Lionel awoke the next morning with an angry hunger. It felt as though his stomach had a seeping hole in it, and everything he had eaten the day before had been consumed completely. He didn't know why he was so hungry, but he didn't take a moment to ponder. Instead, he dashed down the steps into the workshop, which doubled as a small - but efficient - kitchen. Lionel quickly picked up a bowl of leftover porridge, poured it into a dirty bowl (he didn't want to use his father's), and ate it up without the use of any utensils.

    When he finished, he wiped what was left off his mouth and slapped it on his pants. He took a deep breath. The hunger had been quenched. He sighed a long, relieved sigh. He then casually stepped outside for some fresh air.

    It was another cold, typical winter morning. The sun was hidden behind the clouds, as it usually was, and everyone was sleeping in. Even Lionel's father, which was strange for him. Usually he'd be up at the crack of dawn and already be at work on some new weapon that he had designed the previous night. But this particular morning, everything was quiet. Even the birds seemed to be silent.

    Lionel took a short little walk around the village, admiring it as he went. Rodway was such a small town, but it was beautiful in its own way as well. It had a nostalgic vibe to it. Almost like silent music. Each house was so delicate and refined, and everything looked so innocent. Lionel knew better than that, but he could easily see how people could be fooled. The thing that he loved the most about his town, though, was the small house that sat just over the horizon. It was on top of a slope that was much too small to be called a mountain, but much too big to be called a hill. The house itself was quite beautiful, even if it wasn't very large. It had a simpleness to it that Lionel very much liked. Something about simplicity pleased him.

    "Hey Lionel," a familiar voice suddenly called.

    Lionel turned. "Hey Rita."

    Rita was the prettiest girl in Rodway, Lionel was sure. She was also one of the most popular, yet she never really took advantage of her popularity, and instead hung out with Lionel. You'd think that diminish her popularity, but surprisingly enough it didn't. If anything, it only increased it - for whatever reason. Maybe they just thought she was very charitable.

    "What are you doing out here so early?" Rita asked as she approached him.

    Lionel shrugged. "I could ask you the same question."

    "But I'm an early bird. You're not."

    Lionel nodded slowly as he shoved his hands into his ripped pockets. "True."

    "So?" Rita said, folding her arms. "Why are you out here?"

    Lionel's eyes wandered as he struggled to come up with an explanation. It was then that he realized, he had none. There was no reason for being out here. "Not sure," he said with a shrug. "I just decided to take a walk, I suppose."

    "But why are you up?" she asked, stepping closer.

    Lionel looked at her. "Inquisitive this morning, aren't we?"

    She smiled, then nodded.

    Lionel returned the smile before shifting his gaze to the ground. "I woke up this morning extremely hungry. I mean, I've seriously never been so hungry in my life. So, I ran downstairs, ate some leftover porridge - well, I didn't really eat it, I more like scarfed it down - and then found myself out here."

    Rita put her hands on her hips. "That's some crazy story."

    Lionel kicked a small rock and watched it bounce along the gravel into a small wooden cabin. He looked at her. "Got any other questions?"

    Rita laughed. "No, no, that is all for today."

    Lionel raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

    "Oh yes."

    "That's surprising. Usually I'd have to put a muzzle on you before you'd quit," Lionel said with a chuckle.

    Rita smiled, right before delivering a light punch to his arm. "Jerk."

    Lionel stared at her. "I know."

    She stared back at him. There was silence between them for a few moments, and Lionel wondered what she was thinking. But it didn't take him long to figure it out.

    "I'm fine, Rita," he said quietly.

    She frowned slightly. "What do you mean?"

    "You're worrying about me. I can see it plainly on your face."

    She said nothing for a moment. She turned and looked up at the clouds that laid over the town. "It's really beautiful today, the sky I mean."

    Lionel glanced up and nodded. "Yeah."

    Rita slapped her hand down on his shoulder. "Hey," she said quietly, coming close to him.


    She had a very serious look on her face. "I am worried about you, you're right. But I don't need to waste your time flogging you with questions, so I'll just say it."

    Lionel laughed. "Ahh, the good old 'it'."

    She smiled. "Here it goes . . ."

    "Just take care of yourself," they said in unison.

   "I mean it," she said, poking his shoulder.

    Lionel nodded. "Oh, I know."

    "See you later, stranger."

    And with that, she was gone.

The End

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