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Golden Earrings

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“Even the most stoic handle their problems irresponsibly, hm?” Imani’s gaze flickered away from the earrings, landing on the warden with a muted irritance. He eyed her with contempt, ears perked in expectance. “You keep looking at the root of your sour mood. Why’s that, Captain?”

“With all due respect, I would’ve expected that an elder warden would know better than to intrude on matters that didn’t involve them.” Imani knew better than to talk to a warden with a sour note in her voice, but her resolve had faltered. Fractured. Fragments of emotions slipping out beyond her control. She’d best watch her tongue.

“You know as well as I do that the emotional instability of one affects all surrounding them, correct?” Imani furrowed her brow, seething words bubbling in her throat but bit back by her teeth. “You’re young, but I know that you are far from irresponsible. Why do you compromise yourself?” Red light poured in from the window, stopping just before his hooves, a contrast to the cast of shadows he bathed in. A fraction of crimson glinted in his eyes, rendering him as a menace in the low light.

“Why are you so insistent? Last I heard, you couldn’t be bothered with the affairs of us humans.” Voden scoffed, his ears folding back.

“Need I repeat myself?” Imani directed her gaze back towards the earrings, observing as their glint faded with the movement of the sun. “I would’ve never expected that someone as respected as you could possibly be so immature.”

“You learn something new everyday.” Her voice had softened considerably, her reserve having crept back in. “I recommend you leave. I’ve found that, sometimes, it’s better to let things lie than to further disappoint yourself.” Voden grumbled something. The sound of his tail swishing back and forth against the hardwood scraped against her ears.

Then, it stopped.

When Imani turned her head, she saw that he had vanished along with the sun’s dying light, the distant roar of thunder rumbling in the distance. With a quiet sigh, she set the earrings down on the coffee table and rolled onto her side, using her arm as a pillow. There was no possible way for that conversation to have gone better, she told herself. The warden was stubborn, carrying the innate belief that he knew better due to his years.

Truthfully, he was right. Others relied on her, and to have her so...out of it was certainly far from ideal. However, she just...needed the time. Imani knew better than to force herself out onto the field when she got like this. This...disconnection, she supposed it was. Her surroundings having turned surreal, her thoughts like mere echoes in her head. The only coherent thing in her mind were those golden earrings.

The golden earrings her sister had wore when she held her on her lap, reading to her and their younger siblings. The golden earrings her sister had wore when she promised victory, marching out with their banner. The golden earrings her sister had wore as she was carried to her grave, glinting gold like the tears that had welled up in her eyes.

Imani exhaled deeply, closing her eye. Logically, she knew that they weren’t the same earrings. No, those ones had been buried for over 20 years now. Knowing that doesn’t stop the hollow feeling that carved itself into her chest upon seeing them. Even in darkness, she could see them, those dangling hoops glimmering in the sun.

She never allowed herself to cry. Her throat could dry itself out and her shoulders could shake with grief, but never would she allow tears to roll down her cheeks. It’s what her sister would’ve wanted. For all those years, that’s what Imani told herself.

That this is what it meant to be strong. That this is what it meant to be a leader.

But...for the first time, doubt was cast on her beliefs like the outside overcast sheltering the sun. It’s been years. There’s no way she could still feel grief over this. She’s moved on. She should’ve been moved on. And yet, here she is, lying on the couch, having spent the afternoon staring at those accursed earrings. She hadn’t even noticed how much time had passed, not until the warden intruded.

Stupid. Moronic. Pitiful.

Imani rolled over again, burying her face into her pillow. Her emotions threatened to surface, an array of panic, of anger, of frustration, of grief all scrambling around inside of her mind.

No matter. Everything would be well in the end. It always was.