Chapter 5:

"A face is like the outside of a house, and most faces, like most houses, give us an idea of what we can expect to find inside." – Loretta Young

He meets her in front of the school. Ginny's standing on the sidewalk, searching the crowd and biting her thumb. He walks up to her and waves shortly.

She smiles. "Hi! Ready to go?" she asks.

He nods.

"Kay, lead the way." She moves aside and he walks down the sidewalk with her in quick tow. "Is your house far away?" she asks.

He shakes his head.

"Are we going to walk the whole way?"

He shakes his head.

"Are we taking a bus?"

He nods.

"Okay. I walk home. It's not that far from here. Oh, when we get to your house, can I use your phone and call my parents?"

He nods.

"Thanks. My mom and dad don't usually notice if I'm gone, but I figure it's only polite to call. Do you ever answer the phone?"

He shakes his head.

"I figured. But you said your parents divorced right?"

He nods.

"What if your dad calls?"

He takes out his notepad and stops walking. He writes something down and Ginny waits.

He shoves the pad in her face and she reads out: "'He doesn't.'" She blinks and he drops his hand. "Oh, sorry."

He shrugs. They start walking again.

"So you haven't talked to your dad at all since you stopped speaking?"

He nods.

"Does he know?"

He nods.

"Your mom told him?"

He nods.

"How does he feel about it?"

He stops and takes the paper out again, and writes under his previous answer.

She reads again: "'He doesn't... Care.'" She frowns. "Oh. Sorry."

He shrugs.

She asks less personal questions when they get to the bus stop until the bus screeches up. He gets on and sits all the way in the back of the bus. She follows him like a shadow and sits next to him, in the aisle seat. She starts right from where she left off with questions and stories.

He wonders at one point why he doesn't get as annoyed as he thinks he should.

!&!

After getting off at the appropriate bus stop, he leads her and her never ending questions to his house. He gestures towards it and she glances at the house.

"This is your house?"

He nods.

"It's cute. I like it."

He rolls his eyes and walks up the driveway. His house was pretty shitty, actually. It just looked like a load of crap. He wasn't going to correct her though. Let her think what she wants.

He lets her in and she immediately takes a big inhale of the air in the house. Again, he rolls his eyes.

"Hm, smells like…. Chicken," she states and he nearly laughs, but he keeps himself together. "Is your mom home?"

He shakes his head.

"Is she at work?"

He nods.

"How about your step-dad?"

He shrugs.

"Okay. Where's your phone at?"

He points towards the kitchen, and leads her out of the living room and to the cluttered kitchen. There are papers and plates and cups everywhere. He doesn't care though. Ginny doesn't seem to mind either. In fact, she seems to be ignoring it all together.

He points to the phone and she smiles.

"Great, thanks. I'll just be a second." She picks up the phone and starts dialing.

Dwayne stands there for a second, then sighs and remembers all of his hospitality. He pulls out his notepad and writes while she puts the phone to her ear.

He hold the paper up that says: Drink?

She reads it, blinks, and whispers, "No, I'm good. Thanks though." She smiles and he puts the paper down.

She talks on the phone with her mother for a minute, Dwayne just standing there waiting for her to finish up. When Ginny finally hangs up the phone she sighs and smiles.

"Kay, all good. I have to be home by seven," she informs.

He nods.

"Where are we working at?"

He points to a hall and then leads her again. She follows, and he shows her his room. It's spotless compared to the rest of the house. He keeps his floor clean for when he's working out or doing anything. This is his space and he likes for his space to be nice and neat.

"Hm…. Your room I'm guessing?" she asks, walking into the room. She looks around and ignores his nod. "Very… you. Plain, but understandable. She looks at the picture he drew just a few weeks ago that now hangs on his wall. She stares at it, then turns to face him again. "Who?"

He goes over to his dresser and grabs the book that's lying on it. He holds it up and points to the author's name.

She reads the name for a few minutes, then attempts to say out loud: "Frrrried-rich Nee-et-zzzz-cha?" She looks at him, bewildered. "What?"

He nearly laughs, but again keeps composer as he pulls out his notepad and writes. He hands her the paper that now reads: Freed-rik Nee-chuh.

She stares at it, then mumbles the broken up syllables, her words stumbling. She says it again, a bit faster. Then faster and louder, then, she looks up and says, "Friedrich Nietzsche?" She pronounces it perfectly.

He nods.

"Whew. So, this," she points to the drawing, "is Friedrich Nietzsche?"

He nods.

"Did you draw it?"

He nods.

"It's really good."

He gives her this weird half nod that she now recognizes as a "thank you".

"So, what's so great about this Friedrich Nietzsche?"

He holds the book back up.

She stares at it, then at him. "The book?"

He shoves it out farther.

"You want me to read it?"

He nods.

"Okay." She grabs it and stares at the cover. "Thanks."

He shrugs.

She looks up and smiles at him sweetly.

He turns away and looks at the portrait, remembering how hard it had been to draw on the sheet and not thinking of how Ginny's smile was actually kind of…. Pretty.

"So, ready to get started?"

He nods, not looking at her.

"Okay." She goes and sits on his bed, crossing her legs and grabbing her book bag.

He looks away from his drawing and grabs a chair from his desk, sitting in it backwards and in front of her.

"So, I think it would good to divide the work evenly."

He nods.

"I think we can both work on the food chain."

He nods.

"Then you can write the report, I'll help when needed."

He nods.

"And I'll do the demonstration, that way you don't have to talk."

He nods.

"You're very agreeable today."

He shrugs.

She lets out a big sigh. "I hate to be a paper waster, but you have to put in some input."

He sighs himself, and pulls out his notepad. He writes: Fine. Good plan.

"You're good with writing the report?"

He nods.

"Okay, so when and where do you want to go find toys? I'm assuming since your sister's nine she still plays with hers?"

I don't know.

"When will she be home?"

Depends.

"Hm…. Will she be home before I leave?"

Probably.

"Okay, so we'll ask if there's any toy animals she wants to part with when she gets home, and if we need more we can hit a thrift store or something. Sound good?"

He nods.

"Good. Now, let's figure out what kind of animals we want in our food web. And don't just shrug and agree with every animal I list. You'll have to name a few too."

He pauses and stares at her. She really wants him to be active in this project. She wouldn't just let him help build it and write the report, he was going to have to have opinions and ideas about this whole deal. Dammit.

"So, what animal do you want to be in the web?"

He sits for a minute, then writes: Tiger.

She stares at the paper, blinks, then looks at Dwayne. "Tiger…. Alright. What kind?"

He quirks an eyebrow.

"Like, white or orange?"

He nods and writes: Orange.

"Okay, so regular old fashioned tiger." She scribbles that on a notebook she pulled out of her book bag at some point. "Hm… Now, what do tigers eat?"

Anything.

She laughs, throwing her head back. "True, true."

And from there they work out appropriate animals that can go into the web. Ginny makes Dwayne give his thoughts often, and he actually gets into the project. He writes to her when he thinks she's wrong, and even cracks a smile by accident at one point. She doesn't make a big show of noticing though, she just smiles back.

They hear the door open and young girl scream: "We're hooooooooome!"

Dwayne cringes, and looks at Ginny. She smiles.

"Is that your sister?" she asks.

He nods.

"Can we go see her?"

He shrugs.

"I'll take that as a yes." She stands up and waits for him to rise as well. He takes his time, in no rush to introduce anyone to his annoying family.

She takes her place as his shadow and follows him out the hallway and into the kitchen. She's walking closer to him this time though, and it makes the hairs on his arms stand up.

He first sees Olive dancing in the kitchen to some song on her walkman. He smiles smally, but quickly hides it. He walks over to his younger half-sister and, in the midst of her butt shaking, taps on her shoulder.

Olive jumps, turning around and tearing the clunky headphones from her ears. She smiles wide at him. "Hey Dwayne!"

He waves.

Olive's eyes drift over to the shadow hovering in the hallway. She smiles wide. "Is that your girlfriend?" she announces loudly.

Dwayne's cheeks set on fire. He shakes his head furiously and hears Ginny giggle behind him.

"Nope," she speaks up, and he senses her step closer to the siblings. "I'm just a friend. My names Ginny. You must be Olive." Her arm stretches out to Olive, who grabs it enthusiastically and shakes it.

"Yup! Hi!" She smiles widely.

"You're a very good dancer Olive," Ginny compliments, and Dwayne nearly rolls his eyes.

"Olive? Dwayne?" he hears the most annoying voice in the world say from the living room. Dwayne turns to look, but doesn't see his dreaded step-dad. "Is someone else here?" He finally steps into view, and Dwayne immediately feels a headache behind his left eyebrow. "Oh, hello there," he says to Ginny.

"Hello, you must be Mr. Hoover. I'm Ginny, Dwayne's friend from school." She reaches her hand out, and Richard shakes it with a weary look in his eyes.

"Mhm, nice to meet you. So, uh," he looks at Dwayne, who gives a subtle glare. "What have you guys been doing?"

Dwayne fully rolls his eyes. Seriously? Richard thinks Dwayne is stupid enough to do a girl when him and Olive were excepted to walk in at any minute? Stupid.

Ginny smiles. "We've been working on an project for school."

"Oh," he nods, but Dwayne knows Richard is still filled with suspicion. Whatever. "Uh, Mom will be home soon," he walks by the three kids. "Are you staying for dinner Ginny?"

Ginny glances at Dwayne while everyone else looks away. He didn't move, but tried to mentally tell her not to take the risk. She stares and him and gives a small smile. "No thank you sir, my parents are excepting me home for dinner."

Dwayne inwardly sighs relief.

"Oh, well, that's, uh," Richard looks walks into the kitchen and checks the phone messages. He doesn't complete his terribly fragmented sentence.

Ginny glances Dwayne with a curious glimmer in her different eyes. He senses that she's unsure of how to respond to Richard. Too bad he doesn't know either. He takes his notepad out its pocketed home and its accompanying pen.

After he shows her the paper, he watches her thin lips mouth the word toys and then stare at the paper with her usual blinking eyes. She seems to be wondering what he's referring to, but when she figures it out, her eyes brighten and she looks at him with a smile.

"Right, I forgot," she tells him before looking to Olive. "Hey, Olive?"

"Yeah Ginny?" Olive asks excitedly, her blue eyes wide.

"Me and Dwayne are doing this project for school and we need some toys of some animals. Do you have any you don't play with anymore that we can have?" Her voice is that typical "talking-to-a-person-smaller-than-me" voice, all higher than usual and polite and somewhat sarcastic.

Olive looks deeply into her thoughts. She's looking at the ceiling and sticking her tongue out and scratching her head; very serious thinking. "I might," she finally says.

"We really need these ones." Ginny pulls out the paper with her handwrote list of the web of her skirt pocket.

Dwayne quirks an eyebrow, he hadn't seen her put the paper there…. Not that he had been watching her or anything. Well, he had, but not in the creepy way. Obviously not intent enough for him to see her put the paper in her pocket. He had been watching her though. Okay, watching is a bad verb…. Hm, looking. Yeah, he had been looking her, sure. Not in a creepy way though.

Wait, what?

"Dwayne?"

He looks at Ginny and he's sure he looks confused.

"You wanna go back to your room?" she asks in a tone that tells him she's probably repeating this question.

He mentally shakes his head out of whatever it just went into and nods to the blonde. She fades back into his shadow and follows to his room. He closes the door when they enter and he hears her sigh in relief. He turns with his left eyebrow cocked, quietly questioning her.

She shakes her head. "Your step-dad's kind of…." She stops, obviously trying to find an appropriate adjective.

He writes: an ass.

After blinking her eyes, she laughs. "Well, that's a bit different then what I was thinking, but it'll work."

He smiles slightly and quickly looks away.

Silence. First time since after biology. Weird silence though. Like they both aren't thinking or anything, they're just standing there. She wants to say something, he's sure, but he wants to make sure he says nothing. Whoa, what?

"DWAYNE AND GINNY!" is shrieked moments later. Ginny jumps nearly off the ground, but Dwayne keeps his composer and simply looks at the door. Olive bursts in seconds later a small smile on her face. "HI!" She sings. "I found a toy I don't want!"

"Oh," Ginny quickly goes back into "dealing-with-a-small-child" mode and kneels down. "That's great Olive. What is it?"

"Here!" Olive holds out her palm straight up and drops small, plastic tiger toy with a missing leg and chewed on tail.

Dwayne stares at the toy with no emotion, as per usual, on his face. He glances at Ginny, who hasn't lost her smile at all. What was she still smiling about? They couldn't use that toy.

"Thank you Olive!" She smiles and the young girl and grabs the broken piece of painted plastic. "Can I have our list back too please?"

"Sure!" She hands Ginny the (now crumbled) piece of paper. "BYE!"

Dwayne stares after his little sister until she slams the door shut. He stares at the white door, then looks down at Ginny. She staring at him smiling.

She holds her hand out, showing the piece of crap his sister gave, and then says, "Looks like we'll have to go shopping."