Hi there, sorry this comes out late. I was not satisfied with it so I make massive corrections on it. I’ll try to be on time on the next one. Hope you all enjoy it!
“Are you fine with it?”
My question seems to catch Vert off guard.
“You seem to love this place. I’ll feel bad if you keep putting my needs over yours.”
Vert smiles wryly. “There’s no need for you to feel bad. I did what I did because I want to. But you’re right; I don’t want to leave before we actually live in here. Let’s see how it goes first. We can consider moving out if it’s not working for us.”
“That’s—“ another booming sound, “—a good idea,” I manage to say, but my eyes twitch and Vert notices it. She smirks.
“It seems like you need to get used to the sounds first. Don’t worry. It won’t take long,” she assures, patting my back with an abnormal amount of force. I just laugh along and say nothing.
I really hope we will be fine, living this close to two threats.
In the end we never move out. We grow attached to the mansion and find living there unexpectedly fun and comfortable. Vert falls in love with the garden further as she tends it while the mansion’s wall and ceiling paintings capture my attention. Their damaged state bothers me and I start taking my brush to fix it whenever I’m idle or taking a rest from researching on how to go back home.
“You like painting?” Vert asks one day. She is taking a rest in the dining room where I am working on a mural depicting a princess, accompanied by her entourage of ladies in waiting, reaching out to pat a white pegasus. The colors are warm, like it was shined by invisible sunset, and they blend well with the rest of the dining room’s cream colored wallpaper.
“Yes, I did.”
Vert raises an eyebrow.
“I used to love painting, but due to some…incidents, I grow to fear it.”
“If you’re scared, then why are you painting now?”
My brush freezes in midair as I stop to consider the question for the first time.
“Maybe because I don’t have anything else to do. I’ve read or walked around the mansion and garden to fill time, but my hands are just itching for some activity.” I take a glance at the pegasus I am working on, noticing the color slightly getting over the line, and add with a sheepish smile, “I’m out of practice though.”
“But this is pretty good. How can you draw so well?” Vert asks enviously. That’s just asking me to tease her.
“It’s love, dear sister.”
Vert gives me the look.
“Okay, it’s mostly practice and a good teacher. My mother is a good painter and a superb make-up artist.”
“Make-up artist?” Vert blanches like it is the most disgusting profession ever. Figures this Vert would have an allergic reaction to anything feminine too.
“Not what you imagined. Besides beautifying, her make up is very useful in—” how do you explain movies to someone who’ve never seen TVs? “—epic theatre plays and such. She can make the young look old, transform someone plain to ethereally beautiful or disgustingly ugly, create fake wounds and burn marks that look so real that someone mistook it for a real wound, and the best: make an animal mask that looks so realistic even though she doesn’t use real animal skin or hair.”
By the end of my explanation, Vert looks at me with intrigue and wonder.
“That sounds amazing. Can you do the same? It will be useful if we have to hide next time.”
“Urk. Why didn’t I think about that?” I mumble.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing. Just berating myself. To answer your question, I know some basics, but not like my mother’s level because it involves some sculpting skills. If I try making a figure of this pegasus, it will end up like this.“
I show Vert my clay eraser, the one I fiddled with this morning. It looks like a balloon-shaped cow.
Vert pats me sympathetically on the shoulder.
“You better stick to drawing, brother.”
I shake my head. “No. I won’t give up.”
Vert gives me a look that she reserves for someone taking a futile quest and consoles me.
“It’s alright. Everyone has weaknesses. My real brother is a great dancer, but sucks at singing.”
Now that is something I can’t picture, because my body control is abysmal.
“Really? I bet he looks like a spinning duck when he dances.”
I don’t know how it started, but every time we talk about our real siblings, we turn it into a bragging competition. Now is no different.
“Of course not. He’s the best, even better than the court dancers. While you—“ Vert pokes my chest “—and your sister may be the spinning duck.”
“I am,” I admit right away. “But Ver is no spinning duck.”
I have started calling my real sister Ver to avoid confusion. It’s her nickname anyway, so it’s quite easy to switch.
The Vert in front of me raises an eyebrow in a challenging manner.
“Oh, why is that?”
“Because she’s no duck. She’s a graceful beast—tearing through the field like a cheetah, intercepting opponents like a bolt out of the blue, untouchable even when there are five people crowding around her. I know you’re strong, but I bet you can’t move as fast as her.”
I realize my mistake when I see a glint in Vert’s eyes as she flexes her well toned arms. Damn. How could I forget that this is the girl who can jump down three stories while carrying me with one hand? I shouldn’t have mentioned anything about physical prowess.
“Wanna find out?” Vert asks as she steps forward.
“Does that involve you hurting me?” I ask back, half-conscious of my own feet taking a step back.
Instead of answering, Vert shoots an arm to my face, and I reflexively bring my hands up to stop them.
Only to discover I am still holding my wall-paint palette.
Vert’s hand hit the palette and both of us shout for different reasons.
Vert’s hand is now covered with paint and my palette is now two palletes. It’s a disaster for both of us because Vert needs her hand clean for handling the herbs and while I only have one palette that I can hold comfortably for a long time.
“Why did you put that up?? My hand will smell like paint now!”
“Don’t blame me! You’re the one who attacked so suddenly! Besides, you better wash that fast. The smell will last for days if the paint stuck on your skin.”
Vert curses as she runs to the sink. I sigh and go looking for two clean rags. When I find them I dab one rag on the paint thinner and wet another with clean water. Then I approach Vert, who is scrubbing her hand furiously under the cold water.
“Come on, let me clean that up for you.”
Vert turns and shows her hands to me. I dilute the unwashed paint with the thinner soaked rag, then wipe it off with the water soaked rag. I work carefully, making sure there’s no paint left in nooks and crannies or under her nails. Then I move to her face, where some paint has splattered on her cheeks and nose. I can’t help but chuckle when I start dabbing rag on her face.
“What’s so funny?” Vert asks, half curious and half offended. She thinks I’m laughing at her situation.
“Nothing. It’s just…this kinds of reminds me of Ver. She always comes back home covered with mud, and she always forgot to clean up her face. I have to clean it up for her because she’ll plant that face on my sheets and pillows.”
Suddenly I was struck with homesickness. I want to see them. Mom, dad, Ver, Azure, Aureolin, Tenne, our neighbor grandpa Cor…even Illey. What are they doing right now? Illey I can guess easily. He must be happy that he finally got rid of me. But the rest…
I shake my head and focus on cleaning up the paint. There’s no merit thinking about it. I have no way of knowing and it does nothing to change my situation. Worse, it drives me crazy because once I start thinking, I’ll come back to that vague memory of Ver’s funeral.
“Don’t you want to go back?”
My hands stop moving. So my feelings shows on my face, huh?
I resume dabbing her cheeks as I answer, “I still want to, but probably not as much as before.”
Vert gives me a questioning look, so I elaborate.
“I’ve thought about it long before you asked. I miss my family, friends, and even my bully a lot. I want to lay on my own bed, playing games my own sister watching beside me. I want to eat my mom and dad’s cooking. I want to hang around with my friends and go to school with them. I had it all planned, you know? Getting rid of my fear, live normally like before, and maybe make peace with my old friend—eventually.
“But I don’t remember what happened to me before waking up, except for flashes of my sister’s death. And the more I thought about it, the more scared I become. What happened after that? What if something even worse happened? I mean, whatever events that led me to be chased by military and forget about it must not be good, right?”
Vert laughs at that.
“What’s so funny?” I ask, offended that she’s laughing at my deepest concerns.
“I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect that you and I are actually in a similar situation.”
“Similar situation as in beside the fact that we are fugitives?”
“Yes, regarding our real siblings. I mentioned before that my brother was missing, right?” I nod. “You’re wondering if your real sister is really dead while I am wondering if he’s still alive or not. I find it funny that I didn’t notice this faster.”
She’s right. Why didn’t we notice it faster? Perhaps dad is right. Sometimes talking about your problems with other people can give us new perspective.
“In any case, I can see why you think it’s better to stay here and let forgotten memories stay forgotten. I wish I could do that too.”
Now that’s surprising. Vert is strong. Sure she looks sad sometimes, but what can be so bad that she want to forget it?
I start making guesses. I don’t think it’s about her brother, so it must be something else. It comes up easily enough.
“Do you want to forget your time as a soldier?” Vert never straight out said if she worked in the army as a soldier, but she left enough hints to deduce.
Vert closes her eyes to allow me cleaning her eyelids. “More than that. I want to forget I am a soldier. I can’t stop wondering if my friends are alright.”
Apprehension dawns upon me. I often catch Vert looking towards the nearby base when we can hear the sounds of battle. It must be torturing her conscience—her enjoying an easy life while her friends are betting their lives out there, close by, every day. If I were her I’d want to forget too.
Vert doesn’t disagree with me like usual. She keeps silent and still as I finish cleaning up her face. Gradually, a calm and peaceful atmosphere settles between us. Vert seems to enjoy the feeling of rags wiped on her face, eyes closed like a cat being groomed, while I find the simple task of cleaning surprisingly soothing. I can’t help but chuckle at the thought. Dad is right. It takes a little to be happy.
But how much longer can we enjoy this peace?