Author's Note: Sorry for not updating for so long! I blame it on the extreme amount of work I receive from school. Anyways, please, please, please, forgive me! :) I have finally come up with this chapter, which I'm pretty proud off. I listened to "Wish You Were Here" by Kate Voegele while writing and this one came pretty easily!
I'll stop my blubbering. Read and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed and/or Gundam Seed Destiny.
Phase 10: The Zala House
"This is the house, right?" Cagalli didn't realize she was speaking to herself.
She had been knocking for just over a minute and a half already - yet no one had answered the door to let her inside. She had stuck her hand in her pocket, reaching for the scrap piece of paper she had written his address on. 836 Minevera Street, the paper read, in big messy cursive writing.
Sure, the 3 might have looked like a 5, and sure, the word street might have looked more like the word Leech, but she was sure she had meant to write 836 Minerva Street. Despite her crappy penmanship she could tell that this was indeed Athrun Zala's home.
And, she suddenly realized, that whatever expectations she had for this, whatever they were, this house was the complete opposite of them all. She had been anticipating for some sort of mansion, a typical dream home. His mansion would be large, four-storeys, and would be made of red bricks. There would be a typical white picket fence erected around the house and a freshly cut lawn. But most of all, she had expected the house to be beautiful. Stunning. Marvelous.
But the house she stood in front of did not meet her expectations yet also did meet them at the same time. The house was marvellous in size but it looked dreary and tired, like it had once had the potential of tremendous beauty years ago. It was four-storeys tall, too, and was large, composed of red bricks. There was a white picket fence that surrounded the house but the once-white paint was peeling away, exposing the decaying, rotten wood. It was a ghost house.
"Hello? Athrun? Athrun Zala?" she called out. Cagalli knocked on the door once more, "Hell-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o? Are you there? Is anyone there?"
Maybe, she thought, I did write down the wrong address.
How could Athrun live in a house like this?
More importantly, how could any human being live in a house like this?
She was silly to have believed that a house like...like that...could have belonged to the likes of Athrun Zala. No one lived in this home. Athrun probably lived in one of the nicer, bigger, more friendly houses down the street and not in this haunted house.
She turned around and was about to leave when the door of the haunted mansion swung open, the door hinges creaking as it moved. She turned around and to her shock, she saw Athrun Zala. He stood there, smiling his signature grin.
"T-this is your house?"
"Holey-moley! I've been knocking for about several thousand years!" she cried, playfully punching his shoulder. "I was starting to think that maybe I had gotten down the wrong address or something. This...this is your house, right?"
He nodded, laughing. "You already asked this. Yes, it is. It's my house."
"Anyways...so are you parents here? Your dad? Mom?" Cagalli inquired. She immediately regretted her question the second she asked it. She had forgotten two little things - his mother was dead and his father might as well have been too, considering he ignored Athrun a majority of the time.
"Nope." He shook his head, "I live by myself. Alone."
Cagalli nodded, and laughed along, accepting his answer. It was to mask the fact that she felt bad for him. She felt bad that he lived in a house as sad and depressing as this. But the fact that he lived in this house alone, all by himself, explained why it had been allowed to slip in to the utter state of despair it was in now.
After laughing, the two just stood there awkwardly. Cagalli finally decided to break the silence. "Can I come in?" she asked.
"Yeah. Yes! Of course."
He opened the door, allowing Cagalli to enter the Zala house - something which was not a regular routine for her, or for anyone. The house was like his fortress of solitude. No one but him had stepped in it for almost several years. However, now it was Cagalli's time to the best the first outsider to enter the house filled with nothing and to see a hidden, concealed side of Athrun that had buried since his mother's dead.
"So this really is your house? No joke?"
She knew it must have been annoying, her asking a million and one times. But she couldn't help it - the truth was still having a trouble sinking in! It made no sense that her, or anyone, for that matter, lived in a house like this!
"Yes. Sorry if it's not what you expected..."
If the house looked lifeless on the outside, the inside was even more dreadful. There were few ornamentations and decorations, and even those weren't colourful. They were most hues of black or grey. Nothing was out of place either - like the Zala house was a house of lifeless, pod people.
"No, no, no!" she said quickly. A little too quickly. "It's...different. Unique. Vintage! Kind of retro. Ha! I like it."
"Er...anyways!" Athrun said, scratching the back of his head. It was obvious he was desperate to change the topic to something more cheery. "Umm...so we have to work on that project together. The History one, right-?"
"Chemistry, actually," she corrected quietly.
Athrun nodded and mentally slapped himself. "Yes, for Chemistry. That's obviously what I meant," he mumbled. "Umm...maybe...we should go upstairs to my room then?" She blushed and nodded at this.
And so the two went upstairs. Upstairs to Athrun's room.
A room that wasn't so bad. Athrun's room was painted a light hue of green, which was a lot considering the rest of his home was grey. It had a bed, a dresser, a few pieces of clothes strung across on the floor, and pictures. She sighed in relief. There was some interest in his house at least.
"So...what were you thinking of doing?" Athrun asked.
"A volcano!" she answered, smiling. "Yes, I know what you're thinking. Totally 7th grade Science fair and played out. But it's only a part of our project. Our main question is what ratio of vinegar to baking soda produces the best chemical volcano eruption."
"Yeah," she smiled. "Here. Let's start." She tried passing her bag where she had stuffed all the materials for the project, but she accidently knocked over one of the picture frames on the table beside his bed. She tried catching it but it was too late. It fell on to the ground, the glass cracking upon the wood.
"I'm...Gosh, I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!"
She tried to bend down and salvage the picture but Athrun hissed: "DON'T TOUCH IT!" She was taken aback by his rage, but was already trying to pick up the frame. He sliced his finger before he got fed up and quickly slapped her hand away. In shock, she got up and took a step back. It didn't make any sense. If anything, Athrun was always being nicer to her, not like this. Not so vile and cruel.
"I'm...sorry...Athrun...let me help!"
"You've done enough."
Ouch. That felt like a total slap.
"I don't understand your issue! I'm sorry. I'm just trying to help you-"
"Well did you ever consider that I didn't ask for help? Huh? Did you?" he snapped. "I don't need it, Cagalli. I don't need any of it! I DON'T NEED YOU OR YOUR HELP AND I NEVER WILL! Why don't you just go back to your lover-boy, Shinn! I'm sure he'll have more use for you than I will."
"MAYBE I WILL!"
It was a bluff. She didn't mean it. He was suppose to apologize and everything would be good again.
"MAYBE YOU SHOULD!"
She couldn't believe it. He went from being the kind, reliable, Athrun, that was slowly becoming her best friend, to some mega-jerk. She had never seen a side of Athrun quite like this.
"FINE! I WILL!" Cagalli screamed.
She stormed out of his room in furry and without even thinking about it, she slammed his door shut. She stomped down the hall and down the spiral staircase. Her mind was exploding. She hated him! She should never become friends with him! She opened his front door and let herself out.
And she promised herself she would never return again.
Except she broke her promise only a minute later.
Halfway walking down Minerva street she realized she left her bag at his home. So she went back and opened the door to his house. Her backpack was on the table beside the door and the other bag with the materials was upstairs. She didn't care, though. She'd leave it for that lousy jerk. This time she was leaving and she REALLY wasn't coming back.
She was even about to leave and storm off again until she heard something.
It was more than a noise, though. It was a beautiful sound, one that she had never quite heard before. The beautiful noise flooded through the entire house, echoing through the halls and other rooms. She could suddenly feel her anger dissipate, only to instead feel the sadness of the music seep in to her body and spread through her veins.
The magic of the beautiful sound drew her curiosity. She slowly advanced up the stairs, afraid that this was all some dream and one wrong step would waver the music.
She followed the noise up the stairs, and down the hall, all the way until she reached the room where the beautiful sound was coming from. It was the room beside Athrun's. In big block letters there was a plaque beside it.
It read, LENORE'S PIANO ROOM.
The door was already slightly opened. So she opened it a little more, with only a slightly creak of the hinges being heard, and peaked in. Athrun - like she had never seen him before - was sitting on a black bench, with the light from the window beside him pouring all of over him. He was leaning over a piano, which was where the sweet and sad beautiful music was being emitted from. The piano was like an beast, but an elegant one, that was went to life only by Athrun's fingers. Keys of ivory white and smaller keys of charcoal black decorated this magical object. Smooth black wood curled delicately underneath the keys that his fingers were dancing over.
Cagalli was in awe at the entire scene. She couldn't peel her eyes off of him, no matter how hard she tried. She couldn't help her mouth from forming a small "o" either. His fingers kept on flying so fast and precisely that she could barely keep up with his beautiful yet haunting piece.
Across the notes - black keys, white keys, black keys, white keys - he played with a natural ease, an ease that only a select few were graced with. He played with his eyes closed too, like he was one with the sweet, godly music.
Soon enough to her dismay, the ending came. His fingers relaxed and he pressed less pressure on the keys, allowing the end to fade quietly, and softly, until the beautiful noise was no more. She couldn't believe it was over. She let out a gasp in shock.
Athrun whipped his head back, suddenly aware that someone was standing behind him. "Cagalli?" he gasped. "I thought you had left! Did you hear that?" He suddenly looked ashamed and couldn't look her in the eye. "Why didn't you go home? You shouldn't be here anymore."
"I...I...I...I left my bag...," she answered. "That noise-"
"Was nothing but a noise."
"It was more than a noise, Athrun! I've never head something so beautiful in my life!" she yelled. She suddenly softened up, moving towards him, sitting on the bench with him. "You're good. Really good. And I'm not just saying that."
Athrun smiled sadly but still wouldn't let her look him in the eyes. "She taught me how to play..."
"She? You mean-"
"Lenore," he said, finishing her sentence. "My mother. I haven't touched this in six years. It was hers. My mother...she used to be a pianist. She was good. Really good. Before I was born she had all these concerts around Germany and France and Italy. But then I was born and she taught me instead."
His hands started to tremble. Cagalli moved hers and placed them over his. "And?"
"And I used to love playing. She was suppose to teach me how to play more songs. I wanted to be as good as her. One she played...I don't know how to explain it. It was like the word stopped and there was nothing but music. This heavenly music. But she died. She didn't keep her promise because she died."
It suddenly made sense, the reason why the house was so empty. It was missing the love of Athrun's move. Without Lenore the house had become lifeless.
"You shouldn't stop playing," she said. "Not when you play so well. She would be so proud of you..."
"That song...it's not done yet," he mumbled. "It's a song I wrote for you. Do you mind if I play it again?" She nodded and he began to play.
To him, his playing was an escape. Nothing else existed but his piano. To her, it was pure beauty. Nothing else in the world mattered by the sounds. He played and played and played, with nothing distracting him. He closed his eyes and let the music carry him away, like a tidal wave. He played from one end of the piano to the other and back again, all with his elegant end eventually came again. She had braced herself for it but it still shocked her. The music faded once again until there was nothing left.
She looked at him and saw something she hadn't noticed before - his eyes. They were so expressive, so lovely. They were emerald and they were painted with his emotions. He was sad.
And he was in love.
"You...you wrote this for me?"
"I haven't come up with a name yet. But yes."
"I don't need you to understand because I don't understand either," he announced. "It's wrong. I shouldn't feel this way for so many reasons. I'm not suppose to feel the way that I'm feeling right now. But I do. I'd rather be with you. I'd rather have one moment with you and never be allowed to have you, then to have never met you at all."
He leaned in, slowly, but surely. She was too paralyzed to move. What was happening? Why was her best friend doing this? Best friends didn't do this, did they? She felt like a deer stuck in headlights. But her senses kicked in before he got to close. She pushed him off and got off the bench, making sure there was a lot of distance between the two. She kept on backing up - yet no matter how far she was, it didn't feel far enough.
"You shouldn't have said that." She picked her bag and glared at him. "I mean, you really, really, really shouldn't have said that or done that. We're friends. You're my friend! Friends don't do that, Athrun Dino. And I like Shinn. Shinn - not you!"
"You don't mean that-"
"But I do! I'm sorry but I'm meeting up with him now. For a date. I'm leaving."
"Wait...I...I'm sorry. I was going crazy for a sec." He smiled. "Friends right?"
She nodded. "Friends." Cagalli turned around and ran out of the room. She ran out of his faster than she had before, desperate to get far away from him. She opened the door and left the empty lifeless Zala house. She knew she had said this a bunch of times, but this time she meant it. She was never coming back.
Athrun sighed as he went back to his room. He picked up the broken frame that a certain blonde had knocked over carefully. He didn't want to cut up his piano fingers with any remnants of the broken glass.
He picked up the picture.
He hadn't let her touch it because he was afraid that she might realize that he was from the PLANTs. But, he realized, it ran much deeper than that. He was angry at her. He was angry that she would accept a date with a sleaze-bag like Shinn. He had been fighting for her since Day 1 and now what? - Shinn would just come in, swoop her away from Athrun, and sweep her off her feet.
He sighed and looked at the picture.
It was a smiling photo of him and a brunette boy, a boy he vaguely remembered had been his first best friend. He couldn't remember the boy's name now, but it was on the tip of his tongue. The two had gone to Lunar Prep together back up on the PLANTS. What made the photo so much more special was that his mother had taken it. She had visited him during semester and taken the photo of the two pre-teen boys.
The photo was taken before the war.
The photo was taken before Lenore died.
The photo was taken the last time he would smile for almost six years.
Back when his days were still good and uncomplicated. Back when there was some sort of peace, however illusionary is might have been. His father had still loved him and his mother had still been alive and he was able to smile. After that, smiling felt foreign. It felt like he was wearing a mask.
Yet, now, a certain girl named Cagalli Yula Athha changed that. She made him smile without even trying.
Author's note: I loved this chapter! It was so great to write. I really hope you enjoyed the detail I tried putting in, so make sure to review. Also, there's a bit of mistakes in the previous chapters, considering my writing has heavily improved in the previous months. I'm going to edit them first before updating again!
Review and it shall be speedy!
Also, whose the brunette boy in the photo? Pretty obvious...ahaha.