Dash sat up abruptly in his bed, throwing off his covers. He stepped over to the window, opening it. His dream was so intimate, so crushing. He needed to breathe in some fresh air. Walking down the hallway, he found the railing to the staircase that led to the back door. He went outside and allowed the fresh night air to kiss his dewy skin.
“It was only a dream,” he sighed.
The intoxicating floral aroma of the rose garden and soul soothing silence stilled his racing heart. Light footsteps made his muscles tense. It was his sister. He longed to be alone as she joined him. His adoration for her forced him to feign a smile.
“Here we are together on this sleepless night,” he sighed.
“When I heard you stir, I thought that I would join you.”
Images from the dream flashed across his mind’s eye.
“Are you still thinking about your time on the island?” she asked.
He nodded, crossing his arms and leaning against the trellis.
“You don’t talk about it very much,” she said softly.
She stepped closer to him until her delicate hand rested on his shoulder. “Would you tell me about him, Dash?”
She tugged on his hand like an impatient child.
“You must tell someone,” she pressed. “I will keep your secrets. I promise.”
He shook his head. “I shouldn’t.”
“Did you have a dream about him?”
He nodded. “It felt so real, but it was only a dream. He was drowning in the dark ocean after a brutal storm washed him out to sea. I found him, held him, and told him that he is not alone.”
“What if the last time I got to be with him was in that dream? He has novels to write. His mother waits for his return … and we must see one another again.”
“I’m sure you will see him again,” she said softly.
He nodded at her empty words. “I need to be alone for a while, Anne. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. I know too well what you are feeling.”
She did know. The war stole her fiancé away at the Battle of Waterloo.
“Good night, Anne.”
“Good night, dear brother.”
She retreated indoors, leaving him to embrace the depth of his grief alone, how it was meant to be. He tilted his head back and Max’s boyish face appeared to him through the black. His bright smile made Dash long to be with him, wherever he was, and hold him once more. The vision of him faded and a soft, melancholic piano tune played in his imagination. It was so painfully beautiful to listen to that he brought a hand to his heart. It was a song of adventure and loss. It was their story.
He fled the gardens, raced back into the house, and made his way to the drawing room where the grand piano sat. Slouching on the bench, he traced his stiff fingers over the piano keys. He sat there wondering how he could play the music in the darkness, with no hope of ever sharing it with his best friend. He positioned his hands on the keyboard and started to play. They remembered the placement of the keys somehow, even in the darkness. His fingers pounded the piano to keep up with the song that raged in his mind. He played it over again, feeling every note. Once the song was ingrained in his memory, he sat down to write the musical piece.
He titled it “Max”.
This story is dedicated to all children, past and present, who were forced into labour or war. May this story give you a voice in some way, lest we forget the hopes and dreams that were stolen from you too soon.
Thank you to everyone who has read Max and Dash’s story. It’s the dearest one to my heart. ❤