Teletale Part II: Lanie

Writing Jan 19, 2022

“Hi. You wanna help with something?”

Kalil stared at him for a moment while Art sat up and adjusted his clothes. "No."

Not that Art had been expecting a different answer.

"Well, I have news at least!" He forced enthusiasm despite Kalil's stone-cold glare. Yes, there were half a dozen things he'd done wrong. He should be in school, should enter without causing a racket. He hadn't brushed his hair that morning either, and it wouldn't be the first time Kalil chewed him out over that. He pushed his bangs aside with his hand.

"I found the mouse woman."

Kalil's brow furrowed, then he held out his hand. Art put his hands in his hoodie pocket, wringing them together when he found nothing there.

"I may have lost the money," he admitted.

"I swear to god," Kalil groaned. "You got nothing?"

"I have her address."

"She's going to send someone to kill you. You know how she is!"

Art knew. If it wasn't for what the mouse woman had done to his stepmother, he didn't think Kalil would tolerate the sight of him. The two had never gotten along, but at least Kalil didn't hate him enough to throw him out.

Kalil put his head in his hands. "If we want to find my mom, you need to be careful, Arthur. Did you even eat this morning?"

Art ducked his head. "I got a bagel from Rossi."

Kalil frowned. Art stood up, hoping his stepbrother had run out of things to yell at him about. He shuffled carefully towards the door.

"Where are you going?"

"The kitchen," Art answered over his shoulder, shutting the door behind him before Kalil could tell him that there was nothing worth eating in there. He stepped into the living room, shoving aside his bedding and sitting down on the couch. His school bag tipped over from where he'd propped it up on the armrest. The three or four papers it contained slid out onto the cushion beside him. Art tucked his knees up to his chest. He was doing everything he could think to do, but it wasn't enough to get his family back or even earn Kalil's respect. What good was it waiting for things to get better, without doing anything?

The door to Kalil's room opened and Kalil came out, arms crossed over his chest. He kept his eyes turned towards the floor, but Art still spotted the glimmer of tears in them.

"They're going to catch you one of these days." He moved Art's school bag to the floor and sat down in its place.

Art shrugged, pushing the reminder of the several near misses that morning out of his mind. "I can run."

"Yeah, and so could your dad."

He frowned at the black fabric of his school bag, turning his back to the other boy. "Do you really think they'll leave you alone just because you want nothing to do with me?"

"You're not protecting anyone!" Kalil snapped.

"And you're not going to change my mind!" Art snapped back. "It's not like you're doing anything better. Where's college gonna get you when someone wants you dead?"

"Your family is the reason anyone wants me dead in the first place," Kalil muttered.

The two boys were quiet for a minute. Art listened to the footsteps coming from the floor above, the sound of neighbors he had never met going about their quieter lives.

"You said you found the mouse woman?" Kalil asked. Art turned back towards him in surprise. The other boy was crying again.

His voice low, Kalil asked, "What did you need my help with?"

Author bio:

Lanie is an 18-year-old writer and photographer. They post their work at deskofadragon.blogspot.com

Tags

Pierogi

the f in my name stands for funny

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