“Police.” Antony called with a bored voice. His companion outside the window ducked and grimaced.
“No, no, no! Stop that! I ain’t doin’ anything wrong, you brat!” Rel’s voice was high with irritation. “You’re cruel!”
Antony rolled his eyes skyward and crossed his arms. “Just leave me alone.” He turned away from the other boy and flipped his braid back over his shoulder like a whip. It landed lightly on his back as he walked over to his large bed. He looked down at it, then glanced toward the open window before he laid down with a muffled sigh.
Rel was a pest. Surely if he continued to talk with him through the window, the older boy would lure him out into the dangerous world and get him killed by a car or a murder-rapist. Antony curled up on his side and closed his eyes to pretend he was asleep.
From the window, lone Rel stared inside. A nearby candle illuminated his eyes as he groaned. He didn’t notice a young girl enter Antony’s room and turn the light off until he noticed everything was much darker. Finally, he left to hunt down some food as the girl kissed Antony on the cheek.
The next day, Rel waited outside Antony’s window. His breath caught as Antony undressed to change into clean clothes, and he watched intently. Rel’s eyes darted across Antony’s pale flesh and visually molested his thin, delicate-looking form.
From within, Antony shuddered as he dressed. He knew Rel was there. He could hear the older boy’s heavy, heated breathing. He sounded like a dog who was too busy humping a blanket to notice anything else. Antony felt hot tears blossom in his eyes, and his vision became fuzzy. He wiped his eyes and crawled back into the bed, unable to chose clothes on his own with such blurred eyes.
“Antony?” The girl from the night before poked her head into his room. “Antony, why are you in bed still? It’s time to get up.” She smiled kindly and walked to him. Rel was surprised at how much younger she looked in the light. “Antony!” She huffed, and Rel shifted to one side of the window, but continued to peer in.
The boy in the bed looked up. “I don’t want to get out of bed today.” His voice was a whine as he pulled his blankets over his head. He refused to mention why he was so uncomfortable, and Rel took that to mean he didn’t mind too much.
“Come on, Antony. You have to get up. If you don’t, you’ll just be up all night and restless.” She pulled his blankets down. “Well, it looks like you started to get up.”
Laid bare, Antony rolled away from the window. “It’s cold! Give the blankets back, please!” He curled into a ball and shivered.
The girl sighed. “Get dressed. You’ll warm up faster.” Her tone was gentle but firm, and Antony rose and plodded gracelessly toward his wardrobe. He dressed quickly, but forgot a few buttons and didn’t bother with his scarf. He walked to her and stood with his arms outstretched. The young girl quickly did his buttons and fastened his scarf securely, then smiled. He looked so refined. “There. You’re warmer, right?”
Antony nodded sheepishly. “Yes. Thank you.”
From there, Antony and the girl began their day. She tended to his needs and spent hours on end with him. Just outside the window, Rel watched them with boredom. Antony wore a butler’s outfit, but the little girl in her fancy little princess dress served him more often than not. She even hand-fed him cherries as he laid in a sunbeam.
Antony lived in luxury, content to be served. Rel slowly looked down at himself. He was filthy. His skin was marked up with tattoos and piercings. He had an uneven tan, and his clothes, recently stolen, were badly out of style. His plaid pants looked silly with his black shirt, he thought.
He returned his attention to Antony and the girl and watched for a long time, until he became hungry. Finally, he left to find something tasty. If he was lucky, he could steal some bubble tea or a slurpie from a local gas station, and then get some hotdogs to gorge on. One meal a day was fine, as long as it was sizable.
After a quick and large meal of seven stolen hot dogs and two slurpies, Rel hid on a rooftop to wait out the searching group of managers from the gas station His thin stomach was bulging with his meal, and the warm sun soothed him to sleep until night came and he returned to watch Antony as night began and they snarked until nearly midnight before the classier boy laid down to sleep.
The days continued at that calm and predictable pace for months before Rel finally climbed into Antony’s window.
“Police,” the bored boy called. Rel flailed. “No! I’m not that bad!” He huffed indignantly. “I wanna ask you to come with me. I’m gonna get on a plane and travel somewhere new, and I want you to come with me, and we can drown in happiness together.” His smile was bright. “I finally saved up enough!”
“What?” Antony stared. “No! I can’t just leave like that. She’ll be left all alone. It’s too much of a change.” He rattled through all of the reasons not to go, as though the very idea of departing from his life would be too terrible to comprehend.
“Get rid of your collar, Antony!” Rel whined. “It’s not that bad, and it’s not hard, to live freely. It’s fun. You should try it for a day before you decide you don’t want it. You spend your entire day pampered by a little girl. You gotta be curious, at least!”
Antony shook his head. “Not at all.” His frown deepened as he turned away from Rel. “Go away. I need to put my pajamas on.”
“I’ll come back tomorrow and ask again!” He dashed off, and Antony rushed to the window to look. Antony was gone.