It's surprising that the rumor still existed presently. At most, a rumor's lifespan is at least several weeks within the school year, no matter how surreal or blasphemously detailed the story came about. But there was one that made an exception, one that had been consistently circulating Studio High. Its lifespan was a phoenix, and just when people thought it would end, the pyre resurrected another phoenix accompanied with additional details. The initial story circulated during their second year due to a certain discernable annulet located on her left hand. Specifically during spring, most had recalled, since this specific student wasn't one who favored preening herself in public. Although she never spoke about it, her silence only confirmed the convergence on every student body's mind, and the rest was history.
Her name was Elsa Lillian.
She was as pretty as a picture; a vision of Aphrodite, some have stated. She owned a heart of gold, coinciding harmoniously with a laid-back and confiding personality, making her an approachable, easy going individual. In addition to her bronze and beauty, she was gifted with extraordinary knowledge and talent. She earned respect effortlessly, a true role model, quite in fact. Her list was endless. She became the embodiment of perfection that the female population longed to be.
Spring had arrived with a refreshing breeze and crisp rays of sunshine. The emerald trees rejoiced once again in its youthful liveliness while a union of array of colorful flowers waltzed with the wind. Occasional pairs of butterflies frolicked about, joining the bees as they played a game of hide and seek from flower to flower. The birds' symphonious lullaby raptured the atmosphere, bathing its spectators with a sense of aesthetic concept and tranquility. Spring symbolized new beginnings, thus making it the prime juncture for the birth of a phoenix.
The spark began with the appearance of a beautiful medallion on her slender left ring finger. The band was artistically intricate in its physique, and yet simply elegant, composing mainly with two hearts stacked vertically against one another in a left slanted manner with a balanced blend of silver, gold, and diamonds. The upper heart was coated silver until it connected to the circlet, while the rest was gold. Populating the left side of the silver heart and the right of the gold heart was a line of six 0.3 karat diamonds, as well as both heart's center indentations. The result of the two metal's striking juxtaposition of dominating contrasts had not only enhanced one another's luster effect but also emphasized the attention on the diamonds, conveying the proper amount of elegance without falling gaudy. Ironically, it is its unique complexion that gives off its gaudy attraction.
Suddenly her personality had taken a 180 degree turn. Her affable nature had paled, giving off ambiguous answers when questioned about the ring or of its origin. Sometimes she'd counter their inquiries with a different subject. It was this consistency that forced her ostracized state. Although she was not a social butterfly from the start, everyone had perceived something about her was amiss, as if she had purposely barricaded a wall around herself from interaction. Many attempted to reach out to her, but their integrity was as fragile as a toothpick, ensuring only a minimum abundance of security. And like a distorted pool of water, surrendered into conformity with the majority.
The whole student population knew about it the next morning. Words danced about the buildings, entering through one ear and out the other along with frivolous assumptions adding on to the mutual said convergence. It was a never ending game of telephone, and she must have been aware of it the whole time. Regardless, she had not bat a single eye as she made her way to her first subject. It was evident that the ring stayed, preening in lustrous glory on her left fourth finger as if it were bathing from attention. Her resistance provoked many students, especially the prideful individuals and gossipers alike, and that was when the phoenix resurrected.
Arbitrarily, the sky was invaded by maturing mottles, as if mother nature had foreshadowed an ominous future from that moment onward. It broke through during lunch break, a perpetual gray storm blanketed the world and a torrent of rain drops kissed the Earth.
The first encounter was unintentional, although everyone knew about her, they wanted to glance at her with renewed perspectives. He did not care for those rumors, let alone harbor any sense of curiosity. He just happened to be there because he wanted some peace and quiet. Fortunately, it was his laziness that saved him from the pouring rain as he made his way to The Garden of Eden with a red umbrella casted overhead.
The Garden of Eden was a large labyrinth shaped as a disk with shrubs that reached up to the average student's shoulder, preventing them from cheating or jumping their way to the center where a dull, scarlet-roof gazebo resided. There were only eight passageways to enter the labyrinth from four directions: the north wing, east wing, south wing, and west wing, formatted in the direction of the rising and setting sun. Creating a map of the labyrinth was strictly prohibited as well as it was reinforced, stating that it would mean disrespecting the alumni horticulturist's purpose. Even the blueprint design had been charred from existence after the final renovation. Despite the many students who walked through each passageway, they could never perfectly explain their experience through a certain passage to another, let alone perfectly grasp their memory from its many disarraying twists and turns. The only parting word of advice they received about the garden's formation was a one-word quote beneath the name of the labyrinth: Life. Another unique feature of The Garden of Eden was its overpopulating growth of hydrangeas flowers. Although there are a number of species of flowers, it is the hydrangeas that stand out for its symbolism of heartfelt emotions, making it a mutual base concept for growing the other various flowers--others read into its romanticizing concept due to its Japanese origins and took a step further, where their heartfelt emotions sustained their growth, thus bringing harmony and life to its neighboring relatives.
The boy knew well of its manifestation since his first encounter with the garden in his first year, and yet he never understood, let alone had a drive, to memorize its passageways. He entered from the usual gateway, the south compass of the hydrangeas where a large orbital pond with a fountain spewing out the center rested. Just ahead of it were two opposing passages leading into the maze where it would lead him into a dwindling path until he reached the gazebo. Just as he stood in front of the fountain, he noticed it was occupied by someone leaning against the east pillar with her left hand reaching out to the sky. Her hair collapsed in wet tresses, most of which were pulled over to her left shoulder blade, revealing a focused and distant gaze. Her emotions were unreadable, perhaps frozen from wearing the same expression the whole day. He knew immediately that he had encountered the celebrity of those rumors in the school's dwindling labyrinth.
He wondered to himself, there was an air of qualm floating around her with that stoic expression. Something was aloof with the scenery before him and he knew that he couldn't leave the former role model to catch a cold. With the rain reaching its accumulating zenith, a thick musky scent of compost overwhelmed the atmosphere, suffocating to the point that he could taste the Earth on his tongue. He did not think it would rain this much within that light amount of drizzle during the short timeframe. Regardless, he perforated, quickening his walk until he was jogging and sloughing out liters of liquid, soaking him to the bone from the soles of his feet to his ankles. He ignored the shiver crawling down his spine when a damp, numbing sensation gripped his legs; ignored the temporary distortion from the lack of sensory perceptions; ignored the toxic air invading his lungs as his breath quickened; and focused all of his attention to the end of tunnel.
He was surprised how engrossed she was, staring at her outstretched hand as if she were a statue while he was a heaving, quavering mess. She had not bat an eye, let alone a limb, until he stood beside her and raised his umbrella over her head, drenching his right shoulder in the process--not that he minded since he decided to return without his shield.
She met his eyes with a hue that reflected the sky along with its murky abundance. She did not speak, nor did she express any questions about the situation, but he answered her anyways.
"Don't get sick."
And he fled from the scene with a hand shielding over his eyes.
The umbrella was returned to his locker the following day--how she had known, he wouldn't know--with a note of gratitude peeking out from one of its slits. They've never reached out to one another since then.
In a blink of an eye, it was their final year in high school. The stories were still relentless, becoming more and more drastic ranging from her false impurities to human trafficking. The truth that everyone had known and praised her for had vanished and was consumed amidst the accusations. But it was unnerving, to say the least, that she had been smiling.
The boy started noticing her a lot since their first encounter. Although their subjects varied, he was grateful that he managed to have some classes with her. He remembered hearing stories of bringing her child to Studio High's day care center, but he never had a first hand experience to see the kid until their third year. Sometimes when he came early to school, he would sit outside the classroom with his legs sprawled out in a relaxing manner since his next door neighbor drilled the importance of early punctuality. He hated it so much, and yet he was grateful for her disciplinary actions. It was days like these that he was able to witness a duet's chiming laughter and a quickened pitter-patter echoing about the building at an ungodly hour.
Then he saw the smile on her lips, and the affectionate look in her eyes that made him fall in awe of her. It was this expression that made him question the girl he had met two years ago, question his memory's integrity of that coincidental event, but he was never completely sure. Then he noticed that they were heading down the main hallway, towards his direction and his heart beat quickened. Unprepared to converse with them, he immediately sheltered behind his textbook to illustrate his engaged and good natured façade. Much to his chagrin, he had forgotten an alternative route to the day care center due to an endless line of lockers blocking his vision. Before she made it back, he sat himself directly in front of the door, enabling him to hide from her line of vision. To his relief, she didn't notice him upon her return. For once in his life, had he ever been so grateful for being invisible.
The same cycle continued for months, arriving promptly around 7 am. Regardless being a habit or not, hearing those crisp pair of shoes and laughter became the normalcy in his morning. They had not missed a beat daily, nor had he.
Most days she looked like a fragile rose. Her skin had gone noticeably pale, but the expression she wore in front of the child was as genuine as the previous times. He knew immediately that something was wrong. It was only after she had dropped off the child had she displayed adverse reactions. She was leaning against the wall for support while her left hand wiped a curtained of freckled liquid from her forehead. Before the boy could even register what was happening, his body lurched forward and he flew in front of her in a heart beat.
"Hey! You okay?" the boy inquired urgently.
"Y-yeah… I'm fine," she responded softly, but its faltering tone told him otherwise. He had a tirade in his mind and lips prepared to draw a defensive protest, but before he could hurl a single word, she staggered forward and collapsed on his chest, nearly sending him backwards had he not been prepared.
"H-hey! Elsa?!" he cried out with brows knitted over his panic stricken face. Only trepidation hung in the silent air, and before his mind had filled with wild imaginations, he recognized a certain heat, radiating from where her head connected to his collar bone. With utmost care, he cradled the young woman against his chest, one hand supporting her head, while inwardly chanting good natured rationales to justify why his other hand, while cupped at the hem of her petite high-waist pleated navy skirt, was too close to a certain organ. With its graveyard presence continuing to haunt the hallway, he raced towards the infirmary, consciously aware of the flushing profusion and bullet-sweats coating his face, however all he recalled were thunderous claps reverberating the building at breakneck speed. Bless his lucky stars that no one else was present to witness such mortifying event.
He didn't stay with her when the nurse had instructed him to leave her on the second bed, nor had he asked of her conditions from the school nurse despite engaging in half-hearted small talk. He only savored a final glance at her peaceful expression, before departing silently.
It was lunch time in a blink of an eye. Rather than having his mind set elsewhere like it always had been each period, Elsa's apparition danced through mind a number of times, and made no exception as he paced towards his usual aloof hiding spot. His pace fell to a slow trot when the school infirmary fell into his line of vision, and he stood there thoughtfully for a good minute or two while late comers zipped passed him with a flurry.
His feet moved at its own accord while his mind was reeling in justifications for his actions. His limbs led him to the main office with a list of class rooms at hand. Quick as lightning, he had managed to collect a parcel from each staff--luckily, most had a habit to stay behind during the first ten minutes of lunch break--after being dismissed with a rainbow of expressions: most surprised, some moved, a few scowled, and one indifferent.
The door into the infirmary was within his grasp, and he was nervous--and he didn't know for some reason. The nurse wasn't in the room when his head peeked in, but he did notice a certain platinum blond sitting upright with both hands cradling her hung head. She sniffled once and sighed with her shoulders slumping forward. It was the first--perhaps his second--time he had ever seen anyone look so vulnerable. Her head snapped up, when he had cleared his throat.
"Hey," his baritone voice greeted softly.
She stared at him in silence, but her cyan eyes were filled with moisture and emotions.
"How are you feeling?"
She dropped her eyes to her knitting hands and shrugged slowly.
"Here…" He handed her the bundle and she grasped on to them with shaky fingers, giving him the opportunity to observe the twinkling accessory briefly.
"Don't overwork yourself too much."
Those were the last words he said before grasping the door out of the infirmary.
A couple nights later, tinted nefarious clouds returned to rule the sky once more, and when it drizzled, he was standing in The Garden of Eden once again. Every time he thought about the rain, he remembered the first time he looked at her. He remembered her stoic expression, her outreached hand, and the pelting rain washing down her face like artificial tears, crying for her sake when she couldn't. It was a perfect painting that captured a muted macabre taking place in her head, leaving silence in its wake. Every time he thought about rain, every fiber of his being was awestruck and rendered speechless by its melancholy beauty. He believed that it was the first he had witnessed an individual at their lowest state.
He awake loathing himself afterwards, with frustrated tears burning the brim of his eyes for his coward behavior over the months she must have suffered, and deeply regretted his passive behavior. He was aware that she was still suffering internally, that melancholy image still haunted him to the very day, but why had he turned a blind eye for two years?
There was no answer to it; he knew from the very start but he refused to acknowledge it. He saw it ever since he had offered her that red umbrella years ago, and he could no longer hide it. It wasn't the overwhelming tension of conformity that prevented him approaching her, nor pride. It was fear. She wore it on her finger on a daily basis. The most prominent story about that child being her offspring, was another painful reminder--that their hearts were filled with one another, and he feared that there was no more room for him. He feared repeating history and falling into rejection once again. But the more he saw her smiling, the more he wanted to protect it, and he could no longer bear seeing her mask her sufferings. Somehow this sudden fervency had thrust him back into another round of Russian Roulette.
He woke up earlier than usual, and without his neighbor's usual wake up call rounds, and he found himself flashed forward at a quarter to seven, with the sun barely stirring out of its dark blankets. He stood in front of the school's day care center unsure of his actions, and yet his lip were moving in accordance with the director running it. With no solidified background to support his words, he had fallen into a hopeless abyss with his mind spinning for alternative ways to win her trust. But he was a special case, as dictated by a soft pat to his head.
It was seven in the morning and the sun had risen slightly, witnessing as a fork in the road finally merged as one. It started with a gauche smile and a simple greeting. Then the rest was history.
His name was Jackson Overland Frost. He held a record for his uncanny and immature behavior amongst staff, but his peers, more or less, shrugged him off as nonexistent. Selfish and hungry for attention, but also selfless with a big heart--that was what she perceived in their numerous times spent together. He lived and breathed a life full of ignorant bliss, leaving havoc and mischief in his wake; as well as obtrusive consequences. Regardless, these consequences became unanticipated benefits.
His perspective had changed when he took on the role of a part time day care aid. His ostracized history had led him to disregard his peer's opinions, nevertheless he was pleased with the attention--except he had outgrown his immature, flaunting ways… most of the time.
It took at least a week before Jack could finally persuade Ms. Peleka to entrust him with one toddler. She had her own responsibilities; one of which she constantly breaks due to a certain child whose mother cannot pick her up punctually. It was a special day, and she had promised to pick up her stubborn sister on time. Ms. Pelekai was reluctant to hand the responsibilities to a teenager with an perverse title, but she had never forgotten the look on his face when he had requested to assist. Something about him outshined the rumors that day, and so she gave him the benefit of doubt, unaware that it had sealed his destiny permanently.
Days melt away like snowflakes, accumulating into a riverbank of fond, unforgettable memories. Jack had Ms. Pelekai's trust, informing his relationship with the child's mother. She was unfazed by the news, and she believed his words immediately. There was a glint in his eyes since day one, a small speck that was barely noticeable, but time had taught her well to recognize these signs. Presently, they were striking, dazzling like diamonds and radiating the warmth of a blazing sun. Something about his eyes looked livelier than before, and it had been because of that young woman. Ms. Pelekai could not deny the guilt in her heart, as she had once stood beside the staff who scorned that virtuous for her reckless, life-changing decision. Jackson's curiosity was a contagious virus, and no sooner had she come to accept Elsa.
Even as they sat beside one another, the evident distance had vanished with the contact of their shoulders resting against one another on a humid afternoon, as they watched a handful of hyperactive toddlers scatter amuck the complex.
She had stumbled upon the pair, just when she had completed her errand, but after perceiving the atmosphere, she retreated and stealthily closed the doors behind. Ms. Pelekai trusted the pair, and resolved to extend her errand. As she walked away, she concluded fondly: they were made for each other.
Had Ms. Pelekai lingered longer and overheard their conversation, Elsa might have been free from her burdening cage. The day care teacher had a pure reputation despite her harsh and strong-willed personality, and because of this, everyone believed her without a moment of hesitancy.
But Elsa had preferred it this way. She wanted to harbor the burden over having illicit tales spread about her child.
"How many times have you been in The Garden of Eve, Jack?" the young woman brought about, nonchalantly.
"Donno," he shrugged, "I've hung out there too many times to keep count."
"Have you been through all the paths?"
"More or less," he shrugged.
"So you have a basic concept of what the labyrinth looks like, right?"
"Practically," he answered confidently. "If you have a pencil and paper, I can draw it out for you."
"You know that's an insult to that alumni," Elsa reprimanded calmly.
"It's not like I'd sell it," the albino retorted defensively. "What about you? Do you hang around there a lot?"
"Frequently," she admitted slowly. "It's a good place to think freely about anything."
"And the paths?"
"It's probably different from yours," she smiled gently.
"Shouldn't we have the same result since we're frequent visitors?"
She shook her head.
"Huh… what makes you think that?"
Gently leading an index finger to her lips she preambled airily, "Can you keep a secret?"
He chortled boastfully. "Of course! I haven't wronged you yet, haven't I?"
She shook her head with an amused grin stretched on her lips. "Of course, Jack."
Playfully getting into character, Jack exasperated his secretive actions with several quick glances alternating between his left and right, earning a muffled chortle from the platinum blond.
"Jack!" she sung with a deflating tone, "you'll attract the kids' attention."
"I got it! I got it!" he chuckled beside her. "I swear I won't tell, or you have the sole right to kick my ass."
"Language!" she hissed.
"They're too busy screaming and running," he reasoned defensively, a glint of mischievous shined in his ocean eyes, "it's not like they heard!"
"Anyways, tell me." Then he raised his pinky in the air. "Pinky swear."
The gesture had Elsa taken aback by the nostalgia behind it, and for a moment her body had gone rigid. The reaction had not gone by unnoticed by her companion, and left him startled if he had done something wrong. Before he could voice out his concern, she had wrapped her own around his. "Pinky swear."
"Okay, so what is it?"
"That labyrinth was designed in collaboration with an engineer project, making it a tangible embodiment representing life."
"An engineer project?" He echoed, befuddled. "Where did you pick that out?"
"You know the meaning biblical meaning behind The Garden of Eden, right?"
"New beginnings, wasn't it?"
"Part of it," Elsa acknowledged approvingly, "Love. It all stemmed from Adam and Eve, wasn't it?"
"You don't mean…"
"My mother was an engineer while my father was the botanist. It was their graduating project."
Retracing his words, Jack blanched with guilt. "Oh shit… Elsa, I'm so sorry."
Elsa merely laughed. "Oh no, it's fine. I like to hear people's ideas about its visual description. But now that you know, you can't tell anyone."
"I swear, I won't. But I have to hand it to your parents to come up with it. And about that visual concept you mentioned?"
"Right… the labyrinth is basically sitting on a large disk hidden beneath it, omitting the fountain located on the southern wing. Several specified dates per month, the entire garden arbitrarily rotates clockwise or counter-clockwise. Since each entrance begins similarly with its counter neighbor, they take on a similar path, but as we had experienced, the path changes. We don't need to go over why hydrangeas was picked, right?"
"Can I say that I just had my mind blown?" His question thinned into a statement of awe, with his stoic expression matching his monotone voice.
Elsa chuckled beside him. "It still surprises me everyday." Her expression had crestfallen, and her voice grew softer. "Life is meant to be a mystery, and it's the same with love."
She stared at the accessory crowned on her left hand, because she had admired it numerous times to the point her awe had shriveled into a painful reminder that slowly eroded into numbing indifference. If anything, the top heart stood out as the only uneven hue, fading away as if matching her deceased lover. That was the only meaning left behind for her after he had passed on.
"Do you miss him?" his baritone voice was gentle and soft. His curiosity overtook his usual timid aloofness, and he wandered where this sudden power had voiced out the thought that had him hell-bent for endless months. He knew he was being inconsiderate of her feelings, and he regretted it. Almost.
"I'd run to the end of the world if that's what it took to bring him back," she chuckled gauchely while her thumb softly grazed over the band and the digit. She sighed and sunk her head against his shoulder for support. "You heard the rumors right?"
He didn't mind the additional weight, or how uncomfortable he was because of the way her head was positioned on a landmine or how she was ignorant of his feelings towards her. He disregarded both emotional and physical pain, because he knew Elsa was putting effort, and for once in his life, he had never felt so strongly about not disappointing an individual until this very moment, because he wanted to match her sincerity.
"There's too many to recall, and as far as I'm concerned, pulp fiction was born." She smiled and a short chuckle rolled out of her lips, indicating his victory.
"There was… there was some truth to it," she admitted reluctantly, a grin sheepishly molded her dainty, plump lips. He couldn't deny the affect it had on him, and he smiled back patiently.
He sensed her head angle slightly, and his eyes immediately trailed after hers to a raven haired child with a toothy, diastema smile. He shrieked as he chased another child about the miniature, colorful, indoor playground.
"He'll be just as handsome as his brother was."
"He'll be better than his brother," Jack answered confidently. When he felt Elsa's gaze fall on him, he chuckled softly. "He's one hell of a genius."
"Birds of a feather flock together," Elsa agreed wholeheartedly, a warm smile graced her face as she adjusted her head against his chest.
As much as he enjoyed the platinum blonde's display of affection, a certain qualm continued to pester the albino's mind. "Elsa…"
"Hm?" Elsa hummed gently.
"Why don't you tell anyone the truth?"
"What's the truth?"
"About him…" he muttered softly, his eyes centered on the laughing child. "About Hiro."
She took his question into deep consideration for several seconds, before answering indifferently, "That's not necessary…"
"What about the stories, Elsa?" he inquired beneath his breath, coated with forceful concern. "Don't you know that it's never gonna end?"
She stared at the boy silently, and when he noticed Elsa staring at her, he waved both of his hands over his head animatedly while wearing the biggest, toothy grin on his flawed smile. She mirrored his gesticulations with her outstretched hands, and wore the most loving expression on her beautiful face. Upon closer observation, a small tear raced down her cheek, and she quickly swiped it away.
Despite her scarlet and damp image, she was still far more beautiful and breathtaking beyond rumors foretold about her in the past. When she smiled, there were no words to perfectly describe it. He was speechless, and that's how he remembered it.
"I'd rather…" she replied with a shuddering voice, "I'd rather let them talk about me than take Hiro away." She paused to look at Jack and he glanced back with his breath caught in his throat when she wore that same smile graced on her lips. "I think it's what he would have wanted."
How could someone be so selfless? The albino wondered to himself. To bear the responsibility on her own shoulders beneath the falsified claims. Jack was deeply moved, that tears gathered in his own eyes. Without thinking, he wrapped one arm over Elsa's head and the other on her back and gently pulled her shuddering frame into his chest. He caressed her head silently, unaware that the quaking movement wasn't from her, but from his. Jack knew he had no chance, against the deceased alumni. The ring had mocked him with this message many months ago, but he could not betray his feelings. Her heart was filled by someone else, and it only reminded him of how hopeless his love was for her. Even though her radiating smile stemmed from her deceased fiance, Jack took it upon himself to protect that smile. The hand on her head slowly eased over her left hand, and he distanced himself from her with enough space to bring the ring to his lips and gently kiss it with his silent prayer passed over the prolonged duration. The gesture was cut short by Hiro's accusative cry, nevertheless it left a deep impression on the young woman.
"Don't kiss my mommy!' Hiro exclaimed defensively, as he rushed over and pushed them apart, only to have his small frame stand protectively in front of her.
"That wasn't kissing!" Jack hollered back, crimson blooming his cheeks. Then coming up with a witty idea he elaborated, "There was a bug on her hand."
"Why didn't smack it?" he stated matter-of-factly.
"Because as a man, you're never suppose to hit a girl."
"Even if they do something bad?" He fell for the bait with pure curiosity.
"Even if they do something bad," Jack nodded wholeheartedly. "Girls are more delicate, and if I smacked that bug with my hand, I would have bruised her. But our lips are just as delicate as theirs, so it won't hurt them, that's why I used it to crush that bug."
"What about cooties?"
"Do you think your mom has cooties?"
"No!" Hiro ran to his mother's chest and hugged her tightly. "Mommy doesn't have yucky cooties like other girls!"
"Oh, ho!" the frost haired boy chortled, then dropping his voice for the boy to hear, "… if only that were so."
"It's a boy thing, you won't understand," Jack winked playfully.
As if to display his understanding, Hiro chimed, "Yeah!" Then kissing her cheek quickly he laughed. "Sorry, Mommy!"
Glancing at the school's clock, Jack stood up and shook his sleeping limbs to return circulation before offering a hand to Elsa and assisting her to her feet.
"Lunch is almost over… We should help clean up before we go." Jack walked ahead, picking up disarrayed toys streamed about the room, but before Elsa could assist him, Hiro tugged on her pleated skirt. She was immediately returned to the floor in the form of a modest squat. Cupping his hand together, Hiro whispered words that Jack would never dream of hearing in reality.
"You like him too, right Mommy?"
Smiling, Elsa answered softly, "What would Daddy say, do you think?"
"He would want you to be happy, Mommy."
"Really?" Elsa feigned astonishedly, "Why do you think he'll say that?"
Recupping his hand over her ears, Hiro replied, "Because Daddy is a man, and I'm a man. Because I want you to be happy, Daddy must feel the same way."
Hugging him close to her chest, Elsa planted a gentle kiss to his cheek, temple, and forehead as he protested with a loud, "Mom!"
She laughed again as she embraced the toddler in her arms, her left hand resting on his head, and for the first time in a while, that gaudy jewel winked at her genuinely.
Are you okay with this… Tadashi?