When a shooting star crashes just metres from his house, Isaac Avery meets a young lad, who nicknames himself Harry, who doesn't speak a word of English. As his mum, Elenore, investigates, Isaac takes Harry under his wing. How will Harry cope in school? Is Isaac right to be worried about him?
1: Friend Written by MarthaJonesFan
Eagerly awaiting the return of Big Brother on TV, Isaac had just minutes to go. He and his mum loved watching it year-in, year-out, and it was undoubtedly his television highlight of the year.
As always, his mum sat on the comfiest seat in their reasonably-sized living room. She made their pretty simple house as luxurious as she could. Being a single mum was never going to be easy, but she made it work.
Isaac had lived in Riverhampton, California for his entire life. It was a pretty nice town, and he could easily have ended up somewhere worse, given his less than ideal start to life. Isaac was a foster child, and the kids at school made a pretty darn big deal out of it. After all, his mum was black and he was as white as a sheet. Riverhampton was mostly a liberal and progressive town, but people seemed to have a hard time understanding a modern family.
The adverts were dragging. Isaac’s excitement was ramping up. He glanced out of the window, keeping himself occupied. Their house was situated on the edge of a forest. In fact, the forest was basically his back garden. During the daytime, it seemed like the coolest place ever, and he had so many incredible childhood memories there. However, it felt different at night. It felt scary.
“Here we go,” his mum grabbed his attention, just as Isaac spotted something cool in the corner of his eye. It looked like a shooting star. It was so pretty – he had never seen a shooting star before. Isaac never usually believed in superstitious crap, but he couldn’t help making a wish. Just like always, Isaac wished for a boyfriend. He was approaching seventeen years old, and hadn’t ever had a relationship. Not even his first kiss. Everybody said there was no rush, but most people in his year group seemed to be coupled up. It was as if there were a countdown ticking away, and anyone not coupled up by the end would be single forever. His autism undoubtedly played a part in that, though. Social interaction wasn’t his forte outside his best friends.
“Did you see that?” Isaac questioned. His mum looked confused, too busy watching the television, “There was a shooting star.”
“That’s lovely darling,” she responded in her clear English accent. She had been living in the USA for longer than Isaac had been alive, but her accent always remained as thick as ever.
As she spoke, the shooting star continued across the sky, moving towards them rapidly. Its trajectory spiralled downwards. It looked as if it were about to land in the forest.
It landed. Fire engulfed a section of the forest just a few metres from Isaac’s house. This was too good to miss.
“Come on,” Isaac encouraged. He took his mum’s hand, pulling her out of her comfy armchair. Isaac was so intrigued. He had to take a look.
Rushing ahead while his mum followed, Isaac knew exactly where he was heading. He wasn’t stupid; he knew running into a blazing fire was dangerous, so he didn’t want to get too close. Isaac just wanted to see the shooting star up close if he could.
The trees stood up tall all over the forest. They clouded the moonshine, leaving only the fire to light Isaac’s way. He knew roughly where he was going anyway – the outskirts of the forest were as familiar as the back of his hand.
Directly ahead of him now was the fire, burning brightly and ferociously. However, it looked so pretty and extravagant. The wisps of fire looked so graceful – it was a stark contrast from how damaging it actually was.
“Isaac, hold up,” his mum kept safety on her mind, “It’s dangerous here.”
“I know, I just want to look,” Isaac responded. He could watch the fire raging and burning for hours. It was so fascinating.
“I think we’ve looked enough. Come on, there’s nothing here,” his mum encouraged. However, as she spoke, Isaac spotted something impossible. Something that should never have happened. A silhouette appeared out of the smoke. A human-shaped silhouette, its features obscured by the masses of smoke. Isaac watched in amazement as they approached them. Their pale skin came into view – the pale skin of a teenage boy. His dark, floppy hair was messed up and frayed. He wore nothing to cover his scorched skin. Isaac was in pure shock. How could anyone have survived that?
“Hello, I’m Isaac,” Isaac called out. No response came, but as the lead reached them, he collapsed. Isaac fretted. Who the hell was he?
“This is your room for now,” Isaac explained. His new friend stood in the almost empty spare room with a very lost expression on his face. It was as if he didn’t understand the society he had just arrived in. He woke up not long after he passed out thankfully, and Isaac’s mum was a nurse practitioner; it saved them an awkward hospital trip. That said, she was determined to bring him to the sheriff station the following morning, but Isaac was unconvinced. Things didn’t add up with him – he had emerged from a burning fire, where a shooting star landed, without even a scratch on his body?
The room had a couple of Isaac’s old posters in there – one of Harry Styles from a magazine, and another of Cody Simpson; both posters previously decorated his own room but he wasn’t willing to throw them out.
“Get comfortable,” Isaac suggested. He wasn’t sure the boy even spoke English. He had to dress him up in some of his own spare pyjamas, as if he had never seen them before. He was unlike anyone Isaac had seen before. The lad hadn’t mentioned his name still. In fact, he hadn’t said a single word.
“My name is Isaac,” Isaac reiterated, speaking clearly and simplifying his language as much as he could, “Do you understand?” Isaac nodded then shook his head. Surely that was a language everyone understood?
Isaac had achieved a result. They could communicate somehow.
“What is your name?” Isaac continued.
“Isaac,” he spoke.
“Isaac is my name,” Isaac pointed to himself, before gesturing forwards, “Yours?”
“Three-four-two,” he quietly responded.
Isaac was confused. That wasn’t a name. How could that be a name? Then Isaac realised. That must have been his name. 3-4-2. He said he’d understood after all.
“Harry” 3-4-2 added. Isaac was confused. Was his name actually Harry? Isaac spotted the Harry Styles poster in the corner of the room, with his first name written clearly in big font on the front. He was able to read.
“Do you like that?” Isaac queried, showing his thumbs up to help clarify.
“Like,” 3-4-2 replied, “I Harry.”
“What about a surname? I’m Isaac Avery,” Isaac considered.
“Cody,” Harry read once again from the posters. This time, the Cody Simpson one.
“Cody’s not a surname, but Simpson, that could work,” Isaac considered with a polite smile on his face, “Harry Simpson.”
“Harry Simpson. Like,” Harry smiled back. He was picking up some words, “Like Isaac.”
Isaac’s polite smile turned into a genuinely proud one. Harry was adorable, and they had definitely bonded. It wasn’t like Harry had anybody else. Isaac adored his naïve nature. He knew he could trust him.
Finally, Harry had gotten off to sleep. Isaac was wide awake, though. His mind was performing somersaults at a rapid rate. He was desperately trying to solve the mystery of who Harry was, but nothing was coming up. Everything that happened genuinely seemed to defy the logic in his brain.
“I’m off to bed,” mum said, pushing herself up off her armchair, “Tomorrow we need to take him to the sheriff.”
“Mom, no,” Isaac protested, “Something isn’t right with him.”
“And that’s exactly why we need to let the professionals do their job,” mum debated, much to Isaac’s frustration. He needed to get her to understand from his point of view.
“He couldn’t even dress himself, mom. He can speak about three words of English, all of which I taught him tonight. You can’t say this is remotely normal,” Isaac reasoned.
“What should we do then? What if we find out his parents have been looking for him?” mum considered.
“You could ask,” Isaac suggested, “If there’s anyone missing. If he has parents out there, they will have reported him by tomorrow, right?”
“I suppose,” mum realised. Isaac was slowly but surely persuading her, “I just don’t want you to get into trouble. I’m the adult, I’m supposed to protect you.”
Isaac understood. If Harry had a family out there, it would backfire on both of them, but what sort of family gives their child a name like 3-4-2? Isaac knew in his gut that they were doing the right thing.
“He’ll need to go to school, though,” mum noted. Darn. Isaac had almost forgotten about school, “I’ll call them first thing. If he’s staying here, he needs to go to school.”
Isaac couldn’t disagree. People would learn about Harry’s existence eventually, and they had to be as normal as possible.
It was a shame Isaac knew very little about normality.
Stepping out of his small but suitable red car, Isaac wasn’t looking forward to another week of school. Sophomore year so far had been chaotic; the level of homework had stepped up, and Isaac was barely on-the-ball.
Until this weekend, that was. Isaac had forgotten all about homework, and had spectacularly tumbled off the metaphorical ball. Harry had been a pretty major distraction, deviating from his usual Sunday routine. He didn’t regret it by any means, because Harry had become his priority, but it was a stress on his mind nonetheless. He had hoped Miss Savill would forget she set math homework.
Harry grabbed Isaac’s arm. He was wearing one of Isaac’s t-shirts – one that was a little too big, which was perfect for Harry’s height. He had a worried expression on his face. He was in an unfamiliar setting; a feeling of anxiety that Isaac was more familiar with than most.
“It’s okay, you’re with me all day,” Isaac comforted, “You and me.”
“Isaac Harry,” Harry said, perking up slightly. He took Isaac’s hand for comfort. Isaac smiled as butterflies began to populate his tummy. Harry gave him such a warm feeling. He was too adorable and innocent for a place like school.
“Hey fags,” the sound of a repugnant male voice yelled over. Isaac’s blood boiled. He didn’t even recognise the voice; it was a random student he didn’t even know. A simmering rage ran through Isaac’s body, but he chose to ignore it. Reacting got him nowhere. He just had to be grateful that Harry almost definitely couldn’t understand that.
“Hey Isaac,” a more familiar, pleasant voice called over. It was the friendly tone of Ava, who rushed over from the front entrance to see him. Her soft, auburn waves blustered in the gentle breeze, making her look like a movie star, in addition to the light sprinkling of make-up that complemented her rusty brown eyes.
Jogging behind her, as casually as ever, was Arlen – Isaac’s other best friend. Ava and Arlen were the only two people in the school Isaac particularly cared to speak to – otherwise, he preferred to mind his own business.
“Hey, who’s this?” Arlen smiled casually, looking towards Harry. As he spoke, Arlen pushed his hand through his floppy hair, as if he were trying to neaten it, though it landed in more-or-less the same place as before.
“Hey, this is Harry, my…” Isaac paused. He hadn’t thought of an explanation for who Harry was yet. He had to think fast, “Cousin. He’s from Sweden, so he doesn’t know much English, that’s why he’s here.”
“Oh, you’ve never mentioned him before. Hi Harry,” Ava smiled, before bouncing back off towards the front entrance. It was nice to know she was so trusting of what Isaac said. No further questions were asked.
“I’m Arlen, she’s Ava,” Arlen put a hand out for Harry to shake. Harry looked back blankly. Clearly, he had never seen a handshake before. An awkward silence ensued, before Harry cutely tapped Arlen’s hand. It was an attempt. Arlen nodded in a friendly manor, though his eyes spoke of his confusion. Regardless, he jogged back over to Ava.
“It’s okay, they’re my friends,” Isaac smiled gently. He gave a thumbs up signal. He was quickly realising that body language as key for making Harry understand.
“Like,” Harry smiled nervously.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite as difficult as Isaac worried.
Waiting patiently at the sheriff station, Elenore was keen to find out more about this so-called “Harry.” Isaac had taken a shine to him, such was his empathetic nature, but Elenore wasn’t sure. Isaac was right in saying something wasn’t right with Harry, but it wasn’t their responsibility. Ultimately, Elenore couldn’t stop a mother possibly reuniting with her child. She knew it would kill her to lose Isaac.
“Ms. Avery?” the Sheriff poked his head around the door.
“Please, call me Elenore,” she smiled politely, as if she were dealing with a patient at work. Elenore always had a good bedside manner – it was part of the job of nurse practitioner. She had a busy, crazy job, but it was always service with a smile in front of the patients.
Sheriff Herron led the way into his office. He was a tall man, slightly older than she was, and dashing in every way. He was charming and easy to talk to, which made this unusual job of going to the sheriff station that little bit easier.
“What can I help you with, Elenore?” he smiled, oozing with charm.
“I overheard my son saying he saw a kid in the forest earlier, naked, alone, and lost,” Elenore told a version of the truth, “I was wondering if there were any reports of missing kids.”
“Do you have a description please?” Sheriff Herron enquired, bringing a file to hand.
“Male, tall, late teens, dark hair,” Elenore explained, giving a vague description of Harry.
Sheriff Herron scanned up and down the file carefully, before reporting back, “Nope, nothing here. Do you want me to put an APB out?”
“No, I’m probably over-analysing,” Elenore politely declined, “Probably him and his imagination, as always.”
“Alright, we’ll keep an eye out just in case. Thank you Elenore,” Sheriff Herron smiled, getting out of his seat to escort Elenore out. Elenore wasn’t sure what to do next, but she expected Isaac may have been right the entire time.
Ensuring Harry took the empty seat to his left, Isaac felt on edge in math class. He was almost certain that Miss Savill was about to collect the homework in, so he sat with butterflies filling his stomach. Isaac was worried about how Harry would see him.
Arlen was sat to his right as always. He leaned in towards Isaac, obviously keen to probe further about his so-called cousin. Ava may have been satisfied with his explanation, but Arlen never looked so convinced.
“You’ve never mentioned a cousin,” Arlen enquired, as if he were making an accusation.
“Distant relative, he’s staying here while his parents are away for work,” Isaac lied. He knew he wasn’t the best liar, but the real explanation was far more complicated.
“Dude, you’re a shit liar, you said he was here to learn English,” Arlen caught him out, raising an eyebrow.
“Alright, I’m sorry. I’ll explain later,” Isaac gave in. Perhaps he could do with some extra help to solve the mystery?
“Okay class, I need three volunteers to the board please,” Miss Savill began the lesson as assertively as ever, “Harry, here’s your book, please keep it safe and tidy.”
Harry looked at the book in his usual state of confusion. Isaac understood why mum wanted him to go to school, but he couldn’t have been more out of his depth. He didn’t understand humanity enough. Maybe he wasn’t human?
No, that was too far-fetched, even for something as ridiculous as Harry’s situation.
Isaac demonstrated with the front cover of his own book. “Name,” Isaac illustrated, “Use the pen.” Isaac then showed Harry how to hold the pen. He hadn’t considered this being a problem.
Harry managed to write his name, and intriguingly, he spelt it perfectly.
With curiosity in his eyes, Harry looked at the board. Isaac had seen the terrifying trigonometry questions on there. He could use SOH CAH TOA to solve the right-angled triangle questions, but the sine and cosine rules were much less friendly.
Interestingly, Harry began writing, as if he couldn’t stop himself. Isaac kept watching, desperate to see the end result. Was he drawing something?
Pen down. Harry passed his book to Isaac, as if he were keen to show off what he had worked on. Isaac examined the book. All of the math questions done, within the space of a minute.
“Woah,” Isaac was amazed. He didn’t think – numbers were a universal language, and obviously Harry was damned smart. Maybe school wouldn’t be so tricky after all?
Showing Harry how to work his locker at lunchtime, Isaac was surprised at how just smoothly the day had gone. Miss Savill hadn’t collected the homework in, so he was given a reprieve on that front, and Harry had been finding the lessons okay. Obviously, his grasp of the English language was low, but he had no trouble grasping the dates in history, or technique in art.
“Like,” Harry siled as Isaac slotted his ever-growing selection of books into his locker.
“You’re clever,” Isaac complimented, “I really wish we could talk.”
“Isaac friend,” Harry added. A word Isaac hadn’t heard him use before. Progress. “Home.”
“We can’t go home yet, we have one more class,” Isaac responded.
“No. Talk,” Harry took Isaac’s hand and led him out of the corridor, and out of the school. He pointed at the car and signalled a driving motion with his hands.
“We’ll get into trouble for skipping class,” Isaac defended, always keeping his eye on the right thing to do. He preferred to play by the rules.
Harry nonetheless opened the passenger door and sat inside. Isaac knew he had to follow his lead. He needed some answers.
Isaac followed Harry’s directions for the duration of the journey. He had a very strong sense of direction, much like Isaac himself, though he was only communicating through hand gestures. Isaac had to pay extra special attention to his left or right hand movements without taking his eye off the road – it was an art in itself.
They arrived at Harry’s destination: the scene of the fire. It had been put out overnight by the fire service, and it looked far less majestic as a result, but Isaac could still see the damage. The trees had scorch marks scattered across their branches, and that was only if they were still standing, as a pile of burnt down trees were scattered across the centre.
Harry immediately began attempting to shift some of the tree trunks, with little luck. He then tried clearing the pile of leaves decorating the ground that autumn. He was looking for something specific.
“What is it?” Isaac tried to be useful, looking around the forest ground himself, but there wasn’t much he felt he could do.
“Home,” Harry replied, acting frantically and emotionally.
Isaac didn’t know how to help. He felt useless and hated how he couldn’t communicate more effectively with Harry. He wanted to be the helping hand Harry obviously needed.
“Come on, there’s nothing here “Isaac gently encouraged. Harry swung round to react, almost hitting Isaac.
Isaac hadn’t seen him like that before. He looked angry, though that quickly dropped into a regretful, remorseful expression. Harry began to cry. Tears formed in his eyes, the sunlight reflecting off the droplets of water as they began to trickle gracefully down his perfect skin. Isaac knew he didn’t mean his reaction. He needed to learn a new word.
“It’s okay. I know you’re sorry,” Isaac comforted, drying Harry’s tears with his hand.
“Sorry,” Harry repeated, “Best friend.”
Isaac pulled him in for a hug. Harry was so precious, and needed all the looking after that Isaac could give, “Best friend.”
Torch lights shone. Dogs barked. People in a dark, military-style uniform surrounded them.
“Remain still,” and order was given. Isaac felt terrified, but this was nothing compared to what Harry must have been feeling. He had to get them out of there.