“Look at what I found!” Exclaimed the young boy, Ben. He flung the bulky wooden door leading into his elder brother’s room open; a thick ancient book was tucked under his small arm. This startled Dorian causing him to jolt out of his bed and fall on the hard floor with a loud thud.
Dorian groaned lowly and used the nearby nightstand as support to pull himself up off the hardwood floor. He managed to slowly ease himself back on his bed letting out a weary sigh. His body relaxed in contact with the cushion of his bed.
“What did I tell you about knocking, Ben?” Grumbled Dorian, his tired eyes shooting daggers into Ben’s rested youthful ones.
Dorian wasn’t much older than Ben, who was only 10 at the time. This would make Dorian 14 years old. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exclude Dorian from the role of being “Big Brother”. He still deals with Ben’s naive mind and antics.
“I-I know. It’s just, this is really important!” Exclaimed Ben, holding the ancient book outward showing Dorian. Dorian’s face shifted from irritation to curiosity. Dorian stood up from his bed and stepped towards the book, gently pricking it from his brother’s hands. He held the book in both hands flipping it from cover to back. He examined the mysterious book, feeling the curvatures and indents with his fingers. The book wasn’t leather-back, he couldn’t quite figure out what material it was. It’s strange designs and layers of dust proved its age far exceeds both Dorian’s and Ben’s.
“Where did you find this?” asked Dorian in a whisper. His eyes didn’t leave the book as he spoke.
“This strange man gave it to me.” Ben said leaving out any necessary details. Dorian’s eyes left the book as he stared at his brother in disappointment.
“Why would you accept this from a stranger?” Dorian asked. All of his interest in the book had fleeted and was now placed in his brother’s overall safety.
“H-he told me it has directions... to treasure-” Ben was caught off by Dorian’s scoffing.
“And let me guess, the treasure is in his basement?” Dorian said sarcastically.
“Well no, if it was he would’ve told-“, before Ben could speak any further Dorian cut him off.
“Listen to me,” Dorian started, stepping closer and kneeling down in front of his younger brother. “Don’t ever accept anything from a stranger and especially don’t speak to them.”
Ben swallowed hard and nodded. The close proximity and stern voice of his brother left him scared.
Dorian sighed and squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “As annoying as you are, I would be terribly heartbroken if you were to be taken from me.” Dorian spoke softly and reassuringly.
“I would be too...“, Ben said in a whisper.
“You’re all I have left...“,Dorian’s voice cracked as he was hit with a wave of emotion. The images of their parents funeral came flooding back.
Not only was he a big brother, but in some cases, he was a parent.
4 years later
“Fourteen years old already?” Dorian asked with hands placed firmly on his hips. His famous grin plastered on his face as he looked down at his younger brother.
Ben rolled his eyes and shrugged in response. “I’m more surprised that you remembered.”
Rather than being insulted; Dorian’s grin grew wider and he let out a chuckle. “I’m not that bad?”
“I don’t know. You’re pretty bad.” Ben teased.
“You’re just saying that because I’m your brother,” Dorian spoke raising an eyebrows and continued, “Anyways, I have some errands for you to run.”
“On my birthday?” Ben asked frowning.
“You think just because you’re 14 you can escape chores, I think not.” Dorian said amusingly. Of course Dorian wasn’t that cruel, it was all a ploy to get his brother out of the house for span of time.
Ben wanted to argue; however, Dorian’s grin hinted at his motives. Ben lifted his chin up with a grin, “Fine.” He simply stated, turning on his heel leaving his brother standing amused.
Dorian must take me for a fool. His stupid smug face can’t hide anything from me. He may be cocky but he isn’t cruel. He merely wants me to out of the house so he can plan something. He always outdoes himself when it comes to holidays and parties; and today was no exception.
I kicked at small pebbles as I walked along the extensive rock path.
The rock path stretched from house to house as a road would. Stone housing lined the road with little to no space between them. It was a city environment with no grassland or solitude to be found. This was the capital of Asteria after all. A place with miles and miles of buildings all surrounded by the towering kingdom walls. The “safest” place to be, at least safe against whatever lurks outside the walls and not what resides inside.
As I walked along the stone path I drowned out the loud city voices and kept my head down. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be able to concentrate or think. My thoughts would be clouded with foul language, yelling, and mundane conversations from other citizens.
Errands usually consisted of finding work to earn spare gold. I wasn’t old enough to work so spare gold is nice to pocket.
I felt a hand grip my shoulder firmly which startled me. I jerked away in fear but let out a sigh of relief as I realized it was just Jenny who lives nearby. I’ve known her since the day I was born so there was no need to fear her.
“You startled me-“, I started but was cut off by her frantic words.
“Have you seen my husband-Paul?” She spoke quickly. Her hair was standing up on all ends, her clothing hanging awkwardly on her figure, and her expression clearly distraught. Whatever this conversation entails, it’s not of good nature.
My body stiffened as her grip grew tighter. Her eyes were bloodshot and glossed over; she had been crying for hours I assume. “N-no, I haven’t.” I stammered, “Is everything well?”
She sighed and let go of my shoulder, her eyes falling to her feet in shame. “No. Everything isn’t well.” Said Jenny.
Next thing I knew, she began dumping all of her problems on me.
“That fool keeps disappearing without a single word and I’m positive that he’s out there bedding some other woman. All while I’m staying at home taking care of his children and cleaning his house!” She rambles. I merely stood there silently listening to her rambling and sniffling unable to provide any form of comfort. I was simply a person to vent to in her case.
She caught her breath and continued, “If you see him you let him know I’m waiting for him at home. If he’s with another girl-oh boy, you come get me and I’ll ring his neck.”
I simply nodded in response and walked away. Hopefully I don’t run into him... I would hate to be apart of their mess of a marriage.
I made my way to Joseph’s Warehouse that was nearby. It wasn’t exactly in the nicest part of the city but you can always find work there. As I expected, Joseph was outside his warehouse counting crates. There must have been 30 crates at most.
I jogged towards the warehouse and greeted him, “Hello, Joseph!” I waved. He looked back and smiled at me, “Hello there Benjamin, looking for work?” He asked.
“Yup.” I said with a nod. He gestured towards the crates and then towards a nearby wagon. “I need to get all these crates on that wagon over there, I could use some help.” He instructed.
Joseph ran a large warehouse where he kept produce and materials to be shipped to the stands later on. He made great profit from it.
“I can do that,” I nodded once again. He smiled in response.
“I appreciate it. I’ll go get my step-son to help, be right back.” Said Joseph. “Keep an eye on those crates for me while I’m out getting William.” He called back as he started off towards his house.
I let out sigh and reached down to pick up the crate. Surprisingly it wasn’t heavy whatsoever. It must be light produce he’s shipping. I started towards the wagon but was interrupted by a scruffy looking man who smelt rancid. I couldn’t cover my nose considering both my hands held the large crate.
“Oi, kid.” The stranger spoke. His voice was hoarse and reeked of whiskey.
I didn’t answer and simply looked at him in response. “I need yer help wit sum thing.” The man spoke not fully pronouncing his words and sounding illiterate.
“Will there be gold involved?” I asked peering over the large crate.
“Ye, in fact there is.” He started, “That Joe guy owes me and my boys some gold.”
“You see, them crates have silk in them.” He continued. My eyes widened at the newfound information. Silk? Silk’s pretty expensive... depending on the type. No wonder the crates were so light.
“And?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Give me one of them crates and I’ll give you 5 gold.” The man suggested. He smiled a toothless rotten smile that sent shivers down my spine.
I’ve known Joseph all my life. He’s been nothing but kind to me and Dorian... but five gold? That’s more than Joseph usually pays me. Is it worth betraying his trust for a few extra gold pieces?
No. I won’t do that to Joseph. I’m not that kind of person. “I won’t help scum like you. How about use those 5 gold pieces for a toothbrush.” I spat.
The man groaned and raised his fist, “I outta-”
Before he could strike me, Joseph’s voice boomed from behind me. “Hey! You best get out of here!” He yelled. I looked over my shoulder and saw Joseph holding a pistol in his right hand.
The man dropped his fist and ran off.
I let out a sigh of relief and felt a strong hand grip my shoulder tightly, “I heard everything. You’re a good kid, you know that?” Said Joseph.
I noticed a boy standing behind Joseph who’s head peeked around to look at me. He smiled a bright hearty smile. His straight pearly white teeth was a great contrast from that scumbags rotting teeth. I really did pick the better side.
Joseph noticed the teenage boy and introduced him, “Ben, this is my step-son William. He’s about... 15?” Joseph paused before suggested his age.
William rolled his eyes, “I’m 16.” He retorted. His voice was smooth and clear. I blushed from the smoothness of his voice. I awkwardly cleared my throat and placed my palm on the back of my head and rubbed it.
“R-right!” Joseph stammered, “And Ben here is 13.”
I avoided William’s eye contact, grinned and corrected him, “14 actually.”
Joseph frowned and face palmed. “What’s wrong with me these days?”
“No, it’s not a big deal. Today’s my birthday so I just turned 14.” I reassured. I continued avoiding William’s eye contact but I could still feel his strong intense gaze.
Joseph’s face lit up, “Today’s your birthday! And you’re out here doing chores?”
“Yeah. Dorian’s just trying to get me out of the house so he can plan something.” I explained.
His face fell at Dorian’s name. “Hmm... that sounds like him. That boy is full of surprises.”
“Wasn’t he the one who bothered Olivia?” Asked William with a concerned frown. I felt my chest tighten and cheeks heat up as he spoke about Dorian. He couldn’t possibly think poorly of me due to Dorian's actions... right?
Classic Dorian. By bothered they must mean flirted. Anything that’s female and breathes is fair game to him. Too bad he hasn’t even managed to bed any of them. He has the attention span of a squirrel. Either he ends up doing something else, getting slapped, or becoming their best friend. I think he’s just practicing his flirting so he can get himself a girlfriend. If I said that to his face his response probably would’ve been, “Only so they can help me take care of this scoundrel.” Followed by a cocky grin. I know him too well.
“That was him wasn’t it-” Joseph started.
He was cut off by a loud female voice yelling from his house. “Are you gonna pack up those crates or not!?” That must be Joseph’s wife and William’s mother. Either way, thank god she interrupted. Who knows where the conversation would’ve ended up. More talking about Dorian and me feeling ashamed...
“Y-yes, my dear!” Joseph stutters and immediately picked up a crate to place on the wagon followed by William. I watched as he carried not one but two crates. I could see his back muscles strain against the thin shirt he was wearing. He must carry crates often... I quickly looked away and picked up a crate myself.
Crate after crate all three of us managed to get all the crates on the wagon with hardly any trouble.
I dusted off my shirt as Joseph and William stretched.
“Well done boys.” Said Joseph.
“It was no problem.”
He reached into his pocket and with a few jangles he held gold pieces in his hand. “Now, I usually pay you-what-3 gold? But since it’s your birthday and you told that thug off, here’s 5.” Joseph said while dropping the gold onto my palm.
Yes! 5 gold pieces.
“Thank you sir! I appreciate it.” I said with a wide smile.
“It’s no problem. Happy birthday Benjamin!”
Joseph climbed on his saddled horse leaving me and William standing alone. We remained in silence for what felt like forever, till he broke it with a light cough. I looked at him, but couldn’t stop myself from admiring his noticeable handsome features.
“How does it feel to be doing chores on your birthday?” Asked William.
“Not that bad, considering I know Dorian's intentions. Although it’s pretty boring.” I replied.
“Do you mind if I tag along? Maybe I’ll add some excitement to your day. ” William asked awkwardly. “You already have“, I thought to myself.
I smiled, “Of course. I wouldn’t mind your company.”
William was always just my brother’s friend that I’d see around once in a while. We’ve never really spoken, neither did I have any interests in speaking with him. For some reason or another, I’ve started to notice him more than usual. I’ve taken into mind how handsome he is. His blond wavy hair that gleams as soon as the vibrant sun dawns upon it, his clear and deep blue eyes that I can’t help but get lost in, and his alluring smile that captivates me as if I was a snake and his smile was the flute playing charmer. I wanted to know exactly who William Scott is; personality and all.
During school and just in general, I never really paid attention to girls and they mutually never acknowledged me. They all just seem superficial and concentrated on their own lives instead of the vast world outside these walls. William wasn’t anything like that. Everything about him seemed so perfectly flawed and genuine. He doesn’t care about mundane things or chasing women like Dorian does. He’s curious, thoughtful, and has a high sense of morality. I would listen in on his and Dorian’s conversations. He never spoke of himself but of his ideas and opinions.
We’ve been walking around the streets of the kingdom for who knows how long. I haven’t cared for how much time has went by, but instead I’ve been focusing on how to calm my tachycardia heart. A couple times our hands would brush up against each other’s, and startled I would quickly move mine away. I swear I heard him giggle a few times! “He’s probably doing this to tease me”, I thought rolling my eyes. Although there were open minded and love-able people like William, the rest of the world isn’t as understanding.
Whatever feelings I’m possibly gaining for William isn’t accepted in this world. It’s purely disgusting. I tensed up, stopping the silly game William was playing with me and walked a few steps ahead of him. I was scared to look back for a bit, what would I see? A confused William? A disgusted one? I took a deep breath and erased my weird thoughts. Soon a voice from nearby filled my head instead.
“Hey! Will.” Called a slightly familiar voice from nearby. I looked over towards the source of the voice and saw a few of Dorian’s friends sitting at a nearby table outside the local Pub. They all retained wide goofy smiles and messy hair. They’ve been drinking. We’re not standing anywhere near them but I swear I can smell the whiskey fuming off them.
We walked over to the table and greeted the boys. The one who called for us, Flynn, eyed both of us and grinned. “Is that Dorian’s little brother? Ben?” Asked Flynn. I nodded with a superficial smile. I hate to be recognized as Dorian’s little brother and nothing more.
“Babysitting Ben while Dorian’s doing who knows what?” Cut in another man sitting at the table, Gregg was his name. I felt a pang of anger in my chest at the childish remark. It made me feel worthless and nothing but a child compared to them. Maybe in some ways I was...
William, sensing my uneasiness and the tenseness in the air, cleared his throat and shook his head, “No, we’re just hanging out.“.
My eyes widened at his remark. To say that we’re hanging out meant a lot to me. He could’ve added to the joke or belittled me... but he spoke of me like I was important.
“Ah, Ben’s growing up.” Said Penny, the bartender. She stood next their table holding a tray of mugs rimming with foam. She placed the mugs on the table not spilling a pinch of beer and finished by dusting off her apron.
“Thanks Penn,” said Flynn who gripped the handle of his mug and began chugging from it. I still couldn’t believe these are Dorian’s friends.
Flynn’s eyes widened and he slammed his now half full mug on the table. “Boys... you see what I see?” He slurred and pointed past William and I. We both looked over and saw Meredith tending to her window plants outside her house. A young awkward man was sitting at her doorstep talking to her but I don’t think Flynn noticed.
“It’s that-what was her name? Mary?” Gregg asked.
“Her name’s Meredith.” William corrected him and looked at me with amusement. We both know how drunk and ridiculous these guys are.
“Y-Yeah Gregg! Her name’s Meredith!” Slurred Flynn, his eyes unable to focus on even his drink.
“What about Meredith?” Asked William, eyebrows raised. I could tell neither of us wanted to be in this uncomfortable situation for much longer.
“Flynn wants to bed her.” Gregg responded, grinning at Flynn who appeared angry but couldn’t contain himself and laughed. They both grabbed their beer mugs by the handle and clanked them against each other, as if toasting.
“I can’t even deny that.” Flynn admitted with a shrug and big smirk on his face. “She’s got a lot of woman on her. And it’s just one night”, he added as he eyed her up and down from afar.
I felt sick to my stomach hearing him talk about her that way. I face tensed as hardened as my previous childish demeanor disappeared. Of course this wasn’t new behavior from him, but Meredith out of all people? Flynn squinted at me and didn’t say a word. “Hmm...” he hummed as he continued to stare.
“Are you up for some gold?” Asked Flynn. I looked over at William and we both smiled.
“What’s the price?” I asked. I raised my eyebrows in question. ”It can’t be anything normal, this man is bloody drunk.” I thought awaiting his response.
Flynn shifted in his seat and let out a cough. “If you can’t tell, I’m a bit immobile at the moment.” He started, “You’d be doing me a solid by helping me out with this favor.”
“Get on with it. What do you want?” Asked William who was clearly annoyed.
“Okay! Geez...” Flynn grumbled, “I just need you to go over there and convince Meredith to shimmy her pretty butt over here.”
How does he expect me to talk Meredith or any girl for that matter, to provide him company? I’m just a 14 year old boy and nothing else. I sent William a concerning look. He sighed understanding what I meant. Before William spoke, Flynn pulled out what looked to be 5 coins from his pocket and dropped them on the wooden surface of the table.
Another 5 coins? That would add up to 10 coins in total from the work I did earlier at Joseph’s warehouse.
“Look, I think this might be a bad idea-” William began but I interrupted him.
“I’ll do it.” I spoke up.
William looked at me wide eyed; confused at my sudden submission to the idea. I merely grinned at him in response receiving a shrug in return.
“Fantastic-now off you go!” Said Flynn waving me off.
William started to follow me but was called after by Gregg, “Will! Why don’t you stay here and let’s have chat about Fiona? He’s a big boy now, he can do it himself.” Said Gregg.
“And besides, I only have enough gold to pay one of you.” Said Flynn.
Fiona? Is that his girlfriend? How should I know, He’s had plenty of girlfriends so I shouldn’t be surprised by the idea of him not being single. Besides, they’re right. I don’t need William following me around like some guard dog. All he’s doing is making me feel bad about myself and my... feelings. Why would he tease me with these flirtatious gestures all while he has a girlfriend? Is this some kind of joke to him, to pick on his friends little brother?
I started to feel agitated and resentful; rather than waiting for William, I began walking towards Meredith’s with haste. I didn’t hear William’s footsteps follow behind and simply brushed it off. He wasn’t following me...
To be continued...