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Patience is a Virtue
The sun brushed its golden light on the men’s shoulders. They grunted as their arms flexed, lifting the couch with little difficulty. They lead themselves carefully out of the truck and carried the furniture around a cross, fiery-haired girl and into the picturesque house.
The young girl had stationed herself in an upright position in the middle of the stone pathway to the house. Her arms were tight against her chest and she shot icy daggers at the men. They paid her no mind, traveling back and forth with more of her family’s possessions. She wished she could say that she hated this house, but it was actually quite gorgeous.
Her father had been right when he said she would love it. She hated that. At least, she could say with conviction that she hated having to move again.
It was a monstrously monoutous cycle of packing and unpacking that uprooted her and her sisters continuously. Her elder sisters had stopped protesting a long time ago. They were easily bored with whatever place they lived after a few months. She was the only one who wasn’t fine with the nomad lifestyle. She could find interest in anything and anyone. Every place supplied her with endless fascinations and adventures. When she was pulled from each land, she was ripped from all the fun she was having. She wished they could just settle and have a permanent home. It was a pleasant dream. Sometimes she had flashes of memories of a place by the sea, a place that she remembered had the feeling of comfort. Sometimes she even remembers a woman’s tinkling laughter. Her sisters told her that the woman was her mother at their first home, which their father had sold after her death.
“Is that really practical?”
She almost jumped at the question. She whipped her head to look up at the speaker; the tendrils of her hair undulating like flames. A tall, raven-haired boy stood a yard away from her. His arms were slung by his side casually.
“What do you mean?” She asked, eying him suspiciously. The mantra about stranger danger rang in her head.
“Sitting and pouting in the path,” He lazily gestured to her and the walkway, “If you really want to prove a point, you’d have to do more than that. Go big or go home, as they say,”
“How do you I am trying to prove a point?” She shot back, annoyance sparked. She was not fond of strangers with comfort levels like him.
He laughed, a condescending sound. The smile stayed on his lips as he said, “I hardly think you are sitting there for the fun of it.”
He had a point, but she wasn’t going to let him think he was right. “What if I am? What if I like sitting on the ground? Maybe I enjoy the view.”
He was quiet for a moment. He studied her with sharp eyes. “Then you need to get out more.”
She responded with an offended noise, “I’ll have you know I go out plenty.”
“That’s quite possible…”He trailed off, raising a hand for her to fill in her name.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
He let out a tired breath, dropping his hand back to his side. “Fine. I’ll go first.” He plastered on an overly cheerful smile. “Hello, my name is Killian.”
She nodded her head in acknowledgement. “I’m Ariel.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” He bowed dramatically, eyes dancing as they watched her. “You’re charmed, I am sure.”
Before she could tell him just how un-charmed she happened to be, a booming voice came out of the open front door and into the outside world.
“Ariel! Come inside, its time for lunch!”
She winced at the volume, but started to rise from her spot on the ground. Her knees ached from the lengthy stationary position.
“Until next time, Miss Ariel.” Jake saluted her before sauntering away.
She paused, watching him leave. The interaction was as strange as it had been short. The boy—Jake—disappeared turning a corner across the quiet street. Ariel chewed the inside of her cheek, trying to make sense of it.
“Ariel!” Her father called again.
This time, she jumped before hurrying inside while her mind was still on the raven-haired boy.
There was some time before she saw him again. In fact, it was exactly two weeks [not that she counted]. By their next meeting, Ariel and her sisters had already begun their traditional at-home learning. A tutor came three times a week to give them lessons. Homeschooling was their way of life for as long as Ariel could remember. She didn’t need to ask her sisters that the decision for it was made after her mother’s passing. Even with her faint memories, she could tell that her death had changed her father. It had made him more reclusive.
Ariel settled herself on the steps of the white stained porch, leaning forward and practically diving into her novel. Her eyes scanned the page left to right, following with brilliant imagination the adventures of a group of stranded boys and a conch shell.
“I don’t believe that’s very intelligent.”
Her bubble of imagination popped with the familiar voice and sentiment. Her gaze flew up to the commentator and she recognized the figure without surprise. She closed the book gently before answering.
“Do you mean reading?” Her disapproval was blatantly obvious.
He rolled his eyes at her, disapproval of his own showing, “I was referring to shoving your face nose deep into a book.” He sat himself next to her. He tilted his head to the side, locks of hair falling in front of his eyes.
“Lord of the Flies.” He stated flatly.
“It’s a classic,” She automatically defended.
His lips twisted into a smirk, “I am aware.” He stretched himself along the entirety of the wooden steps. “Don’t you just despise Jack?”
“No, why would I?”
“For starters, he has the moral compass of a sociopath.”
And that is how their second argument began. She was shocked that he could think the boy was psychotic while he was aghast that she could find him sane. By the end, when she was sure she had him beat, he gave her that an amused smile before sliding off the steps and walking away on the stone path. He didn’t say good-bye. She was caught mid-argument, mouth open and finger raised to scold. She dropped her hands and expression.
“What a strange boy,” She said to herself before returning to her novel.
He returned the same day the following week. She was sitting on the same steps with a new book and she heard him walk over. He made a remark and thus their argument began anew. It became a routine. It went on for weeks. The arguments became less taxing to Ariel. She started to enjoy them and look forward to them each week. She would sit, pretending to read and wait for him to come over. As time passed, their arguments would segway into some other, slightly more profound topic. Throughout their meetings, she learned about Killian and he in turn learned about Ariel.
“Why do you only visit today?” She asked one day after a particularly heated debate about the excitement in Treasure Island.
He hesitated before answering, “My father is very strict. He doesn’t like it if I am out with friends. He usually goes out with his friends today so I take a day to myself.” His tone was nonchalant, but his countenance told her that his father’s “strictness” wasn’t the traditional sense.
She immediately reached over and squeezed his hand. She held his gaze, trying to radiate empathy.
He shifted uncomfortably under her look, “ So what’s your story, Red? Why are you being tutored? There’s a school less than five miles from here.”
She sighed, not in annoyance. “My father is a tad protective. He prefers to have my sisters and I at home as much as possible.”
He raised his eyebrows, “And your mother is fine with that?”
“My mom died when I was younger.” She stated matter-of-factly.
The first actual look of shock appeared on his face. “Oh, I’m sorry. I had no idea.”
“It’s fine,” She waved him off, “I was too young to remember her.” A small lie but she liked to keep those faint memories to herself.
“Is that why your father keeps you locked up?” He eyed the home warily.
“He’s just trying to keep us safe,” She supplied immediately. “He doesn’t want to loose us.”
He nodded, deciding not to press it further, and reproached their Stevenson debate.
The next day a knock came at her door. Ariel ran to the door, curious because her family never had visitors.
“Killian?” She gasped in surprise at the figure leaning against the frame. “What are you doing here?”
“I want to show you something,” He shrugged.
Panic settled in as his words ran through her head. “But what about your father? Won’t he--?”
He grabbed her hand, which shut her up and set flames in her cheeks. “It’s fine. He went out today.” A white lie that wouldn’t hurt anyone (except him maybe).
She believed him, like many who believe what they wish to be true, and he lead her out of the confines of her home and into the world. They left the boundaries of her home and that’s when her excitement grew.
They passed rows of homes that mimicked her own. In all honesty, she would have thought they were going in circles if she hadn’t seen the street signs. He refused to answer her questions or supply her with any idea of where they were going. He turned right and the maze of houses gave way to a piece of heaven—a large lake surrounded by proud oak trees. Their leaves littered the ground and sheltered them from the full force of the sun.
Ariel was frozen in genuine happiness. It was so beautiful that she wanted to cry. It was like something straight out of the novels she had read.
Minutes later she gained the ability to move and she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Killian! Thank you so much”
A deep blush raged on the boy and he hugged her back, more than pleased with her reaction. “No problem, Red.”
From then on out, they decided to meet at their slice of heaven. They stayed there for only an hour a week, but they talked for what seemed like ages. They would argue, imagine and sometimes sit in silence; admiring the natural beauty. A new level of comfort and familiarity sprung from this hide-away.
One day, she entered their hide away with a tear stained face and a heart broken gaze. He slid off the stump he sat on and went to her immediately, peppering her with “what’s wrong”.
“I’m moving,” She told him, voice shaking.
He didn’t respond at first. He felt like the Earth had given way under his feet. A brief tremor shook his body before he gained control. “When?” The question was said with fake detachment.
“In two weeks.” She choked out, hands clenching the fabric of his shirt into balls.
His eyes flew to the water, jaw clenched. It was silent between them for some time. He returned his eyes to her and smiled grimly. “Then we’ll just have to make these two weeks last.”
She was crying, not sobbing. Clear teardrops fell down her face.
“Hey, hey, don’t cry,” He told her, pulling her closer as his hands wrapped around her. “We’ll see each other again.”
“How do you know?” She hiccupped, remembering all the similar and hollow promises she had heard before.
“Let’s meet,” He spoke rapidly as the idea came to him. His heartbeat “This day, next year, at our little ocean. “ He tilted his head to the lake.
“But what if I can’t—“ He cut her off, shaking his head.
“I’ll wait for you. I’ll visit each year.”
He knew he should stop. His brain yelled at him not to waste another day here, but he couldn’t not go. He promised and as hopeless as it felt and despite the many years that had passed, he knew one day she’d come back.
He sat himself in front of the lake, watching the water ripple underneath the rocks he threw. He whistled tunelessly as he waited. His mind wandered back to those few months they had together that had been so important to keep him dragging back.
A sound sliced his actions and reverie freezing him.