"Bon appetite!" Lucille chirped, cheerfully, as she served Dalton a steaming plate of pasta in front of him.
He glared angrily at this crazy poet woman who dared to even think this whole situation was a good thing.
He grunted a thanks and began picking at his food. He also observed the other people surrounding him. The old man, Zedediah sat at the head of the table, with Lucille and a man with crew cut hair that had to be her husband Archie sitting to his left and right. The two younger kids, a tow-headed six-year-old boy introduced to him as Destiny and a raven-haired eight-year-old girl (Christiana, the adopted Applewhite), sat across from him and that girl, A. D. or whatever her name was. He had snorted at the prospect of a tomboyish girl of about his own age adopting initials as fitting a CEO, as her name.
As for the parents, Randolph Applewhite and Sybil Jameson he reckoned, they were not even out here for dinner. Neither was the elder brother Hal, who was banging away upstairs in his room. Dalton glanced at E. D., who was still in a dark mood. Well, the two had one thing in common, he thought. They both don't have meals with their parents at the same time, albeit for different reasons and situations.
"So, Dalton, why don't you tell us a few things about yourself?" Lucille then said.
"What?" he glared at her now.
"Like what are your favorite hobbies? Favorite subjects?"
"Hobbies? I have none."
"None?" E. D. suddenly spoke. "What you you mean "none"?"
"Exactly what I said. None," Dalton rolled his eyes at her.
"What? You don't like to read or watch movies or even hang out with your friends? You do have friends, do you?"
"Yes, I have friends," Dalton retorts. "I'd rather be with them than to be here right now."
Lucille heard the last sentence spoken. "I know, Dalton. It's hard to be away from your friends. But Christmas will be here before you know it and you can visit them, and your parents too!"
"I could care less about my parents," he grumbled, under his breath. "They never cared for me."
"Well, Dalton." It was Archie's turn to speak. "You will have plenty of opportunities here, not just to improve your educational horizons but also to meet new people-"
"New friends?" Dalton grumbled.
"Archie is right, young man," Zedediah said. "You're not just getting the education you would usually get in the classroom. You are going to learn that education is a quest- a quest for the meaning of life."
"Basically, you're learning that you can learn anything, anywhere," sighed E. D.
"May I please be excused?"
A nod from the adults and she was gone, without as much of a bite of food.
The two little kids were whispering amongst yourselves.
"Destiny wants to know if you could stick your hair up in pointies," the little girl inquired him.
What in the hell-
"Pointies!" Christiana then cried.
"I bloody heard you."
"He said a Paulie word," the girl then said to her cousin.
"What? "Bloody?" It's a word."
"You used it in the same way that Paulie uses it, and we're not allowed to use those words."
"Who is Paulie? Another relative?"
"He's Grandpa's parrot. He uses words that only he can use."
"Don't forget Jake!" pointed out the little boy. "He's a big kid, so he's allowed to say parrot words."
"Oh! So Dalton's a big kid too, so he can use parrot words."
"That's right, Chrissie!"
Dalton groaned. This whole stupid dinner is preposterous and time-wasting. At his house, meals with his parents were taken as seriously as business meetings, on the days his parents actually gave a crap to even attend. Usually, he would eat alone or with his nanny (when younger) or with friends. The close-knit, weird Applewhites were culture-shocks in excess.
A rooster crowing. Birds chirping. Wood chopping in the distance. Hal's banging in the nearby room. Dalton couldn't bear to sleep any longer, so he forced himself up. The clock at the bedside table read 6:00 in big red digits.
Great, just bloody great! So, he'll wake up like this, groggy and miserable at six o' clock in the morning, and with a bunch of noise going on outside and within the house. He either could stay in bed and try to sleep for a few more hours or get out of the house to avoid the noise from within and only had to deal with the natural sounds and the chopping going on in the background.
He voted for the latter. He had to get out of the house. Now.
After showering and dressing, he then crept carefully out of the house. Although Hal was making a lot of noise, Dalton was in no mood to worsen the situation with those that were still sleeping.
Aside from the birds chirping and roosters crowing in the distance, the meadow seemed more quiet than the entire Wit's End main area. He decided to sit under a tree and just think, think of a way to get out of this hell-hole.
His mother had called him late last night to check up on him. After a series of monotonous two word sentences on the part of Dalton, his mother said in her usual fake friendly voice that she'd talk to him later that week and that she'd say hello to his father for him. Dalton had angrily hung up on her, right after.
He heard two voices in the distance.
"Perhaps he's in the meadow. It's such a beautful day!"
Oh no! That damned poet woman!
"Well, he better not be at the goat pen. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets hurt, since Destiny and Christiana decided to mess about with the "goatsies" the other day."
And she's talking with that insufferable E. D. girl.
Dalton groaned, as he got up and walked toward the voices.
"Oh, there you are Dalton!" Lucille sees him and rushed toward him. E. D. walked slowly after her. "Allow us to give you the grand tour!"
The grand tour? Was this woman crazier than he would ever think she would be?
E. D. sighed heavily. "I'd better go find the little ones-"
"E. D. stay with us! I believe Destiny and Christiana are already down in the schoolroom."
"You ready, Dalton?" Lucille then asked him, cheerfully.
He grunted in response.
"All rightie then! Let's begin our tour, shall we?"
Giving in, Dalton then followed Lucille and E. D. around the summer camp like Wit's End. Lucille, ever the cheerful tour guide explained the purpose of each little cabin and then directed the two teenagers to the shop, where Archie and Zedediah worked on their crafts.
"Ah, Lucille!" Zedediah emerged from the woodshop. "I see that you're showing Dalton around, eh?"
"Yes, we are."
"Are you about to show him the schoolroom? It is best that we get him settled before the school year starts."
"Oh, yes. That has not left my mind. In fact, it is our best interest that E. D. gets him situated in time for August."
With that, both E. D. and Dalton groaned.
Both adults paid no heed to them however.
"I'd better get back to work here," Zedediah said. "Good luck with the tour now."
Lucille now directed toward the two kids. "Now, let's go on to the schoolroom, eh?"
She then directed the two back toward the schoolroom, which was the old motor lodge attached to the main house. Destiny and Christiana were sitting in two of the four desks situated, coloring. Destiny was singing Pop Goes the Weasel.
The Applewhite schoolroom was unlike any classroom Dalton had ever seen before. There was no teacher's desk, although there was a medium sized whiteboard on the north side of the room, with the Applewhite school motto hanging above. There were also numerous bulletin boards placed around the room, some with photos of past years with E. D., Destiny, Christiana, Jake Semple (explained as a former temporary student like Dalton himself), and even semi-recluse Hal.
"Well, Dalton," Lucille finally was addressing him now, after a long and winded explanation of the so-called "academy" by E. D. "You'll be taking over Cordelia's former desk here-"
Dalton wanted to be anywhere but here at the moment. The poet woman was now babbling on about how glad she was to have him join them this year and so on. The thought of him or anyone else being happy here in North Carolina made him sick to be frank.
"STOP THAT INFERNAL NOISE! DON'T YOU PEOPLE GET IT? IT'S THE BLOODY CRACKING OF THE DAWN!"
"Sounds like Randolph's up," sighed Lucille.
She then turned to the kids. "He got in late last night, so it's imperative that you all don't worsen his mood."
"Lucille, don't worry," E. D. said. "I'm used to Dad's moods."
Dalton, in turn, nodded quietly. Being Lucas Mortinson's son prepared him for such situations. He had always had a difficult relationship with his father, excerberated with him always being at the office and hardly around. He wondered if the Applewhite kids had the same feelings toward their dad as himself.
Finally, Lucille left the room, leaving Dalton and the Applewhite children alone. E. D. turned toward Dalton, who had barely said a word all morning and was still in thought.
"What's with you?" she then demanded of him.
Dalton responds with a glare. "None of your business."
He then took off for his room.