That day Advay returned at 5 P.M. When he went inside the house, He found the boy asleep on the sofa.
“Way!” He shouted.
He shouted again and the boy woke up from his slumber.
He squinted his eyes and nodded at Advay asking what it was.
“What if it was someone else?” He was always so worried and tensed someone would come to this place and this little idiot in front of him could sleep like a pig.
With sleepy eyes still, the boy shook his head. Only Advay comes, he thought with no attempts to convey it.
“Tsk, this key,” Advay dangled the key with a small keychain before the boy, “the landlady has one too. What will you do if you are not alert and then someone else gets in?”
The boy simply shook his head.
“I’m serious this isn’t the only key!”
The boy stood up as Advay kept looking at him. He walked past him to the door and pressed the lock. “I forgot to lock?” Advay was a little shocked and a little embarrassed. He thought it must be because of this wayfarer’s sleepy drool, he had just gotten so worried.
The boy gave an appreciative smile. He was genuinely glad at Advay’s response. He won’t forget the next time, he believed.
Advay was displeased with the boy though. The wayfarer really looked down on him, didn’t he?
When Advay sat down to remove his shoes, there was a book in his face. He looked up to see the boy holding out the elementary level textbook that the boy learnt the local language from.
It had been a full week since he was not asked to read out something. He was back at reading the books from Mr. Logan’s library again.
“Let me wash and come, will you?” He paused and further said, “Actually, why don’t you sleep some more?” Just how can a person love reading and writing so much? Every other time he came back from college this week, he had seen the boy completely oblivious to his surroundings as he wrote on and on. There were instances where Advay thought twice if he could ask the boy something, for he did not want to be a disturbance.
The boy opened his palm before Advay in a stop sign.
Advay sat up straight. “What is it?”
The boy opened the last page on the book. The book was interspersed with exercises for students to workout. The last few pages needed them to write little passages in simple tenses.
The boy gave a firm nod.
“But when?” Advay whined.
The boy made some actions but Advay could not understand him. The second time he got it. “Before you slept?”
The boy nodded.
“That’s… great! Now let me wash up.”
Advay bent down to his shoes again but the boy pushed him back by the shoulders.
He once again did the stop action and grabbed his notebook and the pen and wrote.
‘I want book.’
“Next level book. Of course you’ll want.” The boy did not catch the sarcasm.
The boy nodded and pointed at the door. He knew from the way Advay spoke that there was much more to learn. And he needed the book, or what was he to do after dinner today? He had to learn fast so that he could live on his own.
“Seriously? You want me to go out? Now?”
The boy nodded.
“You really have no fear, do you?”
‘Return quick,’ he wrote.
Advay sighed and said, “I’ll get it tomorrow on the way, alright?”
The boy looked at Advay for a moment and then dropped his shoulders and slowly nodded.
He looked pretty disappointed as he took both his books and walked into the bedroom. Advay could see him opening his cupboard and putting the two books inside.
“Oi, Lock the door,” Advay called out as he tied his shoelaces back. He sighed again. It was not pleasant when the wayfarer was in a negative mood.
The boy peeked out from the cupboards and immediately came out smiling. “I’ll be back soon.”
Advay returned within half an hour with the next level book.
As soon as Advay stepped in, the boy took the book from him and glanced at two random pages. He checked if this had enough to speak like Advay. He read through random lines of the text of the pages. This book also was lacking.
Advay was no longer confused. He was convinced anything could be possible with this boy.
“What do you understand?” He asked softly and curiously.
The boy looked at two more pages and then wrote out, ‘More book.’
Advay laughed out briefly. What the hell was more book? Well, it seemed he indeed had to get ‘more book’, but on mathematics not language.
“I’ll bring tomorrow, alright?”
The boy nodded.
Rest of the evening went by with Advay being completely amazed at the boy. The boy wrote as fast as he did and his handwriting was just like the letters of the printed text.
The boy suddenly stopped and looked for Advay, who sat on the floor cross-legged with his headphones on and plugged into his phone. They had yet another literature paper this semester and he did not like reading fiction as much as he read other knowledgeable books that the professor lent him. He took the softcopy of the book and his phone did the job of reading out the book at a high speed.
He put his headphones down when he saw the boy beckon him. He got up and walked to the boy.
The boy showed him a word. Advay took a look at it. It had a complex mix of the alphabet. Advay read it out, “difficult.” The boy asked him to read it aout another three times as he wrote.
Advay felt pity for the boy. He was doing so much hard-work now but if he gets his voice back, just in case he could speak, will he have to do it again? He wanted him to try saying it even if no sound comes out. But after the last time he tried, he decided not to coax the boy to try mouthing the words.
Then again, compared to his own life, the boy’s life was just so nice… All he did was read, write and repeat! He did not have anything else to bother about. No worry for food, no worry for shelter. He was younger after all so Advay did not get too jealous.
He sat back on the floor in the front room and put his headphones back on. He had nothing to write or read so he did not need a table. Most of all, the floor was a nice cool place to sit on in this early summer.
During dinner, Advay finally found the right time to disturb the boy. As the two ate facing each other over the teapoy, he opened the selfies he took at the orphanage earlier in the day. One of them caught the in-charge pretty well. He zoomed in and slid the phone into the boy’s view.
“You were trying to draw her, weren’t you?”
The boy looked at Advay’s phone and he panicked a little. He had the soup bowl in his hands when he jerked himself away from the phone. The soup fell onto his two hands and the skin turned red.
Advay quickly put away both their bowls and pulled the boy into the bathroom. The boy still seemed a little out of it. Advay ran the tap water over the boy’s two hands.
“I’m sorry…” He said.
The boy suddenly took a glance at him. Then he looked at all of his surroundings. After a few moments, he finally shook his head.
“That was just a photo…”
The boy shook his head again and took his hands to himself as he washed them. The soup was hot but it was not scalding hot. Thankfully there were no burns.
When they went back to the little table, the boy took Advay’s phone and looked at the woman in it. Advay took the phone back and clicked on the back button a few times before putting it away. The boy’s reaction just now was extreme. He also wanted to show all the faces of the black crowd he caught on his phone and ask him for any leads, but he decided against it. At least for the time being.
When Advay had clicked on his phone, the photo zoomed out and then disappeared. From his oblique direction, the boy still caught Advay in it.
Somewhere he felt unsettled.
He waved his hand in front of Advay and pointed to the phone.
“Let it be, eat first.”
Soon after dinner the boy was asking for the photo again. Advay shook his head and dismissed him, putting his headphones on again.
The boy watched Advay for sometime with a critical eye. Once he was sure Advay would not yield to him, He yanked the headphones off and took them hostage.
“Give them back!”
The boy nodded towards the phone in Advay’s hands at the same time shaking the headphones.
“Way! Careful! I’ll show you.”
Advay wasted no time in the crucial moment of the wellbeing of his headset. He quickly tapped on his phone and handed it to the boy.
The boy gave back the headset and brought the phone along with him to the cupboards in the bedroom. He held the phone carefully all the while when taking out his drawing.
Advay was right behind him. He laid the drawing and the phone beside each other and pointed to them one after the other.
“I know…” Advay nodded.
He quickly showed the drawing of the university gates too.
“I know, that lady along with some people came to the university.”
The boy nodded vigorously. He still had more to tell Advay though. They had been there for him specifically.
He pointed to the two drawings and then to Advay. Advay nodded another time as he put the boy’s hand down from near his chest.
“I know, they came for me.” What was still astonishing to Advay was how the boy went to the university, got so much information and managed to head back home. At that point in time, he didn’t even know proper words.
Then the boy looked between Advay and the photo. It was the same shirt. He had many unclear doubts in his mind. They did not make sense to himself, much less for him to be able to convey them. The hazy thoughts in his head were about when the photo happened? And just why did it happen? Most importantly, was he safe here? Advay knew he was escaping and helped him until then. So why was he still going there?
Seeing the boy’s worried face, Advay asked him if he was okay.
The boy did not understand the relatively unfamiliar string of words.
“It’s just a photo. Don’t be so afraid.”
The boy took a moment before shaking his head. That was not what he was worried about. He knew the in-charge would not jump out of the phone.
Since it had already come to this, Advay concluded he would save nothing by not asking the boy of the black crowd.
“I’ll show you more.” He took his phone and swiped before the boy.
“Do you know them?” When he found clearer pictures, he zoomed in to the faces of the enemies which he caught in the selfie.
The boy looked at the photos. He did not recognize the faces Advay pointed to. But he saw the orphanage in the background.
He wrote down, ‘when,’ after he shook his head.
“When I went there and took photos?”
The boy nodded. “Today.”
The boy’s eyes widened. ‘Why,’ he wrote again.
“What do you mean why? I go there every Saturday… College work… So I should go.”
‘No go.’ He did not know days or college yet, but he figured his response.
“Nothing will happen.” You don’t have a thing to fret as long as you don’t get lost in the books, Advay thought.
The boy looked a little upset. “If I don’t go, they’ll know you are with me and they’ll come for us.” It was simple. Advay hoped the boy got his logic.
After a minute, the boy nodded in affirmation. All he had to do now was learn from the new book without thinking much, he told himself.
Saturday arrived again. Advay was at the orphanage.
“So madam, as you know about my course, this is the later half. I hope you will make the maximum benefit out of this.”
“Okay…” The in-charge seemed troubled everytime Advay came ever since the mute boy went missing.
“I will present a list of things WRO needs. Please prioritize them.” Advay gave her a sheet of paper. It had a list with two boxes beside each, one filled in with a number and the other empty.
“This column is my prioritization. If you think something is more important, feel free to reorganize the numbers in this column,” he stopped at the empty column.
“Please do it by the evening. I can work on them soon.”
“Yeah… I’ll do it.”
They were both sitting in the hall. After the conversation Advay stood up, but the in-charge said quickly, “Do you really not know anything about the boy?”
“Ahh… Actually, I know. I know he is mute, pitiful guy…” Advay sounded offhandish.
“Can he speak?”
“That’s what I said. So how is the search coming along? Where are those scary black clothed people?”
“We did not find him yet…”
“And where are they?”
The lady looked distressed. They group had gone back after telling her to keep looking for clues. They warned her gravely too.
“They went back.”
“Where to?” The lady looked at Advay. Advay continued, “Are there more orphanages under them?”
“I don’t know much,” she ended the topic. She was working for them for almost a decade now and knew some information but why would she tell Advay anything?
“Well, I’ll help if there’s anything. But are you not going to ask the police at all?”
“It’s okay.” She dismissed him once again. Advay did not press anymore.
At the end of the day, the lady did not manage to reorder the priorities. She said some changes were needed and she wanted to think them over.
The next Sunday Advay went to the university after lunch. His friends bugged him to come for the game at least on Sundays because he was bailing out on them all the time. Later they taunted him if he even remembered what ball was in what game and Advay sighed, saying he’d come for the match every Sunday.
The boy was confused with the change of time. Advay, who would usually be in a rush early in the morning, was relaxed that day. The boy thought Advay would not go anywhere like some rare times.
But now he went after lunch. The boy sat with himself after waving a bye to Advay from the balcony. In his new book he had finished six pages. It was a fairly fast progress.
After a while he got bored and looked up, there on the counter was another book waiting for him. Advay had gotten the next level book and a mathematics book too. The boy did not know for whom the math book was or infact, what it even taught. Advay had not said anything about it but handed it to him so he put it in Advay's cupboard.
Once he was done, he’d put them in the cupboard. Until then, the books he was given would be in front of his eyes asking him to learn faster. Advay was displeased about it but the boy knew he acted thick-skulled and got away with it.
He yawned and quickly got back to studying.