“Mmmuuuuhhhhh…” I mumble.
What time is it?
I force one eye open and search for the dull glow of the room’s alarm clock. 4am.
What’s waking me up?
The sharp ring of a phone cuts through the stillness, jarring me further. It doesn’t sound like the hotel’s phone. It sounds more like…
My cell phone.
I switch on the light sitting on the nightstand and jump out of bed. Where did I leave it? I think it was still in my pocket when I went to take a shower. That would mean it’s somewhere on the floor.
I zero-in on another ring and bound across the room. My pants are sitting in a crumpled heap just outside the bathroom door. I pick them up and quickly start digging through my pockets until I find what I’m looking for.
Who the hell is calling me now?
Whoever it is, it’s probably important. Not many people know my cell number and they all know I’m not a huge fan of using it unless it’s an emergency. I check the caller ID but don’t recognize the number.
For fuck’s sake, this had better not be about a magazine subscription…
I flip it open.
Silence. I can hear the faint buzzing of a connected line but whoever’s on the other end isn’t coming through. Either that or they aren’t talking. I try again.
“Hello?” I say with a little more forcefulness and a little less exhaustion.
“Um…” it’s a woman’s voice.
“… Hanako? Hanako Ikezawa?” It sounds strangely familiar.
“I’m sorry, who is this?”
It’s got to be my imagination.
“Hanako this… this is Lilly. Lilly Satou. From… from Yamaku.”
So it is Lilly. Holy shit…
She sounds almost exactly the way I remember, but completely different at the same time. Her voice is strained. She sounds nervous. I know exactly how she feels.
“… Remember..?” she adds, hopefully.
Part of me want to hang up. Just shut my phone off, go to the window and toss it away. After all these years and all this time… Why is she calling me? Why is she even willing to talk to me?
Why haven’t I answered her yet?
“L-Lilly,” I stutter, “h-hi. It’s been… a while…”
God, I sound so stupid.
“Yes, I-uh… I suppose it has.”
“How have you been?” am I REALLY trying to make small talk with her? After eight years of not so much as a letter?
“Um… Hanako… I’m calling because… I mean I wanted to tell you that…”
Spit it out already!
“A-Actually, Lilly,” I swallow hard, “there’s something I wanted to t-tell you, too. I-I’ve been wanting to for a l-long time. I was j-just too scared to…”
“Hanako, I really-“
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I cut her off, letting the words out before I have a chance to stop myself, “I never wanted any of this to happen. I was a horrible friend and I never should have done what I did.”
I’m starting to cry now, but it just keeps pouring out of me.
“What I did to you and to… to Hisao… I wish I could take it all back. I WANTED to take it all back. I… I’ve missed you both so much!” I sob.
I don’t hear anything on the other end for what feels like hours. I can’t tell if Lilly’s hung up on me or is giving me time to collect myself. The slight bit of static in my ear makes me think it’s the latter. The sound of her clearing her throat confirms it.
“I… I’ve missed you too, Hanako,” now it sounds like she’s crying, “but that’s not why I’m… why I’m calling.”
I hear her take a deep breath, but when she speaks her voice is already starting to crack.
“Hi-Hisao… Hisao is… I mean… I thought you should… should know that…” I can hear her sniffling with each pause, “ he’s…”
“L-Lilly, you’re… you’re scaring me,” I choke out.
“I-I’m sorry, but Hisao…” she sucks in another breath, “p-passed away yes-yeserday.”
She starts sobbing. It takes a second for my brain to catch up with what she’s just told me. My entire body feels numb.
But… but Hisao CAN’T be dead.
I can hear myself try to console her but I can’t be sure if I’m not just imagining things. I tell her I’m sorry. I tell her I’m so, so sorry. I can tell from her reaction that they were still close. Perhaps they were dating this whole time. Maybe even married. I ask her what happened and she tells me it was his heart. I’m not surprised. Shocked and completely devastated, but not surprised.
This isn’t really happening.
But it is. After a few minutes she regains a little of her composure. I can tell she’s still a wreck but she’s doing her best. I know it’s a lot better than I could manage if I were in her place. She tells me about the funeral. I tell her I’ll be there. She apologizes for calling me out of nowhere with such horrible news. I tell her it’s okay and that I’m glad she called. I want to scream at her for apologizing because she never did anything wrong. I don’t.
I can’t believe this…
I tell her I’ll be on the first flight out tomorrow morning. I tell her I’ll see her soon. She thanks me. We hang up. My legs give out and I hit the floor like a sack of bricks.
The boy I loved. The boy I’d always dreamed I could somehow work things out with. The boy I still quietly hoped would welcome me back into his life with open arms, even if we could never be a couple. Although a part of me still hoped for that, too. He’s gone. He’s gone and he’s never coming back.
And now there’s no way for me to set things right.
Then it hits me. Hisao is gone. Lilly isn’t here. I have no real friends. Right now I don’t have anyone.
I’m completely alone.
I cry. I cry harder and longer than I’ve ever cried in the twenty-six years I’ve been alive. Harder than when I woke up in the hospital in excruciating pain and found out my parents didn’t make it. Harder than the day of their funeral, which I couldn’t attend because I was still in the burn ward. Harder than my first week at the orphanage. Harder than my eighteenth birthday.
I barely make a sound. I can hardly breathe. I don’t know how long I can keep this up and I don’t care. If I pass out it’ll at least give me a slight reprieve. Of course I’d still have to deal with everything once I came to.
I could always kill myself.
The thought catches me off guard. No. I can’t - I won’t
- Hisao would never forgive me and where would that leave Lilly? I can only imagine how much worse this has been for her. And she’s already expecting me.
I check the clock again once the tears finally dry up. 5:30am. Has it really been that long already?
That doesn’t matter.
I slowly drag myself off the floor, using the bed for leverage. I shuffle into the bathroom, my legs wobbling the whole way, then take a moment to wash my face. I avoid looking in the mirror. I go back to the bed, sit down, pick up the phone and start dialing. I hear a click.
“S-Sho, I-I’m sorry for calling you s-so early but I-I need a favor.”