Reason For Writing:
October 16, 2078
The distance between my body and the ground is making my head spin. Wind eddies the crumpled autumn leaves and makes the tall grass into children, playing endless games of whisper down the lane that I was not invited to join. But that was me, outside the loop, lost. I wouldn't be able to keep up anyway. Maybe I could have 7 months ago, but not now. Not without you. But I'm about to find you so I forget the grass and the games and the crumpled autumn leaves and i take a deep breath.
The air is cold in my lungs and I hold it in. Maybe I can pretend that heavy feeling in my chest is the cork that'll fit in your empty spot. I can't. I've tried that before, you know. It never works.
The air smells like lavender. Remember the lavender? No, probably not. Lavender isn't something you care about up there, it it? But I Remember the lavender, enough for the both of us so it's ok. I smile. Would you smile if you were in my shoes? Do you still wear shoes up there? I think you would. I got you waiting and I got my favorite smell swirling in my nose and I got my friend mama nature. You'd like her I think, if you let yourself.
But I guess I'm not happy enough because when I lick my lips, you know how i do that when I get nervous, I taste salt. I'm crying I guess. But maybe they're happy tears. I haven't cried in three months. Maybe my tears are hoping for your lips to kiss them away like you used to.
I look down again and the black that I see looks like a cushion. I can sleep there and not think about the ache that wakes me up every night. I won't have that ache anymore because I won't need it. I can't ache for something if I've got it.
I hold out my arms and stretch out my fingers. I could touch the sky! Can you feel it? Are you holding on? I hope so. I'm still a little scared. Like when we went back behind the lavender. I was scared then, and you were too, you told me. But we were both excited. So excited we rushed through the rest of life like birds on a swell of hot air. I don't wanna rush now. I don't wanna keep you, love, but I'm leaving my home too. Like you did. But you didn't get any time like this so I'm gonna take time for you too. I close my eyes like you never liked me to, and I even think up a prayer.
And when i open my eyes I'm not scared at all. I just want you and I'm gonna see you soon, I promise. All I gotta do is take a step; mama nature will do the rest.
November 16, 2077
They told me people from Helix City and all her sisters were no good. Said they don't like mama nature or any of her babies like we do. So right off the bat, i didn't want nothing to do with those new people in the house on the corner of Hayte. Too nice a place for city people. Too much to appreciate for their dried up, technology dependent brains. They walked around with their noses held high like the rest of us smelled like cow shit. Ain't no cows in Wittleton, just a couple a chickens scattered about but they don't belong to nobody.
So i ignore the two of em as best as I can. They ain't worth my time. City people choose to leave behind mama nature so why are they coming back where they aint welcome? I often shake my head just thinking about it. Today I see the little one when I be walk home from the store. He stares at my feet, bare just like my top half, and he squints his eyes like he was thinking tea hard but whenever he caught my eye he'd grin real big, teeth and everything. I didn't grin back though. I don't have no good feelings for city people.
I went to school like everybody else in Whittleton, but unlike all my friends, I go to college now too. I pay for it myself and its not easy but just because i'm a rural guy don't mean I shouldn't make something for myself outta this life I was given. My school is just outside Helix, close enough to the city for me to feel uncomfortable and code enough to home that I can bike there in two hours. Nobody else bikes to college because they all live in Helix and they probably don't even know how to ride bikes. I'm the only hick in college so I don't talk to anybody. I just go for class, learn as much as I can tuff in my hick brain and then I go home and go to work. After work I sleep for five hours and I start all over again. Right now I'm taking chemistry and I'm not doing too bad.
It'll be December soon and thats the end of my semester. I'm excited I guess, because in the summer i can spend more time being Wittleton's Witch Doctor. That's the stupid nickname my friend Beth gave me because since Middle School, I've been the guy that mushes up all the different plants in Wittleton and gives em out as fixes to peoples headaches and stomach troubles and stress cramps and all that stuff. It's not that difficult. just chew something new every time somehing hurts and eventually something works.
Bethy runs her momma's shop so i give her my mushed up plants and she gives me cash. and when I'm not smashing cone flowers or stealing honey or chasing chickens, I'm working in my neighbor' field. He grows all sorts for the city people and picking aint a bad job. plus his daughters got eyes like rose of sharon petals and sometimes she comes out and helps me so that after I can take her home and she makes me dinner and stays over after. Her names Taylor. Bethy says me and Taylor are getting married and having ten babies, but I don't want ten babies and i don't want Taylor Liddle but there aint much else to go for. Bethy is my best friend, and I don't think I'd ever let her stay over because her and I are more like siblings.
That's how the whole summer went buy. Me walking bare foot and bare chested to the store and hauling back flour and all sorts for Mrs Criv, sweating in the field and hunting for flowers like some grade school girl and all the while being squinted at by that little one on the Hayte House's porch.
Ethics. I saw the Hayte boy first in ethics class when August rolled around. He sat in his desk lazily, eyes drooping during the lecture and flicking back open every few minutes. Just like a city guy to waste money on a class he's just going to sleep in. I watch him rhythmically doze and snap back, like a pattern. I almost find it amusing but then I remember I don't like city people so i just look back at the tech screen and pretend he doesn't exist.
When the class is over, i grab my bag and head outside. I had to walk today because Bethy needed my bike for hauling today and i don't wanna ask for it back till she's done with it. When i get outside, I unbutton my shirt and let it hang on my shoulders, fluttering in the breeze from the megarail trains. It's a long walk back to Wittleton. I here a car behind me and turn to see a dusty grey chrysler fly past. There goes the Hayte boy, on his way home, choking he earth with his fumes and noise as he went.
I just keep walking.
Cone flower oil and Rose. The little Hayte boy has a cold. Too baad he ain't come to me yet but I hear his hacking from the sidewalk. Im caring fifty pounds of sugar on my shoulder and haven't got the time to find any seeds, but if I get a minute, I suppose it would be the right thing to do. He's been coughing up a lung for days. It's annoying me.
I drop of the sugar quick and head hime. Cone oil and rose. Mortar and Pestal. Boil the syrup and mix it in water. Honey for taste. Leave it on the door with a tag. "Little Hayte Boy, Get well soon."
It was just a courtesy. I didn't expect anything back. But the next morning, I step outside to leave for school and theres a note on my step. "I'll give you a ride. See you at 9." I scoff a little because I don't need favors from city boys but It's 4 am and Taylor stayed late last night. I'm tired. So i go back to sleep and set my alarm for 8:30.
I'm on my step waiting when the dusty grey chrysler rolls up. The passenger window rolls down and sure enough, theres Hayte boy. He just looks at me, real serious. Doesn't even smile or wave or anything. So I get in the car other wise I'll be late. Its awkward. I can tell he doesn't know what to say so I just do the common courtesy thing and introduce myself.
"My name is Chase, in case you were wondering. Tell me yours, unless you want me calling you Hayte Boy for the rest of my life."
Rude, but effective I suppose.
I see hm glance at me out the corner of his eye and i feel suddenly embarrased that he's in real nice city clothes and the only thing I got on is my old jeans and a pair of work boots. Too hot for a shirt today. "Aden." He said. Didn't say nothing else. No thank you, how are you, or any other such small talk. He's just Aden and that's that. I noticed, though, that he said his name funny. Like he didn't live here is whole life. I mean here as in The United States, not just Wittleton, Virginia. So I told him so.
"I'm from the UK." came his curt reply. Well that ain't gonna do for me because the UK is almost as broad a term as just saying "Soft Serve." When answering the question, "What flavor is the best ice cream?" I myself like strawberry banana but that's beside the point.
He probably thinks that I'm dumb just because I'm not a City person and because I talk like I'm trying to murder all my grade school english teachers, but oh well. This is how I was taught by Ms. Criv and so this is how I talk. Ain't my fault. Ms Criv is from Louisiana so I probably sound different than all the other people in Wittleton too. I visited Louisiana with Ms. Criv once. I don't sound any different there.
So i just lean on his car hoping I left a big old dirt mark because I've got dirt on me from picking this morning but I showered after Taylor left because I'm not a fan of her sweat sticking to me so I gotta wash it all off before I do anything else.
The car ride only lasts half an hour and we don't say nothing more'n our names and him being from the UK and all. So after he got all quiet, I just look at him, even when we are in class. I don't know if I was hoping to burn a hole in his head or just trying to make him squirm. Neither happens. I just kept staring and manage to realize he's a very handsome man. Still a nature hating, rude, car driving city guy, but at least he looked good while hating nature, being rude, driving his car, and probably doing any other mundane task we Wittleton people made look ugly and boring like writing, reading, and walking.
I'm expecting to have to walk home. I figure that if the ride to class was a thanks for the coneflower drink, I'll only get one because I only gave one. But I only get a few minutes down the road when the dusty grey chrysler stops right next to me and the door opens from inside. So I look in and he is still bent over the seat I'd refer to as mine after pushing open my door. He's real quick to sit back up and I get in the car and we drive home in silence. Well, silence until we are ten minutes from Wittleton and he asks, none top politely for me to stop staring at him.
"No." I answer, "I've seen this road a million times but I've only just seen you this morning."
He doesn't answer. When he pulls up to my house, I get out of the car but he doesn't drive off right away so I ask him if he wants to stop in and get some more cone flower for his brother. He thinks on it for a minute, then turns of his car, which surprises me. I didn't think he would.
I let him in the house and wonder if the strong smell of herbs and wild flowers is pleasant or not to people that aren't me. He doesn't grimace so I guess pleasant. I gesture to a chair in the kitchen and he sits. On the table I place four fresh Echinacea flowers, rose petals, and a mortar and pestal. I lay out the same for me. I start pinching the petals of the cone flowers and crinkling the dried rose into dust. mash it all together for a bit nd then add more. He seems to get it and does the same. His work is acceptable. Not as quick as mine but I've been doing it for nearly ten years so that's fine. I Grab a water bottle and drip some into with the flower mash and then a drop of honey and he does the same.
I show him how to boil it, add water, then more honey and he does it on his own. And then i give him a jar to keep it in and pour mine out into two glasses over ice. It don't look pretty, but i hand him a glass and I tip my head back and finish mine in a gulp and I watch him do the same.
"No cold if you drink Echinacea."
He looks at me with serious eyes and asks a question that throws me off. "Will you teach me more?"
I must look as if someone gave me a very bad birthday present, surprised and unsure of what to say all at the same time but also grateful because hey, someone bought you a birthday present.
"If you want." I say, "But you don't have to learn. If you ever need anything, just ask. Me or Beth Halloway will have something for you."
He shakes his head. "No, I want you to show me."
I shrug. "I work a lot In Taylor's field. If I ain't in class, ain't in the field, ain't walking down and back to get Ms. Criv her groceries you can come over and We'll pick and I'll show you what's what."
He, well I guess I should get to calling him by his name, Aden nods and for the first time I see the slightest telltale sign of a smile on his city lips.
December 30, 2077
"That one's Borage and that's for the girls when they're having a visit and good for colds to, but the cone flowers are better."
Aden and I have taken to walking back behind my house and picking on some mornings when he offers to drive me to class. He's nice when you get past the city parts but he still doesn't like mama nature that much. Too many bad things come from it, he says.
I've seen him smile for real now. I've taken to watching for that smile because I like it so much. I might not have feelings for city boys but a good smile makes me smile.
"I thought you said Echinacea is best."
"Same thing, Sunny." I call him Sun for lots of reasons but I tell him its because his hair looks like he's stuck a sunflower petals in it. I also call him Tinkerbell sometimes because he's white like a little Fairy. He hates it, so I make sure to say it often.
It's a while before either of us says anything else. We'rejust walking along in silence in the pale light or early morning. Though the silence seems to be gradually disappearing, there are still spells of it here and there.
That's why, when he asks about taylor Liddle, I nearly choke on the sage that I'm chewing. "Are you going to marry Liddle's daughter?"
"Why you wondering about Taylor?" I ask, trying not to sound guilty because there's nothing to be guilty for but I still feel guilty.
He pauses, then says, "No reason. I just hear you two are gonna have ten babies and live in Exley and never come back but you don't seem the kind of guy to have even two babies so I thought I'd ask."
I smiled, not at the conversation topic, but because he was starting to sound like one of us. Still spoke funny, but his words were getting close to Wittleton words.
"I ain't marrying Taylor Liddle." I said firmly, but I know if I aint gonna marry her, I should stop asking her over and if I krrp asking her over I'm gonna have to buy her a ring.
We fall into silence again and I spit out my sage because it's gotten stale. We walk for a bit more until we get to the big cyprus tree that my momma used to sit under. I don't like thinking about her because dead people don't need to be brought back by a living person's thoughts. They want to enjoy heaven and so I'm gonna let my momma go. I'm 22 anyway, it's been a long long time.
But Aden don't know about my Momma and he sits down on that bench under the cyprus tree and closes his eyes. He breaths in the air and theres a smile on his lips and I think he's enjoying mama nature for once. So i sit down next to him and close my eyes and breath the air but I don't smile. I feel his shoulder brush against mine and cyprus leave tickle my other shoulder and I wonder if that's my Momma saying hello.
I don't realize it until I can taste the tears, but I'm crying. Not weeping or sobbing like beth after the notebook, but my eyes are open and there are tears flowing steadily out the corners. No use wiping at them because Aden's already seen em and he's staring at me as the rain begins to fall. He takes my hand and our fingers interlace and I turn my face up to the sky so he can't see the tears fall faster, mixing with raindrops and sprinting down my chin.
As it pours, we stay under the cyprus tree. It keeps most of mama nature's tears off us, but we still get wet. Aden doesn't like rain, I know. And we have to sit here for a while as mama nature sobs even though I've stopped a while ago. When it finally stops, we don't get up right away. His hands still holding mine until i pull it away.
February 25, 2078
Aden hasn't come round in a while. I don't think he's ill because I see him in class still. But we haven't talked since the cyprus tree. I've been walking to school, since Beth broke my bike. It's bothering me. And being bothered by the lack of his presence bothers me more. So i just go back to picking Mister Liddle's tomatoes and put him out of my mind.
When I got back home, theres someone sitting on my front step. Its the little Hayte Boy, Aden's younger brother. I'm a bit embarrasses, because I've just got through pushing Taylor Liddle off of me and her peach-red lipstick is still smeared on my face. My wind chimes are frantic in the night breeze, I notice.
"Hi Riley." I say. I know his name even though he and I have never met. "You need something?"
He shrugs. "You've got lipstick on your face."
"I know. I ain't showered yet because theres a kid in my doorway and he hasn't had the sense to let a man into his own house."
Riley hurried off the step so I opened my door and stepped in. I invited him in and he tip toed into the house like it was full of evil things that might eat him up. "I just wanted to let you know," He starts, "That Aden hasn't come round because he thinks you don't want him to."
"And why," I ask, beginning to make two cups of tea. "Would he think that?"
"Because he saw you with Taylor Liddle again, piggybacking her her to the theater and laughing and he figures if he comes around again, he'll just get real mad. Well… He already is real mad. But he figures He'll get real mad and say things he'll regret in the morning so he just won't come around no more."
I hand the kid a cup of tea and he tries it a bit to hastily. "Hot!" He remarks, setting it down and pinching his burnt tongue. He's gotta be no older'n eleven but he talks like he's just as old as me. I set my tea down on the table and run a wet rag over my face.
"Did Aden ask you to come tell me that?"
He shakes his head. "No, he told me not to talk to two-faced whores."
I laughed out loud. "Well, I appreciate the thought, kid, but let your brother fight his own battles."
Riley looks down at the floor. "Thanks for the cough syrup stuff."
I had to think hard before I remembered what he was talking about. It was back in fall and now its almost the end of spring.
"Can you do me a favor?" he asks.
"Call my brother? I think, even if he gets mad, you should. Because that way you can tell him one way or the other whether you let Taylor Liddle kiss you like that or if she did it of her own accord. My brother likes you, Mr. Adams, but not if you like Taylor Liddle. He likes you like that, you see?"
So i handed him a piece of paper and a pen and he carefully wrote down his home phone number. "And you tell me something, kid." I say to Riley. "Where did you tell him you'd be tonight, if not waiting on Chase Adams' doorstep to ask about Taylor Liddle."
Riley smiled. "I told him I was gonna go see Nilly Hertkorn from school and he said that was fine."
"And what happens if Aden calls Nilly's mother, finds out your here, and blames me for it instead?"
RIley thinks about his answer carefully. "Well sir, then you'll be in worse trouble than you are for piggybacking Taylor Liddle to the theater."
February 26th, 2078
I call Aden the next night, so as not to get Riley in trouble. He answers probably because home phones don't have caller ID.
I haven't realized I missed his voice until now. "I told Taylor Liddle I ain't gonna see her anymore."
There's silence. Always silence with the two of us and still so much is said. Then the line goes dead because he's hung up.
Five minutes is all it takes for him to cross town on foot and knock on my door. I open it and instead of inviting him in, close the door behind me and hold out a hand. He takes it and we walk around back. Not picking this time, just walking. As we walk, i show him the lavender and the smell of its intoxicating.
And I stop walking and lean down and kiss him and he kisses me back. We don't go back home for a long time. It's a saturday so there's no schedule to keep. Afterwords, we just lay there, sweating in the heat and clinging to each other despite it. I love him. I probably have since the first car ride to school. There's no doubt about that in my mind. I'm still kissing gently at his neck where a bruise has formed. His hands are still in my hair, knotty and tangled.
He's the first to break the silence. "I have to go back to the city soon."
I stop kissing him real fast and just wait. Wait for an explanation. Wait for the joke to be funny. But that's all he says so i just close my eyes and rest my head on his shoulder. Silence can be a curse too. I want to say so much, but how can I? So i don't say anything.
In the end, I don't know how long we lay there amidst the Lavender, but it was long enough for the sky to go red. Finally I get up and So does my love. I can't imagine now, after what just happened, him leaving me. Maybe I'll freeze over. Maybe I'll just go back to being Chase Adams who everybody thinks is going to marry Taylor Liddle and leave for exley with ten babies but just thinking that is downright painful.
As we walk back home, he holds my hand. I almost hate him for it. For telling me after I realize that I love him that he's going back to Helix. I won't follow him there and he knows it. But I still love him.
We go in the back and sit down at the table. "When?" I ask.
One month isn't enough. "Why?"
Aden waves away my question as if its not important. "It doesn't matter."
"It does matter!" I insist. "If you don't like it here, you can just say it. It's not like I'll be offended."
Aden fixes me with one of his stares and I know I should just shut up. "Honestly, if it was about my preference, I'd have packed up within the first month but." He paused. "I can't afford it anymore."
I think for a second I haven't heard him properly. How can a city person not have the money to stay in a shabby old place like Wittleton? I didn't ask about that though just like Aden never asked about why I won't sit under the cyprus tree anymore.
"Cant afford the house or the school?" It'd make more sense if he couldn't afford the house. I was barely making it myself and that's because this house was my momma's and she gave it to me to live in after I got old enough.
"The house, my brother, gas, good food," He says and leans back in his chair. "I left home because I don't want to go back. Ever. But I can't see what else there is for me to do if I can't keep care of myself or Riley. The semester at school was paid for through a scholarship. I felt bad not going but I really, really don't like school so I'll stop after this term, that's not a problem. As for the house…. I only have so much money. Its not enough. I have to take Riley back and then go find somewhere else."
I think about offering him and his brother a place here, but I'm reluctant. I don't know how it'd work or how I'd fit three in a house meant for one. But I can't not. So I tell him to stay here. Him and Riley both. Because what else can I do? I can't pay his rent, I can hardly pay for my school, but I can give him a roof over his head.
Aden looks like he might say yes, but he shakes his head. "Thank you Chase, but I just don't know."
I spend as much of my last month with Aden as I can. He promises me he'll be back if he can. I beg him to stay. Him and Riley both. Every day he seems to bend a bit more.
For most of the time, he helps me out in the fields behind my house, picking. He and Riley and I eat together here and there. I like when Aden cooks because he's much better than me. When we do that, we mostly talk about silly things like Nilly Hertkorn coloring herself blue and going to school like that or Ms. Criv scaring all the kids with her tazidermied Foxes and Vultures.
If Riley is at a friends house, Aden stays with me for the night. If he's not, we kiss at the door and say good bye for much too long.
And then theres the fighting. Stars, it happens at least once a week. Screaming and yelling and flinging on both ends and usually its over something dumb. Sometimes its over Aden's leaving. Once over who left the door to the shed open because all the jars were stolen. Aden brought up Taylor once, and then things got all sorts of messy.
Taylor'n me don't talk no more. And I don't mean talking. I mean she don't even say good morning if I see her at the store. I figure she thought the same as everybody else about me but the way I see it, I never even asked her to be my girl. Her dad don't like me any more either but I'm the best tomato picker in town so I still get to work his field.
But after every fight, one of us always feels guilty. Gotta apologize then. And just to help things along I kiss him and hold him for a long time and sometimes he does the same to me.
If ever i shed a tear, his lips are brushing my cheek. And if ever I shut my eyes against mama nature or him or anything that rubs me the wrong way, he tells me to open em back up. But no matter how much I shut my eyes against the end of the month, it still arrives faster I anticipate.
The morning Aden's supposed to leave, he comes over early. We talk for a while like it's a normal day but after a while, our old silence creeps back. We're sitting next to each other on my porch bench. My arm is round him and sour shoulders are touching.
Its a while before he whispers, almost to himself, "I can't do it." I wait for him to continue. "God, Chase, I can't do it." I pull him closer.
"Stay here with me." I say. "Please."
I feel him nod against my shoulder and i kiss the top of his head and thank any god that's listening that he's staying.
Aden's been gone for three hours when I hear sirens. Sirens in Wittleton mean very, very bad things. I'm scared for a second but figure aden is fine. He's at the Hayte house cleaning it out and I'm making room here for him and Riley.
I don't get real worried till I don't hear from him for over an hour. I turn on the radio just in time to here, "-ooting on Hayte street early this afternoon. Mr. Kenneth Liddle has been arrested and his trial will be held as soon as possible."
That's all I need to know. Already there's a tight feeling in my throat. I can hardly breath as I leave the house and run down to Hayte street. It's deserted. No cops, no pedestrians, no Aden. As I stand there, staring at the blocked off door, I hear footsteps behind me. I turn and see Riley. His eyes are red theres snot under his nose and his shoulders are still shaking.
I think I fall to my knees, but I'm not sure. I just remember grabbing on to Aden's twelve year old brother and holding him so tight neither of us were very comfortable. But he grabbed on to me too and I didn't even try to be strong. His brother, my love. Dead as my momma under the cyprus tree.
October 16, 2078
Something keeps me from taking that step. I don't know what it is, but it makes me angry. I miss you more than anything in the world and I honestly don't want anything more from the life I have. Yet here I am. Standing on the edge of the land, way way back behind my house where the highway cuts through at the bottom.
Maybe its the smell of the lavender that brings me back. Maybe its the cry of a vulture like the ones On Ms Criv's mantle. I got people to look after in this town. And as much as I love you, Sun, I can't do it. I can't leave them just like you couldn't leave me. Slowly, slowly, I back away. Away from the ledge but not away from you. And I walk back down the path that leads to my home but I stop for just a moment under that great big cyprus tree and look at my little marker, a mound of rocks, where I buried your ashes right next to my momma's and I smile.
Chase is late coming home tonight. I sit on the back step waiting with a big piece of rock sugar melting on my tongue. I worry about him, even though he's bigger than me. After aden went, so did he, I think. Or at least the Chase-y bits. Now he's real quiet all the time and he can't cook, but I don't think he ever could so that's ok. He goes about making his medicines like a robot from back home. He sits under that big ol' tree in the back sometimes. I'm not sure what he's doing but probably talking to Aden.
I do that too, sometimes. But I don't just talk to my brother, I talk to Chase's Mum too. I think Aden is keeping her company, maybe, which is nice because I don't think Chase liked thinking about his mum. Maybe it hurt too much or maybe he used to and now he doesn't. But She's there so I say hi whenever I am.
Usually, Chase is home in time to eat. Tonight is different. The sky's getting dark and I went down to Joanna's mum's restaurant and bought myself dinner and this hunk of sugar. Now I'm just waiting. I think I've been sitting for two hours when I see his silhouette walking down the thin path through all the grass and plants he has. I get up and run over, thinking he might ned help carrying stuff if he's been picking but his hands are empty. I look up at him, confused, about to ask where he's been but my mouth just hangs open with no words coming out.
He's smiling. Like grinning. Ear to ear, teeth flashing, making-my-cheeks-hurt-just-looking. He sees my confusion and shrugs, as if to say, "I'm Back."
I smile too and he grabs me up into a hug very much like the day my brother died, but this time we were both laughing and I know that everything will be OK.