slumlord

“Armin?” The man looks up from the books he was looking over, putting cards where they belong. Mira approaches him slightly and sits just a pace or so away, as if he’s used to invading the man’s personal space. Their relationship isn’t all that strange to me but it’s different from what I’m used to. I don’t have many good relationships with adults, with folks who’re older than me. There’s my tap-dancing teachers but I’ve known them since I was just a wee child.

“Why are the buildings behind the library in such poor condition?” He murmurs the words, as if he’s afraid someone will overhear him. The library is quiet, it’s almost empty at this hour and I can’t find it in myself to really complain, I like this place when it’s quiet the most, it gives me thinking time. I’m curious as to Armin’s answer though. I’ve wondered about their poor conditions but I’ve never asked. Then again I grew up surrounded by opulence, not that it has led me to living a life of riches, I prefer simpler things, still, there’s simpler things and then there’s almost abandoned looking.

“Ah, these buildings have a long history, Mira but the short version is that the person who owns them also owns this library and several other buildings. He’s trying to make a profit here but he’s not bothering with keeping the places cleaned or taken care of. I think the term they usually use for someone like that is slumlord.” He shrugs but offers a wry sort of smile. I’ve heard of slumlords before, mostly in movies and in books. There’s no way anything of the kind could have existed in my neighbourhood.

Mira tilts his head to the side and I swear at times I could almost be tempted to believe he’s part dog, I’ve seen Ophé do the same, but eventually he nods though there’s still a soft frown to his lips. “Is that why Eoghan is working hard to buy this place so he can fix it up proper so it won’t fall apart or catch fire or anything like that?”

Armin blinks at him, as if that was news to him and he shrugs. “In a way I guess it might be. I didn’t know what he really was doing after I brought it up to him at the beach. I didn’t expect him to go as far as wanting to buy the place but I suppose that is somewhat like him.”

Now he sounds somewhat amused and he shakes his head. “Now you go on and get back to these books, yes?”

Mira blushes, as if sheepish and he disappears back into the rows of books. Armin’s gaze lifts and he looks my way, I can only blink and grin sheepishly myself. “Stop eavesdropping, Cyrille, you’re not paid to work here but since you volunteer so much of your time I expect you to do some work during that time, yes?”

He smiles and I know he doesn’t mean any of his words as a rebuke. I lean away from where I’d been standing and I admit I had been staring off though he motions me closer before I head away. “The twins left this here for you, they left it up at the desk just in case you could only drop in and head off because of classes and they couldn’t see you, they wanted to make sure you would get it.”

In his hands is a slight, wrapped package and I can only stare at it as I take it. It’s very light. It’s not my birthday, I don’t think they even know when that is. I don’t know why they brought this at all but I’m not about to refuse a gift like this, that’d just be cruel.

I know I’ll thank them after I’ve opened it. I can stay here until the library closes today so I’m not in much of a rush. I hand it back over, promising to take it with me before we all left and I disappear off into the shelves as well. I know there’s a cart filled with books that needs to be put away somewhere in there and I’m here to help and help is what I’ll do.

“You guys didn’t have to get me anything.” We’re just sitting on the steps, appreciating the warm, fresh air. The library is now closed, its opening hours done and Armin has headed off to get the bus so he could go home. I know the twins could have gone with him but lately they’ve stayed a bit longer with me and we’re just sitting on the steps most of the time, relaxing before we each head our own way.

“We wanted to. You said you needed it so we got it for you. Eoghan took us shopping yesterday and when I saw it, I dragged Agni over and we both agreed it would perfect. Well, we hope it’ll be.” He looks uncertain now, shooting a look to his sibling behind my back. I chuckle softly and I carefully unwrap the slight box. Inside, a slick black casing for my phone with a few colourful lines and along with it, a dust-plug for the headphone jack, at the end of the little chain, a single silver paw. It’s absolutely precious.

“This is great. I was thinking of heading off after you guys had gone home to buy myself one, actually. The plug is adorable, thank you.” I don’t even have to go anywhere, I don’t have to reach for one of them first to hug them because they move in from the sides and both hug me at once. I laugh and close my eyes, wrapping my arms about them to hug them back.

I’ve had some friends growing up but those friendships never lasted, I don’t know why. Some moved away, some grew up preferring things that greatly differed from my own, some began to be interested in drugs or girls or both and I just wasn’t. I don’t know that this friendship with these guys will last but I do hope it does because it would be wonderful. It’s been great so far, it’s been wonderful truly and I want that to last.

“You two are just the best, thank you. Now I’m going to have to get you guys something!”

“You don’t have to.” I laugh harder when they both give the exact same answer at once. Oh yes, spending time with them is something I cherish.

“Well I might not have to but it won’t stop me from thinking of ways I can make it up to you guys for buying me this and saving me the detour of having to look through different boutiques until I found something that caught me yes, this one is perfect.” So perfect that I did bring out my phone, finally taking the old and worn casing off. I set it aside and put the new one on, it was perfect. The sleekness, the bits of colours. I plugged in the dust protector and snickered at the sight of the little paw dangling from it, it was even better.

“See? You two are perfect at finding these things, I couldn’t have found a better one for myself.” I couldn’t have. There the phone goes back where it belongs and I look at the old casing for a moment. I’ll throw it out when I get home though I know there are trashcans all along the way home and even at the bus stops.

I look up to the sky as a soft, slightly cold breeze picks up. “I think I see clouds coming in, we should probably head on home, I’ll walk you guys to your stop, mine is covered so it’s not an issue if I miss the first pickup but you guys shouldn’t have to get wet on my account.”

It’s a simple enough life I live. I don’t think I’d want to change it at this point.

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