Ashley sat in one of the dining room chairs. He clutched the edge of the seat, looking down at his plate of food as he moved to pluck a green bean from his dinner plate and tentatively nibble on it. The warm yellow light of the Collins dining room was on, as the sky outside was growing dimmer. Ashley could hear Brooklyn just in the living room with Oliver playing video games. Jasper was in the room with him, sitting more in the kitchen area with his mother behind him. Ashley hadn't met their father yet as he was still at work. This was his first night officially staying with the family since his status of being homeless had come to their and the school's attention. It was only temporarily, he knew this, soon he'd be going to a real home. Emma Collins sighed, prompting Ashley to turn to her and her youngest child. She was dragging a comb through Jaspers dark damp hair, which she'd recently trimmed for him.
"Oliver stop cheating!" Brooklyn's voice rose from the living room.
"Brooklyn" Emma's voice held a tone of warning to it. "Don't you need to get ready for your match? Your uniforms on top of the dryer." She set down the scissors and patted Jaspers' shoulder. "All done Jazzy"
"Aw, mom not in front of Ashley." He whined at the nickname, "it's embarrassing." Emma only rolled her eyes and ushered him out of the room as Brooklyn could be heard running downstairs to the laundry room. Ashley had been brushing his own hair out of his face when Emma turned to him.
"How about a haircut Ashley? Your hairs as long as Brooklyn's!" She joked.
He looked over, red spreading onto his face. "I-it's gross" he admitted. "I never wash it- I mean I shower at the community center and stuff, but I never really have anything to wash it with. Just rinsing it doesn't do much." He was red in embarrassment. He'd yet to have a proper shower yet, as he'd only just gotten here barely an hour ago. He'd opted for food first. "It's tangled, really you probably don't want to mess with it. It's greasy, disgusting really." Emily just smiled and pulled the chair up to the sink.
"Come on, I'm sure you'll feel good to have it done."
Soon Ashley found himself leaning back as his head was partly dunked into the warm water of the sink and Emma's fingers worked through his hair. "This shampoo will help you out a lot. I make Brooklyn use it all the time. She's always burning and drying her hair out trying to straighten it. I don't when she'll learn that those curls aren't going anywhere." She laughed as Ashley hummed, his eyes closed as he enjoyed the warm sensation and feeling of her fingers massaging his scalp. He sat up as she quickly grabbed a towel to catch his dripping hair in. She stood for a few moments drying to dry his dark locks. Jasper had come in by then, right behind his father.
"Moooom, tell dad to turn his hearing aid back on!" He whined.
Emma rolled her eyes and moved to swat her husband's arm and point to his ear. "I know you like to turn it off while around all the machinery at work, but your son is trying to speak to you." She spoke and Ashley picked up a subtle hint of anger in her tone.
"Sorry, sorry" he sighed and moved to sit down with Jasper at the table. "What is it Jazzy?"
Jasper gave a small huff at the name again, "I'm failing English class."
"What?" Emma growled before grabbing a comb for Ashley. "You better stop failing it unless you want to be grounded all summer."
"Yeah, Oliver- why are bleeding?"
"I don't know, but can I have a bandage?"
"I'll get it" Johnathan got up to guide Oliver down the all, Jasper following.
"I swear Ashley these boys are going to be the death of me." Ashley laughed along with her.
He spent another twenty minutes or so sitting there was she carefully trimmed at his long locks. Ashley was quiet, listening to Brooklyn yelling from to top of the stairs. The sound of Jasper and Oliver along with the television in the living room could be heard. The dog as barking as he played with Jonathan and Emma was hummed silently to herself. Is this what a normal house sounds like? He wondered. All he remembered of his house seemed like it was decades ago. There was always traffic outside, the upstairs neighbors were always too loud. His brother was always too quiet and his mother was always too loud as she fought with whatever riff-raff she'd drug home that night. The one thing he could remember with fondness was the sound of metal rattling on the fire escape that night that he'd crawl out there just to sit in peace.
Ashley stood up when Emma announced that she was finished. He showered after that and spent a food a few minutes observing how much the better he looked with just a simple haircut. He went downstairs to find the rest of the family plus Oliver getting ready to leave as Brooklyn had a volleyball match back at school. He lingered at the stairs, unsure if he was welcome to go along as well or not. Emma looked over to him with a smile as she adjusted the black kneepad on Brooklyn's right leg. "Come on Ashley. We do everything as a family here, and as far as we're concerned as long as you're living under this roof your part of the family."
Ashley could only smile as he ran to follow them to the car.