They started moving into the house the next day. The big yellow truck was parked across the street, and the boy’s father had pulled out the long extension ramp from underneath. Slowly, a box at a time, the load in the truck was shifted into the house.
And it was an actual house. Mostly an actual house. The boy had spent all his time in the city, had grown up in a three-story apartment block overlooking the Humber Valley, and then later on the twelfth floor of a tall, imposing condominium tower in Etobicoke that overlooked the Airport. He had never lived so close to the ground before. But this was a house. Well, a row-house (a ‘townhouse’, his father called it. He wondered if that meant that houses in the city were called ‘city houses’) anyway. It was at the end of a long row of mostly identical houses, with white siding walls and green roofs.
Because of the weight of most of the possessions being transferred into the house, the boy was not able to help very much. He had carried in the few things he could manage, and was then excused from any more heavy lifting and told to explore the housing complex.
First he walked around it, counting the houses. He counted 25, and then the road curved around the last house in the row. Here the road was shaded by tall evergreen trees – taller than any trees he had ever seen in his life. He pondered the shadowy road for a moment, then spotted something that surprised him. Curiosity took over and he started into the shade, only to find a second row of houses identical to the first, but facing the opposite way. And between the two rows of houses, a large common field of green grass and trees.
And more importantly, other children. Children running around, possibly playing tag. He watched for some time, before stepping onto the grass and making his way toward them. He counted four kids, altogether, two boys and two girls. One of each appeared to be his own age, while the others looked to be a couple years younger.
They didn’t see him approach – they were too intently wrapped up in their game, – and didn’t see him even when he’d stopped by the wooden swing set. He didn’t understand why he was suddenly so shy, why he didn’t go up and introduce himself, but it felt right, so he simply stood and watched.
The two boys had long hair – much longer than his (which was sensibly cropped close to his skull). It went over the collar of their t-shirts. He suspected his mother would have called them hoodlums or something. God knows she would never have let him have hair that long. His sister’s hair was barely longer. Otherwise they were dressed mostly the same as him. Aside from the t-shirts (one green with “John Deere” written on it and a picture of a leaping deer, the other white with a yellow smiley-face on it), they were wearing jeans that looked very much like his and shoes like his. Exactly like his, in the case of the boy his own age. He wasn’t sure why, but this made him feel much better.
He had been concentrating so hard on the boys that he had totally forgotten about the girls. So when the younger one tapped him on the shoulder, he jumped about a mile out of his skin and let out an awkward bleating sound. This made the girl giggle.
She was about two years younger than him, dressed in a rainbow coloured t-shirt and short shorts. She had long brown hair tied back in two braided pigtails and bare feet. When she smiled at him he saw she was missing her front teeth.
‘I’m Andrea,’ she said, ‘you’re the new kid who lives in #10, right?’
The two boys had stopped running around and approached them. They introduced themselves as David (the elder) and Mark (the younger). They were brothers and lived down the road.
The boy introduced himself to them too, and started telling them about having moved from Toronto. He had totally forgotten about the other girl until she tapped him on the shoulder and said “Hey, I’m Rachel” to him.
He turned around to introduce himself, and found himself lost in the deep blue pools of her eyes.