Monday, March 30, 2015

THE VERMILION YEARS 4: CHEVALIER


Quatre

Chevalier


I drew my claw up to the girl’s neck, the only kindness I’d left to offer the ill-fated human.

“Reserve your pity for someone else, Im,” Fleurette snapped, pushing my blades away and raising her feeble sport pistols.

“The most murderous of men still shutter at an Unman’s feast,” I warned. 

“Be that as it may, I opt to fight,” the girl replied.

“You fight insurmountable odds.”

“Stop talking, Jean Luc, please,” Fleurette sighed. “I am not interested in the odds of survival, nor do I care about the quality of my last living seconds. The terms of my demise will always be mine, alone.”

I honored her last request by saying nothing, not that I had the time to do so. The Unmans’ leering would soon cease, at the moment they deemed most optimal. Fleurette’s conviction impressed me. She behaved oddly for one so near death. She embodied honor and courage. A true hero… though perhaps born out of turn. I suppose that’s what subconsciously led me to save her. The plight of those actively rebelling against their expected interests softened me.  Ultimately, humanity could not be saved, not by me. Time ingrained this notion in me, and I followed it religiously. This girl, as unremarkable as she was, inspired a small debate in me. A flower cannot live forever, but you can water them. Beyond saving? Yes, no question. But maybe… not beyond savoring.


Heeeeeeeeeerrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…”


"Too Fond for Disposal"



My sentimental old bills
That recent proposal
Too fond for disposal
Fluorescent stares
Bum wheel cart
Bypassing cards at Wal-Mart

No anniversaries left
A Mitzvah, maybe
Claire’s new baby
Boxing Day
Paper view
Signed by yours truly

Still not sure how true
Multiple choice
A Rolls Royce
Blood drive
Giving, I’m alive
Yet still missing my shows

No space, no memory
Not for lack of DVR
A dusty VCR
Our tapes
The drapes
Gone in a home invasion


Occasions on occasion
Life like an attic
Through traffic
Gone by motions
More bad potions
For an incurable separation  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Having You"

When I look at you I see right through the present
And you’ve got a gift for making me see a future
While I don’t fill you in, you can feel my past
And you look past the pain
Carry me into the rain
Showering me with Novocain  

I hold onto your hand
Gripping it tightly
Tightly enough that you believe
That it’s the only thing keeping me hanging in
Because it is, even as the world is caving in
It’s not snowing for once, but we’re still staying in


In my cradle of uncertainty you rocked me awake
Broke away the bars of the innocent prison
Building me a whole orchestra, just to play me one song  
I pray to a God I know doesn’t exist
In gentle hopes our love can persist
I say I’m no good, but you insist…

That I’m worth a damn, I’m starting to see it as true

…. Because I have the added value of having you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

FROM B TO R

R,

What can I say about you that I haven’t already said? Mountains, evidently. I’ve been writing about you since the dawn of our whirlwind. Let me start this off by throwing you a simple "thanks." I appreciate the sensational timing of your arrival—not that there’s a poor time to have the very personification of breathlessness descend upon you. You’ve brought me so much joy in such a brief span... with this crazy, volatile chemistry neither of us can quite understand.

Last night, as I was thinking you— a daily thing— it dawned on me that I’d have to be mad to think myself capable of encapsulating the extent of your beauty with words. The time to question my sanity now, as I’m about to take a stab at said impossibility. I’d said to you, “You’re so amazing, I make a list of my favorite qualities.” The characteristics that contribute to your ravenousness are indeed innumerable; which is fine by me, as I’ve always shied away from numbers. Physical beauty is merely the crest of the crushing tsunami that’s flooding my mind with awe. Your golden, shining beacon of a heart permeates your entire being with a warm magnetism that pulls me ever closer by each passing day. External evidence of the radiance brimming inside you is best glimpsed through your gorgeous smile, eyes and actions. While one could scarcely imagine the two prior qualities--your beauty and heart--being trumped, your brilliant mind pushes them aside and stands tall— casting a formidable shadow that cloaks me in solace.

If that sounds a little overwhelming to you, congratulations! You now know what it feels like to be around you. As much of a champion of the English language as I am, I find myself seeking alternate languages to fully express the feelings you inspire. Vraiment... c'est incroyable. You make writing poetry as easy as blinking, and, at times, just as involuntary. Not that I would ever not volunteer to offer you a song of praise. Looking into your cedar gaze is frightening— the same fear one feels when peering down into the magnificent depths of the Grand Canyon. Fear and love go hand and hand. Nervousness. Butterflies. I feel these healthy doses of apprehension all the time with you. As you slide your hand into mine, bite your lip… or whisper into my ear. Ugh...

I’d continue on from here, but I’m afraid it only exacerbates the pain of missing you.

Know this…
Of all the words and all arrangements I could make with them, none could ever equate to the warmth and tenderness of us sitting on a couch together and sharing a simple kiss… then making out passionately and… uh, taking things elsewhere.

Basically? I miss you. Kudos on being thoroughly amazing. Can’t wait for all the inspiration I know you’ll be conjuring up in my heart soon.


-          - B        

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Next Fall

I attribute failure to a dusty excuse
Effectively dulled by excess use
Then I change the conditions
Conditioning my means for a fall

I'll register next fall.

I hope it will all register by then
The things I'm supposed to know
Everything I should have done before

Prolonging my longing
Romantic in a way
The stages of sweet decay
Like early fall
Full of promise, dirt covered by leaves

Give me a reason to fabricate
This is the season I suffocate
I rake in nothing again
A gain as foreign to me as success

I'll sleep through the winter

Next fall...
Yeah,
I'll know how to pick myself up by then.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Death Row Dad

DEATH ROW DAD
(Short story inspired by "Shame" by The Avett Brothers)  


My father and I exchanged many a glance through that dingy Plexiglas wall. We tossed almost tears and wordless questions back and forth, playing catch the only way we could. Silence had always been a part of our relationship.You'd be lucky to get two grunts out of him. He let his actions do the talking, and that was part of the problem. He didn't act much either. That trait of his, among others, never made the jump between generations. I'll talk your ear off-- your nose and eyes, too, if you give me the chance. I was one chatty kid, lemme tell ya. As much of a clam as my old man was, he never minded my mouth one bit. In fact, Pop brought me along whenever he needed to get a point across to someone. Imagine five year old me, sitting in a union meeting, rattling off a list of my father's concerns. Ha. Now that I think about it, he might not have needed me at all. Just another ploy to keep me away from that abusive, alcoholic bitch...

My wife came to visit once. Never repeated the kindness. She told me my father had the saddest eyes. Cloudy, violent and turbulent... yet sputtering and dismal-- an exhausted hurricane. My wife said she could feel dad's guilt weigh down her diaphragm. That look in his eyes... that sad, sad look. I knew it, too. It predated his accusation and conviction, but try proving that to a jury. Give a forlorn stare like that and say nothing when grilled by an overzealous prosecutor sporting a massive hard-on for 'justice'... Would it even matter if he was actually innocent? The reason I knew my father could never have killed my mother was also the same reason they found him guilty for it. The poor guy couldn't be bothered to fight a damn thing. No matter the cuts... bruises... berating... my father took it all in-- absorbing more sadness into his deep eyes.   
       
Sixteen at the time of the initial trial, there wasn't much I could do. My father never made friends, and the only family he had left sported the suffix 'in-law.' It's hard to win a fight without a corner to come back to, especially when you lived your life without throwing a single punch. The jury found my father guilty without even taking more than a minute to deliberate. Call it inspired; call it scarred. Studying law became my life. I succeeded in becoming one of the best defense attorneys money could buy. My father refused representation for his first appeal, no matter how hard I pleaded. I turned in as many favors as I could, but I couldn't manage to get my hands on the reigns of his defense. My father was on the Texan death row, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it. So I came to the trials, visited when I could. We exchanged our sad stares. He returned to his cell. I returned to mine.


The day finally came when my father was willing to talk. Wanted a true one on one with me as his last request. That day was yesterday. Today's the first day of his death. That conversation... In my mind, Pop's words are as fresh as a steaming pile of horse manure.



...  


"So this is it, huh Pop? Today's the day."

"Sure is."

I shook my head and pulled at my hair with my shaking hands. The man remained so apathetic, unperturbed by the great injustice costing him his life.

"I found a detective willing to reopen your case you know. He's willing to pull some strings and get your date pushed back, even this late into it."

"..."

Of course he said nothing. He simply stared into me.

"Let me appeal, Pop."

"Joseph, I didn't call for ya just to have a row."

I shuttered with frustration, my face reddening by the minute.

"Take a seat, son. Settle down if ya can."

I obeyed, as I always had.

"Done a heap of thinkin' in here, I have. Hadn't much choice on account of the lack of viable options for a non-reader who ain't fond of workin' out or sports."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

My dad said nothing more, peering off at a wall.

"Um, is that it? It sounded like you were setting up to say something else."

"Ah, yeah. Sorry, Joe. Got to thinkin' again. Somethin' else popped into my head."

"It's fine, Pop. What were you going to say?"

"I'm ready to confess."

"Say what?

"I'm confessin' to ya, boy."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your momma's death. I done it."

"No... no, you didn't. I know that for a fact. You were working. I was the one who found her. I called you up and you came home, way more bent up than you should have been. Not guilty bent up... losing your wife bent up. Lacking an alibi does not equate to guilt. That jackass prosecutor had a field day because you refused to--"

"Joey. Joey, stop."

"..."

"I know I didn't physically murder your mother. Course not. I'm talkin'... indirectly."

"Uh, still no."

"Hear me out, champ."

"Fine..."

My father took a deep breath. It must have been so hard for him, talking this much. As furious as I was at my old man's stubbornness, I cherished this surprising chance to truly meet the man. I felt like the lonely voice trapped inside-- peaking out through occasional body language-- finally got to leave its prison. Shame the same couldn't be said of the actual prisoner.       


"When I met your mother, she was a sweet child. Too fragile to drink, not broken enough to feel. She loved me, saw a sad man and wanted to make him smile."

"Sure as hell didn't stay that way."

"Yeah, and it's my fault."

"Pop, don't be stupid."

My father shook his head.

"I never could smile for her. Never could say the word she so desperately needed to hear. She needed a man to yell at her. Tell her to put down the bottle and pick up the pieces of  her life. That woman offered me her everythin', Joey boy. I gave her nothin' back for it."

"What are you talking about? You gave her everything. She never had to work a day in her life."

"I gave her an empty house and an empty heart. Not a reason to live. I worked and worked. Gave her money when she needed somethin' else entirely. I gave her a son, thinkin' that'd fix it. But you ended up lovin' me instead of her."

"She fucking beat me, Pop. The woman was a vile, irredeemable bitch. Of course I didn't love her."

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't speak about your mother that way, son."

"Fine. But don't you dare blame yourself for that. She made me hate her all on her own."

"She did what she done as a cry for help. I know that now. She wanted me to supervise her. To come home and protect her the way I protected you. That's why she got mixed up in that crowd. Took up drinkin'. She created a problem for me to fix. To make me come back and take care of things."

"..."

"I didn't do a damn thing, son. A damn fuckin' thing."

"There's nothing you could do, Dad. She was a lost cause."

"When are you gunna learn, Joe? I don't want ya defendin' me."

It was at this point that my eyes welled up with tears. I saw the door handle turn. I knew the officer was coming in to tell me our time was up.

"You won't do it, though... You won't even defend yourself when you know you didn't do it."

"That's right."

"..."

The officer stood in the doorway. He looked at my dad and nodded. My father got up slowly. 


"How you managed to turn out well is beyond me. I'll blame God. I'm thankful for it. Thankful for you."

"So is that why you called me here? To try to absolve your shitty wife?"

"Nah. Had a question."



"Well, what was it...?"


"I met that girl of yours.Your wife know's you love her, don't she? Yeah, she does..."

"Uh, that's not really a question, Pop."

My father smiled, possibly for the first time in his life.




"Good to hear."

           
   

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Vermilion Years: Chapter 3 (reboot)

Atelier



I watched a familiar pack of sand wolves gnaw off the tough, slimy skin of an Unman corpse. The grey humanoid’s stomach burst open, exposing the content of its last meal. The hairless mutts had no interest in the meager Unman meat, as the creatures’ musculature had evolved into a micro-fiber, thinner than their rubbery epidermis. The sand wolves pulled bits of human meat and hair from the monsters’ chest cavities. The wolves scarfed down every last morsel, consuming even the bones. The coughed up one thing: child-size metal prosthetics. Finally, I found a clear indication of whom this outpost belonged.

Returning to the camp, I searched for the package that would confirm what I already knew.  It did not take long. The fact that I had not detected a pearlescent pink box in the corner in my previous investigation surprised me. I tore off the luminescent fabric with my claws, uncovering the rusty metal box inside.

I tapped the fancy Old English letter ‘A’ protruding from the side of the box. The box churned mechanically before expelling a cloud of hot steam from its top. A rotating circle of lights raised up, projecting a crude sepia-colored hologram in the hot mist.  An outrageously ornate young girl appeared and curtseyed. Her lips began moving. Hearing nothing, I kicked the box, starting up the lagging audio. I looked back at Fleurette’s cot. She turned in her sleep, but did not wake.


“Why hello there, future friends,” cheered the hologram’s cherubic, high-pitched voice. “We come representing the Atelier Alliance, indeed we deedy-do. We’re the friendliest little friends you ever will find in this weepy wasteland, yes we arry-are. We understand you’re nudey neutral in the wars, we do dang-doodle. But you’ll listen to our sweet ol’ song, won’t you, you poopy poodles?”


Give me a break…”  I groaned.

Hearing the messenger’s saccharine gibberish instantly nauseated me.      


Dear dear little Lyonnais,
 You loopy doopy lovely place,
AA comes in pretty peace.
You have us to fear the least!
We just know you’ll let us play,
Reply, replay right away!


We’re just a bunch of girly girls,
With cherry cheeks and auburn curls.
You hate war and so do we!
Forgetty-get this and sip our tea!
Think you’re happy? No, no, no!
Thank you’re safe? Ho, ho, ho!
Take it, take it, right from me.
You’ll go bye-bye, yessiree!


Let us takey take you from it all
Kiss your boo-boos when you fall.
Kissy-kissy, we don’t want much.
Give you a hand for a tiny touch.
We want your town as a basey base.
Turn it to a real fun place!
We wanty want your—


The song ended prematurely, snuffed out by a swipe of my claw.


“What’s the matter with you!?” shouted a voice behind me.




“You had no right to smash that, Jean-Luc,” Fleurette scolded groggily, apparently more awake than I’d realized. “That message was intended for Lyonnais.”

“What you overheard was a fancy save-the-date for an incoming slaughter,” I said, turning around.

“Coming from that cute little child?” the girl scoffed. “I think not.” 

I shook my head.
 “Another illusion of your naïveté.”

“Have you considered that you might just be jaded?” Fleurette growled.

“Naturally, the hue of reality shifts from shades of rose to jade the longer you spend time with it.”


The maid’s disrespectful words resonated with more truth than she knew. Optimism. Trust. Happiness. Love. The luster of such human concepts had long gone dull for me. In the process of becoming virtually all-knowing you eliminate hope and surprise, just as immortality forgoes consequence. It’s hard to feel anything when you’ve reached such a godly level— the best argument for the existence of one. There was a time when I envied the spectrum of emotions that surrounded corporality. However, that feeling had long left me, like much else. 


“What good is your eloquence if no one understands it?” Fleurette asked me.
“Better than those who fail to grasp it.”


The human shook her head. She picked up a bird and poster packaged with the parcel. The former item was a clockwork parrot, a mechanical fowl that recorded voice and flew back to its owner. It was to be used by Lyonnais for sending its response back to the Atelier Alliance, presumably for the purpose of the AA’s amusement.  The poster was made of pheelograph film and depicted a gorgeous young girl labeled as ‘Audette.’ A pheelograph is a special type of photographs that featured highly detailed textures. When touched, the image feels exactly like whatever the image depicts.

Fleurette ran her hands down the precious poster girl’s otherworldly beautiful, ruffled gown. She pinched the tiny angel’s soft rosy cheeks. A


 “Aww, this little girl is absolutely adorable,” Fleurette cooed, uncharacteristically feminine. “She reminds me of Lady Etienne at that age. Is this their mascot? Like is she the leader’s daughter?”

“That is the leader,” I said. “Audette Atelier, evil in a tiny package. Your mistress has never been that age, nor will she ever. That’s an Im.”

“Ah, so the messenger was an Im, too,” Fleurette said. “And the other girls in the poster….”

“Not quite.”

Fleurette scratched her head.  

“At its surface, the Atelier Alliance appears to be comprised entirely of young girls, but facts supply a more disturbing explanation. As far as I know, Audette is the only Im in the organization. She indoctrinates young girls into her ranks the moment they can walk. Once these child soldiers grow out of their preteens, Audette amputates their limps and replaces them with shorter prosthetics. Modified Earth-life orbs that produce helium in addition to oxygen are placed in their larynxes to simulate a young girl’s voice. In addition to heavy makeup, cosmetic surgery is administered monthly.”    

Fleurette’s face squirmed, deeply affected by what I told her.

“T-that’s absurd…” she stuttered.  “No one in their right mind would do such a thing. I mean, mutilating people like that…”

“Audette Atelier is one rarely accused of sanity,” I assured.

“Well, whatever,” Fleurette muttered, composing herself. “If this sick group does exists, Lyonnais has a sizable militia in place. I’m sure they can handle a bunch of ‘children.’  The Unman you promised to exterminate, on the other hand, pose an immediate danger. If you make good on your word, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“You have things reversed. A million Unman is but a sneeze compared to the threat of Atelier.”
Fleurette gulped, finally starting to feel the gravity steadily pulling down Lyonnais.

“… This is something you can stop, right?” she asked me shakily.

I shook my head.

The girl’s brows furrowed and her scalded face boiled red.

“No wonder your services are free,” Fleurette snapped. “Nothing is all you’re worth.”

“I cannot sway large-scale conflicts,” I said firmly. “Once an opponent realizes I am unkillable, I’m simply ignored. I become nothing but a ghost on the battlefield.”

“Sure you can,” Fleurette insisted. “You could take out their leader. Hold a choke point indefinitely. Cleave a path through their defenses. There’s plenty of ways to put your dead weight to good use, Jean Luc.”

“Successful execution tends to lack the ease of speech,” I said. “Come to terms with the loss of Lyonnais. Immortality may preserve my life, but it does little to save the lives of those around me.”

“You mean YOU do little to save the lives of those around you,” Fleurette loudly interrupted.
I widened the eyes on my mask in reflex. Stunned, I fell silent.

“I’ve HAD IT with your fatalism,” Fleurette snapped. “You think being stuck so far in the past gives you a better view of the future? I’m afraid it simply does not work that way. By abandoning us… you fulfill your own lazy prophesy.”

Lazy? Lyonnais is miscarriage in time, a city that died before it was born. You cannot abort that which is DOA. It will fall sooner or later, with little difference between the two. Time has no regard for such a futile outcropping of humanity as Lyonnais, and I share its lack of concern. There is not much worth saving, no matter the scenario.”

“Stop talking down to me, Jean Luc,” Fleurette growled. “Just because you outlive something doesn’t mean it lacks worth. Lyonnais is completely worth saving. Are the people there a bit rough? Sure. They’re not bastions of wisdom or anything, but they’re ALIVE. Life will never stop being valuable. That’s what YOU don’t understand.”


I looked outside the cave. The sandstorm had worsened, burying the Unman remains. As impassioned as the girl’s words were, they failed to move my iron heart a millimeter. A millennia ago I may have respected Fleurette for that blazing speech, as I admit it was well formed and reasoned for one of her years. Still, she was wrong. The truth may be cold, but it’s always correct.


Grasp this,” I said hoarsely, losing my even tone to anger. “Unman. Atelier. The name changes but the fate is the same. With luck, yes, I could make a difference. What you fail to understand, is the depth of my apathy toward your cause. Keep talking and it will turn to ire. I could murder your precious lady with my own claw, so please, keep in line.”

Fleurette staggered back.

“I’m fulfilling my obligation to you,” I continued. “Be grateful I’m doing that much. I have no reason to, what with that attitude of yours. I don’t care for humanity, and I especially don’t care for you.”


The glossiness coating the girl’s eyeballs told me my point had driven its way through. My perspective was not simply pragmatic, but weighted in disdain. Humanity had wronged me throughout my existence, and its most recent transgression. Staring deep into my unfeeling, copper mask, Fleurette’s moist eyes beckoned what was left of my compassion. To her dismay, the only trace of humanity she found was her own reflection. Fleurette dashed out of the camp, leaving a trail of tears behind her. I ran after her, for some reason… regretting my harshness.


“It is still too dangerous for you to venture out alone,” I said, quickly catching up.

I grabbed Fleurette’s arm, but she tugged it violently away.

“What does it matter to you!?” she yelled back, sobbing.

I lowered my head. As it so happened, it did matter to me— though I could not determine why.

“So where are you going?”

“I’m going back to Lyonnais and do whatever it takes to protect it. I know how to kill an Unman now, so go on your way. I can teach the militia all it needs to know. Don’t you DARE help us.”


 My words had not flown over Fleurette’s head, but, rather, directly though her heart. As much as I resented humanity, this girl and the rest of Lyonnais were not the ones who wronged me. I grabbed the girl’s hand and pulled her in the correct direction. At first she fought it, but eventually she gave in. I never verbalized any sort of apology, but the girl knew. As much as I hated to admit it to myself, it became clear that I’d developed a slight attachment to the girl. Key word, slight.  Her fervent tears shook something up in me. Something I’d long believed to be unshakable. I still had microbe humanity hanging on somewhere within me after all.  When this minor epiphany dawned on me, I smiled— though I didn’t change my mask to show it.
I let go of the girl’s hand once nightfall hit, to which Fleurette responded by immediately darting off. It did take long for her to tire, taking refuge within a large circular pit surrounded by enormous rock formations. While not nearly as safe as the cartographers’ camp, the shelter of spires at least shielded her from the harsh sand gusts. As Fleurette drifted into sleep, I perched myself upon on the tallest spire to survey the area. Without much analysis, I determined our destination had been, in fact, reached. I leapt off the spire and landed beside the sleeping maid. The noisy collision ripped Fleurette from her slumber.


“Will you leave me alone already!?” Fleurette screamed, shoving me away. “For an immortal, you have the maturity of a teenage girl, I swear. When I want to follow you, you disregard me. When I try to rid myself of you… you stick to me like a leech!”

I took a defensive stance, pulling the fuming human behind me. I raised my over my head, prepping a strike.

“Jean-Luc! Hello!? What are you doing now?”


A sickening choir of curdling squeals and gurgles sounded off, reacting to Fleurette’s loud outburst. Jet black eyes, darker than the darkness opened all around us. Moonlight reflected off hundreds of silvery bodies.  The ground shook beneath our feet as more shimmering humanoids rose from the ground to join the other’s ranks.

“W-where exactly… have you led me…” she sputtered, now drained of fury and filled with fear.

“Where you wanted to be,” I said calmly.

“And where is that?”

The Unman Cradle.”

Legion after legion, Unman rose out from the ground. The Unman Cradle refers to the central hub in the creature’s subterranean network where their infants are created and stored. All Unman not seeking food gather at this point. Unman dig out a crater and surround it with a hedge of stones to mark this base of operations of sorts and to ward off other Unman tribes from entering their territory. If I were to ever make any sort of dent on the Unman population threatening the humans of Lyonnais, taking out the Cradle would be the best option. Initially, I’d planned to sweep it myself and leave Fleurette behind at a safe distance. Clearly, this did not occur. The human picked a fatal location to throw her tantrum.


“I, uh, see…” the girl said weakly. “Hop to it t-then… On with the slaying.”


“Your name is Fleurette, is it not?”

The girl nodded. I feel a slight twinge of regret stir inside me. This what our little adventure amounted to. I hadn’t felt a connection with a human in such an unfathomably long time… and this was the reason.  The stare down would soon cease. Given their numbers, I’d be hard pressed to both repel and defend.  

 “Your name means ‘little flower’ in French, an extinct tongue from which this region’s language is derived.”

Fleurette looked up at me, equal parts confused, afraid and fascinated.    

“A flower is a beautiful type of plants that came in a breathtaking array of shapes and fragrances. You can still see them in designs everywhere, but they have not grown on Earth for a great deal of time. No matter how much time passes, flowers always will represent of beauty and remain a lasting symbol of love— even outliving the flowers themselves.”

“Why are you telling me this?”  

“You deserve to know how strong your name is,” I said solemnly. “Pure as well, much like you— a commendable quality in this, the Vermilion Years. Like the flowers, when your petals drift off in the wind, Fleurette, your beauty will carry on after you.  Despite the brevity of our time together, I will remember you.”     


My kindness caused trembling to overtake the girl’s small, scrappy frame.





“I’m… going to die, aren’t I?”