Yay, another chance to meet the wonderful Miss Yumi! Again, if you haven't read the story she originates from (Sisterhood, by Guest Poster), then go do that as soon as you finish this chapter. It's awesome. Seriously. It will change your life! (For the better, of course )
Act 3 - Chapter Two: Queen's Side Castle
As I enter Miss Yumi's office for our latest session, I can think of little else except how I don't want to be here.
As we make our first moves in our regular game of Go, I sit in near silence, answering only her usual questions about how I am, with a monotone voice and a clear message of unwillingness to chat.
I don't want to talk about all this. I wish I could just forget everything that happened to me when I was young, all the reasons for me being in this room right now. Hell, even the reasons for me coming to Yamaku in the first place. I want to turn the clock back and return to a time long before I met Lilly and Akira and Miss Yumi, before Yuuko and Hisao were ever aware of my existence. A time when I had a family, when I had people who loved me unconditionally for who I was, not for what damage had been done and how it had changed me so much. I just want to forget my past, my present, and change it all.
I'm startled from my reverie by Miss Yumi's voice, soft but stern, and I realise she isn't exactly happy about my current mood.
“Miss Hanako,” she says, holding a black stone in one hand while resting her head in the other. “I understand that our recent meetings have been... less than fruitful. I know that things are hard. But you must realise, I can't help you if you are unwilling to even talk to me and let me do what I can for you.” She places her piece and allows me to reply.
“I... I understand... Miss Yumi.” I do. I really do. But she doesn't seem to realise herself that I don't want her help. She can't help me. Nobody can. I quickly place a white stone to avoid speaking to her.
“Miss Hanako, I want to be clear here. Our meetings each week are scheduled so that we can attempt to work towards some resolution in terms of the emotional trauma you have suffered. I want to help you. But Yamaku admitted you as a student on the basis that you would at least make some effort to respond to these sessions, and try your best to improve. This isn't for our benefit, but yours. In the past year we have made good progress, and recently things seemed to be getting much better. Now we're moving backwards again. We can continue these meetings as we have done for the past few weeks, without any effort on your part, or we can simply wait until after these times have passed and begin afresh. It's your choice, and I will support you no matter what, but you have to make your decision now.”
That's the most I've ever heard Miss Yumi say in one go, and in a way it startles me. I know she has my best interests at heart, and I feel guilty for doing this to her, but everything she has done for me makes no difference around this time. Last year I refused to even attend our sessions, and afterwards was called in to a meeting with a representative from the Yamaku Foundation to discuss my absences. Miss Yumi managed to persuade them to give me another chance, but I knew then that I couldn't afford to do the same thing this year. Otherwise I'd be in my room now, reading, trying my hardest to think about anything but the looming date.
I can see two sides to what she is saying, but it seems to me that neither answer will be good enough. If we continue as we have done, it will only serve to frustrate Miss Yumi more, though she would never show it, save for a soft sigh here and there. Much like Lilly. If I abandon my therapy until afterwards, it will do nobody any good, and I run the risk of further meetings with the Foundation. Meetings where I'll no longer be able to rely on the good grace and support of Miss Yumi. She'll help, of course, but there's less chance that the Foundation will listen this time. In a way, she's trapped me in taking a third option. I have no choice but to treat these sessions like any other, and try to allow Miss Yumi to help me. I know she won't be able to, past experience tells me as much. But I don't have any further say in the matter.
“I... I want t-to stay. I'll do w-what I c-can...” Another piece is placed on the board.
“I'm glad to hear that, Miss Hanako, but you have to work with me. I don't wish to be hard on you, and without your support there's little I can do for you.” More spaces captured. I've already lost the game, just as I've lost the argument, long before it's even begun.
“I... I understand.”
“Good. Now that we're on the same page once more, we can move on. I'm very curious to hear more about your friendship with Mister Hisao Nakai. How is that faring these days, I wonder?”
She brushes the previous subject under the carpet so easily, but I know she'll come back to the topic later. When we finish our game, which seems to be coming very soon judging by the current state of play, the restriction of the rule on speech will be lifted, and we'll both be able to talk without having to wait for our turn in the match. I know that for these difficult conversations, Miss Yumi prefers to be free to speak when she needs to, and I always allow her to. It's easier for me as well, that way.
“They... they're well. I t-think he's b-busy t-today... though...”
I'm unwilling to give more information, and Miss Yumi seems willing to drop the matter. At least I'm answering her questions now, which would appear to have been her main concern. Lilly said something similar actually, earlier, when I saw her in the corridor in the dormitories. She did also mention that she was going to see Akira in town, but when I asked for more details she was unusually hesitant. I'm still curious now, but it's not worth thinking about. I hope not, at any rate.
“That's good to hear, Miss Hanako. Did you ever speak to Lilly about the subject you mentioned to me?”
“N-not much...” I did bring the topic up once, briefly, but I was too shy to say any more. From what I can tell, Lilly doesn't feel that way about Hisao, but even so I'm loath to do anything about my own potential feelings. Not that I could anyway. Really, her answer would have changed nothing, save making me feel a little more or a little less guilty.
“I see.” Miss Yumi pauses for a moment, before continuing to speak. She knows that even now I don't want to stick around, but I stay put in my seat regardless. “Miss Hanako, I want you to remember, whatever happens, to hold on to those feelings. Whether they're there or not, the idea of friendship, or indeed anything more, will be an anchor for you. You need to remember that there are people who care for you, who love you without cost, who will always be there to help you when you need it. I hope you realise that.”
“I... I do, Miss Y-Yumi.” I know what she means. That's half the problem. They're always there and won't allow me to spread my own wings, no matter how small the wingspan may be. I don't need a saviour. I need true friendship. Maybe with Hisao I'll have that now, but I can't be certain, and it's too late for this year to find out if he could be that person.
My final stone is placed. This game has gone remarkably quickly, but then again I made a lot of silly errors in my first moves, and gave Miss Yumi a massive advantage (not that she needed one) from the very beginning. It was no surprise for her swift victory to arrive so suddenly. In a way, I'm relived. We can talk freely, and if I want to leave I have no further guilt now in doing so.
“Miss Hanako...” I knew she's come back to this subject. “You told me a few weeks ago that you were having nightmares. How are they now?”
They're much the same, and I tell her so. I don't give any details, she heard those when I first described them to her, when I wasn't quite as bad as now. I remember my parents sitting on wooden chairs in our lounge, watching television, while I, six years old once more, rest on the floor playing with some kind of plastic blocks. In my nightmares, I look up and everything is well, but then the smell of burning plastic hots me, and I look down to see the blocks in flames, melting in my hands. As I drop them, I look up to see my parents engulfed, everything around us burning. Within seconds they're replaced by nothing but bones and ash, before I let out a piercing scream. I wake up every night in the same way, but no sound comes from my lips. I'm sweating and shaking but can't call for help, my mouth as dry as the air around me as I watch my parents burn. I told Miss Yumi three weeks ago, and I've never told anyone else. Even Lilly doesn't know. I can hear the concern in her voice each morning, but she's never heard me screaming as I wake, never heard my quiet sobs in the dark. I'm helpless.
Miss Yumi starts to speak again. “I can provide medication to help you sleep, for the time being, but I'd rather not do so if given a choice. I don't like the idea of drugging you simply to help you get some rest each night. It's up to you, Miss Hanako. If you feel it would be better for you then I'll ask Nurse to make the arrangements.”
“That... that won't b-be necessary... t-thank you, though...” I don't want to be doped up in order to sleep each night. If these nightmares are to be my punishment, for surviving while my family died in front of me, then I'll suffer them without complaint.
“Then it's your choice. I would make a suggestion, though.”
“Y-yes, Miss Y-Yumi?” What does she mean?
“In order to get through this time, you need to try and replace your old memories with new ones. Happy ones. Maybe then you'll be able to face these days without fear, and without the emotional stress that you have so far been facing.”
“What d-do you m-mean?”
Miss Yumi pauses again for the smallest of moments, before replying to my query. “I'd like you to make an effort to become friendlier with the people around you. You've already opened yourself up to Mr Nakai, and things seem to be progressing well with him. Perhaps the time is ripe for you to allow others to get close to you also. In doing so, you'll have more opportunities to move on from your current emotional state, and forge new lasting friendships. Remember, it's the second most important gift, after all.”
I don't know that I'll be able to easily do what Miss Yumi is requesting, but perhaps she has a point. If I can make a new friend in Hisao then maybe I can make new friends among my other fellow students. I'm scared, though, that I won't be able to. I worry that Ill shut down again as soon as anyone even tries to speak to me. Perhaps with Shizune or Misha there's a chance, since I already know them a little through Lilly, and since they're friends of Hisao it might be easier for me to handle being with them. Then again, their attitudes and Misha's loudness may be a problem...
I don't know if I can do it, but it's worth a try. I have to be stronger, for my sake and for Miss Yumi too. She has confidence in me, despite our past few breakdowns in therapy. I know that I mustn't betray her and that the effort will be tough, but manageable. Still, as I give her my goodbyes and leave her office, I know that it will be extremely hard to go against everything I've spent doing at Yamaku so far. I realise how difficult making a new friend will be, whoever I try to open up to. Where would I even start?
Perhaps I could try to join a work group during class tomorrow, ideally whoever Hisao works with. It's the only chance I'll have, as I know I won't seek one out myself. Walking back to my bedroom though, my confidence fails me, and I break down silently. The memories of my past come flooding back and the images of my recurring nightmare rush into my mind without hesitation. I spend my afternoon in bed, crying myself to sleep.
I wish the morning would come soon. I wish everything was different.
Darkness falls. The nightmare comes again.