I jump backwards in my seat, nearly flinging the book out of my hands.
“Y-Yes Alex? Is everything okay?” He stares at me.
“…That’s what I should be asking you. You’re even more quiet than usual.”
“I’m just writing…” I mumble, bringing the book back close. “You can’t really talk when you’re doing that.”
“What’re you writing about?”
“Just…things…” He sighs.
“Hikaru…you’ve not been this standoffish with me since we first met. Even after we made up, you’re still always like this now…”
“Pshyku, I-I’m not trying to be…” I look away from him, and try to ignore him about as much as can be done in his own room.
Suddenly I hear the sound of a chair scraping across the floor, and look up to see him facing me now…
“Is this still about the girl?” he says crossing his arms, and an obviously sad look on his face.
“…What does it matter?”
“You need to forget about her.”
“W-what? Alex, it’s…it’s not that easy…”
“Then confess to her.”
“That’s not easy either—!”
“Hikaru!” he rapidly juts forward, raising his voice, “If it’s affecting you this badly you’ve got to do something about it! I can’t just sit here and watch you mope around anymore!”
“Why does it matter…?” I whisper, shrinking away…
“You’re my best friend, I can’t just watch you be like this.”
In return, Alex just puts his hand to his temple and sighs again, and looks out the window at the blinding white. After a moment, he speaks.
“Hey, Hikaru…would you like to go for a walk?”
“In the snow?”
“Why not enjoy the winter? The snow out there is beautiful, right?” Both his smile and his eyes become wide. Something about this feels off, but—
“I guess we can.”
For a while Alex and I quietly walk through the snow, only the sound of the white beneath our boots making any noise. He was right…it is quite beautiful.
“All right, Hikaru,” Alex says, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Let’s fix this.”
“This mood of yours,” he looks at me, and smiles. “We’re going to make you happy again, and we won’t leave until we do!”
“Alex! Do you know how cold it is out here—?!”
“Well of course I do, it’s not like I’m not cold too.” I place my face into my palms, and sigh.
“You’re insane, Alex…”
Why do I like you again?! With stuff like this…
But, maybe stuff like this is why.
“Maybe I am, but at least I’m happy! And,” he turns me around to face him, “I want you to be happy too. We don’t have to make you happy right this instant, maybe, but even if you just go talk to someone—”
“All right, I’ll find someone to talk to,” I say to get him off my back.
“I know you’re just saying that to get me to stop, Hikaru.”
Damn it, is it really so obvious?
“Alex, you don’t have to help me, really…there is no helping me.”
“Why are you so convinced of that?” he asks, his face clearly becoming filled with sadness. I…I don’t know how to answer him…
I merely stare into his eyes, without any words. I’ve never looked at them so long, so close; they look like the color of honey. It’s like something out of a poem…
“…But they’ll never be mine.”
“What won’t?” I jump back, realizing I spoke the thought aloud—
“Nothing.” He sighs.
“We’re just…always going to be like this now, aren’t we?” He looks away from me. “We’re never going to be close again, are we?”
“No, don’t say that—!” I exclaim in a panic. “Alex, the person I love…it’s…they’re…I can’t bring myself to confess to them, but I can’t stop feeling this way either. It hurts so much, but I…I don’t know what to do…” My heart starts racing faster, higher, to the point it feels like it will jump from my mouth and run far away. I wonder if I should do that myself.
“Hikaru…” Alex says, turning my way again, “You have to be brave. To say something, or move on…you can’t let it devour you forever.”
The piercing cold begins stabbing my face, the newly forming tears only making it more painful. As though I’m not already pathetic and embarrassing enough as it is… It hurts, everything hurts. Outside, inside, my body, my mind—
“Alex,” I mutter, “Do you want me to ‘be brave,’ is that really what you want?”
“Y-yes?” he says, seemingly confused. Abruptly I hug him tightly. My limbs become weaker as though they’re withering away completely, and I’ll fall into the snow as a mass of clothes…yet, even so my grip is so tight, even with his size he can’t move away. In spite of myself, I can’t help but breaking down into a mess of tears.
In the cold, he’s so warm, like a fire burning amidst the snow. I try to enjoy it, because I know this will be the only time I ever will…but the tears refuse to stop flowing. The snow refuses to stop falling.
“…Why are you hugging me?”
“Because it’s you damn it! It’s been you this entire time!” He chuckles nervously.
“You’re…joking, right?” I shove him away, and scowl at him.
“You’re…” he breaths, clearly surprised, “…You’re not joking.”
“Are you happy now, Alex?” I whisper, “Now…you know for certain I’m a freak. You’re welcome.”
He merely stares at me.
“Vwa, Alex.” I croak, barely audible.
But I quickly shuffle away. I attempt to look strong, but every step I take feels impossibly heavy. I feel like I’ll be devoured by the snow any minute…but I want to look strong, at least. Even if I feel weaker than ever before.
He doesn’t follow.}
I wake up, but my eye remains closed, a pounding headache reverberates through my head…
Well…at least it’s just this, and I didn’t get sick. Probably.
In spite of that, I still find comfort in the surprising warmth and softness of the ground beneath my head. It is never so comfortable; it doesn’t even feel like grass, it feels like… Wait.
Rapidly I shoot up, and look behind me to see Suzette looking my way, seemingly a bit startled.
“Well, ashon bon,” she says. I try to speak to her, yet every single sound refuses to come out, as the world feels like it’s spinning around me.
“…Hikaru? Is everything well?”
“Suzette, did I…do anything last night?” As I ask this, it feels as though all my insides churn within my skin. I don’t think I vomited from the alcohol…but this just might do it.
“Such as…?” she asks with a look of confusion, before soon realizing what I mean.
“Hikaru,” she says with a slight chuckle, “If you had done something ill, I would not be speaking to you so casually.”
“Ah, all right then,” I answer with a sigh of relief. “I am still sorry, if I made you uncomf—”
“You asked,” she says softly. “Have you not told me before that I need not apologize so much? It is well, I promise,” she says with a gentle smile.
“W-well then,” I say while getting up, avoiding her gaze out of embarrassment, “I suppose it’s time we continue on.”
“How long should it be now, until we reach Solzédniê?” she asks while standing up.
“If you consider the outskirts, we may be there by tomorrow, or even the end of today.”
“If not, then you need a new navigator,” I laugh. Suddenly, however, I realize something’s missing…
“They had left last night, they said you would understand.”
“They’re not wrong…” I say, sighing. For a being so old, you would hope they had better manners…but they’re right, I am used to this. “Well, are you ready?” I ask, looking back to her. Abruptly she shifts her gaze away, although I am not sure why…
“Yes,” she replies softly, in an odd tone I can’t discern.
For some reason, something seems off but…I suppose it’s not my business to pry.
For a long time her and I continue walking along with an uncharacteristic silence.
“Suzette, did you enjoy last night?”
“Yes!” she replies enthusiastically this time, “Was it not clear?”
“You’re just very quiet today.”
“Ah, well…” now her voice gains that tone again… “I-It has been a very long time since I have visited Solzédniê…”
“Are you worried?” I slow down slightly, now putting myself beside her. “If it makes you feel better, I’m sure it has been far longer since I have been there,” I say with a laugh.
Although in honesty, I’m worried too…the noise, the crowds—if it overwhelmed me so badly when I was young, how much worse is it now all these years later? But if she’s having her own worries, maybe it is better for me not to add on to that…
“I am not worried, it just feels very strange,” she replies softly. “The last I was here, it was when I was young, with my family, before my brother had left…a part of me had hoped he and I could visit it together someday, yet I suppose it is too late for that now.”
“What was he like? It seems like he was the only relative you enjoyed at all.”
“That is not an incorrect statement,” she says, slightly chuckling. “Out of all in my family, he was the only person with any genuineness to him…when we visited last, he is the one who spent time with me and kept me company, rather than shuttering me away in embarrassment like everyone else.”
“Shuttering you away in embarrassment?” I look at her with confusion. I knew she wasn’t close to her family, of course…but them, embarrassed of her? Even as a child?
“My siblings are much older than me…Florence is slightly younger than you, and Elise is older,” she says. “Rumors always followed me that I was my father’s bastard child, that it was impossible that I could be born of my mother… She was not quite past the age of bearing, but apparently there was some sort of odd circumstances around my birth…although I do not know for certain. All I know is, they would rather I not exist at all. Ah, I suppose that is why they were so eager to rid of me…”
“Then…” I begin, “Why were they so insistent on you marrying, doing their will?”
“Because all the world already knew I existed—why allow me to embarrass them further?” she chuckles without any humor.
“Especially with what happened to my brother…” she says, “My family attempted to be lenient with him, allow him to marry when he wished. But once he was around my age, and they were growing impatient, the truth came out—he had no intentions on ever marrying, he wished to become a tailor instead. And that is when he left us…and that is when they had become determined that they would find me a husband at any cost.
“Their oldest son had already embarrassed them terribly, why allow the child who is inherently shameful only worsen the situation?” Her voice begins cracking, shaking… “A part of me hoped they would not hold such things against me once I had lived on my own, preparing for my husband—how ignorant I was…!”
She continues forward still, but more slowly now, nearly coming to a stop. Her hands tightly grip her bag, and although she’s looking down, even from here I can see tears roll down her face…
I knew it must hurt her, be I didn’t realize just to what extent—or maybe she didn’t know either—
“And now,” she mumbles, “The only one who appeared to ever love me left entirely, and although he said he would send letters…he never did…he had left me all alone…”
“I know I’m not your family,” I whisper while putting my hand on her shoulder, “But…you’re not alone, Suzette.”
We both stop as she looks up towards me, her green eyes sparkling brightly…and subtly, she smiles.
“You are right,” she replies quietly, but clearly. “I am quite glad enough to have you, Hikaru. More than anyone else…”
For a moment I stare at her, surprised at her answer…but, I can’t help but smile.
“Well, I hope I’m not a disappointment then.” She merely chuckles at this, and we soon continue on our journey in silence.
For some reason, something suddenly feels strange between us…not in a negative way, but it’s definitely there. Is it because of last night? Clearly nothing ill happened, but—
“Suzette,” I ask after a time, “What…happened last night?”
“Hmm?” She looks up towards me. “How much do you remember?”
“I think I vaguely remember us dancing together—” I begin, although saying it aloud, it truly does sound more like a dream than reality, “And everything after that is a blur.”
“We merely spoke to one another, socialized, drank…nothing particularly out of the ordinary, I believe. Aside from the fact that everyone outside of us were faeries, I suppose…”
“Did I say anything strange?”
“…Such as?” She looks towards me with an increasingly confused look. “I had told you that you said nor done a single thing ill, Hikaru. Why are you so terribly worried?”
“I know, I don’t mean something wrong necessarily, I mean…” I sigh. I can’t say what I mean.
But, I guess if my fears were founded, she would surely know straight away what I’m referring to.
“Never mind…it’s nothing.”
“All right, then…” she answers, and we continue trekking onwards in silence.
Occasionally I glance down at her as we walk; normally she follows behind me, but for now she continues on by my side. By my side… I want to sigh at it all, but then she would know something really is wrong. Something I can’t bring myself to explain to her.
It’s almost funny, you would think having a constant companion on your travels would lessen any time for thinking—if only that were the case. I guess neither of us are so talkative that this would be the case. In truth, her presence seems to have the opposite effect…when there is silence between us, just her being here tends to make me think even more. About her. About us…
She can never know, no matter what she can never know. She doesn’t need to become uncomfortable on this journey, uncomfortable around me—in spite of her sweetness, her kindness, I know she is merely being friendly. That is all it is. That is all this is. We are merely friends and nothing more, and that is the way it’s always meant to be…
I can’t drink anymore, not until we part ways. I can’t risk it, the anxiety of it is just too high. It’s better to remain sober, and continue on as though the truth isn’t constantly resonating in my head, even in spite of the past, in spite of Maiden Moon’s clear dissatisfaction with it…
I look down towards her, a knot tying in my chest. I don’t understand it…I don’t understand why out of all the people I’ve encountered over all these years—I can’t possibly fathom why the loveliest of all has to be so near me, yet still so distant… Even more than ever, I almost wish I wasn’t myself; someone younger, successful, handsome, talented, normal—someone that could even become close of being worthy of you, Suzette. But it’s impossible. Me being who I am…there’s nothing I can do.
But, at least silently, within my soul, I can gently tell you…lêm sâ tsiâ né—I love you, Suzette.
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