For the lovely Freak-of-Spade's "Ludicrous Monthly Challenge!".

MUSTs

Main action must be set in September.

Must use the words: ocean, reverie, smoke, sulky, nowhere, absurdity and frost in any way you want so long they're in the story.

One character must say: "The thing about Georgette is that she's…she's a widespread kind of woman, you know?"

MUST BE SLASH (duh!)

A kiss that makes the reader go 'WTF?!' (whether in surprise or delight or horror is all up to you)

NO-WAYs

No excessive angst.

No obvious mention of love by a character. Therefore, no 'I like you,' 'I love you' 'My heart belongs to you' etc. If you need a character to let another character know of his love, find a super-subtle/obscure way to put it.

And with that, I set off to discover the meaning of life. I mean...write this?


The first buds of October have been sown into the earth and lay dormant beneath the soil. Leaves fall like parasailing nymphets and land gracefully on the ground. Sitting on my front steps, underneath a rickety porch, I am safe from the rain while the brittle gondolas of summer collect water and sink into the grass.

"Hey Bailey." My stepbrother Eden sits down beside me on the step. "How're you holding up, kiddo?"

My lips move but, as usual, nothing but wisps of air come out.

"Sulky doesn't suit you," he says. He picks up a leaf, slick with rainwater, and hands it to me. "Tomorrow will be better. Promise." I take the leaf from his hands and examine it, slide my fingers along the veins that crisscross its underside.

Tomorrow never seems to come for me.

A few leaves cling helplessly to the branches, desperate not to fall to their deaths. "Autumn," Eden says. The only sound is his voice and the rain against the crackling leaves. If he goes away, then it'll just be me and the millions of oceans that fall from the sky. "It's really pretty."

In agreement, I nod.

"Come inside. It's cold out here." He stands up and offers me both of his hands. They feel like warm clay to me when I grab hold of them. I get to my feet, trip after Eden, slam shut the sticky door to the outside world.

The kitchen is filled with a calm stillness. Nothing moves. Drops of rain hang from the railing outside the grimy window, sunlit by the beams that sneak from behind the thick rain clouds. I lean against the dull jade counter.

"You hungry?" Eden asks. His words jar me from my reverie. I must nod because he opens up the fridge and begins to search methodically for something his mother has left us to eat. He comes back with nothing. "You want to make chicken? We have some she didn't cook last night."

I nod.

He slices the chicken into thin stripes, his hands wound all around the handle of the knife. He makes splendid cuts, sectioning off slimy pieces. There is a gracefulness there that I once had; deft fingers and careful coordination. The blade slides with quiet precision as Eden begin to talk again.

"I'm so sorry."

But of course, I don't say anything.


We're supposed to rake leaves, but Eden hasn't left his room in three days. "Go find out what's wrong," Beth says, pointing. "He won't talk to me."

When I knock on Eden's door, there is no answer from inside. I push against it and the door won't give. Locked. I knock again –curling my jumbled, corrupted fingers into a fist and banging– and it's still locked, still won't answer. In my throat, below my chin, something stirs with a longing I can't quite place. Again. My hands ache.

"Go away," a muffled voice from behind the door orders. It sounds like a message from nowhere, caught in a space-time continuum riddled with disarray. "Please." Nothing to lose, I knock on the door a third time. Hysteria must creep into my pounding because the door swings open with a sharp crack and Eden stands in the doorway.

He looks awful. His hair, which stretches down to his shoulders, is matted beyond recognition. Smudged eyeliner. Everything about him is smudged. I take a step back, shake my head as if I am a disbelieving seer.

"What do you want?" I hold out a single leaf from the front yard. "I'm not raking the lawn." He moves back to shut the door again but I grab his wrist, tug it towards me. "Don't touch me." There is a rawness to his voice. He throws the leaf back at me and slams the door so hard a painting falls off the wall and falls flat on the hardwood floors. Hunching my shoulder blades, I move for the front door. After fumbling with the doorknob, I push into the autumn.

The absurdity, the psychobabble that runs through my head makes me feel so dizzy.

Beth watches me from the window. The lines of light cut sharp across her face. For a stepmother, she's not near as interesting as Cinderella's. Just vaguely uninteresting, uninterested. I'm sure I'm a burden she'd like to rid herself of: the defective child of her dead lover.

Guilt is what I'm sure keeps me here. Guilt because I am ruined. Guilt because Eden did it to me. Guilt at his ability to walk away without a single mark on his body and I am left with mangled hands and eternal, damning silence.

I rake the leaves into a pile.

Beth steps out into the yard. "Bailey," she says with the concise, measured tone she has perfected. "Did you talk to Eden?" I nod. She hesitated a split second, the way everyone seems to, as if waiting for my reply. "Oh. Did he say what was wrong?"

I shake my head and stop stirring the grass with my rake. The leaves rustle, half-dried in the arid September air.

Looking unsurprised, she shakes her head, turning from me and murmuring under her breath. A sickening feeling blossoms within me. Words. I lower my head and relegate myself to my task of breaking leaves.


Beth has started sleeping in her studio.

I'm pretty sure it's because Eden plays music in the middle of the night. Loud. It permeates the walls and dances through the air, buzzing in the curtains and rattling the glass. It doesn't bother me, I don't sleep much anyway. It reminds me of something. I used to play keyboards.

But tonight, there is no electric guitar, no river-clear piano coming from Eden's room. There is just the occasional shift, the bump of something wooden against one of the corn-husk thin walls, that tells me he's not sleeping.

I think I'm going to have to be brave nsow.

Shivering, I slip from my bed, into the chilling air clad in jeans and an oversized tee shirt. I open my door with a soft click and shut it behind me as I tiptoe down the hall, even though no one will hear me. At Eden's door, I hesitate. It might be unlocked.

I knock instead.

"What the fuck do you want?" he shouts from the other side. He sounds airless. His words are asphyxiated somewhere between his brain and mine. I don't say anything, so he's knows it's me. "It's unlocked."

Shutting the door, I step into his room. The light paints everything pasty pale. Eden lies in his unmade bed, half-covered with rancid-smelling sheets that stick to his rail-thin body. The room is thick with smoke that makes the edges of my vision shimmer.

"Bailey," he whispers. The hurricane of translucent air shifts in front of him. "Bailey…you're here. Why are you here?"

Politely, I sit and examine him. His eyes are inflamed with bright, shiny tears that have left long streaks of dirt on his face. How young he looks, lying there. His hands quake, resting on top of his stomach, bent up at an awkward angle.

I touch one of them gently. Cold, like solid frost.

"Patrick dumped me. He's been cheating on me…forever."

His hair spreads out from his head. A soft, singed halo. He leans against my hand when I touch his face, run my finger tips along his neck to trace his collar bone. Tears collect there, like a soup bowl for sorrow.

"Fucking Georgette," he hisses. "The thing about Georgette is that she's…she's a widespread kind of woman, you know? She has the popularity and the sense of humour and the sex…oh god, the sex. And I could never compete with that." He rolls onto his side.

His room is the painful bright of burning magnesium and I shut my eyes to block out his pale, ethereal face. Even then, the darkness behind my eyelids in the colour of drying blood.

"Turn off the light," he orders in a soft voice that reminds me of lukewarm milk. I lean over, click down the switch above our heads. The tongue of darkness seals the envelope around us and we lie there together, halfway under his sheets. I can hear is the gentle skirr of his breath, of mine, how they mingle into one sound.

He presses his forehead against mine, lets it linger there. I open one eye, meeting the reflection of the light beneath the door in his pupil. "I–" he starts to say, but stops and leaves his mouth hanging half-open, pliable. I shut my eyes again, not so much darker than it was before.

A pair of lips find mine in a single motion.

Eden betrays his distress. How desperate, how inexpert he suddenly becomes. One of his hands rests on my back, leverage to pull us closer together, and he loops a leg over my hip. My hands move down his chest; I can count every single one of his ribs beneath his taut, pale skin with my twisted hands.

"I…"

It's just a single sound, as we break apart. A pronoun. An insignificant, pathetic sound that means a stupid, egotistical idea, but it surprises us both enough to stop. Pull back. Breathe each other's used air.

"You said something."

I nod. Yes. Yes. I still remember that word. "Yes…" That stirring is back, in my throat and lungs and head. Restless words that long to burst apart into the air. Words that have eluded me for months. Have eluded me since, 'Eden! Drive slower!'. Eluded me on the day my father died in a white hospice room, surrounded by cerulean and magenta flowers of something buried deep inside his blood.

He grabs my hands and runs his fingers along mine in the darkness. "I'm so sorry," he whispers. "Your voice will come back, but these…they couldn't fix these, could they?"

I press my mouth against the salty skin of Eden's collarbone, touch the side of his face.

No. Just like I can't fix you.


:fails at lack of angst:
Thanks for reading through! I appreciate.