~Chapter Three- Ideals~
I looked out the window and saw a beautiful sunny day, the sort of day that called out to me. But Eugenio couldn’t go outside, not since that close call in 2012 when a boat passed by while the two of us were out on the beach. Ever since then, Raul and mom thought it best that Eugenio stay indoors at all times. It was too risky otherwise. The 4-year old Eugenio couldn’t go outside, so it felt unfair to leave him.
The two of us watched a cartoon on the couch, Eugenio was completely enamored by the show. I was antsy the entire time, longing to go outside. He sat on my lap and leaned back on me. Mom was at work, so it was my job to watch him today. Like usual. Since he was born, I didn’t get to go out with friends as often. But it was fine. I wanted to help out. Although the government continued to give us money for the service my father did for this county, mom still felt she needed to work.
A knock came at the door. Eugenio frowned since he knew what was coming. Whenever someone came to the door that we didn’t know, we had to hide Eugenio away. His legs dangled as I took him to dad’s old bedroom and I set him down.
“I’ll be right back.” I whispered.
“Alright.” He said in a defeated tone.
I closed dad’s room behind me so he was out of view. I looked through the front door’s peephole to see the 13-year old Melissa gripping a box of toys. I sighed, relieved that it was her rather than anyone else.
“Why didn’t you say it was you?” I opened the door for her, picked a newspaper from the mailbox and brought it inside with me.
“Sorry.” Melissa stepped inside and I closed the door behind her whilst tossing the newspaper on the table for later.
“Eugenio! I have something for you!” She yelled out.
“What is it!?” Eugenio was ecstatic that Melissa had come over. He reached out to me and I took him into my arms. He was still easy to pick up, but in a few years it wouldn’t be that way, even for a strong kid like me. Luckily Raul had acquired a wheelchair for him when he’s older.
He was in utter glee when he saw Melissa’s gifts. She sat in the living room showing off the toys one by one. She had a way with him that I didn’t. A toy car rolled out Eugenio’s reach. He strained as far as he could to grab it, only for Melissa to nudge it back to his hand.
“Thanks Melissa.” Eugenio said politely. She gave him a sweet smile. He was a happy kid despite his circumstances, taking joy in everything he could. He seemed content with staying inside. There had been a few difficult conversations where we had to explain why he couldn’t go outside. Mom said they would take him away if he left, which seemed to scare him enough that he didn’t pry further.
When I looked at him though, I’d think of dad sometimes. What it’d be like if he was still alive, still bedridden, relying on us to take care of him. Dad would’ve hated that. Even at the end of his life, he still supported Population Control. What would he have thought of us saving Eugenio?
I let Melissa show off her gifts while I looked over the newspaper.
‘Family killed by the RLA’ was the headline.
The Rhiveran Liberation Army was still at large in their effort to destroy the PCC. They had taken the lives of a family in Tolesta, saying that the killing would stop as soon as Population Control ends. They called themselves an army, but Raul called them what they really were. Terrorists. The newspaper talked about the family who lost their lives. They seemed like good people.
At least when Population Control killed, it was with reason. The RLA might not have been the ones to end his life, but they might as well have. We wouldn’t have been crippled if not for them. I didn’t agree with everything the PCC did, but at least it seemed to have a point. The RLA was just destructive.
I’d often wonder if it was wrong of us to have saved Eugenio. But, I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want to lose anyone else. My only recourse was to do the work that he couldn’t. I would work for the two of us.
I started to prepare a meal so there would be enough that for everyone when mom got home. I made enough that Arturo could eat when he came by too. Whenever mom was out I would try to cook, which led to some disastrous meals early on. But mistakes were good lessons. I took pride in myself whenever I managed to make a good meal.
Mom usually came home late on Saturdays, giving Arturo an opening to come by and see Eugenio. To avoid being seen by Raul or Yolanda, he’d sneak in from the beach. They couldn’t know that we told him about Eugenio.
I finished the meal and brought Eugenio to the table to eat. While we were eating we heard three light taps on the side window, Eugenio knew what that meant and lit up. I tapped the same window twice and I circled around to the back door. In moments Arturo appeared at the sliding door and Eugenio gave him a big, inviting smile.
“Isn’t the secret tap a little cheesy?” I asked.
“It makes sure your Mom or Raul aren’t around.” Arturo nonchalantly walked in.
“I like it!” Eugenio said with another smile.
Arturo took a seat next to Eugenio. “How’ve you been little man?”
Eugenio excitedly told him about everything that happened since they last saw each other. What shows he watched, a funny joke I said a week ago, and anything else that could come to mind. Arturo listened and spoke to him with a patience I wish I had.
Melissa sat next to Arturo and listened with him. She could’ve sat across the table from him but instead she sat right beside him, nudging her chair closer to him and lightly pressing her petite frame against him.
Were they together? They’ve been spending a lot of time without me. It’d make sense. I hadn’t gone to the Montoya Estate in a while, I was busy watching Eugenio most of the time. Melissa would go on her own sometimes.
Ever since we were little, I sort of figured Melissa and I would end up together. We’ve been inseparable for most of our childhoods. But not anymore. She’s been spending more time with Arturo, and I’ve been busy watching Eugenio.
With the two of them occupied with Eugenio, I didn’t feel needed. I opened our sliding door to head out to the beach.
“What’re you doing?” Melissa’s attention suddenly shifted to me.
“Just going to get some air.”
“Oh, let me go with you.” Melissa hastily stood to follow me, “Eugenio do you want to show Arturo that new video game?”
“Yeah, yeah! You’ll like it Arturo.” He said, reaching his arms out for Arturo to pick him out of the chair.
“Sounds fun.” Arturo struggled to lift Eugenio; he was never as strong as me. He brought him to the couch and gave us a nod to go outside.
Melissa walked with me to the shore.
“He’s a good kid. Eugenio I mean.” Melissa commented.
“Yeah, he’s great.”
“It’d be nice if he could come outside with us.”
I chuckled, “Trust me, I’ve tried. There was one really close call because of it.”
“He could if Population Control was gone.” Melissa stated rather brazenly.
“I’ve been thinking,” Melissa began, “I bet we could do something. If the three of us worked together, maybe we could do something to stop the PCC. Between the three of us, there’s nothing we can’t do."
I stopped and looked at her, “Where did this come from?”
“We could make the world a better place, where people like Eugenio wouldn’t have to hide.” Melissa was truly sincere.
“Population Control is there for a reason.” I said flatly.
“What?” Melissa was surprised at that response. “Population Control is evil.”
Immediately after dad died, I thought it was evil. But over time I changed my mind. I said, “Up till his death, dad still supported it. He wouldn’t want everyone taking care of him if he was alive now. The only reason he was injured in the first place was because of the RLA. It’s not the PCC’s fault.”
I looked up at Melissa, and she appeared to be in utter shock. As if she was looking at a stranger. “But the RLA wouldn’t exist if they weren’t fighting the PCC Juaquin!” An overwrought Melissa replied.
“I know that. But you have to admit the RLA is evil. They’ve killed a lot of really good people. Everything would be better if the RLA was gone.” I said, “I’m actually planning to join the military in a few years to help fight them.”
Melissa stepped away from me. Her expression turned from shock to horror. I’ve never seen her look at me like that.
“What about Arturo’s mom?” Melissa began to yell, “What about Eugenio!? He’s not like your dad. Eugenio wants to be alive even if he needs people to take care of him.”
“Maybe...” I stopped myself.
“Maybe what?” Melissa prodded angrily.
I forced myself to continue, “I love Eugenio, but I can’t help but think things might be easier without him. Even when he’s old, he’ll need people to take care of him. I sort of understand why the PCC exists.”
Melissa turned to rage “So why don’t we just hand him over to Population Control now then? If he’s such a burden on you!” A vindictive Melissa said.
“No, No!” I blurted out, “Of course I want him here! I’ll just have to work hard for the both of us. Do all the work that he can’t.”
Melissa stared. Her expression became calm and she looked at me with blank. unreadable expression. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking anymore.
“I’m going inside.” She said quietly. Melissa turned her back to me and walked towards the house.
I paced along the beach in deep thought. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand her point of view. I did. But after everything I’ve seen, I can’t help but think that Population Control aren’t the bad guys.
It took me a while to gather up the courage to go back inside. When I finally did I found Arturo, Melissa and Eugenio all sitting together playing a game. Melissa turned to me as I came in and gave me the same cheery smile she always would, her disposition was the same as it always was. But it was false. She feigned that nothing was wrong, but Melissa would never forget what I said.
It was never quite the same after that.