In Memory of: Lilly

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Arodyrok
Posts: 11
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:20 pm

In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Arodyrok » Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:26 pm

In Memory of: Lilly

We step out of the dorms into the summer heat. The change in temperature is jarring and the humidity makes it immediately uncomfortable. I make my way down the stairs and to the wrought iron gate, ensuring that I keep a slower pace so that Lilly can keep up. It’s late so the grounds are empty and silent. The only noise to be heard is the cicadas and the slight tapping of Lilly’s cane. It’s peaceful, not having to deal with any other students. Although it’s hot I find comfo…

“Thank you again for accompanying me, Hanako,” My train of thought broken, I turn to look at Lilly. “This would be quite the chore if you had not agreed to help.”

I can’t help but smile. I raise my hand instinctively to cover my face before I realized the futility of such and action. It’s not like I was going to do anything myself. Besides, this would be a great chance to catch up with her. We haven’t really had the chance to talk ever since she decided to stay in Japan. Between dealing with her parents and Hisao’s heart attack, she’s been pretty busy. Even so, I’m ok with helping her. Although I wish I knew what it is she needed help with. She had asked rather suddenly, and she didn’t say much over the phone.

“I-it’s fine… Really. I don’t mind.”

I know should probably say more, but I don’t really know what else to add. The silence is a bit awkward. We make it past the gate and sit on the bench right outside. I guess we are waiting for Akira to pick us up. I don’t really want to bother Lilly, who seems to be going through her bag looking for the book she has been reading, but my curiosity gets the better of me.

“What did you need help with…? You didn’t really say over the phone.”

Lilly perks up and faces towards me. She places her cane next to her before speaking.

“Although I’ve decided to stay in Japan, Akira has decided to accept my father's job offer and move to Scotland. She will be selling the house that we lived in before I came to Yamaku.” She pauses a bit as if she is lost in thought.

“My sister has informed me that she found a few boxes belonging to me and requested that I take anything of value before the cleaners come in and move out all of the old furniture. So that is what we will be doing, if you don’t mind. Not the most exciting way to spend the evening, I’m afraid.”

“That’s not too bad. It will be interesting to see where you lived before you moved into the dorms.”

Which is the truth. I’ve only known Lilly since she moved into her room at the start of this year. I knew she lived with Akira, and that Akira lives in the same house that they grew up in, but I have never had the chance to see it.

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After a long car ride, we finally arrive. The house is modest in size, and in a decent enough neighborhood. The yard is bare, but the porch has a swing, some chairs and a bench. The windows have Christmas decorations in them, even though we are well into summer.

Although the house is nicer than anything I have ever lived in, I would have expected it to be much bigger. I wonder if Lilly’s family has always been wealthy.

“Akira has some errands to run, so it will be just you and me tonight. Akira prepared the guest bedroom for you. I didn’t think I had much left here, but she seems to believe we will be pretty late. You’ll have your own bathroom, and I can cook breakfast for us tomorrow morning.”

My own bathroom? Maybe this house is bigger than I thought.

Akira and Lilly exchange a few more words before Akira heads off. We make our way through the entrance. The walls are all neutral colors and the furniture seems a bit off center. Most of it seems to be along the walls, leaving a big open space in the middle. There is a stretch of emptiness that extends throughout the living area, through the dining room and leading to a hallway. The coffee and dining room tables have rounded edges that extend all the way to the floor. It’s apparent that this home was prepared specifically to accommodate a blind child.

Lilly takes the time to show me around her childhood home. She shows me the room I will be sleeping in, the bathroom, and where I can find fresh towels. After the tour we walk to the hallway at the end of the house. This hallway leads to the master bedroom, Lilly’s bedroom, Akira’s old bedroom and the bathroom shared between the two rooms.

Upon entering Lilly’s bedroom, we see boxes stacked neatly against the opposite wall. There aren’t as many as I thought there would be. We should be able to finish in an hour or two. Lilly wants to go through them all and pick out things she wants to keep. The rest will be donated or thrown away.

The room itself is rather plain. The walls are eggshell white and her bed set is a plain blue comforter set with matching pillow cases. The dresser and nightstand are empty and don’t contain any sort of clutter. I guess anything important made it to Yamaku or was put in storage. The walls themselves are bare. No posters or pictures. Pretty much the same as her dorm.

“H-hey, Lilly.”

“Yes Hanako, what is it?”

“T-there isn’t much here. I don’t think it’s going to take us very long.”

Lilly smiles before sitting on her bed. “That’s good to hear. I’d like to go through all of them just so I am sure I have everything of value. After we’re finished we can relax in the living area.” She pauses a bit before looking in my direction. “Hanako, would you mind placing a box in front of my please?” I do just that and we begin to work. The boxes themselves are filled mostly with children’s books and old clothing. She isn’t really keeping anything. Just a few novels she left behind and occasionally some jewelry. It seems like she brought everything that was important to her when she moved into the dorms.

“You’re not really keeping much,” I say, hoping to break the silence.

“No, I’m afraid not. I’ve been through most of this already before I moved to Yamaku. Most of the clothing I outgrew, and the books are a bit out of my demographic now that I am older. I do appreciate Akira bringing this to my attention though. There are a few things that I have missed.”

We continue to rummage through the boxes. Before long I come across a taped box and pull it aside. I open it up and find more clothing. Pushing that out of the way I find more junk; old coloring books, a torn scarf, an old pair of shoes, nothing that really stands out. I’m about ready to move the box to the side when I hear the sound of metal rubbing against metal.

I reach my hand in the box and fish around until I feel something cold against my hand. I pull out a coarse brown collar with two metal tags in the middle. The topmost plate reads ‘Niji’ with braille underneath it. The second tag has the address to the house and a phone number I don’t recognize. I run my finger over the braille, the metal rubbing together once more.

“Hanako? Is that another necklace? I’ve set aside a container for all the jewelry just put it in there if you will.”

I look at Lilly. She is staring back at me with a puzzled look, awaiting my reply. Lilly has never talked about a pet before. It’s clear to me that she had one, and it’s clear to me why this dog collar is in a box packed away. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I don’t want to deal with this. I could just put the collar in the box with all of the other jewelry and let Lilly find it on her own, but is that the right thing to do? I would be taking advantage of the fact that she can’t see in order to avoid dealing with the collar.

I’m frozen, unable to make a decision. I feel like I’m spiraling out of control just thinking about how this could all play out. There is a reason Lilly has never talked about owning a pet. It makes perfect sense. Lilly would never show any weakness, especially to me. This could really upset her. The facade that she has worked so hard to maintain could come crumbling down in an instant. On the other hand, she would probably just wave it off like she does with everything else…

I can hear my heart beating against my chest, becoming fully aware of it rising and falling with each breath I take. My eyes dart around the room, trying not to focus on my best friend sitting on the other end. I fumble with my words before Lilly starts again.

“What is it Hanako? Is something wrong?

I find myself struggling to answer her. My brain is telling my body to leave, to run like I always do. I realize that I can’t hide this from her. I need to tell her about what I found. If she needs me, then I will be here for her like she has been for me, but I already know she’ll just blow it off like she always does. So be it. I steel myself before walking over to her and placing the collar in her hands.

“I-it isn’t a necklace Lilly.”

She starts to trace her fingers along the front plate and along the rugged brown stitching, working her way up until she gets to the clasp. I study her expression, watching her curious look become more distraught as she realizes what she’s holding. It’s a look I have never seen on her before. I feel like I am witnessing a private moment, and that I shouldn’t be here. I focus my gaze elsewhere, trying to give her a moment to process everything. This goes on for a while, and the room remains silent until I hear a light sob come from her direction. I turn around and find her tracing her fingers over the engraved name and along the braille. Her eyes are swollen and glossy.

“Lilly… I-”

“I thought I had lost this long ago.”

She barely manages to get the words out before her resolve collapses and she begins to weep. I stand there for a few more moments, unable to process my own thoughts and unsure of what I can possibly do. My anxiety is building and I am trying to stay calm. I knew Lilly being upset was a possibility but I didn’t expect her to react this way. I’ve never seen her so emotional and the sight of her crying like this is enough to trigger my flight response. Despite all of this, I don’t regret giving the collar to Lilly. I make my way over to her and place my hand on her shoulder.

I look down at her, upon a scene all too familiar. A girl crying because she’s hurt, because she has lost someone dear to her. As I look at Lilly crying over the collar of her lost pet, I expect to feel pity for her. I wanted to feel pity for her... In fact, my feelings are far more complicated than that. I can’t quite describe it, empathy maybe? I think back to times when I would be in Lilly’s position, crying over what I have lost and how everyone would look at me like I was this pathetic, broken shell of a human. I hated them for that… I hated Lilly for that… But I think I am beginning to understand a little bit about what it means to support someone. I don’t need to pity Lilly to be here for her. Is this how she feels about me? Am I blowing everything out of proportion? Lilly...

“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be Hanako, I’m happy that you found this. I’ll be ok, I just need a moment to calm down.”

I sit on the bed next to her and place my hands in my lap, unsure of what to do now. Lilly places the collar in with her jewelry and begins rummaging through another box. I follow her lead and we begin to sort through the rest of her belongings. I glance over at Lilly. She’s wiping her eyes. Her cheeks are red and swollen and her hair is matted to her face. She’s brushes back her bangs in an attempt to keep her hair out of her face.

We are finishing the last of the boxes. Lilly has been quiet ever since I gave her the collar. For the first time, her silence is awkward. It’s deathly quiet and the only noise to be heard is the shuffling of boxes. It’s unbearable but the silence acts as an insurmountable wall between us. When I try to think of what I could possibly say to make her feel better I come up short. There isn’t anything I can say. I’ve never seen Lilly like this before. I want to be here and support her, like she has done for me, but what can I do?

I try to relate with her, but I can’t. Not really anyways. Even though we’ve both lost something close to us, it seems so foreign to think about me helping her. I think back to my countless therapy sessions with Mrs. Sawamura, trying to recall some of the things she would say or do. She says that talking about the issue can sometimes help.

“Lilly… C-can you want to tell me about Niji?”

She takes a deep breath as if she is collecting her thoughts. She pushes her box away from her and keeps her head low and to the floor. After taking a moment to calm down, she starts to reminisce.

“When I was younger, I was a lot more dependent than I am now. Father was always busy with the family business and Mother was focusing on her career as well, so naturally it was up to Akira to care for me.”

“Akira normally picked me up from school. She was released an hour earlier than I was each day, so by the time I got off she would already be waiting for me. One day I go to meet her at our normal spot and she isn’t there. I waited for about an hour before the administrator called my father. Akira had gotten detention and wasn’t permitted to use the phones so she wasn’t able to pick me up. Father was furious. I believe he was more upset at the fact that Akira had embarrassed him, not only with being called from work, but having to show up at two different schools to rectify the situation. After that he insisted that I have a service dog.”

Lilly pauses, as if she is unsure how to continue. I have mixed feelings about Akira being left to take care of her little sister when she was still a child herself. Their bond is much deeper than I could possibly imagine and I get the feeling that Akira has been the main mother figure to Lilly her entire life.

My thoughts are broken when I realize Lilly is starting to tear up again. I contemplate on what to do before putting my hand on her back to reassure her.

“Are you o-okay?”

“Yes, Hanako. Thank you.”

She collects herself again before continuing. Her voice is a bit shaky, like she could start crying again at any moment.

“Akira wasn’t happy, but Father was firm. He contacted a reputable breeder and immediately had the puppy enrolled in classes. Before long he was learning how to be my eyes. Father was pleased with his progress.”

“How did you feel about it?”

“Pardon?”

She looks at me with a curious look.

“W-what I mean is how did you feel about the situation? Akira wasn’t happy about getting a service dog, b-but how did you feel about it?”

Lilly smiles wistfully. “At first I was upset. I didn’t want to burden anyone more than I already have. After a while I started to secretly like the idea of having a puppy that I was able to take everywhere. It was a little strange at first, but soon he and I found our rhythm. It was much easier once he got bigger and I was able to hold onto him. He led me to and from school everyday and to any extracurriculars that I needed to attend to. Mostly it was him helping me cross the street and to keep me from tripping. This was before I learned to properly use a cane, mind you. He was a big help, and the whole family, including Akira grew attached to him.”

She pauses and her lips turn into a smile. She’s already started on one of the last boxes and seems to be lost in thought. Her expression is wistful as she carefully picks through the box, putting things aside and discarding others.

I grab a new box myself. I can’t help but feel content in the fact that Lilly has opened up to me, even if just a little. I feel bad because I don’t want my best friend to suffer, but a part of me is almost happy. Not for Lilly’s experience back then, but because of what we are experiencing now.

“How long did he help you? You’re really good at doing things yourself now.”

“Well he did help me all throughout primary school starting from year 3 onwards. He did help out for a bit during Junior high, but when my parents left for Scotland, I took it upon myself to learn how to take care for myself. By the second year of Junior high, I was mostly independent. Akira insisted I use him while walking to and from school, but other than that, he was able to enjoy the luxuries of being a normal house pet.”

She pauses before letting out a sigh. I can tell she is having a hard time keeping her composure. She grips onto the side of the bed as if it would stop her from crying. Seeing her like this is hard. I can’t help but imagine what it must be like to deal with me when I’m like this… I try to push those thoughts out of my head, even if Lilly does smother me sometimes, and even though I feel like a burden, I’m determined to help her. I want to help her, so I should accept that she is ok with helping me too.

“Lilly. If you don’t want to continue…”

“No, it’s ok... During my final year of Junior High, Niji and I were walking to school. I was holding onto him when I felt him collapse. I didn’t know what was happening, but I felt him- I felt him start to jerk, violently. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. A bystander called animal control and we were rushed to the nearest vet clinic.”

Her voice cracks while finishing off her sentence. I don’t say anything. My heart feels heavy.

“It was a seizure. The vets ran X-rays and they discovered a brain tumor. A biopsy confirmed that it was cancerous. The doctor laid out our options. We could attempt to treat it, but it was expensive. Surgery was too risky, so our only option was Chemotherapy. That night Akira called our father and demanded he pay the vet bills. Both of us expected a fight, but Father told Akira to send him the bill without any further question.”

Lilly lets out a sad smile recalling the conversation with her father. I have never met him, but I am under the impression that there are problems between him and Akira. It seems even he was distraught to hear the news.

“I missed a few days of class so that I could be with Niji during his appointments. The teachers weren’t too happy, but for the first time, it didn’t matter. I had to be there for him as he was for me. Unfortunately his condition worsened. He lost his vision, and in a cruel twist of fate I had to be his eyes when he couldn’t see. By then I was largely independent so I was able to help him with little issue.”

“One night Akira sat me down. She felt it was in Niji’s best interest if we had him euthanized. I still held onto hope that he would be ok. Akira explained to me that he looked terrible and that us continuing treatment would only prolong his suffering. I lost my temper with her and we had an argument about it. That night I went to Nijis bed and started to pet him. I paid attention to his breathing. It was different. Shallow… I placed my hand on him. I could feel his ribs through his skin. His fur fell out each time I stroked his back. I knew then that Akira was right. As much as I wanted to save Niji, I couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering another night like this. I stayed with him and cried all night.”

Lilly is starting to lose her composure at this point. I try my best to console her, but I know from experience that nothing I say or do will help her with this. I reach up and brush the matted hair from her face. I find myself tearing up, not only from Lilly’s story, but from the conflicting emotions building up inside me. I am sad for Lilly. I know that she is hurting, but I can’t shake this feeling of gratification. For the first time Lilly has opened up to me. I feel as if she finally views me as an equal… Maybe she always has, I don’t know. All I know is that she is hurting and that she needs me, so I try to push these thoughts aside.

“The next morning I woke Akira up and told her that we need to take Niji to the vet. It’s time for us to do the right thing. We stayed with him until it was over… We both held him until his last breath… It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

I wrap my arms around Lilly and pull her close. She buries her head in my shoulder and I can feel the wetness of her tears on my skin. I suddenly realize that I am crying as well.

“Thank you. Hanako.”

I don’t reply. There is nothing I can say. Instead I stroke her hair and let her release the emotion that had been building up. It’s all I can do to comfort my best friend. We cry for what seems like an eternity before she pulls away. She looks in my direction, her dull blue eyes swollen and golden blonde hair matted from all the crying.

“ I really appreciate you Hanako, thank you.”

I manage a smile before Lilly pulls me into another hug. Niji, I don’t know if you’re out there anywhere, but thank you for taking care of Lilly. I’ll be sure to do my part until you guys meet again.
Last edited by Arodyrok on Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Arodyrok
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Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:20 pm

Re: In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Arodyrok » Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:27 pm

This is a piece inspired by a conversation I had a while ago with Stiles Long. I've been sitting on this for a while but life got in the way and I wasn't able to edit it properly. Big thanks to Stiles for proofreading and providing edits as well. Let me know what you think!

Raimen
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2018 1:27 pm

Re: In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Raimen » Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:27 pm

It wasn't the story I was expecting judging form the title, but I enjoyed reading it.

At the risk of using a tautology, Lilly and Hanako felt like Lilly and Hanako. I think that putting established characters into new situations and still having those characters feel right is a challenge, and I think you did well.

Arodyrok
Posts: 11
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Re: In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Arodyrok » Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:35 pm

Raimen wrote:
Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:27 pm
It wasn't the story I was expecting judging form the title, but I enjoyed reading it.

At the risk of using a tautology, Lilly and Hanako felt like Lilly and Hanako. I think that putting established characters into new situations and still having those characters feel right is a challenge, and I think you did well.
I appreciate the kind words! I also appreciate finding that typo and PMing it to me. It seems like quiet vs. quite is something that gets passed me a lot and it also something the spellchecker doesn't pick up either. I appreciate it.

Hanako Fancopter
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Re: In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:26 pm

"Past." Not "passed" you :p

Very sweet story. It's nice to see Niji written effectively as a story rather than the name just popping up as a meme or something.
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Feurox
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Re: In Memory of: Lilly

Post by Feurox » Thu Aug 01, 2019 7:08 pm

Simply beautiful. Eloquently told, and wonderfully heartfelt - seriously, I’m in awe at how beautiful this story was Arodyrok. Phenomenal writing, and absolute proof that a story doesn’t have to be complex to be brilliant.

Maybe this story just really resonates with me, I’m sure many of us have been there, but the loss of an animal, an intensely close one, is like a part of you dies, the innocent part of you. Yet, somehow, with Hanako in scene, Hisao on the up and up, and Lilly affirming her place in Japan, this ended up being both tragically sad, and wonderfully uplifting.

You ought to add this to your list, because it’s a classic.

From the bottom of my heart, well done - and thank you for affecting me so deeply with this story.

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