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Red Shoes For the Sun
Lighting dashed from the sky, streaking blue from heaven to earth. Dark clouds turmoiled through the sky like gods were stirring a vast cauldron, brewing up a curse. Rain pelted the roof, crystals falling from the sky. Water dripped down over the window I was watching from. I shuddered against the cold window pane, pulling my sleeves down over pale fingers. The window seat under me felt chilly, and soft like a clash of warm and cold. My curling chestnut hair fell over my frosty blue eyes. Frosty eyes dripping warm tears down my pallid face. I shut my eyes, leaning my forehead on the freezing window. Grief settled in, my heart expanding to take in a darker emotion. Why today? Why now? Why was he taken away? He was so young. He was so small. So young. . .
“Abby.” A deep voice interrupted my reverie, shocking me. I leaped from my seat, like a frightened cat. “Calm down. Calm down. It's just me. Just me, Abby. Just look at me.” I looked.
I ran into his arms, tears shedding, wetting his black jacket. Gabriel kissed my hair, entangling us. I breathed Gabriel in, relishing his smell, a forest after the perfect storm. I took a step back, holding him at arm's length. Gabriel stared down at me, pouring his soul into me from deep green eyes. “You've changed, Gabriel.” I accused him, taking in the wavy brown hair and prominent jaw line. He looked so much older, so much more worldly.
“No, darling. I'm exactly the same. You've changed.” He took in my appearance, leading a masculine hand down my cheek, the other smoothing my hair. At that moment all I could think about was curling up with him in my cozy window seat, stroking that angelic face. Something clicked in Gabe's brain, registering in his algae eyes. He stepped away, clearing his throat gesturing for me to sit.
“Gabe, how could I not change after this?”I said, seating myself. More tears started falling down my red cheeks. I let them fall, mixing salty sadness and bitter warmth, like this reunion with Gabriel. How I missed him, longed for him back, but not like this, never like this. “I was holding him when he died, Gabe. He was so changed, so different. It was like-” A sob broke my words, just as thunder cracked through the sky, following the lighting. Gabriel settled my soft body against his masculine figure, holding me while sobs racked my body.
“Sh.” Gabe whispered, “Shh, he's okay now, Abby. He's not in any pain. He's safe.” I cried harder, much to Gabe's disappointment. Gabriel tightened his arms around me, stroking my face, my hair, my arms. Calming me, until I was settled. I felt safe, here with Gabe. Gabriel always made me feel safe.
“I missed you.” Gabriel whispered into my ear, his breath tickling. “I missed you too.” I tightened my arms around him, willing myself to never let go. “He was so different, Gabe. In the end, he seemed like a different person. I didn't know him at all.” Tears started to fall again, quietly grieving for my brother. “You remember how he always shined, Gabe? How he was the sun and we were the planets revolving around him? I loved being a planet, I loved my brother the sun. He shined so bright, sometimes it hurt to look at him. Such a small boy, such a big, loving personality. Joesph was ten last fall, this year we were going to have a surprise party. He would have loved it, Gabe. Joesph would have shined like the morning sun.”
No sobs broke my voice as I spoke, everything was still, the quiet uneasy. I filled it with memories I had of Joesph, funny stories that reminded me how he shined. Gabriel laughed some, other times I thought he might have been crying, it comforted me to know that.
“Do you remember those little red shoes Joesph wanted? God, those were the most expansive things! They were ugly too!” A half laugh half sob now broke my voice, my smile faded as I continued. “In the end, I asked him if he wanted those shoes still. It was a joke, I thought he needed to cheer up. I thought his light would shine all the way through the cancer, if he just smiled once. Only once. When I asked, Joesph looked at me, he really looked at me. Then he just faded away. I tried to call him back to us, Gabe. I really tried. But I couldn't do it. He wouldn't shine. I don't think he remembered how.”
Gabe held me away from him. “It was cancer, and Joesph couldn't fight it. But I know that he would have wanted those red shoes.” Gabriel's hand moved to clear a lock of hair from my face. I took it in mine, kissing it. “The day that he died, I held his hand, just like this, until I couldn't feel the heat of his body. Then I bought those shoes. Those ugly red shoes. It cost me a whole paycheck. Ridiculous, I know.” I closed my eyes, waiting. For what? I don't know. I expected shame to wash over me, but I never expected what Gabriel said.
“You bought them? I can't believe it. What should I do with my pair then?!” I peeked out from the gossamer fabric of my eyelid. “What?!” I said. “You did what?!”
Gabriel smiled handsomely, looking past me into hazy memory. “When I heard about his-” He cleared his throat, full of emotion. “When I heard Joesph past away, I couldn't get the damned memory of how he smiled at those ugly shoes. I thought of the look that you had too, it was special and loving. I just wanted to remember everything that way. So I marched down to the store and bought them. I felt all the better for it, too.”
I smiled. It felt like a new radiance came from it. Maybe I was smiling for Joesph, too. I leaned toward Gabriel “Gabe, he loved you.” I whispered. “Don't leave him again.” Gabriel smiled, “Don't worry, Abby. It would hurt too much to leave you a second time.” Gabe closed the distance between us, his soft lips brushed mine. “I love you,” He whispered.
Steps came bounding up the stairs, Gabriel and I hurriedly righted ourselves into proper seating. “Excuse me,” A man said, “But I was asked to deliver this to a Ms. Abigail Thurton.”
I noticed the white package under his arm. “I'm she.” The man handed me the package and took his exit. “Open it, Abby.” Gabe ordered. I removed the shiny lid, feeling the tension in my hands. Inside, was a picture. A framed photograph of Gabriel, Joesph, and I, in front of those ugly red shoes in the window.
“Joesph was a sun, but you are not a planet. You're red shoes.”