|Returning, departing, becoming
||[Feb. 20th, 2007|11:50 pm]
(lives between pages)
Title: All the World to See
Film: The Village
Characters/Pairings: Ivy/Lucius, Finton/Jesse, others from the ensemble cast.
Notes: This is a sequel to How the Blossoms Grow. pickledixy's time-stamp request called for a sequel set either a month or one year later, which also equals a month or a year after the film ends (seeing as HtBG spans time before, during, and up to where the film leaves off). So, this story begins a month later and ends a year later. The title is an earlier line from Ivy's lullaby. I can't help but feel we're shown a world that's declining at its own slow pace, and it's with that bit of foreshadowing I leave you to read.
Summary: Beginnings and endings always travel hand in hand.
December 2004/December 1897
Walker Wildlife Preserve/Covington Village
The pocket watch swings and swings as Kevin drives, a hypnotic golden compass.
Invariably, it leads him back to the mile-marker where he picked up the girl – Ivy, her name a fading, clinging thing in the rush of oncoming winter. He stops the land rover and studies the high barrier, wondering how she made the climb in those old-fashioned shoes and skirt. Blind. Still staring, he shakes his head, and his eyes dart back to the pocket watch.
Kevin isn't superstitious, but it was on All Saints' Day that she'd come and gone, fading fast as a deer and lithe as a ghost beyond the barrier, down the road that wasn't a road. He'd wondered as he stood shaking atop the ladder, letting go of her hand, if it was another ghost she'd run home to, or if the penicillin would save someone's life.
He restarts the land rover, thinking of his late mother's Christmas cookies instead. His father, living halfway across the country now, had never learned to make them. Neither had Kevin.
The pocket watch swings, and swings, and swings.
~ * ~
The Elders' Yuletide Council is interrupted, as usual, by one of the young adults.
Ivy tilts her head, listening carefully to the footsteps as they cross the wooden slats. There is a slight, swaggering confidence in them that could belong to any of several of the unmarried men about her husband's age, but it's difficult to tell. Her sister's husband, Christop, has something of that bounce in his step, but gravity has tugged it to earth a little ever since Kitty's miscarriage. Lucius had been nearly recovered then, and it had been difficult to leave his bedside for her sister's.
"Jesse," Lucius whispers, taking hold of her hand.
Ivy squeezes it, drawing in her breath. She can hear the mutters rise: Lucius's mother to her left, Victor and his wife farther down. The others merely clear their throats, waiting. Her father – and for this she is thankful – is patient in his silence.
"Good afternoon, young Mr. Lynch," he says, finally, in an agreeable tone. "I trust your mother is well since the ice storms have passed?"
Ivy hears the floorboards shift under Jesse's feet, then the soft brush of his hair against the brim of his hat as he removes it. She imagines his hands folded and his chin held high.
"Yes, Mr. Walker," Jesse responds, his voice clear and strong. "She sends her thanks to Victor, and my father sends his greetings to you."
"Tell him that they are returned," Ivy's father replies, rising. Ivy tightens her grip on Lucius's hand, counting the steps that he takes toward Jesse. One, two, three.
"And tell me," continues Mr. Walker, with gentle humor, "if there is some matter of grave import that brings you before our dire and crucial vote as to the most suitable location for this year's tree?"
Ivy covers her mouth with her free hand, trying not to laugh. The thought of what Jesse is about to say is enough to stay the breath in her lungs to the point of pain.
"Not of grave import, no, but certainly of import," Jesse responds, adopting Mr. Walker's mode of speech with a chameleon's ease. "I've come to ask permission not to marry."
There is stunned silence before the murmurs erupt. It's Lucius's turn to squeeze Ivy's hand.
"I am not certain I follow," Mr. Walker says, slowly. It is one of the few occasions on which Ivy has seen her father speechless, his usually strong beacon of what she remembers from her childhood to be green wavering briefly.
"I find the recent trend troubling, you see – no offense to my dear friends Mr. And Mrs. Hunt. It's just that, well, with this year's many declarations of marriage, it may be equally as important for those of us who intend not to marry to make our intentions known, sir, that we may make productive plans in our own right."
"Foolishness," Lucius whispers. "But he's brave."
Ivy straightens her head and smiles, looking directly at Jesse. His voice has faltered slightly, and he needs reassurance from them more than he needs concern.
"Productive plans in your own right, plural?" asks Mrs. Hunt, her voice like twisted iron.
Ivy feels her father's glance sweep over her and pass to Lucius's mother, a mild warning.
Jesse clears his throat, then says, "Yes, Mrs. Hunt. For it so happens that Finton Coin does not intend to marry, either, and we have come to an agreement concerning the construction of a small house in which bachelors such as ourselves would not continue to encumber our parents with extra mouths to feed. That is, if the Council will sees fit to grant us land." Jesse pauses, and Ivy hears skin brush on skin: the back of his hand across his sweat-damp forehead. "We ask less space than the Percy household occupies, even," he adds, and his sudden intake of breath means that he did not mean it to come out sounding like that. "Th – that is, a small house, Mr. Walker, on a small piece of ground. Nothing more."
Ivy realizes she has lowered her head again, and she forces it upright. Lucius's breathing beside her has changed as it changes when he feels cornered or embarrassed. Ivy strokes the back of his hand to calm him, fearful of damage to his recently healed wounds.
Muttering surrounds them, then silence as her father's color flares – the raising of his hand.
"You are – certain, Mr. Lynch, that you have no intention to marry? Young though our remaining daughters may be, I assure you that they will be perfectly eligible in time. I do not speak merely on my own behalf," he adds, his reassuring amusement ever present.
"I am certain, Mr. Walker," Jesse says, his voice firm. "And Finton is certain, too, if I may speak for him. He has not the constitution to come before you, so I represent us both. We are the most harmonious of companions, and we vow that this arrangement shall be for the benefit of us all, including your daughters." Ivy can't help but grin as Jesse looks about the room, for certainly the shift in his address suggests the offering of banter. "They will at least know to choose otherwise, and heaven knows all our ears will be the better for it."
Ivy is glad that Kitty isn't present to hear the sudden, startling laughter – especially Lucius's. Or her own, for that matter. She covers her mouth with her hand again.
"Brave, brave fool," Lucius is saying under his breath as Mr. Walker confers with the others around them, leaving Jesse to stand and wait for the moment. There's a smile in his voice as he adds, "I cannot believe he did it."
"I can," Ivy says, and looks back at Jesse. His smile radiates the faint color of spring violets, a new and vibrant thing in her recently lifting darkness. Against Lucius's pale gold – like the remembered flash of her mother's wedding band – it is a spring flower, and she wonders if Finton's color will soon paint a swath of her world, too.
December 1897/January 1898
Covington Meadow & Resting Rock
This year, it is Jesse who struggles to keep up with the trail that Finton blazes.
"I do not know what miracle you worked," Finton pants, practically running, heedless of the snow he scatters this way and that, "but you have done it!"
Jesse manages to catch up with him, catching hold of his scarf. Both of them go down in a shower of fine powder, cheeks pressed to the crush of frozen whiteness, laughing. It is pitch dark, save for the gentle blaze of lights from the village behind them.
"To be honest, I think it was plain, garden-variety astonishment," Jesse admits, propping himself up on one elbow, brushing the snow away from Finton's cheek. In the dark stillness – no groaning from the woods for months now, he's noticed – Finton looks less troubled than he ever has, and decidedly more grown-up.
"You mean to say that Mr. Walker just talked to them for a few minutes, and he said yes, of course, just like that?"
"Well, there were a few conditions I hesitate to mention," Jesse says, deciding that a touch of Mr. Walker's playfulness would hardly be out of order. He must know if Finton's nerves have truly healed, as surely as Ivy had insisted upon Victor's express permission for Lucius to rise and resume walking about in the world.
Finton's brow furrows, and his hand tightens fretfully on Jesse's wrist.
Reluctantly, Jesse bites his lip, deepening the ruse as light snow begins to fall.
"What?" Finton asks, sitting upright, dragging Jesse with him. "Will you not say?"
Jesse sighs. "If I must. The conditions are as follows: one, because the land falls between the village proper and this very meadow, we are to consider it our responsibility to be vigilant – not eternally on watch, mind you – with regards to the Woods."
Finton's furrowed brow uncreased a little. "We have come to a permanent truce," he says, confident. "A life for a life; Noah's for one of theirs. It is sealed in blood."
"Yes, well, we are to be vigilant," Jesse presses on, finding it difficult to keep a straight face. "Two: we are not to harbor young charlatans out and about in the night for the purpose of playing outdoor parlor games. We are to be grown gentlemen with a household of our own, not a safe-haven for addle-headed children."
Finton practically sniffed, tucking his hair behind his ears. "We've not done that in years."
"No, of course not," Jesse pressed on, patting Finton's shoulder. "Third: Lucius and Christop are to be in charge of the house-raising party, which shall commence when the cold weather breaks come spring."
Finton blinks at the last, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. "We're not to build it ourselves with no assistance from anyone, what with the…circumstances, if you like?"
"No," Jesse says, grinning now, indifferent to whether Finton catches him in the joke or not. "We're to have a house-raising just like Kitty and Ivy had. Can you abide it?"
"I can abide most things, so long as you're near me," Finton says, tugging at Jesse's shoulders. "Come on, the midnight is almost on us. What will you wish for?"
"I had not given it thought," Jesse lies, letting Finton tug him to his feet. Snow falls off them in fine, skittering sheets, adrift on the fresh, cold wind.
"You are an awful liar," Finton says with a shy sideways glance, as if they have not done everything under the sun and stars that the Elders have done when no one else is watching. "I will make my wish without kissing you, I swear it."
"You lie no better than I do," Jesse replies, cuffing him, then breaks into a run.
They are both out of breath when they reach Resting Rock, but the stars overhead say that the hour of the New Year has come, and kisses and wishes become one and the same.
"There must be something better to call it," Lucius murmurs, hefting a bucket of whitewash over to Finton with both hands.
His strength seems to have returned, but Ivy is never far behind him, her pale eyes wary and focused. On days like this, he both loves her more than life and wishes she would let him be and get back to living. It is bad enough she and Kitty have put wreathes of flowers in all the young folks' hair. Victor Clack, his wife, and Mr. Walker were the only elders present for the groundbreaking, and now that it is past dusk and they work by blazing torches and lanterns, only a small fellowship remains.
"There might be, but for now, it is what it is," Finton says, grinning at Lucius like he has never grinned in all the days that Lucius has known him – all of their days combined.
"Hoy, but you lay-abouts are the reason we've gone so late into the night," Jesse chides, catching Lucius on the backside with his glove as he passes by with a few planks of wood over one shoulder. "Finton, how are these for stairs?"
"They don't look like much," Finton says, hardly glancing away from his task.
"You didn't look much," Jesse replies, turning his glove on Finton.
"Ivy, will you have a word with Christop?" Kitty cuts in, rushing to her sister, her long hair spilling loose from its tight, coiled plaits. "He is in a most frightful state over his shirt. He went home and changed; I told him he ought not to if he'd rather not ruin them all. Oh, Ivy, do quiet him!"
Lucius wishes, vaguely, that he were inside helping arrange the furniture, or at least making sure that no one knocks over a lantern. He edges away from Ivy and Kitty, half of a mind to go sort Christop with a good splash of whitewash and a few choice words.
"No, why should I even consider it?" Ivy asks, her voice pitched into the no-nonsense register that she had once reserved solely for Noah. "He'll only go on fussing once I've gone, and heaven knows you ought to learn to quiet him yourself, what with the minute fact of your recent wedding. I may have a way with children, but I do draw the line."
Instead of laughter, there is only awkward quiet. Somehow, Lucius is sure that those silences will never leave them, especially if Kitty never conceives and Ivy admits that she has. He peers inside the house, calling to Christop as loudly as he dares.
Ivy has told Lucius of her journey, sparing no detail, and he is troubled. It is easy to think, in moments of joy such as this, that it ought to have been his life instead of Noah's.
Impatient, Lucius pushes the thought away and calls again. He ought not to spoil a day that belongs to his dearest friends in the world, who are better for having each other.
Before Christop can answer, something in Lucius's hair gives way, and a rain of blossoms falls, whipcord and petal storm, across the newly finished threshold.
Edward Walker remembers Independence Day, and the Elders have agreed with him as to its continued celebration, albeit somewhat altered. On the fourth day of July, the village turns out-of-doors at dusk in its finest and feasts to welcome the high summer harvest. Victor, wizard that he is, had devised a rudimentary sort of fireworks early in the experiment.
The children are laughing and clapping now, wide-eyed with amazement.
Beside him on the family blankets lies his wife, drowsy in the nighttime heat, and beyond her, Ivy and Lucius sit with their heads close together, whispering. Edward inclines his head, listening intently. What he hears is not to his liking, but he does not blame them.
"…cannot bear it," Ivy is saying, shaking her head, her eyes filled with tears. "It is almost as bad as watching you die. It is watching part of her die; it haunts me so, Lucius," she whispers, her eyes imploring.
"Either she is barren, or Christop is barren," Lucius says, in low tones, turning his head quickly to take the edge off his words. "You have heard what Victor has told them. There is nothing to be done. No medicines exist that can make a child from nothing."
Ivy's hands rest on her swollen stomach, clenching faintly. Edward looks away, closing his eyes on the sting of his eldest daughter's grief in the face of Ivy's joy.
"Medicines existed that could save your life, and they said you could have passed at any time," she says through clenched teeth, tears running freely down her cheeks. "Surely – "
"You cannot make the journey again," Lucius says, quick and almost harsh. "Not like this. I forbid it, Ivy. Our child needs your strength in order to live."
It is too late, Edward realizes, to pretend that he has not been listening. Ivy's horrified eyes are fixed on his, and Lucius is staring at the ground, ashamed.
"If it would not be inconvenient, I would like to have a word with both of you," Edward says, rising to his feet. His knees have begun to complain these few years past, and he knows that his wife's bones fare no better in this humid weather. He watches Lucius help Ivy to rise, one arm remaining protectively wrapped about her waist.
"Not here," Ivy says, urgently, and squeezes Lucius's hand. "At home."
As Lucius leads them up the torch-lined path, Edward wonders how and where to begin, and if they will even believe him. Still, the world will come whether he wills it or not.
October 1898/October 2005
Covington Village/Walker Wildlife Preserve
The Council is silent, unable to respond to Lucius's proposal.
If what Ivy has heard is correct, it would not be the first time, and it would surely not be the last. The hostility radiating from the ends of the crescent assembly inward is stifling, and she wishes Lucius would return and take his place beside her. Instead, Jesse has shifted over from his recently appointed seat in order to take her hand in Lucius's stead. Finton, too, had been offered a seat, but he had declined.
"I cannot believe it," he whispers, in awe. "I still cannot believe it."
"Do," Ivy whispers, clutching his fingers fearfully. "With all your heart."
"You say nothing," Lucius says, and there is such contempt in his voice as to wilt what is left of the harvest bouquets hung about the hall. Their faint odor lingers in the air, seeming to Ivy the very scent of the Elders' collective regret.
"We cannot," his mother says, stiffly. "As Mr. Walker has so kindly pointed out, the decision is no longer in our hands. One would think we had placed you all in jeopardy."
"No, not in jeopardy," Jesse says, quieting Ivy's gathering fury with a tightening of his grasp, "but in a lie. You have placed yourselves in a lie, too, and have paid dearly for it these twelve months past. Lives have been taken and prevented where you wished them to be saved."
"You know nothing, boy," someone growls under his breath, but it is lost under Mr. Walker's shout of "Silence! All of you. Lucius seeks advice, not discord!"
"Discord is all you will find, Edward," implores Mrs. Hunt, distraught. "He's asking us to let him go where you never should have let Ivy set foot. Our lives here are dependent upon the safety of Covington; have you gone mad?"
Ivy closed her eyes, but the tears came in spite of it. Jesse was rocking her now, gently, perhaps to calm her unborn child or even to calm himself. He was shaking.
"I am disappointed in you," said Mr. Walker, quietly, and pauses for a long moment. "All of you. All of you who came here at the start, not those of you who stand here at the last."
"I would speak to doctors in the Towns," Lucius repeats, dropping his prepared statement on the floorboards, where it lands with a faint rustle. "I would see if there is hope for Kitty that might be brought here, and if there were not, I would take her there myself at some later time. I am well now. Soon my child will be in the world, and I would not have that child be alone."
"There will be more children, Lucius," Ivy chokes out, but Jesse quiets her.
"He would have your sister's child keep her company as she grows."
"Her," Ivy mutters, wanting to laugh in spite of her tears. "Are you then a prophet, Jesse Lynch?"
"No, but I have hope," he whispers, and Lucius's continued debate with the Elders fades into the background. "I would see this world, or at least hear more of it. Is it true, what your father says of a sense of place and purpose for those like Finton and myself?"
"He says it is very dangerous," she admits, "but very brave."
"Brave and foolish," Jesse murmurs, and she feels the imperceptible turn of his head in Lucius's direction. Lucius is silent now. They are bathed in the softest of whispers.
Ivy thinks of Finton's color, bright poppy swaying in the breeze.
She waits, and waits, and waits.
~ * ~
Enough is enough is enough.
Kevin hits the breaks and drifts to a stop at the mile marker, his eyes fixed hard on the pocket watch. He's had two near misses with whitetail deer after dark, damned things that wander in from the outside or somehow slip through the barrier, and his boss isn't pleased about the damage he did to one of the signposts with the vehicle's right fender.
Determined, Kevin takes hold of the swinging thing and rips it down, taking the rearview mirror with it. He jams the breaks and yanks the keys from the ignition, letting them drop carelessly on the ground as he gets out of the land rover. He untangles the watch chain from the mirror and lets the mirror drop, too. The watch, he slips in his pocket.
Any world beyond that barrier is better than the fear and monotony of his.
Taking hold of the ivy, Kevin climbs, and climbs, and climbs.
—Continue: Crow on the Cradle—