Leon at Eleven
(Here’s a bit story about a character from Birthmarked when he was a kid.)
He felt the moment she crawled onto the end of his bed.
“Leon?” Fiona whispered. “Can I sleep with
Leon rubbed his face before he remembered his sore lip, and the pain brought him fully awake. He squinted through the darkness at his stepsister and pulled his feet up to make more room for her.
“Did you have a nightmare or something?” Leon asked.
She nodded. “Your real father came and took you away.”
“That sounds like a good dream to me.” Leon sat up, reached for the matchbox on his bedside table, and struck a light. The flame wavered as he lit the candle, and then he turned to the girl.
“Your lip’s all swollen,” Fiona said.
He touched it gingerly. “It’ll be okay.”
“I hate when he hits you,” she said, her voice rising.
“It was my own fault for lying to him.”
Fiona curled her arms around her knees, and in her white nightgown, she looked very small and half haunted still. Her hair was mussed, the fine strands wisping about her big eyes.
She rubbed her nose. “Did he take your last comic book?”
“He thinks so,” he said, and smiled, watching his sister to see when she’d get it.
Fiona laughed. “Where are the rest?”
“I’ll show you some time. Come on,” he said, throwing off the covers. “Let’s get something to eat.” He shoved his legs into his trousers, held out his hand to his little sister, and blew out the candle. Along the back hallways, the lights of the Bastion were dimmed for the night, but the blue, clear light of the moon dropped in the windows and Leon would know the way blind.
He could smell warm cinnamon and yeast before they arrived at the kitchen, and he paused in the doorway, wondering which cook was working. It was the new one, a young one, and Leon almost turned back, but Fiona pushed around him, the hem of her nightgown trailing over the brick floor.
“Hey,” Fiona said. “I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m Mabrother Cho,” the cook said. “Which twin are you?”
“Fiona,” she answered. “This is Leon.”
The cook nodded in his direction. Then, with his rolling pin, he indicated a couple of stools on the other side of his big wooden table. Leon helped his sister up, and jockeyed her stool a little closer to the table. He was too fidgety himself to sit, and shifted to where he could keep an eye on the door. The kitchen was brightly lit, and a pan of oil was heating on the stove. There were bowls of eggs on the counter, two big hams, and a pumpkin, but it was early yet for the cook to be starting breakfast and the rolled dough on the table looked like piecrust, only square.
“Where’s the real cook?” Fiona asked.
Mabrother Cho laughed. “He’s sleeping.”
“How come you’re not?” Fiona said.
“Maybe it’s the full moon. I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “What’s your excuse?”
“Nightmares,” Fiona said. She reached out and took Leon’s hand. “Do you have anything for Leon’s lip? Ice or anything?”
Leon ducked his face away. “It’s okay. Forget it.”
The cook was frowning at him now. “How’d you get that?”
“It was an accident,” Leon said. “Come on, Fiona. We should go.”
“No, have a seat,” said the cook. “I could use some help, actually.”
“What with?” Fiona asked.
(To be continued.)