Author’s Note: F word once in this chapter.
The whiteness of the canvas seemed to stretch on for the miles. Takin’ up every inch of what I could see. Blank, white, pure, innocent, empty. Empty, especially. I had a paintbrush in my hand but I didn’t want to put anything on that emptiness. I didn’t want to mark it up. Make it ugly. Ruin the infinity…
I slowly lowered the paintbrush. It was a couple days after my nineteenth birthday. This had been a gift from my Grandma. She was movin’ to a smaller place and had found the easel in storage; it had belonged to her father who had been a painter. Aunt Vi and her family didn’t want it, Uncle Zari and his family didn’t want it. Apparently Mom had suggested it be given to me. So here it was, along with paints and canvases and everythin’ else I might need to paint. If I painted. Sometimes I did.
But right now, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to ruin that infinite emptiness that mirrored my heart. To brush paint on it and pretty it up to something it wasn’t. To lie. To hide the emptiness. It felt wrong, right now. So I put away my paints and stepped (okay, stumbled) away from the easel. The house was real quiet since Kaylee was at school, poor girl. I told her not to live with me anymore. It had been months. Over the summer I kinda needed her but now it was already almost December. She deserved her own life… I was just draggin’ her down. After all, her boyfriend broke up with her cause she was too busy taking care of my sorry butt.
It was time she moved back home but she kept insistin’ I needed her. I kinda did cause, well, I hated being by myself. Sometimes it was okay but sometimes… like now… the overwhelmingness of it all would swirl around me, threaten to suck me down into the darkness that I was trying to escape. Kaylee… she almost always felt happy, optimistic, sweet. It made me feel better with her around but it was kinda selfish of me to keep her here just cause I couldn’t face the world. One more week, I kept sayin’, but after the week was over, I’d just say it again.
“This will be my first year without you…” I stared at the cracklin’ fire, the warmth barely there, barely penetrating my cold body. I put another log on, watching the sparks fly up into the clear night sky. It was a bit warm for this time of the year but since I was near the water, it was a bit chillier than somewhere else might be (plus I was wearing a T-shirt). But even if it was super warm out, I would still feel nothing but cold.
December 31st, the last day of the year. Soon it would be a new year. A year with no Henri. A year with no Kellen. I could feel my grandma, feelin’ so much like I was feeling. I wrapped my arms around myself and squeezed my eyes shut. Grandma was so sad, so lost–but she was with others. She was with all her kids and grandkids, even Kaylee was there, celebrating, waitin’ to ring in the new year. I just couldn’t bring myself to go. Kaylee offered to stay with me but I turned her down. I needed to be alone this night.
Maybe I should have gone. Maybe I needed to stop wallowin’ in the pity and misery I couldn’t shake off. In a few months it’d be a year since he died. That was gonna be a rough day for me. But maybe after that I could start… I need to start now, I thought, looking at the fire again. He didn’t want me to do this. He didn’t want me so tied up in grief that I lost everything around me. That was the reason my ring finger was bare. Why I wasn’t a widow. I’m sorry. A tear ran down my cheek and I wiped it away.
It would be easier without these stupid powers. Without knowing how Grandma felt, or how Mom felt. Without feeling everyone who was near me. Being able to interact with people, truly interact. It was nice… I supposed… to know how people truly felt about me. Being able to weed out the jerks. Except, I couldn’t really make friends. It was a wonder Hen put up with me–course, we fought a lot. Mostly because of my powers. If I hadn’t had them, maybe we wouldn’t have fought so much. Maybe, if, I need to stop thinkin’ those words, I grumbled in my mind as I reached for the bottle of water by my feet. My house was just a few steps away so the water was all I really brought.
Why did I get these abilities, and not Duncan? I wondered, staring intently at the fire as I took a gulp of the water. Just a roll of the dice, I supposed. Like why I got my hair and River got hers, while the rest of Mom’s biological kids got his blonde hair. Why we all had blue eyes, though Simon’s were more of blue while the rest of us had more turquoise. Duncan looked almost identical to the monster. Mom never said that and we never saw any picture of the monster, but I could feel it. I could feel it sometimes when Mom looked at Duncan, a sort of inward wince. Old fears. Memories. Pain. Couple weeks ago Duncan had raised his voice around Mom (thankfully not TO Mom) and I thought my maternal daddy was gonna fall apart on the inside. He wound up in his room, crying.
Memories causing him this much turmoil and pain after so many years… I took another swig of water and then set the bottle down, sighing. In nine years would I feel like crying if I hear a French accent? If I saw a redhead? If I heard our song, or anything like that. NO stop thinking about the future. I tossed another log onto the fire and watched the sparks fly and dance, like momentary faeries. When would I be able to look back and smile, to remember the good times without wanting to cry? Nine? Nineteen? Never?
Maybe if I was free to be around others… maybe if I didn’t have my powers. I wished I didn’t have them. I’d do anything, right now, not to have them. I stood up and took a step closer to the fire. It was a curse. Nothing else. A horrible, miserable curse. Keepin’ me from living a normal life. Keepin’ me from being around my family. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair! And there was nothing I could do about it! I couldn’t get an operation and cut away the problem, I couldn’t take medicine to temporarily get rid of it. Nothing I could do. Nothing I could ever do. This curse. Connecting me to people, connecting me to… Mom, and Grandma. I stepped back and turned to look at the house. Connecting us… a thread… a thread could be cut… but what was the thread? What was there?
A thread that can be cut, something connecting us, Mom, Grandma, me, something special, something different. I ran into the house and began going through my drawers, trying to find it. I wasn’t even sure if I had brought it but–a-ha! There it was. The plaque. Jacob Danevbie. A stupid plaque, decades, over a century old. Grandma. Mom. Me. Was this it? Was this the connecting factor? Why this? Was was so special about it? About us? A thread that can be cut. Yes.
I ran back outside, over to the fire. I felt possessed. So sure of myself. So sure this would do it. This was it, this was what was connecting us. Mom even said so. Surely… surely this would fix things. Surely this would get rid of the connection. If I could be free of feelin’ Grandma and Mom all the time then I could live with that. That just little bit of freedom of being alone sometimes in my own body.
Crack! I snapped the plaque in half over one leg. A bit of wood in one hand with what was left of the faded, torn ribbon–and some wood in the other hand with the metal. Jacob Danevbie. Well, Jacob Danevbie. Fuck you.
I threw it in the fire. One piece, the piece with the metal. Then the piece with the ribbon. As soon as they were in the fire I wanted to cry. I wanted to grab them and try to put them back together. I knew what I had just done was wrong and knew it wouldn’t solve anything. But it was too late. they were in the fire. The ribbon was ashes, the wood was blackening, and the metal glowed. I began cryin’, and fell to my knees. Why did I do that? It was something given to me by Mom, who got it from his mom, who got it from his dad, who got it from Jacob. And I just destroyed it. I didn’t deserve it, I didn’t deserve anything. Except these stupid powers which were still goin’ full swing.
Midnight and the new year found me laying in the cold grass, sobbing.
Winter turned into spring, the time I was dreadin’ the most. Valentine’s Day was pretty crappy for me and for Kaylee, as her possible beau dumped her the day before. We wound up stayin’ up all night, watching ‘Simvivor’ and eating ice cream. Then the anniversary of Henri’s passing came and I was a total mess. Mom and Dad offered to take me to France but I turned them down, a bit annoyed they didn’t understand how hard it was to even think about travelin’ to France. Henri’s remains were there but… going there without him… was just so wrong, to me. I spent the day alone (after kickin’ Kaylee out of the house) and trying to deal with the grief. A year, since I last saw his smile, felt his hand on mine, heard his voice…
If I thought about it hard enough I could hear him. I also knew what he’d be sayin’ if he could talk to me right now. “You’d say you missed me, you loved me, and for me to get over it,” I sighed down at his picture. Maybe gettin’ a job would help me recover but I was just too scared to go out and try to get one. No matter what I did, I’d deal with people. I did not want to deal with people. I didn’t want to deal with their emotions and I always felt too tired to even attempt a barrier to block them out. Plus when the anniversary of Grandpa’s passing came, Grandma was horribly sad and I felt even more depressed.
Life sucks, I thought on that day. We lose those we love… and have to just go on as if they didn’t mean anything to us. I fell into an even bigger pit of depression after that. It wasn’t FAIR! Henri didn’t deserve this! He was so young, he deserved to live, he should have lived, but he was taken away from me and from his dad, and it wasn’t fair. Grandpa… he hadn’t even been too terribly old. He was in his seventies. That wasn’t very old… and his health problems before… it wasn’t fair, it just wasn’t fair.
Things became a blur after that. I was dimly aware of the world bursting into life around me, the flowers, the plants, the life. But it was just something in the background. Kaylee got a part-time job as a receptionist at the spa and kept bringing beauty products home. I let her try them out on me but I never really noticed much. I knew it annoyed her how… empty I was being, but I just didn’t care anymore. Why should I care? Life was unfair and life sucked. I had a little bit of money left so why not just give up on what was around me? Who even cared what Henri wanted? He was dead. He was gone. He wasn’t there to be disapprovin’ of me wallowing in misery. He was dead. And I was alone to deal with what remained of my crappy life.
“Esssss-Jaaaaay!” My sister’s voice pierced the darkness and I squinted as she opened my bedroom door. She was up to somethin’, I could tell right away. I slowly sat up and shielded my eyes since I had been in darkness for so long and the light from the other room was too bright. Kaylee was grinnin’ and feelin’ real excited about whatever the heck she was about to tell me.
“I’m not really in the mood for your plotting,” I stated and her grin just got bigger, and she got even more excited. Great. “What?” I asked and she beckoned me. Grumbling, I stumbled out of bed and into the bright room. “What?” I demanded again, frowning at my sister who was doin’ everything but bouncing up and down. Nope, scratch that; she started bouncing on her tiptoes.
“I’ve been thinking about things, like how much you want to kick me out of this place,” she said and I arched my eyebrows. Was she finally going to move out and get her own life? “But you know I don’t want to leave you alone.”
“Not this again.” I folded my arms and leaned against the closed door, scowlin’. “We’ve talked about this, Kaylee. It’s been a year since you moved in with me. You have a job now, and in the autumn you’ll be starting your senior year. You deserve–“
“Whatever!” She flapped her hand at me, cutting off my sentence. “I wasn’t gonna just leave you alone because, well, you’re depressed and no way in hell or high water am I going to–wait, that makes no sense. Hell or high water are definitely situations I wouldn’t want to leave almost anyone in.” She began rubbing her chin. “I totally misused that phrase. Okay. No way in hell am I–no, wait, that doesn’t work either. Cause even if you were all happy and in a good situation, why would I just leave you in hell? Nope. Um. Hold on.”
“What is it?” I sighed.
Kaylee flailed her arms. “Nonono! Give me a minute. No way in… a room… full of fluffy, adorable kittens. Yeah. But that doesn’t really make much sense either, does it?” She looked at me and I shrugged. No point trying to get her to say what she wanted until she was done with this. After a moment of mumbling to herself, she gave up and just plunged on with whatever it was. “Look, the point is, I don’t want to just leave you alone all depressed in a house. I know you want to be by yourself but it worries me, y’know, leaving you here like this without anyone. I mean, I’d visit. Still do all your shopping if you really wanted me to. So I thought… maybe it’d be best if you weren’t alone?”
“What are we trying to establish here?” I asked. “You want to leave–“
“I don’t really want to move out but I know you want me to,” she said, lookin’ and feelin’ a bit down about that. “I think you need some time to yourself, too. It might help.”
“But you don’t want me to be alone,” I said and she shook her head. “That’s a bit impossible, hun.”
“Nonono!” she squealed again and began bouncing. “NO! Not impossible when Kaylee-the-Amazing is on the case! I have figured out a solution. It will cost money so you’ll have to eventually soon get some sort of job, but I can pitch in some money initially, Duncan said he would too, and so will Daddy Seb and Daddy Hal.”
Money? This was soundin’ a bit out of my league. What on earth could be a solution for me being alone, but not alone, and cost so much money four people had to chip in? “What’s going on?” I asked, feelin’ weary about this already. Kaylee pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to me. It was a letter, addressed to our dads but as soon as I read it my stomach plummeted and then I realized what Kaylee had meant. “I can’t afford–” I breathed out but she was shakin’ her head.
“We’ll chip in,” she said. “Daddy Seb, Daddy Hal, Duncan, and me. We’ll help. And I think this will help you. If you want to.”
I bowed my head and stared at the letter, then slowly nodded. “I want to,” I said, crumpling up the paper. It was a letter informing my dads that the stables were closing down, and we had three weeks to get Ducky to a new home or they’d be sendin’ her off.
Three weeks was a very short time but with the physical help of my family and monetary help, we got somewhat of a barn built. The land my house was on was big enough for a barn and room for Ducky to gallop around. We looked into procurin’ hay, straw, and all the fixings that I’d need to take care of her. But then things changed when we went down to the stables to pick her up. The place seemed pretty empty and almost all the horses were gone. I went straight for Ducky, feelin’ horribly guilty for not visiting her much over the past year. Just a couple times a month, at the most. She whinnied when she saw me and nuzzled the side of my head.
“I missed you too,” I said, wrapping my arms around her head and then kissin’ her forehead. “Don’t worry, darling, you’ll be in a new home soon enough!”
The problems came a few minutes later when a horse came tearin’ out of no where, galloping away from someone who was trying to get a saddle. The horse pranced around and led the guy on a merry chase. The employee at the stable who was helping me, went a bit red and felt angry and a bit exasperated. “That horse do that often?” I inquired and the man stared at me.
“Yeah. He doesn’t get on well with people,” the guy said, shootin’ a glare at the horse. “He was brought in not long ago–right before we were told we were moving–and his owners pretty much left him. Said they didn’t have room anymore. We were planning on trying to get him sold but then we got word that since business wasn’t so good here in the Valley, we were moving. Now we’ve started getting things settled down… this guy has no where to go. We’ve contacted a few people but as you can tell, he doesn’t make the best first impression but once he gets warmed up to someone he’s nice.”
I stared at the horse who didn’t seem to me like he was angry, just having fun. “How much is he?” I asked without thinking. Mom and Dad, who were both with me, flared up with worry but then they almost immediately relented. They’d buy me this horse if I really wanted him, and seeing how frisky he was being… I kinda wanted him. He’d be some fun with Ducky’s nature. Plus Ducky might get lonely sometimes, and shouldn’t she have another horse around to give her company? I may not want company from someone of my own species, but Ducky might. Living in the stables for so many years, she was used to other horses being around.
So like that, I found myself with two horses. It cost a lot of money and a lot of time, but Ducky and the horse–apparently named Night At The Opera–were soon put in my new barn. I knew right away that Kaylee was right. This would be good for me.
I already felt a little bit happier and kinda excited. Being so far out of town, I had plenty of room to ride and now I had two creatures to take care of, to focus my attention on, and I wasn’t alone–but didn’t have to worry about dealing with other people.
“So, my plan worked?” Kaylee asked as I watched Ducky and Night checkin’ out their new living quarters.
I reached over and messed up her hair, sendin’ a few of her barrettes flying to the ground. “Yeah, it worked, and you know it. Little miss plotter.” I looked at her, and she grinned. “Thank you. Really. I mean… I just…”
“I know, I know,” she giggled. “I’m glad you’re happy, or as happy as you can be right now. But you know… you will need to get a job or something eventually soon…” I winced but nodded, knowin’ she was right.
If I wanted to give these two as much care as I could, then I’d need to get a job. But what the heck could I do? No matter what, I’d have to deal with emotions. I guess I’ll just have to get over it, I realized. I just hoped I could. But part of me still just really didn’t care. Maybe that was what I needed to do. Stop caring.