We'll Run Until She's Out Of Breath
She Ran Until There's Nothin' Left
She Hit The End-It's Just Her Window Ledge
One headlight- The Wallflowers
"I want this year to be full of memories." Rikku’s champagne flute rises, she presses her lips to her husband, Gippal’s cheek. Her gaze drifts around the room, filled with rosy faced guests, clothed in their finest.
"And a toast to reunions!" Gippal tips his champagne flute in my direction and I feel the eyes of the crowd shift. “I want to thank our friends who made it out to celebrate. Let’s get fucked up!” He releases a throaty laugh as the room follows his lead in drinking.
I sip my champagne. The room is crowded with people I used to know. Some better than others. Many I grew up with, attended school with, would rather forget. Tidus, more than others. We pretend not to notice each other. Him with his date and his crowd, me with my back against the wall. I can barely keep track of my conversations, he’s a distraction. Has he changed? Have I changed? That hasn’t changed.
I try not to watch him so carefully, how he laughs with every fiber, his exaggerated way of telling stories. He gives every minor acquaintance his full attention but he hasn’t acknowledged me. Maybe I'm being unreasonable, inflexible at my post against the wall. Familiar faces take turns approaching me, they may be genuinely interested, but their questions are grating. Internally I’m counting the minutes until it’s appropriate for me to leave.
I had prepared for this trip home to Zanarkand. Knowing he’d be here, I’d played a million scenarios in my head. What would he say, what would I reply? I had practiced breathing exercises, meditation.
Between applying my foundation and lipstick liner, Rikku said that she noticed something different about me and she wasn’t sure she liked it. I wanted to take this as a compliment because she said it with a smile. She hoped this weekend would patch things up—insisting home wasn't home without me. She seemed genuinely lonely. I was only her cousin, her best friend. I always felt like a weight she had to drag behind her. I doubted that I'd ever made an impression, sticking strictly to the sidelines, accustomed, but never comfortable in her world.
I used to feel at ease with Tidus. He had a way with me and maybe that’s why I loved him. His smile and easy attitude would center me. For so many years he was my closest friend. High School brought him other interests.
In our final year he met Adrianna at a blitzball game. She was a little older but she embodied a delicate youth. It was so easy for her to steal his attention and he was enthralled. They were inseparable and I watched their up and down epic from the sidelines until I couldn’t take it anymore. By the time we graduated our friendship was already over and I was left hanging on loosely.
I heard about their breakup over the phone. Rikku wasn’t sure if she should tell me. I had just arrived in Luca. It hurt to know, that for the first time in our lives, I couldn’t be there for him. I didn’t want to be there for him. I don’t think I had anything left. I had thought about reaching out— but what condolence could I offer? I felt he had abandoned me but I hadn't behaved any better. It would have been unfair to contact him under those circumstances.
"Yuna?" A thick Besaidain accent collides reflections. I shift my weight from the wall, turning to address Tidus' date.
"Hi." I maintain eye-contact, appearing resilient, airy, cool.
“Dona.” She smiles and extends her hand. "I figured I'd introduce myself, since you're the one friend of Tidus' I haven't met."
"I've spent the last few years in Luca."
"Luca is such an interesting city. Are you back here on vacation ?"
"I’m not sure I’ve decided. I just convocated so everything is kind of up in the air right now."
"Hmm." She pauses placing her hand in front of her, motioning around the room, "How do you know the host?"
"Rikku's my cousin. I went to school with most of the people here." I answer, "And you?"
"I met Tidus through work, and Rikku and Gippal through Tidus. I needed an interview but he’d only agree to speak to me over dinner.”
“That sounds like something he’d try to pull off.”
“How long have you known each other?“
"We were neighbors. My mom used to babysit him." I reply, glancing down into my glass, brainstorming an out to the conversation. I wonder if she’s fishing for information on him.
"It seems like a long time ago.” Tidus approaches his date, bringing his hand to rest on the small of her waist. He still wears his grandfather's white-gold chain but now he’s strung it through the Zanarkand emblem. It sits a little lower than the base of his throat, between his collar bones. His sleeves are rolled, exposing the tan skin of his forearms. He’s filled out a little— thicker and more muscular now than when I’d last seen him.
"Shuyin and I grew up three houses down. Her mother practically raised us,” Tidus says.
"She mentioned that." Dona replies, "You must have a lot of memories."
"Some." Tidus softens, looking at me for the first time; his glacier blue gaze is heavy. I drop ten stories."Would either of you like another drink?"
"I'll be leaving soon." I answer too quickly. I strain my eyes to stay focused, not rest on his hand, or their body language, or the floor. I want to appear easy, resilient.
"Are you staying here tonight?"
"I’m staying with Rikku until the wedding."
"Okay," he steals his gaze from me, "How about you?"
"I could use a refill." Dona replies.
"Gotcha" Tidus winks, knowingly squeezing her shoulder and then glancing back. " I'll see you around, Yuna."
Tidus heads to the mini-bar and Dona, politely, excuses herself with a small touch to my forearm. My goodnights are quick. I’ve stayed for the midnight celebration and that’s enough. I slip upstairs and weave through the crowd waiting in line to use the washroom.
The bedroom door isn’t enough to quiet the noise of the party. It fades into a dampened white noise. The guest room is furnished with dark mahogany accents and white sheets with gold stitching. A picture window, cracked open, sits along the sidewall and long, sheer drapes blur the outside scenery. I strain my eyes watching beyond them at snowflakes iridescent in the dark.
I hoist my luggage onto the bed and pull out a nightshirt. The zipper on my bandage dress catches but gives when I adjust my angle. I strip from my dress and throw on the long t-shirt. Have I changed at all in the past four years? In the mirror’s reflection I’m thinner and maybe my hair’s a little longer. I don’t see a difference in my reflection, just two hypo-chromatic, tired eyes.
The door to my room opens a crack, "You in there? We didn’t really get a chance to talk."
I turn to face Tidus. He shuts the door behind him and moves towards the window. We stand in silence for a moment. He's too close; I don't know what to do with myself.
"Are you going back to Luca after the holiday? Rikku said you were considering moving home."
"No, I don’t think that’s possible."
"You're done with school, aren't you?"
"You could stay longer." I wonder if he's nervous.
“Did you leave Dona downstairs?”
“She’s fine.” He moves forward to reach for my hand but I pull away.
Every part of my body feels tight and I imagine if he were to touch me I would unravel and if he touched me it wouldn’t mean what I’d want it to mean. It would break my guard and leave me where I’d been before. I remember the way he’d use to touch me, a knee squeeze, a tight hug, his hand brushing against my back. I would read into these physical interactions when they meant nothing.
"What would I do with myself if I lived here?"
"You can do anything in Zanarkand."
"I have friends back home."
"Luca isn't your—" he stops; "You still have friends here." He leans against the window, running his fingers down the curtains. "I get that your mad at me and I think I can fix that."
"I don’t need you to fix anything."
"I thought about showing up in Luca and, like, surprising you." He smiles, rubbing the back of his neck, "but I didn't know how you’d react."
"I don’t know.”
"Do you know how much you matter to me?"
I pause to weigh my words. If I had mattered he would have approached me tonight, rather than sitting across the room pretending he didn’t notice I was there. "We don't know each other anymore."
"That's not true." Tidus situates himself at the edge of my bed, he sounds hurt. "I know you better than anyone.."
"What about Dona?" I ask, immediately wishing I hadn't. It’s none of my business. Instead of anger, Tidus' eyes remain clear, cerulean. He chuckles.
"She's a friend. We’re not serious. Why?"
"That’s not like you at all.”
"Adrianna and I were together for a long time. I don’t want to make that mistake again."
It stings when he says her name. “If I had mattered to you, you would have approached me earlier tonight.”
“I didn’t want to make small talk I felt like when I talked to you it should be just us.”
"It’s late Tidus. You should go."
He looks down, brushing his palms on the denim of his jeans, "Can I see you while you’re here?"
I shake my head, walking over to hold the door open for him. "I don’t know."
Tidus pauses on the bed, looking up at me with those clear eyes. I hold fast at the door. One thing I won’t do is fall back into a pattern of letting him in.
He gets up, "Just know that I want you to stay and I hope, while you’re here, we can spend some time together."
He’s slow to leave and I wait until he’s at the edge of the stairs before I close the door. I can’t do this.