Clothing Optional, Continued

Clothing Optional, Continued (1500Words, Round 3, Week 3, 3/4/18)

The air was crisp as the couple strolled down the sidewalk. Their linked hands swayed slightly with every step, and they walked with synchronized steps. He squeezed her hand slightly as they came up to Don’t Walk sign at an intersection, and she turned to smile at him.

This walk was a part of their routine, part of their relationship. It happened like clockwork every Saturday and had for the last 50 years. They’d only missed their Saturday Stroll a handful of times over the years. There was the time he was in the hospital, and the time she’d broken her foot earlier in the day, and the time when they’d been stuck on a delayed flight to New York. The stroll was important to them both, and they prioritized it. They’d step out at 3 pm, regardless of the weather (“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only poor planning,” he’d always say), for their afternoon adventure. The location and route changed depending on circumstances, and everything else stayed the same.

When it was their turn, he gave her hand another squeeze and they set off across the street. Today’s route took them down a tree-lined street full of larger than necessary houses. Each lawn they passed was painstakingly manicured and the sidewalk was free of leaves despite the season. The houses seemed almost decorative, as if they were props in a movie, with no sign of inhabitants. She didn’t like neighborhoods like this (“Why have a big house and yard if you’re not going to mess it up with love?” she would say), preferring urban scenes with busy apartment complexes filled with noisy children. He didn’t mind them. The quiet was nice sometimes, and walking through them helped him appreciate what they had.

As they rounded a corner, he squeezed again and stopped abruptly. Sitting on the ground, right in the middle of the sidewalk, was a little boy. A naked little boy. The child was sitting there as calm as could be. His spindly legs were crossed criss-cross-applesause style, and his hands were folded and rested on his calves. He looked up at the couple, clearly not at all embarrassed by his nakedness.

“Aaron, what is it?”
“There’s a boy, Sonya. Sitting on the sidewalk. Naked.”
“A little boy – he must be only five or six – sitting right in the middle of the sidewalk up ahead without a stitch of clothing on him.”
“What’s he doing? I don’t hear anything.”
“Just sitting? Is he upset?”
“He’s sitting, looking at us, and is 100% naked.”
“And he’s alone?”
“Unless you count the two of us, Sonya.”
“As we don’t likely know the little naked boy I don’t think we count.”
“Then yes, he’s alone.”
“We need to check on him, Aaron. We’re not going to just leave him here.”
“Of course. Better us than someone unsavory.”

With another squeeze, the couple walked closer to the little boy. When they were within a few feet of him, Aaron gave Sonya another squeeze and they stopped. Sonya squeezed back and Aaron spoke.

“Are you ok, little one?”

The little boy’s face lit up in a bright smile that showed off his teeth. “You’ve come!”

“I’m sorry?”
“Please don’t be sorry! I’ve been waiting for you.”

Aaron squinted his eyes and shook his head. “No – I wasn’t apologizing. What did you mean when you said ‘you’ve come’?”

“Oh! Well, I’ve been sitting, waiting, for a very long time and you’ve finally arrived. So, naturally, I said ‘you’ve come!’ when you approached me.”

Sonya gave Aaron’s hand a squeeze and looked in the direction of the little boy. “You sound very grown up for a little boy. Why were you waiting for us?”

The tinkle of his laugh bounced off the nearby trees, filling the street with its sound. “Why wouldn’t I be waiting for you?”

“Do you know us? Do we know you?”

The little boy stood up and walked up to Sonya. “Oh, no. We’re only just meeting now of course.”

She let out a soft “oh!” when he reached up and took her free hand and gave it a squeeze. Aaron looked around trying to imagine what this scene looked like to the people in the pretend houses.

“Who left you here, little one? And where are your clothes?”

The laughter filled the street once more as the little boy let go of Sonya and spun around. “You did, of course!”

Sonya turned towards Aaron with her eyebrows knitted together. “I don’t understand him, Aaron. What am I missing?”

“You’re missing nothing, Sonya, or rather there’s nothing I can add. I don’t understand him, either.”
“What shall we do, then? Leave him here or take him with us?”

The little boy did a cartwheel in front of the couple and said, “Take me with you, of course!”

Aaron paused for a moment. Leaving a naked child on a sidewalk didn’t seem like it could possibly be the right choice. Bringing a stranger into their home didn’t seem like a great idea, either. Bringing the little boy anywhere else in his current state seemed wrong, too. The moment of hesitation passed. Aaron looked at the little boy, then at his wife, and then at the empty-seeming houses behind them. “I think we must take him home. We can figure out what to do next from there.”

Sonya nodded and put her free hand out, inviting the little boy to hold it again. He bounded over to her and grabbed hold of her, turning her around to return the way they’d come. Aaron fell into synch with Sonya’s steps as they made their way back, now three instead of two.


Inside their home, Sonya was in command of the kitchen. She loved to cook and bake and create comfort along the way. While the little boy sat at the table, she busied herself with setting out tea. Aaron was up in the attic looking for something they could use as clothing for the little boy.

“I am ever so glad you came for me.”
“Why is that?”
“Being lonely was making me sad.”
“I’m sorry you were sad. How long were you waiting?”
“Oh, yes. I had to wait for you for a very long time.”
“Were you waiting for us in particular?”
“Of course!”
“And why us?”
“Who else would I have waited for?”
“Well, someone who knows you, maybe? Like a family member? Or a friend?”

Sonya stopped moving. She turned towards the table and asked, “What does that mean?”

Aaron returned then, with a few items of clothing slung over one arm. “I don’t know if these will work, little boy. They’re what we have.”

“Oh, yes! Thank you for keeping them for me!”
“I’m sorry?”
“Please don’t be sorry! You have found my clothes – that’s a good and kind thing.”
“I wasn’t”

Sonya brought a tea tray filled with sandwiches over to the table and placed it on the lazy susan in the center. “Are those your clothes, little boy?”

“Of course! I’ve missed them.”

Aaron looked at Sonya while Sonya looked towards the little boy.

“You’ve seen them before?”
“Yes, a long time ago, of course. I don’t strictly need them so I haven’t missed them. I’m happy to have them back all the same.”

Sonya turned towards Aaron and asked, “Where did you find the clothes?”
“In the boxes in the way-back.”

Silence fell between the couple while the little boy happily wriggled into the clothing Aaron had found. The way-back was full of unwanted memories collected over the years. Part of how they made it through day to day was by keeping some things there instead of out in the open.

Aaron turned to look at the little boy again, really examining him for the first time now that he was properly clothed. His blond hair perched on top of his heart-shaped face as if it had just landed there. His ears suck out a full inch from his head and seemed one size larger than necessary. His nose had a familiar swoop to it and ended with an upturned little button set just a hair right of center. His cheeks looked flushed and warm, and his chin was pointy and prominent. His smiles were visible in both his eyes and on his mouth. As Aaron studied him, a feeling of knowing began to grow behind his belly button.

“Where were you, little boy, before you ended up sitting on the sidewalk waiting for us?”
“I wasn’t.”
“You weren’t what?”
“I wasn’t anywhere.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Not being anywhere was ok. No need to apologize.”

Aaron took a deep breath, working to calm himself down. The feeling in his gut was beginning to demand attention and he was losing patience with the circular conversation. Sonya felt his frustration and reached out to take his hand. Feeling her helped.

“Not ‘I’m sorry’ – I meant I don’t understand.”
“Oh. Yes.”
“Why do you say ‘yes’?”
“You don’t understand, and I agree with you. I don’t think you’re likely to.”
“Likely to what?”

*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons real or imagined is unintentional

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