~Behind my Scars, Chapter 6: Denouement.
I had a nightmare; I awoke in a cold sweat, alone in my room. There are few feelings like it...The loneliness that comes with being alone when all you want is company is crippling. But I’m too nerve-wracked to even consider being upset. In my dream, Hisao fought. He fought for me, and he died for it. Died fighting drunkards. I would say he died for me, but that phrase seems so wrong in this case. Because even if he died protecting me, I would have rather taken the beating than lose him. Sure, it sounds a bit melodramatic. Sure, maybe my preservation instincts aren’t the greatest. But is it so wrong to desire his company? To desire to be with him more than anything? To want him to...Love himself the way he loves me? The thought of loneliness is much worse than the thought of any physical pain.
I clutch my pillow to my chest, then I hear something from across the hall. I glance at my clock to find it is quarter-past midnight. Once standing, I move to quietly open my door, and close it behind me without a sound. I lean in closer to Lilly’s door, and hear Hisao and Lilly talking.
“So you punched him?” Lilly asks.
“What? No, no. I just got up in his face, and he fell backward and I started shouting. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a punch in my life,” says Hisao.
“I see.” Lilly hums pensively, and there’s a brief silence. “Why did you do that, then? Did you feel like you had to protect Hanako?”
Hisao pauses. I anxiously await his answer, gripping my shirt. Part of me wants him to say he was, but the majority of me is screaming the opposite. That’s not what I want out of our relationship. I don’t want to be a damsel. I don’t want him to look down on me. These were things I was thinking about long before we even started dating, and the fact that it’s coming up again is depressing to say the least.
“I suppose you could word it that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Yeah, what the guy said really made me angry. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get mad when someone insults your girlfriend,” says Hisao.
“Certainly natural,” says Lilly.
“But it wasn’t like I thought Hanako needed a knight in shining armour. We talked about this more than once, you and I.”
“That we did.”
“Well, that part hasn’t changed. She’s still someone I want to love first and foremost, not protect. Maybe I was a bit rash, but...Just what the heck was going on? First we get back to find that the city streets are more crowded than a metropolitan city centre during rush hour, then there’s drunk people everywhere, including in the Shanghai, and next I know, someone is trying to insult Hanako. It doesn’t make any sense. And everything was just frustrating. I don’t think I would have done what I did had I not been so worked up before that man even approached us.”
“I’d say those accents certainly didn’t sound Japanese. So perhaps it was foreign tourism? As well, you’d do well to avoid getting worked up like that in the future. I’m sure you gave Hanako quite the scare.”
“Yeah.” Hisao sighs. He sounds very frustrated; I want to walk in and hug him and tell him it’s all right, but my body refuses to move from this point. “I couldn’t help myself. Hanako and I had talked the night before, and...I feel like she is starting to overcome her insecurity about her scarring. Even if just a little. So something that would go against that is all the more frustrating.”
“Oh? What makes you say she’s overcoming it?”
“She asked me why I don’t look at her differently because of her scars. I was honest and told her that I think she’s beautiful regardless.”
“How cute,” Lilly giggles. The way she said that so genuinely makes my cheeks burn. “But I think it’ll take more than just one person saying that to completely change her view of herself.”
“That won’t stop me from trying. Won’t stop me from making sure there is at least one person who tells her that.”
“And rightly so. Because you’ve become very important to her, you know. More so than I think you realize.”
“Why do you say that?”
Lilly pauses at Hisao’s question. Their conversation seems to be dying down to a point. A point where I feel I could maybe come in inconspicuously and say I just woke up. Which is...Mostly true. But I freeze when I hear Lilly start up again, because I know the slightly turn of the handle would alert her attention. I was careful enough to not make a sound coming over, but this close to Lilly, I’m convinced she could hear silence.
“Well, for one, she doesn’t link arms with me when you’re around. Haven’t you noticed that?” Lilly’s voice sound slightly sad. My careful and still hand starts to shake. I feel the blood drain from my face. What is she saying?
“Er, no...I haven’t really noticed. But now that you mention it, I can see what you’re saying.”
“Mm. Like last night. It’s not that it’s a big deal; I’m more than capable of finding my way with my cane, but it is something I’ve noticed.” Lilly may not find it a big deal, but remembering last night, I become wrought with guilt. Had I been with her instead of Hisao, the entirety of last night’s incident would have been avoided, since I could have steered her away from that drunkard. I resist the urge to cry. I know she’ll hear me at the slightest sniffle. But I just want to run in and hug her and say I’m sorry.
“What do you think it means? That is, do you think it’s a bad thing that she’s like this?” Hisao asks. Being talked about like this makes me feel like a child in some ways, and it’s getting harder and harder to stay where I am. But I know if I go in, they might not be as honest as they will be if I stay here.
“No, no. Not a bad thing at all. Perfectly natural, I’d say, that she is quite attached to her first boyfriend. You know I’m happy for the both of you.”
“Of course, but that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome. You’re still as much our friend as you’ve ever been.”
“Yes, I know. But I do recognize that you two need your space. I’m very glad to be friends with both of you; you’re among the most important people in my life. However, I would be very sad to interfere in your relationship. It’s a wonderful thing for the both of you.”
“But what about you?”
“I’m a big girl. I am more than capable of doing things on my own.”
“What about living? How will you get your groceries?”
“Oh Hisao,” Lilly laughs lightly. “You’re overreacting. I’m not about to get up and leave the both of you. I’ll still be around to do things. All I’m saying is that I don’t need to be with the both of you wherever you go. I’ll still have Hanako pick me up a few things whenever she goes. I know she enjoys helping me.”
Hearing Lilly talk about things like this comforts me. I feel like things will be okay now after they had felt bad for a while. Maybe I can relax. Maybe I ca–
“Hey, what are you doing standing around here?”
A voice from behind me makes me jump and stumble forward to the opposite side of the door. I turn around to see a girl with short red hair looking at me with a curious gaze.
“Are there spies in there? Maybe a secret meeting? Probably the art committee. I’m convinced they have people on the inside,” says the girl. I’ve seen her around before, but her name escapes me.
“I..I’m sorry?” I say.
“Sorry? What for? Are you a spy, too? That would be unfortunate. I don’t have anything to capture you with right now.”
I stare at the girl for a moment, dumbfounded. What on earth is she talking about? I try to speak, but nothing comes out.
“Silence is pretty incriminating. So I’m right. That’s good. I might have been upset if I was wrong. It’s pretty late. Emotions can be pretty high at night.”
I don’t bother to point out that she seems to have no emotion in her voice or expression, not that I think it would matter. It’s at this point that the door clicks open to reveal Hisao.He blinks a few times, visibly confused.
“Hanako? Rin? What are you two doing here?”
“She’s a spy,” says Rin.
“N-N-No! I wasn’t spying!” I say, trying to cover my tracks.
“Then you were lying to me? I’m shocked.”
“I..What?” Again, I neglect to mention that despite what she says, her face has not even the beginnings of emotion. Hisao buries his eyes under his palm and rubs his eyes between his thumb and index finger.
“Rin, why aren’t you in bed?” asks Hisao.
“I could ask you the same thing. In the girl dorms, no less. You could be reprimanded for this. It would be really bad. I’d have them do terrible things.”
“D-Don’t, p-please! I don’t...don’t want Hisao to get in trouble...” I say. This is the first time he’s been caught here, and it would probably be met with serious punishment. Despite this, Hisao seems to be laughing under his smirk.
“Just go back to bed, Rin. You’re probably just dreaming right now,” says Hisao.
“Oh? Well that’s good. Dreams have a lot of good imagery in them. I’ll be sure to tell the real you that I saw dream you. Real you will probably find it amusing,” says Rin, then she walks off as if nothing happened. And I’m left having no idea what just happened.
“What are you doing out of bed? Couldn’t sleep?” asks Hisao. Lilly has since joined him at the door. She has a calm look on her face that also seems a bit accusatory.
“Y-Yeah...I woke up and c-came out, and t-the girl started t-talking to me,” I say. Both of them look at me with that accusing glare now.
“You’re sure you weren’t supervising our conversation, Hanako?” asks Lilly.
“Err...I c-can’t say. I-I mean it’s p-possible I h-heard something n-near the end...B-But that was when I c-came out of my r-room. I t-told you that I was...wasn’t spying.” It’s only a small lie. Who knows how long they were talking? The part I heard could be called the end. The two of them just laugh, and I pout at them. Hisao puts his hand on my head and then pulls me into the room.
The three of us sit down and Lilly pours some tea. Both of them had a cup already, and there was a third one already in place next to Hisao’s. Either they were expecting me, they heard me, or they forgot it was there. I sit down and take a small sip of the tea. It’s warm, but not tongue-blistering.
“S-So...W-Who was that? Is she going to...Report you, Hisao?” I ask.
“Hm? Oh. Nah. Rin is peculiar, but she’s nice. I think,” says Hisao. Lilly makes a small furrow of her brow, then shakes it off. I suppose Lilly isn’t as fond of Rin as Hisao seems to be.
“You sure...know a lot of people, Hisao,” I say. Lilly grins lightly.
“My my, is that a hint of jealousy I hear, Hanako?” asks Lilly.
“W-Wha?! N-No! I’m j-just making s-small talk...” I say. Both of them laugh, and I sink a bit lower under the table.
“I kind of...ran into a lot of people in my first little while here. Or sometimes they ran into me.” Hisao seems to be recounting something, but it goes over both mine and Lilly’s head.
“Oh, before you forget, Hisao, perhaps you should Hanako what you told me,” says Lilly.
“Oh, right,” Hisao nods, and I look at him curiously. “I went for a bit of a walk after we got back to cool off, and I ran into Mutou. He told me that he wants me to join him tomorrow after school to go to a science convention in a nearby town.”
“O-Oh. That’s g-great,” I say. I’m glad that he’s pursuing his interests. The majority of me is happy for him, with a small part sad that he’ll be away. I’ll be fine on my own, but I miss him already. I don’t show any signs of that, though, because I wouldn’t want him feeling guilty. And it really isn’t a big deal. My brain is just weird right now, with all that’s happened.
“I t-think I should try and get m-more sleep,” I say. Maybe then, I’ll feel less emotionally unstable. The two of them nod, and Hisao even joins me to kiss me good night. It makes falling asleep so much easier. And even more, he comes back in a few minutes later before I fall asleep and joins me. With his arm over me and his chest pressed to my back, I’m content. My eyes close, and sleep consumes me in preparation for classes tomorrow.
That night, I dream happily.
Behind my Scars
- My Hanako epilogue. Work in progress.~
"Why do I write?...Why do I breathe?"