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One Step Forward

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            The ballroom radiated with a liveliness like it never knew before. Gems of all types mingled and danced under the sparkling lights; the previously choreographed dances gone and done away with. Music and chatter mixed in the most delightful way, encouraging even the diamonds to engage in the festivities.

            Well, most of the diamonds. Gray sat, stiff and stoic, on her newly made throne, gripping the armrests so hard her fingers were leaving cracks and crevasses. It had been three months since her return to Homeworld, and crowds were among the many things she was still struggling to get used to. She refused to so much as meet anyone’s gaze, much to the relief of most of the gems in attendance.

            A sudden feeling of a hand touching her own caused Gray to jump. White frowned, apologetically, and drew her hand back. Seeing her mother, Gray relaxed slightly.

            “I didn’t mean to startle you, Moonrise. How are you-”

            She was cut off by Gray’s hasty retrieval of her writing tablet from between her thigh and the armrest.

            Can I please go to my room now?

            White, trying to ease Gray’s anxious aura, gave her a small, comforting grin. “Yes, you’ve stayed long enough.”

            Feeling an instant relief wash over her body, Gray quickly stepped off her levitating throne, so eager to leave, she chose not to acknowledge the rippling pain that was now traveling through her thigh and down her leg.

            As White escorted Gray out of the ballroom, they passed by Yellow and Blue. White made eye contact with them, but they continued to chat as if they didn’t see her. The elder diamond was used to the cold shoulder by now, but she still sighed internally. They’d been this way ever since Gray returned home, only speaking to her when necessary, and nothing beyond that. She had hoped they would’ve gotten over this jealously thing by now, but it was becoming more and more apparent they weren’t going to let it go any time soon. As much as she tried not to dwell on it, White couldn’t help but feel she’d taken one step forward and two steps back; in gaining the love of one diamond, distance had been placed between herself and two others.

            “You did very well tonight,” White said as they walked through the halls, trying to get her mind off Blue and Yellow.

            Gray paused to write something down.

            I felt like I was going to shatter the whole time. Too many gems.

            “I stand by what I said. You did very well. And you’ll get used to it soon enough.”

            Were as many gems staring at me as it felt like there were?

            “Admiration from others comes with being a diamond, another thing you’ll get used to. Gems come from all over the galaxy to bask in our power, beauty, and strength.”

            Gray let out a silent laugh. Admiration? Beauty? I’ve looked in the mirror, mother. They don’t stare at me because they admire me. They stare because I’m scary.  

            “You are not scary.”

            You’re my mother, you have to say that. I know I’m not beautiful like you and the others. It’s fine, I don’t care, but

            Her writing was cut off by a bolt of pain traveling through her left arm, causing her grip to cease. The tablet hit the ground and Gray held her arm, as if her grip would be enough to stop the pain.

            “What happened?!” White asked, her voice slightly frantic by her daughter’s sudden distress, “Are you alright?!”

            Gray waved her off and picked up the tablet. Motioning for them to continue down the hall, they continued their journey to her room in silence. Once there, Gray sat her tablet down on her vanity and continued to write.

            It’s fine. I’ve been tense and gripping my throne for hours. I’ll be fine by morning.

            White sighed, most of her worry ceasing. “We need to get you something better than the tablet to communicate with. It won’t do you any good if you can’t hold onto it.”

            I said I’ll be fine by morning. And Yellow’s already on it. Didn’t she tell you?

            White blinked. “I… No, she didn’t. You’ve been talking with Yellow?”

            Well, yeah. She’s had her gems working on a communication device for me. It’s still in beta, but it should be complete sometime in the next two lunar cycles. It fits around my neck like a choker and has a brooch-looking device on the front that allows me to speak. Well, speak in a way. It’s a robotic voice that comes from a speaker in the brooch, but it’s the closest thing to a voice I’ve ever had.

            Gray’s good eye lit up with as much delight as she was able to express as she wrote the words out. White wanted to feel joy for her daughter, but confusion was clouding her mind.

            “That’s… wonderful. How… How long has Yellow been working on this for you?”  

            She had it started shortly after I got here. I think she got annoyed having to wait for me to finish writing every time I want to say something. I’ll admit, it’s not the best method of communication, and it doesn’t help that I’m still not fluent in modern gem glyph. Blue’s been trying to help me with that, but she’s a little… overbearing’s not the right word, but she tries to help too much, and that can get frustrating.

            White tried not to let her mouth go agape as she struggled to form words. “I… I’m glad the three of you are getting along.” She tried to hide her dismay behind a smile. “Well, I’m sure you’re tired after all the excitement. I’ll let you rest.”

            Thank you. Goodnight, mother.

            White gave Gray another smile, which immediately dropped once she left the room. Her mind was obscured with thoughts and confusion. Determined to get to the bottom of this, she made her way back to the ball. Quickly spotting Blue and Yellow, she thought for a second to confront them directly, but stopped once she remembered the coldness they’d expressed towards her the last few months. How could she figure out what was going on if they wouldn’t talk to her?

            The sound of applause suddenly filled the air. White turned to see Spinel, surrounded by a circle of gems, having just finished another juggling trick. Feeling a spark of realization, White hurried over to her.

            “Oh Spinel, may I borrow you for a moment?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

            Spinel smiled at her and stored her balls in her gem for later. “Sure!”

            White grinned and led Spinel just outside of the room. Once she was sure they were out of earshot, she got down on her knees to try to get closer to Spinel’s level.

            “Spinel, you spend a lot of time with Blue and Yellow,” she began, “Have they mentioned to you why they’re so cross with me?”

            Spinel crooked her neck. “Cross?”

            “Yes. I thought they were jealous of Gray and all the time I’ve been spending with her, but it’s come to my attention that they’ve been getting along very well with her. If it’s not about jealousy, then why are they so cold?”

            Her eyes looking off to the side, Spinel began to coyly tap her index fingers together. “White… you kept a lot of secrets from them. You lied to them about how you came into existence, and you didn’t tell them about the other diamonds that came before them. They’re upset about that, and… well… they think they don’t matter to you.”

            “What!?” White’s eyes widened. “How could they think that?”  

            “Well… They haven’t said anything directly, but I’ve heard them talking about how after Pink faked her shattering, you locked yourself away for 6000 years and refused to see them. Then when the Gray thing happened, you talked about how you couldn’t afford to love anyone as much as you did Black and Gray. I know you didn’t mean it like they think you did, but… it really hurt them, White. They think you don’t care about them.”

            White was silent, her head spinning with this new revelation.

            “They… really think that?”

            Spinel nodded, still not meeting her eye. White stared off into the distance for a while, before rising to her feet.

            “I… I’m retiring for the night,” she said, her voice much shakier than normal, “You threw a lovely ball, Spinel. Go enjoy the remainder of the evening.”

            Spinel nodded and went to rejoin the ball. White, on the other hand, headed straight for her wing of the palace. She had some thinking to do.

--

            The warp pad sprang to life in the old, crumbling kindergarten. Blue and Yellow stepped down onto the dry, lifeless dirt, none too eager for this meeting. After walking a short distance, they found her, standing with her back towards them as she faced two large exit holes.

            “We’re here, White. We got your message,” Blue said, her voice quiet as usual, but not much emotion coming through.

            “What do you need us for?” Yellow asked.

            “You know where we are, correct?” White asked, still not turning around.

            “Of course, it’s our kindergarten,” Yellow said, doing her best not to completely show that she was losing her patience, “Why are we here?”

            “I need to talk to you two, and I thought it fitting to have this discussion here and now.” Finally turning to face them, she did her best to keep her nerves out of her voice. “Today is the anniversary of the day you two emerged.”

            Blue and Yellow blinked, neither of them having the slightest clue how they were supposed to respond to that.

            “How…” Blue began, but trailed off.

            “How could you possibly remember that?” Yellow finished for her.

            “How could I forget? The day you two emerged was the happiest I’d been in eons.” She stepped closer to them, trying to hide how anxious she was. This kind of thing didn’t come easy to her, but she had to do it. “I know you two have lost much of your faith in me. Perhaps I deserve it, but I need you to understand. Even though I made you with the intention of never loving another being again, I ultimately failed. I knew that the moment I saw you.”

            Blue and Yellow were stunned into silence. Shaking, White took hold of their hands.

            “Black and Gray were my first family, but you two and Pink were that and more. When we lost Pink, it brought back a lot a lot of repressed memories. A lot of repressed feelings… I thought I could fix things if I locked myself in my head. I thought I could be a better leader, set a better example if I locked myself away. I thought I could protect myself from hurting again if a similar fate befell one of you. I couldn’t–” She cut herself off, feeling herself losing her composure. “It was a foolish endeavor, I know that now. No matter how hard you try, you can’t force yourself to stop loving someone.”

            For a split second, no one moved. No one said anything. Blue was the first to react, gently pulling her hands away and wrapping her arms around White. Yellow hesitated but followed suit, and White wrapped her arms around them both.

           There were still many things that needed to be fixed between them, that they all knew, but this was a good step forward.