"Soon, he will be here."
Smiling, she set up the kettle, though suddenly her lips pursed in a frown.
He would be drinking tea, would he? After all he was no longer the young, wine loving man he had been before. That was at least what she hoped… No, not hoped, but presumed.
Hoped had she another time, a time in which his drinking habits had greatly troubled her.
And not only this.
Some hair fell into her face and she pushed the emerald strands behind her ear – another strand came loose, a strand of a different appearance and curiously she twirled it around her finger before her eyes. What a strange colour it had – it was not really grey, but also not white. It reminded her of something, but she could not put her finger on it. She wondered, though, what he would think when he saw her hair and for a moment, she perceived this old feeling of uncertainty, of frailty she thought she had forgotten to feel…
There was a knock on the door – not hesitating and shy, but also not bold and strong; "appropriate" came involuntarily into her mind, but she did not know what exactly appropriate related to… Was it only the way he knocked, or the fact that he finally visited her after all these years? She straightened her green dress for one last time, although she knew that there was nothing to straighten, but just feeling the coarse cloth between her fingers calmed her.
"Am I shaking?"
No, there was no need to be nervous. It wasn't like back then, after all.
She opened the door. Before, she had wondered what kind of smile she would give him – would it look weary, would it look content or would it look playful? Her face betrayed her thought – some part in her was happy to see him and her lips broke apart in a truthful smile of welcome.
"Edge… It has been a long time."
The monosyllabic answer made her laugh out brightly, while she took a better look at him. She had thought that he would look younger, would enter with a grin on his lips. He always had looked younger than his age – he had always been more boy than a man… He had also always been grinning as far back as she could remember, had always had a mischievous look in his eyes. Rydia had often wondered how he would look without this expression on his face and had told him to be "at least one time serious".
Her wish had been granted to her, now. A sting went through her heart and her smile waned.
Edge could hear footsteps behind the door – slightly rushed, but still not overly hasty – "appropriate" he thought, but did not know if he was referring to her behaviour or to the fact that she was willing to open the door for someone she had not seen for many, many years.
A someone who did not have the courage to face her for many, many years.
He looked into a smiling, amazingly young face, the lines around her eyes and some grey strands in her hair the only signs of her age. Surprised and slightly stunned by her still lasting beauty, he couldn't bring himself to smile back . He had thought that she would look older – and more earnest, marked by the ordeals and losses that she had to endure; the last one being the death of her husband some years ago.
"You were not there…"
"It's been a long time…" she said now, her voice calmer and warmer than he remembered it to be, but still bright.
"Rydia..." Her name was the only thing he brought forth and immediately, he felt stupid for it. She laughed at it - no, it wasn't laughing, it was…
"Giggling?" Rydia laughed like the young girl she had been so many years ago. Or was it just his imagination? There was even more that bugged him about this laugh and it filled him with something he hadn’t known before, something he had never had to fight against:
She still looked so young, sounded so young, so unchanged – and he looked old, he knew this, although he would never admit this to anyone.
Was Rydia disappointed by his appearance? She had not only stopped giggling now, but had also stopped smiling and was looking at him… angrily? Sadly?
"I've never been good at reading her expression…"
He opened his mouth and asked a question he had never asked before in his life, since its possible answer had never interested him until now:
"Are you sure that I am not bothering you?"
Rydia frowned. Why did Edge ask if he bothered her? Did he believe that her invitation hadn't been meant seriously? Well, in fact it hadn't been her idea, at all. Cecil had informed her by letter that Edge was currently visiting Baron and since Mist was only a stone's throw away—
“Why did it take me so long to find the courage to invite him?"
She also asked herself if it had been a good idea. That wasn't the Edge she knew. Why was he so considerate? It seemed that he really had changed and again, she wondered why it did not make her happy.
"Come in already, " she said. "I was just making some tea."
"Tea? That’s wonderful!" Edge sounded like he really meant it.
"So he really is no longer the wine lover…" Rydia thought and could not help but feel another cold wave of disappointment rolling over her.
As Edge sat down at the little kitchen table, he thanked her for the invitation. He also politely told her: "You look great."
Despite the flattering words, Rydia’s inner frown built, although she tried to serve the tea with a friendly smile – had age made him polite? The old Edge (and for once, she wasn't talking about age) would have cracked twenty jokes until now and his compliments would have been a lot bolder.
Rydia still could remember well the countless times his remarks had irritated her greatly: She never had understood the "sweetie" and "babe" talk and also never had known how to react to it. One day, Rosa had explained to her that Edge's "timing" was always very bad and Rydia hadn't even understood what exactly the ninja had tried to time...
"No, that’s a lie – even though I was still a child inside, I have always known that he likes me… More than friends like each other…”
"How's Cecil?" she asked to start a conversation – it was strange that, after the many years she had not seen Edge, she could think of nothing else than to talk about the Paladin.
"He's doing well, I think. Still as hard working as ever, although he no longer has to be."
Rydia nodded. In fact she knew all this – Cecil had recently given the throne over to his son and was now visiting her, together with Rosa, on a regular basis.
"They are also becoming grandparents, soon. Can you believe it? How time flies… Do you remember their wedding?" Edge continued the chit-chat.
Again, they started to talk about the past and about Cecil. It was he who had brought them together in the beginning, such a long time ago: under his leadership they had journeyed and fought together and as the journey had ended, ultimately, also their association had ended.
Why was it that even now, they only could talk about the past? It was as if the present had no meaning…
"Yes, I still remember the wedding well..." she said, not without smiling – didn’t they say that with age the long-term memory got better and better? "I'll never forget how Palom sipped some wine and then accidentally burnt the hair of Lucca's doll. She was crying and ran to me for comfort – I really didn't know how to react. I probably felt appalled because of the black head, too… After all, inertly, I wasn't really much older than her…"
Edge laughed and Rydia felt annoyance welling up within, although she was aware that is was an unfair anger. After all, he could neither understand nor know how she had felt back then, since she had never told anyone the rest of the story, the rest of the night…