An Impression of Leaves

 

Author's Note: For all my Dear Readers that have been so supportive, you have given me the courage to put this out here for you. This is the novel that I'm trying to work on. Please, try to read it. And what's more, try to enjoy what little of it there is. -Amber

One: A Quiet Place

The pebble skipped along twice, paused for a split second as if to prepare for the icy temperature of the water then plummeted into the murky depths of the swimming hole. On the shore, Keegan pulled her sweater tighter around her body. She suddenly remembered every summer that she'd spent swimming here and loathed the cold that enveloped her body. It was almost as if the biting, glacial air wanted to take her too. She narrowed her eyes, shaking the thought away.

Walking a bit closer to the edge, she examined the place where David had been found with almost clinical scrutiny. As usual, the bottle hadn't been very far away. He hadn't finished half of it before he tripped into the water and went to sleep.

Passed out, Keegan corrected herself. He was a drunk who had finally brought about the end to the miserable years he'd spent nursing the Scotch bottle.

A bitter, ugly laugh escaped. "You may have been a lush, my dear, but at least you chose a dignified poison."

They had known since David's fifteenth birthday that "the Sauce," as Mumsie liked to call it, would bring about his downfall. They had all seen it coming. Archer had once compared it to staring at a freight train hit a car and being powerless to stop it. And, just like that, there wasn't a damn thing to be done to save David from himself.

"We all had demons, David," she said to the air that nipped at her cheeks, turning them what Archer called winter red. She had always been stronger than David; stronger then Elly. She suspected that she had more strength than Archer, who would never allow himself the luxury of breaking in front of her. That was how she was different from her brothers and sister. Keegan was strong enough to fight, but she also knew that she couldn't do it alone.

"I feel like putting "there was nothing I could do" on a tee shirt, you b*****d," Keegan muttered to the spot where his body had lie.

A piece of weed swayed gingerly in the water, catching her eye. She bent, slowly pushing her hand into the pool. The cold felt like needles being shoved in from every direction. Quickly, she grabbed the small band of gold out of the muck. It wasn't something she recognized although she immediately saw that David's name was inscribed on the band.

"'Again. David" was engraved into the gold on the inside of the circle.

"Who the hell was this for?" She asked. She hadn't thought David left the house often enough to meet anybody and she didn't think that he'd been seeing anyone at all. Of course, she hadn't seen or spoken to her brother in months. Not since he'd stolen five hundred dollars from her store's safe. Vaguely, she wondered if he'd had any idea that he would be dead less than a year later.

"I thought I'd find you here," Archer said.

She jumped, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jeans. She felt guilty for being there, but she wasn't sure why. Maybe she didn't have any right to talk to him now because the last time she saw him she'd told him she was done with him. She hadn't been the sister she could have been, but he'd pushed her so far, cost her so much. How could she forgive him when she knew nothing would ever change?

"Lucky guess," she replied. She tried to add humor to her voice but failed.

"Do you miss him?" He asked her.

She felt her shoulders shrug. "No. Not really."

Keegan looked at her older brother then, really looked at him for the first time since Marienne had called them to let them know what Mumsie had found by the pond. His grey eyes, eyes that he'd shared with their father, were hollow and tired. The usually vibrant skin that covered his sculpted jaw was pasty. He looked like he hadn't shave for weeks.

"I'm sorry, Arch. I didn't mean that."

"Yes, you did." A long, exhausted sigh wheezed out of him and his shoulders sagged. On his tall, strong form it looked out of place. "It's okay though. I know you had a hard time with his drinking."

Archer and David had been close once. Although separated by thirteen years between their births they had formed the kind of bond that Keegan could never understand. She and Elly, closer in age, but further apart in interests and ideals, had never had a strong bond.   People outside the family marveled at the idyllic Fitzpatrick clan. There were the intelligent, stunning parents, two strong, handsome boys, and two charming and pretty girls. They were the perfect family nestled in the perfect house in the perfect small New England town.   The thought of such a picture perfect postcard world made Keegan cringe.

"I couldn't not have a hard time with it. It nearly cost me my store." The last words came out with more venom than she intended. David was her brother and, regardless of however angry she was, it was over now. Time to let go.   She felt Archer's hand on her shoulder. She didn't realize that she was staring at the very spot where her brother had died. For a brief moment she thought she caught a glimpse of something (a soul maybe?) slipping away into the black water. She shook the image away, but it lingered. It was disturbing; haunting.

Her brother pulled her back as she took a step closer to investigate although she wasn't sure what she was looking for. She turned, putting her back to the pond, to face Archer.

"How long had it been since you last spoke with him?"

"The day before he died. I thought, well...I don't know."

Still studying him, her eyes narrowed as if she could pull the information out of him. "What? You thought what?"

"I don't know, Kee. David sounded different. He sounded better than he had in ages." Archer paused for a moment. He inhaled deeply as if speaking the next sentence would destroy him. "I swear he sounded hopeful."

"What was going on with him? Did he sell a painting?"

"Not that I know of."

"Do you think Mumsie would know?"

"You aren't serious. Keegan, Mumsie doesn't even know who we are half the time."

She shrugged her shoulders in a silent surrender of the subject. Their mother's faculties had long since been lacking. She'd always been a little eccentric, but Aggie had gotten worse after their father, Evan, had died. She'd managed to maintain living in her own house, but only because David still lived with her and Marienne was only a half a mile away.

Aggie had been the one who found David. Her shock was so great that she didn't tell Marienne where he was for two days. She'd repeated over and over again that David was sleeping. Finally, Marienne had called Archer, Keegan, and the sheriff when Aggie muttered something about ‘sleeping by the pond.'

"About Mumsie, Arch. She can't stay here anymore. You've realized that, haven't you?"

The siblings walked slowly toward the house where they had spent their childhoods. They had grown up safe and healthy in a moderately normal household. It wasn't as if they could complain. Keegan knew for a fact that her youth had been blessedly free of the horrendous incidents that peppered her best friend, Meg's, life. Neither of them thought that they had grown up unhappy because they hadn't.   Despite their father's distant manner and their mother's eccentricities, the Fitzpatrick children were adjusted, normal people. And they liked it like that. They had been loved. Not only by their parents, but also by Marienne and Carl, their aunt and uncle. The fact that David had disrupted their normalcy was tough, but they would endure it simply because they had no choice.

"What are we going to do about it?" Archer asked his sister.

"Draw straws and see who gets to move back home?" Keegan suggested with an edge of bitterness in her voice. Blaming David again for crimping the lifestyles of his brother and sisters.

"Not a bad idea." For the first time since the news of David's death Archer tried to smile. It warmed Keegan's heart to see some of the light return to their brother's face. "Elly would rig the contest though. You know she would sacrifice anything for us."

It was Keegan's turn to smile. She laughed outright while Archer pantomimed heroic gestures on behalf of their sister. Elly Fitzpatrick had always kept a cool distance between herself and her siblings. She was her father's daughter in that sense: cool, aloof, and occupied only with herself and her needs. In fact, Elly had mentioned that she had wanted only to send flowers to David's funeral instead of attending. Keegan hadn't told Archer. That was for the best. Archer wouldn't have understood, but Keegan did.

When Evan had died, Keegan had considered not going to the service because she felt odd mourning a man she barely knew. Evan had loved his children in a vague, distant way. He was more consumed by his studies than he was by passion for his wife or devotion to his children. He had been a good man, but he hadn't been available to his family. Keegan could count on one hand (and not use all her fingers) the number of times Evan had hugged her. Many times, she thought, it wasn't enough.

She had been more upset when her uncle, Carl, had died. It destroyed her to watch Marienne and Mumsie grieve for the man who had hugged her more times than she could count. Carl had showered love and devotion on his nieces and nephews. And they had loved him just as much in return.

The farmhouse known to residents of Deanburg as Friar's Pond House came into view. It was a large pale blue house with black shutters and a granite roof. When the sun hit the stone that covered the top it would sparkle like millions of tiny diamonds being put beneath a jeweler's lamp. Keegan had always wondered why the builders of the house, which was over 150 years old, had chosen granite as a rooftop. She cast a glance at David's bedroom window and her breath caught in her throat.

For the briefest of moments, there was a figure in the window staring down at Archer and Keegan. A figure that looked very much like David Fitzpatrick.

"Kee?" Archer said, his hand suddenly on her shoulder, as her knees seem to give. "Keegan, what's wrong?"

She shook herself and stared hard at the window. Whatever had been there, if there had been anything there at all, was gone now. She gave her brother a small smile.

"Fine. Everything's fine."

The siblings walked into the house.

 

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