187 The Weightlessness of Human Selfishness*
Rassa slept in late that morning. Considering he was still injured, no one bothered to come and wake him up at a set time. He rose and washed his face in the basin before dressing. He could hear voices in the main room, but thanks to his dulled human senses couldn't make out what they were saying. Considering they were whispering though, it was pretty much guaranteed that they were talking about him.
"Morning," Rassa said as he opened the door, finding his mother sitting at the dining table with Jane. They both turned to smile at him.
"Did you sleep well?" asked Anna.
Rassa nodded as Anna brought him a slice of bread and cheese for his breakfast, "Fine, thanks".
"And how are you feeling?"
"Better," Rassa admitted.
There was silence before Anna asked cautiously, "Do you remember…?"
"No, sorry," Rassa said, "But I'll keep trying. Maybe if I could get back into a normal routine again it would help".
"Oh," Anna said, "Are you sure? You're still injured. We don't want to push you too mu-"
"Really, mum," Rassa smiled, "I'm fine".
Anna and Jane looked at one another before Jane spoke up, "If you're sure".
Rassa nodded, "I am".
Jane nodded, "About the wedding…don't feel pressured about it. I'm willing to wait until you do remember. It seems cruel to make you get married to me when you don't even remember falling in love with me".
She seemed quite sad to say this, but there was a kind of determination behind her gaze as well. Rassa leaned back in his chair as he met her eyes, "Thanks, I appreciate it".
He honestly wasn't that interested in marrying her either if he 'couldn't remember' how the relationship even began.
"Well, if you want to get back into a normal routine that's good," Anna said, trying to move the conversation along from the topic that Jane clearly considered sensitive and Rassa did not, "However, I don't think it's a good idea to get straight into working with your father again, the labour might be too much for you. How about you just return to the orchard for a few days?"
Rassa nodded, he wasn't really sure he'd be capable of the work his father did either. His head did feel like it had been injured, but it also seemed to be recovering quite quickly. He decided not the question it too much, no doubt it would ruin the illusion before him.
"Great, I'll take you there," said Jane with a smile.
Unlike the day before when she'd showed him around, Jane didn't attempt to hold his hand. It was clear she wanted to by the way she fidgeted, but she didn't reach out to take it. Her attempt to make him feel more comfortable in her presence. He appreciated it. It felt like he had more under his own control, a quality he'd severely lacked over the years thanks to his imprisonment.
Thankfully, the routine of the Orchard work was familiar to him. Every now and then he would chat with Jane who never strayed too far from his side. At first it felt strange and unnerving. But the longer her presence was there, the more comfortable he became. After all, his hesitation had stemmed half from the knowledge that this place was an illusion or dream of some kind, and half from the knowledge that he'd pushed her away in reality. He'd thrown away this relationship before it had had any chance of developing. He'd always been scared of facing her again, unsure how she would react to seeing him. In all honesty he was unsure of how he would react. Would he be relieved to see her? Or would he be angry that his efforts to push her away from his dangerous life had been for naught?
Still, now none of that seemed to matter. At the end of the day, they were working near each other as just two adults who had been friends as children. While a small part of Rassa always wanted to remind him that this place was not real, the larger part of him, the part that had never desired the fate he'd been given, that part got comfortable and accepted what was.
At the end of the day, he returned home more tired than usual, but he stayed up long enough to see his father again.
Seeing Phillip was almost more painful than seeing his mother. With his mother he'd only had to wave goodbye, he only heard about her death and accepted that she was now a part of his past. But with his father…Rassa had watched him die. He'd sat back with the knowledge that he could have given him another life and watched the life leave his father's body. Seeing Phillip again, smiling and warm, Rassa felt that perhaps he hadn't been selfish enough. If all these people had left him, where was his family? And worst of all, for most of them it had been his choice. It had been his choice to push them away not theirs. Would they have accepted him for what he was had he allowed them to make the choice instead? The question nagged at him, and eventually, having no one else to ask, Rassa sought Phillip out after his mother had gone to bed.
"Rassa, shouldn't you be in bed?"
"I'm okay," Rassa said as he sat beside his father who was smoking out the front of their cottage. Rassa sat still for a moment, then decided he may as well get straight to the point, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course," Phillip replied, "I don't know why you'd need to ask permission, go ahead".
"Well…" Rassa started, "Imagine you'd done something unforgivable, something that you needed to do but that isolated you from everyone else".
"Okay," Phillip said, waiting for Rassa to continue.
"Well, there are a few of your loved ones that still treat you the same as much as they can under the circumstances because they love you, but one by one you drive them away because you fear something bad will happen to them if they stay with you," Rassa said, "In that situation, imagine if one of them actually got hurt and you could save them thanks to that unforgivable thing you'd done, but by doing so they could become unforgivable themselves and therefore the way they look at you could change…would you still save them, or would you let them go so that they wouldn't have to suffer the burden like you?"
Phillip frowned a moment as he turned away to look up at the sky, "It sounds like quite the complicated situation you've conjured up there. What brought this on?"
Rassa sighed, leaning his head back, "I don't know, I guess I just got bored and thought too hard trying to remember. But still, what would you do?"
"Well, I'm not entirely sure," Phillip replied, "Of course I wouldn't want them to suffer burdens if I loved them. But I almost think it is too selfish of me to make that decision for them".
Rassa looked at his father for a moment, ready to admit to himself that he'd known it all along, that he'd been too selfish, then Phillip spoke again.
"Or perhaps the selfish part is the loved one treating me in the same way," Phillip replied, "After all if I've done something unforgivable that has changed me fundamentally, clearly I am not the same as I was. Wouldn't treating me like I was be the same as hoping I haven't changed at all? It's almost the loved one's own fault in that sense. But that sounds wrong as well. Perhaps they are both at fault for assuming".
Rassa looked up at the stars as he considered his father's words. The night sky and the moon were peaceful, but the serenity he felt in this moment was that of a human, a man who was listening to the advice of his father.
"But, in the end, despite there being two individuals in the equation it only takes one to make a decision. Everything that happens after that is a reaction to that decision," Phillip said, "It's why you should consider the consequences before you make decisions".
"But you can't possibly consider every consequence," Rassa said.
Phillip nodded, "You're right. That would be impossible. It's why, when you are the one to make decisions, you should do so only when you are ready to accept the burdens. If I committed something unforgivable, clearly I was ready to accept those burdens, even if my loved ones were not".
"What if you weren't ready?" asked Rassa.
"Then I likely wouldn't have had a clear enough head to make the selfless decision to spare my loved ones from the same burden," Phillip said, turning to look at Rassa. For a split second, Rassa felt as if Phillip knew exactly what Rassa was talking about. But that was impossible, in this illusion, those events he remembered had never happened.
Phillip smiled then as he put out his pipe, "It's like your mother making dough. You have to know the right moments to push and pull in order to get the best results".
Phillip stood and walked towards the door, "Get some rest, Rassa. Don't spend too long delving into those deep thoughts of yours or you'll miss the times to make those important decisions you seem to dwell on so much".
Rassa gave a small smile in reply, nodding in acknowledgement. He spent another hour in silence, just staring up at the stars before he finally decided that what he'd done for his father was a mercy. What he'd done for Jane was a mercy. But here, he no longer held those burdens.
That night, his human thoughts became a little more selfish than the Vampiric ones he'd left behind.