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snow on bamboo grass

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There was a girl sleeping in Declan’s old room.

Things like that had happened to Harvey before—his mom used to bring people over all the time, and many of her boyfriends stayed the night, and Harvey was kinda used to sleeping under the same roof as strangers. Besides, he’d been in that group home for a bit, too, and it was the same thing.

So why couldn’t he sleep now?

She was probably just a normal girl and not an assassin about to murder him in his sleep. She was a foster kid just like Harvey—he should be happy she was getting a chance to stay at the Barns, with Adam and Ronan, because it was safe there, and warm, and the sheets were really soft, and the cows were great. And the house was big enough to host at least six more kids, and Matthew would probably phone each of them every day, and Adam would remember every single exam they had at school, and Ronan would drive them all around.

They had even asked Harvey if he wanted to be adopted! This was like the best possible foster home to be placed in, Harvey was sure. He was so lucky.

And so was Olivia.

Harvey turned in his bed to look at the moon outside his window. He felt totally stupid being jealous of her—he wasn’t a toddler who’s just been told he’d be a big brother!

He needed to get some sleep, and make sure he didn’t mess up his English exam the following morning, and stop being a baby who couldn’t appreciate what he had.

But, yeah, no, the sleeping part was just not happening. He wasn’t about to text Jimmy with his pathetic whining in the middle of the night. He supposed he could go and wake Adam or Ronan up, but he wasn’t hurting anywhere. He couldn’t just tell them he couldn’t sleep because of the new girl! They had even asked Harvey if he was okay with her coming. And Harvey had said yes! Because, really, what was he supposed to say, a minute after Adam had asked him if he wanted to be their son, like, on paper. Forever. So Harvey wouldn’t have to see his mom ever again.

The only problem was that Harvey wasn’t sure he wanted that.

Because, yes, living here was great, and Ronan and Adam were awesome, and he wanted to stay here for a bit longer, but—

It wasn’t that he wanted to go back to living with his mom. He knew it was bad in there. And she didn’t want that either, she’d told Harvey. But seeing her sometimes would be nice, Harvey thought. Well, when she didn’t start reminding Harvey of all the ways he’d blown up her chances in life.

That last time had been bad. He’d been so relieved when Adam had said his wrist wasn’t broken again—he’d have missed the whole season with the team!

But everyone had bad days. And his mom wasn’t always like that.

Harvey shot out of bed.

There should be chamomile tea in the kitchen—Adam had sometimes made him a cup to help him sleep.

Harvey wore a second pair of socks and got out of his room.

There seemed to be light downstairs—Harvey told himself if Ronan or Adam were already awake it wouldn’t be so petty of him to ask for comfort, right?

Right.

Only it was Liv in the kitchen.

Harvey was about to turn back upstairs when she spotted him.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said. She looked a bit different with her hair down and no make-up on her face. Less scary, even. Harvey nodded. “I thought they were coming down to yell at me for having the lights on.” She laughed, but it wasn’t funny in Harvey’s opinion, and he didn’t exactly know her but something told him she wasn’t actually joking.

Harvey had been yelled at because of lots of things in his life, but never because he had left any lights on. But he guessed there could be people who cared about that.

Liv’s face sobered up when he didn’t laugh with her.

Harvey swallowed.

Being yelled at for having the lights on when you were in the room was mean. If Ronan were here, Harvey thought, he’d probably say it was fucked up and switch some more lamps out of spite. Or he’d go all soft on Liv and wrap a blanket around her or something.

they dont do that, Harvey typed on his phone.

Liv squinted at the screen when he showed her.

“You mute or what?” she said. Harvey shrugged and nodded, because he wasn’t about to tell her how messed up he was in the head at that very moment. “Cool, man. You do you.” She  took a sip from her milk, her eyes jumping from one place to another. “How—long have you been living here, then?”

5 months, Harvey typed.

Liv nodded. Her finger followed the rim of her glass.

“And they’re cool?” she asked. “They don’t go into your bedroom at night and that kind of stuff?”

Harvey promptly shook his head. He wasn’t going to ask her about that.

“Cool. Cool. Were there other girls here before?”

Harvey shrugged.

dunno for sure but i think I was their first foster kid. But they have nieces and are cool w them

Liv pressed her lips together but didn’t ask any follow-up questions. Her leg started bouncing a bit, which was something Harvey’s own ones also liked to do sometimes, when he was feeling anxious.

“Okay,” she eventually said, and it startled Harvey in the silence of the night.

He had to get past her to make himself that tea, and he asked himself if he really needed it.

He didn’t, of course, because even babies were born knowing how to sleep so why wasn’t he capable of doing so without help, but now Harvey wanted it.

Clutching his phone on one hand, he tiptoed as far from Liv as the kitchen allowed him and got to work.

Harvey was a bit excited to use the kettle—back when he lived with his mom he’d never had tea, but if he had he suspected she’d have warmed the water in the microwave.

“I won’t be here for long, you know?” Her voice rang over the tap water filling the tank. “You can relax. My dad’s gonna be released soon, anyway, so I’ll be out of the system and you’ll never see me again.”

Harvey didn’t really care if he saw her again. He didn’t care about her dad or about why she’d ended up in the house that night. He kind of did care to know how long she would be living with them, but even if he’d only been in the foster system for a few months he already knew they never told you that.

But Liv was there for the time being, and Harvey poured himself some boiling water into a Christmas mug that he bet had been a gift from Matthew.

If Liv was wrong and she ended up staying for a while, would Ronan and Adam also ask her if she wanted to be adopted?

Maybe they would, Harvey thought as he nodded her goodbye, because they were nice like that. They didn’t know her, but they didn’t know Harvey either. Although sometimes it felt like they did, when his eyes met Adam’s at dinner when Ronan laughed at his own jokes, or when Ronan texted him pictures of baby calves when he knew Harvey was supposed to be in class.

Or maybe they wouldn’t. Liv was older than Harvey, and she had a dad she wanted to go live with.

Harvey did have a mom, but he didn’t want to go live with her. He wanted to stay here, at the Barns. He wanted to eat pizza that didn’t make him feel sick and not be yelled at if he switched on a bulb in the middle of the night.

He paused halfway up the stairs to sip at his chamomile tea. It scorched the tip of his tongue, of course, because he was dumb enough to drink from it when it obviously hadn’t had time to cool down.

He knew if he told Adam or Ronan that he’d carelessly burnt his tongue they’d both throw an understanding smile his way and maybe hug his shoulders to make it better. If he told his mom—well, he wouldn’t tell his mom, because his mom was likely to just take the mug from his hand and break it against the wall or something, especially if he’d woken her up for that.

Not that Harvey would ever try to wake her up. He wasn’t that stupid.

Back within the safety of his room, Harvey sat down on his bed. It was warm, and cozy, and the steam from his mug drew funny shapes he got to see because it was cloudy outside but the moon somehow got through.

Suddenly, all his worries from before looked very silly.

Liv wasn’t going to come and murder him in his sleep. She was going to go to school in the morning, and Adam would set an appointment for her to get her blood tested, and Ronan would take her to see the animals, and maybe if her dad took long enough to get her home Harvey would have time to stop being a baby and start talking around her.

His tea was not so hot anymore when he drank from it now. It wasn’t Harvey’s favorite taste in the world, but little things could be after the amazing pizza he’d had earlier. A pizza that Ronan had made for him.

He smiled to himself as he unlocked his phone.

He hesitated a bit before opening the group chat he shared with Ronan and Adam. He should have asked Liv for her number to add her to it.

He should probably say this on a private message to Ronan, who had all his texts on silent, so that he didn’t wake anyone up. But that would be weird, because he wanted them both to know.

i’ve thought about it and Id like to be adopted. Just wanted to let u guys know.gonna sleep now so we can talk in the morning. goodnight

He sent it all in one single message and held his breath when he heard Adam’s phone dinging from the master bedroom.

And, then, nothing.

Not from downstairs, where Liv must still be. Not from the corridor, or outside.

The profile picture of the chat was the scoreboard of the only match Harvey’s basketball team had won this season so far. Should he have written the message properly, with caps and all that? It was not like the other messages in the conversation, which were about picking-up times and reminders to buy stuff while in town and good luck wishes when Harvey had an exam. This was important.

Harvey should have waited until the morning to tell them in person.

But then the messaging app told Harvey Dr Parrish was typing. With his heart thumping behind his ears, and a mental note that he would probably ignore to update Adam’s contact name sometime in the future, Harvey changed the group chat name from Home to Family.

Maybe it was too much.

Adam stopped typing.

He then sent a beating heart.

Harvey couldn’t stop the smile pulling at his lips.

Adam started typing again.

You were already part of the family! This will just make it official.

We’ll celebrate in the morning with something special for breakfast. That probably meant Ronan would put together fancy ingredients while Adam watched sipping coffee.

It sounded amazing.

gr8!!, Harvey said.

Adam sent another beating heart.

Now go to bed!

Harvey snorted but he relaxed against his pillow. It wasn’t long before he fell asleep.