Catch me as I fall
“Annabelle? Annabelle!” Alice’s loud, scared voice brought the girl back to life. At first she thought of yelling something mean back to Alice, because she had awoken her even before the sun had risen - which was way too early - but something in Alice’s voice made her change her mind.
“I’m coming, Alice,” she sighed, and pulled on the sky blue dress with the white apron, as always. Because she didn’t have time to even comb her hair, she only pinched her cheeks before she went to find the origin of Alice’s voice. She heard how Alice shouted something else to her while she was walking, so she stopped and took a deep breath out of frustration.
“Where are you, Alice?” She shouted at the empty walls. “I’m not in the mood for hide and seek!” Tired, she leaned against the bare wall, and waited for an answer. Again she heard Alice shout her name, and the girl sighed deeply before she went to William's room instead of following her friend’s voice. “If you don’t tell me where you are, I’ll go to Mr. Smith.” She knew the effect his name had on her, and smiled faintly in the dim morning glow.
“I’m in Mrs. Ericsson’s room,” Alice hissed, “come quickly!” Annabelle raised her eyebrows sarcastically, before she turned around and walked towards the old woman’s room.
The sight that met her when she arrived was the kind of sight that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Quickly she closed her eyes - though it wasn’t quick enough - never wanting to open them again. She bit her lip hard, trying to be brave.
“Alice,” she said, trembling, and regretted it as soon as the girl’s name left her lips. She took a deep breath, gathered strength and power. “Alice! Cover her body with a sheet.” Annabelle swallowed hard when she heard how Alice shook the sheet, trying to cover the entire body. The scent of red, sticky blood filled her lungs, and she opened her eyes in panic. When she could see again, she struck her hand to her mouth and leaned against the door frame. She gasped, her body not being able to breathe, as she continued to torment herself by watching. Alice saw the girl’s reaction, and tried to catch her gaze.
“Go get Mr. Smith, Annabelle,” she said, and the taste of his name on her lips made her shudder. He will soon be dead, she thought, and at once her body became calm. Annabelle nodded vaguely, before she tumbled out into the corridor. The echo of her steps brought Alice back to reality, and the smell of rotten human flesh filled her senses as she continued to cover the body with the sheet.
She raised her hand as if to knock on the door, but stopped herself. What if he was sleeping? She didn’t want to wake him. She bit her lip hesitantly, but then decided to lean against the door to see if she could hear anything. Just when she placed her hands against the door, it went wide open. Stumbling into the room, she found it was hidden in a numb darkness. She fell to her knees on the creaky, dark floor and forced herself not to scream out into the dark. Instead she bit her lip even harder, and shoved the dark curls away from her pale face.
“William?” She whispered, as she fumbled with her hands along the floor. When she got no response, she tried to rise from the floor. “William?” This time her voice was higher, filled with new force, though it was worry that lay behind her words. She found her way to his bed, insecure in the dark. Suddenly she struck against a table, and knew at once that she was standing by the mahogany dining table.
She suddenly remembered the candles William kept there, and turned the other way around. It would really help if she found a candle to light. She found something that felt like a long white candle and struck fire to it. Immediately, flames lit up and a mild light made the shadows escape. Annabelle looked around the room for William, for some sign of life, but when she didn’t find anything there wasn’t much left to do. Quickly she blew out the candle, and with the darkness close behind, she ran out through the wide open door.
Slowly the sun had begun to rise on the pale blue sky, as if to show her that a new day was coming. The clouds lay as streaks around the mighty oaks, and Annabelle could hear birds singing in the new day. She smiled a little, as she felt herself getting more and more tired. Stubbornly she shook on her head, and let the morning wind swirl around her curls.
“William!” She shouted as she stood outside Mrs. Ericsson’s old farm. When she got no answer, she lowered her head and clenched her jaws. In her thoughts she sent a prayer to God that William was safe, for she knew how sick he was. “William,” she said then, quietly, and let the wind carry his name away over the meadow. She took a few deep breaths before her hands found her dress’s soft, worn fabric, and her bare legs carried her across the meadow.
Let him live, she prayed, as the wet grass embraced her bare feet. Let him live.
She found his body underneath one of the largest oak trees, at the edge of the vast forest. The sun’s mild rays made his dark hair shimmer as if it were made out of the same thing as a starry night, and Annabelle felt her courage failing her when she reached him.
Breathlessly she fell on her knees, and fought against her own treacherous emotions. A trickle of ruby red blood ran from his pale nose to his mouth, though it was already dried, and Annabelle took one of his hands and placed it on her cheek.
“Don’t leave me,” she whispered, afraid of her words true meaning, while she was surprised by her dry eyes. Then she laid her cool hand on the grass, and took a deep breath. She sat down with her back leaning against the tree, still right next to him, and turned her eyes up against the sky.
After a moment she took his hand back in hers, pressed it gently and closed her eyes. The girl was too far away, too deep in the imaginary world that is sleep, to feel the boy pressing back.