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Raven Heart

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Elliott Witt sat quietly in the back of a packed bus with his arms crossed, wallowing in his own anger and self-loathing as he did his best to ignore the constant chatter of the rowdy kids sitting around him. With a disgruntled sigh, he turned up the volume on his iPod, hoping to drown out all the background noise with the angry lyrics of the song blasting through his headphones.

There were so many emotions swarming through his head that his mind struggled to understand just what he was feeling. Anger, fear, anxiety, confusion… it was all starting to blur together in a clusterfuck of teenage angst and rage.

He knew he was too old to cry, but at the same time, he was still too young to have any real control over his fluctuating emotions so, despite his best efforts, Elliott couldn’t stop the tears that filled his eyes and blurred his vision. Everything was going numb, fraying at the edges, and at that point, he wasn’t sure how to stop it, or if he even could.

It wasn’t fair… nothing that happened in the past year was fair. Losing his brothers destroyed Elliott, but his mother took their loss the hardest, falling ill soon after the incidents. And, due to her illness, he was being shipped off to some boarding school across the state because she was no longer able to care for him on her own. They didn’t deserve this, his mother was struggling as it was, supporting four boys all on her own with their father out of the picture and now…

He sighed softly, the noise sounding more like a whimper than anything else, and dragged his shirt sleeve across his face in a half-assed attempt to dry his tears. Elliott had cried enough over the last few hours, besides.... he didn’t want to risk looking like a crybaby in front of the kids who were soon to be his new classmates, he had a reputation to keep up.

A reputation he had at his old school… the one where all his friends were… the one he was forced to leave.

A bitter feeling rose in the back of his throat, remembering when his mother broke the news that she was sending him away. He didn’t resent her for the decision, in truth he understood perfectly why she did what she did… his mom simple needed to get better on her own time without the added stress of raising a child. But the arrogant, self-centered part of his mind wanted to remain upset, hate her for just throwing him away like he was nothing.

***

“Oh, Elli,” Mama Witt cooed, doing her best to console him as he sat in the ruins of his trashed room, “ Oh, my sweet, sweet, Elliott,”.

His body was still tense and rigid as his mother held him, smoothing back his dark curly hair. He didn’t mean to act out the way he did, anger and fear ruling his over emotions and making destroy everything he could lay his hands on, break the things he cared about, but Elliott couldn’t help it.

He just couldn’t help it.

“Please don’t cry, I know this is difficult for you, it’s difficult for me too but…”.

“I- if you don’t want me to cry, then don’t do this!” he snapped back as he pushed himself out of her arms, knowing his selfish words would only hurt his mother further, “If it’s so diffi- diffc..dif… if it’s so hard, then don’t send me away, mama! I don’t understand why you’re doing this!".

"You know why...".

"But I don't understand! I want to stay with you!".

"I can't take care of you, Elliott! Do you know how hard that is for me to say, that I can’t take care of my own child! You think this is easy for me?!”.

“No! I just… I don’t want to leave you, mama. I need you… I need to be here for when Wyatt and Brett come back!”.

His mother’s expression fell at the mention of her son's names.

“Elliott...”.

“I don’t care what you say, they’re coming back, I know that are. They wouldn’t just leave without telling me!”.

“They’re gone, Elliott! It’s been 6 months, and the police have come up with nothing... nothing! You need to accept that they aren’t coming back, or it’ll eat you up inside!” the woman hissed, stomping down her floor, “And I refuse to let you go down the same path as me! I won’t lose you too!”.

Elliott was taken slightly aback, his mother never yelled, never, even when he knew he’d done something wrong. “You… you’re not going to lose me, mama,” he whimpered, “You won’t lose me, I’m not going anywhere. I need you...”.

She sighed at that comment and knelt down in front of him, her pale skin glowing in the dim light from his broken lamp. “I know, mijo, I know…” Mama Witt said, brushing his hair back once more, “But you aren’t a little kid anymore, you’re going to be an adult soon. You’re not always going to need me,”.

“Y- yes I am!” he cried, throwing his arms around her in a tight embrace, “I’m not going to leave you here alone. I’ll just run away from that stupid school and come find you!”.

“Elliott,” Mama Witt whispered again, “I'm doing what's best for you, what’s best for both of us, okay? It's just for the rest of the year... it'll be over before you know it,"

“Please… no,”.

“I went to this school when I was your age, it's a very good school. You’ll do well there,”.

Elliott just continued to whine, “I liked my old school, I liked my friends..."

"I know, but I need you to trust me on this… please,”.

Her voice was still low and quiet, but her tone told Elliot that there was no winning this argument. He sniffled in defeat and rubbed his eyes until his face turned red, tears streaking his cheeks.

“When do I leave?”.

There was a long pause of silence before his mom finally spoke again, her eyes unable to meet his. 

“You should start packing,” she said, holding him tighter, “The bus leaves at noon tomorrow”.

***

Elliott jumped when he felt s hand tap on his shoulder, drawing him out of his thoughts before he could even finish them. “Wha-?” he muttered, pulling off his headphones to see a blue-eyed, blue- haired boy sitting beside him, curiosity and concern on his glasses clad face.

“Hello!” the boy chirped happily, “My name is Marvin,”.

He blinked, “Um… hi?”.

“You seem very sad, friend. Are you okay?”.

“Y- yeah, I’m fine… it's just allergies,” Elliott lied, drying his face once more before turning to the kid again, “No offense, but… why are you talking to me?”.

“You seemed lonely, and I thought it’d be nice to say hi, so… hi!”.

“Hi…”.

Elliott was beyond confused, perhaps a bit touched that this random kid came up and asked if he was alright. He’d been moping about for most of the drive so it was only a matter of time before someone took notice.

“I’m Elliott,”.

“It’s nice to meet you, Elliott. If it’s not too much, can I ask what you’re listening to?”.

“Yeah… sure,” he muttered, pulling off his headphones and lowered the volume; not wanting to deafen the poor kid; before handed them to Marvin, watching as the boy placed them over his own ears, “It’s just some punk shit my brother left on his Ipod, not really my style but… it’s all I’ve got,”. 

It wasn’t like Elliott had all the time in the world to pack, so he took all he could think of, photos, books… a few random items of his brothers left behind before they...

“It’s very loud and full of energy,” Marvin said, handing back the device, “I like it! Your brother has a good taste in music,”.

He nodded numbly, “Yeah… he did,”.

The other boy immediately noticed the shift in mood and frowned. “Are you sure you’re alright, Elliott? Did… did I say something wrong? I know I can be really forward sometimes, Mrs. Albright says-”.

“Hey, no no… it’s not you,,” Elliott said quickly, trying to reassure his new… friend? That he did nothing wrong, “I- it’s just… I don’t really like talking about my brothers. It’s kind of a touchy subject, ya know? Not something I like doing...”.

Marvin gave him a timid smile and nodded, sighing softly in relief, “I’m glad you’re not upset at me, I have a lot of things that I don’t like talking about either, so I completely understand! And I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, it wasn’t my intention, you… you’re just the first person to actually talk to me since I got on the bus, and I got excited”.

“Hey, you don’t need to apologize, dude,” he replied, “I get it. You… you’re kinda also the first person I’ve talked to in a few hours, so… no harm done”.

“Does this mean we’re friends?”.

Elliott couldn’t not smile at Marvin, the smaller boy’s eyes basically growing twice their size as he asked the question, he wasn’t even in school yet and he’d already managed to make a friend, one that actually seemed pretty cool, a little quirky but cool all the same. Maybe… just maybe… this year wasn’t going to be so bad.

“Uh, yeah… I guess it does. We can be friends if you want,”.

The boy was basically vibrating with glee, flapping his hands up and down excitedly, “Wonderful! I- I’ve never really had a friend before… not everyone has been so nice and friendly towards me. Most people think I’m weird or too loud and call me mean names, but not you! You’re really cool, Elliott!”.

He furrowed his eyebrows for a moment, looking around at a few of the other kids on the bus, seeing a few stray eyes focused on them. “Wait, the other kids are being mean to you?” Elliott asked, “What did they say?”.

Marvin blushed a little and looked away, shrugging dismissively, “Um… kinda. But I ignore them, they aren’t saying anything I’m not already used to…”.

“That doesn’t make it okay, man,”.

“I know… but there’s not much I can do about it,”.

Elliott, bit the edge of his lip, knowing his mother would be rather disappointed in him if he picked a fight with kids he barely knew, but the thought of these kids picking on his new friend just because he was a little bit different pissed him off.

He’s been in the same boat before.

“Maybe I can?” he suggested.

“I- I don’t want you to get in trouble on my account,” the boy admitted, “But thank you for offering! It.. it means a lot to me,”.

“It’s no problem, that’s what friends are for, right?”.

Marvin nodded and smiled again, “I suppose so! Now that we’re friends… maybe we can tell each other about ourselves? I know I’ve already talked a lot, but you’re really easy to talk to, and you really listen to me!”.

“What’d I say, man… you don’t need to apologize for being yourself. So you’re a little pecl-pecul-peule…“ Elliott paused and stuttered, struggling for the word as garbled letters falling from his lips.

“Peculiar?”.

He nodded, “See? I have a speech impediment so we’re both a little different from the others, and that’s fine, we can be weird together. Now, go ahead, tell me about yourself, Marv,”.

Elliott wasn’t sure he’d ever seen someone smile so wide before.

 

***

It was a scream that woke Elliott up, he remembered that much from that fateful Saturday night. His mother was waiting up for his oldest brother to return home from a night out with his friends, while his older brothers played cards quietly at the kitchen table the next room over. It was a little past midnight, the streets quiet and void of all traffic as the neighborhood readied itself for sleep.

But the silence didn’t last long.

His darkened room was suddenly filled with flashing red and blue lights as a car pulled up to their small, crummy little house, leaving tire marks on the driveway. People approached the door, knocking urgently as they waited for his mother to answer.

Muffled voices came soon after, words Elliott could barely decipher in his sleep induced haze. Accident. Drunk Driver. Hospital. Ambulance. One Survivor. DOA… in the moment, it all meant nothing to him, the words and his brother’s uncharacteristic tardiness not yet connecting in his mind.

But his mother’s blood-curdling scream is what sealed it.

Scrambling footsteps echoed through the house as he and his brothers scrambled to the source of the scream, all of them seeing the tall pale woman kneeling down in the doorway, two police officers standing before them.

Their hats were placed over their chests, the flashing lights illuminating the world around them.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.

“I’m sorry,” one officer said, voice struggling to maintain a level tone, “I’m so sorry,”.

Everything was a blur from then on, Elliott couldn’t remember what happened after that. One minute he was standing in his kitchen, screaming his dead brother’s name, and then the next he was standing over a casket, dressed in a black suit that was far too large for him. 

A chunk of his life was gone, completely gone… erased from existence... And he knew he’d never get those days back. Now even months of therapy would help…

Garett was gone…

Wyatt and Brett were gone…

And soon…

Elliott would be too…