tap-tap… tap-Tap… Tap-Tap…
I perk up at the familiar sound, my eyes leaving the page of my book to confirm the source. Sure enough, Lilly rounds the corner at the entrance to the hallway and begins making her way towards her door, her cane lightly touching the floor ahead of her and the bottom of the wall in quick, alternating motions. Closing my book and dropping it in my bag with little memory of what I was actually reading, I stand and move to intercept her before she reaches her destination. She clearly hears me approaching, because she pauses partway down the hall.
Can she seriously tell who I am just from my breathing?
"Yes, hi Lilly. Have you seen Hitomi anywhere?"
She must sense the urgency in my voice, because she makes no comment on my choice of wording. "No, I'm sorry, she wasn't in class at all today. Is she not in her dorm room?" She tilts her head slightly, as if to listen for some sign of Hitomi's presence.
"No, I've knocked several times now. I couldn't find her anywhere after class. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"
Lilly's brow furrows in mild concern. "I'm afraid not. If she had a scheduled appointment or meeting today, I would have been informed as the representative of her class." She appears to consider this. "Unless Ms. Hakamichi had some reason not to tell me."
"I'm worried about her. It's not like her to just disappear like this." In truth, I don't know that, but in the couple weeks I've known her I haven't generally had too much trouble locating Hitomi, even without a phone.
"Have you considered contacting the administration?"
I wince at the very reasonable suggestion. "I have, but if she's fine and just off by herself somewhere, I don't think she'll appreciate us making a big deal out of this."
Lilly nods, a look of mild frustration on her face. "Indeed, but it may be the only course of action available to us at present."
I take a deep breath. "Please, Lilly. Hitomi and I aren't… on the best of terms right now."
"Oh? When was the last time you spoke to her?"
"Ah, it was… the last time you and I talked."
Lilly's eyebrows go up at that, and she hesitates. "Oh. Well, then, I can understand why you want to be careful." For several long, agonizing moments, she appears to think it over.
I shift anxiously on my feet, feeling utterly trapped by my own helplessness.
"I suppose we could try the student council before doing anything more official." I can see her reluctance even as she says the words, but she reaches into her purse and pulls out a cell phone, flipping it open and holding a button.
"Call Shiina Mikado." she says in a flat, clear tone.
In response, the phone makes a long beeping sound. Lilly scrunches her brow in frustration, and holds the button again.
"Call. Shiina. Mikado."
A short beep this time, and Lilly relaxes. I'm standing a couple meters from the blonde girl, so I can only just hear the ringing as she holds the phone to her ear. A few seconds later, she winces and pulls it away. Even at this distance, I can hear the overly-cheerful voice on the other end.
"This is Miiiiiiiiisha! Leave a message, and I promise I'll call you right back!"
Lilly snaps the phone shut, shaking her head, and drops the device back into her purse.
"That girl never remembers to charge her phone…"
Moving rather quickly, Lilly navigates to Hanako's door with her cane, then sets it aside and knocks gently.
"Hanako? It's Lilly."
The door opens almost immediately, and I wonder briefly if Hanako had been listening to our conversation from the other side.
"L-Lilly?" Hanako looks at me, then back to her friend.
"Hanako, Hisao and I are trying to find Hitomi. I'm sorry to ask, but would you mind leaving your door open and giving me a call if she turns up here?"
Damn. I should have thought of that…
"S-sure." Hanako looks like she wants to ask for more details, but she glances at me again, and leaves it at that.
"Thank you." Lilly gives Hanako a reassuring smile. "Don't worry; I'm sure she'll turn up soon."
Hanako nods and goes back into her room, though she leaves her door open. Lilly turns back to me.
"Shall we go?"
I go back to grab my bag, then move to follow her. "Thank you for doing this, Lilly. Where are we going?"
She starts to lead me out of the dorm at a steady pace, her cane tapping against the hallway wall to keep her on course. "Hitomi is in my class, so this is my responsibility anyway. I'm sure my cousin is working in the student council room right now. We can find her there."
As we exit the dorm and start back towards the main building, I ask the obvious question. "Why would Shizune not have told you if she knew Hitomi would be gone?"
I know the two don't get along well, but I can't imagine someone as diligent as Shizune shirking her responsibility just to be petty. If anything, she's all the more likely to take every chance she can get to rub her hard work in Lilly's face.
Lilly purses her lips. "It is possible that she tried to contact me this morning, but we missed each other."
That explanation is a little vaguer than I would like, but I don't really think I should press Lilly on it right now, since she really is trying to be helpful. I settle for silence instead, letting my lack of response speak my disapproval for me.
Normally, I don't mind Lilly's slower pace, but right now it's frustrating. I know she probably can't afford to move much faster without risking an accident, but this is a serious situation. It takes some self-control, but I manage not to rush ahead of her as we make our way into the lobby, down the hall, and to the student council room.
There's no answer when I knock, but the door is unlocked, so we enter together. Behind her desk, Shizune looks up from several stacks of paperwork at the two of us, he face shifting quickly from surprise to suspicion, and then concern as she takes in our expressions. I glance around, but there's no sign of Misha, which presents us with a bit of a challenge…
Lilly nods in Shizune's general direction, apparently sensing her presence in the quiet room. "Hisao, is there currently a chair across the desk from Ms. Hakamichi?"
There is, and I guide her to it, briefly recalling my conversation with Shizune from that very same chair last week. Lilly takes a seat, folding up her cane and depositing it in her bag at her side, and then extends her hands across the desk, palms open. I tilt my head at the curious gesture, and I'm not alone in my reaction. Shizune looks a bit shocked herself, and stares at her cousin for several long seconds before slowly extending her own arms and placing her hands on top of Lilly's.
I watch in increasing fascination as the girls' hands begin to move, not in sign language, but some other, simpler form of tactile communication. They switch off positions, one girl holding both hands palm upward while the other taps on them in various motions, and then reversing so the other girl is doing the tapping. I can mostly tell who is 'talking' at which time, but the motions are quick and hard to follow, and I haven't the faintest idea what is being said. The only hints of the 'conversation' I get are the expressions on the cousins' faces as they talk.
Shizune looks surprised at first, then a bit frustrated and possibly offended, but gradually goes back to a look of what I think is genuine concern. Twice, she glances at me before returning her attention to Lilly.
For her part, Lilly's face remains polite and even throughout the exchange, giving me little indication at all as to what's being said.
It's hard to tell the speed of the communication, but it's far too slow for my anxiety right now. The silence in the room feels utterly incongruous with the urgency of the situation, and pretty soon I run out of patience.
"Lilly, what's going on? Does she know where Hitomi is?"
Lilly tilts her head in my direction. "Ah, forgive me, Hisao. No, she has not been informed of any appointments or any other reason Ms. Nomura would not be in class today." She receives a few more motions from her cousin, grimaces, and responds. "She says that I have been too relaxed in allowing Ms. Nomura's absences."
This is not the time for them to argue about whose fault it is! "Okay, so where else can we look?!"
"At present, her only suggestion is to check with either the administration, or the school nurse's office."
My blood runs cold at that statement. "Why the nurse?"
"For privacy reasons, if Ms. Nomura were to have some medical emergency, the student council may not have been immediately notified. It is possible the nursing staff has more information."
"Lilly, thanks for your help. I'll go check with Nurse now." I give Shizune a sincere nod of thanks, and she returns it with some uncertainty.
Lilly unfolds her cane and stands. "Please, allow me to accompany you. Hitomi is my responsibility, more so perhaps than most other students in my class."
My instinct is to say 'no' so I can move faster, but I see the worry written on Lilly's face, and begrudgingly accept her request. Of course, she probably feels that Hitomi going missing like this is partly her fault.
We leave together. As we reach the door, I notice that Shizune watches us go with a look of deepening concern.
I open the door and hold it for Lilly, who apparently can tell what I'm doing and proceeds through with a polite nod of thanks. I follow her in, and shut the door behind us.
Nurse is sitting at his desk, that stupid grin on his face as he watches us enter. It quickly disappears as he sees our expressions.
"Mr. Nakai. Ms. Satou. How can I help you?"
I skip the pleasantries. "Nurse, we can't find Hitomi anywhere. Do you know where she is?"
He arches an eyebrow but doesn't hesitate at all. "Yes, I am aware of Ms. Nomura's location."
Relief floods me momentarily- but then is immediately replaced with dread. If he knows where she is, that means she's not just off by herself somewhere…
"Is she okay? Where is she? What happened?"
Nurse stands, his expression one of concern, but he keeps his voice calm and level. "Hisao, I need you to calm down. Take a seat, please."
"I'm not gonna take a seat! Is she okay, yes or no?"
"Sit." His voice is sharp, but still relatively calm. Beside me, Lilly flinches at the command, and feels her way to a chair near the door. Glaring at Nurse, I walk quickly to his desk and sit in the chair opposite him.
"Take a few deep breaths."
I force myself to comply, going through my breathing exercises to slow my heartrate. Nurse watches me without a word for several seconds before, apparently satisfied, he begins to speak.
"Thank you. You have to be more careful. Ms. Nomura is safe, and in good health, all things considered. That's all I can tell you right now, for privacy reasons."
She's safe? Thank God. I take several more deep breaths, finally feeling myself beginning to calm down a bit. "You can't tell me where she is? What do you mean, 'all things considered'?"
Nurse grimaces. "I'm sorry, Hisao. I'm not at liberty to discuss any details without Ms. Nomura's express permission."
I grunt in frustration. "When is she coming back?"
Nurse seems to think this over for a moment. "I will try to get in touch with her, and see if she's okay with a visit." He looks over my shoulder at Lilly. "If that's what you both would like."
Lilly, who's been quiet since we entered, speaks up from behind me. "If Hitomi is okay with it, yes."
"Very good." For the first time since we came in, Nurse's smile comes back. "Ms. Nomura is lucky to have such devoted friends."
A rush of guilt washes through me. If I was devoted, I would have been with her when whatever happened to her occurred, and maybe I could have helped, and-
"Hisao." His expression goes back to one of concern. "I will let you know as soon as I can if a visit is possible. The best thing you can do for Hitomi right now is go back to your room and rest. You're in no condition to be going anywhere as you are."
I take a long breath, and nod once. "Fine."
"In all likelihood, I won't have anything more to tell you until tomorrow morning, at the earliest. If you don't hear from me before classes, go ahead and skip. I'll explain to your homeroom teacher."
Reluctantly I nod again, feeling grateful at least that he might be able to tell me something
more tomorrow. Of course, I doubt I'll be sleeping tonight…
I tried reading, homework, sleeping, reading again, sleeping again, and finally just laying on my back, staring up at the now-familiar ceiling over my bed. Sometime well after two or three in the morning, I finally managed to drift off to sleep for a few hours.
Waking with a start, I frantically checked my phone for any word from Nurse- but it was only around 6:30, and I had no new messages.
Damn. When is he gonna let me know?
I know it's unreasonable to be expecting anything this early, but the anxiety is killing me. Nurse knows where Hitomi is, which means she's had some sort of medical issue, correct? Was it a complication from her condition, or something else? He specified that she was in 'relatively good health'. The fact that he phrased it that way was not reassuring at all. Relative to what?
Groaning in frustration, I rub some of the grogginess from my eyes and force myself out of bed, grabbing a set of clothes and exiting my room for a shower. At this ungodly hour, it's very unlikely I'll run into my hallmate, but I still find myself moving as quietly as possible out of habit to avoid an unwanted conversation- if that's even the right word for one of Kenji's rants.
Taking an unusually long shower is one of the benefits of rising early, even if it doesn't exactly make up for the loss of sleep that comes with the deal. Several times, I poke my head out to check my phone display- to no effect.
When I'm done, I sneak back to my room in my casual clothes, having forgone the uniform I would normally don on a Saturday morning. Under normal circumstances, skipping class would make me feel guilty unless I was sick, or had an appointment or something, but today I think nothing of it.
I force myself to take my medications, prepare some simple breakfast, and try my very best not to check my phone more than once every few minutes. Part of me wants to rush down to Nurse's office and wait outside, but I know he'll just send me back if I do that.
Scrambling, I snatch my phone off my desk and nearly fling it across the room in my rush to flip it open and read the message.
Hicchan, havnt herd from u in a wile. Call us soon! -Mom
Sighing, I drop the phone back down onto the desk. Any other time, I would have welcomed contact with my parents, whom I haven't heard a word from since they dropped me off here- but this morning… it just kinda pisses me off.
I have to laugh a little though, despite the tension I'm feeling. Mom's still trying to text like she thinks teenagers do- cutting out random letters and making other deliberate errors, but she still signs the text like I don't know it's from her.
Seriously? Groaning, I flip the phone open to see what she could possibly have followed that message up with-
Hitomi is okay with a visit. Come to my office at 9.
It's 8:15 now. With nothing better to do, I spend the next half-hour sitting and wondering where Hitomi could possibly be. The most obvious answer, of course, is the one I want to think about the least.
When it's finally time, I take only my phone and wallet, leaving my bag in my room. I can't imagine I'll be able to read anything, even if it is a long drive.
Seeming to want only to further my frustration, Nurse refuses to give me any real information until we've walked out to his car, gotten strapped in, and are on our way down the hill.
Finally, he speaks.
"Hitomi was in an accident yesterday. She was hit by a vehicle in town sometime in the morning."
I can feel the panic rising up immediately, but he continues without pause.
"She's okay. They weren't driving very fast at all, and she only had a few minor injuries. Mostly scrapes, bruised ribs, stuff like that."
My panic slowly ebbs, replaced by an equally unwelcome feeling: overwhelming guilt.
"It seems that she was having one of her episodes at the time of the accident. It's not clear what she was doing in town by herself. I only spoke with her myself this morning."
As immature and downright childish as Nurse seems to act at times, it's clear that he's entirely responsible and professional when he needs to be. At no point does he crack some stupid joke or try to make light of the situation. My guess is he's concerned that any added stress may have consequences to my own health. He's driving with both hands on the wheel, eyes on the road ahead of him and maintaining a safe speed, but he does glance my way momentarily before delivering the bad news.
"Apparently, her sight has not returned since the accident."
I think back to the day Hitomi described her condition to me. 'Sometimes, it's gone for a whole day,' she told me. It's been nearly a day since her accident, so it's possible that this is not out of the ordinary, right?
"Did she hit her head at all?"
Nurse nods. "She suffered a minor concussion. Of course, any brain trauma is serious, but from what the doctor told me, it wasn't anything to be too concerned about. For Hitomi, though, a head injury may mean more than it does for the average person."
I should have been with her. If I hadn't taken so damn long to get my stupid feelings figured out and just talked
to her earlier, she wouldn't have been alone, and this wouldn't have happened.
Nurse seems to sense my brooding, and reaches over to place a hand on my shoulder. I guess he's trying to be reassuring, but it just comes across as forced.
"…so she said it was okay to tell me all this?"
He nods. "She did ask that I limit it to only you, but yes."
Oh, right, Lilly…
Seeming to guess my thoughts, he adds, "I did inform Ms. Satou that Hitomi was doing well, and should return to school in the next few days."
That'll have to be enough for now, I guess. I should probably tell Lilly a bit more after I see Hitomi, as long as she's okay with it.
"I probably don't have to tell you this, but it's a very good sign that Hitomi agreed to this visit. Please do your best to have a positive attitude while we're there."
I frown. Of course I'll try to be positive, but I'm not gonna put on a show for her either. Blind or not, Hitomi will see right through it if I act like nothing is wrong.
We pull into the hospital parking lot around 20 minutes later, and walk to the main entrance in silence. The breeze stirs the bushes around the sliding doors as we approach, highlighting the oppressive quiet that seems to blanket the entire area. The sounds of the city seem to fade, becoming more and more distant as I approach the entrance, as if every step takes me another mile away from the life of the outside world.
The first set of doors slide open, then the second, and I'm hit with it all at once. The smell of ammonia and bleach. The endless green-painted walls. The sounds of machines counting out the lives of the patients bound to them, carelessly declaring to the world around them that their charges are not dead… yet.
A faint ringing builds in my ears, and my vision seems to narrow. Despite the chilled air of the hospital lobby, I feel sweat beading on my forehead. Slowing, I stumble towards an object that I vaguely recognize to be a chair, though even that information seems to take ages to process. Somewhere far away, a voice is saying my name, but wherever they're speaking from, I can't really understand them.
Closing my eyes, I focus on one thing. Hitomi. I'm not back here for me. I'm here to see Hitomi. I can't make this about me.
I take a long, deep breath: in, and then slowly out. Again, in and out. Several long cycles, and the world around me slowly comes back. Wiping my forehead, I look over to Nurse, who's sitting beside me, watching my face intensely.
"We're gonna sit here for a few minutes."
It's not a question. I nod, and continue to focus on my breathing. I've never actually been to this
hospital, come to think of it, but the sense that I'm back
is still overpowering. What's the difference, really, which hospital it is after all?
Stop it. It's already your fault that she's here. You can't make this about you.
It takes several more minutes, but I eventually find my strength returning, pathetic as it is. I wipe my forehead with one sleeve, vaguely disgusted at my reaction just stepping foot in this place. Fortunately, Nurse seems like he anticipated something like this, and is being relatively calm about it.
I stand, wait a few seconds to see if I get dizzy, and then nod without a word.
"I'll wait out here. Try to make it quick; she needs to rest."
I blink in surprise. "You're not coming in?"
Nurse shakes his head. "The visit is for you. I'll check on Ms. Nomura when she returns to Yamaku, but for now, she's in capable hands with the staff here."
I guess that makes sense. For some reason I had thought of this as a visit from Nurse with me tagging along, but it seems he made this trip just for my sake. Well, more for Hitomi's sake, but still.
With a nod of thanks, I proceed into the room, taking a deep breath in anticipation. The bed is to my left, but- it's empty?
I turn towards the familiar voice, and there she is. Standing by the window, head tilted towards the entrance of the room, Hitomi looks worse than I can ever remember seeing her. A bandage around her head makes her normally beautiful hair look particularly messy. Her whole demeanor is depressing, her posture timid and weak, her face a blank mask of exhaustion. Normally, her lack of expression is an odd part of her charm- but not like this.
She stiffens at my voice, and stands up just a little straighter.
Not particularly friendly, but not hostile, either. I suppose that's all I could expect. She turns to more accurately face me, but still ends up looking off to my left.
Up until talking with Nurse yesterday, I had tried thinking about what I wanted to say to Hitomi over and over again- but all of that just seems so silly now. Even as I had my 'important' talk with Molly, Hitomi was already here, being examined for injuries I could have prevented.
She turns her body to face me, the hospital gown hanging off her slender frame in an unflattering manner. Several bruises are visible on her bare arms, and her left hand is wrapped in a bandage that leaves her fingers free, at least.
"I wasn't sure you were coming."
What? What did Nurse tell her?
"Are you kidding? Of course I came." I walk towards her, trying not to rush forward too quickly for fear of startling her. Reaching for her shoulder, I pull her gingerly into an embrace. She doesn't make any effort to stop me, but her own arms remain at her sides. A sharp hiss of pain from her makes me pull back suddenly, and I realize I might have just hurt her.
"…it's fine. Rib's still tender."
The guilt of hurting her even further overwhelms me, and I lose control all at once.
"Hitomi, I'm so sorry I wasn't there with you! If I had gotten myself sorted out days ago, none of this would have happened, and you'd still be at school instead of here, and-"
As usual, her quiet voice is enough to cut me off completely.
She stares emptily at my torso, her brow furrowed in frustration.
"This had nothing to do with you."
I open my mouth to argue, but the words die in my throat. How can I explain my feelings to her? Before I can think of a way to try, though, Hitomi speaks again.
"I was careless. It's my fault this happened."
"Hitomi, if I had been with you, we both know there wouldn't have been an accident."
"Maybe." She closes her eyes, not that it really matters, and takes a long breath. "That's my fault as well."
"But I was the one that stopped spending time with you!"
"Hisao." She forces a smile, but it's obviously for my benefit and not anything natural. "Please don't try to make this your fault. It won't fix anything, and it'll only make me feel worse about this past week."
I let out a long, frustrated sigh. She's got me trapped, now. Nothing I say is going to make the situation any better. Reluctantly, I change the subject.
"Did they learn anything about your… condition?"
She shakes her head. "They did a scan shortly after I got here, but they didn't see anything new."
Hitomi leaves unspoken the obvious fact that her vision has not come back. It's clear we're both thinking the same thing: whatever got knocked loose in her head before, this incident made it permanent.
"How long are they keeping you here?"
Apparently relieved to be off that topic, Hitomi gives me another forced smile. "They said they want to keep an eye on me for another day, but I should be back tomorrow afternoon, if nothing changes."
"Hisao?" Nurse's voice intrudes on our conversation, and I look over my shoulder to see him standing in the doorway alongside one of the hospital staff, who's looking at me in mild frustration.
"Ms. Nomura needs to rest."
I turn back to her, and give her a pained smile of my own- which of course she doesn't see. Pulling her into an even gentler hug, I whisper in her ear.
"I'll be waiting at the gate."
It's not a question, but I still find myself waiting for an answer. She nods against my shoulder, and this time returns my embrace, her normally strong arms feeling unusually thin and delicate around me. When we separate, her eyes are wet, and I realize mine are too.
With nothing left to say, I turn and leave the room, glancing back over my shoulder as Hitomi makes her way back to her bed and plops down on it with a sigh.
Every part of my being desperately hopes for one thing as I pace back and forth in front of the school gate the following day: that Hitomi will come back with her vision restored.
I know it's far-fetched, but it's always possible that she was just experiencing a longer-than-normal period of blindness, and the accident had no effect on her, other than her other, minor injuries.
That hope is dashed as the Yamaku Academy van pulls up, and Hitomi slowly exits from the side door, every movement made cautiously.
My heart sinks- but I force myself to put on a smile anyway, for all the good it will do. She's no doubt feeling worse than I am, so the least I can do is try to make her day just a little less gloomy.
I walk up to her quickly, pulling her into another hug and inadvertently startling her in the process. I guess Lilly's near superhuman hearing isn't something that applies to everyone experiencing blindness.
"I'm glad you're back." I say in as warm a voice as I can manage.
It's not quite a monotone answer- there's a hint of sincerity in it that gives me hope- but it's not exactly the happy reunion I was looking for either. No matter.
"C'mon, I'll take you back to your room." Hitomi's wearing a set of casual clothing that someone must have brought her, and carrying a small bag with the clothes she was wearing on Friday. I take the bag from her hand, and she doesn't resist.
"Actually, can we-" She stops herself, closing her vacant eyes and taking a long, deep breath.
"Can we just go sit for a while? At the bench?"
Even though her description is totally lacking in detail, I know exactly where she means. I nod, then quickly add, "Yeah, sure, of course."
Giving me a gentle smile, Hitomi takes my arm in a manner similar to Lilly, when I helped her with her shopping my first week here, although with their significant difference in height, Hitomi has to take a somewhat different angle to her grip. All things considered, she seems to be handling her situation better than I would have anticipated.
There's so much I want to say to the slender girl by my side, but I find myself holding off on all of it as we walk across Yamaku's grounds together. Sundays are generally quieter than the rest of the week, with many students off-campus somewhere or else hanging out in the dorms. A few are walking between the various buildings, or sitting in small groups in the grass.
One such group I recognize as we get nearer, and I consider going around, but it's clear we've already been spotted and it would be a bit pointless now. Hitomi and I walk by Suzu, Miki, Molly and Taro without speaking, but the group falls silent and watches us go by with mixed reactions. Taro smiles at first, then frowns as he looks at Hitomi more closely, then blushes and looks away when he sees me watching his reaction. Miki grimaces, but then gives me a broad grin and a thumbs up. Molly blushes and looks away, but glances back at us with a timid smile.
Suzu, to my surprise, simply gives me a smile and a polite wave. I don't catch any hint of resentment or even sarcasm in the gesture, and I give a short wave back.
We continue on in silence to the running track and then across to the edge of the forest, into the narrow entrance and up the winding path, ascend the hill, cross the clearing, and at last end our journey at the bench.
I guide Hitomi to it, and she takes a seat with a grunt of mild discomfort. Sitting beside her, I look out at the view once again. The town below us, forest around us, and distant buildings of the city are just as beautiful on this clear afternoon as they have been each time the two of us have sat here together, and yet…
Somehow, that beauty feels cheapened now. Knowing that I'm the only one seeing it reduces its value. Beside me, Hitomi speaks.
"I need to explain myself."
Surprised that she was the one to break the silence, I turn to Hitomi and wait for her to continue. After a brief pause, she does.
"When I first lost my vision, I was so scared. Everything I cared about was tied to being able to see. All my passions, everything I was good at or enjoyed… all of it was on the line. When they told me that someday I would lose it and it wouldn't come back, I made a decision."
Hitomi speaks no louder than usual, but in contrast to her normally flat, even tone, there's a clear underlying defeat in her voice. Resignation.
"If I had to lose my sight, I would enjoy every minute of it I had left."
She faces out towards the city, and a tear makes its way slowly down her cheek.
"I didn't waste my time learning how to live as a blind person. I figured there would be plenty of time for that once I actually became one."
I nod along, the pieces falling into place. Her refusal of Lilly's help. Her unwillingness to discuss her own limitations. The way she shut herself off from the world every time her vision was lost- only to reemerge as if nothing had happened. Hitomi wasn't denying what was happening to her. She was just trying to eke out as much happiness from her eyes as she could, while she still had them.
"Of course, if I had treated my limitations with more caution, I might still have been able to see a while longer…"
She trails off. I wait for several long moments, but she doesn't say anything more.
"I think I understand."
Hitomi turns her head in my direction, but doesn't really look at me.
"After my attack, my life changed completely. The things that used to be normal, easy even, suddenly became impossible. I lost my friends, my school, most of my life, really. Even though I technically survived, it was almost like I had died back then."
I wrap an arm around Hitomi and continue to stare off at the view without really seeing any of it. Gingerly, she leans into me, her head resting on my shoulder delicately.
"I had no choice at all, but even still, I wanted to hold on to as much of my old life as I could. When they told me I would be coming here instead of my old school, I felt like I was just being sent here to die."
A single cloud, puffy and cheerful, begins its long journey across the otherwise clear blue sky before us. I watch it with disinterest.
"If I had been able to cling to anything from before, I would have. If I had been given the chance to keep a part of my old life, I would have done it without a second thought. So I think I do understand, Hitomi, even if my own experience coming here was different."
She doesn't respond, but that's okay, I think. I've finally found the words I've been needing to say to her.
"Anyway, it all changed when I met you."
She stiffens slightly against me, but otherwise shows no reaction.
"Like I said, I thought my life was over when I transferred here. I thought this would be the place I spend the last few months of my life until my heart finally finished the job. No matter what the other kids here had been through, at least most of them still had a future."
"But meeting you changed that for me. I've realized that even if I don't live as long as a normal person, even if I can't live a normal life, I can still enjoy the life I have. As long as I'm with the right person to share it with, and as long as I can do anything to make that person happy."
"Oh!" Hitomi jerks, and my train of thought ends abruptly. What's with that reaction? I was about to say the most important part…
She sits up and looks
at me. Not in my direction, or at my body in general, but straight into my eyes. Her own eyes are wide and bright, and I can make out my reflection looking back at me.
"You... you can-?"
Hitomi surges forward and our lips meet. My shock prevents me from responding at first, freezing me in place like a frightened prey animal. Her arms wrap around me, pulling me in. Gradually my muscles begin to relax into the kiss, and I respond.
It's clumsy and awkward, but I don't care at all. My own arms pull at her as well, clueless hands running up and down her arms, through her hair, along her thigh…
We separate after several long seconds, and a flash of fear crosses Hitomi's face- but it's gone in an instant, replaced with a smirk, of all things.
"Sorry, you were saying something?"
Whatever my face looks like right now, I'm sure the word 'dumb' describes it aptly.
"Ah, I was, that is-"
"I feel the same."
My babbling dies away, and I'm left staring at the incredibly beautiful person in front of me in disbelief. She stares right back. Somehow, everything that's happened to us led us both to this place, to this moment right here. And right here, I think it just might be possible that it was all worth it.
I lean forward, and kiss her again.
End of Act 2
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Wordcount: 6,356 / 61,356