Avidan dropped his keys on the kitchen counter. “I’m home!” he yelled, his voice echoing up into the lofty apartment.

Silence. That was to be expected. His guardian, Velvare, traveled a lot. At first, he would take Dan with him, and Dan got to experience some of the most exclusive events in the world. Paris Fashion Week, sitting in on UN special councils, deep sea scuba diving in Thailand. They always stayed in the nicest hotels, and there would always be someone to watch over Dan, at a polite distance, when Velvare had to leave for actually business. It didn’t matter to Dan then what exactly Velvare was doing there, all that mattered to Dan was that Velvare was rich enough to pay for it all.

But now that Dan was older, Velvare stuck him in a new private school every time they’d moved. And it didn’t matter where they were living, pretentious, elite teenagers remained pretentious, elite teenagers. And Dan would only learn of Velvare’s next trip by half-planned notes found in the empty apartment the next morning. Sometimes, Velvare would remember to leave some money. As if it mattered. Dan could always charge orders to Velvare’s card, a hack he’d learned years ago, and even with a car, he preferred to take the subway.

Dan walked through the kitchen, dropping his bookbags near the counter. Flipping on the lights, Dan half expected to come around the corner to find Enel playing chess with Velvare in the library, or stretched out at Velvare’s feet, reading, but the room was silent.

If Velvare wasn’t travelling, the second most likely spot he could be found would be with their neighbor, an orphan named Enel. The earliest memory Dan had of the boy was from when he was very little. Velvare had gotten really sick, some complication of an illness too scary for Dan to comprehend. Dan remembered going to visit Velvare in the hospital, and there was Enel, frowning worriedly, yet still bouncing up and down impatiently with a bright red balloon. Enel’s rocking hops had made the balloon bob up and down insistently. Dan must had met Enel before hand, yet this was the clearest image Dan had of him. Dan had hesitated, in the hallway outside Velvare’s room, clutching nervously at the stuffed bear he had picked out all by himself when Enel had rushed in past him. Enel got to the bed first, throwing himself on Velvare with a big hug, but by the time Velvare had finally released the boy, subtlety wiping away tears that only Avidan caught sight of, Velvare had inhaled sharply, flinched in pain, then alarms had started beeping, a swarm of nurses had filled the room, and the boys were ushered away. Avidan had never gotten the chance to hug Velvare himself. Yet wasn’t he Velvare’s son?

Dan looked around the empty room and switched off the light again. He didn’t really have that much homework, and it was so close to break the teachers wouldn’t care. And if they did bug him about it, he didn’t care. Dan decided to take the train down to Central Park. A brisk walk would do him good, and he didn’t like being in the apartment when he was alone anyway.

The familiar lull and rattle of the train slowly opened Dan’s mind to wandering. He kept coming back to the nagging non answer of Velvare’s location. There hadn’t been a note that morning, maybe Velvare still was in town. What if Velvare was treating Enel out somewhere winter and festive-y, without Dan. Or maybe he was just out with Noah and Idony. But there was no point trying text Noah, he wouldn’t respond, or check social media, Enel wouldn’t have posted anything. He only had Twitter to stalk and annoy Avidan.

Bored and preoccupied, Dan scrolled through Instagram, until giving up ten minutes later. It was nothing but politics, which stressed him even more than family, photos of old friends he felt guilty for only liking, and people much happier than him already spending the holidays somewhere warm.

Stepping out onto the street, Dan was nearly knocked off his feet. Even though he felt like at this point he could call himself a seasoned New Yorker, Dan was still surprised by the speed of the winter winds. Dan hunched deeper into his coat against the cold blast, trying to find warmth hidden in his dark scarf. He started walking.

Eventually, Avidan entered the park. Close nearby was Wollman Rink, and Avidan watched families skate around the open ice. Parents supported wobbling toddlers while 20-something-year-olds effortless glided circles, gossiping. Dan remembered how one year he and his cousins had escaped another unsuccessful Leto family reunion to a nearby frozen pond. It must have been Thanksgiving, or Christmas, everyone had been yelling at each other, but Noah had managed to sneak them out and drive them, and the adrenaline made them laugh so hard Idony nearly slipped and broke her arm on the ice. Dan’s extended family was not as well off as Velvare, and he always felt out of place and over dressed at their get together. And someone always seemed to bring up the shaky topic of Dan’s inheritance. But he never felt uncomfortable with his cousins.

Back then, Noah would plan fishing trips, just for the two of them. He would drive up and spontaneously pick Dan up early in the morning. Noah would be sullen and half-awake, muttering angrily over his coffee, while Dan was content to stare bright-eyed out the window and munch away on half-warmed breakfast sandwiches. The simple break in routine was enough for Dan. Sometimes he would absentmindedly trace designs on the breath-fogged windows.

Dan kept walking until he found himself suddenly in an empty square, a deserted part of the park. There weren’t even pigeons around. Everything was quiet.

It then started to snow.

Dan closed his eyes and let himself feel the cold pricks of snowflakes on his exposed face. Everything around him was so silent, this peace seeped into his mind, stilling it’s flutter. For a moment, all that Dan was focusing on was the gentle intake and fall of his breathe.

An abrupt buzz from his pocket interrupted Dan’s meditation. There was a text from Noah. That was unusual. Dan pulled off his glove, quickly rested his finger on the home button, and swiped into the messaging app. The text chilled him more than snow ever could. “No,” he whispered.

He tried to typing back but his hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t hold the phone still. What had happened? Where was this coming from?

“The infection was too much. Enel took a bad turn in the night and passed away before dawn. I’m so sorry Avidan. I know you were friends once.”

Questions were suddenly flooding back and forth and Dan was stumbling back, as if trying to find something to lean on in the large empty courtyard. This was too much, all at once.

Dan turned off his phone.

Dan took in the plaza in front of him, as if seeing it for the first time. He blinked. His eyes were stinging. Was he crying? Dan rubbed his eyes, pulling his hand back across his face until he was running his fingers through his hair. He took a deep breathe in then shook his shoulder, standing up a little straighter. He lowered his hands into balled fists.

He turned back on his phone.

“Stop freaking out and get my mother.”

It was aunt visiting time.