Another Hero's Journey: Part Two
“So you brought home the vegetables?”
Reuben put down the basket on the table, went to wash up and tried to force a smile. “Yes, Mother.”
“Oh, good... why are you so worried again? Is this about your brother again?” Melissa took the items out from the basket gently.
“Yes,” answered the younger white Blumaroo truthfully. It WAS indeed about Rohane, but not in the sense that his mother probably meant. She thought that he was worried about his sibling’s safety, but that wasn’t exactly it. He had just returned from the marketplace, where a crowd had made fun of him and kept praising Rohane as though he had become a celebrity overnight.
He was jealous, and furious as well, but mostly jealous. Plus, he was thoroughly humiliated. As if getting beaten in a mock duel after a winning streak during their earlier years wasn’t enough...
“Please help me chop up these mushrooms, dear,” asked Melissa. Her words dragged her older son back to reality, where a pile was waiting on the table.
“Right,” mumbled Reuben, reaching for the knife. As he cleaved and sliced, he let out all the day’s frustrations on the hapless mushrooms, bringing the blade down with unnecessary force. When the female white Blumaroo came back from letting something simmer in the kitchen, she glanced down at his work and gathered the pieces up.
“This is quite a fine job you did,” she remarked. “I should really put you in charge of chopping.”
* * *
That night, Reuben lay awake on his bed, looking up at the mended ceiling where rainwater used to leak through. He yawned; but he wasn’t sleepy. In fact, he was thinking of too much to be thinking about sleep, and he continued to think.
It’s coming back...
It can’t be.
You’re becoming jealous of Rohane again, are you not?
I’m not jealous... I just think they’re weird, always yapping about his attempt to foil Ramtor and bring Meridell back to King Skarl. I mean, he hasn’t even succeeded yet...
The old rivalry between you...
It can’t come back. It shouldn’t. It wouldn’t. Rohane and I are better brothers...
The rivalry is coming back. You want to be better than him again. The green-eyed monster called Envy is taking over you... again. And it’s lighting the flames of your burned-out conflict.
No, it isn’t.
Yes, it is.
The white Blumaroo blinked, realized that he had just yelled, and saw his pillow crumpled in a heap in front of the wall opposite him. He had thrown it in a fit of sudden anger and he was breathing hard. As Reuben stood up and walked over to pick it up, he felt a little dizzy. He tottered back into bed, plopped his head onto his pillow, and turned over, feeling himself tremble slightly with suppressed emotion.
It’s coming back.
It’s not. Shut up.
* * *
The next morning, Reuben was working in the kitchen, sweeping the floors and basically keeping the area spotlessly clean. His mother was sitting at the table with a couple of her good friends and was talking with them animatedly. From his post, the white Blumaroo could hear their every word. He was rather groggy; he had had a sleepless night that was punctuated with nightmares of himself and his younger brother, and shook his head every now and then to remind himself that he was already awake, which blurred his sight a bit.
“Li is still rather distressed,” an Aisha was saying, smoothing out her long emerald robe and picking a nut from the bowl on their table. “Well, she and Rohane were childhood friends, and she just can’t stand to think about him roaming about in the wilderness, pursuing something that others bigger and stronger have not caught. Those two share a really close relationship. In fact, sometimes I think Li is also a little angry at him for suddenly leaving her behind in favor of this.”
Melissa bit her lip. “I’m worried too, Tala, more worried than angry,” she said softly. As her two comrades reached out to pat her on the shoulder, the female white Blumaroo nodded. “It makes me feel better to think that he is being chivalrous, looking out for us and the entire kingdom.”
The purple Wocky, seated on Melissa’s other side, raised her eyebrows and for a moment, Reuben thought she saw her brown eyes flash towards him for a fraction of a second as he collected the dust in one corner.
“But that other son of yours... is he afraid, not as brave as your younger son?” she asked in a throaty voice that seemed rather haughty.
“It’s not that...” Melissa began.
The Wocky cut her off. “Don’t you see how strange it is that Rohane is the one on the quest and Reuben’s the one staying behind? It should be the reverse, Melissa. Personally, he would be of better use out there instead of in here. Or at least, the two of them could’ve gone together.”
“But...” Melissa was about to explain why Reuben had remained, but the Wocky plowed on as if the elder white Blumaroo’s older son weren’t in the house.
Reuben resisted the urge to hurl his broom all the way to that Wocky’s head and shut himself off from that conversation. But before he could pull himself out of the kitchen, something landed beside his toe with a dull thud. Bending over, the white Blumaroo picked it up and saw that it was a stone with a piece of paper strung onto it:
Another stone whizzed past him, narrowly missing his forehead. Reuben read the paper that came with it, squinting to look at the minuscule handwriting that had been squeezed into the small scrap of paper:
You call yourself a son of the legendary Sir Reynold?
He found the window where the two rocks had been thrown into their house. Sure enough, a Lenny pointed his wing at him and started to laugh.
“Hey, look, everyone! I think the coward got our message!”
“I think he got so scared, he wouldn’t leave his own house, or his mommy!”
“I’m surprised that he’s not hiding under his blanket.”
With a furious glare, Reuben took his broom and continued, grinding his teeth, as the laughter died away and the sneering crowds had dispersed, probably to continue making fun of him behind his back.
How could those ignorant villagers not see that he had stayed behind for the sake of his mother? Didn’t they know of the emotional breakdown Melissa had suffered after receiving the news that Reynold would never come back, how the white Blumaroo had chosen to be with her through these troubled times while Rohane decided to help out in a different way – by avenging the loss of their father? Didn’t they know that he was merely staying behind because he wanted to keep their mother company while his rather intrepid younger sibling ran off to pursue some adventure?
So maybe he WAS sort of frightened, but not only for himself, but also for his brother. Still, he wasn’t that scared...
Reuben let go of his broom to lean against the wall, clutching his head and trying to block everything out to think a little better. It was all too complicated. Didn’t he say that the trip would be too dangerous, that Rohane – or both of them – would not survive it, especially after the news of their father’s demise? He was just being cautious... was he? Or was he also scared, and wanted to save his own skin?
“I’m just as brave as he is,” the white Blumaroo thought to himself. “I can do anything he does; I simply have better things to do than come knocking on Ramtor’s door and ask if I could slay him.”
He jumped, nearly upsetting the broom beside him. He turned to see the kind face of Melissa staring back at him. Apparently her visitors had gone home.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, looking up at his eyes, as her son was quite taller than she.
“Nothing,” said the younger Blumaroo, waving his paw impatiently. “I just... got a little headache. I guess...”
But before he could create a good alibi, Melissa shook her head. “No, no, you go into your room and have a rest. I think you’ve had enough chores for the morning. I’ll wake you up when it’s time for lunch.”
Nodding wordlessly, he marched past his mother and made his way towards his bedroom. He WAS quite drowsy, having had a sleepless night, and he DID have a headache, from debating with himself as to whether he should have gone with Rohane or not.
He reached out and opened the door, dragging himself inside and flopping on the bed. The white Blumaroo turned over, remembering the fateful day when he and his brother had finally put their rivalry aside. They had promised to always look out for each other, to always stay together, to work together instead of messing each other’s work up. But had he kept his end of the promise? Rohane was now wandering through Meridell, facing countless dangers, and Reuben didn’t even know when he would be back, or if he’d actually come back.
Maybe if he followed him...
But his mother needed the company. And then again, she was feeling much better ever since she went nearly ballistic over the loss of Sir Reynold.
Plus, it would be a good opportunity to redeem himself; to show the village just how brave he really was.
Over and over these thoughts echoed in his head, each demanding to be heard first. It felt like forever as the white Blumaroo continued to lie on his bed, trying to sleep and at the same time trying not to.
But after a while of wrestling with his mind and nearly dozing off, Reuben had made a decision.
He stood up and slowly reached for a bag beside his bedside table.
To be continued...