Chapter 34:

34: Understand?

I was Born the Unloved Twin

It floats around my consciousness, always under my skin. Buzzing. Not quite there but not gone, never gone.Bookmark here

If someone were to call out that name now I can't say I won't respond. Bookmark here

I can't say I won't turn back. Or in some instinctual way, go "Yes? Yes, that's me, who's asking?' Bookmark here

There's no chance of that I'm sure. It's a foreign name in a language that doesn't exist here, let alone spoken out loud. I'm safe from anyone ever knowing that name, safe from unburying and revealing myself. Bookmark here

So how? Bookmark here

How does this man know that I even hold another name, another life? Bookmark here

It must be a trap...yes that's it.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

That's why that two-faced grampa sent me out here. To wear me down, weaken me and then interrogate me. Oh god, it's in all the documentaries and shows, interrogation 101: to wine and dine the suspect, get their guard down. Bookmark here

What was in the food, the pink milk? It could be anything. I'm such an easy fool. A little common kindness and bam. Bookmark here

"I don't understand."Bookmark here

Not a lie, I don't dare to lie right now. Who knows what strange magic is hanging over me, or inside me, that will force me to only spit the truth. Bookmark here

"Apologies little one, I didn't mean it like that. Of course, Rosalia is your real name too. It's just that you're so young now, it's only been 2 years here. Surely the other one, your other identity feels more real to you than this still short one?"Bookmark here

I can't breathe, my throat feels tight and it has nothing to do with the chill I've caught.Bookmark here

"Hey kid deep breathes, it's okay. You're safe here, it's safe. Shi- Can you take a deep breath for me? In and out. Okay have a little more milk, it will calm you."Bookmark here

The much older man comes around the table to physically lean on the floor and face me. I'm barely aware as he refocuses me through the panic, ensuring that I'm breathing and calm before handing me the still warm drink. Bookmark here

I eye it warily through the haze of fear coursing through my veins. Bookmark here

"Uhg not like that, I don't do poison in food. There's nothing in here but something for the cold, I meant milk and honey is generally good for that sort of thing. "Bookmark here

He tried to softly smile but it's stiff in a way that has more to do with his usual personality than whether his words are lies or truths. I may be a sucker for pretty faces to admit that it still works, at least partly.Bookmark here

Either way, I'm in his home territory, I'm useless here where it counts Bookmark here

I take a half-hearted sip of the milk, it's delicious sweetness now cloying on my tongue. Bookmark here

"There's really nothing in there, if I wanted to I much have better ways of making someone talk. "Bookmark here

TrueBookmark here

I'd expect better from the great mysterious mage Gable. I give a nod at that and he takes it as a small win, backing off a little from my personal space. He still stays on the floor though, eye level with me. What a cunning man, it's the little things like this that preys on a woman's emotions you know. Bookmark here

"I won't make you tell me your name if you don't want to. It's an...important thing. I know, I understand I really do."Bookmark here

"...But how?"Bookmark here

How could he possibly know? How could anyone of this world, no matter how strong or well versed they are, know of coming from another world. Not unless...Bookmark here

"I'm sorry Rosalia, no. I'm not like you, my soul was born here once and only knows this world."Bookmark here

As if he could read my thoughts from just my face he shakes his head in apology. Gable has nothing to apologize for, it's just only me and my stupid hopes.Bookmark here

"But I know someone who is, I know him very very well. Surely you must have figured it out by now."Bookmark here

Maybe I have, maybe I haven't.Bookmark here

It's hard to say when the other party is certifiably insane and can crush me like a grape any time he so wishes.Bookmark here

"He's ... it's not like I could just ask him or anything."Bookmark here

"Ronald's stubborn and doesn't like talking about it much. I don't blame you for being unsure, he likes to keep people on their toes about everything and anything."Bookmark here

"He doesn't trust me."Bookmark here

"It's not just you, he doesn't trust anyone. "Bookmark here

That may be true but with one exception.Bookmark here

"He trusts you, he must, you know this much and you're not dead."Bookmark here

"Heh, like he could kill me anyways."Bookmark here

"...he could always kill me. I'm easy enough."Bookmark here

"Hey now."Bookmark here

Gable takes a careful hand and places it on my shoulder in a comforting gesture like you would a small sad child. I'm not a real child. Bookmark here

I avoid his gaze still, I know he must be trying to make eye contact. How could I take the pitying gaze of someone who knows I've been holding my breath all this time? Fighting for my small life all this time, will continue to do so for years on end. Bookmark here

Even though it's scary, even though it hurts and chokes the life out me, that doesn't mean I want anyone else to know about it.Bookmark here

*Sniff*Bookmark here

I'm not going to cry, it's just the oncoming cold.Bookmark here

"He would never Rosa, listen to me. He's...complicated. A little messed up in the head but I suppose that comes with the territory of two or so lifetimes of memories. It's confusing to me too. You''re the same. He saw that since day one. He loves you know, speaks of you all the time. I can't ever get him to shut up."Bookmark here

"He loves Lilyanne you mean."Bookmark here

His real grandchild, the beloved one, but I bite my tongue at that. I sound petty enough as it is. Bookmark here

"No, he's someone who loves and cares for his family deeply, more than you can imagine. Never had one, not in this life, and it's not my place to say too much but his other one...he lost that one. He would never want to harm you, rather it would be opposite."Bookmark here

"...I'm not family though...I'm fake. He's always...he's either pretending to be happy or treating me like I'm....something else."Bookmark here

"Is that how you see yourself then, a fake?"Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

I nod because that's all I can do. Bookmark here

Admitting a harsh truth, even just to yourself is a painful thing for most people. But what does it matter? Because fake or real I'm never loved here. Why does it matter so much?Bookmark here

It shouldn't, I have nothing to prove to these people. Wasn't that the 'real' Rosalia's mistake? I just need to survive and then get the hell out of here. Then I can live, that's all. I'll think about it further after that.Bookmark here

"...You're real, Rosalia, look at me as I tell you this. You are real. You are just as real anyone else living right now. Rosa you are real as any soul here and Ronald off all people would know that. Tell me is your grandfather a fake too? Is he your fake grandfather or a fake human?"Bookmark here

"No I'm the fake one- since I came here I've just been pretending-"Bookmark here

"By those standards, he's just as fake as you are. He arrived with some extra memories packed up and call it what you will but he's still here and so are you. Look at me and know what I say is the truth: you exist, you're here and you are very real. Valid and real. "Bookmark here

When did I start crying? It's very uncomfortable and suddenly I can't breathe again. I can't breathe but I can, that makes no sense and it's all much. Bookmark here

When was I such a crybaby?Bookmark here

I heave and before I know it I'm in a pair of large arms. They feel cool to the touch but his chest is warm. In them, I heave and sob something nasty, something that's been pent up for so long. Bookmark here

"Just breathe, let it out and breathe. Feel that, that's you existing here, painfully but real as anyone else"Bookmark here

Like a magic spell, the ghost girl in me flickers into something more solid. She's scary, just as god damn fear-inducing as grampa at the right (wrong) moments even though she's doesn't exist, not anymore Bookmark here

But somehow she is still there. Bookmark here

"There you are, just breathe Rosa. Just breathe." Bookmark here

When I'm deemed calmer, steadier, Gable still doesn't release me. There is still a cool hand brushing over my head, through my chopped hair, and down my back that must feel so tiny to him. I feel like a small animal, trembling under the comfort. Bookmark here

What a dangerous man, I feel sorry to all the innocent women that must have fallen under his kind charm. Bookmark here

"Why do you call me that?'Bookmark here

"Hmm? Rosalia is the only name you'll give me."Bookmark here

"No...Rosa....why do you call me that? How did you know?"Bookmark here

"That only your family calls you that? I told you the giant stinking crap of your grandfather speaks of you all the time. That's the name he uses. Your father is Freddy, your sister is Lily and your mother has and always will be Maria no matter what silly nickname he uses. Little light, Buttercup, she has the most nicknames. "Bookmark here

He chuckles in spite of himself, voice growing fond. Bookmark here

I don't dare to look at his face lest I show the snotty mess that is own but I can feel him smile, know it as his muscles relax and his grip unconsciously tighten. Bookmark here

"He loves you call dearly, even if he's absolute shit at communicating it properly. Sometimes he's like a stray dog, too affectionate and you can't get rid of him and then sometimes he's just...gone. Always has been, guess he never learned enough of a lesson with Maria when she was small. Can't say I'm much better though, pot meet kettle huh?"Bookmark here

I can feel myself come down easier with his forced rambling, make it more about himself or something else rather than me. He's done this before I blearily sense through the storm of my own thoughts. Bookmark here

Who? I want to ask. Bookmark here

Even though my brain already has an answer supplied. Bookmark here

I don't like to dwell on it but an image of grampa comes to mind. Bookmark here

That imposing figure with a legend larger than the actual man himself. I see his annoyingly shining smile for the world like some sort of ancient superman and without my permission I see him, faceless and sobbing, being held by the same hands I'm in now. Bookmark here

These cool but very kind hands.Bookmark here

Underneath their touch I see an unbreakable man breaking. Shattering from a weight no one can understand, a past he can't speak of and gluing himself back together still.Bookmark here

I still don't trust his too perfect smile but I find it a little more sympathetic, relateable, now. Grampa really is the same. He's a time-hopping soul living in another person's life. He's just doing a better job of hiding it than I am, he's had years more practice I suppose, decades.Bookmark here

"How long?"Bookmark here

I ask, careful, cautious still.Bookmark here

"How long in what?"Bookmark here

He knows, he's too smug about it. But it's to draw me out, get me comfortable in talking again. I'll concede this much.Bookmark here

"How long have you known?"Bookmark here

"About you? Since the beginning, we've known about you since the very start. Or well Ronald did. "Bookmark here

"And him? How long have you known who he really is?"Bookmark here

"I don't think I ever known who he really is, just as he doesn't know me. No one can really know about each other and that's why we need to keep trying. But if you mean how long I've known about his other life, then a long time now. Not as long as he's been alive but decades worth of a long time."Bookmark here

"And you don't care?"Bookmark here

Were you scared? Bookmark here

Curious?Bookmark here

Why didn't you report him to some church or secret society and run away while you could?Bookmark here

Why didn't you leave already if you know- all that and more were what I wanted to ask but it matters little compared to that one question. It surprised me too, that the only question that really matters was:Bookmark here

"Do you care?"Bookmark here

"Of course I care! Fucking idiot kept something like that bottled up all this time, it's no wonder he went ape shit crazy. I care because he didn't let anyone, didn't let me, help him for so damn long."Bookmark here

*Sniff*Bookmark here

"I care, just not in the way you're scared of...and he learned to trust me. One day you'll find those you can trust too, I promise you Rosa. Until then, you can trust me ok, even if it's just a little, you can trust me with this much."Bookmark here

*Sniff* "...ok."Bookmark here

"Good, now blow your nose."Bookmark here

"....Can you tell me about him?'Bookmark here

"No, not the bulk of it at least. That story isn't mine to tell."Bookmark here

"...Okay, I understand."Bookmark here

When my nose is cleared up again and a warm drink in my hands, I'm back in his protective hold. I hadn't realized how long I've been without a hug, a real one, nor how much I missed the contact. Do my parents count, have they ever held me just because? I can't recall, there's none in Rosalia's memories either. Bookmark here

"When, if you don't mind me asking, when did you die?"Bookmark here

"The time? Or my age?"Bookmark here

"Both, either or, whatever you feel comfortable with sharing."Bookmark here

I want to think about it further, keep my secrets close and guarded. They're all I have. But I'm so so very tired already. It's only been a few short years and I'm already this tired. Just a little, can I rest here just a little?Bookmark here

"Somewhere far away from here, in a different place with no magic but in some ways things were better."Bookmark here

"So was Ronald's, something tells me it's not exactly the same place though."Bookmark here

"... I was in my twenties."Bookmark here

"A mere baby then, I'm just that old brat don't give me that look.....and before that? If there was a before that is."Bookmark here

"...17... Rosalia died at 17."Bookmark here

"....I'm sorry."Bookmark here

"It's already happened, there's nothing to be sorry for."Bookmark here

"I'm sorry still, sorry you had to go through that, because you are still very much Rosalia. Just as Ronald is Ronald. I'm sorry you died and died again and for all that pain."Bookmark here

"...."Bookmark here

"...The future can change, whatever it was, it already has. You have the chance to change that."Bookmark here

*Sniff*Bookmark here

"One day, when you're both to Ronald. Ask him for his story, how he changed his....You two are more similar than you think."Bookmark here

"Haha...that's funny."Bookmark here

"You are, right down to your stubbornness. I would know enough to recognize it. And until the day you two suck it up enough to talk to each other, I guess I'll be here."Bookmark here

"On his side?"Bookmark here

"I'm on no one's side but my own. And right now that's being here for you before you turn into another Ronald."Bookmark here

"Ew, funny, but not happening."Bookmark here

"You'd be surprised brat."Bookmark here

Is it stupid to trust someone I just met this much? Bookmark here

It feels good though, it feels like I can breathe after being underwater all these years. Just as I got used to holding my breath underwater too. It feels like oxygen and truth and just not having to hide in front of someone, the same feeling at the peace in the middle of the wilderness. Bookmark here

But this time I'm not alone.Bookmark here

It's too nice, too nice for someone like me. Bookmark here

"But I hope so kid, I sure hope so."Bookmark here

If I slip out of consciousness on the kitchen floor right there and then, with nothing but a cup of warm milk and honey and cold kind hands that feel too good on my swollen eyes. Well who can blame me?Bookmark here

If they were me, who wouldn't feel the same way? Bookmark here

--------------Bookmark here

Author: Good for Rosa . Finally talked it out with someone. Especially someone who has the head space and wisdom to handle her safely. Bookmark here

It's a luxury I don't think a lot of reborn protagonists get. . Shouldn't there be a 'died and reborn' therapy group for such characters? Bookmark here

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