“There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time. There’s a fine, fine line between a fairytale and a lie.”
The grass beneath Ren was not long and shallow, like that of a lake. Rather, it was freshly trimmed. Dead, yet full of life, giving off a smell one may call that of decay, and another might call natural. It was an interesting smell, paired with the sensation of the grass under Ren’s bare, calloused feet.
To her right was an old swing, something that would immediately fall apart were anyone to sit on it, and to her left, an equally old tree, leaves swaying in the short gusts of wind. Above her, leaves whispered in the wind, and behind her was a path she would not return to for some time.
It had taken Ren quite a while to get here, but she was glad that she did. It wasn’t a place she had been to before, but it immediately felt more comforting than the brick buildings and large crowds holding her together by a thread when she was in her cramped apartment with Akira.
Of course, there wasn’t anything wrong with Akira. Nothing major, a least. Nothing that would keep Ren away from her forever. Just secrets. Dozens and dozens of secrets that Ren was forced to keep. Secrets she didn’t want to have. Secrets Akira wouldn’t want to know. Secrets that would be better off forgotten.
So many secrets. It would just be better to leave them behind, to breathe them away, to let them fade with the sunset and float away in the wind. It would be so much easier that way.
But alas, life is not easy, and someday, our secrets must be confronted. So, Ren found herself here, at the first place she stopped while running away from her problems. At the first place that seemed like somewhere secrets had been told before, to anyone and everyone. The only place where she could admit her own.
Carefully, Ren wrapped her silky brown hair into a piece of twine from her pocket and began to climb the old tree, one branch at a time. The sap green leaves blew in her face, as she struggled her way up. Silently, she muttered under her breath at the wind, as she finally made it to a sturdy branch near the top. A small petal fell down from her hair, entangled in twine. Ren watched it fall down wistfully, as she pulled it’s source from her pocket - a small, crumpled lotus flower.
The flower was blue, which was why Ren had saved it. Blue lotuses are rare, but once in your possession, they awaken knowledge within yourself.
Knowledge, wisdom, and control over emotions. Three things Ren could use at the moment.
Ren sighed, knowing full well that admitting her secrets could do nothing, but still placed the crumpled flower on a tree branch above her head. A makeshift shrine, if you will, to whoever could be listening.
Awkwardly, Ren twiddled with the small piece of twine she still had left. It felt weird to say anything out loud. What if someone heard? What if Akira came after her? So many things could go wrong, after all. Was there any point?
Besides, does speaking out loud really make that much of a difference? Would it really change anything if she just kept it to herself? What she needed was a listener, but she didn’t want just anyone to listen. Only the blue lotus, the old tree, and the freshly cut grass.
Ren sighed again, as she thought about what she wanted the lotus to hear. There were so many secrets at this point, not all of them were worth sharing. Some were buried deep, deeper than the roots of the tree she was sitting in, deeper than time itself as she patiently waited for her mind to figure out what to think. Deeper than the sun was bright. Secrets she had never shared, and perhaps never would. Not to Akira. Not to anyone.
Except for the blue lotus. By the end of the day, the blue lotus would know everything she kept close to her heart.
And with that, Ren started to reflect. It was strange, that being here could awaken so many little memories she had earlier tried to leave behind. That she could let herself open up, despite telling herself that she already had. It felt a little odd. But as memories began to flow back to her, Ren slowly began to let them release.
“After everything, how could you do this?”
“I thought you cared about me.”
“Why would you hurt me like this?”
The memories flooded back. Words she wished would never escape her mouth. Words others had said to her. Words, words, words.
Words collapsed among themselves, like dominos. One memory led to another. One thought became two words. Words she could never take back.
“You shouldn’t be sorry, Ren.”
Akira’s words. Comforting. Kind. Words Ren knew she wouldn’t say had she known the full story.
Ren just couldn’t be near Akira at the moment. The memories were overpowering - all consuming, holding her hostage from herself. They wouldn’t stop hurting, not now, not ever, but Akira couldn’t be the one to listen. Not after what happened last time. Not after the sleepless nights and the tired days.
Akira was kind about it. Too kind. She didn’t know the full story, but even if she did, she’d still be gently reserved. It was just her nature. For all Ren knew, she held a grudge against her still. After she told her, everything had changed. There was no more to say to Akira, no more that wouldn’t bring them further apart.
Akira’s reserved nature towards Ren crushed her. She couldn’t bear to see her close friend so far apart from her. It hurt every day to see her give her a fake smile as she passed by, or even a frown when she didn’t think Ren was looking. Blank faces, sometimes, when she would usually be grinning. Ren could tell how much it hurt Akira for her to be around. She could tell, but she wouldn’t dare say a word, or their friendship could be gone forever. And that was the last thing she wanted.
All she wanted was for one person to hear her words and listen to her secrets. Akira was that person, for a while. But she couldn’t be anymore. Not after that one secret. The secret that would forever come between them. The secret that caused all of the blank stares and fake smiles.
Another squashed petal fell off of the lotus and blew away back towards the path Ren had taken to get here, as if it was telling her she could go back. But no. Ren would stay. She would have to stay. It was the only way for her to release the rest of her past.
Ren sighed heavily, and picked up the lotus, careful not to ruin it any more. You want me to go, she thought at the lotus, but you don’t even know what I kept from her.
The lotus’s petals turned a deeper shade of blue, really more of a light purple. Purple, for royalty and mystery. The mystery aspect seemed more likely.
So, you’re curious, Ren thought, a faint smile coming across her face. Not a fake one, like Akira’s, a genuine smile of interest and a small sense of happiness. It felt good to have someone listening who couldn’t betray her later. Whatever spirit was held in this flower, it wouldn’t turn on her like any of the others, or even like Akira might by the end of their friendship. It would just listen to her this one time, and both of them would move on.
Do you really want to know? Do you promise you won’t tell her?
The flower wilted slightly in response, an equivalent to a head nod.
Ren brushed her hair, which was coming out of the twine knot, back behind her ear, sighing again. Well, I guess I have to tell you. Otherwise, I’ll just have to go back.
The flower nodded again.
Ren’s face fell, as the memories swirled around her, like whispers in the wind. Instances of time froze in front of her, and then blew away, just like she had wished they would earlier. Moments passed before her eyes as she blinked them away, trying her hardest not to let them overtake her like they had before. Back when she made her first mistake. When she told Akira.
“You don’t need to be sorry, alright?”
Akira was dancing in the wind, too. A small illusion, a trick of the eye, but still there. Ren could see her, skipping through the tree branches, fading away, and then fading back. Memories were encompassing her, and this version of Akira was there to see them all, dancing through the wind.
More memories surrounded her, each blowing away the second Ren had a moment to process them. Memories that had been forgotten. Secrets she’d never share. Not with anyone except the lotus.
“I thought better of you.”
“I can’t believe it was you.”
“Why, Ren? Why?”
Tears started to stream from Ren’s dark brown eyes as she tried to wipe them away, but failed. Another petal fell from the lotus, as if it were crying with her.
It was me, she thought to the lotus, rubbing her eyes. It was me all along. Me, who ran away, always running away from everything, and hurting everyone else with each leap I take. Me, who drove myself apart from the only person who ever listened. It was all me. All my fault. There’s no one else to blame.
The lotus crumbled itself up further, then released it’s tension, another petal falling with the wind, this time making its way through the small trail Ren had taken to get to the tree.
I’m not going back, Ren thought again, directing her attention back to the lotus, but that didn’t seem to be the response the lotus wanted, because it released another crumpled petal in the same direction, letting the wind carry it away. From her tree, Ren could hear stomping and the swooshing of the leaves through the air. Someone was coming.
Ren wiped away her final tears, letting them fall onto the lotus and soak up her sleeves. She curled into a ball in her little hiding place and grabbed the lotus before it fell back down.
“Ren?” A soft voice called out her name. A voice Ren knew. A gentle voice, yet still reserved. Akira’s voice.
Another petal fell from the lotus Ren was still clutching in her hand. No, she thought, desperately. I’m not going to talk to her.
The lotus began to forcefully bloom within Ren’s tight grip, nudging her to open up her hands and sit up. Ren stared down at Akira, who made eye contact with her and smiled. A real, genuine smile.
“Ren!” she exclaimed, waving her arms around. “What are you doing up there?”
Quickly, Ren bunched up the lotus and put it back in her pocket, along with the tiny piece of twine she had been playing with earlier. “Nothing,” she said, faintly, keeping her legs planted so as to not fall back down.
Akira sighed. “Ren, we’ve all been looking for you for a while now. What happened?”
“Nothing,” Ren said again, letting the lie slip through her lips. The lotus in her pocket was falling apart, petals flying everywhere through her harsh grip around the flower. It obviously didn’t like her lying, but it didn’t matter. Akira couldn’t know about the lotus. She couldn’t know why she was there. Knowing that her actions and words were causing Ren pain would just make everything even worse, and that was exactly the opposite of what Ren wanted.
“Ren,” Akira started, taking a deep breath before she continued speaking. “Come down. We need to get you home.”
Home. Where she’d inevitably end up back in the same situation again, so upset over old memories and emotions that she’d end up running to some spot with interesting smelling grass and old trees to climb and speak to flowers in. Where no one would be there to listen to her and her secrets without her just hurting them.
But, at least the lotus knew, even if it was squirming in her pocket, trying desperately to break free of her grasp and force her to tell Akira the truth. But no. Not this time. This time, her own conscience would come first before the lotus.
“Alright,” she said, maneuvering herself out of the tree. “Sure. I’m coming.”
Akira gave a relieved sigh and quickly hugged Ren. “Good. Now, let’s go.”
The two girls walked through the small trail so many petals had blown down, Akira telling Ren how worried she and everyone else were, while Ren stayed silently resigned, clutching the lotus in the pocket, as the petals shrank down into dusk under her fingernails. There could be a friendship there, there could be an understanding again. But Ren couldn’t have that, not yet. Akira still couldn't know her secrets. It would just hurt them both too much.
There could be a friendship, or an understanding, but all there was left was the lotus and the lie.
(Author's note: Hey guys! Two stories this week after four weeks of none, so that'a good! I think this story turned out alright, so I hope you all like it! If you have any ideas for myth retellings for next weeks prompts please tell me, I'm completely lost, lol. Also, the whole usual thing - if whatever I wrote was offensive to anyone who's actually Buddhist or Shinto, please tell me, and I'll delete the story or adjust it as needed. Also, if you liked this one, you might like my other myth stories! Please read them, if you're new! I really enjoy writing them, and I'm close to being on the leaderboard, so...y'know, lol. I really hope you guys like this story. Thanks for reading!)