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Authors note:

This short story is dedicated to Rolin Stone

Forever together,

Alone no more.

Many precious memories, which gives out an

Indescribable feeling of

Love, affection and gratitude, as

You are my precious family.


-Alice Sukuna

Part I

Long days at work were common for Emma. As a professor at a local college with a tendency to overwork herself, she was frequently involved in several projects at a time and stayed to work late with her research team about once a week.

Tonight was one of those nights, and she arrived at her house a little after 9. All the lights were off when she walked through the front door, into the living room. She could faintly smell whatever her husband James had cooked (or heated up) for dinner. The floorboards creaked beneath her feet as she slipped off her shoes and padded through the living room, into the kitchen. She could see a covered plate on the counter in the light of the stove clock and gently pried the towel up to see a plate of the stir fry she had made a few days ago with a side of rice. Smirking, she grabbed the plate and a glass of water and sat on the counter to eat a little before retiring to bed.

A few minutes later, Emma cautiously poked open the door to her bedroom. In the light of the barely open window, she could make out James lying on his side in their bed, back facing her. A smile graced her lips. No matter how many times she got to come home to this, she would never stop feeling as happy as she did. She undressed as quickly as she could, throwing on an old t-shirt and shorts to replace her work clothes. She didn’t bother brushing her teeth or her hair, she was far too tired.

She climbed carefully into bed, but after a moment, she realized her husband wasn’t alone. Nestled safely in his arms was a boy. More specifically, the boy they had welcomed into their home nearly 6 months ago, who hadn’t so much as hugged them once since then. The smile that graced her lips now was far more potent than the one before. The boy clung to her husband tightly in sleep.

Though they weren’t exactly sure what the child had been through, they knew he was an orphan refugee from Syria. They had fought for two years to adopt him. He was the first child they had been granted, a 7-year-old, and they were more than a little flustered when they realized that the poor boy might have a form of PTSD. They had taken him to a child psychologist to see what they could do.

She had cautioned them not to push the boy into a sense of normalcy, but to allow him to create a routine that suited him and continue to be supportive in whatever way they could. The nightmares, sadly, were a difficult problem to remedy right away. The pair had immediately turned to several books on the subject, the web, even other parents involved in the adoption system for ideas on how to help the boy.

Since they had implemented the new “routine”, which was timed out nearly the same every day, the nightmares had faded to about once a week, instead of three or four times. The boy still had trouble sleeping, but at least now once he fell asleep, it was more common for him to stay that way.

Emma did not know, however, how the boy came to be laying in their bed now. He and James looked more peaceful now than they had since the boy had moved in with them. Her heart swelled with affection as she looked on. These were her boys, and she loved them very much. With a deep yawn, Emma settled herself under the covers and wrapped her arms around the tangle of limbs in front of her. No matter what, she would never let anything happen to these precious two. With a smile on her lips and a fierce love in her heart, Emma fell asleep.


Part II

Emma awoke the next morning to someone wriggling out of bed. Groggily, she sat up and rubbed her eyes. When she could see clearly, she caught a glimpse of the boy slipping out the door. Instantly remembering the night before, Emma swore under her breath and tossed her legs over the side of the bed, getting out as quickly as she could without waking her husband.

The cool floorboards beneath her feet gave Emma the last few drops of energy she needed to reach fully awake.

“Farid,” she called softly down the hall, to where the boy had just opened his own door. He paused, looking back at her with wide eyes.

“Wanna help me make breakfast? You can choose what we make,” She knew she had won him over when he allowed a rare smile. Of all the things she and James had tried, cooking was one of the few that seemed to distract Farid from thinking of his past. Not to mention the fact that the boy was surprisingly ravenous for someone so small. He was not underfed by any means, it simply seemed that no matter how much they fed him, the boy remained skinny as a stick. Pancakes were his favorite, she knew, though he hadn’t admitted as much. He did not speak very much, though his English was decent.

He nodded at her suggestion and followed her out into the kitchen. The first part of their little routine always started the same as it did this morning. Let the cat out, who had taken to sleeping in Farid’s room more nights than not nowadays, water the plants, the many many plants, then begin breakfast. If one was lucky, they could get halfway through watering the plants before the cat began making a ruckus as the door to be let back in. Her breakfast, of course, was always served first.

Farid leaned against the table while Emma finished up the plants. “Can I feed Mochi?” He nearly whispered.

“Sure,” Emma grinned. “But don’t give her more than one scoop, no matter how convincing she will try to be. His lips twitched at that, though he did not smile. He reached up to the counter to grab the cat food.

“So, what should we make for breakfast?” Emma asked, coming to stand beside Farid as he dumped Mochi’s food into her bowl.

He studied the cat for a while before responding. “Have you ever made Mamouniyeh?”






Part III

James awoke to the sound of voices in the kitchen in a patch of sunlight that had escaped the blinds. He rolled over to face the door of their room and closed his eyes. But it was too late, he wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep no matter how hard he tried.

Instead of getting up just yet, he thought about the events of last night. Putting Farid and Mochi to bed in what had become their room. Shutting off all the lights. Climbing into bed to read until Emma got home, which hopefully wouldn’t take too long. But then Farid had come in a few minutes later with tears on his face.

James has never been the best with people, but something seemed to overtake him this time. Wordlessly, James opened his arms.

“Come here, kiddo,”

Farid walked around the bed and hesitantly into James’s arms. The boy’s tears soaked through James’s shirt as they hugged, the man’s heart ached for the young boy, who had gone through so much for someone so young.

“Do you want to talk about it?” James asked once the boy had ceased crying.

Farid nodded his head. James patted the bed next to him in response, and the boy plopped down unceremoniously. “What is upsetting you?”

For a long time, the boy didn’t answer. James was starting to wonder if he should repeat the question when the story began to tumble from Farsi’s lips. “Baaba said it would be okay, that Maama and Farid must go and hide, and he would come later. Maama was crying, it hurt when she held my hand. She hid me in the cupboard with the food. She didn’t have time to hide before the men came,” he paused for a moment to wipe his eyes, which had begun to leak again.

“The men, they grabbed Maama and brought her to another room. I couldn’t see her anymore. All I could hear was men shouting, but not my father. They were shouting to look for food and more people. They were shouting at Maama about where I was. But she would not tell them, she would not even look at me.” Farid stopped again, now his voice quivered.

James offered a hand to lay on the boy’s shoulder, which was accepted. “You don’t have to continue if you don’t want to talk about it,”

Farid shook his head yes and wilted against James. “That was two years ago. And now I am here, in America. With pancakes and cats named Mochi, and what are those plants called again?”

“Succulents,” supplied James.

“Yes, succulents in pots.” Fairs nodded solemnly.

“Do you think the men will ever find me here?” He whispered after a moment, his eyes glinting with fear.

“No Farid,” James turned to grab the boy by his shoulders and look into his eyes. “I will never let anyone hurt you, do you understand?” 

The boy’s eyes seemed to well even more as nodded. “May I stay with you and Emma tonight? Mochi took my bed,”

James laughed lightly at that. The cat was known to take up more space than one would think a cat could fill. “Of course, you can stay with us, here,” the man moved over to give the boy more room.

Once they were settled, Farid spoke up again. “I have never said thank you for letting me into your home.”

James shook his head, cutting the boy off. “You don’t need to thank us. We have wanted to include someone into our lives for years, someone who needed a place to be safe and loved.”

Farid smiled, settling into the pillows. “Well, thank you. This is a good life,”


The sound of voices in the hallway woke James of his memory. It sounded like Emma and Farid were making breakfast. His stomach complained loudly that he needed to get up. Rolling his eyes, he got up and walked over to the bathroom to relieve himself and brush his teeth before walking out to the kitchen to greet his family.

Mochi noticed him first, the whiny beast she was, and began circling his feet, loudly announcing her need for more breakfast. Emma turned around then, looking more disheveled than she normally did. Hair was escaping her messy bun in all directions and her eyes were wild. He approached her slowly, as one would a horse, and dropped a kiss onto her brow, which seemed to calm her.

“Good morning to you too,” she gave him a warm hug.

Farid spoke up from the stove. “Emma, when you’re done making...what is the word...googly eyes? Will you add the sugar now?”

The three of them laughed, and Emma spun on her heel to grab the sugar and add it to their upcoming dish. James inspected it thoroughly before deciding he had absolutely no idea what it was.

He nudged his wife. “Em...what are you two making?”

She shook her head, bewildered. “Not me, it’s all Farid. He says it’s called Mamouniyeh and that it’s something they made for breakfast at home sometimes. I’m surprised he can remember how to make it so easily,”

James raised his eyebrows, interested. “Well, I’m sure it will be fantastic,”

Emma leaned over to whisper in his ear, “This is the most he’s spoken to me since he got here. What happened last night?”

He responded with a look that he hoped conveyed that he would tell her later, but that now was not the time. She must have gotten the message because she nodded her head and went back to being a sue chef.

Breakfast ended up being delicious, Mamouniyeh was apparently a sort of jelly-like substance, served with bread and goat cheese. They added fresh fruit to the menu as well, which all three seemed to enjoy.

After the meal, James cleaned up the few dishes that remained while Farid and Emma walked out to the living room with Mochi in tow to select a book. Farid hasn’t many books in his former home, but he seemed to enjoy listening to stories, so Emma and James took turns reading aloud to him. The book he picked today was one they hadn’t started yet. A battered old copy that made James raise his eyebrows when Farid pulled it out.

Neither he nor Emma had read this particular book in a few years, though they still talked about it on occasion.

Farid held up the book to the pair of them with a question in his eyes. “My Maama told me a tale once with this word in it,” he pointed to the title. “Will you read this please?”

And so the three of them settled down into the rugged old couch, Mochi purring comfortably on James’s lap as Emma took up the book. Farid sat with them this time and even leaned on Emma’s shoulder after a few chapters.

Young Farid had been through more than any child should ever have to. But maybe, just for today, he could be lost in the world of stories and magic, the food of his people in his belly, and his new parents on either side.


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