A very late post (for me here in England anyway... it's technically not Wednesday anymore), but I was occupied all day today celebrating my twenty-first birthday! But here's some Light for you, a scene I just wrote on Monday. Just before this, Lyddie has agreed to go out with Aaron, a boy she's had a crush on for awhile, but doesn't get to tell anyone her good news, because when she gets home, she finds that her sister's engagement has been broken off for seemingly no reason.
That night, Dad returns to work and we can’t coax Julie from her room, so it’s just Aunt Kelly and me for dinner. She whips up some chicken and pasta and we settle down at the table together. There’s no automatic conversation like there usually would be- the events of the day have made us uncomfortable. It feels like we should talk about Julie’s predicament or nothing at all. After a long silence, Aunt Kelly elects the former.
“Do you know how she’s doing?” she asks, keeping her voice low, as though Julie could hear her upstairs.
I shake my head. “No; she hasn’t come out of her room at all.”
Aunt Kelly spears a piece of pasta with her fork. “Well, I guess we just need to give her time. She and Jake may not have been together for very long, but I really do think they loved each other.”
“Then why did he break it off?” I exclaim, surprised at the anger I feel on my sister’s behalf.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain matters of the heart.” My aunt sees me roll my eyes and adds, “No, truly. Sometimes love makes people do crazy things, even to the point of calling off a relationship. You may not understand that now, but you will one day.”
I wonder if I should tell her about Aaron- in the commotion over Julie, I didn’t have the chance to tell anyone. Perhaps, since we’re on the subject of relationships, I could ask Aunt Kelly if it’s even worth it to go on with him. But no, I decide. Now is not the time.
Aunt Kelly’s staring off into space, looking deep in thought, and something in her gaze makes me ask, “Did you ever think you would get married?”
My aunt’s eyes instantly come back into focus and she blinks at me in surprise. “Wh-what makes you ask that?” she questions.
I shrug. “Just wondering. I mean, even though we’re not allowed to get married and everything, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to…” I trail off, hoping she’ll finish the thought for me.
“Well…” Aunt Kelly begins haltingly. “I guess… yes. I did think I would at one point.”
I’m intrigued. While I never doubted that someone would want to marry my aunt- she’s smart and certainly pretty enough for someone to go after her- I’ve never before considered that she may have had a relationship before becoming Keeper. “So what happened?”
“What do you mean, what happened?”
“Well, you’re like me- you weren’t always supposed to be the Keeper. You were, what, twenty-eight when you got the job, right? You can’t tell me that you did even date anyone, at least.”
Aunt Kelly lets out a long, loaded sigh and takes a moment before responding. “Yes,” she answers finally. “I was actually in a rather serious relationship in the months before I took over for your mother.”
“Yes?” I prompt.
She twists her mouth to the side, as if considering just how much she wants to tell me. “Well, around the same time that your mother started keeping, I met a guy and we started seeing each other. It was… it was great. I’d never been so happy while dating someone. He was a wonderful man and we loved each other and best of all, he understood about the lanterns.”
“But how?” I inquire. “Outsiders can't know about them, especially a man!”
“It’s difficult to explain,” Aunt Kelly says. “He had obligations of his own, so he didn’t think it was weird that I had a sister who stayed in all the time.”
“So did he understand when you said you had to take over for her?” A bubble of hope forms inside me; maybe, if I get Aunt Kelly’s permission, I can tell Aaron about the lanterns. He’d understand just like her boyfriend did.
Aunt Kelly stabs a piece of chicken. “Not exactly. Before I took over, we had been seeing each other for nearly a year and a half, and he had proposed once already. At this point, your mother was having some trouble doing everything and I told him not yet. I promised him that I did want to marry him, but I had to take care of things at home first. He seemed to understand and told me to take my time. But when it happened that I had to take over completely, I had to tell him that I couldn’t marry him, no matter how much I wanted to. And I desperately wanted to,” she says with sudden passion. But then she catches herself and, giving me a quick glance, continues with, “But there were other things that had to be done, and I had to take care of them. He was upset, but what could I do?”
I push my food around on my plate, feeling a little guilty about being one of the things that had to be done. “So…” I say hesitantly. “Is it even worth it to start something like that? To get involved with someone?”
I expect Aunt Kelly to tell me no, to say that when there is a job to be done, one should focus solely on the task at hand. But instead, she puts down her fork and looks me square in the eye. “It’s always worth it, Lyddie. Even if it doesn’t work out in the end, it’s always worth giving it a try. It teaches you about yourself, if nothing else, and there is nothing more vital to success in this job.”
I appreciate her words, but I can’t help but think that even with the affection that comes with a relationship, if I know it will have to end with a break-up, is there really a point? The last thing I want to do is lead Aaron on, or wore, hurt him because we take it too far. All these considerations make my head start to hurt again, so I finish dinner quickly and head back upstairs, where Julie’s door is still closed tightly, not even a strip of light showing at the bottom.