Duo was skipping along, content in a way only a young child with information to get an older “sibling” into trouble with could be.
“You have to make it back to the orphanage alive, first! Because if I catch you I’m going to kill you!”
Shortly after Dave had come to live with him and Mommy, Duo learned the proper response to such words. Run! Run away and hide! So Duo ran as fast as his little legs could move him. He dove into the nearby wooded area. Although there was a path, Duo still found himself getting caught in the brush and even fell a few times when he lost his footing. Eventually he made it to the other end, but upon seeing Milliardo waiting for him, he took a detour. Sliding down the concrete side of a man made river that ran along the wooded area, he then ran up the river, leaving Milliardo cursing a string of obscenities from the bridge.
Not too far up the river, Duo spotted a playground. The curiosity factor was overwhelming and soon Duo was holding on for dear life as he spun around on a merry-go-round. He squealed with delight as some other kids spun it faster and faster before jumping on themselves.
In the midst of his dizzy euphoria, Duo managed to focus upon the image of Milliardo running towards him.
Milliardo grabbed hold of a bar and allowed himself to be dragged as he slowed the merry-go-round to a halt, much to the dismay of it’s riders. So much, in fact, that Milliardo’s plan to finally snatch Duo was thwarted when he found himself surrounded by a group of angry kids. Duo giggled as he took off again.
He soon stumbled into a public stable. Duo stared in awe at these newly discovered creatures called horses. One of the stable hands showed him how to pet them and even allowed Duo to feed one, a mare named Lady Une, a piece of carrot. He loved how the horse’s lips tickled his hand as he held the carrot out for her. “Duo!” Duo pouted at the sound of Milliardo’s voice. He said goodbye to the horse and the stable hand, Trieze, and quickly darted away hoping to find a better place to hide. He found it.
“I wanna cookie.”
“No, Miss Relena.”
“No, Miss Relena,” the cook repeated.
“I said pwease!”
“No. It’s almost dinnertime, you may have one after dinner.”
“Bud I wan’ one now!”
Relena grumped and stomped back to playroom and her finger painting. Someday, when she was Queen of the World, she would have all the cookies she wanted, whenever she wanted, and no one would dare say “no”. On her way to the room she stopped in the bathroom. She would also have sit down with the finger paint people regarding the lack of pink finger paint. In the meantime… Pepto Bismal would have to substitute.
A UPS truck pulled up out front. Relena didn’t even have to look to know this. She had long ago memorized the sound of the truck that always brought her goodies. Wiping her hands on the front of her painting smock she ran to the front door to greet the driver. Pagan, the manservant, somehow managed to arrive there before her and opened the door to a rather chaotic site. There, on the front lawn was the UPS driver, but instead of his arms being full of boxes for Relena, today they were full of-
“Duo!” Relena cried out, recognizing the boy.
Duo took a moment from his thrashing about to see who it was that called him, as did the driver, who was startled to know that someone knew the child who stowed away on his truck. Duo, however was quicker to return to the situation at hand and used the opportunity to free himself from the man’s hold. As soon as he hit the ground he was off and running, heading around the back of the mansion.
Pagan ran to the back of the house, cutting through the kitchen where he enlisted the help of Sasha, the cook. Relena was right behind him. But the grown-ups demanded their little princess stay behind where it was safer, and left her alone in the kitchen while they charged through the back door.
With the aid of a stool a rather upset Relena climbed onto the countertop and peered out the kitchen window. There was Duo, dodging around her swing set, confusing all three adults as to where he was going to go next. ‘How come they get to play with Duo?’ she thought. ‘It’s not fair. The “Ups Man” brought him for me!’ Relena grumped again. Then her attention turned to the ceramic jar she was sitting next to.
The cookie jar.
Relena looked around. There was no one there to stop her, and she did have a guest… With a wide grin she packed her pockets full of the chocolate chip-filled treats, stuffing two more into her mouth for good measure. She heard something behind her and quickly turned, but whatever it was, was gone. Pagan and the other adults came stumbling in, panting from exhaustion.
“Miss Relena, did you see which way the boy went?” asked Pagan.
Relena shook her head “no”. It was all she could do, what with her mouth still full of cookies. Besides she really didn’t see which way Duo went. When the grown-ups left, Relena hopped down from the counter and made her way upstairs to her bedroom.
From her window she could see Pagan and the cook speaking with the UPS driver, Sasha pointing off in the direction of the street. The three nodded in agreement about something she couldn’t hear and then the driver got back into his truck and drove off. Relena sat down on edge of her bed, pulling a couple of cookies out of her smock pockets. She placed one on the floor, beside the bed. Munching away on another she watched as a small hand slipped out and snatched the cookie on the floor. When she finished her own, she placed another cookie on the floor. Again, the hand reached out and took the cookie. That’s when Relena turned herself about on her bed, hanging her head down to peek under. “You gonna pway wi’ me?” she asked.
“Are da grown-up gone?”
Relena climbed off her bed and walked to her door. “Dey are now,” she replied, while closing it.
Duo scooted out from beneath the bed then planted himself atop it. “Whadya wanna pway?”
Relena thought about it for a moment. Then, looking his hair, it came to her: “Booty pawor!” she cried.
Now Duo hadn’t played many games before, aside from the ones he made up to play by himself, but he knew he had never heard the other kids at the orphanage speak of such a game. “How you pway it?”
Running to her dresser, Relena grabbed her hairbrush and held it up so Duo could see. “I brush your hair.”
“What I do?”
“You readdis,” she handed him a picture book called “The Adventures of Paddy Pork. An’ have some mo’ cookies.”
Duo still wasn’t quite sure about this, but out of all the people that had been in and out of his life that last couple of months, Relena seemed the only person he felt he could trust. ‘Besides, she’s giving me cookies. How bad could it be?’ “Okay,” he agreed.
It really wasn’t bad, at all. In fact, once Relena brushed out the snarls and debris he had picked up during his flight from Milliardo, Duo decided it felt kind of nice. And by the time he had read Paddy Pork for the fifth time he didn’t care why the pig had been kicked out of the circus. Duo was too busy trying to keep awake.
“Done!” Relena announced. it wasn’t nearly as long as her nanny, Eliza’s, but Duo’s shoulder length hair was still long enough to braid. She got up to get a mirror to show him her handiwork when she realized he had fallen asleep. She pouted at the sight, and was about to shake the boy awake when she heard someone coming up the steps.
“Relena! Time for dinner!” It was Eliza, finally back home after running her errands.
Relena quickly pushed Duo down onto the bed and threw her comforter over him.
“Relena?” The bedroom door opened. Eliza stepped into the room and looked around, noticing the comforter on the bed. “Were you taking a nap?”
“Oh,” Eliza said as she walked over to the bed. ‘Must’ve been playing “campout” again, then.’ “Here, let’s get your comforter folded back up before we head downstairs.
“No!” Relena cried out as she leapt onto the bed. She landed squarely on Duo’s chest. A muffled “Ow!” could be heard. Before Eliza could pull the comforter away Duo appeared from beneath it, with tears in his eyes.
“You hurt me!” he yelled as he slapped Relena’s arm.
Relena immediately began to cry herself. “I didden mean to!” she wailed.
“Where did he come from?” Eliza didn’t know why she was asking, since she was certain she already knew the answer.
“The ‘Ups Man’ brought him for me,” Relena sniffed.
Eliza groaned. Pagan had told her about the incident with the stowaway on the UPS truck, but it had been believed the boy had somehow managed to run off. She stared at him in disbelief. “What’s your name?” she finally asked, sighing.
“Doncha ‘member him ‘Liza? It’s Duo, from da maw!”
“Duo?!” Eliza shook her head. ‘The boy who’s mother left him alone to get him a surprise? And now he’s here after hiding in a UPS truck. How irresponsible is this woman?’ “Okay Duo, do you, by chance happen to know where you live?”
Duo nodded, wiping his eyes. “Ina house. Wit’ Sister Hewen.”
‘That wasn’t exactly the answer I was looking for,’ Eliza sighed to herself. She tried again. “Do you know where that house is?”
The boy shook his head.
“How about your phone number? Do you know that?”
Duo shook his head again. He looked up at Eliza and could see she was getting angry. “I sorry,” he quietly said, about to cry again.
“No, I’m sorry,” Eliza apologized. She sat down beside the two kids, mussing up Duo’s bangs with her fingers as she did. “This isn’t your fault, little one. This… this is obviously cosmic,” she chuckled.
“Wa’s dat?” asked Duo.
“Cosmic? Well I guess you could say it’s something really, really big.” Eliza head out her arms for emphasis. “It looks back at all the things we’ve done, and then decides what will happen next.”
“You say dat was karma anodder day!” Relena pointed out.
“You are correct, Miss Relena.” Eliza smiled at her charge. “But sometimes things can go by more than one name.” She turned her attention back to Duo. “Now what are we going to do about you?”
“Can I keepim?”
“But the ‘Ups Man’–“
“Relena, Duo is lost. We have to get him home.”
Relena crossed her arms and began to drum her legs against the side of the bed.
The little girl turned and scowled at her nanny, but the noise stopped.
Duo watched Relena. He knew that while Eliza had gotten her way this time, there would be restitution. He smiled at Relena. A smile of solidarity. Then the word “lost” sank in. “I wost?”
“Yes, you are Duo.”
“Oh… Here!” Duo thrust his left arm out at Eliza. On his wrist was a bracelet with a tag. Engraved on the tag was a phone number and an ID number. “Sister Hewen say to show dis to a grown-up if I wost.”
Eliza laughed, almost hysterically, as she removed the bracelet. ‘He didn’t know he was lost!’ “Come on you two. Let’s go downstairs. I’ll ask Pagan to put out another setting for you, Duo. You can have something to eat while I call this number. I’m sure you’re both hungry.”
Duo nodded in affirmation, but suddenly Relena didn’t look so good.
“Miss Relena?” Eliza began as they were heading down the stairs. “Sasha told me she baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies today. But when I went to get one I found the jar almost empty. You didn’t see anyone go into the jar while you were alone in the house, did you?”
“Nuh-uh,” Relena replied, innocently.
“All right, but I do hope this cookie thief doesn’t strike again because if it does, Sasha says she won’t bake anymore cookies.”