Bright knows that being a wanderer has both its perks and its snags.
The perks have always consisted of freedom and peace. While the snags have always consisted of being treated like a stranger.
Well, you are a stranger, he thinks.
Bright watches as the guy he bumps into in front of an apartment disappears at the end of the corridor. After a couple of breaths later, he hears the elevator ding, and there is nothing but him and silence in the hallway.
Bright exhales. It’s been a long day and he feels tired and hungry and thirsty and well… quite unlucky. The first person he meets after a long ass bus journey is a cold asshole, although a seriously attractive one. Bright can’t deny that hostile but soulful tiny eyes will melt anyone on the receiving end of them including Bright himself. The man is also quite tall, perhaps even taller than Bright, and Bright is tall.
Damn it, are you horny? He asks himself, knowing very well he has no time for such thoughts. But when his traitorous mind whispers a yes, Bright groans and shakes his head before he sits on the floor with his back against the wall. He’ll need to put himself together. He just needs to rest for a bit before trying another door.
Bright already expects he will not be as lucky as last time to have an apartment all to himself again for free, but he can still find a house who might need a housekeeper or a full-time sitter or whatever, and perhaps can even recommend an apartment with a cheap rent. That’s what he’s been doing for the past two years and it’s working for him.
If worse comes to worst, there are other jobs out there that might give him a free room. He will take anything as long as the job is legal and does not compromise with his beliefs in life. It will be just for a couple of months anyway.
Bright lets out another long sigh. There are moments when Bright contemplates about what he is doing with his life, and this is one of those. He just hates dwelling with it because it’s his choice to live a life of no commitments. This insanity (as what his older sister likes to call his desire to flee) just comes out too illogical at times.
Illogical. Oh yes, Bright knows how illogical it is.
Bright is rich. He has access to money. A lot of money. He can live in a luxurious apartment in every place he goes to without lifting a hand for labor.
But he did not leave home just to depend on his parents’ money. It’s never been about that. This, whatever this is, has nothing to do with the cliché plot of fleeing because of the desire to be independent. This is the case of an inner struggle or an inner desire. Unfortunately, he hasn’t decided which of it this is yet. There is a thin line between desire and struggle, and Bright is still threading on it. He has to figure it out before he can allow himself to finally perch on a rock of stability and uniformity.
Bright has made a promise—both to himself and to his parents—that once he contains the unsettled monster within him, he will come back home… wherever home is.
Home. It always comes down to it.
One day, he’ll seek it. But for now, Bright is more peaceful about the thought that he doesn’t have a home.
That home is anywhere, and not somewhere.
Bright doesn’t realize he had dozed off until he feels something poking the sides of his neck, effectively waking him up from his slumber.
At first, he’s unsure whether it’s a dream, so he swats at that something with his hand, leaving him poke-free for just a few seconds. But when the poking starts again, Bright has to finally open his eyes, lifting his head and facing the offender.
“Oh.” To say that he’s surprised is an understatement. Oh.
It’s a kid who is currently standing in front of him. A cute little boy with black curly hair, snow-white complexion that reveals the adorable blush on his cheeks, and very curious eyes. He is wearing a teddy bear-clustered shirt underneath a denim jumper.
“Who are you?” The little boy asks, his voice full of curiosity and his dimple showing even through the slight frown. “Why are you here, Mister Handsome?”
Mister Handsome? Bright tries to smile as he fights the last vestiges of sleep.
“Mister Handsome?” he asks, amused. The little boy nods seriously, obviously still waiting for his answer.
Bright pats the space beside him, silently inviting the boy to sit with him. Surprisingly, the little boy does and even leans sideways against him with a familiarity that he shouldn’t have because he is a stranger. His mind temporarily goes to the man who made it obvious how much of a stranger he is, but shrugs it off almost immediately. Instead, he focuses on the little boy and his curious eyes.
“I don’t have a home.” At least not for now, he adds in his mind.
“Because I always leave,” Bright answers nonchalantly. “I don’t stay long in a place.”
A frown appears on the boy’s cute face, making Bright want to squeeze his cheeks.
“I don’t understand, Mister Handsome. Are you bad? Did your parents send you away because you’re bad?”
Bright is amused, but doesn’t say anything. He can’t actually tell the boy that yes, he is a bit bad, but his parents did not exactly send him away. That it’s his choice because sometimes, he thinks he is making the right choices.
“Do you want to live with us? Our sitter just left.”
This catches Bright’s attention. “Your sitter?”
The little boy nods, his curly hair bouncing at the motion. Bright also just notices that the kid is now fully leaning against him as if he’s comfortable with the older man.
“She just left. She was screaming when she told us she’ll leave, but you’re sleeping even though she’s doing that. You’re a very deep sleeper, Mister.”
Bright chuckles. He must have really been so tired. He is usually a light sleeper. He easily gets woken up by the slightest noises.
“She said she can’t stand us anymore.”
Bright looks up, surprised at the new voice that joined his conversation with the boy.
It is a little girl, this time. She looks slightly older than the boy sitting beside her.
“Hi there,” Bright automatically greets the little girl. Without waiting for an invitation, the little girl sits on his other side and leans against him too.
“Hello, Mister Handsome.”
Oh gosh, Bright thinks. “Are you siblings?” he asks, curious about the relationship of the two. He doesn’ also want to just assume. Assuming about things that you know nothing about is not a good habit.
Both of the kids nod slowly.
“What are your names?” Bright asks. “You know, if it’s okay for me to know. My name is Bright.” He offers his hand for the two kids to shake.
“I’m Daniel,” says the little boy, shaking Bright’s hand. “Papa calls me Dan.”
Papa, huh? So Mr. Grumpy Pants is a father, Bright thinks, so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn’t hear the girl reprimanding the boy about the word, Papa. “And you, young lady?” he asks, turning his attention to the sweet girl on his other side.
The girl stares at him as she shakes his hand “You’re too formal, Mister Handsome. But okay. Nice to meet you, Bright. My name is Mia.”
“Mia. Mia,” Bright tests the name on his tongue. “Oh!” he says excitedly. “Like Princess Mia of the Princess Diaries!” Bright knows his Walt Disney films.
This seems to make Mia happy because she starts giggling. “Yes. Like her. I love her so much and she’s pretty.”
“You can be like her one day,” Bright responds, making Mia giggle louder. Bright thinks it’s cute.
“You’re funny and you know Princess Mia. I like you. Come live with us, Bright.”
And they say kids say the darndest things, Bright thinks, surprised at the words that came out of Mia’s mouth. And he wants to say yes. Oh how he wants to say yes. But he remembers the grumpy father and he immediately contemplates on the offer. “Won’t your papa be angry?”
Mia scowls at that. “Papa is always angry. But you can stay. You need to, Bright. No one will take care of us now.”
That’s true, right? They need someone to take care of them, Bright thinks, trying to reason with himself while looking at the kids who are currently staring at him with something similar to excitement and hope in their eyes. Who can say no to that?
“So… you really need a sitter?” he carefully asks.
“YES!” are the simultaneous answers.
“Well…” Bright hopes he will not regret this.
That he will not find himself at the police station later this day for being accused of trespassing or something.
Fine. Bright thinks it might be worth the risk. Might.
“I think I can stay,” he finally says. If your father allows me, he doesn’t add.
“Bright, you’re amazing!”
Bright shakes his head at the happy screams from the two kids who are jumping up and down as if they just heard the best news ever. And before he can even try to ask himself if his decision is really the right one at the moment, Mia and Daniel both stand up and pull him by the arms, leading him inside the pristine apartment.
Well, I probably just have to wait and see, he thinks.
For now, he can only hope.
Wynn has had a long day, and he wants nothing but a warm bath and his bed.
He immediately comes home after a tiring day in his café with a realization that he needs to hire more people to lift the administrative burden off his shoulders. Making coffee, manning the cash register, and serving people—those he can do even though he’s not much of a social person. The paperwork involved—he is not too keen on that.
Wynn always looks forward to Sundays for a reason. Even as a self-proclaimed workaholic, he longs for the days wherein he can just relax and do nothing. Relaxing for him means being able to spend the day with Daniel and Mia, and even Bow if he’s in the mood to even show himself to the other people in the house.
They’re probably asleep now, he thinks as he enters the house. And he is quite grateful for that. Wynn senses a migraine coming and all he wants right now is to sleep it off. He is in a very starchy mood—something that he doesn’t want the two kids to see him into. Daniel and Mia only ever see his soft side because it’s something he reserves only for them. They rarely see the straitlaced persona he truly is outside the house and to other people.
“I’m home,” he mutters. Announcing his arrival has already become a habit.
Wynn carefully removes his shoes and places them on the shoe rack at the foyer. He hangs his coat on one of the hooks on the wall and walks barefoot towards the living room, eager to rest a bit before he can take a long, hot bath.
“Welcome home,” someone greets him from the sofa. Wynn smiles weakly in greeting and proceeds towards the direction of his room. He is halfway there when he stops in his tracks, his eyes slowly turning wide as realization caught up on him.
Wynn makes a quick turn and rushes back towards the living room. He immediately catches the eyes of the intruder and glares at him. He recognizes him immediately as the man he bumps into this morning.
“What the heck are you doing here?” he asks, obviously livid at the sight of the stranger, who pestered him this morning. “Get out,” he says calmly through gritted teeth, obviously losing his grasp on the last of his patience. “Get the fu—”
His words are cut when he shushes him. Before he can retaliate with a harsher word, the intruder points his finger towards his lap.
Wynn’s jaw immediately falls as he takes in the sight before him. Oh.
With their heads on each of the intruder’s jean-clad thighs, the children, his Mia and Daniel, are fast asleep.
The sight immediately calms him. Despite his objection with regards to finding a stranger inside his house, he sits down quietly on the opposite couch. At least the stranger didn’t harm the kids.
“What the hell happened?” Wynn asks as he closes his eyes, leaning his back against the backrest of the couch. “Where the heck is my brother and where the heck is Salome?”
“Is Salome the babysitter?” a deep voice asks.
Even with his reservations, Wynn finds the voice soothing. He relaxes further into the couch before opening his eyes again to look at the intruder. “You didn’t kill the babysitter, did you?”
The intruder laughs softly, shaking his head. Wynn thinks the other has such a husky laugh.
“No. But your children almost killed her, I think,” the other man says, sounding amused. “I guess it’s the reason why she walked out screaming.”
Wynn narrows his eyes. “And you were there? Are you telling me you were stalking my house?”
The other man frowns. “Not exactly, Mr. Paranoid,” he answers, sounding a bit insulted. “I was tired and fell asleep. I was asleep when the sitter walked out so I didn’t even know what exactly happened. But—” he stops and then looks down on the two figures in his lap. “This one right here—” he continues while stroking Daniel’s hair, “—poked me awake. He asked who I was and sat beside me as if I was someone he had known for a long time.”
Wynn’s eyes go to the sleeping face of the boy. “And I bet his sister followed him?”
“Yes, she did,” the intruder admits. “She sat on my other side and continued to bother me. She’s worse than her brother, actually. And then they just asked me to stay and look after them. They pulled me inside and well, here I am.”
“These two,” Wynn whispers in disbelief. “And you agreed that easily?” He still thinks the man has a hidden agenda. He was, after all, standing in front of his apartment this morning.
“I’m sorry, okay?” the intruder says, sounding just a little bit guilty. “I promise you I don’t have any intentions of hurting your children, stealing, or even killing your asshole of a brother.”
Wynn stills at that. “My… asshole of a brother?”
The other man snorts.
“He is an asshole. He came out of his room to check what’s causing the ruckus. I was playing with these two adorable bears then. Your brother just glared at me, glared more at these two, and went back to his room as if he didn’t see his nephew and niece with a stranger. Dan and Mia launched into their very detailed version of who he was. They didn’t like him and also like him at the same time, it seems.”
“Well, he’s a bit grumpy and a bit complicated to understand,” Wynn admits, not realizing he is currently having a decent conversation with a stranger.
“Grumpier than you even,” the man whispers, which Wynn catches but doesn’t comment on. Instead, he lets out a sigh. He is just so tired and he doesn’t want to deal with this right now.
“Back to the matter at hand,” Wynn says, sounding defeated. “I still don’t like it that you entered the house without permission from me or from any adult. BUT… I guess you’re welcome to stay tonight.”
Wynn witnesses how the other man’s face lights up, but he ignores it. “I want you to leave first thing in the morning, okay?” The face falls, and Wynn wonders why he feels guilty. “You’re still a stranger. I don’t know you. I don’t have plans to know you. And I don’t trust you.”
The other man is quiet for a bit before Wynn sees him nod. “Okay,” he replies quietly.
Wynn shrugs the guilt off, most especially at the somber tone in the other man’s voice. It’s not his problem that the other man feels this way. He is still a stranger.
“And by the way, they’re not mine,” Wynn adds as a random afterthought after a tense silence between them. He actually wonders why neither Mia nor Daniel mentioned that little detail to the stranger when they all but let him in.
“Huh?” the intruder asks, the look of obvious puzzlement on his face.
“Mia and Daniel. They aren’t mine. They are my brother’s,” Wynn says quietly. “I’m… I’m just the uncle. They’re Bow’s. Bow is that asshole brother.”
There is a surprised expression on the stranger’s face, which Wynn shrugs off. He doesn’t plan on giving a more elaborate explanation.
The stranger nods. They remain quiet for a moment, with only Daniel’s soft mumbles about ice creams and dragons resonating in the room.
“What’s your name?” Wynn asks after a while. He might as well know the name of the stranger who will sleep in their living room tonight.
“Bright,” the man answers. “You can call me Bright.”
Wynn nods. “Bright. Okay, Bright. I want you to leave first thing tomorrow morning. But tonight, you may sleep on the couch.”
Bright doesn’t respond, but Wynn doesn’t need to hear it. What he needs is for the other man to leave and it will happen whether he likes it or not.
Wynn stands up from his perch on the couch and crosses the two-meter distance between the couches. He carefully picks Mia up and carries her in his arms.
“I will be back for Dan,” he says, leaving the stranger to bring Mia to their room. He goes back for Daniel just a few minutes after, as if he doesn’t trust Bright alone with Daniel.
Before Wynn retires for the night, he brings Bright a pillow and a blanket, which he receives quietly with a soft thank you.
On his way to his own bedroom, he passes by Bow’s room. He stands in front of his brother’s room for a full five minutes before he decides that he is too tired to deal with him tonight. Wynn just shakes his head and enters his own room, instantly collapsing on his bed.
The last thing in his thoughts before he succumbs to sleep is the fact that there’s a stranger in his living room.
And he’s here, sleeping it off.
Wynn decides he’ll deal with his stupidity tomorrow.