A Brother's Love Ch. 02byethereal_dancer©
(September 22nd 1994)
Lena trembled as she looked up, sickness creeping into her stomach. She didn't want to go in, didn't want to accept that this was her new school now. Her old school was so much better, with its deep red brickwork and long green lawns. This place was too big and uninviting. Smooth grey pathways led between sculpted grounds of bark chippings and prim box hedges, up to the large, sweeping steps at the school's entrance. Huge windows loomed over them from a blank, white-washed exterior, looking out over the hordes of students arriving in the early morning sunshine. Lena felt like it might swallow her whole.
She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up into her foster brother's gentle, slate-blue eyes. He smiled down at her and Lena blushed, her head in a jumble of emotions. She wanted to run away, from the school, from her foster brother, from every part of this new life she was meant to be leading since her family's death. The other part of her wanted to curl up in his arms and cry until she could cry no more.
Her foster brother knelt at her side. "Don't be scared Lena." He said softly. "They're real nice here, I promise."
Kristopher Alden was twenty three, tall and devastatingly handsome, which, even at twelve, Lena hadn't failed to notice. He was kind and gentle with her, not pushing her to talk if she didn't want to, not forcing her to do anything. He told her jokes to make her laugh and stories about his life with their foster parents Bill and Maggie Howard. At those times, Lena forgot her pain, at least for a little while.
Nodding feebly, Lena took a breath and resigned herself to her first day at this strange new school.
The school bell sounded, loud and shrill, across the grounds of St.Mary's. Kit knelt at Lena's side and assured her that everything was going to be ok. He knew exactly how she felt and it hurt that he couldn't take away her pain and confusion. She didn't deserve any of this...but then again, who did?
"Want me to walk you to the door?" he asked her. He knew she'd say no, but had to ask, just in case.
Lena shook her head. "No...I can do it by myself." She said, her voice a mix of fear and pride. He smiled inwardly. He knew she didn't mean anything nasty by her words; from the moment she'd first arrived, she'd said things that sounded rude and spiteful, but her heart just wasn't in it.
She swallowed and brushed his eyes with her gaze. She didn't move. "Go...it's alright." He encouraged, standing up to his full height. Lena shot him a sharp look, as if to say 'how do you know?!', then she blushed, checked herself and offered him a faint smile.
He smiled back, gave her a cheeky wink and watched her as she slowly walked away, towards the school. She got ten paces away before turning and running back to him at full speed. She threw herself at him and swung her arms around his waist, hugging him for the first time. Kit was surprised but soon caught himself and held her close. He knelt down to her level, looking into her teary eyes and wanted to take her home, but he knew he couldn't. She had to face it eventually.
"Don't worry, ok? I'm gonna be in town all day, so if you need me, I wont be too far away. If you get scared or want to talk to me, go and ask Miss Jennings...she's the red haired lady at reception...just tell her who you are and that you'd like to speak with me, and she'll let you call, ok? She's my friend."
Lena fought back tears and nodded. "Ok." She muttered. "What time are you coming to get me?"
"Maggie's coming to fetch you later; at three-thirty...Bill and I have got to go see a man from out of town. We'll be back at the house about six."
"Why can't Maggie go with Bill and you come and fetch me?" she asked.
Kit smiled. "Because, pretty lady, we've got a surprise for you, but Bill and I have got to go out and get it."
Lena's gasped, her eyes lighting up. "You've got me a present?" she asked.
Kit just grinned. "Maybe. Now go...I'm gonna get into trouble if you're late."
Lena smiled and went to leave, then quickly turned, hugged him and ran away towards the school, her worries forgotten...at least for now.
Sighing, Kit watched her disappear into the school and turned back to his car which was parked a few feet away. Not surprisingly, a young man with golden brown hair and blue eyes stood leaning against it, his whole body tense as he watched Lena leave.
"She likes you." It sounded more like an accusation that an observation, but Kit knew, like his little sister, that Matt didn't mean it in that way.
Kit didn't offer him a reply, just held his gaze and stepped past him. He climbed into his car and started the engine. As he pulled away, Matt appeared in his passenger seat and glared fiercely at the side of Kit's face.
"I hate it when you do that." He said, knotting his brows together and glaring at his own feet.
"I can't talk to you in the street Matt; no-one can see you...d'you know what they do to people who have conversations with thin air...they ship them off to the loony bin, is what." Kit pointed out.
"I'm just sick of this. When I met you...when I first died...I asked you why I'd come back and not my parents...and you said it was because of the connection me and Lena shared...you said that soon she'd be able to see me and feel me in the air, that I could talk to her and stuff...but...but she can't! It's been over a month now Kit! I can't just wonder around forever! It's driving me insane!"
"It won't always be like this...I promise you...but you gotta understand it from Lena's point of view. She can't see you because she's torn up inside...it's like...it's like..." Kit searched around for something to relate to.
"The stars..." he said, waving one hand at the sky. "The stars are always there, aren't they? But we can't always see them Matt...no matter how much we might want to, sometimes there's just too many clouds, you know?" Kit hated to talk like this, but sometimes the only way to get a message across was to put it in a way that could be easily understood.
"That's what it's like for Lena...she won't be able to see you until the clouds pass and the only way to help her is to make her feel good. You've gotta send her good thoughts Matt, not ones of loss and anger." Kit told him.
The silence fell as Matt thought this over, his brow still tightly knotted and his jaw clenched. Finally Kit felt him relax and saw Matt turn his head to the window. "There was a time...when she was in hospital...that...I thought maybe...maybe she felt me there..." Matt said quietly, as if doubting his own thoughts.
Kit turned off onto the long country road that led up past their house and out into the sticks. He pulled up at the side of the road, switched the engine off and turned to his friend, knowing that when he got home they'd have no chance to talk. At least, not without Maggie and Bill thinking he'd gone mad.
"Tell me what happened..." Kit said.
Matt clenched his teeth several times, making the muscle in his jaw pulse. He seemed to do this whenever he was in deep thought.
"It was after I first met you. I was in the hospital, trying to get a grip on...on being dead." Matt held a certain tone in his voice and Kit knew what he was thinking; 'how do you get a grip on being dead?' "I'd been there for weeks," Matt continued, speaking slowly as if replaying it over in his head. "I just watched her lying there...all limp and broken...I'd been asking her to wake up, that everything was going to be ok and...telling her that I love her." Matt glanced up and smiled in remembrance. "I was so happy when she finally opened her eyes. She was drowsy from the painkillers, but she was still pretty sharp....she still gave the doctors a few of her evil glares..." They both laughed softly, knowing that glare all too well.
Matt hardened quite suddenly as he glanced at Kit. "After the doctors had gone and she was alone, she started to cry...so I told her to hush...that I'd be there soon...that ..."
Matt went silent, lost in his own thoughts as he stared at some insignificant point near his feet. Kit leant back in his seat and let him have a moment before speaking. "Then what...?" he asked.
"Then...she seemed to try...to try and...turn towards me, but she couldn't...then...then she said...'I love you Matt'. I know she knew it was me, that was there...even when I touched her hand, I felt her react to it....like she could feel it...but then she went to sleep and...it hasn't happened since."
Kit nodded, thinking it over. "You were happy at the time, right?" he asked.
"Yeah, I was glad she'd woken up." Matt repeated.
"Well...I'm guessing, because of the drugs they'd given her...added to your happiness...I'm guessing that she did feel you, probably would have seen you had she been able too..." Kit spoke his thoughts aloud.
"But why hasn't that happened again?" Matt asked. "What if I disappear or something before she gets to see me?"
"You won't. It doesn't happen like that. Because you were touching each other when you died, your soul has kinda...fused with Lena's. The only way that connection can be broken is if Lena died too...then you'd both pass over together." Kit explained.
He'd told Matt all this before, but he knew how hard it was for people to understand what was to come. He didn't even know himself.
"Look, you've got to have patience, Matt, it's the only way. I know it's hard and I know you hate me for not being able to give you all the answers, but I just can't. There are no rules and even if there were, I'm not the one who makes them. I can help, but you have to have patience. When the times right, I'll talk to Lena. I'll help her to open up to you, but right now, she can't. Just give her love, Matt, and keep telling her everything's going to be alright and it will be...for both of you."
Matt gave no answer, just sat in silence, still staring out the window. The sky was darkening, threatening rain. Kit hoped it would only be a small shower; he had work to do and he'd rather not be doing it in a storm.
"I'm gonna go back to the barn...I'll see you there." Matt said. He'd been staying in the barn for the past couple of months. It was a place where he could have privacy and a shelter from the rain. Although people often believed that ghosts were unfeeling, this wasn't actually the case. They could still feel and be affected, could still cry and be hurt. They just couldn't be seen or felt by most living souls.
Kit nodded and watched Matt disappear into nothingness, as though he were some figment of Kit's imagination. When he first started to see ghosts, that's exactly what he thought they were. He thought he was going crazy.
Kit still remembered the day it all began; it was two week's after his mother's murder. He was just eight years old, starving and sick on the city streets, hanging in the void between life and death.
He remembered what had put him there, without food or shelter. He would never forget what his step-father had done.
His mother and Malcolm were arguing again. They argued every night. The shouting only stopped when his step-father hit his mother and Jeanette ran away to her bedroom and cried. Kit felt powerless to help her, though he'd tried many times and got himself a beating from Malc. His mother asked him not to get involved, told him he should hide and let mommy sort it out.
So he'd hid. He sat in the darkness beneath the stairs, watching, waiting. His step-father lashed out, striking his mother across the face and sending her flying into the corner of the sideboard. She hit her head and cried out in pain. Kit wanted to run and help her, but fear froze him to the spot.
What happened next was all a blur in his head. To begin with, the memory had been so clear, but after years of suppression, the edges of his memory had softened and Kit could only remember flashes of that night.
He remembered his mother reaching out for the knife she'd been carving meat with just minutes before; he remembered his step-father grabbing the back of her head, slamming her cheek down onto the sideboard, telling her not to do anything stupid; his mother had yelped, closed her fingers around the hilt of the knife and swung it at him in desperation. Malc had laughed, pulled back on her hair and whispered something in her ear.
His mother had darted a glance towards the stairs, where she knew Kit was hiding. She began to beg, her subtle French tones becoming more pronounced as she began to whimper. "Leave him alone, he hasn't done anything wrong...please Malc, just leave him out of it..." she'd begged.
He whispered once more into her ear and Jeanette began to cry. Her grip on the knife became slack and Malcolm seized it from her hand. Yanking back on her hair he told her she was his good little slut and threw her across the kitchen. Jeanette landed heavily on the tiled floor and sobbed.
Turning his wild, drunken gaze to the hallway, Malcolm twirled the knife in his hand, making the blade glitter menacingly. His face was red and hungry, his eyes dark and wide, searching.
"Kristopher...Kristopher? Where are you?" he beckoned. "Come out and play son...I know you're hiding here somewhere..." Malcolm stepped out into the hallway as his mother screamed and ran at him.
"You bastard! You said you wouldn't hurt him!" she yelled. Jeanette was only a slender, small framed woman and Malcolm was six-foot-two, weighing nearly twenty stone, but the force of her attack sent him lurching into the wall. Kit heard the heavy thud as his weight hit the plaster and the pictures rattled against the wall. Malcolm roared.
Kit knew that this was his moment to run...that's why his mother had attacked, to divert Malc's attention. Without knowing how, Kit was at the front door, reaching up to the latch and yanking it open before he could even think about his actions. With a last terrified look behind him, he saw Malcolm shrug his mother off and charge up the hallway in pursuit of Kit's disappearing figure.
The next thing he remembered was hearing the front door slam shut, then Malcolm's outraged yells and his mother's screams; and then silence; terrible, ear shattering silence. Freezing in terror, Kit stared back at his house, his face white, his ears straining for another noise; a yell, a scream, anything to let him know his mother was alive. Nothing came.
He wasn't sure how many minutes passed before he heard the front door being opened. He saw Malcolm's huge figure blocking the light from the hallway and even from his positioning, Kit could see he was deathly pale. Kit lurched behind a neighbour's hedge and watched as his step-father scanned about in the darkness.
"KRISTOPHER!" he yelled. "I will find you Kristopher, I swear it! There's no use in hiding!"
Kit stayed as still as he could, watching, not daring to breathe. After what seemed like hours, Malc climbed into his car and sped away. To his horror, Kit saw blood staining his step-fathers hands and clothes and knew then that his mother was dead.
Screaming in pain, Kit had ran...he never stopped running...he kept on and on, until finally he collapsed in some tall grass at a roadside. For two weeks he hid. He didn't want anyone to find him. He was so scared that if people found him, then Malc would find him too.
It was a week later, months for all Kit knew, that he came across a small farm on a hill, with a run down barn full of straw. He had no idea where he was, but he knew it was very late. The stars had been twinkling away at him for several hours now. He had to be very careful.
Delirious from lack of food, having only had a slightly melted chocolate bar he had in his pocket and the remainders of a burger that he saw someone throw away, Kit crept up to the fence bordering their house and tapped lightly on the wood. He'd found somewhere like this before, but the owners kept dogs in the yard and Kit hadn't thought to check before he'd gone climbing over their fence. He wouldn't be making that mistake again.
Luckily, no sounds came from within and more importantly, no dog's came to chase him away this time. Carefully, Kit climbed over the fence and tiptoed across the yard, being sure to keep to the shadows, in case the farm owners should happen to glance out their windows and see him. He snuck around the side of the barn, to where a pick-up was parked beside a row of stables. He wasn't as easily seen here.
Slowly, he began to climb the stacks of straw, higher and higher until he was near the rafters of the barn. Exhaustion ripped him apart, but he knew, if he could just get up there, he'd be safe, at least for tonight. Gasping with exertion, Kit pulled himself up over the last bale of straw and collapsed on top of it, his legs still hanging over the edge.
He wanted to give up there, but he knew he couldn't. Pulling himself onto his hands and knee's, Kit crawled to the middle of the straw pile and groaned as he fell down, giving in to his exhaustion. He coughed, then wretched several times and curled up in a ball, clenching his empty stomach.
Numb from cold and aching with pain and hunger, Kit closed his eyes and sent a silent prayer to the gods, asking them to take him. He hoped he wouldn't wake up again, hoped he wouldn't have to face another day, reliving his memories; the shouting; the glitter of the knife in his step-father's hand; his mothers screams; and always, Malcolm's leering face in the darkness, always waiting, always searching for him.
And that's when it first happened.
He heard soft breaths behind his head; his mothers soft voice as she sang. Lifting his head, Kit held his breath, unsure whether he was imagining things. He must be imagining things.
But there, looking perfect and serene, sat Jeanette Alden, her rich dark hair tied neatly with dark blue ribbon, wearing her favourite pastel blue summer dress. She smiled as Kit stared, white faced at her, then continued with her lullaby.
"M-mama?" he croaked, tears burning his eyes. "Oh mama, I thought Malc had hurt you...I thought you were dead."
"He did, my darling, and yes, I am...but Malcolm...he's gone now...the policemen caught him days ago...he cannot hurt you anymore. Hey, hush, no tears." Jeanette said softly, running her delicate fingers through her son's messy, dirt caked hair.
Kit wiped his face with the back of his hand, feeling all his hunger and pain ebb away as his mother stroked his hair. Her fingers were so warm and soothing. There was no way she could be dead if she was here with him now and he told her so. "But mama...you can't be...you can't be dead...you're here...you can't go...I need you..." he rambled, reaching out to hug his mother, to make sure she wasn't just a figment of his starved mind.
Jeanette kissed his head and held him close, trying not to get upset. "Kristopher." She whispered softly, wiping the tears from his face. "Listen my darling. Mama can't stay long."
"But..." he began.
Jeanette held her finger to his lips. "Hush. No questions. Ok?"
Kit nodded sadly. Jeanette smiled and dropped her finger from his mouth. She spoke soft and slow like she always did, her voice calming in itself. "I've been asked to give you a message Kit...a very important message. There are lots of people where I am...lots of people who are lost, who need you to help them Kristopher...they need you to show them how to get home."
"How mama? I can't help them..."
"Hush. You can. But to help them you must first help yourself Kristopher. You must live. You are a very special boy...the gods have chosen you to help them. You are their guardian angel Kit. Without you, they will never find their way to the other side...they will never be at peace."
"But I don't understand mama...how can I help them? I can't even see them...what can I do to help?"