“Why don’t you take her in? Her skills would go to waste if you didn’t, right?”
There was silence in the dining table for a while. Sophia stared at her housemate. Kenji stared down at his food. He mulled over the decision.
“It would be good if you could teach someone…”
That girl, Loji – she had so much potential. So much blood on her hands and so much life to live. Loji would make a good apprentice. Kenji’s protégé. It was about time he trained one. And not only will they get an extra hand in mission, they will also be helping the girl get out of that hellhole of a life she was living.
“I have to find a place first.” – it was easy.
Sophia blinked. “What place?” When Kenji looked back at her, she raised an eyebrow.
“No need for a new place, you’re not going to be training a whole squadron.”
“There’s no room.”
He paused. He knew what she was talking about. For one second, he doubted that she did, but she always knew what she was saying. It was almost irrational to doubt Sophia Theodores.
“Let’s check it out after dinner!”
She looked so cheerful.
After dinner, Sophia turned the knob of the old room and Kenji flipped on the lights. It was simple. Dusty. The dark blue bed was still there, sheets complete. In the floor, toy trains, cars, little robots, basketballs and some stuffed animals were littered. The shelves had storybooks and comic books as well as more toys.
“My, I never got to clean this up.”
“This was Kail’s.”
“He’s dead. No one would need these.”
Kenji watched as Sophia walked in, carefully picked up a teddy bear and stared at it.
“Fetch some boxes for me?”
He did. When he returned, she instantly dumped a couple of toys on one of the boxes.
Kenji watched as she put toy after toy, book after book in the boxes. After that, she got into the closets and got out some clothes. She regarded them for a while, then proceeded to put them in the boxes, too. Next were the shoes.
It was like she was just deleting some data from her memory.
But that’s just how loss is. They’re like unecessary files in the drive. It’s either you put them in a back-up or you delete them to free some space.
“I told you, there’s room.”
Of course there is.
“I will get the vacuum cleaner.”
“Kenji, are you okay?”
Sophia dismissed it. Kenji didn’t want to share, it was alright. He would, eventually. In the meantime, she dusted the sheets, coughed a little, then lifted them up in a bundle – they’ll go to the laundry.
She passed by him, carrying the blankets, sheets and covers on her arms. He was lifting the vacuum cleaner with one hand. A white slip fell from the bundle on Sophia’s arms.
Kenji picked it up, called the hacker by the name and handed the photograph.
Sophia blinked once then shrugged. “Oh, that. Put it with the toys on the boxes.”
“I thought you’d like to frame it.”
Sophia smiled at him, reached up to pat his head. Kenji frowned a little – here she was, treating him like a child again. When she walked away without a word, Kenji stared down at the picture.
Kail died too young.
As was instructed, Kenji put the photo in the toy boxes, plugged the vacuum cleaner and started his job. Sophia came back a few moments later and replaced the sheets with clean ones. She stared at the room for a while. The messy childish drawings, cartoon-hero posters and other photos were still haphazardly taped against the cream white wall.
The woman held one artwork and, careful not to tear it, removed it from the wall. She did the same with the other posters and papers, ever-so-gently avoiding any damage with her son’s works.
Soon she held a pile of slightly-crumpled papers in her hands, and looking at the empty walls were only slight traces of watercolor, crayons and tape marks remain.
On top of the pile was a messy crayon drawing of a mother and her little boy. She stared at it, missing the sound of the vacuum cleaner stopping.
She felt a hand on top of hers and looked up, back from her unusual daze, at her companion who stood behind her. “Yes?”
Wordlessly, he took the pile from her and took it upon himself to keep the papers in one of the boxes.
“I will help.”
If she wanted to keep the memories, he will help her.
Sophia blanked out – a rare thing. She was always so alert. “Thanks…” was all she managed to say.
It took her long enough to clean up this room. To finally know that Kail, the only one she ever really had, would not be coming back. She was aware of it, really. She had accepted the fact long long ago. But it was just that she never entered this room after doing so.
Kenji had been there when she came home with the fact of an empty house. He did not really offer to be there, to be company, but he stayed the first night. That was enough. Later, when he moved in, he found Kail’s room unchanged and he did not bother to ask her about it.
He always respected her choices.
All of the dead child’s things were packed. Sophia stood behind him as he closed the lid of the last box, and Kenji felt her hand on his shoulder tremble a little.
Kenji felt his companion kneel behind him. Sophia rested her head on his shoulder and stayed that way before Kenji turned around and offered an embrace. Leaning back against the box of Kail’s memories, Kenji held the woman in his arms as she tearlessly lamented. No sounds except their soft, steady breathing. She simply held on to him as he let her cry.
Kenji knew when Sophia cried.
She didn’t need tear glands for him to understand her well.
Looking at the empty room, he listened to her muster options and actions. Maybe she could just delete the memories. Maybe she could forget about Kail. Maybe she could just keep the data in an external storage device. They will be doing more and more missions… she would have to make room for new fragments of important information.
A few moments later, he volunteered to buy the picture frame for her. She only laughed at his unusual antics lightly and thanked him for the treat.