Redemption Chapter 7
By Janet Monstwillo
Azura found herself back on the porch swing later that morning, while the adults asked for some privacy. (They think I can't handle them talking, but they let Kati and Sean stay. Why do they treat me like such a baby?)
She thought about dawn. Patrick had been startled to see her on the swing as he prepared to leave his home behind for good.
"Are you really going to go?" she asked sadly.
"I have no choice. I think maybe things had been building up to this point." He met her eyes with sadness. "I'm sorry though. I'll miss you."
"Then stay," she pleaded.
"Things will be easier for you this way." Patrick climbed down the ladder and began to walk away from the place he had lived his entire life. Unable to help himself, he turned back for one last gaze upon the house. He saw Azura watching him from the swing. He didn't turn away until he had burned the last image of her deeply into his mind. (Long black hair, gray eyes glimmering in the first morning light, wearing a sweet little nightgown covered with flowers. Cherry blossoms.)
* * * * * * * * * * *
"I put her to bed, but I don't know what we can do with her," said Reeve softly. "She went into some kind of shock. And I can't help but think we have to call some sort of police here."
"You know that's impossible, Dad," said Ishmael. "This place is still a secret and this man was an intruder on our secret. Patrick would have to face the Undorian court for this, had he stayed, but he is gone."
"I suppose not much can be done then, but to have Lia arrange to cremate the body." He paused. "My main concern is with Ray, anyway."
"We should probably remove her from this place," suggested Vincent. "This memory would be most unpleasant to begin with, and in this case, very inhibitive to her recovery."
"We could take her to Wutai," said Yuffie.
"There is no one there who could possibly help her though. I think our best choice would be Cosmo Canyon. Peaceful and very non-hectic, with many intelligent Elders. Since she is in no state to travel in a conventional way, we should call Cid on the PHS and ask for his Airship services."
"That would work out nicely," said Reeve.
Yuffie looked over and saw her son and elder daughter exchanging glances. "What is it?"
Kati looked at Sean expectantly.
He rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'll say it."
No one noticed Azura eavesdropping on the conversation. She had stooped under the open screen of the window and had been taking in all the planning.
"What's to be done about Zuri?" asked Sean.
"What do you mean?" asked Yuffie.
"Mom, she has to be very upset over everything, and I don't think dragging her around half the world would be the best thing for her right now."
"You're probably right," said Vincent. "I'll have Cid drop her off at Wutai before we all head to Cosmo Canyon."
Azura fumed over this. (It's true that I'm upset. Such a scary thing happened last night. And now Raieyana isn't well, and Pat has become an outcast. But, the last thing I want to happen is to be dropped off at Wutai like I was merely the toddler I used to be, back during the second Reunion.)
She knew that the decisions of her father were not anything for her to reckon with. The only person who ever dared do this was Yuffie, who was only successful part of the time herself. (So I will have to go along with things, be dropped off as a prisoner in Wutai, while they go fix things. And they'll never let me see Pat again!)
The thoughts almost brought tears to her eyes. But suddenly, for the first time in her life, a plan for disobeying began to form in her mind. (I've always played along with everything my parents wanted for me, and ignored my own needs and desires because I didn't want to be "in trouble." Yet, I never get any reward for it. This time, I'm going to do what my mind tells me to do.)
(I'm going to play along for as long as I need to. But I will not board that Airship. Not for all the silly parental promises in the world.)
* * * * * * * * * * *
A PHS in Barret's house rang at about ten in the morning. Red XIII, who was setting the table for a nice brunch, glanced at Aeris. "Could you get that, Riss?"
"Sure thing." She picked up the portable phone and pushed the button. "Hello?"
"Rissy, what are you doing answering Red's phone? And where are you?"
"Hi Dad. Red's here in Kalm and he's got his hands...umm I mean, paws, full at the moment. I was going to head home right after brunch. What's up?" She sensed the tension in her father's voice and was very concerned.
"A lot has happened in the past day. The Valentines arrived here for a vacation. There was an...incident here last night. Your mother isn't very well at the moment. We were going to arrange to take her to Cosmo Canyon to help her recover."
"You better call Tifa fast then, Dad. Red wanted her to join him in Kalm. He said there were negative forces over Undor-Hai!"
"I don't doubt it," Reeve muttered.
"Honey, just tell Red what I told you. And don't bother heading home. We'll have Cid pick you up too. I'll call Tifa. Bye sweetheart."
"You look worried, Aeris," said Red XIII.
"That was my dad. Mom's not well...something bad happened last night...and they want to take her to the Canyon. I told him to get hold of Tifa. I have to stay here 'til they get Cid to fly out on his Airship."
"Then this is something major."
"Yes it is. And they won't be able to get Cid to fly out there today."
"Well, I think this is the time of his annual fishing trip with Baker. You know, so it encompasses the anniversary of when he told Shera how he felt about her. The whole family goes fishing in Gongaga."
"Of course." Red XIII smiled. "That little rascal of his must be what, ten now?"
Aeris laughed. "Can't you keep track of our puny human years? He turned twelve two months ago."
The creature just shook his head. "I barely keep track of your parents' birthdays, child. Once you make them grandparents, I'll be lucky to remember which go to which family. It's the price of being old."
"You're not old, Reddie!" she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You're the cutest widdle kitten I ever sawed!"
He growled. "Watch it, Aeris Aula Jordan." A smirk. "Too bad I remember your whole name, child."
"I'm so scared." She paused. "Well...actually, I wonder if my mom is all right?"
He thoughtfully nuzzled her shoulder. "We'll find out how she is as soon as we can. Until then, let's keep up our strength. Elmyra cooks very well...enough to make me hungry at the most unappetizing times."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"I'm very sorry for disturbing you," said Reeve soberly, "but Cid, this is very serious. We need your help to get Ray where she needs to be."
Five pairs of eyes watched the PHS conversation intently. One other pair, filled with anger, was peeking over the windowsill.
"I understand that. Tomorrow morning, first thing? Okay, we can manage to do that. Yes, there's a bare spot in the forest slightly east of the village where you can land. Well, this is an urgent matter, and we can hardly carry her over the trail... Thank you so much." Reeve hung up the PHS. "Tomorrow morning at dawn we take our things to this place in the forest. You might not want to take all your luggage, as we're in a hurry."
They all nodded.
"I'm going to go rest. We've been up for hours, and the amount of sleep I got was about zero last night." Reeve's game of PHS tag had lasted into the afternoon, and it wasn't until now that anyone felt the slightest bit of relaxation.
"I suggest we all do the same," said Vincent. "I'll be up in a minute," he said to Yuffie, "I'm going to go talk to Zuri."
Yuffie nodded and headed upstairs, followed by the others.
Stepping outside onto the porch, Vincent saw Azura sitting on the swing, as he expected. "Well, we've figured out what we're going to do."
"Good. Does that mean I can actually not be exiled from the rest of the people in this house?"
"You didn't need to be there, honey."
"I wouldn't have been alone if I was there, but you don't care about that, do you?"
"Look, Azura. Raieyana is not well, and she is our first priority."
"Patrick wasn't well and you let Reeve throw him out into the wilderness!"
"Young lady, I think you should shut your mouth and let them have their own family business without your input. I was right when I thought you couldn't handle this. Cid will drop you off at home before we go to Cosmo Canyon."
"Whatever, Father," she muttered as she stood up.
Vincent was startled. This was the first time she had called him anything besides "Daddy."
"Pretend this is a punishment if you like, but I doubt you ever would have given me the chance to prove I could handle it. In your mind, there's no way in hell 'baby Zuri' will ever be able to handle anything." She stormed into the house.
Vincent watched her and sighed. (I am sorry she is upset, but this is the best and safest way. Also, Wutai is one of the farthest places from here, which means the farthest place from Patrick if he should return.)
No one had noticed that Azura continued to stay in Patrick's room. She looked around. (If he was here, he could tell me just what to do to get away from everything.)
She sighed and lay down on the bed in the place where Patrick had been sleeping the previous night. Lost in thought, her eyes just wandered the room, looking at all the things that made this room belong to her friend. Suddenly, her eyes came to rest on the table next to her. There was a sketch pad lying on it, so she picked it up.
Flipping through the pages, she saw brilliant, lifelike drawings filling each and every page. Many were of local wildlife; she went "aww" over a baby cougar, and smiled at the thought of how Patrick would have to stay perfectly still for such a long time. All that, just to get a sketch of the timid creature before it ran away.
Every so often there would be weaponry designs, sketches of possibilities for moves to use while fighting. There was also one disturbing drawing called "My Two Faces." About half of it looked like a portrait of Reeve, the other was a blond man that Azura could not remember ever meeting in her life. The frightening part was the eyes; vacant, lifeless and glowing red. The date in the corner was for the night before.
She quickly turned the page, expecting to see the end of the pictures, but there was one last drawing, an incomplete sketch of a pretty girl asleep on a pillow. It was titled "My One Friend." Dated also for the night before, Patrick had scribbled a message at the bottom.
"This is my Zuri."
Azura, flattered, hugged the sketchbook to her chest. (He has made me into some beautiful nymph though, it's not like me at all though. I'm too plain for that picture.) As expected, the last few pages of the book were blank, and she closed the book and checked it over. (Such a treasure. I'm going to keep it for him... Well, more for me to remember him by.) Then she saw something intricate drawn on the back.
"My Special Place," it was titled. Azura recognized the itsy version of his house, even the placement of the trees around it. But the picture was very large and intricate, and an arrow pointed from the title to a place deep in the forest.
She suddenly realized she had indeed found a treasure. She held, in her hands, a map that showed the way to the most likely place Patrick could be found.
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