It had been two years since Lu had taken Alden in, but this still didn't feel quite like home. Although, the concept of home was still a considerably loose one for him. As much as he looked up to Lu, he felt as if he could talk and play with Collin better. Collin liked to take Alden out on little excursions into the nearest town anytime they needed supplies. He also preferred to be the one to do the shopping because Lu would always come home with bags and bags full of freeze dried survival food packs. Collin liked to bring home items like lamb and asparagus.
"The boy needs to have a balanced diet. You'll kill him with all of that powdered crap."
Today was an excursion day. It started brilliantly, it started with ice cream.
"I'll have a waffle cone with rocky road," Collin told the woman behind the counter.
"And how about your little one, here?" She was a pretty lady, with dark brown hair, brown skin, and light brown eyes. And she was kind.
Alden could never easily decide which flavor of ice cream he wanted. He wanted them all. Except for butter pecan. Never butter pecan.
"I think I'll have..." He examined the flavors through the glass. "Peppermint."
"That's gonna get stuck all in your teeth, kid," Collin frowned, but Alden countered with a pout.
This pout never worked on Lu, but Collin could never resist it.
"He'll have peppermint," Collin conceded and the lady smiled.
Collin took the cone of ice cream from the lady and handed it down to Alden, who took it merrily and began to eat it greedily.
Something caught his attention under one of the tables. A mouse? He thought he saw a tail. He walked towards it and crouched down on his knees when he saw it was a shoe with loose laces. Attached to the shoe was a girl. She was smaller than him. Three? Her skin was like his favorite caramel candies and her hair fell all over the place in wild curls. She had a stuffed rabbit in her hands.
"Hi," Alden said and smiled, his face sticky with ice cream.
She kicked him back and he fell away from the table, his ice cream falling to the floor.
"Delia!" The pretty lady shouted and came running from behind the counter. "Delia, say you're sorry. You shouldn't kick people."
The little girl took off running to the back room without a word.
"I'm sorry about that," the woman fretted. "She gets very nervous around new people."
"That's alright. Alden's not very good with personal space," Collin said, but Alden wasn't sure what he meant that was so funny to the lady.
Overtime, Collin continued to bring Alden to this ice cream shop. He was smitten with the intelligent, beautiful and kind young woman who worked behind the counter. Alden was miserably trying to interact with Delia, who refused to play with him. She kicked him at least once a visit.
This went on for a year until, one day they simply went to the grocery store.
"Did the ice cream lady get mad at us?" Alden asked.
"No," Collin smiled and they continued shopping.
Collin bought him a ten-inch toy dinosaur that day. It was awesome.
When they got home, he played with Steven and his new dinosaur. Collin started cooking and it smelled gross. Fish. They never ate fish because only Lu liked fish, and Lu never did the shopping. Why was Collin cooking fish?
That's when the doorbell rang.
The ice cream lady was there and Delia was hiding behind her leg. They both came into the house.
"Delia, go say hi to Alden," the ice cream lady said.
And then Alden saw Collin touch his mouth to the mouth of the ice cream lady. He had never seen one person do that to another person. He turned to look at Delia. He bottom lip was trembling and her eyes were glossy. Tears started to fall down her cheeks, but she stayed quiet.
"Do you want to meet my dog?" Alden asked.
Her eyes got wide and she sniffled away the rest of her tears as she nodded her head. Alden gingerly took hold of her hand and brought her to the backyard.
Steven was excited to meet a new person. He licked Delia's face all over and she giggled. It was the first time Alden had seen her do something other than frown. He thought she was even prettier than her mom when he saw her smile.
They were called back into the house for dinner. It was fish, just as Alden had smelled.