With every step- Crack. With every breath- Crack. With every moment that he continues to live- Crack.
Hero can feel himself slowly being chipped away at. And he doesn't know how long it's been going, or how much longer he'll last.
Today the sun was shining brightly above Hero as he walked down the sidewalk, save the occasional shade from the few clouds.
In his hands, he held a beautiful bouquet from Hobbeez of what he could tell had a few red roses. There were other colorful flowers that he couldn't quiet remember their names off the top of his head.
The young man took a deep breath and sighed as we continued to walk until he arrived at the doors to the church. He hadn't been here for about two weeks now, not ever since Sunny brought him and Kel to visit Mari's grave. Which was actually what he was doing now, except by himself this time.
Hero hasn't bothered to gather up the others, considering they were all busy in some way shape or form: Sunny obviously couldn't come as he moved, Kel said he wanted to practice shooting hoops today, Aubrey just wasn't anywhere to be found but would most likely be with her gang, and Basil...
Stomach churning uneasily even at that thought of Basil, Hero briefly shook his head with a frown to and focused on the task at hand. Upon entering the church, he was greeted by the pastor while going past the empty pews. It didn't take him long to walk out the back and into the sunlight once more, now in the presence of many gravestones before him. Hero walked across the lot until he stood before Mari's grave. There were no flowers adorning it.
His grip on the bouquet tightened a little, having taken the moment to read the words etched into her stone.
OUR DEAREST MARI ; THE SUN SHINED BRIGHTER WHEN SHE WAS HERE.
Hero's hands shook a little upon reading the words, his knees feeling a little weak as well. It was still hard to visit her, even after all this time as the sight still made his heart ache. But it was the least he should do, especially when he has no one forcing him to do so. He took a deep breath to recollect himself and cleared his throat.
"Hey.. Mari." He began, voice still unsteady but would smoothen out as he continued. "It's been a bit again, hasn't it? Sorry about that.. But, at least it hasn't been four years again, ahah.." He does a poor attempt to lightly chuckle and lift the mood a little. He clears his throat again.
"Thought I'd drop by and, uh, maybe give you an update on things. First thing being that.. I may visit every few days, when I can." Hero's grip on the bouquet loosened a little. "It's just- It'd be kind of sad if I stopped visiting after only coming here once after four long years. Plus.. I've missed you, so much. And well, I still do." The last few words are a bit strained as they come out of his throat. The creeping feeling of guilt threatens to shoot up and strangle him.
Hero tries to take another breath, but his chest feels tight. It's hard to breathe, yet he continues to talk anyway. "Anyway, I'm sure you're aware Sunny's moved? If you've been watching over him, that is. It was hard to see him leave, especially after everything. Like, after years of not coming out of his house, he finally goes out in his last few days? That makes me relieved though, being able to see him before he left."
He decides to sit on the ground after a moment, ignoring getting his pants dirty as he wishes to 'chat' for a while. The sun's warm rays beat down on him as he cradles the flower bouquet in his arms. "I was astonished to see him at first. He looked so tired, with dark bags under his eyes. And not only that, but he looked too skinny for comfort. I hadn't said anything while he was here, but I'm worried if he's been taking care of himself.." Resting the flowers on his legs, he scratches the back of his head while being a little lost in thought. He spaces out for a second, before blinking a few times and getting back on track.
"S-So I tried calling him recently, but uh.. I've had no luck. But I'm sure he's still getting setting in at his new place with his mom. Being away from Faraway.. It sure does take a bit to adjust, heh." The frown he wore earlier turned into a slight grin, his brows creasing a little. "I can say so for sure. Being at college is definitely a whole new experience away from home. Speaking of college, it's also been really stressful there with all my classes and studying. It was no joke when people said learning to become a doctor was difficult!"
Hero gently moves the flowers beside him, leaning back as he looked from Mari's grave to the sky. The sky darkened a little as a big, fluffy white cloud covered the blazing sun. The air cooled immediately, which felt nice. "Y'know, sometimes I think everyone would've liked it better if I trained to be a culinary chef. Yeah, being a doctor is beneficial but.. I'm more so doing that for my parents. Not for me and- Well, not for you. I can still remember how you'd encourage me to become a cook." That memory felt bittersweet, causing Hero's grin to fade.
"And I can still remember how cheery you were. Everyone seemed so much happier with you here, Mari." The strangling feeling around his throat that he thought was fading came back. It hurt a little. Hero's mind began to drift off as he mindlessly stared ahead; He thought about everyone now, and how things could've been different if she were still here. He began speaking his thoughts aloud without realizing it. "I know for sure that if you were here, I wouldn't have spent a whole year withering away. Kel.. I know he's been feeling some stress too, but he seems to keep up a happy façade. Aubrey on the other hand, I wonder if she would've stayed happy herself and not be as.. aggressive. Then Sunny.. I can say for certain he wouldn't have supposedly locked himself away for four years. Definitely would've taken better care of himself, but I get why it was hard after you.."
Trailing off, Hero leaned back forward while dusting his hands off. His attention was brought back to Mari's gravestone as he slouched. His thoughts dwindled on one last person, one who turned the memories of Sunny's move sour. Thinking about him made his head hurt, because he was still trying to process what happened. "... And Basil. I wonder, if you were still here- Would.. Would he have not killed himself?" His next words threatened to remain stuck in his throat, yet he forced them out anyway.
"I- I mean of course he wouldn't have but- But sometimes think, even after what happened when you died.. Maybe.. Maybe if I looked over everyone better, things- Things wouldn't have turned out this way." There it is, the force that's been chipping away at him for so long. Guilt and grief had been slowly breaking him down, and it's only gotten worse ever since Basil's suicide.
Hero sought to blame himself for the flower boy's death. This was all considering he was supposed to be the 'adult' of the group; The one who stayed strong and held everyone together. He failed to live up to his role though, especially during his one year of isolation. But even after that and he thought he was getting better, Hero never looked to check up on everyone else. He never bothered to see how the others were doing, and instead distracted himself with his studies as well as any work he could do. Maybe- Just maybe, if he actually cared to check on everyone else while still taking care of himself.. Maybe their friendships wouldn't have crumbled over the past few years. Maybe they all could've learned to heal together, rather than looking for desperate ways to escape the pain. Maybe they all would've been okay.
The sensation around his throat began to tighten as Hero felt tears beginning to form. His throat hurt, and this sensation of suffocation felt like it would kill him. "God, it's pathetic Mari. And it hurts, so much. I should've done something, but I didn't. I was too focused on myself- I was selfish. I didn't see how the others were in pain. I should've been strong, but I couldn't. I just couldn't, Mari. It's impossible to stay strong when you lose someone you love.." The young man let out a small sob at first, his body shuddering just a little. He could feel hot tears roll down his cheeks as his eyes narrowed. "I still don't get why you had to leave us behind. Why you chose to leave me behind. But maybe I was oblivious then as I was now. God I should've- I should've seen- I should've noticed if there were any signs. But- But I didn't. And now, not only are you gone.. But Basil is as well.."
Hero's sobs grew a bit louder, his ears burning with shame. A new bully appeared along his guilt and grief: Regret, and it hits hard. "I thought we'd be okay but- We're not. I'm not okay. I don't know if I can stay strong Mari, I really don't know." His hands were clenched into fists while he brought an arm up to wipe his eyes. His eyes felt puffy due to his tears and refused to stop falling. "I wish you didn't leave us behind- Because I don't know how much longer I can go on like this."
Crack, crack, crack. Regret, guilt, and grief continued to pummel and chip away at Hero. It was agonizing. It was tiring. All his sobs and weeps were just reminders of his failure to keep everyone together. He missed Mari, and he wished he could be with her up in the clouds.
One of the last things he found himself doing was gifting Mari's grave with his bouquet. He hope she liked it.