Everyone is a collection of the traits of their loved ones.
And Wilhelm agrees.
He squishes water out of his teabag like his Mother, and has always had the same fondness for tea over coffee.
“Mama, can I try some of your juice?” A four year old Wilhelm stands on the tips of his toes, trying to reach the table his mother is sitting at.
“It’s not juice, Wilhelm, it’s tea.”
“Can I try your tea, then?”
She nods, and asks a nearby attendant for a cup of mint tea.
Wilhelm struggles onto the chair next to her.
A tray comes, with a teapot, a cup, a tea bag, sugar, and a spoon.
She fills the cup with hot water.
“Careful, the cup is hot,” she says as she hands him the tea bag.
“Now put that inside, and wait for a few minutes, until the water is green.”
He does as he’s told, watching as green begins to spread out of the teabag.
He shifts on his chair as he waits until all the water turns a deep green.
“What now?” he asks.
His mother turns to look at the cup.
“Take out the tea bag like this.”
She demonstrates on her own cup, picking up the spoon, and placing the tea bag in the center. She wraps the string of the teabag around the spoon, squeezing the water out.
He copies her, small hands struggling to keep the spoon steady.
He sets the spoon on the tray.
She smiles, pushing his hair back.
He grins at her, grabbing the cup.
“Careful,” she says again.
He nods, blowing on the top.
He takes a sip, narrowing his eyes as he tastes it.
His mother laughs.
“How is it?”
“Weird,” he says.
“It’s a bit of an acquired taste, you’ll like it when you get older.”
Wilhelm shakes his head.
“I like it, it’s just weird.”
The queen smiles.
Like his Father, he has a fondness for horses and cats. He dog-ears pages, even when given the most beautiful bookmarks.
“Papa, will you read this one to me?”
A six year old Wilhelm holds up a leather-bound book.
His father picks it up, inspecting the cover.
“The Legend of Parzival.”
He looks down at the small boy grabbing onto his pant leg.
“This is in german, Wille.”
“But can you read it?” Wilhelms asks, curious.
His father sighs, trying to recall some of the grammatical differences between Swedish and German.
He can’t really resist Wilhelm when he’s so adorably excited about something.
He sits down, and Wilhelm scrambles onto his lap.
They begin to read.
When the clock strikes nine, they’ve just finished the third chapter.
“Time for bed, Wille,” his father says, petting his head.
Wilhelm looks like he’s about to protest, then doesn’t.
He turns to look his father in the eyes. “But will you read to me again tomorrow?”
His father considers it.
But before he closes the book, he turns the corner of the page over, to remind himself where they ended.
He ends up reading the rest of the book to him.
Like Erik, he loves the Lord of the Rings, and cartoons that he’s “too old” to watch. He stays up late into the night, and sleeps in as late as he can. He names all his plants. He’s colorblind. He has a fondness for hand-held apple pies.
A sixteen year old Erik holds two ceramic pots as he walks into Wilhelm’s room.
“Here, Wille,” he says, placing one of the plants on his desk, before walking over to where Wille sits on his bed.
Wilhelm sits up.
“Wait, what are those?” he asks, finally taking in the aloe vera plant Erik is holding.
“Plants, I got one as a gift a few weeks ago and I wanted to get another one. So I got you one too.”
“What are you going to name yours?” Erik asks.
Erik nods again.
“Do you not name your plants?”
Wilhelm raises an eyebrow at Erik.
“Nope, I’m calling this one Patroclus.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Wilhelm says, giving Erik a disbelieving look.
“Whatever you say,” Erik says, grinning and getting up.
“But I’m going to go find a place to put him,” he adds, as he leaves.
Wilhelm rolls his eyes.
But he names his plant Sulvain, after a character in a comic he likes.
Like Felice, he enjoys American movies and pop music in italian, even though he can’t understand any of the lyrics.
The two of them sit in study hall, sharing a set of airpods. They’re connected to Felice’s phone, so Wilhelm spends less time studying than he does paying attention to the new music.
He tells himself that it’s okay, because he’s miraculously still not failing any of his classes.
Another song comes on, this time not in Swedish or English.
He turns to Felice, eyebrows raised.
He nods, looking back at his paper.
A few moments later, he turns to face her again.
“What’s it about?”
He pulls his own phone out of his back pocket, looking up the name of the song.
“Guerriero,” the title reads.
He googles it, and hits the translate button.
He skims over the lyrics.
“Beyond these walls I will find joy, or maybe my end will be glory anyway.”
“Huh,” is all she says.
“I will defend you from nightmares and sorrows,” he continues.
“I will protect you from deceptions and slander and I will hug you to always give you strength. I will give you certainties against fears, to see the world beyond those hills. Do not fear anything, I will be by your side, with the cloak I will dry your tears.” He finishes.
“Wow, that’s a lot of promises,” Felice says, turning back to her paper.
He shows the song to Simon later.
Like Simon, he sits cross-legged at the piano, even though it means he can’t reach any of the pedals. He saves small coins in a jar on his desk, and plays computer games when he has the time. He has a fondness for the color purple, though it sometimes looks like blue to him. He curves the bottoms of his “t”s. He wakes up when the sun rises, and rolls over to go back to sleep.
“Shut up,” Simon says, voice still ragged with sleep.
Wilhelm grins, eyes still closed.
Simon rolls over to him, fiddling for his hand eyes closed.
Wilhelm opens his eyes a crack, adjusting to the sunlight which has just begun to creep through the window.
He caresses Simon’s face.
Simon grabs his hand, and interlaces it with his own.
“Go back to sleep, Wille,” he says, as he squeezes his hand.
Yes, Wilhelm thinks. He is but a collection of the fragments of those he loves.