Woo, 1000 views, I imagine more than half of those where misclicks but even so =D. So heres chapter 8, I like this one more than 7 by a long way, in fact 7 joins chapter 1 in the list of chapters to be re-wrote before act 1 starts.
As always feedback is appreciated and I hope you enjoy.
“Did you like that one?” Ryuota asks, switching off his DVD player, a hopeful look on his face. I hate to disappoint him, but I just could not get into a movie about a girl fighting off a killer alien in her undies.
“It was okay,” I shrug, sitting on his bed. My aching phantom hand clutched to my stomach. I wince as my non existent little finger shrinks and stretches of its own accord.
Its taken me a little while but I think I’ve worked out why phantom pain is so horrible. Everything else on my body I can touch, I can rub my sore legs after a run or hold a cut finger until it stops bleeding. When my hand starts to hurt all I can do is feel it be torn, burned, stretched and shrunk. Unfortunately this epiphany offers little comfort.
“You have no appreciation for art,” he looks at me shaking his head. “Ikuno still not talking to you?”
“Clearly,” I grunt with pain. “Else I wouldn’t be here watching stupid movies,” I snap.
“Hey don’t take this out on me,” Ryouta says rolling his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, tucking my legs up to my chest. Ikuno has not said a word to me since our argument, in fact she’s trying very hard to pretend I don’t exist. My hand gives another involuntary stab of pain, I swear under my breath.
“Anything I can do?” he gestures vaguely to my stump.
“No,” I sigh, “Don’t you get this?” I hold up my arm.
“Nah,” he looks at his arm appraisingly. “I was born like this, no phantom pains for me.”
“Lucky,” I mumble, then realise what I said. “I didn’t mean- I’m sorry.”
He laughs waving me off with his stunted arm.
“Come on,” He says, grabbing his jacket from the back of the door.
“Where are we going?” I ask grumpily.
He just grins. Stepping out of his room, he leaves the door wide open. Dammit Ryouta.
It’s almost sundown and he wants to go on some hair brained adventure. I get up with a groan, my hand starting to clench. He’s not gotten far down the corridor as I hurry after him. I don’t even have my coat.
Ryouta leads me out of the seemingly deserted school between the black iron gates and down the hill, heading towards the small town nestled at its base. We walk in relative silence, listening to unseen birds sing; it’s peaceful. Okay perhaps this is better than his messy room.
“Are your parents coming to the festival?” He asks casually.
“I doubt it,” I look up at a pink and orange sky, a gentle breeze playing with my hair. “My mum does not really get out much and I’ve not seen my dad since I was like eight?” I shrug.
Ryouta goes to say something but I cut him off.
“I’m okay, It’s not a problem.” I say quickly, it’s important to make him understand that I’m not fishing for sympathy. It’s half the reason I don’t tell people. I didn’t have a bad childhood no matter what people assume.
He looks like he wants to say something, but thinks better of it. I’m grateful people read too much into things. Thanks for taking me at my word.
“I’m not sure if mine are coming this year,” he says, turning his attention back to the black pavement, “Not sure my little sister is old enough to travel yet, she’s only a baby.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” I say laughing. “What’s your little sisters first language going to be? English or Japanese?” He seems to put some considerable thought into the question before answering.
“Depends how good the summer realeases are,” he laughs.
“Are you close to your family?” I ask, an aftershock of pain causing me to grimace.
“Yep!” He grins and bursts into a story of a family camping trip. It’s a little like Ikuno’s stories, only with a lot more chaos and quite a bit more laughter. By the time he’s explaining how he had to fish his prosthetic arm out of a lake the phantom pains have all but vanished.
We continue to chat, letting the cobbled lane guide us as we stroll between rows of shops and picturesque houses. Electric lights flicker on around us as night draws in, spilling orange light out onto the street. Around us the town starts to close for the night, shopkeepers throwing us suspicious looks close the wooden shutters of their stores.
Walking through a sleeping neighbourhood brings back memories of my past life, it seems so far away now that I wonder if it even happened. Our feet carry us the to the Aura Mart, still spilling florescent light into the night, forsaking the traditional closing times of the town.
An electronic beep plays as we enter the shop, somewhere inside a radio is playing on low volume. The refrigerators hum as we stride between the aisles, apparently Ryouta had ulterior motives in this trip as he hands me a basket. I don’t mind, shopping is easier with two hands, so I do mine at the same time. We leave the store, each of us with a carrier bag in hand. Yamaku lays ahead of us as we start the long walk up the hill.
— — —
We part outside the dormitories, Ryouta seems apprehensive leaving me alone. I assure him I will be alright, after all I’ve been on my own for a long time. I switch on my desk lamp upon entering my room, changing into my sleep shorts and my oldest most comfortable T-shirt I catch my reflection in the mirror. I look older than I feel, its a strange contradiction. Sighing I resign myself to homework before bed, I’m interrupted when my phone rings. Did Ryouta forget something?
When I check the caller ID I nearly drop the phone in surprise.
“H… hello?” I answer the phone shakily. I don’t think she has ever phoned me before, I can’t even remember the last time she was awake at this time of night.
“Hello… does this thing work? Hello?” My mother’s voice shakes a little.
“I’m here Mum,” I take a seat on my bed. “Are you okay?” I ask, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice. Is she on her death bed?
“Sweetie it’s good to hear your voice, I wasn’t sure I ha-“ her voice is cut off by a fit of coughing. “I wasn’t sure I had your number.”
“Well looks like you found it,” I smile softly, she sounds so fragile but her head seems clear. “You sound good mum.”
“I’m calling for a reason,” she says, ignoring my last comment.
“And heres me thinking you wanted to see how your only child was coping all by herself in a new school,” I say sarcastically, unable to keep the bitterness out of my voice. If she was able to phone all this time, why didn’t she?
“I do, I did, I-“ she trips over her words spluttering.
“It’s fine mum… it’s fine” I exhale slowly. “What did you want to talk about?” I swear if she puts a lodger in my room I’m never going to forgive her.
“You’re fathers been released.”
I stay quiet for a long time. So he actually was in prison? That’s a surprise. I always thought he left us and in her shame mum lied about it. Still I have no idea why she’s telling me this, all my memories of my father are faded with time and bittersweet nostalgia.
“Miki… are you still there? Hello?”
“I’m here mum, I just don’t know what you want me to say.” My voice feels like it’s going to break.
“He wants to meet you.”
“I don’t know him,” I say calmly, regaining some control over my voice. Why can’t I come from a normal family?
“He’s not a bad person,” Mum says, her voice upbeat. Clearly she has no ill feelings about his incarceration. Then again she started drinking after he left and has apparently stopped since he’s been released, she might not have noticed the time in-between.
“He left you alone,” I say coldly.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” She starts to cough again. “Just think about it please sweetie? For me?”
I sigh slowly. Like I don’t have enough to think about.
I agree tentatively. If he’s willing to explain I’m willing to try and listen, even if I don’t particularly want to. I don’t even know what he did to end up behind bars. The conversation moves haltingly to school, friends and my hand. I give vague answers. Despite living with her all my life, sober my mother feels like a stranger.
We say our goodbyes. She tells me she loves me, something she’s said hundreds of times before in a drunken mumble. Tonight though I believe her when she says it. I love you too mum.
Hanging up I stare at the phone in my hands, she sounds so different. Is this because my grandfather finally found a housekeeper who could care for her? Or because I left?
Sleep is hard to find. I feel like my thoughts are chasing each other around my head, I try and get them in some kind of order. It’s useless, head starting to ache, I give up. Burying my head in my pillow and waiting for sleep to claim me or dawn to come.
“Watch out!” I cry as the bus barrels into us, my whole world flips and turns, spinning. I can’t tell what’s up and what’s down anymore. Everything goes black.
Waking I can hear the shrill wail of a car horn being held down. Opening my eyes slowly I take in my surroundings, I’m still in the truck. But everything seems wrong, the view out of the cracked windscreen is at ninety degrees. The faint smell of petrol tinges the air.
I blink a few times. I’m only able to move my head and when I do I can feel something fall from my face with a tinkle. Broken glass? I look up, the passenger side window is broken. Above me I can see clear blue sky. My body is twisted, legs held in the air above me.
Beside me Tatsuo lays as a crumpled heap, his neck bent at an unnatural angle. Eyes wide and staring, he looks surprised. I turn my face away quickly, allowing my eyes to trace up my arm. It takes me a moment to realise what I’m looking at my dark tanned skin disappears at the wrist under twisted black metal.
I wake up screaming, truly screaming. I knock my clock off the bedside table in my haste to get out of bed. Falling against my closet. Panic stricken it takes me a moment to work out where I am. I still feel like my hand is trapped between twisted metal and road, I force the stump into my stomach. He was dead. I choke back sobs as the image of Tatsuo’s staring face flashes across my mind.
My door flies open, Ikuno’s mouth drops in shock as she appears in the doorway. Her nightdress softly illuminated by the hall lights, she looks like a ghost. I let the tears flow freely down my cheeks as I look at her, no longer having the strength to hide what I’m feeling.
In three long strides Ikuno crosses the room, sinking down beside me she wraps her arms around me. I lean into her, sobbing softly into her shoulder as my hand burns. We stay cuddled together for what feels like a long time, until my eyes have dried and the pain in my hand has lessoned.
“I’m so sorry,” she breaks the silence, her voice barely a whisper. “I’m sorry I said those things.”
“Me too,” I pull away just a little, resting my head on the closet. “I don’t even remember why we got in a fight.” I say sniffing, I wipe my cheeks with the back of my hand.
“I forgot to eat, I didn’t think,” she sighs softly.
“I had a rough appointment,” I admit. “It… it was unfair to bring all my problems to you.” In the darkness we trade apologies, it’s cathartic, if not a little unnecessary. I already forgive her, after all what happened was mostly my fault. This isn’t the first time my temper has gotten me into trouble.
“Diabetes can cause mood swings, and I was so tired” She looks at her feet. “I know it’s not an excuse.”
“Have you forgotten to check yourself before?” I ask, there’s so much I don’t know about my best friend, I don’t even really know whats wrong with her. Everything is so obvious with Ryouta and me.
“Yeah, It’s kind of a bad habit,” she pauses, “It’s why I ended up here.”
“Oh?” I’m keen to hear why she transferred to Yamaku, but I don’t want to push her. Taking a deep breath she starts her story.
“When I was at my old school we went on a field trip to Daisetsuzan, you know the national park?” My mind fills with images of rugged snowy mountain peaks, vast forests and isolated hot spring fed bath houses. I nod slowly. You get a much higher class of field trip in private education.
“I got caught up in the excitement of the first day hiking, forgot to check my blood sugar and well…” She grimaces at me. “They had to call an ambulance, it was a really big deal because of how far along the trail we were.” She closes her eyes leaning back against the closet.
“What happened?” I ask gently.
“I was taken to hospital, my parents came and picked me up and I spent the rest of the trip at home,” She says quickly, as if pulling off a plaster. Opening her eyes slowly she continues. “After that the school said it could no longer accommodate my unique needs and I was transferred here.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “Were your parents upset?”
“Once they got past the shock they didn’t mind really, they had been pushing me to go to a school like Yamaku for years.” She stretches out her legs in front of her, leaning back against my closet. “I’ve always been the baby of the family I guess, I’m the youngest and I think it came as a real shock to them when I was diagnosed.”
“Why didn’t you transfer before now, if your parents wanted you to?”
“My older brother is head of one of our overseas offices, my sister is studying in France and I’m just poor diabetic little Ikuno.” She looks at me, a resolute look on her face, “I just wanted to prove to everybody I can do everything they can.”
“So that’s why you obsess so much about perfect scores on homework,” I giggle.
“I think you could use a little of that obsession yourself missy,” She laughs as I concede the point.
“What about your parents, how did they react to?” She gestures to my stump. I think back to her venomous comments in the argument, to how much they hurt. Telling her about my family would give her a lot of dirt to use against me. But I guess that’s what trust is, giving someone else the power to hurt you. And hoping they don’t.
I tell her about mums drinking and my father being in prison. I even tell her about the phone call I received today. I try and make it perfectly clear that I don’t want sympathy, that everything is fine and I don’t really want to talk about it. By the time I’m done talking she’s staring at me open mouthed, I press my finger against the bottom of her chin closing her mouth. She smiles softly at me.
“So think I will be able to steal you back from the council sometimes,” I ask tentatively. She nods earnestly, though I notice a disgruntled look on her face. “What?”
“I did all that paperwork for them and didn’t get so much as a thank you,” she huffs. “In fact all I got was an armful more.”
“Ryouta was right,” I giggle.
“You won’t tell him will you?” She asks a frown creasing her forehead.
“Of course not,” I beam. “What are friends for?”
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