Tales of You and I: A Collection of Short Stories

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Boy of the Blue Sky

It wasn’t normal, the day Mace came. Usually it’s cloudy here, with a grey sky and frequent rain. Sunshine is rare, and when it does come it usually gets washed away by the chilling thunderstorms that shake our houses and scare the dogs. But when that strange boy came, it was like the sky cracked and a little bit of heaven poured through. We felt warmth on our skin and the sky was finally blue.

But we were too frightened to care about this new wonder; the boy looked fierce and foreboding; even the dogs seemed to shrink away from him as he walked down the path leading into our small town, his long tangled hair being pushed about by the newfound breeze. I watched from my doorstep, my eyes wide with fear but yearning to reach out to the stranger that was pushed away by the other residents. They slammed their doors in his face and closed their windows.

I didn’t blame them. He was very scary.

His face was smeared with dried mud and there were small leaves in his hair. His clothes, which consisted of a grimy shirt and ripped jeans, were also covered in mud.

He stood in the middle of the town square, right next to the Family Tree. It’s the prized item of our little village. It’s more than three hundred years old, and carries the names of every person that has ever lived here. When they move in, they carve their name into the bark and are bound to live here forever.

He placed one hand on the trunk and faced the people still brave enough to stay outside. Mother put a hand on my shoulder, as if she was afraid I would run off.

Nobody said anything. It was like silence had fallen down upon us like a thick blanket, suffocating. I felt as if I couldn’t breath.

A few more moments. Then the boy spoke. “I have come,” he said, “to bring you gifts.”

His voice was beautiful, like a mountain. It was big and gentle at the same time, but also a little bit cold. Some mountains have snow on top, as you know. He sounded just like that.

Nobody answered him. Nobody answered the boy with skin so different from ours; our skin was white and pale from staying indoors for so long because of the rain. This boy’s skin was dark, darker than the mud on his face.

They were scared of him.

I was tired of people not speaking. “What gifts?” I said quietly. Only Mother heard me, and she frowned slightly and squeezed my shoulder tighter. “What gifts?” I said louder. She pinched me slightly and I winced.

He turned towards my direction, and I saw his eyes, a navy blue. “I’ve already given you one,” he said. “Do you want more?”

I wasn’t sure if it was a threat, him saying that, or if he truly wanted me to answer him. Mother pinched me again, and I knew that if I spoke I would be in more trouble than I’ve ever been in before.

“What is the meaning of this?” A croaky voice came around the corner. Mother and I turned.

It was Mayor Smith, the old and wizened man who tried to make people do whatever he wanted, whether they worked for him or not. He came hobbling around the corner with his two walking sticks, his tiny glasses repeatedly sliding off his nose. He stared at the boy and gave a loud whimper of fright.

“What is that?” he cried, pointing a shriveled finger at the boy. “It looks like a chimpanzee!”

Then boy turned towards him and narrowed his stunning eyes. “I am not a chimpanzee,” he said in a low voice. “I am here to bring you gifts--and to live here.”

Mayor Smith gave a little cry. “No, no!” he exclaimed. “Absolutely not! You are not one of us, you were not born here!”

“Neither was I,” I said, this time ignoring my mother’s pinches. I stepped out of her reach and walked a few steps forward, not quite inside the square but close enough. “My mother and I found this place, remember? And you took us in without any questions.”

“Because you looked like humans, did you not?” Mayor Smith objected, crossing his arms.

I walked the rest of the way into the square and stood next to the boy, my arms crossed and my head held high. “He is human,” I insisted firmly. “And you will let him live here. Don’t you remember your vow, when you became mayor?” I wasn’t there, of course, since I’m only fifteen, but everyone knows the mayor’s vow.

Mayor Smith frowned at me. “I remember,” he said.

“And what did it say?” I prompted, ignoring the hushed whispers of the other villagers.

Mayor Smith sighed. “It said that I should welcome all who desire to be residents, no matter what their background or facial features.”

The vow said it in a more elegant way, of course, but he was right. “Exactly,” I said. “He desires to be a resident, as you say, and it looks like you’re rejecting him because of his face.”

Mayor Smith sighed. “Fine,” he said. “Fine. But he’s on trial... just a trial.”

It was good enough.

I didn’t know why I helped the boy in the first place; I didn’t know him, didn’t know anything about his gifts or why he was here. The only thing I did know was that soon rain became rare and sunshine the common weather after he moved here.

“He will be WHAT?” I heard Mother scream from the sitting room and put down my book, startled. Mother never yelled, not unless I’ve done something very bad.

But she wasn’t yelling at me...

I went into the living room. There was someone else there, I could hear a man’s voice. An old voice.

Oh... Mayor Smith.

He was sitting on the couch, and Mother was standing in front of him with her arms crossed. She looked up as I came in and beckoned for me to stand next to her.

“This man,” she said, her nostrils flaring, “wants that maniac of a boy to stay in this house. Him, of all people!”

“Temporarily, ma’am,” Mayor Smith reassured her. “He doesn’t have a family... none that I know of, anyway. He needs somewhere to stay. Besides, he’s on trial; he’ll be out before you know it. He won’t survive here.”

Mother’s shoulders relaxed. “Fine,” she said reluctantly. “Just for a few days.”

“Thank you,” Mayor Smith said. “Goodness, if I’d had to take him in myself...” he continued mumbling to himself as he walked out of the house, his walking sticks making loud taps on the floor.

“Winona,” Mother said, putting her hands on my shoulders, “you stay clear of that boy. Do not talk to him. He looks like a wild child, someone that has lived in the forest all their lives. He looks like a danger to us all.”

I knew I was lying as I said it, but I did anyway. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I won’t go near him.”

But I did.

He was moved into my room, and I slept with Mother. Everyone said he was a curse brought to us, but how could that be when he took away the rain and brought out the sun? It was silly, of course, thinking that he himself brought good weather... but it did. It felt like it did.

At midnight, I crept out of Mother’s bed and knocked on the door. It opened, but no one was behind it. The boy was sitting on my bed, sitting straight as if he was leaning against a wall. His eyes glinted in the dark as he looked at me. Nervously, I crept towards him.

“Hello,” I said. “What’s your name?”

He looked at me and cocked his head, as if wondering whether or not he should trust me. Apparently he could, because he let himself sit just a bit less straight and said, “Mace. My name is Mace.”

“I’m Winona,” I said. “Can I sit?”

He nodded his head and I sat on the edge of the bed. “Why did you come here?” I asked. “Hardly anyone even knows this town exists.”

He sat up straight again. “I wanted to,” he answered.

“How old are you?” I asked. “Where are your parents? Are they alive?”

“Thirteen, nowhere, no,” he said stoutly. “Stop asking me questions. I am here to bring you gifts, not to answer questions about my personal life.”

I sighed. “What gifts?” I asked.

“Gifts that you can only receive after being my family,” he said. Then his eyes narrowed. “Now get out.”

Two days after, Mother was at her wit’s end. She hated Mace, hated everything about him. She hated him, even though he was polite and helped with the chores whenever he could. She hated him though he never said a single cruel word to her, hated him only because she didn’t know about his past.

To know a person, you have to trust them. But she didn’t know him.

I often saw him fingering the tree, running his hands over it and gazing at the names carved into the bark. I wondered if he wanted his name there, too.

A week passed, and the town seemed to partly accept that Mace was here and he might not ever leave. Nobody was kind to him except me, but I didn’t get much chance to because Mother always kept an eye on me. “He’s a curse, that one is,” she said every time she caught me looking at him. “Don’t go near him.”

“I won’t,” I answered every time. “I promise.”

One night I crept out of bed; I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t tired, or that something seemed to be calling me from the room. Shivering in my nightgown, I crept outside. Our house is right next to the Family Tree, and so I could see it clearly.

There was Mace, touching the trunk again. He held up his hand to me and I came over.

“I live here,” he told me. “And I will live here forever, body or not.”

I frowned. “What?” I said. “What are you talking about?”

“Shh,” he hissed. “Quiet.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. For one horrible second I thought he was going to strike me, but instead he reached out to the tree and pushed it inside. I gasped.

When he stepped away, I could see it. Mace Strider, said the carving.

I looked at him in bewilderment. “What did you do?” I exclaimed. “Mace, there’s a ceremony for that!”

He looked deep into my eyes. “Not for me,” he said. “I am bound here. Go back to bed.”

“What? I don’t understand,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

He looked down at the ground. “I have no family,” he said. “No one is kind to me. It is time for me to make them feel.”

“Feel? Feel what?” I asked. I felt chills race up my spine.

“All I want is care,” he said. He sounded broken. “Please. Go.”

I opened my mouth to reject, but he looked at me with such fury in his eyes that I ran all the way back into the house as fast as my legs could carry me.

The next day, there was a big flood. The happy sunshine that we’d been blessed with ever since Mace’s arrival was whisked away overnight. The streets were turned into swimming pools, the lake into an ocean. Roofs leaked and hair dripped.

And Mace was lost.

Mother was the one who noticed first. She went to wake him up, grumbling about his laziness when she saw he wasn’t in bed. We searched the whole house, then the neighborhood, ignoring the rain that soaked through our clothes. We called his name, cried out loud. Soon we got the other villagers looking too. Even Mayor Smith searched the farms.

Everyone was looking.

Nobody found him.

“All he wanted was a family,” I said to Mother, tears streaming down my face and mixing with the raindrops. “All he wanted was care.”

Mother hugged me tight. “I was not kind,” she sobbed. “I should have been kinder. He wanted a home...”

The other villagers looked up at the sky and uttered silent prayers. Mayor Smith peered at the Family Tree and gasped.

“His name,” he said, “is here.”

We all crowded to look; I wasn’t as enthusiastic. I had seen Mace do the deed.

“He was a citizen,” one person said. “And we never knew.”

“It happened last night,” I said, wiping water from my eyes. “He said he was bound here, body or not.”

“It looks like it’s not,” Mayor Smith said with wide eyes.

The funeral was dismal but sunny. We took his body from the streets, washed from the lake. We all mourned him and cried, even though we hardly knew him. Even the villagers that didn’t even know his name had piercing pains in their hearts. “We will miss him dearly,” said Mayor Smith. “Though we failed to welcome him into our town, he is welcome in our graveyard. May he Rest In Peace.”

We all put flowers on his grave, and I put my hand over the glass cover and watched my tears fall in little droplets. With every tear shed, it got a little but sunnier. With every prayer said, a flower grew.

Or, at least, it seemed.

Goodbye, I whispered in my mind.

Months passed, and Mace’s gifts brought utter joy. Trees grew, flowers bloomed, and the rainclouds were pushed away and replaced with fluffy white masses that floated in the sky. People would run their hands over his name on the Family Tree, until it became a sort of habit for many of them. Me? I just looked up at the bright blue sky and smiled.

We missed him. And that, it seemed, was enough to make him know that we cared.

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