Questions – Part 5
At this, me mentioning making Charlie my wife, Charlie spits out the drink she’s sipping. With a cough and a shudder she croaks out, “W-w-w-w-w-what?”
I look up into her blue eyes and say, with teasing smile on my lips, “I’m just asking. You know. Just in case.”
“I’m not sure. Most Zeroths have been fine with their picks. You’re quite the greedy one, my Lord.” Nina tells me with a stone-cold look on her face.
I chuckle nervously and tell her, “I just like knowing every possibility. I would never chain Charlie to me. If she wanted to be with me, she’d have to be a normal wife. I would never do that to her…”
My words hitch at the end, and sorrow takes me. They don’t seem to notice. Just then our food arrives and I unclasp mine and Charlie’s hands and thank the host for the food before he’s off again. I pick up the spoon and dip it into my soup. As it reaches my mouth I’m blessed with an amazing assortment of tastes. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever had.
The other two smile at my child-like joy, and the way I gulp it all down. Nina laughs while eating what appears to be some kind of fowl. “This is the second time, my dear Lord, that I’ve got you, “not eating like normal” ne?”
I glance up at Nina, and take her in. Her beautiful green eyes crease from a smile. Her yellow hair is tucked up neatly into its bun, wisps of it hang down and framing her face as bangs. But I see a shadow hiding just beneath it all. Something is tugging at me, screaming for me to pay it attention. Then it occurs to me; I was talking about taking Charlie as a wife, all nonchalant like. For just a moment- no, maybe since we left the others, I’ve just been sort of acting in what feels natural, without giving it much thought. But the way I’m acting is not my own. This isn’t me. None of this is me. I would never think about taking Charlie as a wife. I don’t even want the current ones I have.
My breathing speeds up, my pulse pounds, my eyes glaze over. I scream over and over to myself. All around me I feel the world warp and twist. I feel like I’m falling into darkness, into a void in which I can never return. I catch myself in the reflection of my spirits, and for a moment, I don’t recognize what looks back at me.
I hear Charlie ask in concern. I blink, and I simply see me, staring back. I peer up at Charlie and give the best smile I can muster and shake my head. She seems concerned and matches glances with Nina. But they seem to accept it and go back to talking about some kind of project Nina is working on.
Something about using the research from me to advance something in the medical field and other jargon that I can’t understand; so I disappear into my mind again.
“Rei?” I call out. My voice echoes all around me, the world is not quite black, but the light level is low and there’s no response.
As I go to shout her name again, Rei approaches from behind me. I turn around to see her garbed not in the fancy clothes I’m used to seeing, but some kind of battle uniform. I’d say it’s close to what I’m wearing, but a little more hero-like. Her black hair traces just above the ground, and her golden eyes gleam in the low light.
“What are you doing here Eve?” For a moment, there’s a pang of hurt in my chest, but I take it in stride and respond.
“I wanted to talk to you. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, and I didn’t thank you for saving me and that man’s life earlier. Nor have I properly rebuked you for your way of doing it.”
She seems to flinch for a moment from this, but otherwise keeps her eyes focused just behind me, as always.
“You shouldn’t be here. Leave.”
She jolts forward and covers my mouth. She’s hastily looking all around with her eyes in slits. She scans this way and that before removing her hand from my mouth, slowly. She says in hushed tones, “Please leave Eve. You’re in danger here.”
“Danger? We’re just in my mind. What could possibly-” she cuts me off by placing her soft finger on my lips to hush me.
“I didn’t save you Eve. I told you that. I wanted to, god did I ever. But I can’t act unless you let me, I’ve told you that.”
“So that wasn’t you? Who was it then? Gee?”
Rei stares at me, or rather, just behind me, deeply for just a moment before echoing my question back to me.
She shakes her head and wraps her arm around my waist and pulls me close. I’m blushing furiously at our closeness and think to pull away for a moment but ultimately don’t. It feels too good being against her, and I’m too weak to resist it.
Rei dips her head down and lowers it to my ear. “Leave Eve, I can’t protect you when you’re around me. I’m too-” she breathes in deeply, as if taking in my essence “-too distracted.” I’m weak in the knees and only her support keeps me upright.
“F-fine.” I stutter, “I’ll go, but you have to promise to tell me what’s going on the next time we meet- and we will meet again because whatever this is, you’ll be safe and return, ne?”
She shifts her eyes to mine for a moment. As with the last time, the pressure is intense. I feel like my entire existence could be compressed down to a single point. Rei bobs her head with the smallest of nods and leans in. I tense up, and feel her lips rest on my forehead. Before I know it, I hear my name, repeated over and over by several voices.
I shake my head and look around, and everyone is here. Not just Charlie and Nina, but Kay, Mimi, and Rose too. “Oh, I must have spaced out. When’d you three get here?” Mimi seems to be in a panic and places her hand over Charlie, and rests it on my cheek.
“My Lord, it’s been fifteen minutes. For fifteen minutes we thought to call you, and you didn’t reply. It’s only through Ninavin’s assurances that we didn’t immediately fetch a healer.” I turn to Mimi, her face wet with tears.
“I’m sorry Mimi.”
I reach out and wipe her tears away from both sides of her cheeks. I look towards Charlie, and she slides out of the booth. I slide out afterward and realize that the whole restaurant is looking at us. This bothers me, so I suggest we move the conversation elsewhere
Once we’re outside the restaurant I turn to Nina, “Thanks for letting them know I’m alright Nina,” while wrapping my arms around her in a hug. She tenses and looks all around us before seeming to accept it and hugging me back. She whispers in my ear, for only me to hear, “Where did you go?”
I turn my questioning gaze towards her as we separate before being pulled into an embrace by Rose. For a moment my breath is taken from me as I fall into the valley of her chest. It’s only through great maneuvering that I’m able to find a position to breathe from. “I’m so sorry that we didn’t go with you my Lord.” She cries out.
After wailing for a moment she eventually lets go of me, and I turn to Kay. She simply stands there, so I point to her, then to the area right in front of me. When she arrives, I wrap her in a hug. “I’m sorry for worrying you all. But you had fun, and ate good, I trust?” I say while moving away from my embrace with Kay.
“My Lord we couldn’t have possibly of had fun without you,” Rose says.
Nina replies to her, “Says the one who denied the Lord her company.”
For just a moment Rose has a glint in her eyes. The air turns chilly for just the briefest of moments, but is quickly dissipated when she cracks into a smile and a puddle of giggles.
This seems to shock everyone else into silence. Rose recovers herself, and slaps a hand down onto Nina’s shoulder and jovially says, “You have the right of it Ninavin. You stole my husband from me today, you and the Commander. But you’re still right, it’s because of me that we lost this blessed day with our Lord. But for you, of all people to bring it up; why, I never!” she says again while pulling Nina into a hug.
Nina is more bewildered than I’ve ever seen another person be. I quickly swing my head around and see Mimi looking in shock at the scene before me. However, Kay seems to not be put off.
“Mind sharing with the rest of us Kay?” I ask. She looks at me for a moment as if trying to process my question. It seems to dawn on her and she opens her mouth.
Per usual, her voice barely breaks into the realm of sound and she says, “Alcohol.” With that, everything makes sense.
I feel a pang of guilt and ask Kay, “Was she upset for standing up to me?”
Kay gives the smallest of nods, and says, “Us too,” while pointing at Mimi and herself. My chest throbs. Guilt for being with them, guilt for leaving them alone. Why can I just not win with these women?
Out of my periphery, I see Nina finally struggle free from Rose while gasping for air- yeah, I know the feeling Nina. Rose pets Nina on the head and turns to me. Charlie places herself halfway between us two, and holds out an arm to Rose. “My Lady,” Charlie says with a charming smile. Rose gives a glance my way and I nod. She gives a goofy grin and, as if swooning over Charlie, slides up right next to her and links her arm into Charlie’s.
Charlie looks over and checks to see my expression one last time before instructing us all that we’re returning to the station.
Everyone walks together to the station. Rose stumbles here and there, but Charlie is magnificent and holds her upright with ease. Kay is a little in front of me, Mimi is holding my hand and leaning up close. Nina is a step behind the rest of us, with a shadow on her face. Eventually, we reach the station and Charlie leads a sleepy Rose in first before making her way back outside. With an annoyed huff, Mimi is lead away by Kay and into the train, to give me a moment with Nina and Charlie.
“I had a lot of fun you two.”
Charlie gives a dignified smile, reaches out and grabs my hand. She brings it up to her lips and gives it a kiss. I feel electric, and I know by her expression that she does too.
“Charlie, you know what this-” I’m hushed by a voice inside me.
My guilt is eating away at my being, and I dare not add to it by speaking aloud the condemnation I’ve blessed upon Charlie’s soul. She merely looks at me, and with a small wink, she drops my hand- oblivious to the storm within me.
“I enjoyed your company, my Lord. And…” She hesitates and finds the ground with her eyes.
Her beautiful emerald hair is near white in the setting sun. It’s an odd thing to see, such a magnificently proud woman, with her head hung low. She looks back up and meets my eyes, takes a long step towards me, putting us only inches apart. Were we of more equal sizes, our noses would be near-touching. She places both hands on my shoulders and leans her head down. I feel her lips meet the crown of my head, and I feel her whisper through my hair, “I shall try not to pass these feelings onto another.”
My body tenses up and my stomach feels all aflutter. As she removes her lips from my head, I peer up into her blue eyes and nearly get lost in them. It’s only her separation from me, and the warmth lost, that brings me back to my surroundings. Charlie is wearing a small smile, separated from me by a few feet. In her place is Nina.
I reach out again and give her a tight hug and push my lips to her cheek, leaving a kiss. “I’ll miss you too,” she says with scarlet cheeks. I separate from her.
“Don’t be a stranger. I know we’re technically close, but we’re also technically far away.”
Nina gives me a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’ll find you a way home Eve, I promise,” she says at a whisper so low, I have to question whether or not she said anything at all. I return her smile and nod. I wave them off, watching as Charlie gives her arm to Nina. With smiles and waves returned to me, they leave arm in arm. The sight makes me feel conflicted. But ultimately, I just want them to have some semblance of happiness separate from the misery I bring those around me.
I turn and enter the train. Waiting for me at the back, are my three girls. The thought of referring to them as “my” girls sickens me. Yet it comes to me naturally now. Whatever this change is, I can’t even tell it’s happening until after it does. Just who am I going to be when this is all over with?
Even though they’ve shown themselves to be happier without me, with a heavy heart I slide in next to Mimi. Kay and Rose sit right in front of us. Rose is basically asleep in a drunken stupor. Kay, ever watchful. And Mimi, she seems to be fully engrossed in holding my arm and resting her head on my shoulder.
As I look them over, questions start to pour into my mind. Questions that I need to ask, things I need to learn.