Oliver felt a bit left out. So this week’s scene comes from MARKED.)
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Before dawn broke, Oliver slipped out into the early morning fog. His body ached; his eyes stung; and his head felt twice its weight. Once he started to cry last night, he couldn’t stop. Not until every drop of moisture was drained from his body. It felt good to cry, like he was emptying out all the ugliness of yesterday.
As he turned down the street, he realized with a jolt to his heart that he remembered there was a yesterday. He walked on, passing lampposts, street signs, stairs, cafes, park benches and grew infinitely more optimistic that today held promise; because they looked familiar. And then yesterday’s events flooded his mind like true memory. The city and its vast glistening body of water; the streets and their numerous stairs; the man in black and his blazing beacon of light; the towering woman and her gardening store.
The woman. Rude or not, she had saved him last night. Lied for him. He owed her heaps of whatever passed as currency here. Somehow, he’d repay her.
For the next few hours, Oliver climbed stairs, rolled down slopes, jumped off ledges, and discovered small alleys he could sneak through. His pants gained at least five more grass stains, but he didn’t care. Running and getting dirty seemed to nurture his soul. His body relaxed; his mind wandered lazily; he even caught sight of his reflection, smiling back at him.
It grew late all too quickly, and the question of where he would sleep returned. He had a crazy idea and stole back to the store, keeping an eye on the streets for the man in black. Maybe, just maybe, the store would be unlocked. She had taken pity on him once…he hid behind a nearby bush until the streets were deserted, then snuck up to the door.
It was unlocked.
Inside, he snuggled down, ready to shut his eyes when he caught sight of something that made his heart swell. A pillow and a bowl of soup. He drank the soup like water–burning his throat in the process–and lay his head down on one of the softest fibers he’d ever touched. Before he could even remove his shoes, he had fallen asleep.
The next night, he discovered a loaf of bread and a glass of milk next to the door, along with a large bowl of soapy water, in which he used to rinse out his hair. It took at least three times dunking his head in the bowl, but the results were worth it. His hair sprung back to a normal bounce and smelled uncharacteristically like springtime.
And as if a silent agreement were struck, Oliver returned each night to an unlocked door, tasty food, and his cloud-stuffed pillow. Once a blanket appeared, and folded neatly beneath it, a new shirt and jeans. He was in them in seconds. His old clothes reeked like the park after it rained; and yet he stashed them under a loose floorboard just in case; they were the only tokens of his from the past.
His past. Nothing but blank pages of his life. For right now, he repeated firmly to himself. Rather, words scrawled in invisible ink filled those pages and all he needed was to find its key.
With a full stomach and a fresh attitude, Oliver grew eager to explore his new surroundings and spent hours writing things down on a small pad of paper he uncovered in the store. Things he liked–mornings and dirt; things he didn’t like–the smell of fish and a black night’s sky. But as weeks passed, Oliver’s excitement began to wane. No matter how many notepads he filled, he still had no memory of life before his nook. And no matter how much he became acquainted with the drizzly city, an emptiness grew in him no present memory could abate.
A terrible thought stabbed at him one day when, alone and tiny, a kitten meowed up at him from inside an abandoned box. A sign read, “FREE. Please Take Home.” Peering over, Oliver locked eyes with the kitten’s and immediately felt an odd jolt of connection pass between them. Something about the creature’s eyes reminded him of his own–bright, pleading, lonely; quickly, Oliver shuffled away. For the rest of the day, a gloomy cloud hovered over him, and all that night, ”FREE. Please Take Home,” blared like fire behind his eyes as he fell asleep, haunting him until he woke.