Harrison Case and Holly Burke, despite being soulmates, had vastly different upbringings. Harrison was born in war-torn America, and had grown up in post-war America. It was a unique era that the country had seen several times before, but nothing to this extent. America's economy had plummeted during the Great Depression, and the war brought the country to life again. After it had ended it was as if everyone was throwing open the shutters and ushering in a new era, beginning a new chapter in their lives.
The Case family was no exception. With five children and a lot of work to do, they embraced the post-war era with open arms. Each one of the Case children was vastly different from the others—they had differing personalities that made them unique to themselves, and prevented them from being compared to their other siblings.
Will was the oldest, and resembled his father the most out of the five. He had the same light-colored hair—almost like sunlight—and the clear blue eyes that could come off as cold and distant. Being the oldest as well as the first boy, he was held relentlessly to his father's military standards. Samuel would grip the boy by the nape of his neck and squeeze, smiling down at him as Will grimaced.
"That's my boy," he'd say. "You're gonna be the man of the house some day, you know. You need to be ready for when that happens."
William Case was ten years old when his youngest brother was born. From the moment he laid eyes upon the wriggling bundle of blankets, he decided that he wasn't going to let the same thing happen to Harrison. His father had put the responsibility of being the man of the house on him since he was old enough to remember, and he was doing to make damn sure that Oliver and Harrison didn't have to bear that burden.
Matilda was the second child, and the first girl. She had a mix of her parents in her, with her mother's dark hair and her father's clear blue eyes. Not as much responsibility had been placed on her shoulders as her brother, but she had a different kind of role around the house. She took it upon herself to take care of her younger brother; she was eight at the time of Harrison's birth. She treated her new baby brother like a baby doll, and carried him around when her mother was away. She had even put him in her toy crib, sticking a pacifier in-between his heart-shaped lips and tying a bonnet around his little head. Ruth Case had often wandered into her daughter's room to see her youngest swaddled up and placed in the toy crib, sucking heartily on his pacifier without a care in the world.
When Matilda wasn't fixated on looking after her brother, she could be found sitting at the old wooden kitchen table, a book pressed flat against the tabletop. As a toddler, Harrison would often toddle over to her chair and grip onto the end of her dress, begging to be picked up. She was his second favorite, proceeded only by his mother, who had a tendency to dote over her baby boy. By that age it was clear that he'd taken after his mother; he had the same deep brown eyes, the dark hair, the same milky-white skin and heart-shaped lips. His ears seemed to protrude even more than hers did, like a monkey's.
Victoria was the sibling that looked the most like Harrison, but she was also the most different personality-wise. Unlike her sister Matilda, she lacked the motherly instinct that caused Harrison to be drawn to her. Victoria was often the child to hoist herself onto her mother's vanity and slather her face with makeup, imitating the way she'd seen her mother do so a time or two. She had never been a fan of young children despite having two younger brothers to look after, and often grimaced when Harrison attempted to grab the hem of her dress.
Though I am not supposed to be prejudiced, I would have to say that Victoria is my least favorite of the Case siblings. She was always a little too self-centered and uncompassionate for my tastes, and cared very little about family. Though these qualities did not necessarily make her a bad person, it certainly make her an unlikable one.
Oliver was the fourth child and second boy, and nearly three years older than Harrison. He received all his looks from his father, though had a quiet disposition not possessed by any identifiable member of his family. His shockingly blond hair came from all the time he spent outdoors; he was out of the house more than he was in it, which was perfectly fine for a boy his age. My memories of watching Oliver Case grow up include him crouched in the backyard, stick in hand, digging through the mud. His knees were always caked with dirt, and seemed to have scrapes that were constantly scabbing over. His wide blue eyes studied the world as if they'd seen it before, curiously taking in his surroundings with a constant vigilance.
On several occasions a smaller boy with dark hair could be spotted next to him, intrigued by his brother's workings. Harrison had agreed to quietly watch, only interrupting with the infrequent question. I do not believe he understood why Oliver was digging around in the mud. If my memory serves correct—which it usually does—he had buried something valuable out there as a small child and still had yet to find it. It was a small brooch that belonged to his mother, shaped like an angel with wings encrusted with diamonds. It was a family heirloom, and he'd gotten his hands on it at the age of two, attracted by the sparkling wings. He'd played with it throughout the day and while he was in the backyard, buried it. When he'd gone to find it later on, he'd forgotten where he'd put it.
Samuel and Ruth Case came from very different backgrounds. Ruth Beutler was born when her mother was sixteen in April 1907. I remember her soul; it was dark blue, and very still in the palm of my hand as I entered her mother's house that spring afternoon. Her father was not her mother's soulmate; her parents had not been married and never would be, as her father would go off to fight in The Great War and would never return. When Ruth was born, she was given her mother's surname and the dark blue soul and shielded away from the father she would never know.
Samuel came from a well-to-do family on the other side of Vermont, was too young for The Great War, and too old for World War II. His relationship with his parents was not the best, from what I saw. His father was a violent man and his mother was not one to side with her children when it came to matters concerning their father. His soul was the same dark blue as Ruth's, and when he was old enough to leave, he followed the pull of his soul to Kenwood. When he arrived, he was a tall, gangly boy of eighteen with thick-rimmed glasses that he couldn't see two inches in front of his face without. He would not meet Ruth for another five years, one year before the stock market crashed and America entered the Depression.
In 1946, their youngest was three years old, and their relationship had yet to experience any serious falters. Soulmates typically experienced little to no issues regarding their relationship, but that didn't mean other disagreements were impossible. Samuel had filled out over the years, a thick layer of pudge forming around his waist and spilling over the top of his belt. He still wore the suspenders, though stuck to wearing simple white t-shirts while around the house. His hairline had receded well towards the back of his head, leaving him with hair only on the sides. Harrison's earliest memory is of him sitting with his feet up in a recliner, cracking open a Heineken with a metal bottle opener.
Ruth Case was stark in contrast to her husband. She aged beautifully, with a grace that few can manage. As the years dragged on, she seemed to grow kinder, while her husband developed an even more jaded personality that came with losing his looks. She carried her youngest on her hip for the majority of his first years as if he were attached to her, until he learned to walk and began darting around the house, free from the grip of anyone unless he chose otherwise. He was the baby of the family, and thus he was treated as such—it was something he enjoyed occasionally but despised at other times.
Harrison was probably the one least aware of what was really going on in the house. To him, everything was always happy, and his siblings could always be counted on doing the same things. Little did he know of the trials that awaited him.
Holly Burke's life was different in large ways from that of Harrison Case. The time periods in which they lived definitely contributed to a vast majority of the differences between their lives. While Harrison's early childhood took place in the 1940s, Holly's was during the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Harrison was born during the tail-end of World War II, and Holly was growing up during the War on Terror. Two completely different eras, but America was in a war both times, which was something they could relate to.
Holly had an older brother at the time she was born—Grant. Grant was born five years before Holly, shortly following a miscarriage his mother had suffered. In the 1990s, he had sunny blond hair in a neat bowl haircut and a goofy smile, though he was cute as can be and loved his little sister to death. Unlike most other children, he had not experienced the typical sibling-like jealousy at the arrival of his younger sister. The Burke family hardly expected to have one child after the loss of Ivy's first pregnancy, let alone two, so they were beyond thrilled with the life they'd come to have.
Grant and Holly would be their only children, and by the time Grant made it to the second grade his hair would be brown. I remembered his soulmate; a black girl named Candice, who'd been born in northern California a few months before him. She was an only child, and quite a fiery soul, if I remember correctly. Couldn't wait to burrow into the rib cage of that baby girl. Grant's soul was a little calmer, though there were some similarities between the souls. They were bright red and had a slight glow about them, and practically dissolved in the mouths of the babies they went into.
For the first year or so of her life, Holly was called by both her first and middle name, Holly Sage, before it was shortened to just Holly. She had dark brown hair and blue eyes that were bright and full of life. The first thing she remembers is standing in a white walker while her brother crouches in front of her, setting his metal matchbox cars on the plastic tray, She grinned a gummy grin and Grant smiled back, patting his palm to the top of her head.
Stephen and Ivy Burke began to notice differences in their daughter early on in her life. Her blue eyes were wide and inquisitive, and studied the world as if she'd been there before, much like the older brother of her soulmate. She was attracted to things not considered normal for that era; on one occasion during her early childhood, the family had gone to visit her father's parents. Her grandfather, John Burke, still owned a typewriter and kept it on the desk in his office. Holly was instantly drawn to the object—it puzzled the sixty-odd-year-old man as to how his pre-school aged granddaughter would know what a typewriter was, let alone how to operate one.
Holly had clacked out nonsense on the typewriter keys, and when the carriage gave a ding, she hit the enter key and continued on typing. It had baffled everyone in the house.
Holly's soul was the same soul that had been in Marissa Gallagher in 1943, even if it was only for a second. It is a difficult condition to explain, though humans have come up with several names for it over time. The most common name for it is simple, "old soul", but in recent years there was a word invented.
Anemoia—meaning nostalgia for a time one has never known. Anemoia is a complicated condition, because even though the soul was inside another body, it is not the same thing as reincarnation. The soul never fully took to Marissa Gallagher's nervous system, but was in the time period long enough to develop an attachment. There is also the issue of the soulmate—her soulmate was living in a time that she wasn't, and in a way, her soul associated those objects with its other half. Quite a fascinating condition.
At that age, she didn't understand exactly what was going on. She didn't know that it would only get worse from there.