I'll try to dream of you
When you seem further every day
I'll drink my rivers, drag my feet, and drown in my dreams
It's not as bad as it seems.
Drink My Rivers- Andy Shauf
At our third meeting, John sits across the table in a straight-backed chair. He communicates impersonally without gesturing; his eyes seem tired. Before I knew about Isaac I couldn't understand Adrianna's reasons to leave Tidus and marry John. I thought it was because of me and though I already regretted our past, seeing how she had injured Tidus was a surmounting guilt. Now a question of ownership lies between John and I that fundamentally has nothing to do with my brother and yet he's at the heart of this decision and never far from my subconscious.
"As the biological father…" John starts.
"We can't really be sure."
"They tested you, the doctors were sure."
"Tidus and Shuyin are identical twins." Lenne clarifies while giving us an illusion of space from the kitchen. "We can't know anything—identical strands of genetic material—even if Shuyin were willing to ask Tidus… it would only further complicate the situation."
It's true that the dates line up. We didn't use protection. Lenne was always on the pill— and I just assumed Adrianna would have said something. The pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, she excused that they all made her crazy. She didn't mean, she didn't intend, she didn't want to ruin anyone's life. And she was 100% sure that the boy was mine.
"He doesn't know me."
"I sincerely believe that your home is the right choice for him. I have always hated to admit failure," John professes, leaning forward placing his folded forearms on the table. "But, I can't do this. Adrianna was an amazing mother. She wanted a family for Isaac."
"I don't know…"
"Shuyin." Lenne walks into the room and solidifies herself in the conversation, "This isn't something you have the luxury of taking your time with. Isaac can't be shuffled back and forth while you make up your mind."
"But we need to consider all our options."
"We need to do the right thing." She sits down gently beside me and reaches for my hand. I know she wants to do this. "What do you need to think about? No Shuyin, no- no, no..." she gets up, "John, I think we should proceed as swiftly as possible, would the two of you join us for dinner?"
"Are you cooking?" I ask.
"Take-out." She replies to me curtly, "Does Isaac like pizza?"
"He's not picky."
"And what about you, John? You seem like the ham and pineapple type."
"Whatever you order will be fine. Shuyin, I know that under the circumstances…"
"If we eat around six… that should be alright." I cut him off and excuse myself from the table with a short apology to pursue a tall glass of water. We talked about having kids but Isaac isn't a baby, he walks and talks- he's house trained, fuck.
Lenne's ready for this, but what do I know about being a father? Jecht was always too absent, too drunk, too egocentric to learn from. This isn't something I was sure I'd even want but Lenne needs this—I can see it in those soft eyes. I've never said no to those eyes.
But I'm not worried about her right now— and my brother… I don't know if I can even claim that relationship anymore. I was stupid to think this could be forgotten. Tidus has always had a hard time with forgiveness and as far as family is concerned, his relationship with our father was worse than mine. I was all he had. Now Lenne wants to start a family of our own and this can't include him.
"Thanks John, thank you so much." Lenne's voice drifts from the foyer, and I hear the click of the closing door.
"You're so determined…" I call out to her, "To work through this—to make it all right."
"That's not my place." She replies, coming into the room. "I can't make this right. That's not possible. It's all so, so wrong."
"Have you thought this through at all? How can you just make up your mind for us?"
"There isn't a choice. He's your son." She takes the empty glass from my hand and roughly opens up the dishwasher. "You just have to deal with it."
"He's going to look at that boy—"I fight against the catch in my throat, the anxiety choking my chest
"And he's always going to be reminded of what you did. I know because I see the same thing. And it hurts Shuyin, it eats me alive—it's not okay but we have to—" She breathes, "We have to try. This is your mess but we're strong enough that we're going to make it work.
"How?" I search her.
"You just need to work with me Shuyin because Yevon-willing, I'm really—really trying."
"How can you still stand me?" I look out the sink top window and she places her hands across my chest and softly presses a kiss to the back of my neck.
"I'm not going anywhere." She quietly reassures me. "I promise you."
I kiss her knuckles, her fingertips, the pads of her palms and turn her around in my arms. "You're not scared?"
"Please!" She laughs through her nerves, "I'm terrified."
It was during lunch, and the man hadn't looked like him at all, it was the cologne that did it. It was the first time a scent had caused such a reaction from me, not resulting in nausea but instead in a nostalgic sickness that has hovered over me since. I wanted to grab hold of the strange man and press myself against his chest. It's not that my thoughts of Tidus have become any less frequent; it is just that this makes the pain more pronounced.
Too easily affected, I surrendered my place in the lunch line when appetite abandoned me. Lately I've had to force myself to eat, the quality of the meals resting as deadweight in my stomach or coming up with the waves of sickness caused by my condition. I haven't been able to experience hunger for food, while everything else has felt so unfulfilled.
"Yuna, good you're back early." Kory steps in, breaking my reverie. "If you're not busy can I ask you for a favor this afternoon?"
"Of course" I respond placing my belongings in the staff bunker.
Looking through his paperwork, his reading glasses fall from his forehead to his brow. Kory pulls out a profile, browses its contents and hands it over to me. "Her name is Isabeal. She's had a little bit of trouble fitting in at another center. I've had an interview with her and her mother this morning, but I need you to show her around and try to help her integrate herself."
"Wasn't there's another girl, Renea? She came in yesterday" I remind him of our last transfer, "If I could get her to show Isabeal around it might be easier to facilitate a friendship."
"Great if you could start with the tour… and then we've got a gym activity planned for one-thirty. I think you could use that as your opportunity to introduce Renea and Isabeal?"
"Of course." I take his suggestion and make my move to leave the room.
"And Yuna—" He stops me, "We're going to have to talk eventually."
I don't need to ask for clarification. I know that I haven't been hiding my pregnancy as well as I might need to. "I know." I say quietly, hugging the girl's folder closer to the area, "and we will…"
"Alright, great. Good luck this afternoon then."
"Thanks." I find a place in the next room to sit with Isabeal's folder. I wonder if this is how my child will grow up, parented by a single mother raising a child as socially queer as myself. I question if he or she will take after their father and live an easy life with easy talents and natural charm. I'll look at this baby, and I'll be reminded every day of him. Reminded that I couldn't make it work, that being with me didn't come as easily as everything else.
In the flesh Isabeal looks young for her age, with hard features of an ethereal quality. Her medical profile marked her at one quarter Guado. Her heredity is apparent in the coloring of her blue-black hair and the slightly translucent quality of her skin. Her steel grey eyes look unfavorably over me.
"My name is Yuna." I try, approaching her outside the doors to the gymnasium. Renea is inside with the others as the teams have begun to be picked. Isabeal seems reluctant to speak to me. "Would you like to come inside with me, do you like dodge ball?"
"I like blitzball better." She states. "I'm not too good at it though. I probably won't be at Dodge ball too."
"Let's just give it a try?" I crack the door open with the palm of my hand. "I was never good at blitzball either."
She follows me wordlessly into the gymnasium where Renea and the other kids are waiting. Another worker, Anna, begins organizing them. I walk with her across the polished floor to Renea who curiously holds her vision on us.
"Renea this is Isabeal. She's new to this game so I was thinking you could help her?"
"Don't worry. I'm super good!" The twelve year old looks beyond me and walks over to the other girl. Renea isn't tentative. She is not shy or easily embarrassed. But—I don't know if at twelve you experience the same anxieties. At twelve you can't realize all the small factors of developing human relationships. These friendships that form so easily when you're young, I think we all take them for granted.
I let the game progress and the time passes slowly as it has been lately. I'm glad to be here, though. I'd rather be here than alone in Lulu's basement suite faced with the reality of my isolation. I dread those long hours that force reflection and deny my escape. And even so, they've wanted to talk to me and I want to be able to explain— but I don't know what to say and who to say it to first.
After dodge ball the girls do crafts and supervised free-time until parents start arriving around 5:30. Renea's father is one of the first to come by and the last pick-ups usually happen around 7. Isabeal is one of a small number of stragglers waiting on their over-worked or forgetful parents. Around seven thirty we raid the lunch cupboard and I make her a sandwich to eat. She situates herself at the little staff table and picks at the plastic wrapper of her juice-box straw.
"She's late sometimes, but she doesn't mean to be."
I smile, and cut the crusts off of the simple sandwich I make her. I remember how embarrassing it was waiting when my dad was supposed to pick me up after school. He gave very little regard for other people's time and I know they must have resented me for it. I sit the plate down in front of her and claim the empty seat across the table. She eats mostly in silence.
It's just me and Kory here now; he's in the other room finishing up paperwork while waiting to lock up. It's almost eight thirty and the sky is adjusting accordingly when her mother arrives. Miss. Greystone is a beautiful half-guado woman with silvery skin and long, slender limbs. She's surprisingly dishelved, despite her graceful form. Her hair is pinned back with various instruments, her clothes are oversized and she's trying to carry too much at once.
"Isabeal, where's your coat? Why aren't your things on?" She cries, catching sight of her daughter. "I'm sorry miss for running so late, I'm sure you have to be getting home. Isabeal—please hurry and get your things together."
"It is perfectly fine; would you like me to ask our supervisor to walk you to your car?"
"No, no. I wouldn't want to put anyone out of their way. We'll be catching the bus, that's part of the reason—Isabeal don't forget your book bag—that I've been running so late. I'm sorry, my car's in the shop and we've had a tough time bargaining with the Albehd—you know how they can be."
This type of off-handed racism isn't unfamiliar to me. I smile, but make short of the rest of our conversation. Kory joins me to see the two out the door, and we lock up together.
"I know you must be tired but would you mind sticking around for a couple minutes, I'll walk you to your car when we're done here."
"Sure." I apprehensively agree.
Kory leads me back to his office, most of the other lights in the building have been shut off and his room glows with artificial color. He leaves the door open and gestures for me to sit down. He lowers himself onto the edge of his desk. "I'm sorry if I was presumptuous, but am I right to assume that you are expecting?"
"It's a recent development, I didn't know when I had applied—"
"Look, Yuna, your job isn't on the line. I just want to make sure that you know what working on this side of town can be like. I have to prepare you for the realities of our job." He taps his pen on the side of the desk a few times, choosing his words, "We implement a buddy system. You are never to walk out of this building without another worker after five. There are a couple parents that we've had issues within the past, domestic disagreements aren't an uncommon occurrence. As hard as it is we try to stay out of these situations, there are times when the center has had to get the police involved. We try to provide a safe environment for these kids, but it's important to always be on the defense. I don't want anything to happen to you, or any of my employees. I want to make sure that you're aware of all the risks." He reaches forward and squeezes my arm, "That being said, I believe congratulations are in order?"
I try to smile but I can feel it wavering. I remember I'm supposed to be happy about this, and there were moments in that first week that I had been—that I even thought once things settled this might turn out alright. "Thank you." I say to him.
"I don't know you well… but I have this feeling that you're going to do great. Not just here, I think you've got a lot of potential Yuna. I want you to try and keep your head up, and let me know what I can do for you if the workloads ever getting to be too much."
"I will." I promise him. "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
"Well if you ever want to talk about anything else…" He gets up from the desk, "I'm usually willing to listen."
"I'll keep that in mind." I reply, helping myself out of the chair.
Kory flips off the office light and locks up behind us. We exit through the back making small talk as he walks me to my car. "Kory…" I say, unlocking the driver's side, "If you haven't eaten yet, do you want to stop somewhere to grab a bite?"
"Sure, my nights wide open. What were you thinking?"
"Anything—really I haven't eaten all day."
It's never been this hard to design. I look over the paper raw with erased lines, and dusted with rubber particles. I can't concentrate: Tidus and Yunie are having a baby. Thinking of them makes it seem a little too lonely around this house. Gippal's in his garage, or in the living room or in the kitchen—I don't even know if he's home. I don't like this big empty house.
I toss my pencil and sketchbook aside onto the desk. Despite deadlines I don't know if I have the mind to work tonight. I want to be sewing onesies and bonnets and booties. I can't help living vicariously through her. I know it may be unhealthy for me and I know it might be wrong but I can't let this be another tragedy. I'm so, so sick of sad stories.
I'm motivated to make things better and I have not felt this determined in a long time. I wasn't happy at first, but now I feel like I have to be. . Everyone, everyone is falling apart, and I can't be one of them. I feel almost like Gippal and I've started this chain reaction, that our problems have manifested themselves in our friends. If I hadn't been so stubborn and hadn't stayed with them while we were fighting, maybe they would have been able to work this out.
I feel a little stir-crazy sitting here while I know that there's something I could be doing. The best place to start has to be with Gippal. At the very least things haven't been getting any worse. We've been talking a little more, chatting really, nothing serious. I feel like we need to get to know each other all over again and it's rough 'cause it's not like I can go up to him, tap him from behind and make an indecent proposal. But I can offer him coffee and a late night snack, I decide, heading out into the kitchen to make something simple and unlikely to burn. It's easy enough to slap together two slices of bread with a little peanut butter and jam. Gippal's not picky, but more often than not he's hungry.
He likes his coffee black, and I know it might not be brewed just to his tastes, but I carry them out to the garage where I can hear him talking on his cell. "Hey you."
He looks over at me, smiles and gestures for me to come in before continuing his conversation. "Well, why don't you just come over for a bit—yeah, yeah I know it's getting late, but Rik and I aren't planning on heading to bed anytime soon. I'll order some take-out."
"I really think you should consider it, we'll be expecting you. Yeah, okay. See you soon." He closes the call, "What do you have there?" I hand him the plate and coffee, he sits them down on his work bench, "Thanks, That was Tidus."
"Really?" It's chilly out in the garage, I work and rubbing away the Goosebumps on my bare arms. "I gotta tell you something…"
He knits together his eyebrows, "Oh yeah?"
"I haven't told anyone else… but you're my husband." I tease with a small smile, "You can keep my secret, right?"
"Nothing leaves this room, Kid."
"You mean Yuna?" He says wiping his hand through his hair and then swearing to himself as he realizes it was caked in dirt and dark engine oil. "You're kidding?" I don't care how dirty Gippal is right now, I have an overwhelming urge to be next to him.
I step forward tentatively and he roughly closes the rest of the gap by pulling me into his arms, "Are you okay?"
I laugh against his neck, "I think it's amazing."
"Really?" He breathes heavily, "Don't laugh it off if you're not."
I wrap my arms around his chest, "I'm not going to let myself take it personally. Yunie needs me now, you know?"
He brushes back my hair, "How long have you known? Have you talked to Tidus?
"Well," I place my hand against Gippal's chest and draw a little away from him, "He doesn't exactly know."
"So she's only told you… before Tidus? Shit." He drops his arms from around me. "I don't know what to…"
I give him a look and decide to sit down next to the plate with the sandwich. "She told me at the funeral. She's gonna keep it too. Well have it at least—I don't know if she has considered adoption."
"Yeah." He drinks from the mug, "That figures. Are you gonna tell him?"
"I—you know I can't. It's… personal—"
"And is she going to, are you sure Yuna's going to tell him?"
I look down to my nails, this isn't the kind of secret she can hide. If she chose to, she could just leave again. "I don't know."
"Rikku… you tell me this now, and he's on his way over?" Gippal rubs his jaw, "I'm not supposed to say anything?"
"I know… But, I told her to wait… I'm just worried that she'll lose her nerve now they're not even together anymore." I catch his eyes, realizing this is the longest conversation we've had outside therapy. I pause before continuing. "And then it's like kind of on me right? Because I'm the only person who Yunie wanted to know. She's family and I can't just go behind her back…"
"Yeah I know—and you owe Tidus too. I've been talking to him a bit. You know he must be pretty fucking lonely to be coming to me." Gippal chuckles and catches sight of his dirty tank and jeans in the mirror, "Fuck, I need a shower."
"What's he saying?" I stand up and start help Gippal's pick up his tools. "Does he miss her?"
"We don't really talk about that stuff. I mean he bitches but…" Gippal appears severely uncomfortable. He grabs his toolbox and puts it away in his workbench, "We're guys."
"So you're saying there's nothing you can tell me?"
"Not if you're planning on running back to her with it." He glances back at me with a pointed look. "You said it yourself. It's personal, right'?"
"You know that they're going to wind up together anyways." I cry as he moves to exit the garage. "And if you don't want me to say anything—you know I wouldn't."
He pauses, "It's not that I don't trust you, and I don't mean to be a jackass but—how can you think we're in any position to help them?"
While Gippal showered I ordered our dinner. Standing in the empty kitchen my mind wanders to our conversation in the garage. We can't say we worked it out or even that it all turned out alright. We're surviving and it's awkward and messy and uncomfortable—but we are surviving. Gippal is right, we shouldn't try to help them. So many of our friends are still single, still partying and drinking with their small worlds and concerns while my husband and me, everyday, are just trying to heal.
When Tidus arrives he looks better than I'd pictured; the first few months of summer have touched his skin. Tidus helps himself to a glass of orange juice, sheds his leather jacket and Abes hoodie, and then sits down across from me at the island. He asks how work is, how my day's been, why I haven't come to any of his games yet this season.
"I'll come to your next one." I tell him, I promise. "As long as you guarantee Gippal and I good seats."
"Of course, I'll have you up in the press box for next Friday."
"I'll be there." I grab myself a cooler from the pantry. "I hear you're doing good this season."
"You've got a lot on your plate right now—what with being captain and all that press junket stuff they'll have you lined up for this year." I twist off the cap and enjoy the cool carbonation as it reaches the back of my throat.
"It's been keeping me busy enough." He shrugs, "Which is good."
"You ever figure things out with that kid?" I change the subject. I take another short sip.
"It wasn't what I thought." Tidus replies.
"I hoped it wouldn't be. " I smile, "But now you and Yuna are…"
"Over." He replies. "She is having a hard time forgiving me. She doesn't want to talk about it."
"I know but… is that it?"
"I don't know how to answer that question. I don't really know." He pauses. "Where's Gippal?"
"Showering… well, probably drying off by now. He'll be down in a minute. Anyhow. You seem like you're doing alright… so that's good. I don't really understand what happened with you two though." He drinks from his juice and we fall into an uncharacteristic silence. "I hear your brother has decided to take some time off from work."
"A stress leave is what they're calling it."
"What does Shuyin have to be stressed about?"
Tidus shakes his head with a little grin, "Oh I don't know. It must be some kind of—secret."
"And Yuna's doing alright, right?" He returns to the subject. I think he wants information but he's afraid of what he might hear.
"She's dealing with a lot right now."
He runs a hand through his hair and looks down at the counter. I watch him mindlessly trace patterns on its surface. "Can you just let me know if you hear anything?" He shrugs, "I had that reservation Gippal gave us for her birthday, I went and everything—just hoping that she'd show up. She didn't though. You know? I felt like such an idiot sitting there, trying to justify every minute I stayed."
"Do you want me to tell her that you're worried?"
"Don't say anything about me." He half grins, "I'm sure she doesn't want to hear it."
"Well ideally what do you want to happen?" I start picking at the damp label of my drink, "You know, in a perfect world?"
He looks up at me and back at the counter. His eyes are kind of red and watery and although his isn't the first time I've seen Tidus on the verge of tears I feel like I know his hopelessness. "I want to know if it would have made a difference if I could have said the right thing."
"That's your issue though—you're always hanging onto the past what you could have done or should have said. It was like that with you and Annie too."
Gippal enters the kitchen and heads for the refrigerator. "Where's dinner?"
"It should be here soon. I ordered like a half hour ago." I check the time on the microwave. It's almost nine.
"Hey man." Gippal acknowledges Tidus.
Tidus shrugs."What's going on?"
"Not a whole lot." Gippal closes the door to the fridge without picking anything. "Hungry."
The door rings. Gippal excuses himself to grab his wallet and pay for the delivery. Tidus turns his attention away from me and plays with the rim of his glass. The edge of the granite counter is cool against my midriff as I lean forward to inspect Tidus. "Did you love her?"
He nods. "I never said it."
"You're going to have to go see her if you're serious about wanting to work it out."
"And say what? If I couldn't tell Yuna I loved her while we were together I have no right saying it now."
"Have you talked to Shuyin? Or even Lenne? They'd probably know what to tell you."
"It turns out that he's the kid's dad."
"What do you mean?" I have to be sure that I haven't misunderstood. "Annie's son?"
I hadn't been able to develop a personal relationship with Shuyin in the same way as my relationship with Tidus. Still, it's almost incomprehensible to imagine Shuyin capable of cheating on Lenne. A cold fear of saying the wrong thing rises in my throat. Tidus would give Shuyin the benefit of the doubt if he was at all apprehensive.
"You gonna say something Rik?"
"It doesn't seem possible." I hold myself around the shoulders."How long have you known?"
"Since the day after the funeral, I guess." He continues, "I sat down with her dad. Shuyin's known for almost a year, Lenne too."
"I wish I knew what to say." I feel useless. "Or how I could help."
Tidus reaches across the counter and grabs my hand with a little squeeze. "You're always making the effort to be as optimistic as possible and it's motivated me to try harder. Shuyin will always be my brother—but that doesn't mean we'll be able to have a relationship."
He draws his hand away and uses it to sweep back his hair. "I have to focus on the right things right now, blitzball and my team. If I can I want to make it work with Yuna.
"You're going to have to show her that there's no more dicking around." Gippal says evidently having overheard part of the conversation. He enters the room and places the takeout bags on the counter. "That girl's not getting over you anytime soon. I've told you man, If you want her you're just going to have to get serious."
"Isn't Gippal romantic?" I remove one of items smelling headily of grease from a bag. My husband doesn't understand sensitivity and understanding. Gippal likes to think of himself as practical. I know what he's thinking, that there's no use talking bout' it if he's not prepared to fix it.
"Tidus, if you could choose between your relationship with Yuna three and a half months ago or back when you were still friends what would you do?" I ask him, picking apart the dish with my plastic fork.
"He'd be with her." Gippal answers for Tidus. "You would, right?"
"Can I change anything? I wish I could have made her happy, done the right thing, you know?" His eyebrows raise and he swipes a forkful from a noodle box in Gippal's grasps. "Or fix how I fucked up? I know you guys were waiting for it. But she expected more from me."
"I didn't think you'd mess it up." Gippal replies. "I was a huge fan of you two; we knew you would get together." He gestures to me, stuffs his mouth, swallows whole and continues, "We knew before you did. I figured you would make it work. Besides, just to play the devil's advocate—are you sure you're entirely in the wrong? What were her reasons for leaving?"
"I wish I could be sure. I blacked out that night. Even if she's over reacting to whatever I did I would rather give in than loose her." He says. "She doesn't want to talk to me and I've been trying not to think about it. I've asked around but she hasn't been speaking to anyone."
I wish I could tell him everything I know. I know Gippal was right. He's looking at me right now telling me that this isn't our problem with his poignant stare. Let them work it out; let them do it without us. Don't get involved. I dig out my cell-phone and go through my messages. "She's staying at Lu's. If you want to find her, check with Wakka."
I can see a trace of confusion in his brow. He'd been keeping her a secret and Tidus had already checked with Wakka'. Yuna trusted me never to betray her situation, and I hadn't. Now I question what never means. I'm beginning to realize the measure of length she's taken to hide herself and detach from Tidus. "Thanks Rik… but maybe she just needs her space." Tidus pauses, "Whatever I did it must have broken her heart."
"It's not just you Tidus…" I put down what I'd been picking at and move around the island to come beside him. "I think Yuna has some of her own issues. And maybe it's taking so long because she wants to give herself space to figure it out. She's scared of being hurt. What Yuna doesn't understand, and this is what you need to convince her of, is that this kind of space only creates more problems."
"Well the way I see it you're both lonely and miserable and one of you has to fix it. Rikku and I aren't going to get any more involved in this than we have to… Talk to Wakka, figure it out." Gippal breaks our conversation, refusing to hear any more about the situation. I could keep talking, but I can see Tidus agrees with him. He wants a solution, he needs a game plan.
I let Gippal sleep in bed with me tonight, he tells me the couch is more comfortable and I threaten to kick him out. Then he kisses my shoulder and gently assures me that he was kidding. He wraps his arms around my chest and listened to me talk until my anxieties wane and I can fall asleep. I warn myself against the surge of emotion when I start to believe we might have another chance.
A/N: It's been awhile. My life has been more dramatic than this story. Enjoy & Review.
~Thank-you to MisaHoshi for beta-reading.