It had been a long time since Arata had felt so at peace with herself. With the world.
There she was, resting contentedly on a friend, Ivan—tall and calm, ever so gentle as she tilted her head towards his shoulder, as they both reclined softly into the embracing couch; A friend who she had considered a very dear friend, though it seemed to be only yesterday to Arata that they had first met. But then again, the woman supposed, what does time really matter, when you are a being like herself? Time was just a daily constant in her life, just like weather or air. Always there, with not much alarm or caution to be given to it. Ivan was a man whom she held to great respect. He was a kind and fierce man, Arata had thought; someone who had helped her in such dire situations and had simply been such a good friend, that it would have been almost rude to have thought of him as anything less.
The room was dim, yet full of the tender light of a not-quite setting sun. The walls of the room were painted, stroked, with a pale sunlight and soft shadows of the two figures resting together on a quiet afternoon, shadows of tall furniture dancing behind timidly. Two teacups were delicately lying on top of a glossy coffee table, fragile in their own beauty.
Raven black hair fell in strands in front of Arata’s eyes as she shifted to lean Ivan. She closed her eyes. No—she opened her deep coffee-brown eyes; she could not tear her eyes away from the sight outside the slightly-stained window, warm light filtering through the panes. Autumn was arriving, and Arata, being from a country of simple seasons of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’—‘monsoon’ and ‘post-monsoon’, and then only ‘summer’ and ‘winter’—never really had the chance to experience such a strange season as Autumn. She was mesmerized when she had the sliver of a moment to visit other countries during the particular season. The way the leaves had started to crisp and burn into new, bold colours made her think she could stare at the trees for hours. Not only that; the cool breeze of a warm day, the sort of just-right weather rarely seen in her country, made her smile. At the same time, the lingering feeling of Winter looming around the corner made her smile fade slightly. It was as if different feelings had washed and blended, muddled together, and had been tossed with orange and red leaves and the smell of soft musk after the rain, to make the quite-peculiar season.
Bliss was surely one of those feelings.
Ah—he was getting up. She sat up, straightening herself, and making sure most of her was on the couch instead of on the floor, since that was where they seemed to be sinking. Her eyes glanced down at the floor; Arata worried that her carelessness and informality might have been too much for Ivan. After all, just because she felt completely at ease with him…Surely, she thought logically, he may not feel the same level of informality. She looked up at him—or rather, merely in that direction, for she could not bring her eyes up any farther out of courtesy. Her olive palms held her face, elbows resting on her knees. Arata closed her eyes lightly.
Worry must have been one of those feelings tossed in, as well.
Was she supposed to be doing something: making small conversation? Juggling oranges? Talking about the weather? She didn’t know what to be doing. Maybe Ivan was waiting for her to come up with a witty remark, some form of intelligent speak so that he could know he wasn’t just sitting on a couch with a piece of wood. Though, to be frank, she was rather happy sitting around and doing virtually nothing. Arata could not remember the last time she had done so. It was a nice feeling—a sweet, floating feeling. Of course, being a nation, she would have to come down from that eventually. But the woman was content. The edges of her mouth twisted slightly, into a small shy smile, a smile to herself. Her eyes flitted to the man beside her. Ivan was in a quite graceful repose, deep-ocean navy eyes looking intently at the space ahead. Though, his seemed to be concentrating very hard on something. Before Arata even had the chance to open her mouth and as what was wrong—
“Arata, have you ever been in love?”
Love was a rather strange and different feeling indeed, that had been tossed with the bunch.
Arata blinked, feeling her eyes widen involuntarily. A question like that had always threw her off, and she was hardly ever asked such a…strange question. Her heart had quivered, taken aback as much as her mind. Her mouth opened to speak, but she did not know what words to possibly…
Her eyes drifted to the window again. The sky was orange yellow, bold and wonderous to behold. She thought of the question and had silently confirmed—indeed, love was a different and difficult feeling. She thought of this, being acutely aware of the shoulder which she was leaning on so gently. The soft thumping of her heart whispered to her. The picture of a man, but blurred, smeared with white and hard light, making him almost indistinguishable. It could have been anyone, though. For the past ages, eras, periods of enlightenment and depression, that man could have been any of the important men whom she had encountered; faced off with, laughed with, sipped tea with. Leaned a shoulder on.
She felt herself heat up, but in confusion.
“I…” Her voice hovered, not sure how to continue. “Well, love is a complicated emotion. Sometimes…you think you love someone, when you may not, right?” Her coarse brown eyes darted to him, meeting his marine blue pair. “But, at the same time, you may think you do not love someone, when you truly do. It’s a rather confusing feeling,” she admitted. “So, I can’t say for sure if I have been in love or not.” The heat burned against her neck this time; embarrassment, at not being able to answer his question. And yet, her country had been known for love gurus…
“All I know is that love is supposed to be when you think about that person—when you’re happy, sad, confused, frustrated…” Arata smiled weakly. “It’s really a big mess, don’t you think?”
(( oh my god SO SORRY /sobbing forever. Anyway here you go. Hope you like. I was listening to this on repeat so uh yes sorry /sob ))
She was taking her time to respond. Yes, it had definitely been a mistake to ask. Many times he had become far too comfortable with people he liked, been too honest, and given away too many of his secrets. Though he was guarded around others, the warmth of friendship always seemed to intoxicate him and open his mouth. He wasn’t sure which was better, to be distant yet safe from fire, or to stand point-blank in front of the other, completely defenseless, but at least close enough to look into each other’s eyes. Trust itself always seemed to betray him. Like the cycle of the seasons, the relationships between nations were bound to change. Wasn’t he friends with some of the western nations that had turned their backs on him after the revolution? And then… there was that one person…. He had been so sure their relationship would last. At least, longer than it had. But in the end, he had betrayed Ivan too.
Ivan had been lucky with Arata so far, but that didn’t mean something would ruin their friendship in the future. To take her for granted was to act as if the winter would never reach Russia.
Ivan continued to wait patiently, though his mind was fidgeting. Arata wasn’t looking at him, and all he could see were her long eyelashes, fanning out under her slightly lowered eyelids. He felt as if they never made enough eye contact, despite the fact that they had been friends for a while now. He wondered briefly if she was intimidated by him and frowned. He considered him and his friends to be equals, “comrades,” even. The last thing he wanted was to feel alienated even with them.
Her words were delicate and unsure, yet they managed to continue bravely like tightrope walkers, cautiously stringing together her thoughts. Suddenly, their eyes met, and something within him relaxed, something that had managed to tense up without Ivan ever consciously acknowledging it. Her own confusion comforted him, for he had never been looking for a solid answer in the first place. Love was a kind of vast field, disorienting and directionless. But it was better to be lost with company than to be all alone as others made their way around you.
Her words offered nothing more than a confirmation of his own thoughts, but that was solace enough. He smiled softly. “A big mess… that’s just what I was thinking. But yes, I suppose if they are always on your mind, they must have a place in your heart as well.” He glanced again out the window with its firey display before returning his eyes to her. He was being terrible company, he could tell. Of all the things to break the silence with, he had to offer up this insubstantial piece of conversation. “Well then. I guess that’s something we’ll find out eventually, da? Or if not… well, bud’ chto budyet. We don’t always need words to describe how we feel.” Ah, he was mixing languages again. In these years he hadn’t cared much for English, but if he wanted to talk to Arata, he’d have to keep it up so she could understand.
Clearing his throat, Ivan decided it was time to be a better host. His country was known for hospitality - or at least, that’s how he liked to think of it. On many occasions he had travelled across the country and met several friendly hosts. And since Arata had travelled quite far to reach him, he had to try his hardest to make it worthwhile. Standing up, he offered Arata a hand and a smile. “It’ll be dinner time in a few hours. Why don’t we go out and buy some food?” Of course, he was assuming that she would stay for dinner with him. They hadn’t exactly gone over arrangements for where she would stay, but he had no problem with letting her stay at his apartment for as many days as she was visiting. Besides, it would probably be better that way. There was nothing more lonely than an empty house.
(( STOP WHY ARE YOU APOLOGIZING STOP IT. Actually I should be apologizing, this is like half as long as yours, and you wrote so many great things. I just didn’t know what else to do ;__;