The sunset cast fierce colors over the silent sky and fiery tones, outlining the low-lying clouds in bright lavenders and soft blues. The ocean’s waves reflected the beauty and majesty of the skies. A figure walked along the beach, hurrying across the shifting sands, barely aware of the painting-like scene surrounding her.
Her hands were buried in her pockets and she walked at a brisk pace with her head down. A little boy flitted at her side, stopping now and again to gaze out at the waters or pick up a piece of stray sea glass, then running to catch up.
The siblings reached a set of rocks on the beach only passable by climbing. The elder picked her way through the rocks with an air of disdain. The youth scrambled through, hopping along with the agility of a mountain goat.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” the girl said, though it was obvious she didn’t care if the boy fell and broke his arm.
“I won’t,” the child said, as if reassuring a caring, overprotective mother. He brushed a strand of overlong hair the same color as the sand out of his giant eyes and fingered the strap of the primary-colored backpack he wore.
The rocks ended and they walked a bit farther to a ring of rocks in the sand that had the potential for a grand bonfire. She sighed and sat down on a piece of driftwood and the boy sat down next to her. He had no memories of this place, but she did. She could barely stand being there at all.
They sat in silence as the sun slipped down, and as the last rays of sunlight clung to the horizon, a boy appeared walking toward them from the other side of the shore, flashlight in hand.
“About time you got here,” the girl complained, “I was getting worried you wouldn’t show up.” She stood and crossed her arms, then gave her long ponytail a tug to tighten it and gave the boy a smirk. It was a practiced smirk, one calculated to be as infuriating as possible without being accused of rudeness. Her smirk was lost here however; the child did not notice and the boy had seen the smirk so many times he’d become immune to it.
“I didn’t forget,” he said, then, with a quick glance down at his shoes, “I never forget.” The girl moved as if to bite her nails then, embarrassed by the recurrence of a hard-fought childhood habit, she blushed bright red and glared furiously at the boy.
“Of course you don’t forget,” she said, turning her nose up at him, “Archy never forgets. He just doesn’t remember when it’s of paramount importance.” Archy’s fists clenched for a moment at her scathing words, then relaxed, reminding himself not to let her under his skin.
“If you don’t mind,” the girl said; gaining steam, “I actually have responsibilities to return to, unlike you.”
“Well,” Archy said, “if you don’t mind, I actually have a life to return to, unlike you.” The girl turned, her blonde ponytail snapping like a whip behind her and she started off without a word.
“Goodbye, Sissy!” the child yelled.
“Bye, Eel!” Archy said.
“Call me when you can’t stand him anymore,” the sister called to Archy.
“Don’t hold your breath,” Archy responded, then started walking the other way with his brother at hisside.
“Does Amelia Anne take you here often?” Archy asked the little boy.
“No,” the child said, “I think this is my first time.” The boy tilted his head up at Archy. Archy was surprised by how much his little brother looked like him. Teardrop nose, electric green eyes, thin eyelashes, big ears.
"Wait!" a voice called frombehind. They turned to see Amelia Anne running back toward him.The childwas dumbstruck.He'd never see his older sister run before.
Shooting a glare at Archy, she knelt besidethe little child she'd been watching out for for years.
"You forgot this," she said, pulling a teddy bear from her purse. Smoothing backthe child's hair, she whispered,"Stay safe, Aristotle. Goodbye." Then, turning back to her normal rigidity, straightened up and walked off.Archy saw the tears hang on Aristotle's eyelashes for athick moment, before theboy blinked them away.
"Do kids still like McDonald's thesedays?" Archyasked hurriedly, thinking if ever someone needed a happy meal, it was now. Aristotle gave a nod and they headed to Archys pickup, hand in hand.
They reached the beat-up truck and Archy had to lift his brother into his seat, the gap between truck and ground being too far for him. Archy turned the keyand, after several attempts, got the engine started. They drove in silence for awhile.
“Do you have any nicknames,” Archy asked, “or do you go by Aristotle?”
“Most people call me Totle,” he replied, “but Amelia Anne calls me Ari. What about you? Do you go by Archimedes?”
“Go-osh, no,” Archy said, “call me Archy.”
“Okay.” Silence itched at Archy and he couldn’t help but glance at Totle every now and then. So this was his kid brother. For some reason, he’d expected him to still be a tiny baby, even though it had been years since he’d seen him in that form.
“How old are you now anyway?” Archy asked.
“Eight,” Totle said, “but my birthday’s next week.”
“Oh. Great. You’ll probably want some kind of party or celebration?”
“No? I thought kids loved birthdays. I always got really excited about my birthday when I was a kid. Think I missed it this year. There must be something you want?” Totle turned away from the window and towards his older brother.
“Will you tell me about Mother?” he asked. Archy almost gagged. His calm assurance vanished and he seriously considered calling Amelia Ann and saying he couldn’t stand Totle for another moment.
“Why would you want me to tell you about that?” Archy asked, “hasn’t Eel already told you all about her already.”
“No,” Totle said sulkily, “she won’t tell me anything.”
“Maybe there’s some reasoning behind that,” Archy said. Totle looked down at his dirty white shoes and mumbled something.
“What?” Archy asked.
“It isn’t fair,” Totle whined, “I’m the only one who didn’t know her. I don’t even know what she looks like.”
“How about we talk about this later?” Archy asked.
“On my birthday?”
“Why would you want to talk about something like that on your birthday?”
“Because it isn’t just my birthday.” Archy fought the urge to slam on the breaks and kick his kid brother out in the middle of nowhere.
“Why don’t you take a nap?” Archy suggested. Totle glared at Archy, then squirmed a bit and was soon asleep.
Speeding towards the city, Archy wondered if the rest of his brother’s stay would be this infuriating.