Step 40: Fragments
Step 40: Fragments
I'm clean now, having finished my shower, except I couldn't wash my hair because the beads won't come off. A woman weaved them into my hair and I'm afraid only a woman can get them out. Though I'm also glad I didn't try to wash my hair, Cloud's shampoo might have been sabotaged again and I don't feel like putting Tifa's fruity scented shampoo on my hair.
Now dressed in day clothes, without a speck of makeup left on my face, I shyly venture downstairs, ready to retreat if the area is too crowded. "Good morning, the breakfast rush just passed so this place will be quiet for a while." I go out into the open space of the bar. "Did you like the beads and decided to keep them?" Tifa giggles.
"I can't get them off," I confess. "And this," I show her my silver nails, "won't come off either," no amount of scrubbing with soap and water would work.
Tifa laughs, "Okay, I'll have some mercy."
"Thanks..." I don't know if I should be thanking her after she took part in this, but I would rather stay on her good side, so I quietly sit at the bar and let Tifa free my hair of the beads. "Where is everyone?"
"Rufus, Tseng and Rude went back to Shinra. Elena is helping me in the kitchen; she said she wanted to learn more recipes. Reno is upstairs with Blaze, Marlene and Denzel, playing video games, and Cloud is out on a delivery, with purple nails," she chuckled at the end.
"Do I have to wait until they grow out?" I suppose I'll be wearing gloves for a while.
"I can give you some nail polish remover," though I gladly accepted Tifa's offer then, I changed my mind later when I read the multitude of warnings behind the nail polish remover bottle. Flammable, toxic, acid, poisonous and a variety of other things, plus the substance smelled rather deadly, I'll just go with the gloves.
I have concluded that women are indeed very dangerous creatures and their cosmetics are radioactive weapons in disguise.
"All done," Tifa wasn't really all done; she didn't remove one set of beads, which I fingered as a hint. "It doesn't look girly with just one. It looks good; you should keep it. I knew that she wasn't going to remove it for me so I quietly nodded. "You were asleep for a whole day, its morning, but not the same morning when everyone first woke up."
"Really?" She nods and I know she's telling the truth, I somehow feel the passing of time. At least I'm not tired anymore and I didn't have any nightmares. Maybe torturing me with a sleepover did have a positive effect, it got my mind off my troubled past and sacrifices aside, I did finally get some rest.
"Would you like some breakfast?" Tifa smiles cheerfully.
"Yes, please," I find that I am quite hungry after sleeping for so long, but I soon regret my wish for food.
"Elena, bring out the experiment!" Tifa calls towards the kitchen in the back.
"Experiment?" I'm having second thoughts about this.
"Relax, I'm sure it's good," Tifa tries to reassure me, but it doesn't work.
"Here they are," Elena's experiment looks like normal pancakes to me, maybe a little ticker. Instead of being stacked on top of each other, they are set in separate little plates, which she brought over on a tray. They are also smaller than usual, but there are more of them. "Make sure you savor each one and give me your sincere opinion before moving on to the next."
I was relived to find that the experiment was not as strange as it sounded. Elena was simply trying to figure out what kind of filling tasted best and trying out different combinations. I must say that cream filling pancakes are quite delicious.
xoxox xox xoxox
Shortly after finishing breakfast, Tifa and Elena retreated to continue their culinary experiments and I decided to stay there sitting at the bar and enjoying the peace and quiet, for a little longer before joining Reno, Marlene, Denzel and Blaze playing video games upstairs. It was then that a dark haired man wearing a red cloak arrived.
The man looked at me as if he was expecting me to be there, almost as if he recognized me, but he was not alarmed. He then silently took a seat on the stool next to where I was and observed me curiously and quietly.
Sometime after Tifa and Elena left and before he arrived, I had taken mother's necklace out of my pocket where I carried it like a good luck charm and had been absentmindedly fingering it, running my thumb on its smooth surface.
"A locket," it wasn't until the man spoke that I realized why he looked familiar. This man was also with Avalanche, a gun wielder I believe.
"Just a necklace," he doesn't seem too alarmed by my presence, was I wrong to think he recognized me? I'm a bit concerned about someone seeing my silver nails, I haven't had the chance to find a pair of gloves yet, but this man isn't exactly normal looking so I don't really feel judged.
"It was the only thing he gave her and he didn't even tell her, he only left it for her to find." The man spoke in riddles, making it sound as if the 'he' was himself, but that couldn't be right, why would he refer to himself in third person?
"What do you mean?" He makes it sound as if this necklace is an important piece of some kind of soap opera mystery that is about to be resolved. "This necklace belonged to my mother."
"I spoke to Tseng," the man revealed, suddenly changing the subject.
"Who are you?" My curiosity increased considerably.
"He was quite insistent to hear my version, but there are things I rather not talk about too often." Suddenly Tseng's secret mission comes to mind and I remember the conversation I overheard that time. Whatever was being hidden from me, perhaps it really was due to a lack of confirmation and this man has the answers Tseng was trying to obtain. When he arrived looking as if he was searching for me and confident that he would find me, was it because Tseng sent him here?
"Who are you?" I repeat the question with further puzzlement in my voice.
"Vincent Valentine and that," he motions towards the golden heart necklace, "is Lucrecia's locket.
"It doesn't open," lockets open, but I don't know why I feel the need to correct him. I hold the two heart pieces between my left and right index fingers and thumbs, gently tugging them apart. "See? The two pieces are soldered together."
"I wonder if she thought so too," one of Vincent's hands is a golden claw; he extends the other hand, the human one, and I reluctantly place the necklace into his open palm after a short moment of consideration. He holds the heart between his thumb and index finger and presses it, causing something to click and the two heart pieces pop apart, remaining attached only on one side.
I had tried to pull it apart, giving up in fear of breaking it, no wonder it wouldn't open. The design of having to press the heart to open it is unusual, but I suppose it is convenient, it's easier to open for those who know how.
Vincent doesn't even fully open the locket, allowing the pieces to rest on each other, millimeters apart. He hands it back to me. I fully open it, wondering if mother figured this out and put a picture inside, or if the secret to opening the locket remained unknown to her.
I'm surprised to find that there are two pictures in the locket, one on each half. One picture is of my mother, Lucrecia, I recognize her immediately. The other picture is of a man who is not Hojo.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Final Fantasy VII. Sephiroth's beads are a reference to Dissidia, because Snow and I make fun of his beads all the time. Cliffhanger! :D