I Know The Truth
I look from the outstretched hand in front of me to the boy it belongs to.
Hisao is here because he wants to help. Because he was worried about me, and why wouldn't he be? I had a nightmare in the middle of class, I ran out and all the way here and now, here I am, huddled up in a corner. Anyone would be worried. Anyone should be worried.
He's still staring at me intently with determination in his eyes. But there's something else. He's concerned, yes, but he almost looks afraid, too. Hisao, I... I'm sorry to worry you like this. I'm sorry that I ran away, I just... I don't know. I didn't know what to do, I just retreated again.
He's been so overprotective of me lately, he even sounded like he was willing to beat up Lezard. I don't want that. But I can't keep retreating forever.
I don't want you to be my guardian, Hisao. I don't want you to be my knight in shining armor.
But maybe that's what I need you to be right now.
I take his hand. Hisao pulls me to my feet, carefully supporting me so I don't fall again. His anger has faded, I'm not used to seeing him upset at all. Now he gives me a relieved smile, and it's good to see, but... it's not the one I've come to know and love. It's not that warm smile that I want to carry with me always, it's something firmer, more resolute. Determined, but wearier.
I miss the old one.
“Are you sure you're okay?” Hisao asks, holding my hand in both of his. I nod, although I still feel worn out.
“I'm all right now.” I say quietly, my gaze falling to the ground. “Thanks.”
“Still having nightmares?” He narrows his eyes, as if he could climb into my head and threaten them into leaving too. I smile bitterly, I'd like to see him try.
“Yeah.” I reply softly, staring into space. It's been a while since I saw the stars. Those ones, anyway.
Hisao grimaces, he doesn't know what to say. There isn't really anything he can say, and that's probably frustrating. He puts his arms around me in a hug and I lean my head against his chest, his warm body a sharp contrast to the cool air of the secluded club room. I can feel the faint, disjointed beats of his heart. There's nothing I can really say about that, either.
I can't fix his heart. He can't fix my head.
This is just the way we are.
We stay there for only a little longer, and then Hisao walks me back to our classroom. By now everyone else has finished their exam and left, but luckily Mutou is still there.
I feel like a little kid as Hisao apologizes to him on my behalf. Sorry sir. Just another chronic sleep disorder thing. Won't happen again, unless it does. Luckily, he doesn't have a problem with lettings us finish our exams since he has to go about grading the rest of the class's tests anyway. With his awkward, gentle smile, Mutou hands me mine, still half completed. The paper is bent from where it landed on the floor at an odd angle, a reminder of dark places and stars quietly going out.
Miki arrives back at the room just in time to join the fun. I let Hisao do the explaining this time too, since he actually knows more about my bad dreams than she does, even with our no secrets policy. Sorry, Miki.
Since she and Hisao both went after me in the middle of the exam, they get to stay behind and finish theirs, too. They sit on either side of me, it feels nice, I wish we could sit like this every day. Lezard doesn't come back, he must have already returned after Hisao chased him off. The test is harder than I remember it being, but it's over before too long.
With exams in the past, we have a whole week ahead of us of not really doing anything. The relief in the air is palpable now that we don't have to worry about tests again for a long while. Everyone is talking about their plans for the summer, things they want to do, things they want to see.
“Still here, Suzu?” Hisao asks. I look up from my book to stare into his eyes. He's sitting on one of the couches in the common room of the boys' dormitory and I'm laying across it, my head resting in his lap. We were both just reading, just passing the time, but I think my mind wandered off somewhere because none of the words on the pages in front of me look familiar at all. The face of the boy above me is quite familiar by now, though, and he tilts his head quizzically as I blink up at him.
Me being out of it isn't anything unusual, but Hisao frowns. “Have you been sleeping well lately?” He asks.
I guess I look pretty bad right now. A couple months ago I would have played it off, I would have told him or anyone else, even Miki, that I'm fine, that for me it's completely normal to go a few days or even a week without sleep. At night, anyway. But I wasn't fine even when it happened back then, and just because it's normal doesn't mean that I don't hate it. Even though there's not much Hisao can do to help me with that, I don't have the strength to lie to him anymore, to keep up appearances. Maybe I'm just lucky that my insomnia waited until after exams to kick in, if that's what's happening.
I'm just really tired. Have I said that before? Is that an excuse I've used a lot? I don't know, but it's true. The whole school is looking forward to summer vacation, but all I feel is worn out.
“I haven't... been sleeping much, no.” I reply with a shrug. Hisao's frown deepens.
“Any more nightmares?” He asks gently. I shake my head.
“I'm glad.” He says. Hisao glances aside, looking like he's remembering something. Then he looks back at me.
“Are we playing 20 questions?” I ask, stifling a yawn. Not that he's boring me, I just do that a lot. A lot.
Hisao smiles, something that's good to see. But he's still wearing a pensive expression.
“You said your dreams were getting worse because you were going home for the long weekend.” He says, brow furrowing in concern. I stare back up at him.
“You're going back to your parents' house over summer vacation, right? Are you going to be okay?”
It's been on my mind a lot for the past few days, now that exams are over. I've tried not to think about it, but there's not much else to do in this restless, empty period between tests and the break.
“I don't know.” I mumble. “I can't really sleep there, either.”
Hisao chews on this for a few moments. “It's not that long though, only about a month.” He says, setting down his book before gently thumbing through my hair with one hand. I close my eyes. This always feels nice, I'm lucky to have someone, anyone who I trust enough to be comfortable with something like this. But...
I don't think the question of who wears the pants in this relationship is quite so vague anymore. I don't feel like an equal, like a partner.
I feel weak. Like a child.
“Summer vacation will be over before you know it.” Hisao says, continuing to stroke my hair. I open my eyes and look up at him again, and he gives me a reassuring smile.
“I'll call you. Lots. Every night, if you want.”
“You'd better.” I half whisper, managing to smile back. Hisao breaks into a tired grin. For the first time, I notice that he looks pretty worn out himself.
“I will. I promise.” He says, but the lines around his eyes have darkened. Has he been putting that much energy into taking care of me? What about him? If I tried to lay him down and sooth him like this, would he accept? I need him now, I know I do. Does he need me the same way? Or are we different?
Is this the way it used to be?
“I'll even come visit you.” He continues. I shake my head again.
“You don't have to do that, it's such a long way.” I say, even though part of me hopes he means it. An entire month without Hisao, I...
“Doesn't matter.” He says, still grinning, but his eyes are narrowed in fatigue. “I'm going to look after you, remember?”
I stare up into those brown eyes, the ones that now have bags beneath them. He looks a little like me, but he looks even more like Seiji now, with that worn out expression. I... I don't think that's what I want. I mean, I loved my brother and I still do and I miss him, I miss him a lot. But that's not what you are to me Hisao, you aren't just his replacement. You're not.
Is that what you're trying to be? Is that what you think I want?
Is that what you think I need?
Who knows, maybe it is. Maybe, maybe I'm just thinking too much about this. I need someone to keep an eye on me, I need someone to catch me. I'm lucky to have Hisao here, he wants to be here, he wants to help me.
Hisao continues to gently run his fingers through my hair as our conversation drifts to an end. I can feel sleep taking control again, I can't keep my eyes open any longer.
This isn't so bad, really. I care about Hisao a lot, and he cares about me. This is better than being alone and afraid, he's able to watch out for me even better than Miki could, most of the time. He has two hands to catch me with, for one. And besides, he's right. I don't want to think about going through summer vacation without him. But I can't really think about anything right now, my head is shutting down. No more time to think, no more... no more time to worry, the only thing to do now is close my eyes and go somewhere else, somewhere far away and hopefully not dark and scary.
I don't know where I'll go. I don't know where I'll be when I wake up. All I know for sure is that I'm just so tired.
Today is Tuesday. Only five... no four, no... only a handful of days to go until summer vacation officially starts. That's not a very good unit of measurement actually, what if you had really big hands, or really tiny hands? I'm glad I don't have tiny hands, but...
I, uh, haven't slept in... I don't know. A few days. A tiny handful of them. At night, that is. I don't really remember what happened in the couple class periods up until now, all I know is that I am... currently in the cafeteria, and, uh, this damn rice won't stop shaking. Or is that me?
I take a hazy look around the table. Everyone else looks pretty brain dead, I doubt they remember much of the last few lessons either. Everyone is just drifting along and waiting for the week to end so we can go home, or go about our lives or, or just not have to come to class for a while. Is the school cafeteria still open during the break? I think I would probably die if I had to eat at either the Beijing or the Shanghai for a month straight. I wonder if Lezard and Taro are staying so they can work up some extra money, I should--whoops, there went my rice.
“You okay?” Hisao asks. He's sitting next to me, watching with concern. Miki has gotten back in line to get a few more drinks, but the rest of the group is assembled, even Lezard, who Hisao still hasn't apologized to. He hasn't been in much of an apologizing mood lately, he's been on edge with my condition kicking me in the shins like this. Or, not the shins, the brain chemicals and... where is my rice?
“Five second rule.” I mumble, glancing around for the bit of food that I had dropped. But I can't find it, I can't--god I just need some sleep.
“Hey, Suzu.” Hisao gently touches my shoulder and I look over at him. My eyes hurt. My everything hurts, at least a little bit, I think my... my insomnia is starting up again.
“I'm fine.” I say, hoping that I sound convincing. And really, really this is... I mean, I've gone through this before. And for longer than this, hopefully I can get plenty of sleep soo--ohhh, right, parent's house. Can't sleep. Right. That's great, this is great.
But no, no. This isn't anything too bad. Even though my narcolepsy prevents me from sleeping at night sometimes, I still check out during the day, so I'm not a complete wreck. And even if, even if I am... which I might be, or... even if that's the case, I'm not missing much in my classes. There's not much to miss, it's all just easy busywork, even the teachers are probably counting down the hours until they can go home now.
“Maybe you should go lie down. I can take you back to your room, if you want.” Hisao says, looking concerned. I shake my head weakly okay no stop that don't do that, geez. That hurt.
I understand why you'd be worried, Hisao, but I don't think you've ever been in the middle of a full blown bout of narcoleptic insomnia before. Just laying down won't help, my body just refuses to sleep when I want it to.
“I'm fine, really.” I force a smile, I'm not even putting on a brave front here, please Hisao. It won't help, I know it won't help, and I just want to see my friends before the break ends and I'm stuck all by myself in a sweltering hot house for a whole month. It's, it's loud and bright here and the light hurts, but there'll be plenty of time to lie around and not be able to sleep later. For now, I only have five days until everyone goes their separate ways for a bit. Four days. Goddammit.
“I think it might help, come on.” Hisao puts the top on his drink and begins collecting his things. “Miki and I will take notes for you, you just need to get some rest.”
“Hisao, please, I don't--”
“She said she's fine.” A voice calls from the other end of the table. Lezard peers at the boy next to me with something between a sneer and a grimace on his face.
Hisao's mood sours immediately. “Anyone can see that she's not, Lezard, what she needs is some rest. And you can stay out of this.” He retorts. I sink further into my seat, I don't, this certainly isn't what I need, yelling isn't going to help things.
“Oh, you think you know what's best for her?” Lezard isn't backing down. I don't... I don't know what to do in this situation, I want to stay here but I don't want them to start fighting again.
“Barely off the bus and you know what she needs, huh?” He continues, standing up. Hisao does the same.
“Where were you last winter when she fell asleep outside and almost got hypothermia?” Lezard spits. Hisao glances at me, great, another thing for him to worry about. But it's, it's summer, come on.
“I couldn't have-” Hisao begins, but Lezard cuts him off.
“Were you there during the class trip where she fell and broke her arm?” He asks, his voice growing louder. People are beginning to look over, I can see Miki breaking off from the mess of people in line to begin walking back.
Come to think of it, I think Lezard had been there to help Miki get me to the teachers after that incident. I had forgotten about that. I hope I remembered to thank him, but still, I think I could have gone without the reminder.
“I wish I was there for that.” Hisao says, glaring. “But-”
“But you weren't.” Lezard is yelling now. “What about last year, huh? When she went sleepwalking through the girls' dorms and almost fucking killed herself by jumping out a third floor window?”
Hisao looks both stricken and incensed at the same time. He glances at me, wide-eyed, and I shrink, unable to meet his gaze.
Miki had helped me, there. That was before my nightmares had calmed down, I'm alright now, really, I am. That was the only time. I don't need him to have more to worry about, to put more pressure on him. That hasn't happened again. I hurt a lot more back then, I don't now, I don't.
“Lezard, please stop.” I mumble, wishing I was somewhere else after all. The conversations in the cafeteria have begun to die down. In the corner of my eye, I can see Miki taking long, quick strides towards us.
“And what, you think you could have done something about it?” Hisao yells as he turns back to Lezard. His hands are balled into fists.
“Maybe I could have!” Lezard glares at Hisao and then me for a second, please, please just stop. This isn't fair, you never tried to be there for me, I don't know if you were scared or anything like that but you never told me, you never tried. That's not fair.
“But you weren't there for her either, and now what, you want to tell me what I should do?” Hisao takes a step forward.
“You don't even know her! Where were you?” Lezard is trembling now, his anemia usually leaves him pretty weak, but he looks at Hisao with pure venom in his eyes.
“Where were you when her brother took a nap in the city-” Oh. No, no.
“Lezard, don't.” I plead. Next to me, Hisao is bristling with rage.
“That's enough!” Miki's voice is loud and commanding as she arrives on the scene, but Lezard only turns to glare at her before looking back at Hisao.
“-and split his fucking head open like an egg?” He finishes. The words ring throughout the now silent cafeteria. Suddenly it's, it's really cold in here. I wish I could have slept last night. I wish this wasn't--
“You bastard!” Miki cries. She looks like she's doing everything in her power not to punch him straight in the face as she steps forward, instead grabbing him by the collar and angrily yanking him forward.
“Where the hell do you get off?” She practically screams into his face. With an angry grunt, Lezard shoves her away, but just as he begins to look back in my direction, Hisao's fist collides with his cheek. Lezard crumples backward.
Everyone else in the room is at a loss for words. The only sound is the blood pounding in my ears, my mind has gone mercifully blank.
“Get up so I can hit you again.” Hisao growls, his fists shaking at his sides.
I push myself up from my chair with some effort. “Stop, please. Just stop.” I say it as loudly as I can manage, which isn't much.
Lezard picks himself up, rubs his face, wipes a bit of blood from his mouth. Hisao takes a few steps closer. I don't think he knows very much about fighting, not a lot of kids here do I bet, but he looks like he's ready to try. My heart is beating faster, this has to stop, this has to--
With an angry roar, Lezard closes the gap between them, lashing out with a backhanded fist that hits Hisao squarely in the chest.
My blood runs cold.
Hisao stumbles backwards. He says nothing, but his hands immediately fly to his chest. I scramble forward, no no oh god no this can't be happening right now.
“Hisao!” I gasp as I reach him. Lezard raises his fist again but Miki catches it with her good hand, gripping it tightly.
“That's. Enough.” She looks like she's willing and able to show him what it's like to lose a hand or possibly more if he doesn't comply, but I don't care about Lezard anymore, I run and trip to Hisao's side. He's gripping his chest tightly with both hands, taking deep breaths, his eyes wide. He turns to look at me and, for a few seconds, I think everything might just be fine. I mean, he looks okay, he isn't--
Hisao raises one hand to his throat as if he's choking, as if he can't breathe. His eyes are wide with, with pain and fear and horror.
His knees appear to give out, and he falls forward. It takes everything in my power to catch him before he slams face first into the ground.
“Hisao?” My voice is trembling, he's shaking and convulsing and god, god no please let me wake up this is a bad dream, this is a nightmare this isn't happening.
“Suzu, what's wrong?” Miki shoves Lezard away, appearing at my side in an instant. She helps me turn Hisao over, watching in horror as he struggles.
“H-he, he has a heart condition.” I can only hold his head as Hisao lets out a sputtering gasp for air. Wake up, any second now, this is a dream haha good one Death, good one! You really, you really showed me please please please don't let this be happening.
But I'm not waking up, and Hisao isn't getting any better. I know there's no time to lose but I don't know CPR or anything, I don't know what to do.
“Get a nurse.” I can't even cry, my entire body feels numb, feels cold. I look up, why is everyone else just standing around, why aren't they helping why aren't they doing something or, or--
“Someone get a nurse!” My scream echoes through the silent cafeteria.
I open my eyes. Birds are chirping gently. I blink a few times, warm sunlight caresses my skin. I can hear the soft murmuring of air vents, the calm rush of wind. Below me, a car is driving towards the small town down the hill.
This place again.
I've finally managed to get some decent sleep in the last few days, but I haven't been waking up in my bed, or anywhere near the girls' dorm at all this time. Every morning, I've found myself here, on the roof of the school.
It's nice. It's quiet. I used to eat lunch up here, or go stargazing every once in a while when I was a first year, but stopped for some reason that I can't remember.
I don't remember these fenceposts being broken, either. In fact, this entire section of the roof is exposed, it doesn't look safe at all.
I glance down over the edge, and then look up to the brilliant blue sky above. The sound of the wind, the open horizon that you can see for miles and miles from this height. Maybe this is the closest I can get to the ocean right now.
Maybe that's why I keep coming back here.
I step back, step away. I trudge to the door and head down the staircase, at least I'm wearing shoes and my uniform this time. A lot of the staff have heard my sleepwalking tales before, but that doesn't make it any less embarrassing to walk through the halls in just my sleep shorts and a t-shirt.
I make my way through the main building and then back to the dormitories. There's still some time before class starts, but I'm not going anyway. I reach my room to find Miki standing at the door, her good hand raised as if she was about to knock.
“Oh, there you are.” She says upon seeing me. She frowns. “Sleepwalking again?”
“Yeah.” I whisper, stepping up to the door. I reach for the handle but it's locked, and I don't think I have my key.
“Here.” Miki says gently, fishing her copy out of her pocket. She unlocks the door, and I push it open.
“Are you almost ready to go?” She asks. She tries to give me a reassuring smile, but for once, she isn't able to manage it.
“Almost.” Even though I just woke up, I still feel so tired. I want to go back to sleep, I want to be somewhere far away again. But I know I can sleep on the ride in.
Miki tells me that she'll be waiting for me in the common room. I nod, and then walk inside my room, glancing around slowly. This is where Hisao crashed, those times, this is where he helped me ice my knee. That's where we sat when we were watching those movies, where I lay on top of him when we tried to... do something. It doesn't matter now.
I have to get cleaned up. It's been a long time since I visited a hospital.
“Hisao?” I ask tentatively. My only response is the irregular beeping of the heart monitor at his bedside.
“I don't know if you can hear me.” I continue softly. “The doctors say they're going to keep you under until after your next operation.”
He looks strange, like this. Unfamiliar. Foreign. The thin plastic air tube, wrapped around his face, attached to his nose. The room is a boring, dull white, at least he gets a window. And his is the only bed, that's... that's nice. I've seen worse. I've been in worse rooms than this. But I've never suffered a massive heart attack and had to immediately go into surgery to save my life.
“I-I came here to tell you some things. And to see you too, of course, it's... it's nice to see you.” I don't know if I'm lying or not. I'm glad, I'm so glad he's okay, I'm so glad he's alive. The entire ambulance ride over, and the rest of the day, had been one long nightmare. I couldn't even cry, I still haven't. I can't. I just feel tired, I just feel numb.
I reach to take his hand in mine. It's a little cold.
There's this feeling you get, when something happens in your life. When you blink your eyes, and suddenly everything has changed. Something's gone, something's missing, or something's been smashed and everything is just so bad, and you, you just want to go back. You just want to say please, can't I undo this somehow? Can't I just have one more day where things are like they used to be?
You'd give anything to go back. For things to be fine again.
That's what I want. I want to go back to spending days being awkward and blushing around eachother, to dancing around his heart condition and my painful memories. To studying together in empty classrooms, hell, even to playing battleship in between my slices of being awake. If I can't have that though, then I wish I could go further back, I...
First things first.
“Hisao.” I say simply. Have to start somewhere. I can do this, I...
Just take it one step at a time.
“I didn't want to have this conversation like this.” I try not to feel anything at all as I say the words. I chuckle bitterly, hollowly.
“I don't know how I wanted to have it. Maybe, spur of the moment or, or under the light of the moon or something silly like that, just, not like this. Not here.”
There we go, there we go, my eyes are beginning to burn. “Like I said, Hisao, I... wanted to tell you some things. Maybe I'll have to repeat them later, but it might be easier then. If I do it now, if I...”
Okay, okay we can do this. Don't start crying now. Don't break down yet, we can do that any time. Visiting hours don't go on forever.
Suzu, come on, do this, don't just sit there and--
“I love you.” I blurt. The stillness of the room and the beeping of the heart monitor swallow my words whole.
I look to Hisao's face, I know it's futile to search for signs of a reaction but... if he were awake, if he was okay and still back at Yamaku he'd, he'd probably be blushing now and god oh god I hope he would say it back.
I hope he would say it back.
Water is clouding my vision now, my face is growing hot. “I'm sorry for not telling you that earlier, Hisao. When I had the chance. And I'm sorry for telling you about... about Seiji. It was better before.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Sometimes the sounds of the machine resemble what you would expect of a heartbeat, sometimes it's a mad dance that I guess is normal for him. Or I hope so, anyway. I'm reminded of soft, flashing blue lights, of waiting in the dark for his words that would make my fears ebb and melt away. Of the sight of him there, outside the girls' dorms, draped in moonlight, looking like a hero, looking like--
Like a boy, in love with a girl. One who got him hurt. One who almost got him killed.
If I close my eyes now, I'm sure the tears will come, I'm sure they'll spill down my face. But I keep them open, I stare at the boy lying in the bed before me.
“I'm sorry, Hisao. I love you. I miss you, and I'm sorry, but I...” My lips are trembling, my hand is shaking now, and his remains absolutely still. But that isn't all I came here to say. That isn't everything. I wipe my eyes, not done yet, not done yet. Don't break down yet. Don't.
This has to happen. I don't know if he'll forgive me. I don't know if I'll forgive myself. I'm not very good at that. But I open my mouth again and say the words that have echoed through my cluttered head as I tossed and turned in my bed, these last few nights.
“I wish I had never met you.”
I stare at the boy lying in the bed beside me, wrapped in a hospital gown, his upper body swathed in gauze. Tears begin to roll down my face, landing in my lap. The sound of machinery is his only reply.
Tip, tip. Tip.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“I wish you had joined the student council, or, or I wish you had liked Miki instead of me.” I struggle to get the words out, my throat feels dry, feels shaky.
“I wish we had never talked that day in the nurse's office, I wish you had never had a heart attack and... and come to Yamaku in the first place.” Almost done. Almost there. I want to shatter into a million pieces, I want to sob and cry and bury my face in Hisao's arm, but I can't. I undid all my locks once, I let everything out and opened myself up and look what happened, look what came of it. I can't do that again. I have to stop.
I have to stop.
“We can't work. The doctors,” I pause to sniffle, wiping my eyes again, and then continue. “The doctors say your next operation has a good chance of success. That you'll probably be fine. But what happens if you have another heart attack, and... and it's just us? Just me? What happens if I fall asleep?”
I shake my head, more water rolls down my cheeks. I thought about this a lot, it was all I could think of, it was the only thing that mattered. The only thing that I know.
I can't do this.
I can't do this.
He might not survive next time. And I won't be the one that kills this stupid, stupid, wonderful boy that I love with all my heart.
Not again, never again, I won't.
If I could trade places with him, I would do it in a... in a heartbeat. If I could trade places with Seiji, I would do that too, I would. But I can't. And I can't bear this, it's crushing me again.
“I'll b-be here when you wake up, Hisao.” I sputter, it's getting hard to talk now. I owe him that much. I owe him more than that. I sniff again, trying my best to give him a smile, like he always did for me.
“But I won't stay after that.”
I sit there with him for a little while longer, but eventually, visiting hours end. I squeeze his hand, my tears have dried and now I just feel empty. I try to ingrain the sight of him in my mind, I'd rather remember him as he was, before I told him about last year and ruined everything. But just in case I never see him again, I want to remember.
Miki is waiting for me outside the hospital room. We walk together in silence for a few minutes. She glances at me once or twice, but I stare somewhere between the hall ahead of us and the floor. Need to get home, I don't know what I'll do then but I'll figure it--
Suddenly, Miki grabs me, pinning me against the wall. Her good hand is gripping my shoulder, her body is nearly pressed against mine.
“M-Miki? What are you doing?” I stare at her in shock.
Her eyes are closed. She opens them to look into mine, glaring at me in... in determination, I think. What is she...? Why?
“Something I should have done last year and I'm sorry for that, Suzu. I really am.” She says.
Miki, Miki please don't leave me too, please don't hurt me or think that I'm--
“It's not your fault.”
Her words cut through my thoughts like a machete. My body stiffens and I stare at her, wide eyed.
She moves forward, wrapping her arms around me tightly, still pushing me against the wall.
“It's not your fault.” She says again. I let out a strangled moan and she tightens her grip on me, almost to the point of being painful.
“Miki...” And here I thought... I thought I was all cried out. But no, tears are streaming down my face. Miki continues to hold me in her arms.
“It's not your fault. Suzu. It's not your fault.” She repeats it over and over again, I just sob into her shoulder for what feels like days. Until I can't think, until I can't hurt, until I can't cry anymore.
I wake up. It's Saturday, the last day of school. Tomorrow, summer vacation begins. I don't know what will happen next, during the break, and after that, even less.
I'm sitting on the edge of the roof.
Slowly, carefully, I get to my feet. I take a long look around. The wind is blowing, but the sky is bright and clear. It's a beautiful day. The day of Hisao's operation.
I turn my gaze to the sight below me. Students are milling across the courtyards, like nothing's wrong, like nothing's changed. And for them, nothing has.
Even though I just woke up, I still feel so tired.
I glance back at the rest of the roof behind me. This is dangerous. If I fell asleep again, I could fall. I could die.
I should step back.
I turn my head to look up at the sky again. All that blue is just light scattering among molecules in the atmosphere.
I slept through that lecture, although I probably should have already known that. Science isn't, isn't my best subject, but Hisao helped make sure I understood it. He made it fun, he made it interesting.
I look down. I don't really think I cared about science, about particles and diffusion and light waves. But he did. And I cared about him.
I really should step back.
I should, I should. I told Hisao I would be there when he woke up. And Miki promises that everything will be all right, somehow. Just wait and see Suzu, just don't...
Just don't do something. Just don't hurt yourself. Just stay with me, she had said. It will be okay.
I don't know if I believe her. I don't know what I believe anymore. She's been spending the night in my room, keeping a constant eye on me. And somehow I've still managed to slip away from her in my sleep and wind up here.
I can almost hear the ocean, in the wind that rustles through the trees. But I don't think that's why I'm on the roof.
My parents are driving up to take me home as soon as class is over today. I really should--
“Please get down from there.” A voice calls from behind me. I flinch, I almost fall off the roof then and there, but I grip the broken fence on either side of me tightly, turning my head to look behind me. I wish I could say I was surprised by what I see. I really do.
“I don't feel like playing anymore.” I turn back to stare across the school grounds. I can hear his footsteps crunching across the small layer of stones spread throughout the rooftop as he walks over to stand next to the tear in the fence.
“You know I always wanted you to win.” He says quietly. I look over, into those bright green eyes. His pale skin is almost white in contrast to his pitch black robe. The hood is pulled down, the wind teases his messy, sea-green hair. He's smiling at me. That warm, gentle smile.
“Can't you come over here, Suzu?” He asks. “I don't suppose you'd be willing to try for best out of three?”
“I've already lost.” I say simply. Seiji, I don't want to do this anymore, I don't want to walk in circles in my dreams and think about what life would be like if things could only have been different.
I look up into his eyes, and he stares straight back at me, a look of quiet understanding on his face.
“Seiji.” I grimace. “I'm tired.”
“I know, Suki.” He says gently. He slips through the hole in the fence, taking a seat on the edge of the roof a few feet away from me. I sit down as well. We stay like that for a few minutes, the only sounds being the soft rush of the wind and the distant voices of the world below us. They seem to be growing louder, maybe the school day is starting soon. I can't even begin to care right now.
“Now this, we didn't use to do all the time.” My brother flashes me a smile, its warmth only dulled by the deep, tired rings around his eyes. I manage to return it. I missed this. I missed him. Even if this is just some waking hallucination.
Behind us, I hear the sound of the door to the roof swinging open.
“Hey Suzu, good news, Hisao is-” Miki's voice cuts off abruptly. She must have known to look for me here by now.
“Suzu?” She calls. I feel my heart begin to sink. She's going to pull me back onto the roof and then, then she'll probably lecture me and drag me down the stairs. I think I'm too tired for that. But for some reason, I'm really not that worried. I actually feel pretty peaceful right now.
“Are you up here?” Miki's voice calls again. I crane my neck around, I shouldn't be hard to spot, the fence isn't thick or anything. In fact, she's looking right at me.
Miki's expression slowly hardens as she steps closer to the hole in the fence. “Suzu?” Her voice is quieter now.
She's right next to me, on the other side of the fence. Her chest rising and falling rapidly, her breathing heavier.
“Miki.” I say, giving her a confused smile. “I'm right here, what is it?”
But she doesn't look at me. She leans through the hole in the fence. She looks down.
Her hand flies to her mouth.
“Suzu!” She half cries, half gasps. Miki stumbles backwards, turning and bolting for the staircase as fast as she can. In an instant, she's gone. I think I can hear a distant, sobbing wail drift through the open door. But I'm not sure.
Next to me, Seiji is watching me carefully. I don't think I've ever seen his eyes hold sorrow before.
I stare back at him. Now that I think of it, the voices below seem to have gotten louder. But I don't look down, I don't. Something tells me I already know what I'll see if I do.
I focus on the gentle sounds of the wind in the trees. I focus on the boy sitting next to me.
“Am I still dreaming?” I ask quietly, not sure if I should be scared, or crying, or anything like that.
Seiji's eyes hold only sorrow now. His only response is an apologetic smile.
I resist the urge to look down. Instead, I look up, at the sky, at the endless blue. Beyond that, I know that there are stars, waiting just out of sight. Millions and millions of them. An endless expanse.
Seiji stands up, slowly and cautiously. He walks a little closer. I glance over at him, I still don't feel scared, I don't even feel numb. I'm just tired.
I stand up too, and his warm smile returns.
“Take my hand, Suki.” He says, reaching forward.
I accept. The hand in mine is warm.
Seiji looks me right in the eyes, smiling as if this were nothing more than the end of a long, long day.
“Make your move.” He says.
So I do.