I walked into the pale light that was illuminating the room. The first thing I noticed was a large window on the opposite side of the room, as well as a brown leather couch on the right side, with few carton boxes stacked next to it. There was a chair, a small desk with a laptop on it and surprisingly, a small wood-burning stove on the corner of the room, making me think that these apartments were seriously old enough to not have AC installed.

I looked around for a good minute and I didn't even notice that Leon had already closed the door and gone off to the other room. I sat down on the couch and tried to put my words into something that would make sense, when I heard soft footsteps as he returned carrying a couple wood logs. He was wearing a black tank top and jeans.

"It's so damn cold, and they might take a while to burn so...make yourself comfortable." he said slowly.

"Aren't you cold...wearing just that?" I finally asked. It was not what I wanted to ask.

"A bit. I was changing when you knocked, you know." he said and went back into the other room. He came back with a black hoodie in his hands, which he wore over the tank top, doing his best not to look at me.

He sat down on the chair and pulled it closer to me, then placed a cup of warm coffee in my hands. He looked like he was about to say something but I decided I would try and speak first.

"I'm sorry for following you. I don't know why I'm apologizing, you are the one who lied but still. Just, tell me what the hell you are up to. Because if you are involved in this whole thing that's happening to me, I swear I will-"

"Hey, hold on," he raised his hand in an attempt to stop the words emerging from my mouth like a raging storm. I realized just then that I spoke so fast that I didn't even stop to breathe.

"I'm not involved in any of that. And, I should be apologizing instead. I didn't want to deceive you but I had no choice. I was sure you would find out at some point. I was expecting it to happen. But perhaps not so soon." he leaned back and looked in my eyes for the first time.

"So, it's pretty clear to me that you lied about living with your parents. You moved here alone, didn't you?" I asked. He nodded yes.

"I moved here alone. There is something personal I have to take care of." he added.

"So you made up a story about how your parents travel all the time? Journalist troubles, right?"

"That was not a lie, actually. My parents are journalists, or at least used to be." he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked. The wood was starting to burn and a slow crackling sound filled the room.

Leon run his hand through his hair and looked at me, all serious. "My father is not alive. He died when I was your age...roughly three years ago."

"That is...horrible. I'm so sorry…" I managed to spell out, "But wait, so you are actually twenty?"

"You never asked about my age, did you?" he smirked.

"So, why didn't you tell me from the beginning? What is wrong about this that you had to keep it a secret?" I said and drank some coffee to try and hide my anxiety. A strange kind of tension I had never felt before.

"I came here looking for some answers. I had to make sure not to stand out, not even at school. So, my story had to be as normal as it gets." he explained.

"What kind of answers?"

"About my father's death. This is where he died, in this town. Murdered, actually." he said and averted my gaze. His voice deepened slightly as he pronounced the word "murdered", as if it was physically hurting him somewhere.

It was starting to get slightly dark outside. The small flames in the stove spread a warm light around, and Leon had started staring at the floor, probably not knowing what else to say. I didn't want to make him recall painful memories. I reached out and touched his hand. He looked at me, baffled, maybe because my hand was ice cold but I didn't care.

"It's fine. I won't ask anymore. You followed me, you sneaked behind me, you made me tell you everything about my life, my secret. But you lied. I would have helped you, I would have stuck with you. Just the way you have done the same. Unless that was all an act too." I mumbled without much thought.

A faint smile appeared on his face, the same one I had seen before, the kind of smile he showed when he didn't want me to know he was in pain. So beautiful, but so haunting at the same time.

"But, Leon, I don't know if I can trust you anymore. I don't know if I can forgive a liar. " I stood up, I let his hand slip, started walking to the door.

"So, you are leaving?" he asked. "I can't blame you."

"I'm sorry," I muttered under my breath as I was about to open the door and get out, "I can understand why you would hang out with me to try and get the information you want but...how could you?"

I felt a knot in my chest and my eyes getting unexpectedly teary. I heard Leon walk up to me, probably to say goodbye and send me off.

"I can't blame you, but I won't let you go." he said and I felt his arms pulling me back. "Please, stay." He whispered.

"I can't." I said, as I was fighting with the knot in my throat, and my voice was starting to sound obviously broken. "I can forgive a lot of things, but lying is not one of them."

"I will tell you everything, it's just not as simple as you think. When you hear about it, you will see...how everything is connected." he said and his grip loosened. The warmth of his body faded as he stepped back and sat down again.

I turned around and looked at him, hoping that he wouldn't notice my watery eyes, or my flushed cheeks.

"Connected?" I repeated the last word and something in my brain made me change my mind.

He let out a small sigh before speaking again.

"I have not talked about this with anyone for three whole years, I have not made a single friend, either. And I certainly have not felt the way I feel about you."

I took my hand off the cool surface of the doorknob. I wanted to leave but I also needed to know. That was an unnecessary, long introduction to a serious topic, I thought.

"I'm listening." I said and I heard my own voice go cold as I walked back to the couch, accepting defeat.

"Both my parents were journalists, working for the same company. We had just settled in a new place, I had a new school, new friends. My dad had to travel here, to Aoriver, to cover a story about a woman who had gone missing, it was all over the news at that time. Ironically, one day we lost contact with him as well…" he stood up and walked to the window, opening it slightly to let some cool air inside.

"Did he go missing too?" I asked.

"It was not the first time he had stopped calling, he was usually so caught up in his stories when he was out of town that he forgot he even had a family. Our calls were never returned, sometimes he called to say when he was coming back and that was it. So, I was not surprised that my old man was not in touch." he explained and his voice turned bitter.

"He was a bad father, even worse husband. Ever since I remember myself, he never cared for us. He came home drunk, shouting in the middle of the night. He never raised a hand on me or mom. But even when he was sober he never had anything good to say. Not a kind word in the world. But my mom, she adored him. I never found out why, but she loved him so much. I couldn't understand it. That's why I was not even sad when he was a missing person for real."

I stared into the dark abyss in his eyes but didn't say anything.

"Three months passed, and after investigations the police found a...finger. In a pool of blood. Here, somewhere in the old part of town. The finger turned out to be my dad's, and so was the blood. They didn't find a body, but after a year of searching the police still hadn't found anything. My mom was a huge mess, and the officer in charge told her, that chances of my dad being alive were zero. It was an old officer, someone who had seen this town's criminal nature for all his life. He was certain that my father was dead, because he might have found something that got the local mafia upset."

"I...I don't remember a case like this." I mumbled, trying to wrap my mind around it.

"That was three years ago, you were probably not so into things at that age..." he said and patted my shoulder.

"But anyway, after that, my mom was inconsolable. I saw her being a wreck every single day. She cried at night. She got demoted, because her boss didn't want her to take greater responsibility but he was also feeling too sorry for her to fire her. And I was just there, not knowing what to feel about my dad, trying to cheer my mother up, as she was getting more and more depressed."

"This kind of death is the most difficult to accept. This is how a contract murder is arranged. The killer brings the victim's finger as proof of the kill." I muttered, staring at the flames. Leon nodded, apparently he knew about it as well.

"Two years passed like that, and then, one night, something happened...to us." he took a deep breath and looked at me in despair.

"What happened?" I frowned, having the sudden urge to rush to his side and make everything stop.

"I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of glass breaking, so I sprang up and grabbed the closest thing I could use as a weapon, thinking that someone was trying to rob us. I panicked, and it took me some moments to step out of the room but eventually I did. The window in the kitchen was broken, but nobody seemed to be around. I immediately thought of mother, and ran to her room. The door was wide open, someone was sitting on top of my mother's bed, back turned to me. He was trying to strangle her. His filthy hands were crushing my mom's throat...she couldn't make a sound, her nails were digging into his skin. I didn't even think about what I had to do. I just gathered all my strength and hit him in the back of the head. He fell down, unconscious."

"Oh no…" I said and a cold tremor run down my spine. "Your mom, what happened? Was she okay?"

"Yeah, yeah she was okay. But the other guy wasn't." he shook his head.

"You killed him?" I asked. He nodded.

"It was my mom or him. I would choose the same all over again." he said and looked at me with weary eyes. I was starting to realize how much pain he was in. How many times have I thought about taking someone's life, in this chaotic, bloodlusting place? I had never done it. But Leon had, and he needed to live with it.

"Who was he?" I finally asked, when my thoughts settled.

"The police identified him as Alan Shearing, living here. But the motive? None. The classified it as a break-in and that was it."

Leon leaned back and smiled at me, despite all the memories I was making him recall. A smile that had the most strange effect on me, every single time.

"But, you know, this is the interesting part. Before the police took the body away, I saw something. He was wearing a mask. I would recognize this mask anywhere, and you would, too. It was the same, absolutely the same. A black mask with red circles around the eyes." he added and looked at me victoriously, as if he had solved the riddle of the century.

"So, you are saying that the people trying to get my Family down, are the same people who...killed your dad? And sent someone to silence his wife and son?" I deducted.

"Well, pretty much." he shrugged and folded his arms on his chest. "Remember the day when you told me you had seen someone staring at you through the classroom window? Some guy with a mask like that. That was when I decided I would do anything to catch their tail…" he smiled bitterly.

"So, you were so desperate to find out about me. So that you could get a lead." I commented.

"It was a shitty move, I admit it. But I was desperate. I left my home a year ago, to find answers for myself. For my mother. She needs...closure. The police will never do anything, because they are cowards who can't survive in this town. So what if another night, my mom gets killed by some other member of that group? I couldn't handle the thought. She is living with my aunt now, she thinks I'm in college."

"I used to be so annoyed by your presence." I recalled, "You smiled too much, you were too loud. Too annoying. I was so mad at you."

"I'm sorry for that." he smirked.

"But now I can't...be mad at you anymore." I said and stared into his eyes. The words came out as if I had been rehearsing for a lifetime. My heart was beating anxiously, punishing me for what I had just said.

He grinned gracefully, and warmth came back into his expression. I looked outside. The sun had set, and the only source of light in the room were the dancing flames in the stove. Leon walked into the other room and came back with a bowl of vanilla cookies.

"I suppose you are hungry but this is all that's left in here." he said as he placed the bowl in my arms.

"Thanks." I looked at the cookies but decided to set them aside. I was not feeling like eating at all.

"So, are we still going to go after them? I mean..you know. Together?" he asked.

"I don't know." I replied and rested my head on the couch.

I was starting to get more sleepy by the minute. I had to get up and go home. I was still trying to process what he had revealed to me. Everything seemed like a huge maze I couldn't escape from. We didn't say anything for a moment, a precious moment filled with soothing silence. My head was starting to feel heavy, my eyes were focused on the light coming from the fire, as I gently curled up on the couch. I felt disappointed at myself for letting someone off the hook so easily. I am not being myself, I thought. He's a liar, Diana. A liar but you act like he just accidentally stepped on your foot.