1.01 – What is love?
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1.01 - What is love?

“Leo, Leo… where are you? Come out. It’s okay.” A gentle yet tough elderly female voice echoed through a seemingly empty and dirty home, in shambles. No answer came and moments later the woman searched with a concerned and sad expression.  She rooted through the trash-filled living room.  Her lip curled and anger flashed.  Running around the worst patches of it, she lifted her dress’ skirt as she looked behind the furniture which was in disrepair.

 

Her shoes slapped on the hardwood floor, now and again crunching on some other piece of trash, the next crinkling and another squishing.  The concerned aunt didn’t want to think about what produced these last noises.  Desperation gripped her as she left the living room, concluding that Leo wasn’t hiding in the refuse.  Her heart thudded as she dashed along the hallway to a stairway.  “Leo! Please! Respond! I’m here for you!”

A girl hesitantly stepped into the filthy home, tears filling her eyes.  She chewed her lip and her eyes glared.  “M-mom… I’ll help…”

 

The older woman turned and sighed. “I know you don’t want to come into this house.  Please check downstairs. I’ll search above.” Her eyes fixed on her daughter.

 

“Okay… leave it to me!” The girl nodded and gathered herself.  She tiptoed into the living room. Her nose wrinkled as she started looking around the living room.

 

“Not there… I don’t think your cousin is there.  Look in the other rooms.” The woman started up the stairs which were thankfully clear.  She panted and gasped as she climbed to the next floor, where the garbage piles resumed.  She signed again, wiping her forehead.  “Leo! Please! Auntie Goonie is here!”  She thought she heard a small noise up the hallway.

 

She swallowed and kicked paper and bottles while she waded her way through towards where she heard the noise.  It was the master bedroom.  There were more unpleasant squishing noises as she neared the door.  She tried it and it wouldn’t budge. “Damn it!” she cursed in a whisper. “LEO!” she grunted as she tried to force the door open.  It wouldn’t budge.

 

“Aunt…” She heard a weak voice on the other side.  Goonie swallowed hard, gasping.  She grit her teeth and slammed herself against the door.  This was going to leave a horrible bruise on her shoulder.  She could not stop.  Her shoulder slammed repeatedly against the door.  It creaked and screeched as her shoulder rammed forcefully.

 

“Uw… aaaaaaaa!” Leo cried, his voice so weak and tired. “DAMN YOU, ALBERT! Quinn! Come upstairs! Be careful. I might have knocked something down onto the stairs.”

 

“Okay MOM!” The girl yelled back and a clattering echoed up the stairway as she ran up it. 

Goonie continued to ram into the door.  It started to rattle and creak.  “We might have to call the police at this rate… I thought this would be simpler.”

 

“Shouldn’t we?” Quinn panted as she reached the top.

“Not yet… I’m determined,” she responded.

 

“I’ll help then!” Quinn nodded and threw herself at the door.

 

Goonie smiled warmly at her daughter while her shoulder throbbed. “Let’s time it and hit the door together.”

 

Quinn examined the door and tilted her head. “Is he really on the other side?”

“Yes.  Hurry now!” Quinn stiffened and glared but nodded and sighed.

“One, two…. THREE!” Goonie called and threw herself at the door.  Quinn threw herself energetically at the door.  She was eight years old and for her age she was pretty strong since she enjoyed athletics.  The door didn’t budge, but it screeched sharply. “Again!”

 

Goonie ran at the door again, and Quinn rushed with her again.  At that moment, Quinn heard the sobbing coming from the other side.  Determination filled her and she instantly redoubled her effort.  The moment they struck the door, it splintered and slammed into the wall.  The knob embedded into the wall while the two fell into the room.  The inside of the bedroom was filled with liquor bottles and used instant dinner trays.  Cockroaches crawled through the mess. You couldn’t miss their glistening black spindly forms.

 

Goonie collapsed in the mess and Quinn fell to her hands and knees, tears pouring from her eyes.  Her eyes scanned around and she spotted a large chest in the center of the floor.  There was a padlock through the clasp but it wasn’t fastened thankfully.

 

“H-help… please…” Leo sobbed, curling up in the confines of the storage chest.  Goonie snarled and pushed herself to her feet.  Quinn looked to her mother and nodded, rushing ahead to the chest, kicking bottles and cockroaches alike.  They all cried as Quinn wrenched the lock from its clasp and threw the lid open.  A foul odor wafted from inside the chest.  Shock filled her expression as she laid eyes on her cousin, her heart trembling.  Goonie reached into the chest and with seeming supernatural strength, she lifted the small form within free. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, sobbing.

 

“You’ll be okay now, Leo! Are you okay?” Goonie hugged the boy so gently yet surely.

 

Quinn looked up, her tears falling. “Cousin!” She reached up and patted his back while he sobbed and clung to Auntie Goonie. His stomach growled so loudly the two could hear it.

 

“Let’s get you some food right away.  Someone is very hungry.” Goonie held Leo who snuggled against his aunt, crying.

 

“Can I stay with you tonight, Auntie?” Leo sniffled.

 

“No.  Forever, if I get my way.” She glared. “You’ll never go hungry again, Leo.” She stroked the boy’s hair. She started downstairs with the boy in her arms. Quinn angrilly kicked an empty whiskey bottle before running after them.

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