Fabian and Flora (Weekend freewrite)
There were snakes in the old stone place, but the grass grew so green and so tall, you hardly ever so them crawling at your feet. And Flora had learned not to be afraid of them, because Fabian told her a thousand times they were not the poisonous kind. Look, he’d say, planting a stick in the ground and twirling it fast until he had one of them snakes coiled around like spaghetti on the back of the fork. The snake would raise its still-spinning head, his forked tongue darting aimlessly, trying to get to the hand that had interrupted its slumber or maybe its dinner. But Fabian was too quick and when the snake got close to his hand he’d throw the stick high into the air. Laughing. Making her laugh and clap her hands. It was those stolen moments of joy that made it worthwhile to risk her mother’s wrath, if she ever learned what the girl was up to when she took her sketching pad and went into the garden. Her father frowned, saying Flora should start making herself useful around the farm, but mother would cut him off, telling him she was just a child. Fortunately, mother never asked to see her drawings or she’d know Flora was hiding something and she’d start questioning her and she’d have to tell the truth.
Flora was not allowed to talk to Fabian or any of the Brands, she wasn’t to even look at them and least of all go near their property. But the stone place was their hiding place. The first time she went exploring the crumbling stone fence she almost ran away when she saw the boy lying in the grass, playing with his toys soldiers. But Fabian smiled and bade her to come near. He was also bored as he, too, was an only child and no one ever came to visit his folks, except for boring old people who never even looked at him.
That was two years ago and now Fabian didn’t play with soldiers anymore. He’d turned fourteen and he was growing up faster than Flora and he started to look like his mothers. Flora’s parents always laughed at Fabiola Grand and her long thin nose, that looked more like a beak, but the girl never told Fabian that, because he was her friend.
Fabian would bring books and they sat on their stone and he’d read her about far away islands and primitives clad in feathers, who sharpened their teeth like vampires. ‘They’re called cannibals, you know, and they eat their enemies’, he said and the girl shuddered. But then they’d start dreaming up elaborate recipes with all the herbs they could name and the unfortunate enemies would become stews and she’d forget all about being scared.
Sometimes they wondered why their parents would not allow them to be friends since they were neighbors. The grown-ups only said it was not proper and they did not belong together.
"Caller, are you there?" Suddenly, another voice came on the line. ‘ What on earth are you doing on the phone, Fabian?’ Fabiola asked in the raised voice she used whenever the boy did something to annoy her. Fabian froze, a tight knot in his throat, but he knew he had to say something and get off the phone before the operator had time to intervene again. He couldn’t let mother know he was calling Flora.
‘Nothing, Mom, I just heard a strange click and thought the phone might be broken.’
He hated to think the girl would be waiting at the stone, but there was no way he could sneak out of the house today, not with his mother so worked up about the guests that were coming and they wanted to see him, and make sure to scrub your ears and comb your hair, and on and on.
That never happened before, but now he was a big boy, almost a man, it was time he learned his place in the world. With his father gone, it was up to him to carry on the family name and their friends were there to help.
What sort of help, Fabian couldn’t tell, because the two gentlemen who were now sitting in the living room sipping their tea showed little interest in him. He strained to follow the conversation, but he could make little of the sneers and the cryptic remarks the grown-ups fired away at high speed. His mind wandered to the hideaway where Flora would be waiting. That was the pact, they’d each wait for at least half an hour, because they both knew it was hard to sneak out some days. He promised himself he’d make it up to her and come up with the craziest recipe ever.
‘What is it that you find so funny, young man?’ It was Mr. Robbards, looking at him expectantly, while his mother’s eyes were shooting daggers at him. He composed himself, but it was too late. Mr’ Robbards wanted to know all about his studies and asked him about his plans for the future and he had to come up with good decent answers, as he could not say his most immediate plan was to make it up to Flora who was waiting in the garden.
But there wasn’t going to be any secret meetings for the whole week. Mr. Robbards and Dr. Griffin were staying for a few days. He’d never realized before how much they looked like his mother, thin and pale, and so much like birds, although the doctor’s nose was quite smaller and a bit crooked. More like a parrot than an eagle.
The two gentlemen would shut themselves for hours in the library with Fabian and they told him stories of their youth, their trip to Africa with his late father, God bless his soul. They did not treat him like a child anymore and Fabian liked that. Even his mother looked at him different. At supper, he was allowed a small glass of wine and forced himself to like it even if it seemed a bit sour to him. It seemed so much easier to follow their conversation after a few days. When Mr. Robbards told them one of his wartime stories and how he scared the enemy away, Fabian dared to quip ‘I bet you did!’ And the old man nodded, and the others laughed. He was allowed to speak at the grown-ups table and it felt great.
She had a cold, which was not surprising since it had been raining for days and the air was chilly. They hadn’t seen each other for weeks and Fabian was anxious to tell her about the guests and their trip to the city, the dinners at the restaurant and all the people he had met and how they all called him Mr. Grand now. He told her all about his responsibilities and how he was destined for greatness, they’d all told him that. He had his father’s blood after all. Not to mention his mother’s excellent heritage.
‘And her nose’, Flora thought, as she could not help wondering how much he had changed in such short a time. From the side, he had his mother’s profile, so much like a bird.
Through all his excitement, Fabian could sense a change in the air. Flora seemed ill at ease and he felt sorry for gushing about his new friends. He wanted to tell her about Daren, Mr. Robbard’s son who was his age and had such an impressive collection of firearms, which he’d promised to teach him to use. But the girl was lost in her own thoughts.
With an expert move, Fabian grabbed a stick and pulled out a snake from the grass, which he held at arm’s length. There was a spark of interest in the girl’s eyes and he thought it was time for a new trick. He fumbled in his pocket with his free hand and pulled out a knife he’d bought in town. He released the spring and with one swift move he cut the snake’s head. Flora gasped. The snake’s body kept thrashing for a few seconds and the girl seemed horrified. He liked the feeling.
There were a few drops of blood on his hand and Fabian wiped his fingers one by one. The girl could not take his eyes from his long fingers that suddenly looked like claws and she dared not look at his face, which bore little resemblance to the Fabian he knew. He was not Fabian anymore, he was a Grand now. And she understood now why she was not allowed to be friends with the boy, why they said they didn’t belong together. She understood why there once was a wall between the two places.
Only they were wrong, she knew now they did belong together, even though they were different species. There was nothing she could do, she loved Fabian.
Story written for @mariannewest's freewrite challenge. The three prompts for the weekend challenge are marked in bold. Check out her blog and join our freewrite community.
Thanks for reading!