It's a Wonderful Mind and a Wonderful World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Young Adult Readers And Writers

When the world is pulling you down, an escape far away seems like the only option. Whether it’s on the ground beneath your feet or in your head. Among broken friendships and secrets, Soleil waits for Ignis’ return after his sudden disappearance. Could the answers lie somewhere other than this hard, cold reality?

November 13th

The clock hit 13:30 and the bell sounded. Everyone battled to get out of the boring biology lesson, causing a bottleneck.

Hopefully, Soleil would use this moment to get to Ignis’ house unnoticed. Whenever someone asked her about him, pity in their eyes, it made her feel worse. Soleli began to make her way out as things crowd dispersed. As the sky was cloudy today, everything felt gloomy, just like her.

“Soleli...”

Her shoulders jolted, halfway into the turnstile at the entrance. Soleli sighed, just when she thought her escape was a success.

“Hey,” Soleli said.

In front of her stood all of them. Indiara, Maryana and Freya. Freya was definitely not here by choice, considering the subtle expression of dislike on her face. Soleli was a bit guilty but how could she be sorry for loving Ignis and him loving her. Not anymore. With the given situation, their secret affair was out the bag for everyone to prud and judge.

“We were going to Mcdonalds to have lunch and wondered if you wanted to come along?” said Maryana.

“Sorry...you know…” Soliel tried to maintain eye contact as she turned them down yet again.  They must think she’s such a bad friend.

“You’re going to Ignis’? No new information?” asked Freya.

The painful lump in her throat developed and her eyes began to sting. “No…” she said quietly.

Everyone looked very awkward now, scrambling to say something comforting when there was nothing to be said.

“I’ll see you guys...tomorrow. Sorry,” she said, turning on her heels and running.

The coldness and fresh early winter air was refreshing after being suffocated back there. The music blasting through the headphones made it easy to forget the car congestion and even where she was for a moment. The journey was muscle memory at this point.

Soon, Soleli was standing in front of a brown door. Two knocks and Ignis’ mother stood before her. Hair in a messy bun, under eyes dark and expression sullen. He still hadn’t come back. 

It usually went like this: a casual hello to his siblings and giving Lisa, their cat, a much needed petting, seeing as her favourite person was gone. Then she’d sit on the hard wooden floors of the corridor, her back pressed on the still closed bedroom door. Soleil didn’t bother knocking anymore or calling his name, in hopes he would be there.

The clock on her mobile beamed 14:24pm. 

The pictures on the screen turned into blobs of colour. Time seemed so meaningful to her nowadays. It had been one week and five days since Ignis had disappeared from this house. One week and five days ago since he waved goodbye at the end of their walk home. He had laughed and he had smiled. It had all been an act and Soleil hadn’t seen through it.

The longer she went without seeing him or knowing he was safe, the pain and worry made it hard to do anything. What if he never came back? What if she would never see his face again? Was he okay?

As with winter,  day went to evening within a blink. Soleil stayed in the dark. Exhaustion settled upon her even though sixth form had only been two hours. It was beginning to look like another day that he wasn’t coming back. With her head on her knees, the tiredness took over. Her stupid little hope wished when she woke up, Ignis would be standing right there.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

The sound of the ocean was crystal clear.  Seagulls screeched loudly overhead and then the sound gradually faded as they flew away? Alright, that wasn’t normal...but the noise was soothing, letting her forget that  abnormality for a second. There was loud purring too. That was plausible; Lisa would cuddle up to her some days now that she actually trusted Soleil.

Her eyes fluttered open. What met her was a light teal wall and white ceiling. Soliel was comfortable with her back against a mattress and not a door.  The cat beside her was a beautiful longhaired white cat rather than a brown tabby. The grogginess of sleep hadn’t disappeared from her mind just yet, surely.

The softness of the bed sheets felt too real...like she was naked. Soleil traced her a hand down her chest which hit a metal key. Okay, now she was awake. Soliel sprang up, wrapping the covers around herself. Just what the hell was going on here? 

There was a green hoodie beside her. Holding it out infront of her, the size was way too large to be hers. A familiar scent of subtle sweet cologne filled her nostrils. It smelt like…Ignis? But of course it couldn’t be his because he wasn’t here and Soleil still didn’t know where he’d gone. A prick of pain travelled down her stomach, but she pushed it aside and pulled the hoodie roughly over her head to begin the adventure of exploring.

The walls were pristine white and the furniture complimented each other, carefully chosen. Nothing was out of place. She padded along the marble floors of the corridor with the white cat trailing beside her. Bright blue slitted eyes looked up at her and even if this situation, Soleil couldn’t resist. Within a few minutes, the cat was on its back and enjoying Soleil’s stomach rub. 

A hearty laugh from afar made her pause.

She popped her head outside the living room window. The sea breeze sent the plethora of braids on her head everywhere. Soliel held them back and took in the whitest sand and the clearest ocean that stood before her. Had her brain suddenly transported her to Villa in Spain? Despite the unfamiliarity, she was at peace in an odd way. Like she belonged here. In the distance, there was a person walking across the shore with a dog. Could they tell her where exactly she was? 

Soleil hadn’t found any shoes. But it was nice walking along the warm sand as the sun beat down on her. It was such a contrast to the early winter London was in. Five minutes into the trek, she was rolling up the hoodie sleeves as sweat ran down her face. As she got closer to the shore and the person with the dog, her heart sped up faster and she froze. That light brown hair looked too familiar.

Ignis?

There he was with a gleaming smile on his face that she hadn’t seen in ages. He threw the stick and the white Shiba Inu chased it with alarming speed. He hadn’t seen her yet. Slowly, she walked towards him, wondering if this was even real. Was he actually right here? In front of her? Smiling? Before she could utter a word and get his attention, it seemed she had gotten his. 

Ignis took her into an embrace. “Soleil, you’re awake! I thought you were gonna sleep forever! We’ve got a barbecue to be planning. Are you still coming with me to the shoot today?” He pulled back and cupped her cheeks. “Was last night that good? Just kidding…Good morning.” Then he kissed her softly on the lips and pushed a braid behind her ear. She was still in awe.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.

Soleli snapped out of it. “You’re here…”

“You expected me to still be in bed, didn’t you? But nah, Rickie needed a good walk and run so I woke up early for him. I left Ariel to bed warm, though, so thank me for that.”

Ariel must’ve been the cat that was so familiar with her.

Soleil still had a goldfish like expression. It was like millions of dots had been disarranged.

“…Where are we?” 

“Somniatis! The best place on Earth.”

Well, it looked better than London.  “How? Why aren’t we at home?”

“Does good sex really make you suffer from amnesia?”

If she had thought this was an illusion, that comment confirmed to her that this was really Ignis. He had a knack for putting dirty jokes wherever he could place them. She gave him a deadpan stare right back, which always got him flustered.

“We moved here from England and that’s the story really. This is our home now.”

 That didn’t clear up anything. 

“What about university?”

Ignis’s face dropped for a moment and he bent down to pet Rickie. “We left that in the past. I’m a director. I’m currently directing and producing my first feature film. You’re a part-time artist and freelance writer, having released a huge amount of novels, short stories and a book about life on Somantis. You even have a whole fan base on this island. I should mention, you have a room filled with paintings and stuff. We can go see it if anything I’m saying isn’t going through.”

Yeah…none of it was.

So, they made their way back into the villa and into a corridor lined with rows of brown doors. Ignis led while Soleil tried to guess what each room might have contained.  Some doors were opened, showing off a living room, another bedroom, another bedroom…was that a gaming room? Typical. Ignis stopped and they stood before another generic brown door.

“Open it. Only you have the key for this room. You don’t trust me with this room again ever since Rickie got into it and sort of, peed on some of your paintings.”

She looked at him, confused. That happened? 

Ignis tugged on the mysterious necklace on her neck. “The key to this door is this necklace.”

She put it into the keyhole and the door unlocked with a click. The brown doors opened up and invited her in. Soliel was surrounded with paintings. Paint tubes and dirty pallets littered the floor. The white walls had splatters of paint in a multitude of colours, clearly, cleanliness wasn’t a priority when it came to her art.  Some canvases were almost as large a whole wall and some as small as a notebook. She must have spent days in this room to have such a collection...days she did not remember.

She’d definitely taken a page out of Claude Monet’s book, who she loved so dearly. You could only quite make out the scenery of the green mountains, the ocean, rows of houses upon the hills and the rapeseed fields through the heavily blended colours. But the one that stood out was the huge canvas splashed with hues of pastel blues and purples and splattered with white dots. Once she realised what it was, her heart swelled with awe. 

Soleli had always admired the night sky. In this painting, every star was accounted for on the canvas and it was wonderful. Ignis put his head on her shoulder. 

“That’s my favourite one too.”

Soleil turned to smile at him, in which out of instinct, she kissed him. Even after a week of not seeing his face, she couldn’t forget how it was when they kissed. A burst of happiness spread over her and ended with an uncontrollable smile across her lips. When she pulled away, a warm smile was left on his lips, the corners of his eyes crinkled as it reached his eyes.

Then his eyes widened, to the point Soleil almost saw every detail of his irises. “Shit, shit!” he said, then scurried out the doors.

Soleil was confused and realised how foreign everything was without him. She followed the banging coming from the foyer. Ignis was running from one side to the other, in boxers, then with shorts half on that were definitely going to trip him over and then with a handful of notebooks and paper. Some of course, dropped on the floor.

While Ignis was still running around like a headless chicken, Soleil kneeled down to inspect the papers. They were storyboards, diagrams of camera movements, old scripts and pages full of notes.  As she was reading them, the air swished past her as ignis continued to run up and down. When he came to a pause, he was dressed more decently but his hair was all over the place. Soleil stroked down the flyaways and handed him the papers.

“Thanks,” he said and took the papers from her. “I totally forgot today we had a shoot in the mountains for one of the scenes. If I don’t hurry, Ronnie’s gonna shout at me!” he was already turning around to go outside. “Meet me outside on the cycle, asap!”

Luckily, she remembered where the room—well, their room was located. After some rummaging, she found some brown gladiator sandals, shorts and a cute straw hat. At the front of the house, he was waiting near the garage as promised. Although, what she hadn’t expected him to be doing was wheeling a motorcycle out of the garage and throwing her a helmet.

“Unfortunately, you can’t wear the straw hat.”

She meekly took it off and shuffled her feet. Ignis driving a motorcycle was a strange sight. Yeah, he’d expressed learning to drive once or twice but this…this was a surprise. “I thought it looked cute.”

He laughed. “Well, you’ve got to be safe before you can be cute. Sandwich it between my back you can be as cute as you want when we get to the shoot.”

With that, he got on the motorcycle first. Along with his shiny red helmet, he slipped on gold rimmed sunglasses with a grin. Ignis looked absolutely gorgeous at this moment of time. Soleil got on the back seat, her arms wrapped around his torso with no space between them, besides the straw hat that was squashed between them. She’d missed being this close to him.

The  motorcycle ride was quiet as Ignis concentrated on the road but with the wind blowing through her hair and the realisation that he was right here, well and smiling, Soliel wasn’t bored at all. The whole town had a distinctive colour scheme--white brick and tiled roofs with citrus colours. 

As they got further into town, flats of bright colours and fenced balconies for every window began to appear. Mopeds, motorcycles and roofless cars occupied the streets. Every now and again another driver would honk or wave at Ignis like an old friend. Maybe this town was small and tightly knit, the kind of place Soleil always imagined enjoying. 

The colourful town changed to farms to lone cottages. The roads became quieter and green mountains stood in the distance. They came to a halt near a forest that had an ascending path of stairs. Soleil took off her helmet and shook her braids into place.

Ignis looked at the watch on his wrist. “20 minutes late. I hope Ronnie won’t be too angry. Knowing him, he’s probably started directing.”

If it had been anyone else, this strange pathway wouldn’t be trustworthy. But it was Ignis, so she was safe. “Where does this lead?”

“You’ll see but we’ve got to get going! It’s going to take us at least 10 minutes to get up there. Get ready for some glute burn.”

Before Soliel could ask more questions, Ignis took her by the hand and pulled her towards the entrance. They were practically jogging and the uphill battle made Soliel feel that glute burn tenfold. When she had a moment to forget the pain and the minges, through the trees, the little farms and cottages were becoming  smaller.  The view from the top was definitely going to be breathtaking. 

The last steps were the hardest. Ignis was sweating, but even after the last step, it had seemed so easy for him. “Sorry Soleil, I’m going on ahead!” and he sprinted off.

As she landed on the last step, she fell on her knees and her hands on the dusty floor and let exhaustion take her for a few minutes. Through the arch of trees was a crowd of people obscuring what was further ahead. It seemed so far. Soliel rested her head against the sandy floor, then with deep breath looked up again. Ignis was now standing in front of her, with his hand out.

“You’ve got sand on your forehead,” he said, brushing it off. “But more importantly, we’re in trouble.”

Soliel got up immediately, almost panicking. “What’s going on? Are you--”

“Shhhh!” Ignis put a finger to her lips. “The scene has started, so we’ve got to sneak in without disturbing anyone.”

Oh, that’s all it was, although that was also no good. Soleil nodded, putting her fingers to Ignis’ lips. 

He took her hand and they began the anxious journey to sneak in. 

It was hard to squeeze into the entrance with the amount of crew at the scene. Sometimes, they would brush past someone and they would either smile at Ignis or give him an exasperated expression. Through the rare spaces in the crowd, there was a girl and boy standing together, looking over the balcony. 

They looked softly at each other and it was clear there was a connection between them.. After much trouble, they made it to the other side of the large balcony which had a better view of the scene. Ignis came to a halt in front of Soleil. In front of him were two director chairs and another, where Ronnie sat, cross legged and concentrated.

Ignis visibility tensed up. “Just sit down, I’ll take care of everything after.”

So, he pulled up the chair and began to sit in it. Ronnie’s concentration did not break but Soleil had a feeling they weren’t scott free. She sat on the chair beside Ignis and tried to get into the scene until Ignis suddenly took her hand.

“Ronnie is definitely steaming with irritation but I’ll need you moral support.”

Soleil giggled under her breath “I’ll try but maybe we deserve it?”

Ignis squeezed her hand. “Probably...but for now watch this scene. It’s for you.”

For her? Soleil was even more fixated on the scene now.

Everyone went silent and there was only the sound of the gentle breeze. From the way in how close they stood to how they dazed into each other’s eyes, they were in love. Soliel was unsure of the plot but she gathered that the guy had led her here as some surprise. As they talked, soft and flirtatiously, they moved around the barrister of the balcony while keeping in front of the cameras. Ignis looked at the scene with pride in his eyes, even sometimes mumbling the dialogue. This scene was leading up to something and everyone was waiting for it to happen. 

It had been a long time since she saw Ignis look so proud. From their discussion about their life goals, she knew that he always dreamt of seeing his stories come to life through films and now he was here witnessing that. His dream wasn’t a dream anymore.

The pair were even more closer than before like their bodies had an invisible magnet, drawing each other in. It seemed like Soleil had already missed a lot of the scene.

The woman laughed. “No, honestly, thank you for bringing me here...and picking up on the fact I hate crowded places.”

The man’s hand moved to her cheek to brush a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I could see the way you looked so anxious,  I had to save you.”

The girl smiled once more and their noses were almost touching. It was that hold your breath moment, when the chemistry between two people was suffocating and you’d wonder when they'd kiss already. When had she begun holding her breath? Only when Ignis squeezed her hand again, she deflated.

“This scene was based on our love--that’s why it’s my favourite.”

Soleil was still immersed in the weight of his words as the couple closed in for a passionate kiss. There was a wave of relief across the crowd of set crew and they all looked proud or full of glee.

They parted, with a light blush on the girl’s cheeks and subtle grin on the man’s. They giggled, like how you do after all the tension is released. Soleil had to remind herself it was all really good acting.

“Shall we go then?”

“Alright,” the girl said, now very meek.

With the snap of the clapperboard from Joe, the scene ended. Everyone erupted with hushed cheers and congratulations to the actors. If Soleil had seen them without the camera crew around them, she may have thought they were actually in love.

“So what did you think, director?” Ronnie said. All the crew came to face their direction and Soliel felt like there were millions of eyes on her.

Ignis hummed and stroked his chin. It felt like minutes. He jumped off the chair and puffed up his chest with pride.

“That was wonderful! Perfect! I don’t even think we have to take another take! Well done everyone, especially Selina and Greg!”

Everyone released the cheers and joy they had been holding in. The actors hugged and then attended to seperate things. The crew was no more static and everyone was moving again. The silence was now full of noise and chatter.

“Thank you everyone!” Ignis yelled.

There was a buzz of positive energy in the air now.

Soliel noticed someone’s eyes on her. It was Ronnie staring towards her direction but it was actually Ignis he was looking at. Ignis continued to face forward, but sweat was running down his temple. Considering they were in a shaded area, it wasn’t the sun. Ronnie kept staring and it was beginning to make Soleil nervous too. 

“We agreed on 9:30am sharp, Ignis. It’s 11:00am now,” Ronnie said through stiff lips.

Ignis gulped. “I know, but all that matters is that Selina and Greg executed this scene perfectly.”

“After running it through five times, without their director, yes.”

“I just got caught up walking  Ricky but I’m here now. That’s all that matters,” Ignis said.

“For almost 2 hours?”

“He’s an active dog, y’know,” Ignis said, coming to face him now.
 

They were now engaged in a fierce stare battle and with no intentions of any of them ending it soon. The tension grew and grew, and Soleil knew what she needed to do.

“It was my fault Ronnie! I overslept and was in a daze, I didn’t even know where I was going on the beach. Ignis was up well before me.”

Ronnie’s attention moved towards her but his stare was softer.

“Sticking up for him, eh? You’re a loyal girlfriend Soleil. I hope he knows what he has.” 

Ignis wrapped his arm around her shoulder which almost made her fall off the chair. “I do cherish her well everyday.”

All the ways Ignis cherished her big or small, considering their situation left a smile on her lips. Whether it was sneaking around to walk home together or secret kisses, he did it. The thought also made her realise how much she had been missing it.

“Please forgive him, Ronnie.”

He looked between them then sighed. 

“Fine, but you owe me a drink at today’s barebecue. And if you’re late again, I will be taking your title on the credits. Let’s hope you approve of the scene we just did or we’ll have to film it again.” He sighed louder this time. “Now, time to apologise to the cast for their directors' tardiness.”

Barbecue?

But before she could ask, they were sliding off the chairs and heading off into the crowd of people. Many different faces appeared in front of them, long conversations had with jargon and events that Soleil didn’t know of. All she could do was hook onto Ignis’ arm and nod with false understanding. 

Some people even addressed her, talking about her ‘books ‘or their relationship. Within the confusion, Soleil was happy that it wasn’t a secret and people we’re supporting them. She wished it could always be like this. This new feeling of pride for their relationship dulled that nagging out of place feeling and maybe, she would just enjoy it instead.

After many apologies and small talk, Ignis and Soleil met up with Ronnie again, who was now less irritated. 

“I’ve told everyone they can go home as an apology for my lateness. Besides, everyone is going to need energy for the barbecue tonight.”

 “Hmm, we do still have to film Act 2 Scence 12, Act 6 Scene 2, Act 1 Scene 1 and--” Ronnie said, looking through his notebook.

“Another day! Everyone has worked so hard in this terrible heat. Let’s give them some time off,” Ignis said, pulling his shirt and trying to get cooler air in.

“Fine, hope you’re ready to put in overtime though.”

“We’ll meet up tomorrow and rearrange the schedule.”

“Yes, yes, see you tonight,” he said, yawning and walking away.

They moved towards the edge of a balcony and watched as it became more empty as people began filtering out.

“It’s nice how you were so confident in that take,” Soliel said, looking down below.
 

“Usually I do more takes. But the scene unfolded perfectly. I can’t fault a thing. For now” He came closer and wrapped his arms around Soleil, pulling her against his chest. “Must be because you’re here.”

“Me? I didn’t do anything…” Soliel said, her skin prickling but not because of the heat.

“You do more than you’ll ever know,” Ignis said, planting a kiss on her forehead.

Soleil still didn’t know what he meant by that. All she’d done so far is wake up in this mysterious world and act like a headless chicken.

As the sun’s intensity decreased, Ignis had gone to help dismantle and bring down the equipment. He felt terrible not helping them bring it all up and Soliel could see that, despite Ignis’ not wanting to leave her standing on the balcony on her own.  Everytime he appeared upstairs, sweat was running from his forehead and his shirt full of sweat patches. 

Eventually, Soleil couldn’t bare to stand and observe people doing all the hard work so decided to get involved herself.  The men took care of the heavy lifting while she helped the set designer take the fake flowers off the balcony and other props. Going up and down the long stairs was exhausting but with everyone coming together to clear out, they were done within the hour.

The last car was being loaded with equipment when Ignis reunited with her. “God, that was a work out.”
Soleil couldn’t even agree before he was taking off his shirt. “I guess I’ll just have to ride like this.” 

She turned away. Why was she so embarrassed? In her defence, it wasn’t a sight she had seen often. In fact, this was the first time. They hadn’t gotten to that point of their relationship yet...in the other world. Soliel turned around again, maybe she’d just take a peak and get used to sight of Ignis’ half naked body but instead he was looking at her. In Soleil’s flustered state it forced her to take it all in at once-- a six pack?! Is this what she had been missing?

“Enjoying the view?” Ignis said, Soliel hadn’t noticed his helmet was on and he was ready to go.

“Yes...No...I’m just…” Soleil couldn’t even get the words out.

Ignis chuckled. “Come on, we’ve got to buy food for our BBQ tonight.”

She quickly scrambled to put her helmet on, the claps being a lot more difficult as her palms were sweaty. She hopped onto the back on the motorcycle and it was like Ignis’ bareback was taunting her. With a deep breath, she wrapped her hands around his waist. Nothing bad would have happened, the world wasn’t going to implode but Soleil was still surprised. All she felt was warmth and comfort. Not nerve wracking, just nice.

They settled into a smooth and peaceful drive, the breeze doing them both wonders.

___________________________________________________________________________

Lost!

That’s what Soliel was in the middle of this market. The market was squeezed tightly in the middle of the town square. It had a variety of things; multi-coloured rope bracelets from fresh bright bell peppers.  No wonder there was so much hussle and bussle and she had lost Ignis with a blink of an eye. They had been doing so good at staying together too. 

Ignis already had all the meat for the BBQ, but he needed some extra vegetables. Being the money saver he is, the market was the best and cheapest option to do just that. The minute they arrived and Soliel saw the amount of people, she slightly regretted the decision. So crowded, like a can of sardines-- this was why she couldn’t stand the city. Now she was Ignis-less and carrying a brown paper bag containing an obscene amount of vegetables. 

Near her was a small alley that looked identical to the one her and Ignis had come from. Which meant it was going to be quiet, a break from all this noise. She slipped away into the alley. Hopefully, Ignis would eventually find her but Soliel had answers of her own to find.

As expected, peaceful and quiet.  The fresh air from the sea and the personal space was most welcome. The small path had an empty café and a barista was cleaning tables. The teenage girl looked up at her and gave a smile.

Soleil gave one back. In London, such familiarity was rare. She continued walking down the path until she came across a book shop. On the window were the two actors she had seen today, posed in a way that reminded her of Romeo and Juliet. So, his film was this widely known? It must have felt amazing for Ignis.

“Ah, it’s Soleil. Soleil Okoro, am I right?” the girl said, who had just come out of the bookstore, paper bag in hand.

Soleil came out of her trance, looking slightly embarrassed. The girl had caught her just staring at the glass like a mindless zombie. But also, how did she know her name?

The girl popped back into the shop and came with what must have been the shopkeeper.  He was a tanned elderly man with kind eyes, his apron bearing the shop’s name. “Good afternoon, Soleil. It’s nice to see you visit the store once in a while. My customers really enjoy your books more than you think.”

My books? Then her mind went back to the conversation she had with Ignis this morning. She had released her own novels and short stories…

“O-o-hh. Thank you, I’m glad they do.”

“I’m actually only visiting a friend here but the bookstore keeper suggested I pick up this book.” The girl held up a thin book. The cover had a picture of two people’s silhouettes and the Milky Way as a backdrop. It was named ‘Postcards from Our Somniatis’ in cursive writing. Soleil couldn’t believe it. Her own writing. Published. In her own book. And people actually enjoyed it and brought it.

“He said you were a great writer and this would help me really understand how wonderful Somniatis really is.”

Soleil’s cheeks were burning up.  ‘Great writer.’ Wow. The only words she could stumble out was a quiet ‘Thank you.’ 

Her eyes kept going to the book in the girl’s hand. She knew this was going to sound weird, but she gathered up the courage. “Erm, can I see that, I mean my book please?”

A strange look might have passed over the girl’s face, but it didn’t stay for long. “Sure,” she said, passing it to Soleil.

The hardback book was now in her hands. Her fingers brushed over her name as if she rubbed hard enough, the name would disappear and reveal another author. But it didn’t. She flicked through the pages briefly and scanned the blurb before giving it back. This couldn’t be real…but it was, right?

The girl smiled at her. “Well, it was nice meeting you. I’ve got somewhere to go, so I’ll be off. Seeya!” 

Soliel, still shocked, waved her off.

“What do you have here? Some vegetables?” asked the shopkeeper.

Soleil realised she was still holding the brown bag of everything to her chest. “Oh…I was food shopping with Ignis but I sort of lost him…”

“The crowd of the market street? Ah, yes, it’s always quite busy and full of madness. I’m sure he’ll find you soon. May I ask, how are you and Ignis?”

She let the question sit for the moment. That week and a half of crying and hoping in front of his room door almost everyday, Soleil would have said she didn’t know. But now she was in this wonderful place that had him physically in front of her and being himself.

A smile grew on her face. “We’re fine. Just fine, thank you.”

The old man smiled. “Ah…young love. Cherish it. I wish you all the best anyhow, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Unfortunately, I’ll have to go now and tend to the shop. You’re free to come have some iced tea with me later”

“Ignis and I have quite a busy day, but thank you for the offer anyway,” she said.

“That’s fine. Please drop by more often, your presence is always a pleasure,” the shopkeeper said, going back into the store with a ring of the bell on the door.

Soleil looked at the poster of the feature film once more resigning to a couple of stairs near the path way. She looked at the cloudless sky above the alleyway. It was weird to hear it: ‘I wish you all the best. But I don’t think you’ll need it.’ After so much disapproval.

Friend had said it was a stupid risk, a violation of friendship and a foolish decision. Soleil hadn’t meant to hurt her friend, Freya. Her and Ignis had shared a bond too but it was well over. Before she knew it, Soleil and Ignis had gotten closer and their bond became undeniable. Ignis, under the stress of education, suggested they hide it. 

Soleil hated every minute of that. It was sad, not being able to share the happiness of a first kiss…a really good day or even more, with all her friends. She understood though, their judgements would have gotten to them both eventually, breaking them apart. But it seemed keeping this big secret created a pressure that would eventually break them apart anyway. 

“Soleil!” 

Ignis was at the bottom of the stairs, panting heavily with a worried expression on his face. He had several packed tote bags over his shoulders.

“Ignis…I got lost…sorry.” 

He took a deep breath before he finally spoke. “I’m an idiot; I should have stayed close. I was so worried…”

This is how being ‘worried sick’ looked like, as Ignis really did look like he was going to throw up. Soleil walked over to him, and kissed him on the cheek with no hesitation, no looking around to see who was watching. “I’m fine. I’m fine. Don’t worry, it was fun. I met a wonderful old man who runs the bookshop. He said some wonderful things…I kinda want to bake him some cookies,” Soleil said, smiling.

That seemed to calm him down and he stood up straight again with a smile on this face. “Mr. Sudarshan? He’s a great man. I’m glad you got to see him. If you actually do bake those cookies, I’m sure he’ll appreciate them.”

“By the way…I hope everything I got from the market will be sufficient for the barbeque tonight?” 

Ignis took a look at the items in her bag, inspecting a bell pepper. He nodded and smiled at her. “It’s fine. Shall we get going?”

Hand in hand, they left the market. The ride back home was a humorous game of trying to keep all the vegetables from tumbling out the bag.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

Soleil put the apron over her head and got down to exploring what exact stuff the kitchen contained. Through her travels, she’d  gathered a handful of spices. Hopefully, mixing them could make something nice. 

“Okay, I’ve got the fruits so I’ll make my famous fruit salad! Fine with you?”

She looked back to see Ignis’ smug expression and a bunch of colourful, tropical fruits scattered on the table.

“It’s fine with me. Famous? Are you known for it on…Somantis?” Soleil said. Acknowledging the name was weird, like this was an actual place…that they lived in. It was an actual place…or wasn’t it?

In her moment of zoning out, Ignis had come behind her and the apron was being properly tied on her. “Everyone who tastes it, always loves it. It’s nice for a hot day like this one. You’ll understand when you’ve tasted it.”

“Alright, I look forward to that then, Mr. Chef.”

“Want a preview? Of how it tastes?” 

There was a cheeky glimmer in his eyes. He kissed her and tasted tangy from the lemons and sweet from the bananas. With a grin, Ignis walked away.
 

“It’ll taste like that, and more.”

Soleil tried to wipe off the star struck, awkward, expression currently stuck on her face. After a few seconds, it wasn’t coming off and she started cutting the meat instead. Ignis snickered the background. He knew what he had done.

They got on with their separate tasks and Ignis put on some jazz music on the radio in the kitchen that looked like something out of the 1940s. He sang along to the man’s voice, albeit not good, but Soleil found herself humming and swaying her hips.

Entranced by the song, she didn’t even notice Ricky’s presence until he barked. His attention was on the fruit that Ignis was currently holding up.
“You want another one, boy? Sit…sit…”
When Ricky listened, Ignis put the fruit in his mouth then gave him vigorous rub. “Good boy!”

Ricky then ran over to Soleil as if expecting a treat from her. “Sorry, you won’t get anything from me. All the food is for the guests, sorry.” She petted him anyway. Ricky whimpered and went over to Ignis again.

“I’m sorry about that buddy, not even a piece of meat? She can be harsh at times…I know all too well.”

Soleil huffed and walked over to Ignis, a pout on her face. “I am not harsh!”

There were too many uncut fruits for Soleil’s liking. She put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes. “You fed all the fruits you chopped to Ricky?! Aren’t the guests coming in an hour?”

“Don’t worry, we'll be ready in twenty, I’m sure!” Ignis said, stroking the dog again.

Soliel stared at him, her eyes wide and not blinking like she was boring into this soul.

“On second thought, I better cut those fruits now after all.”

It was a new record for time management for them. In twenty minutes all the food and desserts were out, Ignis had dressed in swim shorts and Soleil, a kaftan over her bikini. The first door bell sounded a few seconds later. 

Soleil was shocked about the amount of faces she didn’t recognise and how they all greeted her like an old friend. She went along with it anyway. Then came two faces she recognised. Her friends, Manyara and Indira. They…were here too? It can’t be the same people she saw a few hours ago. Their faces didn’t drop at the sight of her and Ignis standing together but instead got even brighter. It was all so weird to Soleil, that she didn’t even respond when they greeted her. Manyara snapped a finger in her face. Indira was staring at her, clearly humoured by her weirdness.

“Soleil, where’s my hello? Just don’t stare at me like you’ve just seen a ghost!” Said Manyara.

She blinked and put on a smile. “Sorry! I was just thinking…too deep.” 

She hugged them both and their sweet perfume made them seem familiar. Yet they didn’t feel familiar…

 

After Indira hugged her, the next thing that happened was a strange sight for her to see. Her suspicions that this was a dream were confirmed. Manyara and Ignis hugged, like this was a normal thing, like she didn’t dislike his very core.  To her, Ignis was irresponsible, a player and immature. Soleil acknowledged his past mistakes but when she looked at him, those words never popped into her head. The way he had gone about the whole situation of them together with Freya hadn’t exactly been perfect but how do you navigate falling for your ex’s friend? It wasn’t an easy situation. 

Manyara and Ignis both had smiles on their faces and even laughed about something, before the hug ended. Along with Indira, Manyara walked off to the beach, waving and saying something about seeing Soleil later. Soleil was still trying to process what she had seen earlier.  She caught Ignis smiling at her from the corner of her eye but he looked away just as quick.

Ignis did most of the barbecuing, pulling moves such as flipping one of the skewers up the air, which managed to land back on the grill. The guests broke out in laughs and applause. Meanwhile, Soleil was trying to make the crowd of unknown faces less daunting. People were attracted to her like a magnet, greeting her and telling her about themselves. Some of these people were close friends of her and Ignis and sponsors producing Ignis’ feature film. 

In a lot of conversations, there was talk about her book, which Soleil still couldn’t believe actually existed. But it did, and it had touched people’s hearts, judging from the way smiles grew on their faces when talking about it. They prodded her with questions, wanting to know about it. Soleil would act meek because at the back of her mind, she couldn’t honestly answer their questions. How the book came to be was a mystery to her.

After the meat skewers had been cooked and thoroughly enjoyed, the sun set and dyed the ocean a deep orange, Ignis ran off with his buddies to play football along the beach. Screams and shouts filled the air. Football always got guys like that. The guests finally got tired of asking her questions and spoke among themselves in quiet groups. Soleil sat on the porch stairs, drinking lemonade and enjoying Ignis playing the sport he loved with joy. It still entranced her, seeing him like this and if the world would allow it, she would want to see him like this always. 

“Hey!” two voices said in unison.

Soleil looked to her left and right and suddenly, Manyara and Indira were sitting beside her. Manyara was playing with one of her braids, smiling at her.

“Someone’s acting weird today.”

Indira laughed. “This is Soleil we’re talking about, she’s always weird.”

She pouted at Indira. “I’m not weird…”

Both her friends looked at each other and sipped their drinks.

“Bullies,” Soleil said.“But…how are you, guys? Are you okay? Life?”

“You’re saying this like we didn’t just talk on the phone last night,” Manyara said.

“Just tell me again. Things can change a lot in twenty four hours.” 

Soleil knew this too well. From seeing Ignis everyday to not seeing him for a week in 24 hours. 

She sighed. “Well, uni is still kicking my butt. So much lab reports and placements but it’s still interesting though. Tomorrow, we’re going to study how the lymphatic system works in detail. So after this party, that’s what I’ll be doing.  I can see why you wanted out of education,” she said, making an exaggerated sad face.

Education never suited Soleil. Being stuck in a classroom for hours on end, memorising facts she didn’t care about. Boring. Horrible. Her passions lay in paint strokes and words but even her ability in that, she doubted so much she couldn’t see herself relying on it. Despite that, in this place, she had managed to feel confident enough to create something.

“Nothing changed with me, engineering is still a hard subject but I’m slowly getting there with all the work. It’s nice to have a relaxing day and a break from it all, so thank you, Soleil for inviting us as usual,” Indira said, smiling.

“No problem. I’m glad you guys are still going at it! Keep going,” Soleil said, grabbing both their hands.

“Since you wanted to start twenty four hour updates all a sudden, how’s you and Ignis? Same as always? In lovey dovey land?” Mandara asked and Indira shuffled closer.

The sand seeped into her sandals. “We’re fine,” and with a confident smile: “Fine as can be.” 

“Your love almost makes me feel nauseous.”

Mandara laughed. “Same, ha. But by the time I graduate from uni, maybe you guys will be planning the wedding? Remember me as a bridesmaid, okay?”

Getting married to Ignis? It seemed like a mystery, something far away in this future…but in this reality, it might be more likely to happen.

She didn’t want to doubt but it was there anyway, so she laughed, nudging Mandara playfully. It was the most comfortable conversation all three of them had since sixth form started. It wasn’t filled with secrets and hidden disapproval that had weighed down their friendship.. It made her sick, seeing their fake smiles and how she mirrored it. But here, it was all genuine. So for the rest of the night, she made bad jokes, talked as much as she could, even if it was a fragment of the past.

Small lanterns were lit up the back porch. The boys had stopped playing their football game, as it was too dark. Mandara and Indira bid their goodbyes. Soleil made sure to hug them for as long as she could. When they questioned, she shrugged it off. Truth is, she didn’t know what they’d be like when she woke up. 

Eventually, most of the guests left and they were left with an empty and messy porch. It was weird for everything to be quiet now except for the cicadas. It was a nice white noise as they cleaned up the porch, putting the empty skewers, plates and cups into bins. Through the soft glow of the lantern lights, a smile was on Ignis’ face. That made cleaning up worth it.

___________________________________________________________________________

Soleil took a shower after Ignis. Oh soft water,  how she had missed it.  Back in the living room, Ignis was on his laptop and the word document was reflecting on his glasses. He didn’t move at all when Soleil came in. She put her chin on his shoulder. He jumped out of his skin, almost literally.

“Soleil! You scared me,” he said, briefly turning around.

“Sorry. What are you doing?” She always had the habit of doing that, being soft footed.

“Typing up a script for a short. I thought you’d be your room of madness.”

Soleil touched the key on her neck. That room was really mad, littered with canvases and paint marks…

Ignis was clearly busy, so it was time to explore. She managed to stumble upon the right door. In the dim overhead lights, the stacks of canvases and the mess made the room feel small. In the corner of the room was a gramophone on a table. She’d only seen one of these in the movies. Using what she had seen from said movies, she put the stick thing on the vinyl and winded the handle. A soft piano began to sound.

Claude Debussy’s Arabesque, no.1.

Soleil leaned on the window sill as memories hit her like waves. Her and Ignis underneath a cherry blossom tree somewhere in London. The soft piano reminded her of simple moments in the spring like that, where they were themselves, forgetting about the unfair world around them. She snapped out of her reverie when the song changed to with a small jump. 

There was no denying these paintings were beautiful but Soleil couldn’t remember painting them, not even if she thought so hard, her eyes squeezed shut. There was no denying that every person she had met today was warm and friendly. There was no denying that she fit in this place, wherever it was, so smoothly, like she was the missing piece that completed it all. Although, there was a small chipped, jagged end that kept her questioning and unaccepting this new reality. Was it even real?

It all seemed too good to be true, all too perfect, like she was in one of her silly day dreams.

Ignis suddenly appeared at the door, his glasses still on.

“Just wanted to check up on you. I see you’ve learnt how to work the gramophone.”

Soleil turned towards him. 

“I’m in a dream, aren’t I?”

Ignis’ expression was unreadable. 

“All this, the sea, clear blue skies, the beach, the people, my book, the painting, Mandara and Indira. It’s all too good to be true. So, tell me, this is all a dream, isn’t it? I’ll wake up soon and be back in reality when you’re not there, grey London skies and fake friendships.”

He took off his glasses and stepped into the room. The moon painted him with it’s light.

“It doesn’t have to be a dream; this could be reality, if you let it.” 

“What do you mean if I let it?” 

“This place,” he said, raising his hand to the moon lit beach in the window. “A world created from our hopes, wants and imagination. This is our haven.”

All the dots had been connected in Soleil’s mind and glowing brightly. Everything made sense.

That’s why down to every last detail of this world felt like a battle of conflicting feelings. Familiar but foregin.  Perfect but too perfect to be true.

Ignis gently held her hands. “All this time I’ve been waiting for you to complete this world. You’ve filled the missing piece.” He hugged her and Soleil could feel the rumble of his voice. “Do you like it?”

Soleil rested onto his chest. All this for them. It made her heart swell with grateful feelings, all she wanted to do was cry and spill out all her feelings of love for him. Imagine someone creating a world for you?

“I love it…”

“Then stay here forever with me?”

Forever. That meant not going back to the life she came from. While her heart was with Ignis and he had even made a place for it to fit into, some of it still belonged in the other reality. Yes, there was coldness and broken fragments of what used to be her friendship group. There was a lot of mess, but in that mess there were  people who still cared for her, even for Ignis. They just couldn’t abandon those people because things were hard. Eventually, Soleil would yearn for the people she knew.

Reluctantly, Soleil stepped back and confusion was clear in Ignis’ eyes. She took a deep breath. What she would say next would perhaps hurt the person she adored the most.

“I can’t.”

His face flinched with hurt but he tried to put a smile on anyway, the true Ignis way.

“I can’t stay here. There’s still things back in that real world for me…and I still think that you belong there too.”

Ignis’ had a crooked smile. “What do you mean? There’s no hope for that world anymore.”

“There is, I really do believe there is.”

“Did I disappoint you with this world? Is something missing? I can make it happen if that’s the case. Just tell me and I can make it happen, please, just don’t say you don’t want to stay,” Ignis said. He was clearly trying to keep a hopeful smile in place on his face but it was cracking. He was going to crash down.

“No, Ignis, this world is perfect, everything I ever wanted and I’m so thankful you created this world for just the two of us. But there are people who care for us in that crappy reality, and even if they’re here now, they're not the same people I’ve come to know . It’s not the same. And I believe the real world can still be repaired. There’s no need to run away like this…”

His face was set in a deep frown and his eyes dark. “The real world can’t be repaired. It’s completely broken. It’s clear it won’t cooperate with us…or me, Soleil.”

 “Everyone is so worried about you, Ignis, we’ve been--”

He laughed, with bitterness at the edge of it and he went towards the door. 

“Well, I’ll bring them here too. With all the trouble I’m causing it, it’ll eventually happen anyway. Then we’ll all be here for eternity with no more sadness or pain.”

He managed to pull a smile.

“Sorry for dragging you into this without asking how you felt about it, it was a stupid thing for me to do. I won’t hold you here against your will. If you want to leave, you can do, if that’s what your heart desires, it will be done. I’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t convincing to her at all. 

Before she could say anything he walked out the room. Soon after, she followed him and he was already swinging his motorcycle helmet in his hand.

“Where—”

“I’m just going on a lonesome motorcycle journey to clear my head. This day has been crazy, I’ve been a bit crazy,” Ignis said, looking down but he perked up again. “But I’ll be fine! Don’t worry about me. You’ll be back in the real world in no time.”
 

Those unsaid words. “Without me.” He wouldn’t be coming back with her. Her words weren’t reaching him and she feared they wouldn’t ever. Ignis didn’t look back as he closed the door. 

The house got a lot darker, colder and extra empty. There wasn’t even a creak. Mindlessly, she took refuge on the couch in the living room. Her mind was empty and out of ideas. Even if she wanted to, would she be able to wish herself into the real world without Ignis by her side? She had to get him to come with her. Every minute got more disappointing as Ignis didn’t come through that door, taking her hand so that they could leave together.

What was she supposed to do? Was she being selfish to drag him back with her if all he wanted to do was stay here? The real world wasn’t being kind to him at all. It only made sense that he wanted to stay in this perfect world. Maybe in the real world, what they had wasn’t extravagant. 

It couldn’t compare to this fancy villa or the exciting party they threw. But it was always the smallest things that took up the space in her heart. The times they watched the sunset together, then talked about it though their phones. It was under terrible circumstances but there were huge pockets of happiness. 

The pockets of happiness would collapse without his return. Yes, she would find happiness in small things after a while but... The thought of having to accept that, think of such a scenario without Ignis made tears well up in Soliel’s eyes. Sitting here and crying wasn’t making a case for why Ignis should come back. 

Suddenly, there was an explosive anger building up in her that made Soliel jump up from the couch. Her tears were dried. She was angry for sitting here and doing nothing. Angry for letting Ignis just slip out her hands. But now it would be different. She wouldn’t wait for him--she was going to search for him and bring him back. The house was cloaked in darkness. 

Using her hands, Soleil felt for a jacket, some shoes and the plate of keys. Just as she opened the door, something gripped her. There was a meow and the whimpering of a dog behind her. It dulled the simmering determination in her body for a minute. Soliel turned on the lamp next to her which illuminated both Ricky’s and Ariel’s white fur. She crouched down and engulfed them in a hug. Strangely, like they were humans, they were hugging her back and sending their luck.

“I’m sorry. I’ll be back, I promise. With Ignis as well.”

Even though the only reply back was a panting tongue and a purr, she hoped they were comforted by her words. It also made her believe in herself just a bit more because Soliel was about to do something stupid.

Really stupid. 

Soliel couldn’t drive. Infact, the thought of getting her driving licence filled her with anxiety. Driving required so much responsibility and putting people’s lives in her hands.  She never liked the thought. But yet she was going to ride this huge Jeep. With a beeping sound, the door unlocked and she got into the driver’s seat and put on the seatbelt. The only thing she knew about driving was the perspective of the passenger seat. Soliel put the keys into the ignition and the car roared to life, from the headlights to the engine. She had to put those negative thoughts away now and look ahead.  The car was the best choice. The quicker she found Ignis, the better. If this was all a dream, what’s the worst that could happen? You couldn’t feel pain in dreams. Although, the heartbreak that travelled through her body when Ignis walked away felt oddly real.

Her first stop would be the balcony. Quiet and pretty, just what Ignis liked to go to when he was stressed or upset. Soleil was shaking as she reversed out of the driveway. The roads were quiet so she didn’t have to rush. With patience, she was now on the road. She wanted to vomit but she was okay. This was okay. She was going to find Ignis and come back like she never drove. 

Although, Ignis was definitely going to give her a bickering. As the car journey went on she calmed down. The scene of the sea turned into that of downtown, which was lively and lit. Then that faded away into long, thin, two laned roads that weren’t lit at all. The only thing that guided Soliel was her memory from this morning and all the views they had passed. Every now again, another car would go past but other than that she felt like the only one out here.

Soon she reached the path of stairs they had climbed up earlier today...and in front of it was Ignis’ motorcycle. Her heart jumped. She almost couldn’t believe it. She managed to reach here in one piece and her guess had been right. As soon as Soliel knew the car was parked away from oncoming vehicles, she ripped off her seatbelt and jumped out the car. Without taking a breath, she began the run uphill. Less than half way up she realised wearing slippers was a bad idea. 

They kept coming off which led to painful scratches on the sole of her feet. Even though she grimaced with every step, her resolve made her continue to go on. Soleil arrived at the top and didn’t even stop to breathe. She ran toward the balcony and Ignis’ form came into view and then she was gasping for air, breathing in deeply like her lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen. Her sandals came off once again which made her trip and fall roughly on her knees. 

There was no energy to scream out Ignis’ name but all her commotion had caught his attention. Ignis was now running towards her.

“Soleil!”

She was still gasping for air when Ignis carried her bridal style over to the stone bench. Ignis tied a handkerchief on her grazed knee. Definitely an over exaggeration. He took  a hold of her battered feet.

“Your feet are a mess too. Why did you come after me? How did you get here?”

“I took the car, Ignis.”

Ignis sharply inhaled then he was pacing up and down in front of her, running his hand through his hair. “You took the car? The car?! Soleil, you can’t even drive! You could have died!”

The anger rose to her chest again. Soliel got up, slightly wincing at her sore feet. “You can’t ride a motorcycle as far as I know but here you still are having the audacity to lecture me! And you can’t die in dreams!” At least that’s what Soliel told herself the whole time coming here.

“And you don’t get to be angry at me when you left me already and now I had to see you leave again! Asking why I did what I did but you won’t even tell me why you left everyone! You’re not being fair...” Soliel trailed off as tears began to well in her eyes. Spitting out how she felt with no filter immediately made her feel better. 

Ignis looked down. Sighing, he came over and sat next to her on the bench. Soliel was wiping away her tears, crying when she got angry was the worst.

“You’re right. I’m not being fair,” Ignis said after several moments of silence.

Soliel looked at him.

“I left...because it just got too much. A levels, our friends, the future...It felt like...like...” Ignis trailed off. He seemed to go pale and was slightly shaking. It was Soliel’s turn to comfort him. So she took his hand. He stopped shaking and responded with a squeeze.

“It felt like I was drowning. I wanted to tell you. But I couldn’t get the words out. I mean, how would I even begin?”

Ignis breathed in. “I...I was having some really dark thoughts. I didn’t want to scare you or make a fuss. I thought taking some time away from everything would help me sort myself out. I’ve messed everything up. I’m a mess,” he said, cupping his forehead with his hand.

The small inklings of Ignis’ depression flashed through her mind. The dots connected now and she had been so stupid not to notice sooner.

“I’m sorry Ignis...you were trying to call out to me and I didn’t hear.”

“Don’t say it like that,” Ignis said, looking up from his hand.

“All the signs were there.” Soliel blinked, feeling herself tear up again. “But it’s okay. Now, you’re not alone in this.”

“But it will always be my fight though...”

“I know. I know I’ll never know how it feels but I want to take away some of the pain. Be there when you can’t fight anymore, help lift you up…” Ignis was looking up at her. There she went again, saying cheesy things that weren’t helpful. “Sorry if this sounds stupid.”

Then Ignis was sitting up and hugging her. “That’s all I ever wanted to hear, your genuine support and understanding.”

Soleil’s heart brightened up and her eyes glimmered with hope. “So will you come back then?”

Ignis untangled himself from the hug with an unsure expression on his face. “I want to be with you and of course, my family again but..” his eyes darted away from her. “I’m scared. I won’t be able to cope.”

“I will be with you every step of the way,” Soliel said, taking both his hands in hers. 

Ignis had never looked so small. Maybe she had romanticised him too much, as this person who couldn’t be crumbled.

His face turned serious. “I might need to get...help. If I can’t cope by myself. Just so I don’t do anything stupid. Is that weird? Would you think I’m...crazy?”

“Like counselling?”

Ignis shyly nodded. 

“No way, besides…” Soleil smiled. “I think you’re crazy already and it’s not because of that.”

Ignis’s straight face changed into that of surprise. “And why is it that you think I’m crazy?”

“Your incessant need to put chilli sauce over everything.”

“Food that isn’t spicy isn’t worth having,” Ignis said, his mouth twitching into a grin.

“You can’t taste anything if it’s spicy!”

“Spice has its own flavour. You just can’t handle it.”

“I like my stomach functional.”

“My stomach is fine!”

“I’m not sure about that...I’ve smelt your farts.”

“I can’t believe I forgot how rude you are sometimes,” he managed between laughs.

“I’m not being rude, I’m just being truthful. Lay off the spicy food.”

“Never,” Ignis said, then brought Soliel in for a kiss. 

They kissed for minutes which felt like hours. When they pulled back, Ignis’ face was flushed along with a silly smile. Soliel had a feeling things would be better now. 

“Thank you, Soleil.”

At that moment, Soliel could cry. Her support was felt. She had gotten through to him.  Maybe it wasn’t always about having an extravagant plan to ‘save’ them or poetic words like a spell that healed them once and for all. It was simple. Hold their hand and be there.

There was a deep breath from Ignis. “Before I get cold feet.”

Ignis jumped up and made his way to the end of the balcony. He swung his torso over so that his feet were off the ground. That almost gave Soliel a heart attack at the thought of him falling. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, the next thing almost induced vomiting from Soleil. He climbed onto the handrail. With the moon on him and the light breeze making his hair move, Soliel wanted to admire the majestic moment but first--

“What are you doing?!” Soliel said, standing up and unsure of what to do.

“What’s one of the ways to wake up from a dream, Soliel?”

Ah yes, that old feeling of dreaming of falling then jolting awake in real life. That’s right. To wake up they had to fall.

Soliel nodded, then with much struggle and fear managed to climb up on the railing. she almost lost her balance and fell. Her heart almost lurched out her chest and everything was too hot with the long fall below her.

Luckily, Ignis was there to catch her. “Don’t go falling without me now.”

Even though she tried to find comfort in his eyes, she was still so scared. This was a dream. It had been confirmed but the possibility of feeling herself hit the ground and every bone that broke with that...was disturbing. At least she would be dying with Ignis. He grabbed her hand and gave it a tight squeeze that it almost hurt but made her forget her nervousness.

Soliel gulped. The moonlight was as strong as ever on Ignis’ face. 

“Do you trust me?”

“With all my heart.” With a moment of hesitation Soliel then asked: “Do you trust me?”

“With all my heart, Soleil.”

Before the moment of craziness, their lips interlocked one last time.

Their noses were still touching. “Are you ready?”

Soliel nodded and squeezed Ignis’ hand tighter.

“Breathe, close your eyes.”

Before Soliel could process his words, even begin to breathe in, she was pulled off the balcony and free falling towards the ground, her stomach lurching and the wind hurting her eyes and--

______________

Soleil woke up with a sharp inhale. Her eyes were wide and bright like headlights. That dream had been so weird. So real. There were even tears in her eyes. Yet, She was on the couch in Ignis’ house. Warmth of a new hope rose up in her heart. Was she allowed to hope? Just this once? 

She threw the blanket off herself and rushed to Ignis’ room. Soliel squeezed her eyes shut before twisting the handle and opening the door. The door opened slowly with a creek and the light from the corridor filtered in. The room was just as before. It was tidy, unnaturally so. It was clear no sign of life had touched his room still. Tears began to stream down Soliel’s cheeks. Just what had she expected?

“Soleil?” Ignis’s mother said behind her.

Her sobs were choking her that she couldn’t reply.  His mother understood, rubbing her back.

__________________________________________________________________________

December 1st. 

It was Soleil’s 18th birthday.  Her friends had given her gifts and even surprised her with a delicious cream cake in the college canteen. Her birthday made her realise how close she was feeling to everyone else again. While it was wonderful, there was nothing more she wanted than to be in her favourite place. It was missing her favourite person but she tried not to let the thoughts of Ignis make her sad. 

This day was about her, and she was going to honor that.

Soleil found herself in Greenwich Park with the skyline of gloomy London in front of her. It was dark and the skyline stood out with it’s sea of lights. The bright green laser of the Prime Meridian was sharp across the sky and she found herself laughing about a memory. How could Ignis actually believe that only girls could see it? He was so silly sometimes. She would definitely tease him about that when she saw him again. 

Soliel turned the next page of her book until she felt a presence behind her.

“You lied, I can see the light.”

She looked behind her and dropped the book. Soleil would recognise that voice among a crowd of voices.

“You know...I had the weirdest dream about you some weeks ago and I just had to come back,” Ignis said, his eyes glimmering with tears.

There were no moments to spare. Soleil wrapped her arms around him, her tears already falling. 

“Guess what, I did too,” Soliel said but this time it was all real.















 


Submitted: March 20, 2021

© Copyright 2021 T.A. All rights reserved.

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