Chapter Four~Comodo: Helping the Enemy
Don’t speak, you’ll ruin my peace.
Almost a week passed since Ella declared she would beat Nathan; six days, fourteen hours, forty-two minutes (and counting), in fact. She would only leave her room on a few occurrences, of when her father was doing something in his usual drunken stupor, which was always left Ella to clean up after him.
Closing her eyes, she could still see the black music notes as if burned into her head, giving her headaches. Taking this as a sign for her to finally stop, she looked to the clock to see what time it was; 2:28 PM.
“How long has it been since I last ate?” Ella mumbled to herself
Furrowing her eyebrows as if in thought, she tried to remember.
Leaning on her piano, resting her head down, she let out a long exasperated sigh. She had gone four days without eating, and two days of those days were spent sitting on the stool of the piano. She combed one of her hands through her loose strands of hair which had landed in front of her eyes, she could only wonder how much of a mess she must’ve looked.
Standing up her legs felt shaky from the lack of use during the past couple days. Slowly she made the piano her support for getting up. Walking out of her room and down the hall, she reached the bathroom. The first thing to greet her when she looked in the mirror was her sunken in hazel eyes and the dark purple bags that hung beneath them. Moving closer to the mirror she noticed the unnatural shine of grease clinging to her hair, darkening the usual auburn color.
Looks didn’t normally matter to Ella, but knowing that there was no food in the refrigerator, she would have to go out in public to actually find something edible to eat. Twenty minutes later, everything seemed to be decent. The bags still remained, nonetheless it wasn’t anything a pair of sunglasses couldn’t hide.
Examining herself in the small mirror in the front hallway, Ella checked herself over once more to make sure everything was set. She only decided to leave in the end because of the calling her stomach made for food, which continuously reminded her of why she was stopping her practice binge for the time being.
This was normal, wasn’t it? Staying in with no physical contact to the outside world for days at a time, Ella thought to herself. Grabbing her messenger bag from the coat rack, Ella opened the door only to be blinded by the first ray of light that hadn’t come from her bedroom lamp in days. Turning to view her surroundings, Ella saw a group of younger boys by the curb near the end of the street.
Slowly, Ella started walking in the opposite direction of the group of boys to the nearby café, only to be stopped by the sound of a cry coming from the group. Usually, Ella would just shrug it off and keep walking, but for some unknown reason, Ella started to trudge towards the group of boys.
The group seemed to consist of six boys, all around the age of nine or ten, who had been circling someone in the middle of their ring. It didn’t take a genius to know they were teasing another kid; it was a regular affair in this sort of neighborhood. Despite that, Ella spoke up,“Are you guys done yet? Or are you still going to try to pick on someone who’s weaker than you?”
Several of the boys turned to face Ella, moving enough for her to see a slightly messed up boy in the middle. Now, Ella had been called a great many names by the children in this neighborhood, every childish name you could think of, so she was ready for the names to start pouring out of their tiny mouths. Some of the names hurt, but the one exception was a name she actually enjoyed hearing.
“It’s the witch! Run or she’ll grab you and take you to her lair!”
There it was. Her favorite one. Ella didn’t usually like having emotions, however, this one gave her a happy feeling. That feeling of knowing people knew she existed as someone other than the scholarship leech, even if it was cruel thought. Watching the newly changed expressions of fear and terror on the boys’ faces as they ran away made happiness bubble within her. The one boy who had been picked on earlier was still sitting on the ground, only now he was looking at her with curiosity. It was an expression she rarely saw, and it gave her a sense of discomfort. She tried to look somewhere else, anywhere other than him.
Turning back she started her walk to the cafe, Ella heard a soft patter of feet behind her. She didn’t have to look to know it was the boy from moments ago.
“Go home kid, you’re a nuisance,” Ella grumbled while she kept walking towards the cafe, now only a couple hundred feet away.
“I don’t want to go back home. Dad will just force me to learn a new piece on the piano if I say I’m bored, and my brother is always gone playing piano at his school,” a tiny voice responded. “None of the kids want to play with me, so you are all I have. Not to mention that I’m really hungry.”
Heaving a large, frustrated sigh, Ella turned to the boy. He looked familiar, though Ella couldn’t place him from where he looked clean cut other than the couple scratches and the few clumps of dirt on his clothes. Ella estimated the younger boy’s wear and tear were probably caused by the other boys. He reminded Ella of herself at that age. They both wore the eyes of someone much more mature than their years and seemed to hold secrets that couldn’t be told to the rest of the world.
Maybe that was why Ella chose to speak,“I never asked for your problems, I only told you to go away. However, I now feel obligated to help you out in your time of hunger.” Ella paused to hold her hand out for the boy to take. “Come on, I’ll buy you lunch.”
“But it’s past lunch,” the boy replied
A single glare from Ella made him close his mouth and look down, even as he walked hand-in-hand with her.
Reaching the cafe, Ella brought the boy inside and sat down across from him in a small booth by the window. She loved the quiet of the cafe, the boy only made it easier for her to relax knowing that he wouldn’t speak up. Turned out she guessed too soon.
“What’s your name? How old are you? My name is Jamie, I’m almost twelve.”
The boy, Jamie, reached his hand over the table to politely greet Ella. Ella, still feeling obligated to Jamie, did the same. “Ella Claire, and haven’t you been told that it’s rude to ask a lady her age?”
“You aren’t a lady.” he argued. “The boys called you a witch, so it isn’t rude at all.”
That comment caused a crack in her defenses, creating a small smile that appeared and left just as quick as it came. Watching Jamie examine his surroundings, Ella found herself becoming more attached and fond of him.
“Jamie?” a new voice asked.
Ella and Jamie, both in sync, rotated their heads to the person who had spoken.
Nathan? It clicked for Ella. The reason Jamie was over here was that of the music school. His brother was playing piano, but only top tier players could play at any time of the day. It explained why he looked so familiar, they were siblings.
“Ella, this is my brother, Nathan. Nathan, this is Ella,” Jamie introduced, gesturing to her and Nathan. This was why she wouldn’t get attached to others; they would only drag her down. She had almost opened herself to a whole new world of pain.
“We’ve met,” Ella said stiffly, “but now I really must be going.”
“Ella, I thought we were going to eat together,” whined Jamie
“I’m busy now,” Ella said shrugging the young boy off.
And with that, she left. Using the same excuse for everything. “I’m busy” always worked, though now a feeling of pain shot through her heart. She was hurting herself. This was why she needed to be alone, closed off with only a piano for company. Forever. It was easier this way, perhaps not better, but easier.