Despite Dylan’s protests, Robyn pulled his luggage out of the car and up into the house. ‘Dylan, I’m here to look after you, and looking after you means I do the heavy lifting!’ she’d grunted, dragging his suitcase up the porch steps and through the front door.
‘For gnomes’ sake, Robbie! It’s too much for you! Let me give you a hand!’
‘No, Dylan! Will you please just let me look after you!’
‘But you could’ve asked the taxi driver to -‘
‘Dylan! Please! I can do this, okay?’ Robyn said fiercely, a sharp glint in her eye. ‘You said you’d do what I told you, so do it!’
Dylan nodded, a little taken aback. ‘Sorry, Robbie. I just thought you were struggling, is all.’
‘It’s fine,’ Robyn replied, breathing heavily. ‘I know. I’m sorry for snapping. It’s just… We were all so worried, Dyl. I don’t want anything to happen to you.’
‘Oh, Robyn! Don’t be daft. I’ll be fine! And I’ll be good, I promise,’ Dylan grinned at his sister. ‘Doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get away with anything with you around, anyway!’
‘Too right! I’ll be watching you like a hawk!’ Robyn laughed. ‘Although having said that, I’m going to have to love you and leave you for an hour or so. I told the parents I’d pop in and see them once I’d got you safely home. Will you be okay?’
‘Of course I will!’
‘And no heavy lifting?’
‘Scouts honour!’ Dylan smiled.
‘You were never a scout!’
‘Oh, get going Robyn! And thanks,’ Dylan smiled at his little sister, pulling her into a grateful hug.
After waving her off, Dylan walked through the door of his new temporary home. The old building had been transformed; Ivy and Ethan had spared no expense to make sure that their eldest child was comfortable. A small living area housed a wide screen television and games console, a study to the right of the entrance contained a state of the art stereo and the latest laptop, and the airy kitchen-dining room was beautifully decked out in the same colours as their kitchen-dining room back home. Dylan wandered throughout the house smiling to himself. This place definitely had his parents’ touch to it, but it was his own home. It was all for him.
Walking through into his bedroom Dylan sat down on the edge of his bed, sinking down into the red duvet. He was suddenly overcome with a sense of utter exhaustion, and settled down with his head on the pillow. Robyn had been right after all; how tired would he have been had he tried to carry his heavy cases?!
‘I’ll keep that to myself…’ he muttered to himself, yawning widely. He didn’t even turn off the lamp or take off his shoes before falling asleep.
* * *
‘Dylan, I said we were going for a brisk walk! A WALK! Come back!’
Dylan grinned to himself as he gradually increased his pace, overtaking his sister and jogging down the hill. He’d been working on his fitness for weeks now and all he wanted to do was get running. His once tired limbs were full of energy, his muscle tone was improving; he felt like a newborn foal who’d just found his feet for the first time.
Robyn, on the other hand, was far happier to sit at home in front of the television for hours on end. She wasn’t particularly a fan of taking Dylan out for some exercise, but did it all the same. She knew it was important for his physio, but tried to keep Dylan from racing off without her – as he was doing now!
Hardly hearing his sister’s breathless protests, Dylan took off down the gentle slope. Oh gnomes, he’d missed this feeling. Freedom.
He wasn’t confined anymore, wasn’t restricted by his heart racing after only a few steps, wasn’t held back by the aching tiredness that had help him captive for over two years. He was back, and he was living every second. He didn’t want to go back to that prison, back to the darkness, the silence.
Lost in his thoughts, Dylan was brought out of them by Robyn suddenly appearing by his side and running around in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. ‘Dylan!’
‘I said we were going for a walk, not a run!’
‘I wasn’t running! That was not a running pace, Robyn!’
‘Well it was too fast for me, and I’m in charge!’ Robyn replied defiantly, pointing at herself. ‘For gnomes’ sake five minutes ago you were dead to the world and now you’re back fitter than me again? So unfair!’
‘Might be something to do with the amount of tv you watch,’ Dylan said, trying to keep a straight face.
‘Oh, shut up you! Right, that’s it. We’re heading back, and this time I am setting the pace! After that comment you’ll be lucky if we overtake snails!’
‘Fine, fine. Honestly, when did my little sister get so bossy?!’
‘When my big brother didn’t take his rehabilitation seriously! Come on, Dylan.’
While Robyn didn’t go quite as slowly as she’d threatened, it still took the two a good half an hour to get back to the house. Turning onto the street and itching to get running again, Dylan spotted an oasis sat right outside his own home – the ice cream van!
Without thinking he tore off down the road, scrambling in his pockets for some change. It wasn’t long before he was greedily guzzling down his ice lolly.
‘This is so good, Robbie! Do you want one?’
‘Not really. Come on you, sit down,’ Robyn said, ushering her brother up onto the bench on the porch. ‘I need to fill in your forms to say what you’ve done today, so you can show it to your doctor when you have your check up.’ She paused, eyeing his sweet treat. ‘I think I’ll leave that lolly off the food chart. I don’t think it comes under any of the recommended snack foods.’
Finishing off his lolly, Dylan beamed stickily at his sister. ‘Thanks, Robyn, I appreciate it. Totally worth it, though!’
‘I’m sure it was! Right, I’ll go file these. You sit here, and don’t do anything! You’ve already done far too much today. I mean it, Dylan!’ Giving her brother a look, Robyn walked into the house to file away Dylan’s notes. Sitting back on the bench, Dylan took in his surroundings.
He did like it here, he’d decided. It was a far cry from the noise and bustle of Bridgeport, but there was a certain charm to Appaloosa Plains. The air was sweeter, fresher, the locals were friendly and chatty and had been so welcoming to his parents and sister. He could walk down the street and go at his own pace, not forced to speedwalk through a sea of strangers powering through their lives.
And it was peaceful. So peaceful…
Just as Dylan had come to that last thought, the silence of the street was broken by a loud barking. Confused, Dylan looked up to see a large dog running full pelt towards him.
A little alarmed, Dylan stood up and backed away a little. As if sensing Dylan’s nerves, the dog slowed to a trot before carefully approaching, sniffing out to Dylan’s hand.
‘Hello, you! What are you doing, hey? Where’s your master?’ Dylan asked the inquisitive animal, his anxiety slowly ebbing away as it became apparent this dog wasn’t looking to bite his face off.
‘Oi, you! Get back here now!’
Dylan looked up to see a woman running down the street, her face full of concerned rage. ‘Get back here now! What do you think you’re doing, slipping your collar like that? You crazy dog! I’m so sorry, sir, he just got out of his collar and took off…’ The woman’s voice trailed away, looking up from her pet to the man who’s property it had just invaded.
His heart stopping still, Dylan tried to find his own. He couldn’t believe it. He simply could not believe it.
‘…Dylan?’ Louise whispered, hardly able to believe this sight herself. ‘What… What are you doing here?’