The sound of guitar music filled the small house. Just barely noticeable, a noise of small feet slapping against the wooden floors. A young boy, about four years old, ran down the hallway. His socks left him sliding across the floor as he pushed open the door to his brothers room. He pulled himself up onto the bed, bouncing up and down. The boy’s adopted brother paused the song he was playing. He turning from where he sat on the bed, smiling softly.
“Hey, Keith. You wanna watch me play?”
The toddler nodded, sitting on his hands as he eagerly watched his 11 year old brother, who adjusted the guitar. “Alright. Here we go.” Shiro smiled at Keith, before starting to play again. Keith grinned, bouncing up and down on the bed as Shiro continued to play, the music once again filling their small, rickety house.
Weeks passed, and the toddler watched, confusion on his face, as his mom and dad shouted at each other in the other room. Shiro slipped into the room behind Keith, crouching down beside him.
“Hey, Keith, why don’t we go see if we can find some paper and crayons, alright?” Keith nodded, reaching for Shiro’s hand, and the two left the room, Shiro glancing at his parents behind him.
“Keith, please ,” Shiro hissed, looking around at the eyes on them as Keith dragged his feet, sobbing. He shook his head, sitting down in the middle of the room, dragging Shiro’s arm down with him. With his free arm, Keith pressed his thumb against his chin, palm open in the sign for Mom. He kept sobbing, repeating the sign over and over again. Momma, momma, momma, momma. Shiro crouched in front of him, grabbing Keith’s hands. “Mom’s not here, Keith.” He dropped Keith’s hands, signing as he spoke. “Mom’s gone.” He ignored the whispers and stares of those around as Keith rocked back and forth, making quiet noises to himself. “It’s just us and Dad now. I’ll take care of you.” He stood up, reaching down and picking Keith up into his arms. “I will always take care of you. And now we go to school.”
Shiro set Keith down in front of the doors, and Keith immediately grabbed his hand again. Shiro sighed, crouching down again. “Keith, I have to go to school too,” he mumbled. “You go in there, and I’ll come get you later.” Keith grunted, shaking his head, clinging to Shiro’s arm. Shiro was about to stand up, when the door squeaked open.
“Ah! This must be Keith.”
Shiro paused, looking up at the source of the voice. Keith shifted to tuck behind his brother.
“Yeah, this is Keith.” Shiro reached around behind him, gently pushing Keith out from behind him. “He’s nervous.”
The teacher smiled, crouching down to Keith’s level.
“Hey there. Why don’t you come in with me so your brother can get to class? We have lots of toys in here and paper to draw on. I hear you like drawing.” Keith hesitated, glancing up at Shiro, who nodded in encouragement. After some time, Keith sighed, letting go of Shiro’s arm and peeking into the room.
Shiro stood up, brushing his pants off, holding a hand out to the teacher. “I’m Takashi Shirogane.” The teacher smiled and she reached out to take his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Takashi. If there’s nothing else, I can handle Keith from here.”
“Um...I just wanna make sure he’s okay.” Shiro bit his lip and shifted a bit. “I’m in the 7th grade, Ms. Lewis.” He glanced at Keith, who had moved into the room, and taken to playing on his own. “He can’t talk. He uses sign language. Also sometimes it gets too loud and he cries,” he paused “and he screams because he doesn’t know how to talk.” Shiro sighed. “Just...come get me if anything happens? I can calm him down.” The teacher gave him a small smile.
“Well I’m sure we’ll be just fine, but I’ll send someone if we need anything, alright?”
Shiro nodded a little, adjusting his backpack.“Okay….thank you.”
She nodded, smiling, and Shiro turned and headed to class.
“Takashi Shirogane, please come to the main office.”
All eyes in Shiro’s 7th grade classroom turned to where he sat in the back of the room. He swore he could hear his heart beating in his throat. A blush rose up his neck. He scrambled out of his chair to get his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder before moving to the front desk.
“I’m sorry, it’s probably my brother. I’ll go get him.”
The teacher frowned, but nodded. “I’ll have someone bring your homework if you don’t come back.”
Shiro bit his lip, but nodded, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and jogging out of the room, and down the hall towards the main office.
Shiro pushed the door to the office open, peeking in. “Uh...Hi, they called me in?”
The secretary looked up at him, frowning.
“Yes...You’re Keith Kogane’s brother?”
Shiro nodded, adjusting his backpack as he stepped in. “Uh, that’s me.”
She nodded, writing for a moment before looking up at him. “He’s with the principal. You can take a seat.”
Shiro set his bag on the floor, sinking into one of the uncomfortable, plastic chairs. He sat there for about thirty minutes, watching the time tick by on the clock, the only sound in the office that of the second hand. Eventually, the door to the principal's office squeaked open, and Keith came trotting out, arms crossed. Shiro looked up, frowning as he stood up from the chair. “Keith, what happened?”
Keith huffed, shoving his hands into his pockets. He kept staring at the ground as the principal stepped out.
“I’ll answer that for him. Mr. Kogane here pulled another child’s hair, and caused quite a disturbance in class.”
Shiro sighed, scooping Keith up. “I’m so sorry. I’ll take him home.” Shiro adjusted Keith in his arms, as Keith tucked his face into Shiro’s neck. “I promise he’s a really good kid…..it’s just his first day.”
The principal sighed, adjusting her skirt. “Alright. I’ll see the both of you tomorrow, and I trust Keith will be better behaved.”
Shiro nodded quickly. “He will, I promise. Thank you.” He picked his backpack up, slinging it over his shoulder. Adjusting his hold on Keith again, Shiro carried him out of the school. Once they were outside he set him down and took his hand. The two walked home down the bumpy and cracked sidewalks. Keith kicked at the pieces of grass growing up between them, flapping his hands as they walked.
Shiro tucked Keith into his space blankets once they got home, before hanging his own backpack up on the wall, beside Keith’s favorite poster. “Get some sleep, Keith. I’m gonna go talk to Dad, okay?” Keith nodded a little, curling his tiny hands around his blanket, reaching up with one hand and waving softly.
Shiro smiled, waving back a bit before leaving the room, quietly shutting the door behind him. He jumped at the sight of his dad standing in the hallway, arms crossed. “Dad! I was um….just coming to talk to you.”
“Yeah? Why don’t we go to the living room, sit down.”
Shiro nodded and his dad reached out. He gently lead him into the living room. When they got there, Shiro crawled onto the black, tattered couch.
His dad, Ken, took a seat in the chair across from him. “I got a phone call from the school. Keith got sent home early.”
Shiro nodded, biting his lip. “He got in trouble for pulling someone’s hair,” he mumbled. “I think you should take him to that appointment you and momma used to talk about.”
Ken Kogane paused, leaning forward a bit in the chair. It creaked from the movement. “You heard momma and I talking?”
Shiro nodded a little. “Uh huh. She said she thinks...somethin’ is wrong with Keith.”
“Listen here, Shiro. If there’s one thing you need to remember, no matter what happens, there’s nothing wrong with Keith. Okay?” Shiro nodded quickly, and his dad sighed. “But I suppose….it couldn’t hurt to try. I’ll schedule him an appointment, you make sure he behaves in school until we figure it out, okay?”
Shiro nodded again. “Okay, Dad. I’ll take care of him.”
Ken smiled, standing up and ruffling Shiro’s hair. “Good. He’s your brother, blood or not. And he always will be, okay?”
Shiro nodded quickly. “Okay. Can I order pizza?”
His dad laughed, nodding a bit. “Sure, kid. I’m gonna go make some phone calls. Get pepperoni.”
Shiro nodded, jumping off the couch and running to grab the phone. His dad chuckled, and pulled out his cellphone, walking into the other room.