Kiro must have drifted off while visiting memories of what he saw on the streets. He wakes up on the bedroom’s mattress, reunited with the electric blanket from downstairs. The bird and fountain sounds are coming from a little digital clock on the nightstand to his right. The numbers on the screen read twelve o’clock. The bed itself has a wonderful scent of citrus, the same fragrance that greeted him during his first day at Avender and Lilith’s home. He remembers that there is another person who lives here, one yet to be discovered. He will ask Avender along with the question about the advertisement.
Another smell seeps into the room through the small gaps of the bedroom door. The invigorating smell of food captivates Kiro. He cannot wait to see the delightful meal cooking in the kitchen. He had never eaten so often during his times outside. It is a miracle he almost sheds a tear over. His stomach growls angrily with impatience, and he throws off the blankets once more in order to exit the cozy room.
Immediately to his left is the bathroom, door left open. He is glad he does not have to search for it again. He will admit it is hard to remember which door to go through when he does not pay attention. He cannot get enough of faces and body language. But a building is a building. It does not offer him anything of value. It stands there, tall and sturdy. Superficially, it does not hide any secrets. It does not interact with its environment. It just stands there…
“And people wonder why others draw on them. They need a life, too,” Kiro says aloud, entering the bathroom and looking for a vacant toothbrush to use. There is a small bundle of materials huddled up on a corner of the sink counter. Avender must have left them there for him.
He picks the toothbrush up and pours an unnecessary amount of paste onto the bristles. He spends well over three minutes brushing away, having never been able to properly brush for a long while. The same applies with the rest of the morning routine. He takes more time than usual to shower, feeling refreshed as he dances under the showerhead.
Heaven is a tiny place he wishes to never leave. Full of bubbly fragrances and a joyous, clean experience. The boy can see a hazy, paper-white reflection of himself on the condensation on the bathroom mirror. So pure and white, it shines so much through the droplets of water. It gives him a tiny reason to accept his bizarre appearance. It is beautiful when at its brightest. He tries his best to reorganize the bathroom after his playful session and hurries off downstairs to meet with his host.
Back facing Kiro, Avender works away in the kitchen. The pan Lilith took out earlier is at use, frying thin cuts of breaded chicken into a golden crisp. Avender’s hair is tied up in a large and messy updo that stains the collar of an old shirt. He must be dyeing his hair.
“Hi there,” Kiro mumbles, taking a seat by the dining table. He sees an assortment of vegetables off to the side, cut in intricate shapes and sizes. They all look delicious, these small works of edible art. The older male smiles widely and salutes the young one. His radiance being plentiful and contagious, the corners of Kiro’s lips curve upward.
“Sorry if Lilith woke you up after all. I don’t recall being so noisy for her to pick up such an odd habit. I love it nonetheless, but she should at least respect guests when they’re sleeping. I can’t get her to slow down at all now that I think about it. Haha, what a silly girl.”
“I have some questions I want to ask. Lilith told me something, but she was running late I think.”
“She must have gotten distracted with you here! I shouldn’t be one to talk though. I usually remind her about her morning practice, but we both got fascinated by your presence. We rarely get visitors is all… Go ahead and ask. I won’t bite.” Avender jokingly takes a star shaped slice of cucumber and bites off a corner of it. Kiro shakes his head and tries to hold back a small laugh. The father picks up a different slice of the vegetable and hands it over to Kiro who accepts it.
“She mentioned that there is someone else who lives here. Is it her mother? Does she always work? Or who are they and what do they do?” He eats the piece of cucumber quickly, unable to satisfy his hunger.
“I can’t help but feel a little bit embarrassed for not mentioning sooner. We do have a special someone who works hard for us. My husband travels for his work, and he will be returning next week. I could beg you to stay until he gets home, but I’m not sure if you have any plans on what to do next. At least stay here until winter is over. I don’t want to think about you going back out into the cold!”
“A husband? And you’re his… Husband, too?”
“I only wish for your understanding! I know you’re very young, but perhaps people out there give you the black and white definition of the world and how it works. Surprisingly enough, there is more than a girl liking a guy, you know?” Avender’s cheeks are a soft shade of peach as he tries to find a way to explain the situation. “I found my love in the form of another man. It is no longer uncommon, but there is still a bit of drawback from the rest of the community.”
“What’s his name?” Kiro kicks his feet about, unable to completely touch the floor with them while on the dining room chair.
Avender is shocked to see the boy’s face full of curiosity. He sighs anxiously and responds to the boy, “His name is Kaname. We’ve known each other for ten years which I truly can’t believe considering the first eight were hell.” The light of his grin flickers for an instance. However, it beams back to life once he says, “But he loved me through it all, and I’m glad we can finally live in peace.”
Kiro repeats the name in his head. Kaname. Kaname. The man brings Avender joy and a reason to live through the chaos his mother had put him through. The working spirit is a hero. “He sounds like a beautiful person.”
“By God, he truly is. We talked about him being away for so long. I’m already used to it, but he wants to be able to stay home. I would tell him to continue working hard, but I seriously can’t wait for the day where he will return home and stay for the rest of our lives.”
“Do you have a job?”
“Not at all. I get too anxious during the interviews. And I never really had a job before! Pretty shocking for an old guy like me, I know. But it’s scary. For me. There is a lot in my life that is better left unsaid. It will ruin the present, and I want to keep making happy memories! Especially with you, Kiro. You’re my special guest and we should only think about the good times of now.”
“By the way, what are the places that get advertised a lot that are fun for people and their families to go to? The ones that are noisy and full of children and characters?”
Avender tells Kiro that they are amusement parks. Not only do the parks have rides and special events, but there is also plenty of food, games, and merchandise that people enjoy purchasing. It is expensive, but visitors are provided the greatest time of their lives. Avender states they have never been to one before, but he insists it would be a wonderful experience for the family.
He offers asking Kaname to take them all to one if Kiro stays long enough. The boy would love to go but begins to question whether he truly has a say on whether he would stay or not. This is not his home in any way, but Avender values his opinion as if he truly did live there. For that, he is thankful for the gentleman. Thankful that he is giving him so many options and opportunities that nobody has given him before.
The man continues to describe the different kinds of parks, but his voice is drowning under the wave of thoughts that enter Kiro’s mind. He has a chance to stay with the three of them. All he has to do is say yes. One word can change his life forever. He will no longer roam the streets as a poor boy in search for something permanent. This is the moment he truly is waiting for. However, there is hesitation in his heart. Something preventing him from accepting this brilliant invitation. He asks if he can think it over some more during the rest of the day which Avender accepts and suggests to take his time.
“I feel like I’m gonna keep asking myself if I want to stay. The question keeps ringing loudly in my head right now. It shows no signs of stopping,” Kiro whispers to himself. Avender takes notice and later proposes that if he cannot decide now, he can always allow Avender and Kaname to decide for him. Kiro keeps it in his thoughts. It begins to repeat itself along with his previous question. They blend in an awkward formation that ceases to make any sense.
It is late at night and the three are watching Christmas films. Families enjoying an enormous feast, fruit cake, misadventures, and Santa Claus. All of the holiday splendor that is supposed to be enjoyed every year. Kiro enjoys the idea of a happy holiday. But Christmas is twenty days away. Avender expressed the joy he would feel if Kiro accepted his invitation. He does not know whether Lilith is okay with letting him stay. She is a closed book to Kiro. One that cannot seem to open no matter how hard you tried to pull the cover. He looks at the two who are glued to the television screen. Perhaps they will both accept! Why would they decline? Avender invited him in without hesitation; clearly they would let him stay? And let’s not forget about Kaname who will be here next week. He must be the deciding factor after all. With both parents in acknowledgement, Lilith may accept as well. It is all a blur of outcomes Kiro continues to worry about. He almost forgets that they are all together by the end of the film.
“This movie was trash! So cliche.” Lilith yawns. She reaches for the television remote sitting on the table counter and turns the monitor off. She jumps up from the beige couch and aims the remote at Avender.
“It’s way too late to be throwing things, Lily! Put that down! Gosh.”
“Who’s sleeping where tonight, Dad?” she asks, crossing her arms and pouting like a fussy toddler. “We shouldn’t leave Kiro in the living room. He needs a good bed to sleep on and I don’t wanna wake him up again! Poor guy was gonna beat me up.”
“Look at you, Ms. Hospitality! Why don’t you let him use your bedroom because you’re wonderful and kind like that?”
“Know what? Maybe I will — NOT! My room is a private sanctuary, okay. No boys allowed. Sorry, Kiro.”
“Um, no, it’s not. Kiro’s sleeping with you tonight, and it’s final, am I clear?”
“Says the one with the king-sized bed! Kiro won’t bite. Right, kid?” Lilith places the remote back in its place and grabs Kiro’s hand. She drags him away in a hurry, running up the stairs so fast poor Kiro almost trips on one of the steps. They make it to Avender’s room, a cozy master bedroom familiar to Kiro. He can hear a new loop of sound: a recording of a musical instrument playing a harmonious tune during a busy evening at the train station. He can hear announcements of departures and arrivals. The auditory friction of trains and their brakes does not overpower the sound of the instrument
Lilith closes the door and turns the lock. “We can both sleep here. Dad won’t mind sleeping in a girly room… In a way. Haha.”
“Are you sure this is okay?” Kiro asks, slightly short on breath. “I could sleep in the living room again. I wouldn’t mind.”
“No, you need a bed. Consider it my treat. Now, c’mon, I’m really tired.” Lilith dives right onto the bed, taking a minute to feel herself sink into the memory foam. Kiro follows her, but slides on, taking over the opposite side.
“Goodnight, troublemakers!” Avender yells from outside of the room. He seems to know the deal already and leaves to Lilith’s room.
“Before you sleep, Kiro, what’s it like being out on the streets?” The two face each other, examining their features closely.
“It’s the opposite of this. You have everything now. Imagine having nothing.”
“I would freak out if I lost all of my stuff.”
“This life is beautiful. Being able to own things. To have a place of your own. To be loved by someone.”
“You can stay here. I’m sure you can. It’ll be the four of us. You’ll get to see him if you stick around long enough. Just the thought of Dad coming home from work is too much to bear!”
“Avender told me about him. He really can’t wait either. It’s like this man is everything to him.”
“They’re seriously the best, Kiro. When Kaname returns home, the house brightens up so much. Avender adores his puppy more than he likes me! Haha! That’s a lie of course. You can never put someone ahead of your own child, ya know.”
“Are you adopted, Lilith? I’ve been meaning to ask…” In truth, the thought occurred to him now. He has been too busy worrying about his own troubles that the concept of Lilith being the daughter of two men flew past his head.
“Uhh… Not quite! It’s a bit of a weird story, and I’m not comfortable telling it yet. Next time?”
“Keep telling me about yourself.” Lilith scavenges the bed for a plush blanket big enough for the two of them. She tosses it up and covers Kiro with the blanket along with her. “Did you ever like being out there all alone?” Her eyes refuse to leave Kiro’s hair. How can he have dyed hair and survive the streets? She thinks to herself that he might truly be a scam.
“The only thing I liked about the streets is the freedom. You don’t have to pay for anything, you don’t have people telling you how to live your life. It’s a small bubble of a world that I live in, but it was comfortable once you got used to it,” Kiro notices her stare and passes a hand through his hair. “I was born with this hair color… And the eyes. Strange, isn’t it?”
“It’s not dyed?”
“No. I can’t afford that. You know that already.”
“Oh, sorry. I seriously thought it was dyed. Well, um, I’m sure you’ve never been in a relationship either, right?” Lilith looks away while she asks, silently weighing her own question. Kiro raises a brow, curling up as he feels a bit cold. He says no. A relationship is impossible for a person on the streets. It is one of the reasons people are left to survive on scraps and left to beg for their meals. She apologizes immediately. “You keep everyone in mind when you talk.”
“I’m still trying to find myself. I have no choice.”
“Of course you do. Be selfish, act reckless. You learn about yourself once you’ve taken risks and learned from them. I can help you out… If I have your permission.” Lilith shifts her way closer to Kiro, close enough their noses almost touch. The boy stares at her with cold red eyes, not understanding her motive. She is surprised by his lack of reaction and squints curiously. “So. Do you like girls?”
“I’m assuming I’m supposed to like the opposite gender?”
“Oh my God! I can’t believe this!” She snickers to herself, cheeks flushed pink with a wide smile. “Kiro, you’re such an uke! I have my very own uke boy! I can’t wait to tweet this.” She jumps out of the blanket and lets out a victorious yell. “That is so adorable!”
“Oh my, I have to fill you in on EVERYTHING, don’t I? I’m working with a blank canvas, and I’m so going to color you with the most beautiful shades. You’re gonna thank me later.” She crawls back onto the bed and prepares to lecture Kiro. She pulls out her phone and explains what she means by uke. “You’re a guy who plays the female role in a two-man relationship. Usually the smaller, more feminine boy who is sometimes insecure, discovering his sexuality, SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Oh man, I saw you jump a little when I mentioned Kaname. Can it be? Do you like my dad?! Avender, I mean.”
“You’re jumping to conclusions, Lilith. All of this is new to me… I’ve never tried these things, so I can’t take a side on it. I don’t think it’s okay to make me a love interest between an already developed relationship…” He feels slightly embarrassed by her outburst. Liking a man who merely took him in after watching him sit around in the winter air. Liking a man who let him in his home, helped him prepare a bath and fed him? Of course not! He thought for a moment. It is not possible. It could not be. Right?
“I’m so sorry. What the heck am I thinking. These are your parents, Lilith…”
She takes a minute to dwell on what she says and shakes her head. “Shoot, I really shouldn’t have said that. That’s disrespectful of me! I mean, I would keep telling you about it, but I don’t want to creep you out more than you probably are. I have school tomorrow, so I should shut up and let us sleep.” She takes a deep breath and lies down, laughing a little. “I was so worked up for what? You’re a brick wall, Kiro. Goodnight.” She faces the opposite direction, hiding a face of sudden disappointment.
“I’ll get the light,” Kiro whispers as he crawls out and quickly turns off the room light. He is already cold again when he slides back under the blanket. “Goodnight.” A nervousness consumes his body. He is left to ponder about his feelings toward Avender. There should not be anything. Only a friendly vibration. But it is something more and it worries Kiro.
It applies to everyone. Why is a person more appealing when they already have a lover? Their features are more prominent; their charisma beams out of their smiles. They are happy with their significant other. Do you not want to ruin it? Do you not want to ruin their happiness and feed your own selfish desires? That lucky person does not deserve such an amazing human being. They should be yours for the taking. In the end, it is merely a competition. Who will win his or her heart? Who will he or she side with? Their current lover? Or you? The you who slithered into their lives and bites the man or woman with your honed fangs, injecting your venom to make them fall in love with you, which will ruin that significant other’s life and steal away their prize. You live for their pain. You live for your desire.
Kiro has never met Kaname, but he believes the man must be a beautiful person. He makes Avender’s day with his mere existence. He is a hard worker, constantly working in order to maintain his happy family. Kaname is lucky enough to have Avender. He is a kind individual. He unconditionally took Kiro in. He saved him from another cold night alone in the outskirts of this frozen town. Why does Avender have a lover? Why is he not alone? The boy is facing a hideous reality that he refuses to accept. Tomorrow has a sense of immense uncertainty that he is not prepared to face. As Kiro tries to sleep, he cannot help but feel a tingling sensation in his teeth. He covers his mouth and curls up tight. He fights the feeling that maybe he is growing his own pair of fangs.