Aretha... Just get over it already! Denial won't help you get her back! Aretha is dead. Moving on.
No, not moving on. How many times had she nearly died? How many times at the hands of Mevolent, or his servants? How many times just because I wasn't there when I knew she needed someone?
"I nearly killed you. If I had stepped in sooner..."
"I remember what happened- you dragged me back yourself. But if I died while you were inside my head, you would have died too. The only thing you've done thus far is try to help me. Tell me why that's wrong."
"It's wrong because I failed."
Panic flashed across my face, and I lunged forward; just as she moved to drag the knife across her neck, my hand was in the way, and she sliced it open instead.
"Promise me two things... Before I go... Don't blame yourself... And... Don't die inside. Don't... Become one of those people... Hard and uncaring... Like me."
"Why in Hell are you so determined to sacrifice your life for everyone else's?"
"No... Don't you dare die on me... Aretha!"
"Aretha. Calm down. I promise I won't let you hurt anyone you care about."
"It's wrong because I failed. What difference does trying make if all I accomplish is making things worse?"
"It matters," She insisted.
I was terrified because I realized that if she died.... I just didn't know what I would do with my life anymore. I might break. But I wasn't fragile like that- I never broke, because there was never any heart to break. Rule number one: don't get involved. Too late.
Memories swirled around in my mind, unwelcome as they were. A slight breeze ruffled the leaves in the forest, and stung my eyes much more than usual. I realized it was because they were wet- with... No...
The one thing I cared about in the world, gone. I should have seen this coming long ago. I should have killed her all those years ago when she was practically defenseless and alone in her room. She should have never developed any magic at all, so I never would've met her in the first place. Anything... Anything... To rid myself of these damned emotions.
Was this how everybody else felt, when the people they cared about died? Why would anyone want to feel at all? Why even live at all when life can be so fragile? Why get close to people if you know they'll only die in the end? How the Hell can anyone stand it?
Aretha was just so... Good. She didn't deserve to die like this... Didn't deserve to die at all. She wouldn't have, if it wasn't for me. And now... For the first time... I'm beginning to wish I had been better. Would she be alive now, if I was a better person? No, probably not. The fact that Mevolent was using her as collateral had nothing to do with my crimes- only my name.
And Rosa, too. She was just as guilty, if not even more so. If she hadn't sold Aretha out to Mevolent, none of this would've happened. Once I get Aretha back, I'll kill her. And Mevolent. And then I'll have to die, too, because the fact is that she would be so much better off without me. And now that Mevolent knows of my connection to her, I have to doubt he'll turn me against her.
I have four weeks to bring Aretha back, but that's far too long for my liking. A flight from Des Moines to Ireland is about 13 hours, and I'll be on the next plane out. Though I don't doubt I'll go insane long before that.
I've lived without Aretha for centuries... How can it be that in so few years, I've become so attached that I can't imagine life without her?
Regardless... I took a few seconds to find her soul, and I gave her a happy dream to keep her from the darkness- a dream where I was never part of her life. I know she'd be better off for it. Within the next 15 hours she'll have her life back again, and I'll make sure I'm not there to mess it up.
Author's Note: Upon re-reading some very early chapters in this story, I've realized something interesting. The exact line "No... Don't you dare die on me... Aretha!" is what I say to Aretha in the chapter Darkness. In the chapter I Don't Care Enough to Come Up With a Clever Title, Rosa Evergreen says the same thing- the lines are exactly identical, down to each letter. I assume Aretha recorded those exact words in such great detail for a purpose. Take it how you will.