Savannah Summers

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Josette Wheeler
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Savannah Summers

Post by Josette Wheeler » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:20 pm

(OOC Note: The following posts take place in Josie and Isaac's past together in Savannah, Georgia. Co-written with Isaac Wheeler's writer and posted with permission. Enjoy!)

Once Upon a Savannah Summer...

Summers in the South had a tempo all their own. Whether it was front porch sitting, chasing gossip, downing copious amounts of grandmother's sweet tea, or daring snapping turtles to make good on their name at the local swimming hole. The people and the land moved in lethargic harmony as time passed and seemed to stand still all at the same moment. For Isaac, summers were the best of times since no schooling meant he couldn't get into trouble for ditching and most importantly, he got to see his sister for two weeks around the 4th of July when she visited from Paris.

"Why'd you have to bring the girl?" Ethan Vance carped for perhaps the fifth time while looking over his shoulder to aim a glare at Josie, who seemed to struggle to keep up with the group of older, wild, boys.

"Told ya." Isaac answered with that soft spoken dogwood drawl as he waited for Josie with his hand out to help steer her around a nasty patch of deer thorn. The thorny vine had already taken a bite out of one of the other boys blazing their trail through fallow fields a few miles from town. "Josie wants to play." He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and kept it in his own as they walked. "And she's my sister." Added with a tone of finality as if that's all the explanation anyone needed. Isaac frowned as he watched how much Josie seemed to be struggling more with the walk than she had last summer, but took the role of protector easily and slowed his pace without complaint. It was getting hot out after all. They'd get to where they were going when they got there. Summers in the south had their own way of making deadlines and time tables irrelevant.

Isaac and the other boys were venturing out to one of the swimming holes for fun and games. Their trek, like a tribe of Cherokee which used to call these lands home, took them from well-traveled paths to the edge of the Georgian wilderness were massive oak trees cast their thick limbs skyward and spread welcomed shade and a respite from the incessant Dixie summer heat for all and sundry.

"Whatever Isaac. She's weird and she's slowin' us down. Doesn't she even talk?" Ethan blew an annoyed sound through his lips as he stopped and turned around to look at the others. All in all, there were about six boys in the troop. All of them from the same neighborhood with similar backgrounds and families. "All right. Here's the game. Loser has to mind the pier," Ethan said. He aimed another withering glance Josie's way. "Freeze tag. Can't tag your master and you stay put. That means no tag backs. Ain't no goin' past the barbed wire fence up by Miller's farm and the swimin' hole on the other side. Er'thing else is fair game. You got it?" Sarcastically thrown Josie's way. "Or you need me to say it slower so you can keep up?" Ethan stepped towards the small girl as if getting closer would force her to speak.

Josie's fingers brushed unconsciously against her ear, her brows drawing closer together in a frown as the vibration of Ethan's voice made her ear ache. Her hand dropped and her chin raised as Ethan stepped closer. Those wide eyes looked up, a veritable nebulae of colors. Blue-green patina blended with an orbiting ring of copper around the pupil, tiny gilt flecks like scattershot stars. Something in her very spirit gathered force at Ethan's blatant attempt to intimidate her, and her spine straightened. Her fragile frame was hardly an imposing sight to the older boy, but there was a certain gravitas in the weight of her gaze that refused to look away first, or take a step back as he advanced on her.

The other boys looked around at one another, Ethan being their defacto leader since he'd been held behind in school twice now and was consequently two years older than the rest. Isaac stood alongside Josie and even half stepped in front of her after he saw the way Ethan was looking at her. He'd seen the look before in Ethan's eyes when he'd cornered one of the younger kids in the cafeteria for money or homework. He'd heard his mother talking about the Vance family at the dinner table. How they didn't belong in the neighborhood and how Mrs. Vance hadn't even gone to Cotillion when she was younger, but none of that mattered to Isaac in the moment. All he knew was that he didn't like the way Ethan was looking at his sister.

"The large oak is home base and no babysitting." Isaac added as he advanced on Ethan to force him to give Josie more breathing room. He knew Josie would not be able to outrun the others. It seemed Ethan was dead set on making her the odd one out today in his russian roulette of bullying tactics.

"Nah, that's your job Isaac. I ain't goin' easy on her either cause she's a girl. If she can't keep up, she's out. No cryin'. "l'll be IT first, so you got 50 Mississippis ta hide. Ain't gonna matter much, though." Ethan considered himself the freeze tag king of Savannah. "One Mississippi...Two Mississippi..."

As soon as Ethan started counting, the boys scattered like cotton chaff on the wind. The routine was always the same as the young boys played a game of ostracism in a constant battle for dominance. Isaac gave Josie a reassuring wink of thunderstorm gray before they were off, legs pumping like pistons to carry feet up and over the tall grass.

Isaac pulled Josie clear of the grass and over to a huge oak tree with a massive trunk and gnarled branches that seemed to stretch for miles. "Don't worry, kay?" Isaac said while looking back over towards were Ethan was counting. "He ain't ever gonna get close ta ya. Hide right here behind this oak. The tree is where you're safe, okay?" He took her delicate hand that he'd been holding and reached it up to touch the rough bark. Isaac gave his sister a reassuring smile, before releasing her hand to pick up a few small rocks.

"Hey Ethan!" He called out and whizzed one of the rocks back across the field right past the older boy's ear, purposely missing, but the intensity in his gaze when Ethan whirled around, indicated that he didn't miss due to poor aim. "Heard you did so bad in Mrs. Templeton's class that she threatened to put you back two grades just in case." Another rock whizzed by Ethan, as close as the last, as Isaac displayed an early talent which would serve him well in later years.

"Screw you, Wheeler! I'm gonna pummel you till you spit blood!" Ethan hollered back and tried his best to dodge the rocks and chase Isaac down.

But Isaac was off and moving through the woods, purposefully leading Ethan away from the big oak and away from Josie. Isaac stayed just far enough ahead to keep Ethan thinking he could catch him, but in reality, Isaac could move through the woods as quiet as a deer and as fast as jack rabbit. Ethan had no chance, which meant Josie did and that's all that mattered to Isaac.

Josie watched the two boys run off and then turned to look up in awe at the large oak. "The tree is where you're safe." Josie giving voice to her first words of the day, as she liked the way they sounded when Isaac said them. She smoothed delicate fingers over its rough bark with a certain reverence, placing her palm flat against it and felt the history that stretched down to its roots, the soil and beyond. Every change of season, every shelter and shade for human, bird and beast, every stolen kiss, every bittersweet parting of acorn and leaf, every careless cut of blade in its bark in a vain attempt to prove a love that would not last a season.

Her tremors started slowly, like a slow gathering storm and then became more violent, clashes of thunder and flashes of lightening fired off behind the curtain of her lashes as the images whipped by faster and faster. Tangled limbs in a heated embrace, endless yellow ribbons fluttering like tiny messengers of hope and a neck that snapped like a branch from the dangle of a coiled rope. Josie was shaking from the last image, removing her hand as if it burned like the image upon her memory.

She wept for the tree, for all it had seen and endured, hot tears running down her cheeks as she murmured apologies over and over. Returning her hand to the bark as if she could remove the atrocious offenses with her words and touch alone. But she also felt a strength there, a strength that she would carry with her in the years to come in moments when she had endured all pain she thought she could handle in her small frame. The energy that radiated from the oak's roots to its leaves, a blending of earth and sky poured into her, returning the love it felt from her touch a thousand times over in a language too old to carry a name.

It told her she was safe.
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:22 pm

The sun was setting on Big Sky Country, that burning disk of fire throwing up a brilliant and desperate firework show of gold and crimson as it inexorably dipped behind the distant purple mountain range which served as the spine of a continent. Ever since the carnival shuttered its doors for the off season, Isaac had been working at a horse ranch in Montana. Finding work had never been difficult…Isaac worked for cheap and that unsettling quietness about him meant he didn’t cause trouble with gossip or questions.

The Stone Creek Ranch had recently been bought by a New York surgeon who had cashed in his practice and traded the urban jungle of Midtown Manhattan for the open plains and romanticism of a bye gone era. Hired on as a hand, Isaac had known at once that no amount of denim, leather and feathered cowboy hats would ever fully replace the taint of the Upper East Side. But none of that really mattered…Doc Friedman was trying and had a respect and love for the horses. That was enough for Isaac.

Isaac could just see the lights of what passed for the nearest town on the horizon as he walked along the shoulder of an old two lane highway. Long ago done in by the advent of the expressway, the black ribbon of asphalt was showing its age with cracks through fading double yellow lines and a few weeds poking up along the edges of the white striped boundary. Give nature enough time, Isaac mused, and she’d never color within the lines. Every now and then one of those big tractor trailer trucks would come barreling down the road and give a blow to its horn. The Doppler Effect would stretch the sound till long after the truck blew by; its wake causing a buffeting torrent of wind which tugged at Isaac’s clothes and sent road side pebbles scattering like buckshot across hard packed earth.

“Maybe tomorrow we’ll take the Doc up on his offer of a ride.” That lazy drawl directed downward to Boomer, after one such truck made its pass. The mutt gave a wag to his stubby tail which ended up shaking his entire rump back and forth and gave a look as if he’d heard such before.

A long day behind him with another on the horizon, Isaac enjoyed the three mile walk to and from the ranch. Routinely turning down offers unless the snow was blowing, he walked alone with his thoughts…disconnected from a world sprinting wildly towards the complete opposite. Like the road he walked, Isaac was as an outlier…an example of a time that had come and gone.

“C’mon boy.” Spoken to Boomer as he shrugged off that slow southern pace and moved just a bit faster to put a little warmth into his lithe frame. His breath was beginning to fog, a sure sign of another cold night. Probably be frost on the ground if not a crystalline layer of snow. Maybe he should have taken that job down in Tulsa after all.

Home for Isaac and Boomer was one of those long stay motels. The kind of place where the recently divorced, traveling sales types and the near destitute could gather like coins in a child’s bank and hope for a better tomorrow. Almost completely vacant, Isaac and Boomer walked beneath the ghostly green of the neon sign advertising as much just about the time Isaac’s shadow was fading into the murky background of twilight. Passing by the abandoned swimming pool, its once blue concrete bleached white like whale bones and its chain link rusted and worn down, Isaac made a turn to the left and slid the key into the lock of room number 108.

Greeted with that musty, stale smell of age as soon as the door opened, Boomer rushed in ahead and went right to his water bowl. Isaac followed and used the heel of his boot to close the door behind him. The lock tumbled into place and the extra security chain drawn to; Isaac immediately switched on the heat on the under-powered and overworked window unit. The ancient motor clicked and groaned before stubbornly resisting its age and began to push out warm air. It still carried that stale, burning dust particle kind of smell…but to Isaac, a son of Savannah, Georgia, the smell was tolerable…being cold was downright sinful.

Eyes the color of a distant thunderstorm glanced about the place. Used to living in the open air of a carnival tent, the walls felt like those of an old sanitarium…like they conspired with one other to creep in a few inches every day while Isaac was at the ranch. Typical motel artwork hung above the bed, some random scene of pheasants roosting alongside a more western themed one of men on horseback. The paint was faded, the frames worn and a timeless layer of dust covered everything that failed to pass an everyday use test.

Yesterday’s leftovers became Boomer’s dinner, Isaac scraping the plate clean as the mutt wormed his way between Isaac’s legs to get at the bowl. “Easy now.” Isaac’s antebellum accent drawling out those syllables as he gave a scratch behind the ears to the feasting Boomer.

A glance of slate down to his hands revealed a caked in layer of dirt which blackened the lines of his palms and highlighted the swirls of fingerprints. Hard work was rarely clean…perhaps that’s why it was hard. Isaac moved into the bathroom and squinted against the glare of a single bulb reflecting off pink tile. One of those mismatches of style that had no explanation. Maybe the original owners had thought it was a relaxing color…or maybe the general contractor let his wife pick.

Isaac gave a twist to the four spoke knob of the bath and a moment later a few spurts of water choked and gagged its way out the faucet before finally sputtering into a decent flow. He then began the delicate balancing act of hot and cold to find a suitably warm temperature just this side of scalding. As he waited for the water to warm, he peeled his work clothes off and tossed them into a pile on the floor while placing his knife nearby on the back of the toilet. Using a hand to test the warmth, Isaac stepped into a much needed shower.

The cool aid made a fine environment for steam to accumulate, the small mirror fogging up quickly as the hot water did its job on Isaac’s well worked body. He snagged the towel off the flimsy shower rod, killed the flow of water with a twist to the knobs and drew the towel about slender hips. Boomer suddenly began barking up a storm and running to and fro through the motel room. Having been around the mutt long enough, Isaac could tell by the sound that Boomer seemed happy about something and not threatened. Perhaps the mutt saw someone walk by the window or heard a rat in the wall…Isaac preferred not to think about the latter option.

“Calm down boy.” Isaac said, pinching thumb and forefinger into his eyes before wiping his face clean and blowing out a spray of water from his lips. He was suddenly struck by the aroma of peach blossoms and dogwoods…the smell of home. He jerked the cheap plastic shower curtain back and stepped from the bath already having an idea as to why Boomer so excited but froze when he stared into the fogged up mirror.

Little dots, dashes and swirls had been drawn onto the fogged over glass like a little girl’s finger painting of Egyptian cartouches. He recognized the language at once…a completely made up language from his youth. A completely made up language between two people who had felt like aliens in their own home…a made up language that had allowed two souls to communicate in a way that was unique to them.

The presence of the fictitious language also explained why Boomer was so excited while revealing the source of the smells of home suddenly teasing at his senses when moments ago there had just been the smell of a stale motel room and cheap bar soap.

“Damn it, Josette…” Isaac spoke to the empty bathroom and his blurred reflection, the rare usage of profanity indicating just how angry he was. He reread the message on the mirror several times…it had been some time since he’d last seen it. It took him several moments to divine the meaning of each symbol, like staring at the bottom of a pond after a rock‘s been thrown…the ripples doing just enough to obscure the image…Isaac sighed when the particular ripples of that childhood memory finally cleared.

His half-sister was calling him home.

Isaac wiped a hand along the writing on the mirror, smearing his palm across it and erasing it. He leaned against the chipped and worn sink counter, head down as slate gray eyes stared into the sink. The phone suddenly rang…that strident, harsh ring of a metal striker against a bell. Isaac snapped his head to the side as the phone rang again.

His half-sister was calling him home...because bad news waited.
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:34 pm

(Written in collaboration with Josette's writer. Many thanks.)

Can’t let go.

The words repeated themselves within Isaac’s head, a chorus of a song that wouldn’t leave no matter where one forced their thoughts.

Can’t let go.

Strong, calloused hands held onto the rope, sinewy muscles pulling against an impossible weight.

Can’t let go.

Isaac dug his heels into the soft mud of the river bank and pulled again on the rope. Wound his hands around the coarse fibers and pulled again. Thunderstorm colored eyes stayed steady on the middle of the river, the place where the rope disappeared beneath the surface. For the life of him he didn’t know what lay beneath the surface…just knew he couldn’t let go.

He wound the rope around his waist and gripped again, leaning his back against the coil for added leverage. He gave a groan as muscled vibrated along the bones and threatened to seize up. He thought he felt a shift, a little bit of give but then suddenly he was jerked forward. He scrambled, off balance as he stumbled nearer to the bank before he could set his heels again. He pulled hard, leaned back against the force even as his feet began to slide inexorably closer to the bank.

He slipped, landed hard on his back and had but a moment to realize his unfortunate turn of events before the weight on the other end began to drag him towards the water. Feet kicked, desperate for purchase but found none in the moss covered mud. Isaac twisted away, a hand leaving the rope in a desperate grab for the knife always on his belt. But it wasn’t there and he hadn’t the time to worry…the water was getting dangerously close.

“No.” The word hissed against gritted teeth as he pulled with his all his might, turned onto his stomach and sank clawed fingers into the soft earth. Futile.

He spun back onto his back, determined to at least meet this terrible fate with eyes open…and then…the rope changed its substance, stopped pulling him towards the river just inches before his feet were to touch. He watched as the rope gave a lazy twist and turn like a leaf caught on a flutter of wind. Watched as it changed from a heavy, coarse thing into a silver ribbon which swirled to his left, slowly unraveling, and spinning around the waist of an alabaster skinned brunette who was twirling upon a bridge in a white dress that had formed over the river. The fabric fluttered around her legs like so many white petals.

“Josie?” Isaac asked, watching as his half-sister twirled along the bridge from the meadow filled with fireflies which she had come from on the other side of the river.

She paused when she heard Isaac say her name, turning towards him with a warm smile and a light, airy laugh. “There you are.” Sounding just like she had when they were younger and she’d found him in a game of hide and go seek. The truth of it was Isaac never really tried too hard. He didn’t like the look on her face when she lost. “Be careful with that ribbon or I might just float away like a balloon.” Her tone was teasing, but her gaze held a touch of weight behind it.

“I will.” Isaac agreed as he found his feet, the weight momentarily forgotten as he watched his sister twirl again, a smile putting a curl to his lips and revealing rarely seen dimples. “Whatcha doin’ here?” Asked as he gave a playful tug on the ribbon to pull her a few steps closer.

“I came to see you. You invited me.” She indicated the bridge beneath her bare feet, and then wrinkled her nose as the ever shifting nebulae of her eyes settled on his side of the river. “Or shall I pull you to this side? The fireflies are telling tales again.” She gently pulled the ribbon that was still around her waist in a teasing game of tug o’ war with him.

Isaac watched as that ribbon gave a flicker and changed into a translucent, shimming cord of silver. He suddenly realized its significance and he froze. “You’re roamin again ain’t ya?” Asked though he still kept hold of the cord, his grip eased to a kind of gentle reverence.

“Mmm…maybe." Answered without a care for the stern look he was giving her. “Don’t look at me like that, Isaac. I missed you.”

“Damn it, Josette.” That smile disappeared, flat lined into a hard stare of disapproving slate. “You know I hate when you do this. In your condition it could...”

“I’m okay Isaac.” She crossed over the bridge to him. Her hand reaching to touch his arm in gentle reassurance. “I get to see so much this way. So much of what I’ll never get to see otherwise.” Josie answered, still seemingly at joy.

“It makes you so tired…you sleep for days afterwards.” Walking towards her, he took her hand to help her over the bridge.

“It makes me happy so I don’t mind.” Josie shrugged with her chin tucking a bit shyly towards her shoulder.

“Josette this ain’t some game we played when we were kids. This is serious…something could happen while you're out…” That dogwood drawl drew his words out as he stood in front of his sister, close enough to see the sea green spread of veins beneath her pale skin. She looked so fragile. As if a hard squeeze would shatter her like porcelain doll cooked too long in the kiln.

“And it will.” Answered all too calmly as she reached out to gently take the cord from his hands and into her own to tie it back round her waist where it shimmered like a celestial tether rather than a simple silk ribbon. “We all have to let go sometime, Isaac.”

Isaac’s face screwed up in defiance, a retort fresh on his lips when the river changed, it’s water beginning to swirl while a harsh scent crept up from its surface. Rot and decay wafted off the river. The sickly, cloying smell burned its way down his throat and into his lungs, caused his eyes to water as it stained and scarred his memory. He smelled it before…he hoped to never smell it again. Death.

Isaac turned to stare at the water. It bubbled and roiled with a muted crimson so dark it seemed black in the moonlight. Isaac watched, horrified as a single deer carcass floated down the river, its body adding to the crimson. Soon after another followed and another until this boiling Phlegethon was choking upon the carcasses.

Isaac watched as they flowed past, rolling over and under the water to occasionally surface and stare at him with milky white, sightless eyes. He recoiled from the image, turned away from so much needless death and found Josie standing behind him.

“C’mon…” Isaac said, placing a soft yet steering hand upon her elbow, meaning to guide her away from the nightmare of a river. “You need ta go. Right now.” Isaac said, looking up and down the river bank and realized the bridge had disappeared. He looked all around him trying to figure out how to get out of this strange place while having no idea how one pushed or guided Josie back to where she belonged.

Josie calmly reached up to take Isaac’s hand from her elbow, holding it within hers for a moment as she placed her other hand upon his shoulder to still his determined quest for escape. “It’s okay, Isaac. I’m safe. I’m with you.”

Isaac glanced across the river, disliking her argument but finding it difficult to counter. Not that it would matter. Gone was the meadow filled with fireflies that Josie had come from. He saw two figures made of smoke and shadow next to one another in front of something which struggled on the ground in front of them. He blinked and tried to look away but couldn’t. “Are you doin this?” Asked to Josie, a grip of fear catching his voice in his throat.

Josie shook her head and took a step back, suddenly uncertain for the first time. “No…I…I am not permitted. There are rules. This is coming from you. I was only able to come because you invited me.” She pointed to the bridge she had crossed over and lowered her arm as she too realized it had disappeared and the meadow she came from had dissolved.

Isaac watched as a small boy and his father stood shoulder to shoulder in front of a dying deer. He recognized the scene at once…he’d lived it. First day deer hunting with his father, a brand new rifle he’d gotten for Christmas…a .270…one of the big boy calibers. Not quite his Daddy’s .30-06 but Isaac was smaller, couldn’t handle as much recoil just yet. None of that really mattered though…Isaac hadn’t wanted a rifle. He’d wanted a sketching book and some new pencils. But Daddy had gotten him a rifle with talk about becoming a man and going hunting together. He remembered he’d idolized his father then, having just turned 13 in the summer and how he’d never wanted to disappoint him or fail him.

The memory flooded over Isaac, overwhelmed and threatened to send him down on uncertain knees.

The morning had been a cold one, the air so cold it made your lungs hurt when you breathed. Isaac hadn’t slept, was wide awake when his father came to get him at four. He’d been dreading this day for months, begged his mother to tell his father that he was sick. But all she’d said was that he’d been expecting Isaac to go…that it was a chance to bond with his son. And so Isaac had waited on the edge of his bed like a death row inmate waiting for a midnight call that never came. They’d gotten breakfast at a greasy spoon and driven to their land, getting out of the truck in silence and loaded their rifles. Isaac would have preferred a blind fold instead of the rifle. His father had talked so much about becoming a man that Isaac felt he had no other choice than to go along…how else would his father continue to love him? That was the house that Isaac had grown up in, the kind of expectations placed upon him by a father who practiced conditional love as well as he practiced law.

Isaac remembered the weight of the rifle on his shoulder; remembered that it felt like a stone tied to his back…the kind of stone that would surely drag him down and drown him. They’d walked to the blind, Isaac had whispered, “This don’t feel right, Daddy. Us sittin in a blind, hidin our scent and sounds. The deer won’t even know we’re here.” “That’s the point son,” his father had answered. “Makes it easier to get a big buck…like the one in my office.”

His father was all about trophies, as Isaac would realize later. He didn’t need the meat of this deer to feed his family. Did not need its skin to keep himself or his kin warm. It was all about the trophy. Trophy job, trophy car, trophy wife, trophy mistress and so on. He hadn’t even realized that he’d just told his son that fairness didn’t matter in life. To use any advantage you had to get what you wanted.

But that hadn’t washed with the young Isaac. The deer had no chance. They even used a feeder with a timer so they’d hear the sound and associate that with food. Man could be cruel with his cunning. They’d sat in silence for several hours, watched the dawn crest over the horizon and sprinkle down through the trees. “Whoa he’s a big one. Get your gun up son. Remember…easy breaths…don’t miss.” His father had said with a pat to his back.

He’d shouldered the rifle, set it down on the edge of the cut out window and sighted in. He could see the buck’s breath misting in the cold morning air, the twitch of its fine whiskers beneath its mouth as it chewed on some of the corn they’d put out. Daddy hadn’t said a word…he’d been letting his son have his moment.

Isaac flicked the safety off and froze, hoping the sound would scare the buck off. But it didn’t. It gave a lazy flick of its tail as it bent down for more corn. Isaac swung the cross hairs around, thinking for a moment that he could just miss. That his dad would understand it being his first time and all. “Don’t miss now. Nice and easy.” His breath came in a hurry, dread and panic making it impossible to steady the scope even if he wanted to…the trigger was cold on his finger as he pulled it back.

The rifle jerked against him, kicked back with such force and the sound of it too. It left his ears ringing and his nostrils full of the smell of smoke and gunpowder. He looked back through the scope, hoping like anything to see the white rump of the buck, his tail up as he ran away.

“I think ya got em, son…c’mon.” Said as he climbed out of the blind, strong hands lifting Isaac’s slight frame the last few rungs of the ladder.

Isaac heard it before he saw it…a terrible thrashing off to the side. He hadn’t missed at all. He’d hit the deer in the back. That big bullet striking the deer in the spine about half way back. He’d severed the cord, paralyzed the poor thing where its hind legs wouldn’t work. It knew fear, knew it had to get away as it tried to drag its useless hind section behind it.

Isaac watched from the bank as the smoky figure of his father pulled a knife from his belt and pressed it into his son’s hands.

“No.” Isaac muttered as he saw it. He knew what was going to happen.

Isaac had been paralyzed in a way too. He’d never seen what a bullet could do before. And now he’d seen it and it could never be unseen. The pink of ripped meat, the splash of bright red from the blood and the shiny, glistening white of bone.

“Gotta finish it.” His father had said, pressing his knife into Isaac’s small hands. But Isaac didn’t want to. He wanted to take it all back…and couldn’t. “Do it son. Don’t be scared. You're not gonna cry like yer sister are ya, son?” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he shook his head no, his hands shaking around that big knife as he fiercely wiped them away. “Time ta be a man, Isaac…” Said so firmly, just the edge of disappoint hovering around the words. Isaac watched with a heavy heart as the mighty buck lay down…scared and tired…accepting its fate in a way. Isaac looked up at his father, those piercing grey eyes so full of light and blurred my tears which wouldn’t stop. All he’d seen was his father shake his head and point at the buck.

Isaac ended up slitting the throat of the buck that winter morning. Felt its warmth and aliveness before he pulled the blade across its neck. Watched the splash of blood, so hot it steamed when it hit the rocks. He’d watched that steam, slowly pouring out from the wound and thinking it had been its soul. He’d become a man in his father’s eyes even if Isaac would never use such a standard himself. He didn't feel like a man at all. Only that his innocence bled out of him that morning just as the life had bled out of that buck.

Isaac violently turned away as that scene evaporated into so much steam-like mist on the other bank. He didn’t want to see it. He couldn’t see it. It’d been the day he began to walk a different path. Baby steps at first, to be sure, but irrevocably he’d begun to turn away from his father that morning. Began to see him for who he really was. Every day forward in that house he’d have a constant reminder of that morning…his father had the trophy buck mounted and hung its head over the fire place…a monument to the morning his eldest son had become a man.

“I don’t understand.” Josie murmured softly as she came up quietly behind Isaac and slipped her hand within his. Her eyes wet with the same kind of tears Isaac had cried that morning. “This was meant to make you a man? When did savagery become synonymous with strength?”

Her voice sounded older than her years Isaac had always wondered how Josie could know so much when she had lived so little. "It's the way of things Josie. He was always like this. You just refused to see it."

Josie sighed and looked down upon the gruesome scene with a shake of her head. “They beat their chests and call themselves modern day savages in their boardrooms and their bedrooms. Like it’s some badge of honor. What happens when there is nothing left to kill or conquer? What is the appeal of being a ruler of a wasteland?” She gave Isaac’s hand a squeeze, never knowing until now how much weight he carried with him from this memory.

“It’ll never end, Josie.” Isaac said, eyes as dry as tinder. “Always somethin’ else to dominate. World ain’t ever gonna change.” The cynicism spat with a visceral anger upon his tongue.

“I don’t believe that Isaac.” Josie countered, that little smile on her face again. “I can’t believe that. There are other worlds than these. Remember? Like in that book you read me in the hospital. The one with the Gunslinger. There are other worlds than these, Isaac. Kinder and gentler places. I’ve seen them in my roaming.” Her brows drew together before she breathed deeply. “And I’ve also seen places that make me appreciate how beautiful this one is. We fall somewhere in the middle of the balance…our earth. We are struggling, we are sometimes broken, but there is still hope for us yet.”

Isaac listened to her words, not believing a single one but caring far too much for her to try and prove her wrong. She was too young to have his cynicism and he would not rob her of her joys she found in her short time here. “Maybe you’re right.” A disbelieving hedge if there ever was one. Isaac had lived in the world Josie talked about. So much so that if there was a God, Isaac wondered about the point of a second coming. Ain’t nothing worth coming back to anyway.

They’d suddenly arrived at the end of the river, that raging torrent of boiling water all pouring itself down a four by ten hole in the ground. The hole was surrounded by flowers and had a white marble stone at the head; Jonathan Wheeler chiseled neatly into it.

“You have to let it all go, Isaac.” Josie said as she stood alongside him, Josie looking at Isaac as he stared into that bottomless hole. She tried to pull her hand from his, to reinforce her point but Isaac squeezed, refused to let it happen.

Isaac turned to look at his sister, lips pursed in thought before he parted them to speak…

A hard grip on his shoulder squeezed and shook him, jerked him up into the sky like a rocket from the where he had been standing on that river bank. Slate gray eyes snapped open to see a row of bus seats, the big Grey Hound humming down I-75 just south of Atlanta.

“Hey buddy…you okay? You were shaking in your sleep. I think you were having a nightmare or something.” A voice behind Isaac said and he felt that shake to his shoulder again.

Isaac shook with a start and turned back towards the man with his hand on his shoulder. A hand closed in a fist out of sudden surprise for the shocking waking as well as from where he'd just been. It took a moment for him to calm down, to sink back into his seat and recognize Boomer sleeping in the seat next to him. He ran his hands over his face and sighed.

“Somethin’ like that.” Isaac giving an exhale of breath before sending a brief nod of thanks to the man. He glanced out the window to see a ribbon of green racing alongside the bus. There was a layer of dust on the glass and when the mid-morning sun hit it just right Isaac could see another message from Josie. Drawn in that same made up language he’d seen on the mirror half a country and a whole world away. This time it was simple…

Let go
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:37 pm

(Written in collaboration with Josette's writer. Many thanks.)

Part I

“Right this way, Mr. Wheeler.” The soft voice of the legal assistant pulling Isaac from private thoughts as he sat in a comfortable leather chair in the lobby of a law firm.

Slate gray eyes lingered on the gold embossed letters pronouncing the name of the firm. Wheeler, Dixon & Wheeler. “Jus call me Isaac.” Softly spoken as he stood and twisted his flat cap with his hands, a little pent up energy bubbling to the surface. He didn’t like being called Mr. Wheeler. Such a moniker had never fit well on Isaac, like trying to walk in a shoe that was three sizes too small. Uncomfortable. Impractical.

“Very well Isaac.” The woman smiled as she gestured for him to follow her. “You been here before?” She asked while glancing back over a shoulder. He was obviously family but she couldn’t place the face or name.

“Long time ago.” Isaac answered. “My father didn’t have any partners then.” Eyes drifting to the different pictures which hung along the wall.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize Jonathan had another…” Her voice trailed off; the silence beginning to drift and spin into an awkward moment.

“Son?” Isaac asked before offering a defusing half smile. “Like I said…haven’t been home in a long while.” That slow drawl and easy manner smoothing the potentially uncomfortable ripples that might result from her remark. “No need ta be, ma’am. Me and him…” Isaac paused as shoulders lifted in a shrug. “We weren’t real close any more. “I didn’t even know he passed till I got a call from Mr. Dixon.”

“Well…” An awkward pause. “It’s good we found you then. The will is ready to be probated.” She answered with a little smile for his easy going acceptance of her mistake while sidestepping what was obviously a personal matter within the family. She recovered quickly as she wiped away a strand of blonde hair from her fair face.

She cleared her throat when he did not immediately respond, not sure what to entirely make of the man since he was not particularly verbal. This Wheeler was polite enough, but oddly restrained; she was caught somewhere between the lulling cadence of that dogwood drawl and the sharp intensity of that steel gaze; as if he were seeing right through her. She found the contrast a bit confusing and unnerving. He didn’t quite fit in any of the boxes of her mind and so she was itching to move him along. “Mr. Wheeler…Derrick…his office is just down there.” She pointed and quickly excused herself. “He’s just finishing something up. Again, we’re very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” Spoken somewhat woodenly before clearing his throat and bringing the assistant back with a question. “Excuse me…has there been anyone…” Isaac paused and noted that quiet white noise so typical of an office setting. “Nevermind.” With no sounds of yelling or screaming than he was sure Josie had yet to arrive.

The door to Derrick’s office was open and Isaac let himself into a richly ornate environment. It felt foreign, from another time. Bookshelves lined with uniform volumes stood along one wall while several decorations and expensive souvenirs from global travel sat on the shelves in front of them. Isaac noted the desk was massive, forcing whoever sat opposite his brother to sit a distance away while undoubtedly ensconcing his brother in a seat of power.

Isaac got the sense that everything in the room had been purposefully placed to ensure that his brother looked superior in all ways. He ran fingertips along the back of an expensive leather chair, brass rivets holding it together in smart little rows along the seams. He stood for a moment, seeing the various pictures of Derrick’s family, his parents and sister on his desk. He paused as he lifted one silver framed photo from the desk and turned it in his hand to look at it. It was a family picture; Derrick looked about fifteen which would have placed Isaac around seventeen. He wasn’t in the photo…didn’t even know it’d been taken. They looked quite the family…big smiles while his sister had kept her lips closed. She’d had braces then, Isaac remembered…so self-conscious in a family which demanded perfection that she hadn’t even wanted to smile.

“Well color me surprised…I didn’t think you’d show.” Derrick’s voice boomed from the doorway as he strutted into his office. “How was the trip…” Derrick trailed off as he took in Isaac’s appearance, his washed out blue eyes drifting over the wrinkles in his brother’s jacket, the dirt beneath the fingernails “…from wherever it is you came from?”

“Felt wrong not to.” Isaac answered while casting his younger brother beneath the shadow of those thunderstorm grays. He hadn’t changed much since Isaac last saw him…maybe a little pinker around the nose and cheeks, a little fuller in the midsection. Too much hard liquor. Probably had the taste for it just like their father. Isaac’s mind briefly drifted back through time, the night he skipped town and how Derrick had helped Isaac pack up a single bag. Isaac had his little brother swear not to say anything till sunrise by promising he could have his entire baseball card collection. They’d been the best of friends then.

“So you hoping to get some money, then?” Derrick asked, a flicker of paranoia flickering within those pale blue eyes.

“Nah.” Isaac drawled. “Your inheritance is safe, Derrick.” Isaac continued as Derrick walked behind the desk, seemingly ignoring Isaac’s answer, to readjust the picture Isaac had picked up. Perfection.

It took a moment for Isaac’s admission to land upon his brother’s ears. “Then…” Derrick gave a forced chuckle as if it were obvious everyone was coming to the reading for the same reason. “Then why the hell are you here?”

“Someone asked me to come.” Isaac spoke while shifting his eyes to the various things which decorated and dominated his brother’s office. He didn’t dare mention Josie’s name and put a match to this powder keg. Isaac didn’t care about the will; he wouldn’t have even been here if not for Josie’s message and he wouldn’t allow her to face the jackals alone.

“Yeah…that must have been Dixon’s sentimentality cause, to be honest, I don’t think you’re mentioned in the will.”

Isaac felt an annoyed tick begin along the line of his jaw as Derrick once again assumed he’d come for the will. “I ain’t here for his damn money, Derrick.” That drawl that was usually slow as molasses taking on the sharpness of one his knives as he hurled the words at his brother.

Derrick chuckled as Isaac’s hackles rose. “If I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody say something like that at a reading I’d be a rich man.” Derrick gave a shake of his head as he adjusted his red and white striped tie. “Go ahead and sit down, Isaac. Mama and Susannah will be here in a little bit.”

“Well hopefully all your dreams’ll be reality after today, Derrick.” Isaac answered smartly as hands squeezed into fists within his pockets. He was already feeling caged in. That low buzz of artificial light already bringing on the dull ache of discomfort behind his eyes.

The uncomfortable silence was punctuated by the ticking of an old stand up grandfather clock in the corner of the office, its metronome tick-tock creating a predictable rhythm to the silence. “Guess you were too busy sword swallowing or whatever with that carnival to come to the funeral?”

“Carnival is shut down for the winter.” Not bothering to correct his brother as to the fact that he threw knives on stage. It wouldn’t have mattered; Derrick had a knack for only remembering things which were important to Derrick. “Sides…I doubt I’d have been invited anyway.” Placing that unsettling gaze of gray on his brother. He could almost hear Derrick’s thoughts swing from one vine of paranoia to the next.

“A little advice?” Rhetorically asked without giving Isaac a chance to answer. It was something their father had done constantly and still grated on Isaac’s nerves; threatened to snuff out that little fraternal ember. “Don’t go round mentioning that to too many people. Folks round here--they never understood why you just took off.”

“Just another Wheeler family secret then.” Isaac answered, his tone as dry as tinder. Truth being that he didn’t really care for the opinion of others. It’d driven his parents crazy. Down here gossip was as strong an export as cotton or peaches and family names and pride still went a long way in the Deep South. Wasn’t too long ago that such things were worth killing and dying for.

“Woulda been nice for Mama.” Derrick answered while still maintaining that relaxed and reclined posture. “Course you’ve never cared much for this family have you?”

“Mm. Lotsa things woulda been nice I’m sure.” Isaac spoke with certain vagueness, leaning forward to move a small model train back and forth with just an index finger along Derrick’s desk. “Far as carin goes…” Isaac paused to lift shoulders in a shrug. “I think even you can admit the compassion trait missed almost all the Wheelers.”

All but one.

For a moment his mind drifted back to the night he’d heard a terrible fight break out between his mother and father. He’d told Derrick to stay put and crept downstairs amidst the singing sounds of cicadas to listen with an ear pressed to the parlor door. He heard his mother ranting at his father about some other woman…about a daughter he had in France. He’d heard the clinking of ice in his father’s scotch glass in the silence of such a revelation and then his father’s booming voice.

He’d been maybe nine or ten that night…the night he’d learned about Josie. He must have made a noise since his father had yanked the door open so fast Isaac fell back on the floor in surprise. He realized later he’d merely been a convenient target to project their emotions upon. Maybe things would’ve been different if he hadn’t told Derrick to stay in his bed. If they’d learned about their father’s weaknesses together. Isaac finally let the train engine come to a stop, ignoring the little tickle to let go. Turning the other cheek just made it easier to get bloody.

The clock continued to tick its way through that silence again. Counting the seconds as years’ worth of dislike and resentment flowed into the gulf between the brothers. Whatever little ember of brotherly love which might have existed between the two had been snuffed out years ago by the pile of ash which was the carefully protected Wheeler family dysfunction.

“Is that it?” Derrick finally spoke, daring to lift his eyes to his older brother’s again. Derrick tried desperately to regain the leading role in the conversation. He’d never divined how easily Isaac could seize that power, how unnerving he really was. “You always were an odd duck Isaac…no one ever understood why you left. Least of all me.” If Derrick caught the veiled reference to Josie as the one Wheeler with compassion he gave no indication. It was always all about Derrick anyway.

And there it was…a certain admission though Derrick would never concede the point. Truth of the matter was that Isaac had agonized about leaving his brother behind. But Derrick was the softer of the two then and he wouldn’t have been able to handle it. The train engine was moving again, pulled off its little track to tap against the picture frame Isaac had been holding earlier, nudging it closer to his brother with each tap. “You wanna know the truth, Derrick? I almost…”
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:50 pm

Part II

“Well some things never change.” A feminine voice broke through what seemed to be the beginnings of another Wheeler brother brawl. “For a second there I thought the two of you were back in the yard fightin over who was picking a smaller switch.” Susannah Wheeler smiled her mother’s smile at her two brothers, thin and unamused.

“Susannah.” Isaac greeted, grateful for the break in tension while Derrick just shook his head in exasperation. Isaac had never been one for pretense, for saying one thing while meaning another. He’d choked on enough hypocrisy growing up to fill two life times.

“Long time no see big brother.” Susannah answered, a sly look coupled to her Cheshire cat smile. She’d always been the instigator growing up. She had an eye for manipulation and being the only girl and the youngest to boot meant her fingers were crowded with a multitude of people wrapped around them.

“Mama’ll be along in a minute. Feel good to be home again, big brother?” Susannah asked with a knowing look on her face. Thinly veiled amusement at Isaac’s rigid discomfort as she weaved through several chairs set up in Derrick’s office for the reading. A baby viper in training waiting for the right time to strike, she’d learned well at her Mother’s side. She paused to lean up to give Isaac a kiss on the cheek.

“S’just fine Susannah.” Answered as he lowered to receive the kiss. She had never done a thing without clearly defined intent. She’d left not too long after Isaac. Some design school up north though whereas Isaac had wanted out, Susannah had just wanted the checks to come in the mail.

“You were never a good liar, Isaac.” Susannah smiled. “No amount of time’s ever going to change that either.”

“I guess I jus’ never acquired your charm for it, Susannah.” Isaac drawled, negotiating this nest of resentment with a practiced ease. Wasn’t too different at the carnival…everyone with their own loyalties and curiosities, always prying into other people’s lives. But there was a certain sheen of sadness hidden behind that gray curtain. There was a time when Susannah had cared for nothing more than chasing dandelions and drawing out her imagination in Crayola’s waxy rainbows. There’d been a certain kindred quality between the two growing up. Isaac protective of his sister…both of them so clearly needing to find a way out. Isaac’s had been permanent. Susannah had never been able to break free of that finer things kind of need.

“Mm…” Susannah chuckled at her brother’s response. “True. But then again, you never had to. You weren’t around when things got bad.”

“What’s true Susannah?” Caroline Wheeler’s voice sounding from the door as she came into the office.

Isaac turned, those thunderstorm colored eyes roaming across the space to see his mother. She was older, obviously, but still carried herself with the style of a southern matriarch. She’d kept up with the style, fashioned herself into a woman who had managed to hang onto the echoes of youthful beauty.

“Mama.” Isaac answered her question with the name he’d always called her. Old habits.

“So the prodigal son returns. Would've been nice if you had shown for the funeral. What brings you back now?” Caroline spoke without turning to face her eldest son. Her eldest son who’d never quite lived up to lofty standards, and, in failing to do so, made it impossible for her to forgive.

“What’s true Susannah?” His mother asked again as she and Susannah found their place in similar chairs alongside Isaac’s. “That your brother abandoned his family and his place in it for a dirty tent and a rail car carnival?” Such a thing, when she’d heard about it through the rumor mill, had mortified her for days. How could she ever show her face at brunch at the country club again? Reputations had to be kept, couldn’t let the gossip mongers sink their teeth into the family. Pretenses were kept so pride could reign over destroyed hearts.

Isaac remained still, unsure of how the manic-depressive, Jekyll-Hyde cycle of his mother would continue to play itself out. Like a prey animal when it knew a predator was hunting it, Isaac did not move for fear of drawing his mother’s attention. It’d been the same when he was a child…slinking just out of his mother’s view when she was drinking heavily because his father was away on business and the whole house knew what happened when Daddy was away on business.

"Like I was tellin’ Derrick, Mama…I came back cause I was asked to.” Eyes and words leaving a smarting and silent Susannah to move back to his mother. “I said good bye a long time ago.”

“Oh I know you did. With all the bluster of a buck with his first set of horns.” Caroline spoke with such venom, took pleasure in seeing Isaac wince at the mention of the buck. He’d been a constant source of embarrassment for the family. Working in some carnival, wasting the potential that she had tried to mold and forcing her to come up with story after story to explain his absence while at brunch with her society friends or at church.

“Mrs. Wheeler--so good to see you.” Royce Dixon’s gravelly voice sounded from behind as he walked in with a stack of paper tucked beneath one arm and unknowingly kept Isaac from the wolves. “Susannah…Derrick…” Making the rounds of greetings until his eyes fell upon Isaac. “Hello son…it’s been a long time. Too long.” A certain gentleness there that spoke of many known secrets.

“Mr. Dixon.” Isaac said, partially standing to shake the elderly man’s hand while gently clutching his wrist with the other. “It has been. How’s Sophia?” Inquiring about his daughter. Isaac had taken her to the senior prom years ago.

“She’s good…she’s very good. Married and living up in Atlanta.” Royce answered with a grandfatherly smile for Isaac. “Shall we?” Turning to the rest of the family.

“Yes.” Caroline said curtly while tugging down at her skirt. She was still rankled by Isaac’s words for when he had left it meant that her influence had lessened on her other two children and that was something she’d never forgive her eldest for.

Royce gladly took Derrick’s offered chair as the second born son moved around the desk to sit on Isaac’s other side, placing him in the middle. It took a moment for the elder Royce to settle himself, spotted fingers tugged at the edges of his tweed coat before moving to adjust the glasses which covered cloudy eyes though they still carried a spark of keen intelligence despite their advanced age.

“Well…we all know why we’re here. Jonathan was a good friend and partner. I remember like yesterday when we began this firm out of nothing but a few boxes and an office in a strip mall. Jonathan’s passing was as sudden as it was sad. I think it should remind us all how precious life is…and how suddenly it can be taken away.” Royce’s eyes lingered on Isaac for a moment longer.

“The last will and testimony of Jonathan Wheeler.” Royce began; he read the words slowly while holding the paper with both hands. “This was recently redone…dated and notarized just last week.”

“What?” Susannah and Derrick asked simultaneously.

“There must be some mistake.” Caroline said as Royce looked up from the paper, bald pate shining as the sun slowly set behind him. “Jonathan and I last discussed our wills several years ago.”

“It would seem he had other plans, Caroline. I’ve always been his executor, but this is just as surprising to me as you, I assure you.” An easy lie as his eyes briefly flicked to Isaac again. “It was properly notarized and signed, lodged with the court and everything. He must have done this alone.”

“Whatever.” A wave of Caroline’s heavily ringed hand. “Go on, please.”

Royce cleared his throat and adjusted his bow tie before he found his place in the will. “I, Jonathan Wheeler, of sound body and mind, do hereby establish my last will and testament. To my beloved wife whom I have forever loved, honored and cherished, I leave our family home, its contents and the family lands to be cared for by her until a time of her choosing.”

Caroline nodded regally as Royce read her part of the will. Isaac noted she even took the part about being beloved and cherished in stride. Maybe all the affairs didn’t matter as long as she was number one, his wife in public if not in private?

“To my daughter, Susannah, I leave enough funds, to be supervised by the executor, to finish her schooling in New York and then establish a two year account not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars a year. After said two years, I give Susannah full rights and ownership of the apartment in Atlanta, Georgia.”

“To my son, Derrick, I gladly leave you the firm, to be supervised by Royce Dixon as senior partner until he or other such qualified individuals deem you ready to take full, senior partnership rights. In addition I also leave the beach house on Tybee Island and its contents to Derrick.”

Isaac silently watched as the will was read, his father’s ill-gotten gains divvied up between wife and children. Watched as Derrick’s face split into a proud grin at hearing he would someday get the firm and the beach house, watched as his sister’s face hardened at only being given free schooling and a total of two hundred thousand dollars along with a downtown apartment.

“To my first born and treasured son, Isaac.” Royce read while opening a second folder. “I leave to you and you alone, my legacy so that it might become your future. The future you were always meant, but never knew, to have.” Royce paused as he pulled a sealed envelope from the folder and leaned across the desk to hand it to Isaac. “I also leave the contents of this sealed envelope to you as well. Gone may you have been, but you were never forgotten.”

Isaac pushed back into his chair, a grip so strong upon the arms that knuckles flashed with bone whiteness. He recoiled from that offered letter as if the envelope was poisoned, so much so that he forced Royce to set it down on the edge of the desk. Just when he had felt so much relief…so much freedom. How like his father to play one last trick on him. And to do it from the grave where it would be permanent, impossible to undo or forget. His legacy? That was the last thing Isaac could ever want in a hundred lifetimes. It threatened to swallow him, to drag him down to the deepest blackness of despair and loathing. He finally grabbed at the envelope, shoved it in a pocket so it would be out of sight. He would burn it.

Let go.

“What’s in the letter?” Derrick asked, as shocked as the rest at his father’s kind words for Isaac. He had been acutely aware his father had said no such things about him.

“That is for Isaac to disclose, if he wishes.” Royce said, a certain sadness tinging his words as he watched Isaac’s reactions. He of all people knew the burden that had been placed on Isaac both before and now. Knew of his relationship with his father…had seen the elder Wheeler struggle with it for years. But Royce also knew better than anyone save Jonathan the importance of Isaac taking up that legacy.

“And…” Royce paused as he turned back to the will. “Hmm…” He glanced up and looked around the room. “The will mentions a Josette Wheeler. Is she a family member as well?” Royce expressed genuine ignorance as to the identity of Josie. Some secrets were kept even from him and the others.

“Excuse me?” Caroline asked, her voice frosted with the iciest of chills.

“You’re kidding?” Derrick asked with a disbelieving look across Isaac to his mother and sister.

“Or lying.” Susannah added, still smarting over the smallest share of the will. She hadn’t even stopped to think about what Isaac had gotten. Not to mention that Josie had been a threat to the carefully constructed world of Princess Susannah.

“Yes…” Royce said, taken aback by the reaction. “It says here, to Josette Wheeler, my Josie...a man may seek absolution for many sins, however when it came time to confess mine, I would apologize for all of them save one. I have loved you from the moment you entered this world and it is to you who I leave the remainder of my estate to.”

“Oh I do not think so. She is not part of this family Royce. Erase that…tear it up. I don’t care what you have to do but that little bastard will not inherit from my family.” His mother hissed, fists threatening to rip her designer purse in two as those words stabbed at her.

There was a quiet clearing of one’s throat behind them, everyone turning around while Royce looked up from the desk to see an alabaster skinned brunette standing nervously in the door. Before she could say anything Caroline Wheeler was screeching like a banshee let loose within the office.

“No…no…NO! How dare you. How dare you come here. You product of a fucking whore. How dare you call yourself a Wheeler?”

“Mrs. Wheeler…” Royce said, flabbergasted as he stood behind the desk.

“Oh you played him just right didn’t you? Got all of our money because he fucked your little whore of a mother! Oh how like you Jonathan…one last joke from beyond the grave and it’s in the form of this little strumpet…”

Isaac was shocked by his mother’s sudden outburst, the echoes of it spilling down the halls to make a very private matter a very public disaster. Already heads were lifting from desks and turning in the direction of the office. Isaac tried to reach out to grab his mother, the southern matriarch transforming like some monster at the end of a fairy tale. Caroline wrenched herself free to stand up and wheel around on Josie.

“You will get nothing. Do you hear me? Noth…ing!”

Everyone was standing now, Susannah and Derrick coalescing behind their mother, their faces displaying the rage and shame their mother’s words gave voice to.

“You got some nerve showing up here.” Derrick said with an almost lethal calm as he stepped towards Josie.

Josie recoiled back into the hall, flushed and embarrassed and repelled by the tone in Derrick’s voice. The cold hatred washed over her like ice water and she soon bumped into the wall behind her, sending a picture frame askew before she looked left and right as she noticed the eyes of the entire firm on her.

“Please…I…I…” Josie stammered. “I was just told to be here…I didn’t mean to. He was my Father.” Spoken through a sheen of tears before they were wiped away abruptly.

Caroline laughed and practically spit out her next words. "He was you and your Mother's meal ticket. Nothing more. You are a blight on this family’s name. That’s all you are. You’re a fucking cancer…” Caroline screamed.

“And like a cancer, you need to be cut out.” Derrick’s voice was dangerously low as he closed his hand around Josette’s arm hard enough to bruise, wanting nothing more but to quite literally throw her out of his Father’s firm onto the street where her kind of trash belonged.

Isaac reacted then, hearing his mother call her a cancer and then his brother saying so callously that she should be cut out. He didn’t know if they knew about her condition…he didn’t care. Something just broke within him at hearing them talk about her like that. And when asked about it later he’d honestly say he had no memory. Isaac surged forward, collided into his brother while the momentum sent both Wheeler brothers crashing into the book shelves.

Derrick was bigger, thicker than Isaac but he had no chance against the decade plus rage which fueled Isaac in that particular moment. Isaac grabbed him by that four hundred dollar tie and broke his jaw with a single closed fisted slug. They’d gotten into rows in the past but nothing could compare to the amount of violence Isaac was bent on delivering.

Derrick slumped down to the ground as Isaac hit him again for good measure. Josie screamed Isaac’s name and Caroline screamed for Derrick’s safety while Susannah, the closest, stood in detached, numbed silence.

Isaac pulled the switchblade he always carried from a pocket. “Those’ll be the last words spilled from your lyin’, lawyer mouth.” Isaac squeezed Derrick’s jaw that he had broken so hard if only to be able to make it easier for him to cut out the tongue out.

Josie moved forward as if approaching a wounded animal in a rage and closed her hand around Isaac’s arm, her tone eerily calm though she was still trembling and clearly shaken. “Isaac don’t. I couldn’t bear it if they locked you up again. Please. For me?”

Isaac was still in a haze of rage, but Josie’s hand seemed to pierce through the worst of it enough to clear his vision. He breathed deeply, the blade held inches from his brother’s face before he squeezed his jaw painfully to wrench it to the side so he faced Josie. “Take a good long look Derrick. I want you to remember that face. Because the only reason you’re still breathin’ is because our sister asked me to stop.”

He folded the blade closed and dropped it in his pocket as he righted himself again. He looked around at the aftermath of the brawl. Royce stood in silent shock as he stared back at Isaac,

“Are you happy now Isaac? Are you happy that you came back to ruin us just one more time?” Caroline asked as Isaac unclenched his fist…it ached with the pain of several broken bones.

Isaac ignored his mother’s taunts. He’d grown immune to them over the years. He brushed by her, instead, to gently collect Josie with surprising tenderness.

“C’mon now…” Taking her and holding her against him. “Ain’t nothin’ worth stayin’ here for.”
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:55 pm

((Written in collaboration with Josette Wheeler's writer))

Once Upon A Savannah Wedding...

Centuries might have passed since the Old South was forced march from history at the point of a Yankee bayonet yet the culture of that time had seeped into the earth, flowed from generation to generation like the slow moving, black waters of the Suwannee River. Certainly, changes had occurred…some elected while others came in the name of forced progress though the rhythms of deep southern living were as constant and predictable as cotton and peaches. One such immutable tradition that had been passed down from ancestor to contemporary was the celebration of holy matrimony before the eyes of God and the community.

One had to appreciate the irony of holding such a festive and promising event as a wedding at a plantation given the land’s blood-soaked heritage. The inveterate Wormsloe Plantation would play host to the Calhoun – Gaskins Wedding. A more careful thought, once one considered the two families and the prominent guest-list of Savannah’s powerful and influential, would conclude that no other venue could have been chosen. Older than the state and country it currently resided in; the plantation had played host to souls since 1739 and now represented the history of the region. That it did so for all was of no consequence for the wedding party. Alexandra Calhoun liked the view and that was the end of that. Tucked in amidst stately oaks and lush landscaping, Wormsloe prided itself on taking guests along a leisurely stroll to a time when hospitality and graciousness were not just appreciated but were cornerstones of southern heritage.

Arriving guests would be directed down a stunning and breathtaking avenue of live oaks whose trunks stretched ten and twelve arm-lengths around. Their canopy of thick branches stretched upwards to form an interwoven tapestry of greenery from both sides until the entire path was shrouded in shade, long strands of clinging Spanish Moss hung haphazardly from branches to add to the quiet and picturesque serenity. There was a stillness in places like this, a hushed halcyon placidity where one could reach out and pluck at the temporal glissando and bare witness to all that this land had seen.

The guests’ pathway terminated at the ruins of the old tabby fort (the oldest standing structure in Georgia…as would be repeated numerous times throughout the night with increasing pride) which had once overlooked and secured the Skidway Narrows from potential Spanish aggression. The ceremony joining husband and wife had taken place at the fort, the waters of Jones Marsh and the distant Long Island serving as the backdrop for the happy couple. It was Gaskins’ second ceremony…a forgiven occurrence only because his first wife had passed suddenly. That he was marrying his much younger housekeeper was a scandalous trope that had marched through Savannah like William Tecumseh Sherman and threatened to burn down half of Georgia all over again.

Isaac tugged at his tie for perhaps the fifteenth time as the sun began to set and the crowd of celebrants moved towards sizable and spacious white tents with rolled awnings for the reception celebrations. No expense was spared…from the live music to the open bar and everyone gathered was eager to doff tuxedo and suit jackets and enjoy some cool refreshments. That was the thing about most Baptists, Isaac thought as he used the dispersal of people to cover his disappearing act…they thought God’s presence was greatest in the back three rows of pews and when it came to drinking, they showed up early, bought in bulk and paid in cash.

Isaac tugged at the tie again, finally loosening and ridding himself of that hangman’s noose about his neck. His father, the best man of Tanner Sterling Gaskins, had insisted on both Wheeler boys looking the part. “Where ya goin, Wheeler?” Came the shout of one Ethan Vance who jogged to catch up to Isaac. “I swiped this bottle of vodka…ain’t no one gonna miss it with all that booze they got stacked in there.” Ethan added. He was a troublemaker at school and was currently second behind Isaac himself in trips to the office and disciplinary write ups. They’d grown up as rivals when they were younger. Ethan loving to bully everyone about him since he’d been held back a time or two. He’d even directly challenged Isaac over Josie and a game of hide and seek when they were kids.

“Ain’t interested in drinkin tonight, Vance.” Came Isaac’s slow drawl, the heat and humidity adding to his foul mood. “Got too many peacocks struttin under one tent.” It was true. Weddings were as much about being seen and flaunting yourself as they were celebrating a matrimony that had a fifty percent chance of ending in divorce.

“You sure? This is some good shit too.” Giving a peek of the bottle he’d hidden away beneath his jacket.

“I’m sure.” That drawled antebellum accent quite fitting given where the Wheeler boy stood. “More a whiskey man myself anyway.” A ghost of a smirk as he sought to throw Ethan off with an attempt at humor. Isaac didn’t know it just yet but he only had a few more months in Savannah before he’d be pulling stakes and leaving friends and family behind. “Think I’m gonna take a walk…clear my head.” Perhaps he’d sensed it…the departure…sensed it distantly and felt compelled to spend quality time with the land that had shaped him so.

“Oh…now we turnin our nose up eh?” Ethan laughed and gave Isaac the finger. “Its like that now?” Both boys had recently turned seventeen and were firmly stuck in that Indian country between boyhood and manhood. Isaac yearned for the latter while Ethan seemed hellbent on preserving the former for as long as possible.

“Yeah…its like that now.” Isaac answered, folding up his tie and shoving it into a pocket of his slacks.

Ethan watched Wheeler’s lean silhouette slowly melt away into the darkness of the distant horizon set beneath a burning sky and felt a twinge of…something. Somebody needed to teach stuck up punk a lesson. That was the thought at least as Ethan uncapped the bottle and threw a hard flick of the wrist up to his lips for a strong pull.

He drifted back towards the largest of the three tents…the stage and dance floor were beneath this one…and thus the largest crowds. Ethan prowled about out on the outside, peeking through the throng of gathered adults to spy bits and pieces of the dance floor. “Well hello there…” Ethan said to himself after wiping the back of his hand across his mouth and grinning to reveal a chipped lower tooth.

It seemed it was a night for gossip as Jonathan Wheeler danced with a young woman other than his wife in the middle of the dance floor. A strong hand led the young girl, twirled her about before steering her back. It was clear the girl had formal dance training and looked up to her father with an adoring gaze as he twirled her. Jonathan was elated to have her here and bursting with pride for her. He’d already twisted off an ear or two bragging about her acceptance into the Paris Opera Ballet School. Truth be told he was relieved and overjoyed that she was happy and finally healthy.

“Well look who got all growed up in France.” Ethan grinned and took another sip of Russian courage from the bottle in hand. “Not the bald lil ducky you used to be eh?”

“I’m so happy you’re here.” Jonathan Wheeler whispered in Josette’s ear as he reeled her in to conclude the song. Of course, the man was aware his wife was staring daggers at him for publicly acknowledging the product of his affair. Her pain pained him…you could just see it at the corners of his eyes when he looked her way…but not enough to inflict even more pain on his daughter, Josette.

Their shared moment was broken by the plaintive calls of the youngest Wheeler sibling as she came running up to Jonathan with outstretched hands. “Daddy…Daddy…dance with me now!” Susannah Wheeler demanding to be the center of attention as she wedged herself between her father and Josette.

Jonathan grinned and took a step back to allow the precocious and demanding daughter to find her spot. “I’m dancing with Josette.” Jonathan tried to explain. “Dance with me! Now!” Susannah huffed and stamped her little designer shoe down on the dance floor, demanding as ever. Jonathan sighed and looked up and gave a squeeze to Josette’s hands. “We’ll dance again. I promise. Profiter de la fete.” He struggled to get the French out as he told her to enjoy the party. He was making an effort to learn the language so they could speak in whatever style made her the most comfortable. “And you…” Bending to toss Susannah up into the air. “Are your mother’s child.”

Ethan watched as the spare Wheeler daughter was swapped out for the original and made sure to angle his path towards the closely guarded family secret as she exited the dance floor and her father’s protection.

To be continued…
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Nov 18, 2019 12:41 am

(Part 2–continued from above)

Josie graciously stepped back to allow Susannah her turn with her father. She could feel the eyes of Isaac’s mother burning into the back of her head, whispers traveling from table to table about her appearance at the wedding and what a scandal it was that Jonathan had invited the living and breathing proof of his affair.

Suddenly self-conscious, she exited the dance floor and moved towards a trellis covered in honeysuckle. Her dress a fairy floss pink like that of cotton candy that her Mother whipped up for her before she left and made sure to remind Josette to not go climbing trees and ruining its finely spun glory with grass stains and tears from tree bark.

The heady scent of the honeysuckle drew her attention and soothed her as she lingered there before her gaze was inevitably drawn up with the force of a powerful gravitational pull towards the stars. Fireflies danced and winked in and out of the evening air around her as she once again escaped into something more beautiful than the current reality around her.

Ethan crept up behind Josie and gave her a little bump to her shoulder that jostled the petite girl out of her quiet reverie. Especially because her attention was not on more important him. "Told you I'd find you.” There was a smirk on the narrow angles of his features in that awkward limbo between boyhood and manhood as he harkened back to their earlier days of hide and seek when they were just kids chasing the last days of summer.

"They teach you how to drink over in that fancy pants dance school in France?” Ethan challenging her with a dare...and any real southerner would know that you couldn't crawfish a dare.

Josie gave a start as Ethan jostled her, very much in her own world amidst the constellations before he tore her back down to earth with that crude bump to her shoulder. “Ethan.” A polite acknowledgment of his presence, but there was a subtle tension in her voice and slender frame. A light wrinkle of her nose and slight shake of her head as she declined the offered bottle. She didn’t like the harsher vibrations of vodka, its notes too discordant to her system.

“No thank you. I had some champagne earlier.” One glass was more than enough for her and she eagerly sought to change the subject instead. “They smell divine, don’t they? Like something out of a dream.” An upnod of her chin towards the honeysuckle flowers, looking to share something beautiful with Ethan for she could feel from what was radiating off of him, that much of his world had been harsh and cruel. Sometimes such behavior was learned.

“They are remarkably sweet. Have you ever tried one?” Josie encouraged as she plucked the honeysuckle from the vine and offered it between delicate fingers to Ethan with a bit of a shy smile. Time passes and people change. He was no longer the school bully and she was no longer the bald little ugly duckling he used to ruthlessly torment. The flower was Josie’s olive branch to Ethan to let the past remain in the past.

“Oh yeah?” Taking another swig from the bottle and giving Josie a smirk when she refused the vodka. Fucking pretentious Wheelers. Always thought they were better than everyone else. He always knew she was more France than Dixie.

“Huh?” A blink as he looked at the flower in confusion for a moment, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before he looked up at the pretty face in front of him and grinned, that chipped tooth showing as an idea bloomed and the grin eclipsed into a leer. “Why don’t you show me.” Pushing the blossom back her way. “I wanna see how they do it in France.” Ethan so impressed with himself as he rolled his shoulders with youthful bravado. He thought it was a pretty smooth line actually.

Josie hesitated, the blue-green patina of her gaze lingering on Ethan’s face as something tickled along her spine that felt like a warning. Nevertheless, she held the flower up in one hand, fingers of the other gently pinching just above the little spot of green above the blossom before she delicately pulled the soft silken thread until a single bead of heavenly nectar appeared. The gold flecks in her eyes lit up like the fireflies around them as nature provided its gift that inspired Josie’s delight and she placed the silken thread between her lips to catch that little bead for a sweet taste that would elicit a smile on any face, she was sure of it—possibly even Ethan’s.

“Just like that.” Josie lifted her shoulder in a little shrug and laughed before her attentions turned to a glimmering cloud of lightning bugs winking on and off as they floated off in the distance, their luminescence drifting amongst trees and over the grass like friendly little wil-o-the-wisps and reflecting in the slow moving water which lapped at muddy banks not too far away as the rhythmic thrum of cicadas added to the chorus of crickets and other forestry sounds. She breathed out an exhale of sheer appreciation for the natural world that can only come from one who knew and accepted their time on this planet was finite.

Oh Ethan Vance was smiling alright. But not for the reason Josie probably imagined. He took the flower from her and dropped it between them. His attention more focused on that pretty french mouth. A single drop of moisture from that honeysuckle dew remained on the tiny little vertical line on her lower lip that reminded Ethan of a split in just ripe fruit that he couldn’t wait to get a taste of. He stepped forward, carelessly crushing the blossom between them with his shoe as he sought to kiss her, his other hand still clumsily holding the neck of the bottled while the other grabbed for her.

Josie watched the blossom fall when Ethan’s movement caught her attention. The smile on her face fell as the blossom was crushed under his heel between them and she couldn’t stop staring at it. It was all she could focus on or think about. Her whole world suddenly became the honeysuckle flower beneath his shoe. It made her unbearably sad and she pressed her palm into Ethan’s chest to halt him. “” Josie started as realized what he was about to do. This was wrong. It felt all wrong. She gave him a light push and urged him to give her space and back up a step so cooler heads could prevail.

Ethan continued to press. He’d had it with Isaac’s airs and now this little stuck up bitch was going to tell him no? It wasn’t going to happen. This was going to end on his terms. His hand latched onto her arm to keep her in place before he moved to kiss her again.

Josie felt a surge of panic now. They were a ways away form the main tent and the party was going in full swing. “No…Ethan. Stop. I don’t…” Her hand pushing against his chest as effective as stopping a charging bull. “Stop it.” Josie said again and suddenly heard a slow gathering ringing in her ears that was building in volume. The ringing got louder and louder as she struggled to push agsinst Ethan until the volume and frequency of it in her head was too much for her to bear and she thought she’d literally go mad. Her eyes squeezed shut,the pain of it unbearable until she shouted, “ENOUGH!” With that scream that tore from her throat, the vodka bottle in Ethan’s hand suddenly shattered completely in a violent explosion of glass.

“What the fuck?” Pain sliced through Ethan’s palm and fingers as the bottle suddenly and inexplicably shattered and he lifted his hand that was now dripping wet with vodka and blood and looked at it in disbelief. It only took a moment for shock to morph into alcohol infused anger. Ethan reacted, as he often did, with violent repercussions as he reached out with that bloodied hand to grab ahold of Josie and shake her. “The fuck did you just do you little freak. You better...”

Ethan’s next words never made it out of his mouth as they were choked off by the black tie that had wrapped around his throat. The next thing he knew he was being dragged backwards...

(To be continued)

“Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.”
—Anaïs Nin
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Wheeler Scion
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Wheeler Scion » Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:11 pm

(Part 3 - Continued from above)

Isaac appeared behind Ethan, black tie a supple garrote about the threat as he pulled Ethan back away from his sister. It had been the last scene Isaac had truly seen…the thunderstorms of his eyes sparking with bolts of liquid lightening as the old bully had put hands on the younger girl. His reaction had been instinctive; the sight of his sister being attacked unleashing the primitive…vicious…part of his personality that so often lay dormant yet lay just beneath the surface. Ethan struggled against the ambush, clawed at the tie which choked and attempted to throw impotent elbows back to break the hold as he was dragged back towards.

Their polished shoes clattered onto the worn and weathered dock like gun shots, what boards remained bleached dry like whale’s bones. The dock twisted and angled into the water where pylons had failed decades ago…nature’s reclamation a slow but inevitable process. Ethan was jerked along, pulled and pitched to crash into uneven boards, their rusty nails protruding at awkward angles. Isaac rode the decline and drove Ethan’s face into the dirty black water. Wheeler’s knee drove into Ethan’s back, his entire weight pushing down through rigid arms and claw like fingers to keep his face submerged even as he struggled and clawed for breath.

Isaac didn’t know it at the moment, but he would remember this moment for the rest of his life. The way the water rippled and thrashed about, the drops rising and falling in slow motion as Ethan struggled for his very life beneath his hands which were possessed of such rage fueled strength. He’d remember the way his teeth ached for days from grinding his teeth in a frightful clench. No words were exchanged…none were needed as Isaac’s violent and shocking intent were communicated in the immutable language of violence.

He wouldn’t remember his sister pleading with him to stop. He wouldn’t remember the rush of adults running in response to the alarming sound. Higher order brain functions had been shut down…no doubt to make room for the wrathful rage which consumed him.

His father would grab him from behind and wrench his son off the other boy. Isaac possessed of a young man’s body but was so easily held as a boy by father’s hands. Jonathan ferried his son away from the dock and the alarming scene as others pulled Ethan from the water. The attack had only taken seconds, the Vance boy held beneath the black waters to put the fear of God in him yet when he was pulled from the water he sucked in a breath, alive and panting on the dock.

Isaac would, however, remember that Ethan had pissed himself with fear.

“He came at Josie…” Isaac’s words an emotionless inflection of stately southern rhythm. “Put his hands on her…” Saying to his father though he watched Ethan get pulled from the water with all the detachment of watching a documentary in Mrs. Dupriest’s class. “But I made sure he won’t ever touch her again.”

Jonathan Wheeler held his son close for a moment, thankful he was okay yet extended him to arm’s length a moment after that fatherly instinct had kicked in. “You could have killed that boy, Isaac.” The elder Wheeler tried to explain, the older man felt compelled to say such a thing despite the inward swell of pride for his son. There was so much Isaac didn’t yet know, so much he needed to know which would help him direct those protective impulses.

“Would have too.” Isaac speaking again after a beat, the slate gray of his eyes shifting over his father’s shoulder to fall on his sister. “He was gonna hurt her…he had that look about him.”

“I know.” Jonathan twisting about to look for his daughter, arm outstretched for her as soon as he found her with eyes so much like his son’s. “I’m proud of you son.” Words which, unfortunately, arrived much to late in Isaac’s world.

Josette wiped at her eyes, tears threatening to spill in response to sudden savagery of Isaac’s protective attack. He hadn’t needed to ask questions, hadn’t need to get everyone’s side…he saw she was in trouble and came running. Just as Josette ran into the outstretched arm of her father, Jonathan embracing them both as equals. “Don’t ever let anything happen to those you love, Isaac.” Jonathan whispering. “And don’t ever let him lose his way, Josette.”

Binding words that would guide them for a life time.

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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Savannah Summers

Post by Josette Wheeler » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:54 am

(Written with Isaac’s writer. Thank you!)

Once upon a dockside afternoon...

“Ugh…this itches so much.” Josie sighed while she fussed with the long strands of her wig. It was still new to her, having to wear the wig as her hair had just begun growing back after her long battles in the hospital.

“So don’t wear it,” Isaac stated with a matter of fact tone. He made a little grunt as he torqued his body back to hurl a stick out into the watering hole. Delilah, Isaac’s bluetick coonhound, lifted her head and shot of the dock like an arrow with a leap out into the water.

Josie couldn’t help but smile as she watched Delilah leap into the water with such pure and joyous abandon. It distracted her from the discomfort for a few moments, before her gaze swung back to Isaac. “I...I have to. She went to a lot of trouble...”

“Pfft.” Isaac made the sound of disgust while watching Delilah paddle for the stick. “All the more reason to take it off and throw it in the water then.” A little mischievous nudge of his elbow against his sister’s side in chiding for her refusal to disobey her mother.

“Stop that.” Josie answered and bumped him back with her shoulder, though the tell-tale smile that bloomed revealed her understanding of her brother’s antics.

“Wha?” Summer was Isaac’s favorite time of year. When the mercury began to bloom and nudge past ninety he knew school was almost over and he’d be free of both it and the ever-present pressure from his parents. But what really made it the best part of the year was the fact that Josie came to visit. Though Isaac didn’t know it, it’d been part of the deal worked out between their father and Josie’s mother.

Summer meant swimming holes, cane pole fishing, chasing fireflies and a certain innocence and peace that Isaac wouldn’t recognize or appreciate fully till he was much older and at a point where he could never go back.

“You know wha.” Josie playfully mocking the dogwood drawl of her brother’s accent, though she couldn’t carry it as well with the ribbon of french still threaded through her words. She turned to cheer on Delilah with the appropriate praise as the pup claimed her stick and swung round to begin her victory paddle back towards the dock.

An easy silence developed between them as both siblings watched the coonhound paddle with duck like ease through the water. It was the kind of quiet only the outdoors could provide. A hushed sense of promise and opportunity that whispered from the past and was only punctuated by the rhythmic buzzing of cicadas and the occasional splash of a turtle leaping from its sunning rock and back into the water when something spooked it. The higher the temperature climbed, the slower time seemed to move, so much so that the distant sound of the peach trucks on the farm to market road several miles away would lethargically echo with an intrusive modernity that had no place at such a timeless spot.

Isaac dipped his bare feet in the water as Delilah stubbornly decided she’d rather swim towards the shade of the big oak tree rather than the dock with her prize.

Josie tried to sit still, silently promising herself to count to ten before she’d scratch beneath her wig again. She got to three. “I think it’s the heat…it didn’t itch like this in Paris.” She scrunched up her nose as she tried to get to the offending spot without sending the wig off her head.

“Let’s go home then.” Isaac shifted to get up. “Mama will have the sweet tea in from the sun by now.” Isaac answered without hesitation.

“No.” Josie answered immediately and put her hand down atop his to stay him. “Please...not just yet. I want to stay here. I like it here.”

Josie was keenly aware that Isaac’s mother loathed her—saw her as an affront to the illusion of perfection that was her family that sat in the front pew of church every Sunday and as a black mark of judgment from the woman’s friends who practiced gossip like it was the national past time down here. “I’m fine. I promise.” Josie placing her own discomfort in a distant second to spending time with her brother at one of his favorite places in the world.

“Still think you should just take that damn thing off.” Isaac tried again. He’d shaved his head when Josie’s hair had begun to fall out and didn’t care that it’d nearly given his mother a heart attack when she saw caught him up in the bathroom with the clippers. He’d spent every possible day in the hospital with her, a stubborn streak a mile wide and deeper than Old Man Hatton’s mules causing the nurses to finally relent.

“Mother says it makes me look more normal know...pretty.” Josie answered quietly, the last word feeling hollow on her tongue as eyes dipping to watch her feet sway and swim through the clear water.

“What?” Isaac’s single word sounding like a whip crack so loud several turtles leaped into the water and the cicadas momentarily went silent. “She said what?” Isaac turning the weight of thunderstorms her way as those slate gray eyes fell upon her alongside him. “She wouldn’t know normal if it reared up and bit her in the ass like a cottonmouth. Havin hair don’t make you normal…or pretty Jos…you already are all that. Wearin that thing jus makes her feel better bout not comin to see you in the hospital.”

Isaac’s drawl more pronounced with his temper. He would never forget or forgive that sin. Always some excuse to his father on the phone, always a reason not to face it. He’d faced it. Faced it every damn day seeing her hooked up to so many machines that he’d had nightmares about her becoming part machine or worse. Having to hear her say she was fine and then pretend he didn’t hear her cry when she thought he’d fallen asleep in the chair next to her because she was in so much pain. No. Isaac would never forgive Madeline for that.

Josie was quiet for a long moment as she watched the dragonflies race and rip across the calm surface of the swimming hole. Wise beyond her years, she knew her brother didn’t understand. He resented his father’s apparent indifference and rejected the attention his mother heaped upon his shoulders as nothing more than a fraudulent appearance of perfection. He could always sniff out such duplicity. But Josie longed for any kind of connection with her mother.

“I know you can’t understand it. makes her feel more at ease being around me when I wear it. She likes everything around her to be beautiful, Isaac. It brings her comfort the way this place brings you comfort. Can you understand? It’s such a simple thing I can do for her, so I don’t mind. It’’s hard for her...seeing me like that.”

A brief pause as she took a deep breath before she asked her next question. “Does..does that mean you’re still not coming to dinner?” The question asked with a certain softness and a turn of her head as if she was already bracing against the disappointment. Josie’s mother was in town and she desperately wanted Isaac to come with her to the restaurant.

“Oh well let’s all just bend over backwards for her fucking comfort,” Isaac snarled. The absurdity of it all had him shaking his head. “I told you... I ain’t sittin down with her like that, Jos.” Those drawn out words having a sense of finality to them. The hell he have to say to her anyway? “An you shouldn’t neither. Should blow her off and come with me down to the Seventeen…they’re showin a good movie tonight.” Isaac trying to sway her towards something better than sitting with that heartless witch.

“I can’t do that, Isaac. She’s come all this way.” Josie softly spoke after a moment and pulled her feet from the water to hug her knees up to her chest and gently rest her chin between them. “I think it’d be nice if you changed your mind…but I’ll understand if you don’t.” Simple acceptance.

Josie reached up to scratch at her scalp again, the itchiness of discomfort deeper than just the wig in that moment. “I should go and get cleaned up...she won’t want me to be late.” Saying after another moment and getting to her feet on the dock and claiming her shoes, a little hopeful hesitation that Isaac would follow.

Isaac didn’t follow. Instead he just stared out across the watering hole as Josie finally began to walk back towards their bikes where the dock met the green grass and the well-worn dirt path which led back to the paved road. Grey eyes blinked and watched Delilah give a bark of excitement and plunge back into the water to hop and throw herself into a clump of cattails, the hound flushing a flock of water fowl up into the air.

“Mus be nice.” Isaac spoke his thoughts to no one but the mosquitos and the minnows gathered in the shadow of the dock. Must be nice to not have to exist with any kind of real worry. No guile…no slanders…they either liked you or they didn’t and made no apologies for either one. He knew Josie wanted him to go to dinner with her, but he detested her mother for always making it about her and ignoring what Josie needed.

It took just the beat of a dragonfly’s wing before the thought suddenly struck him that he was doing the exact same thing to her right now. “Aw hell...” Isaac groused as realization fully set in. He heard Josie struggling with her bike and turned to look back over his shoulder to see her tugging on it. The frame had been caught up in some cat briar. “Jos…”

“I’m fine…I got it.” Josie called back and give another frustrated tug on her bike.

Isaac turned and pushed up to his feet to jog barefoot down the dock. “I’ll do it, ok?”

“I said I got it, Isaac.” There was a sharp irritation in her voice now. Her independence and self reliance was very important to her.

“Awlrigh…” Drawled as he slowed, his voice more gentle. “I know ya do…but I meant...I’m comin to dinner tonight, okay? Here. Just let me do this one thing.” Isaac pulled a spring assisted blade from the pocket of his shorts to cut Josie’s bike free so she didn’t scratch her hands on the hair spines the plant sported. Those little bastards would itch for days and she seemed quite fed up with that particular sensation already.

Josie paused, the blue-green patina of her gaze lifting to Isaac’s face, searching for a certain sincerity in his eyes to match his words. Those gold flecks aglow with certain joy if he really meant it. “Really? You’ll really come...and...and be nice?”

Issac blew out a breath. She didn’t know what she was asking of him. He watched Delilah wag her tail as she came to his side as if she were also encouraging him to agree, tongue lolling out of her mouth as she looked from Josie back to Isaac. “Sure. I’ll be...polite.” It was the best he could do. “For you.” Added for clarification.

Josie stepped forward to envelop her brother in a hug just then, a softly murmured “thank you” into his ear before she was returning to her bike to tug it free at last. “My legs are getting stronger every day, you know. I’m getting stronger.” Maybe she’d even be able to dance again soon. With that, she pushed off to pedal her bike with a renewed sense of hope. Even the itchy wig didn’t bother her so much once she felt the wind on her face.

“I know you are, Jos.” Quietly. Isaac watched his sister pedal on ahead of him before he followed, privately thinking she was stronger than he’d ever be in his lifetime.

“Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.”
—Anaïs Nin
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