Somewhere not in Italy, that makes a change! Somewhere in America. Whoopee:
Silence woke in the morning with the sunlight streaming through the crack between his curtains and down onto his bed. By the clock on the chest of drawers next to his bed it was seven thirty.
He found it strange to see he was in a new room by himself instead of sharing a large one with about ten other boys. It was a blue room with a white ceiling; it also had a fan hanging from the roof. Silence’s old room hadn’t had a fan, indeed the room back at the orphanage never needed one.
There was a desk on one side of the room facing the bed and a sliding door set into the wall next to it. The chest of drawers next to his bed had a lamp on it as well as the clock. He reached over and turned on the lamp, just to try it. There were two lights set into the roof of the room back at the orphanage, one on each side of the room that were both controlled by a switch near the door. Silence had never been allowed to flick it to turn the lights on, only the older boys or Father Demetre were allowed to. It cost money for power to run the lights he had been told. Needlessly turning the lights on and off wasted the power.
After turning the lamp off he pulled back the thick covers on his bed and rushed out of the room. No one else was up, that he could see anyway, and looking out from a window on the second floor he could see that the car that he had driven in last night wasn’t out front where his uncle had parked it. Silence wondered where it had gone, and if it meant that his uncle had left too.
He wandered silently back to his room and hopped back into his still warm bed. He lay there awake, just watching the door of his room and thinking about things.
About eight o’clock he heard someone get up and move downstairs, and then shortly there was the sound of dishes being moved around in the kitchen. Five minutes later a high female voice, which he took to be his Aunt Geraldine, called him down for breakfast.
He jumped out of bed again and climbed into some clean clothes before running downstairs again. He rushed to a stop just before he reached the kitchen and walked into it.
The kitchen was an open area with lots of room, and he found his aunt in a purple dressing gown fixing a breakfast of toast. She turned when he coughed and looked down at him, frowning in distaste.
Silence looked down at himself in worry and then back up at her. He’d wanted to make a good first impression, but it seemed that maybe arriving in the clothes that he’d picked hadn’t been a good idea.
But not wanting to seem rude by not saying anything, he pulled out his notebook and wrote a nice note about how it was a lovely morning and how it was nice to meet her, all in the hopes that saying nice things would mend the matter of his clothes. He handed the note to her with a smile.
She sniffed in more distaste as she took it between two bony fingers. She opened it gingerly, touching it as little as possible, and read it. She read the part where he called her aunt and sniffed loudly again, Silence wondered briefly if she had a cold.
‘My name is Mrs Geraldine Revine,’ she told him after placing the note down onto the kitchen bench. ‘You will call me Aunty Geraldine, never Mrs Revine or plain Geraldine, understood?’
Silence nodded his head.
‘Good. Now there’s cereal in the cupboard over there,’ she pointed to a cupboard on the other side of the kitchen, ‘you can fix what you want. I’m going to take my breakfast up to my room. When you are done, there is the sink and you will wash your dishes,’ she commanded. ‘Understood?’ Silence nodded again. ‘Good.’ With that she picked up her plate of toast and walked past him out of the kitchen.
After fixing a bowl of cereal, and having trouble eating it, he cleaned up the dishes. He found that part tricky as she hadn’t told him what to dry the wet dishes with, or where the soap was, so he’d just used plain water and his shirt to dry the bowl and spoon. He hoped she wouldn’t mind, it was a clean shirt after all. And then he left to explore.
His new home was, well, it wasn’t as large as the orphanage, but in a way it seemed bigger. The house had four bedrooms, one for him, two spares and one for his aunt and uncle. It had two bathrooms, one lounge room, one dining room, and one kitchen. It had a small back yard which was nothing too fancy. A row of hedges grew along the fence line that separated the house from the one next door, and it had a nice little lawn with a bed of flowers along the other two walls of the fence.
The house was one story high, and it had a fire place in the lounge room. Not to say that the orphanage didn’t have those, it had all of those, but they were all large rooms. The beds were all placed together, there was one bathroom and the dining room and lounge were sometimes used as each other. But this house, because there were only three people living in it, it seemed big. But it wasn’t really.
After heading back up to his room after exploring he spent the time until lunch unpacking. At 12 his aunt called him down again and told him what he could have before leaving him to prepare it and do the dishes himself. He didn’t really mind that, but he wished that she would tell him what was so wrong that she kept staying away from him. He forgot about it shortly after lunch though when he picked up one of his unpacked books and went out to the garden to read.
The weather was sunny, much like Italy had been when he’d left, and he ended up staying out there all afternoon until his uncle came home.
Cuthbert came to see him in his room after dinner to talk to him privately and ask him how his first day had been.
It was good. I spent the morning exploring and unpacking. You have a nice house, it’s nicer than the orphanage, but that’s not Father Demetre’s fault. He tries to make it better but it’s hard when it’s just him looking after us as well as everything else.
‘Well, thank you, I’m glad you like my house,’ his uncle said, his voice rumbling in Silence’s ear. ‘And how was your aunt? Did she make you feel welcome?’
Silence paused before placing his pen to paper. He wasn’t sure what to say, she hadn’t really made him welcome. If you didn’t count the three times she’d called him over to eat and told him what he could have, they hadn’t really talked at all. But he didn’t want to lie to make his uncle think that she had, so he shook his head.
She doesn’t seem to like me, and I’m not sure why. She hardly spoke to me today, and when she did it wasn’t for long and she didn’t seem to want to. Why doesn’t she like me?
‘There doesn’t always have ta be a reason, Silence, for people ta not like other people, and if there is a reason, it doesn’t have ta be a big one. I think it’s not that she doesn’t like you; it’s just that she doesn’t know how ta act around you. She’s not very keen on children, and suddenly having one in the house, it goes against everything she likes. But don’t worry,’ he ruffled Silence’s black hair, ‘give her some time and she’ll get used ta you being here. And if you can prove ta her that you can be helpful and do what she asks when she asks you ta do things, then she’ll see you’re not a bad kid. Give her time ta adjust, and in the meantime, don’t worry about it.’
Silence thanked him.
Cuthbert rose to his feet and walked to the door, his head reached the ceiling and he had to duck to exit the room.
‘You’re going ta have a couple more days to settle in,’ he told him, ‘and then you’re going ta start school. I heard you like learning, so I enrolled you in the best that I can afford in the hopes that they’ll teach you things you don’t know.’
Silence nodded his head in reply and hopped into bed.
‘Well,’ his uncle started, ‘have a good night and I’ll see you tomorrow.’ He flicked the light off and closed the door.
Silence rolled over in bed and thought. He liked his uncle, he thought him a nice man, and he was happy that he was going to stay with him. But as much as he enjoyed the trip and getting to know Cuthbert and feeling excited about his new home, he missed his old home and the people he knew.
And for the first time, for the first time really, he was feeling nervous about going to a new school. When he first started at the orphanage, he sort of already knew everybody. Well he did, and now he was going to go to a place with a whole lot of people that, as his uncle explained to him, probably wouldn’t understand him. But that would pass. He would soon get to know people and fit right in. It would be fine. But he still felt nervous none-the-less.
The next day Silence sat down on a chair on the lawn and started to read his book to take his mind off things. He didn’t have a favourite book; he hadn’t read enough to find one that he really, really, liked. But he didn’t mind that.
It was a bit past twelve, and the sun was shining down, it warmed him. Silence liked the hot weather. You could do more things in it he found than you could in winter.
He turned the page of the book and read on. It was one of the ones that Doctor Faloni had given him, a book of fairy-tales. Silence didn’t really like fairy-tales. They were all right in their way, there was nothing wrong with them, but there was just something that didn’t seem right about them. He might have only been nine years old but he knew enough to know that. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he knew that fairy-tales weren’t right. He knew a lot of books were right. They were what Doctor Faloni called ‘Non-Fiction’, true. Whereas ‘Fiction’ was the opposite, it meant not true. A lot of things in stories weren’t true.
He had gotten so engrossed in his book that he didn’t hear for a while his aunt calling him from inside to come out from under the sun and come to the kitchen.
When her voice finally reached through the clouds of the story he jumped to his feet and ran inside, realising that he should have been listening out for his aunt in case she called, so much for trying to get on her good side.
He found her in the kitchen.
‘There you are!’ she exclaimed when she saw him. ‘Where have you been?’ she demanded, though Silence knew she had known all along where he had been. She was the one that had told him to go outside in the first place.
‘I’ve been calling you for ages! We open up our house to you and you don’t even come when you’re called!’
Silence hung his head. There wasn’t much he could do. He was unhappy that he had angered his aunt. But he couldn’t really apologise. He’d tried to earlier when she’d caught him drying his breakfast dishes with his shirt again because she still hadn’t told him where the tea towels were. That was what had caused her to lose her temper and send him outside the house. She hadn’t even read his note apologizing and explaining why he had been using his shirt.
She knew Silence couldn’t talk and yet she refused to go by the only other means of communication he had.
When Silence pulled out his notebook and wrote a note asking her what she wanted him for, she raised her voice and rebuked him for not using his voice, claiming him not talking was all a ruse and that she wouldn’t talk to him until he spoke to her.
She sent him back out of the kitchen and told him to go to his room. As Silence left he heard her muttering something about soon he would be at school and then maybe she could have some peace and quiet. He’d only been there two days.
He had learnt from his uncle that his aunt had taken a couple of days off work so that she could be at home to look after him while he settled in, unfortunately his uncle couldn’t. So he was stuck at home with his aunt until his uncle arrived back from work. Silence looked forwards to the clock ticking on five when his uncle would walk through the door.
By the day after that, Silence was looking forward to going and spending the day at school. He didn’t like his aunt. At first he didn’t mind her, but she never made herself nice, not once, so he didn’t like her anymore, and now looked forward to getting away from her. His uncle told him to just be patient. She’d grow on him and everything would be fine. Silence doubted that very much. If his aunt didn’t like him, and there was nothing he could do to make her like him, then he didn’t think that it was fault and he shouldn’t bother trying.
She doesn’t like me. I’ve tried to be helpful to her, I’ve done whatever she’s asked me to do, but she will find fault in even the smallest of things! He wrote a complaint to his uncle later that day.
‘It’s only been three days, Silence. You have ta give things time. If you’d like, I can have a word with her not ta be so strict with you,’ his uncle told him as they sat on Silence’s bed in his room.
Silence shook his head and wrote: She might start disliking me even more because I’ve gone to you.
‘There is nothin’ wrong with going ta me about this, I told you the first day, if you need anythin’ you can ask me. In this you have a complaint. There is nothin’ wrong with that. I’m here ta help you, and if Geraldine isn’t treatin’ you well, I’ll talk ta her. You’ve tried ta get ta know her and help her, but she hasn’t. Maybe the problem is with her. If she got ta know you she might not act like this. I’ll tell her to make some effort at getting ta know you. I want us all ta get along.’
Silence nodded. It still didn’t seem right his uncle going to his aunt and asking her to be kinder to him. It just doesn’t seem right, he thought again. He also had a feeling that it would only make her dislike him even more. But his uncle had made up his mind to talk to her, so they would see.
‘Tomorrow is your first day of school, how are you feelin’ about that?’ His uncle asked, changing the topic.
I’m nervous. I don’t know what to expect. Silence wrote and pushed to note to his uncle who read it.
‘Well that’s ta be expected,’ his uncle replied. ‘Nervousness is quite common when starting something new, but I’m sure you’ll do fine. Just get some sleep tonight so that you’re all fresh and ready ta start the day tomorrow. I’ll drop you off at the school, okay?’
Silence nodded. It was the smart thing to do. Go to sleep and relax. He smiled and hugged his uncle. His uncle hugged him back and then got to his feet. ‘I’ll see you in the morning,’ he told him and flicked off the light. ‘Goodnight.’