The knock at my door pulls me out of the world of papers and notes and schematics that I had been wandering through, trying to recreate from memory. I mutter enter automatically, a habit still left over from having Cassian as an assistant at my labs. A habit that started just so I could save face when he’d barge in regardless of what I said.
The door opens and closes and I look up to see Cassian standing by my desk with a brown paper bag and a pair of apples.
“You’re a very difficult man. You know that, Jizabel?”
Cassian puts the bag and one apple down on my desk, while he tosses the other apple between his hands like some toy ball. Cassian always said something like this back at Delilah, either after our missions or just because.
“I know I am… I’m sorry for the trouble.” And I’ve never replied like that before, but this time it just felt natural- like if it was, as they say, the right thing to do.
Cassian’s warm laughter breaks up what threatened to become a somber mood.
“If you’re actually saying sorry over it, that’s a major step forward, kid.” I laugh, sigh and rest my head on my desk. I shut my eyes and just listen to that voice, with it’s deeper pitch and greater resonance than back at Delilah. Now when Cassian speaks, he genuinely seems adult in something other than the bitter way he used to view the world.
“So I am still the child, Cassian? Aren’t you going to scold me? Do you not want to interrogate me over why I’ve acted as I have, bothersome as it is?”
Cassian stops playing with that green apple and finally takes a bite out of it.
“If I scold you a millionth time, it still won’t sink in. You’re stubborn like that. And if I interrogate you over why you act like you do… Well, you’ll tell me when you’re ready, won’t you Jizabel?”
I perk my head up to watch, feeling the same awe I do whenever I realize that someone has such honest belief in some good in me. I myself am now trying to believe.
“Be careful about having such faith in me, because-
what if in the end I can’t even meet you half way, and then all your faith just leaves you empty handed?”
There is no easy way to tell someone that you may or may not need you should consider having a life beyond me, for your own sake. Cassian just nudges the second apple towards me.
“It’s really alright, Jizabel. Even then I’d still choose to be standing right here, waiting for you- if waiting is all I can do. Now, why don’t you go ahead and eat?
Oh, and by the way that bag has some trinkets for you. Your little sister insists that they’re your Christmas presents, so don’t open it for another week or two.”
My curiosity’s piqued by that drab paper bag, now that I know Cassian got me something.
I ignore everything around me save for that unassuming bag. I even ignore it when Cassian ruffles his hand through my hair. It is all I can do to keep my hands still, as I wait for him to leave so that I may pour out the bag’s contents.
Trinkets, like he said: yukata and netsuke. They are humble gifts, but thoughtful ones. Or at least ones that show I was considered: the yukata has print of birds in forests, and none of the netsuke are made out of bone. There seems to be no other hidden message in the selection of trinkets, and no motive beyond a simple act of kindness. They are completely innocent gifts. Not a fur coat, no steak dinner, not the bodies of my mother and sisters. They are just innocent gifts, not meant to me pull into some mental game. I think of how it has been more than a decade since life could seem this simple, and my thoughts sting.