Aaron Hotchner was sitting in his backyard listening to the silence of the house. The groundskeeper was gone for the day and the cleaning staff was as well. It was rare that the staff and his parents were gone but given that his mother had gone into labor two weeks early, it wasn’t a shock. It was early afternoon and Aaron had been trying to make himself go inside and get something to eat. He was hungry but didn’t want to leave the solitude of outside. Before his father had dismissed the cook for the day, she’d made him up some sandwiches that he could grab out of the refrigerator and eat when he wanted.
The rustling of a bush at the back edge of the property shocked Aaron. Animals rarely wandered onto their property. He waited to see what could be coming towards him when he saw a head of human hair bobbing in and out of the bushes. He wasn’t sure if the person was crouched or just really small because the head of hair was shorter than him. He wasn’t small for his age but to be out and about in someone else’s yard was odd for someone smaller than him. The only reason he was left alone was that his father didn’t care for him at all.
Watching, Aaron followed the small person as they moved from one end of the property to the other. He waited as the person stopped and settled down. When he was sure that the person wasn’t moving anymore, Aaron peeked into the bushes. Sitting there was a small naked boy wearing glasses. He looked to be very small. A lot smaller than Aaron.
“Hello,” Aaron said. The boy jumped up and scrambled backward from him. His eyes wide with fear and Aaron didn’t like it. He’d been tempted to jump into the bushes and follow the boy but he decided against it. He stayed where he was as the boy continued a backward motion. Until he tripped on a plant and fell backwards onto his butt. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”
The boy just eyed him, not moving except for his eyes. Those eyes darted back and forth. Aaron was shocked at the look of the eyes. He looked smart. Aaron had been called smart. His teacher had wanted to push him up a year or two after only a month of kindergarten but his father had said no. Instead his teacher had given him homework that was closer to his actual intelligence than the rest of the class.
“My name is Aaron. What’s yours?”
“Sp…Tristan. My name is Tristan.” The boy pushed himself up to a sitting position and drew his legs to his chest to hide his groin. Aaron pulled his long shirt off. He had a t-shirt on underneath it. The cook had made him promise to keep both on if he stayed outside for more than hour. While it was May, there was still a chill in the air as night approached. Aaron took a step towards the boy but he didn’t try and move again. Another careful step and the only thing the boy did was tense up some and eye him harder. Aaron leaned over and handed him the shirt. He was close enough now that he could see the boy was shivering. He didn’t know if it was fear or cold.
“Put it on so you don’t get cold.”
Tristan looked at the shirt for a minute and then did as he asked, quickly. When his head popped through the head hole of the shirt, Aaron laughed. His hair was messed up. Aaron reached out and the boy tensed harder but when Aaron only calmed down the mess of hair, the boy relaxed some.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I woke up over there,” the boy pointed as he spoke and Aaron looked that direction. It was farther back on the property. His family owned a lot of the woods around the house. How did the boy get lost and wake up in the woods? He wondered if the boy’s parents knew that he was lost. He also wondered how he’d become naked? Had he wandered away and got his clothes wet or dirty and had stripped them off? There was pond and the stream that fed it on the property. Were his clothes there? Had he gone for a swim and gotten scared, leaving his clothes behind?
“Where are your parents?”
“Mom is at home and dad is at work. It’s rare but he works on some Saturdays. I was reading in our backyard when I wandered off to play and ended up here.”
“Your parents are going to be worried about you when they go to find you and you aren’t there.”
“I know my way home. I just sat down and must have taken a nap. Where are your parents?” Tristan’s eyes were on the big house behind him. Aaron turned to look at the house as well. He knew that his parents were well off. His father made a lot of money as a lawyer and his mother had money that she’d come into the marriage with. He’d heard enough fights between them to know it all.
“Mother is in labor. I’m getting a younger sibling. Father sent the help home. I think forgetting that there was no one to watch me. After this my sibling will be getting a nanny so I won’t be alone at home anymore. I’m five how old are you?”
“Four. I’ll be five in October.”
“I’ll be six on November second. What day were you born?”
“The ninth.” Tristan looked to the side, like his eyes were seeing something that Aaron couldn’t. His whole body kind of shuddered and then he smiled. “I’ve got to go and find my clothes.” Tristan stood up and pulled the shirt off and handed it back to Aaron. “Thank you for keeping me company.”
Tristan took off at a run into the deeper parts of the woods. Aaron listened to the crash of feet for a minute before the sound was gone. He slipped his shirt back on, the warmth from Tristan was fading fast but it was still there when he settled his arms in the sleeves. The sound of car tires on the concrete told Aaron that his dad was back. He ran into the house through the back door making sure that his father would not be able to see him. He settled onto the couch with a book in his hand.
His father came into the house with a smile on his face and a bottle of rum in his hand. Aaron tucked his feet up onto the couch, making himself as small as possible. His father didn’t see him. Instead he moved towards his office on the second floor. Aaron followed after him and waited to get close after the door shut.
“Yes, no. Labor went fine. I have a healthy son. Sean. I don’t know where Aaron is. Well, I don’t care where Aaron is. He’s not under foot. He’s finishing up kindergarten now. I’ll be finding a nanny for Sean and when she has the time she can care for Aaron. We don’t have the time. She’s going to be recovering from this. It was a hard birth and they’ve cautioned her to not have any more children. Well, if I find something younger, I’ll have to have that on the side. We have a prenup remember? She’d not remarry for the rest of her life so that I will have to pay for her. Yes, well my new secretary is already showing that she’s interested. It’s not like I’m going to be getting sex at home for the foreseeable future.”
Aaron moved away from his father’s office and climbed the stairs to his bedroom on the third floor. His parents’ rooms were on the second floor. Two bedrooms because while his mom had been pregnant she’d insisted on a separate room. So a second room had been set up for her, along with another bedroom turned into a sitting room. His father’s room and his office were next to each other. The master bedroom sat empty now. The room at the end of the hall on the second floor was set up as a nursery for his sibling, Sean, his mind supplied to him. Aaron’s nursery had been the room that was now his mother’s sitting room. As soon as he’d come out of the crib and slept in an actual bed, he’d been on the third floor of the house. One of the staff helped him keep his room clean. She ran the vacuum every day and helped to keep the dust out. He’d learned two years before to never have toys sitting out where his father could step on them, ever. Since then he’d always preferred to read instead of play. If he did play it was while his father was at work and he made sure to have the toys picked up long before his father got home.
The third floor of the house also had the library in it. His mother visited the room rarely and his father never did. It was full of books that adults read and Aaron tried to read them time and again. The cook talked his mother into giving her money and she went out and bought several children’s aged books for Aaron. He never read them outside of the living room, the library, and his bedroom. When he’d finished those, he’d asked his mother for more so the cook had the weekly job of getting him books. The books were delivered before the end of school every Friday. Aaron came home to find a box sitting on his bed. When he was done with each book, he carefully placed it on the shelves in the library so that he could read it again later or in a few years, he could teach Sean to read and they could read them together.
The sound of a slamming door had Aaron running to his bedroom. He slipped inside and ducked into his closet, pulling the door shut and grabbing his current book and gripping it to his chest. He heard his bedroom door open just two minutes later. He counted the seconds as he sat there. When he reached a minute, the door shut and then he started over at one, counting again. When he reached five minutes, Aaron clicked on the flashlight buried under the pillow he was sitting on. He lost himself in the words on the page, forgetting that he needed to eat.