The clouds growled with thunder, threatening to open their contents and soak the world below with water. Overhead the autumn sky was dark and dreary, perfectly matching Lyra’s mood as she walked down the pavement. She barely noticed the solemn arch in front of her, too absorbed in her thoughts.
It had been five years since that night. Could it really already be so long? When exactly had the years gone by? She couldn’t remember. The pain had dulled, but there were still times she wanted to turn to her dad for advice, only to remember that he was no longer there to give her any answers.
The graveyard was quiet for the most part, most of the people sensibly staying inside and out of the wind. But it was the anniversary of her dad’s death, and she had already put off visiting for far too long, so here she was; doing the not-so-sensible thing of walking in the biting wind at a time most people already started preparing for the night, all on her own in a forlorn cemetery. At least it wasn’t raining.
Her steps faltered slightly as she rounded the corner and her dad’s grave came into sight. There was another person braving the windy night, completely lost in his thoughts as he stared at the grave. The oh-so-hated scar on his cheek glared at Lyra, reminding her that he had just as much right to be here as she did. The scar had faded with time, but Lyra knew it would never disappear completely.
She didn’t acknowledge him as she approached the grave. There were two bouquets of flowers present, indicating that someone other than the two of them had already visited as well. Almost reverently, she laid the flowers in her hand on the grave to join the other bouquets and stepped back, joining her brother in silent contemplation. His eyes were shuttered, and Lyra wasn’t entirely sure he had even noticed her presence. It didn’t take a genius to notice he was still silently blaming himself for the events of that night.
The hand squeezing her shoulder informed her that he wasn’t as oblivious to her presence as he appeared. She hadn’t seen him in ages, and if it was anybody else she would’ve drawn away, but they had been rather close at a stage in their lives, and in that moment they were united by their mutual sorrow.
It was several moments before Renard pulled himself far enough out of his thoughts to acknowledge Lyra’s presence.
“Been a while,” he stated casually, his eyes still studying the granite in front of them and his hands retreating back into his pockets. “How’ve you been?”
She gave him a wry smile. “Fine,” she replied. “I’ve been…fine.”
“Good. That’s good,” he nodded and fell silent again.
It was like a conversation between strangers that had absolutely no common interests. They stood in awkward silence, neither one of them knowing what to talk about. They had simply drifted too far apart from each other.
It was sad, Lyra thought, considering how much he once meant to her. How special he still was. But they had both continued on with their lives, and that same camaraderie that had once caused them to prank their sister together no longer existed.
“And you?” Lyra asked after a while, desperate to keep the conversation flowing. “How have you and Ingrid been?” Renard had married his high school girlfriend several years previously in a quiet, private ceremony. Needless to say, Arienne hadn’t been present at the event.
He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Not much to say,” he replied. “Can’t say we have any complaints. She’s…started to talk about children though.”
That instantly had Lyra’s attention. Renard, a father? What a strange thought. She supposed it had to happen eventually, but for some reason she had simply never thought about it. Thinking about Renard and children was like thinking about a terrible disaster in the making. Of course, he could’ve grown more responsible since Lyra had last seen him – probably had – but Lyra simply couldn’t compute the thought.
Renard and children…just didn’t go together.
“What a scary thought,” she murmured.
The words caused Renard to laugh. The sound wasn’t quite like Lyra remembered it, but it was still refreshing to hear. In the days between their dad’s death and the day she had last seen him (which, coincidently, had been the day he had gotten married), she had never heard him laugh even once. Of course, she hadn’t seen him much, but still.
“That’s been more or less my reaction too, yes,” he agreed, an amused smile playing on his lips. “I’d be a horrible dad.”
“Well, at least you have a great example to follow,” Lyra murmured, her eyes fixed on the grave in front of them.
His eyes immediately shuttered again and the smile fell from his lips.
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied softly and retreated back into his thoughts again.
They fell into silence again, and Lyra took the chance to study the bouquets on the grave, wondering where the second one came from. It had to be either her mother, or Arienne, but she wasn’t entirely sure. She’d been drifting slightly away from her mother as well, choosing to spend more time at Edwin’s place than at her own house. She still hadn’t officially moved in with him though, even if they had been dating for almost three years now. She didn’t want to leave her mother entirely alone in the house.
“Arienne,” Renard murmured softly and gestured at the flowers Lyra was staring at with a slight tilt of his chin. “She left just as I arrived.” He clenched his jaw and a muscle jumped in his cheek. “We had…words,” Renard admitted, his eyes pained and distant.
Lyra sighed internally. So the feud was still going strong.
“Not of the good kind, I gather,” she stated softly. He clenched his jaw again and gave a terse shake of his head.
“Not of the good kind, no,” he agreed tersely.
This time Lyra sighed audibly. As much as she loved her sister, there were times she wished Arienne would stop being such a self-centred little bitch. Her continued insistence to treat their brother like some kind of criminal irritated the hell out of Lyra. It would be so much easier to fix her family’s bonds if the older girl (woman now, really) just stopped with her damn stubborn streak.
“Anyway,” Renard said, drawing Lyra’s thoughts back to the present, “I have to get going; I’m on duty tonight. It was nice to see you again. We should catch up sometime soon.”
Yeah, like that was going to happen, Lyra mused. The moment he walked away he’d probably forget all about his family, making absolutely no effort to stay in contact. Just like he had done all these years.
“Yeah, sure,” she said without enthusiasm, lifting her hand in farewell. “See you.”
He gave her a tight, small smile before walking away, leaving her to once more stand alone in the wind.
The sky had started clearing, but in return the cold wind had become even stronger. Lyra pulled her jacket closer against her shoulders. She was going to get chilled to the bone if she stayed much longer.
“Things would’ve been so much simpler if you were still here,” she murmured to the silent grave, her eyes studying the familiar words engraved in the stone. The grave remained silent, just like she had expected it to. She laughed softly, amused by her own thoughts. “Maybe I just need to get away for a bit; go somewhere far away from here,” she joked. “Maybe then when I come back, everything will just be magically fixed.” She snorted. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if problems could be fixed liked that?
She smiled and turned away, walking down the pavement back to the exit, and back to the present. She still missed her dad immensely, but she had learned how to live in the present. The ghosts were still there, but they no longer held her captive. Time had definitely dulled the pain.
The wind was howling by the time she returned home, but the moment she reached the little valley her house was located in the worst of the wind was cut off by the mountains, leaving her feeling warm and sheltered. She entered the house in a much better mood than she had expected she would.
To her surprise, the house wasn’t silent and empty tonight. Tonight, she almost couldn’t hear the ticking of the clock over the music coming from the stereo, and from the direction of the kitchen she could clearly hear voices. For a change her mother was actually at home and not out working, but it was the second voice that really surprised Lyra.
Talk of the devil and she shall appear.
Arienne was talking to their mother, her posture relaxed and happy. Lyra felt a flash of irritation at the sight. It wasn’t fair for Arienne to be so carefree, not after she had caused Renard so much pain.
“Huh. Look who deigned to grace us with her presence,” Lyra stated snidely, leaning against the door threshold. Arienne looked at her with a slight scowl on her face, her good mood instantly disrupted. It was then Lyra noticed the tear streaks on her sister's face, and the tightness around her eyes.
“Girls,” their mother warned them before Arienne could respond to the insult. She huffed and turned back to their mother. For one of the few times in her life, Lyra didn't push the issue. The smudged mascara brought back memories she'd rather not think about.
"It's okay, I have to go home anyway," Arienne said with averted eyes, standing up from the table. "We're having dinner with Max's parents tonight, so he's waiting for me."
The retort was out of Lyra's mouth before she could stop it.
"Oh, so you have dinner with your husband's parents, but not with us. I didn't realise we mean this little to you."
Inwardly, she berated herself. She hadn't meant to say that. Her family was already messed up enough - she didn't need to exacerbate the situation.
The corners around Arienne's eyes tightened.
"What I do with my time has nothing to do with you, Lyra," she retorted bitterly. "And have you ever stopped to consider that maybe it's this exact attitude of yours that makes me not want to spend time with you? I don't have to listen to your barbs, Lyra. I have enough crap in my life already." She shot Lyra a glare and walked out of the room, and several seconds later, Lyra heard her close the front door behind her.
Her mother gave an exasperated sigh, making Lyra feel even worse. Why, oh why, couldn't she just keep her mouth shut?
"Honestly, Lyra, that was completely uncalled for," her mother berated her. The words caused irritation to rise in Lyra's chest. She already knew it, dammit. She didn't need anyone to tell her.
"Whatever," she retorted with a scowl, her previous good mood completely disrupted. "What the hell is her issue in anyway?"
Her mother fixed her with a pointed stare.
"Shouldn't you be the one asked that?" she asked pointedly.
The last bit of Lyra's temper snapped at the question. She got it already. She was a horrible person who only managed to fuck up everything around her.
"Fine, I get it," she snapped at her mother. "I'll go, since I'm clearly not welcome here." She turned on her heel and marched out of the house, scarcely noticing where she was going. The moment she stepped out the house, the raging gusts of wind immediately made her regret her decision, but her pride wouldn't let her go back. Instead, she set a course for Edwin's house, hoping he wasn't out.
"Is something wrong?" Edwin asked her when she arrived at his house and sank unto his couch with a sigh. She dropped her head on his shoulder and soaked in his warmth, calmed and comforted by his presence.
"Fight with my mom and sister," she murmured softly, inexplicably tired out by her outburst. Edwin made a noise of agreement and wordlessly wrapped his arm around her.
"It happens," he comforted her. "If it's any solace, I had to flee from my mother as well. She simply wouldn't stop with the annoying questions." Lyra smiled slightly at his statement, understanding his pain. He didn't need to clarify which questions he was referring to. Lyra herself had also been exposed to them, numerous times. His mother so desperately wanted a daughter-in-law.
They sat in silence for some time, both of them content to watch the scenes airing on the TV, merely enjoying each other's presence. The story on the TV was a pretty terrible thriller called 'Sharks...on Land!', and before long, Lyra got swept up by the bad clichés and corny dialogue.
"Plumbob, this is terrible," she accused laughingly. "Why on earth are you watching this?"
Edwin flashed her a roguish grin at her accusation.
"Because it's funny," he admitted. "It's supposed to be scary, but as you can see, it's anything but. I suppose it is gory," he conceded, "but the gore only makes it funnier."
"You're right," Lyra agreed and snuggled deeper into his side, settling down to watch the rest of the terrible movie.
The next day dawned bright and clear, bringing with it the promise of a warm and sunny day. It was a welcome change from the dreary and rainy conditions that had plagued the town the last week or so, so when Edwin suggested they spend the day at the beach, followed by a picnic at their own special secluded spot, Lyra thought nothing of it and immediately agreed.
Unfortunately, the water was way too cold to swim in, so they moved to their spot quite early in the day, spending most of the time just lazing around, simply soaking up the sun and talking about nonconsequential things.
She should've seen it coming. She should've known that it wasn't just any normal day; that Edwin had planned something else, but she hadn't, so she was completely blindsided by his actions when he finally offered her the little black box in the palm of his hand, his eyes questioning.
"Marry me?" he asked softly, hopefully, vulnerably.
She stared wordlessly at the ring, her thoughts racing a mile a minute through her mind. Marriage? Was this something she wanted? Sure, they had talked about it, but only in passing, nothing serious. So, did she want to marry Edwin?
She didn't know.
Sure, she loved him (or at least, she thought she did) and she enjoyed spending time with him, but marriage? Was she truly ready for that?
Inadvertently, she wished the easy status quo that had been between them could've remained. She didn't think she was ready for this.
...Then again, wasn't that what their entire relationship had been heading towards? The status quo between them had been easy and comfortable, but it couldn't continue indefinitely. It had to end sometime.
...And she did love him. Didn’t she?
She gave him a smile, ignoring the dread in her heart at the thought of marriage, and nodded.
"Sure," she agreed, the words sounding to her like it came from somebody else. "I'll marry you."
Needless to say, both Lyra's and Edwin's mothers were ecstatic by the news. They both jumped into the wedding planning process with eagerness, sometimes making decisions about the wedding that Lyra herself definitely wouldn't have made.
For some reason though, Lyra simply couldn't find the enthusiasm to join the planning process, so she simply allowed her mother and mother-to-be to make the agreements, only occasionally leaving an opinion. She did not want purple and yellow flowers at her wedding, no matter how pretty her mother thought it was.
Far, far too soon, the day for the wedding arrived. She stood in the antechamber of the wedding venue, waiting to go in. Her two bridesmaids, Arienne and Lakisha, stood with her, making small talk Lyra didn't listen to. For the first time in ages, Renard and Arienne were in the same room without fighting, as Lyra had asked her brother to escort her in and she had informed Arienne in no uncertain terms that she would not allow them to fight at her wedding.
It did make the atmosphere slightly tense, but Lyra wilfully ignored it. She had bigger things to worry about.
She wasn't ready to get married. She had thought she was, but she wasn't. Her life had become that exact same pattern she had so lamented about back in school, and she hated it. Get a job, get married, have children? Wake up, change the screaming toddlers' diapers, go to work, go to sleep, repeat? She didn't want that. She couldn't let that be her life, but that was exactly what her life was steadily becoming. She felt imprisoned, chained to a future she didn't want.
She wasn't ready to do this. She didn't want to do it.
Renard cleared his throat, pulling her back to reality. Arienne and Lakisha had already left the room, and Renard was staring expectantly at her, clearly indicating that it was time to go in and get married.
She couldn't do it.
"Renard..." she pleaded, silently begging him to help her find a way out of this. He gave her only a single glance before he pulled her into his arms, accurately guessing the reason for her distress. She blinked back tears, afraid of smudging her makeup.
"Oh, Lyra," Renard sighed despairingly, soothingly rubbing her back. "Don't tell me you're getting cold feet now?"
"I can't do this, Renard," she admitted, trying to swallow the lump in her throat. "I feel like I'm about to make the biggest mistake of my life, and I can't. I can't do it. I can't marry him, Renard."
"Then why are you?" he asked her, one eyebrow slightly lifted with confusion.
"Because...because I don't know, okay?" she complained, her eyes burning. "I thought...I thought I wanted this, I thought it was the right thing to do, and everybody was expecting it - "
"When exactly," Renard interrupted her tirade, "did you start adhering to expectations?"
The question left her struck silent. When had she? It was expected of a couple to get married after a certain amount of time had passed. She was expected to say yes. It was expected of her to lead that kind of life.
It had never been something she wanted for herself.
She felt giddy by the revelation, as if all of the chains had been broken. She didn't need to get married. She was still free to lead her life the way she wanted it to. It would devastate Edwin, but she couldn't marry him.
"You're right," she agreed, smiling peacefully for the first time in what felt like ages. "When did I?" She looked at him and without saying anything, she knew he understood. He knew what her decision was, but she still confirmed it verbally. "Please, tell Edwin I'm sorry."
He smiled and gave her shoulders a squeeze before he disappeared through the door, going to inform everyone that the wedding was off.
She smiled as she was left alone in the antechamber, feeling relaxed and carefree for the first time in months. From the next room she heard a sudden increase in noise as Renard informed the groom of the news she found so wonderful.
It wasn't long before Renard returned, Edwin accompanying him dejectedly. The look Edwin gave her was heart-breaking, but Lyra stubbornly stuck to her decision, squaring her shoulders and looking at him with determination in her eyes. She didn't even notice when Renard slipped out of the room to give them some privacy.
"Tell me, Edwin," she asked, breaking the air before he could ask why. "Do you think we would've been happy together - truly happy?"
He frowned slightly at the question, caught off-guard by her interruption.
"Of course we can be," he argued, his voice laden with confusion. "Why on earth would you think otherwise?"
The question made her smile. He didn't get it. He'd never get it. It only served to reinforce her decision. The person he wanted to marry, to spend the rest of his life with...it wasn't Lyra. It never had been her. He'd only loved her as an idea.
"I see," she replied with a small, carefree smile. "Because I don't, Edwin, and the fact that you don't get it means we never will." She turned on her heel to go home, but he grabbed her wrist, preventing her from completing the movement.
"Just what the hell do you mean with that?" he asked her with a scowl. "Talk to me, Lyra. What is it that I don't get? Why do you say we'll never be happy together? Look, I understand if you don't want to marry me, but will you at least give me a reason why?"
"Because," Lyra replied gently, quietly removing his hand from her wrist, "what I want from life and what you want from life are two entirely different things. I'm not the right woman for you, Edwin. I'll never be happy with you, and I'll never be able to make you happy either, and I don't want either of us to have that kind of life."
He still didn't get it. His eyes were heavy with confusion, and there was no sign of comprehension anywhere on his face.
"I don't understand," he complained. "I mean, we've been happy so far, haven't we?"
"So far," she agreed without hesitation, "but it's not going to last. The time we spent together was wonderful and amazing, but it's not going to stay that way. Eventually things will change, and all it will result in is that one of us is going to get chained into a life we won't be happy with. I know you want the typical Sunset Valley life, with a gaggle of children one day gathering around your feet and a loving wife to welcome you home each day with dinner waiting on the table, but that wife will not be me. I don't want that life, Edwin, I don't. Not now, not in ten years' time, not in a hundred years' time. Never. And the fact that I don't want it and you do, means that we'll never be happy. You need someone who wants to have the same kind of life you want, and I'll never be that woman, Edwin. I cannot be that woman."
The emotions flickering through his eyes made her feel like a dog. It was clear that he didn't agree with her. Hurt and anger and confusion were the most predominant ones, and it was almost enough to make her take everything back, but she remained firm. She refused to ruin either his or her life.
"I'm sorry, Edwin," she apologized, her eyes beseeching him to understand, "but it's not going to work. This status quo has to end. And I truly hope that you'll find someone who will make you happy, but that someone is not me."
"Then why," he asked with a broken voice when he realised she had finished talking, "did you say yes in the first place?"
It was a simple answer, but once again it was one she knew he wouldn't understand the true significance of.
"Because it was expected of me," she answered simply.
She turned around again to leave, and this time Edwin did nothing to stop her. Walking away from him hurt a lot more than she had thought it would, but Lyra didn't falter. As much as it hurt, she knew it was the right thing to do.
She only hoped that one day, he might understand, and maybe even forgive her, if only just a little.
Lyra sat on her bed, silently watching the familiar eerie light from the Full Moon streaming through her windows. Tomorrow, she knew, the town would be awash with the news that she had left Edwin at the altar, but tonight, she didn't care. She had made her decision. Tomorrow, she'll leave Sunset Valley and go look for a different life in a different town. She had lived in this stagnant town one day too many.
To her relief, no one in her family had begrudged her her decision. Her mother had simply hugged her and told her that she'd support her no matter what happened, and while Arienne had made a snide remark or two about the failed wedding, she too had admitted that she couldn't really see Lyra happy in Sunset Valley. It was an immense relief, having her family's support. She was finally feeling that the broken bonds in her family were slowly being repaired. Seeing both Renard and Arienne standing in the living room at the same time without fighting had definitely left her with a feeling of hope.
It was the right choice, she knew. She'd miss Sunset Valley, but she'd never be happy if she stayed.
The sound of soft music intruded into her thoughts, making her frown slightly. It was very late in the night (or very early in the morning, depending on how one looked at it), and she knew her mother was already asleep, so she shouldn't be hearing music. She was pretty sure the stereo in the living room had been turned off when her mother had gone to sleep.
Curious, she got up to investigate, not even bothering to smooth out the creases from her clothes.
The house was eerily quiet as she made her way downstairs, and for some reason the house seemed even more desolate than ever. She almost wished for someone, anyone, to appear, only so the house would feel a bit more lived in. But it was a futile wish, and the house remained quiet. Not even Charlotte appeared.
Downstairs, the stereo was off, like she had expected, but she could still hear music. It was definitely coming from the direction of the lake beside their house. Someone was singing into the night, with a voice that reminded Lyra of silver notes and a gentle autumn breeze. She went outside, trying to figure out who was singing.
It was Charlotte. Why had she never realised what a beautiful voice the ghost had? She didn't understand the words the ghost was singing, but she was singing with such emotion that it brought tears to Lyra's eyes. She walked closer to the ghost, illogically desiring to comfort her.
The sound of her steps must have alerted the ghost, as the song was suddenly cut off abruptly. Charlotte turned around startledly, her colourless eyes wide with surprise.
"No!" the ghost exclaimed. "Don't come -"
Her words were silenced in the explosion of light that suddenly enveloped them. Before she could do anything, tendrils of something wrapped around Lyra and jerked her off her feet. She cried out in alarm and clenched her eyes shut against the bright light, wondering just what the hell was going on.
She fell hard on the ground, the impact jarring the air from her lungs. Beside her, she heard someone breathing hard, trying to get back air in their lungs as well. She opened her eyes cautiously, ready to close them in case the bright light was still present, but the sight that greeted her caused her to shoot upright, staring at her surroundings in bewilderment.
She was not at the lake beside her house. In fact, she was pretty sure there was nowhere in Sunset Valley that looked like the scene in front of her. Even the moon looked different.
...What exactly had just happened?
And where the hell was she?!
A/N: This chapter was written before my save file went corrupt (I just didn’t have the shots yet), so don’t be surprised if some discrepancies appear in the future, or if I fail to mention something again. I deleted both Renard and Arienne’s spouses in the poser save, so…they’re not married anymore. I want to bring the two of them along to the new world, but I don’t really know how to justify it in the story. :/
Edwin deserves someone better than Lyra :(. For the longest I debated whether I wanted them to end up together or not, but in the end my original idea won out instead. I feel bad for Edwin and I like them as a couple, but Lyra has bigger things waiting for her, so they can't be together. At least, not in this save. I think I'm going to pop the two of them into my play-for-fun legacy save to give them a chance to be together.
And as to why that conversation had to happen at their wedding and not earlier…well, I wanted to see Lyra in a wedding dress. >_<
Oh yeah, the world I used in the last shot is a really beautiful custom world called Howell Island. I found it…on a site that’s apparently dead now. :/ It’s not the world I’m going to be moving my family to; it’s just a tad bit too small for that. I’m just going to use it until I’m done with the upcoming arc. Then it’s onwards to…hmm. I haven’t really decided yet. Probably Dragon Valley, although Aurora Skies and Hidden Springs are also good candidates…