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It was cold here. I liked it. It was different to what I was used to. Everything here was different than what I was used to. Everything was going to be different.
I took a deep breath as I pulled the blanket tighter around my body to block out the brisk cold air. It was kind of hard to block out the cold considering the shivers I felt ran through my bones and not my skin.
“Everything okay, Noah?” Mrs. Hamilton asked. I’d only met Mrs. Hamilton not fifteen minutes ago but I instinctively knew that she was a good person. I could tell from looking into her light green eyes that she had a kind soul.
I nodded and gave Mrs. Hamilton a small smile. I wasn’t in the mood to talk but I didn’t want her to think that I didn’t like her.
I couldn’t remember the last time I spoke. I do, however, remember the last few times I used my voice. I used it to scream and yell, not for a day, not for a week, but for months. I’d over used it and now, my voice had become hoarse and scratchy. It took a lot out of me to even say a simple word like, “hi,” so forming complete sentences was out of the question.
I took a look inside the car for the first time. It was relatively clean. There was a pile of blankets folded onto the seat next to me just in case I needed more. What I really needed, was my small backpack that held my few belongings.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were holding hands and whispering softly to each other. They both looked worried but happy.
Mr. Hamilton and I made eye contact through the rearview mirror and he bounced in his seat and in a booming voice said, “So, Noah,” For a man that looked the way he did, he didn’t have a deep voice, it was just…loud. He had a thick beard and had a large build. He wore a leather jacket and a toque. “Is this your first time seeing snow?”
I smiled and shook my head. At first, I thought that would be enough but I saw the excitement in Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton’s eyes fade. It made me uneasy, so I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. “It snowed in Syria as well,” I rasped. “Bu…but wh…wh...” I grew embarrassed as I wheezed instead of spoke.
“It’s okay, Noah,” Mr. Hamilton said in a soft comforting voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a singer. He sounded like one. Even his words had melody to it. Every noise he made sounded like a lullaby. “You don’t have to talk.”
No. I didn’t, but I wanted to. I was tired of keeping quiet or yelling. It seemed like those where the only two things I’ve done for months. When I wasn’t screaming for my family, I was silent when the militants were near.
“When it snowed in Syria,” I continued. “The snow would melt right after it hit the ground. I liked it when it snowed.”
“Well,” Mrs. Hamilton cheered clapping her hands and rubbing them together. “You’ll love the weather here. When the snow hits the ground, it tends to stay on the ground for a long time. You can make snowmen and snow angels.” Mrs. Hamilton tapped her index finger to her chin in thought. “Oh what else can we do dear?” she asked her husband.
“We can have snowball fights,” Mr. Hamilton said laughing. “You and I can gang up and Elena, Noah.” That made Mrs. Hamilton giggle and lean over to kiss he husband’s cheek. “We can also go tobogganing, if you like.”
I nodded at him in agreement. Those things sounded fun.
“Look,” Mrs. Hamilton said pointing outside. “That’s the CN tower.”
It looked huge. I had to press my face up against the window to get a view of the entire thing. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton had promised me that they’d take me there sometime this week, after I settle in.
My older brother Omar would’ve loved the architectural structure of the buildings here. He was an architect major and he dedicated his life to it. He was so passionate about it. It was his dream to one day travel to Dubai or America and help make large buildings that people loved and lived in. That people on the street would look up at in awe.
Omar didn’t just love new and modern buildings, he loved old ones too. “These hold stories, Noah,” he told me a few years ago as we made our way back home from the market. “These were made hundreds of years ago and they’re still here. They’re rich in culture. They hold memories. It’s beautiful.”
His love for the buildings and their structures died when the terrorists bombed the buildings shattering Omar’s hope and dreams along with the rubble.
The buildings here had life, they had hope. Omar would’ve loved it.
It seemed like everyone here was in a good mood. It was about two weeks after Christmas but some people still had their lights up. It was beautiful.
“We’re here,” Mr. Hamilton said stopping the car in front of a large two story house. Why did two people need such a huge house?
“Thank you, Mr. Hamilton,” I murmured.
Mr. Hamilton turned around in his seat to face me. “You don’t have to keep calling us Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton,” he said with a kind tone. “You can call us Alan and Elena.”
“Or dad and mom,” Mrs. – Elena added. “But whenever you’re ready and only if you want to.”
I nodded and pulled the blanket closer towards me. I don’t know if I could do it. My mom and dad were spectacular parents’ who lost their lives protecting Omar and I. They’d freely given it for us, without a second thought. “All I want is for you to live your life, baby,” my mother had said with her tears in her eyes.
“Why are you crying mom?” I’d asked. I didn’t understand what was happening at first. I looked at the front of the house and saw Omar crying over our father, who laid still on top of a pool of his blood and the blood of the militant he managed to kill whilst protecting us. I was only eight at the time. I still didn’t have it wrapped around my head about what was going on. I thought my dad was just being silly because he liked to do that. He loved pranking Omar and I all the time. “What’s dad doing this time,” I asked my mom giggling.
“He’s just sleeping a bit,” my mom said coughing. Blood sprayed out of her mouth when she coughed but I thought it was some of the fruit punched she loved to drink so much. She loved drinking it so much that she even spilt some on her tummy. “I’m going to go to sleep too, soon,” she said brushing away the fruit punch from her lips and wiping her tears.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” I’d asked getting worried. Daddy never went still for this long. He was always moving and playing with Omar and I. He liked to grab us, throw us in the air and catch us at the last possible moment before we hit the ground.
“Mom,” Omar cried coming to hug our mom. Our mom winced but she hugged him back harder and tighter than he hugged her. Our mom grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me into the hug as well. “Mom, please don’t go,” Omar sobbed.
Seeing Omar cry made me cry because Omar never cried unless he was really hurt, like the time he broke his wrist trying to climb a tree. I was crying but I didn’t know what for. Everything was fine.
Our mom pulled us away and smiled. She needed to go out to the sun a bit more because she looked a little pale and I know how much my mom loved looking tan and being out in the sun.
“I love you boys,”
“We love you too,” Omar and I said at the same time.
“Promise me you’ll be safe,” she said holding our cheeks in both her palms. “Promise me you’ll look after one another and protect each other and stay together?” Omar and I nodded and promised. “Promise me you’ll live on and try to have a nice life in a new place.” Once again, we promised. “Help me get up and walk over to your father,” our mom requested.
It took time, but we finally helped our mom up and move her over to our dad. She then laid herself beside our father and put her head over his heart. “I’ll be right there,” she whispered to him. “I love you boys so much,” she said closing her eyes.
That was the first time I started screaming. For hours I just sat there, shaking my parents’ unresponsive bodies, yelling and pleading for them to wake up.
See, that was why I didn’t want to call Elena and Alan mom and dad. Sure, I liked them and they were kind, but they weren’t anything like my mom and dad. No one could ever be them or replace them.
“Okay, let’s get you all set up,” Elena said bringing my attention to the present. She opened her door and slide out of the car. The clock in the car read 9:03pm.
I followed after Elena and opened my door too. Alan was already at the trunk pulling out my bag. “There you go, champ,” he said handing it over to me.
Elena came up behind me and put her arm over my shoulder. “I know you must be tired,” she said looking down at me. “We have everything set up for you in your room. You can sleep in as long as you want and when you wake up, we can do anything you like.”
“Okay,” I approved.
Alan and Elena showed me my room and promised to show me the rest of the house tomorrow morning. My room had a bed, a desk, a computer, a swivel chair, a drawer and an attached bathroom.
“Let us know if you need anything else,” Alan said as he pulled his wife out of the room to give me privacy.
“Thank you,” I breathed before they could leave the room.
“No need to thank us,” Alan said smiling softly at me.
Taking a shower took longer than I expected. One minute, I was just taking a shower to get clean and go to sleep and the next minute, I was taking a shower to wipe away the horrors of war. Maybe if I rubbed my skin raw, it would erase all the tragic images that floated behind my eyelids every time I closed my eyes.
It didn’t. No amount of water could cleanse the ache of watching everyone you loved die, all because a crazy group of people wanted power and control.
I finally turned off the tap when the water felt like it was burning my skin. Alan and Elena had laid out my pajamas on my bed. They were comfortable and warm.
I grabbed my backpack and threw it on the bed.
This would be the first time I’d open it after leaving Syria. In it contained Omar’s necklace. It was just a silver chain necklace but he treasured it. I never understood why. It was what he gave me with trembling bloody hands, a brave smile and encouraging last words.
Also in the bag, contained my parents’ wedding rings. When they had passed Omar had been smart enough to grab this very bag and fill it with things we’d need, such as food and bottled water, and things we’d treasure like family heirlooms, our parents’ Qurans and their diaries. He even took the wedding bands from their bodies. I yelled at him for doing that. I pleaded with him to leave things as they were but he’d been resistant. I’m glad he did it now. I’m grateful he didn’t listen to me, because now, I have something, physical things, to remember my family by.
The happiness of my early childhood was shoved in this bag. Other than my life, it was the thing I am most grateful for.
I slipped Omar’s necklace through my parents’ rings and hung it around my neck. It must’ve seemed silly but it made me feel safe. It made me feel like mom, dad and Omar we’re okay. It made me feel warm. I kissed the rings and help them tight in my fist and let sleep consume me.
Waking up the next morning was a bit strange. It was the first time in a long time I woke up without nightmares. I had to orientate myself with where I was because everything was so different.
“You’re up!” Elena cheered as she opened the bedroom door. “Did you want to join us for breakfast or do you want to go back to sleep. I know you must be tired.”
“I’ll have breakfast if that’s okay,” I said shyly as my stomach rumbled.
“Of course it is sweetie,” Elena smiled as she pushed her hair behind her ears. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
Breakfast was nice. It allowed me to know Elena and Alan more. They were very kind, funny and intelligent. I could tell that they really liked me and they were trying their hardest to make me like them as well.
I was watching television with Elena while Alan washed the dishes when I heard screams coming from outside. All of a sudden, I felt like I was back home in the middle of a ceasefire. I curled myself into a ball and closed my eyes.
I must’ve screamed because when I felt warms arms holding me, I opened my eyes to see Alan and Elena holding me and whispering soft words into my ears.
“They’re just playing,” Alan said. “It’s our neighbours; they’re having a snowball fight. Want to go see?”
I slowly nodded and grabbed Alan’s offered hand as he lead me to the window to watch as about ten kids and five adults played around in the snow, hitting each other with balls of snow.
As the tremor and fear I felt faded away, I looked up at Alan and asked, “Can we go play?”
If I was to move on, why not start now? Why delay it? I know it’s what my family would’ve wanted.
“Sure,” Alan said ruffling my hair. “Anything you want.”
For the first time in a long time, I truly smiled. Not because I felt like someone needed to see me smile or because I had to smile as a form of communication, but because I wanted to, because, I was happy.
I had hope.
I was safe.
Hi Lovely Ladies! Thank you so much for reading this!! I really hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know what you thought of the first chapter!