Time ticked mercilessly.
The judgment had been passed and the man had been sentenced for life. The girl was told that the next time she saw him, he would be behind bars. She didn’t know what that meant. She only believed that she would never see him again — something which adults told her.
Mother taught adults didn’t lie
She was crying. Curled up in a corner of her room, her body shivered as tumults of grief shuddered her from the inside. The marble floor was cold but her tears were warm. They made her feel empty — the light kind of empty. She didn’t hear the footsteps as they entered the room, shut the door behind, and came to a stop near her.
“Don’t believe what they say. You’ll meet him again.”
She opened her eyes to find him sitting beside her, knees pulled to his chest and arms wrapped around them. His hair had grown and hid his forehead completely but when she looked at his eyes, she felt courageous enough to pull herself up. She didn’t want him to pity her.
Mother taught being pitied was a curse
She rubbed her tears with the back of her hand. Pulling her pink dress further down, the eight-year-old girl dragged herself towards him and copied his position as she sat beside him.
Shoulder to shoulder.
Hips to hips.
They stayed silent for a long time, feeling comfort in the presence of each other. It had been two years since their lives had been interwoven together, two years since she had lost everything and gained more. But what was gone wasn’t ever coming back.
Mom wasn’t coming back.
Daddy wasn’t coming back.
Colton wasn’t coming back.
The tears still teased her eyes but she held on. She had learned to consider the boy her family now. His mother didn’t matter, his father didn’t matter, his mansion and his servants didn’t matter. Only he mattered.
“Everyone’s gone. What will I say when someone asks me about my family?” she spoke, her voice quavering from hours of crying.
“You aren’t alone. You have me,” the boy answered.
She looked at him with tear-stained cheeks, sniffing the moisture dripping from her nose back. She felt sick and ashamed of how she looked. He should be disgusted by her but here they were, sitting together.
Hips to hips.
Shoulder to shoulder.
The fourteen-year-old boy reached inside the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a white handkerchief. She looked at him in patience as he reached over. He rubbed her eyes and the part between her nose and mouth. When he was done, he placed the handkerchief on her hand. She took it and rubbed the corners of her eyes again as a ‘lady’ should. That’s how her mother had taught her to clean herself after crying. Her mother taught her everything for six years of her life.
She would no longer teach her anything.
“I’m going to take you to meet him someday,” the boy said.
She looked at him again, this time with hope in her eyes. He looked calm, as calm as the sea before a storm. The stillness in him was something which could be drawn. He looked like he belonged to a canvas and not to a world where dust could taint him. He smiled and she nodded, feeling safe.
Dusk was falling outside the room and the last rays of the sun fell like patterns on their faces as they stared at it through the huge glass window that stretched to the ceiling. She put her head on his shoulder and he let her. He never objected to anything when it came to her. She understood that they didn’t match each other. She was too young for him; not even old enough to be his playmate. She had no idea what their relationship was.
She understood the difference between family and friends. He was neither. He wasn’t the family she had known since birth. He wasn’t her friend. He wasn’t just anyone.
Their relationship had no name. Perhaps it never would have one. But she had the impression in her heart that they were forever.
No family, no friend...just forever.
For now, the thought felt good. It made her happy. She felt protected.
“Will you leave me too?” She broke the silence between them with a doubt that ate her.
“Never.” The boy’s voice was resolute. It had no doubt in it.
Far away, the clock ticked and the children waited for the day they would be without burden...again.
Time ticked on.