Written by Tiffany Wang

 

ArtDaisy Contest Entry No. 0003:

Catch Me If You Can

Even when they were kids, she had never played fair.

As he looked at the meadow across the street from the hospital, he caught glimpses of the children playing tag, chasing each other round-and-round until they fell to the ground in dizzying heaps. They would always get back up, though, shrieking in delight and picking sides for round two.

He had come back home, and it was the last place he wanted to be.

But every time he started to consider driving back towards the airport, he thought of the skinny, dark-haired boy inside, days away from turning sixteen, clouded in a blanket of medication. I’m here for Julian, he thought, as he sat down on the stone steps. Everything that he’d done in the past week –emptying his meager bank account to buy a plane ticket, blowing off his last few finals – was for his little brother, who now had one wrist heavily bandaged and a mind full of screaming thoughts.

His phone buzzed dimly in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw her name blink up at him, before he looked down to clear his vision.

She shouldn’t be calling or texting to see if Jules is fine, he thought heavily. She should be here, for God’s sake. I still remember that promise we made – does she?

Then again, Hallie had never been very good at keeping promises.

Christ in Heaven, she should be here. She was his twin – and Jules’s older sister.

He remembered when Jules had first been diagnosed. It was years ago, when his brother was only nine. He had been called a freak in school by one of the older kids, after he had giggled uncontrollably for a solid thirty minutes, his joy blending into hysteria.

Because this was one incident out of many, their father had taken Julian to a series of psychological tests. He and Hallie had gone along and stared through the rectangular glass window at the man in the white lab coat, who gestured to their little brother, then to some documents on a table. Through the barrier, the muffled words of “rare before the age of ten” and “severe bipolar disorder” floated through.

“What does that mean?” he hissed to her, as they sat back down on the stiff chairs. They might be the same age, but she was a whole fourteen minutes older, so she knew things like that.

She chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “I don’t know,” she said at last. “But he’s not a freak.”

He thought of the way Jules always had dirt stains on his clothes, from playing baseball on muddy fields. He thought of his brother’s hazel eyes and chocolaty smiles, and felt he might burst inside. “He’s not,” he agreed staunchly. “If anyone says he is, we’ll beat them up.”

“Yeah!” Hallie said excitedly. She grinned at him, the dimple on her left cheek matching his. “And we’ll always help him and be there for him – always!”

“It’s a promise!” he added, and they shook on it, just to be sure.

Then they went home, and discovered that reality had a way of breaking the promises of twelve-year-olds.

He didn’t think that either of them had really intended to slide away from what they’d said they would do in the gray office. It was just – life got in the way, like it so often did. He had soccer practice, Hallie started swim, and both of them joined student council and debate. Eventually, protecting Julian faded from the forefront of their minds; it was never really gone, but it stopped being a primary thought.

In the meantime, their brother pushed back against what it meant to have bipolar disorder. He stopped taking the pills several times – convinced that he could cure himself – which resulted in brief periods of euphoria, where he stayed up until five in the morning and thought he was invincible. This always faded, though, leaving Julian plunged into an endless spiral, drawing with metal and losing interest in just about everything.

And in the end, he and Hallie had always watched from the end of the hallway, biting down their nails while their parents spoke to their brother, explaining why he had to keep taking the medication.

His head was underwater, as he breathed in the strands of thin air. “Hallie,” he muttered, and with her name came a quick lurch of anger. He punched her number into his phone with surprising ferocity and waited.

She picked up after three rings. “Hello?”

His hand came up, pulling off the gray hood so that it fell around his shoulders. The last time they’d talked, he’d exploded at her for not coming back to see Julian with him. She had refused to give him her reasons, but he thought he knew the answer anyways.

She was tired. Granted, they all were, but Hallie had always been more impatient than anyone he knew. She had chosen to stay in her university on the other side of the country because she didn’t want to be tied once again to a place with shaky roots. Instead, she wanted to rip out all the old ones and start fresh.

But Hallie hadn’t really done anything unexpected – she’d just finally followed up with something she had threatened to do for ages. She had taken the first door out that she could, just like she’d always sworn she would.

He just couldn’t believe he’d never taken her seriously before.

Now, he thought of all the times they had chased each other around when they were children, and she’d run faster than he ever could, screaming, “Catch me if you can!” at the top of her lungs. Even when Julian had joined in, she was always just out of reach, dancing out of the way, laughing. The split second anyone managed to tag her, however, she stopped abruptly, sometimes refusing to keep playing, insisting she had let them catch her.

It was just the way she was.

“Hi,” he said, and he heard her breathing on the other end of the phone. He could picture her leaning against a wall, her eyes closed, a bold streak of violet dashed in her hair. “How are things going?”

“Oh, you know,” she replied lightly. “I aced that physics quiz that I’ve been studying for.”

“That’s good,” he answered automatically, and immediately drew a blank.

She spoke again first. “So,” she said haltingly. He knew that she was biting her nails as they talked; he would be as well, but his own had already been ragged for days. “How’s Julian?”

He realized his knuckles had gone very white. “Fine,” he said softly. “Jules is fine.”

Her sigh came through the speaker, louder than he thought it would be. “Don’t give me the cold shoulder too,” she said, and he caught the hint of annoyance in her voice. “I called you earlier today, okay? Plus, Dad already tried to guilt me, and I’m not a heartless bastard, you know –”

“You should be here.”

She exhaled with frustration. In his mind’s eye, her bangs fluttered as they moved slightly. “Eli,” she responded, “I already told you and Dad and Jules that I’ll be back when the semester ends –”

Hallie,” he said, his teeth gritting together. All of a sudden, he needed her to be nine again, chasing him through their neighborhood and pulling him back onto the pavement when he got too close to the street. He needed her to listen to him – actually listen – the way she used to when they were young, huddled around a flickering campfire and whispering fairy-tale stories to one another. “Jules needs us –”

“I get it!” she snapped, her words stabbing into him. “But Eli, we’re nineteen – Eli, we’re finally out of that goddamn house. I know that Julian needs us, but – God! There will always be another crisis with Jules. Because of him, Mom and Dad never had a chance to do anything because they were always looking after him, and, if you really want to get into this, he also screwed us out of having a normal childhood. God, I know it’s not his fault, but I’m so fucking sick of all this. Eli, we finally have a chance to live our own lives – don’t try to make me some kind of bad guy.”

Her outburst wasn’t new to him, and it wasn’t like he’d never tasted the words either. He sometimes whispered them to himself in the safety of his room, when he could hear his brother humming aimlessly next door, rattling the remaining pills around in an orange bottle. It was then that he pondered how it would feel to simply pack a bag and walk out the door.

“You’re not the only one that thinks like that, Hallie, and you’re definitely not the bad guy.” He pressed his fingers against his temple. “But we’re siblings – we look out for each other.”

“You sound like an idiot,” she responded scathingly. “Eli, you might be my twin and, sure, he’s my brother. But, come on, admit it – even you know that, sometimes, Julian is such a fr –”

She stopped abruptly, as his stomach dropped. “Hallie,” he said slowly.

“No,” she said, very quietly. She sounded drained now, not angry. He could imagine the tears building in her dark eyes, following the same tracks down her cheeks as they did his. “No, I didn’t mean that, Eli. You know I would never say that about Jules.”

“Okay,” he said back, because he wasn’t sure what else he could say. She could’ve been standing right next to him, he saw her so clearly.

She was silent, and he stared out at the open field, where figures bundled in puffy coats threaded through the tall grass. “I have to go, Eli,” her voice said at last. It only hesitated for the slightest instant before adding, “Love you.”

“Love you too.”

She hung up and he inhaled sharply. He needed to go back inside, to check on Jules and tell him that Hallie called and, yes, of course she missed him and she loved him and she would be home soon.

But for now, he just sat on the lonely steps, letting the cold wash over him.

 

“Tag,” he said softly, and watched as the children darted among the trees, running so fast they looked like specters. “Tag, you’re it.”

 

 

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ArtDaisy Ezine Writer's Contest 2015 $250 Winner! Note: ArtDaisy Ezine is now here at ArtDaisy.com

 

 

 

The Paxtau.com Excelsior Award goes to Lucille Lantz for "Jeremy's Journey"

 

Jeremy's Journey

By Lucille Lantz

 

Jeremy is a drop of water that lives in a lake. The lake is surrounded by tall pine

trees. The water in the lake sparkled in the sunlight. The sparkles looked like

floating diamonds.

 

Every so often a pine cone would fall from the tree and plop into the

moving waters. In the winter the sun would melt the snow on the mountain

tops and it would trickle down into the swirling lake. When the snowflakes fell

from the sky they would melt as they hit the wiggling water. Without the sun

the lake could not exist. When the sun was strong some of the water from the

lake would be lifted and brought back into the clouds. The sun's heat would turn

the waters into steam. The steam would rise in a mist and settle in the clouds

above.


Sometimes the sun would seem to disappear and dark rain clouds would

cover the sky. The loud claps of thunder and pouring rain helped to keep the

lake waters flowing.

 

The sun feeds the lake with fresh water from the clouds The sun also provided

nourishment for the growing plants that lived in and around the lake. Many of

the fish that swam in the cool waters ate the growing plants that grew on the

bottom of the lake.


The puffy clouds would float above the lake. The wind would move them

across the blue sky. When the clouds drifted in the sky their shapes would

change. Millions of tiny drops of water would sleep soundly inside of the

clouds. Jeremy was one of those tiny drops hidden in the belly of the cloud.

 

One bright sun shiny day, Jeremy woke up from a long deep sleep and he was in

a cloud. He had lived for many years in the cool water of the lake. He loved

traveling round and round in the lake and the tickles from the swimming fish

made him giggle.

 

 

The memory of the lake was still fresh in Jeremy's mind. But something about

the cloud did seem familiar. Jeremy wondered if maybe he had been in a cloud

before. Jeremy's memories began to return. It had been a very hot day when

suddenly he had been lifted up from the lake. He rose higher and higher into

the sky he was very excited.

 

At first he was very frightened but then he heard some of the other drops call

this journey "evaporation...” They said that evaporation is something that takes

place over and over again. That is when Jeremy remembered that he had

been in a cloud before and that it was a cloud that dropped him into the lake.

 

Jeremy was quite confused and was wondering if the cloud would carry him back

to the lake he knew so well. Jeremy missed the cool water. He cried out

"When can I go back to my lake"?

 

 

Zeek was a larger more experience drop. He had evaporated many times and

had visited all kinds of places. With a bit of a chuckle in his voice Zeek

exclaimed "Oh! You may not return to the lake”. Jeremy's voice was quivering

"What do you mean I'm stuck in this floating cloud forever? When I was in

the lake I could see the beautiful stars shine in the dark night sky. I was

able to see the rainbows arch above the mountains. I want to go back NOW”!

"Calm down little drop" replied Zeek "once you are brought up into a cloud you

never know where you will fall. I have had many homes and each time I have a

new adventure.”

 

 

“But" said Jeremy "I love the tickling of the fish. They swim

around in the waters causing the wonderful ripples. I miss their tickles and I

want to go back NOW"!

 

 

"The wind will guide us across the sky" said Zeek. "Look below..See the cities,

farms, mountains and forests. One of those places can become your new

home. When the cloud gets cold, the steam becomes water and it is too heavy

for the cloud. The cloud will burst open and we will begin our journey back to

earth. The world is filled with lakes and lots of new places to see".

 

 

Zeek could sense Jeremy's sadness. He had a most favorite place and longed to

go back for a visit, but Zeek knew he had to calm this little drop. "None of

us can say for sure where we will land. Sometimes we fall like a gentle sprinkle

but sometimes when the clouds crash against each other there is loud thunder

and flashes of lightening. When that happens we pour down with great speed.”

 

 

“I want to go back, I want to go back”! shouted Jeremy. “I know the lake

enjoyed the splashing and the ripples all of us drops made."

'”Jeremy” said Zeek "just as you once fell into the lake you could easily fall into

the deep ocean, or become a puddle on the ground. The weather could be

cold and freeze you into a snowflake”. One of the other drops shouted “I was a

beautiful snowflake last year" it was Crystal this was her third time up in the

cloud "It was wonderful. I glistened and my shape was like a small piece of

lace”. "Me too"! "Me too"! shouted many of the other drops.

“A snow flake? Lace?” thought Jeremy. He was very confused and asked

"what is a snowflake"? Crystal perked right up in her squeaking little voice "It’s

a rain drop that gets frozen by the cold weather. Its a tingling feeling and

poof you’re a pretty piece of frozen water glistening as you float in the air".

 

 

Zeek told Jeremy how he once nourished a beautiful rose and helped it to

blossom and how he was once the last drop of water in a canteen for a soldier in

the dessert. Zeek spoke with authority. "The sun loves the lake and when

the sun makes heat on the water it brings us up into the cloud. The cloud could

drift over your wonderful lake and return you there once again. The fondness

you feel for the lake will always be in your mind. No one can take that memory

from you. It is yours forever. I too have a most wonderful memory.

 

I was one of the drops that helped put out a large fire in a burning building. I

shot out of the fire hose with great force. Oh! How I would like to do that

again”.

Just then the cloud popped open. Jeremy could hear Zeek's words as he

was falling "safe trip my friend", he shouted. Lower and lower Jeremy fell

toward the earth. The air became warmer. He was overtaken with excitement.

Where would he land? Finally after his long fall Jeremy landed softly in the cool

waters of a rushing stream. Jeremy was carried toward a water fall. He swished

and swirled as the current whooshed him closer to the falls.

 

With a huge gush...down...down...down Jeremy tumbled...."Wow! I’ve never

experienced such speed before rushing water sure is a blast" said Jeremy.

"Wheeeeee! This is wonderful”! exclaimed Jeremy. The water became calm and

once in the new stream Jeremy once again felt the warm sun beating down on

the cool water. Jeremy could see the sun shinning brightly in the sky. When he

looked up he knew that this was the very same sun that shone above the lake

many times. Jeremy felt good knowing the sun was still watching over him.

 

 

Jeremy enjoyed each moment he spent rolling down the river but couldn’t help

but wonder where his next adventure would take him. Jeremy hoped that

someday he would once again evaporate and return to the calmness of the

lake. Jeremy knew there would be many more adventures ahead of him.

 

 

Maybe one day he would freeze and become a snowflake!

 

 

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