Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Disclaimer: The featured artwork for this chapter is entitled Aeris and was created by Deviant Artist RobasArel. All rights belong to the artist, and the work is used graciously with permission here.
“I am not afraid to die before my time so long as I’m not dead inside…”
-November Project “Are You Sleeping?”
It was beautiful morning again. The waves woke her up as they always did making gentle love to the shore. Aeris’s face burned with blush for she’d been having a similar dream. Though the beginnings might differ, they all ended the same with his emerald igniting her sight. Moisture trickled down her temples doing nothing to cool the heat there, but the gulls were now calling, and there was no one to see the flower maid’s chagrin.
Dearest friend, what do you want? I’m alive and well in paradise.
Granted she had to make her own breakfast, but Aeris never minded such work. She did mind the fact it was only for her, but she’d grown used to that, as well. This house is too big, don’t you think, dearest friend? Though it wasn’t too hard to keep clean. She had only herself and nothing but time, but she often just found herself wandering. From room to room as the sound of the sea followed, sighing to find them still empty.
Breakfast with coffee was taken by the window where the breeze sought to tease her long hair. She liked the hush of it through chestnut waves…it reminded her of gentle fingers. Swirling ends of the dark brew in her mug, Aeris frowned before drinking it down. The beach called her now, but first she’d clean up. Routine made the loneliness bearable. She could visit her neighbors if she wanted some chaos to her simple day to day. They both had children, but liked to drink wine when the little ones were abed. The flower girl recalled walking home a bit buzzed, the path stumbling down a few steps. Never in Midgar had she dared to imbibe, but even in the dead of night, she could’ve woven through the Whispers. Her guardian had told her that it was safe, and Aeris held to his words like pure gold.
She never wore shoes when she walked on the beach for she loved shore and surf on her toes. In fact there were days when her feet were sole shod in a skein of shimmering sand. Her floor suffered for it, but that’s why there were brooms to clean up a careless maid’s mess. There would sometimes be young ones fishing the shallows on weekends or holidays. They were always polite in that small town way, and Aeris would smile as she strolled by.
When the morning grew late, regardless of the cover, the Cetra took refuge inside. She’d made the mistake once of thinking her sunscreen would be enough to avoid a burn. Her skin soft and pale crisped up like a leaf and it hurt just to blink or breathe. She could just imagine low, chastising voice, as his very touch drew heat away. It’d be worth it, dear friend, this pain I’m in now to summon him back to my side… Pursed lips stilled that thought for she had resolved to live here and to be truly happy. The first was accomplished the second…well joy is a relative term at the most.
Really shoes had become an extraneous thing she only used when walking in town. Her boots had finally fallen apart so she sought out a store to replace. The saleswoman had taken one look at them and nearly fainted in fright. Dregs of the slums surely clung to her soles, tracked through this second tier place. Aeris bit her lip, but made herself remember the Whispers were not like Midgar. Though the thought is the same without the action. I suppose people will never change… That slumped the maid’s shoulders as she sat on the bench as though awaiting execution. The maid was half-bullied and bought several pairs, and it wasn’t until she was nearly home, Aeris recalled that none were new boots. Upon arrival Aeris doubly found that her old ones were not in the bags, and she somehow suspected the woman had snatched them to be unceremoniously burned.
After her beach walk, sometimes she’d venture to the Chatham for lunch. Sitting in their seat by the window side, lavender tea on her tongue to recall. If their server were there, she’d come over regardless if she had Aeris’s table or not. Refilling her tea with bland pleasantries, but never asking of him. In such a small town with just enough time, one gets to know everyone. There were her neighbors: Myrna and Nell, the former who loved red wine. The other, tart Nelly, with her five children and a husband who made her scoff. There was also the fisherman they’d met that first day. Hal, that’s what his name was again, and once a week, there was a farmer’s market where everything lately looked fresh. Aeris soft grinned, but said not one word. She was content to be known as the pretty young maid who’d arrived under strange circumstances…and of course it took no time at all for her flowers to find her here.
It had really started with a trip to the bank, and that was another story. The house was full paid for and she had no real bills, save the phone, which felt more than half foolish. I don’t even have his number, she thought. He doesn’t even have a phone! But still she had one and would pick it up sometimes for the monotone note in her ear. Imagination made play to her punching true melody, then a ring and low voice on the end…
When she walked out her door before her front porch they were growing in droves from the sand. White lilies and roses. What she’d had, what he’d called her…the color of moonlight and ash. Her heart overpowered the sigh of the sea and even the raucous gulls. Dearest friend…what is all of this? Are these my flowers from the slums? Aeris let her gaze sweep across wind swaying blossoms. I suppose I’ll need a basket. Then the Cetra smiled so sad, but brightened as she walked through the town. She’d have a way to make money, but that thought soon faltered as she saw the abundance of blooms. Of differing types and manifold colors, but the Whispers were washed in fair flowers. There were even window boxes as if they were expected, as if people had known they would come, and at the cemetery the graves wore crowns the dead could only envy.
With a sigh Aeris stepped into the bank, that thought dashed though she still had to smile. I would rather have flowers blooming for all then sell them to rue below. It may not be practical, but I’m sure I’ll find something…something that I can do. She was juggling these thoughts when she heard her balance and a very rude, “What?” escaped.
“Um, well…” The nervous teller leaned forward, adjusting his glasses as he squinted at the screen. He laid a finger below the long figure, tracing across as he read.
“How is that possible?” Aeris demanded, her face turning the color of frost.
“Well, it seems there was a large deposit.” The man hid behind his screen. “A…very large one,” he amended.
“Can you tell me when?” She’d no need to ask whom. They wouldn’t remember and the culprit was clear. Even the answer was not unexpected…it was the day he’d disappeared.
“So long as you’re with me Aeris, you’ll never want nor need…”
Am I still with you then? Are you still with me? Her stomach dropped to her toes. “I-I’m sorry,” she stammered half expecting low voice to say, “Never apologize.” But the teller only nodded relieved and asked if she wanted to make a withdrawal.
“No, I’m fine. I was just checking the balance to make sure I had enough…” Her voice trailed away for “enough” wasn’t the word. She’d never need worry again. Aeris could buy her own shop if she pleased and give flowers away to her joy. Salt burned her eyes so she turned away swift, thanking the man before taking her leave.
Dearest friend, the nights are worse. The nights are made for memory…the shadows grew tall and could’ve held him as she wished he was holding her now. If that pain grew too great, the ocean would call and Aeris would answer the murmuring sea. Speckled with stars and the all changing moon, the waves taunted her with their caps, but careless sea foam failed to match the silver in her mind. She could never forget, but there was something she had to augment her memory. That terrible day when they had sidestepped and she feared he had wanted her life. It had fluttered down from the heavens, a feather blacker than mourning’s threads. Longer than her hand, it mocked starless skies and would’ve made night as white. The fronds were so soft and smelled just like him, vanilla attended by frost.
Sitting in her brown dress on the edge of the tide, Aeris let it lap over her feet. Her house rose behind, the ocean before, while she dwelled in between. With arms wrapped around her high pulled knees, the Cetra wished the wet were just spray. She looked up at the stars and smiled then, wondering if the northern lights lit his path.
“One day will come another who’ll be worthy of your love.”
That’s the only lie you told me, Sephiroth, because “one” already did… The night breeze was colder and she had no coat, but the flower girl wanted the chill. If she shut her eyes, the spray was ice and the sand was snow beneath. It’s where he is and maybe he’s found her. Maybe he’s found her at last. She shivered for if so his last task would start, the darkest of them all. Suddenly frightened and remembering monsters, Aeris hurried back to her house. Once inside, she judged herself foolish, but it took warm tea to steady her hands.
Every morning she expected to wake back in the slums. She hadn’t been rescued by her murderer. She hadn’t been saved from the dark. She’d never been picked up in the strongest of arms and borne so swiftly away. She most certainly hadn’t seen grief in endless emerald eyes…and surely love could not be true, his broken heart that had made it so pure. Her innocent one that bound the seams of what was torn together. It was absurd. It was impossible…it was nothing but the truth. She could always hear it if she stilled, that powerful beat so sad, and Aeris thought of him every day despite her heartache to the memory. There was always that hope that one day she would turn, and there he’d be before. Sorrow and beauty wrapped into one, as silver lined around leather black.
Dearest friend, she tried once more, but she knew there would only be silence. Its presence was always in the Cetra’s mind, its hum of life in her very soul. Every flower that bloomed, every grain of sand proclaimed the infinite dance, but since that night, there had been no word, no music in her blood. My petulant friend. She shook her head, sadder now and ever lonely. Within her tea, she saw her face with ribbon-less hair swirled around. She had plenty of others, many colors now to bind her tresses to match her clothes, but she liked it free if she sat in the breeze, windy fingers in her hair. She sipped, disturbing the image below, though she remembered the one in his eyes. Those slivered mirrors, clear as glass with their omnipresent light. Within them lived memory bitter as dregs and sweeter than summer tears.
Author’s Note: Due to this chapter being so short and also due to it being an American holiday, Chapter 16 will also be posted this week! If you’re reading this right as it was posted, and you’re wondering where the next chapter is, it should show up within the hour. I, too, shall keep my promises 😉