Roses and Ice
Jack hated summer. He always traveled away from it, following the winter weather like a faithful dog. The only times he strayed into the heat were when he needed a reminder of the warmth he used to desire. He still desired it, but when he got it he couldn't keep it for long. The heat would wear at him and he'd grow weak until he couldn't walk a mile without breaking out into a thick sweat.
Spring was more bearable, but some days were just as brutal as summer days. But whatever weather fell on the 25th of May, Jack endured it. Twice a year he visited his sister's grave. On the 25th of May, her birthday, and the 14th of December, the day she forever slept.
The 25th of May 2010 wasn't as hot as last year. It was warm enough to make Jack sweat, but only lightly. For this anniversary he'd brought Sarah's favorite flower: a rose. The frost encasing it was Jack's personal touch. It symbolized his love for her. After three centuries she still had a place in his heart.
"Eternal rest sounds good right now," he said to the weathered gravestone. "I wish I could join you. And Mom and Dad."
Jack placed the ice rose in the vase that he had buried into the ground eight years ago. Every couple of years he changed the vase.
The ice on the rose was coated with a thin layer of water. It was already melting.
He looked up at the cloudless sky. It was hotter than he thought. Maybe he was adapting to hotter weather.
The gravestone was quiet. It always was quiet. For three hundred years all it had done was sit there and let the weather erode its engravings.
"As always, the world's changing. You'd be shocked at how much." He looked at the sky. "Or not. Maybe you've been watching all along."
Jack whipped around, staff raised for a strike.
A boy, no older than twelve, raised his hands up. "Peace!"
Jack lowered the staff. "You can see me?"
"You're standing right in front of me, aren't you?" The boy smiled. He pointed at Jack's head. Jack stepped back. "I like your hair. Did you dye it?"
"No. I didn't."
Jack studied the boy. Brown hair, hazel eyes, fair skin. A white t-shirt, tan cargo shorts, worn flip-flops – he looked human.
"Are you human?" Jack asked.
The boy made a face. "Of course! Why wouldn't I be?"
Jack looked around the graveyard. If the boy had parents with him, they weren't around.
"Why are you here?" Jack asked. "The graves go back into 1600's. The recent ones are from the 1800's."
"My ancestors are buried here. My great-great-great-great grandparents. Or my great-great-great-"
Jack held a hand up. "I get it."
"Why are you here?"
"Uh… I was just walking around."
Jamie looked at Jack's feet. "Barefooted?"
"I don't like shoes." Jack wasn't sure if he could come out and tell the boy who he was. No one had told to keep his identity a secret; there was no one to tell it to.
"Why are you wearing a sweater? And pants?"
"I'm not going to walk around naked if that's what you're asking."
"I mean it's hot outside. And you're sweating."
Jack brushed his bangs back. They were damp with sweat. "I'm leaving for somewhere cold."
"Like a road trip?" The boy bounced on his toes. "I'm going on one during summer. Hawaii!"
"That's great." Jack smiled – or tried to. After hundreds of years without human contact he thought he would act differently. He found it difficult to be himself. Everything he said felt wrong, out of place. Like in a dream. Blurry and unrealistic.
"I'm Jamie! What's your name?"
Jamie seemed to just realize the long staff Jack held. "What's that?"
"Oh. This? This is…a branch." Jack held it up. "It's…for a…a…project."
"Like a school project?"
"Yeah. Like a school project."
Jamie held his hands out. "Can I hold it?"
"You can touch it…" Jack held the bottom out. He hoped it wouldn't turn Jamie to ice or freeze his arms off. As far as he knew, only he could control the powers in the staff.
Jamie felt the ridges first. Jack held his breath, waiting for a reaction.
"Feels like a branch covered in ice." Jamie rubbed his fingers together. "Is that frost on it?"
"Why isn't it melting?"
Jack bit his tongue. "I have to go."
"I'm late for a meet up with my friends. We're…cosplaying anime characters." He backed around the gravestone. "Bye!"
"Do you have an e-mail?"
"Nope." Jack shook his head. He wanted to take off into the sky, but he had to maintain a human appearance.
"Aren't you too young to have one?" Jack asked.
"I faked my age."
"Well I don't have one."
"How about your phone number?"
"I really have to go." Jack took off.
"The exit's that way!"
"I knew that!" Jack ran past Jamie.
On his way he ran past two adults who he guessed were Jamie's parents. For a moment he expected them to look at him, to actually see a white haired boy running with a frosted staff in his hands. Maybe he wasn't invisible anymore. Maybe he could finally be seen.
They showed no sign that they saw him.
"…can't just pop it on him. He's twelve."
Jack slowed to a walk.
"How else are we supposed to tell him? There's no way of feeding it to him slowly. The least we can do is tell him that not all marriages work out."
The woman bowed her head. "When do you want to tell him?"
"After the vacation is what's best. If we tell him before, he won't enjoy it."
"He won't enjoy any vacations afterwards. Not until he accepts the reality of divorce-"
Jack was standing still now, watching the soon-to-be-divorced couple walk away.