A/N : I got the idea for this story a little while back. There are still some issues with this, but let me know if this is something worth working on.
He felt the sun on his face before he saw it.
It was morning then. He thought that maybe if he didn't open his eyes, it would go back wherever it was it hid during the night and he would have a couple of more hours before it was his turn to go back. He pondered about it as the rest of his sensations began to return. He could now feel the cold hardness of the bench below him and the way it made his back ache. He could hear the horns of a few passing cars and wondered why they had to be so loud. Then he thought about the darkness of his own little home at the corner of a slum that was way too crowded and suffocating. He sighed.
Yes, not going back was an appealing idea that tricked him into falling asleep at strange benches around the town every night. But then a voice echoed in his ears and a face appeared in front of his eyes and he sighed.
No, he could not leave his little sister in that place to grow up like that. He opened his eyes to the life all around him and sat up.
Ever since he had been aware of his own existence, he had also been aware of the poverty and hardships that surrounded it. When he was small and ignorant, he liked to believe that it was all a mistake; that he was born at the wrong place and at the wrong time and, some day very soon someone was going to realize that and take him away from all that. But he could never guess where they would leave him, because poverty was all that he knew. He just refused to believe that this was all there was for him.
And then, when he was seven years old, his sister came along. When her cries first echoed around their home, he had no idea that his dark little life had found a new meaning. In fact, it was two days later, when he saw her for the first time in her broken crib, with her face so serene and innocent that he felt like he couldn't look at it. But ever since that day, when an entire of her tiny fist had curled around a finger of his, he had known - he had known that, it was the purpose of his life to make sure that the world never got to lay a finger on her. She was to stay that way, pure and innocent, and it was his duty to make that happen.
Over the next six years, he had not done a good job of it. But it was the thought of her that made him get up that morning and every other morning of his life.
He stood on his feet and slung the bag of waste he had managed to collect that night around his shoulder. Selling all that plastic did not make their house run but it was enough to keep his step mom happy and save himself from her wrath. She depended on it, and he knew that. After all his father had been useless ever since he took to drinking all those years ago. Now he pretty much just existed and that was enough.
He sighed and passed by a garden. There was a tree there and in it's branches hung some deliciously ripe mangoes. He knew the owner of the garden and he knew it was a risk but he still could not stop himself as he drew closer to it. He had not eaten anything since the previous morning and he knew for a fact that his sister loved mangoes. He sized up the tree with his eyes before he began too climb it. His heart was beating wildly in his chest and even the sound of his breathing sounded too loud to his ears. One, two , three; he got four of them in his arms when he heard the scream.
"Thief! Thief! How dare you? You little bastard! Just wait -" but he didn't wait to see who or what she went to get. He jumped down the tree and hit the ground. Everything fell from his arms and all that he had managed to collect the previous night spilled across the soil. He could hear footsteps behind him. He ignored the pain in his limbs, clutched a single mango to his chest and ran without looking back. He ran until he was out of the neighborhood and on the outskirts of his slum. It was only then that he collapsed to the ground and started fighting to catch his breath.
"What do you mean you lost it?" his step mother bellowed. He knew what this was going to lead to.
"A guard was after me. I tripped and the bag fell. I couldn't get it back, I am sorry." He said it slowly and carefully even though he knew it wouldn't matter.
"Oh, you are sorry now are you?" she threw the words out there like it was poison and took a step towards him, "Well you will be sorry now, that's for sure."
After having that hand slap across his skin for years, he thought it would come to hurt less some day. But no. It still sung the same. He faced it the same way he had faced everything in life - silently. And when it was over and the red marks on his body merged with all the old ones, he took a few deep breaths. He wanted to be angry but he could not find the emotion in him anymore. He could blame his mother for dying and leaving them alone all those years ago. He could blame his father for marrying his step mom and turning into a cowardly drunkard who was unconscious for the better part of the day. He could blame his step mom for being who she was and doing this to them. He could blame his little sister for being the one reason that didn't let him escape from all this.
She was asleep when he switched on the little bulb in the room but stirred when he sat down by her. She slowly opened one eye and a wide smile spread across her face.
"You are back!" she exclaimed and jumped up. He smiled at her excitement. Sometimes he could not understand how she could live in the same house and not let all of it turn her into someone he never wanted her to be, but he was thankful for it. She had seen the same kind of dark days as him but it had yet to crush her spirit.
"Of course, I am," he said, tucking her hair behind her ears, "And look what I brought you." he brought out the mango he had managed to get out of the garden.
"Where did you get that?" she hissed.
"Never mind that." But her little fingers traced the red imprint on his arm. She looked up at him with sad eyes and then looked at the mango.
"I don't want it."
"Don't be stupid." He shook his head and then said more softly, "Look, I have already had mine. Now you can eat it and play superman with me or you can go to bed hungry. It's your choice."
He knew she didn't believe him but she took it from him anyways. He watched her eat, watched the smile that crept up on her face without her knowing and decided that it was worth what happened that morning.
She had this small action figure of Superman he had got her when she was little, and she carried it almost everywhere she went. It was always there tucked inside her clothes and the love she had for that excuse of a doll prevented him from telling her that he had found it lying alone by the roadside. But he didn't believe that revelation would amount much to her as he watched her make the thing do double flips in the air. After she decided that she was done with the toy and wanted the real thing, she hopped onto his back as she did most days and he ran around the little room, bumping into here and there several times. But she never minded and only laughed. He did that until her laughter died and her head started spinning too fast for her liking. Then he laid her back on the bed and held her small hand in his until she fell asleep and dropped back into her world of dreams.
A single scar peaked out of the length of her short sleeve and he traced the angry line on her arm wondering how she had managed to keep it a secret from him all day. She flinched a little under his touch and anger flared inside him at the thought of what she might have done to her this time. He took a couple of deep breaths. No, he couldn't always protect her. But he could very well try.
He watched her sleep for a while and wondered what she saw when she closed her eyes and if they were any similar to what other children her age dreamt about. Of course, he was curious. He had never had the chance to know.
She had dreams. Colorful ones.
He had none.
That's why he had to make sure that grey never had the chance to steal into the brightness of her world. It was to remain the way it was.
And that's why he couldn't leave. That's why he couldn't run away and escape to any corner of the world where he could be better off. That's why he could not give up.