We had set the rules very early on; made it perfectly clear to the both of us that we only existed within his walls. We held no obligations, extended no courtesies. We were simply two strangers that enjoyed each other's company, sporadically, or; whenever I felt the need to.
So when I saw him at the grocery store, trolley in hand, staring right at me; I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to do. I was so completely taken back by it, more so than I thought I would. It was as if it suddenly occurred to me that he actually existed. That he wasn't just some enigmatic man that fed me and listened to my problems (among other things). He was an actual living, breathing human being; with a job and friends and a fucking grocery list.
I was walking when I saw him, and while my pace slowed down, I didn't stop. I kept going until the only thing between us was his trolley. And right when I was about to speak, a man popped out of the cereal aisle and stood next to him, "This supermarket is shit. I swear It's arranged all wrong!"
Then, noticing me, he turned and smiled. He was much younger, around my age, maybe a bit younger; he looked a lot like him, but taller, slimmer, and a lot more handsome. His brother?
"I'm sorry, do you... do you two know each other?" he frowned, looking back and forth between us.
I waited for him to answer, but he never did; and it wasn't that he was too shocked or nervous to do so, he just simply ignored the question and kept looking at me, all smiles and intrigue. If he was feeling any sort discomfort, he certainly didn't let it show.
"Yes, erm, we're friends."
"Friends!" the younger man echoed, eyes wide in surprise. He kept staring at me with a bewildered expression to his face; skimming over me, again and again, like I was that last puzzle piece that doesn't fit; like I simply didn't make any sense.
"Yes, an acquaintances of mine. And this," he smirked, as if he was about to reveal some terrible secret of his, "Is my son."
It felt as if I crashed against a brick wall, face-first, and it must've shown because the younger man suddenly broke out in laughter. He, on the other hand, stepped back and crossed his arms.
"I'm his nephew," he smiled, "Do excuse my uncle's sense of humor. It's always been... peculiar."
"Well, it's already been established that I'm peculiar, myself." he chimed in, cocking his head.
"Well, erm, I should really get go—"
"No! No, wait!" the nephew interrupted, stepping closer and taking my hand, "See, uncle? You're scaring the pretty bird away."
"I've done no such thing. It was you that scared her off."
"Me? But I've been nothing but friendly," he protested, with a slight squeeze to my hand, "It was him, wasn't it, pretty bird? He always scares people off."
"No, he doesn't scare me at all." I mumbled, trying to subtly break free of his grip, but he only held on tighter, "I'm used to him."
"Oho!" he cooed, turning to his uncle, "Pretty bird's used to you, huh, uncle?"
"Settle down," he sighed, taking my hand away from his nephew, "And what have we said about unwanted bodily contact?"
"What? You're allowed to hold her hand and I'm not?"
"Well, it isn't unwanted," he smiled, looking down at me in that menacing way he does, "Is it?"
"Oho!" the nephew exclaimed once again, almost jumping in excitement, "Pretty bird doesn't mind your touch, huh, uncle?"
I had never been easily offended. In fact, it was nearly impossible to offend me at all. But being there, trapped between those two while they did their... comedy routine. I felt like my head was going to burst. Having a litter of siblings of my own, I knew exactly how it felt to be the butt of the joke. To be teased and pulled in every direction for the sole purpose of entertainment.
"Please let go of my hand," I snapped, turning towards the nephew, "And you, don't call me pretty bird ever again, yeah? Now, I really have to go. It was lovely meeting you. Have a good day."