happily ever after

As the day progressed, the beams of sunlight grew and shone through the windows, cutting across the floor and running up the walls. As Tira wiped her wrist across her brow, she couldn't help but smile and look to the sunshine, too late. The day was setting up to be quite pleasant, but it had taken its time; she'd been awake since before it was light and now, just as the day was settling, her work was almost finished.

She liked days like this. When the house was quiet - as it was, always, at this time of the day - and there were chores to be done or better, chores that were finished. She stood with her hands on her hips and looked around the front room, where dust motes still danced in the light in defiance of the polished flat surfaces and clean carpet. She'd taken flowers from the garden and put some in every room of the house, whichever colour she felt matched the feel of the room. There was probably some kind of system for this - she would overhear the neighbours talk of their feng shui and other popular trends, if you put your chairs in this order-- and if you paint your kitchen this colour-- and she didn't have the patience to be keeping up with that kind of thing. She felt happy enough with how she set out her own house, and that was enough for her. Was it anybody else's business if your bathroom happened to be green or blue...? Of course not.

When the inside of the house was taken care of, it was time to take things outside. Tend to the garden, neaten up the boarders, make sure that flowers that were past their season were clipped. She was diligent in keeping up with the garden, however, so there was very rarely too much to do at once. If there was anything big to be taken care of then there was always Gateau or Eclair to ask; they'd made it quite clear that they were happy to help with anything that needed to be done, but Tira hadn't yet found the opportunity to request their help. It was comforting to know that it was there if needed, though.

As the afternoon wore on she would go to the town, noting the pleasant feeling of the sun in the sky and the light breeze on her skin. The weather was still good at this time of year, wasn't it? It'd start getting colder soon, but not just yet. It was safe to leave the house without a cardigan. And she would go around the usual shops and buy the usual things, smile at all of the people she always saw who would always smile back and give a friendly word. Everybody seemed so friendly, now. Though, Tira supposed, that was what happened when the world was pushed to the brink of armageddon. The people of Spooner hadn't forgotten that. It was nice to still have a world to be able to spend your days doing nothing in to begin with, after all.

Nonetheless, Tira would still note their expressions. They would smile, but not always. Sometimes, the smiles would fade. She saw them, when they thought she wasn't looking or that she hadn't noticed. She never raised the issue, though - such petty conflict wasn't worth it. Whatever it was they had a problem with, Tira suspected it none of their business to begin with. People could say what they liked, after all. Not all rumours had to always be based in fact, did they?

She would walk back and sometimes meet people, sometimes not. They were always friendly, Tira wouldn't deny that, but there were always the questions that ran through her like a knife, quite suddenly and without warning.

"How's your sister these days? I don't see much of her anymore!"

"She's got children now, hasn't she? I bet they're adorable. How much longer until we see you with kids, huh? I'm amazed you've left it this long--!"

She would smile and laugh and brush them off, trying to bury her feelings for as long as it took to walk away. That was one of those things that nobody ever felt any hesitation in asking about, wasn't it? Of course, it was a perfectly natural thing to ask about, to ask the newly-married wife. You're married; now what?... Sometimes, it made her angry. She would have to tune out the conversation to suppress the rising mist, the urge to show off the fact that she hadn't forgotten her skills as a Sorcerer Hunter. She was maybe rusty, but gossiping housewives weren't difficult targets--... but of course, she never did. You didn't do that. They didn't know not to ask.

On the way back she would see the spire of the main church rising on the horizon and wonder if she should visit. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't. Apricot-mama always had time for her, of course, but as time passed she couldn't help a strange mix of guilt and jealousy, sometimes. Apricot Glace, the new Big Mama, mother to everybody--

(Must be nice.)

As it was, she was preparing for a family dinner that weekend, so she felt she didn't have to visit just yet. Likely both Apricot and Onion would be happy to see her, but it wouldn't hurt to take just one day out. And maybe tomorrow, and maybe the next day. Or maybe visit the day after that? Whatever she felt like. There was no schedule she had to stick to, after all.

Returning home, she heard the sounds that meant that Carrot was waking up. She would always smile at that, too; she'd done so much already with her day, and here he was only just getting up--! He could be so lazy, sometimes.

In the silent afternoons before he woke up, she would sometimes think this over. The house was neat and the garden was tidy, but Carrot would wake up and want fed and not notice any of that. He rarely went into the garden to notice how it looked, and if asked to state differences between then and the last time he'd looked, he wouldn't be able to name them. Would he notice the flowers in each room of the house? Probably not.

She would prepare lunch if he was awake for it, then dinner. Carrot never missed his evening meal, at least. He seemed to appreciate that and every time he smiled for her latest stew or pie or casserole she would feel her heart warm for it, but part of it always lay... empty, almost. She would smile, but she would wonder.

Is this really what I want?

She wouldn't let those thoughts last long, but never seemed able to stop them completely.

Of course, this was a world that they all had to adjust to. As children growing up, Tira felt quite sure that nobody could have even imagined the thought that one day, in their lifetime, there would be no divide between Parsoner and Sorcerer. That the world would nearly end but wouldn't, and it would bring them all together as a result. Those who had grown up with magic as commonplace would never have known that someday it would only be a memory, and now there were children being born who would grow up and look to their parents with incredulous eyes while being told tales of swords and Sorcerers and magic. How could you explain it to somebody who didn't know? Perhaps it was all for the better, but Tira couldn't help but miss those days, sometimes. Not so much the pain and suffering that so many Parsoners endured under the oppression of Sorcerers, but just... everything else. The thrill and the challenge, the excitement, the purpose. Had she ever devoted much serious thought, back then, to what she would do as an adult? Between all they'd had to cope with in their younger years, it seemed like there'd barely ever been space to consider such things.

Of course, both she and Chocolat had both had designs towards Carrot, that had been obvious enough. Chocolat's dreams had always seemed all the more physical, but Tira didn't doubt that her sister had spent as much time considering that as Tira herself had her own fantasies. Dreaming of the perfect man (even with all his imperfections, Carrot was still all Tira thought and dreamt of), the perfect wedding, the honeymoon, all of the things that came after that--...

Had she ever thought of that, though? Actually thought about the day-to-day life of cleaning the house and cooking the meals, looking to Carrot and wondering what happened...?

The others seemed to dodge the subject, though she supposed she wasn't making much effort to raise it to begin with. Chocolat was busy with her work a lot, but seemed quite satisfied whenever they had time to talk. With good reason, Tira would think; successful businesswoman managing to balance that alongside raising her children... quite admirable. Chocolat always had a lot to say with less time to listen, but Tira had a feeling that that was on purpose; neither of them really wanted to state the obvious, and perhaps the longer it was left, the sooner it would die down. It was obvious what had happened and Tira didn't want to know the details, not when the obvious consequences were playing in the garden while Tira poured her sister another cup of tea. And there would be a yearning there, on several levels; she would watch Cream and Choux through the south-facing window and look to Chocolat and want to say so many things

They're growing up so well--!

You don't know how badly I want children too, oneesama--

but then came the inevitable

you slept with my husband

and she couldn't make the words leave her mouth. She couldn't blame Chocolate for it, that was the worst thing; she had loved Carrot too, hadn't she? Perhaps she still did. And, in some bid of courage, had taken what she wanted. And got what Tira wanted, too. And she was the housewife with the neat home and dependent husband and Chocolat was the one with the children and the successful work-life and who had done better out of this...? When had this happened? How had this happened? All of it was too overwhelming, and so Tira never said anything. She would sometimes see a note of something that could have been regret or remorse in Chocolat's eyes, but knew there was no point in trying to broach the topic. As the children got older, it got harder to say. It was obvious who their father was, so obvious, so how could she even--... she couldn't take issue with it now, could she...? Too much time had passed, now. They couldn't do anything about it. What would she want to do about it, anyway? Her sister was happy. Surely that was something?

(Tira wanted to be happy too and felt angry that she felt that she wasn't. She'd got what she wanted, hadn't she? She'd married Carrot, they lived together, they loved each other--

they did--

-- and it was--... it was all--...

fine)

(it was fine)

Sometimes, Marron would visit. Not very often. He would never stay for long and he never had much to say, but he would visit. Tira liked that, though. Somehow, it was comforting to have a visitor with whom she didn't feel that she had to make conversation, talk about meaningless things in order to fill the silence. She didn't know what Marron did with his time nor where he spent it, but supposed that he was taking care of himself somehow. He would sometimes bring gifts from far-off towns and she would wonder how he'd got there, how long he'd spent there, when he'd got back, why he'd never told them... but then, she felt used to Marron as somebody who had always kept himself to himself. She wondered if there was anybody he would speak earnestly to anymore and feel sad at the thought that there might not be, but then think that she knew little enough of his life as it was and it was perfectly likely that there was somebody, that there could be somebody, and she'd never know.

He never visited while Carrot was awake. It was always the early mornings. He would ask after Carrot, but word of mouth seemed enough for him and he would look at her, I trust you to look after him. And Tira felt awkwardly honoured for that, that Marron would ever say something like that to her, but couldn't help but feel that an enormous responsibility, too. Nobody took Carrot's well-being more seriously than Marron did, after all. Even now that Marron seemed to make himself scarce more often than not, Tira still felt that. And every time he visited she told him he should stay for longer, stay overnight, stay for the week-- but he would always decline, politely, with a smile. Once again, Tira would wonder what Marron did with himself when not visiting for tea and cakes.

Probably the same thing we all are.

Coping.

Marron, too, was the only person who would ask after her with what she felt was any degree of sincerity. It wasn't that Apricot and Onion didn't ask how she was, it wasn't that Chocolat didn't seem to care, it wasn't that Gateau and Eclair never had a smile for her on every occasion because they did, they all did, but it still all felt hollow, somehow. They would smile and ask how she was and she would smile and say she was fine, because the day was nice and she'd just been grocery-shopping and didn't want to admit that, sometimes, she hurt. Hurt in ways she couldn't describe, hurt in some ways that she could. Sister. And Marron would look to her and ask are you alright? and she would look at him and think for a few seconds longer than she normally would, those few seconds in which her mind would run through no and not really and would you understand if I told you, Marron-chan?and again, she would smile and say yes, of course~! but she could tell that he didn't believe her, and didn't mind that. If the time ever came where she felt that she just had to talk to somebody, she had a feeling that she would end up baring all to Marron long before anybody else. He never said anything, but she sensed something in his manner and the way he carried himself, some kind of... some kind of dissatisfaction, almost. Like he too was finding it difficult to change for a world that didn't need them anymore. He'd always been so dedicated, hadn't he? That didn't stop just because the threat had been taken away.

And sometimes, occasionally, there would be another mission. Apricot would call them to the church and tell them of some relic that had been discovered, one that was being abused by ex-Sorcerers who couldn't get used to their new prefix. They would all rise to the occasion, glad for there being an occasion to rise to in the first place. For all the danger those missions represented, they still seemed to be over far too soon. And they would all go back to their separate lives afterwards, feeling the separation keenly for those first few hours afterwards but then getting used to it, and getting used to it again, because that was just how things were now.

Sometimes, however, there was a kind of excitement separate to that. Something dangerous that Tira never knew quite how to cope with, that she knew she couldn't tell anybody. Sometimes, she would wake up to a letter pushed under the front door and it would say, in immaculate handwriting, I'll see you tomorrow.

Carrot slept the day away upstairs, completely oblivious to Enzeru's very occasional visits. He always visited on her birthday, but to ask him to pare his visits down to only once a year seemed like the kind of promise he wouldn't be able to keep. And on the shallow level she would never turn a friend away from her door, not one who had visited from so far away, but--... of course, to say 'friend' was only to scratch the surface, for Enzeru had always always made his intentions very clear. He would visit several times a year, on her birthday and during the height of summer and in the depths of winter, and as one year threatened to turn into another he would visit once more and always ask her the same question.

She would always refuse.

He accepted that, but never gave up. Said he'd never give up. Said he'd be back next year with the same question, waiting on her reply. She would wave him off from the front door, but couldn't find it in herself to smile as he went. She knew he could sense her hesitation. Felt that that was probably what kept him coming back, year after year. Each year brought with it the sense of you've not given up yet? (for both of them), and Tira slowly started to dread the thought that perhaps there would come a year when he didn't visit. When that option, which she kept refusing, was taken from her without warning. But she would never say yes, surely...? Of course not. (Of course... not.) To accept Enzeru would be to dismiss so much that she felt he just wasn't aware of, would be to dismiss Carrot, to dismiss all that he meant to her and all she'd ever hoped for, all she'd ever dreamt of and wanted and--

"I'd give you anything you wanted, Tira. Anything."

She believed him when he said that, but never said that she knew there were some things he probably wouldn't be able to give her. After all, the whole business with Chocolat seemed to imply that it wasn't Carrot with the problem. She didn't doubt that Enzeru would try his best and hardest, but some things were just, unfortunately, out of their hands. (He probably wouldn't mind trying just to make sure, though.)

However, was it really only a matter of that? There was that and it felt like such a damning obstacle that Tira didn't know how to scale it, but she would see the neighbours in the days following even Marron's visits and they would look at her and smirk and comment that maybe she'd married the wrong Glace brother, for whatever reason they felt relevant. It wasn't even that Tira had never considered that and in some strange theoretical kind of way it might almost have made sense, if one was to marry then they could do a lot worse than Marron, but... he was too much like a brother and she thought of him too fondly, saw him as too close and too distant all at once. Maybe in some other life at some other time it could have worked, but not now, not anymore.

The neighbours would see Enzeru and mistake him for Marron and start their comments over again. Tira let them think what they liked; it only seemed like more bother to try to explain that that wasn't Marron, that was a male friend of hers who used to be a Sorcerer who was in love with her who-- nevermind. His mere presence seemed to get tongues wagging, she didn't want to encourage them any further.

She would think of him in the days after his visits, wonder how long it took to get back to wherever it was he was living now, wonder about him and her and him and her. Slowly sipping at cups of tea, she would stare out of the window as she heard Carrot wake up upstairs and know in her heart that she could never leave him. Not now. Not now. Would she feel the same in a year's time? Maybe. She thought so. She hoped so. And a year after that? And after that? And after that, still?... She really didn't know. She couldn't know. She'd have to wait until those future years, see how the situation was different. See if the situation was different. And then, if it wasn't, then--... well...

As long as she still had the option to refuse Enzeru, she would refuse. Perhaps, someday, there would be a day when refusal was no option anymore, but--...

She'd worry about that hurdle when they got to it. For now though, things were fine. Everything was fine. She'd make another cup of tea.

Everything's fine.

end

29th of September, 2009