Raven II

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15. She Made Her Choice

JAKKO-

It wasn't a jolt, nor a jerk. It was slow, painful and dulling. I began to wiggle my toes, then my shoulders, then my fingers. It felt as if I was alive, but then again maybe the afterlife felt like normal life.

My eyes were more difficult to open, though the visions of what forced me in this position were aimlessly flying through my mind. It was a tiger, or at least a giant version of one. No, there was multiple.

I groaned to myself, hoping that someone would hear me and offer me the reassuring comfort of the fact that I was actually still alive. Still, no one came to me to offer quiet words and soothing touches. I was quite aware that I was waiting for Aria's touch and would reject, disgustedly, anyone else's skin against mine.

It was then that the pain on my chest came alive. My hand clutched at my skin, feeling the toughened scar tissue that piled up like mountains.

How long have I laid here, useless and paralyzed?

"Jakko." Her accent threw me off. It wasn't Aria and the betrayal flooded me, hurting more than my chest. Her hand landed on my arm and I instinctively jerked away, only to grimace even worse from the pain. "Do not move so carelessly, fremi." Disappointment seethed from her lips.

"A-" I couldn't even get her name out without breaking out into a coughing fit.

"If you would let me hand you the water, maybe you could speak." Her voice was awfully close to my ears, sending an uncomfortable wave to the pit of my stomach. I grunted, placing my palms flat against the couch and with one inhale and exhale, pushed myself up into a sitting position.

I kept my eyes shut, taking the cup to my hands as she shoved it into my fingers. Wordlessly, I gulped all of its contents not caring for the river that fell down my chin and onto my chest.

"Where is Aria?" I gritted, holding back the headache that pulsed at my temples so I could listen to her response.

But she ignored me, "You must want to eat and clean yourself, you don't look so good-"

"Where the fuck is Aria?" I forced my eyes open, my hand shooting up to grasp her wrist. The first thing I saw was the fear in her eyes, they were wide and trying to read me, as if my threat wasn't real.

Quickly, her fear turned into anger, "It is not wise to threaten an Alvina like you just did." She jerked her hand out of my hold, and stood up, walking toward the shelves.

I looked around the room, noticing that Thijs and Sarn's things no longer found refuge in the dark corner. Realization smacked me, coldly and annoyingly across the cheek.

"They left." I whispered. I wasn't only angry, rightfully so, I was hurt. I felt betrayed, left behind like a piece of trash. I clenched my fists, clenched my jaw and forced myself onto my feet.

"You-you can't! You must rest!" Keena yelled at me while I clawed at my chest, the pain almost overwhelming. "She-she made her choice, Jakko." She whispered, with a pitiful gaze.

I shook my head, stepping backwards toward the exit, "I am not taking away her choice, I just- I just want to be there with her."

Keena sighed loudly, burying her hands into her pockets and pulling out a folded piece of paper,"Maybe you'll understand if you read this." She pushed the paper toward my chest, her eyes saddened by something.

"You read it?" I whispered, angry at her invasion of my privacy.

She sighed again, pushing the paper further into my skin, "Just read it, Jakko." She shuffled back toward her mess of shelves.

I narrowed my eyes before unfolding the paper and reading it.

Jakko-

I hope your anger will die down as you read this. Know that this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. There aren't much words that could explain the terror that drowned me when I thought you had died. For me. I've made my choice Jakko, and it's not you. I'm going back to Javal to be with Dastan, and the thought of dragging you along with me tore at my heart. I don't deserve your love, your affection and your protection. To put your life in danger, for my happiness, for my choice, is not something I can ask of you. Keena has promised to nurse you back to health and find you a proper station in this realm. Although, if once you're healthy and I've been gone, just let her know you wish to return to Jamarion and she will take you there herself.

However, I do hope you try to be happy here, Jakko. I am sure you are trying to escape whatever is between us so that you can move on. It's what I am trying so hard to do.

Maybe one day you will forgive me, and we will meet each other again. You might be a father then, married to the love of you life, experiencing happiness that I would have never been able to give to you.

Please understand, please forgive me.

Aria.

And there it was. The truth I had been trying so hard not to face. Though I had known it for many months now, it stung so much more now that it was confirmed by her. There was always a chance that she would change her mind, an uneasiness in the way she walked. I knew I would never let her stay here with me, but knowing that she partly wanted to was enough.

But she made her choice, and she was bound to it. Keeping me at arms length was best for her. For the first time, I debated if leaving her alone was the best for both of us.

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