Chapter One: Jonathan Byers – To Build a Home
Jonathan startled, shoving his pillow off his bed. Sweat dripped off his hair, dampening his forehead. He reached for the lamp on his nightstand, knocking it over at first. As he righted the lamp, it blinked several times. Most people thought brownout, but Jonathan knew the truth. Jane was having a nightmare too.
He flicked the lamp on as he sat on the edge of his bed. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he stood. Jonathan’s room was bare; white walls, blue lace curtains—his mom picked them—nothing stood out except his stereo. He touched his camera gingerly as he passed it on a shelf by his door. He kept the camera there, because it was the last thing he grabbed before he left for the day.
The lights flickered again as he opened his door. Jonathan heard soft snores from the room next to his—his mother’s room. Down the hall there were two doors across from one another. Jonathan put his ear to the door on the left, heard soft breathing, and then grabbed the knob on the door to the right.
Jane thrashed in her bed. Kicking and clawing at the blankets. Grunting. Blood trickled down from her right nostril, smearing across her face. “NO!” The lights blinked rapidly. Buzzing as the lights grew more intense.
“El,” Jonathan said. His mom warned not to wake her when she was having these dreams, but he hated to see her in so much pain. “Eleven!”
She gasped but didn’t open her eyes.
“Jane,” Jonathan crept toward her bed.
Her eyes shot open, a sneer on her face. She ran her thumb over her right wrist, feeling the black ink on her arm. “011”. The reason why she was called Eleven.
“You had one too, huh?” Jonathan asked. He sat on the edge of her bed. “It’s okay. It wasn’t real.”
“It felt real,” Jane said. “I saw Hopper.”
“Me too,” Jonathan said.
A tear slipped down Jane’s cheek. “I miss him.”
“I miss all of them. Hopper, Nancy, Steve, Lucas, Dustin, Max, even Mike.”
Jane flinched. She hadn’t spoken to Mike Wheeler since they left Hawkins. Jonathan offered to put the phone in her room so she could have some privacy. He found the walkie in her room three days after the move. The black brick that took way too many batteries, identical to the one his brother carried like a child’s blanket. Neither of them had gotten contact from “the party”. It wasn’t either of their faults, but Jane didn’t take it quite as well as Will.
“What were you dreaming about? Besides Hopper?”
Jane paused. She looked at the floor before she met his eyes. Jonathan hated when she looked in his eyes. It was as if she could see something he’d tried to burry. The fear and sadness. Even the anger. No one else noticed it, but it felt like she saw it every time.
“There was bright light everywhere. Machine parts flew through the air. Hop was falling backwards, his arms flapping.” She hugged her knees to her chest. “Then a girl came to see him. She stood over him in a too clean room.”
“Was the girl you?”
Jane shook her head.
“No, she was older. Like you.” Jane’s eyes moved over Jonathan’s face. “Seventeen maybe eighteen. She didn’t say anything, but she touched his face. Hopper was asleep and he didn’t wake up when she touched him.”
Her dream sounded eerily familiar. A girl with coppery red hair and dark green, almost brown, eyes stood over Jim Hopper. She put a hair back into place as she moved her plump lips, as if chanting to herself. Her eyes were bright with hope, the stand out feature on her otherwise pale face. A number stamped on her right arm, just above the wrist reminded him of Jane. Of when they called her Eleven. Except this girl was number twelve.
“Is she familiar to you?” Jonathan asked.
Jane shook her head. “No, but I recognized this…” She held up her arm, indicating the number tattoo.
Jonathan didn’t say anything for a moment. Maybe she was a girl that they had both seen in the last week. They all saw too many people every day to notice. It was just a coincidence. Jonathan’s family was safe now that they’d moved away from Hawkins Laboratory.
“It was just a bad dream,” Jonathan said. He patted the blanket beside him.
Jane stretched her legs out and scooted closer to him. She hugged his waist as if he’d been her big brother her entire life.
Jonathan smiled and hugged her to his chest. “It’s the Byers family against the world, El. And you’re one of us now.”
Joyce banged on the door. With hands on her hips, she scrunched her face into angry mom mode. It was 8:15am and none of her children were awake yet.
“Jonathan,” she said. “Why isn’t anyone up yet?”
Joyce scoffed and moved down the hall. She hadn’t allowed herself to dream of normalcy for her family, but since the move her kids were doing okay. Much better than they were doing in Hawkins.
Will didn’t draw dark shadowy things anymore. He didn’t complain about headaches or the hair rising on his neck. Will was gaining weight and playing outside by himself again. Joyce couldn’t be happier for him.
Jonathan took on the role of caregiver for the kids. He watched them more closely than Joyce, and he always seemed to be there for both Jane and Will. Joyce was so proud of the man he was becoming, but she hated that he’d had his heart broken. Nancy Wheeler was Jonathan’s first crush. When they started dating Jonathan’s happiness was contagious. However, now that they’d broken up, it was hard to see Jonathan go from home, to school, to work, and back to home. She wished he’d do more.
“Eleven!” Joyce didn’t think she’d ever get used to calling her Jane. Will refused to acknowledge she had a real name, and Jonathan wouldn’t call her anything else. Joyce had a hard time looking at El. Each time, she saw a bit of Hopper in the girl’s expression. Eleven wasn’t Hopper’s biological daughter, but she took his mannerisms. She smiled the same slow, wide grin when she was happy. The cheeky sarcasm came more easily to El than anyone else. Joyce wished she had given into her feeling for Hopper before the accident.
“Will! It’s time to get up. Come on, Lazy Bones.”
Joyce stared into Jane’s open bedroom door. The one thing she loved most about Jonathan was his heart. The way he curled up with Jane was so brotherly and protective that she almost cried. Joyce had found Jonathan and Will like this once or twice in Will’s bed after will returned from the Upside Down.
“Jonathan, Eleven; come on. Time to get up. You’re going to be late,” Joyce said.
Jonathan groaned, stretching his legs until he rolled off Eleven’s bed. He jumped to his feet. “I’m okay!”
Eleven rubbed her eyes and sat up. Joyce noticed Eleven’s body movements going back into their robotic routine. She prayed Hopper’s daughter wasn’t taking a set back from the real world. They’d go for a girls day this weekend. Maybe new clothes would help loosen Eleven up again.
“Thanks Mom,” Jonathan said as he kissed her cheek. He went to the kitchen. His college classes didn’t start for two hours, and he’d taken to helping Joyce make breakfast for the kids in the mornings.
Joyce opened Will’s door. He was looking at himself in his dresser mirror. The new jacket and burgundy button-down shirt looked great on him now that he’d gained a little weight and his complexion wasn’t so pale. “Are you ready for school?” Joyce smiled at the thought of her son trying to impress a crush. He hadn’t found a girl he liked in Hawkins or maybe he was a late bloomer. Joyce knew he’d find someone good for him soon. She even thought maybe Will was confused about girls because he liked someone else in Hawkins. Mike. She never liked the way he depended on Mike.
“Mom, can I have a friend over after school today?” Will asked.
“Of course, you can! What’s this friend’s name?”
“Matthew Jones. He helped me last week, and we’ve been hanging out at school.”
“I’d love to meet him.”
“Joyce didn’t care that her son whined at him. She had him at home. His hugs, his silly rituals, and his whine were all appreciated.
“Make sure your bother knows. He’s picking you up from school today, Okay?” Joyce more warned than asked.
“Hey, Will,” Joyce said as she stopped him from running out of his bedroom. “How is El doing at school?”
“She’s quiet. Not a lot of people go near her.” Will shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, but she did make one new friend. I saw them talking at recess.”
Joyce let out a sigh of relief. Yes, they were going to be okay here. This was finally going to be home. The Byers family had definitely made it home.