"Crow" by Kat Franklin
1st part of a serial story
I knew Crow for exactly one year and three days. This wouldn’t feel like a lot to most people, I’m aware. The year and three days I knew Crow, however, was the longest year of my life. It was full of many things that I don’t talk about, and many things I talk about much too often. As time has moved on, that year has become a memory I’ve outgrown, like a child’s shoe that no longer fits. I’ve done away with it, or at least I’ve tried to.
I don’t think about him much, but sometimes when I’m doing the dishes, when my hands are elbow-deep in warm, soapy water, when my vacant eyes find the house he lived in, just beyond my kitchen window, I remember the boy I knew for one year and three days.
He’s been gone for two years, ten months, and two days. After two years, ten months, and two days, I really didn’t expect to find a dripping wet Crow on my doorstep.
~ ~ ~
When I met Crow, he was a scrawny thirteen year old wiping away tears. The first thing he said to me was, “I am well acquainted with storms.” When he left, leaving me wailing and heart-broken, once again he said, “I am well acquainted with storms.” As I stare at him, dumbfounded, wondering how Crow himself could be standing there before my very own eyes, in the dripping rain, no less, he smiles with exaggerated sarcasm and says again, “I am well acquainted with storms.” It was this familiar phrase that breaks the tension, and slowly I open the door to let him inside.
“Fox!” He opens his arms to me. His eyes are glittering, his grin is sharp and wicked, and the wet black hair plastered to his forehead looks nothing like the wild fluff he maintained when I last knew him. In fact, Crow looks almost professional now, if mischief were a profession. When I do not step into his open arms, some of his boisterous vibrancy drains.
“Fox?” He says again.
“Crow.” My arms are crossed over my chest, my gaze level. I can feel him taking in my new look, the longer locks of dark hair pulled back into a thick ponytail, the deeper golden of my skin now that I’ve begun to see the sun. For a moment, all he does is take me in, and I remember the mess I must have looked on the day we parted.
“You’ve come back.” I note. “I assume you’re going to tell me why.” For a couple moments more, he stares at me. It feels wrong to have Crow standing in my living room. Beside him are the stairs to the second floor, behind him is my yellow-painted front door, in front of him is me and none of that feels right. He doesn’t belong in my new life. I clear my throat and in a flurry of motion he begins talking.
“Yes! Yes, of course.” His hands move as fast as his lips, fluttering in every direction as he talks. Once again his shining, almond shaped eyes lock with mine. “I was in the neighborhood, and, well, I figured I should make sure you were still alive, because, you know, and. . .” He trails off, bringing his runaway hands back to his side. “And I’m in trouble, Fox. We’re all in trouble. It started with Mouse, Then Tortoise tried to help her, and now Crane’s with them. . . I don’t think we can help them unless we’re all there.”
It only takes me a couple of painful moments to come to the conclusion that I have to go with him. Crow doesn’t deserve my pity, nor does he deserve my help. But Mouse? Mouse never did anything wrong. And if she’s the one I’m helping, then I can pull my memories down from the shelf and dust them off. Only for Mouse. It’s after I come to this conclusion that I see Crow shaking a couple of black feathers from his long overcoat.
“Exactly what kind of trouble is Mouse in?” I take a step closer to Crow for the first time. He won’t meet my eyes when he speaks.
“She’s stuck,” He says. I suck in a breath as all the things that could mean come rushing to me. “You mean?” I can’t finish the question. He nods anyway. My legs buckle beneath me and I grab the railing to steady me.
“Hold on,” I tell him, “Let me get my things.” I walk up the stairs in a fog, my limbs moving mechanically. Mouse is stuck in the Endless Forest. She’s trapped in the body of her namesake. Crane and Tortoise must be as well, or they wouldn’t have sent Crow. And the feathers coming from Crow’s coat? He doesn’t have long either. As I’m packing, I realize my teeth have been pointier as of late. My hair has strands of red. I’m changing too. And now I have to go.