The little girl ran towards the scuffle, grabbing one boy’s jacket sleeve, pulling hard while yelling at him.
“Let him go! Get off of him!”
“Get lost!” the boy tried to shake off the girl, unsuccessfully.
“Let go or I will get the teachers!”
“I am going to beat you, girl!” he let off the boy on the ground and shoved the girl backwards.
“I’d like to see you try!” the little girl challenged bravely, the older boy towered over her small, delicate frame.
“Come on Michael, let’s just go, this is boring anyway.” one of the other boys said.
The boys ran off, while the little girl with the long dark blonde pigtails now knelt next to the boy on the ground, who was bleeding from the nose and lips, his dirty shirt torn more than before.
“Are you ok?”
“Can you get up?”
“Yeah.” he scrambled up, holding on to the little girl’s outstretched hand, which he accepted after a brief hesitance.
He patted some of the dust off his torn jeans, which had been filthy to begin with, then looked at the little girl, who handed him a packet of paper tissues, which he used to clean off his face.
“Are you new? I haven’t seen you before.” he asked in between wipes.
“Yes, my first full school day today. I am Viktoria, and you?” she smiled at him.
“Do you live nearby?”
“I live in Windenburg. You want to come home with me? Mama is making lasagna today, and she always makes sooooo much!” the little girl stretched her arms as wide as they would go and giggled.
Blaine’s stomach growled loudly. He wanted to decline and just do what he always did, hide, maybe steal some apples from a nearby field, but somehow he heard himself say “Sure!”
They walked down the street until the asphalt faded into a dirt road and the picturesque architecture Windenburg was famous for changed to rolling hills and scenic winding paths.
“Is it far?” Blaine asked.
“Uh uh, over there, that house there.” the girl pointed at a house on a hill past a small tavern and a stone bridge. The house looked so typical old town style and a little bit like a gingerbread house from the books at the school library.
Feet from the door, Blaine halted.
“What is it?” Viktoria turned to him.
“You sure it’s ok if I come?” Blaine remembered that people didn’t usually like him. He was always dirty and reeked, his mother had sold the washing machine and just never washed anything. They had not had soap for 2 months and Blaine couldn’t get the stench out of his clothes with just the cold water. On top of all this was also his widely known reputation of a troublemaker.
“Course it is! Come on!” Viktoria pulled a key from a string around her neck and unlocked the front door, pushed it open, when a large black shaggy dog came flying out, greeting her enthusiastically, she bent to hug and pet the dog, while giggling as he licked her excitedly.
When the dog noticed Blaine he stiffened and stared, growling deeply, while showing his teeth. Blaine inhaled sharply. The dog’s head came up almost to Blaine’s chest.
“Blaine, this is Rudy, hey puppy, knock that off! That is my new friend, be nice, you hear!” the dog glanced at Vik, stopped the growling, then started wagging hesitantly while sniffing Blaine.
Viktoria demonstratively ‘pet’ Blaine and put her arm around him, causing the dog to wag harder then roll over in front of Blaine.
“Pet him!” Vik instructed, Blaine did, then he giggled too when Rudy started licking fanatically before ‘petting’ Blaine back with his front paws.
“Come on Blaine, let’s get some food. Rudy, you too, inside, let’s go.” Viktoria took Blaine by the hand and pulled him inside with her, while shooing the dog to go into the house.
Blaine followed Viktoria into a small hallway where they took off their shoes, then through a living room, decorated very old fashioned, into a small, simple kitchen, where an older woman was washing dishes by hand. It smelled incredibly good in there.
“Ah there you are honey, how was school?”
“Was great! Mama, this is Blaine, my new best friend.”
The mother wiped her hands on a dish towel, looked Blaine over, and held out her hand, which Blaine carefully took.
“Hello Blaine. Are you staying for lunch? We’ll have lasagna and salad, food’s almost ready.”
Blaine had noticed the delicious smell and his stomach growled vehemently as he nodded.
Soon the food was served and Blaine could not believe how good it was. He never had even heard of, let alone eaten lasagna. While Viktoria’s mother cleared the table and washed the dishes, the kids did their homework at the kitchen table, Viktoria’s mother helping as needed, something that would become a routine over the next years.
Few hours later Viktoria’s mom came into the living room where the kids’ show the children had been watching was now over.
“Viktoria, honey, would you do me a favor and get us some ice cream from the shop down the street for desert after dinner?” her mother asked handing her money.
“Sure, come on Blaine.”
“No honey, I’d like Blaine to stay with me, to help me with something. You don’t mind Blaine, do you?”
Blaine felt cornered, and would have rather gone with his friend, but shook his head to be polite.
As soon as Viktoria left, her mother crouched down in front of the boy.
“Blaine, I wanted to speak with you alone. I hope you do not mind me being so honest, but you … smell a little. Maybe you would like to take a hot shower and I’ll give you some old clothes from my son, he is grown now but I kept some things I had made for him a long time ago, so I can wash yours, if that is ok with you?”
As embarrassing as that was, the prospect of being clean was enticing, so he nodded, then followed his new friend’s mother to the bathroom, as she explained the shower and handed him shower gel, shampoo, towels and such, laid out some clothing, not fashionable but clean and untorn, instructing him to put the dirty clothes outside the bathroom door.
Once he was alone, Blaine felt like a character in a Disney movie, some boy version of Cinderella. The bathroom at his parent’s house looked nothing like this. Here, a thick, soft, fluffy rug looked good enough to sleep on, everything in the entire house was spotless, and so … perfect. It felt warm and homey, even though most of the things were old fashioned. No dirt, trash and empty alcohol bottles all over, the stale stench of old alcohol and old fast food in the air. Instead it smelled clean, fresh and like … home.
The tone in this house was kind, even from the adult to the child it was respectful. Blaine was never treated with respect, always just yelled at, ridiculed and beaten.
He turned the faucet on, it turned easily unlike the faucets at his home, which always would stick for rust and dirt. The water rushed out and was steaming in no time. They hadn’t had hot water at home in almost a year. Once Blaine regulated the temperature he slipped out of his clothes, quickly piled them into the laundry basket which was now outside the bathroom door and jumped into the shower. It felt so good, warm, soft, clean. Afterwards he brushed his teeth with the items Viktoria’s mother had set out for him, then he slipped into the clothing. It was old-fashioned, but so soft, smelled clean and felt wonderful on his skin. He closed his eyes.
A knock on the door startled him.
“Blaine, honey, are you still there? You’ve been in there for quite a while, hopefully you little thing didn’t slide through the drain!” Viktoria’s mother joked.
He opened the door.
“Oh, look at you! You look adorable! Come on, Viktoria is really antsy to get dinner over with, she wants her ice cream and patience is not her strong suit.”
He followed her back into the kitchen, where Vik slid off the chair and hugged him.
“Finally! I thought you were going to sleep in there! I made you a sandwich already … and we have pistacchio, lemon and banana ice cream!”
After dinner and desert, Blaine realized that it had gotten dark and that soon this little slice of heaven would be over for him again.
“Blaine, do you live near?” Viktoria’s mother asked.
“He lives in San Myshuno!” Viktoria blurted out, before he could answer.
“That is quite far, and it is so dark already. Can your parents pick you up or shall I drive you home?”
“Umm, no, it’s fine .. I am used to it!” he did not want anybody to see where, or how, he lived.
“If you like and if it’s ok with Viktoria, you can call you parents and see if they let you stay here tonight.”
That sounded so wonderful to Blaine, but they did not even have a telephone at home. And if they did, no way would his parents want anything for him that was good. But maybe he could fake it?
“Can I call from here?”
He was pointed to a wall mounted telephone, where he acted as if he dialed, then ‘talked’ to his mother, who ‘agreed’ when in reality he was listening to the dial tone in his ear.
He had the best day, followed by the first night as long as he could remember where he slept well on a soft pillow and under a warm, cozy, clean blanket. The next morning he had breakfast and a school lunch that Viktoria’s mother packed for him. Her mom took them to school.
This had been the first of many days like this. Eventually Viktoria’s mother realized that there were problems with Blaine’s home. Attempts to help via the official ways failed, after which she limited herself to making her and Viktoria’s home available to him whenever he needed it, an offer he readily accepted often.
“Thanks Mrs. K.!” Blaine beamed when he inspected his new backpack.
“Umm, I am not that modern, kiddo. Call me Mama, but never, never, ever Mrs. K. Gives me the beewee jeebees.”
“No problem, Mama!” he hugged her.
He had meanwhile learned that Mama had been older when she surprisingly got pregnant again, having been thought to be unable to bear another child after complications during the birth of her son 25 years before. By the time she had gone to her doctor because of severe issues with what she then thought to be menopause, she was already four months along.
Her husband, Viktoria’s father, did not care much for the prospect of being a father this late in life and did not like children to begin with. Many fights ensued about parenting, finances, the father became abusive of Viktoria’s mother but when he began to turn his aggressions toward their daughter, Viktoria’s mother immediately put a stop to it, moved out and ended the marriage. Blaine suspected this may also be the reason for Rudy’s dislike of men. Just like Rudy was likely the reason the father had never tried to come to the house. Maybe he had already met Rudy before.
In the beginning Blaine suffered from bad nightmares, and while he officially slept on the couch, every night he ended up sneaking into Vik’s room after Mama had gone to bed. All involved were aware, but Mama ignored it while the kids felt like they landed some successful coup. And strangely, he never had a nightmare when next to Vik.
Years passed like this. Blaine quickly became a fixture at his best friend’s home. He spent every holiday there, including his own birthday, and during summer break Viktoria’s mother always made sure to include Blaine in all their plans. He had clothing there, his own toothbrush, toys.
“Hey Vik, you awake?” Blaine whispered standing in front of her bed.
“If I wasn’t I am now…” she mumbled.
“Can I sleep here?”
“Hmm hmm” Viktoria mumbled into the pillow drowsily.
Blaine lifted the cover and slipped in next to her. Even though he slept next to her almost every night, he made it a point to always ask her.
“What?” she sounded annoyed.
“It’s your birthday soon. What do you want?”
She rolled over to face him, blinking in the moonlight.
“Seriously Blaine, now?”
“I just thought of it.”
“I don’t know, just get me what you think I’d like. Or get nothing and just be here.”
“Can I get a hint?”‘
“A hint? Blaine we are literally on top of each other every day, almost 24 hours. If you still cannot figure something out, they you just don’t care about me. And can you go just to sleep now, please?”
Blaine thought that she could not be more wrong. She was the ONLY one he cared about. Well, she and her mom. And that silly shaggy dog of hers, Rudy who aggressively overprotected Viktoria against every male being except Viktoria’s older brother, who was an adult, her other friend Eric and him, Blaine. It was going to be Viktoria’s 12th birthday soon, and he would turn 13 in Winter. They had been inseparable since she was 6 and he was 7, which had earned them the nickname “the Siamese twins” among their peers.
“Come on, it won’t take long!” Blaine took Viktoria’s hand and dragged her along the shopping mile in Windenburg.
“Blaine, it’s my birthday, I get to decide today and I do NOT want to go shopping, I want to go home and unwrap presents! Bad enough that I had to wait until after school …” Viktoria complained.
“Quit your bitching, babygirl. I promise you’ll like it!”
They entered a store offering various instruments for sale. Blaine took her over to the guitars, grabbed one and started playing. A beautiful melody, then he started singing. The song was rhythmic, upbeat and the rhymes commemorated fun moments from her life.
Once he was done, a small crowd had accumulated and applauded enthusiastically. Blaine smirked crooked, half proud and half embarrassed.
“Did you write that?” Vik asked, her eyes wide and admiration showing on her face.
“I did.” he proudly answered.
“Of course! Who else?”
“Awww, Blaine that was so beautiful! Thank you! Best present ever! That was soooo awesome!” she hugged him tight and planted a big kiss on his cheek, which caused his heart to beat faster, his cheeks to turn a deep shade of pink. Even half an hour after, when they were almost home he still could not stop thinking about it. He did not have the money to buy her any gift he would have deemed worthy for her, so instead he had written her a song and music, then practiced in the shop secretly till he felt he could play it in his sleep. Seeing her reaction, going from surprised to beaming was the best. She had loved it. It was easy to tell, Viktoria had the worst poker face Blaine had ever seen. No matter what her words would be, one look at her and he would know what she really thought and felt. Luckily, that did not apply to Blaine, as he really did not want anybody to know how he felt right now. He was excited that his very personal gift had made her so happy, but her kiss still had his tail in a spin.
Few months later it was Blaine’s turn. His birthday was on a Saturday, he had stayed over, as usual and when he got up, Vik and her mom had breakfast waiting, a cake, baked by Viktoria, who was already a pretty decent cook, from helping her mom often. The living room was decorated like for a party, even though there would not be one. Vik and her mom had thrown a party for him in the beginning, but he was not a popular kid, had no friends and no desire to change that. He was very different with other people than he was with Vik and her mom. The kids that had come were stiff and afraid of Blaine, who hated them being there as he hated sharing Viktoria’s attention with anyone. The next year after that and every year following it was similar to today, just the three of them having a big breakfast, usually followed by a day at the zoo or another venue, and dinner out at a restaurant.
Today immediately following breakfast they did presents. A few small ones first, things for school, clothing, shoes. Lastly a large one. Blaine was excited about everything. He took the large gift from Vik’s mom, who told him it was from the both of them.
“I wonder what this could be? Maybe a scarf?” he joked.
“Open it already, hurry up!” Vik was so excited, and looked like she was about to unwrap it for him, which made him smirk at her, while purposely unwrapping it slowly, just to tease her. Patience was really not her forte.
“OMG – here, let me help.” She attempted to pull on the paper, when he blocked her from it, playfully.
“Get your own present, babygirl.” he grinned.
“You are so bad Blaine!” she complained, while trying to tickle him, then threw herself atop him from behind and pulled a large part of the paper down, exposing an open front box, and giving way to see the gift inside. Blaine stiffened in awe.
“A guitar.” he stated, staring at it.
“Take it out, play it, try it!” Vik reached for it when her mother called her back.
“Let Blaine, unwrap his gift, Vik. Go grab the cake and the matches, please.”
Blaine woke from his shock and carefully pulled the guitar out, looking at Vik’s mother.
“Hope you like it, Blaine. Sorry it’s a very basic one, couldn’t afford a better model, but maybe this will do for now and next year we can get you a better one, if you like.”
Blaine carefully leaned the guitar against the wall, then hugged Vik’s mom.
“Thank you Mama! It’s perfect!” she hugged him back, as he buried his face in her shoulder.
“Heyyyyyy… what about me?” Vik complained balancing the cake, then placing it on the table.
“Better go hug her too or we’ll never hear the end of that.” Mama, said smiling.
“Dang right!” Vik smirked, as Blaine headed over to her.
“Oh shut it babygirl, there is enough Blaine for everybody! And thank you!” he pulled her into his arms.
“Do you like it then?” she asked near his ear, while in his embrace.
“I love it!” he whispered near her ear, thinking to himself that the guitar wasn’t the only thing in this room that he loved.
They lit the candles on the cake, 13 of them, then ate, afterwards Blaine strummed on his new gift, played the song he had written for Vik again.
Laying in bed that night, his arms crossed behind his head, on his back he stared at the ceiling, reliving the day in his mind again. He had snuck back into Vik’s room, like so often, now watched her breathing evenly, already fast asleep. So often he had thought ‘best day ever’, but today was truly unique. He had never received a gift like that, but always wanted a guitar. Music was his one form of expression, where he did not hold back. Naturally there would not be any way his mother and stepfather would even dream of buying him an instrument, and he would never be able to afford one. Vik and her mom weren’t exactly rich, far from it, but somehow had managed this, even in his favorite color black. He would definitely leave the guitar here, if he took it home, his mother and stepfather would sell it for alcohol or drug money in no time flat. Besides, he basically lived here about 350 out of 365 days a year anyway. He even had his own daily household chores, just like Vik, he would get a small allowance, he would get school supplies, regular meals, a warm bed and access to personal hygiene. They had certain routines together, the three of them, like certain TV shows they would watch and such. His grades had improved significantly since he lived with them, and he was not the feared town terror anymore, although far from an angel, so the faculty accepted Vik’s mother’s signature on parental authorization forms for Blaine as well, even though she was not legally his guardian. She would even go to parent teacher meetings with him.
Every so often Blaine had to go home. Usually he would come back the next day, often beaten black and blue and bloody. He had been in the system a few times as a child, but did not do well in foster care. He was out of control whenever he was separated from Viktoria. One time she went on a class trip for a week. Blaine got into a dozen fights and ended up suspended from school for a week. Vik never believed anybody when they tried to tell her about it, as the only Blaine she knew was a sweet albeit protective teddy bear.
“So what do you want to do for your 16th?” Viktoria rolled onto her stomach in the grass to look at Blaine. They had been hiking in the woods, Vik’s mom had rented a small cabin for the three of them for the weekend, where she stayed behind to read a book, while the teens went exploring. They had been coming to this cabin a few times a year since the kids were young. Blaine had grown much, now at 15 he was well over 6 foot tall. Still slender and almost wiry, but broad shoulders and solid muscular definition hinted beneath his usual uniform consisting of one of his many band or humorous tees and tight jeans. He had gotten into so many fights since he was young, plus playing the guitar and drums whenever he could gave him plenty of exercise.
Blaine was on his side, his head propped up on one arm, smiling at his friend.
Viktoria had grown a lot as well, now tall for a girl, still slender, but her shape changed with the promise of the woman she was about to grow into. Her face now enhanced by light makeup, her hair still long and dark blonde, slightly curling at the ends. A teenage boy’s dream, but she wasted little time on boys, much to Blaine’s relief, as it made his protective side easier, without having to thwart off too many interested boy’s attempts on dating her.
At least until recently, now there was a boy on the school’s football team, causing Blaine sleepless nights. The kid had only just transferred to their school after his parents moved to Windenburg from another town. He obviously liked Vik and started to pursue her, ignoring warnings by others, including several by Blaine.
Once Blaine caught him with Vik in a cafe, so he joined them unasked.
“Hey Blaine. This is Lawson, he’s new and plays football. Moved here from Bridgeport. Lawson, this is Blaine, my best friend.” Vik introduced them
“Cool.” Blaine growled, grabbing Vik’s cup and drinking from it, more to stake a claim than actual thirst for coffee, his eyes never leaving Lawson’s. The boy held his stare. Lawson was tall, like Blaine, but instead of Blaine’s wiry figure Lawson was athletic and muscular. He was tan and blonde, while Blaine was pale and almost black haired. Lawson’s eyes were deep blue, while Blaine’s were an unusual light green.
Much to Blaine’s dismay, Lawson kept pursuing Vik and even invited her to a school dance, Viktoria was over the moon about it, as Blaine categorically refused to go to proms, dances and such events, and since he chased off all boys, she would usually go unasked. Now here they were dress shopping. She came out of the dressing room and twirled in front of Blaine in a white dress with some light pink accents.
“I feel like a princess in this one. Do you like it, Blaine?”
He did, but the fact that it was for another boy made him grumpy.
She looked like a kid whose balloon had been popped.
“Yeah, well, it’s a dress. Just like the ten before and the next ten.” Blaine downplayed it.
“You are no help at all!” Viktoria pouted and turned to go back into the dressing room.
Blaine didn’t like disappointing her but no way would he help her look extra pretty for that blonde pain in his ass. He knew it was wrong to torpedo her dating as he did, especially since he had been with a good dozen girls by now, none of which meant anything to him, they were just an outlet for his bottled up emotions and he enjoyed the pursuit.
“Hey Cameron. Trying on new dresses, you lil bitch?”
Blaine shot up ready to fight, when he found himself in front of Lawson and four other boys from the football team.
“What do you want?!” he barked.
“I want you to go fuck yourself, you pussy.”
Blaine was about to take a swing at him when he heard Viktoria’s voice behind him.
“Lawson! What are you doing here?” she sounded delighted and excited, which bothered Blaine to no end but not as much as watching her hug his enemy. Blaine almost hurt for jealousy. His eyes narrowed and his usually full lips were pressed together so firmly they were barely lines.
“Wow you look amazing! You really are the prettiest girl in school, and I am the luckiest guy to get to go to the dance with you!” Lawson told Viktoria.
“Oh really? Do you like this one, Lawson?” Viktoria now twirled before Blaine’s nemesis in a floral dress, which made her light silvery eyes appear bright aqua blue.
“Gorgeous. The dress isn’t bad either.” he winked at her, while Blaine was seeing red stars when witnessing him flirt with ‘his’ Vik so openly. He wanted to pull the spine from that guy’s body and beat him to death with it. But not when Vik was around.
“Thanks! You are so sweet! Blaine, do you like it, too?”
“Sure.” he growled.
“Settled then. Thanks guys!” Viktoria went back in to change into her street clothes.
Lawson’s friends moved on, while he stayed behind after Vik had invited him to get frozen yoghurt after shopping.
In the small frozen yoghurt store popular with teens Blaine had made sure he got to sit next to Viktoria, while he shot death stares at his nemesis, which impressed Lawson very little. Blaine had met his match in stubbornness, confidence and already found out that Lawson could take a beating as much as he could dish out. It was painfully obvious that Lawson wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Lawson chose to pay for everybody’s frozen yoghurt, when his credit card dropped to the ground. Blaine was fastest and picked it up, after glancing at it, before he burst into laughter.
“Bitch, your last name is Dawson?!”
“Dude, you name is Lawson Dawson?! Fucking hell!” Blaine laughed loudly.
“You are really immature.”
“And you are going to be bleeding!”
“Blaine!” Viktoria warned, her hand on his arm was enough for Blaine to stop his fired up emotions.
They parted ways, Lawson went to his home, naturally not until hugging Vik again, pouring more oil into the fire of jealousy already ablaze within Blaine. On their way home Blaine complained bitterly about all of Lawson’s flaws.
“Blaine, seriously. I do not know what your problem is, but I think he is pretty awesome and I am going to the dance with Lawson. I already accepted his invite, I bought a dress, I am going! And you will behave, you hear, or we will have a big BIG problem.”
Blaine didn’t respond, spent the rest of the night pouting and strumming on his guitar.
During a stint at his real home Blaine found that his grandmother had taken in Blaine’s younger sister Blythe and become her legal guardian. Blaine asked Vik to go with him to see his grandmother. He barely knew her, but maybe since he had taken in Blythe, he would take in him as well, lightening the burden on Viktoria and her mother.
But she refused Blaine. He had been in trouble with the law, was handled as difficult child and later teen, a reputation that even all the years living with Vik and her mom had not fully erased.
Little did Blaine know that this was only the tip of the iceberg which would sink his happiness for a long time. Not only did Viktoria and Lawson start dating after the dance, but worse yet, just weeks before Blaine’s 16th birthday, he had to make an appearance at his home, where after a severe beating from his drunk stepfather, which left a good Samaritan dead, Blaine disappeared. He left everything behind, except the guitar he had received for his 13th birthday.
Viktoria cried for many nights, spent every free minute searching for Blaine, to no avail. There was still neither word nor sign of him when she went off to college years later.