Chapter 8

Birds chirped, creating an unfamiliar melody that broke Grant’s slumber. Rolling over onto his back, an off white ceiling lined his view. A gentle breeze brushed across the trailer walls. He smiled, appreciating the relaxing ambience. No one would control him today.

The atmosphere of this perfect morning made everything that happened to him the day before feel like a dream. This day had to be a better day. He had nowhere to be, he could lounge in his new space as much as he wanted. Although he still had to meet with Lars to make the payment and discuss his working situation.

His stomach groaned as he slowly got out of bed. He decided that sometime after getting ready for the day he would check out Nha-Stop. Grant smiled. When was the last time he only had two goals to accomplish for one day?

A knock tapped at the door as Grant was halfway down the hallway.

“I’m coming!” he shouted as he sped his walking up.

As he approached the door, he remembered Kale. A small wave of anxiety brewed inside him, but he threw it aside knowing he needed to answer it. Lars still needed the money. And even if it was Kale at the door, he didn’t actually do anything to Grant. He still felt uneasy about him, even after realizing that.

Upon opening the door, a man stood, similar to the photo he had seen at Jack’s apartment. Compared to that picture though, the person in front of him had a bigger gut that rested further out and had gray stubble prickling from his chin.

“Oh hey Grant, nice to meet you. I’m Lars, welcome to the neighborhood. Hope the place isn’t too messy for ya.” He gave a toothy grin.

“Ah, nice to meet you, and no, it’s fine here. Let me grab the money real quick,” Grant said and went to retrieve it.

Lars continued talking, “yeah, I know it’s not the greatest place in the world, but I’m sure you’ll grow to love it here. If you somehow can’t manage to mingle with the folks of the village, there are always the cats.”

“I’m sure everyone here is fine. The cats don’t seem to like me though.” Grant handed him the money.

He started flicking through it. “They might take awhile to get used to ya, but when they do, they’ll all feel like family. I’m not sure what I would do without them. They bring comfort to all who manage to stay here long enough. You’ll see what I mean someday.”

Grant gave a fake smile and nodded. Sure I will, he thought.

“I was told about the job that you are offering me? The leech farm?” Grant asked, trying to keep his face from looking displeased.

Lars flashed a smile, still flicking through the cash. “Yep, I figured you’d probably want to get settled in for a day or two before starting work, but if you want to you can start today with us.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll take it easy today.”

“Okay, well, if you need anything else, my trailer is the one straight across the street. We’re about to head out soon, but we’ll be back around six tonight.”

“We?”

“Yeah, I’ve got the guy who lives next door helping me out everyday, it’ll be nice to have a third person,” Lars said while pointing at the neighbor’s trailer. “Actually, hold on a minute, let me grab him, might as well introduce you now.”

Lars walked off the deck and over to the trailer next door. Grant stepped outside and waited.

The sun was shining overhead and it provided a new view of his surroundings compared to the night before. He peered out onto the bright green grass and noticed the yard expanded further than what he thought. A shed was located towards the back end of his home, tattered and worn out, but still managing to stand. Two plastic chairs sat atop the deck, positioned around the sunken wood planks.

Grant looked over at his neighbor’s trailer. It had dark blue siding with light blue skirting. Small wooden sculptures surrounded the front end of the home, but he couldn’t make out what they were, at least from this distance.

Grant proceeded to maneuver around the loose deck boards and took a seat, gazing across the street.

The neatly trimmed grass ran even across the land. Trailers were spread out in an uneven distance from one another throughout the field. Cats walked around as if they ruled the premises. Some sat on open window sills, free to enter and exit as they pleased. And some laid down, snuggling into the cracks in the skirting. Grant could make out a cat that looked similar to the one that howled at him, sitting on Kale’s deck, like a watchdog, or watchcat. In the daylight, it appeared like a normal cat, a bit different than what his senses perceived to him prior.

The howling wrung in Grant’s head, his mind replaying the ferocious screams of the small creature. Perhaps he was just overtired. Maybe nothing from the night before was really as bad as he made it seem.

Two voices could be heard getting closer and closer. Lars and the other man came into view and Lars pointed towards Grant and then headed back across the street. The person Lars was talking to headed towards Grant.

The man had dark skin and maroon hair that was braided and tied back, extending a bit past his shoulders. He appeared to be a similar age to Grant, although he seemed a bit older. His cyan eyes shined from the sunlight as he smiled and waved.

Grant returned the gesture, but on a lower level. Meeting new people took a toll on him mentally.

“Welcome, welcome. Although, I don’t know if I have much of a right to welcome you. I’m fairly new here myself, been here for about a month now.” The man extended his hand out. “I’m Rhett, by the way.”

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They shook hands and Grant introduced himself.

“So, you’re gonna start helping on the farm, huh? I have to be honest, gettin’ down and dirty with all the leeches is pretty gross. But good old Lars here pays enough where we can afford to work short hours. He is pretty lenient too, we don’t ever work too hard, hahaha.”

This was sounding too good to be true, except the part about the leeches. Extra free time and no one to command his every move was his dream. But Grant being used to false promises, didn’t completely believe it. He had no control over the shield he wore around new people.

“Oh, that sounds nice,” Grant answered, showing a face that wavered between happy and suspicious. “Well, I’m gonna head back inside. Nice meeting you,” Grant’s words were quick and concise.

Whenever Grant met new people, he chose his words with caution. He didn’t let them see any bit of who he was, but he observed their every word and gesture.

“No problem, we’re about to–”

Before he could part ways with his new neighbor and end his abundant amount of social interaction for the day, a gust of wind grabbed hold of the door and slammed it against the siding of his trailer.

“Damn, that wind is wild. Anyway, we’re about to head to the farm now, take care.”

Grant leaned out and grabbed the door, giving Rhett an awkward smile as he left the premise. Pulling the door shut, Grant gave one more look at his new view.

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“Oh yeah, by the way, we’re having a bonfire tonight, I’ll come back and check if you want to join us!” Rhett turned around and shouted to Grant.

“Okay, I don’t know if I will though.”

“No problem!”

Compared to city life, everyone did seem really close here. As much as Grant hated the idea of being surrounded by strangers, he didn’t hate the idea of being invited to join. Feeling welcomed was a feeling everyone craved, but even so, he felt that he had enough socializing for the day. He finished one of two goals for the day, and all that was left was checking out Nha-Stop.

Rhett crossed the street and entered a car in Lars’s driveway. Grant’s eyes wandered a bit more, until he strayed his eyes further down the line of trailers.

Orange eyes above a black cloth stared back at him through an open window.

Grant smashed his door shut. What was that guy doing now? Doesn’t he have anything better to do than watch him? Maybe Kale was just curious about him. For a village this small, they probably didn’t get new residents often. Although Rhett said he just moved here not too long ago. Grant drove his fingers through his hair, trying to calm himself.

Maybe Grant was overreacting. All he did was present him with a place to sleep in the middle of the night. There would be no harm in giving him the benefit of the doubt. Grant decided that in his next encounter with him, he would try to understand him, that is, if his anxiety would let him.

This was his new life, after all. Changing his faults along with his environment sounded like an ideal choice. He could become a new person, casting away past hindrances. If only executing that idea was that easy.

Wind shook the narrow walls of his trailer as he sat in his kitchen, stretching and admiring his new space. He hadn’t had a chance to really soak in his surroundings before sleep took him.

As he gazed upon the walls, another knock came to the door. Lars and Rhett had already left for work. Could it be another person coming to welcome him? He had had enough mingling with strangers for the day.

They knew he was home though, he couldn’t just ignore them. That would be a terrible first impression.

After getting through a list of people who it could be, Grant finally came to a probable answer. There was a high chance that this time, it was Kale.

Grant crept up to the door and peeked through the curtain.

Kale stood there with his orange eyes positioned as if smiling, cradling a cat like a baby.

Grant panicked.

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