To Feel, A Modern Tale (06.27.11)

Aah, CarthMoore…how we’ve missed you so. Let’s see what Chloe and Ecker will do, now that they’ve found each other again. The story continues…back to Chapter Nine! ~ CK

CHAPTER ONE <Click here for all of CHAPTER ONE.>

CHAPTER TWO <Click here for all of CHAPTER TWO.>

CHAPTER THREE <Click here for all of CHAPTER THREE.>

CHAPTER FOUR <Click here for all of CHAPTER FOUR.>

CHAPTER FIVE <Click here for all of CHAPTER FIVE.>

CHAPTER SIX <Click here for all of CHAPTER SIX.>

CHAPTER SEVEN <Click here for all of CHAPTER SEVEN.>

CHAPTER EIGHT <Click here for all of CHAPTER EIGHT.>

CHAPTER NINE

Chloe and Ecker sat on the porch swing next to one another while Chloe’s mom rinsed out the teacups and kettle at the kitchen sink inside. She had told them both to go outside and talk about what they should do next. Would they stay in CarthMoore or would they return home? At least what they had both once thought of as home long before each of them had come to know what being part of a family meant, what unconditional love was all about or what Element N truly was. From time to time, the couple would hear a cling or clang from the kitchen but they otherwise knew that they could have a private conversation.

“Ecker, why are you choosing to stay with me?” Chloe looked down at her long left leg that dangled below, slightly bent since she had become too tall to sit on the swing properly. She had not yet turned 18 but found herself sprouting quickly these past couple of years in CarthMoore. She could now look directly at her friend eye-to-eye as she easily reached the top of his 5’11’ frame. Her other leg folded underneath her, Chloe shook rhythmically on the swing with nervous energy.

Ecker tore apart his cupped hands and reached out to gently lay his left hand on Chloe’s knee. She abruptly stopped moving it. “I always wanted to stay here with you, Chloe. I just didn’t think back then it was the right thing to do,” he said.

She swung around to him, facing him directly with a puzzled look across her face. “What do you mean you had wanted to stay with me? But I tried to reach your hand and you had just gone-” and at that instant, it occurred to her that perhaps something she had judged as an accident, as her own fault for running too slowly, as a strange twist of fate, was none of these things but instead something that Ecker had meant to happen. “You didn’t want to reach for my hand?” Confusion had begun turning into anger.

“Wait, I promise that I can explain,” Ecker quickly realized that this was not at all how he had wanted his friend to learn about his decision. “I wanted you to know about Element N and to feel what I once had—”

As he finished this last thought, Chloe jumped off of the porch swing and ran out into the backyard, moving her lanky legs as fast as she could, hoping to hide behind a tree or bush so he wouldn’t find her and she could be left alone by him – again. But Ecker followed his friend’s path even if he couldn’t keep up with her pace and stopped to catch his breath, hunched over and resting his hands on his knees. “You’ve definitely gotten a lot faster than you used to be,” he choked out in half-gasps.

“Leave me alone, Ecker,” Chloe turned away from him and covered her face with her hands as if to shut out her friend in sight, too. “I don’t want to hear about how you left me alone on purpose. How could you do that to someone? And somebody so young, Ecker?” She shot him an imploring look than pulled away again to hide her head once more under slender hands and arms.

Ecker began to pace beside the tree. “It happened to me, too, Chloe,” he started to confess but then quickly stopped in his tracks. “The reason doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have been happy and found a home and two wonderful parents, and you and I both know that would never happen back home for either one of us.” He knelt down beside Chloe and gently stroked the back of her forearm. “I knew it was the only way you could ever really experience something so unbelievable. I wanted that for you.”

Chloe slowly lifted her head and looked up at Ecker. “What did you mean that it happened to you?” Ecker stopped stroking her arm and sat down on the ground next to her, remaining silent but closing his eyes while leaning his head back against the bark. “Tell me, Ecker. What did you mean?”

Ecker opened his eyes and gazed upward. He knew that his friend would not relent. “Ever heard of Dunston?”

“Yes, they went on an OTE there many years ago. I read something about it when I was starting to study for our trip,” she said cautiously. “What do you know about Dunston?”

Ecker pulled away from the tree and swung around to his friend, pulling both of her hands between his. “I lived there.”

“What?” Chloe looked at Ecker with disbelief. “But how could you live-” and again, she found herself stopping in mid-sentence as it became more clear. “You were left behind, too, weren’t you?”

Ecker stood up and gingerly helped his friend, guiding her to the very rocks where she had spent so many years lying down, looking up into the clouds and wishing she could see her friend again. They both stepped up and sat upon the smooth surface. “At first, I was angry that Clint had left me behind but then I finally realized why and knew that he only did it because he cared about me and wanted me to have a better life,” he said. “Have you? Had a better life, I mean? That’s all I ever wanted for you.” And with that, Ecker leaned in closer and kissed Chloe on the cheek ever so gently.

Chloe instinctively pulled away from Ecker and looked at him as if it were for the first time, her lips now parted in disbelief at what was happening. “You left me here on purpose? You left me behind to feel all alone and scared? How can you say you cared about me when you did something like that? I was so young,” she said.

Ecker’s eyes welled up as he reached out again to hold Chloe’s hands which she quickly pulled away. “Chloe, please! Do you know how hard that was for me? But I knew that in time, you would be so happy here and know something you’d never experience back at home. Element N,” he said softy, trailing off as he looked down in sadness at his friend’s reaction. “I knew that you wouldn’t understand. You couldn’t.” He pulled himself off of the rock and began to walk toward the villa.

“Why didn’t you come back sooner?” Chloe shouted after him. She slipped carefully off of the rock still leaning her weight against it, tears streaming down her cheeks. “You could have come back before now, couldn’t you?”

Ecker turned back to Chloe with sadness still painted across his normally cheery face. “I wanted to wait until you were older, when I thought maybe you’d understand why I did it,” he said. “And I had to wait until another OTE was planned nearby so I could make my way over to you. It took me a while just to find CarthMoore from where they sent us this last time. I’m sure they’ve been searching for me for months.” He turned back around and continued toward the house.

“Where will you go?” Chloe cried out to her friend and moved toward him. “You can’t go back now. You’ll be in so much trouble for what you’ve done.”

“I don’t care about me. I just care about you. Besides, what do you suggest I do?” Ecker asked Chloe as he sat back on the porch swing where this revealing conversation had started. He swung back and forth as he watched his friend slowly approach him. “What would you have me do, Chloe? I have never wanted to hurt you or make any trouble in your life.”

Chloe joined him on the porch swing again. “Why couldn’t you stay here with us? There’s plenty of room since Dad passed. It’s just the two of us.”

Ecker resumed swinging like a gentle, soothing motion that calmed them both. “If you want to stay here, I will go, because my staying will only draw attention to you and that could be dangerous,” he said. “I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you.”

“Ecker, I’m going to be 18 soon. I think I can decide for myself what’s dangerous to me and what isn’t,” she said in a slight huff. “I’m not letting you out of my life when you just got here.” She paused, stood up and leaned up against a porch beam as she faced her friend. “I’m going with you then. I don’t want to endanger my mom either. So it’s as simple as that. I’ll go with you. Wherever.”

Chloe walked toward the entrance back into the villa. Ecker slowly lifted himself from the swing. “Chloe, are you sure that’s what you want? You’ll be starting over. You’ll be alone again.”

She reached out for the screen door and looked over her shoulder. “No, I won’t. I’ll have you.” She shot him the smallest of smiles, then looked down at the ground bashfully and opened the latch on the screen door to walk back into the house.

Ecker looked down in disbelief at the wooden deck below his feet, shaking his head and laughing quietly to himself. He wondered where they should travel next but couldn’t believe that this time, the two would be finally taking the journey together.

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