Zombie Kiss Vol.4 [Ch.1 The Labyrinth of Promises] 1

Prologue

Grey clouds, like fumes from an exhaust pipe, dominated the sky. The muddy grey seemed depressing, but at least after the rain, there would be a clear blue sky. Unlike her heart. No light had ever shone through to it.

“Looks like it’s about to rain. Nil, you brought your umbrella, right, sweety?”

The mother, sending her daughter off at the bus stop as usual, remarked.

“Yes.” Nilthepi, or Nil, answered. “I took it before I left the house, exactly as you told me to.”

On the surface, it seemed like any ordinary conversation between a mother and a daughter.

“Go straight to the university.”

“Yes.”

The same conversation, over and over.

The same conversation, every single day.

“Have you checked your belongings? Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

Just like a mother and her middle school daughter, learning to get to school by herself.

The woman looked at her university uniform. A knee-length pleated skirt, a perfectly-fitting white shirt. It was not tight, but she felt suffocated.

No matter where one looks, the woman is the very definition of an obedient child.

“Oh my, what’s up with kids these days? They’re dressed like whores.”

Nil thought her mother was talking about her and quickly raised her head up, but soon she saw three girls waiting at the same bus stop. They wore form-fitting skirts a little above their knees, revealing glimpses of their thighs.

Their skirts were just a little short, her mother didn’t have to be so harsh. Everybody wore it at that length. She was the only one different.

But mother would not have understood. From time beginning, her mother only wore long-sleeved black dresses, buttoned up to the neck, the long skirt concealing every inch of the skin. She wore her hair in a tight bun and never dyed them. There were no fashion magazines in the house, not a single piece of newspaper about pretty superstars.

“Shameless, unsightly! If they dress like strippers asking for sex, they’ll be pregnant without a father!”

Mother screamed as she used a scissor to tear the photographs of those superstars to pieces.

That time, Nil was confused. Was mother talking about the superstars, or her own family?

Because she doesn’t have a father…

“Unsightly! Nil, don’t ever try to imitate them.”

Mother stopped her train of thoughts.

“And this evening, hurry and come back to me. Promise?”

Again…the same promise.

The same orders.

“Promise me, Nil.” The mother repeated when the daughter was silent.

“Nil.”

“Mother…tonight…” Nil swallowed the ‘yes’ she had always said down her throat and mustered up some courage.

“Today, there will be a night market in front of the university.”

“And?” The mother was still smiling. Nil tried to take it as a good sign.

“C…Can I go there?”

Her mother’s smile widened, but it seemed twisted.

Stop…stop talking, Nil told herself.

But…

“I mean, everyone in the faculty is going…”

Pow!!!

Her mother’s palm smacked into her face with a loud noise. Those waiting for the bus turned their heads around. Nil almost fell, but her mother seized her shoulders, sharp claws digging into her flesh. The mother shook her with a mad expression.

“You’re not listening to me, now!?! Don’t think that I’m so dumb to not realize what you’re up to! You’re going to see a man, right? Using that stupid excuse to do something dirty!!!”

“N…no…I just…”

The mother slapped her daughter’s jaws again. The young woman’s face whipped the other direction, tears welling with pain and embarrassment.

Nobody came in to help her.

“You treacherous child!!!”

The mother raised her hands again, but suddenly stopped.

“Oh, here comes the bus.”

The mother’s eyes followed as the bus drew near, before moving back to the daughter’s face. Her twisted mouth formed a cold smile.

“This evening…you will come back to me, right?”

Her raised arm was like the blade of a guillotine. 

“Promise me you will come back, Nilthepi.”

“Y…yes…”

The hand lowered and stroked the woman’s hair gently.

“Hurry up and come back. I’ll make your favorite meal.”

The mother waved goodbye with a smile as if nothing happened, as Nil walked with her face down, trying to hold back her tears as she stepped onto the bus.

How much longer do I have to endure this…?

Rain poured, no different from her tears. Luckily, her umbrella concealed half of her face so that those who were walking into the faculty building did not see her streaming tears and swollen cheeks. Actually, even without the umbrella, nobody ever took notice of her. 

At first she thought of going to the nurse room.

But she did not, because the nurse started to doubt her excuse of falling down, so she endured the pain.

Whatever, I’ve gone through it for eighteen years…

She was lost in thoughts and tripped, elbows and knees slamming onto the concrete floor, clothes wet from the puddles on the ground.

She looked horrible, but not as horrible as those who walked by. There was a soft laughter as they mocked her misfortune. She wanted to run, but embarrassment froze her to the ground.

Why is everyone just standing by?

It’s just as mother said. Everyone is selfish. Nobody loves me.

Only my mother truly loves me.

I…only need my mother…

“Are you alright?”

Suddenly, a beautiful voice graced her from above.

Like a light that shines through a murky sky.

“Oh no, your face is all red!!! Did you hit your face? Does it hurt a lot? Let’s go to the nurse room. Can you stand?”

Before Nil could answer, a hand helped her up.

That moment, Nil saw the face of that young woman.

She was a fellow classmate, also in the faculty of medicine. Everyone called her a saint, and her name was…

Lilith…

For some reason, Nil didn’t want to run anymore. She felt safe.

This person was warm, like a bright light.

Ah, Lilith…

My light…

“Bonds”

For some, they are chains

Binding them in a labyrinth

Without an escape…

Chapter 1: The Labyrinth of Promises

1

“You’re not showing your face much, lately.”

Lilith looked up.

During the evening, the backyard of the faculty of medicine was void of people. The tables arranged under the groves of brugmansia wasn’t popular, since there was no wind, and during hot days like these, the heat was sheer torture. However, because of the exams going on, Lilith wanted to get away from people to get some study.

She finally got her quiet spot, but…

“Oh, right, you’re obsessed with your new friend.”

“What’s with that, Vakin?”

Lilith retorted when he kept throwing sarcastic remarks.

“I was there just this Tuesday. And everytime I go, you do nothing but complain.”

“…Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say. When you’re not there, there is no one to disrupt my work, so I’ve made a lot of progress.”

So he’s saying it’s good that I have a friend and not get in his way.

Vakin smirked when he saw Lilith’s reaction. He was wearing a gown over his uniform, so perhaps he just finished an experiment in the lab. Still, Lilith was in the same faculty, so she knew there was not a single lab class today. He wore it because he wore it everyday.

Plus, that experiment he talked about was a secret one that the university did not know about. If they knew, they’d never allow it.

“I’m not disrupting your work. I’m just keeping watch so that you two don’t go out of your way and do horrible things.”

“Ah, not going to admit your wrongdoings.” The man twisted his mouth.

“And do you even have the rights to say that?!”

That was because Vakin was secretly experimenting in the abandoned west wing to find the secrets to immortality (as he explained while feeling very annoyed). In short, he was stealing cadavers for personal experiments. If the university caught him, it would not end with getting expelled.

Moreover, he was collecting the angel’s trumpet growing around the faculty to make some weird potion (she knew because she was made to help). It was grown everywhere because it was the faculty’s symbol, so nobody would notice some missing flowers. Still, she knew how poisonous it was and thought about what he was using the flowers for. Every time she asked, he would say ‘an idiot like you wouldn’t understand even if I explained.’

Lilith sighed.

“What are you talking about? Sounds like fun.”

A polite voice glided softly on the wind.

Turning around, she saw a man approach. His appearance was impeccable from crown to sole, as expected of the first year’s president.

“Will it be alright if I join in?” The man’s lips unfurled into a smile before sitting next to Vakin, the one known as the black sheep of the faculty.

When they were right beside each other, their difference was as clear as day and night.

But that was only on the outside…

“Hmm? Didn’t you say that outside the lab, we’re strangers? Did you forget the rule you set yourself, Ariya?”

Vakin reminded him, even though the man was the one who broke that rule first by coming to talk to Lilith.

“What are you saying? I am just a president helping the vice, who is being harassed by the black sheep of the faculty. Is that right, Lilith?”

Ariya put on an innocent face and gave Lilith a smile. Lilith returned the gesture.

Yes, Ariya is also taking part in conducting that experiment.

The Ariya she knew at the beginning was just a shell, but a few months ago she found out about their experiments and saw the true face behind that perfect mask.

“By the way, are you done helping our friends review for the exams?” Lilith asked.

“Yes. You should have joined us, Lilith.”

Lilith’s smile dropped. That was one of the reasons she chose to come here alone.

Their friends begged Ariya to help them study. She would be just one addition to a very large crowd, but she didn’t want to bother him. There would be times he wanted his own time to study.

“You call those vultures your friends.”

“Vakin…!”

“People become friends because they can gain something from each other. That is normal.”

Ariya’s cold voice made Lilith swallow her words.

“They want my knowledge, and I want my social standing. It is not wrong to call them my friends.”

“Hoh, you’re getting more savvy.”

Lilith didn’t know why Vakin was praising Ariya, but that was just the nature of those two. Vakin always said that humans are driven by desires and instinct. Ariya didn’t like living humans, but was captivated by their deaths, so he treated people just as necessary without any emotions, like a black pit, but…

Maybe it’s because Lilith seemed sad that Ariya spoke up again.

“But sometimes, the peace of mind can be a gain too.”

Ariya smiled, blowing all her worries away.

She started to notice that Ariya’s smile was different from usual. It did not seem fake. She knew that even if Ariya had a deep pit inside of him, it was possible for some light to shine through to the bottom.

Because she believed in that, she took a small part in their experiments.

“So if we’re talking about mutual gains, the three of us are friends, right?”

Lilith said it just for fun. Their relationship could not be called ‘best friends’, but they were more than acquaintances.

“You guys let me observe in exchange for me not telling anyone, and I get to keep watch so that you two don’t do anything too unethical. Isn’t that a mutual gain?”

Ariya and Vakin went quiet for a while.

“What kind of reasoning is that? Clearly, we’re in the loss here.” Vakin opened his mouth. “Plus, those people you call ‘friends’ are all weirdos.”

“…?” Lilith knotted her brows, but the two men said nothing, just looked at each other as if they knew something she didn’t.

“To be frank, among everyone I know, you two are the weirdest.” 

Lilith mumbled. Vakin shrugged, as Ariya tried to say something.

“Lilith, about your new friend…”

“Lilith!!! There you are. I was looking for you all over!”

A sweet voice interrupted Ariya’s sentence as a woman ran towards them. Her face was filled with panic, like a child who woke up and her parents were not there. To be very honest, she seemed so young that without her university uniform, people would take her for a highschooler. 

“Ah…!”

Nil paused in her tracks when she realized Lilith wasn’t alone.

And the more she realized who her precious friend was with, her panic intensified. She came and hooked her arm with Lilith’s and tried to pull her up.

“Lilith, why are you talking to this kind of people?! That guy’s a bad guy!”

“Huh? Well…”

Lilith did not know what to say. Ariya and Vakin glanced at each other, because they did not know whom Nil was referring to. Well, if she said ‘bad guy’, that could only mean one person.

“Mother said those who don’t go to class, don’t respect their teachers, and don’t know their duty as students are bad people. If you hang out with those low class people, you’ll become just like them.”

“You heard her, Vakin. Please try to go to class.”

Ariya took the chance to pat Vakin on the shoulders, pretending to be the model student as Vakin glared at him.

“Lilith, let’s go.”

It was a mystery why that small body had so much strength, but Nil finally dragged Lilith off her seat. Lilith glanced at the two men, and Vakin waved her off.

“Go wherever you want. It’s not like we chained you here.”

“See? Lilith, you’re nice to him and look at how he treats you. His kind of people are bad, just like my mother said.”

“Umm…” Lilith opened her mouth. She had a bad feeling about this.

But it was too late…

“Mother this, mother that, you really are your mama’s girl, huh?”

Vakin said with a flat tone, his cold eyes scanning Nil from head to toe, analyzing her, and…

His mouth broke into a scornful smile.

“But…I’m curious. Do you really love her, or are you forced to love her…?”

Nil went pale as those words pierced her.

“Vakin.” Ariya stopped the other man, but everyone save for Nil knew that he didn’t want to protect the girl; he was just acting according to the ‘good guy’ script.

“Hmph, you said it yourself that people only become friends if they can gain something from each other.” Vakin said, his eyes looking down on Nil. “Family is the same way. Some kids love their parent’s money more than the parents themselves. Some kids are afraid they have to struggle to feed themselves without their parents. How about you? Why do you love her? Because she’s your mother? Because you’re of the same blood? Or you really don’t love her, but because there is nobody else to turn to, you’re fine being a parasite clutching to a rotten tree? Because that is still better than facing the sun and storm of life all by yourself, hmm?”

“Vakin!!!”

Lilith stopped the man.

“Stop it. Quit driving her into a corner.”

“Heh, you sure do like protecting those who have a thing against me. As expected of Saint Lilith.”

Lilith pulled a sour face.

She knew Vakin was just annoyed with Nil, but that was all because of his own behaviors, not because of Nil.

“You don’t have to listen to Vakin. He just has a bad mouth.” Lilith ignored him and turned to Nil. After getting to know Vakin (actually, she knew him since middle school but only started talking to him a few months ago) she knew the best way to deal with the man is to not talk.

“I…I want to leave.”

Nil whispered, stirring pity in Lilith.

She glanced at Ariya and Vakin again before leaving with Nil.

Ariya stared at the direction they went even when the two were no longer visible. He realized he was doing that when the other man called out.

“Is it fine with you? She’s stolen away now.”

Vakin said as if he was worried, but his voice tinted with amusement. Ariya glanced at him with an ice cold expression.

“What are you plotting now?”

“I just want to bet on something, like during that beauty contest.”

That was when Ariya and Vakin watched to see who would survive a bloody beauty contest.

Among all the women, Lilith survived…

“How about it? Want to bet again?”

Vakin stretched out his hands, but the other man looked at it quietly before saying:

“I do not wish to do something like that again.”

Ariya felt that Vakin was surprised for a split second before returning to his usual cocky self.

“I believe that if I am with Lilith, I can stand in the light… I can return to being a regular human being.”

“Didn’t know someone so in love with death wants to be normal.”

Ariya shrugged. He didn’t know that either. He only realized that after meeting Lilith.

“Oh well, I will not interfere with your personal matters. Just keep that girl safe.” Vakin cut the conversation short, but decided to add: “Because when humans love something too much, they tend to hold on so tight that they break that thing with their own hands.”

Vakin’s tone was merciless, and he left.

Even after they were a great distance away from the backyard and from Vakin, Nil still kept silent. Her hands gripped Lilith’s tight.

It seemed she was hurt by that talk about her mother.

Come to think of it, Nil really was strictly obedient to her mother. She went straight home from class everyday and wore no makeup or accessories, because her mother forbade her from doing so.

It was no different from Lilith’s grandmother, who was quite the conservative. However, Nil’s talks of her own mother was more of fear than respect.

“Umm…the night market is open today. If you’re free, should we go together?”

When Nil wouldn’t go back to her usual cheerful self, Lilith asked to get her to relax.

Every Friday, from evening to late night, there would be a night market outside the university wall, stretching from an exit to another on the opposite side. The vendors usually sold snacks and food, but there were also the university student’s handcraft stores.

Nil looked up, and that reminded Lilith of the woman’s curfew.

“Ah, I’m so sorry, I forgot that you can’t. By the way, it’s late right now. Shouldn’t you hurry and head home?”

Glancing at the clock, Nil realized it was time to go.

“I was searching for you and forgot the time.”

“Ah…” Lilith felt guilty.

“But…the night market…today…might be…okay…” Nil said, rummaging in her head for words.

“Really? Did your mother say okay?”

Nil did not answer. She bit her lips, nodding slightly.

“That’s great. I have to walk there alone every time. I’ve always wanted to go with a friend.”

“Friend?”

Lilith’s words made Nil widen her eyes, and she confirmed those words, as if begging.

“I am your friend?”

“Huh? Y…yes, of course.”

“Tha…that’s great. Th…thank you so much.”

Nil’s heart was filled with delight, and her sparkling eyes were teary.

“Lilith, you will not abandon me and be my friend forever, right?”

Those blissful words poured from the bottom of her heart, but Lilith felt that something was off.

“Promise?”

Something was seriously off, but she did not know what.

Well, it probably wasn’t anything big.

“Yes, I…ah!”

Before she could reply, something stole her attention.

Nil followed Lilith’s gaze and saw a shadow leapt past. Something jumped onto a bench.

“That’s a cat!?!”

Nil yelled out like a child, her eyes glowed with innocent wonder as she watched the cat licking its paws.

“This cutie’s name is Paeng-foon.” Lilith said, stroking the cat’s chin. Paeng-foon meowed and groaned, satisfied. “It usually stays in the west wing, but it’s probably on an adventure right now.”

“…It’s your cat?”

“Not really. It’s a stray, but I feed it from time to time.”

“How nice. I want a pet too, but mother always said no. She said that animals carry horrible diseases. If you touch them, your hands will rot.”

Nil said, staring at Paeng-foon, who was purring and rubbing against Lilith’s hand.

“Ha ha…This one is vaccinated, so your hands will not rot.” Lilith laughed dryly. “But it’s not entirely docile…”

“Let me touch too!”

The woman shouted and reached out for Paeng-foon.

Paeng-foon was startled with the unfamiliar hand and hissed, paws striking against Nil’s hand, before escaping into a nearby bush.

“Ouch!!!”

The woman yelled, cradling her right hand. Lilith went pale. And then…

“Nilthepi!!!”

Someone’s voice startled them both. Nil’s body convulsed and froze. The owner of that voice was a middle-aged woman dressed completely in black.

She did not seem old, but had the air of decay about her. Her long sleeves and feet-length skirt seemed suffocating. Her face was bright red. Her eyes bulged in disbelief.

“M…mother…”

Nil spoke as if in a trance. Lilith could not believe her ears and quickly pressed her hands together in a wai, but was completely ignored. The mother shoved Lilith to the side and lunged straight at her daughter. 

“How many times have I told you not to touch strays?! What would you do if you contracted a disease, huh?!”

Nil’s mother spewed words of concern, but her acts were the opposite.

She wrenched her daughter’s arm and rubbed a handkerchief hard against the wound, like scrubbing a stain from a dirty carpet.

“Mother!!! It hurts!!! Mother!!!”

“Umm…you can’t do that, ma’am.” Lilith warned. “Let’s get her to the nurse room. That cat was vaccinated, but just to make sure…”

Suddenly, Lilith’s words clogged in her throat. The old woman’s piercing eyes rolled her direction, sending shivers down her spine.

“Who…are you?”

“She…she’s my friend.”

Nil explained hurriedly. Lilith pressed her hands together, trying a wai again.

“Hello. My name is Lilith.”

“Why are you not home yet? Tell me your parent’s phone number.”

Lilith was taken back by the rather imposing question from a stranger, but out of good manners, she managed a reply.

“Well, I don’t have their numbers, but if it’s my grandmother…”

“What? So your family is broken, huh?”

Nil’s mother interrupted mid-sentence, cold eyes turning to a look of disgust, like glancing at a pile of feces on the road. Lilith felt nothing, because her mind was already stunned the moment that woman said ‘your family is broken’.

“Kids without parents like you should stay away from my daughter. If someone knows my daughter is hanging out with such kids, I’d be scorned to death.”

“Mother!!!”

It was the first time Nil raised her voice against her mother.

“What are you saying!?! Lilith is a good…”

The woman’s purse slammed into Nil’s cheeks.

“And you have the guts to argue! You too! Why did you not hurry home!?! Why are you not keeping your promise, huh!?!”

She hollered furiously, raining blows on her daughter. Nil held her head down and did not resist, as passerbys glanced at them with confusion.

“I work myself to the bones at work all day and you’re off dallying! Have you ever felt grateful for what I do for you? Have you ever thought about how hard it was raising you? If I had known, I’d never have given birth to you!”

Then, she dragged Nil to an old car parked nearby, her stream of harsh words still audible even if they drew further and further away.

It ended like a madstorm that went by in a flash. The car pulled away, leaving Lilith frozen to the spot.

Nil sat, depressed, on the old leather seat in the stuffy old car. Her eyes followed the university and Lilith, longing for them. Her mother’s documents, having to do with her government works, piled on the back seat. The air conditioner and the engine sputtered.

The silence was like a time bomb, waiting for someone to speak first.

And Nil decided to trigger the bomb.

“M…mother, you’re the worst. You should not say that to my friend.”

“That fatherless, motherless bitch will ruin you. Don’t ever be friends with her.”

Her mother stared at the road, eyes glinting, and Nil’s breath stopped for a moment. She held her wits together and continued.

“I…I am not a child anymore. I can decide who to hang out with on my own.”

“You’re not a child, huh!?!”

The mother’s left hand yanked her scratched right hand up and shook it hard.

“Open your damn eyes and look at what happened here! Look!”

Nil tried to break free, but her mother’s nails dug into her flesh.

“It’s just a little scratch. I’m a medical student. I won’t die from it.”

“And who do you think pays for your tuition? Don’t get too cocky.”

“I never wanted to study medicine! You made me!”

Nil let loose the thought she had been bottling up for a long time. The mother froze.

“That…that bitch put thoughts in your head, huh? She’s the reason you’re talking back to me.”

“Lilith has nothing to do with this!”

Nil yelled and her mother’s eyes widened, lunacy clouding those pupils.

“Lilith is a good girl. She’s good to me, always looking out for me…”

“Hmph. You’re naive. I’ve seen countless of those. Those bitches are only good at taking advantage of others. When you’re in trouble, she won’t come for you.”

“Lies.”

“That bitch, too. Someday, she’ll leave you.”

“No…No.”

“When she’s got a man, she’ll leave you.”

“No…”

Nil stumbled, the image of Vakin talking to Lilith flashing into her mind, but she brushed it away.

“Never! Lilith will be my friend forever!”

“Nobody can stay with you forever aside from me!”

“Then I’ll leave you!!!”

“You what…?”

The mother tore her eyes from the road and stared at her daughter, her face frozen solid as if all facial nerves had already died.

“I will leave you! Is that clear enough!?! I will leave you!!!” Nil roared.

She would no longer stand down.

“You never loved me! You hate me! You hate that I’m a bastard child of a man who fooled and left you! Great, then I hate you too!”

The mother did not retort. She let go of her daughter’s arm and held the steering wheel, body doubling up and trembling. Her face showed hurt and madness.

“You…you will leave me…?”

Finally, she spoke, eyes clouded and looking at nothing in particular. Her voice was barely audible.

“Is that it? You’ll also leave me?”

Suddenly, the car darted forward with a frightening speed, wheels crushing against the tarmac in a screech.

There was a crossroad in front of them.

Nil saw the street lights. Green turned to yellow then to red, but the car showed no sign of stopping.

“M…mother, the light is red…”

“Don’t worry. We’ll die together here.”

Nil’s eyes widened in shock.

“What are you even saying!?!”

“I have no one left. Why should I keep living?”

“But I don’t want to die!”

“I gave you your life! You have no rights to bargain!”

The mother roared as the car sped up. There was no car in front of this old one.

“You don’t love me anymore, do you!?!”

The car neared the crossroad. Her mother’s pupils darted left and right.

“You’ll leave me, right?”

From the right, a truck drove towards them at high speed.

If we don’t hit the brakes now…

But she didn’t want to endure this any longer either.

But…

“You’ll leave me, right?”

“No, no! I love you, mother! I’ll stay with you forever!”

The mother’s foot slammed the brakes, and the tires let out a horrendous screech. Nil’s body swung forward, almost hitting the console. Luckily, the seat belt held her back.

“Nil…”

Her mother’s wide, twisted smile. Her hands with bulging veins. One of those hands stroked her head, gently.

“Nil, my beloved child, I’ll never leave you. I’ll be with you forever.”

Nil gritted her teeth and held back her tears.

I hate mother.

I hate myself for being so weak. I hate myself for giving in.

And above all…

I hate that I thought of that disgusting man’s words…

“But…I’m curious. Do you really love her, or are you forced to love her…?”

The next day, Nil waited for Lilith since early morning.

Nil apologized about her mother’s bad manners. Lilith said that she didn’t think much of it.

“So, did she say anything else?”

Lilith asked, worried, but Nil was startled by the question before speaking in a soft voice, as if confessing a sin.

“She…she told me to stop being your friend.”

Lilith was surprised. Nil was not. It was not the first time Nil had to cut ties with someone because of her mother, but…

“I don’t want to stop being your friend…”

When she thought about separating from Lilith, she couldn’t handle the idea. Her tears fell, and she started crying. Yesterday’s near-death experience stressed her.

Before she knew it, she told Lilith everything, even that her father left before she was born and her mother had a mental illness which led to her tyrannical parenting style.

Everything apart from that time she nearly killed her own daughter.

“I don’t want to stay like this. I can’t take it anymore…I…I want to be normal…but she’ll never let me leave..”

She’ll kill me.

Her eyes said that she was for real.

Lilith could not say a word. She knew that all families had problems, but it was something so far away. She had neither a father nor a mother, and was jealous of those with a complete family.

But not all families are happy, huh?

Her grandmother used to say that the child is like the parent’s sapling, and their love, the fertilizer.

But not only love…sometimes, parents let poison seep into the fertilizer they call ‘love’. Sarcastic remarks. Violence. Spoiling. Bias. On purpose or not, their child would be the one to soak in that poisonous love. Just think of what kind of tree these children would grow up to be.

And no matter what tree they became…

The first ones who ate its poisonous fruits would be…their parents.

Grandmother looked a little painful back then. She thought of her son. She was one of those who had added the wrong fertilizer.

Nil’s mother was also one such parent…

So maybe it’s not too late.

“Let’s try and make her understand.

Lilith said to Nil, but she shook her head.

“Mother won’t listen.”

“Don’t give up just yet. Your mother may have a sharp tongue, but that’s because she really cares about you. Your perspectives may be different, that’s all. If you believe in yourself and show her that you’re not a bad child as she thought, she might understand.”

“What if it doesn’t work…?”

“Well…”

Lilith paused to think, before writing something on a piece of paper and handing it to Nil.

“Here’s my number. I probably can’t be much help, but whenever you feel bad, I’ll be there to listen to you. Call anytime.”

Nil stared at the piece of paper with glittering eyes.

Nil used to tell her stories to her friends, but everyone just looked at her with pity, never lending a hand. Some even distanced themselves.

But not Lilith…

Only Lilith reached out her gentle hands.

Nil clutched that piece of paper as if it was the most valuable treasure.

Great. A phone? Nil had never owned a phone.

Nil wanted a phone. She wanted to talk to Lilith.

Nil smiled her first genuine smile.

“Okay. I’ll try!”

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