Travis had been expecting another wave of courage to sweep over him. However, as the man's eyes became dark and he began singing, he felt himself being dragged down by a great depression. He felt miserable, which he found odd, because the song he had requested usually made his spirits rise. Perhaps to others, the somewhat downcast rhythm would be unappealing, but he had always admired the lyrics. As his melancholy deepened, he tried desperately to focus on the words, instead of the man's darkened voice. Everything seemed to vanish around Travis as he closed his eyes and let the lyrics dominate his thoughts.
If we hold our breath, float beyond this
We'll be reborn, I will carry us home
...If we continue to persevere, we'll make it out somehow; I'll stay with you until then.
Now will I expire holding the world
In safety for you
...If I die protecting what is important to me, it'll be worth it.
And now I'm so far away from you
Will I be making any difference after leaving you all alone?
...Even though I'm not with you, I'll still do my best; we'll meet again as long as I don't give up.
After what seemed like an eternity in the void of his own consciousness, the song ended, and Travis felt as if an enormous burden had been lifted from his soul; it was as if someone had opened black curtains in front of his eyes that he had never knew existed. A warm streak fell down one of his cheeks; he realized he had been crying. Opening his eyes, he also noticed that at some point during the song, he had embraced Raven. He held her close, his chin resting on her head. "Oh..." he said, blinking away the tears and confusion. "I'm... sorry," and he released her.
Travis turned away from everyone and took a deep breath, wiping away the last of the tears from his face. The song had never made him feel so dreary before; why had it now? It had always given him courage to keep going, for the sake of those he cared about. He didn't understand why he had felt so downtrodden while the man had been singing it. His voice had sounded the exact same as the original singer: the right annotations, the right pitches and dynamics -- it was as if he had been listening to it directly from his stereo at home; the one that was always placed at an angle at the corner of his desk, playing at a pleasant volume while he studied or drew pictures to send to Maylene.
As the song continued to replay in his mind, he remembered the day his father had left them. It had been Travis' eighteenth birthday; before his sister had been diagnosed with cancer.
" Happy Birthday, brother!" Maylene had squealed in his ear at six in the morning; it had been a Sunday. He mumbled and rolled over in his bed, covering his face with his blanket. "Wake up, wake up! I'm baking a cake for you!!"
Travis remembered flying out of bed as he noticed the burning smell that had been issuing from the kitchen. " You burnt it, May! It's straight black!" He had shouted; half annoyed, half amused.
" That's just cause it's chocolate, silly!"
" Why didn't you have dad help you?"
" He had to go to work early today..."
" Oh. Well in that case, let's make one together. The hospital decided to give me the day off."
After two or so hours instructing Maylene on how to properly bake a cake (" It says 350 degrees, May. Not 500..."), they had finally finished. They decided to take a walk around the park to give the cake time to cool. When they had returned, their father was standing at the kitchen counter, apparently in deep thought; he looked tired and disgruntled.
" Hi dad. You're home early..."
" What's with the cake?"
" It's... it's my birthday..."
" Oh, it is? You're what, seventeen now?"
His father stared at Travis intently, as if sizing him up. " Eighteen, huh? Already. I guess it's time, then."
" Time for what?" Travis asked hopefully, wondering if his dad had finally decided to buy him a car of his own.
" You're an adult now. It's time for you to face the real world. You don't need me to to hold your hand anymore." His father had said, walking out of the kitchen and grabbing two travel suitcases that were sitting by the front door. "Life isn't a picnic; I suggest you get your head out of the clouds if you plan on making it anywhere in the world." Without a hug or kiss, or even so much as a sympathetic glance or handshake, he strode outside into the temperate Sunday morning. Travis held Maylene's hand as they watched wordlessly while their father left their lives. The last thing they saw of him was the back of his Harley Davidson T'shirt.
Snapping back to the present, Travis gasped for air. The oxygen that entered his lungs was not warm, but not cold either; the exact same as that day two years ago. He felt more tears stinging his eyes, but he stubbornly blinked them away.
They had no mother, no father. The only one who could take care of Maylene now was Travis. He certainly knew that life was no picnic, and that there would always be obstacles. And as long as those obstacles existed, he would have something to fight for.
For now, there was one frighteningly large obstacle that he would have to scale. This twisted reality, with the people that reminded him so intensely of his past, and of his sister, whom was waiting for him back home. He would fight this battle for her, he would protect the others for her sake, and he would prove to himself that no matter how hopeless or how miserable things could become, he would persevere. He looked at Raven once again.
I will carry us home.