She was so beautiful, so stunningly beautiful. And it was just so easy. To sit in the bench right in front of her and watch as she waited for her dog to return to her. To sketch her perfect image and not cause any suspicion from her. To follow her home and take his usual hotel room where he had a perfect view of watching her from the apartment she and her sister lived in. To watch her wherever she went and never ever get caught. She will never notice him which both pained and relieved him. She will not acknowledge his presence even if he came and sat down beside her. The reason being was that his beautiful princess was blind. Sephiroth smirked happily as he glanced up from his sketchpad to take in Anne's image.
It all began five years ago when he bumped into her on the street by accident. She was only ten years old, endearing and charming. Her guide dog helped her up to her feet when he accidentally knocked her over. Even though it had been his fault, she apologized to him. She looked adorable in the summer dress she had been wearing for that particularly hot day and Sephiroth knew she was blind by the way her red eyes weren't looking directly at him. They were fixed more onto his chest as she didn't realise how tall he was. It looked so enchanting. And if that didn't clue him in on her disability, the fact that her guide dog tugged her along to reunite her with her family should have told him everything. Sephiroth felt transfixed, as if she had cast a spell on him to make sure he would forever remember and obsess over her.
He found out the next day that he couldn't stop thinking about her. How delicate she looked on appearance alone and the way she smiled apologetically. By the time he had managed to get rid of these unwanted thoughts, he saw her again, as if fate had bound them since their very first meeting. She was doing a talk to a group of younger children outside a nursery with her parents. She didn't go to school, she had a special tutor at home who taught her how to read using braille. She often went around to have talks about being blind because she had enough time. Sephiroth couldn't help himself, he had to get to know her. Or else he would forever be tormented by the mere image of her. She would always be there to haunt him at the back of his mind and he would want nothing more than to catch and keep her, like a bug collector capturing a rare and beautiful butterfly. Though Sephiroth would rather catch her then nurture her rather than killing and putting her up on display.
So ever since, he'd been following her, getting to know her daily routine and constantly taking photos and sketching her. She was so beautiful, like a princess or an angel. A fallen angel, that's what she must be. So innocent when she was just a mere child and so vulnerable and now she was just so beautiful whilst she was maturing. It was obsessive but Sephiroth couldn't care less. It didn't affect his work at all, in fact it helped him a lot. He was a fashion designer, specialising in female clothes. He nearly always used his angel as a model and inspiration for new looks. He worked on designs for casual and formal clothes for everyday life, clothes for dolls and on the rare occasion was called to help design costumes for TV shows and theatres. Sephiroth had countless of pages of images of her in so many different outfits. The moment after he would draw her figure, the designs just drew themselves. Sephiroth's sketches ranged from Anne in simple underwear to fully detailed ball gowns. He even threw in a few jewellery designs if the mood ever struck him.
The city clock nearby struck five, much to Sephiroth's dismay, because that was the signal that his precious princess had to leave the park with her dog and meet her friends. Sephiroth didn't conceal his contempt as he thought about them. Her friends were four local boys who were all three years older than her. Sephiroth didn't like them at all. They knew her because she had been assaulted by a hit and run mugger when she was walking home one day. Her dog chased after him and he himself was about to rush to her aid when the boys on the other side of the street beat him to it. Two of them helped her up while the other two caught up with the mugger to stop him. She looked so afraid when that happened and Sephiroth couldn't help but wish to bring her into his arms and soothe her. That had happened last year, after she and her sister had gotten out of the orphanage.
Sephiroth remembered that day well. She and her older sister were dressed in black, looking rather glum. Their parents had died in a horrible car accident three years ago. Sephiroth would have gone straight away to adopt his blind girl but after observing them, the elder sister refused to be separated from her. If anyone was going to adopt one, they'd have to adopt the other. That would have been a problem for Sephiroth because that girl was overprotective. If he had adopted his blind girl with her, she would have noticed his obsession straight away. He didn't want to risk it so he left them alone. As soon as the elder sister turned eighteen two years later, she took her little sister and left the orphanage after getting a job at a local bar and managing to scrape enough money to afford a small apartment by selling most of their possessions. That was when Sephiroth began sending his princess money. The girls were confused at first but they didn't look a gift horse in the mouth. They were desperate and couldn't afford to question anything. Sephiroth was simply happy enough to help his beautiful princess. It put his mind at ease when he saw Anne coming out of the apartment in better made clothes and looking healthier.
"Good boy, Timber," Anne praised as Timber came along after running around and laid his head on her lap.
Sephiroth glared at that damn dog. He had never been so envious of such a shaggy mongrel before. He wanted to have his head in her lap and have her stroke him. The idea of her stroking his hair made him shudder. Sephiroth watched those tiny hands run through Timber's black fur and tickling his ears longingly. Such precious tiny hands…all wasting their affection on her guide dog. She'd had Timber for about three years now. The one before passed away from old age, Sephiroth remembered Anne crying when she heard the news. It was before the car accident her parents ended up in. Timber arrived on that day and Anne was so happy to be able to have a new companion.
"Let's go," Anne said as she gripped on Timber's lead and got up.
Timber barked and pulled her along down the pathway. Sephiroth got up and followed her to the café where she often met with the boys at five o'clock sharp. He couldn't help but smile slightly. She always stuck to a firm routine, it was simply adorable. He knew it was only because she was blind and it made things so much easier for her. Timber pushed the door open for her and Sephiroth heard a shout.
"It says no dogs allowed!" one of the customers said to a very startled Anne as Sephiroth came in.
"Yeah but look, mate," a tall boy with blue hair to his shoulders stood and placed a hand on Anne's shoulder, squeezing comfortingly "Guide dogs are allowed. Can you not tell that she's blind?"
Sephiroth watched the customer stare at Anne for a while before sitting back down.
"Sorry…" he muttered.
Sephiroth watched the boy smile at the man in a friendly manner.
"Good, I'm glad that's been sorted out," he said and led Anne to their usual booth.
"That was scary," Anne commented as she placed a hand on her heart.
"It's alright now," the boy with the silver hair next to her squeezed her arm comfortingly.
"You'd think someone like him would be able to read signs properly," the boy with black hair and red eyes sneered at the other customer.
"Timber, sit," Anne instructed her dog who nosed her knee.
Timber sat down under the table obediently and Cissnei, the waitress, came over with a bowl of water for him.
"Oh, he's such a good dog," she smiled happily as he began drinking "He looks so fluffy and cute! I could just cuddle him for the rest of my shift!"
"Ciss, don't touch it!" Reno barked from the kitchens "You have to serve food, remember? Get back to work before you catch his fleas!"
"He doesn't have fleas!" Anne called.
"Tch, no respect for any kind of animal whatsoever."
Cissnei huffed again as she got back up to her feet and took out her pad and paper.
"Usual order?" she smiled.
"Yes please," a boy with black hair and silver eyes winked.
Cissnei blushed bashfully before jotting down their usual order.
"Ah, wait, could I have an iced mocha instead of a regular one?" Anne requested "It is a very hot day today…"
"Oh, of course," Cissnei smiled "Anything for our Anne."
She winked happily before going back to the kitchens to post the order up. Sephiroth took his place in his usual booth just opposite the others, narrowing his eyes at the boys that sat next to Anne. Sky, Asa, Erik and Luka, friends since childhood.
Sky, the chivalrous sportsman. He was the tallest of the group. He was rather naïve and oblivious like Anne, never realising that he was attracting attention from prying eyes by wearing clothes that were clearly a bit tight-fitting and showing off the evidence of the amount of time he put into exercise. Seriously, you could stare at his ass for about an hour in the most obvious way possible and he will not take a hint. Sephiroth didn't mind him much, he clearly was pretty stupid and Anne didn't seem to enjoy his conversations of sport. He talked about other things too, such as horses and his family. A kind, caring and sensitive soul, just what any girl would want in a boyfriend. It was such a pity that he lacked intelligence.
Asa, the charming magician. He always enjoys showing off his magic tricks and works as a children's entertainer for some extra pocket money. He was sweet, almost getting away with anything if he just flashed that delightful smile. Even though she always sat next to him, Sephiroth wondered if Anne liked Asa the least but still enjoyed his company enough to meet him every day. He often talked about other magicians, stunt ones in particular. He could go on for hours just describing how one trick worked and then wishfully thinking about mimicking it. Sephiroth hoped he would try a stunt magic trick so it would go horribly wrong and he will end up in hospital or better yet, the morgue. His voice just went on and on, it was so damn irritating.
Erik, the shy bookworm. He was the smallest of the group. Shy and withdrawn, Erik rarely spoke with the group. He enjoyed reading and Anne often told him of her stories. They often broke away from the group to discuss stories and sometimes even came up with their own story. Erik is also easy to startle, making him an easy target for Asa to pull something out of his ear and laugh at his moment of weakness. Sephiroth wasn't too bothered about Erik, he was too much of a coward to ever try to fight his own battles. If there was ever going to be a time to confront him, Erik would probably just flee, tail tucked into his legs. Sephiroth smirked at the thought.
Luka, the flirtatious actor. Sephiroth hated him the most. He seemed to take up flirting as a hobby. He had a rather large ego since his popularity increased due to the fact he's a teen stage actor. Normally charming Cissnei into giving the group discounts, leading other girls on just by giving them that irritating smirk that they seemed to like, it just got on Sephiroth's nerves. And he did not miss the way Luka would give Anne a quick, possibly lustful, look. That playboy, that damn playboy, he didn't deserve to be in such close proximity to his Anne. If he even thought about committing one filthy deed towards her, Sephiroth would make sure he would regret having ever been born.
All four of these boys seemed attracted to Anne as if she was a magnet. But Sephiroth knew that they all had girlfriends which disgusted him. Sky and Erik perhaps were unconsciously being affectionate. After all, Sky couldn't tell if a girl was flirting with him even if she asked for him to strip naked for her. Erik seemed to be the closest person to Anne and probably didn't even realise his affection for her. Luka and Asa on the other hand… Sephiroth nearly broke his pen from squeezing it too hard when he saw Asa playing with Anne's hair.
"Don't touch her, you're not worthy," he muttered under his breath.
His glare switched over to Luka who commented that Anne had some cream on her lips from her iced mocha. He breathed in deeply to calm himself as he observed Luka licking his thumb then stretching over to wipe Anne's lips clean. Could their advances be any more obvious? Sephiroth turned away from the group and focused on his current dress design. He smiled calmly as he gazed at Anne's smiling form before him before shading in another ribbon on the dress he was designing.
"Here you go, sir," Elena delivered him his usual black coffee "Anything else you'd like?"
"No, thank you," Sephiroth gave her a charming smile.
"So, uh…do you draw for fun, for classes or is it for a profession?"
Sephiroth eyed the blonde waitress warily before closing his sketchpad.
"It's for a profession," he said before picking his coffee up to sip it.
"Wow, I'd love to draw professionally," Elena smiled as she clutched the tray to her chest "Are you an artist then?"
"I design clothes," Sephiroth replied.
"Wow, really?" Elena grinned "Not a lot of art students around here go for fashion design. Well, except for me."
Sephiroth eyed her sceptically, placing his coffee down and wishing she would just leave already. When she continued staring at his sketchpad thoughtfully, he delved into his pocket.
"Here, ask him for work experience," he muttered "He's been looking for extra workers recently."
"Woah, Rhapsodonian Fabrics?!"
"Elena!" Tseng called from the kitchens,
"Ah, coming!" Elena turned and looked at Sephiroth with a star-eyed look before jogging off back to the kitchen to collect another order.
Sephiroth sighed tiredly as he picked up his coffee and sipped it as he got a few glances. Oh the joys to working for an elite clothes company. Sephiroth flipped open his sketchpad again to continue sketching Anne's dress, ignoring the star-eyed art students in the café.
"Anne, you messy girl, you've got cream all over on your chin now!" Luka laughed as Anne placed her iced mocha back down again.
"Here, I'll get it," Sky came to the rescue this time and used a napkin to wipe Anne's chin clean.
"Stop it, I feel like a baby," Anne said as she swatted at Sky's hand but missed, hitting poor Asa in the face.
"Ah!" Asa winced and Anne gasped in horror.
"I'm so sorry, Asa!" she said.
"I'm bleeding! I'm bleeding!" Asa proclaimed dramatically.
"No you're not, you wimp," Sky said "Stop making such a fuss."
"I'm so…sorry…" Anne squeaked and Asa chuckled, ruffling her hair.
"Don't worry about it. But seriously! You have a strong backhand."
"You would have made a good tennis player," Sky sighed.
"I still think it sounds boring," Anne frowned at the mention of tennis "I mean, you hit a ball and the person you're playing against hits it back, doesn't it get tedious?"
"Not when you see a trophy that you'd like to win," Sky replied "Trust me, if you play it, it's not just about hitting a ball back and forth."
Anne sighed sadly but she felt Erik's hand squeeze her shoulder comfortingly.
"It's alright, sport isn't all that great," he said timidly "Sky just over glorifies any kind of sport."
"Just because you can't even hit the tennis ball far enough to reach the net, Erik," Sky snickered.
Erik remained silent and Anne took his hand in hers. She felt it curiously, recognising how soft they were and the small bumps where his paper cuts were healing. They were a bit small too but not as small as hers. Anne wondered what Erik looked like. All she could pick up on was her sense of touch. Her hands wandered over to Erik's face and she cupped his soft cheeks. They grew warm under her touch and she tilted her head to the side curiously.
"Weren't you doing this yesterday?" she heard Asa ask.
"I just…" Anne said softly as she kept feeling Erik's face, his small nose and lips coming into her darkened mind as she imagined his face indent.
"Just let her be, Asa," Luka said.
Anne kept feeling Erik's face curiously. She could never understand what a person's face looked like. She won't ever know what a person's face looked like. She could feel Erik's face for all eternity and never have a full understanding on what he looked like. It simply fascinated her to just feel what other people looked like.
"Ah, careful," Erik said as her fingertips brushed his eyelids.
"Yeah, we don't want to have two blind people to take care of," Asa snickered and Anne felt Luka's leg pass her leg to kick Asa.
Anne giggled despite the pang in her chest and shrugged. She smiled sadly as she carefully brushed her thumbs over Erik's eyelashes
"I don't mind," she said as her fingers explored his eyebrows next "I've been blind all my life and I'll always will be. I should get used to it."
"Haven't any doctors recommended any operations for you to have?" Sky asked.
"My blindness is incurable, they said," Anne replied as she withdrew her hands from Erik's face "Otherwise, I'd have the operation done long ago."
"The world of medicine is still advancing," Asa said "Say, didn't Phoenix say the other day that they're working on bionic eye transplants?"
"That would cost about eight million Gil when they become available," Luka replied "Anne and Tifa don't have that kind of money, even with the anonymous donations."
"Well let's save up."
Everyone went silent as Erik spoke. Anne felt him shift.
"Well, you know, if it's something in the future that might be worth saving up for then I want to save money for Anne to have this operation. Just so she will be able to see our world."
"Erik, you spend most of your time studying, you won't be able to save up without a job," Luka said.
"I'll help out with my dad's restaurant then. Just to earn some money to save up."
"You know what?" Sky sighed "I'll chip in too. My parents own a riding school, I can help look after the horses to earn money."
"I don't earn very much," Asa spoke "But I'll make more of an effort to find jobs and perhaps find some other things to do too."
"Well I earn much more than you lot put together so I'll be the main provider of this little charity," Luka said smugly.
"Show off," Asa sneered "Anne, what's the matter?"
Anne sniffed and wiped her tears away, bringing her back to the centre of the boys' attention.
"You're all so kind, I just can't help it," she sobbed.
She couldn't describe it! She felt so…happy and so moved. They would all willingly put aside some money to save up for her to see. They had barely known her for a year and yet they would gladly give up their time to work and earn money for her.
"Aw, group hug," Luka proposed and Anne was suddenly wedged in between Asa and Erik with Sky and Luka's arms around them.
"Luka, you're squeezing me pretty tightly," Erik coughed.
"I'm sorry, Erik, but you're so adorable and cuddly," Luka said.
"Never, you're so cute, I just want to eat you up."
"Get off me, you pervert!"
"Aw, that's so sweet," Sky cooed.
"Asa, help me!" Erik whimpered.
"No, I'm not getting on Luka's bad side again since the time I took a picture of him in drag," Asa cackled at the memory "Ow!"
"We agreed to never speak of that again," Luka growled.
"Sky, help me!"
"Like I said before, you two look so sweet together."
"Anne, help me!"
"My arms are trapped," Anne tried to move her limbs.
One arm was trapped in between Luka and Erik whilst the other was trapped in between Asa and Sky.
"And besides, at this angle she might hit you, my adorable little Erik," Luka snickered.
"Timber, help me!"
"Timber, stay down," Luka commanded.
"Cissnei, help me!"
Anne heard the click of a camera and Erik squeaked.
"You did not just do that!" he whimpered.
"It's so cute, it has to go on our regular customer board!" Cissnei giggled.
"Aw, Erik, you're blushing!" Asa laughed.
"That's so cute!" Cissnei squealed.
"Shut up. Alright, I guess I have no choice."
Luka let out a surprised breath as the group hug ended.
"Wow, you actually have a pretty strong push."
"No he doesn't," Sky interjected.
"No-one has a better push than you, Sky," Asa snickered.
"That's not true, there are plenty of guys that are much stronger than Sky," Luka scoffed.
"Care to put it to the test?" Sky challenged.
"Oh, you're on!"
Anne didn't know what was going on but after a few strained grunts, something hard slammed into the table, making her jump.
"Ha, I win," Sky laughed.
"Not fair, I got an arm cramp," Luka grumbled.
"Excuses, excuses," Sky sighed in disappointment.
"I'm not surprised, since you got overpowered by Erik," Asa snickered.
"Are you calling me weak?" Luka snarled.
"Well, we'll see if you can beat Erik in an arm wrestling match."
"No, no, please, I hate arm wrestling," Erik squeaked and hugged Anne tightly "Anne, save me."
"Um…what's an arm wrestling match?" Anne asked curiously.
"Here, if we place your elbow on the table like this…"
Anne felt Asa take her arm and place her elbow on the table. She felt Asa's hand slip into hers.
"Right, now you have to push with all your might against my hand and to win, you need to slam it against the table."
Anne nodded uncertainly and strained to push against Asa's hand. She barely even moved it.
"It's alright if you can't," Asa said soothingly as she kept pushing against him "I mean you are just a girl-ah!"
Anne gasped in surprise as she managed to slam Asa's hand onto the table. Luka snorted.
"Asa just got beaten by a girl!"
"No fair, Sky tickled me!"
"I did no such thing."
"But you did!"
"Excuses, excuses," Sky sighed again.
Anne lowered her head when Timber pushed his wet nose against her knee.
"Time to go home," she said.
"What, is it six already?" Erik sounded surprised.
"Sheesh, time flies," Sky muttered.
"Ah! I'm going to be late for my audition! Sorry for the low tip, Cissnei, I need the extra money to take a taxi!"
"Oh, bye, Luka!" Anne heard Cissnei call.
Anne heard coins fly onto the table and the door swung open then shut.
"With that speed, he might just make it if he travelled solely by foot," Asa chortled.
"What's he auditioning for?" Anne asked curiously.
"Loveless, it's a really big play apparently," Sky replied.
"Oh, I've read that," Erik started.
"Of course you have," Asa sighed.
"I think it's really good, I'll have to watch it if Luka wins his audition."
"You mean when he wins the audition," Sky corrected "Luka's a brilliant actor. They'll be mad to not let him into the chorus at least."
"Well, actors do have those days…" Asa sighed and Anne heard by the rustle of his clothes that he shrugged.
"Well if or when Luka wins the audition, I'd certainly like to go and watch it."
"I don't know, those tickets are pretty easy to sell out…" Sky hummed.
"Perhaps Luka could get us some spare tickets if he's in the cast," Anne suggested and swatted Timber's nose when he nudged her again.
"We'll see when the time comes," Erik said "Oh, I promised I'd take Zephyr to the movies in twenty minutes!"
"I'll stay to pay the drinks," Sky offered "Today is my rest day and Lucinda needs to stay at home to look after her brothers."
"Oh thanks, I need to get ready to meet Chiharu," Asa said and Anne felt and heard him shift to get up.
Erik left Anne's side and Anne let Timber help her stand and walk her out of the café.
"Bye," she called over her shoulder.
She left the café. Her arm was yanked along by Timber and she smiled.
"You must be hungry, boy!" she exclaimed "Hey, slow down a bit, would you?"
Timber just barked happily and Anne giggled.
"You can only think of your stomach, can't you?"
Timber whined, as if protesting and saying that it wasn't true. Anne giggled.
"It's because Tifa's making sausages tonight, isn't it?"
Timber barked again and Anne giggled once more. She absolutely loved Timber. He was just so big and cuddly even though he was a bit on the smelly side. But Anne loved nothing more than to delve her fingers into his fur and cuddle him. He loved the attention too, he acted like a big baby quite often. Tifa normally complained that it was because she coddled him too much. But Anne didn't mind, she loved spoiling Timber. He was her guide dog after all, she owed her life to him. He deserved to be a little bit spoiled. Tifa didn't think so though. But Anne still spoiled him regardless. He was allowed to sit with her on the sofa as she read and she let him on the bed when she went to sleep. Anne enjoyed just burying her nose into his fur, inhaling his doggy scent and just drift off to sleep, holding him.
"Wait, Anne!" she heard Erik call "Uh, can I walk you home? The cinema isn't really that far away from your block of apartments."
"Oh, sure, if you want," Anne smiled.
Timber barked happily and Erik gasped in fright.
"Oh, I forgot how loud Timber's bark was," he said softly.
"It's worse than his bite, don't worry," Anne assured him and held her spare hand out.
Erik's hand slipped into hers and they walked side by side, Timber pulling a bit less for Erik's sake. Anne squeezed Erik's hand and felt a shy smile spread across her face as she did so.
Erik felt himself blushing shyly as he and Anne joined hands. It made them look like they were one of those cute little couples but Erik just stuck with the fact to say that Anne was simply blind and Timber would need help guiding her. Nodding discretely to himself, Erik smiled. Zephyr would probably jump to a conclusion if she saw them right now but she would believe him when he would explain that Anne was blind. He heard the café door swing open and shut again and turned his head. He saw one of the customers had come out, the man with long silver hair and scary green eyes who apparently worked as a fashion designer for Rhapsodonian Fabrics. He swallowed and turned away. That man emitted a very eerie aura and he didn't like it. Erik probably was a scaredy-cat but he was pretty sure anyone would have noticed how creepy that man looked.
"Erik, I need to buy some tomatoes and cheese for Tifa," Anne said as they stopped by the convenience store.
She fished into her skirt pocket and pulled out some Gil bills which she pressed into his hand.
"Could you get them for me, please?"
Erik smiled down at her and pulled away.
"Alright, just wait for me here," he said.
He wandered into the convenience store, the doors making a ding sound which Timber barked at. As he wandered down the aisles, he couldn't help but glance at Anne who waited outside patiently. She was a very cute girl in appearance, he couldn't help but admire her. It was her massive dog that scared Erik away. Timber was a friendly dog, perhaps a bit too friendly when he was overexcited. Erik wondered if Timber got his name just by being so heavy and enjoying to pounce on people. That was how they managed to catch that mugger that brought them to meet Anne in the first place. Erik remembered helping Anne up and the way her eyes darted around in a panic. She looked so scared and helpless, Erik himself would have probably been worse if he was the blind guy that got mugged.
When Luka and Sky came back with an unconscious man, Timber and Anne's money they called the police and helped Anne home. Sky kept bragging about how he single-handedly defeated the mugger whilst Luka argued that they probably would have never caught up hadn't Timber had jumped onto his hind legs and fell on top of the mugger. Apparently what happened was that after the mugger kicked poor Timber off, Luka tackled him first and tried to hold him down. He then got an elbow into the face, hence the massive nosebleed he got when they returned. Sky came next and managed to render the mugger unconscious from his experience in judo. That story is still in bits and pieces now, Erik would have liked to run after them to see everything hadn't he been too scared.
It took Erik about five minutes to collect the items, pay for them and come back out. That was when he saw that scary man again, just down the street, watching Anne. No, that was crazy. He was probably staring into space thinking.
"I'm back," he said and pressed the change into Anne's hand.
"Oh, thank you," Anne smiled as she pocketed the change then held her hand out again.
Erik handed her over the shopping bag and they walked back to Anne's home together. Erik thought this was from his overactive imagination but he swore that scary man was following them. But the moment he turned his head, the man had slowed down and was looking in the window of a shop. Erik turned away and shook his head. It had to be his imagination. Especially since he was a big scaredy-cat who was afraid of his own shadow.
"Erik, you seem tense," Anne said and giggled when Erik jumped "Is something the matter?"
"No, not really," Erik glanced back at the man again "I just…read a scary book lately and it's gotten me paranoid."
"Oh, what's it about?" Anne smiled.
"It might be a bit scary for you," Erik chuckled.
"Tifa always told me that if you can't see the scary monster, it won't get you," Anne said "And I can't see anything so nothing can get me."
Erik paused and shrugged.
"OK, well it's about this creature that lives in the sewers of this city during the daytime," he described "It can change into any shape and form so it can scare its victims to paralysis then kills them."
"You're right, that is scary," Anne admitted "But if I can't see it, it won't scare me."
"What about if it feels, smells and sounds scary?"
"Then I'm in trouble."
They shared a laugh.
"I'm trying to think up of a horror story for an older audience," Anne said.
"R-Really?" Erik stuttered "Are you sure? M-Maybe you should stick with children's stories that you normally tell at the day-care centre…"
"Scared, Erik?" Anne giggled.
"You have a very grand imagination, I'd hate to listen to a horror story dictated by you…"
"It's not that scary," Anne smiled "It's only about a teenage girl who has the ability to kill people by making eye contact with them."
"Sounds pretty scary to me…" Erik muttered.
"She is fifteen years old."
"Little teenage girl that can kill someone through eye contact, brilliant," Erik sighed.
"Red eyes and black hair."
Erik slowly turned his head to Anne who had red eyes and black hair.
"Pretends to be blind to avoid killing people."
Anne suddenly turned her head sharply towards him, making him yell and jump away. Anne laughed as he pressed a hand to his heart.
"Don't do that, it's not nice!" he whined and Anne smirked.
"I'm sorry but I think it's a good idea," she said.
"You don't even know how scary red eyes can be," Erik sighed "Trust me, when I first met Asa, I felt intimidated."
"I know they're quite a common feature in horror stories," Anne said as she flexed her fingers and nearly losing grip of Timber's leash.
"When have you been reading horror stories?" Erik frowned.
"Since I listened to the audiobook of Hide and Seek with Amy a few months ago."
Erik shuddered at the title.
"Don't remind me about that book!" he whimpered.
"Why did you read it then?" Anne asked.
"Zephyr wanted me to read it, she's into that kind of thing," Erik sighed.
"You didn't have to…"
"Well I felt obliged," Erik shrugged helplessly "I really like Zephyr and I can afford to know a few things so we have more in common."
"Oh, Erik, you are so easily taken advantage of," Anne sighed.
"Trust me, when you get a boyfriend, you'll want to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to get a bit closer to him."
"Not to the point where I'm sleeping and listening out for Amy's chant of…"
"Don't say it!"
"Nineteen, twenty! Ready or not, Amy's coming for you!" Anne put on a creepy voice and Erik froze in terror.
"I told you not to say it!" he said.
"What are you going to watch with her in the cinema anyway?" Anne frowned.
"Well…they've filmed the novel Tag, You're It by Vincent Valentine…" Erik muttered and Anne gasped "It's coming out tonight."
"Erik, I've listened to the audiobook he personally recorded and read the braille version, that's a horrifying book!" she exclaimed.
"I know, I know…"
"And you're planning to watch the filmed version of it with Zephyr?"
"Yes," Erik sighed in defeat "I'm really scared…"
"I'm not surprised!" Anne looked astonished "Why would you risk dying of fright for this woman?!"
"She's been looking forward to it so much," Erik said "And I just want to make her happy."
"Can't you have one date where you're not risking your health?"
"We do, we go to cafés and fun parks," Erik hummed "Though she certainly enjoys the haunted mansions."
"Erik, I'm no expert on relationships," Anne said as they stopped outside her block of apartments "But you shouldn't just sacrifice yourself for this girl. She needs to know that you like things too and she should get to know you better."
"Well…" Erik grimaced.
"You may not be the perfect macho boyfriend a lot of girls will want," Anne shrugged "But it's alright to be scared. You don't have to prove your courage by sitting through a horde of zombie children chasing their parents through some dark woods."
"I am so not looking forward to that scene…" Erik shuddered and shook his head "It's alright, Anne. I can handle it."
"Well if you insist," Anne sighed "If you don't turn up tomorrow, I'll know why."
Erik chuckled nervously as she giggled.
"Hey, could you help me up?" Anne asked timidly as Timber half-dragged her into the block "Timber can't function on the lift and I'm not confident that I'll press the right floor button."
He was supposed to meet up with Zephyr at the cinema in ten minutes but he could let her wait for a bit.
Anne's smile widened happily as he helped her into the elevator and pressed the button for her floor.
"You'd think a guide dog would be capable to work with elevators," he muttered under his breath.
Timber whimpered. Erik walked Anne to her apartment and watched her fumble with her keys, managing to get the right one in the lock.
"Anne, did you remember the tomatoes, cheese and eggs?" Tifa called from inside.
"Eggs!" Anne exclaimed as Timber pulled her in.
"Oh, that's alright, I can go back and get some," Erik offered as Tifa came into the sitting room to have Timber nearly crash into her.
"Oh no, Erik, I don't want to keep you from your plans," Anne said.
"It's fine, it's not that important."
Though it was the six month anniversary of his relationship with Zephyr…
"No, don't worry about it," Tifa dismissed as she took the cheese and tomatoes "I'll get some on the way back from work. We only need eggs for the breakfast I was planning for tomorrow."
"Thank you for walking me home, Erik," Anne smiled sweetly at Erik's general direction.
"Oh, it's alright, happy to be of service," Erik smiled back.
"Nice meeting you, Erik," Tifa nodded as Erik stepped back and closed the door.
When Erik left the block of apartments, he felt a cold shiver down his spine. As he looked around, he couldn't help but feel uneasy. Hastily, he walked over to the cinema to meet with Zephyr.
"Tifa, are you tired?" Anne asked as she sat down on the sofa.
"No, I'm fine," Tifa barely managed to suppress a yawn.
"Tifa, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself," Anne said "Please, just take this day off."
"I can't," Tifa argued as she continued cooking.
"Tifa, it's alright. You work a lot of extra hours at that bar. You can take this one day off and besides, we still have the money from those donations."
"Yes but we don't know if they'll keep on coming," Tifa sighed and glanced at Anne.
"But we have enough for you to spare at least one day from work," Anne argued "Please, Tifa. I worry about you."
"And I worry about you," Tifa paused from the cooking.
She didn't want to tell Anne about how she'd been saving most of the donations rather than spending them on the bills and food and drink. It was easy, of course, Anne couldn't tell anything because of her disability. Tifa wanted to save up in case Anne would need it for the future. The money had been coming a month after they had left the orphanage. Fifty thousand Gil every month to support them on bills and other necessities. Tifa learnt how to be frugal very fast. She only dipped into the donations in emergencies, like the time she broke her arm whilst trying to break up a fight in Seventh Heaven. And even then she limited to how much she took out.
"Tifa, you're burning the sausages."
Tifa quickly saved the sausages, sighing in relief when she realised they weren't too overdone.
"At least someone here is paying attention," she said.
Anne giggled and Timber yapped excitedly as Tifa dished out dinner. Tifa filled his food bowl up as Timber pulled Anne eagerly over to the dining table. He began eating happily as Anne sat down at the table and found her knife and fork.
"A group at the art university nearby has offered me two thousand Gil to be their model," Anne said as Tifa sat down next to her.
"That's cheap," Tifa frowned.
"Well, I'm not exactly a professional," Anne shrugged as she began eating "They asked for me to come into the university tomorrow. There'll be other people they've selected to model too. It's to help build portfolios they said."
"And this is Midgar's University of Art down in Sector Six?" Tifa said with a frown.
Anne nodded and Tifa hummed.
"I'll take you there tomorrow," she decided.
"OK," Anne giggled "Maybe they'll ask you to be their model too."
"Uh-huh, as long as I don't have to model nude," Tifa said as she glanced down at her breasts "Wait, you're not modelling nude are you?"
"No, they told me to just wear something pretty," Anne assured her.
Tifa let out a sigh of relief and shook her head.
"I know you won't let yourself get into dodgy situations like that but I do worry," she said.
Anne giggled again as they continued eating their meal. As Tifa washed up the dishes, Anne walked to their room by herself, knowing the geography of the apartment fairly well. She began to undress to get dressed into her nightclothes. She paused when she was undoing her cardigan, trying to locate the third.
"Oh, a button fell off today," she concluded "Oh well."
She continued undressing, leaving her clothes on the floor for Tifa to clear up later and wandered over to the chair which had her nightgown on. She fumbled a bit to get it on however and paused when she heard Tifa laugh.
"Here, let me help."
Anne felt Tifa's hands help adjust the nightgown and put it on properly. She then turned her around to plat her hair for the night.
"I may be home quite late so I'm sorry if I wake you up in the middle of the night," she said.
"OK, Tifa," Anne nodded and turned when she had finished platting "I still wish you'd take a night off once in a while."
Tifa smiled down at her before hugging her tightly.
"I love you, Anne."
"I love you too, Tifa," Anne hugged Tifa back.
Tifa held her tighter. Anne was all she had left. If something suddenly happened to Anne then… Tifa closed her eyes and bared a grin.
"I'm off now, so take care," she pulled away, grateful that Anne couldn't see her tears.
"Bye, Tifa," Anne smiled "Be careful."
"I always am," Tifa backed out of the room and grabbed her keys and wallet "Bye!"
Tifa closed the door and pressed her back against it. She sobbed softly and rubbed her eyes. She had to admit it, it was getting hard to work and handle having to see her poor baby sister struggle with being blind. The fact that she would never be able to see the beautiful colours of the world or be able to know the world around her properly pained Tifa. She always worked hard, wanting to get into science to find a cure to a blindness like Anne had. All her hopes were shattered when their parents died and they had to move school and move to the orphanage. It was a struggle to live there from the children bullying Anne to the people that would come to adopt them. If someone wanted to adopt Anne, Tifa would have let them go for Anne to be happy but Anne didn't want to be separated from her. And if someone wanted to adopt Tifa, Tifa refused to leave her baby sister behind to get bullied. Tifa did get her qualifications at the mediocre school she was moved to, to get into a university but she simply didn't have enough time and money to be able to afford to go and provide for Anne at the same time. She would probably be able to scrape by if she used the money that their anonymous donor gave them and took out a student loan as well but she didn't want to be so selfish. Everything she ever did was for Anne's sake. Anne might say differently but she wouldn't know any better. She didn't understand anything about the real world.
An engine revving was heard and Tifa leaned over the balcony to see Cloud had arrived. She smiled bashfully before running down to greet him.
"Ready for work?" Cloud smiled as he pushed his goggles up when she arrived and frowned "Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes…" Tifa smiled softly "It's just…a bit hard to watch Anne with her blindness is all…"
"Oh," Cloud smiled sympathetically "Don't worry about it too much."
"But it just hurts," Tifa's bottom lip wobbled "Knowing that she'll never be able to know what colours are or what I even look like!"
Cloud brought his arms around her and hugged her tightly.
"She'll be OK," he soothed "She's got a great sister like you."
Tifa looked up at Cloud for a few moment before smiling and lightly punching his shoulder.
"Thanks," she sniffed and got onto his motorbike behind him, hugging him tightly.
Cloud petted her arms soothingly before pulling his goggles back onto his eyes. He revved Fenrir once before speeding through Midgar to go to Seventh Heaven. Tifa closed her eyes and let a few tears go unnoticed. Even when their parents had been alive, it felt difficult for Tifa to cope with having a sister that couldn't see. She was confused at first when she was first told the news but as she grew older, the reality hit her. Her poor baby sister won't ever be able to see the world. All the pretty colours and things that were in the world, she'd never be able to see any of them. Tifa hugged Cloud tighter at the childhood memories and buried her face into his back. They arrived at the bar quite quickly and Cloud grabbed Tifa's arm.
"I just remembered what Aerith's doctor told me earlier," he said as he pushed his goggles up "Whilst looking into treating leukaemia, he's helping out with the bionic eye treatment."
"Bionic eye treatment?" Tifa blinked at him "What's that?"
"It's where they insert a chip into the eye and that restores whatever is broken so the person can see again," Cloud explained "They've had a break through recently and they might be able to be ready to give the treatment out this year."
"Wait, so Anne might be able to see?" Tifa asked, hope blossoming inside her.
"Yes but it might be really expensive," Cloud grimaced and Tifa sighed.
"There's always a catch," she muttered "How much?"
"No less than four million Gil per eye," Cloud sighed "That's what I've heard."
"Oh, Gaia," Tifa groaned and covered her face "I couldn't possibly be able to save that much…"
They didn't even have barely a quarter of the eight million Gil they would need in savings! Tifa sighed in dismay and shook her head.
"That would be impossible for us," she whispered "We could never afford that."
Cloud tilted his head to the side as Tifa glared at the pavement and hunched his shoulders.
"Could I help save up money?" he offered.
"Oh no, Cloud, you shouldn't," Tifa shook her head "You're saving up to help Aerith through her leukaemia treatment, aren't you?"
"Well I'll work harder to try and save for both Aerith and Anne," Cloud insisted "Besides, Zack's providing most of the treatment from his newfound detective career. He might land a very big case soon and fund the rest of Aerith's treatment."
"No, Cloud, you shouldn't," Tifa shook her head "Aerith is dying but Anne isn't. Aerith is more important, you should help save her before considering us."
"Cloud, I am happy that you wish to help us," Tifa smiled "But for now, focus on more important things."
She placed a hand on where Cloud's promise ribbon was.
"You promised her you'd help and I expect you to live up to that promise, Cloud Strife."
Cloud glanced at the ribbon on his bicep and sighed.
"Alright, but then I'm getting another ribbon to make a promise to get Anne's bionic eye treatment," he vowed "…What colour should I get?"
"It doesn't matter, she's blind," Tifa shrugged.
"Black it is then," Cloud grinned and Tifa giggled as he started his engine "I'll try to aim to pick you up at around midnight!"
"See you then!" Tifa waved the delivery boy goodbye before entering the bar for her shift.
Anne heard the door close and walked back out into the sitting room. She stood in the middle of the room, wondering whether she would like to read braille or just listen to an audiobook. She was tempted to listen to Vincent's voice after finding out that his best-selling novel had been filmed which was coming out tonight. But she remembered how macabre he sounded so decided to go for braille. She found her way to the bookshelf and began feeling for her special books in braille. She found the one she had been searching for and brought it to the sofa where she sat down. Timber jumped onto the sofa with her, laying his head in her lap as she opened her book with one hand and used the other to read. She lifted her head when she heard Cloud's motorbike and smiled softly.
"Tifa really likes this Cloud, doesn't she?" she commented and lowered her reading hand to pet Timber "I wouldn't know what he's like, I still have to meet him."
Timber let out a playful growl and licked her hand happily. Anne giggled and reached over to tickle his belly.
"You're a big baby, aren't you?" she grinned and Timber whined "My big baby, you love being called a big baby don't you?"
Timber let out another playful growl before nibbling her fingers affectionately. Anne giggled and yawned tiredly.
"Mmm…I'm sleepy already?" she whispered in surprise "I guess it's an early night for us tonight."
Timber barked excitedly and Anne felt him jump off the sofa and heard him run into the bedroom. She smiled as she placed her book down on the coffee table and got up to follow him. He let out a soft growl, indicating that he was pulling the blanket off for her to slide in. She went around to her side of the bed and slipped in, bringing the blankets over her. She heard Timber flick off the lights then land on top of her. She grunted in surprise and giggled.
"You are a very heavy dog, don't you know that?" she asked.
Timber whined and she brought her arms around him, cuddling him affectionately.
"I love you, Timber," she whispered.
Timber let out a happy growl and Anne smiled, closing her eyes to drift off to sleep.
Sephiroth panted softly as he calmed down from his euphoria. He pulled his hand away from the softening organ and opened his other hand to stare at the small pearl white button that had dropped off Anne's cardigan earlier that day. He ran his thumb over it curiously, biting his lip as he recalled how he had observed Anne undressing and unknowingly exposing her adolescent body to the world. She wouldn't have known it but she had been right next to the window when she took her clothes off. Fresh in his mind was Anne's white skin, her small breasts and the way her nipples went hard in the cool air of her apartment. Sephiroth let out a soft groan as he felt himself getting aroused once more by the mere memory.
Then later he had observed her going to bed early and that that damn dog snuggling into her arms. Oh how Sephiroth wished he could be that dog. Happily being in Anne's arms as she showered him with affection, kisses and called him pet names. She even professes her love to him. Sephiroth groaned as he imagined his angel in his arms, whispering those three words as if it was a secret into his ear. It did seem wrong to lust after an underage girl but if it was someone as beautiful as Anne, who could blame him? Sephiroth didn't care, he just wanted to have her in his arms.
He was distracted by his cell phone going off. Wiping his hand clean, Sephiroth answered it.
"Sephiroth, where are you?!" Genesis snarled from the other side "I know you're at home so come out and let me in! I need those designs!"
"I'm not at home," Sephiroth said calmly "I've got the designs with me and I'll drop them off at your office in Midgar."
"Eh? You're in Midgar at this hour? I thought you normally enjoyed an evening drink at home now."
"I'm enjoying a drink," Sephiroth said as he poured out a glass of red wine that he had ordered earlier through room service "And I'm in Midgar for inspiration."
"Oh Gaia, I hope these designs are acceptable enough to sell out," Genesis sighed exasperatedly "Honestly, sending me on a wild goose chase."
"You chose to go to my home instead of waiting at your office," Sephiroth pointed out smugly as he wandered around the room aimlessly.
"You were taking so long," Genesis whined pathetically "My employees aren't being paid to just laze around until you get your sorry ass over to the studio to submit the designs for my workers to make."
"You need me Genesis, I am your top provider," Sephiroth smirked before sipping his wine "As your models have said it themselves, no-one designs clothes like me."
"Don't act so cocky, I can easily find another designer that will gladly take your place and win the approval from all the models in Midgar," Genesis huffed "Heck, I bet if Angeal tried to be creative instead of working at the hospital twenty four seven, he'd produce better designs than you. He'd definitely bring the designs to me on time, that's for sure."
"There is no need to be so bitter," Sephiroth said in a scolding tone "Don't worry, I'll bring the designs over to your studio in ten minutes, how does that sound?"
"Nngh, I swear, one day…you should really respect your position right now, Sephiroth! You will never know what you've had until you've lost it."
"If it weren't for me, Genesis, your company wouldn't be as big as it is now."
"Tch, smart mouth."
"Angeal's working on the bionic eye treatment, isn't he?" Sephiroth said as he walked up to the window and gazed down at Anne's apartment.
"Yeah, he's absolutely thrilled, won't shut up about it," Genesis grumbled "Apparently they've had a breakthrough quite recently but you know it's kind of hard to test. Why do you ask?"
"I was merely wondering because I happen to know someone who's blind," Sephiroth shrugged "Anyway, I need to go. I promised you designs in ten minutes and wasted two of them talking to you. Goodbye."
"Wasted?! Wasted?! How dare you say that you've wasted minutes talking to me! And don't you dare hang up on me like some common-"
Sephiroth chuckled and hung up despite Genesis's rants. He went over to the bedside table to collect his designs and glanced over at the designs with Anne. He glanced at her cardigan button before closing his fingers around it and squeezing it thoughtfully.
"My beautiful Anne…"