Time to Let Go, My Love
Time to Let Go, My Love
Author: Nagi
One

"Tuesday, February 20th, 2024"

Early winter mornings have this strange mesmerizing yet depressing vibes. That hour when the sun has not risen yet and it is still very cold, very dark, and very gloomy. That hour when the streets are almost empty because no one is crazy enough to brave the cold and snow yet. 

That is and has always been the hour he prefers to leave the house for his rendezvous. When the world is still asleep and calm and quiet. When it is just him and the universe without any nuisances. 

Wearing his long black raincoat- the one she loved, the one she always announced made him look stunning- over his dark green cable sweater and skinny black jeans, he steps out of the gates, closes them as quietly as possible and starts walking right in the middle of the snow covered and vacant street. He takes pleasure in that; being the first one to leave his footprints in the virgin snow, being the only one in the world. 

Crunch

Crunch

Crunch

So, it is cold but as per ritual, his self-made ritual, he is not wearing his gloves, scarf and beanie. Every year, on this particular day, on this specific annual rendezvous, he does that.

Crunch

Shiver

Crunch

He thrusts his hands deep in his pockets and walks the ten-minute walk. As alone as she was that day. As cold as she was.

Crunch

Crunch

Crunch

Aside from a lone car driving very slowly down the streets from time to time, a bird flying off a branch and causing the snow to fall, and the sound of his boots crushing the snow, no sounds are echoing in the quiet of the early morning. 

So peaceful. So sad. So beautiful.

So white. So cold. So lonely.

As he reaches his destination, for the first time in forever, he finds that someone else has beaten him to it. As far as he knows the others have stopped going there. As far as rituals go, the only one they are still loyal to is gathering here at the house every year on the anniversary. Well, almost all of them. Scott and Sarah rarely come around anymore. He doesn't remember the last time anyone came here. Besides, he was the first one up that morning and when he left everybody was still home, sound asleep. That is why it surprises him to see someone there. 

He stops. Looks. Not someone, people. Two. 

He looks. He squints. He gasps.

Even from this distance, he recognizes who it is and his heart beats a bit faster in joy. Happiness gives its place to sadness and uncertainty, though. What is he supposed to say to someone he has not seen or talked to for ten years? Why now? Why today?

The closer he gets the more vivid her face becomes, almost gray hair, deep crow's feet hugging her eyes, hollowed cheeks, and sorrowful eyes. Her posture is like that of a person who is under some massive load, she moves slowly, with difficulty, as if she does not want to. Her eyes are fixated on the gravestone. Frowning. Gnawing her lip. Fidgeting from one foot to the other.

"Because he was shot, they kept his body at the coroner's office for a few more days, saying it was the suspicious circumstances and nothing more. That's why the date doesn't match the one you probably have in mind," he disturbs the silence, startling the woman out of her thoughts. That is exactly the moment he sees the other smaller figure better. A boy. About ten. A boy, awfully familiar.

"Kaden?" the woman covers her mouth with a trembling hand.

Kaden nods in reply. "Madora." And not able to stop his eyes from wandering, he looks at the little boy curiously. Then it dawns on him. He stares at the pair silently. An awkward silence. A silence that is heavy with words unsaid that no one knows how to speak.

Madora, who once upon a time was a dear friend, puts both hands on the boy's shoulders. With a deep shaky breath, she disturbs the silence, "Kaden, meet Harry, my son," she says with a hint of pride and sadness. "Sweetie, say hi to uncle Kaden."

Son.

Uncle Kaden.

Madora's son.

Kaden says nothing. He just looks, first at the mother, then at the son.

Ping-pong, his eyes go between mother and son. Madora. Harry. Back to Madora. 

"Kaden," Madora interrupts his observation. She is waiting. Scared.

He holds up a hand, asking her to stop, to give him a second to wrap his head around the idea of a nephew. Of Harry. "Ten years is a very long time," he finally says.

"I know," she looks straight at him. 

It goes without saying, Kaden is not the one she needs to be worried about. Kaden has never been a difficult or angry person. Naturally, he was resentful once upon a time but not anymore. 

"A lot can happen in a decade."

"I know that too," Madora agrees.

Kaden nods. "In that case," he looks at the boy, who is still standing close to his mother, warily looking at Kaden. "Harry, Madora, welcome home."

For old time's sake, he could at least give her that. 

###

"Shall we then?" Kaden asks, shivering from the cold wind and snow. His two companions are not in any better conditions, their noses red and runny, their bodies trembling in the wind.

They are standing in the snow before a metal black gate, staring at it. He waits, giving her a little more time to gather all her courage and power while he busies himself looking around at the neighborhood. It had snowed all night, leaving them with a thick layer of snow concealing everything. On both sides of the street, Kaden sees parked vehicles buried under the snow, their owners, now awake and out of their cozy houses, struggling to unbury them and getting them to move. He sees footsteps, human, canine and avian and smiles. 

'It looks like a painting,' she would have said. 

Once again he directs a sideways look at the kid who is hiding his face against his mother's hip silently and looks away. The kid is almost ten years old, as old as his sister's twins, with brown eyes, raven hair, and an oval face which reminds him of his best friend. And he wonders, how could she do that to them? How could she stay away for this long hiding Harry from them? He is not angry, though. It all just makes him so sad. The kid, Harry, looks sad. No ten-year-old boy is supposed to know this kind of sadness. 

The woman pushes her almost gray hair behind one ear for the hundredth time in the past two minutes they have been standing there and nods, biting her lip. 

Kaden cannot blame her. It is intimidating. What she is trying to do needs nerves of steel and he almost pities her. Almost. Facing friends whom you have abandoned with no reason after ten years is scary as hell. Kaden is just one of the people Madora had hurt years ago. He is also the easy one, the more understanding one. Unfortunately, he can't say the same about the others, that they would understand, that they won't be furious. He glances at the little boy standing between them, fidgeting and holding onto his mother's hand tightly. Both of them look like cats on hot bricks, ready to bolt. With a deep breath, he unlocks the freezing metal gate, "Let's do this."

Earlier that morning when he went for his usual Monday visit to the graveyard or the necropolis as they are used to calling that place, he did not expect any of this. He did not expect to find Madora, their long-lost friend, in the graveyard visiting a grave she had never visited. He certainly did not expect to see her with a child. Finding out that she had a son was shocking, to say the least. What caught him completely off guard though was that upon seeing her, all his anger had vanished and he was just thrilled that she was finally back. For the longest time he thought he could never forgive her for doing what she did. But here they were, years of separation between them, years of unanswered questions and worry and pain between them, and all Kaden feels is gratitude. All he can think of is, "she's back, she's back, she's finally back." So he does not stop himself from hugging the nervously shaking woman and welcoming her back to their lives. "It'll be tough but it'll be alright," he murmurs to her before allowing her in. 

The little boy, Harry as Madora had introduced him earlier, gasps and if Kaden has heard alright, mumbles a quiet "wow" at the sight. It is Harry's first time in this country and all he had seen ever since he had set foot here was white thick snow covering buildings, cars and the ground, everywhere. That makes Kaden smile. The kid is amazed by the one thing most people in this town grumble about all the time. And of course, the mansion. The place Harry's father had built and owned. The place where Harry legally owned.

"Is this Narnia?" She whispers to Kaden in awe.

Amused, the man looks around to appreciate what they see, which is indeed similar to Narnia. When you get used to something, you stop seeing it until someone else points it out to you. He takes it all in for the first time in years and has to admit it is enchanting. "Well, there is no cruel Ice Queen around to fight, if that's what you're suggesting," he jokes.

Still amazed by the beauty stretched before her eyes, taking in the vast white land surrounding the huge two-story red-bricked house surrounded with tall old fir trees and Narnia-looking lamps, Madora smiles a small smile, "It is Narnia."

"It's yours you know," Kaden points out."You can call it whatever you want." Then he looks down at Harry who has the same amazed expression as his mum and says, "And yours, little guy." Harry only spares him a brief glance before going back to gawking and taking it all in.

Madora seems like she is going to argue with that, a slight frown replacing the smile on her face. However, holding onto her son's hand a bit tighter, she shakes her head and says nothing. Neither does her son, who looks elsewhere every time Kaden looks at him.

As they approach the building, Kaden puts a hand on Madora's shoulder to stop her. "Maybe give me a few minutes to prepare them for this," he moves his hand between Madora and Harry. "It's not fair dropping a bomb like this on them out of the blue."

"Sure," she nods, which brings the rogue strands of hair back to her face. She pushes them behind her ear immediately. "Sure," she nods again. Then, as if she has just decided something she adds, "Even if they don't want to see me, which is understandable, I want them to at least consider meeting Harry."

"Madora-"

"Please Kaden," she pleads with him. "It's important they... you guys give my baby a chance. He needs a family."

The boy is silently standing there observing his mother's sad features. He says nothing but Kaden knows he is unhappy. As Harry worriedly looks up at his mother and squeezes her hand in his tiny ones Kaden does not see a child, he sees an old man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. That is not right. A boy Harry's age shouldn't look so old. Kaden nods. Harry needs a family. So does Madora. 

They get inside quietly and then Kaden leaves them in the foyer to go get his friends and family ready for the unexpected miracle a couple of years too late. 

As soon as he enters the living room the deafening silence filling the house is broken by the sound of laughter as two gleeful kids run to him. "Uncle Cade, uncle Cade, look what I've made," squeals a curly-haired boy as he pushes what looks like a green beaded lizard in Kaden's face. He looks at Elvina sitting on the floor surrounded by beads, smiling broadly at her sons. 

"Hey," the other, slightly shorter kid interrupts sulkily. "I made that, Andy!"

"Na-ah!"

"Ya-ah!"

"Na-ah!"

"Okay, kids," Kaden's gentle voice stops their argument. "As far as I'm concerned, you made it together because that's what brothers do. You're a team and this little green lizard is a teamwork project. Am I right?" When the two dark-skinned little dudes nod with matching grins, he pats them on the shoulder. "Good. Now, you guys go ahead and play in my room."

"With Nintendo?" squeals the older brother, older by only four minutes, Sebastian.

Kaden nods, chuckling.Someone groans in the corner, mumbling something about never being able to get the kids to do anything when that goddamned Nintendo is in their little claws. Probably Harmonee. Their father. Kaden's best friend. 

Sebastian runs towards the staircase leading to the bedrooms upstairs, shouting "Mario Kart!" while his younger and smaller brother runs after him calling "Captain Toad! Captain Toad!" They both completely ignore their mother's words to "be careful, boys" and "don't run up the stairs, it's dangerous!"

Kaden and Harmonee stand there watching the boys and laughing at their enthusiasm for a moment before Kaden sighs, gathers himself and faces the room, "Alright guys," he claps his hands once. "I've got some news."

"You're finally shagging the paperboy?" Jax smirks from his seat in front of the TV. Hailey chuckles from the seat next to him.

"What?" Kaden lowers his eyebrows forming a deep 'V' and shakes his head. "That's just sick, man, he's only fourteen!"

"He's small, but he's seventeen. Almost eighteen. In ten months," Jax replies, still smirking. "Asked him myself. It's totally legal."

"Ew!" Harmonee, mirroring the expression on Kaden's face groans. "Shut up."

"You shut up! It's sex. And he's not a monk, even though he's been living the life of one recently," Jax shakes his head in disappointment. "I mean, come on, man! You're hot, a total sugar daddy, a perfect gentleman, everyone wants to be with you. I wanna be with you." That earns him a swat on the arm from his wife. "Ouch! Woman, I love you but just look at him! How many 40-year-old dudes do you know that makes you want to drop your pants?"

"I'm 38, what the hell man?" 

"Oops," Jax turns to look at a sulking Kaden. "You look stunning."

"Ass," Kaden mumbles playfully, not able to stay mad at his friend. And he hides behind the playfulness again, even though Jax's comment is a blow to the heart. "Everyone wants to be with you," couldn't be more wrong. "Everyone" does not matter. "Everyone" never mattered. What hurts the most is the fact that the only one Kaden needed to "want" him had stopped caring altogether. 

"You love me," Jax smiles. "Anyway, what's the big news, oh dear monk?"

"Yeah, tell us," Hailey smiles encouragingly. "Before he continues to gross us all out."

As the couple start bantering playfully, Kaden wonders. Maybe he should have thought this one through more thoroughly. He looks around the room. They all expect something, but what he has to say is not easy and he cannot think of any good way to tell them about it. Everyone is looking at him. Kaden is supposed to talk. How is he supposed to start, though? How is he supposed to get them ready for a Madora-and-Harry shaped bomb?

"Well?" this from Elvina, his sister, who is looking at him worriedly and expectantly. 

"Um," he says. "I've got a surprise for you."

Surprise? No, it is not a surprise. Surprises are normally pleasant. They make people happy. As sad as it may sound, he knows Madora's return is not going to make all of them happy. Not at first anyway. Anger and disappointment will win over happiness most of the time.

"News, surprise, which is it?" Jax asks.

Kaden rolls his eyes, both at himself and Jax. This is absurd. It has been ten years, surely, they have moved on. And if not, it is time they finally do. He should just tell them. "You know how we've been looking for Madora for the past decade or so?" he asks, looking around the room at his family.

The mere mention of her name is enough to wipe the smile right off Jax's face and make the others frown or sigh. 

"You've found her?" Harmonee asks, hopeful. 

Kaden nods. "Actually, she found us."

"What?" shout Hailey, Jax, and Elvina at the same time.

Before Kaden can explain how he met Madora and her son in the graveyard that morning, about their brief conversation and Madora's story, a voice, shaky and dry with nerves, greets them, "Long time no see."

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