This time, the boy was a bit older, about nine. He had been living with his Grandmother since his father died. And, for the first time, he was at the cruel man's house.
For his mother's funeral.
Once again, he sat in a corner, feeling unwanted and numb. He saw Peter, who was sitting in the opposite corner with his head in his hands. Not a single sound emanated from him . The boy didn't know what to do. Grandma had gone to help with the final preparations. In his nervousness, the boy moved to his side, unbalancing the crystal vase at his elbow which fell with an earth-shattering crash.
Peter lifted his head at the sound, and did a double take as he noticed the boy. Quietly, he strode up to the boy and beckoned him to come outside.
The garden was just as his mother had described.It was a huge open space, almost resembling a field, lined with hundreds of old, sturdy trees reaching up to the sky. The stepfather walked silently to a stone bech under one of the trees, in the shade, and sat down heavily. The boy followed suit.
"You know" Peter said after a long period of silence, "I was twelve years old myself when I lost my parents."
When the boy looked up, he saw a deep sorrow and understanding on the man's face.
"They died together, though, just as they had always lived. Plane crash." he offered as an explanantion. "Nothing anyone could do about. the plane sank in the Atlantic. We never even got the bodies for a burial."
The boy didn't understand why the man was telling him all this. Was this his way of empathising? His way of saying that he understood?
"Your mother will always be alive in our hearts, Kier" he continued, putting an arm around the boy to hold him close. His face crumpled and he tried to hid it with his other hand. He had been silent in the room, but now, hidden in an obscure part of the silent garden, the stepfather started to cry.
The boy's face, on the other hand, was stony.