Before The Weather Changes.
The streets were cold and unforgiving, like the harsh weather. Swept clean of the chatter and liveliness and left with a wisp of color from the rotting produce in the seldom busy stands. The city was drained from the depression, and bitter with regret. Newly bought cars buried in the freshly fallen snow, hiding from the bleak reality that, they were the knife that cut through the people’s paychecks. The market crash had been hard and the lavish vehicles were a cringing reminder of the good times that had fed the residents unquenchable vain. Now the sad souls were left broken and scattered, much like the town. Queens was home, the streets of Astoria were favored by Alek. Now the smoke in the air left a disagreeable taste in his mouth. He couldn’t look at the scenery of his adopted land without shuttering and closing his eyes, hoping to open them and see the breathtaking place he had found only years ago. The great economical fall stole the country like a thief. The land of opportunity was now in drought.
His family had ventured from Armenia when America had promised a better life. His mother, father, and sister had given everything and were left with less than they had started with. His mother’s eyes once filled with light were now dimed, and tired from the strenuous work she and Petros, Alek’s father, did to put food on the table. The depression had caught the laugh from Kami’s mouth, and had hardened Petros’ heart. Alek couldn’t fathom the idea of a full belly anymore, or how a good day felt. He walked through the emotional desert of Astoria with a chip on his shoulder and a grim face. Very little had made him smile, and what had was gone. His problems started when the sun rose, the rays of light burning through his dreams and set his world on fire. He dragged on, life pulling him like a sled. So hard to keep from catching in the snow, which fell harder.
The Movsesyans lived above their once thriving business, which was a carpenter shop. Alek worked with his father. His mother and sister worked for a seamstress, while he earned extra money from a paper press. Only working for cents on the hour. His sister, Vera, came home with her finger tips bleeding. Her young face still held hope, though her fourteen-year-old body had problems that usually was associated with women in their older years. Vera had dark shadows over baring her light grey eyes, darkening her fair skin along with the patches of dirt from sleeping on the floor of the family’s one-bedroom loft. Alek, though only four years her senior held many health problems as well. He rested with his back screaming from the work of cutting wood in the previous hours. Alek abhorred his occupation and the situation in general. He wanted to go to a university and learn, but with his lack of English and hard headed father, he never had the chance before the crash. Petros didn’t want the American dream, but Alek had convinced him and gathered the money for the journey. Petros never went a day without reminding Alek how wrong he had been. The regretted choice was the spark to all of Petros and Alek’s disputes.
“That’s all?” Petros questioned, his dark hard eyes pointing towards the meager amount of money Alek had brought home. It was only ten cents. Alek nodded, his dirty hair falling in front of his expressionless gaze. He let it, too afraid to move. Alek saw his father shake his head through the shaded view. Petros cracked his knuckles, the anger boiling in the pit of his vacant stomach. Kami comprehended what her husband’s movements indicated to and tried to calm him in a taciturn nature. Her worn body unable to do much than wave her hand. She called Petros' name with a soft warning. Alek looked at the dusty floor, wishing he could crawl into the cracks.
“This is his fault!” Petros accused, his sharp voice jabbing through Alek like a bullet. Petros said this quite often but the words were always filled with more venom than the last. Alek glanced over to his mother, his eyes pleading for her grace. Kami looked at her son with pity, and held out her hand for the boy. Her young face held a grimace from the movement. Alek stepped closer to her bony, stained hand and found two nickels. She whispered for him to gather the money and to go buy food while Petros relieved his frustrations. Alek nodded and quickly left the small dwelling holding his breath. Every creek of his unnerving steps acknowledged his presence more than his faded personality could. Once the wind hit his face with a stinging slap he exhaled, producing a cloud from where his warm breath met the latter climate. He shivered as he walked, his tattered trousers and coat clinging to his body, but still did not create enough warmth. He cursed his quick growth. He now wore his father’s clothes, since the clothes he had brought now were too small. His body wasn’t skinny like his mother’s or sister’s, but muscular from cutting wood and carrying heavy items. He was sure under any other circumstance he would be proud but it caused more problems to enjoy. He was sure there was a lot he could be proud of if he had the hour in a day to contemplate his worth. His handsome looks which mirrored his father’s, or his disappearing humor. None of that matter now. If it wasn’t useful work wise, the thoughts of it were abandoned.
He stopped in front of a food store, squinting at a faded sign that hung from the nicely polished door handle, trying to understand the word. He had learned more English since his departure from Armenia but he still mixed up words, and had trouble reading. His belly growled as he walked through the door. The bell ringed as he looked around for cheap produce. The small store wasn’t one he had seen before but he still only took seconds to navigate his way through it. He focused in on some bruised apples, when a taller figure approached him. The other person looked at Alek with a bright smile that shined like a candle in darkness.
“Hello.” The other boy said, his accent harsh but his tone soothing. The boy looked slightly older than Alek, with illuminant blue eyes and crow colored hair. The Turk resembled an Angle. The innocent look in his eyes and untouched face, confused Alek. What could the boy have to be happy about? Alek simply nodded and grabbed three apples. He moved to the table which stood in the middle of the unperturbed room. The store was a breath of fresh air. The colorful fruit danced like lights throughout it and the smell brought ease to the anguish of Alek’s hunger pains. Alek placed the fruits on the table and The Turk looked over them with a charming interest. Alek combed through his thick blonde hair as he waited. He suddenly felt troubled. His father had told him about the Turks, and how horrible they were. Alek had never met any, and the blue-eyed one that worked the store looked nothing like a monster. Everything about the other boy made Alek feel happy, the unconditional smile and beautiful looks were something new. The other boy turned his head up against his leaning position, staring at Alek through his dark eyelashes.
“Free.” The Turk decided as he gazed at Alek. Alek furrowed his eyebrows, sure he had heard wrong. Nothing was free. A small laugh left the other boy, displaying he slightly crooked teeth. The blue eyed boy walked over to Alek and handed him the apples with the same smile he sported throughout the interaction. The boy was close enough for Alek to be able to smell his sugary scent, making the Armenian embarrassed about the foul smell he bared. Alek stuttered out a ‘thank you’ and left without a second glance. Nothing about the boy met his father’s description. He had gotten free food, which didn’t matter now since Alek was sure his father wouldn’t let anyone touch the apples if he knew who had provided them. Alek decided he wouldn’t tell him.
Alek wasn’t old enough to know from experience about the dark days, as Petros had referred the horrible events, and only understood what his father had told him. Around the time Alek was born, the Armenian genocide occurred. The Armenian genocide, also known as the Armenian holocaust, had been the end of many Armenian lives including Petros and Kami’s parents. The Turkish government had ordered the slaughter thousands, had caused scars in the hearts of Armenians that would never be healed and a hatred that would never be resolved. Petros had lost his father at the age of Twenty-three and Kami only four years younger. Alek didn’t remember the horrors but Petros made sure they were known. The Movsesyans family would never be tainted by the hands of a Turk as long as Petros could help it. Too much was lost for forgiveness.
Alek spent the rest of the week like normal, but the Armenian couldn’t stop wondering about the blue-eyed Turk. Though their interaction was trivial, something kept Alek’s attention on the matter. He couldn’t decipher whether it was the mystery or the beauty of the Turk that captivated him more. Alek wished that he lived in another world. One, where he could have time to get to know the stranger, to understand him better. The thoughts were the first thing in years that brought a smile to the Armenians face.
“What are you smiling for?” His father grumbled as he carved a small coffin. Alek instantly stopped and shook his head, in hopes to clear his mind. His father mustn’t know. Alek whispered out a ‘nothing’ and returned back to his work, disclosing the conversation. Alek huffed at his relationship with his father. It always confused Alek how, a father goes months without speaking to his son. Alek snapped his head over to his father when he heard a gruff cough escape the older man. Petros waved away his son’s concern as he continued to cough. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but they were in a new land with little to no money. They couldn’t afford sickness. Alek’s heart skipped a beat as a small amount of blood drizzled down Petros’ chin. The older man wiped it away and sighed, returning to work. Alek stared at his father for a while before doing the same. The cold air was unforgiving, leaving no time to stop and smell the roses.
The weeks passed slowly and agonizing, especially since Alek could not find the other boy. Alek needed him, his smile and happy energy. His father had fallen ill, and from what Alek and his family could tell, there could be cure. The father wheezed and groaned through the night and burned a fever with chest pains during the day. The once strong, hard-head man was now wilting into a shell of his former self. He no longer talked, and never did Kami, Alek, or Vera. The family was silent, and all you could heard now was the sound of the wind howling, reminding the family that the world moved with or without you.
The sunlight shredded through the thin curtains and into the Movsesyans' loft. Kami woke first, as she always did. She crawled over to tend to her husband and gasped as she touched his cold hand. Her eyes fixed on the lifelessness in her husband's eyes, she screamed as if she had stabbed through the chest. Her body crumbled over her husband as she cried out for him. Her children, Vera and Alek, soon woke as well to their mother’s shrieking. Alek didn’t understand what had happened until he opened his eyes and found his mother shaking like she was experiencing a seizure. He choked on a cry as the tears pooled in his eyes. He silently cried into his knees, rocking himself like a child as he wept. His sister huddled next to his mother as she mourned loudly.
“Petros! Why have I lost you, my love?” Kami cried out, sending another wave of emotion through the family. Alek stood, refusing to glance at his father’s lifeless body. He stormed down the stairs and out of the small building, feeling his tears freeze on his cheeks. He ran to the nearest bench and sat. He looked at the wretched town, which had ended his father. It was his fault.
“Hello.” Alek heard someone say, and turned to find the Turk sitting next to him. His mouth fell open, unable to produce words.
“Are you okay?” The Turk asked and Alek lost his composure. His body fell into the other boy’s embrace. The other boy’s warm body and sweet scent soothing him through his tears. The salty water wetting the Turk’s coat along with the snot that had embarrassedly left Alek’s nose. Alek spent no time processing that he was falling to pieces in the presence of a stranger. Turk didn’t mind, he petted Alek’s head in attempt to soothe the boy. The minutes past and so didn’t other people, taking no time to stop and question the two boys on the bench. For Alek, time had stopped. For everyone else, it was still hassling them through their day. Alek soon dried his tears, but still didn’t break his embrace with his angle.
“I think… I know that will cheer you up.” The Turk whispered into the Alek’s ear. Alek sat up, his body dizzy from the position he had taken for such a long time. He looked into the Turk’s eyes, and the blue orbs dazzled like diamonds with mischief. Alek rubbed his arm under his nose, at an attempt to tidy himself, and stood. His body felt cold standing by itself, unmoving. How there can be a place so cold any movement saves you.
“What is your name?” Alek asked, as the other boy joined his side.
“Cenk.” The boy said with a proud grin on his face. Cenk started moving and Alek scattered his movement to keep up.
Cenk seemed to be one step ahead, no matter how hard Alek tried to keep up, and from the unintelligible expression the Turk wore, Cenk must’ve not known. Alek finally got close enough to grab the other boy’s hand, to steady himself and keep up with the fast boy. Cenk grinned with a light in his eyes as he looked at the two boys’ hands clasped together. They continued walking to wherever Cenk was leading, their hands transporting whatever heat their bodies had left to one another.
Cenk stopped in front of a hill topped with snow. The curves dominated the frozen land, and intimidated the people who look at it. Cenk withdrew his hand from Alek’s and walked over to a trash can, taking its lid. He took his bright green scarf off and tied it around the hand from both sides. Alek stood and watched with confusion at the contraption Cenk was brewing. Cenk slapped his hands together and looked at Alek for approval. Alek slowly nodded, but didn’t know what the thing was.
“It’s a sled… more or less. Oh, I forgot to ask. What is your name?” Cenk finally said once he registered Alek’s confusion.
“Alek.” The Armenian responded, and Cenk stepped closer to the other boy. Close enough for Alek to see the great detail in the Turks sooth, dough like skin. It was soft, slightly flushed from the weather, and had slight dips in it from where his dimples are when he flashes his warming smile. Perfection. Cenk complimented Alek’s name and nodded his head toward the hill. Alek’s eyes widened as he and Cenk started to go up. He didn’t dally, or question Cenk. He wanted to do something for himself, before the weather changes.
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