Begin Again: Part Four
What Was Lost
Hedera takes a deep draught from a stein full of cider. Lukirri leans over the counter, patient for once.
Deep bags hang under Hedera’s eye. She lowers the stein, ruggedly wipes her face; and once again spends several seconds chugging at it. She spent twenty minutes eating nonstop when she first awakened – her baggy clothes do nothing to hide the thinness she gained while she was out. Lukirri shudders. What was happening to her?
“Done?” Lukirri asks.
The two stare at each other deeply for a long moment. Hedera blinks, focused. She suddenly seems confident and a little daring. Certainly a far cry from the meek, almost socially-crippled girl Lukirri met just two days prior.
But there’s another change. Hedera seems to know Lukirri. Closely.
“Sit down.” She waves to a barstool. “You have some of this figured out. But you don’t know everything. Not… not yet.”
“I lived in the Haunted Woods for years while undergoing my training to become a witch. After my apprenticeship was complete, I started doing various high-paying magical odd jobs, with hopes of moving somewhere… quieter. As you can see, I accomplished that goal. I’ve been living here for several months.”
“Not exactly sure this is quieter, with all the windiness and stuff. But… I get what you mean. Go on.”
“I moved because I felt like I’ve spent my entire life trying to get away from something. For the longest time I knew it was the Woods. I assumed I was cursed to be bound to the Woods by my own dark magic. That because I was a witch who dealt in shadows – who was a shadow – I couldn’t go anywhere without being associated with shadows, and evil, and one seriously messed-up land. I experienced this prejudice many, many times. Nearly every time I interacted with somebody who wasn’t from the Woods, in fact. As I experiencing plenty of corruption in the Woods itself, I found that the prejudice was justified.
“So I left to live alone. I couldn’t be at peace in the Woods; I couldn’t be at peace out of the Woods. The Woods was in me and it was too late to get it out. I could just be alone, work alone, and go down to the Woods when I had to. I thought I was getting away from everything.
“My plan didn’t work.”
Hedera takes another sip of her cider.
“I became aware of a burning shame all around me. I sat up at night with my own shattered memories. You see, I… wasn’t born in the Haunted Woods. I did something, when I was a child, because I had to. I couldn’t help it and it wasn’t a crime in and of itself… but all these years, I’ve neglected to make it right. And that is where my sin lies.”
Hedera stares intensely at Lukirri.
“I screwed up. I felt too much a sinner to ever right it, up to about a week ago. I’d have to make amends for years of neglect, rather than a single cowardly move. So I wouldn’t fix it. I couldn’t live with myself anyways. The most I could do was choose to become someone else.
“So I left a trap in a dandelion field, to rob the memories of whoever unlucky, innocent person I stole away the entire life of, and trap those memories in a gem. A peasant would vanish from the nearby village forever, no biggie, and I could enjoy, hopefully, a nice long life of happy memories. Never again would I think of my burning loneliness, the prejudices I faced, or that worst day ever so, so long ago.”
Hedera cracks a pained smile. "You know now that was you. But… I never imagined I would pull my own sister into it."
"Sister?!" Lukirri backs up. Her wings rise up in stiff shock; her tail curls defensively over her legs.
"I thought I would be able to spend the next portion of my life dormant in my bed, as I lived through someone else’s memories of a normal, happy life. But I barely had to scan your memories to realize that your life and mine had six years of overlap, and your worst day ever was the same day as mine.
“I discovered I could not live through your memories without going through my pain from a different, possibly even more painful perspective. I found out it was a lasting, gouging pain that went far beyond that terrible day. And all that from just a glance into your past. Your pain for me was nearly a defining part of who you were, Lukirri. That's how strong it had to be to shine through like that.
"And that is why I quickly withdrew from your memories. I knew I couldn't bear the pain. I couldn't bear to lie and watch as I realized slowly, horribly that someone else not only suffered as much as I did that day, but suffered forever after for me.” Hedera sets down her cider mug. “It was a blow on many levels. I always thought in terms of poor me, poor me, poor me.” Hedera shakes her head with a laugh. “…I realized that I’m not the only person capable of feeling pain. When I left you, I always assumed that you lived happily ever after, but… well… somebody who looks and seems very, very happy can hide a great burden indeed.”
Hedera folds her arms onto the counter and sets her head down on them in rest.
“When I found out that you mourned for me, I was shocked. I’m sorry I left you for so many years, Lukirri. You must have wondered so many times what became of me, after the village found out I had dark magic and drove me out. I could have returned any time I wanted, after I became capable of using that magic to defend myself, but I didn’t.
“I had years to visit you. But I chose to forget. I hid all the mistakes of that day, never going back to fix them. And for that… I am truly sorry.
“And look where we are now.” Hedera places her hands on Lukirri’s shoulders. "Out of my selfishness, I took all you had of me. All you had of you. Maybe I didn't remember what our life together was like, and that was my own mistake… But I should never have taken your life away too."
"But the past few days have been our life together."
Hedera's shoulders slump. "You're so cheerful. You get to look ahead. You barely care about your past. But the truth remains that we had a life together before now. Maybe it was when we were children and maybe it didn't last long, but it was there and now I've ruined it. You thought of me every day, always wondering what happened to me. You mourned me deeply. Now, we’ve lost everything. We can make amends, but we will never remember what was lost.”
"Don't you have memories of us?"
"If you ever once thought of me -- spared me a single fleeting look back -- I didn't return the favor. I didn't just forget about you. I forgot you. Sometimes I remembered that I had a sister. But… I forgot your name. Hard to forget any more than that.”
With every word Hedera says, Lukirri feels stricken.
She turns away, hugging her arms. She wanted to find her memories. But she also found the sad truth behind them – Hedera and her story.
“I chose to forget. Chose to let everything slip away from me. Chose to give up, chose to be a coward again and again. And that’s almost as bad as what I chose to do to you just a few days ago.”
Lukirri reaches around her neck and pulls off the Lupe tag necklace. It is blank except for her name. “My memories are gone for good now. But I don’t care if they led me to you. If you’re my sister… I’d rather build a life with you than remember missing you. I don’t care what you did, if it’s reunited us.”
Hedera takes off her hat. “How can you forgive me? I’m the one who did this to--“
“I don’t care. I know the truth about myself. And I know the truth about you now – something I never had before. This is enough for me to live with.”
Hedera takes the necklace from Lukirri, staring at it sadly. She gets something out of a drawer, fiddles with the necklace for a moment, and hands it back to Lukirri. Now the necklace has not just one charm, but two. The old one with straggly green feathers, but also one with fresh purple ones.
“I gave you that necklace as a kid. We must have been best friends.” Hedera puts the necklace around Lukirri’s neck for her and rests her clawed hands on Lukirri’s shoulders. "Lukirri, I vow to protect you. I will nurture you this time. I will help you find your place in this world. I will finally earn the right to say I'm your sister… and if I fail, I will be able to say I have tried with every ounce of my being. I soiled our past -- it lies on my shoulders to make sure we have a future."
Lukirri grabs Hedera's hand. "Then let's do it. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
Hedera finally casts her eye up to Lukirri's gaze.
"We can be sisters,” Lukirri whispers.
And then, slowly, Hedera smiles. "And we can do it right this time."
Hedera says she may know a way for Lukirri to recover a few of her memories. Not much, but whatever Hedera failed to steal.
“Think you can find the stem of that dandelion?” Hedera asks, mounting her broomstick. A cool breeze whistles overhead.
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. And that’s all that matters.” Lukirri spreads her wings.
The two take off effortlessly. Hedera flies straight ahead, and Lukirri has little trouble soaring after her in this kind weather. They fly over the mountains and down into warm, rolling hills. Lukirri is hit with a sense of nostalgia. I guess you don’t have to remember very far back to reminisce.
Hedera leans to the right, panning closer to the ground. Lukirri dives to do the same.
They land. Lukirri isn’t sure if this is the place. She stands up and looks around. This field feels like the same one she found herself in seemingly so long ago, standing alone with her thoughts, blowing on a dandelion. But there were so many identical fields surrounding her that she doesn’t know if this could possibly be the same one. She flops over in defeat.
And her clawed hand comes around a wilted, mangled dandelion stem.
She leaps upright. With a wave to Hedera, she straightens up the stem, exhales, and begins to breathe in.
Hedera, standing on a hill just opposite, quickly remembers to play her part. She flicks her wand outwards, sending a dazzle of purple magic towards Lukirri. The dandelion stem glows purple. And then, it straightens itself out.
Finally, dandelion seeds from the distance wind in, as though backwards, and land perfectly on the stem. They coat the tip completely. It’s like Lukirri never blew on the dandelion at all.
Lukirri kneels and plants it back in the ground. She doesn’t have to go back in time to tell: This is the very spot where she lost her memories.
But what is back?
Lukirri closes her eyes. She feels… nothing. She frowns.
“It seems you have a new look.” Hedera approaches, carrying her broomstick behind her back. “…I think some of the dandelion fuzzies missed you.”
Confused, Lukirri unfolds one wing to look at it. Sure enough, her bright greens are flecked with snowy spots.
“Do you remember anything?”
“No, I don’t.”
“It may take some time. Or… maybe I truly robbed you blind, and there’s nothing to reclaim.” Hedera shivers.
Lukirri suddenly looks up. “Don’t say that. We’re sisters this time, okay? Neither of us will have any more stealing, running or mourning.” She rests her head on Hedera’s shoulder. “The bad is over. Let’s begin again.”
Author’s Note: Six years of writing and this is the first series I’ve successfully written about my own Neopets! Lukirri is Lukirri, but Hedera’s name is actually koko_25529. Wanted to throw that out there in case anybody wanted to look the two up. The sisters spend most of their time on side accounts, but I’ll try and keep them together ;)