Erik hated this time of the year. Not that he hated the rain. He actually loved the cool weather and the fresh smell of earth and grass after the rain. But he hated it because he and Charles were not allowed to play outside on the day like this, especially on the day like this. He always thought that he was already a big boy, and he could take care of himself as well as Charles. But Charles’ nanny, Raven – who became like a big sister to them both, had always made it cleared that she would not let a six-year-old Erik and a not-quite-five-year-old Charles ran outside during the rain.
Erik wished they could play treasure hunt in the forest around the lake outside. They loved to play outside and treasure hunt was one of their favorite games. Most of the time, Erik got to be the leader and Charles would always follow him around, follow any adventure that Erik could think of.
But the rain did not seem to stop anytime soon and Raven would definitely not allow them to go outside today, so, there was nothing much for them to do inside the mansion. They had just finished watching cartoon, solving four jigsaw puzzles, and playing their third game of dominos. They really ran out of any game they wanted to play.
Though Charles was the one who suggested they played hide and seek, it was Erik – out of boredom and need to find something exciting to play, who insisted that they played in the top story of the mansion. It was the part that hardly anybody went there. The hallway was spooky sometime because there were lots of pictures of the Xavier’s ancestors decorated on both walls. Charles used to tell Erik that he believed that the eyes in those pictures always followed him wherever he went.
Although playing hide and seek in the creepy part of the mansion should be exciting and spooky, if not a bit adventurous, all Erik felt at that moment was only irritation. He was really annoyed this time. Not that Charles had found him, again, but it was the fourth time now that Charles had just found him at the same incredible speed. It was as if Charles had peeped through the gap between his fingers when he started to count one, two, three, … and knew exactly which way to follow Erik, though he knew that being a good boy as he was, Charles would never cheat like that.
So, being annoyed and moody, Erik had a plan for Charles this time. A plan to make sure that Charles would not find him.
This time, when Charles started to count, Erik ran away and hid behind the antique cabinet in the farthest corner of the hallway, cloaked himself from head to toe with someone’s old dark cloak that had a funny musty smell he found in the nearby cabinet.
When he heard Charles’ soft footstep getting closer, he slowly straightened up and bowed his head a little to hide his mischievous grin and tried to make a gloomy face so that Charles was literally startled when he found a cloaked figure stood behind the cabinet in the farthest corner of the spookiest hallway in the mansion, right where he sensed it should be Erik.
Slowly, the cloaked figure turn to face him, and in the dim light of the hallway, Charles was really scared he could not find any word to say. After a moment, his bright blue eyes widen when he recognized the familiar outline of his friend’s face. But before he could say anything, the figure said in the voice deeper and lower than his friend’s voice: “I know what you’re looking for, but I’m afraid you will never find your friend ever again.”
Scared as he was, Charles’ ever sweet-sounding voice seemed uncertain when he asked, “What do you mean?”
“Erik was dead. He’d been taken. I’m his spirit. I was allowed to stay here long enough to tell you. Then I’ll be gone too,” said the cloaked figure.
Charles’ eyes became watery, his red lips trembled. “I don’t believe you.” He retreated back a few paces, then turned abruptly and ran down the hall, crying. Erik’s heart skipped a beat. It was pounding loudly in his chest when he saw what really happened. He only thought that he would just tease Charles, and make him pouted a bit. He always secretly thought that a pouting Charles was lovely. But he never thought that this would really upset his dear friend so much that he would be crying like that.
Before Erik recovered from his initial shock and went after Charles, Raven appeared around the corner and Charles ran straight into her arms. Erik heard Charles tearfully told her through his sob that Erik was dead. That made Raven’s brow furrowed when she glanced behind Charles and Erik knew that she saw his still cloaked figure stood back not far behind. Raven did not show any sign to Charles that she saw him though. When she gently prompted Charles to tell her what had happened, Erik had a feeling that she might understood what really had happened, and that he would be in trouble for sure.
Charles was sitting in one of the plush armchairs that was too large for him in the living room, crossing his arms tightly in front of his chest and pressing his lips together into a thin line. He looked out the window, and did not look back into the room, or to be specific, he refused to glance in Erik’s direction. Though Erik was sitting there, not far from him, for a good twenty minutes now, Charles was still not looking in his direction. It was quite a record, though, since Charles had never been able to stay still without fidgeting for as long as five minutes.
“I’m sorry, ok? I never meant to make you cry.” It was Erik who finally broke the silence in the room.
“…” Still, nothing came out of Charles’ mouth. This was also another marvel, and a sign that Erik was really in big trouble, since Charles had never been quiet for this long. He knew now why Raven did not punish him right then, because leaving him to deal with an angry Charles on his own was quite a hard enough punishment.
“I just meant it to be a joke. I didn’t think you would really believe it,” Erik said with a little frustration at the silence from Charles.
“I’ll let you choose our movies to watch for the whole week, ok?” Erik said, and as an afterthought, added, “And also what games we play on the next weekend too.”
Charles’ crossed arms relaxed a bit, his lips did not press together as thin as they were. Erik waited in silence for a while until Charles started speaking, though he still refused to turn to look at Erik. “It’s not a joke. It’s not fun at all. Why did you lie to me like that?”
“I.. uh.. I’m sorry Charles. I didn’t really know why I thought of that plan. But you must understand that it really annoyed me, the way you always find me so fast like that every game,” Erik said in a somewhat defeated tone.
“Why!?” Charles asked as he slowly turned toward Erik, not clearly understood.
“You know, every time I went to hide, it took you almost no time at all to find me. That’s why I was so annoyed.” Erik’s reply was a weird mix of accusation and embarrassment.
“But I didn’t cheat! I can’t help it. I just know where to find you. It’s like I could feel you all the time, in here,” Charles said in his small, uncertain voice, and pointed his finger to his temple.
“I know you didn’t cheat. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be annoyed, right?” Erik said sheepishly. “Here, you can have all my brownies. I’m not hungry.” Even as he said the last part, Erik’s stomach was making a loud protest.
Charles looked at Erik with a very amused hint in his eyes. The corner of his lips curled upward into a beginning of a smile. His clear blue eyes shone a little brighter. “I don’t think your tummy agreed with you.”
Erik blushed and ducked his head in embarrassment. Though Charles thought Erik’s pink cheeks were both funny and cute, he saved him from feeling more embarrassed by offering, “We can share all the brownies together. I think Raven gave me super big plate today. I can hardly eat all of mine.”
Erik glanced up and asked tentatively, “Do you forgive me?”
Charles nodded, and then he added, “Only if you promise not to die again.”
Erik started to grin, and he couldn’t stop his grin from growing wider and wider at the knowledge that Charles forgave him. He promised solemnly, “I promise, I’ll never die or make you cry ever again.”
Charles beamed at him, and Erik internally pledged to himself that he would do anything he could to keep his promise and make his Charles happy forever.