Episode 5: The Visitor
It had been a week.
Jacob was in a dark mood. Corin escaped to the back porch of the house and stared bleakly at the muddy vegetable garden. She cringed at each yell and shriek of her parents’ arguing inside, quickly swiping away a tear that found its way to her cheek. Glancing up at the bare copse of trees beyond the garden, Corin felt a pang of fear. Had Evie really disappeared? Life already felt like a bad dream. She had the nagging feeling that she needed to wake up somehow, like this wasn‘t her life. It was a nightmare. A cruel joke. She pinched herself. Wake up!!
As she stared grim-faced at the garden, two people appeared round the side of the house and entered the backyard. Corin blinked then stood with a frown. Gauging from their black jackets accented with bright silver buttons, they were Grubbers from the big city, Reality. The taller of the two was a spitting image of her father, dark hair and eyes with a firm jaw and strong hands. His look was stern. His companion had light hair and dark eyes. He was lean but well-built and his face, though unsmiling, physically glowed. Corin caught her breath. Oh no. Not one of them.
The first approached and stopped before Corin. His eyes locked on the back door, which was shut but failed to stifle the quarrel within. Something like remorse appeared briefly on his face, then disappeared. The young man looked down at her.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I heard about Evie.”
“Dad doesn’t know you’re coming, does he?” He shook his head grimly and looked again at the door. He appeared to reconsider. “And you brought an Outsider with you,” she said, glancing at his friend. “You’re really trying to make this hard, aren’t you?”
“He’s my friend and he’s here to help. I don’t think Pop’ll say no to that.”
“He can and he probably will. He doesn’t hate you any less now.” He grimaced, but Corin didn’t regret her words.
“It doesn’t matter,” he replied. “I’m still going to talk to him.”
“Go on then.” She folded her arms. He hesitated, then went up the porch steps and into the house. His friend stayed behind. Corin ignored him and sat back down. It was a few moments before the voices within suddenly quieted. Corin held her breath as she heard her brother speak. This wouldn’t end well. She tried to think about something else.
Her brother’s friend, the Outsider, had taken a seat on the grass and leaned back on the palms of his hands. His whole body seemed bright, like a light was shining from inside. She crinkled her nose. Crazies were odd. She didn’t hate them like her father did, but she didn’t understand them either.
He caught her eye as she observed him and smiled. That was a smile, wasn’t it? It wasn’t like any she’d seen before. It looked strange. Like… it was sincere.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Matthew. What’s yours?”
“Corin.” He laughed suddenly, nearly making her fall over in shock.
“Sorry, the way you looked at me made me laugh. I’m guessing you’ve never seen an Outsider before?” Corin scowled, but after the week she’d had, she realized she didn’t have the energy to throw his laugh back in his face. With a disgruntled grumble, she shook her head and looked away. “What do you want to know?” His question surprised her. She glanced at him warily and saw that he was really asking her. She shrugged in nonchalance.
“I know you believe some pretty ridiculous things. What else is there?”
Matthew was unconvinced by her show of disinterest. “Ah,” he said, “so you’ve never wondered why people call us Outsiders.”
“Because you’re out of your mind. Obviously.” It was a gutsy thing to say for a Scrap. Corin half expected him to throttle her on the spot. Instead he chuckled.
“I guess that’s true. You’ve gotta be pretty crazy to be an Outsider. Not an easy gig.” He was still smiling. What did it take to upset this guy? Corin was getting frustrated. And curious. He had a look in his eyes, a brightness and excitement, like he had great news he couldn’t wait to tell. And there was something else in his eyes. It was like… they were really open. Like he was really looking and seeing. It was a strange thought. Weren’t everyone’s eyes open? There was that feeling again, like her eyes were closed and she wasn’t actually seeing, only dreaming she was seeing. But he saw. Like he was awake…really AWAKE.
She shifted uncomfortably, amazed and somewhat frightened by her thoughts. Her brother, Benjamin, returned a little paler than when he’d gone in. Corin watched them leave and a strange feeling settled in her stomach. She looked out to the little wood behind their house, to the path Evie had last taken, then back to the house where her father had resumed his railing. That was it.
Before she could change her mind, Corin jumped up and went to look for her sister.