Chapter 10: Ice and Water
Cecile tore the card in half in front of her.
“I don’t need it anymore,” he told her.
The girl, so much a stranger, yet already so familiar could not take her eyes off. But it was something simple wasn’t it. He didn’t need it anymore.
“Ah, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll go. Ya, I’ll go,” she fumbled.
Then she dashed off.
“It’s just a piece of paper,” he said after her.
He scattered it to the ground thinking that he should have asked Oliver one more question. His moment was rudely interrupted.
“You didn’t even read the back,” a familiar voice taunted him.
Cecile wasn’t even surprised anymore. He walked around the bridge to find his brother leaning against the other side. James had slimmed down considerably since his last appearance as he had discarded the excess clothing. Now, he stood scraping the dirt from under his fingernails. The sight filled Cecile with resentment. He knew when he was being used.
“Hope you meet him,” the older brother continued. “It was such a nice invitation to someone, wasn’t it? After all the effort that girl took to give it to you.”
His brother James paused and looked for the reaction of his younger sibling.
“I don’t know,” Cecile said slowly.
If it was another trick, another setup, then why should he care?
“Oh please, you haven’t grown up at all. A selfish and scared child you are,” James announced. “Even the reason you came here to see me is for your selfishness. Now you pretend like you don’t know what will happen to the people in this city and that nice girl you met.”
“I’m not afraid,” Cecile corrected.
He saw James visibly tense before he grabbed hold of the collar of Cecile’s jacket, and rolled it tight.
“Then perhaps just self-centered. What did you come back here for?” he spat in Cecile’s face. “Was it to die? I can help you with that!”
“No,” Cecile said, defensively putting a hand on one of his brother’s arms, “Let go you’ll t-
His brother tugged the collar again. It wasn’t the first time that James had become violent, but sometimes Cecile forgot that they were not children and that his older brother worried for things that Cecile never would. James was only human. Cecile would let him calm.
“So, then you’re living?” James questioned.
Cecile’s breath caught as the fabric constricted his windpipe.
“I’m living,” Cecile choked out.
James eased his grip as some brotherly compassion slipped through. Cecile stumbled back against the nearby wall, gasping. Truth was, it was difficult for James to see Cecile as his brother. He had carried such hopes. Cecile rubbed the sore spot around his neck, not paying attention to the dilemma.
“Then must you watch us die?” James wondered to him.
Cecile looked to his brother. He had heard it in the crack of James’ voice, the same question. As his mind brought together the image of swaying tree boughs and small stalking animals, he said…
nothing. His brother…
“I’m not helping you,” Cecile said afterward.
Cecile had tried not to care every time they meant to use him. He tried to remember the people that they had been. It never seemed to work. His head spun and he leaned back heavily against the wall as the last of his strength drained. Again. Cecile would be swept away despite what he still wanted.
Anger would have suited him.
The dreaming had come again. It was the end. Cecile truly believed that he would be trapped in it forever, but the dreams would never let him be afraid.
He was lying down across a row of metal chairs, his head resting on the lap of the young scientist as he looked to her pretty face and the blank ceiling above. His brother James also stood close by. Yet what occurred to Cecile was not that he could stay or not stay there.
“Why did you do this?” he whispered.
The lights of the city shone down brightly. He lifted his arm to cover his blinded eyes as he sat against the hard, slanted wall of the bridge, crumbled rubble and torn paper scattered at his feet. Cecil had thought that people would get better if they forgot about the system; that things held less power the less you thought about them.
A sparrow landed by his hand and tugged at his torn pocket. It flew away as he shifted to pull himself upright. As he stood once more, Cecile looked across the fading city. The day was late, lights dimmed to yellow haze against the grey brick. He could see people moving home after their day of work. If he got to that girl now, there might still be time to explain.