A Week With My Guardian
Dedicated to the Mornelly family
and their author Emily McConnell
Part One: Monday
In which I meet my guardian and he gets a haircut
After finishing my school for the day, I left the house to walk around outside. I was getting tired of sitting and wanted to get some fresh air and exercise. Besides, my brother Maxwell wanted to join me after his school and toss a football back and forth.
Swinging my arms in time to the tune I was humming, I made my way around our van and continued towards our woods. The sky was blue—a rare occurrence up here in Western Washington—and I could faintly hear the calm clucking of our chickens.
My mind wandered over a few random book plots I had been working on, and I vaguely wondered what we were having for dinner.
“Oh ouch did that hurt!” a voice suddenly groaned from right next to me.
I whirled towards the speaker, my heart suddenly doing twice the amount of beats per second it should have been. My arm flew out as I did so, my automatic reflex when I’m startled, and knocked the breath from my mysterious companion.
He doubled over, gasping for air. My initial reaction of surprise was quickly stifled by one of remorse. I helped him sit down on the damp field of grass, my eyes filling with concern.
“Oh man, I am SO sorry!” I began while he coughed and gasped. “Are you going to be OK?”
Wordlessly he nodded, his head hanging as he gulped oxygen into his lungs. Finally gathering himself together he admitted, “I brought it on myself by not warning you before I said something.”
“You did,” I agreed with a sympathetic grin, but then added to satisfy my curiosity, “who are you?”
The mysterious person lifted his head and for the first time I got a good look at his face. A tousled mop of brown hair covered a good third of his face, and twinkling eyes peered from between strands of it. He appeared to be about twenty to twenty two years of age; the same age as my oldest brother. Something told me that I knew him from somewhere, but my memory failed to serve me right. Though I strained to remember, I could not place him.
For a moment his eyes lost their twinkle and a cloud passed over his otherwise cheerful face. “You don’t know me?” he asked. His head drooped. “Of course you wouldn’t. No one does.”
Suddenly, from one of his pockets, music started out of the blue. I could barely hear the tune, it was a country song, but the stranger pulled the source from his pocket and switched it off quickly.
He gave me a lopsided grin. “Whoops, I must’ve accidentally sat on the ‘play’ button,” he said sheepishly.
My eyes widened in sudden recognition and I stood up in surprise. “Country music! You—you’re Breandan! Emily McConnell’s character! My personal guardian of the Mornelly siblings!”
Breandan stood up and bowed stiffly. “At your service.”
My mouth dropped open and a grin slowly spread across my face. I proceeded to wring his arm out of its socket. “I can’t believe I finally get to meet you!” I exclaimed after Breandan rescued his arm from me. “I’ve looked forward to this day forever!”
My guardian smiled while rubbing circulation back into his limp arm. “Well, I’m glad you recognized me. It’s always hard on us when a person Sees and then later they can’t remember us.”
My grin disappeared and I sighed. “I bet.”
During the silence that followed this comment, I stood back and looked my guardian over. He was moderately tall, but didn’t flaunt his height like some people I could mention. He seemed pretty laid back and easy-going, but I could picture him getting firm if someone crossed him the wrong way. My eyes rested on his hair. Squinting, I tilted my head and looked at it from a different angle. It was too long. Definitely.
“Hey, uh, Breandan,” I said suddenly, “would you mind it terribly if I cut your hair?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Are you saying my hair is too long?”
I hesitated for a moment before nodding. “It really is.”
He ran a hand through it, pulling it straight up and then down in front of his eyes. It reached the end of his nose.
“See?” I said.
“I guess you can cut it if you really want too,” he answered with a shrug.
I clapped my hands together and started towards the house. Suddenly I stopped. “You won’t go anywhere while I’m getting the hair cutting stuff?” I asked worriedly.
Breandan laughed. “I’m not going anywhere!”
“Promise?” I demanded.
“I’ll be right back,” I assured him before dashing into our house for supplies.
“Hold STILL!” I ordered sternly.
Armed with a hair cutting kit and hairbrush I had returned to find my guardian patiently standing in the middle of the field. I took him to our cement basketball court and made him kneel down so I could reach his hair better and began cutting his thick hair. Being by no means a professional barber, I made a few mistakes. Thankfully they were moderately small and I was able to cover them up neatly. A pile of hair began to grow beneath my feet as I snipped here and there. Most of the time Breandan behaved well, but other times…well, I’ll just say that he could have been better. I didn’t realize a twenty-five year old could be so fidgety!
Anyways, I managed to get his hair shortened to a decent length and as I stood back to admire the final look I was startled yet again to hear voices behind me.
“Not bad, Breandan, not bad,” one voice commented dryly.
“I think he looks nice,” another pointed out sweetly, though there was an emphasis on nice that was not meant to be missed.
“He certainly looks…” yet another voice chimed in, then paused as if at a loss for the perfect word. It finally settled on “…different.”
Breandan was quickly losing his good mood. “Well look who decided to show up!” he said grumpily. “It took you long enough! I’ve been here for at least an hour!”
I turned around to find the rest of the Mornelly clan watching my reaction in silent amusement. At least some of them were silent.
“Thank you Aileen for liking the new haircut,” I said, returning the girl’s shy smile. “You and you though,” I pointed a pair of accusing scissors at Damhán and Ciarán in turn, “quit your teasing or I’ll cut your hair!”
My threat seemed to do the trick and they stopped. Breandan stood up and dusted the little bits of hair still stuck to his shirt. He ran a hand through his cropped hair and gave me a grin.
“No offense, but could I see my new haircut?” he asked.
I nodded and gave him a hand mirror. “No offense taken,” I assured him. “It’s natural for you to want to see your hair.”
My guardian gave his new hairstyle a critical examination. Finally, satisfied, he handed the mirror back. “It is fine. Not what I’m used to for sure…but it doesn’t look bad.”
“No it doesn’t!” I agreed enthusiastically. “You look great, despite what some of your brothers think.” I glared at the younger Mornelly boys.
Aichear and Bran had looked on with mild amusement up until this point, but now Bran put in his two cents.
“It is different,” he said, agreeing with Ciarán’s earlier comment, “but that’s not necessarily bad.”
Breandan turned to his older brother. “Where did you end up? I showed up right next to my young charge, nearly scaring her out of her wits!”
I gave my guardian a frown. “I wasn’t scared,” I corrected, “just startled. There’s a difference.”
“We landed back there,” Bran answered his younger brother’s question. “But there was an older man there who put us to work on his wood pile. When that was done we came through the woods and found you getting your hair cut!”
Damhán grinned. “But we did get paid after doing all the wood stacking. He gave us a couple jars of jam.”
I giggled. “You must have run into Mr. Kernan, our neighbor. Yeah, he does that.”
The youngest Mornelly boy licked his lips. “It was good jam too!” he exclaimed.
All the Mornelly’s suddenly turned to him. He squirmed.
“And just how do you know that?” Aichear asked suspiciously.
“I—uh,” he swallowed before continuing, “I did try some. Only a very little though,” he added hurriedly.
I saw a storm brewing and quickly changed the subject. “So…uh…I can see you now. I assume that means you were thrown into the third dimension again?”
Aichear nodded. “I take it that you must have heard of some of our other adventures then?”
Now I nodded. “Yep. I have a question though, how long do you think you all will be in the third dimension where I can see you?”
The oldest Mornelly shrugged. “Unfortunately, we never know until the dimension waves start acting up again.”
“Well, in the meantime, perhaps you can come meet the rest of my family,” I said, and then added with an impish grin, “after that perhaps you all could rescue me from something.”
Breandan’s eyes twinkled and he glanced at his older brothers. “Perhaps.”
“This is good jam!” Aileen exclaimed. She sank her teeth into a peanut butter and jam sandwich I had made them for lunch. Introductions had been short, and during the middle of them Damhán’s stomach had growled loudly…so I got them lunch as soon as possible.
I nodded in response to Aileen’s comment. “What type did he give you?”
She read the name off the lid. “Plum Rhubarb.”
“Tssmub watmubter im essmu,” Damhán mumbled through a mouthful of bread.
“What?” Everyone asked at once, except for Aileen who said in a motherly voice, “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
He glared at her, finished chewing his mouthful, and then swallowed. “I said: It’s good whatever it is,” he clarified.
Ciarán made a face. “I’m not sure about the combination. It’s kinda weird.”
I gave him an understanding smile. “It’s not as bad as some of his combinations,” I said. “We’ve gotten one that was pumpkin zucchini.”
He gave me a look of disbelief. “Gross.”
Aichear held up a hand. “Enough. Finish eating.”
Damhán mumbled something that sounded like, “Thinks he’s the boss of the world…” but when Aichear asked him what he said he shrugged and replied, “Nothing.”
The Mornelly boys were talked into playing a game of football with my brothers Maxwell and David. Aileen was kidnapped by my two younger sisters Tabitha and Marta to play with Tabitha’s rabbit. I wandered out to the field and watched the guys play until they convinced me to “help”. Soon we stopped playing when an argument came up between David and Damhán about who was the better football player.
“You’re not,” Aichear said to them both, ending the argument.
The two boys gave each other the cold shoulder for a few minutes, but that dissolved after Ciarán dryly remarked what a couple of egotistical males they were to which Damhán retorted, “You’re every bit as egotistical as me” and proceeded to remake a friendship with my brother just to “show him what for”.
The rest of the afternoon passed without any more events. Aichear and Bran spent most of their time talking about books with Dad and my older sisters in his study, Ciarán and Damhán played a board game with my younger brothers, and Aileen was still playing with my younger sisters and the rabbit. Breandan and I talked about all sorts of things while walking around outside, since we didn’t want to stay cooped up on a beautiful day. We found several things that we have in common including cooking, exploring, and country music (well, most country music anyways).
Dinner was served and our table had, for the moment, several loud conversations at once. Since there were so many people eating, some of the older kids were allowed to eat in the living room where it was quieter, but most of us had to squeeze around the table and spend most of the meal telling younger siblings to be quiet.
Finally it was over and Mom assigned clean up to Maxwell, David, Ciarán and Damhán. Aichear stayed in the kitchen to make sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing and keeping arguments to a minimum.
We played the “What If” game until bedtime and then gave the Mornellys the study. After Aichear declared that Aileen would get the blow-up bed and the rest of the Mornelly clan, at least in Damhán and Ciarán’s case, grumpily took sleeping bags, I bid them a goodnight and went to my own bed.
Little did I realize what the next week held for me…not to mention the whole Mornelly family.