Lucian rummaged through the garbage bin next to that beat down restaurant. It was in the lonely part of the town for which he does not know the name. Though the bin was taller and it was easy to get in. All he cared about for now was to get food in his growling tummy.
A strangled sob left his mouth when he remembered the food he used to eat back in home that only existed in his memories now. He loved the pancakes with a lot of maple syrup on top his nanny Maria usually woke him up with breakfast in his bed.
Tears trickled down his chin as he ate the half-eaten sandwich. There was only little left as the restaurant owner usually fed the remains to the street dogs–he was fortunate to get that half sandwich.
Though the restaurant owner appeared king, Lucian never made an attempt to reach for help. He were tempted to reach him several times. However, his uncle’s warning kept ringing in his head and he always stayed hidden in the shadows and watched with a longing. He’d never been alone before the horrid night that took his beloved Uncle from him.
Lucian slept during the day and searched for food at night. Life was difficult for him. He did not have good clothes. The trouser he wore was torn, he lost his shirt somewhere in the woods during his escape.
His barefoot has healed well that he walked without pain these days. He felt so lonely and cried himself to sleep as he prayed for his uncle to come back and take him home. Lucian reached this town almost two months back and as his uncle warned he didn’t stay in the same place for long periods.
The atmosphere was changing around him, he sniffed and his instincts warned of an impending rain. Searching the garbage one more time, he left the alley to go back to his hideout. Living on the streets had made him tougher and he did not get frightened easily these days.
Lucian had faced enough struggles in these past months. An invisible lump formed in his throat as he thought about his life back home. He has forgotten what it was like to be in comfort and he remembered only a few things–his soft bed, his nanny Maria and that night with Uncle Dimitri in the forest.
He repeated his own name every day so he wouldn’t forget it like every other thing he had forgotten. The sudden downpour soaked him when he reached his hideout, bringing all the horrid memories with it. He hated the rain, especially when it rained at night it was a nightmare for him. Young Lucian relived the events of the dark night every time it rained.
Fortunately, the worn out building had a basement. The dark room had no windows. Lucian rushed towards an old shelf where he used to sleep. The thunder clapped as memories of that night surfaced again. He covered his sensitive ears with both hands–his body shook like a leaf caught in a storm and the little boy cried himself to sleep with hopes of a better tomorrow.
To Lucian, a better day was when he found enough food and it did not rain at nights.
“Alexa... Baby don’t run,” the little girl giggled hearing her mother’s sound.
“Alexandra Mira Steller..... Stop there right now,” this time she stopped and turned towards her very angry mother stood tapping her foot on the floor.
“What have I told you about not running? We are in supermarket and you could get lost,” her mother yelled with concern as the little girl looked down with a guilty expression clouding her beautiful features.
“Amanda, calm down,” she watched as her father tried to calm her mother.
“I’m sorry Mommy, I won’t run again,” Alexa told her mother with a pout.
Amanda shook her head making her shoulder-length brown locks bounce at the motion and her pale blue eyes shone with laughter at the sight of her five-year-old daughter who tried to look innocent with her pouty face.
“Okay, come on you little troublemaker. Let’s get you home,” Alexa squealed as Amanda picked her up and tickled her. Staying mad at Alexa was impossible.
“Victor, let’s go. It looks like it’s going to rain,” Amanda told her husband and carried Alexa out of the supermarket.
“Here honey, let me take her,” Victor said following her as he picked up Alexa from her. The family ate dinner in the nearby restaurant and stopped by the supermarket to pick up few things for their travel.
Alexa lay down on her father’s shoulder as she watched the supermarket getting far with each step her father took forwards. Something caught her eyes, she glanced towards her left side and it seemed like a boy similar to her age. She tried to crane her neck to get a good look, but her father had taken a turn and she couldn’t see the boy any longer.
Reaching their small home, Victor carried Alexa to her bedroom. Alexa felt sad as she looked at the boxes that lined up in her room. They are leaving the town soon. Her father got a new job in another town. Her mother said that Alexa will get a bigger bedroom all for herself and new toys to play.
Her father helped her change and kissed her goodnight. She hugged her teddy close as she fell asleep dreaming about her new home.
The sounds of the boxes being moved woke up Alexa next morning.
She found her mother running around the living room, packing their things and her father was not at home.
“Mommy,” Alexa called out as she couldn’t see past the boxes.
“Good Morning baby, breakfast is in the kitchen,” her mother chirped from somewhere between the boxes.
Alexa’s mouth watered at the sight of her favorite pancakes with maple syrup. She quickly occupied her favorite kitchen stool and dug in. The pancakes were delicious as usual and nothing could beat the maple syrup. Alexa poured more syrup into her pancakes as she devoured it.
“Alexa, honey.... not again,” her mother groaned as she looked at her daughter. Her daughter had maple syrup beard with bits and pieces of pancakes decorating her chin.
“First of all, you do not eat without brushing your teeth. Secondly, you do not eat like that, where are your table manners?” Amanda exclaimed making Alexa cringe.
She didn’t think about it when she dug in. “I’m sorry Mommy,” she pouted at her mother.
“Alexa, stop pouting at me,” her mother scolded playfully as she picked her up and cleaned her mess.
Amanda couldn’t help smiling at her daughter’s antics. Amanda and Victor were married for four years before they got Alexa, she was spoiled to the core. Alexa was well behaved most times, except she had a habit of running around when they took her outside.
Her parents had told her several times it was not safe for her to run like that, especially in the neighborhood like theirs. However, that did not stop Alexa from running. They lived in the loneliest part of Knoxville, Tennessee well known for its worst crime rate.
One year back, they were in the supermarket as Alexa ran out and they took half hour to find her again at a nearby petrol station. If anything her daughter was curious and never thought twice as she runs off to have her own adventures.
Both Victor and Amanda’s parents were long deceased. Amanda was the only daughter of her parents and lost them at twenty in a road accident. While Victor’s mother passed away during the birth of his younger brother, Arthur. His father died of heart attack at fifty-five. Growing up Victor and his brother were close.
Arthur was the first one to move out of Tennessee in search of a job. Now, that he was settled in Vermont he had invited his brother over there and he was also kind enough to arrange a job for him.
Victor took the offer without a second thought as it paid well and they can provide good education and a better life for their only daughter.
They had nothing holding them back here in Tennessee anyway. The only family they had now was Arthur and his lovely fiancé Raelyn.
They are expecting their first child and Amanda couldn’t wait to meet them.
“Amanda, honey...” Amanda smiled at the sound of her husband.
She sauntered across the room welcoming Victor home with a kiss.
“All set, we can move out tomorrow. The moving company will come tomorrow morning,” Victor gushed happily as he buried his face in Amanda’s shoulder.
“I am very excited too. Finally, we will be able to provide our daughter a life she deserves,” Amanda replied burying her face in his chest.
“Did you pack everything?” Victor questioned her as he eyed the boxes around him.
“Oh yes, I did. I have kept aside few sets of clothes and stuff we need for our travel.” Amanda replied as she ruffled Victor’s neatly combed hair, she adored his black hair which complimented his dark brown eyes which held lots of love for her.
“All right, get ready then. Let’s enjoy our last day in Tennessee,” he kissed her once again and went to find his little angel, Alexa.
Finding Alexa was not tough, when she was not in her bedroom she was always in the fenced backyard building sand castles. He must buy her a pet once they moved to Vermont, he thought as he reached Alexa, who was now covered in patches of mud.
It had rained last night and leaving Alexa free in the backyard was not a good idea. Amanda had a thing for cleanliness and she would have a heart attack if she saw Alexa like this. Victor quickly picked his daughter and sneaked back to the bathroom.
The Steller couple preferred to walk when the climate was pleasant. The night was still young and the evening breeze was slightly chill against their skin, rousing the memories of days when they both dated.
The walk to the town was short. Amanda held Alexa close in a death grip as she browsed through the shelves for the required items. Victor chatted animatedly to someone he knew as Amanda shopped with Alexandra in tow.
Everything was fine until someone ran into Amanda, making her fall in the process. When she regained her composure she heard her daughter screaming as the guy ran out of the store carrying her like a sack of potatoes, in his shoulders. Amanda’s handbag was also missing.
“Alexa!” She screamed as the reality set it. She ran behind the man like a mad woman, her only thought was Alexandra.
“Amanda…” Victor ran behind her as she dashed out of the store looking frantically around the streets for any sign of her daughter.
There were multiple alleyways and she didn’t know where he had taken their daughter.
“Victor.... she is gone.... he took her,” she cried loudly as she plopped on the sidewalk, not caring for the puddle of murky water which stained her clothes.