It’s just barely October and the leaves have all changed. The days have grown chilly and it’s raining more often than not and somehow that seems appropriate. The house is old granite and fenced in by old wood and the crooked trees in the yard are decked out in their autumn finery, falling away leaf by leaf. The hills behind the house turn to dunes and then to beach and the sea water looks as grey as the sky. The autumn fog has rolled in and the lighthouse down the shore can hardly be seen except for its light in the darkness.
He stands in the small fenced yard and stares at the clouds building on the horizon. The air smells like rain and rotting leaves and he reminds himself that there are no happy reasons why autumn is his favourite season. He hates this place with its grey stone walls and dirty windows. He hates the faded and peeling wallpaper in his room and the mattress that should be comfortable but isn't. So he spends his days wandering, roaming the corridors and rooms of the house like a specter, silent on the thick carpets covered in dust. On the days when he cannot bear to be indoors, he stands in the yard and stares at the sky, or the waves breaking against the shore down the hill.
His legs feel stiff, and he sits on the edge of the porch and pulls his knees up close, rests his arms across them, and stares at the crumbling grass and baked-brittle vines still trying to climb the fence even though they're more dead than alive. Sometimes he feels like those vines; trying to keep going but inside he's hollow. Inside he's breaking. Sometimes he thinks it’s a wonder he’s gone this long in this condition, gone this long without going insane. He muses aloud that it feels a bit like being an orphan, then he laughs at the bitter irony of what he has just said.
This is too close to self-pity, he thinks, and suddenly he is standing again, fists clenched tight and he's angry at himself. He suspects that later it will fade into apathy, but for now he's just happy that he feels something. He's seen a lot and imagined even more and he's pretty sure that people his age aren't supposed to be this jaded. The rain pours harder, just past his face sheltered by the eaves of the porch, and he feels his anger draining away again, replaced by the weariness that he's gotten so used to feeling.
She huddles on her bed in her room grown dark and cold and watches as the sky turns grey and the rain begins to fall. Her curtains flutter and the rain-smell envelops her and she wonders idly if he's standing outside. Some days she wonders if she should go out and join him, but most days she's content to stare out the salt-stained glass of her window and watch him. Some days she gets as far as the back door before she sees his shoulders hunched up and wonders if he wouldn’t be angry with her if she joined him.
Sometimes she thinks that maybe she's a bit happier watching him; maybe there's a moment when she doesn't feel so alone. She's melancholy, like so much dust in this house she can never leave; like the boy outside, kicking stones and crushing flowers just because (she suspects) he feels like destroying something beautiful. She's melancholy like waiting for rain to wash away her tears. Crying has become second nature to her now, and she thinks she may have forgotten why it is that she’s so sad; she thinks that maybe she’s just making up excuses because sometimes, she just needs to break down.
She sighs and tears her eyes away from the window, staring around her room instead. She's studied these walls for so long, she thinks she might have uncovered their secrets, if they ever had any to hide. Her blankets are piled in twisted mounds where she slept uneasily these last few nights, and her books all lay on the floor where she’s tossed them aside one by one as they fail to provide a distraction. The picture frame on the dresser is filled with smiles and memories, good times and younger years, and she thinks it’s odd that it doesn’t seem out of place. The lamp beside her bed casts a dusty glow around the room and she wonders for the hundredth time if maybe she should get some candles to brighten the corners.
He knows she watches him sometimes, from her window on the third floor. Her room is across from his, just like it has been all their lives. But his window faces east while hers faces west and he thinks that maybe it's some bizarre envy that's the reason he can't stand his room. Some days he thinks about knocking and asking if she would share the view, but he doubts she'd understand the importance and he doesn't really want to share that with anyone anyway.
The clouds look lighter, and the rain has let up a bit, but he's not fooling himself that it's going to stop. It's just settling in for the long haul, just like he's tried to do with this house, but the rain has it easier, and he's jealous of that, too, just like he's jealous of her west-facing window that looks out on the sunset each night. He’s not sure why it’s so important, but east feels to much like going back and west too much like going forward and he knows it’s pointless to dwell on the past.
He turns to look at the window high up near the roof, but she's turned away, just like she is every time he looks up. There are days when he wonders if she’ll ever leave this house, if she’ll ever go back outside like she used to. He feels sorry for himself but sorrier for her because at least he has the open air and the feel of the rain against his pale face. He stares at her curtains through the glass, and makes up his mind.
She's staring at the north wall, watching the patterns the drops of water on her window make when the cloud-light glows through the glass, when she hears him knocking. At first she thinks it's just the wind, or rainwater clogged in the gutter, but then he knocks again she realises he wants to see her. She stands and walks to the door, wondering why he’s picked today of all days to come to her. She opens it and he is standing there dripping and his face is set and she can tell he's been doing some thinking. She steps back and he steps forward until they're both standing in the center of the room and still neither one of them has spoken.
He looks around her room, noting that her wallpaper isn't peeling but the patterns on it are more intricate than on his and he wonders if that's some sort of commentary on them. He wonders briefly at the scattered books, and makes a mental note to ask about them later. He glances at her west-facing window and the pale curtains around it, and the glow from her lamp, falling across the sill.
He takes a half-step forward and looks at her sideways.
‘Would you mind if I sat with you?’
She smiles at him, and she thinks she might not need those candles after all.
‘Not at all.’
It’s October and the leaves are beginning to fall, leaving fire-bright splotches against the cold grey of the sidewalk. The dry grass crackles, fading into grey-brown sand at the dunes and stretching out the sea. The clouds roll in and mingle with the sea-fog and the rain falls softly, on and on, past the third story window lit by the faint glow of a single lamp. And through the window left open to catch the sea-breeze comes the faint sound of laughter, louder than the patter of the rain, drifting over the hills and the dunes and the sea.
Created: Jul 22, 2010Document Media