Characters: Ryo, Aunt Elena and Uncle Rick, Ryo’s parents.
Setting: Vol. 3, Act 9.
Summary: Ryo’s life has been turned upside down by his parents’ deaths, and now he’s facing a bleak Christmas alone.
Word Count: 1330
Written For: Challenge 222: Curl at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
Ryo had already been living alone for months while his parents were in Europe on one of their frequent buying trips. When he’d been younger his mother had stayed home with him, and during school vacations he’d travelled with them, but over the last year and a half he’d grown used to being by himself much of the time.
He hadn’t minded too much, he’d spoken to his parents by phone every few days, and school had kept him busy; he had finals coming up in a few months so he’d been spending a lot of time studying recently, hoping to get high enough grades to get into a good college after he graduated, even though he still wasn’t too sure what he wanted to do with his life. He’d thought maybe he’d follow in his parents’ footsteps; they were art dealers and doing pretty well, and he’d already learned a lot from them, but now…
He shook his head; that wasn’t going to happen, their business was in ruins and he might not even get to go to college. Always before he’d known his mom and dad were only a phone call away, and he’d had his friends to hang out with, and the housekeeper his parents hired to keep an eye on things, but now his parents were dead and his world was in pieces around him.
How quickly everything could change. He’d taken for granted his family would always be there for him; nothing in his life had prepared him for this.
Aunt Elena had helped him with the funeral arrangements, and both she and Uncle Rick had helped clean up the mess the police had left while searching for nonexistent evidence to prove that his parents had been smuggling drugs into the country on a regular basis. All of that had kept him too busy for a while to really think about what had happened, but now that his aunt and uncle were gone and he was all alone, the house that had been such a warm and comforting family home suddenly felt far too big, cold, and empty, for one grieving eighteen-year-old boy. The silence weighed on him.
It was Christmas Eve now, his first ever Christmas alone, and he didn’t like it. The housekeeper would be home with her own family by now, while Aunt Elena and Uncle Rick were spending Christmas abroad, something that had been arranged months ago and had to do with Aunt Elena’s work as a photographer. It was a lucrative assignment and she couldn’t simply ignore it, especially since she’d already accepted the job and been paid a retainer. That money was going to be needed in the near future. Still, they’d be back by the middle of next month, and then Ryo would be moving in with them; until then he’d just have to manage by himself.
He could do that; it would give him time to decide what he wanted to do with his parents’ belongings. It was just different now, knowing his mom and dad were gone and that he’d never see them again. Always before he’d been able to talk to them whenever he missed them too much, filling them in on his news, hearing about their travels, making plans for when they arrived home, always talking about the future. Now his future was unknown territory, a bleak, empty landscape stretching out before him, with no clear path to follow.
Feeling lost and hollow, he decided to shower and turn in early; there was nothing to stay up for and sleep was really the only escape he had right now from the emptiness.
He’d just come downstairs, still drying his hair, intending to warm some milk to help him sleep, when the phone rang and he rushed to answer it in the absurd hope that it might be his parents, that the police had gotten it wrong and that someone else had been driving their car… His heart beat faster as he picked up the receiver, then plummeted as he heard the voice on the other end of the line.
It was Aunt Elena, checking up on him; their plane had just touched down in Spain and they were at the airport waiting for a taxi to take them to their hotel.
“I’m so sorry you have to spend Christmas Eve on your own. Are you alright? Are you too lonely?”
Despite his momentary disappointment it was good to be reminded that there were still people who cared about him. Nevertheless, he did his best to put a brave face on things; he didn’t want her worrying, that wouldn’t be fair. She had to be grieving too.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m a little lonely but I’m okay. Aunt Elena? Thank you for taking me in. I… I really appreciate it.”
His aunt assured him no thanks were necessary, that they were family, that she and her husband were looking forward to having him live with them. They were so kind. A little of the coldness around Ryo’s heart started to thaw; no matter how alone he might feel right now, it wouldn’t last. In a few weeks he’d be living across town in his aunt and uncle’s cosy home. It would mean leaving the house he’d grown up in, and all the happy memories it held, but he was going to be fine.
Hanging up the phone, Ryo stared out through the living room window into the darkness, remembering last Christmas Eve, laughing and talking with his mom and dad beside the big, brightly lit Christmas tree, the three of them so happy. Now there was no tree, no decorations of any kind, and instead of sitting in front of a blazing fire with him his parents were buried in the local cemetery.
Sinking into his dad’s favourite armchair and curling up on the seat in a forlorn huddle, he draped the damp towel over his head to hide the empty, cheerless room from view, fresh tears burning his eyes. Perhaps he wasn’t so fine after all.
He didn’t know how long he sat there, swamped by grief, but eventually, his bare feet grown cold and his legs beginning to cramp, he unfolded himself, wiping away the tears with his towel. It was no good sitting here all night; he should get to bed. Turning out the lights he wearily climbed the stairs, the warm milk he’d been going to make completely forgotten.
Pausing in his bedroom doorway, strangely reluctant to enter the room that had been his since early childhood, he turned instead to his parents’ room. Light was filtering in through the blinds from the streetlamps outside, bathing the big bed in a warm glow and bringing back countless memories of snuggling under the soft, downy comforter with them. He’d always felt so safe in that bed. Now he crawled under the covers, curling into a ball in the middle of the mattress and closing his eyes. He remembered his mom comforting him when he’d had a nightmare, his dad laughing and tickling him one long-ago Christmas, morning when, too excited to sleep, he’d climbed in with them and woken them up, wanting to know if Santa had been yet.
If he kept his eyes tightly closed and didn’t move he could almost imagine his parents were there beside him, that the last couple of weeks had been nothing more than a bad dream. Somehow he felt closer to them here than anywhere else in the house and he knew in that instant that he could let go of everything else they’d owned if he had to, as long as he could keep their bed and the comforter that was gradually warming the chill from his bones. As long as he had this bed he could hold on to the good times, his childhood memories, and know that even though they were gone, something of his parents would always be with him.