MOVEMENT III - LIBERUM CADENSI'm unsure how this third movement will be received, yet I enjoyed making everything more complicated for our main characters. Things are often messy, muddy, unresolved. Sorry I have taken so long, I had these chapters finished for a while but I went to a camp for a week and that took a lot out of me, hopefully you all enjoy this,
9. Hands On The Bible
“You want to be Nako’s guardian?” Hisao asks, I guess this is kind of sudden.
“Yes, in case of emergency… if you…” Iwanako chokes up, the forest, the last goodbye in which she said nothing. Lifeless hospital rooms and the drone of monitors. She shivers, glancing at her distorted reflection in the fridge.
“In case I die… I may have been exaggerating, I could drop dead at any moment, yes. Do I plan on it? Well, no.” Hisao leans back in his chair.
“I just owe you, there’s nothing I can do to get rid of it…”
“Fine, but you’ll need to babysit her first. I’ll get you another cup,”
“Whatever were we?”
“What do you mean, Iwanako?” he appears to be confused as to why he is being asked this as he prepares.
“I never said a proper goodbye to you… at the hospital… I never kissed you, I never even hugged you. Not much of a girlfriend.”
“I thought you gave up on me, Iwanako. You wrote a breakup letter.”
Iwanako pauses, “Ayano helped me write most of it…”
“It was your calligraphy and when I saw it I nearly… I guess I shouldn’t use that expression.”
“I only wrote the words of the last two pages, the others were prepared ahead of time so I didn’t leave anything open. I couldn’t let go.”
Iwanako gets up, slowly shuffling into the kitchen – her arms tightly crossed to prevent any impulsive actions. Actions she never had the opportunity to perform, instead driven under her skin for seven years. He’s tantalizingly close, she can literally touch him. I probably shouldn’t.
“Why did you stop visiting?”
“I didn’t really, your parents told me to stop coming by…” the tiles blur as she stares down.
“Did you?” he leans on the counter, his head craned in her direction.
“No, I came back on Valentine’s Day – I mean it was for Valentine’s Day… your mother had another long…”
“Wait… ‘another long talk’?”
“She had forbidden me from visiting you. That it was damaging to my health… I guess she was right. We talked, I think she was trying to point out that I should have talked to a doctor or someone with how I was acting.”
“No… that’s not the point. I owe you!” Iwanako looks up, years, she cannot hold it in. One step at a time, she inches closer like walking on glass.
“You’re not making sense, Iwanako. You don’t owe me anything, I’m not joking,” he stands up straight.
Beams of sunlight start to stream through the windows, the kitchen may be hidden from direct exposure, but the living room is slowly gaining a golden tint. I really shouldn’t, it’s selfish. Feelings cryogenically frozen from years of medication rush free in her mind, watching him out of the corner of her eye as he eavesdropped in hallways.
Gravity seems to have lost influence on her, as she continues, she feels as if she is weightless, drifting. His face grows more and more confused, she becomes less and less restrained. An asymptotic relationship, Iwanako slips yet further into her memories. Her friends ridiculing her for watching Hisao from the cafeteria table, struggling to get advice from her mother, the anxiety of the kind of man her father demanded she find. An authoritarian, not a friend, someone to command her, not to love her.
She puts her trembling hands on his face, I’ve never done this before. We consume it all the time in media, the tired old cliché. Choreographed, methodically timed – oh so terribly artificial. An elastic wound up in your head and when you can no longer hold back… it snaps.
“Iwanako,” Hisao protests under his breath.
Her weight shifts forward, leaving Iwanako perched on her toes. Looking deep into his blinking eyes, now. She closes her eyes, places her lips ever so softly upon his. Apply pressure.
A wafting blanket of heat envelops her, even after it ends – more. She kisses him again, sliding her hands until they are intertwined behind Hisao’s neck. Deeper, a bit more weight behind it. Hisao finally returning the embrace, gripping her shoulders – shifting her shirt askew. When she recoils again, he takes the initiative, something deep and passionate. She is now grasping the collar of his shirt. A boulder in freefall, an object in motion can only be stopped by another.
A loud crack emanates from the dining room, followed by an angry high-pitched voice.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IT BROKE?”
Iwanako pushes Hisao away in embarrassment, being caught in the act. She attempts to straighten her shirt, to little success. Emi glares from the table, glancing between the prosthetic in her hand and the pair she has caught red handed. The artificial foot is at an odd angle, becoming looser as Emi shakes it. Hisao appears similarly embarrassed, most likely for entirely different reasons.
“It shouldn’t have broke!”
Hisao clears his throat, “how did you manage to break the prosthetic?”
“I hit it on the floor to get your attention, you were too busy making out with your girlfriend… you’re not even divorced yet!” Emi smacks her leg on the floor again to demonstrate, causing the foot to go flying, “DAMNIT!”
“I’m not,” Iwanako is tense, “I’m not his girlfriend!”
“You kissed him, therefore you’re his girlfriend. By the way, you looked like an amateur.”
“Emi? Can you focus?”
“You two should have done it while walking into her bedroom, could have gone further… I still would have interrupted you…”
“EMI?” Hisao sternly calls her out.
“WHAT? I just woke up in a strange bathroom and I have broken a leg. I’m not angry, this happens a lot actually – usually I end up in beds. I just don’t remember anything from last night… I was jumping at a door, I sat down, then I woke up and came in here.”
Iwanako wants to speak up, Emi’s implying that she gambles with her safety. Either that or Emi is naïve and trusting which doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, her shame is overwhelming, not just getting caught – letting feelings swell up again.
“It was about Shizune,” the lights in Hisao eyes die a bit – disheartening for Iwanako. What just happened?
“I’m glad I blacked out then.”
“You,” Hisao points his finger to the woman still wearing an oversized gown, “you’ve been hanging around Rin.”
“Rin is the only person who would find getting blackout drunk interesting,”
“So, I take her to bars every couple of weeks, big deal. I have to get her to use straws though.”
“That’s reckless Emi. You’re relying on drunk men to be restrained?”
“You have such a dim attitude towards members of your gender.”
“Well men will take advantage of women… especially women like you and Rin.”
“So, we should live in fear because men are perverted? Maybe you need to teach other men to be gentlemen!” Emi snaps back.
“She kind of has a point, you know.” Iwanako quietly notes.
“What point?” Hisao asks.
“We are responsible for our actions. Nobody has the responsibility not to be taken advantage of, we don’t choose that.”
“Did I choose to have you kiss me?”
“Well…” Iwanako reconsiders her impulsive actions, I guess not, “well maybe I should have asked.”
“He enjoyed it! He was practically ripping off your shirt!”
With Emi safely in the wheelchair provided by the front desk somebody will need to accompany her. Preferably alone, given that Emi has not let this morning’s incident go. Every third sentence urging Iwanako and Hisao to go further after dusk. The fact that Nako is also up provides additional reason to limit Emi’s opportunity to embarrass the two with incessant insinuations.
Hisao is dead set on handling Emi himself making sure she goes straight to her hotel, on one hand Iwanako is grateful yet at the same time it feels like he doesn’t trust her after last night’s debacle. She did trust her only friend with a distinct proclivity to elaborate plans and lying pathologically. Miho has always had ulterior motives, manipulating those around her, a coping mechanism – the problem with this is the how arbitrary she can be when determining when. Emi herself was an unexpected variable as well.
“Are you sure you want to do it yourself?”
“What do you think?” Hisao sighs.
“That you two cut the act, give that adorable little girl there some siblings!” Emi shouts, no filter needed in private.
“Is that all you think about, sex?” a tad more impatience.
“No. I’m just bored.”
“So, this has been a running joke?” Hisao asks, not aware of his pun, “Iwanako, where are your keys?”
“There on the stand,” Iwanako points to the small table besides the door, “Emi – your hotel?”
“It will take you two hours Hisao! To get there in this traffic and two hours back… what will I do with Nako?”
“You’ll figure something out!” Hisao assures her, “Iwan- Nako is in her crib… just message me if you go anywhere.”
The guest room itself is about three-quarters the size of the apartment’s main bedroom. Walls painted in a pink so pale one would be forgiven for thinking the room was a generic white. Imported oaken bedside tables with dark varnish and a matching bedframe with queen sized mattress on top.
As soon as Iwanako opens the door the toddler turns her head towards the noise. The mobile crib looks flimsy, made of plastic piping and polyester meshing. Hisao evidently took the time to prepare, Nako is dressed in an adorable outfit – a pair of small overalls and pink long-sleeved shirt. The elder Iwanako slowly walks to the bedside opposite the crib.
Nako pushes herself up from an awkward squat, waddling towards Iwanako’s voice only to stop when she feels the edge. Her small hands grip the upper rail as she peeks over top to get a better look at the strange woman. Nako has in effect lived in the apartment for some eight days, yet Iwanako has hardly spent time with the girl.
It’s not really her place, young children are impressionable. At least that is what she remembers the therapists saying during group sessions. Does she even know her mother, her father? Can she remember their faces? Given her unresolved feelings for Hisao, being around his daughter like this… I’ll never be a replacement. Young children are indeed adorable, humans have evolved to care of their young – as a community. Incentive to get through the early years of parenthood, override cold and heartless rationality, ensure future generations perpetuate themselves. Nako reaches forward grasping at the air between her and Iwanako.
“What are you doing?”
Still grasping at air, making noises with no clear intent. She wants something, but for Iwanako it is unclear exactly what. She slides forward and kneels by the crib, Nako focusing on her face – giggling as she does. Iwanako has the sudden urge to hold out her hand. With the hand available the eighteen-month grasps towards it, or rather one finger. Nako’s small hand grabs hold of the young woman’s index finger. The tiny nails digging ever so slightly into Iwanako’s skin.
“It would be easier if I knew what to do Nako.”
We could visit the park a couple blocks south. An idea to be sure, but Hisao would need to be notified. She would need to gather things together. Blankets, water bottle, hat. Best to call him. Perhaps unnecessary, but it would not sit well to ignore his requests – that and making the decision is an imposing prospect. A walk would do well to clear Iwanako’s head, yes. But her judgement must be impaired, she isn’t an impulsive person. Calling Miho is out of the question, Katsuro has no social skills, Sora would be asleep.
“What do you think?”
With a set clothes suited to the walk, and everything gathered in her backpack Iwanako can text Hisao her plan. Getting his daughter into the carrier itself is easy enough, the belt is however enigmatic. Given how bulky the winter outwear is, it takes a few tries to get Nako securely fastened in her seat. Picking it up Iwanako realizes one thing she didn’t anticipate, the weight of the loaded carrier.
She barely manages to get out the door, only opening it after putting Nako down so she could use all her leverage on its mass. Then transferring the carriage from the entry way to the hall. Stumbling to the elevator she runs into a neighbour. The sight of her has thus far resulted in nothing more than a raised eyebrow or two, everyone too busy with their lives to pry.
“Is that your daughter? Iwanako, right?” the woman asks.
“How… how do you know her name?”
“No, no I was asking if that was your name – odd name really. You named your daughter after yourself?”
“Well, this isn’t actually my daughter. My friend is staying with me for a bit…”
“So that’s why there has been a handsome young man on the floor.”
“You’ve been watching?”
“Don’t need to, I haven’t even seen him, but it’s all over your face and neck… yeah, I remember when I was your age – carefree – I had to hide my neck a lot.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” did it get that far? Iwanako rubs her neck, forgot a scarf, “I didn’t notice it.”
“It was the blushing, but I developed a discerning eye for marks, getting a career started… well the less questions asked about your personal life the better.”
“I don’t think I’ll have that issue.”
“Oh? Esteemed position?”
“Kind of, I manage a clothing store… most of our employees are younger than myself. Fresh out of school.”
“Fair, still keeping up appearances is necessary when you’re in business at your age. Being proper and such.”
“Thanks, your name?”
“Yoko, it was nice to meet you. I shouldn’t keep you any longer. I live three apartments down, if you need advice ever again.”
Walking to the park Iwanako checks her reflection in every window, paranoid that other people will notice. Steel and metal, asphalt and concrete, modernity slowly swallowing the earth. Slabs of sidewalk blurring, like trekking to the hospital from the school, only with a blissful destination.
Grass clumped with snow and tall trees standing bare, exactly what Iwanako wanted. Once the carrier is nestled on the ground Nako peers around her new environment, a dizzying diversity of new sights and sounds to behold. Even the sight of Iwanako, undoubtedly new as well, unfurling the blanket leaves the child in awe, kicking her feet with excitement.
“You’ll be out soon, I promise.”
Unbuckling the seat Iwanako transfers the child to the blanket. She then takes out her water and a ball gathered from Hisao’s room. Large enough not to pose a choking hazard, it’s a classic tri-colour ball – red, white, and blue. Nako claps her hands and giggles, rocking back and forth with excitement at the sight of it.
“You want the ball don’t you?”
Iwanako holds out the ball, the little girl snatches it up. Still rocking Nako holds it up to her face, scrutinizing the spheroid. Giving the elder Iwanako time to take in the surroundings. The sun’s slow dance crawling to an end, clouds aimlessly floating about, her breath slightly visible. Here she is, on a quilt with Hisao’s daughter… an odd turn of events.
Digging up skeletons ought to be unpleasant… yet this hasn’t been. It feels unreal, fears slowly dissolving away. The hypotheticals losing their grip on her, as if everything converged last week. Of course, this was all a happenstance beyond her control. Why stay with me? The nagging question, a rabbit hole really. Chasing meaning in dark caverns, that has not worked well for her in the past. Why should it turn out well this time? The kiss, the fact Hisao is here… does it mean anything. Miho says no, find your own meaning. Emi would have an opinion, but she doesn’t want to pester someone with deep questions just after meeting them. Maybe you don’t need meaning.
The thud of the ball against her jacket knocks her out of the daydream, blue eyes beaming back with excitement. Catch? Again, Iwanako holds out the ball, this process repeats. Passing it back and forth, minutes begin to fly.
Such joy in such a simple activity, as we grow everything becomes increasingly complex, a knot one cannot untie. Cascading chains of cause and effect, our feelings getting in the way of everything. Iwanako can just focus on the present, before long she smiles and laughs along with the young girl. Time loses all meaning, their breaths become more and more visible as it goes on, but Iwanako doesn’t notice that.
Can you connect with someone so young? Can they even process a stranger? You can’t exactly ask young children about their thoughts it is guesswork the first time. Trying out different options until you elicit a happy response. Perhaps it is like this whenever two people run into a communication barrier.
The electric hum of lights, switching on as the sun dips behind the mountains. An audible beep as a distant car locks, Nako grows more fatigued.
“Should we get going? You look cold.”
Not that she expects a response, more to let the kid know something was going to happen. Courtesy, does she understand courtesy. What time is it anyway? My phone should… where… she sighs in frustration, running her gloves through her hair. The footsteps grow louder, crunching on the concrete.
“Looks like you forgot a few things at your apartment,” Hisao. As appropriate he too has his winter jacket on, Iwanako’s beanie and scarf cradled under his left arm.
“What time is it?” Iwanako asks.
“1800, how’s Nako?”
“Cold, tired… I think…”
Watching Hisao move towards his daughter, Iwanako notices something a bit odd. Nako doesn’t appear to recognize his until he’s picked her up. Though she could easily be imagining it given her lack of sleep. Nako buckled safely away Hisao switches his attention. His hand offered out Iwanako lifts herself up. Their faces close enough to trigger all the emotions from this morning. The warmth, the glow, a sweet release. She closes her eyes in anticipation, he runs a bare hand over her face.
“Burning up,” eyes open she sees him wrap the scarf around her neck. Not what I was expecting. Snow begins to stick to Hisao’s hair, his face full of concern – mouthing twitching as he finishes the scarf.
“Kiss me,” she says, almost silent Hisao doesn’t hear it. Standing in the cold, frozen… has something changed? Did I make a mistake? Forcing myself upon him? Did I ruin whatever this is?
“You have tea, right? I don’t think it’s the best idea to give you more caffeine at this hour.”
It is odd to hear these words, the tone of his voice. Soft and gentle, not necessarily how you speak to a child but how you speak to a close friend or a loved one. Concern, care, genuine affection. Hisao doesn’t seem worried about what she can do for him, it’s what he can do for her. The girl in the cold, in the hall, in the forest. The girl who faded away into a mere memory. It reminds her of what she had pictured in her head when planning for that fateful day, all those years ago.
Falling into his arms, crying if need be. Someone who might understand her, all of her. What she hid behind fake smiles, behind popularity, her carefully crafted façade. Telling him of the arguments she heard going to bed, -arguments as she left for school. All the clubs she was part of never invested in, there to be anywhere but home.
She wouldn’t need to worry with her head on his shoulder. Bedrock, stability, a foundation. She was young, full of romantic notions… fate, true love, destiny. That she belonged with someone, him. Hisao Nakai. She would practice writing her name with his surname, they would be inseparable, go to college together. Make love, have a family together, raise children. Growing old in an endless embrace, burning bright before fading away together. A fairy tale, she a weaving-maiden and he a herd-boy. Picture perfect ending, they would be star-crossed lovers. Instead, they both fell from the sky, their worlds imploding into black holes of despair. They very opposite of star-crossed lovers, star-crossed sufferers. No college spent sharing a small apartment, no tender love… not even resolution.
They built new lives with the pieces presented to them, yet they have ended up here. Bathed in the yellow lights of streetlamps, snow drifting from the sky, each of their breaths blowing clouds into the others face. As if the sight of each other weren’t enough. Iwanako wraps her arms around his chest, burrowing herself into Hisao. Two cars turned in different directions at the same intersection, of course they both ended up on the same highway, it’s just like that. As much as she loved the Hisao she had known, it hits her that she’s falling in love with a different Hisao. A Hisao with more life experience, unashamed to care for others. A man who even in the depths of despair takes time to make sure his friends take care of themselves. On the phone with Lilly, worrying about her sleeping patterns; seeing Emi passed out, and this morning – despite her teasing – concern for her safety. It doesn’t seem chauvinistic or patronizing, this is just who Hisao has grown to become. Everything that scared seventeen-year-old girl hiding in the trees wanted, and then some. Everything but hers, laying at her side every night. A shoulder to cry on, and now she is crying in his arms.
Why can’t he be mine in time? There’s nothing stopping it. The future is nothing but blank pages. Why can’t I wake up beside him? Minutes spent in his arms, not like this morning – it is different now.
“We need to head back Iwanako.”
“I love you… again.”
The three walk back to Iwanako’s apartment building in silence, words aren’t needed. Hisao carries Nako and the backpack, Iwanako has both hands wrapped around his right arm. Their shadows appearing and disappearing between as they walk under the dull glow of lamps. All the time she cannot stop stealing glances at his face. Not that of a boy, but a man… she hadn’t noticed that until now, the bags under his eyes, the stubble.
What does he think when he sees my face? The past six days have been a blur. To get inside his head, she hopes this isn’t a unilateral feeling. Can I draw a line between my past and present feelings? To a passerby they probably look like a young family.
Back at the apartment Hisao prepares a quick meal for both Iwanakos, something warm. Yet more silence, I can’t stop looking at him. After some twenty minutes pass Hisao places a bowl of noodles on Iwanako’s placemat, a small bowl of shell shaped pasta in front of himself. Nako is in the rotated chair beside him, waiting for her father to administer the meal.
He doesn’t do the airplane noises, not that he would. The noodles are nothing like his pie the other night, more of a staple. After hours in the cold all that matters is how warm it is. Watching him with Nako makes her almost want to be a part of it all. Taking Nako to the park, it was like nothing she felt before… the entire day has been a first. Her first kiss, the first glimpse at what motherhood could be, the faintest image of a family. It is certainly no dream, it’s real. Something vague, formless, primordial – a seed awaiting spring. Whatever will grow will grow, no controlling it now. Objects in motion stay in motion.
With dinner over Hisao collects the dishes, rinses them, and puts them in the dishwasher.
“What’s next?” Iwanako asks.
“I need to put her down, and then you,” he replies, beaming from the sink.
“You look like a mess, you need rest,” you’re in no position to say that.
“Fine… I’ll head to my room, dad,” Hisao’s smile grows larger at this comment.
After a quick shower, her glasses have fogged up. Iwanako doesn’t need to see to confirm Hisao’s assessment, it’s in her muscles and bones. Sleep, she needs to drift. Exiting the ensuite, she hears him knock on the door. She scrambles to throw on something modest.
Judging by his reaction her intentions did not line up with what she chose. Looking down she realizes she has a low-cut nightgown on. Her hands instinctually cover her chest, even in the privacy of her own home. Nobody has seen her, not in that way. Too scared to get close to anyone after the incident, she has been alone.
Not that she hasn’t had a lack of suitors. Nothing has clicked, nothing made her forget her past. Some were brash and crude, only commenting on her body. Touchy, something to recoil from – like the dirty old men who harassed her on the street. Others saw themselves as saviours, messiahs even, they saw what they wanted to see – the girl in black must be sad. There’s a difference between sadness and having a past.
After her and Sora had been discharged, they dipped their feet into the dating pool. Iwanako found a nice guy once, didn’t amount to much. He never responded to her messages after their first meeting. Faded away really, quicker than Hisao – this one didn’t linger. So, she gave up quickly, maybe too quickly. She couldn’t keep building up her hope for it to tumble down. A recluse is what she became, even if working in a position of power. Here he is, in her doorway, seeing more than anyone has before. He has a mug in his hand, the handle of a spoon sticks out.
“You think I haven’t seen a woman’s chest before?”
“I’m kidding, go lie down.”
Iwanako does such, turning on her bedside lamp so Hisao can put the cup down. The smell of ginger wafts towards her as she crawls into her bed, careful to leave room for Hisao to sit. He raises an eyebrow when she motions towards the empty space, but he eventually lowers himself.
“So… about today… how are you doing Iwanako?” he asks, hands firmly trapped between his legs.
“Was… I… was I too forward today?” Did I ruin things?
“No… don’t. We’re adults with a history, you’re tired and I’m stressed. We had a kiss and a hug, so what?” Iwanako watches as he frees his hands to shrug.
“What if it’s more?”
“Are you trying to stay awake?” His hands begin to wander, rubbing the sheets.
“What then? It’s hard to… sort what I’m feeling. You’re not who you were in school.”
“Neither are you…” his hand brushes against her leg, a tinge of excitement.
“Do it again…” please.
“Touch me,” a whisper. Iwanako’s impulsiveness takes over, she grabs his hand and guides it higher, up to her right hip where the elastic band of her lower garment rests.
“Iwanako, I can’t…” he pulls his arm loose, her grasp shatter, “I can’t keep you up, and I can’t break promises.”
“Good night,” he turns out the lights before heading for the door.