Autumn leaves crunched under her feet, which were clad in black combat boots that came up to her knees; covering a pair of thick black tights. Alexandria didn't know why she had decided to wear her plaid skirt with the thin black windcheater and blue blouse to the forest. It was a muddy place, barren of souls. Maybe, though, that was why she liked it... the quiet sounds of birds and wind and trees. The smell of rain and grass and mildew. The sight of brown and gold and red. The feel of cold and damp and morning. She loved it all above anything and hated that she would never get to see it all. Over the summer, she had trekked at least half of the grand acreage, but now her great expedition would come to a close. Now that she was leaving what had come to be known as home.
And always would be.
Checking her watch, Alexandria saw she had an hour left. Which meant she could stay for a few more moments, just a few. Breathing in deeply, the sharp cold air filled her lungs to the full, giving her yet another feeling of despair as she would no longer be able to smell the beautiful scent of wood and forest. "The bluebells will be coming out in six months time," she muttered to herself. It was late September, and before anyone knew it, beautiful flowers would be popping up from the most unlikely of places. "And I will be long gone," there was no reply but the wind blowing gently in the direction of home. Sighing, Alexandria turned around and started her journey back.
There was no point in staying for longer when it would simply hurt her more. Sliding down a clay hill, she ended up with a pair of muddy boots and a horrible trek home; the quicker path was behind her, on top of the hill. Alexandria shrugged to herself and half-jogged half-walked through a meadow, the grass tickling at her legs. A bark came from the left, a dog running ahead to catch a stick that its owner had thrown. An elderly couple patted the pet once he returned with the prize, its tail wagged excitedly at the praise. Carrying on with a smile, Alexandria re-submerged into the acreage.
Wind stirred, creating some sort of primitive music with the tree branches as they hit their barren limbs against each other. Tilting her head up, she saw a bird nestle back down into the home it held high up in the braches. How nice it would be to fly, Alexandria looked to the sky as she turned on the spot, to get away from all of this and never be held back. Too bad we are given what we have and then remain stuck with it forever... Closing her eyes slowly, Alexandria burst into a run, the closest she could get to flying. Having been raised around the forest her whole life, she knew it almost like the back of her hand, like how she had known her twin. At least some memories had stayed with her - like the time they had both got caught in the rain, deep in the woods. How their mother had been annoyed when the two had turned up drenched and splattered with mud.
Now, she ran and ran, jumping over fallen trees and swerving out of the way of the still standing ones. Swatting aside the low-hanging branches, treading over the long grass, sliding down the banks and racing around others, Alexandria stopped at a great oak. A carving of a lion claw indicated she was nearly home. Another memory she had not lost from the accident; her brother had scratched it into the trunk so that they could always know they were close to home. Knowing there was a tear in her eyes, on the cusp of trickling down her face, she rested her forehead against the crude drawing. The salty drop fell to the ground, everything in slow motion. Still were the trees, silent the air as the birds stopped - as if they were paying respect to her lost brother. "I'll find you again brother, you have my word."
Quickly drying her eyes, Alexandria flipped her hair over one shoulder and steadily walked to the house. The great Edwardian manor broke through the woods, a tall building amongst equally over-towering trees. Movers were outside, taking trunk to the train station. Xandria's mother waved them off, calling a thank you after the heavy vehicle. "Alexandria! I was beginning to worry," Ida grabbed hold of her daughter's shoulders as soon as she was close enough, "You had been out there awfully long - almost three hours."
"Apologies, mother, I had not meant to be so inconsiderate. But I am returned, I see my things have been taken to the station. What are we to do now, it seems as if everything has already been done. I feel rather useless." She turned back to her frantic mother, those brown eyes of Ida's only showing a certain worry. They went inside, escaping the frigid air before discussing things further. "I have no idea as to what I should do until tomorrow."
Ida sighed, taking a strand of her daughter's silky chestnut hair and stroked it tenderly. There eyes met, "You should rest, darling, that is what you should do. You've had a harrowing experience and for a long time afterwards you did not talk about it, or anything. Xandria, my darling, you need to rest - especially since we're driving all the way up north tomorrow." Alexandria almost huffed and stormed away, her mother was always bringing up that night. As if she didn't have the accident scarred onto the backs of her eyelids already.
Thinking on some sort of excuse to escape, Alexandria washed out the drones of her mother as they went into the kitchen. Ida started to take out food for her lunch - probably a salad since there was a lot of vegetables already on the counter. Continuing to talk while her daughter fell back into a daydream, Ida remained oblivious to the thoughts that churned inside Alexandria's mind. "Mother," Ida turned to face her, "I think that I should go and sleep, you're right. We have along journey tomorrow and I should be at my full attention since I'm going to a new school."
"Of course, darling," Ida patted her hand before Xandria left to go to her room. Striding past the living area to the right of the staircase, she glanced in to see a maid sneakily pocketing something. Thief, Xandria thought immediately as she carried on up the curved flight of stairs. Finding herself in her room, she flumped down onto her bed to stare at the ceiling. It was pale, white, like the rest of her room - there was nothing special about it but kept her line of sight intrigued. Before long, Alexandria had picked up her first edition copy of Dante's Inferno and begun to read it, the gold leaf pages quickly being flicked over and over again until she was a third of the way in. And after only two hours as well.
Beginning to be bored with the nineteenth century novel, Alexandria set it aside. Jumping up, she travelled to her oak desk; cartridge paper, quills and ink pots lying in wait for her to use. "May as well," she muttered to herself, taking a seat and picking up her Japanese quill to study the foreign calligraphy further. Some may call it strange, Xandria recalled at those who made fun and teased at her hobbies, but I think it rather tasteful. They came out as fluently as ever, the symbols scrawled across the page so aesthetically, one could almost call it art. After a while, the page was full with different sizes and forms of the language. In the centre left, there was the biggest of them all; the word for brother, 兄. Around it came remembrance, love, honour, faith, bloodshed, accident, trust carrying on with all the words she could think of relating to the tragedy. The smallest, in the bottom right corner was the Japanese word for name. The page signified all that was and had been running through her mind ever since the night her brother had died, name being the smallest for she had remembered it least. Alexandria knew that it was one-syllable and common enough, but that was all she knew. Nothing else. Not even a letter.
A shudder went through the house as the door closed shut. Father, she thought without even hesitating. Her mother would say she were sleeping, then she would not have to bother with the formalities of him coming home. Good, I do not have the strength to be polite right now. Everything seems to be fading from my grasp, Alexandria wandered back to her bed, even my brother. I can scarcely recall his face, his voice, his beautiful smile. I already lost you, now I lose you again. You only remain so close by these pictures, here. She looked up to the photo booth strips, her brother and her pulling faces and having fun. It did not seem fair to her. The thought of the crash was blunt enough, now to hardly recall his features that she had known so well; it frightened her beyond belief. Ida had moved everything away right after the funeral - not that Xandria had gone - everything that had once been her twin's. Just another empty room in the house.
That thought haunted her as Xandria stared up into the starry sky, waiting for sleep to smother her.
The sound of the car crashing. The party lights flashing. The flames licking at the pitch night. All the people dancing. The man in the car sleeping. The drinks clinking. The people rushing towards the girl on the floor. Everything flashed in front of her eyes. Everything that had happened that night. And what came after. Xandria remembered waking up in the hospital, her parents at her side, the doctor just to the left. Even though she had known it, she had immediately asked for her brother. Her twin.
And the look on their faces...
A guilty thing between them passed, before the three turned back to her. Xandria's mother and father could not even utter a word - leaving it to the noble doctor to tell all that had transpired to this broken girl. She had cried for the rest of the day after that. After being told that her brother had died on impact and there was no way he could have been revived. Though the next day was worse, for she realised that she no longer new his name. Her parents were inclined to tell her immediately, however Alexandria stopped them before anything could be said. "I need my own time to remember," she looked up with watery eyes into their mournful ones, "please." And they had conceded to their daughter's will.
A few weeks later, the funeral was happening, while she still lay in hospital. A therapist had come to talk to her; to see how she felt. Xandria did not talk. How could she speak of feelings when she had none? There was something missing from her ever since that night, was it truly that her brother had been lost and she too along with him? Were they that bounded that when one was lost the other could not remain? She smiled at the thought, desperately hoping that it would be true. At least then she would be with the one and only person who would ever understand her.
Alexandria remembered returning home, people coming to see her - though it was probably out of courtesy and not pity. No one was allowed to see her, somehow they all reminded her of her brother. Even her friends, especially her friends, they were the last people with her on the night of the accident. And nothing could remind her more than that. Now everyone was gone, she was alone. Alone with half-memories of her twin. But sometimes they weren't enough.
She use to cry herself to sleep every night. And wake up with a sodden pillow and cracked voice. Then her day consisted of sitting, daydreaming... remembering. It was like she were an addict, binging on the past of her and her brother. All the times they had been together, from the age of toddlers to the day before he accident. Sure, some parts were in patches, either completely blank or hazy but it was nice to think of him as if he were still alive. And Xandria knew that if she had one wish, even though there were all the bad things in the world, she would be wholly and unquestionably selfish in asking for her brother to come back. Even if in return she had to give away her soul, or damn the world to an uneasy fate; Xandria would never look back in regret or disgust at what she had done. For she knew, if he were back by her side, the memory of that night would slowly fade away.
And she would not wake up to it like always.
Town was the same. The centre was a courtyard, a fountain in the direct middle that was surrounded by shops. Down the road there was an old movie theatre, they often showed new releases but there was the occasional black and white classic. It was Thursday, market day. Milling around all over the place were mothers with their children, buying locally produced goods and pining over the little trinkets that some sold. Here and there appeared a few artists or pebblers with their wares, calling fro sales and attention. Some sold beautifully made watches, others landscapes of the surrounding woods and meadows. Alexandria stared out of the window, as if she were trapped, as the car rolled along across the streets of her home town.
There was the shop that she had gone to, to buy all her clothes for every season and event. There was the restaurant her and her brother had had lunch at for years. She almost felt like crying, yet could not bring herself to do so. Oddly enough, she spotted her friends disappearing into a store to get some books. They had all loved books, their one passion that they had all shared, sealing them in an unbreakable friendship. "Stop the car," Ida called to Jeffrey, their driver. He halted at the side of the road, directly opposite Alexandria's favourite book store - and the one her friends had gone into. "Go and talk to them," Ida told her, she looked up in disbelief immediately. "Go and talk to them otherwise I will go in there and get them for you."
"Father," Alexandria immediately asked him, trying to get someone to see her side of the story. Why couldn't they understand? Her friends would not speak to her; not after how she had shut them out. Every time she thought of that night, she thought of the drinks that her friend had given her. They were probably what had caused the accident. Maybe it was not her friend's fault but it was certainly hard not to see it as that.
Robert sighed, turning to his wife and daughter. "I agree with your mother," he said, closing the argument before it had even started. Alexandria looked, anger in her eyes, between them both before huffing out of the car and storming over to the store. It was a rather small shop, the entry to which was a glass door. Placing her hand onto the long steel handle, the cold touch somehow making her senses on high alert, she loosed a breath before walking into the book store. A bell rung and her friend turned around. They were all in their own clothes. Mostly jeans, though one was wearing a denim skater skirt - Jeanine, always standing out from the crowd. She had a white vest on, a black jacket over it. Ankle boots with knee length socks rolled down covered her feet. Even thought it was autumn, she still acted like it was summer.
"Hello," she said, her voice reminding Xandria of a startled fawn in the woods. The other two - Hester and Elizabeth - turned around as they realised who Jeanine was talking to. They had been looking at books on the shelf to the left of the shop. Jeanine was at the counter, directly opposite the door. Hester, her long dark hair tied back into a bun, was rather shocked; her mouth dropped open and brown eyes wide. Freckles dotted across Elizabeth's profile as she scrunched it up into a frown.
Suddenly finding her voice, she spoke. "Alexandria, you're wearing school clothes." That's all she had to say after the six months of not seeing me? After she knows what I went through? Maybe I'm glad I dumped them, Alexandria thought before realising what she had sent mentally. They had been good friends - it wasn't their fault that what had happened, had happened. "Why is she wearing school clothes?" Elizabeth turned her attention towards Jeanine.
"Because she got into Hampton's and they start today," Jeanine swallowed. She always knew everything; everyone confided in her. Jeanine was absolutely the best friend anyone could have. She was kind, smart and sensitive. She would always listen to you and never tell. Anything you had to worry about, she would be there. But sometimes, that didn't always work. Alexandria had known she could have talked to Jeanine about everything she had felt during and after the crash, had known she would have understood. Yet there was something that had nagged at her. Was it that Jeanine had given them the drinks? I'm being a fool. Alexandria thought, her hands balled into fists with the fabric of her navy trench coat. She wore the school uniform her mother had gotten yesterday. The collar and tie felt almost like it was suffocating her in the hot room. Her skirt made her feel vulnerable, the brogue shoes too fancy for her friend's day out. "Aren't you, Alexandria?"
"Yeah," she looked up, those green eyes so full of regret, "I am. I needed to get away for a while, from everything. I knew that going to boarding school two hundred miles away would help. So we're leaving today and I saw you come in here - my mother told me to come and say goodbye against my wishes but I think she was right." Alexandria fixed her eyes on Jeanine, Hester and Elizabeth. "I'm sorry for pushing you away, I should never have done that. I also thank you for trying to be there for me, even though I didn't want you to. You three still came even after all the horrible things I said," she paused, "I'm leaving now, so I hope you have a good winter term and break - I'm not sure if I'll see you. Anyway, goodbye and thank you; you're the best friends I ever had." She released her trench coat, the material falling just short of her knee, covering the black, pleated skirt nicely. Saying nothing were her friends, they stood and stared at Xandria's sudden outburst. Knowing that they had to get going, she turned to leave. But Jeanine appeared at her right, a hand on Alexandria's shoulder.
"You're the best friend we ever had too," the girl smiled, her blue eyes twinkling in the florescent light. Soon enough, Hester and Elizabeth were there too, looking at her with smiles and watery eyes. "Have a good time at Hampton's, Xandria - and don't forget about your besties!" Jeanine pulled her into a hug, Hester and Elizabeth following suit once she had released Alexandria.
She smiled - the second proper smile since the accident, this time for something worthwhile. "I could never forget about you," Alexandria whispered before running back out to the car. Jeffrey pulled open the door and Alexandria sunk back down into the dark vehicle. Their driver started the car, the engine rumbling in the somehow quiet street, and pulled out onto the road. Before they completely disappeared, however, Xandria rolled down her window and waved them off.
"I told you you should have one inside," Ida muttered as they approached the end of the town. There weren't anything left but a few houses and then they were on the motorway, Alexandria unable to stop smiling the whole way.