the smell of sandalwood and oil slick had perfumed the air. a gas lantern lit on a wooden barrel outside a barn house that was painted red and had seen better days. inside is a woman, laying on her back and staring off into the rafters as she is handed a bundle of something wrapped one notch too tightly because the man thought that the winters in ten were just a little too harsh.
she pushed herself up for a moment as the medic had suggested that she get into warm water as soon as she was able to. the tears stopped minutes after she had touched the object that had been placed into her hands. she is half listening to whatever is being said, the man trying to contain his own bewilderment and confusion.
the object does not move for a while, but the woman does not notice, because her attention is being commanded for one moment too long, but she gives a light smile, she is not afraid of what comes next. the man grabs her hand, they thank the medic for coming out on such short notice.
the man carries the woman to the horses water trough, one of them still taking long licks of the mostly ice cold water to satiate their own thirst. they are shooed away, the woman feels weak as she tries to hold onto her object, not think about the pain coming from her abdomen, and hold onto the man, who says that he loves her so much.
it does not move as the woman is placed in the cold water, the man already starting to clean up the aftermath of the blessed trauma that she had been put through. the womans skin seems to be losing color at an alarming rate, but that could be a sign that hypothermia could be setting in.
the man is trying is hardest quickly wipe away the dirt and the grime, but the woman is simply holding onto her bundle for dear life. she can feel her breath stagger as she blows little clouds of smoke from her mouth in a rapid succession. one hand cradles from the underside, and the other reaches out to the man.
he holds it for a moment, his other hand coming to meet her at the underside of the blanket. she locks eyes with him and squeezes his hand tightly, albeit weakly. she then looks down and then leans her head back, the cold air swarming her as it slowly seeps in from the cracks in the barn wood.
she grabs his hands, extended her bundle out to him as she takes staggered breathes one moment. once the bundle is pushed into his hands, she smiles, caresses his cheek one last time.
her head sinks back and her hand falls from his face.
the bundle lets out a wail that would make their ancestors weep.
he is young and full of spirit. the man is trying to find his own baring as he was still reeling from the womans demise. it is somber in the household at the beginning, all of the people living in it confused as to what is actually going to happen to them.
the woman added so much more to the house, much more than any of them would know.
the boys hand had grazed a bed post that had read marco right at the foot of it. his older brother laying in the half lit room, mostly because of the sun peering in from the half hung curtains that had fallen almost two weeks ago. the man had been busy trying to figure out how he was going to support multiple mouths to feed, including himself. he did not have time to do the little things anymore. his boys too young to really understand that without the woman, their mom, everything might seem to be falling apart.
the man has not returned in hours, but there is food that had been left out from breakfast, water that had been boiled the night before and then cooled to a drinkable temperature, right at arms reach for the boy and his brother. there is a thick feeling of confusion laid on them, its almost suffocating.
one more hour passes, the boy has meandered around his own room, still trying to understand how it got like this. his bed frame still in pieces, a mattress left on the floor and a blanket that he had since before he could remember laid across it. he does not understand it when the man comes in and tells him that one day, he will put this bed together.
the boy can find the end of the bed frame, his hand gliding over the smooth wood. he comes across something that is elevated, and he does not think twice about it. the letters are foreign, but only because no one has sat down to teach him what they said.
his granpapa is sitting in the dining room of the slowly warping kitchen. the floor boards creak for one moment too long, and he can tell, even at his young age, that his grandpapa doesnt know how it got like this.
the man walks in through the front door, hay stuck on his backside as he takes off his flannel to expose a slightly yellow tinged wife beater. all of the clothes in the house had some sort of discoloration, as the man didnt spend too much time on the little things anymore. he was too busy trying to keep his own dream alive.
seeing his father made him visibly scowl, but he still walked up to marcus and gave him a warm embrace. then followed marco, and then finally, the man decided to acknowledge the fact that his father was sitting in the room on the other side of the house. whispered conversations heard through cracks in the wood would tell marcus that he knew exactly how the man had felt about his father.
just because he gave the man shelter did not mean that he was entitled to anything more from him. there are pleasantries exchanged for just a moment before the argument ensues. usually the man would usher his kids into the bedroom so they wouldnt have to hear things they did not understand. the man didnt want them to get the wrong idea after all.
however, that did not happen. to marcus, there are two raging animals, opposites on the food chain, going at it in front of him. they are spitting nothing but bile and insults at each other. marcus can only understand so many words before he felt tears welling up in his eyes. both of their faces are red, and there are noises coming from pounded fists in the hickory and oak. marco grabs marcus and takes him into the bedroom, the conversation now turning into a shouting match.
marcus is overwhelmed, tears now streaming down his face just like water being dumped into a trough. marco is doing his best to calm him down, but the sound of the floor moving below them startles both of them.
hours later, the man finds them in marco's bed, marcus's still not completely put together. they are under the covers, telling each other soft stories about a world where fighting did not exist. grandpapa is no where to be found, he left hours ago.
the trauma still exists.
the man shakes his head, and marcus is lulled into sleep.
he is taught how to take care of the few animals that the man has deemed safe of him to take care of. marco helps him, at enough for marcus to get his bearings. the man is preoccupied with many other things, the pressure from his own father, the realization that it is hard raising two boys all by himself, and trying to sustain a life that does not have to do with the family business.
the mans father only came around once in a while, but every time, he always had something to give his grandchild. new clothes, a treat, a gun. the guns were always confiscated, the man chastising his father for giving children such a thing. marco and marcus both were raised to at least understand that violence wasnt the answer.
he had been tending to the sheep one day, a straight razor in one hand as he tried to sheer them without inflicting any nicks or cuts to their skin. he remembered that marco always told him to stop one or two inches from base. marcus had a hard time figuring out what exactly that meant. but then marco told him to take his finger and stick it into the fur. if the fur was higher than the first indent, he needed to sheer more.
one of the sheep had been rather fussy, marcus thought he might need some help holding down them. as he stepped away from the sheep, he had walked out of the pen and noticed that no one was to be found around him. a weird feeling, seeing as there was always someone watching him when he worked with the animals. when he finally got back to the house, he noticed that there was a woman standing there with the man. marcus did not say anything, instead, he watched from far as he tried to read their lips as to what they were talking about.
marcus though couldnt read.
so instead he looked for actions. that was going to cue him in to what was proabbly happening between them. he saw there was quite a bit of arm rubbing from the woman, her hand tussling through her own hair as she curled it and then pull her finger straight down.
marcus had never seen the man smile like that before.
there had been lots of loud bangs in the distance day in and day out. when marcus asked about them, the man made it very clear that it was not something he needed to concern himself with. he was getting to that age where everything had to be a question, and the man knew that. when the man would not give an answer, marcus turned to marco, and he would deliver the same response, albeit in a softer way.
it had been a long while since grandpapa had come by the farm, however, marcus had watched as people came to help his father redo the barn house where he had been born. the only part of the barn that was not touched was the board of wood dedicated to someone. it did not have a name on it, just a solid piece of rotten wood. marcus had played in that barn multiple times, each time he had avoided going near that piece of wood. marco had once, and marcus had never seen the man get so angry.
that rage was always a point of contention for marcus. he wanted to feel like he was close to the man that he called his father, but as he got older, he started to notice that he was treated with more hostility. he also noticed that food had started to become easier to come by. there were new animals that marcus had never seen before being brought to the farm, and they were slowly expanding on the land that they had been given by grandpapa.
marcus had always been the observant one. not even the man knew that marcus kept tabs on almost everyone that had come by or around the farm. he had been a resourceful boy, sometimes pointing out things that not even the man noticed. marco leaving at odd times, the man coming home with someone else (even though the man was sure that everyone was asleep). even things like animals changing their habits. marcus was very intent on learning things like that.
marco had made marcus promise that he would not tell his father where he had been going. the words were hard to understand, mostly because marcus still had a limited vocabulary, but he understood enough to realize that someone was actually trusting him with something important.
the man had asked marcus to keep the other woman a secret from marco, who had already expressed multiple times that he was not interested in having another mom in his life.
marcus had become a loaded shotgun with a rock stuck in the barrel. if he had fired it, he would have blasted himself in the aftermath along with his family. it wasnt like the secret wasnt going to come out anyway. nothing can stay hidden forever.
he simply minds his own business, hiding in the barn from time to time sitting next to the piece of rotting wood, wondering what exactly what the woman buried beneath was like.
deep deep breathes are taken by everyone in the house as each one of them are pointing at each other.
marco had finally found out about other woman that the man had been seeing. instead of questions being asked, insults were hurled from both sides. marcus can only see the red forming in marco's eyes as he slams his fist against the wood doorframe. the man is rubbing his hands all over his face as he tries to keep his composer in front of his new found love.
the new woman is trying to frame this in a natural and warm light, but marco wants nothing to do with light. in fact, he enjoys the darkness. he is not going to stand in the sun when he can easily hide in the moons shadow. the man has elevated his voice, but the other woman has gotten in front of him, throwing her arms around him and trying to get him to come back to her.
marco is no longer willing to play nice. he opens his mouth, and the man is stunned.
granmama is right about you.
he shakes his head and slams the door to his room. the man runs up to the door, but marcus stands in front of it. the man commands marcus to move aside, but marcus will not falter on this one. the other woman pulls the man away, and marcus stands there, silent and resilient. the other woman gives him a look, but he does not hold her gaze.
marco hasnt been home in weeks, but life goes on. at least, that is what the man said as he pulled marcus into the barn and began explaining everything that he needed to take on since marco had gone missing.
he then proceeded to explain that he would not be doing this alone. that the other woman had two daughters that would help out in marco's stead. the man did not talk ill of marco, he just shook his head, wondering where he could have ran off too.
marcus had a feeling that the man knew where he had went, but it seemed like the past is where he wanted to leave all of that. marcus did not question it, because another night of fighting like that would have been too much for marcus. the silence was marcus's sanctuary after all.
the girls did not spend too much time with marcus, the other woman making sure that they keep their distance in order to protect them. marcus had to take care of the more dangerous animals now that marco had disappeared. his father had told him a story once, about a pig that had gone mad and ended up eating another farmer right down to the bone. the story was shared to remind marcus that he needed to pay attention to the animals and their needs. not to scare him.
however, the man realized how it couldve had to opposite affect on him. he is gentle with all of the new animals that he had interacted with, most of them seeming to pine for marcus's attention even when he didnt have food in his hand. the girls had watched from a far, scared of many of the animals that they had on the farm. it took months for marcus to get used to them himself, but once he did, he realized that they had feelings just like he did.
days in particular where marcus saw this were days where the sky had been furiously crying, or days when white flakes had been falling from the sky. marcus spent extra time with the animals the days after these events. most of the animals had giving audible noises of approval, to the point where the daughters, who werent as scared as they once were, thought it was weird. marcus laughed, inviting them to come help him take care of them.
it had been a couple years now, the new woman had just become the woman in marcus's mind. she had been gentle, and that is all marcus could have asked for. her daughters had learned to love the animals just as much as he did as well. the man had been able to sustain a life in this quiet countryside, and while everything seemed to be going well, a part of marcus wondered what else could be out there.
he only was able to get to town every now and then. he mostly went with the man when he needed to drop off the spoils of his hard work. he would watch as other kids had been running around the town square, them playing games that he had never seen before. they ride off in the carriage, the horse neighing for a moment.
stop marcus says to the man, and so he does. marcus gets down and walks up to the horse, pulling out a carrot that they had gotten in a trade and holding it up to its mouth. the horse quietly begins to snack on it, and marcus pets it as he focuses.
in between the horses staggered breathes, he hears some whimpering coming from one of the bushes that they had been parked by. when marcus goes to investigate, the man crosses him arms.
we need to go marcus, we have to get back before the sun sets. marcus however, puts his hand up and once he realizes what is making the noise, he goes to the back of the carriage and pulls out a piece of meat that had been wrapped in expensive paper. not in the sense of money, but in the sense of quality, and what they had to trade for it.
he throws the meat into the distance and the dogs that had been in the bushes run towards it. he steps back up next to the man and the man shakes his head. thats coming out of your pay.
im leaving. marco announced to marcus silently that one night.
the memory replays in his head as he tries to corral the cows into one place so he can have the daughters, now his sisters, milk them. the capitol had made personal trips to this farm just to get a taste of when they called white gold.
marcus didnt think anything special of it.
you could come with me you know marcus? granmama said there is more than enough room for both of us. marcus lifts one of the buckets to the door of the house, were the new woman, now his new mom, had been sitting with a couple glass bottles. the woman portions it out in the bottles and then places them into the snow so they stay cold.
the capitol would be here soon to pick it up.
hes not telling us everything marcus, thats why i need to go. i need to find the answers for myself. the rain starts to come down, the lightning follows, and then the wind howls.
however, it is sunny outside right now.
marcus inhales, the soft, but cold air filling his nose, but the only thing that he can smell is the rain.
ill miss you.
ill miss you too. he says out loud in front of his new sisters, and they are confused. they look at him with a certain amount of disdain, who are you talking too? they ask him, and he simply shakes his head.
marcus wakes up in a cold sweat one night, even though the whole house had been well insulated since the man had gotten the hang of his new found profession. the oil rigs and petroleum had started wain, or at least, that is what the man was told.
he had been selling extra livestock to other people that had been interested in farming too.
he walks up to the window and closes it, though he was sure that he did not have it open when he went to bed. when he turned around, he heard a floorboard creak.
marcus jumped, but when he turned around, he noticed that marco had been sitting in front of him for the first time in years.
what are you doing here? marcus asks, not sure if he should offer a hug or alert the man that was sleeping across the hallway.
i just came to say hi. marco's eyes are shifting around the room.
no you didnt. marcus can tell when someone was lying to him, especially when it came to his own flesh and blood. what do you need marco? he is saying everything in a hushed tone. he knew well that if the man heard them, one of those guns that had been given to them by their grandpapa would have been finally put to use.
i just wanted to see you. i havent seen you since you came to the city and fed those puppies. marco has clasped his hands together. theres so much you dont know marcus.
save it. marcus feels nauseous knowing that his brother had been spying on him. you left. you dont get to keep tabs on me.
marco let a shit eating grin take over his face. dont think i dont know why you have been coming with dad to the town square. he crosses his arms. you miss me.
marcus does not even flinch.
maybe i miss the idea of you. marcus turns around and opens the window again. you can leave at any time, you know that all too well.
marco shakes his head. those puppies sure were thankful. i named one of them after you marcus. he stands. granmama would love to see you before she passes away.
i have no reason to see someone that i do not know marco. this time marcus's voice is elevated, his temperament changing and he can hear the rustling from other rooms in the house.
thats a shame. he stands up, the way he can read marcus like a book, well, if he could read, is impressive. she really is a lovely woman.
im not taking your word for that marco. he watches as marco places one leg out of the window. the sounds from out of the room are starting to intensify.
take care of yourself marcus. he slinks out of the window.
fuck you. he slams the window shut as the man runs into the room. marcus is slumped against the wall, tears welling up, but not falling out of his eyes. he rubs them, the feeling fleeting for a moment.
when he looks up, he sees the man, but he also notices that the name plate at the front of marco's bed had been missing.
a memory of what things used to be huh? marcus says outloud, the man is confused for a moment until he also notices what is missing.
there is silence in the barn for a moment, right up until marcus walks in. the horses start to neigh and whinny in unison. he throws feed on the ground of each pen.
it had been his sixteenth birthday.
he distracts the horses with food as his sisters walked into each pen and began to clean and reorganize it just like marcus had shown them. marcus steps away for a moment, walking near the new wooden tombstone, now with a name and years carved into it.
he did not know that the woman that gave birth to him died the day he was born. the man had shared as much information he was comfortable with sharing that night that marco came back for a visit.
the information overload caused marcus to take a couple days off the farm work. the animals were confused, just as much as the man was when he realized they could tell that marcus was not there to take care of them.
there wasnt anything that the man wanted to hide. he told marcus everything. how he felt when marcus was born, how he treated him differently because he was the reason why the love of his life had died. his relationship with granpapa and granmama. they wanted so much for the man to follow in their footsteps, but that was not what he was interested in.
marcus wasnt sure if he could make a solid assumption of his grandparents, but he knew that there was more to the story. he was not surprised that the man could not tell him everything. everyone had their secrets.
marcus knew why marco had left originally. though he would never tell the man. it would have done no good for either of them.
so instead he walked up to the gravesite, sat on the hay ridden ground.
there is so much i wanted to know about you. marcus sighs, he turns around to see that he has an audience. i wish i could have known you like he did.
the man, his father comes up behind him, and puts a hand on his shoulder.
youre the spitting image of her marcus. im sorry i never told you that.
marcus looks up for a moment, then looks back down and smiles. okay. he says as he stands up and wipes all the hay off of his pants.
okay? the man is confused, his hand ruffling through his hair, trying to make sense of what okay meant in this moment.