What Lies Beyond: Chapter 33

She hurried home as fast as she could, but she knew that he wouldn't be there long before she reached the ladder to her ship. When his ship didn't appear the next night, she forced herself to go looking for him. They sailed all over the ocean, finding nothing, but still she pushed herself onward through the lonely nights and mornings, anything to stave off the horrible realization clawing at her heart: he was gone, and it was all her fault.

She hadn't come across any sign of Pack either, not since he had stormed off after talking to Corsair that last time. Could he have gotten lost as well? She looked out over the empty purple waters, and a terrible vision came over her: She was sailing across the seas, the only ship on an empty ocean, her friends having left her one by one until she was completely alone. She shuddered. She really needed to see someone now, anyone.
Sister turned around to look across the deck, and for a moment she feared her worst fears were coming true. “Hello?” she called out, weakly, across the empty ship. “Anyone?”
But the only answer was the quiet crash of the waves against the boat.
She quietly crept across the deck, looking left and right, wondering if this could really be happening. There had to be some mistake, they had all been together for so long, how could that all have fallen apart in a matter of nights? She reached the hatch to the lower deck and climbed down.

It was quiet on the lower deck too. Her footsteps made a soft tapping against the floorboards as she walked towards the common room. There, lit by a single light, she found her entire crew, seated in a circle, their paws linked together, no one saying a word. Silently, Memory glanced her way and offered her a paw. She took it, and sat down and linked paws with the others. Sitting there silently, surrounded by all of those grieving faces, it finally came to her that Corsair was really gone, and the tears poured out of her as she mourned for her closest friend.


Elsewhere, Lay was also feeling very alone. The thought had never even crossed her mind that Corsair might still reject her after she swallowed her pride and laid out her feelings before him, and she was still unsure how to feel even now.
Of course, part of her felt angry with him for rejecting her feelings, and with herself, for feeling that way about someone like him. She also felt sad, missing him and the excitement she felt from their budding relationship both. But more than anything, she felt confused and lonely, wondering what she should have done, or how she should have been, and whether or not she'd ever find what she was looking for.

So there she lay, alone, spread out on her bed, battling all kinds of strange emotions. She had offered her bed to most of her crew in the nights following his departure, desperately searching for what she had lost. They had held her and kissed her, and she had given herself to them, but it was not the same. It only made her feel even more confused and alone, so now she closed her door to everyone, but the longing in her heart would not go away. And, of course, there was another nagging pain in her chest, but she had pushed it away. She had enough to deal with as it was. “Why me?” she sighed, but the ceiling didn't answer. No one understood her or what she was going through. If only she could had someone to talk to... someone who would understand her pain...
She sat up in her bed, shocked that she hadn't realized it before. “What a fool I've been”, she said, shaking her head, as she ran up the stairs towards the helm of her ship.


By the time her tears had finally dried up, it was pitch black in the room, and her hands were empty. She wondered if everyone had already left. “Hello?” she called, quietly.
“Hello”, responded a woman's voice. “Are you ready to talk now?”
“Why?” Sister responded, trying to figure out who the voice belonged to.
“You've been in there an awfully long time now.”
Sister ran her hands along the surface she was sitting on. It was soft, unlike the wooden floor of the common room. She brushed the smooth skin of her face with her hand. She had been taken away again.
“Please, let me come in”, said the voice. She stood up, and she could see a little crack of light low to the ground in front of her. She silently walked towards it, hands outstretched. Her hands brushed up against a wall, and her fingers found their way to a knob. She didn't turn it.
“We know what you're going through”, insisted the voice.
“No, you don't” Sister replied, too quickly. She heard a rattling sound from the other side of the door, but it did not open.
“Yes we do,” said the voice. “We've all lost someone. We know it hurts. And we don't want to lose you too.”
“Please”, said a man's voice, this time Sister recognized it instantly. It was Favour, one of her crew. “We just want to help.”
“Yes,” said Memory, also from outside the door: “you're our friend. We're here for you. Please come out.”
Several others chimed in as well, and she recognized them all. But none of them really understood. It was her fault he was gone, not theirs.
“I'm not doing this anymore.” She told them. “This is the end.”
“No!” said the first voice. Someone was banging on the door, but she ignored them. She walked away from the door to the other side of the room. She could see that the stars were still out through a small window. Wordlessly, she placed her hands on it and lifted it up. A cold breeze blew through the open window, and she let it take her away from this place, from all the noise and the pain and the people who didn't understand her. It wrapped all around her and she closed her eyes, wondering if Corsair had felt the same thing when he went away...

“What are you doing?!” a frantic voice asked her.
“Nothing”, she responded distantly, her mind leagues away from here. But something was tugging on her, pulling her back to reality.
“It's a good thing I got here when I did”, Lay said, incredulously, pulling Sister's limp paw onto the ladder. It quickly slipped off and she began sinking beneath the waves again.
“No you don't!” Lay grabbed her again and dragged her arm and shoulder over the bottom rung. “I'm not losing the only one who might understand what I'm going through.”
Sister's ears perked up, and she opened her eyes slightly to look at Lay. Her once pretty blue eyes were all red. “It's my fault”, she said, weakly.
“It's mine as well. Now let's get out of this freezing water.”
Sister slowly reached for the second rung. Was the water that cold? She barely felt it.

Back on the deck of her ship, Lay hastily dried herself off while Sister crumpled into a heap on the ground. Ignoring her own appearance for once, Lay gave the towel to Sister, who pulled it over her head.
“Please, I need to talk to you.” Lay urged her.
“What's there to talk about?” she mumbled from under the towel.
“He's gone.”
“I know.” Lay said, sadly, pausing for a moment. “But you can't just give up on everything.”
“Have to”, she said, the pain in her voice clear even through the towel. “Corsair was my everything.”
“Was he? The Sister I knew was always cheerful and liked helping people, even when Corsair wasn't around. When did that change?”
Sister took the towel off her face and slowly sat up. “I don't know...” she said, thinking. “But when I was trapped with Michelle, all I could think about was how much I wanted to see him again. To hold him and kiss him and tell him about everything that had happened.”
Lay looked down at her paws. “So, you did love him, then.”
“Love?” Sister asked her, weakly.
Lay rolled her eyes. “This is no time for silly jokes.”
“What's love?” She asked again. Incredibly, Lay could tell from the look in her eyes that she actually meant it, though she couldn't believe it. It took her a moment to figure out how to explain it, it was something she had never really had to think about before, she just always knew. She thought of some of the phrases she had recorded in her little book, but now none of them really seemed adequate. She closed her eyes and dug deep down into her own heart, giving voice to her own feelings after all this time.

“Love is... when you care more about someone else than you care about yourself” she said, finally. “When two people love each other, it's the most wonderful thing there is, so it makes you want to be with the person you love all the time.” She felt as though she might tear up, so she steeled herself: “I also loved Corsair, but it didn't work out that way. Whenever I saw you two together I couldn't stop worrying that he loved you instead of me.”
“You mean you were jealous”, Sister volunteered.
“So you do know about that.”
“Corsair told me. He said a stranger told him about it, and I got really upset that he was putting himself in danger because of me. But he was right. I was very jealous of you, too.”
Lay shook her head: “There was no reason for you to be. He refused to be with me because he thought it would hurt you. I got so angry because I thought he didn't care about my feelings, but I was an idiot. Anyone who wasn't blinded by their own pain could have seen that he did, and that it killed him to leave me. But you were the one his heart truly belonged to, so he chose your happiness over his own. He really loved you.”
“But why?” Sister demanded. “If he loved me, why did he leave?”
Lay's heart sank into her stomach. “Because when we get confused and scared, we lose sight of the things that matter most, and the ones we love are always the ones who get hurt.” She leaned forward and hugged Sister. “Try to be strong.”
“How?” She croaked hoarsely, tears streaming down her face. “What's left for me now?”
Lay put her paws on her shoulders and looked into her frightened eyes “I wish I could tell you,” she said, “but I think you have to find that within yourself.”

“Sister!”, a woman's voice exclaimed. Memory leapt over the railing and onto the deck.
“We were so worried!”, said Favour, who appeared behind her. They ran towards them and nearly bowled Sister over, though she remained focused on their conversation.
“Thank you so much for saving her, Miss Lay”, said Memory. “We'll take good care of her, I promise.”
“I don't know if I feel better or worse now that I know”, Sister mused, still trying to take everything in.
“That's love for you”, Lay said, grimly. “Even when you finally realize how you feel, it only gets more difficult from there.”
Sister glanced back towards her as Memory and Favour lead her back to her ship, but Lay had already turned away and was walking briskly across the deck.

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