Diya hated that she was late yet again. The man who had offered her a place to stay was always understanding but he had been giving her and her daughter a home rent free purely out of the kindness of his heart and she hated it ever looking like she was taking advantage of his kindness. She still didn’t know why he offered to help a homeless mother or watched her daughter without expecting a penny but she planned on making him a nice dinner to make up for the rude customers that had stayed so long after the restaurant closed. When she walked in there was blood everywhere and a strange man talking to her daughter. The mama bear inside her took over and she ran at the man. She heard her daughter Melody yell “mommy no!” but she still tried to land a blow. The man seemed to catch her with ease, taking her by the wrists firmly but still not hurting her “listen please”
“yeah mom, listen” Melody said a little shakily. Diya looked over at the destroyed corpse of the man who had shown her so much kindness when she needed it most. She felt selfish but a dominant thought in her head was where would she and her daughter stay now? Back on the streets? They certainly had nowhere else to go and they couldn’t afford this apartment. “Diya, thats your name right?” The strange mans words made her look back at him “yes, who are you and why…why have you done this. Why is my daughter on your side?”
“I spend my time finding, following and killing pedophiles…this man…this man was a monster. Normally I like to make these cases missing person instead of leaving a murder scene but I had to act when I did. His behavior was escalating, he was going to go through with raping your daughter. I found him online, hes been making your daughter pose nude and sharing them with the other disgusting people on the web. Thats how I found him. I hate those places but I’m in them to stop monsters like him. I’ve been watching a few days, waiting for the perfect time to cause him to go missing but then I saw him trying to force himself on Melody so I had to kill him right here. Ask your daughter”
“Melody baby…is this true?” Melody nodded, tears in her eyes “but honey…why didn’t you tell me he was taking pictures of you”
“I didn’t know he was doing something bad. You have me smile for pictures all the time. I didn’t know being naked made it different” A tear slipped out of Diyas eyes “let me go, let me hug her” Romanus did and Diya scooped Melody up into her arms “Oh baby, I’m so sorry”
“Diya?” Romanus said.
“What? What’s going to happen to us?”
“I need you to come with me.”
“Because I need to call the police and I don’t want them to think you killed him. You can stay with me and when they get in touch with you about your daughter, you can tell them you were visiting me.”
“It’s alright, I promise you’ll be safe. You can tell them I’m your boyfriend, it’ll make the visit more believable.”
“You’d really do all this…for complete strangers…” Diya asked emotionally, her mind reeling. “I will gladly tell you my story when you two are in my home. I know you may have a harder time trusting seemingly random kindness now that you know why he let you two stay with him. I want you to stay in my home without stress that I’d ever hurt you or even think of hurting your daughter”
“Mom lets go, I don’t want to be here any more” Her daughters voice was so pleading that Diya finally went with him, no more questions or resisting. Her daughter needed to leave and this man had just murdered someone on their behalf. He had already made them both a bag so he took them to his home straight away then made the call before saying “I apologize for the blood on your daughter. Please, use my bathroom. I know she’ll feel better clean. I would have cleaned her up while we waited on you but I assumed she was done with men touching her for the evening”
“would you like my story before you go? That way you can stay here without worry as to why I’d help people I don’t know”
“I want to know” Melody answered so Diya said “if you would like to tell us”
“My father saw me and saw a means to make money. I’m more beautiful than handsome and even was so as a boy. My father would sell sex with me for any price so I spent my life being molested over and over until I got strong enough to kill my father. It was truly the only way to make it stop. I made it my life to try and spare other children the pain I suffered at so many mens hands. Nothing can erase what happened to me but I’m happy I can spare children like Melody…so she’ll never feel as broken and scared as I did. I promise, the second I saw him forcing her down I intervened. I didn’t allow a thing to happen”
Diya stood there with her hand covering her mouth, feeling a sick twist in her stomach and an ache in her chest at the innocent little boy he had been. There was a brief flash of shame in his eyes and she wanted to hug him, but wasn’t sure if she should. “I…I’m so sorry…”
“Romanus and please, I’m fine, really.” He gave her a smile, but it looked almost sad. “Go and get your daughter cleaned, I’ll make you something to eat.”
“Alright, thank you again.”
“Of course, no child should suffer at the hands of a monster.”
Diya lifted Melody and took her to the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub and starting the water. She tested it then switched on the shower. She put her down, getting the blood soaked clothes off of her as quickly as possible and helping her into the tub. “I’m okay momma.” Melody said.
“I’m so, so sorry baby, I should have known something was off, I…” She wanted to curl up and cry, wanted to scream, wanted to go back and kill that man herself. She helped her daughter get clean then switched off the water, dried her, and wrapped her in a towel. “Come on baby.” She said as she lifted her daughter.
Melody already seemed alright and it bore hope in Diya that she was young enough to not fully understand what might have happened to her if Romanus hadn’t been watching them. She wanted her to understand that nobody should be taking naked pictures of her but a five year old didn’t need to know about rape. Diya grabbed the bag Romanus had made them then pulled out pajamas for Melody since her bedtime had already passed. She needed to eat dinner then get some rest. Melody hugged her mother after Diya slid her pajama top on “don’t look so sad, he only hurt me a little bit” Diya could barely hold back her tears “I know baby…please, if anybody asks to take naked pictures of you tell me right away. Nobody should see you naked besides me”
Romanus set dinner on the table then called the police. He wanted them to have as little involvement as possible in the cover up so he was glad the two of them weren’t in the room yet. With Melody being such a young child he also didn’t want her making noise in the background during the call.
Diya took Melody to brush her teeth once she finished eating then took her to bed, sitting with her until there was a tap on the door and Romanus pushed it open. “Sorry to intrude, I just wanted to tell you the police are on their way over there.”
Diya looked down at Melody who was already sleeping so got up slowly and she and Romanus stepped out. “Are they going to know you’re the one who tipped them off?”
“No, but they’ll probably call your cell once they find his body.”
Diya swallowed. “What do I tell them?”
“That I’m your boyfriend, that you’ve been here visiting me with Melody. Just let them know how shocked and horrified you are. I’m sure they’ll want to question you both in person, but it’ll be alright, I promise.”
“I can’t believe this is happening? What are we going to do?” She felt tears in her eyes again and Romanus hesitantly reached out, wanting to comfort her. He was a little surprised when she stepped into him and he hugged her.
“You two can stay here for as long as you need.”
“Thank you…I…I can’t stand the thought of what might have happened to her and she doesn’t deserve to be homeless. I promise, we’ll leave as soon as we can. I’ve saved a good bit of money. I wanted to have more so we wouldn’t end up right back where we started but” she was bawling too hard now for even Romanus to understand her so he just held her, hoping he was giving Diya any comfort at all. He tried to offer comforting words “Nothing happened and nothing ever will happen to her okay. I’ll always watch out for you two” He was surprised at his own words. He normally didn’t stick to watching one particular family once the threat was gone but he felt a need inside him to protect the two of them.
Even when they left his home he knew he wouldn’t be able to help going to check on them every now and then, making sure they were living a secure life. Romanus stroked her hair and she slowly dried her tears “I’m so sorry” Diya said when she stepped back “its alright, you just love your little girl. It seems the two of you had already been through so much when that predator offered his help Diya nodded “but what we’ve been through is nothing compared to your past so don’t worry about us. I’ll try not to break down like that again”
“Cry as much as you need to, I don’t mind, it’s understandable. You’re scared of what happened to Melody and of being tossed out onto the streets, but I promise that no matter what, you won’t have to live like that again. I’m not much, but I hope we can be friends at least.”
She sniffled. “You’re too kind, thank you so much.” He gently stroked her hair again, unable to help himself. He started to say something else when her cell went off, startling her. She pulled it out and answered it. It was the police. They had apparently found her number on the list pinned to the refrigerator. She looked up at Romanus who gave her a reassuring smile. It wasn’t hard to act shocked at what they told her and she started crying all over again so Romanus had to take the phone from her. He spoke to the officer and suggested that they come to his home where both Diya and Melody could be comfortable while they talked. He thanked the officer after a few more minutes and hung up.
“They’ll be over tomorrow afternoon. They want to give you guys a bit of breathing room, but they want to make sure Melody’s okay.”
“They’re not going to take her are they?”
“No, of course not. You didn’t know and I won’t let that happen, I promise.” He handed her her phone. “Would you like to go relax or maybe something to drink? I could make you some tea and put on a movie?”
“Tea would be so nice, a movie probably would too just so I can stop thinking about it.”
“Come look at the different teas I have. I have quite a few so I’m bound to have one you particularly like”
“You must drink it a lot then” she said as he began to guide her “It’s calming for me, sometimes I need it to continue my work. Going through those sites can be hard. Tea is also the calm that helps me wait to normally make things like that a case for the missing person department” They were soon at the cabinet he kept his tea. She looked them over, deciding on black cherry. He took it down and spoke again “I actually have some cake in the fridge that goes really well with this”
“do you want some too? I can cut off a slice for each of us”
It made Romanus feel normal making tea and sitting down to cake and a little awkward as he wasn’t really sure what to talk about. They sat there for a few minutes in silence until Diya asked, “So, do you do anything outside of catching bad men?”
“Not really, I read, but I don’t really have any friends and as far as family, well…you know.”
“Please don’t apologize. If there’s anything you’d like to do though, please let me know. I’ll take you anywhere.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to. Besides, friends hang out right? I’m sure you don’t want to spend all day every day in here.”
“That would be really nice” Diya felt the smallest pang of happiness at the thought. She got along with the people she worked with and had acquaintances but Romanus would be the first real friend she had had outside the internet in a long time. They actually stayed there in the kitchen with their tea and cake instead of going to watch a movie right away. Diya was curious about her daughters savior and Romanus found himself more and more curious about this beautiful human woman and her daughter. He kept the topics light despite his curiosity of how a woman so obviously kind and warm could end up so alone that her only place to stay was with a complete stranger.
He had only been watching for about two weeks and only just started talking to her today but he had always been able to tell what sort of being everyone was when he met them. It was an intuition he guessed he had been born with or was brought to him by abuse since he had read in several books a common trait abused beings acquire is the ability to read others. He knew Diya was a good woman and good people didn’t deserve to be so desperate someone like that man could take advantage.
Diya was starting to worry she had done or said something wrong. His face seemed a little more serious now so she spoke “Um…would you like to pick a movie now?” He gave her a small smile that settled some of her anxiety. “sure”
She followed him into the living room and he gestured to one of the bookshelves. “Those are all the dvd’s I have, but I also have Netflix and Hulu if you want to look on there instead.”
“Thank you.” He nodded and she looked through his movies, pulling down Tropic Thunder. “Is this okay?” She asked. “I kind of need funny right now.”
“Whatever you want, Diya, I want you comfortable and happy.”
“But you’ll be watching too.”
“Whatever it is, I know I’ll enjoy it.”
She gave him a smile and for a moment he was frozen by how it lit up her face, how her eyes seemed to dance with amusement. “You’re easy to please aren’t you?”
“Yes.” He managed, trying to get his heart under control. What was wrong with him? “Would you like more tea before we sit down?”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
Romanus was glad to have a reason to walk out and take a moment. Another being had never made him feel like that before. Due to his childhood he had spent his life not even thinking he would be capable of having a relationship but somehow, this woman he had only just met was making him feel something. He poured each of them more tea, took a couple calming breaths and returned to her. Diya already had the movie in. It was playing through the commercials before you get to the main menu “thank you” she said gratefully as she took her cup “you’re welcome” he wanted to sit close so he did his best to be near her without being uncomfortably near her on the couch.
It felt good to sit there and laugh, to just for a few moments forget everything that had happened. Romanus had to force himself to keep his eyes on the TV. Her beautiful laughter caused his heart to dance and every time she accidentally nudged him he felt his skin heat. When the movie was over, she let out a little sigh and actually dropped her head on his shoulder and he swallowed nervously. “Is this alright?” She asked.
“Yeah, of course.” He didn’t know how he managed to sound so normal.
“I’m just tired. Thank you for being so sweet.”
“It’s nothing, really. Would you like to go to bed?”
“I should, I don’t want to, but I know I need to.” She had her eyes closed. “You just…make me feel so safe.”
“Come on Diya, let’s get you to bed.” He got her to her feet and lead her to the room Melody was sleeping in. “My room is right next to yours so if you need me, please come and get me or call for me and I’ll come running.”
“Thank you again, Romanus.”
He wanted to thank her in return for making him feel this way but he knew it would sound weird. He also didn’t want to explain it quite yet. Her daughter was almost raped not twenty four hours ago, turning her world upside down. She needed a friend and he’d be that as long as she needed. “I hope you rest well” Diya hugged him, lingering in it before going to lay with her soundly sleeping daughter. Romanus went straight to his own room and settled in for the night. He often had nightmares but she had brought him so much calm that it was her that occupied his dreams, not the attackers of his youth. It was only when Melody dropped a glass in the kitchen the next morning that he woke. He didn’t know what had happened at first so he raced out, worried about the two of them.
Melody looked almost scared of him “I’m sorry” he looked at the floor where she stood “oh, no, it’s alright. I was just worried something happened. Dish’s are easily replaceable”
“go sit down Melody, I’ll clean that up”
“No, I’ll clean it” Romanus said now that he noticed she was cooking “are you sure? I feel kind of crappy having you clean up one of your dish’s that we broke”
“she is little, it happens and you’re making breakfast. It will only take me a moment and I don’t want either of you getting cut”
Melody looked like she felt bad as she sat waiting for breakfast and once Romanus was sure he had every sliver off the floor and dumped in the trash he went and squatted down in front of her, giving her a gentle smile. “Did you see how many glasses I have, Melody?” She nodded. “So one broken one isn’t so bad, it’s okay, I promise. Glasses can be easily replaced, all I have to do is go to the store.”
He stood back up and turned back to Diya, his face heating when he realized he was being watched. “Um, would you like me to pour drinks?”
Diya snapped to attention. She had been so amazed by how good Romanus was with Melody that she had gotten distracted. “Oh, yeah, thanks.”
“It’s no problem, really.” He pulled down two coffee cups and another glass for Melody. “Are you ready for the police today?”
“Yeah, I was explaining to Melody that we’re going to have to not tell them about you saving her. I hate having to make her lie, but I know I have to.”
“I know, but once you’re in the clear, then you can start over without worry.”
Diya concentrated on breakfast, not wanting to let her mind wander again through all the things that might have happened to her daughter because she had been too blind to see that she was living with a pedophile. She served all three of them some then sat down, readying herself to talk to the police. Once the cops arrived at Romanus’s home they all sat in the living room, Melody in Diya’s lap. The cops were gentle with Diya and Melody as they questioned them, obviously feeling bad for them based on what they had discovered so far. When the meeting came to an end the older cop gave Diya a card “Although he didn’t assault Melody, some kids can still struggle emotionally based on the pictures he made her pose for. Call us if she’s having any trouble, we know a good kids psychiatrist”
“we’re glad you two weren’t in the home the night he was murdered.” the younger officer added. They left and Diya felt relief “they believe us, yay!” Melody said cheerfully. Diya kissed her head “thank goodness they do.” she looked at Romanus “I’d hate for your kindness to be repaid by them taking you off to jail”
“lets do something fun. You two shouldn’t think about this any more”
“can we go to my favorite park?” Melody asked.
Diya looked at Romanus. “Of course.” He answered.
“Would you mind taking me to the store so I can get us some cookies or something? I think we need something sweet after all that.”
“How about we go to a bakery, I’ll buy you whatever you want.”
“Romanus, you don’t have to do that.”
“I want to, please?”
She smiled and his heart danced. “Alright.”
Diya helped Melody get ready as Romanus waited nervously, trying to process his emotions. He had never felt such warmth, such kindness, he had never felt anything but fear and shame, but with Diya he felt so normal, like he wasn’t a freak, like he wasn’t tainted.
His day out with them only cemented in his heart that he needed Diya and her little girl in his life. He truly had fun, even when he was just sitting with Diya as Melody ran around playing. Romanus noted “she’s such a bright little girl”
“Both in mind and spirit. I haven’t given her the best start but I just know she’s going to be great when she grows up.”
“You’re a loving mother, that’s as good a start as anybody needs” Diya blushed, not knowing what to say. Eventually she asked “Until I find a sitter for Melody while I work would you mind keeping her. My next shift is tomorrow”
“I wouldn’t mind at all”
“thank you so much”
“It’ll be good for me not to be alone so much”
“and you were a natural earlier. I could see how upset she was and scared when she broke something but you settled all her concerns”
“well…I want more than anything for you two to be comfortable in my home” Diya blushed again at his words. The next day was Diyas first shift and she was surprised just how alright Melody was about being left with a man after their last host “so you’re sure mommy can leave you with Romanus?”
“Yeah, he’s really fun” Diya gave her daughter a gentle smile, a kiss then hurried off, not wanting to be late and miss any tips.
“Is there anything you would like to do, Melody?” Romanus asked.
“Could I watch cartoons?”
“Sure, does your mom have a limit? Is an hour or two okay?” Melody nodded and he went and switched the TV on, going to Netflix and finding something he though was appropriate for her age. “Do you want a snack?”
“Please.” He surprised himself when he actually chuckled and went into the kitchen. He got her a bowl of yogurt with bananas and took it back to her.
Eva smiled happily as she worked, doing her best not to worry. She knew Melody was safe, but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to call Romanus on her break, but she had forgotten to ask for his number. She sighed, knowing she should have, especially when they were supposed to be pretending to be a couple. Her cheeks warmed at the idea and she took a deep breath. He was kind and sweet, but she was sure he wouldn’t appreciate his guest throwing herself at him, especially after all he’d been through.
That night she made sure to get his number and put it in her phone then asked “how was she today?”
“very well behaved”
“He’s the best babysitter” Melody said and Diya smiled. They all talked happily and the next weeks went by faster than Romanus could have imagined time was able to go. Diya mentioning looking at apartments was the first time since they first came reality hit again they might leave him “You…you found something…” he looked as heartbroken as he felt, unable to contain his emotion. “Hey, Romanus” she said comfortingly before hugging him “whats wrong” He was scared to tell her but he did “I…I dont want you two to go”
Diya could barely believe her ears “…what…”
“I feel happy…for the first time in my life I enjoy living and it’s because of you two” His words touched Diya and she emotionally said “we like it here too…I was only looking to not be a burden”
“Okay” That day Diya offically gave up looking for another home and started looking at Romanus as a truly permanent part of their lives. She had grown completely in love with him but despite his words she still wouldn’t pursue anything romantic unless he tried first. Too many people had put their wants first when it came to him and she wasn’t going to be on that list. She hoped one day he would confess romantic feelings and ask for more but until then, she looked forward to sharing a home with him.
~ The End