The cedar-wing sits next to me on the couch—backwards. A mirror. He unsettles me sometimes, with his ease.
He passes me the mug of cocoa without asking, and without preamble. Just an understanding, small smile. The kind of smile people can’t work at to perfect. That’s the kind of person he is.
"Watching her?" he asks, like we are co-confidents. I guess we are.
"Is that really her out there?" I notice my hand has been idly weaving at the windowpane, beyond which the distant sounds of explosions can be heard. I can’t see much beyond the cloud-cover; just semi-frequent flashes of light on the sky.
He turns his gaze out, too. He answers my actual question, instead.
"She wants to do this for you—and don’t begrudge her that.
People say there is a price to going to war for those you love, and there is. Sometimes it’s your life. But life isn’t always physical, and every battle shaves a little bit off of what you are. So maybe you come back alive, but you don’t come back the same. Maybe you don’t notice, because your offerings are small, bits and pieces of yourself. But you change all the same, you start to collect the scars, and you rebuild a lot more than you tear down.”
The cedar-wing has placed the mug down and I notice from the corner of my eye he’s tracing a palm inches above his heart.
"Don’t ever feel pity for us. It’s the highest form of honor to wear these scars, because we chose them. We chose how and when and who to take them for, and that’s more than most people get. We carved them with our own hands and the stories—those are Our stories. So don’t even feel bad for her, for we who go to war for those we love."
I want to ask how he got the scar he’s tracing, but I’m not sure he realizes he’s doing it, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to know, anyway. That’s his bounty.
I shift upwards instead.
"Why do I sometimes see you without glasses?"
He laughs, because he was expecting the question. How easy he switches modes. I envy him a little more.
"Because sometimes I don’t wear them?" His eyes sparkle mischievously. I suddenly remember what happened.
"Ah—I forgot. Your face got into a fight with a desk. My mistake." I hide my smile behind my mug of cocoa.
He mock-wipes sweat from his brow. “Thankfully, the desk won.”
I raise a brow. “Thankfully?” What’s so good about losing to a desk?
"Yes! Thankfully. Can you imagine what my face would look like if I had WON a fight against a desk? Not pretty, let me tell you.” He mimes pulling splinters out of his brows and forehead, and I laugh with him.
Yes. You are truly a good soul.