"Dad! Do we have to move? I like it here!" I complained, as my father stuck his head around my door, while attempting to stay upright under the load of boxes he was carrying.
"We've been over this at least a hundred times Harlem.." began my father resignedly, and I groaned. I knew exactly what was coming next.
Your mother's too busy with work.. It's only in another state, not across the country.. I opened my mouth to object, but thought better of it, and closed it.
My Dad had been great over the last couple of months.. The divorce had been finalised, and he had been granted temporary custody of me.
Now, after all this had been said and done, he had upped and married a writer from half way across the country that his firm had represented once.
So, here we were, moving to a house she had impulsively purchased for us all to live in. A hick town in the country.. fun..
I didn't want to get up close and personal with cows bottoms and gumboots! I liked it here in the city, just Dad and I, busy and bustling, that's how I liked it.
I glanced sadly around our now empty city apartment, over the months he and I had shared it, It had become warm and homey, and needless to say I was sad to leave it.
"You ready to leave honey?" asked Dad from the doorway, and I nodded absently.
"You'll love it in the country Harlem, it's just what we need, a change.. Plus, you're even getting an older brother, that's a bonus" he continued, and I frowned, thinking of the tall, silent dark haired boy that was now my brother.. Step brother.. I amended mentally.
"I don't know Dad.. I just wish that I could have stayed with Mum, don't get me wrong.. I love living with you, but this.." I broke off, having already said too much.
I didn't generally like to talk about what I was feeling, tending to keep it quiet, and flesh it out for myself.
"Just promise me you'll give it a chance" requested Dad as he looked down at me. I nodded in assent, and took a hold of his hand as we silently left the apartment that had been our home for almost a year now.
Downstairs, we packed a few small belongings, and overnight bags into Dad's sleek car.
Not really suitable for the country.. I thought to myself, and hid a smile as I climbed into the front seat, and clipped on my seatbelt. I turned to look over my shoulder as we left first the apartment, then the smog and lights of the city behind.
* * *
I climbed wearily out of the car several hours later.
"John, Harlem!" called Corryn excitedly from the porch, as she ran down the stairs and across the large lawn to us.
I rolled my eyes, and muttered something under my breath. Dad turned to look at me sharply..
"Be nice" he admonished softly, and I nodded slightly, shielding my eyes against the late afternoon sun.
Leaning arrogantly, with a resigned expression on his face, was Jude.. My new step brother.. Oh joy, a freezer is more animated than he is! I thought nastily, as I turned away to avoid scowling at him.
I turned back, and was surprised to see that he had joined us at the car, and was helping Dad unload the boot.
I hurried around the car, and grabbed my bag as Jude was just about to reach for it.
"I can carry it" I informed him, and ignored the chuckle I could have sworn I heard, but as I turned to glare at him, his face was impassive.
"Thanks Jude" I heard my father say, and I shuddered, It wasn't that I didn't like Jude, he was just a puzzle.. He always seemed to be watching, It was like he knew something that no one else did, and wasn't going to say anything anytime soon.
I suppose it could be worse.. I thought to myself, as I walked through the front door and dumped my bags down.
I glanced around sourly, It looked like something from a sickeningly sweet TV show, the curtains were blue and white check, there were big, bright windows, the furniture was as my Dad would say, 'rustic' I grimaced, and waited for the others.
"Harlem.. Jude and I picked out the perfect bedroom for you!" intoned Corryn excitedly from beside me.
I sighed, This was just great, brood boy had picked my bedroom?
"Lead the way" I replied dejectedly, and Jude shot me an unreadable look as he passed by. I poked my tongue out at his retreating back, but quickly pulled it back in as Dad walked past.
I followed the trio down the hall, and up a flight of stairs. We stopped at a white door, and Corryn threw it open.
I pushed through, and walked into the centre of the room, It was quite large, the walls were painted a shallow cream, and the floor was polished boards.
I walked over to the window and looked outside, The view was pleasant, looking out over the trees, and surrounding paddocks.
"It's.. uh.. nice" I offered, and Corryn looked so thrilled, that I was unable to stop a smile also forming on my own lips.
"I hoped you'd like it.." she continued, as we were ushered out of the room.
"There's an ensuite bathroom in your room, and the one down the hall is for Jude, His room is in the attic.." she paused a moment before continuing,
"Your fathers and my room is downstairs, also with an ensuite, and there is another bathroom for general use downstairs also." She broke off, and I felt my breath hitch at the first five words.
"yeah, ah.. whatever" I replied, and went back to my room, wanting to settle in.
I looked around the room helplessly, and wished more than ever that I was back in the city with Mum, instead of here.
They could keep their happy little family act.. I didn't want any part of it.
* * *
A little while later, hunger drove me downstairs, and I watched curiously from a distance as Corryn rattled pans and chopped vegetables.
I sat down at the table cautiously, and tried to smile at Corryn when she turned around.
"Hey Harlem, you like Pork chops?" she asked, and I nodded.. I did, I liked them the way my mother made them for me, with apple sauce.
"The moving van will be here soon, then you can get settled in" she continued, and I nodded vaguely, tracing invisible circles on the blue and white tablecloth with my finger.
Jude came in and sat down, I looked up, but he didn't meet my gaze.
Great start. I can't even get my big brother to look at me, let alone talk to me.. I thought sadly.
I brushed a strand of my wavy dark blonde hair out of my eyes. I noticed Jude watching the action, but no emotion, no clue to what he was thinking registered on his face.
A plate was placed before me, and I suddenly lost my appetite.. It seemed that Corryn's talents at writing, didn't extend to cooking.
I picked at the vegetables, ate the potato, and then pushed the plate away from me.
I saw a vaguely hurt expression cross Corryn's face, and I hurried to smooth it over.
"I'm just a bit tired, and not hungry.. may I be excused?" I stated hurriedly, and after Dad had nodded, I stood up, and cleared my plate, placing it in the dishwasher.
I left the kitchen, and climbed up the stairs.. hearing snatches of the conversation.
"Is she all right?" .. Corryn..
"She just needs time to regain her footing.." .. Dad..
The voices faded away as I got to the top of the stairs and headed for my room.
I turned on my discman, and put the earpieces in.
I lay down on the polished wood floor, and closed my eyes.
Awhile later, I thought I heard a noise, and opened my eyes.
I screamed as I saw Jude leaning over me.
"Don't do that!" I gasped, and his face remained unchanged, but I was sure I could see a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.. the slightly smug, or knowing look was as always, there.
"Movers are here" he replied quietly, and left the room.
I scowled, and followed him down the stairs.
* * *
Outside, I walked over to the truck, and pulled out my suitcase, one of two, that held all my clothes.
I hauled it inside, and stopped; panting, at the stairs.
"Do you need help?" asked Jude, appearing from nowhere.
"I don't need anyone's help" I snapped, and he looked for a moment as though he were going to object, but merely shrugged, and stood there watching me.
"Are you going to watch me haul this upstairs?" I demanded, and I definitely saw a flicker of amusement then.
He didn't reply, so I gritted my teeth and pulled the suitcase towards me.
I dragged the suitcase up the stairs one at a time.
I made it to the second top stair, and pulled once more.. The suitcase caught, and I groaned thinking what an absolute idiot I was for having packed it so heavy.
I tugged again, and then as I stumbled, the suitcase teetered, and fell backwards, bouncing down the stairs to land at the bottom. It sprang open, and my clothes flew in all directions.
"This is all your fault!" I snapped at Jude, whose look of amusement had turned into a full blown laugh.
He raised an eyebrow, and I glared murderously at him.
"Next time.. don't believe me when I say I don't need help!" I continued angrily, gathering my clothes up, and returning them to the suitcase.
I glared again as Jude handed me a bra that he had managed to catch, and efficiently removed the suitcase from my grasp, carrying it up the stairs as though it were light as a feather.
I growled under my breath, and followed him up to my room.