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I tried my best not to look down into the raging depths below. The gray waves crashes against the foot of the cliff. The noise was loud and terrifying to those standing at the cliff’s edge. The wind whispered evilly, trying to push us off the overhanging ledge and to the sharp rocks below.
“Allistor,” I said, my eyes shut tight. “I know you’re upset and all but must we come here every time?”
The irritable Scott ran a hand through his red hair, sighing. “You can leave, you know,” he growled.
I folded my arms against the bitter wind and scowled. “Do you always have to be so difficult?”
I let out an annoyed huff of air. I wanted this to be over quickly. These “therapy sessions”, as we all joked, usually lasted around thirty minutes. I had work to do and although he was a good friend of mine, he had no right to just drag me out here and complain.
“What’s the matter, Al?” I asked, trying to sound sympathetic and caring.
Allistor walked to the very edge of the overhang and sat down with his legs dangling over the side. His gloved hands began pulling fistfuls of green grass out of the ground.
I swallowed hard, pretending there was no cliff and no raging sea down below. I carefully sat down beside him and swung my legs over the edge. I felt the breeze trying to tug me off and plunge me into the icy water below. I clutched the grass by my side and stared straight out at the horizon.
The stars had finally come out and were twinkling playfully. Allistor lay on his back and gazed up. I could tell that his mind was a hundred miles away; lugging worries he shouldn’t have to deal with.
“Are you going to tell me or just sulk?” I asked, unable to keep the annoyance out of my voice.
Allistor spoke. I was shocked when he did. His voice sounded cold and dead. Whatever his problem was, it was really getting to him.
“It’s Arthur,” he said.
“What about Arthur?”
“Alfred separated. He left.”
I jumped, slightly startled. My mouth dropped open and my blood ran cold. “No he didn’t. He couldn’t!”
“That’s exactly what I said when I found out.”
“Well, shouldn’t I be talking to Arthur? Why are you so upset?”
Allistor snapped at me, “Why are you upset?”
I frowned, “I’m one of his colonies, Allistor. I’m his crown colony.”
He closed his eyes and scoffed. “Yeah. Just watch. You’ll be the next one to leave him.”
I ignored his comment and clicked my tongue. “You haven’t answered my question. Why are you so upset? I thought you were the cause of most of his problems. You’ve always enjoyed taunting him meaninglessly. Why do you care?”
Allistor sat up straight and looked me in the eye, his voice dangerously low, carrying a tremor. “Because I’m his brother. That’s what brothers do. I know you’ve got some siblings of your own. You of all people should understand this!”
“I’m trying to! I’m sorry if I—“
“Forget it.” Allistor hauled himself up and began walking away. I shouted after him.
“How can I help you if you can’t help me help you?”
“I don’t need your help! Forget it!”
Anger rose in my chest like a ball of fire. I stood up and screamed at the top of my lungs.
He didn’t reply. I saw him fading quickly into the distance, never looking back.
I turned back to the sea. I wished he had fallen in. I wished he had been dashed to pieces at the bottom. I wondered why Arthur’s problems were upsetting Allistor so badly. The rough Scott usually added to his brother’s misery by taunting him. This was something different.
I was about to leave when a sudden gust of wind knocked me over. I tripped over my own feet in an attempt to push myself away from the cliff. Instead of landing safely on the grass beside me, I felt my foot slip over the edge. Before I knew it, I was balancing dangerously on the overhang.
I barely had time to register what had happened before Allistor pulled me away from the edge and the raging sea and the rocks below. He buried his head into my shoulder and sobbed like I had never heard him sob before.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered through his tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,”
I smiled, patting his back and ruffling his red hair. “It’s okay, Al. Everyone has bad days,”
After a while of silence, Allistor and I sat down under the stars again. I had succeeded in cheering him up. Soon, we were laughing and giggling like mad people.
“Arthur will be fine, Allistor,” I said, grinning. “He used to be a pirate. He’s an empire. He’ll bounce back.”
Allistor grinned back. “He’ll be fine because you’re there for him,” he said.
I laughed. “I’m there for him now because you saved my life! Otherwise, he’d have had to carry on by himself!”
After another fit of laughing, Allistor grabbed my hand and his face became stony and serious. He seemed to stare right into my soul with fiery green eyes that only the Scotts could have. I ceased my giggling and waited.
“You must promise me something,” he said. I nodded.
“Swear to me that you’ll never leave him. You’re the reason he hasn’t completely fallen apart. It’s not me. It’s you. You have to be there for him. When he finally snaps, he’s not going to come looking for me for help. He’s going to be calling for you.”
My mouth hung slightly open. Never in all my years under Arthur’s reign had I even once thought about it that way. The more I turned the idea over in my mind, the more likely it was that it was completely true. How had I been so oblivious to it? The great empire, the former pirate relied on me. If I was not there for him, he would collapse.
I smiled. Allistor shook me by the shoulders. “Swear to me! You must promise!”
I nodded. He took it as a promise and relaxed suddenly, gazing out at the sea.
“Part of the reason I bring you out here is because it cheers me up to see you so afraid of the sea.”
I bristled. “I’m not afraid of the sea. It’s this perilous cliff and the sharp rocks down there. Oh, and I can’t swim so if I fall, I drown and die. That is, if I’m not speared by the rocks first.”
While Allistor laughed, I hid my frown.
I never promised anything.
Staten Island, New York
Greenville, North Carolina
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