trigger warning for suicidal ideation.
“How much?” Master Beika called out from the kitchen.
“Only two of us.” I thought for a bit. “Two cups? Three?”
“Three. I like your soup,” she said. “Next?”
“Onions, mushrooms. Chop please.”
I still felt tired, so I was giving Beika the instructions. She insisted on making the soup; she was sick and tired of getting canned soup when I was in the area, she said.
“What do you mean, chop?” She raised the onion. “This way or this way?”
I smiled. Master Beika liked eating, but not cooking. Cooking took too much patience out of her. But she was trying to cook right now. I suppose I should notice. And I think I did.
She was trying to do everything she knew to do for a friend. I am one of her friends.
I am grateful, I truly am. I just don’t know how to repay all the kindness. I tried to kill her best friend, by all He controls. Knowingly or not, it does not matter. It matters that I did, more than once. And yet she is kind to me. I do not understand it, even if I feel it every day.
“Soj?” she asked again. ”This way or this way?”
I remember that I have to answer. “One side then other side,” I tell her.
I could tell, this early, that those diced onions would turn out uneven and large. But no matter. Master Beika made it. Even if it is burnt soup that we eat today, all will be well.
I am only here because she trusted me, when I did not deserve to be trusted. I am here as her friend, even if I do not deserve to be one.
“Soj? You alright? You’re staring again.”
I held my forehead. “Is good, Master Beika. No worry.”
The milk was overcooked. The onions were over-caramelized. The mushrooms were boiled too much.
But Master Beika made the soup. It oddly tasted quite good. Honestly.
She kept looking at me like I was deliberately poisoning myself. “Please stop eating,” she begged. “It’s probably awful.”
I shook my head.
“So stop eating! You’re shaking your head!” She clasped my hands and begged again.
“Is good.” I placed my hand over my heart and bowed my head. I swear it by all He controls. I proved it again by heaping more spoonfuls into my mouth.
“You’re finishing it just to be nice, aren’t you,” she said, expecting me to topple over dead shortly.
Master Beika. Always nice to everyone. Never expecting anybody to be nice back to her. Making sure others were happy made her happy. Even now it was so. If I was not happy with her soup, she would not be happy. Yet while I was saying she did well, not merely to be nice, but because it was so, she did not dare believe it. I could not tell her to taste her own soup; she would not believe her own tongue.
So I reached over, and wrapped my arms around her.
And kept holding her.
I waited until Master Beika was asleep, in her room. She kept the door slightly open to hear me, but I knew that she slept soundly.
I walked silently to that bedroom door, watched her for a moment, in pajamas, her leg hugged around a pillow.
I will miss you, my friend. Thank you for everything you have done. But I cannot repay you, so it is better this way.
I slipped into my clothes and shoes, leaving everything else behind. I quietly opened the door of her quarters, and closed it behind me. I walked the halls, down the stairs, and out of the guildhouse.
I formed a travel cloud. I flew up.
Up, and up, and up.
I stopped when I saw other clouds float past mine through the evening sky. I stopped when I saw the capital of Pendi, the lights through its windows as small bright dots, its central fountain a needle.
Ah. Finally I was high enough.
I let the night air sweep through me in powerful gusts. A fall from this height, with winds this fast, would simply be an accident. An accident. A fall from this point would definitely be more than fatal. It was hard to tell from this height, from these winds, where one could fall to his death.
It was better that way. I did not matter to anyone, anymore. I had no family left. I was a stranger. I would not be missed.
I would be better this way.
It was just a matter of dispersing the cloud, or jumping off it. Speeding down, falling, not feeling anything, or being gone soon after feeling the pain.
Simple. Very simple.
I kept staring down at the dark ground, so far away from me.
It would be very simple, so very simple. Yet the back of my head screamed: come find me, somebody, anybody. Find me.
I let the winds blow through the cloud, hissing that I am a failure I am a failure I am a failure, as I told myself do it and get it over with, do it and have it over with. My brain begged someone find me and hurry, over and over and over.
I grew tired of the exchange, tired of everything, tired of the fighting in my head. I decided to listen. Get it done, over with. I said goodbye. It should be enough.
I closed my eyes and placed a hand to disperse.
I spread my hands apart, closed my eyes, and let myself fall.
I did not understand.
Not splat. Not something hard that I would have no time to feel. Nor something that broke into pieces, breaking me along with it, irreparably. Nor something that would pierce me and make me bleed.
I did not understand.
“Soji of the meridian.”
It was her. It was Marceau. But, how?
“This had better be worth my time. Explain yourself.”
How? How do I explain? What do I explain? I did not even know where her voice was coming from.
“I was yanked away from a social dinner, by a lunatic in pajamas. I demand an explanation, icebox. Now.”
She did not call me a Selati. She called me by the nickname.
I did not want to look at her, to face her, to know her wrath.
I did not know what to say.
So she did the talking.
“If it were any other person, I would not have cared. It was their decision to make, after all, and not mine.” Her voice, stern and clipped, hammered above me.
“But it was you. It mattered.”
She paused, for a long moment.
“Now. Explain yourself.”
I opened my eyes, and found the open night sky, filled with stars. She was not in my line of sight. The winds passed more gently now. I was on the sturdiest small travel cloud I have ever been on.
“I cannot,” I said.
“Are you telling me I wasted good champagne and a steak dinner on you?” she asked, but not unkindly.
I turned to my side, and curled into a small ball, trying to hide myself from her. “No,” I said, barely above the hiss of the wind. “No. You did not.”