Melissa’s brown hair fell around her face as she lifted her lips from Clement’s forehead. “Goodnight Clem,” she told him, a smile spread across her features.
“Goodnight Mel,” he responded, an equally as content smile across his own face. She stood up and turned around to head towards the bedroom door, where an older Englishman stood grim faced. This took Clement by surprise, as usually Spero was a very happy man. Compared to the other orphanages Clement had been in, Spero’s Orphanage was one of the best. He had a happy attitude, and the other kids seemed to relate to Clement in terms of not fitting in. A house of misfits – watched carefully by the two owners.
“Waiting on me?” Melissa asked. She definitely noticed Spero’s mood being in the gutter. Whatever it was troubling Spero, Melissa wouldn’t ask him right in the door frame of Clement’s room. Not only did he have a bad tendency of eavesdropping, but it was practically an invitation to listen in should she ask him right there. Spero gestured for her to walk ahead, which she did, and he leaned into Clement’s room with a curious smile.
No answer came. Clement laid as still as possible and he kept his breath steady and slow. Once Spero seemed satisfied, the door clicked shut, and Clement waited two more minutes before tossing the covers off and racing quietly to the door. He pressed his ear against the surface and strained to hear their footsteps stalking across the wooden floor.
In the darkness, a child’s voice asked, “Are you going to eavesdrop Clem?”
He scowled and turned to face in that direction. He blatantly lied to it, “No, fool. I’m going to use the restroom.”
From the other side of the room, another voice spoke up. “Oh, we’ve all heard that before. Just keep up your winning streak and don’t get caught. I don’t like it when Spero gets upset.”
There were murmurs of agreement throughout the bedroom. Clement, exasperated, threw up his hands and spoke in an agitated, hushed tone. “How many of you are awake?”
Some of them giggled while another one answered. “All of us.”
“You guys are creepy,” Clement replied. He turned around and wrapped his hand around the doorknob. However, in a moment of good conscious, he turned around to face his room again. They had outfitted his room with a bed against the wall, a dresser on one side, and a closet on the other. They had been good to him.
“Don’t get caught,” a voice from the darkness of the room repeated. Some of the shapes of the children skirted around, still in a state of murmurs amongst themselves.
Clement was undeterred from his mission. He went through the doorway, shut it slowly behind him, and began to sneak down the halls. Despite the amount of time that had passed, Melissa and Spero were still relatively close to Clement’s room. They had stopped walking once they had turned the corner, and henceforth they were closer than he had thought. Clement tip-toed just close enough to hear them.
“… coming, then we should prepare,” Melissa’s voice said. “I could make those muffins you like so much!”
There was a pause before Spero responded. Clement could feel the atmosphere well, and could practically see Spero shaking his head in refusal – that slow, solemn shake. While the emotions of people were generally hard for Clement to grasp, Spero’s was always easy to read, just because he was repetitive and it didn’t take long to understand him.
“No,” his voice croaked, “I don’t want him to come. He always wants something. Sure, at first there are pleasantries but I won’t allow his entrance this time.”
“Spero!” Melissa insisted, “I want to see him! It’s been months. I want to catch up and… you know how it is. Please?”
A name bubbled up into Clement’s consciousness: Nox.
According to Melissa, he was like a brother to Spero, but Clement found this hard to believe as the two had a very drastic age difference. However, it would be a strange thing for Melissa to lie about. She never lied before.
Furthermore, Clement was now rooting for Spero to win the argument as Nox seemed to have a thing for Melissa. Jealousy generally would bite at Clement’s stomach whenever he saw the two together, as he had already informed Melissa that he would marry her when he became of age.
Some hesitation found itself into Spero’s answer, which triggered a facepalm on Clement’s part. This usually indicated the conversation was going to turn against whatever it was Spero was defending himself on. “Oh fine,” Spero said. “Tell him there better not be any business this time. Just friendliness and camaraderie.”
Melissa thanked him and bounded down the stairs. Clement figured she was going to go straight to the phone to call Nox for the “good news”. A sigh of disappointment escaped Clement. He stood up straight, no longer leaned against the wall, and he spun around to face the hallway of doors.
“What are you doing?” Spero’s voice tiredly sounded. The voice was entirely too close for comfort, which scared the **** out of Clement. He leaped into the air while letting out a choked, surprised noise and jerked around to see the disappointed expression that Spero wore on his face.
He stood but a foot or two from Clement, and for such an old man, he had snuck up on Clement very fast and silently. “Uhm-” was all he could get out before Spero pressed on.
“Clement, this habit has got to stop. You can’t do this if you get adopted. You can’t listen in on to your parents, you can’t do this in the real world in general. Eavesdropping is bad.”
Clement wished he could’ve rolled up into a ball and disappear. Jump into a ditch and not deal with being scolded. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Speak up and look into my eyes when you talk.”
Clement obliged. He forced his gaze to be level with Spero’s own, and heat built up behind his ears and water pooled in his eyes. He blinked a few times, fiddled with his fingers, and shuffled his feet back and forth.
“Well?” Spero asked.
“Good.” Spero smiled and ruffled Clement’s hair. “Apologies goes a long way, but don’t think I’m not going to tell Melissa.”
Clement’s eyes widened. “Wh-” once again, he couldn’t get a sentence out before Spero’s voice cut through the conversation with a question. “What did you hear?”
“Th-that Nox was coming.”
Spero breathed a sigh of relief. Clement became very confused by this. A nagging sensation of curiosity began to overwhelm the fear of Melissa’s retribution for his actions so he asked, “Was there anything else?”
“Yes. However, it is nothing that concerns you or the other children. So, Clement, I implore you – please go to bed. If you stay in bed tonight, I won’t tell Melissa what happened. Maybe.”
Clement nodded and began towards his room, but once he reached the door he felt he just had to ask him, “Spero. Is Melissa going to marry Nox?”
Spero looked at Clement with a bit of surprise. His arms fell to his side and a bit of laughter wriggled its way out of his mouth. “Go to bed Clement.”
Clement smiled and returned to his room.
However, he wasn’t quite prepared for what awaited him. When he opened the door, he saw that the children who shared his room with were all gathered in the back of the room, where his bed was, all in a semicircle. Clement shut the door behind him and approached this semicircle, then placed his hands on his hips while he donned his best ‘adult expression’ that looked something like a mix of annoyance and disappointment. “Well? Does anyone have anything they want to say?”
“You got caught didn’t you?” one of the children asked.
“Yes I did,” Clement replied. “But! – Spero wasn’t upset. He was actually relieved I had eavesdropped on them but didn’t hear a portion of their conversation.”
The voices broke out into their little pockets of conversations, all the kids in apparent disbelief. One such child stood up and stepped forward towards Clement. His name was Dove, and he was Clement’s best friend or the most terrible enemy. Dove wasn’t against public humiliation whenever he thought the person he punished was in the wrong. He had brown hair similarly to Melissa, but his eyes were probably the exact opposite from Melissa’s warm brown ones. His were an unsettling shade of gray. “So you didn’t upset him? You promise?”
Clement chuckled nervously. “Yes, that’s right Dove. He wasn’t upset. He might not even tell Melissa. But… I did find out Nox is coming.”
The gathered all booed at the same time, in a chorus. Dove turned around, told them all to shut up, then looked back at Clement and placed his hand on his shoulder. “That’s alright Clem,” he said, “should he try anything we could always give him the old one-two.”
Dove chuckled and began to usher Clement to bed while herding the group of shapes out of the way. “Don’t worry about it Clement. Now we have a big day tomorrow. You get some rest, alright?”
Clement nodded. “Alright Dove.”
The dark shapes of the children all began to spread to make room for Clement and Dove. Once at the side of the bed, Clement laid down on top of the blankets and Dove went to work in tucking him in. One of the children began to say something to mock this, but the others quickly shut him up – Dove didn’t seem to be in a joking mood. “Good night,” he told Clement, once Clement was in bed and ready to go to sleep.
“Good night,” Clement echoed.