Twenty Minutes Ago:
Once again I wonder how it is that I’ve agreed to such a ridiculous game. Then I look into her eyes. “Oh, that’s right,”
I think, as I melt again.
One Month Ago:
Never before had that word carried so much personal meaning for me.
Hanako and I purged ourselves of sadness. Eventually, the well of tears dried up. After that, one can only think about what can be done, given the circumstances. So what was to be done?
Suddenly it occurred to me that the biggest problem with using sign is that you can’t talk and hug someone at the same time. Hanako doesn’t know Deaf-Blind speech, and that takes too long to communicate anyway.
Hanako’s breathing had steadied, so I reluctantly pushed her off me. She started wiping the tears off her face, which I needed to do, too.
“Well, now what?” she asked.
“That’s a very good question. Wish I knew the answer,” I replied.
We sat there for another minute. Finally Hanako signed, “Shizune, we’re friends, right?”
I smiled at that. “Of course we’re friends. Ever since the first time we found ourselves in this closet.”
“I’m glad for that. Hisao and Lilly are still friends, but they have each other so much more than I have either of them. My friendship with you has always felt different though, different from any previous one I had.”
I thought for a moment about my own situation. How many other friends did I have? There was Misha, of course, but there was no way for her and Hanako to be friends anymore. Would I have to choose between them? Could I choose? How
could I choose? Make a list of the pros and cons for each of them? Ridiculous!
So what could I do? Not having Misha would be bad. Not having Hanako…
What the hell? How did it happen that the thought of not having Hanako filled me with dread? What was going on?
Hanako tapped my shoulder. “Shizune?” My ‘moment’ must have lasted longer than I thought; Hanako was looking at me with concern. “Is something wrong?”
Maybe there was
something wrong. Why was I having these feelings? What triggered them? It started when I first found Hanako in here, a month ago, when she was bullied. That must be it—my own experience with bullying. I had long ago buried my feelings about that; Hanako’s incident brought them to the surface again. That was all there was to it.
“Hanako,” I began, “I have a story to tell you. Nobody at Yamaku knows this story, not even Misha.”
I certainly had her attention. She was hanging on my every gesture.
“When I was eleven years old, I attended a Deaf school. All the students were deaf to some degree. Even most of the teachers were deaf.
“It’s a very different culture in a Deaf school. Insular. Secluded. Not wanting to be stuck in that is why I’m at Yamaku now. But like any school, it had its share of bullies.”
Hanako’s eye went wide when she realized I was answering her question from two weeks earlier.
“There was one girl who was the worst bully you’d ever seen. She didn’t have friends, she had sycophants. The ones she treated the best were simply ignored, for you never wanted to draw her attention. If she acknowledged you, it was to demean you.
“Oh, she was an expert at hiding it from the teachers. Manipulation and cruelty were her weapons. Weapons kept sharp through constant use.
“And one day, she just decided that she would make one girl’s life hell. There was no reason for it, just another opportunity to exercise power. Cruel notes were left in her desk. Her shoes would get ‘misplaced’. The bully and her cronies would ignore her, acting as if she didn’t exist. With the isolation deafness brings, that was particularly cruel.
“That girl, that victim, got sadder and sadder as the days and weeks went on. Eventually the bully would move on to another victim when she stopped being entertaining, but until then, life was truly hell for her.”
“And that victim was you? That’s why you wanted the ones who bullied me punished?” Hanako signed when I paused my story.
I smiled at the sympathy Hanako showed for me. If only it were that simple. “Hanako… I was the bully.”
Shock. Surprise. Amazement. It’s funny how many emotions you can read in a face, even if only one eye is visible.
“Somehow, my latest—my last—victim got me to understand the depths of my cruelty. She became completely withdrawn. She drifted through the day as if nothing mattered. Teachers couldn’t get anything out of her. She answered questions put to her with the shortest responses possible, usually just shrugs.
“Eventually, her parents pulled her out of the school. I never saw her again. Years later I was able to find out that she got better going to a different school. I’ll probably never know what kind of permanent damage I did to her.”
“What about you? What happened to you after that?” Hanako asked.
“I realized there was something wrong with me. I went to my parents and demanded to see a psychiatrist. My father was actually relieved; he had berated me for my bullying before, but didn’t know that I just got better at hiding it, rather than dropping it.
“So, now I want to see bullies punished, because I didn’t get the punishment I deserved. I suffered no academic loss. I lost my ‘friends’, eventually replacing them with people I cared about and who cared about me. One of my new friends was even one of my former victims.”
So there it was. Was that the underlying source of my feelings for Hanako? Was she a stand-in for that girl from years ago? A chance to make things right? Or at least different?
Hanako sat there motionless. Now I needed to know how she felt. Would she reject me as the monster I used to be?
Hanako lifted her head up to look at me. I found her expression difficult to read, which usually means that someone is thinking about a lot of things.
“I’m glad you shared that with me. I’m honored that you would tell me that when you haven’t told anyone else. Now I’d like to share something with you that I’ve never shared with anyone else.”
And much to my amazement, Hanako reached up with her right hand and pulled her hair to the side, letting me see all of her face for the first time. She looked at me with both her eyes, intently, waiting to see my reaction.
I looked deep into those eyes.
How the hell could I have been so wrong?
Code: Select all
24 c6 exf3
25 Rc2 Qe3+
26 Kh1 Bc8
27 Bd7 f2
28 Rf1 d3
29 Rc3 Bxd7
I’m out of Bishops. Rooks are good, but they have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, compared to how Bishops can slip through and surprise your opponent.
They’re much more useful in the end-game, though. I don’t think we have much longer to play.
And on that note, we each remove our other stocking.
Chapter 4 Chapter 6