Winter Wars

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This is horrible, I find myself thinking. This is not how I want to get Marcy into shopping again. Before Sebastian (B.S. as I’ve come to think of it), she and I used to shop all the time. We’d start early in the morning and wouldn’t stop until we had blisters on our feet. Post Sebastian Marcy just came with me to people watch, or so I’d thought. I think that now that I know what her situation was, why she couldn’t tell me anything and why she was distant, I can understand her not wanting to be too close, but at the same time, be close. Shopping was our thing, and if she’s with me while I am, and not participating, maybe she still felt close to me.

It might just be wishful thinking.

“What do you think of this? Would mom approve?” Marcy is holding up a strapless, black, sequined dress not even long enough to cover her snatch.

“Neither mom nor dad would approve.” I laugh. I pick up a sleeveless, navy blue, knee length, wrap dress with a slight satin sheen on the skirt. “It has an empire waist; it’d look really nice on you.”

“Seems a bit more you.” She says in reply.

“Nah. It’s got knots like it’s tied.” Marcy pokes the nobs. “It’s more you. What do you think, Ryner?”

He focuses his gaze towards me. “Sorry?” he says. Marcy rolls her eyes, crosses her arms, and juts out one hip looking irritated.

“Do you think mom and dad would like this dress on Marcy?”

“I would not know for certain,” he says. “But I have reason to believe your mother would be delighted to have Marcy wearing a dress again as opposed to the baggy sweat pants she has grown accustomed to.”

“Mom always did like playing dress up with us.”

“Dress up is for kids,” Marcy mutters in a bitter voice. She looks out towards the people walking by, searching the crowd as if she’s looking for someone. “But if you think mom would like, I suppose I can wear it.” She takes and turns it around. She wrinkles her nose and picks up a purple knee length dress. Sleeveless drop waist with a lapel and collar.

“I could wear that,” I say. “I think dad would like that’s it’s more conservative than what I usually wear.”

“Perfect,” she mumbles. We make our way to the counter and the saleswoman turns up her nose to Marcy. Marcy had always been… intimidating to others, but the look on her face as grabs the woman’s hand to get the bag is close to murderous.

The woman drops the bag and stumbles out, “Ha-have a nice day.”

Marcy turns and stalks away.

I frown. Something serious is grating against her nerves. If only she would talk to me more. Maybe I could help her more…

“Do not despair.”

“Huh?” Ryner is walking next to me. From the looks of him, he’s on high alert. His shoulders are tense and his gaze is shifting back and forth.

“This is one of the last places she saw Sebastian the most. It is only natural that she feel uneasy here.”

“If she saw him here a lot, why would she come here all the time?”

“Oh? I would think that was obvious.”

“How so?” I grumble. It didn’t make any sense to always be seen somewhere you didn’t even like and have a crazy person like Sebastian know where you were. What’s the point?

“You enjoy this?” he asks. Marcy is waiting outside of Hot Topic, glaring at us as if willing us to move faster. As her older sister, I’m immune to such looks. As her protector, Ryner can’t care less.

“Yeah,” I say. “I like to shop and this is the best place to do it.”

“That is the reason.”

“She would come back here, even if it meant seeing Sebastian, because… I like to shop?”


“That’s stupid and thoughtless and—”

“Completely like her,” Ryner says. “She is often impulsive.”

Impulsive isn’t the half of it, I grumble to myself. When we were kids, we once built a fort at the top of a tree. On a whim, she waged war with the fellow boys in our neighborhood even though I had told her it wasn’t a good idea. For one thing, they were my age then—ten. For another, there were seven of us and about fifteen of them. Not a very good chance of winning. But, of course, she didn’t listen. At six, she was quite the leader, but in the end we lost, just as I had predicted.

Even after that loss she still wanted to fight again. I’m almost convinced that most her thoughts begin with, ‘Why not…’ and end with ‘Oh, well’.

“Marcy!” someone squeals and then, with a flash of gold and black, that someone launches themselves on my sister. “It feels like it’s been forever.”

Marcy seizes up and looks around. “Yeah,” she mumbles. “I guess it has.” Lacey looks back to us. She wrinkles her nose at me but checks out Ryner. I swear the girl has no class.

“Who’s the muscle?”

“What?” Marcy looks back at us as if she’d forgotten we’re with her. “Oh. That’s Hyde. He’s… a friend.”

“You hesitated,” An evil smile stretches across her face. “Oh, I see how it is. Gettin’ a boyfriend before me.” She glares in my direction. “You third wheeling?”

“No,” I mutter. “He’s my friend.”

“Uh-huh,” It’s obvious she doesn’t believe me. I don’t care, I just want to get out of here.

“Lacey,” Marcy puts her hands on the bubbly girl’s shoulder. “Hyde is not my boyfriend. He’s just a friend.”

“Shame. He’s hot.”

I spare a glance at Ryner. He’s not even paying attention.

“We should leave.” He announces.

“Already?” Lacey whines.

“Yes, we must leave.”

Marcy tenses and fidgets with the bag in her hands. “Yeah, we gotta go.”

“Since when do you let people tell you what to do?” Lacey demands.

Marcy winces. We know that she doesn’t—at least when she has a choice. “It’s not that, we just have to go. Like, right now.”

Putting her hands on her hips, she looks at Marcy, eyes full of disdain. “If you insist. Call me when you can.”

“Yeah, sure, okay.” Marcy grabs my hand and we almost run out of the mall.

Ryner knocks on the door of the dressing room. “Are you ready yet?”

“Almost.” I look at Marcy. Her brow is creased with worry and she casts her eyes downward.

“Marcy, what’s the matter?”

“Aside from the obvious?” She raises her eyebrow. “Sebastian was at the mall.”

“How do you know?”

“You know how you can feel when someone is looking at you?” I nod. “It’s kinda like that.”

“I didn’t even realize,” That explains why she was in such a hurry to leave earlier. Being near Sebastian, with a short fuse like hers, wouldn’t have ended well. Ryner would have had to carry her out kicking and screaming. Not unlike the first time he brought us to Westmoor.

We link arms and walk out of the dressing room. Ryner, donning in a black suit, still looks ready to take on an army. Mom and dad wouldn’t have wanted black, but I doubt anyone could have convinced Ryner otherwise. Black is just his thing.

Ryner escorts us out into the funeral home where fifty people are seated, waiting for us to come out. We sit in the front row. A clergy comes out a few minutes later.

I don’t pay much attention to his words; I know they’re stereotypical, sentimental, and well meaning, but I stare at the coffins. White Oak coffins painted solid white. Pictures of mom and dad are on display. Mom’s picture is her holding Marcy the day she was born and me peering into the blanket at my squirming little sister. Dad picture is a formal one, from when he had to pose at a museum opening. I wish there was a better picture of dad. One where he’s smiling and not looking so serious.

Dad was a proud man, but he was also… like me. As Marcy said mature, but not mature enough to be considered an adult. He always knew how to joke.

Marcy takes my hand. I sniffle. When did I start crying?

“Would either of you like to give a eulogy?” The clergy approaches us and I look to the ground. All of my strength seems to fade. I can’t find in me to get up and give a speech to all of these people.

“We’re together again,” Marcy whispers. “I can do it.”

Maybe I should feel bad, sending my little sister up there, but for as long as I can remember, she’s always been the stronger one. She’s impulsive and rash, but she’s always ready to take the blame, fight the battle, wage the war. I should be ashamed, but it’s a simple fact that Marcy is, and always will be, stronger than me.

Marcy stands and makes her way to the front. She looks nervous as she fiddles with the skirt of her dress. She smooths out her dress and intertwines her fingers before started. “As the younger of the two of us, Katrina and me, I don’t think I’m all that qualified to stand up here. I haven’t known my parents that long. Seventeen years may be all of my life, but it’s not even half of theirs.” She shifts and squints at the beam of sunlight coming through a high window. “I would like to think that mom and dad would be proud of us. I’ve seen two or three black umbrellas and the same number of black attire. I will admit that we can’t control the weather, but everything was of our own volition. I can’t see that many tears and I think that mom and dad would be laughing at that. We have so many more things to smile about.”

Her gaze swings across the room. “We smile for the life they lived, we smile for every memory made with them. We smile for the impact they had in each of our lives. I smile for the unconditional love they showered me with for my seventeen years of knowing them. I don’t really have any regrets when it comes to everything we went through with them, but I wish I had more time with mom and dad.” Her eye’s start to water and she blinks away the tears. “I wish I could have learned more from them and revel in their wisdom of the world. I wish that I had said I love you more and that I that I was more free with my hugs and that they could see I needed them as much as I needed the air in my lungs. I could go on forever with my wishes, but I doubt I could ever remember them all. Really, I want to thank mom and dad for everything they’ve ever given me and put one last wish out into the world: I wish that as we continue on, we never forget them.”

The burial service isn’t as depressing as it might have been. Despite the fact that we knew none of them, I think that Marcy’s speech meant something to them. There’s one person—aside from Ryner and Jayson—that I have a vague sense of recognition. The man looks older, hardened, almost like a war veteran. He has curly black hair and crooked nose as if it had been broken and never quite healed right.

Where I’d seen him is beyond me, but it’s bugging me, pulling at some far away memory in the back of my mind…

As the caskets are being lowered into the ground, on plots side by side, Marcy stays by my side. Since her speech, she hasn’t spoken and I know that she’s thinking their death are on her hands. If I don’t diffuse him, mom and dad won’t be the only ones I’ve killed. And I had said nothing against it. I hadn’t told her that it wasn’t her fault, I hadn’t told her that she had been roped giant mess no of her own volition. I hadn’t told. And if her own sister thinks that she’s to blame, what would stop her from believing it to be true?

We toss our handfuls of dirt onto the coffins and start to disperse back to the church. Just before we pass through the door, Marcy tenses and turns around. I look, but there’s nothing to see but grass and diggers shoveling dirt into the graves. She turns and walks into the home again.

The wake starts off in a quiet and somber mood, until someone laughs. Then the volume increases with gusto—just like a middle school cafeteria: it’s impossible to hear yourself because the table behind you is being obnoxiously loud so you have to raise your voice and it starts a chain reaction.

Everyone is laughing and smiling and wiping away tears, celebrating mom and dad. Many walk up to us and give their condolences, some just pass us by. I don’t mind. I’m not much in the mood for talking anyway.

Marcy is sitting beside me, looking out at the crowd with the same vigilant look she had in the mall. She tenses again and stands. “I gotta go for a second.”

“Go where?”

“Just outside. I’ll be back, promise.” She hustles out the door. I look for Ryner, but he’s out of sight. After a split second decision, I get up and follow her.

Marcy’s voice carries on the wind. From around the corner I see her poking the chest of a man several inches taller than her, but, then again, most people are taller than her. His black hair is push back by the wind and a cruel sneer is fixed on his face. By her aggressive body language, this can’t be anyone but Sebastian. Anger boils in me. He looks at her as if she’s his pet.

“…you’re fault.” Marcy is saying. “If it wasn’t for you, I’d still have my parents. I’d still have a sister, I wouldn’t have so many Goddamn deaths on my hands!”

“You did that all by yourself.” He growls. “You can’t put the blame for any of that on me.”

“No,” Her voice lowers to a calm only meant for the dead and the wind stops. Her words are crystal clear. “It was you, who almost killed me. It was you, who severed my ties with everyone. It was you, who caused your favorite pet to run away from you.” Though her back is to me, I can almost see the snarl on her face.

She starts to turn away, but he grabs her hand. “Don’t turn away from me. I could still have Lacey and your sister killed with a snap of my fingers.” There’s a fractured light in his eyes, and it’s clear that this man is insane. He isn’t bluffing, he isn’t kidding. He’s completely serious.

“Go ahead and fucking try.” Marcy hisses. Her voice rolls over me like a tidal wave of fury and I take a step back. “Then there’ll be no one left I care about and nothing in this world could stop me from coming after you, because God knows the only thing keeping me from killing you is the pain the repercussions would cause to those close to me.” She turns to go and this time he lets her.

I turn to go back but run into a wall of muscle instead. “Ow,” I mutter, rubbing my nose. “Ryner, why are you lurking behind me?”

“My apologies,” he mumbles. “Come,” He takes my arm and leads me back into the home.

“She’s not going to do anything, right?” As much as I want Sebastian as far away from Marcy as humanly possible, I don’t want him six feet under. But then again, after what Sebastian did to her the first time, her personality flipped from an optimist to a pessimist. What would happen if I did die?

“It is hard to say,” he says. “I have watched her for years, so I know there is a small chance that she will follow through with her threat.” Despite his words, he still looks worried. He disappears into the crowd.

I retake my seat as Marcy walks back in. She wipes her eyes and makes her way back to me. She sits and looks at the ground with a miserable expression on her face. “I’m so tired.” She mumbles. “I just wanna go to sleep.”

“When we get home,” I promise. “You can sleep for as long as you want.”

Jayson approaches us with a nervous look on his face. His gaze shifts back and forth, but unlike Ryner, he gives off an air of apprehension. “If you’d like, I can take you Westmoor.”

“Yes,” Marcy says. “Take us home.” Now, it might be the fact that she just saw Sebastian or the overall funeral that her nerves are shot, but even a monkey can tell that Jayson is more nervous than before. But it’s not like I can prove that right now. Anyone with a nervous disposition like Jayson is bound to be jumpy and neurotic.

Hand in hand, we follow Jayson out. Marcy falls asleep on the way. We get to Westmoor safely—somehow or another Jayson managed to calm down enough to not be so spazzy while driving.

We deviate to the kitchen. This is one of the places didn’t get to see much of in the tours. It’s tucked in the back of the house with the laundry room and family room. It looks like a modern kitchen fused together with an old Victorian kitchen. Lots and lots of oak wood, tall cabinets, an island with cabinets, and more modern appliances. There’s a fridge, electric stove, and an electric chandelier that hangs above the island. The kitchen is twice as big as a normal kitchen.

Jayson flicks a light switch and, along with the chandelier, several electric mounted candelabra light up along the wall. He makes his way to the fridge and gestures for us to sit on the stools. Marcy sets her head down. Jayson pulls out a coffee maker and starts the water.

“Jayson, how did you know our parents?” I ask. “Did you work for them like Ryner?”

“Um, kind of. Sorta. Not really.”

“So, did you know them just because Ryner knew them?”

“Uh, um,” his gaze moves to the coffee pot. “It’s kinda hard to explain.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just that I’ve known your parents all my life.”

“Did your parents know ours?”

“Um, yes, but—” He cocks his head and, with a sudden jerk, sits up straight. The pot of water only has five cups, but he gets to it pours it into two cups.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he mumbles. He digs through the drawers and cabinets in a frantic search. “I’m just trying to avoid Ryner. He’s almost here.”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Finally!” he grumbles. “Just hold on a second.” He grabs two spoons and scoops powder from two jars. The first jar I recognize as hot chocolate, but the second is in a glass jar. He sets the mugs in front of us.

“What’s in the glass jar?”

“Just a few herbs: jasmine, pine, white sage. Nothing of great importance. It just makes it taste better.”

“Okay,” I elbow Marcy. “Wake up. Jayson made us hot chocolate.”

“Smells funny,” she mumbles. “What he put in it?”

“Herbs,” I take a sip. “It tastes really good.”

“If you say so,” Marcy takes a sip, frowns, and takes another sip. “Are you sure these are just herbs? It tastes really… really…” Her eyes become unfocused as she stares at Jayson in an attempt to glare, then her head slams against the table.

“Marcy!” I reach out and shake her. “Are you… you… o… kay…?” My vision blurs in and out. The cup slips from my hand and the liquid burns my skin. I slump forward, no longer in control of my body.

My hearing is muffled and then brought into sharp focus. “…did you do?” Someone is talking, but who is it? I know the voice, but the name, I can’t seem to remember his name.

“…orders. I was just following orders.” Jayson backs up to the fridge and my vision blurs out. My head bobs as I try to stay awake. What had been in that hot chocolate?

“…help me. We take them upstairs.” Jayson’s face is suddenly in front of mine, then my eyes roll back, and the world goes dark.

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