Homebound

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four

Cleo


The sun was low in the sky by the time Alla and I made it to the park. We had maybe an hour before it got dark, but she was happy nonetheless.

Dozens of other kids were running around, hoping over the metal obstacles, sliding down plastic slides, and swinging rapidly on swings. Alla immediately bolted to an open swing, hopping herself onto it before another kid could snatch it. The park was in front of the woods, where huge, bristly trees stood. Our neighborhood was on the edge of a huge wooden area that ran for miles with nothing but trees and nature. This side of the woods curved around the houses and met up on the other side of town, meaning we saw a bit of woods everywhere we went. It was a beautiful feature, including the few streams that ran about the town.

There were few rumors of wolves in the woods, but there had been no actual sightings, so no one was really worried.

Besides, no one ever got that close to the woods for anyone to be scared.

As Alla played on the swings, I took a seat on a bench opposite of her, so I could keep an eye on her while she played. She soon left the swing, joining a few others in a game of tag.

The bench had been empty when I sat down, but after a few minutes, someone joined me on the other end.

I spared a glance in his direction as his presence was just so captivating. He was older than me, that much I could tell, probably in his early twenties. A pair of silver sunglasses rested over his eyes, and for some reason, I really wanted to know the color of his irises. He had a mop of brown, curly hair that complimented the natural tan his skin held. I moved my gaze down to his navy blue shirt that clung to his figure like a second skin. I didn’t bother looking any lower, because suddenly he turned towards me, and god what a sight he was.

But, then again, he had just caught me staring at him like some creep. Despite me obviously checking him out, he smiled at me. He was probably used to girls looking at him, especially with those looks.

“Which one is yours?” He asked me. It took me a second to realize what he was asking. Of course - he was probably married and brought his kid to the park.

“Oh! Uh, the blonde one over there, going down the slide. She’s my sister.”

He chuckled, even though I didn’t say anything remotely amusing.

“You don’t look like sisters.” He said, turning towards me a bit more. It was true, Alla and I were complete opposites in looks. She had beautiful, golden blonde hair, while I had dark and dusty locks. Her skin was fair, pale, while mine was a bit darker and tanned in the sun, while Alla just burned. Being outside now would probably give her a slight burn, even if it was just for an hour.

“We’re foster sisters,” I explained, figuring that this random stranger wouldn’t think twice about our predicament.

“Oh, so you live in a foster home around here?” He continued, keeping his gaze on me. I spared a quick glance at Alla to make sure she was still around, but this stranger, he never looked for a kid. And a kid never looked in his direction. Maybe he was just that kind of parent.

“Yeah, for right now, I am.”

“Right now?” He delved further, wanting me to explain myself more. Weirdly enough, this stranger was interested in my life, but it was probably because I was a foster child and his first ever to meet.

So, what was the harm in telling him the good news? I’d never see him again, and just maybe, he’d share in the joy with me.

“I actually got adopted by a family today. So I’ll be moving soon.”

But, shockingly enough, the guy didn’t smile. If anything, his smile lessened.

“Leaving? Like, the next town over?”

He was really nosy, and for some reason, it felt more than just interested in a stranger’s life.

“No, actually. I think I’m moving across the country, a few states over.” I kept my hands to myself, this conversation seemingly going south. “Do you have a kid here?” I asked.

But he ignored my question. “Across the country. That’s pretty far.”

“Do you even have a kid here?” I repeated myself, sitting up straighter on the bench.

“Well - uh,” He stuttered, sheepishly scratching the back of his neck. “No.”

“Why are you here then? Just watching the kids by yourself?”

“N-no!” He was quick to defend himself. “I was talking a walk and I -”

“You what?” My tone was sharp. Clipped.

“I saw you?”

“I don’t even know you -” I felt very creeped out. This guy had stopped in the middle of his walk, headed over to the park, just because he saw me? I couldn’t find it in myself to feel flattered. I turned towards the playground, seeing Alla back on the swings.

“Alla!” I called out to her, and when her head shot up in my direction, I got up off the bench and headed towards her. “We’re going. It’s getting dark.”

It was true, the sun was beginning to set and we needed to be home before dark.

“Aw, okay, Cleo.” She mumbled, sadly sliding off of the swing. “Is that man your friend?” She was looking behind me, and when I turned, I caught sight of that stranger from the bench, walking in our direction.

I grabbed onto Alla’s hand, tugging her behind me when he approached us.

“Hey -I didn’t - I mean -” He stuttered, at a clear loss for words.

“Just leave us alone.” I responded, walking passed him quickly. Alla stayed at my heels, clutching onto my hand with a deathgrip.

For whatever reason, that stranger seemed too friendly. I didn’t want to walk home and have him see where we lived, but I didn’t really have a choice. I just had to pray that he wasn’t watching us walk home.

Telling him that I was moving was a mistake. A huge one.

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