Chapter 34: Some Kind of Comfort, Part I

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 455

A moment after Zidane had turned and disappeared behind the nearest building's corner, Lance sensed the man fade out of the memory as well. He didn't turn and look to see; his focus was turning inwards. Moving both hands through his hair, Lance found himself wondering when any of this was going to get better. A snippet of a song came to him; a cliché of how it's always darkest just before the dawn.

Yeah, he answered, but when's the dawn gonna show up? It's like the second hand stopped a minute 'til sunrise.

Sensing the scene had changed, Lance opened his eyes, hands dropping down and finding warmth in the pockets of his hoodie. He looked at that window again, realizing with a little surprise that he was outside now, standing in the snow-covered side yard.

Zidane faded in, sitting below the window with plastic bags around him. Despite the snow, despite the temperature, Lance didn't see any change in Zidane's clothing aside from a thin jacket. Discomfort wormed its way into Lance's stomach as he thought of the warmth his own jacket was giving him—or the warmth his mind was perceiving him to have. Either way, Lance found himself wishing he could take his jacket off and put it over Zidane's shoulders.

But even then... It wouldn't change anything.

He looked up at the sound of pans rustling. Lance stepped forward, trying to see into the window and find the source of the noise. Zidane stood up, turning around and peering into the window. Lance suddenly stood behind him, the view of the kitchen capturing his focus.

More people were in the room this time. A woman in her late twenties was opening the oven and drawing out cookies. Aside from the smile on her face, she seemed oblivious to the two younger adults flicking bits of dough at each other on the opposite side of the kitchen.

A man moved in front of the window, the glass muting his words. He was happy about whatever he was saying; the grin on his face told Lance that much. Taking her oven mitts off, Lance saw the older woman at the oven give a reply. Both of their laughter reached through the window in muffled sound.

The man turned his attention fully to the sink, beginning to run the faucet and soap up his hands when his stare stopped on Zidane. He looked alarmed, frightened even, but the emotions quickly melded into words of action.

He turned, calling over his shoulder. These words were ones Lance could hear. "Hey, someone get Kazuo; we got a kid outside."

"What?" the woman's voice was quieter than his as she hurried over, wiping her hands with a towel.

Her fingers rose to her mouth in a silent gasp and when she spoke, Lance was surprised her voice reached through the window so clearly. "That's not one of ours."

One of the younger adults, who Lance now realized had left earlier to fetch the old man, came running into the kitchen.

"He's comin'," the man said, seeming out of breath. "He asked that Amit go outside and try to get him, but—wait, does the kid have blonde hair?"

The older man glanced back. "Yeah."

"Then he said to take caution in approaching him."

The man at the sink—Amit—nodded in return, taking the towel the woman handed him as he passed by. Wiping the soap from his hands and tossing the towel into the waiting hands of the younger man, Amit opened the kitchen door only to take an immediate step back.

He moved back further, holding the door open. The old man from before entered, seeming more reliant on his cane than ever. He hobbled into the kitchen, Amit's hand hovering close to his shoulder. Lance saw a smile on the man's face, watched as he turned to the younger man.

"You know it's just the weather wearing me down," he said, seeming to be repeating an inside joke. "I'm not that old yet."

Amit just smiled, the slight crinkle in his eyes dropping away as he looked back to the window.

"I'll go get the kid," he said, disappearing through the kitchen door.

Lance's attention turned back towards the old man, figuring this was Kazuo. Even though only a few months had passed at the most, Kazuo's body had gotten worse. With small movements that greatly depended on his cane, he moved further into the kitchen, the other three shuffling behind him. It was here where the kitchen's silence was broken by voices.

"Jared said you alluded to kid being dangerous?"

"Kinda looks like it..."

"Jared." Kazuo's voice was short, a polite reminder. To the first question, the one spoken by the older woman, he answered as they finished their walk to the window. Zidane moved downwards, almost as if wanting to hide. Lance felt the caution spike into him.

"He's not dangerous. Just hurting."

"From what?"

Lance looked down at Zidane again as the seconds stretched on between her question and Kazuo's answer. There was a looming pressure in Lance's heart; a secondhand knowing of what that pain was.

"An amount of pain too harsh for someone so young."

Footsteps pressed into the snow and Lance looked to his left. Amit stopped walking, gloved hands cupped to his mouth for warmth.

"Don't have all day to stand out here, kid," he said more to himself. Rubbing his hands together, he looked back towards Zidane. His hand went into the pocket of his coat, drawing out something too thin for Lance to see. A bright red dot appeared on the snow a few feet away. Amit gave a quick whistle, moving the dot further away. "C'mon..."

When Zidane didn't move, Lance looked up to see Amit shrugging, returning the laser pointer to his pocket. "Ah, it was worth a shot, I guess."

From the corner of his eye, Lance noticed Kazuo becoming irritated for the first time. The annoyance was soft; only a light meeting of his eyebrows. His expression was paired with a laugh from the younger adult, Jared.

"Aw, come on. He needs to stop playing with that. The kid could be going into hypothermia by now."

Amit was moving forward now, crouched down low with his arms extended outwards. It looked like both an awkward and uncomfortable position to be in, especially when Zidane took a step back and Amit's steps slowed to a crawl, eventually stopping completely.

He remained almost three arm's lengths away; he didn't speak and Zidane didn't move. Lance looked back to the window, glancing long enough to see the sadness touching Kazuo's expression. A hint of desperation, even?

When he took his attention away and brought it back to the scene in front of him, it was Zidane's turn to look into the window. He met Kazuo's eyes while standing on the balls of his feet. The old man held his stare, those deep eyes reflecting a wisdom that pulled Lance into a strange peaceful state. A feeling that went into his chest, emptying it while making it comfortably whole at the exact same time. A paradox, a beautiful mix of confliction.

The feeling swept away with an involuntary breath outward. Lance watched Zidane's focus drop down to the bags around him. He placed the duffel's strap across his chest and against his shoulder, reaching down to pick up the plastic bags. Lance saw the redness on his fingers, the flecks of skin peeling from the cold. The crossbreed rose on his feet and then bent his knees as he brought himself down, an odd motion Lance didn't have enough time to question. Zidane took off faster than he expected, starting down the sidewalk nearby, small clumps of snow dropping to the ground below.

Why even go? Lance asked after his departure. Why did you stay there just to run again?

"I needed to know they wanted me there."

Lance stayed quiet, wondering if Zidane ended up with these people, found a home here. And even if he did, how could he get away from Arzo? A rough, deep chill invaded his blood as he thought of the beating.

What would he do... How much worse would it be if he found out?

Submitted: November 30, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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