Author: Regann PM
COMPLETE. A look at Jecht through the eyes of the one who loves him most -- the wife left behind to die of grief.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 4,208 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 10 - Published: 11-06-02 - Status: Complete - id: 1053341
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He loved it. The sea. He would watch it for hours, his garnet-colored eyes so mysterious as the tumbling colors of the waters played against his dark irises. He always looked so sad when he did that. So pensive. And pensive is not a word which I'd usually use to describe him. Focused? Perhaps. Confident, bold and arrogant, yes. But pensive? Only when he watched the sea.
I remember the last time I saw him staring down at those swaying waves, like it had happened only yesterday. Night had almost settled , the failing light casting fiery colors on the silken surface of the ocean. When I'd gently called his name and he looked to me with those dark eyes reflecting the colors of the molten sky , I'd completely forgotten what I'd wanted to say. I'd been so struck by him, like I always was. But, for some reason, I knew that that moment was different, somehow. Too achingly perfect, in the visual way which always appealed to an artist like myself. Colors and scents and emotions melding into a swirl of inspiration right inside. I could feel a painting blossoming inside me at that moment.
"Yeah?" he'd asked, only slightly bemused by my apparent lack of ability to communicate. It was old habit; I'd spent much of our relationship with my tongue tied in knots and my hands wringing the hems of my shirts. I'd ruined more good blouses that way. "Cat got yer tongue, eh?" He had laughed heartily at me, then gave me affectionate tap on the tip of my nose as if I had actually been the cat of which he spoke. With a boyish grin, he sauntered away, leaving me to watch night cloak the city all by myself. I'm sure it would have been a lovely sight, but he had sparked a creative light in my heart and my hands had itched to hold a brush and feel the colors flow through my hands onto the blank canvas. Without giving the sky another second glance, I'd ducked back inside, wringing the hem of my shirt.
I loved him. I love him now. Jecht isn't the kind of person who can breeze in and out of your life. Or rather, he can, but you never forget it. It's not quite so simple on the other end. It's like his presence is a drop of red pigment added to white paint. No matter how much you dilute the paint, it is never without that pinkish hue. Following that, my white life is bleeding red. And I'm not even willing to try to dilute it.
There I go again, with the painting metaphors. He always complained about that, the way everything seemed to boil down to some artistic analogy. Of course, what could he say? He was the same with blitzball -- even love and romance could be talked of in terms of goals and shots and time-outs. It was painfully obvious to anyone who knew him that his words were not his best selling points. No, it was his movements, his actions, the look of him. Whether looking at the sea or sliding through the water of a blitzball sphere, he caught and held one's attention. But especially mine. Captivated is a better word. After our first meeting, face-to-face, I was drowning in Jecht. It was not as bad as it may sound. It's like a chocoholic being surrounded by chocolate. In short, it was heaven.
Many people don't see the beauty there, in him. Oh, they see his skill, his charisma, his personality but never the beauty. And many won't ever recognize it because most people don't even understand what real beauty is, anyway. A flower is beautiful -- not just because it's pretty and bright but because it's alive. The beauty in it is that life that will one day perish. It's beauty is fostered because of its fragility, because of its infinitesimal quality. The vitality tempered with the inevitability of death, in the same way that faults make that which is perfect even more precious The dark needs light, balance and breath. Jecht is like that. Or was, like that. He was graceful, proud but so dark sometimes. I'm not blind, not like Jahiliya says I am. He drank too much, tried too hard and hurt some of us one too many times. And that was the sadness I could see in his eyes when he watched the waves. And he was beautiful, in every way.
I did paint that painting, the one inspired by the him and the sea at sunset. It was about a week later that I had it all sketched, broad lines in charcoal on the stretched white cloth which vaguely suggested his face framed by his impossibly unruly dark hair, his broad shoulders and muscled arms, faint smudges between the lines hinting at the deep scars which I knew wound around the muscles. He had so many scars which he carried proudly as trophies of his bouts, both in and out of the game. Silly man, with his crazy notions. I knew every one of the serpentine lines of tissue where they cut into the darkly tanned skin, where they tried to disrupt the tattoo which he'd had inked into his chest. I had spent more than enough with him to remember every curve by heart. I can still close my eyes and imagine him here, recalling with perfect detail how he smelled and felt and tasted. Perhaps that's why I suffer now. My mind is too strongly aware of what I lack..
After I'd known him a year, I never needed a model; it all came from my mind. Behind him in the scene I had sketched an impression of the water mirroring the fire-sky, the distant shores and twinkling lights of the city visible only as an impression. I'd been excited by the beginning lines and the memory in my head. I'd spent much of that day holed up in my miniscule guest room which I converted into a studio, sketching and shading. I'd been so caught up in what I was doing that I'd almost ignored the small person who lumbered to my side. I'd slowly became aware of that little person standing next to me, his blue eyes appraising my work more critically than any supposed art expert. His little arms had been crossed over his body as he looked doubtfully at canvas, eyes saying that he was unimpressed. I'd stopped and glanced over at him, amusedly watching him as I wiped my hand on the old jeans shorts I wore. "What do you think, kid?" I'd asked him.
He'd scrunched his sun-browned features into a scowl. I didn't have the heart to tell him it made it look so much more like his father. "I think," he'd answered darkly. "You waste too much time drawin' that ugly old man."
I had to laugh. What else could I do? "What would you have me paint, then?"
He'd deliberated for a moment. "Why not something cute? Like some kittens or puppies?"
I'd hugged him as I told him, "How about this? Next painting I do will be of you! And you are certainly cuter than any puppy or dog I've seen!"
He'd guffawed and blushed as red as the beginnings of my painted sunset, but I could tell that he'd been pleased with my reply. I understood why he felt so much resentment for Jecht. He was a hard man to know and an even harder one to love. Tidus was too young to see the love behind the poorly chosen words and badly-thought actions. I wished often that my son would one day see his dad the way I did: imperfect, complex, but breathtaking. I don't think he ever will.
That was the same day that Jecht never came home. I didn't really start to worry until the sky was black and white with stars and I heard a quick rapping on what acted as a front door on the house boat. When I'd opened it and saw Jahiliya, I knew something was wrong.
"He never showed up for the game," she'd explained without preamble. "The Abes lost by default to the Duggles. Not what I call our best win, but we'll take it. Where the hell is he?"
That became the question ringing through the city as a few of the players combed the streets looking for him. All they were found were his old sandals and silver cuff on the eastern fringe of the city, at the shore where he'd liked to practice in the stillness of dawn. Nothing left but shoes -- which he hated to wear -- and the cuff I'd bought him for some occasion so far in the past I'd forgotten it. As hours became days and days became weeks, I knew I'd never see him again. Everyone around realized it much more quickly. Only I clung to the slim possibility that he'd return. In his own way, Tidus did the same. He'd stamped around the planks of the boat with his blitzball, muttering. "You'd better come back, old man! I'll show you!" He was already working to surpass his father's skill in blitzball, and he was only seven! I should have been proud; I know that. But too much of me was focused on the emptiness to think of trying fill it with something.
I spent more time that I should have wasting away in my cloistered art room. I stared at the half-finished portrait, tears blurring it into a strip of color. I'd always been a crier, a crybaby as he used to tease me. I cried when I stubbed my toe or when I burned my bread. Poor Tidus, how could be anything but a crybaby with me and Jecht as his parents? In those first days, I cursed the same cunning irony of life, its deceptive promises and tricks. I remembered most vividly the day we married, the words we uttered in concordance to propriety. What was the dribble again? Something about not parting until death. Oh, what a twist. It was so ambiguous -- it only promised the lifetime. It never guaranteed that the life wouldn't end in less than forty years, on the cold shores of the sea. I felt like the woman who had asked the gods for as many years as grains of sand she could hold in her hands. She'd been granted those years, everyone of them. But she had forgotten to ask for eternal youth, leaving her to suffer great old age and the maladies which came with it. I'd asked for life but forgot to ask for length.
Tidus would usually come to my door and sit, listening to me cry and wail. When I became too tired to sob anymore, I would hear his own cries through the door. More often than not, I'd open the door to find him curled up on the floor, clutching in one arm the stuffed tiger his aunt had bought him. I'd pick him up -- Rachi the tiger, too -- and carry him into his room and deposit him on the soft bed. I'd sometimes not even leave but join him, wrapping my arms around him in an attempt to stay connected to something other than death and pain. But those times were short.
Jecht had been gone a month when I realized that my memories were fading. In my grief, I'd began to stash away his visage, burying beneath tricks of memory until I was near panicked that I'd never be able to recall it again. This fear sent me into the next stage: obsession, in the form of my unfinished portrait which I needed to complete. I wanted to capture his strange beauty once more. I abandoned everything, including crying, in the throes of my mission, but now I left the door open and Tidus could come and find me as he pleased. He'd often just look at the painting then leave; lots of time he would leave me a glass of water or some cookies. Such a sweet little boy. It should have comforted me, his affection and concern. It only panged at my heart, reminding me of when I had been ill and his father had displayed similar boyishly clumsy aid and tenderness.
I was developing a bittersweet relationship with my memories.
The painting, its colors and textures, shades and depth consumed me, so that I dreamed of nothing but its frozen image, as if I had painted it onto the insides of my eyelids instead on the canvas. I would remain awake for days, painting, then sleep a few hours only to rise. Jahiliya came more often than I'd liked, berating me and trying to be comforting all in the same breath. Like her brother, she was not very eloquent or tactful when it came to words.
"You look horrible," she'd announced one day. "Letting yourself waste away isn't helping matters any."
Was that what I had been doing? Sure, I'd stopped eating most of the time, but only because I never felt hungry. And sleep was torture, where I remembered nothing but Jecht, missing his warmth, his touch, his voice. I even missed the way he snored and the way he had a bad habit of talking in his sleep. All of that kept me from sleeping, except for a few hours on the floor of my art room or next to Tidus in his tiny bed. So what if my eyes were ringed with dark circles and I was sallow? Or that I never brushed my hair? It didn't matter to anyone.
I realized too late that it mattered very much to someone.
Jahiliya, who used so many words so badly, had been almost speechless when she'd seen the finished painting. I'd dozed off with my head resting on my stool and my legs tucked up under me as I sat on the floor. It was her rather loud obscenity of shock which had awoken me. I opened my tired eyes to find her staring slack-jawed at the painting, its colors still slick and wet under the lighting. I knew how she felt…when I looked at it, I wanted nothing more than to cry from its beauty. The beauty was in no part because of me, except in my ability to capture the truth. Jecht and the sky and the sea, all washed in fiery light with the darkness of Zanarkand like a mythical palace in the background. Simple but true. Complex and harsh. Full of surprising softness and emotion. It was Jecht.
As if my finishing the painting had been some kind of premonition, a young man arrived at my door that day. Quiet and haunted, with long dark hair and rich red robes, he would have been very handsome if not for the terrible scar which trailed down the entire right side of his body from his forehead, mauling his eye as it ran down into the collar of his shirt. That and the weariness etched into his fine features shadowed over him. I felt as if I were staring into a mirror when I saw the pain in his eye, bearing my own internal scars instead of the physical ones which spoke of the man's misfortune.
I came to know him as Auron.
To be completely objective, I was not very friendly to him; in fact, I was so rude to him that even Jahiliya looked at me as if I were insane. Neither of us made a very good impression on one another. The scar, the clothing, the huge sword which he had supported on his shoulder…none of it was quite characteristic of the people I knew. Maybe they looked like that in the very southern part of the massive city, where the population began to thin as it met with the high misty mountain which marked the end of the world; I had never much wandered from my own small neighborhoods because the city was so vast. One could walk for weeks and never reach very far in relative distance.
Everything about him had spoken of something foreign, something unlike myself. Only his pain and his soft words about the friend he lost -- that was what we had in common. Jecht. And somehow, it became enough to bind us into an impossible alliance. Even in death, his presence was that strong.
And Auron was strong and practical, another way in which we differed. He was the first to say it. "Jecht is dead," he'd told me quietly, without preamble or hesitation. No one else had ever dared say that to me, to speak the truth in such cold hard terms.
It was as if the sun went supernova when he said that to me -- light shattering and shrouding the world in darkness. I was not strong -- not like Auron, not like Jahiliya, not even like my seven-year old son. He had been my strength and he was gone. The sun died with him and I never escaped from the blackness of my own despair.
They say I'm ill, dying of a broken heart. But they're wrong because I'm not dying. I've been dead for months, since the day Jecht was lost into the sea. The old legends say the earth was born from the waters, when the divine breath parted the waves and blew life into clay. So we were created from the water and earth and so we shall return. And so shall I because I haven't the will to live. I should; I should be strong enough to live, if not for myself, then for Tidus -- small, weeping child orphaned in truth if not in fact. But some part of me is too selfish to live without Jecht, even for Tidus. But he'll be in good hands -- better hands, truth be told. Jahiliya is more of a mother than I could be and he'll have Auron to watch after him. For the stranger promised Jecht as much. And he will keep that word.
I don't know why I'm writing this…perhaps to ease my conscience since I doubt I'll last the night. No -- I don't want to last another night. If I'm lucky, if there is a god in the waters, then I'll sleep tonight, dreaming of Jecht, and I'll never wake up.
For the second time in my life, let me be lucky.
It was Auron who found her in the darkness before dawn, curled into a pitiful ball with her head resting on the stool she used when she painted. The ten handwritten pages of confession were clutched in one hand, both arms tucked protectively under her head. Her face, he noticed, was ghost-pale and still; a mask of death. But somewhere in the hours before she drew her last breath, calm had replaced sorrow and the lines smoothed from her features. He had never seen her so…young, so…peaceful. The barest trace of a shy smile shaped her mouth, her closed eyes facing the fiery portrait of Jecht which she had painted, captivating and charismatic, too intensely bright to do anything but burn itself out.
In a rare moment of grim humor, Auron noted to himself that opposites most assuredly must attract -- sun and moon, they had been. The sun was too hot to burn forever and the moon could only reflect in pale comparison her partner's light. With him gone, the moon faded into oblivion. Leaving only the sky and night to mourn.
Carefully, as if she were only asleep and must not be awakened, the young warrior monk carried her out of the small studio, and returned her to her bed. He knew he needed to call Jahiliya; he had no idea what to do with a dead Zanarkand woman and her orphaned son, who still slept fitfully in his bed, lulled into slumber by his own tears. The first streaks of light were splaying across the bleak horizon when Auron returned to the small studio. He couldn't look at the portrait; with its artist and subject lost to him, it hurt to even glance at it, like the colors were themselves flames, ready to wound those who stepped too close. Instead, he gathered the pages which had been scattered when he had moved her, lined pages filled with messy black-ink scrawl. He read the words, hearing the plea buried deep within them, the unspoken request. Those words, he knew, were meant for Tidus as much as Jecht's spheres were, for the same reasons: one day, Tidus might want to forgive his father. To do so, he'd have to understand. Without his mother's words, he could never fully do that.
Auron folded the pages together carefully and tucked them into his red robes.
Another promise made -- not to Jecht, but to his wife.
Now, Tidus was doubly his fate.
The ending of her story, in darkness and pain
It was the beginning of his story.