Welcome to October
CHAPTER
23
A Welcome Wordless
Endings were not Leila’s favorites. She loved beginnings, the chance to start anew. But with the passing of the Widow Graves, Ichabod’s mother, a mother, someone’s mother who wasn’t now, she felt her heart heave as she cried for the first time over a cadaver not yet cold.
They had driven through the darkness into Elsewhere, vast and vague, wretched and wild. There was nothing familiar about the road they’d travelled only the night before. Elsewhere, with all of its exits, shops, and towns, seemed to grow out of the nothingness. It morphed and bent and rose and fell as ifi it couldn’t decide what or where it wanted to be.
But Leila knew where she wanted to be. She wished she were back in the Down Home being held by her guardians and sisters. At present, they were in another morgue’s parking lot, waving goodbye to a boy blank and his uncle uncaring.
Between Leila and Ichabod was a suitcase. As the eldest, it had been her job to help him pack. As an orphan with new orders from his new guardians now, it had been his duty to immediately do so.
The younger Mortimers were still crying or at least sniffling as one did after losing someone one loved. And the Mortimers had come to love Ichabod. He was the son of the man who’d slept through the death of their parents, but he was also their friend. A kindred spirit they’d named and served tea to as his house’d been torn down.
“No use crying,” Uncle Thorne was saying, checking his watch once again. He’d been muttering something about needing to get on with business as usual before he said quite stupidly, “What’s done is done. There’s no sense overstaying one’s welcome.”
Because that was the truth. Overstaying one’s welcome was really rather rude. But
“We don’t want Bod to go yet,” Nyx piped persistently.
“He just got here,” seconded her sister Evangeline.
With a pout kind of pointed, Mrs. D added, “The boy’s always welcome here.” She put a hand on her chest, patting the place over her heart. Dr. D put an arm around her and wrapped the other around the children.
“Always,” he agreed. “Bod is family, now.”
Uncle Thorne practically snorted. It was the most expressionate gesture Leila’d ever seen him make.
“Whether you take me to be an idiot or not I really can’t say,” he chortled, “but I’ve heard what they say about him. Mind keeps me informed. Just because his mother’s died doesn’t mean you should go and act caring on me now.”
Leila felt an anger rise within her. “He needs family, doesn’t he?” she demanded.
Uncle Thorne’s eyes snapped at her. “He has one,” he said, grabbing hold of the luggage.
Though Leila knew she had no right to argue with the way she’d treated Ichabod, she felt she was the one who’d been the fool. She knew better than anyone what it was like to feel abandoned. To feel lonely even when you weren’t exactly alone. To lose a loved one. To lose a few.
So without thinking, she simultaneously made a grab for the suitcase as well. She straightened her shoulders and met the big man’s meaty eyes. She didn’t mean to argue that Bod didn’t have a family. She only meant to inform the man who was his uncle as she smiled slightly, refusing to let the bag go, “Now, he has two.”
Evie’d never been more proud to be Leila’s little sister. In fact, she’d never been more proud to be a part of this family, Down and Mortimer.
And now, she thought, looking at the boy smiling and crying in the arms of her eldest sister, now Down and Mortimer.
And Graves.
Nyx hated to be the one eavesdropping. Mrs. Down would have told her it was a frightful thing to do. But back in October, in the all night diner, a place neutral enough for everyone to feel freely, the adults tried to talk while the children pecked pancakes and pralines.
“We’re not talking adoption necessarily,” Dr. Down argued adamantly.
“Unless you want to talk adoption,” cut in Mrs. Down. She seemed even more ardent than the doctor. “We’d take him in a heartbeat. We’ve always wanted a son.”
“Not that our girls aren’t our gifts greatest,” Dr. Down quipped quickly. This caused Mrs. Down to blush and add, of course. “But my wife is right. We’d love to have him.”
“But as my husband’s stated,” Mrs. Down said with less urgency, “he’s welcome for a visit as well. Any time.”
Uncle Thorne merely sighed. “It’s all very good of you to say. I almost believe your fondness for my nephew is more than monetary.”
That sent Mrs. Down into a tizzy. “Monetary?!” she was shouting.
Meanwhile, Bod had broken into a fit of laughter.
“Did Evie really have an imaginary pet unicorn?” he was asking Leila, loudly.
Though Leila was a bit distracted by her sister now actually attacking and demanding her silence, Leila managed to get out the name “Señor Fabuloso,” before Ichabod fell over, completely beside himself.
It was then that Nyx noticed the adults had been watching them, wordlessly. Something must have transpired between them while the Mortimers and Graves were play-fighting.
“They really do get on, though, I suppose,” agreed Uncle Thorne.
It was a long, long evening. So long, in fact, it was probably morning, though Nyx could not be sure. It was a long, long time before the Downs and Thornes came to a solution.
Nyx smiled her strange, sort of smile. She knew just how wonderful it could be to have a family forged. Broken, united. Glued together by love if not blood.
The Mortimer Sisters were thankful and three that they now had a “brother,”— a friend they called Bod. Two months had passed since the memorial of his mother, and the construction across from the Down Home was finally finished. That meant that their Bod would soon be coming Home.
“Not just soon,” Evie amended. “Today, Nyx! Today.“ And as Nyx Mortimer looked out at the sunny skies shining over the newly erected manor across the way, she couldn’t help but smile. For the first time in a long time, today didn’t feel so uncertain or long or far away.
The eldest Mortimer bounded down the stairs steep and flew out the door of the Funeral Home with a three-legged dog at her heels. But Nyx, of course, took her time down the stairwell. She was the youngest, now, and she had to be careful. Or Evie would kill her for doing deeds most dangerous on such a special day.
The Graves Home was open and half of October had come up to welcome the newest family into town. The Gunns had made an apple pie and the Lambs had prepared the housewarming weeks in advance. The Thornes must have been overwhelmed, Nyx reasoned, by the warmth of their deeds or the sun.
For of the seven, only Uncle Thorne could be seen smiling. Sort of smiling, in his way, at the reception most raucous.
“Welcome to October!” some were shouting.
“Welcome Home!”
The town seemed to have made its peace with these strangers as the Mortimers and Mr. Wutsitz had made theirs. It wasn’t their place to judge, the town realized through the heart of Mrs. Down and the “Shut up about it now!”s of Mr. Wuts. It was best to show love.
Only Vienna Vale stood cross-armed and bitter apart from the celebration. Her brother nudged her knowingly and she rolled her eyes before lowering her limbs and saying “Hello, Neighbors,” in a pitch polite.
The Downs shook hands with the Thorne family and introduced them with the help of Uncle Thorne to their friends. Everyone was busy except a boy beaming and the Mortimers. They took their time walking up to each other, arms open. There may have been somethings missing in all four of their hearts, but as they embraced one another amidst the crowd’s craziness, nothing they’d been through seemed to hurt as much. Not as much.
Evie thought, as she often did of Clara; Leila, of their mother and father; Bod of both theirs and his own. And Nyx simply tried to focus on how it didn’t hurt as much when they held on to each other. Perhaps they all did.
So they hugged.
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