Chapter 3 - Gift
The child’s eyes gleamed when I said that.
Even in the dark, I could see their eyes twinkling curiously with vigor.
“What? Is that really all right?” the child asked, grabbing both my arms. They seemed anxious that I would run away. My arms hurt from being gripped tightly by the child. I could feel their nails digging in my skin over my clothes. Rather than dismayed, I felt bad for the child.
I felt sorry for them.
I recalled watching abandoned lion cubs on TV once. I remembered that the narrator said the mother abandoned them because the cub was too weak and frail. Back then, I was so young that the seagulls on the beach looked down on me and stole my crackers. I once fell ill when I cradled a dead baby swallow that fell out of its nest, thinking that I could save it if I warmed it up. I remade anthills that were accidentally stepped on along the road. I was foolish in a lot of ways.
“Yeah, if it’s something you can give.” I ended up agreeing readily.
As their mouth fell open, the child seemed to be moved.
“Really, really, for real?” they asked several times in disbelief.
I played along and answered, “Really, really, for real.” Then I clasped the hands of the child that was holding onto me.
The child’s mouth closed. The child’s eyes were on my hands holding theirs. The frigid hands felt slightly warm. My warmth had transferred to them.
“My mom will love me even if I have that kind of thing. So you can give it to me.” I could say that because I believed in my mother’s love that she gave to me so far. “If you give it to me, would you not hear that from your mom anymore?”
The child replied hesitantly, “…Maybe.”
“Thank goodness.” I smiled broadly and the child stared at me.
It was then that I realized that the sweet scent was coming from the child. I didn’t smell like this even after I was cleanly washed and slathered with lotion by my mother. The perfume my mom sprayed after she did her makeup wasn’t this sweet either.
What was it, this sweet smell? Usually, inhaling dense smells for too long made my head hurt, but this was different. Instead, it was…
“If you receive it… You’ll have a very hard time,” the child finally said after a long silence. He was so thrilled before, but now he was crestfallen.
I asked, “Does it hurt?” and the child shook his head.
“But if you don’t give it to me, you’ll be the one who suffers.”
The child shut his mouth.
I loved my mom very much. On days when I got a lot of delicious meat, I blew on the meat to cool it before feeding it to my mom. When I received snacks from preschool that my mom liked, I didn’t eat them and left them aside to slip them into my mom’s hands later. For some reason, I thought the child loved their mom as much as I did.
“You also want to be loved.”
At that, the child’s head dropped.
Their heart must have hurt to hear such mean words from a person they loved dearly. The child was silent for a while. They seemed to be mulling over it. I waited until the child made up their mind.
“Is there anything you want? This never happened to me before… so I want to give you anything that you want,” the child finally asked.
A gift? I liked receiving gifts. However, I felt bad receiving something from a child smaller and skinnier than I was. I recalled the lullaby the child sang not long ago.
“Hmm, you sing pretty well.” I was thinking of simply asking the child to sing for me later. I wondered if they were good at singing songs other than the lullaby.
My mom always said, “Singing and dancing really aren’t your forte. I think you should give up on being a celebrity, my dear son.” My mom’s dream since she was a child was to sing on stage. That was why she thought that it would be good if I went down that path too.
Although I wanted to fulfill my mom’s wishes, as she pointed out, I couldn’t sing well. Even my preschool teacher told me to lip-sync when we sang as a choir. That was all I remembered.
“Singing,” the child echoed my answer. Then they nodded as if they understood.
“I’ll give my singing voice to you.” The child gripped my hands tightly then smiled brightly.
That was all I remembered about that Child and the “large house.” I couldn’t remember how I got out of that house or what happened to the other children I was with. I truly remembered nothing.
I met that suspicious Child in that space so unrealistic that I wouldn’t be surprised even if it were a dream.
That could never have been a dream. In fact, I wished that it were a dream.
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