This was written as part of this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by Rachael Ritchey, the topic: Four Leaf Clover, for St. Patrick’s Day! Below is my short story contribution to the challenge. I hope you enjoy it!
She sat on the edge of the bed watching him. Before the tall mirror he buckled on layer after layer of thick leather around his torso, his legs, and forearms: The leather of war, and over it would go the armor. She watched as he picked up the first piece, its iron gleaming dully, and worked at buckling it around his chest.
She didn’t want Brother to go. The war was raging, and she had a feeling few would return from it alive. Her hand yanked at hair a mix of violet shades. She knew he didn’t have a choice. Every fairy man and boy old enough to carry a blade was ordered to join the army and fight for their village on the warfront; times were desperate, and every soldier counted.
Light through a window caught the armored chest plate; it shined as silver as a dull moon. She hated it. As beautiful as it gleamed, she hated it. Her older brother finished buckling it on, and must have sensed the tension; he turned halfway from the mirror to look back at her, the movement swaying his own long hair, a violet waterfall, now tied back from his shoulders. He eyed her; she drew both knees up to her chin.
When Mom and Dad were alive, Brother was often put in charge of keeping an eye on her: He kept a close watch at the playground, he held her hand when they went to get ice cream, he made up games and played with her when she was lonely… He was always there.
And when Mom and Dad had to go away, they left and never came back, and Brother became her sole guardian: looking after her, working to support her and earn them both a living. He was always there. But now Brother was going away, just as they had. Would he…come back?
She stared down at her bare toes on the mattress and let her mind wander to years long since past….
Dappled sunlight played down upon the little forest meadow; a warm breeze sending white and yellow wild flowers swaying back and forth. A child then, Clover chased after Brother, running in circles and skipping about the fresh green meadow grass. She finally caught up to him, pouncing without giving him a chance to evade her grasp. Her weight knocked him over and they both toppled down into the spring flora. A chipmunk scurried away, and berated them both with loud angry chirps. Clover made a face at it, and giggled from her perch on Brother’s stomach.
He rolled her off with a push, and sat up, straightening his moth-brown wings. She eyed Brother; he ran his hands carefree through the grass, enjoying the leafy feel, then she too did the same; sometimes she copied him without realizing it. Suddenly, his hand paused; it reached for something and then held it up.
“Huh?” she drew near for a closer look. “A clover?”
He shook his head, “Not just any clover. Look, this has four leaves.” Her eyes grew wide, goggling the special sight. “It’s what you were named after, Clover.” She stared at the delicate green stem, the dappled sun glowing through its four perfectly round leaves. “Whenever you find one,” he explained, “it means everything’s going to be okay. No matter how bad things may seem, this clover promises the sun will return and shine in your life again.” He grinned at it.
Fascinated, she reached out her small fingers and picked the four-leaf clover from his hand, twirling it in her own. “Through harsh rain and scary thunderstorms, this special plant survives; because Lord God brings the sun to shine life on it again.” He yanked up several handfuls of clover and grass and threw them up in the air: it was like a brilliant green rain falling around them. “Whenever you find a four-leaf clover, hold it tight and remember—hold it tight and make a wish!—and everything will be okay.”
She shook her head, not believing him.
“It’s true,” he insisted. “I found one the day you were born into the world. You were alive, even though you were premature; you were a miracle! That’s why your name is Clover.”
“Mom and Dad…are they not coming back?” she asked Brother, holding his hand and walking back along the forest path to their little house. He was silent, more silent than he’d ever been before. She stared up at him for a reply, then looked away, giving up.
A tug on her hand said he’d stopped; she halted and turned her head to see why. He bent down to the grass then straightened. He smiled and held it out to her: a four-leaf clover. She wasn’t sure she believed his smile, it seemed sort of forced, but she took the clover anyway and twirled it between her fingers. ‘Will we be okay, even if they’re gone…?’
Brother worked hard since that day, supporting both her and him, but with some time, and the close family bond they shared, they both managed to find their smiles again. It was because Brother was there that she was able to live on, able to laugh, able to dream about the future. Without him…. Clover shook her head, she did not want to think about it; she couldn’t fathom a world without him there to hold her hand, as he had always done.
Brother turned away from the mirror. “All done! Well, how do I look?” She didn’t raise her face; only her eyes flicked up.
“Like a stag beetle.”
He stared at her, then a laugh broke out. “Stag beetle? I didn’t put my helmet on yet! And the design pattern is ‘wings.’ I don’t know how you imagine a ‘beetle’ from it….” He checked the mirror again, his back to her. Her reflection on the edge of the bed turned away, hiding her face. Seeing it, he let his smile drop and his gaze falter down to the floorboards. Held in emotions cried to escape the ensuing silence.
New soldiers gathered on the village road; slowly they began setting out on the journey that lay ahead of them, forward toward the dread of war they would soon face.
Brother held Clover’s hands, clasping both firmly. “You’re a smart girl; I know you’ll be okay without me here.”
She shook her head viciously, “No, I won’t. You want me to be, but I won’t!”
The encouraging smile he wore turned a fraction sad. “Yes, you will. And once I come back, I’ll be proud of you for it.”
Come back? Would he come back? Was there any hope at all Brother would survive?
“I will come back to you—I promise.” He gave her a bear hug, squeezing her tight. Time slowed, drawing out every second; and then he let her go…and slowly turned away toward the other soldiers, grimly taking the path leading out the village, to leave their peaceful homes, their beloved world, behind.
She watched his back leave through blurry vision. After several steps, he stopped, stooped down and picked something up from the dirt road’s side. He turned back, holding it up, and then tossed it her way. She caught it: a four-leaf clover. He smiled and waved a hand, and then his back was facing her once again, marching away; for the first time in her life, he was leaving her behind.
She held the clover, almost squeezing it. “Brother, you idiot…wishes don’t come true…” she murmured against a light spring breeze rustling the trees shading their forest dwelling. “I wish…” The clover pressed to her chest, but she couldn’t finish. “Will you really come back?” The warm air rustled her wings and tousled hair in front of her eyes. “Lord God, please…please…let him return to me.”
A green petal fell from the four-leaf clover; it was carried off on the breeze, away and out of sight.
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