It’s not Bright’s habit to lie.
Lie is a precursor to an unnecessary duplication of unfortunate events, and it’s one circumstance that Bright always tries to avoid. As much as possible, Bright forces himself to accept a painful truth rather than live in temporary happiness caused by a lie.
And right at this very moment, Bright admits that it hurts. The feeling of being unwanted always hurts. Yet he knows, he knows, that pain is a part of the stranger package.
Stranger. Trusted by no one. A No One.
Who, in his or her right mind, will immediately trust a stranger? Who will easily accept a No One? Most definitely not any sane human being who seems to have his protective button switched on 24/7.
Most definitely not Mr. Grumpy Pants.
But fuck, damn if it doesn’t hurt, Bright thinks with a grimace even though he should have been immune to such treatment by now. It’s not a strange occurrence for Bright. He always has to experience this type of reception every time he changes directions.
Bright as a stranger is a nobody, a nobody trying to live inconspicuously in a world full of somebodys.
He tries to blink back the sudden tears threatening to spill as he stares at the pristine white ceiling of the large apartment. It’s always difficult in the beginning, but he always adjusts. He is always able to overcome the uncomfortable feeling inside his chest.
“Ah fuck. I need a plan,” he whispers to no one. He already anticipated the other man’s reaction, but he still hoped. In this world full of doubts, Bright always trusts strangers. After all, he is one. But with the way things had gone just a few moments ago, he really needed to come up with a plan, and fast.
Bright doesn’t sleep and promptly gets up at 5 am so he can at least clean himself up before he leaves. There is no need for him to impose on this family any longer. The head of the family clearly doesn’t like him.
He quietly scurries towards the bathroom, his footsteps fast but light, bringing his toiletries with him and a change of clothes.
Well, Grumpy Pants doesn’t say I can’t use the bathroom, he whispers to himself as he searches for the bathroom. Perhaps he can even take a quick shower. He feels a little sticky, but thankfully, still smells okay.
“Where the fuck is the fucking bathroom?” Bright asks loudly this time. There are five doors in the hallway, all of them are closed. He’s scared that he might say goodbye to a quick bath for good if he opens Mr. Paranoid’s room. “How the fuck do I—”
“It’s the last door to the left.”
Bright jumps upon hearing the soft, rough voice behind him. He recovers almost immediately and turns around, finding himself face to face with—
Bow. Bow without his wheelchair. He is staring at Bright with no emotions on his face. No amusement, and thankfully also no hostility.
Bright whispers his thank you and proceeds to the bathroom without a word. He hears the sound of a kettle whistling just before he closes the door behind him. Bow must have been awake minutes before for the water to be already boiling by this time.
“So he can walk,” Bright says absentmindedly as he hangs his clothes on the rack. When he met Bow yesterday, he was on a wheelchair. Mia mentioned about an accident, but the little girl didn’t elaborate on it. Bright didn’t ask for details because he is not like that. It is always better for someone like him to know little to nothing.
He steps into the shower and forces himself to use the cold water instead of the hot.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” The water is colder than he expects, but he grits his teeth and stands still for a while, allowing his body to get used to the freezing liquid.
After getting used to the temperature, he starts scrubbing himself furiously, thinking about the little family in the house.
The kids are amazing, and they are probably the bond tying the two brothers. Perhaps, if they aren’t here, the house will be lifeless. Grumpy Pants is the busy type, and probably will just continue working to distract himself. While Bow on the other hand doesn’t look like the type to initiate interaction.
Bow. “Fuck. He is the father.” It suddenly just occurs to him. The revelation surprises him. Bow looks really young to be a father of a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. He actually looks more like an older brother than an uncle or a brother.
However, Bright thinks that probably explains why the young man acts the way he does.
“That’s not my problem anymore,” he mumbles as he starts washing himself. Bright stops himself before he can form conclusions that he has no right thinking about. He shouldn’t concern himself with that. He never did before. Concern leads to care. Care leads to attachment. Attachment is a big taboo for Bright. Flighty souls do not have the right to be attached. They are fated to remain strangers.
Bow is in the living room when Bright emerges from his quick bath. The young man seems to have decided to invade his temporary sanctuary, sitting on the couch opposite his with a cup of tea in his hand. He can feel Bow’s eyes boring on his back as he arranges the pillow and folds the blanket, but Bright pays him no mind.
“So my brother is sending you away.”
Bright stops folding the comforter, but doesn’t turn around. “He has the right to,” he answers quietly. “Who would trust a stranger?” He doesn’t mean to sound bitter, but he feels like he failed at it.
“I see,” Bow replies. And just when Bright thinks he will shut up, he surprises him again with the words that he doesn’t expect to hear. “You should stay.”
There is no I think. It is a statement. A demand even, given the tone that accompanies it.
You should stay.
Bright chuckles a little and shakes his head as he finishes folding the blanket. He picks up his backpack on the floor and turns around to face Bow. “I need to leave. Please tell your brother my thanks. It’s generous of him to allow me to take a short refuge on his oh-so-comfy sofa.”
“Wynn,” Bow reiterates. “Wynn is my brother’s name. Well, it’s Wynnter Melon. But he prefers Wynn.”
Bright doesn’t know if the name is a joke or not, but with Bow’s personality, he isn’t joking. Still, he refuses to show his amusement and gives the other man a small smile. “It doesn’t matter.” It really doesn’t. “I will take my leave now. Goodbye.”
“I own this house too.”
His words stop Bright.
“If I want you to stay, you can stay,” Bow adds. “You don’t have a place to go to, right? A runaway perhaps? Or a backpacker? I really don’t care, actually. But we really need your help. There are a lot of things that are needed attending to. Plus, you’re the first one who seemed to be able to exercise control over those two kids.”
Bright remains silent, but he doesn’t take another step either.
“Look. It is not going to be free, if that’s what’s stopping you. If you stay, you have to earn your keep. I can accept home-cooked meals,” he adds when Bright still doesn’t reply. “We can also do a bit of cleaning here. As you can see, I am not always… in the mood to do it.”
“Are you sure?” Bright asks quietly, slowly turning around to finally face the other young man. Again, Bright cannot lie. He feels that tiny hope bloom within him when he first hears Bow telling him to stay. But he also needs to make sure that it is a solid offer, and not just an impulsive one made out of pity.
Bow nods, his face serious and definitely not mocking, his eyes not leaving Bright’s.
“This—this won’t cause a small rift between you and your brother? I mean, he doesn’t seem to want me to stay, so—”
Bow scoffs, cutting his words off. “The rift is there already. Don’t feel special. He’s the type to force himself on people’s lives and I am the type to not accept such impositions. But you don’t have to concern yourself over it. It’s his and mine’s business. So… are you in?”
Bright hesitates for a while before he finally walks back towards the couch and sits in front of the young man. He can feel his eyes on him as he puts down his backpack.
“So…” Bow starts as he stares at Bright. Despite the hard features of the other’s face, Bright can feel the sincerity in those eyes.
Bright nods. “Okay.”
“I thought it’s a little bit too quiet.”
Everyone stops talking and eating as they hear the voice from the entrance to the kitchen.
Bow is the first one to react and faces his brother with that usual stoic expression. He is followed by Mia, and then by Daniel, who both greet their uncle with cheerful muffled hellos through mouthfuls of pancakes.
Wynn ignores all of them first in favor of addressing the odd addition in the room. Bright.
“What are you still doing here? I thought I told you you need to leave first thing in the morning.” He doesn’t sound angry to Bright, but there is also a hint of warning in there, an impending bomb ready to explode if he hears the wrong answer from him.
Bright flinches and slowly turns around, the soapy griddle dripping in his hand. “I… uh… er…”
“He cooked us breakfast, Uncle Wynn!” Mia intervenes, accidentally answering for him. She lifts her fork, showing Wynn a huge piece of the kids’ favorites that Bright cooked—chocolate chip pancakes. “He also bathed me and Dan. We are dressed early for school!”
Both of them are already dressed in their crisp uniforms. Mia’s hair is tied in a neat ponytail, something Wynn cannot even do decently according to Mia herself. Bright has done a lot of things in his fickle life, and some of them involve kids—he knows how to take care of them.
Bright watches quietly as Wynn opens his mouth to respond. But this time, Bow beats him to it.
“I hired him.” Bow’s words are answered with silence. “Salome just quit and no one will take care of the little brats”. Bright notices the way Mia flinches after her father utters the seemingly offending word. “He is very efficient as you can see. Bright can also do the cooking and the washing.”
Wynn walks further inside the kitchen, his eyes regarding all of Bright. Bright tries not to flinch at the obvious scrutiny and patiently waits for the verdict. Wynn stops beside Bow and doesn’t immediately answer. Instead he gives Mia and Daniel a kiss each on the forehead, extending Bright’s agony for a few seconds, before finally responding to his brother’s statement.
“We don’t know him, Bow. He just appeared out of nowhere yesterday.”
“If he wants to cause problems, he would have done so yesterday or even last night,” Bow counters calmly. “But instead here he is, cooking us breakfast and looking after the children.”
“And he took care of us yesterday,” Mia says shyly. “He also cooked us dinner and read and played with us, Uncle Wynn.” She turns sideways towards Daniel and pokes at his brother. “Didn’t he?”
Daniel, with those innocent round eyes, gives them all a toothy smile and nods.
“He did! And he was amazing! I like him lots lots lots!” The little boy exclaims, which almost, almost causes Bright to smile. Daniel’s just too cute for his own good.
But he knows this is not the time for such. He remains quiet as he allows Daniel and Mia to beg their uncle to keep him. He throws Bow a side glance, but the younger brother seems to retreat back to himself. The cold mask is back on his face, and he continues to eat his food, clearly unbothered, as if he knows he is going to get what he wants anyway.
And he does.
“Fine,” Bright finally hears Wynn utter, which really takes him by surprise. He might have expected Wynn to agree, but not as easily. But then again, who is Bright to complain? This is more than what he ever hoped for.
“All right. You will stay,” Wynn affirms, this time with a little more finality in his tone. “But one toe out of line and you will leave. Understand? I still don’t trust you.”
There goes that word again. Trust. No one will easily trust a stranger.
Bright tries not to flinch, and instead focuses on the fact that he gets a shelter for the next couple of months at least.
“Thank you,” he pushes himself to say. Despite the uncomfortable feelings between him and Wynn, he really is grateful that the man is saying yes. In fact, Bright doesn’t even realize how badly he wants to hear Wynn’s approval until he exhales a breath he hasn’t realized he has been keeping.
Bright sees Wynn’s mouth twitch, and it makes him want to smile. He is quite sure that it’s the closest thing to a smile that he will get from the other man today.
“Don’t even try. I know you want to smile. Go ahead,” Wynn says as if reading his mind.
And Bright does. He smiles. “Thank you,” he repeats, this time with a more genuine tone accompanying the words of gratitude.
Wynn meets his eyes and clears his throat before nodding at him. Then he sits beside Bow and starts eating his breakfast as if there hasn’t been an issue prior to him enjoying the pancakes Bright cooked.
Silently, Bright watches Wynn’s interaction with his little family. It’s like watching two alternate universes coexist with each other. Wynn is all smiles and jokes when interacting with his niece and nephew. His voice is also playful, light, and honestly nice, with that husky lilt to it. But whenever he addresses Bow, his face morphs into a cool one as if the smiling one never exists. His voice turns into something defensive and stern, and a little bit too formal for Bright’s ears.
Yet, for some strange reason, Bright can feel that they all belong together.
They look like a family. They feel like a family.
This is not just a house but a home.
Bright forces himself to turn away from the sight and continues to wash the few dishes that gather around him. No. This family is none of his business. He’s a freeloader and an unnecessary part of this household. He doesn’t need to know every single thing about this family.
He is so lost in his thoughts that he fails to notice Wynn approaching him.
“Bright,” Wynn calls as he brings over his empty plate to the sink for him to wash. Bow, Mia, and Daniel have long since left the kitchen in favor of the TV set in the living room.
“Yes, Wynn?” Bright asks, turning his head to meet the other man’s gaze while accepting the plate being handed to him. It’s only then when he notices that Wynn is slightly taller than him. Perhaps just a couple of centimeters taller, but still taller. He definitely looks younger though, judging by the still youthful features the other man possesses.
Wynn is a beautiful man, at least that, Bright can admit. And if Bright is not wired how he is, perhaps he’ll develop an instant crush on his man.
“I am bringing the kids to school,” Wynn says while fixing the collar of his dress shirt. “You need to come with me so you will know where you will fetch them just in case I can’t.”
“Shouldn’t they have a school bus?” Bright asks before he can stop his mouth. Wynn gives her a disapproving glare.
“I will pretend I didn’t hear that. But I will appreciate it if you don’t interfere with some things concerning Daniel and Mia other than the basics of being a guardian,” the other man responds coolly. “Get ready. We will be leaving in five minutes.”
“Yes, Wynn,” Bright replies as Wynn leaves the kitchen without another word to him.
Yes. Definitely a stranger.
Bright lets out a sigh as he closes his eyes. He can feel this is going to be a different experience for him. He has dealt with hostile people before, even lived with a couple of nasty ones before; but no one as proper and as formal as Wynnter Melon.
Bright wipes the countertop with a dry rag and makes sure to spray the room with the freshener before joining the others in the main room.
He can easily hear Daniel’s excessive chatter and Mia’s excited squeals as he makes his way towards them. He can also hear two baritone voices arguing about responsibilities in the background—
This. This will be Bright’s life in the next two months.
“Get in! Get in, Bright!” Mia calls from the backseat.
“Get in! Get in, Bright!” Daniel mimics his sister before laughing mischievously to no one in particular.
Bright stares at the car in front of him. Wynn’s car is a sleek black Jaguar that will send any hormonal human being to his or her orgasm. His car is sexy as hell, and is probably worth more than what Bright earns in a year.
But the hot car is not the reason why Bright cannot move an inch towards it.
“Get in,” Wynn finally says, snapping Bright from his reverie. He sees Win open the door of the passenger seat for him, a polite gesture from someone who looks like he eats etiquette rules for breakfast.
Knowing he has no choice, Bright slowly walks towards the car. This is what makes Bright hesitate. He doesn’t expect to sit in the passenger seat. It feels somewhat uncomfortable. And Wynn’s look of irritation doesn’t help one bit.
“Aren’t you getting in?” Wynn asks again, this time with a hint of irritation.
Bright hastily nods and hastens his pace, getting in the car without another word. Wynn rolls his eyes before closing the door after him. This does not escape Bright, but he is too busy being uncomfortable to pay it any heed.
Wynn gets inside the driver side and starts the engine. The sexy beast gives a smooth velvety roar. “Seatbelts, please.”
Bright quietly puts his on.
“Hang on tight,” Wynn says mostly to himself. But Bright still hears it.
Of course. He will hang on tight.
He always does.
There are few things in life that will manage to elicit a smile from one Wynnter Melon, and paperwork has never been one of them.
Wynn hates paperwork the most.
He rubs his tired eyes with his knuckles and leans against the headrest of his office chair. Business is doing well. For a non-mainstream café, it has become quite popular. The main branch is still full to the brim during peak hours and is never empty. The newly opened branches, despite having smaller spaces, seem to have been easily embraced by the residents in those areas.
However, business doing well means having more figures to review. More figures mean more paperwork.
Again, Wynn hates paperwork.
The young man stands and stretches, revealing a lithe form he hides behind baggy button-downs and slacks. He feels his stiff muscles groaning in relief as he extends his arms upward, the ends of his dress shirt lifting up and showing the barest hint of his pectorals. He grabs his cup of coffee from his side table and frowns at the content.
With a heavy sigh, Wynn leaves his office and makes his way into the café. He needs another cup of coffee and probably a slice of Raspberry Cheesecake for his daily dose of sugar.
The café has a few vacant tables now, allowing his staff to breathe a little. The early morning crowd composed of whom Wynn calls the Eighters (the ones who arrive at 8) and the Niners (the ones who arrive at 9), have long since disappeared.
He glances at his watch. 10:15 am. The lunch crowd will start arriving at exactly twelve. His staff badly needs this hour every morning to recuperate. The lunch crowd is more unforgivable than the morning crowd.
He goes to the counter and receives a greeting from his people.
“Boss, another latte with an extra shot of espresso?” Jared asks, showing him his everyday toothy grin. Wynn wishes he had the 19-year-old college student’s energy. He isn’t that old yet, just 23, but the adrenaline has long since waned when he started managing the cafe from behind a mahogany desk.
“Yes, please. And I will take a slice of this,” Wynn replies as he places a slice of cheesecake on a plate. “Do we still have stock?”
“Yes, Boss. Don’t worry,” Jared quips as he makes Wynn’s coffee. “You know Reeve and his tendency to… er… overbake.”
Reeve is their pastry chef. He is one of the reasons why the dessert rack is always empty. The pastries and cakes are always sold-out by the end of lunch and have to be restocked for the afternoon and evening crowd.
“You and Reeve are really getting close nowadays,” Wynn says as he leans against the counter. The blush on Jared’s cheeks doesn’t escape him. “You must be extra special. Reeve doesn’t just talk to anyone.”
“Boss!” Jared says loudly, the red spreading to his face. “Here’s your coffee,” he mumbles, handing Wynn his freshly made large cup of coffee.
“Thanks, Jared,” he says, still not leaving. He takes a sip of his coffee and places it on the counter behind him. Then he starts eating his cake.
“You seemed more relaxed lately,” the younger man says.
Wynn stares at him. “How so?” Because as far as Wynn is concerned, the paperworks still stresses him out.
Jared crosses his arms in front of him. “Your facial features look gentler, kind of softer… did… something good happen lately?”
Wynn takes another forkful of his dessert before responding. “Nothing really. Daniel and Mia just seem more cooperative lately. I think they love their new sitter.”
“Oh! They have a new sitter?”
Wynn nods. “Yes. It’s just been a week, but he and the kids are really clicking. Daniel doesn’t make much of a fuss anymore just because I rarely have time for them. Mia pouts less lately. Even Bow seems… less irritable.”
Out of all the changes in the household, that’s the most surprising. Bow has taken a liking to Bright. Not in the romantic sense, because Wynn knows Bow will never be able to feel that way again, but in a way that he purposefully seeks Bright out and talks to him.
Wynn feels a little jealous actually. Bow has never sought him out before to talk. But he sees the way the daily random interaction helps his brother. The younger guy even pats Daniel on the head now and gives random compliments on Mia’s physical appearance, which makes the girl happy.
Wynn blinks and faces Jared. “Hmm?”
Jared frowns a little. “Is everything alright? You just spaced out.”
Is everything all right? He asks himself. Well, yes, everything seems to be alright. For now. “Yes,” he responds. “All is well.”
Jared smiles. “I am glad.”
Wynn gives him the now empty plate and picks his mug of coffee. “I will go back to the office now. Call me if you need an extra hand.”
Jared gives him a salute. “Sure, Boss!”
Wynn shakes his head and turns around. He has no choice but to go back to his paperwork.
He doesn’t notice the stare that follows him back to his cave, and the smiles that accompany it.
Wynn has a routine because he loves routines.
He wakes up, brings the kids to school, goes to work, and goes home. He doesn’t like shifts to his schedule because it drives him crazy. He always silently panics, and problems arise whenever he does. He easily loses focus when things go out of their intended paths. This is the reason why he is a bit thrown aback when he arrives one night and finds Bright awake. It has been two weeks since he allowed him to become the kids’ sitter.
It’s not necessarily a change in his routine, but it’s still something that he doesn’t expect, reminding him that they have a temporary addition to the household.
Wynn arrives an hour late, not expecting anyone, including Bright to still be awake. He has his own key after all and does not require anyone to open the door for him.
The balcony door is open and he can clearly see the other man sitting on the floor, his back against the glass door, seemingly lost in thoughts. Bright is quite tall. His huddled figure still looks imposing because of his stature, making him instantly visible from the living room.
Wynn quietly slips into the kitchen to place the box of pastries from the shop. He proceeds to his room and changes into his home clothes before he checks on Daniel and Mia. The kids seem to sleep better lately. He has to admit it’s because of Bright. He is really quite good with kids. He seems to give the children a sense of friendly security, and that’s one thing he appreciates about the other man.
Wynn cannot fully say that he has totally warmed up to Bright, but he at least has learned to trust the man a little, even allowing him to bring the kids to the mall one time.
After checking on his niece and nephew, Wynn quietly goes to the kitchen to make tea. By this time, he is quite sure that Bright is aware he’s finally home.
While he waits for the water to boil, he places two cream-filled pastries on a plate and places it on a tray. When the kettle whistles, Wynn takes his favorite green tea leaves, which he imports from Japan, and makes a potful of it. He pours the tea in a little ceramic teapot, placing it and two matching ceramic tea cups beside the plate of pastries. He then joins Bright at the balcony, sitting on the floor opposite him and places the tray of tea and pastries between them.
“Have a pastry. It goes well with the tea.”
He sees Bright briefly glance at him before the other man reaches for a pastry and slowly nibbles on it.
“What are you doing out here?” Wynn asks. “It’s 11.”
“I’m sorry,” Bright responds quietly. Wynn looks at him and shakes his head.
“I am not saying you can’t, Bright. I am just surprised,” he elaborates. “I usually find you asleep on the couch when I arrive.”
Bright still sleeps on the couch. It’s something Wynn cannot do anything about. Bright refuses to stay in the kids’ room even though there is a perfectly nice set of comforter and pillows for a guest in there.
“Oh.” It’s all the answer Wynn gets, which doesn’t really surprise him. Despite Bright’s earlier confidence, he notices that the man is actually quiet.
Bright remains an enigma to him. He had interviewed the man the day he had accepted him. And while he had seemed honest about the basic parts of his identity (even showing him legal IDs that showed the other man is actually a year older than him), Bright had refused to answer personal ones.
Still, Bright treated Daniel and Mia a whole lot better than how they were treated by their previous sitters. So Wynn had allowed him to get away with the personal questions.
Bright seems to treat the children as family. The sense of familiarity in the way he deals with them adds to Wynn’s comfort. It also seems to work better on the two kids.
Mia opens up more now. Daniel is also less clingy.
Bright also cooks well. One thing he knows about the other man is that he has worked in restaurants and coffee shops before. He even knows how to make those artsy bentos that the kids squeal over every day. He sees Doraemon once in a while inside Daniel’s lunch box. And a couple of Pokemons on Mia’s.
Bright seems like a smart guy too. He tutors the kids and manages to make them understand difficult concepts. Daniel’s reading has improved. Mia’s computing skills have also leveled up.
If Wynn will be asked by anyone, he will answer honestly—Bright is the perfect sitter and the perfect house help.
“Wynn, may I ask you something?” Bright finally asks, breaking the silence between them. He has barely touched the pastry in his hand.
Wynn throws a side glance at him before nodding. “You may. But I may or may not answer it.”
“Yes. Fine. You may… or may not answer, of course,” Bright says. “I just… why is… why does Bow act like that?”
Wynn turns his head to look at him. He can see that Bright looks nervous at the question. He is probably thinking he has overstepped boundaries.
Fortunately for him, even though that is the case, Wynn is in an agreeable mood tonight and decides to answer him.
“Bow had brain surgery.”
“What?” Bright asks.
Wynn sighs. “Bow had an accident years ago, right after Daniel was born. Fatima was in the car with him.”
“Yes, Fatima. Daniel and Mia’s mother. Bow’s girlfriend.”
Wynn wants to laugh at Bright’s reaction, but Bow’s and Fatima’s story has never been a laughing matter. At least not to him who had witnessed it all.
Bow and Fatima—they used to be the ideal couple. At such a young age, they both decided about their future together. Even Fatima’s pregnancy was planned and it was supported by parents from both sides.
But then the accident happened, crushing the plans for the future they had built for themselves.
Bow was not a reckless driver. The fact that Fatima was with him would have made him extra careful. However, he didn’t notice that there was a small street a couple of blocks after the stoplight.
It was a head-on collision with a van. Fatima had died on the way to the hospital. Bow had barely survived.
“I—” Bright doesn’t know what to say.
Wynn chuckles humorlessly. “They needed to perform brain surgery on him. He recovered, but he… changed. He knew that Mia and Daniel were his biological children, but he no longer saw them as his… everything. As you notice, he rarely displays emotion. It’s called flat affect or something. While in most cases, it’s temporary, Bow’s seems to be permanent.”
Seems. The doctor says there is still a chance at recovery, but it has been years and Bow’s still the same.
“Is that why… why Daniel and Mia call you Papa at times?”
Wynn nods. “It’s been more difficult for them. They grew up with only me taking care of them most especially when my parents returned abroad. They live in LA.
Mia kept calling me Papa, which Daniel picked up when he was a little older. It was hard to dissuade them, but I had to correct them every time. While it’s fine with me, I don’t have the right to that title.”
“Because you’re not their real father.”
“Because I am not their real father,” he affirms. “And because it’s not entirely Bow’s fault that he can’t feel anymore. He wouldn’t have chosen that. He was so happy to start a family with Fatima. He was a good father, always attentive and caring. Mia experienced that for a little while even though she wasn’t old enough to understand.”
Wynn hears Bright sigh, but the other doesn’t ask anything again.
After a few minutes of not-so-uncomfortable silence, Wynn feels that it’s just fair if he gets to ask Bright something. Something that’s not too personal perhaps or he’s sure he will not receive an answer.
“Can I ask you something in return then, Bright?”
Bright hums his agreement.
“It’s not the first time you’re staying late, is it?”
Wynn can see Bright’s ears redden.
“Uhm. Yeah. I mean… sorry, but yes.”
Bright shakes his head. “Not… exactly? I just… I’m a nyctophile. I feel… better at night, if that makes sense. It’s during the night that I feel the most free,” Bright says, his tone suddenly wistful.
Wynn isn’t able to sleep a wink that night. Win can’t seem to forget that look in Bright’s eyes as he talked about being free. There’s something in the way he utters the word that tells him that there is an unspoken story behind it. That freedom is an abstract he longs for but hasn’t achieved yet.
It makes Wynn wonder if he has found something he badly wants just like how Bright found his. It makes him a little jealous that Bright, someone who seems like he has no direction in life, has a purpose. While he, whose every step is calculated, doesn’t seem to have an end destination.
A couple of nights later, Wynn finds Bright at the balcony again. Before he can stop himself, Wynn makes tea and joins him again.
Neither one of them acknowledges that it has become a nightly routine.
Neither one of them wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, things are starting to shift.