Yellow Zinnias

Yellow Zinnias

Postby Gloom » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:15 pm

So, funny story: I was actually working on two other texts this afternoon, one other VN, and an RPG supplement I really got into writing (it pays the bills!), when something a fan said on the chat really inspired me to write this thing. It's a bit weird, since on the one hand, I wrote most of this practically on a whim, going with whatever seemed appropriate at the moment and "letting the muse guide the fingers" or whatever expression it was those pretentious bastards with actual talents used. On the other hand, for being such a work of caprice, this thing went through a lot of revision. I mean, you know, considering the whole process lasted an evening. If I'd released the initial version I'd have been done in an hour, but somehow, that just wouldn't work. The beginning was about similar, but I wrote about four or five different middles and endings, some of which varied wildly in tone. Unfortunately, I felt like most of them just weren't what I was looking for tonight, and those that did seem appealing would've just spoiled far too much. There's so much I could write about Katja's character, but I'm doing my best to restrain myself for now. Got to keep a few things for the actual game, whenever it comes out (God willing...).

So, in any case, here's why I didn't write nearly enough of that RPG supplement and that other VN today, even though I'm super behind. Any criticism will be met with the excuse that since I did it in an evening it shouldn't be held up to any standards, but, you know. Feel free or whatever.

Yellow Zinnias

He walked right into that ambush. It wasn't as if not knocking was an option.

The door had barely opened a hair's width when the entire thing yanked out of his grasp with bone-shattering force. Erik's fingers, still wrapped around the doorknob, were very nearly pulled out of their sockets, sending his entire body right after them off his feet and launching inside.

He landed somewhere warm, and soft, and gentle, awash in an overwhelming scent of flowers –

Katja's lips closed over his before he could think to move them. She had her arms all around his waist faster than his brain could process it.

Even the thought of resisting was ridiculous. For once, he couldn't possibly hope to manage it and second, his brain was far too occupied to consider why he might want to.

Her kiss broke moments before he'd have started worrying about one of them running out of air. He opened his mouth to speak, but as if to further drive in the point, one final time, before he could let out a word, she shut it back again with another quick peck.

"How I love when you announce yourself", she said, breathless, once she'd finally decided they were done. "My dear, fine, gentlemen."

As for Erik, whose line of thought couldn't have been more lost if it'd been teleported out of the solar system – all he could do for that second was reach up with a trembling finger to straighten his glasses and try to regain his own.

"Aren't you going to get tire yourself out being like that before we've even left?", he muttered.

"Absolutely", she replied, her thin, pink smile not wavering for a blink. "I'll crush. Drop off my feet like a corpse wherever I may be standing." Her arms tightened around him. "And you'll still be there to catch me. And you'll still be there when I wake. I see no reason not to expand as much energy as I please."

Like a viper springing out to bite, she moved to place another two, lightning quick, burning hot kisses on the general vicinity of his face.

"And I do try to please so hard."

Erik stood speechless. He wasn't ever going to get used to that. He wasn't sure if he'd like to, either, but that didn't change the fact.

Katja's grin seemed to widen in proportion to the redness spreading over his cheeks.

"It's a study session, not a date."

"If you must put it so plainly," she said in a mock sigh, finally releasing him from her grasp and turning back into her blooming room with a ballet-like step. "It's a study session for the both of us. Call it however you like."

"…Wasn't it just for me? You said you already know the material. Besides, didn't we invite Jeanne as well?"

"Irrelevant. Please pay more attention to my words, dear, I know you can. Now, would you like to help me put on my shoes?"

……………………………………………

It was a cold evening. Outside the wide, thick windows, orange twilight shone through the golden brown autumn leaves dancing manically on their branches, clasping for dear existence against the October breeze.

It was Katja who first suggested Erik dress up, way back when they'd just met, and he was wearing an extra layer. Eleanor must've been sitting somewhere buried under eight of her own. The students passing by them along the hallways or could be seen in the rooms which stood with their doors open seemed to be wearing an average of two and a half.

Katja did fine with just her jacket. After all, she had a little piece of sun in her chest, a biological fusion reactor that burned at five-thousand degrees whenever she got herself like that. Erik could almost imagine seeing the radiance under her skin if he squinted.

That she didn't feel cold wasn't surprising. What was, was that she didn't scorch the floor tiles where she walked.

The study hall looked as packed as it'd always been around this time of year – or so everyone told Erik, at least. It did make sense, with exams around the corner and it being too windy outside to do anything but stay-in and cram anyway. Much like most every other public room in St. Dymphna's, compared to the international standard, it was a homey, inviting place – at least in a grade-schooly kind of sense. Less charts and reminders on the walls, more colorful paintings and happy little posters covered in encouraging slogans. Snacks almost always at hand.

People came here just to hang out, even when there wasn't any studying. It was way larger than the dorm common rooms, and unlike those, it allowed mixed genders.

By the wild glint he could make every so often, glancing aside at Katja's good eye, that last part seem to have been at least somewhat responsible for her insistence on using the spot.

Not that she'd have avoided the common room.

She didn't leave his hand for a second as they stepped inside. He's already gotten used to some people looking. The nice thing about it was that, with Katja, nine of every ten looks was somewhere between admiration and envy, and he had to admit: that felt good. Whatever eccentricities she might've had didn't change how most people saw her.

It also made it exceedingly easy to find a spot to sit. Unless you were entering an actual classroom in the middle of session, you could always count on someone offering their seats if Katja so much as hinted.

"Would you mind, Stephanie?", she said, gently approaching a pair of girls sitting by one of the double-desks near the edge of the room from the side.

One of them, presumably Stephanie – he could never keep track of them all – raised her head and smiled in Katja's direction before tapping on her friend's shoulder and getting up.

They exchanged a few quick pleasantries while Erik sat down and started pulling his out of his bag. He didn't have much mind to pay it, but from the sound of it, Katja's just promised to tutor another person sometime tomorrow.

He placed the textbook for their first subject – a heavy, horrifically dense math tome – open on the desk and pressed the end on his ballpoint pen.

"When are you going to have time?" he asked.

She sat down and immediately proceeded to drag her chair just a few centimeters closer to his.

"Tomorrow morning," she answered, plainly. "Or I wouldn't have made the offer. I know you don't think me the kind to make promises I can't keep."

She threw a glance the way of the door, then pulled up the end of her sleeve to look at her watch.

"Already two minutes late, of course. See? This is what happens," she remarked, though thankfully, sounding atypically more amused than annoyed. "I think I'll go see if I can talk someone into making us coffee. How would you like yours, dear?"

"Uh, cream and two sugars, please. Like yesterday."

"Fittingly sweet", she nodded, sneaking in another kiss and leaping off towards the side of the room which packed the audience around the machines."

"You're not actually thinking to drink yours, right?", he shouted her way as she went. "You're not going to sleep tonight. You'll be making phone calls at three AM."

She spun around to answer, careless as a songbird: "It wouldn't do for me to let you drink by yourself, now, would it?"

There wasn't any talking to her. Someone totally was going to have to stay awake to keep her company. She'll be bouncing off the walls.

Like, more than she already was.

Jeanne arrived while he was getting himself ready, huffing and puffing over her scarf. She had her own bag held under her arm, and from the way it was hanging, like she tried to see how many books she could pack inside before the fabric gave out, it didn't look like she was going to be anywhere easier on him.

"Bonsoir, Erik. Didn't Katja say she'd be here? It's not like her to –"

" – She was her just a second ago. Thought you were taking your time. Went to make coffee."

"Oh". Jeanne dropped her bag on the desk with an ominous thunder, letting out a gasp that felt half like relief, half like exasperation. "That does sound more right, yes."

She walked besides him and pulled back the chair to sit down –

"I, uh, really, really wouldn't recommend that."

"Oh – oh! Of course. That's right," she snapped her finger. "Pardon."

He nodded towards a chair on the other side of the table. She made herself comfortable and got to business opening her bag.

"She's not angry or anything, right? I'm really sorry, I just didn't know what you'd like to focus on, and honestly, I-I feel like we should just…"

"No, no! It's really alright. Nothing to worry about. Caught us on a good day."

"Right, of course."

They'd just about gotten to Erik finding the exercise he stopped on the last time when Katja came back to the table, walking that walk of hers that somehow managed to cross more space in less time than her legs should've strictly, physically ought to.

"Good evening, Jeanne. How are you?"

"Very fine, thank you. I just came, you didn't miss anything. Do you want to –"

" – please, excuse me", Katja cut her off, laying down a couple of polyester cups filled with scalding-hot machine coffee on the desk near Erik's side. "This one's yours, dear. My apologies, Jeanne, I had yours ready, too. Artificial sweetener, is that right? I wouldn't like it to go cold."

Jeanne nodded, looking somewhat helpless, the way she often did when dealing with Katja. It was really more of a gesture – the tall blonde had already warped away back in what by all means felt like should've been a sonic boom.

"A good day", she repeated, slowly and quietly, as if to make a point of intending.

"Yup. Waffles for breakfast, and everything", he confirmed, lifting his gaze from the textbook.

He caught Jeanne right as her head finished turning back towards him, and the last wrinkle of what once was an uneasy expression made way to her usual, comforting smile.

……………………………………………

"...See?", said Jeanne, pushing her glasses back up her nose with one finger. "The only trick to that one was really separating the wheat from the chaff. You could've solved another problem in the time it took you to calculate the hypotenuse, but once you've found the tangent you've actually already had your answer."

"Right. Go it."

"Excellent," said Katja. "Now do better. Those two seconds you've saved skimming the instructions are not worth the minute you've wasted finding numbers you didn't require. Tangerine?"

Where she'd found the plate of fruit slices she brought alongside Jeanne's coffee, Katja wouldn't say, but nobody minded that she did.

Under almost any other circumstances, Erik was pretty sure he'd have been hard pressed to find a man who'd complain about spending his evening sitting down with Katja and Jeanne each leaning over one of his sides. He knew he wouldn't be that guy.

Trying to study for a maths test with that kind of view – or rather, views – literally dangling off a few centimeters away, all for the cost of a glimpse over the rim of his glasses and a tiny little bit of sinful distraction, though, was some teenaged evil mastermind's brand of torture.

That Katja could obviously read him like an open book and was very much in on it didn't help things at all. She had that dazzling, predatory smile on her lips whenever his resolve faltered, and she didn't need half as much of an excuse to steal a quick kiss anyway.

Jeanne just rolled her eyes awkwardly somewhere nonspecific whenever that happened.

Not that he was looking.

Outside, a light drizzle beat against the window, filling the audial blanks between the indistinct murmuring of students and the sounds of pen-tips brushing against paper into a true, background static.

They've ran out of oranges first. Now, the green grapes on the plate looked like they were well on their way to extinction.

Jeanne reached for another one, hand hovering in midair in momentary hesitation, then picked it off the stem anyway.

"If you're having trouble remembering the formulae, just remember SOHCAHTOA," she said, stopping politely to place the grape in her mouth and chew. "Like they taught us in class. I know it sounds silly, but it really works for me."

"Really?", said Katja, who's been spending the last fifteen minutes sitting back in her chair with her arms crossed, looking a teensy bit restless. "I've always found that more confusing than helpful."

"How do you do it, then?", asked Erik, grateful for any excuse to postpone having to tackle the next problem.

She shrugged, giving him an almost apologetic smile. "I just repeat it to myself a few times. 'Sine equals to the opposite divided by the hypotenuse', and so forth. It's surprisingly catchy – you could try that. Sine-e-quals-to…"

"There's a rhythm to it."

"Of course. Wouldn't be much of a mnemonic if it didn't."

Erik pulled off his glasses to rub at the bridge of his nose. "Sorry, think for the time being I'll just focus on remembering them as is. Way less confusing than all that."

"It's a personal thing", said Jeanne, reaching for yet another grape before thinking better of it and, this time, really pulling her hand back from the plate. "Everyone has their own preference. I know a few students who like to draw things in a picture. On a page and everything."

"There's some fascinating neurology behind it," agreed Katja – then closed her mouth again in mid-sentence, sounding strangely disappointed with herself. "Alas, now is hardly the time."
Erik sighed, shaking his wrist in the air to get the blood flowing back to his writing fingers. "Back to the triangles it is, then."

……………………………………………

Dinner had already passed. They'd made sure to have theirs extra early, so as to not have to stop in the middle of their study session – Erik had a worrisome feeling that if he did, he wouldn't find it in him to restart. Others, however, didn't seem to have shared his foresight, and while the room was still far fuller than it'd have been on most other nights, occupancy was rapidly dwindling.

"Sure you don't want to go with them?", asked Erik, with only the faintest tone of pleading, taking the opportunity to stretch both arms behind his neck and narrowly managing to avoid stabbing himself
with the pen.

Jeanne placed a lovely little handmade bookmark with bird drawings over it in the middle of the page she was reading and closed her own textbook. "Up to you guys. I'm fine either way. Really."
Erik turned his head towards Katja.

"How about you? Feel like making it a break and going over to eat something?"

"We've just finished all those fruit I brought."

"Errr, something bigger than that. You know."

"The kind that takes a long time without studying."

"Precisely."

She straightened back in her chair in contemplation that lasted all of a nanosecond. "Whatever you like", she said.

"Sure you don't have an opinion?", asked Jeanne, a hopeful flint briefly escaping her own eyes.

"As I've stated", replied Katja, sounding almost hurt she would say that. Her gaze moved between the two of them for another quiet second, then she added "If Erik were to go out right now, in the rain, and strip, I'd have gone with him if he liked. Dinner is nothing."

Jeanne stifled out a broken, nervous chuckle.

"What?!"

"Nothing, nothing! It's – it's just cute that you say it, that's all. It's all cute, Katja, don't worry. I think it's nice how you can say all that."

"It's the truth!", she pouted.

"No way", laughed Erik. "You'd give yourself pneumonia. You have a performance coming up Friday, think about what it'd do to your lungs."

Katja frowned – then huffed, then once again, smiled. "Then would we've been ill together?" she asked. "And if we were, would you've allowed me to share your bed? For warmth?"

Jeanne turned her head over so fast her neck made a funny sound.

"And if we weren't, would you've nursed me back to health? Sat by my side the whole winter?"

"I'd… much rather you don't get sick."

"Don't ask me to go out in the rain, then."

Erik sat, speechless, as Katja's smile turned into a broad, open grin, then one of her dreamy, melodious laughers. At some point during the process – his brain was in the middle of a forced reboot at the moment – she gave him another, long kiss, and on some lofty level of his awareness was the fact that more than a few of the heads still left in the room turned their way.

"Don't worry", she said, gently running her long pale fingers through his hair like a mother comforting a child. "I know you'd never dream to. You're my dear, beloved gentleman."

"Dear, beloved gentle –", interjected Jeanne, before cutting herself with a small, polite cough. "H-how about dinner, then? Are you hungry? Erik? Katja? Anyone?"

"Like… like I said, I think I could do without. I mean, unless you want anything, or – you know…"

"I am perfectly fine with that."

"O-okay."

The turned heads in the room turned back. Another handful got up, picked up their books and went out.

The three of them continued working in silence.

……………………………………………

According to the unofficial studying schedule – Katja insisted on there being one, though she did eventually consent to it amounting to a printed piece of paper with "room for improvisation" feeling half the table slots – they were supposed to be moving on to history next, but nobody seemed to have felt much like doing that. It would've involved too much interpersonal interaction, which would've meant Katja would've had to let her eye off Erik for a whole minute, Erik would've had to let Katja go through with the former, and Jeanne would've had to deal with the fallout.
Besides, Erik still felt like he was going to fail maths way before his above average grasp of the timeline of World War II was going to hurt him. And for that, there were always late-night phone calls to Katja and writing down the resulting tirade about the Invasion of Poland she's memorized straight from the textbook.
It was Jeanne who first decided to break the lull.

"You know", she said, experimentally raising her voice over the course of the expression, carefully peeking over Erik's face towards Katja's, "I… think I could actually go for a snack, or something."

Erik's head turned the same way. Both were now staring at the choirgirl, who raised her own eyes off the paper she's been fiddling with for the past twenty minutes and returned them a big, relieved smile.


"Shall I go?"

"If… if that wouldn't be too much trouble."

"Certainly! What would you like?", she asked, eager at the chance to jump off the chair and somehow managing not to throw it off in the process.

"Anything would be fine. Uh, a pastry of some kind?"

"That does sound nice," joined Erik. "If you don't mind."

Katja's eye lighted up like a spotlight. "Anything for you!", she proclaimed, not stealing so much as violently running off with another kiss, already being ten steps towards the door the next time anyone blinked. "I'll find you something delectable – I'm sure you'll like it! You too, Jeanne!"

They didn't bother opening their mouth to send her off. She was probably halfway down the corridor by the time they vocal cords could stretch.

Erik laid down his pen and mindlessly picked up to look at the piece of paper Katja's left behind. From the way his wrist was aching, it felt like he was going to be making writing motions with it in his sleep tonight.

"She covered the entire bottom half in flowers."

Jeanne peered over her side.

They were nice looking flowers, too. Stems and leaves and everything.

"Why just the bottom?"

"Probably hasn't gotten to the top yet. See here? Sketches and up to the two-thirds mark."

"She does sketches while doodling?"

He shrugged. There wasn't even any point joking about it, it sounded exactly like her.

The next time he looked at Jeanne, though, her expression has soured. It wasn't sadness, or even annoyance, or so.

More than anything else, she looked worried. Her eyes were open just wide enough behind her glasses and her lips were held just so tightly.

"Everything alright?"

"Y-yeah, yeah, it's… it's just…"

She bit her lip embarrassedly, turning her head to both sides like she was afraid someone might be listening, before finally settling back on Erik.

She leaned closer to him, then, very quietly, voice nearly trembling, asked:

"Don't you ever get… distracted? With all the kisses?"

He crossed his arms in thought. While his own expression wasn't quite worried yet, something about the jocular smile he's tried so hard to maintain throughout the evening cracked, a tiny bit, near the side.

"Trust me, it's better this way", he replied, hollowly. "If I'd kissed her back, she'd get that look on her face like she's just snorted something illegal, and neither of us would've heard the end of it."

"You know that's not what I mean!"

There was a look of genuine concern in her eyes. That worry wasn't just politeness – Erik knew that. It wasn't just her being bothered by Katja's aggressiveness, no matter how nice she acted. It was Jeanne being the person she is, just like it was with Katja.

Just like it was with him, at that moment.

"I know that", he said. "And you know I was joking. I… I don't know what else you'd have me do. Be upset that she's happy?"

"But –", she stammered, grasping for words and obviously holding back whatever first came to mind. " – you know that can't last, don't you? You know it. She wouldn't be this happy forever, she never – nobody can be!"

Erik sat silent. His thoughts drifted back outside – not even as far as the rain and the night behind the window, but the corridor over, behind the door, where Katja could return at any moment still with that smile on her face, carrying every last croissant they had in the kitchen and just laughing when anyone asked her how she got them. To the look on her face. To the way that she moved like that, in his imagination.

Katja was like the sun, in more than one way, and this was just another. It's always the sun – unmistakably. There's only one that matters to you, ever.
And yet, throughout the course of a single day, it doesn't spend two seconds the same. It changes its color. It changes its shape. Sometimes it just disappears, and everyone panics. Sometimes it burns your skin off. You still like it.

For every minute that Katja like that, there would be another minute where she'd be somebody else. For every morning, there's a dusk. For every noon there's a midnight.
Right now she was running through the hallways. Tomorrow, maybe she wouldn't talk to anyone.

Maybe she won't leave her room. Maybe she would, but she wouldn't really be there. Sleepwalk throughout the day, smiling at everyone with this awful, tired look in her eyes, like she couldn't wait to just go back to sleep again, because being awake was too hard.

She'd still rely on him then. That wouldn't change.

He'll tell her that there'll be another day. The sun can set, and it'll always rise again, no matter how impossible it might seem.

She'll smile, oh so very weakly, and it'd probably be fake.

He wouldn't say anything back to her.

Jeanne placed her hand on his thigh, looking like she regretted every bringing the subject up.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have – "

"No, it's okay," he told her. "She said so herself."

He took a careful look at his watch. They probably had another minute or so, at best, until Katja returned. It wouldn't be bad for her.

"She's going to fall off that cloud one day", said Jeanne.

"I know."

"And what would you do then?"

He turned back to her, then at the page full of doodles on the desk in front of him.

Then he smiled.

"When she does", he said. "I'm just going to be there to catch her."
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Mr Immortal wrote:Perhaps our awesome is his normal. Like The Doctor, or Batman...

Gloom is Batman.
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Re: Yellow Zinnias

Postby Colstan » Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:17 am

Yay! New content!

Warning: pedantic quotes ahead.

I see no reason not to expand as much energy as I please.


I think you meant "expend". Although, Katja expanding energy would be awesome.

Now, would you like to help me put on my shoes?


Huh? Does she have some issue with footwear or some weird shoe fetish...or both?

"You're not going to sleep tonight. You'll be making phone calls at three AM."


It was a bit unclear who was speaking this line. I think it was Erik's response to Katja's coffee banter.

it didn't look like she was going to be anywhere easier on him.


Lose the "where" and leave the "any".

She was her just a second ago


Here.

"I, uh, really, really wouldn't recommend that."


That sounds ominously frightening.

"No, no! It's really alright. Nothing to worry about. Caught us on a good day."


Oh dear.

the tall blonde had already warped away back in what by all means felt like should've been a sonic boom.


Maybe it's just me, but I have no idea what this means.

That Katja could obviously read him like an open book and was very much in on it didn't help things at all.


I would humbly suggest a comma after "book" and "it".

They've ran out of oranges first.


They.

I know a few students who like to draw things in a picture.


This sentence would suggest that Jeanne has witnessed students drawing inside of a picture already on paper. Perhaps reword it slightly.

"We've just finished all those fruit I brought."


Replace "those" with "the".

"Errr, something bigger than that. You know."


I realize that "Errr" is not intended to be a real word, but I'd still recommend switching it to "Um" or "Uh".

"And if we were, would you've allowed me to share your bed? For warmth?"


Suggestively naughty. I approve.

then one of her dreamy, melodious laughers.


Edit to "laughs".

"I know you'd never dream to.


Stylistically, I'd tweak it to "never dream of it".

feeling half the table slots


Perhaps I'm just dense, but I'm not sure what you're trying to convey here.

not stealing so much as violently running off with another kiss, already being ten steps towards the door the next time anyone blinked.


Descriptively, this is manically awesome.

She was probably halfway down the corridor by the time they vocal cords could stretch.


Their.

It wasn't sadness, or even annoyance, or so.


Drop the "or so".

you know that can't last, don't you? You know it. She wouldn't be this happy forever, she never – nobody can be!"


I'm scared now. Scared for Erik. Scared for Jeanne. Scared for Katja. It feels like something awful is about to hit the proverbial fan.

For every minute that Katja like that


Add an "is" in that sentence.

Right now she was running through the hallways. Tomorrow, maybe she wouldn't talk to anyone.


This just makes me sad. I understand it, but still, it's sad.

looking like she regretted every bringing the subject up.


You meant "ever".

"When she does", he said. "I'm just going to be there to catch her."


This makes me happy, still apprehensive about how Erik and Katja are going to proceed.

Okay then! That's enough of the quotes from me. I apologize for mixing comments, questions and corrections together, but I preferred to respond as I went through the story. Normally I'm not such a pain when it comes to grammar and sentence structure, but since Gloom is a dev, that means this story gets "special treatment". Aside from the occasional bug or syntax issue, let me compliment you on your use of logical punctuation and grammar skills. The handful of issues are the sort of thing that will be picked up during editing. We all make them and I never claimed to be an expert.

Now, as per the story...that's an excellent slice of life with three of the Missing Stars characters. I don't think it takes an M.D. to figure out what Katja's disorder is, at least in a general sense. I'm sure the details will be revealed in the VN itself.

I like how Erik compares her to the sun. Yes, the sun changes constantly. Let's also not forget that the sun is a giant nuclear reactor. I get the feeling, from this specific story, that Erik and Jeanne have become tidally locked within Katja's orbital dynamics. Kinda scary, actually.

So, excellent story, Gloom. If this is representative of the final product, then Missing Stars is going to be amazing and I'm looking forward to it, no matter how long it takes.

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