There was an excruciating amount of silence as Enzo set upon his bed waiting for some response from Mikaela. She had knocked lightly on his door, entered when he told her it was alright, but barely had spoken more than a few words. Something was wrong; something was always wrong, but she was not the type of girl to share her troubles.
When she finally did speak it was with a polite tone. Soft in nature, but without any hint of what she was feeling or thinking, “Nice Christmas sweater.”
“Do you really like it?” He asked while fixing his gaze upon her.
“Sure, it is alright.”
Enzo inwardly sighed. Despite the way she politely spoke the words he could tell she was not being truthful. Mikaela Raita had this little telling tick, “You lie as bad as my mother does. At least with her she can say it with a straight face.”
Caught in her fib she looked away. Apologetically she responded, “Forgive me, but would you seriously rather I tell you the truth and hurt your feelings?”
He smiled, “Oh, you think you are going to hurt my feelings. How cute. Tell me the truth, what do you think of my sweater?”
There was always an uneasiness about her when she had to tell the truth. Not because she liked lying, but because she hated being mean. Hurting someones feelings made her feel terrible as though she was the worst human being in the world just for being honest. It took some coaxing before she responded with, “It is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. Why are you wearing it?”
Enzo shrugged, “My mom bought it for me.”
“Ahh,” She responded uncharacteristically, “That makes sense.”
“What makes sense?”
“You are wearing that ugly thing because your mom got it for you.”
Enzo smiled from ear to ear. He could not help wondering how many times she had worn something she hated, simply because it was bought for her by someone, “That is not why I am wearing it.”
“You just said….”
He interrupted her quickly, “I said my mom bought it, I never said I am wearing it because she bought it for me.”
Her sigh was rather defeated as she responded, “Alright I will bite. Why are you wearing it?”
“My mom bought it.” There was an annoyed groan that followed which elicited a snorted laugh from Enzo, “Really, I am wearing it because my mom bought it and my dad will look at it, shake his head, and bite his tongue. He never bites his tongue except when it comes to my appearance.”
“That explains the hair color,” She retorted with an awkward smile as Enzo laughed harder.
Mikaela never shared his amusement. In fact, she hardly laughed and rarely smiled. Other than his mother and uncle Mikio he had never known a non-Tylo to be so apathetic. It was not as though she was devoid of any emotion. She could feel, but for some reason she chose to lock it all away. Perhaps because it was easier to give up her own desires. Enzo was not entirely certain the reasons and he hadn’t dared to ask.
He sighed as he looked toward the boxes and bags on the floor. For a while now he had been thinking crazy thoughts. At least he thought they were, but he had yet to vocalize them. Before her arrival, there had not been a single moment where he had not considered this one single affirming action. Enzo was certain he was over thinking it all and was prepared to push the thoughts aside on his own, but the sound of a text message coming in from her cellphone did that for him.
There was an unmoved expression upon her face and she turned away quickly. He was certain he knew who it was as he stood and towered over her. His hand resting to the top of her head, his arm on her shoulder. Truth was he hated prying. With most people he was respectful of boundaries, but with her he had failed a time or two at not crossing them.
“Your mom is really looking forward to seeing you.”
“It has nothing to do with me.” Her response was cold, “She just wants the illusion that we are a happy family celebrating Christmas. These things are always about her.”
“You hate Christmas that much huh?”
“It is not that. I like some things about it. Singing the First Noel and We Three Kings at the Church nativity performance. The coloring book and crayons my uncle always gave his nieces and nephews. The way my mom would throw her Christmas gift in the fireplace because it got lost in the wrapping paper. Then, I grew up and it became about smiling and pretending. There is no joy this time of year.”
As she tucked her phone in her pocket, Enzo wrapped his arm around her shoulders. His face rested to her head a moment before he spoke the words, “Then tell her no. My family would welcome you.”
Not surprising she responded with, “I can’t.” Truth was Enzo knew she would say no. Even if she wanted to go, it was always her response. There were things she did not say, but he knew. Mikaela was hiding her very soul. His mother had told him once that there were people like this. That no matter how many walls you broke down they were able to put a hundred back up in their place. Never would you see their soul bare.
“Well, I guess I should give you your Christmas present then seeing we will not see each other for a couple of weeks.”
Her tone was slightly annoyed, “We agreed that we were not getting each other anything.”
“I know, but I wanted to get you something,” He responded as he led her toward the sofa in his dorm room. Once seated he picked up a box from the floor and offered it to her. At first she did not open it. “It is alright. I promise I did not spend a bunch of money or anything,” Enzo tried to encourage.
Awkwardly she peeled the paper away. His eyes remained fixed on her and the unmoved expression. When she finally managed to get the present open she said nothing at first. “Thank you,” She stated as she set the bottle of perfume upon his table and then lifted the little paper crane from the box.
She had asked him several times over the past couple of years when he was going to make her one. Never once did they discuss the significance of the little paper bird. Her fingers lightly ran along the wings of the crane before placing it upon the table.
As much as he wanted to know if she liked it, he forced himself not to ask. Instead, he shifted his body around and rested his head to her lap. “Want me to call my parents and tell them I am going with you …”
Enzo was quickly cut off, “No. My mother needs more notice for guest. Besides, you have not seen your parents in a couple of years. I am sure they would miss you dearly if you skipped out.”
“They would understand,” He stated flatly, “But this is not about them or your mother is it? You do not have to feel guilty if I do not go. If I stay it is because I want to and my parents would completely get it.”
There was a long drawn out silence that followed his words. It almost felt as though she was not going to respond until she finally said, “Thank you tiger. That means a lot, but really. It is alright.”
It was an exhausting flight and then a long train ride to the mountain cabin that he was going to spend the holiday. His parents had already arrived and he met his father at the end of a long path. His bags could wait; he was much more interested in getting inside the warmth of the cabin.
They didn’t discuss the things normal people would. How is school? How was your flight? “Shiano would like to continue your training when you are finished with school. Your mother and I understand that by societal standards you are considered a man, but the two of us are concerned about leaving this decision in your hands at such a young age.”
“It is alright. You do not need to justify your reasons. I only just turned twenty-one. One hundred and seventy-nine years will go by rather quickly I think. So, I am not really concerned. I trust that you and mom are looking out for my well-being.”
“She told me you would say that,” His father responded with a sigh. “I almost wish you would be a little more rebellious.”
Enzo glanced away from his father as they continued to walk, “Lord Nakamaru is a powerful chalta. I feel somewhat honored that he requested to instruct me. I have been told that mastering the great void will take many lifetimes and excessive amounts of discipline; honestly, it is probably better for everyone if I am not rebellious.”
Enzo really could not tell if his father intended to say anything. There was a moment of silence that followed as they walked along the path and then a sudden breathe with the stern words of his mother, “Kuro of the Ishi.” There was a noticeable grimace from his father which made Enzo chuckle inwardly, “It is cold out are you trying to get the two of you sick?”
His father managed to compose himself quickly while closing the distance. “Are you going to scold me further or say hello to our son?” It was clear by the way they embraced that they were in love even after all of these years. “If I recall right…” His father added, “The only person in this family that ever gets sick is you.”
“I do not need a lecture from you Kuro of the Ishi.” His mother responded as she teased his father and dismissed the moment rather quickly. “Come on you two. Let’s get inside and get you warmed up.”
In some ways it felt like he had never left. His mother did not wrap her arms around him and hold him for hours. She simply gave him a kiss on the check, welcomed him home to Aslann, then sent him upstairs to get some rest. It was normal and yet it felt like something was missing.
As he descended the stairs the next morning that feeling felt stronger. Maybe it was screaming at him because he could hear his mother and father talking in the kitchen.
“I am just saying it feels as though he does not want to be here,” His fathers voice said sternly. “This girl…do I need to intervene?”
“And do what exactly?” His mother questioned.
“I don’t know. Have some sort of talk….”
Teasingly Tationy responded, “I believe you already had that talk.”
“Actually if I recall right he gave me that talk,” Kuro said with a sigh.
His mother laughed very briefly, then a noticeable change came to her tone, “Enzo is an intelligent Ishi man. He is not foolish or reckless. However, he does suffer from the same over thinking his father does. There is nothing wrong with how he is handling things, but…”
“You think he is moving too slowly,” His father responded knowingly.
Enzo leaned against the wall and listened to his parents. It was not as though they were saying anything he had not thought himself. When his mother spoke he inwardly sighed, “I think he is trying desperately not to burden her with even more expectations she cannot live up to because when she falls….and she will fall, he does not want to be the reason.”
“Does he love her?”
“Her soul is still a mystery to him so it is not a question that can be answered.”
“Do you think he loves her?”
There was a deep somberness to the silence that followed his father’s question. The fact that his mother had not simply answered told Enzo that she was peeling back the veil to find the answer of his heart. There was some irritation at the invasion of privacy, but it quickly faded when his mother responded with, “Maybe you should ask him that question seeing he is listening.”
Enzo pushed away from the wall and stepped toward the archway that led into the kitchen. His father’s attention fell upon him. The truth was, Enzo did not really intend to have this conversation with either of them. Not until he made a decision one way or another.