A Brother's Love Ch. 04byethereal_dancer©
May 18th, 2000
The two men stood, eyes turned up towards the well-kept façade of the large foursquare house. No lights were visible behind the closed curtains and, despite the neatly kept exterior and welcoming touches to the veranda, there was as an air of desolation all around them.
The youngest of the two men let out a long-held breath and pushed his hands deeper into his pockets. His eyes, a curious blue-grey in colour, darted to the man beside him.
The older man shimmered slightly, still attached to the Other Realm, unable to enter this world as a fully formed being. In his own realm, he was powerful and wise, able to travel anywhere he chose with the smallest of thoughts. In his own realm, he was known as Kharon. In ancient Greece they had wrote legends about him.
To Kit he was just known as Jonathan; but he meant more than any legend could; he was a friend, a tutor and something of a father too.
When travelling with Jonathan, Kit lost the solidity of his living form. It was as though they travelled on another plane of existence, hopping from place to place in something of a dreamlike state. They went unnoticed by passing eyes, moving freely through the world at Jonathan's whim, heading to wherever there was a soul that needed help passing over into the Other Realm. His body felt insubstantial as they moved and Kit too, for those moments, felt what it was to be a ghost.
Jonathan arched an eyebrow and turned to look at Kit's hunched form, as they stood in the unseasonably cool air.
"Can you feel her?" he asked.
Kit nodded. Somewhere near the back of the house, he could feel a tremor in the air. It was a subtle feeling, almost indescribable; like the feeling left behind when a car passes you on the street; or the hush after a pebble falls into a still pond. Kit was attuned to the subtle feeling the dead gave off that signified their presence.
"Yeah. She's wound up pretty tight though. I don't think she's going to appreciate our little welcoming party." His voice was grim. He wasn't in the right mind for this, not after his earlier conversation with Lena. He already felt confused.
"I'm sure your enthusiastic demeanour will work wonders on her, Kristopher," Jonathan said sarcastically, a twinkle in his eye. "Come."
With careful footsteps, he and Jonathan followed the tremor around to the back of the house. Kit heard her sobs before he saw her. She was small and her dress, once so bright and flawless, was a little dirty and crumpled around the hem. She sat huddled into one corner of the porch, holding her knees to her body as she hid her face and cried.
She looked up when she felt them approach and glared at Kit with large brown eyes. She sniffed, tucking her legs in tighter, and moved her eyes to Jonathan.
"Who are you?" she asked, distrust written all over her tiny face. "I don't know you!"
Jonathan hung back while Kit took a tentative step towards the porch. "No, you don't me," he said softly, trying to keep his voice soothing and light. "My name's Kristopher Alden, but people call me Kit. This is my friend Jonathan."
Kit offered a small smile but the girl just glared.
"What do you want?" she asked, her eyes fiercer still.
Kit swallowed and took another step closer, right to the edge of the porch. "I want to help you. What's your name?"
The little girl scowled, her eyes darting across the worn wood of the porch as if measuring the space between them. "Julia." she whispered. She glanced at the rear door to her home and hugged her knees tight. Her face was a mask of pain and anger when she turned it back on Kit. "But you can't help!" she cried. "So leave me alone!"
"I know you're scared, Julia. Things aren't making any sense right now...but if you let me, I can make things okay. I promise I can help you understand." Kit took a chance and climbed the two steps up to the porch, where the girl sat just metres away.
But it was a step too far and she balked.
With fear and anger making the energy crackle on her skin, the little spirit stood and stumbled for the door of her home. She tried to grab the handle but it passed straight through her hand. Kit stood mutely still, not wanting to scare her any further but it was already too late. She turned around to face him, her eyes wide with terror, but Kit could tell that her fear was mostly towards herself and what had happened to her.
"Julia...please...it's okay..." Kit tried to soothe her but she just backed further away, her insubstantial form sinking through the closed door of her home.
"Go away!" She yelled. "Leave me alone!"
There was a quiver in the air around them and Kit braced himself just in time; as the little girl's fear peaked and her anger flared, she unleashed a ball of energy in Kit's direction. It hit him squarely in the chest and Kit felt the breath leave him. He stumbled back from the force of it, although he'd felt much worse from young ghosts, and fell to the soft grass beneath the porch. The ball of energy jarred him to his bones and licked across each inch of his skin, warm and full of static.
Jonathan was hovering over him when he opened his eyes and his fingers tingled. He sat up, blinking the fuzz from his head.
"Remind me again why it can't be you who does the talking?" Kit said, rubbing his chest.
"You know why Kristopher. Young spirits are volatile. They're usually so confused they won't listen to anyone, least of all the ancient ferryman telling them "you're dead, but don't panic". It has to be you...you have the gift...to reason, to calm...you are the stepping stone between the living and the dead. That is why you 'do the talking'"
Kit cocked an eyebrow at Jonathan, having heard the old spirits words a hundred times. "Still kinda sucks though" he muttered.
Jonathan only looked amused.
The two men walked away from the neat house with it's desolate air and angry little spirit hiding away inside, knowing they had gone as far as they could for one day; until the little girl was ready for answers, they couldn't do much more.
At least she knows we're here now, Kit thought, his hands back in his pocket and his collar pulled up against the cool night air. She knows there's someone out there who can help.
It made him think longingly of Lena and how he wished he could do the same for her; it seemed no matter how many times he tried with her, she was never ready to open up. She always left him feeling so helpless; pushing him away, shutting him out. He could get through to her once, when she was young and she was that messed up little kid, lost without her family. Things were different now; she was always so determined to fight her battles on her own.
"Has the thought ever crossed your mind..." Jonathan broke into Kit's reverie, making his head snap up. "...to tell the girl...?"
"Tell her...?" Kit repeated, confused.
The older mans gaze was intense. "Lena...tell her...you're in love with her..."
"Wh-I don't....I'm not...'in love' with her" Kit said, the words barely more that a mumble.
Jonathan laughed and raised an eyebrow. "No?"
Kit frowned, dropping his gaze once more. "No. No, I mean...I love her, of course...she's, well, she's..."
A small smile lifted the corner of his mouth as he thought about all the things Lena meant to him.
"She's fierce, you know? So stubborn and determined to do things her way...you can talk to the moon and back but she wont change her mind if it's set. And she's loyal...careful too, for the most part..." Kit tried not to think about the few mistakes she'd made. It made a knot twist in his stomach. "But behind that fierce little shell of hers...she's so gentle...so beautiful and sweet..."
Kit stared deeply into his memories, recalling the way she'd slept for three nights beside the sick body of their old piebald mare, Gypsy, when the horse fell sick with fever; she'd barely left the horses side, except when forced to go to school. Another time, when she was fourteen, she'd come home with blood running down her legs and arms and a good knock on the head from where she'd fallen from a tree, trying to rescue their closest neighbours cat.
He thought about the way she smiled; sometimes that big, heart-aching grin that made his breath catch; and sometimes, just sometimes, she'd look at him across a room, or over her shoulder and he'd catch that slow, sweet smile of hers, so tender, like she was telling him a secret; a smile just for him. He could feel the way she fit so perfectly in his arms; he could feel the size and shape of her body as though it were an extension of his own. If he closed his eyes, he could even smell the sweet fragrance of her hair and skin; shampoo and horses and something distinctly Lena - like honeysuckle or jasmine on a warm summer day.
But then he thought of how all that had seemed so distant from him lately and his chest ached with loss.
"I just wish I knew what's wrong with her. I wish she would talk to me," Kit sighed miserably.
Jonathan was quiet and still, never one to rush his thoughts or words. His dark eyes twinkled as he considered Kit for a long minute. "You are a smart and remarkably intuitive boy, Kristopher Alden." He said eventually. Kit looked up at his mentors praise, but frowned slightly, wondering where Jonathan was leading. "Since you were a small boy, you have never ceased to amaze me how much strength and patience you show, even when faced with problems that appear to have no solution." Jonathan cocked an eyebrow and turned to Kit so that his intense eyes - dark, yet so full of light and depth - met Kit's in an unshrinking glare. "However...when it comes to that girl...you are so incredibly blind, it is only a matter of time before you fall and break your neck."
Kit stared, a little shocked. "I don't..." he began.
Jonathan's voice held a note of severity, something Kit had rarely heard from the man. "You tell yourself that what you feel for her is all the result of simple, platonic concern...that you love her as though she were a good friend or a sister...and yet, tell me my young friend..." Stepping closer, Jonathan lowered his voice to a softer, almost musing tone. "How many times a day does the thought of her fill your head?"
Kit could feel Jonathans eyes assessing him, but somehow he knew his mentor wasn't really looking for an answer. But Kit didn't have to speak; Jonathan knew that every one of Kit's waking minute's were spent with Lena in his head; her smile, her laugh, her smell, her blush, the shape of her eyes and their deep blue depths; he never stopped thinking about her.
"And what of the girls who covet you? Why do you turn them away?" Jonathan asked.
"Because I have no interest in them," Kit answered, defensiveness colouring his tone.
And because they're not her.
The thought charged through his mind but he pushed it away with well practised tenacity. Too late. Jonathans eyes sparkled with something akin to triumph.
"She is everything to you. You would move heaven and earth to make her smile, to have her say your name or feel her in your arms. No other girl compares to her, no?"
Kit felt his cheeks begin to heat as he struggled to form words of denial. But he couldn't. It was all true.
"What's your point Jonathan?" Kit finally bit out, anger bubbling in him unexpectedly.
"My 'point', Kristopher, is that, yes, you love her...but the sooner you admit you're in love with her too, the better for you both."
"I am not in love with her!" Kit growled, his voice rising.
Jonathan turned on him so quickly, Kit almost staggered back. The older man's eyes were unsettling now, devoid of the calm tranquillity that Jonathan usually exuded; they were black spheres in his eternally preserved face; his grey brows were pulled down into a formidable frown and his mouth was a grim line. Kit had never, ever, seen Jonathan look so severe.
"You're a fool, Kristopher!" he barked, stepping close to Kit's face. "Why do you deny it?!"
Kit's voice was a murmur when he answered. "There's nothing to deny."
Jonathan's voice was little more than a whisper now but Kit caught every word. "No? You tell me you never looked at her in a way you thought you shouldn't? Never stared a little too long at an exposed waist or neck?" Kit refused to answer but Jonathan didn't relent. "Never dreamt about how soft those lips might be? How sweet it would be to kiss her? Never imagined how those legs would feel wrapped around your body as you moved inside her? Never wanted to run your fingers through her hair, your lips along her jaw, or down that sweet little neck? Never wanted to hear her moan your name while you..."
"Yes, okay! Yes!" Kit finally broke as image after image flashed through his head. "All the damn time! But I'm not supposed to! I'm the one that's meant to look after her, to keep her away from all that! I'm meant to protect her from all the pain and the hurt! She's had enough of that!"
Jonathans eyes softened he placed a hand on Kit's heaving shoulder as the young man tried to calm his racing heart.
"She's not as fragile as you think Kristopher. You've protected her for so long, but now you're both keeping secrets from each other and all I see is you growing further and further apart. It's time to tell her the truth and let her decide for herself whether she need's protecting."
It was nearing ten when Kit arrived home. Jonathan had parted company with him under the apple tree out in the yard. Kit had watched his solid form fade and disperse into a thousand little lights, his mind in a state of shock. He felt numbness creeping in on him as he watched the last of the lights fade into the night.
I'm in love with Lena.
The thought churned up so many emotions in him that it made his head ache. He rubbed a hand across his eyes and walked slowly across the yard and up the front steps to his home. He paused on the veranda, taking a deep breath to steady the shakiness that had filled him since he'd shouted his confession at Jonathan.
He opened the door and stepped inside, feeling the warmth and smells from the nearby kitchen relax him a little. He slid his coat from his shoulders and was hanging it on a hook in the hall when Maggie appeared at his side; her face was taut with worry and a faded tea towel was clenched and knotted in the fingers of one hand.
Something was wrong and Kit's immediate thought was of Bill and the stroke he'd had back in January.
"What's happened Maggie? Is it Bill? Where is he?" Kit asked in a panic.
Maggie shook her head. "No, no..." she smiled quickly as a way of reassurance but it wasn't her usual smile, that made her eyes crinkle and her cheeks glow. "It's not Bill...he's here, everyone's fine. Come and sit down, son," she said weakly, her warm, gentle fingers on his arm.
Kits mind raced in panic, knowing instinctually that something bad was coming.
As he entered the kitchen, he saw Bill sitting at the four-seat breakfast table, wearing a frown and slowing drinking a mug of something hot. His gaze was levelled on one particular page of a newsprint and he didn't look up when Kit entered the room.
Taking the seat opposite, Kit lowered himself into the chair with bated breath, waiting for the bad news to come. Maggie sat between the two men and rested her arms on the table. for a moment the only sound was Bill sipping from his mug.
"Is someone going to tell me what's wrong?" Kit finally asked.
Bill lifted his eyes. He took a breath and wiped the frown from his face with one big hand and pushed the newsprint across the table with the other. Kit looked down, realising the paper was open on one specific article; there was a black and white photograph, slightly grainy in appearance, and a caption beside it in large, bold print;
CONVICTED MURDERER RELEASED
Malcolm Reed, 54, has today been released on bail. Reed, who pleaded guilty to the murder of his girlfriend and mother of one, Jeanette Alden, refused to make comment on his release. However, his lawyer, Louis Chapman, gave us the following statement; " Mr Reed has proven to the staff and inmates of the New Jersey State Prison that he is a calm and respectful man, who always strives to work hard. He maintains that it was never his intention to harm Miss Alden and that the situation he was faced with became unmanageable and unfortunately, Miss Alden was mortally injured. He looks forward to his impending release and being reunited with family." Reed, at that time, told the court of how Jeanette Alden was unstable and had threatened him with a knife after he'd spent an afternoon in the pub with friends. In his attempt to abstract the weapon from her hand, there was a tussle and Reed found the knife impaled in his girlfriends chest. He told the court that in his shocked state, he'd removed the knife and tried to give her CPR...
Kit had to stop reading. He felt as though he was going to be sick or pass out. He stared numbly at the picture of Malcolm Reed, the face that had haunted him for more than two decades; the face of the man that murdered his mother in a drunken rage and felt cold fear creep through his veins. He knew his mothers death had been no accident. Malcolm had intended to hurt her; her always did. He would have hurt Kit too if he had found him...
His last memories of the man replayed over and over in his mind; the night his mother had died trying to protect Kit from Malcolm's drunken violence. She had been so scared.
He had her by the hair, her face pressed into the worktop. She was sobbing as she clutched the knife and swung it towards him. He grabbed her, whispered in her ear, something about hurting Kit, he knew. She'd dropped the knife. Malcom seized it, his face full of drunken hate. He'd dropped Jeanette. He was coming to find Kit, the blade glinting...
Kit had ran, out into the night, into the safety of the dark.
Malcolm was furious. He'd turned back, back to Jeanette. Kit didn't see what happened next, but he heard the screams. And then silence. Terrible silence.
Kit had been too afraid to move, trembling with shock at the thought of his mother being dead.
But Malcolm's hulking figure had appeared in the light of the doorway. His drunken gaze lurched through the dark night, trying to locate Kit; the last words Kit had ever heard him speak rang in his head; "I will find you Kristopher! There's no use in hiding!"
Cold panic clutched at his heart and Kit found it hard to think straight.
How had had his world seemed right for so long? For a while, a few short years it seemed, Kit had almost forgotten that Malcolm existed and would one day be released. The world was not right; it felt completely wrong.
"Now, don't get worked up about this, alright?" Bill was saying reasonably, fixing him with sombre eyes. "I thought you should know...but that doesn't mean to say the man's going to be thrown back onto the street. That's not how it's done these days is it? It says in that paper he's been released on bail...that means the police will be keeping a close watch on him and..."
"Where's Lena?" Kit asked suddenly, realising why everything felt so wrong. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Bill and Maggie exchanged a look, somewhere halfway between surprise and worry.
"You haven't been with her?" Bill asked.
"We thought she was with you," Maggie said.
Kit was up and moving towards the hall before she'd finished her sentence. Maggie called after him, chairs scraping on the floor as she and Bill made to follow him.
"Kit, calm down. Don't you go rushing out there!" Maggie said, hurrying into the hallway behind him.
Kit pulled his coat from the hook and turned to face her. He put a hand on her warm cheek and tried to smile, to give her reassurance.
"It's fine, Mags. I'll just feel better if she's home." He told her.