This story is by khadeejah and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Autumn came as a burnished throne, thrusting away summer in a crisp breeze, painting the world in tangerines and sending rain in the shades of warmth.
Summer waded across the mass beds of decaying leaves, ducking under the branches that obstructed her way, but sometimes tangled in her long pale hair. The wind was especially harsh today, she thought. She wondered if nature was one with her, the way it always shadowed her emotions.
Every year with autumn came spearheads, thrusting themselves into Summer’s past, forcing a hand into the deep waters of sunken memories she tried her best to bury, under facades of smiles and long lost hope.
He was present in every aspect of this season, in the auburn skies, in the warmth of fires, in the dregs of mugs, in every falling leaf. Each song in memory surfaced and whispered tunes of melancholy in her ears.
It’s been two years, and there is not one day Summer didn’t miss his presence. Ever since he sailed to Byzantium, he promised to leave no trace of his existence in her mind.
But you’re there, I sense it, I can see you, I can feel you, and I can hear, Summer thought, her eyes stinging with the events of her past. My mind is still stained with the memory of the day you decided to fall over. How your fingers slipped from mine, and you fell into a colourless world, leaving me in a world painted as a sunset.
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The day Summer first met the boy that lived in her memories, she realised that Autumn was not only a season, but a real person. He didn’t just walk into her life with love in his eyes, he came with a blazing heart and kind eyes, took his time to read every chapter instead of skipping to the interesting parts.
Many months had passed by until the two knew each other from cover to cover, and they fell in love gradually, like a glowing ember. Then all at once they burst into flames.
The first time her eyes found Autumn’s face, he showed an expression of confusion as if he seemed to recognise the on-looker. He had copper hair, gun metal eyes and laid-back posture.
Summer sat on her porch wall that night, watching time steal bits of her possessions. The stranger’s stride towards her gave off feelings of intimidation. However, the smile that dimpled his cheeks washed away the waves of fear, and by time cleaned the shores scattered with shells of doubt.
As months blurred past, little petals of secrets broke away from the façade that Summer managed to create in Autumn’s presence, or so she thought. Little did she know that Autumn was a brilliant observer. He fought off all the rumours about her and wondered how a person with such an amiable personality was compelled to face so much hatred. Autumn won her over, he could see a forest of sadness that was covered by the wrinkles beside her eyes, he knew she was depressed. Autumn thought, one day he will set the trees on fire with the lights of happiness.
Summer however, remained oblivious to Autumn’s thoughts. Nevertheless, she began to realise that nowadays her mouth curved upwards more, and her nightmares were chased away by Autumn’s comforting words. Her life that she never wanted to live, now had a purpose. With his presence Summer’s memories of being bullied, or being whipped by her foster parents, all seemed long gone. Even though the scars remained visible on her skin, Autumn erased them from her mind.
Out of the blue moon Autumn asked “What do you think we’re made of, summer?”, laying down on the grass beside me in a field of dancing weeds.
He stared at the moon with an uncanny expression. Summer couldn’t tell if he was questioning its existence or plotting something against it.
“Well …” Summer lingered on the question thoughtfully. “People say we’re made of stardust and all that gibberish, I say we’re made of matchsticks.”
He gave her a questioning look, amusement lingering in his features.
“We either stay blunt, help someone, or set the world on fire.”
“You Summer,” he replied with a lopsided smile, “You set people on fire.”
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Autumn helped Summer break away from the depression that caged her. She knew that she loved him, but felt that Autumn kept secrets from her. At that moment, Summer recalled a memory,
They had been baking apple strudels on the first of September, in a flourish, the lights in Summer’s kitchen flickered of and they were plunged into darkness. The next moment, the silence was pierced with Summer’s screams of fear, and she flailed her arms about searching for a sign of comfort.
Autumn caught hold of her and pulled her into an embrace, and then led her out into the cool night.
“I’m afraid of the dark Autumn ,” she said, breathing heavily.
Autumn gave a “hmm” of acknowledgement and caressed her hair until her breathing slowed to normal.
“Aren’t you afraid of something?” Summer asked, looking up at Autumn with curiosity.
“I don’t know Summer …” Autumn replied, he sounded faraway. He looked up at the moon, “but fear does strange things to people, sometimes fear is prejudiced.”
Autumn’s words sounded peculiar, so did his expression. But Summer thought it best to not question it.
↣ ↣ ↣ ↣ ↣
Winter had now penetrated and taken over the fall season. The sky dropped sprinkles of white glitter that slowly concealed the city in a white blanket.
Autumn strode to visit Summer with a trace of determination in his walk. He knocked on Summer’s door, not looking forward to what was going to come.
Summer opened the door in a flurry, almost as if she knew it was him who had come. Her dishevelled hair and sleepy eyes showed that she had just woken up.
Autumn’s flaming hair was powdered with snow, and he had hidden his face in the hood of his jacket.
“Ember?” Summer whispered the name she had given Autumn long ago.
Autumn felt a twinge in his heart at the sound of the name only she called him, and his head raised automatically to meet her gaze.
Summer let out a gasp at the sight of Autumn. His face looked pale, and long gashes were carved on his skin, one that cut from his nose to his chin still had not recovered from bleeding.
“I lied…” Autumn said in a voice so soft that it almost went unheard. He returned to staring at the floor, unable to meet Summer’s perplexed expression.
Summer walked closer to him, She raised her hand to his scars, tracing them with her fingers.
Autumn hissed from pain and pulled back from her touch.
Tears filled in Summer’s eyes, she couldn’t bare to see him in pain.
Autumn took all his courage to reveal the secret he kept concealed from her.
“I lied Summer,” he began, “You’re the only person who loved me for who I am, but I didn’t show you my true self.” He took a step back, he was so ashamed to even stand next to her.
“I’m a w-
“Werewolf.” Summer blurted out, “I know.”
Autumn was rendered speechless at this news, “H-how?” he asked, unable to believe that Summer had managed to uncover his mystery and had not uttered anything about it.
“You think I don’t notice?” Summer asked, tears now streamed down her face. “You think I didn’t notice that you always declined to stay with me on full moon days?” she continued,
“And that you looked frazzled afterwards?” she breathed, Summer took Autumn’s hand in hers, “I didn’t ask- she sighed , “ I didn’t ask because I knew you’d leave me if I did.”
“But Summer, you don’t want to be living with a beast.” Autumn cried. He kicked a pile of snow in frustration and began pulling at his hair in anger.
Summer strode towards him and in an instant slapped Autumn across the face, “I knew no beast!” she exclaimed.
“Your flaw doesn’t define you!” she cried, “No beast would have brought me so much happiness.”
Autumn took the broken girl in his arms, Summer’s words had destroyed the wolf in him, and surfaced memories that were impossible to let go.
“The moon may be my nightmare Summer,” he said, “But I’d split the moon to remain with you, for years to come.”
To this day Autumn’s words still lingered in her mind. Those words however, were lies. Within a week, Autumn left her in this world in a state that Summer couldn’t erase from her mind.
Every year when fall arrived, it brought memories along. The ginger leaves spiralled in the wind as Summer made her way home from her walk. Though she felt disheartened, a smile crept on her lips.
Autumn had not really left her after all.