Thicker than Water
Emily, age 15
Llewellyn sat on a broad, flat rock at the top of a hill, the gentle
of a nearby tree just taking the edge off the heat of the summer sun.
softest of breezes played with his yellow curls and the hem of his
colored tunic. The same cool fingers that brushed his face set the
whispering in the nearby forest. With his eyes closed, the young man
hear wind, animals, people, the running stream, and a dozen other
rising into one universal symphony of joyful life. Let Cavan make up
stories, he thought to himself, He’ll never hear anything this
beautiful no matter how hard he tries to imitate it with his words.
Llewellyn was caught up by the music, every particle of his being
the rise and fall of the notes, when a shadow fell across his face. As
blocked out the sun, it seemed like the orchestra in his head had
gone out of tune, and his ice blue eyes snapped open angrily. Someone
above him, looking down so that his face was in shadow, but the
silhouette gave away his identity. “Tell me, Cavan, what was so
that you had to come all the way out here to find me?”
As the dark-haired boy held out a hand to help his older brother to
feet, he replied in his soft, tenor voice, “I want to speak with
I need you to be there.” He remained calm and expressionless under
Llewellyn’s scrutiny, waiting a few minutes and then abruptly turning
to walk toward the villa. Not once did he turn around to see if his
was following him; one of the things that bothered Llewellyn was his
brother’s uncanny ability to spend only a few minutes with a person and
be completely at ease, knowing exactly what that person would do even
the person knew.
When they were about halfway to the house, Llewellyn felt the urge to
His long, powerful legs sent him flying forwards, away from the tightly
controlled, enigmatic presence behind him. He made himself go faster
faster, until he stood in the cool shadow of a doorway, panting
from the pace he’d set for himself.
By the time Cavan reached the villa, Llewellyn’s breathing was back to
normal and his mind was clear enough to wonder just what his brother
meant by “I need you to be there.” Once again, he followed Cavan, this
straight to a large, bright room with windows reaching high above the
of any person Llewellyn had ever seen. Their father, Mackenzie, sat
one of these windows, gazing out at the orchard. He turned his head and
shifted his body slightly to see who had entered, and smiled when he
recognized his sons. “Cavan, Llewellyn, come sit by me. The view out
window is spectacular. I only wish I were a painter, so I could capture
and save it ‘til winter’s cold is upon us.”
Llewellyn smiled at his father’s speech, but Cavan wasted no time in
saying his piece. “Father, I’ve thought for a long time, and I wish to
my half of the inheritance now, if I may. I’d be no good to anyone
there are schools in the city... We all know that Llew will take over
estate someday, but I cannot stay here and rely on his goodwill
want to write my stories, to travel around the world. To see and feel
I might never see or feel here.”
Mackenzie sat silently for a moment, his brow furrowed in thought, and
he turned to his older son. “What do you think of this, Llewellyn?”
Caught off guard, the tall young man stammered, “I- I hadn’t thought
it. I suppose what he says makes sense, in a way...” Glancing up, he
Cavan’s dark blue eyes, pleading with him. Quickly, he made a decision.
think if Cavan wants to go off on his own, you shouldn’t try to stop
to the inheritance, if it’s really important to him he’ll go anyway, so
might as well be prepared.”
Mackenzie nodded gravely, his grey curls making him look just like an
Llewellyn. “Very well. I should be able to find everything you need by
end of the week, Cavan. If that’s all...?”
Cavan nodded. “Thank you, Father.” As they walked out of the room
Llewellyn glanced back at his father and saw him gazing at a small
Looking closer, he realized it was a portrait of his mother. Cavan
so much like her, he realized with a start, while I take after
Father. No wonder Father favors him, if Cavan reminds him of Mother
she died. If only... But their father only rarely spoke of their
mother, and even then it was only for a few moments. Sighing, Llewellyn
walked out into the hallway and began wandering aimlessly, thinking to
himself about Cavan, and his mother, and music.
Two weeks after Cavan left, Mackenzie called Llewellyn into his study.
just received a letter from your brother,” he explained as he handed
young man a sheet of paper. “I thought you might like to read it.”
“Yes, thank you,” replied Llewellyn, his eyes already straying to the
written in Cavan’s compact script. Mackenzie smiled indulgently and
back to his work as his son walked slowly out of the room, reading as
My dear father and brother, (it read)
In my first week here, I’ve made many friends. The very first two were
Keefe, a young man with visions of leading the greatest theater group
history of this city, and his equally inspired younger sister Magan.
and a group of their friends have been trying to stage a production,
have had little success thus far. However, with the aid of my money and
skill at writing and directing, we hope to make some kind of deal with
of the local theaters. I think we stand a good chance of succeeding.
Keefe looks very much like you, Llewellyn - he has your same curly
hair and light blue eyes, but his skin is fairer and he isn’t quite so
Magan is an inch shorter than I, with curly red hair and a profusion of
freckles. Her eyes are hazel, and quite truthfully she is one of the
loveliest girls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve rented an
apartment in a building not far from where she and her brother live,
while my room is rather dark and shabby, at least it is my own, and I
more independent than I ever did there with the two of you.
I must end my letter here, as I promised to meet my friends ten
from now, but I remain affectionately yours,
Llewellyn shook his head at his younger brother’s flowery way of
so different from how he usually talked. Or does he talk like that
that he’s in the city? Does he act that way all the time now, to
friends? He only talked that way here when he wanted to impress us...
when he wanted to impress me. Llewellyn resisted the urge to
the letter - his father would undoubtedly want it back - and instead
it carefully on a nearby table where his father would be sure to find
Then he went outside and started running, his head clearing as he did,
the sounds of his breathing and his heartbeat and his leather sandals
slapping the ground turned into the beginnings of his music. It calmed
this one thing that Cavan could never, ever take away from him.
For three months, a letter from Cavan arrived every week, and every
Mackenzie would call Llewellyn into his study, hand him the letter, and
later retrieve it from the small wooden table in the hall. Llewellyn
to run not just after reading Cavan’s letters but all the time, and he
himself in the music of the spheres more and more often. Even in the
Cavan still affected his older brother every day.
Then one week Cavan’s letter didn’t come.
Mackenzie repeated over and over that it must have been lost, or
for some reason, and that there was no cause to worry. Llewellyn still
this time to escape his father instead of his brother. One week without
letter became two weeks, became three, became a month, became two
became three months, until it had been half a year since they’d heard
Cavan. Mackenzie spent more and more time sitting by the window where
sat when Cavan had asked for his inheritance, and he lost interest in
books, his estate; everything that had once been so important seemed
and less so. He only seemed to brighten around Llewellyn, and more than
Llewellyn had needed to have a meal with his father just to be sure
older man ate at least once that day. I’m all he has left,
thought to himself once. First Mother died, and then Cavan left, and
just his third choice because he’s got nothing else. It was not an
entirely pleasant thought, and he continued to run each morning when he
up and each afternoon before he went indoors for the evening.
One morning, Llewellyn paused at his favorite spot on top of the hill
watch the sunrise. As rays of light floated upwards, brightening the
blue of night into the violet-blue of early morning and giving the
pale pinkish tint, his eyes swept down the glory of the sky to rest on
large metal gate at the entrance to his father’s estate. There, barely
visible in the dim, was a small black silhouette. Who, wondered
Llewellyn, would be coming here this early? Surely whoever it is
expect to meet with Father now. Quickly, Llewellyn recommenced his
but now he headed directly towards the gate.
As he came closer, he realized that the person was wearing a torn,
mud-stained cloak, the hood drawn up to hide the face in shadow.
and worn, the tunic hanging down past the hem of the cloak was brown
green from grass- and mud-stains, and barely large enough to cover
gangly legs covered in their own layer of filth. But none of
friends would dress this way... Suddenly, the drooping neck
straightened and the hood, which in truth barely deserved the name,
backwards to reveal disheveled, coal-black hair, tanned and weathered
and a pair of sunken dark blue eyes. “Hello, Llewellyn,” Cavan
half-whispered in a voice hoarse with lack of use and little water.
As Llewellyn turned to look towards the house, he and Cavan saw
flying towards them, a thin white cloak billowing out behind him like a
giant sail. His cries of “Cavan! Cavan, my son!” filled the air, as did
sound of his sandals slapping the ground. When he reached his sons, he
his arms around the younger, who was now as tall as Llewellyn. “My son,
youngest, home and safe at last! Cavan, back from the land of the dead!
come inside, both of you!” A servant woman, whose thin brown hair had
out of its neat bun as she chased after her employer, now offered Cavan
thick pale blue cloak in exchange for the dark rag hanging about his
shoulders. “Mary, send word for Ansel to kill the calf - yes,
calf, don’t stare at me so! And tell the others to decorate the grand
ballroom, and to drive around inviting all of our neighbors and friends
grand feast we’re having in Cavan’s honor! My son has been returned to
As these arrangements were made, Cavan looked first surprised, and
very quiet, allowing his father to hug him often and saying a “yes” or
every now and then as he was asked questions. He refused to talk about
he’d done in the time he’d been away, except to say that the theater
performances hadn’t done as well as they’d expected, and Cavan had
himself penniless and without friends. One time, though, as they walked
to the house and Llewellyn thought his own angry thoughts, Cavan caught
brother’s eyes and allowed himself a very small, triumphant smile.