They were making bouquets for the wedding of a gaudy duchess to a slackjawed duke. Brin, while placing armoranth in a cluster of violets and nightshades, told Lusine all about how rude the couple had been, how annoying the duchess’s Castle Town accent was (which caused Lusine to snicker behind her palm, because Brin’s was shining through, too), how the pair were definitely cousins and how their babies were definitely going to come out with extra limbs. Lusine was no help when it came to the actual arrangements, so she sat at the kitchen table and traded conversation with her grandmother, handing her flowers when asked and sipping away at a cup of tea.
“I don’t see them lasting longer than a year,” Brin remarked and she slowly pulled away from the bouquet, admiring her handiwork. Without any instruction, Lusine slid her a piece of silver ribbon to tie around the base. “Hylian couples these days get married younger and younger, I tell you. One bad decision and it’s time to get hitched.”
Lusine smiled softly, twiddling with the luminous stone charm of her new necklace, a Wish Day present from Jazza. “Isn’t that why you wanted Mom and Dad to get married, though?” She let the fact that she was their “one bad decision” go without saying.
Brin shrugged, taking the length of ribbon and carefully wrapping it around the bouquet. “Your mom was going to make stupid choices anyway. Better to make them with a good man like Abel than the first man to offer her a ring.” She paused to adjust the shining bow around the base, tugging at the ears to make them even and straight.
“You’re lucky the stupid decisions skip a generation,” she said, and then, quieter, “except for Taline.”
“Except for Taline,” Lusine echoed. After a morning of training and an afternoon of waitressing at Shumate’s, it was nice to finally sit and relax, to listen to her grandmother banter with all of Hyrule and her grandfather deliver countless aphorisms over a pipe of Korok petiole. Later in the evening, Lusine would retreat into her bedroom to finish her letter to Jazza and wrap up his Wish Day gift: a simple silver pocket watch that wasn’t terribly ornate but could perhaps be useful enough during long days of venturing about Hyrule. She’d then go to sleep and then dream about work, about school, and hopefully not about the Fatal Charade. She’d forget, for even a moment, about her most recent altercation at the Coliseum as well as about the strange letters that followed.
At nine in the evening, as usual, Kaester left for his nightly walk around Castle Town, pipe loaded and pocket watch in hand. Tonight, both Brin and Lusine decided to stay home -- Brin to finish one last bouquet and Lusine to keep her company. When he returned at fifteen ‘til ten, Brin and Lusine expected him to bring home an empty pipe and perhaps some free pastries from the nearby patisserie that closed at ten. They did not expect him to bring home Abel Theron, exhausted and a couple of days unshaved.
“Abel.” Brin spoke first, pushing herself off of her stool and standing in front of her son-in-law. She extended her arms for a hug. “Honey, you look like shit.”
“I need to talk to you,” he said, uncharacteristically returning the hug in a half-hearted manner. Lusine, from her spot at the kitchen table, wondered if this was how he looked nearly nineteen years ago, seeking guidance after his own parents shunned him for making the biggest mistake of his life. She wanted to be sympathetic, but, admittedly, Lusine had exhausted all of his sympathy for him years ago.
“Of course.” Brin nodded towards the couch, and Abel sat down hesitantly. Lusine stood and, mug in hand, moved closer to the group, eliciting a strange look from her father.
“Lusi, I think you should go to your room, this is a conversation for the adults--”
“Now, Abel.” It was Kaester who spoke this time, slow and smooth, voice laced with honey and petiole. “I’d say Lusine is more mature than any of us.”
On any other occasion, Lusine would have flashed her father a smug, satisfied look, but the smug satisfaction that once characterized Lusine was, at the current moment, nowhere to be found, crushed beneath the blows of two disastrous Coliseum altercations. Instead, she sat on the opposite side of the couch as her father, sitting on the edge of the cushion. Across from them, Kaester sat, relaxed and unbothered, in his armchair, with Brin perched on one of the arms.
(Lusine often felt sad when she thought of the fact that Brin, with the Sheikah blood that flowed in her veins, would likely outlive her husband. Even now, at age sixty-one, she looked at least a decade younger than her husband, who himself had aged gracefully. The thought of outliving a loved one was terrifying; as evidenced by her disheveled father, the reality was as terrifying as the thought.)
“What’s on your mind, honey?”
Lusine found it amazing how willing Brin and Kaester were to accept Abel into their home as their own child, not just as the bereaved husband of their deceased daughter. She supposed someone had to, though, because his own parents certainly couldn’t have cared less.
Abel looked as though he was an eternity away from the Castle Town apartment, hands folded tightly in his lap. He was pale, looking as though he had seen a ghost wandering the streets, shaking as though he had gone all day without food. His eyes were glossy; his lips were tightly pursed. Lusine brought her mug to her lips, sipping as she waited for his response.
“Zaria’s not dead.”
The only sound in the entire apartment was the shattering of Lusine’s clay mug against the hardwood floor, lukewarm tea pooling around her socked feet. She hardly registered the spill, instead staring straight at her father, petrified.
Five years ago, her mother left for the Tabantha Frontier to investigate Dinraal sightings. When her entourage departed from the Hateno home, Lusine had been carrying baby Gadarine, barely three months old, silently wishing that her mother wasn’t so fixated on Hylia. She wished she could have had a normal family, a normal doctor father and a normal teacher mother, not two weird adults caught up in their obsessions (as well as in one another). Lusine still remembered her mother’s final reminder to her: “Do good in school, Lu!”
Her mother couldn’t have been alive. Zaria was strange -- Din, sometimes Lusine thought Zaria was downright crazy -- but she wouldn’t have just abandoned everything she knew. Except…
Except maybe she would have. With her fanatical behavior and her constant search for something more, leaving would probably be perfectly in-character for her. Lusine, of course, couldn’t answer that for certain, having only been thirteen at the time, but it made sense in her mind.
But how dare she do that! How dare she abandon her entire family and force the burden of keeping the household afloat on Lusine’s shoulders! How dare she take away five years of her life for her own gain! Abel sounded incredulous, but Lusine? Oh, Lusine could believe it, and she hated that she could.
Beside her, Abel, Brin, and Kaester were exchanging solemn conversation, but it all disappeared in the rage that clouded her thoughts. She stood up quickly, without thinking, and stepped on a piece of the shattered ceramic. Her father said something to her, something serious, but she didn’t catch it.
“Dad, where is she?” Had she listened, she would have heard her father say that he couldn’t surrender many details, not just yet, but that they would be the first people he told. He barely registered him repeating the answer, instead stepping towards him. “Dad, please where is she?”
“Lusi, sweetheart, I can’t tell you.” Abel stood, too, and softly placed his arms on Lusine’s upper arms. She shook him off. “Please, Lusi, sit down, let me look at your foot, it might bru--”
“I’m fine, Dad, where is she?”
Next came Brin, who, when standing by Lusine, was simultaneously two inches shorter and much, much taller. “Lusine, Abel, both of you need to be quiet.”
“Brin, I’m sorry, this is why I didn’t want Lusine to listen--”
“Don’t talk about me like that, Dad, I’m right here--”
“Lusine, honey, you clearly weren’t ready to hear this. You’re not in the right--”
“Abel, don’t talk to her like that--”
“Brin, she’s my daughter, and I’m just looking out for her--”
“In Demise’s forsaken fucking name, Abel, where the hell is my mom?”
Towering over the other three, Kaester put a set of kind, calloused hands on Lusine’s shoulders. The motion pulled Lusine back to reality, and when she came back down to Hyrule, she realized she was trembling with rage. Her father had tears running down his face. Her sock was wet.
“Can everyone stop saying my name like that, please?” She hated being treated like a child, especially since she raised Abel’s (and basically had to raise him, too).
“Of course, I’m sorry,” Kaester said, voice mellow and unbothered as per usual. Did he ever feel angry? “Do you want to go sit in the garden?”
A pause; Lusine blinked at him incredulously. Now, of all times, was he asking her to sit in the garden? He just wanted her out of there, so he and Brin could talk with Abel like adults. As if Lusine wasn’t an adult herself.
“No, Grandpa, I don’t,” she said. “If I’m going to be kicked out, I’m just going to bed.”
Upstairs she went, hobbling on a sore foot with wet socks. When she made it to her room, she threw back the desk chair and pulled out a piece of empty parchment. Another letter to Jazza.
The words didn’t come, the ‘Dear Jazza’ scrawled at the top taunting her. What would she even say? Jazza was far away, wherever he was these days, and even if he was here, it wasn’t as though he could help her. What could anyone do for her?
For the past six months, ever since the Fatal Charade, Lusine had felt absolutely helpless. Once a stern, solid, stoic presence, she had since become a heaping mess of emotions she had once tried so dearly to repress. Since the stupid decision of attending the Fatal Charade, gone were the days of the perfect soldier, the most graceful, loyal person she could possibly be.
In her wake, she left an awful, erratic mess.
Lusine put the pen to her temple and sighed. What was she going to do if her mother was alive? She had no plans to openly embrace her; Zaria didn’t deserve her love after leaving her to suffer through taking care of Abel and her siblings. Lusine was a child then, thirteen and innocent. She wasn’t meant to be a mother for her sisters or a crutch for her father. She should have been focused on school, on her future, and yet her mother’s disappearance threatened to inhibit all of that.
Downstairs, she could hear her father and grandparents talking in hushed voices. She chose to ignore them, instead trying to focus on her letter. What was there to say, though? That she was sad? Yeah, no, she had been sad for six months, and there was nothing else to say about that. Jazza was sad, too, and she was just a spoiled little soldier girl at the Royal Academy, begging for sympathy when she didn’t deserve it.
Why was she even thinking about this? Why did she even care? This wasn’t about her tenure as a Royal Guardsman, no, not at all. This was about her mom, about how dearly she despised Abel, about the childhood she lost. This was about nothing and yet everything.
Lusine folded her arms on her desk and rested her head on them and, at some point, fell asleep. She woke up at about midnight and, after changing out of her sticky socks (the piece of mug had done little more than leave a slight purple bruise), started downstairs.
Her father was asleep on the couch, snoring softly. Lusine thought he looked twenty years younger in his sleep; she also thought he deserved every sad wrinkle on his face. Someone had cleaned the mess that she made when she dropped her mug. Still at the kitchen table was Brin, still delicately assembling flower arrangements. She had since moved onto the boutonnieres, small clusters of single armoranths, nightshades, and violets.
“How are you feeling?” she whispered, holding the boutonniere up to her face, inspecting the shining ribbon.
“Annoyed,” Lusine replied, though ‘annoyed’ didn’t begin to scratch the surface. She began twiddling with the stone on her necklace. “Did Grandpa go to bed?”
Brin nodded. “He works in the morning.” She put down the arrangement. “Stay annoyed, sweetheart.”
That was such a characteristically ‘Brin’ response, who grew up angry, who saw action in her anger. Unfortunately, radical anger did not apply in this situation.
Brin seemed to read her mind. “I mean it, Lusine. Doing something with your anger will hurt you a lot less than being sad.”