Derivative Writing

Hey, we’ve all been there. A lot of people say “good writers borrow, great writers steal,” and those people are all a lot more accomplished so I believe it. I firmly believe that, while “there are no new ideas under the sun,” there are plenty of combinations of cliches or tropes that if they’ve even been done before, haven’t seen a perfect adaptation. Haven’t told an ideal story. Haven’t been used to their fullest.

I Dream

I dream of smiling.

In my dreams I raise my hands to my lips and I lift the corners of my mouth so a curve appears.

And in my dreams, when I remove my fingers the smile remains.

A doll is not supposed to dream; this is common knowledge and I never found any reason to doubt it until I met Hei. The first dream I ever experienced was of him taking my hand in his, and I will never forget it as long as I live. Ever since that moment he has made me… confused. He is confusing.
Sometimes I think I will never understand.

But here in my dreams, I can pretend I know all. In my dreams I raise my face to him and somehow I can see his expression without aid, and somehow I perceive that he answers my smile.
Sometimes there is more, and this too is confusing. I have felt his lips on mine and I recall that it was pleasant.
It is not an easy thing for me to talk freely and I’d be glad of never having to say another word as long as I live. Words are flimsy and fake; people lie as easily as they smile and I hate nothing more than a lie. That is why the melody of a piano is so soothing to my heart–music can never tell a lie or try to fool you. And in my dreams I speak to Hei without words, I say everything that could be said and he replies in kind.
Hei has never lied to me.

It is an anguish to wake, though feeling his presence beside me tempers the pain. He notices my eyes open and he says my name, the one he chose for me: Yin. It is a sweet agony to hear that word, all the more hurtful because I cannot answer it the way I do in my dreams. I think as hard as I can, trying to convey all I feel, but it does not reach him. I open my mouth to echo the confession but cannot find the words. No phrases or empty sayings could adequately explain how I feel and words lie too easily. He might not believe me or worse, might not feel the same.
A single word comes out instead: “Hei.” I put all the emotion I can into it but my voice just sounds artificial, inhuman. Like a Doll’s.
He turns back to his work and I adjust his shirt on my frame, worrying needlessly over whether some part of me had been exposed. I say I worry when in fact I am not sure if I want to leave this top button open or closed; perhaps I am most afraid he would look away if I did so. Politeness can sting as much as hatred at times.

I am not sorry to be what is called a “Doll.” it allows me certain talents that are useful to me. It makes my outside just as plain as my inside. It gives me the power to help Hei. Sometimes I wonder if I would still be playing a quiet concerto in an empty building if I had not become like this. Sometimes I wonder if Hei would still allow me to follow him if I was not a Doll. It is painful to wonder, too.

I cannot see Hei without water, but I know what he feels like. I know his hands that dwarf mine, catching my tiny fingers in his grasp. I know the curve of his arm and the hardness of his chest. I know the structure of his face, and I know the subtle tones that indicate his mood. I know when he is angry and I know when he is sad. I know that he is strange, just like me.
And I know the feeling of his presence, the safeness that washes over me like a warm ripple. Being near him is like a hot tub and a crystal lake all at once. He startles me awake when he comes near but as he does I start to lose the feeling in my head and I become fuzzy. I want to lay back and think of nothing at all; if it were not for a desire to protect him then I would certainly spend my time keeping perfectly still and perfectly quiet so I can hear and feel every sound he makes, even if it is just the deep evenness of his breathing or the solid beat of his heart.

Is it strange for a Doll to have feelings?
Both Contractors and Dolls are supposed to act completely rationally. Besides our powers, this is what differentiates us from humans. And yet in my time with Hei I have seen the emotionless act very oddly. I remember well the smile that new Doll gave me. From a sink in the corner I watched her eyes light up when I mentioned the boy trying to save her. It made me feel strange, “watching” that couple so devoted to each other. It was a good feeling but bad too, and I do not understand it.
There have been others that defy common sense. If no Contractor makes an irrational move then why did that woman throw herself in front of an automobile to save Huang? When he told me the story all I could think was how strange it was. Now I wonder if I wouldn’t do the same.

It is pleasant to be in this place with Hei. It is the first time since Tokyo that we have been alone, and the sound of the sea is wonderful. When we walk along the beach I ache to have his hand in mine but I haven’t the courage to reach out. Perhaps next time, I tell myself, but I can never bring myself to do so. It is lonely sleeping in a small, cold bed but it is enough to have him in the same room. I have never felt so safe as when he sits beside my bed and stares into the night. I should like to have him lay beside me, but I should count my blessings. Just this much is fine for now; just this much is pleasant.

And when he sleeps I repay the kindness, though I doubt my watch is as complete or as reassuring as his is to me. When the night is quiet I watch him through my Spectre and I dream while waking of nothing in particular; perhaps, his hands or his arms or the warmth of his skin. It is hard to return my attention to the hotel but a little lapse means nothing. This place is safe. We are safe together. I snatch little moments from the night like raindrops on my hand. This night I tiptoed to his side and tried to speak my heart, but failed. I wanted to say everything I felt but all that came were two short, stunted words:

“I love…”

I hate words. They’re slippery and false. They play both listener and speaker for fools. If only I could be honest with my actions: just once I have leaned in and brushed his lips with mine. Just once I have felt raw electricity race through my body. I wanted to kiss him fully, wake him up or touch his skin, but I am afraid.

Instead, I dream of his smile. I like to think that I would know he was smiling even if I could not see it, though I know such a thing to be ridiculous. But that is what my dreams are for: hoping for something ephemeral, like clutching at a spider’s thread.

I dream of him feeling the same way I do.

I dare to hope that one day it will be so, but for now I will simply keep watch. Just a Doll, saying and feeling nothing. He doesn’t have to know that just feeling him near changes me in ways I cannot understand.
For now, it’s enough.

Ocarina of Time: Sad Songs

I grew up on Ocarina of Time: it remains one of my favorite video games to this day, although Majora’s Mask holds the number one spot. I think one of the most interesting differences between the two games are how the characters’ attention is directed: in OoT all attention is given to the player, to Link, whereas in MM attention is generally reserved for each other and for the dead that Link passes as.

So of course in Ocarina, Link is a heartthrob. He’s a hero. He’s larger than life. What surprise is it that women are falling for him left and right? It puts a difficult burden on him, when his whole motivation is to avoid seeing people hurt. In order to make one woman happy he has to break the hearts of everyone else.

It’s that sort of feeling that compelled me to write a short vignette from Saria’s and Malon’s perspectives when I was very young. I stumbled upon them recently and found that though the language I used was a little clunky, the feelings were still very well conveyed. I’ve written some more and ended up with entreaties from each of the women in Link’s life. I hope you enjoy them.

Saria – Minuet

Zelda – Lullaby

You made a mistake when you chose me.

I don’t know what sorts of stories you’ve heard about princesses, but I can assure you I’m a very poor example of one. We’re supposed to be gentle, but I’m not always. We’re supposed to be kind, but I can be mean. We’re supposed to be genial and calm and ephemeral but sometimes I think I’m more at home in the dirt than I am in a big, empty castle.

It makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me feel like I’m being torn apart, because all I’ve ever done is lie to you, send you away, and call on you when I was silly and weak and powerless. And then you came in like a hero, a knight in shining armor, and all to save a pretty poor excuse of a princess. At least I have nice blonde hair like yours, but that’s the end of our similarities. I’m small and I’m frail and I have no womanly charms to speak of. I’m an awful choice for a partner, and I’m dreading the day you discover that.

The happiest days of my life were when I was lying to you, Link. As Sheik I was helpful and strong and knowledgeable. I could tell I wasn’t a burden anymore. I still remember when I saw you in the Temple of Light, when you started to come awake. 7 years is a long time to miss you, but I still felt my breath catch when you turned your eyes to me. I was almost as much a mess then as when you pulled out your Ocarina—my Ocarina—and played along with me in the forest. It was so hard not to cry.

I could have told you who I was, Link, but I didn’t want to. As Sheik I could be someone besides Zelda, besides the powerless damsel. I could be your friend without worrying about you discovering all the ways that I, as a princess, am lacking. It was like a dream. I just wish it could have gone on forever. But, of course, when I did reveal myself it didn’t take two minutes for me to be useless again. Trapped. A burden.

And now you must hate me, not only for forcing you to rescue me but also for lying to you for so long. Who would want a girl like me, who spent seven years dressing like a boy? I’d be surprised if even the Hero of Time could still see me as a girl, let alone as a woman. I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t: it’s hard for me to think of myself as a woman.

I’m terrified, Link. I know what married couples do on their wedding night and I just know you’re going to find out I have less than no experience—just what Impa has begrudgingly told me. I have nightmares where you lay me down in bed and look at me, and my clothes come off… and I have a man’s body underneath. I wake up reaching for you, calling out as you turn in disgust and you leave. You’re going to find out all the dirty parts of me and you’re going to come to hate me and you’re going to abandon me. I wouldn’t blame you: you’re the incarnation of hope and I’m just… Zelda. Not a very good princess. Not a very good girl. A really poor woman. I didn’t even make a good man.

Why me, Link? You could have picked anyone. I don’t deserve you, not like they do: Saria knows you far better, and raised you herself into the man you are today. Ruto promised herself to you and she’s a much better princess than I am. Nabooru is a fighter, twice as strong as she is alluring. Malon is beautiful like I’ll never be, and she’s free.

With me you’ll never be free, Link. Not like you could be with them. There’ll always be meetings and diplomacy and trips and boring politic. Ganondorf put me in a crystal prison but it wasn’t too much of a change. And now, after living free for seven years, I don’t know how anyone could stomach life as a princess. Or a prince. Or a king.

It’s not too late for you to choose someone else. You could have anyone, anyone you wanted, and they could give you everything I can’t. All I have to offer is a silly little kingdom and a gold crown and myself, but I know it’s not enough. You’re a hero, a paragon, a legend, and I’m just… me. A silly little girl. You’re courageous and Ganondorf is powerful, and what am I? Wise? What good has wisdom ever done me?

Because I’m wise I know I’m nothing like what you deserve. I’m nothing like what you could have. And it’s only in my dreams you’ll ever love me the way I love you.

Ruto – Serenade

You should be grateful: you’re the only boy I’ve ever waited for.

It’s not every day a princess offers to marry you, you know. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Well, for you I guess it’s twice-in-a-lifetime. Can you blame me for not seeing that little twist of fate coming? Who gets propositioned by two princesses in the same 7 years? Although, of course, I claimed you first. I doubt Princess Zelda said a single thing about marriage until you were big and strong and strapping, but I loved you when you weren’t. You should be grateful.

I should be grateful. Did I ever really apologize for making you wade through that icky mess to save me from Lord Jabu-Jabu’s stomach? I probably didn’t thank you, either. I was a stuck-up little snot when I was young. Now I’m not so little anymore, but the rest? No promises.

But even back then I knew you were the cutest boy I’d ever meet. I wasn’t in a very good mood when I first saw you, but can you blame me for being snippy while stuck inside a sticky, gross cage? How could you? And you certainly can’t blame me for falling head over heels for the boy who came and rescued me. It’s hard not to get to like a boy who carries you around like a princess and saves you from evil monsters. You try it!

But I also fell for you because you didn’t treat me like a princess, Link. You didn’t bow, you didn’t apologize, you didn’t even leap for joy when I named you my husband! Anyone else would have, but you’re not just anyone. You’re the hero of Hyrule, or shaping up to be it, and I never doubted you for a second. I knew, in my heart, when I saw that boy in his silly green hat!

Two times you’ve saved me, Link. Three, counting how you unfroze my people. I know you’ll always be there to help, but that’s not as comforting as you might think. I know you’ll always be there to help anyone, old or young, man or woman. It’s who you are. And it’s who I am to want more, always more. Do you hate selfish girls? It’s selfish of me, but I want to monopolize you–keep you all to myself. I want to spend all day in the shallows holding you, being held by you, and when someone says there’s trouble on the horizon we’ll say “go find someone else to help.”

I know that could never happen. I knew it from the moment I saw you, seven years older, standing there looking like the man I knew you’d grow up to be. You took my breath away, Link. And I teased you, led you along through the temple, guided you once or twice but you didn’t need my help. Not really.

And you didn’t need me. Your eyes didn’t light up when you saw me, and they didn’t linger on my body, and they didn’t say “I love you” or “I missed you.” Or even “I remember our promise.” The only time you seemed really, truly alive was when you saw a new puzzle, a new enemy to beat. I could tell your thoughts were already preoccupied with the other princess courting your affections. I spent 7 years trying to learn how to lure you when you came back, ensnare you with my body–and it was hers you were imagining. Or maybe a Zora’s body just doesn’t interest you: I was stupid to hope otherwise.

I was so stupid, not making you fall in love with me when I had a chance. Even if it couldn’t have ever been, at least I would have tried. At least I wouldn’t have lost you just because I was selfish, and prideful, and certain you’d never get a better offer.

And she is better. She’s the princess of Hyrule, and pretty and tall, and soft and warm. And here I am, Princess Ruto, ruler of a bunch of water and stupid fish. It’s fitting: I’m ugly and cold and my skin is slick just like one. But if you chose me I’d make you the happiest man in the world, I swear. I’d make you food every day and join you in bed every night, and everything a princess should say “no” to I’d say “please.”

If you ever wanted anything my people would bring it to you. All I have to do is snap my fingers and they’ll give me whatever I ask. Of course, I’m selfish. I’m snotty and I’m ugly and I’m chained to the water like a dumb, flopping, choking fish. And I only ever wanted one thing.

You promised.

Nabooru – Requiem

If only I could turn back time.

We of the Gerudo are always looking for strong, capable husbands. I don’t mean to say when I first saw you I was already envisioning marriage: if I said that it wouldn’t be true and we Gerudo don’t like to lie. Another way I differ from that other, more troublesome thief. Have you defeated him already? If you haven’t, I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time.

I bet those other girls told you the first time they locked eyes with your cool blue gaze, they were enraptured. Love isn’t like that. It’s a slow, growing fire that starts from a single ember. Wildfires spring up every now and then, but they never last. They burn out quick and the slow heat of real love remains. How do I know? Oh, I’d never tell.

You were cute back then, seven years ago. A little boy determined to knock down all the obstacles in his path. I could see the spark in your eyes. Okay, it was a little alluring. I wouldn’t make a promise like that to just any young boy. Not that we Gerudo see many.

Don’t hate me for being a dirty girl, Link. All women are, or they’re lying. We talk in the barracks and we share stories… and if I have any of my own, I’ll never tell. A woman’s secrets are her power!

I wonder if anyone else has shown you what it’s like to be with a woman. Back then I wouldn’t have broken my promise, but I wouldn’t have shown you everything, either. I’d have had to keep a little bit for myself just to keep you coming back, of course1 But back in that dusty old building, I bet I could have taught you a few things. You would have come out a much better kisser, and maybe I would have let my hands wander just a bit. Maybe I would have let yours.

But the world is cruel. I was captured, tortured, molded into a plaything for those two damnable witches. Can you imagine the fury I felt? A warrior like me, strong and independent, laid low and crushed underfoot. For the first time in my life I felt helpless. My servitude consumed me.

And then you came. You set me free, you revealed my purpose, and you picked me up from where I fell. I even have you to thank for killing my captors, and you know what? I don’t for a second regret I couldn’t do it myself.

We’re warriors, Link, but it’s not often we Gerudo get to feel like women. There, among the empty and haunted ruins of my people, in my discarded armor… for the first time I was overjoyed to be protected. By a man! Can you imagine? It was like all of the dreams I’d been scared to have were coming true.

I told you we talk in the barracks. At night the youngest of us ask about men and how to control them with our bodies. The eldest give their advice and share their most exciting experiences. I bet listening in on us would turn even the Hero of Time’s hair white! But all of us, old and young, sneer at the warriors who’ve been snared by men and now live far away, acting like wives. Acting like mothers, not warriors. We laugh at them. I laughed at them.

If you chose me, Link, I’d follow up on that promise, plus interest. For weeks we wouldn’t leave the bed and I’d show you everything. I’d give you everything, and take just as much. I know a night with you would be a battle, a very pleasurable one. I think I’d end up on top, but feel free to prove me wrong.

We’d have a dozen children and make love every day. That’s a promise! If we missed one we’d have to go three times the day after, just to make it fair. I hope you don’t mind a dozen daughters running around underfoot. I’m sure you’d be an excellent father, kind and strong and fair. You’d teach them to be warriors like Hyrule has never seen. Although, perhaps the Hero of Time’s seed is especially potent. Maybe even enough to break our race’s curse. I wouldn’t mind a dozen boys, or a half-dozen of each, or even just one child…

Forgive me if I’m not the demure, coy princess you want. I’m no fresh bud anymore and I can feel my time inching onwards. You’re a man now, and I’m too old to mince my words. Tell me and I’ll say whatever you like, whenever you like, inside and out of the bedroom.

We talk about you in the barracks. You’re a hero, strong and brave, one of the few men to ever see inside our home. Every girl that knows your name is harboring a crush on you, and I bet princess Zelda is no exception. I’ve never told them we met. What would I say? That I let you slip through my fingers?

They don’t know what love is: they’re too young. All of them. But I have loved a man for seven years. Choose me and I’ll tell you who it is.

I’ll tell you anything. Anything. Anything.

Malon – Song

Would you laugh if I said the most interesting thing to ever happen to me was you?

I know, I know. A real farm girl, making trips to the castle every week, living in the midst of great times. What’s some lame fairy boy got to offer?

See, that’s the same thing I asked myself when first we met. I couldn’t forget your face for no reason I can properly explain, though it probably doesn’t hurt that you’re kind of a bad boy. Climbing right past those guards, darting past them and into the castle… it’s enough to set a young maid’s heart a-flutter, let me tell you. More than capable, you were courageous. All that courage is like a drug to me, because I thrive off adventure. I was never really worried about that dumb old princess at first: princesses are supposed to be so staid and boring! How can you have fun inside an old drafty castle? I’ve never been in one personally but I can tell you a farm, with all its muck and hard work, will have infinitely more personality than a bunch of old stone.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so wrapped up in taking care of my deadbeat dad. Maybe then I would have had more time to catch your interest. I would always find myself thinking of you when my mind wandered, so imagine my surprise when I looked up from playing with the horses one day and saw your face! I felt so happy I just had to sing, and Epona is my best partner for that. She hated you when she first saw you–maybe she thought you’d steal me away, hm?–but with a little coaxing she just lit right up to you. For a fairy boy you were pretty good with that ocarina, though your sorry excuse for a getup could use some work. I had much more to share with you but I held off on it, figuring you’d come back to see me and Epona. There were games we could play, places we could go, adventures and all sorts of trouble we could get up to… but you never did come back. Not for seven years, anyway. And a lot changed in that time.

The world got darker, Link. The first I knew of it a tall dark man was at our gates, some Gerudo leader. I don’t know what exactly he said to Ingo but he got puffed up in nothing flat. As soon as the man left Ingo kicked my dad right out and took over the farm! I would have followed my father but my hesitation cost me. I guess he saw me look towards the stables because it didn’t take him two seconds to threaten me through my precious friends. I know, I know. How lame is it for a girl to call animals her friends? But you never did come back. A girl has to take her friends where she can find them.

And I did my best to care for them, though more often than not it meant taking blows meant for their hides. Most days it hurt to walk but I managed it without a grimace or a glare. I learned early on not to defy Ingo or catch his attention at all, although I never did get why he was so angry all the time. I don’t think me or dad treated him too poorly, but… well, it’s hard to say. And my dad’s off somewhere so I can’t ask him, though I doubt the answer would change much.

The part that hurt the most was how he changed the horses. He bred and trained them only for racing and shows; he never cared when a horse cut its leg on the high jumps he constructed or when one of his fine racing stallions broke its leg. I saw him kill the poor thing and I couldn’t eat for a week. He beat me extra for that, said if I was going to die on him he’d make me suffer before I went. So I ate. What else was I gonna do?

They call girls like me damaged goods, you know. That’s what they call girls who’ve been stepped on, beat and spat at, then worked to the bone… and I can’t find it in me to disagree. What’s so different between me and a slave? A courageous person like you would just throw off your shackles but I got snared instead. I think a bit of your courage rubbed off on Epona; she never bowed, not even for a second. Any rider who tried to mount her got pitched off fast. The last one who tried broke his arm in the fall and Epona nearly trampled him dead before Ingo could drag him away. He swore he’d kill my pony for that but I told him if he did I’d run and tell his master what had happened. He beat me extra but I didn’t die and neither did she. I think my nose got broken; it never set quite right and if you look close you can see it angles.

Can I tell you a secret, Link? The first thing I thought of when he threatened Epona wasn’t that I’d be losing my closest friend… but the possibility you’d never come back if she died. Sometimes I had nightmares about you just leaving without even looking at me when you found out my pony was gone. There were other, nicer dreams too: a girl’s gotta have fantasies and when I needed a hero it was always your face that popped up. I won’t deny spending what time I did get alone thinking about you, and I won’t deny my hands wandering. You’d come sweeping in, depose Ingo and make my dad a good man again and… well, maybe I could teach you some other things this time.

Maybe you think I’m a dirty girl for thinking like that, but I’ve been dirty all my life, whether from muck or dirt or bad thoughts. A growing girl’s got needs and I don’t doubt you could take care of me just how I want… if only you could see me as a woman. I imagined millions of ways I’d ensnare you when the time finally came, when you returned… but when you finally did I hardly recognized you. You looked like a man, nothing like the boy I remembered. When you made Ingo step down without raising a hand to him first I was so happy I thought I might die.

Or at least, that was how I felt on the inside. I don’t grin that much anymore, though I think I put a pretty good fake smile on for you. When you talked to me all I could say was how glad I was of Ingo’s new change of heart and how I had absolutely no idea how it could have happened… but you never followed my unspoken question up. I was waiting for you to say “it was me,” and then I’d say “well, you can have anything you want as a reward,” and then… well, it didn’t happen like that. You never even took credit for what you’d done. You never touched me neither, and I guess I can’t blame you. I’m no high-born lady with class and pomp and a big castle, just a girl who was born and will die in the mud with livestock as friends. You left before I could work up the courage to say something, anything, and you never came back once. You took Epona too, so now I’m truly alone. All I have for company is the memory of your big hands and fiery eyes and broad chest… and all I have for the future are fantasies. I could tell you about them if you came and visited–maybe we could play some of them out–but I doubt you’d want that. I doubt you’d want someone like me, someone weak enough to be led around by dumb old Ingo. Some stupid farm girl who’s just damaged goods.

But at least I’ve got fantasies. And at least I’ve got dreams, even though some of those dreams are nightmares that leave me crying… crying because you’re the most amazing thing to ever happen to me and I let you slip through my fingers.

Saria – Minuet

I call you the one that got away.

I used to think that saying was wrong, wretched–it seemed too much like a captor’s remark. Now I don’t think I’d care how many chains it would take to keep you here, just as long as you did stay… but I think if I managed to lock you away you’d just break free.

That’s sort of your calling, isn’t it? To break away and go where you’re most needed?

How horrible that your most wonderful trait would be what keeps you from me.

You cost me my friends. Did I ever tell you that? No, I can’t imagine I ever did; it’s not like me to voice my own pain much less use it against someone else. When you were left here in our forest my family didn’t want any part of you. Only I, closest to the trees, listened to their whispers and took you in. Once they saw what a good child you were the other Kokiri took a liking to you, but they never forgot what was in their eyes a betrayal. We’re taught to fear the outside world, did you know that? Otherwise we’d have Kokiri traveling the world–and none who do make that journey ever come back. I always kept those teachings from you because I had a feeling you’d one day walk Hylia’s fields. And I was right, Link, I was right…

I still remember rushing to meet you on that day you got a fairy all your own. I felt the death of the Deku Tree and I knew your departure wouldn’t be far behind. I wish I’d had something to give you besides my old Ocarina, but believe me when I say it was my greatest treasure. Music brings these woods alive and I was always shy around you, Link. I could never bring myself to sing when I knew you’d hear. I always kept a happy tune in my head, even when you left; if nothing else would sustain me, then the music would.

It was like having my heart torn out when you walked across that bridge. I never realized just how much you meant to me until that moment. The village only got worse, too: I saw the way the others just forgot about your presence and I couldn’t speak to them for fear I’d say something vicious. Mido, always jealous, began to think of me as his own now that his chief rival was out of the picture. I thought his advances were unpleasant with you here, but soon I had to take to the woods just to escape from him. The forest is a home, Link. The forest is life, and small grasses waving, and strong trees that never ever bend… am I foolish for thinking, when you came back, you sought a life under these leaves? Like mine? I knew from the second I saw your smiling face the taste of adventure had you hooked, and even as I opened my mouth to sing my most precious song to you I knew it wouldn’t be enough to hold you here. Would it have been sufficient a week, two weeks, a month earlier…? I try not to think about it.

I knew I was just going to hurt myself by sharing that song with you. When you called to speak with me it was always for the benefit of the princess. I don’t know what she did to capture your heart, but I can imagine. The allure of a strange girl of noble birth is strong, right? And I’m just plain Saria with no chest and a bad smile and a bunch of twigs for a roof. Honestly, I can’t blame you for choosing her… but I can wish you chose differently. And I can dream it. Sometimes dreams are enough, even when the boy you love is talking with such excitement about the adventures he’s going on far, far away from you. Would that I could chase after you, but I’ve always known I’d never leave the forest. I’ve known it as an undeniable truth, like the fact that the sun will rise every day and the fact that you will never be mine. So when you asked me about a quest for the princess, I could pretend it was enough just to hear your voice.

But even that stopped. One day I couldn’t feel you anymore and though I hoped for a hint, or a sign the next week and then the next… nothing ever came. It was like you disappeared off the face of Hyrule, and no matter how hard I tried to find you it was useless.

The world got worse in those seven years you were missing, Link. The world got much worse. Even the forest I knew so well became frightening and dark. Shadows crept from the night to infest the brightest parts of my favorite clearings, driving me further and further back into the sacred Forest Temple. I found the deepest, smallest corner I could reach and I hid there in nameless fear of a man I did not know. I stayed there for longer than I could tell; we Kokiri cannot die of hunger or thirst–the forest provides–but if it was possible to die of loneliness I would have. It was an unspeakable joy to feel you again, see you again… but that brought a kind of pain with it as well.

Perhaps I still held out a faint hope of capturing your heart, seven years later, because it still felt like my heart was breaking when I saw you were lost to me. When you played on an ocarina that wasn’t mine–what did you do with my treasure, toss it away in favor of a shinier toy?–when you reached out for that gold-haired girl in disguise, when I saw you big and strapping and old… really, who could blame you for choosing the princess over me? I’m just plain, young Saria with no hips to speak of and a child’s body and a bland personality. Who could blame you for choosing a woman over a girl? And I think I am a girl; I think I am a child and perhaps I always will be one. Because when I look at you I feel so small, so insignificant that I just want to curl up and cry… and when I can’t help but imagine your arms encircling me, comforting me, it makes me feel a little bit better before it makes me feel a whole lot worse. The forest is a home, but it’s not a lover and it’s not a friend.

And yet, even if I did somehow steal you away from princess Zelda I know you’d never really be mine. In your future I know there are faraway lands and strange people and monsters and things I’ve never heard of… and my world is just the sunlight shining through the leaves in woods that never change. Did you know that the Deku Tree sapling is the first green thing to really grow in this forest, Link? Sure, grass grows and bushes grow but everything is stunted. Everything stops at a certain height or length or width; that’s why the Deku Tree is so special. I wish I was special like the sapling, Link… I wish I could grow like you and leave this forest and call you mine. But I can do none of those things and so once more I am simple, small Saria.

Perhaps it’s enough to support you from afar, Link. Perhaps it’s enough to guide your way to the evil so you can fulfil your destiny to destroy it… but in some ways I wish you’d fail. I hear the rest of the world is as badly affected as the forest was before you freed it: perhaps you would come back here when Ganondorf bested you. Is it wrong to dream of comforting you in my own arms, soothing your wounds and nursing you back to health? Is it wrong to wish the whole of Hyrule burned around us so you’d never have reason to leave?

And yet I know that would destroy the very nature of who you are. I know you’re more than a hero; you’re THE Hero, the one destined to save us or die trying. That’s in your fate and the forest is in mine. Neither of us can be anything but what we are, and so I like to think it doesn’t hurt as much as it would if we had a choice.

I’ll always be your friend and ally, Link, no matter whose ocarina you choose to play on. I’ll always be waiting here, ready to listen to whatever you have to say.

Remember that much when you defeat the evil plaguing this land. Come back to me, even if it’s just for a day or an hour or a minute at a time. Just so I can see your face and imagine what it would be like to have those arms around my childish frame.

Promise?