They were both lying in the meadows with their bodies folding down the soft grasses upon and into themselves. Along the sky were white, velvety clouds, fluffy and light in their weight, held against the gentle blue that expanded across the horizon that wrapped around the mountain top. Forming the distance were trees with green, and white bark that stretched upwards for long whiles. Some of the trunks were thicker and grayer with ebony markings. The leaves were light green, but their veins gave a tinted yellow scenery, mirroring the radiant sun, gleaming in the glories of the season’s morning like a brilliant halo behind the mountain.
A tall, gaunt piece of crowfoot grass stuck out of Matthias’ mouth. His tongue fiddled with the ends, toying with the dew and water. The grass in the meadow was gentle, and he could not feel it brush through the light fabric of his shirt. A playful breeze accompanied him and combed the ribbons of its breath through his hair and tickled his skin. He had not felt this good in as long as he could remember, and he had managed to capture some sort of freedom through it, by lying in the field with his new friend Cassie right next to him. His face turned to look at her. She was silently staring at the sky. Her dark eyes seemed to be absorbing every lingering moment as if it would be her last. For a while now, he had enjoyed being with her. She had a very delightful presence about her, even if it was a bit cold, like the tenderness of her skin color. At that thought, it dawned on him — she was so pale, and this made him curious since he had not noticed the fairness of her skin until just now. “Cassie?”
“Yes, Matthias?” she responded. Matthias watched as her face slowly turned to look at him in all his boyish fashion, still dabbling with blue eyes of juvenile innocence. Her long, black hair stirred under the weight of her head and pleated with the meadow. As she focused on him, a stoic excitement glowed in her dusky eyes. He appreciated seeing that secret coyness in her, and despite the distant dialect she used to maneuver herself, he knew there was an inner love that she kindled quietly for those she knew. He had found an intense amusement in learning to mind all of this about her.
“When was the last time you went outside like this?” he questioned her, and he continued to study her reactions. They were so subtle, he did not want to miss the slightest nuance. Even the pause in their conversation, as Cassie’s mind wandered, was intriguing to him. He watched as her eyes drifted away into a vacant spot between them as they contemplated behind her memories. Matthias thought it was amusing, she had to think so hard about it, but it meant he was probably right.
“I do not remember,” she spoke in a formless, cautious voice. She knew a better answer, but the one she had given would do for the time being and was not a lie, as she would not want to lie to someone like Matthias. He was a dear friend now, and she thought of it as a rare, fragile creation that could shatter from any given mistake. Thus, it was true that Cassie had no recollection of ever doing something like this, lying in the open fields for such a long while, and she found it fair to say that she did not remember, even if it was only the shortest of answers she could have given aside from a mute one.
“I thought so,” Matthias smirked, feeling a boldness in himself as he wore the correct assumption upon his face. He released a small sigh, relieving himself from a small over celebration, and still breathing in the fresh air, he looked towards the sky again. There were games they could have played, just watching the clouds and their shapes, but he wanted to do something different or more mature. He had a desire to show Cassie this part of himself. They had been childish for a while now, rummaging like typical younger, elementary school students in the fields of a low mountain, and he knew distinctly it was the first time he had ever experienced such a sensation of this kind with another person.
Cassie was different from the girls he knew at school. He could see through her in a way that he had not been able to see through other people, and even with the knowledge of being able to see into her, he wanted to know more. He felt as if he could never get tired of her. She was shy, and perhaps, he reasoned that she needed the courage to speak of herself. Fortunately, he had lots of courage, so hastily he decided the easiest way to give her courage was to talk about himself first, and would share with her a little something about himself that was intrepid and venturesome, “I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain!” Matthias exclaimed. It sounded like a daring jaunt that would show his strength and wisdom, and for such an enthralling statement, it ought to be common courtesy for her to ask why. He had a whole slew of reasons as to why he wanted to climb a mountain, and as he waited for the preceding question, he tried to choose which reason he should give her as to prolong the conversation with an ease of certainty.
However, there was another pause in their conversation, which lasted longer than usual, and hesitantly, Matthias’ eyes found themselves looking back at Cassie’s. She was still staring at him as if she had not heard his statement, and he became slightly perplexed. His lips parted to declare the statement again, but he was surprisingly interrupted by a sudden burst of energy from the young girl. “Now you can!” Cassie smiled politely, letting it grow at the sight of Matthias’ face lighting up with interest and bewilderment. Her spontaneous spark of enthusiasm was obviously startling to him.
She really liked the way he was, right now. He seemed so happy and cheerful, and there was hope in his eyes, not like when she had first met him. She let the guilt of why he was not feeling so melancholy pass away, as he was too passionate seeming now. She was very excited now too, and did not want to stop the fun. “Come! Come!” she exclaimed. Her little body hopped upwards, onto her small feet, and she drew in a deep breath and looked around at the sky as Matthias had done earlier. It was clear and delightful and made for a wonderful stage for a trip. Her gaze fell back to the grass, where Matthias was sitting, knees tucked under his body, having sat up. He looked so much stronger than when she had first met him. Again, she liked him like this. “Come!” her thin arms extended outwards with her hands wide open as her body tipped forward, “We’ll run out of time!”
The waxen fluxes of her agreeableness caught Matthias off guard, and he looked up at Cassie with feigned disbelief. A distorted impatience was driving her, and he could make out that Cassie was not quite sure how to read his face. Nonetheless, her positive demeanor, as meek and dim as it contrarily seemed to be, told him whatever he was feeling was nothing more important than climbing a mountain as he always wished to. She was right - they should climb the mountain. He would explain to her as to why on the way there, in case she for some unforeseen reason decided his ambition was boyish and stupid. “You’re right,” he picked the strand from his mouth and flicked it into the meadow, in the same motion as he saw his old man do with a cigarette. He quickly gathered himself and grabbed ahold of Cassie’s hand as he stood alongside her. She was simpering solicitously at him, and without another word, he promptly began pulling her towards the base of the summit.
Matthias did not let go of her hand after he had found his bearings, as he had made the firm decision that he would be the leader on this expedition, not her. “You’d better let me be the leader. You’re not used to being outside like this.” It was obvious, her hands were too delicate and slender for such a dangerous job, and he would be a teenager in one year. He was going to be a man soon and needed the practice. It was his duty to protect the younger, weaker, and fairer sex. However, the boy was also unsure of how old Cassie was. She had never answered him when he had originally asked, he just now realized, but he was certain she was younger than him. She was smaller and more docile, and besides, her mannerisms and thinking were also more childlike. He could outsmart her so easily, unlike some of those other girls in his class.
Cassie’s bare feet dragged her toes through the grass, stumbling over the pull of Matthias’ queerly fast pace. There was something careless about him that she had missed before now. Maybe by her own carelessness, or maybe it was because he was just so excited. She very much relished in this side of him as she wanted to have this much merriment too, but something was stopping her. It did not stop her that much though, because she knew she was still smiling and joyous, and she had a funny feeling in her chest like a cheerful butterfly fluttering its wings when she thought about how firm his grip on her hand was.
“How old are you anyways, Cassie?” He managed to lower his voice a bit, showing some fearless side of him. Cassie thought it was silly that he changed his voice, but she was not able to bring herself to laugh at it like he was telling a joke, which caused a knot of confusion in her, as her drawn on smile tucked shyly away at his question. The two continued walking forwards. Small breaths gathered in a more noticeable fashion between their chests, and they would not be able to keep this pace the entire time. Although, they very well might have been able to. Cassie was not willing to let Matthias do so though, and tried to break the rhythm of his determined thoughts, as he awaited her answer, “I’m older than you!” She tried to pull her hand away from their current entanglement, to exemplify her antiquity over him, but his grip was stronger than she had realized. “Way older!” she tried again.
He slowed down, after the second comment, “You’re too short to be older than me,” he rationalized, giving her a wearily, mischievous grin. Cassie liked this new expression he was giving her. It made small creases on both of his round cheeks, which was cute even if his jaw looked squarer when he smiled and gave him a more inclined portrait. His head shook slightly, causing the loopy curls in his sandy hair to sway back-and-forth, and she had his full attention again. They paused to look at each other, silently holding each other’s hand. The pause had made way for a break in Matthias’ tempo, and Cassie saw this, pulling her hand away quickly.
His face turned with eyes looking dumbfoundedly at his palm, lips parted and closed, all with a slight disturbance at what she had done. “Look!” Cassie redirected his attention, by pointing her hand towards a patch of shrubbery on the root of a nearby tree just a little ways ahead of them. Her hands grabbed hold of her sundress, and lifted the skirt, enough for her knobby knees to bend properly and not get tangled in her attire, as she ran several steps forward. Matthias’ gaze followed her footsteps, and he took several of his own footsteps, caught in her train of thought.
“It is the most beautiful flower!” she exclaimed. He watched as her body leaned over. Her hair drooped forward from the motion. Dark strands hid her face, and he could not see the expression she was making any more. Cassie sounded delighted though, and he wanted to see what was making her act this way, to investigate it. Her body knelt down, toes curling into the grass in front of the russet roots harboring the strange, primly dressed flower, and finally with her fingers, she tucked the hair from her face to better admire the bloom.
“What type of flower is it?” Matthias inquired as he approached. His mother loved flowers. He knew little about them, but he understood the tone to use when speaking like he knew a thing or two about flowers. He squatted next to Cassie. Kneeling was for girls, and in case a bear or some other wild animal jumped out of the forest, he would have to be ready. With this thought in mind, he kept his right hand a bit tense and ready for action, but it recoiled swiftly, “I-it’s beautiful,” he said with unusual certainty in his usual toned voice, caught off guard by its delicate petals and silken white color. There was an interesting curl or pollen or whatever that was called coming from the center of the blossom.
The flower looked familiar to him and brought him more memories of his mother as he studied the plant. The stem was creeped and cerulean with tiny, lucid downy hairs. The leaves were thick and long with smooth, pensive margins. Atop the stem was the magnificent snow blossom and finely hanging details, wavy and thin as it cusped an inclined neck towards the mountain’s rooted carpet. He had seen it in a book with his mother one Saturday morning, he recalled. It was a lily of some sort, but the exact name had escaped him, “Do - do you know what it’s name is?” he asked again in a more respectful, amazed tone.
Cassie thought his voice sounded more pleasant the second time he asked the question, but she saw that she was without an answer, yet again. Her lip pouted a bit as if to contemplate anything and then she proceeded to respond to his answer, “I was hoping you would know,” she was not lying. She had never seen this particular flower before now, and he would know this area better than she did. Although, she was beginning to contemplate more seriously who really knew the best, “Do you think I should pick it?” her hand reached out, mesmerized by the plant.
“No,” Matthias said firmly, “Don’t pick it. Please,” his readily hand reached out and grabbed her wrist, more firmly against her skin than when he was holding her hand. She gasped as his grasp stiffened the muscles in her wrist. He did not want her harming the flower. It was too exotic and exquisite. There was not another flower like it anywhere nearby, he had noted as well, unlike Cassie, probably. His hand released her wrist, which cupped and withdrew into her chest. “I’m sorry,” he quipped, feeling badly about how he had reacted. Admittedly, he had never behaved in such a way over a dumb, stupid flower.
A weak smile curved on Cassie’s face as she vainly attempted to recover. Her wrist uncurled itself, and her hand motioned towards him with her fingers outspread, “It’s okay, Matthias. I’m okay.” She gave the flower one last look and withdrew her hand once again and instead, planted it on the ground, pushed herself onto her feet. Her toes wiggled while she sought her balance and looked down at him. Matthias was pretending to mind the flower, attempting to conceal his shame from having lost his temper with Cassie. It was as if he had not even noticed that she had stood upright. Her lips turned into themselves, pressing together nervously. He needed rest, and she knew this. That is why she had stopped them. However, she was also feeling ambivalent towards her impatience and a bit concerned about his sudden huffiness.
Her small head turned to scan the area, to see if another distraction could pull them forward, again. “My mother loves flowers,” Matthias commented, pulling her attention back to him, instead. She took a small step backwards, pressed the tops of her toes into the doughy greenery while she looked down at Matthias and the flower, again, and a flustered feeling sprouted in her. The picture in front of her was beautiful — Matthias with the flower. He was a very caring son, to think of such a beautiful thought for his mother. She was almost jealous of him, but remembering who he was, and where they were, and why they were there, dissipated any bubbling animosity she was contemplating. He was too precious and fragile for any bad thoughts or feelings to arise in her.
“Your mother sounds really beautiful,” she forced a small smile, “I think my mother was, too, and my father,” she partially lied. She wanted to remember them that way though, and she believed that with enough florally blanketed statements, she could make herself believe they were lovely, just how Matthias’ mother and the flower were to him. Cassie wanted to be beautiful like Matthias’ mother. She also wanted to be beautiful like the flower. This was not a foreign feeling. The desire and want to be something better than what she already was. A part of her reasoned that if only Matthias had called her beautiful would she be worthy of such a title. Another part of her was certain it was the guilt making her feel less than a flower. There were other reasons, like how Matthias’ mother and the flower being beautiful gave them special places in his thoughts. If she were beautiful then she could have a special place, as well.
“She is beautiful.” Matthias said sternly, dismissing her comments about her own parents as if they had not registered or been heard. The boy forgot the flower, as he drifted into memories of his parents, and finding himself lost in thought, he quickly jumped into their initial objective, “We should get going. Before it gets too late in the day.” His legs straightened, “I am feeling tired all of a sudden, but I think we can still make it, at least half-way. Follow me,” he commanded, retaining his role as leader.
Cassie did not mind his dismissive attitude towards her comment. It was one less conversation she would have to feign, and Matthias seemed happy, even if he did say he was feeling tired. This worried her into thinking less about herself and more about how much longer he would last. He needed to blow off steam, though. Her feet skipped several paces and found herself right by his side. It was a lovely scene, Cassie thought, just like the beautiful flower. Her eyes wandered around, eventually finding themselves admiring the clouds. She could also smell the sweetness of something that reminded her of magnolia blossoms, and her eyes frolicked through the advancements of the mountain path and looked at the skyline. A lacework of leaves was woven through the treetops and outlining the azure horizon that guided them towards the mountain and the sound of birds could be heard, singing and cooing in simultaneous tweets. They sounded happy and melodious. Cassie hummed along in her head.
Matthias glanced at her by giving her a quick piercing stare. He had already forgotten that he had inquired about her age and never gotten an answer, but the feeling of having lost something from her lingered, like his missed opportunity to ask about her family. The feeling was lurking in his head, and he knew it. He understood that he probably was still a bit perturbed about her disrespect to the flower. However, he was certain he should not have been, and he knew this and made a small smile of reassurance alongside her jovial steps. She was a wily one, and he knew she needed the direction, and he could already see she was into her own mind again, which was perfectly fine. He preferred her this way for the moment, just the two of them.
Insects started clicking and chirping the closer they made their way to the mountain’s path. Neither had recollection of the sounds being so vibrant when they were drifting in-and-out of sleep when lying in the meadow, and Matthias took comfort in this sound. If the forest was talking, no danger was near them. He thought about saying this to Cassie, but he did not want to disturb her thoughts, or more so, scare her. She seemed easily excited with things, despite such a melancholy demeanor. She was already walking with an odd jump in her step. He had seen girls at his school do this before. It never made sense to him, as if there was some strenuous deep valley he would have to cross before he could act in such a way, and even if he did make the journey, he would probably get in trouble for some reason or another.
He almost asked her to stop being so happy, but he could not bring himself to do so. Besides, she had already been reprimanded by him once today, and if they were going to travel together, it would be better if she was in a happy mood. As the leader of the two, he opted to keep his mouth quiet if he had nothing nice to say, and instead began doing small mathematical equations in his head to pass the time. It was something he had started doing at an early age. It started with counting and then skipping numbers as he counted. He liked to see how complicated he could make the numbers work. He was pretty proud of himself being able to do multiplication in his head without a pencil or paper, or anything. In school, he was doing things like learning about how to find what the missing number was in an equation. He loved those math problems, but the thought of finding something missing made him think about how they could go missing if they were to get lost. His mind backtracked several grades of mathematics and started counting the trees in certainty that soon he would be counting the trees by twos, threes, and eventually, fours. He could not shake the thought from his mind that Cassie was really lucky she had him as a leader.
It was hard counting the trees. There were so many of them, and the more he counted them, the more he started to notice their idiosyncrasies. Some of their branches were thicker than others, and some of the branches had smaller branches, which were wiry in appearance with pirouetted twists that curled into the sky. They were for the most part thin trees, unlike the huge, swollen pine trees he had seen at home. Despite how thin these particular trees were, there were a lot of them, and venturing from the path and into the forest looked like death because of their abundance. He did not stop to think to point out any of these oddities to Cassie and soon forgot she was with him. He also found himself starting to lose track of his counting, and decided to concentrate on their height and width, which were two terms he had learned in school this year. He wanted to stop counting and think about how to calculate these measurements by imagining himself with a measuring tape and a ladder, except thinking about the dimensions tempted him to begin using multiplication, which was a little strenuous for him in such a foreign place.
By late afternoon, the insects were still chirping with encouragement. Neither of the children had fully stopped for a break, yet. Matthias almost found it unusual that his legs were not sore, and neither of them had complained about a hungry stomach. The journey had been brilliant that way he guessed. However, just as he was making this assessment of wonderment, Matthias found the sounds of the insects echoing as a seashell being held over both of his ears. Their calls grew louder and higher, and he realized how sorely fatigued he was. The sound caused him to lose count of all the trees. He tried to refocus, but a dreary mist had grabbed hold of his brain. The fog began spreading down his spine, and flushed breaths passed through him, caused him to feel weak and of wanting to fall and lose balance. He reached out for Cassie, but he could not find her. Cassie? Where’s Cassie? Alarmed, his head turned to look around for her. Panic churned in him as he desperately tried to find her. It was as if she had disappeared. His sudden movements made his head spin madder. He knew as a leader, he should never lose his comrade, especially one like Cassie, and his muscles floundered as he tried to gain control once more. His feet gave the impression of having turned into heavy weights, which assumed the rest of his body.
“Matthias?” he could hear her light, airy voice tap gently through the commotion. He was relieved she was nearby. “Matthias?” she called to him, yet again. “M-Matthias?” The imagery before him was fading into small spots, like a painting he had once seen at the museum on a school field trip, or maybe a television set. He could not decide nor did he care which one was more representational. The closer he looked at Cassie and the trees and the grass and the sky, the blurrier it all became. They were disappearing. “Stay with me, Matthias!” Her voice broke through the noise, white and ominous, “Please, don’t go!” Her voice began sounding less and less real, though, and the trees began seeming less and less tangible, as he began forgetting where he was. The world tumbled into darkness and a lulling silence.
Through the silence, something wrapped around his body, holding him as he collapsed. He was not breathing, and he felt a hot fever cover his body, “Stay here, please,” he could feel her small supple lips press against his own, and as if a breath of life was breathed into him, the pictures began swarming back into place, and the insects began calming themselves. Even the trees began to twist and redesign themselves into the foreground.
A cold hand reached out and covered his forehead, “Matthias,” Cassie’s voice became audible. His eyes opened and widened, and focused on Cassie’s pale face. She looked worried, and he could not help but think how fair skinned she was. Her cheeks seemed as though they would be cold, if he could muster the energy to reach out and touch her. There was a girl in his class who had rosy cheeks. He enjoyed admiring them until recess time. They would become so red that they spread their color all over her face. He wondered if Cassie’s face would get red if she ran. “Matthias?” her lips moved. They were a pale pink, he noticed. The rosy cheeked girl in his class had lips that were noticeably pink, or red, or something. They were very noticeable, unlike Cassie’s lips. “Can you see me?” her head tilted, inspecting him and leaning closer.
“C-Ca,” his words were cut from his mouth, still held together from her lips. Cassie exhaled in a gasp and released him, now lying on the grass flooring. She was breathing quickly, and through the noises of the mountain’s forest, Matthias could hear the quietness of her embarrassment. His body tried to spring upwards, but his motion was too rapid, and his muscles stiffened, finding himself lying on the grass, still. The weight of her body, hovering over him, kept him still. She stayed like that for a while, staring at him. Neither of them moved, and if she moved any closer, their noses would touch.
Both could hear the wind, and when Cassie became aware of it, she tugged at her bottom lip with her two front teeth. Her body relaxed, a little embarrassed by her sudden maneuver and Matthias’ lack of response. This was not about her. It was about him, and he was already feeling weak, again. It was her fault. She knew it, and again, he was not responding. It was her fault. She had forgotten to let him rest.
He could tell she was worried, not because she had a look of worriment on her face, or held anything shaky in her tone of voice, but because he just knew. He really liked this about her, “I can see you,” he smiled, although, in his attempt to smile, he noticed that even his facial muscles were lacking coordination. It was hard to make much of himself like this, and he felt weak, being held by Cassie. He was the leader, not Cassie, “A-and I can hear you,” he tried to say in a goofy way, but his voice wavered.
“We should stay here for a bit,” Cassie rescinded herself under her sable hair, not quite tangled enough by the season’s air. Her voice was solemn, and her eyes looked down the pathway before moving to admire the reposing sky. The clouds were dimming and changing colors, and a pastel hue was misting itself over the coronetting sun. It looked beautiful. It was all so beautiful.
“No, I want to finish climbing the mountain,” he retorted. Cassie looked at Matthias, he was forcefully speaking more boldly, or he was attempting to do so, at least. His body shifted, seeing the worriment in Cassie still struggling. “Are you tired? We should rest then,” he knew as a good leader, he should put Cassie first. There were a lot of reasons for this, and he was much too tired to think of them, aside from he was still unable to sit up right. However, he was most certain that Cassie was tired, as well as exasperated.
Cassie knew it was not a wise idea to allow him to continue the journey. The pathway may have been the kind of trail that had been travelled many times before them; and the mountain may have been of the smaller scale; but he did not look well. They did not have to go up the mountain. He was a determined and stubborn boy. She knew this well from all the time they knew each other. He would find some way to get what he wanted. Again, she would discerned that she would stall their adventure.
“Hold my hand again, Matthias,” Cassie commanded playfully, and before waiting for a response, she grabbed his left hand, weaving their fingers together and bending his arm. Her light touches tickled his skin, and she positioned herself next to where Matthias rested his, “Why do you want to climb a mountain so much?” she asked. She held his hand tighter and tilted her head, adjusting how her hair had fallen. Her lips smiled. He was not feeling well, but she was curious and wanted him to rest for a bit more. His mind was so interesting, and despite how open his mind was, she knew very little about it.
Matthias allowed his hand to slump in the grass between them for a bit, as he tried to gain his bearings. His head turned to look at their hands, but he was disoriented by how surreal the grass was positioned, and his hands were tingling in a way that lead him to believe they would vanish. He could see the color of the grass through both of their hands, but neither of their hands should be transparent. Her question was lost to him, as he stared at their hands holding. He blinked several times, attempting to refocus. The transparency momentarily lifted its presence. His mouth opened to say something, and his eyes squinted, trying to grasp the situation and jog his memory.
“It’s okay, Matthias,” Cassie smiled, “You do not have to answer,” she leaned forward. Her spare hand pressed into the grass. Her fingers curled into a fist, “Do you want to know why I want to climb the mountain?” Her face was very close to his again, and he was almost feeling intimidated by her sudden posture.
He attempted to lift himself, but was interrupted by Cassie, “Don’t get up so quickly! I will help you,” Cassie emerged from her bashfulness, panicky that Matthias was still feeling weak. She shifted her body closer, perching her toes in the grass and holding her hands in front of her and towards Matthias. She crept towards him and helped lift his body into a sitting position. Upon meeting his gaze once more, she was flushed with embarrassment again and wanted to run away, but she could not bring herself to do so. “B-be careful!” she commanded in a frail voice. Her hands grabbed hold of his body again, but not as frightfully as when he had his fainting spell. She held him securely, letting him balance himself.
Slowly, the two children began to stand. Matthias was now leaning against Cassie, attempting to ask her what had happened, until he realized she was hugging him, her head pressed against his chest. His shirt was warm from lying in the sunkissed grass, and he smelled like warm cotton. The beating of his heart was nice against her eardrum, and she liked the cheery sound it made. She wanted to call the sound, determination. With her arms wrapped around him as well, she pressed herself closer into him. “I thought you were going to start going away, again,” her breathing changed, against his calmer, more subdued demeanor. Tears began to swell in her eyes, and Matthias tentatively brought up his hands to hug her, as well.
“Where would I have gone?” he joked suspiciously by mocking her lightly. He decided he would drop the subject about having fallen ill — she seemed distraught enough. He did want to know though, especially now that he was feeling much better and more stable. However, he was willing to find out later. In accompany with this decision, he asserted that he was not going to bring up that she had kissed him. Admittedly, he understood that she had been very embarrassed about it, and he was also a little demure about it, too. He cared for this about her, the kiss and her reaction, and as they stood together, he realized that he did not know what to do next. He was better now, and she was still acting in an anxious manner. Her body was shaking, and her fingers were holding tightly to the fabric of his shirt, afraid to let go it seemed. She was fragile like that, and this is why he was the leader, he reminded himself. “Oh!” he exclaimed, unexpectantly remembering the question she had asked him before he had lost his balance and fallen, “I have always wanted to climb a mountain because I believe that on the top of the mountain, my questions will be answered. I read a book with something about how wise sages live on top of mountains, and so I wanted to find one to ask him the hardest question I know ever in the world.”
Cassie’s body was still sobbing silently, and while he enjoyed her need for him, he wanted her to be happy again, like when they had seen the flower. He did not want to force her to stop like he had with the flower, and he immediately felt badly that he had not let her pick it. Having it with her, right now, might have helped to make her feel better. Matthias resumed “My old man told me that the hardest question in the world to answer is, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” If he kept talking, she would eventually see that he was alright and calm down. He also wanted to climb the mountain and get his answer, “Well, today, we’re gunna find out. You and me, Cassie. You could ask a question, as well, Cassie! ” He made a nervous smile, trying to find a way for him to start making more progress on their journey without accidentally hurting her.
“I like your question,” Cassie said bashfully in a melancholy voice, “It will be getting late soon. We will not make it to the top to see the sunset,” her arms dropped. The day was coming to an end, and she knew he was weak. She was not positive his energy would last him, and she did not believe they could make it up the mountain. “Are you feeling better?” Her eyes looked up at him, studying the angles of his face, and the creases under his eyes. The way his eyelashes budded from his eyelids was peculiar to her, and she liked this about him. A smile perched on her lips, hopefully.
“I am feeling better,” Matthias drew in a deep breath, puffing out his chest and releasing his hug on Cassie. “Th-” his hand searched aimlessly behind his head, fingers feeling through the curls of his hair, “Thanks for the kiss,” he quipped. His eyes had darted away at first, but he wanted them to look directly at her as he spoke the sentence to let her know that he was being serious. He liked seeing the caring parts of her eyes focusing on him. Her lips pressed together as he looked down at her. Her smile was trying to hide itself again, and he smiled to let her know it was okay. This all seemed so natural to him. He had not had this type of mindset with any other girl, or person for that matter.
He had never really been put in this type of a situation before meeting Cassie, but he knew that he really enjoyed it a lot. His hand reached out and grabbed hold of Cassie’s hand. He made the gesture quickly, while still looking at her. He believed he had obtained a sense of fondness by having her next to him and right by his side, as he ventured up the small mountain. There was not another person he would have wanted by his side. She was a strange girl, but that made her all the better. They began walking up the mountain path again. The road was heavily trodden in a deliberate manner, and the dirt was surprisingly soft underfoot. Matthias was thankful for this. Neither of them were wearing shoes, even though he was sure he had put shoes on his feet before heading outside this morning. “What happened? Did I black out?” His eyes looked at Cassie briefly and then continued to focus on the path ahead of them. As he asked the question, he drew in a deep breath of anticipation, waiting for the answer.
The trees were becoming less numerous, Cassie noted. Their tops were becoming more defined as they dispersed in appearance. The sound of running water could be heard in the distance, but she still had no answer for Matthias. “I am not really sure,” she replied pathetically. She tried to find her smile in a secure spot on her mouth, as she looked up at Matthias. “You did not look well,” she tilted her mouth, “But you are so much better now,” her legs fastened their pace, “And we are holding hands, again,” she said gently. Her fingers pressed more firmly into his grip. She watched as Matthias looked down at their hands. There was a smugness in him, now. This was how he was when they had first began holding hands, when they first decided to ascend the mountain to its peak.
The two were silent for a while as their journey slowly came to an end. The sky was slowly painting itself a myriad of different colors. It was warm and cool all at the same time, and the patchwork of clouds drifted slowly upon the kaleidoscopic swirls in the sky. There was something more romantic about the hike now that they were almost done completing their adventure together, hand-in-hand. Even the sun was shimmering with magnificent radiance as it settled itself into the passing of the day.
Standing next to Matthias, Cassie felt she had a place where she belonged. She liked her hand in his hand. She liked the both of them being on the mountain. She liked this special memory they were sharing between each other, and she did not ever want to forget it. She wanted to remember it forever. The grass on the mountain road was now thinning, and the beginnings of rubble were tender on her feet, but the ache was akin to nothing while holding his hand. She had been feeling gallant for a while until now, and did not want the journey to end. However, as they made their way through the path, the trail curled to the top, and as much as she dreaded this, she insistently admired how the peak had been decorated with the walkway. Small buds of pink primroses were embroidering the trail, and tiny green buds sprinkled around the florals, and the sun was starting to set, as well. Her hand squeezed his suddenly, “We’re here!”
Happiness brightened her face. She turned to face him, but quickly dropped her smile, seeing the disappointment written all over him. Her eyes looked back at the top and then to the sky. The colors were turning a warm purple and orange. The clouds were an indigo miracle, puffed like cotton. It was beautiful. She had never been on top of a mountain of any kind, and it was beautiful. She liked it more than the flower; she liked it more than the birds’ singing; but Matthias did not seem to think so.
“It is so beautiful!” Cassie said, trying to look past his disappointment. There was sadness already in her, but she wanted to keep it from becoming part of her personality for a little while longer, “I love the clouds! And the sun!” Her breaths were feeling spaced, as she reached for words to better describe her emotions towards the mountain top. It was difficult bringing them out. They were not the words she needed to be saying but rather the words that she wanted to say.
Matthias looked at her a little puzzled before sighing and tilting his head, “I-I love you, Cassie,” Matthias admitted, “I was disappointed that there was no one here to answer my question, but you’ve opened my eyes to how beautiful it is on top of this mountain. The journey was not all for nothing.” He paused and looked at Cassie, “We should sit,” and they both sat, simultaneously agreeing upon his suggestion without delay, “I’m proud to have you as my friend, you’re like a dream come true. I don’t know how to explain it, Cassie,” Matthias was smiling. He thought of Cassie as some sort of answer to the question, but trying to explain this seemed like it was one of the hardest things to do in the world, and upon his pondering of all of this, there was a slow, sustained silence between them, again.
The wind was starting to wisp in the setting air. Their hands continued holding on to each other, and Cassie’s heart was beating restlessly. The touches of the wind upon her skin were ticklish as she contemplated the time, enjoying every piece of it that blew by them. It was about to be over any minute, now. The sun would be setting shortly, and she was beginning to feel the happiness fade away, with the passing of the day. She did not want to be sad, and she scooted closer to him, leaning her head against his shoulder for consolation. For several seconds, she let herself enjoy him before interrupting the peaceful occasion, “Matthias?” she spoke quietly and slowly.
“Hmm?” his body was motionless, having relaxed into the setting stage. Her head lifted from his shoulder, and she looked at him. His eyes narrowed, shielding the dimming golden rays from his eyes. He looked happy still, and the freckles on his cheeks were a light amber, now. She wanted to take a picture, and blinked several times, pretending her eyes were able to capture his glowing face for all of eternity.
“Do you remember how we met?” She did not want to watch him try to remember, and her eyes dropped. Matthias thought long and hard, trying to retrace their footsteps. His earliest memory of her was from this morning when they were lying in the meadow. They had known each other much longer though, surely. Why would he have been lying in the meadow with her in the first place? He could not remember ever journeying to the meadow. She felt his fingers tense and wanted to be released from his hand. She did not allow them to do so, though. Even through the lingering pause, she kept firm in her decision. It was the least she could do, and she wished she could have done more.
Slowly, turning pages of the day into a more realistic perspective, Matthias realized he had not eaten all day, and yet despite that he was still not hungry. Nor had he drunk anything, and was not parched in the least. Cassie also had not made mention of either of these ailments. His lips stuttered apart for several winks, mumbling nothing as they parted and touched. He felt pale and faint again, relinquishing thoughts he had put forth during his previous fainting spell, but as he pivoted to look at her, a sense of calmness washed over him. It was pleasant and haunting, all at the same time, and he finally replied, “I do not remember, Cassie,” he was afraid for this reason. They were conceivably in a safe location, and she must have been more feeble and vulnerable than him, even if he was feeling weak himself, again, “I… do not even know w-where we are,” Matthias drew in several breaths. They were meaningless and did nothing for him, “D-do you?”
Cassie carefully opened her mouth to speak, but she quickly pressed her lips together. He did not seem fearless, anymore. She could not help but try to be courageous for him. She knew it would be better if she was facing him, and so, she re-positioned herself in order to alleviate the pain, “I do, Matthias,” she began, “This is just a dream. We are in a dream. We are in your dream, Matthias, because you are in a coma. We’re just in a dream, and… your family is waiting for you to wake up. They’ve been waiting for weeks, now,” Cassie paused for only a brief second before continuing as she attempted to palliate the truth, “The truth is, I wanted to do something with you that you really, really wanted to do, because you were about to wake up! I did not want you to disappear from here… I wanted you to see that you are happiest when you are with me. That is why I wanted to climb the mountain with you,” her eyes studied Matthias, and the sadness from which she was trying to escape began to overwhelm her. “I love being here with you though… Do you want to stay asleep?” She watched the initial shock and horror scribble all over him, and as emotions continued to draw over his face, a morose cloud of expressions overshadowed his features. She did not enjoy him like this, and he looked worse than she had imagined he would. She verily preferred when he was happy and joyful, and it was much too painful to watch the happiness bleed from him. Leaving him to his thoughts, she slowly drifted her attention to face the sunset as she waited for his answer, this time.
Matthias concentrated on Cassie as he tried to muster up the courage to see through the fantasy. He was very sad, now, staring at his friend. She was more like an ivory doll, a marionette conjured up by his stupid imagination. He coveted for his family, very much now, as he thought about them missing him. Breaking their hearts would bear him nothing but misery, and Cassie was offering him a way out. He was not certain how or why he had fallen into a coma or if he should bother awaking despite how much he wanted to see his family, again. He had been very happy with Cassie, he recollected as he began counting all the times he had smiled, and still, he could not take his eyes from her. She reminded him of the beautiful flower they had seen earlier. It was a lily, he remembered its name now. It was a Ghost Lily and was one of the rarest flowers in the world. He wanted to consider Cassie just the same when he thought of her as his friend, and he became even more uncertain if he wanted to leave her. “If I say, ‘Yes,’ will I die?”
Her eyes stared into the crowning of the sunset, admiring the intricacies of its alluring details. His memory was so fantasmic. She had been in many different dreams, had by many different people over the span of her long existence, but Matthias’ coma dream had become her very favorite. As the sun finished hiding his jewels behind the horizon, the majestic light slowly disappeared, and the ornaments of clouds started to drain of color. It was still so beautiful to her, and she wished very much to experience it, again and again for the rest of her life. She looked towards him, as the ink blackened the sky for the moon’s awakening, “Stay with me, Matthias. Will you please, stay with me…?” she smiled politely one more time as she extended her opened hand.