Chapter 13

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We wake up lying on each other. The musty spring air covers us like thick blankets. I sit up and look around; We're under his tree.

Before Marco wakes up I head over to it. It's shades hits the grave. We sat under it many-a sunny days. I find a sharp rock on the ground, and hold it up to the bark.

"Nicoli, Marco, Aleksander. Three boys. One family united by war."

Under it near the grave I carve his name.

"Nicoli. Killed by a greedy man with bombs. He died smiling, just how he should."
I look back at Marco. His face is coated with dirt, only the streaks from his tears showing his skin.

I dig around in the bag. I pull out some cloth and soak it in a nearby puddle. In it, I see my reflection. Dirt and blood covers every inch of me. I wash off my face and arms. Blood stains the puddle dark red. I go to a different one to rinse out the towel.

"Alek?" I hear Marco calling. I come over with the wash cloth.

"Clean up. You'll feel better." I hand him the washcloth. Very quickly the faded yellow of the cloth turns bloody red. He stands up and grabs a nearby stick to help him.

"We should keep moving." I blurt out. "There could be more bombs coming."

"We don't know that yet." Replies Marco. "This could be our safest place. Besides," he turns to our grave, "I don't want to leave him behind."

I come over and stand next to him. "I don't want to either. But we have to remember that he doesn't want us to join him. Not till we're very old."

A few tears slip down his face. "Okay, we'll leave in two hours." He brushes them away and goes back to the puddle.

We get our priorities set out first. We change out of our bloody clothes, and into cleaner ones. I search around the tree until I find a giant puddle. It takes a while to clean off our clothes before letting them dry on a bush in the sun. I pull out an orange and some bread for us to eat. I can tell it helps Marco.

When it's time, we stand at the edge of his grave.

"Goodbye, little brother. I love you." I turn to the winding road to town.

"Goodbye, little Nicoli. I'll miss you." He turns to the road and we set off for town, but we can't go three steps without one of us looking back.


It takes all day to reach the town. Once we get there the sun has dipped so low into the horizon, the people have set out candles. We walk around for a bit, getting a feel for the place. We can tell right away anyone here is much better off than anyone from where we came from, but the thick feeling of terror is the same everywhere.

Finally, we find a little alleyway with a roof. It's relatively warm for the evening, so we find a dry spot in it, and lay down our things.

I pull out a blanket and wrap it around Marco. He curls up near the pillow and closes his eyes. He looks like a little kid. We need to eat something, so I pull out an apple for us. Marco just pushes it away.

"Not hungry." He mumbles.

"You need to eat something. You haven't eaten anything since this morning." I poke his mouth with the edge of the apple until he grabs it. We both sit on pillows as we eat.

"So," He says between bites. "Now that we're here, what are we gonna do?"

I sit and stare up at the sky. It's almost completely covered in what looks like a black sheet. In the holes stars glitter like shattered glass.

"We'll just have to wing it from now on. Get jobs, find a place to live."

"Wing it for the rest of our lives?" He throws his apple core into the street to grab my shoulders. "Life is not something you can just wing forever!" He shakes me senseless.

I take one more bite and throw my core as well. "Just until we get some stability."

He lets me go and throws himself onto his pillow. "Maybe we just give up. Sell ourselves to become slaves or soldiers. At least we would be protected."

I pull him up and look him straight into his eyes. "We have to. Just because he's gone doesn't mean we stop living. The world doesn't wait for the mourning."

Marco lies back down, but keeps his eyes on me. "So, what's your plan to start earning a little cash?"

I lie down next to him and steal some of his blanket. "Let's see how things look in the daylight. At the very least, we can beg. Maybe you can do people's portraits for a price."

He laughs. The first I've heard in awhile. "Maybe." He rolls over and yawns. "Goodnight Alek."

"Goodnight Marco."


We wake up to the morning light shining right in our eyes. We both sit up and look around. I've almost forgotten what it's like to not wake up to the sounds of other children and hospital talk.

I shake off the blanket and dig into the bag. I pull out some dried meat and hand a slice to Marco. He rolls the blanket up and throws it onto the pillows. I stand up and head to the edge of the sidewalk. The reflection off broken store windows blinds me for a second. As soon I get used to it, I notice the slow shuffle of townsfolk. Most look like Marco and I; dirty, tired, people trailing along with whatever they own. A few carry only little bags of money, as if things have never changed.

Marco sneaks up behind me. "So, what's the plan for today? Take a stroll and see if we can find a job?"

"Exactly." I turn back to our little nook in the alley. I grab all of our things and try to stuff them into the bags. "Can you go look and see if there's a little nook where we can hide all this?"

Marco's footsteps tap lightly against the cement. I grab the bags and stand up. Marco is staring into something near a dumpster. "Over here should work."

I head over and crouch down next to him. He pushes around some things and makes a little niche just big enough to fit all of our things. Together we make it all fit, keeping a few coins. When we finish we head into the streets.

It looks exactly what you'd expect from a war torn town. Shops are closed; dust collects on their windowsills. Broken glass and debris cover the ground. One or two buildings are still open, but they have almost nothing in them. Dried blood crusts the edges of every building, giving it a thin layer of fear. 

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