Zeke's sixth birthday. Caelan had turned three a few months previously and was now much more conscious of his surroundings. The two boys were sat in the little den they'd built in the conservatory a few weeks ago. Zeke was sure that Aaralyn took the blankets off every couple of nights to wash them but didn't care as much as he once would have.
“Zeke?” Caelan asked quietly (they always whispered in the den).
“Yeah?” he replied.
“Can I have some cake please?”
Zeke laughed quietly. “You don't need to ask, Cae.”
“Why? You make everyone else ask,” he pointed out.
“Yeah but we're best friends, aren't we? Best friends share everything.”
Zeke handed Caelan a piece of cake, smiling as he did.
“We should make a promise to be best friends forever,” Zeke said.
“Forever and ever,” Caelan agreed with a vigorous nod.
“Me too,” Zeke grinned.
The two of them sat quietly for a few minutes, Zeke taking apart the metal car he’d received from his uncle for his birthday (Zeke had a thing for dismantling things to see how they worked. Of course, this often resulted in things not going back together, such as the television remote and his father’s mobile).
“Zeke…?” Caelan’s small voice asked.
“Caelan?” he replied, carefully placing down one of the wheels of the little car.
“Where’s your mum?”
Zeke froze temporarily, before continuing without looking up at him.
“Why do you want to know?”
“She’s never around.”
Zeke thought for a little while before answering. “My parents weren’t mated when they had me.” And that was the closest he would ever get to answering Caelan’s question. Caelan never asked it again.
Two years later and it was Zeke’s eighth. Not that he was celebrating; he was too busy vomiting in his bathroom. The Swifts were supposed to be arriving in about ten minutes. He didn’t want Caelan to see him like this.
He’d been feeling generally unwell for a while now, but it had exploded into being violently sick over and over again at about four o’clock this morning. It was now about eight.
The pounding in his head was the only thing that kept him from wondering whether it was still on the end of his neck. The spasms in his abdomen made him clench his muscles in an attempt to get them to stop; the sharp pain that regularly shot through him making him curl into the foetal position beside the toilet. He tried to raise his arm to flush the toilet but couldn’t move it more than about an inch; he could feel no strength left in his muscles.
He vaguely heard a knock on his bedroom door through the slightly open door of the en suite.
“Zeke? You’re never asleep this late,” his father’s voice said. “Zeke?” he said, just on the other side of the bathroom door.
His stomach took this moment as a good time to try and evacuate everything, despite it being already empty.
“Zeke!” his father shouted, rushing over to him.
Zeke groaned; his father’s voice was like a hammer hitting the inside of his skull.