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message 1: by Maggie (last edited Mar 27, 2012 02:20PM) (new)

Maggie (maggie-swift) | 13 comments So, here's my first short story. I'll post more later. I just wrote this one--any critiques? Comments?

Everything seems lighter

As I peer into the shadows in the trees, Henry appears beside me, his form ethereal in the cooling mist. His lips part in a smile as he shoves his hands into his pockets, matching his stride to mine. Soon, the two of us have worked up a rhythm. Left, right, left, right. Pearly breaths cloud around my head, making a point of how cold it is outside. Henry’s footsteps are as silent as ever as we journey together down the forest path, so that the only noise is the clomp of my own sturdy sneakers slapping on the frosty, fallen leaves. Alone, it might have been eerie; the stifling chill as the trees close in on me makes me shiver involuntarily. But everything seems lighter with someone to walk by your side.

The autumn wind kicks up and tugs hungrily at my hair, dragging it every which way. It pulls the strands in whatever direction it pleases, like a toddler playing hairdresser. Henry laughs, as if it’s amusing—and I suppose it is. I must look like a regular Medusa. Henry reaches out to brush back a piece, then pulls back, hesitating, as if he’s afraid to touch me. I pretend not to notice, but it still stings a bit.

“I brought you some flowers,” he says, just to break the awkward tension. I didn’t notice before, but Henry’s holding a pretty bunch of lilies in his right hand, their petals softly glowing in a ghostly sort of way. The sun’s going down, and its last dying rays seem to fill the flowers with an inner light.

“You know I can’t take those, Henry,” I say quietly, afraid I’ll upset him. It’s not his fault, really, but I still don’t meet his eyes.

“Yeah, I know. Stupid.” Henry gives a heavy sigh, obviously angry with himself, and lets the flowers fall, their pearly heads making no sound on the crunchy-leaved forest floor. But then, I don’t expect them to. And even when I look back, I see them fade away into the twilit evening, still and silent and beautiful.

“New moon tonight,” Henry mutters, looking away to the right. Avoiding my eyes. The sky has grown even dimmer, with dusk long gone and nighttime fast approaching. I breathe a bit on my gloved fingers. Their thin layer of protection is no match for the encroaching bite of the frosty air. Normally, at a time like this, Henry would’ve taken my hands in his own, warming them with a smile. Now, however, Henry just trudges moodily beside me, still refusing to look at me.

While we’ve walked, the forest around us has thinned a bit, and it looks like we’ve neared a rest stop on the trail. My calves are burning, my heart pounding a bit from my long walk, but I don’t slow down. Neither does Henry, and we move past the lonely wooden bench in uncomfortable silence.

Time passes and the stars come out, winking on one by one as if each had its own angel to light its flame. I should be home by now, I think, watching a Friday-night movie with my folks, but tonight is special. I can deal with the consequences later. I can’t leave Henry alone, not when he needs me.

After what seems like hours, but was more like ten minutes, Henry stops. I pause with him, turning to face his pale gaze in the dark woods. He’s troubled, dark, and brooding. Lately, he’s always been like this—wracked with guilt, full of shame and horror. The worst part is, I can’t help him. I can’t get it through his thick skull that none of this is his fault. But no matter how comforting I try to be, this is something he has to figure out on his own.

“Henry. It’s not your fault. You know it isn’t,” I say futilely, trying to rekindle the old spark in his pale blue eyes. I haven’t seen the flare of the old Henry since the accident. After a few seconds it’s obvious that nothing going to flicker to life, but at least I tried.

“How?” He lets the word ring into the silence, his voice dripping with a venom that surprises me. Henry is not angry by nature, so seeing this side of him is a bit of a shock.

“How, what?” I ask softly, again hoping not to scare him. He seems so unstable these days, like the slightest of things will make him disappear and never come back.

“How do you know? How do you know, it’s not my fault? I was there, wasn’t I? I was… I was the one…” He breaks off, not trusting his voice anymore. I’ve never seen him this upset, this angry. It’s as if something inside him has snapped, like the safety switch on his self-control has been disconnected. When he next looks up, his eyes are full of a fiery anguish so powerful that I step back, as if any distance I put between us will mask the flames in his gaze.

That seems to reach him, and the fire softens to a glowing ember. He reaches out, this time stopping his hand a hairsbreadth away from my arm. Goosebumps form before his pearly pale fingertips. “How do you know I’m not a killer, Julie?” he asks, eyes serious now.

“You’re not.” I answer, with all the conviction I can muster.

“But I could have done something, could have saved them,” he says, as if he is pleading with me to see his truth. He needs me to agree. But I can’t.

“No, Henry. You did everything you could. I could never be more proud of you.”

He gives no answer, standing stock-still for a heartbeat. Two beats. Three. Then he leans in closer, other hand moving to hover over my cheek. The longing in his eyes is almost too much to bear now. I feel as if I’ll burst from all the sorrow and pain coming from them, flooding me with emotion.

Henry hesitates, but I nod, encouraging him, understanding how hard this is for him. I still love him, no matter what he is. He is my Henry, and that’s all that matters.

* * *

It wasn’t at all like I expected, kissing a ghost. Kissing him then, like that, it was warm. Oh, so warm. I could almost feel him with me then, the way he would have held me, if he could’ve. Instead, his fingers went right through me, leaving trails of mellow heat behind them. The pain returned to his eyes, the bitter hardness slowly creeping back. Both of us had hoped it wouldn’t end like this—like, somehow, he could stay. But I could feel it then, in that kiss. The goodbye.

Henry turned away then, trudging silently back down the path. When he turned, he gave a sad little smile of farewell. Then his shoulders set, steeling himself for the unknown. Neither of us knew what would happen once he left.

“Don’t go,” I plead, but I knew it wasn’t any use. Henry gave me one last grin, a nod of approval that I still tried to keep him. Then, right before my eyes, he started to fade. First his feet started to fizzle out, like someone’d erased them off a chalkboard. Then the rest of his body disappeared into the night, leaving only his head. He smiled, like the Cheshire Cat, but it was a smile of sorrow and farewell, not a smirk. He seemed to whisper something, but it was only after he was gone that I caught the words, carried over to me by the chilling wind.

“Goodbye, Julie…”

* * *

I click my flashlight on and head home, not even bothering to stop the tears I know are flooding my face. I don’t even go to see the last place he’d stood. I know there won’t be anything left. As I walk the last few yards to my house, though, I feel desperately lonely. By myself, the night suddenly becomes spooky; I feel the creep of claustrophobia as the trees close in on me. Before, it wasn’t a problem. But then again, everything seems lighter with someone to walk by your side.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

It's...so amazing....^^

message 3: by Maggie (new)

Maggie (maggie-swift) | 13 comments Thank you guys SO much! Your praise really means a lot to lil' ol' me. :D

message 4: by Cami (new)

Cami (camikittr) | 327 comments Wow! That is REALLY good. Absolutely amazing. :)

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