He had spent his life running. He had run from the scary things, like love and responsibility and reality. It wasn’t something he was proud of. When he had been swept blindly into his current position he had told himself that he would stay and fulfill the foreign duties. He’d told himself he’d hang up his running shoes and hunker down. Whether this was because of an obligation he felt or because he was tired he hadn’t been sure of at first. Now he was fairly certain it was a mixture of both.
But now the gray walls consumed him. They whined with age and dullness, moaning words of discouragement. You don’t belong here. You’re too stupid. You’ll fall apart. Any spark of color or life he ignited was snuffed by them and the people who inhabited them. Cal was almost positive that these people, even those at the bottom of the caste system, had no interest in improving the way they lived.
Cal had spent his years of childhood playing grown-up. For three years he had wandered aimlessly by himself, trying to convince himself that no, he wasn’t lonely. Very often he had just accepted what he was given, and these engulfing gray walls had come with the newest installment and he hadn’t voiced his arguments.
He examined his shoes at her question before slowly shaking his head. Finally he looked up to her like a lost child and murmured a simple confession, “No.”
Her features softened, no longer questioning. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling. Pity? Relief? Understanding? To question the feeling was useless, she thought. But after such a confession, she was not sure was else to say, nor that there was anything else TO say. And for a moment, the stairwell was perfectly, uncomfortably silent.
Poppy’s hands felt restless and clammy at her sides. Never before had she been in such an uneasy silence. In fact, growing up, her mothre had taught her that there was always a right and wrong time for silence, but now, Poppy had no idea what to do.
But finally, sick of the silence and chill in the air between them, Poppy opened her mouth slowly and spoke no louder than a whisper. “I see. Then do you feel you have some kind of obligation to these people?”
As the silence took over he wished he hadn’t said anything. This was the atmosphere he’d always run from, and it made him feel as though he were under watchful eyes. He shifted shifted uncomfortably just before she began to speak. Poppy’s voice came as a relief, though the words she spoke didn’t prompt an easy answer.
"Depends on who you’re talkin’ about," he muttered, his eyes drifting to the side. “If you mean just the people in the kingdom, iunno that they’d notice if I disappeared one day. Matter of fact, doubt they’d care." He gave a small shrug of indifference. “I’m just the king’s illegitimate kid."
((shhhh yes it is uwu I took like 3 weeks one time remember that omg //shot))
((B-b-b-b-but still! u n u))
"Then I suppose there is something I am not understanding…" He had said it…depends? Did he mean to say family? Friends? Could it have been possible that in the year they had parted from one another, he had found someone?
Poppy shook her head, though slightly meaning not to attract Calvin’s attention with this action, as if to clear her head of such silly thoughts. In times like these, it was most crucial to keep a clear head, not have her judgement fogged by petty jealousy. Once more, poppy looked Calvin in the eyes, chin raised. “If that is all…If the kingdom’s people would pay no mind, who would?”
He bit his lip. With all he’d put Joanna through, he felt obligated to stay with her. Recently, that was all their relationship had been—obligation. He didn’t want to discuss that relationship with Poppy, but even less did he want to discuss the other consequence of departing. “There’s Darren.” He cleared his throat, running a hand through his hair. For a moment he reconsidered going down this route, but ultimately decided that out of the two this one would be easier to explain with some kind of logic. “I mean, uh, he’s uh, my dad. He kinda split when I was a kid to come back here.” He gave a shrug. “He’d probably care, but I don’t owe him a damn thing. The thing is though, they’re real caught up in tradition here. After the king before him died, even though it’d been a couple years since Darren ran from here, they hunted him down since he was the next in line for the throne or somethin’. He says they dragged him outta our village, tellin’ him if he didn’t go they’d hurt me and my mom.”
Cal had never fully accepted the bravery and sacrifice Darren always injected into the story. After living in the Stone Kingdom for a few months the young prince had no trouble believing that they’d invaded Atelpo to take the man away. What he did doubt was the fight Darren so passionately detailed, saying he had kicked and punched, put a guard through the living room wall. Cal had lived in that small cottage for eighteen years and never once was there any sign that the walls had been damaged or patched.
"The snobs who run this place don’t like it that I’m different than them," he continued, "but they’d like it even less if Darren kicked the bucket without anyone with these to take his place.” He gestured to his eyes, the unique blend of blue and green that indicated his seat at the head of the kingdom.
This explanation was genuine, and he did fear that if he were to run he’d never be able to have the life he’d imagined for himself; a small village with a small amount of people, no travelling, maybe a family of his own. He’d be afraid of putting anyone he traveled with in danger and, consequently, wind up alone again. He would rather be trapped in complete grayness than to have to face that.
What was odd about his explanation, though, was that it seemed completely matter-of-fact. He didn’t talk about his family often, and when he did it was with the same detachment as someone explaining what they’d read in a book. He didn’t notice it; once Joanna had told him it was a ‘defense mechanism’, though he wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that.
((ahhh sorry that’s so long xux))