Feurox's Den of Sadness [04/26/2020]

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Feurox
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I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT2

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:11 pm

I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT2

“He was the perfect gentleman,” Saki giggles, taking another long stroke with her paintbrush.

“So, did you kiss?” I ask, I can’t motivate myself to paint anything still.

Saki giggles, and turns to face me.

“Well a gentleman never tells,” she says sarcastically.

I raise my eyebrow, and she starts laughing.

“Okay, yes. We did.”

Saki is suddenly overcome with giddiness, and has to steady herself against the table. It’s adorable watching her get so flustered. I’m happy for her, really.

“Was it magical?” I tease, and she sticks her tongue out at me.

“Yes actually, it was,” she giggles. “He held my hands and, and, and he told me how much I’d helped him since he arrived and –“

“Yuck!” I intercept her, and turn away. She giggles again behind me, but I don’t actually want to hear the details.

“You should get yourself a boyfriend so we can chat about gross stuff like kissing and sex,” Saki says nonchalantly. It feels a bit like an accusation, but I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.

“S-sex?” I ask in surprise, though I’m still facing away.

“Well, I mean, I’d like too at some point…” she mutters under her breath. Even quieter, she adds, “before it’s too late.”

I…

I haven’t really thought about sex before. Saki has a totally different condition to me; hers is a mandate expiration I suppose. Something that will get worse and worse until she disappears. I assume she could realistically have sex normally until she begins to lose functionality but… could I?

“I’m… I’m not even sure I c-could have, you know,” I begin to explain, but Saki giggles.

“Sex?” she says, though her voice is still pretty quiet.

“Yeah,” I whisper, “I think it could… kill me.” I shudder. That sounds like a pretty awful way to go.

Saki gives me a sad smile.

“You can’t think that way,” she whispers. “Besides, you can worry about that after you get yourself a boyfriend,” she jokes, trying to lighten the mood.

That seems a bit disingenuous though… right? Like, is it wrong to start seeing someone knowing I might never be able to sleep with them?

I shake the thought from my head. It’s not like I can’t have sex, I don’t think, maybe if I’m super careful about it… uh, not that it’s something I really have to think about. My cheeks feel so hot right now. I don’t even want a boyfriend. I want...

Or, maybe I do, if the feeling in my stomach when Saki talks about Hisao is anything to go by. I suddenly feel really sick. Or rather, I want… I want something.

Saki shrugs, and turns back to her painting. She picks up her brush and, after thinking for a few moments, delicately extends a deep streak of blue where the river spills out into the ocean.

I take another look at my canvas. It’s still blank. The empty white space is screaming to be filled, but I can’t.

I have nothing inside of me to let out, I guess.

That thought makes me want to scream. It makes me want to tear this dumb little canvas in two.

I hear Saki paint another stroke against the canvas, but I turn to watch the sunset.

Maybe I could draw that. Maybe I could draw the way the golden light sits on everything in the art room. Maybe I could draw Saki drawing.

I just don’t have it in me.

I sigh and lean back. I can hear my heart in me ears, like I’m going over the edge.

I take another look at Saki. She’s working diligently on her painting. She’s even humming happily as she goes. She’s probably thinking about Hisao.

I get up from the stool, and she turns around to face me.

“Everything alright?” She asks, but I can’t answer her. I stumble into the hallway, and just faintly here the sound of her reaching for her cane.

I have to go.

I steady myself against the hallway, and stagger down it until I reach the end, and fall into the girl’s bathroom. My heart is racing in my ears, and I feel like I’m going to vomit as I fall to my knees in front of the toilet bowl.

About forty seconds later, I hear the sound of the door opening and the tap of Saki’s cane.

“Rika?” She asks.

“Rika, are you in here?” she asks again. All I can manage is an affirmative grunt. I feel so empty.

“Rika, I’m going to get some help,” she says, but before she can leave, I smack my hand against the toilet stall wall.

“Please, no,” I manage, and the door doesn’t open.

After a few more seconds of silence, Saki exhales.

“Okay,” she sighs, “okay.”

It takes a few minutes, but I eventually steady myself and sit back against the stall door. I feel it give a little as Saki does the same on the other side.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers beneath the door.

After I don’t say anything, she continues.

“I shouldn’t have started talking about sex and stuff, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t consider whether you could… whether you…” she doesn’t finish her sentence.

She’s wrong, that’s… that’s not what this is.

“I love you, Rika,” she whispers quietly.

I drop my head into my hands. I can feel the tears begin to roll down my cheeks.

“I love you,” I whisper. I’m not even sure she hears me.

“If you need to talk, I’m here,” Saki says.

“I know,” I reply, after a few seconds I add, “thank you.”

What is wrong with me? Why do I feel so empty? Why do I feel so… spilled?

“I love you Rika,” Saki repeats.

I finally throw up.

_____________________________________________

“I’m curious as to why you ask, Katayama,” Nurse says, a sly grin on his face. “I’m wont to remind you that the school has very strict rules about curfew, but I won’t try and stop you.”

Nurse straightens his tie and starts searching through his drawers.

“You should be fine, provided you take things slowly and are mature about how you’re feeling. As awkward as you might find it, I’d need to know if anything does happen during your… experiments.” He explains, before producing a pamphlet and a foil packet.

“I uh, was asking hypothetically,” I reply, and Nurse nods.

“I see, well you might still find this useful.” He presses the items into my hand and I slide them into my rucksack.

“Thanks,” I say, and awkwardly make for the door.

“Hang on a minute Katayama.”

I turn to face Nurse; he’s got his serious face on.

“Miss Enomoto tells me you were feeling rather ill the other day.” He taps the chair in front of him, and I take the seat with a sigh. “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

I close my eyes.

“No, I’m okay,” I say, but I can’t look at him as I do.

“Katayama,” Nurse says slowly.

I open my eyes again, but rather than angry, Nurse just looks sad. He leans back in his chair and clasps his hands together.

“Have you been feeling lost again, Katayama?”

“No, I…”

Nurse patiently waits for me to continue.

“Have you ever wanted something so badly, but deep down you know you can’t have it?” I ask, and Nurse sighs.

“I think I might know the feeling,” he answers.

“Well, yeah,” is all I can manage. Considering the rain outside, I’m glad I get to come here instead of doing physical education classes.

“It’s natural to sometimes want the things we can’t have,” Nurse explains, before tapping his fingers against his desk. “I think you just have to recognise the things you can have, or do have.”

There’s a silence.

“I know it might not seem it, but you’re quite lucky,” he says, and I laugh.

He chuckles as well. I guess that lightens the mood a bit.

“You are though. You have wonderful friends, you’re exceptionally smart, and I bet there are boys throwing themselves at you here,” he teases.

Boys… throwing themselves at me?

Nurse raises his eyebrow at the last point to make sure I know he’s just playing around.

“I… know,” I reply. It must feel like getting blood from a stone for him. That, or pulling teeth.

“Listen, Katayama,” he sits forward. “If you think you need to talk to someone again, I can arrange for that to happen. But you worry too much for someone so young,” he laughs now.

“Well, doesn’t everyone my age?” I try to joke, but it comes out a bit flat.

"Oh, how lucky it is to be so old and wise in your young years,” he laughs.

“Well I can’t waste my young years being so young,” I reply. It’s something Saki once said to me.

Nurse’s face become very stern.

“Talk like that around me again and I’ll put you in the ground myself.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, but he’s smiling now.

Nurse is another one of those people I should be happy I have in my life.

Nurse is another reason I should be happy. I want to be.

But I want so much. I want so much that happiness barely makes the cut.

“I want to feel better,” I eventually say, and Nurse smiles again.

“I know, and you will. We’ll get there together.”

I want to believe him.

But I don’t even know what’s wrong with me.

“Katayama,” Nurse clicks his fingers in front of me.

I snap back into focus. I didn’t realise I was tearing up.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, and sniffle a little.

“It’s okay. Sometimes we have to feel a bit down to appreciate the things that make us happy.”

“I don’t know what will make me happy though,” I say, and he nods. “Then every time I think I know, I realise I’m wrong, or that I’ll never be able to get the things that make me feel okay.”

Nurse bites on the end of his pen.

“Miss Katayama, might I ask what exactly it is you want?”

I think about my long list of desires. I try not to acknowledge the thing at the top, and think instead about those just below it. A new heart would be good. Being normal would be up there too. I’d like to be with my family again, instead of here. But then I’d want to bring everyone here back with me too.

“Just say the first things you think of, Miss Katayama.” Nurse repeats, and leans forward.

“I want to live. I want to be able to run, to swim. I want to eat whatever I want and not worry about it killing me. I want to see graduation; I want to be with someone. I want to scream, I – I want, I want to dance. I want to see my family, I – want, I want – I want Saki to, I want, I want her to – I want and I - “

Nurse quickly places his hand on my shoulder, and offers me a tissue. He doesn’t seem surprised by anything I said, which is a minor comfort. I didn’t even feel myself begin to sob like that, but I guess that’s all I’ve been doing lately. I instinctively place my fingers beneath my neck and check my pulse, it’s rapid, but I feel okay. Physically, anyway. Inside I feel open.

If my brother saw me like this, he’d tease me relentlessly.

“Okay,” he says gently. “Why don’t we start with swimming, and graduation?” Even though he’s speaking delicately, his voice betrays a slightly jokey tone; I feel myself smile just a tiny bit. “There’s nothing stopping you having a swim, with the right preparation.”

“I, I just want to be able to do things without preparation,” I reply.

“You can be spontaneous without being dangerous, Katayama,” he lectures, and I sigh.

“I… I can try,” I eventually say.

“Okay, well, I’m going to ask again, do you want to talk to anyone about this?”

“I think so,” I say, and he laughs.

“Okay,” he replies, “You’ll be okay, but it takes time.”

I stand up from the chair and straighten my skirt.

“It’s not too late?” I ask quietly, and Nurse puts his hand back onto my shoulder.

“It’s never too late,” he says, and he squeezes me. It feels comforting. I don’t really know how he does that; how he makes everything seem like it’s not so bad. I’m thankful. “I’ll be in touch via email.”

Even as I exit his office, and promise again that I’ll try to be spontaneous, and uh, safe, I feel something sinking in my stomach. My phone vibrates.

[Lunch?]

It’s Saki.

[O.K] I reply, and I try to smile.

I try.

_____________________________________________

“You’re tired huh?” Akio asks.

I turn to face him; the rocking of the bus threatens to lull me to sleep. I guess the look on my face is answer enough, since he chuckles.

“Didn’t sleep much last night I take it?” he asks, and I shrug. “Me either.”

“I’ve been stressing out about my art project,” I explain, and he nods sympathetically.

“You’ll figure it out. Besides, it isn’t due for a few months, right?”

“Yeah,” I answer, and return to my window view. The countryside is slowly becoming the city; green is slowly becoming grey and white, neon and slow. Cars start to queue beside the bus as we reach the first busy intersection.

“Thanks for inviting me to the city though,” Akio says, he doesn’t sound like he minds me staring off into the distance. “Even if it was a bit late notice,” he laughs.

“I’m being spontaneous,” I mutter into the window, and he laughs again.

“You certainly are. I’m happy to come anyway; I had a lot of fun at the track meet.”

“Me too,” I say, and turn to give him a smile. “Thank you, by the way.”

“Always,” he replies, before smiling to himself and closing his eyes. We have another 20 minutes or so until we arrive in the city, so I won’t disturb him. I’m content to sit in silence.

I close my eyes and rest my head against his shoulder. He doesn’t mind, and he runs his fingers through my hair. It’s a nice feeling; it could send me to sleep for sure. Luckily, I’m not someone who just naps everywhere, so I manage to stay awake until the engine cuts out at our stop.

Akio gives me a little shake, probably thinking I’m asleep, and we both get up and off the bus. It’s surprisingly bright, and everything has this shine to it. We find a part of the street that isn’t swarmed with people, and Akio places his hand on my shoulder.

“So, where we going first?” he asks, and I giggle.

“I need art supplies, but I don’t know where they are. Spontaneous, see?” I explain, and he gives me a confused look.

“Ridiculous, more like,” he chuckles, but immediately springs into action. We race down the street next to us, window shopping as we pass clothing and sports shops, cafés and restaurants.

Image

The streets look so alive as we pass markets and stores. Akio grins as we pass a video game store, but he doesn’t ask me to go in with him. He’s on a mission. My mission.

This feels fun; exciting even. Akio is grinning like an idiot and I have to admit, it’s kind of cute. We’re going pretty fast, but I still get the chance to look in every store window. The colours melt together, dolls collide with fancy shirts and fruit and veg and –

“Rika?” Akio asks, coming to a halt in front of me.

I nearly bump into him, and he chuckles.

“Look here,” he points to my right and sure enough there’s an art store there. It’s got loads of textiles and paints, canvas’ etc.

“Yeah, this is perfect!”

“Shall we?” He asks, and offers me his arm.

“Let’s,” I say and link my arm around his. I lift my other hand up to my neck, but my pulse is actually okay for the moment. Akio looks concerned, but immediately smiles when I relax.

We enter the store, and immediately my senses are overwhelmed. Everything smells so… crisp, the colours and fabrics melt together like we’ve stepped into a painting. A lady in a fancy grey suit nods to acknowledge our presence, but quickly returns to her book.

Akio seems quite lost in here, so I tug him to follow me around. I’m not even sure what I want; but I grab a few stencils and paints, as well as running my hands down the length of the fabric hanging like banners. It’s super soft, and Akio follows my lead, scoffing in surprise as he takes in the texture.

The lady behind the counter barely raises her eyes when I reach the till, but she takes my money and places the items I’ve picked up into a small bag. Thankfully, Akio takes the bag so that I won’t have to carry it; he worries about my condition a lot, I think.

Once again, we exit out into the bright streets, and I grab Akio’s wrist.

“Thanks,” I tell him, and he smiles widely.

“Anytime,” he says, before pulling me into a sideways hug.

“Where next?”

“Dinner?” He asks, his hand still on my shoulder pulling me close.

Like a… date?

I think about Nurse; I think about Saki.

“Sure,” I reply. “I’d love too.”

And we delve back into the mystery and majesty of the bright city streets.

_____________________________________________

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Last edited by Feurox on Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Feurox
Posts: 284
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:03 pm
Location: England, Oxfordshire

I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT3

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:12 pm

I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT3
Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.
Homer, The Iliad.
I take a deep breath, and gently wet the tip of my brush with paint.

“It’ll be three months on Saturday, isn’t that crazy?” Saki half-asks, half-states.

“Yeah, are you doing something special?” I ask and she giddily turns around.

“Hisao said he had dinner reservations in the city.”

Despite how long they’ve been together, I haven’t really gotten to know Hisao much. The few times we hung out as a four, Hisao, Saki, Akio and me, felt an awful lot like double dates.

That being said, he seems to be the perfect gentleman. I keep telling myself that he’s perfect for Saki, that he’s patient enough and kind enough to stay with her… but, he’ll never understand her like I do. How could he?

He doesn’t know what it’s like to have already lived half your life away. Hopefully, he never has to know.

Even though I’m shaking a little, I apply the brush to the canvas and trail a small black line down the centre. Saki is swinging her legs back and forth restlessly.

This is the third canvas I’ve been through in as many months. I keep stopping and starting.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Saki begins, and I chuckle.

“That’s never a good thing,” I joke, and she bats away my comment with a smile.

“No, really, I’ve been thinking about time,” she says, and I gently set my brush down. The canvas has a crimson scar down the middle; it’s a good start. “I don’t want to waste anymore of it,” she continues. Normally when we talk about this kind of thing, it’s sombre. Today she looks defiant.

“You’re going to seize the day?” I smirk, and add, “are we going to Dragon Eats?”

She laughs.

“Yeah we are, obviously, but that’s not what I meant.” Saki takes a deep breath, and places her hands onto her knees. “I’m going to go all the way with Hisao.”

She…

Oh.

“Oh,” I manage, and Saki braces herself. Before she can talk again, I reach over and place my hands-on top of hers.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” I ask, and she gasps, maybe surprised that I’m willing to talk about this with her.

A lot has changed in three months.

“I, don’t know,” she eventually says, and turns her hands around to hold mine. “I just don’t want to waste time, and I think he’s the right person.”

I don’t say anything else, but I give her a smile.

We sit like that for a few moments. Both of us silently grateful for the other. Both of us waiting for the other to say something, but neither of us do.

Saki sighs, and squeezes my hands.

“Thank you,” she whispers.

Dragon Eats?”

“Please,” she giggles, and turns around to pack her things up. I’m not sure if I imagine it or not, but she takes a lot longer standing up today. Her right leg seems to be giving her trouble. Before I can say anything, the moment is gone.

I grab the cover for my canvas and prepare to hoist it over my work in progress. Over her shoulder, I notice that Saki’s work is nearly finished. I run my finger beside the single black scar on my own work.

It’s the tapestry of me. The line again and again, open and closing on my chest.

“Ready?” Saki asks.

“As I’ll ever be.”

I throw the cover over my art, or lack thereof.

With that, we exit out into the corridor and hit the lights of the art room. Saki hobbles out a little slower than usual but quickly regains her usual pace as we exit out of the golden hallways and into the evening.

“Have you taken Hisao to Dragon Eats yet?” I ask in what I hope is a non-accusatory way.

Saki feigns outrage, and places her hand on her chest.

“I would never forsake our sanctuary to pesky males,” she says, and I giggle. It’s nice to know she sees it as special; it’s nice to know it’s our place.

“Good, good.” I say, and we continue the walk past the Yamaku gates in near-silence. That’s alright though, I’m just enjoying her company.

It has been relatively cold for the last few days, especially since it’s summer time. Still, I’m not complaining; I’m glad that I get to wrap up snuggly in my hoodie. Like last time, the lights heading down the hill have already come on, despite it still being a golden evening colour. By the time we return, it’ll be that beautiful purple colour that I wish I could find in a paint.

I’m sure there are technical names for those colours that you just can’t find; those colours that maybe can’t be made but have to be stolen from the world. Maybe if you could take them from the world, they wouldn’t be special anymore. The whole world is filled with things that we can never have, but I don’t know if that’s a bad thing anymore.

I get so wrapped up in our decent down the hill that I barely even notice as the town lights come into view. We pass the Shanghai wordlessly, and as if in grim foreboding, a loud crack of thunder shakes the sky. Saki laughs, and our hobbling speeds up.

Thankfully, Dragon-Eats is close by, and we make it beneath the canopy as the first drops of rain plummet to the earth. The restaurant is unusually busy, but Mr Domen notices us and gestures towards two empty spaces at the bar. With a bow, we take our seats and two cups of green tea appear before us. There a few people I recognise from my class here, and they nod in my direction when our eyes meet.

After he finishes serving some customers, Mr Domen makes his way over to us and bows from behind the bar.

“Good evening ladies, apologies for it being so crowded tonight.”

Saki and I giggle.

“That’s more than alright; we’re glad you’re getting all the custom you deserve!” Saki chirps, and I nod enthusiastically beside her. Really, I’d like this place to remain secret and calm, but I won’t pretend I’m not happy to see Mr Domen doing so well for himself.

It doesn’t take long for us to decide what we’re having, and Mr Domen happily takes our orders and heads through the curtain at the back into the kitchen. Saki taps on the bar in front of me.

“So, how’s the counselling going? She asks with a smile.

I shrug.

“It’s not very interesting, but it’s helping.” I answer.

“Still anxious?” Saki takes a sip of her tea and raises an eyebrow. Behind her, a couple seem to be arguing about something.

“It’s something like that,” I answer, and the conversation mostly tapers off.

We don’t end up talking about much in particular, Hisao’s name gets brought up a little, but Saki doesn’t bring up her plans again. Before long, our food arrives and we eat in a comfortable silence. As always, Mr Domen’s food is impeccable.

Just as we’re finishing up and paying, Mr Mutou arrives and gives us a polite nod. He takes a seat at the far end of the bar, and Mr Domen fills his tea up personally.

I see him everywhere lately; it’s like he’s my shadow. I wonder if he’s always been around and I’m only just noticing now. Saki says he’s always looked that sad but… but he looks defeated to me.

Apparently Hisao and Mutou have a very good relationship. So maybe I should trust Saki’s word.

Still… I wouldn’t want to feel how he looks. He seems finished somehow. When he takes a sip of his tea, it’s like he’s going through the motions.

Saki taps me on the shoulder, and I turn to face her.

“Since the weather has cleared up, shall we head back to campus?” I nod, and she smiles. “Good, I’m quite tired.”

We say our goodbyes to Mr Domen, and wave goodbye to Mutou, before heading out from the restaurant and beginning the hike back to Yamaku. The world is that beautiful purple colour I was pining for earlier, but now it also has that fresh smell of wet grass and trees. It’s a little chilly too. A few cars pass us as we start walking up the hill, splashing puddles as they go.

Before long, we reach campus, and head through the gates. I take a deep breath and plant my feet firmly in the ground.

“Not coming back to the dorms?” Saki asks, turning around to face me. She looks really beautiful beneath the glow of the street light.

“No, I think I’ll have a little stroll around campus,” I explain, and she nods understandingly.

“That’s a nice idea, I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“As always,” I say with a smile, and she turns on her heel. I watch her go and listen to the gentle tap of her walking cane slowly drift into the distance.

Once I’m sure she’s gone, I turn and head towards the boy’s dormitories. The double doors open and a blast of warm air hits me, taking my breath away. I quickly get accustomed to it as I pass the common room, where two guys are playing chess, and start ascending the steps.

When I reach the second floor, I look around. Thankfully I’m alone.

A little hesitantly, I knock on Akio’s door, and I hear a bit of shuffling on the other side.

The door opens; Akio smiles.

We kiss.

It feels warm, it feels comfortable.

It’s not exciting, but it feels safe.

We kiss again, and he shuts the door behind me as I enter.

The curtains close; the lights go off.

Our clothes puddle together on the floor.

_____________________________________________

I slip into my brother’s old hoodie; it’s definitely cold enough outside to warrant it, and the fur lining on the inside immediately warms me up. With a final glance towards my clock, and the answer that, yes, I will be late for my appointment, I head out from my room.

It isn’t like I actually spent the night at mine anyway. I just really didn’t want to shower in the boy’s dorm; it’s worth being a little late for the comfort of my own familiar shower. Still, Nurse will probably scold me.

Past the common room and out the door, the cold wind hits me like a bullet. I don’t know what’s up with the weather lately, one second it’s boiling and the next it’s freezing. Maybe the world feels how I feel lately, a bit all over the place.

That’s not really fair. I’m doing better, I think. I wonder if that’s because of Akio.

It isn’t like we’re dating, and I certainly don’t have a desire to date him. But he makes for good company; he’s a really good friend and he… and he knows what I like now, so…

Maybe I’m being a bit disingenuous. I don’t want to hurt him, but I’m not about to assume he’s in love with me or anything. I’ve been straightforward about everything, I think.

I stop in the middle of the path and shake my head. It’s way too early to think about this kind of stuff. I think I’m happy, for now. Right now.

I’m happy right now, and that’s all that matters.

Spontaneous, and all that.

“Hey Rika.”

I turn around, and I suddenly feel a little ill.

“Hisao,” I reply, “hello.”

He nods his head and slows down before me.

“Heading to class?” he asks, a friendly smile on his lips. I try to reciprocate.

“Nurse’s office, actually,” I explain.

“Ah, everything alright?”

“Yeah, just a check-up,” after a second of awkward shuffling, he does that thing Saki loves, where he scratches the back of his head. If anything, it just annoys me. “Same direction, I suppose.”

“Indeed,” Hisao responds with a shrug, and we start walking again. The air smells really crisp, and I can faintly smell Hisao’s aftershave.

“How have you been?” He asks, clearly this will not be a silent and peaceful walk.

I shrug, “I’m alright,” I think that’s a good indication of how I’m feeling. It’s a bit boring, but it’s true. I’m just alright.

“Alright implies you could be better,” Hisao laughs, but I don’t find that very funny. He was a lot shyer when I first met him.

“Well, I could be, there’s lots I wish I could change,” I explain, and he pretty much immediately stops laughing.

“Yeah, that’s true for everyone I suppose,” after a few seconds, and after looking thoughtfully into the distance, he adds, “but I’m actually happy the way things have turned out.”

Just before the doors, with students passing us on their way to class, I grab Hisao’s wrist gently.

“Do you love her?” I ask; I feel sick.

He stops.

It feels like everything stops.

“I do,” he explains.

“Okay,” is all I can manage.

“Is it?” he asks.

I let go of his wrist.

“Yeah.”

We stand there for a few moments.

“Thank you,” I say, and Hisao chuckles a little.

“You care about her a lot, I know that.”

“I do.”

“I won’t hurt her,” he explains.

“Okay,” is all I can manage.

But right now, it’s enough.

_____________________________________________

The art room feels empty without Saki here, but then she’s not as far behind as I am.

Besides, it’s date-night, so I guess she has other plans. I’m not bitter though, Hisao makes her happy, and her happiness makes me happy.

Yeah, right.

I drag the brush down the centre of the canvas, and trail it up and around the shape.

It’s finally coming together. It’s all finally coming together.

Another brush stroke, another deep breath to steady myself. The blank paint trails, drips, surrenders on the canvas.

This will be the last one; this is it.

This is me.

I think about yesterday’s talk with Hisao, and my cheeks immediately fill with crimson embarrassment.

I told Nurse about that too; he laughed. Even if I was looking out for Saki, I was being stupid. I was being so dumb.

“Are you happy?” Nurse asked me, that serious and stern look on his face.

“Yes,” I told him, but that was another lie.

I trail another streak of black on the canvas.

My heart beat picks up. I think about Akio.

Another lie, even if I don’t mean it to be.

We have different needs, and such different expectations.

I get up from my stool; the canvas stares at me accusatorily. I take a look out of the window.

There’s hardly any light out there.

There’s hardly any light at all.

But what good is thinking about this all now?

I am Rika Katayama.

There isn’t a cure for that.

_____________________________________________

Next
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT4

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:15 pm

I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT4
What decadence this belonging rubbish was, what time the rich must have if they could sit around and weave great worries out of such threadbare things.
Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways
My phone rings again.

I pull away from Akio’s lips. He makes an annoyed grunt.

I roll my eyes and reach for my phone. The number is unrecognised, again.

“Sorry,” I say to Akio, and he gets off from on top of me.

I press the answer button.

“Rika?”

Hm, I don’t recognise the voice, but then I barely recognise anyone on the phone.

“Who is this?”

“Hisao, it’s Saki, I, uh,”

“What?” I sit up and Akio shoots me a concerned look. “What’s wrong?”

“Saki, she’s, I – “

“Are you at hers?” I ask quickly, Akio looks very confused but slides his pants on.

“Yes, please – “

“I’m coming, stay there,” I say and close my phone. Akio quickly passes me my underwear.

“It’s Saki,” I explain, and a look of panic comes over his face.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, and I pull my shirt over my head.

“I don’t know, you should come too,” I explain, and I can already feel my heart beginning to beat against my chest like a machine gun.

“Obviously,” Akio says annoyed. He throws me my hoodie just as I’m finished clipping my skirt.

“Ready?” I ask, and he nods. We open the door and nearly run down the halls. My ears ring, my stomach feels empty, my heart breaks.

“Saki’s room yeah?” Akio asks as we pass the common room.

“Yeah, should we call the nurses?”

Akio shakes his head.

“If so, Nakai would have called them and not us, this must be something else.”

“Right,” even though we’re in a panic, Akio is thinking logically.

We don’t pass anyone between the two dormitories, but it’s quite late so I’m not surprised.

What if she’s hurt herself again… what if she’s…

“Rika,” Akio stops me before we enter the girls dorms.

“There’s no ti – “

“Shut up,” he whispers. “We need to be calm now, for Saki, and so we don’t get any unnecessary attention.

“I…”

Akio pulls me into a hug.

“For Saki,” he whispers, and I nod into his shoulder. I feel like I’m going to cry, and I don’t even know what’s happened.

We head inside, and I nod politely at the girls sitting in the common room. Not that it matters, since they’re not paying us any attention anyway.

At the top of the stairs, on our hallway, I take a deep breath. Akio stays behind me, and gives my hand a squeeze.

Okay.

I knock on Saki’s door.

“It’s me,” I say through the door, and it immediately opens. Hisao looks exhausted, and panicked.

“She just kept telling me to call you,” he looks like he’s about to continue but I push past him into the room.

Saki is sitting in the corner, holding her head in her arms and sobbing. The scent of urine is immediately obvious.

I kneel in front of her and place my hands on her shoulders. She shivers.

“Saki?” I say quietly, and she sobs even louder.

“I’m here,” I say.

I turn to face Hisao. He looks terrified. Akio looks like he wants to hit him.

“What did you do?” I ask, and Hisao immediately places his hand on his chest.

“We – I – “

Just as it looks like Akio might punch him, Saki speaks up and grabs my arms.

“It’s not him,” she cries, “I – It’s all m-m-my-“

Akio calms down quickly, and I turn to face Saki. Her eyes are deep red, streaming tears down her face. She looks terrible.

“What happened?” I whisper, and she bursts out into another cry.

“Hey,” I hear Akio say behind me. “I know you’re worried but let’s give the girls some space.”

Hisao looks like he might cry as well, but takes a deep breath.

“Yeah… I… hang on.”

Before he leaves, he approaches us. I give him a bit of space.

With one hand still over his heart, Hisao leans down and kisses Saki on the forehead. He whispers something into her ear, and she very slightly nods, before the tears come out again.

“Alright man, let’s go.” Akio places his hand on Hisao’s shoulder. It’s quite surprising how quickly he can go from potential enemy to friend.

The boys disappear around the door, and Akio pulls the door shut as they go.

I place my hands back on Saki and pull her close.

After a few minutes of just holding her close, she whispers in my ear.

“I-it was supposed to be – to be magical…” she whispers, and I give her a squeeze.

I don’t say anything, but start rubbing circles on her back.

“M-my legs,” she begins, “I couldn’t – I collapsed and, and, and –“

“Shh,” my hand moves from her back to her head.

I… think I know what happened.

“It’s okay,” is all I can say.

“It’s not, I’m… I want to…”

She trails off into her sobbing.

I want to help.

But what can I even say?

I squeeze her again.

“I love you, Saki,” I whisper.

She cries again.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

But this is just how it is.

I kiss her on the forehead.

“It’s okay,” I whisper.

But it’s not.

After an hour or so just sitting together, first in her room and the in the shower, I call the nursing staff.

They take over. They tell me to get some rest.

But I don’t.

_____________________________________________

“Rika!” Saki yells at me, her smile could illuminate the world.

“I missed you,” I say back, walking fast towards her.

She wheels towards me and I wrap my arms around her.

“What do you think?” She asks, a playful smile on her face.

“It’s a good ride, but I think we could pimp it up!” I giggle. Akio chuckles loudly.

“I’m glad you’re back, Saki,” he adds, before reaching down and giving her a hug.

Her wheelchair is fairly boring, stock issue I would guess. Still, I’m sure we’ll be able to personalise it soon enough.

Last week, her condition unexpectedly worsened. She’s lost significant functionality in her lower half. I think that it really flamed up when she tried to sleep with Hisao.

It’s not his fault, but I can’t help but be a little angry at him. Seeing her like that, seeing her so defeated, it nearly broke me. I never want to see her like that again.

But it’s destiny. It’s fate. She’s going to get worse.

She’s going to die. I’m going to die.

I guess that’s true of everyone, but we feel… closer, somehow. Like we’re already sort of dead.

“Hey,” Saki says, “let’s get some food?”

Akio claps his hands together in agreement.

“Yeah,” I lean in close and whisper in her ear, “should we show Akio Dragon Eats?”

Saki considers that for a moment, before nodding.

“He’s earnt the right, I suppose.”

I giggle.

“Okay Akio, we’re going to show your our secret eatery, you must steel your nerves and open your stomach to the world of –“

“It’s Dragon Eats isn’t it?” He asks, my jaw drops. “I’ve been loads of times. Everyone has. It’s nice, but it’s no secret.”

I…

I don’t want to live in this world anymore.

I mock fainting, and Saki bursts into laughter.

“Okay, okay, maybe we thought it was more hidden then it was,” she explains. Akio chuckles.

“I think I’m the one that told you about it!” he adds, chuckling even louder now.

“I uh, that does seem plausible actually,” Saki flicks me on the arm.

“Well, anyway, I’m hungry as hell!” I say, and they smile in agreement.

We set off down the hill, it’s windy today. Saki is clearly struggling with her wheelchair, but she doesn’t let Akio push her. We make a lot of small talk, since nobody wants to address the elephant in the room, but it’s nice to hang out again, just the three of us.

A few cars pass us by, a few have headlights on as the sun continues to set, but even as it gets darker the temperature stays pretty consistent. Akio mentions something about bringing a jacket, but he’s not exactly shaking in the cold.

We pass the Shanghai, which is surprisingly lively, and the park where the orbs of light have begun to shine through the evening dusk. Saki is quite agile, even though it’s clear she’s unfamiliar with wheelchairs. Still, she keeps a brave face.

Mr Domen gives us a cheery smile as we arrive at the restaurant, but his face quickly drops into concern.

“My dear Ms Enomoto, what’s befallen you?” He asks, and Saki’s smile briefly falters.

“I’m alright, just… further along the line now,” she says. Even though her tone is cheery, it’s hard not to be sad at her words. It feels so much darker now then when we set off.

Akio and I take our seats at a small table, and Mr Domen removes one of the chairs so that Saki can sit with us. We all thank him, and he quickly returns with two pots of green tea. Considering the rate at which we drink it usually, that’s probably a preventative measure.

We chuckle, and all decide on what to eat. Akio takes longer than me and Saki, but that’s fair enough, he’s not so much of a regular. Even when our food arrives, we don’t stop chatting. We don’t talk about graduation, like we did all that time ago in the art room. Eventually, Akio places his hand on my knee, and I give him a curious glance. He’s looking at Saki though…

“I’ve been meaning to ask, how’s Hisao?” Akio squeezes me knee, and I bat his hand away. He shoots me a confused look, but turns to face Saki.

“I… we…” she thinks carefully, “I think it’s sorted now.”

That’s cryptic. Akio clearly things as much too, since he leans forward and tilts his head quizzically.

“I… Hisao didn’t, um, he didn’t know about…” Saki explains, but Akio gasps and cuts her off.

“Saki!”

She looks like she might break down, but nods and hangs her head in shame.

“He knew I was going but, well,” she taps her wheelchair. “No one knew it would happen this fast…”

We all sit there in silence, before Saki’s eyes mist up, and adds.

“No one knew except me.”

None of us say anything else for the duration of our meal.

Just as Akio takes the last bite of his ramen, I tap the table in front of Saki. She’s barely eaten.

“He loves you, you know,” I say, even though it makes me want to spit out everything I’ve just eaten.

“I know,” she replies. “I just want to enjoy the time I have left with him.”

After a couple more seconds of silence, she smiles. This time, defiantly.

“If he’s still willing to accept me, then, I’ll take his love until the very moment I can’t.”

“Until the minute?” I ask, and she looks me straight in the eyes.

“Until the very last second.”

“Okay,” I reply.

Akio gives me a sad smile, so I reach for his hand. He accepts, but his face doesn’t change. He looks like he’s been defeated.

I turn to Saki. She looks like she’s waiting for something. She looks brave.

I look towards the entrance; it feels like looking towards tomorrow.

Just as we’re about to leave, Mutou enters and gives us all a nod.

He looks halfway between Akio and Saki; he looks like he’s gotten skinnier.

He half-smiles at the three of us, before shaking Mr Domen’s hand.

The restaurant starts to live again, but everyone inside seems dead somehow.

We take our leave, the table is wiped clean behind us, the final tab is payed.

The sun fully sinks behind the world.

And I am disappeared with it.

_____________________________________________

“I’m surprised you were able to finish this, Katayama.”

Nomiya looks at me confused, but somehow proud. He pushes his glasses up on his face.

“When you insisted on taking the third-year project on top of your studies, I thought you’d get too swamped and bail out. It’s rare that I’m so pleasantly proven wrong,” he explains, sounding a bit like an arrogant ass in the process.

The sun has nearly fully set, and I only really finished about an hour ago. Still, it’s nice to be pleasantly surprising for a change. It makes me feel special, but the connection to Nomiya almost makes me shudder.

“Well, I wanted it to feature in the gallery alongside Saki’s work,” I explain, and he nods.

“Yes, well it shall. You’ve both produced wonderful works, albeit very different pieces. Hers is certainly more optimistic by nature,” he says, scratching his beard. “That being said, I’m a big fan of the macabre here, might I ask what it is?”

I take a final look at my canvas. The light shines from behind it, giving it a golden border. There’s something so final about seeing it like this, with Nomiya examining it.

Image

It reminds me of the night a few months ago, when Saki and I were discussing death. It reminds me of our meal afterwards, with the beautiful mingling lights shimmering away above the town.

It reminds me of the night I threw up, when Saki was talking about sex. When I thought I’d never sleep with anyone, when I thought I’d die before I could, when I thought I’d die during it.

It reminds me of Nurse’s talks; it reminds me of my therapy sessions following them. It reminds me of the past, my brother, my family. It reminds me of the reason to live.

It reminds me of my trip to the city, with Akio, how I kissed him in the middle of the street, just to see if I…

Just to see if I could.

It reminds me of the first night I slept with him. It reminds me of the fear I felt, the patience Akio showed me.

It reminds me of Saki’s incident; I see her wheeling towards me with all the light gone from her eyes.

It reminds that soon she’ll be gone, from Yamaku and from…

It reminds me that I’m lying to myself.

It reminds me that I’m lying to Saki, and Akio.

It reminds me that that’s all we really are. Lies. Lies and names, that flitter about and then disappear.

It reminds me that soon, this will all be over.

“It’s me,” I answer.

He chuckles.

“Well I happen to think it’s marvellous,” he says.

“Really?” I ask, my eyes start to sting.

He leans on the table beside us, and for a second he actually looks kind of majestic.

“There’s something very tragic about it,” he explains. “And tragedy is the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s what makes us human.”

I sigh, but he continues.

“Tragedy is the catalyst of the universe,” he says. “It’s why we change; it’s why we get better.”

“I think scientists might disagree with you on that,” I joke. Nomiya laughs, but and places his hand on my shoulder.

“You should be proud of this work, Katayama,” he strokes his scraggily beard again, before adding, “You’ve left your heart on this canvas. Now let it stay there and come away new.”

Come away… new?

“Alright, now isn’t your friend waiting for you?”

Crap, I nearly forgot for a second there.

“Yeah, thank you for your kind words. You’ve given me plenty to think about.” I say, and pick up my rucksack from the floor.

“As have you for me,” Nomiya replies, still staring at my painting and scratching his face. “Have a lovely evening.”

Despite his reputation as a bit of a weirdo, Nomiya can be okay.

I turn and head out the door, shutting it behind me.

Saki looks up from her wheelchair. She gives me a warm smile.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hey,” she replies with a giggle. “That sounded interesting.”

“You were eavesdropping?” I accuse her, prodding her in the shoulder gently.

“A little, you were in there for ages!”

“Okay, okay,” I start walking down the halls to the elevator. Saki wheels alongside me.

“Glad that’s finished?” she asks.

I think for a few seconds. That painting was a huge part of my life over the last few months. So much has changed since I started and subsequently restarted it.

“Yeah,” I finally say. I feel a little lighter. “I’ve left my heart on the canvas.”

Saki giggles.

“Which half, the good or the bad?”

I lightly punch her in the shoulder.

“Definitely the bad,” I retort.

Yeah, definitely the bad.

The elevator doors open, and we make our way inside.

“So, what now?” she asks.

I don’t know, I want to say. I don’t know what happens now. What do I do now?

There are things I have to do, sure. I have to finish things with Akio; I haven’t been fair to him. I have to do everything I can to stay friends with him, for everything he’s done for me.

I have to be honest with him. I have to tell him about my feelings for Saki.

I have to make the most of my time with her.

I have to… I have to give Hisao a chance.

But right now, I don’t have to do anything.

“Want to go and watch the sunset?” I ask Saki.

“I’d love to,” she answers.

For now, that’s enough.

And somewhere within me, a butterfly is born again.

Maybe we really are doomed, Saki and I.

Maybe we’re ephemera in someone else’s story; we’re props. Actors playing a role.

But Saki smiles defiantly.

And I can too.

How lucky we are, to be so wise in our young years.

The elevator doors close. The curtain falls.

But our lights refuse to go out.

For the moment, at least.

And the moment is enough.

_____________________________________________
It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.
Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
“In the movies and books, it’s always dramatic. There’s a massive build up, and then poof – the climax. That’s not what the real world is like. In the real world, you’re just here, and then you’re gone. No big build up, no dramatic moment. You just disappear. But they don’t really disappear, I guess. Not until the last person to remember them disappears too. I guess that’s why people want to be famous. Maybe that way, they’ll live forever somehow. Maybe dying and being alone are just the same thing in disguise. I guess I don’t know enough about this kind of thing, it isn’t something I usually think about. I’m more concerned with prolonging life; with keeping the today going until tomorrow. But sometimes people just… die. Well, everyone dies. But that’s not what I mean. Some people die before they die. They live their last days as ghosts, bodies going through the motions. I don’t want end up that way. I guess what it is, is that I’m scared. I’m scared that all of this was for nothing. I know, I know, that’s stupid. It wasn’t. I did something with purpose, I helped people. Young people, who didn’t know how to adjust. And yet, here I am the same… I’m dying, right when I thought things were coming together, when I thought life had some direction. I’ve never believed in anything, you know? I’ve always sought to prove things with my own hands, but now, now I just wish I believed in something. I wish I believed in hope, or maybe in God. I wish I could have done more… People pretend they aren’t scared but they are; I’m scared…” he trails off.

I take a deep breath and lean back in my chair.

Akio sighs and fiddles with his tie.

“Okay,” I finally say, and Akio exhales and sits beside me in the chair. After a moment of digesting what he said, I open my cupboard and grab two tumbler glasses. In the cupboard below it, I pull out the bottle of whiskey I’ve had since I graduated med school.

Akio raises and eyebrow, but gladly accepts the tumbler. I uncork the bottle and pour us a healthy dose each.

“How far is it?” I ask, and he sighs again.

“Stage 4. Probably from all the time I spent in the labs.” He explains.

“Is treatment possible?”

He shakes his head.

“Possible? Maybe. Affordable? No.”

We both sigh in unison and take a swig of our drinks.

“You’ve been a good friend to me,” he says quietly.

“Oh, stop that, you’re not gone yet,” I respond, before reaching across and rubbing his shoulder.

“I meant it Giro; I should have told you sooner.”

I laugh quietly.

“There’s not much I could have done to help anyway, but I’m glad you’re telling me now.” He chuckles. “I won’t insult you by saying it’ll all be okay,” I add.

We take another sip. Out of my window I notice young Katayama pushing Ms Enomoto over the crest of a hill. It makes me smile, despite the situation.

“I guess you just have to decide what you’ll do with the time you have left,” I say, and Akio nods.

I’d noticed he was losing weight. Some of his students had even remarked that he seemed tired, stressed even, but cancer?

The world is certainly a sudden place. A sudden and tragic place.

“Maybe you should go travelling?” I ask, but he shakes his head.

“My students need me; exams are coming up soon. Plus, Mr Nakai has just established the Science club, maybe that will be my legacy.” He chuckles at that last part.

No matter how small, it’s nice to leave something behind.

“You’re a good man, Akio. You’ve always been a good man.”

We sigh again and fill up our glasses.

“Isn’t the world wonderful?” he mutters, his attention on the students out of my window.

I take a good look out of the window. Katayama and Enomoto are watching the sunset over the treeline.

We watch them as the light fades into a purple dark.

We take another long drink.

“The world is what you make of it, nothing more, but nothing less,” I say.

Akio examines the liquor in his glass with a swirl, before clinking it against mine.

“Here’s to tomorrow,” he says.

“Here’s to today,” I reply.

Our tumblers clink. Our sentence stops.

_____________________________________________

Music
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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I am Disappeared - Music

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:22 pm

I am Disappeared - Music

As always, what follows is a list of songs that I think capture the spirit of this story. I'm curious as to what you think.

Death Stranding - CHVRCHES

Let me In - Snowmine

Two Laces - Easypeel

Dream - Imagine Dragons

Better than This - Julia Nunes

Mr Blue - Catherine Feeny

To read some of Lap's work, click here: Avenues of Communication


To read some of Scroff's work, click here: A collection of One-Shots

Thanks again!

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by brythain » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:43 pm

I think that was lovely. I also felt the edges of my consciousness blur a little, considering what kind of arc I wrote for Rika myself—there are resonances. Very elegiac. Nice work.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Scroff » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:13 pm

Stunning. Speechless. Thankfull.

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Raimen » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:25 pm

On the whole, I enjoyed I am Disappeared. It was interesting, and just long enough for me to read during my lunch break. So thank you for sharing it with us.

I feel that I'm not very good at offering constructive criticism. But one needs practice to improve, so I will try. Here goes ...

  • Who's the first person? It took me a while to realize that "I" refers to Rika. Maybe I'm just slow though...
  • "The tapping of her cane ..."

    This phrase reminded me of Lilly's cane. But Lilly uses her cane for navigation, while Saki uses it for stability. Wouldn't Saki's "tap" be timed with her steps? I just had the impression from reading it that the taps were too fast.
  • "I mull over the menu for the hundredth time this year. That’s probably a conservative estimate."

    That claim is demonstrably false. I'm not sure exactly how many instruction days there are in Japanese schools, but in North America, it's around 200. So to keep up that pace, they'd have to eat at Dragon Eats every other day or so. But earlier in the chapter, when asked when they last ate in town, Rika replied, "It was like, a week ago"

    Later on in part one I revisited this comment. If part one takes place around Hisao's arrival at Yamaku, (the 2nd week, if it's the same track meet in Emi and Rin's route) that means that "this year" would be either 2 - 2.5 or 6 - 6.5 months long. (depending on which "year"). So Rika's estimate isn't "conservative" at all.

    I don't know why that sentence rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I'm too literal. But it did, and I wanted to share that with you.
  • "I apply the brush to the canvas and trail a small black line down the centre."
    "The canvas has a crimson scar down the middle; it’s a good start."
    "I run my finger beside the single black scar on my own work." (emphasis mine in all counts)

    Crimson isn't black.
  • "Our clothes puddle together on the floor."

    No criticism -- I just like this phrase, and I wanted to let you know. Well done.
  • "Akio sighs and fiddles with his tie."

    This line is just evil. I probably mean it.

    Since I've read the Class 3-3 roster on the KS wiki, I've realized that Mutou and one of his students share the same name. But to use that fact to cover a PoV change (since the first person switches from Rika to the Nurse without warning) was really jarring.

    When I got to the "...since I graduated med school." phrase, I still thought "I" was Rika. There are a few time skips in your story, and I thought that this was another. That Hayashi and Katayama were talking years after graduating. Then as I continued reading, I thought "Who is Giro?"

    When I read, "I notice young Katayama pushing Ms Enomoto", I felt the metaphorical rug slip out from underneath me and I slammed my head down hard.

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Lap » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:41 pm

Brilliant, as always, my friend. Your storytelling abilities just keep growing, and I'm flattered that you think I've contributed to such in any way, shape, or form. Bravo, and Thank You!
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:44 am

“It’s true though; that’s why we have to cease the day.”
"seize" Though "ceasing" the day is kinda funny...
and just faintly here the sound
"hear"
When I got to the "...since I graduated med school." phrase, I still thought "I" was Rika.
I thought this line was a pretty solid giveaway:
I did something with purpose, I helped people. Young people, who didn’t know how to adjust.
...though you can never know for certain with Feurox, so I stayed on my guard for a while longer. :-)
I did notice the songruence of the names earlier and was wondering if Akio was chosen for the story for that reason - and the final scene still took me a little by surprise :lol:

Very emotional piece as always - and also as always an ultimately sad one. I really love the stories, but I do wish you would write something unambiguously uplifting sometime...
Before we leave, I take a look at the man beside us. He looks sad.
I was wondering who that man was supposed to be for a long time - I had mentally put Mutou as "several places down" and only noticed you had used "besides" for his location before when I checked back after that mystery customer never made another appearance until the end of the story...

Kudos for the Pratchett quote!
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Feurox » Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:14 pm

I was waiting for Crafty and Lance to post comments... they tell me they are, but I suppose I'll respond to those if/when they're done :P
brythain wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:43 pm
I think that was lovely. I also felt the edges of my consciousness blur a little, considering what kind of arc I wrote for Rika myself—there are resonances. Very elegiac. Nice work.
My thanks as always Bry. You most honed my style, so I hope you enjoy it still.
Scroff wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:13 pm
Stunning. Speechless. Thankfull.
Grateful. Chuffed. Happy.

Thank you Scroff.
Raimen wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:25 pm
On the whole, I enjoyed I am Disappeared. It was interesting, and just long enough for me to read during my lunch break. So thank you for sharing it with us.

I feel that I'm not very good at offering constructive criticism. But one needs practice to improve, so I will try. Here goes ...
Thank you for giving it a chance! Always happy to have my criticisms shown on here, for future!
Raimen wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:25 pm
  • "I mull over the menu for the hundredth time this year. That’s probably a conservative estimate."

    That claim is demonstrably false. I'm not sure exactly how many instruction days there are in Japanese schools, but in North America, it's around 200. So to keep up that pace, they'd have to eat at Dragon Eats every other day or so. But earlier in the chapter, when asked when they last ate in town, Rika replied, "It was like, a week ago"

    Later on in part one I revisited this comment. If part one takes place around Hisao's arrival at Yamaku, (the 2nd week, if it's the same track meet in Emi and Rin's route) that means that "this year" would be either 2 - 2.5 or 6 - 6.5 months long. (depending on which "year"). So Rika's estimate isn't "conservative" at all.

    I don't know why that sentence rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I'm too literal. But it did, and I wanted to share that with you.
Yeah, that really did rub you the wrong way huh. It was mostly just a joke from Rika's perspective... still, since I appreciate the work you put into this, I'll make a small amendment soon.
Raimen wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:25 pm
  • "I apply the brush to the canvas and trail a small black line down the centre."
    "The canvas has a crimson scar down the middle; it’s a good start."
    "I run my finger beside the single black scar on my own work." (emphasis mine in all counts)

    Crimson isn't black.
Whoops. Yeah, that's just a vestige from my initial draft to the finished project. Thanks for catching it.
Akio sighs and fiddles with his tie."

This line is just evil. I probably mean it.

Since I've read the Class 3-3 roster on the KS wiki, I've realized that Mutou and one of his students share the same name. But to use that fact to cover a PoV change (since the first person switches from Rika to the Nurse without warning) was really jarring.

When I got to the "...since I graduated med school." phrase, I still thought "I" was Rika. There are a few time skips in your story, and I thought that this was another. That Hayashi and Katayama were talking years after graduating. Then as I continued reading, I thought "Who is Giro?"

When I read, "I notice young Katayama pushing Ms Enomoto", I felt the metaphorical rug slip out from underneath me and I slammed my head down hard.
A few apologies. I'm not sure where I remember the name Giro from, but it's at least in my mind, a sort of pseudo cannon name for Nurse. I shouldn't have expected people to know that, but you smacking your head in realisation was absolutely intentional. (Unless it was anger... in which case, sorry! :( )

Moving on!
Brilliant, as always, my friend. Your storytelling abilities just keep growing, and I'm flattered that you think I've contributed to such in any way, shape, or form. Bravo, and Thank You!
My thanks, Lap. You bring out the best in my work, always!

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Feurox » Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:20 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:44 am
“It’s true though; that’s why we have to cease the day.”
"seize" Though "ceasing" the day is kinda funny...
and just faintly here the sound
"hear"
When I got to the "...since I graduated med school." phrase, I still thought "I" was Rika.
I thought this line was a pretty solid giveaway:
I did something with purpose, I helped people. Young people, who didn’t know how to adjust.
...though you can never know for certain with Feurox, so I stayed on my guard for a while longer. :-)
I did notice the songruence of the names earlier and was wondering if Akio was chosen for the story for that reason - and the final scene still took me a little by surprise :lol:

Very emotional piece as always - and also as always an ultimately sad one. I really love the stories, but I do wish you would write something unambiguously uplifting sometime...
Before we leave, I take a look at the man beside us. He looks sad.
I was wondering who that man was supposed to be for a long time - I had mentally put Mutou as "several places down" and only noticed you had used "besides" for his location before when I checked back after that mystery customer never made another appearance until the end of the story...

Kudos for the Pratchett quote!
Whoops! Will amend all the mistakes asap. Appreciate the vote in confidence or fear in staying on guard!

I promise a happy story will arrive... but you'll spend the whole time waiting for the other shoe!

My thanks as always Mirage, and to everyone who read this tale! :D

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by PsychicSpy » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:19 am

Feurox wrote:
Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:14 pm
I was waiting for Crafty and Lance to post comments... they tell me they are, but I suppose I'll respond to those if/when they're done :P
I know I've been promising my feedback for a long time, and that's my fault. Obviously, Feurox should find a new and better friend (but plz don't)

Wow. This story was really deep. I thought that you did a really good job of taking one of your classic themes (forbidden or unrequited love) and you added the themes that surround Saki's mortality. I think that you executed it well. Stirred my emotions up.

I did note the "cease the day" mistake, but other than that technically flawless imo.

The only criticism I had was it felt like it really built slowly. Like, very slowly, in the beginning.

Very good job man. Sorry that I couldn't be more profound- I'm just awed by the story.
NO KATAWA BAD
My collection of oneshots
Avenues of Communication: One of the best Shizune/Hisao fics I've read, written by Lap
S10 entry (Misha oneshot)

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:04 pm

I am Disappeared
I read this story 50 days ago. I even kept some notes to help me write my review of it. Unfortunately, those notes weren't particularly detailed, and some combination of the usual reticence and real-life stuff got in the way. But here I am, quite a bit later, finally trying to type up my thoughts.

As is common for your work, IMO, both the opening narration and any subsequent PoV changes aren't heavily telegraphed. Not necessarily a bad thing - it'd be far worse if you went the other way and started with "My name is Rika Katayama." - but it's also definitely not friendly to readers who are unfamiliar with your style or the canon, which may have led to one reader's complaint above. I think there's a balance to be struck - nothing explicit, but maybe some more immediate context clues when the narrator changes.

From a writing perspective, there was a lot of brilliant stuff, and very few mistakes. Your usual spells of purple prose seemed on point, the dialogue was fluid and well-characterized (especially the banter between the two girls), and the internal monologue was mostly solid, though I'll get back to that. I loved your Akio in this one, and having an outsider's view of Saki and Hisao's relationship was neat.

With all that said, I wasn't really sure how to feel about this story. I mean, sad, obviously - these characters got it about as bad as they could've - but in terms of the quality of the plot, and the story's arc, I'm at a bit of a loss. Rika's desire for Saki started off as sort of quiet and uncertain, but got exacerbated by Saki's reliance on Rika's friendship as she started a relationship with Hisao; that was interesting and well-played, as I read it, but it really started to drag over time. I was expecting the track meet to serve as a transition into either an escalation of conflict or a different conflict entirely, but nothing changed. The most plot development we really got was Rika and Akio's relationship, and even that was kind of relegated to a few scenes here and there.

And yet, that feels like I'm not doing it justice. The fact that Rika has this constant, underlying love for Saki is entirely believable. The fact that she doesn't feel like she can do anything about it, and just has to keep it in, even though it keeps hurting her, is realistic. Even "leaving her heart on the canvas" is mostly just a token display; everything's still broken. Maybe this is the kind of story that shows the reader just how painful and helpless things can really be in the lives of characters like this.

But, at the same time, does that make a good story? I initially worried that I just didn't like this story because it was sad, but I no longer think that's the case. Sad stories can be enjoyable, even to me, but they need an extra bit of substance that I felt was missing from this one. I wanted more. I wanted Akio to say something to Rika that made her realize how much she was unintentionally hurting him. I wanted Hisao to try really, really hard to be Rika's friend, even if it made her sick every time. I wanted Rika to lose control of her feelings and say something to Saki that she couldn't take back, for better or worse. These are only the things I wanted that maintained the story's tragic tone, mind - there were plenty of reversals possible too! I wanted things to either get better, worse, or both, but despite Saki's degeneration, it felt like nothing changed. Even at the very end, Rika says that she feels better after the talk with Nomiya, but it clearly isn't that easy, and she clearly hasn't explained anything to Saki or Akio, so they're still left pretty much where they started. I think that's what made me so ambivalent about this story.

Also, while I understand that Mutou fit a very specific metaphorical role here, I didn't really connect with it that much. From the first time we saw him, I thought, "Either his wife died, his wife has cancer, or he has cancer." When his condition deteriorated over the course of the story, it ruled out the first one, so I wasn't exactly surprised. That last scene has some good lines about mortality and what we leave behind, but it felt tacked-on; I would've much preferred a standalone story for something like that, in the style of 8 Years.

So basically, I think you executed this story really well, but the story itself simply didn't appeal to me. It was too sad to make me happy, and too static to provide tragic optimism, or even catharsis. That could easily have more to do with me than the story, but I figure that it's better for me to leave an honest review and then let you deal with the consequences :P
“Talk like that around me again and I’ll put you in the ground myself.”
This one fell kind of flat, as I read it. Needed a bit more emphasis that Nurse was joking.
“You quoting something?” she asks me. A car passes us by with its headlights on full beam.

“No, just being weird again,” I explain and she giggles.
This speaks to me on a personal level. "Wow, where's that from?" "... Me. I made that up." Given the aforementioned amount of purple prose you use, I'm guessing you've had that experience too.

Oh, speaking of which: I really didn't like the first two quotes you used, but the last two were superb. In fact, I think the third one could reasonably be interpreted as an explanation for why the first two are so uninspiring.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [02/18/2020]

Post by Feurox » Sun Apr 26, 2020 3:49 pm

Craftyatom wrote:
Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:04 pm
I am Disappeared
I read this story 50 days ago. I even kept some notes to help me write my review of it. Unfortunately, those notes weren't particularly detailed, and some combination of the usual reticence and real-life stuff got in the way. But here I am, quite a bit later, finally trying to type up my thoughts.

As is common for your work, IMO, both the opening narration and any subsequent PoV changes aren't heavily telegraphed. Not necessarily a bad thing - it'd be far worse if you went the other way and started with "My name is Rika Katayama." - but it's also definitely not friendly to readers who are unfamiliar with your style or the canon, which may have led to one reader's complaint above. I think there's a balance to be struck - nothing explicit, but maybe some more immediate context clues when the narrator changes.

From a writing perspective, there was a lot of brilliant stuff, and very few mistakes. Your usual spells of purple prose seemed on point, the dialogue was fluid and well-characterized (especially the banter between the two girls), and the internal monologue was mostly solid, though I'll get back to that. I loved your Akio in this one, and having an outsider's view of Saki and Hisao's relationship was neat.
First and foremost, as always, you have left me with no shortage of insightful and thoroughly interesting things to digest. The way in which you analyse my stories, and the relative successes and failures you highlight, never fails to humble me. Your feedback means an awful lot to me, and you honour me every time you leave a remark. Thank you. Now to actually respond.

It feels as though the gap of time between your reading and this feedback is influenced by your concluding remarks, so I think it's actually best to start there. I think, before I go any further, I ought to just admit that, yes, I knew this story would produce an affect like this:
So basically, I think you executed this story really well, but the story itself simply didn't appeal to me. It was too sad to make me happy, and too static to provide tragic optimism, or even catharsis.
This addresses the problem I found myself wrestling throughout the whole thing. What do I even want to say? That life is sometimes shit, and all you can do is be honest about it? I guess that isn't it, because I would have included the result of that in the story. That everything and everyone is a constant oscillation between their beginning and their end, that all we are is those moments in-between so we have to claim them? Not really, and if that was the case, I think The Kintsugi Club does it better. Then I was reading Sahota:
Oh, speaking of which: I really didn't like the first two quotes you used, but the last two were superb. In fact, I think the third one could reasonably be interpreted as an explanation for why the first two are so uninspiring.
I've always found it difficult to accept the 'be happy with what you have' ideology. I've always found it somehow privileged, it's easy to be happy when you're not starving, dying, or miserable. Sunjeev Sahota's novel is a story about surviving, and my humble little story here is just a story about... well I guess, somehow the same thing, but these troubles are so little and somehow they're everything. Why do we enjoy the tragedy of romance? I guess it leads me to think about that quote from Robin Williams, that maths, science and medicine are how we stay alive, but art, stories, love are the reasons we bother. But then my thinking ends up back to why I included Mutou in this story... everyone in it has *real* problems, right? But what change has been affected? Maybe something in some readers, maybe something in me, but it's hardly universal.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that, I need some time to really consider this feedback, and I'm sorry I can't respond coherently yet. Regardless, it's really helpful, and incredibly thoughtful of you, so thank you as always my friend.

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A Country Where the Thunder Goes

Post by Feurox » Sun Apr 26, 2020 4:00 pm

A Country Where the Thunder Goes
Image
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes.
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Our bottles clink together. We both take a long swig.

I wipe my mouth and laugh.

“You think they would’ve splashed out on the booze, what good is a wake with crap beer?” I ask, and Taro laughs, before leaning forward over the balcony.

“You know, I haven’t been to enough wakes to know the good from the bad,” he replies. He’s slimmed down since college, and he’s wearing a wedding ring, but there’s still something essentially ‘Taro’ about him. I didn’t really think I’d missed him until I saw him here. “I didn’t know you were close still close with Hisao,” he says, but it’s more like a question.

I join Taro overlooking the balcony. How the hell did Hisao manage to get a view like this? Probably something to do with his fancy wife’s fancy family…

“Well, we’ve been close since high school really. He started running with me, and we stayed in touch after,” I laugh dryly, and take another swig. “We would email and call every now and then. How come you stayed in touch?”

Now it’s Taro’s turn to reminisce, and he grins giddily like he was waiting for me to ask the whole time.

“We did a ton of research together, even taught at the same institution for a couple years,” he explains, drumming his fingers along the balcony rails as he does.

I burst out laughing, and a few people behind us head inside.

“Sorry, sorry, I just never pinned you for an academic,” I wipe a tear from my eye, and he give me a rueful smile before laughing alongside me.

“I was studying physics when we were at Uni!” he exclaims.

I shrug, and see off the last of my beer.

“Most things just go in one ear and out the other with me, you know that.” I point towards the crate of beers on the table behind us, before setting my empty bottle aside. Taro does the same and hands me a fresh beer. I hold up my bandaged wrist, and he quickly takes the bottle back to open it for me. “I was more interested in your cooking than your studies anyway,” I joke. Well, it’s kind of true.

“Well, if Mutou had been a little more interesting, I might have engaged more. You know Hisao kept up with him? He’s probably here somewhere.”

The thought of our old homeroom teacher being here still somehow makes me shudder, even after all these years.

We clink our bottles together again, and have a moment of silence as we drink. The view here really is incredible, the sun is slowly setting over the lake, and the trees are gently swaying below us. It’s getting a little cold.

“So, you still wear the bandage?” Taro asks, and even now I instinctively hide my wrist.

“You ditched the sling?”

He laughs, and rolls his shoulders.

“Ditched it in college. Thought you already noticed.”

“Man, I really was a shitty friend at University, huh?”

“Nah, you’ve just never been one for the small details.” Taro says, taking another swig and pulling a tin from his jacket pocket. It’s a cigarette tin, I think.

“Still smoking I see,” and Taro shrugs, picking a rolled cigarette out and fiddling with his pockets for a lighter.

“Old habits die hard,” he laughs, and makes a satisfied noise when he fishes his lighter from his pocket. “You want one?”

“There’s no dying soft.” I open my hand to him, and he plucks another cigarette out for me. He’s definitely gotten better at rolling them since university. I’m not really a smoker, but I don’t want to go back inside.

Being outside, with this goddamn view and Taro drinking next to me, it feels like I’m back at University again. The house inside is filled with strangers, and that was an appealing thing back then, but now it just feels sad. Then again, I’ve never known a memorial service to be happy. I thought wakes were meant to be happy, like celebrations of life? Inside I can see Hisao’s widow, Lilly, the blind girl he started dating in High School. She looks pretty miserable. I wonder if we knew the same Hisao. He wouldn’t want all this, I think. Sometimes I wonder if I ever really knew him; sometimes I wonder if he’d have called me his best friend the way I call him mine.

“Thanks,” I say as Taro offers me a light. It’s been a while since I’ve smoked, and I have to fight the urge to cough. “You keep up with anyone else from school?”

Taro shakes his head and takes a drag, then a long swig from his beer.

“You could say that, I married one after all.”

I nearly drop my beer.

“Piss off,” I say in disbelief.

“Suzu,” he states proudly, before turning around and scanning the gathering inside. “Suzuki.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, four years now,” he explains.

“We used to sit next to each other, is she here?” I can’t see anyone inside resembling her, but I doubt she still has that sea-green hair she used to rock in high school. That girl went through hair styles and colours like no-one I’ve ever met.

“Yeah, she’s inside somewhere. We met up through Hisao actually, seems he stayed in touch with a lot of people. Lilly and Suzu became friends too, so we often had dinner together.” Taro empties his beer, and reaches for another before hesitating.

“I could do another,” I say, and finish my own. So, he grabs another two bottles and opens them. He takes my empty and sets it next to rest on the table behind us. We both finish our cigarettes and toss them over the balcony. We clink our glasses together again as the two embers falls into the dark.

“Man, how did you do it?” I ask, which causes Taro to laugh.

“Do what, open beer bottles?”

“No, how’d you get your life together.”

Taro thinks, but eventually shrugs.

“I don’t think life works that way; you can’t just figure it out.” I feel a bit sick, though I don’t know if that’s the nicotine, the beer, or knowing I’ll never get to speak to Hisao about life like this again.

“You know,” I begin, and sigh over the balcony edge. “I think he was my best friend, and I don’t think I ever told him that.” It’s a really long way down from here.

“I’m sorry, Miki,” is all Taro can say, and he sticks his hand on my shoulder.

As pathetic as it sounds, I’m really grateful for the human contact right now. It makes me feel like I actually exist, I guess, like I’m more than just ephemera. It makes me feel even sicker though, so I drown the feeling out with another swig of my beer.

“Feels a bit like the beginning of the end somehow,” I mutter. Taro squeezes my shoulder.

“Don’t say that. After all, I finally got my life together,” he laughs, and I can’t help but smile a little.

“Yeah, you really did huh, I guess now it’s my turn,” I say, but I’m not sure I mean it. I’m not sure I even can.

“Things can’t be that bad, you still living in New York?”

“Just outside, it’s a cheap commute to work,” I explain and he nods.

“Where did you end up working in the end?” he asks, and pulls his jacket sleeve up to check his watch. It’s getting kind of late.

“Sony,” I shrug, “doing marketing and PR, it’s a bit dead-end but it pays the bills.” I turn the conversation back around as the sun fully sets below the lake. “Where’re you teaching now?”

He laughs, but looks a little guilty, “good question, I might actually be taking over for Hisao here, in Osaka, he wouldn’t want his research to go unfinished, and Mutou suggested it might be a fitting send off.”

I still can’t get over Taro’s academic turn around, I really wish I’d spoken to him more at University. Hell, maybe I shouldn’t have broken up with Takashi back in Uni too, I wonder what he’s up too now. Nothing like death to get you thinking about old love.

“I always thought he’d end up a writer, not a physicist,” I say, “Hisao had a real way with words.”

“Maybe,” Taro trails off, “look, I better go back inside and find Suzu, you want to come in? We can talk to Lilly, and I think Hanako is here too, you know…” he motions to his face, I think to remind me of her scars, but I hadn’t forgotten her.

“Nah, you go ahead, I think I’ll have another beer,” I say, and fall back into one of the chairs. I think I might be a little tipsy.

Taro looks a bit concerned, but quickly flashes his goofy smile.

“If you’re sure. Don’t be a stranger, Miki.” He disappears behind me and the chatter from inside briefly becomes audible as the glass door opens and he steps inside.

A moth floats by me as I take another swig of my beer. My tongue tastes like cigarettes, and my eyes feel a bit blurry.

Over the balcony, the pink clouds dance on the lake.

The stars are a lot brighter in Japan, but the air here feels heavier.

I wipe my eyes and take another swig.

__________________________________________________________________
Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you
Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
I squeeze Lilly gently; she looks like she might shatter. Akira gives me a sad smile, and places her hand on Lilly’s shoulder.

“You okay, Sis?” she asks, before clasping her hand delicately.

“I’m okay,” Lilly practically whispers. “I’m better,” she corrects herself.

I give them both a hug, and hold Lilly close for another moment.

“I’m going to get a g-glass of wine, do you two want something?” I ask. Lilly shakes her head, and Akira nods.

“A beer would suit me nicely, thanks Hanako.” The two of them head towards the couches, and I turn around for the bar. They probably want a bit of time together.

Losing Hisao has given me so many restless nights, but worrying about Lilly is part of it too. I lost a best friend and a brother, but she lost a soulmate, and I know she wishes she’d died with him. It feels awful knowing your best friend and sister wishes she didn’t exist anymore. It makes me feel guilty for how I acted during High School.

I make my way through the crowd behind me to the bar. People seem to be waiting their turn to console Lilly, or Hisao’s parents. Some of Hisao’s scientist friends are gathered together, discussing some scientific theory; it doesn’t really feel like the right place for that, but Hisao was just the same.

Lilly’s father gives me a hug as I pass him, and we briefly talk about how things are getting on at our respective works. He’s always been very kind to me, and even offered to adopt me a long time ago. I think, in the end, he was happy I refused him.

I excuse myself and continue towards the breakfast bar, where bottles of beer are lined up, white wine is being chilled, and there are a series of short glasses for sake and tumblers for whisky. I don’t recognise the names of anything, so I play it safe and pour myself a glass of white wine. I’ve been a fan since High School, and I can’t help but smile at the memory of my eighteenth birthday party.

“Ms Ikezawa, good to see you again. Sorry it’s under such unfortunate circumstances.”

I turn to see my old homeroom teacher. He bows, before reaching beside me for the whisky. He examines the bottle and chuckles.

“Mr Nakai had a real taste for his whiskies,” he says as he pours himself a small glass of the whisky.

“Hello, Mr Mutou,” I respond with a bow of my own. I expected him to be here. In fact, this isn’t the first time we’ve met in Hisao and Lilly’s house. There was that particularly odd dinner we had three years ago. Behind him, someone I’m sure I vaguely recognise disappears onto the balcony with a case of beer under her arm. “I’m sorry too, I know you were close. Though I think the whisky was actually provided by Lilly’s father,” I explain, and he hums in understanding. Hisao and Lilly’s father would often take turns choosing whisky for parties, and special occasions.

“Ah, well. To Hisao,” he motions for me to toast him, and so I do. “He will be sorely missed.”

We drink in silence for a moment, before Mutou sighs deeply.

“It’s never easy losing someone you care about,” he practically says to himself. I don’t really know what to say to that.

“I don’t know if it’s ever easy to l-lose anyone,” I say timidly. It might have been over 20 years since college, but Mutou still feels like my teacher. My heart still aches when I think about my parents, and with Hisao, it’s like what’s broken has been broken again.

“Yes, of course.” He nods to another person I recognise who passes us and heads towards the balcony. He looks a bit guilty.

“Is that… Taro?” I ask, and Mutou lets out another chuckle.

“Indeed, Mr Arai will be taking over Nakai’s research position here.” Mutou explains proudly. I feel a bit stupid for not remembering that Hisao and Taro stayed in touch. That means Suzu will be here too, somewhere.

“That’s good, Hisao was very proud of his research,” I say, and Mutou scoffs.

“He was the perfect scientist, dedicated to his research, but he knew what really mattered.” He gestures to the house around us. The people gathering in crowds to talk about Hisao, the balcony outside, where Taro and… what looks like Miki, from our old high school, are smoking and… laughing? Even over in the corner, Lilly seems a little brighter. Akira has somehow gotten herself her own beer and is giggling away. I take another look at Mutou, he’s smiling.

“He was amazing,” I say, and Mutou gives me a knowing smile.

I guess he doesn’t know what to say after that, so he bows and slinks off into the crowd of Hisao’s science friends. It looks like they’re talking to Lilly’s father, hopefully about something normal.

It’s weird, but people seem to be having fun. It feels a little like a party. Hisao and Lilly used to have those all the time, events and dinners and… I guess this is a fitting send off.

I sit on the kitchen stool behind me and look around. This wine is delicious, but I haven’t had one I disliked yet.

Most of the others on the balcony have come in now, and the lights have turned on outside as it grows darker, but Taro is still out there with Miki.

Lilly’s father is pouring Mutou another whisky, whilst Hisao’s mother is sitting next to Lilly on the couch, stroking her hair and comforting her. Akira is talking to someone on the phone in the corner of the room. Two of Hisao’s scientist friends seem to be a bit tipsy, and are arguing about something or another in hushed tones.

Its quite a surreal picture, cheer and tragedy seemingly holding hands. Its funny how true to life that really is.

“Hanako?”

Before I can reply, Suzu pulls me into a tight hug.

“Long time no see.” She pulls the stool out beside me and sits. “How are you coping?”

I sigh, and take my glass into both hands, swirling my wine around and around.

“I’m doing okay, it was just so… un-expected,” I manage.

“I hear that,” She says, pouring herself some wine. “Hisao was a really good guy, and he used to cook the most amazing steak.” She delivers that with a laugh, and I join her. We were both here a few summers ago when we had to call the fire department.

“I’ll never forget our fishing trip,” I begin, but I can’t even finish that story without both of us laughing. The sight of Taro and Hisao wrestling with a fishing rod is still incredibly vivid.

After a while, the two of us calm down from our giggling. I don’t really feel bad for having fun, Hisao wouldn’t want us to be sad.

Suzu wipes a tear from her eye and places her hand on my knee. It makes me feel warm, and I place my hand over hers. The contrast between my scar tissue and her soft skin is fairly jarring, but she doesn’t flinch or anything. With my hand on hers, I can feel her wedding ring beneath.

Hisao’s death, Suzu and Taro’s marriage… the clock is really ticking isn’t it?

There was a time when I thought life was pretty much impossible. Something other people had, and that I was just watching in other people. I guess Lilly kind of changed that, and so did Hisao, but really, they just showed me that I was being an idiot, and I’ve been better ever since.

Funny how a funeral can get you thinking about what it means to be happy.

“I miss him,” Suzu says sadly.

“M-me too. I loved him with a-all of my heart,” I admit, and Suzu nods. “I feel like part of me has d-disappeared with him.”

Suzu smiles and looks towards the balcony, where Taro and Miki are still talking. It looks intimate, and the two clink their bottles together over the balcony edge.

“You know, Taro still hasn’t opened that bottle of whisky Hisao bought him,” she laughs. “I doubt he ever will now.”

I laugh quietly, and finish the last of my wine.

“Hisao started buying everyone whisky after his doctorate, I think Mutou and Lilly’s father convinced him every bottle tells a story or something,” I explain, and Suzu just laughs again.

We sit quietly for a little longer, and help ourselves to another glass of wine each. Eventually, Taro takes his hand off of Miki’s shoulder and heads towards us with a wave. He strides over cheerily. He pulls me into one of his bear hugs, nearly taking me off the stool.

We talk for a little while longer, but I can’t help but keep glancing outside at Miki. If she didn’t have the occasional swig of her beer, I’d think she’d fallen asleep out there on her own. After a bit of small talk with Taro, and another one of his spine shattering hugs, I refill my wine and head towards the balcony door.

I’ve never really spoken to Miki before. I know Hisao and she stayed in contact, but we never crossed paths. He mentioned a few times that he’d invited her to stay, but she never did. Hisao seemed really keen to see her again, but I guess things don’t always work out the way you want them too.

I open the balcony door, letting the cold air hit me. Miki doesn’t even turn to face me as I approach her. I don’t really know what to say.

I look over the balcony. The clouds look like they’re being swallowed by the lake.

“Hanako?” Miki asks, like she’s unsure if its okay to call me by my first name. It is a little unusual given the circumstances I suppose.

I sit in the chair beside her.

“Hi,” is all I can manage.

“Hi,” she repeats, and shrugs.

She offers her beer bottle to me, and our drinks clink against one another.

The noise from inside continues. The clouds dance. We take a long drink.

___________________________________________________________________________________
In yourself right now is all the place you've got.
Flannery O’ Connor, Wiseblood

“Well, obviously,” I laugh, and the guys in front of me chuckle like idiots. It wasn’t even that funny. In the corner I can see Lilly and Hanako talking, a glass of wine in each hand. They always insist on us hosting these formal events when Hanako is in town; they’re secretly party animals. They like dressing up and having the opportunity to drink, they have since college. I still remember the first university party the three of us attended together, and our first gala too.

The memory makes me grin, and Taro claps his hand on my shoulder. He’s got really nice cufflinks on.

“I don’t suppose we could convince you to cook one of your famous sirloins?” he asks, feigning a serious tone.

“I think one life-threatening experience a year will do me,” I joke back, and the crowd around us burst into more laughter. Most of them are academics from my University, and a few PhD students that I’ve taken a bit of a shining to. The crowd finish their drinks and begin pouring another round, though I pass on their offer. Academics drink like fishes.

I feel a vibration from my pocket and pull out my phone.

“Sorry, I have to take this,” I say. The group around me simply nod as I excuse myself from the conversation. I head out to the balcony.

“Hey, what’s up Miki?”

I let the glass door shut behind me. It’s a really pretty night tonight, and every time I come out here, I’m grateful for the view.

“Hisao! long-time no speak,” she yells over the phone. There’s a lot of background noise. “Hang on, it’s gotten louder, I’ll shut the door.”

She covers the receiver, but I can still hear her shouting at people to go inside or something. Miki has always had a commanding voice, and I can’t help but laugh.

“Hi again, sorry,” she resumes.

“Hi, you okay? Having a party?”

“At my place? Too small. Nah, but these guys have a balcony, you’re always talking about yours, so it got me thinking about you,” she explains. There’s loud music in the background now.

“Calling from New York?” I ask, trying to work out the time difference in my head.

“Nah, business trip, I’m in Hong Kong,” she explains.

I nearly ask what the odds are that we’d be having a party here too, but given Lilly’s love for them, I’m not sure it’s that unlikely.

“Funny, we’re hosting a party here too. One day you’ll have to come for one of our famous gatherings.”

“I think we have different parties Hisao,” she laughs. “Been keeping fit?”

“Obviously,” I lie. “You been keeping busy?”

“Yeah, you know me, busy doing nothing as always.”

“I don’t know, sounds like you’re having fun there.” The noise from behind me picks up a bit too. I wonder if things are devolving inside now, Academics are good at that too.

“There are only so many strangers you can fall in love with,” she says, and I laugh.

“Maybe Prince Charming is inside?”

“I doubt it, besides, I think I’ve given up on all that love shit anyway,” she says. It’s harder to laugh this time.

“Oh, come on, don’t be stupid,” I say, but she just sighs. “How’s the view?” I ask. The stars are shining dutifully here.

“Well, it’s a long way down. Lots of big city light, a whole lot of nothing in the sky.”

“Sounds like torture,” I laugh, and she echoes that with a quiet giggle. I glance back inside to see Taro downing a shot with my star student. I pull the phone closer to my ear. “You ever feel like the paint is watching you dry?”

“I dunno what that means really,” she says sadly. “I miss you man, it’s lonely here.”

“I miss you too,” I echo.

It’s true. Sometimes I think about what would be different if she stayed in Japan. I’d never trade any of the life I have now, but it can be fun to think what-if.

“How’s Lilly?” Miki asks, and another loud noise comes from her side of the phone. I wonder how much this call will cost.

“I think tipsy, at the moment,” I laugh. “But in general, she’s very well. She’s still working for her father; she thinks she’ll leave and start teaching soon.”

“She still wants to teach?” Miki giggles.

“Apparently so. I should give her some of my first years and see if she still wants too after that,” I joke, but I guess Miki doesn’t get it.

“She wants to be a university teacher?”

“No, sorry, I was just making a dumb joke,” I explain and scratch the back of my head. “You still thinking about a career change?”

I hear a quiet laugh on the other end of the receiver. “Thinking about it yeah, but I’m not sure how possible it is now. You know I’ll be thirty-seven this Saturday?”

“I did know, I sent some things over, haven’t they arrived?” They better have, I spent a fortune on that whisky.

“Oh, that was you? I haven’t opened the parcel. Your hand writing has definitely gotten worse. Honestly looked like someone sent me a bomb package.”

“Thirty-seven is still young, by the way, stop acting so old,” I tease, but Miki just goes really quiet.

“Just tell me it’s not too late,” she says.

“Too late for what?” I reply quietly.

“Just tell me, even if it’s a lie.”

The noise from the party inside seems to die down a bit.

“It’s not too late,” I say. It feels weird.

“Okay,” she says.

I stay silent, as the clouds slowly settle over the lake below my balcony.

“I’ll try to come over and see you soon,” Miki eventually says, and I feel a bit lighter.

“I’ll be counting the days.”

I’ve heard her promise that before, that she’ll make time to come here. I’ve promised her the same too, that I’d take time to see her in New York. It’s always so easy to make promises, and so much harder to keep them.

I’m worried about her, but I feel like I’m half a world away. Maybe I’ll try to head over for… research, or something.

“When did we become adults?” I ask, but it doesn’t sound as light-hearted as I meant it too.

“I don’t know, but I wish we never did.” Miki’s chuckle is sad and deep. She sounds as though there’s a tightness in her.

“I’ll see you soon?” I ask.

“Yeah, as soon as I can,” she replies a little cheerier.

And it’s a pretty dream.

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Last edited by Feurox on Fri May 08, 2020 6:02 am, edited 4 times in total.

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