[center This river is famous, just not for it’s beauty. ]
Something has always been amiss with Rosebell channel. Every year when summer comes, the water rises and so does the death toll. Perhaps the crystal cool water is too tempting in the long forgotten heat; maybe we’re just too foolish to learn our lesson. As true as those statements may ring, I really don’t think that’s it. That river sings, and its song calls for blood. Can we get to the bottom of the mystery before we wind up sleeping on the riverbed with nothing but the current for comfort?
I’m looking for someone interested in a romance laced with a bit of mystery, and who is comfortable adding to the story.
As far as the mystery goes, I know what is going on, but it is up to you whether you’d rather be in the loop or remain spoiler free for the duration of the roleplay. Though the latter will limit you during our character creation process. That being said, what I have in mind isn’t set in stone. If you have ideas please feel free to share and we can work something out.
As for characters, there is a local who is trying to figure out what is really going on, and a stranger with a secret who wants them to stay out of it. But once again, this can be changed.
Despite how the hook is written, I am looking for a third person perspective, literate roleplay. I can be quite wordy and I want someone who can keep stride with me. I will probably ask for a sample post. Feel free to pull from another one of your RPs.
I prefer to play female roles, but I am flexible and will play male on occasion. I do not have a preference for my partner’s character’s gender.
I generally stick to anime or otherwise illustrated stuff for pictures.
18+ only please. Not for content, just because I am uncomfortable writing with minors.
Cordelia watched as Zeke seemed to contemplate what they would have. It did not take him long as he ordered for the both of them. His choice of a berry blend seemed fitting for the season and she was excited to try it. This place seemed like the type that might use local products, so she wondered if she would have a taste of springtime Conway.
Just as she was about to drag him back to take a seat, the woman behind the counter exclaimed in realization. She came about, ruffling the man up a bit. There was a dumbstruck expression on his face until recognition washed over him as well. It was a humorous scene, but the blue-eyed woman held back laughter not wanting to make the gentleman any more self-conscious than he already looked. Miss Macy, as it was, gushed about him. Cordelia couldn’t help but nod in response. [+mediumaquamarine “This is our first date, but I have a very good feeling about it.”]
As much as Cordelia would have loved to sit at on one of the small couches, she was also happy to sit at the tall table that Zeke picked out. It would be easier to look at one another as they talked. Though there was not an excess of conversation before Miss Macy returned. She came carrying all sorts of delicious looking things. The chestnut haired woman was very much looking forward to trying the assortment of finger foods with what had turned out to be a rather aromatic tea.
But before then, the others were speaking. She listened intently. Cordelia was all excitement to glean what she could from the conversation. The familiarity between them brought a smile to her face. It was a warm look as the older woman reminisced about times long passed. A few curious things came up, something about the gentleman's mother being one of them. He seemed to skirt quickly around it, obviously not wanting to linger on the subject. Cordelia was not about to force him into it either. It was none of her business, so when he went to change to subject to sandwiches she did not protest.
[+mediumaquamarine “I will start with that then.”] The young woman wasn’t sure she had ever had the pleasure of eating a cucumber sandwich before. It just was not something her family made. With a delicate touch, she picked up one of the small cut creations and took a bite. The cucumber filled her mouth with a refreshing taste and a satisfying crunch. Despite the somewhat bland appearance, there was a lot of flavor. Cordelia wondered what spices and seasoning Miss Macy had packed into the creamy spread.
She finished the morsel before speaking; covering her mouth with her hand just in case anything had stuck to her teeth. [+mediumaquamarine “That is super yummy. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to try one.”]
[+teal “I am really glad you came.”] Blinking, a little caught off guard by the confession, her face got a little red when he asked how she’d found him.
[+mediumaquamarine “Oh well, you said you worked at the high school. Conway is small, so there is only one. I just had to check online for when the day was out… I didn’t want to bother you while you were working.”] She finished just in time to catch the bunching of his face in protest to the steam on his spectacles. Cordelia giggled lightly, he was adorable, but she decided not to embarrass him by mentioning it. Most men didn’t particularly want to hear that they were cute.
For a bit she stared at the three-tiered platter, coming up with a plan. Cordelia mentally decided to start with the savory flavored treats so that she could save the sweet ones for last. But before concreting that strategy, she needed to know how the tea tasted. How things paired with it could be a huge game changer. She wore a look of concentration as she blew lightly at the surface of the deep red drink and took a sip. It was tasty, and she thought it would lend its tang well to chocolates. Her theory of saving the desserts for last was a good one.
With that done, she looked back to Zeke who was watching her. Instantly she became self-conscious. It was probably weird to get so serious over tea and treats… [+mediumaquamarine “Um… so how was your day at work?”] She was still very interested in that part of his life, but before he could say anything a whimsical melody began to emanate from her pocket.
The woman groaned. [+mediumaquamarine “Sorry.”] Fishing around in the pocket of her dress, she pulled out her phone. It was adorned by a shimmery turquoise case with silver outlines of narwhales on it. Cordelia quickly hit the button on the side, temporarily silencing the device. Based off the ID, she knew it wasn’t important, so her next move was to change it to silent mode. She did not want to be interrupted again. [+mediumaquamarine “I will call them back later.”] With that, the phone went back in her pocket. Hopefully not to be seen again. [+mediumaquamarine “Anyway, you were saying?”] She knew he hadn’t actually started, but she leaned forward full of interest.
Zeke's expression mirrored Cordelia's when she not only agreed to go out, but also admitted to wanting the same thing. It was refreshing to be on the same page. [#008080 "Tea sounds great."] He paused a moment, considering her thoughtfully. [#008080 "And I...well, I think I know a place that you might like."]
As the two walked together the frantic distraught that Zeke faced over the last couple of days seemed to ebb away. Instead there was a pleasant easiness. He liked listening to Cordelia talk, hanging onto her every singsong word. Topics that were otherwise considered dull, such as the weather spring brought, seemed to come to life as she spoke. He offered up some commentary here and there in response, but he was largely content with listening.
The man stopped in front of the shop with her. A sort of melancholy look briefly passed over his face. It quickly cleared, however; he did not want to worry his [s date] friend. He chained his bike to the nearby rack and reached for the handle of the door swinging it wide open and beckoning her inside. He took a deep breath and followed closely behind her.
The shop hadn't changed much since he last saw it. Some of the furniture had been rearranged and the music selection was updated, but aside from that it was just as he recalled. The smell of fresh baked goods lingered in the air, mingling with that of coffee grounds. Sunbeams danced in different dim colors across the floor as they shone through stained glass trinkets hanging in the windows. A heavy warmth filled the shop lending itself to a calming atmosphere enough to make anyone want to doze off.
Zeke almost found himself in a drowsy daze before Cordelia's voice snapped him back to reality. [#008080 "What's that?"] he asked stupidly. He squinted at the paper menu for a brief second before it finally clicked. [#008080 "Oh, right. Lemme see."] He took the paper from her hands, scanning it over. Everything looked good. Although the shop was small, the menu was chock full of options to appease even the pickiest of eaters. Some of the sandwich options such as the tomato and mozzarella panini particularly caught his eye. He had skipped lunch in an effort to try and get more research done. In spite of all the options there was really only one thing he ever had when he came, and he wasn't feeling adventurous enough to try something new. [#008080 "We'll do the Afternoon Tea for Two, please. And that'll be with the Very Berry Blend as well."]
Zeke placed the menu back into the plastic stand from whence it came and fished his wallet out of his back pocket. As he was handing over his Visa, he locked eyes with the woman. There was a spark of recognition in her hazel gaze that he didn't return. [#9370DB "Oh my goodness, I don't believe it! Is that [i really] you Ezekiel?"]
[#008080 "Yes...?"] he replied hesitantly, with his arm still holding out the debit card awkwardly. His eyes looked from Cordelia to the woman behind the counter, unsure of how to respond. The woman took charge of the situation by coming out from behind the counter and hurriedly pulling him into a tight embrace. Zeke looked taken aback by this, her identity still not clicking. She released him, grinning from ear to ear.
[#9370DB "I had no idea you were back! And just look at how much you've grown!"] She exhaled in awe, eyeing him up and down. [#9370DB "I haven't seen you since you were this big."] She lowered her hand to about the middle of her thigh with a laugh. And then he finally recognized her.
[#008080 "Miss Macy?"] She nodded enthusiastically and Zeke couldn't help but smile too. [#008080 "Oh, wow - it's great to see you again. Erm, Cordelia, this is Miss Macy. She used to babysit me when I was a kid."]
[#9370DB "Ooh, you're a lucky girl,"] she said, turning to Cordelia with a knowing wink. [#9370DB "Ezekiel here's always been such a sweet boy. Doesn't surprise me one bit he managed to nab a pretty thing like you."] Zeke's face burned a bright red. [#9370DB "Now you two cuties go and grab a seat. This one's on me."] She shooed them in the direction of one of the love seats, but Zeke made a point to grab one of the hightops by the windows instead. He still looked a little pink.
[#008080 "Sorry about that..."] he murmured sheepishly. [#008080 "Family friend."]
Miss Macy returned in a few moments with a three tier tray and a small white kettle with pink flowers circling the top. The lowest level was filled with cucumber, salmon, and egg salad sandwiches. The middle had a small variety of different scones with clotted cream and jam. The top tier held brightly colored macaroons, cakes, and cookies. Miss Macy poured them both two cups of a pretty red brew that smelled of hibiscus blossoms and berries, speaking pleasantly as she did. [#9370DB "So how long have you been back in Conway?"]
[#008080 "Oh, about a year now - ouch!"] Miss Macy had planted a well aimed swat right on his shoulder.
[#9370DB "You've been back a whole year and didn't think to say anything?!"] She huffed indignantly. [#9370DB "Why, I remember when you and your mom would come in [i every Sunday.] Oh dear, I was so upset after what happened. Thought I would never seen you again once you went off to Florida."] She shook her head with a sad sigh before continuing. [#9370DB "Well, now that you're back, you had better think to come in more often. Both you and your lady friend."] Zeke nodded quickly at risk of more bodily harm. She flashed them both a warm smile of approval before heading back to the counter.
Zeke shifted uncomfortably in his chair, hoping Cordelia wouldn't ask too much about 'what happened.' He didn't need more of the same pitying looks that Miss Macy gave him. He hurriedly tried to change the subject. [#008080 "So, um, these cucumber sandwiches here are my personal favorite."] He grabbed one of the tiny squares of fluffy white bread from the bottom and popped it into his mouth. There was a satisfying crunch from the cucumber as he chewed. He smiled at her once he'd finished and pushed the tray closer to her side. [#008080 "I'm really glad you came."] He admitted while Cordelia eyed the plate. [#008080 "Not just here, but to the school, I mean. It's good to see you again. How'd you even manage to find me?"]
It wasn't a probing question. This was probably the one and only time someone like her ever wanted to seek someone like him out. Naturally, it piqued his curiosity. He took a sip of the tea, scrunching up his nose in mild annoyance when it fogged his glasses.
Zeke seemed to be fixated on his own behavior rather than her being a total creep, so that was good. Kind of. Cordelia did feel a little bad that he felt bad. And how he was stumbled over what had transpired that day made her feel all the worse, the man probably felt like he was losing his mind. But as terrible as she felt, she did not say anything to confirm or deny that she had caught the illumination as well. It would be better if he did not go any farther down that path.
[+mediumaquamarine "Don't worry about it. It seemed like you remembered something really important. I just figured you must have left the stove on or something."] She smiled at him, chuckling lightly at the absurdity of the idea. [+mediumaquamarine "Truly, don't feel bad. I understand. Life can get hectic."]
Now that she was standing with Zeke, the students were paying even more attention to her. A foreign body caused some stir, but no one said anything outright. All conversation was kept discreet, even if the adult were still completely in earshot. She wondered if he was going to have to deal with rumors when he came back tomorrow. Cordelia did not imagine that would be any fun. But the thought did not distract her for long, as he promptly asked her out.
Features instantly brightening, both in embarrassment and excitement, she nodded enthusiastically. [+mediumaquamarine "Yes, I would like that very much... I was actually just trying to think if a way to ask you close to the same question."] Admittedly, she had been thinking about it for the past few days. But he still managed to beat her to the punch.
[+mediumaquamarine “I am partial to tea, but I am fine with whatever sounds good to you. I am not picky.”] There were several places she had been thinking of going, but since he asked her first Cordelia thought it was only fair that he got to pick where they went. Maybe if it went well, she could drag him to something later as a thank you.
It didn’t take much more than that for the pair to head out. As fascinated as Cordelia was with the school, she didn’t really want to be stared at too much longer. Especially not when she was trying to un-fluster herself. Much like a few days prior, they walked together. Cordelia rather liked walking, especially when the air was nice and clear like it was today. It wasn’t so convenient when it was scalding hot, but on a mild spring day, it was wonderful. She shared some of these feelings as they went along, though with all the traffic from school getting out, it did feel a bit like she had to shout to be heard. But once they got a little father away from the hustle and bustle, or what could be considered bustle in Conway, things became easier. They continued with idle chit-chat until they stopped in front of a shop.
From the outside, the place was not anything special; she could tell it was a mom and pop kind of shop. Definitely not a Starbucks, which she thought might be intentional. Those sorts of places were likely swarming with freshly freed teenagers right about now. They walked through the stained glass door together and a bell rang to signal their arrival. Inside there was an assortment of places to sit. The options ranged from sofas to small tables surrounded by chairs. Quiet jazz played over the small collection of patrons in the place, many of which sat silently on their laptops. Overall, it was cute.
A middle-aged woman greeted them from behind the counter; hair in a messy bun and laugh lines prominent on her face. It lent to the jolliness she was exuding. Cordelia happily returned her hello as she half bounced up to the counter with Zeke. So far, the brunette was eating this place up. She just wondered how she had never stumbled upon it before.
Making it up to the front, Cordelia happily took up one of the simply printed, paper menus from a display stand. It was quartered into sections: coffee, tea, sandwiches, and desserts. There was also a chalkboard declaring the soup of the day with some flowery art up the side. It was very fitting for the time of year; she thought they must have changed it seasonally. [+mediumaquamarine “What would you suggest, Zeke?”] She called for his opinion, working under the assumption that he’d been here before and knowing she could stand there all day debating on whether she wanted chamomile, a cappuccino, or something else entirely.
Zeke made it home in record time with sweat pouring from his brow. He dismounted his bike in a clumsy hurry, letting it topple onto the ground as he made a beeline for the front door. His heart was racing and his mouth felt horribly dry, but little could be done about either. There was work to be done.
The man spent the next few hours alone in his study surrounded by folders, papers, and about thirty open tabs on his laptop. Admittedly, he knew he shouldn't be so worked up about a shimmer of light on the surface of water. But it had been a year since he'd returned. That's 365 days of a gamble that never paid off. If this was the one thing that the universe was going to throw his way after an otherwise uneventful search, he was prepared to cling to it for dear life.
The longer he researched the more distraught he felt. There simply wasn't any explanation for what he saw at the river. Zeke's first inclination was that it was reflecting light from the sun, but there were two things wrong with this theory. The first was that there was way too much tree coverage for the sun to directly hit the river from the angle it was at in the sky. The second was that even if it did manage to hit the water, there had never been a recorded incident of reflections containing more color than a normal prism of refracted light. He then hypothesized that maybe there had been some sort of oily substance mixed waters. Yet if that was the case there was no way it could have disappeared and reappeared as it had. There was a specific type of bacteria that used non-oxygen processes including reducing iron in soil to create and iridescent film on top of water that might be the answer, but further research found that this type or organism mostly thrived in swamps. Zeke racked his brain for possible explanations, but nothing ever came.
Zeke awoke with a start the next day to his buzzing phone rattling on the desk. With sleep still heavy on his eyes after maybe only three hours of rest, he answered with a yawn, [#008080 "Yeah, hello?"]
[#FF1493 "Yes, hello. May I speak with Mr. Ezekiel Young please?"] asked a cool, female voice on the other end.
[#FF1493 "Good morning, Mr. Young. This is Principal Green."] Zeke immediately snapped up, suddenly wide awake. [#FF1493 "I am calling to ask whether or not you still intended to fill in for Mrs. Henderson's world history class today."] The man nearly fell out of his chair in a rush to gather up his things while still trying to keep a calm demeanor on the phone.
[#008080 "Uh yes - yes [i ma'am] - I'm on my way as we speak!"] There was a pause on the other end.
[#FF1493 "Is that so?"] she asked as Zeke sprinted out the front door and righted his bike again. [#FF1493 "Because the children have had thirty minutes of free reign in first period this morning."] At this point, he realized how difficult it was to pedal furiously with one's heart in one's stomach.
[#008080 "Yes, sorry, sorry! Something...erm, personal came up. It won't happen again. I'll be there as soon as I can."]
[#FF1493 "I advise you to hurry, Mr. Young."] Dial tone.
Frantic and sweating, Zeke made it to campus, chained his bike, and ran to class. Naturally, this was more than amusing to the rambunctious sophomores of Mrs. Henderson's class and he didn't hear the end of it for what little time remained. What was even better was the fact that the rest of the school had heard of his blunder before third period. So mix together the constant ridicules that he faced throughout the day followed by the lecture on responsibility he received from Principal Green during lunch and it was a perfect recipe for disaster.
Zeke was in less than a good mood by the time the school bell finally rang. Still, he mustered up what little energy he had left and returned to the river. Although he longed to get to the bottom of whatever he saw there the other day, he didn't end up staying for very long. He kept dozing off on the bank and as being around the river was dangerous enough, he didn't need to fall asleep and fall in too. He returned home and collapsed in bed .
The next few days passed without much incident. He continued to teach. He continued to return to the river. He continued to have nothing to show for it. He was beginning to think that maybe he had imagined everything when he heard someone call his name. He whirled around and saw the blue eyed beauty Cordelia walking briskly toward him with a large smile. Zeke was so wrapped up in his search for the source of the colors that the woman he had met that same day had all but slipped his mind.
[right Then he remembered how shitty he'd been.]
His face was glowing red by the time she stood in front of him. He sheepishly waved off the comment about her presence being weird. At least [i she] didn't leave him stranded by some cursed river all alone without any attempts at getting back in touch. [#008080 "Yeah...thanks,"] he mumbled taking the slip of paper back. He unfolded it. Smiling up at him from the sheet was his own face from when he was much younger as his mother shoved a kiss into his cheek. Her neat scrawl was on the corner of the slip reading [i Love my kooky kiddo!] With thin lips, he folded the paper and tucked it into the pocket of his jacket. [#008080 "It is very important."] He cleared his throat as a moment of awkward silence passed. Then it all came tumbling out, [#008080 "Listen, I feel really bad about the other day. I mean, yeah, that was sort of a shitty thing for me to do. Really shitty actually. It's just that I saw - I mean I [i thought] I saw -"] He played the words out in his head, realized they sounded crazy, and quickly abandoned that idea before continuing. [#008080 "Well, it doesn't really matter. I'm just really sorry I sort of ran out on you like that. And, ya know, I've just had work since then so it was hard to reach out. But I appreciate you coming, really do. I just - ugh, I'm really sorry again."]
Zeke exhaled deeply, running his fingers through his hair somewhat shakily. He ignored some of the whispers of passersby insinuating that he had a date. But then...a date? That didn't sound like a bad idea. He'd never been on one that his dad didn't try to set him up for in high school, but more words tumbled out without his permission. [#008080 "But maybe you can let me make it up to you? Do you like coffee? Tea? Or, ya know, drinks in general? Cause I'd love to get you one."]
Cordelia listened, very content to hear his voice. She wanted to know more about this gentleman, but as she was about to, he cut off. So that was more than a little disappointing, or it would have been if it weren’t for the look of wonder in his eyes. It was like he saw something amazing and she wondered if he always had a fabulous spark to him when he was interested in something. But it was just that, he was interested in something off in the water. Turning her head quickly to look out at the flowing river tide, she was just in time to catch the second glimmer. Oh no.
Then he was off, trouncing into the water with little care, or so it seemed. [+mediumaquamarine "Um, Zeke, maybe you should come back."] Her voice was on the quiet side, but there was a hint of urgency to it. It seemed he didn't hear her.
When nothing more came, a wave of relief washed over her, but the man was somewhat frantic. Confusion and urgency mingled on his features, as he couldn't seem to put more than two words together that made sense. He took the litmus paper from her and rushed off. Cordelia barely had time to say goodbye, let alone ask if they might be able to meet again. The woman watched his back until he was out of view.
When his form was gone from her vibrant blue eyes, she turned to the waterfront. [+mediumaquamarine "Brook, I know that was you! What the heck?"] Her face was somewhere between a look of anger and a pout.
There was silence for a moment, but eventually a woman surfaced from the water, eyeing Cordelia with a smirk. [+seagreen “Oh come now, I was just trying to help you out. Why are you so mad?”]
[+mediumaquamarine “You know what you did."] Her eyes narrowed at the other woman. Her short blonde hair clung to the face framing her cheeks, but covering her eyes and making it hard to tell if she was even paying attention to what Cordelia was saying.
[+seagreen "You mean save you from what looked like the most boring man alive? Yeah, I did that, you are welcome."] Her sass was spoken thickly through a smirk.
The brunette retorted with a matter of fact sort of tone. [+mediumaquamarine "He was fun. You don't know what you are talking about."] Her arms crossed in front of her, signifying she it was not up for debate and that any attempts would be promptly ignored.[+mediumaquamarine "Now leave me alone and stay out of my business."]
[+seagreen "Whatever,"] Brook did not seem all that hurt, nor deterred, by the comment. [+seagreen "See you later."]
Wrinkling her nose, Cordelia was still peeved. She looked back the way Zeke had gone, kind of hoping that by some miracle he might come back. Didn't happen, but she did notice something else. There was a paper on the ground; she thought he must have dropped it. It was tightly folded and by the looks of the bits she could see, there was writing on it. The woman didn’t want to invade his privacy, so she left it folded, but she decided then and there to try and return it to him. So after sticking around for what she thought was an acceptable amount of time, the woman headed home for the evening.
Over the course of the next few days, the blue-eyed beauty made it a point to go down to the river. Her main focus being on the place that she previously met the man, but unfortunately he never came. That or she never ran into him, which was probably more likely with how fascinated with this mystery he was.
By the third day, Cordelia gave up on that tactic. However, she hadn’t given up as a whole. She recalled he worked at the high school. Would it be going to far to drop by? What’s more, would she even be allowed in? Well, she wouldn’t know until she tried. So after looking around online and discovering when the school day ended, she headed that way.
The walkways in front of the school building were crowded with adolescents. Many of them stared at her, which made her feel overtly self-aware. Was there something on her face? No, she made sure there wasn’t, it was probably that she was swimming against the stream as they all piled out to freedom. Luckily, none of them said anything as she walked by. However, she did stop one of the older girls to ask about a substitute science teacher whose first name was Zeke, unfortunately Cordelia hadn’t gotten his surname. But it was for not, the senior didn’t recall any teachers who were talk, dark, and handsome as the woman described. Sighing, the Cordelia was beginning to think this was a bad idea when she caught sight of just the person she was looking for rushing out. Seemed like he was also in a hurry to be rid of his place. Did he have plans perhaps?
Getting a little closer so that they might cross paths, she waved. [+mediumaquamarine “Zeke,”] there was a bright smile plastered on her face, even before their eyes met. She waited till they were a tad closer and out of the way of all the traffic to start a legitimate conversation. [+mediumaquamarine “I’m sorry if this is kind of weird, I just didn’t know anywhere else to find you.”] Taking the paper from her dress pocket, she extended it to him. [+mediumaquamarine “You dropped this the other day… I didn’t know if it was important so I wanted to make sure it got back to you.”]
Zeke had never considered the fact that there were people in the world who had never been exposed to high school before. For a moment he thought about the experience in a new light. The cliques, the lunch periods, the drama…all things considered, yeah, it could be considered a ‘blast.’ At least it could be viewed in that light while taking in the experiences as a student, anyways. As a substitute teacher, on the other hand, it was more along the lines of a glorified babysitter. It was constantly keeping an eye on students, acting as an isolated entity among the faculty, and counting down the seconds until the bell rang. But it still wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
The man cast a side eye at Cordelia as she proceeded to slip the papers into the water. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her to perform the task, but he just wanted to see if his help was needed. The ritual of the thing wasn’t difficult, so it was highly unlikely that any assistance was necessary, but it didn’t hurt to check. Once he realized that she could handle herself he started to zero in on what she was saying.
He scoffed a little at the idea of Conway being an ideal spot for a vacation – especially for a family. With all the lore surrounding the place, it was hardly an appropriate place to get away from the stress of a day-to-day routine. But if it happened to be a tradition for the family, maybe they found something worthwhile to continue returning. The need to visit the sleepy little town baffled him further when she revealed that her family owned and managed a beachfront property. What need did they have to get away? He’d take the salty ocean spray over the babbling freshwater any day if he wasn’t already committed to the latter. [#008080 “Maybe we can trade places.”] he chuckled jokingly since each seemed to covet the other’s situation.
When asked about his other various hobbies, Zeke’s gaze lowered to the water as he finished up with the last of the tests. He gave a halfhearted shrug in response. As much as he wanted to pique her interests and wow her with his interesting lifestyle, there wasn’t much to offer. Cycling, Netflix binges, and debating on Internet forums over the latest Oscar nominees hardly seemed like an exhilarating set of activities. [#008080 “No, not the only one, but it – “] He cut himself off mid-sentence.
Just as those dull, gray eyes had been rising from the water to meet her spectacular blue ones he paused. He looked back down again. There was an intensity to his gaze that had thus far been unmatched. Zeke’s stare was glued to the water before him and narrowing as he focused on the river. He blinked several times, wondering if what he thought he saw had been a simple trick of the light. Suddenly, it happened again: the crystal clear blue waters of the river rippled with a shimmery iridescence that contained every color on the spectrum imaginable. Quick as the event occurred, however, it vanished. The man waited for the same thing to happen a third time but was disappointed.
With little concern for the wetness of his shoes now, he waded into the water in a hurry to the exact spot where the colors had appeared. There was nothing out of the ordinary to be found, but Zeke was certain of what he saw. He splashed around a bit more – probably looking a little more than crazed at this point – before he turned back to Cordelia. What little color there was in his pale face had all but vanished; he looked as though he had seen a ghost. Muttering nonsense to himself as he waded back to the bank, Zeke quickly gathered his things including rudely snatching back what Cordelia held. [#008080 “Thanks. Sorry. Have to. Yes. See.”] He managed to sputter in her general direction between disconnected thoughts.
Zeke scrambled back up the hill toward his bike and, without even putting on his helmet, took off quickly back home, leaving the woman by the banks.
Cordelia thought it was neat that he had come and gone. Traveling was nice. Or she thought it would be. There were a lot of things that she would like to see in the world, but doubted she would have the chance to. Her own family moved around a good deal, but it was always within the same areas.
[+mediumaquamarine “Well, they say people always find a way back home.”] She spoke with a smile. That was especially true with smaller communities like this. Though, Conway wasn’t super tiny by any means, but compared to actual cities throughout the states it was not much.
The woman happily took his extended hand to get down the light slope to the water’s edge. She was hesitant to let go of his hand after that. This area was much rockier than the previous one. The flip-flops she wore were not ideal for this terrain, but she released him all the same. If she fell, it would be better if she did so on her own and did not drag him down with her. [+mediumaquamarine “Thank you!”] Her appreciation was given excitedly as he continued to tell her a bit more about himself. She held on to every detail, absorbing them like a sponge.
He did not seem very enthusiastic about his job, but she thought it was great. [+mediumaquamarine “It might seem boring or normal to you, but I was homeschooled. High school seems like it would have been a blast.”] Though to be honest she had only really seen it in movies and such. She wasn’t so naïve to take that as reality, but it must have been better than sitting in front of a computer screen and getting help from your parents and elder siblings.
Accepting the supplies to continue with his testing of the water, Cordelia got straight to work, but continued to listen. She was a little disappointed when the conversation was turned back to her, though that only meant he was considerate, not wanting to only talk about him self. Although, she would not have minded.
She didn’t have much time to respond before he mentioned not seeing her around. Then he sort of spiraled from there. The woman’s face darkened to a pinkish shade of red. And the way he seemed to fumble with his sweet comment was all the more endearing. [+mediumaquamarine “Um, well,”] her eyes fell down to the water. The little slips of litmus paper were darkening to the same shade of green as before. It didn’t seem there would be anything odd to find in this location either. A distraction that let her clear her head a little bit.
[+mediumaquamarine “Well, you are kind of right. I’m not really from around here, but we visit every year around this time. Conway is pretty this time of year, so my family always makes the trip.”] A tradition that had been going longer than she had been alive, but Cordelia liked this place, so she didn’t mind too much. [+mediumaquamarine “I guess since it’s a more of a vacation spot for me I never had the chance to fully absorb all of those superstitions.”]
Glancing back up at Zeke, his face had just about returned to its regular shade, so she felt a little less self-conscious and went back to an average amount of eye contact. [+mediumaquamarine “Normally I stay over in Clearview.”] It was a coastal town, just shy of fifty miles from Conway and not much bigger. [+mediumaquamarine “My family owns a lot of beachfront property, so I help manage it in that area.”] It consisted of a lot of doing nothing; just making sure everything was working properly, which it usually was. [+mediumaquamarine “It’s not the most exciting thing, but I really shouldn’t complain since it is easy and I have plenty of free time.”] She laughed halfheartedly; not really content with how things were, but also not brave enough to step out on her own.
Trying to move on from her negativity, the brunette quickly pushed the conversation elsewhere. [+mediumaquamarine “So, when you are not meticulously testing the PH of local waters, what do you do?”] She was curious as to how he spent his time away from the river. [+mediumaquamarine “I can’t imagine this is your only hobby.”] Her voice returned to a more joyful, almost playful tone, as she continued to question him.
Cordelia finished up with her second paper tester. The same results again. At this point she was not expecting to find anything different, though that mattered very little to her. He had one more and they would be finished with this spot.
Zeke watched Cordelia as she pushed herself to her feet, noting the distance between them. He felt his breath hitch ever so slightly but, moved away from her in order to refocus. The man faced another problem when he ascended the bank and spotted his bike, however. Almost in tune with his own thoughts, the woman brought up the fact that he had ridden it to the river. A warm, unwelcome heat began to flood his cheeks as he quickly scrambled to think up some excuse as to why he had such a modest form of transportation as opposed to a vehicle.
[#008080 "Yeah...that's me,"] he said with a sigh and an unenthusiastic gesture to the bike. Before Zeke could cover for himself however, the woman was apologizing. He turned toward her with a furrowed brow, the redness ebbing out from his cheeks slowly. [#008080 "Oh, please, you don't need to apologize. We can both walk now."] His lips pulled up into a reassuring grin and he kicked the stand from under the bike, taking it by the handles instead. [#008080 "Just this way then."] Zeke began walking ahead of Cordelia and tried not to visibly stiffen when, instead of walking behind him or rushing ahead, she opted to walk beside him. Once again, she was very close.
As the two walked together, there was a brief silence between them. As much as the man wanted to think nothing of it, he fidgeted a little uncomfortably. How to make a good impression? Even more importantly, how to make good conversation? He ran through a list of things in his mind, trying to settle on one that would stick. Family: too personal; he didn't have any right to nose around in that business. Movies: too presumptive; she might think he was trying to figure that out in order to ask her to one. Hobbies: too broad; in any case, he would have to talk about his in return and with the plastic baggie of pH papers in hand, that was obviously far from interesting. Eventually he landed on asking her what motivated her to hang around the river that day. That was interesting, present, and compelling conversation - or, at the very least, it was the best he could do for the time being. After replaying how to phrase the question in his mind multiple times - even going so far as to mouth it inconspicuously while they walked - he finally opened his mouth and --
[#ADD8E6 "So, are you originally from this area? And if this is personal research, what do you normally do for a living?"]
[right Beaten to the punch.]
Slightly deflated he hadn't gotten to initiate the conversation, but also slightly relieved that there finally was something to talk about, Zeke nodded in response to the first one. [#008080 "Oh, yes, Conway-boy born and raised."] He paused for a moment before amending the statement. [#008080 "Well, I was born here, at any rate. I lived here with my mom until I was around eleven then went to live with my dad in Florida until about a year ago."] He omitted the reason. [#008080 "Now I'm back. Home sweet home."]
Once the two had reached the next section of the river, Zeke propped his bike up against a tree and descended the bank. It was easier to maintain one's footing here, but the man offered a hand to Cordelia to help her down anyways as he continued talking. [#008080 "For now, I've got some work up at the high school."] He considered omitting the fact that he was a substitute teacher too. He wasn't necessarily ashamed of the work, but he certainly wasn't proud of it either. Still, there was a nagging inside that urged him to want to be honest with her. [#008080 "I'm a sub there. Bit boring, really, but not any more so than this."] With a laugh, he handed her more pH papers of her own and some bags with which to separate them.
[#008080 "So what about you?"] He asked in return as he began the mundane task of dunking the slips into the waters again. [#008080 "Are you new here? It's not a very large town and I've managed to reacquaint myself with lots of the others around here, but I don't think I've seen you ever before."] Zeke sent her a pointed look over the thick, plastic frames of his glasses. [#008080 "I definitely would have remembered."]
That last bit sort of slipped out. It was evident by the way his eyes widened and his mouth tightened. Quickly he moved his attention back to the water, trying to cover for himself. [#008080 "I-I mean it's that [i and], you know, and everyone else who, um, who's lived here a bit stays away from the, uh, the-the river. Like you said, most people avoid it."] Smooth.
Her face flushed at his compliment. After that she didn’t even care that he did not provide much in the way of input. And she all but forgot about it, and how weird she’d been only moments ago, when she received his thanks. His few words of praise and thanks had her giddy. [+mediumaquamarine “You are absolutely welcome!”] Her words were full of excitement as she mirrored back the genuineness he was exuding.
The way he twisted her own words back at her after that, made her heart sink. His logic was sound. Just as she was about to try and argue with him, tell him that having two people were cut the time in half and therefore the danger, he seemed to fall back on his own.
Her watery blue eyes stayed trained on him as he stood. He offered to keep a look out for her and she beamed. [+mediumaquamarine “Okay! I can do that. It should definitely be safe with more than one of us.”] Cordelia knew that wasn’t necessarily true, but she was too excited to show any signs of doubt.
Standing, she resisted the urge to grab his arm by clasping her hands behind her back. Though she was still standing a little closer than a normal person might have been. The brunette didn’t bother to ask where they were going next. She would follow him wherever without a care. But before they could get going, her gaze went to his bike, the red helmet sticking out spectacularly amongst all the green of the flourishing riverside.
[+mediumaquamarine “Oh, you rode here, didn’t you?”] She felt a bit bad knowing she was going to slow him down even more. [+mediumaquamarine “I am sorry… I walked.”] Steering them back towards the path, Cordelia allowed him the time to gather up the rest of his things so that they could walk with one another. When he didn’t seem too perturbed, the woman felt a little bit better, but silently promised herself not to be so much of a bother in the future.
Along the way, the pair infrequently passed others along the path. No one else seemed interested in the river, and some of the older folk wouldn’t even look that way. The superstition of its danger ran deep in this place. It made her a hair nervous, so Cordelia began to talk to distract herself. It wasn’t hard; she had been dying to know more about Zeke forever. This was finally her chance.
[+mediumaquamarine “So, are you originally from this area?”] This wasn’t exactly a tourist trap, so she couldn’t think of a whole lot of reasons to come here if a person didn’t have family in town. [+mediumaquamarine “And if this is personal research, what do you normally do for a living?”] There were a thousand more questions buzzing in her head, but she left it at that for the moment. Bombarding him was not on her to do list.
The walk to the next section of waterfront was filled with the same sort of blooming views as where they’d been previously. But after a while the landscape of the bank started to change. The last section was more rocky, millions of multicolor pebbles lining and containing the water. Here it was different. The turn of the estuary housed a less tranquil section of river. And after years of being bashed by turbulent waters around the bend, the bank was left sandy. Cordelia couldn't help but be glad for that. It would be less slick, so her new friend probably wouldn't slip into the water again.
[#008080 “Cordelia.”] He repeated softly with a grin. He liked the way the word danced on his tongue. There was an inherent grace and gentleness to the name that suited the woman perfectly. [#008080 “Pretty,”] he added, referring not just to her name.
A hard lump formed in his throat when she brushed up against him once again to take the slip of paper. This time, at least, he did not fall into the water. But he did avert his eyes quickly. He did not want to tempt fate a second time. The sloshing of his soaked sock inside his shoe was a cold, wet reminder of that. At least she had not laughed. After being surrounded by so many teens so often, he was accustomed to being ridiculed. He certainly wasn't going to judge his self worth from childish teenagers, but a hurried apology was a nice change of pace from the alternative.
He watched her closely as she moved closer to the water's edge. His muscles tensed ever so slightly, ready to reach out and catch her if she were to fall. Though he suspected she could carry herself a little less awkwardly than he had. As she lowered the strip into the water he continued to look on. His nervous slightly infatuated stare, however, melted away to reveal a more hardened and concentrated look. Her beauty, no matter how alluring, could not distract him from doing some actual work. And who knows? Perhaps the river would offer her some contrasting results.
Zeke only nodded his approval when she asked how she was doing. He might not have thought anything of it if she had left it at that; the teacher in him had taken over at this point. Help only when absolutely necessary and allow the student to hone their problem-solving skills on their own. Hence, his simple curt response. Yet he detected the sloppy cover-up. After all, he was pretty well familiarized with such things. He raised an eyebrow at her, wondering why she felt the need to lie around him. Did she feel unsafe? Had he made too bad of an impression? Was she hiding something? The thoughts buzzed in his brain a bit, yet he said nothing. He wasn't a forward kind of guy. He opted instead to [s obsess] ponder over it later in his free time.
The man deflated a little bit when the paper revealed the same coloring as it had for the past forty-five minutes. He held out his hand without any enthusiasm for the paper. Yet she held it in the water for just a tad longer. Much like he did. A small smile tugged at his lips and even though he had nothing to with it, he felt a little proud. Or, at the very least, he admired the fact that she had the same affinity for measured assurances. He took the paper back, continuing to grin. [#008080 “Excellent job, Cordelia. Thank you.”] There was genuine encouragement in his voice; the teacher in him was in full swing. When she offered to continue helping, however, he was a little caught off guard.
[#008080 “Oh.”] He said, blinking in surprise. [#008080 “Erm…I mean, you are certainly welcome to join me, and I truly appreciate the help, but I certainly hope you don’t feel obligated to do so.”] He shrugged and motioned toward the bag. [#008080 “It isn’t exactly the most riveting thing in the world, after all. Plus, if I’m in danger of being here,”] he followed her lead and chuckled a bit before continuing, [#008080 “You are as well.”] Even as the words were leaving Zeke’s mouth he was kicking himself in the ass for it. What was with it and his obsession with committing to solitude? Here was this beautiful woman who actively wanted to spend time with him performing an otherwise boring task. Honestly the last thing he wanted to do was push her away. He quickly backtracked. [#008080 “I mean, you are, of course, already here so what’s the harm? But,”] He collected his things and towered over her crouched figure. [#008080 “If you watch my back, I’ll watch yours.”]
Not accustomed to being yelled at, Cordelia was somewhat taken aback by his initial reaction to her presence. That soon faded though and he was stumbling all over himself and into the water. She honestly hadn’t meant to startle the guy; she felt a little guilty. Perhaps she should have just left him be. This was all off to a very rough start.
[+teal “Ah, sorry.”] He apologized before she had the chance to.
Well, this was going spectacularly. Not. [+mediumaquamarine “No, no, no, I am sorry. I did not mean to frighten you…”] Quickly, she tried to rectify the situation with her own apology.
Things lightened up quite a bit from there, which the woman was grateful for. If it hadn’t she might just have ran away and there would be no recovering from that. Cordelia would never be able to show her face to him again.
As the wind blew softly, it carried his voice as he explained what it was he was trying to do. She wasn’t much of a science buff, but it was interesting when he said it. Smiling faintly, she looked at the plastic baggy of little green strips. [+mediumaquamarine “That is neat.”] The enthusiasm behind her voice was genuine, though she wasn’t sure how knowing how acidic the water was would help him to figure out what was wrong with the river. Their brains just worked differently she supposed.
As useless as she thought the task to be, she jumped at the chance to try it herself. [+mediumaquamarine “Yes, very much so.”] Her excitement only egged on by his sidelong smile.
Just as she was about to take the small scrap of paper, something in his smile changed. Then he introduced himself. Considering she was the one to approach him, Cordelia should have been the first to make introductions. Unfortunately it seemed her manners were out the window at the moment, she was too excited at finally having the chance to talk with him. Zeke, as he said his name was.
[+mediumaquamarine “Oh, yes, I am Cordelia. It is a pleasure to meet you… Zeke, that is a nice name. I like it.”] She smiled brightly, countenance matching the sunny atmosphere around them perfectly.
Taking the strip, her thin well-manicured fingers gently brushed up against his larger hand. It was barely more than a whisper of contact, but it made her nervous. The brunette still couldn’t believe she was doing this right now. Shifting around, she moved to her knees to get a little closer to the water’s edge. Zeke had mentioned it being slippery, so she did not want to look an absolute fool and fall in. From there she dunked the pH paper into the lazy moving water. The river must have been deeper here for it to go so slowly.
[+mediumaquamarine “This is how you were using it before, right?”] Cordelia had wanted to be sure that she didn’t hinder his progress further by messing up, but her face heated up as she realized she had all but admitted she had been watching him. [+mediumaquamarine “I mean, I was walking by and I think this is how I saw you doing it.”] Her attempt to not look entirely creepy fell somewhat flat with how defensive she sounded. And so she went quiet for a bit and hoped he would not think too hard on it.
After a bit, the paper changed color; it was the same shade of green as the others she had seen in the Ziploc. That meant she had probably done it correctly, which was sensational. Still, she hesitated to take it out, waiting just a touch longer before calling it good. When she was absolutely certain she had left the tester in the water for long enough, she pulled back and let the remaining water drip off and back in the channel. Cordelia passed it back to the man when it was no longer dribbling.
[+mediumaquamarine “Here you are.”] She beamed; glad to be helpful. [+mediumaquamarine “Um, you said you were going to test different spot. Would you perhaps like some help? I mean, the faster you get away from the river the better, right?”] Chuckling lightly at the superstition, but there was a hint of seriousness to her words. He really shouldn’t hang around for too long, something might happen, and if it did she would feel terrible.
pH testing was a lonely, boring business. Slip the paper in the water, wait fifteen seconds , take it out, compare the color to the chart on hand, and repeat. Zeke wanted five samples from each individual location within a twenty-foot radius of where his mother had been discovered. Needless to say, the repetitive action lost its appeal rather quickly. The young man found himself berating such fruitless efforts. It had been a full year back in town with next to nothing to show for it. His coworkers had attempted to welcome him into the fold of friends from time to time, offered him drinks or an invitation to a game night on occasion, but he voluntarily chose to keep the company of a damn river instead. What a life.
Zeke took the strip of paper out of the water and compared it to the chart. The newly changed color revealed the same results as the rest: nothing. The acidity of the water was relatively neutral, if not slightly above. The man exhaled an unenthusiastic sigh, placing the strip into a ziplock bag with the rest. A gentle breeze ruffled his dark hair, displacing a few strands and trapping them behind his glasses. Zeke took the frames off and combed a hand through his hair, forcing the strays back into their original positions. He brought the glasses down to the hem of his shirt, wiping the lenses dully as he had done countless times before. As he did so, however, he thought he saw a figure on the opposite end of the bank. It was a bit blurry, but he was certain there was something or some[i one] there. And was this mystery figure…[i staring] at him?
Zeke jammed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose for a better look, but whatever it was had vanished. He blinked a few times. The man was not usually one to give in to fanciful things such as curious disappearing bystanders, but he was sure that something had been there. And it unnerved him. After all, it was no secret that whenever civilians poked their nose too close to the river, they were likely to run into misfortune. But then again, if there were people out to get him, he must be close to some kind of breakthrough. Zeke set back to his work.
A few moments of silence passed as he busied himself with his task. Slip, wait, take, compare, repeat. Slip, wait, take, compare, repeat. Slip, wait, take, compare, repeat. And so on. He got to his fifth strip for the location when someone chimed out behind him with a question. Despite the natural charm of the disembodied voice, Zeke had figured himself alone and he became quite startled. His heart jolted in his chest and he stumbled forward, dropping the pH paper into the water. The greedy current swept it away instantly. The man’s eyebrows scrunched together in frustration and he rounded on his “attacker.”
[#008080 “Well, I [i was] conducting some personal research on the pH levels of the river here,”] he snapped bitterly. [#008080 “But now I-“] Zeke broke off midsentence when he whirled around and was overtaken with beauty. A woman in a sundress was standing over him with the wind in her hair and the sun at her back. She looked like she commanded the springtime. The man did not believe in love at first sight. That certainly wasn’t what this was. But there was definitely attraction. He faltered. [#008080 “Now I – um, well, I-I mean I –“] he had to swallow hard as his throat suddenly felt very dry. [#008080 “I think I, erm, I have a few more.”] Zeke did not do anything wrong, but he sounded extremely apologetic nonetheless.
He did not tear his eyes away from the woman as she lowered herself down to crouch next to him. She was so close that he could smell her; her scent was that of flowers and freshly fallen rain. As she looked at him in a friendly way, her arm just barely brushed up against his own. Not even two seconds afterward, Zeke stumbled and accidentally soaked his right shoe in the river. A short string of curses escaped his lips as he jerked it out of the water. There was a distinct heat he felt rising in his cheeks as he turned back to the woman in the sundress.
[#008080 “Ah, sorry,”] he mumbled out of embarrassment. [#008080 “Bit slippery, is all, I suppose.”] He cleared his throat in an attempt to shake off whatever was putting him so out of touch with things. He adjusted his glasses with shaky hands. They trembled more with adrenaline rather than nervousness, but it didn’t look good either way. He moved his focus back to the river. Perhaps if he kept his eyes off of her, she would stop affecting him so strongly. Sure enough, he found his words with a bit more ease.
[#008080 “Yeah. Um, yeah, I suppose not many are keen on being here. But I’m not doing much.”] He held up his ziplock of used pH papers. [#008080 “These are pH papers; they test acidity and alkalinity. So, you know, I’m just looking at some of the different spots here and, uh, yeah...”] He lost his train of thought momentarily as he looked at her again. [#008080 “Just, uh, seeing if there’s maybe anything out of the ordinary.”] He shrugged and dropped the bag back onto the ground to swap it out for the unused strips. He offered her one with a sideways smile. [#008080 “Would you like to try?”] A flash of self-deprecation flashed across his face. [#008080 “Oh, um, my mine is Zeke, by the way.”]
Another beautiful day, bright sun, warm weather, and bustling people. Spring was full of all three and even when the sun wasn’t shining, the heavy spurts of rain brought an assortment of flowers. They bloomed near the river and painted the bank in a mosaic of fascinating colors. Cordelia was fond of this time of year. It was most definitely a change of pace for her and her family. Although, that was a front full of tension these days.
[I [+mediumaquamarine “I’m tired of this. Can’t we just move on?”]]
[I [b “And I’m tired of arguing with you about it. This is the way things are.”]]
She truly was tired of it. No one seemed to be on her side about anything. She wanted to get away from it all. But that meant she would need to break away, and she wasn’t sure how to make that happen. She’d taken a couple of baby steps, so to speak, but she wasn’t sure it would be enough in the long run.
Sighing, Cordelia sprawled out on the sloped bank of the river. Despite the sun being out, the deep green grass was cool against her skin. It acted as a small layer of insulation between the warm air and the cool soil below. The faint dampness was comforting and she didn’t move from that spot for some time. In that time she let her thoughts run wild. Ranging from light daydreams to grand fantasies, she was rather enjoying herself even if it was completely unproductive.
A light breeze rolled by, stirring Cordelia’s hair all into a flutter. Her hand moved to brush the stray strands from her face, but made no other attempt to calm the mess that was on the rest of her head. With the wind picking up, she didn’t hear the man on the other side of the river. It was the flash of movement at the water’s edge that teed her off.
Eyes flashing to his figure, she recognized him, but only by face. His name still eluded her. He came to the channel often, so naturally she took notice of him. Her bright blue eyes watched his every move with interest. The young woman didn’t know a whole lot about the man, other than the fact that he was probably looking into the disappearances and deaths that cropped up every year. That seemed to be the only reason anyone out of adolescence came to the water in this area. What stood out to her was that he’d managed to stick to it so long. He was persistent. And while it was an impossible endeavor, she thought it was noble all the same. That was more than she could say for any of the other men she’d met, and so she found herself quite enamored with this stranger. It was almost a hobby of hers to look out for him, which was probably one of the only reasons he hadn’t been targeted yet. Those who snooped too far into this mystery had a tendency of disappearing.
By this time, she had sat up to watch him. His actions left her enrapt. Perhaps a little too much so, as it took a moment for it to sink in that he’d glanced back over to her. Panicking, Cordelia wasn’t sure what to do. He was going to think she was watching him, which she was. But she didn’t know how he’d take that. So before he could fully do a double take, the brunette was gone.
Out of sight, the woman was kicking herself. She’d been saying she would go and talk to him. Just now had been the perfect chance. It might have even seemed natural. Sighing, she wondered if it was too late... Even if it was, she knew she’d regret it later if she left without trying. After all, what was the worst that could happen, scaring him away? In the long run, that wouldn’t be too bad. In fact it might actually be the better option. Convincing herself that the stakes weren’t that high, she pulled herself from her hiding place and glanced back to him. He’d gone back to whatever it was he was doing before.
Using a nearby park bridge, Cordelia crossed the rushing water. It roared hasty over large rocks below. The cascading water was loud; she thought it strange that so little water made so much noise. Although she only considered it a small amount because she was comparing it to the infinite vastness of the ocean.
It wasn’t long before she came up on the man. Her sundress swayed softly as the intermittent winds passed by. He seemed focused on what was in front of him. So much so that Cordelia didn’t think he noticed her standing there. Taking his relative disinterest into account, it was clear she had overreacted a few minutes ago. Embarrassed in hindsight, she stood there quietly watching him for a little while longer. He on the other hand was staring down at a little green strip of paper. What could possibly be so interesting about it?
Motioning to the little strips of paper in his hand, Cordelia broke her silence. [+mediumaquamarine “What are you doing?”] Her voice was songlike and words unshaking, even though she was incredibly nervous. Raising a hand, she ran it through her light chestnut hair, hoping it might tame it some before he looked her way.
Cordelia was beautiful and she knew it. This was one of the times she felt it might come in handy. Crouching down next to him, she was a little closer than what was actually necessary for a conversation. [+mediumaquamarine “I mean, most people avoid the river this time of year don’t they?”] Nothing she said came out accusatory, after all she was down there too and it would only invite him to prod back at her. She hoped to avoid that if at all possible.
There was a crispness in the air that day. It was the sort that came around just as the leaves transformed from bright hues of green to faded colors of red and orange. A gentle breeze blew through the sleepy town that Sunday afternoon, and with it came the light smell of pumpkin treats being prepared in lieu of the upcoming holiday season. The breeze sent puffy white clouds drifting lazily across the sky and eleven-year-old Ezekiel Young watched them go with a sad sort of thoughtful look on his face. What a beautiful day...for a funeral.
|| Subject: Janine Alana Bennett-Young
DOB | May 27, 1965
Age | 38
Race | Caucasian
Weight | 146lbs
Height | 5'5"
Hair | Brown
Eyes | Brown
[#DAA520 "Ya mind lookin' this over for me, son?"] Ezekiel tore his eyes away from the figure covered in sheets to the slightly overweight mustached man talking to him. He held out a few sheets of paper and shook it slightly as he spoke, as if that would somehow make it more enticing to take. [#DAA520 "Just gotta make sure everything here checks out."] The young boy took the pages reluctantly, but it wasn't long after he had gone to reread the incident report that he found his eyes wandering up back to the body on the cold metal slab.
The police brought the boy in to identify the body. It wasn't the most ideal situation - exposing a kid to his parent's corpse - but finding other people to identify the body of a single mother who worked from home in a remote area was a tad difficult. Her only child was, unfortunately, the only option. Although the police implored the mortician to try and make the body look presentable for a child, there was little that could be done considering the body had been missing at the mercy of Rosebell Channel for days. The image was seared into Ezekiel's brain.
When the police had pulled the sheet off of Janine's face, Ezekiel almost stumbled back in horror. His mother's brown hair was still soaking wet and twisted up in a tangled mat of twigs, leaves, and dirt. The color and life that once lit up her smiling face had all drained out so that all that was left was a ghostly paleness. Her full cheeks had sunken into her face, accentuating her jaw and cheekbones and giving off a skeletal look. Judging by the shallow cuts and scrapes all along her face, it seemed as though the river roughed her up something awful. Despite the frightful condition she was in, Ezekiel managed to tearfully confirm her identity to the police.
The poor boy could feel the hot, salty sting of tears in his eyes once more as he stared at his mother's corpse. His body buckled a bit when, sensing the young boy's emotions were bubbling up, the mustached man clasped his shoulder with a firm grip. [#DAA520 "C'mon son, let's have a look at those papers somewhere outta here, alright?"] Although there was a gruffness in the mustache's voice, there was also an attempt at reassuring kindness. Ezekiel loosened the grip on the papers that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. The young boy attempted to keep his focus on smoothing out the newly created wrinkles on the files as opposed to the horrifying image of his mom as he was led out of the mortuary.
[#B22222 "Janine Alana Bennett-Young was a true light in this world. She was loved by all her friends and neighbors alike, many of whom would praise her positive attitude and parenting abilities. But sometimes, we are so attracted to how brightly a flame burns that we cannot see the darkness that surrounds it."] The pastor paused for effect with a hint of a silent smugness about his own analogy, in spite of the unfortunate circumstances under which it was written. The few spectators that came to the funeral stifled their sniffles and shifted slightly in the silence. [#B22222 "Our dearly beloved Janine suffered so greatly in this life that she felt the need to take it away. We gather here today in remembrance of her happy spirit with prayers that she suffer no more in the next life. Her flame was snuffed out too soon. But whatever she sought out, we hope our Lord, whose light never wavers, guides her there. Amen."] There was a gentle scattered applause as the pastor descended from his pedestal. Various people clad in black stepped forward to say some additional words, but Ezekiel tuned them out.
The boy exhaled deeply, a small bouquet of white roses clutched tightly in his hand. He looked way, way down into the deep depths of the earth where the cheap casket containing his mother rested. If she were alive, she'd hate it down there. Ezekiel's mother never liked small, cramped spaces. It wasn't exactly claustrophobia so much as it was a preference for open spaces that allowed light to warm a room; that's practically how every room in their house was designed. She would love to sprawl out on her back, fully extended under the sunlight as she read her Entertainment Weekly magazines. Sometimes Ezekiel would catch her like this and lie on his back perpendicular to her, propping his legs up on her tummy while he played his DS. Every so often, she'd reach down and tussle his hair. Ezekiel did the same to his own hair absentmindedly as he stared down at the grave.
As the funeral came to an end, Ezekiel stepped toward the hole in the ground and tossed in his flowers unceremoniously. [#9ACD32 "Are you ready to go, Ezekiel?"] The boy turned and looked at his father who stood smoking a cigarette. Joshua Daniel Young was a tall, slim man with a wide variety of colorful tattoos on his right arm. He sported a dark goatee and wavy hair that was cut close on the sides and left long on top. He wasn't a bad man; Ezekiel's mom had made that clear after the divorce. It was just a bad match. But now, the man was stuck with the boy as his caretaker. Ezekiel walked over to him, scrunching his nose up at the rancid smell of smoke.
[#008080 "Ready,"] he mumbled softly. [#008080 "And...I like Zeke better now."] That was only partially true. In Ezekiel's opinion the name 'Zeke' was too easy to rhyme with things like freak or creep, so he didn't want to present others with such an opportunity. But when Janine was still alive, she always fondly referred to him as Cheeky Zekey as they played innocent jokes on one another. If she liked the name, it would be good enough for him.
[#9ACD32 "Sure thing, Zeke."] His father said as he dropped the cigarette to the ground and put out the flame with the heel of his shoe. [#9ACD32 "Now let's get you home."]
[center [size17 || Fifteen Years Later ||]]
Zeke managed to make his way back to his hometown of Conway, South Carolina back in 2017. He had been staying there a year thus far. Not too long after he moved back had he found a job as a substitute teacher at Conway High. It wasn't difficult work. All one had to do was basically just show up, take roll, and follow the instructions left by the original instructor. The kids would take advantage from time to time, sure, but Zeke's backbone wasn't exactly comprised of particularly strong stuff. In any case, his current line of work wasn't what prompted his return in the first place.
A suicide, police ruled all those years ago. Zeke called bullshit. It was a cop out move because there hadn't been any sign of struggle when they found the body. Yet, there was no former evidence that a woman such as Janine Alana Bennett-Young would ever want to do such a horrendous thing. There was no history of mental illness, no prior incidents of self harm, nothing. Zeke believed that not only did his mother lead a full life, but that she deeply treasured every moment of it. So why did she die? He intended to find out.
The halls of Conway High were buzzing with anticipation as the students prepared for their final days of class. Summer vacation was quickly approaching. At this point, no one even bothered to pretend to interested in their lessons. How could they? They didn't even pack their bags with school supplies anymore. Zeke sat at his desk with his iPhone in hand, scrolling mindlessly through some BuzzFeed top fifty list while a large majority of the juniors in class did the same. Since it was the last period of the day, their attention spans were anywhere else but the tasks they were assigned.
[#DB7093 "Ayo, mister!"] One of the students called out. Zeke lifted his eyes just over the rim of his glasses.
[#008080 "It's Mister Young, um...Jake, is it?"] He referenced his attendance seating chart in order to get the name right.
[#DB7093 "Yeah, well, mister, my bus is at like the front of the line so I gotta leave early to get to it before it leaves."]
Zeke glanced at his watch before countering, [#008080 "There's only eight more minutes of class time so I'm sure you can-"]
[#DB7093 "C'mon! Mrs. Gallagher let's us do it all the time."] Zeke seriously doubted that. Even still, he rolled his eyes and nodded his head reluctantly, signaling for the class to leave. He had work to get done anyways.
When the class had emptied out of the room, Zeke made his way over to the science supply closet on the second floor of the school. He had been snatching various odds and ends for the last few months, knowing that the blame would be placed on some mischievous students. As the rest of the school flooded the place at the ringing of the bell, Zeke went over to the bike rack and input the PIN on the lock. He ignored the snickers of the students as he donned his bright red helmet and took off down the line of cars in the student pick-up area.
It wasn't long before he moved from pavement to pathway down to the familiar Rosebell Channel - the place where his mom had died. He had been here too many times to count, trying to figure out the ins and outs of what happened that day. There had been little to no progress, but he was not deterred. Kneeling next to the running current, he removed small thin slips of paper from his pockets. pH papers. He carefully lowered them into the clear water and waited for the colors to change. As the man looked around, he almost wanted for the results to turn up empty; the place, he begrudgingly had to admit, almost made for a scenic site. Almost.
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