A brief history of those I have loved.
He's eight years old and the tension in the air is unmistakable, and in his boyish quiet way he knows something is happening, even if he doesn't quite understand it. He does, however, know that whatever is going on, the lines he can't read between in the older children's exchanges, was brought on by him. He is vaguely aware that the boys don't know each other, and that he is the common denominator.
He knows that it is not something in his realm of effect, because heated words are being shared and he doesn't yet know how to diffuse his brother, and he certainly doesn't know how to calm this lumbering giant of a boy that he is arguing with, but it is clear in his mind that he was in the scope of 'cause'.
Suddenly, the tense schoolboys have escalated from using their words to shoving and soon there were punches thrown, and there's an intense viciousness, a passion between the two, and jerking and screaming things that seem unbelievably articulate for being in the heat of battle. Although somewhere in the back of his mind he attributes that to the lack of a crowd, thirsty to see violence, and chanting an order to fight.
He hears the funny thwap of knuckles against flesh several times. And suddenly, it is the oldest boy that caves first with spilling words, and for a moment they both stand there, his brother with a beatific face, gracing the other with a small grin even with his lip split and a face that is already becoming a patchwork of colour, and he's proud of his brother, and it feel's like something's changed - ,like an enormous discovery has just been made although he's only eight, and he's not sure what.
At ten, he wants to grow up and own an animal circus. He remembers telling Addison, who was eight-and-a-half and followed him around. She also called him Tally, as Templeton is a mouthful, and also, it makes him slightly ashamed.
She's perched on the jagged cliff line, much more precariously than good for her. "Come on down," he says, easily.
And she uses her hands to communicate, tells him with a motion that she thinks that he should come up instead. When he does, he begins telling her, and she gives her little girl solemn nods, and doesn't laugh like his papa did, and he feels something warm creep into his chest.
She doesn't say much, but she hears everything.
He gives a tug on a twisted lock of hair and she grins. Then, her nine year old face solemn says, "wouldn't you like to live forever?" And Tally, which is rapidly becoming his Definite Only Name, says that he doesn't think that would be grand at all.
"What would you do with forever?"
She doesn't have an answer for him. She turns her eyes back to the sea, and he can see that she has words in her mouth, but he's only eleven, and hasn't figured out how she operates, or anything about girls at all, and he's not sure how to coax them out.
Eventually; "I'd like to grow up, at least."
At eleven, he see's the first glance at the tattoo across his brothers shoulder blade. When he thinks about it later, he doesn't remember any flickering of an impending sense of doom, as he'd like to say he did.
He does remember though, in a lungful of words, "That is so cool."
And then the fighting. He remembers his brother and his father, in hushed, urgent tones until his father is shouting and his brother is too. His brother eventually cries. He knows, he says vehemently, what he is doing, and he is protecting this family, dang it, and, why don't you understand?
Tally isn't arrogant enough to fancy that he understands, but he trusts his brother, and his papa's been known to overreact.
He tells his brother that, later.
"I've screwed up, in a lot of ways, Temp, but it was something I had to do."
And Tally, innocently, reiterates. "I trust you. It'll be okay."
Tally's brother isn't around much after that. Tension builds around whatever the significance of the tattoo is until he moves out, which is code for, Papa kicked him our and Mama couldn't do anything about it but cry, and bestow kisses on her tiny brood, and make little hampers of food for her older son, and then afterwards; trap Tally in frequent hugs, and at thirteen, he's too old for that.
He also remembers being thirteen as being his first year of Artesian Cliff, which means a stiff uniform, and only being home on the weekends. He remembers feeling a little bleached, between enormous, lonely stone arches and what felt like miles and miles of narrow hallways.
He has an easy manner, and he makes what people call friends. Tally doesn't like titles. He remembers how his papa used to call him 'son' as if his name was on the tip of his tongue, if only he could remember…
Even if he did, that's probably not what he'd call them. He knows a girl that would pass for a puddle, with all her depth. But she's fun, and she's alive, and warm, and you take what you can get in a cold place like this. He can also laugh and talk with most of the boys, but he doesn't so much belong. He feels like life is being lived in a fishbowl, and he's slowly suffocating.
At fifteen, Tally still can't grow facial hair properly. Sometimes, after days of neglect, he can coax a tiny bit of sparse, scraggly, fair hair from his skin.
At fifteen, Addison is thirteen, and is now old enough to attend the cliff. She's outgrown following him around like a shadow, and he almost regrets it, although he'll never admit it, and she's a child, but one he can't help but feel strangely protective over.
One day, catching her elbow in an empty hall, he asks her what she meant, years ago, perched delicately on a cliff, with the wind in her breathtaking dark hair, but when he does, he omit's the adjectives, although he's spoken to her many times between then and now.
She looked at him as if he had just delivered the punch line of a cruel joke, making him feel like the scum of the earth, but still not any closer to understanding. She looks at him in horror for a few minutes, and finally, she says, softly, "don't you know?" and then, turning the corner are a rowdy group of boys that make her nervous, and she's gone.
Sixteen, he realized vaguely, in the early morning hours of his birthday. He's of age today.
Later, it's her, the same shy girl that once told him that she'd like to grow up that takes him out to the coast. He thinks, in retrospect, that day was the first time he'd ever made the "!!" yawping noise that Addison goes on about.
She's done something great, and they are sitting, stretched on the coast when his parents arrive, along with Greyson. His hero. Tally has come to understand the family schism that no one talks about. They still don't talk, and Tally has come to realize what his brother is. Who his brother is aligned with.
Yet he cannot part with his childhood ideals.
Addison is in her bikini, and she's left the androgynous boy that he's come to understand as her best friend out of the conversation of a day, when he catches a glimpse of something.
Addison's always been tan; perhaps too many days on this coast, laughing and twisting in the water, and making easy conversation, or perhaps a conscious effort. Against her tan is a scar, pale and thin as spider webs. It comes from above her heart, down, darting into an area of cloth and comes out below her right breast. The thread snakes down, and in the hollow besides her hipbone, becomes a tangled knot. It's brutal and makes his breath hitch.
She peeks over her sunglasses, too big for her tiny face. "Don't you know?"
"I didn't." It is quiet.
She reaches out, but inches from his face her fingers falter, and curl into themselves.. He is seventeen, and he is returning the favor for her fifteenth birthday.
He peers into her sky eyes, which is difficult, because her dark, wild hair is everywhere in the wind. "What do you want to do with the rest of your life? You still want to train animals?" she says, and realizes on its appearance that her impish smile hasn't been around as much as of late.
"Naw," he says, his mouth folding into a smile, "I'm going to be a triple agent. Or perhaps I'll take over the island; overthrow the code. Cause mayhem, wreak havoc, you know, same old stuff."
And in a second, she's leaned forward, and bestowed a tiny sticky lip-gloss imprint on his cheek.
"W-what?" He is bewildered, for a moment.
And for the first time since they were kids, these words, paired with the grin that refuses to leave her face, don't sound threatening; "Don't you know?"