As Misha had predicted, meeting Gabriel after his birthday party became stupidly hard, to the point where it was about to drive him crazy.
Once again, Angela confined the teenager in her villa, far away from the town. She still allowed him to call, but she would be standing near the teenager every time he was on the phone, openly eavesdropping on him. And so, the conversations Misha had with Gabriel were more often than not short and perfunctory. Because the teenager was pretending to have amnesia, there were many subjects they couldn't talk about, especially tricky ones that directly or indirectly concerned his family.
Back at the hospital, Gabriel had promised to tell Misha everything he needed to know about his family circumstances, but he couldn't do so on the phone, not with Angela lurking around. Therefore, Misha still hadn't learned anything new and was as clueless as before. Of course, he could have asked his sister about the teenager's family situation, but he wanted to hear it from his mouth, not from Masha's. And knowing his sister, she wouldn't tell him anything, anyway.
The phone calls succeeded one another, and the days passed by. At one point, Masha decided to start a truth or dare kind of game to kill time. But considering their present situation, she got rid of the 'dare', keeping only the 'truth' part. And so, Gabriel, Misha, and Masha began to ask each other questions in turn. Simple ones or stupid ones, it didn't matter. The point was to learn more about the other person.
Even though Misha knew the teenager reasonably well, or at least, the gentleman-like persona he had chosen to borrow in their past life, he still learned quite a few things about him. For instance, Gabriel didn't like bugs, finding them relatively disgusting, if not straight out creepy. Thus, throwing up after eating a worms-flavored muffin was pretty much a guarantee for him.
"So, would you rather eat a bowl full of worms or a bowl full of crickets?" blurted out Misha when he heard about how much he disliked insects, wanting to tease him a little.
Without much surprise, the call was cut short that day after he asked this. Later, Misha learned that blue was Gabriel's favorite color, that he surprisingly liked sweet things like ice cream and chocolate, that his drawing skills were bad enough to make people want to cry, and so many more things.
Of course, the teenager had to be careful with how he answered the questions since he shouldn't know himself too well. Angela was still eavesdropping, and a slip of the tongue could very well make things complicated. But Gabriel had always been good with words, and he didn't have any difficulty coming up with excuses to justify every answer he gave.
For instance, he explained that he had seen a few bugs crawling up the walls of his present bedroom, and their mere view had made his stomach churn, meaning that he probably didn't like insects. As for the color, he said he didn't know if it was his favorite color in the past, but right now, it was the most beautiful one in his eyes.
Misha couldn't help but marvel at how much of a smooth talker he was. No wonder Gabriel fooled him for so long in their past life. Even in this one, if he didn't know better, he probably would have believed every word that came out of his mouth.
But whenever it came to his turn to answer Gabriel's questions, Misha suddenly didn't find the game as fun anymore and stuttered, not knowing what to say. He still had no idea what his younger self liked, except for dinosaurs and pranks. In the end, Misha decided to base his answers on his likes and dislikes as an adult, telling himself that they shouldn't have changed too much over the years.
And so, every time the boy mumbled an answer, he couldn't help but glance at his sister, observing her reaction and facial expression. Upon seeing her smile, he felt reassured and a bit more confident, becoming bolder and bolder. What he didn't realize, though, was that when he turned his head, Masha's smile faded a little, and unknown emotions flashed in her bright blue eyes.
When Gabriel's birthday came in November, almost a month after Misha's, things became a bit more heated. Long story short, Misha wanted to see the teenager, but Angela only allowed Masha to come eat with them at the restaurant. Needless to say, it resulted in the child sulking for days.
Then, when the said day arrived, Misha tried to sneak in the car, planning to hide in the trunk. Sadly, his mother caught him in the act, and he had no other choice but to stay at home and sullenly wait for his sister's return.
But maybe it was better this way. Knowing his bad temper, he would probably have chewed out Gabriel's entire family until he had no voice left. Well, that was based on the premise that he didn't outright punch them in the guts or other sensitive areas the moment they met. Even if his body was small and weak, the boy still knew where to hit to hurt people. At any rate, men all had the same weakness. And as for women, he could always improvise.
After his sister left, Misha anxiously paced back and forth in the living room all evening, impatiently waiting for her return. And because he was awaiting her arrival, Masha barely had the time to enter the house that the boy had already grabbed her arm and asked how Gabriel was and how the supper went. Strangely enough, she didn't have anything good to say, but contrary to her little brother, she was able to control her temper and didn't make a fuss. No matter what, she didn't want to destroy Gabriel's efforts in a fleeting moment of anger.
Still, Masha had many complaints to say, and once at home, she kept on ranting for hours, venting her pent-up frustration. Eating with that family sure was anger-inducing.
Sitting by her side on her bed, Misha dutifully listened to her ranting, nodding his head now and then. All in all, his sister's complaints mostly revolved around how much Angela and Jake were hypocrites and how cold-hearted Gabriel's father was. Only Tristan was spared from the overflooding curses.
Of course, Misha chimed in from time to time, and the two siblings thus cussed out Gabriel's family until late into the night.
Following Gabriel's birthday, days went on without neither Misha nor Masha being able to meet the teenager. Their sole connexion with Gabriel was their parents' cell phone, which was now monopolized by their children. But even then, the phone calls weren't daily; the teenager could only call three to four times a week, and that was when Angela was in a good mood. Otherwise, once a week was pretty much something worth celebrating.
In this way, December arrived, and soon the holidays followed, meaning that school was put on hold for a few weeks, and Misha was therefore stuck at home, left with nothing to do but ponder over the past.
Every morning, the child would go downstairs, greet his mother, and then eat the chocolate of his Christmas advent calendar, staring at it with hatred burning in the depth of his eyes. Whether he liked it or not, Christmas Eve was getting nearer with each passing day, making his anxiety grow and grow.
In his past life, his mother died on that fateful day, ran over by a drunkard. Compared to the first timeline, things were heading in an entirely different direction, but even so, Misha still couldn't help it. At the mere thought of Christmas Eve being just around the corner, he became nauseous, feeling like he would throw up at any given moment.
The horrific image of his mother's crushed body was forever etched into his mind. He could never forget that gruesome sight, no matter how much he wished to. It had haunted his nights for so many years, waking him up in fright so many times.
Misha took a deep breath, furiously shaking his head to chase away the bad memories, but they refused to leave. It made his stomach twist in knots, and his appetite had long since run away.
Today was the same old thing until his sister's excited voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Slapping his cheeks to give himself some courage, the boy walked up to the door of his bedroom, opening it slowly as he tried to ignore his inner turmoil. But that was without much success.
"Sorry, I didn't hear you. What did you say?"
"Were you still sleeping? Sorry, I didn't intend to wake you up."
Misha shook his head, offering a wry smile. Lately, the number of hours he slept was decreasing every night, slowly reaching a pitiful number. As for his afternoon naps, it consisted of him rolling in bed and staring at the ceiling.
"Well, it's good if you were awake. Anyway, I said that I have good news. Gabriel will be able to come with us to our grandparent's house on Christmas Eve! Apparently, his family won't celebrate it this year. His father is away on a business trip, and his stepmother has to work too. That's what Angela said. The truth is surely far from this, but who cares? We got to spend Christmas Eve with Gabriel!"
"…Really?" gulped Misha, feeling his mouth turn dry.
"Yes," nodded Masha, suspiciously sizing up her brother. "You're not happy? I was sure you would be thrilled to hear this, though."
"Y-yeah, I'm happy, very happy," stuttered Misha before adding with a stiff smile. "I just had a nightmare while napping, and I'm still a little out of it. It's nothing, I'll be fine soon."
"You seem to have a lot of nightmares lately," said Masha in a soft voice, gently ruffling her little brother's hair. "The dark circles around your eyes are quite impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if people mistake you for a panda."
"As long as I don't end up in a zoo, I don't care," shrugged Misha, rubbing his head against his sister's hand.
It felt warm and reassuring, easing his anxiety a little.
"If something is bothering you, you can talk to me, you know? I will always be there for you, so don't worry and empty your heart whenever you need to."
The boy's trembling voice was barely audible. He couldn't help but think of their past life. His sister hadn't always been there for him because one day, she took her own life. She had listened to his problems for as long as he could remember, but he had never done so.
"But I'm not lying, I really am fine. It's just stupid nightmares about giant bugs and bloody T-Rex, nothing worth mentioning."
Misha slightly bit his lips, hesitating a second before whispering, "And you too, if there something bothering you, don't hesitate and talk to me. It's not because you're the oldest that you have to keep everything to yourself. I'll gladly listen to your problems anytime."
The hand that was ruffling his hair stopped abruptly. Then, two slender and white arms wrapped themselves around his tiny body, hugging him tightly. Laughing, Masha said near his ear, "How can you be so cute?! I'm so lucky to be your sister!"
"Don't change the subject," grunted Misha, hugging her back. "If you ever feel burdened, don't keep everything to yourself and talk to me. Promise me you will, please."
"…" There was a short silence before the teenage girl finally answered, her voice low and soft, "All right, if something is weighing me down one day, I will tell you. I promise."
Satisfied, Misha nodded before snuggling against his sister a bit more. This time, he would share her worries and burdens, no matter what. But he forgot that in the end, promises were nothing more than words and that his sister had broken her promises many times before.
I've been having terrible headaches lately. It feels like someone is trying to pierce my eyes with an ice pick, especially my right eye. I swear, my body and I really don't get along.
Soooo, there is probably a bunch of careless mistakes. Sorry about that. 8D
Also, the first tome of Sweet Devil is almost over! There still a dozen chapters or so to go, and it's done! We are finally getting to the part that made me want to write this story, haha.
Thank you for reading, voting, commenting, and adding to your collection! You are the best! :)