Dying Whisper

Dying Whisper

A Chapter by Maeve Andrea

April meets Violet in the garden, starting a journey that takes them through brutal honesty


My dreams are deep, intimate, yet intangible, an experience completely incomparable to their memory. I don’t wake up screaming, but I'm so deeply unsettled, in no small part due to the fact that it’s now pitch black here and I can’t imagine how it went from 7:30pm to, if the LED clock is right, 3:30am. It’s my full eight hours of sleep, just completely off kilter.

I sit up, trying to construct a post-mortem dream narrative, blanket and knees pulled to my chest. I remember visuals, none of them clear or pleasant. A feeling of being lost. A blank sky; no stars, no color, just clear. I remember screaming, and I’m not sure if it was my own voice; it’s been years since I’ve heard it. I remember a flock of crows, much more graceful and inviting than the ones at the bus stop, swooping down low enough to try and carry me, never reaching me. I remember gunshots racing after me in their stead, and when one pierces my leg, I wake.

I look around, reassessing my surroundings, seeing a picture of Christ near the clock. I perform the sign of the cross over myself, just for good luck. I lie back down, trying to regain enough peace to sleep, but in the back of my mind I wonder if there are as many memorials of Christ as there are of Lupita, and I wonder how David views you when it's clear that Father God became your unwanted stepfather throughout most of your life.

My attempts to fall asleep again fall flat, and watching the minutes tick by on the clock leaves me more bored than hypnotized, so I find my shoes and put them on. I look for my bag, finding it set just underneath the arm of the couch, the benefactor obvious. I smile until I realize that I haven't taken my medications. Sighing, I dig around until I find them, taking two small, damning pills, hoping their effect won't be too late; this is not a place to lose my grip. I look for my jacket and a pair of pants. In the dark of the night, I change, and fold the blanket onto the couch, trying to leave this place as I entered it, if such a thing is even possible.

I find the back door and walk into the garden. The stars in the open country sky light my path, so endless that it draws my attention more than the garden. Even then, looking around, I’m entranced. Just like the inside of the house, the precision of every flower, every vegetable, every bush, every vine on every plant is remarkable. It's like it never changes, never dies, never succumbs to winter like the crows. I wonder how much of this you set up, how integral this was in your decision to study botany. It’s a shame how I learn the most about you when I find out on my own rather than you telling me.

My trance is interrupted by a flashlight shining on the flower. I nearly leap out of my skin, already preparing indecipherable apologies, until I hear your voice. “Chill out,” you say as I follow the light source. “I’m right here.” I sigh, relieved, following the light like a moth to the flame. You're on the bench near an empty plot, flashlight targeting me. I admire you, adorned head to toe in a thick black trenchcoat and shin-high boots, black bangs nearly hiding your eyes. I sit next to you, scarf draping over your shoulder like a loose bandage. You reach for it, but I hold my hand up, removing it before you can adjust it. You shrug, moving the flashlight between our faces.

“You can't sleep either?” You mouth, lips active beneath the light.

“Speak normally,” I remind you, because you have a voice.

“S**t,” you hiss, looking away. “But yeah, whatever. You can't sleep either?”

I shake my head, taking the flashlight under my chin and replying, “Slept too much.”

You smile. “I'll say. You were out at seven thirty. But after this ride I don't blame you.” Your smile dissipates. “Just envy you.”

I don't respond immediately, just placing one hand in yours and holding the flashlight to the other. I turn the conversation to you. “I didn't expect your dad to be...”

“Such a holy roller?” you reply, spitting the words out. “Yeah, I figured you wouldn't take long to get that. Was hoping he'd cut that s**t out.”

“I don't mind it,” I admit.

“You don't have to live with it,” you point out.

I amend my statement. “I don’t mind some parts of it.”

You shake your head. “Well, that's why you're the good twin,” you joke, and I crack a smile. “And I'm the twin who's going to hell.”

Thankfully, you're still laughing, so I grin and reassure you “There's a list of reasons why I'll be joining you there.”

“And I'm one of them,” you reply sing-song, simmered to a smirk like the evil twin. I smile sweetly like the good twin.

“Yeah, I like some of the ideas of Christianity. I mean...” I notice you aren't looking at me, and words of Jesus being my first literary crush disappear on my tongue. You've got another thousand yard stare, blue eyes cold enough to freeze the stars. I place my hand on your back, crow-black hair weaving itself through my fingers, binding me further to you. I shine the flashlight in your face ever so slowly, leading you back to me as I try and fix you.

“Does he know?” I ask.

“About which?” you reply too quickly to sell that you weren't already thinking about it.

“Either-or,” I reply, quickly amending to “both.”

You nod. “Yes, and yes. Why do you think he spends so much time watching us?”

I sigh, my sympathy for David going nearly as high as my cynicism. “How did he react?”

“Jesus, April,” you reply. “How do you think? I mean, the first bombshell... he saw that coming. And he tried to react with grace, but I could tell. He can't hide s**t from me.” Your cathartic swearing is relieving to me, just to know you're letting go, that you can trust me. “The second one... no one saw that coming. And I had to call him. The police and the hospital required it, because I didn't have anyone else. And I still don't think he knows how to take it. But every time around I'm around him, he just can't take his eyes off of me. Like I'll disappear.”

“I didn't notice him watching us,” I admit. I realize you're worked up past the limit, so I settle you down with a gentle run through your hair.  “You have someone now.”

“I know,” you say, leaning under my hand like a kitten desperate for affection. “And so do you.”

“I knew that,” I insist. This isn't about me, in fact this is me checking up on you. I let you stop talking for a minute, content with the cadence of silence because I know I'm not alone.

“The garden is nice,” you say. “It's been in the family as long as we've lived here. It's why I'm into plants and all. It was just something that... every year, no matter what, we had a garden.”

I close my eyes, imagining decades of one garden growing the same every year, yielding different crops, and a different Violet entering every year, while I can't imagine David changing in the slightest, born an old soul, never changing, never growing. Every plant needs something to grow; David's nourishment was the Word of God, yours was change, understanding, natural rebellion. Mine was finding a voice.

“It's nice,” I say, not sure what else to say. You nod, and I feel you inch closer to me, every second a millimeter, every movement hesitant yet precise. I feel your movement, how you join with me like two wayward puzzle pieces. It’s tantalizingly close, but not quite, just like everything about what we are.

To my surprise, you say “You know what you'd like? We should walk through the fields. I mean, it ain't much, but it's nice, open, and you can see all the stars through there.” Speaking straight to my heart, I stand up before you finish, because I know poetry when I live it. You laugh and meet me. “Glad to see you're down,” you say, adjusting your trenchcoat. “Let's do this.”

The garden is in the distance in no time, the gate left open as we leave to the neighboring fields, all empty. It's so unusual to me to be walking at night without music, such is my aversion to lonely silence, but your steady breathing and the crush of nature beneath us acts as an ambient soundtrack to rival any other, going beautifully imperfectly to my erratic heartbeat. You guide me through fields that still have no grace or color to speak of, but somehow, the stars give them new life, and I wonder if I can appreciate them for what they were, not what I wish they could be.

We blaze a trail straight through to a tree that seems miles away, yet enticingly closer with every step. Neither of us speak, but our quickened step communicates everything. As we get there, you shine the flashlight forward, as if looking for something. I try to look as well, but unsure what for until you start walking faster, laughing, pulling me forward. I tug back, confused, yet strangely exhilarated. You can’t see me, so I can’t speak, leaving me no choice but to hold on. Finally, we get there, and I see something. You shine the flashlight on a hammock between two distant parts of the tree, stretched out to near perfection, if not hammered with visible foliage.

“He left it,” you whisper, and even without the aid of light I know you’re smiling, so I smile too. We clear the distance to the hammock, and after you hand me the flashlight I watch you overturn it and shake every last leaf out of it, scanning you like a spotlight, watching you work on it, trying to take in every facet of your appearance, as if it’s the last time I’ll be able to see. The things you are and the things I have can disappear so quickly.

Finally, it’s clear, and I pretend I haven’t been admiring you by returning the flashlight’s gaze to the hammock. There's a strange, sultry look you're sporting that turns blue eyes purple, and it makes my heart nearly leap out of my ears. It’s everything I think I want, but still makes me uneasy. Nerves, probably.

“We’re a mile away from the house,” you tell me, and indeed, I can barely see it even when I throw the flashlight at it. “There’s no need to pretend now.”

With that, you nearly throw yourself into the hammock, and I fear that it’ll fall and take you with it. Thankfully, it holds, and I know I won't shake things, so I sit with you. Before I can wrap my arm around you, you pull me to your chest. I let you, the gravitational pull strange this time.

“It’s nice out,” I say to no one, because I’m still holding the flashlight. I’m not sure if I want to say anything. You notice and take it from my hands, turning it off for now.

“Just let me know if you want to say anything.” Suddenly, I do, not knowing what I had until it was gone. I don’t know how to phrase it. I just wish I had the flashlight back, so I can make the choice myself.

It’s a few seconds before the first kiss on top of my head. Any of the affection you carry is consumed by the cancerous gnaw at the bottom of my stomach. Every time I feel like something more than your friend, you touch me in a way that makes me feel less like your equal and more like a chihuahua in your bag, a pet to show off, an object of affection and distance. In my head, as you rest your lips on it, I try and figure you out, with what I know, both obvious and implied, that keeps you from realizing that how I want you is getting in the way of the fact that I want you. Sometimes words are not enough.

I reach for your arm and squeeze it. Something seems to go through, because you stop. “Sorry,” you whisper. “I didn’t… I was just…” You sigh quietly, tension in your body compressing like a jammed spring. I try not to dig into you, but I adjust myself so I can figure out what I want.

I turn to face you, resting on top of you still. I don’t know if you can see me, but I say “better.” I’m not sure how much better, but for once, I have power. I return your kiss, barely reaching your neck, trying to measure every movement, fearing the simplest wrong touch will be a trigger. I'm gentle and cautious, trying to assuage your fear, but when I notice you stiffen, I realize that I’ve read you wrong, and the power fades. I push off of you and sit up. You pull yourself from underneath me, kicking my thigh in the process. You swear upon realizing it, but you’ve barely hurt me, not as badly as I seem to have hurt you.

You sit next to me, and we’re friends once again, the threshold fled. “Please don’t…” you gasp, sounding like me trying to speak. “Just not like that. You nerve me out when you do that.”

“Sorry,” I reply.

“No, it’s okay,” you say too quickly. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

I try to understand, but the more I hear it, the more the words burn me. Every effort I take to make you comfortable with me is met with you making me someone I pray to God I no longer am: fragile, delicate, to be handled lightly.

When I hurt you, you’re too scared to say it, as if the simplest disapproval will break me. When something passionate overtakes me, you act like what I want is adorable. When you retreat, we both know why, but you act like I'm too simple to know better when I'm a damn fool for you. Damn the right words, the right actions, the right attitude, you’ve left me at a fever pitch but you fail to see me as anything more than an egg needing to be incubated. I’ve made a lot of horrible choices that have left me weak but only in the highest of crises, not with every errant wind.

I grab the flashlight before you notice it’s gone and say “Please don’t kiss me like a child.” It’s a demand accented by strong, arched eyes, pointing straight at you, accusing you, demanding something more.

“Sorry,” you insist, turning away. “I was just trying to be careful.”

I turn you towards me. “Don’t,” I say into the flashlight. “Trust that I can handle things.”

“I said I’m sorry,” you groan. “Okay? Sorry that I didn’t do whatever it is you wanted.”

I would shut the flashlight if I knew you meant it, but I know you don’t. “All I want is for you to trust me,” I repeat.

“You don’t think I’d tell you half the s**t I do if I didn’t trust you?” you pry. “I let you know more than anyone else will ever know about me. What the hell do you even mean?”

“Trust me to be stronger,” I insist, words pouring out of me. “I can help you. I can move with you. Just stop acting like I can’t. I’m not who I used to be.”

You blink, as if I’m speaking gibberish. “I… do not know what planet you’re on.” With that, you turn away, resting against the hammock, leaving me mute once more. I shine the light on you, but you say “Just let it go. We could be fine. Just stop talking.”

That does it. I throw the flashlight on the ground, insulted beyond belief. You shoot up, clearly not knowing what planet you’re on. I stare you down, even though I know you couldn’t find my eyes in the shadow of the night. A flurry of words rain bullets through my mind but even if I had the flashlight in hand and your complete attention, I'd still have nothing to say.

I leave the flashlight be and start to walk away.

“Really?” you shout after me. “This is how you’re going to handle this. Go ahead, April!” I hear your footsteps retreat shortly to the hammock. “I was just trying to show you a nice evening. Just trying to make you happy. Whatever. You're such a child.”

All I can do as I clear distance between your voice and my silence is scream that you’re doing it all wrong, but it just comes out as taking the wind out of my own pipes and doing nothing with them, proving to the world I can stumble back home. Even though the wheat scrapes against my legs and makes my jacket filthy, I do, still feeling self-defeated. A single crow flies above me, a messenger of the murder still trying to take me with them, while all I can do is run, swearing that I’m okay, that I’ll never fly again, loathing the crow for its sympathy.

I pass through the garden, leaving the gate open. I’m inside the house quicker than that. I wonder if David’s awake, if he’s looking for us, if he knows. I don’t want to risk him seeing me, so I clamber into the bathroom, facing myself in the mirror, too scared to turn the lights on, too scared to see if I can see what everyone else  sees me as. Fragile, delicate, helpless, too much of a coward to face her own weaknesses, her own shame, her own past. Fleeing every time adversity hit, chased by more ghosts than Pac-Man, still missing her in a deep crevasse of my heart that craves the day where I didn’t perpetually earn the pity of every pair of eyes I meet.

I stand in darkness for ten more minutes before I leave, walking out into an empty room and tucking myself under the blanket, kicking my shoes off, taking my jacket off, reaching into my bag and popping a Dramamine, my hand again brushing against the notebook, making me crave someone like her who could talk to me how I wish you did. I hear the door open softly again, but pretend to be asleep as your footsteps find my body. You sit at the foot of the couch, next to my feet, breath repeatedly catching as if you mean to say something, but I can’t help you right now. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. Say what you need to say.

She would, and that’s what I miss the most about her.

I wait in silence for you to speak, and fall asleep before you ever do.

© 2018 Maeve Andrea

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Added on February 24, 2018
Last Updated on February 24, 2018
Tags: whisper, speak, garden, hammock, flashlight, love, depression, Christian, dreams


Maeve Andrea
Maeve Andrea

Delhi, Delhi, India

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