Author’s Note: So today I’m running late again, and I’m aware that I need to find a better way of finding pieces on time, but there are days when I can’t think of anything that fits the theme without needing more context than a snippet should have. I may have to reassess the themes, but for now, this Tuesday truffle is a bit of Alik being the big brother that he is and Malina being the sister and friend she is.
Pulled this from the side childhood project again. Bad me.
Alik walked Malina to school every day. He was always ready before she was, bag on his back and eyes out on the road. She didn’t know what he thought would be there or even if he thought that there was something out there. She didn’t know. Alik had read lots of stories, and he knew more about the world than they did. If there was something scary out here, he would know.
She knew that she didn’t want anyone else protecting her.
Every day, she put her hand in his as she had done since before she remembered. Her mother told her stories sometimes about how she and Alik would always hold hands. If she was near him, she would reach for him. He did the same. She had known him as safety before she knew what the word meant.
She squeezed his hand, and his eyes turned toward her, shifting in the early morning light.
“I want to walk with Lisea.”
“Not with me?”
She bit her lip. She didn’t want to let go of his hand. She was not scared, but she did not know that she could chose friend over brother. As much as she liked spending time with Lisea, as much as she had come to see her like a sister, her bond with Alik was older. Deeper. How could she turn away from that?
“Can I have both?” She saw him frown. “I still want to walk with you, but there’s no reason why we can’t walk with Lisea, too. See? She’s right there, and I think she looks a bit scared. Will you walk us both to school?”
He glanced toward Lisea, who was fidgeting, adjusting her coat and looking back at her house like she wanted someone to come out and tell her she didn’t have to go to school. “What if she does not want me there?”
“Then I will walk with you, but I think she wants us. She is just not sure how to tell us.” Malina stepped up to kiss his cheek. “I will go get her. You will wait for me?”
She grinned at him, though she had to admit that she did not feel as happy when she took her hand out of his and ran over to Lisea. “Hi.”
Lisea jumped a bit before blushing and smiling. “Hi. I didn’t see you coming.”
“That’s all right. You want to walk with us? Alik said he’d walk us both to school today.”
“Alik would… Why would Alik walk me?”
“Because you’re my friend and Alik is my brother and Alik does what I ask,” Malina said. The whole thing was simple to her, even if she’d doubted her brother’s willingness a few minutes ago. Alik did do what she asked a lot of the time. She held out a hand to her friend. “So you will come with us?”
Lisea timidly reached for her hand, taking it, and even though she still seemed a bit nervous, the other girl was a bit more relaxed, at least until they reached Alik. She seemed to shrink back behind Malina as she took her brother’s hand again.
“I’m glad we’re all walking together.”
Alik glanced toward her, and Lisea almost pulled away, but Malina drew her back close. She didn’t know what to do with this awkward silence. She wished that Alik made Lisea feel the way that he made her feel—Lisea could use that kind of safety. Not that Lisea was threatened, but she would be freer and happier if she felt safe enough to relax more.
“You had Mrs. Caldor last year, didn’t you, Alik?”
He nodded. “I thought you didn’t. You had the other one, the new one—”
“We do, but she’s leaving. Getting married in two weeks and moving to Cranton with her husband,” Malina said, not sure how her brother had missed that because he didn’t miss anything. “What is Mrs. Caldor like?”
“Old. Smells funny.”
Lisea stared at him. Malina laughed. “Quit teasing. What is she really like?”
“She does smell funny,” Alik said, looking away. “You will tire of her choice of perfume as it is disgusting, and the way she writes on the board is—she always makes the sound that the chalk makes worse. Once a week she comes back from lunch with her breath reeking of garlic, and you do not want to sit up front because of it.”
“You don’t sit up front. They do it by the alphabet, and ‘k’ is in the middle of it and—Oh. You got in trouble, didn’t you?”
Alik nodded. “It would be better not to tell her how bad her perfume is. Do not mention the garlic unless you want to go to the principal’s.”
“Is she that terrible?”
Alik did not look over at Lisea, but he did shake his head. “She’s not horrible. My teacher this year is worse. No, Mrs. Caldor is not all bad. She… She has games to forget that she is teaching annoying things. She reads interesting stories. Sometimes she has treats. And you two will do better than I did—she likes girls, not smart-mouthed boys.”
“I like this smart-mouthed boy,” Malina told him, smiling, and Alik grinned at her. She let go of Lisea’s hand long enough to give him a hug. “Try and be good in class today.”
“No promises,” he said, kissing her forehead. “Go to class now. Don’t be late.”
She nodded, turning back to grab Lisea’s hand before walking to the door to their classroom. Alik waited for her to go inside—he always made sure she was there before turning to go to his own class. She waved at him, and he waved back before turning to leave.
Malina looked over at Lisea. “What?”
“Maybe it would be nice to have a brother.”
I have two. You can have Enadar, Malina almost told her, but she knew that was not fair. Lisea was admiring Alik, not Enadar, and Enadar was not much like their older brother. “We can share.”
“Why not?” Malina shrugged. “We share everything else.”