“What’s up with you, Arch?” she frowned at him
he searched for a plausible excuse.
“Trewberry’s only gone and phoned your mum you know. You’ll be for the high jump when you get home!
“Oh? Ermm well…Archie mumbled something about being sick but Naya knew him too well. The penny dropped.
“Oh hold on lemme guess?! Your ‘best friend’ Jake again was it? Why don’t you tell anyone?!
“It’s nothing I can’t handle…”
Eyeing his red face and bruised arm, Naya snorted in derision
“Oh yeah you’re doing a GREAT job!”
Archie glared. Sometimes his good friend was a little TOO blunt for her own good!
Walking away down the concrete driveway of Oakdale, Archie glanced back over his shoulder at the ‘eye’ in the fence, he swore he saw it wink, just once and so quickly it could have been a bird flying past or something similar. Shaking his head to clear his mind, he decided to change the subject and smiling cheerfully at Naya, he asked,
“What’s all that you have there anyway?
Nodding to the pile of books in her arms.
Naya’s cheek’s reddened slightly and she rolled her eyes once.
“Oh you know… it’s not for me… it’s my dad. You know he has a ‘bee in his bonnet' about ecology and sustainable living and everything? He asked me to get him some books from the library about smallholdings and stuff…”
Archie smiled kindly but wryly at her. Naya’s dad had been made redundant almost 4 months ago now. A Scientist and a proud man, who had worked his whole life to support his family, he was also an avid ecologist. At least he was wealthy in time now to indulge in his passion for gardening and sustainable living. It had been hard for Naya and her Mother these last few months, carrying on as if everything was the same but the tensions were beginning to show. Naya never actually spoke of divorce, but, she did speak of lengthy arguments, that sent her to the sanctuary of her room and iPod. For many of the children at his school this was already familiar territory, but Archie knew Naya’s parents had been childhood sweethearts, devoted to one another, never a cross word before in almost 15 years.
Sometimes it seemed that the only thing to hold on to, the only thing that was certain he thought was change itself.
“Hey! Do you want to cover over for tea before you go home? See what he has accomplished today?”
Archie nodded in reply, thinking delaying returning to his home, at least for half an hour or so, would put off his mum’s inevitable cross words.
“Sure. What was today’s project then?”
“Oh... just the chickens again! That fox got in again a couple of days ago and decimated them. We only have about half left now? He’s strengthened the coop and fixed little catches on the door so they only open one way now.”
Pushing the green, wooden side gate, which creaked slightly on its hinges, Archie followed Naya through the narrow archway, passed red brick walls and into a spectacularly wild garden, which appearing small and confined as they stepped down passed the pond, then opened up dramatically, passed willow branches to at least 30 metres into the distance.
Almost tripping over the Watson’s black Labrador Barney, Archie regained his balance enough to wave to Mr. Watson in the distance, still hammering the last catches onto the chicken coop, while the Watson’s other dog Charlie, a black and white collie with seemingly never ending energy herded the chickens into a tidy circle, like miniature feathered sheep.