-1 A masterpiece always begins as a little trace of an idea at the back of a brilliant mind.

This is the basis of a concept: that all big things start out small. The idea that all castles start out as concrete blocks and all humans start as atoms. Every magnificent thing was once small and insignificant. This is a frame of my intentions. What I am writing here is a masterpiece in my mind. It is many other things as well, but it is a masterpiece because it is bigger and more beautiful than any other experience in my life. I have to begin small, though, and grow into the big picture. This process will help you understand it better. I must take this slow and steady. I must write as I think. I must write with detail and long pauses. I must be sure to leave holes where my memory is folly. So, if you do decide to stay and listen, you must be patient. This is extremely important. I will bloom into every sentence because I am writing this for you. I would like to invite you, then, if you have the time and the patience to stay, to view my masterpiece in memoriam. I will remember only one, so you must appreciate it for what it is. I will say it once and never again. Call it a personal salvation, call it a friendly gift. It is whatever you might wish it to be, but keep in mind that it is for your eyes only. All but one of my masterpieces is on paper. Can you guess which the last is? I must start somewhere, though, and quickly. You will grow bored and uninhabitable otherwise. I prefer a pleasant audience. A time, a place, a setting-- this is what I need. These are what create a beginning, am I correct? You desire a setting. This is a fair request. Very well, then, let me tell you. I sit here now in the molten darkness of my December. It is rainy and freezing. Very uninviting weather we are having lately. I have heard the rain smash into my windows for nearly half an hour. I shiver often. The rain must feel like daggers against human skin. I am constantly remind of my fragility. Before we get too far ahead, since I am sure you are staying, much of what I will explain here might be unnecessary, but it is all in the moment, and I write what I find important. Every word works as a key to the scene, so you can feel what I feel and know what I know. This is a diary, a journal, not a professionally hand-crafted work of art. Be patient with me, you will understand in the end. Tonight I chose to sit at my old desk in the living room, being as it is that I intend to write for some time. I have loose papers everywhere and an assortment of pens lying about. Very traditional and expected for an artist. There is a candle sitting atop a small shelf that ignites my words. The light flickers shadows across the paper as I write. The light is always low and billowing in the early winter. The wood of my chair is cold against my legs and my feet have been frozen for at least half an hour. It would be cosy, if it were not that my fire was dying. I can feel the coolness climbing like a spider up my back. It’s flames are nearly out. I must go and rekindle another soon, but it can wait. I have not brushed my hair today, it appears as a dark, matted mess. I have not shaved my face or slept recently, I appear to be homeless and desolate. That is how I feel. I am clean, I am withered, and I am weary, but this cannot wait. I must begin tonight. I am haunted. “Why are you here?” You are sure to ask, and I will soon find out. The truth is that I am curious and deformed. I beg to know if you will stay and listen. As I write, I wonder how your expression is, I wonder what you are thinking of these words. How do I come across? Do I seem… mad? Do I seem… out of sorts? How do you think I feel? I wish there was a way for you and me to interact, but technology is slow and aching in these times. Speaking of time, it has been playing tricks on me for two years, and I am now striking back. This is my game, this is my wit, and this is my tragic triumph. I will give time what it truly deserves. My pen is mightier than the hands of time. I wonder if it would be possible to hide my heart inside the lines of this notebook. I am watching said lines as the ink of my pen slides across them in a brave attempt, but I am ever unsure of their destination. To what is all of this leading up? What will be the end results? These are the words that move me from deep inside. These are the lines that stir up my memories. I am eager and I have awaited your return. The thoughts. This is my exposition. My thoughts are to blame for all of this. The sordid types of after-thoughts especially itch to climb into open air. They long for freedom, even if only to be closed into darkness again soon after. The memories that constrict me long for those few moments of life, but they will be breathed back down into a book rather than inside my mind. A breathing document of my memory. This is what I am creating. Is this appealing or pathetic?

In the few moments in which I would record those recollections, they would be brought back from the dead very briefly. As such they would be given enough life to haunt me for a thousand years. I have faith in this and I am ready to face it, should it come to pass. If I should enclose these memories into a novel, I could relive them as many times as I cared to. I would not have any need to fear forgetting the pain. Time would never close the wounds, because there they would always sit, in this little notebook on my desk. I could tear open the wounds whenever I felt it necessary. Even though I intend to keep my heart here, I believe that a heart is too much for any language to express, no matter where it is kept. I know this and this is why I am excited for the end. I do not know if things will change. I do not know what will become of me. My heart holds more than the truth, which is far more explicit than any story. My heart holds the love of one who is dead. My heart holds a secret. While I am thinking about this, I must say it. It appears to me that many people have recorded their lives in novels and things of that nature. Auto-biographies. These people have poured out their hearts into books, into countless volumes and journals and papers. I am sure you understand this. How curious, though, that when someone wonders to take a glance, each of the writers has purposefully closed each of their notebooks time and time again. And yet in that same way, the novelists have prayed in secret that someone find the note when they are perhaps dead or gone. Perhaps they write to leave a legacy, or to admit shame, but only in the face of death. How very… curious. I have to say that I am one of those novelists. I had so much to say to you when I had the chance, and now that the chance is gone, I long to say it more than ever. But do we all not play the same game? We all had our proper excuses to leave the words unsaid. Whatever I felt was not at its opportune moment to be said, I simply vomited out into my hand and disposed of it. I believe this is a common practice. Do not think me off just yet, please listen. Imagine it to the best of your ability. Allow me to be…figurative. I accumulated a sickly pool of unsaid words which stuck to my feet and crawled along my lower legs. I often feared that they would consume me, but they sat idle and ominous nonetheless. We bottlers are all tragic fools, you must agree. However, to shed light on the subject, I am pulling the drain as we speak. The pool is diminishing quite nicely because all of the words are being dispensed into the very lines that you are reading now. I am becoming safe. I am becoming empty. I am ignoring freedom. There is only one “you” that I will refer to here, there is only one “you” and only one “Ember”, and you know very well who you are. You must understand this. There is no other. There are no lies. The tragedy that swam so deeply in your eyes, the tragedy that I recall, confines me to believe that I truly had the ability to heal you. If I had known where to place my emotions, if I could have explained myself to you, perhaps I would not be where I am now. Even more so, perhaps you would still be alive. Bitter, is it not? There was never a trial of fitting a square peg into a round hole, it was fitting an emotion as vast as the sky and the ocean into something so small and insignificant as a word. What is there for me to claim now; that I was too timid, that I was too ignorant of that tragedy to say something? To say anything! I saw it so clearly, I cannot even malign my own heart that well. I have no excuses, I should have spoken, and I am not sure if that regret will ever leave me. Tell me, Ember, dare I ever attempt to pour the essence of you out into this little black notebook? It seems so impossible, this-- the goal of mine to confine you to the pages of this record. You are not an object, not ink to be spilled for safekeeping. No, you are not a concept or a story. You were a real person, as real as I am now, and I do not want to insult you. But what other choice have I? Something must be done. I must keep you safe… I watched you, Ember, as you bled yourself dry, unable to close up the holes in your heart. It might be safe for me to say that you have always been a mystery, more or less, in life and in death, regardless of my inability to read you. So, where is your heaven? I keep saying your name, Ember, but it is something that I cannot help. It makes your presence all the more real, and it does my heart well to feel you close. Do I let each breath and lustrous emotion (which I draw now only from the memory of you) be expelled from within me, only to be spun into the fibre of this journal? (Say not “journal“-- this is a small token of my affection-- or should I say-- obsession?) What will become of me if I do not keep you? I am afraid, even if I am quite unsure of the outcome. I do not know if writing the events down will change me at all. I worry nonetheless that your light will be extinguished from me, and I do not know if it will be a miracle or a poison to the lips. I cannot say, Ember. I do not know. I know nothing quite so surely anymore. The second. I am safely assuming that you are willing to stay and read now. However, I will not assume that

you are wondering why I am writing this to you because it is not as if you will ever read it. This is not proper speech; I do not know if I will ever get the chance to speak honestly with you again. If nothing else, however, this journal and what I will confide in it will serve as a cure to my own guilt. Call it selfish, call it whatever you will, it is the truth and it is my choice. If I cannot find a way to you, I must and will find a way to survive. It is all I know how to do, you should know. Would you take a look at how much of a human I am! Is it not pathetic and sad? I am crawling along the floor of the earth with the bottom-feeders. I am disgusting to the point of pitiful amusement. My soul is on fire. I realize that I was a coward in your presence, and perhaps may still be in your absence (of this I am quite confident), but these past two years have given me more than enough time to consider what I have done and not done and what I intend to do and not do. There are many holes that I must patch and many figures that I must solve for this process to work. I am doing my best with what little I have left. I must also say that now that you are gone, time is my jester. What a fool it is to think it could erase you so easily. You are still quite alive. The journal in which I pen now is a journal that I picked up this evening at the business in which I continue to work. I have obviously, although at some great expense of time, decided to find a way to speak to you in some manner. I intend to tell you all of the things that I never had the strength to when you were here. Cliché, I realize, but it is true. It is in this way that I will tell you all that you were alone, simply as yourself, and all that you were to me, perhaps more than you actually were. It is also in this way that I will finally be able to show you… but first, I must begin with the capture of this day, as well as how I came about choosing this particular note, in which I will define you. This will help you understand even further. Do not let me leave anything out, especially things I actually remember. Here we go. I woke this morning to the sharp air and the stifled sunlight, an autumnal sort of awakening. These are the mornings that are the most empty. When the world seems still and afraid to move, as if winter was a relative to glass. No one breathes on days like these. It was ever a lonesome rise for me, even if more than seven hundred mornings have come and gone since you went away. One might think that the pain would lessen, so much time having gone by, and that might be so, but it has not diminished much. I am terribly lonely without you. Then of course you might suggest, “Why not find some new friends?” but I cannot. Things like that are not that simple for people like me. We are widows, nothing is simple for us. When I woke my eyes seemed to believe that the earth was being untrue. My vision was out of focus and dim, but the morning was persistent. It usually is. Wake up. Tegan. Time to get up. Another miserable day awaits your company. I blatantly refused to open my eyes for a minute or so. I was unhappy to be awake, so the tension was understandable, in case you were wondering. I gradually let it go. I relaxed myself to the extent of my ability and let the coolness awaken me slowly. The slower I wake up, the easier my day seems to be. The way I wake up is important to my attitude. The stillness was broken gently by my consciousness. Everything seemed to wake up with me. My house did not breathe until my eyes were open. She respects me. I rose up. The cold air brought chills out of me and I shivered, stretching my spine and closing tight my eyes. Little spotted lights flashed for a moment and I blinked to clear the blurriness. I rubbed my cold, bare arms and scrunched up my body in an inward stretch. The winter is coming once again, and while my mind is rejoicing, my heart is lost in mourning. I folded back my thin blankets and looked out of my single window, my eyes attached vacantly to the sky. I watched the place around the sun. I allowed my eyes to adjust to the brightness and I yawned deeply. My chest tingled and shuddered at the cool air. Even with the sunlight, the day was bound to be clear and sprite. The winter comes so early here, it is almost unreal. It begins at mid-October and goes on until March. It is a little absurd, but enjoyable enough. I would rather have the cold more often than the heat. I certainly have not found the beauty of October to be dead. The clouds were thin like the fingers of a ghost, reaching desperately for the warmth of the sun. They moved in slow, creep-like drags, as if God had yawned them out in a sleepy daze. Everything was slow to rise this morning and I certainly could not place blame. I was guilty. I felt frail and malleable in the winter light. My skin reflected the sunlight as if I were made of porcelain. My eyes seemed to blur at the brightness and I shook my head gently, my hair felt frosted and breakable. I lifted the window open just a bit and scolded myself for not putting on a shirt first. I cringed slightly and felt my skin shriek in protest to the cold. I took the white pack off the windowsill and did my best to ignore it. I lit up and took in a deep draw. I glanced over at the other side of the bed, pushing the smoke out of my nose. The other side was empty, of course, as usual. I do not believe you would have

expected otherwise. I looked back at the window and took another drag, forgetting about the bed; it was bound to be a cold day. Perhaps it would rain in the evening, I thought. I blew my smoke out again slowly, contemplating… The smoke from my cigarette pushed against the glass and out through the holes in the screen. The winter light and the coldness pushed back, swallowing up the sickness in my veins. My (what can be called) fresh breath hesitated inside me. Even now, as I write, I am hardly able to convince myself that I have lived without you for two hollow and disenchanted years. Ember, where are you now? I sat still on my bed and had my morning smoke near the window, just as I did when you were around. However, this morning I woke without you there, just as I have for two years. It still hurts more than I ever would have imagined. I allowed my eyes to dream. My sleepy gaze encased various people walking by the street until they were out of my sight. I blinked away the curling smoke and let my lungs swell; I inhaled that sweet, infectious release. I watched closely as the season bled out its insecurities and formed into the strong and beautiful stillness. This morning was the most beautifully serene morning that I have risen to in seven hundred days. The sun rose slowly, adding an orange hue to the pale, awakening sky. I saw smoke rising from a few chimneys; it was not entirely cold enough during the day to need a fire, but there always has been something lovely about the warmth from a hearth when one is preparing for the day. My mother believed in this idea. The fire awoke the soul and encouraged the life to burn bright. I shivered slightly again, having no hearth of my own, in life or in heart. I pushed my cigarette into the ashtray on the windowsill. I felt my heart sinking deeper inside my chest, as if depressed by its hard work to keep me alive. I could not blame its defiance. I am quite a worthless vessel, but I cannot erase my will to survive. What good I am doing anyone, I am not sure. Jenna would miss me. Eric might miss me. Perhaps Olivia or Lukas, but not many others. In fact, I have not ever been afraid of dying. I often look forward to embracing you on the other side. Maybe then you could meet my parents. Maybe then you could be happy. Maybe then I would not lie still and helpless. The final wisps of smoke slid out of my mouth, like the process of death sweeping low and the soul being removed from the body dead. I moved across the bed and swung my feet over the side, lifeless as they brushed against the cool wood. I stretched my spine again, once forward and once backward. A soreness rose in my upper arms. I stood to begin stretching my stiff limbs. Today, two years ago, I would be forced to live my life alone. This turned out to be a more-thanpainful process. It was a method I had to learn. It was so hard. It still is… Doing everything on my own. I listened to my feet as I shuffled across the floor to my dresser. They sounded cracked and dry. My whole body felt rustic and dusty, like I had not moved in centuries. I would not disagree with being called un-dead, it is how I felt. A walking corpse, with slightly more motivation and less revenge on mind. I rubbed my right eye with the heel of my palm and pulled open the top drawer. My eyes would not quite focus. I yawned deeply and water rose to my eyes. I pulled out my pieces of clothing drawer by drawer and held them limply to my stomach. I shook my head again to blink the drops away. I pulled my shirt over my head. Ready. Set. Why did you have to go? After dressing for my morning traipse, I reached across my bed and shut the window, closing the little black locks. Not that there was absolutely anything in my house worth stealing, just that I have been paranoid for as long as I can remember. I stood idly in the middle of my bedroom floor. I had a strong desire to avoid the trip altogether. I wanted no more than to just flump into my sheets again and pretend that the day never existed. I could not bring myself to do that, though, because after two years I have yet to break my promise. This day was especially important. I had done the same the last year, but… it seemed somehow different this time around. The one year “anniversary” if you will was a day of spiritual destruction for me, but I felt that today might show that I had gained some strength over time. Then again, talk as much as I might have, the result was basically the same. I stared down at my bed for a moment and looked up. I watched a pair of birds fly by my window slowly, they turned in circles many times, and my chest ached. I turned away and walked into the living room. Sunlight had poured into such a room in gentle beams, spotlighting the cold, wooden floor. It looked almost magical, but there was no magic here. I cannot even ask for a release from reality, much less magic or some type of supernatural phenomenon. I pulled open the top drawer in my desk and took a pen and a small piece of paper out. I scribbled my coined sentence and capped the pen. I dropped it into the drawer and closed it back. I grabbed my coat from the rack by the door and swung it on. I pushed the piece

of paper, along with my keys, into my coat pocket. I walked into the kitchen and took the two fresh flowers from out of the vase on the dining table. (I purchase two new flowers every evening after work with the intention to bring them to you the following morning. In the beginning, I expected my co-workers Lukas and Olivia to mock me as if I would be after a woman. Along with the repetition, it would appear to them that I would just be having ill luck. I am not surprised, but I could never find the strength to do so. I cannot find the strength for myself sometimes, how am I to find faith in a woman? I will not, as I am sure you would understand if you were here to witness the condition that my heart is in. After all, you were not a stranger to our dear misery.) I walked back into the living room and slipped on my shoes at the front door. I looked around the house and found it eternally empty, silent, and lonelier than you would ever imagine. My breath caught up inside me again with heartache and I opened the front door. I had been doing this same thing for the longest time, yet it seemed so hard this one morning. I suppose, however, that the additional pain was for good reason. Today was not like any of the other days. Today was not any day. Today was precisely two years later. Slowly and carefully, I stepped out onto the concrete slab, closing the door and locking it, onward to uphold my promise. The third. On my way to the bridge I always spend my time watching things happen around me. Not that there is very much else to do, but you understand. I feel a little more emptied with each step. It is all I can really do to focus on outside things. Often times I continue walking without realizing that I am. I seem to float to my destination each time, as if carried by my words. If I never meant anything while you were here, I have damn sure kept my promise. I hope you know that… Every now and again I will spot handsome birds on telephone wires or watch the leaves, those who are still captured by branches, tussle in the cool wind. Not very many people walk these days, but the few that do keep kindly to themselves. Most of the cars are relentless and uncaring to pedestrians. I have seen more red lights run than abided by. It is dangerous to walk, but it is quicker for me and easier. I need the exercise anyway, not to mention the release. Cars are expensive and I never really need to go anywhere far from home. If I do, I can take a taxi cab. You know that, though. I found it particularly peculiar that very few of the pedestrians were walking alone. I am sometimes encouraged to feel like I should not walk alone. I seem to have no motivation or direction. It seems to have all drowned. If I am swayed to feel lonely I remind myself that you are the one that I am to walk with, regardless that you are not here. It is always best if I also keep to myself. How strange that in these few, yet agonizingly long-seeming, years I have not yet told myself that I need to move on. Although this is mostly because it is not necessary that I do, it still seems strange. People find a new love so often in these types of situations, people always forgive their selves and forget, but not I. I cannot bring myself to it. If it is possible for me to keep you alive through my memories and even in my actions, then I do, and I do. I find that there is no need to torture myself with heartbreaking promises that you and I will never meet again. There is no need to scorch into my heart that all of my efforts to preserve you until then are in vain. Today I saw three particular couples on my way to the bridge. There were a good many, of course, but only these three were called directly to my attention. Each of them seemed to have their own resemblance of what I wanted in us, our future, our present, and our past. It seemed like fate, for them to walk on by, to show me what I might have had. I suppose it was a little punishment for not thinking wiser of you, Ember. For not responding quickly enough to your needs. How do I tip the glass? It is as if I will be full of regret forever. How do I escape? The first of the couples was an old woman and an even older man. Their close proximity aroused a deep jealousy in me, but I could do nothing to sate my emotions. I held back and hid expressions beneath my skin. Who am I to grow old with? They aroused the question. Too many questions are asked sometimes, repeatedly, even. It is as if every single thing in the world can relate to you somehow. All if it can be questioned, and all of the answers could be different if you were here. And yet all of the current answers remain the same. I am alone and all I need is you, Ember, and everything could be different. My dedication is almost sickening. In any case, while I have not the option to choose my elder companion anymore, it is continually dangerous for a person to be this alone. The elderly man’s arm was over the old woman’s small, hunched shoulders and her lips were pursed in a graciously antique smile. They appeared to be quite content on their morning stroll. I assumed that they went out into the morning to walk quite often like most old couples do in an attempt to keep up their health a bit. Her hair was up in a stout and curly bun and wide-framed glasses sat promptly on her

little nose. The man’s hair was almost gone, but it was wispy and white. They both wore jogging jackets to keep from getting the cold. The woman wore a long, dark skirt and the man wore long, black pants. I could see them waking together and helping each other, holding hands, and my jealousy turned into acceptance. They hobbled wistfully along without saying a word and it was beautiful that they could enjoy each others silence. I remember that joy myself, I wanted to tell them. I did not. When the elderly man passed me you took a glimpse at my face and smiled a very old and experienced smile. The wrinkles in his face lifted to show simple joy and I wanted to cry. I did my best to respect him with a humble smile, but it was not only an honourable notion. I spoke to him with my eyes, inversely being one who is wise: Take care of her, sir. I swear that you will not realize what she is to you until she is gone. You will not get another chance to tell her you love her, so do it every waking moment and every time the chance arises. Do not, oh, please do not ever take advantage of her closeness. Unlike you, good gentleman, I will not ever be able to make that mistake again... And they were coming from the bridge and I was going towards it, so when we passed each other they were out of my sight. The second couple that I saw did not consist of a man and a woman, but two younger women. (They seemed to be in their first or second year of college, something of that sort. They both appeared a bit younger than my self.) Both of the girls were giggling and twittering as they walked, about what I could not tell. They were coming from the bridge like the last couple, but they were on the sidewalk across the street. The taller girl was dark-haired, it was long and wavy and framed her face in many layers. She was wearing a short coat and thin jeans and carried a small, dark bag on her elbow. The shorter girl was wearing large heels and her hair was bright model-blond. It was cut shorter in the back and longer in the front and she had on large silver hoop earrings. They were both very pretty and seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. Perhaps they had known each other for a long time. I saw in them what I had seen in us for a brief moment, even if it was much happier, and my heart sank deep into my stomach like a wounded battleship. For a moment I eyed them from that opposite sidewalk, unsure of what I was feeling. I could not tell if it was jealousy or anger or regret, a combination, or all of the above. I was unsure of the expression I was wearing, but I knew it would reflect some sort of pain. That is how reminders always are. When my attention came back, I was walking much slower, and the female nearest me looked up directly into my eyes. It felt like I was looking into a mirror from some sort of other-earth. She smiled brightly and gave me a polite wave, as I would have done to a stranger across the street if I had been in her position. I was intrigued by this, so I lifted my hand and cheered up my face. The other girl was stuck in a fit of giggles, and I thus went unnoticed to her. (A possible reflection of you?) The young woman and I did not stop walking as we watched each other closely, but our movements slowed significantly. I wondered if she was feeling the same hint of a double-life that I was. She took the giggling girls’ hand and smiled all the while, a sort of pitiful smile as it was, asking me where my love had gone. I could not answer her. I did not want to answer her. I became a little bitter at her expression. It seemed cruel of her to consider. When she finally turned her eyes away I did not bother turning back to watch her go. I did not want to see that mirror again. Besides, it was and is not likely that I will see her again any time soon. The last of the couples that I saw to the bridge was not exactly a couple. It was more along the lines of a pair. A pair of young boys, walking in my direction towards the bridge this time, but again, on the opposite sidewalk. One of the boys was thin and tall, probably of age eleven or twelve, and the other seemed to be just a bit younger, but also shorter. The tall boy had bright blonde hair that wisped like long feathers around his face; his skin was a light, fleshy peach colour and he was wearing deep blue wristbands. He was walking backwards so you could face the smaller boy as you spoke. You had clenched fists and strong posture. They were both smiling. The blonde-haired boy turned in circles as you walked and changed feet like a mobile hopscotch game, you never walked simply beside the smaller boy in a civilized manner. Maybe this was impossible for him, to be normal. The younger boy had a shining face and short, spiked up dark hair. He was not wearing any shoes. It seemed rather crude for young boys to be walking around alone in the winter, especially with one child wearing no shoes. They reminded me of you, and I felt regret for a moment. Maybe they, too, were left behind. I felt tears again and I stopped thinking about it. The blonde boy’s way of walking was a sort of entertainment. You would sometimes take a skip rather than a step and it seemed to amuse the darker haired boy. They were still young and so eager to be alive and out in the winter air. In this I nearly found myself running across the street. I wanted to join them and find a jump in my step, and find a way to forget about the purpose that reared its absolute face. Alas, I held back and simply watched the boys, I allowed them a happiness of their own. I would not assign them mine. I attempted to mind where I was walking, as to stay

on the sidewalk. When I reached the break in cement between the sidewalk and the bridge, I paused. The idea and form of the young boys seemed to fall from reality as if I had turned the page in a pop-up children’s book. Maybe they went over the bridge, or maybe they turned back, I will never know. All I do know is that my heart sat snugly inside my throat like a warm sickness. Its beat was causing hiccup-like palpitations and I felt like I could not take a deep enough breath. It was here where your life ended two years ago. I had done this before, though, dedicatedly so every single day for these boundless two years, but today, on this only day... I could feel your bare feet as if they were my own, running up this concrete hill in the icy orange lamp light, the rain screaming down your lightly glowing face. The blue lights of the city on the other side of the bridge glowing softly and the windows giving no token of comfort. The automobiles would blur by and think of you. stop to consider what you were doing. You were on your own that night. You did not think of me. The twilight would have been grey and freezing in a wind tunnel of rain and fear. I could feel your breath in my chest, it was quick and uncertain. It was afraid and nervous and completely uncontrollable. It was your decision. You had made up your mind. The cold metal rails of the bridge against your clammy hands… Your feet, they were so heavy. The rope twisting bruises into your delicate ankles and you screamed. You were screaming so loud against the weather, but no one would hear you. No one would see the little blonde boy throw himself off the bridge. No one would hear him screaming his lungs out, trying to change his mind. No one would feel him drowning silently in the river, gasping for air, gasping for help. No one would think of it, no one would notice. His life would slip by and his air would run out. His arms would grow weary against the river current. The weights would hold his feet fast to the bottom and you would have no one left. His lungs would fill warmly with water and you would die that night. His last thoughts… what were they? No one seems to know. No one seems to remember. No one but Tegan Hathaway, who will never know the truth. I took the first step and I felt your soul move with me. It was excruciatingly painful and I felt my chest weaken. It seemed that the bridge would soon crumble beneath me, as if I had taken the step of a giant. With the giant-like emotions reeling wild in my chest, it was not so hard to believe. Although gravity was on my logical side today and held me down just fine, as if to hold back those emotions, I felt afraid of falling into the sea below. I felt the weather of that night encase me. I could feel the wind throwing the icy rain at my face and see the dark clouds swirl and growl. I could taste your freezing fingertips hollowing themselves cold. I almost fell backwards as if a forceful wind were upon me. I held fast, forcing my feet to take more steps. Forward, ever forward, my feet. I had to find the courage today. There was no time for worldly inhibitions to hold me back. I could not take it. Not anymore. I could not hold back anymore. I took the final step before I realized I had taken it. The high wire was mine and the spotlight sun beamed down. Look at me, Ember, I am strong. I soon realized that I had been holding my breath, and I sighed, if you could call it that. It was more of a quick exhalation and an even quicker inhalation and I held my breath tight again. My heart refilled itself, but this time with some amount of overwhelming grief and regret rather than air. I slowly convinced my eyes to look up into the blue, morning sky and all of my restraints were lost. The blue, the blue sky was everywhere. I was drowning, too. I took the slip of paper with my coined sentence on it out of my coat pocket. Everything happened without me moving my eyes. I tilted my vision slightly downwards before I had the time to throw up the pain arising in my chest. I threw the rose, the carnation and the small piece of paper into the air with the blowing wind. The tears burst out of my eyes as if the water pipes in my system had burst open. It all happened so quickly, painfully quick, as if it was playing in fast-forward and I had not even seen it happen. My eyes had become blurry. I was washing the canvas of my memories. God, Ember, what have you done. The wind gusted my hair forward like it must have done yours on that lightly lit night. I watched a flock of turnstones scatter up and out into the sky, warbling and flapping upwards and becoming like paper pieces in the rising blue. Tear drops sailed back into the wind. I hope they carried to where you are. Feel what I feel, Ember. Know that your decision affects the way I live. You died because of me. I live for you, is that not enough? I paused for a moment and sobbed, my mind still trapped in the memory. I kneeled for a moment and held my hands in my quivering hands. My young heart sat aching over that too cliché of a lost love, and I watched the spectacle before me. When I could stand it no longer, I ran down the bridge. I was unable to hold my trembling heart together any longer under the endlessness of the bright morning. I listened to the

birds cry and felt the wind reprimand my weakness sharply against my cheeks. There was something particularly wrong this morning. I could feel the change that I had expected Something that I could not name was there. That something was replacing you, that I could name, that was not there. Something was missing, and I could not wait to find out what it was. I could not spend time remembering what I had forgotten. Not this morning, no, not today: I could not face the morning alone. The fourth. From then on throughout the day I saw no one and no thing clearly. I saw no lovely faces or deep expressions hidden inside the eyes of strangers. I saw no smiles or frowns or furrowed eyebrows. I saw now lipstick or earrings or painted fingernails. I saw no moustaches or missing teeth or braces. I saw no long, curly hair or blue jeans or leather coats or brief cases. I saw no shaking hands or hugs or tears. I heard no laughter or song or children screeching. I heard no scolding parents or loving whispers. I saw no longing shadows mimicking owners walking by. I saw no smiles, I saw no waves, and I saw no hands or arms or legs. All of these things were there, but they went so cleanly unnoticed by my eyes. I only saw you, cold and silent, and the candlelight wisped dark out of your eyes. I rushed my way to work. I was over an hour early, but I did not want to be encased in the cruel vastness of outside space. In the bookstore it is almost always quiet and I do not have to suffer the presence of happiness. There is also Jenna, who asks nothing out of me except for now and again. Sometimes she will ask if I have come to any new conclusion about you or if I have had a good dream lately. The answers are always no and no, but she tries to give me courage and hope for the future. She tries to help me suffer this life in hope for the Next. She is a wonderful friend. She never asks of me more than I am willing to offer. This has always made explaining my self far easier. I pulled open the large glass door and the small, golden bell tied around the top jingled in a hushed way. Perhaps it was an unconscious respect for my fragile attitude. As I had expected (and hoped), the store was properly empty an hour before opening. Peculiar and funny that I was afraid of it being occupied. It was not as if anyone save employees were allowed in before hours anyway. I was entirely out of sorts. Logic was laughable at that point, especially after what I had just been through. I heard the rustle of cardboard boxes and the slightly gruff heave of a voice. I watched silently as purple and black waves lifted above the counter and a giant set of books was set onto the counter top. Jenna sighed and took her hands back just before the box squished them between the counter. She brushed her hands against her apron and jumped slightly when she noticed my presence. A golden autumn smile burned across her lips. “You have already made your trip to the bridge?” she said gently. What a ridiculous greeting that was. I would have been offended if I had not felt so hollow. It was a wonder how much a simple question with connotations such as “you have been somewhere, is that right?” could affect my state of mind. It was difficult to conceal my murky eyes. The situation was not made easier by the fact that Jenna does not miss a beat. Ever. “Oh, Tegan…” she said. She leaned her body slightly against the stack of books and looked at me with pitiful eyes. She has not ever been able to do anything to help me before. She cannot do anything to help me now. It is not that I was entirely offended by her question. In fact, I was simply unable to respond. Her wide eyes always seem overly concerned with the state of my soul, and there is continually nothing I can do to reassure her. It is not her responsibility to keep my soul good and tidy, but she attempts it anyway. She feels responsible for my happiness. This makes everything difficult for her, but she bears it. She wants me to get better so deeply. I wish I could tell her that I am doing all I can to get better, but it is not my choice. None of this is my choice. My soul is doing whatever it pleases. Yes, I have already made my trip to the bridge. Everything in the world that possibly could have chosen to emulate his dying body did so. What is worse is that it was all on each of their on accords. I cried. I cry every single time. It is not rare for me to become overcome with grief, but you should understand that. You are a woman, after all. I would like to, I would like to share myself with you, but I am unavailable. Forgive me, Jenna, I just do not have the strength to speak. “Oh, would you like some coffee?“ She asked. “I just made some…” She did not wait for my response to turn ‘round and shuffle to the coffee machine. I nodded queerly in any case, my mind full of warm fuzz and over-think. I cannot help feeling broken. She poured the dark energy liquid into a Styrofoam cup. It was a slow and elongated process. The steam rose up and out, stretching its long, luscious form into the air. It was like watching light dance on a

wall. It makes one wish that one’s body could stretch that well without being ripped apart. This brought me to think: are we not all continually torn by something? I suppose that feeling divided is the creator of motivation to go on, to find a way to mend the tears/tears. The sunlight broke in through the store windows somewhat uninvited. Forty-five minutes until opening. Jenna mixed a sugar cube into the coffee and turned back to give me the cup. I received it without turning my eyes away from the sunlit windows. I drifted into a memory for a moment, and Jenna was not invited. I stood still, my hand boiling lightly from the coffee. Birds flew by the window again, but this window did not belong to me. I was, in reality, still alone, as if I had expected today to be any different. My reality is utterly disappointing. “Tegan!” She spoke rather loud. I blinked. I turned to her. Reverie broken. “The coffee is boiling! Your hand…” Her voice diminished. Her purple fingernail pointed at me, then she realized I was not going to move fast enough. She quickly took my hand and helped me set the coffee cup onto the counter, nearly sloshing it everywhere. I cried out suddenly, my skin realizing that it hurt, and she dragged me to the sink to put my hand under cold water to evade the burn. “Thank you,” I said, feeling the cold water on my hand, it burned and tingled, but I let it soak for a few moments. I felt like more of an idiot than I had to begin with. Foolish, Tegan. Focus. This is work, not therapy. Get it together. My body relaxed. I took my hand back from the water and rubbed it on my jeans. “Do you think you will make it through the day?” She asked quietly. She knitted her eyebrows in concern. So mindful and caring, it was almost grating against my attitude. She tried to occupy herself with something as to not seem sidetracked in my favour. She was not my mother. She started to put books onto a cart so she could take them out to restock. She glanced at me now and again. “Sure, I will be fine.” I replied. I would make it. I just needed to focus. Yes. Focus on working. …Oh, but God, how would I manage? I met you here. The fifth. I closed my eyes tight to the point of dizziness and shoved my palms into my eyelids; my right hand was still burning. Even in the dull, buzzing pain, I could only see your face. Your starlight coloured hair framed your face too well, forever in your line of sight. You used to swish it away constantly in minor irritation, but it never bothered you enough for you to get it trimmed. Your eyes were filled with deep, liquid amber and it flickered in the darkness of my mind’s vision, like that flame against a wall. How empty you seem, Ember. What could I have done? What could I have possibly done to save you? I must have been standing in that agonized position for quite a while. I started to hear Jenna distantly saying my name. It sounded foggy and tunnelled, like one would imagine a voice to sound if one were trapped inside a hallucination in the desert. Tegan, Tegan… Almost as if she were trying to wake me from a standing, lazy dream. I was suddenly angry at her presence. I wanted to be alone. In fact, I knew that I needed to be alone, but she just would not let me be. Her relentless voice called out my name. Go away, go away, Jenna, damn it. Let me alone. I could feel the tears welling up again. I just wanted you back, Ember; I wanted to take everything back. All I wanted was to-“Tegan…” Her voice trailed off. “What!” I shouted, a little too loud. She flinched and drew up her shoulders and her small hands. My eyes burned open at her, like the lock of my mind’s diary was being twisted open by a pair of pliers. I knew my mind had heard her say my name many more times than she actually had, but I could not help feeling annoyed. Her voice was echoing in my ears. Everything was starting to ring in my ears like thousands of little bells. My heart felt close to exploding. “I did not mean to interrupt, I am sorry, but your coffee is getting cold…” She was extremely sensitive to my attitude towards her. I rarely shouted at her, but when I did she would inevitably start to cry. My opinion of her was extremely important and when she felt I was angry at her, she reduced to cinders. She quickly turned and kept placing books in their order onto the cart, doing her best not to cry. After she was done, which was rather quickly, she started to push the cart out from behind the counter. I dug my hands back into my eyes and took a deep breath. “Sorry, Jenna. You know that I did not mean it…” I really was sorry. I felt awful. “I know, Tegan.” Her voice was quiet. “I know.” She kept pushing along the aisle against the wall. She did not say anything else of it. I let my arms fall like dead weights to my sides and huffed at myself. I was hurt, too. I watched her disappear into the

books and leaned back onto the register. I am always defeated. I stared up at the off-white ceiling, still expecting something to change. I felt blind with nothing in my view but white. Stupid human. Will I ever get over it? I took a deep breath. Is this what you saw, Ember? I heaved myself up and forward to stand on my own. I rubbed my face sorely and pulled my hair. I stopped to take Jenna’s consideration into my hands. It was still warm. I took it in big gulps, forcing it down to my uneasy stomach. Insult would have only added to injury had I just thrown it out. I did not want to hurt her more than I already had. I tend to hurt people when I am thinking of you, but I am far too selfish to stop. In fact, I do not believe that I can stop. However, that could just as well be wishful thinking. I am confused. I am an endless train wreck of survival. I finished the bitter drink and tossed the cup carefully into the trash bin. I looked around at the counter and the cash registers, the black mats on the floor, the white blinds and the golden sunlight falling in through the windows. How many people are happy today? How many loved ones will die? I always wonder if there is some sort of accountant in the Next keeping track of all those things. What a job that would be, knowing how big and endless everything is. I slid my hand along the counter as I walked out to find Jenna. She was restocking journals and notebooks and drawing pads a few aisles down from the front of the store. She was sitting on her knees and pulling out leather-bound notebooks from the cart. Nearly all of them were printed with the obvious “Journal” written on them, as if a costumer would have never assumed its purpose otherwise. Her glasses sat primly on her face and she looked very mindful of the books. All of them were stacked according to their height, colour, and print. It seems that Jenna cares about everything. Why, though? I have never asked. And more so, how on earth does she have the time and the selflessness not to complain about it? Then the thought drifted in like a warm smell from a holiday kitchen. Writing. “Jenna, how do you feel about love letters?” I asked. She did not answer me immediately. I had not really expected her to. “It is a kind thought, Tegan, kind thoughts are never wasted.” She was gentle despite my previous explosion. That was Jenna. I stood in thought for a minute. What if the thoughts are to a dead man, Jenna? Are they still not wasted? As you know now, I took her word for it. I suppose I will determine later if they are not wasted, or perhaps I will never decide. In honesty, I only want the comfort that the words not go unsaid. Little more, no less. “Letters to him?” She already knew. She wanted to hear it from me. “Mm.” I only acknowledged her. What else needed to be said? I picked up a journal from the cart. Its leather cover was smooth and shined even in the dim store lights; the sunlight was blocked out by the odd angle of the shelves. That was to be the journal I would write to you in. Those were the pages that would contain the unsaid, living words. I was almost excited about the thin note in my hands. It would be almost like having a conversation with you again. The ones where I talk and you listen. This is the least I can do for you. I wanted to leave the store immediately, but of course, I had a full shift of work to do. I was somewhat disappointed, but I could wait. Two years was not impossible, I could wait another few hours. I did not want to start writing until I was at home, though. You can see that I waited. It would be more personal if I wrote with a clearer head inside my house than with costumers and Jenna present at the store. I was right, though. It is definitely more personal here. It feels… closer. Jenna stood up after the cart was emptied and the shelves were nice and full again. I pushed the cart back to the front of the store for her and placed the notebook in my designated employee junk drawer. I would purchase the notebook right before I went home. Until then I would just have to work through all of my thoughts so I would be able to get them down on paper when the time came. “Ten A.M. It is opening time!” Jenna walked to the front doors of the store and flipped the CLOSED signs over to OPEN. She stretched her arms far up above her head and stood on her tip toes, then flumped her spine back down afterwards. She was an attractive young woman. She was beautiful from birth and she would be beautiful for life. She had always understood our platonic level of friendship. She was

closer to loving everything and everyone the same than loving one person in particular. It was always that way. She never showed any discrimination or preference. She had been that way since we were kids. She was looking out the windows, too, now, at the morning light. Soon enough we would have bustling customers coming in and buying notebooks and novels and coffee. Some kids would come in to use the internet at the café and parents would take their babes to the children’s section and read to them. Some customers would linger around, unsure of what purchase they should make, and some customers walked into the store absolutely set on their purchase. These kind would quickly pick their selection, purchase it promptly, and leave. For the most part, customers would linger for at least half an hour, afraid to make the wrong decision. It was sometimes amusing because I tended to be that same kind of shopper. It was interesting to people watch. Jenna and I would commonly laugh at the little children. She would sometimes converse with some of her female friends from school who would drop by occasionally. Working is never actually working because I enjoy it a good deal, but having met you here, I find it hard to cope with sometimes. I miss seeing your speechless frame come in freshly day after day. It was so queer because you never purchased anything or even picked up a book. You seemed perfectly content with sitting for up to four hours at a time, not talking to anyone, not really doing anything. You were so distant, it was hard to comprehend. It is still hard to understand. I never knew how to cope with you. “Ready to work?” Jenna asked. She clasped her hands behind her back and walked up to the counter. She stood directly across from me and grinning softly. “This is not work, Jenna.” I laughed a little. I only laugh when she is around. She has given me more comfort than anything else has these past two years. I do not believe that I have been extremely amused since you left. What do I possibly have to be happier than usual about? “That is true. We have loved books since we were kids, as well as reading and writing and such… I think your art is still inside you, Tegan. I think contacting Ember is an excellent way to express it.” I looked at her numbly. She would come to be right, I was sure. “…But is it not rather ideal that we work here?“ She changed the subject. “Right, Tegan, surrounded by things we love?” I was still quiet. I could not change the subject mentally. She started again. “I am excited that you are trying to contact Ember through writing, especially today. I know it has been a really long time since you have talked to him and I know how much you have wanted to… I just hope this helps, Tegan. I really, really want it to help you…” She trailed off, entirely aware that talking about it rubbed the salt in harder. I did not say anything to her. I did not need to. I felt a little better about the entire situation, but certainly not well. I still felt empty and incomplete. I had expected to. It was a twenty thousand piece puzzle that I had indefinitely misplaced the last piece to. I still longed for you, Ember, I could not help it. I longed to even comfort your dying frame, but I was not there. I regret so fiercely everything that I had not done for you, when there were myriads of things that lie in view for my taking. I was such a fool, an awkward and absent fool; conflicted; pained, what else is there… I took the note out from my drawer and rubbed the cover gently. I clutched it to my abdomen. I felt my heart beating there, quietly, as if it were watching my every move, waiting for the pain to settle back in. Everything around me seems so aware of what I am feeling, it is strange. I felt safer with the notebook, so much safer. It was preparing me to turn myself inside out, to show you all there was to see. Too late now for the showcase boy. I am a naked man, bathed in white. I am hung inside a glass box, suspended from an infinite ceiling high above any ground. My history is written in a flowing black ink along the walls, do you care to read? I have drowning blue eyes and I am filled to the rim with cold water. Dip my heart in icy blue. A frozen confusion sits inside my eager, starving face. My hands will grasp at the glass walls, but there will never be anything for me to hold on to. I missed the oxygen when it came, I am always too late. I am weak. I am fragile. I am broken. The day went by quickly enough, but never quick enough for an eager mind. Jenna and I stood behind the counter, scanning books and magazines and article related trinkets for the customers. We made small talk and gave nice smiles and handed out have-a-nice-days and waved. We took turns getting and serving coffee, taking stretch breaks and small walks outside to get our circulation back. We were the only people working today, other than the manager, Eric, which is almost always a good thing. It was also a good thing that Jenna and I had been friends since we were young, or we might have gotten terribly bored with one another, being together all that time. Jenna was not an average girl, though,

by any means. I do not believe I have ever heard her gossip about anyone. If she ever did have something bad to say, she indefinitely kept it to herself. I had only heard her curse when she had accidentally hurt herself rather badly, and I had only seen her cry rather fiercely twice or so. She was a solid stone indeed, and a happy stone, at that. She was a strong girl. She was often busy painting or reading when she was not busy here at work; she was a huge fan of self expression. I had a lot of faith that she would be a successful person. She was born for art, expression, and the betterment of the human soul. Everyone’s soul. She always played therapist for me and I had probably have gone insane had I not had her around all this time. I am already mad enough with her assistance; I can hardly imagine it being any worse. She was my best friend, she had always been that way, no more and no less, and she had always understood when I had more important things to do than talk with her about painting trees. She tried not to bore me with our differences, and I greatly appreciated it. I also appreciate that she tried to be patient with my aggressive behaviour. I certainly hope that everyone else in the world has their own Jenna. There are very few things that I would trade for her… Ten P.M. rolled around lazily and sleepily and Jenna and I were worn thin. We straightened up the store and wiped down the counters and put on our jackets and got ready to go. It was a speechless process that was only recognized by cloth rubbing together and keys jangling. Eric bid us a good night and turned off the lights. We walked out into the late fall evening and Eric took the keys and locked up the doors. You waved to us and left to his vehicle and told us to be careful. You lives across town and both Jenna and I live within walking distance of the store. I watched my breath for a moment and the lamplight burned down at me. Jenna held me tightly and I took her lightly back and heaved out a cold breath. “You work tomorrow?” She let go of me and shoved her cold hands into her pockets. The lamplight singed the purple in her hair. The night had an orange hue. “I am off tomorrow… Lukas and Olivia should be in, though, I think.” “Oh, not those two!” She scoffed. Jenna was a patient young woman, but love birds drove her up walls. Not one wall, several of them; not to mention that Lukas has to be the physical embodiment of God’s great universal annoyance. God must have beat Lukas over the head and said “Go forth my child to destroy every human’s chance of being happy, ever,” and been done with him. Sometimes we find amusing, but most of the time, it is just awful. Jenna slumped her shoulders in agony and whined at me. I told her she would make it and to call me if she got bored or was on the edge of a panic attack. She smiled and squeezed my hands. “Goodnight, Tegan, tell Ember I said hello. You will, won’t you? Be safe!” She turned and waved as she skip walked away. I trusted her to be safe as well, so I turned my own direction to head home. The notebook was shoved awkwardly into my giant coat pocket and I rubbed the cover protectively. I had purchased it just before Eric had shut down all of the cash registers. It had been relatively inexpensive, regardless that I would have paid one hundred thousand dollars for it at that point. It was small enough to be manageable, but large enough to be obvious. I felt like I was holding you in my hands. I crossed the deserted street in a long trot and walked home very slowly. I was feeling rather pensive. I wanted everything about this experience to go well, or at least as well as it could. I wanted to find a way to say things to you correctly because I was so stupidly unused to it. There was no wind in movement, but the chill was well on its way to absorbing into the frame of my skin. My ears and jaw were numb and my lungs were burning. It felt so invigorating. It seems that the more one is hurt, the more alive one feels. This is always the case for me. I should feel very alive, should I not? The winter air tells me I am. My heart tells me I am. God, I am hurting, but the pain is so much better than lying around my house like a hollow shell. This is my redemption, Ember. I am all on my own now; I have nothing to be afraid of. I am all alone because of what I did not do. I did not act especially to prevent it. No, Ember, this is not what I wanted, but my actions got me where I am, right? This is not how I wanted things to be at all, but I am preparing myself to deal with it. Is this responsible enough for you? I have learned my lesson, I promise that I have. And after I finish this note, you will know that I have learned. Have faith in me, Ember, please. Believe that I can change. The sixth. I stood up on my doorstep and pulled my keys out of my pocket. I did not have very many keys because I did not have many mechanisms that required them. I fit it into the lock and turned it neatly. The door popped open quietly when I turned the knob, the house was rather docile. It breathed as if it had been

holding its breath all day, waiting for me to arrive home. Now it relaxed and welcomed me in. I shut the door and I set my keys on the table immediately beside it. I took off my coat and placed it on its proper hook on the rack. I switched on the lights and slowly stretched my long, thin arms. I shook my head and let my frosty hair begin to thaw while walking over to my desk. I set the notebook on the desk and took off my shirt. My dimly lit living room seemed to be occupied by a ghost. I took deep breaths and felt that my chest was heavy. I felt cool wisps of light and frozen dust dance along my neck as I breathed in and it traced down along my chest and stomach as I exhaled. Goose bumps rose up my back and I leaned forward into myself and shivered violently. How I long to be held by you, Ember. It is almost irrational, the longing I feel for your warm body to even exist in my world again. I stripped down to my boxer shorts and shrugged myself into the bathroom. I turned on the fan and the lights and the hot water. I took another deep breath and rubbed my hair and my chest and stomach. It was ridiculously cold in the bathroom. However, without central heat and my house being left to the winter all day, it was expected for the tile to feel freezing and the air to be bitter. I could not feel the bottoms of my feet, they cried against that frozen tile, but the water would warm them up, I was sure. It was a sort of tingling pain, but it gradually felt good. I rubbed my arms and got naked and threw myself into the shower. It burned it was so warm against my chilly flesh, but it felt amazing. I shivered hard and moved around under the hot water rain. I washed my hair and soaped myself up and felt my feet burning back down to body temperature. I moved my weight from one foot to another and turned to face the shower head. It felt wonderful to be rinsed of all the fresh winter wounds. I washed off and let myself soak for a while. It was a very slow and relaxing process. I could feel my muscles sighing in joy. At length I turned off the water, a bit disappointed to go back out into the cold living room. I pulled a towel off of the shower pole and rubbed myself down with it. It was a bit cold, but not nearly as cold as the weather or the living room. I left the bathroom with the damp towel on my head and rummaged through the drawers inside my bedroom for some night clothes. I decided on some boxers, some long pants and a three quarter sleeved shirt. I rushed back into the living room to start a fire. I took a few logs from the cage next to the fireplace and shoved them into the fireplace. I walked over to the desk and took a scratch sheet of paper out of the drawer and the lighter from the plastic container on the shelf, walked back the fireplace and lit the paper. I kneeled down to fireplace level and set the flaming paper atop the log and let the fire start. I turned the knob at the top of the place so the vent to the chimney would open. I shivered again. I took my coat off of the coat rack and put it back on again. I went back to my room to search for some socks to put on my re-frozen feet. After I became situated, I sat down at my desk and put on my glasses and lit a few candles. I was not sure if I had been more ready in my entire life, but I would find out. I wanted to use the perfect pen. It did not make much sense for me to care about it now, but I wanted it just the same. I took down my pencil case from the shelf and dug through it before pulling out a smooth black ink pen and decided it was fair enough for my script-like handwriting. I opened to the first page of the note, and there it began. I am here, Ember. I am in this room, writing you now. Every word that you have read has come to pass and it could hardly be more real. This is how I found this notebook and how I decided to write to you. I hope you will continue to read my words. I am diligently tracing them back from my memories for you, and of you. I want to make you happy, Ember. I wanted to, but failed when I had the chance. Nonetheless, I know that I was able. So, I will try to be able now. Please listen to me. You are the biggest part of my memory. The seventh. Where is it that I should begin? “Why, at the beginning!’ you should reply, but when does the mind differentiate between the end of one time and the beginning of another? When did I begin to notice you? If I were to chose a specific day and recall it correctly, I would say that it was that rainy day… Of course, then you must be asking, ‘Which rainy day, Tegan?’, and I must agree that there were a great many rainy days in the time that I knew you. However, this was an odd day. An oddly rainy day, but beautiful nonetheless. Now, I should ask you to follow me back to that day, so I can begin more clearly. This is to allow you the chance to understand me better, so if you will… I had been standing at the counter for hours. Not just a single hour, many hours. Jenna had been busy restocking the romance section (much to her dismay), and I was positively bored out of my skull. Sure, the store was full of customers, but they were all enjoying in a ridiculous silence of which I was unaware of the cause. It was a book store, yes, but not a library for goodness’s sake. I needed someone to

speak to me before I simply went mad. I felt so trapped by the stillness. I figured Eric would become upset with me if I went off to find Jenna and left no one available at the register to attend to customers, though, so I did not move. I was mentally thirsting to death. Not a soul even whispered! What madness was going on that day? My ears were to the point of ringing to save them the irritation of the quiet. I started in humming to block out the bells sounding in my head. I began to fiddle with the door keys on the counter and they clinked gently together. Oh, what little sound did the ears well, I was quick to learn. It was a bit unnerving how audibly motionless the store was. I felt like I was in a silent film. I looked out to the shelves and the silent people. I suppose I should have appreciated it while I could have, but I was starving for human interaction. The bell on the front door chimed damply and I did not look up from my jangling keys. Another quiet one, I was sure, not of all that much importance. I set the keys onto the counter and ran my hands through my hair and rubbed my face roughly a few times. My face was getting scratchy. I had not shaved that day, or the day before. I felt rustic and wild, but trapped in a docile cage. Fair punishment I suppose, for whatever I had done. Karma was surely making me pay for some thing. The person who had walked in was still sanding in the doorway, I saw the person out of the corner of my eye. My hands rested over my cheeks and mouth and I paused, looking in the general direction of the doors. It was a boy, whose face I had seen a few times before outside the store windows. You were soaked through to the bone, but simply standing there, as if it were entirely normal to walk into a bookstore soaking wet and stop cold just inside the doors and stare. I blinked, quite curious, and waited, letting my hands drop to my sides like small weights on my fingertips pulling down tall stocks of soft sugar. The boy did not move. I became steadily uncomfortable. I did not understand what the boy was doing. Was you hurt? Was you lost? Drunk? Crazy? I could not even begin to guess. you moved. You took a few, slow, miserable steps and dropped into the nearest café chair. I felt myself relax. I was not prepared to associate with a mentally ill person in the middle of the store. I found myself staring and became embarrassed. I turned my head quickly forward and a woman’s cynical face met me on the other side. “Ready to pay attention to me now, boy?” She asked. Her voice was like that of a creaking door hinge. She was humped over and her scraggily grey tinted brown hair was brought up like cobwebs on the top of her head. Her eyes sagged, swollen and purple and entirely impatient with my erratic teenage behaviour. She had set a giant stack of books onto the counter and cawed at me. “Any day now!” I began scanning the books as quickly as I could, all of which looked like they would soon belong to a grandson or granddaughter, and placed them into logo-marked plastic bags. I tried not to make eye contact with her. I felt that she would surely curse me or some other superstitious bout. Her old, withered up hands clipped open her coin purse and pulled out a few bills. I set the book filled bags onto the counter and read the woman her total. She threw the money at my hands and I took it, opening the cash register and getting her change. I read her the amount given and the amount she was receiving back, and dropped the change into her gnarled, waiting paw. “Have a nice day, ma’am.” I said. It was store policy for me to be polite, unfortunately. I turned the handles of the bags towards her. “Yeah, yeah… Say, what is your name, boy?” She asked. She took the bags and waddled a few steps away before pausing and turning back to await my response. “Oh, Tegan, ma’am…” I responded. What did she want to learn my name for? She did not give me any word of reason, she just hobbled up to the front door with her bags and opened her tiny black umbrella. She muttered to herself and pushed open the front door with her back, and disappeared into the darkening rain clouds outside. What a strange day it was turning out to be. I suddenly remembered the boy, and looked back to where you had sat down, and quickly found him staring right back at me. I blinked for a minute, surely mistaken, but I had not been. There were his amber eyes watching me. I shivered and looked away, trying not to turn away too suddenly or it would be too obvious that I had been trying to find him again. I felt a hand on my shoulder and my skin jumped. I had not been paying enough attention to know that Eric had walked up beside me, and I had nearly smashed him in the face with my arm. I relaxed a little

and held onto my chest. “Whoa, Tegan, are you okay?” He asked. “I am fine, Eric. You just startled me. I was thinking.” I replied. “Daydreaming, you mean?” He laughed a little, smiling. “Not at all! Just, the customers…” I said. “What about them? Are they particularly interesting today?” He chuckled. I paused. I knew it was going to sound stupid. “Seemingly enough, they are.” I was quiet. “How so?” His expression was curiously puzzled. “I am not entirely sure, they are just… peculiar. Do not worry of it. I am silly.” “I think you need a break, Tegan. Go talk to Jenna or something for a bit, I will take over the register for a while.” His eyebrows were knitted in a mixture of confusion and concern. “Are you sure?” I asked. I was delighted. “Of course, I can't have my employees losing it up in the head, right?” I laughed at him. “I am fine Eric, really, but if you are going to give me the go ahead, I might just take that break! Thanks a big one.” I said. He grinned at me. I walked out from behind the counter and immediately felt the madness lessen. Surely standing in that same spot for four hours had been getting to my head. Jenna would be able to get my brain awake, I just needed to find her first. Of course, I found her still in the romance section, slaving away. She was on her knees on the bottom shelf like she always was. Why did the top shelves never seem to need restocking? She looked so very concentrated on getting the books in perfect order. Her black and purple hair was twisted into low pigtails and brought forward over her shoulders. “Hey, did Marie ever get Henry back, or did you decide to stay with Stephanie? What was that book called?” I was kidding, of course. I teased her about romance novels a lot specifically because she hated them. Jenna is a firm believer that romance novels are trashy and specifically generated for people who feel that they are too good to consider watching pornography, so they feel the need to read it instead, as if that added more taste to the concept. She had been muttering in frustration at herself. “Why do women insist on writing about sex like it is something that no one can imagine on their own? If sex is a traditional concept that can be used in original ways, please point me to its author! Should the Kama Sutra not be enough for you people, my goodness…” “Tegan, how about you come stock the romance novels?” She said. Her tone was close to snappish, but still somewhat amused with a sort of exasperated terrorized taste to it. “Anything is more exciting than running that register right about now.” Said I. She laughed and continued stocking the books. “What? Do you want my company or something?” She did not look up or even humour me that she was interested in the idea. “If you can manage to pull yourself away from the romance novels that would be pretty great.” “Woo!” she shouted and stood up. It hurt my ears for the silence to be broken. “Lord, I thought you would never ask.” She said. I smiled a bit. “I was standing at that register contemplating whether or not to commit myself.” I said. She smiled back. “That bad, huh?” “We have had some pretty strange customers today.” I said. “Really?” She asked. She did, however, love a good mystery. “Yeah, I wonder if that blonde boy is still here…” I said. “Hmm? Blonde boy?” She asked. “Yeah, this blonde boy came in earlier. He was soaking wet and just stood in the doorway, staring forward like a zombie and not moving for about five minutes. He finally sat down in the café.” I explained. “How strange…” She trailed off. “Quite so!” My eyes were wide. She dusted off her pants and we headed towards the front of the store.

“So, how to cure the oncoming insanity…” She laughed. “I would suggest taking a walk, but the weather is not in the best of moods today.” I responded. “True enough… Hey, want to show me that boy you were talking about?” She was thinking, then she became excited. “Oh, definitely. If he is still here.” I said. We turned the corner of the shelf closest to the cash register, and my eyes went on a search for the boy almost immediately, only to find again that the boy was staring right in my general direction. I blinked like a deer caught in headlights and quietly kept walking to avoid awkwardness. “Whoa, is that him?” She whispered, as if the boy would have heard her from across the store otherwise. She followed me closely, slightly disturbed at his appearance, and perhaps afraid of him sneaking up on her from behind. For that, I did not blame her. “Yeah…” I said. “Super creepy if you ask me.” She replied. That boy was you, Ember. You were the blonde that came in that day standing in the middle of the store like a mad man. I will never know why you came in that day specifically. I will never understand it. Ever. I was trying to keep my peripheral view on you and walk in a specific direction at the same time, and in doing so I almost smashed into Eric again. “Tegan seems to be having some directional delays today, Jenna. Have you noticed? Are you out to get me, Tegan?” He laughed again. “Whoa, Eric, damn. I, we just, nothing… Sorry, Jenna and I were trying to find something to do to hold back the insanity. My head is all messed up today, I do not have any idea as to what my problem is. Sorry, guys…” I held my head in my hands. Eric laughed. “Working not exciting enough?” “No, it is not that, my brain is just denying me today. I feel like I can’t think clearly.” I was a bit upset at myself. “Bah, I understand. I feel the same way. My brains might as well just slosh out my ears, I am so terribly bored!” We all grinned. Eric started some small talk about his morning, and Jenna and I listened patiently. I wandered back behind the register and my attention span quickly dwindled into nothing. I started to fiddle with the door keys again and Eric’s voice became a collective dull buzz in my ears. I started to wonder simply useless things such as if I had left my oven on, which I certainly had not, because I had not used it in at least a week… “Tegan, is it?” I looked up to find amber silk swimming in my eyes. “You have an interesting name.” said you, the blonde boy. Your hands were placed neatly on the counter top and you looked at me directly, as if there were no humility in the notion. “I… umm. Thank you, I suppose…” I tried not to look away because I did not want to appear interested, but the amber pools beaming back at me made the process somewhat difficult. What an entirely odd boy you were. Where had you even come from? I had wondered… “Will you not ask me my name?” you asked. You were a polite one, were you not? “Will you tell me it if I ask?” I asked because I was unsure. “Only if you really want to know it.” You said. “Then what is it?” I asked. “Ember.” You replied. “Ember?” I wanted to be sure I had heard you correctly. “Are you hard of hearing?” You were so bitter to me! I did not reply. Jenna had stopped paying attention to Eric to listen to the boy speak to me, and Eric realized that she was no longer paying attention to anything you were saying, and stopped speaking as well. The room became oddly quiet, and an uncomfortable silence again set it. Even though we were the regulars and you, as this foreign boy, were the outcast, it seemed that you had dominance over the mood in the room. “Is there anything I can help you with?” I tried to be polite to you. “Not at all.” You said. “Then why did you come over here?” I asked. “To tell you my name.” You replied.

So strange. “You did not tell me it, you made me ask for it.” I said logically. “You asked on your own.” You replied. I stopped. What a little brat you were, talking to me in such a way. There you were spitting sarcastic phrases at me like you had some sort of grudge against me, and I had no idea who you were. “Why do I need to know your name?” I asked. “You can’t very well talk to me or point me out if you can't address me by name.” You said. “Should I be inclined to talk to you or point you out?” I asked. “You have been staring at me since I came in the door. I have to assume you are interested in me. Why would you not be?” You replied. “I have not been staring at you, I just got back here a moment ago. How can I find you interesting if I do not know anything about you?” I asked again. “You do not have to stare with your eyes.” You said. “Why am I arguing with you? I do not even know who you are.” I said. “This is not an argument.” You retorted. “Maybe not, but it is still useless. What do you want?” I was growing impatient. “I have to want something from you now?” You asked. “No, why would you want something from me in the first place?” I asked. “Why did you ask if I am not supposed to want anything?” You asked. I stopped again. This was becoming absurd. I glanced over at Jenna and Eric, who both looked at me in a flustered, astounded, amused and clever sort of way. I blinked. I could not tell if they were in on the matter or not, I simply stood up straight into the awkward silence. The blonde boy, the… Ember, the you, continued to stare at me with no courtesy at all. I was entirely unsure of what to say. Ember turned to face Jenna and Eric, which surprised me for some reason. “And your names are?” You asked. “Jenna.” said she. “Eric.” said he. “I see.” You turned back to me. You kept your hands in the same place on the counter the entire time you stood there. You had very clear fingernails, which were only slightly past your fingertips. Sleeves of a drenched hooded jacket covered most of your hands. Your skin looked almost as if it was emitting light, due to the darkness of your wet clothes. Your face was clear to the point of iridescence with little patches of rouge along your inner cheeks. You had long eyelashes and light eyebrows and a curved jaw line. You were thin to the point of malnutrition and I could only tell because your neck was long and hollow. The amber in your eyes was not warm. It was starlit and empty, bitter and isolated. There was no welcome for anyone in those eyes, and that was plain enough to me. Why had this boy talked to me? I wondered back then. Why had you come into the store? The logic behind it was simply absent at the time. “Do you have the time?” You asked. “Two fifteen, why?” I was still so lost. “You are not a very good listener, are you?” You asked. “What do you mean?” I was even more lost. “I asked you if you had the time, which, of course, you do not. No one has the time. If I wanted to know what time it was, I would have asked you ‘what time is it?’” Your logic was so completely abstract. I did not see the point in continuing to talk to you at that point. You spoke with hostility and degradation. Eric and Jenna stood speechless at the next counter, still. All of us were lost in confusion and awkwardness. “Do you ever feel trapped, Tegan? Cornered, called out, defeated?” You asked me such strangely personal questions. I looked at you with a small bit of hate showing through my eyes. “I do not appreciate how formally you speak to me.“ I was annoyed. “Words can create and destroy. I am manipulating your emotions in only the way I talk. Is that not frightening to you, Tegan?” You were so… weird. “You need to leave.” I said. I was done playing. You started to speak again.

“You…“ I had interrupted you. “You need to leave.” I pointed to the door. “Em evas, Tegan.” Your mood suddenly changed. Your fingernails scratched hard against the counter top, and the isolation in your eyes vanished. I could feel you changing inside me. “Yrros mi, Tegan. Evol em, Tegan.” Your hands were shaking and scratching at the counter, as if you wanted to lift your hands, but they were glued to the top. I saw fear in your eyes for a moment, and I became even more puzzled than I had started. What had you even been saying? Was I supposed to understand that nonsense? I squinted for a moment. “I beg your pardon?” I asked. “Rowotrom!” Your arms jerked back and you started running. I started, “Hey!”, surprised at your sudden behaviour. You were out the door in an instant, into the black and heavy rain. “What in the hell just happened?” I was angry and confused and spoke too loud. Some of the customers looked up at me. “I have not the slightest idea.” Jenna spoke lightly, dumbfounded. “What was he saying?” Eric asked, equally in abrupt. “How should I know?” I was exasperated. Was it some sort of joke? Some sort of prank from an angry customer? There needed to be some sort of explanation for it. I rubbed my hands into my face. “What in the hell.” The eighth. The rest of my day went as normal. It was night before things started to become strange again. Jenna had gotten off earlier than I, around five o’ clock in the evening. Lukas had come in to work soon after the blonde boy had left, but had left around eight, which I did not see the point in. What was the point in only working three hours? I was unsure. I did not get off work until ten o’ clock because Eric had errands to run, so he left me in charge with closing up the shop. I did not mind this a bit, I loved when the store became dark and empty. It was refreshing to be alone. As it turns out, it is not so refreshing anymore. I put on my coat and picked up my things and the store keys. I looked around the store and shut off the lights. I went out the door and locked the two, turned to face the street and ruffled my hair. Winter was in mid-swing and I was happy to be out in it soaking it up. It was damp, though, and still raining lightly. The orange street lights burned a path down the sidewalks and I walked towards them. I reached the street and paused, looking around. Behind the dark grey clouds I knew there were glitter stars, but no one below could see them. How I came to feel like they were shining nonetheless, I am unsure. Maybe I was just weird, too. The raindrops hit in a steady hammer onto the shoulders of my black coat and I was slightly freezing, but I was enjoying it too much to move. I looked up and shook my head. My face received the cold rain with joy and I started to shiver immediately. I stood for a few minutes in this way, switching my weight from one foot to another. My face began to feel numb so I moved it down out of the path of the rainfall. I bent my back heavily forward and shook my head quickly, raindrops flew from the ends of my hair. I smiled and rubbed my face roughly. I felt a tug from the left back side of my coat and I started, turning around quickly. I was afraid I was about to get stabbed or mugged or something of that sort. However, all I found behind me was a pair of amber eyes and damp, starlight coloured hair. I stared blankly at you in the dark, and you looked back at me earnestly. I did not know what to say. I did not feel angry like I had expected. I almost felt sorry for you. You seemed so broken when I met you. What could I do? “Is there anything I can help you with now?” I asked. I shoved my hands into my pockets and waited. “I do not know at this point.” You replied quietly. Your arms were crossed against your chest. It seemed like you had not changed clothes since you had been in the store earlier. If that were the case, I could not imagine what horrible things were happening to your health. I found myself worried. Why would you have not changed out of those wet clothes? I was somewhat dumbfounded, but I waited to see what would become of the situation. “Why are you here?” I asked.

“I wanted to talk to you.” You said as you rubbed your arms. “Then start talking?” I suggested. I could see my breath twinkle in the mist under the lamplight. “I am not sure how.” You said. I noticed that you had been shivering for a while. Your lips were pale. “You could make a lovely start by telling me who you are.” I said. “I have already told you who I am, my name is Ember.” You replied. “I know that much. Who else are you?” I said. “I am a boy…” You paused, I supposed in thought. “ “I do not have a last name. I am alone…” You said. I stopped replying so I could think for a moment. You were an orphan by those standards, but why was it me that you wanted to talk to? I could figure a few more facts before I drew any conclusions. “How old are you?” I asked. “Seventeen, I think.” You said. How depressing. “Where do you live?” I asked. You did not respond. “Are you stalking me or something?” I asked. It was you that stopped me there. It was you who wanted to talk in the middle of the night. “I would tell you, but I do not have any idea about that.” You said. “Where do you get off talking to me like this? What did I do to you? You must realize that having a random boy come into my store and harass me and run away, only to come find me in the night after work is a little creepy.” I said. “You appear to be strong. I know that something is wrong with me, maybe you can help.” You said. How could you tell my strength just by seeing my face? “Me, strong? And what does something being wrong with you have anything to do with me? I am more than a little confused with you, but I do not particularly want to stand in the rain all night. Can we go somewhere else to talk about this?” I really loved the rain, but not enough to freeze in it all night. “I do not want to keep you long, Tegan. I am entirely unorganized and broken. I am sorry for my attitude. Mood swings…” You were so small. “Then what do you want me to do? You come to harass me at my job out of absolutely nowhere and then wait outside my work area until I am done working to talk to me about nothing and then leave? What are you doing? Are you crazy?“ I did not want to leave you standing in the misty rain in your soaked clothes under the evening lamplight until tomorrow when I came back to work, but I did not want an odd stranger in my house to kill me in my sleep, either. I was torn. I thought, who the hell was this kid, anyway? “I am confused as to why you have let me talk this long without knowing anything about me. I am rather disoriented with everything right now. I am not stalking you, I just saw your face in the store window a few days ago and questioned your personality. I did not come into your store with the intention of harassing you. I see a lot in your face. I know it does not make sense, and it will not make sense to you any time soon. You just happened to be the person I saw in the store, and you happen to be the one I want to know. You, however, accept me so readily like we would become friends. I am unsure as to why you would do so when I spent my first impression talking to you like a dog.” You said. “Yes, well, what right have I to turn away the unknown?” I said. “I was just testing your endurance to see how you react under verbal pressure. I wanted to prove the strength I noticed.” You replied. “Your reasons do not matter to me.” I said. “Then what does matter to you, Tegan?” You asked. “Not freezing to death, can we please go elsewhere? If you insist so that I am the one who can help you, I will listen to the point of reason.” I said. “No, no. I need not keep you too much longer. I am sorry about this. I should to go now… I did not intend to keep you out in the rain so late like this. I am stupid. I do not know what I was thinking.” You said.

You turned to leave and I was again upset to speak. “What the hell is your problem?” I asked. I hated that you explained nothing. You stopped and your skin cringed in what I assumed to be pain. You were holding your stomach and kneeling down. I took a step forward and reached out. “I have no idea! That is the problem. Evas em. Evas em.” You sounded so inflicted. What could I have done? “What does that mean? Kid, are you ok?” I was worried still. “I will be fine. Do not be bothered.” You said. Again you were running into the darkness of the rain, and I was more confused than I had been in years. Suppose I never saw you again? What conclusions would my mind indulge in? A message from God? A hallucination? A dream sequence? A happening? At the very least, you would not be something easy for me to forget. The ninth. It had been three days since I had last seen you, the blonde stranger with the amber tinted eyes and the starlight coloured hair. You had not shown your face outside the store windows at all, much less come inside. You had not been waiting for me after work. I did not see you at the grocery store or at the bank. It seemed as though you had simply vanished. It was either that or that you had not actually wanted to speak to me. If that were the case, I found I could only half-way understand it, no matter which way I tried to look at the situation. You had seemed rather urgent in your requests, but had shown no signs since then that you were actually interested. It was somewhat annoying and somewhat worrisome. Eric and Jenna had asked about you the next day and I only told them you were a stranger and that I had not expected to see you again. I did not tell them that you had stopped to speak to me that evening two nights ago. There was no sense in giving them more information if the story was going to lead to a dead end anyway. I simply waited. My mind itched with curiosity about you still, and it was distracting. I did my best to avoid it. That third day of your absence I had actually planned to go to the park and relax a while since I was not due for work. If I could succeed in that much, I would perhaps do some reading and get some lunch. At first I had planned to invite Jenna out with me, but I had changed my mind after considering. I knew that I needed some time alone. After all, this was my first day off from work in a while. It was not raining today, which was mildly surprising. Hardly a day went by here without rain during the winter, or at least some sort of cold falling spectacle. It was a nice experience to get a few rays in during the winter season. The fall had been generally nothing but sunlight, clear air and wind, while the winter generally consisted of rain, sleet and snow (in that order). If the opportunity was vacant, I wanted to soak up the little bit of sunlight, as well as the chance to be alone. I had left my house with my regular notebook, a pen, my wallet, my glasses, a pack of cigarettes and good mood. I was generally excited about the day ahead and all of the freedoms it invited. I had been paid the day before and the money had already been burning a hole in my pocket. I had a bit left over from the bills and I wanted to treat myself to a good lunch. I am selfish and love to do little things for myself sometimes. Being a human is wonderful sometimes. I got to the park at a reasonably early time and I found that it was relatively empty. A few women had brought their children to the play gym and a couple or two sat on the respective benches around the square, but it was not crowded by any means. The grass was lush and awake due to the heavy rainfall that had fallen a few days before. The trees breathed nice and tall breaths and extended their earthy spines into the sky. They were all exchanging life with the people that sat under their leafy rooftops. I expected the children to be rowdy and unkempt because of the opportunity to be outside and play, but they were polite enough. They did not to scream so much as to where I could not focus on my sketching and personal enlightenment and relaxation. The day was a little windy, but I did not mind. It was beautiful. My pages ruffled up once in a while, but that was expected. I enjoyed the open air and the warm light. I would pause now and again to lean my head back and listen to the park life. The sunlight felt so refreshing. I tried to give my brain an occasional break from concentrating on the writing and drawing so I would not grow to be more stressed than relaxed. It was such a beautiful day. I felt so much better so quickly. I had needed it a lot more than I had thought. I took the pack of cigarettes from out of my pocket and took one into my mouth. I covered the tip from the wind and lit up. I did not deserve this amazing weather. I put the pack back into my pocket and smoked quietly with my eyes closed against the sun. I sat for a minute or so and then leaned forward to tip

my ashes. I leaned back again and closed my eyes. Not a minute after, I felt the immediate sunlight fade slightly from my eyelids and I became confused. I opened my eyes and straightened up, squinting at the figure blocking the suns pathway to my skin. “Tegan?” Of course, just when I had started to relax a little you would come back to haunt me. I became half excited and half disappointed, but could not decide favour on one emotion or the other. “Yes, Ember?” I put the cigarette back in my mouth and took a drag. “This is only if you are still up for it, of course, but… I am ready to talk whenever you get a moment. I am terribly sorry to bother you. I did not mean to interrupt. I can come back if you--” Your voice became terribly nervous. “Sit down.” Said I. You sat down. A few minutes of silence went by while I finished my cigarette. “Whenever you are ready, Ember--“ I blew the smoke out of my lips. “You are welcome to start.” I let my head tilt back again and I closed my eyes. I would attempt to enjoy my cigarette and I waited. I could feel his apprehension. “I promise I am paying attention, I just need to rest my eyes.” I assured him. “Of course, that is fine.” Awkward endless silence. “Right, umm… I should apologize for not being around, and for running away, and for… whatever other stupid things I have done to you. I am obviously giving you completely awful first impressions, which I regret, but things are as they are. It is quite obvious that I am not accustomed at all to human interaction. I want to talk. I want to talk to you, but I feel more like I need to be spoken to. I can’t explain myself on my own. I… give me a moment.” He rambled. I breathed the smoke out of my lips again and rolled my head back lazily over the back of the bench. The wind felt excellent through my hair. Gorgeous day, it really was. I was thinking of a way to respond. “How do you expect me to help you if I have no idea where to start?” You did not reply for several minutes. The wind gusted along my cheeks and I felt its chilly wisps wrap around my hands and neck. I heard the children laughing; the sun was not yet overhead. The winter kept the sunlight from being too strong at any time of the day, which was a lucky thing. I put out my cigarette on my shoe and rubbed my closed eyelids with my elbows on my knees. I sat and waited for you, the ever mysterious blonde boy, to figure yourself out. I had no obligation to help you, but I was vaguely interested in the situation. If you thought that only I could help you, even if you had no realistic basis to believe such, then perhaps that was the case. It was not fair, however, for me to turn you away simply because I was unsure of your mental credibility. Perhaps I should have offered some information of my own. Perhaps that would have helped you open yourself up. I took a deep breath and sighed. I was playing therapist today. “Just so you know my name is Tegan Hathaway. I am nineteen years old and both of my parents are dead. My mother died from cancer when I was very young and my father was shot somewhere along the way. I am aggressive and paranoid. I wear glasses on occasion and I have not shopped for new clothes since I was fifteen years old. I enjoy writing and sketching and people watching. I have known my coworker Jenna since we were children, and she has never been anything more to me than a friend. I have never been in a romantic relationship and I have never had any desire to be in one. I tend to be quite impatient and exasperated, but I have very good intentions. I love taking naps and standing in the rain. I have been working at that book store since I was allowed to begin work. I have insomnia, I love the rain and the winter and I have not had a day off in 3 years. I live alone and I am entirely self sufficient. I am afraid of spiders and I despise science and old literature. I love Thai food with all that I am and I absolutely cannot eat raw fish. I have a terrible gag reflex. I take longer showers than any other man on earth and I do not have central air conditioning or heating in my house. I am allergic to bees, bullshit, and strawberries. Now that all of that is said, tell me a little about you.” I had not looked up nor opened my eyes nor moved until then. I straightened my hunched-forward back into an open-chest backward lean. I had my arms pulled back like wings over the back of the black

lunch bench and my ankle sat docilely on my opposite knee. My glasses tugged snugly behind my ears and the sunlight felt warm and toasted my face. I could feel the presence of the blonde boy next to me, but you were not moving. Then I heard your voice lift back up into the air. You spoke very slowly, as if trying to validate each thing you said before you said it. You were like a child telling a speech for the first time. Nervous. Creaking. “I have been here since I was fourteen… That is, what I assume to have been fourteen. I was left behind here by whoever had me in the first place. They called me Ember, I suppose because of my eyes and hair… It makes enough sense to me. Umm… I have been called Ember since I was a child, I think. The people that kept me always told me when it was my birthday and continued to tell me an age, but it is an age I am unsure of. I… received small gifts on holidays, but no one ever told me why. I do not have any idea as to why I am alone or why I was left behind. I do not know anything about who I am. There are times when I remember people, but they do not have names or personalities. Everyone I have ever known is a moving portrait in my head. There are no voices and little colour and blurry, fragmented events. I do not have very many memories.” You started to fidget with the bottom of your shirt and your voice became shaky and uneasy. I could see your hands moving out of the corner of my eye. You had anxiety problems, that was obvious. “I see.” Said I. “Do you know what you like and dislike? Anything of which you can think?” “I enjoy apricot nectar and vanilla flavoured things… Chocolate makes me sick and I dislike hot weather. I like wearing as many clothes as possible and I hate asking for things. I am obsessive-compulsive, I think… I hate it when my fingernails are not clean. I like hard candy. I believe in things that no one else believes in and I think in ways that no one understands. I hallucinate and sleepwalk. I have mood swings and I do not know anyone in this town.” You said. I was taken a bit by surprise by that last comment. “You have lived here for three years and you do not know anyone?” I asked. You shrugged. “No one has ever seemed to notice me.” You said. It was a reality I had trouble accepting. “Where have you lived?” I asked. You twisted your fingers into the lining of your shirt. You sounded so panicked. You were so uncomfortable it was almost unreal. “I would rather we not discuss that if we do not have to.” You said at last. I put my hands on my face and rubbed a few times. “Very well then.” I replied. A silence heaved in. It fell like a thick smoke from the sky. The tenth. “Can I offer you lunch?” I shrugged myself forward and took off my glasses. I gathered up my notebook and things and put them into my coat pockets and stood. I did not really want to give you the option to say no or the chance to run away. I did not think you would run in broad daylight, but I was not sure. “Oh, no!” You waved your hands at me. “No, thank you. I have--” I laughed at you, you were too thin to be properly fed by any standard. You would not fool me, and I think you knew that. “--not eaten.” I finished. “I was planning on going somewhere to get some food anyway. Come along now, you can keep talking. You have already kept me in the rain, do not keep me from eating, too.” I said. I started to walk towards the street at a mild pace, but I was making good enough time. You continued to sit on the bench and stare at me as I walked away. “Tegan! No…” You protested to me always. I heard your feet hit the ground and the sound shuffled up until you caught up with me. “I really do not want you to buy me anything. I do not need any food.” You pleaded. I was not going to take no for an answer. “Too bad. If you want me to listen, you are going to talk while we eat something. It is my money

and my service, come on now. You are being ridiculous.” I said. “That is not fair! What if I am not hungry?” You were still protesting. “Yes, and? You can spare some room for more food. Look at you, do you know how thin you are? Do not deny my kind offer.” I said. “Tegan!” You yelled. “Ember.” I said quietly. You huffed and continued walking. You were thinking of a way to get around it, but you could not find a way. It was eating at you. I laughed. “What sort of lunch food do you like?” I asked. “I have no idea.” You said. If you could not convince me, you would avoid me. “Then we can just go someplace I like and you can find something there, I am sure. I am sure where we are going has at least one thing you will like.” Said I. You looked strangely embarrassed to be treated to lunch by me. This was the strangest day. “This is not a date.” I laughed, reassuring you. We crossed the street on the sign. The cars waited patiently. “It certainly is not!” You seemed utterly upset that I had even brought it up in that light. You were a little uptight about the whole idea in itself, I supposed, but you had no reason to be afraid of me. It was an overreaction for sure. “I would never date you, you are another boy for god’s sake. What kind of person do you think I am? You are so pushy and awful!” I was ignoring you entirely. “Here, we will go here. They serve everything here. Pizza, soup, salad, sandwiches, juice, fruit, sweets, whatever you like. Do you think you can handle all that?” I asked. You stared at me with a little hatred in your eyes. I had not looked at you yet, but I could feel you watching me closely. You were not really angry, just at a loss. I took it gently. You gradually gave up and took to watching the ground closely. You kept your hands over your mouth in defeat. You bit your lips a lot. I looked at you with full view for the first time. You were in different clothes now, which caused me to feel a great amount of relief. I was afraid you had been wearing the same clothes for days or something, because when you had came back in the rain that night, your clothes were unchanged. It was good for me to know that you were not with one outfit. You looked clean enough and you did not smell dirty of any sort, so I supposed you had a place to stay after all. The only question I had about that matter now was where exactly you were staying. Nonetheless, I would not press on the subject. I expected you to tell me whatever you wanted to tell me in your own time. I just hoped that the whatever place was, it was safe. I opened the door to the small restaurant and let you go in first. You were flushed and your eyes were opened wide; you fidgeted with your hands a lot and walked very slow. You were acting like I was a mother bird forcing her child out of the nest and into the wild, uncontrollable air with nowhere to go except down. I could tell you were uncomfortable, but I was sure that you would grow used to it. I was selfinspired, but not a hermit. “Do you have any idea as to what you might like?” I asked. My hand was shoved in my coat pocket and I fiddled around until I found my wallet. “Water, just water.” You were speaking quieter than your already quiet normal speech. I really had a thing or two to teach you about social skills. “Ember, do not be ridiculous, this is lunch, not Ramadan. You should get something you like.” I said. “I do not want to take anything from you.” You said. You sounded hurt. “But I am giving it to you.” I said. I was nearly laughing with exasperation. “It is not mine to have.” You said. You were degrading into nothing-speech. “I offered it, though. It is really not that big of a deal. It is just lunch. Your logic pains me so. Please stop being difficult and just accept it.” I said. “Fine.” You said. You gave up. You ordered a little bit of food quickly and quietly to the cashier and I ordered for myself. I was quite content with the situation. I knew the young woman working the cash register would assume something sinister, but I did not care in the least. I paid her promptly and politely and she gave me my change.

“Why do you not go find a seat, Ember, I will get our things.” I suggested. You could not find anything to retort with other than your utter and all around defeat. My kindness had swallowed you up, and so you wandered off to do as I asked. I was in such a good mood that day. When the food arrived, I brought it to the booth you had selected in the most remote corner of the universe. I was becoming more amused, but in a pitiful sort of way. Goodness, what could I do. I sat down across from you and told you to proceed as I rationed out our orders. “Why are you doing this for me?“ You said. “I am still a stranger.” The quietness had not faded. “Yes, and I do not think I have met a stranger one. Please continue.” I said. “It is not a joke. I am really confused by your actions.” Said you. You stared at the table, as if lost. “Trying to understand them makes it even harder.” I said. “But Tegan, I can’t accept this.” You denied me so often. “You do not have to, but I do not advise wasting it.” I said. That would keep. Silence seemed to be the one thing that we could agree on. It happened so commonly when we attempted a conversation. You started to eat your food after several minutes, but only a little. “Are you going to keep talking?” I asked after several minutes. “Let me tie myself together…” You said, holding your hand over your mouth when you spoke. I nodded and continued to eat my pasta salad and bread. It was a lovely day for a luncheon out. I was quite happy to be where I was, even if it all was a little strange. I waited patiently for you to eat your food and speak to me. I did my best not to watch you too closely; my inner people watcher yearned for me to do so, but I resisted. I had a lot of questions about you, that new boy that had thrust himself into my life. Other than just what the facts were, I wanted to know. I wanted to understand your way of thinking and be brought deep into your mind. If I was going to be helping you with whatever you needed help with, I would need a lot of information. Even then, I was not known to be especially good at helping people, but I supposed it would not hurt to try. You spoke up mid-way through your small meal. I could understand you, but barely. Your voice was so very quiet. It hurt to listen to you sound so weak. “All I really want is for someone to talk to me.” Said you. The minutes ticked by patiently. “That is understandable, but why?“ I asked. “I have been isolated too much. I want to hear a voice addressing me by name. I guess I just want my identity to be proven by an outside source. I feel so much better when I am being spoken to than when I am hearing myself talk to someone else. I am more than tired of hearing my own voice.” You explained. I waited for a moment to see if you had any more to say on the matter. “I spend so much time inside my head, Tegan, and I want to get out. I want to listen to someone else for once, instead of speak. I need to be spoken to so I know that I am a person, too, with my own thoughts and feelings which are different from anyone else’s. I want a face that will be recognized by someone else, not just a blend of meat and skin and bones I must greet in the mirror. I say your name so much because it proves your identity. It proves that I am not speaking to a mannequin. You are “Tegan” and not “someone”. I want to feel that. I want to know that I do not have to be dependent on myself for comfort. So I know that someone will help me. I do not want to be alone with myself any more than I have to, Tegan. I want a name that is said by another voice, even if it is a bad name. I want human interaction that is directed at only me for just a little while. I feel like it would heal me. It would do me wonders if you would just lend me your voice time to time, really. That is all. If that is too much, then I understand. I am not necessarily asking for these things, merely implying that if you had anything to spare, it would be graciously received.” You immediately started eating again, I supposed to avoid looking at me. If you were forced to pay attention to your food, you would not be forced to see me face to face. I saw the logic in your shy attitude, it was still strange for you to ask me to do this for you, considering we were only two days known. If you wanted a friend though, then you would have one. I did not consider myself a good one at all, but if Jenna could put up with me for so long, I did not doubt you would be able to stand me. We continued to eat the rest of our meal in a silence in which we both bathed. The food was refreshing, and the atmosphere was warm and delightful. You were the blonde boy, your desperate behaviour ignited a guilt in me. As if, perhaps, I was not taking you seriously enough. I did, however, have time to adjust to the severity of the matter, if that was the case. At that point in time, I simply wanted to

enjoy my day out. I was not going to let a stranger’s stressful problems take away my good mood, and you had not done so, but if you had started to, I would have quickly ignored you. I was intent on having a reasonably good day. Was there wrong in that? We stood outside the restaurant for a few minutes and continued to say nothing. I did not know how to arrange the therapy that you needed, Ember. I had few choices given my current information, but there were really only two that I could readily consider. I could invite you over a few times a week for story time or something of that nature or just continue to chat with you on a daily basis. I was still a little unsure of how you intended for me to help you. I had not been out very long, considering the day was supposed to be a dedicated outing, but I did not want to spend too much time outside or I would grow uncomfortable. I set in motion to head back to the park for at least a little while longer. In silence, you followed me as if it were a habit. I was not afflicted at your dependency, merely unsure of how to predict your actions. You had gone from assertive to desperate to timid and now indifferent and slightly subservient in but two days. You had said previously that you experienced mood swings, which was of a good thing to be warned. In that way, an ironic sort of way, your changing moods were something I could expect, if nothing else. I returned to my common bench and took a seat. You sat down onto one of your legs at the very other end of the bench and put your hands over your mouth. I took my little notebook out of my pocket and put my glasses back on so they could window my eyes. I thought for a moment to consider before asking. “Would you mind if I drew you?” You stared at me as if I were speaking in jest and did not even bother attempting to reply. I watched back, slightly amused. It would certainly take you some time to adjust to me. “I am serious, can I draw you?” I asked again. Again you sat in silence, hands covering your mouth, and your amber eyes quiet. You were thinking long and hard. I could see the little mechanisms in your head buzzing and twirling trying to figure my motives before responding. “What would you do that for?” You asked. I immediately had a safe answer for you to enjoy. “I enjoy drawing scenes around me when I go outside. It helps me. This way, when I create memories, I can look back on them, literally. You are here, so you should be included in the picture. If it would make you terribly uncomfortable, however, I would not want to impose on you. I would like it if you would allow me though. I would draw you exactly as you are, in case the idea caused you worry…” You immediately replied, it seemed, with little thought. “Do as you like.” I took your advice and did as I liked. The pictured turned out very well. Your amber eyes and starlit hair burned even in graphite. Surely, one looking upon my artwork in the future would be able to tell that you were a full mind with millions of secrets and knots to unravel. Even when I, myself, reviewed the picture later I was always reminded me of how stupid I was not to ask more questions, or at least ask the same amount of questions, but the right ones. I trapped your lines onto paper many times, and I would come to do so many more times in the future than I cared to. Your story had opened with a talk, and only I would know it to end in a timeless instant of silence. The eleventh. We stayed at the park until the latter part of sunset. It was a fair enough time for each of us to head home, but we continued along our business instead. The sun had been burning a deep cinnamon orange and dipped down slowly into the twilit sky. The treetops stood out like black wicker fragments against the pale evening. When we had arrived back to our bench seats from the restaurant and I had begun to draw my surroundings, the evening seemed to pause and slow into a gentle waltz. In humour, I nearly expected a piano to sing out Swan Lake to us. It was a very serene evening and I appreciated every moment that I spent outside the dusty confines of my home. It had been a most lovely day off from work and I had spent it doing things that were constructive and improved my well being. I always had my pencils ready and you never denied me the pleasure of including you in my artwork. I never asked anything more out of you, which I felt was only fair. You always sat perfectly still like a flesh-made statue and oddly never focused your eyes on me when I was drawing. You would always attempt your visual focus at trees or the children on the grassy patches that lined the pavement. For some reason, though, as I worked you would not ever come to hold my view. I supposed it was perhaps in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, or perhaps simply because you did not want to look me in the face. I

agreed with myself not to ask you why because it was not entirely that strange. You were a rather timid person (sometimes); it was fair that you not look an artist in the eyes when being on display. However, something that I had been tempted to ask still nipped at my mind. All in all, you had still refused to tell me where you had been staying. I was still doing my best to refuse to press on the matter, but it worried me so much. Regardless, time and again, we would continue to leave the matter where it was and we always went our separate ways at the end of the day. Although, it seemed more than clear to me that the issue would come to grate on my nerves. After that evening, for the next three months I would not learn anything new of you. We had left everything where it had fallen that evening in the park, and continued in that suit for a while. Your behaviour was expected, but simultaneously frustrating. I wanted to know more about you too, but I had not come to you asking for a friend or for help, so I honestly had no right to complain about your quiet attitude. You would come into the bookstore and sit in the café. You would not read and you did not have any electronics. You would not purchase anything. You would only sit and watch me for hours with absolutely no expression on your face, and when I left, you would not say a word to me. I would open the door for you and you would walk out and immediately continue your way down the street. I seemed to be more of a study for you than a companion. I was lost, but I had no choice. On the days when I was allowed away time from work, we would meet in the park and sit in silence. you would occasionally ask me to explain a concept or ask my opinion of something, but you would never beg or prod me especially. You would ask me to talk only when I became too quiet and things became awkward, which was only reasonable, even to friends who had known each other long. I would continue to cast you into my notebook on some, if not most, evenings. Using pictures as my reference I quickly noticed over time that your hair was getting longer and that you had been getting a little thinner every week. It was a bit sad for me to watch your angel eyes and pale lips sit in agony nearly every evening and question if I was getting anywhere. You never asked for more, though, so I assumed the good of the matter. I only hoped that my assumptions were correct. I often told you the stories my mother had told me as a child or relived films in speech for you. I did my best to fill the holes in the silence whenever I could for the benefit of us both. I used my hands to explain concepts you were unfamiliar with, and drew little pictures of objects you had never seen. You listened with wide, childish eyes and your mouth hung slightly open sometimes. It was often as if I were creating your dreams. Is that not a nice thought? A creator of dreams for children. Was that not what I was to you? You appeared to be a very large daydreamer and very fond of fantasy. There were instances, however, in which you would become frustrated with yourself for some unapparent reason and you would walk away from me and not come back for up to an hour or more at times. You often interrupted me to ask questions, which I did not necessarily mind, but it was untrained and difficult. A curious mind is healthy, though; far better to ask questions than to never know. You would sometimes begin to repeat my words in a low mumble, as if repetition would help you better understand what was being said. It was sometimes as if I were teaching a child how to be a child. In this way you were interesting at least, if not somewhat confusing and disturbed. My opinion of you was entirely neutral. What had bothered me so was that I did not once know if I had been making any progress during those approximate three months; I simply continued on with your simple request as best I could. I talked to you and I expanded your imagination and addressed you by name relatively often. I had told you all of the faces of my personality and my likes and dislikes and all of my fairy tales and childish dreams and horror stories and nightmares. I had not told you too many of my personal experiences as of then, though; I did not want to become too informal with you too quickly. You had asked me for a friendship, true, but it had turned out to be more like a business. A business in which I was not getting any sort of payment for my service, so even more so along the lines of a charity, with a little less empathy in tact. A charitable act was not necessarily what I had wanted it to be, but if it was my duty to help you. This blonde orphan boy… then so be it. Too soon, however, I became tired of running into playful conversation with no means of measuring my success or failure. I had wanted to know all along whether or not my work was being done in vain. If my speeches were for your amusement, or you had been too pathetic to make friends on your own lonely, boring personality, I was unsure of what I would do. I did not expect that of you, but it was ever a possibility until I was sure. You had given no information about yourself readily, which frustrated me. I was nearly ready to ask you to grow up, but I would not have to. The time came one evening when I would learn of my success or failure in my deeds for you, Ember. Let me recall it now.

The twelfth. Three months. Yes, it was three months later. It was another evening that we were sitting in the park. The year had grown late and renewed itself again. It was early spring and still frosty in the evening times. The leaves were all gone and the naked tree branches ached outward in a silent dead coolness that was suffocating and full of light snow. I painted those tree branches quietly and watched as the icy crystals encased everything in a frigid hibernation. I caught it all onto my white canvas in smooth patterns, like ice drops slipping into warm water. Ember sat immediately next to me now and watched me paint the early spring evening. There was no wind. There were only stars, hanging like miniature lamps in the frozen twilight. A crimson smoke wisped through the disappearing clouds and out of the corner of my eye. I could see you shivering. Those three months had crept sleepily by and you had learned over time to sit by me without the fear of being attacked. It was a step forward. A little one, but one at all. It had been a while since either of us had said anything, but you began to speak up. Listening to you was an experience in itself. Your attempts at speaking were like attempts at trying to decode audible hieroglyphics. It was always as if a blank piece of writing paper had sat empty in your head all the while and then was suddenly covered in completely incomprehensible writing. To speak, you were required to decrypt everything that had been written there and then express it properly. You were trying quite hard. I wished I could help you more. “You express everything so easily, Tegan.” You said. You watched me closely as I painted. “I am jealous to the point of anger. I have such a stupidly difficult time expressing even the smallest of emotions. How do you do it?” You said. Silence breathed down my neck. “Could you teach me?” You asked at length. Your speech was slow and thoughtful. The puzzle pieces were coming together in a nice and smooth pattern tonight. It was nice to hear you speak somewhat fluently. I started to reply, but you immediately cut me off. “No. Do not respond, Tegan.” You moved back a little and folded your arms over the back of the bench, You pushed your chin into the crux in your arms and sighed. “I know that it cannot be taught. I just wish that I could find a decent way to get outside of myself, you know? I want to paint too, Tegan. I want to draw and write and things like that. I want to see the little details and interpret everything in beautiful ways. I want to find all of the pretty little words to say, but I can’t. I simply do not know how.” You sounded so disappointed. I felt as if I had let you down somewhat. “I want to know. I want to show you what I see. I want to talk to you the way you talk to me, and repay you for all that you have done, somehow. I am stuck, though, Tegan. I am stuck. I do not know what to do other than sit here in a miserable silence and take all that you graciously offer.” Said you. I heard the disappointment so clearly in your voice, and I knew that you were more disappointed in yourself than anything else. You looked up to your parent lamps and the stars gave you no comfort or remorse. You really was a lost star, stuck in the translation of the human mind, but what could I do for you otherwise? My frustration for you had, of course, dissipated without notice. I heard your slow and steady speech and let it quietly slip away into the chilly night. I had immediately scolded myself for feeling irritated to begin with. What sort of friend was I to be acting the way I was? What would I have taught you had I yelled at you in impatience? That I was a menacing, perfectionist god? Perhaps it was you who was challenging me deep within. I attempted to cheer you up. I told you then that on the next day I was off from work I would take you down to the lake for a change of scenery. I figured that it might still be frozen at the time, but it would be a nice trip to get away from the ultra-suburbia lifestyle. We would spend the weekend there and I would bring all my supplies and let you try your luck at expressing yourself. You seemed more than happy to attend, but at the same time on the verge of tears. You often denied my offers, that was certain, but this offer seemed to turn out especially sacred to you. I told you to at least consider it, because I would not have work off for the next week or so at least. It would give you time to decide on the matter. You agreed to consider, which put my mind at rest. You continued to shiver in the darkness. A thought rose up to me suddenly, which I quite clearly did not think through. “Ember, would you like to--” I started. Surprisingly, you cut me off again. I was not expecting it, though, because my own thought had

came so suddenly. How strange that it happened that way. “Whatever it is, I should not accept it. You have given me more than enough already, Tegan. How much more could I possibly take without spoiling my welcome?” Said you. You had so quickly shot down my underdeveloped thought. “But Ember, I think--” Said I. There I went rushing in again, without thinking about what I really wanted. “No, Tegan…” Silence. “I should go home now…” You wandered. My thoughts were becoming a train wreck. Thought, thought, thought, wall. A big, brick wall. Home? Had we even been talking about home? How did you come about that then? I ended up sounding more sarcastic than I had intended. “Why? Do you have a curfew?” I asked. I was being cruel. I was a little annoyed, but more surprised that you had offered yourself to up and leave so suddenly because I had been about to ask you a question. You had so abruptly started to act like a little boy whose mother desired him home at promptly eight o’ clock. I hated that you had always phrased your homeward bound leaving speech in a way that implied that someone was most certainly expecting you back at a particular time. It only bothered me because I knew very well that this was not the case. I knew you would be able to sense the annoyance in my tone of voice, but I was unsure of how you would react to it. “Does it annoy you so much that I leave, Tegan?” You said quietly. I thought for a moment. I felt bitter and sad for reasons unknown. “Not at all, not that you must go. I am primarily concerned that you choose to shroud yourself from me safely while I carefully tear open my memories to assist your great suffering. No, Ember, you can come and go as you please; far is it for me to ask fairness from the wounded.” Said I. I set my paint materials aside so I could stand up. When I did I lit a cigarette against the stillness. The burning ash sparked up a dull orange and a slippery smoke cruised out of my lips. What a nuisance my emotions were being. Your voice was low and quiet, but became louder slowly, like an oncoming train. I could hear it in the distance, and then it was boldly in my face. “If you wanted so badly to know where I live, why did you not just follow me home sometime? Out of respect? I do not really see that from you, Tegan. Maybe you have not thought of acting that wicked, or it has not crossed your mind yet at all. You let a little matter such as this turn to frustration only because what you want was not readily handed to you. You could have made the question seem more important to you in the least, maybe then I would have reconsidered telling you. Though, you do seem to let your anger fester inside of you rather than making things simple and just explaining what you really, really want. For what, Tegan? It does not save me any.” You started to walk away. “Come, Tegan. If your jealous brain wants to know, I will take you to my home. You win. You win, okay? Do not just stand there idly by, let us--” You were a good ten paces away from me then. “Stop, Ember.” Said I. You promptly stopped and turned on your heel. You huffed and clenched your fists tightly beside your thighs; I could see the tears glitter in your eyes from the reflection of my cigarette light. Your pitiful jacket clutched tightly to your waist and wrists, and you looked frail and weak in the rising moonlight. I could see that I had hurt you with my mistrustful attitude. If anything, I had rationally supposed you would not tell me where you lived because you had figured my opinion of you would change for some reason. I was again angry at myself for letting my assumptions take control of me, but this time I had spoken them, in error. “Go home, Ember.” Said I. I took the cigarette to my lips and breathed out a silent breath of ashen smoke. I would not be able to speak to you in your condition. I would turn you into dust with that fragile attitude of yours. I was too strong and you were too riled up by my mistake. I was angry with myself, but not prepared to shout at an emotionally injured boy of whom I relatively enjoyed the company. You looked at me in more amounts of pain than I met you in. I had already begun to feel guilty immediately after the words had jumped off of my lips. Seeing your eager, child-like face in such a bruised and broken structure ripped me open and tied me in knots. I could not turn away from you, though. I do not know why, but I could not.

And then you ran. You turned quickly, after you had started to tremble more violently than I had yet to see. You used your thin, but able legs to carry you far, far away from me. I hated myself that night. I absolutely hated myself. I would not see you again until my next day off from work. It was a little time, but a little time carries a great many happenings. The thirteenth When I saw you again it was morning. I rarely saw you during the day time, it seemed, because we had always met in the evenings at the park. It had been a week since I had seen you last, a week of self evaluation, disappointment and consideration for me. I was so unsure of what I was doing, it was all just a slowly escalating headache for me. The day that I saw you again you did not talk to me. You did not mention my suggestion about going to the lake at all. You did not make eye contact with me or acknowledge that I had ever existed. Perhaps you were done with me, I felt. It was a little frightening. I did not know what to do. You came into the café and sat down with nothing in your hands, as always. You had warm, bruised eyelids and hollow cheekbones. Your fingers were white and you picked at your fingertips for hours on end, staring into the beautiful, empty space. You stared forward in such a sickly, mindless sort of way. I do not think I had ever seen a person as lost and vacant as you. You seemed to be so tangled inside your own web, talking to yourself on the inside. I could not look at you for long periods of time because I felt such guilt that I wanted to cry. I watched you from behind the counter. I knew that you realized I was watching you, but you did not pretend to be even vaguely interested in the fact. I could not blame you, I was a fool. I was just a fool that could not help you. At the end of the workday, I went to leave. I was unsure of how I was feeling. That is how it seemed to be the entire time that I knew you. I was unsure. I was unsteady and I could not recognize stability at all. You stood up creepily and slugged yourself towards the door. I opened the door for you and only the silence gave me thanks. I locked the doors after we were out and watched you walk to the stop sign and pause, as if unsure of where you wanted to go. I caught up to you and looked at you. You only stared forward. I most certainly was not there. I realized how you felt, then. So many people look at you, but they do not see what I suddenly saw then. That is the concept. And now that I felt it, you would not see what anyone else saw, either. Some would see a stranger, some would see Tegan Hathaway, and you would see a pathetic book keeper who was no more of a man than a mouse. What did you see, Ember? I am wondering still. My silent cries for your attention went quite unnoticed to you who could not be bothered. Is that the way you are, Ember? Are you a virtually invisible fragment of starlight that can only respond when to properly communicated? Does my semiotic tune fly out to you and ignite only at night? Oh, when am I allowed to see you? I do not want to be away from you any more. I took you by the wrist and lifted your arm. You did not react in the slightest way. The sleeve of your jacket slid up slightly to reveal a porcelain forearm, a slender wrist whose bones spread out thinly against the skin, long, wry fingers with bruised knuckles, and perfectly clean, glass-cut fingernails. I could see the veins in your palms and up your wrists and you were shaking a bit, but it was a reaction beyond your control. It seemed that you were always shaking. You did not try to stop it. You did not try to pull away. You simply stood there like a battered baby doll; dysfunctional and beyond repair. I stood for a few more moments and waited for a response, which I did not get. I released your arm and it slipped down to your side like a pebble to the bottom of the sea. I did not hesitate before I started to cross the street. I could feel you standing behind me; thoughtless, outcast. You were a dead human weight who had reached its end, or so it seemed. My feet hit the sidewalk opposite of where I had left you and I stopped. I felt the wind blow, almost nurturing me like a mother, asking me to hold my temper for a moment. I felt its cool, gentleness surround me and ask me to listen to myself. It asked me to wait, or to ask myself to wait. Wait for what? I asked. For what did I have to wait? Was the answer not clear? I stood with my back to the motionless Ember, listening to my surroundings. It was cold and damp and rain was coming. Then the presence of Ember was gone, like an airplane disappearing off of an electric tracker’s map. It was simple and yet so absolute. My skin ignited at the feeling. Perhaps it had been only my endless paranoia or maybe that the chill was getting to me, but I felt scared. I was perhaps fearful in that moment that I would not see you again. This made my already growing disappointment even more of a thorn in my side. I was crippled by the weight of your absence, and I turned, despite my pride and superstition of looking back, to view what was left. I found starlight and amber not a foot away from my face, and I jolted in surprise.

You said nothing. Regardless, I felt a burning sense of relief in my chest. I had not entirely expected you to speak to me ever again, much less in those moments, and I hardly expected you to exist after that terrible feeling that had started. Perhaps it was a sign. Perhaps I was simply going mad. A boy as wounded as you need not relate with people of my attitude, but you insisted on watching me still. What did you expect me to do? And better still, what did you want me to do? And even beyond that, what could I do at that point? “Show me where you live, Tegan.” You said. It was my turn again. Perhaps you would ask more and more of me until I broke. I wanted to ask you why you wanted to see my home, but it would have been the same reason that I had asked you to begin with. Simply to know. One gathers a basis of personality through verbal communication, signs and gestures, cultural and individual habits, family, friends, lifestyle choices, leisure time expenditures, and personal surroundings. We were both entirely unfamiliar with the least of these. It was an adrenaline source-- to be entirely unwise of what each of us surrounded ourselves in and how we acted outside of public view. I could see in your eyes that you felt stronger. Perhaps you were afraid of being left behind, or you were not feeling strong at all and it was only an expression that I was misinterpreting. I hung no particular look on my face in return, only that I had understood your statement. At length I turned and began the journey towards my home, which was some length from the park. I was not ashamed to show you where I lived. My home was clean and cold and sterile. Though, if there were to be necessary evils named, the house was virtually empty and fashion-less. You might have been disenchanted at the lack of homely, welcoming design, but I saw no wrong in it. The house had served its purpose for nineteen years; there was not really an excuse for me to be ungrateful for a little lack of colour. You had waited a few moments before following behind me in a soundless shuffle. Your eyes were full and interested; maybe you had been sure that I would agree to show you. The thought bruised me a bit; was I that easy to read? Although, I felt a little hint of security. You were familiar with me in that sense. You watched me closely, as if my silence suggested that there awaited some sort of surprise. We turned a corner and continued our leisurely pace. Your footsteps followed mine in time, as if you were trying to connect with me. So many connections were made between us without verbal communication. It was a mystery how we knew anything about each other. At that point, I was quite used to the silence. It often held me aloft in the misty afternoon air and promised me deeper feelings than any words could allow me. I agreed to this. It worked. We had reached my doorstep and the mist had turned into a light and steady rain. We had pulled ourselves beneath the small awning over my door and waited for me to pull out my keys. This was a task I always seemed to be dreadfully slow at. “This is your house?” You asked. I laughed and slipped the key into the lock. “Do you think I stand on anonymous doorsteps for fun?” I replied. My door stood in its own passageway like a tall, bleached skeleton. The paint had been fading drastically and it had chipped off in places. The door opened without a sound; however, it swung open wide. We walked in and the smell of cold wood stood still through the room. I shut the door behind us and offered you the couch, which you graciously accepted. You shivered and rubbed your arms lightly. “I remember, right? No central heating or air conditioning…” You said. I was already busy preparing a fire. I was used to the stiff coldness of my empty house and I knew that you would not be. I could not afford to pay a bill for a utility I would rarely use, though. I only came home to eat on occasion, bathe and sleep. In addition, I could not afford to be sick and the coldness certainly kept the possibly harmful bacteria at bay. The only thing it did not approve for was for company, which I so rarely received that I did not see the utility necessary. I looked around a bit, picking up wood from the side carriage of the fireplace and placing it into the fire box. My house seemed to be at least shy, if not embarrassed. I had brought a boy home and she had been quite unprepared for company. She stood strangely still, as if holding her breath, unsure of what Ember might do. I lit the fire and a laugh escaped. “What is it?” You asked. “Nothing at all, sorry.” I replied. I smiled towards the starting flames and told you to come and sit with me, and you did so immediately, without speaking of course. “It certainly feels better over here.” You chimed in after a few minutes.

I nodded and watched the flames bounce around the logs. A little while passed before anything was said. I had started to drift into my own mind when your voice suddenly interrupted me. “Your house is a little uptight, Tegan. Do you treat her nicely?” You asked. I began to laugh almost immediately. The irony was almost too innocent to be unplanned, but I knew you could not have known of my previous thoughts. My lungs burned with the simple innocence of the situation. I was heaving. I had not laughed that hard in years. I lied back on the floor and covered my eyes, wailing. I could feel your blatant confusion and silent, astounded attitude. You watched me, a little disapproving of my behaviour. I could feel your eyes, as if I had thought you ridiculous for personifying my house. I took my arms away from my face and set my elbows on the floor, but kept my forearms upward into the air. I started to calm down. I shook my head, the laugh still tickling at my throat, and responded. “No, Ember, I had just been thinking about that same thing. It was just so amusing to me that you would feel my home as I do, being the stranger that you are to her. She does seem to be a bit out of sorts today, though. I appreciate your sportsmanship with my childish behaviour.” I laughed a little again. You let out a small laugh as I did. “I see.” “Do forgive me, though, for treating you poorly. Not just now with my disrespect, at all times. I am learning as I am teaching and I do not mean to be harsh or overbearing.” Said I. I seemed even to myself to have changed the subject so quickly. You took your time to respond. You held your thin fingers together around your knees and the glow of the fire gave your hair and eyes an extra flicker of foreign taste. I was not too proud to apologize for my behaviour. I only wanted your forgiveness. I rubbed the floor softly with my hands. How do you like my new friend? I was saying to her with my attention. My house was warming up. She was still a bit tense because you moved so slowly and surely she felt seemingly unsure to trust you with me. “All is forgiven, Tegan. I am not one to stay angry.” Said you. Then I sighed with her. Everything would be fine. “Thank you.” Said I. “You need not thank me. You have done enough that I should not hold an attitude against you. I am sure that you will frustrate me time to time and I will also attack in haste. Besides that, I do not want to be away from you.” You said. I felt much better. My house was smiling into my hands and I rubbed her warming floors in hope. Perhaps we would be safe here for a little while. The fourteenth. That night in my house seemed to last from that moment until the moment I am recording now. We had sat by the fire most of the night and discussed little things like how the weather had been acting and my timid home and how shy she was being. That night was the first night you did not leave to return home. In fact, you had not even suggested it or seemed uneasy about staying. It was rather unexpected, but it was pleasant, at least. Since then you had retrieved what little you owned from wherever you had been staying and moved it into my house. You had insisted that you not take up my bed, so I had moved the couch up next to the fireplace for you to sleep. I kept my parents room entirely closed off from civilization for a good reason. I did not even suggest it or think of it. I just made sure that it was off limits, as if it were not even a part of the house. You enjoyed learning very much, it seemed. I had taught you how to cook a few things and clean and fix things that had been broken. It was rather fun having you around all the time. Some nights, however, you would get cold and distant and absolutely refuse to speak to me. The reasons are still unnamed, because I never asked for them. Mood swings meant mood swings, and I took it as that and left it alone. It made me hurt that I was still not making as much progress with you as I had liked, but you were still improving. That particular night, however, you had laid your starlit head on my stomach and lied down on the floor with me. I did not mind, I merely closed my eyes and felt your weight on me as I breathed. It was good that you were becoming used to me. I felt better about helping you when I knew I was actually doing so. Your little shell was breaking up, but you still had a tight hold on yourself and I was only breaking off the tip of the iceberg to begin with. It was a little help, though, especially for my weary patience. It was

such a thin wire to subconsciously force me to wait for obvious enough results. The matter had indeed proved to be distracting, but that night on the floor I spent all of my efforts to just relax. I wanted to start loving everything for the way it was. I was successful. It seemed that I was learning, too. I felt that we had fallen asleep and woke to the summer heat. Time danced by so quickly back then, but it gave you more time to open up and me more time to adjust to your ways, to which I certainly could not object. I had actually started to enjoy myself and even look forward to my trials and balances with you. It was a feeling I could grow used to, even if it involved pain and patience. Another four months had passed. It was very warm then and every moment that you and I spent outside our white skin toasted sweetly in the sun. All of the trees in the park were in full dress again and their soft, emerald-yellow leaves had returned to sway in the summer breeze. The book store was a bit less busy because people were away at the beach and travelling long and far to places that were more exciting, but I did not mind. I had a week off of work due to the training of new summer employees and Eric did not mind that I took off to get out for a while. I did not particularly need the money at the time. I hardly ever took breaks or time off from work and some of the lesser employees needed the hours anyway, so everyone got what they wanted in the end. This made the trip that you and I were planning practically fool proof, or at least we hoped. We decided that we were in need of some time away from the monotony of everyday life. I suggested that going to my grandmother’s house would suit the cure, but I was worried that we would be going for nothing. The lake would go to waste if you could not swim, but you assured me that you knew how. I was unsure of how you had ever had the opportunity to learn, but I did not question it. You said that you had not done it very often, though, and as such you desired very much to go again. This was good. I was hoping it would be a lot of fun for you. You agreed definitely to come to the lake with me then. My grandmother was dead, she was long since gone, but she had owned the house and donated it to me in her will. I was her only grandson anyway. The house was empty; it belonged to me now. I tidied it up now and then so it would not become uninhabitable when I visited the place very often over the summer. I paid a small fee in the season to keep her electricity on because I came down rather often on my days off. I would always save up small amounts from my pay check to pay for cab fare and food. Jenna donated a lot of art supplies to me, so I did not need to re-supply very often in that sense. Her parents were very rich and she did not mind giving me supplies to express myself at all. It was a good inspiration for my artwork to take trips to the lake, and it would be more inspiring than ever this time because I had company. I was glad you were not only going to allow me your presence, but you were eager to be there as well. We had packed up a few of our things into a bag; namely some clothes and swim trunks (I let you borrow a pair of mine, even though they were a bit big), some food, my art supplies, and things of that nature. The plan was that we would take a cab up the road to where the lake was and stay in my late grandmother's place for a while. I had locked the door to my own home and made sure the fire was out. I had locked the windows and cleaned the counter tops. I swept the floor as if we were going to be gone long, but I promised my house that I would not be away forever. Perhaps a few days and we would return to entertain her further. After I decided that everything was good and ready to be left, I called a cab and we got in. We spent the trip to the lake in silence, and your face was relatively glued to the window the entire way. I found it funny. I spent the ride thinking deep inside myself and felt time disappear before I realized we were there. We had rode in the car for perhaps half an hour and we got back out. I paid the cab fare and told the driver I would give them a call in a few days for a ride home. He took the money and complied, waving good-bye. We stood on the sidewalk for a moment holding all of our packages and stared at the road in silence, watching the cab drive away back into town. We turned around at length to see a beautifully long, green field and a small house sitting on the edge of an empty blue lake. Your eyes lit up like flashlights in the sun and you immediately ran down the hill. It was almost as if you could not have controlled the impulse to do so, it was so immediate. You started to scream in the “this is insane but I am enjoying the hell out of it anyway” sort of way. You had dropped your part of the supplies at the sidewalk and just jumped in to the tall grass. I laughed openly. I was amused at your erratic behaviour, but I did not move. Suddenly I saw you go flying down the hill and my eyes grew wide. I supposed you had tripped at some point because you were rolling very fast. You were still screaming and your limbs were flying in every direction. I laughed so hard tears came to my eyes, it was the most mental of sights I had ever seen. The hill was steep to the point of being mountainous, so you had rolled for quite some time. You reached the bottom of the curve and your body sprawled out like a dead person. I knew you would have a blasted

headache after that far of a dizzying ride and I could not help but be overly amused. I laughed and hiked my entire way to the bottom of the hill. It was a slow process because I was left holding every bit of our supply take. I did not mind, but I took caution not to let my feet slip in the gentle grass. It was all so very funny. “Is it not beautiful?” I laughed at him and asked. You lied on the ground and said nothing. Your face was smothered into the grass and I continued to laugh and I nudged you with my foot. “That was the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life.” Your voice muffled into the soil. You sounded healed already. I had assumed what you said to be so and I laughed again. “I have a terrific headache though.” I laughed again. I knew it. You rolled over and put your hands on your face. I reached out my hand and you took it. You shielded your eyes from the sun with your other hand. I lifted you up and you held your head sorely. “God’s mercy I will not do that again.” You laughed a little and smiled at me. You regained your portion of the supply from me and helped me carry it to the doorstep. I took the key to her house out and opened the door. Her house was not unlike my own, but it was one giant room on the edge of a lake and her house had died with her. There was no personality in this one. No one to impress. We set our stuff around the kitchen table and I started to put the food in the refrigerator. You walked in circles several times; I suppose you were unsure of where to place your excitement, because you seemed overjoyed to be there. “Sorry if it is a bit small.” I said. “Oh no, I do not mind. This is more than enough, really. I have lived in smaller places. I cannot help it. I absolutely cannot wait to go swimming.” “Would you like to go now?” I asked. “Oh god, could we?” You seemed entirely shocked at the idea. “I would love that so much!” I laughed and told you to wait for me to finish unpacking and you could change into your swimsuit in the mean time. You agreed eagerly. It was good. I handed the suit to you and you quickly disappeared into the bathroom. You were strangely quiet in changing clothes. I am unsure as to why I remember that. I finished putting everything into place and turned as you were coming out of the bathroom. You were such an early figure. You reminded me of a water nymph, only male. You held your clothes tightly; you seemed much more embarrassed that you must have thought we would have been, which I found funny. You looked almost as if you were about to fall backwards in a dizzying fear, and I could not help but laugh. Your paranoia seemed to burst because you laughed lightly back and held onto the wall. You mused. “What is it, Tegan? Do not laugh at me” Your long fingers glowed against your dimly coloured clothing. They looked as if they had been washed hundreds of times. The colours were fading and all blending into a dull greyish-brown. Your arms were very thin and the muscle line followed lightly in an obvious line to the side of your chest and curved down slightly like a wave along your abdomen to the crest of your hip, then the iridescent fresh disappeared into the dark material of your shorts. It was always hard for me to find anything worthy of comparison for you. The only thing I could ever think to name was a star. A beautiful star child. “Stop staring!” You laughed in a happy, nervous, unsure way. I had not been staring, but it beguiled me that you had thought so. “Can I not look and think at the same time?” I said and laughed. “I promise I do not mean to stare. You are so very white, it is distracting.” You rubbed your hair and laughed a bit. You were indeed embarrassed. You sat down quickly in a dining chair and I rose up. “Yes.” Said you. “It has always been as if the sun blatantly refused to recognize that I, too, need a skin pigment. I am unsure why…” I laughed and told you that I would only be a moment, and I was. I changed quickly and brought out two towels for us to take down to the dock. It was good to have such a thick warmth back after the icecold winter. For the first time in a long while I could go around without a shirt and not freeze half to death. I grabbed up our things and opened the door. You set your clothes down half heartedly and I felt sorry for you a bit, but I could not stop smiling. Poor thing, you were so painfully shy. You dropped your clothes on the table and immediately crossed your arms over your chest. You walked quickly past me and out into the yard. I followed after you and shut the door. It was time for an adventure. The fifteenth.

We made our way through the field of endlessly green grass. It was almost knee high to you, but not quite. The wind was blowing fairly nice and I soaked up every moment like a cactus would in a desert rain. You loosened up immensely in this weather, and I was rather surprised at how much of a difference it made. You seemed physically relaxed in addition to acting much less tense and emotionally trapped. You seemed happier in general. It made me feel good. The sunlight seemed to bleach away all of your insecurities. You were running around the field hollering at absolutely nothing. I carried our things down to the end of the dock. “Are you sure this is safe?” You asked. I laughed. “Do you think I would throw you into a lake of piranhas and jellyfish?” I was setting down a towel so the wood would not burn my legs. “Very well then. I guess I will just have to trust you this time!” You were so excited; I was so glad for you. You had needed this more than I thought. You took a running leap down the dock and flung yourself into the water, screaming like a wild heathen. I was absolutely stunned. My eyes must have swollen to the size of half dollars and my lungs opened wide for your ridiculous behaviour. Your blonde head bobbed up from the blue and I was on my back again, howling. “Have you completely lost your mind?” I said. Your arms were flailing in the water. You had the biggest smile on your face. “Of course!” You shouted back. Your head sank and floated in and out of the water as you swam from one side of the lake to the other. You were strangely articulate at the sport for not having done it in so long. I was happy though. You seemed to be having such a good time already. We had not even been there an hour. I stayed on my back and let my skin bake in the warm summer heat. I was amazed at how good it felt. Just those simple things feel so good, it is wonderful. “Hey Tegan!” You shouted. “What?” I asked. I opened my eyes in a squinted, upside-down sort of a way to see amber orbs lit up lightly in my face. You were hanging yourself off the edge of the dock with your scrawny arms. I did not know how you could. You were so strangely strong for your petite body size. “Come on!” You shouted again. You fell back into the water and a blue spray splashed up onto the dock and shocked me. I jolted up in surprise and your laugh was like a resounding bell. “Come on, Tegan! Do not be so lazy.” Said you. You had said it in such a bored, unimpressed tone of voice. You rolled your amber eyes and continued stoking along in random shapes. You were teasing. “Ember, that was not at all nice.” Said I. I sounded so serious. “Did I ever say that I was nice?” You said cleverly. Your eyebrows lifted and your grin was hidden beneath a watery blue blanket. I could tell. “Fine then, see how you like this.” Said I quickly. I stood and quickly jumped right into the lake water and a huge splash waved out over you as it had done to me. “Tegan!” You shouted. You started to splash me and I laughed and returned the favour. You turned your face and swam up close to me. You put your hands on my shoulders and put all of your weight into pushing me under, which you succeeded in. It was half your weight and half my submission; I did not want you to pout if you were unable to, it would have ruined the fun. Your tiny arms gave way in time and you went under yourself. I broke the water and shook my head lightly; a stream of water drops lashed out and died into the crooked water. You were a sly one, you were. “You are a tyrant.” I said. You laughed aloud again. “And you are painfully old fashioned.” You replied. You continued to swim away. You seemed to have the body of a fish. It was so strange that you were a natural swimmer. You were a glimmering starfish. Ha! You were a starfish indeed. I amused myself at the relation. Was I really old fashioned, though? I became a little self-conscious.

“Do not say that, Ember.” Said I. “Why not?” You asked. You crawled up onto the bank of the lake and flopped onto your back. The tickling grass quickly absorbed the water and you started in drying yourself. “Because old fashioned people are splendid! Take me for example--” I flopped beside you and you scoffed at me. “You are a wise one, Sir Hathaway, I believe it! I do, I do.” You nodded. “Ha, I think we have both gone a little mad.” Said I. You laughed so much that day. I do not think that I ever saw you that happy again. Because of this, there aroused a constant jealousy in me… We spent the rest of the day exhausting ourselves in laughter. We spent hours and hours playing in the lake water. I felt like a child, like I had known you my whole life. The sun progressed from a burning orange to a melting pumpkin to a tangerine-tinted hot candy in the sky. The water sifted in waves back and forth along the banks of the lake. When our skin was so pruned and water-logged and we could not float along any longer, we crawled up wearily onto the dock and spread out our towels. We rested our weary bodies inside the summer wind. We lied there until the sun tripped behind the trees and the breeze became a dull, warm buzz. The little drops of water clung to my skin and my hair clung to my face. I felt my cheeks and shoulders burning. I felt like I was suffocating. My chest was heavy with heat and my eyelids were weighted down with fatigue. The summer was intoxicating. Gravity pushed hard against my body; I could feel my fingers tingling and twitching. I felt feather water drops brush against my stomach and I shivered and lifted up a little. Gravity and the heat allowed me the simple pleasure for a moment. You were laying your head on my stomach and I slumped back down in relief. You were like a child, always with the mind and eyes and stillness of a child. I relaxed again. We lied still so time could swallow us up. Days, moments, years, eons and eternities we sat there in the sinking sun. I felt the eternal shadows of the clouds float across my chest and I could feel you breathing. We were so small in the hands of time, so young to the ages and the face of the earth. We were drawn in a field of innocence, letting everything slip by us like grains of sand. We were captured in a still frame of life. One more memory I will never loose. The sixteenth. The next morning we arose relatively early, just short of the sun. He had risen maybe two hours before, and we had had a full, beautiful night’s rest. We stretched our long, thin arms into the warm morning light and I got up to make breakfast. I warmed up some hot cakes and bacon and set the table. You roamed into the kitchen like a baby cow that was half starved and sleep deprived. I laughed lightly and looked at you. You sat down at the table and set your head down. You moaned like a dying princess. I laughed harder. “What is the matter?” I asked. “I have not slept that well in years. It hurts to sleep that nicely.” Your voice was muffled into the wood. “Is that so?” I asked. I was amused. I put the food on the table and you lifted your blond mop. Your eyes opened like blinds on a window and the morning light shone out. “Yes, please…” You quickly piled up your plate and began shoving random articles of food into your mouth and chewing voraciously. “Slow down or you will choke,” said I. You spoke some illogical nonsense. “Have it your way.” I said. I filled up my own plate and started to eat. I poured us both some apple juice and we had a nice meal. Most of it was quiet due to the fact that chewing is a laborious task that God has assigned to us. I had remembered something I wanted to ask you. “Ember… When I met you, what was that peculiar thing you did with your speech? I could not understand you for some reason.” You did not look up from your plate. You spoke in between sips of juice. “I talk backwards sometimes, and dyslexic. I think that is the term…” I stared. “You talk /backwards/ sometimes?” I asked, to be sure.

“It is a condition or something. I have always had it.” You answered. “I see.” I was wide-eyed, but I believed you. “What would you like to do first today?” I asked. “Everything.” You replied. I laughed. “We will start with paint, then. Is that alright?” I suggested. You nodded furiously and continued to fill yourself to the point of sickness. “Let me go set up, then. Do continue eating.” I said. I smiled and you swallowed your food, a bit embarrassed. I turned and walked into the bed room to do what I had said. I pulled out three white bed sheets and placed them on the floor. There was almost no way we would be able to fling that much paint around in the process of you finding your muse, but I wanted to be safe. I was not particularly in any mood to repaint the bedroom. Most of my colours were washable, but I had some acrylic paints that would not even come out of god’s clothing if they happened to splotch it. I pulled out my pallet and my thick white paper sheets and set up my easel. I poured the ink colours into their little cups and took out my brushes. I pushed the bed to the opposite wall and opened all the curtains and blinds. It was looking like a studio very quickly. I heard sluggish footsteps across the wooden floor and I turned around. You stood there with your tongue practically hanging out of your mouth. “Wow… Tegan…” You trailed distantly. “Ha, you like it? It just feels creative, does it not?” Said I. “It is beautiful…” You said. “Come try it out.” I offered. I beckoned you over. “But what am I supposed to do?” You asked. You walked over to me slowly with your eyes opened wide in wonder. You were wearing a tight black t-shirt and baggy grey sweatpants, the kind that swish when you walk. You had your arms crossed over your stomach tightly. Your hair was wild and it stuck out in every direction. You seemed as if you could taste the emotions whirling about inside you on the tip of your tongue and you could all but explain them. Your face spoke figures and formulas of expression; now, if only you could get them out. “Come on, pick a paintbrush, dip it into the colour you would like to use, pick any colour you like, and move it across this paper here on the easel. Easy, right? You can start now; I need to go get you some water so you will be able to wash your brush to use multiple colours.” I said. “But, Tegan, I do not have any idea as to where to begin…” You replied. “I will show you, just give me a moment.” Said I. I went and retrieved a cup from the kitchen and filled it with water in the sink. I sat the glass down on the side table by the easel and wiped my hands on my jean legs. You stood in front of the easel and watched it as if it were a great white shark. You shivered slightly and held a smaller brush in your left hand. You seemed so starving for the coming experience. I did not know that you were left handed. “Here, just dab the paintbrush into the colour here…” I started. You began and looked quickly back and forth between the colour cups and the paper. You hesitated, perhaps afraid that you would make a mistake. You took your brush at last and dipped it gently into a dark red. You looked at the paper almost as if the picture would paint itself if you willed it to do so. I took your paintbrush filled hand and brought it up to the paper. You needed a boost. “Move the brush in a way that the colour moves in your mind.” Said I. Your hand slid horizontally across the upper part of the paper and the watercolour bled out like lipstick across a mirror, but transparent, like love, and murky like a wet rainbow. “There, just like that. Use the colours that you like. Try to create images you have seen or that you know from my work. I am going to go clean up breakfast. I will come check your progress in a bit. Do not forget to wash your brush when you use a new colour. You can experiment making new colours by mixing two of them together using the pallet over there. Have fun and call me if you need anything, I will only be a minute.” I wanted to make sure I had covered everything. I left you in the room with wide, childish eyes, a million dreams, room to make mistakes and a chance at being fixed. I quickly cleared the extra food into plastic containers and threw out the extra bits from the plates into the trash bin. I set the food in the refrigerator and washed our silverware, glasses and plates. I set them to dry on a towel in the sun. I was excited. I could not wait to see what you had done. You needed to go it alone on the first try, though, or the experience could not belong to you.

I waited around in the kitchen for a while and I did not hear you make any noise the entire time. I supposed that you were deeply concentrated on learning to paint on your own with your own imagination. What a world I had lived in not knowing how much I knew, and what all I could teach to a spotless mind. I felt a sort of obligated wellness from being around you. I had been in the process of passing myself to corners of your personality in bits and pieces. Was I the first to show you the entire world of uses that come from imagination? I was so curious about your past, but a large part of me did not want to know about it. It would surely change my opinion of you, and not to one of disappointment or pity, it was just that the negativity that I felt was sure to be true would dampen my sense of success. I felt like it would make me weak to you, and it would get in the way of production. I did not want that to happen. If you could grow and move on from that ugly past, there was no need for constant reminders of it. Agreed? Agreed. I wandered back into the room after a while, after checking two hundred times over to make sure everything in the kitchen was clean. Your canvas was full of paint and you were busy adding soft white acrylic touches to the top of the paper with a ridiculously small-tipped brush. I got closer to see the artwork itself in detail. The painted sky was a red, orange, and yellow mix of clouds and wispy crimson flakes scattered across the upper world. Deep greens and blues blended particularly well in the middle ground. A bright green flicked the middle edges in quick upward strokes and went far into the background like grass. White specs filtered the blue with highlights of teal and aquamarine. Another lush green colour crosshatched the bottom with cinnamon and white specs dotted along. Light purple lined the corners of the painting and there was a central focus to the blue. There was not a lot of detail, but the base colours were extravagant. I was astounded at your ability to create by memory. This was a base colour painting of the lake when we had went out the day before. I concentrated hard on the painting until you were done adding the white specs. “Do not think poorly of my talent…” You said. You sounded disenchanted and put the paintbrush lazily onto the table. I immediately broke you of your insecurity. “No! No, not at all, Ember, this is a beautiful piece of work.” I objected. “Do not say such things.” Said you. How emotionless you sounded. “But it is. You blend so well. The vignette is lovely and the harmony is astounding. I really appreciate it.” Said I. “Oh, Tegan, do not patronize me.” You said. You sounded distraught and somewhat angry. You threw your arms around and grabbed your hair. You seemed so strangely upset. I was confused. Was I not always? “I am not at all patronizing you, I admire your work, especially for your first attempt. Do not think I am mistreating you…” I said pleadingly. “How can you? It is my first blotch of ugly paint work, it can’t possibly be worth anything.” You cried lowly. There was a strangled sadness in your voice. “Ember, do not say that, it means very much to me… Do you feel like you have expressed yourself at all?” I asked. You sat on the bed and interlaced your fingers. You hung your head lowly. “I do not know.” Said you. I walked over to you. Your hands went over your mouth and your elbows sat on your knees. What to do next. Let me see… “Come here, Ember.” I said. “No, Tegan. I can’t.” You replied. “Come, Ember, come here.” I said. “Tegan…” You protested. “Please, just come here.” I insisted. I walked over to your painting and took it from the easel. I took the piece of work to the window and hung it up to dry in the sun. I placed a new sheet of paper onto the easel and I took all of the brushes to the bathroom to wash them well to my liking. I refilled the glass with clean water. I then brought everything back to the room and fixed up the table with the cloth over it. You stood close next to me and blankly stared. You were such a strange person, looking at me as if thinking about my expression would help you better understand my motives. I dipped my chosen brush into the water and shook it a bit and rubbed the tip

onto the cloth to soak up the extra water. “Take off your shirt.” I said. Your eyes widened a bit in a sort of calm terror. Your attention focused. “I beg your pardon.” You said. I almost laughed. “I am not going to sexually molest you, just take off your shirt.” I said. You paused in awe. I do not think you believed I was being serious. “Why on Earth would you want me to--” You started. “Do you trust me?” I asked. I did not look at you. I was situating my table so that my supplies would correlate with my work ethic. I was an artist and things had to go my way or my creativity would surely be stunted. I walked out into the living room and brought a stool back into the bed room. You looked at me with full, watery eyes. I set the stool behind you and those eyes were pleading for an explanation that I did not give. You moved yourself at length and pulled your shirt silently over your head. You let it fall to the ground and sat on the stool, as if I had broken you into thousands of pieces, but encased you a thin sugar glass just before the pieces had scattered to the ground. I looked at you in a sure silence and dipped my brush into the blood red. You did not look at me. I lifted your chin with my fingers and you jerked away slightly, but only tilted your head to the right a little. I placed my brush on your chest and you shivered. “Stri yotuu, Tegan.” I finished and withdrew. You did not move at all during my work session. I painted. It was a comfortable and emotional silence. I would always be able to say that you were the most beautiful model I had ever worked with. It took me over an hour to finish the base painting. You would sometimes stand up without warning to stretch or to retrieve a drink, but that was your personality. You did things without warning. I pulled my hair back, it had been getting relatively long at the time, and I worked hard at the patterns of your skin. That first layer would have to dry before I could shade it. You stood and looked ‘round at it. You touched the paint on your chest. To the right, Ember: there sat a crimson heart. Tears fell from your face, but I pretended not to notice. You made no sound. I should have held you, but I did not. I should have done a lot of things. You were more broken than I would ever know. I do not know why I did not say… You spoke quietly. “I really am… beautiful.” The seventeenth. That night we went out to a grassless patch that I had mined in the field as a younger kid. We had set up rocks in a circle, my grandmother and I, in order to build fires to sit by in the evenings. I brought some logs out from inside the house and make a sturdy fire. The flames rose up very slow and lazy, but the fire grew steadily in the twilight. You and I had not spoken in several hours. We had not really felt that it was necessary. We sat down and watched the flames. The heat kissed our cheeks and foreheads and licked around our ears and eyes. I could not contain the good feeling. I lied down and used an extra shirt I had brought out for a pillow. After a time, you did the same. The stars were beginning to appear in the deep lavender sky alight and there hung a sliver of a white crescent moon like a Christmas ornament. The wind was shivering slightly and it relieved the crisp from our faces. It was relieving to be there. I wanted to sleep. “Thank you for bringing me here, Tegan.” You said. Birds began to chirp lowly in the trees and the grass whistled like a turning rain stick. My hair whipped around my face gently. I was breathing summer. “Thank only good of it, if you must at all.” I replied. I could feel your burning eyes searing into the side of my face. I felt it when you blinked, every time. I always felt your presence. I felt it when you breathed. “This place is so beautiful. I am so grateful.” You said. You shoved your face into your shirt pillow and clutched your arms across your stomach and rested your hands on your sides. You were right, it was beautiful. I could not explain how I felt. It was just good, all of it. Was I making a difference? Would all of this beauty go to waste? And would I consider it a waste at all, even if you were not cured? I hoped to think not. It was an important memory all the same. I had enjoyed the time we spent there even if its intentions had gone in vain. It was about the journey, not the destination, right? I tried, but was it enough? Tell me what to say, Ember. Show me how to help you.

I was lost in the darkness of my eyelids. I erased thought from my mind for several minutes and listened to the bells of nature sounding around me. I had not realized how loud silence was until I spent time with you. The moment seemed to drift along in a pleasant hesitation. If time could not stop for me, the least it could do was slow down. I was always grateful. I felt cool touches sink down onto my eyelids. You were kissing my eyes. “I may believe that you are a blind fool, but I can at least thank you for seeing so much potential in me. I do not deserve it, Tegan…” You said. Your fingers touched along my face. The tips felt like a warm, natural brush across my lips. You, too, were a blank canvas that was starting to fill up. It is I who was weak. I took your hand, for whatever reason, and held it against my face. I kept my eyes closed; I did not want the moment to be broken by images. I let you float inside my imagination for a while, in pureness and innocence. My heart was starting to pick up speed. It hurt to feel so lost. You lied down back beside me and I continued to hold your hand on my face. It was a connection I had not expected to make at all, much less at the time. I embraced the moment for all that it was and left it alone for a while. I wanted to keep it safe. Yes. Safety. Safety is an unappreciated, beautiful thing. It was well into the dark sky when we chose to put the fire out. It was a long process because we were sleepy and moved very lazily. As we moved about to close the flames I had spoken to you: “I can see why they would call you Ember.” Said I. “Pardon?” You asked. “The embers of a fire, your eyes burn that colour.” I said. “Burn? Are they ugly?” You asked, worried. “No, no. Of course not. I mean that the colour of your eyes is so bright that your eyes almost burn like the embers of a fire.” I explained. You paused a minute in thought. “I see.” You said at last. We went back into the house slowly and dreamily, wading through the kisses of grass. When we got inside it was a little warm. I told you that you could shower while I made something up for dinner. You quickly agreed and disappeared into the bathroom. I supposed you would know how to work a shower on your own. I decided to cook up some vegetables and rice, which took me no time at all to prepare. You came out of the bathroom a short time later in not but a pair of sleep shorts and a towel on your head. My face felt warm and I avoided looking directly at you. I supposed that one good exposure consisting of one article of clothing deserved another. I was in the midst of setting the table and you sat down and put your chin in your palm. You stretched one leg out and tucked the other beneath your chair. God, you were a beautiful creature. How does one get to be that beautiful with virtually no effort at all? I was mindless. “This looks wonderful, Tegan…” You said distantly. You started to fill your plate so soon, it was nearly before I could set the bowls on the table. Another thing that I was grateful for was that you no longer minded eating around me and letting me do things for you. You ate food enough for a person ten times your size, so this fact made me feel more secure. I was happy to provide you with things that you needed. It was a mix of motherhood, friendship, teaching and marriage. However, I was almost sure that the least of these was only in my mind. The eighteenth. We cleaned up the painting room early the last morning and put everything back into its proper place to take home. I kept our paintings in the window for a while, to make sure they would cry. At length we made sure that the house was clean and made sure everything was just as we had found it and we went out to the road to wait for a ride home. It was a steep climb, but we made it easily enough. While we had slept, you had kept your small finger wrapped around mine. I felt it was as if to say ‘promise me you will never leave‘. By-and-by a taxi came and we met it readily. We shoved all of the supplies into the car, but we were especially careful with our pieces of art. We drove away. Your young eyes watched the house until it was out of sight, but I kept my eyes forward. After a time, you turned ‘round and we sat in silence the rest of the day. My house was happy to see me again when we finally arrived back to our own home. She shivered with joy and tried to stay warm for me. We were almost out of fire logs. I kindled a fresh fire and relaxed on the floor. I had hung our paintings on the wall and they sat side by side as if that was how it was

supposed to be. “Hey, Tegan.” You said. “Yes?” I answered. “What does it mean when someone puts their arms around you and sort of… pulls on you, you know? It is sort of hard to explain.” You said. “Do you mean when someone gives you a hug?” I was a little confused. “I am not sure.” Said you. “Like this?” I asked. I leaned up and demonstrated by hugging you lightly. It was a bit awkward. “Yes, what does that mean?” You asked. I could not help but feel more than a bit surprised that you did not know what a hug was or what it signified. It was a little strange. Paint, but not hugs? “Well, it means that the person who hugged you cares about you.” Said I. After some time, you started talking again. “Do you not hug me then because you do not care?” You asked. “No, of course not. It is just a rather intimate thing to do.” I said. “Intimate?” You asked. “Yes. Very personal and connected. Something a person would only do with people he or she really knew and was deeply comfortable around.” I explained. You did not reply immediately; you were thinking. “I see.” You said. You put your head on my stomach with your face facing mine. “I am crawling out of my skin.” You said. “Why?” I asked. “I am not sure.” You replied. You buried your face into me. I hesitated to make a move, but at length I moved my shaky hand and pushed my fingers gently into your hair. My peach-soft skin colour clashed with your blonde bursts. I relaxed and kept my eyes closed. I began to hum songs I knew as a child but had forgotten the words to. Only the tune remained. Your face lifted, your chin sat on my stomach and your arm was thrown over me, but your hand was pulled back neatly by your face. I opened one eye to view this and closed it again when you became comfortable. I drifted off from my humming and the silence started to creep back in. You held it off. You spoke in a low, monotone voice. Your speech got progressively more upset. I did not want this. “I feel as if you allow me to stay here because you feel sorry for me. You do not hold me or show emotion towards me at all. You speak to me and show me things and try to teach me, but you are not connected with me. I am not your friend, I am your occupation. Your business partner. Your obligation. A joke to you, a fool. I do not have any--” I pushed my hands deeper into your hair and shoved your face gently into my stomach. I could not listen to your denial at that moment. I could not bare your wants and needs. I could not sacrifice myself for you. I could not take your blatant ignorance of all I had been doing. You were annoying. You were hurtful. You were so damned miserable. I wanted silence. I wanted everything to end. I wanted it all to be over at that moment, in a better sort of way. What else could I do? What else was left for me to do? Desperation sinks in much quicker than it would seem. It was a rush of blood to the head. I calmed down. I waited. I ran my hands through the star feathers and I could feel your warm breath push through the material of my shirt. I wanted to scream. I was as lost as I had started. What was I doing there? Who was I to be assigned this disappointment? I wanted to be your friend. I wanted to get close, but I did not know how. The blind went on leading the blind in a vicious cycle, does that story ever end? I cried that night. Maybe I knew then that it was inevitable. Maybe I was just afraid of everything like I had always been. I felt your smaller hands clutch at the material of my shirt. You started to quiver. You shoved your face deeper into my lower abdomen to the point of a little pain. I had been petting your hair softly. In a moment, I grabbed your arm and tugged roughly. You lifted upwards in surprise and I led you further up. I pulled you down on top of me within a matter of seconds. I clutched you as hard as I could and felt your little lungs gasp and quake. It hurt. It hurt so damned badly that night. How in the world would we ever make it? We held each other in the dark and cried. How do you connect with someone when you do not have any idea how? I just kept telling myself the same lie over and over.

We will break though, we will break through, we will break through… The nineteenth. One more year had passed. It was the fall again and we had actually broken through very little. It was enough to survive and find a laugh sometimes, to appreciate simple pleasures, enjoy nature and enjoy company, but not to take advantage of the quality of life. In that year we had had mildly good days, such as my birthday and yours, Christmas, New Years, and Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, all holidays that you had been introduced to, I helped you enjoy further. We went back to the lake three or four times to continue swimming and painting and enjoying those types of things. We got physically closer and closer, but mentally further and further away. I did not know how to stop the process. We watched the seasons change time and time again. Every day, the differences were obvious. You felt everything around you spin and change. It hurt you to be so emotive, but I could not stop you. My heart was changing, but I did not know how or why. We were happy, but at the same time going deaf to each other. Sometimes we would seem perfectly fine, and other times as if we did not know each other at all. We went to the grocery store together and the bank together. We cooked and cleaned together and slept in the same bed at last. We went to the park and went to the cinema and went to eat places. You were always beside me. You came into the store once or twice a week to visit with me and no one ever asked any questions. Jenna assumed that I would be eternally busy now and as such she did not call to talk about menial things or bother asking me out for dinner dates with her friends. You would sit at home and experiment with art and music and God knows what else. We were normal, but something was missing. You and I spent more and more time in silence and you grew empty in appearance more and more still. At night we would sit on the couch and I would run my hands through your hair and hum my little tunes that had no names. You would clutch at me like a child and shiver well into the night, even when it was warm. Often times we would fall asleep in that position, then I would wake up stiff and aching in the neck and upper back. I assured myself that it was relatively worth it. If I did anything good for you, even just to give you a little more peace of mind, I was willing enough to do it. I was worried about you more than ever those days. I was afraid of what the silence was doing to you, but there was no way for me to measure my right to fear. When I would ask you any sort of question, I would be blessed to get a response at all, much less one that gave me a straightforward answer with some sort of meaning or preference in it. Perhaps it would change. If it did, I could only hope for the better. What, what, what is all I could ask myself. I was transforming into one giant unanswered question mark. The nights were beginning to turn cold. The fall was well upon us and winter’s icy crown sat just ahead up on that seasonal hill. You had gone out for a walk that night. I did not want you to be around outside on your own, but you insisted that you have some alone time for just a little while. I respected your space, but I was worried about everything at all times. It was not something I could help. I remained on the floor, as usual. My arms were strewn across my face and my heart was heavy. I felt strange and full and I could not breathe. I had been laying there at least an hour, but I rarely kept accurate track of time. I did not want to open my eyes ever again. Perhaps I would look at you one last time and be trapped with the scar of your beauty inside my eyelids until I died. I did not want to speak, I only wanted to listen to the sound of your heartbeat inside my face. Bury me, bury me. I am ready to let go. I heard the front door open and I did not move. Footsteps shuffled across the wooden floor in a slow, drum-beat sound. You laid down on my ride side and slipped your finger into my belt loop. I felt you tug at it and shimmy into a comfortable position and I felt your eyes close. I could taste the chill that had followed you in on my lips. Your presence was bitter and sad, but still beautiful. I could die here, I thought. We were reaching hands in an endless night, blind to all areas of perfection. Perhaps we were trying for something that simply was not meant to happen. A broken piece meant not to be fixed. It was natural for us to be trapped inside a circle of indifferent survival. I was continually being thrown into a questioning silence. What else is there? I thought. You pulled on the belt loop and threw your leg over mine. You pulled your head up to my chest and put your free arm over me and nuzzled against me soundlessly. I let my arms loose from my face very slowly and put one across your shoulders and let the other lie deadly by my thigh. “Tegan, we are not in love, are we?” You asked. The way you said it was not implying that you did not know if we were or not, it was more of a

disappointed realization that you felt like we should have been and we were not. You shook your head against my chest. I said nothing. I thought nothing. I sat there idly like a ghost. Uninvited. Insecure. Incomplete. You pulled yourself further over onto me and sat on my stomach. Your body was so cold, but I did not object. I did not crane my neck to see you. I kept my eyes on the ceiling. You leaned forward and put your hands on the floor on either side of my head. You leaned your face down directly above mine. “What do you see?” You asked. I saw plenty. I said nothing. Why could I not speak? You moved my hair out of my eyes. “Do you see anything at all?” You asked. It was without warning that I moved, and even I had not expected it. My hands reached up to your petite hips and I pushed my palms up the sides of your back, lifting your shirt in the process. I pulled you tightly down onto me and squeezed you. You were very small and unsure in my arms. I pulled tighter and felt you take an uneasily difficult breath. My eyes were closed very tight. What was I doing? Several minutes went by in the most awkward silence I had ever experienced. That was all that I had wanted, though, in all honesty. If we could have mended our bodies together we would have understood each other. We would not have fought and the silence would have been broken forever. We would have been able to be happy and live out healthy lives. If we could have found a way to meet each other half way, we could have made it work. We could have became something wonderful. It had to start with the connection, though. We waited for a sign, a sign to show us that our bodies would ignite, so that we would become so hot that we would melt together and become one mind and all of our kinks and broken pieces would mould together to form a deeper friendship, a deeper love beyond any hope I had ever had. “Just let me hold you, Ember.” I said quietly. My voice was shivering. I am so afraid of everything. Every goddamned thing. “Tegan…” You said. You tugged at my hair lightly and relaxed your chest against the side of my face. I was in such despair about the entire situation. I clung to you, as if you would have fallen off the edge of the earth otherwise. I was unsure of how to make my next move. We were so awkward back then. We had no idea what we were doing, probably less of an idea than anyone else in the world. And we discovered, or at least I discovered, that we might have made it, honestly… We might have made it, had I simply told you what I saw. The twentieth. If I could have told you what I saw then, I would probably never have stopped speaking. Whether or not that would have made a difference, I am unsure, but I felt like it would have at the time. What did I see? I could tell you, but it would not be entirely accurate. I simply cannot describe you well enough anymore. My artwork and my memory provide me your face and your body in a general sense, but never nearly as well as my eyes did. It is so disappointing. It is never the same as when I saw your face day to day, but that is the price I pay for indifference. I cannot imagine how you would have grown now. I cannot imagine you looking any different than you did the last time I saw you. I can only see your golden hair. There are so many words for it, but none of the words hit it perfectly. It was the colour of yellow starlight, which I have said perhaps many more times than I should. A crayon yellow, highlighted and shining in the sun, burning out through my eyelids even when I closed them. Your gentle skin always looked as if it had never seen a day of sunlight, even though we had spent an entire summer in the sun. Your skin had seen more than enough sun, but it continually repaired itself so that no trace of light was ever found. A gentle flush brushed your cheeks at all times, and maybe you could call them freckles, but they did not overbear. They accented, complimented, you know. You had such a gentle jaw line, it was hard to call you masculine. You had the presence of a boy, but always of a young boy and never of a man. You were too fragile to be called manly, too emotional and mentally inclined, too intelligent and sensitive and small to be a man‘s man. In fact, the word sounds a little abrasive if I attempt to use it to describe you. You were far too soft, although not necessarily feminine. You were yourself, really. Genderless, ageless, timeless, and it is a little obvious to say that I was only heartless to you when you were here. What, oh what, can I do.

I can never understand what I must have been thinking, what I must have been feeling, or why I hesitated so long. I lacked so much that it is hard for me to see why I did not consider it sooner. It is far too late to compensate, of course, I realize this. It seems almost unfair, but I know that karma is very fair, even to the point of pain, and what I want is certainly affecting the logic of the true circumstances. I act in such a childish way, every single day I do it, expecting life to change for me. Each day I still feel that perhaps something will change. Perhaps I will see you walk into the door of the store or see you wandering by in the park, but the day never comes. That day just will not come. I am a pathetic creature. I am. What am I to life? What had I ever done to feel that I deserved that sort of… forgiveness? How could I rationally expect some sort of God to reward me for something I should have been doing all along? I eat myself alive in anguish and disgust. Who was I? Who was I to be so still and nonchalant and uncaring? I cannot justify myself, and I believe that that is what hurts me the most. Your eyes were the most beautiful thing about you, by far. I never really told you enough how much I appreciated them or loved them. Of course, now that I cannot see them anymore, I absolutely hate myself for not displaying my affection more. I miss looking into them and finding myself lost time and time again. Your eyes resonated like pools from a liquid flash light, seeming to hide some sort of secret, or something unnamed from me. Perhaps even something that was too holy for me to know, something beyond my humanly reach. In any case, they were... to put it poorly only for lack of a better term, beautiful. I know it must sound foolish to be saying all of this now, but I would rather have it said at all than for it to sit inside my head and rot until the day I die. Your hands were beautiful, too. Your whole body did not seem to relatively compare to mine. I always felt so physically strong and large compared to you. You were not but skin and bones from the day I met you until the day you died. Every piece of clothing you wore was far too big for you, even the clothes that I let you borrow (which I keep in a special place now, I cannot mentally bear wearing them myself anymore, or even looking at them sometimes). You had a long and graceful figure that anyone could envy. You moved so delicately and swiftly, as if everything you did had a specific, flowing purpose. You were not wasteful, never wasteful, you appreciated everything that one person could appreciate. You were so mindful of everything that you did, and I was so damned careless, it does not even make sense to me. I cannot help but place unending blame on myself for everything that happened. I should have, should have, should have done everything right, but I did not. I could have done so many more things, but I do not know if it would have kept you. You were never mine, so it is hard for me to say that even if I would have done something or anything different, you would have stayed. I could have dug deeper into you and pulled out all of the bad things, or even some amount more than the few I actually did. I could have shown my affections better, I could have spent more time holding you. I could have told you more of my experiences. I could have let you in. I could have said your name more, because I do say it so very much now. It sits on my tongue like an itch that will never heal. Ember, Ember. It resounds even in my sleep. I am caged. I would have talked more if I could have found a way. I would have drawn you into my notebooks more if I had considered that my time with you were limited. I would have painted you in oil and pastel and acrylic, to see you in every light. I would have sketched you in graphite on canvas and card stock and with chalk and watercolour. I would have done so much more to keep you in memory, but I was a fool. Fools can’t anticipate the worst possible scenarios. I would have held you more tightly, and kissed your eyes in return and given myself to you day after day. I would have loved you as much as my body could withstand it, but now that I am willing, I am unable. I did not know, Ember. I did not know or expect anything. I should have seen it. I should have seen every single action that came to pass, but I was so terribly blind. I was robbed blind of you, and the fault is only my own. What should I believe, Ember? I feel like I pushed you away, and I will never know if that is the truth or not. I can only believe what I allow myself to believe, and a guilty conscience will not allow belief of good things. I can promise you that I absolutely what-if myself to death. There are so many things to consider, possible determining factors of your life. If I had done this, would it be different, if I had done that, would you have stayed. It is a recurring plague that I wake up to and fall asleep to every day. I have suffered it two long years. It is hard to feel like your weight of presence is still resting on my tired shoulders. The broken jaws of life have swallowed me down into a place where there is only suffocating guilt. Within lies only an endless supply of questions that will never be answered and possibilities that cannot be tested and future plans that will forever fall short of desire. I am incomplete, Ember. I am empty. I am pushing you out of my veins, out of my stomach and my intestines and my muscles and tendons. Every bit of me is hurting. My hands shake when I write, my

lungs quake and jerk and my heart burns with the weight of being lost and without you. I am eternally lost for what I do not know. Could you ever believe that I have learned what mistakes I made? Would you even believe that I feel that if I had the knowledge that you were alive I would be able to come through for you? That I would be able to stand up and be stronger? That I would carry you on my shoulders for as long as you wanted until the eternal night turned on into day? You haunt me, Ember. You haunt every bit of my body. I do not think you ever grew up. You always believed in me, even though I never did anything to make you do so. Even though I was designed to be the one to help you, you were actually trying to help me. You were trying to help me open up. You never stopped believing in the ability to move forward, but I would not move for you. My feet were rooted into the deep, dark earth and I covered my eyes and my ears and my mouth in disbelief. I did not think that I could do it, and I believe that is why I failed. I did not give you a fair chance. I stood deep inside the forest of doubt, and you left me there, never to return. What was I doing, Ember? Why did you leave me there? Did you give up? Did you give up because you thought that I had given up? Maybe you were just tired of me, which I could believe. Maybe I am assuming too much. You see? Are you watching me what-if it all into the ground? It is so hard, it is all so hard to handle. What should I think? Will I have to make it out on my own? I consider these questions very often, and I am the only one who can answer them. Who wants to answer their own questions when the determining factor is silent? How can I? And if it is so, if I must find my own way out, I do not know if I can. I want to get out, Ember, so I can find you, but I simply do not know if I can. I do not know if I want to leave without you. But you left me first. Sometimes when I lie in bed I can still feel your small hands on my back and I can still remember holding you when I try hard enough. I can sometimes see your faded clothes and your lamplight eyes, but your voice is fading deep down into my unconscious memory. I feel as if I play your dialogue like a record in my sleep. Sometimes your speech is in fast-forward and sometimes it is backwards. Sometimes phrases overlap and others some words are missing. Some days I can see your face as if it were right in front of me and other days I do not remember ever having seen your face at all. I often wonder if the memories are disappearing or if they are simply diluted by tears and exhaustion. I often dream that I am running. I run in fear that I will lose you if I stop. But every morning I awake with my feet resting quite still. I do not rest, though, I run. Perhaps I feel that I have to run from time because I know it will heal the pain of your absence. I know that I will lose you if enough time passes, and I am afraid. I do not know if I will survive it or if I will have nothing left. What scares me most is that I sometimes hear the good-bye that was never said. I am aware that nothing is placed properly anymore. You are certainly being erased, Ember, and I cannot stop time from overlapping my memory of you. How goddamned afraid can a human be? I feel your presence strongest in the evenings and in the mornings, the times wherein I feel most alone. I remember the night that I held you in innocence and the image burns my sleeping eyes. I close them tightly and the wounds tear open. I break myself down into tears and scream. I scream into the darkness. “I miss you, Ember.” I am alone. The twenty-first. You held my face against your chest for some time. It was quiet and lonesome. I pulled at you as if I were hanging over the edge of a cliff. I wanted so many things that I could not find a way to obtain. I had held you in my arms, but that did not make you reachable. Then you let go. You started to lift up and I felt my heart explode. I felt a panic attack rush quickly over me. I was unsure of the cause. I pulled at you desperately, but you ripped yourself quickly out of my grasp. All of my energy was spent in the explosion of your receding form and I put my weary hands on my face and cried like a child. You lifted yourself off of me and I felt your presence disappear. I cannot explain now what I was feeling at the time, or why I reacted so harshly to the situation. It had been a little absurd, when I think about it now, but I suppose in reality there is indeed some sort of emotional justification for it that I am just missing. Laying there on the floor, I remembered my mothers face before she had died: a closed-eyed sleeping expression and a quivering lip. I remember holding her hand in the hospital bed, waiting for her to smile at me, waiting for her eel-like skin to feel warm again. I had been holding her in my hands for hours. I was small, I did not know what else to do. How could a boy my age find a way to help mommy feel better? I knew, though. It was when I felt that giant, overpowering miasma enter my lungs that I knew she

was gone. My father had called the doctors in. His voice had sounded loud and panicked. I had been afraid. A nurse had picked me up and tore my little hand away from my mother. What did they do to her, daddy. Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop. I had felt so small that night. I had held my knees and cried in the dark, and I had been alone. I was able to accept the reality in time only because I had been too small to know any better. When she died, I had immediately started to feel like an ugly duckling that had been left behind. My father did not hold me or speak to me at all. He did not comfort me or react to my presence. In fact, he did not speak to me until several days after she died. I had got up for school on my own each day because he showed no effort in recognizing that I existed. I had came home and it had always looked as if he had not moved. The television screen had always showed a black and white snow. Had he sat there like that all day? I always wondered. The sound emitting always scratched and buzzed and it had made my ears ring for long hours. I turned it off time and again and looked at him. He did not say anything. I would then retreat to my room to find a way to fill the time. This occurred in the same way every day for at least a week. I do not remember the accurate time frame. His eyes were locked in the dream of that day at the hospital. He would not be able to let it go. In fact, at the time I assumed that everyone’s mother went away at my age, but I learned quickly that that was not the case. I came to envy mother-filled children, but I learned to live without her. I would sit in front of he who was on the couch, mindless, and watch him, yearning. She is gone, daddy. Please move your arms. Try to get up and eat, you have to survive. Do not leave me all alone. She will not come back, daddy. It was not her choice. I opened my eyes and the silence kissed my cheeks; the white of my ceiling blinded my watery eyes. I felt the cold air arouse my senses and I shivered. Where was I? I was older, now. My mother and father were long gone, and I was still alone. The house was empty, was it not? No one came to dry my tears and no one told me that it would be okay, because it would not be okay. I felt vulnerable lying there on the floor, as if it would turn to water and I would quickly drown. So, I sat up in fear and looked around the room. I calmed down slowly and rubbed my cold arms; I wiped the edges of my eyes on my shirt sleeves, sniffing pitifully. What had happened to me? I stood slowly and I felt disoriented and culture shocked. My legs seemed rather unwilling to move me around, but I managed. I wondered if Ember had left at that moment and I felt empty. I did not feel that there was any way to fix our situation. I wandered around the house until I reached the bathroom. I heard the shower running and I felt a little relieved, but a little hurt. I knocked and without thinking, went ahead and opened the door. I walked in quietly and shut the door behind me. I sat on the cold tile and leaned my back against the door. I saw the figure through the shower curtain, but nothing inside my mind moved. “What is it?” you called from behind the curtain. I did not respond. I watched the silhouette move around in the shower and I could feel the distance growing between us. How long until we were entirely severed? I did not want to wait to find out. “Ember, I do not know what I am doing.” “What do you mean?” “Just what I said. I do not know what I am doing.” “Why not?” “Because I am afraid.” “What are you afraid of, Tegan?” “Everything.” “I see.” you continued to wash himself. I wanted to join you, but I knew how terribly awkward that would be and I did not have the strength to stand your possible reactions. I considered throwing all caution to the wind and doing it anyway, but I was too timid. I was too shy and too much of a coward to even attempt it in my right mind. My feet were freezing to the point of numbness and I looked at them solemnly. What were the consequences? I heard the water turn off and I could taste the seam coming from the shower. It was heavy and misty and hot, like how one would imagine the romance scene of a movie. I could see you shaking your

shadowed head behind the curtain and stretching up your long arms to retrieve the towel on top bar of the shower curtain. You wrapped the towel around your waist and opened the curtain. You stepped out. I looked up at you and your face was little red, but you did not seem embarrassed or unsettled that I was watching you. It seemed a bit strange to realize that the only thing between your innocence and me was a little spun cloth. you looked at me for a moment and neither of us found anything to say, we simply stared. You tilted your head back and stretched again. You shook your head again and little water drops flung in every direction; I felt them tap against the legs of my pants. I could not help but consider you utterly beautiful, even if there was nothing particular about you that I found attractive. You were just a beautifully built person. Then you did something I did not expect. You removed the towel from around your waist. You watched me closely as you did it and I was, of course, surprised and perhaps even a bit stunned (even further into silence), but it was not as embarrassing as I assumed it might have been. It was as if I was not even there. You looked at me, but you were not seeing the human, Tegan Hathaway. You were seeing a pathetic being sitting on the bathroom floor with nothing left to say. You had nothing to hide from me anymore. You had given up on my ability to save you and give you the help that you needed. I felt ashamed of myself, and I felt that I had defeated the both of us, but I was unable to fix the situation. I looked at your entire body without thinking. I saw the curve of your lower back slide down to your thin thighs. Your calve muscles were strong for being as thin as they were. You did not seem to have any sort of body hair. You had thin arms and subtle shoulders, like I have said, and your neck was thin and relaxed. Your shoulder blades stuck out a bit and your wrist bones seemed a little out of place, but you were still beautiful. You just radiated with a stunning figure that burned the eyes. you did not seem to think good or bad of my visual intentions. You scrubbed the towel over your head and rubbed your body down. The water drops slid down your skin like they would have on a glowing glass. I was watching an angel. There was not any way that I could have experienced it better; just to view your subtle nudity in the evening light, and yet you still glowed. You still had a sense of dominance and control. A sense of strength that I admired very much. What could I have possibly said. you knelt down and moved my hair out of my eyes and put the towel over your crotch area. "Tegan." you shook your head and put your hands on my face. "What are you doing?" you stared into my eyes for several moments. What you saw there, I will never know. I will only believe that you saw my fear and my admiration and my desperation. I can only hope that you did not blame me for my confusion and my sick stricken appearance. I realized that I was blocking your way and quickly shoved myself up the door and moved out of the way. My legs were still entirely disagreeing with me, but I did my best to stand. You were only a little shorter than me, whom I knew, but when you rose and came up to approximately my chin, I felt confused. Your dominance seemed to make you much taller in my head. You threw the towel on the floor while you looked into my eyes and I felt so afraid of you. What would you do? What was you planning? you opened the bathroom door and walked out. I stood there in my own silence and pity for several minutes and I did not hear a sound. Was you going to stab me when I walked out? Was you preparing to leave? I could not expect anything. I felt my hands start to shake and I became more disappointed in myself with every passing moment. What a fool I was. What a pathetic fool was standing in an empty bathroom listening to the sound of your stupid heart beat. I was so ashamed of myself. I looked at my shaking hand and almost broke out in tears again. I grabbed the door aggressively and pulled it open and practically threw myself out of the door. I remembered that this was the night you actually allowed me to touch your naked form, and I felt that God was allowing me an once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience your earthly body. Your shoulders were smooth and rounded; you were not broad at all. In fact, you were quite subtle in every sense. You were light and ethereal and your body was sleeping, but your eyes were open wide. I was so unsure of what to do, other than to let my hands taste your pale pink arms and neck. You were shivering, you were always shivering, and I never came to understand why. Let me recall the rest of the evening. I was terrified, Ember. Like a child. It was colder in the small length of the hallway and it shocked my sense after all of the steam that I had been doused in. I looked first at my bedroom door and opened it immediately. Ember was standing in front of my dresser with no clothes on. Just staring. I wanted to ask what you were doing, but I did not want to break the potential of the moment. I was an onlooker, not a participator. I was the little human boy watching the brilliant angel make your own choices. You looked at me.

"What do you want, Tegan?" I took a moment to consider. "At this moment, I cannot tell you." "So you have no answer for me then?" you put on a pair of boxers. "I do not know." "Tegan, can you ever give a goddamned straightforward answer? Do you know anything anymore? Can you make any of your own decisions?” I was silent. I deserved this. “What made you so weak and vulnerable and fragile? Look at me, Tegan." I was looking at you, but it hurt so very much. I wanted so many things, but I did not want to ask for any of them. I was so damned afraid of your possibly reactions. I cared too much about protecting you from my selfish attitude. "I am practically naked. Are you paying attention to me at all? What do you think of that? I am standing in front of you nearly naked and you cannot tell me what you want? Are you serious about this, Tegan?" I was corner and hurt. "What do you want me to say, Ember?" you took my face into your hands. "I want you to be honest, Tegan. Stop worrying about what I think and just be honest with me, can you even do that? Can you just be honest?" I started to take off my clothes. You did not take your eyes off of the place where my eyes had last been. I pulled my shirt slowly over my head and pulled off my belt with a bit of luck and haste. I took off all my remaining clothes and stood in the silence. My heart was racing faster than it ever had in the history of my life. We were both relatively nude standing in the window light of my bedroom and I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Now had both been exposed. Now we were both afraid and vulnerable and scared of everything. You could see me, and I was extremely timid, of course. I was terrified of what you would think of my body. I felt grotesque and scared and judged in the light of your beautiful and simple form. However, I did not know what becoming naked had to do with what I wanted. In honesty, it was not related at all. I wanted to be close to you and I wanted to understand you, and that was the simplicity of it. Those were the only true things that I wanted. I wanted you to trust me. I wanted you to feel like there was more to me than fear and indifference. I wanted you to know that I was capable of showing real human attitudes like love and concern without acting like a child. I wanted to hold you. Simple. Not naked. It was so terribly awkward to stand in my room naked and not move and have us only look into each others eyes. I moved around you to my dresser and pulled on a pair of boxers as well. I as horrifyingly embarrassed. I did not look at you. "Do whatever you want, Ember." you were already well on your way to get what you wanted. You pushed your hands into my hair and I knew you were thinking "What do you see, Tegan?" but I still did not answer you, not even in my eyes. You pulled me close and wrapped your arms around my neck. Our bodies were not touching, but it was close enough. I felt obligated to hold you back. I was interested, but very confused and afraid. I wonder myself what happened to me at that time. It seemed almost as if we had switched roles over time. That you were now the strong leader and I was the young lamb that needed to be guided and protected. I wonder how that happened, even now. I wrapped my arms around your shoulders and held you against me. It was painful, but an absolutely beautiful experience. Your body felt just like I had imagined it to. Warm and full of light and smooth like a foreign silk. It was gentle and petite and I felt rough and damaged, but you did not let go of me at any point. I held you for some time. Then you broke again. "We should get some sleep, Tegan." you pulled away, which made me even more confused, but my instincts flared off in my head and I immediately followed you into my bed. We climbed in and the covers went over our heads and I stared at you in the obvious darkness. I could not make sense of anything except the low glow of your eyes. "Tegan, are you afraid of me?" I leaned up on one arm and put my other hand on your cheek. I pulled myself close to you in the darkness. I was afraid. I was terrified beyond any reason that had ever occurred to me ever before then. I was entirely horrified at what I was doing, but it did not stop me. I wanted it, and I would not be able to

stop until my heart stopped beating. I touched my lips to your and slowly sank into you. Your lips felt like cold flower petals and your slender hand wrapped around my wrist in silence. You did not move to be surprised or interject, you laid there and took it with placidity that a poker player would envy. I parted, completely traumatized at myself. Oh, what had I done. you held my hand against your face. You were trying to take it all in. I was nervous. I was scared out of my mind and I had no idea what I was doing. I was a little bit at a loss with myself. Even now, I can hardly imagine being that bold to any person, even a woman, much less another boy. My eyes must have been wide open. I could feel myself straining to see your expression in the darkness, but I could not. “Ember?” I could hardly get your name out of my mouth before you closed it. Your lips were dead with comfort and stillness. It was exhilarating my heart was in a wild frenzy and I became rather fearful that you might hear it and know how unprepared I was. We sank deep into a comfort that I had never felt before. I knew the horror of what I was doing, but it made no difference. It was delicate and warm and relieving. It was so very relieving. Our lips touched and pressed. My hands were in your hair and your hands were on my face. My body migrated until I was over you, breathing your breath and waiting in the dark. I pushed my face into your neck and you held me up. I could not help but feel sad and worried. I wanted to touch you. I wanted to taste you and know you and feel your life in my veins. I kissed your shoulder softly. I was more terrified to be too forward than anything else. Your small hands pulled at my back and you breathed into me. I shivered violently, for what reason I am still unsure. I kissed your neck and your jaw and your mouth was wide open in a deep breath. I took your mouth back. It was mine. It was all mine and I wanted it. You clawed your way down my back and pushed your fingers in at my hips. Our mouths opened a whole new door to the experience. Take me deeper, now. your hands rested on my ribs and I breathed. I was so very worked up. It was like stars were exploding inside my veins, it was a wild and exciting, but it still hurt. It was still frightening and we were both shaking the entire night. We were paused, I knew our eyes would fly open, but we would see nothing in the dark. I kissed your chest and your stomach and your eyes and hands. Speak for me, please. Then you were sitting on my stomach with your hands on my chest. You were thinking. You leaned down to kiss my face all over slowly, slowly, slowly. Every move had a purpose and it was all so beautiful. Our legs and our arms intertwined and our fingers touched and danced across darkened faces. It never went any further than that. It was the first and last time I would ever experience such a beautiful intimacy with you. Once in a lifetime. Yes, you could say that. The twenty-second. you woke long before I did, or you must have, because when I awoke, I was alone. I was disoriented and had forgotten entirely about the night before until I got dressed and went into the living room. I found a note on my desk. “Out for a walk, need time to think. Ember.” Then it all came crashing down. I panicked. Think? Think about what? What would you need to consider? Did you regret what happened? Was you afraid of me? Cynical? Angry? Oh god, there were millions of things. I ran my hands through my hair and rubbed my mouth with wide eyes. Oh, what to do, what to do. Was there anything I could do? I sat on the couch and stared into the fireplace. I suppose I would just have to wait. I went into work that day and Ember did not come in to see me. I was a little more than worried. Why did I have to be so infernally stupid? If I could have just kept my mouth shut it never would have happened! Tegan, you old fool. I worried relentlessly and time seemed to blur and drown. Ember had not come home. I had taken to crying in the evenings in fear. I could not contain it. What, what, what had I done? I was up until two a.m. one morning, sitting on the couch, watching the embers in the fireplace die. The front door opened and I seemed to be in a dream, but I was not. You came and sat on the floor between the couch and the fireplace. You put your hands on my knees and looked up at me. I stared back at you, empty. “Sorry for making you worry, Tegan…” I did not say anything. We were beyond the repair of apologies at that point. Nothing I said was

going to fix anything. I could feel that my face was swollen and my eyes hurt from crying. This boy did nothing but scare me half out of my mind. What did you want from me. What could I possibly have left for you to take. You crawled up onto the couch and snuggled into my side. I did not move. You pulled my arm over your shoulder and around your chest. You got comfortable and fell asleep within minutes. My eyes welled up with tears again and I did the one thing I should never have done. I wished you away. I went to work the next morning look just about as dead as I ever would, but not quite. My eyes were still blood-shot and my face was still puffy and disgusting, but it was nothing compared to the symptoms that I would come to face and brace in the days to come. Jenna had been worried for sometime now, but I had not felt the need to talk to her. Perhaps things would be different now if I had asked her for that talk. I will never know. She handed me some coffee and did not bother asked what was wrong. She probably knew, even then. The day was long and empty and again, I did not see Ember until the wee hours of the morning. The season was frostbitten and rain. Each time I went outside I felt like I was drowning in ice water. God I was cold. I was frozen, was I not? I did not hear you. I did not see your face. I sat on my couch in a morphine-cradled numbness night after night. The silence did not hurt anymore. It was accepted, embraced, and almost encouraged. Ember would look into my misty and you would fade away further and further. “Tegan, please wake up.” My eyes would not open. “Tegan.” I was being shaken. “What… What? What is it? Hmm?” I sat up slowly. You kissed my drowsy lips. “Are you okay?” “Yeah, Ember… I am fine, what is the matter?” My voice was raw and croaked and rusted deep. I rubbed the heel of my palm into my eye and grunted. I could feel the remnants of sleep sitting heavily on my entire body. “Sounded like you were having a bad dream.” I paused. “What?” I squinted my eyes and looked around. Everything was… normal. “What happened, now?” “You feel asleep, of course, do not be absurd.” you laughed and tugged at me lovingly. I then began to question where my dream had started. “What was I doing last?” I rubbed my hands through my hair and resisted your tug. “Kissing me.” you laughed lightly and pulled me over the top of you. I was tangled and confused more than ever. “Were you not going to take a walk?” “No, why do you ask?” Oh, Christ. I was having a really bad dream. “Nothing, just my weird dream.” “Oh…” you rubbed your nose against mine. “Are you alright now?” you sounded so gentle. “Mm… I think so, Jesus…” you laughed again. Oh, what god gives a person dreams like that anyway? I was completely stunned. I pushed my lips against you several times, smoothly and slowly to assure that I was awake. I was. I was awake. Emotionally exhausted, but away from that dreadfully awful dream. My head hurt. It was pulsing and screaming at me to do something about it, but I was too tired to move. I rubbed my face into Ember’s neck and groaned weakly. You held me softly and traced circles into my back.

Only now, I would be terrified of sleeping. The twenty-third. It would not be long before our upward stroke would fall back down again into a spiral. It could have been expected, but I foolishly believed that the happiness would last. Of course, it did not. The next few days became slower and slower. We were so completely happy that one night, and never more happy again. In fact, Ember's attitude changed drastically within the next few days. You would smile at me vaguely, but you did not seem to mind the silence as much as you used to and you did not seem to want my presence as much as you used to. I was put off by your sudden change in attitude, so I tried to respect your space. I would not move to kiss you or hold you especially tight. You became more and more distant and I became more and more afraid. When I would ask you if you were alright, you would nod your starlit head and the response would fade quickly. You did not give me great explanations or look into my eyes that often. One night I cornered you and begged you to tell me what was wrong. I was truly worried that I had done something to cause the distance. “I am just having a phase, Tegan, and I need my space and time to think it all over. I will be fine. I just feel strange and out of place. Do not worry. I promise you, I am fine.” All I can remember is how many times you told me that you were okay; how many times you assured me that you would be alright and that you would make it and we would be happy and it was all just a-- just a phase? It was a phase that killed you, for god’s sake, what was you thinking? I cannot wrap my brain around the situation. What sort of horrible mess had you been lost in? And to call it a phase? I will forever feel that it was my fault, even if I have no idea of the actual cause. A few days passed further in the stillness. The last time I saw you were in the morning. You were off to take a walk and I was getting ready for work. You kissed my temples and brushed your golden hand across my face and smiled slightly, and then out the door you went. I love you. I loved you more than I ever thought possible. It hurt to see you go without saying a word. Ember did not come home that night and it was not entirely unexpected, you had disappeared many times before and I could not expect you to come home at all times. I was still worried, and I would come to know that I had every right to be. I slept very cold and lonely and uneasy that night. I longed for your small, angelic frame to sleep so lightly beside me. I missed your little hands inside mine and your beautiful eyes. It was horribly awkward sleeping alone now. A year of sleeping with someone else beside you alters your way of thinking. I awoke very groggy and uncomfortable. It was strangely early for me to be awake, it was around six o' clock. The morning was rainy and I listened as it tipped and tapped on my window. I wiped my eyes which were full of sleep and I stretched high into the air and slumped back down. I had fallen asleep in my jacket on the couch and found that it was very uncomfortable to do so. I took it off and stood up to crack as many bones as I could. I started a fire and made up some dark coffee. It took a while and I stood in the kitchen while it heated up. I got a mug and poured the coffee in when it was ready. I sat back down on the couch and stared into the fireplace. I wondered where Ember was. I hoped that you were safe, and I somehow felt that you were not. All night while I had been uneasily sleeping, you were drowning in the river, silently. Had you wanted to go? Sad, freezing, and alone in the city smog and rain, your lungs full of gasoline exhaust and tears. What, god? What happened that night? I long for the fulfilment of knowing how it all came together. How did it all lead to death? What could I have possibly done to make life easier for you so that you did not have to make such a horrible decision? What could I have done to help you survive? I was not expecting it at all. I feel blind even now. Nothing but blind. Sitting on the couch, a telephone rung throughout my empty house. It was a low, electronic beep. I stood up and walked over to it and picked it up. “Hello?“ The dial tone sounded like a monster was screaming out. “Yes, hello. I am sorry to bother you, but is this Tegan Hathaway?“ “Only if you have good news.“ I smiled. “My name is Dr. Levesque. I am calling to inform you about your roommate, because you has no records of immediate family.“ My grip on the handle of my coffee cup tensed. I could hear it in my ears already, I could taste it. I could feel the blood beneath my skin shiver. “My… roommate? Is there something wrong with you? Is you in trouble? If you is in trouble I can

be down there in under--” “I wish it were only that bad, son. You had better come on down here.” I was shaking. I was trembling. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I only took long enough to hit the “end call” button and I dropped the phone to the floor. I heard the plastic crack, but I did not care. I grabbed only my coat and my ID and ran as fast as I possible could out my door. The early morning was freezing and rainy and all I could see were dark grey clouds and blue streams watering down. The wind was blowing wickedly and I was already crying. If you was not in trouble, what else was there for you to be? I hailed a taxi and I told him to rush to the hospital. He understood my desperation and every moment I spent waiting to get from point A to point B was agonizing. I became more and more sick to my stomach. I was shaking my legs and biting my finger nails, which I never did. I was so afraid. I wanted to scream and sob even as I was unsure of what was wrong with Ember to begin with. I heard the traffic rushing by and I could not hold myself together. I saw the blurry red street lights and the people walking around under their dark umbrellas. Where were they going? Were their loved ones in danger? I was jealous of them. Jealous because I knew all of them were safe. I was not safe. I was not comfortable and warm. I was terrified of what was on the line and I somehow knew it was all too late. We reached the hospital. I threw a bill at the taxi driver, thanked him, and rushed inside. Words were spilling out of my mouth just as I got in the doors. I sputtered out all of the information I could think of to say and I was screaming it loud enough for everyone to hear. The nurses looked up, all of their eyes were unconcerned, but it seemed that one nurse would recognize me. “My name is Tegan Hathaway and a doctor called me just a moment ago. Is there something wrong? My roommate, Ember, is you--” I was entirely out of breath. I was shaken and disoriented and drunk with fear. One of the nurses immediately responded to me. "Right this way" and she rushed me down to the ER. I was shivering violently and she brought me to the door. “Let me in, you have to let me in.“ “Mr. Hathaway you have to calm down.” “How can you possibly say that to me? My fucking roommate is in that room, now let me in.” She opened the door. I knew that I was not going to be able to take it lightly, no matter what it was. I saw a white sheet over a small body and I covered my mouth. I rushed to the bed and I was holding all of my pain inside. I was holding my breath hard. My lungs were burning. I pulled down the white sheet and I saw your face. The scream that I had been holding back let out in a horrified, muffled, throat-ripping ache. Your eyes were purple and swollen shut and your lips were dark blue. Your skin was yellow and pale and soaked. Your cuticles were blue and you were puffy and water-logged. You drowned. Dear gods in the sky, Ember had killed himself. I fell to the floor. I knew it immediately. You were dead. You were dead. Oh the gods in all the heavens, Ember was dead. I felt sick. Sicker than I have ever felt. My stomach heaved and pulled and heaved and pulled. The nurse gave me a bag and held me up. “I am so sorry, young man. I am sorry.” She would not stop saying it. She did not know me, she did not know who I was or what I needed or wanted or how painful it was. She knew nothing and all she could do was sit there and apologize. For what? What good was she doing to preach her sympathy at me? I was frustrated. A hate encompassed me. God, Ember. What did you do? What happened? How did it end up like this? Oh my god, your face. Your dead face. Your blue lips and your eyes. The golden eyes were dead. The starlight smile and the soft hands, oh fuck. Oh fucking Christ, why. I heaved into the bag and screamed. I felt more people enter the room. A doctor, obviously the one who had spoken to me over the phone, kneeled down and put his strong hand on my shoulder. “Son,” He said. “I know you are not in the mood to hear this right now, but I have to ask you. The police say that they found him on the shore this morning by the bridge. He has got bruises on his ankles. They say they assume he tied weights to his feet and jumped off the bridge. They do not have a clue as to how he floated to shore, they reckon maybe the knots were not very tight. The river is not that deep, but when you can’t get out, you can’t get out. He killed himself, you see. I do not have any idea about what your home life was like, but this boy seemed stressed out or cornered enough about something to take his own life. He was holding tight onto this little charm, I figured it might have some significant meaning to you and I thought that you would like to have it back… He held it out and I looked up only long enough to

see it. It was the charm I had given you the day before. The thin little silver heart with the E engraved on it. I threw up more and more. I could not take it. I was so afraid and so lost. Why did you do this, Ember? What did I do for you to make such a huge decision so quickly. What happened? I do not know, oh, I do not understand. Please, Ember, help me understand you. Help me find a way to where you are. Oh my god, you are dead. Ember is dead. The boy that I love is dead. The twenty-fourth. After I had expended every last fluid from my stomach, the nurse who had brought me into the room helped me to stand. I quickly found that standing was a lot harder to do on my own, harder than it had ever been. My legs denied all possibilities of strength and I closed my eyes tightly. My chest heaved, but the nurse held fast to my arms in an attempt to steady me. How much pain can a human take without losing their mind to insanity? I was put to the test. One of the many nurses had brought the white, absolute cloth back over your hollow face. The nurse that held onto me started immediately to push me out of the room. In the back part of my mind, I knew that I was not supposed to see you because I was not family or a spouse. I felt that I needed to be in that room, and my body longed for it, even though my mind was entirely absent. I resisted her frail, immaculate hands, almost as if by nature. “If you will come this way, sir…” My body was very weak, but I pushed against her. “No…” I was vacant and wanting. Ember, why… “Sir, kindly, just this way…” “No.” I became more desperate the more she tried to take me away. She tugged on my arm. I pushed roughly at her body and she held me back. “Someone please call security.” Then the doctor and the two nurses were holding me back. I never realized I was that strong, but then one has to consider the reasons that one is strong and how one would react in the absence of that/those reason(s). I was pushing against them with all of my strength, my body was a tower and I wanted to fall into Ember and never, ever wake up. I screamed and screamed, my voice was all that was left. Give him back. Give you back, you bastards. Why did you not save him? Tell me what happened. None of this makes any sense. Tell me, you have to tell me why. Why, Ember. God, why. I could not see anything, the tears were filling up again. I could smell the sterile air and Ember’s scent mixed with the sickening breath of your rotting body. I was taken by a police officer from the room. Ember, listen to me. You have to listen. Ember, wake up or they are going to take you away. They will take you away from me, Ember, is that what you want? I stopped resisting. Is that what you want? I clutched at the necklace the doctor had handed me. I was holding the bottom of the charm so hard into my palm that it began to saw through my skin. I paid no attention to the blood. When I was removed from the room, I was escorted to an empty room to speak with the doctor. you fixed up my hands and waited for me to stop heaving. “Tegan, the only thing I can suggest for you right now is to go home and get some rest. This type of loss is going to be a very big source of energy drain for you and you could certainly become ill. As a doctor, I would not want that to happen to you, but I understand the situation. I advise you to contact your personal physician. You should speak to him about perhaps seeing a therapist if you think you need it. I know this is going to be hard for you to cope with, but as a doctor, I only want the best for you. If you cannot keep food down, which often happens in these type of situations, please see your doctor if it goes on longer than three days. You are the only insurance source we have for the patient, so you will be informed

off all the options for burial, et cetera. Do whatever it takes to rest as easy as you possibly can. He is no longer in pain now.” The tears fell silently. I was angry at the doctor for talking to me so familiarly. Of course you would have no clue as to Ember’s and my relationship, or all of the things we had gone through, or the depth of the situation’s suddenness. My tears were not in sadness, they now fell in complete and utter emptiness. I was a corpse, cold and blue and still in that freezing chair in that freezing room, exactly where I never wanted to be. My eyes were swollen with the pain of still being alive. My heart was thundering on like a war drum. I am still here. I am still alone. Mother, father. The one that I love is dead. I stared at the floor in a stunningly frozen state. I was a mannequin. All of my limbs were plastic and hollow. All of the water in my body submerged my eyes in peace. How on earth could anyone possibly expect me to rest easy? How insensitive could a human be? you continued speaking, but I did not listen to anything else. I thanked him. I went home. I did not move for six days. I could not eat, but I did not return to the hospital or phone my physician. I did not do anything. I could not sleep. Your face was burned into the back of my eyelids and I cried until there simply was no water left. My head was a barren no-man’s land filled with blame and guilt and homesickness. All was dry and frozen. Ember, come home. Walk in through that door and shine your beautiful eyes at my undeserving, worthless frame. Bless me with your skin and your sleep and your breath. No, no. I would tell myself. you is not coming back, Tegan. Go back to sleep. The twenty-fifth A month and a half passed and very little had changed. I ate just enough to survive and slept through most of each day. I would often wake every half hour to a night terror and then stay awake for extended periods of time in fear that when I fell asleep again, I would return to the same nightmare. I stayed in a constant state of minimal health and sleepless exhaustion. I did not feel like ever getting well. One decent thing happened that I appreciated; Eric had heard the news and let me off of work for as long as I needed. You and Jenna understood that a lot had happened between you and I and you were very generous about the situation. I certainly did not feel like I could handle people, much less any time soon. I felt like I could not possibly be more ready to die. Nothing in my life was brilliant anymore. I felt it would all be dull and lightless for the rest of my life. Often times everything was drowned in a blue screen, it seemed that a grey and icy blue filter covered the winter over. The sloshes of snow were melting in the streets when I found the strength at last to leave my house. All of the grey buildings stood tall and unforgiving against me. I often turned away. I could not remind myself of love. I could not do anything that reminded me of you. I could not touch anything that had your scent or made me feel like your life still breathed in it. I came to promise myself to take you flowers and a note every day until we could be together again. I came to accept that you were not happy in the human body that you were given and that you deserved to have your angelic form more than anyone ever had. The idea became tolerable, but it was still painful and bothersome. I believed it, though. I dedicated myself to it. We would certainly be together in the Next, right, Ember? You know, of course, that this is a lie. I am quite confident, in reality, that I will not ever see you again. Think about this Ember, is it not sad? Of course it is. Does it not hurt? Of course it does, and the fact kills me a little more every day. This is why I chose to write this note to you in the first place, Ember. I could not hold the grief inside me any longer. It has been two long years and I have held all of this inside me, which which I could deny no longer, and reading it now had indeed brought an agony to my heart that pangs deep inside. I have often tossed the notebook aside in anger and longing and not touched it for days. I have become depressed and endless and injured. I have repeated all of the tears and emotions from our past and I still do not know if anything had changed. What has this done, Ember? Have I told our story? Have I done anything? Have I shown you anything? Oh, how I wish I knew how you felt. Maybe that would help me rest. I often wonder if you regret leaving… I wonder what you would think of me now, and I worry. Sometimes I feel as if nothing has changed. Sometimes I feel like I am still silent.

The twenty-sixth. Today I went down to the bridge. I did not go on top of the bridge today, though, I went underneath it where the sewer ducts are. There are huge cement slabs on either side of the shore and I realized that I wanted to be closer to the water, closer to where they found you. I put my hand in the water and cried. I cried for a very long time. You have no idea how much it hurts to be without you, Ember. I fell in love with you so hard that my heart is still addicted to the feeling. My heart is still angry that it sends off such strong signals and nothing ever comes back. I try to tell it that nothing /can/ come back, but it does not listen, Ember. My heart does not want to admit that you are gone. It hurts. It hurts so much more than I can explain. I spent all of last night making a paper lantern. Just in case you are unfamiliar with them, which I am quite sure that you are, I will explain the composition to you. They are oriental, to begin with. Often times in Asian countries they will send out lanterns to sea in remembrance of their dead. Asian people are very honourable and do not ever forget loved ones, they are painfully respectful. I am not Asian, but I find the process to be very beautiful. It is very simple to make a lantern. I took multi-coloured yarn and four sheets of sturdy cardboard-like paper. The yarn is thick and well-woven and the paper sheets are cut short horizontally and very long vertically. I snipped little holes into both of the long sides of each of the pieces of paper all the way down and weaved the coloured yarn into the holes. I brought the two sets of cards together and tied them tight and the top in a ribbon pattern. This forms a three-dimensional rectangle that is open on the top and bottom. I painted little oriental butterflies and stars on the sides of each of the paper cards and I filled the boat with tissue paper and tears. A lantern cannot be sent to sea without means by which to get there. I then took a small chunk of wood and carved it into a little boat not very much bigger than my calf. It took me several hours to make and I did my best, even if it is a little antique looking. I sanded the boat and painted it over with a strong, clear coating. I took black acrylic paint and wrote S.S. Starlight on the side. I stayed up long into the early hours of this morning working, and I did not stop. I did not want to stop. I only wanted to finish what I started, if not only to prove that I could. When everything was finished, I sat around in silence for a while and stared like a soulless shell into the deep space of my living room. I decide I was ready after perhaps an hour. I put on my coat and took out my tall black umbrella and stood in the living room for many minutes. I had my things set on the table, but I could not bring myself to leave. I felt like I was forgetting something. I always tend to do that, but it was especially longing this morning. I walked in circles for almost an hour. I rubbed my tired, swollen eyes and felt my facial hair scratch roughly against my delicate hands. They were not very delicate anymore. They were dry and rough and hardened by a loveless life. I felt crazy and out of sorts. I felt odd and twisted and malfunctioning. I felt like I was missing something, but I never remember it until it is too late to go back for it. Does this not happen to everyone? I ran my hands through my long, dark hair and stared at the ceiling and out of the windows. It was beginning to get light outside. That is what I was waiting for, really. I wanted it to be this perfect time. I wanted everything to end smoothly and slowly and gently, like a rose petal sailing along a little brook. I could feel the tiredness sinking on my eyelids and I protested. The dead never sleep, so why should I. I do not deserve the few hours release from reality, not anymore. I was innocent at some point, I am sure, but not now. Not after all of this. I was tainted and bruised and sodden. I eventually came to ignore my worries and my fears and phobias. Whatever it was that was holding me back from leaving, I left it on the inside of my door. I checked my coat pockets for my keys and my lighter and they were both there. I decided two or three times, maybe more, that I was ready. I am ready. I am ready. I am fine. I took up the lantern and the little boat gentle into my hands and tucked it under my right arm. I took up my umbrella and went to my door. Let me be away, house. Let me do what I have needed to do. Let me move on. Let me go. She whispered and sighed and I felt her tension release. She knew it was best for me, even if it hurt her to see me go. I promised her I would come back and she cried after me. I would miss her, I would, but it was only a few hours. I shut my door promptly and I felt as if my house had locked me out. I knew, of course, that she had not, it was not possible, but I felt her fear and her worry and I rubbed the door softly. I twisted the key into the lock and felt her secure herself. I was off. I walked quickly along the sidewalk, no one was out at this time of the morning. I was three o' clock, perhaps half of three, leaning towards four. I saw very few birds, but the scare amount that I did see sat atop the telephone wires as usual. Perhaps they were what everyone calls the early birds. I wondered briefly if it was true that they really do get the worm. I almost laughed to myself. What a silly question to be asking myself now. Leaves were scattered along the ground, remnants that the fall had been along. Most

of the trees were barren and dead, but the leaves remained as a distant reminder that fall was dead, but not forgotten. I felt little pools part beneath my feet. I wondered if they had feelings, if I were killing them as I went. I was not entirely afraid of it. I was a bit unmotivated about death. I was used to killing things. I reached the bridge at length and veered off of the sidewalk down into the hill of grass. It was sweet-smelling and bright green. It was very damp, and the morning dew rained itself softly onto me in a wet screen. I shoved my boots down into the moist soil and got down to the cement slab. I went down and sat, shielding myself from the gentle morning rain. I sat my materials down and closed my umbrella. I sighed against the shadow of the cave-like structure. The channel of water was wide and open. The river was moving quickly along, but not too quickly, and the tide was not particularly high, perhaps a little higher than normal. I heard you screaming in my head and I tried to block it out. You quieted much more quickly than usual. I pulled out a small vanilla scented candle from my coat pocket and turned with my fingers. It had a small tin casing around the bottom and a small black wick sitting at the top. I put it to my nose and your scent came rushing in. This does not smell like vanilla. This smells like Ember. Funny how a person's scent remembers longer than anything else a person has. I was sad with myself, I was still hurting. I looked solemnly at the lantern and I started to cry. I always started to cry. I absolutely could never help it that I would cry. The entire aura of your absence is sad and lonely. It is disappointing and it makes me feel the way I did the night I lost my mother. Each time the memory comes up I want to sit in my bed and hold my knees and cry into the darkness. I will never be as alone as you are, Ember, and I hate myself for it. I hate myself for what I did, and I have grown used to the fact that you are gone. I have grown used to the fact that it is my fault. I am aware of what I could have done, but I cannot go back. I absolutely cannot go back, no matter how much I wish it to be so. God will not allow me, and you will not allow me. I am stuck with what I want and what I am capable of, so I must do what I can. I touched my fingertips lightly to the black, painted butterfly and I let the tears roll silently down my cheeks. The air was thickening and fog was resting lightly on the water. I removed my coat and lied down on my back. I dipped my hand into the water beside me and immediately felt your hand grasp desperately for me. I pulled away in shock and yelled. I reduced quite quickly to tears. I sobbed and shuttered and held my freezing, wet fingertips in my other hand. I cried and cried and cried. The river might as well have been composed of my tears. It is all that I had. Tears to cry, words to write, sadness to express. What else could I possibly give? I lied there facing the cement wall for several minutes, and I thought about holding you. I thought about your skin and your hair and your voice, and it was not as sad as I thought it would be. It was beautiful. I was holding you in my rough and burnt arms, and your memory is so delicate, it has always been like a flame daring to go out if I left it where it was, alone, too long. I kissed your temples as you had kissed mine and I felt you breathing. It was time to let go. I sat up and crawled back to my lamp and wiped my tears from my burning cheeks. I looked inside the little lantern and I saw a few pages of my artwork of you, confetti from your birthday, a paintbrush, and my little memo sheet. My chest sobbed and I held it back. I could not stop at this point. I took the vanilla candle into my hands and watched it for a moment. I pulled my coat over my lap and took the lighter out of the pocket. I lit the candle and placed it inside the lantern. The light glowed through softly. Below one of the painted butterflies, your painted name glowed through. "To the only soul called Ember, may this reach you, wherever you might be in the endless sky. My name is Tegan. I love you. This is the last time." I wiped the tears from my eyes again, and mentally curled into myself. I rubbed my fingertips along the sides of the small boat and cried. The fog had lessened and I could see relatively clear down the river. Time to let go, Tegan. Time to let go. I kissed the boat, I kissed it right over your essence, starlight, and with shaky hands I lowered the vessel of my memory and my love down into the water. I felt the river water pushing against it, freezing my finger instantly. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. The river was urging me, let go, let go, and I listened. I removed my hands from the S.S. Starlight and it lifted quickly to sea in the morning twilight. Tears burst from my eyes like they had that morning and I sobbed. The little boat floated gently along and the candlelight glowed softly. I sobbed and sobbed harder than I ever have. It was all so hard to believe. It looked safe. The little lantern vessel carried along safely. It was balanced and secure, and the light never flickered as if to go out. I watched it until I could no longer see the candlelight burning through the walls of the lantern. The river swallowed it against my vision. That was the last time, Ember, believe that for what it is. It was time to let go. Despite my tears and my failures, may I hold you at last when God releases all the stars from the Heavens and they all rain down upon us. "How will you know?" You are sure to ask, but do not worry your pretty head. I know the light of my star, I will always feel it in my heart.

My love is out to sea. Bon Voyage, Ember.

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