I'm working on redoing parts of part 3. Probably going to have 2 more chapters exploring Hanako's mental degradation, because it feels too fast and lacks motivation. I'll post those later.
But, for the people who want to actually have the story continue (and for her birthday), the conclusion. It's probably a bit short for what it should be, but I like where it is right now.
Chapter 5: Life
Searing pain. Up my arm, through my bloodstream, to my neck and head. Blades dig into my skin, fire engulfs the right side of my body. Reliving the torment. Then... gone, as quick as it came. Awake.
Just a nightmare. I don't jump up like they do in the movies. I'm too used to the nightmares by now for that.
Light assaults my eyes as they squint open. My arm stings and itches. I reach over to scratch it, but a needle sitting in my scar tissue says otherwise. The white paint on the walls really doesn't help the bright lights. Cocking my to head to get a better look at my left arm, I catch my first glimpse of the stitches.
The wound is still rather fresh, as evidenced by the new, red scar running from my wrist to my elbow. Whoever sewed me up did a good job of cleaning it, that's for sure. If not for the stitches themselves, you'd never know it bled.
The needle in my right arm bothers me. It's connected to a bag filled with blood of my type.
A voice. "Good to see you're awake, Miss Ikezawa." It startles me. The owner sits on the wall to the left of my bed, making notes on his clipboard. "You've made quite the recovery, if I do say so myself."
"Wh-who are you?" I squeak. I would ask where I am, too, but that's painfully obvious.
"Consider me a friend." He eyes my stitches as he stands from the chair, walking toward me. "You cut yourself up pretty badly there, huh?"
"Y-yeah... I... I g-guess I did."
"You're very lucky to be alive. Mister Nakai and Miss Satou were very brave." They... they saved me? After what I did to them? But...
My brain changes gears. "Wh-where are they?"
His face turns rather sour. Trying to keep his neutral expression intact. Just like all doctors do. "Mister Nakai is in his own room. He had a heart attack while he was with you yesterday." I... I almost killed him. Because of my choice, he put himself in harm's way. "After all those things I said andallIdidandhe'sgoingtohatemeand..." I hear my own voice. Did I say all of that out loud?
The doctor is taken aback at my small fit. "Don't worry, he's stable. He just needs rest." His words calm me.
Hisao... risked his life for me? Maybe not directly, but he wanted me to be safe. To protect me. I've always hated him doing that, but this feels different. This is what I wanted him to do in the classroom. Maybe this is what he meant when he talked about being my keeper, my steward, my knight in shining armor. Not to treat me like a child, but to keep me safe from physical and emotional harm.
The voice breaks me from my inner world. "Miss Ikezawa?" I snap forward, and he cocks his head. "Would you like me to send Miss Satou for you?"
Would I? It feels like this is going to be terribly awkward. Does she really want to visit me right now? After all the things I did to her? It's unbelievable. How can she be so forgiving? I pushed her away, dragging her with me into the depths of fury.
Yet he said that they saved my life. I think that's as good an answer as any. "Y-yes please," I mutter with a smile.
I lay back in silence as he leaves. My eyes close for a moment. The new scar still burns, but its pain will fade, with time. All I can see behind my closed eyes is his face. What he must have looked like when I saw him rushing into my room. I was sinking, but he saw fit to pull me up.
A smile creeps across my face again. I'll have to thank him, when I get the chance.
The door creaks open, and my eyelids follow suit. In the doorway, two blonde-haired females, arm in arm, a metal rod extended from one's hand. She bears a familiar pair of clouded blue eyes.
"L-lilly..." I stammer. She picks up my voice instantly and follows it to my bedside, her cane tapping back and forth to survey the floor. I'm grateful that she can't see me in this broken state.
Her hand reaches for my face, and she makes out its contours. "Hanako..." she whispers. "My dearest Hanako." That same compassion she showed me when I tried to force her away. Through it all, she remains faithful. After everything I've done to hurt her, this doesn't make sense.
She collapses onto me, wrapping her arms around my neck. "I'm so glad you're safe." Her voice cracks from the tears of joy hitting my shoulder. Almost reluctantly, I return her embrace.
There is no rage this time. I had forgotten what this kind of love felt like. Unconditional. No terms, no agreements.
Akira just wears a sincere smile on her face as she leans against the wall. No words are necessary. The moment speaks for itself.
Paradise lost, and then reclaimed.
My eyes flutter open to a white ceiling. A heart monitor beats in rhythm. It's all too familiar. I'm in the hospital... again. I try to piece together why I'm here. I remember Hanako's room with Lilly, trying to stop the bleeding... then darkness. Blacked out from a heart attack due to all the excitement.
"Is he awake?" That voice is familiar. I turn my head to the side, eyes still barely open. My father is sitting in a chair, but my mother is situated directly next to my bed. She's positively beaming as she throws her arms around me.
"Oh, thank the gods, you're alive! We were worried sick!"
I give her a pat on the back, the catheter in my arm providing some resistance. "Mom, it's okay."
"No, it's not okay!" She pulls away, tears in her eyes. "We almost lost you again. Do you know how that feels?" ...can't say I do, but I think almost losing one of my closest friends is pretty close. Which reminds me...
"Where's Hanako?" They look bewildered. Of course, they don't know her. Plan B. "Can you get a doctor? I want some info."
"Sure," my father answers, almost grumbling. I get the feeling he's tired, and he's always cranky when he's tired. "They'll want to know you're up, anyways. Be right back."
Another question immediately comes to mind. "Mom, how long have I been here?" Given how little I remember, it must have been a while.
"You were out cold for two days." She puts her hand on my chest. "They had to operate again to keep you alive." Another scar... at least they're easily concealable.
My father returns with a doctor. That was surprisingly fast. "Ah, Mr. Nakai," the doctor begins, making notes on his clipboard. "Good to see you're awake. How are you feeling?"
"About as good as a guy in a hospital can, I guess." My mother glares at me for the smart-ass response. Dad just laughs.
The doctor clears his throat. "Yes, well. I'm sure you've been told we had to emergency operate to keep you with us. We'll be keeping you here for a few days just to make sure you're stable. As always, take your medicine, watch your physical activity... I think you know most of this by now."
"Yes, sir." Respectful. That's a new one.
"Good. You should be set, then. Any questions?"
"Yeah, just one: How's Hanako?" Short-lived respectfulness. My parents still look bewildered that I would be so worried about some girl.
He flips through his noteboook trying to match the name. "Ah, you mean Miss Ikezawa?" I nod. "She's perfectly fine. Alive and well, some might say." Good. "Miss Satou stopped by to see her yesterday. I hear their visit went quite well." Even better.
I thank the doctor for his time. He takes a few more notes on my status, then heads off on his way. Mom and Dad decide that it's dinner time; the clock says they're about right. So they head off together, leaving me alone in this sterile room.
I'm exhausted. I've only been awake for a few minutes, but hospitals have a way of just draining the life out of you. The stillness doesn't quite help either, and the beeps of the heart monitor almost sound like a lullabye. My eyelids are heavy and shut of their own accord.
For the first time in weeks, I'm able to sleep peacefully.
A pleasant nap. I look up at the clock: 10:30pm; I was out for around four hours, then. Visitation hours have been over for a while, so there's no chance of seeing my parents again. At least for today. What to do for a few hours...
I wonder if there's a library here?
The catheter's been removed from my arm, so I assume it's safe for me to walk around. If I get in trouble, they'll just reprimand me and send me back here. No hurt in trying.
Getting up is a challenge. It's been a few days since I've been on my feet, and the heart attack can't have helped my strength. Still, I manage to find my balance after a few steps while holding onto the bed. I check a hospital map hanging on my room's wall. "Found one," I say to myself.
The trip isn't long, and the library is luckily on my floor. I'm not too sure how I'd be able to handle steps right now. My balance gives out every now and then, so I keep close to a wall as often as possible.
Much like the one at my first hospital, this one is small, and mostly covered in piles of books. They aren't very well organized, but at least there's some selection. There are also a few tables and chairs scattered amongst the collection, some with patients sitting and reading.
I traverse from stack to stack, picking out interesting titles as I find them, using the occasional table to right my balance. Most of these I've already read, but some of them are worth a second go, if I remember right.
As I take a book from the top of one pile, I notice a girl sitting alone at one of the tables. She's slim, almost frail, with long dark hair, gray eyes, and her nose buried in a book. The scars on her exposed right hand affirm my guess at who she is.
How did I know I would find her here?
I walk up to the table with my set of books. What do I say to her? Just a friendly hello? Try to make small talk? Will she even respond?
She takes notice of me, and her eyes get big. Guess I'd better take my chances now.
I set my collection on the table. "Um..." I scratch the back of my head, nervously. "Hi, Hanako."
She shoves her left arm under the table, but not before I see the stitches going up to her elbow. "H-hey, Hisao."
"Do you... do you mind if I sit with you?" She shakes her head gently. I take a seat and open the first book. My mind wanders, making it hard to focus on the words. I'm too concerned about what she thinks of me right now. Is she scared of me? She looks up from her book every now and then, catching quick looks. I'm reminded of the first time I met her, sitting on that bean bag in the library as she tried to survey my potential as a threat to her little bubble. It was adorable then, and it's adorable now.
I feel like I should try to talk to her, but I'm terrified of screwing things up again. We worked so hard to try and fix things, and now there's a chance they might be back to normal. God forbid they go back to the past week or so instead.
Her voice catches my attention. "Th-thank you."
I look up. She's put the book down, a page marked and closed. She's just sitting there, grasping her arm and trying to look down and away from me. Is she as frightened as I am? "For what?" I ask.
She smiles. "F-for coming."
"Coming here? Just a coincidence that I ran into you." She shakes her head violently. "Then coming where?"
"T-to my room. I'd be gone i-if you didn't. Not here. Not anywhere." Oh. That. She looks at the stitching on her arm, a painful reminder of what she did to herself. "A-and... I'm sorry. For... for everything."
"You're sorry? I'm the one who should be apologizing here. I was wrong. I should've let you be alone. That was obviously what you wanted." That sounded a little more condescending than I intended.
Another shake of her head. "I w-wasn't mad that you wanted to see me. I was mad because... beacuse of how you t-treated me." How I treated her? "I wanted you to see me... a-as someone strong. As more th-than a porcelain doll." Oh, the doting. I try to remember what I said that day in her room. The memory is distant, but what does come to mind isn't pretty. I sounded pretty condescending back then, I'm sure.
"Are you mad now?" I ask.
A fleeting smile this time, quickly replaced by watering eyes. "I-I don't think so. Th-that darkness showed me what you saw. I... I really am helpless." Now tears flow. "I f-fell so far, and I dragged you d-down with me. I couldn't be strong for you."
"But you are incredibly strong. You had a dark spell. We all go through rough times in our life."
"D-do they go as far as I did?" Point taken. "I don't deserve f-friends like you and Lilly. M-my fear got the b-better of me, and I turned it into cruelty."
What on earth is she getting at here? It feels like she's trying to push herself away this time, like she doesn't even feel like we can have a friendship anymore. I can't let her do that. We've come too far to let her just walk away.
"Nonsense." She looks up at me, her cheeks wet. I reach for her hand, clasping it tightly. "Emotion does a lot to people. We do things we shouldn't do, say things we don't mean... you're no different. You can still be strong, even through all the hardship."
My free hand flies to my chest. "This scar isn't your fault. This scar is there because I wanted to help you. I didn't expect that it would mean saving your life, but you shouldn't blame yourself. No one is at fault here. Especially not you."
It feels like I'm talking to a deer in the headlights. "Lilly and I kept going because we love you, because you mean so much to us. We couldn't bear to see you hurting. I can't..." Those eyes are distracting.
"Y-you can't what?" How do I answer her? Just spill what I feel?
It's as good a plan as any.
"I can't let you go that easily, Hana." She stares at me when I call her that name. I wonder if she's ever been called that. She certainly doesn't act like she objects. "You mean too much to me."
She frowns. "B-but how can you s-say that after all that I've done?"
My hand pulls away from her. "Because... I dunno. I'm not exactly a rational person, I guess."
A light chuckle escapes her throat. "Isn't that w-what got you into this mess?"
"I guess it is." I look away and up into the ceiling. It's a solid barrier between us and the outside world, but I feel like I'm staring at a boundless sky. "Hey," I start back up, still looking at the ceiling, "why don't we try this again? Maybe we can start over."
She smiles again, but holds it this time while she speaks. "I... I'd like that."
Now I'm the one grinning ear-to-ear as I turn back to face her. "Alright. Hi," I extend my hand to her. "I'm Hisao Nakai. We're in the same class together."
Another early morning. Hanako and I spent a good deal of time talking last night, pretending like it was the first time we met. We basically re-experienced our entire time together at school in those few hours. Our conversation was so effortless, like nothing had changed between us. As if that fateful day in her bedroom never even happened.
We only started talking again yesterday, but it already feels like she's opening back up to me. For two people trying to "start over", we're moving so fast. Normally, I'd think that's a bad thing.
Yet this feels right.
I think it was good for us, in a way. For our friendship, at the very least. For more... well, that remains to be seen.
She's actually leaving the hospital today. The clinical psychiatrist deemed her mentally stable enough to head back to Yamaku. She'll be bearing a new scar this time, but she doesn't seem bothered by it. That one will fade with the years, even though she'll be back to have her stitching removed in a few weeks.
It's about 7:30am, according to the clock. Visitation starts at 8:00am, so the hospital is still deserted. I wonder how much longer I'll be in here. My surgeon is supposed to come see me today to discuss my physical state. The doctors think I could be here no longer than a few more days. Which is good, I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.
I reach for my book to pick up some reading before the surgeon arrives. A few chapters later, there's a knock on the door. "Come in," I respond.
It creaks open, but it's not a doctor like I expected. It's a timid figure, standing in the door frame, face covered by a single scarred hand.
"Hana, what are you doing here?" She's still dressed in her hospital gown, which is surprising. I thought she'd be back in her regular clothes, ready to head out the front door as soon as Akira arrived to pick her up.
"I..." she mutters. "I wanted to see you."
I set my book down, hands holding it open, which she takes as an invitation. She walks over to my bedside. There's a strange look in her eyes. Not one of pity, like I'd expect. She knows the feeling of being pitied all too well, I guess. It's almost... a shy affection.
Her eyes drift to my chest. The hospital gown I'm wearing is so thin, it's nigh-transparent. Enough for the red of my newest scar to show through, at least. She waivers a little bit at the sight. I guess she still blames herself for what happened. Will she ever really get over that?
The dark gray of her irises stares into my light brown, and she reaches for her face. But it's not to cover her own deformities.
She takes the lock of hair covering her right half and brushes it back behind her ear. The scarring is completely exposed. This is the real Hanako. Her lips morph into a tender smile, and I can't help but shoot one back.
"Wh-what are you reading?" she asks, cocking her head.
I pick up the book and show her the cover: 'Life of Pi.' "Would you like to join me?"
She nods and sits on the bed with me. Before I know it, she's situated her head on my chest, throwing her arm around me in a cuddling position. I put my own arm around her, and she snuggles closer as I gently scratch the back of her shoulder. If she was somehow oblivious enough to not know how much I cared about her already, I'm pretty sure she gets the message now.
Our reading pace is similar, so my page turns match up well. After only a few pages read, she whispers my name, looking up at me with those big, dark eyes. "Hisao?"
"Yes?" I respond.
She plants a kiss on my cheek, and I turn bright red.
Cue bitching about the ending being too happy, too sudden, etc.