Altima left me after that. I could feel her retreat into the distance but never wholly leave. She watched me as I knew she would and I must admit I felt vulnerable beneath the steady gaze of predatory eyes. I had a glimmer of confidence, however. For my own had been tempered with the kind of steel she was made of.

My boys stirred and awoke gradually, clutching their heads as if they might burst. I thought about confronting them about what had happened in our tiny dormitory and what kind of deviancy they had wrought. Then I thought of Altima's enigmatic confrontation and I discarded the idea, thinking it best not to muddy the waters yet.

Which is not to say that my own resentment did not burn. Of course it did, the hurt that I had sustained was deep and more painful than I'd have ever thought imaginable. I even recoiled as they sat up and smiled at me dimly, apologizing as if they just forgot to invite me to a party. Maybe on some level they knew that I was aware of their transgression.

It was difficult to swallow my own rage and guilt, but I did. I tapped into that recently discovered well within me and I drank its cooling waters greedily. I fed on its strength and once again I became myself.

That day bled into the much of the week. When we talked or slept there was a strange awkwardness between us. Despite their ignorance of my sins and knowledge they seemed aware of it as well and gave me a wide berth. I resumed my classes sporadically, but when confronted with the pursuit of knowledge my mind wandered to what exactly Altima would want from me and the taste of Aeolus' mouth. It was a guilty pleasure, but it made it feel all the more worth while.

On Thursday while walking home from class he shouted my name and approached. He was dressed in civilian clothes, perhaps in an effort to blend in. He didn't succeed. Clutching my books to my chest I turned and offered him a smile.

He jogged up to me, but kept his distance. We didn't kiss or hug, which seemed odd.

"Is everything okay?" I asked. It would have soothed my soul for him to say that no, everything wasn't all right. That he'd have to cancel tomorrow. Work and all, you must understand.

"Yeah. Can we talk?" His hand slipped over my arm.

We walked some distance in silence, leaving the crowds that populated the campus between periods behind. The sounds of our shoes on the flagstones were the only noises exchanged between us for a long time, until we were in the company of nothing save for the university's willows.

He released me. I could see him try to frame what he was trying to say in his head, that he was struggling with getting the words out. I told him to relax and kissed his cheek hoping it'd give him enough comfort to get everything straight in his head before he burst.

"There's something wrong with Iltyhia." He managed to blurt out. He seemed to relax a little after that.

"Your sister?" I furrowed my brow, recalling the name from a previous discussion. He didn't confirm.

"I'm no good at this stuff, Wendy. I'm not my mother and there's no way I'm my father. I haven't had to deal with this stuff before. I'm not a parent. I've never had kids before. But it doesn't seem normal. One day she's her normal self, all happy and smiles. The next she's just.. different."

"You need to elaborate a little."

"She's still happy and she still does her job. But she doesn't seem interested in me. It's kind of like I'm a stranger to her. She's polite, but she won't joke around with me any longer. She doesn't really talk much about anything. We always share everything, but now she's as quiet as a clam."

I found it to be a bit narcissistic. Aeolus was only little older than me. His little sister would roughly be in her late teens. Late twenties on the outside. They were essentially adults. Sometimes adults prefer a little bit of privacy. I know I wouldn't want a big brother breathing down my neck every waking moment.

But of course I didn't say that.

"Maybe she just needs a little alone time, Aeolus. I know I don't want to be with someone every waking moment of the day. You're probably just worrying about nothing."

He sighed and scratched his head. The stubble from the previous day had recently shaved off. My statement didn't seem to convince him of any substantial fact.

"Look. It's perfectly natural. She's a growing girl. She has needs you obviously can't fill. Emotional needs that she needs to express in her own way. You're her big brother and I understand you're trying to be there for her during an awkward time. But if you try to force her to tell you everything you're going to wind up alienating her and make it worse. A girl needs secrets at that age, especially from authority figures.

"I should know."

His shoulders slumped a little. When he looked at me it was pathetic and little. I put down my books and wrapped my fingers through his. My forehead found his and I looked into his eyes. It felt wrong and they looked so drastically different from what I was used to.

"Trust me." I pleaded, kissing his lips. It seemed to soften his worry a little, so I did it again.

He squeezed my hands and moved in closer to me. Without trawling the ether that existed between us I knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"Wendy," he started. "Will you talk to her?"


Newer Post Older Post Home