Songs of Yesterday part 2
Chapter 8 Beneath the Lies
Nobody speaks the truth when there’s something they must have.
Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris
I had always been the one to see the darker side of Squall Leonhart. Most people believed that he was cold, emotionless, but I knew differently. His way of life had taken an undeniable toll on him. In the weeks before he left Garden, I could tell that he was having more and more trouble keeping up his façade during the daytime, when he was working. I was the one who he would come home to at night. I knew how much stress he was under. He would often come back in such a foul mood, angry at whatever foreign diplomat he’d had to meet and greet and be polite to. Yet, however bad his mood, he had never lost his temper with me. He’d just sigh, and force a smile at me, apologising for burdening me with his troubles. Never had I seen him like this.
He was storming down the main street of Winhill, leaving me trailing in his wake. I had to keep trying to remind myself that this wasn’t the Squall I knew. It was futile, however.
During our conversation, I realised just how little he had changed. His mannerisms were identical, as was his attitude. It was only his memories that were different.
I stopped, suddenly in my tracks, as Squall halted and turned to face me, the look of anger being replaced by one of confusion.
“What did you say my name was?” he demanded.
“Squall,” I replied patiently, guessing how difficult this was for him.
“No, my surname.”
“L-e-o-n-h-a-r-t?” he asked.
I nodded as a reply. “Why?”
“Because that’s his name,” he growled.
“Ah, Leon, you’re home. I see you met…” Maron was cut off abruptly as Squall grabbed him by the collar, pinning him up against the wall.
“Squall,” I shouted. “You’ll hurt him.”
Sure, I don’t particularly like Maron, but he doesn’t seem like he’s a bad person. I know how dangerous Squall can be when he isn’t in a temper, so now, I was afraid for Maron’s safety.
“Tell me the truth, Squall shouted, threateningly, ignoring my pleas for calm.
“What truth…I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he protested.
Squall released his grip on the frightened man, causing him to fall to the floor in a heap.
“I know you’ve been lying to me, about where you found me. You know more about my past than you’re telling me don’t you?”
“Liar,” Squall spat. “You’re nothing but a liar.”
“You didn’t need to know. I saved you.”
“Saved me from what.”
I felt more than a little awkward stood there, in the middle of the argument. I wasn’t sure whether or not to leave, or whether it would be better for me to stay, to find out the real truth about what happened four years ago. It was no contest. I felt compelled to stay.
“I saved you from your terrible life. You were a SeeD. Nothing more than a lowly mercenary, only fighting for money.”
“That’s not true,” I screamed. “Squall’s not superficial like that. When I first met him, that was my opinion of mercenaries, but he changed that. He didn’t fight for money, he fought because that’s all he had ever known.”
“See, they’re bred to be killers.”
“No. He changed. He began to fight for his friends.” I turned towards Squall, looking directly at him. “You…you fought for me.”
“I knew I recognised you. You’re the sorceress,” exclaimed Maron. “See what I saved you from?” he asked Squall.
“So it was true? I did accept you as a sorceress.”
“Fool,” spat Maron. This was the final straw for Squall. He drew his pistols, aiming them at Maron’s head, much to his horror.
“Tell me how I came here.”
“I was fishing off the Esthar coast. I saw two bodies on the shore. I thought that both were dead. I checked them, finding that one was indeed dead, but the other was alive.”
“Yes. You were wearing a SeeD uniform and carried a gunblade. From your uniform, I could see you were the commander. The ID I found only confirmed it. I should have left you there to die.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because my sister loved you.”
I didn’t understand was Maron was talking about. Who was his sister? And why would she love Squall?
“Our surnames. Is that why they’re the same?”
“Yes. You’re mother was my sister.”
“Raine was your sister?” I asked, astounded. “Then how could you ever let Squall be given away to the orphanage?”
“He’s lucky I didn’t drown him at birth. He’s the son of an outsider. One who abandoned my sister with a child, offering no support or even word of where he was. Everybody knew who his father was. It was better that he was sent away. Everybody hated that Loire. His son would also be hated here.”
“So you sent him away under the name of Leonhart?” I asked. “To protect him?”
“You have to understand that I loved my sister. She told me to take care of Squall, and I have done.”
“You lied to me, you don’t care for me. I won’t stay here any longer.”
Maron looked at me. “Could you leave us for a minute?”
That evening, Squall was sat in my hotel room, surrounded by a single bag, containing the only belongings that he wished to keep.
“So what happens now?” I asked. I needed to know whether he would even want to be around me, or whether he would just want to be alone from now on.
“I don’t know. I have to leave. I can’t spend any longer in this place. Maron said I could take the boat, but I have nowhere to go. I don’t even know where or how I used to live.” He held his head in his hands. I was amused by the fact that he still did this whilst thinking. I guess some things never change.
“Well, certain memories have come back to you, right?”
“They all involved you, though. Never my time with SeeD.”
I smiled, despite myself, relieved that he did have some recollection of me.
“You were a SeeD when you met me. All your memories would have been from when you were a SeeD.”
“There’s so much I don’t know about my own life.”
“I can fill you in on the boat, but before we leave, I have something you need to see.”
“Are you lost?” he asked me, frustration showing through in his voice.
“I’m not lost. I wasn’t sure where I was going in the first place.”
He still had elements of SeeD within him. It seemed he was growing impatient with just wandering aimlessly. As a SeeD, he had always needed a plan before going anywhere. He would always have a map in his back pocket, even if we were only going for a picnic. It would seem that old habits die hard.
“Why did you even set out if you didn’t even know where we were going?”
“Because you really need to see this. I’ve never been there, but you have. That’s why I’m not sure where it is.”
We walked in silence for a few minutes, until I noticed the smooth marble slab rising up above the brow of a nearby hill.
“We’re here,” I told him.
He knelt down next to the marble slab, and wiped away the weeds that had grown over the previously spotless surface. I was shocked to find that it was untended. Laguna would always come here, but it looked like it had been abandoned for some time.
I wonder if he’s alright?
“Raine Loire,” Squall read, once all of the inscribed letters had become visible. “My mother?” he asked.
I nodded, and walked a short distance away, sensing that this was a private moment for him. I sat down gently on the grass, plucking a nearby flower from the ground.
I thought about how long it had been since I held a flower. I had always loved flowers, their fragility and beauty would fascinate me. I tentatively sniffed at the petals, inhaling the sweet scent, bringing back memories of the flower field at Edea’s orphanage. It reminded me of the promise that Squall had made me.
“I’ll be here…waiting…so if you come here… you’ll find me…I promise.”
I had waited there for him, during my darker days. I felt sure that he would show up, after all, he had promised. But after a while, it was clear that he wouldn’t be there. That was when I truly believed he was dead, when he broke that promise. I suppose a part of him did die. The part that knew and loved me. I tried to prevent a single, lone tear from escaping, but it was in vain. It dripped onto the flower, running down the petal towards the tip, staining the deep crimson colour slightly.
As an afterthought, I picked several more flowers, gripping the stems tightly in my hand. I hadn’t had any flowers for so long. My room would always be brightened by their presence. I loved them so much, Squall would buy me a different bunch every week, and smile at the look on my face as I received them. After a while, it ceased to be a surprise, but the sentiment was still there. He had bought me some the day before he left. When I heard that he wasn’t coming back, they withered and died. At the time, I envied them. I wanted nothing more than to do the same.
“Rinoa. Why did she die alone?”
I rose from the ground, walking over to him. I gently placed to flowers in my hand onto the gravestone. It was fitting that she should have them.
“Raine was the adoptive mother of an orphan named Ellone. She met your father, Laguna, when he was an officer in the Galbadian Army. She found him, badly injured and nursed him back to health. Gradually, they developed feelings for each other. One day, the Estharian military, under Sorceress Adel, invaded Winhill. They kidnapped Ellone, after learning that she could see the past. Laguna and Raine were both devastated by this. Laguna, along with his old friends Kiros and Ward, set out to find Ellone. It was shortly after they left that Raine discovered she was pregnant. She had no way of contacting Laguna, and he didn’t even find out that he had son until many years later. Unfortunately, Laguna was unable to return to Winhill before you were born. He had found Ellone, but could not allow the citizens of Esthar to live under the harsh rule of Adel. He led the resistance movement who defeated her and was made President of Esthar. He told me once that he had returned to Winhill shortly afterwards, only to find that Raine was dead. Nobody told him about you. I presume you had already been sent to the orphanage. He returned to Esthar, and only found out about you when Ellone took him to see Raine’s past. He was devastated that he had missed out on so much time with you, and seen as you were a success at SeeD, he didn’t want to ruin your life by trying to make contact with you.”
“Have I ever met him?”
“Yes. He commissioned us to defeat Ultimecia. Afterwards, he revealed that he was your father. You were upset at first, but you learned to live with the fact, and started to spend some time together. You were working for him on your last mission.”
“I don’t remember any of this. I mean, this place seems vaguely familiar to me, but I don’t recall anything that you’re telling me.”
“Maybe you just need time. Or maybe you should visit the places in your past. They may trigger off some of your memories.”
“Maybe. That’s what happened with the others.”
“We should go to Timber first. I have a lot of your belongings there. Hopefully, it’ll bring something back to you.”
Chapter 9 Who Am I?
I’m over it.
You see I’m falling in the vast abyss,
Clouded by memories of the past,
At last I see.
I looked over the side of the boat into the depths of the ocean, seeing my reflection staring back at me. I seem different now somehow. Maybe because I finally know the truth. And the truth hurts.
I was the thing I most despised.
For the last four years, Maron had continually drilled me on the evils of the mercenaries. I had just accepted what he had told me. I didn’t even think for myself. There’s more than one side to every story, right?
I mean, mercenaries can’t be pure evil can they? They can’t just be driven by their desire for wealth and power. I don’t think I would have been able to live like that. That’s not me, not who I am.
Who I am?
Maybe I was different back then?
No, I wouldn’t have been capable of that would I? Rinoa, she had said that I fought for my friends and fought for her. That doesn’t sound too selfish does it? Then again, she said I had changed. Maybe, at one time, I was just a cold hearted mercenary. How could I live with myself knowing that?
I have to have the answers to all my questions. I need the truth about who I am. I have to know.
I glanced over at Rinoa, hoping to ask her the myriads of questions that plagued my mind. I was just about to speak, when I stopped.
She was sleeping, looking so peaceful. Despite my hunger for answers, I just don’t have the heart to wake her. I guess the gentle rocking of the boat from side to side must have eased her passage into sleep. How can someone who seems so innocent be the object of fear for so many? I’m not sure about anywhere else, but in Winhill, most people still fear the sorceress and her powers.
“The only good sorceress is a dead sorceress,” they would say.
I’m a fool to believe so many of their lies. Either that, or I was a fool for accepting her before. Somehow, I’m more inclined to believe the former. After all, weren’t we a couple at some point? Well, that’s what she told me. I don’t think she’d have any reason to lie. From my dreams, or whatever they are, I think we were together. From what I can gather, we shared the same room and I can draw my own conclusions from that. And then, I saw us almost kissing. Then again, I didn’t see what happened afterwards. She could have slapped me in the face for all I know.
I tried to take my mind off the subject of Rinoa, a difficult task considering that she was only a few feet from me. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t ignore her.
She stirred slightly, hardly making a sound. She clutched her knees close to her chest and shivered slightly from the chill sea breeze. Despite myself, I removed my jacket and placed it gently over her, being careful not to wake her. She smiled at me, still asleep. I shook my head. What’s wrong with me?
Rinoa woke with a start as the boat ran aground on the Dollet shoreline. I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder and was about to step off the boat, when, as an afterthought, I decided to carry Rinoa’s bags for her. Guess a little politeness can’t hurt. I strode off, not waiting for her to catch up to me.
“Erm, Squall? The train station’s that way.”
I turned around to see her pointing in the opposite direction from where I was heading. Why had I even tried to find the station without knowing my way?
“I guess you don’t remember this place then.”
“I’ve been here?” Nothing around me looked familiar.
“You took your SeeD exam here. Passed with flying colours.”
I struggled, trying to remember anything about this place, but it was to no avail.
“How about that building?” she asked pointing towards a tall, dark tower atop the hill just outside the town. I thought I recognised it, but couldn’t place it.
“Maybe. It seems a little familiar, but I don’t know where from.”
“You’re squad in the exam tracked a group of Galbadian soldiers to the communications tower. You had some pretty tough fights up there, especially when your squad leader abandoned you.”
Suddenly, staring at the narrow streets, overhung by houses on both sides, something came to me.
“I was chased through these streets down to the beach.”
“So you do remember something,” she said, entering a building, which I assume to be the station. I took a look around, as she bought the tickets.
The building was very old fashioned, in keeping with the rest of the town. To me, the place seemed to be bustling with activity as people scurried about the platform.
“If you think this is busy, you’ve not seen anything yet. Not until you’ve been to Deling,” Rinoa told me. “Now, stop staring or else we’ll miss the train.”
When we were settled in our carriage and the train had begun its journey, I thought it would be a good time to probe the issue of my former life.
“Tell me about my past. Why was I a SeeD?” She looked at me as if she had been expecting that very question.
“You feel bad about it, huh?”
How did she know that? Am I that obvious? Or does she just know me better than I think?
“A little. I’ve been told that SeeDs are these sorry excuses for human beings who live for nothing but money and power.”
“Don’t believe it. You had no choice but to become a SeeD. You couldn’t stay in the orphanage forever. A lot of orphaned children went to SeeD because it was the only place they could go. You were one of them.”
“Why did I fight?”
“Because you had to. Because it was what you did best. At least until the incident with Ultimecia.”
“What happened then?”
“You once told me that that was when you first considered your life, your legacy. Somebody you knew was executed and you just freaked out, saying you didn’t want anybody to talk about you in the past tense. You said that you didn’t want to die without leaving something behind. You wanted your life to matter.”
“Before that time you didn’t. As much as you hated to admit, you liked having friends around, even though you weren’t used to it.”
“Tell me about my friends.”
“All of them are SeeDs except for me. Quistis used to be your instructor at Garden, Selphie and Zell are SeeDs sent with you on your first mission. We met Irvine because a sniper was needed for the mission. He’s the best there is.”
“I don’t remember a thing about them,” I screamed, exasperated.
“Don’t worry,” she said, her voice adopting a soothing tone. “I’m sure it’ll all come back in the end.”
“I hope you’re right. I can’t bear the thought that I have a past I know nothing about. I keep looking at your face, not knowing exactly who you are.” Her face fell at my last comment, and I mentally scolded myself for voicing my feelings so openly with someone who was little more than a stranger to me. Fine, so she means more than a stranger, I think. Truth be told, I don’t know what she means to me. Hell, I’m not even sure what she once meant to me.
I’m not even sure what prompted me to ask the question, but as soon as it left my mouth, I regretted it.
“What did we have together?”
I could see that this question hurt her deeply. She was trying to fight the tears that seemed inevitable. Nice work, Squall.
“I can’t tell you that.”
I nodded, not wanting to hurt her further by asking for her reasoning behind this.
“It would kill me to know that you had forgotten everything.”
“You know I remember some of it,” I said, trying to comfort her. What did it matter to her anyway? She’s probably found someone else by now anyway. I can’t imagine she’d have much trouble in that department.
“That does bring me some comfort, but you have to find out what we…had…for yourself.”
“Alright. I know how we met. At the dance right?”
“What were you doing there if you weren’t a SeeD? And how did I meet you again? I mean, you pretty much left me in the middle of a dance.”
“Sorry about that. I was at the graduation ball to look for your headmaster. I caught sight of him during the dance and couldn’t miss the chance of a meeting with him. I know you were a little offended back then, but believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was to leave.”
“So how did I meet you after that?”
“I was once the leader of a resistance group in Timber. I hired SeeD to help liberate the town. You were one of the SeeDs sent.”
“And after that?”
“I told you. I can’t say. You have to find the answers yourself,” she whispered, clearly still upset. I decided that the best course of action would be to drop the whole matter for the time being, despite still having so many questions I wanted to ask. Apparently, we saved the world, defeated Ultimecia. I don’t remember any of it. How could I forget something so important? I knew Rinoa wanted me to leave her alone for the time being. I would have to find my answers some other time.
Fortunately for me, we were rescued from any uncomfortable silence as the train pulled into the station at Timber.
Rinoa seems to think that a lot of the answers I seek are here. I can only pray that she’s right.
Chapter 10 Twist of Fate
The distance does not matter;
It is only the first step that is difficult.
Marquise de Deffand.
Diary of Quistis Trepe
To me, it seems ironic that I’m going to begin this entry in my journal by questioning why I do it in the first place. It’s a thought that I’ve been having for quite some time now. Selphie came up with the whole idea before we fought Ultemecia. We had just discovered that we had grown up together in Edea’s orphanage. It was quite a shock to find out that I had grown up with the others. It seemed like fate that we had, once again, been thrown together by the twisted paths of destiny. I know that we were all devastated to find that we had forgotten all of this, and I know that every single one of us was afraid of history repeating itself. Despite the fact that we were fighting for our very existence, and the lives of all of those we held dear, we were happy. We were happy because we had each other. Our journey may only have lasted for a short time, but we discovered things about each other, and ourselves, that we could never have thought possible. If there was one thing we were sure of, it was that we would stand together, fight together and survive together. Fate had taken us that far. Who would have thought that destiny could be so cruel as to abandon us when we least expected it? Selphie’s plan was that we would all begin writing our own journal, so that we could look back in many years time, and relive our time together, to ensure that all the memories we held close to our hearts would not be lost forever to the GFs. Back then, we all wrote in our journals every day. Even Squall had one. As ashamed as he was to admit it, he, like the rest of us, didn’t want that that time to end. Obviously, the main reason he didn’t want things to change was because of Rinoa. He was by her side almost every hour of every day and I guess he was afraid that, when it was all over, she would just leave like so many had before her. I realise that his change in heart was due to her intervention, but a part of me believes that the rest of us had a part to play in that too. He did consider us his friends didn’t he?
That was a question I had often pondered. When I was given the job of sorting through his belongings after the…accident…I came across his journal. The temptation to read it burned strong inside me. I wanted to know just how he felt about me. Sometimes I thought he hated me, especially after he told me to ‘go talk to a wall.’ I never really understood how he thought, he just wouldn’t open up to me. It was from there that my curiosity in his journal arose. However, I knew I couldn’t betray his trust. That was private and I had no business reading it. Besides, I might have read something that I would have been better off not knowing. I’m certain I did the right thing when I handed the journal, along with the rest of his possessions, to Rinoa. If Squall had wanted anybody to read it, it would have been her. Yet somehow, I know that she didn’t even open it. She always had the greatest respect for Squall’s wishes. The idea of someone reading his most personal thoughts and fears would have horrified him. She knew that too. Reading through my own journal, I realised that there were so many private things that I wouldn’t want anyone else to know. That would have been the case with Squall too. Even so, I could see the point of keeping one, at least back then, when we were all together. I want to remember that time. It would kill me if I ever forgot the happiest moments of my life, no longer separated from those who were once my students, thus meaning I could have no friendship with them. Everything changed when I lost my teachers license, and it changed for the better. I could be with my peers, instead of being ostracised from them by rank. Yes, I want to remember that.
But this? Do I really want to read my journal in years to come and remember what a sorry state my life’s in right now?
Most people would call me a fool for my last statement. After all, to them, I have the perfect life, great job, more money than I know what to do with, beautiful apartment. But that’s not what I want. Four years ago, I had everything I could have desired. Well maybe not everything, but near as dammit. I still felt a slight tinge of sadness when I saw Squall and Rinoa together. I could never shake off the thought of what might have been, yet deep inside, I know that we could never have had anything together. I think it was just because seeing them emphasised my own loneliness. I had nobody who was that close to me, but now I see that none of that mattered. I had the most wonderful friends, they were a family to me. For the first time in my life, I had a real family, not some foster family who wouldn’t see me for who I was.
But then it all fell apart.
Damn you Squall Leonhart.
Why did you have to do this to all of us?
I know it seems slightly stupid to blame Squall for all of this, after all, I’m sure that given the choice, he would have chosen to survive that mission. But it was him that caused everything to fall apart. Maybe I’m just selfish because I feel the need to place blame in any situation. I just refuse to believe that it was meant to be. Or maybe it’s because I now live every day of my life walking in his shadow. As a Commander, there could be no better person than Squall. I had no clue how challenging it was until I took over the job. How did he do it? He showed no outward signs of stress, which seems to be the main constituent of the job. That’s why I know that every day, people are saying, “She could never live up to Leonhart.” I never even tried to. I don’t know why, just because I took over the position of Commander, everybody assumed I was trying to take Squall’s place. That’s something I would never do. Nobody can take his place.
I’m the one who has to live with his legacy. The legacy that keeps dragging me inexorably downwards, further and further from the person I was. That is why I don’t want to remember. So why do I write?
Maybe because today, I erased some of the mistakes I had made in my past.
I finally, after all these years, plucked up the courage to visit Rinoa.
I took my first days vacation in four years and travelled to Deling. It really brought back some memories, some good, some bad. Unfortunately, standing at the door of Caraway’s mansion brought back many of the worst memories I harboured. I still felt terrible for shouting at Rinoa when all she was trying to do was help. I said it was all a game to her, not realising until much later, how wrong I had been. It was definitely not a game.
My visit to Caraway’s mansion was slightly more pleasant than the one I had undertaken soon after Rinoa’s departure. I found Caraway slightly more forthcoming. He admitted that during my previous visit, Rinoa was indeed staying there. Apparently, she would not speak to anyone, especially not to me. The phrase ‘shooting the messenger’ immediately sprung to mind, but I guess I can’t blame her for not wanting to see me. I had been the bearer of bad news and that would forever haunt me. However, Caraway also told me that she was no longer in Deling. She had left several years ago, and he had not heard from her. He did seem concerned for her welfare, and I’m quite sure he blamed himself for her leaving a second time.
“I was so heartless towards her,” he told me. “I had said to her, forget about that Leonhart. He was never any good for you anyway.”
I have to admit, that probably wasn’t the most tactful thing to say. I can hardly blame her for leaving after that. Still, he believed that, eventually she left because he was still so concerned about his work. He told me to look for her in Timber and I had to agree that that was the most logical place to search for her. She had always loved that town. As I was about to leave, he turned to me and said, “Promise me that if you find her, you will tell me that she is safe, and ask her to come and see me. We have a lot to resolve.” Well, what else could I say but,
She’ll love me for that. If she really does hate her father, I was sure to get caught in the crossfire.
That brings me to now, sitting on the express train to Timber, writing in my journal. I want to remember that I tried to repent for all my sins. For not telling her the truth. As soon as I find her, I will tell her. Before she left, I was ordered not to disclose the information to her, but now I’m the Commander, I’m under no such obligation of silence. She has to know the truth.
She has to know how Squall died.
Chapter 11 Broken Promise
Four seasons in one day,
Lying in the depths of your imagination.
Worlds above and worlds below,
Sun shines on the black clouds hanging over the domain.
Crowded House, Four Seasons in One Day
“Well, here we are,” she announced, tentatively. “Make yourself at home, I guess.”
I can tell that she still feels really weird about the whole situation. I can’t really blame her though, can I? She spent the last few years of her life believing I was dead, and learning to deal with that. It makes me feel kind of guilty. I mean, I know it’s not really my fault, it’s not as if I can even remember leaving, but this still must be tearing her up inside. All this just because I had the nerve to walk back into her life.
“Would you like some coffee?” she offered.
An uncomfortable silence followed, well uncomfortable for her, not me. I’ve never understood why people always feel the need to talk when they’re in someone else’s company. It’s not as if they talk about anything important either, just the weather or their journey or something. I mean, what’s the point? It doesn’t get people anywhere. I guess it’s just because I hate small talk, I’ve never been one for conversation. Even though, it was clear that I was making Rinoa uncomfortable with my silence. I felt that I had to say something, even if it was only for her sake.
“So…do you live here on your own?”
“Yes” she replied.
“How long have you lived here?”
“More than three years now. Ever since I left my father’s.” Her eyes were revealing a tinge of sadness, hinting at the fact that it was obviously an upsetting subject for her.
Way to go Squall.
“Erm, you don’t mind if I make myself a drink do you?” she asked.
I shook my head in reply.
“Sure you don’t want me to make you a coffee? It’s no trouble, I’m making myself one anyway.”
She looks like she needs something stronger.
I watched in amazement as she gulped down her coffee, almost in one mouthful.
“It’s been a godsend these last few years,” she explained. “The cure for many a sleepless night.”
I wasn’t sure whether she was joking, or being deadly serious, so I said nothing, silence, in my opinion, always being the best ploy.
“Well, you better sit down.” She gestured towards a sofa on the other side of her apartment, which was covered with various magazines and newspapers. “I’ll just clear up a bit for you.” I followed her to the other side of the room, where she had already collected an armful of magazines. As she turned to put them away, however, she dropped the bundle on the floor.
“Dammit,” she cursed loudly. I got down on my knees to help her clean up, only to find that she had done the same, causing our heads to clash.
“You okay?” I was immediately conscious of how close she was to me, her lips barely an inch from my face. I could feel my heart beat quickening in my chest, pounding with some…some feeling.
What in Hyne’s name? What is this?
As I lifted my own eyes to meet hers, I saw something that frightened me, something I can’t explain or describe. She moved inexorably closer to me.
What the hell do I do? More to the point, what the hell is she doing?
Still, she moved closer. I didn’t know whether I should stay rooted to the spot, or whether I should move. She was so close to me now that I could feel her warm breath on my skin. It was…intoxicating.
Hyne what am I thinking? This isn’t fair to her.
I got to my feet as fast I could, stumbling as I rose from my knees, trying to shake those feelings from my mind, unsure of what just happened. I sat down on the sofa and tried to concentrate on reading one of the magazines, but it was to no avail. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how close we were.
Dammit Squall. It’s not as if you’re with her anymore. Hell, she’s probably got another boyfriend anyway. And what does it even matter? You can’t even remember who the hell she is.
I tried to talk some sense into myself, to some success. I found myself actually studying the magazine closely, until something jumped out of the page at me.
“You wrote this?”
She nodded, not looking me directly in the eye. I guess she must have been embarrassed.
Embarrassed or hurt.
“I don’t usually keep anything I write, but that was the first piece I did that was published.”
“Well, congratulations.” I didn’t really know what else to say. “I didn’t know you were such a good journalist.”
“Honestly, I’m not,” she protested modestly.
He laughed at my last comment.
What? What is it? What’s so funny?
“I’m sorry,” she said, as if she could read my thoughts. “It’s just something you always used to say.”
“So I see.”
At this, she exited the room, entering another, which I presumed to be her bedroom. She returned carrying a large metal box that looked far too heavy for her to lift. I would have offered her a hand but she seemed to be managing fine on her own. She placed the box at me feet.
I obliged, looking at the contents of the box.
The first thing I noticed was a picture that had obviously seen better days. It showed Rinoa and I, together, smiling, in what looked like a flower field.
That seemed important somehow, something seemed to click, as if another piece of the jigsaw was falling into place.
“What’ll become of me?” I looked across at Rinoa, puzzling at the question. Although I was definitely in the same flower field shown in the photograph, it was certainly a different time. Our clothes were different and I didn’t feel as if I should be smiling. It was as if there was a weight pressing down upon my soul, threatening to plunge me into darkness.
“Don’t worry about it. There have been many good sorceresses. Edea was one. You could be like her.”
Good sorceresses? Was this really me?
“But Edea’s still…” She paused. “I can’t guarantee anything, either, if Ultimecia possesses me again.”
Ultimecia? The sorceress? So that was how Rinoa got her powers.
“You saw me…She controlled me in outer space and made me break Adel’s seal. What might happen next time? What will I end up doing? Will I end up fighting everyone? Scary thought isn’t it.”
“Rinoa…even if the world becomes your enemy, I’ll…I’ll be your knight.”
I was really thinking that. I would have protected her no matter what. I guess I was lied to about sorceresses. I mean…she doesn’t seem like a threat. She said she was possessed right? That it wasn’t her?
“If I fall under Ultimecia’s contol again…SeeD will come and kill me right? And the leader of SeeD is you, Squall.”
Hyne, I was supposed to kill her.
“Squall’s sword will pierce my heart. I guess it’s okay if it’s you Squall. Nobody else. Squall if that ever happens…”
I could feel my anger boiling up inside me, raging at the suggestion she had just made.
“That’s enough. I’ll never do anything like that. The sorceress I’m after is not you, Rinoa. My enemy is the sorceress of the future, Ultimecia.”
“Ultimecia lives in the future and possesses me. She uses my body as her extension into this world. How, how will you save me?
I found a way. I must have saved her. That was all I wanted.
“I’ll come up with something. There’s gotta be a way. Don’t worry. Trust me.”
“I trust you.” Those words. They made me fill with happiness. Suddenly I felt as if I could take on the whole world. She trusted me. “Well, until you find a way, maybe I should stay in Esthar.”
“No, that’d be pointless. I’d only end up going after you again. Rinoa…just stay close to me.”
I must have loved her. Those feelings, before…were they fragments of the past. Or maybe they were something else.
“Oh, those words.”
“That’s what started everything.”
Started things between us?
“What are you talking about?”
“You don’t remember?”
Not a thing.
“Something I said?”
“Oh, just forget it.”
"Yeah. Can I tell you a story? I had a dream. It was a scary dream. We make a promise. We promise to see shooting stars together. I get dressed up and put on your ring. But the thing is, I can't remember where I'm supposed to meet you. I start to panic. I really want to see you, Squall, but I don't know where to go. I start running through the mountains, the desert, the plains...through Timber, Balamb and Galbadia...When I realize I can't run any longer...I...I just want to see you so badly...So I scream, Squall, where are you? Then I woke up. I was crying. I'm sorry. You don't have to say anything. I just felt like I had to tell you."
“How about this? I’ll be here.”
"The reason why you couldn't find me was because we haven't promised yet."
“I’ll be waiting for you, so if you come here, you’ll find me…I promise.”
“I’ll be here,” I repeated, a little louder than intended.
“Why?” she breathed, expectantly.
“I’ll be waiting for you, so if you come here, you’ll find me…I promise.”
She looked at me, disbelief registering on her features, a single tear flowing down her cheek.
“I waited for you,” she sobbed.
Where did she wait for me? Why?
“I waited, Squall. I waited for you, where we made our promise. You…you never came.”
There was nothing I could say to comfort her, she was too distraught. She must have gone through hell. I know I meant what I said when I promised but…dammit, if I only I could’ve remembered that one thing. This could all have been avoided.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, knowing that it would be of no consolation to her, I just had to try and clear my conscience.
“It’s not your fault,” she replied. “Take a look at the rest of your things.”
I studied the contents of the box, finding that it contained a weapon, which I recognised to be a gunblade of an extremely powerful variety, a few clothes, including a jacket that I liked the look of, a few little trinkets that I didn’t have a clue about, a video tape, and a small, leather bound book.
“That’s your journal,” she said pointing to the book I held in my hand. “Don’t worry, I didn’t read it.”
I slipped it into my pocket, hoping to get some time to read it later. Maybe these were the answers I was seeking.
“What’s on the video?”
“It’s from the party to celebrate our defeat of Ultimecia.”
“Can I see it?”
She nodded, putting the cassette into the video and turning the TV on. It flickered into life, showing the scene of a ballroom, littered with people, all surrounding a podium on which I was standing, looking incredibly nervous. I shifted awkwardly in my seat, almost as if the nerved I had once felt were emanating from the tape and into me.
“Erm, well…I’m not very good with words, so I want to hand over to the headmaster,” I announced.
“No, speech, speech,” screamed a girl wearing a yellow dress.
“Yeah, go Selph. You tell him.” I presumed that voice came from behind the camera as I couldn’t tell who it had come from.
“Fine, well…congratulations to you all,” I announced, before leaving the podium swiftly to a round of applause, accompanied by laughter.
The film continued for a few minutes, showing many people I didn’t recognise, the girl in yellow, a guy in a cowboy hat, a tall, blond woman dressed in orange and somebody choking on a hotdog. It was the end of the tape that really caught my attention. Rinoa was on the balcony, pointing in the air, as if somebody was there with her. Before I could see anything else, the tape ended, but somehow, I still knew how it ended.
I walk over to her, put my arm around her waist and kiss her.
The realisation hit me. We really were together once. More than that, but I really did like this woman.
I…I think I love…no. Stop thinking, Squall. Just stop thinking.
“You…you remember, don’t you?”
I nodded. I couldn’t say anything. I was too shocked. Thankfully, I was saved from any further awkward moments by a knock at the door. Rinoa got up to answer.
“Rinoa. It…it’s been too long,” I heard a voice say.
Quistis? She was one of my friends, right?
“I’m sorry for just turning up like this, your father told me you were in Timber, so I made a few enquiries and found you here. There’s something I need to tell you.”
“No, Quistis,” Rinoa interrupted. “I have some pretty big news.”
“Please, I need to tell you this. It’s important. I need to tell you the truth about Squall. I couldn’t tell you before you left, I was under orders and I hope you can forgive me. He was…he was killed by…”
“Go on,” Rinoa urged.
“Well, the leader of the rebels was…was…”
“Just tell me dammit.”
Chapter 13 Reminiscanse
And I still find it so hard,
To say what I have to say,
But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me,
Just how I should feel today.
Blue Monday, New Order
“Rinoa?” I could hear her shouting my name at the top of her voice, but nothing was registering. I may have been standing right next to her at that exact moment in time, but my mind couldn’t have been further away.
Seifer? He’s still…alive?
I hadn’t thought about him in the last four years, my mind completely occupied with thoughts of Squall. I felt a sudden wave of guilt wash over me. How could I not have thought about him once? He used to be such a huge part of my life, in ways both good and bad.
I think, maybe, that I was the only one of us that didn’t begin to hate him. I just couldn’t bring myself to. Every time I saw him, I couldn’t shake the thoughts that resurfaced about the summer we spent together. Sure, I knew that the Seifer standing in front of me, at the right hand side of Edea was not the Seifer I had once known, but did I hate him?
I knew deep down that he would have loved to see me die, but even when he sacrificed me to Adel, I only felt pity for him. He would have hated that, I know, but then, I understood what it felt like better than anyone else. After all, I had been under Ultimecia’s spell too. I think Seifer did what he did retaining some semblance of free will, but even so, he wasn’t himself.
The Seifer I knew was always a bit…mixed up I guess. He had a major problem with authority, which was why I was attracted to him in the first place. I know that must sound terrible, and I’m not even going to try and make excuses for it. I was with him to get back at my father. How immature was that? Even so, I did feel that he was my soulmate at the time, he was the free spirit that I longed to be and he really did make me feel like I could take on the world. Without him, there’s no way I would have plucked up the courage to fight for Timber’s independence, no way I would have gone to the SeeD ball, no way I would have met Squall.
Even though we were enemies for a time, I still had a lot to thank Seifer for.
I think I was unique in that respect. Quistis thought that Seifer was the reason she lost her teaching liscence, Zell hated him for the years of constant bullying even though he regarded Seifer as ‘one of us,’ Selphie never really forgave him for leaving them in the exam, and to Irvine, he was just another enemy. Squall on the other hand…? I never really knew what Squall thought about him. It was kind of a touchy subject with him being my ex and all, but I did always want to set the record straight. It wasn’t serious and it didn’t even get very far. I wished I could’ve told him that before all this happened, I’m sure he always thought we were something we weren’t. I guess it’s because I said I thought I loved him, but that wasn’t the truth. If you have to think about love, then you’re not in love. I know now that it’s something that you just feel in every fibre of your being. You can’t explain it, you can’t classify it, it just is. When I said that I thought I loved Seifer, what I was actually saying was that I didn’t love him, I was just feeling emotional. I’d just been told that he’d been executed after all, I wasn’t thinking straight. Neither was Squall. That was what first made me think that he didn’t hate Seifer. They were rivals, that was undisputable, but did that mean that they had to hate each other?
No, I don’t think so. Sometimes it seemed like Squall knew Seifer better than any of us, and maybe he even understood him. They were both raised in the same environment, in identical ways, but somehow, they still ended up being complete opposites. Ironic that I fell for both of them, don’t you think?
I guess there were some similarities between them, though. They both had an elevated sense of pride, sometimes, it felt as if nothing else mattered to either of them. That’s what caused Seifer to pick on Squall. Squall was the only person who could rival him, which meant that Seifer felt he had to prove himself constantly, and Squall…well, Squall was always too proud to back down. That’s why what Quistis just told me made no sense whatsoever.
Squall and Seifer were always fighting, that much was true, but they would never take it that far, would they? Emotions may have boiled over, tempers may have flared, but still, would they fight to the death? Knowing the both of them, I’m not so sure. I get the feeling that they’d much rather let the other live with the humiliation of their defeat, then end their life. Maybe things changed.
I felt two hands being placed on my shoulders, shaking them roughly, bringing me crashing back to reality.
“Rinoa, are you alright?”
I nodded, dumbly. Not quite knowing what else to say.
“I’m so sorry that I haven’t tried to speak to you these last few years. They must have been very difficult without him.”
“He’s alive, Quistis.” I couldn’t think of what else to say.
“Rinoa. Eventually, you’ll have to accept it. I mean, it’s been so long since it happened that there really is no hope of finding him…”
“Quistis. Listen to me. He’s alive. I found him.” She gave me a disbelieving look, as if I was making this up to help me sleep soundly at night. “I’m telling the truth.” As if to back me up, Squall stepped behind me, causing shock to register on Quistis’ face.
“You…you’re not dead?” she babbled.
“It would seem not,” he replied, coolly. It seemed to me as though he didn’t remember a thing about her. She stood there, dumbfounded, until I felt the need to ask the question that had been yearning to escape from my lips.
“Seifer?” Quistis shook her head.
“Seifer’s was the body found on the shore, dead.”
It took a moment for this to sink in.
“We assumed that he had murdered Squall, as we found Lionheart on the sand nearby.”
“How? How did he…?”
“Gunshot wound in the back,” she replied.
He was shot? By Squall? But, that doesn’t make any sense.
“I’m so sorry, Rinoa.”
Those words. Those words I despised so much.
“Sorry? You’re sorry. You didn’t tell me four years ago that Seifer was dead and you’re sorry?”
“But, I came to tell you how Squall died. I thought you deserved to know.”
“Yes, I did. Four years ago!”
I was becoming more and more angry. She actually had the audacity to come here after four years of hearing nothing, and just expects to be friends again after she’d been lying to me. Painful memories came flooding back to me. It had been her that had given me the news of Squall’s death. She had lied. Would she ever stop?
“Get out,” I snarled.
“Get out,” I screamed, slamming the door in her face, before I broke down into tears.
Tears for Squall, tears for Seifer, tears for the life that I had missed out on.
I finally calmed down about an hour later, mainly due to the fact that Squall kept handing me steaming mugs of coffee. I could tell that he was dying to ask about Quistis. He wouldn’t know who she was or why I had thrown her out.
Why did I throw her out?
Did I really blame her for telling me that Squall was dead? After all, that was what she herself believed. Maybe I just needed somebody to vent my anger on and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I guess I wasn’t even really angry at her, more at fate and destiny and whatever else had thrown me down this path of heartache in my life.
“I guess you want to know about her?” I asked Squall, who nodded in reply. “She was your instructor at Garden. For years she was in love with you but you didn’t even look twice at her.”
Was that all he was going to say?
“What about Seifer? I feel something when you mention his name. I feel…I don’t know…angry.”
“You know your scar?” I asked as I ran my finger down my forehead, tracing the path of damaged skin. “You got that off him. He’s got an identical one, running the opposite way. You were rivals all your life.”
“Then why don’t I feel as if I hate him?”
“I don’t think you do. At least, you never mentioned hating him, it never went beyond you both trying to better the other.”
“Then why were you so bothered about him?”
This was the question I had been dreading.
“Because, I…cared for him.” I winced as I said it. That sounded really bad.
“We were dating once, yes. Before I met you. In fact it was because of Seifer that I met you.”
“You loved him then?”
I was shocked that Squall would ask such a forthright question. Truth be told, it threw me off guard slightly. This time, however, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
“No. We were friends, yes, but it never really got further than that. We were never serious.”
There, I said it to him.
I actually said it.
Chapter 13 Blame
Always the one who has to drag her down,
Maybe you’ll get what you want this time around.
Can’t bear to face the truth,
So sick, he cannot move.
The trick is to keep breathing.
Garbage, The Trick is to Keep Breathing.
Rinoa had left the apartment, muttering something about apologizing to Quistis. She said she was “upset about Seifer” and that “people do funny things when they’re upset.” I guess she’s right, look at what I did to Maron.
Now, looking back on things, I don’t hate him. Sure, I wish he had told me the truth about everything, but at the same time, in his position, I think I would’ve done exactly the same. Everything appears different with the benefit of hindsight, though. At the time, I was prepared to pull that trigger. I didn’t know what had come over me, it was as if it wasn’t me in control anymore. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t reason with myself. Anything could’ve happened I was that angry. I guess it was the same with Rinoa and Quistis, though perhaps not to such a violent extent. We’ve both been lied to these last four years, and I’m guessing that we both feel the same way about it.
Sighing, I open the book on my lap, brushing the dust off the cover in the process. I had been waiting for some privacy so that I could read my journal. I needed to know just who Squall Leonhart really was. I turned over to the first page and began to read.
This is just stupid. What am I even writing for? Why did Selphie have to come up with this idea?
That didn’t exactly surprise me. I can’t imagine that I was too receptive towards the idea of a journal at first. Still, I must have persevered as there were many more entries for me to read.
Sorry Selphie, I guess I just didn’t see the point in writing this before, but something happened to make me change my mind. Actually, it’s not a something, it’s a someone. When we set off to see the orphanage we all grew up in, we had no idea that the trip would turn out to be so dangerous. I guess I should have seen it coming after all we’ve been through so far. Still, I had no way of knowing that Galbadia Garden would be there, waiting for us. At first, I wondered how they knew where we would be heading, but then I realised.
Seifer must know.
Seifer must remember everything. The orphanage, the fireworks, Sis.
He remembers, and still he wants to fight.
Sure, I’ve never really liked Seifer, we’ve been far from friends, but when I fought him for real in Deling, something stirred within me. Guilt? Pity? I’m not sure. All I knew was that I wanted to be as far away from there as possible, that I didn’t want the fight to happen. I knew he wouldn’t kill me, he’d have far too much fun gloating over my victory, but the fight still felt…real. It didn’t feel like it did during training, not that we went easy on each other or anything. Far from it. I’ve got the scar to prove it. So does he. Still, in training, there was no malice behind his actions, just desire to prove he was the best. On Deling, I could sense the malice each time he brought his gunblade down on my own. He hated me. He actually hated me. But still, this was nothing compared to the fact that he wanted to fight knowing that we all grew up together. As Zell would put it, “he was one of the Orphanage Gang.”
And it meant nothing to him as he fought us in Garden. He wanted to kill each one of us. It was as if he had stopped caring for everything except his stupid obsession with power and the sorceress. Was this the romantic dream that he had once told me about? How could it be? He was a puppet, controlled by Edea with no free will of his own. This couldn’t be his dream.
It may seem stupid writing all this down because it’s what I think about. I know it so why the hell would I want to read about it? Sure, I won’t want to be reading my journal anytime soon, but something could happen.
She’s taught me that much.
Right now, I’m sat in the infirmary. It seems to be where I spend most of my time now, just sitting, watching, hoping. All this had been a valuable lesson to me in the fragility of life. One minute she was there, fighting alongside us, so full of life. The next, she was passed out on the floor, lifeless. Seeing her now makes me question some of the decisions I made.
Why did I let her come with me?
I should have left her somewhere safe, Fisherman’s Horizon maybe. In any case, I should not have let her accompany me. It didn’t seem quite so wrong before, when I was able to protect her. But this time…this time I was helpless. I couldn’t do a thing to help her. And why?
Because I was stupid enough to act on my emotions for once.
I let her come with us, because I like her. Sure, we argued at the beginning, but over time, the arguments became less frequent and we started to talk more. There was one thing that came over in our conversations, and that was the fact that she hadn’t given up on me, even though I was so cold to her for a long time. I have to thank her for that, I’d never known that feeling before. I’d never know a lot of feelings before I met her. And now, will I ever be able to feel them again? Will I ever hear her voice or see her smile? It shocks me when I realise just how much I have changed, how much she has changed me. She’s done so much, and now, do I have to just let her go?
Not without a fight.
If all these recent events have taught me one thing, it’s that there is always hope. Maybe that hope is all I have left, but at least it’s something.
I slammed the book shut as I heard the door open. Looking up, I saw that Rinoa had returned. It was then that I saw something strange. Why hadn’t I noticed it before?
“Your necklace.” She seemed to feel a little awkward when I mentioned it, but she came and sat next to me, holding her necklace for me to see.
“This was my mother’s ring,” she told me. “She gave it to me when she died.”
“And the other.”
“This is Griever, your ring. You used to wear it all the time.”
I ran my finger around the cool, rough, silver band, taking in all the contours around its surface. As I did so, I began to remember something.
I was stood outside with Rinoa, surrounded by intense fighting and the sound of dying SeeDs. She seemed strangely unperturbed by this, choosing to focus on thanking me instead.
“I have something very important to you. I can’t die until I give it back to you, right?” she asked. “Zell gave it to me, see? I’ve been holding onto it.”
“That’s my favourite ring. You’d better give it back.”
I was going to kill Zell for this.
“I’m sure it is. It’s a cool looking ring. What’s the monster on it anyway?”
“It’s not a monster, it’s a lion. Lions are known for their great strength and pride.”
“Hmmm…great strength…pride…kinda like you, Squall.”
Just what was she getting at, she looked kind of nervous.
“Hmm…so this lion of yours. Does it have a name?”
“So that’s what you call it. You know, Zell said he’ll make me one exactly like it. Who knows, maybe I can become like a lion too. That’d be crazy, huh? I mean everyone might, y’know, get the wrong idea about us.”
Crazy? Then why does she sound so delighted?
“You sound like you want everyone to get the wrong idea.”
With that she ran off into the nearby building.
She never did give me the ring back.
Suddenly, the scene changed. We were in a desert, behind us, a large, red, fierce looking spaceship, ahead, a group of official looking men in long, flowing robes. Rinoa began to leave with the group of officials. I’m not sure why, but it was tearing me up inside.
“Rinoa. Don’t go,” I screamed after her.
“Thanks, Squall, but I have to,” was her solemn reply.
“…Squall, I still have your ring.”
“You keep it.”
“Yeah.” With that she left.
It’s yours, I want you to keep it with you always, so no matter what happens, you’ll always have a piece of my heart with you.
“It’s not my ring. It’s yours now and it always will be.”
“You mean that Squall?” she asked expectantly.
“Yes, I need you to keep it.”
“What for? Why do you want me to keep it?”
How was I supposed to answer that?
Chapter 14 Acceptance
Don’t turn away,
I pray you’ve heard
The words I’ve spoken.
Dare to believe for one last time.
How was I supposed to answer that?
What was I supposed to tell her? That I wanted her to keep it? I wanted her to have a little piece of me with her at all times? That I still…
“Squall?” she prompted, waiting anxiously for an answer.
“I gave it to you, remember?”
How stupid did that sound? Of course she remembered.
“Yes, you should keep it. It’s yours now.”
“Thank you,” she squealed in delight, throwing her arms around me. I just didn’t know how to react. I wasn’t used to this kind of thing, after all I’ve spent the last four years trying to avoid as much human contact as I could, and now…now I find myself in this impossible situation. Should I throw her off me or what?
Tentatively, I placed my arms around her, still unsure of quite what I was doing. Her eyes seemed to light up in surprise as I held her close to me and she looked up at me, smiling.
Hyne, that smile. That perfect, angelic smile. It was the same smile that I remembered from the dance, the same smile that captured my heart and made it melt.
Look away Squall. Look away.
I couldn’t let her see the effect she was having on me. My heart was pounding so quickly in my chest that I felt certain she could hear every beat. What was this I was feeling?
I didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to find out so I pulled away from her slowly, trying not to offend her too much.
Bad move. She looked up at me, hurt showing in her eyes as she awkwardly moved even further away from me, not wanting to be around me at this particular moment in time. Not that I can blame her.
“Erm, I think I’m just going to go for a shower,” she muttered before hurrying out of the room, not even giving me a chance to reply. It was obvious that this was just an excuse to get the hell away from me. This must be having more of an effect on her than I thought.
Or maybe it’s because I didn’t really think about what this must be doing to her. All this time I’ve only been thinking about myself, about how I feel and about how everything in my life has just fallen apart. Why didn’t I ever stop and think that she must be feeling the same way? Someone who she thought had died four years ago walks straight back into her life, and I didn’t think that it must be a little weird for her. How selfish am I?
And now I’ve hurt her and she’s avoiding me. Part of me is saying, why should I care? You’re not a part of her life anymore and she’s not a part of yours. Just leave and be done with it. Another part is telling me, go to her, comfort her, apologise for all you’ve done wrong. She’s the most important thing in your life after all.
Of course she is. She’s the only part of my life I have any sort of connection to, the rest are just fragments of memories jumbled up in the recesses of my mind. Only my memories of her make any sort of sense, they’re the only ones I can really understand, the only ones with a time and a place. When I saw Quistis before, something definitely clicked, but all I saw were quick flashes of events, nothing coherent. I saw a classroom in which I was sat behind a desk, and then the scene changed to a dark, gloomy cavern, but what they meant, I had no clue at all. I couldn’t even see Quistis there, it was all so vague. Not at all like my memories of Rinoa. I can even picture every little detail of our dance, every piece of furniture in our room. It’s almost as if she was the only thing I ever thought about, the only thing that was important to me.
Maybe she still is. I know that she’s the only link I have to my past, and maybe she’s the only way I’m going to find out about the real Squall Leonhart, but maybe there’s more than that. I’m not sure but I think I’ve actually started to enjoy her company. That’s why I felt guilty when I pulled away from her wasn’t it? It can’t just have been because of my own selfish desires to discover my past can it?
No, I like being with her. I’ve grown so accustomed to being on my own that just talking to her is a new experience for me. It feels good to have company instead of being trapped within my self-imposed solitude.
What am I thinking?
Me? Liking company?
What’s happened to me?
There was only one answer I could find.
I sighed, trying to remove all thoughts of her from my head. They only make me confused and unsure of myself. That’s the last thing I need right now considering that I’m not even sure who I am. I opened the only thing that could possibly offer me any distraction, my journal.
I can’t quite believe that I’m here. How did we make it this far? So many times it seemed as though it were all over, but now here we are, preparing to face her once and for all. Whether this will be the last entry in my journal I’m not sure. Either we kill her or she kills us. The time for games is over.
I wish I could be with everyone now. After all, this may be the last time we ever get to spend time together, but well, I just can’t tell them how I feel. They’re probably all there on Ragnarok’s bridge saying how much they care for one another and how they’re sure everything will turn out alright and I can’t do that. I have to face the truth. Everything might not turn out alright. Somebody very special once told me that nobody can predict the future, and she’s right. It’s for her that I’m writing this.
When I went to her in space I felt closer to her than I ever have to another human being. I could hear her calling out to me, and it wasn’t her voice she was calling with, it was her heart. She called out to me with her heart and I heard every word of it. That was the first time I faced up to my feelings for her and realised just how much she meant to me. Would I have jumped out into space after Quistis or Zell? I doubt it. But I did for her.
We talked for so long on the ship. I think that it was the longest conversation I’ve had with anybody, and if not, it was certainly the most meaningful. I’ve never poured my heart out to anybody before and she just listened to me. She actually listened to everything I had to say. But then I found out the truth.
The truth about her.
She’s become a sorceress.
She’s become everything I’ve been trained to hate and despised. She’s become everything I’ve been trained to kill. But there’s something even more frightening.
I don’t care.
She could become the world’s enemy and I just wouldn’t care.
Letting her go to the Sorceress Memorial was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. And I chose wrongly. I let her go. I’m so grateful to everyone else for talking me into getting her back. The moment when she ran out of the sealing chamber and I held her was one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, however long or short that might be. It’s brief moments of happiness amongst this whole mess that have made these times the best of my life.
And when we made our promise in the flower field, I knew that there would be many more moments like that to come.
I just wish that I could have finished what I was trying to say then without the interruption from Esthar. I needed to tell her what I had come to realise, I needed to tell her how I feel. This is why I’m writing everything down, in case I don’t come back and she gets the chance to read it. In fact, I’m going to make her take it with her, then if I am killed, she can know the truth. Now just doesn’t seem an appropriate time to say it. It’ll just sound as if I’m trying to make her feel better because these could be the last few moments of both of our lives. I want it to sound genuine because it is. It’s the truth, I mean it. What I needed to tell her back then was,
Rinoa. I love you.
I loved her.
I really did love her.
Something tells me that I should be surprised, shocked even, about it, but I’m not, I expected it.
Maybe it’s because I understand how I must have felt back then. I understand, because…
“Squall?” Rinoa exited the bathroom, interrupting my train of thought. “I’m sorry for storming off like that before.”
“Good,” she replied smiling, making her way across the room to sit down.
“I…I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry for…for everything.”
Chapter 15 Closure
These wounds won’t seem to heal,
This pain is just too real.
There’s just too much that time can not erase.
Evanescence, My Immortal.
He said sorry. He actually said those two little words. The Squall Leonhart I’d once known would never have done that.
In some ways, Squall now seems exactly the way he always he was. He still seems to brood a great deal and he always tries to keep things to himself, but in some ways, he’s changed so much. He’s much easier to read than when I first met him. I can see how hard he’s taking the whole situation, struggling to remember fragments of his past and searching for his own identity within his memory. It’s so obvious to me, but I just can’t pluck up the courage to talk to him about it. I guess I’m afraid that he’d run a mile if I made an effort to discuss his innermost feelings. I know he’d hate it if he knew that I could tell how he was feeling just by looking at him. I can still remember that night at Fisherman’s Horizon, just after he had been promoted, when I tried to get him to open up a little by pointing out how he feeling lonely and isolated, and how he’d probably try to handle everything on his own. He completely freaked out and did whatever he could to get the hell out of there. That was the one thing I’d known him to run from. I really don’t want the same thing to happen now. Maybe if I could just make him understand that I can only read him like a book because I’ve had so much practice in the past, and after all, it was him that let me into his heart. I can’t just forget all of that.
“Rinoa?” I had been lost for so long within my own thoughts that I had forgotten that Squall was still there, and probably waiting for a reply.
“You have nothing to apologise for,” I whispered in reply.
It was the truth. None of this was his fault, there was no blame to be taken by any party concerned.
“No, there is. I’ve been so caught up with finding out who I really am that I didn’t consider your feelings.” He was nervously twiddling with his thumbs and did everything he could to avoid direct eye contact with me. It must have taken him a great deal of courage for him to say that. “It must be so difficult for you to just accept me again after you thought I’d died.”
“Squall, you don’t have to say any of this.”
“Yes, I do. It’s important. You must think that I was heartless not to know how you felt, but that’s not the truth. I’ve only just realised the way I felt about you before all this happened. It seems nothing could suppress that memory for long. So, I can see how difficult this must be for you, and I’m sorry for not understanding until now. Erm, now you can speak if you want,” he added nervously.
Believe me, I wanted to. I wanted to tell him just how beautiful that was, and how everything would be alright in the end. I needed to tell him how much I still felt for him. Even after all these years, my feelings for him haven’t died. To tell the truth, they’re stronger than ever.
So why couldn’t I tell him?
I never had this problem before. I can’t count the number of times I said I love you in the past. Why was this different?
Maybe because it would feel like the first time I had told him, or maybe because it would be as if we were starting all over again from the very beginning. Or maybe because I don’t think he will be able to return those feelings. At least, not now. I still haven’t quite given up the hope that he may grow to love me once more with time.
Who am I kidding? We ended four years ago, right? Sure, I never got over it, but that doesn’t mean that we could try again. Fate itself seems to be against us, so who am I to argue?
“What are you thinking,” he asked gently.
He wants to know what I’m thinking? There’s no way I can tell him. He already feels awkward as it is, I don’t need to go and make him feel worse by telling him how I still love him.
Thankfully, I was rescued from my dilemma by the ringing of my phone. I picked the receiver up off the wall, praying that it would not be the office asking why the hell I hadn’t reported back from Dollet. All of this has pushed work to the very back of my mind, it just isn’t a priority anymore.
“Hi, Rinoa.” To my relief, it wasn’t anybody from work. It was Quistis. We had worked things out earlier, come to a truce if you like. I still couldn’t forgive her for lying to me, but I guess I understood why she did it, and I can see how hard it is for her to try and fill Squall’s shoes as Commander. “I just wanted to tell you that I got in contact with Garden and they said that they would come here to pick the both of you up. You don’t mind do you?”
“Mind? No, of course not.” To tell the truth, it was the last thing I wanted, but I knew that it would be helpful for Squall, so I acquiesced, putting his best interests at heart.
“Good. Everybody will be so thrilled to see the both of you again. The place hasn’t been the same since you left. Anyway, if you could wait at Obel Lake tomorrow morning, you’ll be picked up as soon as possible.
“Obel Lake? Why so far away?”
“We’ve found that the sight of Garden right outside a town sometimes cause panic amongst the residents. It’s better this way.”
“Alright, we’ll be there.”
“Good. Now I have to go and catch up on some paperwork I’m afraid. I’ll see you tomorrow, though. Bye.”
“Bye, Quistis.” I hung the phone back up, sighing. I was dreading this.
“What did she want?” Squall asked, obviously curious as to the nature of the conversation.
“We’ll meet Garden tomorrow morning and stay there for a while.” He nodded, as if he had been expecting this.
“I guess it might bring something back.”
“That’s what I was hoping.”
“You don’t want to go do you?” It seems that he still knows me fairly well, too.
“Is it that obvious.”
“Even to me.”
“It’s just, well, that was in my past, you know? I just walked out without even saying goodbye. Nobody there will be able to forgive me.”
“Well, I guess that’s just because she did something worse. She didn’t have any other choice but to forgive me for running out. There’s so many other’s there that won’t accept my reasons. They’ll just think I’m selfish for doing that, and they’ll hate me. Four years ago, I made a choice. I chose to leave Garden, leave my friends, and leave my life. It wasn’t that I really wanted to, I just thought it would be better for everyone that way. I can’t go back on that decision now.”
“I don’t blame you for not wanting to stay there, but, couldn’t you just look upon this as a way of getting closure. You still feel guilty about leaving without saying goodbye, right?” I nodded. “So use this opportunity to say goodbye.”
“I don’t want to have to say goodbye to you, though. These last few days have been the happiest I’ve had for a long time.”
“Who says I’ll be staying there?”
“I assumed you’d want to. I mean, they’ll probably offer you the position of Commander back, especially if Garden does help to bring some of your memories back.”
“It doesn’t mean I’ll want to stay there. I feel as if I’ve never even been there before, so I’m sorry, but I just don’t know what I’ll do in the end. I can’t make that decision yet.” I guess that made sense. It was strange that he was clearly feeling less confused that I was. It shouldn’t be like that. I should be the one helping him through this, instead of the other way round. How is it that he can look upon the world with clarity when I feel as if I’ve had a shroud pulled over my eyes. What if everybody at Garden does react badly to me going back? I know that they’ll worship Squall as a returning hero, that was never in question. But me? Maybe they’ll be glad to see me but I doubt it. I’m most afraid of Selphie’s reaction. We were such good friends. She’d always be the one I’d go and talk to. Quistis was always too busy, and you couldn’t get a serious opinion from Zell and Irvine. She was even the one that tried to comfort me after Squall’s supposed death. What must she think of me? I know that I’d have been hurt if she had just left without a word, so I can imagine how she must feel about me. I know that she’s not usually the sort to let anything bring her down, but she’s always relied on her friends. That was what I was supposed to be, a friend. I betrayed her trust, and threw away her friendship. How could she ever accept me back?
“You know, if we’ve got an early morning tomorrow, you should really go to bed and get some sleep,” Squall told me. He must be able to tell how worries I am about all this. “It’ll do you good.” He must have been hoping that it would make me forget about all of my problems.
“Okay, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yeah. Get some rest and you’ll feel much better tomorrow.”
Yeah, right. Something tells me I won’t be able to sleep tonight.
Chapter 16 Insomnia
Emptiness is filling me,
To the point of agony.
Growing darkness taking dawn,
I was me, but now he’s gone.
Metallica, Fade To Black
No matter how hard I try, I just can’t sleep. For some reason, there’s always something holding me back. I was too cold, then too warm, my pillows weren’t comfortable, and then the moonlight, which streamed through the gap in between my curtains was just too bright. There’s nothing that I can do. The longer I stay awake, the more I begin to think about everything that’s been happening, and the more I think about it, the harder it becomes to sleep. The events of the last few days have been playing on my mind so much that I’m not too sure I’ll ever sleep again.
I wonder if he’s sleeping.
All my thoughts seem to lead back to one source…Squall.
What might he be thinking right now? How does he feel about being here?
I can only just begin to comprehend what life’s like for him at the moment, I mean he can’t remember anything about himself. Not a thing. What must it be like to be a person without a past? I guess there can be good points to it. There are countless moments in my life that I just look back on and cringe, I wouldn’t mind forgetting them. But on the other hand, isn’t it the memories that make people, and the shape the way they turn out? We can look back and reminisce on the good times, and learn from those mistakes we made, it’s what makes us who we are.
Does that mean that Squall here right now isn’t really the Squall I knew? Is he a completely different person?
I just don’t know. Even if he recovers all of his memories, he still won’t be the same. He’ll change.
It happened once before, during our trip to Trabia Garden. We were all together in the basketball courts when Irvine started telling us this story about some kids at an orphanage. One by one, they all remembered, I could see the look of recognition form on each of their faces. Eventually, even Squall remembered all about his childhood, about growing up with Seifer and Matron. I have to admit that I felt so left out that day, more than I ever had before. I could accept that I wasn’t a SeeD, and so there were some things that we couldn’t share, but I just couldn’t bare to feel as if I didn’t belong with them. I know it sounds selfish, but I seriously thought of leaving them that day. It was as if I wasn’t a part of anything anymore. They had all grown up together, been friends since they were little, and known each other almost all of their lives. Who was I to intrude on that?
It was my talk with Squall afterwards that changed my mind. Even though he had grown up with them, he had never really got close to any of them since. I felt as if he almost distanced himself from them. Whether or not it was deliberate, I don’t know. When he found out that they had all grown up in the orphanage, I did notice that the distance between them closed slightly, but he was still wasn’t too close to them. Maybe it was because he was supposed to be the leader of the group and he had his own responsibility, or maybe it was because he was used to being the loner. Either way, I felt some sort of connection because neither of us felt like we really belonged anywhere. Soon enough, I began to feel as if I belonged with him. And now?
Now where do we belong?
I still don’t feel like there’s anywhere I should be. I hate this place, I hate my job, before I found Squall again, I could even say that I hated my life.
The worst thing is that I’m afraid it’ll happen to me. They all forgot about their childhoods because of the GFs. I gave myself over to the GFs too, in order that I might be able to use their power. Does that mean that I’ll lose my memory too? What am I going to forget? Am I just going to end up like Squall, someone without a past?
I don’t think I could take that. Not knowing who I was, or where I came from. I wonder how Squall got by in Winhill. He had to live day after day, not knowing anything about himself. How is it that he still seems the same Squall I always knew?
Maybe it’s not just our memories that shape us.
No matter what’s happened, he still seems to be Squall, and I still can’t seem to distance myself from him. Believe me when I say I’ve tried. For so long, I tried to convince myself that, although he might look like Squall, it wasn’t really him. How could it be him if he didn’t know who I was after all?
Maybe that would have offered me a little comfort. It hurts to know that he could forget all that we shared and all that we went through. I know it’s not his fault, and I don’t want to take out my own feelings of disappointment on him, but it’s still a little insulting that our love can’t mean anything to him now.
It used to be everything.
It’s hard enough for me to come to terms with this on my own, how much more difficult is it going to be when we return to Garden. How can I face up to my own fears and my own feelings when the whole world will be watching me? Even worse, I know that they’re going to ask the question.
“Are you and Squall still together?”
I know they’ll ask it. And I’ll have to tell them the truth. I’ll have to tell them that I’m nothing to him now.
It’ll happen all over again. The sideways glances, the looks of pity each time I walked down a hallway. I couldn’t take that last time, and I won’t be able to take it now. I’d rather them hate me for just leaving. I’d rather the hatred blind them so much that they wouldn’t feel sorry for me, than to have to endure the pity of other people who are practically strangers to me.
I’m not sure if I can do it. I mean, going back’s a big step. I’m not sure if I’m ready. Things have just happened so quickly. I wish that I could have more time on my own to sort out my feelings. At the moment, I’m just confused.
Do I still love Squall?
I can’t answer that yet, it’s just too soon. If only Quistis hadn’t come to visit at that particular time. I could have had all the time I wanted. I mean, what was she thinking, practically forcing us to go back to Garden as soon as she could? She didn’t even ask us?
Maybe I’m being too harsh. She was probably so thrilled that Squall was alive, that she could barely contain her excitement and had to have Squall back as soon as possible. I guess I can’t blame her, but it’s not as if I wouldn’t have told them all eventually anyway. This just seems too rushed. I’d have liked to get everything sorted out with Squall first. I mean, I guess at some point, I’m going to have to tell him that I was pregnant, right? He has to know that doesn’t he?
But if he doesn’t remember anything about us, or about that last night we spent together, the one when I was going to tell him, why should he have to know? What if it only complicates more? What if he can’t forgive me for losing his child? I wouldn’t blame him, I can’t even forgive myself.
I really wouldn’t want him to be angry with me, though, not at this stage. I know that there isn’t a chance of our relationship being resurrected, but I’m sure that we can still be friends. It would kill me if the chance I have of restoring the friendship between us was ruined by me being the bearer of bad news. For now, I think I have to keep the truth from him. I hate lying, but I think it’s what I have to do. I know I would feel worse if I lost him completely. So, it’s for the best, right?
Besides, he’s got enough on his plate as it is. He’ll be back at Garden in a few hours, probably being worshipped as a returning hero, whereas I would feel lonely, out of place, and ostracised. I know that none of them will forgive me, but I also know that I have to go back there now, even if it is only for Squall’s sake.
This is a great chance for him to recover some of his lost memories, to uncover some more pieces of the puzzle. Maybe he’ll discover a little bit more about the real Squall Leonhart. Maybe we all will.
I know that, today, whatever will happen, will happen, and I can only hope and pray that it’s not all a complete catastrophe. I could really do with some good news for a change.