"It's not your fault." That's what they always told her. "She wouldn't have wanted you to blame yourself."
Marina wasn't sure whose fault it was, then, if it wasn't hers. She could have avoided this. She should have avoided this.
It was too late, though. Marina can't turn back time. Marina can't trade places. Marina can't even tell her goodbye.
Pearl is dead.
It was hard at first. It's still hard, even though it's been months. Marina doesn't think it will ever get easier. Maybe it'll just get easier to deal with. Easier to mask.
It won't ever stop hurting, though.
She still thinks about it every now and then. Or, rather, she allows herself to think about it every now and then. Some part of Marina's always thinking about it, whether she wants to or not.
They were on a date - a walk around Mount Nantai following a picnic by Lake Chuzenji. It had rained that morning, but it had cleared up by lunchtime. Pearl asked her if she still wanted to go. Marina insisted that they did.
Marina wished she didn't.
The ground that day was slippery. Pearl ran ahead. Marina told her to be careful, but her warning was too late.
Marina won't forget that look of shock on her face.
There weren't any remains. She dissolved in the water. All that was left were her clothes and her crown.
(Marina kept the crown.)
She wishes it was her that fell instead. Because Pearl had a family, Pearl had friends. Pearl had other people that cared about her that weren't Marina.
But Marina just had Pearl.
And now Marina has nothing.
She had some friends beforehand, friends like Eight and Callie and Marie and maybe even Three. Friends she made through Pearl. Friends she drifted away from because it just wasn't the same. They spoke to her so gently. Like if their voices were any louder Marina would dissolve right in front of them.
Nothing felt the same anymore. Marina doesn't even feel like Marina anymore. She feels like someone watching a movie, but the movie's bland and dull and never-ending.
Marina's holding a bouquet of flowers in her hand. It's a bouquet of pink lilies. (They were her favourite.)
She doesn't say anything as she lays them against the tombstone. There's nothing to say, after all. Pearl can't hear her. Pearl's not even here. Pearl's somewhere in Lake Chuzenji.
"I miss you," Marina mumbles after a bit of searching, just trying to find words to say. "And I love you."
Marina doesn't cry. She thinks she's ran out of tears. But she does wait there for a few seconds in silence, as if she'd get a response.
"I'll see you around, I guess."
(It should have been her.)