Birds tweeted around her, the autumn leaves were falling around them in waves of golden debris. The casualties of changing seasons, though Xandria did not mind - she could never hate the earth for its horrible beauty. Mikhail sat next to her, his eyebrows nearly knitted together by how much he was frowning. Supposing he was concentrating, Alexandria fwopmed back onto the soft floor of the earth to peer up at the barren canopy. Robins had started appearing again, they flew back and forth, back and forth, across the branches. A few squirrels flew and jumped from the trees' limbs as well, as if the whole thing were on giant playground and the trees were some decrepit form of monkey bars. "What are you looking at?" Mikhail asked, half-interested while his face was stuck in a book. She believed it to be Shakespeare though did not oblige herself to ask or raise herself from the ground to see.
"Life," Alexandria whispered.
Her companion laughed, it was a nice laugh and did not scare the creatures overhead but it was still unwanted. She wanted to listen to the blare of the world. Something that was quite hard to miss when you sit there, quiet, for a few moments and tune in to the world around you. Alexandria had discovered her own very special way of finding out where everything was, where everything was going, what they were saying, how they were moving - without even looking.
First, she started with becoming aware of her own body. Often, we humans forget that we have bodies, we simply use them and do not appreciate them at all, they are just tools to our needs. And then something happens where you scrape a knee or cut a finger and you feel all that pain to become aware of what you are. That's what she was doing right now. She felt her back against the ground, her hands in the autumn debris of skinny and fragile leaves, her feet feeling slightly damp from the walking and the morning dew that still clung to the blades of grass that popped out from the shod leaves.
Slowly, after all that, she began to feel the ground thrum against her back. The beat of the earth made an exciting down beat that the birds tweeted to and the squirrels chattered to and the wind howled to. Her hands felt the sandpaper texture of the leaves whisper against her skin like traitors in the night, conspiring against their commanders. Her skin felt the golden rays of the sun, the feeling of laughter, the taste of champagne, the love of company, wash her skin into a palette of oranges and browns and whites and creams.
The smell of crisp air ran the wind like the Wild Hunt, biting and snarling in such an oddly calm way that she felt at peace and in the midst of war all at once, tearing her soul into two and drifting the halves apart to never reach each other again. "Do you often come out to the woods?" Mikhail's voice rung out again, and her heart drowned in sadness. Not because it broke the peaceful war of the forest around her, or the track of her restless thoughts, and it was neither horrible nor mistrustful.
It was because, for a small moment of her short life on this old world, she thought that it was her brother who lay beside her and not a new friend who she had met after his death.
"I use to come with my brother to the woods outside my home," Alexandria opened her eyes and peered back up to the canopy and the bony branches that stretched out like old fingers to the horizon and the sky and the earth. But that was all nothing to her as she felt the sting of awkwardness settle in. Mikhail had grown so very quiet, unlike a few moments earlier when she could have heard his breathing even at the shallowest of times, that she wished he would suddenly scream and talk and never shut up. She would have preferred the noise for then she could have ignored it but silence was like a weight, you had to carry it even if you did not want to. "Sometimes..." Xandria started as she realised she was crying hot tears that streamed down her face. "Sometimes..." she tried to start again but had to take a shuddering breath before her voice even began to feel under her control once more.
Mikhail opened his mouth to speak, probably to say sorry for asking or that it was okay and that he understood or that he was sorry for whatever had happened or to ask more questions and be an arrogant plonker; but he never continued.
"Sometimes I feel bad for living my life, for going here and trying to get on and make some new friends. He was my twin brother and we did everything together - and when I say everything I mean it. We woke up at the same time when we were kids, we ate the same food, we walked the same paths in the woods, we read the same books. We had our first movie together, our first shots, our first broken bone, our first hangover and so much more that I cannot remember." The tears were now falling to the ground, becoming hidden secrets amongst the plain carcasses of summer, and as they became even heavier Mikhail did nothing. He did not pat her consolingly or try and comfort her with words, he did not say something stupid such as: 'it must have been part of God's plan' or 'nothing happens without a reason', he did not tell her she was wasting her time with her grief or that she can take as much time as she wanted with it.
But he did grab her hand, awaking her teary eyes back to the world, and stared at the sky as it grew from late morning to noon, from noon to afternoon, from afternoon to evening, from evening to twilight, from twilight to night. He held her hand all that time and then some as he walked her back to her dorm and made sure his sister and her friends took care of the broken girl who had lost so much but had so much to gain.