Prologue – Hermes
“Wake up.” A gentle nudge. “Wake up.” The sweet voice whispers the words in my ear again. “He’s here for you.”
I sit up. Rub my eyes with knuckles. Try to snap my eight-year-old brain to full wakefulness. “Huh? Who is?”
Hara is sitting beside me on the bed. Neither Giorgos nor Elias seem to have heard her; their gentle snoring fills the room. Her room is next door, the girls’ room, though she’s the only girl here now, since Aspa left last week.
Hara’s green eyes are wide in the strip of light slicing in from the hallway, as she points at the darkest corner in the room, by the closet. “He’s right there. He’ll take you to a better place.”
A chill runs down my spine.
“That’s a very spooky way of putting it,” says a deep, male voice from where Hara is pointing at.
Before I know I’m moving, I throw my body in front of her.
“That was fast.” She tugs at my sleeve.
I shrug. Sometimes I do things faster or better than other kids can. Maybe faster or better than adults can. I don’t know if I can beat the man in the corner if he tries to hurt me or Hara, but I’ll try. I’ve lost my two front teeth this week, the top ones, so I can’t bite him like I did to Elias on Christmas, when he tried to steal the small Lego set our foster parents got me, but I can scratch him.
“I mean you no harm,” the man says. He takes a step forward, and I can make out his face. He has no wrinkles, but his hair is completely white. Like my grandpa’s might be if I had one. He’s wearing a suit, like I’ve seen rich men on TV wear, and he seems nice.
I’ve heard scary stories from the other kids, about people who seem nice but aren’t really. So far, I’ve been lucky. That’s what they all tell me. Lucky I ended up here early on, since this is a good couple that really loves children. Lucky I wasn’t stuck in an orphanage for years. I’d feel luckier if I remembered my parents or knew what happened to them.
The man takes a step closer. He smiles sweetly and holds out both hands. “Come with me, Hermes. Your forever-family is waiting, and you’ll never again feel like you don’t belong. Fate has glorious things in store for you, my boy.”
Hara puts a warm hand on my shoulder. “You should go with him.”
I want to. I want to believe his promises, and he doesn’t make me feel scared at all. Not like the mailman, who always pinches my cheek a little too hard. But I can’t leave Hara behind. In the two weeks she’s been here, she’s become the best friend I ever had.
“You’ll see her again. I promise.” The man wiggles his fingers, and I put my hand in his. “Let’s go,” he says.
“My stuff?” I don’t have many clothes, but the red pants are my favorite, and I’m only the second boy to ever wear them. Plus, I want my Legos.
He shakes his head and crouches down, so he’s at my eye level. “I’ll get you new clothes. New toys. Anything your heart desires. I’m sorry I didn’t come for you sooner, but I’ll make it up to you.”
There’s a glow under his skin, and his gray eyes shine. He not like other men. More like the superheroes in the comics Giorgos buys when he’s saved up enough coins. Or a supervillain? Those exist too, although they always lose to the good guys.
I study his face. His smile is soft, and I don’t sense even a hint of a threat. If anything, his glow is warming. I bite the inside of my cheek. “Will you be my new dad?” Maybe I can be superhero too.
He ruffles my hair with his free hand, and then straightens. “More like a grandfather, but I’ll be the best grandfather a little boy could ever have.”