Happy Monday, my dear Followers!
I hope your weekend was delightful and full of fiery lights!
Here is The Spring and the River Ten! :)
NOTE: This series is meant to be read in order. If you are new to The Spring and the River or have missed a few posts, visit The Spring and the River page to read previous installments.
Lucy opened her eyes to the sound of Marianne hacking. She sighed, groaned, rolled over, and then pulled her pillow over her head. Still, what sounded like Marianne coughing up her throat, lungs, and stomach persisted. Over the past few weeks, Marianne’s coughing had worsened, and Lucy had been concerned at first. Now, she was just annoyed.
“Marianne!” Elaina, one of the other roommates, yelled. “Go outside or something! We’re trying to sleep!”
Marianne managed to bite out an obscenity between coughs but otherwise ignored Elaina. Finally, Lucy swung her feet over the side of her bed with a growl. She stumbled to Marianne’s room to find Marianne curled up in a ball on her bed, the coughs racking her increasingly frail body. “Come,” Lucy said. She took Marianne’s arm and half-dragged half-guided her out of their house and to the River. Pulling Marianne into the shallows, where the current wasn’t as strong, Lucy began splashing her with Riverwater. Her coughing finally began to subside, and Lucy let herself fall back into the River. As the water closed over her face, a warm, heady sensation flooded her, and her fingers tingled. She let the current whisk her Downstream. Where she went up for air, she realized that it must be well past midday. At first, it had been strange to have no fields to tend, but she had quickly acclimated to spending her days idly by sleeping and swimming.
She hauled herself out of the water and found it was hard. It felt like hundreds of slippery, invisible fingers grabbed at her ankles and nightgown, tugging her back into the River. Shaking off the sudden chill that snaked down her spine, she paused and listened to the River’s call. The silvery voice beckoned her to stay, and its strange enchanting qualities nearly blocked out the hunger that had begun to gnaw on her stomach. With a backward glare at the rushing waters, she tore herself out of the water, and as she walked back to Marianne’s house, she tried to ignore the niggling fear about how transfixed she had been by the River’s voice. She considered going to the Spring for a sip, but the idea crashed against a wall of disgust. “You’re fine,” she snapped aloud. In her mind, she could hear herself telling Marianne that she couldn’t have both the Spring and the River all those months ago.
Her unease over the River evaporated when the house came into view, and she saw Lucien standing several feet away from it. His light hair was shining in the noonday sunlight just like her own. Lucy stopped short and simply stared because she hadn’t seen him in weeks – she had pointedly avoided him. Despite what she told herself at night and pretended during the day, a small part of her fidgeted with shame at their parting. In fact, if she let herself dwell on it too long, her whole being came on edge, but a good swim in the River usually dulled the disquiet.
Lucien saw her and greeted her with a smile that jolted her out of her thoughts. She couldn’t guess why he would be smiling, and it made her anxious to see him there. As her other roommates filtered out of the house, Lucy began to walk again. He was painfully out of place his figure, strong from honest, hard work, and eyes, lustrous from the Spring, stood out sharply against the waning frames of the River girls. Lucien stepped away from Lucy’s friends as they crowded closer than was appropriate. “Lucy,” he called. He strode to her, and his familiar intensity almost overwhelmed Lucy as he stopped just short of embracing her.
“Lucien,” she said as she realized that it was the Riverwater staining her that kept him from hugging her like he used to. “Why are you here?”
“I’m here for you,” he said simply.
Lucy was momentarily baffled until she caught a glimpse of the luminescent Springstones that hung from his neck; he had two which she thought was strange until she noticed that one was the very stone that she had worn for months. Her heart sped up, in joy or fear she never quite knew – Restoration. He was planning to Restore her to the Spring, and she felt conflicting measures of irritation and relief. The old Lucy was elated that he still loved her, but the new Lucy itched to yell and shout at him for thinking she needed to be saved.
When she looked back up at him, she saw his hopeful eyes and wanted to cry and scream at the same time. “Well, then,” she said. “You can certainly try for a while.”
“Lucy, I’m not going to simply ‘try for a while’. I am your brother, and I love you. I will be relentless in this.”
She glanced back at her friends who were only a few feet away with ridiculous smirks on their faces. They didn’t believe he could do it, but she had known him her entire life. If he and the Spring set their minds to her Restoration, she was afraid that they would certainly succeed if by strength of will alone. She shrugged flippantly and turned away. As he walked away, for the first time in weeks, she heard the Spring’s gentle murmur, calling her home.
And the Spring’s whispers began to haunt her every moment from then on. She heard it in her dreams, she struggled to ignore it as she went to the River, and she became restless as it moved subtly but undeniably through the air.