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~Suzette~

༻Chapter Twenty-Two༺

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{I wake up to the sun gently shining on my face. But, that’s not the first thing I notice…that would be the warmth right beside me, huddled in my arms. I never really realized how thin he is, compared to me it almost feels like he’s little more than bone. But, I guess that is the result of being fairly poor, only able to afford so much…

I hold him tighter, hoping this still isn’t a dream.

We’ll change that, Hikaru. I’ll make you happy, we’ll both be more well off than either of us could ever imagine…I swear it.

“Nnn…” he mumbles, “Alex, is that…”

“Yes, it’s me,” I whisper.

“You’re still here.”

“I’m still here.”

“I…think I’m sick,” he mumbles hoarsely. “I should probably—”

“From being outside?”

“Yeah…”

“Would you like some soup? That’s always good for this sort of thing, isn’t it?”

“Alex…” he whispers, lifting himself up, “You don’t have to do all this just because…”

“I would have anyways, Hikaru. Do you know that?”

He pauses, but nods.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, “I…I’m not used to anything like this. I never thought this would actually happen…”

In turn I lift myself up, and put my hand on his back.

“It’s okay, let’s just go slowly, all right?”

“Yes…I’d like that.”}

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For many days Hikaru and I continue our journey, every night dreams of the past flow sweetly…truthfully, it almost feels too much to bear.

Days spent laughing, hugging, kissing, open, carefree—even if we were forced to hide, it was as though we had found paradise! The wonder, the light of first love, clumsy yet so earnest…

Within this lifetime, I have had no such thing. What should have been the years of dreams were instead spent in dread in loathing…

I almost regret it, yet truthfully—if it meant meeting Hikaru now, I would choose this path each time. If we met when I was so young…no, there could never be a future of “us.” Everything would be entirely different, I am sure of it.

But, does that future truly exist even now? Or have I merely convinced myself of it, because I cannot stand to think the contrary anymore? Yet…

Everything has grown steadily quieter between him and I. We still converse a little, yet…I do not know what has happened. I do not know where this distance came from, or why…

What a stark contrast it is. The milk and honey of dreams, the deafening silence of reality. It seems more I hear the sound of my accordion than of his voice…but that is a music far beyond any compare.

I…miss it terribly.

“Hikaru,” I say softly ask one day, “Is all well?”

He continues walking on, as though he did not hear me at all.

“Hikaru…?”

“Y-Yes, why do you ask?”

“You have become so quiet as of late.”

“I’m always quiet.”

“Even more quiet.” He sighs.

“Suzette, I…” his voice trails off. “Well, I have told you about Alex…”

“Yes?” Does this have to do with the dreams…?

“There’s something else I haven’t told you; I know it may sound strange, but…ever since that night we were in Florêt Folwêkhdin—I keep dreaming of him, of our memories together.”

“I see.” So it is. “Are they unpleasant memories?”

They do not at all appear so to me, but…I thought he was truly happy? I thought…we were truly happy?

“Some of them, but mostly not at all. Lately…” he says, “My dreams are just after we first got together. When it seemed like anything was possible.”

“Yet your manner has seemed rather dour…”

He looks down towards the ground, as we continue walking through tall, wild grass.

“He should still be alive, Suzette,” he whispers. “You know, before we travelled through Florêt Folwêkhdin…sometimes, I would have dreams he was still alive. What he would look like now—and it was always consistent, he always aged normally, I feel like that’s truly how he would look. And…he would have only become more handsome. It’s a shame…”

My chest ties in knots. Both at his grief…and perhaps more selfish reasons.

Of course he is still wholly and completely in love with Alex; I am a fool for thinking I could ever be—

“He should still be alive, we should still be together, you should be able to meet him—”

“If he were still alive, I highly doubt you would be a wanderer, and surely we would never meet,” I reply, entirely ignoring the fact that if Alex never died… “I” would surely not exist. Some other soul would inhabit this body instead, I imagine. What an odd thought…

“Yeah,” he whispers. “And…lately, I’ve come to a realization…” he trails off. I look up to gaze upon him, he turning his necklace around and around his fingers frantically.

“What is it? You do not have to be so reticent with me, Hikaru,” I say softly, putting my hand on his side. His hand stops.

“Well…” he crosses his arms, and I notice his hands grip tightly at his sleeve. He ceases walking, and so do I. “It was not many, but…I have been with others, after Alex. Well, only one woman, and I considered men, but nothing ever came of those…in each and every one of these instances, however, I knew in my heart it was only Alex I truly loved. That I could ever love. That is why I never pursued anyone, that woman an exception—and I regret that one horribly, terribly deeply. I told myself it is because she was a woman that we failed, because I am not fond of women—but in my soul I knew it was because she wasn’t Alex. I could never love another other than him. And that’s why after then, I never even considered being with anyone else.

“But…lately, I…” he sighs. “If Alex were still alive, I know we would be together. I have no doubt of that. But I wonder…if I would still love him after all. At least, if I would still be in love with him. If he didn’t leave me so early, would that have withered away instead?”

My breathe entirely leaves me, as though I received a blow to the stomach. My eyes grow wide.

“W-Why do you believe that?” I mumble, drowning in utter bewilderment.

After everything I have seen of the past, and even his reactions in the present…Hikaru, not in love with Alex?

“I cannot quite explain it,” he whispers. “I know of the cliché, even if I’m so often away from society…the older man, married to the ‘love of his life’ that he wantonly abandons for a beautiful, younger woman. Overcome with lust, disregarding the one he was so convinced he loved. A love you can only assume was false from the beginning.

“Always I took for granted that out love, Alex and I—it was so true, so pure, so impenetrable. In spite of what the world said about a love like ours, it was not debauchery, but something beautiful. Something we were so blessed to possess. That I was blessed to possess.

“But now I wonder, if perhaps inside…it was all a fraud, and I am only lying to myself. I believe he was genuine—but as for myself, maybe I’m no different from those men that abandon their wives in the pursuit of lust. Maybe I truly am just as rotten inside. And…if he was alive, perhaps I would only betray him, shatter him, in pursuit of…” he pauses. “Something different.”

“As…As you can imagine,” he continues, “Those joyful memories…whenever I wake up, all I can imagine is how they would further break his heart.”

“Hikaru, what…what spurred on these thoughts?”

“…Nothing in particular,” he says. “They’re…just thoughts. I’ve had much time to think, now that we’re in the countryside again.”

“Then they…then they are unpleasant thoughts and nothing more, yes?” He does not say anything for what feels like a long while.

“I guess,” he mutters hoarsely. “But, I still feel like I…I’d…”

“…There is no use in contemplating what could be, Hikaru,” I assure him softly. “Perhaps it is better not to know.”

“No, it is better to know! I don’t wish to be disgusting, I don’t—” he claws at his sleeves, and bends even further down, “I don’t want to believe I’m truly damned for good reason, Suzette—!”

And as he says this, his knees entirely buckle under him—!

“Hikaru!” I rush to help him—yet instead—

“Stop it, Suzette! STOP!” he yells. “Please, just…for once in your life, why won’t you treat me as I deserve…why do you insist on being so…”

“On being so…?”

“…On being so wonderful.”

For a moment, I pause. Everything is happening so swiftly, I…

“Hikaru, I…I do treat you as you deserve.”

“Obviously not, or you would have stabbed me and threw me in a ditch ages ago.”

“Why do you say such things?! What one earth makes you feel that way when you—"

“Look at me,” he attempts to shout, but it comes out terribly strained; even hearing it sounds painful. “Throwing away my love, for…for fantasies, for nothing…what kind of person am I?

“I don’t deserve your acceptance, I don’t deserve the acceptance of anyone. That poor man in the city, he didn’t realize I’m truly persecuted for good reason—”

“No you are not, Hikaru!” I try grabbing his shoulder; but instead her gets up, and turns away from me.

“I said stop it, please…” he mutters, completely overwhelmed with tears. “I’m so ashamed of myself…even though I know the truth, I can’t help…I’ve betrayed him and I…”

“Hikaru, what—” I begin, yet immediately stop. For some reason…all of this, every bit of it, left me in confusion. Yet now, it is as though the  flame of a candle bursts into existence, illuminating everything.

Betraying the “love of one’s life” for a beautiful, younger woman…

Anger at me, for being so wonderful…

“Hikaru, I—!”

“Suzette,” he whispers, and turns around. My head pounds in my chest, so deeply it is painful. He looks down upon me…and suddenly, I feel even smaller than I already am. He appears more distant than I have ever seen him. “Let’s find your brother, and then…I think I should take my leave. I’ll leave you my map so you can find my house, if you still wish to go there.”

“Hi—”

“I’m going insane. I wasn’t…I wasn’t meant to be around humans. Even Alex it seems, I…I should’ve always remained alone in the first place.”

“That is not true Hikaru, please…please at least stay by my side until we reach your home, at least—” He chuckles, bearing a sadness so heavy it makes me feel ill.

“Are you trying to make this more painful?”

“Hikaru, I l—” He glares over at me with a look that sends daggers through my spine. His red eye…almost seems like that of a monster.

“…What has happened, Hikaru?” and now, in spite of myself, my tears begin falling… “Why…why are you being this way all of a sudden, why…?”

“I’m damned, Suzette. Hated by all the world…”

“I will not accept that answer,” I mumble. “If you are so damned, then what about…that inn keeper, the man running the instrument shop…”

“They do not truly know me.”

“Then what of me?”

“…I don’t know. Why you insist on caring about an abomination, a vagrant, weak, lustful, disgusting man—”

“You have never been any of those things, Hikaru!”

“I’m sorry I’ve fooled you, Suzette,” he whispers. “We should get going.”

Instead…I merely turn away, hugging myself, nearly collapsing in sobs.

What is happening, what is going on?! Everything is going too swiftly, why, why—

Through every bone, every vein, every pore…sorrow seeps through me, down to my very core. Into my heart, into my soul. And I have not the slightest clue what is happening…

“S…Sâ pshyku, Suzette, I…” he whispers, voice shaking. I hardly hear him…but, I still do.

“Then t-tell me…tell me how you truly feel.”

“…I can’t do that.”

“Then…” I whisper hoarsely, “Please…please at least hold me one last time, before you…” I mutter this, but expect nothing in response. Expecting him to ignore me.

With everything else…

Instead…he kneels down, and so gently, so softly pulls me close. Stroking his hand through my hair…

It hurts—physically hurts—yet still, I find myself chuckling.

“So you do…you love me after all, Hikaru.”

His hand tightens, but he says nothing.

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