Friday, April 5, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: All Shook Up

15 Summer, 1926

“Lyta, honey, are you going to tell me what happened, or are you just gonna scowl for the next two hours?”

Lyta tore her eyes away from the window and the speeding landscape. Ellen Cranby had already finished her cawfee, while Lyta’s remained practically untouched. She blinked a few times, trying to gather her thoughts. “Sorry.”

Ellen sighed. “No need to be sorry. But was it really that bad? You looked like you were enjoyin’ yourself.”

Lyta had spent the whole of the train ride north in a similar lounge, sitting across a tiny table from Alain Vulpei, laughing and talking. She had missed seeing him in person, she’d realized. He hadn’t been joking when he said he could practically read her mind when they were face-to-face. It was just a shame he’d ruined the whole thing in the last ten minutes.

Lyta put her hands around her cawfee mug and ran her index fingers over the painted swirls. “I was,” she said at last. “Until the end.”

“Yeah?” asked Ellen gently. “What happened at the end?”

Lyta glanced out the window. “He said he was going away. Some sort of deep-cover mission. He won’t be able to talk for a long time. Maybe ever.”

Ellen put a hand on her younger companion’s wrist. “Oh, honey, that does put a sour taste in the mouth.”

Lyta nodded and took a sip of cawfee. For a moment, neither woman said anything.

Ellen finally leaned back. “Truth to tell, I’m surprised there wasn’t a goodbye kiss.” Ellen had been watching them from the other side of the lounge, keeping out of the way as promised, far enough not to hear any of the conversation but close enough to be able to catch sight of a kiss – or in this case, the lack of one.

Lyta ground her teeth. “Yeah,” she said finally. “Me too.”

Ellen raised an eyebrow. “What happened?”

“I wanted to. After the last time we talked, I—Well, you know what you said. I don’t need to tell you. So when he said he was leaving, I was going to…” She shook her head, letting the thought trail off. “And then he said it was good that we weren’t really dating, so that we wouldn’t worry about each other as much.”

Ellen sighed. “You sure he really cares for you like you say? Maybe he’s just lettin’ you down easy.”

Lyta shook her head vehemently. She could feel the hot pinpricks of moisture at the corners of her eyes. “No, I know he still does. Every time we talked, he’s just… I know it, Ellen!”

Ellen Cranby sighed. “Okay,” she said gently.

“I don’t understand. I thought it was going so well, and then…” Her fingers ran over the cawfee mug in swirls and circles. She hung her head. “Maybe I am cursed.”

Ellen leaned forward. “Beg yer pardon?”

Lyta sighed, deep and heavy. “Everyone I care about dies. My parents, my adopted parents, Ti, and now maybe Alain also. I keep worrying about Lukas and Torgath, because I don’t want to lose them too.”

Ellen moved around the table and hugged her. Lyta let go of the cawfee mug and let herself be held, blinking back tears. Her shoulders shook.

After a while, Ellen sat down again, and Lyta rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. She took a sip of cawfee, trying to compose herself, and Ellen busied herself with the contents of her purse, giving her space.

After a silence of five minutes or so, when Lyta had calmed down a little, Ellen cleared her throat. “Lyta, honey, did you tell Allan about this curse thing?” It was weird to hear her say the name – she pronounced it with an Anglic accent, Allan instead of Alain.

Lyta nodded. “Yeah. I guess. I mean, not about my parents, but he knows about Ti.”

Ellen’s face became completely inscrutable. Lyta wished she had a poker face. “What?”

“When he said it was good you two weren’t really dating, was that before or after you told him that you were cursed?”

Lyta thought about it. Things had been going so well. She’d been upset when he said he was going away, of course, when he said that he might not come back from his mission. Who wouldn’t be? And she remembered joking about how, after Ti had been killed, maybe she was just cursed when it came to boyfriends. And then she’d tried to lean in to kiss him, and he’d managed to dance the conversation away from her in his flowery Southern way, and then she was off the train with nothing more than a handshake, staring at it as it sped away and wondering how it had all gone so wrong.

“After, I guess,” Lyta said at last.

Ellen sighed and said nothing.

“What?” Lyta asked.

Ellen toyed with her empty cawfee mug.

What?” Lyta pressed. “What do you know that you’re not telling me?”

Ellen put down the mug and looked tenderly across the table. “He was protecting you, honey,” she said softly.

“He… what? No, he wasn’t! He left! He didn’t even kiss me goodbye!”

Ellen took Lyta’s hands in her own. “He was pushin’ you away so that if anything happens to him, you won’t blame yourself.”

“I… I wouldn’t…”

Ellen gazed at her across the table. “You sure about that?”

Lyta turned away. “Okay, maybe I would.”

Ellen still held her hands. “He wanted you mad at him, because bein’ mad is easier than bein’ worried or scared. Or, if it comes to that, regretful.”

Lyta bit her lower lip. “So you’re saying that all that stuff he said at the end, that was all... All a lie?”

Ellen sighed. “It was all for you. It was all so that you wouldn’t suffer if anything happened to him.”

Lyta pulled her hands away and buried her head in them. “I’m so stupid.”

She felt Ellen’s hand on her shoulder. “Oh, honey. Don’t you think that way. I’m sorry I said anything. Bein’ mad would have been easier. I just can’t bear to see you angry like that.”

Lyta was quiet for a long time. Her thoughts raced. When she finally looked up, her eyes were red and puffy. “What do I do?” she asked quietly.

“About what?”

Lyta sighed and let her hands drop to the table. “I mean, if he really does still care, and I still care, do I wait for him?”

Ellen shook her head. “You know I can’t answer that for you. That’s between you and your heart.”

Lyta looked down at the table.

“I will say this, though. You met this guy, what, two weeks ago? Three?”

Lyta nodded, still not looking up. “Something like that.”

“Right. Look, Lyta sweetie, if he was your husband, or your boyfriend, or someone like—“ She stopped herself. Lyta could practically hear the unspoken end of the sentence, ‘someone like Ti.’ But she changed tack and continued. “Someone like you wanted to build a life with, that’d be one thing. Plenty of men went off in the war with their women waitin’ for them back home. But this ain’t like that. Nothin’ happened with this Allan guy yet as far as I know. You’re young, and you deserve to be happy. Everyone who knows you, we all say that. Me, your brothers, even the guy on the train you just left. You can’t build your life on ‘what ifs.’ He comes back and you want to pick up where you left off, more power to you both. But puttin’ your life on hold… I don’t think that’s what he wants for you.”

Lyta tried to take it all in. “But he’s still in love with me,” she said softly.

“Yeah, I expect he is. But he’s a big boy, and he knows the risks of the job as well as you. You wanna wait for him, well, that’s between you and your heart, like I said. But don’t do it ‘cause it’s what you think he wants you to do. If you wait, you do it for you.”

Lyta turned to look out the window of the train. The landscape slipped past, windswept and sandy, as cloudy as her thoughts. Just once, she wished something in her life would go smooth. But it probably wasn’t going to be today. “Yeah,” she said softly. “For me.”

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.