It was a brisk afternoon in early January that Feliciano had trotted out to the gate and started talking without giving his sister a hug first, taking her hand and pulling her along. Lovina had found it odd, and in all honesty was slightly peeved - the little brat - but he was so excited, she let it slide.
Today was the first day of term after Christmas, and the introduction day for the teacher who would be taking over Feli's class. It had all been explained very passive-aggressively in the school's bulletin that Miss White would be taking (slightly) early retirement after coming into a large sum of money, although they had tactfully dismissed her reasoning. Lovina hadn't been bothered - the old broad was a wicked thing, far from compassionate or sympathetic. Everything she wore was skin-tight, except, unfortunately, her skin, which hung from her face and neck in an extremely off-putting manner. In fact, Lovina was quite happy to see the bony tail-end of her.
"He lets us call him 'maestro', or 'Mister 'C", but he says it like 'theh' because he has this cool accent…" prattled Feliciano, his bag rattling on his back as he pulled at his sister's gloved hand. "You're not listening!" He complained.
"Yes, yes, his accent…" she answered, gripping him back tightly as they reached the road. "What else?"
Feliciano stood with her obediently until the sign told him it was okay to walk, even although he had seen Lovina run across the street when the sign was still red lots of times. "He showed us lots of pictures from where he used to live," he continued excitedly, thinking of his grinning teacher kissing a laughing old woman on the cheek in a big open field with a lot of oranges. "With his mama. They smiled a lot."
It was a cold, clear day, and Feliciano would have usually taken the time to enjoy his breath swirling in front of him if he didn't have so much news. He noticed it in front of his sister's cherry-red nose, though, because she was sniffing a lot when she wasn't talking. He squeezed her fingers, hoping it would do something to get rid of her cold.
"He sounds nice," she muttered, tight-mouthed as she gave the door a hard shove with her hip. It swung open, and they started through the hall and up the stairs past the broken elevator. Feliciano held her hand even around the corners, where his bag meant that he got squished against her legs. They reached their apartment, the door of which needed more encouragement from Lovina's hip, and Feliciano darted inside, sitting in the middle of the small living area to pull off his boots, nearly banging into the table when his shoe popped off with more force than he'd expected. He righted himself quickly, though, going to look through his bag.
"I said his accent sounded like yours, and he asked where you were from and he said that Spain and Italy were neighbours. I didn't know that."
She paused in taking off her scarf and stared down at her little brother, her tone even and practised. "Yes, you do, Feli."
"Nope," he denied, shaking his head and pushing his hand deeper into his bag, looking for something.
"You do, I told you that," she insisted, more irritated, crouching down beside him, taking his hat off of his head and unbuttoning his coat. "You know where Italy is, Feliciano…"
"Europe. But I didn't know Spain was there, too," he answered, triumphantly pulling a folded letter out and placing it in her hand. "He said to give that to you."
The little boy kissed her freezing nose and walked through to the kitchen, oblivious to her slight concern as she straightened up and opened the sheet out. It notified her of a meeting later in the week between the new teacher and the parents of his students. Being neither pupil, teacher, nor parent, she was already an outcast. Fantastic.
Shaking her head, she followed her brother to the kitchen and poured his juice, setting it in front of him with a few cookies and going to rattle with the heater, hoping it would feel generous and work this evening.
"Do you have homework?" She asked, and he shook his head, reaching for his cup with his pudgy hands.
"Mister C said we worked real hard and we could relax tonight."
"You worked 'very' hard," she corrected him, raising an eyebrow. She hated Feli's accent. Well, she didn't hate anything about Feliciano, but he could stand to be slightly more… Italian. She spoke in her mother tongue at home with him, but there was no way to force it on him over the influence from school. "And what did you learn, then?"
The heater hanging precariously on the wall gave a dull clunk after a particularly hard whack and whirred. Success.
"Hola," he repeated, taking a bite of his snack. "Me llamo Feliciano. That's Spanish," he told her, beaming, crumbs on his round cheeks as she sat opposite. She reached across and brushed them off.
"Uh-huh." He lifted his cup to his mouth and took a drink. "And he says he plays the guitar, so he'll sing with us, too! I can teach you all the songs!" He realised, smiling as widely as he could at Lovina, who only nodded back distractedly.
Well. He thought that was very exciting news! Perhaps her cold was getting to her. He slid his last cookie across the off-white surface of the table. "You look sick," he told her bluntly.
"Thank you," she replied sarcastically, feeling guilty as she picked up the cookie and took a bite. She thanked him more genuinely, and flashed a little smile. He stared back,expectant and hopeful. "I am okay, Feli," she told him, sitting back in her chair. "Why don't you go and watch some television?"
Feliciano nodded and stood up, holding out his hand again for her. "Come with me! Matthew had a cold today, too, and Mister C said that laughter is the best medicine… we can watch something funny!"
She didn't have the heart to sigh or roll her eyes, so took his hand and went through to the couch. She slid her shoes off and sat with her feet tucked underneath her, so that Feliciano could lie against her side comfortably. He pulled the blanket from the back onto them, laughing when he was completely covered and she whipped it off of his face quickly. She almost felt as chipper, curling up and turning on their little set with the remote.
Mister C, Mister C, Mister C.
She liked her brother to be happy, but she was sick of the guy already.