In a small, sunlit room, leaning over an overloaded desk, Sister Helen glanced over her six-month report on one of the orphanage’s latest additions. Duo Maxwell’s stay was not meant to be permanent; the moment he was handed over to the Department of Social Services, the search for his parents began. Whatever reason there was for the abandonment, DSS was certain, with some help, Duo could be reunited. It was in the child’s best interest.
Unfortunately Duo’s mother had other interests, one of them being the man named Dave. Since there was always someone else who could get him a beer, to Dave, Duo was little more than an inconvenience. And since his mommy was head over heels in love with the man, convinced that he was the best thing that had and would ever happen to her, when Dave had the audacity to make her choose between him and the boy the choice was almost effortless.
And so Duo Maxwell became a ward of the state. In the time he had been there he kept to himself, refusing to make friends. Refusing to believe Mommy wasn’t coming back for him. The thought brought tears to Sister Helen’s eyes. She had even broken down and told him the words that everyone knew, but due to the frailty of the children were never suppose to utter: “Your mommy doesn’t want you anymore.” She prayed to her god for forgiveness. She had only wanted to ease the child’s pain. But still Duo would wait by the window or run to the front door whenever he heard it open. Out of all the children Sister Helen had worked with over the years, Duo was the one who managed to get a firm grip on her heart strings, even if he didn’t realize it.
She glanced over the report again before setting it aside in its folder. Today was the first day of school and she was anxious to find out what the new kindergartener thought of it. As she checked the time on her watch, someone knocked at the door. “Come in,” she called. ‘This must be him now.’
The door opened and a pre-teen boy, who called himself Zechs, stood in the way.
“We have a bit of a problem.”
Zechs stood alone in the room, arms outstretched, with a dictionary in each hand. He was dumbfounded as to how his day, which started out rather nicely, could turn so horribly bad.
It was a simple enough task Sister Helen asked of him this morning: make sure a munchkin made it to school in the morning, and then walk them home afterwards at the end of the day. So with one Duo Maxwell in tow, Zechs began his quest for brownie points. Once at the school, though, he dumped the child off in the playground, figuring he had done his job and was about to seek out his friends when…
“Millie-yardo!” Duo forced the mouthful out. “Sister Hewen say you is suppose to take me to my room.”
Zechs could hear the snickers bubbling up from his schoolmates as they searched for the geek. Since they weren’t aware that it was him, he pretended he didn’t know the boy.
“Millie-yardo!” Duo ran after him.
Zechs cringed. ‘So much for that plan.’ With a sigh he grabbed Duo by the wrist and dragged him through the crowd of giggles. He got directions to the youngster’s classroom, but just before reaching it he stopped, spun the boy around and leaned down to get in his face. “Don’t you ever call me Milliardo again!” he hissed. “My name is Zechs, got it?”
Duo nodded, looking rather confused.
“Good!” said Zechs, ruffling the boy’s hair. “Now off you go. I’ll meet you out here after school.”
Duo nodded again and hesitantly walked to the room.
“Go on!” Zechs waved him away.
Duo frowned but did as he was told, anyway.
After a day of being chastised by his friends for the ‘Milliardo’ incident, Zechs was not in a good mood. All he wanted to do was go home. He picked up Duo and soon the two were on their way back to the orphanage. As soon as they were some distance from the school Zechs stopped the younger boy, and waggling a finger at him declared, “You owe me!”
“Whaddid I do now, Millie-yardo?”
“It’s Zechs! Zechs! You little shit!” the eleven-year-old spat.
Duo’s eyes popped open wide. “Oooo! I’m tehwin’!” He started to skip away.
“You have to make it back to the orphanage alive, first! Because if I catch you I’m going to kill you!”
So here he was, doing an impression of a scale. ‘Mental note to self: Never tell a five-year old you’re going to kill them. They will believe it.’ Zechs sighed. He had also forgot that this was the kid who had an entire mall security staff and handful of police officers trying to flush him out of his hiding spot the day his mom left him behind. Duo was practically a celebrity when he arrived at the orphanage. ‘Maybe if I remind Sister Helen of that she might go easy on me for losing him.’ He glanced at one of the books he was holding. A very heavy book it was. No one’s around…. he placed the books down on the window sill. “God is watching, my ass, ” he mumbled, shaking his arms out.
‘No. Way. That didn’t just happen.’ Two dictionaries didn’t just fall off the window sill and land on his foot. His bare foot. “Yeowch!”