Not Quite Normal
Ya'll can thank Luin-Fanel for this. I was responding to her review and got hit by the idea bat.
Epilogue- It's never really the end.
High school came to an end as it's supposed to. With bittersweet memories and a larger life just outside the heavy double doors. Van and I did make it to at least one dance together, because otherwise Millearna would never have talked to me again. She'd been accepted to an exclusive pre-med program on the other side of the country and staying here meant our lives would go in different directions very soon.
I did let her choose the dress I wore to prom, since she was so good at it, and it meant more to her then it did me. Van's suit had grown too tight in a year, so I'd at least been right on that note. It's replacement was dark gray, with a black shirt, and the red tie he'd wanted to wear from the start. We looked quite the pair as I wore a silken silvery grey column dress simple but elegant, the only daring part was a long slit up my right leg, which was only noticeable when I walked.
The feel of warm mahogany eyes on the peak of skin as I moved brought a flush to my cheeks. He'd of course seen more of my legs at every track meet, but this was different. Every touch was charged, and each smile promised more. We danced some, and Van did talk with a few of our old classmates that remembered him, but as soon as it was possible to sneak out, we did.
Prom was being held in the ballroom of a hotel owned by Millearna's family, otherwise the whole budget wouldn't have covered the cost of the beach front venue. Van and I kicked off our shoes to walk across the cool sand. We'd already decided to attend the same college the following fall, but with different majors our classes might not intersect much.
Holding my long skirt above my knees so I could wade into the small waves curling almost lazily across the damp section of sand. I glanced over my shoulder where Van stood just out of reach at the water's edge. The moonlight gave his dark messy hair almost blue highlights, gaze focused as he watched me.
"Did you ever think we'd make it here?" I asked my tone light.
"Only ever dreamed it." His voice was low and there seemed like it wanted to say so much more. I waited, but no other words came. Instead Van stepped into the seafoam tipped waves without rolling up his pants. The water soaking into the fabric darkening it to black with only the dim silvery light.
Before I could ask what he'd planned on doing, I'd been pulled into a sudden embrace. My body molded against his, like the missing piece of a complex puzzle. Startled I dropped the silken cloth I had been holding, instantly the water grabbed it greedy for purchase. My hands went to that thick hair I loved and the warm skin at the back of his neck instinctually. I brought his face down to mine for a kiss that took both our breaths away. Drowning in each other, the cool tide not even reaching our knees.
For the first time kisses weren't enough. Between our different schedules we'd made time to date, but neither of us had the experience to take things further. It hadn't felt right to sneak around, even if I'd wanted more for a while. As clichéd as our first time being on prom night was, it also gave me time to mentally prepare myself. I had a habit of over thinking things and Van would never pressure me. This was about what I wanted after all.
My best friend was far wiser about these things then I, and at her prodding I had a room key already in my purse, along with a few other necessities. Despite my embarrassment about asking Millearna's advice she only teased me a little. 'About damn time.'
Somehow, we made it back up to the hotel, excitement bubbling up like soda fizz. We held hands, tracking water and sand through the pristine lobby, not caring what people thought. A man at the main desk called out to us and for a moment I thought we were in trouble.
"Mrs. Hitomi Fanel?" He questioned, and my cheeks heated at the use of Van's last name in the place of my own. I didn't think for a moment that the concierge believed we were married, but it was the pretense that counted.
"Yes," I confirmed who I was and took a couple steps closer to the desk dragging the tall wild-haired boy behind me.
"Miss Aston requested I deliver this to you." He then held out the duffel bag I normally used for track practice. This time it was packed with a change of clothes so I wouldn't have to take the walk of shame out of here tomorrow, still wearing my prom dress. It also had an outfit for Van that I'd gotten by stealth, or at least conspiring with his sister.
Merle wasn't ever going to be my best friend, but we both wanted what was best for the stubborn boy. She finally agreed that being with me made him happy, and that little bit of support meant the world to both of us.
I thanked him and took the bag that I'd left in Millearna's car. Van had ridden his motorcycle and I'd come with my friend, not wanting to straddle a bike wearing an evening gown.
A short silent elevator ride later we made it up to our room, still holding hands though Van insisted on carrying my bag. I swiped the key card and with a soft beep the door unlocked. Walking in first I tried to focus on exploring the room with it's one large bed instead of paying attention to the guy behind me, and the way his eyes followed my every move.
"You're more prepared then I thought." Van's voice was low and warm. I didn't know if he was commenting on the room and extra clothes, or being prepared for something more between us, possibly both.
"Shouldn't I be?" I tried to make my response come out somewhat playful, but it sounded flippant with the nerves that started settling back in.
With a soft thud my bag landed on the floor. I turned to see what Van was doing, but he'd moved so fast and I hadn't even heard him. Those toned arms pulled me into an embrace, it never failed to surprise me how strong he was, because how gentle I was always treated. As though he was careful not to break something fragile, but he wouldn't hurt me. I trusted Van completely.
"We can just hang out and watch a movie or something." Van offered speaking into my hair. He wasn't trying to play off disappointment like some guys might. I knew the offer was real. He'd be happy to just spend our time together laughing at the five-minute segments of an old movie broken up by way too many commercials. It was one of our favorite things to do on dates, but this time no one had to go home. We had all night without being interrupted.
It was really his sweet thoughtful suggestion that calmed the quick bout of embarrassment I'd suffered. Using the wet dress as an excuse to go to the bathroom I grabbed my small purse and shut the door behind me. The duffle bag had all the extra clothes, but Van hadn't seemed to notice I left it where it dropped by the door. All I'd brought in with me was my phone, wallet, toothbrush, a comb, spare underwear, and a couple foil wrapped packets.
Millearna had been the one to buy the condoms at the local pharmacy. She simply smiled and tossed her long golden curtain of hair as the cashier gave her a reproachful knowing look. No, I'd waited with a soda and pack of candy in line behind my confident friend and felt like a naughty child. Standing in the hotel restroom I didn't hesitate.
First, I brushed my teeth and ran the comb through wind messed hair. Then I stepped out of my dress hanging it over the curtain rod to dry. Part of me thought about taking a quick shower, but Van would surely notice my absence for that long. With a deep steadying breath, I looked at myself in the mirror, and almost didn't recognize the girl standing there. The natural makeup applied earlier had held up well, though the pink lipstick had been kissed away at the beach.
I stood wearing only thin lacy soft gray panties and a matching strapless corset like bra that fastened in the back with a long row of tiny hooks. I'd needed help getting it on and had known it would be a similar but sexier situation to remove it. Not hesitating any farther, I opened the door calling out in a voice I hoped sounded normal.
"Van can you help me with this." I heard his footsteps this time a moment before he came into view.
The second he saw me I knew there would be no going back. Those deep mahogany eyes widened taking in my lack of dress. Partly he had to expect me to be switching to more comfortable clothes not less.
"Hitomi," All he seemed to be able to say was my name and it made me feel something I'd never experienced before, beautiful.
I turned around so that he saw the problem, all the little metal hooks holding the lacy gray fabric from just under my shoulder blades all the way down to where it ended at my thin waist. He didn't speak any more, but I felt the brush of his calloused fingertips against the skin by the first hook. It took a lot of willpower to not look back at him as he slowly worked his way down, freeing me a little at a time. Glancing up at the mirror I caught a glimpse of what he'd done while I was hiding in here.
Van had removed his suit, tie, and button up shirt in a more haphazard way then I'd undressed. I could only assume the damp pants were in a pile somewhere with the rest of it. He wore only a pair of dark colored boxers and a white sleeveless undershirt. Comfortable enough to fall asleep watching old TV edited movies. The way his hair stuck up made me think that he'd just pulled the starched shirt off over his head instead of unbuttoning it properly.
Every little thing reminded me of how much I loved him, and my heartbeat sped up as the last hook came free. Surely, he expected me to hold the bra up until he could leave the space and give me privacy. Instead I let it drop to the floor before turning around to face him fully.
There was a slight tremor in his normally steady hands when he reached for me that time, as though he expected me to run at any moment. Proving him wrong I stepped forward and took one of his hands and led him out of the bathroom, towards the bed.
That's all it took. No words were needed. We were both beyond ready for that last step. I'd loved Van for longer than I could admit. For him there had never been another girl to hold his attention like I have, and hopefully always will. It was our first time, sweet and a little clumsy, but full of passionate exploration. Each touch, kiss, and moan expressed what we never could by words.
Afterward we lay together my head on his solid chest just over the inked royal crest of a country long gone. I expected to be embarrassed, by what we'd done, but instead I felt empowered. I couldn't even suggest buying the condoms yet the sight of an empty wrapper on the nightstand didn't bother me at all. In my haste to get his attention I'd left my purse and all it held in the restroom. As it turned out Van was at least prepared for this. He'd had to dig through the pile of discarded suit to find the one in his pants pocket.
I wanted to ask if he'd planned for this regardless of the comments about being happy watching a movie. Then I saw the red flush creeping up his ears and had a feeling that a certain stone-faced brother might have had something to do with it. My family at least halfway believed that I was with my best friend tonight, not alone and naked with my motorcycle riding boyfriend. Van was as easy to read as a picture book at times like this. I decided to not say anything about the talk Folken surely had with him before he drove off to meet me.
Lulled by the steady rhythm of his heartbeat I started to drift off when Van spoke. "So, I have something I need to tell you."
The hesitation in his voice woke me a little and I shifted away to look up at him. "What is it?"
"You know how brother wanted me to attend Annapolis like him," I sat up holding the sheet over my chest, fully awake now. This had the feel of a serious conversation and I wanted to pay attention. It wasn't easy to forget the disagreement the brothers had about Van following in their father's footsteps, like Folken had. Military life had never appealed to the raven-haired boy, and he didn't have the same idolizing memories of the deceased general. So, when pushed to apply to the army academy the two refused to see eye to eye on the matter.
"Yes, but you're planning to attend college with me." It was a statement of fact, and I didn't like the way Van wasn't able to look at me.
"Well, turns out there is a compromise." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Our university has an Army Cadet program and it only requires a two-year commitment not a four-year enlistment like the other option."
Before I could censor myself the first thought I had at this news popped out of my mouth. "Are you crazy or just being stupid."
Van's expression looked like I'd slapped him, so I continued.
"After everything Folken went through, why would you want to go down the same path?" We talked about our future, buzz cuts and bullets were never part of it. His dream had been to start a self-defense school and it was the reason he was taking business and accounting classes next fall. Running a local venture like that was risky. The balance between managing finances and gathering a reliable customer base made most new businesses fail in their first year. "This can't be about pleasing your brother. Two years or four it doesn't matter you'll still change into someone you may not like."
His jaw tightened. "Are you saying if I do this you won't want to be with me?"
The question was like a punch to the stomach, I felt sick. This wasn't a new idea to him, Van had been thinking about it for a while, and coming out and saying it now seemed like a betrayal.
"I won't agree to watch you become a stranger." My temper flared.
"Everyone changes," Van sighed as if this were a simple matter, and I was making too big of a fuss. "Only children believe life ever stays the same."
"Are you calling me childish?" I sputtered indignant, anger making me drop the sheet I had been clutching over my bare chest. "I wish you'd said all this earlier Van, so I could tell you to go screw yourself."
With that I stood, dressed in the clothes meant for the morning, and grabbed my purse. I was out the door before Van had enough sense to pull his pants on.
Hurt and angry I didn't have a plan beyond to get away from him. The dance might have already ended, and if Millearna was gone I'd have no ride home. The elevator traveled down with me blankly staring at my phone trying to decide if I should risk calling my friend or just get an uber home. Not that I felt like making small conversation with a stranger right then, but it was better than seeing the knowing look in my friend's eyes. She'd know that my heart was breaking and why.
The door opened into the lobby and I came face to face with Van. I hadn't expected him to beat me down-stairs, but his dress shirt was only partly buttoned, and he was barefoot. Somehow, I knew without taking in the way his solid chest heaved that he'd run down several flights of stairs to reach me.
Before I could tell him to go away, Van stepped into the elevator. The closeness forced me to take a step backwards, so we wouldn't touch.
"I'm sorry," He said quickly as though if he didn't blurt out the words quickly, I'd find another way to escape even as the door slid shut behind him.
"I think you've said enough." I stated stiffly, though I wanted to forgive him. Being in love sucked sometimes.
"No," he sighed leaning back against the door at hitting the button for the top floor, several above the room we'd both run out of. After a moment of silent movement, he then pressed the one labeled lobby. "Please, just hear me out. If you still hate me when we get back to ground level I'll take you home."
Being trapped alone with him was hard. I couldn't imagine riding on the back of his bike. Touching him like nothing was wrong. Time was passing before I answered and by the time I nodded we'd already passed our floor.
"I haven't changed my mind." He said steadily. "I still don't like the idea of joining, but I was trying to find a way to make a secure life for the both of us."
My breath hitched. We were only eighteen it was far too soon to start talking about marriage, wasn't it? Noting my stunned look he continued.
"Not right away of course, but after college. If I open the school it could be years before we are stable, if I had a reputation it would be different, but the way things are right now our options are limited." I knew what he was talking about. One of the ways Celena had tracked Van and his past down was that he was part of the martial arts competition team at his original school. A side-note she might have neglected to tell Dilandau, was that the biker was already regional if not nationally ranked at that time. Something that he returned to doing when he transferred back.
There had been some talk of the wild-haired boy competing professionally, but I'd gone to several of his fights and they always made me uncomfortable. I knew he fought to maintain his skill level and never would hurt anyone out of anger. Still it was hard to watch the sweet slightly awkward guy beating another person bloody. I hadn't even liked when he'd done it to Dilandau, and that jerk had deserved it.
It was because of me that Van had dropped out of the competition circuit, not that I asked him too, but he could tell how much it bothered me. If he had a title or reputation professionally it would give more weight to his school and draw students to him.
"I love you," I started then quickly added, "But if I don't like who you become when you're in a ring with rules and a consenting opponent, how could I understand the person that would return from overseas. It's that the rules are blurred over there and guns are way worse than fists."
Sure, there might be a job fixing Humvee engines that would be more his speed, but officers like his father and Folken lead people, that isn't what Van ever wanted. He'd be pushed into a role that would change the man I love. The one willing to do this for a future together.
"What can I do, because I can't lose you?" We'd reached the top floor, and the hour had to be later than I thought because no one had called the elevator at all on our emotional trip up.
"First you cannot spring things like this on me and expect a good response." My throat felt tight, but my voice still came out steady. "Secondly, if you want us to stay together, we've got to really talk not just make decisions and hope the other will be okay with it. Lastly never call me a child again."
We didn't make it back to the lobby, because I pushed the button to our floor. Van was far from off the hook, but because I knew what he was thinking this time we could work it out together. The compromise had to be between us, and as much as I liked Folken his wishes for Van to join the military were not high on my priority list.
My major after all was psychology and was inspired by a combination of my high school experience with a stalker, Van's childhood trauma, and the issues Folken suffered after returning home as less than he left. I wanted to help people heal, not see the guy I love become a patient.
The solution was that he'd start fighting again, but if I ever asked him to stop then that was it. I'd try to endure it for the sake of his dream, and our future together. Life continued from there in a more or less steady manor. Next after Prom was graduation and it seemed to happen in a blink of an eye. Mine was held the weekend before Van's and it was nice that we were able to attend the ceremony for each other.
He'd met my family before, so they sat together. It was a little odd to think that the one guy who'd seen me naked was making small talk with my parents. As far as siblings go Mamoru was down-right boring compared to Merle. I knew Van found my life and normal family fascinating, even if my dad wished he drove something with four wheels and better safety records.
It was his graduation the following week that felt as if it lasted forever. Upon arrival I was immediately ambushed. A group of girls I vaguely recognized from the few school events I'd attended at Asgurd Collegiate appeared in my path. For some reason they didn't seem happy to see me.
"Hey," One of them stepped directly in my path, and I could either stop or push her out of the way, neither seemed like great options at the moment. She would have been beautiful with pale skin and long fair hair, if not for the sour look twisting her features.
"Can I help you?" I asked trying not to sound defensive but failed.
"You can turn around and leave the way you came." She shot back making me wonder what I'd ever done to her. Maybe she was one of the girls that followed after Van, not that he noticed.
Before I could respond I felt someone move up to stand right beside me. "Or you could spend more time on the track and less being a bitch Sylphie." The voice and attitude told me who it was without looking.
Still sporting the bright colored hair Merle had traded her short skirt for an orange sundress, it should have clashed with the dye job, but made her look fierce like a tigress.
Seemed as though the assistance from Van's sister might just start the altercation, but another colder voice cut across. "Language, Merle." Folken Fanel strode over, and the flock of girls seemed to dissipate instantly. "I see you've found Hitomi. Let's take our seats." He still moved with conscious care for his prostatic arm, but there was a softness to his mannerisms that spoke more for wistfulness then censure. I may never know the real Folken well, but I respected the man. It was my dream to help people like him after all.
Merle and I followed him through the crowd. "Who was that girl?" I asked quietly, knowing that she would hear me. "One of Van's fan club?"
"No, the captain of our girl's track team." The pink haired girl laughed openly. "You've kicked her narrow butt at every meet for years."
I was a little surprised that the hostility had nothing to do with my good-looking boyfriend, but that I'd out proformed their team. I never really took much notice of the other competitors. It was always just about running all out for me. That's how I got my scholarship in the first place, and now one will help me afford college, so I didn't feel bad. Still it might not hurt to pay more attention to the other competitors around me.
Van graduated without issue despite the problems he'd had junior year. Neither of us being the party type, we were happy to celebrate by having dinner and I'd asked my parents to delay a week and join the Fanels. The way he seemed so proud not just to graduate, but to start the rest of our lives with the blessing of his family and mine made it all worthwhile.
At one-point Folken pulled me aside. "It seems as if Army Cadet is no longer an option for Van." He already knew who'd talked his younger brother out of the military program.
"Was it really ever a good option for him?" I challenged back and saw the edge of the older Fanel's mouth quark upwards in the shadow of a smile.
"You might be right." He conceded thoughtfully. "It's not for everyone."
Before I could respond he added, "Then again violence for sport isn't much of an improvement, and there is far less honor in it then fighting for your country."
"When was the last time that country thanked you for your sacrifice?" Van answered for me. His hand taking mine easily. "I'm building a future with my own hands. One of my choosing. Hitomi doesn't like it any more than you do but at least she supports me."
That was the end of the debate, because Folken had learned a valuable lesson, and it was Van would always protect those he loved. Even at great risk to himself. I love that part of him, but I didn't want to see it tested on fellow soldiers, because the ones he couldn't save would hurt just as much if not more than the ones he could.
As the dinner came to a close, I nearly had to chase my little brother away from following around Merle. For her part the pink haired girl didn't antagonize me over his little crush. It seems she was ready to find love for herself, but Mamoru two years younger than her was thankfully not on the list of contestants, and neither was Van. It took work but the pair was able to repair their relationship to one of siblings and best friends, Merle would always be a huge part of our lives.
Before I could get in the car with my family Van pulled me aside. "You want to go for a ride?"
It felt as if I'd been waiting for that question all night. "Do you really need to ask?" He'd had to get slightly larger storage for the bike as two full faced helmets took up a ton of space, and he always carried mine those days.
The engine roared to life and despite my father's look of disapproval I happily slid onto the seat behind Van. I leaned against his solidly muscled back with a sigh, thinking about how he looked without the loose shirt. Feeling daring I let one hand drift up under the fabric to feel the heat of his skin directly. He startled a little at the sudden and public contact, but didn't say anything. Instead he responded by kicking off and taking us smoothly out of the restaurant parking lot and onto the street with ease.
Words didn't matter on the back of a bike, just the feel of power and control. The sense of trust required to be this comfortable. I recognized the streets we rode down, as it was a familiar path, but I knew Van was taking the long way around, extending the moments of just the two of us. Eventually he did pull up Infront of a memorable red painted building. The thrum of engine noise cut off making the night suddenly too quiet.
"I take it we are expected." It was more a statement of fact then question, removing my helmet and watching him mirror the action.
"Unless you'd rather go somewhere else." Van responded easily. For a moment I desired that more, to be alone with him. Since Prom we'd only been together a few times and I wanted more, but knew we had a lifetime for that. Running around like rabbits in spring would have been too much right then. It didn't mean I wanted the wild-haired man any less, but I was smart enough not to get lost in him.
"No, our luck is they'd come looking for us." Before I could turn towards the restaurant, he reached for me. I went willingly liking the almost possessive way he pulled me into his arms while still straddling the silent motorcycle.
Being wanted by him was a powerful feeling and I almost gave in and agreed to ride off without stopping into the diner, and the loud group waiting for us. The kiss was everything I ever wanted, barely contained promises and undisguised passion. To be closer I ended up with his knee between my thighs, one of my arms around his neck as the other still held my helmet down at my side. Tilting my chin to deepen the contact, Van's rough hands were gentle as they grazed up my sides just under the thin fabric of my shirt, returning the favor from earlier with interest.
He kissed me like I was the answer to any question, and I was pretty sure there was no wrong response. Unfortunately, before we could make a conscience effort to leave and find a place to be alone together, hopefully without the hinderance of clothing, a shout came from the diner.
"Gaddes get the hose," Allen's easily recognizable voice called with a note of laughter.
Reluctantly we did separate, and I stood between Van and the crowd so he could adjust himself before standing. We of course had to endure good-natured teasing about it throughout the celebration. As much as Van and I could stand together against the world it was nice to be included by the larger group. Even when Reeden loudly announce that we had been trying to keep the royal line alive in the parking lot.
Eventually I noticed Allen sitting off to one side of the group just watching with a wistful smile. I squeezed Van's hand before going to talk to the blond biker.
"Remembering your own graduation?" I asked taking a seat next to him and turning to watch Gaddes and the others try and convince Van to throw darts or more likely knives at an old battered target.
"No, I attended the graduation at Castello yesterday." Allen admitted almost grudgingly calling the military reform school his siblings attended by it's shortened name. "Both of them made it through, but it was touch and go for Dilandau for quite a while."
I understood what he meant. The silver haired boy never did like being told what to do, so a structured environment would only make him rebel farther. On the other hand, I wanted to ask about Celena, but the thought of seeing her more than a year and a half later still made me nervous. Somehow Allen read my anxiety.
"Don't worry they both enlisted in the Marine Corps and left for training this morning." Allen's voice held a mixture of pride and worry. Even if they'd been in town still, I would never expect the twins to come striding into the diner. This was a life they never tried to understand, and I felt sorry for the golden-haired man for feeling bad for being closer to this makeshift family then his own blood.
Van came over then and the conversation turned more towards mixed martial arts as the patch wearing man had similar training. As it turned out one of the masters, they learned from was the same. I admired the skill my boyfriend had, the way he moved with deadly grace when needed, but I never wanted to see these two guys fight. Something told me that Allen and Van would get so into the competition they'd become carried away.
Life settled into a routine after that. School and part-time jobs. I'd been right that Van and I would still be separated by our schedules, but we still made an effort to see each other. To save money we were still living at home and commuting to campus. After the first two years of College, where Van's reputation in the mixed martial arts world grew with each fight he won. He started to teach classes at a local gym several times a week, paying a little of his winnings to rent the space, but saving the rest for his own place.
Things were peaceful and happy. We had a date planed for the evening after one of his most publicized fights. I'd been waiting in the campus coffee shop for Van to come get me. A group of girls sat nearby circling a phone and chattering. I caught some of their conversation and knew exactly what it was or I should say who, they were watching.
"Do you see the way he moves?" One said awe in her voice.
"Look at his body, it's a shame those shorts are in the way." They all giggled at the raunchy comment.
"He's got a girlfriend though," Another lamented with a heavy sigh.
"Who?" The first asked leaning towards her friend for information.
"That short-haired girl who does all the track completions." She said in a rush, like she couldn't wait to tell them everything. "Apparently they've been together since High School."
"How boring," Said the one that had been talking about Van's body like he were a thing to be objectified, and not a sweet thoughtful guy who just happens to be a good looking fighter. "I bet he gets all sort of action after matches that little miss track star doesn't know about."
I couldn't stand it anymore. Sure, competing as he did made Van more visible to people, but I'd never get used to the assumptions that were made about him, and by relation me. Partly I wanted to walk over and tell those girls not to talk about thing they didn't know about, but it wouldn't help. I accepted the price of gaining a reputation the same as watch each of his fights even though they made me uneasy.
Needing air, I stepped outside to wait for the wild-haired guy those girls had been drooling over. If Merle where the one who'd overheard that conversation, she would have clawed the girl's eyes out. Taking another deep breath, I was thankful the feisty little sister wasn't nearby.
"Hitomi?" A voice questioned behind me. For a moment I feared one of the girls had noticed me and come out to ask questions about Van, it'd happened before. When I turned my heart began to thud painfully, sweat prickling along the back of my neck with sudden fear. Wavy platinum blond hair and familiar cornflower blue eyes took me back to junior year. Celena had aged the same as I had, but there was something unsure about how she stood that hadn't been there in the past. An awareness that approaching me might have been a bad idea.
"It's been a long time," I started trying not to let me unease show, but I just wanted to call Van for another handy rescue. What a terrible time for him to be late.
"I understand if you never wanted to see me again," Celena stated honestly. "For the last three years all I wanted to do was tell you I am sorry."
I relaxed a little, ready to hear her out at the least. "You hurt me really bad." My words coming out swiftly now, like they two had been waiting years to come out. "I trusted you as one of my best friends, but instead to abuse that relationship to try and force me into a bad situation is unforgivable. What would you have done to me if you'd caught up with me alone that night? Would you have hurt me when I explained there would never be an attraction between us? That violating my privacy was not just sadistic but also criminal?"
She didn't take a step back as I expected after coming under such a verbal assault. "I deserve all of that and more." Celena agreed her expression filled with shame, though she didn't seem to notice the crowd frowning at her from the bits of my tirade they'd caught walking past. People do love to watch a good train wreck.
"Then what do you want from me now?" I felt strangely lightheaded as if unloading all that weight on my heart had also been a physical thing.
"I guess to tell you that when I stopped to look at all the people, I hurt trying to get you to love me back I was disgusted with myself." She was right it had been about more than just me and her. Van, Millearna, Allen, and her team. The actions of one delusional mind sent ripples out through everyone that had cared for her. "That military school was the best thing that ever happened to me."
I was a little taken aback by the truth in her words and my ex-friend continued. "It was rough at first, but the structure was good for me. I was able to get help and form a bond with others like me. A few of us enlisted in the Marines together, and it was the family I always needed. I understand if you can't forgive me, but I wanted to thank you regardless."
The way she spoke about being in the military seemed like it was a new love after all. One that rewarded dedication, needed people who believed in the service, and created a lasting bond unlike any other. This was my real friend, not the obsessive girl she had become while chasing after me. There was something healing about all this. Venting all my old hurt and frustration had been one thing, but to know that it had ultimately been the best thing for her was something so much greater.
"I'm glad you're happy," I said honestly, and I meant it.
She smiled in that open carefree way I thought I'd never see again. The look turned a little sheepish before Celena said, "Can you do me a favor? Tell Van I'm sorry for everything. I put him through a lot too, things he didn't deserve."
"I will," I agreed quickly, knowing he wouldn't like that I'd spoken alone with Celena, but would understand that it had been a good thing after all. A thought popped into my head about how she hadn't said anything about her brother even though I knew he had joined with her. "Does that apology come from Dilandau too?"
Her expression darkened instantly at the mention of her brother's name. "No," After a hesitant pause she admitted, "Not everyone makes a good solider. Dilandau never could follow orders and he was brought up on charges recently. Insubordination, hazing, and physical assault against subordinated. He was discharged and didn't take it well."
In a way I wasn't surprised, but on the other hand I was mortified. "That's aweful."
Celena nodded quickly, pulled a slip of paper out of her pocket and wrote something down quickly. "Here it's my number," She held it out like a peace offering, "I don't need yours, just call me if you see Dilandau. Warn Van too, because for some reason my brother has a strange vendetta I don't want to see play out. He needs serious help."
At that I agreed and took her number. My old friend said another quick apology before saying good bye. She walked away from me with a lightness in her step and military pride in the way she carried herself. I was glad to see her find the right path, even if it took a few wrong turns to get there.
Her warning about Dilandau still fresh I worried about Van's still missing status. He was never this late, especially without letting me know ahead of time. Something in my stomach twisted sharply. What if he'd come across the angry albino? Celena had found me, what was saying that the other twin hadn't gotten to the raven-haired guy and not to say he was sorry.
With a slight shake in my hand I called Van and held the phone against my ear, listening to the continued ringing with growing dread. It went to voicemail. That only happened when Van was driving, he'd never answer while on the road. I waited a few minutes, because he normally pulled over to the side of the road and sent me a quick text if he missed a call, but nothing came.
Getting increasingly worried I did the only other thing that came to mind, I called Allen. We'd become closer friends over the last few years and I thought of the blond biker as an older brother. I knew he'd have an idea what could be keeping Van, or where to look.
Allen picked up after two rings and I told him about talking to Celena, Van being missing, and Dilandau out for revenge. His responses became shorter and more serious the longer I talked. He quickly agreed that him and a few others could ride out along the main roads the missing boy normally took, and let me know if anyone had seen him. I also promised to call off the search party the second Van arrived.
Waiting after that was nearly impossible, but there was nothing else I could do. I couldn't risk leaving the café and missing him. Yet I refrained from calling anyone else. The last thing Van would want would be for me to worry Merle and Folken. I tried to tell myself that he'd just gotten a flat or something and his phone had died. It was the only reasonable reason he'd be so late without contact.
About fifteen minutes after I'd gotten off the phone with Allen the man called me back. It felt like much longer. I quickly awnsered hoping that the fast turn around meant he found Van without issue.
"Hitomi," Allen's voice was unnaturally solemn. "It's Van, there has been an accident, and it's bad."
My heart must have stopped beating, because I couldn't hear anything else he said. With numb fumbling fingers I slid the phone into my pocket and did the only thing I could do without thinking. I ran.
To be Continued…
Okay I know I said this was done, but I got the idea from a review and the next thing I knew it had taken a mind of it's own. I know my non-American readers don't have the same school experiences and I tired to keep it neutral at first, but school dances are deeply ingrained here. The visual of Hitomi and Van on the beach standing in the water was a lot of fun to write, as was their sweet first time. I know they fought right after, but it was important they have at least one major spat.
This was supposed to be the epilogue and though it jumped through years in the correct way it also took on a mind of its own. There is one more addition yet to come so I'll take the completed off the story until that posts. Sorry for any confusion. I literally yelled at my muse today to leave finished stories alone, she didn't listen. Keep a lookout for the actual end, hopefully I can put this to bed for real very soon.