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Loving the Lost: Chapter 2
I woke up, my face hot. My clothes were plastered to my body, and I felt all sticky. I was glad to wake up. I had suffered from another nightmare of Mum.
I was running through the forest, although it wasn’t our forest. The trees were sparse, and a few of them were a dull white, with grey splotches. Mum had called them Birch trees. I saw Mum. She was standing in front of me, wearing a white dress, but it wasn’t a tight dress, with a bodice and big skirts, but it was more like a dressy robe. The sleeves hung long, down to the ground, and there were many crease in it. And she was barefoot. I ran to her, tried to reach out, but she blew away in the wind, almost like she turned into it. I looked around frantically, trying to find her, and she was standing on a tree limb. I was scared, the branch looked like it could hardly hold her weight.
“Mum, don’t!” I called to her. “You’ll fall!
“Find me, my beloved Zahili, find me!” And she turned into that wind thing again. I was getting pretty angry with that.
I tried to bring myself back to the present and not worry about creepy dreams. I looked over at Tulia, who was sound asleep – who wasn’t there. Where was she? It was still very early in the morning, the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I was always the first one up.
I ran out the bedroom door, and into the den, which is what we call the main room. There was already a fire burning in the fireplace, signs that Tules had already been up and about. I ripped open the door, and found myself face to face with Tulia. She had a bucket of water in her hands, and dirt smeared on her face.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE-“ Tulia put her finger to her lips. Did she just shush me?! I glared at her. Did she really think I cared about waking anyone right now?
“What do you think you’re doing?” I whispered accusingly.
“I’m doing my chores!” she replied, never taking her eyes from mine.
Her eyes started to get teary. Her eyes always got teary. “You get up early too! Why can’t I?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, she just pushed past me into the house. I sighed. I noticed a full pail of milk next to Bessie, our cow. She had been a gift from the castle, after mom disappeared. The castle people always give something called a parcel, after someone loses a loved one. It is usually almost always an animal, because that is what helps people get by the best. It is usually a cow, goat, or flock of chickens. We got Bessie, from when Mum disappeared. Our chickens came from Rocelyn. She had gotten the flock from when both her parents died, but she said she had so much other stuff going on, so she didn’t have time to worry about stupid chickens. So she gave them to us.
I walked back into the house, and found Father sitting at the kitchen table. He looked up at me as I came in, and sort of glared at me. I could tell we had woken him up. I sat down next to him.
“Father, why is – why must – oh, never mind!”
“Zahili.” He grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes. “You are the closest thing she has to a mother now. Maybe you should play your part, and act it!” he wasn’t really scolding, more like enthusing.
“No, father, she needs to act more her age, she’s eight! She needs to depend more on herself!” I was angry, and upset, and kind of hurt. Was he saying this was my fault?!
“You don’t know what it’s like to lose your mother at age five-“
“And you do?! I lost her at age ten! When a girl is a teenager! Growing up! Isn’t that more important than needing her to help you tie shoes or blow your own nose?!” I sat back, exhausted, but quite sure my point had gotten through.
“Zahili. What if she wasn’t here? What is Tules were gone? How would you feel?” I looked at my hands. I could not answer those questions. “Maybe you should act more your age, take care of her. Please.”
“I’ll try.” I whispered.
“Try what?” Asked Nye groggily, as he stepped into the room. His hair was messy and there were circles under his eyes. I looked up at him, trying to be angry, but the anger was replaced with worry. He looked terrible. I still tried to act angry though.
“Where were you this morning? Hmm?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” his face wrinkled in confusion.
“When I was dealing with the brat?!”
“Zahili! Don’t question him? I told him he could sleep late!” Father stepped into the argument.
“Why was he sleeping? He could have made breakfast, he could have chopped some wood, he could have – he could have-“ I stammered.
Tulia came into the room, nose sniffling. Her face was red and puffy, and her hair was a mess. “You did not do anything this morning either, Zahili.” She spat. The words stung.
But nonetheless, I jumped up from my seat and charged the little girl. I was sick and tired of her. Sick and tired! She shrieked and was ready for the impact of my running tackle, and I would have flattened her too, if Nye had not interfered. He had jumped up the moment I did, and tackled me to the floor. He held me down. I was crying by now.
“Now, now, Zahili, it’s going to be okay, it’s alright.” He whispered in my ear. I sobbed. Tulia just stood there, staring. There was much more going on here than she realized.
“NO! It’s not going to be okay!” I wailed. “Mum’s gone, and now all I have to remind myself of her is THAT?! She doesn’t realize how I feel! And now, I’m haunted with nightmares of Mum! Mum, running through meadows, with me following her, but I can’t catch her! Mum standing there, but as I reach her, she turns into the wind! She doesn’t KNOW!”
Tulia was open-mouthed. She must have just thought
that it was this morning’s incident that was putting me over the edge, when really, it was so much more. I just sat, cradled in Nye’s big strong arms. I felt so safe.
Tulia turned away, tears rolling down her pink cheeks. She turned back to me, looked at me one more time, and ran out the door. Father jumped up, and sprinted after her. Nye slipped me off his lap and ran after father. I slowly got to my feet and went after them.
The sight that I saw at the end of the dirt road was paralyzing. Father was kneeling in the dirt weeping hysterically. Nye was at his back, his hand on Father’s shoulders. He was looking teary too, and was staring off into space. They were at the edge of the forest. I ran to them.
We all just stood there for a while. Finally I asked the question. “Did she go – did she – the forest?” I sighed. I squinted up at Nye. It was silent except for Father’s weeping. It was eerie.
The full impact of the incident hit me. It’s all my fault. Everything my father had said about her being gone was here; it was present.
We stood there for a while, until the sun was full up and shining bright in the cloudless sky. Finally, after Father stopped crying, he stood up. His throat was scratchy and dry when he spoke.
“Zahili, go to the castle to receive our parcel. The attendants will probably want to come and inspect the house, to make sure we have lost someone. Request it as soon as possible.” Father squeaked.
“Course.” I grunted. I went out the door. As I did, Nye linked arms with me. I stopped on the door stoop. “You coming?”
“Na, I got to stay here. But if the drawbridge is closed when you come back, seek out Bertha. She let me stay for free at her inn when I fetched Bessie.”
“Okay, Nye. Thanks.” I hugged him. He patted me on the shoulder, which I took as a sign to go.
I walked to the gate and looked back at the house. Nye waved. I smiled, and left the house.
I left, walking down the street the opposite way Tules had gone. It all felt so wrong, walking away from her, not looking for her, when I needed to find her.
I walked through the town. Everyone was watching me, that she had left, and that our family was, again, experiencing a terrible loss. Everyone in the town knew Tulia; she was so welcome. And she had so many friends.
As I walked past her friend’s house, a small gaggle of three girls came out.
“Is Tulia coming to play today?” They asked in unison.
“Not today.” I said, walking on. I hadn’t looked at any of their faces, afraid they would remind me too much of Tules.
After a while of walking, walking, and more walking, I noticed someone at my side.
“Firenze, you should not have come.” I said, not even bothering to question whom my companion was.
“I know.” She was my best friend. She was very friendly, and had straight, orange hair. Her eyes were deep brown, and she had freckles all over her face. All over. She was tall and lean, and she had a very swift stride. Why someone so bright and bubbly was a friend with someone as sour and unpleasant as me, I don’t know, but she was just what you would picture a thirteen-year-old girl to be. “So where are we going?”
“I am going to the castle to receive our parcel.” I did not look at her face, afraid of what I would see. But when I did I saw fear, sorrow, and pain.
“Oh God, Nye isn’t – he didn’t -”
“No.” I interrupted. “It was Tules.”
The reaction was even worse than before. It involved a lot of cursing, hair pulling, kicking rocks (and anything else available, including one of my shins on accident), and crying.
“Have you ever thought that maybe your reaction is painful to me too? On the inside?” I snapped at her.
“Oh, right.” She mumbled, and put her hands at her side and looked forward.
Finally, we came to the drawbridge that marked the end of the town.
“This is where I say goodbye to you, Firenze.” I said to her.
“I don’t think so.” She said. She took my hand in hers.
“You sure?” I asked.
She looked me in the eyes and nodded. Together, we walked across the drawbridge’s wooden planks and entered the ever-crowded village.