Leo tip-toed through the living room, relying on the speck of sunrise and his memory to avoid the creaky spots on the floor. He grabbed on his boots and peered over his shoulder. In the darkness, he saw the slew of boxes scattered through his house. Leo forced his eyes on the laces of his boots, not that they were much help. The boxes pressed in on him, demanding to know why they still remained closed.
Barely a day went by after his parent's funeral before they started to show up. His nerves flared with anger, and he bit the inside of his cheek. Leo never imagined that his parents would pass from old age, but a senseless accident in a storm? Tears clawed at his throat. They were fools. He took a deep breath. Now, move on. He had to leave the house - rather than dwell on his parent's mistakes. Leo stood and jumped.
"Shit! What have I told you two about sneaking up on me like that?"
The Twins started up at him, hand in hand. The white oval masks placed over their faces painted with a snicker. Their pale fingers gripped Leo's pants leg.
"Boss said not to."
"I know. I just want to check on Tallulah," Leo said.
The mask shifted into a concerned expression. The Twins glanced at each other, their bare feet rocked back and forth.
"What if Master dies?" They asked together.
Leo squatted down to their level. "What makes you think that?"
"Master's parents died."
Leo placed a hand on their heads, ruffling their short black hair. "I know it's hard to understand, but humans die a lot quicker than spirits. But I'm not going anywhere for a long time, ok?"
The Twins nodded, their masks bounced to happy faces. They grabbed Leo's hands, dragging him into the kitchen. He hoped he could sneak out before they demanded a sandwich, but his stomach cheered at the inconvenience. Leo opened the icebox, brushed off some of the chill worms from his selected jar, who scurried away from his warm touch. The Twins handed him another jar from the cabinet and a loaf of bread.
"Well, it looks like this might be the last of the peanut butter for a while. The Southern Region ships won't be in for another month."
The Twins whined, but they watched Leo spread the peanut butter and jam onto the bread. Leo took a bite from each sandwich before each of the Twins took one. He grabbed his coat, instructing the Twins to let the chill worms out in the snow for a bit and left. A cold wind blew when he stepped outside. It burned Leo's nose and ears, fog formed from his breath. Leo pulled a thick scarf from the pocket of his coat. He wrapped it firmly around his neck, but the biting cold still managed to seep through.
Snow crunched under his feet, chilled air sliced through his efforts to stay warm. A few neighbors waved, a question tittered on their lips. Leo managed a smile and picked up his pace. In a small village like Sea Breeze, it didn't take long for word to get around, and he got enough sappy condolences to last him a lifetime. Cozy houses scattered around Sea Breeze, but the village itself consisted of the docks, the market, and a large cluster of businesses. All with the same brick, stone, and wood construction. The same humans and spirit Leo knew all his life swept the snow out from their storefronts, chatted about business or the weather. Somehow, Leo was surprised that everyone else carried on so easily after they cried around two open graves not long ago.
His muscle memory stopped him. The lights weren't on the shop yet, but the sun came up just enough to shine on the window display. A snowy scene played out, with old toys and ornate furniture. All carefully placed by Leo and his father with the directions from his mother. Leo pulled a key from his pocket but hesitated before he put it inside the lock. He bit his lip - it all looked the same. The shelves were lined with antiques from around the world, and the smell of old books filled his nose. Yet, the spark disappeared from the store, like it mourned their owner's death too.
"You must be Nikolai."
An unknown velvet voice melted the winter touch on his skin with goosebumps. He turned ― caught by honey brown eyes. A man smiled at him; long red hair spilled over his shoulder. Striking was a better word than handsome. His jaw and brows were strong yet, forged by a curve of elegance. His medium build carried the same gentility. Strong but not bulky. His smile could have brought spring early. Confidence poured over a poised stance, but a twinge of nervousness hit Leo.
"Yeah, I am, but I go by Leo. Who are you?"
"My apologies," the man said, offering his hand. "My name is Asher, I am the owner of this establishment. I have heard much about you from Ben and Faye."
"Funny, I've heard nothing about you."