“It’s time.” Dr. Ueda groans resignedly, placing the telephone back onto its stand with an ominous click.
“Okay...” I reply, overcome by an odd sensation of serenity. This is the right thing to do.
I tell myself, hardly noticing Hisao entwine his warm fingers with mine.
It feels like I’ve been trapped in this room for an age. Sitting beside the comforting presence of my boyfriend I’ve endured the long eons the sun has required to peek above the horizon. I’ve waited, desperate for the moment something, anything might happen. It’s a strange contrast to the panicked rush in which I made my confession, assaulted almost immediately by more questions than one overtaxed sleepy mind could handle. But that was an hour ago, now silence rules supreme. Only the sun’s warm autumnal light, seeping into the office like golden honey gives any indication that time has moved.
“The police are waiting for you by the front gate,” my therapist explains gruffly, his normally reserved voice failing him, “I thought that may be a more desirable, that is to say, less embarrassing arrangement.”
“Thank you,” I say, my voice quivering. He should hate me. Everyone should hate me.
But he has more right than most to hold a grudge, he vouched for me - In front of the police no less - while I lied in my statement. He should hate me.
But instead he has listened patiently as he always has, helping in his own small, but deeply meaningful way.
“I’ll walk with you.” Hisao says, getting to his feet.
“No!” My response is so sudden he flinches, “No, Hisao, I need to do this by myself.”
He looks flabbergasted as he helps me to stand. “But, why?”
“Remember our first kiss?” I ask softly.
My boyfriend glances towards the therapist, who ducks behind a random file from his ‘Out’ tray. I half expect him to start humming.
“Of course.” He says slowly, turning his curious ember eyes back to mine.
“That’s how I want you to remember me, not-“ I take a deep breathe, “Not in the back of a police car.”
“Miss Miura, far be it for me to interject,” Dr Ueda interjects, “but I do believe the police only wish to interview you, I wouldn’t imagine any overly dramatic arrest is about to take place.”
“See?” I say to Hisao quickly, “It won’t even be that exciting. Go to bed, please, for me?”
I turn to the doctor before my boyfriend can object further. “Can you write him a sick note? He hasn’t slept since yesterday.”
It’s a horribly unfair thing to do, I know that. Hisao is more than capable of deciding how sleepy he is, taking the choice away from him isn't a compassionate act. It’s selfishness. Because knowing my boyfriend is safely catching up his sleep really will give me one less thing to worry about in the coming hours.
“Of course Miss Miura.” He turns to Hisao as he pulls a stack of blank forms towards him. “She’s right, you know, you’ll be no good to anybody if you are exhausted.”
Battened down by my worried gaze and his obvious desire to be around for me later Hisao relents, albeit grudgingly.
“Are you sure?” He asks with a frown, a look of great trepidation touching his bloodshot eyes. Hell, even I’m not certain I want to do this alone.
But I know seeing him disappear while I’m whisked away to goodness knows where... Well, that might just break me. No, I need to do this alone.
“Completely.” I reply, as clearly as I can, though my voice feels gruff. “I will see you later? Okay.”
I begin to move to the door before he has a chance to answer. The old Miki backup plan - run, run until my lungs burn and the world is a blur.
“Miki.” Hisao calls out, just as my fingertips find the cool brass door handle.
Pausing, as if frozen in time, I turn to face him. “Y… Yes?” Damn it! Control yourself.
“I love you,” His face burns with embarrassment, behind him the white bearded doctor averts his gaze.
“I love you too,” I reply simply, feeling my own cheeks burn, “And thank you Dr. Ueda, for everything.”
He looks at me for a long moment, before bowing deeply, “Good luck, Miss Miura.”
Without giving myself the chance to hesitate I push out of the door, leaving the man I trust and the boy I love behind as I walk - nearly run - towards my doom.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next - all I know is that I’ve chosen to face it alone.
— — —
Stumbling, I’m barely able to catch myself, narrowly avoiding a face first fall into the leaf-strewn path. I can’t decide if I want to stroll slowly and enjoy Yamaku before whatever happens at the police station happens or if I should sprint and get this over with as soon as possible. I could always turn back, make a run for it.
With difficulty I suppress that urge. It’s not like the police don’t know where to find me anyway.
Fortunately it’s still early enough for the gossiping student body to be safely disposed stepping bleary eyed into morning showers. I hope that Ikuno simply assumes I slept over with Hisao. I should have told her.
An image of my best friend springs unbidden into my mind's eye, a distant but distinct memory from our one and only fight. I hope she doesn’t react the same way she did then, when I tell her why I wasn’t in class today.
Then again what’s to say she won’t just walk away?
It’s what I expected Hisao to do after all. Will I really lose her just like that? Before I would have said it was a certainty, but after last night I’m not convinced I can really be sure of anything anymore. Somehow not knowing is worse.
Uncertainty plays on your mind in much crueler ways than dread.
Uselessly I try and chase the thoughts flying around my head into some kind of order. Failing miserably until I reach the front gates, where two cars are visible beyond the towers of interlocking iron. The first is an un-extraordinary black solon, but behind it sits a police cruiser. Bloody hell, who are they expecting to meet out here?
Gathered around the cars are a number of men, divided unevenly into a police uniform and a couple neat suits. If Ryouta’s cop movies are anything to go by, I guess the suited guys must be detectives.
Pausing for one final moment by the school gate I swallow a shallow breath, before taking a few tentative steps forward. At first they don’t seem to notice me, then one of the suits looks up, and their conversation ends abruptly.
“Miss Miura I presume?” The detective who calls out to me looks about as dishevelled as I feel. He stands with his thumbs hooked into his trouser pockets, a lit cigarette between his lips. And judging by the stubble shading his chin he’s missed more than one appointment with his razor recently.
“Umm,” I pause. What? Am I going to lie? ‘Me? No, you want the other one handed girl.
’ “Yeah, that’s me - I mean, I’m her.”
“I’m detective Harada,” He bows respectfully, crushing the cigarette underfoot, “We would like to discuss your, ah, change of heart, if you will accompany us?”
I nod slowly, thankful that I’m not being asked for anything more than affirmation yet. The uniformed police officer withdraws his handcuffs as I draw nearer, and instinctively I hold out my mismatched arms.
“Officer Takagi, what precisely do you think you’re doing?” Detective Harada’s voice causes both me and the baby faced officer to look up.
I’ve never had much of a need to understand the hierarchy of our nation's police, but from the low bow the officer directs towards the detective it’s clear who runs the show. “With respect sir, I was going to handcuff the suspect.”
“New to the force are you?” Harada replies, not unkindly.
“Yes sir,” he bows again. “I graduated a few months ago.”
“Ah, well then you probably don’t have your policemen’s intuition yet, but not to worry, you can borrow mine.”
“Sir?” The office replies somewhat in a daze.
“My intuition is rarely wrong Takagi, and at the moment it’s telling me that given the suspect not only reported herself, but walked up to us voluntarily she is unlikely to need handcuffing, nor does she have the right, ah, anatomy for handcuffs.” Harada looks at me apologetically as he finishes his sentence.
My alarmed brain takes a few seconds to catch up with what he just said. I guess the prospect of being restrained was so shocking I forgot about my absent hand. Damn it, I can’t even be arrested like a normal person.
“Now,” the detective continues, frowning at his dumfounded colleague, “do you think you can get her into the car? It’s the big square thing with the round wheels.” His voice is edged with exasperation, and I notice he shakes his head slowly as the officer firmly grabs my arm, pulling me towards the cruiser.
I’m almost relieved as I’m shoved unceremoniously into the back seat, the young policeman apparently transferring the pain of his embarrassment onto me. I’m half tempted to ask if he knows how to start the engine as he climbs into the front seat. Then I remember why I’m in the back seat of a cop car to begin with, and the sarcasm suddenly seems a lot less funny.
In fact everything starts to feel a lot less amusing as the adrenaline seeps out of my body, replaced by a cold prickly feeling in my stomach. The scolded officer remains silent as we slide like a shadow down the hill, picking up the route normally taken by the bus to reach the city.
The aftermath of last night's storm contrasts strangely with the unseasonably bright morning. It’s like autumn used all of its energy striping leafs from the trees - and in some cases trees from the ground - and has now left, letting summer slip back for one last hurrah. Despite the destruction of the evening before, the highway into the city is relatively clear, and soon we are hurtling past the outskirts.
Our pace slows as the buildings grow more dense. With my head pressed against the cool glass, I try and reconcile how I feel, with how cheerful the world seems to be. I’ve felt like this before, when I was rushing to my father's potential death bed. This is a moment that will define part of my life… why hasn’t the universe noticed?
— — —
Why the hell did I agree to this?
The interview room is hazy with a thick smog from the detective’s chain smoked cigarettes, he sits across from me with an intense look on his face the top button of his shirt popped open in the uncomfortably hot windowless room. With a sweaty palm I push the sheet of paper holding my written confession towards him.
He takes it with hardly a glance, before sitting up a little straighter in his chair. Reaching to the floor beside him he withdraws a dogeared vanilla file, placing it carefully on the table between us. “Tell me Miss Miura, can you read?”
I nod quickly, frowning at his odd question.
“Good, then can you tell me what this says?” He points to two red stamped words on the file.
“Case closed,” I read grudgingly, trying to hide my new found resentment for my scruffy interviewer.
“Exactly,” he says, extinguishing one cigarette in the ashtray, before immediately lighting another. “Now, look, I know you might well be feeling… ah, guilty. Because you survived where someone else did not. That’s all perfectly natural, and sometimes when people are stressed, or guilty they confess to things that are not really true.”
I glare at him, as what he is saying hits me.
“Are you one of these people Miss Miura? It’s okay to be mistaken, the case has not yet been reopened. So, why don’t you pop back to school and, ah, book a few more sessions with that therapist of yours?”
Unbelievable, this all completely unbelievable. How can he say something like that? Isn’t he supposed to be trying to establish the truth? What was all that policeman’s intrusion stuff from before - or was that just his way of bullying someone, disguised as being nice to me?
“I am not,” I say slowly and clearly, “mistaken.” I almost snarl the last word. And there I was thinking I would be afraid.
No, all I feel at the moment is pissed off. I didn’t think getting people to believe me would be a problem.
Pinching the bridge of his nose the detective lets out a long sigh, “Very well.” Reaching to the end of the table he hits a button on an archaic wood panelled voice recorder, I was under the impression that it had been running since I sat down. Then again, I suppose if you're going to try and persuade your suspects to go home, you might not want evidence of that hanging around.
Seeming to purposely ignore me Harada lists off the date of the interview and my name in a clear loud voice. Only then does he seem to take an interest in my written confession. Holding his cigarette between his lips he withdraws another sheet of paper from within my file, laying the sheets side by side and seeming to compare them.
“Miss Miura, by submitting this updated statement you are confessing to falsifying your first. Do you understand that this, ah, perjury, is a serious crime?” he asks, his inquisitive eyes not leaving my face.
“Yes, I understand.” I reply slowly, fanning myself with my hand. I don’t know if it’s the smoke, the heart or the company but this room is starting to feel unbearably stuffy.
He shows no reaction to my answer, continuing to read as if he had not heard anything. “Right, I suppose it's best if we start at the be-“ His sentence is cut short as someone knocks on the door, causing both me and my interrogator to jump. Raising a curious eyebrow and smiling at me Harada stands up, the gesture catches me off guard. He’s being nice to me now?
Or is the ability to switch between ally and adversary simply a method of extracting information?
The hinges creak as the door is opened, letting in a blessed waft of cool air. Unfortunately the detective opens the door only far enough so that he can speak quietly to whoever is on the other-side, obscuring my view in the process. I pick at my bandages, the heat irritating the skin as I wait for the questioning to begin anew. I suppose it’s stupid to wonder if our visitor is here to deliver cool drinks.
I catch small snatches of the quiet conversation, but nothing coherent. Eventually Harada signs, turning back into the room and closing the door with his ankle. His expression is hard to read as he walks back to the table, turning off the voice recorder with a clunk. “It would appear,” he says, sitting down heavily, “That your, ah, lawyer would like to be here for the proceedings.”
“I see,” I say softly. How could granddad have found out I am here?
“I’m afraid you have a good few hours wait ahead of you,” he seems genuinely sympathetic as he returns the paperwork to my file and stands up. “Come on, we have a waiting room.”
Still mystified by the detective’s true feelings I get to my feet, eagerly following my interrogator out of the room. The air in the corridor is mercifully cool, and I suck down great lungfuls as if it were the last oxygen on earth. In silence we stroll side by side, until arriving in the waiting area, which seems about as run-down as the rest of the station. The once cream walls are stained a putrid smoker’s yellow, and not one of the padded chairs is without a hole or gash.
“May I use my phone?” I ask quickly as my escort turns to leave, apparently satisfied that I can work out the features of the dingy room by myself.
“You are not under arrest, ah, yet.” He cringes a little before continuing, “So yes, you are free to use your phone.”
I nod quickly, “Thanks.”
With a shrug he continues on his way, while I find the seat with the best ratio of comfort to cleanliness. Settling down into the extremely soft, and disturbingly sticky leather I pull out my phone, holding down the power button until it vibrates, dinging back to life in my hand. Almost immediately the handset goes crazy, message tones playing one after the other in a polyphonic cacophony.
[From Ikuno] ‘Hey where are you????’
[From Ikuno] ‘Why’s your phone off, are you okay???”
Why would you text someone to ask why their phone is off?
[From Hisao] ‘Going to bed as promised, see you later. I love you.”
I smile softly, writing a quick reply to Hisao.
[To Hisao] ‘Sleep well, I love you too. Thank you for still being there for me. <3’
Next I turn my attention to my best friend.
[To Ikuno] ‘Hey, I’m okay. I’m at the police station, it’s a long and very complicated story - I’ll explain everything when I get back, I’m sorry.’
With a sigh I flick my phone closed, holding the slightly warm plastic to my lips. For the second time today I’m facing an uncomfortable wait, and this time I only have out of date magazines to keep me company. Joy.
I sigh, closing ‘Ten top tips to better skin this winter’ - judging by the date on the front cover of the magazine the advice is at least three winters out of date, not that it was particularly enthralling to begin with. Don’t check the time, don’t check the time.
I tell myself, yet I can’t help but let my eyes slide to the clock above the doorway.
It’s about lunch time now. I’m bored, I’m hungry, and if my grandfather does not show up soon I might just scream. This is my fault really, I had this delusional notion that confessing would be like an action movie, that I would reveal everything and be in front of a judge by this afternoon. In reality the wheels of justice turn slowly, very, very slowly.
I reach to pick up one of the magazines with scantily clad women and fancy cars - if for nothing other than a change of pace - when the shuffle of shoes grabs my attention. My grandfather has not changed in the slightest since I last saw him, same mane of hair, same aged muscle barely contained by white shirt.
“Miki.” he says breathlessly, stepping past his uniformed escort with the smallest of nods. “What in all that is sacred were you thinking?”
“Errm… Hi.” I say. Truth be told I’m not entirely sure I want him here, but I’m smart enough to know a lawyer is probably an advantage.
“Yes, hello.” He says hurriedly, “You confessed? Why would you do such a thing?”
“Because,” How the hell do I answer this?
“Because it was the right thing to do,” I reply stubbornly. I shouldn’t have to convince people telling the truth is a good thing… should I?
“But you told me you couldn’t remember anything! Miki, do you not understand how serious this is? You cou-“
“Yes,” I interrupt with a growl, my annoyance getting the better of me. “I understand completely. Why do you think it took me a year to build up the courage to confess?” I’m getting sick of this.
Why does everyone suddenly want to talk to me like I’m some silly little girl who's too stupid to realise what she’s done? Everyone I’ve spoken to has either tried to dissuade me, or else infantilize me. I wish my dad were here. He’s the only person in the entire world who could understand why I need to do this.
“And what have you told them?”
“Everything.” I say, fixing my gaze on the magazine strewn table.
“What does ‘everything’ entail?”
“I explained that I was driving when we crashed, that I…” I falter, “It was me, Tatsuo, he’s… because of me.”
A wave of fresh panic settles on my grandfather's face, and he leans back into the chair pushing his fingertips into his temples. Despite myself I sniff, I never wanted him hurt in all of this. I feel like I’ve pulled the plug on my personal sinking ship, vindicated I’ve returned to the deck… only to find everyone I love is about to be dragged down with me.
If this is the right thing to do why does it feel like such a horrible mistake?
I’m shaken out of my revery by the feeling of my grandfather’s strong arm wrapping around my shoulders. He looks at me with a touch of sadness in his otherwise kind eyes. Instinctively I lean into his chest. I wish I could tell him I never wanted any of this to happen… but the sentiment feels completely immaterial.
“What are we going to do with you? Your grandmother always said your honesty would get you into trouble one of these days.”
I nod slowly, unsure how else to respond. I can’t remember a time when I was honest, truly and completely.
I suppose when I was younger, when I didn’t have things in my life that I wanted to keep to myself. But that was so long ago. Hot tears finally break free from my tired eyes and burn slender paths down my cheeks.
“She would have been proud of you Miki, and for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you, too.”
Unfortunately our all too brief moment is interrupted simultaneously by the reappearance of detective Harada and the blaring ring of my mobile. Springing apart I dig in my pocket while my grandfather jumps to his feet. I glance at him nervously as my thumb hovers over the call accept button.
“Take it,” grandad says kindly, “I won’t be far away I’m sure.”
With a thankful nod I hit the green button, hesitating for a moment before I press the receiver to my ear. Ikuno’s panicked voice erupts from the speaker as I watch Harada and my grandfather exchange pleasantries before stepping out of sight into the corridor.
“Miki? Miki are you there…?”
“Sorry, I’m here,” I say quickly. “Bit distracted, how are you?”
“How am I? How are you?
Your text said you were at a police station.” Her words spill over each other as she speaks, the sounds of bustling student-packed hallways clearly audible in the background of her call.
“Yeah, it’s a bit complicated. It’s going to be okay though, I can explain later.”
“I’m your best friend, you can tell me. Is someone hurt? Is Hisao hurt? Is it your dad again?” She seems to be on the verge of hysterics. Perhaps I should be a little more careful about what I write in my texts.
“No one's hurt, everyone's fine.” I say, interrupting her manic tirade.
“Then what's going on? Why are you at a police station?”
“Well, like I said, it’s complicated.”
“Come on Miki, I’m worried about you. Whatever it is just tell me, please? I will understand - I promise.”
What the hell do I do? If I tell her then I risk losing my closest friend over the phone. On the other hand, If I don’t tell her then there is every chance she might react like Hisao and get mad at me for keeping secrets, and then end up finding out from someone else anyway. Damn it… I guess I don’t have a choice.
“You…” I start slowly, even though Ikuno will be the fourth person I have confessed to, saying the words is no easier. “Do you remember when I told you about how I lost my hand?”
“Yeah?” she replies softly.
“Well, I told you someone else had been driving, the boy who died in the accident.”
“Yeah…?” There's a hint of uncertainty in her quiet voice.
“I…” Come on, just say it.
“What do you mean?” She asks quickly before I can finish my sentence.
“I was the one driving the truck, I’m at the police station to confess.”
“You killed somebody?” her accusatory tone makes me wince.
“I… It… Yes.” I mumble.
Ikuno - Unsurprisingly - falls silent. I can’t think of any combination of words to explain myself, to justify my past mistakes. ‘I didn’t mean to’ and ‘It was an accident’ are what you say after you spill a drink. There are no equivalent statements - in any language - for when you take a life.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Her voice is hollow as she finally speaks.
“How could I? I didn’t even fully remember myself until last year.”
“You’ve known for a year? And you never told me.”
“Ikuno how the fuck could I have told you? You would have hated me!”
Taking a deep steadying breath I try and reason with myself. I should have been expecting this reaction, I shouldn’t have told her over the phone. Still, a small part of me can’t help but feel irritated with her. She must know I would never have been able to tell her?
She does understand that we’re not talking about some secret party invite, but a truth so horrible it's going to rip my life apart. She can understand that right?
“You could have trusted me! What about all those nights I stayed up with you? Night after night, I thought that meant something?” Her voice is a harsh unwavering whisper, “And I nearly told you… I, just...” she pauses, and I can hear her sigh heavily into the mouthpiece. “I think it might be better if we stayed away from each other, I can’t let my family get caught up in something like this.”
“Iku-“ I make to protest, but the line is already dead. Quickly I hit her speed dial, but barely make it through one tone before the line dies once again. She rejected the call.
For fuck’s sake!
Since when has her family meant so much to her that they affect who she hangs around with? And anyway how does knowing me affect anything? It’s all bullshit.
It’s just an excuse because - like Hisao - she considers not being privy to every detail of my life a personal affront. I push my palm against my mouth to muffle a frustrated scream. And how could she think I didn’t appreciate her spending time with me after my bad dreams? Even I don’t know what would have happened to me if she hadn’t.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. I mean, the news must have come as a shock. Plus it was delivered over a damn telephone.
But Hisao came back into my life after finding out I was keeping secrets from him. And it’s not like Ikuno and I haven’t had fights before.
Though, never over something so serious. I will just have to talk to her after I’m done here - like I should have done in the first place.
With a plan in place - and trying very hard not to think of all the things that could go wrong with it - I get to my feet. I can’t believe how tired I am. It’s like I’ve run ten sprints on top of a week without sleep. My head is a chaos of confused thoughts. There’s simply too much to think about: Ikuno, Ryouta, Hisao, Grandad, my parents - and that before I’ve even considered what’s going to happen to me. I wish I could curl up against my boyfriend's chest and never have to think again.
— — —
Rather predictably the universe is in no mood to hear my silent pleas for mercy, and I find myself back in the smoke-filled interview room. I’m going to stink of cigarettes when I get back to school.
That is, assuming I go back to school - I’m only guessing. One thing’s for sure, if I do end up in a cell tonight how I smell will be the least of my problems.
My grandfather's bulk is like a hunched statue on the chair next to me as he reads through the statement I wrote earlier. He doesn’t look happy.
Then again it’s a confession, how much more incriminating could it possibly get?
“Well,” he says gloomily, looking up from my clumsy handwriting. “That would just about do it.”
“Yes, it’s, ah, well more descriptive than most confessions we get from people.” The detective answers. “There are a number of questions I still wish to ask Miss Miura, if that is acceptable.”
“Su-“ I begin before being shushed by my grandfather.
“Miki, I advise you to remain silent, for now, please.” There's plea in his voice. I nod once, though I don’t think he notices as he continues speaking to Harada. “You understand my client has suffered a major head injury? The information she has provided may be false”
My stomach drops as the detective nods, “I do - though, as I’m sure you, ah, are aware she leaves me little choice, I can’t ignore a confession.”
I want to protest. I am not mad! Or making anything up for that matter.
But before I can do anything too rash my grandfather's warm hand finds my shoulder. “Miki, if there's anything you are not one hundred percent sure of, or cannot fully remember I advise you not to answer.”
I nod slowly, turning to face my interrogator. Who lights yet another cigarette.
“Now Miss Miura, I wonder if you can remember any further details about the accident, anything that might help us understand exactly what happened?
I shake my head. “No, I…” trailing off I wonder how honest to be. Completely would seem the obvious answer.
“I mostly remember things through my nightmares, I don’t remember much when i’m awake.”
Both the detective and my grandfather's eyebrows raise, sharing a look in the smoky room. Grandad is the first to speak. “Miki, are you telling us your confession is based off a dream?”
“A nightmare.” I mumble, eyes fixed on my trainers. They both must think I’m insane.
“Oh the prosecutor is going to have a, ah, massive amount of fun dealing with your case Miss Miura.” A hint of a smile plays around the detective's lips, which vanishes so quickly I wonder if it were ever truly there.
“Who?” I ask, feeling increasingly stupid.
“The public prosecutor Miki,” My grandad says quickly, “They are the one to decide if you will face trial or not.”
“Am I under arrest?” I ask slowly, wishing I knew more about Japanese law.
“No, at least not technically. If you miss your appointment with the prosecutor a warrant will be issued. But your, ah, lawyer will ensure that doesn’t happen I’m sure.”
Grandad nods, his hand still on my arm.
“Right then, I suppose we better start at the beginning again. See if we make a bit more sense of this.” Harada says not unkindly.
With a sigh I start to confess all over again, but this time dimly aware that I still might be missing vital details. For the first time since pronouncing my guilt I feel a shiver of doubt - What if this really was a big mistake?
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