By: Joey "Nabuca" Maxwell
Notes: Moreso my own take on certain events. Written mostly on a whim, the words kind of just flowed out and this was the end-result. Not exactly sure what or how to feel about this, but there you have it.
The world of children is always a strange and unusual place. It is filled with such baubles and things as treehouse forts, slippery frogs on cool spring riverbanks, and deep secrets scribbled on scraps of paper in the back of a crowded classroom. Childhood was always an avenue best navigated carefully, however it was always good to admire the scenery as one went by. It's something I miss now, something so far away.
Sometimes, though, the scenery was hard to look at.
My brother Ed and I both ran down the street to Winry's house that cool spring morning. The fields where starting to turn green and the sun rode high over everything else, caressing our faces gently with warm golden fingers. This was the first truly sunny day of the season, and we where both excited to get out of the house. We where going to meet Winry at her place and go out along the stream to dig for crayfish. They where always so much fun to catch and play with, although there where times where my brother would get careless and end up getting pinched. He always hated being teased about that. One time he got angry and crushed one with his foot. It made a really gross mess on his shoe, and it made Winry cry. She always hated seeing the smallest animal suffer. Since then he never stomped so much as a single bug, at least not in her presence. I still wonder if it was more out of the fear of her punching him again, but I'm sure he'd never admit to being scared of a girl.
We followed the rocky dirt path up to her house. Ed challenged me to a race and I merrily took him up on it, even though he always beat me, or tried to trip me up if I got too close to beating him. But see, he would always stop and laugh and reach out his hand to help me back up again. I could never be angry at him for that, at least not for too long. In retrospect, I can't really think of anything he genuinely did that ever got me angry for a long period of time. I always had faith in my brother. Somehow though, we never did get to finish our little race by the time we where in full-view of Winry's house. He was the first to slow down, and I followed. Somehow the air seemed different. It was still and solemn, and heavy. The feeling reminded me of the lead samples in Father's old workroom. I used to sneak into his room sometimes, but Mother was always against that. I never liked displeasing her, but I'm sure she could not be too angry over my curiousity at a father I never knew.
We approached her front doorstep carefully and quietly, lacking the usual banter with which we generally presented ourselves. Ed stepped up and carefully knocked on the door, which surprised me because he normally hammers on the door with his fist. That action usually resulted in Grandma Pinako throwing the door open and yelling at him to be more considerate. But another funny thing was that nobody came to answer the door. It would be very unusual for both Grandma Pinako and Winry to be out at the same time, because usually one was always present to mind the shop, and so one would think somebody would at least be there to answer. We waited for a time in silence and knocked again. At length the door opened, Grandma Pinako sticking her head out, followed by the aroma of tobacco and machine oil that always seemed to follow her. Her face was weathered and lined like a map, but somehow today it seemed much older, the lines around her eyes painfully apparent as she viewed us with strangely watery eyes. We still did not understand, and stood there side-by-side in hushed silence, wondering at what could have happened to give her that look in her eyes.
"Now is not a good time boys. Its best you head back home to your mother."
Brother was never one to accept what he was told. Bouncing up on tiptoe he quickly looked over Grandma Pinako's head and could barely see a head covered in blonde hair the color of moonshine. From what he could see, he deduced that she was sitting on the kitchen floor. She was crying.
"What happened?! Winry!"
Shockingly, she did not answer her. It was as if she never heard him.
Grandma Pinako leveled a commanding stare onto him with pouchy, red-rimmed eyes.
"Edward. Alphonse. Go home. Now...is not a good time."
Ed kept trying to see past her, kept trying to get a better view into the kitchen, or perhaps to hail Winry one more time, anything to get her attention. I simply stood there, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was very wrong, I had felt it as I was heading down the street. This strange behavior only seemed to heighten my suspicions.
"I want to know why," Brother demanded. "What's wrong with Winry?!"
Grandma Pinako let out a deep, quivering sigh. She stared into his eyes, and I saw that she looked real sad, weary beyond her years.
"We have just gotten word by post. Winry's parents will not be returning home."
And with that, she slowly closed the door in front of us, cutting off any further opportunity for questioning. But, deep down, we did not need to ask. We knew. We felt like an ice-cold ball of lead had settled into our stomachs on the walk home. We did not go home right away, but stopped by the riverbank, numbly walking along its edge, tossing stones into the water and overturning bits of driftwood. It all seemed so mechanical. We then simply stood there watching the water go by. None of us spoke the whole time, we simply exhisted, lost in our own reverie. Slowly and wordlessly we made our way home, unfulfilled by the river and its slippery secrets. When we came in through the door, Mother was waiting for us. We saw the look on her face and knew that word must have been gotten to her while she was out. In an urban town such as this, news travels quickly. She drew us close to her and hugged held us firmly to her bosom. She said nothing, but no real words where needed in this case. We just stood there in silence, appreciating her warmth and comforting presence. At that time, there where some things we just could not imagine ever happening. If only we knew...and yet still that was not real to us yet. We still assumed that the reasons Mother always looked tired and pale was because she worked so hard to take care of us and the house. She always had to, especially with Father not being around.
Many days passed since then, and we spent them hushed and wondering. We tried playing in our old fort out in the woods, but it just was not the same. We where handicapped by this pervading sense of solemnity and sadness that could not be shaken during the best of times. That and there was still that hole, that missing presence. It was like a gap in an otherwise perfect set of teeth. Then one day, I was out helping Mother with the laundry, and Ed was nowhere to be seen. I got a little annoyed, thinking it was not fair for him to be shirking his chores. I assumed he was out in the field goofing off, buying time and procrastinating from getting his duties done. Had I known better, I would have realised that he was not out hiding from his chores, but that he was out gathering the first flowers of the season into a small and sloppy bouquet that he had left unceremoniously in a heap at Winry's door. He returned sometime later on in the day and took to his housework. He did not say where he had gone, and I did not bother to press him with questions on it.
Eventually one overcast day Winry showed up at our front door, sullen and pale-faced. We did not ask questions, I don't think we knew what proper questions to ask. What had happened was already known to us, and how she felt was already apparent in her face. We went out to the riverbank and dug for crayfish, business as usual. On the surface things seemed normal, but the undercurrent of emotion ran deep. Words where not just something that was lost to us, words where never really needed. Actions spoke volumes, even something as subtle as a glance or a toss of the head. Thinking about it now, I realise that there are so many things in life that us as children take for granted, most especially those of us who where forced out of childhood prematurely. Soon we would all share that same look, the look of children who possess the eyes of adults. We look back and learn to appreciate the simplest of things. The simplest of things are always the most precious, and the most frail. Many times, you don't even begin to appreciate these things until they're gone.