That winter, one day, when Charon opened the curtains, she froze in shock. For months, Dradel had showed up every day at the backdoor, regardless of the weather, and regardless his condition. On some days, the look in his eyes was sadder, on other days, he seemed to be doing a bit better—even though, Charon never did ask.
That day, he wasn’t there.
Her mind went blank. Why wouldn’t he be there?
Despite the shock, Charon finished her tasks first. When those were done, she went to the market, betting on the chance that he might be there, yet he wasn’t.
Next, she took the groceries home, and went to the one remaining place Dradel could be. She went to the lake, which was located behind her house, far enough away to be hidden by trees, but close enough for her to reach there in ten minutes.
There he was. From afar, Charon could already see his silhouette, a beautiful male with short platinum blond hair, ruffled by the cold winter wind. What shocked her most was not the fact that he was there, nor the fact that he looked sadder than ever. It was the sight of him being in the water, fully clothed. His gaze was faraway, fixated on someone, something, or somewhere, she couldn’t visualize. Charon had left this place for last because she knew that this was where Dradel usually bathed himself, and she wouldn’t want to intrude. And although she was shocked that he chose to drench himself in such cold weather, she was partly relieved that he was clothed.
“Dradel?” she called, a little hesitant. Slowly, she approached him. He didn’t seem to hear her. “Dradel?” she tried again—receiving no response.
Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder. “Dradel.”
It was only then that he raised his head. He blinked once, as if returning to reality. “Charon?” he muttered.
“Get up, Dradel. Get up, it’s cold.”
For unknown reasons, he didn’t object. He did as she told him. And as he returned to reality, life returned to his blue eyes. He looked at her then, as she fumbled around, draping a coat that she’d brought from home over his shoulders. “Thank you for your trouble,” he said. “But there really is…no need.”
“What?” Her motions stopped, and she looked at him, both of them standing by then. There was concern in her eyes, but when he studied that look in her eyes, he saw something different, a hint of something entirely different from what she portrayed herself as. She herself, might not have noticed that “something”.
“There is no need,” he repeated in a soft whisper.
“There is,” she insisted.
“I never told you anything about myself,” Dradel pointed out. “But you…you’re still here.”
“I am,” she answered. “If you ever want to tell me anything, you will. As long as you don’t say anything, I won’t ask either.” She, too, had hidden her true relationship with Mame Treina from him, after all. “Winter is cold in this region,” she continued, “Mame Treina doesn’t come into my attic at all, she loathes it. You can stay there at night. You don’t have to freeze out here.”
“Charon…” Dradel wasn’t sure whether he should find her amusing or ridiculous. “You don’t know anything about me. You don’t know if it would be safe to have me in your room at night.”
“It’s safe,” she said, “I know it is.”
Dradel found his mouth half-open, awed. What struck him even more was that, whatever thoughts he had been drowning in a moment ago, were temporarily cast away, for there was a small smile on his face now. “If you say so,” he concluded.
And thus, Charon hid Dradel in her attic by night, and each day, after Mame Treina was gone, Dradel would come out and help Charon with the chores and the grocery shopping, just as he had before. This mode of living went on for a few years.
One day, as Charon wiped the windows with her back to him, he asked, “What do you think of family?”
“Family?” She thought about it, while wiping. “It’s a place of love.”
“What if it’s a family without love?” Dradel asked, hesitant.
Charon, noting his hesitation, folded the cloth she was holding and turned around to glance at him. “That can’t be true,” she said. “Family is always a place of love, even if only one person is doing the loving.” After saying so, she immediately turned back to the window she had been wiping. The certainty in her voice made him blink, and then pause again to think.
Even then, he couldn’t help but notice, Charon didn’t ask him anything, although it had to be clear as day that he was pondering over his own family issues, anyone would be able to tell.
Dradel gave a wry smile. “Charon,” he decided, “I think it’s about time I move on.”
Charon nodded in agreement, without asking what he needed to move on from. It wasn’t that she knew—she didn’t—but she didn’t think much about it either. She turned away from the window once more to face him, smiling supportively. “I wish you all the best,” she said. With that said, Dradel bid her farewell, and left the house.