Thursday, 27 September 2012

Chapter 19

The smell that filled the air when I opened the cottage door and walked in, made my stomach ache and my mouth water. Hurrying over to the bedroom, I threw my things on the unmade bed before walking over to Lucas, as he knelt in front of the growing flames that now danced within the chipped and faded stone hearth. Curling up on the sofa and tucking my feet under me, I reached for Daniel’s pillow, still lying on the end of the sofa where I left it earlier. Pulling it into my lap, I heard a soft thud as something hit the floor. Looking down to the bottom of the couch I bent over and picked up a weathered paperback book from the ground.

The sound of bacon sizzling had me looking back over to Lucas. Sitting with his back to me I watched as he held out a cast iron skillet, which looked as old and worn as this house, and held it high over the fire’s flames.

“What are you doing?” I asked, curiously watching Lucas, as he poked the frying bacon strips with a plastic fork.

“I don’t know about you, but I like my bacon crispy.” He threw over his shoulder, along with a sly little smile before turning back to his skillet. 

Looking back down to the small battered novel in my hands, I turned it over. I was barely able to make out the words, Hamlet, written in bold font on the scratched and tattered cover. Flipping through the stained and creased pages, I stopped several times to look at the small, scribbled notes that filled the margins in almost every other page.

“Hey, is this yours?” I inquired, looking up to see him pull a large brown bag out from the right side corner, beside the fireplace.

            “Is what mine?” he answered with a question. His eyes never leaving his task, as he dug through the bag.

“This….” I said, waving the book back and forth in the air, trying to get his attention.

Finally looking up to see what I was talking about, “Oh! That’s Dani’s. His m-” he started to say before stopping himself.

“His what?” I eagerly asked, silently begging him to continue so I could find out more about Daniel.

 “So how do you like your eggs?” he asked, avoiding my question. “Scrambled or-”

Tuning Lucas out as he continued talking, I thought about the last time I saw my gramps. How I watched him make eggs that morning for breakfast and how we talked about my trip. Thinking back, it felt like a lifetime ago.

“I’m good. No eggs for me.” I told Lucas with a tight smile.

“Well the bacons done, so have at it!” he said to me as he took the strips out from the hot pan, and laid them on the paper plate he pulled out from the magic brown bag.

Still clutching the book in my hand, I hunkered down next to Lucas on the floor and took a bite from the still blistering hot slice of bacon. Unconsciously closing my eyes, a soft little moan escaped my lips when the hot meat touched my tongue.

“You…ah… you got a little bit of drool right there.” Lucas said, startling me out of my bacon trance.

Reaching up I wiped the side of my mouth with the back of hand, glaring at Lucas when his amused smile morphed into a deep husky laugh.

“Don’t you have eggs to make.” I snapped. Still glowering at him as he turned and cracked a few eggs, into the same mug Daniel had offered me soup in last night. Using a plastic fork, he whisked to eggs into a frenzy before throwing them into the heated skillet.

Throwing the cooked eggs into another paper plate, he rested the scorching hot pan on the other side of the stone hearth. Settling to face me, the plates of food between us, Lucas dug into his eggs and I nibbled on my bacon as we both ate in silence. I’d just polished off my 6th strip, and was staring at Daniel’s book in my lap but not really seeing it, when Lucas’ raspy voice cut into my thoughts, shattering the unintentional silence.

“So how’re you doing? You know, with…..everything?” Lucas asked.

Looking up from my lap to Lucas, I saw the concern and wariness that flickered across his grey eyes as he patiently waited for me reply.

Holding his gaze I took a breath, “I’m…..dealing.” I softly murmured.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Chapter 18

           I woke up to a cool softness against my cheek and the crisp, clean smell of soap tickling my nose. Barely cracking my eyes open, I stretched and preened like a cat as I reveled in being woken up by the morning sunlight, streaking through the window’s dusty glass, lighting up the room, instead of the horrid nightmares that had begun to plague my dreams. Sitting up on the couch, I rubbed my eyes, clearing away the layers of sleepiness, my hand brushing back against the pillow I’d been laying on, Daniel’s pillow. 

           Looking around the seemingly empty room, from the lifeless stone fireplace, blackened with sot and ash to the closed front door, the still silence within the cottage felt deafening. Getting up I walked over to the bedroom, calling out for both boys as I peeked into the room and found it empty. With no answer in response, it wasn’t a stretch to assume that I was alone.

Where are the boys? I mean they wouldn’t just pack up and leave, right? They probably needed to head into town or something, maybe they went for food.

I thought, rationalizing my new found solitude. Entering the bedroom, I knelt on the ground beside my bags, unzipping and rummaging through my luggage, I found my small bag of toiletries and some clothes to change into as I slipped on my shoes, intending on heading to the waterfall. I was about to grab a towel from the armoire when the small pile of dirty clothes on the floor, sitting behind the bedroom door caught my attention.

Unable to just ignore it and leave the heap of clothes, I’ve used and discarded over the last few days, I threw my things on the bed and picking up the few pieces of clothing, walked out and around the cottage to the shallow river behind it. Toeing my shoes back off, I stepped ankle deep into the cool, clear water. Dipping each piece of clothing in the clean water and soaking it, I scrubbed each against the larger rocks along the river’s bank. Wringing out as much water as possible and spreading out each item of clothing on the grass for the sun to dry them.

A few minutes later as I sat spreading out the last hand washed piece of clothing along the grass, a whisper of sound reached my ears before a familiar voice spoke.

“You know, we usually just carry all our dirty clothes to the Laundromat in town. But hey, if you wanna kick it ole school, don’t let me stop you.” Lucas teased.

Turning to look up at him from my seat on the grassy bank, a towel around the crew neck of his loose fitting white t-shirt, “Huh….. I did not think of that.” I said.

Chuckling as he walked over, Lucas closed the small distance between us, taking a seat on the grass beside me and rolling up the bottom of his blue-black jeans, sank his toes into the sparkling waters of the stream, right next to mine. Raising an arm, the muscles in his back and shoulder involuntarily flexing under his shirt, Lucas ran a large hand through the damp tuft of his long, wavy hair.

 “Got a little restless, huh?” Lucas asked, a twinkle of amusement touching his deep grey eyes.

“I woke up and you were both gone, so I figured I’d do something to, you know, past the time until you guys came back.” I replied.

“So sure we were gonna come back?” he asked, a hint of curiosity in his words.

“Daniel said he would help me. He may act like a jerk, but he doesn’t seem like the kind to make empty promises.” I honestly answered.

Lucas’ lips slightly curved upward as he said, “He’s not. Hey, you had breakfast yet?”

“There’s nothing to eat in there.” I said tipping my head toward to the cottage behind us.

“Do you have tunnel vision or did you not see the bag of groceries near the front door.” Lucas said as he stood, extending his hand to help me up.

Accepting the help and placing my hand in his, I smiled up at him as he gently pulled me to my feet, “Thanks. And if this is you offering to make me breakfast, I say hell yeah.” I said, pushing my feet back into my shoes. 

“Cool” Lucas replied, flashing me a lusty smile.

Rolling my eyes, I turned and headed back to the cottage. Walking through the front door and into the bedroom, I grabbed my stuff from earlier and walked back out.

 “I’ll be back in a few.” I shouted over my shoulder to Lucas, passing him as I ran back out the cottage, heading to the falls.

Feeling clean and a little more like me in a pair of faded straight jeans and a dark brown tank top. I lazily followed the river along the fringe of the forest, making my way back to Lucas, and hopefully food, as I walked past the dark green canopy of the trees as they let stray beams of sunlight filter through to the thick, rich green of the forest floor. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Chapter 17

I could feel the smoke invading my lungs with each strangled breath, burning its way up my nose and down my throat. Stinging my eyes and blurring my vision as the unbearable heat of the mounting fire surround me.

My face snapped up from the pillow, where it was buried, as I woke with a jolt. Turning over unto my back in the dark room, the lit candles already burnt out, a sound full of exhaustion and frustration escaped my lips. It felt like the allotted time for my eyes to be closed before the nightmares began was becoming shorter and shorter. Slowly rolling off the bed, tired and unable to sleep I began pacing the floor of the small room. Seemingly unable to stop myself, I eased the door open, cringing at every squeak and creak it made, I tiptoed over to the couch.

Standing in the soft glow of the fire that filled the small room, I looked across at both boys as they lay fast asleep. Daniel’s towering frame barely fit on the sofa as he lay on his back, his arms folded over his chest and his feet dangling off the end as Lucas rested comfortably in a dark sleeping bag, situated right in front the fireplace. Daniel was as still and soundless as a statue as he lay on the couch, if it wasn’t for the steady rise and fall of his dingy t-shirt covered chest, I would have thought him dead. In total contrast, Lucas had kicked off the top of his sleeping bag as he lay on his naked stomach, his arms tucked beneath his pillow. Snoring softly through barely parted lips, his tussled black hair covering his eyes as the flickering light of the dying fire, danced across the rich, olive toned skin of his back.

Leaning over the back of the sofa I lightly nudged Daniel’s shoulder and softly called his name as I tried to wake him from sleep. A couple seconds later, Daniel’s head tilted toward me as his eyelids slowly fluttered open and eyes the darkest shade of bitter chocolate met mine. 

“Oh God.” he said with annoyance, looking up at me before closing back his eyes.

“Well good morning to you to sunshine.” I said dryly.

“What time is it?” He mumbled.

“I don’t know? Early.” I guessed.

Resting my chin in my hand, I balanced my elbow on the back of the couch and watched as Daniel ignored my vague answer and stuck his hand under the pillow his head rested on and pulled out his phone. Quickly glancing at the lit screen, “Its 2am. Leave me alone.” He grumbled before turning away from me and settling back into his sleep.

Looking over to Lucas and seeing him still sleeping, I crept over to the other side of the couch in front of Daniel, crouching down and leaning close.

“Daniel!” I impatiently whispered through clenched teeth.

“What!” he answered, matching my tone as he fully turned to face me.

“Did you mean it?” I said with a solemn tone.

“Mean what?” he asked with heavy eyelids.

“What you said earlier, about you helping me. Did you mean it or is it just a way for you to get what you want?” I clarified. 

“And what is it that I want?” Daniel asked with a cocked brow, my question seemingly holding his attention.

“Answers.”  I responded.

A lazy smile touched his lips as he sleepily drawled, “Yeah, I meant what I said. I’ll help you.”

“Daniel?” I said.

“Mmm….” He wearily sounded in answer.

“Please, don’t ask me anymore questions.” he didn’t respond but his face was blanketed by questioning and concern.

“I’m just not ready to talk about the fire or gramps or any of it right now, especially after finding out so much so fast-”

“I told Lucas to keep his mouth shut.” Daniel interrupted, glancing over at Lucas’ slumbering body.

Just, stop pushing. Okay?” I finished.

“Okay.” He answered nodding in agreement, “Like I said its past 2, you planning on going back to bed anytime soon, so that I can.”

I looked back at the dark and empty room I just came from and answered, “I think I’ll just stay out here for a while, if it’s okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” he said before slinging his arm over his eyes and drifting off.

Walking over to the small pile of twigs and broken branches at the side of the fireplace and tossing a few into the red and orange fire, I watched as it slowly devoured the firewood and fed its flame. Quietly stepping over Lucas I settled in beside Daniel, sitting on the floor the sofa at my back, I pulled my knees to my chest. The deep breathing of both boys quickly lulling my eyes closed as I fell asleep to the pops of the crackling fire. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Chapter 16

       My Dearest October, 

       If you’re reading this, then to our both misfortune, I’m no longer with you. The items you’ll find along with this note are yours to keep. The gun is a family heirloom, handed down from one generation to the next. I know you’ve never really fancied them, no lack of trying on my part, but I hope you’ll keep it safe and with you all the same. The daggers are a gift, I had them specially made for you after your first lesson. Even at thirteen you could throw and wield a blade far better than most. You were a natural. 

Tobi, there are parts of my life that you don’t know about, things that you may not understand and I hope you never will. My untimely passing may create ripples and I pray they never reach you. But there’s no way for me to know whether they will or won’t. Your uncle Jon and I have kept in touch over the years and if you need anything, find him. He’ll take care of you like you were his own. Be careful and stay safe, don’t forget the things I’ve taught you. 

Your Gramps.
Marcus Latro.

I must have read through the letter almost twenty times already. If the hand writing wasn’t enough to convince me this was from gramps, then the length and vagueness would have. I was still staring at the faded words when Daniel offered me a small mug of heated up, can soup.

Guess that’s what he was stirring in the pot over the fire.

I thought, barely looking up at him before declining with a dismissive nod.

When did gramps even write this letter? Why did he write it? Why Uncle Jon?

“October? You doing alright?” Lucas asked in a soft voice, cutting into my thoughts.

Turning away from the paper and my wandering thoughts, I glanced up at Lucas as he sat next to me on the battered brown sofa, his eyes shining with concern. A tight smile stretched across my face as I gave him a small nod before looking away from him, my gaze shifting to Daniel as he sat with his back to us, on the bare wood floor in front of the fireplace.

“I think I’m gonna go to bed.” I said to no one in particular as I stood up and walked over to the bedroom.

Walking into the faintly lit room, I stepped over my bags, still sprawled on the ground from when I tripped over them, shutting the door behind me. Walking over to the lit candles that sat on the curtain less window sill, I held up the note I still held in my hands. Reading through it once more I held it out over the flame and watched as the fire spread, turning my gramps words to nothing. Sitting on the bed, the worn and old mattress creaked under my weight as I began pulling off my shoes. A light knock on the bedroom door interrupted my nomadic thoughts. Shifting my attention, I quickly tore off both shoes before shuffling over to the door and slowly creaking it open.

 “Hey.” I said to Daniel, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.

“Hey.” He repeated as he just stood there leaning in the doorway.  

“Where’s Lucas?” I curiously asked, looking past him and seeing nothing but an empty room and hearing nothing but the occasional crackle of the dying fire.

“Oh, he went to get some more wood for the fire.” He replied, “uh….. you left these on the couch.” He said as he held out the same black velvet bag and its contents. 

“Thank you.” I said as I took the bag from him, peering inside to see both the gun and my pair of daggers sitting at the bottom.

“And…” Daniel blurted out, stopping me from closing the door.  “I just wanted to say thanks, you know, for letting us read the letter too.” He added, his eyes looking everywhere else but mine.

The corners of mouth tilting up at his unease “No problem. Goodnight” I said as I began to close the door once more.

Resting his hand face down on the door, Daniel held it open as he continued to speak, his dark eyes meeting mine “If you want to go to your uncle’s that’s fine. Luc and I, we’ll take you.” 

“Thanks Daniel, but I haven’t seen my uncle Jon in years. I have no idea where he is.”  I said to him on a defeated sigh.

“Then we’ll help you find him. If Marcus wants you to find your uncle then, we’ll help.” He said with conviction.

“Thank you.” I said to him with a genuine smile as he lifted his hand off the door and walked backed to the sofa.

Closing the door I treaded back to the bed, falling face down on the soft and threadbare pillow and tried to fall asleep.