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Little Broken Words


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#1 Offline Cederak

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Posted Feb 10 2013 - 11:25 PM

I'm going to be away for most of this year, and I took a moment to finish my Crystal Chronicles mini-series with this piece. Romance, tragedy, and a songfic all in one, this is my last planned story for a long time. An explanation to the Crystal Core's origin and a stark tale of a broken relationship, I present to you "Little Broken Words," with the lyrics of "Walnut Tree" by Keane and a title inspired by their work as well.
 
-Ced
 
 
 
 


Little Broken Words

 
 
A mighty walnut tree stood before a tiny pond in late autumn, separated by a hill of grass and a very old wooden bench. On that ancient bench sat a young man of twenty four by the name of Garrett. Garrett had visited before, often alone, and the calm wind seemed to sing of his return.
 
He made his way down the hill and stared into the still water, the pond he had known since childhood. It stared back, reflecting his bright, cerulean eyes and a sea of memories. As Garrett gently pushed his messy, jet black hair from his forehead, one of those memories swam to the surface of his mind.
 
 

Once, there was a great storm

Pushed my head beneath the waves

I was gone

 
 
Garrett pressed a kiss to Valerie's lips, retreating and slowly opening his eyes, reveling in her beauty. Her wavy, raven hair and sea foam eyes were absolutely stunning and Garrett couldn't help but kiss her again. Valerie playfully pushed him away, giggling as she did.
 
"Why do you do that?" she asked. "You know I have to get going."
 
"I like kissing you. I like everything about you."
 
"So I've heard," Valerie replied casually.
 
Garrett frowned. He wanted to tell her he loved her, but he considered how forced it might come out. She hadn't said those words to him in weeks—not in person, calls, or texts—and Garrett could tell something was wrong. He forced a smile and held her head in his hands.
 
"I'll see you at dinner tonight?"
 
"6:30," Valerie said mechanically. "I'll be there."
 
She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and fetched her purse near the bedroom door, heading on her way. Garrett remained there for several minutes, sitting on his knees as he rocked back and forth atop his mattress. He had tried to have the conversation with Valerie before, to ask what was going on with her. She gave him nothing, but Garrett was a bright man. Every time she inched away from a kiss, avoided his eyes, made a remark about how he might love her too much, it put a strain on his emotions. Taking a deep sigh, Garrett could feel his eyes growing warm, angry tears welling up inside. His chest felt tight and painful and a familiar sense of depression and loneliness welled up within him. Valerie had been affecting him like this for some time now, but Garrett feared to address their problems. Most of all, he feared losing her. And so he said nothing.
 
Garrett arrived at the restaurant around 6:15, taking his seat alone and having a sip of water. Dressed in a button-down shirt with a tie, his hair combed neatly to one side, he looked very handsome. Reaching into his pocket, Garrett clutched an engagement ring case in his hand, carefully turning it over as he waited. The minutes passed like hours and Garrett felt his impatience growing, taking another sip of his water before pulling out his phone. The time read 6:53 and Garrett lowered his head a bit. It wouldn't be the first time Valerie had failed to arrive for a dinner date, but this one was different. This one had an importance of its own.
 
He went through the standard procedure of being stood up, stalling for time with the waiter, occasionally asking for a refill of water, and trying to avoid the stares of other guests that seemed to scream, "I feel so bad for him. Look at that, his date couldn't even be bothered to show up. What a sad life."
 
It was 8:01 when Garrett couldn't take it anymore. He felt his hand shaking as he pulled up the options for Valerie on his phone's contact list. He could call her, text her, add an attachment, or delete her information. How simple it would be to delete her from his phone and move on. It was also impossibly difficult. Garrett had attempted to remove Valerie from his life the way it seemed she was doing now. Unlike Garrett, however, Valerie always found a way back in, always had those special words mixed with the most careful behavior to secure her place in his life. He could not be done with her so easily, and so Garrett opted to text her, saying, "Going home. Guess you're busy tonight. Love you."
 
 

Underneath the walnut tree

Where you said you'd wait for me

And I waited, a long, long time

 
 
Garrett let the memory fade back into the obscurity of his brief life, a moment in time from four years prior. And then it washed ashore again, fighting to remind Garrett of his own reality. He had come to the pond to let go, and so he did, releasing those thoughts into the forefront of his mind.
 
Garrett remembered returning to the parking lot on that dreary, winter evening, his car running through three attempts before it would start. As he headed home, a feeling of suspicion and concern overtook him. Before he knew what he was doing, his car was exiting the highway toward Valerie's house, a matter of minutes separating him from her door. The road was dark and lonely, the occasional street lamp illuminating a small section of asphalt.
 
On approach, Garrett could see the outline of an unfamiliar vehicle outside Valerie's home, parked in front of her car. He parked his own vehicle next to it, studying the dark crimson finish before leaving the car. Garrett fumbled for the key to Valerie's house, closing his car door with his foot. Able to discern it from the distant porch light above Valerie's front door, Garrett held it apart from the rest of his keys and marched up to the entrance, placing the key in and turning it quickly.
 
The door opened with a soft sound and Garrett stepped inside. Flipping on the light, he set his shoes on the mat and rapidly blinked his eyes, adjusting to the fluorescent glow. Around the corner, a man slightly taller than Garrett nearly ran right into him, stumbling back in surprise and nearly releasing a yell. Garrett stared at him, frozen. The man wore a leather jacket and appeared to have put off shaving for a few days, possessing a ruggedness that existed in stark contrast to Garrett's clean-cut style.
 
"Hi," he whispered to Garrett, still a bit shaken. "Who are you?"
 
"Garrett. I was just…um…I was. Who are you?"
 
"Derek," the man replied. "Valerie didn't say she was expecting company."
 
Garrett raised an eyebrow at his remark. "Comes with giving your boyfriend a house key, I suppose."
 
Derek looked down into Garrett's hand, staring at the key set aside from the others. In an instant, he turned his head back up and punched Garrett across the face. Garrett felt himself stumble backward before smacking against the refrigerator, falling in a slump before it. Derek scooped him back up and held him by the shirt collar, giving him a punch to the jaw this time. Garrett felt his head spinning, the sight of little blips in his vision often referred to as "stars."
 
"What're you doing down here?"
 
Valerie entered the kitchen and immediately took stock of the situation, running at Derek before grabbing his arm, trying to pull him away from Garrett.
 
"Do you want to explain what's going on here, babe?"
 
Valerie gave Derek a guilty look, turning to Garrett for a moment. She wrapped her arms around Derek and whispered something to him that Garrett couldn't hear. He couldn't imagine what it might've been, but it was enough to keep him from throwing another punch. Derek stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the front door before the engine of his crimson vehicle roared to life. Garrett listened to the sound of a car peeling out over loose gravel and Derek drove off into the night.
 
Garrett looked at Valerie, admiring her flowing, violet nightgown before studying her eyes. The amazing green that lived within them was alive with emotion and Valerie said nothing for a short eternity. Finally, she bent down next to Garrett and kissed his forehead.
 
"I'm so sorry, baby, I really am."
 
"I can't believe this," Garrett muttered, heartbroken. "I can't believe you, of all people, would do something like this to me."
 
"Garrett, please listen," Valerie pleaded. "Derek is just some guy-"
 
"Really?" Garrett released a bitter chuckle. "Just some guy? Valerie, I trusted you and I loved you and…why would you do this to me?"
 
"I don't know," Valerie said flatly.
 
Garrett felt the angry tears coming on again and finally let everything out, sobbing on the kitchen floor as months of insecurity, inadequacy, and anxiety all poured out of him. He held his face in his hands while Valerie gently patted him on the back a few times.
 
"I told you, Derek meant nothing to me. It was just…a thing. It wasn't that big of a deal."
 
"You must be joking," Garrett cried, sniffling on the floor.
 
"I'm really not." Valerie's tone had become irritated. "This won't happen again, so you should probably get over it."
 
"That's a lot easier to say than do."
 
Valerie kissed Garrett's head a few times, running a hand up and down his back. "Garrett, I know you love me. Don't make a reckless mistake over this little incident. I wasn't feeling like dinner and…then Derek called me up and…things just led to other things and I found myself here."
 
"I hate you."
 
"You don't mean that."
 
Garrett sighed, revealing the cerulean eyes that had turned puffy and red. All the signs were telling Garrett his girlfriend had just cheated on him, but he could tell she had already won him back, barely lifting a finger to do so. Valerie treated him so badly at times and this was par for the course, really. He looked at her, amazed by the beauty that was so impossible to leave.
 
"You're right. And that's why my heart feels like dying."
 
"Let's draw back on the melodrama a bit, honey," Valerie replied. "I had a guest; no one has a terminal illness or anything."
 
Garrett rose to his feet and gulped hard, trying not to cry again as he held Valerie around her shoulders. She hugged him and brought him in close, pressing kisses to his neck as he stood there, feeling nothing but dejected.
 
"I love you so much," Garrett whispered, "I'm just scared of losing you."
 
"Then let's put this behind us. We never have to talk about it again, all right?"
 
Garrett nodded his head against Valerie's shoulder, wiping his eyes. "Okay. We'll move on."
 
 

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

 
 
Garrett picked up a golden, reddish leaf and turned it over a few times. He glanced back up at the hill, toward the walnut tree that stood nearly bare as fall came to a close. He pulled an engagement ring case from his pocket and brought it up to eye-level. It was a trinket he had carried for four years now, a constant reminder of a woman who was once very important to him. He flicked the case open and shut a few times, comforted by the soft pop it would make when he exposed the inner pedestal—a throne where a diamond ring was meant to sit.
 
Garrett could never bring himself to part with it. The case was perfect and wrapped in dark velvet; all it lacked was a ring. That circular treasure was long gone, so unexpectedly. Garrett lowered the case when a single teardrop trickled down his cheek, dangling from the edge of his chin before dropping into the ring case. Garrett hadn't noticed. Standing there alone by the pond, on the outskirts of the quiet, woodland realm, he shut the case one final time. Garrett spun back then, and hurled the case away, sending it out into the pond where it sunk unceremoniously to the very bottom.
 
Garrett watched the ripples on the water, satisfied. He turned and began making his way up the hill, toward the walnut tree and the lonely bench. Sunset would come soon and it was time to go.
 
 

Why, why do I come here?

Seeking out the memories I hold dear

'Cause you put your spell on me

Made me live in memory

And I'm frozen, in just the wrong time

 
 
Garrett stood over Valerie's body, a sick feeling in his stomach as he stared into her open casket. She had reluctantly agreed to marry him a week prior, and then…this. It stung enough to have found a sales slip that revealed Valerie sold the ring, but that was the least of Garrett's concerns. There was so much he wished he could ask her. Why had she been drinking so much the night she died? Where was she going? Why didn't she ask someone to just drive her home? Garrett extended a hand toward her face, pausing before he touched her. Valerie was pale and still, unable to hurt him ever again. It took her own poor judgment to release Garrett from her control, to provide him an opportunity to move on.
 
"I really did love you, you know," Garrett whispered. "And I'm sorry things ended like this. Wherever you are…whatever you're doing…please, don't let someone fall for you the way I did."
 
Garrett walked away from the casket, allowing a few other mourners to approach and say their own quiet farewells. He scanned the room, searching for the faces of the other men Valerie had replaced him with from time to time. Derek may have been the first, but eventually, Garrett learned of Leon, Chris, Wayne, Zack, and a few others whose names he no longer knew. None were present for Valerie's funeral – no one came to see the unfaithful woman they spent a brief time with.
 
"Excuse me."
 
Garrett turned around and came face to face with a middle-aged woman. She greatly resembled Valerie, but the luster of her beauty had been zapped away by the passing of the years. They never met before, but there was no mistaking that Garrett was standing before Valerie's mother.
 
"Hello," Garrett told her. "I'm…I'm sorry for your loss."
 
"You're Garrett, aren't you?" she asked, her voice hushed and calm. "You were in my daughter's profile picture for quite some time."
 
"Yes. We dated a while."
 
Valerie's mother gave Garrett a hug, an action he presumed was more for her sake than his. She just lost her daughter, and so Garrett had enough of a heart to pat her on the back a few times, to awkwardly state with his hand that everything would be all right.
 
Valerie's mother sniffled against Garrett's shoulder. "It's okay, you know. It's okay to cry, Garrett."
 
"I've done enough crying over Valerie, ma'am. We all run out of tears some time."
 
She looked up at him, a miserable expression on her face. "Did my daughter treat you poorly?"
 
Garrett had a decision to make. There was the honest truth and the words he thought she needed to hear. He chose the latter.
 
"Valerie was kind, and sweet, and beautiful. I was just…afraid to lose someone so perfect. But now that I have, it's…a strange feeling. I'm sad, but I cannot cry."
 
The woman nodded. "We all grieve in our own way. Thank you for coming, Garrett."
 
Garrett forced a meek smile. "You're welcome."
 
 

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

I waited a long, long time

 
 
Garrett left the pond and the grass and the walnut tree all behind, never to return. Beneath the water, tiny minnows and polliwogs were an audience to a magnificent sight. The ring case popped back open, Garrett's teardrop having turned to a golden material. It shined beautifully there, sparkling as it expanded and cracked through the case.
 
Its transformation complete, the droplet of memories, born of a misguided adoration, had become a crystal sun. The spiny, glowing gem possessed a brilliant core at the center, ascending out of the pond and into the sky, undetected by Garrett. It would sail far away, carrying Garrett's love—however foolish and painful it might have been—off into the depths of the universe.
 
In the end, we cannot help who we love and that power tends to get away from us, giving birth to a thousand crystal chronicles made up of our hopes and fears.


Edited by Cederak, Jan 06 2014 - 11:22 PM.

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#2 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Feb 12 2013 - 09:19 AM

That was a good story. I've only read one other Crystal Chronicles story before this one, but I might just go and read the rest of them now that I've read this one.At first, I was a bit confused when you jumped back and forth between Garret's present and past, but I understood it quickly enough. Still, I think you should have made it a bit clearer, although honestly I'm not sure how you could have done so without disrupting the flow of the story.The ending was also a bit confusing to me. How did Garret's tear turn into a crystal? That's probably a question you intended to remain unanswered, but it does seem a bit strange to me that a story that is otherwise pretty normal has that kind of twist at the end. Maybe it would make more sense if I'd read the other Crystal Chronicles first.I liked it overall, aside from those few quips. I'm not sure if it's a fitting end to the Crystal Chronicles series, though, considering, again, I haven't read all of them yet, but it's a good story on its own and I enjoyed it just the same.-TNTOS-
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#3 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Feb 24 2013 - 04:29 PM

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]. . . Got to love those happy endings.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]People can be devils sometimes, can't they? I might have said women, but then men can be just as diabolical. This sort of sadistic puppetry may be more characteristic of the former, but people will be people and you can't very well discriminate human nature by gender, can you? To judge by individuals and not generalities, Valerie is a devil and you have stirred deep empathy in me for poor Garrett.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]I love what you say about letting go; and for the moment I mean in the sense of relaxing one's restraint and giving emotions free rein. There really is something soothing in releasing that pressure and drowning oneself in one's grief. Because something like this isn't grief, not precisely. It's bittersweet but it's not unpleasant. To forget, to feel not at all, is unpleasant. It may ache, but love can't truly hurt.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Garrett's reaction toward Valerie's death makes perfect sense. On the one hand he's finally free of the infrangible emotional bonds that held his heart to Valerie; he has been released and a crushing weight has been lifted off his heart. And on the other hand, grief really isn't nearly as hard to deal with as hope is. Sorrow that sustains hope is the more painful; the irreversible permanence of a hopeless sorrow leaves nothing but simple acceptance, not unfeeling but not very emotional, either.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]It's tragic the way Garrett's heart held him captive to a wanton, selfish, sadistic woman like this. He loved her and he wanted to marry her, for all her faithlessness, for all her cruelty; proving that love is not always enough. Perhaps "true love" is, rather than any particularly elevated emotion, a blending of practicality and feeling.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]However, these observations relate to the story but do not pertain to it. That is, I suppose, because I don't have much else to say. There was so much depth and emotion to your story that it led me off on these tangents and gave me a lot to think about; and that's what I enjoyed about it.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]I have nothing to complain about, because this is simply a wonderful story. The nearest I can come to a complaint is not a complaint at all, because though it might be errant elsewhere it was quite purposeful here. And that "complaint" is the way you captured the emotions. You captured them vividly, but as I say you captured them; so to speak you caged them and chained them. They were there to see but not free to be felt. But in this case I think that's a good thing. It lessened simple experience and strengthened deep meaning. If you had described and evoked his feelings rather than showing them and telling of them, it would have been a moment of entertaining pain but nothing more. That would have been hollow and inane, mere artificial stimulation of emotions. Nobody needs that. As it was, this story was not only an elegantly spun tale, vivid and expressive, but a profound portrayal of emotion, rational and analytical.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]The metaphor at the end was beautiful and colorful; maybe a little disparate to a story as pragmatic and solemn as this was, a little contradictory to that very rationality I was referring to before, but perhaps not astray for its juxtapositive poeticism and moment of romantic wisdom. Still, however beautiful as it may be, as much as I love it in reading it a second time, it remains that the first time it was less enjoyable because it was so unexpected and incongruent. Chocolate cake is delicious, but hard to swallow after a meal of bitter flavors and sharp spices. Not that the meal wasn't delicious in its own right, but before the cake can be appreciated in its own merit there must be a more gradual and temperate transition. That, then, can be my sole complaint.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Otherwise, I have nothing but praise. When describing a good romance I usually use words such as beautiful, graceful, bittersweet; but this is different. This is profound, refined, pleasantly bitter but not sweet, elegant but not beautiful. Excellent work, Cederak.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith :smilemirunu: [/color]


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#4 Offline Aderia

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Posted Mar 09 2013 - 08:32 PM

Dear Mr. Cederak,

 

     Hiya!! First things first, I'm sorry I haven't written sooner! It was just really hard to think of how to get this right. >.<   I hope no one else has written a cooler fan letter in the meantime!! And also, the author's note that said you're leaving soon, that got a big frowny-face sticker, because that makes me sad. Who am I gonna write letters to about their stories?!? I'm gonna miss that. =( but anyways, I didn't write this to make you wade through my moping.

 

     So, if I had to choose one thing off the top of my head that makes a story worth my while, it would be how much the story makes me think. I'm not really sure why that jumps straight to mind, but getting a reader to be able to understand and invest in the story enough, and empathize with the characters enough to be able to ask questions obviously means the author is doing something right.  And I definitely had to ask myself how people like Valerie could get to be so mean. Not sure if that’s the right word, but just ignorant of the fact that other people have feelings too. I can’t imagine how things may have played out had she lived.

 

     Another thing I have to mention! I really like the song you used in the story. It also probably helped that you linked me to it a little while back, but it really helped set the tone for the story. And overall, it was a really well told story. Sad, though =/ It was perfect for wrapping up your mini-series though.

 

     Phew! I finally made it all the way through! I think I literally sat down to write to you a dozen times and just kept on rewriting and scratching stuff out. I tried writing a hard copy in study halls, and I even printed out your story in the school Library once to write the letter on the back. But yeah, better late than never, right? =)

 

Sincerely,

 

Your biggest fan


Edited by Aderia, Mar 09 2013 - 08:33 PM.

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#5 Offline Cederak

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Posted Mar 11 2013 - 07:37 PM

[font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;color:rgb(0,0,128);"]@TNTOS: Thanks for reading. This story is the chronological beginning of the miniseries, and it's those last few lines that really allow it to take flight as a piece of the Crystal Chronicles collection. Without that event, without the promise of hope on the horizon, Garrett's life seems very unimportant. But indeed, he unwittingly sets in motion many events that will change his universe and others as well. :)[/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]@Nuile: You really took to heart all of those things I wanted the reader to feel and understand and experience. That reminds me I'm doing my job correctly. Romance isn't something I work with often and, I think I've been putting off a story like this for quite some time. Also, playing Walnut Tree in the background as I read it for myself added to the sort of melancholy mood Garrett cannot escape for the entire story. I would assume he goes on to live a normal life, ignorant of his very special teardrop and maybe, just maybe, he finds a love worth holding on to. This isn't a story that easily lends itself to a sequel, so I can keep that little bit of hope to myself. Thanks for reading.[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]@Aderia: Hey, fan mail![/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Dear Ms. Aderia,[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Thank you for another wonderful letter! I will assure you, not a single piece of fan mail has arrived on my desk that outshines yours. I imagine correspondence will be infrequent in the coming months while I'm working from a mobile desk. Perhaps you'll have time to write and I'll send you a letter about it…[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]It's interesting. Valerie is a combination of a lot of the worst sorts of people I've known in my brief life, and she plays her part so perfectly. Having met and chatted with the handful of women I based her on, I can safely say Valerie as a character felt easy to work with by comparison. I don't know why people like Valerie are out there, ruining the lives of others, but they are, and that makes me sad. So tread carefully, Aderia, they can be very…persuasive. :P[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]I'll admit, Little Broken Words is a sad note to end on, but it's really not the end at all. There is so much ahead of the Crystal Core beyond forming into a liquid memory that becomes something even more amazing. So too, there is so much ahead for all of us – only now, like Garrett, we must go out and discover what it is. I'm glad Walnut Tree painted a picture for you as you read, it's such a short song of so few lyrics, but I couldn't think of anything more appropriate.[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]You may be jealous to learn I wrote this letter in a single draft, but I value your candor about trying to write a response that felt acceptable. Better late than never suits me nicely as well and, I have a surprise for you. In light of all your assistance in the past several months and spending so much behind-the-scenes time as my editor, I thought to put together a little gift for you. As you read this, an envelope is en route to your address containing a printed copy of each Crystal Chronicles story, including handwritten commentary for each story that sheds some light on parts of these stories I may have glossed over or downplayed, and explains some of the motivation regarding each piece. I cannot thank you enough for how much of my work you've read and revised, and I thought this would be a thoughtful token of my appreciation. I hope you like it and I happily await our next exchange. [/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Yours Sincerely,[/color][/font]

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Cederak[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"] ^_^[/color][/font]


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