The cold breeze killed off the rose bushes, but still Michael sat before the rose garden and pushed about the snow. He dreamt of summer despite the scents of icy emptiness that consumed his soul. Even his usually youthful sun-dyed blonde hair had browned and changed with the winter to match his cold, dark soul. His bright blue eyes had died, screaming in a gentle gray as he next strummed his fingers along the thorns of one of the dead bushes. The tips of his fingers snagged on the thorns, but he hardly noticed. Michael sat his hand down in the snow, but it's pureness was tainted by his blood.
The snow crackled behind Michael, but he didn't acknowledge it. He was far too lost in daydreams of broken, sun-tanned days. The crackle grew louder until it was next to him. Michael lifted his head to see his young sister, Alexandra. She wasn't so young that she lacked the knowledge of what summer brings to a teenager and she understood it's high regards to Michael, but she was still too young to understand the meaning of a truly open mind.
Her light blonde hair sparkled like the snow and she tilted her head towards him, smiling so sweetly that a box of rich chocolates could not compare. "Michael, Momma's getting worried over you. You've been sitting in the snow for an hour. Is something wrong? You look so terribly sad."
Michael did more than look sad. His whole soul was in mourning over the loss of the summertime, the loss of the love that it brings. He slung his arms about her shoulders and buried his breeze burnt face into her shoulder. She said nothing and merely held him even when he began to cry.
The breeze picked up and a new snow began to fall, but it stuck together and felt like pelts of ice against their skin. Michael lifted his head and Alexandra wiped away his tears. She reached out and gripped his hands, pulling him up from the ground and taking him onto the porch.
Michael merely allowed her to drag him, numb to any necessity of personal action. Alexandra became his mobility, and he was too dim to care despite understanding. She pulled him indoors and sat him on the large blue chair, turning towards the fireplace and opening it. Michael was the only one allowed to make a fire, but she made one anyways.
She put in a starter log and proceeded to build the fire, occasionally throwing her head back to look over her shoulder at the staring Michael. Her expression changed from innocence to worry of a menial crime to her household for breaking the rules, as well as worry that she was doing the job properly. Michael gave her no signs as to whether she was correct or not and merely stared at her blankly.
"You don't have to worry, Michael," she whispered when the fire was fully ablaze, standing up and finding a blanket next to wrap about him. He allowed her without complaint to warm him, but when she went to walk away, Michael reached out and pulled her back into the chair, shaking his head.
Alexandra was startled. This was the first time in months that Michael had acknowledged anyone, and yet the fact that he chose to first acknowledge her made her heart beat with a sense of pride she hadn't felt before. "Yes?" she asked of him timidly, and though his hand entrapped her wrist, he stared off as if he'd never acknowledged her at all. "Michael, what is it? I want to go make some hot chocolate. I'll be right back. I promise."
Michael's eyes met hers for a moment, and he released her. She threw a puzzled look in his direction before sweeping past him and into the kitchen. She put a pan of milk on the stove and mixed in some chocolate sweets and cocoa, adding in some sugar, too, before returning to Michael. He reached out his hands expectantly without even looking at her, but she obeyed and put a cup between his hands.
"Momma said to tell you we can always grow a new rose garden next summer. Your roses will come back," she said. He shook his head and let his eyes move to the dancing and crackling log. Despite it's heat, the crackle made him think of the snow and not of the sun. The sky was cold, not warm. He couldn't change that, and he hated it.
Michael slumped his head to one side and sipped the hot chocolate, burning his tongue but ignoring the searing just as he ignored the sting of the thorns. He was too dim to feel that kind of physical pain. Alexandra watched his staring, far used to his emptiness by now. Michael hadn't spoken in nearly eight months now, since July.
He had spoken beautifully before hand, and had even been assured a scholarship to an art institute so that he could improve his acting skills. Michael had no desire to act anymore, and he never spoke. For all Michael knew his voice was as dead as the roses.
Alexandra had felt the same strain on the family that her mother did when Michael closed his mouth forever. Their mother said that surely he was in mourning over the divorce that had occurred between his parents in June, but that wasn't the case at all. The divorce had been inescapable months before it was finalized. Their mother blamed herself, and kept herself busy at work to escape dealing with Michael directly. Alexandra had become Michael's world, a hard and impossible task for someone so young.
Michael sipped the chocolate again before looking up at her, his eyes glowing for the first time since July. "Al...Alex," he whispered to her, letting his eyes hit the floor before sipping at the chocolate again. Alexandra hardly believed that she'd just heard him make a noise. To assure herself that she had not succumbed to illness from her stress and imagined that unmistakably beautiful voice Michael was graced with, she rose to grab the phone and call her mother.
Michael stared at her as she grabbed the phone, and looked at it, shaking his head to tell her not to dial whomever was on her mind. Alexandra sat the phone down obediently, and did her best to smile at him. It wasn't as sweet as normal, a few of the chocolates had been given to Michael in his drink. "Yes?"
"No," he said quietly, looking unsure of himself. He drew the drink to his lips once more and swallowed it down. It had been so long since he had even thought to communicate that his own voice frightened him. It was still angelic. It was still majestic. It was beautiful. He hated it.
Alexandra walked next to him and sat before the fire. She stared up at him like an expectant child stares a their grandparents as they decide to offer up a bit of life's wisdom in the form of a moral tale. Michael looked down at her without that childlike vigor, despite the fact that the ice of his eyes was beginning to melt away.
"Alex," he whispered so low that she had to lean forwards to make sure that she could hear him. "I'm not happy." She nodded and looked up at him, feeling tears sting at her eyes. Hearing the words come from him just added to the horrid image of their shared reality that she had to face every day, but the fact that he himself was speaking the words also added an ethereal quality that shattered the joys of dreams. Innocence is lost when dreams are.
The tears escaped and she covered his sparkling eyes with her hands as she wept. He sat back in his chair and watched her, sucking down the last of the liquid chocolate. He sat it on the counter next to him and then threw out his arms. Alexandra peeked up at him and noticed his opened arms. She stood and sat in his lap, letting him hold her instead.
He brought his strong yet cut fingers through her gentle blonde hair and smiled down at her. "I'm sorry," he whispered into her ear. She turned her head to rest it upon his shoulder and he sighed. "I'm so sorry. I'm hurting you. I'm hurt, too. Can we be hurt together?"
Alexandra glanced at the fire in the same manner that Michael had, and then shook her head. "We can't." She didn't have to tell him that, but she did anyways. They couldn't hurt together, because Alexandra didn't know why he was hurting. She knew why she was hurt and he knew why he himself was hurt, but they couldn't have a bond without a complete circle. She knew that. He knew it, too.
"I want to grow new plants in the summer," Michael whispered to the silence. Alexandra didn't raise her head to this, but she asked him which. He said he didn't want flowers anymore, but other than he didn't care. Flowers were too pretty for Michael. He didn't feel like he deserved pretty things like that anymore.
Alexandra glanced up at him and offered him a broken smile. "Why don't you deserve flowers, Michael? Is it because you don't want to talk anymore?"
"No," he said, but he didn't speak anymore after that. He fell back into his word of silence once again.
Summertime had come and the roses returned. Michael stood over them, staring down at them as if they would turn to stone under his cold gaze. His hair hadn't lightened yet as the summer sun had only just began to peek itself through the rain clouds of springtime. Michael gripped a shovel in his hands and approached the rosebush cautiously. He reached down and ripped the upturned roots free of the ground. His hands curled around the base of the bush and he threw the roses to the ground. He walked forward and stood upon the uprooted flowers, jumping up and down upon them so that they broke.
A car pulled into the driveway next to the rosebush and out came a man of middle age with a wide, white smile. "Michael. Doing some gardening, hm? I haven't seen you in a year."
Michael stared upwards at his father and went rigid. He'd forgotten that he didn't get to stay in town in summertime this year. Summer was the time his father got to take him away. His father always had taken only him up to the city during summertime, but that was before the divorce. Now he was just meant to stay with his father for the whole summer at his father's new home, without Alexandra.
Michael stood staring at his father blankly, and when his father opened the door to the backseat to try to usher Michael inside the vehicle, Michael turned and ran away. It was the first time his body had decided to agree with his mind and work in a year. He didn't have to be tugged about by Alexandra. He'd forgotten that fact.
He'd forgotten a lot of things.
The warm wind and the smell of the fresh grass upon the ground met his nose as he ran, and he reached out his hands to touch the flowers and the trees. He ran as far as his feet could carry him. He ran until the sound of his breath beat against his ears and he had to halt. His feet clumsily slowed and he stumbled. His feet slipped upon a bank of mud and he whipped past a set of bankside weeds to fall into a creek.
His father's voice was dead to him, dead like the cold water that zipped a new life into his skin. He laid still as a heron few down to rest upon the bank of the creek. He turned his eyes to stare upon the heron, and he broke into laughter for the first time in a year. He laughed and laughed until his chest hurt.
Michael climbed out of the creek and onto muddy creek's bed.
The heron flew away but was replaced by Alexandra. She smiled at him sweetly, and Michael smiled back.
They shared a box of chocolates and a laugh, for summertime had always been so dear.