“I’m hungry,” Devein said as she walked into me and Ethan drinking tea on the dining table. She was dressed in one of my oversized shirts. He eyes looked tired, like she’d been crying throughout the night.
“What would you like?” I asked, taking a sip from the small teacup in my hands.
“Do you have bread?” she asked, scratching the back of her ear. Her hair was clean for a change, but it was still a mess as it tangled and knotted awkwardly around her face.
“Yes, come sit,” I said, tapping the chair beside me. She gave me an odd look before accepting the offer. As she pulled out the chair to seat I got up to get breakfast ready for her.
I soon came out with a tray of bread and scrambled eggs. I smiled fondly at the sight of Ethan helping her to prepare a cup of tea.
“Here,” I said, setting the tray in front of her before taking my seat.
“Thanks,” she muttered, tearing a piece of bread from a slice.
“I got your dress washed last night so you’d have something to follow me in the station in,” I mentioned as I proceeded to make another cup of tea for myself.
She didn’t answer me, just nodded slowly at the comment. The rest of breakfast went on in silence. Ethan asked Devein a question from time to time in an attempt to brighten up the mood.
“Thanks,” she muttered, pushing her tray forward in an indication that she was done.
“Take the tray to the sink at least. What am I saying? Get it washed,” I said, narrowing my eyes at her. “Take a shower too, we’re leaving afterward.”
She gave me a look. It gave me a mixed message like she was irritated and frustrated at the same time. She eventually picked up the tray and headed to the kitchen.
“I wouldn’t want to be your kid...” Ethan trailed, watching as Devein slammed the kitchen door after her.
“And that’s why I probably won’t have any,” I said with a shrug as I put a piece of toast in my mouth.
I was ready in the next hour and a half. Devein was already waiting out in the seating room in her dress and worn out shoes.
“Let’s go,” I said, checking my pant pockets of I indeed had the car keys with me.
She got up, startling Roxanne that was lying beneath her feet.
“I’m just getting up, silly,” she told the dog before squatting to give Roxanne an affectionate pat on the head.
I smiled at the scene, glad the Roxanne had stopped being tense from the stranger’s presence.
Devein got up before heading for the door.
“Wait,” I said, noticing her hair was a mess. She stopped in her tracks before turning to give me a look of confusion. I gave her hair another look before sighing.
“Go fetch a comb from Ethan,” I said. She nodded before heading to my room. She soon came back with a big hair comb in hand.
“Has anyone ever taught you how to tame your hair?” I asked, taking the comb from her. She gave me a guilty look before running her hand through her tangled blonde hair.
“I couldn’t fix it, and I don’t know how to braid it,” she admitted as her cheeks gained a pink tint.
I shook my head, getting behind her. “I guess I’ll just do it myself.”
I combed her hair back before doing it up in a French braid the way I saw Ethan do to his hair sometimes. I smiled, realizing I’d learned how to braid from my young niece. She should be seven now, and the nickname I got from her hasn’t changed yet. It was still ‘teddy’ even if I didn’t have a bear tummy anymore.
“There,” I said, patting the braid in place. She began to feel her hair with her fingers before turning to cast me a curious glance.
“Can I go see it?” she asked, making me smile for no reason at all.
“You can see it in the car’s mirror when we get out,” I said, looking down at my watch. It was already past eight. We had to be done with this by early noon. I had an online Q&A to attend to.
We left the house, heading for the car. I scolded Devein lightly when she kicked one of the chickens on the rear end. My thoughts suddenly went to Hector and how he was presently in a cardboard box with breathing holes, a bowl of water and a plate of bird feed so Ethan wouldn’t find a reason to kill him before he went out to his lectures.
Opening the car door, I smiled realizing the Ethan would have to take the bus today. He’d taken it a few times and he never hesitated to complain about how awful it was when he got back.
He’ll survive. I thought, starting the car as Devein shut the door of the passenger seat behind her.
We drove into town, pulling up at the local police station. I got down before greeting the security guard that was parading the parking lot. I asked Devein to get down as well. She was hesitant but she obeyed.
“Good morning officer,” I greeted as I got behind the reception counter. The female officer behind it was busy on her computer and she gave me a hand signal that I should wait.
“There, now what can I do for you?” she asked, closing her laptop before folding her hands across her large chest. Her dark coarse hair curled around her neck in braids.
“Err, yes. I need to talk to someone concerning a missing child—”
“Your kid’s missing? You could just fill out this form—”
“No,” I said, waving the woman’s suggestion of. “I found a kid — a preteen that wandered off,” I corrected before turning to call Devein who was sitting at the reception.
“Have you spoken to her? How long has it been?” she asked, looking from me to Devein who was presently occupying herself with playing with the tip of her French braid.
“It’s just been a day, but she’s all the way from another state...” I trailed as the police woman’s eyes widened into saucers.
“Did you run away from home?” she suddenly asked, turning her attention to Devein.
“No,” Devein said with a frown, “I don’t have one,” she said plainly as she picked at her nails. The policewoman frowned briefly at Devein before looking towards me.
“I’ll page you in with an investigation officer. I’ll call you when you’re up,” she said as she began to dial up a number on the desk phone.
“Hello? Officer Coiler here...”
“Come on,” I said, patting Devein’s shoulder lightly, urging her to take a sit with me in the reception. I noticed how her eyes narrowed at every officer that passed by us, and at how unbearably quiet she was being.
“You don’t like here, do you?” I said as she nodded calmly.
“We’re just here to get some things cleared. You don’t have to be afraid.” I tried to reason with her. She stiffened, clearly not taking my word for it.
Some time passed before we were finally called in. Devein mumbled and answered the officer’s questions in a low tone, giving an occasional frown when he said something she didn’t comprehend.
“I guess this is just a case of rehabilitation. We could get her checked into a local orphanage here before returning her back to one in her state.”
I watched as Devein’s shoulders slumped at the officer’s words. I looked from her to the officer. I wasn’t so sure what to do — handing her over was the right thing to do.
“Does she have to stay at the orphanage? I mean, right now?” I asked making the brunette officer give me a stern look.
“Well yes, unless you’re willing to keep her until we can get her back to her state,” the officer said, fiddling with the stray pen on his hardwood desk.
“I could...” I trailed looking towards Devein whose eyes were now following an active fly.
“Would you?” the officer asked, making me nod as I turned faced him.
“Okay, you’ll have to fill out some forms though. It could take a month or two before we’re able to get her back to her state and rehabilitated,” he said, searching something up on his computer.
“Did you hear that?” I asked in a hushed tone, leaning into Devein. She nodded before muttering a small thank you. She’d made it obvious that he wasn’t looking forward to staying in an orphanage.
We were soon done at the station and headed back home.
Ethan raised a brow when I walked into the cabin with Devein trailing behind me. I shrugged, brushing his look off.
“She’s staying for a while,” I said plainly as I emptied a can of dog food into Roxanne’s bowl. She came up to, it wagging her tail. She sniffed at the bowl’s contents before digging in.
Ethan nodded in understanding, “For how long?” he asked, cleaning after the mess we made while making dinner.
“I don’t know. The officer was pretty convinced it was going to take up to a month or two,” I said as I measured some rice into my plate. I frowned as Ethan took a stray spoon and added some more rice to my plate. I didn’t complain. I just gave him a threatening glare that he pretended not to notice.
“I should go call her to get dinner,” Ethan said before heading out to the kitchen.
The three of us had dinner together that evening. Devein’s mood was a little better and she made effort at small conversation.
“I’m sorry I thought you were mean the other day,” she apologized as we washed out the dishes together. I raised my brow before shaking the thought of my mind.
She’d watched some TV with Roxanne on the couch with her afterward before heading to bed.
“I think she’s asleep,” Ethan had muttered into my ear early that night. We were cuddled up together under the duvet, Ethan’s head resting on the base of my shoulder.
I’d hummed in response and had gotten a trail of kisses up my neck afterward.
“Not today...” I trailed as he started grinding into me. I received a frustrated sigh in response followed by a low ‘fine.’ He resorted to tracing the line of my waist and hips, kissing up my shoulder and up my neck as I indulged in half sleep.
“I love you,” he muttered, pulling stray strands of my hair behind my ear. I stiffened slightly, not quite used to how frequently he was saying that now.
“You always say that,” I muttered, feeling my face warm up.
“But it’s true...” he trailed, sighing as he hugged me closer to himself. “I love you so much you know, and I really can’t keep it in.”
I kept silent as he repeated the words again, getting my mind all hazed up and confused.
I felt his fingers enlace with my much slimmer ones. Sometimes I wondered why he loved me, what he found attractive in my odd build and oversensitive nature.
“Did you get to do your Q&A?” Ethan suddenly asked in a husky sleep inflicted tone I was growing used to.
“Yeah,” I replied, playing with his fingers, “You know, when I was busy with my phone in the kitchen.”
“How convenient,” Ethan laughed, nuzzling into my neck. “You almost burnt the rice.”
I felt my face heat up in good-natured embarrassment. I couldn’t really imagine a life with Ethan not in it now. I couldn’t even remember my daily routine when he wasn’t here. I knitted my brows, wondering how I’d woken up every morning for the past how many years without his body next to mine — how I’d managed on my own without him selflessly taking care of me.
I blinked back unshed tears. My emotions were in turmoil. I was becoming very dependent on him. I was scared and slightly relieved at the revelation.
Maybe it was time to let myself get taken care of, I was tired of bearing the entire burden on my own.