On the Way to a Smile
Tifa walked the last customer out of her store Seventh Heaven before returning inside to clean up in the galley. The room was dimly lit with minimal but adequate lighting. No one else was there besides Tifa. Just days ago work didn't seem that long. She enjoyed working along side her family, forgetting all her worries but now, the water had gotten cold and she wasn't getting anywhere with all the dirty tableware. Tifa tried turning on all the lights that illuminated the store in an effort to change the atmosphere. For a brief moment, the store litup but the unstable electricity supply didn't keep it that way for long. The store was dimly lit again. A surge of uneasiness came over her. She wondered if she was all alone in the house. She couldn't stand it as the thought crossed her mind, and called out a girl's name.
Before long, soft footsteps could be heard coming from the children's room, deep inside the store and Marlene appeared.
"Ssssh," she frowned, putting a finger to her lips. Tifa apologized but was relieved.
"Denzel finally fell asleep."
"Was he in pain?"
"You could have gave me a shout."
"Denzel didn't let me."
Tifa blamed herself for letting the children worry about her.
"Hmmm... What do you mean?" Tifa answered meaninglessly, trying to hide her feelings. Marlene looked around the store where only Tifa stood.
"Did you feel lonely?" The little girl saw through everything. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Thanks. You should sleep soon too."
"I was just about to sleep!"
She's my daughter. That's how I introduced her to people. Her parents died not too long ago and she was brought up by her father's closest friend, Barret.
Tifa learned a lot about Marlene ever since she met Barret and travelled around with him. It was only natural that Barret entrusted Marlene to Tifa when he decided to go on a journey to settle his past.
Tifa stopped washing and followed Marlene inside. In the children's room were two beds lined up next to one another. There, Denzel laid sound asleep. The Geostigma scar on the eight year old's forehead was a painful sight. Nothing could be done to ease the symptoms as the boy suffered and his conditions wasn't improving at all either. Denzel grimaced a little as Tifa wiped away the pus from the scar on his soaked forehead, but he continued to sleep. Marlene who had watched over Denzel, called out Tifa's name after she tucked herself up in her own bed.
"You still feel lonely even with us here, don't you?"
"...I'm sorry," Tifa answered honestly.
"It's OK. We're the same."
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