We were grievers
In which the girl is introduced and her story begins.
One last fact before we properly begin:
I once promised myself that I would protect everyone,
It's a promise that I can't keep.
A part of her already knows this.
The girl, who is actually called Gwendolyn Hunter, smoothed down the black lace dress with trembling hands. It was referred to as the dress and not her dress because she would never wear it again. In fact, she surmised that burning at sundown was the best option for her own well being, otherwise the events of that day would be dredged back to the uncomfortable front of her mind. She didn't want to wear the dress and she hadn't imagined that she would wear it for many more years. But not everyone got what they want.
It was the funeral dress. The dress she would wear to the funeral of her father. The only parent that she had left.
Gwen, she liked that name better than the mouthful that was Gwendolyn, didn't want to leave the house to go to the funeral. However, she couldn't look at the depressing brown boxes littering and taking over the house, and she thought that her father would never forgive her if she missed the funeral.
"Wendy the hearse is here - dear?"
The end of the sentence was a question because as the woman approached she noticed the numb look on Gwen's face, her hands trying to still over the lace and failing to do so.
"Only Dad called me 'Wendy' Aunt Grace," Gwen whispered, her eyes were clear from tears or redness yet she still felt a phantom cold. It was all a matter of the heart and the mind - that's what grief really is.
"He called you that because he said that you would be whisked away to Neverland one day," Aunt Grace smiled fondly at the memory of her late brother telling such tales to a smaller Gwen, one who loved Peter Pan and fairy tales. Gwen, however, did not smile.
"Neverland isn't here anymore; neither is Dad," It was the first thing she had said regarding her father and his death. Her father died of somewhat out of the blue means; he just got sick. He got sick and he got sicker and his memory went a bit by bit, his words got less and less, and his heart got weaker as time dawdled along murderously. He died with a smile which was ironic for poor Gwen, why would you be smiling if you were leaving everybody you ever loved? But Gwen was just naive, just young and still learning, she didn't understand that death was a must do state in order for balance to be kept.
Gwen bypassed the depressing boxes and exited the house. She would never live in this house again. After the funeral she was moving to her Aunt's house, the boxes left in her own being taken there during the dreadful event. Looking at the house now, she aptly decided that the lives that lived within the house was the soul of it. Once the lives were taken, so was the soul. The house was decaying too and wasn't that a happy thought?
Gwen didn't think of much more until she arrived at the gates of the cemetery. The church was a happening that didn't make much sense to Gwen, it was like she wasn't sitting in that uncomfortable pew and celebrating the life of her father, and she was somewhere else, somewhere safe.
The cemetery wasn't a safe place either. It was a place where lingering sympathetic stares were the glares of doom and where foreign hands touched her shoulders to offer stale comfort. Gwen thought it was pointless. She decided that funerals were not for the dead but for the living to gain a fraction of comfort. As though finally laying someone to rest put their soul at ease.
Suddenly, she was standing near an empty hole in the ground. This would be the final resting place of her father, under an oak tree, under the ground. Words fell out of her mouth before she realised, phrases that should've been said at the church but weren't because of her stubbornness and sadness.
"My Dad was a man of great integrity; he said to me that I should always reach for the sky and fly. Now, he is living by that same principle. I just hope that maybe his second life will be better for him then the final moments of his first. He'll watch over all of us because he's a man that keeps to his promises. He's with mom now too which should be like love at first sight again. Dad, I'll be alright, I'm always alright, and it’s just you that I worry about."
They then condemn her father to the ground.
It was her final words of the event. She left the cemetery early and no one could blame her really. She knew that she would be back some time, someday, some hour, she wasn't really sure. But when she would come back she would talk to a gravestone and she would believe that her father was listening to her.
That time was not now.
Gwen found herself sitting on a gargantuan tree stump in the middle of a forest. This was the place where her father often took her and they had a picnic, he read her stories and she laughed and enjoyed the day out in the middle of nowhere.
This was also the place where Gwen allowed herself to cry. The tears flushing her cheeks and making her shake with the force of them. She didn't like to cry, she never had, but there was a sort of time where it was right to cry. This was one of them.
Once her crying was over, Gwen allowed herself to study the tree stump in more detail than she had ever allowed herself to do before. The spirals of age were art on the remains of the once grand tree, the roots protruding from the earth at random intervals. Gwen remembered the obstacle course that her father challenged her with. She must have tripped over the long hurdle like roots over a hundred times before in her youth. Chuckling to herself weakly she caught the attention of a raven.
The raven, who had settled onto a branch of an adjacent tree, cocked its obsidian head at her. She halted her chuckle once she caught the dark eye of the bird. Without much time the raven spread its enormous wings, its feathers tainting blue in the dappled sunlight, and leaped from its perch and landed on her shoulder. The claws didn’t seem to harm her in any way but she stilled knowing that an animal, that could easily nip at her skin and so much more, was on her shoulder. The raven didn’t seem perturbed about its new perch, actually it seemed quite happy at its situation.
“This may seem like a weird question but have you, by any chance, saw a raven fly past here?” A voice cautiously called out and the body that had said it passed through the trees into her line of sight.
It was a boy with curly blonde hair, almost like a cherubs, and sea green eyes, he was well built but he had intelligence written in every move that he made; the way he walked, the way he swung his arms to and fro, the way he shook the stray strands of hair from his face. His movements looked controlled but in a good way, not a restricted way.
“Eh – maybe?”
Now the boy had seen her fully and in addition the raven, which was obviously his.
“Maybe? That is not a ‘maybe’ that is definitely a ‘yes definitely.’” With those words out of his mouth the grand bird flew off of her shoulder and onto the arm of the boy. Gwen braced herself for the pressure of the weight leaving her.
“Who has a raven as a pet anyway?” She retorted as she stood up from the tree stump and placed her hands on her hips.
“I – of course only awesome people have unique pets,” he was saying when the raven in question squawked in defiance.
Here’s a little titbit of information for you:
In life everything that you’ve ever said is not just between you; it is between the shadows, the trees, the air and the animals around you. Animals are very intelligent creatures, just keep that in mind.
“I’m sorry Hugo,” he stroked the birds black feathers, “Hugo isn’t a pet; he is a remarkable familiar,”
“I’m not even going to ask about your ‘familiar’” Gwen whispered and hugged herself as a gust of wind nearly blew her off her feet, the boy chuckled at this but was silenced by one distasteful look from her, “By the way my name is Gwen, just Gwen,” she offered politely and waited for the proffered acquaintance. It was not given for a few more moments as the boy looked distracted by something in the distance, his ears pricked much like an animal himself.
The raven, Hugo rather, ruffled his feathers and nipped at the boys fingers to draw him back into this world and out of the one he had immersed himself in. “Oh, my name is Rob and don’t ever call me anything different,” he smirked and then turned a little when other noises awoke the forest. There were giggles and calls and other things associated with social interactions.
Gwen had never been a social butterfly herself, always keeping to a few close friends but never in the spotlight. She was smart she knew, and some would call her beautiful but she would deny it profusely, she had potential but never acted upon it.
“Rob, Rob, have you found the raven you lazy snob?” A male voice shouted and he and his crew laughed at the poor rhyme.
“I better go,” Rob sighed and turned and walked away. Gwen put up a hand as a goodbye but Rob was too focused on his growing nearer friends than her polite gesture. People were just leaving her too often lately.
Gwen prepared herself for her long trek home – no not home just a house. Home was where the heart was and her heart didn’t settle in that house. Her Aunt was kind enough, she was the sister of her late mother (her mother had sadly died during childbirth) and served as a reminder of a life that she would’ve had if her mother was still alive. It was a good reminder more often than it was a bad one.
Her new house was something that had been ripped out of the past. A stone block in the middle of rolling patch work hills and the definition of mix and match. The past, present and future lived in that house. Still it was stale, it was not right almost, the feel was off and that feeling was only hers alone.
The first thing that hit her when coming in the house was the smell of cookies. Cookies had always been a positive memory in Gwen’s mind, her father used to make them because he learnt off of her mother, her aunt and her mother who used to have family bonding time over baking. Her mother and father’s first date was over cookies and the sweet biscuits and the scent of them made Gwen smile. Upon seeing her niece Grace Hunter, her name aptly describing her nature; graceful and determined to turn things around, hung up her apron, dusted her hands free from flour and pulled her into a hug.
“I’m so proud of you, and your mother and father are too,” Grace murmured into Gwen’s ginger hair, “You are so strong, not everybody goes what you go through and continues to thrive you know,”
“Everybody will go to a funeral at some point in time Aunt,” Gwen said bluntly into her aunt’s chest. She wiggled her way out of the hug and pointed out the stray smudge of flour on her aunt’s cheek, how it got there she would never know.
“I’ve got cookies in the oven if you can’t already tell and – “ her aunt halted her thoughts and tried to redirect them somewhere else. This was a moot point through as Gwen had already caught sight of the letter on the table. No one could miss it really, it was the only thing sticking out of the flowery center piece after all. The letter seemed to be the cause of her aunt’s distress, and Gwen wanted to know why.
“What’s that?” Gwen started but her Aunt was quick to try to hide the offending object.
“It’s nothing dear just something from people,” her aunt seemed to realize her petty mistake and sighed, facepalming straight after. “It’s something important but I really don’t know how to approach the subject of the damned thing – it’s from your father.”
That fact was enough to ignite the fire within Gwen.
Gwen had already ripped the letter open, carefully might I add, and began to cautiously read it.
Dear my Wendy,
If you’re reading this then that means that I have long since departed from this world. Maybe it is just a day from my death, maybe it is a year but I was promised that you wouldn’t read this ‘til you were ready. Believe me that I am chuckling because I know that you won’t wait that long. Anyway, as you are reading this just know that I love you and will always love you.
You will want to prepare yourself for the next bit.
I knew that I was going to die.
I knew all of the signs and I knew that my time on this world was drawing to a close, I withheld this information because I knew that you would try to get me to go to all of the best doctors and even call up Death himself to beg him not to take me away. Yet, everybody has to die, and we will meet again someday I promise you.
You know that I keep my promises, after all.
Another thing that you have to prepare yourself for is life after I am gone. I know that Grace will take good care of you but she won’t be able to protect you from everything. Not this anyway.
I have prepared for you a sort of treasure hunt or a test to determine whether you are fully prepared for the extent of future happenings. There will be a series of notes which will explain everything you have to know and the only clue for the next note is wrote here: my life is sealed in the place in which we thought was Avalon.
There you have it, let the treasure hunt begin.
Oh, and one last thing… everything is going to change. I hope you're ready for it - I think that you will be.
Love, Arthur Hunter.