Note: EE8, EE9, EE1b, and EE10 are all “old news” in a way. My original plan with these short stories was to write overly-detailed exposition for a little writing exercise. What I found, however, was a desire to explore new directions; each time I looked at one of these I felt like writing entire chapters, not just a page or two. I think several of these are worth keeping around, but I’d like to move on. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy these last few tales.
Sunlight spilled through the stained-glass window set high into the stone wall. Hundreds of tiny facets bent rays of light into a rainbow of color that cascaded to the stone floor below. The cathedral was a beautiful sight, and the rows of silk that swirled around the open space seemed to contain the splendor. A small gathering of people near the front of the room sat in total silence, none wishing to disturb the events proceeding before them. This was truly a wonderful day that none would forget.
Dozens of flowers were held by all three brides at the altar; their grip was firm and anxious, full of excitement as they absorbed every detail. Folds of beautiful cloth caressed their slender frames; the three men standing near them were as statues, through close observation would many glances cast at their respective females. Their own attire was crisp and tight on their broad shoulders, forming strong pillars for their brides to lean upon. No one would have noticed if the building were to collapse around them; each was staring intently at the leader of their group as he spoke words of encouragement to them.
“Three couples, three unions, three new adventures about to begin.”
As the ceremony drew to a close, each pair stood apart and spoke to one another in private. The vows they took were sacred and unyielding against anything life would bring; these were life-long commitments, and none took it lightly. A small cheer erupted from the onlookers as each couple turned to face them. Having sealed their bonds with the public profession of love, the celebration festivities would begin!
The camp was a center of joyful commotion that night. Fires danced in their circles as the family turned circles around the fire. Smiles and warm embraces were shared as the group told stories, exchanged gifts, and enjoyed a bountiful feast. Togetherness was a tangible presence that evening; nothing outside the ring of tents could disturb this group.
As the moon rose high into the sky, each of the newlyweds packed their gear and wished the others a fond farewell. They rode over the hills in different directions; each intent on spending time with one another in camps of their own.
Those at the main camp watched the riders depart, staring into the night until only shadows remained. They moved back to the fire and sat there for several hours; stories of times past twisted to form a tight net that bound them close together. At times, one or two of the figures would leave the circle for a short while, to return after they had taken a moment to reflect on the events of the evening.
* * *
One of the younger females was slowly approaching, her head tilted sideways as if to see around the edge of the young man’s shoulders. As she drew close, he turned and smiled half-heartedly in her direction. She returned the smile, then extended her hands to reveal a small item. It was something they had found on an old desk some years back, and to that day had continued to provide entertainment for them from time to time. The only problem was that it broke rather frequently, as was the case once again.
He reached for the item and started to work, his hands moving quickly over the surface of the object. After a few moments he handed it back to her and waited. The item began to shine in her hand, then abruptly sprang to life and glowed a brilliant rainbow of colors. Her eyes lit up and she held on tight; the little widget had a way of escaping.
Turning to run back up the hill, she expressed her gratitude in a cheery shout over her shoulder. He heard her present the item and the elated responses of the group. This usually made him grin, but tonight it did not. He could find no peace in being helpful today; somehow the very life of his actions had drained away. It seemed a hopeless situation, one that nobody else even perceived as abnormal.
To him the distinction was clear – could it be any more obvious? Not to him, perhaps, but most certainly to the others, as he was allowing himself to realize for the first time. All party members felt as though they lost out now and then. To someone like him, the success of the others was as if it were his own; this weighed heavily at times and he needed a break, but pausing for too long often led to discouragement. It was his job to respond correctly, not dictate what was brought before him.
He sighed and slowly stood, shaking both the dust and sour mood from his figure. With a final glance toward the campfire, he turned and begin his trek into the night. A lengthy walk lie ahead of him, and he could not afford to carry any extra baggage born by grief or regret.
Had this situation occurred only a short time ago, he would have kept walking; the feelings he had for the group had been thrown to and fro since then. Some days it seemed as though it would never get better, but he still hoped it would. The young man slowed slightly as thoughts ran through his mind: he knew if he walked away that light would fade completely; he may never see the outline of his form on the ground, perhaps the fire would never again chance to shine at his back. So many routes away from here would only turn to lead him back one day…why not just stay?
The young man shook his head, laughing softly at his plight and turning back toward the light. He’d travel with this group until it really was time to go elsewhere. It wasn’t long before he saw the outlines of his companions, heard their joyful exclamations at the sight of him. As he re-entered the camp, his tired features stayed behind in the shadows and lay behind him for good.