It was funny, Rai admitted to herself as she stirred the contents of the pot, gazing listlessly through the tiny, grime-encrusted window over the stove. It was funny how one lunch break could turn into an encounter that would completely alter not only the rest of her day, but a small part of her life as well. Funny, she could admit, in a way that was not in the least bit amusing.

She had been heading out of the club on her lunch break, her mind turning toward enjoying a sandwich on the beach when she had heard it. The sounds of a scuffle. A thud, and above the sound of a car peeling away, a wail so despairing, she was shocked it had come from a human being at all.

It was the wail that had called to her, however. At the sounds of the scuffle, she had been prepared to leave it alone, not to get involved. But when the cry pierced the afternoon air, she found her footsteps carrying her down the club hallway, past the climbing wall and out toward the back alley. All the while her mind was screaming at her to mind her business, but something within her breaking heart had resonated with so much mirrored anguish at the sound that she could not help but be drawn by it.

It was there in the alley where she had found him, the young man she had dubbed charin. He had been crumpled in a heap on the filthy ground, beaten, malnourished and pleading for a mistress who had discarded him like a bag of last night's rubbish. The realization of his abandonment, so similar to her own, had only cemented her need to help him.

It had taken hours for her to glean any useful information from him, and longer still for her to drive him to Boston where they had spent a better part of the evening in search of the one he called his Lady.

Her mind returned to the present as she gazed down into the pot, the fingers of her free hand flicking over the stove's dial, turning off the heat.

He was asleep in the bedroom of her Boston home now. His Lady had, in no uncertain terms, admitted she had discarded him to die. Her cruelty had shocked Rai straight to her core. She had utterly shattered Charin, and Rai wasn't certain she had the knowledge or emotional strength to begin the lengthy process of sorting through those pieces in order to glue them back into something that, she knew, would never again be truly whole.

Shaking her head, she crossed the few steps to the pantry, drawing down a cereal bowl and carrying it to the counter. The cream of wheat was sweet, laden with fruit and sugar; he needed both nutrients and fat. The lad was probably nearly as light as she was despite being twice her size. A glass of orange juice joined the tray she was preparing, napkins and cutlery following. Hoisting it upon one arm, she made her careful way to the bedroom door, tapping it with her fingertips.

Rai found she was not all that surprised when she entered the room to find charin awake, staring listlessly at the ceiling.

"I brought you breakfast," she said, keeping her voice soft. "You must eat."

She knew he would not obey her without the command; it was the only way he did anything. And so she was once more not surprised when he slowly pushed himself into a seated position and allowed her to slide the tray onto his lap.

As he ate, Asrai found her eyes flicking toward the opposite wall of the windowless room, sinking back into her own thoughts. The only one that continued to recur was one born of simplicity and concern.

How could one shattered soul ever heal another?