The Wanderer and His Princess

The two faces were lit up by the full moon on that clear summer night. A girl about seven, and a boy about sixteen. Their skin was covered in dirt and their clothes were ripped and torn. Wanderers, that's what the other kids in the town called them. They wandered in the summer time and stayed with their dad in the winter. Their dad was an airline pilot who flew planes across the world during the summer spring and fall. The boy and girl stayed with their aunt and uncle during the school year. But during the summer, the kids ended up by themselves in their dad's pathetic looking run down house.


“Dmitri,” Cecilia, the seven year old, touched her brother's arm lightly. “What's for dinner?” she asked quietly as they wandered through the alleys. Dmitri gripped his baby sister's hand tightly, trying to think up a lie, he needed to come up with something, anything to tell her. Finally, he spotted a cherry tree and a pear tree.


“Fruit!” he answered pulling her toward the fresh cherries and pears. As he looked around he saw more fruit trees. They were in the community garden! Of course. Why had he never thought of coming here before? Cecilia laughed her childish giggle as she bit into a fruit she'd never tasted before.


Cecilia had long dark hair and huge dark brown eyes. Her skin was an olive color. She wore her long straight hair in dirty pig tails that hung over her shoulders. She was tiny. She looked like she could be five when she was really seven. She made up for her size by being smarter than any other seven year old kid in town, though she rarely spoke.


Dmitri, had longer and darker hair than his sister, he kept his hair in a pony tail straight down the center of his back. Dmitri's skin was darker olive than his sister, and his eyes were much lighter. Dmitri was tall and slender, yet he was stronger than most kids his age. He didn't do any sports though, instead he read and played with Cecilia.


“It's nearly ten Cecilia,” Dmitri grabbed another cherry off of the tree and shoved it into his mouth, he let the juices sit on his tongue, he was soaking up the flavor. After a moment he swallowed the cherry, spitting out the pit.


“I know,” Cecilia answered. “We can go home now if you would like. But I'm still hungry.”


Dmitri filled a plastic bag he found on the ground, with all kinds of fruit from the garden. He slipped the bag into his backpack, he would give her fruit in the morning.


Cecilia was silent as she followed her brother back to their newest hideout. They found a different hideout every couple of nights. They had to be careful though, or else they would be sent to a foster home again. Cecilia grimaced as a car drove slowly by, but Dmitri squeezed her hand. He'd promised her that this hideout was safe, but Cecilia wasn't sure. Sometimes adults would catch them in their hideouts, usually they just ran. The kids in the neighborhood would sometimes let them sleep in their rooms if the weather was bad, but most of the time Cecilia and her brother stayed in parks for a couple of nights. It sure was better than their dad's little shack at the edge of town. It was infested with bed bugs and mice and snakes. There was only one room in the house, there was a small kitchen filled with mold, and a living room. The living room was trashed. Glass bottles were broken all over the place. Cigarettes butts were scattered everywhere.


Nobody lived in the house any time of the year except for the summer time. During the rest of the year it was just a hang out for high schoolers. Sometimes Dmitri and Cecilia went home to clean up some of the mess and to grab some more clothes, but mostly they just stayed away.


As Dmitri led his sister back to their hideout in the woods, just a mile away from their dad's house, he couldn't help but feeling sad for his little sister. She wasn't allowed to be a normal little girl. She had to grow up pretty fast. They'd been wandering about the town during every summer since Cecilia was four. He taught her her ABC's, and taught her how to count. It was Dmitri who taught her to tie her shoes, to read, to write. And it was Dmitri who had tucked her in every night since she was born.


“Alrighty, Silly,” Dmitri called her by the nickname he'd given her. “We have fruit for tomorrow's breakfast, so we won't have to worry about food till lunch. What do you want to do tomorrow?” Dmitri sat beside his sister's sleeping bag.


“I want to go to the library tomorrow,” Cecilia answered quietly after a long silence.


“Okay. As soon as I wake up, we'll go,” Dmitri replied. “What story do you want to hear tonight?” Dmitri was good at making up stories. He loved doing it. If Cecilia liked a story, he would remember it for her, if she didn't, he'd make up a new one.


“Tell me the one about the cowboy,” Cecilia said after a lot of thought.


As soon as Cecilia was asleep, Dmitri left her. He was going to meet up with his friend, Timmy. They were going to hang out for a little while.



A while, turned out to be all night. Dmitri woke up to Timmy shaking him. He sat up quickly and looked at the clock. It was already noon. At first Dmitri didn't mind that he'd slept so late, but then he remembered Cecilia. She would have already been up, waiting for him. Oh no! He hadn't told her where he'd hidden the fruit he'd found for her breakfast.


“Crap! I can't believe I fell asleep!” Dmitri jumped off of the couch. He moved toward the door, but Timmy stopped him.


“Wait dude, do you want some lunch to take to your sister? We have a lot of food. My mom won't care,” Timmy said with worry plastered across his face. He'd known Dmitri since they were just kids. Since before Cecilia was even born. Timmy hated to see his friend, the same age as him, take on such a huge responsibility all by himself. He'd seen his best friend go from being very social and being normal, to an outcast almost. At first he stopped hanging out with Timmy and all their friends so that he could be with his sister. Once she turned four though, he started bringing her with him. She was almost like his shadow, she always had be either touching Dmitri or she had to be next to him. Timmy always thought that it was kind of strange, but it never bothered Dmitri, he was always extremely patient.


Timmy's parents noticed it too. Once Mrs. Mason asked Dmitri why Cecilia was always with him. Dmitri just shrugged and told her that he had to babysit her during the day while his dad was at work. That was when Dmitri was thirteen. Mrs. Mason tried not to show her suspicion, but every time she saw the poor little girl, thin and covered in dirt, she always wanted to mother her. But the child never spoke. Only once had she heard the little girl's voice. She and Timmy had been sitting with Dmitri and Cecilia in the living room. Timmy and Dmitri were telling Mrs. Mason about the basketball game they'd watched that day. Cecilia was staring at the ground, barely moving. She sat awfully still for a child so young, Mrs. Mason had noticed, she must have only been about five. Suddenly she sat up really straight. There was excitement on her usually blank face. It was strange to both Timmy and Mrs. Mason. Even more strange, Cecilia waited until her brother was finished speaking before she tapped his arm. She tapped it twice.


“Yes Silly?” Dmitri inquired looking at her intently. It was like she was the only person in the entire room.


“I know the answer to the riddle!” Her voice sounded like an angel, and she was so articulate. Dmitri laughed, and his eyes gleamed.


“Oh? And what's the answer?”


“There are only three people like the riddle says. One is a boy, one is the boy's father, and the last is the boy's grandfather. Two fathers and two sons,” the little girl answered. Mrs. Mason jumped when she heard Cecilia's voice. Dmitri laughed again and clapped his hands, before pulling her into a hug.


“Good job kiddo!” Dmitri had said. Mrs. Mason looked over at her son, they both felt almost ignored by the boy, just by the way that he made Cecilia feel so special.


Now Mrs. Mason watched as the boy ran down the driveway and away from the house. It was strange to her that the girl wasn't with him.



When Dmitri reached the hideout, he didn't see his sister anywhere. She was nowhere to be found, where he had left her the night before.


“Cecilia!” Dmitri called desperately. He needed to find her. She was too young to be all by herself. She could get hurt.


Finally, Dmitri remembered that he and Cecilia were supposed to go to the library. He thought that maybe she'd gone by herself. It sounds like something she might do, Dmitri thought as he sprinted toward the library.


When he reached the library, at first Dmitri couldn't find his sister, but finally he found her in the history section. She was lying on the floor with a book in her hand. Her face was red and her lips looked kind of swollen. Dmitri hurried to Cecilia's side.


“Silly?” he asked putting his hand on her forehead. “Silly, are you okay?” The seven year old reached out to him, the same way she used to when she was younger and wanted to be held.


“I don't feel good,” she murmured sticking her pinky and ring fingers in her mouth, it was what she did when she was little. Dmitri lifted her easily from the ground. Her face was swelling and her breathing was coming out in short wheezing gasps. Hives were beginning to appear all over her skin. Dmitri searched through his brain trying to remember her food allergies. She had a few. He counted off his fingers, most food coloring, tomatoes, chocolate and... There was one more...


“Excuse me, Mrs. Baker, I need to use the phone,” Dmitri spoke politely.


“Oh my, what's the matter with Cecilia?” Mrs. Baker, the librarian, asked.


“I'm not sure. But she'll be fine. May I please use the phone?” Mrs. Baker looked over at the sick little girl nestled in his arms, she handed him the phone as she stared at the child. Mrs. Baker, like most of the adults in town, wondered about the two Angelo children. Their mother and father were both from Italy. Mr. Angelo had moved to the United States with his parents when he was only two years old, he'd lived in the same town most of his life.


Mrs. Angelo, however, had lived in Italy until she met Antony and had Dmitri, by then Antony persuaded Sofia to come to the United States with him.


After Sofia died Antony was too sad to be around his children, who were constant reminders of his pain and suffering. That's when Dmitri began caring for his sister. That's when they became known as the wanderers. Staying in different places every few months.


Mrs. Baker watched as Dmitri slid his hand lightly across his sister's forehead. She never spoke to Mrs. Baker except to ask about books, but Mrs. Baker was amazed at the child's brilliance. She stared at Cecilia, she wore the same torn, dirty clothes she'd worn two days earlier when they came to pick up a book. Her face wasn't as dirty as it was before, but she wore no shoes on her poor little feet. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing rapidly.


If it weren't for the fact that she had known the children's father for her whole life, she would have called the police. But as she watched, she knew that that was not the only reason she wouldn't call the police. She had witnessed first hand, on more than one occasion, the love that the boy had for his sister. In fact she'd never seen them apart. And they were both always so happy to be around each other. Especially the boy. The way he looked at her made one feel as though they were almost invisible in the eyes of Dmitri.


“Dmitri!” Timmy called loudly through the library, earning himself an evil glare from Mrs. Baker. Dmitri who stood up cradling Cecilia lovingly in his arms, followed Timmy out to where Mrs. Mason was waiting in the car.


Mrs. Mason was a nurse in the pediatrics department. When she saw how sick the little girl looked, she drove straight for the hospital.


“What's wrong Silly?” Dmitri whispered as they waited in the waiting room. It seemed as though every second she was getting worse. Her throat was beginning to close.


“Cecilia,” the nurse called. Dmitri stayed beside his sister, not letting her go. Anyone who saw the way Dmitri looked at the child's face would see how much he cared for his baby sister.


As he lied her gently on the bed, he remembered her fourth allergy.


“Peanuts,” he muttered. “She allergic to peanuts.” Mrs. Mason looked up at him.


“What did you say?” she asked, but Dmitri ignored her. He gently shook the baby.


“Cecilia? You need to wake up baby. You need to tell me something.” Cecilia aroused slightly.



“Huh?” she asked, her eyes still closed.


“Silly, did you eat peanuts?” Dmitri asked. He tried to hide his worry. Cecilia didn't answer. “Silly, baby, did you eat peanuts?” he asked a second time.


“Uh-huh. Mrs. Baker gave me peanut M&M's,” she answered tiredly. Dmitri could no longer contain his panic.


“Mrs. Mason!” he cried. “She ate peanuts and chocolate! She's allergic!” Mrs. Mason jumped up from her chair as Cecilia's heart started beating slower and slower.


“We need a doctor!” Mrs. Mason shouted in Dmitri's ear, but to him the sound was distant. He barely noticed the doctors and nurses that rushed into the room. Dmitri stared at Cecilia's pale face. He was trying to remember every single moment he'd spent with her.


He should have stayed with her that night. He shouldn't have left her side, he'd promised her when she was four years old that he wouldn't leave her. Why didn't he keep his promise?


Dmitri watched as everybody worked in slow motion around him. When he saw Cecilia's eyes fly open, he ran to her side and gripped her hand.


“Don't worry, “ she whispered, “I won't be hungry anymore.” She closed her eyes and they never reopened. Dmitri dropped her hand and stepped away. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes, but he kept them at bay.


He walked away from the room. He wandered down the hallway and out of the hospital, walking aimlessly through the through the streets. For hours he walked. Finally, he ended up back at Timmy's house. When he walked through the front door, Mrs. Mason rushed to his side. She threw her arms around him and cried. He ducked out of the hug, and led Mrs. Mason to the couch. He felt like he was in a dream, like none of this was actually happening.


“Do you want to pray for your sister?” Mrs. Mason asked gripping the cross that dangled from her neck.


“No ma'am. Cecilia doesn't need our prayers. If there is such thing as heaven, then Cecilia has already made it there,” Dmitri wasn't a very religious person, but if there was such a thing as a good after life, then he was sure that she had not been turned away. She was home with their mother.


The funeral was bigger then Dmitri had wanted it to be. His father had cried for hours when he heard. He cried and then he blamed. First he blamed Dmitri, then he blamed Mrs. Baker, then he blamed Dmitri again. He couldn't make it to the funeral, but everybody else in the town managed to go.


Dmitri stared at the tiny white casket in the front of the room. Seven golden roses were laid gently on top. A picture of Cecilia was placed lightly beside them. Her dark hair was braided in a crown on top of her head. Her smile was bright and exquisite, the golden specks in her dark eyes glinted angelically. She had the smile of a princess. She was a princess, no matter what anyone else believed. She was Dmitri's princess.


Dmitri didn't cry at the funeral, he said only one sentence,


“When Cecilia came into this world, she brought with her, the death of my beloved mother, Sofia Angelo, now as Cecilia leaves this world, she leaves behind dozens of changed lives.” After Dmitri spoke he got up and walked away. He was the wanderer. Forever known as the Wanderer, until the day he died.





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