Heading into the study I see Lila already looking out the window at the nearby forest. She's staring at the pond that I have spent many a night to collect my thoughts. She's already taken off her hat and left it on the table, next to a few stacked pieces of paper. A bright chirping noise can be heard occasionally from the forest.
The sunlight highlights her side of the room in a bright gradient as a gentle breeze flows. Her unfurled hair is moving softly in cadence with the wind that catches onto her light wool dress. Her hand lightly caresses her face to pull back the hair blowing near her face. If I were a bit more of an artist, I'm sure I'd like to capture this moment on canvas.
"So, what happened that got you so worked up?"
Jolting me from my reverie, she turns around and looks at my confused face before continuing.
"You heard me. What's with that reaction? Come on, why'd you run out the classroom that day? Aah actually, don't bother answering. You’d just piss me off with some stupid answer.”
…I’m allowed to get angry, right?
I suddenly become aware of the distance between us. Her once beautiful profile shifts into a defiant posture, with her eyes challenging me and demanding a response.
From this angle the sunlight starts to catch my eye and I avert my gaze out of habit. As the light creeps onto my side of the room, I notice all the leftover objects sprawling over the floor. I clean up a bit to buy time and try to ignore the tensing mood.
"Don’t look away from me like that. I’m keeping you company because you lost so embarrassingly. I’ll be so kind as to listen to your pathetic excuses that losers use all the time. Like that he started it, or that it wasn't your fault. You really ought to pay me for the trouble of enduring your unsightly state of mind."
My eyes widen and I'm sure I have a look of utter shock on my face. This can't be the way you normally start a conversation right?
"…What about the situation made you think it was my 'loss'? Isn't is strange to think of it as a competition in the first place?"
"Regardless of its nature, running out in a crying fit can't be anything good. And it's not just that. You've become more withdrawn and hostile these days."
Anger starts to build in my stomach. My ears become red and I feel a tightness closing in my chest.
I expected too much. She doesn't understand anything. If she were in my shoes, she would know how it felt. And she's saying I'm becoming more hostile? My anger is justice. I will make sure she realizes this. If understanding is not possible, then pain will suffice.
"I could say the same about you. What's with this treatment? I thought you were my friend! Are you really trying to help me?"
Yeah, that should do it. Nothing sweeter than just deserts.
"Did you come all this way just to laugh at my miserable state and hurt me when I'm most vulnerable?"
Wait, did I say that? Aren't I going a bit too far here?
"You did, didn't you. I was a fool to think you actually cared for me. You're just jealous like the rest of them."
Why am I saying these things?
"I suppose you were just using me for your own purposes."
Is this what I think?
"You truly are evil."
I'm being compelled by some strange force.
But before I can take back those awful words I hear her speak in a voice that sends a chill down my heart.
"...I thought we already got past the point where you'd say things like that."
Grating as those words are, I attempt to calm my emotions and look towards her again. While her tone and words were harsh, this time her face does not match. Her eyes seem to be looking at me expectantly, with a hint of curiosity and pain attached.
"Let me put this a bit more clearly. No matter how angry you get, there are certain things you shouldn't say Max. Would someone who's not your friend take the time to visit you at your home?"
She has a point. There's no reason for me to be like this. Still, I won't back down entirely yet.
"I don't know why you're here but if your goal is to help me out, you've done a terrible job so far."
No sooner that I said those words that I felt I've made another mistake. She lets out a disappointed huff before responding.
"Max, we've known each other for how many years? Close to 10? I know you don't actually mean it when you say those things. But that's because I know you. Other people won't give you the benefit of the doubt if they feel you've hurt them."
10 years? Has it really been that long? I suppose I've known her longer than half my life. How exactly would I characterize my relationship with Lila? She might even be…
"No, I think of you as--"
"--In the same way, I hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt if you think I've hurt you. In the future, I hope your first thought isn't to turn me into a villain."
She interrupts me before I can finish my thought. Her words assuage my darkest emotions but still leave me unsettled.
A fleeting thought passes my mind. Maybe this whole thing was a sort of test on her part? If so, I'll take the next vulnerable step.
"I'm sorry, you're right. What I said just now and my behavior in class today was unacceptable. I'm trying to figure out myself why I've become so defensive and hostile. I'd appreciate your help with that."
It's somewhat embarrassing, but I give a slight bow and look up to see her reaction. After a brief moment a smile flashes across her face.
"So you're still who I thought you were. That's a relief."
"I suppose so?"
I give her a soft smile back. I seemed to have taken a step forward with this small concession.
"I owe you an apology too. While I believe my intentions are good, I no doubt caused you some stress. Please forgive me for that."
She bows down slightly and I get a little flustered at her reaction. From my perspective, her apology isn't necessary. After all, I've already decided to believe that she is only trying to help me.
Yeah, this seems right. Isn't it weird to distrust your friends in the first place? I wonder what's gotten into me.
"You didn't need to do that, but I appreciate the sentiment."
I feel a sense of ease growing in my heart, though nothing was gained. It's the same feeling when you lose something precious and find it later after experiencing those waves of anxiety. Objectively you're no better, but the shift in perspective really puts you in a good mood.
"No, in this situation it's definitely called for. But not for what you're thinking."
"Hmm. And what's that?"
"You know I've always been fond of teasing you right? It's not like I haven't said worse things to you before. But I wouldn't apologize for that."
I smile thinking back at all the memories we've had. There's been no shortage of pranks, fights, contests and events between us. Through thick and thin we've somehow managed to stay and grow together.
She clears her throat before proceeding.
"What I'm apologizing for is removing your agency from this situation. In a way I've decided what's best for you and crossed some boundaries for what I think is right. I purposefully riled you up so that I could see how bad the damage was. Now that I've seen part of the problem, I think I'm better able to help you out now."
"Sounds like you've thought this through, huh?"
I look at her with a confused admiration. Honestly, I don't really understand what she's saying. But it seems like she's put in a lot of effort thinking about this. As expected of someone with a distinguished family. I really feel like I can rely on her.
"Still, couldn't you have prefaced that beforehand? Or you could've asked me first what I thought the problem was."
"I could've but it wouldn't be authentic. There are some things that are better left unspoken. Or at the very least, left to interpretation."
"But isn't everything easier to understand once you've spoken it? How can you understand without talking?"
However, as if elaborating her point, she turns away and looks back towards the pond near our house. Her listless look lets me know she's no longer interested in continuing this conversation.
Uhh, Lila? Aren't you normally supposed to respond when someone asks you a question? Preferably while facing their general direction too?
I sigh, following her cue and look out the window towards the pond. It's as tranquil as ever, with only the occasional rustle of blowing leaves disturbing the scenery. Wild daisy flowers also litter the pond's edges with most at around half bloom, signifying the arrival of summer.
"So, that's where it happened, huh?"
"Nothing. It sure is a beautiful day today."
"Uhh, yeah. I suppose it is."
"It was really hot when I came over, but now that I'm inside I want to go back out."
"What's with that? Well it's probably cooled down a bit so I can see why you'd want to."
Wait, we're talking about the weather now? Strange shift in conversation. Didn't we have some goal in mind with this meeting?
"Why don't we go outside before everyone closes shop? The markets should still be open and we've been inside for a while now."
Ahh, I remember now.
"I thought you were here to help me with my magical block. Shouldn't we look into it a bit before we go out?"
"I have an idea that will only play out if we're outside. Come on, I promise we won't be out long."
"...Ok, I guess that's fine."
It's not like any of my ideas have done much good. I'll let her lead the way, as usual.
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