Scars on the Heart
A story inspired by The Vision of Escaflowne
By Sarah Dove
Now I wake up happy,
Warm in a lover's embrace.
There's no-one else to touch us
While we're in this place.
Though I'm frightened by the words
I think it's time I made them heard.
- Split Enz, 'Message to My Girl.'
Celena woke with the pillow wet under her head. She realised, though, that it had not been a night sweat; her sheets were dry. It was only tears, only damp patches where they had run over her face. She knew what she had dreamt; remembered all the other dreams. Gaddes had helped her to start to feel better; she had had to do the rest herself. And I went after him myself, and I said goodbye to him myself. It wasn't good but it was the best things could have been. Goodbye, Dilandau.
She rolled over, under the sleeping weight of Gaddes's arm, kissed his cheek and settled herself against him, content to wait until he woke.
Then, slowly, she raised her head again to look over his shoulder. Allen was watching her, had been watching them sleep, from a chair placed on the other side of the bed. He was in a dressing gown, recovering, arm in a clean white sling, his hair tied together in a tail that hung over his uninjured shoulder. She could not read his expression.
'Please don't be angry,' she whispered. 'I need him. And he needs me.'
'I won't say I wasn't angry at first,' Allen said. 'I felt as though I'd been robbed; I'd wanted to find you someone, to see you settled and happy. It would have been something I could do for you. I even had a shortlist in mind, with plenty of time for revisions ... you should have had a few years more at least. But when I thought about it ... which Millerna insisted I did, instead of coming in here to run him through ... I realised there isn't anyone I like better than Gaddes. I think I told you he was the best man I knew. I have nothing to be angry about there. And how can I criticise your choice? Look at my history.' He was smiling.
'And look how well it's turned out in the end,' she said. 'I happen to know where you spent last night.'
'And she slept on the divan, thank you very much.'
'And we're fully dressed under the covers, thank you very much.'
'What sort of deviants are you?' Smiling still, teasing her, a proper brother.
'Don't make me laugh! We'll wake him up!' She was half laughing anyway. 'He can certainly sleep, can't he? Isn't he cute?' Slightly disturbed by their noise, Gaddes rolled onto his back.
'Don't ask me to find him cute. If you do, that's enough.' Allen got up to go, leaned over Gaddes and kissed his sister's forehead. 'Be happy.' He left the room quietly.
Gaddes opened his eyes, blinked, screwed up his face and yawned. 'I had the strangest dream,' he said. 'I thought the Boss was in here just now and he said I was cute when I was asleep.'
'Just because you are,' Celena said, and kissed him hard. He responded gladly, but when they parted, looked at her in concern.
'You've been crying,' he said reproachfully. 'Your eyes are pink.'
'Yes, and it's made me feel better, so don't criticise crying,' she said. 'Remember your promise? About telling me your life's story?'
'First thing in the morning?' he said, and winced. 'I haven't even been to the loo. You really want to hear a long, not terribly interesting story first thing in the morning?'
'It's important to me,' she said. 'And if you keep putting me off I'm going to think you've got some kind of dark secret I should know about. An evil twin or something.' If I keep asking is he just going to get annoyed with me?
'Give me five minutes. Is that the bathroom over there?' She nodded; he swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat for a moment scrubbing his hands through his hair. 'Ugh. Morning. You I like, morning I don't.' He wandered off to the bathroom. Celena sat up in bed and waited. The side of her face felt stiff and sore today, but less raw; it must be healing. It was a little chilly in the room, with the quilt only covering her lap. Autumn was beginning. She wriggled back under the covers, into the warm space their sleep had made. The borrowed trousers were no longer comfortable, now that they were wrinkled and riding up her legs; she took them off and kicked them out of the side of the bed, onto the floor. Sleeping in a shirt was better than a nightdress; a nightdress would be more modest when you were out of bed but it twisted around you as you turned over and eventually got wadded up around your waist in a ridge. A shirt did the same thing, of course, but there was less material to wad. Sleeping in nothing at all was, of course, quite comfortable but not in my life, with people always charging in and out of my room to arrest me or tell me they're not angry about Gaddes ... come to think of it, having Gaddes there could make a definite difference to the whole people-charging-in aspect of things. But still, I would only feel really happy about it in places where we could have real privacy, like the beach house. There ... I've worked out a preference. I know what I like as far as nightclothes are concerned. She felt happy about making her mind up about that. It was something for normal life, and hopefully there would be more of that from now on. Provided, of course, that Gaddes did not come out of the bathroom to inform her that he was descended from a long line of compulsive liars or was wanted in several counties for acts of unnatural romance with sheep. Just don't worry about it. See what he says.
He emerged from the bathroom looking more alert; he seemed to have washed his face. 'So, story of my life,' he said as he crossed the room. 'I was born in Awamut ... that's a country town a couple of days east from here. It's mainly a pipfruit-growing area. My family had a few orchards, we made cider, we weren't rich but we got along all right.' He climbed back into bed. 'Is it me or is it getting cold?'
'It's cold. Come here and I'll warm you up.' They curled up together; she rested her head on his shoulder. 'Keep going. What was your family like? Did you have brothers and sisters?'
'I had six. And my dad's brother lived with us, with his family, so I had five cousins around all the time as well. It was just too many; we must have worked my mum and auntie off their feet. The house wasn't really built for two families. In my room there was me, my two little brothers and my cousin Jonty, top and tail in two big beds. There was never anywhere where there wasn't someone else, except on the roof or up a tree sometimes. I'm not complaining, it was usually a lot of fun to be such a big bunch of kids together, but there were times when you got really sick of it.'
'I can imagine.'
'As for Mum and Dad ... well, people tell me I look like Dad, except he had a funny arm. The right arm was about four inches shorter than the left one and he couldn't move it all that well ... the hand was always in a sort of loose fist. He was born that way. He was really good at doing everything with his left arm and his mouth, and we hardly even noticed it when we were kids, but when we got older we were embarrassed by it. Which was stupid when I think about it, but you know how kids are about their parents looking conspicuous it used to kind of wag when he walked, and we used to walk the other side of the road from him and pretend we weren't his.
'And Mum was just great, she was really tall, with big hands, she was good at baking and she was famous in the area for her apple pies. So I had a mother who baked apple pies, and that was nice. She had a gold medal from the Countrywomen's Institute. I haven't been able to go back to see them in years, but we write. Mum mainly. I haven't gotten on well with Dad for a while, and I guess that's the next bit of the story.'
'Before you go on, was this the same uncle who had the beach cabin? Living with you, I mean.'
'No, the beach uncle was my mother's brother, Uncle Josha. Uncle Matty didn't have an artistic bone in his body. His main interests besides orchards were playing rugby, distance spitting and annoying people. He used to tease us kids till we wished he'd drop dead.'
'Fun to live with?'
He chuckled. 'Well, we put up with him most of the time.'
'What were you like when you were a boy? I want to be able to imagine you.'
'I'm not really sure how I looked, except I was skinny and I had a lot of scabs on my knees, up until I was about twelve, then I started filling out, but I still had the scabs. Is that enough for you? I liked rugby, I was interested in boats and airships, I had this plan that I was going to go out to Fanelia and tame a dragon and bring it home I just hooned around with my brothers and my boy cousins and life was fun until I was fifteen.'
'What happened then?' Something bad?
'Well, I started fighting with Dad, because he thought I should work in the orchard, run it with my older brother Therow so it'd stay Finn Bros, but by that time I'd decided I wanted to be a shipwright and build racing yachts ... I was going through a Fruit is Boring period, and I used to really piss him off complaining about everything at home. What are you giggling about?'
'Fruit is Boring.'
'It is when you're fifteen.'
'I am fifteen.'
'Only in years. I'm choosing to believe you're older in spirit because otherwise I feel like I'm robbing a cradle.' It's not that bad; can't be that bad. The Boss proposed to Hitomi and she was only this age.
'So I'm too mature to be bored by fruit.'
'Yeah, you're old enough to understand its true fascination. One day you too will be able to tell a Queen Therese and a Southern Snap apart in the dark by feel.'
'Because Queen Therese says get your hands off me, you commoner.' They were right off track now and both giggling; a tickle-fight broke out and was developing along passionate lines when Celena's scraped cheek received an accidental bump and spoiled it for her.
'Ow; ow, ow. That really hurt, you great twit.' She turned away from him, covering it with her hand.
'I'm sorry ... let me see. Look, it's not bleeding. You're all right. I'll be really careful now.'
'I want to hear the rest of the story.' She was unco-operative.
'I really have to wonder about your priorities, my girl.'
'Come on, please?'
'I've just discovered you've taken off those trousers under here, and you want me to tell you a story?' He was giving in; he just wanted to tease her a bit more. 'Where am I up to?'
'You're fifteen and pissing off your father with your lack of fruit appreciation.'
'So things just weren't very good at home. And there was this girl I really liked who made a complete fool of me ... I felt like I could never show my face in town again ... so I just left home. I didn't run away, I said goodbye and everything, and Dad said fine, go and be an idiot, see where it gets you, and I said further than you've ever been, you old coot, and got on the back of a barge that was going to Pallas.'
'What was the girl like?'
'Well, with hindsight she was hard as nails, but I was young and dumb enough to think she was exciting. She was called Jule and she had black hair and green eyes and she pretended to like me to get to spend time with my cousin Jonty.'
'She obviously had no taste at all.' Celena kissed his cheek.
'Thank you. So I got down to Pallas, and I managed to get a job with a shipwright ... not a proper apprenticeship, you need connections to get those, but I could learn where I was and I thought it all looked pretty good, and I shared an attic with a butcher's assistant who brought home a lot of slightly imperfect sausages and a guy called Dai who was a rich man's son slumming it to annoy his father, and we all ate sausages for every meal and Dai bought us drinks and ... too many ands now, I'm starting a new sentence. I was too young to be away from home. I missed my family a surprising amount and I started drinking a lot and getting up to tricks to take my mind off it. The only smart thing I did in that time was learn to fly ... that's where Crash Test comes from. It was Dai's bird and he taught me for fun. Then one night he didn't come home, and I found him on the steps outside our building. He'd fallen over trying to get the door open when he was drunk, and cracked his head open on the corner of the step. When we were cleaning up his things we found a sort of will written on a piece of butcher paper the other guy had brought home ... I can't remember his name now ... and it said the butcherboy could have his collection of potatoes that looked like things, and I could have Crash Test. I do remember butcherboy calling him a dead git. And he was a git, but I'd quite liked him.
'And that night I went out drinking, in Dai's memory I reckoned, and somehow in the course of that night I decided it would be a really good idea to join the army. Please don't ask me how that worked because I don't know. I was full as a boot, I staggered into the recruiting station, they said sign there.'
'And next morning you woke up and realise what you'd done?'
'No, next morning I'd forgotten what I'd done and I never reported to the barracks they'd told me. Unfortunately I'd gotten my address right on the form so they came to get me. I was up at the Aviary and I was actually planning to fly home. I'd saved some money, mainly because until Dai died I'd never had to pay for my own drinks, and I figured I could go back without looking like a total failure. Butcherboy told them where I was and they came up there ... I only had time to give the caretaker what I had left and ask him to keep Crash Test where it was before they marched me off to have a man made of me. And that's really the whole story. I was a really half-assed soldier who never quite managed to get a dishonourable discharge ... I just ended up with the rest of the rejects out in the swamp ... until your brother got sent out there too. And I told you about that. Until then I was just drawing my pay and sending some back to the caretaker, some to my family, and kicking my heels until my term of service was up. Given that it's meant to be ten years ... well, it's still not up. I never had a direction till I met the Boss.'
'And he changed your life.' They were back in the part of the story she knew; she wanted to be sure she had it right.
'What about the other women?' Celena propped herself on her elbow and looked at him severely.
'What other women?'
'Don't pretend to be thick. You must have had other girlfriends. I won't be jealous. Though of course I hate them all already.'
'Well yes. No-one I really loved. What I used to do was get a really hopeless crush on someone, I'd definitely think I was in love with her, and it'd wear off in a few weeks. It wasn't like this and they weren't like you. The things that have happened would have put me right off otherwise. If things were difficult with any of them I just thought oh well, bye then. And I never wanted to tell them I loved them the way I want to tell you, I never wanted to tell them all about how I was feeling and make promises and ... well, there was never anyone I wouldn't have been happy to live without. Now I feel like I have to live with you.'
'You really never fell in love before?' It just sounded too good; it was too wonderful to believe that she was the first and only one in his heart. He was half-laughing, embarrassed, but earnest.
'I'm telling you so. I ... look, do you know how soppy I am about you? How I dream about you? I was watching you sleep last night and I thought that I didn't know it before, but I'd been waiting to meet you since I was born. Then I couldn't believe I'd thought something that sounded that drippy but I still thought it. I don't know why you're that special to me and there probably isn't a reason that makes sense in words, but that's how I feel now. You can see I'm not a really impressive person; I haven't had the kind of transforming life you and your brother have had.'
'Transforming life? You're bloody lucky. I don't think you'd like being turned into a girl ... but Allen didn't '
'I mean the kind of life where things happen that change you into a better person. You know? The big tests, and terrible things to endure, and you have to be noble to come through it. I've just had two people who really changed things for me, and both times that was just in ways of making me happier. Your brother and you. Because you are that kind of transformed person, and all your life you're going to change other people too. And he gets my loyalty and friendship, and you get my loyalty and love. If you want them. Oh crap ... that was scary to say.'
Celena was bewildered. 'But you've said it before; that you love me. You know that's all I want.'
'That was the first time I'd thought it all through like that, and just said it as I thought it. And ... well, you said something last night about being afraid I wouldn't love you if I really knew you. Of course I'm afraid of the same thing.'
'Well, don't be afraid.' She kissed him on the chin, then on the mouth. 'Because I want everything that you are.' I think I'm finally getting it right.
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