Friday, December 25, 2015
Mia yawned as she opened her eyes on Christmas morning. She looked out of the window, secretly hoping for some of that iconic Christmas snow, only to find disappointment as the temperature was now too warm for that.
Picking up her phone, she saw that it was almost eleven in the morning. Still a bit tired, she went downstairs to see what was under the tree. After spending an hour eating lunch and getting pretty much gift cards from her parents, she looked at a gift sitting on the table next to the front door.
"Would you two hate me if I wanted to give that to Cameron?" Mia asked her parents.
"No more than you dating him." Mr. Kleve said as her mother snickered.
"Now Graham, that's enough. Dear, you have to realize that your father's going to hate everybody that you date. It's part of the contract that they made him sign at the hospital when you were born."
"Signed with blood." Mr. Kleve said as his daughter let out a bit of a laugh.
"Go be with your boyfriend." Mrs. Kleve said. Mia got out her phone and sent a text to Cameron. Her face lit up when he replied back with an invitation for her to come to his house.
"He's up for it. See you two later! Love you!" Mia said as she pulled on her coat.
"Signed. In. Blood."
Mia grabbed the package and took off towards Cameron's house. The temperature was in the mid-forties, not enough to make snow yet enough to make one feel chilly. She got to Cameron's house and walked up to the front, only to be surprised when he opened the door to greet her.
"Merry Christmas! Where's my gift? Is that my gift? Gimme!" Cameron playfully said as he took Mia's coat.
"Hey, where's mine?"
"No, me first."
"Fine. You first. Here you go." Cameron said with a smile as he handed her a small plain cardboard box.
"Did you run out of wrapping paper?"
"Have you tried to wrap a present?"
In response, Mia held up the present that she wrapped for him. Cameron realized that his joke fell flat and didn't respond. Feeling a little bad, Mia decided to open up the present.
"Cameron… are you serious?!" she exclaimed as she pulled out a DVD boxset.
"Now you won't have to worry about getting in trouble for downloading."
"This… is… wow! I saw this online, it's expensive!"
"Worth it!" Cameron said as she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a quick kiss.
"Your turn. But it's not as good." Mia said a bit sadly as she handed him his gift. He quickly opened it to find a new stocking cap.
"Wow, this is cool!" Cameron genuinely said as he put it on.
"Use that as a coaster and it's going up your nose."
"I love it. Almost as much as I lo-"
"Hey, hey. Dial down the mushiness!" Mia quickly said.
"So… what do you want to do? I'm surprised that you don't want to run home and watch that." Cameron sheepishly asked.
"Anything you want to do. You're the one getting shafted here."
"...I wanna go to Elias's old house."
"Yeah… I just want to meet this Lucas guy. I want to know so much about him."
"O-Okay. So, you want to just walk over there? What if they're having their own Christmas thing?"
"A fugitive Christmas?"
"And that's another thing! Wasn't getting kidnapped once enough for you?"
"That's why I'm not going alone!"
"If it's just the two of us, you'll be outside the gate."
"...Okay. I'll go."
Mia put her coat back on and Cameron put on his along with his new stocking cap.
"Come on, aren't you curious?"
"I'm more fascinated by the fact that you want me to meet someone who looks just like my dead ex-boyfriend. That's kind of messed up."
"I know, but it's… I don't have anything else to say."
The two walked for about a block before Mia had another thought.
"And what if we go there and it's completely empty?"
"We go back to my house, I guess."
"Well… remember how we went into the house that one time?"
"Do you still have those lockpicks?"
"Mia, please. That was such a twelve-year-old thing. I'm more mature than that."
"Aw, come on."
Before the two could discuss this further, they saw another couple crossing the street opposite to them.
"Going for a stroll?" Olivia said as she walked next to Kenton towards them.
"Why not? It's Christmas, so why not enjoy this nasty mush that used to be snow?" Mia replied.
"What in the hell are you two doing here?" Cameron asked, surprised that the other couple was far away from both Kenton's house and Olivia's grandmother's house.
"I have the same question."
"We're just on a walk. Like couples do. Like what you're doing." Mia said.
"Towards Elias's old house?" Kenton asked.
"Oh, fine. Yes, that's exactly where we're going." Mia said, giving in to her friend's interrogations.
"Yeah, we're going there, too." Olivia added.
"Well, this is better. It's hard for four people to get kidnapped!" Mia exclaimed.
"Stop that." Cameron said, getting a little annoyed at Mia's paranoia.
"So, what are we going to do? Just go up, ring the doorbell, and see what happens?" Olivia asked as the four of them continued down the sidewalk.
"Why not pose as carolers?" Kenton suggested.
"That could work." Olivia agreed.
"Perfect. I have the perfect selection of songs. Hell, Cameron came up with a good one the other day..." Mia added.
"Oh, no. I don't want to be on the five o'clock news for that one. It's probably illegal in at least thirty states." Cameron quickly said.
The four of them all felt a bit nervous as they approached Elias's old house. Cameron walked over to the gate and they were surprised to see that it was unlocked.
"That… that was locked the last time we were here." Mia cautiously said.
"...Last time?" Kenton asked.
"We let ourselves in last year and explored." Cameron quickly explained.
"Mia. Really?" Olivia said as she crossed her arms with a pout.
"CAMERON." Kenton said in his best "stern big brother" tone of voice.
"Yeah, yeah. Spare us the lecture. We were grieving." Mia said quietly.
The two older kids decided to drop the reprimanding and they all walked on the sidewalk of the poorly-kept yard to the front porch. Without thinking, Kenton pressed the doorbell button and Cameron nearly leapt out of his skin.
"There's power here? That means someone's living here!" he quietly exclaimed.
"They might have the power on for a heater. If it gets too cold, the pipes might burst."
The other three nearly leaped up when the door opened. Lucas, the one answering, nearly yelled out in surprise as one of the girls standing before him could be a dead ringer for Toby's cousin.
Kenton looked at his friends' faces (taking special note of Olivia's reaction) before realizing that there wasn't going to be caroling at this point.
"Yes, we noticed that you're new to the neighborhood. We're the 'Welcome Wagon'." Kenton said as he offered his hand to the boy.
"Well… okay. It's nice to meet you. My name's Lucas. Lucas Elliott, to be exact." He said as he cautiously shook his hand.
"My name's Kenton Hayes, this is my girlfriend, Olivia. Those two are my best friend, Cameron, and his girlfriend Mia."
If he wasn't already at his house, he would have taken off running. He was 3,000 miles away from Maine, what were the odds that his former best friend's cousin would be standing in front of him?
"Tell me about it. My aunt and uncle, Olivia's folks, own the house. When they moved back from Oregon, my dad's felt that he's being ran out."
Lucas then remembered that Olivia was indeed from Oregon and his heart started racing. Part of him wanted to ask how Toby was doing, but his gut told him to play as dumb as possible.
"Nice to meet all of you." Lucas said, not sure of what to say next.
"So, are you going to be going to school here?" Mia asked, trying to break up the awkwardness.
"Actually, I don't think so. My dad rented this house for a bit so he could take care of some business stuff. Then we're moving on."
This was enough for Kenton. It was taking a lot of self-control for him to refrain from shoving the teenager out of the doorway to go after the man that he was certain burned down his mother's restaurant.
"Oh… that's too bad."
"Right. Well, I've got to go, we've got some big holiday plans. It's nice to meet all of you." Lucas said as he wanted to get away from this awkward situation.
"Bye-Bye!" Mia politely said as he went back inside. Without saying anything else, the four of them walked out of the yard.
"Olivia… was that…" Kenton asked. Olivia only nodded.
"Butch Conner's other son..." Mia added.
"Elias's brother." Cameron concluded.
When they were a block away from the house, Kenton got out his phone and called his mother.
"Hey, baby." Charmaine said as she answered the phone.
"Hey, Mom. You might want to give that detective guy a call."
"Why? What's going on?"
"We went to Elias's old house-"
"What?! You trespassed on someone else's property?!"
"It's a long story, we were posing as… well, caroling-welcome-wagon people."
"...And this was your idea? That's worse than the time you used my makeup to make a Valentine's Day card!"
Kenton sighed at his mother's rant.
"...But alright. If you want me to call Detective Anson, I will, but be ready to answer some questions about what you were doing there."
"Fair enough, thanks Mom." Kenton said to finish the conversation.
Charmaine sighed as she got out the business card and dialed the detective's number. When she got a voicemail greeting, she simply hung up with the intent of trying again the next day.
When he saw that the kids were nowhere to be seen, Lucas walked back into the kitchen of the house.
"Who was that?" Butch asked. Lucas shrugged.
"Some people going around the neighborhood. You know, Christmas stuff."
"Heh, yeah. They like to do that around here."
Butch was too busy watching TV on his phone (courtesy of an unsecured Wi-Fi point at one of the neighboring houses) to notice that Lucas was going upstairs out of boredom. As far as Lucas knew, the house was rented from a friend who didn't want them to go upstairs because "it was messy". However, curiosity got the best of the teenager.
As he walked up to the top of the stairs, he was surprised on how much cleaner (outside of the dust from a lack of occupancy). He looked into the bathroom and saw that it was boring.
He peeked into another room which looked like a typical young teenage boy's room. He saw that there were tools and computer parts scattered about, but there was nothing else of interest. Leaving that room, he walked into a spare bedroom that was used for storage.
He walked over to a stack of frame photos and nearly dropped it when he saw the photo. He saw his father and more importantly, a strange boy standing in front of a restaurant. The caption made his stomach turn.
"Butch Conner, groundskeeper, stands with his son, Elias, outside of Edward Berger's latest establishment..." he read to himself quietly.
"What… in the hell?" he uttered as he got out his phone and did an internet search for anything related to this. As the news stories from a year-and-a-half started to come onto the screen, Lucas wasn't sure if he was having a nightmare. Finally, he decided to look up this "Elias Conner" person on social media and found a memorial page. Everything changed when he recognized Kenton, Mia, Cameron, and Olivia from the pictures. Now that he saw the truth, he saw red.