It is late in the day of a hot summer evening that she asks him to babysit her pretentious, edgy, fifteen-year-old child. For some unfathomable reason there she stands, arms akimbo, blue eyes piercing through the dark round veil of his retailed sunglasses and skin blanched white by the sun’s beating glow that almost reflects off the beads of sweat on her shoulder.
She is near impossible to look at - she, his sister, the bane of his existence. A mortal being bound by the constraints of human time and the impossible logic of love. He sighs, sipping at his drink. It tastes like orange marmalade.
“She’s not pretentious.” She spits, and with slow realisation it hits him that he spoke the words out loud and loudly too. He looks down at his watch: it’s nearly six, yet out of the corner of his eye he spies the solid white circle of the unforgiving sun hovering between two soaring skyscrapers. It rests in the slit like a hawk’s eye, watching him and his pathetic umbrella under the scattered shade of an old tree attempt to evade the sun's rays. He’s beaten it again - he’s beaten it 365 days a year, a hundred years in his lifetime - and manages a childish smirk (which gets him no response) before his sister once again snaps her fingers and directs his attention to her unwavering gaze.
“Kieran Oculus.” She glares again, words sharp and shrill, and he cringes inwardly at the way her mouth uncomfortably curves around the syllables. It’s absolutely disgusting. Oculus. Where in the world does that even originate from?
“For god's sake, Miranda.” Kieran coughs. “My first name alone is terrifying in its own right. We don’t need to address the absolute atrocity of our surname too.”
She ignores him. “I need you to take care of her.”
“Your foetus?” Miranda strikes her leg against the tree and the bark splits between her wedged toes. Kieran is suddenly reminded that she is his sister, they share the same bloodline, and she could potentially punch a hole through his neck that he wouldn't be able to survive. Spiting her stops being a good idea.
“My daughter,” She hisses. “And I love you, Kieran, which is why I trust you to love her too while I’m gone. And possibly after I’m dead and buried like a proper human being.”
That’s the thing about interspecies marriage, he supposes. The horrifying truth about possibly having your children outlive you by centuries only really hits home once the pregnancy’s happened, and by then you’re too busy dealing with a distraught father and an exhausted mother and a gurgling pile of filth wrapped in a little blue blanket.
Kieran looks past his sister to the car behind them, within it a figure hunched over her phone that lights up her face with a soft white glow. She looks like their mother, he supposes, and a little like Miranda too: with the piercing blue eyes and the soft hair, and the cute snub nose often upturned with displeasure when presented another pile of heavy paperwork. As he stares she looks up suddenly, they meet with awkward eye contact, and she looks down again with a twisted expression on her face that he can only begin to think of as the face of a girl who can’t believe she’s going to spend two weeks with her ‘Dangerous Uncle’ while her mother leaves her for hour-long board meetings and awkward customer greetings instead.
“Did you really tell her I was dangerous?” He asks.
“Well,” Miranda bites her lip. “I told her not to interfere with your work at all costs, and she took it as a sign that you murdered people for a living.”
He frowns. “My god. She’s right on the nose.”
“Exactly.” She drags a hand through her hair - stressed, he thinks, understandably stressed - and suddenly the day is turned blue and bleak; the sun has disappeared over the horizon and night creeps in behind him with a spill of stars beginning to illuminate the sky instead. He drops the umbrella with a sigh of relief, rolling his tense shoulders and sore arm, before it folds into a sharp and pointed stick under his arm. The day is still undeniably hot and the humidity chokes him in his leather jacket and grey slacks, but he cheers victory against the sun’s life-threatening rays which, by now, are long gone.
The sunglasses come off and he sees Miranda clearly for the first time since their conversation: There’s a hard wrinkle across her forehead, crows feet pinching her eyes, a set of darkening circles that would be hard to cover with plain makeup. She’s younger than him but older.
Something saddens him. A mortal being bound by the constraints of human time.
“I will take your foetus.” He says, coming to a decision finally.
“Alta.” She pinches the bridge of her nose, eyes closed, expression akin to absolute exasperation. “For fuck's sake, Kieran.”
“Fine.” He shrugs. “I’ll take Alta. Since you have no friends-”
“They politely declined-”
“Since you have no friends and our parents are long forgotten eulogies, and since I suppose I love you too,” she raises her eyebrows at the feigned haughtiness of his voice but he doesn’t respond, merely adjusting his collar slightly. Miranda snorts a laugh, looking away.
“- and since I suppose I love you too, sister, I’ll take her.”
She breathes a sigh. “Thank you.”
The moon will be out soon. Kieran picks up, with his superhuman hearing, the sound of a song being played in Miranda’s car. Her daughter’s head bobs to the beat a little, murmuring to the lyrics softly as she taps away.
“Please be careful.” His sister’s voice is soft. Her hand is on his shoulder, squeezing gently before they wrap quickly around his neck in a quiet embrace and he smells the scent of sickly sweet rose perfume smudged behind her ears.
“I have cheated Death more times than I’d like to have.” He sighs, patting her hair softly. Footfalls fade into earshot as a young girl makes her way towards them and the erratic thumping of wheels against the cobblestone pathway indicate a heavy suitcase filled with - hopefully - only the bare essentials of what his niece will need. “I’m as careful as I’ve always been.”
“Don’t let her do anything stupid.” She whispers quickly and draws away.
“Sure.” He mumbles under his breath.
With the emergence of Alta between them, earphones around her neck as she takes them off one by one, Miranda’s hand travels around to the small of her daughter's back and pushes her softly towards him. With her follows the suitcase and his hands hover over it - uncertain of whether or not to take it from her - before Alta’s own tighten around the handle and she brings the luggage against her legs.
“Off you go.” His sister says, voice breaking strangely. It’s as if she misses her daughter already for reasons Kieran can’t exactly explain other than, of course, that they are mother and daughter and he supposes that Miranda has grown attached to the child. “My brother will take care of you from here.”
“Yeah.” comes a soft response.
Miranda is gone in the blink of an eye. She drives away more quickly than Kieran expected, into her car and waving quickly at him before disappearing behind a closed door and shooting down the street, slowly becoming a black silhouette occasionally showered in passing lamplight. Kieran keeps his eyes on her car - he keeps his eyes on her - until the vehicle shootts over a bridge and disappears entirely. Suddenly he becomes aware of the water dripping down his wrist and in his right palm still sits the unfinished drink, contents a mush of dark, indiscernible fruits and liquids. He trashes it with disdain - it splashes noisily in its contained plastic cup and he wipes his hand quickly.
“So,” He looks to Alta. “Here we are.”
“Hello.” She replies. A beat later, she cracks a thin-lipped smile and Kieran finds himself missing his sister’s presence immensely.
He extends a hand. “I’m Uncle Kieran.”
With a wary gaze, she takes it. “I’m Alta.”
He feels her hand. Her grip is strong, her eyes set to meet him with a stare that isn’t too cold or too awkward, but still distant in the sense that they have only just met. Kieran spies her feet shifting around in their boots before he straightens his back and nods to the building of his apartment.
“I live over there,” He says, and they trundle towards it together.