Ever hear something that touches you in such a heartbreaking way that you wish you could shed ten thousands tears in hopes that someone else could understand it? A feeling of lifting sadness that brings you to your knees; so deep you can't decide whether your heart is rejoicing or breaking? A cold that sweeps over you, with such a harsh impact that your hope must either burn through it, or be frozen in turn?
Everyone has a story to tell, and each tale is filled with the same feelings - joy, despair, anger, laughter, friendship, rivalry, tears, love…everything that makes up a human being. Some have happy endings, while others sad. But what if a story is never told? Does it still exist, lingering in the minds of the greedy? Does it become nothing more than a faint memory, a small clasp of reality twisted into an illusion?
What if it's forgotten, never told again until it dies with the last ears? Maybe that's what Marie was afraid of, that if she didn't pass it down, her friends and her experience would become nothing; that their time together meant nothing.
It was on her deathbed that Marie stared out the hospital window in despair. Her family was gathered around her; tear-filled eyes fixated on their beloved elder. Marie's children had grown to raise their own; crowded together in the small room around the bed. Marie's lover had passed on long before her, and she regretted never telling him the full story. But now, as she turned her eyes to her descendents, Marie felt Lee with her.
The gathered faces met Marie's eyes solemnly, as if to express the words they couldn't say. At last she told them softly, "There is something you need to know…so that my story doesn't decompose with this body." Marie's oldest, a pretty woman in her early thirties, stepped towards her mother.
"You should be resting…"
"I have the rest of eternity for that," replied the dying woman lightly, easing back into her pillows. Jane lowered her gaze at this comment. A few moments passed before Marie stated, "Your father was not the first man I loved." This raised searching eyes.
Anna, the youngest of her offspring at twenty-one, questioned carefully, sitting in a chair in the corner, "What do you mean? I thought you and Father were an arranged marriage. How did—"
"Let her explain," snapped Chris. The others watched the elderly woman, hanging on her slightest motion.
"It's true," said Marie, nodding lightly. "I was arranged to marry your father. However, on the day I met him, there was another boy there…" A distant look passed into her eyes, her voice growing soft as she added, "One that no one else saw. One that no one else here ever knew."
Chris exchanged worried looks with Jane, who rested a reassuring hand on her son's shoulder. Matt looked up at his mother curiously for a moment before turning to his grandmother, stepping closer. Marie looked to the ten-year-old now.
"What was he like?"
Peering at her grandson fondly, she asked, "Do you remember the story of Replicate Castle?"
"Yeah," perked another, a four-year-old girl named Amy as she hurried to stand beside her brother excitedly. "That's the one with the mirrors all through the palace!"
"Right," Marie said, nodding with a smile.
"What does that have to do with anything?" asked Anna casually.
Addressing Amy, Marie asked, "Do you remember the boy in the castle?"
"You mean Haven?" interjected Jane. Nodding, she added, "I remember you mentioning something about the story before, but I've never actually heard it."
"What relevance is this?" grunted Chris indignantly, leaning against the wall with arms folded.
"Let her speak!" snapped Jane fiercely, turning squinted eyes on him. "At least give her that respect, Chris!" For a few moments the pair stood, exchanging dark glares.
"Stop fighting!" shouted Amy, turning to the pair. "Let Grammy tell the story!" She turned back to her grandmother, saying in proud indignation, "Continues."
Chuckling at her granddaughter's antics, Marie broke into a sudden string of coughing. The smug look disappeared from the girl's face, but the woman refused all offered hands of support. The group looked upon the feeble woman with saddened eyes; disputes forgotten.
"Please continue Mother," said Anna softly, lowering the hand from her mouth.
Marie looked to the other grandchildren as they drew closer. "I think," she began slowly. "It's about time Haven's story was revealed. However," she added, grimacing as she shifted slightly. "You must trust my words, and believe in what I tell you. Even if you do not, then at least promise that you will pass the story along to future generations."
"What sort of story is it?" asked Olivia, Anna's oldest at seven.
"One of all sorts I suppose," Marie told her, smiling a bit now. "Like one you've never heard before I am sure."
"Who was Haven?" asked Matt, stepping closer with his hand cupped in his sister's. Amy hesitated before drawing closer as well.
"A sweet boy," Marie replied, her face lighting up at the question. "Always looking out for others, and prepared to do what it took to get things done. He always tried to do what's best for everyone, including himself. He was strange like that. Perhaps the kindest person you could know…"
"But this is a story," Anna commented, her soft, deep voice drawing the attention. "Surely, the boy you speak of is nothing but—"
"That is where the truth lies," butted in the woman, her eyes flashing. "For years I was sent to counseling for what I am about to tell you."
"You don't believe this Haven person is real, do you?!" snapped Chris. "This fantasy of yours…yes, I recall Father speaking of it. He said that you—"
"Enough of that!" snapped Anna, making the others turn to her. In a determined voice she continued, "Yes, Father did speak of a time of Mother's insanity, convinced that she had lived a fantasy of hers!" There was a moment's pause before she frowned, adding softly, "I always knew there was something more to it though…"
"Thank you," whispered Marie gratefully. "Please," she continued, turning to the others. "Listen to the tale first, and then decide for yourselves."
After a moment Chris and Jane nodded. "All right," agreed her son."I suppose," she began slowly, turning to her grandchildren now. "That to really start this story, you have start with me."