The Ravens

The Ravens

A Story by Joshua Donahue

A short story about dealing with the ultimate heartache from the one that got away.




            I have been facing his empty shadow for so long now that I have forgotten his physical form. He brought me happiness once, creating ravens of peace inside. We were in love, and times were easy. Then as we entered that December of permanence together, I was unaware of the fact that I would remain in the cold while he moved on. He brought about the ashen black ravens with red eyes. He created these creatures with his actions and words, leaving me as their keeper. Consequently, they have become my inner demons. The ravens are the creatures that break the silence he left after he brewed a storm of heartache and grief. They are the ones that I must talk to late at night, urging them to subside. They only listen to me momentarily, until they begin becoming unruly again. That is when I must feed them by letting my tears fall in the corner of my room where no one can see or hear. It is this corner that his shadow remains since his departure.

*          *          *

Kiss. Touch of cheek. Kiss again. Smile.

“I love you. Just know that,” he whispers.

“Not as much as I love you though,” I whisper back.

“I know,” he mutters.

I jolt upright in bed, my chest heaving erratically. The ache is back. The pit inside of my stomach has opened up again, ready to swallow me whole. Then I feel the liquid droplets falling from my eyes lightly. Though, they make rolling thunder as they splatter upon my sheets.

The darkness of my bedroom occupies all sense of empty space. The door is shut tightly, the lights are off, and the windows are confined from all traces of light from the outside world. Nothing is meant to come inside, just as nothing is meant to go outside.

“No…Stop. You are okay. Just stop thinking, and then you’ll stop feeling.” I breathe deeply. It is another lesson I must learn -- the lesson of letting go, of living substantially in the aftermath of it all. “Breathe. Just breathe.” I recite the words to myself several times. They are words of strength.

I shake my head smoothly as the nightmare fades along with the tears. Sigh. The blankets are pulled away from my body as I climb from my bed. I need water from the kitchen; my mouth is dry and hollow. The floorboards of my room are cold and barren as my feet pace across them. They are rough and splintery, even though they are meant to be smooth to the touch. Silence in the room screams out to me.

I open my bedroom door, and air fills the room with mildness. The emptiness behind the air, however, is deafening. The hallway is no better as my ears ring with stillness. I turn my head to the right, in the direction of my parents’ room. Quietness. Typically, a fan would be spinning its blades, putting someone to sleep. It showed a sense of the living. Thus, I do not even bother to check the room for human existence. It is empty.

I travel down the hallway, and when I reach my younger sister’s room, I poke my head inside. It, too, is empty. Nothing remains inside of it. All materials are gone -- toys, posters, bed, lamp, decorations. All of it has disappeared, as if no one has ever lived in the room at all.

Removing myself from the room with questioning feelings, I stare at the doorframe momentarily. I hunt for the height etchings that my mother recorded with my sister once every few months. It is dark, so I can’t quite determine if they physically exist or not. My hand runs across the surface. Smooth to the touch, I determine. No etchings are in existence.

I go to my parents’ room then. It is the same there as well -- emptiness.

After making my way down the steps in darkness, I reach the ground floor. The air in the living room gives me chills as I feel it vibrating across my legs and arms. It is cold. My breath is void as it feels pasty, hovering in the air. My life is my environment, a wasteland.

All I can see is barrenness. The living room displays pure extinction, void of life. It has been stripped free of furniture and personal belongings that once made the room lively. The windows that were meant to shed light are no longer visible; they are guarded by planks of wood that make seeing outside impossible. Even the front door is closed up with splintery wood. Odd.

Nonetheless, I do not question. I continue through the living room, finding myself inside the kitchen. I spot a single glass cup resting upon the counter, glistening in the darkness. It has the water I need, so I seize the icy cold glass in my hand. Desperately gulping the liquid, I empty it within seconds.

Kiss. Touch of cheek. Kiss again. Smile.

“I love you. Just know that,” he whispers.

“Not as much as I love you though,” I whisper back.

“I know,” he mutters.

The glass slips from my grasp, and it shatters upon impact. Yet, I am unfazed.

I lean down, and I pick up a small shard of the glass. It feels welcoming to hold such an object between my fingertips. A smooth texture with such a sharp point, ready to puncture anything. Oh, how easy it would be to allow the sharpness to meet my wrist again. Sense of feeling and thought would truly be left behind then. Maybe that is why I am in this Godforsaken place to begin with -- because I went to the point of no return…

Just as quick as the thought arrives, it recedes back into the depths from which it came. I toss the shard aside just as I see a light across the room. A doorway is outlined by it, and I proceed to open it.

Light. My eyes are hit instantaneously with it as I open the door, and I am blinded by pure, rich whiteness. It takes a few moments, but my vision returns to me. I see a layer of grainy sand with the surface of the ocean beyond it.

The side porch of my family’s beach house creaks as I step down from it. My toes consume the sand between them as my legs and arms absorb the sun’s heat. I am escaping a house of coldness and chills in order to be basked in warmness by the sun.

I stick my thumbs in the belt loops of my shorts as I make my way to the shore. I hear the audible tides moving to and fro. But that is all I hear. My eyes scan my surroundings to see if anyone else is outside on such a beautiful day. However, no one is. No life is seen or heard, only emptiness.

I am almost to the water. Then another memory attacks.

“Good morning,” he says.

“Don’t talk to me,” I say sternly.

He pauses. “Are…Are you serious?”

I laugh. “Of course not.”

He is shaken. “Please. Don’t ever do that again. I could never stand you being mad at me. Ever.” He breathes deeply. “Now my head is hurting.”

I freeze. My chest is heaving slightly again. The pain is arriving once more, trying to squeeze my body indefinitely. It won’t let go this time. I know it.

“Are you okay?” the teacher asks him. He has been rubbing his temples for the past five minutes. He has a headache, I notice. He gets those when he is stressed, worried, and hurting inside.

He nods his head.

“Are you sure? Because you can take a break if you want to and just finish this later,” the teacher says.

He thinks it over, and then he gets up and leaves the room. It is after school, and the hallways are empty.

I know secretly why he has a headache. We aren’t talking to one another. An idiotic fight had erupted previously.

My knees begin to shake. I feel like screaming. I want to yell at the world so I can show how much I hate it, how much I hate him for all of this.

“Just breathe. Just breathe,” I mumble to myself continuously. It does no good, however. Not this time. The cage inside me has crumbled. It has rusted irreparably from the tears that I have kept inside for self preservation. Every raven that I once held within is beginning to fly out one by one. Now another one escapes.

“Please tell me,” I say.

“Tell you what?” he replies.

“What you’re hiding from me. I know you are hiding something. Please tell me.”

He refuses.

Twenty minutes of persistent pleading passes.

“Okay. I’ll tell you. I don’t know how to say this, but… I -- I’m a father. I have a daughter with someone else. It was before I met you though. I just recently found out she existed.”

I freeze. I can’t cry. I can’t speak.

The combination of the intense heat from the sun and rapid panic pushes me to my knees; I fall to the ground. My teeth pierce my bottom lip until it bleeds as I try to control the memories, to place them inside the bottle of my heart. I can’t. I am too weak. No Savior is here for me today. No father… No mother… No God… No lover. I am alone.

My insides are bellowing at me, telling me to recapture the ravens that are soaring around chaotically. I want to fulfill their requests, but I cannot find the strength to do so. I reside in another cage. I cannot return.

I end the relationship.

But then I try to fix my mistake. I can’t live without him. I must accept his baggage if I want this to work.

However, he refuses. He claims we need a break.

I shatter inside.

The memories resemble rocks, pelting me with self hatred. They are literally stoning me to death. Yet, they do not bruise me -- they can’t. I am already bruised to the point of death. Instead, they are only bringing the ache to the surface.

“I still miss you. And I love you. Do you still miss me?” I say into the receiver, trying not to choke up.

“Yes. I miss your voice. You’re a good friend.”

“Do you still love me?”


Silence. What I had inside of me breaks as the phone drops and the call ends.

Dark ravens are attacking me. The ravens are furious with me. I have kept them caged inside for so long without nourishment. They are hungry for revenge. They want to pluck me from the inside out.

Kiss. Touch of cheek. Smile.

“Please promise me something,” I say.

“Anything,” he says.

“Promise me that you won’t let me fall. Promise me that you won’t let me go,” I plead.

He pauses momentarily. Then he smiles sweetly. “I promise.”

Kiss. Touch of cheek.

“I promise,” he repeats.

“You promised me!” I scream to the sky, to the sand, and to the sea.

I am bleeding pain now as tears fall inexorably down my cheeks. My fists are balled, pounding the ground ferociously. “You promised me!”

I am heaving, and my chest is hurting, my lungs are pleading for air. They are hastily pumping for it, but to no avail.

“God? Anyone? Please!” My breathing is swift. “Please take it. Take the pain away. Numb it. Please. I’m begging you.”


I manage to drown out the waves of the ocean and the flowing of the wind with an earsplitting scream.

“Just breathe. Just breathe.” A few more tears flow. Then I scream again, followed by three intense screams of more pain.

The wind blows gently through my hair, brushing my face with coolness. Thundering waves are crashing upon the shore, soothing me somehow, bringing me back to reality. I look towards my original destination, the sea, and I see a black object in its direction residing on the shore. I take advantage of the sustained memories, of the sustained emotions, and I move my body. I know I cannot turn the dark things off, but I can nudge them to the back inside me.

I travel toward the black object, toward the piano. Soft musical notes are sounding off around me, beckoning me to reach it peacefully, as the words of the past linger inside. Phrases that I yearn to hear once again, that are trying to take control of me, linger as those words, but I muster the strength to fight.

I reach the shoreline as my fingers graze across the shiny black top of the grand piano. It is surprisingly cool to the touch. Then my fingertips tarry on the keys meticulously. Animal noises can be heard in the distance, and so my head looks up into the brightly lit sky.

Seagulls. They are beginning to take flight for the day’s travel. I smell the saline air around me as my nose crinkles slightly. I feel as if I could lick the salt it is so palpable.

I sit before the piano while he is in the shower.

My hands press the keys with high energy. It is a way of releasing the greatness that he makes me feel inside.

The shower turns off, and he enters the room partially dressed.

“You can actually play,” he says, staring at me with wonder.

I smile.

“I thought you were just joking when you said you could play the piano.” His lips pull up into a smile. “But you’re still a rookie. Slide over and I will teach you some things,” he says.

I do so. He teaches me various chords and notes to songs he enjoys. Although his main instrument is not piano of the school band, he is successful at out schooling me in pressing the keys with gracefulness.

He looks at me as I am grinning like a doofus at him. He laughs. “I want you to hear something. It’s a piece that I started a long time ago, but I lost interest. You have inspired me to finish it. So…it’s for you.”

I nod my head for him to begin.

He fabricates the most exquisite piece of music my ears have ever detected. A tune of happiness.

I resume looking at the piano before me. I covet to hear the musical notes played, and so I sit on the small black stool in front. My fingers hover above the keys briefly. I recall my childhood piano classes as my hands take proper form.

Before I know it, my left hand plays a simple bass line of an entire E flat octave, switching to an F sharp octave next and then onto a C sharp octave.

“You know, I still want my hug,” he says.

“What hug?”

“The hug you owe me. You made our first hug so awkward. So I want that other one you promised.”

“I promised another hug? Hm…” I say with feign puzzlement.

He grins.”Can I have it?”

I sigh with a smile. “I suppose.”

I give it to him. Yet, it lasts longer than it should. Seconds become minutes. Then he makes the bold move and kisses me lightly on the cheek

 I return the favor. Then we both return it. Our first kiss.

In synchronization, my right hand plays the beginning of the introductory notes: F sharp, B, F sharp, followed by B flat. Then it progresses forward with the remaining notes to coincide with the bass line.

“Open your mouth,” he says with a joyous smile.

“What are those things?”

“Candy. Skittles gum. Now open your mouth.”

I open my mouth discreetly. He playfully lands one on my collarbone as he pretends to be an NBA player with my parted lips as the net.

We both laugh at the failure.

I feel no effort being applied to the music; my hands are dancing freely. They are constructing the melody they know by heart, as if the piano is playing itself. The melody withholds its own raven of a memory…

We lay upon his bed, and the house is empty. A film titled The Last Song is playing on the television.

He is holding my hand, squeezing it for reassurance. It is reassurance not for me, I realize, but reassurance that I still exist for him.

The film reaches its climax, and the movie’s melody theme plays. Tears begin rolling down my cheeks. I do my best to hide it; I do not like to be vulnerable.

He recognizes the tears are flowing. He squeezes even tighter. This time, for us.

            As my fingers prance wildly upon the black and white keys, a tear falls. I am unsure whether it falls from the angry ravens or the peaceful ravens I now am feeling. Nevertheless, the tear is not alone. It has brought company as well. Tears fall from my eyes with delicacy as they are now my companions.

            Then I sense your presence. I begin feeling your skin -- it hovers over my fingers as I play. Your hands are on top of mine, pressing the keys as I do. You are encouraging me to keep going, to finish this out to the end.

My phone rings, and I answer it.


“Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” I reply with a smile taking over my expression.

“What are you doing?” he asks, even though he knows just as he does every other night.

“Lying in bed. Listening to music.”

“Music never fails,” he says with such wisdom of a music geek.

“I know.” I smirk. “What are you doing?”

“Just got off from work. I’m driving now. I wanted to hear your voice. To keep me awake. I am so tired. It’s been a long day,” he says.

I sigh for him. “Aw…Well, I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

“You’re doing it now. With your voice.”

Our fingers dance into the next verse of the song as the tides of the sea roll in and out from the shore. The water splashes in a gentle motion upon the sand. Further out, the sea is calm, and the light sparkles across its surface. Diamonds are illuminating the vista ahead of the piano. The seagulls are taking pride in this as they fly seamlessly through the wind. After all, the wind is the master of their dominion.

The wind is not controlling me though -- you are. You are teaching me the notes of the song all over again, just as you did in a previous life. Your musical inclination is reeling me in once more. It was always the thing that I loved most about you. Your talented hands would play instruments, producing such magnificent sounds. My ears always found it marveling.

“Can you help me study for this chemistry exam? Seeing as you get to exempt it because you have an A in that class,” he says.

I laugh softly. “Of course.”

He hands me his study notes.

I call out the question and the answer choices for him. I make the questioning of it easy at first, but then I increase the difficulty. He is a grade level higher than me and very intelligent, and so I must push him.

He misses the first five questions.

“You are terrible at this. It is so easy. How can you be doing this bad?” I say with small laughter.

He grins and shrugs. “Alright. Every time I get a question correct, I get a kiss. Every time I get one wrong, you get to slap me.”

I laugh. “Deal.”

He manages to get the rest of them correct, missing only four of them. The deal is kept.

            We reach the bridge of the song. The keystrokes come to a soft rate just as my senses heighten. I hear every note being played pitch-perfect along with the tides moving. I feel your presence engulfing me just like the scene around me. I see your hands holding mine, but your face is elsewhere. I smell your minty breathe nearby mixed with your cologne.  I taste the warm saltiness of my tears as they flow slowly down my cheeks and remain on my lips.

“I need a hug from you so badly. It has been too long,” he says through the phone.

“I agree,” I tell him, even though we see each other everyday at school. Yet, no one can know. They would judge. They would kill with their eyes and gossip.

“Your hugs just make me feel so much better. They reassure me,” he tells me.

The final note is pressed down on the piano. I hold it interminably with my right hand even though you do not. I want your presence to remain with me. If I release the key from our fingers, you will vanish into thin air. I know it.

Despite the consequences, you engage all fingers with my hand. You intertwine them with mine, and you pull my hand away from the piano.

The wind shoots a slight breeze. “Let go. Let go,” you whisper into my ear.

I obey. The sense of your presence vanishes completely just as you disappear, deserting me on the beach with merely an empty piano.

The tears are no longer pouring; they have ceased. A final tear is running down my right cheek as I stare out into the open sea. The water dazzles. Each sparkle explodes with music as the ocean rolls gently. I realize I am producing my own melody now.

I subtly stand from the stool as I begin walking toward the water. The sun is sinking below the horizon as my legs dissolve into the landscape. I am unsure where I am going to find myself, and yet, I know I will not find myself waking up again in the mornings. I will not find myself getting dressed for high school, facing my old love. I will not find myself hanging out with friends. I will not find myself alive because I have indeed gone to the point of no return. When I awoke earlier from my nightmare of reminiscing, I realize I never physically woke up to begin with. Thus, I am leaving the limbo of where I was behind now. I will find myself in a place of forgiveness, a place of light in which my ears will continue hearing their own melodies. I have been keeping myself alive by candlelight in an auditorium of shadows. Now I am relinquishing myself from that place; I am arriving out of darkness.

I then realize that one will eventually arrive to a point where loving someone is unconditional. It is not because that someone is a good person, a bad person, or anything in between. There is no guarantee that togetherness will last forever, however. There is also no guarantee that love will not hurt. Love has no physical eyes; it knows no law. Therefore, love does not draw lines of restriction when it comes to race or gender. Love is love.

I ponder this wisdom as I wade further into the cool ocean. My eyes are still set on the light ahead.

Kiss. Touch of cheek. Kiss again. Smile.

“I love you. Just know that,” he whispers.

“Not as much as I love you though,” I whisper back.

“I know,” he mutters. “I know, Josh.”


© 2013 Joshua Donahue

Author's Note

Joshua Donahue
I hope you enter(ed) this story with an open mind and a clear heart. If you have, then you truly understood the concept of the story and its ultimate layers. Thank you.

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Featured Review

I pictured this whole story clearly in my head. i loved the imagery and the choice of words, they flow so well together, also i really felt the emotion in this piece and it continued to captivate me from beginning to end. Beautifully written! Fantastic job!

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Very well-written, almost lyrical view of first love. Raw emotions. Fleeting impressions. Remembered wisps of shared conversations. Always laced with the stark reality that the relationship is over.

I look forward to reading more of your stories, real or imagined.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I pictured this whole story clearly in my head. i loved the imagery and the choice of words, they flow so well together, also i really felt the emotion in this piece and it continued to captivate me from beginning to end. Beautifully written! Fantastic job!

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Soooooo enthralling. Drug me in.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Thia is AMAZING I felt every emotion you wrote. Stunning write

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The attraction phase of romance is always awkward... I don't think there is honestly anything more humiliating on earth. You capture the clumsiness well in halted phrases and retelling.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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5 Reviews
Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on February 19, 2012
Last Updated on April 11, 2013
Tags: pain, love, heartache, agony, anguish, dark, moody, beautiful, music, piano, gay, memory, raven, the one, heart, soul, dream, depression, homosexual, twist, breakup, teen


Joshua Donahue
Joshua Donahue

Jefferson, SC

UPDATE! 06.27.13 Hello, WritersCafe! I realize that I have abandoned my account since the summer of 2013. Since then I have started college, and I have experienced... a lot. However, this does no.. more..