Your name is Meulin Leijon and you don’t know where your parents are. They have been on a boat trip for almost a month, and you haven’t heard much from them. You try to call them every day, but they’ve only answered once so far, and that was a couple weeks ago. The boat trip was not meant to last this long. They were supposed to be back nearly a week ago. You’ve called three times in just one day, trying to contact them to make sure they’re okay.
Or at least, make sure they did not abandon you and Nepeta.
You hold your baby sister in one arm and your cell phone in the other. It is pouring, but the awning of the gas station protects you from getting soaked. You softly bounce and sway in place to keep your sister’s cries at bay if only for this short phone call. It rings seven times, and you’re about to give up again when the other end picks up.
“Meulin, what is it?” a soft voice on the other line greeted your ears.
“Oh, hi mom!” You said, relieved to finally hear her voice after almost a month of not getting through. “I’ve been wondering how you guys are doing. The last call you answered was nearly three weeks ago . . .” You trail off slightly when you hear cheers in the background.
“We’re fine; it’s been hard to get reception out here . . .” Lie.
“Oh, okay. It’s been kind of hard without you guys home. Nepeta is getting anxious to see her parents again,” You try to make that statement as light as possible, but hope that it’s hitting a nerve.
“We’ll be home soon.” Another lie. Nepeta stirs in your arms and whines slightly as a drop of rain fell on her forehead. You back further underneath the awning and lean against the wall, swaying your arm again. “We’ve been quite busy teaching.”
You’ve been quite busy fucking each other on every surface of that boat. You try to suppress these thoughts as Nepeta nuzzles into your hair. You swallow a lump that suddenly made itself known in your throat. You had hoped that they actually were coming back, that they didn’t just forget they had two children back home. You hoped they didn’t abandon you.
You thought they did.
How wrong you were.
“Meurin can I hab some cereal?” Nepeta sniffled as she slowly walks out of her room. You look up from your calculus book and smile while your heart does that clenching thing it always does when she’s around.
“Of course, my little lion cub,” You say and stand up, walking a few steps to the cupboards. You pull out some Lucky Charms and a bowl and set them on the table behind you while your sister sits across from where you were a few moments ago. You turn and glance at the clock on the other side of the room, it’s almost noon on a Thursday. Usually, after school you pick up Nepeta from preschool and drop her off at your friend Horuss’ apartment. He and his little brother watch her while you work at the coffee shop until eight. Today, though, Nepeta was sick with a high fever and killer sneezes, so no school for the both of you.
When you pour milk and drop a spoon into her bowl she happily digs in. She didn’t have breakfast when she woke up. She was too groggy and feverish to eat, so you sent her back to bed and had called Horuss to tell him don’t bother picking you up for school and to take notes on everything in class today. As she ate now, your cellphone rang from your room. You walk by Nepeta and pat her hair as you go into your room.
“Hello?” You answer, not bothering to check the caller ID. You knew who it was.
“Meulin, hello!” Horuss’ kind and strong voice greets. “I was on my lunch break and I thought I would check to see how you and Nepeta were fairing,” He continues. You hear a bell ring in the distance and look at the clock again.
“Horuss, it’s an hour before your lunch,” You chuckle quietly, but appreciate his concern. “You should be in study hall.” A small laugh sounds on the other end. You know he probably has nothing else to do for school right now, but he should at least have some time for himself you think.
A while ago, when you started your sophomore year of high school after your parents left, he became this sort of anchor for you. He helped you get the two jobs you still have and he’s been a blessing in raising Nepeta. Without Horuss you’d probably have to take Nepeta to work every day, which would be fine for the library, but not for the coffee shop.
“Will she be spending time with us after school or are you taking off?” Horuss replied, referring to Nepeta. On the other end Equius says something, but it’s too quiet to make out. Horuss says something in a comforting tone and you wait until he is done to speak again.
“I can’t take off again. Remember I got sick last week.” You explain quietly, glancing at Nepeta through your door. She’s eating her cereal happily and looking out the window above the sink. You suddenly wished you had enough money for cable so that Nepeta could watch cartoons. Sadly you only have enough money for the rent and your cellphone and Internet bill. Another thing you owe to Horuss. He was the one that sprung for your laptop last Christmas.
You had sold most of the stuff that your parents left behind, but that wasn’t enough to live on comfortably for more than a year. After you sold all the important valuables, save a TV and one computer, your parents didn’t have much. A bunch of books and handwritten journals, CDs and DVDs that nobody wanted, a couple of vases and a set of nice silver; eventually you had to sell the TV and the computer that you had left. Luckily, combined with the leftover money, it was enough to pay the deposit for a new apartment and rent for a month while you tried to gain enough money to do it yourself. The apartment is almost too small; it’s the best you could afford on a part time barista/book keeper salary.
“Right. I’ll take her, as always.” He replies happily as the late bell rang in the distance.
“Go to class.” You whisper harshly with a smile. Horuss laughs and hangs up. You stroll back into the kitchen and pick up Nepeta’s empty bowl. If she keeps eating that fast she’ll throw up. You think as you wash the bowl. You hear her get up and go into her room again. When you finish she is back out again with her blanket.
“Ish cowld Meurin.” Nepeta shivers and shuffles over to you. You hoist her into your arms and sit her on your hip. She nuzzles into your hair, as she always did when she was sleepy. Your heart gives that painful squeeze again as you walk into the living room, which was pretty much the same room as the kitchen. You set Nepeta on the couch and turn to the fireplace. You were lucky enough to be able to afford a top floor apartment that has a fireplace, since you can’t really spring for heating. It doesn’t get too cold in the south, but sometimes the winters are harsh.
You grab the lighter and begin to set the logs ablaze. Nepeta slides from the couch and clings to your side while you work.
“What does mommy look like?” You freeze. The logs are burning now and you slowly put the lighter back down. You sit on the floor in front of the fireplace and pull her into your lap. You swallow and try to form sentences.
“Well . . . she looks like you.”