The Thin Line Between
by : Beatriz
Chapter 1 - Underneath the Stars
I still got your face, painted on my heart, drawn upon my soul, etched upon my memory.
It was a crisp and refreshing night in the serene city of Kalm. Comfortable winds blew through
the town, causing shop signs to swing back and forth swiftly with a small squeak as the water within the well rippled as though a giant was approaching the area. The stars in the sky glimmered like thousands of tiny, scattered diamonds, a rarity which brought flocks of tourists here to experience. Kalm, in all actuality, was rumored to be they city closest to the heavens.
"Star light, Star bright, the 1st star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight..."
On the compounds of the well, sat a young woman of no more than 23, staring up at the sky with a child's curiosity. Her large ruby eyes had a certain glitter, which matched the intensity of the stars above perfectly, and enough spark to light the way of a lost traveler. But in a way, that statement proved ironic. Her eyes described a hopeful feeling deep inside. A hope to illuminate a path for a certain wanderer. Illuminate a path which would lead the wanderer back here...to her.
"Bring him back to me. I wished every night for the past 2 years, but I need to see him again, to see that he is OK. He promised me that he would come when I needed him. I need him now."
Gathering thin legs against her chest protectively, she closed her eyes and allowed the floral fragrance of the night air to intoxicate her. Deep within her pure heart, she yearned for just one glance into the beauty of those eyes, those blue, Mako infested eyes which held all the answers to her troubles. For the past two years, without it's comfort, she was lost. No solace. No answers. Just haunting darkness that seemed to ask her why.
"I need you, Cloud. I need you next to me, telling me everything is going to be OK. I need to know that you are still breathing and living the life you so desperately wanted to find."
She still remembered the day he swept out of her life, like a hurricane into the night, destroying the lives of everyone he had ever known, just for his personal gain. It was a big surprise actually, nobody had expected it, for the blue eyed man, everyone had grown so fond of, just packed his bags one night and left. No hints of his departure. No good-byes. No have a nice life. No nothing. Just a small courtesy note, which sat on one of the many tables in the small bar in Kalm, expressing his deep gratitude in having them in his life. Tears were shed. Anger rose to the surface. Hearts, definitely broken, to the disturbing realization that Cloud Strife was responsible in destroying the spirits he had so carefully built in their hearts.
"Come back to me. Come back to us."
Reopening her eyes to regain sight of the stars above, crystal tears of nostalgia began to form underneath her eyelids as a small vision of memories began to play incessantly in the compact movie theater of her mind. When he left, he took along with him a piece of her heart that allowed her to love unconditionally. Now without that missing piece, she could no longer love a man completely, the way someone deserved to be loved. That was another reason why she yearned for his return, to demand he give back that piece of importance. So, finally, she could live again.
The contemptuous woman cast her eyes away from the sky and onto the source of the sound. A man of equal age stood a couple of feet away from the well, rebellious yet trustful green eyes looking curiously at her as a small smile of bliss overtook his features.
"Hi, Riley. Can't sleep either?"
The man, known as Riley, unfolded his muscular arms across his chest and answered patiently, "Well, I was sleeping until I didn't see the beautiful woman who's usually besides me. I got a little scared. I was going to call the police, but then I realized, they wouldn't come quick enough. Then I decided to sell my soul to the devil, so I can find you, but then I realized, if I sell my soul than I wouldn't be able to love you and feel the relief I usually do when I did find you. So then, I just decided to get my lazy ass up and look for you myself, I mean, it would be quicker than the police and less risky than selling my soul, don't you think?"
Tifa chuckled at his quaint sense of humor, unwrapping her legs from the close hold so they would hang over the side of the old well limply. Riley could always make her laugh, no matter what kind of mood she was in. It was the gift he possessed that made her feel a momentous amount of affection for him.
"Well, you know, nothing says I love you more than selling your soul to the devil. Quite a worthy gesture of affection if you ask me," Tifa retorted in an equal amount of sarcasm, quirking an eyebrow up playfully.
"Well, I'll keep that in mind for an anniversary present," he explained, the smile he placed on display still located distinctly on his face as he stealthily made his way towards the amused woman and swept her up into his arms.
Her soft laughter of happiness twinkled like chimes in the cool night's air, encircling her arms around the man's neck in a restful manner. As the two made their way into the small, yet cozy household within Kalm's town square, a gold band, which sat snuggled on the thin ring finger of Tifa Lockheart, shimmered underneath the soft glow of the full moon.
The winds were harsh and heavy, slapping the young man's face with such harshness, it left a soft glow of red welts. But that didn't stop him from accomplishing his mission. Over all the pain he was experiencing, over all the conditions he was encountering, the journey was not stopped. It was indeed cold enough to put the traveling on halt, figuratively, colder than millions of ice cubes finding a resting spot on a once warm body, but he didn't stop. For there was one place he would go to find warmth, find the strength to walk forward with head held high, and that was to think of her.
Crossing the terrain and following the path which lead into the Mythril Mine, the violent winds seemed to cease slightly, giving the young man some time, if not a lot, to recuperate from the frost bite which was dangerously forming on his already frail body. The winters, ever since Meteor was destroyed, were horrid. Forecasters and experts explain that the sudden change in weather conditions were to blame. Since Meteor gave a sudden deficiency in the boundaries of temperature, in it's case, a heat wave, it was only reasonable that another ice age would occur since the immense amount of heat was suddenly taken away.
"I gotta move faster...gotta see them again. Gotta see her again."
The determined man looked to be in close proximity to the age of 24, with hopeful and vulnerable blue eyes that looked like they seen both heaven and hell. Blonde hair, which was usually spiked up in a spunky way, drooped down a bit from the wind pressure and obviously, the snow storm that was occurring near Junon. He looked broken and ever so tired, dark circles and baggage underneath his eyes as though he hadn't slept for those 2 years that he's been away.
"Think of her and how good it'd be to see her again...Think of her and everything'll be OK."
Tifa Lockheart. The closest person he ever held in his heart, the only person who had ever been there for him in the pleasures and the pains of his life. This girl was the only reason he held his existence in the palm of his hand, why he continued to breathe, even when it proved to be useless. No one, even when he was child with a mother who loved him unconditionally, had made him feel worthy of living a life of meaning, a life of having the mentality where good things did happen to the outsiders of this world. She did. She showed him how unfrivolous he was by allowing him to hold her emotions in his heart, to hold onto something so precious and pure.
"Just give me one chance...Just one chance, that's all I ask you."
Stepping away from the grasps of the dark cave, he noticed the sunlight fighting to make itself known over the horizon. Daylight would soon emerge, a new day becoming the successor of night. It was much nicer on this part of the continent, snow storms banished as only cool gusts of air swept by occasionally. It actually made the young man happy that he put in an extra effort to fight against the disastrous weather and continue the voyage.
"Almost there, just a little further and I'll see her again..."
' That is, if she's still there. '
The mental revelation caused his heart to pound against his ribcage anxiously. It had been 2 years, what if Tifa and the others packed their things and left Kalm to pursue their own dreams? It wasn't a farfetched idea. Could it be true that this strenuous and difficult journey, which he poured his sweat, blood, and being into, was for nothing. He shook his head quickly, not even contemplating the situation at hand. He refused to even begin to believe fate could be so cruel in giving him such hope and then abruptly debasing it into just a memory.
"I won't believe that people who cared for me that much would just pick up and leave, forgetting I even existed and ruling out the possibility of me returning!"
' Was that your mentality when you just packed up and left everything you have ever known behind, without a single good-bye or recognition? '
A conscience had a funny way of being schizophrenic. One day, it's agreeing with you, comforting you to the extremity of wooing you into believing you were doing the right thing. And then the next day, it's completely tearing you inside out, having no mercy in the already guilty emotions within you. It was also funny how an unknown source had such power over you.
"It wasn't like that...I had to find..."
' Something about yourself that could determine where you stand along with the others. Blah, blah, blah. Still bullshit excuses of not wanting to experience attachment to anybody but yourself. Selfish bastard. '
Shaking his head suddenly, the tormented man continued the walk ahead of him, trying to tune out the sing song voice of his deepest thoughts. Unfortunately, a visualization was made that a conscience isn't a radio, you can't turn it on or off whenever you please.
' Tifa probably forgot about you too, I don't blame her, after what you did to her...'
"I didn't mean to hurt anybody, especially Tifa! But for once, I wanted to do something for myself, without worrying about others!"
' But don't you see! You can't just do things for yourself, that's your problem you stubborn asshole! With every decision comes a consequence, good or bad, learn that before you get all full of yourself and consider yourself a saint. '
The voice died out as quickly as it appeared. Maybe that was because a conclusion was made that finally made him realize that running away wasn't the way to solve anything. If he had denied his impulsiveness the satisfaction of resurfacing, things could have been better. But, unfortunately, he had been too afraid of facing the issue at hand head on, and decided on retreating like a coward. He took the easy way out, and now, he would have to accept the consequences of laziness.
His feet ached from running for such a distance without rest. His face, red and yearning for the comfort of cold water splashing on it's skin. His eyes, burning from the moisture that demandingly overtook them. His heart, growing more and more hopeful as he approached the small town that was now in the vision of the naked eye.
"It's right there. Just a little farther."
His pace quickened as did the constant beating of his heart. The dream was right in front of him, right at the grasp of his fingertips. All he had to do was stretch a little farther, just a little more and he would be able to touch it.
"Just a little more!"
And the dream, suddenly became a reality. He saw, with his very eyes, the slight hustle of the peaceful city, as citizens began on their daily routine. Cloud Strife collapsed onto his knees as the moisture that was held in the compounds of his eyes was finally released. The city which he had left behind so long ago was now a sight to behold again. Never did a thought of a possible nostalgia come across him during his departure. But now, seeing the city, and a possible encounter with Tifa or the others, made more tears of happiness spring into his eyes. He had finally made it.