[Yes, this is another "From the Archives" (when Louise was in High School) that I've dug up from my closet and transposed with some editing onto my blog. Hopefully I can find a home for it somewhere where it can be published and others could read it. I've also realized that this is yet another one that doesn't have a title. Actually, most of the work I did in my creative writing class isn't titled, and yes, this another one of those could-be-positively-nawful prompt pieces. This time, it was a photo, and when I return to school and have use of my printer/scanner, I will upload the photo for you to see. (Or maybe my sister has a similar photo.) The photo that this is based off of is of the two apple trees closest to the backyard at my old house (where my sister lives now), at the very beginning of October. There are little, minute splashes of color in the green of the trees, which are the apples, and it was a very nice, very calming, glade-like photo. And it was the inspiration for the following. And if anybody can think of a decent title for this damn thing, send me an email or a comment, or an IM or a text or something. So...here it be. Another one from the Archives.]
The glade hadn't changed much in two years, except for the inevitable passing of the seasons. Now, deep in the heart of summer, the apple trees were in full bloom; large, red fruit hanging heavily from the branches, leaves casting gently moving shadows on the cool grass below. A line of pine trees, solid and unwavering, stood like soldiers to the west of the glade, a shadowed barrier. Though it was the height of the afternoon, the space between the pines and the other, smaller trees and brush was awash with darkness, hiding away from the sunlight in the depths of shadow.
Vincent knew all about the darkness, and its many myriad forms as he stood beneath the apple tree, staring at the pines. The day the sunlight had stopped shining so brightly stood clear in his mind. The day he had lost his older brother, the oldest of the four of them, to what the papers had called a freak accident. A tragedy. A drunken driver. The epitome of a car license at sixteen - don't drink and drive. Carter hadn't. Someone else had.
It had been two years ago, in the hospital, that he'd perfected his first coin trick. He'd made one of his father's silver dollars dance between his knuckles while waiting in a clean, sterile white chair for news of his brother. There was a nagging voice in his head, and an accompanying ache in his chest that said Carter wasn't coming back from the darkness that always threatened. It had been too long; too hard a struggle for him. Francis sat next to him, rosary dangling between his fingers, praying feverishly. Francis had been the devout one, the one to follow blindly, the who believed the most in a God that Vincent had lost faith in. Vincent had lost faith in Carter's ability to bounce back, to wake up from the sleep that had him as the seconds dragged on.
Vincent knew it was over the moment the white-coated doctor appeared from the room. He knew, before anything was said, that Carter was gone from them. Gone to a better place, Francis would say tearfully, and maybe Lance, the youngest, would agree for a little while. Vincent never would. Carter's place had been with his brothers. He remembered, in that moment, while the doctor was dreadfully informing his mother that she had lost her eldest son, of the pact they had made together when Lance had ridden his bicycle into the ditch out back of their house. It had been a hospital room much like the one Carter was in, and they had made a pact that they would always stay together, always stay strong for each other. They were the Westchester brothers, and nothing could tear them apart. Quintuplets from birth, quintuplets till death, was what they had promised.
The promise lay broken. Carter was gone.
Vince wandered into the shade of the apple tree, peering up through its branches. The birdhouses that his father had made his mother still hung there, full of twigs and branches. Maybe baby birds. There was life in those branches, life in the house behind him, yet there remained little in him. He'd been Carter's best friend, and he'd lost part of himself when Carter had slipped away from them. Away from Vince. Francis and Lance had lost something, too, but Vincent hurt the most, the deepest. It was Vincent who returned to the glade every day, even in winter, because that was where he best remembered Carter.
It was Vincent who found Kimmie and the Nevren.
He'd had the shock of his life, second to losing his brother, when he entered the glade and found the little girl there. She had been idly playing with a few butterflies as they flitted around her long, sun-touched blonde hair. She had only looked at him when he was but a few feet away, white irises surrounded by cloudless blue. There was an ethereal beauty to her; her almond eyes and flawless white skin. She was little, only seven or eight.
Vince, still raw from having lost Carter, sat in front of her, walking a coin across his knuckles without much thought. He asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was merely sitting there, listening to the earth and the butterflies. The butterflies were telling her stories she had never heard, and she'd heard him coming a long way off. There was a sadness in him, she said, something that darkened him. When he told her of Carter, she sighed.
"Nobody loses things in Nevren," she had said. She pointed to her left, to the shadowy pines. "Everything is always there."
"Carter's dead, Kimmie," Vince had pointed out flatly. He hoped to forget that maybe, just maybe, Carter lived on in some forgotten place. It went against everything rational and true, and still Vince had gone with it. He went to Nevren, under the guise of helping Kimmie return home. There, in that place of darkness upon darkness, he heard the voice he'd thought he'd never hear again. Carter. Alive. Well. Vincent had stayed, crying onto his brother's shoulder. He stayed as long as Carter would have him, before he was told he had to go back out of the shadows and into the real world. Once there, Vincent delved deeply into the art of illusions, because he was convinced that somehow, Carter in those pines was simply that. An illusion. His living brothers worried for him, his parents worried, and at times, Vincent worried for himself, as well. Still, Nevren was the only way to see Carter, to stay with his brother, even as it took him from the rest of his living, breathing family.
He struggled for two years with the notion to disappear forever into the world of darkness or remaining with the loss and emptiness Carter's death had wrought. Deeper and deeper into the world of illusions he delved, until he hit the wall - a stunt gone wrong that nearly killed him.
In a hospital bed, Francis's rosary around his bedpost and his brothers beside him, he realized how far down he had fallen. He had life, while Carter would be forever eighteen. Vincent had passed his twentieth birthday, older now than his big brother by two years. Two years that he'd spent in darkness and shadows, sifting through what was real and what wasn't, and not knowing the line between the two. Two years he'd spent with the Nevren, hoping to freeze the clock and stay forever with Carter. It was then, in the hospital bed, identical to the one that Carter had taken his last, struggling breath in, that he realized Carter wouldn't want him to live forever in the past.
After some rehabilitation, and with the strength of his brothers, Vincent stopped retreating to the glade. Instead, he found his illusions again, the simple art that he had once perfected. He made silver dollars dance for his own enjoyment, and for that of children at the local elementary school. Now, as he stood in the glade, facing the pines, he found that, with the right angle, he could see the trunks. There was no Carter there, no Kimmie. No Nevren. Carter lay at peace in his heart, like a brother should. Vincent lived firmly in reality, the Nevren nothing more than an illusion of the past. Perhaps that was what it had been all along.