Chapter 34:

Strong Enough

Lovely kNight

Juna seats herself on her bed. With a weighty sigh her shoulders slacken and her head droops, giving her an appearance similar to a discarded doll. She weakly fumbles with her ribbon before it falls loose from her collar.

I feel alien to myself struggling with an utter loss. Unsure what move to make, what step to take. My voice feels like it’s been stolen from me as any attempt to speak comes out as an empty breath. The pain saturating my chest joins together with how breathless I’ve become.

I fight to cut the tense air in two but the silence is shattered by Juna herself. She speaks to me as she replaces her mask and raises her calm eyes which shine dimly with a facade of joy.

“I suppose the first thing I should do is redouble my studies. I’ll need to improve myself and time is fleeting.”

Every bit of me, of who I am is against her attempts to sweep the issue under the rug yet I fear for her so much that I stumble. I can only nod.

“Vestil would more than likely want to meet with you for a bit. She probably has work to do tomorrow so you shouldn’t leave her waiting for too long.”

“But Juna…”

“I’ll be okay. I just… I’ll just study for a little bit before I go to sleep. It’s too early to just lay down and call the day finished. It’d just be a waste by that point if I were to do that.” She grins weakly. “So I’ll stay here for the rest. If you need anything, you’ll know where to find me.”

“That’s what I should be saying. If you need anything, anything at all, whatever it could be, I’ll be here in the manor. Just come and find me and don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Okay.” She nods shallowly. “I’ll remember that.”

I can barely take the intensity of the atmosphere. How vulnerable, how languid she is. How she suffocates herself to conceal her true feelings. How she hides herself from me. The very feeling flowing from her heart is like a stone wall standing between us.

Yet despite all of that, there’s no way I can simply leave Juna in the state she’s in.

Against all the pain crushing against me from the scar, I stand strong and take my first step towards her. I force one step after another slowly. Fighting against the bitter aching in my heart all the while understanding that the pain she feels in hers is even stronger than the scar’s voice at this moment in time. Even if she’s so near, only a few steps away, the distance feels like an ocean lost to night with crashing waves breaking and roaring. When I reach her side it feels like hours have swept by.

I take my seat by her and everything that comes afterward is second nature. By force of habit she’s quickly taken in my arms. There she remains still. Frozen. The mask she wears is so strong that she’s stubborn to remain in opposition against the emotions she refuses to feel.

She’s as quiet as a whisper in the wind. But that’s okay. Not a single word from either of us could do our emotions justice anyways. I just embrace her even closer and dearer to my heart and rest my head against hers as I breathe in the scent of rose she carries.

After a dozen minutes at a complete still she weakly, frailly raises her arms up my sides and brings them around my back, gripping onto my shoulders. A weak grip that gradually grows stronger until just a trickle of the hurt she feels begins findings its way out of her heart. I hold her even more firmly and she does the same in return.

“Why…?” She asks as her voice fluctuates so subtly.

I have no words to say, no explanation to give. All I have is my embrace and my open arms.

“…Why…?” This time the pitch in her voice bends under the weight of the crashing emotions just at the brink of release.

I run my hand against her back to soothe her as a gentle caress. Her hold nearly doubles in its strength as she now clasps onto my blazer with a great sum of her corrosive grief. And I let her spill out as much as she’ll let me take from her.

I can feel the warmth of her tears soaking into my shirt. She presses her face closer against me. No matter that I’d held her while she’d cried before, she’s still so shy and fearful of herself even to this moment. Hiding away her face and the tears that stream down it. But I don’t mind. It’s her way of being. I still wonder to myself if there would be a day she’d cry openly in front of me without hiding herself away.

There was a time before so similar to this moment. That memory begins to play in my mind with all the familiar sensations and it’s as if I’ve returned to that place in time.

Beneath the sky, beneath the canopy of a tree together. The sounds of a shattering heart echoing off into the distance. Its fragments sliding and cracking, causing a body to shake as it’s held near. Held in hopes that it’ll all hold together well enough so that it could be repaired. Slowly fixing it all with nothing but warmth and support.

Their face too was hidden away. So stubborn and fearful to show that sort of weakness that they’d tucked themselves into my shirt and held on with fistfuls of fabric while they’d stained it with their sorrows spilling forth.

It’s a lighter, more forgivable trait but it could be compared to the scar I hide from the world. Something in common yet all the same worlds apart. Because unlike tears that shy away from view, the scar is a hideous, damnable thing worthy of revulsion.

✩ ✩ ✩

The two of us had remained in each other’s arms until the sun begins to grow weary. So long that it has found its final road to the distant hills. Though there is much yet to be done for Juna’s sake. Even if this was just the superficial surface to her newly opened wounds, it’s been a step in the right direction.

As she parts from me she hides her face with her bangs. Without the confidence to show me her reddened eyes and tearful countenance. I allow her that little spot of stubbornness as I stand up from the bed and keep my sight from finding her.

“I hope you’ll remember what I’d told you. You’ve always been there for me and I’ll always be there for you as well. If you need me, just find me or call for me. I’ll come to you.”

She whimpers lightly, but I can hear the words she means to say in my heart. So I motion to leave but find myself caught as I touch the handle to the door.

Another embrace.

Held so closely, so strongly by her arms. She trembles against me and grips onto my shirt one last time. Her own way of saying farewell when her voice can only come out gracelessly with the weight of weeping.

So I hold her hand in my own to say goodbye for now.