His parents had said something about the paperwork messing up. It may have been a missed vaccine, or possibly a human error. In the end, it didn’t quite matter–Liridon was only able to be at school for three days before having to spend his days at home.
He hated it.
His cousins Enver and Deillza would always wake him up first thing in the morning to help with the house and get ready to go to the library. Why did they bother with the house? There wasn’t much for them to clean or dust. Everything they got from the library sat in a neat stack on the table with nowhere else to go.
Liridon rested his face in his hands. He was supposed to be paying attention to the radio. Something about that helped with learning English better, they said. A TV was on its way, but he had little no interest in the TV. Why stare at a screen all day? They had done enough of that at home.
No, what he wanted to do was sit and stare out the window. That was something they hadn’t been able to do at home. The outside would be obscured by pillows, blankets and all of their bookshelves–anything to prevent a stray bullet from getting in.
Liridon glanced at the clock. It was about that time of day when that strange boy would be walking by again. Something about him stood out and Liridon didn’t know why. At two-sixteen exact, everyday, the boy would walk by his house, on his way home from school. Alone, trailing behind the others and with his face down.
He wanted to talk to that boy. They were probably the same age, which made sense to Liridon. The middle school wasn’t too far and that was the one he was actually supposed to go to, apparently. More stupid paperwork problems. He made a face, thinking of the giant stacks of paper that seemed to follow his family.
But then his expression changed, his eyebrows furrowing together. He looked at the clock again. It was two-seventeen. The boy was nowhere in sight.
Liridon frowned. He stood up and craned his neck to see if he was running a little late. He reached to open the window and paused. The usual crowd had walked by, laughing and babbling away too quickly for him to try and make out what they were saying.
He darted to the hall, keeping his eyes on the window.
Enver was practicing his English with Deillza.
They wouldn’t notice if he was gone for just a minute or two…
Liridon turned the radio up and crept to the door. He turned the bolt to the left and pushed down the handle. The door made no noise as he pulled it open and then shut behind him.
It was a nice, early autumn day. The sky was blue and clouds drifted by with the gentle wind. It was perhaps a little cold for him, given what it was like back home. He rubbed his arms and began to walk down towards the middle school.
He put his hands in his pockets and tried to not look around too much. His uncle had taught him early on to not look out of place, no matter where you were. Despite having walked down this route to get to the library each day, Liridon’s eyes bounced around. There was something thrilling about having slipped away and to walk in this strange, new country alone.
There was a small park between the school and his home.
And it was there he found the boy.
Liridon had almost missed him. The boy was resting against the giant oak tree, his backpack behind him. His eyes were closed, but something about him was off. Liridon glanced around, his stomach beginning to turn. He crept close and peered around the tree. There was a strange noise coming from the tree. Or perhaps the boy.
The boy’s dark skin was pale and he was sweating. His breathing was ragged.
Liridon spun around, heart racing. He knew first aid but nothing to help with this! His eyes darted around as he tried to find somebody he could trust. What were the adults his cousins told him to look out for, again?
He ran for the library. Two steps into the street and then the screeching of tires and smell of burnt rubber.
Liridon froze as the car lurched to a stop, its front grill inches from him.
It had lights on the top and a blue hood. Liridon’s eyes widened and he immediately began to pound on the hood. The man behind the wheel had skin that looked like the boy’s when he was healthy, so he’d definitely help, right?
The man jumped out of the car. “What–” he demanded, the rest of the words unknown to Liridon. He was dressed entirely in blue had had a gun on his belt.
Liridon stared up at him and started to hop on his feet, pointing down the street. “Boy,” he said. “Boy, boy!” He repeated.
The man said something and reached for him, but Liridon spun out of his reach. He didn’t need help, why didn’t the officer understand that?
“Boy!” Liridon yelled once more. He ran for the tree. The man was right behind him in a matter of seconds. He was saying things to Liridon, but he didn’t even care to try and pick out the words he knew.
They got to the tree and he pointed at the boy.
The cop’s eyes widened. He reached for the box at his hips and spoke into it–a walkie-talkie.
Liridon remained where he was, eyes bouncing between the man and the boy. He had gotten paler. He looked at the cop and tried to say that, but the man glanced at him, giving him a confused look.
Liridon hopped from foot to foot, twisting his shirt. He watched the man put the walkie-talkie away and kneel down. The cop placed his fingers on the boy’s neck and then put the back of his hand on his forehead. He looked at Liridon and said something. Liridon stared and shook his head.
Finally the cop asked: “English?”
Liridon bit his lip and shook his head again. He then held up his hand, his index finger and thumb close together.
The man paused. He nodded and pulled out his walkie-talkie again.
Sirens cut through the air. Liridon hit the ground. The cop’s head snapped in his direction, his eyes wide in surprise.
He realized that the cop was still doing his job. Liridon’s face reddened as he picked himself up from the ground. The ambulance pulled up on the curb.
As the boy was being put onto a stretcher the cop looked down at him. He had pulled out a pad of paper and was writing something on it.
Terror surged through him.
The cop handed it to him. It was the drawing of a house with a ‘?’ next to it.
He jumped. Enver was storming down the sidewalk, eyes wide and face dark with rage.
“Liridon,” his cousin snarled. “Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” He barked.
Liridon folded his arms and looked up at his cousin who towered over him. He glanced at the cop, realizing the man had no idea what his cousin had just asked. Liridon patted his chest to indicate that they were family before looking back at Enver.
“That boy who always passes by our house didn’t. I went to see what happened.” He pointed to the ambulance. “But–”
The copy cleared his throat. He turned to Enver and said something in English. Enver’s eyes looked ready to pop out of his head. He held up his hands and shook his head before responding back rapidly in English. He pulled out his wallet and pulled out some papers. The cop looked skeptical, but less tense. He nodded and then gestured to Liridon, saying something–he heard the word ‘translate.’
Enver nodded. He said something to the cop and then turned to Liridon.
“The cop wants a statement. I’m translating for you.”
Liridon stared up at the cop. “Am I in trouble?”
Enver huffed and looked at the cop, probably translating.
The cop laughed and shook his head. He said something else to Enver.
“Not with him,” Enver replied with a stiff smile.