Watching the Sunset
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you want to understand the story more, reading the series, "A Hero's Journey" from issues 222-231 would be recommended, but not required.
There was a time when he and his younger brother would stop whatever they were doing whenever the sun would dip into the horizon after a clear, bright day. The sky’s blue would be tinged with red and orange, violet in some parts, as the sun slowly conceded to the night, and their eyes would be glued onto the mix of colors etched into the heavens. It would be a beautiful sight, especially when the night that came after the sunset was a starry one, and he and his brother would have a little contest as to who could identify the most constellations. They would lie on the grass, or sit on a couple of stones, or when they had to, they would just stay inside and watch through the windows of their house.
There were so many “woulds” in his thoughts, Reuben realized, with a little shake of his head and a scratch of his left ear. The white Blumaroo glanced out the window of his humble home in Meridell.
It was already starting. The large orange disk was already casting shadows over the hills that stood not too far from their village.
But Reuben made no move to stop whatever he was doing – in this case, washing the dishes – to watch the sunset. He sighed, a long wistful sigh that blew the bubbles off the plate he was scrubbing.
He didn’t want to watch, for the simple reason that he no longer had his brother to share the experience with.
Even though it became a habit, the sky didn’t always assume the same color scheme every time. Sometimes it had more purple, sometimes more red, and the inconstant routine made the sunset, if possible, more beautiful. It had also become a habit for the white Blumaroo to always be with Rohane, his younger sibling, whenever the fateful moment arrived for them to see.
Reuben shook his head at the thought of that intrepid yellow Blumaroo as the former put aside everything he had already washed and dried. The chore finished, the older Blumaroo walked over to the largest window in their house, the one a few steps away from the dining table. He was met with a flash of red and gold amidst the blue – Meridellian colors, Reuben realized. If only his father could see this…he was very patriotic and would enjoy the view…
But his father was gone too, having given up his life in the line of duty a long time ago, back when his two sons were little kids. Sir Reynold of Trestin was more of a legend than a knight, and he was always full of interesting stories to tell advice for would-be warriors. Reynold was the reason Rohane had left home. Reuben’s brother had wanted to finish the job that their father had left, and so, with a tearful goodbye and Reynold’s old sword, Rohane was out the door, and nobody knew when he would be back, let alone if he would survive.
It was a cold, cruel world out there, and the sunset was one of the things that constantly reminded everyone that the world wasn’t entirely cold or cruel, as his father often said, that is, before he left them forever, devastating the family and not knowing that his younger son would attempt to do what Reynold had tried to do.
“It’s the sunset,” said a voice behind him. Reuben turned around from where he had been hanging around the window, observing the changes in the sky.
An elderly white Blumaroo stood behind him, with curly hair that matched her color, and clad in a long, button-down blue dress with a white apron with ruffled straps over it. She patted a matching blue ribbon in her hair and looked at her son, who looked equally simple in a dark blue shirt with the long sleeves rolled up to his elbows, tan breeches, and chocolate-brown boots.
“Yeah,” Reuben cut her off. “I do.” He went back to the window, put his elbows on the sill and gazed at the sun as it sank out of sight. The strangely Meridellian-themed sky was gone in a blink, to be replaced by a fusion of dark purple and navy…starless, cloudless, and definitely sunless.
It had only been three days, but three days watching the sunset alone was something new to the younger white Blumaroo.
“It was beautiful,” he rasped. He looked back at his mother, his shoulders slumped. “If only Father and Rohane could’ve seen it.”
“Maybe they’re watching it too, just not with you,” said Melissa thoughtfully. “Who knows – Rohane may be feeling the same way as you, away from home and watching the sunset without his big brother…”
She got no answer, as Reuben walked to the front door and stood beneath the night sky. There were no stars, no constellations to ponder on tonight, not even a single cloud or a glimpse of Kreludor.
Melissa was beside the doorway, wiping her paws on her apron. “Reuben…”
“If only I had been kinder to him when we were kids,” he was muttering to himself. Digging his paws into his pockets, he continued. Everything was quiet enough for his mother to hear. “If only we’d become friends sooner…then we could’ve shared more sunsets, more time together…”
The older Blumaroo knew what he was telling himself. Reuben was berating himself for the childhood he had spent in a fierce rivalry with Rohane. It took them years to learn how to get along, to finally stop trying to outdo each other. She knew that he knew that if he hadn’t acted like such a pain in the neck…
“I’ll come in later, Mother,” said the white Blumaroo, without even a peek behind him. He knew that she knew what he knew.
“Are you all right?” asked Melissa worriedly.
“I’ll be fine…you better get inside, you’ll get cold.”
“Speak for yourself,” she sighed, walking hesitantly back inside. * * *
That slightly raised spot on the grass was where he and Rohane spent the most time just gazing at the skies, sunset or no, but mostly because of a sunset.
Reuben felt as though he was in a sunset of his own – his life had started out bright and wonderful, with no fears or regrets, but then one by one, things started happening that changed its course. Now slowly, very slowly, it was as if the sun in his life was also setting.
And he didn’t know if it would be back the next morning.
The white Blumaroo was lying on that spot, following the white clouds. The sun seemed just a little lower than usual – a sign that the sunset was near.
“You miss him, don’t you?” asked the red Aisha seated cross-legged beside him. She tugged at one of her brown braids before tossing it over her shoulder. “It seemed like yesterday that you both wanted to be the best swordsman who ever lived…next to your father, of course.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Liwanag,” said Reuben. Already he could see the hints of shadows cast on the hills beside their village. “It’s as if I’m in my own sunset…and the sun’s never coming back. I know I’ve still got my house, my mother, and everything I need to live. But it’s hard to live knowing you’ve spent only half your childhood with your father and your little brother’s out there, avenging him, and you don’t know if he’ll come back alive.”
The corners of Li’s mouth turned down, and she smoothed out her orange skirt. “But it’s nice to see you’re not going insane yet,” she said. “Your father’s been gone a long time ago, you’ve learned to live with that, but of course, you miss him sometimes, right? And Rohane…okay, that needs no explanation.”
“It seemed like yesterday that we were biting each other’s heads off,” said the white Blumaroo.
“Like what I said before,” said the Aisha. She inched closer to Reuben and said, “Reuben…nothing can be all bad. Just about anything in this world has a little bit of good and bad, like you and me. We’re not perfect angels, the same way we’re not horrible villains, either.”
“Well then, what do I get from losing my father, seeing my mother suffer, and standing there watching Rohane play the hero when he’d probably get hurt out there?”
“Tell me,” said Li softly, “why do you still watch the sunset when it reminds you of your misery?”
Reuben was about to open his mouth, but closed it quickly. She had a point. Why did he still do it, then?
“I…don’t know,” he admitted. “I guess it’s because…it also reminds me of the good times Rohane and I spent together. When I gaze at the sunset, I imagine that both of us are still together, without anything bothering us. It’s kind of ironic, how something that reminds you of something can also remind you of something else that totally contradicts the first.”
“See?” said Liwanag, nodding. “The sunset’s got both happy and sad meanings, and it depends on what you focus on the most. If you keep on dabbling in the sad, then you’ll be sad.”
The white Blumaroo looked at their shadows grow longer. He gazed upward.
The sun was already halfway submerged below the horizon, coloring the blue sky around it red tinged with gold.
“Look,” said Reuben. “Meridell.”
“So it is,” said Li. She looked at the Blumaroo, who was transfixed by the blaze above.
“Be an optimist, Reuben,” said the red Aisha, standing up. “I have to leave, by the way. My mom wants me inside in time for me to help her cook. Don’t dwell on things that’ll make you feel worse. See you tomorrow.”
She left; her skirt and blouse swishing in the breeze. That left Reuben alone with nothing else but his thoughts. He focused on the sky, watching the red and blue merge together to create a serene purple shade. Tiny glimmers of gold were all that was left of the sun as it completed its descent, leaving sparkles of light in its wake.
It is a cold, cruel world out there, and the sunset is one of the things that constantly remind everyone that the world isn’t entirely cold or cruel. Darkness will come, the sunset may seem to tell you, but it’s still a beautiful sight to watch…
The white Blumaroo sat up on the grass, bathed in the twilight glow. The tiny dots of light were all the light that was left.
But he could not make out this constellation. Although when he mentally connected the stars, he could have sworn he created a Blumaroo’s face, looking down directly on him.
The twinkling stars gave Reuben the impression that the face actually winked at him.