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"I trust you with my heart. It's no mere part. Protect those I love. I await their return in my precious cove."

***


The room got warm. Little Brother was coming. It only got this warm when he was visiting.

A black haired ten-year-old boy passed through this little door Phoenix had drawn on the wall. The door only opened for him. Whenever Phoenix tried to use it, nothing happened.

Alain ran up and threw his arms around me. "I missed you, Kaze!"

"I missed you, too, Little Brother." I returned his hug and nuzzled his cheek. "You doing okay?"

"Yep!" He let go. "Mama took me to get ice cream today!"

My mouth watered. "I haven't had that in forever!"

Phoenix's eyes watered, and his lip quivered. "Ain?"

Alain picked up our little brother and pretended to toss him in the air. "I didn't forget you, Eni. I missed you, too."

"I love you, Ain."

"Love you, too, Eni."

We went over to the wooden table and chairs Annie had gotten me and Phoenix a long time ago. Had it been four years ago or five?

After we sat down Phoenix climbed into my lap. The little boy grinned.

"What kind of ice cream did you both get?" I asked.

"Mama got cotton candy ice cream. I've never had it before, but Mama likes it." He shrugged. "I got chocolate."

"Isn't there a peanut butter chocolate flavor?"

He nodded. "Audrey thinks peanut butter anything is yucky. I was gonna get peanut butter chocolate cuz it was just me and Mama today, but I forgot."

"What's chocolate?" Phoenix looked at us with redish-pink baby eyes.

"It's a sweet." I smiled. "Isn't our birthday before his?"

Little Brother nodded. "I'll be eleven. You'd be thirteen, I think."

I passed Phoenix to Alain and grabbed one of our chalks, the green one. I drew two blocks of five circles and one more by itself. This was eleven. Then I drew two with the one by itself.

"Yeah. I'd be almost thirteen if I was out there with you."

Little Brother's cheeks were red like some flowers Mother used to grow in the garden. "Oh, great... I added that right."

I sat back down and elbowed him lightly. "You should have a little more faith in yourself."

"She makes me nervous."

"Well, Audrey's not here!" I threw my arms around my little brothers. "You did great, Alain. I promise."

His eyes looked clouded. If I didn't know better, he'd look like Mother did after working a long day. "I gotta go back to Mama. See ya soon."

"See ya soon." I squeezed him one last time.

Phoenix waved. "Bye-bye!" He crawled onto my lap.

Alain left through his red chalk door.

After that, Phoenix went back to drawing on the walls. There wasn't much else for us to do here.

Alain had gotten so tall. He was as tall as I was. Next time I saw him, he'd probably be taller than me.

I was so, so happy to see Alain. Still, now that he was gone, I was sad, too. I missed Mother.

***

What did you guys think of this opener? Of Alain and his siblings? Theories? Predictions?

~Shino out!

Masquerading the Key (A Key Keepers novel)Read this story for FREE!