The Wanderer

Alice had a friend once. A friend that meant more than the universe, past, present and future. He was worth that.
But when he returns, different, beautiful, sixteen and full of mysterys, Alice wonders...Is that really him?
Changes...Pain...Hurt...
Wondering the paths of forbidden love, friendship, differences, can she really let herself become a companion of him?
Or will he just wander away, like many years before....

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1. Chapter 1

I remember when I first met him. Like a star in a cloud of raindrops…just appearing with the rain that fell from the firmament. I can remember him as being strong, strong like my Father, who could lift hordes of haystack: carrying them around smoothly, without showing the pain in his face or his upper arms, his muscles flexing while I watched him day by day. I used to do that a lot before I met him, observing how my father worked with the other men, penetrating the flaws and inaccuracy within the diminutive cluster of elders- taking notes on how to collect rather than squander.                                                                                                                                 

Squandering was a threat in Crescent Hills, California, and a threat my Mother could not articulate was hers. But we survived, and we still are.                                                                                                                                                             

I was sitting in a cornfield one flawless day…I can still remember the scent that the soft flowers protruded…the sweet smelling grass that seemed invisible to the prying animals that roamed around the desolate ochre…I was alone.                                                                                                 

It was customary occurrence that was never indefinitely unhealthy, but my Mother would condone an act of worriedness when I returned from my hour upon hour disappearances, knowing I had spent them isolated.                                                                                           

But then again, my Mother merely cared for me until I got older, wiser perhaps. I knew she very rarely connected with children, until my brother was born, even when she was little; she never wanted to be the diminutive of the family. It’s strange to remember our relationship back then, and confer to now, in this present day. She barely ever laid a finger upon me until I was twelve. Now we’re inseparable. But even my mother doesn’t know my innermost nefarious secrets.                                                                                                                                                     

So, there I was. The sun blared fiercely upon my cheeks, burning upon every aspect, but never truly touching me. My skin has afflicted the most painful scars, emotionally and physically…but the epidermis hides it all…the hurt lurking in the corners, ready to flare when the sudden subject is brought up.                                                                                                                  

The view was particularly beautiful that day; the melodious hills coming into reach at the end of the field, over lapping to make a mountainous clumber that the sun clearly drooled upon, casting shades of radiance here and there. Trees massed together to make a wondrous, though insignificant, canopy of leaves, the colours basking in the afternoon sun as though none had any trouble in the world.                                                                                                                        

But then again, they wouldn’t. They were leaves.                                                                       

I sat at the top, near the creek, where the small stream swum amongst the weeds and foliage, running my feet through the primrose, the soft skin feeling the petals as they would slip in and out of the cracks between my toes.                                                                                                  

 I was dreaming of course, exploring the caves of sight that seemed to imply my vision, no hurt included just peace and wonder. My dream concluded of the same field…the same sun…and a boy. A little boy by the corner, watching me secretly by the hedge rose. I couldn’t see the boy perfectly, but he was… pretty in fact. His stature was tall, skinny, and light…and he ran like a panther in the midst of an attack. I could imagine the wind crawling through his honey brown hair, scraping upon the scalp…                                                                                                 

It was only until I opened my eyes did I realise the boy was real. The field was real. I was real. The boy was running…sprinting across the pasture, his legs breaching out into long strokes of potency, his arms pumping up into a running motion, his face a picture of confusion…         

And then hurt. And pain.                                                                                                              

I watched from my spot, sitting on my heels in anticipation as the boy stopped dead, as though hitting a brick wall…and falling to his knees, as though in shame. He put his hair on his knees and let out a cry. The cry was like ragged knives to my ears, shaving away the aloofness, and instantly making me timorous.                                                                                                     

I stayed there for a while, my eyes never with-drawing from the child, fists clenching into balls of remorse, dragging me forward to something towards magnetic…devotion. Blood pumped unnecessarily through my bones, pounding…screaming…                                                                

Move.                                                                                                                                         

Before I could help myself, my legs mechanically moved to the distant rhythm of my heart; eyes securely safe on the shivering boy fifty metres away from my convulsing body.                     

I didn’t understand of course. That the instant attraction to the boy was, as my uncanny breath-taking mother would say…Unhealthy.                                                                                                     

I stopped. My legs locking into an emotionless stance of paralysation, the infectiously adorned heat now turning: arctic cold.                                                                                                     

Was it too late to run?                                                                                                            

 Run away from an unknown child…who just happened to be crying in the middle of a field. The importance of it, far stronger than ever a wish, was… implausible. Somewhere through my constant fighting arguments, raging inside of my head, I found myself getting closer and closer to him, a warm heat brandishing of the boy’s body, as I came level …Was that normal? But I could see him more clearly now. See his honey comb hair, sprinkled with brown that latched onto each noticeable strand…and his scrawny elbows, tucked underneath his body. I couldn’t see his face, but I could make out thick tears trickling down the sides of his cheekbones- running delicately into the tufts of gold.                                                                             

His nails, bitten and chewed to the edges, cupped his face, the fore of his skin, making a bitter sweet feeling creep into my stomach, clenching and twisting…                                                  

“Hello”. The untouchable whisper came projecting out into the creeping silence, surprising me, even though they are my own words. But they didn’t seem to surprise him. He shifted his head slightly, giving the resemblance of his face, an unfathomable gasp escaping from my mouth.         

His eyes were an astoundingly beautiful caramel, splashes of gold and yellow creeping into the corners of the irises, and when he looked at me, I felt…scared. Scared that, even know he looked like an ordinary ten years old boy, he was seeing into my soul. But of course, I hadn’t thought that then, I was only eight. Looking back on it, dwelling deeper and deeper into the hidden memories, I missed a lot of what he said to me, not really noticing the way he structured the sentence, fiddled with little pieces of grammar, to make it sound like music rather than talk.                                                                                                                         

So there I was staring continuously at the boys shaking body, marvelling as the tears soon dried up among his face, seeping into the smooth illusory tanned skin. And I sat. Sat staring, and drinking in the out of the ordinary occurrence, fighting myself against whether I should talk again. My conscience chose not.                                                                                              

So, sitting by the boy that day, I daydreamed, forgetting entirely about the mind twisting manifestation, the boy’s features feeding me the basic skeleton for a long winded story. I started with the hair.                                                                                                                                        

Died?

Ripped from an unsuspecting dwarf while in the midst of an attack?                                 

Next were the skinny, un-explaining arms.                                                                                           

A mosaic of match sticks? Young growing tree’s ripped from the ground an adventure to save a princess?                                                                                                                               

Lastly were the eyes. I didn’t have to day dream for that one.                                                              

A new type of gem stone….only one in the world… the only pair, belonging to a little boy…     

“Hello”. The voice came as an urge, a croaky plead, and this time I did jump. The ill-fitting daisy chain dropped from my hands, as I saw that his face was fronting mine, his body sitting parallel, and his knee’s tucked to his chest. I stared in wonderment, as he retrieved the chain from the thick blades of grass, picking at the petals with his long fingers.                                 

“Where are we?” He asked smoothly, still focusing on the daisies.                                                    

“Crescent Hills” I replied, wondering whether the boy had hit his head. I didn’t see any blood though.                                                                                                                                           

“I know that,” The boy said smiling beautifully, the little crease smoothening, his eyes twinkling with humour, “I mean: where are we? What is this place?”                                                      

“A field. I come here often…to play sometimes. I live up there, you see” I spoke, trying to reply the smile that could never be retorted. He settled on a grin this time that instantly made me jealous.                                                                                                                             

We sat in silence for a minute, and I studied him more carefully. He wore a basic grey t-shirt, and some worn shorts, adorned with some sneakers, battered, and obviously threadbare. My eyes caught on the necklace though; a basic thin rusty chain and an egg-shaped locket hanging from the end, bedecked with a small little door, which was…tantalizing. The urge to reach out and open the door was pleasurable, but somehow I withheld it and affixed my gaze back to the boy’s  face.                                                                                                                                

  “What’s your name?” He whispered, holding out the finished daisy, for me to slip my wrist back into. I did so, and it fit…perfectly. I slipped it through my wrist, and when his skin brushed mine, a slight burning adapted to mine, causing me to snatch my hand away. He looked puzzled, and stared at his thumb, as though seeing a vivid inflamed incision. I ignored the sudden happening, and carried on, my words tangling back into the rhythmic flutter of the wind.                                                                                                                                               “AliceBelle Vilder” I said clearly, pronouncing the words in an intact manner, as though he was old, and unable to hear. Usually, when I told others my name, they would pronounce it as Laura. Not the most uncommon name, but one that I now intensely dislike.                             

“I’m Daniel”.                                                                                                                                     

“Do you have a second name…?”                                                                                          

“No”. The answer was blunt and fierce, and…surprising. Every single girl and boy in my class of thirty had a middle and second name…but the look on his face told me not to venture into the matter. His eyes were ablaze now, like I had attempted to amble into a spine chilling war zone. Stifling through those memories with him, the last line he said to me was my favourite. A line that would beat the countless ones my Father would announce after every prayer at dinner…one that made me believe that life had more of an option to it, if you take in the little things that were really beautiful: ‘Alice, I like your eyes’. This resulted in a blush, and a flap about how they were the dullest blue, but he laughed, a tinkling, musical like sound, and carried on, as though what he had just said was long forgotten now.                                 

Subsequently, we were quiet for a while, breathing in the silence that wasn’t awkward or pronoun to stumbles…just relaxed. But we talked. We talked for…a long time. The sun setting in the midst of the hills, the colours lashing out onto the prairie, washing out our faces: time ticking absentmindly. But imaging the picture of an outside looking in, or even listening, it would have been concerning…watching a ten year old boy, and an eight year old boy, talking about unnecessary things, such as life, death, future…past. He fascinated me, knowing about all the different ways and paths of an uncanny ability to see, and me...drinking it all in, but not understanding any of it. But I did understand one thing. That night, when I returned home and my Mother was waiting by the door, with the usual question, I could reply with a truthful answer;

‘I wasn’t alone, I was with a friend’.

 

And we were inseparable from then on. A perfect match…best friends…nothing to define that. My Mother didn’t worry about me, and asked how my day went more frequently, resulting in an amusing groan from my brother and Father, but I know they were  secretly pleased that I wasn’t on my own.                                                                                                                          

I can remember masses of days where we would just sit in that cornfield, watching the sun sink generously beneath the clouds; a smile that would always hit me when the stars came out.     

The stars. Like twinkling light bulbs that fought against the skies brilliant blare…                  

But the day when we didn’t see the sunset made a mark in my brain. The memory that resounded along my temples, drumming through the waves of blood pulses: stirring an ache in the pit of my stomach, and a clawing pain that sucked up every word, and sentence that kept me sane with Daniel.                                                                                                                   

He’d joined me at my house this time, spending a while chatting to my brother, as they were subsequently the same age. Oakley, afterwards told me, he was bowled over by the wise words of Daniel, bold over that a skinny ‘kid’ like him could make such an impression. I later reminded him that he was also a skinny ‘kid’ too. That shut him up. But it didn’t make me laugh. I didn’t laugh for a while after Daniel left.                                                                        

My Father liked Daniel. All my family did. He brought a…light, if you like, and stuck it between us, blaring out the significant flaws and sufferings, mending them with words such as: ‘I love you’, Or ‘I’m sorry’. Or even a smile. When Daniel smiled, we all did.                              

But it was that day, when we left the house, he didn’t babble like usual. He just smiled occasionally at my mutterings about Oakley stealing some food, or grin at a piteous remark about how my Mother would sometimes not attend dinner to attend to the unborn baby.           

“What’s the baby going to be called?” He asked, and I replied I didn’t know. Remembering that last walk to the cornfield, I could recall that that was the only question he asked that day. The rest was just simple remarks, nothing to squander over, and nothing to worry about.         

Thinking about it, Daniel and I had been friends for a year then, and I was coming up to my ninth birthday, him eleven. We always paid no attention to our ages, or anything stupid like that. To be honest, we never did actually talk…properly. Not about the things that others should know about others- that didn’t seem to bother us.                                                          

We never talked about family either. And I never found out if Daniel had one. After those long gone days of exploring, and dancing around the woods until night fall, we always seemed to go back to my house for the night, and whenever I would ask about going to his, he would always trample over the suggestion with a simple look.                                                        

I only asked him once about his family.                                                                                  

That look hurt.                                                                                                                           

As we walked, I pondered whether to ask him what was wrong, but the expression that puzzled his face, made an uncanny shiver creep progressively up my spine, attending a look from Daniel that said :  ‘Something’s wrong, and you know it’.                                                      

“Let’s go play in the woods today!” I encouraged, grabbing hold of his hand, pulling it into our best friend clasp. But something was wrong. His hand was skinny and cold. Not the usual warmth that it would condone, the full fingers that would squeeze mine…No.                          

I looked scarcely at his face, and a faint gasp escaped form my lips. His face was pinched, as though lifeless: instead of the usual effortless tan, a skin filled with drafts of placidness-as though he wasn’t there. His lips hung dull, and not as plump and shiny…pale and insipid.         

A choke ripped through my mouth when I came level to his eyes- the caramel brown irises nowhere to be seen.                                                                                                                      

Grey.                                                                                                                                                 

 As though his soul had been ripped from his chest in a flurry of panic- resulting in the withdrawal of the parts of him that was most… profitable.                                                        

“Daniel” I seemed to express, the words less than a whisper to my ears. His head turned up to me, his face becoming solemn, as he traced the crevices of the locket he never took off. His finger froze over the little metallic door, my heart beat sounding more of a stampeding horse, rather than the hum of a bird.                                                                                                        

 “Is that your heart?” The question made me solidify, my arms and legs paralyzing precipitously.                                                                                                                                 

How could he have heard…my heart? I gulped, and shook my head replying that maybe it was a butterfly or something non-hazardous like that. He laughed, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. Nothing reached his eyes though.                                                                                     

It was as though they weren’t even there.                                                                                  

We’d come to the top of the hill now, the mountains that always seemed so vast, now appeared of no importance, diminutive, like a grey cloud amongst a thousand others.                                   

Daniel stood facing them, my eyes boring into the side of his face, searing into the shrunken skin, those lifeless eyes, and I felt…scared. A feeling I could never suffer with my best friend.   

“What’s the matter Daniel?” I managed to whisper, my hand clutching at the motionless, serrated skin, my hand touching his completely…all though I felt I was a million miles away.     

“I have to go home now Martha” He whispered meticulously, letting go of my hand, and staring into my eyes for a second, another tremor sprinting wearily across my bones.                      

The words were normal, but suppressed a different meaning altogether to me.                        

 “Okay, bye”  I replied, letting go of him, and feeling my way through the sudden, brusque darkness that bit at my cheeks- the wind harshly slapping at my legs.                                                   

I carried on walking, and this time I did turn back, to see him staring at me. The stare that made me tremble one more time, before I ran back home: shuddering convulsively into the arms of my Mother.                                                                                                                             

I’ll see him tomorrow, he’ll be fine then.                                                                             

But I didn’t understand, did I? I should have gone back…wrapped him up in my arms and told him to never let go…but instead I watched him walk away. Instead I didn’t realise that would be the last time I saw him.                                                                                                          

Every day, waiting, seeking…but never finding. Just wandering.                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                       

                                   

                                                                                               

                                               

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