Amelie wrinkled her nose at the rotting stench as they approached the water. Muggy heat glued her knotted hair to the back of her neck. She pointed at a fish, surrounded by cigarette butts and dusty beer bottles with faded labels.

“Was your Pop out here, Rav?” Fear, and a twinge of excitement made her voice quiver. She slapped at a mosquito stealing blood from her knee.

“I don’t think so,” Ravlen whispered. Lightning crackled, illuminating the surrounding trees. Their ten-year-old eyes met and held under the sudden light. “We’d better hurry.”

Amelie drew in a shaky breath and leaned a small canvas against a tree. It displayed a cottage surrounded by lush flowers and tall, green grass that swayed with unseen winds.

“How’d you find it?”

“Ms. Ana’s library.”

“She let you borrow it?”

“She didn’t know not to.” Amelie’s throat bobbed. “You sure you gotta go?”

Ravlen grabbed her close, losing himself in her strawberry shampoo. “He’ll kill me if I stay.” Amelie nodded, gripping his waist with chubby fingers.

When they pulled apart, their hands lingered. With the impossible wisdom of youth, Amelie understood she’d remember that sensation her entire life. “You just… walk toward it.”

He hesitated until the sky opened on a summer storm.

He had to go. Before she convinced him to stay.

“I’ll never forget, Martine Amelie Reese.”

Amelie waved as he approached the painting, and long after he disappeared inside, until colors ran off the canvas, puddling next to the long-dead fish.

Curious about Amelie and Rav? Their story is coming Summer 2021! In the meantime, get a glimpse into Amelie’s life at Illusion Square in Thyme Under Tension.