He strung through the vines. Lost in time and thought. Not really connected to the moment anymore. One step on top of the other, but not in reality.
He was beyond.
A heartache with grief for the life he might have known, for the brother and world that might have opened up to him if they hadn’t given him away.
Or lost him? Or abandoned him? Or…?
His thoughts swirled.
No, they were my parents. There had to be a legitimate reason to give their child away.
He wondered if he was older than him, or younger. He never mentioned his age.
Then a sinister thought struck him.
What if I was stolen?
He stopped moving and stood still. A bird faraway called out to its kin – and he lifted his eyes to find sunlight trickling down through the canopy above. Glittering, but filtered.
Kidnapping could be plausible, but his mother was kind, generous and thoughtful. He felt a nagging conviction that she would never be capable of such a thing. To strip a new mother from her newborn babe for her own selfish gain. Never.
But she lied to you. The dark thoughts crept in again.
She did admit that he was not kin by blood – she never hid that fact. If he was indeed stolen, then she would have covered that bit up. Swept it under the rug to excuse any prying questions.
So why did she tell you your parents were dead when they are surely alive??
Perhaps she wanted to suggest he was not kin – trying hard to be truthful – but still intending to obscure. It seems she wanted to hide any thought or hope that he would go looking for them.
Or, that perhaps they did not want to be found?
Zerian was finding more questions than answers. He suddenly lost ambition to keep going, and instead sat down beneath the nearest tree. He felt anger, rage, sadness and frustration wrapped up and intertwined together. A giant knot. But also… a tiny tinge of love? A small thread of connection to them, his lost parents. The people he thought he would never know, but who now were suddenly …there.
But they went on without you! They have another child, a wonderful life! It is obvious they didn’t want you. They gave you up for a reason!
He suppressed a sob, and doubled over in anger. He gave in and screamed so loud the forest hushed.
A worthless castaway? Is that all he was?
A small voice whispered: No! Of course not!
But it was small, and easily subdued by the rage and sadness. There is no room for hope or love in the face of such fiery revelations. Zerian tensed.
Confrontation is the only way to know.
But another thought seized him – the most powerful one of all: A hopeless despair.
As quickly as he was angry, all he wanted now was to wallow away. He wanted to forget them all, everyone and everything. He relaxed his head into his knees, and rolled onto his side. The uneven undergrowth cushioning him and cradling his broken-ness. He closed his eyes and started to drift. He had been walking for hours, no food, no water. His limbs were weary, worn down by the adrenaline. His thoughts became less definitive, more soft and diminutive.
He dreamed of them. He called to them. But there was no answer.
It was a horrible dream. A tangle of indecipherable things. It felt sharp and disingenuous. He was alone and exhausted and the floor was pulled out from under him. He was fighting something that wasn’t there. He was arguing with someone who wasn’t there.
He felt a kick to the kidneys and was flung out into a ditch. He waited and waited, but the ditch never came. He was falling into it, but endlessly – forever expecting the thud of the ground. Endless expanse and endless stars engulfing him. He couldn’t move, and his panic grew ever so slowly, like a beloved rose, rising to the morning sun.
Suddenly he started – he had found the ground and awoke with a jolt. He exhaled, out of breath. Then he saw her.
Anava was kneeling beside him.
She was staring at him, eyes strong but glassy, concerned and still. Her lips tightened when he locked eyes with her. First he was baffled that she would be able to find him way out here. Then he felt immense and deeper than imaginable gratitude. Honored that she would even consider chasing after him.
“H- How did you find me out here?” His throat was hoarse. He remembered screaming and turned red.
“Oh, it wasn’t any trouble. I just found you a moment ago.”
“Oh.” Zerian cleared his throat. At least she wasn’t watching him sleep while twisted up in a nightmare. Then he remembered his current real life nightmare and grimaced. He wondered how much she knew. Then he felt a pang of anger at her. Jealousy for living a life oblivious – a life he was not a part of but should have been.
“Z, I’m worried about you. Why did you run off?”
Then Anava tilted her head slightly to one side just like Dusti used to do. Zerian nearly lost it, but kept his mouth shut. He knew if he spoke it would all come crashing in.
Her eyes searched him as he sat upright. He stretched his stiff neck and felt a drop of sweat fall from his forehead. Time seemed to slow down. He cracked a few knuckles. “I’m fine,“ he mumbled. “I’m – It’s just – I’m not – You didn’t have to. Really, I’m just – “
Zerian rubbed his eyes, which were probably bloodshot, and looked at her again. His thoughts disorganized, like he was spread all over the place. Spread across everything.
“This is not how the story begins,” she said abruptly, “and it is not how it ends, either.”
Zerian blinked, and then ever so slightly she leaned forward and placed her hand on his heart.
Keep going to Part 2