“It’s getting colder.” Claire said rubbing her arms to provide some warmth.
“Let’s go back now then.” I said bringing her close to me.
We then slowly started to walk back while having small talks. I looked at her ever present smile and felt immense happiness to be her life partner. She is my wife now and I always feel proud and content with her beside me.
“Arthur, look. There is a boy over there. He is shivering very badly. I think we should go check on him. He could be lost and might need help.” Claire said pointing at a boy who was sitting a little farther from where we were. His back was towards us and he was indeed shivering from cold.
We walked towards him and from closer he looked really pale with his shabby hair moving in the direction of wind.
“Hey, are you lost? Do you want to call anyone?” I asked him once we were close to him. He turned to look at us and then tuned back to look at the sea.
“Dear, is everything alright? You can trust us. We don’t mean any harm.” Claire asked in her soothing voice. By now we were both sitting on the sand beside him but he continued to ignore us and faced the sea.
“Go away!” He snapped not bothering look at us. I saw Claire slightly flinch at his yell and I placed my hand on her arm in comfort. We both glanced at each other wondering what to do now.
“Not until we help you, kid. Here, wear this. You are shivering. Your skin is turning pale and your lips are blue from the cold.” I said handing him my jacket.
“I don’t care. I don’t need your anything. Just leave me the hell alone.” He yelled again. His eyes held deep emotions and I knew he was in need of help of any kind even if he says otherwise.
I let out a deep sigh and gripped his arm to turn him towards me. He fought hard as his instinct kicked in.
“What are you doing? Let me go. Leave me.” He shouted thinking I intend to harm him while I brought him closer and wrapped the jacket around him and rubbed his back to bring him some warmth.
“You are so cold. You will freeze if you sit here without any warmth.” I muttered and began rubbing his arm. I felt him lean closer to me for minute but then all of a sudden pushed me away and stood father away.
“Why are you doing this?” He asked suspiciously looking at me and my wife.
“What do you mean why? You would probably get kidnapped or get harmed if you sat here alone during this hour of the day.” I said while Claire just watched the boy in worry.
“Why do you care? I’m nobody to you. What do you want from me?”
“We want nothing from you, child. We just want to help you, okay? Tell us why you are sitting here all alone. Are you lost?” Claire asked softly not wanting to frighten him.
It might not be that strange to find kids of his age wandering alone in the beach hours after the sun went down but looking at his torn and dirty shirt and shorts and the extreme hunger shown in his eyes it was clear that he was not like any of the kids who came here to have fun or to think. It now became clear to me that he had nowhere else to go.
“You know what? Let’s talk about that later that is if you wish to tell us. For now please come with us and have something to eat. You look hungry and so are we. There is a beach restaurant nearby. We can walk there if you feel safer that way. What do you say?” I asked hoping he would not protest.
“No. I don’t want to. Thanks for the jacket but I have to leave now so you may have it back.” He said and placed the jacket down beside me and began to walk away.
“Child, please. I promise you we will not cause you any harm. There are still few people here and if you feel like we are going to harm you which we will not, you can yell for them or leave us. But as I said we have no intention to harm you. So please eat something or you will get sick.” Claire pleaded.
“The people here will not give any shit about kids like me. But just because I’m very hungry and is capable of causing serious injury if needed, I’ll come with you guys. But remember, I owe you nothing.”
“Agreed. Let’s go.” I said and began walking towards the restaurant with my arm around Claire’s shoulder while the other held the boy’s hand who tried to let go of it first but then gave in.
“What’s your name, Kid?” I asked curiously.
“None of your business.” He replied with a glare.
“Elijah.” I heard him mutter few second later.
“Well, Elijah, I’m Arthur and this is my wife Claire.” I said and as expected got no response from him.
“How old are you, Elijah?”
“Big boy, huh?”
“Hmm. I’m almost twelve actually.” He said and I had to bite my cheek to stop myself from smiling at his proud statement.
“We are here.” I said and opened the door for them. Soon we were greeted by a man who welcomed us but kept taking glances at Elijah. I looked down at Elijah to find him scooting behind me feeling uncomfortable.
“You got any problem? Why are you staring at him like that?”
“I just feel like I have seen this boy somewhere. But..oh I saw him picking food from the garbage behind the restaurant where they dumb the extra or spoiled food. Had to shoo him away before he could maybe try to sneak into our kitchen to steal our food.” The man muttered in disgust and I felt Elijah back away but before he could run away I grabbed him by his wrist and brought him to the front.
I felt the anger rise in me seeing that man continued to look at Elijah in disgust. I have grown up in a poor family where we had nothing to eat on certain days and after my parents passed away it got even worse but I had managed to pull through by working my ass off. I was in a better position by the time Xavier came to my life. Now both he and I have stable jobs but I would forever remember the struggle I had to go through to reach where I am now. The many hunger filled days and the desperation to get some food. And now seeing how this man is looking at the poor boy just brought back the memories.
“He is with us and shall be treated with respect.” I said glaring at the now worried man who realised he had upset his customer.
“Claire, please get seated with Elijah. I will join you guys in a minute. I want to have talk with this guy.” I said and gently pushed Elijah to her welcoming arms and they went towards the farthest vacant table.
“You saw that kid eating your spoilt food due to extreme hunger and instead of offering him food you shooed him away just because you bloody thought he would steal your food. And stop looking at him with so much repulsion. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You and I might be lucky to have food on our table but there are people who are not. You work here in this restaurant day and night and so must be clearly aware of how hard you have to work to feed yourself and your family. So when you find kids like him who are on their own, try to help them but if you are unable to at least do not look at them in disgust. They are equal to us not below us. So treat them that way.” I told him while glaring at him and before he could reply I walked away to the table where Claire and Elijah was seated. I sat on the other side of Elijah and gave him a smile to calm down his nerves.
“We already ordered. I hope Mac and cheese is fine with you.” Claire said and I nodded in reply. Elijah kept on sipping water while waiting for the food and I could hear his stomach grumbling in hunger.
Thankfully the waiter soon came to us with our food. As soon it was placed down Elijah began to scarf down his spaghetti like it’s going to disappear if he doesn’t eat it quick. I felt a sad smile appear on my face knowing the feeling.
“Slow down, sweetheart. You will feel sick if you eat fast.” Claire said rubbing the back of his head. Elijah gave her a small smile of embarrassment and continued to eat but slowly this time.
“Would you like to eat some of my fries?” Claire asked when he was almost done with his food. He refused at first but then slowly ate it when she insisted.
“Since you ate her fries you will have to eat a bit of my mac and cheese too. It’s only fair that way.” I said and raised my fork to his mouth and he let me feed it while I didn’t fail to notice the way his eyes became teary.
“Thank you.” He murmured and I just ruffled his hair while Claire kissed Elijah’s hand.
“How about we order some dessert now?” I asked and his eyes brightened up even more.
Someone loves dessert.
After we were sure his stomach was full we left the restaurant and slowly began to walk back to the place we met him. I was thinking over what to do now when all of a sudden Elijah tensed up and the next second he was running away from us. Claire and I stood frozen for a minute and the next thing I saw was a grown up man and cop chasing Elijah.
“Why are you chasing that boy?” I asked stopping the cop.
“That boy had ran away from his orphanage few days ago. We have been looking for him ever since.” He said quickly and continued run behind Elijah.
“I guess the cop didn’t see us with him. Or else he would have questioned us about him. Do you think Elijah will be okay?” Claire asked clutching my arm.
“I really hope so.”
I saw the man who ran first catch Elijah and then saw them walk away with the cop. Elijah discreetly waved at us before he was tugged away.
“We should go see him before he is taken away. Ask him if what the cop said is true. Just to make sure he will be safe.” Claire said and began walking after them but by the time we reached there they had already left.
Days passed but the boy’s face didn’t fade away from our mind. Though we had spent only little time with him we grew attached to him. And when Claire suggested the idea of adopting Elijah I thought it was perfect. He had already sneaked into our hearts and took a permanent residency there so having him as our son will only be the right thing.
Now we just have to find him.