FFM 2020 20: Bonding

No prompt used. However, I’m continuing Raiyo and Levi’s story. I’m not entirely sure when this one’s set – either between the two already existing stories or before yesterday’s story — other than “around 1 year into Raiyo and Levi’s friendship”.

As a 1000-word story, this is my second entry for Little Prose 2020.

“You know, you’ve listened to me talk about my parents a lot,” Raiyo remarked as he leaned against the railing, sipping his coffee, “but I don’t remember you saying much about yours.”

Levi downed what was left of his tea. “There’s not much to say about them. I hardly know them.”

Raiyo frowned. Before he could say anything, however, Levi continued, “They’ve always been too busy with their work lives to do much with me for longer than I can remember. They pretty much outsourced raising me to butlers, nannies, daycares, schools… anyone who would do it in exchange for money so that they could keep making more.” The man flashed an awry smile at his friend. “I’m convinced they made me only so that they could have an heir.”

Now Raiyo regretted bringing the topic up. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Yours are far worse,” Levi noted. “I have nothing to complain about. They always made sure I had everything I wanted and needed, and everyone has told me that they’re not pleasant people, so their decision to have others raise me spared me from that.”

Raiyo stayed silent. He did not want to prod further; Levi did not let it show, but he was sure that the topic was sensitive. Raiyo could have sworn that the older man’s body language was a bit tenser than normal now.

Levi spoke up again after he was certain that Raiyo would not take the initiative to continue the conversation, “I do wish they would’ve taught me how to be a functional person. They gave me everything when I was a child, but the moment I turned 18 they kind of tossed me out with some money and told me to get my own place and ‘learn to be a member of the society’ with the promise that if I found a place to work at, they’d send me more money.” Levi tried to mask his discomfort with a chuckle, but it was as unconvincing as it could get.

“Levi, you don’t have to tell me everything if you don’t want to,” Raiyo said quickly.

“But I do want to tell you,” Levi said. He turned around so that he could stare into the horizon instead of the crowd while leaning against the railing, certain that no one would hear them. “I mean… you’ve told me so much even though it’s been clear from the beginning that you don’t like talking about your parents. Yet you still chose to confide in me. It’s admirable, your courage to talk about it.”

“You still don’t need to force yourself to-” Raiyo started.

“I know,” Levi interrupted, his voice soft. “Your choice not to continue asking made it clear. Don’t worry, Raiyo. I want to tell you. I really do.”

Raiyo nodded. “Okay. Just don’t push yourself too far, ok?”

Levi nodded back, grateful. He paused to gather his thoughts. “The first year on my own… it was tough. I knew little of how anything actually worked, having led such a sheltered life, so once I got an apartment, I first used my money to hire someone to teach me basic life skills like paying bills. Then I hired someone to teach me how to invest the money I had left. At some point, it got tedious, so I hired someone to manage the investments with the money I was making. Once that was out of the way, I took some courses to learn how to cook and do other normal things butlers had done for me my whole life.”

Roars of laughter coming from the crowd cut him off. Someone staggered to another spot as the main group of their coworkers got yet another round of drinks.

“I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been,” Raiyo remarked. “How did you manage?”

“Luckily, I was a pretty fast learner. It helped a lot,” Levi noted. “I guess otherwise it was just making sure all the bills were paid, I ate something, got enough sleep and was everywhere on time, one day at a time. It’s not a year I reminisce fondly or am proud of, but I got through it. Once I was comfortable with how I was dealing with my life, I started to apply for jobs and eventually landed myself in a chain of entry-level statistics jobs that led me here all the while I studied at the open university. Once my parents started to send me more money, hired a butler to take care of the things I couldn’t when I was studying and working.”

“How did you end up staying here?” Raiyo asked.

“I’m not entirely sure. I guess it was just that they noticed that I’m good even though I don’t have a full degree and promoted me to a role where I felt comfortable staying at. It’s been two years since that promotion and I still can’t see myself going anywhere else.” Levi smiled. “The fact that they let me do my work at home and don’t force me to come to the workplace often is a bonus that makes up for these outings where the others get drunk and I’m just awkwardly on the sidelines, alone and waiting for the time when it’s socially acceptable to leave.”

“Good thing that I came along, then,” Raiyo noted, smiling. “Now you don’t need to be alone at these outings.”

Levi turned to smile at him. “Indeed. I’m glad that you’re my friend, Raiyo.”

“The feeling’s mutual, Levi,” Raiyo replied.

Another set of roars of laughter rose from the group.

“I don’t think they’ll notice if we leave now,” Raiyo mused. “How about we hit that arcade two blocks away?”

Levi’s face lit up at the suggestion. “Let’s go.”

The two men returned their mugs, said goodbye to their supervisor and left quietly. Raiyo had been right; no one noticed them leaving.

When someone did, the duo was already far away from the bar, competing against each other in various video games.

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