If you like listening to music whilst you read, I'd recommend 'South London Forever' by Florence + the Machine, or 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' by The Verve. Many thanks.
A Long Way Down
“Excuse me, are you alright?”
Above, cutting though the amber sky, is a plane, the sound of its engine a dull roar and the white trail behind it like a tail stretching out forever.
On my right, a tall blonde girl stands rigid, like she’s made of marble. She’s looking a little beyond me, and there’s a look of concern and, I think, amusement on her face. I recognise her from somewhere I’m sure.
She’s woken me up. Inconsiderate of her really, that was a good dream.
Still there are worse ways to be woken, I’ve had plenty of those. A kick, falling out of a chair and onto the floor, the sound of screaming…
“Yeah, uh, sorry, I’m okay thank you.”
The blonde girl looking down at me, well, looking down to my right, gives a relieved smile. It looks genuine, even though we don’t really know each other. From the cane in her left hand, and the cloudy look in her eyes, I’d guess she was blind. I roll over and push myself up from the gravel.
“My apologies for waking you, I didn’t expect anyone else to be on the roof.”
I wasn’t expecting to be woken up when I fell asleep, but then, I wasn’t expecting to fall asleep to begin with. My shoulder gives a satisfying pop as I stretch out, and the girl watc – uh, listens, to my wakening routine. One thing strikes me as strange though…
“How do you know my name?”
The girl’s eyebrows furrow briefly. I recognise her, of course I do, she’s got quite distinctive looks and I’ve seen her around campus before, but this is the first time we’ve met in person. I’d remember if it wasn’t, I think. The slightly annoyed look on her face vanishes, and that smile returns.
“My name is Lilly Satou, I’m the class representative for class 3-2.”
I mean, that name sounds familiar. She looks familiar… and yet the bells aren’t ringing. Being up close at least allows me to realise how tall she is, something I hadn’t noticed just from seeing her around the halls. I feel like I’m standing next to my boyfriend; if I don’t look up, I’d be staring straight into her chest. I think the lack of a reply bothers her, as that furrowing brow returns again, and she coughs into her clenched fist.
“Of course, sorry I should have known. I’m Suzu Suzuki, but I guess you already knew that…” Why would I say something like that? I should smack myself. “It’s a pleasure to meet you properly.”
“So you are and so it is,” she responds, turning away from me and ambling towards the bench by the chain-link fence to my right. Even though I can’t see from this angle I’ve got a feeling she’s smiling again.
“So, what’s up?”
She turns back to me, this time covering her mouth with her hand, like she’s surprised or something. She’s pretty attractive from this angle; the orange light of the sunset makes her look a bit like an angel, especially with the wind blowing her hair and rattling the fence behind her. She smells like roses and rain somehow.
After sitting down on the seat and composing herself, she giggles, half-heartedly. I don’t have any plans until the student council have finished with my boyfriend, so I don’t see any harm in sitting with her. I make my way over and join her, leaning back into the chain-link. She doesn’t object and continues.
“Is it really that obvious?” She asks, confirming my suspicion.
“Well, it’s six-o-clock in the evening and you’re up on the roof alone.” I check my watch, it’s actually closer to seven. “I’ve never seen you up here, and I’m something of a regular.” I add with a laugh, which makes her smile a bit.
“I’ve been up here a few times; the roof is a nice quiet place to go at lunch. I’ve found it to be a lovely spot to think.”
“It’s a good place to get away from people,” I add, smiling and looking out through the links. “Unless those two are here that is.”
Lilly immediately understands who I’m talking about and lets out a girlish giggle, one that feels orchestrated.
“Yes, Miss Ibarzaki and Tezuka can be a bit,” there’s pause as she choses her words carefully, she definitely seems the type, “fast-paced.” This girl seems to know everyone.
“It isn’t lunch.” I add, taking her off guard and stopping her giggling. Her lips curl at the corners, and she looks away, into the treeline behind her, not that she can see them, I guess. Maybe that was a bit blunt and mean.
“That’s right,” she sighs, “to tell the truth, I’m postponing some class representative reports,” I think she wanted to laugh as she said that, but the smile on her face is no way near the same as before. After a while she stops pretending, and looks back out into the wind. “I want to enjoy it, one final time.”
“Final?” Aren’t student elections ages away? And what kind of person enjoys student rep work?
There’s a long silence, and a gust of wind. Despite all the colours of the treeline behind her, the green, the amber, the golden light, everything feels monochrome in this silence. I don’t know what I’m expecting her to say, is she terminally ill? Is she transferring schools? Has she been recruited for some shady government programme?
Lilly doesn’t seem like the type of person who reveals things unless she wants too, but we don’t really know each other. Does she want to talk about something that she can’t with her friends?
Does she even have any friends? She clearly knows a lot of people, but I don’t know if they’re her friends…
I’ve seen her before!
Of course, how stupid am I! She’s the one who shows up for Hanako, the shy truant girl in my homeroom class! I knew I recognised her from somewhere. Although, I can’t imagine she’s great company, maybe that’s why Lilly likes the quiet of the rooftop.
“I’m afraid I’m leaving Yamaku tomorrow to live with my parents in Scotland.” Her sad tone makes it seem like she’s not exactly thrilled about the prospect of leaving. I don’t know why though, living abroad sounds amazing!
“That’s so cool!” From the sigh she gives me, I think that was the wrong thing to say. She turns away from me again, her grip on the bench we’re sat on tightening. She immediately composes herself.
“I don’t know if ‘cool’ describes it. I’m very excited but I’ll miss Yamaku and my friends dearly.” Well that’s more than reasonable, but I doubt someone who was ‘excited’ would look so thoroughly frustrated when they said it.
“You don’t sound excited…”
Maybe I over-stepped there, her smile seems to be less, ‘go on’ and more ‘I will end you for your comment’. Before I can back pedal, she pinches the bridge of her nose and the annoyed look is replaced by a pained one.
“I don’t, do I?”
Why is she telling me this? Does she really have no one she can talk to? Why now?
I think she’s content to sit in silence now. That’s fine, I certainly don’t know what to say anyway. Both of us lean back into the chain-link, a little resigned and a little sad. I don’t understand her and Lilly doesn’t seem to mind. I’m not sure it matters I’m here, but maybe, hopefully she’s glad I am. After a silence that stretches just past comfortable, she pats and straightens her skirt.
“Excuse me, I overstepped. Please forgive me.” She gives me a nod and rises from the bench, the fence rattling behind her in the wind.
I should probably say something, but I don’t know what. It isn’t really my place, and I’m not even sure what to say. I look back out over the tree-tops.
Another plane, another trailing leash of white slicing the amber cleanly in half.
We both watch it go, well, she listens, but we both stay silent and still as it passes overhead. As she turns to leave, the door from the stairwell opens and a smiling familiar face greets me.
“I thought I’d find you h – Lilly?”
Right on time, my boyfriend appears at the door, the second angel to grace the rooftop.
Lilly looks totally surprised.
“That wouldn’t be Hisao Nakai would it?”
Huh? How does she know him?
“Lilly?” Hisao looks equally stunned, but at least he’s not giggling like the blonde girl beside me. “I’m sorry, I was only expecting Suzu to be here.”
“That’s quite alright, I was actually just leaving to finish my class report.”
“Ah,” Hisao says, rubbing the back of his neck. It’s a nervous tick, I think. He did the same when he asked me out a month ago. “I’m sure Shizune would want me to say something about you slacking,” They share a dry laugh. I guess he has some history with Lilly from his student council work. “Given the circumstances, I don’t think that’s necessary. How are you holding up?”
Lilly makes her way over towards the door as she speaks, looking a little brighter actually despite the earlier pervasive sadness that lingered over our conversation. I’d be jealous, but I think she might just be glad to talk to someone who isn’t me.
“I’m doing well, all things considering. How’s the council work coming along? I’m sure Shizune is working you to the bone.”
Hisao slumps his shoulders over and laughs again, this time meeting my eyes and turning towards me more.
Yes Hisao, I’m here too.
Maybe I am the jealous type.
“That’s actually why I’m here. I’m on a recruitment mission.”
“Oh?” A sinister smile plays on Lilly’s lips, like she’s danced this dance before.
Oh no no no .
“No.” I think it’s best to nip that in the bud nice and clearly. My response earns another laugh from Lilly, who giggles with her fingers delicately over her lips again.
Hisao closes the distance between us, passing Lilly half way who listens curiously as he passes. He pats me on the head, so I give him my biggest frown. I don’t know how much of this Lilly is following, but she seems to be enjoying herself, and Hisao is certainly playing it up with the ‘bop’ noise he makes with every pat.
“I know I said recruitment, but I actually meant enslavement.” He says, the Student Council worm inside his head taking full control apparently.
“No.” I say again. Earning me a sigh and a smile. The smile is contagious. Damn it.
Under his breath, and with a hint of defeat in his voice, he continues, “I’ll buy you chocolate.”
“Warmer.” I reply. Lilly appears to be loving this.
“And….” Hisao takes a minute to think of a suitable trade. That’s fine with me, I’m not going anywhere, and apparently neither is Lilly. “I’ll do your share for the Physics group project.”
That’s a tempting offer, but I’m not sure it’s worthy of my soul. The last time I helped out with Student Council work, I was the subject of a disproportionately large amount of criticism from Shizune. Most of it about my character, rather than the quality of the actual work.
“Fine, and I’ll do Molly’s share too.” I guess I was considering the deal for longer than I thought. I’m tempted to just wait this out and get even more concessions, but that seems unnecessarily cruel. His warm smile spreads to my own, and I think I’m blushing.
“Deal.” Molly owes me bigfor this.
“Great!” He grabs both my hands and nearly yanks me off of the bench and into a quick hug before letting go and walking ahead to the stair well. “Are you heading to the council room as well Lilly?”
“I am, would you two care to join me?”
Isn’t she technically joining us? Or, since I’m the ‘recruit’ am I joining them?
“Gladly.” Hisao responds, taking my hand in his as we proceed down the stairs just a little ahead of Lilly.
With that, the three of us head down the stairs and into the empty halls towards the student council room. I wonder if that makes Lilly sad, to hear the school so quiet on her last day. Did anyone throw her a surprise party? Her class obviously owe her a debt for her work.
I can’t help but feel a bit down, not because I’ll particularly miss Lilly, but because she seems like someone in crisis. Should I have said something else on the roof? Was there a combination of words I could have said to make her feel miraculously better?
Could I leave everything behind for Scotland?
I want to say yes. I want to imagine the adventures, imagine the fresh start.
But I think the answer is no.
Even though I’d like to travel, things are finally settling into place here. I met Hisao. We kissed in the dark of a movie theatre. He asked me to be his girlfriend and held my hand at the cemetery.
Molly and Lelouch are helping me with my school work. I’m awake in class more and the lady at the tea house has finally perfected her coffee.
Mom’s getting on without dad, and dad’s finally at peace.
Even my grades are improving.
But maybe that’s naïve.
Nothing really settles right? Lilly is leaving, sure, but aren’t we all? Graduation might still be a few months away, but there’s so much more beyond that. University and life are looming, like those planes overhead – cutting crosses into the clouds, leaving scars in the sky.
After everything, I’m still not sure what to say. The chapters are closing, not just for Lilly, not just for me, but for everyone. Some sooner than others. Is that what I should have said, before we ended up walking the quiet halls of Yamaku, our conversations about anything but tomorrow?
“Hey, Suzu, snap out of it. We’re nearly at the end now.”
We are, aren’t we?
With a polite nod, Lilly enters into the student council room, leaving Hisao and me alone outside for a moment.
“Yes Suzu?” I think I could drown in that warm smile.
“Are blind people afraid of heights?”
Thank you StilesLong for organising this friendly competition. I have to admit, this isn't the best I could have done given my prompt "Suzu x Lilly", but I wanted to at least have something to enter into the running's before life truly interfered. Hopefully it can be enjoyed regardless, it's certainly a slower pace than most things I write.