She had not known he was there.
When she saw him, caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye, at first she was upset. Frightened. Indignant.
How long had he been there, had he been there all the time? Was this the first time he had done this?
Why he was there was an easy question to answer.
He never said or did anything except observe, so she supposed he was harmless. However, it was unsettling and it made her nervous, an emotion she had never been fond of.
He looked so small, so far away. A tiny red and yellow splotch against an unfaltering green and gold landscape, pinned against a black and purple sky. How must they have appeared to him? Little black and brown and blue splotches, she supposed...
She glanced over at Tulio for a moment, to see if he had noticed her wandering eyes. He was and had been talking for some time about something she could not quite understand. He had a habit of doing that which made him no less endearing.
He apparently did not notice his audience's indifference, so Chel turned back to the dimly shining and luminous landscape, watching the sad, small figure in the distance sitting down, settling to watch her. Watch them.
The bitter question crossed her mind for only a moment: "What does he want from us?"
The answer was so obvious and pitiable that her harsher thoughts rapidly faded almost into a sense of regret.
So nearly so contented but a careless word too far
Chel glanced back at Tulio, who was gesturing and lecturing almost to the jungle itself, apparently enjoying the sound of his own voice bouncing back to him, reflected by the few golden walls nearby. He did not notice her lack of attention, but he tended to behave that way. You had to get right to the point to get across to that boy, even if you had to be somewhat devious to do so...
She thought back to the quiet figure so far away, sighing to herself as she did so. She almost regretted her actions now. Almost.
It was not her fault. She could see it in them when she had first encountered the two, when she watched him cringe behind him, depending on him for safety.
It was so clear and sadly so obscure. One-sided glances, the other totally oblivious. Contact that was broken and sporadic, but so joyful. Such security and ease around each other, even with their bodies. The lack of surprise or concern when waking up so close to one another. The dependence, longing, possessiveness and yet so much submission...
She could see the desire and the sadness in his eyes. She could see him struggling inside to either reconcile with his own emotions or to find the bravery to admit what he apparently had kept inside for so long.
She knew that. She also knew that the ties of love ran much deeper then those of friendship.
Chel had always been rather pragmatic and logical, not inclined towards emotional or foolish decisions. She had learned over time that she had to be careful with her words and her actions if she was to get what she wanted and she had refined this into a fine art.
It was only logical to her that if she could insinuate herself into a relationship with one of them, she had a much better chance of surviving the scam to make it to wherever they were going. Also a better chance of making off with her share of the gold successfully, less of a possibility of being dropped or cheated out of the scam later on.
Not that there wasn't attraction involved: she found Tulio very attractive. That was why she chose him.
She felt pity for Miguel who only watched so passively from far away. She knew what this had to be doing to him, how it must have torn him apart to see them together. But then again, it was his own fault...he should have acted sooner, said something, done something...how could he not expect to have his opportunity taken away?
You have to grab every opportunity. That was what she had learned. Tulio seemed like-minded in this regard, but Miguel again was the odd one out.
So passive, submissive, so...silently affectionate...
Sometimes he seemed more feminine then she did.
She didn't understand him. He was foreign to her in so many ways...she didn't understand why he didn't act, why he didn't say something when he had the chance. What had stopped him? Wasn't he frightened that his chance may someday disappear? Did he know how finite his time was? Or did he just not want to believe it?
How could he let her do this? Didn't it hurt? It had to hurt...she was sure of it. Why? Why didn't he say anything? Anything at all to either of them? Only watching them from so far away...how could he live like that?
How long was he going to do this? How long was he planning on doing this...?
How long had he done this without her knowledge?
How? How could he do this? Just let this chance slip by him, just let something he cared so much about be taken away without any kind of resistance?
She couldn't understand. She could understand pretending to submit, pretending for the moment to obey the whims of others, but she always had her interests at heart and always acted on them as soon as she had the chance.
But Miguel did not. For some reason, he let her do this and she could not understand why. She could not understand him at all.
She sat and rested her head in her hands, watching Miguel quietly. She almost wished he was closer so that she could read his expression.
I see you in confusion for a once enchanted boy
"You should have said something..." She thought to herself, watching as the tiny figure so far away seemed to notice her change in position, acting as if he were investigating something else. "You lost your chance, but that's not my fault. You should stand up for yourself sometimes. We're going to walk all over you...you know that, don't you?"
She watched him walk back and forth, turning towards the pair occasionally and turning away. He raised a hand to his head, let it drop, raised it again, walked a short distance, and repeated the motions. With a sad sigh of resignation, she reviewed her last thoughts. She had intended her question to be rhetorical and somewhat playful, but she realized with a start just how much it applied to the current situation.
"Of course you do...but why? Why do you let us do that? Why are you letting us do this to you?"
She glanced back at her new lover, watching him as he began to sweep up flowers elegantly, still apparently talking to himself all the while. She smiled at the thought of the expectant bouquet of flowers, but kept her eyes on the tiny colors so far away. He had stopped moving, watching now.
"You must be so confused...I don't blame you."
She turned and feigned surprise at the flowers that were laid in her arms. However, the smile she gave in return for Tulio's was genuine, as was the embrace they shared shortly afterwards. Looking out of the corner of her eye, she could see the indistinct figure of Miguel sink downwards into a sitting position again, slowly and hesitantly.
"You should've said something."
My heart dances, oh oh, but not for joy
Another pang of guilt was quickly silenced and her heart slowed.
"It's not my fault."
I longed to love you better but I swear I don't know how
Miguel watched the indistinct figures with such confusing feelings of anger and pain that he did not know how to react. Tears nor rage seemed to fit the situation. He watched with a great sense of loss and emptiness, unable to express any of his feelings physically.
Of course, it had always been that way. Why was it that happiness was the only thing that came naturally for him? Whenever he tried to think, to express more difficult, deeper, conflicted emotions, he seemed unable to do so. He would continue to smile and lie and keep everything inside and he did not know what to do.
So he had done nothing.
And now look at where it had gotten him.
He was sitting and watching the love of his life with someone else.
He tried. He tried very hard to express his feelings through other ways. He had submitted, did small favors, followed him so faithfully and unquestioningly. He had become the best friend anyone could ever hope for. A perfect partner.
Was that enough? How could he express his emotions further? He couldn't, he simply couldn't. It wasn't even an option to his body, which froze whenever the opportunity came up.
He wanted to give him everything, to give him everything that you were supposed to give someone you love. But how? How could he do that when his partner had no idea that what he did was out of love, not friendship...
But how could he know that, when Miguel couldn't even express the difference himself?
You could have been my future but I had to have it now
Such deep loneliness and emptiness inside. He was unable to even find a metaphor to try and explain or rationalize what he was missing. He was missing Tulio and that was all that could come to mind. What did Tulio mean to him? What exactly did Tulio take with him? He did not know and he could not find the words for it. He could never find the right words when he needed to.
He stared at the two of them with such deep sadness that he sank downwards as he watched them embrace, envying and hating them all at once. He originally did not know you could hate the one you love, but now he realized that it was very possible. He could hate him and hate the girl he was with. But that did not really change anything...
What would have happened if things had been different? If he had been there instead of wandering away? If he had simply waited like Tulio had told him to? If he hadn't let Chel take that opportunity away from him, if he hadn't let her take advantage of his moment of weakness, where he had to survey the city that would someday be his.
If he had only waited...how different things would be!
Or would they?
It was wishful thinking. He reminded himself of the past years with a sad sigh. Every day presented the perfect opportunity, the most perfect chance to say something, say anything, to reveal his feelings, to tell him how he felt. But every time he could not speak, only try to clumsily communicate his emotions through small gestures.
"Look, I'm eating the food you cooked. I love you."
"Look, I'm going with the plan you made. I love you."
"Look, I'll pretend to fight with you. I love you."
"Look, I promise. I love you."
"Look, I'm going to get on the horse. I love you..."
He was lying to himself, just like had been lying to everyone for what almost felt like his entire life. He could have had everything if he had not been such a coward, such an easily manipulated fool, but now...
The things we love completely we are fated to destroy
God, he was so different. So different now with Chel, someone he could lavish all this attention on. Miguel had never seen him do this before, devote himself so fully to one person. Giving her things, telling her stories, writing her poems...he had never seen Tulio do this, and it was surprising and strange all at once.
No time for Miguel, no time to talk now...he had to go do this, he had to go and make this for Chel...
He had been relegated to second place by someone because he refused to even run the race in the first place.
What had happened? Did Chel change Tulio so much? Sometimes it seemed that he had become an entirely different person, like he had changed so much that he could not recognize him sometimes. Jokes they both used to enjoy did not seem to lighten the mood anymore. Small rituals they had had begun to lose their meaning.
And now here he was. They were going to leave without him...but the Tulio he had come here with already seemed to be gone.
This was all his fault...if only he had something, if only he could do something other then sit here and watch so helplessly...if only he wasn't such a coward...
My heart dances, oh oh, but not for joy
He watched them kiss with a rush of adrenaline, shame, and sadness. If only he was there, if only it was him there in his arms...but he wasn't. And it was his fault.
It's easy to be certain that another's heart will fall
Tulio sighed to himself as he watched Chel smile at him happily, pleased with the flowers he had given her.
Watching her smile was so fulfilling in a way. It was as if something in his life had been missing and Chel had perfectly filled the void. The lack of focus for his emotions, all the love and affection had found direction, and this gave him meaning.
He found his thoughts wandering to Miguel for a moment, as they often had over the past few days. He did not intend to leave without him as he had said so hastily, but he did wonder what he should do about him...they had become so distant lately. He had to talk to him.
Maybe he was frightened that his relationship with Chel would take precedence over their friendship. A silly worry, but understandable nonetheless.
He watched her with a smile, staring at her eyes, her hair, everything about her that bespoke this feminine grace and charm, that allure of danger...
Again, a nagging thought that came to him often.
That promise. They had promised that she would be off-limits. They had even shook hands on it in their own particular way.
But then again, he had made that promise originally because he was sure that Miguel would fall for her and thus ruin their plans. He was almost sure it would happen. He...did not think this would happen.
Much harder to be certain of your own
He was surprised that Miguel seemed to have instead fallen in love with the city itself and was even more surprised to find himself falling for the girl who had inadvertently led them here.
He was typically more in control then that. He usually had a very careful rein on his emotions and falling for Chel had surprised him.
He had no idea that something could take hold of him so completely, subdue his thoughts and make nothing matter except her. He was shocked to find that he was forgetting things, important things, like problems and other complications that could arise from such a relationship. All that seemed to matter now was the relationship itself.
He was shocked when he had said, out loud, that they would leave Miguel behind. The thought was incomprehensible to him now, but at the time...he was so into the moment; the need to impress her, to come across as truly sincere, that he almost gave up something so valuable to him.
He was sure that Miguel would understand but fortunately he hadn't been there to hear his mistake. He did not want to have to explain to him that it had only been a momentary lapse of control: he knew how emotional Miguel could get sometimes.
He was glad that he hadn't been there; one less thing to worry about.
His actions were becoming less predictable and that was a bit worrisome. Nothing that couldn't be fixed though.
It moves you, and inspires you, then it drives you to the wall
And leaves you so excited but alone
He was holding her so close. Trapped deep within the emotions and joy he found in her arms and her kiss, he was entirely unprepared when she broke away, giggling and motioning for him to stay still.
"I need to do something. I'll be right back, 'kay?"
She dashed off without waiting for an affirmative answer, leaving Tulio confused and somewhat frustrated. He watched her disappear for a moment before turning away, running a hand through his hair to try and calm his ruffled emotions.
What could she want to do? Did she have to do it right now? It had to be something important, but right now?
Tulio sighed and busied himself picking a flower from one of the bushes, pulling off the petals methodically in an effort to keep both his hands and mind busy. It worked for one of them.
Maybe she was going to get something. But couldn't it have waited? Maybe she had something she had to do...something urgent. But what? He had no idea...
He wondered what Miguel was doing.
Probably running around the city again, enjoying himself amongst the people. He rolled his eyes at his partner's immaturity for a moment. He so eagerly forgot their problems and the risks involved for the fun of the moment. It was very typical of him, but Tulio was used to that kind of behavior. He smiled in spite of himself. He was probably out playing ball with the children or something.
My heart dances, oh oh
Tulio looked upward, staring at the sky for a moment with a happy sigh. Looking gradually over the landscape, he saw for a moment what almost looked like Miguel in the distance. The moment that his eyes rested on the indistinct figure, however, they darted out of sight, almost as if avoiding his gaze.
Confused, Tulio looked around, making sure that no one else nearby that could have frightened the mysterious viewer, and turned back to pulling the petals from his flower, fighting the panicked reaction that had come at the thought of Miguel spying on him.
My heart dances, oh oh
Did he see me? Did he see me? Oh god, if he saw me then everything's over for good, everything's completely over. I still have a chance now to explain everything, but if he sees me, if he ever knew what I was doing, that would be it, that would just be it...
Miguel lay flat on the golden stones, his hands covering the back of his head, shaking with inexpressible emotion.
He had watched Chel leave with such deep satisfaction that it made him feel guilty. Shaking with fear, he remained prostrated across the gold, for once almost feeling tears coming to his eyes.
Lying like a thief on the stones, envious of his friend's lover and happy when she left him, even for a few moments, like some jealous ex-girlfriend or something...god, how low could he sink? Was this all he could do? Was this the best he was? Was this what he had been reduced to?
Such overbearing shame and guilt crashed over him that he almost did feel tears come to him. Instead, a choked gasp escaped him before his eyes cleared, removing the truly condemning evidence that he had been so emotionally upset.
My heart dances, oh oh, but not for joy
Chel watched Miguel from nearby silently, finding her heart moved despite her best efforts. The poor man was shaking on the ground like some giant authority figure had just appeared, catching him in some criminal act. He was so terrified of Tulio, so terrified of his disapproval, his anger, that he had to sneak around like this and pine for him from afar.
It was so pathetically sad, so pitiable and yet so irreversible, that Chel had foregone her original plan to instead stand some distance away, watching him.
How could that feel? To love someone so deeply but lack the strength, the willpower, and the confidence to ever admit it? To live forever with unrequited love?
And to have it taken away so quickly and without resistance.
She had wanted to speak with Miguel, to warn him to stay away but to assure him that she was not upset, just worried. To assure him that she did not hate him and didn't hold anything against him, but just did not like him staring at them.
She felt her heart pang at the pained gasp that escaped the blonde's throat and she felt her hand uncontrollably traveling to her windpipe. She rubbed at her throat for a moment before slowly turning away, unable to watch the man shivering like a frightened child out of fear of his own love.
But not for joy
Why, why hadn't he said anything...why why why why...he had ruined everything, he had ruined everything he had worked for so long to create...every subtle gesture erased so quickly and so completely because he was such a coward...such a coward that he couldn't say anything and now shivered on the stones like some kind of criminal...so scared and such a coward...a fool...
Why hadn't he said something...this was all his fault and that was the worst part. That was the worst part of all.
But not for joy
Was that Miguel? It couldn't have been him...why would he have been watching? Did he know? God, he had to know by now. Did he hear him? No, there was no way he could have done that...he couldn't have been there...but what if he was watching?
Why did he feel guilty about this? He had nothing to be ashamed of. He had no intention of abandoning his best friend for his new fiance. It had just...slipped. That was all.
He felt so guilty though...and for some reason he was almost frightened.
But not for joy
Did she do the right thing? Maybe she should have said something...
Maybe she shouldn't have seduced his best friend.
But that was just it -- they had been best friends, nothing more. There was no crime in that. But she could not make that thought convincing. She knew that there was something more. She knew that it wasn't "just friends", that it probably had never been "just friends". It wasn't that simple.
That was Miguel's fault though: he should have said something instead of hiding his feelings. He brought this on himself. This was his fault, not hers.
But she could not believe it. She could not believe it and it bothered her. Such deep and intense feelings of guilt...was this her fault?
No, the window was open. The opportunity was there and she took it before Miguel did. That was all there was to it.
That had to be all there was to it. Otherwise...
She walked away, leaving her problems and worries behind her, hoping that Tulio had not been too worried with her absence.
She didn't hear the quiet sob from behind her.