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Hiraeth (n)

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Mara remembered it like it happened yesterday. The vision suddenly coming over her. Emma, her roommate, her would-be ally, dead in Dante’s arms. The gruesome sight never left her mind, not for a second. So she did the only thing she could. She cried, and apologized, and bore her neck for whatever was left of Emma’s memory. Mara figured she owed her at least a little vulnerability; an apology for letting her life slip away like a balloon slipping from a child floating up, up into the stratosphere.

Somehow, Mara missed it. She missed every bit of time she didn’t spent with Emma. She missed a friendship she never could’ve had. She longed for every unsaid word to be spoken, especially ones they planned to say after the big battle. Mara loved Phee, of course she did. She also loved the idea of a friendship with Emma. The girl who might have been gay for her. The girl who died for her. The selfless, kindhearted mage. Mara couldn’t get Emma’s name out of her head.

So she went to Emma’s grave. There wasn’t a body recovered, but Mara went to the grave anyway. It was empty, like Mara was. She sunk to her knees in front of the fresh grave, tears already forming in the corners of her eyes. “Emma of the magic users. Tragically lost at the hands of Dante Aoki. She will be missed dearly by all” Mara’s eyes scanned the gravestone a few times, taking in the words. Tears were streaming down her face like small rivers. A sobbed racked her body as she gripped the grass below her, lowered her head, and began to sob harder then she ever remembered. Mara’s tears dripped down onto the grass, although she didn’t even notice.

For a while, Mara just sat there. Quietly sniffling, tears falling off her face, gripping the grass like a lifeline. She ran through every interaction she had with Emma, from the very beginning to the very end. When she first entered their dorm, a little frazzled and discombobulated. When she kissed her and sacrificed herself for the core four. Mara just wanted to hear her voice one more time. She wanted to have that awkward conversation about Emma’s feelings. She wanted to run as fast as she could, far, far away from the black cloud of regret that followed her since her vision.

If she had just done two things differently. If she had just used her powers, or stopped Emma, or anything. Emma wouldn’t be a missing body and a carved stone among many others. She would be right there with Mara and Phee and everyone else. She wouldn’t be gone. Gone forever. Emma would never to hex anyone again, she would never get to laugh in that slightly awkward, high pitched way she did. She would never get to live her life the way she was supposed to. In between sharp thoughts and pitiful sobs, Mara heard footsteps behind her. She looked over and saw Phee walking up to her.

“How you doing?” Phee asked softly, sitting down next to Mara. “Not very well,” Mara responded shakily. “It must’ve been really hard for you. She seemed like a nice person,” Phee said. She reached down and gently detached Mara’s hand from the grass, rubbing her thumb in soothing circles on the top of Mara’s hand. “She was...I miss her so much,” Mara said. “It gets better, trust me. We’re all here for you,” Phee assured. “Thank you,” Mara uttered quietly, her gaze still trained on Emma’s headstone.

Phee let go of Mara’s hand and wrapped her arm around Mara’s waist, holding her protectively. “It wasn’t your fault. She knew what she was getting into. She did it willingly. For the rift. For us,” Phee murmured, seemingly reading Mara’s mind. “Even if she did, that doesn’t change the fact she’s gone,” Mara responded, her voice breaking slightly. “She had her whole life ahead of her.” “She did, but she gave that up for all of us. She loved you, so please, love yourself,” Phee said. “If she was here, she’d have invited me to a party with the other mages by now,” Mara laughed hollowly. “You’ve been sitting here for a while now. She’ll still be here tomorrow. Come back with me?” Phee asked. Mara nodded weakly. Phee stood up and helped Mara up. The two embraced tightly, rolling around in emotions they hadn’t let themselves feel since the battle. “I’ve got ice cream back home with your name on it, love,” Phee said, breaking the embrace. Mara smiled at her and the two locked hands. They began walking away from the graveyard.

There was no doubt in Phee’s mind they’d be in that same position over and over again. She knew from experience grief was a parasite that sucked your soul out until you were nothing but an empty shell. She would help the best she could, of course, Lu could even help a bit too, but Phee knew Mara wouldn’t leave rock bottom until she had the confidence to risk falling down again. But she was strong, and they had each other, along with the others. Nothing would ever be the same, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t eventually find happiness again. But until then, all Phee could do was hold Mara close and remind her that little pieces make up the big picture that is life.