Read All About It!
Sins of the Unworthy
Up and Down and All Around
To Whom It May Concern
--------------------Below this line is the pre-release stuff. Above this line is strictly post-release.
Two for Two
"Sorry" Is Just a Word
Tea for Two
Pills - You are here
Oh, how the most insignificant things find ways to stick in our heads.
It was a brief, unimportant meeting, but I’ve been waiting a while now, and it’s given me pause to rethink the situation many times over. I can’t help but wonder what she’s thinking about this. It’s not a “date” per se, and I feel like I’d regret it if I were to bring her to some impersonal place out in town, but I can’t shake the feeling that she might be getting the wrong idea.“Hey, you doing anything later today?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Want to come over to my place once class is done? Feel free to bring stuff to do; I don’t really have any plans.”
“O-okay, sounds good.”
“Alright, see ya.”
A quiet knock on the door. There aren’t many people around, so I know immediately who it is. After all, who else would exercise this much caution in order to avoid attention? I open the door up to find her standing on the other side, holding a rectangular box and a small stack of books in her arms.
“Hey there, Hanako, come on in.”
She steps inside and places her things on the ground while I shut the door. Once she’s free, we share a quick hug and a light peck on each cheek, our own ritual for our own time alone.
I lazily sit myself down on the floor, and she follows. This relaxed atmosphere is one I could gladly get used to. Just me and her; no problems, no worries. I decide to try and start things off easy with some small-talk.
“Well, you’re certainly looking good this afternoon.”
And I’m not just saying that because I’m looking for something to say. A light blush comes over her face and a giggle escapes her mouth.
“Thanks. You too.”
I take note of her more positive reaction to compliments as of late. That’s a good sign by my standards.
“What’s Lilly up to, anyway? I haven’t seen her a whole lot lately.”
“Class rep work… A lot of things have been coming up in Class 3-2 recently.”
She says this with a slight tone of disappointment in her voice. It’s no big surprise, and I can’t say that I don’t have similar feelings. I let out a sigh, making it audible to show my distaste as well.
“She probably does more work than our own representative. Funny how that works.”
Hanako drops another small giggle, evidently appreciating the irony just as much as me.
I stop to think of another topic, but I sooner notice her gaze fix itself on my assortment of pills, lying in their container on the counter, in their usual spot. I feel a pang of distress when I realize that I had forgotten to move them out of the open. Dammit. Things were going so well, too. Now it feels as though she’s staring directly at a sign that says, in big bold print, “These are Hisao’s medications. He needs them because he has a wretched, faulty, screwed up, dirty little heart.” I furrow my brow and scowl a bit as I think of what they represent. A daily fix for this fundamentally broken machination that I call my body. Only when I look to Hanako, and see her glance at me before averting her eyes, do I realize the glare I just gave her.
“Shit, sorry about that. I was just… thinking.”
I try to be contrite with my apology, but I get the feeling that it’s not quite working out.
“N-no, I should be sorry. It’s…”
She takes a long pause. The awkwardness of the situation begins to disturb me, so I decide to break the silence.
I inhale deeply to try and compose myself. But even despite this, I can feel my heartbeat accelerating.
“The closest thing I have to a cure for this.”
I clench my fist and pound it against my chest, keeping it pressed there for a short time, with no regard for the safety of such an action. No matter how much I’d like to pretend otherwise, I am afflicted by this malady of the heart. That’s the truth of it.
I exhaust a sigh… no, not a sigh. More along the lines of a groan, or a grunt of some sort. After realizing how coarse it must have sounded, I try to temper my voice before answering.
It feels forced. She can probably tell how strained I am to keep up this façade, for me to pretend that I’m fine when I’m really not.
Time passes us by. Her gaze remains on the ground directly in front of her. What she says next startles me, not because of the content of her statement, but because of the haste with which it was delivered.
"I've been on pills too." She rushes to spit it out as quickly as possible, despite the shakiness evident in her voice. I’m reminded of the way she always acted back when I first met her. Is my own negativity is bringing her down as well? Damn it all. This isn’t what I wanted. Not for her to think I’m mad at her, not for her to be put through more than what she’s already been through. Why has everything been getting shot to hell all of a sudden?
“D-depression medications. Since… since shortly after the fire.”
I think back to that day. The day when she let me know. The fire, the burns, the trauma, the scars, everything. At the moment, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that she might need antidepressants, probably due in part to my own melancholic state, but being reminded of her painful history only plunges me deeper into my despair. My heart doesn’t seem to be handling things much better, as that familiar, paralyzing pain threatens to manifest itself once again. I don’t know if I should be angry now, and if so, at whom? Her, for bringing up these topics that we should have moved past already? Me, for being weak enough to succumb to this pain, weak enough to deny her what she needs?
“But… two weeks ago…”
But? It doesn’t feel right to expect good news right now. In lieu of a proper response, I cynically turn my head to her. She looks up at me from beneath her bangs, but with a great deal more passion than my own gaze. As our eyes lock, the spirit that I see in hers captivates me.
“My psychiatrist recommended that my dosage be lowered.”
She takes a thorough breath. I’m not sure how to react to this news. It's certainly a significant change in the direction our dialogue was taking. I feel as if I’m expected to respond, but I don’t. She continues on, silencing that notion.
“Ever since I started taking the medicine, I dreaded the routine visits. Every day was a reminder of w-why I was there… There were t-two possibilities for me… I would remain the same, take the same doses and… and live the same life, or I’d be told that I should be filled with more and more d-drugs and prescriptions.”
Her voice keeps breaking up, and her pauses are quite noticeable. Even in light of the situation, talking about the past is clearly hard for her… This isn’t the first time I’ve recognized that fact.
“But for the first time, Hisao, my psychiatrist saw real, genuine improvement. I… I owe that much to you.”
A bright smile fixes itself on her face as she raises it upright, and I respond accordingly, and to my own surprise, with a slight grin and a tight embrace in celebration. Even if I’ve been feeling down, I can certainly find a bit of cheerfulness, maybe even pride, in this turn of events.
Some time later, I release her, and she lets me go as well. Not a moment too soon, I hope. I feel confidence in my decision when I see that look on her face has not wavered.
“I… I can’t express how happy I am for you.”
And that’s no lie, either. I may find myself in the gutter from time to time, but knowing that she’s happy does something for me that’s bordering on magic.
“B-but that’s not it…”
Her response catches me by surprise. Am I being faced with an addendum? A turn for the worse?
“I mean… I’ll be off the pills entirely, sooner or later.”
“Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
She flashes me a smirk which I could only describe as adorable. Now, my comment kind of slipped out, but I certainly don’t regret it.
“And I was thinking… The same could happen to you. I never thought I’d be able to recover, but I’m on my way. What’s to stop you from doing the same?”
I watch her right hand as she traces it over my chest once and slowly removes it. If she’s nervous or scared, she’s making no indication of it. It comes to me suddenly that my heartbeat has slowed down, possibly to normal speed. I run my own hand over my scar as well. She’s right, isn’t she? I think back to the only other time I’ve been nearly this in love. That event ended in a heart attack, and here I am now, heart beating as strongly as ever, steadily pounding out a future. Not just a future for me, but for her too. And on top of that, the doctors did say that my medications would dwindle over time. It just took Hanako to make me realize that. To make me say hello tomorrow, and goodbye to yesterday. To make me look forward instead of back… not unlike how I helped her.
“Someday, I might be able to live an unhindered life.”
Wait, was that me? I realize how long I’ve gone without a response. It’s just been me, silently looking down at my chest... Hold on, where’d Hanako go? I sweep my head around to search for her… There she is, sitting on the edge of my bed, looking into my mirror. I… don’t think I’ve ever seen her actually look directly at a mirror before.
Before I know it, my eyes are pulled into the looking glass as well. This point of view grants me a steady glimpse of her face within the reflection. Her head sits cocked to the right, resting on her palm with fingers curled inwards. Her hair has fallen out of the way to reveal her scars. The glimmer in her eyes, the serene grace in her smile… She’s absolutely beautiful. More so than I’ve ever come to realize before. I see her eyes wander over and meet my own for an instant, followed by her turning her head to look at me directly.
“I don’t see why not~.”
I feel something in the corner of my eye. Instinctually, I try to hold it back.
Darn, it’s no use. Guess I’d better let it out.
“I could never have asked for someone better than you.”
I try not to snivel too much as I say it. After all, this statement means a lot to me. A couple tears break free from my eyes as I stand up and close in for another embrace. I suppose I didn’t expect her to do the same, as my chest is impacted sooner than I had expected. But it’s all good. I am not as weak or feeble as I may sometimes imagine. Oh, how the most insignificant things find ways to stick in our heads. This kind of event will not be my demise.
The uplifting quality of her voice catches me by surprise, and I let out a small chuckle before I make my inquiry.
“You have that chess set with you?”
“You’re going down.”
I draw her face closer to my own. As I gaze into her eyes, I think my intentions are made clear.
…This is the third time now that I’ve found myself lost in her. I don’t mind, though. Not one little bit. Something about this kiss just feels so right. Maybe it’s the weight which has just been lifted from my shoulders. Maybe it’s love.
As I relinquish her, I notice the look on her face change. It doesn’t worry me, though. If anything, it feels as though she’s challenging my earlier statement about her impending defeat.
“Don’t be so sure.”
So I was right. Her words echo with an air of confidence that I’d never have expected from her. Not until now, at least. I shoot her a smile and a raised eyebrow of my own as she grabs the chess set from the bottom of her stack of things, and we prepare to wage war off into the evening. I can’t say with certainty that I’d enjoy anything more.