Author: Chihuahua Zero
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Title: Manifestation Files
Scout and I sat together for the first time in several months. Of all the people that could calm my nerves, I invited her over. Habits refused to stay buried—considering Mom was picking up the exchange student from the airport.
We were sitting next to each other on my back patio, sipping Fitz’s root beer. Scout’s headband, which had a stuffed chick sewn on it, looked ridiculous. Yet, she wore it.
“Once we meet Finn, can we all go to my house for dinner?” she asked.
I kept my eyes on my ring finger, which I tapped against the rim of my bottle. “Nah. Mom and I will have to make sure he settles in—at least for the first night.”
“C’mon Bryan.” Scout leaned into the brick wall. “Does your mom really want to cook dinner, considering she’s doing everything?”
“She’s picking Finn up from the airport. I agreed to give him the house tour.”
Scout snapped the scrunchie holding her blonde ponytail together. “Hmm…what evil plan are you brewing to assume complete control over your subject?”
I rolled my eyes. “He’s not my ‘subject’. Quit applying your perverted logic onto the world, and I might invite you over more often.”
“All right.” She looked beyond the fence. Sirens blared in a distance; a typical sound around the hospitals. “So are you nervous?”
“Of course.” I took a long sip, smearing the frost surrounding the glass. The coldness calmed my jitteriness. Was it safe opening up to Scout?
Before my rationality could shut me up, I lowered the root beer and looked her in the eye. “I prefer not having Mom and I host for an exchange student, but I feel like I can’t push this away. Mom expects me to look after him, and would be disappointed otherwise.”
Scout grew more somber. “Why did you agree in the first place?”
“I asked myself that for a while.” I took another sip. “It was after ‘The Owl’ went viral. She was in an artist high and I couldn’t get myself to be selfish enough.”
“Are you jealous?”
“Well, when my mom’s attention is split between three different things…also, it’s more of an irrational fear, but I’m afraid I’m not going to like this Finn guy. He didn’t make much effort to answer the messages I sent through the student exchange program, although it’s likely Mom intercepted some of them and lost them in her art studio.”
“Did you ask her about it?”
“Once. She dismissed it.” I sighed. “What do you suggest I should do?”
She tilted her head to the side and gazed off to the distance. My fingers tensed up.
But instead of her offering useful advice, she said, “I don’t understand you. A boy is finally living at your house for an entire semester, and you don’t even—?”
I flustered. “Drop it.”
“You showed me Finn’s picture. He doesn’t look too—“
“Hey, speaking of baseball, do you think he would make good catcher—?”
I stood and pulled her from her seat. “Get off my porch now.”
Scout kept her grip on her bottle. She sighed. “All right. You’re no longer fun anyways.” She slipped her arm from my grasp and opened the yard gate to the front.
I folded my arms. “You need to understand you can’t tease me like that anymore.”
“Well, if you want me driving you again…” She walked through the alley. A few seconds later, I could hear her new car driving away.
I entered the house, plenty of root bear left in the bottle.
God, Mom was now going to ask why Scout left so early.
I looked out the front window. Mom’s car was driving into the spot Scout’s car was in. They most certainly have passed each other.
I stepped onto the front porch, planted my feet onto the brick floor and folded my arms.
Mom exited the car, drawing pad in hand. A couple of seconds later, the passenger door popped open. Finn put one foot onto the sidewalk, and dragged a rolling suitcase behind him. He fumbled with it before placing it onto the ground with a clatter.
I recognized him. He was paled-skinned, with mouse brown hair side swept with a comb, Beyond that, semi-formal clothes hanging off his scrawny frame, and a sheepish and awkward smile. Already, I could tell he wasn’t sure of himself.
Step by step, he walked up the stairs, his suitcase bouncing. He kept his head aimed at his feet. Mom remained at the car, grinning at me. How did it go at the airport—
Halfway, Finn tripped and landed on his knees. His suitcase descended the steps.
Before Mom could move, I ran down the steps to help Finn. By the time I reached him he was lifting himself up. He grimaced, but the time he stood, he was rubbing the back of his head with his palm, laughing nervously. “Sorry about that. I can be clumsy at times.” He was soft-spoken, with a British accent.
Mom picked up his suitcase, walked up, and handed it to him. “Finn, this is my son Bryan. You guys will be getting to know each other quite well over the next few months.”
He received the suitcase, detracted the handle, and held it to his chest. A bandage covered his right forearm. He gazed off in the distance, his breathes moving his chest. “O-okay.” He then made eye contact with me. “Okay.”
God, it was painful looking at him. Although he didn’t fit my worse-case-scenario—a surly jerk with an attitude—I could already tell he wasn’t the chatty kind.
All three of us advanced up the steps. At the porch, I opened the door, letting a burst of cold air hit us. We entered the house. I looked at the living room to the left, and the kitchen to the right. This was what Finn was seeing for the first time.
Mom sped pass Finn and I to the stairs. “Bryan? Will you show Finn his room and then show him around the house? I need to finish this project for a new client.” She walked up, leaving Finn and I alone. He looked at me, blinking absently. He tugged at his shoes with his feet.
“You can take your shoes off.” I untied my shoes and placed them neatly to the side. “My mom is a freelance artist. She has been jumping from project to project lately, so don’t be surprised if she seems to disappear for hours at the time.” Ever since her Owl Mural went viral, her car had been getting some mileage. Also, the phone bills, which I had taken a peek at, had an increase.
Finn didn’t respond. He was gazing out the window next to the front door.
He flinched. “Oh, am I supposed to do something?”
Yep, he was absent-minded. I walked to the stairs, gesturing him over. He followed, stepping across the carpet as if it was rough ground. Strange, his socks were dyed green. “You’re from Oxford, right? The information from the student exchange program wasn’t clear.”
“Father had some trouble making arrangements.” Finn’s shoulder brushed against the stairway.
“So you weren’t able to send any e-mails or letter?”
“I don’t have an e-mail.”
We circled around to the second floor. Besides Mom’s master bedroom, there were my room, and the guest bedroom Finn was going to use.