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~Suzette~

༻Chapter 2༺

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     Quietly I sit upon the sofa, in the same spot as always. By now, it is worn down terribly; one can see the indent of where I always sit even when I am not upon it. It is rather wretched. This sofa has become my prison…and it especially feels as such now.

     “What the fuck are we going to do with you?” my husband seethes, as he paces back and forth in front of me. “Cooking in the kitchen? Again?”

     “Marc, I—”

     “You what?” he interrupts, stopping to face me. “Our meals aren’t good enough? Need more pastries to gorge on like the pudgy little hag you are?” he adds with a harsh slap across the face.

     “No!” I shriek, reeling from the stinging pain creeping all along my face, “You know I have always loved to bake—”

     “Damn it, what do you think you are? Some little peasant girl? A maid? You’re a Lebrun, woman! Start fucking acting like one!”

     I sit in place, nearly on the verge of tears; although I question why, as this is not terribly unusual. From the very moment he gazed upon me, Marc believed it was merely a trick that I was his wife to be. Laughter soon transformed to wrath as he discovered the truth of the matter, that his wife was not a lithe, rosy-haired maiden—yet simply myself.

     Since that day his cruelty has only grown more severe; even in times of his absence, I cannot be peaceful knowing he shall soon return. It is as though I live with a venomous serpent, whom even when he is unseen, one knows it is because he has merely slithered into some dark corner, waiting to strike at any moment. Unfortunately, it appears he has decided the appropriate time to spew his poisonous words is always.

     Regardless, I stare with resolve into those dead blue eyes that seem to show no emotion aside from anger.

     “You need not always lecture me as a child,” I state softly but firmly.

     “I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t have the maturity of a child,” he rolls his eyes. “Although maybe I am too harsh, considering your whole body’s stunted, did your brain growth stunt as well? But they should have at least told me I was getting a disabled bitch.”

     I bite my lip so hard it nearly draws blood. The absolute nerve of a man like this to lecture me about being childish! I am not the one who positively loses my mind at something as innocuous as someone baking in their own home!

     “My…” I hear Jeanne begin, but she comes to a stop once she notices what is happening. “Ah, um…”

     “What is it? Spit it out,” Marc huffs at her.

     “A visitor has come for the Lady…”

     “…Visitor?” Marc says, face distorting in absolute confusion. “Who the fuck would visit her?”

     “Hikaru, my Lord.”

     Suddenly, my pulse quickens so suddenly, it feels like it may burst—Hikaru! Could it truly be him?

     Those days we spent together, before Marc arrived…for a short moment the world was shining and bright, having a friend who was more authentic than most of those here, learning of his many travels about Soléiâ…for a short moment, this house at last felt like a home. I have occasionally had fleeting thoughts that I wish he were my husband instead, although I know this is because Marc is so terrible…

     It has been over a year since then, so although Hikaru promised to return to me once more, I assumed perhaps it was more of a nicety than a promise he truly intended to keep.

     To hear that he is here now…it hurts terribly that it would be inappropriate to hug him, as that is all that I wish to do.

     “What kind of fucking name is that?” Marc snaps, and snaps me out of my daydreaming.

     “Do you not remember?” I say, “He was the friend I told you about, the one I met before you arrived—”

     “You mean that tramp you thought was a woman?”

     I pause.

     “Y-Yes, I suppose that is one way to put it.”

     “Tell him to piss off,” Marc hisses.

     “No, do not!” I protest just as Jeanne begins to move. She immediately stops, her deep brown eyes large and full of confusion.

     “…Did you just attempt to write off my order?”

     I stand up to face him, attempting to appear strong…although unfortunately, he is so much taller than myself, I believe it me have the opposite effect…

     “He is my friend, and I would like to see him,” I say with as much confidence as I can muster. “He does not visit often, and…I scarcely see anyone anymore.”

     “I am not letting some disgusting peasant in my house!” Marc shouts and stomps, shaking the furniture around us. “You don’t ‘see any friends’ because you don’t deserve it!”

     “I try to be the perfect wife for you, so why can I not please just have joy for one day?”

     He crosses his arms and blinks at me.

     “I’m not having my damn wife fuck another man in my bed,” he growls, “And whatever abomination you’d make, I’d strangle it myself,” he adds with a despicable smirk.

     “It is nothing like that!” I say, attempting to ignore the urge to vomit at his seeming pleasure at the thought of murdering a fully formed child, even one with unfortunate origins… “I have had other male friends before too—”

     “Oh, I’m sure you have,” he sneers, “I’m sure you were one of the easiest girls around before I wrangled you in.”

     “Just—!” I shout, nearly pulling my hair out.

     “The garden!” Jeanne blurts out suddenly.

     “What?” Marc replies.

     “T-They can meet in the garden…” her voice trembles as she nervously begins adjusting her spectacles. “It is autumn, so the bushes are not overgrown…the fence is low, so it is still rather public, he does not have to come into the house…”

     For a minute Marc stays silent.

     “Will it get you to shut the fuck up?” he looks down to me.

     I nod.

     “Ugh,” he groans and shakes his head. “Fine. Piss off to the back, and I’ll tell him to do the same. Now leave.”

     Although I should at least mutter a mâzjêr, I am too excited at the small victory! While Marc shall get no thank you from me…I should give Jeanne something in return for her kindness, for stepping in and sparing me even more of this…

     I step outside into the chilly air, not entirely suitably dressed for this affair. But, I do not mind. I merely sit upon the bench and wait.

     After a moment, the sight of him is unmistakable. He looks just the same as before—that large violet hat and light-blue trimmed overcoat set over a silky cream colored robe, adorned over a tall, muscular body. And most of all that one red eye, and long white hair which looks as though it belongs to the heroine of a faerie tale, not someone in reality.

     “Come, have a seat!” I wave to him excitedly, and gently he does so.

     “It has been so long…” I softly whisper, looking upon his gently lined face.

     “A bit,” he says with a small, kind smile.

     “Have you been well?”

     “Yes…” he replies quietly, trailing off as he gazes upon me.

     “Are you all right, Suzette?” he asks almost in a whisper, “Is your husband treating you well?”

     I blink a little in momentary confusion…I cannot believe it now feels strange to be referred to by my own name, rather than merely “woman.”

     “Oh, have you met him?” I ask, avoiding his question.

     “Well, he told me I wasn’t allowed inside, if that counts.”

     “Oh, do not take it personally,” I say, “He tends to be rather…specific, with who he lets in the house.”

     “Do you always have to come back here to see your friends?”

     “…I receive few visitors anymore, so that is not an issue,” I chuckle, attempting to pay no mind to everything. But he merely furrows his brow deeper and deeper.

     “But, I am so overjoyed you came to see me, Hikaru,” I say as the beginnings of tears form in my eyes.

     I want nothing more than to pull him close, sob into his chest, feel some semblance of warmth around me. It is wretched, I want to cry, I do not want to do this anymore! I wish to pour my heart out to him, just like the night we met…

     But…everything is different now. I am a true noblewoman, or so they say. I must remain dignified for my family…

     I have no choice.

     “Of course,” he replies to me after a moment, smiling once more, and I cannot help but grin so widely it hurts.

     “So,” he begins, “How did that event turn out? The one you were baking for the last time I was here?”

     “Oh, that!” I clasp my hands together enthusiastically, thinking of the joy it brought me…yet, I soon remember the sorrow as well. “It went wonderfully, lovelier than I could have possibly dreamed. Everyone was very impressed, and adored what I had made…it is a shame. Yet I do not regret it.”

     “Even if you don’t share it with others, at least you can still bake, right?”

     Suddenly…it feels as though someone once more slapped me in the face. But, I attempt to hide it.

     “Not nearly as often, but…I am happy. It is…not as awful as I thought it would be. Truly.”

     “Suzette…”

     “Yes?” I await for him to answer, but he does not.

     “…Never mind. It’s nothing.”

     Swiftly I look behind me, and notice him staring at me through the window…I sigh, and merely turn back around.

     “I can see you are worried,” I whisper to him, “I just have yet to fully adjust to this. Marc and I are still getting to know one another, but we shall soon be fine.”

     Hikaru looks down and nods.

     “Y-Yes, I…surely hope so.”

     My insides hurt; to think, a mere friend that everything considered, I have known a relatively short time period, and who I have not seen in a year loves me more than even my own husband…

     Yet…there is nothing to be done but endure it.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

“How are you feeling today, my Lady?” Jeanne asks while putting her hand upon my side, over the layers of blankets wrapped around me.

“I am well,” I mutter, although I only half mean it. I still feel nauseous from the events of the previous night, although whether that is the literal effect of what transpired, or my mere feelings towards this whole situation, I do not know.

This is the third that I am aware of…one would believe it would be easier by now, yet it is not—especially considering the relative lateness this time…luckily everything was not too far along, yet—ah, it is so wretched, still so wretched! No one need live like this, I can only imagine what is happening to my insides…!

I wonder if some day everything shall collapse entirely, and any fleeting thoughts of having a “child” or “family” shall be put to rest; although, truthfully, I suppose they already should be. I do not have a husband, but merely a despicable man that society calls such, and as for a child…I refuse to bring one into the world if he shall be their father. His insults, his rage, I do not like, but I can endure—a child, however, would surely be scarred forever.

So whatever is happening within me, I suppose I shall endure it again and again, if it means it shall not pain another.

“Sâ pšyku né…” Jeanne says to me, I am so sorry. “I am sure one day you will have a family…”

My eyes gloss over for a moment, and the world fades away around me. I look forward, yet I say nothing for a long while.

“Perhaps so,” I whisper.

Quickly, I hear the door open and shudder. Unfortunately, I believe I already know precisely who it is.

“Jeanne, out,” Marc orders. “Me and her need to talk. Alone.”

“Yes my Lord,” she acquiesces, and carefully shuts the door behind her as she leaves.

For a few moments, he says positively nothing; and facing away from him, I cannot begin to parse his mood either, if it is anything other than fury. So perhaps unwisely, I begin to speak first.

“I presume you heard what happened last evening.”

“How could I not? It’s the talk of the whole house,” he says while flopping beside me on the bed. Luckily, I still cannot see him.

“So tell me,” he whispers, “Is there anything about you that’s actually…I don’t know, right?”

I do not answer him.

“Ugh, it’s my fault. I should’ve known the moment I saw you that you couldn’t make shit. Nobody breeds a prized hound from the runt.”

What kind of person speaks such as this? Does he view children as hunting dogs?

“At this rate,” he continues, “People are going to start questioning if we’ve even consummated at all.”

If only that were the case, is what I wish to say. Yet wisely, I remain silent.

“You even awake?”

“Yes, I just still do not feel well,” I say, not quite lying.

“This is ridiculous,” he spits. “There’s only so much I can take fucking you. But I can’t take this childless shit forever.”

As he says this, suddenly an idea appears in my head…a deceptively simple, yet beautiful idea that I wish I had considered more previously.

“Then divorce me,” I whisper.

“What did you say to me?”

“Then divorce me, if that is what you wish for. I…I do not believe I can even have a child. Perhaps my body truly is broken…”

He chuckles.

“Damn, this whole ordeal’s made that lady-brain go insane, didn’t it?”

“What on Earth are you talking about?” I roll over onto my back, to look up at him angrily. “You say you cannot stand me, long for a child I cannot produce—and then call me insane for saying perhaps we should divorce?”

“Listen here,” he scowls at me, “Even if you’re the shittiest Lebrun, you’re still a Lebrun, and I’m still a Lebrun. I haven’t encountered a single woman with a better name.”

I merely shake my head at him in confusion.

“You act as though we are the governors, or apart of the royal family…yet we are scarcely that prestigious? Yes, even in spite of what their egos shall tell you!”

All we do is own land, the only thing we are known for is something as insignificant as beauty…our reputation far exceeds our importance in—ah, practically everything.

“You really haven’t a thought in that head of yours at all, do you?” he rolls his eyes. “Your sister’s married to the governor for gods’ sake.”

“And?”

“Regardless of how shit you are, I still have that connection too! You know how much I fucking clawed my way out to get this far?”

Although I know it is not wise, I cannot help but laugh.

“So you truly intend on staying with a woman you loathe, never having the child you desire, all for a single word—!”

“It’s not just ‘a single word!’ That ‘single word’ is what gives you this house, gives you your servants, gives you everything you could ever want!”

I sigh, and turn back onto my side, facing my back to him.

Living within a gilded cage, with very little freedom and no love…of course, that is precisely what I desire!

“Then I shall go back to resting,” I say quietly, “As this conversation clearly has no purpose.”

Although I attempt to appear strong, I still wince, expecting a barrage from either his words or fists. But to my surprise, he huffs off and slams the door. My, he truly is like an overgrown child.

I nearly laugh once more at the absurdity of it all…yet, it is difficult to now. For as hilarious as his utterly inane reasoning is…he is also the one whom holds in his palm my future. No one will accept the validity of our divorce if he does not consent to it. The woman’s say does not matter; ah, is it ever a wonder why…?

And as the realization finally sets in, I merely pull the covers over my head and begin to weep.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     I lay in the parlor, spread out upon the sofa with closed eyes, listening to the gentle crackle of the fireplace. It is so…quiet. Peaceful. No voices speak, and especially none to berate me for laying in such an unladylike fashion “in public.” Almost no one is home aside from myself; and so, for a moment, I can pretend I am free.

     Suddenly, however, something strange interrupts the silence—a knock.

     How odd; I had thought practically everyone has travelled to the capital of the province for the royal visit, or some such thing. I do not know precisely, nor do I particularly care. Luckily for myself, everyone believed me when I said I was not feeling well…although truthfully, I am sure I truly would become ill if I had to travel through this weather. The snow can be utterly dreadful.

     I wait a moment, but once the knocking resumes, I slowly lift myself to answer the door. Jeanne is here as well, but whether she is resting or busy, I do not wish to bother her, regardless of how “uncouth” it may be of me to answer.

     “Jéyu bon!” I greet cheerfully as I open the door, good day!

     And then, I suddenly stop in place.

     “Ah…sâlêzj, Suzette,” Hikaru greets meekly, wearing a look of surprise that soon gives way to a soft smile. “I wasn’t expecting you to answer.”

     “And I was not expecting you! Although I suppose I should have known.”

     “I’m sorry it’s at a bad time, but—”

     “Oh, come in!” I say, cutting him off.

     “…Come in?” he repeats, as though I spoke nonsense. “What about—”

     “Everyone is away for the week, it shall be days before they come back. This is my house once more, for the time being at least.”

     He shuffles in place, and starts nervously pulling at his sleeves.

     “No offense, but that’s a terrible idea, Suzette…”

     “If he can flaunt his mistresses about the house without a shred of shame, surely I may have a mere friend over,” I huff—and then immediately bite my tongue, realizing what I had said. I attempt not to speak ill of Marc around Hikaru; less so for Marc’s sake, but so Hikaru does not worry about me…

     Hikaru frowns, and then sighs.

     “All right then,” he mumbles, and then walks in the door. Although I understand his concern…ah, it is truly wonderful to be able to meet inside again!

     I lead him to the dining table, just like the morning after we met—ah, that truly feels like a lifetime ago now.

     “How have your travels been?” I ask him, although recently I wonder how much he must be able to travel, as he visits nearly every other week now.

     “The same as usual, I guess,” he says, “With the weather lately I’ve not been able to go very far.”

     “I can imagine…” I mutter, looking at those same robes he always wears. My, it is a mystery how he can survive in this at all…

     “Uh…” he begins, and looks away from me. I expect him to say something more, but he does not.

     “Yes?”

     “I actually came here to give you something.”

     “…Give me something?” I blink at him in confusion.

     Yes, occasionally guests will bring gifts for Marc, the head of the house. But for myself, I do not remember the last time I received a gift, just for me…

     “Yeah, uh—” he begins rummaging through that large bag he always carries with him, “I’m sure you know a lot of places have their own regional food, so—I’ve been picking up recipes. I know you can’t bake as much anymore; but, I’ve gotten so many by now, and with this weather, I thought…”

     Just as he’s done explaining, he brings out a small black volume, with ragged-edged pages and tied together with twine.

     I untie the string, and indeed inside are recipes—dozens of them, most I have never even heard of, and all laid out in neat handwriting. Just skimming them, it appears most of them are rather simple to make, pastries I could bake while Marc is away, and have him hopefully not discover and become so furious with me.

     “Hikaru, I…” I mutter, but I am not quite sure what to say. This surely must have taken years to compile, it appears they are from quite disparate places, all across Soléiâ…

     “I’m sorry, I know peasant food probably isn’t quite your taste, but—”

     “Mâzjêr vrémond né, Hikaru…” I thank him tenderly. “You sincerely did not have to do this…”

     “Well, it’s nice to feel useful every now and again,” he chuckles, “And…it doesn’t seem like you’ve been very well lately. I…I worry about you a lot, Suzette.”

     I gaze up towards that one red eye, and for once it does not dart away. I merely look upon him for a moment.

     “I am fine,” I reply. “Marc and I do not get along the best, but—I suppose it is like you said the night we met, we just must make do with what we are given, yes?”

     “Even in marriage?” he asks in nearly a whisper.

     “Marriage is only for love in silly stories,” I reply softly. “It is a nice thought, yet…it is merely a fantasy.”

     “Suzette…if you ever need anything, please don’t ever be afraid to ask,” Hikaru says. “I’m not sure I can do much, but—I’ll try to do something.”

     “Mâzjêr né,” I mutter once more. I look down and bite my lip, as I feel the beginnings of tears in my eyes. “Please forgive me, I know you have not been here terribly long, yet—”

     “I know,” he says while standing up. “I don’t want to cause any scandal. I understand.”

     Against my better judgement, I lift myself up as well, and give him a long hug. For the first time, I notice the soft scent of lavender radiating from his clothes.

     “Vwârdnie,” he whispers. Goodbye.

     “Vwârdnie, Hikaru.”

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     “This will hurt, but…please sit still, my Lady.”

     I nod, before wincing as Jeanne puts the salve over my cuts.

     “Ah—!”

     “Pšyku, my Lady—!” she frantically apologizes.

     “No, no; it is fine…” I croak. “What must be done…must be done…”

     She sighs and begins gently wrapping a bandage around my cut arm, her brown freckled face nearly looking more pained than I believe even mine.

     “This is new even for him…” Jeanne muses.

     “It is my own fault, I suppose…choosing to still have friends, and having no child after so many years—but it is no matter. I would rather be dead than force a child to have him as a father.”

     “Do not say that!” she hushes. “You…you cannot have a child, yes?”

     I do not reply to her.

     “Jeanne…you should leave.”

     “Why so?”

     “You have been a wonderful friend all these years,” I smile, looking into her warm brown eyes, “Yet…well, I am sure he has noticed as well. For your own safety—please leave.”

     “Eventually,” she says quietly. “But not now.”

     I sigh, and go to say something more; but suddenly, there is a strangely loud knock upon the door that can even be heard above the sound of the blizzarding snow.

     To my surprise, she quickly hops up, and rushes out of the bedroom and down the stairs. How odd…

     Almost as abruptly as she left, she arrives back up the stairs, looking rather tired, yet strangely satisfied.

     “Before anyone else!” she says excitedly, below her breath.

     “Hmm…?”

     “You have an infection, my Lady,” she says as she sits across from me once more. “We need to take you to the physician tonight, to make sure you’re well.”

     I cock my head a little and raise my brow, entirely confused as to what she is possibly referring to. The cuts are not infected at all.

     Jeanne leans in close to me.

     “It was Hikaru,” she whispers. “I had assumed it would be, which is why I left so suddenly…”

     And just as suddenly, my eyes grow large.

     “I told him we would meet on the road to Brâunevil in the morning.”

     “Jeanne—!” I exclaim as quietly as I can, and pull her into an embrace, and squeeze tightly.

     I do not believe Marc knows of his last visit, but he still forbade him from ever returning; and yet, his mistresses still come and go freely. Sometimes, I cannot even sleep within my own bed anymore…but he still chains me to this dreadful place. He is quite incredible, always discovering new ways to make me loathe him.

     Yet that matters not, now…there is only one thing which matters.

     “If you ever need anything, please don’t ever be afraid to ask.”

     …I sincerely hope you meant that, Hikaru.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     Slowly the carriage trudges through the winding path, entirely covered in a layer of white that still sparkles even in the evening.

     I gaze out the window, hoping to see any sign of him, when I at last notice a singular pair of footprints deviating the road, leading into the forest.

     Perhaps unwisely, I quickly bid the driver to stop, and immediately exit the carriage and follow the trail—surely no one other than he would take such a strange route.

     Slowly, I step along the trail; and certainly enough I find him, laying at the base of a tree, curled up in an oddly dry spot devoid of snow.

     “Hikaru! Are you awake?”

     He flinches a little as he looks upon me drowsily, before he soon grins.

     “Ah…I’m so happy to see you’re well, Suzette.”

     “Me? It is freezing here, we must bring you somewhere warmer!” I reach out and grab his hand, and pause.

     “Your hand…even amongst the snow, without any gloves…you are still warm?”

     “Well, erm, you see—” he stutters, “I had a fire going earlier. That’s where all the snow went…”

     “Would it keep you that warm?” I muse, “Well, I suppose it does not matter. We should still go to the carriage, nonetheless…”

     I lift him up, and we make our way to the faint light in the distance, amidst the swirling snow.

     “Does he know you’re here?”

     “…I shall tell you in the carriage.”

     We soon arrive inside, and the driver begins our journey once more. As we do so, Hikaru holds a hand to his stomach, with a grimace upon his face…

     “Are you feeling well?”

     “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he swiftly waves off, still not looking particularly comfortable.

     “But…what on Earth is going on?” he asks, “Does Marc know you’re here?”

     “I am unwell, and seeing a physician. That is what Marc believes…”

     He frowns.

     “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

     “It does not matter,” I say quietly. “I am divorcing him…somehow.”

     Hikaru looks terribly saddened, but he remains quiet.

     “I cannot handle this much longer…” I whisper, “I have tried as much as I can, yet—ah, if I stay I will surely become insane or dead!”

     Against my own wishes, I burst into a fountain of suppressed tears which refuse to cease.

     “I…I can scarcely do a thing without his permission,” I sob, “I cannot bake, I cannot have friends, and now he…” I trail off, not wishing to worry Hikaru too terribly. Yet still, I feel him reach across the carriage, and touch my shoulder…

     “Sâ pšyku, Suzette…” he apologizes gently.

     “It is…not your fault…” I say a little more clearly.

     “Is it?” he whispers, “I know he didn’t like me. I know a man and a woman being friends can cause scandal, but I…” he looks away, twirling around his fingers that strange Moon necklace he always wears.

     “Even in the year you were absent, he was like this…so no, this is not your fault,” I reassure him. “I have been trying to divorce him for years, and yet he never agrees…apparently, the Lebrun name and all the ‘honor’ it carries is just too enticing for him.”

     “It’ll be okay somehow Suzette, I’m sure,” he smiles gently like the moonlight above.

     “That is…what I wish to speak to you about,” I say.

     The smile soon fades behind the clouds.

     “You said you could find some way to help me, so please…”

     “I’ll try,” he says. “I don’t know what, but I can find—”

     Abruptly I gasp, interrupting his thought as an idea presents itself to me.

     “Ah!” I exclaim, “I know how! I know how you may help me!”

     “Yes?”

     “You can take me with you!”

     His face remains blank.

     “With me?”

     “Yes, of course! There is no reason why I cannot just leave, is there? I do not have many possessions that are so terribly important to me, so…”

     “Why me?” he whispers with a frown.

     “If I leave with Jeanne, or stay in another’s home, surely I shall be found easily, and it may even hurt them…but you, ah, all of Soléiâ is your home! You roam freely about, never staying in one place…!”

     “But…do you want to live in the wilds? Sleeping on the ground, only eating what you can find and only cooking irregularly, dealing with the elements…”

     “It does not appear to bother you much,” I say. “Even in this weather you keep yourself perfectly warm with merely a fire, when even indoors with the fireplace, I still require furs…”

     “What…exactly would be your goal, traveling with me?”

     “…To leave Marc,” I say quietly. “Perhaps find some pleasant village to settle down in and start my bakery there; perhaps I shall even move to Solzédniê…” I say, thinking back longingly to the time I visited the wonderful city.

     “You do realize how expensive Solzédniê is, right…?”

     I nearly scowl at him, and soon feel hot tears streaming down my face.

     “If you truly do not wish to help me, please just say so honestly,” I say sternly, though I cannot help but have my voice shake slightly…

     “I’m just trying to be reasona—”

     “No!” I cry out, “It sounds like you do not wish to do this at all! Which, that is your business, yet…just be honest with me, Hikaru! Please do not play games with me!”

     Now, he nearly looks like he is on the verge of tears.

     “It’s not like that, Suzette,” he mutters.

     “Then what is it?”

     “You saw what happened to me when we first met. I have ways of finding sustenance for myself, but even if it seems easy…”

     “Is that all there is?” I ask. “Enduring the weather, finding food and water?”

     “And bandits.”

     “Do they ever bother you?”

     “Not quite, but…”

     “I can endure that if it means escaping from here. Is that truly, truly all there is?”

     He looks down with a pained expression.

     “Suzette, it’s been—it’s been a long time since…”

     “Since?”

     For a moment he stays silent, before shaking his head and sighing.

     “Hikaru,” I begin again, “I know the journey will not be without hardships, yet…every day I remain, my spirit withers away. I believed following what I was ‘meant’ to do would at last make me respectable and happy, and yet…it has only brought even more misery.

     “I suppose I may discover some way to continue on my own, and yet…I did save your life once too.”

     He gazes at me, before putting his hand to his head.

     “I just want you to be safe.”

     “Why do you believe I shall not be?”

     “It’s…” he sighs, “I’ve lost nearly everyone at some point. I’d rather not lose you too.”

     “You are more likely to lose me if I stay,” I reply with a dim smile.

     “…Has he ever hurt you?”

     I look down and do not reply.

     “All right,” he concedes, “Right now is a bad time; but, when spring comes…if you want to travel with me, you can.”

     “Hikaru!” I find myself swiftly reaching across the carriage, pulling him into a deep embrace, “Mâzjêr vrémond ne, Hikaru…!”

     He chuckles, and quickly but gently leaves my grasp.

     “Of course, but…” he trails off, “Please prepare while winter is still here. Decide what you’d like to carry and keep, get some practical clothes, bring as much money as you can handle. I have space in my bag if there’s something you really need, but it’s best to travel light.”

     “Yes, yes!” I reply, half paying attention to him. “Hikaru, I…I truly cannot thank you enough…”

     “Well, it’s nice to be useful every once and again,” he laughs.

     “Ah…” I say to myself, “If only this was not necessary at all…I have always known few around me truly loved me, and yet for some reason I believed trying to please them would make it so—what was the purpose of any of this?

     “Acceptance must be a strong tonic, or poison…”

     “Not really,” he says. “Loneliness is horrid.”

     I pause.

     “Then…why are you so often alone?”

     “Hmm…” he hums, putting his hand to his chin. “It’s better to be alone in the woods than among a crowd of people.”

     “Or in a musty home,” I say. “At least, I imagine so. The outdoors, at least, are more peaceful…”

     “That’s a good perspective to have if you want to travel with me.”

      “I suppose so,” I reply with a smile. “But, I believe it would be wise if we parted ways for now, before he becomes too suspicious…”

     “Yes…of course,” he says looking strangely melancholic. “Then I’ll see you later, Suzette.”

     “You as well, Hikaru.”

     Now I motion for the carriage to stop, and Hikaru exits; luckily, it appears the snow has settled down for the evening, and all is passive. And so I continue onwards once more, letting the driver go a little while before we inevitably return.

     I have a sigh of both fear and relief.

     It is terrifying, to be traveling in the wilds in such a way, away from all that I have ever known. Yet of course, it is also terribly exciting as well! A chance at a new beginning, something so precious yet so rare—especially for someone such as myself.

     I hold the thought near to my soul, a twinkling, shining Star next to my own.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

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