S O L A C E
He sat on the porch, his back against the pillar, knees pulled up to his chest. His eyes were closed and there was a remote look on his face that I'd been seeing more and more often these past few days. The cap that used to sit on his head so jauntily now lay forlornly by his feet. Everything about him spoke of sorrow and heartache and I was at my wits' end, not knowing what to do for this dearest and oldest of my friends.
How did one comfort a friend who was mourning the death of his beloved grandfather? What words did one say? Could we tell him that we understood? I didn't think so, because we didn't really understand the depth of pain and loss and the sense of loneliness that Tyson was feeling. We couldn't even come close enough, though Gramps had been dearly loved by us all.
Could we tell him that it was all right to cry? Hilary had tried it. She'd grabbed hold of Tyson, crying 'Go on, let it out…cry, dammit,' and the rest of us had stood by awkwardly, half dreading he would listen to her. He didn't. He just held her gently while she sobbed her heart out.
All we could do was hang around him, letting him know that we were there for him, that he was not alone. Hiro had told us to let him be and we did just that. Maybe all he needed was time and space. But time went by and space didn't seem to work its magic. He grew more quiet and withdrawn. It wasn't that he actively shunned our company; he just never sought us out like he used to, instead preferring to be alone. Even his once legendary appetite was now practically non-existent. There was an aura of fragility and vulnerability about him, which warned us to keep our distance. We tiptoed around him, wondering when he'd break down. Things couldn't go on like this for much longer. Tyson had to let go. He had been holding on for weeks now, since the night of Gramps' death.
I remembered that frantic midnight phonecall Tyson had made to my place weeks back, remembered rushing over with Hilary, trying to help Hiro with the funeral arrangements while Tyson sat there with the blank look of shock on his face. Between us, Hilary and I had managed to contact our friends and acquaintances. Max and Ray had been in town and had come over immediately. As for Kai…all I had was a contact number which Mr. Dickenson had provided. Kai hadn't been there. So I'd left a message, hoping he'd get it soon.
Once the initial shock had worn off, Tyson had rallied around. The funeral had gone off without a hitch and he had seemed genuinely comforted by our presence even though I had seen the disappointment on his face when I'd told him I hadn't been able to get hold of Kai. But Max, Hilary, Ray and I were there and that had been enough.
Or maybe not.
I studied him for a while as he sat there on the porch, and decided that even if he wouldn't share his grief with me, I could at least keep him company.
He opened his eyes and turned his head a fraction to look at me.
I sat down beside him and opened my laptop. I always thought best when I was staring at my computer screen.
'I've finished with Dragoon. D'you want to try it?'
Maybe beyblading would help. There was nothing Tyson loved more than his Dragoon . And wasn't it true that love brought solace in times of grief? I watched him carefully. His eyes closed briefly and an odd expression flitted across his face. His fingers curled as if….as if he was trying to hold something. Hold Dragoon…..? I held my breath.
And then he shook his head.
'Max and Ray are out in the back practising. Hilary is also there. Why don't you join them?'
'I really don't feel like it, Kenny.'
I knew better than to push him. So I said nothing more but let him return to his thoughts while I went back to my work.
We must have sat there in fairly companionable silence for quite a while.The afternoon wore off, shadows lengthened as the sun moved westward. Suddenly a shadow fell across the courtyard and a voice called out, 'Tyson…'
A well-remembered voice.
I looked up in surprise. It was Kai.
He stood by the entrance to the courtyard, looking tired and travel-worn, a battered rucksack slung over a shoulder. He looked so unlike the Kai we all knew, his face devoid of its war paint, his clothes rumpled as if he'd been living in them for a while. And there he stood, watching us with an expression of uncertainty, as if not knowing what to expect.
I turned towards Tyson. He too had looked up at the sound of his name and was staring at Kai, but with the same detached look on his face.
'Tyson, it's Kai!' I said helpfully.
Tyson's face slowly crumbled.
'Kai….?' His voice was a whisper.
'I'm sorry. I got the message only last night and I came as soon as I could,' Kai was explaining. But I doubt Tyson heard a single word. He was up and running towards Kai.
'Kai….….. you're here …..….'
And then his arms were around Kai, holding on to him as if he were a lifeline. The bag slipped off Kai's shoulder and fell down where it lay unheeded. There was an awkward moment of hesitation before Kai's own arms closed around Tyson.
The truth finally hit me.
I couldn't see their faces but I knew that the tears Hilary had been waiting for were finally being shed, soaked up by Kai's shirt. I saw Kai stroking Tyson's back in a comforting gesture, awkward but tender. It was all I needed to see.
I got up and turned to leave the two of them, my heart feeling lighter than before. Kai was here now. Tyson was going to be all right.