"Hey, Allen." The man grinned. Allen thought his grin was eerily similar to the one of the Cheshire Cat, from the book Alice in Wonderland. "C'mon Allen, don't ignore me. I'm your father, remember? Well, adopted father, but that's because your parents didn't want you, right? Admit it, it'll make you feel better." He leaned in closer, face hovering inches away from Allen's shivering form. "Your parents didn't want you because you're useless. A waste of space. You have no right to be alive. Right Allen?" Allen didn't bother responding. He knew it was pointless. "Allen. What-
Allen shot up, eyes flying open and looking around wildly for the source of the voice. His eyes came to a stop on the familiar face by his bed. "Allen, are you okay? I've been trying to wake you for five minutes." Teacher worriedly brought a hand to Allen's forehead, feeling for a temperature. "You don't have a fever. That's good." Allen stared at teacher, not really listening to what he was saying. His mind was still on the nightmare he had, and how real it seemed. "Allen, earth to Allen. Come in Allen." Teacher spoke in a low voice, placing a hand over his mouth to try and make his voice seem like it came from a radio. Allen half-smiled, which earned a frown from Teacher. "Hey, buddy, are you okay?" Teacher asked, sitting down by the foot of the bed. Allen shrugged and looked down. "... Was it that nightmare again?" Allen shrugged again. He felt Teacher get up from the foot of the bed, glancing up to find him sitting by his pillow. "Listen, kiddo, I know that nightmare is scary." Teacher began, ruffling his hair as he spoke, "but you have to remind yourself, it's okay. You're safe now Allen, you got that? You're safe." Teacher tugged Allen down into a hug. Try telling my dreams that, Allen thought. Teacher broke away from the hug and stood up, brushing himself off. "Well, you should get ready for the day. Oh and don't forget, Efina and William are coming over today!"
"Joshua! Don't bring that frog in the kitchen!"
"Aw come on, Teacher, I just wanna show it to you!"
"Ew, Joshua, that's gross! Teacher and I are cooking, so stay away!"
"Killjoy Chelsy strikes again!"
"Don't call me that!"
Allen listened quietly to the sounds of Chelsy and Joshua bickering with a smile on his face. Mornings were his favorite part of the day. Breakfast was always wonderful; within thirty minutes Teacher could cook up enough to serve the five energetic children. Chelsy usually helped in the kitchen, reading out recipes and gathering ingredients. While they were cooking, the others were usually off doing their own thing. Allen would sit at the dining room table, listening to the sounds of a new day. Joshua would usually go on a "frog hunt"; he usually managed to find at least two. Rick would go in the den and read, occasionally joined by Letty when she was behind on her assignment reading. If not, Letty would run around, doing whatever she could find. Stella practiced piano in the mornings, playing something different every day. Allen supposed anyone else would find it chaotic; anything involving five children usually is. He guessed it was, but it never felt that way. It felt happy, it felt right.
It felt like home.
A plate plopped down in front of Allen, startling him out of his thoughts. He didn't even notice that Letty was setting the table, or that the others were gathering around, sitting down in their respective seats. Joshua sat down next to Allen. Thankfully, he didn't have his "friend" with him, but Allen had no doubt that it was nearby. "Hey, Allen! How about when William comes over, we drag him away from boring old Rick and take him mouse hunting! That's way better than reading some book!" Joshua grinned, looking at Allen expectantly. "I heard that." Rick said dryly from across the table. Joshua stuck out his tongue at him, and Allen couldn't help but smile when he heard Letty "comfort" her twin ("Aw, don't worry Rick, you're not that boring!"). "And breakfast is served!" A voice from the kitchen interrupted their playful bantering. Teacher and Chelsy emerged from the kitchen with a platter of pancakes and syrup. A cheer erupted from the other children as Chelsy set down the pancakes carefully. "Yes! Pancakes!" Joshua crowed sitting up and eagerly grabbing at the platter. Chelsy lightly smacked his hand with the spatula. "Hold on!" She scolded, "this end of the table always gets served first!" Chelsy motioned towards Rick's end of the table. Joshua groaned, and Allen couldn't suppress the smile that was forming. Okay, so maybe it's a little chaotic.
Allen glanced up as a doorbell sounded, looking towards the door. Currently, he was reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis for his assigned reading. Teacher always managed to pick books that would interest them, and Allen was always eager to read whatever he picked. "I've got it!" Joshua yelled from across the room, and Allen watched as he leapt up and scurried towards the door. Teacher, who had been grading their homework, also got up and moved towards the door with a careless "class dismissed" thrown over his shoulder. Allen stuck a bookmark in his book and closed it, setting it gently on the coffee table. He had barely gotten up when a bundle of blonde and blue raced into the room, laughing and screaming. It was followed by a much slower boy, who looked slightly uncomfortable as he watched his companions wrestle on the floor. "Um... Efina, maybe you should let go of him." William looked on worriedly as Efina managed to get Joshua into a choke hold. Efina looked up at him with a wild grin. "No way! This is payback for putting a frog in my hair last week!" Efina resumed wrestling with Joshua, who was struggling to get free from her grip.
"Let go, Efina." A new voice joined the others in the den, and Efina complied quickly, letting go of Joshua and running towards the source. She crashed into the form of her guardian, wrapping her arms around his waist. Allen made his way over to Joshua, who was rubbing his neck on the floor. "Ha! Joshua was getting beaten up by a girl!" Letty sang, and Allen turned towards the doorway where the rest of his siblings were standing. Letty skipped forward, coming to a stop beside Joshua. "H-hey, I was letting her win! I didn't want to hurt her!" Joshua stuttered and Letty snorted. "Suuuure. That's what they all say." She turned to Allen. "What about you Allen? Do you think he was 'letting' her win?" Allen smiled and shook his head, earning an indignant "traitor!" Allen stuck out his tongue at Joshua, who pouted. "You all are so mean! Teacher, they're bullying me!" Joshua dramatically wiped his eyes and turned towards Teacher, who had entered the room and was standing next to Teo, watching the shenanigans with an amused smile.
"Hey, don't bring me into this!" Teacher said, and Joshua frowned at him before back towards Letty. Allen smiled and Teo shook his head. "Honestly, Teach, I don't know how you do this." Teo motioned towards the laughing children. "Never a dull moment, eh?" Teacher responded, grinning. "... Whatever." Teo turned towards Efina, who was talking to Chelsy about a new stuffed animal she got. "Be good Efina. Ms. Sophie is going to pick you two up and take you back to her house until I get off of work." Efina smiled and waved at Teo. "Alright! Bye-bye, Teo!" Teo nodded towards Teacher and exited the room. Teacher clapped his hands twice, drawing the attention of everyone in the den. "Alright, I have to work, so the study is off-limits! You guys can play with the board games or the Wii, as long as it doesn't result in someone getting hit with the remote. Outside is okay, just stay by the house. Oh, and no front yard!" Teacher took on a authoritative voice, and the children listened as he rattled off the rules. "Alright, now that we've settled that, you guys can go!" Teacher said and Allen couldn't help but giggle when the others reacted immediately, running off to do whatever. Joshua grabbed William's arm and made his way over to Allen with the quiet boy in tow. "C'mon Allen, we're going mouse hunting!" Oh dear, he was serious!
Allen distinctly heard the doorbell ring, but he was too focused on the movie that was currently playing to really care. It had been a hectic day, with going mouse hunting in the morning (they didn't find any, thank goodness) to playing house with Chelsy, Efina, and Letty (blushing quite a bit when the girls fought over who would be "married" to him). Currently, they were watching the movie Alice in Wonderland. Allen was too engrossed in the movie to notice Teacher tiptoe around the other children and answer the door. He only noticed when the TV suddenly clicked off, earning a chorus of complaints from everyone in the room. "Sorry, guys! Efina and William are going home, and everyone else is going to bed!" Teacher called, setting the remote down. Allen heard some grumbling, but the others pulled themselves up eventually. Efina yawned and made her way to the front door, throwing a "bye" over her shoulder. William followed suit, thanking Teacher before walking out to the car his mother was waiting in. Teacher followed them, making sure they made to the car and to talk to Ms. Sophie. Allen yawned and headed to bed. He was tired from the restless sleep he had the night before.
When Allen walked into his room, he immediately noticed something different about the room. Sitting on his dresser with a red ribbon around its neck was a stuffed white rabbit. There was no note, no sign of any kind of where it came from. Allen knew who gave it to him, however. Thank you, Teacher, he thought as he picked up the rabbit and placed on his bed. When he crawled into bed that night, holding his new stuff animal, he knew he wouldn't be having any nightmares.