A/N: This really long oneshot is dedicated to RainbowMelody, my awesome friend. We were talking about mixed couples, you see, and somehow… I came up with this. Please note that Eve is obviously over 18 and Henry can't be THAT old, so don't give me that pedophile crap. Anyway, I haven't read over this, but I hope you find little errors and enjoy it.
Abstractions of a Vixen and Shadow
It was disgusting. Everything about it was disgusting. The roots of its source did not flow leaching into the soil, milky against one solid path. No… the crossroads dissected, leaving him in the middle feeling incredibly wrong and disordered. It was absolutely… and utterly… wrong. Just like so many other things in his life. And though it hurt, he wasn't too concave to admit the simple truth to himself. He was in love… in love with the one woman he knew he couldn't have.
He loved her light trickle of a laugh, and the rosy smile she'd shoot him whenever he offered her his latest, proudest painting. He loved the electric spark he inwardly felt at the touch of her soft, warm skin. He loved how her cheeks incarcerated and grew alight upon each genuine compliment he gave her. He loved her excellent way with tending kids, and her tolerance in every flirty, tipsy man that teased her seductively over the counter.
But in a way, he also hated her. He hated how she flirted with every walking, breathing, living male in sight, young or old. He hated how she told him he was wonderful; and then walked right across the bar and told another, word for word. He hated how she looked up with surging self-pride when she walked, and he absolutely hated how her beautiful eyes glazed with contempt whenever she passed other females who weren't bestowed in alike beauty.
But most of all, he hated how she didn't love him back— not because of his personality or natural talent, but because of who he was. Because of the size of his nose, the contemporary— tacky— style of clothing he wore. His interests that differed from hers. She hated him… because he was different. She hated him, because he didn't perceive every trifle of profile she desired for. She hated him, yet she acted like she loved him, pulling him into the depths of her devilish, inevitable grip just to shoot him back to the ground.
That was her name. Eve; the mere title struck passion into the artist's heart. It was as beautiful as she was, maybe even more. It suited her perfectly, filled with joy, easiness… and somewhere along the lines, grief.
Her namesake had been given from the popular festival that continued to occur each year, the Moonlit Eve. It was through that exact festival that her mother and father had met. And it was pure coincidence, in fact, that that was also the day they had recognized their love for each other, and even further coincidence that it was the day her mother first realized she was pregnant. What followed up after the abrupt yet delicate pregnancy, of course, had been Eve's birth. She was a beautiful baby— blessed with soft skin, entrancing eyes, and honey-coloured, blonde hair. Her younger days were filled with surprise as she realized and expanded the talents everyone wanted; her witty humour, her coordination, her tactful, strategic and sharp mind.
It was just a pitiful, sad, sad thing that a girl so fortunate could only have her luck driven up a wall; soon after, her parents had died in a tragic accident, in which she expounded with no one. It was beautiful… yet sad… and many times, it was what inspired Henry to paint.
Over the last season he had framed many works, his first being a bright red ribbon tied around a soot-covered finger. The analogy behind the portrait, even he barely knew, but for some reason it only sent his gauge of inspiration soaring further. In the weeks that followed, many new paintings spawned, origins all anonymous. Mud mixed with water; sun mixed with stars. His most recent painting, inexplicably, was one he wasn't even aware of illustrating. It was a vague, abstract picture, centric of a vixen and a shadow. And though he was speechless after he'd painted such a thing, albeit barely because of its beauty, but more because of its truth— he didn't know why he understood the meaning beside it and none other's.
Eve was the vixen. She was beautiful, and practically royal among men. She was agile, brilliant, sharp-witted and gorgeous. She was all the things any would desire.
Then there was him, the shadow, a lone blob of grey against the fading glimmer of twilight peeking at them from the horizon. He was a reflection of reality. He was the past tense of what was no more. He walked along the path he alone followed, others striding with passion at the soles of his feet. He was the dawn of sun, and the fallen star overlooked by the crescent moon. He was alone, unwanted, and unneeded filled in a world of many others with better intentions, better looks, and better lives.
He was who he was; he was Henry; and for Eve, that just wasn't enough.
Henry felt his wrist quiver as he brought his brush against a thick wad of paper; stroking red against its snowy white surface. What was intended to be a skinny, angled line turned out to be a broad, compact slab that dribbled down the centre of the page. The blood red paint rolled steely down the paper platform and he lifted a finger to dam its trail. It followed his index finger and he didn't even try to stop it as it tickled down his rolled-up sleeve.
He wanted to get over her. He really, truly did. But no matter what she just wouldn't escape his thoughts… it made him want to double over in agony knowing they'd be forever apart for trivial reasons no less, yet all at once he wanted to punch her across the face at the fact she had used him. Used him like she had every other man in the village… why was it that she took everyone for granted, tweaked them to her liking, pushed them away and still stood pridefully? Did she not feel any guilt in deceit?
Did she not feel even the slightest tinge of guilt when she broke him?
"Mr. Henry sir, what are you drawing today?"
Startled, he looked down at the bearer of the young voice. Just before him stood Meryl, the town's cutest little girl. Her big, brown eyes were round with confusion as he took a long moment to reply.
"It's just… abstract art," he replied briefly. He tried to shoot her a convincing smile, but the sight of Eve's face drew in before he got a chance to. His eyes descended and he turned away, indirectly hurt.
Meryl frowned, seeming to note his sorrow but deciding not to question it. "What's an abstract?" she asked.
Henry looked at her for a moment, as if contemplating the fact that such a question existed. "What is abstract?" he repeated, slowly.
Meryl responded with one, full nod. Henry just shook his head at the young girl's "foolishness."
"Abstract is…" He had started off with slight incredulity in his voice as he attempted to explain it, but then his voice drained out when he couldn't find the right words. "It's… it's something that is… abstract is…"
He saw how Meryl's brow furrowed as she tried to understand him, and she tilted her head slightly. "Abstract is…" she urged.
Henry lowered his brush slightly. All the previous paintings, fuelled unknown, came to him. He analyzed them, and was surprised as one definition came to him. "Abstract is… difficult."
Henry nodded. "Difficult; hard to understand. Hard to find the precise meaning of… hard to grasp the true concept upon." He realized how Meryl had a perplexed look plastered on her face but continued lightly. "See these designs I used?" He gestured to the ruined line of red and former blobs of yellow, grey, and brown across the page. Meryl nodded. "Do you know what they resemble?"
Meryl paused, shooting him an innocent, slightly meek look. "Mr. Henry, what does resemble mean?"
He returned a knowing smile, small but genuine. "Do you know what they mean?"
He watched as she dwelled upon the thought before her eyes lit up and she nodded. "It looks like a rattlesnakes nest. Is it a rattlesnakes nest?"
At this point, he had kneeled down to reach her length. "No, Meryl," he explained softly and deeply. "No shape, form, or physical object can represent the meaning behind those lines. Abstract art is like, in a way, an allusion. Colours, formations, and things just out of the blue are mixed together to show something. Not a rattlesnake, not its nest. But…" He paused to think. "Just… things on your mind. Emotion, comparison, non-figurative pictures. Think of a hard word, Meryl. Like a really long one."
"I thought of one."
"Good. Do you know the definition of the word?"
"Can you tell me the definition?"
"…No," she fumbled. "No, I can't. It's not that I don't want to, I just don't know it. I mean, I know it but…"
"But you can't find the right words for it."
She smiled in the "that's-it" kind of way.
"Abstract is very hard to describe, really. It's like knowing a word and its meaning, but not being able to describe it in words. You can only describe it in thoughts. And sometimes the thoughts may seem unrealistic, or simply strange, but… they're thoughts. And all thoughts are valid." His mind deepened and Henry found himself indulging in his own words. "Abstract art is based on my thoughts in this case. I've been thinking of something, and not only do I not know how to interpret the emotion, or my feelings, but I can't explain why they remain here. I can't tell why they stay by me no matter how badly I want to abandon them. I think they're known as 'apart from concrete reality' because… my thoughts are unrealistic."
She interrupted him briefly and unsurely. "What do you mean?"
He chuckled laughlessly. "I wish I could explain it clearer, Meryl. Even I'm having trouble understanding myself right now. I suppose it's just that milestone I was destined to reach long ago." A wistful sigh escaped him. "I want something really badly, Meryl. I think that's what my thoughts are trying to tell me… I'm not really sure. I have a partially clear image of what I want in my head, but it's not an image of… it. It's just random lines. But it means something, I know it. So this is why I draw abstract art… I want to find out… who I am."
He stopped to allow Meryl to soak in the information. He looked over to glance at her facial expression, and a perpetual look of confusion settled on her face. "I don't get it, but I think it sounds neat," she finally admitted, and Henry couldn't help but chuckle.
Reverting subjects, he asked, with a slightly better change of mood, "What was that word you were thinking of, Meryl?"
The small child smiled, somewhat slyly. "…Love."
"Hm?" He fully put his brush down, turning to face her. "What was that?"
"Love," Meryl repeated, more than articulate. "I personally think it's hard to understand too, Mr. Henry. And I guess I'm a little young for it, but who cares because age doesn't matter!" She gave him a dignified look. "I think I'm in love with Tim! After all, he's nice, but can be mean sometimes, and we have a lot of fun together and he gives me really neat things!" She paused shyly. "Um, what I'm saying is, I can't really describe this fluttery feeling. It's like… butterflies, lots of them! Except I'm not really nervous. I'm just eager, I guess. But I don't know when I'm gonna get it… I don't really know what 'it' is, either. I guess I don't know… at all."
Henry stared, in awe, at the child's analogy. He watched as Meryl took in his astonished look and as she demanded, "What?" he realized she was slightly offended for being underestimated.
He found nothing to say. "Meryl…" he finally interjected softly. "Who taught you that word?"
And somehow he just knew it wasn't her best friend.
"Eve," Meryl replied, and a bitter feeling crept into him once more. He moved to get back to painting the dark, scornful painting in mind, but Meryl relented. "I was talking to her the other day. She… she was talking to me about you."
At this, he was piqued. "She… she was?" He could already feel his face burning hot red with hurt that she'd gone around and even infected the village's youngest offspring with acid lies.
"She said she's never met anyone like you before."
Henry looked down at his neon yellow shirt, and back at her. "Who has, really?"
Meryl giggled at his self-pitying joke. "She told me that you were…"
"Okay, honey, that's enough out of you."
A small gasp left the child as she snapped back. Henry felt his heart slow upon the presence of the woman who penetrated his heart's barrier. He turned away and suddenly felt nauseous.
"Honey, I have to talk with Henry. Could you please run along and find something fun to do with Tim?" Eve insisted breezily. There she went again, with that perpetuating tone in her voice. She could convince even the youngest, most innocent child in that cat-like, enticing way she had. Her words linked like a river strait, and everything she did was just the spitting image of… perfection. She was the Mary Sue of the novel no one wanted to read; but Henry interpreted more faults than he should be allowed to.
"Well, alright," Meryl gave in with a tired look. "I guess me and him could continue playing the game of tag we never finished yesterday. See you!" She began to skip away, looking once over her shoulder, at Henry. He could've sworn he saw mischief in her eyes… but why? "Bye-bye, Mr. Henry!"
The instant Meryl pranced out of sight, Henry felt iciness grasp at his chest. And though it was late spring, and the flowers had burst from their buds long ago, he felt terribly cold. He could feel his breath rise slowly and expected Eve to toss her silky tresses back and speak in that flowing voice of hers.
He was shocked when all he heard was a ragged, crackling breath.
"Henry, there's been something I've been meaning to say," she said in practically a whisper. "I-I've… I wanna tell you… there's this… this thing." She fiddled with her slender fingers, but she suddenly went rigid and looked at him— right in the soul. "I'm sorry, Henry."
He would've been taken aback if he already didn't know what was happening. I'm sorry we can't work out, Henry, she would say. And then she would walk away with all the other, better men at her flank. He wanted to squeeze his eyes shut and run away to hide in a small, narrow, hole where no one would find him. But against his will, he stood strong and waited for the final blow.
"I'm sorry I've been such… a bitch."
Now he was shocked. His mouth gaped in alarm and he found himself sputtering, "What are you talking about?"
Eve looked remorseful, contrary to his absolutely bewildered expression. "All this time, I've been flirting with other men. I know I'm a barmaid, but still… I had… no right to play with your feelings." For a split second, he almost felt his pain in her last words.
"Look," he choked out, but Eve stopped him brusquely.
"I know you've been hurting ever since that incident with Dan," she cut in sharply, plowing on before he could reply. "But I'll tell you that that one time was not my fault. He was absolutely flirting with me— grazing himself against me, even! The nerve! It's just this, this thing I have to have when I work at the bar, okay? My… my uncle says I need to have a sexy, seductive vibe. Otherwise I'm fired."
Henry would've given in to her apology immediately if he hadn't known the vixen so well. "So you rip me off for a job?" He could tell his cold words had startled and hurt her, for she recoiled with a twisted expression on her face.
"It's not like that," she practically pleaded. And tears rimmed her eyelids before he could speak. "Henry, it's not like that at all. Fired… it doesn't mean I'm sacked, okay? I live at the bar. Getting fired means getting kicked out… of my home." She practically spat the last word and Henry stepped back in confusion.
"What do you mean, kicked out of your home?"
Eve's words whipped out rapidly. "Henry! He's my only living relative, next to Terry, who is practically nonexistent in my life, okay! I don't know why I've been so cursed but all the rest of my family are dead! What do you expect to happen, okay?! My uncle is not the respectful, hospitable man everyone thinks he's worked up to be! I hate him!"
And though reading between the lines, Henry somehow found abstract in her undefined words. "You know the feeling," he suddenly said quietly, and it was Eve's turn to be confused. "You know what it's like to hate your uncle. You know what it's like to feel all the pain you did when your family died, and you know what it's like to be cheated on. You want to tell me all about it but… you can't. Because as much as you know about it, you just… can't. Am I right?"
Eve looked completely bemused. "That's exactly right."
"I thought so." He turned away, overcome with not only his own grief, but now with Eve's. "Is that all?"
She looked hurt for some reason. "No. That's not even what I intended to tell you. I mean…" Her eyes grew heavy. "I didn't even mean to say it at all. You're the only one that knows… please, please don't tell anyone, okay?"
Henry didn't answer her question, but they both knew he wouldn't speak a word of it. "What did you mean to tell me then?"
A practically ironic smile sprang to her lips. "I've come to tell you that I'm sorry, Henry. Did you not hear me?" Her shy smile deceived her cruel words. "Did you know that I love… sorry, that's a bit much… did you know that I really like you?"
Turn-in-turn, Henry felt his mouth continue to fall. "You… what?"
"I've always liked you. You know…" She blushed. "You were always different from everyone else. I mean, there's Dan… sure he's cute, but he's a total ass. Then there's Ray… he's cute too, but he's absolutely tactless." She listed off a few more guys, but Henry could barely hear her.
After everything… after all this hurt and shock and remorse… I've been wrong?
"…he's really dorky," Eve had concluded. She gave him a look, serious now. "Henry, I'll say it again for the dozenth time. I'm so, so sorry for hurting you all those times… I really am… but I just want to settle this. Whether you want me or not, I just want you to know that… you mean a lot to me." She took a deep, shuddering breath before brushing herself up quickly. "Oh, no, I didn't sigh because that was a burden to say. I mean, it wasn't exactly easy; it was the truth, but I… I was just unsure…"
Henry continued with his inability to register her words. Whether you want me or not. "It's funny," he found himself suddenly saying, and a grin rose to his lips. "All along, I've been killing myself over all the faults in you. I think I only was able to find them because of all the times I've been hurt by you." He saw Eve's slight embarrassment through her deeds and added quickly, "But I suppose it's all part of getting to know you. And Eve, you're… perfect." He inhaled deeply. "I can't believe you're the one who asked me. Of course I'll… be with you, Eve."
The next thing he knew, she exploded with glee. "Really?!" she cried, dragging him into a bonecrushing hug. "Oh, that's just wonderful!" Before she could babble endlessly, she suddenly said, "One more thing, Henry! I know this is slightly off-topic, but what was with that painting you gave me last night?"
Henry felt suddenly surging with confidence. But better yet… with meaning. All the words that couldn't come to him, came. "The vixen and the shadow? That was you and me, Eve. I was the lowly shadow, you were the high vixen. We were opposites, and I cried in solitude knowing I couldn't have someone as amazing as you. I was upset, but I realized it was my fault all along… I never gave you another chance. I just gave up on you. Now I know that we needed each other all along. I--!"
"Erm, Henry," Eve suddenly interrupted. "That's wonderful and really deep and all, but it's not what I mean. I mean, um…" She trailed off. "I don't really like art…"
His face fell terribly. "What? You mean… you didn't like any of the paintings I gave you? Not even the one with the water and mud?"
"That was water and mud?! I thought it was— uhm," she stumbled out, "I guess I don't really like them. It's not that I don't like your paintings, I just don't like it… in general. I prefer words that explain everything, not…"
"Apart from concrete reality."
"Abstract art," Henry filled in, finding himself breathless with bliss. "I paint abstract art. Art with… undefined meaning."
Eve blinked and he decided to stop filing in the blanks for her. "Eve," he said quietly. "You have no idea how happy I am."
She suddenly grinned. "Ditto."
The two leaned in for a kiss, lost in their own air.
Meanwhile, hidden from view, Meryl watched from afar and sighed with contentment. If only she and Tim could be like that one day… even though she hadn't understood half of what they said, it still looked really neat.
She noticed how everything started to get all wet and suddenly scowled. If that was love… Okay, ew. Eve said love was a good thing. They're like… ew!" She suddenly turned away, disgusted. If that was love, then it was one thing she didn't want for a long, long while…
And as she paced away, Henry felt overcome with joy. All words unspoken had depth now, and even if he didn't understand fully everything, he knew enough to be content with life. As long as he had Eve…
They detached and the vixen fell upon the risen shadow's shoulder, eyes both closed and smiles visible. For now, things didn't need explanations.
Abstract love was no more. It was defined, it was full, it was there and it was true.