Miki: Fragments (Complete)

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Mader Levap
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.24 Posted 20th July 2015)

Post by Mader Levap » Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:25 pm

How I overlooked it? This is pretty nice reading (even if beginning is kinda lower quality than rest). Miki's curse is truly broken now.
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Gajzla
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.24 Posted 20th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:42 pm

Another new reader, welcome!
Mader Levap wrote:How I overlooked it? This is pretty nice reading (even if beginning is kinda lower quality than rest). Miki's curse is truly broken now.
Thanks! Yeah, the earlier chapters are not a polished as the later ones :?. I’m learning as I go :). I think once I’ve completed the story I will have to go back and clean those up. :D

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Mader Levap
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.24 Posted 20th July 2015)

Post by Mader Levap » Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:55 pm

No problem. I liked two things - story starts differently than usual (you know, cliche "Hisao/OC go to Yamaku, shenanigans ensues") and it starts earlier. In fact, previous year alone would be enough to be good story on its own - without Hisao.

And I can't still shake impression there is still more to that accident...
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Gajzla
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.24 Posted 20th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:40 pm

Mader Levap wrote:In fact, previous year alone would be enough to be good story on its own - without Hisao.
It’s interesting you say that, in my own head Acts 1 - 3 are a sequel to Act 0. However I didn’t see a point in splitting up the story as I began work on act 1 straight after chapter 16. :)
Mader Levap wrote:And I can't still shake impression there is still more to that accident...
Only time will tell... :wink:

Speaking of time, expect chapter 25 in the next few days. :D

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.24 Posted 20th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:33 pm

Well, might as well jump on the Miki story update band wagon. As always feedback is greatly appreciated.

Enjoy!


Derailment

Like a silent stone guardian Hisao pulls me from the wreckage of the truck, his warm fingers breathing life back into my frozen body.

“It’s okay, I’m going to get you out of here,” he says with a brilliantly reassuring smile, a pair of sweet dimples appearing on his perfect cheeks. Even ankle deep in water, standing beside a body I can’t help but be overthrown by his beauty.

In the clear air outside of the truck I fall into his arms, the sky a dazzling blue above us. Stroking his soft cheek with the fingers of my left hand, I marvel at the alien feeling.

“You did this?” he asks, gesturing to the black shell that was once a Ford truck.

I shake my head vigorously, he can’t know the truth, he’ll hate me.

“She did, I saw her,” Ayumu says, appearing beside us as if by magic. His cold face turns to mine. I wish he would smile, or laugh, like he used to; when I loved him.

Hisao pushes me away with a surprising amount of force. I’m flung into the truck behind me. Desperately I stretch my hand out, trying to slow myself before the jagged metal rips into my flesh. But pressing my left hand against the cab reveals not cold steel as I had expected, but a searing plate like a frying pan.

I scream as the flesh on my hand melts away, becoming blistered and blackened almost instantly. Pain shoots up my arm, settling in my chest.

“You did this,” both boys says together, looking at me with disgust.

“No, no!” I cry, desperate to explain, “Please no!”

Together they turn, starting to walk away without a second look back, I try and run after them, but the sound of a horn causes me to look up.

Headlights blind me, as the world goes black.


I’m still screaming, “No, no, no! Please!” When I wake up, a hot sticky mess entrapped in my own bedclothes. Summer sucks. Realising I’m fighting a hopeless battle and still screaming like a maniac. At the same time, I stop struggling and try to focus.

Finally freeing myself and kicking my covers to the floor I quickly check my hand, expecting to see burnt flesh at least, it hurts so much. I jump when I see the bandaged stump. What the hell? Memory floods back as someone knocks on my door.

“C… come in,” I sniff, wiping away tears with my good hand. I’m supposed to be happy, could my stupid body and mind not give me even one night to celebrate asking Hisao out?

My door opens, and Ikuno walks in, rubbing her eyes. I’m so lucky she chose not to spend tonight with Ryouta. I take one look at her, and begin to sob, it's all so fucking unfair.

“Hey, hey!” she coos rushing over to me, I must be a state, I can feel the buckets of cold sweat coating my skin, and my hair feels like it’s been dipped in a grease tray, where it lies matted on my back.

“I woke you, I’m sorry,” I croak, trying to stem the flow of tears with the back of my thumb, while the phantom of my hand, the same hand that just moments ago stroked his cheek burns in my lap.

“No, it’s okay, what happened?” my best friend asks, bending down to pick up a fallen pillow.

“Bad dream, I saw-“ I stop suddenly, catching sight of a shadow in my doorway, Ryouta. He stands awkwardly, like a stranger at a funeral. Sobbing even harder I snatch the pillow from Ikuno, trying to hide my face behind it, like a child. I don’t want him to see me like this.

Shooing him away with a wave of her hand and a furious look in her eyes Ikuno turns to me, placing a palm on my damp forehead. “You’re burning up, go take a shower while I make your bed.”

I stand numbly, following her instructions without question. I’m tired of always fighting, of always struggling, so I’m content to be led. My feet carry me to the shower room by themselves, and I strip without a second thought. The bandages around my stump falling to the tiled floor like a streamer, before I step under the lukewarm water.

What time is it? I forgot to check before leaving my room, its an odd sensation, and brings forth a crushing realisation. If I don’t keep on top of this I’m going to be lost. Running my fingers through my hair I think I can finally understand why mum started drinking, sometimes it’s just kinder to let reality slip away.

I think I always knew that simple fact.

“Miki?,” Ikuno calls, I didn’t even hear her open the door, “I’ll leave a towel out here for when you’re ready.”

“You can stay,” I splutter, accidentally ingesting a large amount of water. “What time is it?” I say, trying to recover with dignity.

“It’s around two in the morning,”

“Oh.” I don’t know what comfort I expected to gain from discovering that I would be half asleep for yet another day of school. “I asked Hisao out,” I say matter of factly, I had hoped to find a better time to tell her. But naked at two am is never the wrong time to tell somebody something.

“You did?” she replies excitedly, “What did he say?”

“He said yes,” I grin to myself. He said yes. Not even bad dreams and burning hands can take away the fact that he chose me, it’s like the ultimate vengeance against Ayumu and his stupid girlfriend. Even if neither of them ever find out - or care - about Hisao.

“That’s fantastic!” she shrills, “Were you nervous asking?”

“More… angry,” I say, turning off the water and relishing how cool and fresh my skin feels.

“Angry?”

“Yeah,” poking my head around the shower curtain I glance at Ikuno, who is sitting dreamily on the bench in the middle of the room. With a stab of guilt I notice the black rings under her eyes, normally hidden by makeup.

“You have a towel?” I ask, reaching out my good hand, before continuing, “It’s kinda complicated, but the important point is that he said yes.”

Stifling a yawn she passes over a big white fluffy towel - one of her own if I’m not mistaken. “No, you have to tell me everything, right now.”

I should have kept my mouth shut.

Wrapping myself in soft fluffiness I step out of the shower, her infectious yawn catching me mid-step. Glancing up at her curious face I can’t help but smile. In many ways she’s the friend I’ve always wanted, painfully cliched sometimes, as if she’s stepped out of a TV show; but kind and caring.

“I will, but lets wait till tomorrow, I’ll take you to the Shanghai after school,” I tuck my stump into the towel, suddenly very aware of it. “I need to plan for my date,” I smirk as her eyes light up.

“A date?” she almost squeals, pressing her hands together in a apt impression of an American high school student from one of Ryouta’s stupid movies. Perhaps people are right to criticize television.

“Tomorrow,” I say, yawning theoretically.

“Fine,” she concedes, “But you're paying, and I better get every juicy detail.”

Fine, as long as I don’t have to hear any ‘juicy’ details about what she and Ryouta get up to.

“Ikuno,” I start softly, “Thanks for, you know, bad dream patrol.”

She smiles earnestly, shrugging a little as if embarrassed by the gratitude. I owe her, more than she can imagine - and not just financially. In the chaotic sea of my scrambled thoughts she is a lighthouse, a safe haven. It’s why I can commit so certainly to telling her everything, well nearly everything. There are some storms that even she could not weather.

Gently touching my arm she pulls me from my contemplative thoughts, “Will you be okay?”

“I think so,” I smile, “I’ll see you in class?”

“Y… yep,” she yawns, “If I can get Ryouta out of bed in the morning anyway.”

We both share a gentle laugh, the sound echoing around the empty bathroom. As Ikuno heads back to bed, I start the laborious task of drying my long hair. Rubbing my head with the towel I watch myself in the mirror, my cheeks starting to burn as I wonder what Hisao will make of the sight in front of me.

Stopping I consider myself from a few angles. No, I’m definitely not as front loaded as Misha, but I’m much more toned. I would wager that Shizune’s beauty comes from her style, and less her body and as for Lilly… Well, I’m nearly as tall as she is. Hmmmm. So, I’m a more comfortable height to kiss? Snorting derisively at my own wandering mind I wrap the towel around myself, heading back to my bedroom.

Since when do I worry about my body? My distraction is starting to become distracting; and we’ve not even been on a date yet.

— — —

“You look like you’ve had better nights,” Hisao says as I approach with an almost zombie like sluggishness. Oh, if you knew the half of it.

“You're meant to compliment your girlfriend,” I complain, falling into step beside him.

His cheeks start to flush, as we step out into a beam of fresh sunlight, foreshadowing yet another hot and sticky day at Yamaku. “Your hair looks nice,” he blurts, avoiding my eyes.

It’s a lie of course, my hair is a rumbled mess, having been slept on before it was dry and forced unceremoniously into a ponytail. Still, I feel a smile creep onto my face.

“Thanks,” I say gently, nudging him playfully with my elbow. “I don’t sleep that well sometimes, thats why I have you and Ikuno to keep me awake in class.” I try and pass off my comment as a causal joke, rather than the major soul destroying problem it’s threatening to become. Perhaps I should schedule a meeting with Dr. Ueda.

“Truth be told, sometimes I get insomnia as well, from my medication,” he admits, still not meeting my gaze.

Medication? Well of course he would be on any number of pills for his heart, selfishly I almost forgot that he has his own reasons for being here, that his change in mood from his first days is not a sure sign that everything is okay, just a good cover for someone as broken as I am.

“Is there nothing the nurse can do?” I ask, stepping in between two wheelchair users heading in the opposite direction.

“Not without more side effects,” he grumbles, leaving it at that. Being able to emphasize with not wanting to discuss medical stuff I don’t press the point.

“Hope we get group work today,” I lament, “Ikuno had a rough night as well.”

“So you want me to bail you two out?”

“Thats the kind of thing a chivalrous gentleman would do right?” I ask, trying out one of Emi’s mind controlling pouts. Though I doubt it looks as good on me.

“Well, I guess someone needs to look after your brain, if you’re looking after my heart.”

“Hey!” I blurt, stepping through the doors into the air conditioned lobby. I can’t work out if that was an insult or not.

Hisao simply chuckles, following me up the stairs.

— — —

“I just don’t understand how someone could be so mean to the cat,” I say derisively, taking in Ikuno and Hisao’s knowing grins.

“He didn’t really poison a cat silly, it’s just a thought experiment,” Ikuno says, giggling softly. The afternoon sun catching with a glint in her sapphire eyes.

“Yeah,” Hisao adds, “It’s just a way of saying without knowing for sure, something can be in two states at once.”

My new boyfriend and best friend give each other knowing nods, as if this is all very obvious, and I’m being stupid. Honestly, who thinks up all this science stuff? What’s worse is the school is expecting me to pass an exam on this nonsense.

I rub my tired eyes with my palms, blurring the half-completed work sheet in front of me. Thankfully it’s nearly the end of the day, an escape to the Shanghai for some strong coffee followed by a few laps around the track with Hisao will do me the power of good.

“There's too much thinking in science,” I say. “Just look at Mutou; it’s affected him.”

My partners laugh, Hisao pulling my work sheet towards him and starting to write. I knew there was a reason I asked him out.

“Well, it’s nearly summer,” Ikuno mummers consolingly, “I forgot to ask, did you want to come stay with us for a few weeks during the break?”

“Us?” I ask, sitting up a little straighter.

“Ryouta, me and my family, mum texted this morning to invite you as well.” Eyeing Hisao’s messy brown hair nearly brushing the table as he writes she winks at me, “You can bring a plus one as well if you want.”

“I would love too,” I say. Beats being bored at home.

“Miss Miura, I’m well aware that mine is not your favourite subject, but you could at least make the token effort of having the worksheet in front of you,” Mutou interrupts with a raised eyebrow.

I grimace, having to strain my neck to look up at his weatherbeaten face and out of control hair. Damn it! He led us into a false sense of security by being the most inattentive teacher in the entire universe, it was all a cunning ruse.

“Ah,” I say, trying to find a plausible excuse as the rest of the class pauses to watch. “It’s both completed perfectly and not even touched, at the same time, as long as you don’t look at it.”

Hisao snorts, trying to hold back his laughter, while Ikuno pushes her face into her hands with a mixture of pity and despair. I thought it was quite a clever excuse.

Holding my breathe I wait for Mutou’s conclusion, “Well, at least you learned something, once Mr Nakai is done with your paper you can present it after class, where we will be having a word.”

“Yes, sir,” I say. So I might be a little delayed going to the Shanghai, but overall that didn’t go so badly.

“I can’t believe you got away with that,” Ikuno whispers. as Mutou drifts dreamily back to his desk.

“Well, I might not have,” I shrug, “He still might give me a detention or something.”

“Look over these answers,” Hisao says, pushing my paper back towards me, “And tell me if you don’t understand anything.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, apparently he’s not forgotten his offer to study with me. Across the classroom Shizune glowers at the pair of us, catching my eye with a disapproving frown; that I meet with a brilliant smile. You lost, Miss President.

We resume our casual chatter as class starts to wind down, Ikuno talking at some length about the summer holidays. The classroom seems cooler than it was yesterday, a merciful breeze creeps through the windows, rustling papers on desks. Despite the threat of detention hanging over my head I feel myself start to relax.

A knock on the door interrupts the classroom’s chatter. Visitors to room 3:3 are so rare it borders on a unique event. Slowly, with great care the door is opened and a middle aged women strides in, with defiant purpose. Unremarkable in almost every way, I vaguely recognise her as being a member of the admin staff, though I could be mistaken. In a few quick steps she is at Mutou’s desk, sharing a private word that seems to have gotten the normally dazed teachers full attention.

I share a confused look with my classmates, with any luck this will be enough of a distraction to knock me off of Mutou’s radar. The two adults pause in their conversation and together look up, directly at me. The hell?

“Miura, could you accompany Mrs Imaizumi, if the rest of you would like to carry on with your work.” Our teacher nods at me, a strange look on his face.

I stand, my heart starting to beat quickly. This is it. They must have found out about the lie, outside there will be the police waiting to arrest me. I wish I could say my last goodbyes but everything is moving too fast.

I leave my bag at my desk - I won’t need it in jail - and follow the woman whose name I’ve already forgotten out of the door.

I’m surprised to find the corridor deserted, perhaps the authorities are waiting for me to get outside before springing into action. Not that I could put up any kind of resistance, I could make a run for it I suppose, but what good would that do for me? Other than delay the inevitable.

“I’m afraid to tell you this, but your father has been rushed to a hospital,” she speaks slowly, softly, with well rehearsed poise. “Your grandfather has requested that you be allowed to leave school to see him,”

She reminds me of a doctor saying he’s very sorry, but there was nothing they could do…

“W… what?” I stammer, feeling the blood rush out of my face. Dad’s in hospital?

“I believe your grandfather is out of the country at the moment, otherwise I’m sure he would be here to tell you this himself.” She continues, with a sympathetic look that’s well honed. Is this the person who tells parents the worst has happened to their offspring while at school?

“What hospital is he in? When did this happen?” I say desperately.

“Here,” she says, withdrawing from her pocket a collection of papers and handing them to me.

The first is the address of the hospital, I recognise it at once, because it’s the facility I was taken to when I lost my hand. I never wanted to go back there, not ever. Below it is a train ticket, with a flexible departure time for today. And lastly, most terrifying of all, is a pamphlet with the title “Sickness and bereavement in the family: A guide to coping’.

Thoughts race through my mind, none of them good. Could my grandfather really not have spared an international call to tell me this? How could he just send a vague message with someone I don’t even know, about something this important. Doesn’t he care at all?

“Miss Miura, are you okay?”

What kind of stupid fucking question is that.

“Yes, yes, I just, I need to get going.” I say, turning on my heel and heading towards the stairs.

With a startling amount of vigor for a women her age, My unwelcome messenger falls into step beside me. “Yes, I quite understand, would you like me to arrange a taxi to take you to the station?”

“No, It’s fine,” I say quickly, “Thanks.” I silently curse my ingrained manners as I rush down the stairs, taking them two at the time, leaving the admin lady far behind me.

———

It takes me far longer to pack and prepare than I would have liked. Hardly anything fitted when I stuffed it haphazardly into my worn backpack, that mixed with the fact I had managed to pack only undies and jeans, neglecting even a single item of clothing for the top half of my body seemed to require a re-think. Which took time, time I’m not sure my dad has.

Now dressed in my leggings, comfortable trainers and very baggy hoodie I wait impatiently outside the main building, waiting for class to end. I forgot my phone. It’s in my bag, that's still trapped in the classroom, I just hope Ikuno or Hisao has the good sense to bring it with them.

Pacing back and forth I feel like screaming, I don’t even know what's wrong with dad. That's the worst part, was he involved in an accident? Did he have a heart attack? Is this my fault for not insisting he went to the hospital? For not dragging him there? Please let him be okay.

Somewhere inside the maze of bright halls a bell rings, and seemingly moments later a herd of first years cascade into the sunlight, chatting and laughing happily. It’s disconcerting, how I might be having the worst day of my life, and these strangers will forgot this sunny afternoon even existed.

I don’t want the world to revolve around me, but a momentary glance would be nice.

“Miki!” Ikuno shouts, barging her way through an equally chatty bunch of second and third years, Hisao following her wake, his arms held up protectively against any stray knocks to his fragile chest.

“Hi,” I say, my voice cracking slightly as they emerge from the crowd, thankfully with my bag swinging from Ikuno’s arm.

“What’s going on?” she asks, blue eyes wide.

“My,” I pause, before committing myself, “My dad’s in hospital, and I need to go and visit him.” I didn’t want Hisao hearing that really, but it was a pipe dream to keep up the illusion that I was anything other than a one armed magnet for disaster.

“Oh Miki,” Ikuno gasps, covering her mouth with her hands.

Fishing my phone out of my school bag I share a warm hug with my best friend, that in one brief moment says more than any number of words. She will look after things here, she’ll tell Ryouta and make sure my room does not burn to the ground, because that’s what we do for each other.

With great difficulty I pull away from the embrace, turning to Hisao who looks embarrassed to be caught up in something so personal. Though he wears the title of my boyfriend, it means little more than a reserved sign at a restaurant. What about our date?

“I will wait,” he says, seeming to read my mind, “I’ll be here when you get back, I promise.”

Fat tears roll down my face, and I flick up my hood to try and hide my face. Slowly I reach out and take his hand into mine, the skin as soft as in my dreams. Sniffing gently I mouth a silent thank you, unable to speak.

Our brief moment of contact lasts only a fraction of a heartbeat, but it still felt like something special. Our goodbyes are swift but heartfelt, and I find myself drifting through the black iron gates in an almost haze, lost in my own thoughts.

It’s easier to go away knowing I have a safe place to return to, and that's what I have in Ikuno, Hisao and Ryouta. For better or worse, whatever happens, they will be here. When I come home.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by azumeow » Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:43 pm

Worst call you can ever get.

I was lucky enough to avoid getting it during school until 20. I think I was at work when I found out. University lab, in fact I think I was leaving to go see my then-girlfriend.

The other times, I at least made it home before the Universe saw fit to dump the grim news on my lap. Where I could sit and cry in peace.

Good chapter. Very bad chapter, in another sense. Keep on walking, Miki. That's all you'll ever need to do.
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by AntonSlavik020 » Wed Jul 29, 2015 7:28 pm

I'm lucky enough to never have gotten that call. Last time one of my parents was seriously injured I was about 7(I'm 27 now.) However, I have had both of my grandpas hospitalized, though that's probably not QUITE the same.
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:56 am

Sorry i’ve not been able to reply sooner, been a little busy.

I wouldn’t say that i’m writing from my own life in this part of the story. But it is definitely reflective of things that have happened to myself and my family. I’m touched that my writing was able to produce such amazing and heartfelt responses. Though I hope I didn’t dig up any bad memories.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by HipsterJoe » Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Just popped on to say I'm still reading and am now all caught up. I felt like the Act transition was a little rough, partly because of the time skip, but also because everything slowed down a bit. Now that the story is once again going at full Gajzla speed, I'm really enjoying all the characters interacting with Hisao. Hoping that wasn't the last we see of Ayumu cause I feel like he has a lot of potential to throw interesting wrenches into the works.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:40 pm

HipsterJoe wrote:Just popped on to say I'm still reading and am now all caught up.
Nice to see you again. I do the same thing with TV shows, leave them to record then binge :D
HipsterJoe wrote:I felt like the Act transition was a little rough, partly because of the time skip, but also because everything slowed down a bit.
I can understand where your coming from. In my mind at least, Act 0 and act 1-3 can almost be read separately, so there was more time given to re-introducing our old cast, and getting to know a little about Hisao than was perhaps necessary.
HipsterJoe wrote:Hoping that wasn't the last we see of Ayumu cause I feel like he has a lot of potential to throw interesting wrenches into the works.
Well, I would never say never. But the thing is Miki got over him in the worse possible way, she was burned. (Even though that was never his intention).

That being said if I can bring a character back in a place that fits, makes sense and most importantly adds something to the story then I definitely will. :)

I know how Fragments ends, and I know roughly the path i’m taking to get there. But what we see along the way is yet to be decided. :D

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.25 Posted 29th July 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:42 pm

Sorry for the delay between chapters, new PC day happened. In other news 6000 views! Thank you all you lovely lurkers (And just as lovely comment posters).

As always special thanks to Mirage_GSM.

Enjoy!


Clean White Walls

I wake to the squeaking rumble of the train car, as it plunges through the twilight countryside. It was light when I fell asleep. I wish I had been able to sleep for longer last night, or at least had a more productive nap curled up against the cool train window, the fabric of my hood acting as a pillow.

Sitting up slightly I stretch my arms above my head, before withdrawing my phone from the overstuffed backpack. I check the time - just past nine o’clock at night, I’ve also got a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. Damn it! Must have still been on silent from school.

With a sense of trepidation I hit the re-dial button and press the speaker to my ear.

“Hello…?” A soft woman's voice answers.

“Hi,” I reply, trying desperately to work out where I’ve heard her before.

“Oh, Miki dear, it’s Miss Kita.” The worry in her voice is tangible.

“What happened to dad?” I ask quickly.

“Oh dear, I don’t really know, one moment he was fine, the next he just fell over and we couldn’t get any response. He and your mother are at the hospital now, and I will pick you up from the station when you arrive.” It’s hard to tell from her voice just how worried I should be, her tone is measured, but undermined with genuine panic.

I don’t really know how to respond. Did I really want to know that information? Does it really help when I’m stuck on a train and at least an hour away from the hospital, and even when I get there, what can I do? Am I just rushing somewhere to watch my father die?

“Okay,” I say quietly, “I will be there in about an hour I guess.”

“I will be there when you arrive dear, don’t worry.”

“Thank you, I’ll see you soon.” I say dreamily, my head still filled with racing thoughts.

“See you soon dear,” with a beep Miss Kita hangs up, as the first lights of my distant hometown glitter on the horizon, the midnight blue sky tinged an ugly orange.

— — —

The car journey is much the same as the train. Together in uncomfortable silence Miss Kita and I weave along familiar roads to the city’s hospital. The black plastic dashboard, indented to resemble a vague sense of leather, is intermittently illuminated with orange light before fading back to darkness as we pass under each street light.

I hardly notice when we pull up outside the towering building, clad in white and green panels that hope to bring the aged building into the new millennium. It makes the vast mass before me no less imposing. Unseasonably cold air stings my face as I climb out of the small red car. Wrapping my arms around my chest I shiver, before turning back to my mother’s housekeeper, still seated behind the wheel.

“Parking here is problematic, you go in dear, ask for your father and they will show you to his room.” she speaks kindly, and it’s with a slight start that I remember she’s not really family, but an employee of my grandfather.

I nod, watching her small hatchback glide away, before turning back to the large automatic doors spilling clean blue light out onto the street. With a swish they part, and I have to screw my eyes up against the sudden glare of fluorescent lighting and clean white walls.

— — —

A nurse, recruited by the tassel-haired receptionist leads me through a maze of indistinguishable corridors. Memories of overwhelming boredom, eased only slightly by pacing through these halls spring into my mind, but it’s impossible to tell where exactly in this labyrinth I was kept. Finally, after much walking and an uncomfortable lift journey in which the nurse spent a considerable amount of time trying not to look at my stump, we arrive outside a heavy wooden door.

With a gentle knock she opens the door, revealing the brightly lit room, past experience had told me to expect. Wordlessly the nurse vanishes, leaving me to enter alone.

Covering my mouth I take in the sight of my father.His thin frame lays almost lost in amongst the bedclothes. Tubes and wires snake from an array of bags and beeping machines, to dive cruelly into his skinny body. Beside him, hugging her knees is my mother, her face pale and gaunt, eyes tightly closed. Is he alive?

Movement from the bed shows he is, as he slurs my name, “M…Miki?”

Letting the door swing closed behind me, I cross the room in only a few long strides; dropping my backpack as I go.

“Dad!” I say shakily, reaching his bedside and staring down into the face of my father. Oh no. The corner of his mouth and eye droop lazily and he seems to be having trouble focusing on me, even though I am only a few feet away.

“Miki,” my mother says surprised, waking up with a start. “You needn’t have come all this way.”

I’m slightly taken aback, are things not as bad as they look? Because they look pretty fucking bad.

“What happened?” I ask; stunned.

“I… h… had a bit… of.. a fall.. i..is.. all,” dad slurs, having problems articulating his speech.

“Your dad just passed out, it’s nothing to worry about.” my mum insists, sitting up a little straighter in her chair before stretching her arms and yawning.

What the hell? She’s acting like nothing major has happened, and dad’s trying to play the whole situation down even though he can hardly form a coherent sentence. Is this all some act to try and spare my feelings? Well, it’s not working, I want the truth. Opening my mouth to start another round of questioning I’m interrupted, as Miss Kita and a white coated doctor walk into the room.

“Whats going on?” I demand of the newcomers, my voice louder than I intended.

“You would be the daughter?” The doctor asks, his eyes drawn to my bandaged stump. I guess even in his line of work a one handed girl is still a novelty.

“Yes,” I say simply, pushing my stump into the tube-like pocket of my hoodie.

“Why don’t you take a seat?” he says, his eyes flashing back to my face, a guilty look marring his aged face.

“Have mine,” mum says, getting to her feet quickly. “I need a drink, or something.”

I watch, frozen in shock, as she leaves her bedside vigil and strides out of the room very purposely not looking at any of us. Does she not care at all? Miss Kita gives me an odd look - a kind of half frown - and a shrug before leaving the room as well, apparently intent on catching mum. Though I doubt it’s to drag her back in here. Where she belongs.

The doctor clears his throat awkwardly, gesturing to the chair.

Sitting down I’m now at eye level with dad, who gives me a reassuring smile. Though with half his face dropping the effect is more alarming than comforting. Forcing myself to smile back, because it feels like the right thing to do, I take his cold hand in mine.

“I’m Doctor Yamanaka, head of neurology here,” he straightens his lab coat as he speaks, not out of nerves but more a well worn habit though years of experience.

Whatever neurology is it doesn’t sound good.

“Would you like me to explain the situation to your daughter Mr Miura?”

Dad nods slowly, his clammy hand squeezing mine very gently.

“Very good,” looking directly at me with piecing lighting blue eyes the doctor continues, “I’m afraid your father has suffered whats called a Hemorrhagic Stroke, this is caused when a tumour on the brain starts to bleed increasing pressure inside the skull and pressing against vital systems.”

Pausing he lets the information sink in. This can’t be happening. Mum’s acting like nothings wrong, when dad has what? Cancer? Thats the only thing that causes tumours right? And inside his head, no wonder he was starting to seem more spaced out at home. This is my fault. I should have made him go to the doctors before now, I was stupid to think everything was going to be okay. Nothing is ever okay.

“Does he have cancer?” I ask, looking into my father's distorted face.

“We can’t be sure, due to the nature of the bleeding we will need to surgically remove the tumour before it can do any more damage, only once we perform a biopsy in the lab will we know for sure if its benign or not. Then we can start re-evaluating the necessary treatment.” he says with professional detachment.

“But your talking about brain surgery,” I whimper softly.

“I’m afraid it’s the only option.”

“When.” I can barely speak now, not looking away from dad. Who is expressionless, slumped into his pillows.

“Tonight, as soon as we can arrange things.”

“What are his chances?” I ask, trying not to meet anybodies eye.

“M… m… miki,” dad splutters.

Looking between my and dad the doctors face softens slightly, a hint of regret touching his wrinkled jowls. “If the surgery is successful, his long time prognosis should improve greatly.”

If.

I can feel the hot tears burn my cheeks as I nod, he might as well have told me dad’s going to die. Looking up I see that for the first time dad looks upset, and it makes me feel even worse, how can he be worried about me with his death hanging omnipresent in the room?

“Do you have any more questions?” Dr Yamanaka asks, not unkindly.

I shake my head, touching my forehead to dad’s hand, face hidden against the bed.

“I will take my leave, the nursing staff can contact me if you need anything at all.”

I don’t respond, but hear footsteps before a door open and closes, the noises feel like they are a million miles away. Unable to hold out anymore I start to cry, hard gasping sobs that seem to burn though my throat and reverberate though my body. I’m going to have to say goodbye… In a few hours I will have to say goodbye, and it will be forever.

“M… Miki… I’m going… to… be okay.”

Sitting up slowly I wipe my teary face on my bandages, sniffing as I try and control myself. I can’t lose myself, not when he needs me.

“You don’t know that,” I sniffle.

“N.. no… but, I h.. have h.. had a g.. good.. life.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I exclaim, fighting back the tears that continue to flow down my cheeks.

With cruelty bordering on malice he chuckles, the sound odd and distorted. How can he laugh about this?

“If… something h… happens, I… go.. go knowing I helped… bring.. something wonderful… into the world,” he grips my hand gently, as if to emphasise the point.

I could tell him, I could tell him his perfect wonderful daughter killed somebody in cold blood. That I lied. And what's worse is breaking up with my boyfriend gave me more sleepless nights than the murder I committed. I can’t do that too him. I can’t say goodbye with him hating me.

“W… what are… you… doing for summer break?” he asks unexpectedly.

“Nothing,” I say quickly, “I will be at home with you and mum.”

How can we go from talking about the worth of his life to my stupid summer plans.

“Y… you… should… spend t… time with your f… friends… outside…,” he pauses, taking a deep rattling breath, “Outside… school. T.. these times… are precious.”

Without fully understanding why, I start to tell him about Ikuno and her invitation, my suspicions of her family's wealth, even about the stupid pony that I use to tease her. All the while he listens intently, a strange half smile playing across his wry face. I answer his questions without hesitation, finding myself opening up as if confessing on my own deathbed, rather than leaning against his.

He coos supportively when I tell him about the phone call with Ayumu’s new girlfriend, and tuts disapprovingly, though in a clearly amused way, when he learns about Hisao and me becoming more than just running partners. The conversation is slow, and I worry that it’s costing him too much effort, but the time for me to worry for his health has come and gone. We are at the end of the road, or at least that's how it feels.

“Mum thinks you're going to be fine, does she know about,” I gesture to his head, immediately regretting it.

“S… she k.. knows,” his eyes flicker to the jug of water on his bedside cabinet.

Cursing my own ineptitude I pour him a class, helping him to drink the lukewarm liquid, before wiping his mouth with my sleeve.

“T… thank.. you,” he sighs softly, “Your… mum.. s.. struggles with… change, s… she w.. wants things… to.. always be.. the same.”

I know exactly how she feels.


“Will she start drinking again?” I say, for the first time hearing fear slip into my voice.

“I.. h.. hope.. not, t.. things don’t… always… end up.. the way you.. want them.”

Nodding I take his hand again, the physical contact somehow comforting.

“Can I ask you something?” I say, my eyes not quite meeting his.

“A… anything.”

I take a deep breath, “Do you ever wish you had never been caught, that you had just run away before the police arrived.”

“Hmmm,” blinking slowly he considers, “W… when… I was younger… more bitter… yes.”

“And now?” I ask a little too quickly.

“I w.. would… feel… incomplete.. had I.. not atoned for m.. my.. crime, do… do you under.. understand?”

“Yes,” I whisper, hardly able to speak.

Am I incomplete? Is that why so many bad things seem to happen to me. I never thought about justice as something the universe delivered, I thought heaven and hell were merely concepts so that people could find some comfort that good people were reward and the evil punished. Was I wrong? Am I the reason my dad is here?

“M… Miki… are you.. okay?”

I almost snort at how ridiculous the question is, I don’t think I’ve even been so far from okay in my entire life.

“Dad, I-“

Before I can confess anything the door is opened, and I lose my nerve, falling back into my chair. Mum and Miss Kita stride into the room; cups of coffee in their hands. I vacate mum’s seat, taking the coffee she brought back for me gratefully. Part of me feels guilty for not telling the truth. Another part feels just as guilty for nearly burdening him with it.

The room settles into a morbid silence as I take a seat in a familiar hospital issue armchair, positioned to give views out over the city. Tucking my legs under myself I try and find familiar streetlight lit landmarks scattered in the darkness; but it all just looks like so many points of light. Beside me, mum speaks gently to my father. I can’t catch her words even in the nearly silent room.

— — —

Around midnight Miss Kita rises from her seat by the door and says her solemn goodbyes, apologising for having to leave. It’s easy to forget sometimes that she has her own family. Rising from my seat, half needing to stretch my legs and half wishing to say goodbye, I notice dad is asleep. I have to look at the heart rate monitor to be sure nothing worse has happened.

To my surprise our housekeeper gives me a warm hug before disappearing out of the door, with a last lingering look at dad. Does she think this is the last time she will ever see him? She might not be wrong.

With the momentary break in the monotony, mum and I return to our respective seats. I don’t feel like talking to her. I can emphasise with her fears, but I am no less afraid; I can’t play her ‘everything will be okay’ game. Between the two of us I always felt like the strong one, the leaning post for when she was too drunk to stand, but I can’t find any strength in me at the moment.

Feeling guilty for my boredom I withdraw my phone, flicking it open to find no new messages. Do I want to talk to somebody? Ikuno is an option, but I don’t want to worry her with this, nor do I want to discuss things in the detail that she will demand. Ryouta, that would just be strange, no, what I need is a distraction.

My fingers move in a blur, acting before I can change my mind:

[To: Hisao] ‘Are you asleep??’

Placing my phone on the arm of the chair I feel an instant tang of regret, he’s been my boyfriend for less than two days he shouldn’t have to be woken up in the middle of the night to answer stupid texts. Lets just hope he sleeps through it.

I jump slightly when the phone buzzes on the armrest, almost knocking the handset to the floor in my haste to grab it.

[From: Hisao] ‘Not anymore, are you okay?’

I cringe at having woken him, but reply quickly.

[To Hisao] ’I don’t think so.”

Pushing the cool plastic case against my lips I wait.

[From Hisao] “Your dad is not doing well?’

[To Hisao] “No, hes not’

Could I be sounding anymore cryptic right now?

[From Hisao] ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

Despite myself I let a smile touch my lips, it’s a sweet gesture. We never really spoke about his heart condition, it was always the elephant on the track causing me to keep constant watch over him. But now that I think about it he must have spent his fair share of time in a hospital when he was diagnosed, has he ever had surgery? Perhaps he knows more of what I’m going through than I thought.

My thumb floats across the raised digits of the phone formulating a reply.

[To Hisao] ‘Distract me?’

He does not answer at once, and I begin to wonder if he’s fallen back to to sleep, I couldn’t blame him. Perhaps If I go to sleep in this chair I will wake up to find that this entire day has been a nightmare.

My phone buzzes.

[From Hisao] ‘Running without you sucks. I’m much slower, and I have no one to talk to.’

[To Hisao] ‘I hope you were careful young man, I want you fighting fit for when I get back’

[From Hisao] ‘I’m always careful, I learned my lesson from your first telling off!’

I pull my hood up so mum can’t see my glowing cheeks and smirk. If I can count on one thing, it’s my distraction. In our slow and almost silent way we continue to text back and forth, Hisao doing his level best to keep me distracted with increasingly ridiculous stories from the student council. A lot of which seem to be highly embellished, but I don’t mind. I do notice, however, that he never directly mocks Shizune as I might have done; which irks me slightly. Perhaps I got the wrong measure of her? I don’t like the idea of being wrong.

— — —

Finally his well of stories seems to run dry at around half past one in the morning and a warning tone tells me my phone battery is on its last legs. It’s been nice to escape for a little while.

[To Hisao] ‘I better let you get back to bed, thank you for staying up with me.’

[From Hisao] ‘You sure?’

[To Hisao] ‘Very sure, run along to bed, i’ll see you when I get back <3’

I blush realising I sent a love heart in the last message, hopefully he doesn’t pick up on that.

[From Hisao] Goodnight Miki, I’ll see you soon I hope’

I type my own goodnights and send, thankful that his boy brain missed the childish symbol. It’s all Ryouta’s and Ikuno’s fault anyway: They can’t text properly and they spread their bad habits to me.

[From Hisao] ‘<3’

Stupid thoughtful idiot.

———

I’m dozing, caught halfway between sleep and reality when the doctor comes to collect dad. I stand up, swaying unsteadily as he’s wheeled out of the room. I’ve never felt so hopeless. Mum follows them all the way to the door, her aged hand gripping the doorframe as she watches him disappear.

We’re left in silence, the lack of heart monitor settles into the room, it’s rhythmic beeping suddenly very noticeable in its absence. I don’t know what to say. Mum turns to me slowly, and at once I see sparkling tears in her eyes.

“I don’t think he’s going to be okay,” she whispers, covering her mouth with her hand.

In three quick strides I am in front of her, my arms wrapped around her small body. We stay like that for a long time, until by some unseen signal we wander to the armchair, which is big enough to allow us to sit side by side. With the glistening city laid out in front of us we wait for the dawn, holding each other’s hands, closer than we have been in ten years.

It occurs to me that I might have heard my father's last words. It didn’t seem to register when I was speaking to him, but now, as the city sleeps, I can’t get them out of my head. I would feel incomplete had I not atoned for my crime. I’ve not atoned, not in the slightest, how can I be sure that dad's condition is not a punishment meant for me? Is that selfish?

But how can I confess? How can I spend time in prison, away from my friends, my family, from Hisao. He will move on, like Ayumu, once he learns the truth. I can’t blame him for that, but imagining the disgusted look on his face still stings. Grinding my teeth I try to picture Tatsuo’s face and find some remorse, but I can’t. All I feel is loathing. He did this too me, all of this is him.

The fingertips on my phantom left hand start to burn, as if I was holding them against a hot frying pan. As subtle as I can I slip my stump into my pocket, pushing it hard into my stomach. Is this not punishment enough? But I know it isn’t, pain is not justice - not when I’m the only one who knows the reason for it. Did he have a family? It’s hard to imagine the specter from so many of my dreams having a mother and father who cared for him, who wept for him, who blamed him for the accident.

Is this what fate or god, or whatever malevolent force turns the universe wants me to understand? That my pain is not the sole consequence of my actions, that by my lies I cause pain to others and I, like my dad says, am somehow incomplete. I refuse to believe there is no reason for everything that happens, that would be too cruel. I owe a debt, and the universe will not be happy until I’ve repaid it.

Confessing makes me feel sick to my stomach, because the cold, hard, horrific truth is, I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it.

The faintest trace of dawn touches the sky, as in an operating theatre not far from where I’m sitting, the universe plans its next move.

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Last edited by Gajzla on Mon Aug 24, 2015 6:41 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Gajzla
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Location: England

Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.26 Posted 10th August 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:46 pm

Sorry it’s been awhile since the last chapter, but none the less here is chapter 27, the last part of act 2. A special thank you to Mirage for his brilliant proofreading and editing, and as always feedback is greatly appreciated.

Enjoy!


On a Roll of the Dice

I’ve never wanted to fall asleep more - to let the world disappear and escape my chaotic thoughts. Resting her head against my shoulder, mum is still, but I can’t tell if she’s asleep or not. It doesn’t seem to matter either way. Exhaling softly I try closing my eyes and hope my body complies.

Which of course it doesn’t. Images of a faceless doctor striding into the room and shaking his head flash across my mind; stabbing at my gut. With a growing resentment for my subconscious I open my eyes, the city is lit in a cheerful morning sun behind the window. Dad has been in surgery throughout the night. With no indication of how things are going me and mum have little choice but to wait.

I’ve used the time to try and plan for my father's death, to accept it in advance. As if it might ease the pain. Because that's how this ends right? The chances are so low, yet I can’t help but hold on to a tiny ember of hope that smolders in my chest, a kind of trapped excitement that everything will be okay. It’s a childish hope.

A knock on the door forces me from my revery and causes me to jump, disturbing mum, who blinks at me confusedly. I try to give her a reassuring look, but I don’t feel reassured - not at all. Jumping to my feet I make my unsteady way to the door, pins and needles playing around my numb legs.

Feeling unnaturally cold beneath my palm the handle moves easily, as I pull open the door to reveal Dr Yamanaka. His expression is impossible to read as he steps into the room, closing the door behind him. I retreat quickly to Mum, who is now standing with her weight lent against the armchair, her dark bloodshot eyes seemingly out of focus.

“I’m happy to say the surgery was successful and we were able to remove most, if not all of the tumour.” His flat tone gives nothing away, but that has to be good news right?

“However I’m afraid to say that your father suffered complications during the procedure and has fallen into a coma.”

“Will he wake up?” I ask, hearing my own voice as if it’s a thousand miles away.

“Well, the prognoses is not good for a man of his age and condition, but we are not giving up on him Miss Miura.”

How can he survive the surgery, the procedure that had the highest chance of killing him, only to end up in a coma to which he may never recover?

“What about the tumour, is it..?” I can’t bring myself to say the word, cancer.

“We are awaiting the lab results, we should know later today.”

“Right,” I say, feeling bile rise in my throat.

“Is there anything you would like to know Mrs Miura?”

I go to answer, before I notice he’s addressing my mother for the first time. She jumps, startled at the sudden attention. Gone is the newfound confidence I had grown to admire in her, replaced with an uneasy look of desperation. A look she would wear when the drink had dried up and reality had crashed back around her.

Shaking her head she sits back down, deliberately not looking at me or the doctor.

“I’m sorry,” I say, not feeling apologetic at all, “This is a difficult time for us.”

“I quite understand,” Dr Yamanaka replies, “You will be able to see your father soon once he is settled in intensive care.”

I nod numbly, half tempted to sprint past him out of the door, to run until I pass out. A desperation for the rush of relief that only the track can bring burns in me as bright as my mother's desire to lose herself to a bottle. But I can’t, Mum needs looking after and my phone needs charging. Escape is not an option.

After seeing the doctor out with as much thanks as I can muster - after all he has been here as long as I have and looks just as tired for it - I return to mum, who is weeping softly into her hands, defeat visible in her body language. She’s lost hope already. Forgoing my own grief I sink to the floor, leaning against the chair as to lay my head in her lap. Momentarily she stiffens, before I feel a hand resting on my unkempt hair.

I can’t do anything other than to try and bury my feelings - to lock them away until I have my own time for them - and be there for my mother, who stands on the very edge of oblivion, back into a world of booze fuelled sleep. I can’t support her. The truth burns at my eyes, I cannot support her if she falls again, I’ve seen too much of what life can be like, I’ve seen where her path will take me. I’m finally understanding that I’m not a good person.

My tears fall freely onto the fabric of her skirt. As if in retribution or spite, my hand begins to twist and contort. Pain shoots up my arm, into my chest, unforgiving and unrepentant. Forcing my stump into my empty stomach I shudder, desperate to keep myself together. But the cracks are starting to show.

— — —

I wake with a start, surprised to find I am no longer trapped in an overturned truck rapidly filling with icy water. It takes me a moment to realise I am still sitting on the hard plastic hospital flooring, with my head resting against my mother's lap. Peering up I can see that she is asleep, a peaceful look on her troubled face.

With joints cracking audibly I pick myself up off the floor, stretching my arms above my head and taking in the room. I find myself looking into the kind eyes of Miss Kita, who sits in a chair by the door, knitting needles in hand. How long has she been here?

“Oh, hello dear,” she whispers, the gentle click of the knitting a somehow comforting sound in the erie whiteness.

“Have you been here long?” I ask quietly, wandering over to pick up my backpack that has layen discarded since last night.

“About half an hour or so, you two looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you.” Her needles halt as she pauses, “They say you can go and see your father when you’re ready.”

“Not yet,” I say quickly, feeling a wave of uneasiness shiver through me. “Can you keep an eye on mum if I leave for a bit?” I ask, glancing back to the armchair.

“Of course dear.” A strange look plays around her face, the corners of her mouth turned down slightly. “You’ve spent a lot of time looking after her, haven’t you?”

“I guess.” I shrug, thrown by the slightly odd question.

“She’s going to be strong for you Miki, as you have been for her, she just needs to find it within her.”

The hell? This is not what I had imagined I would ever talk to Miss Kita about, she was so keen to treat me as an invalid when we first met, now she’s what? Telling me I can take a break from being responsible for my mother? She wants to reassure me I guess, it’s understandable, but I really can’t see mum coming out the other side of this a stronger person. It’s just a sad fact of life.

I shrug, unsure how to answer. “I was going to get a coffee, did you want one?” I ask.

“No, thank you dear.” She begins her knitting again, her eyes focussed on a woollen hat that is beginning to take shape. I think we misjudged each other when we first met, she thought I required care, I believed she was set in her ways. But she has a warmness to her, a subtle sign that she still believes things can and will work out, even after a life of being shown otherwise. My grandfather was right to trust in her.

Saying my goodbyes and promising to be back soon I push out into the corridor.

* * *

The cold water feels as refreshing as a mountain stream, as I cup my hands under the restroom tap before splashing the water onto my face. I catch sight of myself in the mirror, I look awful, the bags under my eyes that have been brewing since yesterday morning are now almost the same shade of purple as my hair, which is itself a tangled and knotted mess. I should have packed a brush.

Pulling my fingers through the dry strands as a stop gap measure I lament on not bringing a toothbrush either. I’m so wilfully and completely unprepared, despite repacking my bag. Having also neglected my phone charger, the device has died and I have no idea how I’m going to get power back into the thing. The nurses were less than useless when I asked.

Stepping into a cubicle I change into fresh clothes, a worn but well fitting blue t-shirt and baggy jeans; complete with torn knees from an ill conceived attempt at skateboarding years ago. I shiver slightly with the cold tiles beneath my bare feet, hoping against hope that this floor is cleaner than it looks.

With yesterday's outfit stuffed into my backpack I slip into my socks and shoes, heading out to find something to help me stomach whatever might be waiting for me in intensive care.

* * *

The hospital canteen is packed when I finally find it. I can think of about a million places I would rather venture than into the roaring mass of staff and patients, battling in a very polite way to secure breakfast and coffee.

However my stomach triumphs over my mind, and I find myself lining up to pay for my food - miso soup, rice and a take away cup of coffee - sliding haphazardly as I balance one end of the plastic tray on my stump, while keeping a firm grip with my remaining hand.

I have to dig deep into my backpack to retrieve my purse, much to the irritation of the dinners behind me. Waving my bandaged arm and saying sorry has the desired effect, they look down, guilt all over their impatient faces. It’s a cheap trick, but my deformity might as well be good for something.

However my victory is short lived, finding a place to sit seems to be next to impossible; every time someone stands up their place is immediately taken by people more eagle eyed than I am. Finally out of desperation, I ask a women dressed in scrubs, whose blond hair and foreign features are strangely familiar, if I can use the empty seat at her table.

“Oh sure,” she says cheerfully, looking up. “Oh my god, Miki?” She blurts, her eyes fixed on mine.

She knows me?

“Err, yeah,” I say nervously, feeling a deep regret for not having more time for my appearance, now that my anonymity has been striped away.

“Oh, wow, how have you been doing?” She asks, taking a large bite of toast.

“I’m sorry, have we met?” I ask, feeling very rude. I draw little comfort from knowing that remembering things is not one of my strong points.

“Oh shoot, I’m Jullie Montrose, I was your physical therapist?” She answers hopefully.

How could I have forgotten, this is the women who through advanced torture techniques and endless enthusiasm helped me to learn to handle my new lopsided life. I’m surprised she remembers me though, it’s been nearly a year and half, and I was hardly the most cooperative of patients. Or even a particularly nice person to be around.

“You recognised me? It’s been more than a year,” I say, with a touch of awe in my voice.

“Heh, yeah, well I tend to remember my patients, especially those who were a pain in my backside,” she winks.

Using my stump to pin down the package containing my chopsticks I peel the paper away with my good hand, freeing the eating utensils, an action I have performed so many times now that I hardly notice. However, I catch Julie watching me, a sly smile on her face, freckled cheeks bulging slightly.

“What?” I say, meeting her gaze with a puzzled look of my own.

“Oh nothing, just impressed by how far you’ve come along since you worked with me.”

“Oh, right.” I take a bite of the tofu floating in my soup, mulling over her words. “I guess I’ve just adapted over time, but you definitely set me on the right path.” It would be impolite to not even acknowledge her help.

“Mmm, well it’s not very often I get a positive review, so thanks.” She grins, taking another bite of her toast, tearing at the bread like some kind of wild bear. “How are you getting along at your new school?” she asks.

Now how the hell did she know that…

“You know I transferred to Yamaku?” I ask, slightly stunned.

“Heh, yeah, your nurse spoke to me on the phone, he’s very diligent about his charges. I like that.”

Figures if there was spying being done Nurse would be behind it.

“Well, I can introduce you if you like,” I say absent mindedly, the soup isn’t great… but it's at least filling.

Jullie laughs, her eyes sparkling like moonlit water, “I might have to take you up on that if I’m ever in the area. it’s a nice area up there, right?”

I nod, “Yeah,” I reply, not sure what I’m supposed to say, “It’s nicer than this place anyway.”

“Ah, it isn’t so bad here.”

Poor dulled fool.

“So what brings you back?” she asks politely, wiping her mouth with a napkin before throwing it onto the plate in front of her.

I could lie, in fact I can say it’s personal and move on. But Julie, for all that she’s a stranger, feels like someone I might be able to talk to. Miss Kita is kind but I can’t see me sharing my worries, mum is less than useless in that regard; if grandad were here... Well, then things might be different.

“My dad,” I answer, keeping my eyes fixed to the bowl of rice, stained black with a trail of soy source.

“Oh. Nothing serious I hope?”

“He’s in intensive care,” I say, before proceeding to tell her about his condition and the surgery. She nods politely as I explain, grimacing when I mention the coma, it’s hard to tell if she really cares. Or if her concern is purely courtesy.

“Are you on your way back to see him?” she asks as I lift the carefully balanced bowl to my lips, taking a sip of the still warm liquid.

With my mouth full I shrug.

“Anxious?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I reply, realising how much I’ve been putting off going to see him. It’s not that I don’t want to be there for him. But I don’t know if I will be able to hold myself together, to be the person my parents need me to be. What if, seeing him like that breaks me?

“Before I left for Japan, I was so nervous that I almost turned around at the airport and got a taxi straight back home.”

I nod politely, not sure where she intends to go with this.

“Well, look, all I’m trying to say is that even though something makes you feel rotten, you might regret not doing it,” she peters out at the end, apparently unsure if she’s overstepped the mark or not.

“Sorry,” she mumbles, “I guess its not really the same thing.”

“No, it;s okay,” I reply, “I just, well, I thought the surgery would be the tipping point, you know. I thought if he could get through the night he would be fine, but now I’m not so sure.”

Julie nods.

“Well he’s made it through once, no reason he won’t do it again. Not if he has your stubbornness.”

I chuckle softly, finishing the last of my rice. Sometimes I think you’ve already decided the route your going to take in your head, but you need someone to bounce off to confirm your making the right choice.

“Would you like me to walk you down to intensive care?” she asks softly, catching me off guard.

“Could you?”

“Of course,” she gets to her feet, brushing toast crumbs from the front of her pink scrubs.

Following her gratefully my phantom hand starts to twist and contort, sending wave after wave of pain shooting into my chest. It feels like the closer we get to my father the more my body resists, as if there were a giant magnet repelling me.

I hope I’m doing the right thing, for everyone's sake.

— — —

The intensive care unit resembles the experimentation bay of some alien spaceship. A series of glass walls separates the area into rooms, each containing ultra modern looking metal beds and numerous monitors and screens protruding from the all on clean metal arms. You get a feeling of a lot of money having been spent very recently. This place is the optimally of cold and clinical.

I can’t imagine a worse place to die.

Julie leaves me at the head of the corridor with a reassuring squeeze of the shoulder - must be an Australian thing - and a promise to try and hunt down a charger for my phone. Somehow I doubt she’ll be successful; it’s not exactly a recent model.

Nurses, dressed in green scrubs with their mouths covered slip seamlessly between glass cells, doing their level best not to notice me; lest I might disturb their important work with stupid questions. Walking down the corridor I check each room, looking for a familiar face while at the same time trying not to stare any longer than I have to. Most of the people here look like they are on the very brink of death.

I find my father in the very last cubicle, he’s not alone. Mum and Miss Kita sit to one side of the bed on uncomfortable plastic chairs, while to my surprise the rugged muscular frame of my grandfather sits looking ridiculously out of place opposite them.

Dad looks even more lost in his bed than last time, his head wrapped in thick white bandages. He looks like he’s sleeping, peaceful and relaxed, but knowing the truth turns the image before me into a sickening parody of sleep. The heart monitor’s gentle beeps are the only signs that he is truly alive.

“Grandad,” I say, walking over to him; my voice shaking.

We embrace in a one armed hug.

“Miki, I tried to contact you but I couldn’t get through?” he says, more worry than anger on his voice.

“My phone is flat, I’m okay, just needed a little time.”

“I understand, I’m sorry I couldn’t be here sooner.”

“No, it’s-“ I pause for a moment, looking into his warm eyes, “I’m glad you're here.”

And I mean it, my grandfather has always been a veritable rock, supporting not only me, but my mother as well. With him here I feel a sudden relief flood into my chest. It’s like diving into deep water only to find there is a buoyancy aid not far off, I can tread water for awhile, but when it gets too much I can swim to relative safety.

I take the seat next to him, folding my arms in front of me on the soft bed and watching dad, hoping that at any moment he’s going to wake up and smile at me. I think I’ve been watching too many of Ryouta’s movies.

“Have they said anything more?” I ask no one in particular.

“They say the tumour was benign, so it’s not cancerous,” my grandad answers quickly.

“Thank god,” mum adds, I notice she has knitting needles in her hands and is attempting to follow Miss Kita.

“That’s really good, so he will be better when he wakes up?” I ask, smiling brightly as the joyful news fills my chest.

“I would not quite go that far, if your father wakes up its going to be a long recovery,” grandad says, eyes flicker to my father. “He has had brain surgery after all.”

“Oh, well I’ll be here for him when he wakes up.” I reply resolutely.

“You have exams coming up Miki.” A stern note creeps into his voice.

So? What possible meaning could exams have when compared to my father's life? They don’t matter, it’s not like I would even pass them anyway, and mum will need me at home. I should probably just take the rest of the term off to help out, then if dad’s doing better. Because he will wake up, I know that now. I can go to Ikuno’s for summer then return for the last term of school.

“Did you hear me?” Grandad asks, disturbing my planing.

“Are they really that important?” I say offhandedly.

“Yes!” he snaps, causing me to sit up and stare at him.

“Miki, these exams reflect on your performance at school and can affect the university entry exams.”

I snort in derision, if there's one thing I’m sure of it's that I will not be attending a university. For one thing I’m not smart enough, and for another I have much bigger problems than my education. Though even I can’t say that the alternatives are very tempting. Either a dead end job, or worse, a concrete cell.

“Don’t you give me that look young lady, you are going back to school if I have to drag you there by your shoelaces.”

“Like to see you try,” I mutter.

He very clearly flexes his muscles under his thin white shirt. Show off.

“Well, I run faster than you,” I say, not giving him an inch. An argument is not what I had envisioned at breakfast.

“Enough!” Mum says with a force to her voice I didn’t know she had. “Miki, you will go back to school and dad, you can at least give her a week can’t you?”

“Yes, mum.” I mumble, her outburst so shocking it knocks all the fight out of me.

“Well, I suppose I can get the school to fax through her worksheets to be competed here, but only a week mind.”

Grandad and me share a look, like too naughty children. I give him a weak smile, which he returns with a familiar twinkle in his soft eyes.

Tutting, but clearly proud of herself, mum goes back to her knitting.

— — —

Days pass in a seemingly endless blur, each moment as boring as the next. After three full days in intensive care dad is moved back to the room he was in when first admitted, though he has shown no signs of coming round. The room is at least more comfortable than the cold impersonal glass cell the floor below.

Mum and I have formed a kind of honour guard, keeping a near constant vigil at dad’s bedside, with only brief respites when grandad drags us home to shower and get a few hours sleep. I’ve started to get used to living on junk food, even if it is making me feel incredibly fat I have a certain amount of nostalgia for my cities take away joints. A reminder of when I had to fend for myself, before Yamaku.

True to his word grandad arrives each morning with a fresh pile of worksheets. Having claimed the comfortable armchair as mine, I spend long hours using the wide windowsill as a desk, trying to decrypt increasingly difficult homework. Happily I don’t have to do it alone, coming through after only half a day Julie managed to find a phone charger for me. Borrowed from one on the nurses in radiology apparently.

“This is impossible I grumble,” hearing familiar snorts of laughter from Hisao and Ikuno on the other end of the phone. What started out as a desperate text for english help from Hisao has turned into a sort of conference call study club. Not that I mind, Ryouta needs nearly as much help as I do, and it’s nice being able to talk to my friends everyday; even when the subject matter isn’t very interesting.

“It’s not so bad,” Hisao says, I can almost see the warm smile on his face. “You already know most of this, it’s just putting it together in a way that makes sense.”

“Right…” I look at the maths problem again, right if thats that, and I do that to that, then. Oh nice! I read my answer back and for once manage not to embarrass myself. I will have a week of exams with publicly posted results for that.

“Told you, you could do it!” Hisao says as Ikuno adds her own encouragement.

“Err, Miki?” Ikuno says, a hint of shyness deflating her voice. “You're meant to be coming back tonight right?”

I grimace, it’s Saturday, more than a week since I was pulled out of class. I had hoped, perhaps stupidly, that dad would be awake by now. I don’t think I can get out of traveling back tonight, but I’m feeling increasingly uneasy about leaving dad like this and no amount of talking will convince mum or grandad that I should stay back and help.

“Yeah, I guess, dad's not awake yet, so I don’t really know.”

I ended up telling them about dad, even though it feels personal. Ikuno, I would have told anyway and she would have told Ryouta whether I wanted her to or not. Having had to cancel our date I felt I owed Hisao an explanation, boyfriend and girlfriends are meant to share stuff right? I trust him.

“Well, if you do get back tonight come see me okay? I will stay up late anyway to study.” Ikuno says softly.

“Of course, now I was having a bit of trouble working out the next question.”

“You mean question two?” Ryouta asks with a snort of laughter.

“Yes, that would be the one…”

* * *

“Miki, come on you're going to be late.” Grandad says from the doorway.

I’m dressed to travel and my bag is packed, but I’m not ready to go. Instead I lean over dad’s bed, tears running down my face.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, “I don’t want to leave you, but I don’t have a choice.”

I take his cold hand, being mindful not to disturb the drip buried into his wrinkled flesh. Can I really leave him like this? Pressing the back of his hand against my wet cheek I close my eyes, trying to will myself to stand up. To turn away. I can’t.

“Miki, please,” my grandfather repeats, his voice is not unkind. But he’s been able to detach himself from this whole situation from the start; I don’t think he really understands how this feels.

In my imagination the heart monitor picks up its steady beat slightly, and his hand twitches in mine. Wait. I open my eyes quickly, as with a slow grogginess, so does my father. Staring at me clearly confused, but beautifully, wonderfully awake.

I don’t know if the universe has my back, or it’s just playing a very long con, but for the moment, I’m happy.

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Last edited by Gajzla on Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gajzla
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.27 Posted 23rd August 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:03 pm

Study

“So then what happened?” Ikuno asks excitedly on the other end of the phone, as I take in the morning sunrise from a behind a dusty train window.

“Well, after dad woke up all the doctors and nurses rushed in and did the normal doctor stuff, you know tests.” I say, trying to keep my voice down. Not that it really matters. The first train of the day is deserted.

“Is he okay?”

“Not really,” I mumble, “He’s having a hard time talking, and they said he is going to have to learn to walk again.”

“Ah, that sucks,” Ikuno says consolingly, “But he’s alive right? He can only get better from here, can’t he?”

“I hope so,” I say stifling a yawn behind my stump.

“So what time are you due in? Ikuno asks, mischief in her voice.

I’m surprised she’s this awake and alert at five thirty in the morning, then again with me being away she probably managed to get some peaceful nights. I had texted her to let her know I was on my way back assuming she was asleep, the next thing I know she’s ringing me.

“Seven-ish I think, this train stops at like every station.” I say a tad grumpily. This last week has been exhausting both emotionally and physically, I want nothing more than to collapse into bed and sleep for a thousand years.

“Oh, the Shanghai opens around then, you wanna grab a drink?”

“I was going to go to bed,” I say feebly, guilt washing over me for dashing her eagerness. It’s like scolding a puppy.

“You should try and stay awake,” she says with authority, “Otherwise your sleep schedule will be ruined for exam week.”

I had almost forgotten my reason for returning to school. Tomorrow is the last day allowed for study, then the rest of the week will be filled with grilling exam after grilling exam. All of which I am woefully unprepared for.

“Fine,” I grumble, “Why are you awake anyway?”

“Study, you know my brother and sister both aced these tests right?” There’s a hint of genuine panic in her voice.

I feel a stab of guilt, I should have remembered Ikuno’s determination to prove herself to her highly successful siblings - and by extension her babying parents. I guess in our own ways we both have family problems.

“But neither of them would be there for me like you are,” I smile to myself, “Meet you at the station?”

“Sure, we can work on operation keep Miki awake, I have a few ideas.”

Uh oh.

“Why am I thinking awful movies might be heading my way.”

“… But they are the directors cuts!”

— — —

“See this is why life’s unfair, we only get to run for about an hour, but we have to revise for like… a hundred hours.” I complain, copying out my English phrases onto test cards; a numbingly mindless task.

“True, but no one said life was going to be fair huh?” Hisao replies, his cards completed and already stacked neatly in front of him. Show off.

My boyfriend and I have spent a lot of time together since I got back yesterday. To my surprise Ryouta had invited him to watch the movie with us, a kind of last hurrah before the exams started. To my delight he was just as incredulous at the on screen action as me, and we passed most of the movie quietly whispering to each other.

However once the end credits started to roll the exams were the only topic of conversation on anyones lips, or more specifically my lack of preparation for the exams. Hence why I’m in Hisao’s sparsely decorated bedroom at gone midnight. Not that I mind staying up late with my boyfriend, I just wish it was for something more fun than revision.

Stretching my arms over my head, I marvel at the contrast of my dark skin against his perfectly while bedsheets. Hisao, as it turns out, is a neat freak to a degree I did not think possible for a boy. Every aspect of his room from his wardrobe to his neatly arranged pill bottles is spotless. I feel like I’m making the place untidy with my presence.

Then again his room lacks that authentic lived in feel that Ryouta and I pull off so well with our own organised chaos.

“How are you doing?” Hisao asks in English.

I try to subtly adjust my bra under my school shirt, these things were not meant for extended use. Well not for me anyway.

“Hmm, bad,” I answer in my own malformed English, I don’t think ‘bad’ is really the word I should be using, but I can’t think of any better ones this late at night.

“Whats up?” he asks, switching back to Japanese.

“This might be too much information, but bras get really uncomfortable when you wear them all day,” I say distractedly, trying to find where I got to in my revision card writing.

Hisao is quiet for a long time, I look up in case talk of my underwear broke him.

“Well, if you, you know,” he rubs the back of his neck with his hand, blushing bright red, “If you want to take it off, I mean, I don’t mind.”

“Ha, I think you need to take me on at least one date before you get me out of my underwear, don’t you?” I place my hands, well hand, on my hips trying to look stern. The effect is rather ruined by my stump making it look like my arm has disappeared into my side.

“No. no!” he protests quickly, panic in his voice, “I meant if you wanted to be more comfortable.”

“I know,” I laugh softly, he really is sweet. Though I can’t help but watch his eyes drift down from my face. Boys.

I finish up my last two cards. English isn’t my worst subject, but I’m not exactly good at it. It would be easier if we just made all the English speakers learn Japanese.

We spend the next half hour reading phrases back and forth between us, the reader being marked on their pronunciation and the listener trying to translate the often scrambled messages. I wouldn’t call it fun, but it rounds the day off in at least a semi-enjoyable way.

I put down my last card with a smile. I did better than I thought I would.

“You’re getting better,” Hisao says, covering his mouth as he yawns.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” I say, delighting at the dimples that materialise as he grins at me.

“Thanks.” With a large effort he gets to his feet, grunting with the strain. He sounds like an old man. “You want me to walk you back?” He offers me his right hand, before realising I can’t hold on with my left and swapping, an embarrassed blush on his face.

“Nah, you get some sleep.” I smirk, letting him help me up. “You look like you need it.”

I hold onto his hand a little longer than is really necessary, enjoying the feeling of his soft hand in mine.

“You sure?” He says, regretfully parting his warm hand with mine.

“I’ve walked around more dangerous places than Yamaku on my own at night, I can handle it.”

“Really?” his sleepy eyes seem to reawaken with curiosity.

“Umm hmm,” I reply, not sure if this is the right time to bring up my past. I’m not sure there is a right time for a past as messed up and confusing as mine. I’ve been trying to build up the courage to tell him more about myself. It hasn’t been going well.

“I’ll tell you all about it when each other is the only thing we have to worry about.” I say, impressed by my own quick thinking.

Though I’m not sure when in my life I’m expecting to have only Hisao to worry about.

“Deal,” he replies approvingly, eyeing his bed.

“Well, goodnight.” I say, moving slowly towards the door.

“Oh goodnight,” he says as we awkwardly face each other.

Touch was such an essential part of being with Ayumu, but with Hisao it’s different. I don’t know what level of physical contact he’s comfortable with, and I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon. He’s not exactly forward about his feelings. I mean he becomes flustered and blushes enough to assure me he is interested in more than hand holding, but he’s not going to be the one to insinuate anything more intimate.

Before I can embarrass myself any further I fumble with his door, stepping out into the much cooler corridor. Hisao’s smiling face is the last thing I see before his door clicks shut. Catching movement in the corner of my eye I turn, coming face to face with a very strange sight.

A boy, a little shorter than me stands frozen in the corridor, a pair of thick glasses balanced on his nose and a thick scarf wrapped around his neck; though it’s hardly the weather for it. Long moments seem to tick by as we stare at each other, he stands frozen like a deer in a headlight, while I look on awkwardly.

This is insane.

“Good evening,” I say softly, mindful not to disturb my boyfriend. He’s told me enough to know these two don’t get on.

“Is he dead?” the boy - who I assume is Hisao’s hallmate - asks, not bothering to lower his voice.

“What?” I ask, surprised.

“Well, I won’t go down without a fight, I knew this day would come!” Suddenly he hops backwards, raising one knee like a ninja he holds a book above his head while a plastic bag swings madly from his other arm, its contents clinking. Hisao never said he was violent.

“I haven’t killed Hisao!” I say quickly, suddenly feeling afraid. That book looks heavy. “I’m his girlfriend, we were just studying.”

“Ah, so you lured him in with the promise of love, before killing him in cold blood! That's the oldest feminist trick in the book.”

I suddenly feel very sorry for Hisao having to live next to this.

“Look I’m not a feminist,” I say, “Or a killer!” I add as an afterthought, though it isn’t strictly true. Not helping brain.

“What is going on?” Hisao says opening his door behind me.

Oh thank goodness.

“Sup’ man, you’re alive?”

“Kenji, what the hell are you doing?”

So his name Kenji, until now I thought it was something much ruder.

“Defending you man, she was here to kill you!” He speaks as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, still in his ridiculous ninja stance.

“You’re insane, she’s not trying to kill anyone. Wait.” Hisao looks at him as if seeing him for the first time, “Were you going to attack her?”

“A man has to defend himself, man… it was her or me!”

“Can I just repeat I’m not a feminist assassin or whatever the hell you think I am?” I say, my voice shaking softly as blood thunders through my veins. I hadn’t realised how scared I was until Hisao intervened.

“Thats sounds like a feminist assassin lie to me man, you need to be more careful about the kind of girls you're taking to bed dude, didn’t you get my vetted list?”

“Yes,” Hisao says darkly, ‘I did.”

I’ve never heard Hisao like this before, he is a steaming pot of anger ready to burst at any second. So much for not being forward with his feelings. I have no idea how to resolve this situation, I mean I’m not completely opposed to Hisao fighting Kenji in a kind of gladiatorial display for my love. But with his heart condition It’s really out of the question. I know Kenji has poor vision, but I don’t fancy my chances of sneaking past him.

“She says she studying man, what kinda crazy excuse is that?” Kenji says, looking in my general direction with a look like he’s just won something.

“We have exams,” Hisao growls.

“What!” Kenji exclaims, dropping the book to thud loudly on the floor. Standing normally again he turns in my boyfriend direction, his face red.

“How could you have not have known?” I ask, stepping a little closer to Hisao incase I need to break up a fight.

“You didn’t tell me man! You cruel mean hearted bastard.”

I don’t know if I should laugh or not as Hisao pushes his face into his upturned palms. I can’t believe this, it’s almost beyond all reason - I’ve found someone more loud and insane than Misha.

“Well haven’t you been to class?” Hisao says, looking up at Kenji with a frown.

“No, dude I’m busy.”

“With what?” I ask curiously.

“Don’t-“ Hisao warns, but is cut off by a bust of sound from his hall mate.

“Preparing for the summer holidays of course! what else? The enemy knows I will be staying at school, so that’s when they will strike!” He shakes his plastic bag again, producing another glass on glass clink. “I’ve been gathering supplies so I won’t have to leave my room for the entire vacation.”

Ewww, this guy isn’t going to shower for four weeks?

“Whatever, exams are tomorrow, can I trust you not to attack Miki?” Hisao says, his patience at an end. There are, in my experience, two types of sleepy people. The zombie, sluggish and dead to the world like me and grump, extremely irritable and prone to explode if unable to get to bed. Hisao is definitely a grump when he’s extremely tired.

“Sure man, if you trust her.” There’s something in his voice, a kind of shyness that wasn’t there before.

Hisao watches us for a few moments, before wishing me a goodnight and retreating to his room. I stare at his door for a few moments, I didn’t know he could get that angry. I’m not so sure I like it. I could never claim not to be a hot head on occasion, but my anger is more like gunpowder quick to ignite and quick to extinguish. Hisao though, he’s like a pressure tank being slowly filled, a devastating bomb of anger if he’s pushed too far. Has he always been like this? Or has the dark mood he came to Yamaku with mutated?

The scrap of a bottle lid being unscrewed withdraws me from my reverie. I turn to face the direction of the noise, only to find Kenji with a bottle of whisky pressed to his lips. I wasn’t expecting that. Now I realise what was clinking in his plastic bag, questions suddenly fill my mind.

“Where did you get that?”

Kenji lowers his bottle. I can smell the strong liquor from across the hall, it reminds me forcibly of home.

“Ah! thats top secret! I will take the knowledge to my grave!” Kenji splutters defiantly.

“Well, you have no car, neither the bus or the train run this late and the only open store in town is the Aura mart.” I say with a grin, impressed with my own deductions. I should be a detective.

Kenji stares at me, or at least in my rough direction.

“Did you steal it?” I ask hesitantly, unable to take my eyes of the amber liquid. How can something that’s done so much damage look so tempting?

“No! I have comrades in the field willing to hook me up!”

“So someone sells it to you?” I ask, trying to work my way through his cryptic way of speaking.

“Of course, just go after midnight and bring extra cash,” he says distractedly, squirting down to try and locate his book with outstretched hands.

“Here,” I say retrieving his book for him, a dangerous idea sitting uncomfortably in the back of my head.

“Waaaagah!” he cries as I hand him his discarded book, which interestingly happens to be about commando raids of the second world war. I hope he’s not planning to raid the girls’ dorms.

“Shhhh,” I say, worried he’s going to wake Hisao again. “Do you need help getting into your room?”

“Nah, it’s cool man, thanks.”

He’s definitely distracted, like my mother when she was engrossed in some TV show, which in her drunken state, was more important than anything else. I feel a little worried about leaving him to be honest. He’s clearly not right in the head, and I doubt very much alcohol will improve things.

“Okay,” I say tentatively, “Goodnight.”

He doesn’t acknowledge me as I walk past him, stopping at the end of the corridor to watch him fumble with his bedroom door before he manages to slip inside, the sound of multiple locks being fastened follow me down the dimly lit stairwell. I should be feeling tired, but my mind is awash with thoughts.

Hisao might not be the stable safe distraction I wanted, the prospect of drinking is terrifyingly tempting, and I don’t think I can remember a single English phrase I’ve meant to have learned. Fuck.

— — —

“You have one and a half hours to complete the exam, there is to be no talking and mobile phones are strictly forbidden,” our English teacher announces from the front of the classroom. The faded flag above her head flutters as a light breeze floats through the windows, bringing with it the smell of freshly cut grass.

I wonder how much trouble I would get in if I got up now and left, probably more than it's worth - plus I bet they would still make me sit this stupid test.


Looking around the classroom I catch Ikuno’s eye, she gives me a warm confident smile. Though I can tell she’s worried. Must be nice to have “not quite aceing the test” as a worry, I’m not convinced I will be able to understand the first question.

Feigning a smile I let my eyes wander further around the room. Misaki is biting the end of her pen, her brace holding her in an upright position that portrays a confidence that I don’t think she has. Well at least I’m not the only one. Behind me the newspaper club girls are whispering to each other, while a little way away Hanako hides behind a mop of shiny hair. Making her perform a separate oral test seems a bit cruel, but I suppose she’s not the only person at Yamaku with speech problems.

On the other side of the classroom Shizune sits cross legged and looking supremely confident, her pink haired accomplice on the other hand looks like she’s about to cry. That’s interesting, the class president hasn’t helped her best lackey revise? My gaze rests on her for a moment before Hisao catches my eye, he winks across the classroom just as our teacher finishes saying whatever it was she was saying. Hope it wasn’t important.

“You may begin.”

Right, right. Focus now…

I should have made a run for it when I had the chance.


— — —

“Well I didn’t think that was so bad,” Hisao says brightly, his barely contained rage from last night appearing to have vanished.

“I think I did okay,” I reply softly, “Better than I thought I would anyway.

Together with Ikuno and Ryouta the four of us stride out of the main building, our shadows rendered almost invisible by a glowing sun positioned almost directly overhead. A gentle wind playing at the hem of my skirt and the end of my pony tail, acting to keep the air at a perfect temperature for relaxing. Or revision, which I imagine is more likely to feature in my immediate future.

“Did you see question nine?” Ryouta asks excitedly, stopping a little ahead of us.

I share a look with Hisao. Question nine? All I remember is a lot of English words that started to blur into one unorganised mess around the third page in. Judging by the shrug, my boyfriend is none the wiser.

“Yes!” Ikuno exclaims a bright smile on her face, “They can’t have done that on purpose though could they?”

“Nah, I doubt it. But it’s cool.” Ryouta replies, hooking Ikuno’s arm with his stump.

“Either of you want to tell me what the hell you’re on about?” I ask as we once again resume our march to my favourite tree. It’s not the oldest, it’s not the most beautiful and no cherry blossoms grace it’s branches. But that's why I like it, it’s happy being what it is, it doesn’t need to be special.

I jump when Hisao’s fingertips touch the side of my palm, forcing the thoughts of trees out of my mind with the force of a cannon.

“Sorry!” He says quickly, rubbing the back of his neck; soft cheeks flushed red.

“No, no,” I say just as fast, reaching out to take his hand while I still have a chance. “You just took me by surprise is all.”

I entangle my fingers with his. A warmth speeds to my cheeks as our slightly sweaty palms touch, his soft warm hand is just how I remember it from my dreams. People stare as we walk down the path, but I find myself not caring. I’m used to people’s inability to keep their eyes to themselves, at least this time they are transfixed by something that's making me happy.

“See, the love birds weren’t even listening!” Ryouta calls happily, looking over his shoulder at us.

“Ohhhh!” Ikuno simpers in delight, spinning around to look at us.

I consider just making a run for it as the blood rushes to my cheeks and by the way Hisao is staring at his feet - cheeks equally flushed - I bet he would join me. Stupid, stupid… how did we end up holding hands anyway? However neither of us make an effort to pull apart, it's such a small thing but my friends reaction shows just how big a step this is in our relationship. And I’m still not entirely sure how we got here.

“We were listening, it’s just we got a little distracted is all.” I say, much to Ryouta and Ikuno’s delight.

“Question nine was a reference to one of the movies we watched a few weeks back Miki,” Ikuno adds quickly, keen not to leave me out of the loop.

“You mean to tell me those stupid movies were actually relevant for a test?” I say as we hit the narrow patch of grass before our tree.

“Those movies are not stupid,” Ryouta says flopping onto the ground with his normal lack of grace, “They are art.”

“A girl running away from a monster in her underwear is not art Ryouta.” I say calmly, settling down against the tree.

“Girl’s running around in underwear is the purest form of art,” Ryouta protests as Hisao sits down between us, looking uncomfortable at the topic of discussion.

“Excuse me?” Ikuno asks, taking a seat beside her boyfriend.

“My sweetie running around in her underwear is the purest form of art.”

“And does she often run around in her undies for you?” I ask curiously.

“Well-“ Ryouta makes to answer but is cut off by Ikuno’s hand being forced over his mouth.

“Answer that and you won’t be seeing any of me for the foreseeable future.”

Laughing I dig through my bag I pull out my maths textbook, which seems to have grown ten times thicker than when I last saw it. Great.

“Have you decided yet if you’re staying with Miki for the first part of the summer vacation, Hisao?” Ikuno asks, releasing her boyfriend with a stern glare.

I look up quickly, truth be told we had not really discussed our plans for summer, other than visiting Ikuno’s family. Mostly because with Ryouta and Ikuno there, the whole trip could be passed off as something done as friends. However visiting each others families feel much more intimate, like its the kind of thing only a couple would do - and I don’t know if we are at that stage yet.

I would have to trust him enough to show him part of myself, moreover a part that I could never hide nor embellish - it's an unnerving thought.

“Err…” Hisao mumbles, looking to me for help.

“We’ve not decided yet, it’s no big deal.” I say, hoping the answer will satisfy them.

“Are you at least taking Miki somewhere nice on your first date?” Ryouta says happy, a stupid smile playing on his lips.

I’ve missed that smile. Ryouta and I have not spoken of that night a few weeks ago, where he saw how weak and pathetic I am after a nightmare. He’s not the type to think less of me for something like that, but nonetheless I’ve felt awkward around my pudgy friend since.

“It’s a secret,” Hisao answers softly, for some reason he shares a knowing glance with Ikuno before opening his textbook.

Blah, I hate surprises - which, if Ikuno has had anything to do with it, would be why I’m getting one.

“Just a friendly word of advice, strip clubs are not the little ladies first choice.” Ryouta answers knowingly, trying to keep the smirk off of us face.

“Like they would even let you into a strip club!” I laugh, digging through my textbook. Maths sucks.

“I’ll have you know that though I’m graced with a beautiful boyish face I carry myself with the poise and style of a man twice my age.”

We continue to bicker for a while longer before Ikuno’s irritable glances turn our minds back to revision. It’s amazing how fast normal can return. A week ago it felt like my world was ending, that nothing would ever be the same. But I was wrong, life keeps ticking by unperturbed by my presence, like a pebble flung into rapids. If I don’t battle the current, find a safe path through the dark water, I will drown.

But for now I’m content to lay in the dappled sun under my favourite tree, trying to understand a textbook that defies comprehension. I really do hate maths.

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Last edited by Gajzla on Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

azumeow
Posts: 409
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:04 am

Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.28 Posted 3rd September 2015)

Post by azumeow » Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:51 pm

Wooooooo! Haven't made a comment in a while.

That's because I never have anything more to say than "Yay"
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Gajzla
Posts: 245
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:52 pm
Location: England

Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.28 Posted 3rd September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Fri Sep 04, 2015 12:53 pm

azumeow wrote:Wooooooo! Haven't made a comment in a while.

That's because I never have anything more to say than "Yay"
Wooooo! Is defiantly the reaction I go for, much better than disapoinment. Then again I trust you lovely people to tell me when I do something wrong. :D

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