(28/07/21 Ch. 9) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

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(28/07/21 Ch. 9) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

Post by cerebralpolicy » Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:50 pm

INTRODUCTION
So after playing all routes for a video essay, my mind wandered to various questions that leave me absolutely fascinated. I have probably overthought this but this is all based on two interesting opinions I developed.

1. Shizune's good ending doesn't feel like a good ending for Shizune. From my perspective she doesn't really learn from her mistakes unless the outcome is severe enough to shake her world, driving people away is a result of her blunt approach. In such a way that the good ending in theory delays a similar falling out as we see in her bad ending. That ending leaves her to reconsider the way she relates to people and potentially adapt and change.

2. There's no way Iwanako can be mentally sound after the experience with Hisao's heart attack... and his hospital stay. I don't think her letter is closure, an attempt at closure perhaps - whether it is successful is questionable. The letter seems inconsistent, an element of guilt - a seed perhaps. I explain it best in the plot of the story. Everything in life is causally linked, but how we seldom view the outcomes the same.

This story is probably never going to fit into canon, it's an intentionally complex with multiple storylines. Life isn't simple, you can't break it down into parts - life is a fluid experience. Trying to fight against what happens to you. Yet there is a point to this... what will family be to those born in the global age, when family can be a global thing.

I wrote this in prose since... I am used to that. Third-person limited omniscient point of view, and mainly present tense as well. This is organized into Movements. Since a jump around a lot I added dates to the various sections, I'll remove them later if needed.
Contents
Movement I - Status Quo Antemortem
Chapter 1 - I Hope Your Heart Runs Empty
Chapter 2 - Auntie Emi
Chapter 3 - Clubbed to Death
Chapter 4 - Depth Charts
Movement II - Familia et Coloris
Chapter 5 - Legacies
Chapter 6 - Going Down Swinging
Chapter 7 - Debriefing
Chapter 8 - Songs For The Deaf
Movement III - Liberum Cadens
Chapter 9 - Hands On The Bible
Chapter 10 - Gifts
Chapter 11 - Magic
Chapter 12 - The Hard Part
Movement IV - Rationis Compage
For the sake of my memory I have moved the original events forward a few years, I like having set dates and comparing stuff to how old I am is a cheat of mine.

Anyway here's the first chapter, hope it's welcome here.

MOVEMENT I - STATUS QUO ANTEMORTEM


1. I HOPE YOUR HEART RUNS EMPTY


DECEMBER 2023

The train station is marvel of modern engineering, a glistening canopy of steel and glass arches above the six tracks and two islands that make up the station. Snow covers some of the glass, obscuring the azure canopy hovering over the city. A cold December day, the breaths of the commuters and friends awaiting passengers hover as the water condenses. Of note is a young woman covered in black clothing, like most of her generation strikingly western.

The young woman fidgets constantly with her glasses, popping her head up to look around as each train comes and goes. Swirling around her head is a cacophony of thoughts that have gathered over the seven years since the incident in the forest. Guilt, shame, and regret abundant – letting someone down, how do you live with it. One letter, two letters, six by now – she heard back a total of zero times until eight months ago. The boy she had loved would now visit her as a man, along side his wife and child.

He had married young, into a wealthy family. He was able to begin a new, but the young woman who had been this first domino to fall had not. Regardless this came as a surprise, she had moved into a new apartment late in February – being wrapped up in getting her central climate control working and making a good impression at her new job. She was almost free of her regret, at least until the bell on her Facebook lit up.

Hisao Nakai – the name that had rattled around her head for over half a decade – had sent her a friend request out of the blue. Out of curiosity she looked at his profile first, it was full of pictures of the face she remembered but there were people she didn’t recognize. A bespectacled woman in business like attire, with striking blue eyes to match her short cut blue hair. Every now and then a man with outrageous shirts and a sword would be in the pictures. Then there was the baby, as described by Facebook, “Hisao Nakai was with Shizune Nakai, March 5th” – Hisao’s description read “Celebrating Iwanako’s first birthday.”

They named their daughter after me? She thought, before crying – not tears of sadness nor tears of happiness, bittersweet tears that drive knives into your chest. Iwanako’s was equal parts honoured and slighted. He must have met her at the new school. She stared at the picture for a whole hour, doing nothing by stifling the balling that came with her tears. She should be happy for him, but naming his daughter after her? It led to questions. She accepted the request and sent him one message, “thank you.” A couple days later, Iwanako heard back – rebirth of a friendship. “How have you been?” he asked. Do I tell him everything?

“I have had a rough few years, but I am on my feet now.” Send.

JANUARY 2016

While being confident now at 25, she entered a downward spiral after Hisao’s heart attack. She gradually pushed her friends away, happiness became rare compared to the ever growing doubts in her mind. The doctors gradually gave her med after med, SSRIs, Ativan, and sleeping pills. She was late for school, going out of her way to avoid any forest – to avoid seeing him down on the ground once more. It wasn’t enough, so she began to experiment with alcohol. Her grades slipped and kept on slipping.

It came to a head on the first anniversary of the incident. Iwanako skipped school altogether, opting to stuff some spirits in her bag just in case the Ativan in her pocket failed. She needed to face the forest, to overcome the visions they conjured in her head. Visions of a young man clutching his heart. A task easier said than done, for even before she entered the forest the spirits in her hand.

It would have been a sad sight had it not been class time. Iwanako stumbled around the snowy forest drunk, yelling at the trees between fits of tears. She circled round and round, occasionally stumbling on the roots hidden by the snow. She began to hate the forest more with each fall. Her yelling gradually -grew full of rage and obscenities, as if the forest had taken her Prince Charming away. Nobody could be blamed, but she needed something to blame. In a flash of anger, she threw her three empty bottles at the tree that he had fallen beneath, then a split-second decision saw her down her half-full bottle of Ativan, within seconds she laid unconscious in the snow. It was 11:20 AM, a snowstorm was about to hit the city.

The next thing she remembers is waking up in the strange bed, her hands handcuffed to the railing and the horrifying sight of nine fingers. Iwanako had lost her right ring finger in the interim. She looked up and saw IVs hanging above her. She was on the other side of the railing a year ago and now she was in a hospital. The monitor above her beeped, nurses rushed in to give her a sedative. Into the abyss she went again.
The next time she woke up her parents were talking to the doctors.

“Your daughter attempted suicide, thankfully there weren’t enough pills to kill her but the bottle still had enough to knock her out considering her blood alcohol levels. She was lucky, she nearly died of hypothermia – the police found her coat a hundred meters away. Exposed for fifty minutes, she developed frostbite on her fingers, we were able to save nearly all of the fingers”
“What?” her mother asked.

“Nearly all?” chimed her father.

“We couldn’t save her ring finger. Once she leaves the ICU she will be placed on the psychiatric ward indefinitely. We have serious concerns about her making a repeated attempt.”

I tried to be strong for so long.

December 2023

The face she remembered pours of the train, but there is no sight of the bespectacled woman. Hisao has packed a lot all things considered, a backpack and a duffle bag. Iwanako waves frantically at him, Hisao nods and then turns to his left arm, a car seat. Iwanako’s hand freezes in mid-air, she looks around for his wife, but she isn’t here. Just Hisao and his daughter. Hisao finally approaches her, grunting as he lays down the duffle bag and the carriage. Before abruptly giving Iwanako a friendly hug. “Hisao!”

“Sorry it has been far too long, I should have reached out earlier. I apologize I never wrote back. I thought you were cutting me off, yet the letters kept coming.” Hisao shrugs. He’s wearing a casual T-Shirt and some jeans, an extremely boring outfit compared to what Iwanako is wearing.

“Where’s Shizune?”

“I’d… rather not… talk… about it.”

“What are you doing with your hands?”

“Oh, sign language. Force of habit. Shizune’s deaf, I would have told you in the messages but by the time I remembered I had forgotten to tell you I was running everything by her. Oh… Iwanako would you mind carrying Iwanak – that’s more odd than I thought.”

Iwanako stifles a laugh and looks down at the infant. The girl’s dark blue eyes beam up at her, a light blue cap covering whisps of hairs.
“She looks like her mother.”

“I know, but I get in trouble when I suggest that.” Hisao chuckles, slightly.

Iwanako gently picks up the carrier, “I am parked a block down.”

MARCH 2016

Walking into her room she was startled to see her roommate lying down with piles manga around the bed. The girl was roughly the same age as Iwanako, with flowing purple hair – obviously artificial. She wore a cream turtleneck with long sleeves with pyjamas underneath.
“Hello!” Iwanako’s greeting, well intended but too sudden for her roommate.

“Ple- please don’t st- startle me.” the girl turned towards the wall to avoid eye contact.

“Oh, sorry. My name’s Iwanako. I’ve been assigned to the room.”

“They warned me a new girl was coming.”

“Warned?”

“To make me prepared,” the girl sighed and rolled back towards Iwanako, “people scare me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry… may I ask your name?” she hoped this would break the tension.

“People here call me Sorano, but it’s really just Sora.”

They call her empty? So, what am I?

“I cut myself,” Sora abruptly announced, catching Iwanako defenceless, “what are you in for, something to do with the finger?”

“I uh… got drunk in the forest where I gave my boyfriend a heart attack. How did you know the finger-“

“Your silhouette.”

“Anyway, I tried to kill myself and got frostbite.”

“Dramatic.” Is all Sora said before grabbing a random manga. She said she was scared of people, but Iwanako suspected it went the other way around. Still, having a human contact for the first time in two weeks was something.

The next day Iwanako woke to the sounds of crying, opening her eyes she saw Sorano sitting on the floor with her sleeves rolled up. Running fingers along the myriad of scars that formed ridges on the inside of her arms. Trying to go back to sleep Iwanako rolled over, but never went back to sleep. Instead, she grabbed her blanket and went up to her roommate. Gently she draped the blanket over Sora’s shoulders, and then gave the girl a soft hug.

“I’ll call you Sora.” She hadn’t been there for Hisao, perhaps being kind to Sora could make up for that in some fashion.

So began a daily routine. Counselling was done through group therapy, each group being organized into the age brackets that defined the sub-wards. Iwanako and Sora were members of the youngest group, aged 18-23. They were joined by six other young adults – all with nicknames. There was Takeshi, who had dissociative personality disorder; Osamu, a brilliant student with severe paranoid schizophrenia; Hoshi, a young woman who believed she was an alien; Kohaku, a convicted pyromaniac; Naoki, who had severe impulse control and may or may not have attempted to molest Hoshi; and Atsuko, a defiant girl who was only diagnosed when she attempted to rip stitches out after she was in a car accident.

“We would like to welcome Iwanako, yes,” the doctor leading the session urged.

“I already know she’s a bitch.”

“Naoki!” shouted Sora.

“She’s here to kill all the boys.”

“No Osamu, that’s in your head,” Atsuko chimed in, “still afraid of the mechs? Those are in your head too dingbat.”

“We’ll call her Shonenkira then,” Takeshi said before he got up to leave, he walked to the door but found it locked.

“What did I say about using our real names.”

“Names are arbitrary, you don’t need one.”

“Atsuko’s right.”

“Screw you Naoki, rapist.”

“I agreed with you.”

“Naoki, shut up.” Takeshi muttered before bursting into laughter.

“Iwanako why don’t you share something about yourself, something special.”

“I had this friend, he was really sweet… I think I gave him a heart attack.”

“So Shonenkira fits, interesting.”

“Katsuro!” evidently Takeshi’s real name, “what did we say about bullying other patients.”

What did we say about bullying other patients, oh my I forgot.”

The session devolved into bickering, with breakthroughs here and there inevitably being derailed by Atsuko or Katsuro/Takeshi. Iwanako was grateful to have Sora as her roommate, Hoshi would be tolerable, but Atsuko would be a nightmare. That night Iwanako stared at the ceiling panels for an hour before she woke up Sora with a fit of laughter. Her mind drifted back to the counselling session, and how Atsuko and Katsuro sounded like a married couple with all the banter.

“I was sleeping!” Sora whispered before throwing a comic at Iwanako. This only elicited more laughter, for this first time in a ye0ar she was smiling. Sora turned on her lamp, casting light on Iwanako’s beaming face. “What’s so funny?”

“Atsuko and Katsuro are perfect for each other.”

At first Sora’s face is frozen, before she breaks into laughter too.

“I can see it.” Sora lowers her tone, “I don’t need to be here can I go now.”

Iwanako joins as Atsuko “Takeshi, you’re a moron if you didn’t need to be here you wouldn’t.”

“Like you need to be here.”

“I ripped an IV out last week, clearly I need to be if I have no rational explanation.”

“Rational explanation, she’d say that. Her name’s really Miho.”

“Really, she doesn’t seem like a Miho.”

DECEMBER 2023

“Iwanako!” Hisao waves a hand between Iwanako and the photo. A photo from Katsuro and Miho’s wedding last May. Miho is being hoisted on the shoulders of Iwanako and Sora, probably three drinks into the reception. “Who is in the photo?”

“Friends.”

“I don’t recognize anyone.”

“I left school about a year after you did.”

“How come?”

“I’d rather not talk about it. I guess I found new friends like you did... Where are you going?”

“To make dinner,” Hisao performs an about face, “Iwanako – I guess we can call her Nako for ease – Nako’s asleep in the spare room. I figured this was the least I could do for the inconvenience.”

“No, you don’t...“

“Plus, it will take my mind off things, win-win.”

Iwanako refuses to push forward on the topic, they are back at the beginning. People can change in seven years. Hisao is a confident young man now, no longer a shy boy. Iwanako has been through highs and lows, just finding stability this year. Sounds like Shizune changed too, or maybe didn’t… in either case questions need to wait.

“Do you have any wine? Gonna cook one of Lilly‘s recipes. One of Shizune’s cousins, best cook I know despite being blind.”

“Yes, top left shelf Hisao.” I keep it as a reminder not to drink…

Friends.-

APRIL 2016

“You heartless bastard, they’re dead!”

“I can’t hear you over the yelling of the only girl here without daddy issues. Well, Iwanako has boyfriend issues… but you get my point.”

“TAKE THAT BACK!”

“You can’t have daddy issues if your dad was killed in a car accident.”

“I’LL KILL YOU!”

Amidst the argument between Katsuro and Miho, nurses had swarmed the sub-ward’s common area. They wrangled with the incensed girl before knocking her out with 4 CCs of Ativan. All the while Iwanako and Sora observed their first attempt at matchmaking unravel. They had invited their prospective couple to join them at the table, everything went well until ten minutes in when Katsuro began to pry into Miho’s past.

“Maybe,” Iwanako whispered into her companion’s ear, “they are too much alike, like magnets with opposing polarity.”

“Nerd!” Sora retorted, earning her a playful swat, “he likes her.”

“How do you know that?”

“She is the only person he asks questions of.”

“But he’s so rude!”

“That’s Katsuro.”

Iwanako was dejected, but Sora’s optimism reassured her. Just why are we doing this? Entertainment? It seems sick to play with people’s lives like this. But still it is fun, I almost forgot where we were for a second.

“I guess you aren’t Shonenkira anymore Nako… Susaidogaru is all I can come up with.”

“She…”

“I…”

“didn’t attempt suicide.” Iwanako and Sora said in unison.

“Besides that’s a terrible nickname,” Osamu said from across the room as he turned towards the busy table, “Pirugaru is better, less characters.”

“Damn Osamu, that’s good.”

“She must be on mind control pills.”

“No, Osamu don’t ruin this.”

The patients’ rooms were a mute grey with a tinge of blue, like arctic sea water. Iwanako’s side still lay barren, but Sora had a bunch of her sketches taped to the wall.

“They don’t trust me with sharp objects,” was Sora’s explanation.

Fair enough. What could Iwanako put on her wall? A class photo? Nobody had reached out to her, even her parents were ashamed of her. Maybe Sora could draw something for her. Hisao maybe? No… too awkward. A fish in a stream. I took Sora three days to get the crayons she needed to colour the fish. She insisted it be coloured, despite Iwanako’s assurances that the sketch would work as is. All she wanted was something to make her feel at home.

When Sora was finished Iwanako became awestruck. The colour composition was amazing, the sockeye salmon had detailed scales, Sora brought to life the shimmering water in blues, cyans, and greens. The usage of crayons on a desk brought out a unique texture. Having shut so many people out, letting Sora in was a breath of fresh air. Iwanako still felt hollow from all the meds, but there was something there, she wasn’t empty. So as Sora tried to gauge where they would tape it, she cried tears of joy.

“Is it bad?”

“No… no… it means a lot. I’m not lonely anymore.”

“What?”

“I made a friend…”

DECEMBER 2023

Iwanako stands in the corner as Hisao sets the table. He whistles and hums, clearly taking pleasure in such a mundane task. The knife lets out a dull ring, the placemat insulating it from the glass of the table. Silverware on abstract black-and-white placemats, illuminated by simple hanging light fixtures. All reflective of Iwanako’s tastes, modern, sophisticated, western. The city lights look like stars from her windows, blinking in and out as more and more of the elderly go to bed.

“Where did you get these placemats?”

“Work.” Iwanako mutters, it doesn’t seem important. But when she looks up Hisao is staring at her, waiting for elaboration, “I’m a fashion designer… well that’s the goal. Been working with a company run by my friend’s adoptive mother, they offered me a job late last year. Getting to move back to my hometown, couldn’t pass- it up. I run one of the local stores.”

“A manager, never saw that coming.”

“People change, what do you do?”

“I was taking my practicum to be a teacher, until the baby showed up. Stay-at-home dad… even though I am not at home now.”

“Shizune doesn’t look after her daughter?”

“She is on the board of her dad’s company, hell I have barely seen her in six months and most of that was spent fighting. Flights to Inverness, London, Seattle, and Vancouver. Always ‘I have business Hisao’ or ‘I’m too busy to spend time with Iwanako’ – she was the same way in the student council… that was years ago.”

“So, your honeymoon period has worn off?”

“You could say that, but this is the third time she’s tried pushing me away.”

“So, the other times?”

“End of high school and two months before our wedding.” Hisao says he places the last utensil down.

Awkward silence fills the air, Iwanako turns to the floor. It sounds like Hisao married into a tricky situation, Shizune sounds difficult to say the least. Yet she has money… and he wanted to be a teacher. Katsuro and Miho were different as well, they hated each other at first but they have been happy since. Hisao brings out dinner…

“Shepheard’s pie?”

“Fisherman’s pie, Lilly lives in Scotland now… actually went to school at Yamaku as well, being blind all. She really balances the Japanese side with her Scot.”

“Scotland?”

“My mother-in-law lives there as well… long story. I guess all my family lives in Scotland now.”

“Your parents?”

“Dead, dad had a heart attack – same defect I have – five years ago, mom developed aggressive breast cancer shortly before Iwanako’s birth – got to meet her granddaughter at least. That is life, abrupt.” A frown appears on Hisao’s face, his emerald eyes stare blankly at his reflection.

“Are you thinking of the forest?”

“No, I really don’t think too hard about it, why?”

“You seem down, like in the hospital.”

“I have seven more years of memories to be down about.”

Iwanako cannot help but blush, she was worried Hisao would resent her for putting him in a hospital. Instead, he began again, he even named…

“Iwanako? Why name your daughter after me?”

“Think of it this way, if you had never confessed to me I would never have wound up in a hospital, and therefore never have met Shizune, my daughter owes you her existence.”

“I don’t think it works that way… I merely triggered your heart attack – who’s to say you would never have met Shizune if you had a heart attack while playing soccer.”

“She said the same thing at first, still it felt right.”

“Oh.”

Hisao laughs, “this is where you say thank you or I'm honoured.”
Last edited by cerebralpolicy on Wed Jul 28, 2021 3:51 pm, edited 11 times in total.

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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 2. Auntie Emi

Post by cerebralpolicy » Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:55 pm

Author's Note:
I feel this chapter really gets the ball rolling on the story being told, in the word document I have the added benefit of line breaks to structure each chapter, when I skip ahead in time and such. I am well into the seventh chapter and have really enjoyed crafting a story decently removed from the events of KS's VN. Just hope it is enjoyable.
Cheers.
2. AUNTIE EMI


DECEMBER 2023

As it should Iwanako’s alarm goes off at 600. Outstretching her hand, she struggles to grab her phone – losing a finger can be annoying. She feels groggy from the melatonin, but it’s the only way she can sleep. Swinging her legs around she curls her toes on the carpet, grounding for the day.

“Today is a new day, today is a good day.”

She resumes her routine, all she needs is a tank top to get breakfast. Modesty is not needed when you’re alone. It takes her a couple minutes to find the right one, but when she does it goes on in seconds. That should be it. She walks to the door and pulls it open about halfway before stopping dead in her tracks. Laughing, footsteps, rushing into the living room.

“What’s so funny princess? You’re going to wake my friend up… no… look at daddy… daddy! Look at daddy not the doo… oh.”
Iwanako slams the door back shut. Her eponym bursts into still more giggles.

“Shit,” she mutters as she dashes to her dresser, grabbing the first pair of pyjamas she can. In her haste she trips and falls with a thud. Knuckles wrap her door.

“Iwanako, are you good?”

“Yes fine, I’ll be right out.”

Second try gets it, she is prepared for her guests. She opens the door to her room. Beams of light shine through the window, illuminating her white furniture. Little Iwanako sits in a chair, staring at the elder Iwanako. Like a deer in headlights, she rushes into the dining room, fully expecting to have to make her own breakfast. That is until she quite literally bumps into Hisao as he washes his hands.

“Thank God it’s a side blow, you can kill me if you hit me head on and I’d rather not give you a second attempt.”

“Sorry, I… I…” Hisao grabs her shoulders as she looks down again to avoid eye contact

“It was a joke Iwanako, a joke” he sighs deeply as he gently shakes her shoulders, “Iwanako, you’ve changed… I knew a girl just a timid as you are now. What happened?”

“The same thing that happened to you… only it isn’t my heart!” a sudden flash of anger from nowhere… “Can… can you let this be?”

“Oh…” realization spreads across his face, “I never knew. Breakfast is on the table.”

Scrambled eggs, a utilitarian meal. As she eats, she notices Hisao stealing glances of her. No doubt the wheels in his head are turning. He had good grades, he was smart – how long till he figures it out, I need to lock my room just in case. Her desire to hide this from Hisao is troubling, on the one hand letting him know she destroyed herself would be cathartic, but he has his own issues to deal with – marital issues. Before long, the plate is clean and Iwanako needs to take her meds.

“Thank you Hisao,” she says passing him sitting on the floor of the living room, holding his daughter to simulate standing “I need to be off to work.”

“You’re welcome… I should be thanking you though, I can think clearly here.”



There is a comfortable pair of couches in the staffroom. Miho, the heiress to this empire, sits lazily on one. Her legs hanging over the arm like how a kid would sit. She drove three hours from Tokyo to see her friend, a mere small fish in the chain of her adopted mother’s business. But with few friends you compensate by having good friends.

“Did you say Hisao…”

“Yes.”

“Isn’t he –”

“Yes.”

“He came to you?”

“Yes… yes, yes, yes. Miho I am confused, is there a meaning –“

“No, nothing has meaning Iwanako.”

“You’re married, does Katsuro have meaning to you?”

Miho sits up, brushing her dark bangs with red highlights aside, “Only the meaning I give to him… love… but it isn’t inherent to him, he isn’t love… I love him. You understand? What, do you expect, I have high-functioning autism – I still blame you and Sora for that label… get it?”

“A real funny pun, Miho. You’re the next in line to inherit Tani-Tokyo, I get it.”

“Why not call Sora? She would have a clue, I don’t even know how I am married.”

“Sora is at Juilliard, in New York! It’s the middle of the night.”

Miho stands up, her outfit is every bit as out of place as her personality, a long-sleeved crewneck sweater with purple and blue pinstripes – as if to mock the colour blind – heather grey tights with a white spiral crawling down the left pantleg. To top it off 1963 Converse shoes, near mint condition, and a neon green sweater tied askew at the waist. Loud and obnoxious, just like Miho.

“Are these from your new line?”

“Yes, mom says expression is healing.”

“I still can’t believe she adopted an 18-year-old out of a psych ward.”

“She was my godmother, the hospital only let her see me after a substantial donation.”

“An 18-year-old.”

“She needed an heir. A confident girl to be exact.”

Work as a manager at one of the premiere clothing chains in Japan boils down to dealing with teenage girls wanting to wear whatever their idols are wearing. Since singers wear a new outfit in every video this generates a high amount of turnover.

As Katsuro sardonically put it when congratulating Iwanako’s hire, “eighty years ago we were slamming cheap airplanes into American warships, now – thanks to the Americans – we sell cheap clothing to our own people for profit. God bless capitalism,” even though it was on the phone anyone could hear Miho slapping him in the head, “your clothes aren’t cheap… happy?”

“We don’t sell Hololive clothing, no licensing agreement,” she tells the 14-year-old blue haired girl who was taken aside by security.

“I will smash your face in bitch.”

“What did I do?” Iwanako asks.

“You are hiding the Hololive dog hoodie. GIVE ME THE FUCKING HOODIE.”

“WE DON’T HAVE THE DAMN HOODIE.”

“Why… why… are you yelling… at… a child,” the blue haired girl sobs, in between each she peers at Iwanako’s face betraying the fact it’s a show.

“Get the hell out of my store.”

Terror washes over the girl, causing her to bolt – knocking as many mannequins over as she can in the process. Iwanako puts her hands on her hips, her trademark black outfit really makes her far more intimidating than she is. All I need is leather whip.

The rest of the day goes smooth enough for Iwanako to draw in her office. She has developed a soft spot for 30s and 40s Americana, the hats and the business dresses – she can’t get away with selling cigarettes to kids but if video games have anything to say, it will become a fad. She looks at her wall, the picture of Hisao she drew in the hospital. Her first drawing, each stroke of the pencil done under Sora’s careful guidance. His brown hair and green eyes stare back. I am going to see that at the end of the shift, aren’t I?

Life is a continuous thing we just roll with the punches until we get blindsided. Rinse and repeat. I had never expected to have Hisao barge back into my life. It’s just weird, a coincidence. I project being a tough manager, but the customers don’t know I’m a lonely girl who just draws in her room.

She stays a bit late to finish working on the sketch, a blue business dress and overcoat with a white sash. The page is torn from the sketchbook, and the stuffed in her filing cabinet. One by one she turns off the lights of the store. It’s a ritual, every single one must be off. She finishes by locking the front door. The night sky is clear in the way it can only be during winter. The full moon glistens on the snow that has piled up in the parking lot.


The sound of Hisao conversing on the phone causes Iwanako to wait outside and just listen.

“No, Lilly. I am serious, you know her games… yes… I get it you warned me… no… she said I ‘struck out’ Lilly… if I knew what it was this time… yes but a vacation to my hometown and… she’s an old friend!... that’s completely irrational… Shizune said I had to take Iwanako with me… the crying annoyed her, which is nonsense… exactly she’s deaf… well… don’t give me ‘what else’… fine, she also said ‘you named our daughter after a whore’… she has never met her, I figured she’d give her a ch… no… don’t… this isn’t funny… are you drunk already… Lilly?... that’s not a denial… I give up, is Mayoi there?... no… she won’t be in for a few days?... fine, have her call me… yeah the morning works.”

As the conversations ends, Iwanako turns the bolt on the lock.

“Gotta go Lilly… just promise me you wont be driving… I’m still family… oh you love the kid and not me?... it’s four Lilly… yes, go to sleep.”

It takes a minute for Iwanako to process the scene before her. Hisao is bent over the coffee table with papers everywhere and his laptop atop some of them and an open beer in his hand. Little Iwanako sits in a mobile crib playing with some toys, blissfully unaware of her father’s predicament. Hisao directs his attention to the figure standing in the door.

“So, whose funeral was it?”

“These are my work clothes,” the words slowly leave her mouth, then the obvious, “are you okay?”

“It’s Nako I’m worried about… she’s been cut out of the will.”

“Wait… Shizune has a will?”

“Her father’s will, big businessman with a swo-“

“Sword, he’s all over your timeline Hisao.”

“Anyway, turns out he gave Shizune a promotion in exchange for cutting us out of their lives.”

“What?”

“He’s a psychopath and Shizune is obsessed with success… Lilly did warn me, she knows it to the degree she can clearly point it out while drunk.”

“I eavesdropped from the door…” Iwanako fidgets with her hands, “she… I mean Shizune… thinks I’m a whore?”

“She thinks nearly everyone who didn’t go to Yamaku is a whore. Recent development nearly two years old, she wasn’t always like this…”

“Nearly everyone?”

“Take a seat,” Hisao gestures to an empty chair, Iwanako carefully sheds her outdoor attire. She has no idea where this is going, and is hesitant to see what he will do when he drinks… turns out he’s the ranting type, “Emi Ibarazaki, Paralympian, right? She went to our school. Shizune pays an obscene amount to get us VIP access to the track and field events at the 2020 Paralympics. Emi cleans house, everyone in the country was elated.”

“I think I remember… she looked cute.”

“Probably what pissed Shizune off - the attention, Emi comes up to greet us…” another sip of beer, “she says ‘Hisao, Shizune I didn’t expect you here,’ my response is, ‘couldn’t miss an old friend kick ass on the world stage’… then guess what Shizune said.”

“I have no idea, and that’s enough beer for you tonight.”

“Come on…”

“My apartment, my rules. I’m still in manager mode. Continue, Shizune says what?”

“Yes, out of nowhere Shizune says... rather signs to me, and these are her exact words ‘Winning isn’t enough for you, you’re just here for the inconsequential sex, pathetic little slut’ she stormed up the stairs and I’m left there with Emi, wearing three gold medals, in shock over the words she made me say.”

“Excuse me…”

“Yeah, and I’m just there all I could say is ‘I’m sorry’ and Emi snaps back ‘Your wife is still a bitch,’”

It takes second for Iwanako to run the scene through her, The Fastest Girl on No Legs goes up to the couple, Hisao is cordial while his wife insists that the Paralympics are just an excuse to sleep with as many men as possible. She storms off while leaving her husband hanging… a smile grows on Iwanako’s face.

“Ibarazaki didn’t say ‘Your wife is still a bitch’, I’ve been called one at work enough to know the phrasing. What did she say?”

“I swear.”

“My apartment.”

“Fine, ‘I still can’t fucking believe you married that fucking bitch’… happy?”

Laughter, “Okay that makes the story much better.”

“It’s not funny, how is it better?”

“The contrast between Ibarazaki’s public persona and her private behaviour. She’s an idol Hisao, we manufacture and sell her clothing line. She’s the strong but cute idol all these seven-year-olds want to be, and you’re telling me she swears like a sailor.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You’re so out of touch. Hell, The Emi Collection outsells many artists, kids love her… yet you say she talks like… like… a director… uhm… a Quentin Tarantino character. Some role model…”

“Sometimes I forget how isolated I am.”

“You were never isolated, from what you have said it sounds like Shizune isolated you.”

“What are you a therapist?”

“I learned by example.”

“You what?”

“I said too much.”

“Wait…”

“Times and places… tomorrow you are going to phone Emi and introduce me to her! I have an idea.”

In a moment of triumph Iwanako jumps up to give a pirouette before a semi-traditional bow towards Hisao.

“Where was this Iwanako when I was in the hospital? When you sent the first letter?”

“A dark place Hisao, a dark place.”


Friday morning, 730, the store opens in an hour. What pedestrians there are cannot help but stop when they see the scene in front. Iwanako leans against a wall, her left leg bent – all black, as usual. Hisao beside her in absolute terror at Emi. While Katsuro and Miho laugh together at Emi’s antics. Today Miho is wearing a tye-dye cardigan with jeans and a Montreal Expos snapback of all things, her husband is a business suit with nothing of note but his red bow tie.

Emi is, well Emi. Iwanako could tell that Hisao did not want to let Emi hold little Nako – but she is still talented enough at guilting men that Hisao was given little choice. Emi wears a custom Team Japan hoodie over a tank top, track shorts and of course her signature blades. Blades currently being used to entertain an eighteen-month-old.

“Yeah, Auntie Emi is fun… wee!” Emi continues jumping, causing another round of laughter from Nako.

“She seems fun, she’d be an excellent mother,” Iwanako whispers to Hisao, earning her a swat.

“After hearing from your friends, I was afraid you’d attempt to play matchmaker, why are you no longer timid?”

“I know why you’re here, crashing in my apartment. I know that we are friends again… I was timid because I thought Shizune would show up and I didn’t want to – forgive me – break your heart again by messing with a good thing.”

“There’s nothing left, she ejected us from her life.”

This causes Iwanako to turn her gaze away from Emi to her downtrodden friend. Her face becomes straight as she musters up all her seriousness.
“That’s the point, you can’t break someone who is broken.”

“Where did you get this wisdom?”

“Want the truth?”

“Maybe not.”

“My parents abandoned me in the hospital where I met my new family.”

“… Katsuro and Miho?”

“…and Sora. My best friend, she’s in New York. Come.”

Iwanako pushes off to go unlock the door, Hisao looks only more confused. His eyes totally blank out as Iwanako repeatedly gestures for him to follow her inside. A sharp sigh and she grabs his arm, it’s hard to get him to get inside – even Emi stops bouncing to observe the scene of the steadfast manager dragging her friend. Eventually she gets him in, they stand face to face.

“I’m not going to kiss you,” Iwanako states, “you are helping me set up an autograph table.”

“I ended up marrying the last girl who dragged me around so I could do physical labour,” Hisao responds just as seriously, before adding a jab “I would like to not repeat that mistake.”

“She’s outside, the perfect mother. Now stop reminiscing and help me set up the table.”

The store itself has warehouse qualities, a high vaulted roof with gantries. From the gantries large lamps hang down, hovering at around twelve feet above the concrete floor. The walls are covered in diamond-plated steel, adding to the modern, almost industrial, aesthetic.

First Iwanako grabs a table from the back of the store.

“Where should we put it?”

“I don’t know?”

“Front corner opposite the register, good idea Hisao.”

“I said nothing…”

“Help me clear a path.”

With table finally set up it is time to – somehow – get Emi in place. As the pair head out they are see that Katsuro and Miho are still laughing, and Emi is still jumping. Iwanako cannot help but smile at the sight, it may be winter, breaths may hang in the air, but everyone’s happy… except Hisao, can’t really blame him though.

“Ibarazaki!” shouts the manager. Emi doesn’t hear her, but her agent does. Either way Emi knows what to do. She stops bouncing and heads towards Hisao, being careful not to hold Nako the wrong way.

“She looks like Shizune, but nice,” is all she has to say handing the infant back to her father, everyone knows the unsaid implication – don’t let her become a bitch.

“Perfect mo –”

“You have made your point.”

Thanks to a little promo by a local hit radio station the day before the store is getting plenty of traffic today. Miho was essential to the scheme, getting permission from her mother to do this whole thing, including a 50% sale on the Emi line. Katsuro has his own utility, keeping Hisao busy enough for Emi to gossip at some point in the next 12 hours… Miho’s idea.

“You’re so sweet, keep on running!” Emi says, signing yet another photo. She handles the adoring children with ease, she hasn’t stopped smiling in the two hours. It could be an act but her energy, you can’t fake that. For as outgoing as her fashion tastes look, Miho doesn’t enjoy crowds – well crowds of children. So, she’s picked out some earmuffs.

“The tags!”

“What?”

“Miho, take the tags off. I don’t want any of the kids becoming thieves because they think they saw an adult do it,” an ounce more frustration this time.

“WHAT?” Miho asks, she still can’t hear Iwanako.

“FINE!” Iwanako snaps as she rips off the tags herself. This makes Miho jump, but any complaint is blunted by a stern look from Iwanako.

Hisao and Katsuro are somewhere in the staff room, evidently the shrill drone of aspiring track athletes drove them off. The register is lighting up as the customers buy clothes on the way out. As the day wears on Iwanako and Miho move closer to the table. The sun swings around the town, shadows shift, the waves of customers get smaller and smaller, finally before anyone notices the lights of the parking lot switch on.

The customers a few and far between now, closing time is coming soon. With this reprieve Iwanako and Miho can put the plan into action. Deciding when to talk, who will talk is a difficult task. Minutes pass by, Emi showing signs of exhaustion.

“Ibarazaki…” Iwanako starts, not wanting to be up front.

“Emi, just Emi. I hate being called by the family name.”

“Emi, when was the last time you had a night on the town?” Miho chimes in.

“Miho…”

“You’re going to take fifteen minutes to get to the point…”

“Fine…”

“I train every day, well have been. I take breaks in the winter…”

“Good, would you care to join us after we close up shop.”

“Sure… don’t have much to do besides going back to the hotel. What are you planning on – why is Hisao leaving?” Emi points as Hisao opens the door.

“Miho you pick the place,” curiosity, concern, Iwanako has no idea what she feels, but checking in is her best option, “I should check in.”
The hum of electric lights fills the otherwise quiet parking lot. Clouds slowly shift in the night sky, obscuring the waxing moon until it is merely a dull glow over filtering through the dark shapes dancing across the sky. Iwanako notices her breath lingering in the air, slightly longer than it had earlier in the week. Slowly but surely winter is setting in.

Caught up in her mindfulness it takes a bit to focus on why she came out here. Another phone call… judging by the ‘good morning’ it must be another international call.

“Mayoi, it’s good to hear from you… no, things are bit screwed up right now, I’ve been trying to reach you… a cruise? Did you enjo –… yes, it’s about Shizune… maybe it’s better she cut you off again… she, she listened to Jigoro… I mean he offered her a promotion in exchange for… yes… what worries me the most is the fact she didn’t want Iwanako in her life… we had been fighting for months… long story… you remember how I met Shizune?... yes, I finally reached out to that Iwanako, just hoping we could actually have a family friend that Shizune didn’t hate… Misha is in Vancouver, Shizune hasn’t talked to her since she left… I’m staying with the friend, I wanted Shizune to meet her – I planned this months ago… we need money to be honest, it will take a while to get a job… substitute teacher… anywhere?... it will take me a while to find a place too… thanks Mayoi, this means a lot.”

Hisao stares off at the shimmering lights of the downtown core. His breath wafting upwards, illuminated by the harsh electric lights of the lot. The store is in between the outskirts and the core, the latter seeming like an brilliant jewel at the moment. Smooth twisting towers with thousands of lights splined around their axes. Almost like heaven… from the distance. Minutes pass by in silence.

One may wonder what it means to understand a person, understand what is going through their head. Does it take years of devotion? In moments like these… Iwanako would disagree. It’s an odd feeling, the feelings you can only say are in your bones – the chills rolling up her spine. The gravity of what someone is struggling with can be felt by those around them. A page has been turned.

“So…” Iwanako finally breaks the silence, he shows no indication that he heard her, regardless, “Scotland again?”

“I’ll be out of your hair by the end of the month.”

“That’s…” Vague? Dismissive? “not what I meant.”

“Sorry, what? Nako’s grandmother is going to set up a bank account – in Nako’s name – at a local bank here and wire-transfer £250,000 to start.”

“Pounds? Not familiar with the conversion.”

“Over ¥38,000,000… enough for a house. After that, a monthly stipend of ¥310,000… enough to live on until I find work.” Hisao finally looks at
Iwanako standing a few feet outside the door. “Looking to unload me?”

“Thought you would patch things up with your wife…”

“You don’t know her, you don’t patch things up with Shizune… either she wants patch it up or she throws you in a woodchipper… well, figuratively…”

“She doesn’t acknowledge what comes out the other end?”

“Well… yes, hell she didn’t stop at removing me from her life… Nako too… and she’s probably burning our sheets, what clothes I forgot, and all of our family photos as we speak.”

“That’s a little dramatic… what would she really be doing?”

“I was being honest…”

“Oh… well.”

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cerebralpolicy
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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 3. Clubbed to Death

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sun Jun 27, 2021 11:03 am

Author's Note:
This chapter attempts to round out Iwanako's fundamental struggles. Healing is a slow tedious process, if we heal at all. When people meander back into our lives they often rip off scabs in our mind. Also Emi being Emi.
Cheers.
3. CLUBBED TO DEATH


DECEMBER 2023

Pulling strings to get into the most exclusive clubs in town is far easier with a fashion designer and Paralympian at your side – especially getting into VIP areas where you can actually talk to someone – perhaps interrogate them. I hope to God Katsuro doesn’t screw up the other half of the plan, Iwanako wishes as Miho talks her way into the back.

Once in the private room they finally settle in, martinis sit on the glowing table in the centre. In a stroke of luck Emi fit – in the it won’t fall off sense – into one of Miho’s party dresses, she practically takes a whole store with her. Iwanako’s outfit hardly changed, just with a black turtleneck instead of the dress blouse.

“Do you need to always look like a grieving widow?” Miho wryly mutters in Iwanako’s ear.
“Black matches my hair, colour coordination.”

“Black’s a shade, not a colour.”

Emi is not sitting down, instead she is trying to see if she can jump and touch the top of the door that leads out. Evidently, she doesn’t use her passable legs very often. Perhaps out of principle, perhaps because she likes bouncing on the springs.

“Over/under ADHD.” Miho again whispers. Iwanako just glares at her friend, the audacity.

“Emi!” Iwanako can tell Miho is getting bored, only a matter of time before she starts pushing buttons, “why don’t you have seat.”

“No!” defiance, “Just… one… more… there…” even just glancing the frame was enough.

“How about now?”

“Sure,” Emi responds as she spins around. What should be a party dress goes down to about halfway down her prosthetic calves. She looks less like a 25-year-old woman going clubbing and more like a girl trying on her mother's clothes.

“You look cute!” Miho quips, this earns her a middle finger from the oncoming athlete. The dull thud of the frantic bass resonates through the floor, Iwanako feels every beat. Not her kind of club but Miho may as well have fun.

“Miho and I have some questions…”

“I want to ask questions about being an athlete, she just wants gossip on her… ten-second…” Miho tilts her head “ex-boyfriend’s future ex-wife. So simple questions.”

“I hate you.”

“Oh, are you hoping I’d spill all my secrets if you got me drunk… men.”

“That wasn’t the plan.”

“That was the plan, Iwanako.”

“You never told me…”

“I thought you implied…”

“NO!”

“You got me to put on my lame legs for this? To talk about Shizune?” Emi scoffs grabbing a martini, “She’s a bitch.”

“Why?”

“Miho it should be obvious even from what little I relayed to you.”

“They… she yelled at me for running in hallways, she yelled at my friend for sleeping in the art room, she yelled at my friend for sleeping outside, she yelled at my friend for sleeping outside the art room, she yelled at me for running in the hall…”

“You said that already,” Iwanako is beginning to doubt this effort, would she get to the point.

“It was multiple times,” this retort causes Miho to perk up.

“You went to a school, for people with physical disabilities,” Miho goes for the kill, “and you ran in the hallways, multiple times?”

“I would have never graduated if I ran at the track all the time, would I?”

“True, doesn’t excuse reckless endangerment of fellow students. Like…” Miho draws up blank, “what does Hisao have?”

“Cardiac arrythmia, you aren’t one to be…”

“You could have killed Hisao by running into him,” judging by the slight twitch on Emi’s face Miho might be on to something.

“Miho, you tried to strangle your husband that one time.”

“He wasn’t my husband then, did you ever run into Hisao’s chest Emi?”

“Once… just once. I did try to get him to run though, he clutched his chest then too.”
Satisfied, Miho gestures to Iwanako. A sweeping motion in Emi’s direction, see.

“Miho… what the hell does that have to do with Shizune?”

“I… wait.”

“She’s deaf and mute, yet still the meanest person I know.”

“How did she yell at you, by proxy?” Miho is zeroed in on ripping every minute detail apart, largely by missing the more critical questions of character.

“No, she had a girl who translated her sign language.”

Miho literally bites her tongue, that is exactly what she meant.

“She doesn’t know what a proxy is…”

“Calm down,” Iwanako says as calm as she can be. “Can you just explain how Shizune related to others, Emi?”

“Sure… she yells.”

“Besides the yelling.”

“I’ll need more drinks.”

“It’s a good thing she’s small.”


“This was a terrible plan,” groans Iwanako.

“Why are we bringing her to your place?” Miho asks as she comes to aid her friend in transporting their passed-out companion.

“Media, can’t have a scandal.”

“I hate the paparazzi, only thing bad about being adopted.”

“Now you have regrets… uh, thanks I guess…” Iwanako looks at the curb, “at least the cab company can be discreet.”

“He left? Already? What if I forgot my phone!”

“Did you?”

“NO! I…”

“Stop entertaining hypotheticals and help me get her in before anyone sees her!”

The lobby of the apartment building is largely deserted at this hour, its modern – white dominated – marble tiling enhances this feeling. With each step their footfalls echo against the stonework, Emi’s feet make squeaks as they pull her forward to the elevator.

The clerk at the front desk can only stare in awe as the three women cross his sight. His job, and the wealth of the residents, clearly prevents him from prying into the residents’ private lives. Iwanako is especially grateful right now, for all he knows they have drugged some minor. She gives a nod in his direction, conveying as best as possible that this is a long story.

Iwanako’s composure is not the best, as obvious by her relentlessly pushing the button to call the elevator to the lobby. As soon as it’s open, they rush inside and delicately place the limp athlete in the corner. The two simply stare at Emi now that she’s asleep, the party dress looks more like a night gown.

“Adorable,” Miho says – attempting to break the silence.

“Of all the things that you can possibly think of?”

“What?”

Iwanako’s frustration grows, a scowl across her face as her friend appears to completely unaware of the faux-pas they have committed. Floor by floor they ascend, a glass window behind them showing the streetlights vanishing beneath.

“Should we… like… come up with a story?”

“What for Iwanako? Katsuro knows where we were.”

“Hisao… remember.”

“How about ‘we are sorry about getting your friend drunk’?”

“Do you feel sorry?”

“No that’s not the point…”

“What if he asks what we were doing?”

“Uhhh…” Miho clenches her fists, a sign she is thinking hard, “we lie.”

“This is hopeless, utterly hopeless.”

Again, the time of day works in their favour. Iwanako’s floor is utterly deserted, so nobody will ask questions… at least not until the door opens. Katsuro takes one look at the girls, simply shrugging as he opens the door. Hisao is evidently in the spare room with Nako… maybe we can get away with this. It seemingly takes hours to get Emi from the hall to Iwanako’s bedroom, the longest 20 metres in her life.

Laying Emi in the tub, morbid thoughts swarm Iwanako’s head. Just what would an outsider observer think. At least Emi has no bruising from her collapse, but that is just because she was reclined.

“I thought athletes were used to harder shit than Martinis.”

“What the hell, Miho? I am having much different thoughts… like why it looks like we’re trying to cover up a crime!”

Don’t roll your eyes, don’t. Wish unfulfilled. Miho is casually braced in the door frame, her heel on the crown molding, arms crossed like a spiteful schoolgirl. The sheer attitude and nonchalance on display combined with how absurd the current situation is makes Iwanako gag.

“Oh… don’t tell me you’re drunk too,” a chuckle from her friend, not aiding the situation.

“Can you please – for once – shut up.”

“Fine.”

A muffled but nonetheless raised voice is heard from the living room. No longer able to hold it in Miho breaks into hysterics.

“THIS IS NOT FUNNY!” Iwanako yells before throwing a bottle of shampoo through the door. It hits her bed at an awkward angle and flips a few times before landing on the floor with an empty thud. Heavy quick footsteps now, it is not long before the door is slammed open. Hisao barging in absolutely livid.

What ensues is a Mexican Stand-off of sorts if you substituted guns for addressing the elephant in the room – or rather the comatose Paralympian in the tub. Hisao sits on Iwanako’s bed glaring at Miho, Miho is smiling at Iwanako, and Iwanako does her best to avoid eye contact with either. Every once in while Hisao clears his throat to say something, but his words swiftly evaporate. About ten minutes in Miho begins snapping photos of Iwanako huddled by the tub with the goal of irritating her into saying anything at all.

Boredom quickly strangles Miho she whips around and snaps a picture of Hisao who now seems more concerned the any thing.

“I…” Hisao begins, that lone syllable is all he can get out before Miho begins to celebrate.

“I hate silence, like hate silence. It’s so weird.”

“What the hell is wrong with your friend Iwanako, is she insane?”

“Don’t answer him!”

“Well… she has several diagnoses…”

“Insane is a pejorative to the neurodiverse… hell, you’re practically normal Hisao.”

“Normal?” Miho’s hit a nerve, “Excuse me princess but I am not normal, I know that at any moment I could drop dead from a heart attack. That was fine before but now that the mother of my daughter has disowned her it’s a big freaking deal. If I die two things happen: first, Iwanako will never know her father – never have parents, second, she will have to go live in Scotland with her grandmother. Like, who will be with her on that 17-hour flight? So right now, I am thinking about when the best time to die would be.”

“That’s dark… so when would be the best time to die?”

“Is that what the phone call was about?” Iwanako asks, but she’s drowned out by the bickering of two of her friends representing very different points in her life.

“Are you seriously asking this? Really, fine, when she is three or four. She will still be able to learn a new language, she won’t be in school so it would be easier to move to a new country. Any older and it gets harder and to adjust to a new environment. I shouldn’t have to think about this at my age! But I do. So, please, shut up because you’ve messed up completely and I am worried for both my friends who appear broken beyond where you stand!”

“You’re verbose.”

“Miho, please listen to him.”

“Are your parents dead Hisao?”

“As a matter of fact, they are!”

“Oh, let me rephrase it. Did they die in a car crash that left you in a coma for three whole years? Did you rip an IV out of your arm when you woke up because you thought it was a dream? Did you spend two more years in a psych ward because you couldn’t accept any part of reality?”

“Oh are we measuring how messed up our lives are... at least you have a ring on your finger, have a stable marriage.”

“But I have never loved anyone since my parents died.”

“But you love in your own way?”

“No, I just tell him I love him.”

“Yet you don’t?”

“I rationalize it into a transaction.”

“A TRANSACTION? YET YOU WONDER WHY I AM CONCERNED WITH YOUR ACTIONS?”

“YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IWANAKO, SHE CHANGED. IT WAS YOUR FAULT TO, CAN’T RESPOND TO A LETTER, CAN’T HANDLE THE MOST BASIC FORMALITY.”

“YOU IMPLIED YOU DIDN’T FEEL ANYTHING, WHAT DO YOU CARE ABOUT FORMALITIES?”

“MAYBE WHEN THEY MAKE PEOPLE TRY TO OFF THEMSELVES? GET OVER YOURSELF, YOU SELF-ABSORBED BASTARD.”
Hisao stands up, walking forward until he stands face to face with Miho.

“GET OUT OF MY WAY.”

“WHY?”

“Please stop.” Iwanako grows slightly louder.

“YOU DON’T KNOW EMI, I DO!”

“REALLY? OH, SOUNDS LIKE YOU ONLY HAD TWO FRIENDS IN SCHOOL. PEOPLE APPARENTLY CARED ABOUT YOU AND YOU RAN OFF WITH THE ONLY PERSON THERE WHO ONLY THOUGHT OF THEMSELVES!”

“IN SCHOOL, SURE… I HAD LITTLE CHOICE BUT I KEPT IN TOUCH IN OTHER WAYS. GOING BEHIND SHIZUNE’S BACK IF I HAD TO.”
“MAYBE SHE SHOULD HAVE LEFT YOU EARLIER, IF YOU WON’T TELL THE TRUTH!”

The argument is truly overwhelming, two snipers in battle of wits. Each looking for their opponent’s weakness.

“YOU LIE TO YOUR HUSBAND ABOUT THE MOST BASIC PART OF YOUR MARRIAGE.”

Yet people reinforce their weak spots, compensating for what they lack by growing callouses. Miho drove her feelings deep inside, Hisao kept his social circle small. Neither are solutions, they just avoid the problems in the first place. Strength is to face your problems, not ignore them. Yet you don’t confront them either, you accept them and ask yourself “now what?” Emi may be passed out in a bathtub, but Iwanako can not help but think of her as the strongest person here. In such a sense she now admires Emi, even if she is a lightweight with alcohol. Perhaps another sign of strength, getting over your past with a productive coping mechanism, not one that leads you into denial.

The conversing figures in the door cast shadows into the unlit bathroom. Some of the tiling glows white with artificial light, some don’t. Iwanako’s own face is shrouded in darkness, nearly in a fetal position her arms are wrapped around her legs as if to cut off the blood flow. In… out… in and out, normal breathing becomes hyperventilation as the argument becomes more and more caustic. All Iwanako can do is scream.

“GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!”

Her shrill voice kills the confrontation where it stood, Hisao and Miho peer at the figure now gently rocking back and forth in the corner of the dimly lit annex. Hisao quickly leaves, probably to calm down his heart rate. Miho lingers, sliding down the door frame until she too sits on the floor.

“Finally.”

“Miho… please… get out of my room.”

“Why?”

“Get out.”

“Fine.”

After Miho leaves Iwanako listens carefully at the door, Katsuro seemingly drags Miho tooth and nail out the door. With age he has changed, or perhaps circumstance. Being married to someone prone to being impulsive could easily make him adjust his personality… no longer the defiant boy without no bedside manners, a man who spends every second carefully deliberating his actions.

With everything calm Iwanako drags some sheets into the bathroom, improvising a bed for herself. Waking up alone, in a strange place, is not a pleasant experience. It’s the least she can do.

Every groan from Emi wakes Iwanako up, sleep will not be coming easy tonight. The argument replays in her head again and again. Miho going after Hisao, Hisao going after Miho, the whole thing devasted her. Symbols of two very different parts of her life ripping each other to pieces over things that had little to do with her in the first place. Indeed, even less to do with the girl in the tub.

Putting her head back Iwanako desperately tries to practice mindfulness. Yet Emi’s sighs and groans become still louder as hours slip on. Crying and screams interspersed through out the slumber, the subconscious mind surely remembering some horrible event. Iwanako’s thoughts drift into how people exactly get over things.

Can you get over anything if it is always there, lurking in the shadows? Plaguing your nights with terrors and hardship. Is there any escape? From what happens to us? From what we do? I dream of the forest every night, the empty hospital rooms, the sounds of machines verifying that the patients were indeed still alive. Still worth saving, still kicking and screaming even if it is inside. Will Hisao ever get over this mess? I never got over losing him. Miho never got over losing her parents.

Swirling vultures of questions and logic, feelings and fears, everything at once gathering around a bonfire in her mind. At some point around three she abandons hope for a good sleep, taking a couple more pills in the hopes of getting any sleep.

With a mere two hours of sleep, she leaves Emi’s side to go get coffee. Something to give her energy for the day, for whatever will be brought up.
Questions will be asked, questions she can’t answer because none of what transpired resembled her intentions.

With the coffee made she retrieves her pills from her room. Atomoxetine, diazepam, fluoxetine, and methylphenidate, all alongside various nutritional supplements to help keep her weight up. As per routine she lays out the seven pills in a row, admiring their colours. All so cheery as if to make you feel good about taking them. Blues, yellows, reds, greens – no blacks. At least my glasses are black. The urge to spin the blue atomoxetine is overwhelming, so she sits idly flicking away. They taught her this routine during her time in the hospital. They wanted to make sure see never tried overdosing again.

She isn’t even sure what time it is, or how long she has been up. Every moment bleeds together, dissolving into raw experience.

She finally pops the pills into her mouth. A bit of coffee to help it go down, now cold coffee. Turning on her phone it is now six, she didn’t lose track of time, just an hour. As she gets up, she hears a once more familiar voice that causes her to drop her cup.

“How’s Emi? Oh, sorry.”

“Don’t scare me like that.”

Hisao doesn’t respond, he moves towards where Iwanako stands. Swiftly picking up the shattered ceramic pieces now scattered on the floor. Once disposed of he gets a cup of his own. She can only sit, but a night of thoughts has her burning to ask questions.

“You mentioned that Nako doesn’t have a guardian in country, in case… if… if… sorry.”

“If I die… yeah closest relatives who would take her are in Scotland. I’d trust Shizune’s brother… if he had a phone and would speak to me.”

“She has a brother?”

“Yes… Hideaki, great kid… had a falling out with the family.”

“Ah… why?”

“It’s my turn for questions,” now that he has finished getting his morning beverage, he takes a seat at the table, “how long have you been on pills?”

“Six years… I don’t want to talk about it…”

“Let me grab something…” he walks to his room and returns with a card of pills, “I’ve taken my pills for seven years now… you don’t need to hide them from me.”

“Hisao… I’ll be Nako’s guardian, I mean I barely know her yes… but I feel like I still owe you.”
Last edited by cerebralpolicy on Mon Jun 28, 2021 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A Clarification: Time Travel

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sun Jun 27, 2021 3:52 pm

Well... this is awkward.

I apparently moved the events of the VN forward... eight years to allow me to do math in my head. I feel like this can easily backfire, as can the next few chapters. Have no idea what anyone here thinks, is this a nail in the coffin or is it okay? I feel bad about this but at the same time I have written a lot by this point, I'm on Chapter 8.

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Re: A Clarification: Time Travel

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 28, 2021 2:40 am

cerebralpolicy wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 3:52 pm
Well... this is awkward.

I apparently moved the events of the VN forward... eight years to allow me to do math in my head. I feel like this can easily backfire, as can the next few chapters. Have no idea what anyone here thinks, is this a nail in the coffin or is it okay? I feel bad about this but at the same time I have written a lot by this point, I'm on Chapter 8.
The story is the most important thing. I don't think you've harmed anything seriously. Just bear in mind that a lot of other people in these forums have calculated all the dates etc, so you might throw a few of them off. But don't worry, we all enjoy a good story.
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: (27/06/21 Ch. 3) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

Post by Oddball » Wed Jun 30, 2021 1:51 pm

I honestly hadn't even notice the date change.

As for the story, it's certainly not the direction I would have seen most of the characters going, not to say it's bad though.

There are a lot of people that write Iwanako as messed up by what happens, but I think you've took it further than anything I've seen so far, which makes thew fact that you skipped over those years and use it as backstory even more interesting.

Likewise, I get the logic behind what Shizune is doing, but it's not something I would have ever expected, even though it does make a lot of sense from the version of her we saw in the game.

I think the most recent chapter was the best so far. Lots of messed up people calling out each others faults and then still trying to play the "I'm more broken than you" game.
1. Shizune's good ending doesn't feel like a good ending for Shizune.
I'm with you there. Shizune's route feels like it has a bad end and a neutral end.
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Re: (27/06/21 Ch. 3) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

Post by OtakuNinja » Thu Jul 01, 2021 2:53 pm

And her bad end is actually the neutral one, while her good end is bad :lol:
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Re: (27/06/21 Ch. 3) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

Post by ZXLTRXNSixBillion » Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:54 am

It's good, although I feel like the dialogue is just too abrupt. Like, everyone is very direct and to-the-point, leaving no room for much breathing.

I can't exactly show a good example, although I can try and explain it a bit: During Movement 1, there was a segment where Iwanako attempts suicide and is sent to the hospital. That's fine, although the reactions between Iwanako's parents and the doctors feel too abrupt. The segment could've been expanded a bit more, to show some new reactions to it, while also not coming off as completely melodramatic.

I'm not great with words, but I hope this helps a bit.
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Re: (27/06/21 Ch. 3) Family: To Lose and To Accept (Iwanako/Shizune GE) (OCs)

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sat Jul 03, 2021 11:31 am

ZXLTRXNSixBillion wrote:
Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:54 am
It's good, although I feel like the dialogue is just too abrupt. Like, everyone is very direct and to-the-point, leaving no room for much breathing.

I can't exactly show a good example, although I can try and explain it a bit: During Movement 1, there was a segment where Iwanako attempts suicide and is sent to the hospital. That's fine, although the reactions between Iwanako's parents and the doctors feel too abrupt. The segment could've been expanded a bit more, to show some new reactions to it, while also not coming off as completely melodramatic.

I'm not great with words, but I hope this helps a bit.
It's a balancing act for me, when I was younger I would spend 1000 words describing a room. I was also trying to give a sense of scattered memories, not sure how it worked though. The aim was to imply Iwanako has gaps, like skipping chapters on a DVD - I definitely could have done better, always room for improvement. Thanks!

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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 4. Depth Charts

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:56 pm

Author's Note
I have no idea how this will go, can I make composite characters with neuromotor disabilities without self-inserting? Maybe. A Canadian one? No clue. Does it matter given the role he plays to the plot? Even more unclear.
This really serves to introduce the three of the five main OCs, nail down a theme, introduce the methodology and cadence of the story. I hope nothing is too egregious, I expected to be a mixed bag given how many snippets I used in the first movement. Trying to avoid too much filler.
Given the time between 2016 and 2031 Misha has grown quite a bit, I tried to make her more self-confident while retaining her light-hearted tendencies. I've either succeeded or failed. Again I feel mixed about this.
4. DEPTH CHARTS


APRIL 2036
“Nako! You’ll be late to school!” no response from the second floor. Iwanako returns to the kitchen, the nine-year-old boy has managed to spill milk all over the island counter.

“Sorry mom! I got jerky again.”

“Just a tremor sweetie.”

“Do I have to use the walker today?”

“Yes, Hideaki.” Iwanako lets her son burrow into her, a soft cry.

“It hurts… my legs.”

“I know, I know… I need to get your sister up or she’ll be late again.”

Sleek and up-to-date, Iwanako was able to buy this house herself. Two bedrooms on the ground floor, three on the top floor. Enough to entertain guests quite often. With a central home assistant, it also eases the burden of raising two children alone. Yes, something is missing, but all-in-all she has ended up in a good place. A quiet home outside the bustling metropolis of Sendai where her modest corporate headquarters are located. The backyard has a few cherry trees, quaint and isolated. Heavy steps descend the staircase, the younger Iwanako emerging onto the main floor in full uniform. Her blue eyes overshadowed by her thick glasses and the dark hollow bags underneath. Unkempt hair and toothpaste evident of haste.

“Did I wake you?” Iwanako asks.

“Uh… yes,” turning to her younger brother, “good morning Hideaki.”

“Good morning Iwanako.”

Nako joins Hideaki at the counter, fatigue evident in her ungraceful movements. The uniform is dark blue, from a girls’ academy in the city – a prestigious one as well. None of this matters of course, there’s more pressing issues. Mourning, grief, the proverbial empty seat at the table.

“Ten years huh?”

“Can I really miss him this much… I don’t really remember him. Everything is so blurry, so hazy.”

“There’s still a part of him in you, every fibre of your being, every cell,” Iwanako cups her hands around the fidgeting hands of Nako, “he never left you.”

“I couldn’t sleep, the same dreams…” Nako begins to cry, “the… the…”

“Funeral… I remember. But do you remember all his friends? What he meant to all those people. Maybe we call Aunt Misha, Aunt Emi, perhaps Cousin Lilly? Someone who remembers him, can tell your stories of him – even if you have heard them before.”

“Every year I dream of shouting at her in the parking lot, she ignores me. It’s crushing, cold… why.”

“You know why, Iwanako. Can I make you some toast?”

With breakfast done it is time to get Hideaki for the day. As with his sister he needs to put on a uniform. Born six weeks premature, he has damage to his motor cortex – while it is affects his whole muscular system, he has become more or less mobile. Buttons though… remain a problem.

First the cream dress shirt.

“How long until I can go to that special school, Mom?” he asks as Iwanako buttons up his shirt, “the one Auntie Emi and Auntie Misha went to.”

“Five more birthdays… there – now time for your pants.”

Spastic legs make it hard to slide on his pants. They don’t stay still, and it hurts Iwanako to see her son’s muscles throb non-stop. The doctors are going to try out botox therapy this fall, an acceptable gamble.

“There, orthotics?”

“Yes please!” a smile grows on Hideaki’s face. Compared to the strict dress code at his boys’ academy, the orthotics allow for more expression. There are two logos, one on each carbon-fibre orthosis. On his right AFO he has the logo of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the local Nippon League team. On his left is something more obscure here in Japan, a flaming red Latin C bordered in yellow. A reminder of Iwanako’s rather improvised extended family. Like a map with a myriad of coloured threads wrapped around pins, a global family.


FEBRUARY 2031

As they depart the plane the first thing Iwanako notices is the dreary weather outside, it may be the second time she has been to Vancouver, she may have researched the climate, it’s still depressing. Nako has clearly prepared well, having a pinstriped raincoat overtop a bright pink hoodie, part of her mother’s latest line. Hideaki is similarly dressed for the Canadian city, albeit in muted colours.

He fusses as they wait for an attendant to bring his wheelchair. Nako staring out the window of the ramp at the tarmac beyond, her breath condensing on the window. Deep sighs, evidently troubled by the upcoming date. Hopefully this will give her new memories. Hideaki’s frustration grows.

“Why can’t I walk out to meet them?”

“It’s a big airport, Misha told me that your uncle recommended we use the chair.”

“How does he know?” typical response from a four-year-old.

“He’s from here, and there’s another thing you’ll notice… I won’t spoil the surprise.”

“I trust him enough.” Nako idly interjects without turning away from the window.

Even when the chair arrives Hideaki is still fussy.

“Stay still, we need to get the seatbelt.”

“NO!”

“Hideaki, please don’t yell at me.”

“No… I want to go walking!”

This is enough for Nako to give her guardian a hand with the boy.

“I’ll do it, mum.”

“You sure Nako?”

“Yes… mum, please!” she pouts, evidently disappointed.

“Go ahead.”

“Hey, Hideaki. Remember the baseball game we went to last fall?”

“The one where the Eagles got six home runs?”

“Sure, just imagine you’re there,” a glint in Nako’s eyes becomes visible, a small smirk too as if she cracked one of her puzzles, “close your eyes, just imagine the crack of the bat buddy.”

With her brother transported back to Sendai he is still for the moment, allowing Nako to bring the seatbelt to his waist and clip it. Iwanako tears up, the bond between the two children is all she ever wanted growing up. Even if Nako and Hideaki do not have identical blood flowing within they are truly siblings. Moments like this make up for the fights they have begun to emerge as they age.

“There, mum. We can go now.”

The chair makes loud thumps as they descend the ramp, each extension is active given they are leaving a jumbo jet. As they emerge onto the concourse Nako grabs a trolley so they can collect their luggage. The conveyer fascinates both the children, for Hideaki its mere sight, for Nako the mechanics.

With luggage in tow, it is time for the family to pass through customs, which takes a while given how much they have with them. The CBSA agents eventually give clearance for them to step on Canadian soil.

Finding Misha in a the crows crowd isn’t exactly hard, follow the hysterical laughter until you find the short Japanese lady who is erratically waving her hand. I wonder if her husband will be here, he’d love to meet Hideaki. Misha had been planning on returning to Japan until she met someone at university. She couldn’t stop talking about him the last time Iwanako visited. Her excitement at meeting someone who can talk non-stop with her. The fact that she had fallen in love with a boy, and how funny that was – a foreign boy. She brought him along to the funeral as well, probably against his will given how he acted.

“Iwanako~” a familiar voice sounds off in a shrill melody. Or wait for her to yell. When she finds Misha, she notices something off with the man standing beside her, he has mainly grey hair not black hair like she expected. Iwanako nevertheless waves and steers her children towards their hosts. Misha, with flowing brown hair, holds up a sign in both Japanese and English.
岩奈子 なこ 秀子
I W A N A K O (E S) + H I D E A K I
“Misha, I thought you were still with Koru… who’s this?” in Japanese, so the Canadian man does not hear.

“Koruchan!” Misha says before giggling, her husband supressing a smile. That explains the hastily written English and puts Iwanako at ease knowing she didn’t accidentally lie to her son.

Iwanako switches to English, “Koru… what’s your native name again?”

“The transliteration is fine Iwanako… you were saying?”

“You’re gray!”

“Genetics…” he laughs before wiping his mouth with a handkerchief, “so that’s Hi-dee-ah-kee? It’s hard enough for me to speak English.”

“Yes…” she taps her son on the shoulder.

“Hello,” well that was flat sweetie.

“Spitfire,” Koru says to grab Misha’s attention, a plane, “can you get the thing from your bag?”

“OH RIGHT!”

“Not so loud, please. I know you’re excited… do you want to take deep breaths with me?”

“No…” more laughter as she fiddles with her comically large bag, eventually pulling out a red hat, “here Koruchan.”

“Shiina, do you always need to call me that in public? In English?”

“It’s a term of en-dear-ment~”

Koru bends to down to get on Hideaki’s level, “Welcome to Canada buddy, you are going to need a favourite hockey team… so…” he slides the hat onto Hideaki’s head, Iwanako can see a flaming ‘C’ evidently the logo of Koru’s club, “they’ll actually be playing the Canucks in a couple days…” he pulls tickets out of his pocket, “want to see a real hockey game with me?”

“What’s hockey?”

“We don’t have baseball this time of year otherwise I’d take you to an A’s game, but hockey is Canada’s favourite sport… and I have a surprise to make it really special.”


On the long drive back to Koru and Misha’s home, Iwanako cannot help but notice the absurdity of Misha behind the wheel while her tall husband is idly scrolling on his phone. Their family van weaving through traffic. Conversations in English undoubtedly quieting the children.

“Research, I’m reading a book on the Beothuk people,” Koru explains.

“I thought you were in Philosophy…” Iwanako responds.

“Majored in it, but I’d like to be a general non-fiction author, I don’t even need a specific topic. We managed to get my first book done last fall, had to rely on an old friend for help…”

“Koruchan, how could you make hockey so boring?”

“She did the typing, so she has read the whole thing like… three…”

“Five times~”

“Okay… fine, five times.”

“There wasn’t enough talk about fighting! Society this, society that!”

This is a surprising statement from Misha, she doesn’t seem the kind of person to like violence.

“So, is that what really all you care about, Shiina? No wonder I can’t even play a sporting video game with you – you just instigate fights all the time.”

“Fighting and injuring your players.”

“Ugh,” Koru groans, “I need to call my cousin. Let her know she can get ready to go back to her campus.”

“He was supposed to babysit…”

“It’s not babysitting if we’re his parents!”

“Oh… fine… he was supposed to watch Doni.”

“Donnie… it’s Donnie, Shiina. You transliterate every name without asking if they consent!”

“You knew this when you married me.”

“You do it with everyone's name though.”

“Jarōmu Ijinra, Jarōmu Ijinra, Jarōmu Ijinra, Jarōmu Ijinra, Jarōmu Ijinra!”

“Not funny, Shiina…” he says before bursting into laughter, “this is a stupid argument.”

“This is why you love~ me.”

“Yes… yes, it’s so addicting to have my childhood heroes mocked.”

“Trans-lit-er-a-ting not mocking,” Misha says giving her husband a gentle shove.

“Just focus on driving Shiina, you can push me around at home all you want.”

“You’re taking out your chair, Koruchan?”

This time they both burst into laughter. A sadness falls over Iwanako, knowing she had something like this, love, a family. Only for a cornerstone to be removed, her husband to die in the middle of their first and only pregnancy. Hideaki knows little about his father, perhaps a blessing in disguise – he doesn’t seem too interested in the topic. Perhaps as he ages this will change, he’ll meet kids that know their fathers – he’ll notice that hole.


The two live a fair bit northeast of Vancouver, their house nestled in Burke Mountain. The yard has conifers abounding, green grass and some toys left out. A two-story house with wood siding and deep brown roofing – it looks surprisingly rustic. Three flags fly from various beams that comprise the front awning and porch. Iwanako can recognize the Canadian and Japanese flags with ease, looking at them side by side they appear similar in composition. The third flag falls under the same theme, a red emblem emblazoned on a white field. The children are similarly intrigued, likely because of the detailed emblem. Koru heads inside, before long a tall woman with blonde hair emerges – his cousin apparently.

“What logo is that?” Hideaki asks as Iwanako positions his wheelchair.

“No idea…”

“KWIKWETLUM FIRST NATION!!!” Misha shouts, causing Koru’s cousin to laugh in a similar manner to him – a family trait?

“What?”

“I remember the name, not what it is. He explains it better, Canada has a confusing history.”

The interior is quite foreign and messy, neither partner having good attention spans. Pictures adorn the walls, often pictures of the homeowners on some trip or another. Misha proudly listing off the various parks they have been to. One picture stops Iwanako in her tracks. Japanese buildings with North American mountains behind them. Misha is not smiling in the photo, not even facing the camera. Her short figure is instead facing an empty gate, a hand gingerly placed on a log that forms the outer structure of the gate… it is haunting. Angry clouds fill the valley like a lid, Misha’s rain jacket and hair blowing in the wind. Haunting and ominous; something sinister, somber, something in the past. It takes Nako’s impatience to snap Iwanako out of her thoughts.

“MOM!”

“Sorry,” it was troubling to look at.

Koru is in the living room with his son who looks around two. Hide and seek, Donnie is happily moving between the pieces of furniture looking for cover from his father. His father lags behind, perhaps to give the child the upper hand, perhaps due to the obvious disability. Nako immediately gravitates to the toddler while Hideaki studies the room.

“Koruchan, let me get some juice for Donnie.”

“Go ahead Spitfire, can I have water? Please.”

“You are so boring, I'm not~ a~ fighter~.” Misha says walking down a different adjoining hallway, Nako in quick pursuit.

“Koru, I have a few questions.”

“Let me guess… you already now my name so it can not be that…” he calls out to his son, “where are you, Richard Donnie?” a giggle responds.

“What’s with the photo? The one of Misha… Shiina in the empty place.”

“That was our beginning… it’s a memento.”

“To what?” Iwanako is puzzled, his odd facial tics make Koru hard to read, he seems sad for a moment. He's clearly remembering something.

“This life,” he gestures to the house around them before snatching his son up, eliciting smiles on both their faces, “and this goofball.”

“What? I’m still confused. Why was she so sad?”

“I mean it was before I proposed, I proposed as we were leaving… kind of… not exactly a proposal. She’ll explain when she gets back… if she doesn’t get sidetracked by something. Right, Donnie? Does mommy get lost? If not, it will definitely be over dinner.”

“Mom,” babbling from the boy now sitting on his father’s knee. His looks are distinct. Koru’s hair, facial structure, skin, and deep ocean blue eyes – the Japanese side is evident as well though, a less defined nose and eye structure to match his mother’s. “Ball?”

“You had it last, I don’t know where it is you goof, ah boop.”


“I still don’t know how you didn’t figure out what I was up to Shiina.” Koru dryly comments.

“You kept asking when people in my family were born or died, I stuck around for your help.”

“How did I help you, I just read the books with you during study hall.”

“I READ THE BOOKS, GOOF!” Misha practically jumps out of her seat, nearly spilling the bowl in front of Donnie.

“I made you read?”

“Well before…” Misha’s smile disappears, “I was failing a lot of my classes.”

“I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I never finished it because of you distracting me.”

“Yeah, you loved me saying ‘talk history to me.’ So dirty.”

“We have company, honey. I was a TA in your 121 class – extra credits – so that was kind of my job, you monopolized my time.”

“Maybe you should not have let me.”

Iwanako’s takes a hard swallow before pointing her fork at her hosts, “Is this play fighting the core of your relationship?”

Nako glares at her mother, old enough to know something else was implied, yet too young to know exactly what. Koru’s face becomes serious, until he glances at his wife beaming.

“No.”

“Yes, Koruchan!”

“We’re both stubborn energetic people.”

“I wanted to learn more about hockey.” Misha jabs.

“Shiina, no you didn’t… don’t make skating noises.”

“Can we get back to the photo?” Iwanako begs, stop being so lovey-dovey.

“So, I do all this genealogy based on a hunch, because when I was a volunteer at the memorial centre the summer before… I swore I learned about a few Mikados.”

On a hunch?” Iwanako can hardly believe his explanation, “do you know how many Mikados there are, Koru?”

“But I was right, turns out I was right… her great-great uncle moved to Victoria in the 1920s. Then during the war his family was sent to Rosebury camp. Couldn’t find living relatives.”

“You wanted me to drive you seven hours for this, Koruchan. Con-vul-uted plan if I say so myself.” Misha cannot help with the playful barbs.

“Because your relatives were dead, I would have phoned up a distant cousin of yours if I knew any were alive. It was the only option.”

“You made me meet your parents!”

“It was only a slight detour Shiina… anyways we get out of her beat up car and I start explaining what happened there. Thousands of Japanese Canadians forced into concentration camps for being from a quote-unquote ‘enemy nation.’ Her relatives.”

“Then instead of proposing you got on your knees and apologized.”

“I tried to kneel. I slipped on the wet concrete!”

“You grov-ell-ed before me!”

“I was still as tall as you. I say...”

“He says ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t find your~ family~’”

“I say, ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t find your family… but I want to invite you to be part of mine.’”

The pair say this almost simultaneously, as if it were rehearsed.

APRIL 2036

Watching the automated car carry the children off Iwanako sits on the front porch. Family, to say you don’t choose your family isn’t accurate. You can choose which parts you accept. Who you bring in to your family, who you throw out. I chose to bring Nako into my life, to bring Hisao and his friends, to bring Sora and Miho. I didn’t reject them, I made a new family for myself. It was a journey.

Iwanako dusts off her pants before getting ready to head into Sendai. Businesses do not run themselves. Clothing does not make itself. Broken Hearts is the sum of her passion, everything she has ever wanted. Just one thing is odd about it, her business partner.

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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 5. Legacies

Post by cerebralpolicy » Thu Jul 08, 2021 12:59 am

Author's Note:
Uh, Koru is sticking around. Movement II tries to rhyme with the first movement creating more gaps to be filled in like layers of paint. Life, and specifically generations, tend to rhyme. We all struggle to cope with blind and random happenstance. I may be inconsistent with tense so essentially anything before 2020 is past-tense, no Idea why,
MOVEMENT II - FAMILIA ET COLORIS


5. Legacies


APRIL 2036

The two children sit in the rear seats, the front seats face them. A small change anticipated by science fiction. Hideaki’s walker strapped to the floor, easy for Nako to access when the car drops him off first. The car winds through the forest at such high speeds, the trees blurring past the window. Nako double checks that she brought everything she needed for the day. Her brother stares in disappointment. He can see what her intent is today.

“What Hideaki?”

“If you weren’t my sister and if I didn’t know you that well I’d say you had a date,” he pretends to adjust his glasses as she does to annoy her, a futile move as he can never get it quite right.

“No, I’m going on a date after… maybe.”

“After the batting cages? Won’t you need a shower?”

“Yes… we have showers at the park.”

“You’re skipping school… to hit balls… and going on a date after you shower at the ballpark? After coming in late last night?”

“Like you don’t skip school…”

“I forget classes, there’s no intent. I do not skip classes, I miss classes. Huge difference.”

“You read too many of the philosophy books Koru sends you… what nine-year-old boy reads Descartes. You think that intentionally beating the crap out of people is a just cause to miss class.”

“You read it too!” Hideaki complains, feeling Nako is being unfair. She may well be… but bringing up Koru – and Misha by association – elicits very different memories for each child. For Hideaki it is a positive memory of a hockey game, for Nako it is her repeating nightmare.

MAY 3RD 2026
The funeral home lacks joy or comfort, just people dressed in black, people crying, grieving masses. Over the past few years, the young girl has called the widow greeting the guests ‘mom,’ why question it? Nako sees a strange woman waiting in the parking lot, someone with the same hair colour as her.

She waves her hands quickly to a comically mismatched couple, he’s tall and pale while his companion is short and has pink hair. The latter figure waving her hands too, but at a slower pace. The hair, the way the woman’s head bobs, her body language – crossing her arms in frustration as the people who had noticed her drift towards the door. An odd familiarity exists in the mind of the child.

They must know her ‘mother’ since she waves at the approaching guests. When they reach the door, the man stays quiet… apparently ignoring the conversation at hand. She’s so loud.

“How are you holding up, Iwanako.”

“Okay, I guess. How was the flight?”

“I don’t know… Koruchan!”

“What?” the man responds in English, while not fluent in it Nako can understand enough given that her cousins speak it.

“The flight!”

“Oh, about ten hours… arched over the … Islands, then bent south to Honshu.”

“He’s so literal. He watched the map the entire time,” back to Japanese.

“So, this is who you were so excited about? He’s hard to understand even as an American,” her mother responds, “what do you see in him?”

“He’s CANADIAN! Plus, he has a big family!” the woman explodes.

“I hate being left out of conversations Shiina!”

“Speaking of which how far along are you?”

Do adults just talk about pregnancies? Nako is getting b\ored with this chit-chat, so she simply tunes it out. Pretensive formalities, why learn them? The blue-haired woman is far more interesting anyway. She is just pacing back and forth, arms still crossed and shaking her head. Her mouth is unmoving as well.

The boring conversation goes on, due date, name, gender of the baby. Hell, Nako could fill in for her mom – it’s engraved in her mind now. Sometime in October, it’s a boy but I haven’t figured out a name. Dull, meaningless drivel. She decides to sneak out the door and sit on the steps, get a better view of the woman with blue hair.

“Nako, please come back inside,” but inside is boring.

“Is that your daughter?”

“I told you this in the car!”

“Shiina, you didn’t show me a picture.”

“You were going to say all Japanese people look the same!”

“That was a joke…”

“Oh?”

The widow laughs, just a bit, “Yes, I guess you can say that - my daughter.”

“I’ve been to too many funerals, I can watch her for a bit… also I was at a funeral as a kid, I didn’t know why I was there.”

“You PROMISED!”

“I said I would come, I never said I would be part of the service.”

The conversation ends with an argument unsettled, at least they finally shut up. Nako turns back to see the tall man leaning against the door. Pale, so pale, dark hair, hands angled uncomfortably.

“How old are you?” exactly where Nako learned the English phrase is a mystery.

“So, you speak English. Good. Odd accent for a Japanese girl, a hint of Scottish. Well, I am old enough to be your dad, too young to be your grandad.”

“You talk weird.”

“My mouth doesn’t work.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Aren’t you a sharp pencil,” he chuckles as he takes a seat on the top step.

“Why aren’t you with the pink lady?”

“You don’t buy my explanation?”

“You like her so why not be with her?” Nako stares into his eyes, his face twitching. I guess he’s interesting too.

“I didn’t know this…” he unfolds the pamphlet, “I can’t read Japanese… I have been so lost here.”

“Nakai Hisao.”

“Mr. Nakai, didn’t know him so I cannot partake of the funeral… that and I am used to a different kind of funeral, more baroque back home.”

“Baroque?”

“Like, you watch Disney movies? Hunchback of Norte Dame?”

“My favourite.”

“Odd… anyway that kind of spooky sad stuff.”

“That’s not all of it.”

“Fine, I’m skipping the service to watch a baseball game.”

“I’m skipping it to watch the woman over there, I don’t care if it’s for my dad.” Nako points at the blue haired woman.

“You’re skipping your dad’s funeral?”

“I cried this morning, I don’t want to cry again.”

“Fair enough… the blue haired woman… Shizune?”

“Is that her name?”

“That’s what Shiina said,” a mic peaks from inside the hall, “speaking of her, she owes me money now.”

“Who is she, the blue haired woman?”

“Uhm… I doubt I am allowed to tell you.”

Huh.

He watches his baseball game while she just stares at the woman. She’s apparently trying to catch her breath… I forgot to ask.

“What’s your name then?”

“Koru…”

“Can I watch your baseball game with you?”

“You like baseball?”

“I like the math, batting averages, ERA.”

“Fun way to learn math… clever. How old are you…” he tilts his head, “seven?”

“Four.”

So, she watches. He explains what has happened so far in the game, enough to get Nako sufficiently engrossed in the game. A pitcher’s affair that goes by quickly, few hitters getting on base. It keeps the two loners occupied until someone snaps their fingers in front of them, this Shizune waving her hands in every direction. With this closer look Nako can recognize that Shizune looks a lot like her.

“Well… shit… can you hand me my phone?” Nako grants Koru’s request, he mutes his phone immediately.

“Notepad… notepad…” he scrolls through the various apps, “she’ll know English being a businesswoman in an international company.”

He hands his phone to Shizune, and she snatches it from his hands. Her lips quivering, Shizune hands it back just as abruptly.

“‘Where is Misha?’ \Who’s Misha?” Koru says as he responds to his phone, Shizune frowns at the foreigner before he hands over the phone.

“‘Misha!’… exclamation mark and all… sorry ‘Misha! Your girlfriend!’” he then, as before dictates the respone, “Shiina?”

Shizune nods as she reads the line.

“Sorry Shizune, Shiina is giving a eulogy.”

Shizune again snatches and returns the cell.

“Okay… ‘fine give me your phone, for a minute I need to do something’… I don’t like th- HEY GIVE IT BACK.”

After about a minute she hands Nako the phone.

Iwanako, I love you. I’m so sorry about everything, it took me months to realize I missed you. I wasn’t a part of your life because I was selfish. I just hope you do not hate me, or at least will not hate me. Know I will never forget you, my shining star.

Nako reads the paragraph over and over, Shizune removes her glasses before she bends down to give the girl a hug, before sobbing. Her mouth is open yet only the slightest sounds escape, her chest frantically rising and falling with each gasp as she remembers something bad, something painful.

“You have got to be kidding me Shizune! Timing!” Koru gasps, before running into the hall where the service is being held. Faster and faster the tears roll down Shizune’s cheeks. Silent gasps for air. Why is she so sad? Why is she holding me so tight?

Voices grow closer, in English.

“Richard, why didn’t you say anything?”

“Oh! Finally! I’m not Koru, listen I didn’t want to distract you from the service. I thought she’d come in!”

“You’re so dense.”

You were delivering a eulogy.”

“Why are you two arguing?”

Misha and Koru emerge first, still bickering over his hesitance. Iwanako quickly trails them. At the sight Shizune releases her grasp on the girl, she attempts to gather her composure. Once again, she makes frantic gestures.

“I’ll do it Shicchan, it’s okay,” she asked Shiina something?

“She says that she ‘just can’t come in’ that ‘it’s too painful especially after the last funeral,’” Misha pauses, “who’s funeral?”

Shizune signs back, breaking down into tears once more, deeper from within, all the pain it once… Responses are quick, Nako stands up, Misha whispers to Iwanako first before filling her companion in.

“Why is she sad?” asks the girl.

Koru taps her on the shoulder, “we should leave this to Shiina and your mother.”

“NO!” slapping the man’s hand away.

“Nako don’t yell!” a stern response from her mother.

“Jesus Christ, Shiina… no wonder…”

“It’s bad~ Koru.”

Unable to keep together the strange woman swiftly turns coat to return to her car. Nako bolts after this Shizune.

“Why are you sad? Why do you miss me?” she repeats, her mother chasing her in tow. But Shizune doesn’t notice her pleading, doesn’t even hear her trip and scrape herself.

“Don’t go!” Nako repeats this again and again as Iwanako grabs hold. Shizune leaves the parking lot and drives away, leaving blood trickling from Nako’s wounds on to the asphalt. Gone.
Last edited by cerebralpolicy on Wed Jul 21, 2021 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 6. Going Down Swinging

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sun Jul 11, 2021 12:21 am

Author's Note:
This chapter is admittedly short since I cut out a tangent about Hideaki (Hisao's son) because it didn't fit the theme. This is really about the struggles in Nako's head. Don't expect an explanation or resolution anytime soon.
6. Going Down Swinging


APRIL 2036

“He’s so cute Iwanako, look at the way he’s staring at us! have fun on your date~!”

“Have a good afternoon Takako, remember to tell them I’m sick.”

“Can’t betray your trust.” You would Takako.

The boy leans against the fencing of the batting cages tossing a ball in the air. Quite tall, he is in a baseball shirt with coloured sleeves. With blue
cut-off jeans and a Golden Eagles cap. A duffel bag lays open at his feet, his glove and some four dozen baseballs.

“Has she progressed to calling me ‘hot’ yet?” the boy asks Nako, gazing at Takako’s retreating.

“She isn’t going to date you, moron,” Nako dismisses his fantasy, “and, besides Hikaru, she thinks you’re mine so play along.”

“Oh, more hugs and snuggles in places she frequents… more messing with her head?”

“Shut up, you like it – being close to me. I could never actually have anything real with you, we grew up together. Like dating your twin.”

“Fine, I’ll shut up, get your proper glasses and helmet on and meet me at the diamond. Oh, get changed if you want to spite me further.”
Empty changerooms echo, Nako enjoys them. No gossip, no small talk, just her and her thoughts. She sheds her school uniform opting for a sporty outfit comprised of a tank top and shorts. All the make up she put on this morning comes off in the sink. But looking in the mirror, even as her vision blurs – the dark blue hair, blue eyes, the shape of her very face…

“I hate that I see you in the fucking mirror” she thinks aloud, slamming her hand on the counter. Every morning when I get out of the shower. She looks down at her scarred legs, you’re always running from someone Nako. She kisses her the cross hanging around her neck before heading out. Hikaru must have warmed up while she was changing. He is the ace of the top U16 team in the whole of Sendai, yet he spends one day a week pitching balls to the daughter of a respectable businesswoman. This doesn’t matter to Hikaru, much less to Nako.

Having met when they were subjects of a pilot study of childhood grief counselling. The two completely compartmentalized this part of their lives once dating began to dominate social life. Nako would bet that this tortures Hikaru, it’s in his eyes – but having a peer who understands you, a person you can talk to. Risking that is out of the question.

“Who are you assaulting today,” he yells from the mound.

“My mother!”

“Come on, she’s nice to me. I’d feel bad if you were imagining bashing her head in while pitching to you.”

“The bitch who can’t communicate with me.”

Hikaru rolls his shoulders, he brings his glove close to his chest, habitually checking imaginary runners on first and third. He winds up, bring his hands to the left of his head. His right leg kicks up right before a lightning release.

Behind her glasses Nako’s eyes narrow with laser like focus and precision. Going through the rotation and angles in her head as the ball barrels towards her, she is in her element. This is her true self, a young woman of pent-up fury simmering beneath her surface, fury exorcized with cold calculation.

A loud metallic ting.

“FUCK YOU, DEAF BITCH”

The ball sails far into left field, far over the fence. In a game this would easily be a home run.

“I still say you join your Academy’s softball team, get this catharsis and… you know… make friends.”

“No way in hell mom will let me with the time bomb in my chest,” it’s less of a lie if I blame mom, “Again! Give me the hard stuff ace.”

“That was a four-seamer Nako, the pro scouts love that pitch.”

“Now.”

“Fine.”
He winds up once more. Fluid and fast. A release, and a smirk on his face. As before Nako’s attention is guided into one task, just before it reaches the plate, she winds up her swing…

“What the hell was that?”

Wook at me, I'm Nako! I cawn't hit a 72 miwe pew houw cuwvebaww!” Playful mocking where he can.

“You are such an ass.”

“Well, you can be a bitch, so we’re even.”

At the end of the day Hikaru is here to keep her humble, he’s the only one who can. She is better than everyone she knows, everyone but Hikaru. Pitch after pitch, Nako curses the people she hates, they talk throughout. He may not realize it, but he is an effective therapist, he at least knows know that he is Nako’s best friend.

“Take THAT! Aww come on!” Nako blasts the ball out of the park, but it’s just slightly foul.

“You tired… yet?” Hikaru pants, wiping sweat from his brow, “We still… need to have… dinner.”

“That’s your… favourite part… not mine…”

“No, the… goodbye hug… is my favourite, Nako… you said so…”


The restaurant is really an approximation of an American roadhouse, it lay towards Sendai’s outskirts. It is never busy, the perfect place for two teenagers who live very public lives to be regular teenagers. Burgers, fries, milkshakes – a decent imitation

“So, anything new with those ‘cold-hearted rich girls’'?”

“How many abortions do you want to hear about? Overdoses, who has been sleeping around… god I hate it,” Nako shakes her head.

“Fine… fine… my scouting clout it is,” Hikaru stands down, he sips from the milkshake. She doesn't want to discuss that.

“Which MLB teams are looking at you?”

“Boston, Cleveland, Toronto, the Yankees of course… and… Vancouver.”

“You should sign with Vancouver…”

“Why Vancouver? They’re terrible.”

“Best farm system in the AL, they’ll be good by the time you make it,” Nako says, stealing fries from her friend.

“I forgot you were a fan. They’re still terrible, Nako.”

“Plus, I can stay in touch if you’re in Vancouver.”

“What? We can stay in touch… we can stay in touch no matter where…”

“True but I visit Vancouver every year,” Nako stares into his beady brown eyes. His face is soft, no jarring angles in sight.

“You are so selfish, yet kind…” Hikaru grabs her hands, staring back, “there’s nobody like you.”

“You mean nobody who’s better than me?” Nako’s chest tightens, as it has been doing for a year. Butterflies in her stomach as it twists and turns.

“Nobody keeps me grounded Nako, only you. All my teammates have girlfriends, some plan on bringing them to North America, some want to move in domestically in a few years,” his hands clutch hers. Even though he’s a year older than her he acts younger, he acts appropriate for his age.

“Hikaru don’t…”

“I don’t want to lose you as a friend though, but I can’t hide from you. I keep straight and clean, for you. I don’t join the team to sneak into night clubs, I don’t party, I study hard to keep up good grades, to make you proud,” there’s no stopping now, the flow of emotion cannot be hemmed in.

“Don’t do this…” frustration, anger, sorrow, and gratefulness swell in Nako’s mind. Her heart beats so loud, every pulse sending shivers down her spine. I want this someday, but not today… not right now.

“You and I both lost our fathers young, we bonded over grief. We hang out every week to help you get your feelings out of your head…” he leans forward, voice becoming, “You literally smash your bad vibes out of the park, Nako! I want to be like you. To face the world head on.”

“Hikaru… I…” tears begin to form in Nako’s eyes, “I run from it all, how could you say I face the world… I avoid family gatherings, I never visit the company, I push everyone away, I read and read…”

“You admit it… I can’t admit to my friends and teammates that the real reason I check for runners when the bases are empty is to pretend my dad is there cheering me on. I can barely tell myself that,” his voice lowers, “I need you in my life.”

“Don’t go there,” anger grows along side this swirling cocktail, her heart beating faster and faster each flutter being her closer to her deepest fear. Out of desperation she checks her smart watch and texts her mother, her heart rate is dangerously high and it’s getting late, “I need to go.”
She grabs her bag and takes her food to the counter to be packaged. I’ll finish at home.

“NAKO PLEASE!”

She ignores Hikaru’s plea, knowing what her mother went through… every time she has told her that story. I can’t let you go through that. Comatose, hovering on the edge of death, a source of anxiety.

“See you next week,” she says, as she hesitates at the door. Thank God the car is here.


Iwanako gazes out her sixth-floor window. The office building isn’t a prestigious work of art like the twisted glass spires of the multinationals, but her company owns all six floors so there’s no complaining,

It’s 1830, towards the end of the day. She wanted a nice evening with her family, but that’s not going to happen tonight. Hopefully Nako is having a better day than Hideaki. She sits back down and picks up her stylus, once more sketching her concept for a flowing hoodie. Even though she has a forty-per-cent stake in the company Iwanako is more at home with designing than dealing with men in suits. That job is for someone far more qualified.

The desk is made of an aluminum plate overtop of wooden cabinetry. Besides her computer numerous photo frames adorn the surface. A wedding picture, Hisao holding her hand with Nako hanging on to her father’s leg. School photos of both Hideaki and Nako. Additionally, photos of the friends that make up her improvised extended family. A photo of Katsuro, Miho, Sora, and herself in Tokyo. Emi and her husband in Melbourne, the 2032 Paralympics. Koru, Misha, and their three kids at some park. Lilly’s family as well, outside her husband's manor. Only one photo stands out as abnormal, Koru and Misha’s latest Christmas gift. A dark monochrome photo of two hands touching Hisao’s headstone, Nako and I had no idea.

While Koru and Misha were visiting the summer before, the former had brought his camera. Leaving Misha to deal with four children may not have been the best idea but Koru was insistent that he join the mother and daughter on a pilgrimage. Capturing a void.

“Mrs. Nakai, Ms. Hakamichi is here,” crisp and clear English from the CEO’s assistant.

“Come in,” the assistant, Amy, is a recent hire, a former exchange student who was adept at sign language. At some 170cm she towers over both women, especially her boss. Yet her demeanor negates this, a cautious and uncertain girl, “grab seats.”

Shizune and her assistant settle into the chairs on the opposite side of Iwanako’s desk. The designer lingering on the black and white photo. Shizune crosses her legs as Iwanako continues to drift into the haze of memory. Having a borderline obsession with matters of business the CEO furrows her brow before snatching the frame from the desk. Iwanako sees the focus fade from her friend’s face. It haunts everyone. As she delicately puts it back Shizune uncrosses her legs.

“Is there anything you need Shizune? Is this strictly for business?”

Amy signs Iwanako’s inquiry, Shizune responds with precision.

“No, how is Nako fairing? Anniversary and all?” Amy facilitates the conversation back into Iwanako’s court.

“Besides the night terrors? I have no idea, she’s been very distant the past few months.”

“Parents are hard to deal with at that age… even when you can communicate. Still, I feel bad I gave her night terrors from my selfishness.”

“Don’t say that Shizune… you couldn’t come in – you were hurting, you lost everything at once.”

“She ignores me whenever I visit you, like how I tried to ignore my father. Only I don’t seek to confront her.”

“You would have been a fine mother, you can’t be blamed for what went on around you. I regret that Hisao never learned why you had to do what you did.”

“I became my father and I never realized it. Iwanako, I cannot forgive myself for that.”

“No – you’re nothing like your father,” Iwanako gestures around her, “this is all your doing, our doing. We started from scratch, no production, no factory. My pen and what you put aside after you cashed out.”

“I just good at convincing men in suits to make deals,” Shizune deflects.

“You came up with the name.”

“I guess, Broken Hearts.

Iwanako’s phone buzzes, “yes, Broken Hearts,” she reads the message, “oh, Nako…”

“Is she okay?” Shizune tilts her head.

“Has to be a boy.”

“The baseball player?”

“I would presume so, only one I know of that she tolerates… I may be wrong though.”

“She left it vague, didn’t she?”

“Yes, ‘I need to talk when you get home.’”

“It’s the baseball player, head on home then. I’ll close up tonight.”

“Thank you. See you’re not so bad.”

“Maybe.”

With that answer Iwanako can shut down her computer and gather her effects. Shizune beckons her assistant to follow her, the loud clicks of her heels no doubt intentional. Amy’s contract includes provisions for confidentiality, this includes the private talks between the two founders.
Hopefully Nako hasn’t had her feelings crushed. With her bag in hand, she looks at the photos one last time, her wedding photo and the grave. She’s had enough already.

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To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 7. Debriefing

Post by cerebralpolicy » Sun Jul 11, 2021 12:52 am

Author's Note:
This chapter is really where I felt the story took off. Filling in Iwanako's back story undoubtedly messes with someone's head canon, but it is important to where the story goes… even the navy stuff.
7. Debriefing


APRIL 2036
Forests look best at dusk, the tall trees silhouetting against a fading canvas of purple and pink. The only thing off putting with these cutting-edge cars is the lack of headlights. Regardless of the vehicle, the front lights pop on when the car gets itself in range.

Nako’s blinds are open, her lights visible as Iwanako removes her items. Hideaki’s room is on the main floor; however, his windows are only visible from the opposite side of the house. Iwanako grabs her bag last.

As with the interior, the exterior of the house is strikingly modern and avant-garde. The siding is made of white metal paneling, windowsills of titanium, large windows, and a flat grey roof with solar panels. Everything is earthquake resistant as per the latest building codes.

Keys have largely gone out of style as of late, and Iwanako can afford the latest mass-produced biometric home security. Unlocking the door is as simple as placing her thumb on the knob. The latch clicking with so much as a touch. Open and close.

“Mom!”

“Hideaki, come here, now.”

The boy shuffles to the entryway, just how he gets around. Once he is in sight of his mother he dashes to her side, latching his arms around her.

“I love you.”

“Phone, now!”

“But I’ll miss the game…”

“You’re staying up late to watch sports and look where that got you, phone. Hand it over and go wait in your room.”

“Why?”

“Your sister had a rough day.”

“She skipped school!” an angry protestation.

“And you nearly killed a classmate… to your room now.”

Hideaki stamps his feet before turning around and storming to his room, his door slams. Lights reflect off the glass of numerous photo frames, twinkling as Iwanako takes off her jacket. With the boots gone she proceeds upstairs to her daughter’s room, feeling the texture of the drywall as she holds her fingers against it.

Nako’s door is locked, unsurprising if Shizune’s assessment is accurate. Iwanako knocks to no response, persistence is rewarded when she hears the door unlock. The room is decidedly minimalist, what adornment it has is either posters for the Sendai Golden Eagles or abstract paintings. Everything else is utilitarian – just stainless steel and wood. Pillows lie all over the place, evidence that she has been wallowing on her bed for the past forty-five minutes. Nako herself is staring blankly at the ceiling, her blue-hued ponytail barely long enough to touch the lip of her mattress. Her hands are placed firmly on her chest, rising and falling in a staccato pattern.

“Nako?” Iwanako ask as she sits down toward the foot of Nako’s bed, gently placing her hand on her daughter’s leg.

“I couldn’t let him say that he loved me…” Nako continues to stare at the ceiling, like when I met Sora.

Who?”

“Who else would I be talking about?”

“Why wouldn’t you want that? You know him well enough.”

“My heart.”

“We check it every six months, honey. There’s nothing there.”

“Dad never knew he had his until you asked him to date you.”

Back to the forest.


JANUARY 6TH 2016

Iwanako paced back and forth, snow fell from the sky, ice hung silently from the barren branches. Pristine winter, a cold breeze, breath condensing before her very eyes. He’s there.

What did she see in him? What made him stand out? Your first true love, what prompts that? Hisao was reclusive, he kept to himself. Perhaps it was the way he answered questions in science classes. A certain confidence shackled by happenstance. She wanted the opportunity to see him at ease, in his element. For the entire autumn she had this plan set up, see him face-to-face. Far from the eyes that would judge them for not being in compatible social cliques. Those petty boys who would drill holes right through her, the shallow ones. Ones she could easily scare off simply by talking about the hornet’s nest in her head. Hisao seemed different, he would never make the first move. There was something comforting about that. As if he might get her, she wouldn’t need to put on a face. I might be able to be myself.

After several deep breaths she departed from her hidden vantage point, watching her every step as the boots sunk into the snow. She eventually reached the main path, so close that she wanted very much to skip or dance her way to him. Not in the snow.

She actually liked her uniform, unlike her friends who complained about it not having any colour – there was an elegance to the monochromatic blazer and skirt. It really set the scene, like in one of the school plays – you need a good costume. Her black figure would contrast the snow, it was perfect.

“Just how long am I expected to wait here?” Hisao muttered to himself, looking further down the path “I’m pretty sure the note said 1600.”

I had to build up the courage to talk. Iwanako dropped her pace as not to startle the boy from his blind spot. Inching ever closer as snow fell at a snail’s pace. Her heart felt like it was in her throat, her whole body became tense. She finally stopped a metre behind him. This is it.

“Hi…” she stuttered, like a stalled car, “Hisao? You came!” That sounded more like a question, damn.

“Iwanako? I got a note telling me to wait here… it was yours?”

Iwanako cleared her throat, “… yes,” sort of, “I got a friend to give you the note…” I couldn’t do it myself, “I’m so glad you got it!”
A smile grew on her face, even though this terrified her the response assured her this was the right thing to do. They locked eyes, she nervously twirled her hair.

“So… ah… here we are,” a drawn-out response, at least I’m not the only one terrified, “out in the cold.”

A gust of wind caught Iwanako off guard, the sound of the branches startling her. Just stay calm.

“You see…” she felt like she would have a panic attack, “I wanted to know…” If you want to be with me? If I can be your girlfriend? “If you wanted to go out with me…” she expected a quick response, one second became two… three… four… “Hisao?”

He clutched his throat, no, please.

“Hisao?”

His whole body was stiff, something was wrong. No, no, no, no, no, please.

“HISAO!”

He collapsed, his knees buckled and then his weight brought him down onto the snow. Iwanako dashed forward and turned him over, nothing was moving. She violently shook him, wake up.

“Hisao? HISAO? PLEASE, NO! WHY! NO, NO, NO.” Now this was a true panic attack, did I do this? Is it my fault?

“ANYONE? HELP? HELP! I NEED HELP.”

Shaking was useless, all she could do was hold him close. Her head resting on his chest as tears overtook her. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? It took about thirty seconds for a teacher to show up, it may well have been hours for Iwanako.

“Iwanako? Is that you?”

“HELP! HELP! HELP!”

Footsteps rushed forward, “Who? Who needs… is that Hisao?”

“SOMETHING’S WRONG HE ISN’T BREATHING!”

“What happened?”

“I DON’T KNOW, CALL AN AMBULANCE… PLEASE!”


“Mom? Are you okay?” Nako is sitting up with concern.

“Just a memory…” Iwanako sighs, “you don’t need to worry about it. If Hikaru wants to be with you…”

“He said… he said… he needed me in his life… that I inspire him to keep the straight and narrow…” she wraps her arms around her mother, her glasses digging in, “what if I’m not there?

“You will be sweetie,” Iwanako holds her daughter’s head close, “you know I didn’t expect this from him.”

“What?”

“He’s a hopeless romantic, he poured out his soul…” Iwanako chuckles, “he’s soft.”

“I can’t let him down, so I can’t let him in,” tears recommence, “what if I… like… him? Then what?”

“Fretting about what will happen doesn’t help, life just happens. You can’t control everything.”

“I need to… I don’t know why.”

“Your boxes? Everything has its place?”

Besides Nako’s hair and eyes, Iwanako has long suspected she inherited a way of seeing the world from Shizune. Nako is logical to a fault, emotions scare her so deeply that she goes to extreme means to eradicate them. Now emotions cropped up when she was supposed to be pursuing such an activity. She didn’t want to be at the funeral, like Misha’s then-boyfriend – heads in clouds… emotions are hard to deal with when you think in terms of pure rationality. That just continued, she showed little interest in social activities with girls her age. A ball and bat, all she ever needed, and she would break into fits if she couldn’t use them. Baseball was her coping strategy, even before the funeral. The numbers somehow made sense to Nako, it was a rational sport. Hikaru probably never realized this, even though he and Nako have known each for six years… Nako isn’t forthcoming, boxes.

“I’ve has a crush on him since for three years. That terrifies me, what if I’m like her and I hurt people.”

“You won’t hurt him… and your mother was raised that way, she changed.”

“No! She hasn’t, and she’s not my mother!”

“You have never communicated with her, maybe you should. As well as I know you, I don’t understand how your mind works.”

“She doesn’t want to talk, she can’t talk, she’ll just sit there and stay still.”

It frustrates Iwanako, Nako still won’t give Shizune a chance – a lot has changed in a decade. Shizune has put effort into her life, turning it around, beginning anew. Repairing bridges, welcoming warmth back into her life. Despite the effort she still has never been in her daughter’s life. Iwanako feels almost bad for ending up as her replacement, but life just turned out as such.

“I might even love him… and that’s the terrifying thing mom.”

“What is?”

“How do you know you love someone? Know why? Why do you want to do disgusting and irrational things with them?” Nako may not have the delineation between love and lust sorted out, perhaps it doesn’t become clear for a while – hormones and all.

“It just happens, no reason. I still don’t know why I loved your father.”

“But you talk about him, his eyes, how caring he was,” her eyes have started to dry.

“That is part of it, but there’s so many things that singling one out… well, it’s impossible to explain. You can love someone too much as well, so much it hurts.”

“How?”

“When…” hospital rooms, “you feel powerless. When you can’t help the person you love, you can’t be who they need…”

Nako’s left leg now hangs off her bed, slowly returning to her normal state. Inquisitive and striving for information.

“Like when dad was in the hospital?”

“Which time?”

“The first time, when you were in school.”

“Precisely, I couldn’t do a thing. He wouldn’t talk to me, and I had no idea what to say.”

“Why not, you couldn’t ask him how he was?”


FEBRUARY 2016
By the fourth week everyone at school had accepted Hisao would never return, especially Iwanako’s inner circle. Asami, Ayano, Etsuko, and Midori – they all shrugged it off once the novelty dissipated. Hisao’s still in the hospital oh well. On the sixth week they held an intervention of sorts.

“You never kissed him Iwanako, get over him. You could have any guy here! don’t you get it?” Ayano at least had the courtesy to not judge Hisao. She had delivered the note, they’d been friends since pre-school – trust that she wouldn’t tread on.

“Unless CPR counts as kissing!” Etsuko had been taking a sick pleasure out of this, “he always was worthless.”

“I disagree, you can’t be worthless if you get his grades. He’s just hapless… unlucky… offload him, he’s a bad omen.” Midori was from the theatre class, always an outsider she never fit in. Her quirks were too much for most people but both Ayano and Iwanako wanted to help.

“Etsuko has a point,” Asami chimed back, she was at the pinnacle of the pecking order. Tall, pretty, every tool she needed to get what she wanted – and be despised.

“Midori at least explained herself,” even Ayano seemed upset at how callous Asami and Etsuko were.

“Who even liked the guy… he had like four friends, absolutely pathetic. Tell me Ayano!”

“Hell, if she ever fucks him, she’ll kill him.”

“So crass, Etsuko.”

The cafeteria was packed, the conversation loud… Iwanako stared at a patch of snow outside. I’m even a bad friend, I don’t stand up for him.

“He was friendly,” Midori noted, “had good grades despite spotty attendance, surely he had more than four.”

“You only have two friends, weirdo, Etsuko and I only tolerate you.”

“Calm down, what the hell Asami?” Ayano shouted.

“She believes in fucking omens and is in theatre.”

I can’t take this.

Midori was the only one who noticed Iwanako leave the table, she waved as Iwanako looked back at the table.

The long walk from school to the hospital had become routine, every slab of the sidewalk permanently engraved in her mind. She skipped school nearly everyday by this point, it was too hard – everyone pressuring her to forget about him while he was still trapped in a hospital bed.
Even the lobby was cold and sterile. The receptionist had grown to recognize Iwanako the moment she walked in the door. A gentile old woman who reminded Iwanako of her late grandmother.

“Welcome back dear, here to see your sweetheart?” her kind smile at least gave Iwanako something to look forward to each day – that and Hisao’s parents.

Iwanako’s father, Hanszou, was never around, always doing some administrative tasks at the JSMDF naval base in Yokosuma. When he was home, he barely looked her in the eye. He wanted a son to continue the family legacy, the mariner spirit. Not only was Iwanako a girl, but she was fragile and hesitant. She could never be the sailor he demanded. She could never make him proud.

Her mother, Suzu, worked her life away as a lawyer, but she took some time for Iwanako. As strong as she was, she barely functioned with therapy and medication. At home she displayed no feelings, deferring to her traditionalist husband just to avoid arguments. There was no love, it was all an
act to keep up her husband’s image.

When he found out about Iwanako’s anxiety diagnosis Hanszou tore a strip off Suzu, as if it were her fault. The screaming was so loud Iwanako could hear every scream, every breath, she was kept awake.

“If I knew she’d inherit all your damn issues I would have made you terminate her!” a glass slammed violently on the counter, “I’d rather get drunk than deal with the complaints of two women.”

“She’s your daughter! Our daughter… you are never home! The navy takes priority over us! I’m on the edge of a breakdown everyday… I am taking less and less cases.”

“Good, you shouldn’t have a job. Why give women jobs?”

“Enough…”

More and more yelling, it was like that each time he came home. Same fight different argument.

Hisao’s parents were nothing like that, in the few weeks she spent with them it felt right. The sight of them that day, it was all she needed. They grew to care about her… she was welcome.

“Good afternoon Iwanako,” his mother waved.

“Hello, Kaede… is His…” I need not linger. Her lips quivering.

“Iwanako, something’s wrong. Did something happen?”

“My friends say I…”

Kaede simply embraced her and pat her back. The warmth coaxed Iwanako to tears.

“What did they say?”

“Hisao and I just can’t be anymore, it won’t work. I’ll kill him… and I still think it was my fault.

“Let’s sit down, the a bench outside Hisao’s room.”

The hallway was cold and empty, just like how Iwanako had begun to feel. Kaede did her best, but consoling Iwanako is beyond her capabilities. All she can do is let the girl rest her weary head on her shoulder.

“Before we had Hisao… we lost a daughter,” why is she telling me this, “seven months in… had a name picked out and everything… Names, your name isn’t Japanese, not originally, is it?”

“No… my grandmother’s name – nickname. She was American.”

“Really? I want to, need to, ask you,” Keade’s green eyes drifted down, “why do you keep coming?”

“I don’t want to let Hisao down, be there for him, be a proper couple… it’s my fault he’s here!

“You’re just torturing yourself, you’re a sweet girl,” Keade wrapped her warm hands around Iwanako’s shaking wrists, “look at me, Iwanako.”

Her auburn hair was a mess, bags were under her eyes, she was going through hell – her son teetering on the brink of death. Her wrinkles were soft, a stern yet compassionate face.

“My husband and I are concerned for you Iwanako…” she took a deep breath, “we cannot allow you to continue to visit him.”

“Why?”

“You are skin and bone now, you’re skipping school, you stay until they kick you out… you are neglecting yourself. I can’t help Hisao,” a tear rolled down her face as she said this, “the least I can do is help you… even if I fear it’s too late.”

“Too late?”

“You look like you aren’t sleeping, how many hours a night?”

“Four.”

“Iwanako… you can visit this last time, you can say goodbye… but you’re going to put yourself in here if you continue, or worse yet a casket. I don’t want your parents to go through what we did.”


“I knew every detail medically… he didn’t let anyone inside his head.” Iwanako answers Nako’s question.

“Did you ever get over losing him?”
“No.”

User avatar
cerebralpolicy
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:12 pm

To Lose and To Accept: Chapter 8. Songs For The Deaf

Post by cerebralpolicy » Wed Jul 14, 2021 1:49 am

Author's Note:
A well deserved exploration of Shizune... I hope
8. Songs For The Deaf

APRIL 2036

Her watch vibrates at precisely 514, waking her up. Alone in a king-size bed, her experience for thirteen years. Opening her eyes, she is greeted by the familiar blur of her vision. Shizune taps her watch and reaches for her glasses, it’s hard to follow her routine when she can’t see… learned that the hard way.

Sliding her hands by her ears in the process she feels her left implant. I hate you dad. The deaf community still have their objection, losing culture. Shizune was never a part of that community, never had the chance to. School, college, and then business – everything in an attempt to satisfy her father.

He was never satisfied, the moment he found about cochlear implants he demanded Shizune get one. His attitude was always ‘talk damn you.’ Joining him on the board is still her greatest regret, she just sat there… the first words she ever heard were discussions about money. Jigoro yelling, other board members stuttering in fear. She never even learned how to identify words, he assumed she would automatically understand.
When Hideaki cut off ties this pressure increased, her father groomed her to be his heir. The attention was always something she wanted, so much that she did everything he asked, everything to string him along. Even letting go of her marriage, ‘Family is a distraction’ he told her. Putting your life back together is significantly more difficult when you intentionally blow it up to further your career. Shizune did that and then some.

It's there on her nightside table, the hearing aid is an unsightly white. Without -the actual aid her implant does nothing, no signals come in. How long has it been? It sat in a box gathering dust for nearly a decade, it was a painful reminder of the price of ambition, the pain of arrogance. All that led her to emptiness, this empty apartment.

Regardless she grabs it, inserting it into her implant. Crackling and static as the device translates audio input into electrical signals compatible with her neurons. She snaps her fingers to make sure it is working, I see why people hated whenever I used it. Her routine continues, the latch on a door, her very footsteps… I’ll never get used to this, but it’s worth it to try something new.

Over breakfast she cannot help but think about every movement the led her here, the present. Nothing has a reason, at least none are apparent. Hisao would always say everything had a reason, like his heart attack… it still makes no sense all these years later. If I could ask him, I wonder if he thought there was some predestined reason why I left him? He’d say yes. Shizune’s dining room and kitchen have no delineation, they blend together into a place to prepare and consume.

It is almost like a show house, it doesn’t feel lived in. This is, admittedly, intentional – she knows how things can change over a matter of weeks, days even. Why settle in when you know you will leave, nothing in life is permanent. What decorations she has are school photos of Nako pinned to the fridge, Iwanako supplies them. I doubt Nako knows that.

In a way she got to watch Nako get to where she is now, but from a distance. Living in the background of her daughter’s life for the past eight years… not what she imagined when she gave birth, held her daughter in her arms for the very first time… seeing herself in that tiny face, her eyes. It was like magic, a connection from the start.


MARCH 5TH 2022

Even if she could talk Shizune would likely be in silence. Seven hard hours all for this, a delicate little person squirming in her arms. A girl, her little girl… she has her eyes, little tufts of dark hair. A genuine smile on her face, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy before. An unknown feeling, a warm buzz in her fingers and toes… so this is happiness.

Her husband interprets the doctor’s spiel.

[She’s about four kilos Shizune, all the vitals look good. We have a healthy daughter.]

Just don’t ask me a question Hisao. She never really thought hard about how this situation would go. Her holding a baby in her arms. She can’t exactly sign, not without handing her baby over to her husband or a nurse. I’m not letting her go, not ever.

[We should talk about her name.]

Just pick your mother, we’ve been over this. It may be a blessing to not hear the little girl crying, but the scrunched little face is enough for motherly instincts to kick in. Back and forth, gently rocking her daughter. The moment she calms down, a renewed smile adorns Shizune’s face. See, it’s okay.

[Shiina? Misha’s our friend still, right?]

Shizune shakes her head, Kaede – we’ve already decided this. She frowns at her husband, this is going somewhere.

[You hate Lilly, you don’t like your aunt… we weren’t friends with Emi, not as a couple… plus.]

Shut up you moron.

[Don’t scowl at me.]

Shizune sighs and motions for Hisao to come over, she can only do so much with her arms full. If he wants to converse, then they need to take turns holding their daughter. He comes to her side yet can’t take the hint. She frowns before holding up the newborn. Take her. It takes a few nods, but he eventually gets the message.

[Hisao, we talked about this… your mother, Kaede is a good name. Stop, you’re holding her wrong,] she motions towards herself, [I’ll show you.]

[I don’t want to name her after my mother… not right now.]

His mouth moves as he gently pokes their daughter, eliciting the smallest smile. With the lesson he can now hold their daughter well enough that her bizarre anxiety subsides.

[No, who else? My mother? Father won’t allow that.]

His eyes open slightly, a smirk on his face.

[Hisao, no. It makes no sense… why?]

He returns the child, once more in her mother’s arms.

[It’s poetic, would I have met you if she never caused my heart attack?]

Probably. Again, she motions, the game continues. It would be easier if I could vocalize.

[It was bound to happen, it’s congenital... are you dead set on the name?]

He nods. Tired and unwilling to continue handing her daughter back and forth Shizune – for the first time in her life – concedes.

[Fine. You win, give her back.]

Those eyes, you are forever a part of me.

APRIL 2036

Shizune hasn’t told anyone at work about the implant, she hadn’t used it for years. Of all things to prompt her to bring it out it was Misha’s youngest daughter. Patching things up with Misha took a great deal of effort, years of talking things through. A slow difficult process that forced Shizune to re-examine who she was. How her actions impacted her friend, her callousness and manipulation

Have no idea why she married that man… a man at all, still their children are undeniably like their parents. Their eldest is evidently an athlete, yet book smart – despite this he cannot sit through a call. The middle child, Victoria, has an interest in art. Sketch after sketch, she loves showing Shizune everything she draws. Even though Victoria hasn’t learned sign language and speech-to-captions are woefully inaccurate – communication somehow works.

The youngest is a different case altogether, a shy and cautious girl of four years, they named her after a river. She never joined her mother on the voice calls until after this past Christmas. They got her a ukulele, from what Misha has said she fell in love with it fast… and won’t stop playing it. Won’t stop playing a song that Koru, it had to be, introduced to Columbia… something about a vampire.

Misha’s enthusiasm over Columbia’s new hobby, showing her little girl strumming away on a pink ukulele before tickling her. Shizune felt little feelings from the scene, but it was dulled by the fact she didn’t hear anything. In the ensuing conversation.
[I didn’t think about that, my apologies,] Shizune can’t really read lips in English, it’s just guessing which of Misha’s sign lines up with the lip movements, [Koruchan said something, he can be hard to understand.]

Watching Misha interact with her family leaves this deep feeling in Shizune’s gut, like having one piece left in a puzzle but it can’t fit in the empty spot. You can see that this is the piece that completes… but the piece you hold is horribly misshapen and you can fit it in the puzzle. I can’t fit my Iwanako into my life.

[He’s wondering whether you have a… implant? Can’t remember the word… apparently, they go into your brain.]

Getting up from her table she thinks more about the strange man who is in effect her brother-in-law. She hates sudden movements, so of course he only makes sudden and gross movements. He is physically unable to use sign language, she can’t read his lips and he has terrible handwriting. All he does is steal Misha’s phone during the call if he isn’t in the background skulking.

Bad taste Misha, yet I can’t blame you. As much as she wants to hate the man, for things admittedly beyond his control, he has some utility. Evidently, he had a sensory disorder as a child, loud noises, loud crowds. The playlist was his insane idea. Late January, he’s unavoidable, gets in the way. Even when texting Misha there’s a 1-in-5 chance he responds. To make it worse Misha enjoys reading the exchanges between Shizune and Koru, she says it looks like someone is messaging themselves.
January 28th

21:05
Misha, I haven’t heard from you in a week. How are the kids?
Shiina and the kids are out shopping. She forgot her phone again. She doesn’t get the point of surprise birthday gifts.
That’s because she never remembered them before, she’s overcompensating for you.
So. it’s my fault?
Your scheme changed her.
In what area? You can care about someone without being physically attracted to them. Develop deep emotional connections without being physically intimate.
The kids? You slept with her, Richard.
Do you really want me to explain the arrangement, our ruse, yet again?
NO! I wanted to know whether you had a recording of Columbia playing her music. Give my implant another chance, desensitization.
As much as I love her… I dare not subject you to that.
She needs more practice.
Let me send you a playlist, loud music would be better to desensitize you. Wear headphones and baptize yourself in sound.
23:33
Sorry Sicchan, we were getting him a birthday gift.
Songs for the Deaf, he named it Songs for the Deaf. His sense of humour just doesn’t line up with Misha’s, perhaps that’s why Misha compares Shizune to her husband. Regardless she has played his playlist every morning, by now she even dances to some songs. Here she is, dancing in her kitchen as she prepares her lunch. I imagine what people would think now, seeing me happy?

Even though automated cars are taking off in ever increasing numbers, Shizune prefers manual controls, the feeling of the steering column, the feedback from the road. Driving to work has become enjoyable in the past few years, speed limits were raised to account for automated cars.
Driving fast, listening to loud music in her jet-black car, bopping her head, sapphire earrings bouncing around, drumming on the steering wheel – all on her way to be CEO of her company for another day. Real boss bitch hours. Liberation, that’s what she feels – free, flying above the rest.

Swinging open the front doors with a reckless abandon Shizune can spot Amy awaiting her, hard to miss really. A tall pale woman with bobbed blonde hair, holding a drop-proof tablet hanging from her right shoulder like a purse. Stands out from the crowd, a good thing if you work at Broken Hearts.

[Good morning, Ms. Hakamichi] Amy signs once Shizune gets in range.

[Morning, Miss McCaig. Has Iwanako booked in yet?]

[No, she is late now that you mentioned it.]

[Probably doing motherly tasks… can’t be helped.]

[Yesterday’s conversation?]

[Yes, Nako is probably having a rough time.]

[I see… nature or nurture?]

[Both. Let’s head to the office Miss McCaig, we have a few calls to get out of the way.]

Shizune keeps her poker face on at work, trying not to skip down the hallways. The click of her heels as she struts past postmodern offices, the sheen of the wooden railings, the tiny windows lining the gap between the ceiling and the walls. Natural lighting is the best, especially in the morning. Walking on clouds.

Her father’s building had an oppressive, brutalist aesthetic. Just concrete, felt dead and cold – just like dad. When she sold everything, her majority stake, the family homes, she vowed to build a better business than him, better in a way he could never respect. In a way he would never recognize.

What kind of business are you running? Your employees decorate their offices, take breaks whenever, and have comprehensive benefits!” he'd ask.

Taking care of your employees is far more satisfying, Broken Hearts need not be a large company. A relationship with your customers is far more satisfying, Iwanako and Shizune handle custom orders themselves. Shizune’s favourite in the past eight years was a wedding a dress for a young woman who had lost both arms from the shoulder down. Specifically designed without arm holes it looked like a magnificent bird, coiling up ready to spread its wings. The wedding photos are proudly displayed in Shizune’s spacious office, the smiling young woman leaning against the groom.

They also conduct mass production for their storefronts, a lot of their products have a wide target audience. Walking into a Broken Hearts in a mall you can be easily forgiven for passing it off as another hip store for teenage girls. Until you get to the back. Emi, of all people, pitched their first adaptive product. It has since ballooned into their signature area.

JULY 2029

The café is quiet, little traffic today. The four women sit in the corner sipping tea – well, Emi has an empty tin in front of her which had contained a milkshake. Iwanako has her hair tied back, her laptop open in front her in case anyone comes up with a good idea. Emi drums some song on the table while she takes in her surroundings. Misha idly stirs her drink with a straw, why a straw? Shizune taps Misha’s wrist to grab her attention, knowing full well that a snap will cause Emi to fall off her chair. Misha is clearly jetlagged, between that and having a newborn she looks exhausted.

[Yes Sicchan?]

[What’s with the straw? You don’t need a straw.]

[Koruchan always needs a straw.]

[He isn’t here Misha.]

[Yes, he is, he’s watching our son at the hotel.]

[No,] slow as ever, [he isn’t here with us.]

[Oh… habit then.]

Of course, she laughs, causing Emi’s drumming to cease.

“What’s so funny Misha?”

“Shicchan wants…” Misha can’t stifle her laughter, “wants to know… why I have a straw…”

[I can read lips, Misha.]

“and she’s reading lips today.”

“Fuck! Wait repeat that Misha… straw?” Emi scrunches her face, even she’s confused.

“She wants to know why I have a straw, Emi.”

“Well why do you have a straw?”

[See even Emi noticed.]

Without looking up from her computer Iwanako flatly answers Emi, “Her husband uses straws.”

“Why?”

“He spills stuff.”

“Why does he spill stuff?” Emi circles back, still confused.

“He’s spastic,” Iwanako chimes in again.

[You leave Yamaku behind, struggle in college, move to Canada, all to end up marrying a man, which itself is odd! Not any man either, a man who can hardly take care of himself?]

Emi pretty much says the same, “You married a guy with clumsy hands?”

“Wahahaha… yes.”

“Emi, you would have been beside him at the funeral if he wasn’t outside watching baseball.”

“The tall guy who rushed in? Iwanako, I thought he was drunk.”

“That’s a rude way to describe my husband,” unusually defensive of Misha.

“If he was drunk, I wouldn’t have let him watch Nako, Emi!”

“I have to button his shirts, tie his shoes… actually a lot of things…”

“What?” Emi shouts at a realization, “you married Rin? Don’t tell me he says confusing stuff…”

“For you two maybe… he made enough sense the last time I went to Vancouver.”

That is enough to make Shizune giggle.

“That’s not funny Shicchan.”

[Actually, it is. Iwanako told me the story about the visit.]

“NO SHICCHAN!”

“Why don’t you make clothes for disabled people.” Emi interjects.

“All clothes are for disabled people, Emi” another flat response from Iwanako.

“No, I want fucking pyjamas!”

“Emi, why can’t you have pyjamas?” Misha stops stirring.

“I can have pyjamas, they’re just too long or too short. Nothing is made for me, I have to put on my legs!”

“So, pyjama’s that go down to the knee with a draw strings on the ends?” Iwanako rolls her eyes.

“YES!”

[That’s not a bad idea, we need a niche.]

“Shicchan thinks it’s a good idea,” Misha’s interpretation is satisfactory.

[Just think, we could do that with everything. Shirts and jackets with no arms, dresses! Wedding dresses!]

“Oooooh, wedding dresses!”

[Untapped market potential.]

“Wedding dresses?”

APRIL 2036

[Mrs. Nakai is just arriving.]

[Good, let her know to stop by.]

Her burning interest is Nako, based on what Iwanako says she’s going through a rough time. Even if Shizune is a distant observer, her vested interest is innate.

Nature or nurture? Shizune doesn’t like the nature proposition, too risky – Shizune being like her father, Nako living the life she has lived. Failure is okay, so long as you learn from failure. But stubbornness? Damaging to say the least, especially if you drive people away in the process.
Nako doesn’t deserve to repeat my mistakes, therefore it must me nurture. Shizune leans back in her chair, staring at the paneled roof. The problem with nurture is that you cannot place the blame on anyone, raising children in the modern world is a collaborative effort. The line where one mentor’s influence begins and another’s ends is blurry, children spend some 12 to 18 hours away from home.

Neither answer is satisfying, she knows who would provide an answer, but Misha’s husband doesn’t shut up and Misha doesn’t stop signing, an annoying pair. The couple have endless conversations that go nowhere, not like what Hisao and her had where silence spoke volumes and conversing had weight. Both men had an undying desire to understand people, in two distinct ways. One does it – to this day – by rational analysis and deduction, a facsimile of connection. Hisao would listen… most of the time. A good man.

Iwanako stands in the door, not wanting to interrupt Shizune’s daydream.

“Hello, come on in!” Shizune says, aloud for the first time outside the confines of her flat. Still signing, of course, in case she’s hard to understand.

“Shizune? How? That’s… amazing.”

[Still practicing, still learning words.] as Amy interprets that Shizune slides her hair aside, “implant.”

“I see… you wanted to discuss something?”

“Nako, how is she?”

“Lovesick… I said she should talk to you.”

[There’s no way in hell she would.]

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cerebralpolicy
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:12 pm

Snapshot 1. Garage

Post by cerebralpolicy » Fri Jul 16, 2021 8:36 pm

Author's Note:
These snapshots serve to break the routine of our two timelines, they are as the named suggests. It will always be someone writing down a memory and then a flashback. I hope this leaves you with more questions than before.
SNAPSHOT 1. Garage


EXCERPT FROM FRASER BY R. C. WINTER

Columbia was about ten, she recognized the shape under the tree. Of course she did, she had been looking at my old Squire for the past year. Shiina and I had to dig around the garage for my old amp, hadn’t touched the thing in years. My wife dug around for a bit, we of course got distracted… even after all those years we still distracted ourselves. Distracted each other because we understood each other. Isn’t that what love is, at its most basic?

DECEMBER 13TH, 2042

“Where is it?” Shiina asks me, and I hope it is rhetorical because the tire is comfortable.

“I have no idea, you put it in here when we were unpacked. I remember where it was back…” I guess we only cleaned up whenever we had to prepare a new room, moving up north for her new position forced us into cleaning our old house at an unexpected time.

“I don’t remember unpacking it.”

“I never expected you to, I expected you to remember where you put it.”

I feel bad that she ended up doing a lot of it herself, not much got put on the higher shelves. The shelves I can reach… doesn’t help much that she is all bundled up due to the storm either.

“Why on earth are we here? You, me, in a cold garage during a blizzard. Do you ever wonder… how? The dominoes that fell to get you from rural Japan to here?”

She whips around as I finish my sentence. Her familiar face obscured by her scarf and an oversized forty-year-old toque I had as a kid. The round gently sloped face I could never stop looking at, never stop scheming for. Eyes as lofty as clouds.

“Not really…” I can’t see her lip, but I know she is biting it, “you’re the smart one, you do the thinking.”

“Don’t say that, look at what job you have!”

“When you get philosophical, I get depressed.”

“That’s chronic depression Spitfire, do you think I feel like I deserve our life every second of every day? No…”

“You haven’t called me that in a while…” Shiina jumps ever so slightly.

“Eh? Guess I haven’t, have I. Should I call you Mrs. Winter? Principal?”

“Don’t tease me.” Shiina shifts her weight from leg to leg, looking at the concrete floor. I hate it when she looks this down, I can comfort her but little more than that.

“No Shiina, come here.” I beckon her towards myself, instead of her long happy strides she makes small steps. About the only time we can look into each other’s eyes is when I’m sitting, “look at me…”

“I don’t feel up to the task, English is my second language,” she still isn’t looking at me.

“You’re fluent in it, our children speak it all the time. Hell, Victoria is the only one who is fluent in Japanese. Besides, it is a school for the deaf, you’ll be signing – on a side note I don’t think Fort Saint John had one before the migrations. They specifically sought you out.”

“Really?” she asks, finally looking straight at me.

“Yes…” I let go and gently kiss her forehead, within seconds she’s wrapping her hands around my neck. She kisses me in return, far less gentle, passion. We have been together for nearly seventeen years, and I can count on my hand how many times she has displayed her affection to me in this way. Hands and body lowering… I guess I need an excuse to abort this, “woah, no it’s freezing in here.”

“Oh. Sorry!”

“Just say what’s troubling you, you only break schedule like that when something is on your mind.”

“Am I a good wife? A good mother?”

“Definitely a good mother. A good wife? Only as good of a husband I have been. Do you remember why I proposed to you? You remember the first time we… you probably do…”

Shiina attempts to unzip my parka again. It’s frustrating that this, going against her instincts, is her method of self-destructive behaviour. I shudder to think about the years she was alone in Vancouver.

Our schedule Shiina!” I hate raising my voice with her – but she’s lost in the moment, and I need her to stop undressing me, “You can’t compare what we have to what any of our friends have. It’s special, unique and gives us happiness in our ways. Who cares if we aren’t always attracted to each other, we’re companions till the end!”

“I think I might love you now… is that bad? I have only felt like this about… you know… women. Why now with you?” She looks up at me.

“Passionate love?”

“Yes, Koruchan. I’m scared I am changing!”

“Shiina, it just happens,” it’s hard to remain objective, “We’ve lived together for almost two decades, slept in the same bed for fifteen years. All our highs and lows, I must be a very very special exception if you are going against your wiring. This doesn’t change who you are.”

“You’re not mad at me Koruchan? I’m not changing, right? Even if I don’t want the schedule anymore?” The answer would be ‘yes you have changed, you’re staring at me with longing’ but I doubt that’s going to help her.

“I’m happy,” I shouldn’t make this joke, but the thought makes me smile, “I won’t be lying anymore when I say you are a loving wife.”

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