All I have to show for my pain is one scar, running from my forehead to the middle of my nose. It’s pure white, as all scars given by wizard magic are. They fight dirty, so that barely anything remains physically, but emotionally… You’d never forget.
Indigo’s scars, on the other hand, are a lot more noticeable.
They criss-cross his arms like the markings of some sort of treasure. He has a nasty one running along his torso, and then one that used to be really deep on his leg. The scariest one runs right through his left eye. He can’t see in that eye anymore. It’s turned to a milky white that most people grimace at when they see. His other eye, the non-blind one, is emerald green.
The contrast doesn’t really faze me.
Not only because I’ve been with him so often, which I have, but because before it was injured, the blind one was light blue.
Heterochromia iridium, humans call it. It’s rare. I tell him he’s lucky and he rolls his good eye.
It’s never safe anymore. Anywhere.
Not on Earth, not on Giri, not even Coria. It used to be a safe haven, before…
They call it the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ now. The during part no one likes to speak about.
Those ‘emotional scars’ the wizards leave? They give you flashing memories here and there. You never expect it. It’s sort of like PTSD in a way. One moment I could be laughing with Indigo and the next?
Cold sweat on my brow, right leg twitching, hands gripping the edges of my seat. It’s almost like they’ve tampered with my adrenaline like now my fight or flight sensation is triggered for no reason at random times and my mind is forced to replay moments I wish I could forget forever.
Indigo and I are taking shelter in an old building on some continent on Earth. I forget the name. The civilians have some sort of accent that’s bleeding into our own voices. I’m still not used to hearing Indigo talk that way.
Who even thought to name Earth’s continents with nearly all As?
There’s the Americas. Africa. The big one, Asia.
The really small one... Aus…Australia. That might be it.
When we used to hide away in Giri, Indigo and I would trace our fingers across ancient maps of Earth to pass the time, imagining ourselves traveling everywhere. We had a whole fantasy plan mapped out. First, we’d land in the cold one, Ant-something, and explore. Giri is warm most of the time, and we could only dream of snow.
Now that it comes fairly regularly, we aren’t impressed. Indigo prefers the cold, but I hate it. I hate having to dress in layers, hate how my lungs start to burn contrary to the actual feeling, and I hate blankets, just rectangular pieces of cloth humans use to warm themselves when it’s cold.
I refused to use them at first, until the temperatures dropped so low I had no choice.
It makes me nauseous to think of the spinning of Earth. Humans can barely feel it, but being Girian, Indigo and I are more sensitive.
It’s said that if Earth had allied with us much, much earlier, not as many lives would have been lost. But humans only feel empathetic for those who are truly suffering, like Giri and Coria did After.
Half the planet is just…
I can’t even remember why or how it all started. It was just suddenly a massacre. Millions- no- billions of lives lost because what? Politics? I never understood wars.
Let alone wars so bad they made teens fight.
Indigo is one year older than me, so he was drafted earlier. Fought earlier. It’s one of the reasons his scars are more apparent. But one year during war, even if you aren’t fighting, passes fast.
Before I could blink, I myself turned 14 in Earthen years and was forced to fight. Forced to fight with everything in me like my life depended on it.
And not just my own life- practically my whole planet. My family, schoolmates...And then I met Indigo, adding on to my worries.
It’s never good to care about someone in the midst of war.
Losing someone is harder than losing yourself.
Failing yourself...it stings, but not as much as failing someone else.
I think I showed more anguish when Indigo got hurt than when I did. But I do heal faster. Truth be told, there’s another scar I have, running along my palm. It stings sometimes when I’m holding things or something, but I bite my tongue around Indigo. It was partly his fault and he would never forgive himself if he knew.
And one more scar would be nothing still compared to his. It would be embarrassing. I don’t know how much the half-lost eyesight has affected him. Obviously, he was used to the stares long before, but I can’t imagine not being able to use one eye. He hides all his weaknesses well. Much better than me.
We are nearly nothing alike.
His hair falls in slightly long brown curls around his face, and his skin is pale, even after years of extremely close contact with the sun. Whereas I have ginger hair, dark black at the tips, burned from the war. My eyes are nothing special, unlike his, and they’re a light brown. My skin is roughly the same color as his, but I have strizzes, freckles, as the Earth dwellers call them.
As for our personalities…
It’s unarguable that he’s stronger than me, both physically and emotionally. Or at least he hides his feelings. He’s always quick to fall into a fighting stance, quick to grip my shoulders tight in a suspicious situation. I’m more hesitant. He says I’m too quick to see good in people, but I like to be smart about things. Calculate. Sometimes I calculate too much, and I have to silence my brain.
There are always too many numbers, too many facts stored.
Too many memories I can’t forget no matter how hard I bang my head against something. One of the things I’m supposedly better at than Indigo. He has the memory of an Earth fly.
It’s always like he’s glaring at something. His left eye unfocused, and his right one looking everywhere, afraid his lack of sight in one eye will make him miss something.
I only ever see him soften his gaze when he knows we’re safe.
Though safety is an illusion these days.
Just last week a young Earthen girl found us and asked us what felt like billions of questions. Indigo’s hands remained clenched as fists at his sides until she left. I couldn’t tell if there was some sort of weapon stashed in them.
I wouldn’t blame him if there was.
Sure, she looked no more than 7 or 8 by Earth years, but they’ve started feeding lies to them at such a young age. More than 50%-I’m sure much more- of Earth is angry that ‘aliens’ have invaded. Taken up space.
They don’t seem to realize that we literally only take up the abandoned areas. We aren’t kicking them out of their homes, we aren’t asking for anything except shelter under their supposedly strong atmosphere. They don’t understand all we want is for them not to hurt us. They don’t have to be kind, I don’t expect them to bring us gifts, but we were naive enough to hope they would at least see us as some sort of equals. We being the lucky ones who managed to escape.
Escape to a different planet with a different language and different expectations and different everything.
The language is probably the easiest part. Their main one is English, and I rarely have trouble with it. There are always some words that mix me up though.
For instance, I always thought ‘love’ was such a strange Earthen word. I had to flip through endless dictionaries to find the meaning.
It's because the Earthens ask. They always ask.
“Are you in love?”
We’re rarely out where humans can see us. Afraid. But even we have to eat.
And when we turn our backs, the whispers begin, as if we’ve disappeared, as if we’re not still right there.
“Did you see his scar? Right over his eye!”
“The boy is cute.”
“Yes, but he has a girl with him.”
“Do you think they’re…”
“By the way he protects her, it looks like they’re in love.”
Their conversations never really bothered me before that. Sure, they made me mad. Made me mad because they talked about us like we were characters in some sort of show they would watch on those black screens of theirs that their eyes were always glued to.
It was always silly things like ‘those are the aliens, aren’t they?’ but that was the first conversation that I took interest in.
While English isn’t my main language, they took great care to educate us in Giri. So it surprised me when I didn’t know a word.
Indigo was always better than me at vocabulary. So I tried to ask him. But he didn’t answer. He had mumbled something about his wrist hurting and gone out for a walk.
Anyway, the dictionaries are always so lifeless. So many big words, I end up having to go through it over and over again to define the words used to define a word.
The best definitions come from the humans themselves. They actually describe.
Course, they look at us like we’re crazy if we talk. They don’t realize how alike we are.
The one time I tried asking someone for directions- a short skinny guy walking- they fainted.
I still always wonder though.
L words were always my favorites.
And now, love, though I barely have the faintest clue of its meaning.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
Not if they compare it to the way Indigo protects me.
Or looks at me apparently.
“Hey, move, they’re coming!”
“Who’s th- oh”
“My God, do you see the way he looks at her?”
“Shush, they can hear us you know!”
I shake my head and clear myself of the memory.
As soon as I do, I’m struck by another one. A much more vivid one.
Screaming. Blood, bright red blood everywhere. Fire and smoke, tears and pain.
I shut my eyes tight.
Not real...not real.
But it is real.
At least it was.
I try and calm myself, my nails digging deep into my palms.
One. Inhale. Two. Exhale. On-
I’m falling. A rough leg keeps me on the ground. I’m too scared to open my eyes. There is faint pain in my arms and my stomach from the blow. So. Much. Screaming.
Over and over again.
Lana. Lana. Lana. LA-
“-NA! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”
A gasp shakes my body as the memory dissipates, leaving only confusion in its wake.
Indigo’s hands clasp my shoulders tight, and I’m startled to see him there where he wasn’t a moment ago.
I rise unsteady hands and set them on top of Indigo’s.
“I’m-fine. Really.” I sigh, massaging my temples. Indigo’s hands drop but he doesn’t back away.
“I leave for ten minutes and you almost kill yourself.”
I scoff. “You say it like it’s any of my fault.”
I stare at his good eye and see his stoic gaze fall for two seconds before his brow is scrunched in worry again.
“You could do to be careful at least. Look at you, you’re standing right at the edge! You could’ve fallen easily.”
I stare all the way down at the ground and walk sideways a little.
“I wouldn’t have…” I mumble, meeting his eyes again. He runs a hand through his mess of curls and sighs, closing his eyes.
A cold hand presses on my forehead, pushing back a few strands of wayward hair.
“You sure you’re okay? No fever?”
I push his arm away.
I try and remember what I was thinking about before the memory.
Something about Indigo...His eyes? No that’s not right…
The way he looks at me? Something like that…
I plop myself down and dangle my legs dangerously off the edge of the building. I can tell Indigo’s tempted to tell me to move back, but he ends up sighing and sitting next to me.
“What? What’re you thinking about?”
“Just...I hate not knowing stuff, you know?”
“Is this about the word-”
“Yeah. Love. I don’t know, each dictionary has its own way of defining it, and I feel like it’s much deeper.”
“Yeah…” he mumbles quietly.
“And you don’t know? What it means? Cause it’d be really great to have someone explain it to me.”
“Lana, you know I already told you I don’t know it! We had the same education.”
“Well yeah, but you’re practically fluent in English. You’ve gotta know.”
He runs a hand through his hair and traces the scar going through his eye. I wince on his behalf.
“It’s just...far more complicated than say, a simple word, like tree is just...a tree. Love is different.”
I stop dangling my feet and turn to face him.
“So you do know! Tell me.”
When he stays silent I groan and throw my arms in the air.
“Fine, then answer me this. Do you love me?”
His breath hitches. A beat. Then,
“You can’t just throw that word around Lana...It’s like...Your family? You love them.”
A lump rises to my throat at the mention of family.
A quick flash of my mother’s tear-streaked face telling me to run and never look back.
I shake my head and stare out ahead.
“There’s gotta be some way you can explain it to me. You know how much I hate not knowing things. Isn’t there some translation or something?”
“No. We don’t have a word for it. It’s because… to show love, you need to show it with actions, but humans like to add words to everything.”
“What kind of actions?”
“Like...protecting someone. Or...sacrificing something for them. Or not keeping any secrets. Or-”
“I have another scar.” I blurt, not letting him continue.
“I…” I stumble on my words, unsure why I chose now to tell him. Keeping my eyesight forward, I hold my right palm up towards him. “The day...That day they were patching up your eye best they could, the medics, and you...You pushed me back and…” I sigh, not wanting to relive the memory.
Indigo takes my hand, pulling me slightly towards him. He inspects the scar, ever so gently running his finger across it.
“This...this was my fault?”
The worse the scar, the whiter it is. And the one on my palm is, well, pretty bright.
“Not entirely. It’s fine, really. I just...I don’t know. I wanted to tell you.”
“You should’ve told me so much earlier. Does it still hurt?”
“I mean…” I finally force myself to look at him to see him staring at the scar with a pained expression. “It’s really not-” I stop abruptly when he presses a small kiss on the scar before dropping my hand. I drag it to my lap and fiddle with my fingers, unsure of what to do with myself. Indigo buries his hands in his hair, hanging his head low.
“I’m sorry Lana. I would never...I….I’m so sorry.”
“Indigo. Look at me.” He drops his hands and looks up at me, his green eye filled with sadness. “I forgave you a long time ago, alright?”
He nods, looking away again.
“Please don’t beat yourself up about this...this is why I didn’t want to tell you.”
Indigo scoots back, laying down on his back. I follow suit, staring up at the sky.
“You know, there are two types of love.”
“Yeah, you can love someone, or you can be in love with someone.”
“What’s the difference?” I turn my head to look at him. He turns too, and I notice how close we are. It doesn’t bother me though.
“I think... I think I’m in love with you.”
My eyes widen. Even without the full definition of love, I feel like it’s something important. I feel like it’s some sort of big thing for him to tell me this.
I stretch my arm and find his hand, holding it in mine.
“I think I might be in love with you too. Maybe. You’ll have to explain a bit more.”
He laughs and squeezes my hand.
I think, even if I have to go through another war, even if I have to live on Earth, as long as I have Indigo, I’ll be okay.