White and Black

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The night was still as the insects hushed their constant chatter, as the wind ceased its stirring, as the trees and the grass and the leaves stopped their rustling. There was only the starlight twinkling off small droplets of water, dripping off limbs and stems, flashing in the gloom. There was only the smell of damp and forest and pine. There was only the night.

“Talk to me.”

Two figures huddled together: one white, one black. They sat beneath the stars and the moon, their bodies resting next to one another on the wooden stairs. Dim light filtered out from a window, casting their faces in a golden glow, catching the glint of tears. Voices murmured to one another, rising and falling by turns, twining with one another in the stillness of the dark.

“Please. Don’t close me out again.”

Alexa turn to look at the woman, noting the glittering eyes, the pale face framed by dark curls, the worried brow. Her eyes drifted outward, toward the woods and the lake, toward the houses still wrapped with fog.

“Alexa, please. Talk to me.”

What was there to say? They had lost him—to darkness, to night. He had disappeared like mist in the morning sun. Alexa exhaled, her breath stirring the pale strands of hair that fell in front of her face. They had failed—she had failed.

You should have killed him when you had the chance.

She turned her face toward the woman next to her once more, twining her own hands together on her lap, “I’m sorry, Rosemary. It’s just that there’s nothing to say. He’s gone now and…” she paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts, wondering how to phrase it. “We’ll have to deal with it.”

Rosemary looked back at her, emotions flickering across her face by turns: concern, sadness, worry, “But how do you feel?”

Alexa looked down at her hands, noting the blood still ingrained beneath her nails. She quickly curled her fingers into fists. One more breath.

Her wide brown eyes stared back at her—accusing, in pain. Tangled hair hung about her face, wild and tousled, “Don’t you understand? I took your place.”

How can I tell her how I feel when there is nothing to say?

Rosemary leaned forward, hands twining with Alexa’s on her lap. They remained silent for the moment, their breath mingling in the night air. Then Alexa spoke, her voice murmuring faintly, “I should be asking you the same question. I wasn’t the only one in there.”

Sharp eyes greeted her own, blue ice hardening beneath the surface, “No, you’re not allowed to do that, we’re talking about you.”

How can I tell her?

Alexa remained motionless for a moment, wondering what words she should utter—wondering what Rosemary expected her to feel. She stared inward and outward, eyes seeing everything and nothing as she felt the rise and fall of her chest, the feel of her breathing. Elizabeth was innocent—blameless and tortured. She had taken her place—their place. And now she was dead.

What can I say when I feel nothing?

“I…” Alexa paused for a moment as Rosemary’s head rose expectantly, waiting for her to continue speaking, waiting for her to say something worthwhile. “…She took our place. She shouldn’t have.”

Rosemary nodded, her eyes fixed on Alexa’s face, “I know. We left her behind, but we didn’t think.”

Alexa remained silent for a moment as Rosemary’s hand reached up to stroke her hair. She felt fingers gently gliding through the strands, combing out the knots. Nails brushed against her scalp. The truth was she felt numb, unable to think of what would happen, unable to think of what they should do. She was trapped and he was loose. You let him escape.

Thoughts took her back to the room, back to the darkness. She closed her eyes, trying to focus on Rosemary’s hand on her head. Instead, words filtered through her mind—words from the grave.

I need you, Rook.

Alexa abruptly opened her eyes, “Rosemary, I do want to talk to you about what she said…about being able to bring back…well, you know that she probably lied, right?”

The fingers stopped their course, the hand falling away quickly. Alexa glanced toward the woman beside her, noting the pained expression on her face, the way her mouth quickly formed into a thin line as she stared toward the lake and the trees. There was silence for a moment–and the feeling of ice before it breaks.

“You don’t know, Alexa. You have no idea what it’s like. I feel…nothing.”

They sat next to one another, emotions filtering past and through her. And yet there was emptiness within her, a hole that could not be filled.

Alexa looked back at her, “I know.”

Rosemary shook her head, her voice quivering slightly, “You don’t. You don’t even want a child. How can you know? I would do anything to bring my baby back…anything. Do you understand? Anything.”

“That’s what worries me. You can’t do ‘anything’. I know it’s been…hard, but you have to move forward.”

“I can’t. I can’t give up hope. If there is any way to bring her back…” Rosemary’s voice broke, her eyes glittering. Alexa leaned forward, placing one hand around her shoulders.

The woman in white leaned forward, tears coursing down her cheeks as she hugged the woman in black. They remained there, figures on the stairs—unable to move forward, unable to move back. Their voices rose and fell in the darkness, murmurs that were hushed only by the interspersed quiet sobs.

We cannot know when we will die. We cannot know what trials we will face. The one thing we do know is that the light cannot exist without the dark, and death cannot exist without life. We need one another: that is what we know.

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