In the beginning, it was the late night of All Saints’ Day. It was pouring, lightning striking, and a Black woman was about to give birth to her first child. Her pregnancy left her debilitated. She wanted that child with all her might; she was finally going to be a loving mother and watch him grow and become a respectable and honored man. She pushed and pressed, exhausting her strength for the baby to finally be born. It was taking all day and she felt like the baby was just waiting for something to happen before he came to be. She asked a nurse what time was it, and the woman answered it was getting close to midnight. Her eyes widened as she realized it. She didn’t want her baby to be born on the day of the dead and called for her husband. He promptly appeared by her side and held her hand.
— You need to promise me… Urgh… — she said, still in pain from the contractions.
— What my dear?
— He must be called Joshua… Urgh… He will be born on All Saints’ Day…
— Yes, my dear.
— Promise me! — She shouted in agony.
— YES MY DEAR — her husband also shouted, feeling a strange power coming up inside him.
Like a miracle, the baby finally started to come out. It was a healthy beautiful boy, screaming his lungs out in the sweetest crying she could hear. A tear rolled up her face and she felt the pain finally giving in. After the baby was cleaned up and rolled in a little blanket, he was given to his mom so she could breastfeed him for the first time.
— My beautiful Joshua — she said, almost whispering, and her husband was the happiest father in the world.
Without them knowing, the clock struck midnight, her blood pressure fell abruptly and she fainted. The cardiac monitor started a long beep. It happened in a flash, the husband crying out for the doctor to come, the procedures to bring her back and then he fell to the ground. He couldn’t believe it, they were a loving couple minutes ago and then nothing. It was the Day of the Dead, he thought bitterly.
A few days later, after arranging everything almost by himself, with just the help of his old mom, the man settle up the baby’s room, his wife’s burial, and finally, it was the baby’s birth certificate time.
At the registry, holding the crying baby in the clumsiest way, the father was having trouble telling the responsible person there the baby’s name. When the baby finally calmed down, he suddenly opened his eyes. A baby could never know such a simple act could set a man’s hate so high. The baby’s eyes were the most incredible blue someone could see and yet, his own father couldn’t ever take it easy. He suddenly was seeing his neighbor’s face and eyes on his son’s face.
— That… That… — He thought in the worst blasphemies he could, swearing he could kill her for being unfaithful in the most sordid way if she wasn’t already dead.
In fact, none of them, no mother nor father had any relative with blue eyes. They were all Black, black hair, dark eyes, nothing out of the ordinary. The ghost of being betrayed by his most loved one cracked his heart in a twisted way.
— Sir? What’s the name of the baby?
— Judah… — He said, without looking.
— Are you sure? That name is a little… cursed…
“Cursed?” he thought to himself, almost laughing out loud. “That’s perfect!”
— Yes. My wife died saying his name needed to be Judah at the hospital — and he grinned, making the person at the registry uncomfortable.
— Okay, sir. Uhm… — made the person, looking at the hospital paper.
— Any problem?
— Oh! Yes! I don’t know how to ask this. The person at the hospital was probably in a hurry. On which day your son was born again, I can’t see it well on the paper.
— Oh! That… Yes, it was a mess that day. He was born — he paused, looking again to the baby that just smiled back at him, showing off his beautiful blue eyes. — November 2nd. The day of the dead… Right little one?
The person tried to look again at the documentation presented and decided he was right. Judah was now his name, no longer he would have all the blessings his mother tried so hard to give him in time. Now he was Judah, born on the day of the dead.
Jay woke up from his bed sweating. Now, over 15 years later, Jay witnessed the lie of Judah’s father in his dreams.
— He’s like me! — He said to himself, trying to not wake up the other boys at the Universal Church of the Lord Boarding School.
Jay hugged his pillow tight and screamed internally:
“He’s like me!”
That morning Jay was happier than the other boys usually see him. He was up earlier and had the breakfast table set up perfectly. Some teacups filled with the boys’ favorite flavors, fruit slices for everyone, and some crackers for the bitterest ones.
— What happened, Big Jay? — Asked Djude already sitting at the table. He was the fat boy in the group, always helping in the kitchen. — Your birthday was last week.
— I know! I saw him again! The thirteenth boy! He will be coming soon!
— That was what you said last week too. Nothing happened yet.
— Don’t worry. I will probably meet him today when we take out the food for the homeless.
— I envy you, Big Jay. The priests always take you with them while we stay here to study the sacred books all day!
— Aww! — Made Jay. — Don’t be, silly, you know I have my ways! — He said, winking at Dude.
— You are surely charming…
Jay hugged Djude, but he looked silly, as the bigger boy was too much to hold properly for his tiny and slim figure.
— You are so freaking sweet! You should go out more with the other boys! They don’t exactly bite!
— I know but… I’m too nervous to talk to anyone else… You are… You are… You are the only one…
— Surely not! You are just being silly! What about Peter? You were talking to him the other day, weren’t you?
— I was… but…
— I give up! I can’t do it!
— You like him, don’t you?
— He likes you too, to be honest.
— He… does?
— Yeah. I may or may not have heard or seen him looking at you — Jay winked.
— Oh you! Now I’ll never try to talk to him ever! I can’t! — Djude blushed.
— Hey! Hey! Take your chamomile tea! Breathe in! — Djude followed the instructions. — Breathe out. Better?
— A little… but…. Pete… he is… — Djude whined harder this time.
— Djude! My man! My bro! You are such a lovely boy like everyone else in here! Don’t worry about Peter liking you or not, he will come to know you better and like you! You’ll see!
— You promise?
— No, I can’t promise. But you can make a better effort so he can notice you better!
— I… I…
Before he could continue, the other boys were ready with their uniforms for the breakfast and were coming to the table. At the front, leading them and making sure everything was right, was Peter, wearing his glasses, his squint dark eyes, his short black hair, and his worried face, trying to make things go smoothly.
— C’mon guys! Priest Isaac should be here any minute! He will not like to see us off the table!
— Not again — said the grumpy Si, always frowning. — I’m tired of seeing you forcing us to do something you know it doesn’t work!
— Good morning to you too, Si! Next one!
— Good morning, little Pete! — Said Matt with a silly smiling. — Did you wet your bed again?
— No! — Answered Pete, evoking the others' laughs. — For the last time! I never got my bed wet! You guys were the ones who pranked me!
— Always barking, never biting — giggled Andy, also looking at Pete from above.
— C’mon guys! — Pete pleaded. — You know it’s the only day we can go out and only one of us will do it!
— Everyone knows it should be me, of course — said James, while looking at himself in a mirror nearby, almost kissing his reflection, before seating at the table.
— But… But it will be the Big Jay all over again! — complained Phil, shaking his blonde angelic hair from his eyes. — Anyone here should go!
— What are you guys talking about? — Asked the next one coming, Jake, the tallest one.
— Who between us should go to the city today — Answered Jay. — Don’t you wanna go, Jake?
— That again? That city is horrible! Everyone’s trying to kill each other! Stealing! Prostitution! It’s hell on Earth! We should all stay here!
— You know those people need someone who can help them, right, Jake? — Jay continued sounding like the tall boy was just being selfish.
— They smell — and Jake sat at the table.
The next one was Nate, with tanned skin and black straight hair.
— Hi guys — and he sat at the table as well.
— Where’s my toothbrush?! — Screamed Tommy from the bathroom.
— It’s by the shower window! — Shouted Jay. — You left it there yesterday!
— Wait… What? — Tommy still was screaming. — How the hell did I leave it here?! I can’t find my things when they are out of place!
— Haha — Jay giggled — That Tommy. He would lose his head if it weren’t attached to his neck!
— You seem pretty happy today Big Jay! Thanks for helping with the boys!
— No need. You know the big guy is still too shy to talk to you. Maybe you two should talk today.
— Nah, that guy is a mess! He can’t put two words together to talk properly!
— Or… he’s just like that because he’s not used to be talking openly to other people. Follow my lead, he does like you, he’s just… — Both of them looked at Djude and he was holding a spoon on his nose, something he normally does to distract himself. — He’s a nice person, once you break the ice.
Pete giggled. He always felt Djude was too silly and made him smile simply like that.
— See? You like him! — Jay smiled pointing at Pete’s smile.
— Whatever! — Pete said, blushing. — Who’s missing? — He looked out and counted every one. — Jude, Big Jay, Simon, Matthew, Andrew, James, Phillip, Jake, Nathanael — Tommy came running. — Thomas and… Where’s Jonny?
The last boy came silently at his own pace, walking peacefully, and waved to them with a smile.
— There he is! Our Jonny boy! — Said Jay welcoming him.
— Is there something wrong with him? — Whispered Pete to Jay.
— He’s not exactly a fan of people seeing him — Jay whispered back.
— Is there any reason? We are just boys here, right? — Pete continued.
— It’s probably just… a size thing… — Jay whispered without moving his lips.
— Oh… Do you think…
Pete tried to make a final question, but priest Isaac came abruptly from the door followed by three deacons, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel.
— Is everything in their place? — The priest asked.
— Yes, sir! — Pete answered sounding a little worried.
— Why are you two not sitting yet?
— We were waiting for your reverend's presence, priest Isaac — said Jay, taking the lead.
— As always, you boys always trying to please me! — He laughed heartily. — You too can sit now for the Morning Prayer.
After everything in the breakfast was done, priest Isaac got up from his chair without saying a word.
— Uhh… Sir? May I… — Stuttered Pete.
Priest Isaac looked back at the small boy with a serious face and broke it with a smile.
— Always too eager to go out, don’t you?
— No sir, I mean… Who will go today sir? — Pete tried again. — It’s important!
Priest Isaac looked above Pete, searching for someone. Everyone was looking at the priest, having their hope high above the clouds. The only one not looking was Jay, taking care of the dishes and leftovers.
— Huhuh… — made the priest. — One day you shall understand that you shouldn’t wait for the right thing to happen, but to be doing the right thing on time.
— It’s Big Jay, isn’t it? — Said Pete, also realizing what Jay was doing sounding disappointed.
— Hahaha… — the priest laughed out loud. — Pay more attention! Pay more attention! — And yes, I choose him again.
— Maybe you should choose someone else, reverend — suggested Jay, holding the pile of dishes in front of himself.
The priest took the dishes from Jay and passed some for the deacons, letting him free from the chore and kissing his forehead like a prideful father.
— Get ready, my good boy. You always please me like no other!
The priest and the deacons left to the kitchen. Andy couldn’t help himself.
— Faker! Always pretending in front of the priest! — He complained.
— You can’t succeed if you don’t even try, Andy! — Jay smiled. — It’s obvious that I am faking it! Maybe you should try it as well, one of those days.
Jay now was grinning ear to ear.
— Today is the day I will meet the thirteenth.
— Not that bull crappy again! — Said Si, already fed up.
— I would take care, Simon — continued Jay. — You are the next one, right?
— … — Simon said nothing and just felt it hard to swallow.
All the boys were looking directly to Simon. He was the next one to have his 16th birthday.