Chapter 5: the First Attempt

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 16

December 2oth - Nighttime (London Time - 9 pm)


<Johnny POV>

Johnny liked to think that he was okay with a lot of noise. Over the last few years, though, Johnny had got used to peace and quiet. While working for the Rossi’s, Johnny did his work with no complaint and said goodbye to his education. His reasoning had always been to protect Vernon. The goal was to work until he was twenty and then go back to the orphanage and get Vernon out. Because of what Aria had done, this had all become naught and unnecessary. Not only was he and Vernon together, both of them were getting another chance at education.

It still baffled him how easy it was for Mark and Aria to get what they wanted. Aria had wanted all her kids to have seats in first class, and so they did. Johnny assumed that the boy and girl that had become their travel companion had rich parents, too. Between the seven of them, there was only one seat left in first class.

Giovanni was being silly and bratty, jumping between his seat and the empty one. Johnny was proud in that moment that Vernon was behaving well.

Johnny bit back a scowl. With Aria present, it wasn’t his business to control Giovanni. Gabriel seemed annoyed too, judging by the glare of irritation on Gabriel’s face. He shrugged and turned his television on. Each of them had a TV they could use and a privacy barrier to block out other sound and people. He was sure that Aria wouldn’t send him away if he snapped and yelled at Giovanni. But Johnny would not take any chances, either. 

By the looks of it, Giovanni had a new found hatred for him. He had despised Vernon from the getgo, not even giving Vernon a chance. If Johnny was being honest with himself, it didn’t matter to him how much he loved Giovanni. If the latter wouldn’t respect him or Vernon, it would become a problem. Especially if his behaviour would stay erratic or immature because of unstable emotions. It made sense; he supposed. Aside from Gabriel and himself, Giovanni had no one near his age as a friend. The younger boy was emotional, brash, and impulsive. He never could control anything that came out of his mouth. He was sure it would be difficult for Giovanni to fit in at a new place, so he hoped there would be other kids like him. 

‘We need to discuss sleeping arrangements.’ Aria interrupted his musings. 

With a sigh, Johnny swivelled his chair around and gave his attention to Aria. She stood up, walked towards the other kids, hesitated, and sat back down.

‘There are five rooms right now that have a double bed, I’m guessing the other kids’ parent took the last one.’ 

She gestured towards the girl and boy that had followed them until now. According to Giovanni, the boy’s name was Hayden, and if what he had overheard was correct, Molly was the girl’s name.

‘I want to stay with Johnny!’ Vernon immediately said, raising his hand as if he were already in class. 

Aria smiled. ‘Yes, I’m sure you do. That’s fine with me if Johnny is okay with that.’ She inclined her head towards Johnny and he nodded his agreement. 

‘Alright!’ Aria glanced at Molly for a moment, he expression thoughtful. ‘Sweetheart, do you want to share a room with me so you can have better privacy? Or maybe Hayden can share with one of the boys.’ She turned to him and he shrugged evasively, returning to his book. He definitely looked a lot better after throwing up. Aria had pushed Giovanni to help him out earlier.

‘I’d love to share with you!’ Molly piped up, utter delight in her voice at the prospect. ‘Ah! Actually…’ Johnny watched as Aria counted on her fingers. ‘There is enough if you want your own room, since Johnny and Vernon are sharing. I didn’t realise!’ 

Molly pouted, but didn’t attempt to change the plan either. 

‘Sounds like a plan, guys. The aeroplane will fly for over thirteen hours. Then we will have a layover, which will last...’ She glanced at her itinerary, but Johnny drowned her out. As silent as he could, Johnny turned his seat around to avoid her noticing. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

On a whim, Johnny stood up and pointed in the general direction of the cabins. ‘I’ll go first, guys, sorry. I have a headache.’ Without even asking, Vernon immediately joined him. Like Molly, he was holding his stuffed animal in his arms, along with his bag. It didn’t escape Johnny’s notice, the way Giovanni sneered at Vernon when he passed. Thankfully Vernon didn’t see, but Johnny sent Giovanni a withering stare of warning. It seemed so affective that the latter curled up in his seat and turned away to stare out of his window instead.

‘Isn’t this super wonderful?’ Vernon squealed once they were in the safety of their own cabin. 

‘Absolutely unbelievable,’ Johnny acknowledged, plopping down onto the bed. He released a sigh of exhaustion as he stared up at the ceiling. The cabin was so large, Johnny wouldn’t have thought they were flying if he woke up here. He saw a pair of pyjamas at the corner of the bed and grinned, throwing one at Vernon. ‘Put these on! It can be a souvenir for you to take with you.’

Vernon obliged, giggling as he undressed and put on the soft pyjamas the airline was offering. 

‘Did you have a hard time?’ Vernon questioned him, his voice turning serious with worry. ‘Did you know mum would come to get me? You didn’t seem surprised. Except when I called her mum...’ 

Vernon trailed off, clambering onto the bed with his stuffed animal clutched in his hand. Johnny was grateful Aria had paid for Vernon’s cat to come along with them. He noticed how Vernon said mum with ease and felt jealousy pop up, but didn’t say so. After all, Vernon hadn’t grown up with Aria being his master.

‘I asked her to get you if I’m honest.’ Johnny told him, hoping this wouldn’t ruin his view of Aria, but Vernon didn’t seem angry. ‘So yes, I knew she would get you. She actually went one step more by adding us to her family in an official way. She didn’t have to.’

Johnny sidestepped his other query, but Vernon, focusing on what he just said, didn’t notice.

‘The school that we are going to now is one that is full of boys with very rich mommies and daddies.’ 

Johnny took Vernon’s face in his hands to make the younger boy focus. Vernon nodded in his hand, and Johnny let go, sighing for what felt like the umpteenth time. 

‘You need to be very careful when you are there. I don’t yet know how the school will place us, but we are not in the same age group, and it may be hard to care for and watch over you.’

‘I’ll be careful, don’t worry Johnny!’ Vernon said it with so much earnest feeling, Johnny laughed out loud.

‘Meow!’ Vernon added, nodding his head up and down. 

Johnny felt a small smile brighten on his face, ruffling Vernon’s hair as his mood lifted even more. ‘Yes, of course you will be. I’m just letting you know. Be careful about which friends you make and what you do. We have our phones, so if something happens, text me and I’ll come running. And be careful only to meow in front of the family. You don’t want someone to bully you, okay?’

Vernon got underneath the covers, placing Mishu carefully next to him. She was in her cage, so Johnny knew she wouldn’t get lost if they slept.

‘And one more thing.’ Johnny added, a little hesitant to bring up this topic, but knew he had to. ‘About Giovanni.’ He saw Vernon still, but other than that, the boy made no sign of hearing him. He continued anyway. ‘Giovanni got accustomed to having me look after him. He feels very jealous right now because he feels you will hurt his relationship with me.’ 

Johnny heard a sniffle and had to restrain himself from growling in frustration. His good mood abruptly gone. ‘I used to think that Giovanni would be my first priority, but that was before you came back into my life.’

Vernon turned to look at him, silent tears streaming down his face. ‘He was so mean!’ 

‘Yes, Vernon. I saw…’ Johnny thought over his words delicately. ‘But you also need to realise the reason you and I are even together is that I need to look after Giovanni.’

‘Yeah, I know.’ Vernon answered, his childish voice petulant and distant.

‘But even if Giovanni is a priority, you will be the person I will always come to first.’

‘Okay…’ Vernon agreed, his eyes trying to blink the sleep away, his eyelashes still wet with his tears.

‘I love you, kiddo.’ Johnny told him, feeling warm and relieved. His brother was still so innocent and trusting. He never thought he’d have his brother back, but this was his reality now. He stroked Vernon’s hair, carding his fingers through the strands. When Vernon’s breathing evened out, he lied down next to him and let sleep take him too.

 

December 21st - 4 am (London Time)

<Gabriel> 

 

Gabriel couldn’t sleep. He knew he wasn’t forced to sleep on the plane, but he couldn’t stop thinking about how he had treated his mum the day before. Now that he knew exactly what she went through, and what she did for Johnny and Vernon, it was hard to stay mad at her.

That she was with them was a sign that she cared more about them and their safety than the ideals of their violent dad. Gabriel, being so protective, felt a sort of kinship with his mum that he had never felt before. 

He reached the cabin that was hers after only a few seconds. She had written a cute note on the door declaring ‘mum’. Knocking, Gabriel leaned his ear against the door to see if he could hear a response. He needn’t have done that, as his mum called a clear ‘come in’ for him.

‘Hey mum,’ Gabriel whispered to her softly, looking as uncertain as he felt. 

‘You alright bud?’ she questioned, opening her bag to take out some chocolate. She offered it to him, and he nibbled on it. She gestured for him to sit in the recliner that was there, and he did.

‘Thanks for the chocolate.’ He answered her, trying to convey to her with his eyes how much he really adored her. ‘I wanted to apologise…’

‘Oh, Riel.’ She got out of bed and moved to sit next to him instead. ‘You don’t need to apologise.’ 

Gabriel felt his throat tighten, and holding back his tears was difficult. ‘I should have known that you wouldn’t just allow dad to be a bastard towards us.’ 

‘Language,’ his mum admonished him, but with no proper heat. 

‘Sorry,’ Gabriel grinned, tapping his mum on the nose the same way he had done when he was little. She beamed at him, then looked around covertly, though both knew no one else was in the room. 

‘Well, if you want to know a surprise and can keep a secret, I’ll tell you.’

Gabriel rolled his eyes. ‘Mum, I always keep secrets.’ 

‘Yeah I know, I’m only mucking around.’ she smirked then put her hand up against her mouth. ‘I’m going to be with you guys for Christmas.’ 

Gabriel felt himself perk up, and before he could stop himself, he threw his arms around his mum. ‘Mum, you’re the best!’ he cried, squeezing her hard, imitating Giovanni’s mum hug. 

‘Anyway, Mum, get some rest. You have six teenagers in your care now.’ his mum laughed, a hearty sound that seemed to come from her stomach. 

‘Why don’t you try to sleep too, Gabriel? We land in about three hours. The layover will take another eleven hours after that so I don’t want you tired.’

‘Kay, Mum.’ Gabriel assured her, waving as he left the room. 

Feeling lighter now that he apologised and got alone time with his mum, Gabriel headed back to his cabin. If there was one thing his mum was right about, he needed rest. When they landed in New Zealand, it was going to hurt.

No sooner had he shut his eyes, Gabriel was being shaken awake. 

‘Wha’time is it?’ Gabriel grumbled to the offending shadow that had woken him. 

‘Seven in the morning, mate.’ 

It was Hayden. 

‘What you doing here and why are you waking me?’ Gabriel scowled shoving at Hayden, regretting sleeping suddenly.  His brain lagged too much for him to comprehend anything. 

‘Your mum wants me to wake you. She’s insistent that we join you guys since we’re going to the same place.’

‘Ah, yes. Well, you guys are definitely welcome.’ 

Gabriel rubbed the sleep from his eyes forcefully. Hayden held his hand to him, and Gabriel accepted it, allowing himself to be pulled up. 

‘Why’d you vomit, anyway?’ Gabriel asked him conversationally, a small smirk on his face.

‘Shove off.’ Hayden snarled, pushing him into the wall.

Gabriel only laughed. 

‘We’re seven hours ahead now.’ Molly alerted them as she checked her phone. 

‘Yeah smarty pants,’ Hayden responded jokingly, ‘we know.’ 

‘No.’ Molly pouted at him. ‘It’s freaking confusing me.’

‘Yeah, she’s right.’ Gabriel acknowledged, nodding towards her. ‘When we land in New Zealand we’ll be a full eleven hours ahead than when we were in London.’ 

‘So four hours more than it is now.’ Hayden sighed, shaking his head grumpily. 

‘Freaking time zones.’ Giovanni added, catching up to them.

‘Where’s mum, Johnny and Vernon?’ Gabriel asked Giovanni, whose expression turned icy.

‘Mum is checking on widdle Vewnon.’ The baby voice he used was the last straw for Gabriel.

‘Don’t act like a twat.’ Gabriel warned him. ‘We already know you’re annoyed, but if you keep this up, I’m going to ignore you at school.’ 

‘What’s wrong with him?’ Molly asked, falling back as Giovanni stormed ahead of them. 

Gabriel furrowed his brow, rubbing between his eyes. ‘Johnny started to play favourites, and Giovanni is mad about it?’

‘You aren’t sure?’ Hayden enquired, chuckling at the forlorn expression on Gabriel’s face.

‘You have favourites in your family?’ Molly stared at him, confused. ‘Why?’ 

‘They both like him better than me.’

Hayden startled him by guffawing. 

‘Mate, you’re a riot, seriously.’

‘There you guys are!’ his mum called, running to catch up, Johnny and Vernon behind her. ‘Where’s Giovanni?’ 

‘Pouting.’ Molly told his mum, chortling.

‘Of course.’ And for the first time in his life, he saw his mum roll her eyes. They met him waiting in the lounge, directly outside the aeroplane exit area.

‘Come on, Giovanni,’ she told his brother, grabbing him by the arm as he sulked. She kept her arm around him as they walked.

‘What’s the plan now?’ Gabriel asked his mum. She had her itinerary in her hands again, though Gabriel was sure she knew it by heart.

‘We have eleven hours…’ 

‘We know!’ Chorused the entire group, except Giovanni, who was giving them the silent treatment. 

‘Alright, got it.’ his mum chuckled. ‘It’s 7 am now. Let’s get some breakfast, then you can go shopping. We’ll meet for lunch and then you’re free to do as you wish.’

‘Everyone has their things?’ She double checked, receiving a groan as an answer. This made Hayden and Molly titter. ‘They do have a rest area as well, so if anyone gets tired, we can take a break.’

‘Technically, it’s 2 pm.’ Molly breathed to Hayden in an undertone. Gabriel pretended not to notice. 

‘It doesn’t take one plane ride and landing in another country for our body clocks to change,’ Gabriel muttered to them both. ‘We’ll have to be in school for a while before we truly get used to the difference’ 

‘Let’s just eat.’ his mum said, and for the second time that day Gabriel agreed with her.

 

<Vernon>

December 22nd, Midnight (London Time)

It felt like they had been travelling for hours. They would land in four hours in New Zealand, and Vernon felt grateful. By this point, all he wanted to do was rip out his hair. Vernon had no idea how people managed on long flights in small, cramped sitting space. For him, it wasn’t an issue, but he wanted to smell fresh air and get off the plane. 

He pretended it had nothing to do with the anxiety he felt. 

Vernon got up and walked around the area of first class. Everyone was sleeping, mostly out of boredom, he thought.

Sitting down on one of the seats, Vernon flipped open the shade to stare into the sky. Johnny’s words came back to him as he let his mind wander. Vernon knew well enough that Giovanni had a problem with him. He made it so obvious, even people that weren’t part of their family noticed! There was a big chance someone said something to Giovanni, because the boy had gone quiet.

Vernon also knew a reason Giovanni was throwing a fuss. To his mum, Vernon had become the youngest now, the baby and the most cherished. It was foolish of Giovanni to think that his mum would love him less just because she had adopted a child into the home. 

The problem was, Vernon wouldn’t have a mum or a dad while he was at school. He wasn’t trying to complain, and he was grateful for having Johnny, but he wouldn’t even be able to see Mrs Attwood! He did still have her number saved, but he didn’t want to be afraid to be himself. He didn’t want to hide how he was as a person. He knew he was definitely stranger than most, but he felt happiness in his differences. 

‘Can’t sleep anymore either?’ Molly’s voice came from behind him, spooking him out of his thoughts. He jumped, but she didn’t comment, just ruffling his hair. He pouted and leaned over to mess her hair, too. 

‘Ha!’ Molly said happily, her voice rising with her good mood. ‘I like you!’ 

‘I like you too.’

‘Good, can we be friends?’ Molly looked hopefully at him with her question hanging in the air. Vernon shrugged his shoulders unceremoniously. ‘Sure, as you like. How old are you?’

‘I’m fourteen. I’ll be fifteen in July.’ 

‘I just turned thirteen.’

Molly shrugged and Vernon watched as she lifted her feet onto the table. Her sweats looked super cosy too. He should have brought some in the shoppes when he had a chance.

‘I like your sweats.’ Vernon thrust his chin toward her outfit.

‘I have a few! Want one?’ She stood up, walking close to Vernon, tilting her head to the side to compare herself to him. ‘I think we’re about the same size. Okay, hold on just a second, I have an extra in my bag!’ 

She scampered away, leaving Vernon to stare after her with his mouth wide open. None of the kids in the orphanage had been like this girl, but they were all younger than her. Maybe this is how girls turned out after they reached a certain age?

She came back faster than he expected, and surprising himself, he leaned forward, eager to see what she brought him. It was a pair of sweats with a hoodie to match. It was a light grey, and had a leather stripe down the side of both legs. The hoodie was the same except the leather went across the chest. 

‘I thought it would match with your dirty blond hair well.’ 

‘Turn around, let me put it on now.’ 

Molly rolled her eyes, but did as he requested. ‘You’re seriously such a boy. Why do you care anyways?’ 

‘Just shy, I guess. K, you can look now!’ Vernon felt delighted at how well his new outfit looked. ‘Thank you! This is absolutely lovely.’

‘Well, we are besties now, obviously.’ 

‘Obviously.’ Vernon nodded vigorously at her statement.

‘Let’s get food.’ Molly poked at his side, her stomach growling. 

‘Yeah, I suppose.’ 

‘It’s past midnight. What would they serve?’

‘Doesn’t matter. I’m starving.’

Hours later, Vernon awoke with Molly curled up against him in the large seat the aeroplane had. He grinned happily. He had made his first real friend. Life would be good after all.

 

<Molly>

December 22nd - London - 4 am (Time in New Zealand - December 23rd, 5 pm)

Molly checked her watch, trying to forget the fact that they had jumped from London to New Zealand. The process had taken long enough, and flying was something she never wanted to experience again. What a bother! 

She smiled, remembering how she had woken up. She was snuggled against Vernon and he was poking her forehead and messing up her hair. If it had been anyone else messing with her hair, she’d probably scream at them. Hadley got away with it a lot too, but they needed to act like siblings, so it worked.

Now she was busy putting away her makeup. It was her first set. Aria had been kind enough to buy it for her. She had seen Molly’s eyes glazed over in adoration at the pretty sparkly set in the store. Molly wondered if it was because Aria didn’t have any daughters, but Aria seemed to enjoy her company. Molly had taken to Aria well too, and felt a loss at knowing Aria would leave them shortly after.

The plane had started descending, and if what the pilot said was true, they would land in an hour. While she was working on her makeup and hair, Hayden knocked on the door and entered. Closing the door quietly behind him, he sat down on the bed, crossing his legs comfortably.

‘There’s something you need to understand.’ Hayden began, when she didn’t bother saying anything upon his arrival. 

‘I’m listening.’ Molly replied, harrumphing at his interruption.

‘I’m serious, Molly. This can be a matter for life and death for both of us.’

Molly stopped what she was doing and turned to stare at him incredulously. ‘We’re going to a school.’ She emphasised school with as much sarcasm as she could muster. ‘How is that life or death?’

Hayden looked uncomfortable, which made her even more suspicious. He had been acting strange for the past couple of days, and he had outright refused to say what was wrong. This made her angry, and she had a hard time hiding that. ‘So what do you want to say, then? Hurry, I haven’t all day.’

Hayden didn’t look very pleased at her attitude, but forged on. ‘You don’t have to believe me, Molly. And I will not explain that. I just need you to know that we are in strange circumstances. Some random bloke off the street is sending us to the richest school in the world, and we are going.’

Molly shrugged her shoulders. She knew all of this already, which is part of why she was so suspicious. 

‘The two of us? We are used to being homeless. We ran away from home, too young. I will not deny that. But we both had dangerous circumstances, so I’m not saying you made the wrong decision. You haven’t even told me all the reasons you left.’

Molly narrowed her eyes and turned back to her makeup. She never planned on telling anyone why she left.

‘No matter what we went through, or how we were living, we can’t announce that we were not born billionaires.’ 

Hayden yelled in frustration, but Molly refused to look at him. She hated when anyone brought up her past, and even if it was Hayden, she would ignore him for the rest of the day.

‘Just don’t let people know. That’s it.’ 

Hayden stormed from the room, slamming the cabin door behind him. 

Purely instinctually, Molly leaned her head out of the cabin door to see if Vernon was still there. He was still in the same spot as earlier, but this time, he was playing on his phone. His stuffed animal sat beside him like a person keeping him company.

‘Oi Vernon!’ She called to him, beckoning him to her when he looked up. He jumped up, and she smiled, happy that he was so willing to join her.

‘We’re about to land,’ Vernon squealed as a way of greeting her. 

‘I know!’

She didn’t tell him she wanted to cry and needed company, but it seemed she didn’t have to. Vernon’s energy was so soft and calm, she felt herself immediately relaxing.

‘How are we getting to school, do you know?’ Molly asked him. Assuming by Molly’s previous insistence on their company, she and Hayden would join them. 

‘I think mum will get a van so all of us can just go at one time.’

‘You need to get back to your seats.’ Aria had poked her head into the cabin after a quick knock. ‘They just announced we are about to land, so everyone has to sit and put their seatbelts on.’

‘Sorry, Aria, I didn’t notice.’ Molly told her apologetically, not wanting Vernon to get into trouble. But she just waved her hand and smiled. ‘Don’t worry about it.’

Landing went without a hitch, and soon after everyone had met up in baggage check. Like she predicted, Aria had insisted that she and Hayden tag along, and only Hayden had been reluctant about this setup. Molly ignored him, of course, and followed along with her new best friend.

Aria rented a huge van and all of them clambered in. She put the school’s address into the GPS and then went on her way. 

‘I’m sure they don’t expect you to put on a uniform just yet,’ Aria warned them uncertainly. ‘But just in case, be on your best behaviour when you enter onto the property.’

The car was silent as everyone had their own thoughts to mull over, and everyone was eager to stretch their legs and rest. After about forty minutes, Aria slowed down, bringing the car as close to the gate as possible. ‘It seems this is as far as we can go. But see the castle in the distance there?’ She pointed towards the fortress that filled the entire skyline. ‘That’s where we need to go.’

‘It’s weird that we went from dead of the winter to the first day of summer.’ Molly mumbled to Vernon, who was holding her hand and swinging it back and forth. Vernon didn’t have time to answer her.

‘We’ve been expecting you.’ A voice said from behind the locked gates. 

‘Yes, we’re the Rossi’s’ Aria informed him, walking with her bags towards the man. 

‘I am told to expect the Wilson’s too. Are they amongst your group?’

‘Yes, we’re here.’ Molly waved her hand at the man, pointing to herself and Hayden.

‘Alright then, if you’ll follow me.’ The man opened the gate and the seven of them trooped inside, pulling their trunks behind them.

‘The school is almost a like a small town,’ the man explained to them as he began walking in the school’s direction. 

‘Uh. Are we walking all the way up there with our luggages?’ Gabriel spoke up from the back lines, and Molly had to second his question with a nod.’ 

‘No, there is a small train that takes people up to the fortress. As I was saying before I was interrupted,’ the man gazed over their group with a sneer and Molly felt an immediate dislike towards him. She glanced over at Vernon and saw the same expression on his face. 

‘At nighttime,’ the man continued, ‘you can see the entire area lit up with lights even from a distance.’ He stopped near a set of tracks and walked up the stairs to the platform. There was an area with a ramp, and one by one they went up pulling their trunks behind them with various groans of dismay.

‘We’re taking a train?’ Johnny piped up, his curiosity obvious from his tone.

‘It’s more of a streetcar, but yes. It’s a tradition, though it is helpful for us to get up the hill when people have baggage.’

Molly sat down gingerly, gripping onto the bar with reluctance. There were no doors at all. She didn’t think it was smart for people to be travelling with no doors, especially over water and up a hill. She kept her mouth shut though, her heart pounding as the streetcar went over the tracks and picked up speed.

‘When the full school is coming or going, we have a few of these train cars attached. But now as it is only serving a few people it wasn’t necessary.’

They were going over the lake when it happened. 

Gabriel fell out of the train and into the water with a splash. To her horror, the person who had met them at the gate didn’t slow down. Had he not noticed?

Spinning around, she saw Gabriel hadn’t resurfaced. When she screamed, no sound came out. She had grabbed Aria’s sleeve to get her attention and with that pointed towards the lake. But by then the street cart had rounded the bend and Gabriel disappeared from sight. 


Submitted: June 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Hadley Anais Bailey. All rights reserved.

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