The day was bright and the forest was full of activity. Birds seemed to be everywhere, chirping away. Raphael had scared a group of deer menes ago. Following the deer came two rabbits, a brightly colored bird that he recognized as a phinchet, and several tree rats that dove down holes. Raphael stopped at a fallen log and sat on it while Megan stood next to him and Anam lay at her feet. Looking up at her, he smiled and took her hand.
“You’re very beautiful,” Raphael told her. “I still don’t know if you can hear me, but I won’t stop hoping and looking for a cure. All this time and I still don’t understand why Kell did it?” He remembered a time before he met Megan, when Kell and he had been the best of friends. They were so young.
“Hey, Raph!” Kell yelled from the courtyard. Raph recognized the voice and turned to look for Kell. Many people were moving about going from one vendor to another and that made it hard to spot Kell. Moving and looking around the people, Raphael saw his friend. Kell was small and skinny with pale skin and light brown hair. His movement was unsure and wobbly. Kell sometimes tripped over his own feet. Raphael ran to greet him.
“How’d you get away?” Raph asked.
“Loth’s gone for the day,” Kell said quietly. “Let’s not talk about him? I think he can hear what we say even when he’s not here.”
“Alright. What do you want to do? I’ve got to be home by dark.”
“Let’s play war. I’ll be the hero and you can be the evil war-lord,” Kell said as he thrust an imaginary sword toward Raph. Raph took the hit on his shoulder and jumped back to avoid another blow. Kell was swinging wildly with his invisible sword and Raph saw opening after opening in Kell’s defenses. He didn’t take them though, as he continued to be forced back. This was Kell’s free time and Kell didn’t get that very often, so Raph let him win. He didn’t make it easy for Kell, however. After Raph’s defeat by the great hero, the game changed. There came another defeat and another change. This went on until the two were exhausted and the day was nearly over. The two were on their way home when a bird suddenly flew straight toward Raph.
Raphael jerked out of his dreaming as he realized that the bird was real. The bird was even more surprised to find that its landing post was alive and moving. Squawking loudly, it turned and flew away. Anam woke from the squawking and lifted his head to look for the cause of the disturbance. Seeing the bird, Anam relaxed and laid back down. Raphael sat Megan beside him on the log. He brushed her hair from her face and kissed her on the cheek. He watched as her hair fell back into place. Her hair moved back and forth across her face. What lovely hair …
… he thought. Raphael watched her as she moved through the crowd. Her red hair seemed to cascade around her face and shoulders. With every turn of her head, her hair swished one way or the other. Her light skin stood out among the tanned peasant farmers as she browsed the shops among them. He was too far away to get a good look at her face or see what color her eyes were, but he thought she was beautiful anyway. Watching her move, something stirred in his gut. “This is what love must be or at least lust,” he thought smiling. “She is beautiful. Maybe if I accidentally bump into her? No, that’s a stupid idea. How can I get to know her?” He moved closer to her as she stopped and talked to a vendor. He caught part of their conversation. She was new to the area. “Hmmmph,” he thought, “I already knew that! What was that? She lives there?” It wasn’t too far from him. He would have to find an excuse to visit that area. He hadn’t realized how close he had gotten until she turned around and almost knocked him down. He found himself looking into a pair of lovely green eyes. The prettiest green eyes he had ever seen. “This is definitely love,” he thought as two circles of green engulfed and caressed him in their soft light. green …
What beautiful green eyes, he thought for the thousandth time. He heard his name being called from far away. He knew that voice. Yes, it was Megan’s voice that called him. Raphael opened his eyes and saw Megan on a blanket in a field of grass. She was older now and he realized that his memories had shifted a few years in the future.
“Raph, let’s go to the lake today,” Megan said. “It’s a beautiful day and I’d like to go swimming.”
“Kell and I are supposed to do something later today,” Raphael answered. “Look for certain kinds of plants, or something. I didn’t catch everything he said.”
“What? You never do anything, really,” she stated and then softened her voice with “Please?”
“How about if he comes, too?” Raphael asked knowing the answer but hoping he would be wrong.
“No! He scares me. And he looks at me weirdly, too.”
“You two used to get along great. What happened?” Raphael asked.
“Nothing, I just don’t want him along,” Megan replied. “I wanted it to be the two of us.”
“Alright. I’ll have to tell Kell I won’t be able to meet him later,” Raphael said giving in. He knew Kell would take it badly and he felt bad about it. He didn’t understand why Megan and Kell couldn’t get along. Something had happened between them, but neither of them would tell him what it was. He was going to have to drag it out of one or both of them some day. For now, though, he was trying to figure out how to tell Kell that he was spending the afternoon with Megan without upsetting him too much.
He reached the alchemist’s shop and went inside. There was a young apprentice working and he told Raphael that Kell was upstairs in the workshop. Knowing that Raphael was one of the few people allowed in the workshop, the young apprentice unlocked the door leading to the stairs. Raphael started up the stairs to Kell’s workshop when everything became blurry. He looked down at the wooden stairs and wondered how many times he had climbed these stairs. Too many to count, he thought. His vision narrowed as he concentrated on the stairs. “I don’t want to remember this!” he shouted. Raphael tried to escape his memories as time shifted forward a few more years. Panicking, Raphael turned and started to run down the stairs hoping that the door out would jolt him out of his memories. Kell stood behind him, however, blocking the way. Kell’s face was filled with anger. His muscles were taut and his hands were clenched into fists.
“You’re going with her again, aren’t you,” Kell accused Raph. “It’s always her. She’s coming between us and you don’t care!”
“That’s not true! Kell, what’s wrong with you?” Raphael asked, caught in the turn of events.
“Me? *Me!* It’s always me, isn’t it!” Kell yelled. “I’m tired of all of it. I’m sick of her. It’s either her or me. You decide,” Kell said.
“Kell, don’t do that. Don’t make me choose. I can’t. You’re my friend … ”
“Yeah, we were really close once,” Kell interrupted, “but she’s changed that. She’s tearing our friendship apart!”
“It’s not like that … ”
“Yes, it is! Now choose!” Kell screamed.
“I won’t,” Raphael said.
“Choose!” Kell said as he grabbed Raphael’s tunic. “Choose now!”
“Let me go, Kell,” Raphael said as he tried to break Kell’s grip. Kell wouldn’t let go and the two of them struggled on the stairs. Screaming again, Kell punched Raphael in the mouth. Blood trickled down Raphael’s chin. When Kell saw what he had done, he ran past Raphael up the stairs into his lab. Raphael sat down on the stairs and slumped against the wall. Tears ran down his face and mixed with the blood from his mouth. One hand went to the wooden stair to support him and the other to wipe the tears from his eyes. The stair seemed to be unusually rough and when he looked down, the stair had bark covering it.
He slowly pulled his hand from the tree and found that the tears he shed in his memory were real. Wiping the tears from his face, he saw that it was late afternoon. Megan was still sitting beside him. Anam was chasing whatever came across his path and looked to be having a great time. “This isn’t such a bad place to camp,” Raphael thought, “even if it is too early in the day.” After taking care of Megan, Raphael joined Anam in the fun. It was a much needed respite from his memories. The two played until sunset and then had a small meal for supper.
“I wish Megan could play with us, Anam,” Raphael told the wolf pup. “I don’t blame you for the tear in our friendship,” he said to Megan as they settled in for the night. “I don’t even blame Kell. I should’ve paid more attention to him, I guess.”