I Grow Older
When Fran is 16, she starts thinking a lot more about her life. She thinks about the murder of her parents and finds that the guilt still lingers with her. Her PTSD wasn’t as bad as it used to be and she no longer required medication. All in all, she had been a damaged flower that was still growing. She was at the point where now, in her life, she was starting to bloom.
Mr. Midnight yawns and stretches on her tummy. Fran pets his coat and stares at her ceiling in thought. The buzzing sounds of the flying machine around her comforted her. She moved into Itward’s machine long ago with him and had abandoned her old room in her old house. She picked up Mr. Midnight’s bed from there and a couple of other things but hasn’t been there since.
She looks at the posters on her walls in thought. Itward took her to school, fed her, and always made sure she was protected. They got rid of the kamalas much easier nowadays so travelling through the realities wasn’t as troublesome as it was before. She wouldn’t consider Itward’s machine as her house but it was quite close to it. He even installed a bathroom for her when she moved in.
She hears him knock on her door and peek inside her room. His slit pupils met with hers and he tilted his head. His appearance changed very minimal over the years. She made him a locket one year and he has kept on it his coat ever since. Inside of it was a picture of her that she made for reasons she couldn’t recall. As a child, she was very unappreciative of his help to her.
He asks, “Are you alright, my dear?”
“Yes.” Fran replies. “Just a little tired, is all.”
“Well, feel free to rest. I was planning on going to-”
“Itward? Can you come here for a moment?”
The skeleton pauses at the sudden request but obliges anyway. He slides the door open fully and makes his way onto her bed. He looks around her room briefly before turning to her attentively. Mr. Midnight climbs off from Fran’s tummy and starts to rest on her pillows.
Fran sits up on her bed and swings her legs onto the floor. She sits down next to Itward and says nothing. The skeleton is very much confused.
“They bully me at school.”
Itward is caught off guard. Bully? Why on Earth would she be bullied? Children were so cruel, sometimes. He wished he could protect her in more ways than he could right now. Itward tells Fran the typical advice her counselors bother her with.
“Just ignore them as best as you can, sweetheart.”
“I try to!” She groans. “I just....they keep making fun of me for the stories I tell them. I tell them about Ithersta and of Remor and getitng my kitty back....I tell my new friends all of these things but they do not believe me. They call me a freak and that I should just go back to that Asylum.”
Itward falls silent. Fran grabs a pillow from nearby and stuffs her face in it rather angrily. It was clear that she was upset with the world. The skeleton had seen this before with those two twins. His help to them hadn’t been taken right in the end, so he was going to do his best with Fran now. It was his job as his guardian to make sure Fran is the happiest she can be.
He says, “You are very strong, Fran. The more you show your kindness to those around you that do not deserve it, the more pure you will become. The world will soon repay your trouble and you will appreciate holding on like this.”
She looks up from her pillow and he makes out a couple of tears from her eyes. Itward leans forward and grabs his hankerchief from his pocket to wipe them off. Fran sits up in the bed and slowly removes the pillow from her face. Mr. Midnight comes over and sits in her lap to soothe the girl.
The kitten says, “I think you should trust Itward on this one, Fran. Remember what he has done for those girls? Mia and Clara?”
Fran nods. The skeleton is rather happy that she believes him and he wipes the rest of her tears away. She holds the pillow close to her chest and starts to rock herself back and forth. She takes a deep breath.
“Itward...do you love me?”
He doesn’t hesitate. He replies, “Of course, my dear. I love all of the children I protect.”
She bites her lip and hides her face in the pillow. She murmurs something in it but Itward doesn’t catch it. He leans forward and eyes the girl rather worringly. Mr. Midnight claws at her arm but she still doesn’t move. Fran was acting rather peculiar. She usually never hid from anyone unless she was in danger. She never was around her guardian.
“Fran? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” Itward says.
“I meant....like, more than a friend?”
The skeleton goes silent. He sits up straight and looks around her room wordlessly. He wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that. None of the other children ever brought it up with him. Maybe it was because she was getting older and she was feeling things she hadn’t felt before. And if that were the case, he wasn’t quite sure what she was feeling right now.
At the lack of a response, Fran tightens her grip on the pillow.
She explains, “The kids at the school....They ask me if I have a boyfriend and I tell them that I have an imaginary friend that loves me. The kids then bully me for still believing in someone that doesn’t exist.”
“Doesn’t exist?” Itward inquires. “My dear, if I didn’t exist, then things would have ended quite dreadfully long ago. Besides. If I weren’t real, then how could I do this?”
Itward suddenly leans forward and starts to tickle Fran. The teenager starts to hold her sides and lets go of the pillow. She starts laughing once he gets to her ticklish areas. She urges him off and he sits back automatically. Fran looks a bit disappointed but wipes the tears from her eyes aftewards.
“I suppose you’re right.” She giggles. “You are real. If you weren’t, then I’d probably be dead.”
Mr. Midnight crawls back into her lap and rubs against Fran. She pets him by instinct and continues sitting in silence. Fran wasn’t quite sure what begged her to ask Itward if he loved her. The guys at school thought she was insane and it was near impossible to find any to befriend. She would have been disgusted of the idea of having a boyfriend but now she found it wouldn’t hurt. Fran was actually pretty lonely under those circumstances.
She hesitates and asks again. “You didn’t really answer my question...”
“Ah.” Itward fidgets with his collar. “Well, I....I’ve watched you grown since you were a little baby, Fran. Wouldn’t it seem wrong to like you that way?”
“I’m older now!” Fran defends. “And you don’t really have an age...So it wouldn’t matter. One of my friends is dating someone who’s 18. No one is bothered by it.”
“...Is there any particular reason you like me this way?”
She blushes at the question and looks away from him. Mr. Midnight is looking up at her curiously. He knew of her feelings for him for awhile now but he was a bit lost at what was going on. Why was she so bashful? Fran was such an outgoing girl.
“I....You saved my life, for one. You were there for me when no one else was and you even took me home when I needed it. I’m very close to you and you’ve treated me so nicely. You even said you loved me, so I just assumed you’d feel the same way.”
She turns to him and finds Itward leaning down to her. He takes one of her hands and looks her in the eyes. His voice and tone are serious. She hasn’t heard him like this for awhile.
“While I do love you very much, I don’t believe I’m the suitable one for you. You need a boy your age that’ll grow with you. I’m able to exist as long as you exist, remember? You already have Mr. Midnight by your side, my dear.”
“I’ve been quirkyalone for awhile now, Itward! Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Midnight so dearly, but all of my friends have people they can kiss and go to the movies with. I have no one besides my kitten and people who show pity for me because they think I’m insane. You’ve treated me like an actual person, Itward...”
Fran starts to cry again. Mr. Midnight is there to comfort her while the skeleton takes it all in. He gathers his thoughts together and wraps his arms around Fran. He holds her close to his ribcage and stares at her blankets in thought. He wouldn’t have imagined himself in this position a mere year ago.
She really was getting older....
He sighs. “I don’t like seeing you upset, Fran. After all you’ve been through, you don’t deserve to be in anymore sorrow. Besides....I thought you’d have gotten the message by now.”
“What message?” She looks up at him and sniffles. Itward looks down at her and rests a hand on her back.
“That I’ve always loved you, my dear....but I am not going to be the right one for you. I’m much too different than your friends, you see? I cannot give you some things that they can. You’ll be much happier with someone your own age rather than an ageless creature of the night like me. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Fran looks down rather disappointed. She says, “Yes, I do. Thank you, Itward...”
He tips her chin back up with a finger to get Fran to look at him. He says, “Please don’t be upset, my dear. I understand you’re going through a lot right now. Give yourself some time to know more about yourself before you make big decisions like these. You have a lot of time, my dear.”
The disappointment in her eyes doesn’t cease. Itward is dissatisfied of this and takes a deep breath.
“-You know I am always going to be by your side. If you really feel this way about me and you are completely sure that I am the one for you, then we will talk about it then. But please keep questioning the world around you, my friend. You are going to grow so beautifully when you do.”
The feeling slowly fades away from her eyes. Instead, Fran stares at him in disbelief for a moment or two. A big smile comes onto her face and she goes to hug him tightly. She soon pulls away and fidgets with her fingers shyly. It seems like something else is on her mind. He is about to ask her until she suddenly leans forward and presses her lips against his teeth.
He locks up his jaw so he does not hurt her. One scrape against her lip would cut her. She pulls away again and her face is really red. Fran clears her throat and adjusts herself on the bed. She looks like she’s trying not to burst.
“I-It’s a kiss! For everything you have done for me, Itward. I really am grateful to have someone like you in my life. I’m sorry for not asking first...”
“Ahh, It’s fine...” Itward trails a finger over his teeth. “I’m just not used to affection, I suppose. You’re the first person to have kissed me, Fran.”
“For a handsome skeleton like you, that’s really surprising!” She giggles.
He enjoys seeing her happy again. The smile on her face warms Itward once again. He stands up and flattens the side of her bed that he had been sitting on. Fran goes under the blankets and immediately feels Itward tucking her in. He leans down and pats her on the head.
“-Rest up, Fran. We’re making a little stop to the first reality and then we will go back to the third. I’ll wake you when we’re there.”
He picks up Mr. Midnight and sets the cat in his bed next to hers. The cat replies with a yawn and snuggles up in his pillow. Itward walks out of the room and turns around to close the door behind him. When his eyes travel upwards, he finds Fran waving her hand to get his attention.
“I love you, Itward!”
He chuckles. “I love you, too, my dear.”
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