Of course he was sighing. He was in his sighing place after all.
Well, when in Rome… or Thomas’ sighing place, Alison sighed.
“Thomas,” she said loudly. “What’s wrong this time?”
Thomas jumped and leapt to his feet.
“Alison, my love.” He gasped. “There are so many things which plague my mind, I have so many-”
“Anything wrong in particular this time?” Alison asked before Thomas could go off on one.
“Oh.” Thomas sat back down. “There is kind of, but it’s fine, truly it is.”
There was definitely something not fine about Thomas, if he was reluctant to talk about it.
“Okay, budge up.” Alison waved her hands and Thomas blinked in confusion. He shuffled over and Alison sat down.
“Now, what’s the issue?” She asked again. “And this time, just the issue that’s got you down right now.”
“Err,” for once, Thomas struggled to speak.
“Or if you don’t if you don’t want to.” Alison muttered.
There was a moment of silence and Alison stood up and started to walk away. “Well, if you ever do want to talk about it, I’ll be here for you.”
“Right,” Thomas mumbled. “Okay. No, wait!”
Alison stopped and turned back to Thomas.
“It’s about…” Thomas did not look like he was about to launch into a long monologue. In fact he looked like he’d barely string two words together. “It’s about some people I knew when I was… alive.”
“Right?” Alison sat back down. “Go on.”
“Oh, Alison, my love- my world, my wondrous, beautiful-”
“Okay, I’ve gotta stop you right there.” Alison said, leaning away from Thomas. “You have got to stop doing that. Seriously, stop saying those things to me. I am really not interested.”
“But this is me trying my best!” Thomas cried. “Can you not feel the love I am trying to feel?”
“No, I can’t.” Alison said simply.
“This is how I am meant to do it,” Thomas muttered rapidly. “This is how I am supposed to feel. Why is it never what I actually do feel?”
“Thomas, what are you talking about?”
“It’s about the people I knew when I was alive. And my… problem.” Thomas pulled his knees up to his chest, looking rather dejected.
“Your problem?” Alison repeated.
Thomas looked up at Alison and if the ghosts could cry there would have been tears in his eyes. “I can’t feel it.”
“Can’t feel what?”
“Love! I can’t feel love!”
“Oh, I- er…” Alison trailed off.
“I know I’m supposed to feel it, everyone told me I should have felt it for at least one of those people and I never did.” Thomas said. “I tried to mimic it the best that I could, but it never worked, everyone just got uncomfortable and left. And that’s what I tried to do again, did my mimicry not work again?”
“No, absolutely not.” Alison said. “I just get very uncomfortable as well.” The she added. “It kind of just comes off like you’re just looking for sex more than anything.”
Thomas cried out and buried his head into his knees. He stayed there for several minutes before raising his head.
“It’s because I’m broken. I tried to copy romantic feelings the best I could, but all I feel is sexual ones. That’s what the monsters and villains are like and I don’t want to be a villain. If I try to feel it really really hard I should start to actually feel it. Then I can fix myself and stop being a villain. Right?”
“Right so, let’s just go through this again.” Alison said. “You don’t feel romantic attraction? To anyone?”
“Have you tried it with men?”
“Thomas that just sounds like you’re aromantic.”
“It’s where you don’t feel romantic attraction to anyone.”
Thomas shook his head. “That can’t be the way to describe it. Monstrous would be more apt.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being aromantic.”
“Yes, there must be!” Thomas cried. “Only bad people don’t feel romance and I don’t want to be a bad person. That’s what I’m trying to fix myself. That’s why I mimic. I mean, Julian always says to just fake it until you make it.”
“Have you talked to Julian about this? Because I don’t think he’s the best person to discuss this with.”
“No of course not, I barely talk to Julian about anything!” Thomas shook his head again.
“Well, going by ‘fake it til you make it’ is a terrible idea, you’ll never make romantic love.” Alison tried to reach out to Thomas but realised her mistake and pulled back. “You’ll always just ‘fake it’, perhaps it’s best to just accept this and move on.”
“No, I can’t.” Thomas shifted uncomfortably. “All I feel is sexual love, and if I can’t feel romantic love to go alongside that, then what sort of monster am I?”
“Thomas, you’re not a monster. It’s completely fine and normal to feel one but not the other. You don’t need romance in your life…. death- existence to be whole and complete. All you need for that is to be yourself. Don’t listen to whatever you read in stories, what you feel doesn’t indicate the kind of person you are.”
Thomas just sniffed in response.
“Look, just, think about it for me, won’t you?” Alison asked. “Think about it and see about accepting that aspect of yourself and letting go of attempting to feel romance. It’ll make you feel better about yourself, trust me.” Then she added. “And it’ll stop people from getting uncomfortable by you and leaving.”
Thomas nodded ever so slightly. “I’ll try.” He croaked.
“That’s all I asked.” Alison said. She got up and smiled at Thomas. “Come find me when you do think some more about it.”
“I will.” Thomas said. As Alison turned to leave Thomas stopped her again, this time with a “thank you.”
Alison smiled again and left the sighing place, indeed hearing a sigh as she did so.