I have been planning out
All that I'd say to you
Since you slipped away
Know that I still remain true
I've been wishing out the days
Come Back- Pearl Jam
In a moment reality had dissolved around me. In the hallways of Zanarkand Prep, where I played ball for the Behemoths, I reflect upon the respect I won playing a position that I've taken to a bigger field. Wasn't it all just in my mind? I felt a power when the ball hit my foot, collided against the net, rocked with the blitz and the current of the sphere pool. My ego rose and the pool swelled. The people would stand and cheer— for me! Wakka rocked in those same waves and now he coaches the dreams of the next generation. We're all replaceable.
I had a passion for the game and a hatred for the man who taught me the shot. Jecht hated to watch me score. I badly wanted to take away from my father the thing he loved. He dedicated his life to Blitzball above family.
It became about more than upstaging my father. I found that I loved the attention; I loved feeling like nothing could penetrate me. I felt the motion of the wave in my sleep. I was rocking—but now I wait for the next ripple on the surface—my surroundings have calmed to a standstill. I can't sit still. I adjust myself on the edge of the bench and I wait for the nostalgia like nausea to settle in the pit of my stomach.
Wakka joins me in the hallway after practice breaks out. A silver whistle on a black shoelace hangs underneath the collar of his white-pressed polo. I stand up and brush my palms against the fabric of my jeans.
We hug, "It's nice to see ya!"
"Is practice out?
"Yeah, the guys are just getting changed."
I ask him if he's ready to grab something to eat and we decide on stopping for a couple drinks at a sports bar fifteen minutes away. It's a dive filled with asinine chatter over locally brewed draught. When the conversation begins to lull, a broadcast of last night's Aurochs game highlights fills in the spaces. It's hard to concentrate on the conversation when there's so much I'd rather be saying. It's hard not to be angry, not to attack him with all my hurt and frustration.
He orders a drink and asks me what I feel like eating. I decide on an avocado club sandwich. More instant replays of last night's game, chocobo racing, a small script runs across one the bottom of the screen: tragedy in downtown Zanarkand.
Wakka invited me to lunch but it feels like little more than a formality. I want him to speak up. And wasn't that shooting just a couple blocks from the community center?
"You've been a little off—it must be trying with Shuyin on leave. He was a good support-player for you." Wakka's been watching me play, taking notes, using my inattention to the game as a tool, an example for his students. Focus, focus, focus, keep your eye on the blitz, interact with the play—don't get distracted by those girls up there on the bleachers: this isn't just a game—it's a culture, its religion, you know? The mentality is that If you don't succeed here you might as well drown in the pool because you'll never love anything as much as the blitz.
"I'm not sure he'll come back to the team." I reply. I wish there was a drink in front of me, so that I could do something with my hands. "Any promising athletes on the Behemoths this year?"
"Our center's been drafted to the Goers— we won't really know what happens until the end of the season but things are looking good."
"Great, you do a good job with those boys." I reply. The waitress comes back with our drinks.
"I do what I can." Wakka drinks.
I still check my phone more than I should and spend empty moments wondering what she's doing. Underneath the bar top I scan old messages while Wakka watches the plays and our food cooks in the back of the kitchen and cools under the heat lamp. We wait in tense seconds as our waitress manages a full section. I look through the small things pointless things she would tell me about her day. I look through my unanswered questions, apologies.
I drink, I swallow, drink again—this time deeper, I take in more, I feel my chest trembling as it accepts full swigs of the draught. It isn't helping to cool me down. I realize it might be too early to want to drown. "When you go home tonight, Wakka, are you going to mention this?"
Wakka's drink doesn't quite make it to his lip. "I doubt that'd be a good idea, Tidus."
"Right." I say, "You tell them you saw me—or tell Yuna how well I'm doing?"
"This doesn't have to affect our friendship." He fixes straight ahead at those screens, at those games. "Would you expect Lu to turn her away?"
"Do you know what she's thinking?" I ask, "I just want to know where I stand." The waitress sets down our meals, Wakka thanks her and orders us both another drink, "I wouldn't expect you to lie to me."
"Well I guess that's just tough, Tidus. I guess—" he picks up the drink, sharply deciding not to finish his sentence. "She won't be staying with us much longer."
"Is she heading back to Luca?"
"No, she's settling here. Her mother's cosigned on a house in Zanarkand East."
"A house in Shuyin's neighborhood?"
"Three bedrooms, an unfinished basement. Two bathrooms. It's about 40 years old, modern enough—nice back yard but she'll need to have a few things fixed up. I thought Gippal might be able to work on the electric a bit, and during summer break I'll get to the basement. They got a great deal, about 55,000 gil, I'd say."
"She's going to be flying in on Monday." Wakka drinks.
"Really?" Yuna's mother moved shortly after her and Braska's separation. "I didn't think she'd ever consider coming back to Zanarkand." The harassment had become too trying. The media painted an entirely unsympathetic portrait of Braska's ex-wife.
"I don't know how long she'll be in town—look Tidus, I agree that the two of you need to talk—I think that she's just as confused as you are—you coming home all wrapped up tightly in the past like you were."
"Is she at your place right now?"
"What kind of question is that?"
I feel indignant. Rhetorical. "You know what Rikku and Gippal think—right?"
"What do they think?"
"They don't think I should be so patient with her."
"No." I smile, "They don't."
Wakka purses his bottom lip, he drinks, I drink.
"Will you tell her you saw me?"
"It'll only make her feel sick. Do you want me to do that to Yuna?"
Kind of. We watch the rest of the game and I treat him to dinner. Wakka drops me off at my car. There was more I could have asked but I'm too exhausted.
I drive to the arena, back to the blitz, and an empty Thursday afternoon locker room. Sphere practice has been closed for the week while they treat the water and, while the gym's been fairly busy in the mornings, after lunch things cool down. When I stop in to check with coach the building's almost deserted.
"Sit down." He says without looking up from his research. "What can I do you for, Tidus?"
I cross the gymnasium floor on a manhunt. The boy I need to find is in the back supply room, looking through crates of gym supplies. I spot Danny without him noticing me, "Your dad's here, Daniel." I coax him lightly but he shrugs off my hand and makes a break for it, running out to the rest of the kids in the gym.
"Tell him I ran away!" I turn on my heels and glance back at Mr. Rogers and his daughter in the next room saying their goodbyes to Kory.
Kory makes eye contact and excuses himself from the conversation. He walks in and all six feet of him breeze over to grab the kid. It takes Kory a few minutes of roughhousing before he throws Danny over his shoulder in a fit of laughing hysterics. A couple of the boys chase after them and I watch bewildered by his natural talent with children.
Our intern calls all the kids back to calm down, resorting to her whistle where vocal chords fall short. The boys come back to her and I excuse myself to say goodbye to the family.
The family will be moving to Bevell at the end of the week and it's one of Danny's last days with us. He's been here 3 years, but his mother's been transferred for her medical internship. It's been just Mr. Rogers and the kids for the last few months.
"Are you all packed up?" I ask.
"We're getting there." Jeremy laughs, "The kids keep rummaging through the boxes and taking out all their stuff."
"That must be because Danny doesn't think he's actually going anywhere." Kory jokes.
"Well you can stay here if you want," Jeremy addresses his son, "but I don't know where you'll live."
"We'll clear an area for him in the boot room and make him do our paperwork." Kory suggests.
Kory's close with the Rogers family and most of the families here. He makes an effort to connect with the people who leave their kids with us. He's known the Rogers since before they had kids, before Jennifer and Jeremy had even met. Five years ago, Jennifer job-shared my position while she was still taking classes in med-school.
Kory hugs Danny and Jeremy goodbye and promises that Danny can come back anytime when they're visiting the city.
"Danny would be lousy at paperwork. No attention span to speak of."
"Well, we'd be paying him in sandwiches, cereal and bedtime stories."
"Can I be paid in sandwiches, cereal and bedtime stories?" I joke. In the distance I hear the Rogers engine.
"Let me guess: turkey on rye, mini-wheats, and the velveteen rabbit?"
"You read me like a book."
"I just listen." Kory smiles, "What are your plans this fine evening?"
"Take out and television." I offer. We start walking towards Kory's office. "Maybe a little bit of organization."
He opens the door for me, "You should let me help you with some of that, or I could come over and cook for you while you're packing, feed you a real meal."
"Turkey on rye?"
"I make a mean baked spaghetti." He leans back against the desk with a small smile.
"I just want to help take your mind off things, Yuna. You've had a rough go of it and my feeling is that you could use a friend," He loosens his tie, "Someone not so connected to the situation, a fresh outlook. I can be an objective listener."
I press my temple. "I'd like that..."
He reaches forward for my other hand and pulls me closer, "Seriously. We're friends."
Yet, something in my gut tells me it's more than that, that I should be wary... that even though coming to work with this man has been the highlight of my day for the past few months, I should be careful.
A copy of the Zanarkand Rail sits on his desk. The Abes are on the cover. It's been 10 years since Jecht's retirement. Tidus, gorgeous as ever, wears half a smile and a baggy black beanie that matches his button up waffle-print shirt. I grab the issue, rub my free thumb over his photo and even while doing this I feel—something. A jolt in the nape of my neck. "Are you a Blitz fan, Kory?"
"Was rubbish at it, so not really." He shifts and his knee briefly brushes my right upper thigh.
"My ex-boyfriend plays for the Abes," I turn the cover so he can see it, "The blonde." Kory takes the magazine and drops my hand. I back away a few paces. "Tidus and I have known each other for a very long time."
"You're going to hate me." He pauses for a moment, his face void of expression. "I've made arrangements for a couple of the Zanarkand Abes to come by later this week to do a workshop with the kids— I don't think that he had anything to do with it, it was all booked through management, but I didn't know..."
Does that mean Tidus would be coming here? To my work? My heart cowers at the possibility. I'm not sure if I'm excited or terrified. He can't see me, not yet. "Kory, things are really complicated between us. I don't want to be making this into a big issue but is it at all possible that I could get the day off?"
"Yuna, I'll need your help. The press will be here to interview me— you know that we're short staffed as it is."
"I don't want to put you in this position, I'm sorry. It's just that, I don't mean to get personal but, I haven't told him yet." It sounds ridiculous to put it into words. I'm almost six months pregnant.
"And he's the—" Kory gestures towards my womb.
I nod, my throat dry.
"Well if he's one of the players they're sending over he's going to find out. If any of the other players know you—he'll probably find out."
"Why haven't you told him?"
I have no 'why'. I know this isn't the right way for him to find out. The news looms overhead as I finish my workday. I find a reason to cancel dinner and by the time I settle in behind the steering wheel of my car and open the center counsel, I've made a decision.
I never threw away my keys to Tidus' place. Right now he's probably at practice... but if I go home first I'll have to explain myself to Lulu and Wakka, they'd want to get involved, be there to support me—Tidus. I need this to come from me, alone. I knew that once I decided to tell him, I wouldn't be able put it off longer, and now I don't have that choice.
I drive to his apartment, taking the longest route. I park outside the building, my heart thunders, the phone is heavy in my hand, the clicking of each digit echoes. Tidus picks up on the second ring but dead, stale air sits between us. He's the first to speak.
"Are you at home?" I cut through it, forget the small talk— just tell him facts. I'm not going to pretend like there's anything to salvage between us.
"I'm just finishing at the Gym."
I pause, he doesn't sound pleased to hear from me. "I'm outside your building and I want to talk to you."
"We can talk like this..."
"I think it would be better if we could do this in person..."
"I don't know what this is. You packed all your stuff up months ago and left... I tried texting, calling and you wouldn't answer." He breathes, "No one wanted to tell me where you were or what, what happened to you... so now you're calling me out of nowhere and I don't know what to make of it."
"I could explain better if I could see you..."
"You don't feel like, maybe I needed an explanation a long time ago?"
"Don't say you're sorry because you think that's what I want to hear."
"I know that I've handled things really poorly but if you could just hear me out—"
He pauses, my heart continues to pound but I don't think I can breathe. He's angry and I don't know why I didn't expect him to be.
"I'll be there in ten minutes, I'll call and let the doorman know to let you up."
I drop the key back into the console but I don't leave my car until I see his pull alongside the building and park. He looks freshly showered; he waits in the car, staring at the steering wheel. If I get out of the vehicle he'll see me and know before I have a chance to tell him.
He gets out of the Vehicle and walks rigidly towards the front doors of his complex.
I open my car door and call him. I stand on the cement, shielding myself with the door, a poor disguise. He turns and looks at me. He walks over. We're meters apart, feet, I'm waiting for the inches and centimeters. He stops and it kills me that I can't touch him.
"I shouldn't have been short with you on the phone."
"It's okay." I reply.
"Yuna— if you're here to make up I don't think I can go back to being your friend."
"I'm not asking you to."
He looks at me with unyielding eye contact.
"I'm happy to see you." It's not the truth. It's partially the truth. This is painful.
"Should we go inside?"
I realize I'm shivering. "I just have this one thing I need tell you..."
"Why did you leave?"
"You never would have loved me like you loved her." It's easier to say than I expected, almost a knee-jerk reaction. Like I've been waiting too long to let it out. Tidus and I are over, I'm not trying to salvage our relationship anymore or draw him back, I just want to keep this from getting any worse. "But that's not why I'm here."
"You don't know that."
I feel like I do. I feel like it's the only thing I know. He never said he loved me, he'd make love to me and its absence would ring in the silence.
"Yuna, you don't know that. You never talked to me—you never gave me a chance to fix this, or explain what happened that night."
"You lost the love of your life."
"The love of my life? Adrianna had a little boy with my brother, that I spent most of the day of her funeral convincing myself the kid was my own— I thought it was going to tear us—you and me apart." He grabs the edge of the car door, "I found out it was Shuyin's and I was drunk, and I acted emotionally. I'm sorry if that scared you. I would have made it up to you, Yuna. I would have done what it took to reassure you."
"You still refer to her as the love of your life."
"Because you did." he runs a hand through his hair, "I really feel like I'm saying all the wrong things. I have missed you, but I'm mad as hell at you and it doesn't change how much I love you," He grimaces, bowing his head, "I have this pillow on my bed that doesn't even really smell like you anymore, but I don't wash it because once it did. I haven't even gotten rid of any of your things... you absolutely broke my heart."
"I'm pregnant. I just—didn't want you to hear it from someone else."
"Pregnant?" Still reeling from everything I'd just said, that one word tastes awful in my mouth. "You're with someone?"
"No. Tidus, I'm about six months along."
I'm not sure I understand, but she doesn't wait for me to react before making a move to get back into the vehicle. I hold onto the car door to keep her from closing the last strand of communication between us. "My kid?"
"Your kid." I see now the subtle ways her body has changed, the loose fitting navy dress, the contrast between the dark tones and her stark-white skin. Her eyes look forward, past me, out into the street. Should I be angry? I feel guilty.
"Can you come with me inside, I'll cook us something, we can talk..."
She continues to look out at the street. "I just wanted you to know. This doesn't change anything."
"It changes everything, Yuna. Do you really think you should just leave right now? You don't want to hear what I have to say?"
"The longer I sit here with you now the more painful it's going to be for me to drive away."
"I don't want you to go anywhere— this affects me too. You can't just do what you want with no regard to..." I trip on my sentence, I don't want to get angry with her. If the kid is mine, and clearly she's decided to keep it, I'm going to be in the picture. "Please come inside."
I take her hand and coax her out of the car. I draw her into me and feel my chest cave, the need to cry. She shutters and I choke it down. I brace her head against my shoulder, smell her hair and swallow hard.
She's breathing heavy, the winds picking up; I need to take her inside.
Yuna lets me hold her hand as we make our way to my apartment, my tenth-floor penthouse, my bachelor pad. Suddenly I'm self-conscious about my environment, the sparse furnishing. The room feels empty. I sit her down on the couch and move to make some tea. She feels reluctant to drop my hand.
She picks up a call while I'm in the kitchen. It must be Lulu because she lies about where she is and ends the conversation abruptly.
"I heard you bought a place, by Shuyin and Lenne."
"It's a small house, it needs a lot of work but Wakka helped me find a good price."
"He told me about it, I saw him at lunch. Your mom's coming in?"
"She wanted to be here for this. My dad doesn't know."
I place the kettle on the burner and come back to the couch, choosing to sit on an armchair facing her, rather than beside her. "Well, at least I'm not the last person you told."
Yuna flinches. "I know that I deserve that... I was always going to tell you but I found it so hard— knowing that we're over. I didn't want to think about how you'd react. I didn't want you to be angry with me."
"You think I'd be angry? I'm not angry with you," I pause, I don't want to lie to her, either. "I am confused about a lot of things. I still don't really understand why you left."
She closes her eyes. "I can't compete."
"You never had to."
"Outside, by the car... you said that you loved me. You never said that to me before, but I know you loved her. Because of our history— and my history with Adrianna, I couldn't deal with it— I had just found out I was pregnant. If I had stayed with you, you would always be somewhere else."
"So are you closing the doors on us?"
She squeezes her palms together, "I can't do that."
"Then let's take things slow and figure it out. I want to be around for this."
"That's not what I want, for you to stay with me because of—"
"It's not." I breathe, "I haven't forgiven myself for how things ended. I still really care about you."
I know it sounds desperate as I say it, I hear my own voice crack. Am I supposed to be trying to save face right now? Can I afford to? Can I afford not to? Yuna doesn't react to me, the tea kettle whistles and she gets up, moving through the space like we still share it, to pour our hot water.
"But you should think about it. I'm not holding you to anything."
"I don't have anything to think about."
"What's your answer, Tidus?" Yuna asks, working from the kitchen. "We have too many things unsettled between us to go back to how things were. We're going to... " She stops, adjusts, "I'm going to have a baby and since you want to be a part of this we need to find a way to handle it."
"And we will, everything's going to be okay, I'm going to be better."
"You're not understanding me." She braces herself against the counter, "We're not going to get back together anytime soon."
"But we should work on it."
"I wouldn't know where to start."
The tea bags steep, "I have some ideas. I think it's important that we try. Rikku and Gippal are doing the therapy thing— "
"Counseling is a good idea, we should talk to someone about co-parenting." She brings the mugs in, and sets them down on the glass-surface coffee table.
Slivers of steam rise from our cups, dissipating into fumes. Yuna's phone rings and she ignores the call. She sends a text, curls her legs underneath her body on the couch. She closes the phone and reaches for her drink, cooling it with her breath.
"Exactly how far along are you?"
"Six and a half months..."
She flinches, recovers, returns her attention to the tea. "I didn't know until I was pretty far along... I found out the same night she died."
She told me it was the stomach flu, avoided me for the week leading up to the funeral, and let me deal with my confusion and grief without saying a word. And then Yuna packed. And then Yuna left.
I watch her with trepidation; amazed that she's an arm-reach away.
"I should have told you sooner."
"I should have known it wasn't the stomach flu."
"I can't do this alone..." she confesses suddenly.
I bring myself next to her, hand on cheek, kiss her forehead. "I think that we've got two and a half months... and we'll figure it out along the way. It's okay."
"You're going to be great."
She pulls away, eyes wide and focused on me, "aren't you scared, aren't you—"
"I'm fine. Just let me be a part of this. Let's work on it, okay?"
With a closed mouth and wide eyes she seems to be fighting with herself. She blinks, reaches for the tea, looking for a tool to break the moment, I grab her hand because I want her focus.
"We can try." She says.
"I'll find us someone to talk to." I tell her.
"Do you want to see the house?" She asks, I can tell she's on the verge of tears; her voice is hard, faltering.
"Let's go." I ask her to wait and grab one of the heavier jackets from her stuff that I'd packed away. Clothes, make-up, all things I held onto.
I lock up the apartment behind us and help her into my car. I'm unsure of how delicately I should be treating her, what she needs.
The sky starts to turn. I merge onto the highway, a familiar route. I let myself think about Shuyin and Lenne, Wakka and Lulu, Rikku and Gippal. Me and Yuna.
"Are you in shock?" She asks.
"I might be." I tell her with a grin.
"Are you happy, are you nervous? What are you thinking?"
"I don't know," I run one hand through my hair and then promptly put it back on the wheel, safety conscious. "Nervous, definitely nervous."
"Do you think I made the right decision?"
"I think that it was the only option—I think that you're more than capable of being a fantastic mother and that we can give this child a happy life."
"Will you love it?"
"Yuna, of course I will."
I lose her again to the silence. She points me in the right direction. Two blocks east of Shuyin and Lenne's. We stop at an overgrown garden, on a paved driveway where weeds poke through the brick and the charming red stucco is two stories high. White paned windows line the walls, a white garage and blue front door with a half-moon window.
Charming and curious. She unlocks the door, her small frame drowning in the heavy coat. The rooms are nearly empty; a few pieces of furniture covered in old sheets sit in the front foyer. The wooden floors are worn but have potential. She switches on the lights and dust settles.
"There is a lot we can do here." I say, removing one of the sheets and sitting down with her on an old loveseat.
"Gippal is going to work on the electricity when he has the time… some of the furniture should arrive next week."
"Are you still working?"
She nods, "For as long as possible."
"Kory…" I recognize a little bit of a pit in my stomach, pulling, weighted. I let it sit. "Can I help you with this?"
"I have money saved up."
"I can get this place ready in a jiffy, Yuna." I say, getting up. "Give me the grand tour!"
She laughs, getting up from the chair, addressing me. "I know—you are very capable but…"
"You're nesting, I understand. I just want to help."
"What do you see?"
"I see a couple coats of paint, refinished floors. Lots of baby-proofing." I step near her, "I see linen curtains and overstuffed couches. I see a four poster bed and a yellow nursery."
I see coming home, parking my car in the driveway and I smell chicken cooking on the stove, a child napping on the couch. I look around the ill-lit room and I see all the things I can turn it into.
Hello? Is this thing still on? Sometimes I go through and edit this story to warm up for other projects. All the chapters with proper titles have been edited within the last week, somewhat. I think I did the one during the tournament half asleep. I'm a journalist now, Culture Editor for the Sheaf. You can check out my articles at: /author/jennamann/
This took a while for me to write because I'm currently working and working on my novel. Reviews are appreciated, they make me feel awesome and want to continue with the story. Let me know what you think, all things considered this is a pretty big chapter, I guess.
Thanks to Deajei for editing, as always! And thanks to my readers for sticking around and reviewing.
See you in a bit!