- Pt 1 - Reconciliation
Pt 2 - The Hotel Room
Pt 3 - Bad Connection
Pt 4 - Flight
Pt 5 - Arrival
Pt 6 - Reunion
Pt 7 - Letting Go
Pt 8 - Breakdown
Pt 9 - Departure
Epilogue - Checkmate
After an awkward silence, he slowly makes his way over to my desk and sits on my chair backwards. Facing me. He keeps looking at me like he expects me to say something, but what can I say?
“Want to go out somewhere? Going down the hill to town might be a bit much, but we could at least go for a walk outside.”
Why does he want to do that?
“Why… do you want to do that?”
He looks away, like I’m making him uneasy.
“I was just thinking that it might help you a bit. You spend so much time inside, your skin’s going to get as pale as Lilly’s before long,” he snorts. Does he honestly think that’s funny?
This doesn’t feel right…
“If you don’t want to go… I-I don’t want to go either.”
He mentions something about soccer and his life before Yamaku, but I’m not really listening. My mind just keeps coming back to why he’s here. I’m pretty sure I know already…
He’s making me uncomfortable. My hand automatically starts playing with my hair. The act makes him frown for a moment.
“There wouldn’t be anyone around by now, so you wouldn’t have to worry about someone getting in our way. It could be a little date or something.”
A ‘little date?” A LITTLE DATE? Is that supposed to impress me??
I dig my fingers into the bed and curse him under my breath. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t hear me.
So he did hear me. Or at least he heard me mumbling.
“You.., don’t understand…” is all I can say. But he doesn’t take the hint.
He gets up from the chair and moves to the door, beckoning me along. “I told you, it’s fine. It’s just a little walk, nobody’ll notice us.”
I can feel myself getting angry. First he tries to “bribe” me with a date, then he talks about not being noticed. I can’t tell if he’s ashamed of being seen with me or just a jackass at this point.
“I don’t…” I object softly. But he doesn’t give up.
“Going outside for a bit is good for clearing your head.”
Maybe I don’t WANT to clear my head, Hisao. Did you ever stop to think about that? Maybe I’d rather stay inside right now. Maybe I’d rather you LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE.
I ask him why he wants to do all this. Maybe knowing what he’s thinking will clear things up. It could even break this oppressive tension that’s been in the room ever since he walked in.
“Because I want to help you,” he smiles.
So he thinks he’s doing me a favor. Maybe he plans to “fix” me? I tell him I don’t want his help and ask if that’s the only reason he’s here. He starts lecturing me on how it’s okay to need help every once in a while. I wish he’d stop talking, it’s starting to make me feel sick.
He doesn’t let up, though. He keeps trying to convince me to go out with him. It’s almost funny, not too long ago I would have jumped at the chance to spend time with him. Just the two of us. But not like this. He’s not trying to take me out because he likes me. He pities me. I try to tell him to go without me again.
“I’m fine. You can go.”
“Come on, just a small walk.”
“Please, just go. I-I’m fine here.”
It used to make me happy whenever I heard him say my name. Now all I can think about is the way he thinks I’m some kind of fragile… thing. He doesn’t think about me like I think about him. How could he?
He bends forward to get a good look at my face and for a moment I can almost believe that he cares.
“Well, if you want to stay here… maybe we could play a game?”
I’d probably burst out laughing if this weren’t so incredibly tragic. He can’t possibly be this dense. Even when I explicitly tell him I want him to go he doesn’t listen. He just starts talking about how he and Lilly are “worried” about me.
“I’m telling you… please, go away,” I plead, “You don’t understand anything…”
“If we just had a talk, you could tell me what I don’t understand. I just want to protect you, I don’t really see…”
“Get… out, p-please…” I beg.
“Just locking yourself in your room isn’t going to help anything, Hanako,” he insists, “Please… Hanako, I just want to help you-”
I can’t bottle it up any longer. I jump up from the bed and start yelling at him.
“Get out of my room, get out of my room, get out of my room…!” I can see I’m scaring him, but I can’t stop myself, “Leave! I’m telling you, go!”
I thought you liked me!
“B-but… I was just trying to… help you…” he stammers.
“I know I need help! I know I’m broken! I don’t need you to tell me that!”
I loved you!
“I never said you were broken, or anything like that!”
No, but it’s what he thinks. It’s what everyone always thinks. Poor little broken Hanako. She can hardly function on her own… Such a pity.
“It’s written on your face, it’s written on Lilly’s face, it’s written on everybody’s faces! I see a therapist every week, Lilly dotes on me as if I were her child, and now… even you!”
Why can’t you love ME??
“Nothing’s changed, nothing at all! I hate Lilly, and I…” the words just keep coming, “I hate you more than anyone…! Go! Leave me alone! Get out of here!”
He starts to back away slowly. He’s practically terrified of me.
… what have I done?
He hits the door, then starts clumsily searching for the handle. He never takes his eyes off me. As he steps out of the room I can see he finally understands. He knows I’m not some delicate little flower. But it’s too late.
The realization of what I’ve said finally hits me.
Hisao, I’m sorry…
He looks away as the tears start to form in the corners of my eyes. It’s too late to take it back. He’ll never look at me the same way again, but in a way this is almost worse.
Hisao please… I didn’t mean it!
He starts to close the door. I want to run forward and stop him. I want to wrap my arms around him and apologize. I can’t.
I love you, Hisao.
The door clicks shut.
“Ikezawa-sensei? Are you alright?”
I blink a couple of times, shake my head slightly and look up. The young woman in front of me looks absolutely terrified. I can only imagine the face I must have been making.
“I-I’m sorry. I must have spaced out there for a minute,” I reassure her as I look back down to the book sitting in front of me. I’ve barely started my signature. It’s just a squiggle at this point, so I decide to turn it into a quick doodle and sign below it. I’m not much of an illustrator, but I can draw goofy faces when the occasion calls for it. I figure it’s the least I could do for this poor girl after scaring her like that.
She looks at my semi-chibi cowboy and giggles, “Wow, thanks Ikezawa-sensei! That’s so cool!”
“You’re welcome,” I smile back at her. She carefully picks up the book, cradling it in her arms like a child before bowing deeply and stepping away from the table.
“I really love your books. And again, Happy Birthday!” she calls back. I do my best to keep from visibly flinching.
How long has it been since I’ve drudged up that memory? About a year, I think. And how long has it been since I’ve spoken to or even seen Hisao?
“Closer to eight,” I whisper to myself.
“Hmm?” Wonderful, Sho heard me.
I look over at him, “N-Nothing, Sho. I’m just a little tired.”
He dramatically whips off his glasses and ponders my words for a moment before nodding.
“Mmmm…” he mumbles, “I suppose I can understand that. I mean this is, what, your third signing in two days, right?”
“Okay, I’ll make you a deal. If you can hold out for another hour, I’ll pull some strings to get you out of here early.”
I look back to the line of people waiting to get their books signed. There’s no way I’ll get through all of them in an hour. I’m certainly not in the best of moods at the moment but I can’t just turn them all away. I turn back to Sho and shake my head.
“No. I’ll be okay. Just promise you won’t drag me off to any bars to celebrate after the signing is over, okay?”
He feigns rejection, “Hanako… I… I don’t know what to say. I’m honestly hurt that you’d tell me you don’t want me around so bluntly.”
“Well,” I joke back, “maybe if you weren’t so devastatingly handsome I’d be able to trust myself around you more.”
We share a brief laugh, then I get back to scribbling my name.