"You said this place was in Bellport City," said Richard quietly, staring out the window at the surrounding forest.
"Technically, it is," Jason replied with a weary smile. He stretched out his muscular arms and yawned.
"We crossed a bridge though," said Richard.
"Bellport is split into two halves," the cab driver from up front. "The newer, more vibrant part of the city is on that island we just passed through. The older part of the city is on the mainland, connected by that bridge. All these trees you see here, all these hills...it's all still a part of Bellport. Reginald Bell, the guy who built this city back in the old days, he wanted a lot of land."
"Sure is a beautiful place," said Jason.
"That it is," agreed the driver.
Richard said nothing, turning back to stare out the window. After a moment, he felt Jason's hand on his shoulder.
"Look," said Jason quietly, "I know it's not ideal, but it's what we can afford right now. This old lady's renting out her house, see, 'cause she can't afford the upkeep no more. And the rent's pretty cheap, for a place in Bellport...all right, all right, close to Bellport. Besides, we'll be helping an old lady out, right?"
"I guess," said Richard. "Just...not really what I expected. Being so far away."
Jason hesitated for a moment. "You regretting your decision?"
Richard shook his head. "Wherever we're going...it can't be worse than home right now."
"I hear the high school's pretty good. At least, it must be, otherwise they wouldn't have let you come."
The cab driver glanced at them through the rear view mirror. "What high school's that? Maybe I know it."
"Pineview High," said Richard.
"Your parents sent you to a different city to attend a public school?"
"His...uh...his parents aren't in the picture anymore," said Jason.
"Oh..." said the cabbie. "I'll...er...I'll keep my big nose to myself then. Pay me no mind."
Jason turned back to Richard and said, "Look, trust me on this, okay, buddy? You'll love it here. The place is nice."
He waited for a reply that never came. Richard just continued staring out the window, watching the trees go by.
#"We're here," said the cabbie. "105 Maple."
Crickets were chirping all around them, and the sky above was dark, and the stars glittered in the heavens, unimpeded by any trace of sunlight. A single, flickering streetlight illuminated a rustic little house, the only home on this street. Glancing a few yards beyond the house, Richard saw that the road ended abruptly, as if it had fallen away into the ocean, which shimmered and sparkled serenely. There was a cliff, and probably a steep one, at the end of the road, but in the darkness of the night...it almost looked like it continued straight to the water.
Jason and Richard climbed out of the taxi, stretching their weary limbs while the cabbie popped the trunk for them. Adjusting his glasses, Richard glanced at their bags for a moment. Not a lot of stuff between them. A grand total of four bags, if you included Richard's laptop case. Richard's other bag contained nothing but clothing, a comb, and a toothbrush. And, as he lifted it out of the trunk, he thought about how light that bag was. He'd left everything else behind. Swallowing, he slung the bag over his shoulder and moved away from the car to give Jason a chance to collect his things.
He was done in a few moments, and, after paying the cabbie, the two of them turned to inspect their new place of residence as the cab vanished into the night.
It was a single story and sturdy-looking. And though the house was by no means large, it sprawled awkwardly over the uneven ground. It looked like it had once been much smaller, and that, over the years, various owners had tacked on additional rooms as they needed them. The red paint that covered the outside walls was chipped and fading, and a few of the roof tiles were missing. Most of the windows were obscured by brightly colored, frilly drapes. There was a pile of old newspapers by the door.
The two friends stood in silence as they stared at their new home. Richard glanced warily at Jason.
"Well..." said Jason. "This is...nice..."