Try To Remember
Where... where am I? What day is it? What YEAR is it? Sleep still has a tight grip on me as I emerge from my dream, blankets, blankets everywhere and... and my bed is so warm, what time is...
“You must choose!” The evil wizard pushes his glasses up from the bridge of his nose, grinning, well, evilly. He gestures to the two vats of acid set up behind him. Why is acid always in vats, and why are they always in abandoned warehouses like these? Could you have a vat of something else, like lemonade?
Ooh. A vat of lemonade, I would swim in that. But wait um, for now though I guess I...
Is that... is that a bird and... why is it so bright in my room, are my parents home today? I make something between a yawn and a moan as I try to shake the clouds from my head, what's for breakf... no, I can't do it. The world will be completely fine without my presence for another few hours, I... I think. What was... I think I was just about to...
“Choose!” The supervillian before me has used his dark magics to control the blood of both a picturesque, middle-class family and my partner in crime fighting, the uncanny Stumpfist!
I've never met someone who was canny, what does that really--ahem. They're both perched on a plank above the pits, and now I'm being offered a chance to spare only one of them!
“You'll never get away with this, The Cold Blooded One!” I narrow my eyes, determined to thwart his evil scheme. The boy in front of me frowns, standing up from his dramatic pose and straightening his blue and brown robes.
“H-hey.” He says. “It's weird when you say it like that. You don't really need to add the 'the', you can just--”
“Take this!” No time for mindgames, I have to save my best friend! And, um, those nice people too, they look like they need to get to soccer practice or something. I leap into the air, plummeting towards my foe with increasing speed. Being a bad guy, he is of course spellbound by the sight and unable to move from the spot.
“Special falling-down-covered-in-spikes attack!” I cry, hurtling towards him. The dastardly foe is helpless to evade, for no one can withstand the fury of--
I wake up, just when I was getting to the good part. The warehouse is gone, and so are the vats, maybe next time they'll be filled with lemonade? Okay though, now... now I think I'm awake for real, I think... yeah. Yeah, okay.
My bed is really warm today and, and why am I a little over to the side? I feel movement next to me, someone lets out a yawn. A blunted wrist, wrapped in bandages, snakes around my stomach. “What's the story, morning glory?” A groggy voice asks.
Oh. Ohh, I remember now. The people of Yamaku City might have vanished, but the hero that I fought alongside is still here, in fact, she's lying next to me in the bed. I can feel her warmth, and, her, er, generous chest pressing into my back.
I turn around to look at her. She's always kind of a mess first thing in the morning, it's such a departure from her usual sly vigor. Her long hair is everywhere and she's blinking at me drowsily, whatever time it is right now is probably earlier than she's used to, since it's summer break and she loves to sleep in. So do I, it's... it's nice when you have things in common with your friends, right?
The last week or so has been a lot of fun, Miki has been making up for all the time I spent lying around my house with nothing to do but feel miserable and lose sleep. By now, my dreams have started to calm down, return to what passes for normal. I'm glad, and I know she is too.
“I think I got him.” I grin at her, even though I'm still waking up. “With my special attack.”
Miki blinks several times. “Are you a magical girl?”
“No way!” I shake my head, magical girls are for girls. “I'm Narcolepta.”
She rolls her eyes. “Crime fighting again?” But when I nod, she starts grinning too.
Miki yawns. “Well since you've saved the day, Suzu, what do you wanna do now?” She asks, stretching her toned form.
Hmm. That's a good question, my parents won't be home until later so we have the whole house to ourselves for the moment. I want... I want to...
“Eat breakfast.” I reply, that sounds like a sensible plan. That's... that's the proper course of action, that's step 1.
“Alright.” Miki looks thoughtful. “What about after that?”
Hmmm. Step 2. We could... how about....
“Eat lunch.” I nod. Miki pouts, puffing her cheeks in mock frustration.
“What else besides eating, gaylord?”
What... what else is there. What time is it? I turn my head to glance at the clock and feel her hand on my shoulder, is she trying to reassure me agai--no, no, she's pushing me, with her good hand and with her feet now too. I let out a yelp as I suddenly find myself teetering over the edge of my bed.
“Get up.” She insists. “You're cooking breakfast.”
“But you said I was a terrible cook!” I protest, trying desperately to regain my balance.
“You're the one who ate all the microwavable things before I got here!” She gives me a final shove and then my world consists of the carpet of my bedroom floor. It's so thick that the only sound is the tired moan that I offer as I slowly roll onto my back.
I stare up my ceiling, eyes still a little blurry. A frowning Miki appears in my vision.
“Besides, I can't cook either.” She mutters.
“We're screwed.” I sigh. Parents are gone, I think I already ate everything in the house that had 'instant' in the name. “We're gonna die.”
But Miki grins. “Justice never dies.” She says with a wink, climbing out of the bed. She reaches down to pull me up, something in my shoulder pops as I get to my feet. Right, the floor of that movie theater lobby says hello.
Undaunted, she just gives me a shake, probably taking the hint from the longing glances I keep shooting towards my pillows. “Come on.” She says lightly. “I have a plan.”
“Can I just say that this is the best idea.” I mumble in between bites. Seated next to me, our backs to the freezer, Miki hums her agreement.
Together, we had scoured the kitchen until it appeared there was only one option remaining. Although we briefly debated the moral and spiritual ramifications of our actions, we eventually agreed that there was little choice. And so, with full knowledge that our immortal souls will bear the burden of our sins and still wearing our sleep clothes, we sit here, happily eating ice cream for breakfast.
It should be illegal. It's certainly unethical, I think we might have crossed into anti-hero territory because of it. But it's delicious and cold and that's all that really matters right now.
“This is so wrong.” Miki comments, even as she continues to eat.
“But it feels so right.” I reply, and she nods. We continue munching, chomping and slurping in silence for a few minutes. When we're finished, Miki gets to her feet, easily tossing the container into the trash before leaning against the counter. She gazes out the window, almost seeming to absorb the morning light, like a plant or something. A... dark-skinned, ice-cream eating plant.
No, that didn't turn out as flattering as I wanted it to sound. But maybe she actually is trying to soak up some of the sun's rays, it's earlier than we've been getting up for the past week. Today is different, though. Tomorrow she has to head home, she came here both to be with me and to escape from her boring, deserted house.
It's been a lot of fun, I feel worlds better than I did at the start of the break. We went shopping, we went to see a movie, Miki dragged me to some country festival and even to the amusement park that I used to go to when I was a kid. It was nice to finally ride a roller coaster for real this time, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I would never get to enjoy one with Hisao outside of my dreams, because of his heart condition.
It made me start wondering about some of the other things that he might not be able to do, like... like climb Mount Everest, or be a super soldier, or something like that. But I guess it's not all bad, because there's a bunch of things that my narcolepsy prevents me from ever doing, too. Like... like climbing Mount Everest, or... super soldiering.
I guess it's like he said once before, we're kind of alike. And maybe, maybe we can fill in eachother's gaps, maybe what I can do will kind of overlap with what he can't, and vice versa.
Maybe having him around will make missing out on all those things sting a little bit less.
“Are you ready?” Miki asks, prompting me to glance back up at her. I guess my gaze had drifted down to the kitchen floor, I don't really think I was lost in thought, even though I was thinking. It's more like...
“Sort of.” I crack a weak smile, today is the day Hisao arrives. Today is the day we go to the beach! But I'm... I'm so tired all of a sudden.
This isn't fair, ice cream doesn't make you tired, it... it makes you hyper, or something along those lines. It's supposed to give you energy not... put you to sleep.
I know it's not because of my choice in breakfast though, it's my condition again, and... and even though I really am excited for today, and I know I need to get cleaned up before Hisao gets here, I... can't keep my eyes open any longer. I end up sinking sideways onto the cool tile floor, in a few moments Miki is shaking me.
“Come on, you.” She says gently. “I'm not giving you a sponge bath.”
“Don't want one.” I mumble, trying to fight the spreading fuzziness that threatens to shut my head down.
“Come on.” She insists, giving me another shake. She knows it's not my fault and that I'm on her side here, I... I want to, it's just I don't really have a choice in the...
“Oh hey, Hisao! You're here early!” Miki calls. My eyes spring open, what? Where? How?
I look around the room, a mix of panic, anticipation and want all jumbling into a warm, cold sensation in my stomach. But there's... I don't see any messy-haired boys, or... or sweatervests or anything, where is...
“Get up.” Miki says with narrowed eyes. She extends her hand to pull me up for the second time, but I sink back against the freezer with a long groan. It was a trap, this isn't... that's not fair.
She has a point, though. Sort of. I mean, I really do need to take a shower and get dressed, he's seen me first thing in the morning before, but I want to at least put some normal clothes on, it's been so long since I've seen him in person. Too long. Still pouting a little, I take Miki's outstretched hand, staggering upwards and then trudging back with her towards my room.
As it turns out, there wasn't any real need to rush. By the time a cab finally pulls up in front of the house, it's almost noon, and I desperately need a nap. I'm sitting on the porch with Miki, blinking heavily and occasionally drifting to the side now and then when the sudden appearance of familiar yellow catches my very weakened attention.
“Took his damn sweet time, I see.” Miki is grinning even as she complains. I want to be grinning too, but I'm, I'm suddenly nervous, and I'm still so tired. It's been a while, weeks and weeks by now since I last saw him. But here he is, he's getting out of the car.
He doesn't look any different, not really. He's got that stupid, great sweatervest on, just like I predicted. He looks kind of tired, like he's still been staying up too late even though I've been going to bed earlier with Miki around.
He finishes paying the driver. And then he turns towards me, and he's, he's still got that stupid, great smile, too. I burn the image into my memory, daring to close my eyes for a few moments as I hold it there with all my might.
It's just like before. Nothing's different, and he's back.
Did I think I would never see him again? I don't know, all I know for sure is that my heart is managing to beat so fast and still feel like it's melting at the same time.
I open my eyes, stop. Hisao, stop smiling like that, now I... now I'm smiling too, but I'm blinking a lot and my eyelids are so heavy. I'm sorry, Hisao. I want to do something stupid and cliché, like run into your arms and have you spin me around or something, even though that sounds a little dangerous. But that's what I want, it's what I would feel like doing if... if my body would just move. If I could just wake up.
Miki gives me a pat on the shoulder before standing up and walking over to our new arrival. With every effort to keep my eyes open, I watch her ball her good hand into a fist and offer it to him. Hisao stares for only a few seconds before limply raising his own. Her expression completely deadpan, Miki brings her first to his, then pulls her hand away while spreading her fingers and making an explosion noise with her mouth.
Hisao grins and shakes his head, before continuing to... continuing to come closer, get up, please, legs, why won't you move? He's right here now. He's standing in front of me.
I want this to be special, or romantic or I don't know. But all I can do is lift my head to look up at him and offer a strained smile.
“Hi,” is the best I can manage, is all I can offer. Damn it, damn i--
But he just smiles back, and it's that... that same old, warm smile that I've missed so much. “Hey.” He says.
Now I really want to at least stand up and hug him, but I can't even stay awake. I try not to grimace as my eyelids grow heavier than... than something. Something really heavy. Mount... Mount Everest.
“Sorry.” I mumble as my head drops, my eyes closing on their own.
“Don't worry about it.” Hisao says fondly. He must have squat down to be on eye level with me now, his voice is closer.
“Take five.” He adds. “I'll be here.”
I feel him plant a gentle kiss on my forehead and almost want to cry, I want to raise my head and kiss him back, I want him to hold me and not let go. But more than all that, what my body wants is to take a nap, and... and sometimes it gets to speak louder than the rest of me.
Everything fades away to a dull, warm haze as sleep overtakes me.
For the second time today, I wake up shrouded in blankets. Someone must have carried me back to my room, when did I... where was...
Memory jolts through me like a shock. I almost jump out of the bed, stepping onto the thick carpet and taking long, quick strides to the door. I can hear the sound of voices beyond, my parents must be back, my father is driving us to the beach after all but that doesn't matter, the only thing that matters, is... is...
I grab the door and open it, stepping out into the hall and immediately bumping straight into a somewhat tall, warm body.
Oh. I know this shape. Um, I know this smell, and this sweatervest.
I know this boy.
“Hey, I was just--” He begins, but my arms are already wrapped around his sides, my face is buried in his chest. I'm not missing this chance, I'm, I'm not putting this off any longer.
“Hi.” My voice is muffled from speaking into his sweater, but I'm pretty sure he can make it out.
“Hey.” Hisao says softly, hugging me back. He rests his head on mine, just like... just like before.
“I missed you.” I mumble.
“I missed you t--” I cut him off again, but this time by raising my head and pressing my lips to his. I cling to him with all my might as weeks and weeks of tension, longing, breaking down and patching up are all encompassed in one simple act. Hisao kisses back, our movements and the soft breaths that we steal in between them are the only sounds.
We part, but I'm not, I'm not done yet and I hope he isn't either. I gently grab the back of his head, pulling him downward so that his forehead is resting against mine, our noses just barely touching. He doesn't resist, he just smiles. I close my eyes.
Hey, hi, Hisao, I missed you. Hisao I, I, bad things happened while you were away, and good things too but now, now you're back. And we can have fun today and then just, we can do nothing the whole rest of the week, just hang around. Just waste time, just not have nightmares. It will be like normal, it will be like before.
It's going to be okay now, I open my eyes. I pull away, feeling my face grow a little hot and hoping that I didn't go overboard. But Hisao is still hugging me tightly, still smiling, I wonder if he plans on stopping any time soon. I hope he doesn't, on both counts.
“Hope you brought a swimsuit.” I say, breaking into an embarrassed grin. “Unless your sweater is some kind of floatation device.”
Hisao grins back. “Super suit, remember? You'd be surprised.”
I just shake my head, hugging him close again and resting the side of my head against his chest. I try to think up some quip about how he's super, or full of surprises, but his warmth is just, just too distracting. So I stay quiet, I bask in it, until I'm in danger of falling asleep again.
I don't think I'd mind, though. In fact, even if I did pass out again, I know it would be all right. Because he's going to be here when I wake up. Because he's not going anywhere.
Okay, um, I think we're all set. Now just to head out before--
I can hear the sound of my dad honking the horn outside. Before that.
“Okay, okay!” I call, although I doubt he can hear me. Both Miki and my father are already in the car, everything's packed, just need to... just need to grab the boy.
Hisao is standing in the middle of the living room, glancing around curiously. He seems to be studying the place, but I can't really think of why, since he's been here before. I walk over to him, my footsteps softened so much by the thick carpet that he doesn't even notice me until I'm tugging on his shirt.
Tearing his gaze from, uh, from something, I don't know, he glances over at me.
“So this is the famed swimsuit that I've heard so much about.” He says, grasping his chin with one hand and pretending to take on a scholarly air.
“Sort of.” I mumble, his sudden scrutiny is embarrassing. It's actually a little chilly outside today, so I'm wearing a gray sweatshirt over top of my swimsuit, you can only really see the bottom for now. Hopefully it warms up a little by the time we get there, but even if it doesn't, I'm determined to go for a swim. He's still looking at me, I grab my sweatshirt and try to tug it down a little with one hand, feeling myself begin to blush.
Hisao is all dressed and ready to go too, I guess. He's wearing a plain white t-shirt and a pair of baggy green swim trunks. I've already made him promise to get in the water with me at least once, even if it's cold. But I don't think it will be, I have a good feeling about today. And tomorrow, and the day after that, as long as he's here.
I think we're about to get into some sort of staring contest, like we used to a long time ago, but the sound of my dad laying on the horn again gets the message across. I shoot a dirty look in his direction, even though there's no hope of him ever seeing it, and then turn back to Hisao.
“Where's your knee brace?” He asks. “I didn't realize what was missing at first.”
Oh, that. I glance down at my bare knee, the skin is noticeably pale, more than the rest of me, anyway.
“I can't swim with it on.” I shrug. “And I'm sure I'll be fine without it for one day.”
Hisao tilts his head. “Is it almost healed?”
I nod. Remembering to stretch and ice it is one of the few routines I've managed to stick to during the break, even though it was horrible having to figure out the proper time to do it because of my mess of a sleep schedule.
It really has almost healed completely by now. It's still a little sore, still a little stiff sometimes. But before too long I won't need to wear the brace anymore at all, and I won't have to be quite as careful when I'm going up or down stairs. Although... although stairs are still generally a bad thing. Bad things? Stairs are still bad.
“You still haven't told me how you hurt it in the first place.” Hisao frowns. But even if I wanted to share that story right now, there wouldn't be time. I have a feeling that another round of honks is coming our way, and really, we do need to get going, it's already late afternoon and I really want to see the waves.
“Now now.” I wink at him, grabbing his hand and beginning to pull him towards the front hall. “If I spill all my secrets, you might not find me interesting anymore.”
Hisao laughs, he starts to walk with me, but... but he's looking at me weird. Was that a bad joke? Does he think I'm hiding something else from him? I'm really not, I... I don't think there's really anything else that I haven't told him. My knee is just a long story, that's all. Or, it's more just one I don't have time to tell right now.
Just before we head out into the hall to leave, Hisao stops, he takes another long look around.
“What is it?” I ask. He's acting strange, is something wrong?
He glances back at me, he looks like he wants to ask something. But he shrugs and smiles again. “It's nothing, come on. We have some surf to hit.”
“Do you know what that means?” I grin as we walk through the door and emerge into the sun. Miki looks like she was just about to get out of the car to retrieve us, she pouts and sinks back into her seat.
“I don't have the slightest idea.” He replies, reaching the car before me and holding the door open. I guess I get to be a Suzu sandwich again, the three of us are in the back while my dad and all our towels and... and other vital beach equipment are up front. My mother is staying behind to catch up on some work, she's not really into this kind of thing anyway.
“What a gentleman.” I smile fondly, slipping past Hisao and buckling up next to Miki. Like usual, she's gone all out and is already wearing nothing but her flashy black bikini. If it wasn't for the bandages where her hand should be, she would look like something out of a calendar, or, or a swimsuit magazine or something like that. But her injury doesn't bother me at all, it doesn't make her any less impressive in my eyes, and from the long, appreciative glance he gives her as he sits down, Hisao probably feels the same way. Or... or something along those lines.
Miki catches him staring. “Do you like it?” She teases playfully. I turn to study Hisao, his expression is uncomfortable as his gaze flickers between me and her.
“You can be honest.” I add, my expression blank. “She's the distraction team, everyone will be so captivated by her beauty that we'll have the whole beach to ourselves.”
“Hey!” An elbow jabs me in the ribs, but there's a hint of a blush creeping into Miki's face when I look over at her.
“Well, in that case, then yeah.” Hisao sounds like he's still treading carefully. “You look amazing, Miki.”
“Uh huh.” She's grinning as she turns to stare intently out the window, her reflection growing even redder. I can't help but smile, Miki is a pretty confident girl, but I know things like that mean a lot to her. With an injury like hers, it could wreck your self-image pretty easily. She's still self-conscious sometimes, she stubbornly refuses to adapt to living with one hand in a bunch of ways. But when she gets a compliment like that, a real, honest one, she kind of glows. And then she tries to hide it, which never ceases to amuse me.
“Where are we going again?” My dad calls from the front seat.
“The nearest big blue wet thing, please.” I reply. Miki chuckles and my father just shrugs, he starts the car and mutters something about us living on an island and how we're sure to get there eventually if we just keep driving long enough. We pull away from the house, and then we're off.
“Is that it?”
“Where?” I crane my neck to get a good look, leaning on Hisao maybe a little too much. He glances at me, I probably look pretty childish right now, but, but...
There it is! Through the trees, I can see patches of pure, endless blue. Grinning apologetically, I reach past Hisao and roll down the window, sucking in a deep breath as pure, salty air rushes in.
“You really did want to see the ocean.” He remarks, raising an eyebrow. I want to feel embarrassed, but I'm too busy staring out at the waves as they grow closer. Or, we're the ones who are growing closer, I mean--
We're here. I can see it, I can smell it. I can practically taste it.
My dad parks the car, everyone is piling out now. Miki stretches her hands--er, her arms above her head and lets out a girlish yawn before grinning at me. The beach isn't even very crowded today, maybe it's a miracle, or maybe the cool weather scared people off. Or maybe it's because it's... no, no, I don't know what day it is. I guess it doesn't really matter anyway. It's even starting to warm up now.
I take a long, slow look around, stepping forward until I can feel the sand beneath my feet. We're here. I'm here.
This is a place that holds nothing but happy memories for me. I would spend hours just sitting and watching the waves, listening to them crash and roar. When I was here, the whole wide world wasn't some scary unknown, it was right in front of me, it was simple and pure and blue. I liked to swim, but... fall asleep and get shaken awake by your family with your mouth, nose and eyes full of salt water one too many times and you don't really feel much like swimming. Besides, I always had to stick right by one of my parents, it was just too dangerous any other way.
Sometimes I would build sand castles and spend forever imagining what kind of intricate traps and cavernous dungeons they would have. They would always be destroyed, either by me falling asleep on them, or by the simple flow of time, or...
Ha. Or by some wandering giant monster, with a fierce roar and tired but bright green eyes. He would smash my sand castles and then, always, without fail, stay to help me build bigger and better ones.
The first time he ever did it, it was an accident, Seiji was walking over to see and he fell asleep and wrecked it. I was just a little girl, I, I cried and cried and he felt so bad! He apologized over and over and even as the sun was setting and our parents were packing up, he was still there, building me the biggest and best sand castle I had ever seen.
And... and every time after that, it was always okay when he pretended to be some giant monster from those cheesy old movies and lumber towards my creations. Because every time he did, it only meant that he would stay right next to me and help make an even better one. I didn't mind at all, I... I was never very good at making sand castles, to be honest. They were always better in my head than they were in real life. So I would make loud, fake boasts about how amazing or incredible they were, knowing my lies would attract divine retribution. Counting on it, in fact, and he knew it.
Even when we started to get older, I would still pretend to gasp in shock as some horrible monster would stride into view and begin wrecking things. He stopped humming his own dramatic theme music once we got old enough to really care about what other people might think. And he roared a little more quietly. But we still kept it up, the water was beautiful, it was refreshing and nice. But it wasn't made for us, it wasn't made for people who could fall asleep at any moment.
We didn't need it. All we needed was eachother.
“Hey.” A boy's voice pulls me back to reality. Hisao is looking at me, eyes narrowed in concern.
“Are you okay?” He asks. “We're here, remember?”
We're what? Oh, right. I look up, look around at the beach. The roar of the waves and the heat of the sun come rushing back, although I'm not sure where they ever went.
Right. Right, we're... we're here. I'm here. Wide, open shores and that endless horizon and all this sand, and I...
I... don't remember the last castle that we ever built together. If, if I had known it would be my last chance, I would have been sure to remember, I wouldn't have stopped until it stood taller than any we'd ever made before. And he would have been right there by my side, he, he would be laughing and smiling like always, I--
If I had only known, I, I would have done so many things differently. I would have told him that I loved him, I would never have--
“Suzu?” Hisao's hand is on my shoulder, my eyes refocus on him again, but they're clouded, they're wet now.
“Sorry.” I mumble, closing my eyes for a few moments to collect myself. Am I apologizing to Hisao? Or to someone else, someone who, who can't hear me any more?
I guess I was wrong. Or, no, I was right, the beach does hold nothing but good memories for me. But even those can sting, somehow.
I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's right. But it still happens. It still hurts.
I'm glad I came here though, I'm glad I get to spend the day with Miki and Hisao. I think I need this, I need to see the never ending waves, I need to feel the cool ocean breeze on my skin.
Maybe, maybe seeing the world like this again, just simple and manageable and blue, maybe that will give me the strength to go back to school. Because when I do, things will be different, they'll be faster and scarier and graduation will be a thing, a real thing that's getting closer and that I don't know how to do.
Maybe, I... maybe this will help. But I can't think about that right now, I'm spacing out again. I need to be here, now, with my friends, I need to at least try swimming and, and Miki brought a beach ball, and...
I need to build a sand castle.
I open my eyes. Hisao is standing next to me, still watching me, but his hands are in his pockets now. I'm not sure how much time a city-slicker like him has spent at the ocean, although I'm not exactly a marine myself. Or is that a mariner? A sub-mariner? I don't know.
Miki passes us, eying me carefully. Even she doesn't know about all the times I would come here as a child. But I force a smile, I mean, I don't know if it's forced, I really am excited to be here. It's turning out to be a nice day after all, and it's beautiful here, I just need something to take my mind off things.
Miki smiles back, sauntering forward a bit to eye the water, she looks like she can't wait to dip in. My dad is setting up a big umbrella a few feet away, he... he already has his nose covered in white sunblock, like something out of an old sitcom. The sight cheers me up right away, he's... he's such a clown.
I turn back to Hisao, he's just standing there. He was probably waiting for me to come back to reality, but now he looks like he's trying to decide whether to laugh or cringe at my dad's antics.
I'm tugging on his shirt again. “Hey.” I say softly. Hisao glances back at me.
“Lose this.” I mumble, pulling on his white t-shirt. He can't swim with it, and we need sunblock too, so...
His expression grows solemn. Why is he... right, right, his scar. And this is a public place, and I don't even know if he's ever shown anyone but me.
I know how much that must hurt, I know that must feel strange. But... is he planning on never going swimming again? What about a spa, or a hot springs? I want to visit one of those one day. And, and it would be great if he could come with me, so now's a good chance to start getting used to it.
“Come on.” I give him a gentle smile, you can do this, Hisao. “It's like a battle scar.”
He smiles back, but it almost looks more like a grimace. “You said I was fat.” He mutters under his breath.
I laugh, so he does tend to carry a grudge. “I didn't mean it. But maybe some of these people are here to whale watch.”
That evokes the tiniest bit of a grin from him, but I know he still needs a little more of a push. I can do that. I reach down and pull off my sweatshirt, rolling it into a ball and tossing it towards my dad. Then I turn back to Hisao, he's looking me up and down and trying not to be weird about it, I, um, appreciate the effort.
“It really is cute.” He says at last, ignoring my scars and bruises and scuffs.
“See?” I smile up at him, even though I know they're there. I know people might look and, and I know how uncomfortable that feels. There was even that one time some onlookers called the police because they thought my parents had been beating me, that was after a particularly rough week at school and I was just falling left and right. But we laughed about it later. Maybe we'll laugh about this one day too, I don't know. But I hope so.
“Come on.” I repeat softly, looking him in the eye. “If I can do it, you can too.”
For a moment he gets that weird look again, the one that he wore back at the house. Like there's something bothering him, like there's something he wants to know. But then he reaches to pull his shirt away, discarding it just like I did.
“There you go.” I say, not really approvingly or proudly, just happy that he's come far enough to be able to do something like that. Happy, really happy that he's here.
Hisao sighs, he shuts his eyes for only a moment then looks at me again. It reminds me of the night he first told me about his arrhythmia, when he started to open up. Maybe he showed me that I could do the same. When he was starting to cheer up and come alive, I was too.
Here he is, Hisao, look how far we've come. You're better than a painting being gradually filled in now, you really are something real and solid, someone I can and have grabbed and held on to for dear life. Someone I'd like to continue holding on to, someone I want to hold on to me when you need it, too.
“Let's go.” I say, giving him a real, heartfelt smile.
“Okay, okay.” He smiles back. “Are you sure it's safe for you to be swimming though?”
“Of course it is!” I grin, taking a moment to glance over at the others. Miki's eyes are narrowed as she tries to work out how to squirt sunblock into her good hand with her stump, and my father is underneath the umbrella and already halfway through a newspaper.
“I'll be fine.” I turn back to Hisao. “As long as you stick close.”
“Deal.” He replies, smiling warmly.
A thought seems to occur to him. He looks over at the ocean, scanning the horizon. “See your ship anywhere?” He asks.
I'm surprised that he remembers something that I only mentioned once. I'm surprised that I remember mentioning it at all, I think I was half asleep at the time. But I don't respond, I just look up at him. He glances back at me.
We stare at eachother for a few long moments. Hisao begins to blush, he gets this embarrassed grin. He looks away for a moment, then at me again. I just keep staring into those warm brown eyes, smiling up at him.
Artwork by Doomish
: This is actually fine because being a magical girl is awful
- The worst.