He could remember the moment perfectly.
He'd been lying on one of the banks in The Hideaway's courtyard, pulling up grass blades clumped together with dirt. He ran one between his fingers, making a weird sort of squeaky-rubbing noise, and then flicked it away to watch the clouds.
One of them looked like a continent on the globe Auntie Maeve had shown him last week, and another looked like a face. There was one that looked a bit like a dog, sort of, only really when he squinted and turned his head to the side. But then the maybe-a-dog drifted to the side and the sun shone into his eyes, and he hissed and sat up.
It was impossible to miss. A blood-red diamond was flying in the sky, dipping and swerving with the wind. It was far outside The Hideaway walls, gliding high behind the tall, heavy gate, wind-beaten and soaring.
It had been amazing.
He ran straight into The Hideaway, bursting through the large foyer and darting down the nearest corridor. He rounded corner after corner, passing by several doors of other residents' bedrooms, bare feet padding against the polished floor.
"Auntie Maeve! Auntie Maeve!" He skidded to a halt in the Day Room, scanning the faces of people colouring at tables. "Auntie Maeve!"
There was a loud groan before a woman unfurled from lying in foetal position on the couch, eyes bleary. Keegan's face lit up and he barrelled towards her, skidding to a halt in front of where she lay. "Guess what!"
She struggled into a sitting position, pushing the knotted hair out of her face. "Good morning to you, too, squirt."
"I think it's the afternoon."
"We just had lunch, so I guess so."
Her lips curled into a lazy grin, eyes gradually focussing. "Well then, good afternoon."
"Guess what I just saw!"
"Someone fell over?"
"Someone brought in chocolate cake for after dinner?"
"Somebody ran up the stairs on all-fours like a gorilla?"
He grinned. "You do that."
"Oh. Yeah." She gave a half-hearted shrug. "Well, I mean, it is faster," she reasoned, running a hand through her hair only to pull it out when her fingers became tangled in the knots. "Go on, then. What'd you see?"
She blinked. "A kite?"
"Uh-huh! It was red and shaped like a diamond! And it was outside the walls!"
Her eyebrows raised. "Seriously?"
"Yeah!" He clambered to sit next to her, hands wrapping around her wrist. "I thought life was dangerous out there."
"It is," said Auntie Maeve, yawning. "This is the only safe haven for miles. The apocalypse made everything around here go to shit." She tensed. "Oh, uh... Don't repeat that."
Keegan giggled. "Okay. But, I mean, it can't be that dangerous if people are flying kites out there."
Auntie Maeve shrugged. "I don't know, hon. I haven't been outside The Hideaway in years. Maybe the conditions got a bit better?"
"But I thought the explosions made animals go crazy and deadly. Why would that have changed?"
"I don't know."
"And why wouldn't the person with the kite come in here for safety? Why would they just fly the kite outside the walls instead?"
"I don't know."
"And why would–"
"Kiddo, I'm gonna save you some breath: I have no idea," said Auntie Maeve, grinning when he pouted. "Look, Dr Walmsley's checking your vitals later on, right? Why don't you ask him then? He'll know more than me."
"Okay," agreed Keegan, and Auntie Maeve lifted her arm to wrap it around his shoulders. He sunk into her side, smiling. "We meeting in the usual spot for dinner?"
"We always do," she said, making him grin.
When it was time to head off for his appointment, Auntie Maeve said goodbye before leaving to go back to bed. Her vitals got checked in the mornings, so whenever she had her appointment, Keegan would either colour, watch TV, read or play with some of the residents. When he had to leave Auntie Maeve, all she did was stay in her room; reading, eating and sleeping. Keegan didn't really get how someone could stay in their room all day and not get fidgety, but Auntie Maeve seemed to like it just fine. The apocalypse affected everyone in different ways, so if that was how she dealt with it, then fair enough.
Dr Walmsley's office was over in the East Wing of The Hideaway, with the infirmary a few floors above it. Keegan walked down the endless hallways and bounced up the staircases, not breaking his stride until he reached Dr Walmsley's door. He knocked against the wood and rocked back on his heels, grinning when the door opened.
"Hi. I saw a kite outside today!"
Dr Walmsley stared down at him with a startled smile and a blink. It was that same look he got whenever Keegan was so excited about something he jumped from one thought to another: amused by his energy, surprised at the randomness. "Did you?"
"Yeah! It was outside the walls!"
"I see," hummed Dr Walmsley, shutting the door behind him and gently ushering Keegan over to the chair opposite his desk. "What did it look like?"
"It was a red diamond, and it was really far away. Way past the gate!"
"Uh-huh! I thought it was dangerous out there, though."
"Because of everything that's happened?"
"Yeah. Like the animals acting weird from the power plant explosions. Oh, oh, and the cities being destroyed! Remember the one from last week?"
"I certainly do," said Dr Walmsley, sighing.
"And we still have freak weather," nodded Keegan. "We had acid rain last week; I saw it with Auntie Maeve. Some people kept saying it was just something called 'sleet', but it was definitely acid rain."
"So? Why are people flying kites out there if it's so dangerous?"
There was a beat of silence where Dr Walmsley looked thoughtful, like he was thinking about what to say. "Well, you know how some survivors travel in groups, right?" At Keegan's nod, he continued, "Some groups don't like to stay in one place, so they travel over the lands often."
"Some look for places that haven't been destroyed yet. Others just feel safer moving around, so nothing bad catches up with them. It was probably one of those groups that had the kite, which is why they didn't come inside instead."
Keegan blinked. Huh. He didn't really get how people would feel safer outside with the animals and no shelter from the weather, but he guessed it was possible. Still seemed weird, though. "But why were they flying the kite?"
"I can't say for certain," said Dr Walmsley, shrugging, "but maybe they found it while they were traveling, and they had a child in their group who wanted to play with it. If they seemed safe for the moment, they might've let the child play with it to have fun." Keegan frowned, and the man clarified, "These times have been hard on everyone, you know. If you found something that took your mind off what was happening around you, even for a little while, wouldn't you let yourself forget?"
Keegan paused. If he found something that let him ignore the apocalypse for a while, would he 'let himself forget'? If it made him stop thinking about missing his parents, about never being able have another family trip to the zoo, about never going on holiday, about never being able to see the sea and feel the sand between his toes as he stood on the beach and watched the waves, would he let himself forget?
"Yeah," whispered Keegan, "I would."
He looked up to see Dr Walmsley frown, eyes narrowing with worry. They weren't the green eyes of his dad, not the eyes of the man he used to talk to everyday, they were blue. Dr Walmsley's eyes were blue. Not green never green he'd never see green again–
Swallowing around the lump that had formed in his throat, Keegan stood up from his chair and hurried to Dr Walmsley, arms outstretched for a hug as his eyes brimmed over.
Yeah. He'd like to forget.
"You okay, kiddo? You've been quiet all afternoon."
Eyes glazed over, Keegan gave a slow blink and The Hideaway's courtyard slipped back into focus. The washed out green of the grass on the garden's rolling banks, the soft grey cobblestone that had lost its colour from smog and acid rain, the brown of the trees that were slowly growing back leaves, and the outlines of the residents that were gathering under a large oak tree for shade from the summer sun.
Oh, yeah. Auntie Maeve had asked him a question. "I'm fine," he mumbled. A slight breeze ghosted his arms and knees, then, and Keegan huddled further into Auntie Maeve's side, idly curling his fingers into the hem of her shirt.
"You sure?" asked Auntie Maeve. "You didn't say a word at dinner. Did something happen?"
Keegan pressed his lips into a thin line. After a pause, he said, "I talked to Dr Walmsley about the kite."
"He said someone might've been playing with it to forget about the apocalypse. Y'know, just to have fun for a minute." Keegan stopped for a moment, watching the residents talk from where they sat under the tree's branches. He let his gaze drift to the ground and said, "If I found something like that – like, a distraction or something – he asked me if I'd let myself forget. About everything that's happened. And I started thinking about Mum and Dad, and how I'd never get to go to the zoo or the beach again, or never see the sea again, and…"
He trailed off. The residents' quiet chatter filled the air, a soft background noise to fill the silence. He stared across the courtyard and watched the clouds rise from behind The Hideaway's gate, slowly passing over them before disappearing behind the building, out of sight.
Voice light and airy, Keegan asked, "Do you miss stuff like that?"
Auntie Maeve exhaled, her shoulders sagging. "Sometimes. I try not to think about it too much." After a pause, she said, "Besides, I have you."
"Me?" Well, that got his attention. "What's that mean?"
She turned to him with a grin, eyes twinkling. " It means, you stop me from thinking about that stuff. Whenever I remember home or something, I'm sad for about two minutes before you bounce over, all happy and energetic." Keegan blinked at her and Auntie Maeve's gaze softened. "They may have a kite, squirt, but I've got you. You help me forget."
Oh. He hadn't thought of that. The thing that helped Auntie Maeve forget wasn't a thing – it was a person. Him. "So," he drew out, realisation creeping into his voice, "I'm your distraction?"
"Not distraction, no," said Auntie Maeve, squeezing his shoulder. With an embarrassed flush, she clarified, "You're the bright spot in my life."
Keegan stared up at her for a long moment, even when she playfully grimaced for saying something cheesy. He was a bright spot in her life. He was her 'kite'. And just when the knot that had coiled in his stomach finally loosened, he realised something else.
The second the thought crossed his mind, he knew it was true. "You're my bright spot, too, Auntie Maeve."
Her usual, lazy grin melted into something more sincere, a wobbly smile filled with delight and honour. A smile filled with love.
Keegan wrapped his arms around her and squeezed, beaming when he felt her arm drape around his back and a hand ruffling his hair. He turned his head to gaze at the courtyard, watching the grass rustle in the breeze and the clouds float over the gate, one looking like a turtle and another looking like a fish, and one that looked like–
"Hey! There it is!" He pulled out of the hug to point at the red diamond in the sky, leaping out among the clouds like ink on paper. "There's the kite!"
Auntie Maeve followed the direction with her gaze and turned towards the sky, eyes widening at the sight. "Oh, yeah!" She stared at it, a look of awe and wonder crossing her face, before breaking into a smile that reached her eyes.
Keegan grinned and pressed himself into her side again. The kite was a good distraction, sure – but he knew his bright spot was much, much better.