by The Birch Twins
Genre: Romantic Fiction
Beginning as a childhood game, Poohsticks Bridge tells the sweet story of a friendship between two children that, through the years, blossoms into adult love with an unbreakable bond and faith in one another. John and Melissa are tested throughout their lives by hardships, pain, and separation, yet their love and determination to live life together to its fullest never falters. In today’s culture of having everything, this couple shows us how a few, simple things can lead to a satisfying and fulfilling life.
Poignant in the extreme, you’ll want to keep the tissues nearby. These two will make you laugh, cry, and fall in love … with life and with them.
Melissa falls ill. She sat by his side in a folding chair. The day had started in a happy way. She had seemed somehow brighter, and at first he had thought it was the miracle cure that he had prayed for. She had suggested a trip to Poohsticks Bridge. It had been a struggle. She was too weak to walk far now, and he had to carry her, after making a prior trip with blankets and folding chairs for them to use. And so he had helped her dress, and carried her in his arms to her favourite place, her frail body bundled up against the cold. She was quiet now. Speaking took so much energy, energy that she no longer had. They sat in their little chairs, and watched mid-morning turn to lunch time (though neither of them ate), and lunch time turned to afternoon. Melissa shivered, and he realised that soon it would be time to take her inside.
“Fall is so pretty,” she whispered. “I wanted to see fall.”
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he said to her. “The thrushes are collecting sticks. I think they’re building.”
“Make sure to come down here with some food this winter,” she replied. “They’ll be hungry.”
He touched her hand. And there it was, the reminder. The reminder that their days together were limited. The doctors said that, if she was lucky, she’d get to see the fall. And it was here, the long and painful summer had begun its decay and was turning into Autumn cold. The forest around them was dying, and even the forest creatures were beginning their migration or hibernation. She was so quiet, sitting beside him, motionless. For the first time, his heart turned to a chill and he looked to see if she had died, but she had not. Suddenly feeling his lip beginning to tremble, he reached out for her hand suddenly and gripped it. She feebly returned his grip. She was weaker now, he could see that. Her eyes closed with the exhaustion of simply being here.
“I think it’s time to go,” he said, his voice husky and cracked.
“No,” she began a protest. “Another minute.”
“He could see her lip tremble too, and he knew why. This was her happy place: she and he had grown up here and lived here, laughed here and cried here. She knew this was the last time she would see this place, the last time she would be here with him. Neither of them wanted it to end, though he knew it must. It would weaken her so much to leave her in the cold afternoon air. And yet his courage failed him time and again.
He never saw her look so beautiful as she did now. They both knew that fate had finally defeated them, no matter how they tried to stay together, to huddle close against the gentle tendrils of life and death, it would be no use. Life is finite, it can end in the blink of an eye. He could barely take his eyes from her, in an attempt to etch onto his brain the very image of her, here in her happy place, in their happy place, so that in years later, when her memories would fade, this moment would remain stamped forever onto his brain and still bring the stabbing pain of loss that he felt now. No matter how much time would pass, in years to come he knew he would still smell the sweet scent of the trees as they sat there in silence waiting for those final moments, the quiet hush of the birds as they watched in revered peace as the pair waited to be separated forever. Not just yet, he pleaded silently, as his courage once again failed him, let there be a few minutes more. He studied her face again. How beautiful she was.
The time came to take her into the house, and, leaving their things, he carried her frail body inside the house, as quiet as a pallbearer. He was dimly aware of people in the house, his sister was there, and friends, it seemed. To help him with her. He imagined they’d been here for a while, but he barely noticed them. He carried her upstairs and slipped her into bed, climbing in silently beside her and holding her tightly. She was quiet now, and he held her for a long time. He watched through the window as the afternoon began to turn into early evening, and the sun began to enter its death throes. The tendrils of night began to cast shadows of evening across the window and into the room, and after a while, the room grew dark. All was silent in the house. The friends and family downstairs were occupied with their own thoughts, their own sadness and left Tweedle- and Tweedle-dee to their final moments together. As he lay holding her, now the final afternoon was drawing into evening, and the long shadows of the fading autumn sun had darkened the bedroom, he knew that the way they protected themselves, to hug each other till the bad things left, would not work today. He held her tighter as the room grew darker, and closed the covers over them both as her body grew cold in the autumn evening. He wondered for an idle minute what Tweedle-Dum would do when Tweedle-Dee was gone, as she surely would be today. He felt it was ending here, he knew in his heart that the embers of her life were slowly going out and the fire of her existence was fading to ashes. She had felt it too. That was why she had insisted he carry her to Poohsticks bridge that very morning, not because she felt better, but because she was saying goodbye. His Tweedle-Dee had known she was at the end of her path. He hugged her tighter still, and closed his eyes against the blackness that threatened to envelop his very soul.
The day had seemingly started so well, he thought, only to end in what would forever be the blackest day he would encounter in his life. The stabbing pain of this day would be etched into his heart forever, he knew that. As he held her, he knew it wouldn’t be long. The spark of life which ignited her soul grew dimmer with each passing second. He held her close, and often heard her murmur, though she was barely conscious. She no longer had the strength to fight for life. She suddenly stirred.
“Be happy again,” she whispered. “You promised me.”
He couldn’t speak, but kissed her softly on the cheek as way of an answer.
“It was a good day,” she whispered. “The happy place.”
“Our first place,” he said gulping for air. “I first loved you there.”
“I love you,” she replied softly.
He could no longer speak, and so held her again, close, and kissed her cheek. She was quiet now, and her breathing softer. The evening had turned to night, and still he held her. Her body grew cold, and still he held her close, Tweedle- holding his Tweedle-dee possessively. She had been his. She had always been his. She had never belonged to anyone else, only him. And they had been happy. Since they had been five, they had been together, every day, everything alike. They had shared everything, from fun, laughter, games and toys to later on love, passion and togetherness. He had known her like he would know no other. And nobody else would know her. She had been his, and his alone. And now, she always would be only his. He hugged her as tightly as he could, for he knew this would be the last time he would ever hold her, there would be no other times, no more memories to make. This was the final one. The flame of life inside her had flickered out now, he knew that. She was gone, he could feel it. And yet, while he still held her, it didn’t happen. Just another minute, he pleaded, one final minute with her. Just another minute. And while he held on, she couldn’t be gone. One last minute of holding her, the last time he would ever hold her. He didn’t want to let go, and not for the first time did his thoughts go to the revolver in the desk drawer. To put the gun in his mouth and join her in whatever afterlife there was. Together again in death as they had been in life. His hand reaching for hers once again, hand in hand as they always had been. But he didn’t, couldn’t. She’d made him promise not to. And, though it was the hardest thing he would ever do in his life, he put the thoughts of the gun aside, and released her cold body from his grip, and rose from the bed. He felt blackness wash over him, and as he looked at her body, he suddenly grew than any man, he let the darkness wash over him, a monolith of hate and anger against a world that had cruelly snatched away the only thing he had ever cared for. He became faintly aware of the stabbing pain in his head returning as he made his way downstairs.
A voice, who was it? Who the fuck knew? Who cared? He heard his own voice in his head as he sat down in the living room chair. His father’s chair. Tears filled his eyes and he could neither see nor speak. Hands touched him, a female body held him, but he remained a silent monolith. He cast his head down to earth as they spoke to him, their voices a mass of sympathy. He felt his breathing grow laboured as he sat in the chair. He couldn’t bear to utter the words to them, the conformation of her death, he couldn’t say it. Wishing he was back in bed at the side of her holding her, he cast his head down and felt the blackness come.
I write under the name “The Birch Twins.” Helen, my twin, didn’t live to see life, and so I write for her. I’m a full time poverty stricken doll artist who took to writing as I seemed to spend more time writing out little back stories for the characters I created. My first book The Life of LOL was written in five weeks, and was about gangsters, grifters and drifters. Lots of cartoon slapstick violence mixed with a serious message.
Poohsticks Bridge, the new novel, shows my twin’s voice at is strongest as it tells the story of a little boy who begins to grow up lonely and alone, until he meets a little girl. It’s a glimpse of a life that Helen and I could have had together. She writes through me, I can feel her presence and hear her voice. Her tone is often wistful, low on movement, mature and often quiet, while I am brash and loud and full of silly car chases and boyhood dreams of rockets to the moon. We have the perfect writing partnership.
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