Chapter 83 – Through A Test (1)
Louise had always separated herself from the others. She had to. She was an observer. No matter how hard she tried, she found it difficult to be like the others. And so sometimes she entertained another idea–if she became an adult and her life was stable, could she live in an environment and spend time with people that didn’t appear in the original story? There was no one’s future to compare to the original’s, and she could let her guard down in her mind. She could have a normal, enjoyable life.
“I…won’t be too stubborn.”
But Louise now broke the rule of her own will. She put down the role of comfortable observer and leapt right into the story.
Or maybe was the beginning of life.
There were certain lines between childhood friends that should no longer be crossed after a certain age, especially if their gender was different.
Such as staying in the other’s room late at night.
But it really was an emergency situation (although an agreement hadn’t been formally signed). Louise had agreed, and so the pair spent their time talking through the night, just like when they were young. They laughed until they were out of breath, and they used their hands to play games and pat each other on the head, but it didn’t go further than that. There was no change in the atmosphere. She played the perfect friend.
“So I was afraid if the president was caught here, we’d be shoveling soil in the greenhouse for at least three days.”
“Shoveling…good thing I know how to do that.”
Ian rested on his chin and considered the consequences if they were found out. All of the different scenarios were fraught with trouble, and even some were more troubling for Louise.
“I feel like I’m cruelly taking advantage of your kindness.”
“You’ve always been like that.”
Louise responded casually, but he frowned for a moment. He wondered if he took advantage of Louise to the point it could be called evil. In fact, there were rumors at the Academy that “Ian tried his hardest to bully poor Louise,” though to be honest, he had never been bothered by that rumor. Really. So next semester he’ll go right back to work.
Although Louise may grumble, but she would do her job perfectly, to the surprise of anyone. She was a really good worker. She had natural brains, but she was also good-hearted. He also admired her attitude of simply not acknowledging the expected limitations. Sometimes he felt like he needed to do the same too.
“I’ve always wondered, why do you…”
Why do you push yourself so hard? He was going to ask that, but Louise’s dainty head was starting to nod sleepily in front of him.
…He was just about to ask her a serious question. He smiled ruefully at the timeline. Anyway, he couldn’t leave Louise like this, so he carefully pulled her into his arms. Louise gave out a muffled noise as he changed her position, but after a moment of adjustment, her head with her slightly disheveled hair and a peaceful face leaned against him completely.
Well, there. What was this subtle relationship between childhood friends? As a healthy human being, shouldn’t she at least have a sense of security? Just a moment ago her barrier was lifted. Was it a test of human endurance? Or maybe he wasn’t supposed to endure it. Or maybe.
‘…Maybe she just got sleepy without thinking.’
Yes, that was the answer. The opponent was Louise Sweeney. He shouldn’t let his guard down.
He was satisfied with this conclusion and gently laid Louise onto the bed. She must have been quite tired, as she rubbed her face against the pillow as soon as it touched her cheek. He listened to the sound of her steady breathing as he pulled the covers over her body. She slumbered peacefully, with a face unchanged from childhood. When he was done he sat at the bedside, gently brushing away Louise’s hair from her face.
“I’m very grateful that you’re friends with someone like me.”
He whispered those words unwittingly. He remembered his mother’s funeral. In that remnant of a memory, he deserved to feel all the rage that a small body could possibly feel after losing a mother. Yet, among the adults who did not shed tears, the boy bit his lips hard to suppress his feelings.
But the memory he thought of was something else–Mrs. Sweeney shedding sincere tears, and her young daughter. Louise was concerned about whether he would grieve alone, and her fingers sympathetically stroked his damaged lips. When he cried alone, did he remember the warmth that Louise gave him? That was likely. He was deeply moved by her. And then, he was very surprised when that thoughtful girl turned out to have a very stubborn temperament.
“And you were weird. You were as weird as Simon.”
She was like a child who collected love in her surroundings and held it close to her forever. A child who, for the most part, thought twice about what she would say so as not to offend anyone. A child who sometimes seemed like a big sister. She was also an outspoken, challenging person, and it seemed as if she couldn’t tolerate losing a small quarrel.
“In a way…it was a kind of a special treatment, wasn’t it?”
And he liked it. Of course, he thought she was a very rude child at the time, but he smiled when he remembered those moments. Louise always had annoyed face whenever she lost to him in a small way. He also hated losing to her. Naturally, they became rivals. Gender was irrelevant to the competition, and so to Ian, Louise was just Louise.
But time had changed him, and she changed steadily as well. As time continued its march, complicated emotions began to mix into their relationship. He couldn’t say exactly when. It would be like asking him to pinpoint where the sky began and when he had suddenly opened his eyes he discovered he had risen to a place that was too high for him to return–
Oh, here is sky. It was like realizing that.
An embarrassing memory came to his mind.
“It was terrible. You allowed an adolescent boy to be your ballroom dance teacher. Now that I think about it, even the adults are bad.”
He smiled awkwardly as he grazed his fingers at the ends of her hair. Ian, of course, was both skillful in leading and following, so there was no deficiency of him as a dance teacher.
“You were a great student because you were a hard worker and picked things up quickly. And of course I was the strict teacher.”
When Louise first learned to dance, she focused on following the routine, just like many people who were first starting out. She didn’t follow his direction at all, and only carried out the steps from what she memorized in her head. But soon she became proficient. She cleverly began to grasp the irregularities, and began to follow a direction that was not predetermined. There was no need for words. They communicated with their eyes and balance. He thought at that moment, to lead someone stimulated the desire for control and possession. For an adolescent boy, such darkness was terrifying.
“How many times did I point out that you were stiff? Half of it was true.”
He chuckled. Louise had a rather stiff side. It was cute.
“The other half of it was meant for me.”
And then Louise Sweeney grew prettier day after day.
Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that she always looked like that. Louise’s behavior and face weren’t really much different from when she was a child, but it was his eyes that were beginning to change.