Winter Wars

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The American Civil War. One of the bloodiest conflicts to ever present itself to the U.S., over 600,000 soldiers died only to be eclipsed a bit by the recent Vietnam War, and it might happen again. I remember what mom thought about it once it was all over the news.

“President Keller has turned our country to shambles.” She paced back and forth looking at the TV as though it had the gall to bring her bad news. Marcy, dad, and I sat on the couch leaning this way and that to see around her. “Not him, but the people pulling the strings. They’ve gone through all of our tax revenues and we’re all still waiting here for something to happen. More than likely a statement saying that the economy is dead, but I know that, if the economy were a dog, Keller’s been walking a dead one since his reelection. And once he’s officially buried the economy in its grave, what are we gonna do? Are we expected to just sit around on our butts and wait for the government to turn into a dictatorship and the democratic-republic turn into a dictatorial communist state?” She huffed in anger and continued to pace in front of the TV.

At the time, I didn’t have a complete understanding of what she had been ranting about, I was sixteen, but I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it isn’t something to be taken without a heavy heart. Over the last few years, the economy has, in fact, started to die. People are losing jobs left and right, almost every city is crawling with the homeless and needy. It was only a matter of time before we started to take action. People formed organizations designed to find a way to get the economy back on its feet and groups meant to storm the White House. If that wasn’t a declaration of some type of rebellion, many veterans became leaders in the matters. The several storms on the White House that were able to get aired ended in bloodshed. I don’t know how many people died in those raids, the numbers were never aired, but I know it’s so much more than the president’s suggested number. Many people I’ve heard talking about it on the street wonder why there hasn’t been an official declaration and why the western states haven’t seceded. Mom said that it would signal the start of another dark time in the U.S. That it would be the start of some of the darkest days the U.S. has ever seen, and no one would be prepared for the terror, hunger, and anger to plague our once great nation.

Mom and dad believed enough that the war will happen if they thought ahead enough to write letters. I’m eligible to be drafted if we secede and the war does start.

I shake my head. I can’t think about that. The only weapons I’ve ever wielded are credit cards. I set the letter aside and look at the rest of the box’s contents. In a smaller box meant for necklaces, I find a crescent moon on a steel chain. I undo the clasp and put it on. I look to see what’s taking up most of the space. Two cloaks. Like, real, Middle Ages cloaks. A white one, which an outline of a crescent moon on the back, and a black one, with a full moon on the back.

“What’s with all the moons?” Marcy wonders.

“You got them too?” I hold up the cloaks and she shows me hers, identical to mine. “Dad always insisted we have the clothes to match our personality.”

“Yeah, it’s a shame he didn’t give you any glasses.”

“Because all geeks need a pair of glasses.” I give her a small smile. “I wonder how they differ.” We hold them up and I snicker. My cloaks are several inches longer, making hers look like a mini version of mine.

“Dad sure knows how to joke.” She says. “He always does—did—” she corrects herself, but her words still catch at the end, “this type of thing, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, ever since I shot up he made it a point to make everything different sizes.”

“And people wonder where you got your sense of humor? If we were guys this would be so much worse.” For the first time, in what felt like days, I laugh. It feels nice, laughing with Marcy like we used to.

“Yeah, I guess it would be.” She pulls the black cloak over her head and seems to relax a little. She picks up her cup of hot chocolate and lifts in the air. I take mine and do the same. “To mom and dad.” We knock our mugs together and take a drink. “You look mysterious wearing that. Almost older.”

“I think you look like a fugitive.” She says as I pull on my white one.

I gasp in fake horror. “You’re so mean.” I pout. “I can’t believe anyone thinks you’re nice.”

“I am nice,” She moves to sit next to me. I scoot over to make room for her. “Just on rare and special occasions.”

“Like my birthday?”

“Always on your birthday.”

“Hey, remember the year mom and dad got me a bounce house?”

“Yeah, and he got all upset when we kicked the little kids out.”

“It’s not our fault they kept hitting their heads.”

“Thinking back on it, I don’t think that bounce house was for us.”

“It probably wasn’t. I was turning sixteen.” I laugh. We sit and talk and drink hot chocolate as we think about our memories of mom and dad. The more we talk, the lighter I feel. A lot of people avoid talking about the dead. I think that that is one of the biggest ways of dishonoring them. If you’re not thinking of them, who is?

We laugh until laughter turns to sobs and our sobs weigh heavy on our eyes. Soon we are asleep.

For the first time in a long time, I dream of my childhood. In my dream, I’m small, maybe six years old. We’re in a forest, towering trees surround us, blocking out the brightness of the full moon. Us… Marcy. Marcy is with me. She grips my hand and whimpers as the cold wind rips around us. I wrap my jacket around her as she puts it on over her jacket. We’re wandering through the forest; I can’t see more than a few feet in front of me.

A growl rips through the silence. I turn and something huge, black, with shining orange eyes. I might scream, but my voice is caught in my throat. Marcy’s grip falls slack and she falls to the ground. It closes in on us but before it can make the jump, something slams into it. I recover from my shock long enough to wake up Marcy and start running. She can’t keep up, but whatever that was, I can hear it moving. We might be crashing further into the forest, but all I can think about it getting Marcy to safety. We climb over a fallen tree and run into mom. “Katty! Marcy” she exclaims. “What are you doing out here?”

“We got lost.” I start to sob. The sight of her makes my fear bubble over the surface. She pulls us both close to her chest wrapping her cloak around us. I try to explain, but I’m blubbering incoherent nonsense. She just shushed us and looked around with suspicion.

“C’mon,” she picks up Marcy and takes my hand. “Let’s get back. You’re not supposed to be out on a full moon—” Snarling cut off her sentence. Whatever it was that attacked us earlier—a wolf, now that my eyes have adjusted. It pounces and lands in front of us. I back behind mom; Marcy starts to cry. It growls at us, but mom doesn’t back down. “You dare attack your Luna? You dare attack her pups? The price you pay will not come easy.” Her voice doesn’t rise but there a tone of command, of absolute power, that rings throughout the forest. It makes the wolf whimper and back away. Slowly, it turns and dashes out into the forest.

I awake to see golden eyes looking down on us. The owners back up. “I, uh, I’m sorry. I was supposed to wake you up but, uh, never mind.”

“Hi, Jayson.” I yawn. Marcy is still asleep next to me. “I can’t believe she scowls in her sleep.”

“Maybe that’s just her face.”

“For the last two years that her face.” I look at her. “Why are you here?” I didn’t mean for it to sound rude, but I was still tired and the night before sleep hadn’t come easy.

“Well, uh, Ryner thought it would be a good idea for you two to see the estate. It, uh, it is yours now.”

“That’s right,” I say after a moment. “I forgot.” It’s weird becoming the owner of an estate overnight.

“When do you think she’ll wake up?”

“Give her a second. She’s already awake.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I know my sister.” Marcy opens her eyes and blinks in a rapid fire way. “See, what I tell you?”

“Katty, what are you doing?” she asks sitting up and stretching.

“Katty? You haven’t called me that in a while.” Not since we were kids and even then she called me Tree.

“I had the weirdest dream.”

“Me too, I’ll tell you later. Jayson wanted to give us a tour of Westmoor.”

“Sound like fun.”

“Don’t sound too excited.”

“Oh, no, I’m stoked. I’ve always wanted spend the rest of my day with a socially awkward kid learning about a house we just inherited.”

“Marcy,” I sigh. “Be polite.”

“Yeah, okay.” She swings her legs onto the ground and follows us out.

Touring a three story Victorian is not on my top list of things to do. It would rank twenty just behind touring a museum and touring Midland-Odessa Texas. It’s just like any other old Victorian: red oriental carpeting, heavy drapes, an asinine amount of windows, stairs and balconies. All the closet space the people who live here must be amazing.

Marcy walks next to us, arms crossed and an irritated expression etched on her features… but that’s just how she looks so I let it slide. I’m positive she’s not listening, but I’ll tell her whatever she’s missed later. “There are around twenty people living including me and Ryner. They’re not here often, only once a month.”

“Who are they? To my parents.”

“Everyone who lives here worked, in some way, for your parents. I can’t pin down what everyone does, but I do know that much. If I told you their names, do you think you’d be able to remember?”

“Maybe. My memory fails me sometimes.”

“I guess they could just introduce themselves when they get here. Full moon’s about to start.”

“What’s the full moon got to do with anything?”

“Uh, nothing really, it just happens to be the time they come to visit.” Full moon, huh. Mom and dad always left during the full moon now that I think about. The calendar I wrote my work schedule on had the phases of the moon on it because of a phase Marcy and I went through as kids being obsessed with Artemis. It was one way to stay close to her. I noticed that the three days of the full moon are the day’s mom and dad started to disappear at night. They’d gone on dates before, I know that, but the dates only ever started at eight or later and they would leave at around six every night. It might not seem weird, but I’ve had several jobs back to back since I was fifteen.

He leads us downstairs, through the kitchen, and out the back door. The kitchen staff looks extremely nervous when they see us. I link arms with Marcy as we walk through the grass. I have strong urge to just lay down and sky gaze. Maybe if she’s up to Marcy will join me. I doubt it though. If I know her, and I’m pretty sure I still do, she’s beating herself up over mom and dad’s death. It wasn’t her fault that it happened. She had done everything in her power to stop it from happening.

“There’s the pool house, but it’s main use is storage.” Jayson is saying. We walk towards the edge of the cliff and stop short a few feet away from the edge. “If you’re afraid of heights, I think you should stop here.”

“We’re fine.” Marcy says. Marcy glances over the edge at the green-blue waves pounding the rocks with vicious wrath from below and the smell of sea foam wafts up. “How far down in this?”

“Two hundred feet or so.” Jayson says. “If you drop from there, there’s no chance of survival.”

“It’d be a shame if someone were to fall.” She says. Jayson does a quick backpedal. “I would never push you off, Jayson. Hyde would be a horrible enemy to have.”

“I can’t believe that all you’re worried about.” I sigh shaking my head.

“Can we go back inside? I want to call my aunt.”

“Why do you want to call Aunt Tressa?”

“I wanna know what was salvaged from the fire.”

“I don’t think she’d tell us if there was.”

“It doesn’t hurt to ask.” Marcy shrugs. She knows I’m right, but I also know that Aunt Tressa will keep everything from us if we want it. I don’t know why she hates mom and dad or us so much. Marcy and I haven’t ever done anything to her and, as far we know, mom and dad haven’t done anything either.

Jayson leads us back inside where Ryner is waiting for us. “I have something for both of you.” He takes in both of our cloaks with a wary look. “Where did you find those?”

“Our parents gave us boxes with keepsakes in it.” Marcy explains. She tugs a bit on the cape and pulls it closer. “They were in them.”

“I see,” he frowns. “I have spoken with your… aunt.” He says it the same way Aunt Tressa referred to him as our friend earlier. “She agreed to give you all that you desire that has survived the unfortunate fire.”

“How’d you do that?” Marcy asks. “That’s pretty amazing for a socially challenged giant.”

“Why do you believe I am socially challenged?”

“I dunno. You don’t use contraction because you think it’s lazy English, but I think that anybody, any teenager or kid at least, would have picked up on even the smallest lingo unless they lived a very sheltered life. In which case, they wouldn’t know anything other than what their parents would want them to know. I’m betting that’s your reason.” She stares into his eyes, unyielding, not daring to back down. I think that most would back down from his stare, he’s intimidating, but Marcy was far too proud and strong to back down. “But I may be wrong, who’s to say.” She shrugs and turns away as if she didn’t just break down his childhood like she’s ordering pizza. “I wouldn’t listen to my ramblings.”

“So,” I say, rubbing her hands together in an attempt to break the heavy awkward silence. “What did you manage to get from Aunt Tressa?”

He studies Marcy for a moment longer and looks to me. “Many of your things burned, but both of you had fire proof chests with many of your things.”

“If you’re wondering why we had fire proof chests, it’s because our dad insisted that if we were going to start cooking, we’d need something to protect our things if the house ever burnt down because of it.” I explain. “Dad has—had” I correct myself and blink back tears. “—a literal sense of humor.”

“Yes, I suppose he did.” Ryner says. “They are in your room. The keys are there too.”

“Thanks, Ryner.” I say. “I hope you know how weird you are.” I address Marcy as we walk up the stairs.

“I know.”

“What was that, anyway?” How could she just break down someone’s life like it was nothing and pretend it didn’t happen?

“When my mind wanders, I tend to overanalyze things or people.” She says in an absent tone.

“Do you really think he was super sheltered?”

“Well, maybe. Some people just take after their parents. Look at us.”

“You were always a butterfly person like mom.”

“A butterfly person?” She raises her eyebrow in curiosity.

“You know, social, friendly, inviting.” I say listing off the things I remember her to be.

“I’m none of those things now.” Marcy trips at the top stair and almost gets an up close and personal view of the carpeted landing. She glares at the stairs as if they were made just to spite here. She straightens the skirt before picking it up so that the hem no longer drags on the ground. “You’re like dad. Always mature but never mature enough to be considered a responsible adult.”

“What are you talking about? I’m a responsible adult.”

“Trina, for my fifteenth birthday, you helped me vandalize a public fountain.”

I smile at the memory. “We didn’t get caught, did we?”

“No, but that’s not something a responsible adult would do.” She pushes the door to the room—I suppose it’s our new bed room, but it doesn’t feel like it. It always takes time to get adjusted to new places.

“So, what did you dream about?” I ask remember what she said earlier.

“Huh? Oh.” She takes the key from the box and swings it around her finger. “I—” she pauses and frowns. “Huh. I don’t remember. The dream, that it. But I know it was about the time I got lost in Boston. When we still had Ms. Blanchard for a baby sitter.”

“Oh, I remember that.” I take my key and unlock the box. “You said you were attacked by a monster.”

“Yeah, but my dream was more detailed. Way more detailed than what I’m used to. I can’t remember everything now.”

I open the top and pull out a small, blue and white crocheted baby blanket. I hold it close. It smells like smoke. I look to Marcy to see her holding up a black hoodie. “You’ve had that since that day you got lost. You never said why you kept it.”

“I just—I dunno. I felt like I should keep it.” She sets it down with care on the bed but keeps staring at it. “It’d be mean to throw something like this away.” She tears her eyes away from it and pulls out a few trinkets—a pin wheel, a tiny cloth doll (not a creepy, non-proportional one), chess pieces—and a few of her favorite books.

“You never kept much in there, did you?” I say pulling out a few of my things—an old stuffed rabbit, a backpack I got when I was twelve, my first paycheck stub, and a book of old stories.

“I did,” She sits on here bed and holds the hoodie in her lap. Her gaze is intense like if she stares at it long enough, she’ll remember what she’s forgotten. “I just cleared a lot of it out two years ago. I figured that I wouldn’t be home a lot and if that were the case, I should at least put the things I care a lot about somewhere I could get them.” She turns to me. “You said you had a weird dream too. What was it about?”

“I was lost in a forest. You were with me. I think I was six and you were three.”

“What were we doing in a forest?”

“No idea. I was trying to get back, but I was lost, then I heard something growl and I took off. I’m pretty sure that just made us more lost. Whatever was growling found us, and it would have attacked, but mom swooped in and yelled, ‘You dare attack your Luna? You dare attack her pups? The price you pay will not come easy.’ And then it left.”

“That’s… weird.” Her eyebrows are scrunched together, but I can tell she doesn’t think it’s weird in the way I would think Picante sauce on eggs is weird (which it is), but the type of weird that coincides with something being coincidental.

There’s a knock on the door. “Come in,” I call. Ryner steps halfway inside. His eyebrows are drawn together in an irritated way. “What’s up?”

“You aunt has called. The funeral is tomorrow.”

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