Yellow, For Remembering
By Margaret Rennie
"Dr. Best!" The nurse hung out the doorway of the clinic examining room, calling after the young physician as he raced down the hallway. "Doctor, Mrs. Tenn wants to know if you can see her before you leave. She says she has a pain." The doctor stopped and reluctantly turned back to the nurse.
"Again? I'm through for the day, Miss Lorish. Can't you find Dr. Gaspar?" The nurse shook her head.
"She wants you, Doctor. She won't see anyone else, you know that." Dr. Best's shoulders slumped in defeat and he hung his head.
"All right, tell her I'll be right there." Mrs. Tenn is a pain, he thought in exasperation, and began walking back into the clinic.
After a half-hour of listening to the lonely old hypochondriac complain of nonexistent symptoms, Dr. Best patted her hand, and pulled off his stethoscope and white lab coat. He turned to Miss Lorish and handed the nurse a blank prescription slip.
"Have this filled immediately, Nurse Lorish," he said with the wink that was his signal for sugar pills. "Mrs. Tenn, I want you to take two of these a day, starting tonight. And if your elbow gives you any more trouble, you come and see me right away, you hear?" The woman looked up at the kind young man with adoring eyes.
"Yes, Dr. Best, I will. Thank you, Doctor." Dr. Best nodded to his nurse and rushed out the clinic door once again, anxious to get to his next appointment, for which he was very late.
He knocked on the door of the little house, and getting no answer, he turned the knob and found it unlocked. He stepped into the parlor and called out. He still received no reply, but he saw that the patio doors were standing open. Of course, she would be out in the garden, her favorite place in the world.
He stepped out the doors and onto the narrow cobblestone path that wound its way through the myriad of rose bushes that made up her private garden. He stood still a moment, listening for her, then he spied her, just down the path from him, sitting on an iron bench and looking up at the stars.
He waited a moment longer, watching her, his eyes growing tender as he took in her loveliness. It always felt like the first time for him, each time he saw her. He felt his fingertips vaguely tingle with their need to touch her, and he called out softly. She turned, her hair glimmering faintly green in the moonlight.
"Damien!" She leapt from the bench and ran to him, and he caught her up in his arms, hugging her tightly. She held him, her face turned up to his, a smile of delight on her lips as she studied her beloved's face.
His complexion was olive, nearly swarthy, which along with his exotic almond-shaped eyes, was an inheritance from his Doman mother. His tall, broad-shouldered stature spoke of the lineage of his Tzenian father. He bent his neck to kiss her, and she playfully pushed him away.
"Oh, no, you don't," she pouted. "You're late, Dr. Best! Dallying with some other girl, I have no doubt!" He laughed.
"Oh, yes indeed, old Mrs. Tenn, she comes before you every time!" The girl giggled, moving back into his arms and kissing him quickly, flirtatiously, before pulling back again, her face serious.
"Damien, is it always going to be like this, I mean, are you always going to be so hard for me to count on?" He sighed.
"Ah, Terra, you know how it is for me. I'm a doctor. Things come up, emergencies. We've talked about this, more than once. If you're going to be a doctor's wife, you're going to have to be understanding." She gripped his lapel and pressed her face against his chest. She could hear his heart beating.
"I know," she said, her voice muffled. "I'm sorry. I just..." He stroked her hair.
"I know," he whispered.
"...miss you so, whenever you're not near me," she finished. They stood together, not talking, and held one another. Then he began to walk her toward the bench she had been sitting on, waiting for him.
He sat, and pulled her onto his lap. He laid his hand along her face, and turned her head to look her in the eye.
"What is it, Terra," he asked, concerned. "You look as if you're about to cry. Surely this isn't about old Mrs. Tenn."
"Oh, Damien!" Her eyes welled up, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "Emperor Gestahl will never let us marry! Never!" She buried her face in his neck. He slowly stroked her back and smiled into her hair.
"Of course he'll let us marry," he replied. "Why wouldn't he? I'm not a student anymore. In fact, I was going to tell you tonight. Now that I'm a full-fledged medical doctor, I have something to offer the most beautiful girl in the Empire! I'm going to ask him tomorrow evening. He's agreed to see me for a few minutes. I'm going to ask him, finally!" He could feel her shaking her head and squeezed her.
"I know that you're...special...to them," he said. "So what? Why would being married interfere with that?" She sat up and wiped tears from her face. He handed her his handkerchief, and became aware of a nervous knot beginning to form in his stomach.
"What is it, Terra? What's happened?" He could always read her better than anyone, even from the first time they met. She blew her nose and sat, her head hanging down. He waited patiently for her to say whatever it was that was weighing on her mind.
"They've finally told me what their plans for me are," she began quietly. "They...they're going north, to the Kingdoms of Doma and Figaro. They think that their technology greatly outweighs that of the northern continents. And they think that with my...that I am their winning weapon. Oh, Damien!" She began weeping again. "They want me as a weapon! They want me to murder and destroy!" She covered her face and sobbed, then lowered her hands, her mouth tight, her eyes determined. Her index finger stabbed at air. "Well, I told them no. That I won't do it. I will not be a party to the willful destruction of others. God! They own this whole continent! They've practically leveled Maranda, and Tzen and Albrook will never be the same! And it isn't enough for them! They won't stop until they own the whole world! Well, I won't help them. I won't!" She looked at him then, and he pulled her to him again.
"You did right, Terra," he affirmed. "You're a good and brave girl, and that's one of the reasons I love you so much." She let out an ironic laugh and rolled her eyes.
"Oh, yes, I'm brave, all right. And I've done us out of ever getting permission to marry. I hope you realize that."
"Gestahl will get over it," Damien replied. "It'll take more time than I'd hoped, but he'll get over it. We'll have to be patient. I'm disappointed, certainly, but I'm terribly proud of you." He turned her face to his and kissed her tenderly. She returned the kiss, parting her lips, the tip of her tongue softly brushing his. Then she sat up again.
"There's more, Damien," she said, a worried tone in her voice. "They...General Kefka says that they can make me. They can force me to do it." Damien shook his head.
"Kefka! Kefka is a head case," he said dismissively. "You aren't going to let a man who wears clown makeup upset you! I'm a physician, Terra. Trust me when I tell you that there is no way to turn someone's will if they won't let you. They can't force you to do anything you don't want to do!" She watched his face, trusting him. He could feel her body relax as relief washed through her.
"But, they will make life hard for us, won't they," she asked. He nodded.
"I'm glad that we kept us a secret, now," he said. "It was because I was a student, poor as dirt, and I didn't think they'd let me see you. Now...I'm glad we decided to keep things hush-hush! If they tried to separate us, I think that I would die!" He held her close, then looked into her eyes, smiling. "Terra Branford, you are the love of my life!" She smiled too, and ran her fingertips along the side of his face.
"Let's walk," she whispered. They stood, and he took her hand. They strolled in silence on the garden path that they had walked a thousand times before, breathing the soft night air, smelling the roses that bloomed all around them. He stopped, and she turned. He bent and plucked a flower from a bush next to him. He held it to his nose, breathing deeply, then held it out to her. She took it, and grinned up at him.
"Yellow, for remembering," she said. "As if I could ever forget you!" He laughed mischievously.
"Oh, you'll forget me, all right, I know it," he teased. "You'll become a great lady of the Empire, and go off and marry some titled gentleman, and leave me crying in my whiskey!" She giggled and threw her arms around his waist.
"Never," she laughed.
"Oh, yes," he grinned. "You'll forget all about poor me and my shattered heart!" He suddenly became serious. "Terra, if they won't let us marry, if it takes a long time, you'll wait, won't you? You wouldn't really forget me, would you?" She looked up at him.
"Oh, my Damien, my only love! How could you even think such a thing? Before you, I never knew that love could be like this! You don't just have my heart, my darling, you are my heart!" He hugged her so tightly, she gasped in surprise. He brought his face down to hers, and she thought that he would kiss her, but then she realized that he was moving his nose along her hairline, drinking in her scent. His lips found hers, and he kissed her deeply, his tongue probing, as if to memorize the taste of her mouth. His hands ran along her body, and he began to move her back towards the cottage. She broke the kiss.
"Out here, Damien," she whispered feverishly. "Make love to me out here, tonight, under the moon and the stars. They say the moon causes confusion and forgetfulness. I want to forget awhile. Make me forget, Damien." The lovers walked together farther down the path, deeper into the garden, and held one another close against the chill of the night air.
Damien woke to the pounding of a fist on his door. What the hell? He sat up groggily and grabbed a shirt and pants. He half walked, half tripped on his way to the door as he struggled into his clothes.
"Yes, what is it?" he said to the young medical assistant who had been banging on his door.
"Dr. Best, sorry to disturb you, but there's been an accident in one of the labs. Some kind of gas leak. There are about forty very sick people crowding the clinic right now, and there are more coming in. Dr. Gaspar sent me to get you, Doctor." Damien nodded and rushed about his room, quickly washing up and dressing. He grabbed his medical bag and ID tag, and dashed out the door.
The day was busy and went quickly. Luckily, the gas was unpleasant but not deadly, and they had no casualties. Still, it was well after sunset before they had the last of the patients treated and either sent home or settled into the hospital for the night.
Damien stood at the clinic's big sink washing up. He would be quite late again. He hoped that Terra wouldn't be too angry with him. Her face drifted into his mind, and he smiled to himself as he absently scrubbed his hands.
Mrs. Bell, Terra's neighbor, popped her head out her door when she saw Damien coming up the walk toward Terra's cottage, whistling, his hands in his pockets and a yellow rose in his lapel. She waved, and beckoned to him. He saw her and waved back, smiling.
"Good evening, Mrs. Bell," the pleasant young man called out. "All is well with you, I trust?" Mrs. Bell waited for him to come nearer to her door before she replied.
"Young man, Terra isn't here. They came for her today, a couple of those soldiers from the palace. They took her away early this afternoon. She didn't look like she wanted to go with them, Dr. Best. I'm so worried about her." Damien listened, his eyes widening with fear. He turned and began to run toward the palace. "Please, Dr. Best," Mrs. Bell shouted after Damien's retreating form. "Come back and tell me if she's all right!" But Damien didn't hear her.
He nearly was arrested when he went running into the palace, toward Gestahl's meeting room. Two guards grabbed him and held his arms with the intent of taking him off to jail, when a third guard recognized him.
"I know this man," the guard said. "He's a doctor, from over at the clinic. He has an appointment." Damien let out a breath of relief. It was true. He did have an appointment. He had forgotten. The two guards released him. The third guard smiled at the young doctor. "You can't go running around like that within these walls. It's liable to get you in trouble." He laughed. "You can go ahead in now. The Emperor is through with his business for the day." Damien nodded, and walked toward Gestahl's meeting room door.
"I don't understand," said Gestahl, watching Damien's face. "This is what you wanted to see me about? To ask me what happened to Terra? I'm not sure how you know anything about Terra, Doctor, or how you knew what we had planned for today when you made your appointment yesterday. If anyone has been leaking anything from my offices I will personally watch their heads roll. All the same, Terra is not your business."
"Terra is my business," Damien retorted. "When I made my appointment with you yesterday, Emperor, it was to ask your permission to marry Terra Branford." Gestahl stopped, surprised. "We...we love each other. We want to get married." Gestahl threw his head back and guffawed.
"Marry Terra Branford! That's rich! That's really very funny!" Damien bristled.
"What's so funny," he demanded. "We love each other! We--" Gestahl held up a hand, silencing the young physician.
"Now, don't get your stethoscope in a knot, Doctor! I'm sorry I laughed, but you see, marriage is not in the cards for Terra Branford. She is much too valuable as a weapon. With her, I will rule the world!" Damien shook his head.
"You will rule nothing, Emperor! She'll never do it! She'll never help you!" Gestahl smirked.
"Oh, I think she will. I think she definitely will." He chuckled, as if to suggest that he knew something that the doctor didn't.
"Where is she," Damien shouted. "Tell me, or I swear I'll--"
"You'll what, Doctor? Kill me? Hah! You're not the type. It's not in your eyes. I can always tell a killer. They are very useful people. You, good Doctor, are not a killer." Gestahl chuckled again. "But since you insist, I will tell you where your precious esper girl is. She, and General Kefka, and quite a few imperial soldiers have been loaded onto a transport, along with several tons of magitek armor. As we speak, that transport is headed for the coast, where it will be loaded onto a ship bound for the northwest continent. They are all headed for Narshe. Now if you'll excuse me--" Damien ran for the door, and Gestahl called after him. "You're too late, Doctor!" The meeting room door slammed after the departing doctor. "And even if you catch up with her, she won't know who you are," Gestahl added in a normal voice, and chuckled again.
Damien had not stopped at home, but had instead desperately rented chocobos, and walked, and hitched rides whenever he saw a farmer and his wagon heading his way. He had spent more than a day on the road and had not slept. He was rumpled, unshaven and exhausted when he finally reached the coast.
He thanked the farmer in whose wagon he had most recently ridden, and stumbled down the docks out to where the big ships sat waiting to be loaded. His first sight was that of a departing ship, and his heart sank. A sailor standing next to him nodded toward the ship.
"Someone you know bound for Thamasa?" he asked. "Long way, Thamasa. Sorry you missed 'r." Damien looked at the sailor with reddened eyes.
"Thamasa? That ship's bound for Thamasa?" The sailor nodded. "Well, what about the northwestern continent?" The sailor pointed.
"That'd be my vessel, over there. We're bound for South Figaro, soon's we're done loadin', 'bout an hour or so." Damien's eyes followed the sailor's pointing finger, and he saw her. She was on a huge transport, sitting inside a massive magitek armored machine, surrounded by soldiers in like gear, and someone whose garish makeup told Damien that he could only be General Kefka. Damien ran down the beach to the next dock, and stood in front of the transport.
"Terra," he cried. "Terra! It's me! I'm here, love! You don't have to go with these men! I'm here to take you home! Terra!" She didn't look at him, and he wondered how she could have not heard him. He'd been shouting. Suddenly, he heard Kefka's distinctive, whooping laugh.
"Whoever you are, little man, you'd better stand away. My little magic-user here is going to put you in an early grave!" Damien stood fast.
"She will not harm me! And she will not go with you!" He turned back to the girl he loved. "Terra! Terra!" She was sitting high up in her suit of magitek armor, still, Damien could see her eyes, the eyes he loved, and they were dead and empty. She didn't even know who he was. "What have you done to her, you maniac," he screamed. "Terra! Oh, my poor baby! What have they done to you? Come down here, Terra! I'll take you home! Let me take you home!"
Damien briefly put his hand to his chest and stepped forward, his arm outstretched toward her. The girl in the slave crown recognized the outstretched arm as a hostile gesture, and the item in the aggressor's hand as a weapon. Her finger dispassionately sought a red button on her console, and she pressed it. The laser beam shot out like a bolt of lightning, and it hit the physician squarely in his chest, knocking him backward eleven feet in the air. The hole in his chest killed him instantly, and the magitek-clad soldiers watched as shocked seamen rushed to his side, to no avail.
When they removed his body, the yellow rose he had held out to the dead-eyed girl lay on the beach, crushed and forgotten.
*** *** ***
Terra unpacked the last of her things in the room she shared with Celes. The two would be meeting everyone else in the pub, where they would get a bite to eat and finalize their plans for their assault on the Floating Continent.
She went to answer the knock on the door. That would be the innkeeper's wife, with the extra towels that Celes had ordered. As the woman wheeled in her cart, Terra noticed a deep-blue vase on the table, full of long-stemmed yellow roses.
"Celes," she called toward the bath. "Did you order flowers?"
"No," Celes replied. "What flowers?"
"They're complimentary, Miss," the innkeeper's wife said. "They're in every room." Terra walked slowly toward the table, her forehead creased. She reached out a hand and ran her fingertips lightly over the bright-hued blooms.
"What, Miss?" Terra looked up. The innkeeper's wife was looking at her expectantly. "You were saying, Miss?" Terra looked down at the flowers again.
"I - I don't know. Nothing. But, listen, take them away, will you? They...they make my eyes water." The innkeeper's wife nodded and loaded them onto her cart. She wheeled them carefully out of the room, and pulled the door closed quietly behind her.
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