Samantha gave Aubry an uncomfortable stare down. Growing flustered by the second, he mumbled, "Nice to meet you. Sam, right?"
Samantha's eyes burned with slight anger. "No," she said, "my name is Scout."
"But Catherine said -,"
"I don't care what she said!" The anger in Samantha - or rather, Scout's voice startled Aubry. Why shoud it infuriate her so much that a stranger didn't know what name to call her by?
Scout took a breath, "My name is Scout, not Samantha. And if I ever catch you calling me Samantha, I'll make sure you regret it later."
Aubry couldn't keep his composure any longer, and he began to laugh. He laughed at all of them, at their pitiful attempts at being in charge, at the whole situation. Scout looked surprised at first, but then she folded her arms. Carl stayed expressionless, and Hunter slowly slipped out of the room before anyone noticed.
"Are you two for real?" He asked. "Do you really think that either of you intimidate me at all? A wannabe tough guy and a girl? Sorry, but I don't take well to bullies." He tried to shove his way past Scout, but before he knew it he found himself falling to his butt.
Scout stood above him, fury plain on her face. She shouted, "You think I came up here to try and intimidate you? That's what he does!" She pointed her finger at Carl. "Don't lump me in with him! I wanted to come and try and help you settle in a little!"
Flustered, and growing angrier by the second, Aubry stood back up and yelled, "You don't seem to be trying to help me out much right now! You're the one who came up here and freaked out because I said the wrong name."
"Because I hate that name!"
"Good for you! You could have just told me, you know." And just because he was on a roll, his emotions boiling to their limit, Aubry threw in, "And you could drop the attitude that you've had since I got here! You're acting like you think you're better than everyone else here, and it drives me crazy!"
Scout didn't say another word, but Carl suddenly jumped in, pushing her out of the way. "Hey, " he said, "I may not like Scout very much either, but she's still my sister. You don't talk to her that way, understand?"
Aubry didn't know why he was so angry. Maybe he was sick of all of the foster homes. Maybe he didn't want to have to settle in all over again. But it felt like everything he had been holding back for years had suddenly began to bubble over - he couldn't help himself, and he found himself saying, "You aren't even family,"
Carl and Scout both glared at him in surprise.
"You're not related." Aubry continued, "Neither of you have any real connection to each other by blood. So don't stand there and tell me that she's your sister. Are you telling me that the second one of you is moved to a different home, you'll still call the other up just to see how they are doing? That the two of you will keep in touch beyond this house? Because from what I have seen, that's not the way it works. Once we are out of here, we are gone for good, and no one looks back."
Pushing past Carl and Scout proved easy this time, and Aubry walked over to the ladder without looking back. "I'll show myself around," he murmured.
Slipping past the kitchen, Aubry headed outside. There wasn't really much to look at in the house, but the backyard looked promising. It ran for at least an acre, and it was filled wih grass and many trees. Up close to the house sat a small sandbox, and a little further back was a small swingset. Aubry walked over and sat down on a swing.
Great job, he thought, looks like you managed to scare away any potential friends again.
He hadn't meant to be so harsh - but he hadn't been able to stop himself. Carl had been easy to handle - he was just your average bully - but Scout had bothered him. When she said that she had meant to help him out she had seemed to be serious about it. And yet Aubry still acted like a jerk toward her.
I'm no good with people.
"They really aren't that bad,"
Aubry looked up to see Hunter walking toward him. He frowned. "They sure didn't act all that great to me,"
"You just don't know them very well." Hunter sat on the swing next to Aubry. He seemed nervous. With his eyes downward, and his hands clasped together on his lap, Aubry thought he looked as though he were ready to break down any second. Even when he spoke he sounded a little unsure of himself.
"I thought you were Carl's punching bag?"
"Oh, no. Carl isn't quite that mean. He does pick on me - mostly at school - but he isn't mean. He's just that type of person that thinks he needs to be the one in control, I guess."
"I can't believe that you are defending him."
Hunter turned and looked at Aubry. "I'm not defending him," he said, "I do agree that Carl is a bully. All I said is that he isn't as bad as you think - at least not when it comes to his friends."
Aubry decided to take Hunter's word for it - even though he didn't quite believe it. "What about 'Scout'?" He asked.
"She's the one that you should really cut some slack. She looks like she has a really bad attitude problem but she's actually one of the nicest people that I have ever met. It just takes a while to get to know them both."
"You sound like you know them very well. How long have the three of you lived together?"
"Scout has been here since she was two or three - Carl and I both came at the same time from different orphanages when we were six." Hunter began fidling with his hands as if he didn't want to sit still any longer.
"So you've been together for a while," Aubry mumbled. It actually surprised him. The longest that he had ever been in the same home was a little over a year - and never had he gone that long without some of the other kids getting transfered or adopted. "It must be nice."
Hunter chuckled a little. "It is pretty cool. I mean, sure they are both a little difficult to get along with at times, but they are nicer than they seem. Just give them a try."
"I would, but I may have just damaged that bridge," Aubry sighed, "I don't know if either of them are going to want to try and make up after I acted like that."
"It's not really your fault though, they were acting like jerks. I think everyone is just a little nervous to getting a new member of the family. We haven't gotten a new addition since George about four years ago."
Out of curiosity, Aubry asked, "Are there not a lot of kids that get adopted from this place?"
Hunter looked surprised, and didn't seem like he knew how to respond. "Well, we had one kid a few years ago -,"
"Joey?" Aubry asked.
"Yeah, Joey. He was the oldest - he was six years older than Scout, Carl, and I."
"What happened to him?"
"We don't know," Hunter looked down at the ground. That caught Aubry a little of guard. He remembered every time someone he knew got adopted, because he could remember how jealous he always was of them as he watched them enter their new family.
"What do you mean?" He inquired.
Although Hunter still looked uncomfortable, he seemed to be getting more and more relaxed while he talked. "One day, we woke up and Joey was gone. When we asked Catherine what happened, she said that he had been sent to a new family."
Aubry almost laughed. "Well, that solves the mystery, doesn't it?"
"Have you ever known someone that got shipped off without even knowing about it?"
"Well, no. But, maybe he just didn't want to tell you guys."
"Why wouldn't he?" Hunter looked confused.
"I don't know - maybe he didn't want to say goodbye. But, anyway, are you trying to say that Catherine did something to him?"
Hunter looked shocked, "No! No, of course not! I was just thinking tha the is the closest thing we have had to having someone get adopted."
"'Closest thing'? So you don't believe Catherine's story?" Aubry smiled slightly.
"Well, no, I mean, yes I do believe it, it's just that it doesn't quite make sense, right?" Hunter began speaking choppy and flustered. "I mean...I don't know."
"Dude," Aubry held out his hands in a halting gensture, "calm down, I was just joking."
"Oh, yeah, right. Sorry,"
"You don't need to apologize,"
"Seriously, stop it."