Songs of Yesterday part 3
Chapter 17, Hope
Because nothing lasts forever,
And we both know hearts can change.
And it's hard to hold a candle,
In the cold November rain.
Guns N Roses, November Rain.
Diary of Selphie Tilmitt
You know what?
Today, I got some good news, the first piece I've had in so many years.
I can't believe it, Squall is actually alive, and he's coming here. I'm still in shock. I mean, I used to dream about this moment all the time. That day, four years ago ruined everything. I always used to think, “what if that day never happened?”
And now? Now maybe I can find out, we all can. Everything can just go back to the way it was before. We can just forget about the pain and the hurt of the last four years, and get on with living the lives we had all imagined would happen after we defeated Ultimecia.
How young and foolish we all were back then. We thought we were invincible, we thought that nothing could defeat us. How wrong we were.
Squall's death ended everything.
Nothing was ever the same again. We all changed, some of us beyond recognition.
Rinoa was devastated. None of us could even begin to imagine to what extent the pain and the grief was eating away at her. She became so withdrawn. She hardly ever spoke, she didn't eat, she didn't sleep. I tried to help her, but nothing I could do could ease the pain she felt inside. It hurt us all to see her change so much overnight. She became a completely different person, one that we didn't know and could never hope to understand. I can't say that I expected her to leave, but was I surprised?
After all, what did she have left for her at Garden? She had lost the one she loved, and in a roundabout way, she had lost her friends too, changed beyond all recognition to her. If only we had known what was going through her head. Maybe we could have helped her. Maybe we could have seen that she needed our support. But we were all too wrapped up in our own grief to see what was happening to her.
Quistis became so distant, preferring to immerse herself in her work as Commander, than to even think about what had happened. I don't think she spoke to any of us for weeks. It was as if she was avoiding us. Even now, the only time she speaks to me is when she when she has to, and it's always about business. I hope now that all that will change. It was she who told me the news about Squall, and I could sense that something had changed within her. She seemed…calmer, as if knowing that Squall was still alive had brought some form of peace to her soul.
To begin with, I wouldn't believe Quistis. I mean, how could Squall still be alive. I know it's true that we never found his body, but we all saw Seifer, lying dead, riddled with gunshot wounds. When we found Squall's Lionheart in the sand nearby we all jumped to the same conclusion. Squall and Seifer had fought to the death.
But Squall is still alive. So what did really happen that day? Maybe he will be able to shed some light on it.
I still remember the day of Seifer's funeral. There were only two of us there to watch as he was buried as a traitor to SeeD. I thought one of us should be there, I'm not sure why. Maybe because he dedicated so much of his life to SeeD, or maybe because I needed to make sure that he was really dead and could never harm any of us again. Ellone was the only other person present, and she wept for the body that was laid out in the casket. At the time, I didn't understand why she was there and I thought she was foolish for caring about Seifer. I don't think that she believed he had killed Squall. Maybe she was the only one of us to open our eyes and see what was right in front of us. It wasn't as if we had any proof to convict him, but we passed judgement anyway. Maybe none of us had forgiven him for the Ultimecia incident, and we were still holding it against him. I know that I was. It was then that I realised that I owed him an apology, so I decided to go and visit him.
Today was the first day in a long time that I had visited that graveyard. On many occasions I had visited Squall's highly decorated grave and completely ignored the somewhat simpler one that I had always walked past. There were never any flowers on this grave, and it seemed badly tended to. I brushed away the moss that had covered the stone and read the slightly worn inscription.
That was all it said. There was no testament to what kind of man he was, there wasn't even a date on it. There was just that simple, two-word inscription. It was all we had thought he deserved. We might have been so wrong about him. I couldn't really think of anything to say to him, though, that could sum up how I was feeling.
That was all that I could bear to say.
It was only after I had returned that I thought about telling the others. I doubted that Quistis would have told Zell and Irvine about Squall. We may not have spoken much over the last few years but they still deserved to know.
It was Zell that I contacted first. It took me a long while to track him down, but eventually, I found out that he was staying in Fisherman's Horizon whilst on a mission. These missions that he was undertaking were really far beneath him. Most of them were simple jobs like spying on someone's husband to find out if they were cheating. Only cadets were usually sent on missions that were a complete waste of time, but Zell accepted anything that would allow him to travel the world in search of Squall. I admired him so much for never giving up hope. I only hope that one day, I might be able to have such faith as he has.
He was so overjoyed when I told him the truth, that Squall was still alive. He gave up his mission there and then to return home. He should be here soon. I only hope he can forgive us all for giving up. If there was one thing we should have learned from fighting Ultimecia, it was that there is always hope. Zell didn't forget that. I can't wait for him to come back, I've felt so alone here for the last four years. It would be nice to have some company again.
It would be even better to have Irvine back again.
I've felt so cold ever since he returned to Galbadia. After Rinoa left, I needed his support more than ever. He left with me with nobody to talk to and no shoulder to cry on. I never even really found out why he left. He told me it was because there was just too much sadness for him to stay. Is that really the reason? Could he no longer feel any happiness when he looked me in the eye?
I guess I have nobody to blame but myself. It wasn't as if he didn't give any me any warning. He started drinking more than he used to, going to bars every night, and staying in hotels instead of coming back our room. I can't count the number of nights that I slept alone in a cold, empty bed. Maybe if I had tried to talk to him, and asked how he was feeling, he wouldn't have left. Instead, I just spent my time alone and crying, waiting for things to return to the way they were before. I changed so much during that time, everybody told me so. I just felt so miserable, as if my life ended when he left.
There was no Squall, no Rinoa, no Irvine and I barely saw Zell and Quistis. I was all alone.
That, more than anything is what I want to change. I just want the six of us to all be happy again, and to enjoy each other's company. With Squall coming back, maybe we can do that. Maybe everything would be okay.
Irvine seemed really shocked to hear from me, almost as if he never expected to speak to me again. I asked him how everything was, and it turns out that he had been promoted and was now the assistant headmaster of Galbadia Garden. And he never even called to tell me!
I have to admit, I was surprised by his news. He seemed to be the least likely person to be in any position of responsibility. I was even more surprised that he had accepted the promotion. He must have matured so much in the years since he left. The Irvine I knew would never become an assistant headmaster. He just didn't take life seriously enough to want a job like that. This was a different Irvine from the one that I knew four years ago.
On the one hand, I do want to meet him again, to talk about everything that has happened, and to find out how much he has changed. We've got so much catching up to do after all. But on the other hand, I'm not sure if I'm ready to speak to him again, and to face up to my past. With Squall returning, it looks like I'll have to face up to everything I'd rather forget about. The few weeks before Irvine left were the worst of my life, and it looks like I'm going to be forced to relive them. This time, I'll have to talk to him. He owes me an answer.
I just want to know why.
Chapter 18, Echoes
And no-one sings me lullabies,
And no-one makes me close my eyes,
And so I throw the windows wide,
And call to you across the sky.
Echoes, Pink Floyd.
“Reflect on your childhood.”
“Rinoa,” I screamed as the abomination which stood before me struck out at her, knocking her to the floor. I unleashed my wrath on the creature, not letting it come any nearer to her. I lashed out, doing everything in my power to protect the one I cared about so much.
What is this? What am I seeing?
“Squall. It's…it's alright,” she said, tentatively getting back on her feet, and drawing her weapon once more.
What the hell is this thing we're fighting? Was it human once?
I could hear the shouts of the others behind me. “She's weakening, Squall. She's weakening.”
She? So that thing was female? Could it be her?
I kept glancing back at Rinoa. There was no way that I was going to let anybody hurt her.
I struck out at 'her' once more. “You caused her so much pain,” I screamed as I raked my blade through her skin.
Caused who pain? Did I mean Rinoa? How had this thing hurt Rinoa?
It was then that Rinoa stepped forward and began to fight. She screamed something incomprehensible to me as she fired her projectile, aiming right for the heart. The look in her eyes terrified me and chilled me to my very core. It was one of total hatred.
But that's not like Rinoa.
Rinoa attacked mercilessly, almost as if she were possessed. The creature was being pushed backwards now, relentlessly by the continuous onslaught that she was facing.
“It will not wait…”
I stepped up to Rinoa's side, and placed one hand on her shoulder. Immediately, her gaze softened, and she returned to some sort of normality, her momentary lapse of reason forgotten. I felt stronger knowing that she was beside me, and I knew that our victory was near.
“No matter how hard you hold on…”
“Squall, finish the sorceress off.” I could hear a female voice scream this towards me, but I couldn't pinpoint the source. Looking around, all I could see was Rinoa and the sorceress.
So it is Ultimecia then? This is what happened. But why was Rinoa killing a fellow sorceress?
“It escapes you…”
This time, Ultimecia was rasping, clearly losing her strength. With what power she had left, she reached for Rinoa.
“No,” I screamed, as I leapt forward, ready to give my own life to protect her. I unleashed a devastating series of blows on the creature, ones from which she would never recover.
Those were the last words she muttered before the world turned black.
I sat bolt upright, sweat dripping down my forehead. Was what I had just seen real?
That was Ultimecia, right? The sorceress? Rinoa had told me that we had defeated her, but it all seemed too incredible to be true.
I needed to talk to her, to ask her about what I had just seen. There were still so many things that I couldn't understand. I mean, Rinoa said that she was a sorceress, and yet, I just saw her fighting Ultimecia. That didn't make any sense to me. I guess that there must have been good sorceresses like Rinoa had mentioned, otherwise, could I ever have fallen in love with her? I didn't think so.
Still, there was so much I needed to know.
Has she always been a sorceress? What made her different from Ultimecia? What's it like being one of them?
The questions were endless.
“Squall?” Rinoa stepped into the room, her dressing gown wrapped around her. “What's wrong?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“Just a dream,” I muttered, secretly wondering if that was really the case.
“What did you see?” she asked, sitting down beside me, a concerned look upon her face.
“Ultimecia. At least, I think that was what I saw.” After all, it could just as easily have been your average nightmare. I mean, losing her, that's the worst thing that could happen, right? Maybe I'm just afraid that something will take her away, and then who will be there for me? Rinoa knew me better than anyone, at least I think she did. She's the best person to teach me about myself. Without her I'm lost.
“We were fighting against her, you and I. At least, you were the only one I could see. I could hear voices but it was as if that was all they were.” I struggled, trying to remember what else had occurred. “She tried to kill you.”
“She tried to kill us all, Squall.”
“I know, but she seemed to want you dead, in particular.” Rinoa sighed, looking despondent.
“I guess you don't remember then.”
Rinoa, there's so much I don't remember.
“She controlled me, Squall.” Looking up at her, I could see the fear in her eyes even now, many years after Ultimecia had finally been defeated. Obviously, she still wasn't exactly comfortable with this subject, almost as if it held some silent terror for her. “For a time, I was part of her, and she was part of me.” Her voice had begun to shake with fear. “It was terrible, Squall. She…she made me hurt you.” And with that, her resolve wavered, as she collapsed into a fit of tears, four years worth of anguish flooding out in that one instant.
“Rinoa,” I whispered, guiltily. Am I doomed to always cause her pain and heartache?
This is all my fault, I always say the wrong thing.
Can she ever forgive me for all that I've done?
I didn't know what to say to make it better. Maybe words could never truly express how sorry I felt. And besides, I'd probably just screw up again by saying something really insensitive and inappropriate. One thing I've discovered about myself is that I seem to do that a lot.
So what do I do?
I can't just leave her crying can I? As much as I'd like to, I know I can't. Unfortunately, nobody else is going to come along and talk to her, comfort her and make her feel better.
Maybe that's for the best, I mean, it should be me doing this, right? I'm the one who caused her all this pain, so I guess I'm the one who should face the consequences.
That settled, I did the only thing that I knew I could. I slowly put my arms around her and pulled her closer to me, until her head was resting on my shoulder. I could feel her tears gently soaking through my shirt onto my skin, but I didn't care. Somehow, it just felt right that she should be here in my arms.
That's what these feelings are.
Echoes of a past long forgotten.
I lost track of how long we just sat there, never moving, but eventually, the tears and the pain subsided and the world fell silent. But still, I didn't let go, I couldn't let go. No matter how hard I tried, I was trapped there with her. No matter how many times my mind instructed me to move, my body just wouldn't listen.
“Squall. I'm so sorry,” she whispered, almost as if she was afraid of disturbing the peace and quiet of Deling City at four in the morning.
What did she have to be sorry for?
“It was terrible, I didn't mean for any of it to happen. She made me hurt you, and all I could do was watch. I was seeing everything through my own eyes, but I had no control. She forced me to see the look of agony in your face as I flung you across the room. She took pleasure in it.” She spat that last phrase out with sheer venom. It seemed that there were still some ghosts from her past that would continue to haunt her for a long time to come. “She took pleasure in hurting the ones I loved.”
All of this was too difficult for me to comprehend. I knew that Ultimecia had somehow controlled her, but I wasn't sure about the rest. It was so frustrating that I couldn't remember any of this. Just what was Rinoa forced to do?
“But even though I hurt you, and caused so much trouble, you were there for me. You saved my life when I thought all was lost.”
“And…and you accepted me for what I had become. A sorceress.”
For what she had become? So she wasn't always like this?
“And I never even thanked you.”
Rinoa? I don't understand.
“And now, I don't know if it's too late.”
Rinoa, help me understand.
“You probably don't remember any of this, so you probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about, but…thank you. Thank you anyway.” I didn't know how to reply to this, so I just pulled her closer, as much for my comfort as for hers. I was so confused. Did Ultimecia want Rinoa dead because she had once been a part of her? Is that how Rinoa got her powers? Is that why this all still upsets her?
“Squall, did you hate me?” she asked, seemingly afraid.
Why is she asking this? Why would I hate her?
“Did you hate me for what I did?”
Rinoa, please. I don't remember.
“What did you do?”
“When she controlled me, I…I freed the sorceress Adel from space. I nearly brought chaos to the whole world, and yet, you never said anything. You never mentioned it again. You just talked about the future. I thought that it was because you couldn't forgive me for the past.”
How am I supposed to answer?
I didn't know. I didn't want to lie to her, and just say, “of course not,” but at the same time what if the truth would hurt? How can I know what my feelings were during a time that I don't even remember?
She may have been asking the impossible, but she still wanted an answer. She looked up at me, moving her head from my shoulder for the first time, her tear-stained eyes begging me for an answer I knew I couldn't give. At least I thought I couldn't.
Something stuck in my mind that I had written.
She could become the world's enemy and I just wouldn't care.
I had actually written that after Ultimecia had possessed her. See, I couldn't possibly have despised her, or even held anything against her. There was my answer.
“Rinoa,” I began, looking directly into her eyes, hoping to show her how truthful I was being, “I never hated you for a moment.” For a second, she seemed unsure of how to react. She was almost frozen to the spot.
“Thank you,” she whispered, obviously relieved. “I really needed to be sure.”
“There's no need to worry about it anymore.” That was the truth. For once, it seemed as if I wasn't the only one still searching for answers about the past.
“But, what about the others? I never asked them how they felt. Every single one of them had been trained to kill sorceresses ever since they were young. They must have felt something against me.”
It was difficult enough remembering how I felt towards her, never mind remembering how everybody else felt. But still, if she moved me enough to accept her for what she was, I'm sure that nobody else would hold it against her.
“If I didn't care, I'm sure that nobody else would.”
“Maybe you're right,” she sighed. “I guess I'll find out for sure later today.” She seemed, I don't know…apprehensive…about all of this. I'm sure that she doesn't want to go back to Garden, and not just because it was in her past. I'm a part of her history and she doesn't seem too anxious to get away from me. There's something else holding her back. Fear, perhaps.
Well, whatever it was, I got the feeling that she wasn't ready to share it with me just yet. Maybe she will when the time is right. Either way, I'm not about to push her into telling me. I'll wait until she's ready.
“I'd better go and get ready,” she muttered as she began to leave. All this talk of Garden really seemed to get her down. Why does even mentioning the place cause her to react like this?
The look on her face as she turned to walk out of the door told me everything I needed to know.
After that, I just couldn't go back to sleep. Never before had I wondered about my feelings for her as I did now. Holding her like that just seemed so…natural. It was as if something just clicked. I know that I had written about being in love with her, but before now, I still doubted it at the very back of my mind. But when she was in my arms, something stirred in my heart. I'm not sure what, all I know is that it was something, and that something was indescribable.
I opened the bag of my belongings that I had brought from Winhill, and removed the small, velvet box from within it. This had been troubling me for some time now. Just before I left, Maron had asked to talk to me alone, and he had presented me with this. According to him, it had been in my pocket when he found me, but he had never given it back in case it just made me long for the life I had forgotten.
I undid the clasp on the box and lifted the lid so that I could run my finger over the smooth, perfectly formed diamond that sat atop the platinum band.
Was this for Rinoa?
I felt sure that it was. But why I had it I wasn't sure. Maybe it was her birthday, or an anniversary or something. Or even…nah, there's no way I'd do that is there? I quickly removed that thought from my head.
I'm sure I'll remember eventually, I have to. It's just killing me that I can't ask Rinoa. I mean, what if it was meant to be a surprise? It'd just be way too awkward. We're not together now, and I don't want the people at Garden getting any ideas.
And besides, aren't I making things difficult enough for Rinoa as it is? It must be difficult enough for her to accept me as it is, I don't need to go and remind her of what we had at one time. It'd just bring back painful memories, and I've caused her too much grief as it is. This is just something I have to figure out on my own.
And to think, life used to be so simple.
Now, there's so much I have to figure out on my own. I mean, do I stay at Garden, or not?
Part of me thinks that it's a great idea. I've lived there for most of my life, so it would make sense that being there would help me remember. But a part of me is saying that it's not my home anymore, and I have a duty to Rinoa. She's helped me out so much that I really don't know if I can just abandon her. One things for sure, I know that she won't want to stay in Garden for very long, so I have to make a decision quickly.
I guess I can't worry about it too much now. I can't decide until I've at least been there, can I?
Well, I suppose that it makes today a very important day.
I only hope I can make the right call.
Chapter 19, Drowning
I think I'm drowning,
I want to break the spell,
That you've created.
You will be the death of me.
Time Is Running Out, Muse.
“Rinoa. I never hated you for a moment.”
It was all I had been able to think of this morning, that one little phrase running over and over again, relentlessly, throughout my mind.
Did he really mean that?
I don't mean to doubt him, I really don't. I mean, I trusted him…I do trust him. At least, I think I do.
It's just, well…I can't be certain of anything anymore. I feel as if I'm back to being the frightened little girl, who would sit night after night at her bedroom window, waiting for her mother to come back to her, yet deep down, knowing it was hopeless. I'm all alone in the world again.
I realise that that may sound a little strange. I should be over the moon, right? Every night for the last four years, I dreamed that he returned to me. He just walked straight back into my life, I welcomed him with open arms, and everything went back to the way it was before, as if none of the last few years had ever happened.
Why can't reality ever be that simple?
I know that he's here with me, but, for some reason, I know I'm still alone. I'm alone, fighting in the dark, fighting to regain something of my past.
But I know I'm losing. There's nothing I can do. No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to hold onto it. My past, it's slipping away from me, I can't stop it. Either I let it go completely, let go of everything that I ever held dear to me, and become somebody else, or I can carry on fighting the losing battle, letting myself drown in the sorrows of my past.
No matter what I choose, I lose a part of myself.
Worse still, I'm going to end up losing him.
After all that has happened, after all that I've felt and all that I've done, I know that I can't go back to just being friends.
“Rinoa? Are you even listening to me?”
It was only then that I realised how deep in thought I must have been, as by now, the tone in Squall's voice was one of great annoyance.
“Sorry,” I replied, sheepishly. I hadn't meant to ignore him, it's just, well…there are other things on my mind at the moment.
“You've been like this all morning. Aren't you going to tell me why?”
“I'm just tired, that's all. You woke me up pretty early.” From the look on his face, I could tell that he knew I was lying, but, thankfully, he didn't pursue the matter any further, and so we walked on towards Obel Lake in complete silence. However, this wasn't the comfortable silence from very early this morning. This was something different, it was…well…awkward. I could feel that he wanted to say something, anything to break the ice. It reminded me of the first moment I met Squall after the graduation ball. He walked into the train carriage, noticed that he would be working for me, and that was it. I don't think I even managed to make eye contact with him for about a week afterwards. Even when we were arguing, he wouldn't look at me, almost as if setting his eyes upon me would make him want to back down. That was what had given me hope back then, that maybe he didn't just find me a nuisance. But now I just think he feels awkward because there's nothing to say anymore.
He has some idea of what was once between us, and I'm sure he knows that I still cling to that idea.
So what can he say to me without feeling awkward? He must think I'm still in love with him and he must be so embarrassed about it. If only I could have hidden my feelings a little better, maybe he'd have found it easier to talk to me. I mean, I still don't know what these feelings are myself, all I know is that they're there. It would have been much safer to hide them until I'd figured out what they actually meant, but I'm not one for hiding my emotions. I'm too straightforward a person.
I guess I'll never know. In a matter of minutes, Garden will be here.
And so will the beginning of the end.
His home will always be in Garden, and mine never will be again.
Glancing over at him, I noticed that he seemed somewhat different now that we had arrived at the meeting place. There was a look of anticipation on his face, certainly, but I got the impression that it was mingled with something else. Fear, perhaps?
No, it can't be. There's nothing for him to fear. Garden is his home, and he'll be welcomed back like an all-conquering hero, of that I'm sure. Maybe he's just anxious to see everybody again. As far as I know, he has very little memory of them, he only knows what I've told him and what he's read in his journal. Will he even recognise their faces?
If not, then I don't want to have to see the look on Selphie and Zell's faces when they meet him again for the first time. It would hurt them both to be forgotten, I know.
Then again, I'm not sure if I really want to see anybody there again. I'm so afraid of their reactions that I'm really tempted not to go. It would be so easy just to wait here until Squall leaves and then go home and try to forget everything and build myself a new life.
“You're thinking of staying, aren't you,” he asked.
How the hell did he know what I was thinking?
Am I really that obvious?
This was one aspect of Squall that always used to amaze me. For someone who would never express many emotions, he was certainly a good judge of other people's, even if he didn't always let on that he knew how they were feeling. And it seems that he can still read me like a book, even if it's not at all like he was to be so forward with his questions.
“Rinoa, answer me.”
“Yes,” I whispered, not wanting to lie anymore. I didn't expect a reply. I thought that he would just accept this, and then we could sit in yet more uncomfortable silence before it was time for him to leave.
“Please, Rinoa. I don't want you to go.”
What? Is he really saying this?
I had been so taken aback that I had no clue of how to reply. Instead I just sat there, my head in a daze.
“Please, Rinoa. You can't leave. I feel like…like I'm getting to know you. I guess I mean, I'm getting to know you again.”
“Squall. Garden's your home, not mine. You have plenty of friends there that will help you, I promise.”
“So, you're not going to help me anymore, is that it? You're just going to palm me off on somebody else at the first opportunity you get,” he shouted.
Is that what he thinks of me? Can't he see what I'm going through?
“It would be better for the both of us if I stayed.”
“You mean it would be better for you if you stayed here and didn't have to face whatever it is that you seem so afraid of?”
I froze. I hadn't expected that.
Just how does he know that I'm afraid?
“You can't run away for ever, Rinoa. You showed me that when you took me away from Winhill and helped me find my past. I've got no one else to turn to.” I looked into his eyes, and saw that every word he had uttered was the truth. More than that, there was something that still burned in those eyes, something that I hadn't seen for what felt like an age to a heart as frozen as mine.
“Rinoa, please. I need you.”
He needs me? He really does?
Was this for real? Did he really say those words, or was it just the trick of an overactive imagination.
“Rinoa, dammit, say something,” he screamed in frustration.
No, it was real. Those words were real. And with them, I felt the first glimmer of hope return to me, and, unwittingly, I found myself replying to him.
“I need you too.”
Chapter 20, Reunion
Life has been unfaithful,
And it all promised so much.
La Tristessa Durera,
Scream to a sigh.
Manic Street Preachers, La Tristessa Durera.
What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say now?
“I need you too.” That's what she said to me. “I need you too.”
How do I reply to that without sounding incredibly needy? The last thing I want is for her to start getting any ideas. I've got enough to deal with now as it is, without having to sort out things between us. Believe me, that is not a discussion that I want to be having any time soon. I just want to figure out who I am without having anything else to complicate matters.
So why did I have to go and tell her that I need her? Why?
I really wish I could take back that one little sentence. Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I was lying or anything. I do need her, I just don't want her to think that I need her because I still love her. I need her because she knows who I was. She knew me better than anybody else, meaning that she's the perfect person to help me figure out my past.
And…I don't know. I feel like I need her there, just because I know her. I remember glimpses of my past concerning her, and even now she doesn't feel like a complete stranger. I just don't want to go into Garden without a clue as to who anybody is. I need her because I'm relying on her to be my guide.
It's at times like these that I make myself feel sick. I'm always relying on other people, not matter how hard I try to be self-reliant. From what I've heard about my past, and from what I've read in my journal, I depended on my friends. I depended on Maron back in Winhill. If he hadn't have found me and nursed me back to health, I wouldn't be alive today. And now I'm almost entirely dependent on Rinoa.
Without her, I'd be lost.
But why did I have to admit that I needed her? It just came out, I hadn't meant to say it. It's almost like I suddenly develop Tourette's whenever she's around. I can't help saying these things. And I know that it'll only make things more difficult in the future. She'll think that I want us to be together again, and…well…we're not going to get back together. I'm almost sure of it. I can't be sure that it's what I want, and it just wouldn't be fair to her. I might not know much about myself, but for some reason, I know that I'd only end up hurting her again. I couldn't live with myself if I did that again.
This is just the way that it has to be.
It wasn't long until Garden finally arrived. I have to admit, the sight of the military school floating above the Plains of Galbadia on its anti-gravity rings was breathtaking. I found myself gazing upwards in awe. Whatever I had expected about Garden, this was definitely not it.
“Quite a shock after living in Winhill isn't it?” Rinoa chuckled, obviously amused by the expression on my face.
I had to admit, she had a point. The place was so technologically-backwards that it was deemed a great event if so much as a car drove past. I had been shocked at the sudden change in scenery when I first came to Deling, but nothing had prepared me for this.
“I'm sorry I even thought about staying,” Rinoa admitted, as Garden hovered and lowered itself to the ground.
“You don't have to be sorry. I understand.” That's a lie. I don't understand. I know she's afraid but she won't tell me why. Maybe I could be a bit more understanding if she'd just tell me the truth. Maybe then, I wouldn't have felt so betrayed when she said that she had considered not going with me.
“Are you ready?” she asked me, motioning towards the entrance.
I took a deep breath. Well, it's now or never.
“Welcome back, Squall,” Quistis announced as I entered Garden. I took a quick look around at my surroundings. Corridors, filled with lush trees all leading to an elevator at a central hub which was surrounded by water as clear as the sky above Winhill. This wasn't what I had expected. I was stood in a military school. Where were the harsh, enclosed spaces and hospital-white walls? Just behind Quistis, there were a further three people. I had to assume that they were my former friends, and I was immediately glad that I had read every passage in my journal about them, in the hope that I might at least be able to recognise them when I got here. Unfortunately for me, there wasn't much information on them. Most of my writing seemed to focus on one person in particular, and that wasn't going to help me now. One was a short woman, with brown, shoulder length hair, and a grin that spread across the whole of her face. I saw her turn to the man next to her, and whisper something in his ear. Fortunately for me, she clearly had no concept of the word quiet, and I could hear what she was saying.
“See, Irvy. It's really him. He's here.”
I guessed that this must have been Selphie, if she was that happy to see me back. I remember one particular adjective in my journal that always seemed to be describing her…hyperactive. That description seemed to fit, as she was hopping from one foot to the other in excitement. It seemed as though she just couldn't keep still, and that matched what I knew of her personality.
She had called the man next to her Irvy. I guessed this meant he was Irvine. From what I had written, I presume that he and Selphie were a couple, but now that I saw them, I wasn't so sure. He appeared to be keeping his distance from her, and was repeatedly stealing glances at her when he believed she wasn't looking. The surprising thing about him, though, was that he was wearing a uniform denoting an identical rank to Quistis. I was under the impression that she was the leader of Garden. How could anyone be equal in rank to her? Although he certainly looked the part of a Commander, with his short, neatly cropped hair and his towering frame, but I can't help thinking that something's missing. He doesn't have the air of authority that Quistis seems to emanate so effortlessly. She is certainly the most believable Commander.
By process of elimination, Zell must be the person stood to Quistis' left. His reaction seemed to be one of complete and utter disbelief, almost as if he had expected this whole thing to turn out to be a childish prank. He was dressed more casually than the others, wearing jeans and a t-shirt as opposed to a uniform. He did, however, sport a pair of gauntlets on his arms, the only giveaway sign that he wasn't just an average civilian.
There were more people stood behind these four, but I had no clue as to their identity. But then, without Rinoa or my journal, I wouldn't have been able to put names to any of their faces bar Quistis', and I only recognised her because of her previous visit.
That frightened me somewhat. I just couldn't work out who everyone was.
There was something that I found more worrying, however.
I didn't recognise this place, even though I had grown up here.
Welcome back. That was what Quistis had said.
That felt wrong. It was as if I had never been here before in my life.