Never Surrender

This little scene was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.  This was a fun story to write – new characters for this universe.

**

Andrew stood on the seashore, staring up at the moon.  He had known, when he’d left the house, that he shouldn’t be out there.  However, he was bored of listening to his cousin, an aspiring poet, spout some inane verse she’d seen fit to memorize.  He dearly wished she’d find some better material.  Her favorite poem at the moment was focused on comparing rainbows to the antics of aquatic creatures when they reproduce.

It was dark enough that everything had lost its color.  The scene was bathed in white, black and shades of gray.  He might have stood there all night, except that he heard a high-pitched cry.

A week at the woebegone location, together with being forced to visit the cemetery near is domineering uncle’s home was enough to make him jittery.  The addition of a strange sound to the already eerie night meant that it was nearly instinctive to tense.  He bit his tongue before he called for his elder brother.

“Stop it,” he said, his voice sounding quite loud in the still night.  “Running for help over nothing.  You’ll only embarrass yourself again.”

He turned in the direction from which the sound had come and frowned out at the moor.  His uncle’s secretary had told him that he shouldn’t be out here alone practically since he’d arrived.  There were was a homeless tramp, the chubby woman had told him.  He might rob a young boy like Andrew.  Her protectiveness was annoying, but he could understand it all the same.

The sound came again and Andrew realized that it was a sound like horses made when they were excited.  This time, he didn’t let any pathetic fears hold him back.  He ran forward until he could hear the sound a cart would make as bounced up the road.

When he reached the edge of the road, he paused to listen and look.  He leaped up onto a fallen tree and tried to balance there.  Then, he spotted it.  Up on the hill, there was a lonely tower that overlooked the water.  The horses and the carriage he’d heard were up there.

As he hoped off the log, he felt pain burn through his leg.  He looked down to see that his pant-leg was torn and bloody.  He frowned for a moment, until he noticed a nail sticking out of the wood.  “Charming,” he said, as he stood.  Ignoring the blood, he headed up the slope towards the tower.  He slipped inside and then froze.

In the opening across from him, he could see a figure in a tall hat, with a walking stick.  It looked for all the world like he was nothing more than a well-groomed gentleman out for a stroll.  He took a step forward and then stopped as he saw another figure emerge from the shadows.

This one was a woman and Andrew knew it was his cousin before she spoke.  No one else he knew had such pale skin, except from Nicholas.  It was like chalk, it was so white.  He turned thoughtful as he watched the scene unfold.

“You’re a fool.”  She shook her head, as if in denial.  “Even you can’t stop what’s to come.”

“Join me,” he said, reach out to catch her arms with his hand.  He pulled her close, giving her a hug that was not just friendly.  As Andrew watched the man press a kiss to her brow, he felt as if he was intruding on a private moment.  “Come away with me, Irene.  I have a ticket for each of us.  We’ll have a private car.  Leave this wicked place before you lose all sense of self.”

Even as young as he was, Andrew knew what he was saying.  For him to invite her to come with him… Would she accept?

He was torn between leaving and speaking up.  However, he was a True Cross and that meant he wasn’t the kind to be meek.  Taking a step closer, he said, “You should go with him, Irene.”  They both turned, Irene almost hiding behind her suitor.  Andrew nodded and moved over the dusty floor to stand closer to them.  “Get away from this place.  Start over… someplace far away.”

“Father will chase us down, Andy,” she said, her voice faint.

Andrew shook his head.  “He won’t know where to find you, not if you leave here tonight,” he argued.  “Take a page out of those romance novels you always read and go for it.”  As an afterthought, he added, “You know how forgetful I am.  Why, by the time I get back to the house, I won’t even remember I saw either of you.”

Nodding, Irene caught her suitor’s hand.  She smiled wanly.  “Thanks you, Andrew,” she said.

Returning her smile, he turned away and headed in the opposite direction, back the way he’d come.  Behind him, he could heard the jingling the horses’ bridles.  Then, there was swishing of cloth as the man in the top hat swept Irene into the cart.  She would get away from her father and their dysfunctional relationship.  He wished her well of it.  Maybe, when they were wed, he’d be invited to attend the ceremony.  There was something stimulating about being let in on such a secret.

He heard a familiar voice echoing over the moor.  When he reached his brother’s side, he was still wearing a goofy grin.  If Nicholas noticed, he didn’t say anything about it.  Instead, he said, “Uncle wants you to help me unpack a crate in the cellar.  It’s filled with imported wines that need to be tested for impurities before they can be shipped off to the military base.”

“Right,” Andrew said, grabbing a pencil off the hallway table.  “Let’s get to it, then.”  He followed his brother into the cellar.  He could hear the sound of mice scampering away before they’d even turned up the lanterns to illuminate the room.

“Oh,” Andrew said, as he remembered the cut on his leg.  “I sliced open my leg and tore my pants.  Do you think Uncle will get… prickly about it?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?” Nicholas asked.  He heaved a sigh and hefted Andrew onto the crate to examine the cut.  “You’ll be fine, but Uncle will have a fit if he sees it.”  They both knew that their uncle preferred holistic treatments, but Nicholas wasn’t as keen on such things.  He left Andrew there and went to his room, to retrieve his medical kit.  He tended to the wound and then looked at his brother.  “When we’re done here, go and get changed.  I’ll make sure the maid sews those trousers before our uncle sees them.”

When Andrew nodded, Nicholas ruffled his hair.  “I’ll pop in tonight, after you’ve had a chance to undress and wash up.  That’ll give me a chance to redress your wound.”

“Make sure you print,” Nicholas said, as they set to work on the task their uncle had set for them.  A bang from the top of the stairs made them both pause to look towards the steps.

“What sort of trick is this, boy?” Uncle growled, as he stalked towards Andrew.

Nicholas stepped between them, his expression mild.  Where their uncle looked like he was about to explode, Nicholas was perfectly calm.  “Is there a problem, Uncle?” he asked, his voice soft.

“Where is Irene?”

Shaking his head, Nicholas said, “I haven’t seen her since lunch and Andrew has been with all afternoon.”  It was a lie, but Andrew knew their uncle wouldn’t realize that.

Their uncle looked from one to the other.  Then, he whirled away and headed back up the steps.  He might have hurt Andrew, if he’d been alone.  However, he was afraid of Nicholas.

“Thanks, Brother,” Andrew breathed.

Nicholas heaved a sigh.  “He’s dispensable and he knows it,” he breathed.  He turned back to Andrew and grimaced.  “He’s selective in recalling that fact and only seems to think about it when I’m with you.”

“The sword is a good reminder,” Andrew murmured.

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