Prologue: Slay

Sometimes the most subtle details matter the most.

There had been little dirt on my shoes so my footprints were puddles of clear rainwater, but he had seen them, and he had followed. Inside the broom closet, I could still hear the fierce roar of thunder, each time bringing more tears. The door flew open and he stood in the opening, dripping wet. "I found you!"

He knelt down and drew me into his warm embrace. "It's no fun to cry by yourself, is it?" I shook my head although he probably couldn't see it. His gentle hand smoothed my short black hair, and I could feel my fear slowly evaporating.

We must have stayed like that for quite a while because the merciless rain had stopped when I tugged on the front of his shirt. "Slay?"

"What is it?" he asked, finally releasing me.

"Thank you."

His name was Slay, and he hated it. He had told me never to call him that.

"Why?" I asked.

"'Slay' means the same as 'kill,'" he explained solemnly. "Every time someone calls me, they are shouting 'kill.' You should call me Joe or something."

I considered his suggestion with about as much thought as a five-year-old could supply. "But Joe is not your name. If I call you that, you might not answer me. What if I really need you? I'll keep calling other names but you'll never come." I frowned at the thought.

He gave me an expression that was hard to discern. It was a mixture of surprise, sympathy, sorrow, and possibly joy. "You can call me Slay."

"How come you never get scared?" I asked him once. We were walking through the orchard, swinging our arms. My fingers were loosely clasped in his.

"I do get scared, everyone is scared sometimes." He answered practically.

"When was the last time you were scared?"

He took a moment to think about it. "That time you fell in the pond and didn't come up until Miss Taera jumped in to rescue you."

It seemed as though everything about him was really about me. I turned to look him straight in the face, my blue eyes inquiring. "Why do you always care about me so much?"

All he did was smile and touch me gently on the nose. "You ask too many questions."

Slay and I were nearly inseparable. We even made matching bracelets out of coloured thread. There aren't many comforts living in and orphanage, but he was one of mine. However, such places are made for people to get adopted, and that's what happened to me one day.

"Slay!" I shouted, racing down the staircase to meet him. "Miss Taera says I have to go and I probably won't come back. Will you be coming with me?"

"Oh," he said, looking a little distraught. Then, he smiled. "No, but don't worry about me. You will be really happy there." I tried to cut in but he kept talking. "You have to promise me you will be the best, okay? We'll see each other again."

"Umm…" I was on the verge of tears, trying to process all this information. "I promise… but how will I see you again?"

He took my hand and looked at me gently with his soulful brown eyes. "I'll find you, just like I always do."