Part 30: Bouquet
How did I what?
Get back from Samiad? I walked.
And I should probably tell you I met your grandmother while I was there. Then I broke her out of prison and she asked me to give you this pendant, which I just trekked across half the desert to do. So, not to make you feel beholden or anything, but maybe you could think about it before you try to kill me again? I'd appreciate it.
Somewhere to be. Talk later.
(That was so alpha. Would you go out with me.)
At Fana's, nobody answered the door when I knocked.
My first thought? "Helen is dead." My second, to wonder why my first thought wasn't "Helen is out" or "Helen is busy."
...feeling fine today! One time won't kill me!
We don't know that, Fana. If we go out there and you collapse, what do we do? How will I get you home?
And don't raise your voice. You know what that does to your chest.
Is this a bad time?
No, it's alright.
Actually, it's a perfect time. Fana, why don't you let Yumil go in your place?
What's this now?
My eyes fell to the bouquet in her lap.
Two minutes later and I might have missed this. Whether that was good or bad luck, I couldn't decide.
Would you mind, Yumil? It shouldn't take too long.
I'd be happy to. If Fana's okay with it.
He's practically part of the family, isn't he? And your mother wouldn't want you risking it just for some silly flowers. Come on now.
I suppose. Why not.
There's a girl.
Really, it's no problem. I wasn't doing much today anyway.
I'll be downstairs when you're ready.
Sorry about this.
I don't even feel tired today. I know I could make it.
Maybe, but I think we should play it safe after the bear incident.
'Course. You're right. I don't have the strength to get one stupid doll finished, why would a walk would be any different?
I-I wasn't trying to...that's not what I meant.
What did you mean, then?
Is there anything you want me to tell her? Your mother, I mean.
More than you'd remember.
She nudged the flowers towards me, just an inch. Not wanting me to take them, but nonetheless indicating I should.
One of them was an Ice Lily.
Next to that, a Forest Drop.
She'd kept them. The flowers I'd brought her, in various stages of wilt, made up her bouquet. Dozens, perhaps over a hundred. Some were no more than floppy stems, grimly clutching their last decaying remnants of colour. Petals broke off at the softest touch.
The town was famous for its flowers. Open your eyes in Rhoan, indoors, outdoors, somewhere you would see a flower. Barely two yards outside her front door, there were flowers. And she'd still been sitting there, saving up the flowers I gave her, one by one, for months.
Why don't I pick some fresh ones for you?
Can I ask you something?
Of course you can.
How did she die? I've never been brave enough to ask Fana.
Sorry. I'm sorry. That's none of my business. I don't know why I brought it up.
Have you seen the grave next to this? On the left.
Oh, with the name scratched out? Yeah. Pretty horrible, isn't it?
That one is my son's.
My son Byron. Fana's father. That's his grave.
...I thought he'd gone missing?
Helen. What are you talking about? He's just missing, isn't he? Fana told me that. You told me that.
Fana doesn't know. She can't know.
But why? I mean, how long has he been dead for? Why haven't you told her?
Lena worked herself to death to take care of Fana, and Fana blames her father for it. Because he "disappeared." Left her mother to do everything.
Her father left to find a cure for her illness. He was killed on the journey. Who would she blame if she knew that, do you think?
She deserves to know.
She does. But what good will it do her?
So you're just going to let her believe a lie? Because it's more convenient for you?
You're supposed to support her. If the truth isn't nice, you help her cope. You don't just hide it so she won't feel bad.
If that's how you think then maybe you shouldn't be looking after her.
Who should, then? You? Do you think taking care of someone means popping round for a few hours a day? Or lately it's been a few hours a week.
I'd be with her all the time if I could!
That makes two of us, then!
Do you think your son would be happy with this?
I am not discussing this with you.
Maybe we should put that on his grave. "Byron, ex-beloved father, scapegoat."
My son is dead. Fana isn't.
Is this why you didn't want me to come?
Afraid I'd find out?
Did you walk all this way by yourself?!
How long were you *cough* going to lie to me?
All this *cough*time...all this time...
Fana! Don't strain yourself! Just sit still, alright? Just sit. Deep breaths.
Yumil, can you help me get her home?
I'm sorry you had to hear that.
I said she should have told you the truth. You heard me, didn't you?
None of this would have happened if she'd been honest from the start.
Maybe it would've been better if I'd died.
Don't say that!
You're not a burden, okay? I told you this before. Stop thinking that way.
I'm not talking about that. I'm just not sure I want to live like this anymore.
I'm tired. Tired of this bed. Tired of looking out the window at everything I can't have.
Fana...look. I know it's hard for you, but-
No you don't! You think you understand but you don't, and I hope you never have to!
One time! One time I leave this bloody bedroom and look what happens! Everyone has to stop and help poor little Fana, AGAIN!
Please don't shout. You'll only make it worse.
So what. Everything I do makes it worse, so I can't do anything at all. That's not living. That's just existing.
I just wanted my mum, Yumil. Just for one minute, to say I'm sorry. If I wasn't like this, she wouldn't...
Yumil. Say something.
Tell her it's not her fault. Tell her.
I knew what to say. I knew how to say it. But I couldn't form the sounds.
Kamui, you poor, poor man. What a curse you suffer.
She asked to be alone then, and that was all I could do for her. Mieli called me an idiot as gently as she could, and as I left, I held the book close to my face and pretended I was reading.