Pictures on the Wall
Rinoa stepped out of the Ragnarok on the ground, the salt air filled her nose. There was a slightly cool breeze that teased her ebony hair. The brilliant sun was high in the sky, indicating afternoon. Clouds were sparse in the blue of the sky. In short, Rinoa surmised, it was a beautiful day on the Centra continent for a barbecue.
As Rinoa stood facing the stone orphanage, Zell rushed past her like a whirlwind. Edea Kramer was walking down the steps of the house to meet them. Rinoa giggled as she watched Edea's surprised face when Zell wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. Selphie had also rushed past her to greet their Matron. Edea kissed the petite girl's forehead and smiled happily.
"Hey Zell!" Irvine called from behind her. She turned and saw Irvine hauling a cooler and bag toward the orphanage. "Get over here and help us with this stuff!"
Zell again ran past her to help carry the evenings feast. Rinoa had been told that Cid can cook a mean barbecue. So, before coming here, they had gone shopping and purchased an array of food. Chocobo steaks, ribs, hamburger, and of course, hotdogs.
Behind Irvine and Zell came Quistis trying to balance too many bags in her hands. Rinoa dashed over to help her.
"Let me get a couple of those, Quisty." Rinoa told her, taking two of the bags from her.
Quistis smiled graciously. "Thanks, Rinny."
The two girls walked toward the house, only stopping so Edea could give Quistis a kiss on her cheek. Inside the house, Irvine and Zell were helping Cid get everything unwrapped and prepared for cooking. The boys took the bags from Quistis and herself, and Quistis gave Cid a big hug.
Selphie, Ellone, Squall, and Seifer soon entered the house, all of them carrying bags and coolers. Edea followed them, wearing a gloriously blissful expression. Her children have returned., Rinoa thought, as she gazed at all her friends. It wasn't as if they didn't come around the orphanage often. As a matter of fact, the orphanage gang visited as often as they could. And it was always like a reunion after years of not seeing each other. All obstacles and quarrels forgotten for the day, and everyone just enjoying themselves with their family. Everyone was in the best spirits. Her loving knight, Squall, could push aside the stress of running the Garden and relax. Quistis could forget about all the students papers she has to grade and have fun. Selphie could take a break from her Garden Festival planning and run around in the sun. Irvine and Zell could not have to worry about missions and just be lazy if they wanted to. Seifer could also push aside his stress of help Squall run the Garden as second in command.
Rinoa herself didn't know how to feel here, at the orphanage. At the Garden, even though she was a sorceress, she was still just Rinoa. But it wasn't what she'd wanted. She wanted to be Rinoa Heartilly, just another SeeD. Instead she was Rinoa Heartilly, Squall's girlfriend. Even here, that's what she felt like, Squall's girlfriend. The others all had grown up here. Edea and Cid saw them as their children. But she was Squall's girlfriend. Rinoa was embarrased by her selfish feelings. She knew she should be thinking such things.
During her thoughts, she noticed some of her friends were gone. Rinoa walked outside to the back, and down the stone path to the beach. There she found her missing friends. Seifer, Zell, Irvine, and Selphie had all changed into swimsuits and were heading to the ocean. The boys ran ahead of Selphie, racing to the water. As soon as they were in, a water fight had commenced. Once again, Seifer and Irvine teamed up on Zell and proceed to dunk him under water. Selphie stood on the shore, laughing loudly at them.
Selphie turned around to Rinoa and shook her head.
"They're soooo silly!" Selphie told her.
Rinoa watched as Seifer, hearing Selphie's reprimand, walk toward her with a mischievous look in his eyes. Rinoa wanted to warn her that she was about to get captured by Seifer, but thought better when she saw how Irvine and Zell where cheering him on. Selphie screeched as Seifer easily lifted her over his shoulder. He turned to Rinoa and winked, then proceeded to walk back out towards the water, with Selphie kicking and screaming. Zell and Irvine were laughing loudly as Seifer tossed her into the water. When she resurfaced, the water fight resumed.
Rinoa laughed at the entire display, shaking her head. Seifer should know better than to dunk his girlfriend., Rinoa thought to herself happily. Rinoa went back up to the house, to change into her own swimsuit. Squall had just come out of the bathroom donned in his own swimsuit. He smiled at her, planting a kiss on her cheek.
Quistis was sitting down in a chair, also in her swimsuit and wearing Irvine's hat. "Want us to wait for you?"
Rinoa smiled cheerfully. "You better! There's a water war going on down there!"
"We stand a better chance in numbers." Squall commented, faking seriousness.
When Rinoa, Squall, and Quistis arrived at the beach, the war was still going on strong. Selphie decided to team up with Zell, so the numbers would be even as well as to alienate her boyfriend. Quistis stepped forward wearing a smirk on her face, tipping the Irvine's hat back on her head a little.
"Hey cowboy!" She yelled, instantly stopping the water fight. "I need help getting sun block on my back!"
"I'll do it, Quisty!" Seifer yelled back.
"Hey!" Selphie yelled at him, splashing him again. "I'll get you for that!"
Rinoa could hear Seifer yelling some profanities as Selphie chased him. Zell was laughing like a hyena, calling Seifer the 'Chicken-wuss' as he ran.
Squall shook his head, surveying the scene. "It never fails."
After a few hours of water fights, dunking Zell, and Seifer getting chased by Selphie, the smell of cooking had brought them all back up to the house. Cid was outside with a good flame going on the grill. Edea and Ellone were inside cooking up some potatoes to go in Edea's famous potato salad.
Dusk had come and the everyone had severed off by themselves to enjoy the sunset. From where Rinoa was standing in the backyard with Squall, she could see everybody. Zell and Ellone had joined Cid and Edea to help clean up. Irvine and Quistis were enjoying a stroll down the beach in each others arms. She could see Seifer sitting behind Selphie with his arms around her on a large boulder. Rinoa leaned into Squall's embrace and watched the sun go down.
As was a tradition among them, the entire family went down to the beach when night had completely come and sat around a small fire. Irvine and Zell always brought their guitars and play for them. Selphie would always sing with them, usually some silly song they had made up. Seifer and Squall would make fun of each other, and eventually get into a sword fight with the sticks they used for cooking marshmallows. What would the cadets think of their commanding officers behaving like children?, Rinoa thought to herself, fighting from laughing out loud.
Edea and Cid quietly sat together, watching as their children played. This time, Edea stood and walked over to Rinoa. Rinoa looked up curiously at her.
"Come with me for a moment." Edea spoke to her.
"Alright." Rinoa answered, following Edea along the beach and up the stone path. Edea lead Rinoa into one of the smaller rooms of the orphanage. It was a cozy den, with two easy-chairs and a fire place. Edea motioned her over to the mantle above the fireplace. A framed picture sat on the mantle, seven children smiled happily in the picture. Rinoa instantly recognized all of them as her friends.
Edea was gazing at the picture with her. "They were all about five when I took that picture. Ellone was seven, of course." Edea told her, then pointed up to the wall off to the side. "But those I have acquired recently."
Rinoa moved over to the wall Edea had pointed to. There were seven separate pictures of each of them. "I've put them up in the order they came and blessed my life." Edea told her. First there was Zell, then Irvine, Selphie, Seifer, Quistis, Ellone, and Squall. All of these pictures had been taken last month at the Garden festival. Rinoa hadn't noticed when Edea came beside her, holding another framed picture in her hands. "And now I add yours." She said to Rinoa.
Rinoa again hadn't noticed that there was a nail already in the wall next to Squall's picture. Edea brought up the picture and hung in on the nail. It was Rinoa, herself, smiling happily at the last Garden Festival. Edea turned to her, smiling delighted at her. "No matter what happens you will always be one of my children."
Rinoa smiled with tears of joy in her eyes. "Thank you, Matron."