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Wishing On Windmills

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Painting the Windmill by Maplevogel

Twelve and a Half

Matthew scuffed his shoes and frowned as his parents walked past him with stacked cardboard boxes.  His brother ran in the opposite direction, cheering, with a jar under one arm and a net in his other hand.  There were tadpoles in the creek behind their new house and he wanted to catch ‘at least a thousand’ before sunset.

Matthew did not want to catch tadpoles though.

He reached out as his father passed again and caught the hem of his sweater between two fingers.

“Papa, I don’t like it here,” he sulked.  “I want to go home.”

Francis knelt down and smoothed his curls behind his ear.  He tweaked his nose.

“This is your home now.”

“It doesn’t feel like home,” Matthew whined, batting at his hand and standing up a little taller.  He was twelve and a half years old but his father still treated him like a child.  It was embarrassing. 

“Give it a chance.”

“But I didn’t want to move.”

“Matthieu, we’ve talked about this.”

You talked about this!”  He felt like no one ever listened to him.  “I told you that I didn’t want to move.”

“Your father and I have always wanted to open a Bed and Breakfast and our old house was too small.” 

“But I liked it,” he said wretchedly. 

“I know,” Francis admitted, even as he picked up another box.  “But you’ll like it here too.” 

“You just need to get used to it,” Arthur called from the porch and Matthew wondered how long he had been eavesdropping.  “There’s so much to do here.  Go fishing with your brother.  Go for a walk.  Go swimming.  You’ll find something to do.”

Matthew grumbled under his breath and stuffed his hands in his pockets. 

He really did not want to catch tadpoles.


Matthew kicked at the loose gravel as he walked down the deserted road.  There were barren fields surrounding their new house and a dilapidated windmill on the swollen incline at the end of the road.  There was a forest to the north. 

The house itself was nice, he supposed, with a wraparound porch and white gables and a painted blue door.  It was almost a hundred years old but Francis said it had ‘good bone structure’, even though it had burnt down once, and Arthur wanted to plant a garden in the shade.  Alfred liked that it had an attic and a stone cellar. 

It was only ten minutes outside of the nearest town but it felt a lot further. 

His parents had enrolled them in the local middle school and he was already dreading their first day.  He was not like his brother; Alfred could make friends wherever he went, and he did.  Easily.  Matthew was quieter and a little self conscious.  He was awkward.  It took him a lot longer to make friends.

He missed his old friends.  He missed his old house.  He missed… 

Matthew came to the end of the road and scrubbed at his face with both hands.  He tried to hold back the tears.  Crap.  This sucked.  He hated it here.

Mmrnnnn…” 

He dropped his hands, startled, and stared at the windmill as a curtain was pulled across the window.

“…  Huh?” 

Matthew crept up the incline, the gravel crunching underneath his sneakers, and reached for the peeling door with shaking fingers. 

He gently pushed it open and peered inside.  It creeeaked. 

“Hello?”  He whispered, stepping into the rounded space, and flinched when his voice cracked.  It was darker than he thought it would be.  “Is…  Is anybody there?” 

It was silent for a moment before someone behind him snorted.

“Any body?” 

He turned around and squealed.


“I can’t believe you squealed,” Gilbert said as he studied Matthew from the base of the winding staircase.  Matthew wiped at his nose and crossed his arms.

“I did not.” 

“You definitely did.”

Matthew frowned at him.  Gilbert smiled.  It was lopsided. 

Gilbert did not look like anyone that Matthew had ever met.  He was pale, bloodless, and covered in stitches.  He was a little crooked.  A bit uneven.

His right eye was dull and lifeless but the left one was focused on him. 

“You scared me,” he muttered, and Gilbert laughed. 

“I already said that I was sorry.”

He had apologetically introduced himself after Matthew had, well, squealed and tripped over his own untied laces.  He had seemed just as surprised to see him. 

He said that he had been alone for a very, very long time. 

Matthew told him that they could be lonely together


Thirteen and a Quarter  

Matthew offered to repaint the windmill when his parents asked.  He told them that, yes, he could do it on his own and, no, he did not need any help, thank you.

Arthur had just shrugged and handed him a paintbrush. 

He sheepishly asked for another one.


“Get out here and help me!”

Gilbert moaned and stumbled out of the windmill. 

“You’re so loud,” he griped, pulling on his ears and scowling.  Matthew waved the paintbrushes in his direction.

“This is your fault anyway!  Do you know how hard it is to keep everyone away from the windmill?!  I had to tell Alfred that it was haunted, you know.  And I had to tell my parents that I could paint it by myself.  Myself!  So you’re going to help me.” 

Gilbert grabbed one of the paintbrushes and smacked Matthew upside the head with it.  Matthew sloshed the whitewash as he ducked out of range.  It splashed onto his trousers.

“You’re more trouble than you’re worth,” Gilbert huffed fondly and ruffled his hair.  Matthew grinned.

“You’d fall apart without me.”


It took them an entire afternoon to whitewash the old windmill.  Matthew stood on his tiptoes and, when he could not reach any higher, Gilbert lifted him onto his shoulders.  When he could not reach any higher than that, he unstitched his arm and passed it up to Matthew. 

He held on to Matthew, who held onto his dismembered arm, and the two of them painted the windmill together. 


Fourteen and an Eighth

Matthew asked Gilbert about his life in Europe, before the accident, and tried to avoid touchier subjects.  Gilbert had a lot of scars, he had learnt, and not all of them were as plain as the sutures across his face. 

He had grown up in Prussia before the Great War and he had been twenty years old when he, uhm, died.  He did not like to talk about his father figure.  He did like to talk about his brother. 

He did not like thunderstorms or loud noises.  He hated fire. 

He really, really hated fire.


Fifteen and Eleven Sixteenths 

“Help!”  Matthew screeched as he kicked open the door and Gilbert almost fell down the staircase in surprise. 

“What?!  What happened?!  Are you hurt?!”  He crouched in front of Matthew with a worried frown and pushed his sweater up, and up, searching for cuts or bruises or worse. 

Cheep!

Gilbert paused and stared blankly at Matthew.  He was covered in dirt.  There were leaves in his hair. 

“Do…  Do you have a bird?!”

Matthew slowly opened his cupped hands and presented a baby bird with new, unkempt yellow feathers. 

“I think he fell out of his nest!”

Gilbert blinked. 

“Okay…”

“His wing is broken!” 

Gilbert gently pried the bird from his trembling grasp and examined it.  The right wing was overextended and bent at an odd angle but it looked simple enough to set.

He stood up and kissed Matthew on the forehead. 

“It’s alright.  We can fix him.”


Sixteen and Three Quarters  

Sometimes, if he asked very nicely, Gilbert would let him hold his hand when they wandered through the forest.

Sometimes, it was even attached to him.


 Seventeen and Seven Eighths

“I’m in love with you.” 

Gilbert jumped and accidentally stabbed himself with a sewing needle. 

“Ouch!  I mean, uh…  What?”

Matthew ‘tsked’ and plucked the needle and thread out of his hand.  He smoothed over the sutures on his forearm and picked up where he had left off.

“I said that I’m in love with you.” 

“That’s, that’s an incredibly bad idea,” Gilbert blanched.  “You know that, right?”

Matthew shrugged. 

Their relationship had not started like that but he had fallen in love with Gilbert over the months, and years, in stops and starts and creeping increments.  He was his best friend.  He was the first person Matthew wanted to see in the morning and the last person he wanted to talk to before he went to bed.  He wanted to share everything with him.

And, recently, he wanted to share more than secrets. 

“I don’t think so.”

Gilbert spluttered and tried to wave his hands.  Matthew pulled his arm down again and kept sewing. 

“You’re only seventeen!  You don’t even know what you want!  You can’t!”

“Seventeen and seven eighths,” he corrected absentmindedly. 

“I’m over a hundred years old, Matthew.”

“I know.” 

“I’m…  I’m a monster!”  

Matthew finished stitching him back together and snapped the thread between his teeth.  Then he pressed a gentle kiss to the inside of his forearm and finally, finally, looked up at him. 

He smiled softly.

“You’re not a monster.” 

Gilbert choked and averted his eyes.

“But you’re still too young.”


Eighteen and Three Sixteenths  

Matthew brought Gilbert flowers every day but, other than that, he did not push him.  Gilbert said that he was too young, that he did not know what he really wanted, so Matthew briefly dated two men and a woman. 

It never felt quite right.

He worked at a neighbouring farm and helped his parents with the Bed and Breakfast.  He went on road trips with his brother.

But he always came back to Gilbert.

And he always brought flowers.


Nineteen and Five Eighths

“How long are you going to make me wait?”

“A little while longer.”


Exactly Twenty

Gilbert awkwardly handed him a crooked, lopsided bouquet of flowers on his birthday and Matthew kissed him until his stitches came loose.