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September 8th, 2019
The crisp bread of a grilled cheese hummed with a smothered crackle just as Lucilius slid a spatula under it to flip. The sandwich slapped down and crackled once more. The giggle and talk of his two young Godsons rained in from down the hall. And then the youngest screamed with real pain.
Lucilius dropped the spatula and ran down the hall towards the suffocating hiccups of alarm that were ratcheting to a second scream of pain.
It was clear the eldest knew his act.
Lucilius scooped up the younger Godson and inspected the boy for any real damage. He’d been pinched and the marks on his skin still showed perfect dents of fingernails, the blush of blood lighting up his whole arm. The boy would be ok, but shock would keep him wailing for a while. Lucilius held the boy and comforted him, sitting down on a couch to hold him closer and rock the boy.
He did not bother to look at the older one, now in a corner. He didn’t want to split his attention and Lucilius knew, the older boy was building his own prison of torment by just watching, knowing, remembering.
The younger one finally came to his clearer senses, calmed and exhausted. Lucilius lifted the boy and took him to his room where he quickly fell asleep.
Lucilius returned to the kitchen to find the grilled cheese smoking slightly on the low heat. The hot side was a black crust. Lucilius sighed and dumped the mess into a garbage can. He took the one good sandwich and placed it on a plate. After cutting it on a diagonal, he took it up and went to the room where the eldest still was.
His godson had retreated into a game on a tablet, still in the corner. Lucilius sat on the opposite side of the room. He lifted a triangle of the sandwich, brought it to his mouth and tore off a corner, staring at his Godson the whole time. The boy glanced quickly at the sound of eating.
“Where’s mine?” The boy said with blank eyes staring into his game.
“This one was supposed to be for your brother,” Lucilius said. “Yours is in the trash.”
The boy looked at his Godfather. Lucilius shrugged. “It burned while I was with your brother. You wouldn’t have eaten it anyway.”
The boy looked back to his game, scowling. Lucilius put the oozing and ruined triangle of sandwich down next to the second untouched half . He pushed the plate aside.
“Come here,” he announced.
The boy glanced at him. He no longer tapped the screen, but sighed and slowly put down the tablet, the boy’s eyes rolling wide and white.
He trudged across the room and stood with shoulders slumped in front of Lucilius.
“Well, what should I do?” Lucilius asked.
“He’ll be fine,” the boy said.
“And what about you?”
The boy’s eyes narrowed, suspicious. “What do you mean? I’m fine.”
“Are you?” Lucilius challenged.
The boy shrugged. “Yea.”
Lucilius fished a marker out of his pocket. “Give me your hands,” he said.
Lucilius looked at the boy, remembering the fear someone had put in him once many years ago, and that fear now came out in the boy’s face. He slowly put out his hands. On the back on one of the boy’s hands Lucilius wrote the boy’s name, and on the other hand he wrote the name of his brother.
The boy was confused, looking at the names.
“Now,” Lucilius said. “Show me what you did.”
Lucilius pointed at the boy’s hand that had his own name. “That’s you, and that’s your brother,” he said pointing at the other hand.
“Now, show me what you did.”
With a tentative look, the boy moved the hand with his own name and lightly pinched the back of his other hand. Lucilius took the pinched hand and inspected it.
“I could see the mark of both fingernails on your brother,” he said, looking up from the pathetic reenactment.
“Fine!” the boy shouted, and he began to pinch his own hand with his brother’s name as hard as he could, instantly wincing at the pain.
“Whoah, whoah,” Lucilius took the boy’s hands in his own, separating them. The boy was upset.
A tear gathered at the side of the boy’s face as he held his Godfather’s gaze.
“I don’t want you to hurt yourself,” Lucilius said.
“But that’s what happens, every time you hurt someone else. Every time you lie to someone else, you only deceive yourself. Every time you lash out at someone, it’s you who is lashed. Every time you get angry at someone, it’s you who suffers.”
Tears rolled down the boy’s face, and Lucilius pulled the boy into his arms and let the boy cry. A long minute passed until the boy was settled.
The boy nodded.
“We are all apart of this place kiddo. No matter how big it seems or how different it looks we are from one another, we’re all here together and we a part of one another. This space between you and me? It’s a part of us too.”
Lucilius slide the boy next to himself and then reached for the plate with the sandwich.
“The only way we can take care of ourselves is to make sure we take care of each other.”
Lucilius took his mangled half and gave the plate a quick shuffle, sliding the other half to the edge, closer to the boy as Lucilius offered up the plate before him.
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