Sunday, March 6, 2011

Beneath The Willow Tree (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Karlene Jacobsen @ her blog, Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Rambles: Ah. I'm late. Really late, but I'd rather be late than skip this week. It's taken me a chunk of today to write out this piece, it's based off of a prompt that I've puzzled for awhile--Weeping Willow trees and fireflies. It was kind of fun working out the FMC's story bit by bit. I hope you enjoy it--don't forget to leave a comment. Happy weekend and enjoy the read!

There was no sound in the air when I stuck my head outside of the second story window. It was something like silence and the like nothing else I could quite put my finger on. I could feel the cool breeze of the spring’s arrival and I could smell the scent of rain in the air.

A storm was coming, maybe.

Something big could happen, maybe.

I didn’t know, but I didn’t particularly care all that much in that moment. I wanted to be out there, feeling the wind rushing through my hair and watching the shimmering speckles of light as the darkness came rushing in.

It had been a stressful week in more ways than I wanted to remember. Lots of shouting, fighting and the angry kinds of words that I couldn’t lock out of my head. I didn’t want to hear it anymore, I didn’t want to deal with it.

It hurt.

So I stood there at the window, breathing as deeply as I could, the scent of sanity and freedom, it was the kind of thing that I knew I couldn’t just ignore as it was. It made me want to be a part of nature’s perfection.

It made me want to change.

The wind blew through the window, ruffling the bedroom window curtains, my hair and the oversized T-shirt I wore. It was so welcome and so right. For a moment, I felt strong, invincible even.

Leaning further out of the window, I hesitated for the briefest fractions of a second before I climbed out of the window and onto the tiny spot of roof beneath it. The shingles were cool and rough beneath my bare feet as I moved slowly across the rooftop.

In the distance, I could make out the faint outline of the weeping willow tree to the left of the overgrown pond at the edge of the backyard. Inching my way down the roof and to the lowest point, I jumped.

My body was conditioned. It knew what to expect and the landing was the softest one yet. I was relieved as my legs quivered, absorbing the impact. It wasn’t the kind of thing I should’ve been doing; jumping from rooftops wasn’t exactly ladylike.

But I didn’t care.

As soon as I could stand and move again, I broke into a run, willing my hands and feet to move with the seamless fluidity that I was always able to call to life inside of me. There was a flicker of light from the willow tree.

He was there.

I almost smiled. Almost.

He was waiting for me as I parted the curtain of greenery and sagged to my knees on the squishy ground beneath the giant willow tree. Behind the green tendrils, it was almost like another world and the boy sitting across from me was the closest thing to a prince that I’d ever laid eyes on.

“Rafe” I gasped out, between breaths. “You’re early.” I hadn't been able to slip away any earlier. There were always too many eyes on me. Too many concerned faces and voices. I could hardly stand it all.

“You’re late.” He spoke around the slender roll of white in his mouth, coaxing a weak flame from the old lighter in one hand. “What took you so long? I almost left you know.”

I glared at him. The weak flame flickered out. He was teasing me again. “Stop it. You know I hate when you do that-”

He smirked, but obediently spat out the stub of pencil to the ground beside him. “But you’re so cute when you get all riled up like that, Vicks.” He pushed away from his spot beside the tree trunk and moved over to crouch beside me. One reached out and chucked my chin. “Yep. Definitely cute.”

I jerked away with a scowl. “You’re a jerk, like always.” Huffing, I willed my feet to work again and stumbled towards the sturdy tree trunk and the spot he’d occupied moments before.

He snorted, rising to his full height, his dark blue eyes piercing as they zeroed in on me sitting on the squishy ground, braced against the tree. “Did you take your meds?” It was spoken stiffly, gruffly, but with authority. "How are you feeling? Wait, Vicks, tell me you didn't jump out of that window again. Vicks?" He was angry. "If you don't-"

I looked away from him. “I don’t need another lecture.” My fingers scrabbled in the dirt and grass, feeling for the pencil. “I’ve had enough of those. Gimme.” My eyesight was going blurry again and I didn’t want to lose my last moments of consciousness to exhaustion.

It wasn’t that hard to jump out of a window and run to a tree.

It wasn’t that hard.

It couldn’t be that hard.

It shouldn’t.

“A little more to the left.” He muttered, watching my hand searching. I sniffed, but moved my hand and caught the stub of wood and lead. The soft rubber cap on the end was smeared with dirt, but I wiped it clean on the front of my T-shirt.

Holding a pencil in my hand felt so good. I felt the smile coming before it actually registered on my face.

Rafe sighed, appearing at my side again, his face a few inches away. “Answer me, Victoria.” His lips were close to my cheek and I could feel his warm breath on my ear. “Or I won’t give it to you.”

I glared at him with all the energy I could muster. “Shut up. Just give me-”

He drew a juice pouch from the folds of his jacket and stabbed a plastic straw through the front. “You took the pills, didn’t you?” He held out the packet. “Drink it. Now.”

“Don’t wanna.”

He perked a brow. “Oh really?” The juice pouch was swung from side to side, the colors and the foil meshing into a strangely colored blob. “Can you even see this, Vicks?” He sighed, dropping the pouch in my lap. “Is in your necklace or your pockets?” I didn’t answer. “If you don’t tell me, I’ll search-”

“Top left pocket.”

He found the pills, digging them out of the baggy cargo shorts I was wearing. Pushing them one by one into my mouth, he stuck the juice straw just within. “Drink and swallow.”

I felt the tears welling up inside of me and struggled to push them down. Crying now would only be weakness on my part. But then his trembling hands were there to smooth the hot wetness away.

Angry tears.

Tears that held more inside of them than I had the courage to say.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, when I’d swallowed them. His head tilted forward until forehead rested on the left side of my face. He pressed a kiss to my hair and I let him hold me in his arms. “I’m sorry.”

I struggled, feebly, feeling the strength from before draining away—just like I knew it would. “Rafe…”

His arms fell away and from the folds of his sturdy denim jacket, he produced a small  memo pad. “Here.” Flipping it open to a clean page, he set it on my lap and then guided my hand—tightly gripping the pencil—to the top of the page. “You can start from here.

I let him support my hand as I began to move the pencil across the page. I had so much to say, but only one way to say it. He was patient with me, for all of his issues, he was patient. It was more than I deserved.

In the time it took for the pills to work, my vision eventually cleared. The night came as a curtain of blackness, creeping forward one tendril at a time, until everywhere was dark. A soft flicker of light illuminated the memo pad—courtesy of Rafe’s lighter and the birthday candles he kept in his jacket pocket. Stabbing them in the ground, he’d light them in shapes to amuse me and provide some semblance of light for the poetic scribbles I poured out—tiny page after tiny page.

“You can stop now.” I whispered, when I heard the last few candles rattling in the small cardboard box. It was a strange sort of ritual and an equally strange method as opposed to a small flashlight or some romantic evening getaway.

But I craved it.

And he was happy to oblige.

“Can you see them?” He settled on the ground beside me, his strength more than mine as he lifted me easily into his lap, despite the short age difference between us. Settling me against him, his arms around me for warmth and stability, he tucked my head under his chin and stared out into the darkness.

The black wall was punctuated by tiny pinpoints of golden light.

I watched, entranced, too distracted to care that he was holding me. “What are they?”

“Fireflies.” He chuckled.

His chest vibrated with the action, proof of the life that was so strong within him.

I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I’d already cried once for the day.

“Aren’t they pretty?” One hand reached up and began to rub my right arm, the writing hand. His left hand took the stub of pencil away and the memo pad as well. My limbs were heavy as his left hand closed over my own and I could feel the cool metal of our matching rings.

Rings that bound us closer together than we’d been in the years past. Our fingers intertwined and the tension within me drained away into the empty night.

I watched the fireflies, until I began to see spots again.

The cool wind ruffled the willow leaves, a comforting, soothing sound. A refreshing wave of spring as we sat in the dark, beneath the giant tree.

“Whistle something, Rafe.” I licked my lips.


“Something sad.”


“Something haunting.”


“Something I can’t forget.”

He was silent.

I began to organize the jumble of words in my head to something vaguely reminiscent of poetry. I had to keep my head clear or else I wouldn’t be able to grasp the fading strands of sanity that lay before me.

“Under the tree,
In soft, dark imagery
Is a land of light
And land of dark
A place where I
Feel the mystery
Lights of white
Lights of gold
Stars that fly
That can’t be sold”

The words arranged themselves in my head as I heard Rafe clear his throat.

Another moment of silence passed between my new husband and I before he began to whistle. A low, sweet sound that pierced the night air like the tinkle of new crystal being filled with its first dessert.

It was sad. It was haunting. It was something I would not forget—soon.

The fireflies continued their dance and my vision grew blurry again.

When I sagged into his arms, Rafe finally moved again, gathering me up in his arms after he shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over my front. We started back towards the house and I felt a heavy sleep come for me.

As the night pressed harder, the wind blew softer and lulled by the sound of his haunting melody, I finally gave in. 

© Sara Harricharan


Catrina Bradley... said...

What a captivating story! You described your FMC's emotions and jumbled thoughts so well. And of course you left me wanting to know SO much more, like always. What a gift you have, my dear!

Yvonne Blake said...

Beautiful... I wish I could hear the song! Wonderful story, Sara!