Memory's Weight

She was alone in the crowd.

Sure, she could smile and nod and even engage in pleasant chit-chat with her fellow Returners and the other attendants of Edgar’s birthday bash. Sure, with a glass of Maradian wine in her hand, donning a lovely crimson gown and an effectual smile she fit in just fine. But as she hovered by the fruit bowl on the table and pretended to interested in the apples she felt never so alone.

“May I have this dance?”

Terra took a deep breath and glanced over at the King of Figaro. Edgar was decked out in his finery, navy coat matching his eyes. He flashed her a winsome smile and plucked the glass out of her hands, setting it on a tray of a servant passing by. Before the half-esper girl could stop him, he hauled her onto the dance floor.

“Edgar, no, stop! I don’t know how to—“

“Dance, right? No worries...I’ll teach you how.”

The Figaron’s idea of “teach” consisted of being mercilessly spun around, lifted up and performing other daring maneuvers that no novice should ever attempt. Terra gasped. For a little while the whole experience was exhilarating, enjoyable even. But alarm spread throughout her body as the king came in close to guide her in a slow dance.

He was....too near. Her body went rigid; her mind spun.

“Stop!” Terra broke away, face flushed. Her heart stabbed in her chest. A number of the other guests stared, open-mouthed at her. Many of her Returner friends whispered worriedly. Edgar for his part was just stroking his chin, eyes glittering with confusion. The half-esper girl bit her lip then turned to flee the dance hall.

Not knowing or caring where her feet carried her, Terra hurried down the steps of the South Figaron Mansion, gown held up to keep from tripping. Eventually she slumped onto the wall of a fountain, the spray light against her cheek. Shaking, she hauled the pins out of her emerald hair, letting the curls fall down her back. her tears.

Tears? Why did it always come to this? Was there never an end to these memories?

“Terra...” She looked up. There stood the king, adorning an uncharacteristic look of worry on his handsome face. “What happened back there?” When she failed to respond, he sat down near her. There was no physical contact—he seemed to understand that she was as likely as a bird to take flight if he came too close.

“Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“You wouldn’t understand.” Her green-eyed gaze cast out into the midnight sky, her hands bunching up the ruffles of her dress.

“Try me. I certainly can’t understand if you won’t tell me.” A sigh emitted deep from his chest. “There’s nothing you can tell me that I wouldn’t accept of you.” His eyes were upon her and his voice was gentle as if speaking to that bird. “We are friends, yes?” To her almost imperceptible tilt of her head he added, “Then why not trust me?”

Her hands flew up to scatter the tears then dropped back down to resume wrinkling the velvet cloth. “No.”

“Did something happen to you? Did somebody hurt you?”

Those words swept away in the wind. Silence dominated the air between the king and the esper-girl. Terra bit her lip, refusing to feed that silence. A part inside screamed at her to just let it all out and take comfort from a friend—but fear kept those words captive in her mouth, fear of how he would react should she do so.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” His husky voice was soft.

Something inside Terra snapped. How dare he assume! He didn’t know. “I’m not playing this game! Don’t ask for this...” Her voice broke. “You have no idea how much it hurts...”

There was a flicker in his eyes, a brief shadow across his face. “Maybe I do.” Shifting ever so slowly, the king drew nearer to her but still not touching her. Terra shivered but did not retreat. “Tell me what has you this upset and I will go and leave you alone.” A ghost a smile was upon his lips as he said, “You can even slap me in the face if you like.”

Her hands abandoned the wrinkled fabric and started in on her hair, coiling the green curls beneath her fingers. “Why do you want to know so badly? Why can’t you just leave me now?”

Again, a bit of that Edgar-like cheeriness took over his manner as he grinned lightly. “I’m not the type of person to leave a lady in distress.”

“I’m not in distress,” she amended lamely.

“You are in pain. I can see that easily. Telling me isn’t going to hurt anyone.”

“It hurts me.”

Now those hands trembled wildly. Once more with that carefulness, Edgar’s own hand drifted over to hers and lowered finger by finger onto the back of her hand. Terra shivered but again did not recoil. Touch was often a precursor to pain—yet his did not bring that. Instead, it was a harbinger of empathy.

“Because you let it, my dear. There’s not reason to hate yourself.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You must be so perfect that nothing ever fazes you.” He chuckled at that. That only prompted her eyes to slit like the edge of a runic blade. “Stop this. Now. You are trying to peel me open and I’m not ready.”

His blond ponytail swung from side to side. “You’ll never be ready. There’s no way to ever be ready. It’ll always be there weighing on you.”

“I can handle this myself.” Yet even as those words left Terra’s lips she could hear her voice cracking again. Handle this? Herself? What a mess she’d made of that. Still, it was her mess to live in...”Leave me to my pain, then. I am strong enough.”

A hint of a smile touched his lips again but the edges of it were bitter. “No, you’re not. You lack the strength to reach out to others when you need it.” Those eyes took on an acrimonious cast. “Terra, ever since we first met back in the Throneroom you’ve had a barrier up against me. Against everyone. You don’t let people in.”

“I...I let the children in....I...” Now the tears eagerly vacated her eyes and ran down her cheeks. “But....No....I can’t....You must understand. I just can’t.”

Before she could stop him, the Figaron king placed an arm around her shoulders. More tears trickled down, further ruining her make-up. “Talk to me, Terra. Trust you did back when we fought to restore the balance to the world.”

Averting her gaze, the esper-girl whispered a few inaudible words. His arm tightened lightly around her, encouraging her. Before it was a wild desire to utter it but now it felt like reaching into her chest and tearing out her heart. Memories swam to the surface, struggling to drown her in the remembered pain. Struggling to keep her silent.

“I was....abused.” There. The ugly word was cast into the air.

“So was I.”

That was not what she expected. Where was the embarrassment or horror, the rejection and alienation? Pulling away slightly, Terra dared a glance at him. His face was as smooth as he spoke. “Years ago. One of the palace guards. I don’t remember which...Father fired them all anyways.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. The memory holds no weight for me anymore.”

She smiled through the tears. “Then am I happy for you. You’re free of it.”

His face had been lifted to the stars but now it lowered. “But you are not. I faced the memory and moved past it. It’s still inside of you, eating away. It’s destroying your trust and saps your love of life.” Again, his arm closed in around her and she went willingly, longingly into it. “Talk to me, Terra. Tell me who hurt you.”

The tears were falling freely now. She dug deep within to scourge up the courage to say, “Kefka. I was his little...toy.”

His maniacal laughter would never leave her.

“He’s not worth it. Not worth shutting yourself off from everyone.” As she shivered again, Edgar placed his other arm around her. His closeness felt like a shield to the pain. “You got to face the memory and then let people into your heart again.”

Let people in? Open up? He might as well have asked her to climb the Fanatics Tower without the stairs. “How...? How did you do it?”

“I let it hang over me for a very long time, Terra. Did all the things people do to destroy themselves—the parties, the booze, the women. The wild life. Then my brother told me that the only one who could heal me”

Once again, the esper-girl pulled away from his embrace. There was serenity on his face as he spoke. She hungered for that peace. So, Terra shut her eyes, recalling the memory from deep in a pit of pain. The touch...the heat...the laughter...the feeling of violation and invasion....of utter helplessness and hopelessness...

The loss of self.

Letting out a cry of anguish, she fell from the wall. Had not the strong arms of the king caught her and held her aloft Terra would have struck the stone ground. That might not have mattered for even as he lowered her to the grass she was very much else where. Entrenched in the memory as it burned inside of her, stronger than the heat of an Ultima spell. She gasped, pounding her fists on his chest. All the while he held her, his whispered words of comfort dragging her out of the darkness.

Then it was over and she was left panting. Her blurred eyes focused on the moon. It was like fighting a fierce battle—all her energy spent in survival. Yet, survive she had. Inside something had broken but that which hurts, heals Terra knew now. She was not whole; never that. Still, there was a feeling of a weight being lifted off her shoulders.

The weight of the memory.

His hand lifted her chin. “Feel any better?”

Swallowing she nodded. “Why? Why did you fight so hard to get to me to talk? Why do you care so much?”

She could feel his laughter through the leather of his coat. Not like Kefka’s cackling. It was such a lovely sound, all cheery mini-guffaws. “First, you are such a dear friend you deserve nothing less. Second, having been there I know the pain it takes in facing it. Three, because your stunning beauty has still captivated me.”

A chuckle. Her chuckle. If it was good to hear his laughter, it was twice as enjoyable to spew some of her own. “Edgar?”

A throaty sound of acknowledgement urged her to continue.

“Thank you.”

The laughter returned, breaking out into full-fledged guffaws. “Are you gonna slap me now?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear. When the esper-girl shook her head, Edgar slowly rose, helping her to her feet. There was a light in those dark blue eyes that she’d taken for selfish lust for many times.

The light was of friendship, forged in with the seeds of shared pain.

Edgar extended a hand. “Come. Let’s blow this joint.”

“’s your birthday bash!”

That hand waved dismissively, impatiently. “Bah. Who cares? They’re all just gonna drink too much, make a mess of the place and then fall asleep—like every year. That’s something they can do without me.” His elbow jutted out for her to take. “Shall we?”

Biting her lip, but out of eagerness now, Terra hooked her arm around his’. Then the two friends left the courtyard to the memories.

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