Chapter 22:

“You Can Stay with Me”

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That voice… Why is he here?Bookmark here

I slowly turned my head to face his voice. I was right… It was Ren Morales. Again, why is he here?Bookmark here

I got up and turned my back to him. I didn’t feel like acting overly sweet with him — knowing him, why should I?Bookmark here

I sighed and spoke in a fatigued tone.Bookmark here

“Hello, Mr Morales.”Bookmark here

“Camryn…”Bookmark here

There was silence between us. Bookmark here

Do you not have anything to say, or are you thinking of what to say? If so, what are you thinking? Since he isn’t speaking, I guess I should. I sighed.Bookmark here

“So, Mr Morales, how did you find me?”Bookmark here

“Well, you left about thirty minutes ago, right?”Bookmark here

I was surprised.Bookmark here

“What? How did you know?”Bookmark here

“You did not know this, but the pen that you used to write that note was broken — it uses too much ink and causes writing to dry slower. The ink on the note was still a little wet.”Bookmark here

Oh, I didn’t notice that when I wrote that note.Bookmark here

“When I checked the ink, I guessed that you wrote that note about fifteen minutes ago, and taking into account the time it takes for someone to ride the elevator to the bottom and the potential traffic of people, you could not have been too far. I decided to look for you in this direction because I did not see you on my walk back to my condo.”Bookmark here

The corners of my lips slightly raised.Bookmark here

“Wow Mr Morales, you’re just as smart as always, huh?”Bookmark here

I turned around and started to walk past him. I didn’t notice, but he walked closer to me. Bookmark here

“You said you saw my note, right? Well, see ya, and thanks for everything.”Bookmark here

Yeah, this is the right decision. Being in that place will only serve to dull me, but that isn’t the only reason why I’m leaving — what purpose do I have there?Bookmark here

“Wait Camryn.”Bookmark here

I stopped walking when Mr Morales called out to me again. That was unexpected.Bookmark here

“I have come to retrieve you.”Bookmark here

Retrieve? What the hell does that mean?Bookmark here

“What? Retrieve?”Bookmark here

“Oh, to regain possession or get some-”Bookmark here

“Shut up, I know what it means! I mean why? You’ve come to retrieve me, but why!?”Bookmark here

“Well, life on the streets is not really safe for someone your age. I-”Bookmark here

“Shut up!”Bookmark here

I was yelling at Mr Morales. It was clear that I was angry… Or was it?Bookmark here

“Are you underestimating me!? Are you making fun of me!? Well, stop! I guess I never told you this, but six months — yeah, I’ve been living a life like this for six months! I’ve slept in alleyways for six months. I’ve slept in the harshest conditions for six months. I’ve been walking everywhere for six months. I lived with barely any food or water for six months. I trained to become the strongest and most resistant version of myself. I don’t want to hear any more of your doubts about me, so just leave me alone!”Bookmark here

My tantrum left me breathing heavily.Bookmark here

He understands what I’m saying, right? No one likes it when they’re feeling underestimated to some degree. But… I think it’s different for me. To be honest, I don’t care if I’m undervalued. I just… need to be left alone.Bookmark here

I continued to walk away, but I was stopped when Mr Morales called out to me again.Bookmark here

“C-Camryn? Um, I am sorry if that is how I am making you feel, but I had no intention of making you feel that way? I just… really think that your situation is dangerous. Um… S-Sorry, but I do not think you understand what you are doing.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

Mr Morales seemed to be a bit nervous.Bookmark here

“You do not want me to underestimate your skill, right? You think that since I am suggesting that you should stay with me, I am saying that you are weak, right? Well, I cannot say anything about your skill — you mentioned that you lived like this for six months, and because of that, I do not doubt that you are strong. However… um… I think this is wrong.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Since you are young, you should not use your skill in this way. Living on the streets I mean. It does not matter that you have the power to overcome any adversity, it is just wrong — sorry, I know I cannot explain it well. I guess, if you can do something, it does not necessarily mean you should.Bookmark here

That was a really lame explanation. But, I kinda understand what he’s saying. I also understand that he won't let up.Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

“Okay, I guess that makes sense…”Bookmark here

“So does that mean-”Bookmark here

“Hell no — it does not mean I’ll come back!”Bookmark here

I felt my voice become softer; almost sad sounding. I guess I’ll have to talk about this if I want him to back off.Bookmark here

“Beside… what do you even need me for?”Bookmark here

“Pardon?”Bookmark here

I clenched my teeth and raised my voice.Bookmark here

“Hey Mr Morales, do you remember what happened on that night when we first met? I was clearly seducing you! And do you know what happened? You were apathetic — you didn’t care! If I’m willing to do anything for you, you could’ve made me do anything. But no, you didn’t. Honestly, I don’t care that you didn’t. But since you weren’t, why was I there? That’s right, no reason! I was just a tool that had no use. I was just being a nuisance for being there, so I should just be discarded!”Bookmark here

“Um…”Bookmark here

“Nothing in this world is free — I know the truth all too well. And I am being torn apart!”Bookmark here

My finger curled into fists. As I spilled my feelings, I could feel tears flow from my eyes. Mr Morales might not be able to see, but I think he could tell from the sound of my voice.Bookmark here

“You heard me, right!? I was just a tool with no use! I’m a plaything — a toy — a knick-knack — a trinket, but if I’m not used correctly, I’m useless… pointless… worthless — I’m just a waste of space. That kiss I gave you was my last attempt to validate myself, but nothing came from it. I tried to wait until you came home to try again, but the shame slowly kept growing and it was too much for me!”Bookmark here

My hands moved to cover my temples.Bookmark here

“You don’t care so I don’t know why I’m saying this, but I’m being suffocated by my guilt… I don’t want this! You give me a place to stay, a warm shower, food, and an awesome view of the city, but I can’t give anything in return!”Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

“Gah, I shouldn’t have said that.”Bookmark here

“O-Oh?”Bookmark here

I sighed again.Bookmark here

“Okay, that’s the real reason… I am done with being squashed by these feelings, so do me a favour and leave me be!”Bookmark here

When I shouted that, I ran as fast as I could towards the exit. I was being selfish, wasn’t I? To satisfy my own wants but go against Mr Morales’ wishes — I was being selfish, wasn’t I? Sorry, but I had to. This feeling is just too intense for me to handle. I just can’t handle the shame!Bookmark here

I felt like I was running for a while, but I was stopped shortly after I started. My hand was stuck, but how? There aren’t many things in this alleyway. Bookmark here

I looked down at my hand and realized it was another — it was Mr Morales’. Without turning, I shouted in a distressed tone.Bookmark here

“What are you doing!? Let go of me!”Bookmark here

I tried pulling my arm away, but his grip was relentless. What did he want?Bookmark here

“Camryn!”Bookmark here

I was thrown off guard by Mr Morales’ cry. I was shocked and stopped resisting.Bookmark here

“Um…”Bookmark here

I think he was thinking of what to say because he was silent for a while.Bookmark here

When he spoke, despite raising his voice earlier, his voice sounded the same as usual. Bookmark here

“I-I do not know where you learned that, but it is w-wrong.”Bookmark here

Wrong? Is he saying that I am wrong? Is he saying that what I’ve been doing all my life was wrong?Bookmark here

I slowly turned to face him. He knew I was crying from the sound of my voice, so I don’t care if he sees my face anymore. Bookmark here

When I faced him, he looked the same as usual. Oh well, I guess that’s expected. Except, his left hand was over his right shoulder. Wait, did he hit it while I was running? I’m sorry. But again, there aren’t many things in this alleyway.Bookmark here

“Wrong?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes. You say that nothing in this world is free, right? Yes, many things require compensation, but other things do not. In simpler terms, not everything comes from a limited fruit tree, some things can just appear out of thin air.”Bookmark here

Still grasping his right shoulder, Mr Morales took a couple of steps back. Bookmark here

“It seems very illogical and unscientific, but it is t-true. For you, many things are free.”Bookmark here

F-For me? What does he mean?Bookmark here

“So, Camryn…”Bookmark here

His face looked so determined.Bookmark here

“Perhaps saying “Stay with me”, was not the best thing to say. Instead… Camryn, you can stay with me.”Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

“You have permission to stay with me. And, I do not require any form of compensation.”Bookmark here

Is he really saying this? N-No... I couldn’t believe it. Bookmark here

“Since you are you, I will grant this to you.”Bookmark here

My chest felt heavy, but…Bookmark here

I felt my tears fall again but at a faster rate.Bookmark here

“Um… You said that you have been living alone for six months, right? You must have been working hard, right?”Bookmark here

"Y-Yes."Bookmark here

“I see… Well, you do not have to anymore.”
Bookmark here

My chest felt heavy, but… it wasn’t because of guilt. Instead, I think I was feeling overjoyed. I couldn’t believe this. Someone is willing to care for me without anything in return? It can’t be true, can it? Well, it was and I couldn’t be happier. Bookmark here

I felt my legs tremble. I slowly fell to my knees and clenched my chest. Even though I was closer to the dirty ground, I was not sad.Bookmark here

“Sorry, living like that in that span of time must have been hard for you. You do not need to worry anymore because I am here. I might not have a lot of things to offer, but I will try to offer enough.”Bookmark here

“N-No… I-I think i-it will b-be e-enough… T-Thank you! Thank you so much!”Bookmark here

I looked up at my hero’s eyes. Suddenly, this dark and gloomy alleyway seemed brighter. Through my tears of joy, I smiled — this time, I think it was genuine.Bookmark here

Mr Morales nodded.Bookmark here

“Alright then…”Bookmark here

He moved his left hand from his shoulder and extended it towards me.Bookmark here

“Let’s go home.”Bookmark here

Home...Bookmark here

I quickly wiped away my tears and smiled widely.Bookmark here

“Yes!”Bookmark here

To me, this felt like a turning point. When Mr Morales was telling me this, it felt spectacular — every pause felt longer and every statement sounded triumphant. Are my days of living outside over? Do I no longer have to work hard for a little bit of food? I don’t have to trick and deceive people anymore? I… I hope these things are true. I don’t know, but for now, I am living with Ren Morales...Bookmark here

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