Bluebell Dreams

May 12, 2013 in Ajitofu, one-shots by Wasabi Warrior

Death was one thing Tiffany never thought of.

Until it actually happened.

She was much too busy brewing tea for Mr. Toto and Barbie. She spent too much time braiding what she could of her brother’s hair, dabbled too much into the life of Strawberry Shortcake, and thought too much of what life would be like if the skies were pink and muffins talked.

So when men wearing suits and shades knocked on the door and asked for her mom, Tiffany wasn’t sure how she’d react. Her first impulse was to run behind her mom and grip the hem of her skirt, but her mom told her to go upstairs and play. She was curious, and she would have imagined all sorts of things and asked all sorts of questions if she didn’t listen in. So she pretended to go upstairs before sneaking back down and hiding behind the wall by the living room.

She couldn’t understand what exactly they were saying, but she was able to single out a couple of words. Namely: lab, accident, Dr. Hwang, and big words she wasn’t sure of – casualtee, lawsoot, and compen… compensay… compen–something. Either way, it didn’t seem good news because all her mom did was nod, and, as soon as she closed the door, slide down against it and cry. It was the first time she had seen her mom cry.

She thought about asking her siblings what the words meant, but she figured it was grown-up stuff and her mom must have wanted it to be kept a secret.

Days later, after her mom had bought her a new black dress with frills attached to the sleeves and laces by the neckline, her mom called everyone to the living room. She wept, and paused, and wept again before finally managing to get the words out of her mouth.

“Daddy’s a brave man, isn’t he?” their mom asked.

Tiffany was sure her siblings were confused too because they looked at each other before nodding.

“Well, since he’s really brave, his boss decided to send him to a place where they need him more,” she explained.

“What’re you saying, ma?” Her brother’s voice trembled. “How come he didn’t even stop by to tell us?”

“He wanted to,” their mom paused, “he really wanted to. But he wasn’t given the chance–”

“Ma,” Tiffany’s sister voiced out. “Did something… happen?”

They all turned their attention to their mom, who kept her gaze down as she clutched her knee. Her skirt was already drenched from the tears she made no effort to stop. There was silence – long, cold, brutal.

When their mom finally spoke, and Tiffany thought she finally understood, she wished that their mom had just kept her silence.

“Your dad… has passed away.”

That night, Tiffany cried herself to sleep. But, in the following days, not a tear was shed. She was going to be brave, just like her dad.

 

 

When everything had been settled and her father’s body had been recovered from the site, a funeral was held. Tiffany’s mother invited their closest friends and relatives. They all wore black and quietly stood by the grave as each said their last words, dropped bluebells into the pit, and waited for the priest to finish the ceremony.

Tiffany was too young for it. Or at least that’s what her relatives said. They said something about short attention span and allowed her to speak first. After which, she was free to frolic around.

Because Tiffany was only nine and everyone she knew was at least six years older than her, she had gotten used to playing alone. That day was no exception. She started out by counting the number of cars, then drawing on the ground using a twig, and, finally, running after a butterfly across the field.

As she was doing this, she saw another girl around her age standing by the edge of the forest, looking at the crowd. Tiffany ran towards her, waving her hands in the air and smiling.

The girl didn’t to notice her until she was 15 feet away, then the girl looked around frantically before leaping towards the ground. Tiffany didn’t know what she was up to, but when she arrived, she found the girl lying flat on her back, eyes closed, and completely still.

“H-Hey!” Tiffany burst out. She rushed over to the girl and held her by the shoulders. “What– What’s wrong?”

The girl remained still. Her golden locks brushed against her milky, white skin. She looked so fragile, so delicate.

Tiffany set her back down and took a good look at her. Although it had been dirtied by the soil and smudges of blueberries, her gown was white, like a lab coat. She knew this because her mother wore it to sleep, and it had no laces or frills – or any design for that matter, as it ran down from her shoulders to her knees. The girl was barefoot as well, so the base of her feet was dirtied black with slight cuts.

“Whatdoidowhatdoidowhatdoido?” Tiffany panicked in place as she tried to figure out what to do. She wanted to run towards the adults and tell them about it, but they all seemed so serious and busy. Then, she remembered this one scene from a cartoon where the hero kissed the lady as she lay on the floor, lifeless.

Determined to be a hero, Tiffany took a deep breath before hunching over the girl. She slowly pressed her lips towards the girl’s. They were about to make contact when the girl’s eyes flipped open and she raised her arms in defense.

Surprised, Tiffany reeled back and yelped, “Y-You’re not dead.”

The girl was quiet and kept her guard up for a while before, perhaps, deciding that a dolled-up girl with ribbons all over was no threat. She eased her arms, but her eyes stayed wary.

“Well?” Tiffany said.

“I–I saw animals do it. They pretend to be dead, so the dangerous ones go away,” the girl explained. Her voice was soft, almost like the humming of the wind.

Tiffany took a step forward. “But I’m not dangerous.”

But the girl jerked up and retreated behind a tree.

“Don’t be scared. I just wanna be friends.” Tiffany flashed a smile. She showed her empty hands and took a seat on a bed of leaves.

The girl simply nodded before turning her attention back to the crowd in the distance.

“What’s so interesting about a bunch of adults?” Tiffany asked.

“W-Why?” the girl said.

“Why what?”

The girl swallowed as she emerged from behind the tree and moved closer to Tiffany. “Why are there so many… people?”

“Ah,” Tiffany began, “they’re here for my father. He worked for the lab nearby.” For a moment, Tiffany thought she saw a glint of surprise and familiarity in the girl’s eyes, but she figured it must’ve been her imagination. “Where are your parents?”

The girl shook her head. “Gone.

“So… you’re like me.”

“What do you mean?”

Tiffany reached for the girl’s arm and gently held it. “You’re hurt, too.”

At first, the girl seemed uneasy about the contact, but Tiffany’s warmth must have gotten to her because she seemed to be fine with it.

“Where do you live?” Tiffany asked. She looked around at the nearby houses and tried to guess which one the girl lived in.

But the girl didn’t reply. Instead, she tugged on Tiffany’s arm and pointed towards the heart of the forest.

Tiffany couldn’t hide her shock. Her lips parted, and her jaw dropped. “Y– You live in the forest? How?”

The girl grinned and shrugged.

“By the way, what’s your na–”

“Tiffany, what’re you doing there? That’s not safe,” Tiffany’s mom yelled from afar.

Startled, the girl quickly turned and retreated behind the trees.

“Wait, don’t go,” Tiffany pleaded.

“If you don’t come here this instant–”

Tiffany made her way back towards her mother, but not before glancing back and waving at the forest. She knew the girl could see her, and she would come back.

 

 

Her mother warned her about the forest. She said it much too vast, much too deep for a girl like Tiffany. There were wild animals, slippery crevices, and whoknowswhatmore. Tiffany wanted to believe and obey her mom, just like she had all her life. But she knew it was there, calling out to her, waiting for her.

And, there was that mysterious girl.

If she had said the truth, and she was indeed living there, then there was no reason for Tiffany to avoid the forest. It was a journey waiting to happen.

When Tiffany mustered up enough courage to stop being the good girl, she told her mom she was playing over at a friend’s house. Of course, it wasn’t completely a lie, she really was – except that she didn’t know her friend’s name and her house was the forest. She was sorry, but her mom wouldn’t understand.

So Tiffany made her way to the forest, past the cemetery, past the rows of houses, and across the fields. She went to the exact same spot where first met the girl and trudged inwards.

At first, she sensed the truth in her mother’s words. Aged willows towered over her, shrouding the sky overhead with its thick, long branches. Its moss-covered roots stretched out, forming a natural labyrinth with the broken trunks and huge boulders.

Tiffany scanned the area, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. It was already past noon, so she couldn’t have been sleeping. Intending to call her out, she cupped her mouth and breathed in.

“Sssh,” whispered a voice nearby.

Tiffany looked around once more. “Where are you?”

“Keep your voice down. She doesn’t like being disturbed.”

Tiffany turned her attention to the treetops, where she found the girl sitting on a branch. She gestured for her to come down and grinned.

“You weren’t lying.”

“Why would I lie?” the girl asked. She dusted her gown and scratched her head. “I’ve got nowhere else.”

“And who’s ‘she’?” Tiffany glanced behind the girl and frowned. “Is there someone else here?”

The girl laid her palm out and said, “She. She who takes care of me.”

Confused, Tiffany paused and thought. Then, she snapped her fingers and clapped. “Oh. You mean the forest!”

“Yes, the forest,” the girl repeated, nodding.

“Before I forget again,” Tiffany extended her hand and smiled, “my name’s Tiffany.”

Puzzled, the girl stared at Tiffany’s outstretched hand – and then at her own. “Tiffany.”

“Yeah.” Tiffany nodded.

The girl reached for Tiffany’s hands and shook it lightly. “Tiffany.”

“How about you?”

“Me?” The girl furrowed her eyebrows.

“Yeah. You. What’s your name?” Tiffany said.

“Uhm– name. T– T.I.P.C.O.27.”

“T.I.P.C.O.27? What an odd name,” exclaimed Tiffany, who had begun sizing up the girl in front of her. “But you know what I thought when I first saw you? I thought you were weird, and then I realized for someone who had lost her parents and was living in the wilderness, you seemed pretty calm.”

“Calm?” the girl repeated.

“Mhm. So, from now on, I’m calling you Taeyeon,” she beamed.

Taeyeon’s face lit up and she grinned. “I– I like… it.”

“I was wondering,” Tiffany scratched her head, “what do you eat?”

Taeyeon turned around and pointed at a cluster of bananas hanging from a tree. Her eyes went from the bananas, to Tiffany, and back to the bananas, as if asking Tiffany if she wanted some.

“No, it’s okay. I’m not hungry.” Tiffany brushed the air with her hand. “But you don’t talk much, do you?”

Taeyeon’s shook her head and frowned. “I’m… sorry.”

“What? What’re you saying sorry for?” Tiffany cupped Taeyeon’s face and smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll do the talking until you’re fine with it.”

The two took their place atop a stump and sat alongside each other, talking about things and imagining their adventures – although it was actually mostly just Tiffany with Taeyeon nodding along.

When the sun was beginning to set, which meant that Tiffany needed to go home, they bade each other good bye and Taeyeon escorted Tiffany to the entrance.

“Wait for me here tomorrow, and the day after that, and the one after, and each one after,” Tiffany said. “I’ll keep you company, so you don’t have to be sad anymore.” She raised her finger to her chest and drew an imaginary cross. “Promise.”

Taeyeon nodded and waved good-bye. “Promise.”

When Tiffany got home that day, she packed her toys into a bag and grabbed everything pink she could find – her favorite comb, her compact mirror, and her nail polish, among other things.

She wanted to prepare as much as possible because she had finally met the sister she always wanted.

 

 

When Tiffany returned the next day, she found Taeyeon waiting for her by the entrance, just as she had promised. And once they entered the forest, Tiffany didn’t think it was scary anymore. In fact, it was beautiful.

She noticed how streaks of sunlight shone through the cascades of leaves, revealing lush greenery so calming, yet full of vigor. The trees, the plants, and the stones were perfect foundations for this sanctuary – their sanctuary. What seemed like a dreadful abyss was now a magical kingdom.

Yes, this forest was now their secret. It would hold their hearts and keep them together. They would protect it just as it their bond. No one else needed to know because she was there and Taeyeon was there. And that was enough.

Tiffany noticed Taeyeon eyeing her bag, to which she grinned and said, “Nice, isn’t it?”

“What… is that?” Taeyeon asked, squinting.

Tiffany stopped in her tracks and stared in disbelief. “You’ve never seen a bag before?”

Taeyeon shook her head and frowned. “What’s it for?”

“It’s for carrying and keeping the things I like, safe.” Tiffany unzipped her bag and began bringing her toys out. “Like my toys.”

Taeyeon gawked in awe as Tiffany handed her various things, each looking nothing like the other.

“Surely you’ve played with dolls?” Tiffany asked, holding up her My Little Pony. She stroked its hair and smiled. “I’m lucky that I got the pink one. It was the last in stock.”

Taeyeon frowned. “What is… pink? I think of it before, but I’m not sure–”

“This is pink.” Tiffany gestured to the pony’s torso.

“I–I,” Taeyeon shook her head, “don’t understand.”

Tiffany scratched her head and furrowed her eyebrows. “What do you mean? Don’t you see this?”

“All I see is light and dark,” Taeyeon softly answered.

Tiffany paused to think. “Then– you’re blind?”

“I remember before,” Taeyeon turned to the ground, “the people – my parents – became very sad and said I had… a defect. I couldn’t understand. Maybe it is this?”

Quick to disagree, Tiffany reached for her shoulders and looked her in the eyes – which is when she noticed that Taeyeon’s pupils were of pure ebony, and said, “No. This isn’t a defect.”

“It’s not?”

“No. It’s perfectly normal.” Tiffany pulled her close and wrapped her arms around her. Hugs were supposed to make people feel good, feel warm inside, and Tiffany thought it would help because in her embrace, Taeyeon was shivering, and she was frighteningly cold.

“Tiffany, how do I learn what is pink?”

Tiffany closed her eyes and smiled. She was glad Taeyeon had asked that question. She wouldn’t have been able to leave things as they were. She pulled back and began. “Pink is like–” And she paused when she realized she didn’t know how to explain things without pointing to other things and mentioning other colors.

“Pink is like?” Taeyeon asked. Tiffany could tell she was eager to understand.

“Wait. I’ll teach you red first.”

“Red?”

“Red is when you feel really mad and angry. It is when you want to do something so much.” Tiffany tried her best to express the emotions using her hands and face, even stomping on the ground to make Taeyeon get a better sense of things. “Do you get it?”

“–A little?” Taeyeon blushed. She lowered her head and softly whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“Wait.” Tiffany pointed to Taeyeon’s cheeks and jumped up and down. “That– that is red!”

“Oh,” Taeyeon replied in amazement. She poked her cheeks and smiled. “I feel a little warm.”

Tiffany giggled and gently ruffled Taeyeon’s hair. “That’s it.”

Tiffany spent the rest of the day trying to explain all the colors to Taeyeon. There were times when she struggled to get her point across, but she kept at it because Taeyeon never lost the light on her face. And for that, Tiffany was thankful. She had always dreamed of becoming a teacher when she grew up, and Taeyeon gave her that chance.

There were times when Taeyeon said weird things, and she didn’t know how to reply and she wondered if things were alright. But she figured Taeyeon was just finding her way and she would help her with that.

 

 

On the days that followed, Tiffany brought cookies she helped her mom bake because no one else at home ate them. Taeyeon was hesitant at first, but she eventually gave in because, surely, Tiffany wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.

She said they tasted weird, unlike anything she’s tasted before, but she ate them anyway. Then, she burped loud enough that Tiffany burst out laughing. It amused Tiffany so much that she asked Taeyeon to teach her how, even though her mom said it was bad manners.

 

 

“Fany,” Taeyeon called out. She was lying beside Tiffany on the grass that stretched across the wide cliff by the edge of the forest.

“Yes, Tae?” Tiffany answered. It wasn’t unusual to hear Taeyeon speak out anymore. After all, two weeks had already passed since they first met, and although it was difficult trying to figure out what she wanted to say at first, Taeyeon eventually caught on to Tiffany’s expressiveness.

“I’m happy.”

Tiffany tilted her head towards Taeyeon. “Hmm? What do you mean?”

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Taeyeon confessed. Her voice was gentle and soft, but with its softness came a distinct firmness. “When that accident happened, all I saw was white light – and then I was here. I was lost.”

“Tae–”

“But it’s okay ’cause I’m happy. I got to be free and see the outside – the endless sky and the warm sun.” Taeyeon chuckled. “Plus I gained a friend.”

Tiffany sat up and faced Taeyeon. Despite Taeyeon having finally opened up, Tiffany saw that other changes were taking place as well. Taeyeon was getting thinner, her voice was becoming raspier, and she seemed a lot more tired. “Why– Why are you saying these?”

“Here.” Taeyeon plucked a bluebell from the ground and handed it to Tiffany. “Haven’t you ever wondered why the bluebells only grow on this side of the forest?”

“I have, but–” Tiffany paused. She glanced at the bluebell in her hand and answered, “But I don’t know the reason.”

“I don’t either.” Taeyeon snickered. “But, even so, I want to see a sea of bluebells across the forest fields.”

Because nothing spoke hope like a flower’s first-bloom.

“Taeyeon,” her voice trailed off and she pocketed the bluebell.

“Thank you, Fany.”

Taeyeon was tired. Tiffany could see that. And because her mom always told her to rest when she felt weak, Tiffany took off her jacket and draped it over Taeyeon.

“Rest,” Tiffany whispered. “Rest.”

Taeyeon said she was happy and thankful. That meant Tiffany was supposed to be happy as well. But there was something about Taeyeon’s words that made it seem like she was bidding farewell, and that wasn’t something Tiffany was sure she could handle.

 

 

Unfortunately, however, Tiffany and Taeyeon weren’t the only ones who took note of the time that passed. The rest of the world knew it, too, and that meant something had to give – sooner or later.

In as much as they had their own world in the forest – in each other’s company, it was still a world within a world, a world not theirs.

“You’ve been going out too often, don’t you think?” her mom asked one morning while she chewed on cereal. “Shouldn’t you make time for your dad?”

Tiffany swallowed and grinned. “I do, mommy. I visit him every day when I go out.”

“Be honest with me.” Her mom dried her hands and looked her in the eyes. “You’re not doing anything bad, are you?”

Tiffany frowned and shook her head. “I–I’m not. I promise.”

“Why don’t you take a break for a while? Spend time with your siblings, and read the new books I got for you.” Her voice was stern and commanding. There was no way she could refuse.

Because smiles were supposed to make everything better.

“But mom–”

“No buts. Your friend isn’t going anywhere, sweetie,” said her mom.

Tiffany didn’t argue because there was nothing she could have said. She thought then and there that good people made bad decisions, too, when they didn’t understand.

And she hoped that Taeyeon would understand her absence, and that she wouldn’t make a bad decision.

“Taeyeon– I’m sorry.” Tiffany fell on her knees and slumped against the cold wall.

 

 

The next three days that followed comprised the most agonizing wait in Tiffany’s young life. Mainly because it was more than that. It was the painful anxiety that lurched in her stomach as she imagined Taeyeon waiting for her. Tiffany was sure that she was, and each time the image flashed in her head, a searing surge of guilt and helplessness spread through her.

Until, finally, she decided to go against her mom’s orders and do what she needed to do the most. Needed – because she felt she would die if she didn’t, and because no one else knew their secret.

That was the burden of the secret they swore to protect.

But what hurt the most was the fact that she waited three days to brave it all.

So when Tiffany cast everything aside and ran through the door, over the fence, past the houses, and across the fields, she found her truth waiting by the entrance of the forest.

Leaning against a tree with her eyes closed was a girl whose golden hair had faded into a faint yellow. Her skin was pale, almost grayish.

“Taeyeon–” Tiffany rushed over to her, panting. “W-What’s wrong? What happened to you?”

Taeyeon’s eyes slightly opened. “You came.” She smiled, and the wrinkles on her face showed – wrinkles that weren’t there three days ago.

“You shouldn’t have.” Tiffany wanted to yell and get mad, but she knew she had no right. She let her down as well.

“I promised,” Taeyeon whispered, in probably the loudest she could manage. Her voice was raspy and strained. “I didn’t want to… break it.”

Tiffany embraced her. She gently stroked her hair and rubbed her back. “Babo. Because of me, you’ve gotten sick. Look at you.”

“No–” Taeyeon shook her head. “I knew this was going to happen.”

Tiffany sat beside her, if only to feel the remainder of the warmth of Taeyeon’s company. She had so many questions, yet she knew the girl was too tired to speak. She wanted to know her better – although she already knew her best. So the only thing left to do was to spend as much time as she could with her.

Seeing Taeyeon so quiet reminded her of when they first met, and it was sort of amusing how she had come back to where she started.

“Fany, can I rest on your shoulders?” Taeyeon asked, breaking the silence. Without waiting for an answer, she leaned towards Tiffany and nested her head against hers. “Will you tell me a story?”

And such was Taeyeon’s last wish.

Tiffany nodded and began. It came out naturally – the story of a girl who had lost family and gained another. As well as the story of a girl who was lost in the world, but found her way in the arms of another.

 

 

But before Tiffany was able to finish her story, the sun had set and the skies had darkened. Rain clouds began to roar, and the wind blew faster and stronger.

Tiffany lifted her head, careful to catch Taeyeon with her hands before she fell. She stared at the limp body in her arms. Taeyeon had fallen asleep with a smile on her face – and it was as beautiful as the first bloom in spring, as peaceful as the water flowing in the forest.

Before she noticed it, tears were already streaming down her face. But she made no effort to move. As much as she wanted to be brave and strong, these were not tears that could be stopped. It was their relationship coming to fulfillment.

With Taeyeon in her arms and rain trickling down, Tiffany lay still on the muddy ground. When the moment had passed and she had made her peace, Tiffany heaved Taeyeon over her shoulders and trudged towards the center of the forest. Along the way, she tripped and fell and bruised her arms, but she got up and continued on.

And when she had reached the center of the forest, where they used to play, Tiffany laid Taeyeon on ground and began digging with her bare hands. It took her all night and a couple slits on her fingers and chipped nails, but she finished. With the last of her energy, she buried Taeyeon and prayed over her.

 

 

Death can break people apart, leaving them as vestiges of their past, clinging on to memories worthwhile.

On the flip-side, death can also bring people together, creating a bond out of the experience and changing their lives forever.

But in certain cases, death exposes itself completely, revealing both sides to those who were bound to it by fate.

 

 

Tiffany dusted her shorts and stood up. She finished just in time to see the break of dawn. As the light sifted through the trees and into the heart of the forest, Tiffany felt the warmth Taeyeon radiated. She was tired, but no less complete.

In the distance, Tiffany heard her mom shouting her name, frantically searching for her.

But she didn’t budge.

Eventually, her mom will find her and take her away. She will punish Tiffany and keep her from going back to the forest ever again.

But things will be fine.

Taeyeon was watching over the forest now – guarding their secret with her life. Tiffany won’t see her for a while, but she won’t forget.

In a few years’ time, when Tiffany is old enough, and everyone has forgotten, she will return to the forest. And there, she will find a sea of bluebells.