Trades Chapter 11
Can't Make You Love Me
From a distance, these two friends looked to be more than just that. Most of the people within the quiet fishing town did not recognize them, much less knew the status of their relationship, yet would have assumed such a blessed intimacy between the two. Or perhaps they only sensed what generated on her end, and that much knowledge was sufficient. Still...
A man, sitting inside of the Banner inn, was staring outside the window. "Yep, there goes another happy li'l set," he commented, taking a swig of wine. "Cute girl with good-lookin' guy. Take a look out there, Colin. Take a look at what you lost. Heh heh heh."
His friend exhaled a puff of cigarette smoke and glared back at him. "Why don't you take a look at my patience, since you're wearing it pretty thin?"
"Oh, your patience is fine. It's your temper that needs lookin' out for. In fact, if you do so, you will soon find a healthy outlook on life...! Oooh!"
Colin raised an eyebrow at the man. "Are you drunk already?" he inquired, and then scoffed as his friend gazed back with a sort of stupid grin. "Whatever. Just quit fuckin' with me." He tapped the crumbling ashes into a small metal tray. "How soon do you have to be back in South Window?"
"Uhhmm...couple o' days, I guess. But you know me. I'd go anywhere. Anything for money, jus' like my best friend here." He let out another chuckle.
"Yeah. I finally come into a good sum, and it doesn't mean a damn thing."
"I know. So why don'tcha lend me a few thousand potch sometime?"
"Sure, when you actually do me a good favor. Otherwise, don't waste your breath."
"Heh! All right, all right..." He turned back to the window. "How's this for a favor...I'm serious this time. I'm telling you...take a look at that fancy li'l number out there. If you can get her away from him..."
Colin rolled his eyes, taking another puff. "How in the hell is that gonna help me?"
"When was the last time you got laid?"
He removed the cigarette from his mouth with a growl. "Teller, what the fuck did I say about--"
"No, serious! Just look! Doesn't she remind you of anyone? Come on, look!"
Groaning, Colin turned his gaze to the couple that had just boarded a boat, which was then leaving. His expression turned surprised, then intrigued. "Hey, yeah, she kind of does. Maybe about ten years ago." He then shook his head. "But get real. She's just a kid."
Teller shrugged. "So?"
"So, I'm not goin' there like you, Mr. Cradle Robber," he finished scornfully. "Besides, they're leaving now anyway." With another scoff, he looked back to the window, then receiving the shock of his life. "Shit!" he cried out in horror as the man on the boat briefly turned around. "What's he doing here?!"
Later in the afternoon, Shu and Apple had arrived back at Shu's mansion. It was about a couple of days after they had left Gregminster. There were no new strange happenings, though somehow, through little conversation and such, the two were feeling more comfortable around one another. Certainly Apple was more at ease, and more things became familiar for the two. It was definitely a change...
And neither could have been more accepting of it.
"I'm sorry I didn't have time to prepare," Shu was saying.
"Oh, stop being modest," Apple told him. "This place is spotless."
"Yes it is," Shu responded, looking uneasy once more. "Yet no was here for a year, until I returned last week."
"Really? That's weird. Well, I guess a clean house never hurt anyone."
"I suppose. Anyway, there's an empty room upstairs, next to mine..."
Apple's face turned rather warm.
"...and I trust you'll be able to find it."
This left her confused. "Where are you going?"
"Don't worry about it," Shu assured her. "I'll be back in an hour or so."
Apple cast him a wary look. "What are you up to?" she asked with a suspicious grin.
"Nothing," he insisted, though there was a hint of a smile on his face. "I'll see you later."
After nearly a couple of hours, Apple had set the room up completely...or at least, made it seem like home the best she could. However, it never once occurred to her how long she was considering staying...or how long Shu was considering she would stay. After all, the girl was on cloud nine.
Wow...I'm in Shu's house. His house! And I'm staying in the room next to his...this is all too much to believe...
Like an enraptured schoolgirl, she twirled around three times and then flopped down on her bed, sitting back with a sigh. Just days ago, she did not see herself as being here. Days ago, she did not want to be here, but now she was...
She smiled. And it's never felt more perfect...
Oh! She immediately stood back up. Maybe I should go downstairs and wait for Shu. Her look of distrust returned. I really want to know what he's keeping from me. I mean, we're friends now, aren't we? Friends again, and...grrr...what is he hiding?
Reflexively, she reached down for her bag, not recalling what was inside. Slinging it over her shoulder, she left the room with a new determination.
I swear, I will find out...
Twenty minutes later, Apple was sitting in a chair downstairs, where she had been waiting nearly all that time.
Where is he? she wondered, growing impatient. I don't like to wait around like this. And he should take into account that maybe I'd like to go out, too. After all, I've got my bag and--
Oh my God. Stunned at that last thought, she directed her eyes to the floor where the large purse lay. Why didn't she notice before? Why did she take it with her, knowing what its contents were?
Right...force of habit. Apple let out a sigh of disappointment, and then picked up the bag. I guess it'll take a while to forget...and speaking of which, I've got to forget this. She reached into the opening and pulled out a bulky folder with a string wrapped around it. At first she looked decisive, but then, she hesitated.
With a tiny smile, she lowered herself onto the floor, removing the band from the folder. There, she carefully opened it, setting it before her. The collection of her work, her findings. What she originally planned to have been a masterpiece, but...
Apple picked up a few pages of scribbled notes, recalling random moments she had written them. Normally her handwriting was as neat as she could make it, but hearing the stories of Mathiu's life and reading the most recent recordings of his contributions, she had rushed a bit with the pen. She gave a small chuckle. The papers were hardly legible; it was amazing she used them in writing the biography.
Apple paused, and then picked up a larger collection of papers. These were the recorded findings fused with the accounts of her experiences as a student and vice-strategist to the man. There were other experiences, other things she felt about him, but she knew better than to report those, too. After all, this was a biography, not her own silly little sob story about the love she felt for him as a father figure.
And those feelings did play a part in delaying this biography. One, she didn't wish to be dishonest, for she feared she would be denying a part of his nature, or misrepresenting who he was. But she just wanted people to respect him just the way she had. Two, although she wanted to find out as much as she could, she didn't want to do so too soon. She couldn't go on forever like this if she did. She couldn't keep his memory alive. She couldn't remain in this dream world if she finished...
And to her, that had selfishly been more of a tragedy than his life or death...
Apple was so caught up in the memories that she didn't notice Shu had returned. He walked in the living room to find her sitting on the floor, studying the overwhelming amount of papers.
"What are you doing?" he asked as he approached her.
This startled her out of her thoughts. "Oh, I'm-I'm...uh..." Embarrassed, she looked up, shuffling papers together. "I-I was just..."
"Is this what you were working on?" he inquired, taking a closer look. Once he realized what it was, he turned away. "Oh, I see..."
"Shu, it-it's..." Apple dropped the stack of papers onto the open folder, pushing it aside just barely, and then she got up. "I was just looking over--"
"You don't have to explain to me," he interrupted, slight disappointment in his voice. "It's your business...whether you want to let it go or not."
This, for some reason, struck a nerve with her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"The way you refuse to let go of things," he replied with a bit of callousness. "Holding onto worthless items simply because you believe they preserve a memory."
"W-worthless...?" she cried, her voice rising. He couldn't be serious! The biography...! And the past four years it took to construct it...
"Yes, worthless," he said, facing her. "You told me in Lenankamp that you wanted to move on, that you were ready to let go of certain things. Yet here you are, still dwelling on the past."
Apple's gaze lowered sadly as she realized he was right. She did say she wanted to move on. But...
"It's not that I'm dwelling," she insisted, turning away from him. This was, however, a weak attempt to get him off her case.
"It's not? You tell me you want to move on, and then I find you up to your neck in records about a time you sought to forget?"
It's not like that, Shu, Apple silently insisted. But at this point, she couldn't find the strength to stand her ground.
"And to be perfectly honest, I don't understand why you would cling to such a time. It's not as if there was much to remember."
"No..." Apple fought the tears back while also fighting the cruelty of his speech. "Shu, y-you can't mean that..."
"I can," he continued coldly. "Because it's true."
She uttered a painful sigh. "Y-you don't...know--"
"You weren't even there for long, so why pretend there was something to hold on to?"
"Shu...!" A weak protest, but he was treading on dangerous waters.
"Why pretend your relationship with that man was anything more than it really was?"
Apple clamped a hand to her mouth, preventing any sob from escaping. It just hurt so much; it was as though he was stomping all over her heart.
"There's no use in putting yourself through any of this," he said, persisting in this baffling, sudden spite. "There's no use in pretending how you felt back then. Really, it's best to forget those memories. Like Mathiu, they're better off dead."
Apple whirled around and slapped him hard across the face. She could bear no more of it.
Shu stumbled back slightly, mostly in surprise, but he regained his stance as though the retaliation had never been made.
"What the hell would you know about how I felt?!" she screamed back at him. "You have no idea! And how dare you, suggesting I forget the time I thought we were friends?!" She was breathing hard, quite furious and appalled. "My God, why did Viktor rescue you?! Maybe you were better off dead!" She bolted from that spot and ran out of the room. She was still running when she exited the house, stopping when she reached the porch, when she reached the fresh air.
"Bastard," Apple snarled, trembling, though it was more from heartbreak than from pure rage. "What did I do...I just...I just wanted..." There was a split second before she began sobbing. "It meant something. It all meant something, damn it."
She lowered her head, the scalding tears making their way down her cheeks. All she could remember now was the incident back at the Keyaki inn, where she had fallen into his arms, and was staring up at him, into those eyes. She thought now how much it meant something to her, and more impossibly, what she wanted it to mean to him...
And now, all she could feel was great sorrow. Those eyes she looked into with such love, she knew would never return such a meaningful glance. Not even for a second.
Apple buried her face in her hands, now sobbing loudly, her shoulders heaving. She now remembered why she wanted to move on. This was torture. It was sheer torture...how could she actually think Sheena was right?
She turned around with a gasp, to see the man standing right there.
"Apple..." he repeated, stepping toward her.
She only backed away from him, glaring. "Go away...!" she roared.
"Just...go...!" she wailed, anguished, wanting nothing more than to be rid of the torment of not being with him.
Shu looked back at her, his eyes revealing for a moment something resembling regret...and something further...sadness. But Apple was so consumed by the pain she felt inside, that she didn't notice. And if she had, she would have interpreted it as pity at this point.
Much to her wishes, he reluctantly turned from her, and began to enter the house.
However, something inside of her couldn't accept it as ending this way. So much had happened, in contrast to what he had said, and it did mean something. It truly did.
"Shu...!" Apple cried.
He turned around as she ran to him, throwing her arms around him.
It was no mistake. Not one she would regret. She just wanted to know, even if for the last time, the mistaken joy of being in his arms.
Apple buried her face into his chest, now crying quietly at the coldness of what was reality. At what she could never have...
Still, it was a bit of a comfort as Shu brought his arms around her, whether in pity or genuine kindness...
Apple held him closer, though she was still shaking with grief. Yet in spite of her painful emotions, she would gladly savor this moment for life.