33 Ashan 700
Pale lights flickered in the distance, dancing pinpricks of flames whose reflections stretched over still waters of the pond. He watched them, eyes squinted against the evening breeze that rustled through the leafs of the boughs above him. His hands were clammy and cold, slicked with an anxious sweat he kept wiping off onto his pants every other minute, one or the other always clinging to the small, square, wooden box he'd already dropped - twice - over the edge of the pier. It was fortunate wood floated, because the box's contents most certainly would have been lost to him forever had it not been encased within its protective, arboreal shell.
He'd been waiting for what felt like years, but it couldn't have been more than a few hours since his own arrival that she appeared, walking out from behind one the large, flowering hyacinth bushes that grew along the southern edge of the pond's bank. Every time he saw her, he found himself always drawn to her face. He wasn't even certain what it was she was wearing - a dress, maybe? - because every second he didn't spend staring into those incredible eyes of hers, every moment he didn't see all the beauty of the world reflected in those limpid sapphire pools, every heartbeat he didn't memorize and re-memorize and re-re-memorize the soft curve of her features, felt like casting away all the gold in the world.
She was everything and, somehow, she was more than that.
His throat tensed up, and he couldn't keep himself from shifting in place. His own suit, rented at a discount from his uncle's men's store, made that scritchy-scratchy sound cheap fabric was wont to do when it was rubbed together. His grip on the little wooden box tightened. He really didn't want to drop it now. Again.
"Hey," she waved, her lips curved in the most flawless of smiles - just a hint of shyness, even after all this time, slightly parted to reveal her gap-less teeth and bright, pearly smile. "When you said this place was 'out of the way', I thought it was gonna be like... thirty minutes or something." Her neatly plucked brow furrowed, but the light in her eyes was playful. "That was literally a three hour drive."
"S-sorry," he stammered, stumbling over his own tongue like a grade-schooler. "I just... it's really uh- really p- uh... beautiful. It's really beautiful. Out here."
She laughed, her voice light and airy, a whimsical dancer twirling around them, ribbons in hair, all smiles and gentle rhythm. "It is, yeah." A large breath flowed in through her little button nose and out through those perfect lips of hers. She let her eyes close for a moment, enjoying the vaguely floral scent that lingered in the air. The sun had begun to set, casting all the hues of the late evening across the sky, dousing the clouds in gradients of reds and oranges and deep, deep violets. "It's nice." When her eyes opened, they were filled with a genuine appreciation and lighthearted forgiveness for the inconvenience. "I hope you weren't waiting too long, though...?"
He would have waited for his entire life just to meet her once. No time could pass wherein he would ever consider the reward of seeing her to be "too long". "No!" he started, a bit louder than he meant.
For a moment, her eyes widened, surprised, but she laughed it off, shaking her head, the loose, auburn curls lively bouncing in a flawless frame to her amusement. "Oh, okay."
"I mean," he cleared his throat, using the wrist of his free hand to wipe a little sweat from his hairline at the forefront of his forehead. The other hand he kept tucked behind his back, box nearly crushed in his vice of a grip. "I mean, it's cool. It's fine."
She grinned. "Right."
"No, really. I didn't wait that long." There was an insistence in his voice, and he knew that she knew he was lying to try to be polite. He would have cursed himself then and there, but she was so gentle and so kind... instead, he just stood there like an idiot while that perfect, adorable smile faded to allow concern to wheedle its way onto her features.
"Shit," No. No that wasn't right. "I'm so sorry. Seriously." No no no no no.
"Why..." he murmured.
"What?" The concern only grew.
"N-nothing. It's nothing, never mind." It's nothing. It's fine. "I, um," he continued, gesturing to the pair of chairs and wicker basket set up to view the sunset on the pond, "I brought lunch."
"Oh!" Excitement returned, lifting those cloudy features into something kinder, something softer, something much much more wonderful. "This is amazing!"
"Y-yeah, it's... I thought it'd be nice. You know, to have something to eat."
She grinned wide, eyes crinkling at the edges. "Uh, yeah. Definitely." She settled into one of the chairs, bright eyes wide and waiting for him to join her. "Or... are we not eating now...?"
"No! No, yeah, no, now's good. Now's great, actually. If you're hungry." He could feel his face flushing with the heat of embarrassment and frustration. His tongue. It was always his fucking tongue.
"I am," she chuckled, only opening the basket after he'd joined her in the other chair. "Wow... champagne?" She arched a brow, a jocularly mocking expression of awe on her face. "Very nice, very nice."
"It's um... it's open. My dad had some work thing and brought it home." Stupid. That was a stupid thing to say.
"Bubbly is bubbly, buddy," she grinned, pulling out a pair of camper's mugs and handing one to him, intentionally clinking the metal vessels together. "Cheers!"
"You can't cheers with empty cups," he corrected her, a little frown playing at the corners of his lips. "It's bad luck."
"Oh shit." Her eyes widened, apologetic. "That's right. Sorry, I'll pour and we'll just cheers twice to make up for it."
"I... I don't think that's how it works," he mumbled, but held out his mug anyway.
"Oh no, it totally is," she assured him, pouring liberally. "Jasper once broke my mirror when we were-" She interrupted herself, flushing a little pink. Fuck. This wasn't supposed to be about- "Anyway, to offset that whole seven years thing, we took the shards and made fourteen little mirrors instead." She held her mug out to him, all smiles. "I swear it works. I haven't had a luckier year in my life."
She had just had to bring him up. Fucking Jasper. That fucking... otter. He'd planned all of this for her, but she just went and ruined it. She was perfect. She was everything he'd ever wanted. Jasper. Fuck Jasper. Fuck Jasper. Fuck fuck fuck fuck-
Before he realized what was happening, she was in the water, nose cut and bleeding, confusedly shouting and splashing. The chair had already sunk. He couldn't make out what it was she was saying, but she was angry. Angry at him. He glanced down at the mug in his hand, knuckles white from how tightly he held onto it. The blue and white speckled metal was stained with a splotch of dark red.
"I didn't..." he stammered, as she caught hold of the edge of the pier and dragged herself out the water, coughing and spluttering. "I didn't mean to-"
"What the fuck?" The gentleness was gone. It was replaced with a harsh, fearful anger. She wasn't herself. She was someone else. Some thing else. Where had that sweet, precious woman gone? "The fuck was that for? You invited me all the way out here to punch me in the face with champagne?"
No. That wasn't-
"I mean, I haven't seen you in awhile so..." She was soaked, a soggy sleeve held under her nose caught most of the blood, staining the light blue fabric dark red. Her frustration was beginning to fade in favor of something even worse. Pity. "So like... I guess I should've expected things would be a little... different?" She sighed, wobbling to her feet. "I mean, all that stuff with your mom-"
"Fuck you!" He smashed the mug against the side of her head. "Don't you fucking talk about my fucking mom!"
Like a wet rag, she crumpled to pier, thudding against the worn planks with a heavy, sodden sound that made his stomach twist.
"W-wait... I'm..." Both mug and wooden box tumbled from his hands, the latter bouncing several times to settle on the edge of the pier, teetering over the water. "I'm s-sorry! I-"
She wasn't moving. The slow, steady rise and fall of her chest, her shoulders... it was gone. Her eyes had a blankness to them. It was nothing like the plays. Her eyes weren't closed. She wasn't pretending. She was... empty.
"F-fuck..." he whimpered, stumbling backwards. The heel of his shoe knocked the little wooden box, and it tumbled into the water with a small, pathetic plink.