tiny house (just the two of us)
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
Ride the Cyclone: A New Musical - Maxwell & Richmond, Legoland - Richmond
Penny Lamb & Ezra Lamb
Jane Doe | Penny Lamb, Ezra Lamb
Additional Tags:
Moving, Protective Siblings, Autistic Penny Lamb, ADHD Ezra Lamb, they mean so much to me. mwah, kinda hurt/comfort??, Ableism, Autism Spectrum, Foster Care, Brother-Sister Relationships
Published: 2022-11-03 Words: 6,453 Chapters: 1/1

tiny house (just the two of us)


" Penny’s first house was small, in a neighborhood of similarly small houses. "


Penny's journey through life, told by her houses.



im back on my track. little over a week and 6k words. woah.

there is one scene with ableism. the character isnt diagnosed so the other counterpants didnt react as they should. just thought i would put the warning here if you didnt read tags!!

tiny house (just the two of us)

Penny’s first house was small, in a neighborhood of similarly small houses. Some of them had fences, mostly old and rusty, some didn’t - she learnt how to unlock a gate from behind soon after her third birthday. And how to jump a fence not long after.

Her house was painted green, the only one. All of their neighbors had white or beige houses, and Penny’s house stood out. It had white roof and a little porch in the front, supported by white columns and white porch fence. One time, one of her mom’s friends broke off one of the wooden boards and Penny cried so long and sad because the board must be sad now, he came over the next day and repaired it. Penny rewarded him with a big kiss on the cheek.

It had a salon-kitchen, a bathroom with a tiny bathtub squeezed between the blue walls and two bedrooms. The one with windows on the front was her parents’, and the one next to it was hers, and later also

Her mom’s sister, aunt Patty, sometimes came over with her son Colin and their little white dog Cutie. Colin was a baby, sleeping in his car seat. But as the months turned, he slept less during the visits and started crawling around the lawn in front of the house, smiling at Aunt Patty and Penny. They were joined by Ezra three years later, and it was the three of them - Penny with her bright blonde hair always in two braids and wearing her pajama bottoms, Colin chewing steadily on his shirt’s hem until it was completely soaked and Ezra wobbling unsteadily on his chunky legs.

Aunt Patty would scrub and scrub at the dark bottoms of columns, and sometimes sent her to the grocery shop nearby with a scribbled out note. She always kept a notebook and a half-working pen in her bag, and when she sent Penny to the store, she gave her a quickly written note and some money, sometimes enough for Penny to buy herself something sweet.

The grocery shop was two hundred and fifty-two paces from her house. Penny would place the note on the counter, and the cashier, either Ms. Spence, with her big hair and lollipops under the counter, or Tanya, who lived a dirt block down Penny and wasn’t at school - Aunt Patty told her friends, when she thought Penny didn’t listen, that Tanya is a “half-addicted drop-out”.

Penny listened.

Tanya was nice too - she usually talked loudly on the phone, chewing gum obnoxiously, but she always smiled at Penny. Penny would put the box that the note told Tanya or Ms. Spence to give her in her pocket and chewed on her Creamy Dreamy Strawberries while walking home. She would give Aunt Patty the box, she would pat her head and tell her to play with the kids.

She had mainly one friend - a girl a few houses down, Jasmine. Jasmine had curly, dark brown hair and her eyes were a warm brown, lighter than Colin’s. She always smiled and chatted, and Penny was happy with listening. She was always more of a listening person than the talking one. Jasmine was also happy - she talked about anything she could.

Jasmine’s mom was a hairdresser, and she had a salon at their home. She cut Jasmine’s hair herself, something Penny’s mom also did, but she had many, many strange bottles that she sprayed into Jasmine’s hair. Penny once asked her if she could do the same to her hair.

The haircut turned out to be so cute. She looked like a little princess, loose curls framing her face, and Jasmine’s mom was so gentle with doing her hair. Jasmine lent Penny her princess diadem and they played princesses until Jasmine’s mom told them it’s 8PM already and Jasmine has to go to bed.


They moved after Penny’s fifth birthday, when it started getting warmer. Aunt Patty cried and hugged her so much Penny’s ribs hurt. Penny’s mom promised her that they would be back for Colin’s birthday. He had almost all his teeth, dark blonde hair and the same dark brown eyes as Aunt Patty, but he was still chewing on his tee’s hem.

Penny, Ezra and their parents drove for a long time. Penny slept in the backseat, sprawled out under her monkey blanket, and Ezra in his blue checkered car seat, a hand-me-down from Colin. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was talking with Ezra, watching the woods flow behind the car window or play word games with her parents.

She finally got to shower for the first time in a week at a hotel. It wasn’t very big, with two floors, made of brown brick. It was the middle of night when they got there, the red clock on parents’ dashboard saying three and something, but they were able to rent a room.

Her parents got a room on the second floor, and dad carried her up, while mom carried
barriers and white stairs, with visible dirt stains and burnt-out cigarettes. Dad opened the room with other hand, maneuvering inside and putting both Penny and a small suitcase on the floor. Mom put Ezra’s car seat on the ground and pulled him out of his car seat, setting him on

Dad handed Penny a bar of soap without a word, and taking it, she headed towards the locked door, by a small bed. She peeked inside, and she guessed right - it was the bathroom.

Penny got out of her clothes - a blue zip-up sweatshirt, a green Arthur t-shirt and her beloved pajama pants - and jumped into the shower. Oh, the feeling of warm water running down

Next morning, mom prepared Penny and Ezra a breakfast (two organic peanut butter sandwiches and organic milk from free cow) and sent them out, as she and dad did “some adult stuff”. Both of them sat on the steps, unsure what to do, when Penny felt a light tap on her shoulder from behind and someone screamed high-pitched “Hi!” in her ear.

That’s how she met Dylan.

Dylan was living in another hotel building with his mom, her boyfriend and his two older sisters. He had wild, blonde hair that stuck in completely different directions and his knees and elbows were always bruised and covered in plasters. He rotated between three t-shirts, all with footballs on it. Dylan was a year older than Penny, but he treated her as an equal.

It was nice. He didn’t pity her, as Jasmine somewhat did, but rather made her stretch her limits. She would leave the hotel room right after breakfast and come after the street lamps on nearby highway turned on.

Dylan taught Penny how to ride a skateboard. He taught her how to play baseball and even football, and he carried her on his back to his mom when her ankle sprained (it never fully healed - her parents didn’t take her to hospital, just put ice on it, so she walked weirdly) during a football match. He took care of Ezra with her. He introduced her to his friends, and kicked one of them in the shin when they laughed at how she talked.

He cut her hair. In his apartment’s bathroom, he took his mom’s boyfriend’s razor and a pair of kitchen scissors. She ended up with a semi-bowl cut, the back almost completely shaved and half of her forehead exposed, but she smiled so widely her cheeks hurt.

Her parents didn’t notice it until she told them. Her dad mumbled “mhm”, eyes still bloodied, and her mom patted her on the head and kissed the crown of it.

But everything ends.

Her parents tell her and Ezra the evening before that they are going to leave. She goes to Dylan and tearfully tells him everything, and he hugs her for so long it starts getting cold, and he tells her that he will send letters.

Penny, Ezra and their parents pack into a bus the next morning. Turns out, their dad sold their car. Funny. Dylan waves until their bus disappears into the morning fog, Penny pushing her tearful, splotchy face into the window and waving too.

They never talked again.


Their house in Elysium was the one Penny and Ezra remembered the most. Elysium was a community outside of Uranium City, Saskatchewan, in the middle of nowhere, with the only way to get to any human establishments was to drive 40 minutes to Hallinstown, which was the only town with an airport.

The Lambs’ house was made of wood. People in the community cut it themselves, planting new trees in place. One of the trees, in the woods, Ezra and Penny call “The Lamb Tree” - they carved their initials into it one summer, with a throwing knife Penny got for her 10th birthday.

In front of the house, Penny always stored her bike. It was yellow, and always dirty, because of how she rode it. Not her fault the bumps in the road when she sped down a hill were so fun. There was even a little porch, with four steps leading up to it, where the family and their friends sometimes hung out.

The house wasn’t very spacious. It had a nice little kitchen nook, a couch, and walls with bare wood. It always smelled like weed, spices and herbs, in which their mom specialized. There were always blankets around - with how cold it was in northern Saskatchewan all year round, and the fact they only had a fireplace in the living room, thick blankets and bedding were a need. Dad built a coffee table by himself and he proudly placed it in front of the couch, and it was stained from paint, organic coffee stains and other things that accidentally/purposefully were spilled.

Their parents were huge bookworms, and both of their children took it after them - Ezra ate one philosophical book after another, while Penny turned into more fantasy books. One wall in their living room was completely overtaken by bookshelves, from floor to the roof.

Ezra and Penny didn’t have to share a room. The one that hugged around the kitchen was Ezra’s - it had a weird shape, like an “L” but Ezra made it so him, feeling absolutely "Ezratic" with the endless notes hanging from walls, books placed on the ground and general rubbish over the floor. He turned the little nook into a reading corner, and even built a hammock in there.

Penny’s room was next to their parents. She painted the walls herself, in muted green, when she was 11, and albeit it was a little clumsy, she loved it. She also wrote and drew all over the walls, including the whole alphabet, every letter in different colors, over her bed. Her whole ceiling was covered in colorful drawings, mostly of mandalas. She put books and painting supplies on handmade shelves, trying to copy Ezra's way of owning the room, but no matter what she tried, it never felt "Pennytic".

Penny slept in her parents’ room until she was 8. She started sleeping in her room when she felt she was ready to. Her parents didn’t mind - they lived along the rule of “letting children discover themselves”.

Their bathroom was an interesting place. It had wooden floors and walls, but the bathtub was acrylic. It was also kicked and a little beat-up, but it was a minor inconvenience, as long as the water didn’t leak out, it was all good. They finally got running water in their second year of living there. Before then, they all bathed in the common bathroom, in a house nearby the biggest building. These were fun times, Penny and Ezra chasing around with other kids, slipping on the wet floor, butt-naked and without a care in the world, but Penny preferred to shit on their acrylic toilet with, of course, wooden seat, in peace.

When it was warmer, Penny loved to sleep in the hammock in the backyard. It was placed between two big trees, knitted by mom and other women in Elysium, beige with orange and red accents. She had a good look into the woods from that place, although some of the new houses were built. When they moved to Elysium, their house was in the back, and they were surrounded by the forest from three sides; as they grew up and years passed, more and more houses were raised, and now the woods were only looking over them from the north.

She used to climb to the top of trees and watch the life of their family, their neighbors and friends from there. She was always an observant. For some reason, she liked to observe people more than participate.

Ezra was the more sociable of them, but he needed his alone time too. He had more friends than Penny. People were either drawn towards or against him strongly.

Sometimes, they would cuddle up in the hammock for the night. Sometimes, Ezra would go and sleep in Penny’s bed or Penny in Ezra’s. Or in their parents’ bed.

There were many kids in Elysium. Sure, most of the people there were childless hippies, but the kids there had a close bond. They spent all their time together, because there was simply nothing more to do. Days were spent playing games around the area, exploring the woods and doing things Legoland parents would have a heart attack over, like eating wild berries or doing bicycle competitions on huge, empty meadows. They would put hay sacks, boards and whatever they could put their hands on.

What Penny noticed, is that her and Ezra had the most “Legoland-Acceptable” names out of all kids. Later in life, Aunt Patty told her that she and the whole side of her family persuaded mom and dad into naming Penny something “normal”. She was supposed to be named Butterfly Janis Freedom, and Ezra’s first name idea was Wildwind Leaf Ocean. Their names were eventually settled on Penelope Janis and Ezra Wildwind Leaf, still a bit weird, but as long as they went by their first names it was okay.

Other kids in Elysium had the strangest names she heard - until the mass of Jaxons and Kyghleighs became known to her. Notable examples she kept in her notebook were Poetry (a real sweet girl, with long, blonde hair who always had the best ideas), Dream (boy, one of the oldest kids in Elysium, who was tough as a stone and lifted a fallen tree with his bare hands. He turned 18 while living there with his parents and moved out after the arrests were made with his younger brothers, Canyon and Indigo), Berry (not that weird per se, just the girl that had the name made it for herself for being really energetic, all over the place and friends with everyone), Spring Rain (she loved being around children, the caretaker personality, and was great with them - her patience could be tested by gods and she still would win) and Ocean (very bossy and adamant in her choices, but was really sweet and touchy when you got to know her better).

Despite the fact that they had less hot water than people in the family and she almost knocked out Ezra’s tooth one time when they fought about who would go into the bathtub first, Elysium was their home.


The first place they were taken to after their parents’ arrest was a group home. Penny was put in the girls’ room, and Ezra in the boys’ one, on the opposite sides of a huge hallway. There were many kids there, some younger, some older than her. She was assigned to a bed between a teen girl with hair dyed black and bright red and a piercing in her lower lip and a little girl, with matted hair and wearing dirty clothes. The first girl scrolled on her phone for most of the night, headphones in and went to sleep without problems. The little girl cried all night, tossing and turning. Penny lent her a t-shirt and sweatpants in the morning, and combed her hair into two french braids. The little girl cried all the time.

Her bedding was uncomfortable and smelled of laundry detergent, nothing like home. She didn’t get any sleep that night, and from the look on Ezra’s face she knew he got any too.

Their social worker, Mellisa “two Els, one Es”, came over a day later. Both of them were sitting in the common room, playing Uno with some other kids, when a worker called their names.

Mellisa said that a couple was able to take them both in. It was like a weight lifted from Penny’s chest - she knew, from the stories of other kids, how siblings were separated from each other. And the last thing she wanted was to be separated.

Then, there was a house in the suburbs. A typical, painfully white-fenced house with one floor, straight out of a sitcom. The foster parents, Anna and Carl, and their two kids, Ryan already in high school and Sarah younger than Ezra were nice, too nice to them. Fake smiles stretching from ear to ear, hidden sparks of disgust when looking at them. The way Anna spoke to her slower, like she was a dumb toddler or something. The hand-me-downs. The subtle, yet there way they tried to make Penny hang out with Sarah and Ezra with Ryan.

The nice facade fell when Penny had her first panic attack. She had a horrible day at school, kids picking at her all day, algebra teacher embarrassing her in front of the whole class and dreadful music class, during which her ears were assaulted by a bunch of seventh-graders playing various instruments.

It was all too much.

And then dinner. Anna and Carl insisted on having it at the table at 4:30 PM, as Carl came back from work every day. Penny liked the routine, the food was good too (She only ate foods on her safe list, mostly potatoes and soups, but they didn’t comment on it yet. Poor little Penny, so traumatized from her vegan-eco-activist parents’ parenting she couldn’t eat “normal” food.). But Ezra couldn’t stand it. Sitting at the table makes his legs hurt, he can’t talk, the food is unbearable, and he sits far away from Penny. At the group home, he could at least sit next to her and hold her hand, but now it’s all cold.

The breaking point on that fateful day was Sarah trailing her fork through almost-empty plate, which let out a piercing screech.

Penny’s hands flew up to her ears, tugging at the hair above them. There are colors in her ears, her eyes, her heart tries to break her ribcage and escape, and she needs to get away, fuck-

Anna bends over to her.

“Penny, are you okay?”

She can feel the hot gazes focused on her. Everyone’s staring at her. She curls up on herself, desperately trying to run, run, get out of there, fuck, she needed out, out-

A hand falls on her shoulder, and she jumps away from it like she has been burned. Flinches so hard she falls off her chair, pulling her plate, full of potatoes and one singular McDonald’s nugget along.

Anna lets out a shocked gasp. Carl stands up.

“Penelope, stop this right now.” He doesn’t get a response. Of course, Ezra thinks she's having a “moment”, she won’t respond even if she wanted to. “Penelope!”

The sound of scream pierces Ezra’s ears, and Penny flinches further. Something white-hot is set ablaze in Ezra’s chest, something he has never felt before.

He jumps from his seat, turning at Carl.

“Don’t scream at her!”

The man turns at him. He’s looming over him, at least two feet, but the look of surprise in his eyes causes a shadow of a smirk to float through Ezra’s face. He made a grown man settle down a little.

“Don’t raise your voice at me, boy!” Carl’s face starts turning red, the color blooming at his cheeks and forehead. Fire roars in Ezra’s chest, and he attempts to run over to Penny, but bumps into Carl, standing between the wall and table. His arms are crossed on his chest. Asshole motherfucker bitch. Let me. Let me go.

“You’re not going anywhere near her.” Carl is practically a tomato, beads of sweat appearing on his almost-bald head. If he wouldn’t be seeing the world through a rage haze right now, he would laugh. He and Ezra stare into each other’s eyes, both of them determined to win.

Suddenly, a loud shriek interrupts their little fight. Anna is leaning over Penny, clutching on her shoulders, who desperately tries to get away.

Everything goes blank in Ezra’s head. There’s ringing in his eyes, and the world around him feels like a movie on a cheap, bad quality VHS tape. His vision swims. He doesn’t have any control over his body anymore - it’s autopilot, all or nothing now.

Ezra turns away from Carl, and backing away a little jumps straight on the table, placing one foot between Carl’s plate and a bowl of green salad while the other is placed on the edge of table, and he lands, not-so-gracefully in front of Penny and Anna.

Anna is looking at him like he’s crazy.

(Maybe he is.)

She tugs one more time on Penny’s shoulder. It burns like hell.

“Let me go!” She screams, desperate to get away from the pain, from the colors, sounds, smells, everything. Her head is so loud, she wants to smash it open against a wall and let it all out.

She claws at the hands holding her, trying to do something, anything, to get out of this dark place. There is screaming, something sounding like a platter shattering, more yelling and something thudding on the floor.

Suddenly, everything disappears. She’s floating through something, not aware of anything. It’s okay. After so much, it’s okay. She doesn't mind. In fact, she won’t mind if she stays like this forever.

After a few minutes, hours, maybe, years or centuries, a ghost of a hand appears over hers. She instinctively flinches away. The hand backs up.

The swimming in her ears starts to come down, and she realizes that someone is talking. Oh. She should probably listen. The person is talking about some guys, with weird names, using complicated sentences and words that are too much for her still overwhelmed mind. She sinks into the calming, steady voice.

As she comes back more and more, she starts noticing. Lights are off, the only source of light is the window, which has curtains on. Her brother is sitting in front of her, cross-legged, fiddling with his fingers as he rambled on.

She moves her hand, so it would cover Ezra. His rambling slows down for a minute, as he looks at her.

They exchange a small smile, and he's back at rambling.

Few hours later, Ezra is laying in Penny’s bed. Her head is laying on his arm, the same arm that is stroking her hair gently. Ezra always wanted to have Penny’s hair - his hair wasn’t either curly or straight, and it puffed like a poodle if it was exposed to the tiniest bit of humidity. She had nice curls, always shiny, blonde hair that fell into light browns at the roots.

A knock on the door pulled him out of his thoughts.

“Come in?”

Ryan’s head poked in. His hair was in a military buzz cut, like his dad’s. Most of the time, he was cocky and confident, just like every other teen boy, with a stupid smug expression practically tattooed on his face. Now, he looked a bit like a lost child, eyebrows strung down and worry in his eyes. He tries to smile, but his eyes are dead. “That was cool.” He pulls

“Thanks.” Ezra responds emotionlessly. Ryan closes the door.


Mellisa picks them up the next morning.


There are many houses after that. In Uranium, Hallinstown, even they were flown out to Saskatoon when there was no one and no institution to take them in. Most of them were similar - plain houses, with Penny and Ezra usually sharing a room, open floor plan, two stories, metal finishes and everything dark brown. Playing UNO the whole day, taking pills for motion sickness, dead-eyed and fake-nice employees or foster parents.

Penny didn’t even bother trying to get attached. It was all too fast. No time to plant seeds.

After another move, yet another set of parents who couldn't care less about her, she started St. Cassian's High School - a private high school in Uranium City, shooting straight into 11th grade, with Ezra going into 8th, the same school, even the same building. Money was coming from the state, and until it was coming right, Penny couldn't care less.

Her friends became her home. She was practically forced to pick up choir - she needed to do an extracurricular activity because of some dumbs laws about getting money for private school for wards of state. Yet, this turned out to be the best decision in her life.

Mischa, Ricky, Noel, Constance, Ocean. Her friends. Her best friends. Soulmates, basically. It doesn't matter how many new parents she had, they were there for her - rock solid.

She didn't have anything like that before.

For a big chunk of the St. Cassian's, she lived with Alice and Leroy. They had a nice house in the center of Uranium, three blocks from the main street, made of green fake wood and white roof, two floors and an ideally cut front yard. There were rocks besides the plain beige pathway to the front door. In a neighborhood full of similar ones, Penny got lost many times after she moved in.

There were a few other kids, Alice and Leroy’s own two daughters, Kelsey, who went to college after Penny finished 11th grade, Taylor, two years younger than Penny, and a boy, Dawson, also a foster kid, younger than Ezra, who was there before Penny and Ezra moved in and stayed when they left.

Her and Ezra's rooms were adjacent, small with big windows, but they could sleep over any time they wanted. They usually kept to themselves, Penny staying in her dark-walled room (she never expected it, but having dark walls helped her with sensory issues. She was finally diagnosed as autistic after being referred to a psychiatrist by St. Cassian's psychologist.), drawing or writing, and Ezra on his own, reading under his bed. No matter how many times he was told it would be better for his back to read on bed or even on the desks, he read under bed.

But after stressful days, after days that tried them out, full of flashbacks and sensory hell, Ezra would pad to her room after the lights went out. Neither of them talked about it. Penny silently moved closer to the wall, and Ezra slipped under the covers.

In December of her senior year, their placement was changed once again. It was undecided as of then, but Penny and Ezra were sent back to Pelican Group Home, between Hallinstown and Uranium.

Penny was terrified. She got attached to her home, to her friends, to the way Ocean and Noel always bickered back and forth, Mischa pulling his phone out to see if Talia has responded or looking at everyone one by one, his gaze especially hanging on Noel (Penny was autistic, not stupid), Ricky and his drawings, stories Penny could recite in middle of the night from memory, and Constance, always there, always looking out for others, having the biggest optimism in their little group.

The more time she spent at Pelican, in stiff, light blue hospital bedding, listening to crying while trying to sleep (she never slept well at group homes, she couldn't get her sensory right with being surrounded by people and noises and colors constantly). All the group homes looked the same - plain walls, half vomit yellow and half muted green in Pelicans case, decorated with children's cartoon characters, though even they looked unhappy to be there.

But the worst thing was the impending doom over her. Every second could be the last in St. Cassian's. Every call could be the one informing them of their placement in Hallinstown or fucking Saskatoon. If she was placed in Hallinstown, it was over - she would have to go to Hallinstown High because of regionalization and she would lose her home.

The perspective was always there. Terrifying.

She finally confessed to Noel, one night they were hanging out at his place that the reason she's been more withdrawn lately is because she had to get earlier to catch the bus to St. Cassian's. That she was kind of scared to go another day. She didn't mean to make such a big deal of it, just mentioned it, but Noel seemed horrified.

In the morning, the whole choir knew.

In the morning, Constance gave her bedding, soft and smelling like strawberries and the distinct smell of her parents' cafe mixed with Noel's and Constances perfume and Mischa cologne. The night after, Penny slept better than in past two months.

Penny and Ezra were eventually placed in a big foster family in Uranium, after little over three months at Pelicans. It was only called a foster family, it was basically two parents who decided to haul as many benefits from the government for foster children as they could. Penny and Ezra were the tenth and eleventh child when they came into their house, a white house with red roof and a dog, mixed between every race on earth, running between the road and door.

They didn’t spend a lot of time there. Frankly, they were allowed to sleep over anywhere as long as they smiled and were clean when the social workers visited. Before the school year ended, they were tossed around a few times more.

On the day of her 18th birthday, Penny was kicked out. The woman she and Ezra were staying with was big on rules and announced in the beginning that Penny would be out the same day she turned 18th.

After she came home from school, her belongings - not a lot, clothes, school books she didn’t have that day, polaroids she stuck on her walls, posters, notebooks and pencil cases - were all stored in two trash bags in front of the house, leaning against the mailbox. Their neighbors gave her and Ezra a pitiful gaze as they got out of their car in driveway.

She hugged Ezra until he had to pull away because he couldn’t breathe.

On her 18th birthday, she moved in with Noel. He, his mom and his older brother lived not far away from the center of Uranium, in a little, nice house, with flowers planted under the front walls and two rocking chairs on the front porch. It was cozy, just like her house in Elysium, brown walls with floral tapestry in the living room. They had a block TV, standing between the kitchen island and a huge couch absolutely covered with cushions, on a glass table, which was always playing Noel mom’s dramas. There was a whole cabinet of DVDs standing next to it - one shelf dedicated to Noel's older brother movies, one to his mom's romcoms and the lowest one to Noel's French bootlegs.

There were many doors that often led to nothing - just empty rooms, storages, as Noel’s mom called them, filled with old things they didn’t use anymore.

Noel’s room was in the far back. It wasn’t spacious by any means. His two-person bed covered, like, half of it, but he managed to squeeze a whole desk with a gaming chair and a PC on it, an antique dresser which was covered in empty cups, notebooks and empty Doritos packages. He had a flat TV hanging on the wall opposite his bed, and his tech-crazy older brother helped him to plug his DVD into it. The walls were covered with floral tapestry with huge, green leaves, and he vacuumed his gray carpet every Sunday, before the Grubers went to church.


All of them graduated in June. Ocean, obviously, on top of class, the rest getting rather good grades. Good enough to get all of them into University of Alberta (Ocean got into a bunch of others ones, but she decided to go with them. Stephen Harper attended a regional college too.). Ocean, Constance and Ricky moved into the college’s dorm, while Mischa and Noel found a cheap place to rent, in a huge block.

Penny rented a small flat, only two floors above Mischa and Noel’s. She also managed to get custody of Ezra - it was a whole battle with the system. They didn’t want to give custody to her, because she was too young, broke, and in another province, still studying and on unsteady income (she was working at Starbucks at that time, but she had a job!). But the beginning of the school year rolled around, and Penny became so wrapped up in work as biology major she basically went on autopilot.

Just before Thanksgiving, she got an official letter in the mail. She picked it up while coming back from work, a 8-hour shift, so she threw it on the couch and went straight to bed. Next morning, she woke up to fourteen missed calls from Ezra and Mellisa. She thought her heart was escaping her throat when she called Ezra back, but was met with an overexcited fifteen-year-old, screaming her ear of about custody. Next week, he was moving in (it was a bit of overexaggeration - he had a school backpack and a trash bag with him.)

The flat only has one bedroom, so Penny leaves it for Ezra and sleeps on the pullout couch in the living room. She didn’t mind though - it was pretty comfy, made of green foam-like material and big. She could toss and turn around all night and she wouldn’t fall off. She also had a TV in front of it, and because of her insomnia, she could skip through channels all night.

Penny usually did her homework and things alike on the dining table, with Ezra by her side. But in second year all of her friends gifted her a desk. A white, brand new one, still shiny. She bought a spinning chair to complete it, and Ezra quickly took advantage of this. He would occupy the desk to do his homework, and Penny would have to physically remove him from it (meaning flipping the chair sideways and watching him claw at the desk and chair, eventually falling off).

Mischa and Noel were frequent guests in their flat, as well as Penny and Ezra were in theirs. Often they were just simple hangouts, with Ocean, Constance and Ricky coming too, movie nights and celebrating promotions and birthdays. For holidays, Noel and Constance went back to Uranium, and all of them went there with them, sleeping at either of their houses.

They were working like a family - everyone could come to anyone for advice, and if something bad happened (like when Constance broke her leg while ice-skating, or the car accident during first year) they would all be there in no time. For the first time in her life, Penny felt like she had a real support system.


In the second semester of third year, Penny and Ezra moved. She got a better-paying job in an accounting company, and though it was further to her university, she made the decision to move. Ezra was allowed to stay with Mischa and Noel, because he was soon turning 18 and in his senior year of high school.

He moved with Penny. He didn’t change schools.

The flat was in a XIX-century, white-brick apartment building. On the first floor, they would jog up as there was no elevator, but even the corridor was pretty - with shiny green tapestry and beige carpet that was cleaned often by their nice cleaning lady, Ms. Cooper.

The flat itself was significantly more spacious than the one before. The living room was still conjoined with the kitchen, and the hall was absolutely minuscule, but both of them finally had their own rooms. Penny’s room had a view on the street, while Ezra’s was looking out on the backyard.

The whole house was generally in light colors, white present everywhere, mostly because the vast majority of furniture was bought by the landlords. Penny could work with that. Cabinets in the kitchen were white, the couch was a light beige color, only the TV had a black housing. Even the TV remote was shiny silver, with clean, new buttons. To be fair, Penny was kind of afraid to use it for a few first days - she didn’t want to ruin something so pretty.

The floors, outside of the kitchen and bathroom, which had matching black and white tiles, were covered in mint carpet, attempting to show that the owners were classy but not snobby. The black fancy fencing on bottoms of windows said otherwise.

The neighborhood was a decent one - not like there weren’t police sirens from time to time, but they were bearable. All the neighbors cleaned their front yards, and some of them, including Penny and Ezra made a pact to help and clean the pavement once a week. One time, their neighbors’ son crashed car into their front yard while drunk driving, but it was one singular situation. Overall, their neighborhood was pretty safe, their neighbors were nice and helpful, and they felt safe there.

Too nice. Too safe. Too good.

Penny sometimes felt she didn’t fit there. She was too small, carrying a backpack full of memories from trailer parks, jumping over fences and bandaging her knees herself, from hippie communes, stealing sweets from Walmart that had more chemicals than cleaning products, sleeping at gas stations, waiting until the sun got up. Screaming in fields, running from police all night.


Ezra graduated the next summer, with above average grades. Penny and her family threw him a graduation party she never got, and after he worked all summer in a bike shop, the acceptance letter from University of Toronto arrived.

The day Penny and their friends had to say goodbye to him, the day he got into the plane was the hardest in a long time. Ezra had tears in his eyes too, and he took more time to peel away from Penny’s hug. But it was for the better.


There were houses later. Many houses. A lot. In many different places, with many different people.

But the choir remained Penny’s home.


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