“Well… At least I have one well behaved child.” Anton said in a cheerful tone as he snipped away at the tips of little Julia’s blond hair. Julia giggled and swung her legs back and forth, an easy task since they didn’t yet reach the ground. “Don’t move too much. I’m bad enough at this without you squirming around.”
“Where’s Die-die?” (pronounced ‘dee dee’ not ‘dye dye’) Julia asked, looking up at Anton despite his recent chiding.
“Look straight ahead. I’m almost done and then we’ll go fine that bratty child.” Julia only pouted slightly and did as she was told. Anton finished up his attempt at a haircut with his usual sips to the front of her hair. “There we are. All done.” He looked her over and gave a nod to signify a job well done. The short bob looked good enough and was quite easy to manage.
Julia hopped down from her seat and dusted some of the extra hair clipping from the front of her dress. “Should we get Die-die now?” She asked.
“That’s not my name!” Dietrich yelled at her from the doorway.
“But it’s cuter than Dietrich…” Julia responded. Julia was a softhearted girl and normally being yelled at would make her tear up quite a bit, however she’d lived with Dietrich like brother and sister for a while now, and she knew better than to take his harsh tone to heart any more.
“I don’t vant to be cute!!!” He yelled a bit louder, his German accent becoming more apparent due to his temper.
“Stop whining and get in the chair Dietrich.” Anton said.
“I don’t want to old man!” Dietrich protested. “You’re just going to give me the same haircut as her!”
“It looks fine.” Anton said, getting annoyed.
“It makes me look like a little girl!” Dietrich glared at his guardian. Julia giggled again.
“Oh you do not!” Anton was starting to get irritated with Dietrich’s actions. He walked over and grabbed Dietrich’s arm to pull him into the seat. Dietrich apparently wasn’t in too much of a mood to fight since he obliged, though he did frown the whole way. Once in the chair, Anton did give him the same haircut as he’d given Julia.
They went through this same routine about once a month. These haircuts had been a strange sort of awkward family bonding for the three of them for a long time now. Anton was anything but a hairdresser, yet for some reason he always insisted that he should just cut their hair himself. Years later, Anton would still call the two of them from their rooms to be the one to give them their haircuts.
“Julia! Dietrich!” Anton called out as he walked into the back part of their building. He rapped lightly on one of the doors and Julia opened it up and smiled at him. That sweet smile of hers hadn’t changed a bit since he’d taken her in so many years ago. The door behind him also opened and Dietrich stood in door frame, arms crossed over his chest. Yes, Dietrich was the same child he’d always known as well.
“What is it old man?” Dietrich said impatiently.
“It’s haircut day. You should already know this for a variety of reasons Dietrich.” Anton sighed and shook his head. Dietrich loved to go out of his way to be belligerent. He just rolled his eyes and turned to go back in his room. Anton chuckled at Dietrich’s childish actions and went back to the larger office room to set up two chairs next to one another.
How many years had it been? They were so young when they’d fallen into his hands, and though he thought they might always be children in his eyes, Dietrich and Julia were both certainly adults now. Anton definitely never thought that he was cut out to be a father yet he’d taken in two children before he ever took a wife.
Still, Anton had never said it aloud, but he loved Julia and Dietrich as if they really were his own children. He would do anything for them. He wondered quite often if Julia and Dietrich treasured their dysfunctional little family half as much as he did. He supposed that didn’t matter. He was happy to give them the exact same haircuts for as long as they would let him, even if Dietrich would whine and complain the whole time.
“I thought we were going to go out drinking together tonight…” Robert proclaimed sighing heavily to show his companion just how bored he really was, “How much longer are you going to be?”
“One, I should not be the one with more work to do than you and two, you were serious about that?” Miles looked up from the stack of papers he had been grading and shook his head at Robert. “Are you sure that drinking is a good idea for you?”
“Of course! I can handle myself just fine Miles. You’re the one who can’t hold his drinks.” Robert laughed loudly.
“Another reason why we shouldn’t go. I’m far to busy with these papers. They all have to be graded by tomorrow and I’m certainly not going to grade them while I’m intoxicated.” He pushed his glasses up the ridge of his nose.
“Do you even need those?” Robert asked.
“Need what?” Miles looked up at his friend.
“Those glasses. Do you even need them?” Robert clarified. “I mean you never had them when we were kids. You didn’t have them throughout high school. I don’t even think you wore them in collage…”
“I…need them. Don’t be ridiculous! Why would I wear glasses I don’t need?” Miles cheeks flushed a little pink.
“You don’t need them do you?” Robert laughed. “You know I actually need mine Miles, what if I found your fake glasses insulting?”
“How would fake glasses be insulting, Robert?” Miles rolled his eyes.
“So… they ARE fake!” Robert announced triumphantly.
“Wh-what!? No. I did not say that. These are real glasses…”
“Yeah right! So what is it? Trying to look smart for your students? Oh I think I know what it is~” Robert grinned.
“Shut up! I need them okay? Stop being an idiot.” Miles avoided eye contact. He wasn’t helping his case much.
“Does Miss Miranda like men with glasses? Hmmmm~?” He leaned in the tone in his voice made Miles want to cringe.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“You wear them to impress Miranda!” Robert continued to laugh. “That’s adorable! You’re such a nerd!”
“Robert! Don’t you think we’re at an age where calling people ‘nerds’ is a bit juvenile? Honestly…” Miles’ face was burning red. Robert knew it better than anyone. It was partially to look more intelligent for his students, but mostly it was because he’d heard Miranda say once that she liked how glasses looked on men.
“I’m being juvenile? Miles. You wear fake glasses to impress your crush. We’re in out 30s! Ask her out! You’re going to die a virgin at this rate!” Robert smacked him on the back.
“I’m done with this conversation.” Miles stood up and headed for the door.
“Great! We can head out then?” Robert followed close behind.
Miles sighed. “Fine. I feel like I could use a drink all of a sudden…”
“It’s ready~!” Lilly said in a sing-songy voice. She pranced over to the table and set it down in front of her brother. The only change to his expression was a slight lift of his eyebrows. Lilly frowned. “Wh-what’s wrong?” She asked.
“It… well… doesn’t look edible…” Thomas answered. “What is it?” He poked his spoon into the food on the plate in front of him.
“What do you mean!?” Lilly smacked her brother’s arm and pouted. “Its beef stew!”
“Looks more like-“
“Just eat it!!!” Lilly’s eyes started to tear up. She was young; it wasn’t like she had a lot of practice cooking. She was only 12 years old and they didn’t have anyone else to cook for them now. Thomas had taken her away from their parents, so now it was just them. Thomas adamantly refused to cook so it was up to her.
He sighed, maybe he was being too hard on her. He dipped his spoon into the stew and tasted it. It wasn’t horrible. He glanced at her and forced a smile. “It’s pretty good…”
“Really!?” Lilly asked. Thomas nodded and she threw her arms around his neck. Now he was really smiling. He hugged her tightly. It was rare that he really got to see her smile. At least, it used to be. He let go of her and ate the whole bowl.
“So are you going to keep cooking for me like this?” Thomas asked.
“As long as you want me to!” Lilly grinned and skipped back to the kitchen.
He grew to love that beef stew. It wasn’t all that good, but Lilly always made it with so much love and how could he not appreciate that? He frowned. How long had it been since he was last allowed to see her? He clenched his fist. This place was hell. He was going to find a way out. He was going to find a way back to his little sister.
A knock on his door jolted him. He stood and answered the door. The girl standing behind the door had something in her hands. Her brows were furrowed and her face was red. She looked angry or was she embarrassed. “Catherine?” He blinked in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“I uh…” She looked shuffled her feet around. “I made extra okay! I-I thought you might want some…”
“Extra what?” He looked at the dish in her hands.
“Its beef stew. I-I’m not the best cook okay!? So you don’t have to like-“
“It’s fine.” He swiped it from her hands. “…Is that all?” Catherine looked mad at his reaction. She sighed loudly and refused to make eye-contact with him.
“Y-yeah…” She turned her back to him.
“Thanks.” He said as he closed the door. Thomas looked down at the stew. It looked awful. He smiled. It reminded him of his favorite. He’d have to thank Catherine again later.
Arthur pressed down on the keys of the piano, but no sound came from it. At least, not one he could hear. It hurt less this time. He was becoming accustomed to his handicap; he’d had it for years now after all. He sighed. A deaf man would certainly have a great amount of difficulty as a composer. He could hear the notes clear as day in his head, he could still play his old pieces, but nothing he wrote held any heart. Since he’d lost his hearing, he’d written only one song. It wasn’t well received and most people said that it had somehow managed to be the most heartless and depressing piece of music they’d ever heard.
Today was going to be different. He tried very hard to convince himself of that. He closed his eyes and reached for the keys. He simply had to think of something to inspire his music. It was then that a face popped into his mind. Naomi… He’d know her for some time now, but from the moment he saw her, he was stricken by her beauty and even more so by her kindness. He flushed and looked down at the keys. Was it okay to write a song about her?
He started to imagine a melody, soft and sweet as she was. In his mind it was beautiful. Arthur’s finger’s danced along the keys translating his thoughts into sound, though the sounds fell on deaf ears. Or so he thought. A hand fell on his shoulder as soon as he’d finished playing Naomi’s song. He jolted and looked to see who had done this. His eyes widened and his face grew warm. Naomi stood before him smiling. His face was red. There was no realistic way she could have known that the wordless tune he’d just played was about her, but he still felt tense, as if she somehow could figure it out.
“That was so beautiful!” She said.
Arthur thought for certain that he’d misread her lips, “Wh-what?” He asked somewhat loudly.
“That song.” She mouthed the words slowly to make sure he understood, “It was beautiful.”
“Thank…you…” He managed to say. He felt like he should have added more, but wasn’t sure what would be appropriate to say.
“You wrote that, right?” She asked.
“Oh. Um. Yes. Yes I did. Just now actually… It’s nothing final, just sort of me playing…” He cut his rambling off before something embarrassing slipped out. “Um, what brings you here?”
“Oh! Right!” She laughed a little at her forgetfulness. He wondered what her laugh sounded like. “I had an abundance of irises and I though you might like some to brighten things up. It’s a little dark in here, don’t you think?”
He watched her mouth for the words carefully and she held out a basket of lovely purple flowers. He felt a little embarrassed. She was giving him flowers? As far as he knew courting was supposed to be the other way around. Still he couldn’t help but smile. She’d been thinking of him as well. Just knowing that lifted his spirits even further.
“They’re lovely. Thank you.” He smiled and took the basket, setting in on top of the piano. “Are… you in any hurry to go somewhere?”
“Not really. My brother keeps insisting that he can take care of himself, so I like to let him be as much as I can.”
“If you like…” He forced out the words, but tried not to shout, “You could… stay here a while and tell me what you think… I mean… of the song… while I work on it…”
“Oh really!? Are you sure?” She looked elated, “I wouldn’t be a nuisance?”
“NOT AT ALL!!” He accidentally shouted, before reeling his tone back in. “If anything… I should think you’ll be a great deal of help… beauty in art is usually inspired by beauty around the artist…” The last part he mumbled in a barely audible tone.
“What?” She tilted her head to the side.
“NOTHING! N-nothing…” He smiled at her, “Come, sit next to me on the piano bench and I’ll play for you…”
“I’d love that…” Naomi took him by the hand and walked to the piano with him.
When he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he could see that it was already almost noon. Yawning loudly, he stretched as much the small space would allow. Christopher cracked his neck and tried to work out the aches and pains sleeping in the back seat of a car provided. He felt around the floor in front of the seat for two things; his glasses and his camera. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and set the camera down in his lap, smiling a little. It was older, probably more than ten or so years old, but still he took it everywhere with him.
He remembered it like it was yesterday. His older brother Hugh had worked as a reporter for a well respected newspaper and Christopher had looked up to his brother for as long as he could remember. Every night, when Hugh came home from work, he would tell Christopher stories and let him play with his camera. He looked at everything through that viewfinder. Hugh would always laugh at how captivated he was by it. He seemed to think that the whole world looked different though that camera. He and Hugh would go for walks though the city and Christopher would snap away, taking pictures of everything they walked past. Hugh would just laugh and mess up Christopher’s auburn hair.
When Christopher would go on his tirades, Hugh would always smile and listen to his little brother talk away, weaving tales of aliens and monsters. Christopher believed so strongly in the supernatural that it was nearly the only thing he liked to talk about, outside of how much he wanted a camera just like his big brother’s. Hugh would then talk about psychics and evolution. He knew a lot of what he said flew over the young Christopher’s head, but he always listened so intently to every word. He wanted to understand. He was excited to hear his brother talk about these people with special powers. He was happy to hear that his brother also believed in the fantastic. Christopher loved his brother. He looked up to him and wanted more than anything to grow up to be just like him. He was capable, brilliant, successful, and even respected.
Then it happened. Christopher could feel his chest tightening as he sat there in his car. He didn’t know why he was thinking of this now. He didn’t really have any reason to reflect and look back on those times. Yet there he was, holding his brother’s beloved camera in his lap remembering a better time and reflecting on the hardest time in his life.
Hugh was out late, researching something for a big story. He and his fiancée, Jane, were driving in a particularly harsh storm. Christopher was about 15 years old at the time. His parents were both in bed when the phone started to ring. Christopher answered. A man with a gruff voice identified himself as a police officer and informed him that Hugh and Jane had been in an accident, and then he asked to speak with his parents. He rushed to wake his mother and handed her the phone. After a few moments of conversing with the voice on the other end, he heard his mother ask the officer if he was sure. There was a silence before she nearly dropped to her knees, only held up by her husband, who’d managed to catch her before she hit the ground.
It was the first time he’d ever seen his mother cry. She was a strong, cheerful woman yet here she was clinging onto her husband, weeping. He wanted to ask what happened, but he already knew. Hugh was in an accident. His mother was crying into his father’s chest. He knew what it was that made her cry. Hugh wasn’t going to come home. He was gone. He had to sit down. Christopher felt as though he’d been stabbed in the chest. How could this happen? Hugh was just here an hour ago! How could he be gone now? He pressed his hands against his face and wept.
Christopher had never experienced a loss until that day. On that day he lost the most important person in the world to him. Hugh had been more than a brother to him. He was his best friend. He was his hero. Now he was gone forever. He wanted to believe that it wasn’t real, but when his mother actually said it, when she sat down with him and told him that Hugh was dead it was more real than ever. He hugged tightly onto his mother and asked her repeatedly why it had to happen like this. She stroked his hair and tried her best to comfort him, but he could feel it in the heaving of her chest; she was still crying too.
Not long after, they were finally able to get what was left of Hugh’s things from his car. Most everything was ruined; crushed form the crash or wet from the rain, but there was one thing left perfectly intact. Christopher almost didn’t believe it when he saw. Hugh’s camera was in absolutely perfect condition. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. There was not even a scratch on it. Christopher couldn’t help but think that somehow this was his brother’s doing. Somehow he wanted to leave something behind and something inside him told him that Hugh wanted him to have this. He clutched it to his chest. “I’ll take good care of it, Hugh. I promise.”
The camera sitting in Christopher’s lap was still that very same camera. It was older, but it worked perfectly. It was the last gift his brother ever gave him and he was going to use it to do everything Hugh would have wanted him to. He looked down at it and smiled. Still, something wet dripped onto the inside of glasses. He shed only a few tears now. Hugh was gone but Christopher would never forget him. He promised that he would find the people Hugh had worked so hard to research; People with special gifts.
He looked though the viewfinder. The world really did look different through that camera, it looked full of hope. He snapped a picture and lowered the camera. His eyes lit up when he saw that not only had he managed to snap a picture of her, but Julia was headed straight for his car. He opened the door and hopped out.
“Hey!” He waved, “What brings you here?”
“Just out for a walk.” The blond woman said smiling at him, “I didn’t expect to see you though.”
“Looks like you just can’t get away from me…” He said, flashing her a smile and pushing his hand though his slicked back hair. She giggled and he couldn’t help but take another picture of just how cute she was.
“You’ve always got that camera with you, don’t you?”
“Of course! I wouldn’t be an ace reporter without it!” He looked down at it, “Besides, it’s my prized possession; I don’t think I could love anything as much as I love it… Except a person of course!!!”
She stared at him for another moment. “Have you been crying Christopher?” She tilted her head to the side; concern was visible in her clear green eyes.
“M-me!?” He looked in to side mirror of the car and tried to adjust his face quickly. “Naw! Just tired! Didn’t get very good sleep last night is all!” He laughed loudly to show her just how good a mood he was pretending to be in.
“All right…” She answered, clearly not convinced by his act.
“Want me to walk you wherever you’re going?” He asked.
“Sure.” She smiled walked next to him down the streets.