“Marise? Are ye up there, girl?”
The answer was yes, but she didn’t much feel like answering. Actually, she didn’t feel much liked doing anything but sitting there scrunched up against the wall and waiting for tears to come as they resolutely refused to do so. So she sat there, and she scowled, and she bit her lip.
She had been counting the days since her husband had walked out on her until she had run out of the patience and stamina because the number just kept climbing. Now it had just become another thing she had failed at. Oh, certainly, it didn’t really matter, the answer wouldn’t make a difference… but she felt compelled to know. Even though now she had lost any and all idea of what the timeframe looked like now, and in a way that bothered her even more than the awful and unpleasant reality of her present situation.
Silence came from down below, but Marise could hear the footsteps on the lower level echoing through the chambers. It was a few moment later that she heard the distinct sound of hands on the ladder. Maybe she should have pulled herself to her feet instead of remaining curled up where she sat, but she just waited until Liane crawled her way up into the upper part of the ship to check on her Hyuran co-worker.
The Elezen tended to have a harsh look most of the time, but she looked far gentler the moment she saw Marise curled up where she sat, simply walking over softly and dropping to a kneel next to the other woman. “Lass, what is it? Are ye hurt at all, or d’ye just…”
“I’m fine,” Marise lied, sniffling slightly as she rubbed her hand against her face. “Sorry. I know we’re hard at work on the ship. I know you need me on my feet. I just… I kind of…”
“Lass, it’s okay.” She seemed like she wanted to put her arm around the smaller woman, but wasn’t quite sure if it would be appropriate or not. Instead, she settled for just settling down beside Marise. “The boat’ll keep for a moment. What troubles ye?”
She sighed. “Him,” she muttered.
“The husband,” Liane said with a nod, wringing her hands in discomfort. “Left ye without a word, didn’t he? That’s why you’re back here in Limsa, aye?”
“Yes,” Marise murmured. “Left the home we’d built over… I… don’t know how many years in Gridania. It was a beautiful home. It was my home. It was… oh, gods, I…”
Liane jumped slightly as Marise slammed her fists hard into the hull of the ship. She wasn’t worried about Marise being violent to her, but it was unusual to see her react like that. “Lass, it’s all right,” she said softly. “Ye can breathe easy here, if’n ye need to take the afternoon -”
“I can’t even cry, Liane. Do you know that?” She didn’t know why she kept talking, but she did. “I’ve been trying for weeks. I feel the tears well up. I want to break down sobbing. But it just… catches in my throat, every time. It makes me want to choke. I don’t want to take time off from work, I want to stop!”
“Aye,” murmured Liane with a knowing look. “Much like it was for me.”
“He didn’t explain what he was doing, even! He didn’t let me know what the problem is! Whatever it was, I would have worked on it, but he just… the sudden nature of it… I just…” Her hands clenched tighter, until she wondered if her nails would bite through her skin. Again, she could feel her need to cry welling, crashing against the wave of her body’s unwillingness to cooperate.
For a moment, both women were silent. Then something picked at the back of her brain, and Marise stared at Liane again. “What do you mean, like it was for you?”
Liane laughed without the slightest note of humor. “My wife was an adventurer, same as your man,” she explained, her normally sharp voice suddenly quieter. “She was proud to be one. And when the Grand Companies asked for volunteers to fight at Carteneau, she was among them. So I spent a sennight waiting for news of her unit, hoping she had managed to make it out.”
“And then when they said her unit was wiped out, I spent a moon waiting to find out she had somehow slipped notice. And then I spent another moon waiting to find out that she’d been laid up and might be coming back. And then…” She paused. “And I never believed any of it, really. I knew the moment the skies opened and rained fire that it was over. That she was never coming home again.”
Marise didn’t know what to say. Her mouth was dry and her chest hurt. “But she loved you, so -”
“Maybe. You know I’ve turned that over in my head time and again, Marise?” She stared at the Hyur with an inscrutable expression. “She didn’t love me enough to stay, did she? Did she just love me enough to stay when there wasn’t something better? I’ll never know. That’s the worst part, I’m never going to know the answer, and even if I knew the answer it wouldn’t make anything any better. She’s dead, and gone, and I’m still here.”
There was nothing else to say for a moment, but Marise drew her knees closer to her chest, feeling the tears welling once again. “I must sound like such an insensitive child,” she murmured.
“Oh, Marise, nae. Anything but.” Liane sighed and reached out, clapping her on the shoulder with one hand. “Ye sound like someone whose bloody world shattered so recently that ye can hardly count the days. Do I have the right of it?”
“I was trying to keep count.”
“Ye think I blame ye? I understand. More’n most’ve the world, lass. I know the moment that everything comes undone and it feels like the world is just… adrift. The first moment ye realize that there isn’t anything in place. That people can just… break your heart, and ye sit there and deal with the aftermath.” Her hand squeezed.
Marise squinted her eyes more tightly. “I loved him so much,” she whispered.
“Aye. And I know ye did everything ye could.” Liane tugged on Marise’s shoulder, and for the first time the Hyur looked to see the Elezen spreading her arms. “And I know that pain. That feeling. What it’s like when… it all comes apart, more than ye know how to deal with in the wake of everything.”
She thought about her husband again. His smile. His laugh. The way she had wanted to spend the rest of her life in his arms. How little, it turned out, that had mattered to him compared to what he wanted.
And she collapsed against Liane and began weeping finally, letting out all of the pain she had bottled up deep within her.
No one would share this story. No one would see it as a moment of great triumph. No one would remember Marise’s tears or how it marked the moment that she started to heal.
But it happened, as sure as thousands of adventures across the realm. For not all adventures are a matter of slaying beasts. Some are simply chronicled within the recesses of hearts and minds, moments of loss so profound that they shatter our lives as certainly as any cosmic threat. And in our hearts we should see them as no less important.