lost. in the middle of the woods no less. two children sit at the shade of an old tree whose trunk is chipping, dirtying their supposedly immaculate white uniform.
"this is all your fault," the little boy grunts, a frown in his pale face belying the pout on his pink lips. "brat"
"sorry," whimpers the little girl beside him, contrite and hiding her face into the scrapped knees she hugs to her chest tightly, feeling tiny and teary, but she will not cry, oh, no.
she just wanted to get a better look at that pretty flower and the butterfly, is not her fault the others kept walking away and if he's so mad about it, then why did he have to wait for her, she didn't ask him to DDDD:
"mom would get in trouble," a drawling voice, not in his head, but beside her, answered.
"uh?" she raised her teary-eyed face towards him.
"how do you think your parents will react when they know you got lost? they'll blame mother and stuff. that's why we shouldn't move too much, so they can find us easier. so your stunt trying to look for the cabins by climbing up the tree was silly, the foliage is too tall and hide them from view. be happy you got nothing broken, brat."
when he talks like that, it makes her feel small and stupid, isn't he supposed to be six years old too? how does he know big words like foliwhatever? and of course he'd worry about the problems she could cause his mother. his mother hates her, after all. maybe if she was alone she would have been left to die in the woods. so maybe it was a good thing he is with her, this way his mother has to look for them if she wants to see her son again.
"sorry," she repeats with a sniff and then hisses when a lock of her hair gets stuck in her still stinging knees.
a sigh. "does it hurt much?" he asks tentatively, eyes hidden beneath an a little too long fringe, fingers drawing in the dirt.
"a little," she sniffles with a pained voice, eyes misty and cheeks rosy, biting her lips.
another sigh and then he gets up. "wait here," he orders and walks away.
she scrambles to her feet but ends up falling on her butt again, a small wail leaving her lips, but that doesn't stop him and she can only watch him fade between trees and bushes. big, fat tears tracing anew the dry track left visible on her face. she doesn't know how long he's gone, face hidden once again on stinging, scrapped knees, sobs making her small body tremble and the tears just adding salt to her wounds. maybe he really left her here to die?
something cold and wet pats carefully her raw knees and she forgets to hiss when she spies his companion in lost-hood through the curtain of chunks of tangled, wet hair. "i went to the little brook we passed before. we need to clean this so they don't get infected, we don't know how long they'll take to find us."
"your shirt," is the only thing she can say. no thanks or hisses or whines.
he shrugs as if it isn't anything, as if he, the only kid she knows that is always careful with his clothes, hasn't just teared off the sleeves from his dress shirt to take care of the skinned knees of someone who he supposedly finds annoying. "there," he says, once he finishes cleaning the cuts.
she blinks at her knees, all pink and raw and clean and then a wet pinkish-brown cloth lands on her face. "wipe your face too. you look ugly, brat."
her nose scrunches up indignant and her answer is to show him her tongue, but still looks for a white patch in the cloth to rub her face and get rid of the tear tracks. "thanks," she mumbles after a while and he shrugs it off once again.
"so..." she says after a while, the sound of birds twittering and leaves rustling making her crave for something more in the still ambiance between them. "have you decided on your name yet?"
"i have a name already," he cuts disinterested, it makes an annoyed frown to appear on her face.
"i know you have a name already. i meant the name you get to choose when you turn seven, have you decided on it yet?"
"mmm..." he hums and she watches him unblinkingly. "not yet"
"eh?!" she exclaims. "but you have to give one tonight or they'll choose for you."
"mmmm..." he hums again, not really caring about it. It’s just a name, after all.
a fixed stare that comes closer and closer until she makes him cross his eyes funnily, head thrown all the way back so it goes thunk softly when it connects with the bark of the tree trying to keep a minimum space between their faces. "zaphiro" she decides, nodding to herself, a silly smile.
"what?" he asks flabbergasted, a doubtful, if not cute (and she swears to never ever say that aloud), pout that screams are you crazy? that's a stupid name, i'd never use it. "why?"
"well, you know, like your eyes" she mutters, making herself small again, trying to prepare for the rejection his expression spells, but when he opens his mouth to deliver the verdict, he's interrupted by the sudden lap-full of sobbing baby girl that throws herself at the girl with the scraped knees.
she blinks dazed, finding herself with her back in the ground and a dull ache in the back of her head, a buzz in her ears that she soon realizes are supposed to be words. "esmeralda?" she asks and suddenly a torrent of tears come flooding.
"well," a voice calls attention to the almost teenager that appears accompanied by another girl of seemingly ten years old, that busies herself trying to pry the sobbing little girls from each other to take a look at the just found girl's wounds, while a couple of adults report finding the lost children by radio. "glad to know you listen to precautionary measure when getting lost in the woods, squirt." he mocks the little boy, relieved smile turning into a smirk. "though it'd save us time and worry if you just listened when the adults say not to separate from the group and go explore on your own."
"shut up." the just found boy retorts to his older brother, sighing long-suffering and crossing his arms in a put-out manner, spying his baby sister of three years olds cuddling with the brat and not liking how the brat hogs all the attention from baby esmeralda. "not my fault."
"blaming girls is a no-no," the teenager points out, index finger poking his little bro's nose. it makes the boy scrunch it up cutely, and swap at his hand, which is why the teenager always does it, head thrown back in a laugh. "you're cute!"
"am not!" he shrieks, cheeks pink in embarrassment when the adults stare. "let's go back, i'm hungry" he mutters sullenly, following the grown ups when they begin walking.
"brother chose his name!" little esmeralda shrieks, bouncing cutely in the balls of her feet. toothy smile proud and eyes shinning. "he told me."
"really?" the bored girl mums in answer. after the initial joviality of being found, she got scolded by esmeralda's mother. as punishment, she was to stay seated and alone at the talent demonstration, banned from participating in the event, first row so everyone could keep an eye on her. esmeralda is the first one that has spoken to her, but she just waits for some grown up to come and whisk her away, so it's no fun. she is surprised, though, when little esmeralda attempts to crawl up the chair beside hers.
"what are you doing? your mother will be mad at you if she sees you talking to me"
"is 'k" esmeralda grunts and huffs, finally able to kneel in the chair. "that way, we can stay grounded together!" she smiles accomplished, green eyes twinkling. it makes her heart go doki-doki from happiness. esmeralda looks left, then right and then cups her little porcelain hands on the ear of the older girl to whisper: "zaphiro"
and something flutters in her stomach, a smile blossoms on her face, mirroring esmeralda's. "pretty, no?" and she nods.
"brother's next" esmeralda sits properly, like her mother has teach her, and claps enthusiastically.
piano notes let themselves be heard. she doesn't know anything about music, but the melody is pretty, albeit the playing is a little clumsy, small fingers still not totally trained. she closes her eyes, humming under her breath the piece she knows at heart by know and remember afternoons spent outside the music room with esmeralda listening to endless hours of practice. soon, the melody ends and applause resound in the open clearing where parents have come to watch their kids. she suddenly misses her parents very much.
"for you" esmeralda smiles at her friend, who blinks owlishly back. "he said: tell the brat is for her" and a pout form on her pouty lips, because she doesn't like it when her brother calls her best friend a brat. and the brat finds herself running behind the scenes without caring if she gets scolded again, esmeralda shouting for her. just her luck she gets tangled with the red curtain though.
she huffs annoyed, but stills when hearing the voice of esmeralda's oldest brother.
"so, everything ready squirt?" it asks, and for the mocking tone and the answering annoyed huff, she knows he is there too. she squirms a little more and finds the opening of the curtain so she can spy the two of them. zaphiro is glaring up at his brother, hair in disarray, most probably thanks to the teenager, who only smirks pleased, hands on hips.
"mother is waiting in the car for you." and he suddenly sobers up, expression turning grave. "are you sure you really want to go away? i don't think esmeralda'll like it"
zaphiro only nods in answer and the teenager throws his hands in the air, suddenly exasperated. "ok. well, then. let's go"
she watches their backs disappear in the shadows behind the scenes and tears spill from her eyes, not understanding why or how and she lets herself fall on her hunches to cry, sobs unheard thanks to the pitiful attempts at talent kids display to please their parents. that is how little esmeralda finds her minutes after, tears spilling in answer to her broken-heart's ones.
"why are you crying? was brother mean to you? i'll bite him for you! but don't cry"
"he's leaving" she sobs and esmeralda's tears fall harder while her voice grows in volume and pitch not understanding.
"no, he isn't!" esmeralda cries, tugging at her to stand up so they can go and ask where her bother is. "he isn't, you're wrong, he won't leave, he promised!"
"ey, what's all this about?" the teenager reappears and esmeralda launches her small bullet body to his knees, almost knocking him down.
"she's lying!" esmeralda accuses, glaring up at him tearfully. "she says zaphiro is leaving, but she's lying! she's lying, lying! she's a liar!"
"oh, sweetheart" he kneels down as to rock her to calm his baby sister and looks at the other sobbing girl, reaching out for her too. "come here" he soothes and the six year old goes willingly.
"why is he leaving" she asks broken-hearted. "where is he going?" the hug gets a little tighter as the teenager tries to soothe them both, their cries attracting people. "why did he hate me?"
at six, i was a cry baby. i can say that now. but i still blame you for it.
there's not much i can say about our memories. i think, though, this was the first time you left me to fend by myself. you'd think i could have learned from it what to expect. there were times i understood your reasons to be away, and there were times i couldn't even fathom an explanation for them.
i've been trying to prepare for this post since december began. i can't say i'm doing a great job for it.
i could say i've moved on, but i would be lying. i still find myself writing to you as if you were to answer. i go out and keep waiting to meet you in the streets, keep looking at my reflection on glass surfaces to try and find you stalking me, waiting for the less expected moment to pass your arms over my shoulders and whisper in my ear "found ya".
ne, master, it's ok isn't it? to not forget you yet.
happy birthday, zaphiro. i love you.