Hyleigh lay barefoot under a canopy of trees, feeling the grass between her toes and soaking in the warmth from the dappled sunlight against her face. It was Autumn in the Twelveswood, and the cool breeze was a far cry from the seasonless heat she’d grown accustomed to when she’d lived in Thanalan. The air held a hint of the chill that would arrive in the coming weeks, but she felt warmth spread through her chest and she smiled. Perhaps Gridania was indeed good for her health, like her mother insisted.
She could almost nap here—almost. She couldn’t stop thinking about Augustine. In the past two years, she’d forgotten how distracting he was, how his letters had a way of playing over and over in her mind—how he always kept her wondering.
That morning, she’d sat on the swing on her mother’s front porch, her legs pulled under her and a cup of hot tea in hand. Strewn beside her were his letters, not just the ones the delivery moogle had brought yesterday but also the ones she’d saved—the ones from before. It felt odd. She hadn’t read them in so long she could swear the ink on them was fading. It wasn’t, of course. It was her memory that was fading. Why had he said that? What had she said to him to prompt this? There were so many letters—years worth.
She sighed and took a sip from her cup, and above the rim she noticed movement beside her. Her mother. She set the cup down on the table next to the swing a little too quickly, and she spilled it. She ignored that, though, and set about gathering up the letters and hiding them behind her back.
“Good morning, Mama.” Hyleigh held her breath.
“Good morning. I was wondering where you’d gone.” Hyleigh scanned her face but saw only relief. Relieved herself, Hyleigh released the air she’d been holding.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“I’ll always worry, Hyleigh. I’m your mother.”
“Well then, thank you.” Affection for her mother washed over her. “I’ve missed you.”
Her mother smiled, her advanced years showing in the wrinkles at the corners of her mouth.
“I’ve missed you, too. I never feel right when my children aren’t home.”
Hyleigh nodded as her mother went back into the house. Living with her was going to require some adjustments.
She turned and collected the letters, held them on her lap. She fingered the tops of the pages, glancing at the first few words of each. She selected one of the newer ones and began reading through it—again.
It’d always taken her days of reading and re-reading to understand what Augustine was trying to say. He was verbose, and she could never see the emotion through his words. It was like he was writing to her in a different language, and it was too easy to assume the worst. These newer letters were no exception. She’d come to realize, however, that she’d misread his words. He hadn’t said she had no right to be shy.
She leaned against the back of the swing, resting her head on it and looking up at the crossbeams that supported the overhang. Was she to blame? Had she been too sensitive? Had he been just any man, his words wouldn’t have hurt her so badly. It was only because she’d let him inside, told him her secrets, that she couldn’t just roll her eyes and laugh it off. The very things that caused her pain were the very things he’d said.
Of course, he thought she was a liar. He’d told her as much. But now, after all this time, she couldn’t remember which secret he’d been referring to. Her mind was muddled. And she couldn’t understand anything in these new letters. Several times she’d thought she had, but another reading made it clear she hadn’t.
Why am I putting myself through this? I have the serum. This is what it’s for, so that I ignore these letters.
She’d told her therapist about the letters. Her therapist told her it wasn’t possible that she was receiving correspondence from the Warrior of Light. It must be a trick. Take this serum. Forget about him. Hyleigh had done as she’d been instructed, and she did forget. But she’d been left with a hole in her heart. She didn’t want to feel that anymore, so she’d just have to keep reading these letters and try to make some sense of them.
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