mathew Kim, had passed a mere nine days after my seventeenth birthday.
Such was life; it existed until it was snatched away.
Yawning, I could feel some of the weariness of the last few days start to come over me. It was more of a mental than physical weariness. Having to deal with other people had always tired me out. I had been told when I was very young that I had tried…
But somewhere between the age of zero and seventeen, I'd grown bored with trying. Really, why did I need to try at anything?
Why does this world have to be so boring?
Living day-to-day was like watching paint dry. Part of me had gone to the darker edges of my mind and wondered what it would be like to just...stop.
Of course, I'd never done it. But it was still a thought, one I kept close to mind.
The slow creak of a door pulled me out of my current musings and into new ones.
Is it Mackenzie? She should be here since I talked to her last night. But perhaps one of her girls came to answer the door instead? Is it Selena or Maria?
"Seok?" A short woman who looked much younger than I was expecting called out my name.
I blinked, taking in all the information very quickly.
I'd met Mackenzie once; when Maria was four, Selena was six, and I was five. Mackenzie had only been twenty-three then, but she honestly didn't look much older now at thirty-five. Sure, her face had lost some of its youthful bloom and radiance, but not nearly as much as I would have thought.
Miss Arnold—since she'd never married and had been impregnated by two different men—was exactly five feet and two-point-one inches tall. The top of her head would have brushed against the middle of my stomach if she was standing right in front of me. Her hair was a long, curly, frizzy mass of red-gold, her eyes a soft hazel-green. Her pretty face (I knew most men would see this woman as a 9 on good days, perhaps a 7.5 on a bad day...Today was a bad day, but that didn't stop her from still being suitably physically attractive if I had any thought to pursue such lines of action with my new godmother) was very quickly shifting into a warm smile. Her entire face lit up with the expression.
This expression takes her up to an 8, I mused internally on top of my earlier thoughts.
"You've grown so big since the last time I saw you!" Mackenzie exclaimed.
I nodded once. "Yes. Twelve years does normally ensure a child grows.”
Her brow puckered into a frown as she eyed me. I was used to this kind of reaction. People didn't know how to handle me. Even my own father hadn't known what to do with a child like me. I wasn't normal...I knew this. I'd known since I was three, old enough to really grasp the differences between myself and other people.
"Well..." she coughed, trying to clear the very awkward air between us. "Don't just stand out there all day. Hurry up and come inside," she insisted, waving her hand in a come-here motion.
Nodding again, I reached down to my right to pick up the handle of my rolling suitcase.
"Thank you for having me," I said, realizing it was the polite thing to say.
Her frown grew a little as she shut the door behind her. "No need to be so...cold," she murmured with a little uncertainty. "This is your home now as much as the girls or me," she insisted, reaching out to pat my bare arm.
I resisted the urge to reach down and snap her wrist. I despised being touched by others and no matter the reason I had never been able to force myself to be okay with it.
Instead of breaking the woman in front of me, despite how easy it would be for me to do so, I let out a low breath. "Miss Arnold, I would appreciate it if you refrain from physical contact with myself as much as possible."
Her hand instantly jerked back, and a crestfallen expression filled that pretty face of hers. "Oh...Oh, I wasn't even thinking! I'm so sorry, Seok. You must still be going through so much since Mat-" Her voice cut off, but not before I caught the hint of emotion there.
Ah, so Mackenzie cared for Mathew in that way. Perhaps she turned to the men who were the fathers of her children because Mathew spurned her feelings?
...Very plausible, I decided.
While my mind ran with these thoughts, I opened my mouth to speak. I made sure to look Mackenzie in the eyes, ensuring that she understood how serious I was about this. "No, actually, not at all. I need no recovery period of that sort after Mathew's death, merely an adjustment period for all the changes happening. But that is beside the point. Miss Arnold, I have never enjoyed the touch of others, so do not feel insulted by my rejection. Even brushing against a stranger in a crowd can be quite awful. I do appreciate your concern, though, and perhaps if I was not as I am, it might even be accurate."
Her eyes went a little wide as she had to crane her neck to stare up at me. Deciding it might make things easier for her, I took two quick half-steps backward to put more distance between us.
A light of hurt entered her eyes. I didn't try to hurt the people around me...I just wasn't very good at human interactions.
"I merely hoped to make it a little easier for us to speak without our height differences causing any unnecessary problems." Her eyes showed she understood what I meant, and the hurt left them slowly.
That's one problem solved then.
"Okay, Seok. Thank you for explaining that," she cleared her throat and her spine stiffened a little. "If you'd like to follow me, I'll give you the tour of the house."
A mere glance at her body language told me she was trying to mimic my lack of emotion or expression. She was trying to appear "professional" about this. I raised a hand to rub at a pinching ache in the back of my neck.
"Look, Miss Arnold. I'm not trying to make it seem like you need to treat me any different than your own children. I have no problems with being viewed as your son and in fact, I welcome you to, if you so wish. I know I come across as cold, aloof, and uncaring. It's just how I am, the way my brain is wired, and I don't see any reason to try and hide that from you. For the next year, I will be living here with you and your family and I would like to cause you all as few problems as possible. So, please, don't feel like you must act distant. In fact, it may help you adjust if you let yourself care for me. That's a normal type of interaction, a normal thing for this sort of situation, is it not?"