Chapter 16:


Curiosity Killed The Cat

"Wake up, Kothur. You know dad's gonna get after me if you're late for breakfast. Fehram's already downstairs so he could get out of waking you up." Kothur's younger brother, Reohn, ripped the covers off of him. He was pretty young back then, not much older than ten. His light brown hair short and tidy despite it being so early in the morning. He wore knee length shorts and a short-sleeved white shirt. It showed how thin his limbs were from many days of bedrest.

Kothur was also young, around twelve. He lay defiantly with his face scrunched up for a few more seconds. He was normally pretty lazy, but during summer without school he really didn't feel like getting up. He slowly rose and rubbed his eyes with a groan. The light was barely coming in through the window.

Reohn sighed in annoyance and fixed his hair for him just so he could be able to get down faster. They both knew they only had a few minutes at max before their dad would come up the stairs for them. He would make Kothur owe him one later, he thought as Kothur quickly changed.

Their father worked as a mechanic at a shop in town and started his day early. Their mother always wanted everyone to eat breakfast together no matter what. It was her idea of a perfect family.

They sat at the dining table along with their tall older brother, Fehram, and their dad. Fehram was almost done with high school and had grown up to be taller than their father. Back then he wore his brown hair like their dad's, short and neat. The plates, glasses, and toast were already on the table. A big spot in the middle was left open for the rest of the meal. They all patiently waited while their mom finished cooking in the kitchen. It smelled good.

She came around the corner holding a large tray of typical breakfast foods. Her short hair was kept out of her face with a headband. She looked happy to see them all.

"Glad to see you all made it down already. I-" She lost her balance, interrupting herself. The tray fell out of her hands and spilled the contents helplessly on the floor. Unable to keep her composure, she covered her face with both hands and froze. She could cry at any moment.

Kothur jumped out of his chair towards the kitchen. He tried his best to put on a placating smile for her. "I-it's ok, mom! I'll clean it up for you. It's not a big deal. Really it isn’t!"

"Yeah, and I'll help him!" Reohn followed him, wanting to make himself look like a good younger brother.

The two at the table quietly looked at her. She was already sobbing a little at the food she knew they couldn’t afford to just waste like that. They didn't want to make it worse, but didn't know how to help either. Sometimes talking made her even sadder. Fehram reached for a piece of bread.

"The toast's still good, mom." Fehram said he as he took a bite.

It was always like this. Their mom got hopelessly emotional over the smallest of things and would often blame herself, especially over things like Reohn’s constant illnesses. It could get so intense that it made them feel terrible. To prevent it, they all worked together to keep the peace. Their dad saved scolding them for when she wasn’t nearby. The brothers didn’t even fight in her presence, it would upset her too much. Everyone in the family tried their hardest to keep things together.

After the morning incident, their dad left for work and their mom pushed all three boys out of the house. "Boys need plenty of exercise", she said. Reohn and Fehram went off to do their own thing, leaving Kothur behind with no plans.

It was a hot day and the sun was already blazing. He put his hand over his face to shade his eyes as he walked out onto the gravel road, looking for anything interesting. There was no one outside of the few scattered houses that lined the road. The green fields of grass contrasted nicely to the blue sky, though. He turned around after picking a large weed to wave around. The forest should be interesting enough to keep me busy for a while, he thought.

The houses on his road didn’t have fences, so it wasn’t in the backyard per say, but it was a few minutes' walk from behind his house. He liked to think of it as their piece of the forest. He kept walking until he met a barrier of large trees. The sounds of leaves and insects felt inviting. He traded the weed for a large stick as he walked in between two large tree trunks.

It was cooler with the shade from the treetops. He didn’t have to squint as much either. He looked around, wondering if he could spot a fox or a deer. Huh? He spotted a peculiar sight. There was a bundle of light-colored hair sitting on the ground. It looked like a girl. He threw the stick down and ran over calling out to her.

“Hey, are you alright?”

The girl turned her head to look at him, but gave no reply. She seemed about the same age as Kothur. Her clothes weren’t in too bad of shape. It didn’t look like she’d been out here long, but he noticed how thin she looked. She looked at him with suspicion. Her green eyes caught him off guard. They were a shade he’d never seen before.

“...?” The girl spoke, but Kothur couldn’t understand a single word of it. It must be another language.

“What? Are you foreign? Oh no. I should call someone. Wait here, ok?” He put his hands out in a ‘wait’ motion and turned around.

He felt his shirt being pulled from behind preventing him from leaving, surprising him. The girl had grabbed him. She put her finger to her mouth and shook her head. Kothur thought about it for a few seconds and then nodded. The girl smiled at him. It was cute.

“Are you thirsty? Hungry?” he asked while making hand motions, hoping she would understand. She nodded. He ran back to his house.

He came back with a glass of water and a large bag of homemade snacks. She was still sitting in the same spot. They ate peacefully together on the ground. He thought maybe she was a run away. She obviously would rather stay out here than go home. If that was the case, it must be a terrible situation. He wanted to help her somehow.

“If you don’t have anywhere to go home to, I bet you could stay in our shed. It’s an old bomb shelter so there’s rations and stuff.” He gestured to the side towards its location. It was the perfect hiding spot, he thought. They used to have target practice there, but dad’s been too busy lately. No one goes by there now.

She smiled at him again. He returned an even bigger smile to her.