Handle With Care

[Cyden universe] Will didn't know what to expect from his family's new foster child, but it certainly wasn't a standoffish, recluse of a girl. Even though she wants nothing of the sort, Will still hopes to befriend her, which proves to be quite the challenge. For once, it's a challenge that Will's girlfriend Natalie isn't helping him face, and Will is left to figure things out as best he can.

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1. Chapter One: New Kid in Town

 

    Will sat at the kitchen table, drumming his fingers on the wood. He couldn’t stop his leg from bouncing up and down with pent up energy as he poured over the short information sheet yet again. It didn’t say much, just the basics. There was only enough information for Will to start imagining the new foster child that his parents were hosting, but not enough for him to form an actual opinion of him. 

 

      Name: Alexander Frye

    Sex: Male

    Age: 15

    Birthdate: November 1st, 2000

    History: Forcibly ejected from home at the age of 12. Taken in by two other families, each lasting no longer than 18 months. History of rebellion and flight attempts, none successful. No history of violence or diagnosed mental illness.

 

    To say that Will was nervous was an understatement. This kid could either be awesome or psychotic, and Will had no idea which. He picked up his phone, checking the time yet again. His parents should be home with Alexander in ten minutes or so. As he was looking at the screen, a text popped up from Natalie. 

 

    Natalie Mallory 11:34 AM: Is he there yet? 

    Will Harmon 11:34 AM: No :/ What if he’s weird?

    Natalie Mallory 11:34 AM: Then he’ll be in good company ;)

    Will Harmon 11:35 AM: haha. But really

    Natalie Mallory 11:35 AM: Idk how long does he stay for?

    Will Harmon 11:36 AM: Until he finds a permanent family I guess

    Natalie Mallory 11:37 AM: Well good luck. Let me know when I can come meet him

    Will Harmon 11:37 AM: Would this afternoon be too soon you think? It’ll be easier if you’re here I think

    Natalie Mallory 11:38 AM: It’s kinda short notice. I’ll have to ask my parents

    Will Harmon 11:38 AM: Good luck

    Natalie Mallory 11:39 AM: You too

 

    Will put down his phone with a sigh. There was very little chance Natalie’s parents were going to let her come over in just a few hours. Plans with her usually had to be made at least the day before, if not sooner. He should’ve thought of that.

    After yet another round of imagining what his new brother - if that’s what he’d call him - would look like, Will’s thoughts were cut off by the sound of the door opening. He swallowed, drying his palms on his shorts. They were here. 

    “Will?” Will’s mom called out as her clicking heels betrayed her movement towards the kitchen. “Come show Alex around while we bring in the luggage.”

    Will hopped off his stool and headed out to meet them in the hallway. His mom smiled tightly before heading out the door and back to the car.

     Had Will not read the information sheet, he would’ve been certain that the boy in the doorway was actually a girl. His dyed black hair was cut in a punk style, falling in long bangs over one side of his face and coming to a stop halfway down his neck. Will could only make out one eye, but he could see the dark makeup ringing it, and silver earrings peeked out from underneath his hair. 

    Even the boy’s clothes were feminine; high waisted black jeans that tapered tight to his ankles and a tight t-shirt which accentuated curves that a thin adolescent boy shouldn’t have. 

    Will slowly became aware that he was staring when that one exposed eye narrowed into a glare. Blushing Will snapped out of it and extended his hand. “I’m Will.”

    Begrudgingly, Alexander accepted it. “I’m Alex. Under no circumstances should you call me Alexander or use anything other than she/her pronouns.” Alex spoke in a low, quick voice, and though she didn’t say what would happen if Will called her by the wrong name, there was an undercurrent of threat in her voice. He swallowed. 

    “Sure,” Will said, forcing on a bright smile. “Come on, I’ll give you a tour.”

    Alex didn’t look thrilled, but she also didn’t protest. Will led her into the living room, saying eloquently, “This is the living room, and there’s the kitchen.” He shifted awkwardly as Alex scanned the room. This was weird. Usually, Will loved meeting new people, but, whether due to the fact that Alex was living with them or otherwise, he was feeling oddly nervous and out of his element. 

    “That door leads to the finished basement, which is my room now,” Will said. He didn’t see any need to take Alex down there, so he didn’t. “Your room is down the hall; I’ll show you.”
    She followed Will as he headed back the hall, and he could feel her gaze piercing into his back. Will was terrified for a minute before he remembered that she was kicked out by her parents at the age of twelve. The thought instantly made Alex seem more human, and Will relaxed a little. “That’s my- er, our parents room,” he said, pointing down the hall at the far door. “Then the bathroom, and your room is on this side.” 

    Turning the knob, Will glanced back to make sure Alex was still following. She was. Will stepped into his old room, which had been mostly stripped of his personal touches. A simple navy comforter and white sheets were on the bed, and Will’s familiar dresser stood in the corner. They had replaced those for Will’s new room, leaving these here for Alex. A little bookshelf sat under the window, and a nightstand was pressed up against the bed. The room could do with some personal touches. 

    “You can change anything you want,” Will told Alex, who didn’t look over at him. “Like, if you want to get posters or something, that’d be cool. What kind of stuff do you like?” he asked conversationally. 

    Alex looked over then, but didn’t answer. 

    “Alright, here you go,” Will’s dad said brightly, entering the room while lugging in two large suitcases. Will stepped to the side, allowing him to set them down against the wall. Will’s mom followed with a cardboard box, which she also placed on the ground. 

    “Lunch will be in a half hour,” Will’s mom said, smiling. “Do you like macaroni and cheese?” she asked Alex. “It’ll be homemade.”

    Alex nodded, and Will’s mom smiled. “Great. Will, why don’t you help Alex unpack? Get to know each other?”

    “Sure, mom,” Will said, even though he could feel Alex glaring at him. When his mother had gone, Will looked over. “Do you want help?”

    “No,” Alex replied immediately. 

    Will figured that was going to be the answer. “Uh, okay. Do you want me to stay and-“

    “I’d rather you didn’t.” Alex had an unusual way of talking. It was if she was trying to speak by moving as few muscles as she could, ejecting her words quickly and flatly into the air. 

    “Oh, um,” Will said, awkwardly shifting towards the door. “Okay then.” He took another step back. “If you need anything, I’ll be, um-“ Will just pointed over his shoulder, then backed the rest of the way out, heading down the empty hallway with relief. Avoiding his parents, Will headed down to his room, immediately pulling out his phone and dialing Natalie. “Natalie,” he said as soon as she answered. 

    “Is he there?” she asked excitedly, skipping the hellos.

    “She,” Will corrected. “She’s here.”

    “Oh,” Natalie replied. “So they made a mistake? You didn’t get Alex?”

    Will sighed, flopping back on his bed. “No, we got Alex. He is a she. Now. I guess. There’s a word for that, isn’t there?”

    “Transgender,” Natalie informed him. “Wow. Well, I guess that explains why she was kicked out. All our ridiculous theories were wrong.”
    “What? How does that explain anything?” Will asked, frowning at the ceiling.

    Natalie sighed. “Will, I know you’re, like, super positive about everything, but some really prejudiced people exist. Trans people aren’t treated any better than gay people. If her parents were really against it or really didn’t accept it… Well, she wouldn’t be the first trans kid to get kicked out on the street.”
    “Oh,” Will said, for lack of anything better. It looked like he had some research to do. “What kind of parent would do that, though? She’s still the same person; who cares about gender.”

    There was an edge to Natalie’s voice when she said, “That’s not how some people see it.” Some muffled sounds came through the speaker, and then Natalie was back. “Sorry, I have to go. I can’t come today, sorry. Bye!”

    “Bye,” Will said a second before she hung up. He tossed the phone on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. 

    Will didn’t want to just accept Alex’s cold behavior towards him; he wanted to understand it. Opening his laptop, Will googled “transgender” and read article after article. He watched a few short videos, in the middle of which, his mom called him up for lunch. Will closed his computer and hurried upstairs, hoping to get to the kitchen before Alex.

    When he got upstairs, Will found his father setting the table and his mom stirring a pot of macaroni. “But the paperwork still says male, so do we call him ‘he’-“ Will’s father was asking, his voice low. Will sent a frantic glance towards Alex’s bedroom, but she was still out of sight.

    “No,” Will stepped in, talking quickly. “She’s a girl now, so just treat her like one. Actually,” he continued, glancing over his shoulder, “don’t mention anything about it now, okay? I’ll email you some articles and stuff, but don’t say anything. We don’t want to offend her on the first day.”
    Both of Will’s parents were looking at him, seeming confused and a little out of their element. “Okay,” his dad said, and his mom nodded. “Glad one of us is up on things,” he said, shooting Will a little smile. 

    Alex wandered into the room a minute later, taking a seat at the nearest chair. Will sat next to her, but wasn’t acknowledged. He didn’t expect to be. Will’s mom set a bowl of macaroni and cheese down in front of them both, the creamy orange noodles still steaming.

    “So, Alex,” Will’s dad said as he sat, “is there anything you need us to pick up? We tried to think of everything for your room, but we might have missed a thing or two.”
    “It’s fine, thanks,” Alex said, stirring her food rather than eating it. 

    There was a moment of awkward silence before Will’s mom came to the rescue. “So, you two start school in, what, two days?” she asked with a motherly sort of excitement. 

    Will nodded. “Yeah, on Monday.”

    “Do you think Hayden would take you two school shopping?” his mom asked. “If he’s not too busy, that is. We would, of course, but we have that wedding to go to tomorrow, and I’m not sure how long it’ll last.”

    “Hayden would probably take us,” Will said, perking up at the idea of navigating these awkward waters with the safe familiarity of Hayden by his side. “Or Cyrus could, if Hayden’s busy.”

    “Good; tell them thank you. Maybe Natalie could go too, if she has anything to pick up. You could introduce her to Alex.”

    Will smiled. “Sure.”

    Suddenly, he felt a whole lot better. Hayden and Natalie were the two friendliest people he knew, so if Alex was still standoffish with them, then at least he’d know he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Will couldn’t wait to see Natalie and Hayden, even though he’d just been with them a few days before. Right now, he really needed a good dose of normality. 

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