Life is timeless here. It drags on for years and years without end. Taboo is prominent here. There will be mistakes and morbid content. Love is not an illusion. It is very much alive and feasting on the soft flesh of every growing man and woman. Death is just a dream. It is not real. It should not be real.
To create an imperfect world is to destroy your morals. By giving a character a socially sensitive past or experience, you are potentially provoking a selfish audience into dismay and utter violence. Why is telling the inevitable reality morally incorrect? Do they, the disastrous blind creatures that value opinion over fact, wish to hide away in their fantasies and never face the true tragedies of reality? They cannot run from the ugliness. They cannot ignore the sins of man. It is written and preserved. Action has been taken. You can only hide a fragment of what is wrong in your mind, but you have seen it all and it cannot be undone.
He is desire. He is compassion. He is the frail creation of two broken hearts. Left alone in a hazy world, he walks in search of a place to call home; something permanent and sturdy that can nourish him back to health and save him from the elements. He is about sixteen years old with tender pale skin and paper-white hair. His breaths come out forced and long against the cold winter air. Having lived on the streets for all of his life, he is surviving and has grown fond of this system. A school is foreign ground to him. Only the kindest of similar dwellers took him under their wretched arms to teach him the spoken word. There is nothing for him. His life is passing him by.
A tall man with a black fur coat stops nearby and watches him from a distance. It is embarrassing for him. Why is a groomed and gorgeous male staring at a grimy peasant boy like him? The answer lies within the thin air. It is too cold outside for a poor soul like him.
“Do you have any family?” the male asks the young boy. His cerulean irises are no match for the child’s cherry red ones. The boy does not answer. “Are you alone?” These are only reminders of the boy’s current condition. He remains quiet, hoping the man will give up and walk away. But he approaches the freezing and weary child, shrugging off his fur coat to hand to the boy.
“You don’t have to do that, sir,” the boy mumbles, looking down past his pair of torn black sweatpants at his feet. The only things protecting his small feet from the weather are a pair of ragged discolored socks. The man takes notice and wraps the coat around the boy, covering the faded grey wool sweater he wears.
“You’re too young to be out here without a home and in the cold. Come with me so I can give you clothes and a place to sleep for the night.” The man, now attired in a rouge sweater and a thick woven scarf, offers his hand to the boy. Why? The young vagabond asks in his mind. Why are you helping me? The weather is fine. I have lived through fifteen winters and I could easily live the sixteenth.
It must be a trap of a sort. Not once has an adult noticed the lonesome child as he traveled from city to city. Why has fate decided that this kind gentleman should speak to the boy and offer him shelter? He knows well to not accept the invitation. Time has changed. But inside the boy’s mind is a budding belief that he will finally be able to sleep with ease. He will be warm, clean, and fed. Such an opportunity is rare and must be taken into deep consideration. The man’s hand remains outstretched towards the child.
“I have your coat… I might as well accept your offer.” The boy still does not accept the man’s gloved hand, eyeing it suspiciously.
“There is nothing to be afraid of. I promise to take care of you.” He begins to guide the boy away from the snow-covered cityscape. Away from the outside and away from his lifetime routine. Today is the turning point of this child’s life. He will soon find a purpose that can save him from the misfortune casted upon him by his parents. Two blurs buried in a past impossible to unlock. Why did they not dispose of me before I was born if they never wanted me? The boy would ask whenever the thought of family or parents would arise. What kind of creature gives life to an infant only to abandon it?
He would have rather lived in the color white, unborn and blinded by nothingness. He walks with this kind and alluring stranger in hopes of receiving the proper care and sleep he deserves. He walks some tiring and frigid miles to a small townhouse situated at the bottom of an inclined road. Crooked and hollow trees stand dormant from the terrible weather. Winter is cruel. The man passes his hands over his sweater, mistaking it for the coat. A chuckle escapes the man’s mouth as he faces the shorter male and extends his hand.
“Can you dig through the pockets for my keys? Don’t take it off just yet.”
“I could have ran away with your keys.”
“They wouldn’t be of any use without an address. I could call for a locksmith or something, too.”
The boy cannot find the pair of keys inside of the fur coat pockets. “They’re not in the pockets.” The man passes his left hand through his freshly-cut navy blue hair, trying to think of any other spots he would have stored them in. The boy takes a step closer to the adult and reaches for his right pants pocket, pulling the house keys out.
“Oh! Observant kid, aren’t ya? Go ahead and open the door. I gotta check the mailbox.”
“To check my mail?”
“Why do I have to open the door? Why are you letting a stranger into your home without asking for his name?”
“If you really want me to ask, then what’s your name?”
“Normal people would never pick up a random person from the streets and easily invite them into their own homes. Do you want anything from me? Because I have nothing.”
“That’s one hell of a long name! Do you go by any nicknames?” By now, the man has finished rummaging through a shockingly full mailbox and heads towards the house door, taking the keys from the boy. He unlocks the door and opens it wide. They are both greeted by the scent of citrus.
“My name… is Kiro,” whispers the boy as he enters the plainly decorated house. He sighs loudly in relief, feeling safer than before.
“And I’m Avender. I’m not a normal person, of course, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I believe is right. Let’s find you some warm clothes and prepare a hot bath, shall we?” The man’s voice has changed in tone. There is a brightness to it; a comforting and harmless touch. There is nothing to be afraid of, Kiro believes.
He follows Avender upstairs, watching the man as he retrieves a towel and hygiene products from a small closet near the bathroom. “I honestly believe that a boy like you shouldn’t be outside living off of the streets. There is something in your eyes that gives me a feeling. I couldn’t just leave you there. I have a daughter, so I guess we can blame my parental instincts!”
“Where is your daughter?”
“She’s currently in school. You’ll get to see her when she gets out! I believe she’s your age. How old are you, Kiro?”
“Ah, she’s a year older. And you’re not in school, I’m assuming.”
“It must be hard, living out there like that. You don’t sound like an uneducated kid though. I don’t mean to offend you about this, but it’s a damn shame your parents didn’t keep you. You’re unique! If you were my kid, I would’ve raved about how you’re my most prized possession. Is it too soon to say that?”
“I honestly think the only thing different about me is my hair and eyes. I’m not talented.”
“Of course you’re talented. You just haven’t gotten the chance to test your hidden talent. Take these goodies and enjoy a nice bath. I’ll grab some clothes for you soon and prepare a meal.” Avender leaves Kiro with the bundle of items and almost skips along into a bedroom. What a weird guy, Kiro says in his mind.
The bathroom is already humid and warm, a wonderland of baby blue tile and a porcelain white bathtub. He faces what appears to be a beautiful miracle and quickly discards his torn and disgusting clothes in order to dive in and enjoy the hot water. The glorious feeling of a real warm bath after months of station showers and rain is incredibly satisfying to Kiro. He could see the weeks of dirt floating away from his pale skin. He squeezes an entire bottle of body wash all over his body, forming thousands of soap bubbles as it comes into contact with the water. He envelops himself within the scent of bubblegum. A grey head of hair becomes pure snow white.
“This is my heaven,” Kiro says aloud, looking around and taking in the humid room. He later drains the tub and switches to a shower, having previously bathed in soap and grime. He would have showered first, but Avender had already prepared the bathtub. Kiro finishes and dries himself with a plush and soft white towel. There is no way possible it is a cheap towel. His wet hair drips continuously as he explores the bathroom with his eyes. The room contains a nautical theme of stripes and anchors. A pink towel is draped over the towel bar. Perhaps it belongs to Avender’s daughter.
“I tried to choose the most unisex garments Lilith owns. We have a pair of sweatpants and a high school sports tee. Hope you don’t mind wearing girls’ underwear,” Avender calls out as he makes his way to the bathroom. He knocks twice and waits for Kiro to welcome him in.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality, Avender. I’m forever in your debt.”
“At least you don’t need a bra! That would’ve been a hassle to find. By the way, I have a rather large proposal to make, but I need to feed you first. Here’s the clothes and come downstairs when you finish! The place is as simple as it gets so don’t get lost in the fireplace or vents!”
“So strange…” Kiro watches Avender exit the bathroom and looks down at the clothes available to him. A pair of NEON pink underwear stands out from the other black garments. NEON PINK. He stares in discomfort, but picks them up and puts them on. The clothes are a perfect fit. The undies, not so much. He debates on whether to return the small boy shorts or wear them like a champ. Assuming they wear girls’ clothing on a whim. Leaving the bathroom called Heaven, Kiro walks downstairs and is instantly face to face with a female who is at least a few inches taller than him. Her eyes widen and her jaw drops.
“DAD?! THERE’S A BOY WEARING MY CLOTHES!!!” She runs off into the kitchen, pulling on Avender’s sweater. “Dad! Look at him, quickly! He has my clothes! What is going on?!”
“That’s Kiro! I forgot the long name he gave me, but he’s our guest. Surely, good girls such as yourself allow boys to wear your clothes, right?”
“I don’t get it. Why is he here?” The girl, who Kiro believes is Lilith, inspects Kiro carefully. The boy feels uncomfortable, wanting to strip out of the clothes and return them to her. “He’s not bad, I’ll give him that. But he needs to put on some weight. No girl is gonna want a weakling.”
“This is Lilith, Kiro! She’s just an honest girl scaring away anything that moves. She will soften up after a while, so no need to be afraid of her.” Avender pats Lilith on her shoulder, causing her to groan in annoyance. Kiro instantly sees a happy family between the two of them. Lilith must be living a wonderful life under Avender’s care.
“Food is ready! I may not be the best chef, but the one thing I can one-hundred-percent do right is parmesan chicken and rice. You need to eat double, Kiro. Lilith’s orders!”
The three begin to enjoy the dinner, chatting away pleasantly in the small townhouse. The winter dinner was one of the most beautiful and warm afternoons ever spent in Kiro’s life. Lilith and Avender are completely lovable! The two relatives fight jokingly and share the most imperfect experiences to Kiro. How desperately he wants a family such as them. He grows envious with every laugh and shout. This could have been his family and him. It could have been something as special as a warm dinner delight. The boy speaks little in comparison to the family of two.
“Hey, little guy,” Lilith calls out and rests a hand on Kiro’s shoulder. “You okay?”
“You two are a great family. I’m jealous.” His red irises meet with the girl’s golden ones. She looks away quickly, facing Avender. There is a spark in her eye, demanding an explanation from her father.
“I should’ve told you sooner, Lily. I met him out on the streets. He was all by himself, not prepared for the cold at all.”
“Oh my god… I’m sorry, Kiro. Are you angry at us?”
“No! It’s not like that. It’s really interesting watching you two.”
“You should give us a facial expression at least! I thought you were upset. So that’s why he’s wearing my clothes… Dad! You should’ve called me!” Lilith lunges her fork at Avender’s direction. He screams in return.
“I don’t like forks! Keep that away! I’m sorry!” He uses his empty plate as a shield, blocking Lilith’s continuous attacks. Kiro laughs quietly, feeling a wonderful comfort from their company.
“So, Kiro,” Lilith stops for a moment and faces him. “Have you ever met your parents? You actually live on the streets?”
“No, and yes.”
“…Man, some details could go a long way, kid.”
“Ah! No, don’t be sorry! Dad, he’s pretty difficult.”
“We can ask those questions later, Lilith. We have to make sure he’s at home and comfortable. I’ll let him use my bedroom while I steal yours, Lilith.”
“You’re taking the couch!”
“DAD!” The angered girl throws her fork at Avender, almost hitting him right on the forehead. The comical duo spring out of their seats and run around the house, chasing after each other. They are perfect, Kiro decides in his head. They are a perfect family.
It takes some time to convince Avender and Lilith to let him sleep on the living room sofa. They cave in after Kiro resists their offer to have him sleep in a bedroom for the tenth time. With the conversation slowing among the new group of three as the night continues, they decide to respectfully retire into their respective rooms one by one.
Kiro is finally able to observe the room peacefully now that Lilith has gone off to bed for the weekday night. Not that he did not like her company; she was wonderfully outrageous and made a great first impression on him. The teen just had too much energy, an aura foreign to Kiro.
Avender is gathering pillows and a blanket for the young one who is curling up tight, having felt a breeze had blown through the living room. The older male searches for the final touch; the electrical cord for the heated blanket wrapped tightly around his hands.
“Now, now, where in the world did I put that cord?” Avender questions aloud, opening a small closet stuffed with what seems to be multiple holiday decorations. “Electric blankets go in the Christmas bedding box, but the cords are nowhere to be found. Unbelievable.”
Kiro turns his way, curious about the father’s loud shuffling. Exclaiming quietly, Avender pulls out a cord from deep within a winter-themed container. He heads over to the sofa where Kiro is curled up on and inserts one end of the cord to the blanket.
“I have two blankets for you, Kiro. This one heats up, so it’ll keep you super warm throughout the night.”
“It’ll actually warm up? Is that why you need that cord?”
“Yes, I plug it into the wall here and it’ll turn on! Pretty neat, isn’t it? I guess you’ve never seen anything like it before. That’s… Rough.”
“There are plenty of things that I’m seeing for the first time. It’s better to learn late than never, right?”
Kiro takes the blanket and passes a hand over its plush fabric. He can feel the heat generated by its electrical components and focuses on the slow waves of warmth brushing against his fingertips and palms. Electric blankets are magical.
“Keeping a positive outlook like that is perfect,” Avender compliments the boy and studies his living room before asking, “Is there anything you wanna learn about in here? Point it out and I’ll try my best!”
“I’ve seen television screens at the busy city district, so I have an idea of what it does… There’s a lot of boxes in the stand right there.”
“Video game consoles! Put in a CD or cartridge and you can play games in them. I can let you try one out in the morning. They’re so much fun.”
“Are they like the demonstrations in game stores? Is that what they do, but in your own home?!”
“Of course! We don’t get the fancy displays, but we surely get the fun experience with them.”
Avender flashes a smile when he notices Kiro staring at the consoles in awe. The boy is serious about his lack of knowledge about the games. Wondering upon the idea of a boy without a console to his name is a heartbreaking thought to Avender. He has nothing at all. Why hasn’t that changed?
“I can see it on your face.” Kiro startles Avender from his pondering moment. “Why would a kid like me not know how to play video games? Why was it the first time I ever heard of a heated blanket?”
“I don’t ask those questions as a means of judging you if that’s what you’re implying. I’m a little upset that you weren’t raised in a proper home. In a way, I guess I was in a similar type of predicament.”
“Were you homeless at one point?”
“Not really, but I didn’t have a place to truly call ‘home’. My mother was a very frustrating woman; She and I never got along with each other. I wasn’t allowed to leave her for so many years, Kiro. So many, it’s a bit upsetting. This month marks two years out of her reach. Isn’t that terrible for an old guy like me? I never got the childhood I deserved and it just seems unfair to watch someone lose their childhood to something out of their control. I guess that’s why I approached you without hesitation. You were the one who needed to stay here and rest comfortably. That, and the weather has been getting worse.” Avender’s lips part as to indicate that he is going to say something more, but he closes them and nods.
“You wanted to add something?” Kiro asks in hope of receiving an answer.
“Out of curiosity, do you happen to have any siblings?”
“Not that I am aware of. I don’t know anything about my family.”
“I should’ve figured that by now. How stupid of me! Sorry, it truly was what I wanted to ask you. Something rubbed me a different way when I met you this morning. All I can say is that I’m thankful for making this decision. You are great company to us both!”
“Thanks for taking care of me today. I didn’t expect this to be such a good change of pace for me. I truly am thankful for this.”
Kiro can not help but feel relief and bliss. Avender and him share a common ground. He may be curious about why the man’s mother kept him for so long, but the way Avender hesitated to provide any information at all indicates his discomfort about the topic. Telling Kiro now must have taken a great effort, one which the boy is proud of him for.
“I gotta let you sleep now, Kiro. Wake up whenever you like! Hopefully, Lilith doesn’t disturb you while she gets ready for school. She can be very, very rowdy in the morning. Oh! And one last thing before I leave.” Avender closes the closet door and heads towards the living room’s light switch. “If anyone knocks on the door, go upstairs, second door to the left.”
The subtle light source of the room shuts off, leaving the two in the dark. Despite being intrigued as to who might knock on the door so late at night, Kiro does not believe it is his business and slowly drifts off into a warm electric slumber.
It does not take long until he is dreaming of a feminine figure in a garden full of lilac. There is no smell, but the flowers are producing a wave of colored gas. It makes the silhouette sway about, its white teeth gnawing away at one of the stems. It falls over and picks itself up, only to fall again.
Kiro tries to ask it if it is okay, but cannot hear anything in the dream. It is quiet and odorless, unlike any other dream he had had before. Surely enough, there had to be sound! At least something for Kiro to listen to without feeling awkward trying to talk to the figure without his own voice.
He begins to feel confused and lost within his own dream until a figure of a large dog swoops in and attacks the fallen figure, jaw open wide far beyond its limit. Kiro finally hears a sound: a loud series of tumbling down the stairwell of Avender’s home. He is awake and in shock.
He jumps out of the warm bundle of blankets and runs off to look for the source of the sound. It is almost like someone fell down the flight of stairs which concerns him. But no, it is only a bookbag sprawled out on the bottom of the stairs. Although upset, Kiro reminds himself that he was warned in advance. Lilith slides into view from the second floor hallway and greets Kiro with an apologetic smile.
“Oh! Hi there, Kiro. Didn’t mean to wake you up like that. Your face is shooting at least fifty daggers my way and I totally understand.”
“Why do you have to be so loud in the morning?”
“OH NO! I really upset you that much? Shoot, I truly am sorry! One second I can make this up for you!”
Lilith JUMPS down the stairs, landing on the third step from the bottom half, making the worst thump possible. If this is what she meant by making it up for him, it is not working. She passes by Kiro and enters the kitchen. If she plans on cooking breakfast, then that will surely be enough for Kiro to forgive her. But she opens the fridge and pulls out a fruit cup and yells at Kiro to come over and eat it. He is an angry and hungry little guest.
“What is with all of the yelling, Lilith?”
“I guess I can tell you, but make sure you don’t tell Dad. Eat this and grab a seat. I have, like, a whole hour until the bus shows up.”
She tosses the cup to Kiro who does not catch it. He most certainly tried his best. Lilith stares at him wide-eyed.
“Nothing! I’ll hand you the spoon. Anyway, Dad used to live with his mom not too long ago. I wanna say I wa, like, seven years old? When I discovered something. He wasn’t allowed to speak or listen to anything at the old house. I wasn’t able to do anything for him at that time because Grandma kept me away from him. She raved about how beautiful I was gonna be when I grew up and how I shouldn’t make the same mistakes that Dad did. I don’t want to explain that part because I don’t know if he’s comfortable with me telling you yet. But with all the bull aside, he lived in complete silence for most of his life.”
She turns on the stove and tosses a pan at the appliance.
“His mother sounds terrible. Why did she keep him like that?”
“Because Grandma’s a lunatic and Avender did something to piss her off to the next dimension. Here’s what’s important though: I noticed how Avender tried to talk to himself whenever it was too quiet at that stupid place. Even now, he’ll chat away whenever I’m busy reading or browsing my phone. So me, being a smart and loving daughter, decided to stomp around and cause a ruckus whenever I was near his room. That way he knows he’s not alone and doesn’t need to talk to himself! Noise is comforting to him, and I wanna make sure that while I’m around him, I can keep him out of the past for as long as possible. It’s been a good couple of years so far, and he’s recovered greatly! So I’m gonna give you some homework for today while I’m gone, okay?”
Lilith leaves the pan unattended while she faces Kiro with a pair of gleaming eyes.
“Keep Dad busy, will ya? He finally has someone to talk to while the two of us are away. He deserves much more than being alone like that. Well, the environment is different now, but one can’t help but remind themselves that they were in a bad spot before. Happens all the time.”
“I’ll try my best. Thank you for telling me. I think he wouldn’t have told me if I asked him last night. He warned me about you being loud in the morning. Now that I know the reason, I can welcome it. Sorry for getting upset earlier. But I have a question.”
“Don’t sweat it! And what’s up?”
“You said, ‘the two of us.’ Someone else lives here?”
“OH SHOOT! I have practice in the morning!!! (Gotta blast!) I’m sorry, Kiro! Wait until I get back, alright?”
“What? How long will that be?” Kiro takes his first bite from the fruit cup. It is a tropical fruit blend inside cherry-flavored gelatin.
“Three in the afternoon! Bye!” She storms off and almost stumbles down to the floor. She tells Kiro to turn the stove off for her and fumbles about with her keys as she makes an uproar of an exit.
The boy slowly stares at the appliance across from him. The small flames dance under the pan. He did not observe Lilith when she turned the stove on, so he starts to ask himself how in the world does that huge cube of an appliance turn off. There are buttons with faded lettering, but they are all pointed to a specific direction except one. He turns the dial one way in hopes that it shuts off, but sees that the flame is getting bigger. He turns it back down and turns it the other way, killing the little flames. Cool, that’s how this thing works. He leaves the pan untouched in fear of burning himself if he tries to touch it.
There is silence in the air, one in which he does not welcome. Does Avender sleep without any noise in the background? Kiro begins to worry and crawls up the stairs, steps too light to make any large amount of sound. The second door to the left has to be Avender’s room, Kiro assumes in his mind. He turns the knob and slowly opens the door, whispering a quiet apology for entering unannounced. The room is filled with subtle chirping and the soft streaming of a water fountain. The source of the sounds is nowhere to be found, but a dormant Avender is smiling and probably dreaming about something beautiful.
To Kiro’s surprise, Avender shows no signs of being disrupted by Lilith’s parade. It amazes the boy as he tiptoes inside the room, looking for a spot to sit on the carpeted flooring. He remembers the faces of people who did not welcome the bustling city music. The soured frowns and loud obnoxious talking that scattered like wildfire throughout the sidewalks. All of the individuals who mumbled empty apologies while bumping into each other with clear irritation, passing by an observant and worried Kiro who knew well they were all strangers that would forget their own shoddy interactions. The magnitude and multitude of sounds was too frustrating for those who wanted to focus on a particular voice.
However, looking at Avender now makes Kiro think that the man would thrive in a loud environment. He believes that the sound of it all would only fill Avender up with a joy far beyond imaginable. It will not be a nuisance; it will be a series of conversations, a society working towards another day of life. Surely enough there has to be a place with the same exact setting, but a more playful and positive atmosphere. Kiro has seen this place on advertisements during his travels, but cannot think of the exact name of it. He will ask Avender when he wakes up. And now he has a topic he can use to fulfill Lilith’s wish regarding her dad!