"Where else can you find a smile that is sweeter than honey,
and more bitter than a broken soul?"

Sometimes, the lives we live are not the ones we truly wish. Or, not as complete as we once thought they were. Take mine, for example. I know of a hundred or so people who would do anything to have the life I do, thinking that it would grant them all kinds of 'perks' or hoping to gain worldwide recognition, fame, fortune... whatever. It's all the same, people being stupid and not seeing the pain I have to live through, faking smiles where I must and seeing very few moments of real happiness.

I'm told to go and do my little appearances again. Time to bring that fake hope to the world once more. Fake hope that serves the people just as well as real hope but never is fulfilled. Often I wonder what life would be like if someone else had my job. Would I be happier? Would I find real meaning in myself? Or would I just wind up joining the other mindless masses, gazing at the 'hero' with hope that never bears fruit?

Waving away the dozen or so fans that seem to like tracking me down everywhere I go, I instead head for my sister's home. Maybe if I talk fast enough, I can foist everything off on her and no one would be the wiser. I've tried several times before, at some points praying to whomever would listen that I could just dump everything onto her head and let my dear sister deal with it all, but I never could work up the courage for it.

Maybe I'm just addicted to my 'work'.

I show up at her doorstep, give a little knock and wait. It takes time for someone in exile to get to the door. Have to deal with guards and all. Wonderful life, eh?

The door finally opens a crack and she looks out at me in confusion. She glances around, sees I'm alone, then warms up to me. I smile back, I can never force a smile around my sister, she means a lot to me. But, that doesn't keep me from wishing she took my place.

"Hey, Brother, what's up?" she asks, still standing in the doorway. I shrug.

"Not much. Just wanted to ask you to lunch. Been a while since we did that together." I answer. My sister gives me a surprised look.

"Are you asking me out to lunch?" she echoes. I smile again, a little sadder. Yes, that would shock her. Going out to eat is still a little strange for me to do, according to those who think they know me.

"No, I'll make us lunch." I reply and shake my head a little, "Aren't you going to invite me in?" She yelps and backs away from the door, waving me in as she gives the outside world another scan before shutting the door tight.

We sit sometime later, eating a light lunch I whipped up on the spur of the moment. My sister sets her fork down after a moment and sighs.

"No." she says, a tone of exasperation in her voice. I frown.

"I haven't even said anything yet." I grumble. She shakes her head.

"I know why you're here. It's basically the only reason why you come lately." my sister calmly replies and shakes her head again, "And my answer will always be 'no'." I stab at the shortcake I prepared, ignoring the whipped cream that now mixed messily with the fruit and cake.

"Okay, okay. You have me there. But won't you at least consider it? Think of what you could do in my place!" I tell her. Perhaps a reminder of the power I held would tempt her more easily. She smiles and steals a bite of my dessert.

"Well, of course there's lots of things I'd love to do with that power. But it's not up to me to wield it. You're the one stuck with the responsibility, so deal with it." she purrs and delicately nibbles at the cake. It amazes me at times how she can make eating anything look so sensuous. I drop my chin onto her tabletop in frustration.

"You always do that to me! It's not fair!" I complain and she laughs at me. She rubs my hair the wrong way, she knows I hate that, and pokes my nose.

"That's what siblings are for, Brother!" she teases and finishes my cake for me. I groan and she gives me a serious look. "Besides, you can't just stop being what you are. It doesn't work that way. You'd have to die to escape your fate; just like all the others before you and Daddy and Granny."

"Can't I fake it?" I grumble, glaring up at her. I hate it when she reminds me of the rules. She shakes her head. I sit up and sigh, pushing my empty plate away. This is so depressing. Half the time I'm alive I wish I wasn't and the rest of the time I'm so busy pretending to be the great savior of the world that I wonder why no one's yelled out 'Faker!' already. I glance at the clock on her mantle and wince. "I'm late again. Time to go and do more fake smiling, more fake happy-times, more fake everything." I growl under my breath, "Sometimes I think I hate who I am more than I like what I'm trying to do."

"You're helping the world a bit at a time." my sister comments as she fusses with my hair again, straightening out the mess she made of it, "That's all any of us can do right now. There. Now you look ready to sweep those girls off their feet!" I grin and shake my head at that. "So where are you headed today?"

"NeOzette. Apparently, the people still don't get the concept of cooking their meat thoroughly when making meat stew." I sigh, resting a cheek on one hand as I drum the table with my fingers, "At first I think, 'What's the point of going there and re-teaching that recipe? They're just gonna screw it up again the minute I leave.' Then Father reminds me that it's just the way life is, not all lessons are learned properly the first time." I cringe, another reminder that I'm not living up to my father's expectations. How can I stand to continue performing if I just keep dooming myself to failure in his eyes?

"Don't feel bad about it. You're teaching regular people to cook the way you do. You can't expect them to rise to your status right off the bat." my sister remarks brightly and pats my shoulder, "Thanks for lunch and the visit. Take care of yourself in NeOzette!" I get up and gather my things for the trip, preparing myself for yet another public appearance. After a moment, I plaster on a smile and turn to her.

"Well? Look real enough?" I ask and she sighs in exasperation.

"Adam, you know better than to fake a smile. People can tell the difference. Remember why you took on this responsibility, remember that you love to cook; shouldn't that in itself make you happy?" she tells me and I think it over. I remember as a youngster how much she giggled when I made a birthday cupcake for her for the first time. "That's better!" she coos as my smile turns genuine. She pushes me towards the door. "Now, go and make the world a healthier place, Wonder Chef!"

"Okay, okay! Bye, Eve. Thanks for talking some sense into me." I tell her as I leave. She waves and I continue walking away from her house in Meltokio. Maybe she's right about it all. Maybe I just have to learn to cope with what I am better.

But still, what I wouldn't give to experience a normal life... if only for a short while.

The End