The Haven – an excerpt 

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Declan is running. Running until his chest burns and his shoulder aches. His breath echoes in his ears, hoarse in the humidity, suffocating. The wind clips his ears as his legs move of their own volition: tree, tree, tree, tree. Ducking under branches, guarding his face with his forearms as the bushes and thorns reach out to claw at him. 

    He trips over an exposed root and goes flying, tumbling on the forest floor. Springing back to his feet, he risks a glance behind him, searching beyond the shadows lurking in the undergrowth for the footsteps gaining on him. He stumbles and takes off with a slight limp and a sharp pain in his right ankle. 

    Keep going! He pushes his ankles. HEAL! He scolds them, wills them to drive forward, wills his breath to come, his legs to move. He makes a sharp decision, changes direction and asks the trees to give him a path. Ahead of him, a clearing opens and he dashes through it. Up, down, heart pumping, the clearing approaches, the sunlight beckons. He looks behind him and sees nobody. The pounding of the footsteps behind him, before like a heartbeat, is now scattered, intermittent. He swerves to miss slamming into a tree, and moving too quickly to stop himself from running off a dropoff, he grasps a low-hanging branch, clenches it tightly, and uses it to swing around the tree trunk. He looks down as he swings, sees the jagged cliff face on his side, the equally treacherous one miles across, and the empty abyss between. He dangles his feet above oblivion.  

He swings around to the edge of the drop-off, collapses at the base of the trunk and holds his breath, listening. Nothing but his heart slamming in his ears and the distant caw of a hawk across the crevasse. Maybe he lost them. Maybe they gave up. Gulping air, he massages his ankle and assesses the damage: four-inch gash across the ankle bone. Not bad. Easy fix. Declan puts his hands around his ankle and takes a deep breath. It glows golden, and when his hands part, the gash has disappeared, and a four-inch long scar holds its place. He smiles and shakes his head. He’ll never get used to that. He gets up. Listens again. Nothing, still. 

    Where am I? This part of the forest is more clear–more manicured–than at the edge of the playground where that slimy weasel of a lackey clocked Declan and sent his pets on the chase. Fucking terrorists. He snakes through the trunks. Can’t even have ten damn minutes. How did they even find me? Declan rounds a family of redwoods regally gathered in the typical circle he recognizes from the summers he spent at camp in California when his aunt was feeling overwhelmed by the twin game he and Maeve dealt. He reaches instinctively for the copper chain wrapped thrice around his right wrist and wonders if they’ve already found his sister and where they could possibly be keeping her. Maybe it would be better for both of them if he lets himself be had, then he can actually operate from a place of productivity. Proximity can be useful, after all. 

He sees a stone path on his left, and follows it up to a fence. A small crooked house sits on the edge of the bluff: a cottage, misshapen, like in a funhouse mirror, with a bright blue door. There is one visible window from the front, shaped and framed like a star. The shingled roof curves up into a swirly tip. 

    Whimsical. It reminds him of something. Declan approaches the house, carefully setting his feet upon the moss surrounding the cottage, happy for the relief from nature’s tendrils and traps. The window is dusty, crusted with rain water and spider webs. Peering through the window, on his tiptoes, he sees nothing. Blackness. Dissatisfied, he takes a few steps back and cranes his neck to take in the impressive façade, covered in moss, vines, and growth. It looks ancient. The door, on the other hand, appears untouched. Bright blue. The same blue as the Caribbean sea. Clean. Fresh. 

    “Peculiar,” Declan whispers. 

    A twig snaps in the trees behind him. Declan whips his head around and yelps in pain as a small silver object clips his ear and lands neatly tucked into the wooden panel beside the blue door. Touching his hand to his ear, he can feel the warmth of his blood trickling down his earlobe. He looks back at the side panel of the door. A silver star. What the–? Are they fucking ninjas?

Laughter like a hyena echoes through the trees. They’re close now. Declan can see the bodies forming in the shadow. His heart in his throat, he sprints to the door and tries the knob. It turns, but the door does not budge. The bodies gain color now, reaching the sunlight. He hears one calling to another. Their footsteps ever much closer. He jiggles the handle, pushes against the door with his arm. Slams his shoulders repeatedly into the wood. He yanks the silver star out of the door panel and tries to wedge it between the door and its frame. The voices get louder. 

“Where is he?”He hears one yell, a voice like a record scratching. 

 “He went that way!” A woman’s voice, resonant, but he can hear the eagerness. He hopes she’s not pointing in his direction; he can’t see her through the trees yet.

 Declan wipes the sweat out of his eyes, still slamming his body against the door, which will not budge. 

“Where’s my star? Did you see my star?”

“Do you think he went over the cliff?” one of them asks, leaning on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

“Don’t be daft. He couldn’t have done. Your star, on the other hand…” 

 “Maybe he’s in a tree?” 

 “He must have gone through the woods that way.”

 Their voices echo. They must have found the clearing next to the crevasse. Too close. He tries the door again.

Motherfucker! Come on, OPEN. The door clicks and swings open with ease. No time for suspicions, he ducks inside; the door shuts itself behind him and clicks again. 

    Declan blinks his eyes to adjust to the darkness and looks up around him. He curses under his breath and takes a tentative step into the room, his mouth agape. The ceilings are lofted, exposed beams like in a cabin in the mountains. Declan squints up at the ceiling, where the sun filters in through the skylights in the rafters, exposing the dust blanketing the air. The room is expansive, though, so the light doesn’t make it all the way to the ground. He looks down at a tattered, faded rug lying limply below his feet, and follows the path toward bookcases along the walls. There’s a distinct curved gouge in the wood floors below the bookcase. He notices a change in the dust pattern and starts to walk toward it. A chilling voice like icicles crashing in a cave sounds from outside, and he freezes to listen. 

“Well, don’t stand there looking like monkeys, scratching your heads at me! Find him and BRING HIM TO ME!” Declan hears the scramble of boots up trunks of trees as they scamper as high as they can to get a better look. 

“Declan,” The voice jeers melodically. “Come on out, Declan. It’s just me. It’s just Jax,” Declan stands against the window frame, watching Jax from the within the safety of a shadow. Jax tightens his tie and straightens his cuffs. His three-piece suit looks barely tarnished from the forest. His shoes shine. Declan can feel the heat rise up his neck. 

    “I know who you fucking are,” Declan hisses with a jagged breath. Jax cocks an ear to the wind, listening to its secrets; Declan desperately attempts to steady his breath. Did Jax hear him? Jax stands tall in the middle of the clearing. His nose, straight and strong, floating in the airs, sniffing, trying to catch a scent. He runs his hands over his bald head, turns in a circle, searching the horizons. He speaks to the skies. 

    “You cannot run forever. You cannot hide from Us. I know you know that, Declan,” he speaks slowly. Deliberately. “Come on out, Declan. Come on to us. We just want to talk. Come chat with us, mate. Nothing to hide. Nothing to fear.”

His thick northern accent brings a sour taste to Declan’s mouth.

Jax turns in the direction of the cottage. Declan’s breath catches. He tightens his jaw; he dares not blink, breathe, think, as he watches Jax’s eyes pass over the spot where the cottage is. Is that possible? Can he not see him? Is the cottage invisible? 

     “DECLAN!” Jax rages, his voice cuts through the forest and surrounding cliffs, sending birds out of their nests, shaking the trees, a bolt of lightning terror through Declan’s chest. Jax stands still in the middle of the clearing. Waiting. Perfectly still. Perfectly ready. Declan holds steady. He clenches his fist, pulls in a shaky breath, and fixes his eyes on Jax, who smiles. A sardonic, twisted smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. 

    “Declan,” he says quietly. “I can feel you, Declan.” A short, cold laugh. “I know you are here. I can feel you.” His words drip like acid. Jax turns slowly in place; he still hasn’t clocked him. His smile disappears, and he takes a deep breath. “We have your sister, Declan. We have Maeve.” 

The moment is still. The world stops, teeters on the edge of reality. Declan’s breath burns in his chest. He reaches for the chain on his wrist, and speaks to nobody, “Oh, Maeve. What do I do?” 

“DID YOU HEAR ME?” Jax laughs shrilly. “WE HAVE YOUR SISTER, DECLAN. Ever want to see her again? Come out, come out, wherever you are!” He dances on spot, and Declan’s stomach clenches into a fist. “I’ll give you a moment to think about it, kid. I’ll be right here.” 

Declan stops. Everything stops. So they do have Maeve. He rubs the chain vigorously, thinking, hoping maybe it’ll warm into a teleport and bring him straight to her. He can’t save her. He can’t leave her alone. Not with them. He relaxes his hands, takes a deep breath, and reaches toward the door knob. 

    No, Declan. He freezes. He knows that voice anywhere. No. Don’t.

    “Maeve?” He whirls around. Nobody is there. 

Stay put, Declan. Don’t touch that door.

    “Is that–are you in my head? How are you doing this?”

    With great difficulty. I only have a moment. Promise me you will not open that door. 

“Maeve, where are you?”

Promise me, Declan. You will not go out to him. You cannot go out to him.

“Where are you, Maeve?”

Promise me.

“But–.”

Promise!

“OK! I promise! Where are you? What do I do?”

The bookcase. There’s a–

“Maeve? There’s a what?” Declan abandons the front door for the bookcase, frees the shelves of dust and cobwebs. “Maeve! In the bookcase, there’s a what?” He run his hands along the books, reading the titles, pulling books off the shelves. “Maeve, can you hear me?” 

Nothing.

“Maeve, answer me!”

Silence.

“MAEVE?!” 

The rest of Jax’s crew is gathered in the clearing around him; Declan can hear their cackles and hollers, goading him. He keeps pulling books off the shelves, letting them thump to the floor picking up dust, scattered across the old rug and slid underneath the ratty and cracked leather sofas. One falls to his foot, a collection of letters with the old US Air Mail envelopes with blue and red dashes around the edges spill out of a leather-bound journal. He bends to pick it up, runs his finger over the title. Looking down, the curved gouge in the floor catches his eye. It lines up perfectly with the corner of the case. He stuffs the journal and stack of letters under his arm and leans his whole body weight into it, releasing a mechanism. The bookcase swings open, revealing a hobbit-sized wooden archway behind it. With a glance behind him at the front door, he grabs the iron door handle and slams into it. It gives with ease, sending the stack of letters and the journal sprawling ahead of him. He tumbles into darkness. 

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Daniel & Emily, a reunion. [Meditative writing, raw]

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Honestly, this is a terrifying thing to share with you, which is why I’m going to share.  I’m copy&pasting extremely fast here, so I don’t second-guess myself. Pretty much just ripping off the band-aid.  Low Down: Taking a writing class in Manhattan on 28/6 on Wednesday nights called “meditative writing”. the crude version is that we spend a few minutes going into a meditative state and then we write for 20+minutes straight. Our only criteria is that we tell the truth and don’t stop writing. So, here it is.  My work from one class.  The lines that spoke to me from a play I had to read and my reaction meditative writing from 40minutes writing straight. no edits, all truth-telling. 

 

LINES FROM PLAY:

“You are reason and your wife is instinct in a game where you play the parts given to you.”  – PRODUCER, p2

“You are the self-willed puppet of yourself.” – PRODUCER, p2

“Created realities, unchangeable creations of the imagination and, therefore, more real and more consistent than the ever-changing naturalness of the actors.” – stage direction, p2

“Life is full of things that are infinitely absurd, things that, for all their impudent absurdity, have no need to masquerade as truth, because they are true.” – FATHER, p3

 “Nature makes use of the instrument of human fantasy to pursue her work of creation on a higher level.” – FATHER, p4

“Ah, but this isn’t the time for your long-winded fairy story, you know.” – STEPDAUGHTER, p8

 “And what about when she no longer shuts her eyes? When she no longer feels the need to hide her blushing shame from herself by closing her eyes? When she sees instead … dry-eyed and dispassionate … the blushing shame of man, who has blinded himself without love? Oh, what disgust, what unutterable disgust, does she feel then for all these intellectual complications, for all this philosophy which reveals the beast in man and then tries to save him, tries to excuse him …” p10 stepdaughter

 “When a man is obliged to ‘simplify’ life bestially like that – when he throws overboard every vestige of ‘humanity’, every chaste desire, every pure feeling … all sense of idealism, of duty, or modesty and of shame … then nothing is more contemptible, infuriating and revoltingly nauseating than their maudlin remorse … those crocodile tears!” p10 stepdaughter

Lines from My Writing:

She catches his silhouette in her peripherals first, but it’s not enough time to beat down the heart-stopping startle.  With a start, Emily catches the outside of her foot on the rock she’d been working on dislodging. The rubber of her trainer hooks a jagged piece of the stone and her ankle gives way underneath her as she starts to fall sideways. She shrieks and over-corrects with a jerk, scampering to find even-footing and the earth around the rock gives up, loosens, and lets the rock roll down over the edge of the cliff.  

A bead of sweat makes a trail through the layer of dirt on his face, trickling down his ear and off his jaw. A lock of his hair dances in the wind, revealing, among the freckles spattering his cheek, a line of freckles in the shape of The Big Dipper stretching around his right temple.

The wind picks up right then and throws his hair back and to the side, uncovering eyes of deep blue, wild with fear and relief.  When her eyes meets his, his gaze softens and his eyes glimmer and sparkle as they catch the sun bouncing off her earrings.  “Oh, my God,” Emily gasps hoarsely, realizing she’d been holding her breath. “Daniel?” It can’t be.

One spring recess, Emily even introduced him to Jimmy, the wind spirit, who would keep her company in the trees. “He was the wind,” Emily would explain. “He controls all of everything, and he can talk to us, if you know how to listen.” Emily bit into the pretzel stick she’d been sucking on, and, after a moment, she called out, “Jimmyyyyyyy!!” The leaves above them rustled and waved, and Emily smiled at Daniel.

“Your mom mentioned how you came storming in the house and went storming out of the house,” he says with a sigh, swinging his leg around so he slides back into the nook where the branch meets the tree and shrugs, “I just knew this was where you’d be.  It’s where you always went.”

Emily’s smile tugs deeply in her heart, and she looks up at Daniel so casual in the tree.  “You are reason, and I am instinct,” she says, repeating the mantra engrained from decades-deep of repetition between the two of them.  
“You are instinct, and I am reason in the game where we play the parts given to us. You are the self-willed puppet of yourself,” he finished the saying with a smile.

Emily was really just searching for some fucking Snow White speak-with-the-squirrels zen-like place to recharge, regroup, and rebuild herself after this past week, and there is nothing more discouraging than a handsome (really, very handsome) reminder of how big an idiot she is just as she’s seeking to regain some power within.  Thanks, Universe!  

With a slow breath, she realizes it was Daniel in her dream last week – the one with the door.  The golden keyhole, the brown wood.  It was Daniel behind that door – that door she couldn’t open.  He wasn’t older. The guy in the dream felt so much older than she, but he wasn’t older. He was just mysterious. It’s the blindness of youthful infatuation that inhibits all young girls’ brains from processing logic.

Full Writing:
Emily wanted to fly – no, soar. No, cry. Sad is happy for deep people, and she needed to wallow in the stillness of a world vibrating with the bustle of nature. The higher up she climbs, the quieter the world becomes. People stop talking to her. It sure is lonely. But it is this exact crippling tranquility – this placidity that simple people call “eerie” – that Emily needed. The only person Emily could bear to be around was herself. The only opinion worth her attention was her own. Damaged and Dangerous. That’s what she was. That’s how she felt.

Damaged and dangerous like this rock, Emily thinks as she kicks a pebble with her toe, flicking it clean over the edge of the cliff.

She sticks her hands in the pockets of her overalls, pushing down so her elbows squeezed her ribs ad her shoulders raised to just next to her ears.  Digging her big toe into the dirt in front of her, she dug out a bigger rock, about the size of a child’s fist, and nudged the dirt underneath it until it leaned comfortably against the tip of her shoe, where the red cloth meets the rubber. Her hands out of her pockets now, she bounces the rock on her toe as if it were a soccer ball, and pretends she’s a world-renowned footballer, flinging the rock a few inches in the air and catching it back on her toe.  Pop, up the rock goes and clunk, lands right back on her toe. She ignores the slight throb in her foot from the force of the rock falling.  Pop, up the rock goes, this time smacking her in the knee, causing her to lose her balance by surprise.

            “OW, DAMMIT,” she spits at the rock before kicking it full-swing as hard as she can kick it.  She steps closer to the edge of the cliff, watching as the rock tumbles and crumbles down the face of the mountain. Slamming her hands back in her pockets, she fusses with a string from the seam of her pocket and draws patterns in the dark orange dirt of the mountain, loosening bits of earth. She dislodges a rock at the edge of the cliff and delights as it slides down and down, banging, slamming, and hopping all the way toward the wasteland of the bottom of the canyon.

            Emily relaxes her shoulders and tilts her chin to the sky, closes her eyes, and sucks in a long, slow breath through her nose.  It smells like rain.  She opens her eyes and notices the wind blowing the tops of the trees across the ravine and finds the rain-soaked clouds in the distance moving toward her.  She takes another deep breath, and, wanting to head home before the rain hits the mountain, she starts to turn her back to the cliff, and is suddenly aware of a figure standing about 10 feet away from her.

She catches his silhouette in her peripherals first, but it’s not enough time to beat down the heart-stopping startle.  With a start, Emily catches the outside of her foot on the rock she’d been working on dislodging. The rubber of her trainer hooks a jagged piece of the stone and her ankle gives way underneath her as she starts to fall sideways. She shrieks and over-corrects with a jerk, scampering to find even-footing and the earth around the rock gives up, loosens, and lets the rock roll down over the edge of the cliff.  Emily falls to the ground, slamming her knee against the loosened pebbles and exposed roots. She grunts and rolls to her left to squeeze the pain out of her kneecab, but the compromised cliff-edge crumbles beneath her and she scrambles for footing and grip, eyes wide.

“SHIT!! OHMIGOD HELP!” she yells to the intruder, who, the second he had realized what was happening, was already diving toward her, sliding over the dirt to reach her arm before she fell.  He punches out his arm, grabbing her below the right elbow and clamps his bear claw around her forearm with a vice grip.  Everything stops. Everything is still. Everything except the cluster of pebbles and rocks and clumps of earth cascading down the side of the mountain.  Emily listens to the clink-clink-thumps of the loosened pieces until she can’t hear them anymore.  She unclenches her eyes and tries to relax the muscles in her neck enough so she can see her savior.

The sun is directly behind his head, giving him a solar halo like in a cheesy movie.  She squints through the falling dirt and glowing crown of the sun. He has thick brown hair, straight and straw-like.  It’s medium-length and parted down the middle, forcing it to fall in front of his eyes. A bead of sweat makes a trail through the layer of dirt on his face, trickling down his ear and off his jaw. A lock of his hair dances in the wind, revealing, among the freckles spattering his cheek, a line of freckles in the shape of The Big Dipper stretching around his right temple.

Wait a minute, Emily thinks. I know those freckles. I know those freckles anywhere, but it’s not possible. She sweeps her gaze over his face again, looking through his thick bangs, trying to find his eyes. Can it be? She asks herself as she searches his face, desperate to catch a glimpse through his thick mane.  It is possible, for life is full of things that are infinitely absurd.

The wind picks up right then and throws his hair back and to the side, uncovering eyes of deep blue, wild with fear and relief.  When her eyes meets his, his gaze softens and his eyes glimmer and sparkle as they catch the sun bouncing off her earrings.

“Oh, my God,” Emily gasps hoarsely, realizing she’d been holding her breath. “Daniel?” It can’t be.

“I’m going to lift you up now. Ready?” He shifts his knees underneath his body to get a better angle and hoists Emily up enough so she can get her own knees underneath her and push herself up.  She collapses on her back and catches her breath.

Emily was really just searching for some fucking Snow White speak-with-the-squirrels zen-like place to recharge, regroup, and rebuild herself after this past week, and there is nothing more discouraging than a handsome (really, very handsome) reminder of how big an idiot she is just as she’s seeking to regain some power within.  Thanks, Universe!  

Emily follows Daniel with her eyes as he runs back from behind a tree down by the path.  He carries something in his hands. That must be where he parked his truck. Why is he here? Why did he pick this spot? Daniel kneels next to Emily, placing the first aid kit down next to his hip.  Emily pulls herself up onto her tailbone, hugging her knees. “What are you doing here?” She asks, her voice raspy, dehydrated.

“Shh, let me do this,” he mumbles from the corner of his mouth, squints into the sun to catch Emily’s eye, and smiles with the creases of his eyes. Emily watches him.  His head is tilted so his hair falls across his forehead and down over his bottom cheekbone, out of his eyes.  His concentration pulls his eyebrows together and tightens his lips around the gauze he holds with the corner of his mouth.  He pulls Emily’s arm toward him, pours water over it and cleans the dirt out of her scrapes.

Emily lets him, her head resting gingerly on her bare, scraped knees. Daniel. With his light brown hair, thick as a horse’s mane, his deep ocean-blue with the turquoise flecks sprinkled around the left one, his freckles in the pattern of The Big Dipper cupping his temple, reaching from his cheekbone to the arch in his right eyebrow. Daniel.

With a slow breath, she realizes it was Daniel in her dream last week – the one with the door.  The golden keyhole, the brown wood.  It was Daniel behind that door – that door she couldn’t open.  He wasn’t older. The guy in the dream felt so much older than she, but he wasn’t older. He was just mysterious. It’s the blindness of youthful infatuation that inhibits all young girls’ brains from processing logic. That same thing that makes men seem so Man and not Boy.

Rocks. Scraped Knee. Elbow hurts. Not as much as her pride.

“Leg,” Daniel says softly, scooching into Emily so she can unfold her leg and rest it upon his lap. He presses the west compress against the gash in her knee-cap, and she shudders – the kind that slams your eyelids shut and makes your bones jitter.  He grips her thigh right above her knee to relieve some of the painful tension, and she, almost by reflex, clamps her hand around his wrist.  She catches his eye, blushes, and immediately lets go. He smiles through the hair falling in front of his face, his nose crinkling a little in the middle.  The same smile he has had as long as she’s known him.  A smile that warms her from the inside like spiked eggnog on a snow day.  It was that smile that saved her all those years ago.

Her eyes clamped shut again as her shoulders lowered and tensed in another shudder.  This time, however, it wasn’t from the physical pain of the present, but of the memory and shame of the past, as she tried to suffocate her memories.  Emily was an awkward kid.  Impossibly tall with long, frizzy blonde hair always tied at the nape of her neck, completely devoid of any fashion sense, and fat. That was the worst.

At that age, fat didn’t just mean “fat” anymore. “Fat” meant needing to wear a bra.  “Fat” meant developing young womanly curves while everyone else in the class still had straight hips and flat chests, like little boys. To add insult to injury, she was wickedly smart, wise beyond her years, and a loudmouth.  There was no hope.  Everyone made fun of her. Her fourth and fifth grade years were spent trying to reconcile her ever-growing need to be right, be heard, and be strong with her extremely unfortunate physical circumstances.

Why do kids tease? She would ask her mom almost every day. “Power,” her mother would reply.

Power, intimidation, jealousy, insecurity, and fear, Emily learned, were the governing emotions driving her classmates, coworkers, and colleagues to be mean and laugh at her.

But Daniel. Daniel never laughed.  Daniel shared his yogurt. Daniel liked to eat ho-hos and sit at the top of the playground tower.  The day the girls all joined forces and wouldn’t let Emily into the playground slide tower, pointing their fingers, laughing, chanting, and singing rude iterations of nursery rhymes, Emily met Daniel.  Emily had retreated to her favorite tree across the lawn beyond the upper blacktop, where she could sit in the safety of the tree and let her quivering lip relax into a steady stream of tears, studying the taunting rhymes the girls had launched at her. Emily didn’t see Daniel walking toward her. She was too busy watching sap seep out of the tree’s bark as she let their words tumble in her mind.  She didn’t even notice when Daniel sat down next to her, cross-legged in the grass between the roots of the trees.

“Here.” Daniel said gently, pushing a packet of Gushers toward Emily, who nearly jumped out of her skin. “Blue is my favorite.” And Emily held out her hand as Daniel dropped 3 blue Gushers in her palm.

“If blue is your favorite, why are you giving them to me?”

“Because I am reason and you are instinct,” he said, tilting his head so his hair flopped over to one side.  He looked up at Emily through his bangs and smiled more with his nose than with his mouth, crinkling it in the center.  Emily smiled back at him and wiped a rogue tear from her cheek.

After that, recess was no longer treacherous for Emily. She and Daniel would play with woodchips, and climb the trees that lined the woods at the edge of the lawn beyond the upper blacktop.  Come Springtime, under the tree at the edge of the lawn beyond the upper blacktop, Daniel would put his flannel down so Emily didn’t have to feel the grass on the back of her legs, and tell each other stories.  

One spring recess, Emily even introduced him to Jimmy, the wind spirit, who would keep her company in the trees. “He was the wind,” Emily would explain. “He controls all of everything, and he can talk to us, if you know how to listen.” Emily bit into the pretzel stick she’d been sucking on, and, after a moment, she called out, “Jimmyyyyyyy!!” The leaves above them rustled and waved, and Emily smiled at Daniel.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” Daniel had said as a gust of wind ruffled the leaves around his face. His smile spread across his face, making his nose crinkle even deeper, and he giggled and laughed and fell back onto his flannel shirt.

The two of them would look into the universe through leaf-colored glasses, and ask Jimmy questions. They always knew exactly what his answer meant and quite often didn’t like his responses, though loved how he challenged their perspective.

Emily knew Jimmy was loyal, for he was a created reality, an unchangeable creation of the imagination and, therefore, more real and more consistent than the ever-changing naturalness of humans.  She knew he followed through her life, checking in on her periodically, watching as she grew up. Watching her grow up with Daniel. She knew he watched as they lay next to each other laughing. Watched over a course of ten minutes as Daniel had gathered the courage to slide his hand into Emily’s, and then how they each lay there, smiling goofily, not daring to look at each other. She knew Jimmy watched as his breeze moved a lock of her blonde hair in her face, tickling her nose, and how Daniel brushed it out of her face right before leaning in for their first kiss. Emily wondered if Jimmy was there now, watching.

That thought shakes Emily back to reality, as Jimmy finishes up on her other knee.  His strong hands. Strong, tan hands, caked with dirt. Safe.

“Done.” He says, pulling the first aid kit closed. “Better?”

“Yes. Thank you,” Emily says, acutely aware of her leg still resting over his knee. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Daniel watches her as she fingers the button on her overalls. She looks up, pouting. “Why are you here, Daniel? I don’t understand.”

“Funny you should ask,” he starts.

“Ah, but now isn’t the time for your fairy stories, Daniel.”

Daniel pulls his knees out from under Emily’s leg, stands, and walks over to the tree nearby.  “I was hitchhiking through Idaho when I found a golden jelly bean. Naturally, I ate it, but it set me all a-glow, then dizzy, and next I knew, I was five states over, half-naked on the trampoline of a suburban lawn, surrounded by underage drinking and repressed sexuality. So, after four shots of tequila, two beer bongs, three questionable pills, and an epiphany later, I found myself walking off the plane at Newark Int’l.”

“Daniel –“ Emily warns and he flashes her a smile.

“I don’t know, man. I asked your mom and she said you went out walking, so I wandered around.” He picks at the bark on the trunk, moving the sap between his fingers, making it tacky.

“How did you know I was here?” Emily stands, her knees sore and a little shaky.

Daniel pick at the bark along a thick branch hanging about eight inches above his head.  He wraps his hands around it and swings, hoisting himself up. “Lucky guess?”

“No.”

“Your mom mentioned how you came storming in the house and went storming out of the house,” he says with a sigh, swinging his leg around so he slides back into the nook where the branch meets the tree and shrugs, “I just knew this was where you’d be.  It’s where you always went.”

Emily’s smile tugs deeply in her heart, and she looks up at Daniel so casual in the tree.  “You are reason, and I am instinct,” she says, repeating the mantra engrained from decades-deep of repetition between the two of them.

“You are instinct, and I am reason in the game where we play the parts given to us. You are the self-willed puppet of yourself,” he finished the saying with a smile.

She reaches up for the branch next to his, using the trunk to help boost her up and fling herself over the branch.  Her legs swing in front as she leans into a sister branch, using it as a backrest.  Her hands steadying her between her thighs, she looks pointedly at Daniel, adjusting her baseball cap so he can see her eyes under the brim.

“Daniel.” He looks at her. “Why are you here? Why are you in New Jersey? Why did you come back?”

This time, Daniel sits up, massages the deep crease above his nose where his brow furrows, and braces himself against the trunk of the tree, letting the sun clearly show Emily his face for the first time today. Deep circles shadowed his eyes, and his mouth tightened into a thin, flat line, almost making his lips disappear.

 “Em. It’s happening.” Everything inside Emily tightens and her breath catches sharply in her chest at his words. “It’s time,” he says, and Emily’s stomach plummets.

As it turns out, the impudent absurdity of these things is infinitely impossible to avoid, for he is reason and she is instinct.

 

[ i n d i g o ]