I found myself at Starlight Serenity Resort the next morning, knocking on the door of one of the private suites. After getting Hope settled in at home last night, I decided I had to find Ruby and it had to be before we ran into each other at work so we could talk privately without worrying about being overheard. I realised that she’d been living in Starlight Shores for years now and yet I still didn’t know where she lived. Some digging around told me that she never purchased a home of her own and had been staying at my family’s resort since she came here. Well that made it convenient for me to find her.
“Ruby? It’s Seb, please open the door,” I called. I didn’t know how I felt about her right now. She’d been responsible for Hope’s suffering, but she had also helped me rescue Hope. I felt like after all our years of friendship, after every time I opened up to her about my life and she didn’t go running to the media with it, her actions last night entitled her to some kind of effort on my part to understand her motives before I just threw her away. I know what it’s like to be thrown away by someone you love. I wasn’t about to do that to Ruby without even trying to listen to what she had to say, first.
The door opened and Ruby stood there with her hair messily thrown up into a baby blue headband, wearing a long baggy shirt over a pair of pyjama shorts. I recognised that shirt. It was mine. Some idiots back in university had been having a water balloon fight on the front lawn of my dorm and Ruby had gotten caught in the crossfire. Her white blouse got soaked and completely see-through and people started laughing and catcalling at her so I gave her my shirt to wear over it until she got home (I also spent a good twenty minutes yelling some really vulgar insults I’m too embarrassed to repeat here at the people catcalling her). I never bothered asking her for it back because I didn’t care too much about it. I forgot about it completely until now. The fact that she still wore it made me happy and sad at the same time, considering the circumstances now.
“Sebastian,” she said coolly, composed as ever, but I could tell she’d been crying. Her eyelids were red. She caught me looking at the shirt and looked down at herself. “I suppose I’m eight and a half years late in returning this to you. I apologize. You can have it back.”
“Nah, that’s alright. Keep it. It looks better on you, anyway,” I told her. I didn’t care that she kept my shirt. “I came here because you owe me some answers and I owe you a chance to give me your reasons for everything that you did before I walk away from you… but, I uh… guess it’s a bad time. I probably woke you up,” nodding to her outfit. She looked ready for bed. It was almost… refreshing to see Ruby looking so casually messy. I kind of hated myself a little bit for wondering how she still managed to look beautiful with bedhead and baggy clothes. I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about her beauty. I was supposed to be angry with her.
“You didn’t. Come in,” she told me, standing aside and letting me into her suite. I raised my eyebrows, noting how exhausted she looked.
“Did you sleep at all?”
“No,” she answered honestly. She crossed her arms but the gesture was more insecure than defiant. I hated seeing her insecure. She was always so direct and confident in her goals. I liked that about her. “You said I owe you answers. I agree. I need a question to answer, first, however. You no doubt have many.” I did.
“A lot,” I admitted. “But I guess I’ll start with this one. Why did you help me last night?” I asked her.
“I might be able to answer all the other questions by answering that one,” Ruby told me. “It’s a… very long answer.” I shrugged.
“I’m listening,” I said. I wanted to know everything so if that meant I listen to an explanation all day then so be it. Ruby looked down at the ground, seeming to wrestle with herself for a long moment before taking a shuddering breath.
“The short answer to that is because the girl… Hope, you called her… Hope is me.”
“Wait, what are you–” I started but she held up a hand to silence me.
“I’m aware that’s an unsatisfactory answer, Sebastian. I will elaborate,” she quickly assured me. She looked… pained. “We were friends for a very long time. You and I. In all that time, you shared your life with me. You trusted me with your problems and your hopes and fears and worries, yet in eight and a half years, I have told you virtually nothing about myself. You don’t know where I come from. You don’t know where I went to school before university or who my family is. You don’t know me at all Sebastian but that isn’t your fault. It’s mine. You don’t know anything about my past because there is nothing good to tell you,” she ended in a shaky whisper. This kind of emotion from her scared me. What could hurt Ruby so bad that she couldn’t keep her perfect composure?
“Ruby you kind of missed the point of friendship,” I told her. “I’m not supposed to care what your past was like. I’m supposed to accept whatever your past was like and help you get through the present when it’s good and beyond crappy. Kind of like what you did for me. That’s what friends do,” I sighed.
“I can’t remember my parents’ names or what they looked like. I don’t remember how many siblings I have. I only remember that I had a lot of them and my parents were very poor. When I started kindergarten, everyone knew I was different. I was intelligent. Too intelligent for a four year old child. I could solve mathematical and scientific problems that most adults could not. I made discoveries that baffled my teachers and were beyond anything they could understand. Eventually, this caught national attention and government officials visited my home and offered my parents a very large amount of money in exchange for me. I supposed they thought signing away their rights to one child was worth it if it allowed them to feed their other children. I became the property of the federal government and I was transferred to a testing facility where I became the subject of… thousands of experiments done to me over a period of almost fifteen years.” Ruby actually winced as she said this. I wanted to hug her or say something comforting, but I knew she wasn’t finished yet, so instead I just motioned to the couch in her suite.
“Here… let’s sit, alright?” I told her quietly. I’d noticed she was starting to shake a little bit and I didn’t want her collapsing or anything. She allowed me to help her to the couch and continued once we were both sitting down.