The Cornwells announce to their son and daughter that they are going to adopt a child. Raymond slams his door shut, yelling in the closest thing to a temper tantrum he has pitched in years. He doesn't get that his parents aren't replacing him, and he considers running away from home with the same seriousness that small children consider everything. Priscilla doesn't understand her brother's reaction, and she looks forward to their new sibling like she would look forward to getting a pet. They leave with an eager Priscilla and a brooding Raymond in tow.
She takes one look at the assembled mass of abandoned children, and knows immediately which one they are going to adopt. Priscilla clings to the arm of a small, bedraggled blond boy and doesn't let go, and even Raymond admits that he doesn't seem all that bad (and how happy she is, that her brother for once agrees with her). The Cornwells sign the adoption papers and Lucius is theirs before the day is out.
Raymond can't get Lucius to stop following him. The blonde trails behind him like a lost puppy, a distinct look of caring in his eyes. Lucius still hasn't said much since they adopted him, but he is starting to tentatively talk to Raymond. It's never anything serious, just mentions of TV shows or books, but it is a start. Raymond isn't good at the small talk, and he doesn't put much effort into it anyway, but after a few halfhearted attempts to brush Lucius off, he gives up and gives in.
Lucius is his first real friend.
Lucius is a sickly child, as Priscilla has always been, and has a list of medical problems that the Cornwells were never informed of. It comes as a complete surprise when he passes out in the middle of an improvised baseball game between the three of them. Raymond drops everything and runs inside for help, stumbling over his usually fluent words in an effort to say a dozen things at once. Priscilla, still too young to really understand what is happening, follows her frantic brother, asking him questions that are cut off by irritated yells. When Lucius wakes up a few minutes later, dizzy and tired but otherwise fine, Raymond lets out a deep sigh of relief and actually smiles, not even noticing the hurt look on his little sister's face. He hadn't paid nearly that much attention when she had caught pneumonia last winter, and it is all she can do to blink back tears. Neither of the other two notices as she quietly leaves, and her mother later finds her crying in her room, unable to say quite what the problem is.
At the age of six, Priscilla is sent off to stay at Caerleon Boarding School. Raymond can't bring himself to wave goodbye, but he promises her that he'll write sometimes. In his few brief letters, Lucius is generally mentioned at least thirteen times (that she counts says much about her), but he does write and that's what matters. Her thoughts slip back to home more often than not; her classmates find her distant, even at such a young age, and she doesn't make many friends. Still, she can't bring herself to hate or even remotely dislike Lucius for the change that he has caused in Raymond, for Lucius not only hugged her goodbye with tears in his eyes, he also writes almost daily. He tells her all the things Raymond won't or forgets to, and Priscilla actually looks forward to reading what he has to say. It is too hard to hate one she loves so.
Lucius starts middle school that year, and for the first time all three of them are truly alone. Raymond is stuck languishing in fifth grade, finding to his annoyance that lunch seems far too long and that recess has lost the fun it once had. He's more short-tempered than he has ever been, even openly getting into fights. Lucius finds the crowds too hard to deal with, and without Raymond's protection he is frequently picked on. Even though he sees Raymond after school, the workload forced on him is almost too much and he never has any free time anymore. Priscilla is already used to having her siblings gone, but that doesn't ease its sting.
All three sigh too often and think that summer can't come fast enough.
She comes home on her break, and Raymond smiles so much more easily. He actually laughs. All the little things that used to upset him—jibes about his poor sense of humor or getting cut off when he talks— don't seem to matter anymore. Lucius chatters away about everything that happened that year, and the other two listen, joking and throwing in their own two cents. She's so happy to see them all again; it's almost like the past year never happened. They sail tin foil boats in the stream behind the house, inventing adventures as they always did, and even Lucius's periodic sickness seems to have faded.
But time flies quickly when the days all blur together, and it is too soon before they are sitting back in classrooms, alone despite the people all around them.
Raymond goes into sixth grade, and he starts to talk to Lucius about his concerns, his troubles. For the first time in casual conversation, Raymond actually refers to him as "my brother", even as Priscilla becomes simply Priscilla. She comes back for the summer again that year, and she's smiling so widely when she gets home that her mother asks her if she's feeling all right. Priscilla steps out of the car and is startled to find that she's nervous about seeing her brothers again, and the feeling only intensifies when Raymond shies away from her hugs. He doesn't seem to know what to say anymore, and although he was never talkative before, he's downright silent now. And for the first time in her life, she sees him look to someone else for reassurance…but it isn't her. She hears Raymond's voice sometimes, late at night, and the soft responses come in a voice every bit as familiar. Priscilla finds herself counting down the days until school starts, eager to leave home.
Lucius passes into high school, and it's so much easier for him than middle school was. He fades into the background like he always has, remaining unnoticed by his peers, but that's fine with him. He still writes his fifth-grade sister almost every day (she has always been "sister" to him, even when Raymond no longer calls her such), and he even reminds Raymond to write sometimes. Lucius grows almost six inches, still too small for his age and his grade, as he always has been. Now that there are more people in his classes, though, he is not the only oddball, and he's even made a few friends. Even Raymond can see the new bounce in his steps and the slight widening of his smiles, and tell that Lucius truly is happier now.
Priscilla thinks that maybe change isn't all that bad when faced with his optimism, but his change is inevitably contrasted with how quiet, how serious Raymond has become around everyone but his brother, and she's just not sure.
Raymond has started talking to Lucius about the other's unwillingness to leave the house for anything beyond school or church. Lucius deflects the questions as subtly as he can, protesting that he does have friends and switching Raymond's words around so that the redhead never even notices that the subject was changed until the conversation is already over. He's still so, so shy around other people, but Raymond's never noticed, has only ever really seen how Lucius acts around him. Besides, Lucius sees his friends at school or at church, and even though they're a band of mismatched misfits, Lucius is one, too.
Priscilla still doesn't really have any friends, but Raymond doesn't know that, doesn't know because he doesn't write and because she's not sure she's comfortable with telling him. She tries to pretend that she hasn't even considered telling Lucius instead, but the knowledge sits heavily in her mind.
Priscilla can't take staying at boarding school anymore, so she finally comes home. She's in eighth grade now, and already has found friends. She is smiling more, and although she's not quite optimistic, she's better than she has been in years. Lucius is starting his senior year of high school, but she's not surprised to find that he's every bit like she remembers him, still unfailingly polite and always apologizing over everything. He still hasn't gotten over his stutter and is as easily frazzled as ever, but she finds herself relaxed when talking to him. Raymond doesn't say much of anything, and he doesn't smile as much as she remembers. He's still overprotective of her and barely refuses her on anything, but he's too serious, too quiet. But he's still her brother, no matter how much he's changed, and she can't let him go.
Priscilla walks in on Lucius packing his bags for college, and she doesn't even know what to do. He glances up at her with an almost guilty expression on his face, before quickly looking back down at his possessions. She begs him not to leave, to commute to school instead of boarding there, unknowingly echoing Raymond's earlier protests, but he hesitantly shakes his head, unable to meet her eyes. Priscilla throws her arms around him and for the first time since she was small, she's crying, openly crying. She can feel how tense he is, and his hands are shaking, but for once she doesn't apologize and doesn't back off. He tells her that he's sorry but he has to go, and even though his voice is so, so soft, there's a certain resolution behind it, a stubbornness she's rarely seen from him. For me, she wants to say, but she can't bring herself to because she knows what her words would do to him. She bites her lip and swallows her tears, but she still doesn't let go of him, and she's surprised to find that he hasn't made any move to let go of her either.
Lucius leaves, and for some reason Priscilla isn't mad when she sees Raymond e-mailing him every day. She never realized just how much she cared for him until then. Lucius doesn't personally write her anymore, and his letters are always addressed to Raymond and Priscilla (and of course Raymond comes first because he's always been first to Lucius, always). He comes back to visit on long weekends and vacations, and he's so glad to see Raymond then. He's glad to see her too, but it's never quite the same. He's both Raymond's friend and his sibling, while she knows that she has only ever been his sister. Priscilla wishes that she had never left Caerleon, had never come home. It would be so much easier that way.
Summer comes again, but it's a pale shade of that golden summer so many years ago. Raymond is ready to leave for college, and he's already planned out his classes like he never planned out anything before. He talks to Lucius almost daily with a million questions on what the college life is like, if there are any good fraternities, how wandering the campus is. They're going to different schools, and she's guiltily pleased at that, even as she knows that the distance will affect them so much differently than it has affected her. The deadline looms over her, and not for the first time does Priscilla wish time would stop, even as Raymond eagerly looks to the future. She's looking back and he's looking forward, but somehow they aren't seeing eye to eye. No matter what, she's determined to squeeze every moment out of the few weeks that are left. The weight of her camera around her neck is trivial compared to the weight on her shoulders, but both are incessant reminders that no matter how many days are left, there will never be enough.
Time is a limited thing, and oh, how it flies when she needs it most.