For hours, Hikaru and I continue our trek through Florêt Folwêkhdin in complete silence, both of us enshrouded by a sense of confusion and unease. I merely keep my eyes fixated upon the ground, watching my step, avoiding his gaze as much as possible. The past, the future…I wish to think nothing of either of it. Yet even so, last night’s vision continues to repeat within my mind a dozen times; but, I am no closer to knowing how to feel of it.
I wonder if he is experiencing the same, aside from that he would surely know his own feelings on the matter, especially after so many years. It is understandable now why he would become so irritable at any prodding into his life…
Eventually, in the distance one can see the trees become sparser, signaling the cessation of the ancient forest. For a moment the sunlight blinds me, the sun’s rays now on full display without any trees to scatter them about. Once everything comes into focus, we find ourselves upon the edge of a vast green meadow, stretching as far as the eye can see. Speckled throughout are smatterings of wildflowers, and for a moment I cannot help but grin at the sight.
A little while longer, we traverse through the meadow. Soon, he breaks the silence for the first time since we had awoken.
“Do you want to rest for a while?”
“I suppose so,” I reply, even though we have not traveled terribly long today, relatively speaking. After last night, a little rest sounds nice…and so, we seat ourselves right where we stand.
Sitting in the meadow, a sense a calm washes over me. The clear blue sky, tall grasses and flowers flowing with the wind; yes, it truly is lovely to see. All ill and disconcerting thoughts leave, at least for a moment. Eventually, however, my gaze turns towards him… He sits with his hands clasped upon his legs, his face blank as her merely stares towards the ground. Personally, I would prefer to say nothing at all. And yet, he appears to be in a rather sorry state, even with the beauty around us…I cannot just leave him like this.
“Hikaru, are you well?” He jumps a little and looks upon me wide-eyed, seemingly forgetting I am here at all. But he lowers his gaze once more, and meekly smiles.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he whispers unconvincingly. “Last night was just unpleasant…but, I knew that might happen. Nobody to blame but me.”
“At least we are alive, yes?” I say, thinking it an uplifting thought—before abruptly realizing that is not actually the case at all. Depending on how one looks at it, someone had died…
“Yeah, you’re right,” he answers, somehow even quieter than before. I decide it would be wise to end speaking. But, even so, my eyes remain fixated upon him.
So many years have passed since that day; yet, at this moment, it appears he has changed little. Even now, that man’s death still weighs on his heart…but while back then he could hardly hold back his tears, now he is entirely stoic. Normally he appears rather carefree and optimistic, but for now he is anything but.
I wonder how he came to this point…I wonder how he came to that point. There is so much I wonder about him, it seems the more I learn the more enigmatic he becomes. However, for as curious as I am…it is rather awful to spy into someone's life without their knowledge. Although at this point, it appears I may have no choice, should these strange dreams continue. Ah, this must be why they always say to be wary of your wishes… And now, I have new questions I am unsure I truly want the answer to.
Could I really be that man…?
“Suzette,” he says abruptly, “Is everything okay? You’ve been staring at me for a few minutes now…”
“Oh, I was just in a daze. Last night was rather…”
“So, you’re thinking of it too?” he asks, and I nod.
“If only I knew why…” I whisper under my breath, absentmindedly.
“What did you dream about?” he asks, and suddenly I panic.
That is a normal question to ask, is it not? And yet, I do not anticipate it at all—wait, am I beginning to act similarly to him now? Well, we do both share one secret. Though only I know…
“It is very personal…" I answer, "I would prefer not to speak of it. I am sorry.” He chuckles.
“So…you too, huh?” I nod dejectedly.
For a moment he merely sits still, and rests his chin upon his hands, staring off into the distance. Then, he slightly turns his head, gaze fixed upon me.
“Then maybe we should talk about something more pleasant,” he smiles sweetly, “Thinking too much upon the past is horrid…take it from me.”
“I suppose so,” I reply, still only partly paying attention. Speaking with him, interacting with him at all seems to be the exact opposite of what I wish to do, but there is not any other choice, is there? Although it may be a tad cruel, to ignore him for something that is scarcely his fault…
And to be truthful, I do usually quite enjoy our time together.
“Hmm…” he sits for a moment, pondering. “What do you plan to do with your bakery?”
“Oh, well,” I shift my gaze away from him, slightly embarrassed. “It shall be quite a while, before that will come to fruition; I try not to think of it too deeply.”
In truth, that is a lie…much of my time throughout the day is spent imagining it. But, perhaps because that dream has been hammered nearly to the point of shattering, I find it strangely difficult to speak of it with others, lest they attempt to break it completely. I know he is not that way, but…
“If this journey ends by the end of summer, you may very well have it by the year’s end.”
I believe he notices the surprise on my face—though of course I have hoped it is not too far away, I had not even realized it may truly be so close—!
“I-I would prefer not to bother you with talk of such mundane thin—”
“I don’t think it’s mundane at all,” he chimes in before I can even finish speaking. “Maybe with my travels and what I deal with, my life seems more interesting than it is; in truth, I don’t particularly do much…I’m sure whatever you have planned is much more interesting,” he grins.
“So,” he says, positioning himself straighter, “What sorts of things do you plan on making there? Well, something more specific than 'baked goods', obviously.”
“Oh, you know—” Suddenly, I stop myself.
What…do I plan to bake there?
For numerous years now, whenever I received the chance to bake at all I took the opportunity, regardless of what I was asked to make. Any opportunity, no matter how tedious or time consuming, was a wonderful blessing merely for how rare any chance became. Thinking upon what I’d enjoy baking most, more specifically…I am unsure if I even know that well anymore. Although thinking upon it more deeply, I can recall one thing I once loved baking.
“It has been so long,” I begin, “since I could bake regularly…but, when I was young, I always loved making macarons the most. They’re rather difficult, but the result is so delicious, and looks so lovely—ah, perhaps that is the most inane reasoning possible—” He chuckles.
“You need not laugh…” I whisper despiritedly, “I know it is silly.”
“No, no, that’s not it—” he fumbles, sounding slightly panicked, “It's just, when I was a child I loved eating them, at least, for the exact same reason. Perhaps too much…”
“You had them as a child? But I thought only more wea—” abruptly, I cease talking. “Forgive me, I do not mean…”
“My, you don’t have to apologize so much; it’s all right,” he sighs. “I understand why you’d question, considering my current circumstances; but for a time, my mother and I were rather well off, technically. Even if she was ju—” he suddenly stops mid-sentence as well.
“I guess what she was doesn’t matter,” he mumbles.
“Was your mother…a mistress?” I inquire quietly. With the way he is acting…
“That was the only way she knew how to get us out of Asashi,” he sighs. “So, if you want to look at me differently—”
“I do not…not at all, Hikaru,” I assure him. “My origins may seem ‘auspicious’ to you, yet…ah, well, I suppose everything is not truly so simple. And besides, it was only my brother who ever truly cared for me, it is not quite so glamourous…
“I will not judge you or her for that…it sounds like she was lovely, even going through that to take care of you…”
“That would make her happy to hear,” he replies meekly. “Everything she ever did, it seems, was for me…I’ll never understand why, though.”
“Maybe someday I can tell her?”
“Ah, I hope not any time soon,” he sighs. “She’s been gone a long time, about…I guess it’s been almost thirty years now. Damn…” his voice drifts off, as he looks off into the distance.
Last night's dream was long ago, but I'm certain he was not so young then; so by that time, she was already…
“Sometimes,” he continues on, “I think about her even now, even if that’s ridiculous, it being so long ago. For nearly that entire period of my life, each other was all we truly had; but such is fate, I suppose.” He closes his eye, and sighs deeply.
“Sâ pshyku vrémond né, Hikaru; I-I don’t know what to say…”
“There’s nothing you have to say,” he replies, looking up towards me. “I’m fine. It’s been a long time. Life has its ups and downs, but either way it goes on. I’m just…grateful we even got what time we could spend together.”
“That is a nice way to view it,” I grin, but inside I feel a sense of pain, from empathy…yet also, a strange sense of emptiness.
Life has its ups and downs, he says; and yet, thinking upon it, I truly do wonder if my life has ever had an “up.”
From birth, my life was comfortable and stable; and aside from the past few years, relatively pleasant. Yet, outside of certain circumstances…it has always been rather empty, has it not? My relationships with family, friends, they have mostly all been cordial enough. Florence was the only one I was ever close to…but he left years ago. Hearing Hikaru talk about his mother, the sorrow from her absence that lingers even decades later… That dream with him and Alex—I am unsure I have ever experienced a relationship so close…even from the short vision, it was impossible not to feel it. The overwhelming love between them.
It is no wonder baking has grown so important to me…what else do I have? Who else do I have?
I remain still, paralyzed by the revelation… All this time he appeared to me such a lonely person, but it appears we truly are not so different after all, are we?
“…Well this didn’t work at all,” Hikaru states suddenly. “It appears I’ve made you even more miserable.”
“No, it is just…nothing. Do not worry about it.” He sighs, concern clearly written upon his face. Yet even so, he moves past it.
“So…earlier you said macarons were your favorite thing to make?”
“O-oh, right, yes!” At first I am a bit taken back by his question, entirely forgetting this conversation had begun so innocently.
“How often did you make them?”
“Hmm…” I ponder for a moment, attempting to discover some answer.
“I cannot remember,” I reply at last. “I was not exactly allowed to bake, or even eat sweets scarcely at all…perhaps twice a year would I truly get a chance to create anything substantial.
“Ah…” I muse on, “Although I remember enjoying them, I cannot even remember the taste now, either.”
“Is that so…” he mutters, reaching for his satchel as he does so. After a minute of rustling through the bag, he swiftly gazes back towards me, with a slight grin.
“Would you like to remember?” I merely answer with a look of confusion.
“There’s a rather large town nearby,” he says, “I’m sure they have some sort of bakery there; even if they don’t have macarons exactly, hopefully there’s something good there. And—” Rapidly, he brings out a small pouch from within the satchel, “I'm not entirely broke.”
“Are you certain you want that?” I ask, slightly flustered. “With everything you have already done—”
“It does depend,” he answers. “Would it help make up for last night, even a little?”
“Well…” I look to the side, smiling slightly in spite of myself.
“If we head out now, we should arrive around dusk,” he states while standing up, and brushing himself off. “Is that fine with you? It’s on our way anyways.”
“Yes, I’d like that,” I answer, following suit. “Mâzjêr né, Hikaru…you really did not have to.”
“It’s no problem at all,” he replies.
Silently we continue our trek through the meadow, bathed in the sun’s gentle rays. Once more, my mind wanders to thoughts of the previous night. Even though I hardly know a thing about Alex, in this moment, I wonder if I understand him, even if only a little.
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