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My Anam Cara

This is not a love story. Well at least not in the traditional sense, but it is a story of a boy - me - and a girl named Mae.

By E MPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 21 min read

1921 - Charlie

It all started in the summertime of 1921 when I had just turned ten years old. My parents had sent me to stay with my very wealthy uncle Philip and aunty Anne in countryside Maine. In my mothers words I was sent there to develop a good relationship with her brother, my uncle Philip.

Aunty Anne and he had never had children and my mother said she was concerned they were missing out on bonding with a child. My father on the other hand had told me differently years later. He was of the understanding that I was to develop a relationship with my aunt and uncle in order for their mountable fortune to be inherited by me upon their deaths. He was right. I found them to be easy, kind people with whom I actually enjoyed spending time with. It was beautiful country and their large manner home stood on acres of land.

Next door was another manner home, a house and family I would come to know very well over the years.

1921 - Mae

I loved Charlie instantly. Yes I know that's a sweeping declaration but it's true. That summer morning in late June 1921. I watched him hobble on wooden crutches down the stairs to the patio where my older siblings, Philip, Louisa and Petra were playing croquet, unsure in his steps and also in himself. I could tell right away that he wouldn't fit in with them. I loved the three of them dearly but they weren't like Charlie and I. We were different.

I watched the forced introductions and pleasantries by my mother from a distance and waited until she walked away to sit on the terrace with her gin and tonic before I lay my book down behind the apple blossom tree and stood up to walk towards them. I could feel the broad smile on my face and I knew my cheeks were flushed from sitting in the warm summer sun. A new friend is a happy occasion.

I started to run, partly due to excitement and partly due to the fact that my mother was watching and it would bother her so. I could feel her icy stare and frown burn into my little body although I wasn't even looking at her. She wouldn't approve of her youngest, "most beautiful" daughter running up in a sweat to the young boy and heir from next door.

Charlie caught my eye just as I halted to a stop in front of him. I gently pushed my sister Louisa out of the way and held out my hand to introduce myself. He looked back towards my mother before accepting and as his hand slipped into mine I pulled his arm close to me and embraced him in a breathless hug.

"Hello, I'm Mae Evans, nice to meet you", I said as I let him go and looked into his light blue eyes for the first time. He wobbled as he adjusted his balance but smiled warmly.

"I'm Charles Woodroff but you can call me Charlie, all of you can".

His voice sounded small and innocent and my brother and sisters didn't hear him as after being introduced to him by our Mother, they had already returned to their game. Phillip was a sportsman through and through, he instantly dismissed Charlie at the sight of him. For you see, the reason he had crutches was because he only had one leg, the other was missing from the knee down. My sisters dismissed him because of this too, they were convinced an invalid with only one leg surely wouldn't make a good future husband, however wealthy he was. I saw none of those things though. I saw a familiar soul, a kindred spirit and a best friend.

"Come and see my secret reading spot". I stated as I grabbed his hand again. He pulled it back and smiled awkwardly as he adjusted the old wooden crutches under his arms. You see I told you I hardly noticed those things.

"Oh, I'm sorry! I forgot about those!", I said as I stood by his side and kept pace with him instead of running. At least mother would be happy.

"It's alright. I wish I could forget about them too. It'd be so much easier to run just the way you did! Where are we going?”, he said excitedly.

“To the apple blossoms, the loveliest part of the garden. It’s my favourite place to sit and read”, I explained as I pointed them out in front of us. “Do you like to read Charlie?”

“I do indeed”, he said as we smiled at each other knowingly.

We spent the rest of the summer together, playing, reading and talking and he quickly became my most favourite person in the whole entire world.

1927 - Charlie

We were outside in the woods at the edge of her father's property, leaning on a fence post, looking up at the stars hanging in the black of the Universe above us. Mae turned to me seriously and said she had something to tell me, something important.

I suddenly felt a rush of excitement and warmth flow through my body. By this time we were 16 years old and I was in love with Mae. I was convinced she was going to admit her undying love for me too. Why else would she bring me out here at night all alone. I planned out the next few moments in my head before she had started to speak again. Turned out it was wishful thinking, my plans of scooping her into my arms and holding her close to me as we shared our first kiss were abolished as she opened her lovely mouth.

"You're my Anam Cara Charlie", she said to me, looking directly into my eyes and waited expectantly for my response.

"Thank you", I replied as nicely as I could, trying to hide the fact that I had no idea what she had just said.

"Thank you? Well that's a funny thing to say. Am I not yours too?", she asked teasingly, as she looked down at her cream shoes. Earlier in the evening she had pointed them out to me. Fresh from New York, her first pair with a slight heel. Apparently somewhat of a big deal to girls of 16.

"Yes of course. But what does it mean? I don't think I've ever heard it before", I responded truthfully.

"Well if you've never heard of it before then how can you say that I’m yours back?”, she asked with her eyebrows raised and a wry roll of the eyes before continuing. "It's an old Celtic word. It means 'soul friend', it's beautiful isn't it?". She smiled at the thought. I smiled too as she said it and we shared a moment of silence in the stillness of the night.

"Well then, yes, you definitely are mine too Mae. I like that". I said honestly.

I knew I was picking up on a connection between her and I, just a different one than she was. I was falling in love with her and she was getting friendly with my soul. I guess that's one of the differences between girls and boys, men and women. Or perhaps just this girl. I knew what she meant though. Over the last six years we had become very close. Mae almost felt like an extension of myself. We loved each other.

We ended the conversation and walked back towards the house. Her mother had invited me for dinner which was a rare occasion as she did not enjoy my company. It was obvious she thought I was going to steal her beloved youngest child away and try to marry her and although in my mind I would've jumped at the chance, I knew Mae wasn't ready for that. Her mother's disapproval of me surely didn't help matters.

We sat at the formal dining table in the old ballroom. Mr Evans was away on a work trip so it was just myself, Mrs Evans and Mae. The three older children were in their 20's and married now so no longer lived at home.

"Here Charlie, this is the book I told you about, you must read it".

Mae leaned across the table to hand me an old red covered book. I reached my hand out towards it anticipating the knowledge that would soon leave it's pages and settle in my heart and mind, just as Mae had said, but we were interrupted.

"Mae Evans what are you doing with that tatty old thing at the dinning table? Hans, will you remove that at once and return it to the library where it belongs". It was Mrs Evans.

Mae's hands instinctively pulled the book from my reach and she clutched it in front of her heart with both hands crossed over it, an impenetrable fortress, one which Hans had little hope of getting through.

"Mother! How dare you, it's not a tatty old thing! Father bought this back with him from one of his overseas trips, it's beautiful. I'm sorry Hans but I shan't let you take it from me. I'm passing it on to Charlie to read", she said indignantly. Her mother looked at me unapprovingly and then looked back at Mae.

"Oh really? And have you asked your dear father if that was alright or were you just going to let Charlie remove it from the house without asking?", she asked, eyebrows raised as she took a mouthful of food.

"He's not taking it mother, I'm giving it to him to borrow. I don't believe I must ask father's permission to do that!", replied Mae.

"Well, let's hope you're a fast reader Charlie, Mr Evans will be back next week", stated Mrs Evans, giving me a look which told me not to take the book from the house.

1927 - Mae

Charlie left as soon as dessert was finished. He knew I was upset with mother's behaviour. She and I retreated to the lounge at the back of the house overlooking the pond in the garden. Mother had Hans pour her a large gin and tonic and she settled herself on the chaise lounge that faced the window.

“He will never marry well”, she stated as she lit up a cigarette. I turned away from the window and looked at her.

“What do you mean mother?”, I asked somewhat defensively.

“Well his condition of course. One must look at the family history when finding a suitable suitor. I mean it’d be one thing if he’d lost his leg in an accident or a battle or whatnot but to be born that way, crippled …. no he will not find a high-born wife, only a woman wanting to marry for his inherited fortune”.

“But is that not what you had my sisters do? That’s all I hear from you, ‘You must marry well girls, a man with good wealth’”.

“I only want what’s best for my daughters. I want the three of you to have just as good a life, if not better than the one your father has provided. It’s natural, you’ll understand one day. Let us have this same conversation in 10 years time when you are married with a large house and fortune and see how we will look back and laugh at your childish ignorance”.

In that moment I wanted to tell her that I had no intentions of ever marrying Charlie, that he was my Anam Cara and that was much more valuable than being a husband! But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction or peace of mind. I didn't want her thinking she’d gotten her way.

"Well you needn't worry yourself too much about Charlie mother, he's leaving to go to New York with his aunt and uncle", I said as I returned to looking out at the darkness through the window, inwardly glad that I had told him he was my Anam Cara before he left.

1931 - Charlie

It was mid July 1931 when I saw her again, although, we had been keeping touch through letters. I'd missed her twentieth birthday in March as I was still in New York. She didn't see me at first. She was under the apple blossoms of course, reading on a picnic blanket. Her relaxed outline was the same although older and more womanly. I snuck up behind her and tapped her shoulder.

"Oh you sneak Charlie!", she exclaimed as she shut her book closed and jumped in fright. "You absolutely shocked me! What are you doing here?".

I outstretched my arm and gave her my hand to help her up. She took it and we hugged hello familiarly. One arm enveloped around her waist and the other holding both crutches, I squeezed her tight against me as she squeezed just as tightly back.

"Oh it's so good to have you back, are you staying?", she pulled herself away and looked up into my face. Her eyes danced around as if she was looking at me for the very first time again. I smiled as I held her hand and outstretched it with mine.

"Settle, first things first. Would you have a look at you! Little Mae Evans all grown up, right in front of me". She smiled largely and her whole face lit up. She playfully turned around in a circle swirling her skirt.

"Well it had to happen sooner or later. Besides look at you! Mr New York City. Very dapper Sir".

“Why thank you my dear friend. I did indeed dress for the occasion. It’s been four whole years since we’ve seen each other”.

“Almost to the day. I was so upset you couldn’t make it home for my birthday this year Charlie. I’m not a teenager anymore”.

“No you’re not. That makes two of us. Oh how I've missed you Mae”, I said warmly at the sight of my best friend.

"I have missed you too Charlie, so much", she replied, matching the warmth of my smile.

"Will you come over to the house this evening? I've brought Anna home to show her the property and I'd very much like you to meet her", I said excitedly. I had written to Mae about Anna in several letters and was desperate for them to meet each other before we left again for the city tomorrow.

"Of course!", replied Mae kindly, "I've been waiting months for you to bring her home!".

1932 - Mae

Anna's cold fingers grasped my wrist tightly, pulling me out of the room and onto the landing before closing the door behind us. I watched as she leaned her body against the closed door, breathing deeply and looking at me in shock.

"What'd you you think you're doing Mae? That behaviour's completely uncalled for. Do you have any idea how upset he's going to be in there?”.

I looked into her eyes and I could see my outburst was a surprise to her. I held my hand loosely over my mouth and lifted it to my forehead before I spoke.

“Oh Anna! I can't believe the state of him, he looks so ill and helpless and weak. That's not Charlie – what's happened to him?”.

I could hear the panic in my voice as I started pacing up and down in front of her holding my arms around my stomach in shock. I felt sick and I wanted to cry but no tears came. I suddenly felt her grab my left arm to hold me still. She put her face in front of mine so our eyes were level and spoke to me in her best nurses voice.

“He's real sick Mae, surely you'd prepared in your mind for this. I was under the impression that your mother had filled you in on things”.

“She had, but she obviously hadn't realised how bad he was. He's a dead man almost. You're a nurse. Aren't you supposed to be looking after him? We've got to set up some kind of treatment plan. He's my best friend, he has to fight, I'm not going to let him give up like this”.

“He may be your best friend Mae but he's my fiancé", she straightened up and let go of my arm as I felt my heart skip a beat and my thoughts changed direction.

"What? You're engaged?".

"Yes, six months ago, before all this happened. He sent you a letter".

"I never got a letter. I suppose a congratulations is in order".

"A congratulations? I don't think that's entirely appropriate considering the situation, do you?".

"Anna I'm sorry, that came out wrong. I didn't mean it like that. This is all too much. This whole thing. I didn't expect him to be so far advanced. It's's like he's just given up all hope".

"He's accepted the fact that he's going to die Mae and he's become peaceful with the situation. It's what he needed to do. You should've seen him a few weeks ago, he just didn't want to hear it".

"Sounds like it’s too late already".

"What'd you mean too late? We got here in time to say goodbye".

"Yes exactly! Far too late. I should've been told earlier. Couldn't someone have picked up the telephone? How am I supposed to get him back to the place where he was a few weeks ago?"

"No Mae, this is what I was afraid of in the first place, this is why I got so angry in the room just now. I won't have you upsetting him. I've worked damn hard, day and night to ease the pain and to comfort him, get his mind and head to a peaceful state. I, we, don't need you rushing in here getting him all riled up and excited about a possible cure for this because there isn't one. If you love him as much as you say you do then please, dry up and just keep away".

1932 - Charlie

I had secretly been hoping that Mae would come back to see me. I knew she hated conflict of any kind and I knew she wouldn't be feeling good about what happened yesterday. Anna hadn't spoken much to me since bringing up some breakfast. She sat at the window seat, curtains drawn and read the morning paper. I looked down at the tray on my lap and felt sick at the thought of any of the food entering my weak, frail, body. I took in the whole scene and tried to imagine Anna's life after I'd gone. Where would she be and who would she be with? I knew she'd be alright. She was strong. She'd be able to move on.

"Is Mae coming back today?".

Her voice suddenly filled the silence in the room and it shook me from my thoughts. My stomach did a small somersault at the mention of Mae's name and I felt even sicker remembering we had argued.

"Oh I don't know my love, perhaps. I'm not sure if she could stay away. Besides I wouldn't want her to, I wouldn't want to end things like this", I said as I shuffled around in the bed to make myself more comfortable. The tray of food clipped my thighs together and I was starting to feel claustrophobic. Anna gazed up at me without lifting her head fully then flicked her eyes back down towards the paper.

"Yes, I thought you might say that. That's why I've decided to go out. I don't want to be here again for another round with Miss Mae Evans", she said sarcastically as she flipped the last pages over until the newspaper lay closed on the wooden table top.

"You understand dearest, don't you?", she said. I watched as she moved across the room towards me and stood beside the bed with her hands on her hips.

"Charlie you've hardly touched your breakfast, are you feeling ill?". I smirked inside and felt like saying 'I don't remember what feeling well feels like' but I didn't, of course. The gentleman in me would come to the grave. Instead I winced a little and answered in the usual polite tone.

"I'm fine darling, I'm just waiting for the eggs to cool. You go, I'll call Ivy if I need anything", I smiled up at her and couldn't wait for the door to be closed so I could be alone.

A few hours must have passed as I awoke to find Mae sitting in the same chair Anna had been in this morning. I rubbed my eyes and sat my tired body up against my pillows.

"That's a bright dress you're wearing today", I remarked as I looked over to her. She turned her head to look at me and smiled.

"Yes, I felt I needed to brighten myself up a bit. And you too. It's awfully dark in here Charlie. Don't you ever open the curtains or the windows?".

"Anna says the wind will blow the dust about and it will irritate my lungs. It'll start a coughing fit that I'm not sure I'll survive".

"Applesauce! What are you so afraid of Charlie? You're already dying! Everything else is an experience. An adventure", she said as she stood up and moved towards the bed. "I've found my grandfathers old wheelchair in the storage rooms behind our summer house. Duncan the gardener is going to help me take you down to the garden", she continued with a glint in her eyes.

"Oh no. I can't go outside Mae. I'm much too weak".

"That's what the wheelchairs for. You'll hardly have to move a muscle. Tell me, what's so different to sitting out in the sun than lying here in this bleak dark room? I'll tell you. Life is waiting out there and death is banging at this door. I'm taking you out and that's all there is to it".

I let her fuss over me and with the help of Duncan, we finally made it down to the gardens. I must admit it did feel good to be outside with the breeze on my face and the sun heating my bones. We sat a while without saying anything, the way we used to, before Mae began to talk.

"You know, I think you're enjoying all this. You're comfortable", she said as she turned to look at me, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. I waited a moment before answering. We really could say anything to each other.

"You act like I'm dying on purpose Mae".

"Well maybe you are. Maybe your subconscious has conjured this whole illness and you're not even aware of it. That's what happens to people you know. It's all in your mindset, what you believe to be true becomes true. You know you're lucky Charlie. You're lucky to have me here to bring this into awareness for you". She spoke in a way that suggested she'd been wanting to tell me this for days.

"You know, the other night, I thought it was Anna I'd have to try and convince, but it's you. I'll say the very thing I said to her. If you try to change your thoughts and actions about this, what's the worst that can happen? You're already dying. You never know, it might just work and you begin to get better".

I listened to her words and watched the hope clinging to her face and body. I knew she wanted so much for me to be well. I felt so ill and weak I wanted to go back inside to the comfort of my bed. I didn't have the energy to match her positivity and optimism.

"I'm dying Mae, you need to understand that".

"You're dying in your head Charlie".

"Mae stop. Please. You have to stop". I started crying. "I'm tired Mae. I don't want to do this, I don't want to leave you like this. I don't have any energy left, I want to die". I could hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth. I had never said it before - 'I want to die'.

"I can't. As soon as you stop fighting that's when it takes over, that's when it wins. You have to fight Charlie, I can't stop", she replied through her own tears.

She moved closer and embraced me in a long silent hug. Time stood still and eventually she pulled away and we made eye contact, still without saying a word.

That's the first time I'd ever seen someone's soul. A beautiful white light turning pink, purple, yellow, all the colours. I had never had an experience like it before. There were no words, just gazing into each other's eyes, travelling across time and space through the beautiful wonder of the Universe. It was my first experience of healing love and I immediately knew she was right. I had to fight this. I couldn't let it win.

1932 - Mae

I walked along the muddy path towards Charlie’s house, kicking the fallen autumn leaves with each step along the way. A twig snapped loudly under my feet and as I looked down towards the ground my eye caught something white among the dead brown leaves. It was a feather. I bent down to pick it up and knew it was the perfect thing for Charlie. He collected feathers. He drew them in charcoal with the most beautifully intricate details. I picked it up off of the ground and placed it in my purse to keep for him. He needed some distraction and drawing would be the best medicine. That was when he felt most alive and his spirits were high, that would get him feeling positive again.

I walked into his room and was pleasantly surprised to see him out of bed and sitting at the table. He looked to me as I walked towards him and he smiled deeply. I knew something had shifted. I knew his mindset was different.

"I have something for you", I said as I sat in the chair opposite him. I placed the feather on the table between us and he outstretched his hand to pick it up and inspect it.

"Barn owl", he said as he turned it around in his fingers. "Flight feather. Thank you, I don't have one of these yet", he said smiling.

"I found it on the ground outside. I thought you could draw it like you used to. You're good at it. It will help you heal faster. Whenever your mind is pushed to the background and you become creative, you let little pieces of positive consciousness into the world and anchor it here. You channel the life force energy into your being and it will flow to where it is needed to help heal you".

"Okay", he said simply, smiling as he reached across the table and held both of my hands. "You know, I think you might be right Mae. I don't want to die anymore".

1933 - Charlie

A whole year had passed and my condition had gotten better. I was no longer deathly ill and I felt I owed it to Mae. I couldn't say for sure of course, but her love and positivity had effected me in a such a way that made me want to fight for my life.

I had changed my thoughts about my condition and I became well. There were non-believers of course but I knew in my heart that my positive and optimistic prayers and thinking had cured me. I so wanted to say to her "I owe you so much Mae, I owe you my life!" but I couldn't. In a cruel twist of fate she was gone, it was too late.

I saw her there, lying under the apple blossoms. A once happy and joyful sight for me, now tarnished in my memory forever. She looked peaceful but she was gone. I'd never again hear her laugh, hear her wisdom or feel her warm body next to mine when we sat under the blossoms and read. I rushed past everyone, over to her body, dropped my crutches and bent to my knee. I bent down close to her ear and started to say the very words she had said to me when I was ill.

'Come on Mae. Wake up. You have to fight this - it's not your time. I won't let you give up', I said it, vigorously at first then hopelessly, over and over again as the tears welled up in my eyes and blurred my vision. In the distant background I could hear Philip trying to stop me, to console me but I didn't stop. I could feel someone's hands grab both of my shoulders and help me up as I sobbed.

I couldn't take my eyes off of her lifeless body. She looked like she was in a beautiful, peaceful sleep. Her mouth was smiling and her book lay open on the ground where it fell. I watched as Philip and her father carried her away and I whispered a faint goodbye to my Anam Cara.

It took me two whole days to surface. I always thought that when your heart broke that it would combust like a bomb into a million tiny pieces. It didn't. My heart shrivelled up so tight that I could hardly feel it. There was just a faint, slow beating keeping me alive. I felt absolutely numb and pondered my life without Mae in it. It looked bleak to me to say the least.

I sat and reflected on our story, our journey, and summed it up completely and perfectly with Mae's favourite quote;

‘Even after all this time the sun does not say to the earth “You owe me”. Look what happens to a love like that… it lights the whole world.’ Hafiz

Short Story

About the Creator


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