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Round, and round, and round.

 She’s been searching for those eyes as long as she can remember: dark, ephemeral, and resonating.

Sometimes she finds them. Other times she does not.

Not once was she able to protect them.

 


 

1.

The first time they met was as a girl named Setsu and a boy named Luca. Even when they were apart, hope kept them warm, and she often dreamed of meeting him in that sea of golden grain.

She died young. He died younger.

While the body of a woman named Setsu wasted away in the charred remains of Niolz, her soul was greeted by a white beast with the promise of an angel—

 

        ████ █████ ███ ████ ██ ███ ███ ████?

                     █████████ █ ████!

                                                                   ████ ███████ ███ ██.

 

A man dies two deaths: The first is of his body. The second, of his name.

 

2.

Setsu is thirteen again, and Luca tells her goodbye again. She cries again, and he promises her again. But this time she grabs his hand and asks him not to go.

He doesn’t.

A year later, illness takes him instead.

She starts over.

 

34.

Her name is not Setsu, and she knows no boy named Luca. But she is kind to the dark-eyed boy who tends the horses; he treats her with more than a servant’s respect.

The boy knows she loves him, and her husband knows it, too.

In the middle of the night, the horses curdle blood with their screams.

The stable burns brighter than the moon.

 

27.

Girls needn’t know such things, says her mother, but her father brings her a tutor. He smiles when she reads to him, and compliments her French. She waits by the window every Wednesday, and one Wednesday she asks if his wife is smart. He says she is.

For the first time since they met, his smile is fake.

When she is 14, she fights with her parents, as debutante life does not interest her. She escapes to the town, and remembers which home is her tutor’s—

Another man opens the door. She hesitates, then recognizes him as her friend’s father. She doesn’t understand what he’s doing here... Dark hair flutters in the background, and frantic hands scramble for a shirt. She hears her tutor call out to her, but she is already running back home.

She should be disgusted, yet all she feels is crushing disappointment.

Her father fires him. The next week, the other man has fled, and her tutor has no funeral.

Girls needn’t know such things after all.

 

79.

She is a nurse in a clinic that specializes in long-term treatments. She is friends with all the patients, even the ones who hated her, or believe she is someone long gone. She is friends with all of them.

One patient does not speak to her, but they are friends. He does not speak to anyone, or see anyone, or hear anyone.

His family had visited often in hopes that one day they would recognize him, and one by one, they stopped. She supposes she understands their feelings, but she doesn’t sympathize.

His eyes are too empty to see anything before him. One cannot expect him to see like that.

She spends the night in his room, sometimes. He’s beautiful, and peaceful. If only he could sleep forever...

It’s her one favor to him. She swears he begged her himself. But even his eyes, in death, are empty.

 

4.

Their souls did not align, so she lives, and lives, and lives.

It is not until the light is extinguished that she even realizes it had been there—

She mourns the loss of a dear friend she had never known, and the wind kisses her tears.

 

151.

She takes a trip without her parents for the first time, and spends a week in Spain.

Her friends convince her to enjoy the night life of Madrid, and a handsome man catches her eye.

She goes home with him. The language barrier means nothing when you’re not making words.

He laughs at her, and kisses her skin, and she loves the shape of his smirk, but not much more. The looks he give her are full of desire, and in his eyes, she finds no reason to stay.

She throws him away first.

 


 

Round, and round, and round.

The more she meets him, the less she remembers. The soul understands what a human will not: futility... She will never have him as he was, nor will she know the suffering her soul carries through each wave of life and death.

But the worlds in which he looks at her with hate are infinitely better than when he feels nothing at all.

 

Wh██ ██uld ███ g██e to ███ ███ again?

                    E█er██h███ █ ha██!

                                                       ███r me██r██s ██ll ██.

 


 

380.

She takes the money and runs. The winter night does nothing to help the burn in her cheek, and she knows it’s beginning to swell. Her scarf hides further scars.

A bus slows down, and in the very back, someone spots her. He places his palm on the window, and she gets on the bus without a second thought.

He smiles; she nods back in thanks, and the sleep in the cramped seat of a city bus is the most peaceful she’s had in weeks.

The driver shakes her awake. Miss, this is the last stop, he says. Her eyes snap open, and all the other passengers have left. Obediently, she gets up, reluctant to leave this temporary safe haven—but the person in back (not quite a boy, not quite a man) shows no signs of leaving. She pauses, and the driver asks her what’s wrong.

Is he not getting off? and she gestures to the back of the bus.

The driver looks over his shoulder, then laughs, Oughta wipe the sleep from yer eyes, kid.

She watches the bus leave, and the shade in the back of the bus remains.

 

66.

At the diner where she works, a man with sleepy eyes asks for a coffee every morning, two sugars, one cream. He is always reading the news as he drinks; she’s never been interested in current events, so he is her connection to the rest of the world.

She likes him because he tells her stories that came true. He likes her because she doesn’t gossip.

One day he is absent, and then the days after that, as well.

She wonders what happened to him, but his disappearance didn’t make the news.

 

1082.

He puts a knife through her stomach, and his teeth glimmer.

She’s never seen him so delighted.

 


 

Round and round and

        What █ould ███ g█ve to s██ ███ again?

                    E█er██hin█ I ha█e!

                                                       Y██r me██r██s will ██.

 


 

56,907.

When they met, he was living out of a suitcase, and she carried a briefcase. She was a species of the urban jungle, where the flora and fauna posed in several tints of monochrome, and he never used paints he didn't mix himself.

It was a charming, simple friendship. She bought him coffee, and smiled at his works. He loved her smile, and painted just to see it.

He began to make money, and before she knew it, they were in their mid thirties, unmarried, and he asked her to move in with him. She said yes.

Not once had their lips ever met. The kisses they shared spread across the face, and their hands never ventured far, preferring to hold on to each other. They were happy together, and added to the family: a conure would sing to him as he worked when she was away.

Then she quit her job and sang for him while making them brunch.

By their 20th anniversary, her vision begins to fail.

Cataracts, they say. She doesn’t like to talk about it. Money was not an issue, but every effort ends in vain, and just when they have found a doctor who could make this miracle, he flees the continent and they are out 400 grand.

Eventually, a donor volunteers, and though the surgery is experimental, it is a risk they are willing to take. She cries into his shoulder until she has nothing left inside.

Her sight goes from spotty, to black, to pure white. She hasn’t seen this well since she was a child.

She stays in the hospital for another night to be observed, and he visits, wearing sunglasses.

The world goes silent.

She wails, and he rushes to hold her, but he is clumsy without his eyes.

Your art—, she chokes out. He says he doesn’t need eyes for that.

But she, who had only felt whole when watching him paint, does.

She can’t see his logic, she can’t see at all, and she hates, and hates, and hates.

 

79,821.

Her first grandchild is pregnant.

Gray hairs and slow feet don’t bother her; as long as she can enjoy the sunshine and listen to the radio, she is fine. Her needs are simple, her wants are simple, and everything is okay.

She lives alone, except for a cat she's heard is black. It is not hers, or anyone's, for that matter, but he has the habit of invading other's homes like they were his own, parading around like royalty. It doesn't help that the neighbors indulge this little king, either.

She is more strict with this boy. She doesn't feed him, because she knows all the others do, and she can feel his stomach beginning to bloat. He knows better than to come to her for food, yet he is young and arrogant, and makes his demands accordingly.

She is soft on him, because when she hears him meow at the door, she always opens it; because when she sits back in her rocking chair and beckons for him, he leaps into her lap without hesitation, and she helps him stand, a paw in both hands.

She is lenient. He leaves whenever he wants, and comes whenever he wants. There is nothing she can do to make him stay, and she accepts that. Try as the others might to put a collar on him, make him their own, they always, always fail.

It's foolish to leash something that does not want to be kept, as it is foolish to chase after something you cannot even recall. There's no meaning to it, and it is just not meant to be.

Perhaps it is fine this way, she admits. I will wait here quietly, and he will return when he thinks of me.

A cat should want nothing with a blind old woman, but he wants nothing more than to be loved by her and captured,  yet she no longer tries.

Still, he keeps coming back.

 


 

round... and round...

        What would you give to see him again?

                    Everything I have!

                                                       Your memories will do.

                                                Stop.