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I feel like I ought to make a post about timelines, just so I can keep things straight myself. I'm pretty sure I goobered up some details earlier.
Her voice was just as Charlie expected it, bright and cheery, almost like a chirping bird. As welcome as it may have been to see her, to hear her, he couldn't help but cringe at the sound of her. After the day he had been having, it was the last sort of sound Charlie wanted to hear.
Stepping over the door jamb, Charlie performed an action he hadn't done, or thought of doing in years. He hooked his foot back against the door, and pushed it hard enough so it closed. He heard snow shake off portions of the roof and railing of the deck, even through the closed door. Most of the places he'd lived since leaving had been apartments, that opened up into small hallways, and didn't make kicking the door shut behind him easy. He eventually got out of the habit, so even when there was a place with less cramped entryways, he still didn't do it. Now that he was home though, Charlie found old habits returning. Not the least of which was thinking of this place as home.
The two siblings stood there in the hallway, just facing each other, silence and dead air hanging between them. Even with having met since he left, this meeting was even harder. It was all about where it was taking place, and the why didn't help any.
The last time the two of them were standing here, there was a dead body at their feet. Where now there laid a throw rug with an oriental pattern laid into the predominantly red background - an ironic choice, Charlie thought - there had once been the body of their mother, slashed to ribbons by Charlie's fevered mind caught in the throes of his visions.
Nine years had passed since that day, since they had both been together in this place. Neither one of them knew quite what to say beyond their greetings. Adrienne thought it would have been easy, holding onto a shred of childhood naievete that once they were reunited, it would be easy. What was in the past would stay there. The Boxer children were together again, no matter what had transpired between them.
She was only 13 when Charlie had commited his heinous act. At the time she was too young to really understand what had happened. It took her a long time, but she had forgiven him, years ago. She knew he wasn't in control, and he was better now. However, now here they were, and it was awkward, to say the least.
While Adrienne had thought the meeting would be light as a breeze, Charlie was expecting it to be painful. To be honest, he was surprised at how easy it was for him. True, he found it awkward as well, but when he realised that they were standing where he had brutally murdered their mother, Charlie wholly expected the mug of cocoa to come flying at his head.
They both had extreme expectations, built up over the past nine years, and neither of them were met. Instead, they found some sort of common middle ground.
Without warning, Charlie dropped his suitcase, returning it to the place from whence it came, and took two steps over the rug covering up what could only be called a mistake if one was being charitable. He wrapped his thick arms around his small sister, her body being dwarfed by the form of her older brother. The top of her crimson locks barely poked out from the space between his head and shoulder.
Adrienne's arms poked out from underneath her brother's and flailed in surprise, or as much as one can flail while holding a mug almost filled to the rim with cocoa. With her free hand, she wrapped it around her brother's back, not quite reaching past his spine. His being all bundled up in heavy, winter clothes only made his already imposing form all the larger.
One could argue this was the most emotion Charlie had shown since he was last standing in this very spot. He was certainly unable to think of any other time he had hugged someone so freely, and felt tears welling up in his eyes. He had kept so many people at arms length for so long, he had almost forgotten what it was like to feel such things in him, but they were welcome, at least for now. Charlie hated keeping people so far from his heart, but he found it easier, in case anything like what had happened with his mother were to repeat itself.
As much as they were glad to see each other, Adrienne was beginning to feel more than a little ill at ease the longer the embrace went on.
She patted Charlie on the back with more force, trying to get his attention. He still held her tight, so tight that when she tried to say something to get him to stop, all she got was a mouthful of his shoulder. Forcing out a muffled sound that was lost in the fabric of his jacket, she tried again, even louder. Still he remained oblivious, which was very much like the Charlie of old; so wrapped up in his own world that he ignored what was going on around him.
Squirming within her brother's grip, she managed to angle her head away from the thick of his arm, and gasped for air. Adrienne filled her lungs, and shouted almost into her brother's ear, "Hey! Hugs-a-lot Bear!"
It seemed as if even that hadn't gotten through to Charlie, until he released his sister, once again looking like he was caught doing something wrong. His cheeks were flush, and he had a dopey grin on his face.
"Sorry, Adge." He muttered apologetically. "It's just been so long, and everything, and the, and yeah."
His sister sipped the cocoa, and nodded. "It's ok, bro. It has been quite awhile, and I'm so glad you're here, too. It was just getting to be a little hard to breath in there."
Charlie scuffed a foot against the rug, already looking old from all the foot traffic it was likely to have seen, even if it was new. "So, you decided to put this down here?"
Adrienne looked askance. "Yeah, almost since the day you left." She never looked at her brother while speaking of those times just after he and her mother had gone away. "The - the blood, it never came out all the way, and there's still a stain there today. It was too hard for dad to look at."
Charlie knew it was too hard for her to look at, as well, but let the minor omission slide. There was no need to press the point, when they both knew what she meant.
"You should have been here, Charlie," she whispered. Her head hung limp, looking down at the floor, and her hair obscured her features. "You never should have left. Dad needed you..."
She stopped, looking straight in her brother's matching blue eyes, speaking the part she had left out before. "I needed you. I was 13, and needed my big brother."
All Charlie could bring himself to say was, "I know."
Adrienne wasn't seeking apologies, it was all in the past, but some things needed to be said. They had both grown so much, and changed. But they were still the same kids they both rememebred from a decade ago. She wiped at her eyes with the heel of her empty hand, and sighed.
"Your old room, we converted that to a study, so..."
Charlie's smile was bittersweet. "I can't say I really want to sleep in there anyways. A couch will be just fine. I'm not all that tired, anyways."
He turned and picked up his suitcase while Adrienne spoke. "What's wrong with your room?"
"Bad memories," was all Charlie felt needed to be said.
His sister quirked an eyebrow at him. "Worse than the ones associated with where we're standing?"
"More than you'd believe, Adrienne."
"I've given more than a casual thought to selling this place just on this piece of floor alone. I only kept it because dad wouldn't leave, and now you're back, and it's been in our family for so long. Right now, the good outweighs the bad."
Charlie shook his head. "I'm only visiting, sis. I don't want to come back to this place. You are more than welcome to this place. Aside from you and mom, the bad outweighs the good for me, here."
"Is that why you didn't want to come back?"
"Only in the very vaguest of ways."
Adrienne just gave a shrug, and emptied her mug. "Whatever happened to you here must be pretty bad. Maybe some day you'll tell me? It can't just be, you know."
He nodded, "Maybe someday."
"Anyways, let's get you settled in, your legs must be killing you."
The woman pivoted on her heel and walked through a doorway on Charlie's left. She led her brother into a well furnished living room. He recognised almost everything in the room. All the furniture belonged to his grandparents, and had been handed down to their daughter, who handed it down to Adrienne, it seemed. Even the carpeting was still a light grey, like it was when he lived here.
There was a new coffee table in the center of the room, with matching new endtables flanking the couch on the far wall. They were stained a dark cherry reddish brown, and the legs bulged and curved along their surface. Most of what he didn't recognise was clutter. Paintings, a sculpture in the corner, a stack of magazines. All sorts of things that accumulate when you live in a place all your life, and never throw stuff away faster than you get new stuff.
Charlie dropped his suitcase on a chair near the fireplace set at an angle on the far wall from where he entered. He remembered his father reading them stories from that chair, smoking from his pipe on the weekends, or just reading from the newspaper.
There was no fire going at the time, but he could still feel some warmth eminating from the ruddy bricks. Adrienne had a fire roaring in there earlier in the evening, but he knew she was sleeping soon.
He turned away from the fireplace back towards the door he had entered through, and saw along the wall a large, shimmering surface. It wasn't quite round, easily the size of a dining table, and could have sat six people with room to spare. It reflected like a mirror, but was unlike any mirror he had ever seen. The surface was black, and while it showed the room inside it. It wasn't clear like a regular mirror, and the image was less sharp. It's edge was encased in a silver frame, inlaid with fancy script and scrollwork.
Charlie gestured towards the black mirror, and nodded in its direction. "That's new."
"Nope!" said his sister, as she pulled out a sheet and blanket from underneath the couch, brushing off some dust. "That's very, very old. We found it in the attic after...well, after. Dad doesn't know where it came from. It was probably Gran's."
Charlie stepped closer, drawn to it. "Why is it so black?"
His sister came and stood beside him, staring at their darkened reflections in it. "It's made out of obsidian. Pretty rare to find pieces so large. When I found it hidden behind boxes, and covered in a sheet, I thought it was a shame to keep it hidden, so here it is."