Chapter 16 – Puppy Love

<<–Preamble/Prelude
<–Chapter 15                                                                                                Chapter 17–>

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.
“And I never spoke love but I knew that I lied.”
-Peter S. Beagle “The Last Unicorn”

Withered DaisyThe boy had become enamored of her and that made Aeris sad. She sighed a lot when she was with him, and just that thought made her sadder. She’d met him while sitting in Wesker’s Square reading her beloved book. Their poem flowed lovely through her mind in the low voice she longed to hear. Sometimes she’d mouth, sometimes she’d murmur to create an inner harmony. When then she heard, “Excuse me, miss,” and he was standing there holding a flower. The startle was instant. It had been long ingrained. Then she remembered where she was not.

“I-I’m sorry, miss. I mean you no harm. I…just thought you might like a flower. I’ve seen you sitting here all alone…for the past few weeks that is. I thought ‘Maybe she’s lonely and just wants a friend,’ and all misses…they seem to like flowers. Not a lot of them grew here, but I’ve noticed them more since you started coming around.”

Aeris smiled politely and nodded her head to acknowledge that she had heard. He was taller than her and thin as a stem with freckles flung over his face. His eyes were brown beneath unruly brows, and his hair was the hue of dark sand. He wasn’t unhandsome, but he was common, and glory had stolen her gaze. Without invitation he sat down beside, and Aeris heaved her first sigh to slide over. He was very young, younger than her…before she’d given her life.

“So I-I brought you this.” He held out his hand.

“You…brought me a flower.” She tried not to make it too dry.

“Well…yes.” The boy blushed and the maid gave in to at least give the blossom a look.

“That’s a white aster. They’re really quite common, and you can find them in purple and red.”

“Oh,” he said looking over the bloom then back at her in admiration. “I didn’t know that. I just thought it was pretty.”

“They are,” Aeris said. “You picked it too early. You have to catch them right before they die. That’s when they’re the most beautiful. That’s when they have to be plucked.”

The boy opened his mouth but no words issued forth, just tiny, bemused, “Ohs.” Aeris grimaced in guilt as she went back to her book. Well that should at least scare him away.

“W-Well I’m Edwin…Edwin Wesker.”

She glanced over with her hand to her cheek. Pointing up and around she asked, “Like the square?” and the boy emphatically nodded.

“Yes, that’s right miss! My father’s the mayor. Edsel Wesker. That’s his name. He founded the town, well my grandfather did.” Edwin blushed. “He’s name’s Edsel, too.”

She forced a smile then went back to read the same words over again.

“A-And what’s your name?”

A grander sigh lifted her head, and she answered, “Aeris,” and tried to go back.

“Miss Aeris,” he started and she gave him a glare.

“Just Aeris. I’m not a ‘miss.’ The last one with a title would’ve been my mother, and she’s been a dead a long time.” Oh gods, when did I become so abrupt.

He gaped with a blush, set back by her tone, a general’s directness.

“D-Did your friends call you that?”

“My friends are dead, too.” Except for the one I lost. “But yes, they called me Aeris.” Or they called me ‘little flower,’ or they called me ‘little rose.’ But that’s not really right. It’s not right at all. He was much more than a friend…

“I’m so sorry, miss.” He lowered his hand as though the daisy contained weighted words. “I-I didn’t know.”

“How could you?” She tempered her impatience. He was just a boy after all. Long ago you would’ve been charmed. I suppose death changes all. She turned back to her book and continued to read in her now sadly won silence.

“You’re not from around here are you? I can tell by your voice.”

The Cetra blinked as poetry faded, and a sweet smile was forced on her face.

“No, I’m not. Do I have an accent? Is that how you were able to tell?”

“Well…” He blushed again and Aeris then wondered how Sephiroth did not find her own so trite. “It’s slight but yes, though that’s not how. I think I saw you the first day you came. You had a…light about you, an almost silvery sheen like you were covered in starlight or snow.” He shook his head and peered up in shock, as if surprised by his own eloquence.

Residual poetry, Aeris thought as the image of him came before. She blinked twice and tried to spread escaping tears across the green. Edwin didn’t notice still offering the flower.

“I-It’s nice though,” he assured her, and, composed, Aeris peered askance. “Your voice that is…a-and you’re very pretty, too.”

The flower girl realized the futility of attempting to peacefully read. She’d have to go back to her house and miss the rest of the new evening sun. Though no longer hounded by wariness, Aeris couldn’t do that now. He might follow. Though I feel no threat, it’s not really wise to tempt fate. She retrieved the black feather from inside her dress where it was carried near her heart. Edwin’s eyes widened in his skull for it was clearly no simple frond. Marking her place, she shut the old tome and gave the boy a searching look. He was as different from him as a wave to a wine glass, and she watched the bloom shake in his hand. Dear gods, the boy likes me. How long was he watching? A sudden wash of fear paled her cheeks. The thought dissolved in self-annoyance. This was not a threat.

“What do you want Edwin?” That directness again. He jolted back and she regretted her tone.

“I-I was just wondering if you wanted to eat. I mean I know of course you do. You have to eat so you can live, but if you wanted to go out someplace. The Chatham is nice and there are bistros down here and restaurants on the second. There’s lots of options if you want…if you wanted to go out with me…”

The boy must’ve rallied his courage in spades to prepare for this stammering act. He shook in his skin as if drenched by the sea and then tumbled in bitter winds. Especially if he remembered her from her first day. And my guardian was unnoticed. If the boy had seen him, he wouldn’t have the tongue to speak to me here and now. She banished a grin before sighing again, feeling the latter would become quite common. Then swiftly plucked the bud from his hand and stuck it in her high braid. Their fingers had grazed, but it just felt like skin with no fire limned frost beneath. Aeris made a gesture to a nearby place as the boats sounded their return to the pier. Never the Chatham. Her resolve was a stone. I have other memories there…

Dinner was nice. The boy talked up a storm to everyone who wandered by. As the mayor’s son, he was well known though she noticed hidden ennui. Folks were indulgent and almost too friendly, as they gave her sidelong looks. Aeris hid a giggle behind her hand like a yawn, and Edwin glanced with a smile wide bright. He truly believed she was tittering coy, and the little Cetra, sorry she had laughed, could only sigh to dissuade.

“Do you know why it’s called the Whispers?” He gestured to the hushing waves while the square burned rose in dusk.

“Because the sea whispers to the shore?” Aeris crossed her legs on the high stool, tracing the spine of her book.

Edwin gaped with fast blinking eyes. “Y-Yes, you’re so clever, Miss Aeris! How’d you know that’s why it’s called? My granddad, well, he thought the same, and that’s where the name comes from.” She sipped her water while swinging a foot, and the boy tried not to stare at that arc.

“So your grandfather was founder and first mayor, and now your father’s the current one. I suppose that means you’ll be mayor, too?”

“Oh.” He blushed. “I-I don’t know that.”

“Why not?” She shrugged. “It’s called ‘Wesker’s Square.’ There seems to be a precedence.”

“Ah…” The boy rubbed the side of his neck. “Well that’s what my parents would want. ‘It would save the town trouble,’ is what my mother says, though my dad doesn’t do very much.” Those final words were spoken in hush as if they were co-conspirators. “Not that much needs to be done.”

Aeris indulged him like the rest with a smile as her mind whirred on the word “mother.” You’re so very lucky to have them both. Some don’t even have one…the image was instant because it always waited in the corner of her mind. Whirling snow barely matched his skin as his black coat flew in the gale. The lights above the white beneath as emerald pierced ice and mist.

“Miss? Miss?” Time snapped back like a stretched rubber band and she was staring at a mundane face. Swift judgment was harsh and she instantly hushed it before sliding off her chair.

“I’m so sorry Edwin.” Relief spread a smile across his freckled face. “I need to go. It’s getting quite late.” Which was true, but she’d been out much later.

“O-Oh, d-do you want me to walk you home?” He scrambled to his feet, nearly tipping his chair, which drew some sideways stares.

“No.” She held up her hands and the boy froze in place. “I have a stop to make before I do.”

“Oh, do you?” He hunched his shoulders with a bit of a pout. “Well, can I see you again?”

“You can see me whenever you wish. I come to the square quite often.” Soft conversation floated around their heads to the clink of wine glasses and mugs. Aeris really didn’t know any good protocol, so she gave him a nod as she turned. Unthreatening eyes still made her back twitch as the maid clutched her book in both hands.

The air was quite heavy promising rain as the flower girl walked the strand. It was her daring that lent her this path and her trust in her guardian still. The Whispers were right there and a sharp shout would bring aid to her on the shore. Less awkward waves lifted her hand as those above saw her passing, but Aeris felt guilty when the rise of her house came into view. Continuing past, she climbed the stairs and went to call on her neighbors above. At least I didn’t lie to him now…and I could certainly use the wine.

Edwin didn’t pursue her forcefully and for that the little Cetra was glad. Rather he was just always around, usually waiting in Wesker’s Square. She gave him some benefit for he had not tried to follow her home like a ragged, lost dog. A sigh always escaped whenever she saw him, but the flower girl forced a smile to grow. You see I’m trying. Though she was unsure whom she was saying it to. Not her dear friend that still kept its silence like a spoiled child holding its breath, and as for her general, she wondered if he could hear her thoughts across the distance. Not that he would listen or ever invade, which now I wouldn’t mind if he did.

She consented to walk with Edwin by the sea, though memory and rue ruled her heart. The world beneath was still stiffly silent, though Aeris was happy it didn’t swallow them down. At least not the boy. I still doubt you’d harm me. You’d have no one left to ignore. Do you think I’d chase after him then if you did? You think this child holds me here? Though it ignored her Aeris still thanked the Planet that the Whispers were safe. Edwin was no protector. She couldn’t imagine him swatting a fly let alone killing anyone. If a monster appeared, he’d probably bolt and wonder why she didn’t follow.

“And sometimes if you look out real far,” the boy was saying with a hand to his brow, “sometimes you can see whales. I’m telling you Miss Aeris, I’ve actually seen them.” He picked up a shell to toss.

“Mm,” the flower girl repainted her grin as she slid from her soft flat shoes. They were the type to become unduly soaked and her bare feet preferred sand and waves.

“Wh-What are you doing, miss?” he called as she waded so the blue lapped at her knees.

“Embracing the sea, Edwin.” Aeris beckoned him out, but the boy backed away with a shudder.

“Ah no, I wouldn’t come out there, a-and you really shouldn’t either. There’s monsters that live in the deeps.”

“Well, this isn’t deep, and the water’s glass clear. I can see my feet and every toe.” He still refused and Aeris just shrugged uncaring that salt stained her dress. Meandering against the sweeping waves as she walked towards her house. It was late afternoon and the sky was full clear when she noticed that Edwin had stopped. Within a moment Aeris reverted to the mentality of the slums. Casting awareness in every direction within the Planet’s silence. That aspect alone told her false alarm, though she prayed her faith was still true. You’d break your petulance to warn me, dear friend? I’ll have to trust that at least of you.

“What’s wrong, Edwin?” She had one hand to her hip as the waves swirled against her skirt.

“W-Well we’re going quite far from town, aren’t we, miss?”

“This still counts as the Whispers, Edwin.” She indicated the houses above. “We’re in clear sight of everything, and we’re not even near my house.”

“You…live out here?” White rimmed his eyes and he gaped at her taken aback.

“I live in Kes’s old place.” That brought recognition, but Edwin still wrung out his hands.

“Monsters could be lurking between here and there.” He gave an untrusting glance to the distance as the freckles made his skin pale.

“I promise you they aren’t.” Sun and temperature were dipping swiftly towards eve, so Aeris stepped out of the sea. Wringing salt water from her light dress, she ignored the boy’s blushing look down. “How do you think I get home?”

“I assumed you walked back through town. It could be dangerous, miss.” He tried to sound stern, but a mocking gull nearly drowned out his words.

No it’s not, Aeris sighed as they turned around. My general made sure of that. He killed anything around this place that would dare bring me harm. Is that what I’m calling you now, Sephiroth? My general like I’m your flower? The approaching dusk lit the true smile that made lovely the little maid’s face, and Edwin grinning as though he’d gone silly almost bounced in belief it was him.

She told her neighbors before he came over, and Myrna snorted as she sipped her dark wine. Nelly conceded the boy was…nice and patted Aeris on the hand. Edwin jumped like a puppy with a ball when asked if he wanted to have tea, while Aeris felt a twinge of guilt at supposed assumption. Well what am I supposing? What could be assumed? She observed the boy with his cup. He was fanning the wispy steam away, and the Cetra tried hard not to judge. It’s really not fair. It’s not fair at all to judge him beside the unattainable. She’d had her book sitting on the table by the window and he finally found the courage to ask. The flower girl shrugged and made a gesture granting him permission. It of course opened to the love poem, but evening had stolen the sun.

“I’m…sorry, Miss Aeris. I-I’d need some more light in order to see these words.”

“Of course you would. Who could read in the dark?” Her fist pressed her chin as she gazed to the north and Edwin continued to squint.

He never said her name right. It sounded more like “airs,” and he never ceased using the preamble “miss” no matter how much she asked. It was far more annoying than being called “child,” but why that was she couldn’t say. Edwin’s voice was already higher and worse it often squeaked. It was as though it had regretted the change and didn’t consider him yet a man. After a month she gave up on resisting the brutal one sided comparison. His only ace was that he was here and whom she wanted was forever gone. A tear escaped her at the thought that Edwin conveniently missed.

And like all other “suitors,” he did try to kiss her when the appropriate time had passed. It was late in the evening when the stars were long out, and the moon was bright on the sea. She was walking him out her front door when he half stumbled and fell on her lips. Aeris kept them tight closed and her eyes wide open filled with pity he couldn’t see. Edwin didn’t push hard and he didn’t grab her, and Aeris was glad she need not fight. The instant she saw the boy wobbling forth, she wondered if she’d been a fool. Near Sector 7 you nearly lost all. But the Whispers were not Sector 7, and Edwin was not a threat. Granted she didn’t want this, but she wasn’t disgusted. She just felt…nothing at all. She wanted kisses that seared through the core of her soul not the press of puppy lips. An angel’s tender ferocity, not this clumsy and callow youth. She didn’t have to stand on her tiptoes, nor did Edwin have to bend. He was taller than her by only some inches and not nearly over a foot. That should be a good thing. It should be convenient. But it really was not. I wonder if he could pick me up and then say my weight was nothing. She almost smiled against his dry lips, but that would’ve been far too cruel. No one could ever live up to that standard, least of all this bumpkin boy.

Edwin jerked back, his face in full blush, muttering, “G-Goodnight Miss Aeris.” She watched him fling himself out the door and sighed as she locked it behind. It was a habit she’d never lose despite there being no danger.

The next day a high clarion filled the downstairs and the flower girl nearly choked on her coffee. She stared at the phone for what seemed forever for it had never rung before. Breath tightened her chest filled with the peals before she panicked and lunged for the call.

“H-Hello?”

She waited, twisting the cord as her stomach matched every knot.

There was air on the end, and she saw him slow pacing, the phone hidden by his large hand. Silver soft hair would be tangled around, and he’d toss it to clear his ear. He was testing the moment, beseeching his guilt to give him the right thing to say, when the warbling words of, “Miss Aeris, are you there?” demolished her green lit dreams. The very bottom dropped out of the flower girl’s heart, as her face lost its light in the sun.

“Edwin. I forgot I gave you my number.”

“Oh, yes you did, miss Aeris!” The phone made his voice tinny. She envisioned a puppy hard wagging its tail at just being kicked aside. His voice wouldn’t be tinny. It’d be ever low with the darkness of rue for its edge. Your blood would awaken to the love there within…but he doesn’t have your number. And why would he call me? she thought annoyed. When he could just step to my side…

“Miss Aeris? A-Are you there?” Edwin asked again.

“Yes, I’m here. What do you want? You’ve never called me before.”

“I…oh.” She could see his foot shuffle, as she sat down to gaze at the sea. “I wanted to invite you over…to meet my parents…and have dinner, too, not just meet them. Have dinner at my house and meet my parents, before dinner, of course.”

“If you want,” she conceded swirling her cup where the liquid scraped the dregs.

It was pretty small as mansions go, not that she’d ever seen one. On the third tier it still was quite modest, and that earned the mayor points. No grand tower thrusting into the sky nor deep into the heart of the earth. It was raining that eve so she brought an umbrella and hoped no storm would cause her alarm. That was far more worrisome than impressing Edwin’s parents, nor did Aeris care that her hair was damp. A green dress and green ribbon caused her eyes to astound though the bow was a little soggy. The door was answered by Edwin himself who only gaped at this verdigris view. He was dressed nicely, though as Aeris stepped up, her comparison struck hard again. Her general garbed in leather and straps had more splendor than this boy’s vest and tie. She hid behind smiles as he led her in, rubbing a sweaty palm on his pants. Aeris fervently hoped he wouldn’t go for her hand. She already felt soaked and bedraggled and didn’t want to insult in his house.

His mother was plump, his father was stout as Edwin was thin as a pin. She wondered about genetics then and stifled her laugh with a yawn. All of them had the same boring brown eyes, the color of autumn’s lost leaves. They were both very nice, they were both very plain, and they thought she was lovely and kind. Too kind, in fact, his father insisted to give their son so much of her time. Edwin blushed from his chin to ears and took a quick bite for distraction. His mother Adelina patted Aeris’s hand and told her her eyes were lovely. The Cetra sipped her chamomile tea and thanked her behind the cup. It felt strange to take such a compliment, since the color wasn’t her choice. Pink filled her cheeks to match silver thoughts for it was too close to conversations they’d had. The blush went unnoticed for the Weskers all seemed to draw their astuteness from the same feeble source.

Edwin walked her home at his parents’ behest, and Aeris chose not to protest. He did try for her hand, but she hid both away in the pockets of her coat. The rain was now mist the wind scattered about like a child at play. The boy chattered and drowned out the roll of the sea that itself even sighed underneath. Her answers were “Hms,” and “Ohs,” and “Okays,” but he kept on like a friendly gull. He didn’t seem to mind her sighs. In fact he talked right through them. Aeris half thought if they ever did marry, she’d have to learn to sigh louder. The very thought made her queasy.

How do you answer “My father is mayor” with “Five years ago I was dead?” How do you say “My murderer saved me” without appearing insane? How do you bring up “I’m in love with my death” and not have them take you away? When you proclaim honestly, “I’m older than I look,” and speak not of years but a century. I’m the daughter of the Planet, she thought to the waves as her “mother” remained stubbornly quiet. The sea only sighed in perpetual love to the shore that called it back.

Aeris missed silence filled with silver hair and the scent of vanilla and frost. She yearned for black leather around the strongest of arms carefully holding her close. Walking through town her yawns were not fake, but there was no one to pick her up now. Giving Edwin a glance she doubted the boy could carry her even ten steps. What she would give to just be scooped up, fully enveloped in leather sealed strength. To hear the low words, “Sleep, little flower,” and know she was utterly safe. He told me that I should find someone worthy. Edwin is nice and he wouldn’t hurt me, but that hardly makes him so. There are probably hundreds of nice boys in the Whispers. I have no interest in them or him, but I suppose that I must try.

By her house’s back door she went for the kiss, turned her head and tried to pull passion. The boy’s hands fluttered somewhere near her shoulders like a bird unsure of its wings. He brushed her braid and jerked his hand back as though the hair burned his skin. His mouth did open, but their tongues only touched, as though it were mandatory. Everything about Edwin would be dutiful. Aeris imagined children with boring brown eyes. Green would wither and fade. She pulled back before she was sick.

“Goodnight Edwin,” she said to wide eyes so pulled to the green of her own. Hers held nothing but stark memory that shimmered like starlight on snow.


Author’s Note:  So what do you think of Aeris’s new love interest?  *unabashedly grins* The two for one week ends here.  The  next chapter will be posted on July 10 and is entitled Dutiful Daughter.  As always I leave you with too many thank yous to count.

<–Chapter 15                                                                                                Chapter 17–>

4 thoughts on “Chapter 16 – Puppy Love

  1. Pingback: Chapter 15 – Moonlight and Ashes | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

  2. Pingback: Northern Lights: Chapter 16 – Puppy Love | The Caffeine Crew

  3. Pingback: Chapter 17 – Dutiful Daughter | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

  4. Pingback: Chapter 18 – When the Forest Sleeps | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

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