“Gods, Tris, your hair is getting so long,” Emi said as she circled around to their usual table at the library. She sat down with her brand-new book and added, “It looks amazing, though.”
“Mm.” Beatrice sat at her side of the table, books and notebooks out, but her gaze was directed off to the side as she stared into the distance.
“Weird, isn’t it? When we first met, I was the one with long hair, now yours is just as long as mine used to be. Not that you had short hair back then. I think it’s better now, but it’s hard to say what your perfect hairstyle is. There’s a… Hey, Emi, are you okay?”
Finally, Beatrice snapped away from her trance. “Oh, Emi. Yeah, I’m okay. I was just thinking.”
“Hm, you don’t look okay.”
Beatrice’s shoulders slumped over. “You know me too well. I’m not feeling too great right now. I’ve got some lame feelings going on.”
“Oh, Tris,” Emi said with her most sickly sweet sympathy voice. “What’s wrong?”
“You don’t wanna talk about it?”
Beatrice shook her head.
“Well, that’s alright. Leave the talking to me.” Emi set down her new book and adopted the most confident, princessly posture she could muster. “See this here? This is my very own copy of The Last Gemini. What is The Last Gemini, you ask?”
No reply. Beatrice was back to looking lame again.
“The Last Gemini is the eighth and newest book in The Elf Cycle, my favorite book series of all-time. It’s filled with romance and mystery and adventure and peril and every single page just hooks you because it’s all so exciting. I’ve recommended it to you before, but… You’ve just got to read this series, Tris! I’ve been waiting for years for the new one to come out, and so the moment it did, I went and bought one of the library’s copy. It’s sold out everywhere else. Nothing in the world is better than reading a book series with a loved one, so I really hope you read it someday.”
“Heh, Emi. My Dad loves that series too, you know.”
“Yep, he’s the one who got me into the series!” Emi exclaimed. “He left work early today just to get a head start on me. What a devious man.”
“So go ahead and get started,” Beatrice said. “I’ll just be here, um, being your friend.”
Beatrice gave a deep frown and said, “Actually, I do wanna talk about it. Emi, sweetie, can you move your chair over here?”
“You’ve never called me ‘sweetie’ before… Boy, this must be serious.” Emi took her chair and plopped it next to Beatrice. The moment she sat down, Beatrice rest her head on her shoulder. It felt like a big win, except that seeing her like this was certainly not giving a winning feeling.
“I talked to Mr. Statusian yesterday, you know, my teacher from St. Helens,” Beatrice said. “He told me… He told me that I…”
“Tris…” Emi put her hand on her thigh and let her take it. She squeezed the hand a lot tighter than Emi had expected.
“He told me I’m going to be something special,” she said. “Special as in the kind of priest who single handedly brings a new era for the church. What in Bk’Man’s name am I supposed to do with that kind of comment?”
“You’re already something special to me.”
“Shut up with your corny, lines, you amazing woman,” Beatrice snapped. “The Priesthood Exams are in a few months and if I pass, they’re going to offer me to join the church, and then I’m going to apparently become a hero across the world. And that’s everything I’ve always wanted, but…”
“Oh, Emi, I feel so lame. I can’t be a priest when I have my family and friends and you, can I? It’s… Ugh, I shouldn’t even be talking about this with you.” Beatrice buried her face further into Emi’s shoulder, like a bird taking roost.
“Why shouldn’t you be?”
“Because you’re… Because this is all about you.”
“Exactly why I need to–” Emi cut herself off the moment the image of Lady Khara popped into her head. Or, her imagination’s image of Lady Khara. “Tris, you don’t need to worry about me. I chose to love you and that won’t end for any silly reason like this.”
“Becoming a priest is silly?”
“Well…” Emi had to choose her next words carefully. “I want you to be happy, Tris. The most happy. You’re not happy now, and it’s starting to upset me too. So whatever I can do to help you, that’s what I’ll do.”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Beatrice said. “Just listening is enough, and you’re an amazing listener.”
“Thank you.” Emi took a deep breath and added, “But.”
“I have decided that I’m going to make sure you’re happy. I will be your guardian spirit, compelling you onto the path of harmony.”
“Why are you talking like that?”
“Let us go forth,” Emi said, taking her book and putting it into her handbag. “We will use the best parts of Balarand to cure the lame feelings of one Beatrice Ragnell!”
“Oh my, you’re in one of those moods again.”
“Indeed I am! Let’s head out on an adventure!”
Beatrice shook her head slowly, but she got up and followed her out of the library.
Emi had the perfect plan.
But first, they had to get groceries.
Beatrice already felt a lot better, to be honest. Just talking a bit about her worries to Emi had cleared away most of the doldrums bubbling over inside of her. But Emi had acted with such decisive, adorable energy that it’d be a crime to stifle her now.
Even now here in the marketplace, as Beatrice picked out vegetables to bring back home for her Mom to cook, Emi was clearly restless, obviously antsy to get on with whatever crazy plan she had thought up. If they didn’t go do that soon, she was likely to explode outright.
“There’s a lot of the same vegetables here,” Emi said, not so subtly hinting that Beatrice was taking too long. She was starting to get annoying.
“I’m sorry, the selection isn’t very good this close to closing time,” Beatrice said. “Why don’t you go people-watching or something?”
“Oh, right. I’ll go do that.” Emi turned around in a huff. But then, of course, she actually did start people-watching.
It was hard finding the right produce when most of what remained were the damaged, unsightly, or just plain small ones that none of the morning shopper particularly wanted.
Beatrice decided not to turn this whole endeavor into some strange metaphor for her indecision and mixed feelings about the priesthood and about her entire life’s goals being turned into some looming threat, because she didn’t feel these vegetables really deserved the pain of being forced into that kind of weak comparison.
Instead, she found some acceptable-looking onions and daikons to–
“Oh, isn’t that your friend, that Bodhi guy?” Emi asked.
Beatrice turned around to look and see Bodhi, and there he was, walking by on the other side of the street. He noticed her, and then tipped his hat and waved his hand. But then he kept on walking and was soon enveloped by the crowd around him.
“Yeah, that was Bodhi,” Beatrice said. “Why did he… not come and say hello?”
“He didn’t want to bother you, I guess,” Emi said.
“But I haven’t seen him in ages. Where has he been lately…?”
“Hm.” Emi didn’t say any more than that, but her face seemed telling. Exactly what she was telling, though, Beatrice couldn’t quite discern.
That was so weird. Bodhi used always say hello. He even used to come to the library sometimes to see her, usually to nag her into hanging out with all his junior priest friends. Now that they had graduated, he seemed to be keeping a distance. Literally.
Now Beatrice was starting to feel bad again.
Emi noticed it and grabbed both of her shoulders. “Okay, you have your veggies. Now, let’s go cure those lame feelings of yours!”
“Okay, okay, lead the way.”
“I can’t lead if we’re side-by-side, you know,” she said.
“Is that a request to hold my hand?”
“You know it!”
Beatrice couldn’t help but smile at her girlfriend’s infectious silliness.
They walked a ways west in town, away from the library and Castle Balarand, away from the marketplaces and restaurants and towards a series of large apartment buildings. Beatrice hardly knew this neighborhood. But Emi did?
“Will you ever tell me where we’re going?” Beatrice asked.
“Don’t have to. We’re already here,” Emi said.
Here they were, standing in front of a building marked “Pets & Pleasure.”
They walked in and from that exact moment, everything clicked into place for Beatrice. She heard some growling and whimpering and other excited animal noises, then the odor of furry creatures hit her nose with some
“My friend told me about this place,” Emi explained. “It’s a shelter for greyback bears that get picked up off the street and need a place to stay. It’s really important during the winter, where lot of stray greybacks face hunger and harsh weather, but it’s open year-round and anyone can visit.”
“I thought you hated greybacks.”
“I, uh, do. But I’m willing to put up with them to cure your lame feelings. Because guess what they have here? A cub petting area!”
Aww, Emi was really putting her own feelings aside just for–Cub petting area?!
Beatrice dashed over to the tiny greyback cubs and nearly attacked them with love and affection. Awwwww wooooowww…
Emi did not join her in petting the cubs; in fact, she continued to keep her distance the entire time. For some reason, that just made Beatrice love her even more. All of this, just because she was feeling a little down today? She was the best.
Wow what amazing creatures. Beatrice began petting two of them at the same time. It was a spectacular feat that made her feel so happy.
Nobody in the world deserved such a wonderful woman as Emi L’Hime. And nobody in the world deserved such wonderful furballs to pet for hours. But Beatrice had them both.