IT FINALLY HAPPENED. I forced myself onto a chair and finished writing this chapter! Consider it a late Christmas/ early New Year's gift. The End of 2012 chapter. It kind of sucks, I don't really like this chapter, but hey.. at least it's something. So here it is! Enjoy:) (oh god I hadn't posted a new chapter since OCTOBER THE FIRST?? I'm so sorry about that... almost 3 months... wow I suck at this. Sorry everyone!)
“Maybe you should’ve given him more of a chance to explain.”
“I’m sure if you went back now and apologized-“
“Nick, he’d understand-“
Kate sighed and stood up for the umpteenth time to resume her pacing around the room. For some reason I stared at her sneakers as she walked back and forth over the wooden floorboards. Her bedroom was small, and there was barely enough space for her desk, bed and closet, so she kept having to turn every few steps. The sun had begun to set, and reddish-orange light seeped in from the window, bathing everything in the succulent colors. For a moment the red light on the white walls reminded me of the blood that had soaked the streets of Elsmeria the day of the invasion and I shuddered involuntarily. I tried to concentrate on something else and my eyes focused on the dozens of photographs that lined the walls- pictures taken on trips, with her family, and with her friends. There was one picture on the wall over her desk of the four of us –Michael, James, Kate and I- that had been taken when we went ice skating last winter. The rink behind us was crowded with families skating to and fro and snow had started falling gently. Kate had said she hated the picture –something about her hair being messed up or her cheeks too flushed from the cold- but I’d told her I liked it and that she looked pretty good in it too. I’d been surprised to see it on her wall a few weeks later. I still didn’t understand what it was doing there if she hated it so much.
“You’re being stubborn,” she said now, frowning down at me.
“And you’re being impertinent,” I shot back. “I told you I’m not talking to that man again.”
She snorted. “Oh really, and I suppose you’re just inviting yourself to live here then?”
“He knew her,” I said, tightening my jaw. “He knew her and he never told me.”
Kate’s face softened, which only made me more frustrated. I didn’t want her to feel bad for me, or even worse, pity me. I just needed someone to talk to and she was being no help at all. “He must have had his reasons.”
“Can’t imagine what those were.”
She shrugged and sat down next to me on the carpet once more. “You said he felt… guilty? And miserable? Maybe it’s too hard for him to talk about.”
“After thirteen years?” I asked incredulously. “Whatever happened he must have gotten over it by now.”
“I hate to ask this, but… how did she die?”
“She was sick. I can’t even remember it but that’s what my father told me.” I shrugged. “No one talks about it much.”
“Doesn’t that strike you as odd?” she said, a tone in her voice that told me she was trying to tread lightly.
“Why should it?”
Kate hesitated, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her head. Don’t, I told myself, you’ve messed enough with people’s heads for one day.
“I mean, she was the queen of a whole kingdom and yet she dies and no one ever says a word about it?” She bit her lip, her eyes dancing around the room as if to avoid looking at me. “Think of Lady Diana, you know who she is?”
I frowned, trying to remember. It was a little hard to keep track of all these human celebrities and famous figures, there were so many of them. “The singer with the outrageous outfits?”
Kate laughed and then covered her mouth as if embarrassed. “No, that would be Lady Gaga.”
“Lady Diana from the English royal house. She died and her death is something that people still discuss every year on the anniversary of her death. It’s even on the news sometimes.”
“And that’s exactly what I would expect of humans. It’s different in Elsmeria; we don’t talk about our dead like that.” I stood up and walked over to the window, unable to sit still any longer.
“So you just forget them?”
I frowned. “Not talking about something isn’t the same as having forgotten it. We remember, we just give them the silence they deserve in death.”
“So you are punishing the dead? A sort of post-life silent treatment as if they had done something wrong by dying?”
I sighed in exasperation. Sometimes humans were so narrow-minded. “It’s not a punishment. Quite on the contrary, it’s a reward.” I turned to face her again. “Think about it, life is noisy and busy and loud. And when you die, you deserve to rest. You’ve earned the peace and silence throughout your life.”
She tilted her head to one side as if intrigued. “You believe spirits or ghosts are listening to you talk about them, then?”
“No. When you die, you die. That’s it, no after-life.” I shook my head. “It’s simply a sign of respect towards the deceased, that’s all.”
She seemed to consider this. “I don’t think it’s disrespectful to speak about the dead, as long as you’re not saying anything rude or negative. “
I shrugged. “Does it really matter? They’re dead; you have to let them go.” I ran a hand across my face, tired. “The point is, no, it isn’t odd that we don’t talk about my mother’s death.”
“Then why would Eliah have had any reason to talk to you about it?”
I opened my mouth to reply but I didn’t know what to say. It was a fair point; I had to give her that. Instead I just tightened my jaw and narrowed my eyes at her. “Not helping.”
“But you see where I’m going, right? I you guys never talk about it anyways why would he bring it up?”
“I don’t know, Kate! I honestly don’t know.” She flinched slightly at my sudden outburst but I was on a roll. “The only thing I do know is that he knew my mother, and he knows about…something that- that happened to her or…” I blew out a frustrated breath. “There’s something going on that I don’t know about. Something happened that no one told me about.”
Kate raised her eyebrows. “No offense but why would they tell you? You’re just a kid. My parents hide stuff from me all the time.”
Another good point. “Maybe you’re right, maybe I just want to know too much when it’s none of my business.”
“I’m just saying-“
“Yeah, I know.” I let my shoulders slump, for once dropping my perfect posture. “Sorry about that, you didn’t need to hear this rant. I guess I just need someone to remind me to get over my big ego sometimes.”
But I was already climbing out the window and onto the oak in the backyard. I felt suddenly stupid for having run out of the house and come to Kate’s just to ramble about something she couldn’t care less about. So Eliah knew my mother, so what? It’s not as if he’d murdered her, I was sure she’d known plenty of people in her lifetime. And yet I couldn’t forget all those conflicted feelings I’d perceived when I had been in Eliah’s mind – the guilt, the sorrow, the misery... What did that mean? That they were close? That they had been very good friends and her death hit him hard? Or was it something else? I heard in my mind that awful scream again, the one Eliah had been thinking about. Why had she been screaming like that?
Apologizing to Eliah when I got home was amongst the most embarrassing things I’d had to do in years. It was made doubly humiliating by the fact that he didn’t even scream at me. Eliah just stood there, staring stonily at me without saying anything while I struggled to find the words to tell him how sorry I was for everything. That his thoughts were none of my business, I had no right to read his mind, I was an impertinent brat for screaming at him and running away… all of it. When I was done he simply told me to go to my room in his usual fashion –advising so it didn’t seem like he was ordering- but without any of the warmth in his tone. I felt dead inside.
I lay awake on my bed for hours, musing over the afternoon’s events. I still couldn’t help but feel betrayed by Eliah, although everything Kate had said was true. There was no reason Eliah should have brought up my mother, so why did I feel like I deserved to know?
School the next day was awful. It was awkward beyond description to see Kate again after how I’d behaved the day before- like the stuck-up little prince who thought himself important enough to meddle with everyone’s businesses. Like exactly the kind of person I’d always fought hard not to be. On top of that, we had a science pop quiz that I was too distracted to bother putting any effort into answering. And just in case my day wasn’t miserable enough, it was raining.
But then things got interesting.
I was sitting in English class staring at the rain pouring on the other side of the window, not hearing a word of what was being said. Quite frankly I don’t even know what it was about the rain that captivated me so much. Maybe it was the way the raindrops slid across the glass like tears shed by angels above- or like the world was showing it’s shame for all the hardships it put us through by crying. Or maybe Mrs. Anderson’s literature lessons were finally getting to my head and I was reading too much into symbolism of simple rain. Whatever it was, the rain was keeping my mind busy.
There was a knock on the classroom door and from the corner of my eye I saw several of my classmates turn in their seats to see who it was, as they always did. I supposed it would be a teacher or another student, but when a collective gasp ran through the room my curiosity finally made me wrench my eyes away from the window to look at the newcomer. My jaw dropped.
Standing at the door was Adelais, fully decked in the same military outfit the invaders had been wearing in Elsmeria the night of my escape. In his hand he held a sword –one of his own, no doubt- and there was blood on the side of his face. Next to him stood a girl I didn’t recognize, dressed in the same black gear as he was.
As soon as she spotted me she went down on one knee, bowing her head in respect. “Your highness,” she mumbled.
My classmates looked around frantically trying to figure out who she was talking to. Beside me Kate had tensed up- I had no doubt she knew these people were elves. But I had eyes only for Adelais.
With a huge grin I couldn’t keep off my face I sprang to my feet and crossed the classroom in three long strides, pulling Adelais into a tight hug the moment I reached him. He hugged me back with the same relief, the hilt of his sword digging into my back. When we pulled away we both stared at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing as if we didn’t have a care in the world. The girl was still kneeling on the floor, but glancing up at me with wide eyes.
“Don’t- stand up,” I said to her without any of the usual formalities I would’ve used in Elsmeria. I had said it in English, not Latin, but she seemed to understand and obeyed silently. I turned back to Adelais. “I can’t- how in the name of the crown did you-“
Adelais laughed again, as if he couldn’t quite find the words to talk either. The relief pulsing through me right then and there was overwhelming. He was alive. My best friend had survived the bloodshed. He was alive and standing right in front of me. “It would be recommendable perhaps that you switched to our own language now?” he said in Latin. I’d missed the sound of that voice.
I nodded, taking in his clothes, weapons and wounds. “I think it would also be a good idea if you explained to me how all this-“I gestured at his military gear “-came to happen.”
He opened his mouth to reply and then closed it. I raised my eyebrows and he nodded towards the classroom behind me. With a feeling of dread I turned around to find twenty-three pairs of eyes trained on us, mouths open and expressions of disbelief. Dammit, I’d completely forgotten about the humans.
“Um, Mrs. Anderson I need to leave… like right now… without a note… because I, uh... yeah.” I think it was my most brilliant speech of all times. But the teacher just nodded, her eyes trained on Adelais’ sharp sword and the knives hanging from his belt.
I didn’t wait for her to change her mind, I was out that door in a second, slamming it shut behind me and leading Adelais and the girl down the corridor as a million questions flew through my mind, raindrop symbolism long forgotten.