Rosakai stepped forward as Zephren looked up at him expectantly; he really was extraordinarily tall.
“You are strong,” Rosakai stated, his voice holding conviction. “Not many people could have made it out of there alive, siren or not.” His silver eyes blinked slowly, holding in them a kind of respect that Zephren had never seen.
Clenching his uninjured hand into a fist, Zephren scoffed. “I don’t feel strong.”
“Do you want to talk? We can sit together.” He gestured towards a small beach down the hill, the steady rhythm of waves washing up on pale shore. There was an overturned hollowed log lying at the border of grass and beach; bleached by salt, now smooth like bone.
Hesitating, Zephren nodded. They walked in tandem towards the water’s edge, Rosakai sitting down on the log as soon as they reached it.
The sand threw Zephren off balance as he walked past where Rosakai was sitting. Bending down with a grunt of pain, Zeph filled his palm with fine white sparkles. The softness burrowed in between his fingers, turning into grit. He tipped his hand slowly to the side, watching the sand spill out into small mounds on the beach.
“Is this the ocean?” Zephren asked, walking closer to water as he looked out at the dark horizon.
Rosakai nodded, grimly. “Yes…this is the ocean.”
Zeph turned, “Where are we?” he asked, trying to find the sound of his voice over the rush of the waves.
Fingertips poised together firmly, Rosakai answered with his calm, deep voice. “In Spheros. It’s mostly ruins; the only real village is south at the border of Diagate. We’re quite far northeast—about a week’s journey—from where I found you.” It was obvious in the way he looked at Zephren that he was waiting, a thirst to know…
With a newly found courage, Zephren took a deep breath. “I…” He gulped, trying not to swallow down the words. “I was kept in a room below the house. There were no windows…the door was impenetrable… I don’t remember how old I was when I was locked in that room… a long time ago.”
He frowned, almost sadly. “Did he hurt you?”
Zephren looked at the wet sand a few feet away, walking over to it as he pondered his response. His bare feet met the icy cold as they sunk into the sand. Waves rushed up to his ankles, the feeling of having a part of him submerged in water brought a shiver to his spine.
As another wave swept in, the cold began numbing his feet. He stepped back, turning towards Rosakai. Walking towards him, Zephren watched as the sand clung to his wet skin. “When I escaped… he grabbed me,” Zephren touched over the swollen skin of his jaw, “and broke my arm. I was holding a knife, but I wasn’t planning on hurting him. I was just trying to get answers and I wanted to defend myself. That was the only time.”
Rosakai’s hand twitched towards Zephren, only to be folded firmly across his chest. When he spoke, he was gentle, “You don’t remember how long you were there?” It was a relief to hear his sincerity.
Zeph swallowed hard. “The lights never went out…so there were no markers to tell time, except the meals that were passed to me. Some days there was no food though...” Feeling uncomfortable, Zephren tried not to let his thoughts linger on his words. He cleared his throat, unwanted visions of his sister flooding his mind. “My sister is all grown up now. To be honest, I’d almost forgotten her.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister.” Rosakai shifted his feet in the sand with a sharp hiss.
Zephren shrugged, nodding slowly. “Half-sister. She’s my father’s daughter. I never met her mother—I think she died in childbirth… I’m not even sure if she knew I existed.” It was strange saying so many things out loud…parts of Zephren’s life that brought him anger.
Rosakai hesitated, looking at Zephren carefully before he said, “You’re in your twenties. If I recall, your birthday is in December, so, you’re nearly twenty-two, I think.”
“You know my birthday…?” Zephren felt his heart skip a beat, shaking his head in disbelief. “You know me. You know who I am.”
His silver eyes reflected the dark waves. “I do not know who you are. But I know a lot about you. Many people do… and many people want to find you.”
Zephren didn’t want to ask anymore. He didn’t want to think about it. “What month is it?”
Rosakai looked dejected as he said, “It’s the beginning of September.”
“You don’t like September?”
He looked at Zephren, stoic. “I don’t like the cold.” He glanced at Zeph’s clothing. “You won’t be able to go outside in a t-shirt much longer,” he said, gesturing to the black shirt Zeph was wearing.
It was more like a dress on the boy’s thin frame. He touched it, feeling the soft material. “It’s so clean,” Zeph found himself saying. He looked at his skin, realizing that the blood and soot had been washed off. “I’m clean…” He felt slightly embarrassed. “You bathed me?”
Rosakai shook his head. “No, Star—she’s our physician—she bathed you and dressed your wounds. The shirt, however, is mine.” His eyes scanned Zeph, then abruptly looked away as he said, “We’ll look more thoroughly in the morning for something that fits better.”
Zephren looked down at his skeletal form, then up at Rosakai; he was muscular and tall and beautiful…
Rosakai cleared his throat, “I’m sorry about the basement…it was insisted. I hope you’re not offended.”
“I’m not offended…” Zephren couldn’t take his eyes off of him, recalling the arms that had reached around him in the courtyard of his burning house… They must have belonged to Rosakai. “You were looking for me,” he whispered, questioning how the siren could have been there, could have found him. Was he really ready for the truth?
Rosakai sighed. “Everyone’s looking for you. Few believe you still exist, and even fewer know your identity.”
Zephren felt sick as I stepped towards Rosakai, the wind sweeping through him to the bone. “Okay… Answer me one thing.”
“I’ll answer you anything.”
Zephren sucked in a deep breath. “If you know about me, and were looking for me… why didn’t you come find me sooner?”