'Meet me at the riverbank, just south of the pier. Don't be late.'
Gillian glanced at the note once more, her eyes tracing each letter as if a cryptic message had been left for her to decipher. The handwriting was her brother’s, that she knew for certain; a little scruffy as if it had been rushed, though still readable. Carefully folding the note in half, she slipped it into the top of her corset and awaited his arrival.
It was bitter at the riverbank—though it was to be expected at this time of year. The intense snap of the frosty air forced anyone who dared venture outdoors submit to its affliction. All except Gillian; gripping both sides of her body in an attempt to keep warm, she took a deep breath, taking in the tranquility of that which surrounded her. It was beautiful; a place both her and Fillan held dear to their hearts, a place where they spent a large sum of their time together whenever it was possible. “Late… as usual.” Gillian mumbled to herself, a faint smile appearing on her lips. Knowing she would end up waiting a short while for her brother to turn up, she sat down beside the water, her eyes fixed upon the steady flow of the stream.
After a short time, she heard a voice shout from behind. “Gil!”, it was instantly recognizable. Gillian turned to see her brother approaching a short distance away. “Fillan!” she responded, stumbling to her feet as she approached him with haste, her arms held wide open. As they met, they instantly embraced, holding one another close. “Thanks for coming.” Fillan smiled, attempting to catch his breath. “I came as soon as I got your note” Gillian responded. “What’s with all the secrecy, eh?” she asked, nudging his shoulder playfully. Fillan’s face sank within an instant, the soft smile he once had became a mellow, blank expression; his eyes filled with sorrow and dread. “…There’s something I have to tell you.” he paused, facing his head towards the ground. Gillian knew it was bad news. Her brother wasn’t one to beat around the bush about anything. “Tell me.” she told him firmly, grabbing his hands in hers.
Fillan withdrew, pulling both hands away. He gazed up at her, locking his eyes onto hers. “…I came here to say goodbye.” he told her abruptly. “I-I don’t like what you’re doing for me, s-so it’s going to stop. You mean too much to me to keep putting yourself at risk, so I’m leaving. I can take care of myself now, alright?” Gillian stepped back in shock—she was speechless. Clenching her hands tight, her nails digging into the palm of her hands, she tried to gather the right words to say to him, but nothing came to mind. She was hurt, intense emotions gradually filled her head, forcing her to break into tears.
"I don’t believe you. After all I’ve done you’re… leaving? Without any explanation?" she cried, dreading his answer in hesitation. "I’m sorry, Gil. I know this is unexpected… I just… have to. I’m leaving because I love you. I’ll always love you. Now it’s my turn to remove the burden." he responded, his eyes, too, full with tears. The siblings paused for a moment in silence, the faint breeze of the cold air engulfing them as if time had stood still. Words were not necessary, nor wanted.
Fillan shrugged his shoulders, frustrated in the lack of communication between the two. He spoke, “Well… I won’t keep you any longer.” Gillian lifted her head upon hearing her brother’s final words. She grit her teeth, holding back any further emotion; after all, it was his choice, not hers. “Go and live your own life now, for yourself, Gil. You deserve it.” he told her, turning his back on her for the last time. Without further discussion, Fillan gathered what courage he had left and began to walk away, tears falling from his eyes. His sister looked on in silence, her eyes sinking to the ground as her brother’s silhouette gradually faded away in the distance. Just like that, he was gone.
Stood alone beside the riverbank, Gillian allowed a soft smile to appear through her tears. “I love you, too, Fillan.” she muttered to herself as it began to snow.