Yep, another night of inspiration on this non-outlined piece, and a chance to do some writing on my lunch hour, has given me chapter 3. I have no idea where the story for this is coming from, and I will ride this muse as long as I can. Maybe even enough to finish it, so you can read it all!
Here it is:
She pulled her sweater closer to her chest and peeked out the front door. In the dark, she could just make out his profile, his unruly mane of hair silhouetted by the moonlight. She swallowed nervously.
What did you say after ten years? How did you start back up what had been lost? Nessa realized she was nervous, and calmed herself by counting in her head. ‘1…2…3…’ she breathed, and felt her heart slow. With every ounce of courage, she stepped onto the stone walkway, and made her way to the front gate.
“Barley?” She whispered.
Her hands reached the front gate, and suddenly he was there, standing in front of her, reaching to her, touching her. She froze, the foreign sensation of his hands catching her breath, and she looked up. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, and she saw him, the sharp angles and relief of his face, the nervousness in his eyes shaking out through his hands, on top of hers.
“Nessa.” He whispered back. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you today.”
She shook her head. Now was not the time for frivolous apologies. She moved her hands, and he released her, letting her open the gate and join him on the street. She gathered her sweater up again, and as her breath plumed out, she looked away down the street, then back to him.
“Its ok.” She lied. “It was a rather spectacular occurence, today, you showing up at the gates. My mother and sister tell me you could not even get a word in edgewise from all the talking and happiness in your home tonight.”
Barley half groaned, half-laughed. Nessa thought it sounded tinny, shallow, like it was difficult to conjure from his hard-worked frame.
“I had no idea what kind of a reception I was going to get.” he said, and they walked slowly down the road towards a bench on the street, close to a pond on the other side. “It was a bit much.”
Nessa suddenly had an image float to the surface of them catching frogs, up to their ankles in mud and lilly pads, only finding out afterwards about the leeches. The doctor had given them a penny each for them when he pulled them off carefully, and she had spent it on a tiny tin relief of a monkey when the merchants had come through. She’d lost the monkey in that pond, and Barley and found it by the light of the moon in the mud on the far side. It had been a night just like tonight.
She sat on the bench and stared at the shimmer of water, a thin sliver of white reflecting the moon at them, seeing the memory in her mind.
“You’re the first to come home. We never expected to ever see anyone who’d left. I’d say the reaction was appropriate.” She said quietly, coming back to the present, and the man sitting beside her on the bench, his fingers resting on his propped leg. There was a hole in the bottom of his boots. She reached out involuntarily and traced it.
“Barley, you should be resting…” She began and he held up a hand.
“No. Stop. I want… I needed a walk, I’m much more used to solitude, and I ended up here out of habit. I should have come sooner.”
Nessa hung her head. How could she tell him she was afraid? Afraid to let him back into her life in case he left again? Afraid of her reaction now that they were grown, and her heart cracking open to reveal her emotion for him still intact? Afraid that she couldn’t, because of all the years hardening herself to the memory of the very man who was sitting next to her?
“I know its been a long time Nessa.” He mumured, his own eyes roving over the moonlit pond, one arm draped across the bench between them.
“And… I… I know I hurt you very deeply when I left.” He added, turning towards her. “I’m hoping we can become friends again, now that I am home.”
Nessa felt something bubble up into her. She wondered if it was anger, or resentment, or perhaps just frustration at all the wasted years of mourning his supposed passing, missing him so fervently for those first few years. She fisted her hands and slammed them on her thighs, looking at him, her tears starting anew, and she stood.
“And what am I supposed to say to that? That its ok, that the past ten years without you, the loss of my best friend, is just something I can ball up and toss over my shoulder? I mourned you Barley. You were gone, as if buried over in our graveyard.” She spat out, pointing a finger towards the hill where their cemetary lay. “The past ten years for me has been about letting go of you, which I did a long time ago, and now you are here and want to be friends like nothing happened? Do you have any idea what kind of leap that takes?”
She knew she was being cruel, but the situation was taking control of her, and she was letting the anxiety and fear from the day run rampant on her temper. She shook, and pulled her arms in around her body, hugging herself. She felt Barley’s gaze on her, and she turned away, looking back up the street to her house, wishing him gone so she could again calm herself.
“Nes… please. I know… I’m so sorry.”
The hurt in his voice choked back the next angry retort building in her mind. She suddenly felt drained. Her shoulders sagged, and she turned to him, cheeks wet from her tears.
“Barley. You can’t just come back and expect everything to be the same. We all need time to adjust, some more than others. I…”
“I understand Nessa. I’m adjusting too. Perhaps I can come visit you properly tomorrow.” he said, interrupting her again. He seemed almost agitated to make sure she understood he didn’t want to make things worse.
Nessa nodded, and let her arms fall to her sides. Barley stepped towards her, and as he got close to her, she could smell the lavender soap from the bath he no doubt had when he’d gotten home, and the distinctly male scent from the clothing. She looked up into his face, and saw, for the first time, the warm brown eyes she remembered from so many years before. It was a small comfort, and it was a start to understanding the man that was once her closest friend.
Barley reached out with a finger, and wiped a tear from her cheek. A small half-smile made its way to his lips, and she mirrored it. It was familiar, and comforting. A small wave of regret for her words hit her.
“I’m sorry. I’m a little emotional.” She whispered.
He reached out with the other hand, cupped her shoulder, and drew her in to his chest, the other hand wrapping around her. As her cheek lay on his chest, her hands balled under her chin, she could feel the thump of his heart, slowing down with each passing moment.
“Nessa, its ok. really.” He rumbled, and his voice resonated though her jawbone into her ear.
It felt so good to touch him fully, to make that final connection to the reality that he was home. It erased some of the frustration she hadn’t realized was simmering, letting her sigh and release the tension held fast between her shoulders. He bumped his chin onto the top of her head, and she felt him let out a big, deep breath to mirror hers.
She pulled away from him slightly, and looked up one more time, to him looking down to her.
“I am… well I’m not sure how to describe it, but I am glad you are back, even if I didn’t show it.”
He smiled, and released her. She felt the chill of the night air and shivered. She noticed Barley did the same. ‘He has no meat on his bones’ she thought suddenly.
“You should go in before you catch a chill.” he said, before she could say anything, and propelled her towards her house, his hand on her back. She let him, knowing full well he was right. She was in slippers, a cotton spun set of pajamas, and a sweater. Not exactly middle of the night wear for outside.
When they reached her gate, he reached out again, and smoothed her hair back behind her ear. The same half smile was on his lips, and he cocked his head to one side as they looked at one another.
“I’ve missed you too, Nes. Know that you were always with me.” He whispered, and then turned and began to walk up the street, hands in the pockets of his voluminous pants.
Jennifer watched her brother slowly close the door to the front porch, and tiptoe into the livingroom. As he eased himself onto the couch, she held the kitchen doorjam tightly, her heart beating madly. She didn’t want him to see her spying on him, she didn’t want to have to talk to him. It was too much to handle right now. So she watched him settle himself in for the night.
She had no idea who this person was. He was her brother, that part she was sure of, but in no way did he resemble the picture she had in her head of what her brother had looked like the day he walked out the big timber gates. She’d thought him gone forever. Her one support other than her father had gone, and left her alone. So she’d simply gone on with the reality that she had no brother. It had been that thought that had made her cling to her one family member left, and completely live within herself, and for him. If she didn’t get attached to anyone else, no one else could leave her, was her emotional reasoning. So as she had grown, ten years on, it had protected her and her father.
But now, Barley was back, and she had to re-evaluate everything.
Jennifer realized that she was afraid of her brother. The strange tattoos, the worn-out body, even his wild hair. It was foreign, and felt dangerous. She was afraid to reach out as well, in case he disappeared in front of her eyes, and he would be gone again.
“Silly git. He’s your brother.” She whispered to herself, as Barley curled up on the floor. He pulled a knitted throw up around his chin and closed his eyes, so she stepped back from the door, tip-toed away to the back stairs to the bedrooms, and said a prayer that he was home for good, so she could believe in him again.