When Milliardo confessed that Duo Maxwell was missing, the Sister flew into a panic. She had never lost a child before and the feeling was the most distressing. The first thing she did when she could think straight again was alert KidSafe, a child locating company founded by one of her friends, to the youngster’s disappearance. In the past she had received much criticism about her faith in what some considered a waste of good financial resources (and that was in addition to the comments that she was tagging her children like animals), so right now she was praying to her god that she hadn’t made a drastic mistake by becoming the company’s first client.
Three hours later, a much relieved Sister thanked that god when Duo bounded into the orphanage, followed by two escorts from KidSafe. She was amazed to learn that he had turned up at the Governor’s mansion, but she was floored by the attitude of Duo, who seemed genuinely excited about his afternoon escapade. She had never seen him this way before.
“Can I go back tomowow?” Duo bounced. “Can I, Sister Hewen? I wanna pway wit’ Rewena!”
One of the escorts handed Sister Helen a note. “This is the contact information for Eliza Farrell, the young woman who found Duo. We nearly had to pry him away from his new friend,” the escort chuckled.
Sister Helen examined the note and then looked down at Duo. “Let me speak with Miss Eliza, first,” she said. “Then we’ll see about setting up a playdate.”
“Yay!” Duo danced around the room.
“In the meantime, I would like you to go upstairs and get yourself ready for a bath.”
A pout briefly displayed itself upon Duo’s face before he realized that if he wanted to see Relena the next day, he’d have a better chance of doing so if he listened to the Sister. Instead he quickly nodded and was on his way up the stairs.
Sister Helen wrapped up her business with the escorts, thanking them and giving them a note to pass along to her friend. She then made her way upstairs to join Duo.
By the time she made it to the bathroom, Duo was already sitting on the edge of the tub, wrapped in his bathrobe. She drew the bath, filling the tub with bubblegum scented bubbles. It was something saved for special occasions, and she could think of nothing more special right now than a happy Duo. The boy removed his robe and hopped into the bathtub, scooping up bubbles in his hands and blowing them about as the Sister bathed him. His laughter was the most pleasant sound she had heard all day. When she was done with the hard to get to spots, she handed him the washcloth so he could finish the job in the places he could reach.
“Sister Hewn? Why do Millie-yardo ge’ mad when I call him dat?” Duo asked while scrubbing his arms.
“Call him what? Milliardo?”
Sister Helen sighed. “Milliardo is as that age where he feels it’s important that other kids his age like him, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it would be nicer if he felt more comfortable about being himself. I guess he thinks ‘Milliardo’ is a sissy name and that ‘Zechs’ is much ‘cooler’.”
Giggles erupted from Duo as she pronounced “cooler” with a surfer dude dialect.
“If you ask me,” the Sister continued, “give Milliardo a few years and I’m sure he’ll forget all about the name “Zechs”.
“How you know?”
“Let’s just say it’s a girl thing.”
Duo giggled some more.
“So, are you going to tell me why you ran away from him?”
“Am I gonna ge’ in trouble?”
“You already are in trouble.”
“Oh.” Duo hung his head.
Sister Helen reached for the braid Duo was now sporting courtesy of the House of Relena. It wasn’t really a braid, merely three sections with the two outer ones being twisted around each other and the third, middle, section woven up and down between them. Holding it together at the end was a black satin scrunchie. She gave it a gentle tug. “But I’d be willing to plea bargain.”
“You tell me why you ran off and if I think it’s a good enough reason I’ll just take away storytime from you for a week.”
“Wha’ if it not?”
“I think you know the answer.”
The waterworks began and immediately went into overdrive as Duo bawled out what he hoped upon hope would be the correct response: “‘Cause Millie-yardo say he was gonna kill me!”
“Why on earth would he want to do that?” Sister Helen knew the older boy wouldn’t hurt Duo, much, but she didn’t know if Duo knew that.
“I was gonna tell you he say a swear.”
The Sister chuckled, rinsing the soap off the boy. “I don’t think you have to worry about Milliardo, especially anytime soon. And now that I have this additional bit of information…” She stood and walked to the small storage closet in the bathroom, reached in and grabbed a small box which she slipped into one of the pockets on the front of her skirt, then pulled out a towel for Duo. She wrapped it around him as he climbed out of the bathtub. He watched her drain it while he rubbed himself dry. With his bathrobe now on he brushed his teeth, Sister Helen keeping a close eye on him to make sure he brushed properly. “Spit the toothpaste out this time,” she reminded the boy.
Soon Duo was in his Elmo pajamas, laying in one of the beds in the room he shared with several other boys his age. As Sister Helen tucked him in she could clearly see he was anxiously waiting for her verdict. “I’m only going to take away storytime,” she whispered, kissing him on the forehead. “Goodnight Duo.”
“Goo’nigh’ Sister Hewen,” Duo yawned, then snuggled into his bed, smiling, as the lights dimmed.
A few moments later a commotion was heard downstairs in one of the older boys’ rooms, as a certain eleven-year-old cried out: “Please, Sister! Not the soap treatment again!”