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SCENE 9 – Reminiscences III

In that cold and chill evening, the river ice was damp and hazy as the sky grew faint, and Utena was skating in her new pearl shoes, with the graceful glide in the skates as they skirted the surface. She wondered about what it must have looked like for Spike, that field of his dreams. Oh, she could only imagine with the sunset – the sunset she was living in seemed all too dreary and hazy under the winter clouds. If it were summer otherwise, the sun would be vivid in the blue sky.

She recalled one summer in this field where she went on a hot air balloon, and it felt like the basket was lifted by a giant, invisible hand, and when her papa carried her up, she saw the panorama of everything below – the people who were tiny, the flowing river, and the other distant places all over.

Is that what it was like, that sort of magic Utena felt in Spike's words?

Then a thought hit her; oh no..! Why didn't Utena think of it earlier – she'd forgot to ask Spike what town he was moving to! She wanted to slap herself for that. Now she might never get to see him again..

"Utena, I will remember you always."

Her skates skirted the edge of the river, and came to a stop.

It was Faye, sitting down by the riverside, idly observing the people skating on the bank, her breath spilling out visibly – she looked quite plain compared with when she was skating with Spike, but still her unpolished face showed a hint of that beauty. She glanced at Utena. "Hmm? Is there anything?"

Utena gulped; for a moment she forgot what to say as her throat choked up. Then, "Do you know where Spike's going?"

Faye perked her head. "Who..? Wait a minute.. are you Utena?"

"How do you know?"

"He mentioned you a few couple times. A girl, with flowery pink hair, and beautiful eyes. That's you, I suppose. You're really cute."

Utena blushed at her remark.

"Did he tell you he was leaving for.. what'cha call it, painting?"

"Which city is he going to?"

"I think he said it was Victoria."

"Where's Victoria?"

"It's by the west side of Canada," Faye said.

That ripped at Utena, and made her wither inside. Spike was her first love, and Utena knew somehow that love wasn't just anything that could be found around the next corner, and now he would be gone forever from her life, and it was just too utterly, heartwrenchingly unbearable. So Utena began to cry, for herself,for her pain. It was dark now, and the winds were picking up, the drifting snowflakes catching on her cheeks.

And then she felt a tender hand on her cheek.

"You love him, don't you?" Faye asked.

Utena didn't say anything; she just gave the slightest of nods. So Faye gave her wristwatch a peer. "It's 6:25," she went. "Spike will be boarding the train to the airport at around 7:00. Are your parents around?"

Utena didn't seem to understand – then it dawned on her what Faye was wanting to do. Her tears abated, replaced by a spark of anticipation in her eyes.

"They're at home. They're expecting me back by nighttime," she said.

"Well, okay." Faye brushed aside her snow-sprinkled hair. "I was hoping I could talk with them about it beforehand.. I just don't want to keep your parents waiting for you."

Utena paused. Suddenly there was a great anxiety blossoming – Faye was right, Utena didn't want to make her parents worry. She felt pinned to a great crossroads. It was her once-in-a-lifetime chance, her only chance – just to see Spike one more time. And if she missed it..

"We'll barely make it in time as it is," Faye said. "Weather report says there'll be a huge snowstorm tonight. The traffic's going to be slow."

If Utena missed her chance, she'd never be able to forgive herself. It would torture her forever.

"I want to see Spike," Utena said at last.

Faye nodded. "Alright. Come with me, I'll drive you."

Thus, Utena dawdled after Faye's hurried steps to the parking lot nearby, every footstep feeling woozy to her – where Faye found her grey car covered with a layer of snow. "Damnit.." She unlocked the doors for Utena to get inside, got into the driver's seat, and started the car's engine – so the heaters could warm the inside.

"I gotta wipe the windows, it'll only be a second," Faye said. "Just hang tight for me, okay?"

"Sure." Utena found the seatbelt a little tight for comfort, and the inside smelling like beef noodles and cigarettes, but nothing compared with Faye swiping away the snow with a brush – nothing compared with the anxiety of going to the train station, with this stranger, with telling Spike goodbye once they've arrived. Faye almost seemed like another, a haphazard, more way cooler mother to her; the thought of it was sorta tingly.

Once Faye had the windows cleaned (you could just see how the snow was falling in spades) – she got back into the car, and drove it out onto the streets.

The orange lamplights came and went, lighting the seats in bursts with shifting shadows. Snow and fog polluted the outside like layers and layers of curtains overlaid one another. Each second passed - the windshield wipers swishing left and right - and the air felt more and more like an invisible cage, shrinking around Utena, choking her beating heart. Utena's parents would take her to the train to see family friends on the other side of the city – she'd been to the station before, but in this weather she could hardly recognize any landmarks that gauged for her how far away that station was.

The car clock read 6:37 PM.

"How do you know Spike?" Utena asked, breaking the silence.

"Besides being skating partners? Hardly. We've met with the same coach, but otherwise, I work as a seamstress usually. I make dresses. Cool, eh? Did you get to see me dance in the events?"

"I was very jealous of you," Utena admitted. "You were so pretty on TV, and you got to skate all those moves with him."

"I'll take that as a complement. Also, did you see my butterfly wings? They were my idea. I made both our outfits. It was great."

Suddenly, the car skidded to a stop. There were a line of cars congested on the road ahead. You could hear the announcement echoing, "Due to heavy snow and car collisions, all transport is currently being delayed. We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience and we ask you to bear with us while waiting." It didn't seem like they'd be moving anytime soon, this way.

"Damn," Faye said. "You better hang on Utena, because I'm about to make a detour." And before Utena wondered what a detour meant, Faye swerved her car all the way to the right, going off the road and suddenly careening down a hill, the car rumbling as it half-skids, and its tail end swerving sideways, until the car wound up at the bottom of the hill, where it happened to be the edge of a neighbourhood.

It felt like a much more intense sled ride. ("This is Captain Faye speaking, I hoped you enjoyed the brief turbulence.")

Then Faye drove the car onto proper road, a cul-de-sac, and drove her way out onto the main streets again.

It was 6:56 PM when the station came into view. Faye didn't want to lose more time looking for space in the station parking lot, so she left her car by the curb instead and hope no one would notice.

After getting out, Utena could hear the departure bell ringing from the station. Faye led Utena by the hand and they both ran as fast as their legs could carry them, into the station entrance. They passed by the passengers ordering their tickets by the booths, running through the hallway and up a flight of stairs to the platform where the Eastbound train was.

The wind was very strong there, and the train's passengers couldn't wait any longer to get on board. By then, Utena and Faye were out of breath, having to stop themselves for a rest. Utena looked up from her knees, and she managed to catch glimpse of Spike amongst the passengers, before he mingled inside.

The departure bell rang one more time.

Utena summed up the last of her energy, and hurried after that train car which held Spike. "Wait..!" she panted, brushing by someone. "Wait.. wait!"

And briefly, when she managed to advance ahead of the train – she saw his face, staring out the window wistfully at the place beyond places.

Then all too briefly, his eyes connected with hers – Utena wanted to stretch Time itself to make it last.

Then, Utena slipped. A patch of ice on the platform, and she'd slipped – falling onto her tummy. It hurt. Moreso because it felt like she'd been torn away from that moment.

When she looked up, her breath huffing out, she saw the train fade away into the darkness, amidst the electrical poles standing bare, and the tracks that led to a place so inaccessible, out of her life's reach.

Goodbye.. Spike.

A bittersweet smile hung on Utena's lips.

/

"Utena, I'm sorry I didn't bring you to him any sooner," Faye said, as she was driving Utena home. "I should have driven faster, what with this freak snowstorm and everything. I'm sorry.."

"Don't be sorry," Utena said. "I managed to say goodbye to him. Spike saw me through the window, because after all, you helped me get to the station. Thank you."

"Really?" Faye was awestruck. "I thought you'd wanted a better goodbye, one where you'd get to talk with him."

"Just seeing him one more time was enough. I'm happy, Faye."

"Always glad to know that. Ahh.. being part of someone's happy ending pleases me."

Utena had told her she lived just near that field they'd left earlier ago. Faye drove her car down into the neighbourhood streets, where Utena uttered which direction to go. All the Christmas lights were up on display through people's windows – shining like bright, colourful beacons in the night.

It was 7:40 PM, and the feeling of coming home made Utena realise just how hungry she felt – her tummy was grumbly. She hoped that there would still be some dinner leftovers, and that she wouldn't get into too much trouble, just from wanting to see Spike before he left. She hoped she would be able to explain to her parents what had happened.

Faye's car was coming across Utena's modest home, the lights shining upon the facade. The Christmas tree in her window made Utena feel warm; it had quelled her envy of not having one like the others, and it had the lights and decorations too – a shining star atop the tree such that Santa Claus could see from up there.

Upon parking her car near the driveway, Faye asked, "Do you want me to come in with you?"

"Please do," Utena said, and they both went over to the front door, where Utena rung the doorbell. "My mama and papa really enjoyed watching you – I'm sure they'll be delighted you're here!"

Nobody seemed to come though. Utena tried ringing again, and once more, and once more.

"Huh," Faye said, her face looking uncomfortable.

"There's a secret key under the doormat," Utena said, and used the secret doormat key to enter inside.

It was very strangely, eerily dark inside her house – the only light being from the lit Christmas tree.

"Hello?" Faye said, protectively grabbing Utena's hand.

"Mommy? Daddy?" Utena shouted.

It was also very quiet too, and yet you could just smell the steamy scent of pork dumplings – Utena's tummy made her wander to the kitchen, where she turned on the lights and saw that on the dinner table, there were dumplings in the bowls – halfway eaten, and lukewarm when Utena tried taking one for herself.

"Utena?" Faye said, coming into the kitchen. "Utena.." The woman went over to her, taking her by the shoulder.

A paralysing shiver began to overtake Utena, as the realisation came into her that.. her Mom and Dad had went out to look for her in the field.. when she didn't come back home, and when they couldn't find her..

Utena began to stagger, as a weakness took over her limbs, stumbling into Faye's embrace and smelling the jasmine upclose from Faye's neck.

The phone rang. Usually either her Mom or Dad would pick it up, and talk about boring, dull things with people – but this phone call was different. The phone was high up on the counter; it was hard for Utena to reach for it, so Faye picked up the receiver.

"It's.. for you Utena," Faye mumbled, handing the phone to her. The phone felt heavy in Utena's hands, and she was half-expecting it to be her mama, her papa. "Hello?"

"Is this Utena Tenjou?" It was a strange, unfamiliar voice, having the kind of tone strangers have.

She'd wanted to pray to Santa Claus to restore her parents' lives, after they had died in a crash, chasing after her missing person. She didn't care anymore about getting presents, now or ever again. She only had one wish, to make Mama and Papa come back to life.

In the darkness, she prayed and addressed Santa in hope. She prayed until she felt weak from prolonged hunger and thirst, and she prayed until sleep yearned over her eyes.

She wished so badly that they would come back, come back and hold her and tell her it's alright – so badly it made her heart contort. She prayed forever in the night, her voice growing weaker and weaker. Until the Darkness and Coldness ultimately enveloped her.

Eventually, she never prayed at all.

June 2017

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