Disclaimers apply. A companion story for Drifting Skies, alternately entitled Drifting Skies: Sheryl Side. I recommend that you read the first to get a better grasp and such. This is a theme for the 30_Kisses community in LJ. Theme is (4) – Our distance and that person. Please point out any errors you may encounter, so they may be rectified. Thank you and enjoy reading.
One day, Sheryl told Alto she was leaving.
Sheryl whispers as she speaks. Her voice is faint, her words dying in the spell of the wind. But Klan, being a Zentradi, hears every word she says. When Sheryl finishes talking, she smiles at the Meltran with suppressed sadness.
Klan looks at her with an expression of mixed sorrow and disappointment. Sheryl feels herself shrink under her scrutiny, shame and self-loathing creeping into her skin. Klan breaks eye contact. She throws her gaze to the ground. In her tiny childlike voice that contradicted her maturity, Klan utters,
"You're making a big mistake, Sheryl."
And Sheryl knows that Klan is right but she does not tell her so.
"Alto, I'm leaving."
Three small words that took all the strength for Sheryl Nome to say. She chews on her bottom lip while her hands tremble. She looks into his eyes, eyes that were as cryptic as they were hazel. Alto does not answer and just stares at her. She waits for him in nervous anticipation, her heart beating faster for some reason.
At last, he speaks. He brings a hand to cover his nape while lifting his eyes to the sky.
"I see."His words are flat and emotionless. At that very moment, Sheryl feels like crying but miraculously wills herself not to. She waits for another reply. And she gets it, but not the kind she wants.
"When do you leave?"
His voice is hollow.
Just like her heart.
She folds her shuttle ticket and tucks it inside her pocket. Carefully, she picks up her valise, and meets Alto's eyes. His expression is ever the same—one that she cannot decipher. She hears herself ramble on like a fool. Surely and unconsciously, she is delaying for the inevitable. That one word that will seal it all. All that will follow after is uncertainty…and hopeful longing on her part. Her heart clenches as she gives him her final words of good cheer. There is a pause. He does not speak, so Sheryl places it on herself to say it. She lets her tongue glide on her lips, thinking that the wetness will make the words easier to come out. She puts on some false bravado and tells it to him.
She turns around, afraid of his reaction. There is a whirlwind of emotions raging inside her. Of course, Sheryl will never let it show. She is Sheryl Nome after all. With all the things she had been through, the declaration of her name now weighs more in terms of meaning.
She is outside now and the sunlight dapples on her face. The soothing warmth fails to calm her unsettled state. The world outside, she notes, is bright and cheerful and even though she is technically a part of it now, she does not fit in. It's a fine morning—beautiful in fact, but Sheryl is not happy.
Far from it.
She cannot help but take one last look, so she does. She puts on a smile, genuinely born from thinking of the memories spent with the man in front of her. Said man looks at her with a softened look. Then gently, he rolls out her name from his lips. Sheryl almost drops her valise. She feels a tremor of excitement course through her. Her hopes soar up into the sky, like a balloon having escaped the grasp of a careless child. She is suddenly too happy to mask the eagerness that is undoubtedly showing on her face. She holds her breath, heavily anticipating his words.
There are no words to describe the hurt and disappointment Sheryl feels after hearing him say that.
Alto's words, with the best intentions, break Sheryl's heart—into tiny fragments that scatter on her feet. At first, they brightly gleam with a moment's glare of optimism—then slowly dim into dull pieces of broken glass. She feels the salty start of tears in her eyes. Quickly, she puts on her sunglasses and moves out. A little bit of hope lingers when she shuts the door. Perhaps, he will burst through the door and stop her. It lingers as she gets inside the cab. Perhaps, he'll follow and ask her to stay. It is still there when she boards her shuttle. Perhaps, he'll come. Still there when the attendant informs everyone to put on their seatbelts. Maybe he is on his way… Still there as they depart. He has access to a Valkyrie...
But by the time they prepare to make a fold, Sheryl knows she is only consoling herself in delusions. Alto will not come after her.
She accepts the fact like a mature grown-up with no trimmings of denial or anger—but with the hurt, she covers her face and weeps like a child watching her balloon fly away.
Eden has a sky. And skies, whether real or artificial, play no difference to Sheryl. Because when she looks up into the sky, she will always be reminded of him. It has been five months. Sheryl is living in an apartment. It is a modest one, cozy, very much like the place she had previously stayed in together with Alto.
There isn't really much. Just the useful furniture, some tasteful and some tacky, and of course, there is the modern conveniences and appliances. It is a far cry from the glamorous accommodations during her early reign as the Galactic Fairy—but Sheryl does not mind.
Her favorite spot is the balcony in her bedroom, just past the French windows. The scene outside offers a view to a garden filled with apple blossoms. At night, she cracks open the window, the scent of the flowers would waft into her room, hauntingly sweet and gentle, light and airy. She goes to sleep. When she wakes up, there are tear stains on her face.
And that comes with no surprise actually.
A song is playing on the radio. They are playing revivals of the old classics. Some are good, some decent and a lot are bad.
Sheryl is ready to shoot herself if she has to listen to yet another poor rendition of Minmay's Do You Remember Love?or another sad, butchered attempt of Basara's (her personal idol's) Totsugeki Love Heart. She is listening to the fading notes of Tenshi no Enogu when the DJ comes in, weariness and enthusiasm in his voice as he talks about the very old days. Days before Protoculture or the first Macross… He sounds as if he were coming from that time, which is, of course, very much impossible. He decides to play an old song and dedicates it to ole history.
The song is not familiar to her or the male singer but the lyrics mention famous places on Earth like Paris, Rome and Manhattan.
…I'm going home to my city by the bay…
I left my heart in San Francisco
Her heart jolts in surprise to that name. The name of the city, where Frontier had derived a lot from—like the Golden Gate Bridge, Pipe Dreams and the like (she had learned this from a brochure).
High on a hill, it calls to me.
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
She finds her mind wandering off to that time when she rode a cable car with Alto. It had been her first time riding such a thing. She vividly recalls the wind in her hair, the sight of Alto running to catch up. His naïve query to whether she was a sort of cyborg and the priceless look on his blushing face when she told him she was au natural.
The morning fog may chill the air
I don't care!
My love waits there in San Francisco
In San Francisco…no, Frontier.Vivid memories of that place resurface in her head. The sights, the scents, the people… The coolness of Alto's EX-Gear mingled with his own warmth pressing against her as they fly over the city, the rush of the cold air blowing against them and much more. She remembers the heated flush on her face when she felt Alto's hand shift down her legs to get a better support on her (at that time, she wasn't wearing anything underneath). It was quite silly because with his gear, his hands weren't technically touching her. But it was Alto…and she could not help herself when she was around him.
She closes her eyes with a smile.
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco,
Your golden sun will shine for me!
Sheryl spills her drink. The red wine stains the tablecloth and channels to different directions. It forms a red flower of sorts. Sheryl apologizes profusely to her date and to the head waiter. They move to a new table. She is blushing prettily as she apologizes once more. Her date stares at her with a meaningful smile. For an instant, she sees Michael Blanc, who always seemed to know what was going on in someone's head. He picks up his wineglass, eyes never leaving hers, and takes a sip.
When he sets it down, he says, "Sheryl, I don't think this will work."
Sheryl is taken aback.
"…Why?" Is the best she can retort to a man who is going to dump Sheryl Nome.
"Because," he signals for the bill, "you look happier smiling dreamily at an origami centerpiece than spending time with me."
Before she left, Sheryl had stolen a shirt from Alto. It is his smoky blue undershirt, the one he always wore no matter what. She does not think he'll notice one missing. She keeps it in a drawer. It remains unwashed from when she took it out from the hamper. There is a raw masculine odor and it is not from any kind of cologne. It is Alto's scent—and it cannot be surpassed by any perfume or fragrance there is.
She does not take it out frequently, fearing that the treasured scent will disappear.
However, on a rare occasion, she uses it as a pillowcase. She would hug her pillow in her bed, envisioning the real thing beside her. She re-imagines their first night together. The memory is a treasure she pulls out more often than Alto's shirt.
Her first time with Alto was an awkward experience—but it was wonderful all the same. Sheryl recalls how his callused hands were shaking when he removed the garment off her. The image of his face…eyes filled with a variety of emotions upon gazing down her nakedness–before shutting them tight as he let out a shuddering breath like the sight was too much for him to bear, is forever burned in her mind. Alto had seemed to rely too much on her; thinking she was already experienced when in fact, she was in the same boat as him.
She doesn't blame him. People always get the wrong impression from her promiscuous clothes and suggestive dancing. A producer once tried to have his way with her inside his running limousine. He was a married man and Sheryl had just turned sixteen. She was interested in discussing a contract deal. He was more interested in what was under her skirt. Thankfully, she escaped when the limo stopped on a traffic light. Since then, she never ventured to do business alone.
For some inexplicable reason, Sheryl felt compelled to tell Alto of that unhappy event—but bit her tongue for she did not want to sully the mood.
When Alto entered her and found that tell-tale barrier, he was stunned beyond belief and at the same time, unimaginably pleased with the fact that he was her first. Sheryl remembers calling him an arrogant jerk to smile at a woman wincing in pain. He did not reply—with words that is…
Sheryl lies there, tangled in the sheets, a sheen of sweat filming her. Her body is tingling for a touch she cannot have and it makes her bite her lip in frustration until she draws blood.
She wonders what Alto is doing right now. A wicked voice tells her that he might be with Ranka Lee right now. Perhaps, lying down on the same futon where Alto had taken her.
Sheryl is tortured awake the whole night.
It has been one and a half year.
She is on a grassy field, quite similar to the one on that planet where Frontier made its new home. There is not a cloud in the sky. Alto immediately crosses her mind. A surge of anger overtakes her. She breaks down on her knees and tears out the blades of grass. Her clothes will have grass stains and so will her hands but she does not care. She continues at it. Her manicured nails are caked with dirt as she makes a brown bald spot on the faultless pasture.
Then—abruptly, she stops. Her clothes are ruined now and her skin has a coating of soil.
"I'll forget him…" She whispers.
Sheryl closes her eyes, ready to forget. Then, when she opens them, everything blurs in sight.
"I'll forget him…"She says. A dinobrd takes flight from a nearby mountain. Its shadow encompasses everything and it carries with it the wind. The torn bits of grass dance in the air like confetti. But Sheryl does not care. Not the rare sighting of a dinobird. Not her current state. She does not care.
"I'll forget him tomorrow..." She keeps saying. An empty promise. She loves to lie to herself. She thrives on the fact that she is Sheryl Nome and can do anything that she sets her mind to.
She gets up and goes home, the resolve to forget blue hair and hazel eyes burns in her mind.
But she knows it is impossible.
As long as there is a sky, her mind will never be rid of him.
Sheryl receives a message.
Come back and fix the mess you made.
The cracked lines of Frontier's sky feels like home to Sheryl. She notices that many people still live here in the fleet despite what the new planet has to offer. It goes to show that people have different perceptions of what home is—and to some, it is not defined by what kind of sky they live with. Sheryl wants to visit Ranka but is uncertain. She does not want to suddenly intrude—but of course that is just a pitiful excuse. She is just plainly scared of what the young girl might tell her.
"Alto-kun and I are—!"
She shakes her head furiously.
The Tenkumon concert hall looms in front of her. It calls out for her and Sheryl finds herself drawn to the call of the stage. Alto catching her from a fall that he himself caused comes to her mind. She remembers herself singing in his arms as he flew and the very first compliment he gave her.
An urge to sing hits her and she finds herself walking over to that place where she met him.
The very place that changed her life.
And it will not stop there…
"Alto, tell me to stay…"She pleads. "Tell me to stay, Alto. I will never leave you again. All I need is one word."
She waits for his answer. Alto is crying and so is she. Her hands tighten at her sides and her heart beats unsteadily. She bottles up a sob that threatens to come out as she waits. Patiently and uncertainly, she waits. Sheryl sees him open his mouth and she squeezes her teary eyes shut and finds herself playing the scene of two years ago. "Be safe."He had said. When she was about to leave and walk away from his life, those were the words he had uttered. "Be safe."The words that had measured her significance to him.
"I love you."
The words are loud and clear.
"I stole your shirt, you know." Sheryl confesses in the night of their reunion. He casts a startled look at her. She ignores it and snuggles closer to his warm, inviting body. "I don't need it anymore though…" she yawns as she begins to doze off.
The last thing she hears before she is completely asleep is a derisive snort and a snappy,
"Well of course you don't need it anymore!"
"What made you come back?"
"I left my heart in San Francisco."
"Frontier isn't San Francisco."