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It was getting dark.
Stars had appeared on the sky as sunset slowly waned to dusk. Theo knew that it wasn't long before the skies turned indigo. He had sat back next to her again, and he lost track of time of how long they'd been like that in silence. But he wasn't bothered by it. In fact, he kind of like it.
He looked at her, whose eyes were focused in front of them. Her eyes were anchored to every sight that it could touch — the ocean, the sky; the sand, the birds that flew by. And suddenly he wondered if she was merely an element of the beach as well. A force of nature herself.
He shook the thought out of his head.
“Why are you doing this?”
Lenny startled, turning to him. “What?”
“Helping us,” he clarified, biting off the words helping me. “Not long ago, we were complete strangers to you. We still are.”
She let out a light chuckle. His eyes flickered over her face, trying to get a sense of where she was at. “Honestly? I'm not sure. Can't people simply just care about one another for the sake of it? Can't we just look out for each other without expecting anything in return?”
“That's a hard concept to live by.”
“I didn't say it was easy.” She shrugged. “But it's worth a try.”
He gave her the comfort of leaving it alone, but his thoughts were already in a whirlwind. In another life, that could be possible — offering kindness, out of kindness. But not in this one.
In a world where people could be as cruel and vain as they would be good and kind, where anger and ignorance could always win, he just found it too hard to believe. Too good to be true.
And that was the problem about her, he realised. People like her were the ones who could easily break; who couldn't survive in the real world because they only chose to see the good parts. People like her depended too much on humanity, and that hope was going to break them.
Life could be cruel.
It was the reason he came here. To a new place and start over.
And when she would come to the harsh realisation that the world and the people in it couldn't be fixed by smiles and sunshine... he hoped he wouldn't be there for the aftermath.
“It's getting late,” Lenny whispered, her voice like a caress in the wind.
“Yeah.” He stood up and wiped the sand off his clothes. “I better get back to, uh, your shack. My brother needs me. It was cowardly of me to run away.”
“You're not a coward.” She met his stance as she got up. “And your brother's already at your apartment by now. Zach took care of him.”
His eyes widened. “Zach came?”
“Right after you left.”
Great. Just like the old days. Things never changed, did they?
When Theo looked at her again, he was surprised to find that Lenny's eyes were on him. He cleared his throat. “That's great.”
She only smiled. “Well, until we meet again, stranger.”
Theo opened his mouth, wanting to say something, but no words came out. He stared at her walking away for a few seconds before noticing which direction she was talking. It wasn't Anchor's.
“Wait, you're walking home?”
“Uh, yeah?” Her lips twitched in amusement. “It's right up the street.”
Yeah, pass the entire road of the District. “I'll walk with you.”
She let out a laugh. “It's fine, really, but thank you — ”
“I'm heading that way as well.” It was a half lie. Passing the District meant taking a few longer turns. But he didn't tell her that. He'd feel guilty if something happened to her.
Lenny cocked her head, looking up at him. He was taller than her, but even then, he felt like she was the one who had the upper hand.
“Okay,” she caved in. “After you, then.”
The District was slowly coming to life.
When he first arrived in the small town, he and Zach immediately went to the hotspot that everyone was talking about. It was a long street of endless rows of restaurants, bars and clubs, providing the town's visitors and locals all the entertainment they could ever wished for.
Late-night restos raged on; countless bars thrummed with music; neon signs from thrift shops and clubs flickered against the growing night. There were less cars on the streets and more people walking around, looking for their next escapade.
It was like the moment the sun went down, the streets came alive.
Theo glanced at the girl beside him.
She was completely at awe. Every time a group of people laughed nearby, or a random pantomime stopped in front of them, or a street musician serenaded, she would look there. She'd look everywhere. Completely entranced.
Lenny noticed him glancing at her.