|Alin was happy being part of a family. Jacob and Lela Jensen opened their hearts and home to him completely. In return Alin worked hard at the deli, keeping the storeroom and basement clean and orderly.
One evening Jacob was pouring over the day receipts in the storeroom and Alin glanced over Jacob’s shoulder.
“It’s $453.64 Papa.” Alin said as he turned to finish sweeping the room.
“Well Alin I guess I can just throw this old calculator away!” Jacob laughed, thinking that Alin was joking. Alin did not respond, but continued sweeping. Jacob felt foolish, he knew Alin never joked, he was always very serious; but he was still a kid and loved to play games, any game that involved strategy and tactics. Jacob watched Alin as he began to arrange the cans on the shelves and thought how odd this young boy was. He was a good kid, never disrespectful or lazy, as a matter of fact he took any critique of his work, too the extreme, repeating the task over and over again, as if it were a punishment. Jacob and Lela learned to never criticize him openly, rather, they would correct the problem themselves and make sure that Alin was watching them when they did. The next time Alin would be asked to do that particular task. He always did it properly. Such a sad sweet boy Jacob sighed and turned back to his work.
Fifteen minutes later Jacob tallied the last receipts, $453.64. Jacob looked at the calculator in astonishment, he pulled off his glasses and swiveled his chair to face Alin.
“Come here son.” Jacob motioned for Alin to sit in the chair next to him. Alin walked over to the chair warily and sat down. His eyes searching Jacob’s.
“Son, how did you know the total of today’s receipts? You only looked over my should for a few seconds!”
“I won’t do it again papa.”
“Alin, It’s nothing to be ashamed of I just want to know how you did it.”
“I don’t know papa.” Alin was starting to get agitated. Jacob sighed, getting Alin to talk openly was lesson in frustration. It was almost like talking to a computer. You had to word everything just so, to get the answer you were looking for.
“Could you tell what the total was by just looking at the receipts?”Alin shook his head no.
“Did you add things up in your head?”
“When do you start adding things.”
“When you open the store Papa.”
“Alin, are you telling me that you add things up in your head all day long?”
“I don’t mean to Papa, I do it without even thinking. I know the price of everything in the Deli and when someone orders something I just keep track. I don’t mean to, it just happens.” Alin started to cry.
“Son, It’s nothing to be upset about, It’s a good thing.” Jacob patted Alin on the knee, then quickly withdrew his hand remembering that hugs and touches meant to comfort, only added to Alin uneasiness.
“You keep doing what’s natural for you son, Do you add like that everyday?”
“$576.25, $428.34, $465.92”
“What’s that?” Jacob looked at Alin quizzically
“The daily receipts for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.” Alin said as he went back to organizing the shelves. Jacob was incredulous as he pulled the huge ledger from the safe, it landed on his desk with a thud. He threw the leather bound covering back and reached for his glasses.
“My god Alin, this is fantastic!” Alin just shrugged his shoulders and continued to work.
“This will take a huge burden off of me. Do you think you can do this everyday Alin?”
“I do it everyday Papa.”
“So you do.” Jacob chuckled as he wrote the day’s receipt in the ledger.
“Your Mama will be pleased, from now on we’ll be able to have supper at a decent time, come on Alin let’s go eat.”
Cita walked by the deli for the second time that morning, peering inside to get a glimpse of the boy. There was something different about him and damn it she was going to find out what it was. He looked to be slightly younger than she was, maybe seventeen or eighteen. His poor little blind boy act didn’t fool her at all. Cita had the gift, only she didn’t know how to use it. As far as Cita knew she was the only one who had it. "It", was the ability to see a person’s aura, and until she had seen this boy, the only aura’s she had ever seen were either blue and on rare occasions red. This boy was different his aura was purple and she had a theory. Cita had overheard the boy’s father calling him, his name was Alin. She had watched him closely over the past three weeks since she first saw him. She probably knew his schedule better than he did. He rolled open the delivery door in the alley at 5:00am, checking in the constant stream of meats, breads and vegetables, that the large trucks delivered to the deli every morning. He opened the security gate at the front of the store at six sharp every morning.
She had never seen him work the front counter, he stayed out of sight in the back while the store was open for business. Every evening at seven he would carry out huge bags filled with the day's garbage, Cita marveled at the ease in which he tossed the heavy bags into the dumpster in the rear alley, the way his well toned muscles rippled when he exerted himself. He was really quite handsome and she almost felt sorry that tonight she would turn his entire world upside down. Tonight in the alley way she would be there to greet him.
Alin pulled down the gate and put the closed sign in the window. He turned around to see Jacob and Lela holding a birthday cake, it was brightly lit with eighteen candles, they broke out in an off key chorus of happy birthday. Alin smiled, he loved his parents, they had been good to him and denied him nothing. Treating him as if he had been born to them, as if they had known him all his life. He didn’t know what he did to deserve them, but he thanked God everyday that it was their tiny store that he had sought refuge in. He devoted his life, to making their lives easier. Looking at them now, they seemed so frail, still middle aged but clearly heading towards retirement. They had anchored his life and if he did nothing else, but ensure that their declining years would be a life of leisure and ease, his debt to them would be repaid in some small measure.
“Come on Alin blow out the candles and make a wish!” Lela set the cake on the counter and hurriedly waved Alin over. He took a deep breath and blew out all the candles.
“Eighteen.” Lela whispered, her eyes started to well up. Jacob walked over and put his arm around her patting her shoulder.
“Your mother is a big softie, you know that Alin?” Lela playfully elbowed Jacob in the stomach and he exaggerated the impact.
“So, son what did you wish for? A big fancy car? A million bucks?” Jacob was in a jovial mood as he teased his son.
“I wished that the next twenty years would be as happy as the past eight years have been.”
“Geesh, son you don’t aim very high do you? Jacob continued his teasing, but Lela who has already on the verge crying, burst out sobbing, Jacob rolled his eyes.
“Oh-h goodness the waterworks have really started now. Lela get a hold of yourself he hasn’t even opened his gift yet.” Lela pulled a tissue from her apron pocket. Alin laughed to himself, mama always had tissue in her apron pocket and for Lela, tissue had a million and one uses. It was a washcloth, she’d pull out a tissue, spit on it and wipe a smudge off Jacob’s or Alin’s face. It was a candy box, she’d pull out a tissue open it up and it would be full a little mint candies. That was mama. Lela dabbed her eyes and smiled weakly.
“Yes Alin, open your gift.” she said as Jacob handed him a small box. Alin slowly peeled the wrapping paper away and revealed the velvet box, which he opened. Inside was a golden ankh pendant, intricately detailed with hieroglyphics and on the reverse an inscription ‘To our son whom we love, the symbol of life. Life and love are all that matter.’ Alin fingered the ankh in his hand, life and love are all that matter. Yes, Alin thought, his mother had given him life and love in whatever capacity she was able. Jacob and Lela had loved him unconditionally. But, the harshness of his early childhood had never really left him and he doubted that there was much love in the world. He thought of his parents as an anomaly and that mankind in general was inherently evil. He counted himself lucky and he knew it.
Alin kissed his Mama on the cheek and shook Papa’s hand. Displays of affection still bothered Alin, but he had learned to control his uneasiness, for the sake of his parents; they needed it. The hurt that was caused when he shied away from their touch, was more painful than the discomfort he felt, so he accepted their affection and in time he learned to embrace it. Alin knew that he would never give himself that way, to anyone but Jacob and Leah. He took the pendant and chain from the box and put it around his neck, he vowed to never take it off. After an hour or so of talking and eating cake and ice cream. Alin excused himself.
“I’ve still got work to do. Mama I’ll help you with the dishes when I finished.”
“It’s your eighteenth birthday son.” Jacob patted Alin on the back. “I’ll clean the storeroom tonight.”
“Papa you can’t lift those garbage bags they weigh well over fifty pounds each! No Papa, I’ll do my chores as usual, then help Mama, and then beat you, in a game of chess.” Alin side stepped his father and was at the storeroom door in two steps, he waved at his father and shut the door before Jacob could protest.