The Center of Gravity

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Episode 3: Thief

» Day 55 «

“Rowin, you’re okay!” my mother cried as I ran out of the house to greet her.

“Mom!” I yelled, throwing myself into her arms. I began to cry with all I had in me. I was alone for so long that seeing her was just too good to be true.

She smoothed back my hair from my face, placing a kiss on my forehead. It was springtime; the birds were singing, flowers getting ready to bloom. Life couldn’t have been better.

Tears soaked my cheeks as I relished in the beautiful moment. I couldn’t fathom that she was there with me, holding me, loving me. I had needed her all this time and now she had come back to me.

“Mom..,” I mumbled, pulling back from our embrace to get a good look at her.

Only, I fell off the bed.

I yelped as I crashed to the floor in a heap of blankets. Sweat was beaded on my forehead as I laid there, staring at the ceiling.

I almost had it. We were almost there, in a moment where I could hold her in my arms and never let her go again. Except, I knew when I had dreams. They felt too perfect to be real.

A loud crash came from the kitchen and I shot up into a sitting position on the floor. Someone was here, an intruder. Who even knew where I was? How come I didn’t--

The boy.

I sprang up, stumbled down the steps, and stood in the kitchen, horrified by the sight.

“What in the world do you think you’re doing?!” I yelled.

He spun around like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Practically was. The only difference was a box of Ritz crackers.

Crumbs were littered all over the countertop below him. His mouth was full as he slowly chewed the remaining crackers. He mumbled something, causing bits of food to fall out of his mouth. A large bowl was on the floor, turned on its side.

“You... How--? Why--?” I stuttered, at a loss for words.

He stared at me, utterly shocked that caught him. It was his second day at my house, and he decides to take liberty of food distribution.

“Explain yourself,” I demanded, walking around the island and snatching the box from him.

“I was hungry,” he replied, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“That’s not good enough,” I said, closing the box and resisting the temptation to dig in.

“Why?! Why are you trying to kill yourself by starvation? It seems like the worst way to die,” he elaborated.

“Because if I don’t eat breakfast today I’ll be able to survive tomorrow!”

I ran a hand through my hair in distress, putting the box back on its shelf. I glared at him, absolutely disgusted. He had to know that I had a system. I even let him eat more than I would’ve yesterday when I found him. What’s wrong with him that he wouldn’t think about these things?

“I didn’t mean to,” he said under his breath.

I grunted in response. There was nothing I could do to control him. He lived in my house.

“I have a solution,” I declared.

“What’s that?” he asked glumly.

“How about we get you your own place?”

» « » «

“Here it is, my next door neighbors’ house, just for you,” I declared, plastering a smile on my face.

He looked up at it with an unreadable expression.

“You sure?” he said, sounding conflicted.

“I mean, why not? It’s really nice inside,” I answered. Lips pursed, he stared straight ahead at the steps leading up to the porch. “You don’t like it?”

“It’s fine I guess,” he muttered. “The only time I’ve lived alone was for three days, and I almost died then.” He rubbed his bare arms in the cold, reminding me that I still needed to find him some suitable clothes.

“Oh,” was all I said.

I lead the way up the steps, not waiting for his consent. He sighed softly, then followed behind.

Pulling the house key out of my pocket, I unlocked it. Personally, I liked the house and almost moved into it myself. The people who lived in it were rich with a boy and a couple younger girls. I was sure the guy’s clothes would fit him.

“Wow,” he said as we entered the living room.

He gawked at the high ceilings, huge windows, and lush carpet. Flawless white walls with picture frames, a television, and various game systems made it feel more like home. It was really open, not too many places people could hide.

“Nice, right? I think the boy who lived here was around your age or something, so you could probably wear his clothes. I’ll go get them,” I offered, already walking to the stairs in the corner of the room.

“Wait, Rowin!”

“I’ll be right back, you check out their basement. It’s amazing!”

I turned the corner to the loft-like hallways and inspected the rooms until I found one of the teenager.

The only relationship I had with any of my neighbors was mowing their lawns in the summer for some spending money. Nothing much, but they always paid well. Even if I didn’t know them, it still felt wrong as I opened the unfamiliar drawers and began searching through shirts that a stranger might like.

As I was digging around in the mess of shirts, my hand touched something hard and cold. Immediately, I drew back with a gasp. The hair on my arms rose as I began throwing the clothes to the floor, trying to find the object.

Dread rose in me as my mind wandered. It could be a ticking time bomb or an alien pod or something. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. Nothing in my life was going great so far. Sure, there was the boy, but he didn’t know boundaries. My parents and siblings could come back, but for the time being, they were gone. Whatever I found could only make my life worse.

Still, I looked.

I threw the last shirt out before I found it at the bottom right corner of the drawer. A copper chain snaked along the bottom, leading up to the treasure that hung on it. In this case, a compass that could easily fit into the palm of my hand. It was rough and old, something out of place in the perfect house.

Reaching out, I heard footsteps on the staircase.

“Rowin?!”

I snatched it and held it for a moment, bringing the item around my back right as he entered the doorway. He glanced at the pile of clothing before raising his eyebrows.

“All of that?” he asked.

“I didn’t know what’d you like.” I shrugged.

“Oh, okay. What do we do now?”

“I’ll help you um... You know, uh, plan out your meals, so the food will last,” I offered, wanting him to go so I could do something with the necklace.

“Alright.”

“Did you need anything?” I asked after an awkward moment of silence dragged on. I grasped the compass in my hands, unsure why I was hiding it.

“Not really... Just wondered why you were taking so long.”

“I was only up here for five minutes tops,” I sighed, growing impatient.

His cheeks grew red as he looked to the ground.

“I know,” he whispered. He left the room, seeming upset about something. I just rolled my eyes. I thought I was emotional, but this guy was a train wreck.

However, it unnerved me that he was downcast about something that was obviously bothering him. I stood, shoving the necklace in my pocket and hurrying after him. We were both still human, and I supposed he needed someone to talk to.

I walked down the stairs after him, shoving the compass in my pocket.

“Hey, sorry about that. I’m not used to people,” I said quietly. He turned to look at me for a moment, emotions playing across his face.

He nodded once, then leaned his elbows on the kitchen counter.

“Do you remember anything?” I asked quietly, trying to give him a chance.

“No,” he mumbled, clearing his throat.

“No name?”

“Nothing.”

“Can I name you?” I blurted.

At first, he just looked at me blankly. Then a smile twitched at his mouth for the first time since I’ve met him. He seemed a little embarrassed as he chuckled, looked down, then glanced back up at me again. He grinned even bigger.

“What?” I felt myself calming down a little. If the guy knew how to smile, he couldn’t be that bad.

“It’s such a strange question!” he exclaimed, laughing.

I grinned a bit, then realized I hadn’t done that in a long, long time.

“It’s a strange situation!” I pointed out.

“Okay, okay. Fine, you can name me or whatever,” he gave in, standing up straight. He held his arms out as if to present himself. “Who do I look like to you?”

I studied him. His blonde hair was pushed to the side like he tried to fix it. A broad smile was on his face, pushing his cheeks back into dimples. A little facial hair was on him, but not much.

“I dunno,” I said, thinking. “Steven, maybe?”

“Gross,” he stated. “Next!”

“What’s so bad about Steven?”

“Doesn’t seem to fit right.”

“Alright. Uh, what about Michael?”

“It sounds too rock-ish, you know? Anything else?”

I sighed.

“Wait, let me think,” I said.

I turned and started to pace the kitchen as he watched me. Nothing close to my brother’s name, I don’t think I could handle it. I needed something easy to say, something quick if we ever ended up in some trouble.

I stopped walking and spun back around to him. He has his eyebrows raised, looking a bit hopeful.

“Seth,” I stated.

He thought about it for a moment. Eyes shining, he locked stares with me. He did his signature nod with a smile on his face.

“Seth.”

The compass burned in my pocket as if begging me to share it with him. I refused against my instinct. I shared my food, my house, even my neighbor’s house with him, but not this.

I needed a secret.

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