So, with the drama intermission over and done with, it’s time for the last chapter of Act 0. This is by far my favourite chapter so far, both for writing and reading. I hope you enjoy, as always feedback is lovely and greatly appreciated. <3
You Were There for Summer Dreaming
Winter time has always made me sad. The life that was once so rich and full in spring has slowly died through autumn and now only the grim husk’s of trees remain. I hate having to wear big puffy coats that rustle with every step, like a lacklustre rattlesnake.
“Ouch,” I wince, taking a misstep onto my bad ankle. I hate winter.
As it turns out the track gets icy in the mornings, and that in turn leads to me nearly dying of hypothermia in a cold and uncaring world. Ok a little dramatic. But still, the medical complex is a long way when you are limping.
“Did I not foresee the dangers inherit in running in these inclement conditions?” Ayumu asks as I lead him to class, using him as much as a crutch as he’s using me as guide.
“Too many big words for this early in the morning,” I mumble, wincing with every other step. I thought he could at least have given me some sympathy when I collected him this morning.
“What I mean is, I have been blind since birth and even I can see running on an icy track was a bad move,” he laughs softly.
“You’ve been spending too much time with Ryouta, you and Ikuno never used to be this cheeky,” I grumble.
“Well if you do insist on double dating with them.”
“Talking about dates want to do something on Saturday? We’ve not done anything in ages?” I ask hopefully.
“I think I will be studying,” he frowns, “Sorry.”
“Do you need to study so hard?” I pout, “Exams aren’t even until next year.”
He laughs softly, I gently take his elbow to stop him trampling a unsuspecting first year. Who doesn’t even look grateful I saved her, how rude.
“Yes Miki, but next year is roughly three weeks away.”
“Don’t remind me,” I groan. The time since our kiss under the dawn sun has sailed past with reckless haste. Mutou says that time can be effected by super large things like black holes, I think having a good time with the people I love makes time move faster than any interplanetary body. Then again I wasn’t really listening.
Stepping through the front doors of the main building I'm suddenly hit by a wall of warm air. Much better.
Ayumu seems surprised when I turn left, instead of our normal right.
“Are you kidnapping me?” He asks curiously.
“Nope,” I say, pressing the button for the lift which arrives with a ding.
“Oh, you can’t even make it up the stairs?” For the first time he seems to take my ankle injury seriously.
“I could,” I say, selecting our floors. “But nurse says it will take three days to heal right?”
Ayumu takes a deep breath. How rude, I listen to him when I can’t even understand what he’s on about.
“But I figure if I take the lift I can get that number down to two days, this is basically mobile bed rest.”
“Yes dearest,” I tease.
“Never change,” He laughs stepping off the lift when the computerised voice announces we have reached his floor. “Oh and Miki, Seven O’clock outside the gates on Saturday, dress warm, I have a surprise for you.”
Before I can answer the doors shut in my face and I start to descend to my level. So we are going on a date after all? Hobbling along the corridor I manage to slump into my seat just as the bell rings, drawing a look somewhere between disapproval and amusement from Ikuno.
— — —
I wrap my arms around my chest shivering under a lonely street light. Pulling my woolly hat down over my ears I look around for Ayumu, I'm a little early; but this could be our last date. The thought scolds like a branding iron.
The tapping of a white cane announces my boyfriends arrival. Like me he is dressed for the cold winter night, “Miki?”
“Hi,” I say, straightening his bobbled hat.
“So where are we going?” I whisper, moving closer in the cold.
“It’s a surprise,” he smiles, “The bus is here.”
The sound of the blue bus takes a little longer to register with me than my companion, but sure enough it rolls into view. Unlike the last time we took this route there is hardly anyone around. Settling myself into the seat beside the window I can just make out the lights of Yamaku as we drive away.
Nestled in the darkened bus we embrace in a comfortable silence. Before long the amber lights of the city start to flash by the windows, reminding me of home. I wonder how mum and dad are? I’ve come to realise how much I missed them, without even knowing it.
Back six months ago I thought I might have alienated my dad within a day of meeting him, insisting Ayumu and I shared a bed. On reflection I think he expected to find an older version of the little girl I used to be, but I’ve grown up now, I need my independence and I need to make my own mistakes. I think he understands.
As for my mother. Well.
She didn’t tell me what to do one way or the other. But did hand me a box of condoms before I left, much to my embarrassment. Thanks mum.
It’s like she’s been asleep for a long time, trapped in a nightmare, now she’s awake she’s happy to let life happen, because it's better than the alternative.
I’m even on reasonably good terms with the house keeper, who made me this hat. Though I don’t think it scores many points for fashion, it is unbelievably warm. I will admit I thought It was a stump cosy when I first saw it.
“I think we are here,” I speak softly as the bus hisses to a halt.
Stepping out into the pavement, dyed orange by the overhead streetlight, I pull my coat tighter around me. The air here is warmer, but the tall buildings act to whip up the biting wind into a frenzy. Despite the hour, shops and stalls continue to draw in a trickle of hardy customers.
By following my descriptions and Ayumu’s directions we drift through the city. It’s busier than I expected, shoppers throw us startled looks, before disappearing into the night. We end up joining a crowd of people amassed under a forest of dark trees, sandwiched between two busy roads. I’m a little confused.
“What's going on?” I ask, leaning close to Ayumu.
“Patience and all will be revealed.” he says maddeningly.
The air around the crowd has an excited feel to it, something is going to happen soon but I have no idea what. Suddenly somewhere a loud speaker crackles into life, a cheery female voice counting down from ten. Fireworks?
“Two,” I look to Ayumu who is smiling knowingly.
The world around me explodes into light. Every branch on every tree is covered with glistening strings of lights, seemingly to go on forever. The crowd around me roars in delight as I cover my mouth with my hand. It's beautiful.
“Oh wow…” I mummer, spinning slowly around to catch every mesmerising detail, on the roads cars sound their horns appreciatively.
“Like it?” He asks, a smile clear on his face.
“I love it.”
I feel like a child again as I grab his hand, almost skipping along the avenue. It's as if someone has stolen the stars from the night sky and tied them to the trees. Trying to describe the lights proves to be almost impossible, every time I start the words die in my throat. It’s impossible to translate what I'm feeling.
“I’m sorry,” I apologise sadly, he should be able to experience this too.
“Sorry?” He says, a soft smile on his face. “This is somewhere so beautiful that you can’t find the words to describe it, that's what I wanted you to see.”
He takes my stump softly, I shiver, I’ve never let him touch me there before. Gently, with the care of a dancer he turns me towards him.
“This is how the world is for me every day, so beautiful that I can’t find the words no matter how hard I try,” he chuckles. “People feel sorry for the blind for what we can’t see, I think I see something far more beautiful than they ever will, I can see you.”
My lips touch his, I can’t talk. I can’t even think.
I just want this moment to last forever, a perfect world under the captured starlight.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” I whisper into his lips, tears streaming down my face.
“I will too, so much, but alas If I could capture a moment and hold it forever I would, for the pain of tomorrow is too unbearable to face”
His lips find mine again.
“But we have to face it,” tears glisten on his face. “We have to because we are but dust motes caught in the breeze, hoping to collide for an infinitesimal moment of happiness in the void.”
My kisses interrupt his speech. So many meaningless words.
Nothing will be the same, not after he leaves. All I will have are memories, I think we both know we’re not going to talk again, how can words replace this? People swarm around us, but we stay in an immobile embrace.
I love you.
“…Thank you for bringing me here” I recover quickly, It’s not want I wanted to say. Those words would do no one any good. The truth is selfish.
Together we walk amongst the lights, wandering through the adjacent park with displays of lights just as beautiful. I notice other happy pairs around us, and I feel small, we are just two more broken specks lost in the void.
The end comes faster than I could have ever imagined. Filing into the graduation ceremony I feel like my stomach is full of snakes, squirming and biting, their venom flowing into my hand where it burns intensely. The atmosphere is so happy; yet I feel like I’m watching Ayumu being marched to his execution.
We sing to the flag and I clap along with everyone else, though for me it's more a token mime than sound of approval. Secretly I just want this over. Trying to distract myself I glance at the parents who watch three years of their broken child’s hard work, and their own considerable financial expense pay off, some of them must have doubted they would ever see this.
Name’s I’ve never heard of are called, I watch half-heartedly as certificates are collected and bows are made. It’s remarkable how similar this is to graduation at my old school, despite peoples differences the same unknown world awaits.
“Akiyama, Ayumu.” His name rings through the hall, it feels like a hushed silence should fall. Don’t they understand how big a deal this is?
A head of beautiful black hair rises above the seated crowd, his arm is taken by Miss Mizushima, my maths teacher. I could have done that if someone asked.
She leads him impersonally to the stage.
Standing before the principal, I can see a smile on his face. Having gotten the grades he wanted he is all set to study literature at university. Briefly I entertain a fantasy that he’s told there's been a mistake, that he will have to spend another year at school. With me.
He takes his scroll and bows to the principle before turning and bowing to us all. I clap as hard as I can, smacking my leg with my good hand, hoping that somehow he can hear me above the din. Walking away from the stage his part in this performance played, he looks relived, I wish I could leave.
I listen to the speeches by one of the second year students, wishing our schoolmates good luck in their future. Followed by a third year from the track team, who talks about how we need to work hard next year. Don’t these people realise that school means nothing with no beautiful black haired dreamer?
Their words flow through my mind, becoming instantly lost. I fidget in my seat, trying to find where Ayumu went, I want to be able to find him as soon as this is over. I need to make the most of our last moments.
Today he will leave, and tomorrow I will be expected to carry on.
With a final round of applause the graduation ceremony comes to an end.
Practically having to fight my way through the crowd I find Ayumu on the sideline, talking to a women with raven black hair the same colour as his, his mother. Suddenly I feel a weight in my stomach, she doesn’t approve of me. What if she stops me saying good bye?
Approaching slowly I don’t know if I should interrupt.
Noticing me she turns. “So you must be Miki, the girl who’s been stealing my son away from me.”
“I, didn’t…” Well in the end life is stealing him from me.
Her face lights with a smile, much like her sons. “Forgive my jest, I will allow you two some space.”
She even talks like him.
As soon as she is a reasonable distance away I fall into him, hugging tightly. His hands find my soft hair, I wanted to look perfect for him, stroking it softly he smiles.
“So I guess this is it,” he says gently.
“I guess.” I sound like a fool, but I don’t know what else to say.
“Will you do something for me?”
I nod into his chest.
“Don’t let anything hold you back and find love, find it and never let it go.”
I love you.
“Goodbye Miki,” he pulls away and I notice tears stain his beautiful face.
“Goodbye,” I mumble, barely audible. Pulling away is agonising, why can’t I just grab on and refuse to let go? Before I can act on this crazy impulse he is slowly unfolding his cane. With a last nod of his head he walks out of my life.
I should have told him. I should stop him!
told him that goodbye wasn’t enough, that no goodbye ever will be. It just seemed to happen so fast, I want to run after him, tell him that he can’t leave me like this, tell him it hurts to much, more than losing my hand. I sink down against the wall, pressing my face into my knees I sob. People will be watching, wondering, but I don’t care. Let them watch.
Someone puts their hand on my shaking shoulder, I look up into the ocean blue eyes of my best friend, her bottom lip shakes, without warning she pulls me into a tight hug, holding me close on the dusty hall floor.
— — —
“I’m going to bed.” I say, getting up from the sofa. Nothing on the television has been able to grab my attention since I've been home, even running has lost some of its appeal. Nothing has been able to compare to him.
“Okay Sweet, sleep well,” dad says, smiling softly at me his arm wrapped around mum. I’ve not told them about graduation, but I think they know.
I dress in the darkness of my room, before slipping into bed. I toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position, I’ve not been sleeping well. My dreams have been twisting and warping inside my head, playing out in new and disturbing patterns. The phantom never one to be left out feeds on my anger and sadness like a leech, attacking my non-existent hand with a new found malice.
To top it all off dad is becoming frailer with each day, bone thin and gaunt he seems to spend all of his time either asleep or absently staring at the television. Infuriatingly he insists he’s fine, refusing to go to a doctor or even talk about how he’s feeling. I don’t want him to go, I’ve only just got him back.
For the first time in a long time I reach under my bed, pulling out a well hidden bottle of whisky. I promised I would never do this again.
Gripping the cold bottle between my knees I pull out the stopper, the amber liquid burns through my throat, both a punishment and a relief. Just one sip, one sip to help me forget and sleep.
The silver moon reflecting off a half empty bottle is the last thing I can remember before sleep takes me.
“Look it’s simple, I need to do some business.” Tatsuo sounds irritated as he pulls the truck up against the curb. “You sit here, make sure no one interferes with the truck, I mean you can drive right?”
“Sure, it's not a problem.” I don’t want him to think I'm some kid, even though I've never driven a car in my life. We swap seats. It’s not like I'm really going to have to drive it though, he would never let me, probably it’s some stupid parking rule. Like you have to be sat in the driver's seat otherwise you get a ticket.
I roll down the window when he taps on the glass.
“Just stay here and wait okay?”
Before I can answer he turns, walking away up the street. He seems a lot colder than he was just a few minutes ago, have I done something wrong?
I rest my chin on the wheel, it vibrates softly with the running engine, he’s been a long time. Or at least it feels like he’s been a long time. Suddenly the passenger door flies open as Tatsuo jumps inside, a terrorised look on his face.
“Go! Go!” He shouts, turning in his seat to stare out of the back window.
“What?” I ask, shocked. Copying his motion I can see a group of men running towards us, one of them wilds a baseball bat. I feel the truck jerk as Tatsuo pushes the leave to put it into drive.
“Go!” He shouts, real fear in his voice.
Panicking I step on the pedal. The truck roars flying forward, my eyes bulge as I realise I have no control, steering wildly the tyres start to squeal. Oh god how do I make it slow down?
“What are you doing!” He grabs my arm trying to control. “Brake! Brake.”
It’s too late, with a sound like a cannon we hit a parked car. There is a long moment of eerie silence, as almost in slow motion I feel my body become weightless.
Then we hit the ground hard, before being thrown back into the air, I can’t tell which way is up as I'm thrown around inside the spinning truck. The last thing I see is solid black pavement rushing up to meet my outstretched hand.
Blackness envelops me.
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