On the Way to a Smile, Episode: Tifa [Revised]

Friends were a necessity to me so that I could live on without being suppressed by the guilt I felt. Even if they all bore the same scars, the same sins. We couldn’t live without comforting and encouraging each other. Maybe you could call that family. We just had to work together and do our best. Together with friend we can call family, there’s nothing we can’t get through.

“I’ll put Cloud in our family too.”

“I appreciate that.”

After Cloud thanked Marlene’s innocent offer with his usual serious expression, he glanced at Tifa. She nodded a little.

Would this complicate things?

Tifa decided that she would stop worrying about the relationship between the two of them.

It had been several months since they opened the bar. There was a call from Cloud, who was out collecting provisions. He wanted to know if it would be ok to print up a lifetime voucher to eat and drink for free at Seventh Heaven, in exchange for something. Tifa agreed, never asking what it was for. She knew Cloud must have wanted something desperately if he was offering to trade something like that.

It was night, and Cloud came back on a motorcycle. It was a model unlike any she had seen before. Since then, he had been adjusting it whenever he could spare the time in between his jobs. He brought engineers he had met to discuss modifying his new bike. It seemed quite a few people came to help Cloud complete the modifications. Marlene and her young neighbourhood friends watched. The sight reassured Tifa.

“We really are becoming a family.”

There were many times when Cloud had to leave Midgar for their supplies. The destination was mainly Kalm. He usually had to rent a bike or a truck, or sometimes a chocobo, but now that he had his own bike that he could use freely, he would be able to take longer trips. Sometimes he would bring home rare foods to surprise Tifa.

One night, there was a call for Cloud. After talking on the phone for a while, Cloud said he had to go out for a while.

“Where are you going?”

“How should I tell you this…”

Cloud explained how there had many times when he was asked to deliver things while coming back with supplies. The caller was one of the store owners who shared some of his vegetables with them. It seemed there was something he desperately needed Cloud to deliver that night. Cloud gazed at Tifa like a kid who just had his secrets revealed.

“Why are you looking at me like that?

“Well… I’m sorry I kept quiet about it.”

“About what?”

Tifa was smiling a little.

“Doing things without consulting you.”

She burst out in laughter. Cloud told her about how he got paid a little for delivering items. He explained how he felt guilty spending it all on the modifications for the bike. Tifa thought he was just like a kid.

It may have been a little sad that Cloud had found another world that I didn’t know about, but the fact that his world was expanding was a welcoming thought. Maybe this is kind of what a mother feels like.

Tifa walked Cloud outside, enjoying the new feeling that was welling up inside her.

Tifa learned to cope with the sins in her consciousness.

“There’s no forgetting what happened. A day may come when I’m punished. But until that day, I’m going to look ahead and live on, not just taking, but proving to myself that I can give too.”

Tifa encouraged Cloud to turn the delivery service into a legitimate business. They could just take requests at the bar. As for dealing with calls, Marlene or herself could do it. Cloud was hesitant, but after sleeping on it, he came around to the idea.

“I didn’t really understand his reasons for hesitating. but I figured he was just holding back for some reason.”

And so, that was the start of the Strife Delivery Service. Midgar was the center of their business, but they also delivered all over the world… well, anywhere Cloud could reach by bike. Just like Seventh Heaven, the business was a great success. At that time, sending things wasn’t so easy for people. Monsters were still roaming and many roads were still cut off after the Lifestream burst forth from the ground. The work, which involved travelling from one corner of the world to the next, wasn’t something just anyone could do, but it was the kind of job he had been seeking, and his services were in high demand. Tifa thought it was wonderful how Cloud, who wasn’t very sociable, was doing a job that connected people.

After Cloud started his delivery service, their family life changed quite a lot, and not in a good way. Besides the morning and late at night, Cloud was hardly ever home. Naturally, that meant there were fewer chances for the three of them to talk. Tifa tried closing the bar once a week, but that didn’t necessarily mean Cloud could do the same. He almost never turned anyone down.

I just wanted us to be able to take a day off together now and then, but maybe that was a little selfish of me.

During that time, it was Marlene who noticed a change in Cloud. She told Tifa how Cloud would sometimes space out and not listen to her.

Cloud never really approached Marlene to talk in the first place, but I’m sure he never ignored her if she talked to him. I knew that Cloud was, in his own way, trying to get along with Marlene. I figured that was just how people who weren’t comfortable around children managed to cope. I told her that Cloud was probably tired, but it bothered me. Marlene is a child who is sensitive to the changes in adults.

On their day off, Tifa and Marlene were cleaning the room Cloud used as an office. Lots of receipts lay scattered about. One of them caught Tifa’s eye.

Client – Elmyra Gainsborough
Item – Bouquet
Destination – The Forgotten City

Tifa put the receipt away with the others as if nothing happened, but her hands were trembling. Delivering packages around the world also meant he was traveling around his past. She knew that Cloud was in great pain after Aerith’s death.

“He wasn’t able to protect her. Cloud was trying to overcome that and live on. But going back to the place where she was taken from him might tear his heart apart even more.”

It was night, and they had closed the bar. Cloud was drinking, even though he rarely did. His glass was now empty. There was something she wanted to talk to him about. Tifa thought about it before going over and filling his glass.

“Mind if I join you?”

“I want to drink alone.”

Hearing that, Tifa lost her composure “Then drink in your room.”

Barret would call from time to time. He almost never talked about himself and usually asked how Marlene was doing. Every time, he would talk to Marlene at the end. She must have assumed Tifa couldn’t here her sad voice as she spoke to her father.

“Cloud and Tifa aren’t getting along very well.”

“No matter what feelings Cloud and I have between us, we can’t drag Marlene into it”,

Tifa made every effort to talk to Cloud. When Marlene was near, she talked about things that she felt wouldn’t be too serious. Cloud seemed bewildered by the way Tifa changed, but guessing at what she was doing, he always went along with it. They got Marlene to join in with the conversations too.

I thought it was going pretty well, but I couldn’t talk about what I really wanted to talk about. I just didn’t know what to say.

One morning, Tifa shared a funny story she heard from a customer.

“That’s really something that can’t be done,”

“It can’t be done!”

All the adults were surprised and looked at Marlene.

“You’ve told us that story before and Cloud just gives the same answer everytime!”

It wasn’t going well. But we were together. It was because we were family. We lived in the same house, and we were living by working together . Maybe there wasn’t much conversation or many smiles, but we were family.

After checking that Cloud was asleep, she spoke softly to him.

“We’ll be all right, won’t we?”

Of course, there was no answer. All she heard was him breathing softly as he slept.

I wondered if the fact that he was sleeping here meant that he was part of the family.

“Do you love me?”

Cloud opened his eyes, with a perplexed look on his face.

“Hey, Cloud. Do you love Marlene?”

“Yeah. But… sometimes I don’t know how to approach her.”

“Even though you’ve been together this long?”

“Maybe that just isn’t enough.”

“Same with you and I?”

Cloud didn’t answer.

“Sorry, weird question. I….”

“Don’t apologize. It’s my problem.”

Cloud closed his eyes.

“Why can’t it be ours?”

There was no answer

Not long after that, Cloud brought Denzel home with him. He was unconscious when he was carried into the bar. He had used Cloud’s phone, which was left with his bike, to ring the bar. Picking up the phone, Tifa was worried about what happened to Cloud at first, but soon she realized there was something wrong with the boy. Cloud found him, as he lay on the ground. Tifa listened as Denzel cried out in pain, unable to do anything to help him. Then she heard footsteps. It was Cloud. He picked up the phone.

“What’s wrong? Is the boy ok?”

“He seems to be in pain.”

“Why don’t you bring him back with you?”

“It looks like he has Geostigma.”

Tifa couldn’t reply to what Cloud said right away. Geostigma was a disease that spread throughout the world since the day the Lifestream halted Meteor. It’s cure hadn’t been found yet. The patients also varied. Some would look healthy so no one would suspect that they were sick, but some died right after they contracted the disease. Then, the most important point for Tifa; there was a rumor that Geostigma was transmittable. It could infect someone in the family. Based on Tifa’s experience, she believed that it would not be transmittable or else many healthy people in the world would have died already, though she still felt uncomfortable. Moreover, the rumor was persistent no matter what the truth was; consequently it might affect the image of the bar. However, she already told Cloud to bring him home, she couldn’t go back on her word because of rumors.

“I heard Geostigma isn’t contagious.”

Cloud knew what she was thinking from her hesitation. She realized that Cloud really wanted to bring this child home.

“Yeah, bring him with you.”

“I’ll bring him through the back door. Is there anyone that can look after Marlene?”


Hanging up the phone, Tifa wondered at Cloud’s concern for Marlene and the bar. In the end, she understood. Cloud thought that she would oppose. Even so, he wanted to bring him back. Tifa wanted to know the reason, but as soon as she saw Denzel, those questions faded away, and she knew she had to take care of him.

“There are lots of children with the stigma. They’re building homes for them, because of all the children who lost their parents. Yet, why did he bring Denzel here?”

Just as Tifa was about to ask him, Cloud muttered something.

“This kid came to my place.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“I mean…”

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6