So, the Wednesday Briefs group is a hodge-podge of writers that all agree to be bound by a set of writing and photo prompts, and a creatively challenging word limit of 500 to 1k. Led by our intrepid prompter, Julie Hayes, we endeavor to bring you a variety of free fiction each week on Wednesdays.
This week I chose a photo prompt. I know not where this story leads ... so I am almost as much in the dark as you until more comes to me. I love mythology and a recent talk with a fan led to a request for angels. Whether or not they show up, well ... something otherworldly certainly is. Read on to find out more and then check out the other Briefer's stories!
“Always racing as fast as you can,” he muttered under his breath. He remembered the first time he saw Birch running.
They’d been young. He was tall and muscular in ways most kids his age weren’t. Birch was new, a whip-cord thin boy so fast with his bright blond hair flying. The smaller boy had kicked his butt at the dash on field day. Shocked, never having lost a race before, Sayer marched up to Birch and announced they were going to do the three-legged race together.
A few kids had laughed but Birch had glowered at them and they’d quickly shut up and turned away from his glare. On his nearly perfect face the expression became evil. Tied together, Birch’s shoulders barely came up to Sayer’s ribs.
They’d run together, Birch counting the steps in a sing-song voice. Sayer’s wings had fluttered behind them to the tune of their bodies moving in sync. Even after they won he could feel it. The shoelace might not have been around their ankles anymore but they were bound.
A tiny gold box tied with a clumsy knot on top showed up on Birch’s pillow when he went to bed that night, the first of the long summer vacation stuck at home. Inside was a rock that glittered in the setting sun.
“Wow.” Birch knew it wasn’t from his parents. He glanced out the window, cracked to let in whatever breath of air the sultry night might offer to cool the small space. The rock, nestled into his palm, was only about the size of a dime. He could hide it.
It was his special treasure. His secret.
Summer passed as slow and dreary as he expected it to, as it did the year before and the years after. But though Birch stayed small and quiet, he was no target. He was the fastest of all the boys, which earned him some playground respect. Those who might have cornered him where his speed couldn’t save him soon learned no teacher could keep them safe from Sayer.
Birch soon had a small collection of trinkets join his rock. Each appeared on his pillow in a gold box tied with the same clumsy bow. He found a wood box with a lock and small round key at a garage sale one day when he’d earned two dollars weeding for Mr. Wallird and the kerfed edges had fascinated him with their incomplete cuts showing the lighter inside wood under the clear stain.
He’d even talked the old lady selling it, her blue eyes twinkling as they haggled, down to a dollar so he could buy himself a lemonade icy pop. He’d buried his treasures, worried his mom would find them otherwise, the wood box in a bag, safely in the roots of an oak tree with a gnarled branch just right to sit on. He never told anyone of his treasures, not even Sayer.
“What in the hell did you do to your hair?” Sayer asked. He was frowning, staring at the short dark strands that took the place of Birch’s flaxen curls.
Birch shrugged. “Just wanted something different.”
“I don’t like it.”
The smaller teen looked up at him with an open mouth. “What?”
“I like your color and your curls. You don’t look right without them.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Birch frowned up at him. “When did you become so critical?” An air of hurt hovered between them. The boy tightened his lips into a harsh line.
Sayer felt his wings tremble against his back. He wanted to take Birch in his arms but he wouldn’t. As much as he coveted the other boy, he couldn’t capture him yet. New times called for new laws. A changeling could never fool anyone.
“Come on, let’s go pick up our caps and gowns.”
Four more years. Just four.
He could wait.
Birch was worth it.
“A full ride!” Sayer blinked down at him. “You didn’t tell me!”
“I wanted to surprise you. I wasn’t sure if I could get the housing and work study worked out, but I can’t let you go away with me.” His parents had never cared what he did. Birch had only one person who gave a rat’s ass about him.
Now he and his best friend would be attending the same college. Birch licked his lips. Maybe they’d even get to room together. Birch ran his hand over his hair, now back to its original golden hue, though the lack of curls couldn’t be fixed as easily as washing out dye.
“I’ll work this summer and then head up this fall. Are you going home again?” Summer always dragged without his best friend’s company. Birch looked up when Sayer sighed.
“Yeah, no choice. We have to head back to the old country, as always.”
“You’ll be there though. August twenty-fifth, right?”
Sayer pulled Birch into a hug. They’d both seemed to grow so that Birch was never any taller compared to Sayer than always. His head always nestled against his friend’s chest.
“I’ll always come back for you.”
But Sayer hasn’t come. Not that September or any of the following three while Birch got his environmental biologist degree. The city seemed like a lonely place in a way the slim young man had never experienced before, even surrounded by people.
Birch never stopped looking for him though, hoping each year only to be disappointed. Now he was leaving the city to move back home and start his first post-college job.
He’d packed all morning. His jitters, wondering if he’d run into Sayer in the small town nestled in between the rolling hills, finally got the better of him. A run was just what he needed, then he’d finish packing up the bedroom and bathroom of his tiny apartment.
Dripping with sweat from the harsh sun, sucking at the nearly empty water bottle, Birch didn’t see it at first.
A gold box was nestled on his pillow.
Okay, sorry, can't share more til next week. Check out the other Briefers, though, for some great stories!
P.S. This is the last day of the contest for my newest novella eBook running on M.A. Church's blog, so check that out while you're there too! Then keep checking back here for more Adverse Effects this week, a review, and a little sensual snippet on Saturday.