This story is by S.O. Rhapsody and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Goodbyes to inanimate objects were stupid, honestly. Yet… here he was, mourning over the decay of a church that he hadn’t visited in nearly four decades.
One would think he’d be used to this sort of loss, but he still hated letting go.
The remains of the black walnut floorboards groaned in protest under the fall of his heavy boots, and the subtle smell of wood that had once permeated the whole building had vanished from everywhere but his memory.
Hours of hide-and-seek… of soft sermons… echoes of children’s laughter down the various hallways…
Talcott flexed his hand far enough to latch on to one of the high weed stalks that had managed to grow between the cracks in the floor, and he tangled it between the callused pads of his fingertips until his steps took him too far and it pulled free of his grip.
This was the only room of the church still standing. Although “standing” was a bit of a strong word for its current state.
Talcott came to a stop before the small crater that lay where the pulpit had rested.
It was appropriate for this room to be the last to go. The final tie to a childhood he could scarcely recall at this point.
He did remember the pulpit that was now gone. He remembered sitting inside of it, using it as a shield and clinging to Lester as fiery catapults rained upon their city. He remembered standing alongside Lester some fifteen years later by the door, both of them counting their every breath as enemies beat against the barricaded door with a ferocity that had terrified the brand-new soldiers they’d been at the time.
Yes, he and his little brother had been scared out of their wits in this place many times, yet these four walls still instilled him with a rare and restful sense of peace.
Talcott sighed, letting his silver eyes rise to the dusty rays of sunlight that were flitting through the wrecked ceiling.
“I have a plan.”
Talcott flinched. After all these years, he still was never able to sense Lester’s sneaky approaches – just more used to being surprised.
He took his time, lazily turning on his heel to find his brother with… a rope. A thick rope and a rather disturbing grin.
“You know, I was wary before I turned around.” He jabbed a finger at the rope. “That is not reassuring.”
“We’re going to strap Winona to something,” Lester continued as though Talcott hadn’t spoken. “Then, when they find her tomorrow morning, she can inform the investigators that someone threatened to kill her if they proceeded with demolishing this, ah, ever so glorious structure.”
…Usually Lester’s plans were good ones.
“…You want to get the law to start searching for us as attempted murderers?”
Lester shrugged. “I said I had a plan. I never said it was a good one.”
Talcott shook his head, laughter bubbling up in the back of his throat. “Brother, what kind of man ties up his wife and throws her in a rotting building that’s about to be destroyed?”
Lester started looping the rope so that it was in a more orderly clump. “I suppose either of us would work as well, but she’s vastly superior at acting. Do you recall how easily she can summon up those crocodile tears?”
Talcott snorted. “You mean like ninety years ago?”
“Oh, don’t bring that up–”
“When we first met her as a sweet damsel in distress–”
“And then she stole your money and dignity?”
Lester’s glare was more withering than the weeds around them that weren’t in the sunlight.
Ahhh, reminding him of that never got old.
“I hate you.” Lester tossed the rope away. “Mockery.” He flounced over to the opposite side and plopped down in the second row of pews, which was actually still upright. His coattails flared behind him, making him look every bit the dramatic little twit he was. “I try to cheer you up and all I get is mockery. Obviously, I did not intend that as a true plan.”
Talcott chuckled, moving to take a seat on the pew in front of Lester’s. “Consider me cheered up. At least a little.” He shifted, his knee shooting pain up the rest of his leg uncomfortably, as his body always did for a few days after he’d lost and regrown a limb.
Lester smirked. “Mission success, then.” A couple moments later his expression grew soft. “You really care for this place, don’t you?”
“Do you not?”
It was hard for him to see things from his brother’s point of view sometimes. Lester was so much more suited for their type of life. The world changing around them seemed of so little consequence to him. He relished their ability to see nations come and go and watch those around them grow from adolescence to elderly world impactors. It was almost as though he was born to be an immortal instead of made into one.
Talcott knew he and Winona played a large part of that. Somehow Lester didn’t mind outliving everyone else so long as he had the two of them. Maybe Talcott needed to take a page from his book. Finding a woman to spend eternity with was easier said than done, though.
Lester flicked his gaze around the room. “Perhaps a little. My memories are a tad more indistinct than yours, though. Doesn’t quite hold the same meaning for me.”
Talcott took a long look at his brother’s face as his eyes roamed over the few remaining sun-stained paintings that were barely still tethered to the walls. “…You don’t remember being here at all, do you?”
Lester flashed him something that was a cross between a grin and a grimace. “Not in the slightest. But, in my defense, that was centuries ago.”
Talcott let a puff of air pass between his lips. He too had many chunks of his life missing from his mind. How could any of their kind not after how much they experienced? But this…
“I suppose it’s for the best.” It saddened him that Lester didn’t remember. Or care. But Lester was happy with life. Talcott was the one making himself depressed.
“What, this structure’s imminent destruction or my not remembering it?” Lester laced his fingers together atop the back of the pew Talcott was sitting on and propped his chin on them.
“No, really.” Talcott pushed back to his feet, spreading his arms to gesture at the full room. “This was wonderful back then, but maybe it’s time I let things go. This place wasn’t important to history, just to me. I’m the only one bothered by it.” He dropped his arms and glanced over to find Lester staring at him with a rather unimpressed raised eyebrow.
“Congratulations, brother, you’ve finally come to the same conclusion I’ve been telling you the last two hundred years,” Lester deadpanned.
Talcott chuckled deeply. “Well, I suppose I had to come to it on my own.”
Lester gnawed on his lip, the action making his head bobble since his chin was still propped on his hands. “So, shall I sell it back?”
Talcott blinked. “Sell what back?”
“The land that this building is on that I may or may not have purchased last night.”
Talcott took a step closer to him. “You didn’t actually.”
Lester looked insanely proud of himself. “Now what’s the point of all those investments I made if I can’t use them on an outlandish present to cheer up my dumbass of an older brother?”
Lester snickered. “So, what’s the plan? Restore it to pristine condition and leave it for days when you’re feeling angsty and contemplative?”
“No…” Talcott rolled his eyes. No, he really did need to start letting go. He would restore it, yes, but it wouldn’t just be for himself. With a little work it could made a fine shelter – perhaps a shelter for children like he and Lester had been when they’d used it. “But I do have an idea.”
“First time for everything, I suppose.”
“Shut up.” Talcott stretched to make a swipe at Lester’s head, but his brother fluidly evaded by ducking and sliding further down the pew.
Talcott grinned. At least some things would never change, and maybe… maybe goodbyes weren’t always bad. Maybe he didn’t need to hate all of them.
After all, goodbye didn’t always mean farewell forever. No, it appeared that sometimes goodbye was merely the start of something new to enjoy.