The letter read:
These are for you. I have seen you giving things away. But your right shoulder strap snapped yesterday, and your clothes are worn. You were telling me that “looking good feels good” and while I cannot attest to the efficacy of that as I do not feel it, I can say that you need to keep more money for yourself and your own upkeep instead of giving it all away, along with your potions and rings and things. It is not efficient.
Yes, I saw you the other day. Do not think I didn’t.
Aunne stared at the letter, atop its pile of bundled herbs, bits of glassware, and even clothing – and she realized her hands were shaking and she could not stand well and she thought maybe kneeling was a good idea because she didn’t want to fall over and so she did. It felt like a blow – but a blow made out of happy things, and she wished she could cry just to make all the feelings get out of her so she could think.
For the briefest of moments, he hand went up to the choker and its gem at its neck – she even reached around to the clasp that held it on, knowing that the cold would make things easier, that the feelings would be less, that it would … but then she dithered, and lowered her hands, and just let her shoulders hitch and let herself /feel/.
It was decadent as well as painful, but for a moment, she allowed herself to experience all of it.
“is it truly so difficult?” His draenic was amused, rolling, deep. She looked to where he stood – transparently – in the corner, and found herself smiling despite herself.
“Letting others care for you? You have learned to -give- love so easily – after much effort – why is it so hard to accept that others may love you?”
“I know they do. Cael, Ygraine, Elli. I am not so bad.”
“You know it. But you don’t accept it. You stay away from Etisyona so that she doesn’t feel like she ‘has’ to keep you from being lonely. You watch Cael from afar so you are not a ‘burden’. You visit Ygraine, but you have made a home for her so she can ‘grow’ without you, so you do not ‘harm’ her by keeping her away from people she can learn from. When is the last time you had tea with Esreiella or helped Zen with his explosions, just to be around them? Howabout finding Victor and just .. sitting and talking? Keleosha is your friend – and yet you do everything you can to stay away so you’re not a bother.”
“… it .. has been a while. But it’s alright – they’re busy, they..”
“Mm-hmm. That’s the night talking.” He crossed to her, soundlessly – his hooves did not even stir the dust in the small inn room. “You’re remembering how to give love – but you have to learn how to accept love as well. You have to come to remember you have worth and value, and that others caring for you is no anomaly. Like the girl.” He waved at the bed and the bounty of the package. “You are going to try to give all of this back.”
“Yes. She shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t?”
“No. She gave this to you because she saw what you needed, unbidden. This may be her first act of love born of her own conscience and impulses. She cares about you, however small a thing it may be for her. Accepting her gift is, in a way, accepting her feelings – how would you have felt if Cael had turned down our daughter’s clip, or if Elli had not let you fix her hair before the human-dance?”
“Aunnekeva, my heart – you have to let others love you. I did, but I can’t now. You can’t be whole again until you learn that you can be someone, no matter what you were, no matter what mistakes you make, that can be worthy of love.”
She felt his hand on her chin, and looked up – through his eyes, shivering – and she didn’t really understand why.
“I have hurt so many. I enjoyed it. I still do. It will never end. I am.. mad, I think. You aren’t here. You are one of the voices inside.” She screwed her eyes shut. “I miss you. Always.”
“I may be one of those voices, Aunnekeva – but who says I am not here? Or that I am not right? Go and see your new children. Spend time with them. You’ll see.”
She felt his touch fade – or perhaps it didn’t. But.. when she opened her eyes? He wasn’t there, and she thought that maybe she felt the warmth of his passing.
She didn’t notice the tears on her cheeks.