I’m standing in the courtyard just off to the side of the mansion.
I call it a courtyard, but it hasn’t been one for a long time. Flowers haven’t grown here in a long time, filled up with nothing but weeds and dirt now. Dirt that can’t even grow grass properly, dirt that blows away like sand.
So many things that got undone. At one point, this place was probably the prettiest damned place I knew. Undone. What a shame.
Now only those dry brown weeds grow here, driving out all the other plants. It’s driving me nuts, seeing nothing but grey, grey, grass, grass all over. Sun’s too bright for something like this.
Compared to the lavish mansion just beyond it, this courtyard really seems like a joke. It’s so pathetic, I wanna laugh.
But hey, I’ve no idea why the hell I’m here. Everything’s already happened, you see…
I’m sitting at a coffee shop that likes to pretend it’s a bar, trying to clear my mind.
I’ve got this crazy smile on my face, the kind that my sister always said made me look like a daredevil. It’s not that the coffee is good, or anything. I’m just trying to focus on the good things in life.
At this rate, my face is gonna freeze like this, and I’ll be stuck with a cocky grin the rest of my life. Better than being stuck with a grumpy expression, I guess?
It’s three in the morning. I’ve no idea why in the world I’m here, when I really should be back home sleeping in that lovely master bedroom I now own. My new room’s really gorgeous, my father had bought all kinds of expensive furniture and majestic paintings to line the walls, but that’s why I can’t stand it. That room’s way too fancy for a guy like me, though it is quite nice.
Was this what I wished for? That strength I wanted so, so bad, was it just for the sake of sleeping in that giant room?
Ha. If that were the case, what the hell am I doing here, at this dinky little coffee shop at this ungodly hour? I’m surprised the place is still open, even. It’s not a high-class place, just a few tables and a low, home-y feel, and the coffee ain’t even that great, yet here I am.
I order my fifth coffee. But just as I do so, the last of the patrons leave, and I’m now the only one here. What horrible timing. Guess this’ll be my last one.
The mansion seems so awfully quiet now. Which means I got the whole place to myself. I mean, it’s exactly what I wanted, all this time, but still…
Coffee’s more bitter than usual. And the sun’s gonna come up soon. I’ll just grab some rest, then see what I can do to spruce my place up. Starting with that old courtyard, it really needs some new flowers.
It’s my birthday. I don’t remember exactly how old I am, not that it matters. There isn’t really anything to celebrate about growing older and getting closer to dying, anyway.
Ambrea visited today. My older sister of three years, a graceful, endlessly sorrowful woman, a woman that at one point, I’d admired deeply. Came to wish for my happiness.
It was a heavy wish. We talked for a little bit. It didn’t end particularly well, and I don’t think I’ll see her again.
I don’t know if I can see her again.
…I need a drink. I’ve been pacing around this empty mansion for too long, and it’s already nighttime. But alcohol’s no good, ‘cause then I’ll get sleepy, and I don’t want to sleep just yet.
Hmm, if I remember correctly, there’s this coffee shop in town that likes to pretend it’s a bar, and so opens even in the middle of the night like this . Maybe I can pay that place a visit.
Here I am, standing silently in the mansion’s office. My father – Romin Partrakilas – he always sat here, in this way-too-fancy office chair. While he worked, he was like a crime lord. Always had this nasty web of ‘connections’, always going on meetings with his ‘brothers’, with some shady agenda up his sleeve.
Actually, that’s just me being bitter. He wasn’t like a crime lord, he was a crime lord.
I never really knew what he was up to, but I’d had suspicions even when I was younger. But right now, with me staring at that empty chair, I couldn’t help but find it rather pathetic. What was he the lord of, in the end? Lord of uninteresting paperwork, maybe. They’re still here, scattered upon his desk. No, not his desk anymore. My desk.
It’s still a bit too empty here for my liking, and a little too dark, so I open a window to let in some sunlight. Only now, do I see just how much has changed, how much has come undone. And I really quickly realize that now, I’m the only one here to clean it up.
I remember the mansion being so huge, and the grounds it being a vast forest. But from this third-story window, I can see the grass, which hasn’t been clipped or watered for far too long. I can see what remains of this forest, a thin strip of trees separating the land belonging to the Patrakilas from freshly paved streets.
A part of me wishes that I’d held on to some of the servants. Romin would always be flanked by personal assistants, and we had butlers and maids wait at our beck and call.
But that would be a disservice to a promise I made. My goal was to gain power, yes, but those people had been trapped within the mansion perhaps for their whole lives. I had no right to keep them here.
I walk over to the desk, and read the various papers scattered upon it.
They’re nothing but words. Words, telling me exactly what it is that I own, exactly who it is that I own. There’s so much power in these mere words that I don’t know what to do with it.
At once, the face of someone I thought I’d forgotten flits into my brain.
Shut up. Don’t tell me what to do. You were banished from the family for a reason.
But, my birthday’s in less than a month, and I remember that when I lived at the old apartment, she always tried her best to visit so we could celebrate. When Romin was around, he’d always turn her back at the door, so I didn’t see her while I lived at the mansion. But he’s not here, either.
Part of me hopes that she’ll be intelligent, and know that she’s not welcome here.
Part of me hopes that she’ll come anyway.
I’m standing, again, at the office, but it’s a bit more lively this time. It’s too early in the morning for me to be awake, yet here I am, fully dressed in one of my nicer outfits, standing in front of my father’s desk.
He’s not sitting in that chair like I always see him doing so, but rather pacing around the back of the room. He called me here for a meeting or another, but it seems like we’re the only ones here.
“I hope your studies have been going well,” he says, in a voice far quieter than I’ve ever heard come out of him.
I tell him as much. Quite frankly, I haven’t been paying attention to all that he’s tried to teach me. He’s cramming management skills into my head, to get me ready for running the ‘family business’ or whatever, even though I wasn’t aware that we had a family business until recently.
Then again, he must’ve been able to afford this mansion somehow. So it’s only natural that we have a business of some sort.
Yeah, my studies are going okay. I just wish it wasn’t so much work.
When I say that, Romin begins to laugh. It’s a raspier laugh than I remembered.
“Yes, I suppose you are right. It is a lot of work. So much work, an old man like me can’t keep up with it.”
That’s why I wish for you to join me, he says. Always so much to be done, so many things to keep track of. In business, in school, even in maintaining the house.
My father walks slowly to the edge of the room, and pulls back the curtain on the only window. The room lightens considerably, but still seems so dark somehow. The sky is covered entirely in grey clouds.
Romin frowns. “Seems like it’s going to rain, and quite heavily, I’m afraid. Saran, do you mind calling the gardener to tell him to come another time? We wouldn’t want the rain to damage our lawnmower, do we?”
How annoying. He just gives me menial tasks like this. But he did promise me that I’ll be able to take control someday, when I’m older, so I’ll bear with this.
He’s still standing at the windowsill, frowning. A little curious, I ask what’s on his mind.
“Hmm, nothing important,” is his reply. “It’s simply, time has a way of sneaking up on you. I swear, I just had the lawns mowed and the flowers watered, and the courtyard is already overgrown with weeds. It seems like such a waste, for us to have to keep a gardener on hand just for this purpose, don’t you think?”
“The situation is simply like this,” my father says, holding a packet of papers. I have no idea what’s written on them, yet he takes them as if they were sacred treasures. “As I have informed you in my letter, the family business has been growing much faster than it has before. Great news for the family, as I’m sure you’re aware, but it’s quite a bit of stress for an old man like me.”
It appears that trustworthy people in the Partrakilas family are hard to come by, at least that’s what Romin tells me.
“I want to leave the company in good hands when I retire, you see,” he says .“Thus, I thought it was about time that you learned how to manage it. After all, you will be an adult in less than a year, Saran.”
Wait. What about Ambrea? I mean, I’m not even his oldest child.
“Regretfully, it appears she has no interest in business whatsoever. She will not be coming back to the mansion.” Romin frowns, but not out of sadness. “But perhaps, you are different. Are you interested?”
He leaves me with that offer.
If I nod, what does that mean?
I will be living in the mansion. My true birthright. Boarding school was luxurious enough, but that is absolutely nothing compared to the size and grandeur of this place.
I will be leaving behind my friends. ‘They can always visit, Saran’ my old man told me, but the Partrakilas mansion is a far walk from the city. I don’t know if I will have the time to see them.
I will inherit the Partrakilas family business. I don’t quite know what it is, as I didn’t really read the letter that well, and I definitely didn’t pay attention to any business classes in school, but I know there’s lots of responsibility involved.
But it is a chance for me to obtain the power I promised I would —
“Agreed,” I say.
We shake hands, not as father and child, but as business partners.
I haven’t stepped foot within this place for, what, six years now? Yet the mansion is just as big as I remember it being.
My room, even though I know now that it’s just a mere guest room, is far bigger and better than the one I have at the boarding school. It’s a room that could easily sleep five people, all to myself, and I even have a queen-sized bed. Is it the same kind of room I had as a child?
Actually, it’s entirely overwhelming, so I just stand there for a while in shock.
“Master Saran,” the maid says. “Is this room not to your liking?”
No, that’s not it at all. I like it quite a bit. It’s just…I guess I’m not used to it anymore.
“Understood. Master Romin would like to meet with you in thirty minutes time. Would you like me to bring you anything?”
I send the maid off, and go on a walk. I’m not a kid anymore, so I shouldn’t get lost that easily.
Somehow, my feet take me to that courtyard. Part of me hopes that it’ll still be there, full of flowers like it was when I was a kid. But that part of me quickly vanishes.
It’s still there. A simple little grass courtyard, paved with stones around in a circle. There used to be so many flowers of all colors peeking out of the stone, growing in the center of the courtyard.
There still are flowers growing there. But only a few, and they seem so miserably sad all by themselves. It’s the end of the spring, so the few that are there are almost withered away.
It really is kind of sad, when you think about it. They really are pretty, those flowers. She always spent so much time tending these flowers, yet they only last a few days. A few weeks, if you’re lucky.
One of these days, once I’ve become stronger, I’ll make something as beautiful as these flowers, something that lasts forever. I think that’s a happier ending than having to watch those flowers wilt all the time.
But first things first. I have a meeting with my cranky old man to deal with first.
I’m taking a walk in the middle of the night.
I’m going away to boarding school for the next few years, so I couldn’t sleep. The gate’s locked by now, but I’ve snuck out so many times, that I get out without making a sound.
There’s a full moon tonight, so I use the moonlight to find a tiny little path shooting out of the side of the mansion, and follow it all the way to the courtyard.
Under this pale moonlight, the flowers seem especially beautiful. My sister is there, at the center of the courtyard, just sitting there.
I didn’t expect her to be the type to break curfew, but company is always welcome.
“Hey Saran,” she says. “Can’t sleep?”
I nod, and sit down besides her. You can’t see the colors right now, but she planted them so all the flowers of the same color would be next to each other. In the daytime, they almost make a rainbow. Except there aren’t any green flowers, and we couldn’t get good blue ones.
“Hey, Saran. What do you want to do with your future?”
What a sudden question. It probably wasn’t actually that sudden of a question, but I don’t remember what we talked about before then.
Like most kids, I give a pretty vague answer. Something about changing the world. Although, it isn’t that I’m lying. I tell her, that I hope to become a stronger person, that I hope to gain the power to be able to help people with their lives.
What about you? I ask.
She doesn’t respond for some time. I can’t really see her expression in the moonlight, but she seems sad, somehow.
“I spoke to Father just the other day,” she says. “He said that I’d eventually own the Partrakilas fortune if I helped him with something.”
Isn’t that great news? You won’t have to ever worry about money, right?
But Ambrea’s mouth is still twisted in that sorrowful frown, so I find myself unable to say much of anything.
“Hey, Saran. Can you make me a promise?”
Sure, if I can keep it. I want to help people, and Ambrea is a person that I care about, so I want to help her, to. When she hears my response, she smiles for the first time tonight.
“Thank you,” she says.
Promise me, she says. Promise me that you’ll be a good person, that you’ll stop to think about all the people who are impacted by your actions. Promise me that you’ll work to improve the lives of even those people that everyone else ignores.
“I promise,” I say.
I take that promise far too much to heart.
I’m standing in the courtyard just off to the side of the mansion, thinking about times gone by.
Undone. The whole mansion is like that now, the whole business is like that now. Just…undone. What a shame.
“I was wrong, back then,” she said. “I didn’t expect you to take that simple promise so literally. So please…please learn to forgive yourself, Saran.”
She always treated me like a child. But I’m not a child anymore, you know. My birthday was just the other day, and I’m not even a teenager anymore.
I curse her, my sister who wished only to help people. I curse him, my father that had left me a legacy he wished could last forever.
All of those wishes. Undone.
Where does that leave me?
Well, first things first. The midday sun is beating down so brightly, and this courtyard looks so pathetic.
I don’t have a gardener anymore, so I guess I’m doing this by hand. How’d it go again? Ambrea taught me once, but I’ve long forgotten.
Later, once I’ve gotten some sleep, I’ll go and get some more seeds. But first, I tear out all those weeds, and begin to break up the cracked, crumbly dirt.