Family: a group of people numbering two or more, with deep emotional or physical connections with one another. Often misconceived to contain a pack mentality.
I make my decision right here and now. I stare down the barrel of the gun at the murderer who has killed so many, even people I knew myself. I look deep into those eyes, the eyes that no one but me could ever understand, because I have seen them in their darkest hour, their moment of need. I take in the face: the high cheek bones, the perfectly sculpted jaw line, the gentle lilt of the strand of hair crossing the bronze forehead. I stare, I look, I take in. I remember. Because I'll never forget.
Fifteen years earlier…
"Oh, look! Isn't she such a clever girl?"
The woman cooed to the young child walking unsteadily across the floor. Each step was an effort, wavering and shaky, yet the child soldiered on, finally reaching the arms of its mother and collapsing with an exhausted relief. The woman smiled and hauled the child into her arms and up over her head. The child gurgled in delight and reached out for the man seated at the desk behind the woman.
The man had glanced up briefly when the woman had spoken, but had long since returned his attention to the desk where he was seated. He seemed buried in the papers littering the surface; or maybe he was hiding in them, afraid that if he let the real world in it would either rip him from his work completely or push him further into the pit of despair that he had inhabited for so many years.
The woman turned, pulling the child closer to her chest, where it turned its head inwards against her neck. It showed the kind of childish innocence that so few children possess in today's world. True, it was only a single year old, and therefore not schooled in the workings of the world. But it had the kind of face which would look upon the world as a friend even at an older age.
The woman knew quite well the man would give no response, but still she tried. She had not yet passed the point of no longer botheringf. She had once sworn that she would always care. But that had been in her youth, when she had held the same innocence her child now portrayed.
As she had suspected, the man gave no reaction that he had heard her, continuing with his work in silence. Said silence filled the room like tar, thick and unforgiving as it flowed around the small family, keeping them forever together in a sticky embrace, but always keeping them apart, as it filled the cracks between them and permanently hardened.
The woman sighed softly and turned away, setting the child down again and moving to the opposite end of the room, beckoning tenderly. She knew that if she had attempted to leave the room, to get away, even for a little while, the man would have suddenly noticed them. He would have sprung to his feet and forced them back, deeper into the pits of his study, scared that they would find something better if they left his presence.
Having not attempted the fact however, the man did nothing, utterly oblivious to the encouragement being sent silently from mother to child, as the toddler struggled, yet again, across the never ending expanse of the study, and into the waiting arms of its mother.
This time, when the child had completed the journey, the mother made no attempt to draw the man into the life of the family, preferring to cross the room at a loping pace, settling into a plush chair by the fire. The flames danced harshly in their grate, a sharp contrast to the mother's caring nature, drawing her child's inquisitive hands back from the dangerous blaze.
A log rolled down the slope of its fellows piled high in the grate, choosing to smoulder quietly at the foot of the mountain, rather than throw away the effort of staying high and mighty when no one was watching it, and if someone was, no one cared.
The log was old, and in its dying breaths. The child, however, was young and vibrant, and understood nothing of not making an effort if no one was there to see it. So, when the mother once again set the child on the floor and crossed the room, the child followed, not for praise or because this was something that must be learned, but simply because this was something the child had to do, had to do to get back to its mother.
Outside of the house that contained the family of three hung a winding street, leading upwards on both sides. The house itself was flat in its simplicity, with four windows, a medium sized door, a short, railed black fence surrounding a pathway of gravel, and grass that had long overstayed its welcome.
Every house on the street looked the same. In fact, every house in the entire town looked the same. Even stranger, every family that inhabited each of the houses were the same. Oh, they looked different, acted differently; the people were all different, which helped them overlook the fact that all their lives were the same. If a person can leave their house and see a neighbour who is completely different to them, or see a child across the street that is completely different from their own, then they can convince themselves that everything is right with the world, and they are here by choice, rather than anything else.
Because of this, the little town of Kide has slipped into something that must have once been akin to normality. People get up, go to work in the only place that anyone in this town works at, and go home to houses that all look the same, to families who look different but all have the same way of tilting their head, or blinking their eyes. With this the people don't quite accept the way they live, but they do live. No one has any choice over that. Life must always go on, even in the small, desolate town of Kide, where nothing ever changes, but nothing ever quite stays the same either.
Edited: 03/09/10 - Thank you for all the feedback I have received, especially the depth reviews from the RG WCC. It has been a great help and this chapter has been edited accordingly. :)