I was almost 18 turns when I first met Rodya. Rodya and I would quickly become very good friends, and he would proceed to haunt me for the rest of my life. I suppose calling him a "good friend" trivializes what conspired between us. It can't be helped, anything more or less would merely be a hopeful delusion. He just wasn't that sort of person.
It all started in the common rooms of the candidate barracks, I was sitting with a few of my girlfriends gossiping something horrible when he walked into my life. We could all tell from the way he held himself that he was holdborn, me perhaps more than the others. Nearly two turns previously I had been in his position. The first moments a holdborn candidate spends in the Weyr are the strangest few moments of their lives. It's a completely different world. He was scared, dazed and confused, but far too proud to ask for any sort of assistance. He would be okay. None of us moved to help him. We just looked him over like a side of herdbeast and formed out own opinions of what sort of contributions he would make to the male population of our group.
It was love at first sight.
I only wish I would've known it then. I don't think it really would've made much of a difference, but I can't help wondering if our relationship would've been different if I had gotten up from the table and introduced myself. But I didn't. I just sat and glowered at him with three other girls whose names and significance I've long since forgotten. He looked right through us and found the entrance to the boy's barracks by himself.
We were in the same chore group. Chances are good that we never would've known each other if it wasn't for the random weekly shuffling of the groups. Fate however dictated that Rodya and myself would spend a certain morning mucking out the Weyr's stables. The first words we ever exchanged were elbow-deep in straw and shit, surrounded by drudges and runners. I'm not going to lie, and make it sound like the event had more significance than it did. Dragons didn't bugle in joy when our eyes locked and I noticed that he had the most gorgeous eyelashes I'd ever seen. But while our eyes didn't fill with glitter and hearts, we returned to the barracks that afternoon happier for knowing each other.
We learned a lot about each other that day. I found out that he grew up in Nerat Hold, and hated the taste of Khal. I told him about my childhood days at Katz Field, and how my mother was a journeyman of the weavercraft before she met my father. I asked him what he wanted to impress.
"I haven't really thought about that."
I was slightly taken aback by this. At that point, I had been a candidate of Igen Weyr for nearly two turns. The conversation of all candidates returns to the subject of newborn dragons. It becomes a habit that whenever the conversation begins to die, to bring up the ever-present question of what one thought was going to conspire on hatching day. I explained this to him, he shrugged and said that he had his own bad habits, he didn't need to pick up anymore. I insisted, "But c'mon. I mean, I was, am holdborn. Everybody has had dreams of riding a dragon at some point in their lives."
"Then why in Faranth's name are you here?"
He shrugged again. That was how he answered most questions. If you were really lucky you might get a few cryptic words. I never found anything out about Rodya by asking directly. Everything I ever knew about him was gleaned carefully from off-hand, casual conversation. The few things that I managed to gather I've horded. From time to time I bring them out of the depths of my mind. They help to remind me that he was real. I never really got a solid reason why he was at the Weyr. In time I was able to gather that he had been searched years before, but had refused because of an apprenticeship in the healercraft.
"Things came up. I had to leave."
"Do you have any idea how rarely that happens?"
"Being permitted to stand once you've refused an invitation."
"I can be good with my words when I want to be."
Part of me wishes that I had some scandalous stories of midnight trysts and forbidden romance. It would make this narrative more interesting and perhaps would've given me some closure. It would've been so easy. We could've easily snuck around the other candidates. It wasn't that we didn't talk about it, or that I wasn't attracted to him. Granted, most of the other girls swore that he was queerer than a wher at daytime. I knew better, they were just sore that he wouldn't fall to their charms and easy natures. He just wasn't that sort of person.
"I'll never let anybody change who I am."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm Rodya. I am me."
"Yeah, and I'm Hamali."
"You don't know who you are though. That's the difference between me and you."
"I know who I am."
"No, I don't think you do. You define yourself by other people. I watch you."
" Weirdo. I'm always watching people, you know that."
I would smile because I knew it was true, and then I would sort of hate him for seeing the things I hated about myself and pointing the out in casual conversation. He would change the subject then, perhaps we would engage in our own sort of juicy gossip. Faranth, we had it all figured out. Within a few months of being a candidate he fell into the easy trap of, "let's talk about the eggs." We figured everything out. He was going to impress a green, that way all of those stupid girls would think he truly was homosexual and get off his back. I was going to impress a blue. I liked to be contrary at that time nothing would've pleased me more than causing a stir around the more hidebound of the Weyr. My blue was going to catch his green every time she flew. We would be all sorts of scandal. We thought we had all of our bases covered, if neither one of us impressed, we would run to the lower caverns breed as profusely as possible. We had it all figured out.
Almost every time I talked to him I was nearly compelled to grab him and shake him hard. I wanted to scream at him, "Stupid boy. I love you. We don't need to wait. Let's be now." I never did. I just went along with his jokes and told him that my hypothetical blue wouldn't have the strength to chase his hypothetical blue, he would be too busy traumatizing /real/ gay men but putting me in bed with them. I still don't know if our elaborate plans were anything other than a running inside joke to pass the time. I wish I did. There are a lot of things I wish I told him.
As it turned out, neither one of us impressed to that first clutch. Each and every dragon that emerged from its shell passed us. I remember exchanging glances with him. The girls and the boys stood on opposite ends of the hatching grounds. I don't know what made me look up at that moment, but that look. That look still haunts me. It was a half-hopeful smile, brief and fleeting. I didn't understand what it meant then, but I'm pretty sure I do now.
We didn't belong there.
Neither one of us had any family at the hatching feast. Rodya hadn't seen or spoken to his family in years. My family had too many other children to worry about. I was their oldest daughter, and they knew that I had a good head. We sat next to each other and poked at our food before deciding, "C'mon, everybody is busy with the feast."
"Where are we going."
He took my hand and we found ourselves in the labyrinthine lower caverns with bottles of illegally begotten wine. We didn't talk much. We just sat in the dark next to each other and tried to figure out what each other's bodies were for. We never got really far, and we never spoke afterwards about what happened, but we did the same thing after every hatching.
Despite the fact that we broke curfew rules several times a sevenday to visit with each other after-hours, I never got so much as a sober kiss from him. People have told me that what we shared was vastly more sacred than any sort of body fluid. Hours of conversation, but conversation with Rodya left me nothing and everything. I was so grateful to be able to bask alone in his presence that I never once demanded more. Once again, I wish that I had something more interesting to tell about those two years. Save roughly biannual clumsy declarations of, "I bloody love you" nothing happened. He never held me desperately when we were sober. Unless it was prefaced with a hatching we never drank together. Sometimes though, when we would painfully disentangle ourselves from each other the next morning he would look at me in such a way that made me swear it was true. I didn't know anything for sure though.
Time has a funny way of moving. It doesn't pass in a smooth continual stream, but in sudden bursts. During one of our late-night chats we realized that our time was running out. He almost looked sad, "I feel old."
"You're younger than I am."
"Only by two turns."
"Rodya, I turn 22 next sevenday."
He gave me something like a smirk, "I'm only two turns behind you."
"What's going to happen?"
"You know this already."
"No, I don't. I'm not like you, I'm afraid."
"I don't know. Being alone?"
"You're not alone."
"Yeah, but what…?"
"What's going to happen."
"I said already, you know this."
He closed his eyes and slowly said, "I'm going to impress a green, you're going to get a little blue. If not, we'll have a lot of little Rodya's running about."
Shortly after this conversation She came into our lives. She changed everything. When there is another woman around, men may smile (even men like Rodya, who hate falling into conventions) and tell you that everything will be fine. That it's no big deal. You know differently though. She wasn't like the other girls. She emerged proudly into the world and made sure the entire Weyr knew what she looked like before smugly snatching me away from Rodya. The worse part is that I didn't care. At that moment the ecstasy and glee was more than Rodya had ever given me. He didn't even pass my mind as we embraced. Her name was Judeth, and she was mine forever.
I know what he did after the hatching. It haunts me still to think of it. I was whole and complete with Judeth at my side and hordes of congratulatory strangers. He went alone into the bowels of the Weyr to drown in something like sorrow. I didn't care.