"So...Miss Relena Dorlain." A smile stretched over the woman's face in a lipsticked smear and beady brown eyes narrowed at her from behind huge, horn-rimmed glasses, giving her the appearance of an owl. Her mousy, ash-brown hair was knotted into an efficient, no-nonsense bun at the nape of her neck and her severe, pinstriped suit was ironed and starched like a wooden board. She folded her neatly manicured fingers across her desk and repeated, "So...?"
It was an invitation to speak, to let loose her darkest secrets and whispered yearnings to this ever-so-trustworthy woman with the plastic smile...this woman paid by the administrators of Evania University to probe and pry until their students had nothing left to hide. Relena bit her lower lip until she could feel the saltine taste of blood on the tip of her tongue and silently, forcefully shook her head until the golden strands of her hair flew about her face in a silken halo. Vaguely, she realized that the woman had not asked her a question and that she did not know exactly what she was denying, but it didn't seem to matter. What mattered was denying whatever the plastic woman was offering as hard as she could, without compromise or defeat.
The woman sighed and Relena saw out of the corner of her eye that she was briskly opening the manila envelope, her long, red nails caressing the beige tagboard material. She heard the flipping of the pages, and closed her eyes, almost sickened by what she knew the woman was reading.
Blood-type AB...anemic...Found in a alley way as a baby...experiencing temporary blackouts as a child due to unnatural causes...introverted...Anti-social...foster parents: Ann and David Lane ...uncontrollable child...screaming, fits of temper...unsuitable for adoption... heavy psychoanalysis, results are...
She fisted her fingers tighter into the scratchy polyester material of her uniform until she felt the pinpricks of her nails biting through the palms of her hands, the knuckles turning a stretched, yellow color. She bowed her head, unable to stand the humiliation of her past being aired out like the next set of laundry.
They have no right. She thought fiercely, This is invasion of privacy...they're giving my past to...to her; she doesn't even care, everything she claims to do for me is to earn her paycheck...she doesn't know a thing about me...
But of course, every rebellious thought was kept carefully between her teeth, unspoken except in the private recesses of her mind. The administrators constantly reminded her that she was only a scholar student here in Evania, an orphan with no past that had been given a chance at the future by the benevolent faculty to whom she owed everything. The clothes she wore were from charities that had found potential in her; the books were on loan from the university library. Everything she was and ever would be was because of the school, and she had to be grateful...she would be grateful even if her smile split her face in two.
The psychologist cleared her throat meaningfully and obediently, Relena raised her head, her face carefully neutral. "Yes, Mrs. Allbright?"
"That's Doctor Allbright, Miss Dorlain. Doctor Marie Allbright."
"Quite. So, how are you fitting in at Evania? It is a lovely school, isn't it?"
"I'm fitting in fine, Dr. Allbright. It is a lovely school." Even to her own ears, the words rang hollow beneath the prim politeness. Evania University was a lovely, with its traditional brick walls and smooth granite tile of black and white. The courtyard, a favorite place of the Ki Beta Alpha, was fragrant with the scent of magnolia blossoms mingling with bright, flashy tulips and roses at this time of year and in the center, a fountain dripped cool, flowing water from a mermaid's outstretched hand. The teachers were...nice. The faculty...nice. But nice, like lovely, and indeed like the school, were such lukewarm words, settled into a complacent niche of self-congratulations. Evania was somehow...artificial. Too prim, too correct with most everyone caring more for their social status than making true friends.
But the woman was waiting for her answer and Relena forced a smile to her face, "Yes, it's quite a lovely school." Allbright nodded once, looking pleased as she scribbled something in her black notebook.
"But sources have told me that you don't have as many friends as you ought...none of the fine young people in the...ah...inner circles." There was an infinitesimal smile of superiority on those oh-so-crimson lips and Relena tightened her own lips to keep a retort from spilling out.
"I have friends."
"Ah yes..." This time, there was no mistaking the drawl of disapproval in Dr. Allbright's voice, and Relena felt anger tremble in her muscles, her shoulders straightening of their own volition. "Hilde Schliebecker and her delinquent companion, Duo Maxwell. I'm surprised that they are still here, they cause so much trouble to the staff!" They were dismissed with a flick of her wrist, a simple tossing gesture as if she had to but throw their names into the net-wired wastebasket and they would disappear and trouble her no more. "Perhaps they are your friends, Relena, but you need real friends, friends that will help you get somewhere in life." She leaned forward, balancing her elbows on the auburn mahogany and her eyes were warm and confidential. "Listen, Relena, this faculty has agreed, of all the scholar students here, you have been exceptional...but for your fits, but that can be worked around, with a little help! But, we are worried over your increasing tendencies to seek out the company of Ms. Schliebecker and Mr. Maxwell instead of socializing with the other girls and boys in this school, those with better reputations. Do you understand?"
Relena was staring into Dr. Allbright's eyes, her face calm except for two bright spots of anger that burned across her cheekbones. Very quietly, Relena replied, "I understand, Doctor Allbright. You wish me to sever my friendship with Hilde and Duo."
"Well...not exactly how I would put it, but..." The Dean smiled carefully, "something to that affect...there are many people at this school, Relena. For instance, Dorothy Catalonia, a girl of fine breeding and upbringing. Don't you think she would make an excellent companion for you, dear?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Relena sat still for a second, then repeated softly, "That is to say, I thank you for your recommendation but I feel at home with my choice of friends. It...is still my choice, is it not, Dr. Allbright?"
"Of course," Her smile had gotten notably stiffer despite her acknowledgement and there was an expression of indignation on her heavily made up face. "I am only here to advise you of what is best for you, Relena. You know that I only have your best interests in mind."
"Yes Dr. Allbright." Relena summoned a look of gratitude to her face and she stood up, curtseying slightly to the woman. "You have made all the difference in my college life and I must thank you profoundly for asking the teachers of this school to supply me with-"
A temple with ebony doors, yawning open to reveal a path of stars. Crimson blood arcing wildly over granite steps and a command-
"Oya misun d'misun-a!!"
"Relena!!" Suddenly, Relena felt arms around her, supporting her and she gasped, trembling. Dimly, she realized that both of her hands were locked against her temples, strands of golden hair wound violently around her fingers and her feet were braced apart from each other as if she was tensing for battle. Her schoolbag had dropped carelessly to the floor and there was a rawness in Relena's throat, so she knew at some point, she had cried aloud. Mrs. Allbright had one arm encircling her heaving shoulders and another held against her waist to keep her from falling to the crimson oriental carpet and Relena leaned against her, unable to stop her convulsive shivering.
"Relena, what's wrong? Answer me please! Should I call the nurse? Relena, do you need the nurse?" There was genuine panic in the woman's voice and Relena managed to shake her head although her fingers pressed pale white ovals into her flushed skin.
"N-no...I don't want a nurse...I don't need one!"
"All right. Calm down..." Sshe felt herself being guided firmly into a chair and bit her lower lip tightly until the pain made white stars dance in front of her eyes. There was something that wanted to surface, a whisper of a memory, yet instinctively, Relena reacted by trying to force it even lower into her subconscious, deathly afraid of what she might learn.
She doubled over in the chair, glaring fiercely at the swimming floor through eyes that overflowed with unconscious tears, marring the smooth, translucent skin with streaks of silver liquid. Her nails drew blood from where they pressed and silently, she screamed, battling against this unspoken, unnamed entity that gripped her. She was torn; a part of her wanted desperately to understand, to reach out and clasp the memory to her like a friend or a lover, the other part recoiled, afraid of the underlying shadows beneath the promise, of the pain that would inevitably come with the knowing.
No, go away!
R'lina, listen to me!
You're dead! But you can't be...You're only a dream...a very bad dream! Go away...onegai! You're frightening me! Go away!!
And suddenly, as if those where the magic words, the pressure inside her mind abruptly eased and she collapsed bonelessly in the plush chair, tears of exhaustion and effort falling silently into her cupped hands. Leaning her forehead against her knees, she took deep, trembling breaths, inhaling the scent of musk from the chair's padding and the slight floral fragrance of magnolias from the open window. Vaguely, she could hear Dr. Allbright talking rapidly with someone on the phone, her voice shrill and demanding, but she was to tired to take note of what the woman was saying, preferring instead to stay slumped in her chair, listening to the sound of her own panting breath.
"Relena, are you all right?" Dr. Allbright hovered solicitously over Relena, doing a faintly amusing imitation of an anxious hen watching her chicks peep feebly about. Relena smiled weakly but did not raise her head so that a skein of long, golden hair hid her features from Dean Allbright's jittery gaze.
"Yes ma'am...I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me." Twice...that's twice in two days...what's happening to me?
"I understand, my dear." A hand came down cautiously over Relena's shoulder and gave it a sympathetic squeeze, although she did remove it rather quickly as if she was afraid that Relena would suddenly snap into a thousand and one broken shards of glass. "I've called your dorm mate to pick you up and cleared the rest of your schedule today with your teachers...you don't mind, do you?"
"No ma'am. Thank you."
"That's a girl." Deliberate approval wormed its way into the other woman's voice and Relena sighed wearily, closing her dull, azure eyes.
Who are you?
The question echoed and reechoed into the recesses of her mind, but there was no response, no vaguely familiar rich baritone voice laced with anxiety and emotion, no heart-wrenching reaction of gut terror or terrible yearning. Only a sense of loss and aching emptiness that made her long for...something. Something as ephemeral and lazy as summer afternoons on the beach, yet as tangible as warmth from an embrace or a first kiss. She knew that it was within her reach...if only she had the courage to reach out and take it! But with the comfort, there always came terror right afterwards, fear of loss that felt like the bite of winds against her cheeks, freezing her will into a fragile ice sculpture.
Who are you?
A person? A voice? Someone that she knew that she knew, someone that had been (was?) so very important to her...who was he? Who was this man that brought with him submerged memories of love and fear, joy and pain in equal amounts? The phantom voice breathed into her ear like a touch of wind, making her shiver and glance around wildly. But there was no compulsion or forceful intonation now, only a deep sadness that made her throat ache.
I am who I am. But you, R'lina, if you are no longer who you were...then who are you now?
Shouts out go to:
Mint: lol, you've got the right idea...it's not exactly right but it's on the right track...I'm amazed by either your perception or my transparency...wow, vivid imagination going on there! ;)
Lady Scarlet-Une: I've just gotten into that unfortunate habit of writing more convoluted plotlines...-_-;; I swear, I never did before! I was a pointless sap writer damnit! What the heck is happening to me??? I'll blame it on Ayn Rand right now, because her philosophies and book the Fountainhead is SO hard to understand...the symbolism...argh. It's actually forcing me to analyze more deeply than I have been...which is a novel experience. I feel like I need a roadmap to get through the book although I do love it dearly.
TwilightDreams: I'll try to finish it! ^_^ I've finished all my Gundam fics up to date...it just usually...takes a while...heh heh...*sweatdrop*...days, weeks, months...not years though...yet.
Goldberry: o.O oh-kay...flamethrower DOWN! NOW! I'm finished with this chapter! Then again...*evil glare* you can't say anything, tamodachi...*coughWatchtowercough*!! Besides, that flamethrower is MINE!!
Meoi-chan, Ley, Mama-sama, Beth, Crystal, Angelic1090: Thanks for always supporting me when I write! I always feel better when I know you're reading and I love your reviews! ^_^
EarthAngel, Kristine: thanks for giving me suggestions on different title names! I SOOOOO need it, tee hee. But I'm still thinking of one that might go better because it isn't exactly a past life that she has...argh. >.< I think I'll finally have a good title when I finish with the fic and not a second before. And K-chan, I want to know...what do you think I'm going to do? Are you so sure? *evil grin* but argh, you know me too well so I'm going to refuse to comment any further...>:P SHADDAP!! I know you're laughing at me!!
Youjibaracuda: chica!! Where's my chappy, lolita?? *fierce scowl* He-llo!! Remember our agreement? You have to write a chapter for every three I write!!! Lol...n'wayz...I can't believe I'm writing ANOTHER one!! Goddess Bless...there goes my promise out the window... :-P damn muses....
Kansho, aNiMeNoHiMe: arigato for reviewing!!
To all my readers, I hope you're enjoying this! ^_^ I'm actually really enjoying writing this series...and for all you sap lovers, yes eventually there will be some! Hey, this is me, I live and breathe sap!
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to email me or give me suggestions! If you want to be notified when the next chapter is out, please write down your email address and I'll send out author alerts in due time.