The rain, Arthur decided, was truly the same as it was back home. It fell in sheets as if someone had turned on a tap, onto him, the concrete sidewalk, the nearby houses, the squishy grass, everywhere.
He didn't know why he thought it would be different. Rain was what it was- rain. Water that fell from the sky. But everything, it seemed, was different in America. The people, customs, accents. Hell, even the language had its little shifts. So why wouldn't the rain be different as well, Arthur had figured.
But it wasn't, he told himself as he blindly walked into a puddle. He cursed as water splashed onto his leather boots. Water soaked the bottom of his trousers and he shivered as the wet fabric settled against his skin.
No, it was definitely wasn't different at all. He smiled faintly. The lucky few bouts of rain each month would be all he had left of home, being in this miserable country.
He looked up, spotting a house that he could just barely recognize. The driveway was empty, save for the two rental cars his parents had gotten until they would buy new ones. Ones with steering wheels on the left side instead of the right. The moving truck, he noticed, had left, and had probably been gone for a long while.
Who knew how long Arthur had been away. What had started out as a simple walk to escape the movers and his family quickly turned into a one-man tour of the neighborhood, no destination in sight in the winding maze of cookie-cutter houses. He could have sworn he had passed the same lemon yellow house at least three times.
He walked up the driveway, trying his best to discreetly avoid the puddles, though he knew no one was watching. Loud music played from the neighboring house, filling the quiet street with noise. Arthur couldn't make out the individual words clearly but could tell that it wasn't in English. He sighed, slouching his back, already dreading living here.
Cringing at the ugly faded blue of his front door, he noted to himself to persuade his parents into getting it repainted. He put his hand on the doorknob, slowly turning and pushing the door, careful not to make a sound.
Boxes were piled high like small towers. Some of them were already opened, as if someone began to empty them, only to be stopped in favor of something else. The hardwood flooring was coated with a thin layer of dust and dirt, only visible from the faint light from the windows.
He closed the door with a small click, immediately taking in the wonderful smell of tea. They had not been in this house a full day, and the kettle was already out. He should've expected it.
Arthur moved, hoping to find the stairs quickly. The sooner he could lock himself in his room, the better. His parents were the last people he wanted to see at the moment. He would do anything for some peace. Quiet. Well, as much as he could get with the fools next door.
He took a sharp right, eyes focusing on the wooden stairs and the wooden stairs only. Arthur was there, just about to put his foot on the first step and hand on the railing and-
He froze, cursing to himself as he turned slowly. He didn't even bother to put a pleasant expression on his face.
His parents sat on the couch, both with steaming mugs of tea in their hands. They were surrounded by boxes, and Arthur couldn't help but smirk at the thought that they looked like cardboard soldiers guarding their monarchs. His mother's wispy blonde hair framed her face, her freckled skin crinkling as she pushed it out of her eyes. He couldn't tell if the look of disdain was pointed at him, or the hair. His father's expression was, of course, unreadable. Had been that way as long and far as he could remember.
Arthur raised his eyebrow, trying to convey that he would rather be somewhere else than listen to whatever they were going to say. Sometimes, when luck decided that it would grace him with its presence, upon seeing the look his parents would huff, puff, and tell him to go away. Other times, they would stay persistent and Arthur would just have to wallow in his misery. He sincerely hoped today was the former.
"Sit," his mother said, nodding towards the chair across from them. His father stayed silent, eyes following him as Arthur begrudgingly obeyed. He slid into the chair, leaning to the side to prop his head against his fist. He slackened his face in an attempt to look as bored and indifferent as possible.
He took a moment to get comfortable, assuming that this conversation was going to be long. Unlacing his boots, he pulled them off and dropped them to the floor, crossing his legs on the seat of the chair. Arthur ignored the disapproving stare of his mother. When he finally went still, his father started.
"Your mother and I have been worried about you. For quite a while, actually."
Arthur watched his mother nod in agreement, the temptation to roll his eyes growing as the sentence went on. He already knew how this would go. It happened at least once every other month back home. His parents would sit him down, talk about how he was "starting on a dangerous path". They would make empty promises about how everything was going to change, that they would make sure it would, only to forget them until the next talk, and blame Arthur for the failures of said promises. It was a cycle with no plans to stop, and Arthur was sure it wouldn't until the day his parents dropped dead.
His mother leaned forward, a small, reassuring smile on her pale face. "You see, Artie, we just want the best for you. We've always had-" The cycle was, indeed, like clockwork "-And lately, you just haven't been like I know you and-"
Arthur could sense it. One of his mother's signature pity parties was on its way, and he had to stop it. He had sworn to himself years ago that he would never get into those messes ever again. "Oh, and how is it, dear mother, do you know me?"
The glare his father sent him was one he would've knelt and begged for forgiveness at the sight of as a child, but now, he just ignored it. He kept his stare on his mother, who was looking at him as if he had grown two extra heads out of his shoulders. She leaned back against the couch, her brow lowered and her mouth gaping. Arthur almost had the nerve to laugh at how stupid she looked.
"W-well, I know my sweet little son who would beg for me to read to him at night, not some disrespectful punk who hides more things from me than a spy would." She went on and on, Arthur tuning it out around when she began to rant about his primary school years. He hadn't asked his mother to read to him since he was in year five. Why she chose to bring it up now, he had no clue.
"Arthur, listen to your mother."
He raised his head, setting his chin on his palm and lifting his eyebrows. His father's voice was gruff, cutting through his mother's words, which only earned him an annoyed glance. But her eyes then flashed, probably realizing something that she would only use as more ammo against Arthur. She turned to him, her brow creased and mouth gaping just like it had been before.
"Don't ignore me when I'm speaking to you. You see, this is your problem-" Arthur just barely stifled a groan and knew that there would be no getting out of this one "-You're disrespectful. You were rude to your teachers back in the UK, you're rude to us, you have no bounds. And to be honest, when I received complaints from your teachers, I would feel quite ashamed and that feeling would go on through the entire day, or the entire week, depending on what foolish thing you had decided to do that time."
She let out a shaky breath, leaning forward to take a long gulp from the mug she had been nursing. His father patted her on the back, and the two shared supportive smiles.
Arthur watched the entire exchange, eyebrows lifted and reflecting the same disgust he would have if he were watching a cheesy romantic comedy. His parents ignored him, and for a second Arthur thought that he was free, that he could finally be able to leave. He sat up, getting ready to dart out of the room, and was just about to stand before-
"Arthur Kirkland. And just where do you think you're going? We've not finished."
He flopped back with a huff, crossing his arms. The thought of taking the risk to bolt to his new room and lock the door seemed tempting. He decided against it, knowing that if he did, his father would grab him before he even reached the first step. Even at his age, the man was too fast for Arthur to outrun.
"Look, dear, your father and I are just... concerned. About your behavior in recent years. So now that we're in America, we've decided to make some... changes." She chose each word carefully as if he were some toddler who would blow into a fit of yelling and screaming and throwing.
Arthur snorted. "And what changes would those be?" Family meetings had failed before that had even month drawn to a close, as he had always bailed before anyone could get to the living room. A "swear jar", where ever they got that stupid idea, found to be an even bigger disaster for his parents. It wasn't his fault that he found a better use for the money. It was theirs for leaving it sitting on a kitchen counter, vulnerable and ripe for the taking.
"We thought, that if you were to dress respectably, and be surrounded by respectable books, music, and the like, you maybe could turn into a somewhat respectable and decent person." She shrugged at the last part as if this were some big experiment.
Arthur narrowed his eyes. The idea was foolish, and he hated it already. Sure, the concept was maybe plausible, but in practice, it would be the exact opposite. He knew there was something else to it. "But..."
"But," his father continued, "knowing that this is you that we're talking about, no matter what we tell you, you'll keep doing whatever you want."
Well, at least they got that right. He would find ways to get out of this, and he would figure them out fast. Arthur had always been resourceful and crafty, trained from years spent living with his parents and brothers.
His mother leaned forward, smirking. "So, we'll just have to force you to do as we want."
Arthur slowly raised his head, lifting an eyebrow. "What?" Were they going to watch him as he dressed? Check his backpack for spare clothing that does not comply with their standards? Pat him down before he left and after he returned home from school? When will they realize that nothing will work and he'll just find a way to weasel out of it, as he's done with all their plans in the past?
A small, almost wicked smile formed on his mother's face, as if she were about to relish every single word she'd say. "Well, my dear, there are these little organizations that decent people are well familiar with, I'll tell you since you wouldn't know. They're called charities, love."
He rolled his eyes, taking a deep breath and letting it out. Choosing not to comment at the insult she threw at him, he waved for her to continue.
"You see, Arthur, a charity is where people donate things, such as money or supplies, and it is-"
"Jesus Christ mum, I know what a damn charity is."
"-donated to those who need it. Who gets what all really depends on the mission of the charity."
She stood, walking to the corner of the room to grab a large, red bag. Arthur watched as she walked back to her seat on the sofa, and looked at him, pausing.
"Also, one, don't interrupt me, it's disrespectful. Two, don't curse at me. Also disrespectful."
Muttering something under her breath that sounded awfully like, "I swear I don't know where you get it from," she started to dig through her bag. Arthur took the time to glare at his father, who had snorted at his mother's previous mocking statements.
If he were to be honest, he expected it coming. The woman had never tolerated those who thought it appropriate to begin a sentence in the middle of hers. It was one of the only aspects of her that he admired, in a way, even if he was sometimes on the receiving end of the scoldings.
With a quiet, "Aha!", she pulled out a folder paper. She tossed it to Arthur, who opened it to see few colors mixed with large, bolded lettering.
Reading it, he scoffed and looked up, slowly waving the flyer in the air. "Really? A homeless shelter? What are we going to do with that?"
His father circled his tea mug as if it were a glass of whiskey or fine wine. "You weren't the only one who went on a trip after our arrival."
When did they find the time to do that? To leave the maze that is their new neighborhood, into a jungle of glass and stone and strange people, only to find a flyer for a homeless shelter and then come back? Arthur supposed that he had been gone for a while, an hour and a half at the very least. Had they not wondered where he had gone, worried that he was lost- which he had been- or that he got kidnapped or something?
They must have sensed his confusion, for his father leaned back, laying one arm on the back of the sofa, saying, "Don't look at me like that. How else do you think we would've gotten the tea?" He huffed at his joke, ignoring Arthur's raised eyebrow.
Putting her hand on her husband's thigh, his mother gave him an exasperated look, before returning her attention to Arthur. "Anyways, we thought that maybe we could take some- no, most, actually, of your-" She looked him up and down, cringing in disgust "-clothing, if you could even call it that, and donate it to these poor souls in need."
Arthur froze, shoulders tensing and back stiff. Slowly, and without any regard to how it might be considered, "What do you mean, 'most'?"
They looked at each other, nodding. He wondered how long they had been planning this. Was it before they moved? On the plane? Or was this all just a spur of the moment while they were on a tea run?
"You will only be keeping the clothes we approve of."
"No. Absolutely not." If he had let them have their way, it would be possibly the largest headache he would ever experience in his life. Only one or two shirts, maybe a few pairs of trousers, would be left. He would have to say goodbye to his piercings, as they would likely be the first things to go. At his mother's hands, his wardrobe would be completely annihilated within the first twenty minutes.
His father's voice was blunt. "You don't get a say in this."
"Well, I should!"
Honestly. What have them the right to think that they could do this? To meddle in his life in such an extreme manner? This had to be their most ridiculous idea yet.
His mother huffed, lifting her mug to take a sip. She then rested it on her lap, slouching and using one hand to hold the mug, and the other to pinch the bridge of her nose. "Arthur, you need to realize that we've your best interests-"
"'We have your best interests in mind' my arse!" He could hear a faint giggling from upstairs but neglected it in favor of shooting his nastiest glare towards his parents.
"Do not. Interrupt me. We do have your best interests in mind, whether you believe it or not. This will help you stay out of trouble. Your father and I both know that you were drinking and smoking back in the UK. It'll lead to drugs, then theft, then prison."
Arthur tried to give the two his best 'are you seriously that stupid' look. Dressing the way they wanted him to was not going to keep him out of trouble. His 'awful behavior', as they often put it, was not a product of how he dressed. They were blowing this out of proportion. "Mum... I'm not going to prison."
His father took a long sip from his mug. "You don't know that."
Arthur lifted his voice, trying to deliver a point. "Yes, I do. I can assure you both that I will never, ever step foot in a prison. Ever."
"Oh, I'm sure that's what they all told their poor mothers before they got themselves arrested. My natural born intuition tells me that you will be behind bars before the age of thirty at the rate you're going. Arthur Kirkland, don't give me that look. We're in America now. They have more prisons than they do colleges, you know. There'll surely be enough room for you."
Arthur threw his head back, staring at the ceiling, and let out a loud groan that lasted for several seconds. When finished, he slumped forward, letting his head hang to stare at the floor.
When he finally looked up, both his parents were watching him, eyebrows raised in a silent, "have you finished yet?" But no, he was not. Arthur was willing to throw a tantrum if it was needed to get out of this fiery mess his parents had most likely concocted on a simple whim. He was ready to do anything, even if it would make him look like a three-year-old toddler denied a nap. Or Peter. Whatever it would take, he was willing to do.
His mother slapped her hands on her thighs, having the nerve to look quite pleased with herself. "Well then, that's all we wanted to tell you. You're free to leave to your room if that is what you wish. We'll go look for some new clothing for you tomorrow, okay?" She leaned forward, pushing against the cushion and armrest to stand.
Arthur froze, furrowing his brow. They hadn't- there was no way- "What do you mean, 'tomorrow'?"
She paused, sliding back onto the sofa. "Just what I said. Tomorrow." She and her husband exchanged a look before he stood and left the room, leaving her attention to turn back towards Arthur. "We would like to get this up and running as soon as possible."
They couldn't seriously- "B-but school starts in two weeks. We still have boxes to unpack."
"Okay, and? Arthur, whatever you are trying to do to stop this from happening isn't going to work. Your father and I- we're actually committed to seeing this through."
"I won't do it. You can't make me." He was desperate. And he didn't even know why. As soon as he left this house for college he could go back to the way he currently was. But something just made him object and lash out.
"Yes, we can." She stood, walking over to him. Looking to see if anyone was watching, she bent down. Her face was close to his and he could feel her breath on his face as she whispered. "I don't think your father wants you to hear this just yet, but if you haven't changed at the end of your- what do the Americans call it- senior year, we're going to cut you off. And... I really don't want that to happen. So please."
Going back to her full height, she patted his shoulder. Raising her voice so the other room could hear it, she said, "You need to realize that we're doing this for you, and the quicker you do, the better this will work out- for all of us." She ruffled his hair and left the room.
Arthur didn't hear that last part and didn't turn to watch as she went to join his father in box cutting and sorting. All he heard, again and again, was what she whispered to him.
Cutting him off. He shuddered at the thought. They had done it to his eldest brother, Alisdair, for about two months as punishment for some crime he had long forgotten. His parents removed pictures he was in, stopped talking about him, and didn't answer his calls. They would act ignorant if someone mentioned him, claiming that they didn't know anything. Alisdair, for two months, became a stranger to the Kirkland family.
Arthur wondered if his brothers would reach out to him if his parents did decide to cut him off. Maybe the consequences would be too great for them to risk it.
He stood, head buzzing as if it were filled with a hive of bees. His parents, they were actually serious. With all their failed attempts, they had decided that they were finally going to crack down. After all this time.
He climbed the stairs, not bothering to look at the two. Turning the corner, he began the tedious search for his room. The hallway, bare of any photos or paintings, was lined with identical white doors, giving no clue as to what was inside. He walked through each one, immediately leaving once he saw that none of the boxes had his name on them.
One of the doors was opened, and Arthur peeked inside. There, digging through the boxes as if they were recently discovered treasure, was his brat of a brother, Peter. Pausing at the sound of Arthur's footsteps, the tiny fool turned, and the two stared at each other for several seconds. It was broken, however, when Peter walked up and slammed the door shut, bidding Arthur farewell with a stuck-out tongue.
He snorted, noting to himself to hide the boy's sailor hat one day this month. That would surely get him to shriek like the little hellion he was.
Turning, he strolled to the only room he had not been in. Sure enough, it was filled with boxes, like all the others, yet each of these had "Art" scrawled in black marker.
He slowly rotated his head, taking in his surroundings. The room was a bright green, one you would expect from grass on a hot summer's day. The dark hardwood only made the painted walls pop. It was nice, he supposed. The window was wide, and if the sky hadn't been so dark and moody, light would've flooded in and filled the room.
Arthur looked out the window, scowling at the neighboring house. It was the one that had been blasting music earlier and still, in fact, was. He knew he would have many sleepless nights, and hoped that the neighbors had mercy to turn it down in the later hours.
An idea popped into his mind and Arthur could almost feel the light bulb flaring. Grabbing a box cutter, he began to haphazardly open and dig through boxes. Eventually, with clothes that were soon to be gone and various books littering the floor, he found what he was looking for.
He lifted it, loosely wrapping the hanging cord around his arm, letting it slip off when he drop it on his bare bed. Arthur stepped over to the window, struggling a bit to open it as wide as it could go. Rain ran in, Arthur cursing as it hit his damp clothing, and he immediately slammed the window back down. With a sigh, he figured he would just have to have it loud enough.
Plugging the cord into the first electrical outlet he saw, Arthur popped open a CD container. He roughly shoved it in and pressed "play".
Music filled the room, growing louder as he pressed the volume button over and over again. He bobbed his head to the beat, striding over to close and lock the door just in time for a series of muffled shouts and bangs. He ignored it, moving over to the nearest open box to unpack.
As he arranged his bookshelf, genre then alphabetical order by author's last name, listening to crude punk music in rebellion to his new neighbors and ignoring the frustrated grumbles of his little brother, Arthur Kirkland worried over the outcome of the mess he had managed to get himself into.
I'll try to update this every Sunday, though the key word is try. I just want to say, that if I didn't have help from a wonderful group of friends of mine, this story would be filled with stereotypical slang and the like. So a great big thank you to them!
If you see any character in this story that is OOC, please tell me. Also, if I'm overkill with the description or something like that, don't be afraid to tell me that as well!
I hope you have a wonderful morning, day, and evening!