Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Early Morning (Part 2 of 3)

Caleb cocked his head to the side and frowned. Just when she thought she might die from the silence, he spoke. “I saw you,” he said, in a surprisingly low voice.

Then he did the most unexpected thing of all. He smiled.

That smile let Daisy know he wasn’t talking about this morning in her back yard. She clutched her bag in her arms. If he saw her last night, maybe he knew what was happening to her. Maybe he could tell her why the woods pulled her from her bed, or why the crows seemed to speak to her.

Caleb’s smile shifted as he leaned forward in his elbows. His thumbs stuck out through holes cut into the sleeves of his thermal. He always wore one beneath his t-shirts, even in the summer. And his thumbs always stuck out from those holes, like if they didn’t, his arms might turn to wings and carry him away.

“Daisy?” he whispered. His voice cut through her and made her shiver. That skin prickling feeling returned. She didn’t like the way he looked at her as if he knew all of her secrets. It angered her that that might be true. She should know more about herself than Caleb Brown.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. She felt his eyes on her as she walked away, knowing that he knew, just as well as she did, that that was a lie.

* * *

The sun kissed her cheeks and Daisy opened her eyes to a clear blue sky, branches cutting through it like bony fingers ready to descend on her. She sat up with a start, the same way she always did upon waking in the forest. She should expect it by now, but it was one of those things that you just can’t become accustomed to. She brushed the red and yellow leaves from her clothes, pulled her hair into a fresh pony tail, and began the walk home.

She was prepared to tell her mother about her morning jog, and how she’d seen a deer dart across the path. She was prepared to answer any questions to fill in the gaps. But she wasn’t prepared for Caleb Brown, perched among the heavy branches of the dead elm, watching her with those steely gray eyes. She stopped and stared back at him, the silence thick but this time not uncomfortable. He knew, and today, so would she.

“We need to talk,” she said.

Caleb closed his eyes and jumped from the tree, landing gracefully just in front of her. “You already know. You just need to let go.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets and turned away from her. Daisy had already walked away from him and his answers once before. She wasn’t about to let him get away this time.

“Wait.” She grabbed his elbow and Caleb froze, as if her touch caused him the same tremors she felt in her own body. His arm was solid and it surprised her. Some part of her thought he might be intangible like the early morning mist over the field. “If you won’t tell me, can you show me?”

Caleb assessed her briefly and then he turned toward the forest. He drew a breath and let it out in a cloud of gray. “I can try.”

* * *

Caleb led Daisy through the woods on a path she knew by heart. Over a small stream that would soon turn to ice, and through the thickets part of the trees on a trail worn down by her own two feet. Her practical side told her it was unwise to follow him so far from anyone. Though Caleb had lived next door to her for years, she hardly knew him, and that had always been the way she preferred it, until today. Today Daisy wanted to know his secrets. Her secrets.

She wanted to ask where he was taking her, but she already knew, just like he’d said. She knew, she just had to let go. “Let go of what?”

“Yourself,” was all he said, and then he stopped and looked up. Daisy followed his gaze to the tops of the trees where an entire flock of crows covered the branches. They sat still, watching her watching them. Not one would caw, not one would move. “Look at them,” Caleb whispered, as if he were afraid to speak too loud, lest the birds come crashing down like a heavy snow. “Let go and let them show you.”

Daisy stared at the birds, wondering how they could possibly show her anything. They were just birds, she told herself. And she was just a girl with a sleep disorder.

“Let go,” Caleb whispered in her ear, startling her with his closeness and the way his voice tickled her skin.
She closed her eyes, controlled her breathing, and steadied her heartbeat. She could feel the eyes of every bird, but instead of weighing her down, she felt lifted. She felt like she could perch beside them and be accepted as one of them. When she opened her eyes, she was met with Caleb’s smile.

She remembered everything.

Come back Friday for the conclusion by Natalie!

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