Dreary midnights. Cold mornings. Dark days.
That was all that was left.
Melody sighed as she looked out the window at the smog covered sky. Just a girl of 25, living in a place like this. She remembered the days when the sky was still sunny, and the grass was still green. When small animals played about under the shade of the beautiful Truffula trees. She missed them terribly.
But the thing she missed most about those old days was him. His beautiful eyes that held so much hope. His tall, thin frame. And the smile that had never seemed to leave his face. Even while everything was beginning to fall apart, he had remained hopeful. But she never got to see his smile anymore. Only 33 and he was already just a shell of who he use to be. But she couldn't blame him.
As her eyes rested on a small pile of rocks with one word inscribed on them, she couldn't help feeling that some of this was her fault. After all, she was the one who had encouraged him. Even when things were dying around him, she went along with anything he wanted. Even when it was wrong. But she had valid reason. She owed him after all he had done for her. "Without him," she reminded herself aloud, "I might not even be alive right now." The girl glanced at the clock on the wall, realizing the time.
She exited the room she had claimed as her own and began walking down the long corridor, toward the kitchen. "So what if he's not the same man he was when he saved me? He's still Once-ler. He still cares. Doesn't he?"
As she reached the kitchen she noticed things had gone untouched. "Odd.." she mused aloud. "Mr. Once-ler usually makes his breakfast before I've even woken
but it looks as if nothing's been touched
With a sudden pang of realization, she moved to the fridge and began pulling items out. "I swear that man is going to put himself in his bloody grave
" she muttered, beginning her pancake making.
The Once-ler stood by the boarded up old window, looking out at what he had done. He made himself sick
. Why didn't he stop? He knew things were getting bad
But he didn't stop
He couldn't stop.
It wasn't until it was too late that he realized what he'd been doing.
The sweet smell of syrup covered pancakes drifted in from under the Lerkim door, making his stomach leap. He almost got up. He almost went straight to the door and pulled it open, just for the sweet, sweet marhsmellow pancakes.
But he couldn't. "I don't deserve pancakes.." He muttered to himself.
There was a soft knock on his door.
"Sir?" a feminine voice called out.
There was no reply from The Once-ler.
"Sir?" The knock came again. "I understand you're upset about what's happened, but that's no good reason to starve yourself!"
The door opened cautiously and Melody entered, a small stack of pancakes in hand.
"Sir, you really should go out for a walk or something
Heaven knows how love you've been cooped up here
It's not healthy."
He didn't turn around. "Not healthy
" He muttered quietly. "Do you want to know what's not healthy, Melody? The fact that you're here. What's the matter with you?" He snapped. "Don't you have a life to go live?"
The harshness of his words directed toward her was made all the more menacing by the harsh glare he sent her.
The silence in the room was almost loud enough to drown out her quiet response. "I've got a life, sir. and I've chosen to spend it here. With you."
His expression softened a bit. "I don't understand why
" His voice trailed off.
Melody set the pancakes down on his unused writing desk and stood beside her old friend, placing a hand gently on his shoulder, following his gaze out the window. All the tree stumps sat there, each one a reminder. Each one telling another portion of the story. His eyes eventually drifted to the tree stump that sat in the center of the forest. Rocks surrounded the base of the stump.
The had been the first one. The start of the whole operation.
"I'm sorry." Melody's voice was quiet as she looked down, ashamed.
"Sorry?" He shook his head a bit and shot her a confused glance, tearing his eyes from the wasteland for the first time in what had felt like hours. "What do YOU have to be sorry for?"
"I could've spoken up.. I should've said something to you when things got out of hand. I could've prevented this
The Once-ler fact twisted in disbelief at what he was hearing. "You're not really trying to blame this on yourself, are you? Melody, you had nothing to do with this. It was all me."
"But I could have-"
"Don't give me those LIES." He spat. "You know as well as I do that even if you HAD spoken up, I wouldn't have listened. I probably would've pushed you farther away." By this time he was turned to face her, his hands clenched into fists.
"Sir.." She said softly, sensing his self-hatred.
"I hate it
" He muttered. "I hate all of it."
Melody's green eyes peered up at him, longing to hold him in her arms. To tell him that it would all be okay. To let him know she was there for him. "Hate
I hate this factory
I hate this shop
I hate myself for doing all this
And I hate the fact that you're trying to make it your fault to spare me the guilt."
He shook his head and sat down heavily in the chair he kept in the room.
Melody waited a few moments to see if he would be the one to break the silence first. When it became apparent that he wouldn't, she turned back to the window and looked out over the remains of the Truffula forest. It really was a gloomy place now
Her eyes fell once again to the pile of rocks with the word "Unless" carved in.
"Do you ever think about that, sir?"
"About what?" Once-ler raised an eyebrow and looked at her questioningly.
'Unless'. Do you ever think about what it means?"
"I've spent the past year thinking about it
And I think
" His voice trailed off, and she figured he was waiting for her to ask him to continue.
"You think you know?"
"No," he chuckled slightly. "I think I've wasted a year."
Melody smiled halfheartedly at her friend. "Let me know what it means. If you ever do find out. Maybe it's the key to getting everything back."
She turned away from the window, looking back around the Lerkim. You could feel the silence in the room.
After a few moments, Once-ler spoke up. "If you don't mind, Melody.. I think I'd prefer to be alone for a while."
"yes, sir." She began waking out, then turned just as she reached the door. "I would like you to know, sir, that I've stayed with you for this long. And I'm not planning on leaving you alone any time soon. You were always there for me when I needed you.. And I'm going to do the same for you." Blushing slightly, she turned on her heel and exited the room, walking down the corridoor, through the kitchen once more, and back to her room.
The Once-ler pondered over what Melody had said. Maybe She was right about the word. That 'Unless'. And maybe
Just maybe, he was glad she wasn't going anywhere.