Epilogue - Origins - 5: Taro FINAL

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Make sure you read the origin chapters in order for the best reading experience. They'll make more sense that way. Also, I just want to thank each and every one of you for supporting Errand Runners. After looking back on this year-long journey, it's been a pleasure and an absolute honor to interact with you in the comments. You are the best readers anyone could ever dream for. I sincerely appreciate it all. Truly.

I had to admit, the outside of the complex never looked better. I mean, I know I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s like a brand new building. Amazing what a few flowers can do for a shabby old apartment building.

Stuck in my marveling, I nearly fell over when Suri meandered by with a miniature bag of manure. And I did fall over when Burt came next, hot on her heels.

“Burt,” she scolded playfully, not bothering to help me off the ground. Caden strolled out after Burt, passing me by completely.

“No," I nagged, "don’t bother helping me up. It’s not like I was crippled a couple months ago.” I rose to my feet, feeling a slight, but undeniable tenderness in my right leg.

“Weren’t you just trying to go on the next run?” Caden interrogated.

“You really shouldn’t eavesdrop, kid." I shot him a holier-than-thou look. "Didn’t Nole ever teach you that?”

“Actually, yeah,” Caden retorted, “but it’s the only way you can hear things no one else will tell you.” He stood over his sister as she ripped the plastic bag open, releasing clumps of manure and an unbearable smell with them. I don’t know why Betty agreed to this beautification effort. It was a waste of money, but man, she was such a softie for the kids.

“Anyone ever tell you you should be a detective?” I joked, but decided to drop it. “Are you guys even allowed to be out here unsupervised?”

“Valerie said you were going to watch us,” Suri chimed with an innocent smile. How had I gotten stuck with babysitting duty? And how had Valerie gotten one over on me? I was losing my touch.

Conceding, I leaned against the wall, overseeing Suri mess around in the smelly crap, for lack of a better word, and cringed when I saw Burt take a bite. “So,” I rubbed my hands together to distract myself from the awful image. “You guys like this place? Must be better than a rooftop near Central Square?”

Suri turned to me, her big, brown doe eyes putting me in a daze. “I liked the roof.” I would’ve made a joke, but I could tell she was being sincere. “I could see the sky and talk to Mom directly.”

It took a few seconds for me to understand, but I instantly realized what she meant when Caden crossed his arms and sighed. I had no idea their mom was dead. I mean, Nole never mentioned it, not that he had a right to. I instantly became curious about the dad, but I followed my better judgment and bit my tongue. That, and I really had no clue what to say.

Caden came to my rescue after a few painful seconds of awkward silence “It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything.” His young features were stoic, and I was blown away by how mature he was. How mature both of them were actually. Nole was a great older brother.

“It doesn’t make me sad anymore,” Suri cut in. Her grungy hands reached for her neckline. “When I remember her, I get happy.” She pulled the chain around her neck, clutching the pendant in her palm.

Letting out an audible sigh, Caden reproached her. “Suri, don’t touch it with your hands covered in manure!”

“Crap, I forgot the gloves,” she responded, clearly missing the point.

As she scurried inside for the missing gloves, Caden and Burt followed close behind. Her brother probably wanted to prevent her from touching anything and making a mess, while Burt probably wanted to do the opposite.

I couldn’t help but laugh. It was good to have a few new people around. I mean, I knew Nole was good after what he did for me, but seeing him and his siblings in action, it was undeniable that it ran in the family. Their mom must’ve been one heck of a lady.

I closed my eyes, remembering my own mom and dad. I wondered what they’d think of me if they saw me now. Mom would think I was crazy, and Dad would think I was crazy too, but pat me on the back when Mom wasn’t looking. Aunt Kate and Uncle Wally would be trying to convince them to send me to boot camp, and Grandpa Jed would be napping. I was sure about that last one.

It was sad to think about them possibly worrying about me though; not knowing if I was even alive. They thought I was nuts for leaving the outskirts, but I was convinced that I could change Nova for the better. After helping expose Ryker and Caswell, I think I accomplished that a little, but I couldn’t have done without Nole and Tom and everyone. And that doctor. Everyone's convinced that it's all over, but I have my suspicions, especially about the guy that hired the Paras.

Derailing my train of thought, Burt bolted out of the door, cloth gloves hanging from his mouth. Not surprisingly, Suri came sprinting out after him, and Nole, Valerie, Olivia, and Zane followed with Caden in tow. Nole gave me a nod, and I waved lazily in response. There was that déjà vu again.

“You guys be careful.” I said earnestly, but then added something else. “Don’t have too much fun without me.” I couldn't have them thinking I was getting all sappy. This earned me a smirk from Olivia, an expressionless stare from Zane, and a humble smile and shake of the head from Valerie.

They all waited for Nole to say goodbye to his siblings before leaving the complex. Suri and Caden watched them until they turned a corner up ahead. I averted my eyes and looked at the blank sky above me, realizing just how much I missed my family. I need to visit them in the outskirts one of these days.


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