Ace traversed the house carefully. He was very familiar with the layout of his house and the route from his rooms to the kitchen, where breakfast was usually eaten. However, he was suspicious, and rightly so, that his brothers would have left obstacles in his path. The best interpretation was carelessness – the worst that they were deliberately trying to hurt him. As Ace carefully moved what felt like some kind of round wooden puzzle, from to the very edge of the stair, he couldn’t help but feel, with great sadness, that it was the latter.
He had no idea why his brothers felt such animosity against him. Logan, in particular seemed to hate him, although he was sure he had never done anything to him to deserve his anger. Oh well.
At the bottom of the stairs he was careless and tripped on a ripple in the hall carpet. Again, this could
easily be an accident, except that there felt like there was something under there. How would anything get underneath such a large rug?
Not expecting the obstacle, having thought he was in the clear, Ace went down hard and his breath left his body in a sharp ‘wouf’. He landed on the shoulder he’d hurt at school and lay there for a moment immobilized by pain and inability to take a proper breath. Tears threatened and he blinked them back angrily. He was no stranger to taking a tumble, but this was different. This hurt not because of the shock or pain, but because of the absolute knowledge that it was caused by his own brother who wished him harm.
“Oh my goodness, what happened?”
The sound of his mother’s anguished cry and hurrying footsteps made him groan inwardly. The last thing he needed was another opportunity for her to think him weak and pathetic.
“There’s something under the carpet,” he grunted, sitting up. He cried out as a sharp stab of pain caught his shoulder.
“What do you mean?” He felt her kneel beside him, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t look for the obstacle.
“You’d better find it or I might fall again.”
“I don’t think–– Oh, you’re right.” She sounded so surprised that if Ace hadn’t been hardened to it he would have been sad that his mother had so little faith in him she wouldn’t even believe him on something like this. “How on earth did that get there?”
The sound of the carpet being shuffled and raised attested his mother’s efforts to locate the offending object, and their smoothing out again, to the fact she’d found it.
“What is it?”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s gone now.”
“But what is it?”
“Hurry now. Breakfast is getting cold.”
She hurried him up, jarring his shoulder and making him yelp. Then she fussed around that, diverting all attention from the obstacle in the hall. To Ace this was sure sign the object clearly belonged either to Nick or Logan.
The meal could only be described as awkward. Mrs Richmond insisted on helping Ace with everything from pouring juice – she wouldn’t let him have coffee as it was too hot – to buttering toast. His protestations that he was entirely able to do so himself fell on deaf ears. She kept insisting that as it was his first day home she was allowed to spoil him. The problem was, she never stopped.
The best thing that could be said was that he managed to talk her out of taking him to the hospital. He’d spent way too much time in hospital waiting rooms, to receive diagnoses ranging from twisted ankles to a harmless bump on the forehead. The worst he’d had was a sprained wrist. Oh, and the migraine brought on by constant hassle from her and his brothers.
Ace could just imagine the expressions on the doctors’ faces each time. He would have bet they were rolling their eyes at the crazy woman who was there yet again to bother them with trivialities they could have done without in their busy schedule.
After breakfast, Ace was quick to inform his mother he was tired and sore and wanted to rest. She seemed relieved to let him go. Of course, he might have been wrong. Social interaction was difficult when he couldn’t read expressions or body language. He didn’t ponder too much that day as he was too eager to escape.
A walk in the garden was out, as she would have insisted on accompanying him, so he retired to his room; his sanctuary. It was the only way he could guarantee some peace and the ability to be independent and do things his way.
The peace of the attic soothed his rattled nerves. He took two paracetamol to dull the ache in his shoulder and sat on the window seat, soaking up the sun.