Mirage_GSM wrote: ↑
Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:24 pm
She put an arm around Hanako’s shoulder to steady her and motioned quickly for Lilly to come in, which she did.
Good for her. Usually motioning for Lilly to do something is not really effective.
Nice catch. If only you guys knew how many times I've written something like that and managed to spot it before posting the chapter here... alas, one finally slipped through.
sloth4 wrote: ↑
Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:46 am
Call me overly optimistic, but I think there's still a chance for Hisao and Hanako to get together.
Hanako getting flustered over this stuff is adorable, and it's good to see her anger coming to the surface more readily. Equally good is that she can rein it in.
Did you mean to say Hisao and Hanako there? I wouldn't get your hopes up... although the guys on the Discord have tried to talk me into various threesomes, they probably wouldn't involve Hisao, considering what just happened to him.
(There probably won't be any threesomes in this fic.... probably... no promises....)
Chapter 23: Concern
Hanako ran her fingers across the lingering sensation of Misha’s kiss, still reeling a bit from the gesture. That someone like Misha really would see her that way… it had happened, Hanako knew it had, and yet it still didn’t feel totally real.
Lilly sat herself down on the bed next to Hanako, leaning her cane against the bedpost. Silence. Sitting quietly with Lilly had never been awkward in the past, but today, it was. Eventually, Lilly raised an arm, putting it gingerly around Hanako’s shoulders before jumping a bit and withdrawing it suddenly.
“Ah! Sorry, err… is that okay?” Lilly asked, her arm hovering in anticipation of an answer.
“Mmhmm,” Hanako nodded, allowing the arm to cradle her a bit.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Hanako?”
Hanako thought about this for a moment.
“…N-no. But I’m better than b-before.”
“Okay. I know how upset you were yesterday, before Misha came to see you. I just hope that you didn’t… act hastily.”
“What do you mean?”
“Only that you should be sure of your feelings for Misha before you go too far down that path. Sometimes, when we’re very stressed, we seize upon the closest and most convenient outlet. Akira, for example…”
“Wh-what about her?”
“Well. I trust your discretion with this. You know that Akira is… rather fond of her alcohol, yes?”
“Yeah… she really likes b-beer, huh.”
“Back when I lived with her, there was a time when she liked it a little too much. You remember that I ended up cooking for us much of the time? That started because Akira would simply keep drinking through dinner otherwise. She would start as soon as she got home and keep going until she passed out. It used to be liquor, rather than beer.”
“G-g-goodness… is that safe?”
“No, it isn’t. Not if one does it every day. Her performance at work was slipping and I was quite concerned about her. It was a difficult situation for us. Finally, I convinced her to go through a program, where she eventually met her boyfriend. She’s more careful now, even if she still enjoys her beer. The point is…”
“Akira started drinking soon after our parents left for Scotland. It was a very stressful event for us with a difficult adjustment period, and she turned to alcohol as a means of coping. I just… I don’t want to see you do something you might regret, either.”
Hanako took a moment to think about this.
“…y-you’re saying… k-k-kissing Misha is, like dr-drinking?”
“Not entirely the same, no. Of course not. But… those types of activities, they can be… another way that people cope.”
“Is that… wr-wrong?”
Lilly didn’t answer, taken off guard by this question.
“M-Misha made me feel better… not j-just, that, but also because… she didn’t say anything, she just fell on me and cr-cried a lot. It made me think, I wasn’t the only person who n-needed to do that…”
“…Everyone needs to cry sometimes, Hanako.”
“Do… do you?”
Another long pause without an answer.
“I just don’t want to see you get hurt, Hanako. Be careful with your heart. The last thing I want is to see it broken,” Lilly said.
“Mmhmm. I’ll be careful, Lilly.”
“Okay. Thank you, Hanako. Things are already so unpleasant between myself and Shizune, and everyone is emotional right now due to what happened at the festival. If things were to go sour between you and Misha… well, let’s just be sure that they don’t.”
Lilly withdrew her arm from Hanako’s shoulder, placing her hands in her lap and fidgeting with them for a moment. It was rare to see her like that. Hanako got the sense that she had more to say but wasn’t sure how to do it.
“H-how about that tea?” Hanako asked.
“Oh! Right, right away!” Lilly said, jumping a bit as Hanako reminded her. She got up and withdrew a couple packets of herbal tea as Hanako went and filled a pair of mugs with water from the sink. Lilly carefully placed them in the microwave and set it to heat them up. The interlude this created in the conversation gave Lilly enough time to work out her question.
“So, Hanako, ahh… you… prefer girls?” she finally asked, waiting by the microwave.
Hanako was grateful that Lilly couldn’t see her blushing at the question. Even after all this time, it still felt delicate to talk about. If it was Lilly, though… she could talk about it.
“Y-yes…” she admitted.
“…only… girls?” Lilly clarified.
Lilly sighed, relieved that it was out in the open.
“I’m sorry if you feel that I’m prying. I must admit, I always suspected, but I didn’t dare to ask. You were always so skittish around boys, but I thought it may just be because you’ve always been shy, in general…”
“N-no… it’s true. I-It’s a lot worse around b-boys. I… I have a h-hard time with them.”
Lilly furrowed her brow.
“May I ask why? Assuming there is a particular reason?”
“No reason… I just don’t l-like them, I guess.”
Lilly didn’t believe her. Hanako could tell. Lilly had always been impossible to lie to… it was one of her more frustrating qualities. Thankfully, another quality she had was a willingness not to press too far with topics like these. The microwave chimed with perfect timing, giving them an excuse to let the topic drop as Lilly retrieved their mugs and set them aside to cool for a few minutes.
“Okay, Hanako. I suppose… I should also apologize, if I’ve been too forward with, well. With physical contact. I never considered that I might be making you uncomfortable…”
Hanako stood up and hugged Lilly around her waist to quiet her concerns, surprising her a bit. After the hug, she took Lilly’s hand and brought her to sit down on the bed next to her.
“It’s okay, Lilly. I-I don’t mind… I would have said something. J-just, uhh… no more k-k-kissing, okay?”
Lilly turned red at this, causing Hanako to stifle a giggle. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been the one causing Lilly to blush like this… it might be the first time.
“Yes, it’s… I’ll be more careful not to do it.”
“I-I don’t mind it, r-really, but it’s just, now… it feels too w-weird to let someone else do it…”
Hanako got up to retrieve their mugs of tea, handing one to Lilly as she sat back down. They were still a bit too hot to drink but they could nurse them until they were ready.
“What about you… Lilly?” Hanako asked.
“What about me?”
“I-I told you, you know, th-that I… like girls. Y-you’ve never been with anyone, not since I met you…”
“Ah! Well, I suppose that’s only fair…”
“Y-you’re very pretty, Lilly. I’m sure people have c-confessed to you…”
“Yes, well. Perhaps…”
Once again Hanako sensed that she had Lilly at a bit of a disadvantage, a new situation for her. Someone like Emi or maybe even Misha would probably start teasing Lilly right about now. While the idea of flustering the unflappable Lilly had its appeal, Hanako decided not to press.
“I-If you don’t want to talk about it…”
Lilly took a long sip of her tea before speaking again.
“No… you’re right. You know that before Yamaku, I attended an all-girls school. With no boys anywhere to draw the girls’ attention, it was inevitable that… feelings would develop. I’ve had to turn several people down, in fact. Of… both genders.”
“L-Lilly! Y-you, you… you turned them all d-down?”
Until the past week, receiving just one confession had seemed impossible to Hanako, never mind several. She couldn’t imagine having that many prospects and refusing them all.
“D-doesn’t that seem… a bit, p-picky?”
Lilly furrowed her brow, working out how to take that question.
“I suppose I have higher standards than some,” Lilly answered, an undeniable hint of pride in her answer.
“B-but, wouldn’t you want to just… tr-try? At least o-once?”
Lilly frowned at this.
“Romance isn’t something to ‘just try,’ Hanako. It’s a complex web involving the deepest human emotions. One shouldn’t simply treat their heart as a plaything.”
“Y-you make it sound so complicated…”
“It is complicated, Hanako. It requires a great deal of experience and consideration.”
“S-so… have you ever had a b-boyfriend? Or a g-girlfriend?”
Lilly’s frown shifted from disapproval back to mild embarrassment. Hanako realized that, at this moment, she technically had more romantic experience than Lilly did. Absurd as it sounded. Though she didn’t know if Misha could be called her girlfriend just yet…
“Th-that just seems so w-weird, Lilly. Y-you’re… you’re beautiful. You could confess to a lot of d-different people…”
“It’s not that simple. You know, it wasn’t easy to decline the affections of others, Hanako. It’s a hard thing to have to do to another person. Imagine what you would do if someone felt that way about you, and confronted you with it, but you didn’t feel the same way?”
That was pretty easy to picture. Hanako knew exactly what she would do. Lilly had probably done a much better job of letting people down softly than she would have… maybe Lilly had a point. Hanako remembered what she had learned about Misha and Shizune. Anytime that Lilly was friends with someone, she might have to worry about whether or not they had those feelings for her. That was one problem Hanako had never had, though she didn’t think she would consider that a blessing, considering the reasons why…
“I-I guess that would be hard, yes. But… isn’t there anyone you ever l-liked?”
“There was. Once…”
“Did I confess? No. It… they didn’t feel the same way about me.”
“Really? How would you kn-know, if you never tried?”
“Just trust me, Hanako. I knew.”
“Okay. I-I’m sorry, Lilly. I’m sure one day you’ll…”
Hanako couldn’t even finish that statement. It was too surreal, for her to be the one reassuring Lilly that there was someone out there for her.
“One day,” Lilly agreed, accepting the sentiment much more readily than Hanako.
“Y-you never answered my qu-question…”
Lilly gave her a bit of a mischievous grin.
“Very astute, Hanako.”
She took a punctuated sip of tea, holding her pinky out with perfect form.
“I can neither confirm nor deny any particular preference.”
Hanako smiled a bit as well, sensing a lighter tone in the conversation now.
“Sneaky, Lilly. You’re very sn-sneaky.”
“Am I?” Lilly asked, perking her brow. “You’re the one cavorting with another student after curfew. Whatever would Shicchan think?” she continued, holding a hand to her mouth and giving a mock gasp of shock.
Hanako squeezed her shoulder as Lilly laughed.
“Well. Not going to class today, I take it?” Lilly asked.
“That’s okay. Don’t… try not to miss too many days, alright? You don’t want to fall behind.”
“I-I’ll try to go back tomorrow…”
“L-Lilly… don’t worry about it.”
Hanako frowned, annoyed by this turn of phrase.
“At least go to a counseling session?” Lilly prompted. “I went yesterday evening. I must say, it was quite helpful.”
“I-I already see my th-therapist every week…”
Now it was Lilly’s turn to frown.
“And I’m sure you’ll see her this week, too. Don’t you think this type of trauma may warrant a bit of extra help?”
“M-m-maybe… I don’t want to g-go anywhere t-today, okay? M-maybe, maybe t-tomorrow…”
“Can you promise to go sometime this week? For me?”
Hanako kicked her legs a bit and mumbled incoherently, knowing that another “maybe” wouldn’t be good enough.
“Okay, Lilly… I’ll go. S-sometime,” she conceded.
“Good. That’s a relief to hear, Hanako. You may not like the idea, but it’s important to get help when one needs it.”
Right. Help. Like Lilly didn’t give her enough of that already. Hanako balled the fist of her free hand and took a gulp of her tea, sloshing a bit of it onto her blouse in her haste. Drop it, drop it, drop it now, she thought…
“You know, Hanako…”
Hanako grit her teeth. Drop it…
“…I don’t think I feel up to attending classes today, either.”
Hanako sighed in relief. Unless… this better not be a ploy to go to counseling together
“Happy to hear that?” Lilly asked curiously.
“You made a noise just now, that’s all,” Lilly clarified.
Crisis averted. Hanako very nearly sighed in relief again.
“A-a-ah! Y-yes, I’m glad…”
“That makes me happy in turn, Hanako. I was hoping we might spend the day together, if it’s alright with you. I think a relaxing day in the tea room will help to take our minds off things. I’m even feeling up to a few rounds of chess, if you like?”
“Okay. I’d like that, L-Lilly.”
Lilly smiled at Hanako, aiming those unfocused eyes straight at her. That was always how Lilly had been, Hanako thought… even though she was blind, she could see right through Hanako, more than anyone else could. Maybe it was because she couldn’t see the scars, so her perceptions had never been shaped by them. Either way, Hanako appreciated her. If she was honest with herself, she needed Lilly, just like Lilly often needed someone to help her go places or do certain things. If only she could find some way to tell Lilly that they weren’t mother and daughter…
That was a worry for another day. Hanako stood up and took hold of Lilly’s sleeve with thumb and forefinger. Taking her cue, Lilly picked up her cane in one hand while handing the empty mug in the other to Hanako. Hanako set it down on the desk alongside hers and they walked out of the room together.
| Chapter 24