Lazarus ran blindly through the woodland as the sky darkened. Not even the faint light of the moon penetrated the trees, and soon, shivering and cursing, Lazarus came to a standstill. He leant back against a thick tree, trying to catch his breath.
‘Christ,' he muttered, looking around him. He hadn't realised the woods were so expansive, so dense. He hadn't been paying attention to the direction he had been running and now, he realised, he was utterly lost. ‘Christ.' He mumbled again.
‘Where is he?!' Lazarus' mother and sister both shrieked when his father slammed the front door, grumbling to himself. He looked up at the women and his lips pressed together irritably.
‘The stupid boy ran into the Emerson's woodland.' He said flatly, sitting down at the table.
‘He what?' Annabelle asked incredulously.
‘He'll be shot for trespassing!' his mother gasped and then glared at her husband. ‘This is your fault, you know. If you hadn't upset him, he wouldn't've -'
‘Quiet, woman!' he roared, cutting her off. He alternated between glowering at Annabelle and his wife. Standing, as if to prove his dominance, he spoke again: ‘You'll both hold your tongues under this roof. I'll have no more disobedience in my family!' he rumbled, his voice low and his eyes violent. Annabelle shook her head.
‘I can't lose another brother.' She whispered, tears pricking her eyes as she remembered her eldest brother's execution in the town square. Her mother caught her hand and tugged at it, hissing at her to be quiet. She stood, shaking her mother off, meeting her father's eyes levelly. ‘I can't. I won't.' She tried to appeal to her parents. ‘Can you bear to lose another son?' she asked.
‘What are you going to do then?' her father began to laugh, ‘waltz up to the Emerson's mansion and ask him if a pauper boy was found wandering around on their estate?' he shook his head, his mirthless laughter only egging Annabelle on more. ‘They would have you shot just for dirtying their doorstep before you could even open your mouth,' he snorted and Annabelle scowled at him.
‘I have to go and look for him.'
Without waiting for a reply, she quietly left, heading straight for the woodland to look for her brother.
Lazarus cursed as he wandered around, trying to find his way back to the town as the cold set into his muscles. Tiredness was pulling at him and eventually he resigned himself to the dark roots of a nearby tree. He sat heavily and let his head rest back against the trunk of the tree. He exhaled gustily, watching his breath fog a little. It wasn't cold enough to snow, at least, though he doubted he was in for a good night in this weather. He let his eyes slide closed as he pulled his knees up to his chest, his arms loosely encircling them. Sleep soon swept over him.
He was sure that he could hear someone calling his name in the distance. The voice got closer, so near, so tangible, yet so unreachable and elusive.
‘Lazarus!' Annabelle knelt beside the teen, a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. ‘Lazarus, wake up!' his skin was so cold and he shivered as he slept against the tree. She pulled him into her arms, wrapping her cloak around the both of them to give him warmth. His slumbering form was limp in her arms, and though she slapped his cheeks as she often did to wake him, he didn't stir. Tears fell from her eyes onto his face and she wiped them away, brushing them from his skin.
‘Wake up wake up wake up,' she murmured to him, brushing his unkempt hair out of his face. ‘Wake up, brother. Please.' She stopped her tears, cursing herself for being so weak, and began to pray for God to help him, to ward off the cold, and make him wake up. She spoke aloud, hoping that her voice might wake him, if God didn't.
Her shared body warmth was beginning to spread through him, and he began to surface from his shallow sleep at the sound of her voice. His eyelids fluttered open and he focussed on her face above hers. As she noticed him finally waking, she began to cry again as relief overwhelmed her.
‘Anna,' he murmured sleepily. ‘Don't cry,' he frowned, ‘why are you crying?'
‘I thought I lost you! You stupid -' she paused and shook her head. ‘You were so cold and you wouldn't wake up. I thought you'd gone to find Michael in heaven or something,' she laughed through her falling tears and moved back as Lazarus pushed himself up. He lifted a hand and brushed her tears away with a small smile. ‘Your hand's still so cold,' she whispered, holding back a shiver at his touch. He laughed and hugged her.
‘Thank you for finding me.' He said as he pulled away.
‘Let's go back, Lazarus. Mother's so worried,' she said, standing. Lazarus rose with her, but he shook his head.
‘I'm not going to come back home, Anna. Not while father is there.' His voice was colder than the winter air around them.
‘Lazarus!' Annabelle cried, shocked at his words. ‘Please!'
‘No. I'll walk with you back to the house, but I'm going to go to an inn for the night.' He met her eyes and she tilted her head a little at his words.
‘Can you not swallow your pride and just stay home?' she asked as she led him out of the trees back to the edge of the town.
‘No.' He said sadly. ‘It's really not much to do with my pride, more to do with the fact that I can't stand the man any longer. It's about time I moved out anyway.' He stopped as they came into the moonlight and pointed at his face, still bloodied.
‘He hit you?' she asked, her voice becoming morose. He nodded and shrugged.
‘I've had enough of it. But I might have to sell my work after all to earn a place to stay.' He sighed and began to walk again.
‘I'll miss you,' she said. ‘Promise you'll visit me?' she asked as she took his hand for comfort, knowing she would probably not see him very often after he left, regardless of his answer.
‘Of course.' He answered. ‘Once you've married and settled down,' he laughed jestingly. ‘I want to have a nephew next time I see you,' Annabelle's face dropped and she scowled at him.
‘You know exactly how to wind me up, don't you? You know I don't want children.' She muttered.
‘I know. I'm not being serious, Anna. I'll see you regardless of whether you decide to have children or not.'
‘Good.' They reached their house and Lazarus let go of her hand to open the door. He ushered her inside and followed her in, ducking into the box that still sat beside the piano. He pulled out his secret savings and stowed them in a pocket before his mother appeared.
‘Lazarus!' she cried, wrapping him in her arms.
‘Hush, mother,' he told her gently, his tone soothing, rather than demanding. ‘Don't wake your husband.'
‘He's your father, Lazarus,' she said disapprovingly.
‘A father shouldn't draw his son's blood.' Lazarus replied coolly, pulling away from her embrace. ‘I'm leaving tonight. I shall visit, but I can't stay here anymore.' He told her, glancing at the darkened doorway to the bedroom. He could hear his father snoring still. ‘It was time I moved out anyway,' he added, using the same excuse for his mother as he had his sister.
‘Lazarus...' he cut his mother off with another hug.
‘I love you,' he muttered. ‘You too,' he said looking at his sister. He embraced his sister too, before turning to the door. He glanced back with sad eyes as his mother choked back her emotion, and left.