open __________

We haven’t really received any unnamed boxes in some time. The last one really was the ones with the ribbons and the one before that the dress. The dress had its good uses until Yael decided it had spent enough time with us without being used so it was given away. I don’t mind so much. It was beautiful but it wasn’t really him.

This morning, a box came in the mail with his name on it. The address it comes from is unknown to me and he hasn’t really seen it yet so I don’t know where it might have come from. He’ll see it when he comes out of his studio and that’s really just the end of that. I’m not about to go barging in there to tell him about this. He felt inspired this morning so he disappeared into there and that’s all that matters.

I’ve learned to not disturb him though I did recently and I think I mostly took his inspiration away from him. I feel bad about that but no more. It just had been so long since he’d last had spent more than just a short amount of time in his studio that I wasn’t sure what was really going on.

I place the box on the kitchen table where we tend to open most of our mails and I just go back to taking care of my own things while inspiration takes him on a trip to I’m not sure where this morning. I think I could feel jealous if I was the type that he now spends so much time in that little room but I don’t see the point. It makes him happy to draw, to paint, to make little clay sculptures. I’m not going to take that way from him.

It is nearly noon by the time I hear the soft click of his door opening and closing. I know he’ll want to work in the garden this afternoon but at least we’ll spend some time together in the mean time. I know I’m part of his routine, that isn’t going to change. Be it that we spend time together in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, evening or at night, it’s mostly all the same to me, I just want to be with him.

“What’s this?” I have lunch settled on the table now. When he stepped out of his studio he went to our room and bathroom, likely to wash up a little. By the time he came out, I had two salads set out with some fruits cut up on the side for dessert. The box still is sitting at the edge of the table. It’s hard to miss it, all things considered so I’m not surprised that he’s asking about it.

“Box that came in for you this morning. You were busy in your studio and I didn’t want to bother you about it. There’s a sender’s address but no name and the city doesn’t much ring any bell for me so I didn’t want to just open it in case it was personal.”

He smiles at me, that soft, loving smile I crave so much and I know I’ve more than likely done the right thing. At times we have mail that we keep to ourselves though it’s rare.

He leans past me to stretch and look at the box. I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t expect his face to sort of close up the way it did when he took note of the sender’s address.

“Yael?” I look at him a moment as he sits back down into his chair, he looks away from the box by staring into his salad and I can’t help but feel as if something cold has just washed over me. “Yael, what’s wrong?”

“It’s from the orphanage.”

It takes my mind a bit of work to grasp what he’s just said and I feel like something solidly cold just slid down my throat. I don’t know if that’s how he felt after we kept on getting mails from the folks I grew up with. I never told them where I lived but still they found me. I know Yael ran away from the orphanage when he was twelve or thirteen and I’m pretty sure he never told them where he was going, I figure he didn’t even know at that point.

I know our names are on the paperwork but I didn’t think that could lead anyone to him at this point. He looks so pale. I reach out to touch his cheek lightly and he startles against my touch. He looks up to me with those wide, uncertain eyes. I lean closer, kiss that very cheek I was touching and I get up. I take the box and I move it away. I just settle it into the living room but for now it’s not within our sight.

When I settle back into my chair, he looks at me as if the world might just have ended and I get back up again and just move to curl my arms around him. He presses his face into my chest and chokes on a slight sob. I still don’t know the kind of life he left behind when he left that orphanage but I know it’s one that was not pleasant. I don’t want him to feel as if he has to re-live through these things just because of a box.

After I’m not sure how long, he finally pulls away from me. I can hear his stomach rumbling loudly and I kiss the top of his head. “We should eat a little. If you want, I’ll open the box and look through it. I can tell you what I find later. You’ll probably want to look in on the garden?”

He shakes his head but there is the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Looked in on the garden late last night and I know it’s fine so I’m not worried. We can open the box together. I don’t want to hide anything from you.”

All I can really do is nod as I sit back into my chair. I don’t know what to expect from that box. Certainly it can only contain things he might have left behind at the orphanage that were rightfully his so they’re sending them back? I don’t know.

He eats with little appetite but at least he eats so I feel a little better about the whole thing. I know I don’t eat much more than him, it can hardly be blamed on anything else than the uncertainty we both feel from the box from the past that waits for us in the living room.

We sit side by side in the living room, just looking at the box as he carefully uses a box cutter to open it. He slices through the tape easily and sets the cutter aside.

He pulls open the tabs of the box and looks inside. At the top I can see an old photo and he lifts it up, looks at it a moment then he holds it out to me. I look at the photo a moment. I guess it’s a photo from when they were young, there’s about a dozen kids on there. I search to find him and I see a young boy with hair longer than the rest, with eyes so clear he might be blind. Standing above him is an older boy and I am guessing and assuming it might be Sterling. I set the photo down.

We look through the box carefully, we find a blanket, an old, ratty stuffed toy and a few more photos. At the very bottom, wrapped in a swathe of cloth, are long tresses though they all look to be cut at different length. He looks at them strangely, as if he’s never seen them before. I remember him telling me that some kid had cut his hair short with scissors at one point and they’d had to shave him bald because of it. I suppose these might be it.

He shudders as we put everything back into the box. He closes his eyes and I just pull him closer. He climbs into my lap without even having to really be asked or told and I hug him to myself. He presses his face to my shoulder and sniffles lightly. These are memories from a past I’m sure he thought he’d left behind. It can’t be easy to handle but I’m here with him. I hold him strong and steady and I’m not letting go.

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