On The Willows
It had been exactly twenty years since that day. Gilmer couldn't believe it … it felt as if just yesterday that she skipped those empty Manhattan street with the fellow apostles, and Jesus. Now, everyone was gone. She hadn't heard from or seen any of her friends since that day. She began to lose faith, and she was starting to believe that it was all a dream. It couldn't have been possible.
She took a stroll down to Central Park to revisit the places that they had been. It felt so eerie to walk along the grassy fields of Central Park. She could recall when Merrell and the others sang to Jesus as they approached him from atop a large rock. It couldn't have been possible … it just couldn't.
She headed down past the large fountain by the lake. She remembered when they were baptized by Judas. She was the last of the apostles to get into the water, and they had greeted her like an old friend. Those were the happier times in life … oh who was she kidding? It was one day in her life that she could recall just barely. How insane would she sound if she revealed to anyone of what happened that day? She'd be thrown into a mental health clinic before she could blink.
A part of her seemed to know where she was going, for she certainly couldn't recall the way. She found herself pushing past overgrown bushes and tree branches, slipping on damp leaves as she walked but her body wouldn't let her turn back. She walked on until a familiar sight appeared before her eyes. There, a good ten feet away from her stood the junkyard. Her heart skipped a beat, and without thinking, she raced up to the fence and threw herself on it, grinning broadly as her mind recalled all the good memories.
The silver car with the lightning strike painted on was still there, but it was rusting and most of the paint had peeled off. The painting of the sun rays on the wall was barely visible, as it was peeling in crackled pieces, but the curved doors were no longer there . The yard had several puddles of water in it from the summer rainfalls, and it added to the sadness of the fading memories that inhabited it. She pushed herself off the fence and walked almost cautiously to the gate door, which was held closed loosely by an unlatched rusty lock. She unhooked it and the gates swung open almost in greeting. She felt out of place to be in the once-cheery place dressed in her work clothes- a plain sickly brown dress and boring black dress shoes. She was a completely different person now. Well, maybe not completely. She could feel a sort of light inside her that was shining out of the darkness.
She was drifting almost dream-like across the yard. Her eyes laid on the faded red ribbons that hung on the fence- the exact spot where Jesus was 'crucified'. It could only mean that all the events that happened were true …
The chain link fence shook with a slight jingle. She shot around quick and saw a man, and at the same moment stumbled over an old bucket, nearly losing balance completely. She straightened herself up, glancing briefly over in almost a shy manner, "I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was here …"
She looked up to see a vaguely familiar young man. He stood there with a blank look on his face, hands clasped together over a flute that he held close to his heart. He was dressed in a baggy long-sleeved shirt and jeans. His short dark brown hair shaded his eyes, and it wasn't until he grinned goofily that she realized just who it was.
"Jeffrey?" she almost whispered as she stood there in shock. He nodded, looking down at his flute. His kind voice brought chills up her spine, just for the mere remembrance of it, "I was hoping that someday more people would return," he said quietly. She grinned broadly and raced over to him, throwing her arms around his neck, kissing him on the cheek, "I thought I'd never see you again!" she cried, and was shocked to feel warm tears running down her cheeks. He hugged her the same as she remembered. He always seemed to be a kid at heart, and when he embraced you, it was as if he was afraid that you would leave him. Not a vice grip or anything like that; he just hugged you and it felt like he cared. It was a hard feeling to explain, but Gilmer felt it.
She held onto him for a while until she decided it would be best to let him breathe. "How've you been?"
He shrugged, "Better." He said with a smile, he suddenly looked over her shoulder with a broad grin, "Watch out," he warned, and at the next split second, she was tackled from behind. Someone had clung onto her shoulders and wouldn't let go. If it weren't for Jeffrey, she'd have fallen face down on the asphalt.
Whomever it was who had tackled her was laughing insanely, and Jeffrey laughed with her. Blonde hair brushed the side of her face and she wriggled her off, laughing, "Robin!" she exclaimed, and hugged her friend tightly. She hadn't been so happy since the day she'd met them. The only thing different about her was her outfit, which looked about as ordinary and dull as her own did.
She felt a tap on her shoulder, and she whirled around to see Merrell and Lynne. Lynne was wearing the same long sleeved frills she had on when she last saw her, and Merrell still donned his Afro. She hugged them both the very instant she saw them.
"You're still wearing that?" Jeffrey asked with a grin, as he looked at Lynne's white ruffles on her arms. She put her hands on her hips and said matter-of-factly, "I prefer to live in the past if you don't mind." She went over and hugged Jeffrey, and put her arm around his and Gilmer's shoulders, "Good to see more people are remembering, huh?" she asked him. It was just too weird that they were all meeting one another again, at the same time, so Gilmer asked, "What exactly is going on here?"
Jeffrey shrugged, and as if he could read her mind he answered, "I think we were all called together here somehow, like how John called us to the fountain. However …" he said, hand to his chin as the others ran to greet Joanne and Jerry as they were coming down the road; Gilmer stayed and listened, "Merrell and Lynne and I have been visiting here every so often. I never thought anyone else would visit until now …"
"Why didn't you guys clean up then?" she asked curiously.
He shrugged, "I dunno. I guess I figured it could be something all of us could do together. We sure have changed a lot. Especially you." He said.
"Life does that to you, I suppose." She brushed aside, smiling as Joanne strode over to her. She raced over and hugged her warmly. Jeffrey stared over at them with a sort of sad look on his face, but it returned to his normal smile as Joanne tackled him in a hug. Jerry had followed suit and after hugging Gilmer, smiled at Jeffrey but just shook his hand warmly. Jeffrey had become ever more downhearted. It seemed that everyone had changed in one way or another.
By the time Katie had shown up, everyone had seated themselves down in various places in the junkyard. Merrell and Lynne were seated on the back hood of the car, their feet on the seats. Joanne and Jerry had found a recently added old couch and they pulled it next to the car and sat there. Jeffrey had pulled out several crates and barrels, and Gilmer, Robin, and Katie sat on those with him. They had made a sort of circle with the sofa and the car.
"I spoke to David recently," Joanne started. She lay across the old sofa, her head rested on Jerry's legs. Her painted and manicured nails picked lazily at a loose thread on her purse. "I guess he's obviously still sorry about … what happened that night." She said quietly, but then broke into a smile, "That man just jumps out of nowhere and scares the living daylights outta you. I've been meaning to ask how he does it but …" she laughed.
"He's a magic man," Katie said with a grin.
Joanne nodded, smiling, "I wonder if he's the one who sent us …"
"I didn't hear any horn, …" Robin stated, straightening out her skirt.
"Yeah …" Gilmer said, "Me neither."
"And he would be here if he sent for us, wouldn't he?" Jerry asked.
"I suppose so, …" Joanne said, sitting up. Her eyes lay upon Merrell, Lynne, and Jeffrey, who had been quiet the whole time. "What do you guys think?"
Merrell shrugged, "Maybe this place just called all you guys, since it's in pretty bad shape …" he said with a grin.
"Same here," Lynne agreed; she sat with her head rested on his shoulder, fingering a beaded bracelet restlessly. "God knows this place needs work, …" she said, looking around the yard.
Joanne nodded with a grin. Her dark green eyes drifted over to Jeffrey, who was busy staring at his sneakers. She was suddenly reminded of something, and she addressed him, "Hey, Jeffrey …" the man looked up in question with a grin.
"I saw you in the newspaper, but … I guess since you're here, it was a misprint …"
Jeffrey looked casually down at his shoes again, and didn't speak. So Joanne continued, "They had an obituary for you." She said with a confused frown, "Back in the early eighties. That's sick for them to misprint like that …"
"Well …" he said with a forced grin, "I'm not the only Jeffrey out there … so it's possible it was just someone else …"
"But your last name's Mylett, right?"
Jeffrey bit his lip, and looked down, swinging his legs, kicking the wooden box nervously, "It was a misprint." He said plainly. Everyone's eyes were on him now.
Merrell sensed his friend's discomfort, and jumped off the car, "Alright, lazy lumps," he said jokingly with his usual smile, "This place needs cleaning up. Jerry," he motioned towards the gate, "There's rakes in that locker. I'll go and get the paint …"
Everyone got up and went to work, but Gilmer remained, looking curiously at Jeffrey. He glanced up, and when he saw she was looking at him, he shied away and followed Merrell into the garage of the building. He disappeared through the door-less archway.
Gilmer waited a moment before heading over to the garage. She didn't like to be a nosey-body, but her curiosity and concern for her dear friend was all too great, and she couldn't help but peek in.
Jeffrey sat unmoving a top an old wooden crate. His arms were wrapped tightly around his legs, which were held close to his chest. He rested his head across his knees, head tilted to the side so he could look out the window. He didn't acknowledge Merrell as he spoke softly to him. He knelt down and rubbed his back comfortingly as he spoke, "Don't take it so hard, Jeff … she didn't know … we have to learn to face this sooner or later … Come on, take it easy …" he paused a moment, trying to get his friend to look at him, but to no avail. "Jeffrey …" he almost pleaded. Jeffrey shook his head lightly, his eyes never meeting his. Merrell sighed and stood, running a hand through his fro. He looked over and finally noticed Gilmer. His casual smile returned, "Hey, Gil. You can help me bring out the paints …" he strode briskly past her, rummaging through David's old cart that stood in the far corner in shadow. Gilmer glanced over at Jeffrey before going to help Merrell. She took the paint cans he handed her, and he grabbed up a couple for himself and a bucket of brushes of all different sizes, "Come on …" he urged, leading her out of the building.
"What's the matter with him?" she asked, following him. Merrell shrugged casually as they walked along, "Oh, don't worry. He's just … afraid of dying."
"What?" Gilmer asked, shocked, "Why would he be?"
"He just is, alright?" Merrell said hurriedly, placing his paint cans on an overturned rowboat, "Just let him be, and bring those paints over to the car …" he dismissed, selecting some brushes.
She headed quickly over to Joanne and Jeffrey, who were both picking out acorns, leaves, and other particles from the worn leather seats of the Volkswagen beetle. She placed the silver, red, and blue paint cans near the front tire, and headed back to get more paint- but she really wanted to find out what was up with Jeffrey.
She looked over in his direction as she crossed the room. He sat in the same spot, so still that she suspected he was either resting or sleeping. Without looking, she stuck her hand in the cart and her fingertips brushed against something furry. She jumped slightly, and looked down to see a raccoon tail. The first thing that came to her mind was that an animal crawled in there to die, but when her eyes caught sight of the fading black hat that laid attached to the tail, she finally realized what it really was. It was Jeffrey's old hat. He must've left it when they took Jesus' body through the city streets.
She grinned with happiness as she picked it up, patting the dust and dirt that had clung to it over the years. She glanced over at Jeffrey, who still hadn't moved, and her eyes flew to the door-less archway. Merrell was helping Katie and Lynne remove unwanted junk, and was far too busy to even suspect that she went back into that room. She knew he wouldn't be too upset, but it really wasn't right to disturb Jeffrey. She re-thought her idea to comfort her friend, but when she crept closer, she saw that his brown eyes were glassy with tears. A pang shot through her heart over her love and concern for the normally goofy man. She held out his hat as she approached carefully. His silver flute lay discarded in the moldy old hay that served as a carpet for the dirt covered once-white tile.
"Jeffrey?" she asked softly. His brown eyes looked over at her briefly, and flew back towards the open window. The bright blue sky reflected in his tear-filled eyes. Very carefully, she placed his hat atop his curly dark brown hair. He didn't look at her nor budge. She watched his face for a moment, waiting and praying for him to respond. When he didn't, she knelt down beside the crate, unsure of how to approach this situation. Her eyes flew to his hand that was clenched around his leg near his ankle. She put her hand over his, rubbing his thumb with hers. It took him a while, but he did respond. He wove his fingers into hers, holding it firmly and gratefully. But he still didn't say anything.
Gilmer reached for an old wooden chest with her free hand, and pulled it over to her and sat on it. When she was comfortably seated, she rested her head against his leg, wrapping her arm around him. She felt him begin to calm down, and when he attempted to take a deep breath, the tears he was holding back caused him to shake and tremble. She held him tighter, her thumb still caressing his.
"Thank you, Gil," he choked out, and his shaky voice let her know that his attempt to hold back tears was failing fast. He released her hand and dropped to his knees on the tile, not caring how much it hurt. He hid his eyes in his hands, elbows digging into his legs, his face contorted as he let the pain out, sobbing. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close. He didn't refuse her actions as she rested her chin on his head, almost cradling him in her lap. She rocked him gently as a mother would. He continued to cry, his hands still concealing his brown eyes. She pulled back from him and kissed him tenderly on the cheek. He removed his palms, his face stained with red and tears. He quickly threw his arms around her shoulders, hugging her gently.
"What's the matter with you, Jeffrey?" she asked concernedly. He shook his head, buried against her hair, "I don't wanna say, …" he whispered hoarsely. She ran her hand through his hair comfortingly, and he breathed deeply, more relaxed than before. Gilmer found it hard to believe that all this crying was just because of his fear of dying. She believed there might've been more to the story, but she didn't dare press on. She didn't want to see him cry anymore.
She realized his hat was gone, and released him slowly, looking around for it. She found it among the damp hay and brushed it off, setting it on his head again. He looked at her with those tearful eyes. She smiled, and realized she felt quite ready to cry herself. The one person in the world whom she felt she would never see cry had done so, and it made her feel like she could relate to him more, but also felt as if all the hope in the world was gone. Just because this one man, Jeffrey Mylett, was crying. "Hey …" she soothed, wiping his tears away, "Cheer up", she put her hand to his cheek and he closed his eyes, grateful for her comfort. He suddenly reached his hand up and took hers in his, palm up. He stared a while as if he was comparing them. She watched as he stared in curiosity, his brows furrowing every so often in wonderment. He then cupped both his hands around her hand and brought it to his lips, planting a kiss on her fingers. He smiled brightly at her, slightly worn from all the crying, but still the same goofy grin that she always remembered. She smiled back, and hugged him once more.
The sound of quick footsteps approached and Lynne appeared at the doorway, skidding to a stop, her hand grabbing the side of the doorway. She looked concernedly at the two, who had released one another and we looking up at her, rather surprised.
"Everything all right?" she asked, catching her breath.
Jeffrey nodded, tucking his hat more securely on his head, "Yeah, we're fine." He said with a broad grin.
Lynne smiled, "Okay … well, we need some help out here. Merrell will be upset if he finds you two slacking." She said with a laugh, and headed back into the yard. Jeffrey got nimbly to his feet and helped Gilmer up, and they headed out.
"I feel so bad for never knowing about his death …" Gilmer said, head on one knee as she hugged her leg to her chest.
Katie, Lynne, Robin, Jerry, and Joanne sat with Gilmer in their circle. All were deep in thought. The yard was clean and straightened just as it was when they first refurbished it. Merrell had actually found the missing doors, and they were back up, the sunburst repainted. The seesaw was fixed and painted as if it were brand new. The silver Volkswagen was good as ever. All that was missing was their old friends. Jesus, David, Merrell, and Jeffrey.
Lynne spoke up, "I knew Jeffrey and Merrell had long since died. They were sent back by the Master. My time's coming … not any time soon … but it's going to happen much sooner than the rest of you …" she said with a sigh, "It's not right to know your dying day, but … Jeffrey took his own death so hard … Merrell didn't want us to fear death. He wanted me to embrace it. You all should … after all, we'll be with the Master again."
"And what about David?" Katie asked.
"He's due to die before me. He was also told, …" she said sadly, looking down, "Well, now you know you have nothing to fear. We'll all be together again, just like we were all those years ago …"
"I don't mean to get off topic," Joanne said, "But I'm … I'm really sorry … about what I said to Jeffrey … I never got to apologize …" she said, looking away and biting her lip hard as tears slowly crept down her cheeks. Jerry touched her arm to comfort her, and she hugged him, nestling her head on his shoulder, leaving him in brief shock.
"I'm sure he understands now … you didn't know." Lynne said, "It's alright, Jo …"
"Do you see them every so often?" Gilmer asked in wonder. Lynne smiled, "Yeah." She remembered, and said to Joanne, " I'll be sure to tell him you're sorry."
Gilmer grabbed her friend's hand firmly, "Be sure to tell him I still miss him. Merrell too. I think that goes the same for all of us," Gilmer said with a shaky laugh, holding back tears.
Lynne hugged her friend, "Don't cry. It'll all be alright in the end …"
(A/N)- Review please, no flames.