Autumn crept up on the residents of Newcrest. It seemed that one day, the kids were still playing on slipping slides and splashing about in pools, and the next the place was wrapped in reds and oranges.
Sera loved the way her retreat looked this season. Or maybe it was just pride about it being quite established now, without losing its magic. The place had been open for a few months, and it still felt like slice of heaven on earth to her.
Lorcan probably had a bit to do with it. She definitely didn’t regret hiring him. Many visitors came to the retreat purely to seek him out. He’d never pry, and always knew just what to say. He seemed to make strides as far as Sera’s own family was concerned.
And of course, on a personal level, Sera was more than happy to have him around, too…
“You’re getting really good at this!” He told her at the end of their meditation session.
“Well I do have the best teacher,” Sera smiled. “By the way, I wanted to thank you. Hallie seems to be doing so well ever since she opened that orphanage.”
“That’s her doing, not mine.” Lorcan shook his head with a grin.
“She said herself she never would have done it without your chat,” Sera argued. “You’ve really gotten through to her. She needed to feel like someone understands her, you know.”
Lorcan shrugged. “I’ve barely done anything. But I’m glad that it helped.”
“It made a huge difference.” Sera said, spontaneously hugging him. Lorcan seemed to grow tense at first, but then he relaxed into the hug. It felt good to be so close to him.
Sera could feel her heart beating faster than usual. Maybe she should just go for it.
“Hey Lorcan… I know you seem to really understand Hallie as far as the whole asexuality thing goes.” She started. She felt awkward already. “I just… I was wondering… you said you don’t date but… are you like Hallie? With… that?”
Really smooth, Sera, she cringed inwardly.
Lorcan seemed a little taken aback by her question.
“No.” He said finally. Seraphina suddenly felt as light as a feather.
“But I wish I was.” He continued. “It would make everything a lot simpler.”
“Maybe it would be simple, with the right person?” Sera suggested helpfully. She could feel her cheeks burning.
“No.” He said again. “I was serious when I said I don’t date. I have a good reason for it. Seraphina, I’ve gotten to be the person you see through a great deal of self-restraint. I wasn’t born like this. Relationships… they bring out the worst in me. Trust me.”
There were so many things she wanted to ask him, but she wasn’t sure how to put any of them into words.
“Anyway, my yoga class is about to start,” he said and walked towards the main pavilion.
Sera watched him till he was out of sight. She was confused. Was this a good thing, or a bad thing?
At the very least it meant that this was not without a chance, she decided. She smiled.
The world felt even more beautiful now. Perhaps she’d go for a walk around the retreat grounds, to take in all these beautiful autumn colours…
Vito would normally always pay attention to the aesthetics of his surroundings, but these days, the autumn colours were the last thing on his mind. He would have barely noticed the seasons have changed if he wasn’t supposed to be doing this whole Halloween thing for Aslan.
The closer to Alyssa’s house he got, the worse he felt. He was miserable enough as it was, and things were only going to get worse once he’d tell Aslan Louis was out of the picture.
He stopped in front of the glass door.
Alyssa seemed to have a boyfriend over. Vito almost didn’t want to knock and interrupt their day. They all looked so comfortable happy. Almost like a family. Why ruin it for them when he could make himself scares…
Wait a minute. Was that…
“Larobb?” Vito let himself in.
“Hey man,” Larobb waved at him casually. “Long time no see.”
“You could say that! You guys an item now?” Vito couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy.
“You could say that,” Alyssa smirked. “Aslan, get your stuff, time to go with dad.”
“I don’t wanna,” Aslan pulled a face. “Things were just getting intense with my helicopter chase!”
“Then take the helicopter with you.” Alyssa rolled her eyes. “Chop chop, don’t keep your dad waiting. Aren’t you excited for pumpkin carving?”
Alyssa tried to keep a straight face. “Now then. I’m pretty sure there’s sweets involved in the trick-or-treating. Don’t count on that back here if you refuse to go.”
“Cool!” Aslan stood up and ran to his room.
“Great. Just great.” Vito felt defeated. Aslan was already reluctant to spend time with him, and he hadn’t even told him about Louis yet…
“For plum’s sake will you stop winging?” Alyssa turned to Vito. “I’m letting you look after my kid for Spooky Day, the least you can do is pretend to be excited!”
“I am,” Vito said weakly. “I’ve not been having the best time. Louis and I broke up.”
“Ok, I deserve that.” Vito kept his cool. “It’s just, you know how much Aslan looks up to Louis. And now he’s gone. He’s going to hate me for it. Think I drove Louis away. I mean, he already doesn’t want to spend the day with me as is…”
Alyssa was underwhelmed.
“Oh my plumbob Vito, this is Aslan we’re talking about. Have you met your kid?”
“He’s got a blade instead of a tongue, don’t you know that by now?” Alyssa asked. “You can’t get this plum get to you. He does it all the time. Do you think he doesn’t do it to me? Oh, my room at dad’s is so much cooler than my room here. Oh, dad can take amazing pictures, what can you do? Get over yourself Vito. It’s just the way he is.”
Vito didn’t have to go far to know who his son got his blade of a tongue from. But Alyssa’s words were unexpected. Did Aslan really say those things about him? He barely even called him dad to his face.
“Happy Halloween, guys!” Larobb saw Vito and Aslan off.
“Thanks, Larobb.” Vito replied stiffly.
“He’s pretty cool, Larobb, isn’t he?” Aslan asked Vito.
“Yeah. I guess.” Vito shrugged. “But Aslan… don’t get too attached to your mom’s boyfriend, ok? He’s no family yet.”
“I know.” Aslan surprised him. “He’s not the first one. Besides, it’s like Louis said, right? Friends can come and go, right?”
Friends can come and go, but your dad will be there for the long haul, Vito remembered. Plummit Louis. Were you preparing your exit then already? Vito sighed.
Larobb joined Alyssa back in the house. “You were a little harsh on the poor guy, don’t you think?”
“Meh, he can handle it.” Alyssa shrugged it off. “This is Vito Bloomer, after all. His head’s so far up his own butt he probably didn’t even hear me.”
“I think he did,” Larobb smiled. “But I do love how feisty you are.”
Over at the Bloomer condos, Vito pulled out a large pumpkin, ready for carving.
“So, what do you reckon, Aslan?” He forced himself to sound as upbeat as possible. “What kind of a face should we go for?”
Aslan eyed him up and down. This did look like fun, actually.
“How about a cat? Or a voidcritter? Ooh, I don’t know…” The boy was getting excited.
Vito almost smiled. Not for long though…
“What do you thin Louis would like? Is he coming over for the trick-or-treating tonight?” Aslan asked.
Vito realised he couldn’t put it off any longer.
“Listen, Aslan… I’ve got to tell you something. About Louis.”
“Is he not coming tonight?” Aslan pouted.
“No. He’s not.” Vito confirmed. “Or any other night. Louis’s not coming back.”
“What!? What have you done?” Aslan burst out. “This is not fair! I really like Louis! Why can’t I hang out with him anymore? It’s all your fault, isn’t it?!”
Vito’s throat felt dry. He looked at the upset child for a while, considering his next move.
“Yes, it is my fault.” Vito nodded. “Louis doesn’t like me anymore. But I think he still likes you. It’s not that he doesn’t want to hang out with you. It’s just that we kind of come as a package. So you can blame this one on me.”
He braced himself, ready for Aslan to scream his lungs out.
But it didn’t happen.
“But… why doesn’t he like you anymore?” Aslan asked. He looked so disappointed, upset and confused.
Vito’s eyes teared up. “I don’t know. I’m sorry Aslan. I’d like for him to still be around too. But we can’t make him.”
“Yeah.” Aslan seemed deep in thought for a moment. “Let’s just carve some more pumpkins.”
“Right.” Vito said, grateful. “So… a voidcritter, huh…”
Aslan watched his father start carving…
They’ve carved several pumpkins. They even started to have a bit of a playful banter going on. With every Jack-o-lantern, Aslan seemed more and more at ease, more excited and having more and more suggestions for the next.
Vito couldn’t remember them ever getting on so smoothly, just on their own.
And then something changed. One minute, Aslan was bubbly and animated, and then he drew inward the next.
“Something wrong, Aslan?” Vito asked. Maybe the feeling of ease was premature.
“No. I was having fun.” The boy said mopily.
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Guess not. It’s just… everyone always leaves. Are you gonna leave too?”
Vito was touched. It was the first time his son actually insinuated he wanted him in his life. He held back tears and leaned to the boy.
“No Aslan, I’m not going anywhere. Not if I can help it.”