Continued from Family Pests.
It was a dark, peaceful midnight. Nikho leaned against his tower bedroom’s railing and looked down at the garden below. In the distance, beyond a few suspended hallways, he could see the small figure of a lone gardener trimming a tree. The discussion after dinner still left a bitter taste in his mouth, and though he had excused himself on an early morning, he couldn’t find the peace to close his eyes, let alone stay on his bed. He let the wind blow through his long, untied hair. Were he any thinner, he might have worried about being blown from the balcony by his voluminous nightshirt.
The damned thing was a horrible yellow, stained by a one-time lover’s attempt at washing it. With a slight smile, he moved a hand from the smooth stone and onto the light fabric that the wind tugged against his skin.
In his mind, he felt the cool hand of the woman who’d stained it so horribly. He let his mind reflect on her, in hopes that those loving memories might calm him.
He could see her black hair and her tanned skin. She had tan-lines on her forearms and chest, crow feet from smiles beyond counting. She had pink lines up her thighs, hips, and belly, and around her breasts. She tried to hide them with the lights dimmed.
To him, they had been just another new texture to explore, another of the parts of her that told a story of her life.
Absently, he licked his lips and closed his eyes. He remembered how she blushed when he told her how much he loved the lines on her face that she tried so hard to hide under powder. The image of her eyes misting with happy tears over his promotion to full priest after so many years being little more than an errand boy.
The man gripped the cloth on his arm tightly, then released it suddenly and turned as he heard approaching footsteps.
“Lord Priest?” It was a young boy, his black hair cut with a bowl as a stencil. He wore clothes that didn’t fit properly, but were the proper shades of brown and grey.
“Yes, Nixhiel?” Nikho looked at the boy’s round face through half-lidded eyes. The man leaned back against the railing.
The boy shifted his weight to one foot and bowed suddenly at the waist. “You told me to wake you up at midnight, Lord Priest.”
Nikho let his eyes travel over the boy’s body. Nixhiel’s clothes were much too tight, and so threadbare he could see the boy’s pale flesh. There was no mistaking the prominent ribs. He closed his eyes. “Yes. Yes, that’s right.” He opened them again and tugged at his earlobe thoughtfully before he crossed the space between man and child. “You aren’t eating enough.”
Nixhiel stood straight. “I am, Lord Priest. I eat plenty.”
The priest grabbed the boy’s arm lightly and lifted it. “You’re too thin. You need to gain ten pounds. Stop giving your meals to strays, and stop lying about it. You fool nobody.” He pulled the arm upwards more, and the boy stumbled forward. For a moment, the boy’s clumsy, thin body rested against the man’s as keen eyes inspected the child’s hand. “At least it looks like you haven’t been bitten lately.” He gently released the undersized boy. “If you keep giving your food away, I’ll have to ensure you take your meals with me.”
The boy gulped audibly, and Nikho watched his throat move.
“You understand, then. Now, go along. You still have time to sleep.” He waved a hand dismissively as he turned from the boy and walked away as he pulled his night shirt off and pulled on fresh clothes for the day.
Today, he had traitors to see to– traitors who had debated on an unthinkable crime in their minds, unaware that Nikho was less deaf than he played at.
Once dressed, he turned in time to watch the boy finally flee. Nikho chuckled and shook his head.