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Taylor's Time!

Anime version of Taylor, the author of the piece

Kay, I'm confused.

This isn't a bad thing!

Well, at least in this context.

Reading something and having no idea where the story is going?

Yeah, that's a cool kind of clueless.

So Adam's back and has done his job, so Taylor's post - which she had ready for last week! - is up for you today.



Where The Ashes Meet The Sky

Chapter One 

New Life - Continued

Willow greeted me as soon as I stepped Into the house. Sweet little Willow, once so tiny like her sister, had grown into an energetic eight-year-old with chubby cheeks and bright eyes. Like River, she loved me unreservedly. We talked for hours about every subject under the sun, from dinosaurs to our favorite books to life in a small town such as this one. River showed me some of her sketches in a flip book she'd made herself. Willow gave me a small yellow purse she carried into the living room. 

“You can have it,” she said shyly after I admired how cute it was. 

I took it in my hands. It was my favorite color and the perfect size for my cell phone and wallet. It was bright and happy, just like her. 

Keegan cleared his throat. I looked to where he stood leaning against the wide door frame of the living room. “Girls, why don't you go play in your room for a while? Lilly's had a long day.” 

I smiled faintly enough that the girls couldn't see it. In truth, I was grateful for the interruption. Coming from a home where my parents hardly said two words to me, and being so introverted that even my thoughts were too much company at times, I felt overwhelmed by all of this attention. 

Willow and River pouted for a moment then stood from the couch and listened to their brother. As they retreated to their room downstairs, I looked out the large window behind me. Through the thin curtains, I could the setting sun. Just as Keegan came to lead me to my temporary bedroom, I heard Maria's voice. To my quiet relief, we couldn't visit for long, as she was heading to her night shift job. 

“I'm sorry you've gotta work tonight,“ I said, sympathetically. “And alone too.” 

“Thanks, Babe,” she replied, slipping into her work vest.”Sucks I'll have no one to talk to while I'm stalking the shelves since someone took the night off at the last minute.” 

Keegan blushed beside me, leading me to believe his last-minute decision to take a night off had little to do with himself. 

“Oh!” Maria exclaimed, making us both jump. “Allie's just in that room right there-” She pointed to the room she'd come out of. “Would you like to meet her?” 

My head bobbed before I could think to speak. Allie…

I'd nearly forgotten about her. When I last saw Maria, she had resolved never to have a child. And yet, here she was, a mom and…

“She's a little fussy,” Maria said, coming out with the baby. 

Keegan spoke up as I took the little one into my arms. “Cuz you woke her up!” 

I smiled at this exchange between siblings. They'd been like this ever since our preteens, constantly bickering with one another, and I couldn't get enough. Maria shot her brother a dark look, but Allie gurgled in my arms, shifting my attention back to her. She was beautiful, with eyes like her mother’s and the same chubby cheeks the whole family inherited from their mother. She was barely eight months old and had lighter skin than her mother. Her eyes were slightly slanted, giving her an adorable Eskimo-like appearance. Her dark hair was straight and smooth as corn silk. She looked like a baby doll, priceless in value, flawless in beauty. She was an irreplaceable gem that was to be protected at all costs. 

I kissed her, breathing in her scent, a blend of baby powder and chocolate, before handing her back to her mother. 

“Wait,” I said, looking at Keegan. “Who'll be watching her?” 

“Oh, Reese is in there,” he said. “He doesn't come out much.”

I'd only ever heard of Reese, but never actually seen him. I knew he was a talker, and the thought of being trapped in a small room with someone talking my ear off was enough to drain me of whatever energy I had left. Before I could say anything, Keegan noticed and led me down the main hall, where one room stood just before the stairs. Keegan blushed again as he opened the sliding wood door. 

“Would you prefer top or bottom?” he asked. 

I raised an eyebrow and smirked. Days before I packed my first bag, he told me we'd have to share a bedroom due to limited space in the house. His eyes widened as he recognized the unintended meaning for his words. “B-bunk, I mean,” he stammered. “Top or bottom bunk? I-I didn't mean, ya know, that.”

He was bright red now and fumbling with his words. 

“I'm messing with you, Keegan.” I chuckled and elbowed him in the ribs. “The bunk bed is hard to miss.” 

It really wasn't. The bed practically took up the entire room. He glared at me, putting on his best pouting face. 

“Okay, sleep alone. I don't care.” 

I laughed and grabbed him by the arm as he turned to walk away, knowing his little games. 

“No, stay. Come on, please.” 

He looked at me with fake irritation, but there was no hiding the playfulness in his voice. “Fine! Since you asked me so nicely, I'll stay.”

“Oh, thank you!” I cheered, sarcastically. 

I threw my arms around his neck without thinking, realizing my mistake too late. He returned the embrace, wrapping his arms, his warm, strong arms, around me to pull me closer. I felt his face press against my neck and tensed, not with fear but joy. 

We hadn't been this close in so long. He inhaled, breathing in the scent of my perfume. I did the same, taking in the scent of his cologne, barely there. It felt right to hold him now. To have him holding me felt even righter. Somehow, the idea of sleeping in the same bed felt less wrong. Neither of us wanted this hug to end.

We said, “I love you,” in perfect unison, and laughed as we pulled away without moving out of each other's arms. This blissful moment was shattered by a voice from downstairs throwing me into anxiety. 

“Is she here? I better tell them now before they go to bed.”

As if we'd been caught cheating on our nonexistent significant others, Keegan and I hurriedly disentangled, shoving each other away just before his mother came upstairs. Her voice was booming and a little shrill as she hugged me in excitement. 

“Lilly, how are you? How was the drive? Are you hungry? Can I get you anything? Feel free to make yourself at home. Oh, we're all so happy you're here!”

“Me too.” I tried to keep my voice calm, but her excitement wore me out. Instead of bathing me in calmness, I was showered with anxiety and wanted to retreat into the dark refuge of the room. 

“You can call me mom or mama. It's up to you. You're family now.”

Finally, she let go. I took a deep breath in an attempt to relax a bit. 

“Lilly is tired, Mom.” Keegan jumped in politely. “I was just taking her to bed.”

Before either of us could even move, Mama spoke again. “Oh, sweetheart, before I forget, you won't be sleeping in the same room with Lilly anymore.” Keegan's face fell. Mine followed shortly after Mama spoke again. “Sorry, guys. I know I said you could at first, but the more I think about it - your souls are still pure and I intend to keep them that way.”

Pure? To have a pure soul was to abstain from sexual activity, according to the Bible. Even as children, we were never allowed to sleep in the same room, let alone a single bed. Why had I let my excitement cloud what I had accepted to be true a long time ago? And why was I so excited?

My cheeks flushed. Neither Keegan nor I had ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend due to our shared social awkwardness and quirks. I had never felt anything more than platonic friendship towards Keegan. Why did that suddenly change now?

Keegan looked at me and shrugged as if he already knew where he was going to sleep now. I didn't realize how much I wanted Mama to change her mind until she didn't, choosing instead to say “Goodnight” and retreat down the stairs. 

“Well, I guess I'll be on the couch if you need anything,” Keegan said, half-smiling. “Goodnight Lil.” 

I half-expected him to hug me again, but we just stood there awkwardly staring at each other. 

“Goodnight, Key.” I replied. “See ya tomorrow?” 

His smile grew wider. “Of course you will. I've gotta rest up for work, but I'll make sure to make time for us. I promise.”

And with that, he left for the living room. I walked into the small room, closing the door gently behind me. 

“Lilly, is that you?” A tired voice asked from the darkness. 

Sarah was on the top bunk of the bed. I smiled and answered softly, “Yes, Sarah, it's me.” as I climbed Into the bottom bunk. 

Sarah exhaled. The top bunk creaked as though she was sinking deeper into it. “I'm so glad you're here.”

I smiled. It took less than a moment to change into my pajamas, then I snuggled into my fresh blankets and pillow. Despite the anxiety, the smothering attention, and the changes I knew I'd have to adapt to, I already loved this new life better than my old one. Here, I was cherished. There was no doubt about that. I settled down deeper into the soft mattress, closing my eyes and saying, “Me too, Sarah.” with a genuine smile in my heart. 

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