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Part Two – Moments of Silence
The morning sun rose over Willow Creek, bathing the town in its warm glow. The early morning was a prime time to those waking up and heading out to their respective jobs, but not exactly welcome in the eyes of those who consider themselves night owls or all-nighters. In particular, Max Leone walked upstairs wearing her sunglasses and outfit as she made her way to a bedroom on the end of the top floor hallway.
In other parts of the house on Old Town Road, other members opened their eyes, stood up, and walked into the house proper ready to start the day. All except for Patrick, however, who had avoided the light by covering his head with the pillow. After realizing that the morning was indeed present, Pat opened his eyes and stood up out of the bed, quickly making it as he put on his only everyday clothes he had at the time, but not before taking a brief amount of time to sit on the bed and contemplate. Pat lamented the fact that most of his clothes were trapped in the customs department at one of many airports around the region. He was also upset over the idea of having to pay out of pocket to get new clothes.
Pat stepped out of his room and bumped into another person walking by. Pat fell back a bit but regained his composure and noticed that he had not seen this person face-to-face before. It was Alex, the other friend in the pictures he looked at the night before.
“Whoa, sorry. Didn’t see where I was going.” Pat said, sheepishly. “I don’t think we’ve met yet? I’m Patrick.”
“Alexander King. Sam said a new person moved into the house. Unless you’ve been here, invisible, the whole time I’m guessing he’s talking about you.” Alex narrowed his eyes in a joking manner, “You are the new person, right?”
“Indeed I am. Just stepped off the plane from Oasis Springs yesterday, in fact.”
Alex chuckled, “Oh man, I was hoping you could turn invisible. Someone at my job keeps eating part of my lunch and I would love to figure out who. Then again, I only work with Andy but I trust Andy.”
“Maybe this Andy person did eat part of it, did you ask them?”
“No. But I might. I might also see if Max can hook me up with some surveillance cameras. Lunches must be protected, they are not only integral to the workplaces, but they are also part of my personal American dream.”
“Lunches?” Pat asked with a confused look on his face.
Alex nodded, “Lunches.” With that, he walked away and into his own bedroom down the hall leaving Pat to second-guess his choice to live with this group of people. Out of the four he’s met, two had seemed relatively normal compared to the others.
In the end, however, he still gave them his money to stay in the house. The odd people were just going to have to keep being that way and he would have to adjust to it. After coming to this conclusion, Pat walked down the stairs and watched as Emily stepped into the house, wearing medical scrubs. From her overtly-tired demeanor and clothes, he quickly realized she was coming home from a long night at the hospital and was ready to sleep. The two passed each other in the hall and she gave Pat a slight nod, a warm smile, and afterwards walked up the stairs to her bedroom. Sam, however, was wearing a full policeman’s gear as he stepped out of the living room and towards the front door. Just before he left, however, he turned around and looked at Pat.
“You okay today? Got any plans?” Sam asked. Pat didn’t know what he meant by plans, but figured he had already thought of going to the park the night before. After telling Sam this, Sam smiled, “Good plans. And hey, don’t let Max get you down, she’s nice once you get to know her.”
Pat chuckled. “That’s what everyone tells me.”
Sam returned the chuckle and walked out the door. When he got to the curb of the lot, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number, and spoke into it when the connection was completed. “He’s going to the park today, if you want to talk to him there.” After an acknowledgement from the other side, he locked his phone and put it in the front pocket of his policeman’s jacket.
With Sam gone, Emily asleep, and Max and Alex doing… whatever they respectively did, Pat decided to fulfill his plans for the day. He packed himself a small lunch, walked outside the house, and began to make his way down the street to Willow Creek’s famous large park.
It was roughly half an hour before he found himself stepping onto the grass and hearing the faint classical music echoing out from the wall-mounted speakers near the center building. The sounds of crickets, the smell of grass, and the shaded trees filling the area made Pat feel glad that he wasn’t standing in the desert landscape of Oasis Springs. The change of scenery did, admittedly, make him feel zoned out and briefly uncomfortable, but he quickly got used to it. Patrick realized that if losing his luggage and being forced to move in with complete strangers had taught him anything, it was that he was able to adapt to new things far easier than he ever expected.
An hour had passed, and Pat spent most of it lying on the grass looking up at the sky and clouds. Looking at his cell phone, he realized that it was nearing 11:00 AM. Wanting to eat early, he reached for his lunch bag. Just as he did so, a pink shoe stepped onto it, crushing the contents within and puncturing the bag to expose the food to the ground around it. Pat looked up and saw a woman with brown hair and glasses standing over him, looking a bit embarrassed over what she just accidentally did.
“Oh no! I’m so, so sorry about that!” Pat smiled and stood up, shrugging it off. He looked at her in better light, without the glare of the sun on his face, and realized that she was the other woman in the pictures.
“It’s no problem.” Pat replied, “I’m sure it was getting soggy anyway. I’m Patrick… I suppose you’re Alice, right? I just moved in with your friends down on Old Town Road.”
Alice smiled, “You’re the new person Sam told me about!” Pat noticed that she spoke with a slight accent, but couldn’t place it exactly. “Yes I’m Alicia, but I prefer Alice, or Allie. Max told me a bit about you… well from what she’s met of you.”
“Sam told me that you’re good friends with Max. Has she always been-?”
“Not all her life, but she does have her reasons for being that way, trust me. Given time, she’ll probably tell you herself. But for now she wants to get to know you, so she kind of asked me to find you and talk to you for a bit. Get to know the real Patrick Denton, so to speak.”
Pat sighed, “I thought she already knew the ‘real’ Patrick Denton. She had Sam do a background check on me. Did you know that?”
“Yes. You should know that the check was simply a formality and all that. Max and Sam couldn’t afford to have a wanted criminal hiding out in the attic! If the police came and saw all the counterfeit concert ticket operations in there, everyone’d be in trouble.”
Alice laughed exceptionally loudly, making Pat look to both sides to see if anyone around was looking at them funny. When she stopped laughing, she continued talking. “That was a joke. In any case, Max wants to know you a bit more, but even she admits that she lacks the… people-person-ish skills to do so. That’s why I came by to chat. You should know, though, that anything you say will be told to her because she asked me to not leave a word out.”
“Fine.” Pat shrugged again and stepped toward the center of the park. The two walked over to a bench near a fountain, and Pat looked over at the fountain itself before sitting on the bench, Alice doing so just afterward. Before he began talking, Pat found himself gazing into the reflective surface of the water while he, in a metaphorical sense, reflected on his own past. “Well you know my name is Patrick Denton. I am twenty years old, and spent pretty much every year of it living in the sunbaked land of Oasis Springs, other than that there is not much to me. I like computers, writing, football, and all sorts of random things. My dad’s a doctor, my mom’s a cop, and I’m wanting to be a journalist.”
“Investigative? Sports? What kind of journalist are you talking about?”
“Whatever I can get, really, I’m used to anything. I may sound a bit off, but I actually grew up watching the news when most kids my age were watching cartoons. My parents made sure I always stayed away from watching the violent stuff, though. Ironically when I got older I started enjoying modern cartoons, but also older animation and films from other countries as well as independent movies and art-house films.” Pat briefly chuckled, “Mom always said I had a taste for art.”
Alice looked intrigued as he spoke. When he briefly stopped, she chimed in. “So you’d probably want to be some sort of movie critic? Willow Creek Times, the online news group in town, they’re actually looking for freelance critics. Apparently the last person who worked there was scared off by some red-loving actress who got rather angry at his review.”
Pat briefly laughed, then said “Perhaps it would be best to keep away from those types of people then. Thanks for the advice! I will definitely look into that whole freelance thing.”
“You should! Just stay away from the whole ‘angry redhead actresses’ thing because I don’t think you want to get booted out on your first day.”
Pat laughed, “Hey, I have red hair too. She might feel there’s some connection with me!” Both of them had a small laugh at his joke, and when they stopped he continued, “So what’s the story with you? Have you been living in Willow Creek for a while or…?”
“Ever since I was a child. I was born in Ireland where my parents lived, but afterwards my family moved all over the place from when I was born until I was six. I’ve been to Iceland, Alaska, Australia, all over the world. Eventually my dad got a well-paying job just outside of Willow Creek so we moved here, and I’ve been here ever since.”
“So how did you get involved with Max, Sam, Alex, and Emily?”
“We all went to school together. One day I was being picked on by some older kids and Sam helped me, protected me from them. After that we’ve all been friends and have stuck together, with the exception of those four years when everyone split off and went their own separate ways, but we still kept in contact. I stayed living in Willow Creek, with Max and Mike.”
“Mike? Who’s Mike?”
Alice’s smile faded and she immediately looked upset, and Pat wasn’t sure if she was that way because of his question or what she herself had said. A moment of silence passed and she stood up, smiling again. “I should get going, I have a bit of things to do today and the day isn’t long enough for all of them.”
“If I said something wrong…” Pat said as he stood up to talk to her some more.
“No, you didn’t. I just need to go, but it was wonderful talking to you! I’ll put in a good word for you with Max! I’m sure she’ll ease up on you, she just needs time. We all need time.” Alice walked away and out of the park, leaving Pat behind to wonder who Mike was and why the name immediately made her uncomfortable to talk about.
As Alice walked out of Pat’s view, she immediately wiped tears from her face. As she opened her eyes again, however, they were immediately drawn to a strange orange rock lying on the ground, one that seemed to glisten despite being out of direct sunlight. Intrigued, she grabbed the rock and carried it out of the park, calling someone on her cell phone along the way.
“Hey I’m bringing this rock I found to the lab, I’m sure it needs to be studied. Just make sure the door is open.”
After exploring the park for a while longer, Pat walked back down the house and jumped on a nearby office room computer to check and see if the freelance critic ad was still up for the local online news for a movie critic. Sure enough, it was. The qualifications for being one seemed to be lower than expected, so he quickly applied for the job. He waited for an hour or so, then checked back again and smiled when a message came back saying that he needed to see a movie within the week and review it, and the first submission would be a test to see if he had what it took.
Pat sent another message thanking the person for the opportunity, then stood back up and made his way downstairs. He looked at a clock on the wall and saw it was 6:00 PM, which in his old house was always dinner time. Wanting to keep with traditions, he headed down into the kitchen and pulled a pan off the wall hangers, then pulled some boxes of pasta out of the counters. Looking around, Pat noticed that the kitchen was rarely used. At the very least this kitchen, as he didn’t know if there were others in the house. With everyone in the house having different time schedules based on their respective jobs, it would make sense that household dinners were not in the cards.
Thinking that others would want some food by chance, however, Pat decided to make enough dinner for the full five people who lived there. He finally finished the pasta about twenty minutes later and sat the full plate on the dinner table, and to his surprise everyone else quickly showed up, grabbed a plate, and sat down to eat in silence.
About ten minutes passed and everyone spent most of that in silence, with Pat being the one to break said silence by asking everyone how it was. Everyone, including Max surprisingly, nodded and said the food was good.
“Well that’s great to know.” Pat replied, “Maybe if I get time, I’ll make dinners every night for us if anyone is willing to eat.”
Emily smiled, “Certainly! I usually work late nights so I’m up around this time anyway. If you need help I’m always willing to do so.”
“Thanks.” Pat replied, “So I got an opportunity for a job, a freelance journalism. Max, your friend Alice showed up today at the park and told me about it. She seemed rather nice.”
Max kept looking at the food as she replied, “She is. I know her well. She brought a rock to me that she found in the park, I’ve been studying it since then. The properties are unlike anything I’ve seen, and it looks like an extrusive igneous rock but the types common around Willow Creek are sedimentary. So unless someone living in Hawaii dropped their pet rock in the park, it’s odd to see something like it here. I’m going to call the Geo Council later and ask about it.”
“How exciting.” Sam said with a minimally sarcastic tone which Max seemed to not pick up on, then continued talking. “My work went well, there were a few criminals who wanted to act up but the chief put them in their place. I wouldn’t want to get on Chief’s bad side, to be quite honest.”
The entire room went quiet again, and Max stared right at Sam. “Hmm… maybe the rock is made of potassium feldspar.”
Pat smiled at what just happened, and started talking himself. “So your friend Alice told me that everyone left Willow Creek?”
Emily perked up, “Yup! After high school we all went off to different places. In the four years we were separated I studied medicine at Sims University, a place up in Maine named after some famous doctor named John Sims. Alex studied at a business school in Hidden Springs all the way up in Alaska while Sam trained at a police academy in Sunset Valley, on the northern beaches of California. Max stayed here in the Creek during that whole time. We all stayed in touch, though.”
“So you’re all from Willow Creek, went off to expand your horizons, and you all came back here. So what brought you back together?”
With Pat’s question, the entire room went silent. Everyone’s demeanor went from happy to sad immediately, and they continued eating their respective meals until all the food was gone from their plates.
“Was it something I said? This seems to be something that keeps happening to me today.”
Sam shook his head. “It’s just difficult to talk about, really.” Everyone stood up out of their chairs and walked off in different directions of their home, with Sam being the last. “Very difficult.”
Pat shrugged again as he sat on the dining room chair, once again left alone and confused for the second time in the day.
Sometime later, Max sat in her laboratory running research on the rock found in the park earlier. The door opened nearby and Alex walked in, nodding at Max when he did so.
“So what do you think of the new guy? He seems nice!”
Max continued her research, and didn’t even look at Alex. “He is nice, and seems to have an idea on what he wants to do in life. We need someone else like that around here.”
“Then when are you going to tell him?”
“Tell him what?”
“You know what I’m talking about, when are you? Also when will it be appropriate to talk to him about Mike? And trust me, ever since that happened, I’ve tried to keep a cool head but it’s been a year! I think everyone’s ready to move on.”
Max covered her face with her gloved hand, and some of the white makeup smeared onto it. She stood up, took off her gloves, and walked over to the shower and mirror. “I’ll tell him when I’m ready to tell him, okay?”
Alex shrugged and walked out of the room, leaving her alone. After he left, Max took off her sunglasses, then pulled her hat off her head, taking the full black hair that sat atop her face with it. She then took some water out of the shower and wiped the makeup off her face.
“I’ll tell him when I’m ready.” Max said as she stared at her own reflection.
Later that evening, the strange woman stepped onto the roof of the house and placed a small satellite dish in front of her. She then activated the object which shot a purple beam into the sky before shutting down. When another beam came back down and illuminated the area, she looked up.
“Zobari nomashol, narzol roshemna.”
The beam shut down, and the woman turned off the dish, walking back downstairs with it.