22 Jan Free Short Story: Grieving
This is a short and sweet little story with Merrick and Bianca—and some of the info in it was presented in my books in various forms—but this was one of the initial scenes I had between them in the second book, Alkarrra Awakening (get your copy right there).
Bianca and Merrick’s intensity seemed very strong to me in both cases.
“How do you know so much about grieving?” I asked, leaning back on the palms of my hands. Merrick crouched down and skipped a rock across the surface of the stagnant pond. The cooler air pressed on us—a welcome respite from the sultry day.
I let the silence simmer for a few minutes. For half a second, it felt as if my wild heart reached out to his, then pulled back.
“Care to talk about it?” I asked.
He skipped another rock. It hit the surface ten times, increasing in speed as it went, and finally sank into the murky depths of the green pond. I bit my bottom lip, wondering why he was so closed off and mysterious. What would it be like to break into that mind? Scenarios of grouchy expressions and other Guardians ran through my mind. Perhaps I didn’t want to know. Perhaps I didn’t have any room to judge. I certainly wasn’t being very open with him either. I thought of all the times I’d run into Mama’s memory and then forced the thoughts away.
His voice broke the strange silence.
“My father died.”
He admitted it so suddenly I wasn’t sure what stunned me most; his comment or the sound of his voice.
“How long ago?”
“I was twelve. He died in a climbing accident. A rope slipped and he fell. He was too sick to transport. By the time they got him to an apothecary, it was too late.”
The angles of his jaw looked tighter than ever. He threw another rock, but it just landed with a big splash instead of skipping. His shoulders rose with a deep breath. I sensed there was something more to it, but didn’t dare pry, despite my questions. Where was he climbing? Did Merrick see it happen? I felt uncertain as it was, like I walked on a thin sheet of glass over a turbulent river. One wrong move and I’d be gone.
“Were you with him?”
“No. I was home with my mother and two sisters were at home.”
Two sisters. Hadn’t he said something earlier about only having one?
“It rots,” I said in a whisper, my mind wandering back to Mama, back to the attic, back to Miss Mabel’s coy smile in the Western Network. I shook my head out of it when the powers warned me. “It’s like they never leave.”
He clenched his hands around a stone. His green eyes, looking so clear, were far away, staring at something on the other side of the pond.
“I’d gotten in a fight with him just before he left,” he said. “I was angry at something so small, so trivial. Something that didn’t even matter. He’d asked me to finish my work before I went to play with my friends. He said that a real man follows through on his responsibilities. I told him I wasn’t a man, I was a boy, and never wanted to be anything different. Then I left, and I never saw him again.”
I swallowed. My throat felt dry and thick. Merrick’s shoulders relaxed back, his muscles loosened and he shook his head, coming back into his face again. The rock in his fist fell to the wet ground below with a gentle smack.
“I promised myself I’d never be that immature again.”
He stood up, raising from the ground like some kind of giant presence. His silhouette blocked out the sun, creating a halo of light behind him in long slivers like fingers.
“Let’s get going,” he said. “We’ve got a long run ahead of us.”
If you’re loving these short stories and want more, don’t miss out on Short Stories from the Network Series, which has hundreds of pages of more Camille, Merrick, Leda, Brecken, Michelle, and more!
(All the short stories in this book are from the viewpoint of other characters in the book. Ever wonder what Merrick first thought when he met Bianca the first time? That’s in there!)