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Chapter 1
         
        Today, Rin decided to stay late. Even though it had been a long day of exams, he still had plenty of work that needed doing, as well as studying for the English exam tomorrow, and he worked better at school. Besides, home wasn’t all that great anyways. He set to work as soon as classes were over, not wanting to stay too late. Nevertheless, it still took him almost two hours. The sun was already setting when by the time Rin was ready to leave. He was halfway home when he heard a scream. Then another. Worried, he followed the screams, and came across a blood-covered body and someone hunched over the body of a naked girl. Whoever it was, they were shrouded in shadow, but Rin could see a red mask with a white smile painted onto the front of it. He stared stunned at the body before him, recognition slowly forming in his head. It was Kaiya Kito from class 2-C. At least, he thought it was. Parts of the body were too deformed for him to tell. Half her face was shredded, although he recognized her remaining light blue eye, open wide and terrified. Her once-shiny blonde hair was thick with blood. Her left arm had been sliced open so he could see the shiny white bone beneath. Her legs had been so destroyed they didn’t even look like legs anymore; they just looked like puddles of meat and blood. She was breathing, though it was ragged and irregular. Tears rolled from her remaining eye, tracing lines through the blood on her face. There was a knife through her right hand, pinning it to the ground. As he watched, the killer pulled the knife out and slid slowly into Kaiya’s right arm, twisting it harshly and dragging it downwards, opening up her right arm. Kaiya screamed in pain and Rin heard the killer’s high-pitched giggle. The killer slipped a small hand into the open wound and opened it up more, separating muscle from bone. Rin could hear Kaiya sobbing, begging the killer to stop hurting her. The killer only laughed and brought the knife up it her remaining eye. Kaiya’s pleas increased in volume. She was starting to sob now, fear overwriting any other emotion. She was begging the killer to let her go, to please not hurt her anymore. The killer giggled again, clearly enjoying their victim’s display or overwhelming terror and despair. The knife slid into Kaiya’s eye. Fluids from the destroyed eyeball flowed down Kaiya’s face. That was all Rin could take. He was shaken out of his daze, and ran, horrified, away from the scene, leaving the blinded, screaming Kaiya behind. He did nothing to try to save her.

        When Rin arrived home fifteen minutes later, he was soaking wet. It had started to rain when he was on his way home. He removed his shoes and walked slowly inside. The house was quiet and empty, almost eerily so. There was a not from his dad on the kitchen table. “I’m working late again tonight. I won’t be home till 10:30 or 11. There’s food in the refrigerator if you hungry”. Rin smiled coldly. He was most certainly not hungry. The image of Kaiya screaming on the sidewalk came to mind again. He felt sick. Why didn’t I do anything? Sadness and self-loathing swelled within him. Why was he always so fucking useless. Why couldn’t he do ANYTHING? He wished he had his mother. He needed a person to love him and hold him. Not that his girlfriend Sakura didn’t do that, but it was a different kind of love. He needed maternal love, and that was something Sakura could never provide. He remembered very little about his mother, but her remembered how relaxing it was to have her embrace him. When he was sad and crying, all he’d need was a hug from his mother and for her to stroke his hair and tell him it would be okay. She could make all the bad feelings disappear. He missed her. God, how he missed her. He began to cry, not trying to stop the tears or deny his grief. Denying it never made it go away, and crying usually made him feel better anyways, as though through the tears he was ridding himself of a little bit of that grief. He walked upstairs to his room and buried his face into his pillow. The scene he saw on the way home once again forced itself into his head. He tried to push the image of the deformed face of his classmate, away, but it wouldn’t go. He couldn’t forget the way she had pleaded for mercy, only to have any hope of survival stripped away little by little. The sound of utter despair he’d heard in her voice was something that would haunt him forever. He’d never forget the sickening scene of cruelty he’d seen that day. The masked person could have easily have killed Kaiya. She was helpless, couldn’t move, probably couldn’t even think straight. But they didn’t kill her. They’d kept her alive so that they could torture her. It was sick.
But you didn’t do anything to stop it said a small voice in the back of his head. He knew that voice all too well. It was the voice of self-hatred that had appeared just after his mother’s death and had yet to leave him be. Sometimes he thought that maybe he would never be free from it, that he would suffer for the rest of his life. Not that he didn’t deserve to be free from anything. After all, it was his fault his mom was dead.
You could have reported it to the police, but instead you stood and watched.
“Shut up.”
You did nothing at all. Just like you did with your mother.
“SHUT UP!” he shouted. The pillow muffled his voice.
You’re useless said the voice. Even if you tried to help, you couldn’t. You are worthless.
Rin cried into his pillow, unable to escape the voice of shame inside his head. He cried and cried until eventually he ran out of tears. He was a horrible human being…
That night, just like so many others, Rin cried himself to sleep.
         
        Rin woke up the next morning to the loud beeping of his alarm clock. He reached over to turn it off. He didn’t want to go to school today, not when he felt this awful. His pillow was still damp. He sighed. He could feel the tears returning. NO! He forced them back. He couldn’t go to school looking like he’d just been crying. The shame would be too much. Besides, he had a reputation to uphold. He couldn’t afford to show weakness in front of everyone in school. There was no way he could show people the real him. Nobody besides Nori could see the real him. The thought of his best friend roused him. Groaning, he forced himself to get out of bed. He turned on the light and looked around his room. Dirty laundry was scattered around his room, thrown over chairs, bunched into every corner space his room contained. The trashcan in the corner next to his bed was overflowing with crumpled up paper, the result of his failed attempts at writing since that time. Used tissues littered the floor next to his bed. There were books on the bookshelf, though they looked like they hadn’t been touched in years; all of them were covered in dust. There was a complete collection of “The Chronicles of Narnia”, as well as other western literature, and binder of short stories he’d written as a child before his… back when he’d had a mother. Mom used to read those to me when I was little… He remembered this the way a man would remember the happy times he’d spent with the woman he’d loved. Next to his bed stood a frame containing an old photo of Rin and his mother, one of the few things in the room that looked as though it has been touched recently. In the picture his mom was smiling, as was a little, 10-year-old Rin. He was laughing when they took that picture, though the subject of this laughter had long since been forgotten. How long has it been since I’ve been that happy? Rin bit down hard on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from breaking down right there. He set the picture down and went over to his closet. Maybe the act of preparing for school would be enough to distract him. As he dressed he mentally prepared himself for the day ahead of him. He imagined his girlfriend, Sakura, and felt a little better. Thinking of her always cheered him up. He took one last look behind him at the messy floor, sighed, and went downstairs to eat breakfast.

“Good morning”, his father greeted Rin as he emerged from the stairway.
“Good morning father”, he replied. There’s a long silence as Rin made himself some breakfast (toast with raspberry jam). Neither one of them knew what to say. They ate their breakfast in silence. Rin picked up his half-finished toast and left the table without a word.

Rin had left earlier than usual that day, carrying his toast with him. He wasn’t in the mood to eat breakfast at home this morning. It was too sad. There were too many tears shed in that house, by both him and his father, for Rin to be able to enjoy his breakfast. He took a less direct route to school today. Usually, he waited for one of his friends to go to school with, but silence and solitude seemed preferable this particular morning. Besides, it was early. She wouldn’t be ready anyways, and he didn’t feel like waiting that long for her to come out. So he walked to the train station alone, got on the train alone, and exited alone. He was too lost in thought to bother talking to the other person from his school on the train. Besides, he didn’t even know her name. Was it Hinata? Maybe. It didn’t really matter.
Rin walked in the door of classroom 2-C just as the bell rang. He’d walked a little too slowly that morning and had almost been late, despite having left home early and catching an earlier train.
Rin walked over to his seat, second to the back by the window, and sat down.
“Stand. Bow. Sit down.”
Rin looked around. There were lots of empty desks today. He counted five. One of them was Kaiyo’s. That wasn’t at all surprising. However, he counted four more: Hiroko Tsumiki, the notoriously brutal bully, and her two goons Saya and Yuri. The seat next to him was also empty, which was odd. That was Nori’s seat. He was never absent, at least not that Rin could remember. What could be keeping him home today? He’s probably just nervous. Yeah, that had to be it. After all, Nori was planning to confess to a girl today. Knowing Nori, he could easily have gotten himself sick from anxiety and just skipped school. As the day went on, Rin completely forgot about Nori.

        “I made you lunch today,” said Sakura, handing him a box wrapped in a blue-plaid handkerchief. Rin felt happiness expand inside his chest. Somebody loved him enough to make him lunch. My mother used to do that for me every day.
“Thanks so much,” said, smiling at her. He could still feel the same impossible, helpless love that he’d felt the day he’d confessed to her. The difference was that there was no anxiety or fear mixed in with it. When he’d confessed to her he’d been terrified: terrified that she would say no, or that she liked someone else. Or that she said she liked him too… as a friend. When she’d said she liked him too and agreed to go out with him, Rin was happier than he’d believed possible. Maybe it was because he’d been prepared for failure.  
Rin sat down next to Sakura and opened the lunch. It looked amazing.
“Itadakimasu.” Rin took a bite of the lunch and looked at Sakura surprised.
“Is it not good?” Sakura looked up at him with pleading eyes. Rin could tell she really wanted him to like it. He smiled at her.
“It’s delicious, Sakura.” A smile spread across her face. She looked relieved.
“I’m so happy.”
“I’m surprised though.” Sakura looked at him questioningly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I didn’t know you were good at cooking. You told me your mom made your lunch for you, so I wasn’t expecting anything special, but this is really good.”
Color filled Sakura’s face. There was no way she could tell him that she’d just learned this morning in order to make this lunch for him. It would be best just to let him think she was a good cook. Besides, Sakura liked to think that it would raise her cool points. It’s like I’m in a dating sim. No, I think I’d prefer to be in an eroge. She giggled. How fast can you get through the Sakura route? Sakura and Rin ate lunch together on the roof that day, just like every other day. Neither one of them mentioned the fact that six of their classmates were missing. Neither one of them worried about Nori, or even considered the fact that something could have happened to him. They just enjoyed each other’s presence, two high school lovers ignorant of the evils of the world.
The door to the roof banged open and a figure stepped out, turning it’s head this way and that as though looking for something. Finally, it stopped, it’s eyes resting on Rin and Sakura.
“Ah, there you are Rin. I’ve been looking all over for you!” Rin groaned. Not this guy. Takashi Yamada walked briskly towards them, stopping suddenly in front of Rin.
“What on earth are you doing up here?” he demanded, completely ignoring the fact that there was another person next to Rin.
“We’re eating lunch…” said Rin, wondering where this conversation could possibly be going.
“We have our English exam today.”
“I know.”
“Why aren’t you studying?”
“Why do you care?” Yamada turned bright red.
“Because… I wouldn’t want to beat you too easily” He seemed to regain his footing again. “I wouldn’t want to beat you to the number 1 spot too easily.”
“When was the last time you ever beat me to the number one spot? And stop talking like this is some kind of competition. It’s just an english exam.” Yamada looked like he was about to explode.
“It is not ‘just an English exam’. This is war. I haven’t beaten you ONCE since you arrived at this school. If you think that this is just another test that you’re going to breeze by, leaving me in the dust, then you’re wrong. I’d pick it up if I were you because I’m am going to make you work for…” Yamada’s monologue was interrupted by the bell ringing, signaling the end of lunch. Rin got up and helped Sakura to her feet.
“Well, Yamada, it was nice talking with you. Good luck on your English exam.” He smiled at Yamada and walked past him, through the door, and back down to class.

The rest of the day was slow and boring, with the English exam taking up the entire second half of the day. The exam wasn’t even all that hard. Rin didn’t understand why they were given so much time for this exam. All the others only took two periods each. Maybe it was because the people who were in charge thought that the students at this school were slow. Rin finished the exam with almost 2 hours left to go. He sighed and leaned back in his chair. The room felt oddly empty without Nori there next to him. Usually the two would talk quietly or pass notes after they finished the exam. Now, however, Rin sat in lonely silence. Time passed slower and slower it seemed as it went on. Every second seemed to take minutes, every minute, hours. Anxiety grabbed Rin, twisting his stomach in knots, though why, he didn’t know. He had nothing to be anxious about. And yet it was there. It was torture, watching the seconds tick by, consumed by anxiety. Finally, the bell rang signaling the end of the day. Chairs scraped against the floor as students stood up to leave. Even though this was their last exam, there was still another three weeks left until summer break. Rin was starting to get out of his chair when a shadow fell across his desk. Takashi Yamada looked down at Rin, doing his best to look friendly and failing horribly.
“Hey Rin,” he said, “how’d you do on the exam do you think?” Rin sighed inwardly. He had no desire to entertain Yamada like this. Best get it over with quickly.
“Fine. You?”
“I aced it. All my studying paid off. I’m finally going to defeat you Rin.” Rin sighed outwardly.
“That’s awesome Yamada. Listen, I promised Sakura I’d meet up with her after school, so I need to go.”
“Oh.” Yamada looked disappointed. “Well, okay then. Have… a good day.” The last three words sounded forced, but the simple fact that they came out at all was enough to shock Rin.
“T-Thanks.” He said awkwardly, and hurried out of the room.

“Where have you been?” demanded Sakura as Rin exited the building.
“I’m sorry, I got held up by… somebody as I was leaving.”
“Was it Yamada?” she demanded.
“Yeah.” Rin admitted. Sakura looked angry.
“God, I can’t stand that guy. I hope just, like, kills himself someday. It’s not like anybody’d miss him.” Rin opened his mouth to protest, but found that he couldn’t. Yamada was the most disliked kid in the school. Maybe people really wouldn’t miss him. He pushed that grim thought away as soon as he thought it. He didn’t need any more of those. The thought of going home made Rin feel sick.
“Hey, Sakura?” he asked.
“What is it?” She sounded less angry now. That was a relief.
“Do you think I could stay at your house tonight?” Sakura looked surprised.
“Um, sure. I don’t mind. But my sister won’t be home…”
“That’s fine.” said Rin hurriedly. “My dad won’t care. Might not even notice I didn’t come home, honestly.” Sakura looked at him sadly, but didn’t say anything. They walked in silence to the train station, the cold December wind whipping around them. Sakura wished there was something she could say to cheer Rin up, but what that something was escaped her. It was sad, she thought to herself, that even after dating him for over two months, she still had trouble knowing how to comfort him; her own boyfriend was a mystery to her.
The train was crowded, much more so than the one Rin usually took to get to his house. Bodies jostled him back and forth and he had to hold tightly onto Sakura’s hand to keep from getting separated. Lots of kids from his school seemed to take this bus. Rin could see the Chikako High uniform everywhere amongst the beige pants and shiny brown leather shoes of adults coming back from work. Next to him was a musician dressed in black carrying a large black case. Rin couldn’t help but wonder what instrument that box contained. Slowly, the train began to empty until he and Sakura were among the last people on the train.
“Does it usually take this long for you to get home?” asked Rin.
“Yes. My stop is the second to last one, so most of the time I’m the only person left by the time my stop arrives. Sometimes there are a few stragglers, but mostly it’s just me.” Rin nodded and made a small noise to indicate he’d heard her. He looked behind him. There was a girl back there, and judging from her uniform, she was from his school. He didn’t think he’d seen her before; she was short with white hair down slightly past her shoulders. However, it seemed that she did know who he was, as she’d been staring directly at him for the past ten minutes. She’d probably been there, watching them longer and he just hadn’t noticed due to the large crowd. He looked back at Sakura. She seemed to be in her own little world, staring out the window as the scenery flashing by. He decided not to mention the girl to her. It was probably nothing anyways, just another weirdo from his school. Chikako High had plenty of them. He pushed the girl out of his mind and moved up closer to Sakura, putting his arm around her. She smiled and closed her eyes, leaning her head back against his arm. When the train finally pulled into their stop, Rin and Sakura got off. The other girl did not, but stood by the doors watching them until the train pulled away from the station.

    “Mama?” Rin sat terrified, his back against the wall. Mother knelt over him, arms wrapped around him. Something was wrong. Mother was crying, crying and squeezing him so tight. Something warm was spreading across her back.
“Mama?” he said again. Mother coughed, speckling his face with blood. Her grip on him started to relax and she slipped sideways, falling on her side with a soft thud. Rin looked up, terrified at the dark shape towering over him, at the small glint of metal it held in its hand. Suddenly, he was back at school, in the courtyard with the sakura tree in it. In front of him lay a bloody, half-naked Sakura. Hiroko and the other girls were there too, with Hiroko holding a blood-covered knife. She looked Rin in the eyes and smirked.
“You’re worthless” she said. “You couldn’t protect your own girlfriend. You couldn’t protect your own mother! You’re better off dead.” She knelt down in front of him, placing the knife against his chest…

Rin’s eyes flew open. He looked desperately around the room. Where was he? This wasn’t his bed. What…? But then rational thought took over again and he began to think, remember. He was in Sakura’s house. He turned his head to see her sleeping face looking back. He rolled over, feeling her back. Nothing but smooth, unblemished skin. No knife wound. No blood. Rin sighed in relief. It had just been another nightmare. He breathed in, held it, and breathed out, trying to calm his racing heart. He slid out from under the covers, doing his best not to wake Sakura, and quietly opened the bathroom door. May as well shower now that he was up; he was covered in sweat from the nightmare. Just as he was bending over to turn on the water, he heard the bathroom door creak open. Arms closed around him and he could feel Sakura’s head resting on his shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Her warm breath tickled his ear.
“Nothing.” he replied. “Just a nightmare. I’m okay.”
“Was it about your mother again?” Rin nodded wordlessly.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered in his ear. “I wish there was something I could do. Is there anything?”
“I don’t know.” He replied. “I don’t know if you can help. I don’t know if anybody can help me right now.” Sakura squeezed him tighter. Her body felt so good against his. The weight of her leaning on him was comforting. He felt a tear land on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered again. Rin reached forward and turned on the shower. Sakura released him but didn’t leave. Steam filled the room as the water began to heat up. Rin stepped into the shower and closed the curtain. The warm water felt good on his tense, sweaty body. The sound of the shower curtain opening behind him told him that Sakura had come in after him. Rin stepped out of the way to let her have the hot water. Rin couldn’t help but stare at her. She looked so beautiful with the light shining off the water running down her body.
“Hey Sakura?” he said, loud enough that she could hear him over the running water.
“Hm?” she replied, turning to face him.
“Do you… ever dream about your mother?” He looked away, afraid to see her face when she replied. He’d never asked her about this before.
“Yes…” her voice was small, meek. It sounded like she was holding back tears. “I do. All the time. I dream that someday, eventually, she’ll be able to come back and me and her and my sister will be able to live together as a family again.” Rin looked back up at her. She looked so sad, he almost regretted asking the question in the first place.
“Even though I know she’s not coming back, I still hold out hope. Though recently, that hope has been fading.” Rin wasn’t sure how to respond. Sakura looked up again. Her face was wet, and Rin had the feeling it was more than shower water. She staggered forwards, almost throwing herself at Rin, searly knocking both of them over. Her body shook.
“I’m sorry, Rin. I’m sorry I couldn’t be strong for you. I must seem pretty pathetic right now, huh? Crying over my mother who’s not even dead.” She laughed weakly and tried to wipe away her tears. It was hard to tell whether or not she was successful; water was still dripping from her hair.
“You’re not pathetic.” said Rin. “There’s nothing pathetic about crying over a family member. The fact that your mother is still alive is worse than mine being dead. I have the security of knowing that she’ll never come back. I don’t have any opportunities for false hope to arise. The fact that your mother is still alive is infinitely crueler. You have more of a right to cry than I do.” Sakura looked up at him with her tear-streaked face and nodded.
“Mmm.”
Let’s go back to bed.” said Rin. “We have school in the morning.” Sakura nodded again. Rin turned off the shower, got out and dried himself. He was already crawling into bed before Sakura came out of the bathroom.
“Goodnight.” he said, closing his eyes.
“Goodnight.”

Pretty much the entire school was gathered around the front of the school when Rin arrived with Sakura the next day. It was Friday, which meant that the exam grades would get posted. Chikako High School has a policy (that everybody hated) where they post student’s exam grades out on the front of the school so everybody can see how everybody else did. While this inevitably led to certain kids being teased for their poor grades, it also achieved the desired effect: everybody worked hard to get good grades so they wouldn’t be the one to be picked on. Yamada stood in the very back, standing on tiptoe trying to see over the crowd. Rin looked around to see if he could find Nori, but he was absent again.
It took him and Sakura almost 5 minutes to get to the front of the crowd. Most of the students had walked off sulkily, having either failed or scored lower than they were aiming for, which, in this school, was as bad as failing. Rin looked up at the score list for the seniors. He’d gotten first place in every subject except History, where he’d been beaten by Sakura. Yamada had gotten second in every subject except history where he’d gotten third. Rin could already hear the steam coming out of Yamada’s ears before he even turned around. Yamada’s hands were balled into fists, his face red. Tears of anger and frustration flowed down his face. He didn’t even say anything to Rin, just turned and ran off. Rin almost felt bad for him. Almost.

The rest of the day consisted of all the students doing whatever they wanted. The teachers put on movies out of obligation, but nobody really watched them. Students came and went as they pleased, or sat in the back of the class and watched porn. One girl curled up in the corner of homeroom and slept the whole day. Rin chose to spend the day holed up in the school’s library. He’d just found a detective novel he hadn’t read yet hidden away on a shelf in the back of the library. One of the things Rin loved about the library was that there weren’t any windows in the reading area. In the reading area, time seemed to have no meaning. He could sit there and allow himself to get lost in a book for hours and not realize it until the librarian had to ask him to leave because the library was closing. Today, however, the librarian decided to let Rin stay late. It was around 4:00 that the she came back to tell Rin she was leaving and to turn the lights out on his way out. Rin game an absent-minded “sure”, but didn’t look up from his novel. The light footsteps of the librarian faded away. The door opened and closed. She was gone. It was eerie, being alone in a library. Eerie and relaxing. Rin closed his eyes, leaning back in the large, squishy armchair. He could easily fall asleep here. He shouldn’t though. He had something he had to do at home before his dad got back. He grabbed the book he’d been reading and was about to leave the library when a shadow fell across the door; somebody was walking down the hall, and behind them, they seemed to be dragging something very large. Sounded like a bag of some kind, with the muffled scraping sound it was making. There was nothing to be afraid of here, yet Rin felt instinctively that he should not open the door. He waited for whoever it was to walk passed before he left. He was almost out the front door before he realized he’d left his bag in the library. Cursing silently, he began the slow ascent back up to the library.

After what seemed like ages, but in reality was probably only 5 minutes, Rin had his bag and was exiting the library for the second time. As he walked down the second-year’s hallway, he noticed a strange smell in the air. Curious, he followed the smell, trying to find the source, and found himself down a hall he’d never been before, nor had he even known existed. At the very end on the left side, a door to an unused classroom stood ajar. Rin was suddenly afraid. He had the awful feeling that there was something in that classroom he didn’t want to see. He stood frozen in place, torn between the desire to leave and the desire to see what was in the classroom. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him and, slowly, he crept forwards towards the open door. It was dark inside the classroom, dark enough that he had to strain his eyes to see inside. The smell was strong now, almost overpowering, and it made his stomach churn. Still though, he couldn’t quite place it. Rin took a deep breath, held it, and walked into the classroom. The sight before him looked like something out of a nightmare. Five bodies were strewn across the room. Desks had been overturned and chairs pushed around as though there had been a struggle. The floor around where the bodies lay was covered in almost-fresh blood. A single solitary chair lay overturned in the middle of the room. This too was splattered with blood. Oh god, not again, Rin thought. He removed his shoes and socks and left them by the entrance to the classroom. He wouldn’t want them to get them dirty. He took a deep breath and entered the room. The air was heavy with the sharp, metallic smell of blood. He shuddered, but kept walking. He reached the first body and bent down to examine it. It’s like I’m a real detective. He felt a shiver of excitement, despite the horrifying circumstances. He examined the body, which belonged to Hiroko Tsumiki from class 2-C, although most of the student body knew her as simply “The Bitch”. She was notorious for being the worst bully to ever walk the halls of Chikako High. He remembered saving Sakura from her once. It was a week before he’d confessed to her. It was about an hour after school had ended. Rin had just finished his homework and was going out to the courtyard to read till Nori came to pick him up. He’d found her lying almost naked on the grass, her torn uniform lying a short distance away. Bruises covered her body from where Hiroko’s mooks, Yuri and Saya had kicked her. Her face, which was usually beautiful, was red and swollen. Her nose looked as if it had been stomped on, probably by one of the mooks; Hiroko wouldn’t get her shoes dirty like that. Tears streamed down her face, carving thin lines through the blood and dirt. Rin froze. As he watched, Yuri kicked her hard extracting a moan of pain from her victim. It seemed Sakura had given up trying to resist them a long time ago. As long as he lived, Rin would never forget the look of despair in her eyes.
“Alright girls, pick her up”, Hiroko said, malice dripping like syrup from her voice, thick and cold. Yuri and Saya grabbed Sakura’s arms and hauled her to her feet. Hiroko approached the helpless figure before her laughing. “Carry her over to the tree”. The two dragged Sakura over to the cherry blossom tree that stood in the middle of the courtyard. As he watched, Hiroko produced a long piece of rope from the pocket of her skirt. Grabbing Sakura’s arms from her two “helpers”, she proceeded to tie Sakura’s hands to one of the lower branches of the tree. She hung there limply, her feet dangling off the ground. Once she was sure her victim was secure, Hiroko stood back to examine her work. Sakura dangled helplessly from the tree, her eyes wide and trembling. Fear had replaced the despair, although the tears did not stop. Giggling, Hiroko produced a small knife from the pocket of her skirt and waved it in front of Sakura’s face. The shiny metal of the blade glinted menacingly in the fading sunlight. It looked very sharp. Rin stared in disbelief. Surely she wouldn’t dare to… but this WAS Hiroko Tsumiki. He didn’t doubt that murder even was not beyond this girl. She walked slowly towards Sakura, playing with the blade as she approached.
“No.” whispered Sakura.
“What was that?” asked Hiroko, her lips twisting into a cold, beautiful smile.
“Please don’t hurt me. Please, I beg of you.”
Hiroko now stood directly in front of her. She laughed, a cold, cruel sound that sent chills down Rin’s spine. He needed to do something, but his legs were frozen in place. Unable to move, his only option was to watch the horrifying show unfolding before him.
“You’re asking ME to not hurt YOU?” cried Hiroko as though it was the most ridiculous proposition in the world. “Don’t be ridiculous. You deserve anything that comes your way. I heard the things you said about me; spreading rumors about my mom being a whore, laughing at me behind my back. Just yesterday I heard you and Yuki saying the reason my family was so rich was because of the amount of money my mom charged per hour. You expected those words to go unnoticed? I’ve been the subject of your cruel entertainment. Now you’re going to be the subject of mine. That’s only fair, right?”
“No”, whispered Sakura, “I didn’t say that. I would never… I’d never say those things about you”.
“LIAR!” Hiroko shouted. For just a second, her sweet façade slipped revealing underneath a face twisted with hate. But then it disappeared as though nothing had happened and the angelic smile returned as pretty and innocent as ever. “Well I suppose we’ll find out if you’re lying soon enough, won’t we?” The knife pressed against Sakura’s smooth, almost childish face. Sakura squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the pain.
“S-stop!” Rin stepped forward. What on earth am I doing?
“And who the hell are you?” asked Hiroko. The look she gave him almost made him back down. But he couldn’t do that. Someone had to stop this, and there wasn’t anyone else around. He just had to be brave.
“I’m her boyfriend.” My god, what am I saying?
“And? Why the hell should I listen to you?”
“Because… my father’s a police officer.” This was not entirely a lie. His dad used to work for the police, but he’d quit last year. Rin took out his phone. “I can call him if you like. Assault, possession of a deadly weapon on school grounds. I’m pretty sure there’s enough here to have you arrested.” Rin opened his phone and started to dial his dad’s number.
“Fine.” Hiroko dropped the knife. She looked furious. “I’ll get you back for this.”
That threat never amounted to anything.
He shuddered and tried to shake off the memory of the horrible display of “bullying” he’d seen that day and decided to continue examining the body. She was completely naked. Her clothes were next to her, torn and bloody. Her face had been almost entirely destroyed by some kind of blunt object, presumably the blood-covered chair in the middle of the room. Little bits of shattered bone were mixed into a reddish mess with the consistency of stew. All of her teeth had been removed and were lying in a pile next to her head. One of her arms had been reduced to hamburger. On the other, the flesh had been stripped clean off and was lying next to her in a heap. The rest of her body was covered in bruises, bones were shattered, and her feet were barely recognizable as feet. Rin felt like vomiting. This scene reminded him all too well of what he’d seen happen to Kaiyo on the way back from school. This girl was tortured, just like Kaiyo. No, this is worse. Much worse. He took a deep breath, forcing himself to remain calm. Leaving the body of Hiroko (good riddance) on the floor, Rin moves on to the next two bodies. These ones are also girls, also naked, and in similar condition to Hiroko’s body. Rin recognizes them too. They’re Hiroko’s henchmen (henchwomen?). They’d been with Hiroko ever since the beginning of high school. They worshipped her as a queen and did her bidding. They had no will of their own and only did what Hiroko told them to do. Unlike Hiroko, who was at the top of her class, these two were stupid. They’d never gotten above a C- in their entire time here. Despite their beautiful names, they were both incredibly ugly. Rin sometimes thought that Hiroko had only gotten them to make herself look prettier in contrast. It was horrible, but Rin was actually glad they were dead. They deserved it Rin thought bitterly. He took out his English notebook and wrote down the details of what he’d seen. He moved on to the next body.
The next body was a kid named Hiro Ichirou from class 2-B. Rin knew very little about him besides the fact that he was going out with Kaiyo Kita. They’d started dating the year before; their last year of Junior High. Ichirou was the quiet kid in class. He never talked to anyone besides Kaiyo as far as Rin knew. He never raised his hand in class and was always out the door the moment the bell rang. As a result, he never made any friends besides, of course, Kaiyo. Nobody in class really knew almost anything about him. Rin knelt down to examine the body. His stomach had been sliced open, his intestines lolling out like bloody snakes. His eyes had been cut out and his face had been turned into something that resembled ground beef. His arms were extended and looked unharmed, besides the fact that both his hands had been cut off and were lying on either side of what used to be his head. The legs had been broken and bent upwards towards his hips. His fee had been cut off and placed just above his hands. It looked like some sort of grotesque work of art. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a new piece of modern artwork: Ichirou, the faceless corpse. Rin smiled coldly. Bad joke. He wrote down details in his notebook. Finally, Rin proceeded to the last body. Be bent down to look… and froze. The body was Nori Takano from class 2-C.
Rin had known Nori since first grade, when they were seated next to each other. Nori was a quiet kid. Rin hadn’t learned the word “introverted” yet, but he knew that that’s what Nori was. He’d just transferred in that year, so he didn’t have any friends. He was always alone during lunch, reading some book or another. Rin decided that it was his job to make friends with this kid who looked so lonely. So one day during lunch Rin approached Nori.
“Hey there, my name’s Rin. I’m here to make friends with you.” He beamed down at Nori, hands on his hips. Nori blushed and looked down.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to do that,” He whispered.
“Oh, come one”, said Rin, “You’ve been in this school for three months now and you still haven’t made ANY friends! I can’t just leave you like this. It’s pathetic. You need to started becoming social and I’m going to help you do that”. Over the next few weeks Rin slowly began to coax Nori out of his shell. As they talked more Nori admitted that he had wanted to make friends with Rin, but had been too shy to approach him. He’d been overjoyed when Rin had essentially ordered him to become friends with him.
They ended up becoming the closest of friends very quickly. Rin taught Nori ways to socialize with other people. He taught him how to make eye contact when speaking to somebody. He taught him how to pretend to be interested in a conversation even if all you want to do is leave the room and be alone. He taught him how to deal with girls. “Girls are not some kind of alien creature”, said Rin. It was after school and the two were hanging out in Rin’s bedroom. “Girls are human beings just like us. They get sad. They get happy. They fall in love, and they experience the same pain that you and I feel when that person doesn't love them back. Pretty girls are no different. Just because they look better doesn’t mean their feelings are different. Most of them want to be treated like regular girls.” Nori listened to all this in amazement. It was as if Rin was a god who knew everything. When they entered Middle School, Nori managed to make friends with some of the kids in the class. However, he would always consider Rin his closest friend. He told him so one day and Rin smiled wider than he thought he ever could. “I’m glad I’ve had such an impact on your life”, he said and drew Nori into a tight hug.
One day, the summer before they started High School, Nori was over at Rin’s house hanging out. For some reason Nori never wanted Rin to come over to his house. They were laying around in Rin’s room reading manga when Nori suddenly asked, “Hey Rin, how did you confess to Sakura?” Rin looked up, surprised by the sudden question.
“I dunno. I just sorta asked her. It was about a week after I saved her from Hiroko. You remember that?” Nori nodded his head. Rin had told him all about the terrible things Hiroko had done to Sakura. “Well, after I saved her I realized how much I liked her. So after English class one day I was like, ‘He Sakura, can we meet behind the school when school ends?’ and she was like sure. And so I told her about how I’d been interested in her for a while and how saving her from Hiroko had really made me realize the depth of the feelings I had for her. She said she liked me too and we started going out. Why do you ask?” Nori shrugged and said “No reason. I was just… curious. That’s all.” He was quiet for the rest of the afternoon. They just sat together, reading and enjoying the silence and enjoying each other’s company. When it came time for Nori to go home he smiled at Rin and said “Thank you.” He didn’t mention the conversation at all for the rest of the summer. Then, about a week ago, Nori said to Rin, “Hey, I’ve got something to confess to you.” Rin, a little confused said, “Okay, what is it?”
“Well, about halfway through 8th grade, I started liking Yuki. She was one of the most beautiful girls I’d ever met. The way her eyes shined, the way her hair seemed to shimmer in the sun. I saw her and my first thought was ‘I need to have that girl’. I wanted to confess to her, but I didn’t know how. I was really shy about it, which is why I haven’t told you till now.”
Rin was shocked. Nori liked Yuki? “By Yuki… do you mean Kizu-chan?” Nori nodded. “So is that why you asked me how I confessed to Sakura?” he asked. Nori nodded again. He was blushing furiously. Rin half expected to see steam come out of his ears. Rin laughed. “Then ask her. I told you, girls are not alien creatures. Just act like yourself. Don’t act the way you think she wants you to. Otherwise she won’t see Nori. Or at least, she won’t see the real Nori.” Nori smiled bashfully at Rin.
“Thanks best friend” he said quietly, and Rin was reminded of back when Nori had first told Rin how important he was to him.
“You’re welcome, best friend,” he said and petted Nori’s head. “Oh, one more thing. She’s really scared of men, so be careful. Tell her you’re best friends with Rin Hayashi. She’ll probably calm down a bit.”
“Mkay. Thanks Rin!”
The next day, Nori came to him looking like his dog had just died.
“Woah, Nori, what’s wrong? Did it go poorly?”
“She said she’d have to think about it. She seemed really freaked out. She was tense the whole time like she thought I was gonna attack her or something.”
“I told you, she’s terrified of men. Apparently something happened in her past. She wouldn’t tell me anything else. My guess would be that she was abused by a man, possibly her father, when she was little. But that’s just pure speculation on my part.”
“Oh.” Nori looks worried. “That’s… I’m not sure what to say.”
“That’s okay. Don’t mention it to her and don’t tell her I told you. She’d freak. I told her I wouldn’t tell anyone, but I thought it was something you should know. I’m trusting you to not tell anyone else.”
“Okay.”
The next day, Nori came to Rin. This time he was smiling.
“RIN! RIN SHE AGREED!” The happiness radiating off of him was astounding. “She said she would be willing to meet me after school tomorrow to talk! Do you realize what this means? The girl of my dreams agreed to meet me. I’m getting the chance to confess to a girl I’ve loved for years. I never thought the day would come when I would be so happy.”
“Why not do it today?”
“I need some time to figure out what to say.” He blushed. Rin looked at him, his face red from admitting this, and couldn’t help but laugh. He was, and would always be, the same Nori he had talked to eight years ago. He could learn how to function in the world. He could learn how to make conversation. He could learn how to not back down from situations he was afraid to do. He could grow shoulder-length hair and have stubble on his chin. He could learn how to defend himself and how to be more confident in his decisions. He could do anything he wanted to. But inside, he would always be Nori.
“What?!” he demanded.
“Oh, nothing. I was just… thinking.”
“Humph” Nori was clearly unsatisfied with this vague answer, but accepted it nonetheless. Class was starting, after all. He could grill Rin about it later…

Except he couldn’t…

Rin stared down at Nori’s rapidly cooling corpse and cried. He cried quietly, not screaming or sobbing. That would come later when he’s alone at home, face buried in his favorite pillow. For now the only sounds are his occasional gasps and the tears plopping into the puddles of blood at his feet. Tomorrow was the day he was supposed to meet Yuki. He was supposed to confess to her tomorrow because she was the only girl he loved. He was supposed to sand behind the school and tell her how much he loved her. He should have been HAPPY! Why did this have to happen? Why? Rin has to put a hand over his mouth to stifle the scream. He forces himself to get up. I wonder if he died happy. Probably not. He probably died full of regret and sadness and despair. I need to get out of here. As Rin got up to leave, he noticed something he hadn’t seen before (probably due to the shock of seeing the bodies of his classmates). There was a bag lying abandoned on the floor next to the door. Curious, he knelt down to examine the bag… and completely forgot about Nori. He pulled out his camera, took a picture of the front of the bag and left hurriedly, leaving the bag behind. There was blood on the bag, as well as the name of the person who owned it. The name on the bag was Takashi Yamada.

        Rin made his way down to the police station. Once he got there, he asked to speak to the lead detective behind the murders at Chikako Academy. A tall, middle aged woman with long white hair came out to meet him.
“Hello there. I am detective Koharu Sasaki. You wanted to speak to me?” She looked at him kindly.
“Y-yes” Rin said and began to tell them what he saw. He started from the beginning, with the first murder. He described the mask, and the hunched figure of the killer. He described the high-pitched giggles that the masked person made while hurting Kaiyo. Sasaki was nodding and smiling encouragingly. She must have done this before.
“And could you see who the victim was?” She asked. Rin hesitated for a moment before opening his mouth, closing it again, and shaking his head.
“I’m sorry, it was dark and the body was too deformed for me to be able to get a good look at who it was.” Sasaki stared at him for a while as though trying to decide whether or not she wanted to believe him. Finally, she shook her head and relaxed. Her hair shook out of synch with the movement of her head.
“Okay. And I take it you saw the… uh… scene in the classroom?” Rin nodded silently.
“I… I was going home and left my bag in the room, so I went to get it, which is when I found the bodies.” Or, what was left of them he thought.
“And can you describe the scene for me please?” she asked. Rin hesitated for a second and then began describing what he had seen that day. It wasn’t hard; the scene in that classroom would probably never fade from his memory.
“The corpses were pretty messed up too, but I couldn’t tell if it had been done before or after they had died.” Sasaki smiled at him when he finished
“Thank you very much. Is there anything else you would like to tell me?” Rin shook his head and left the police station. The bell tinkled overhead as he opened the door and stepped out into the cold night air. It didn’t occur to him until much later, as he was laying in bed trying to fall asleep that the questions the woman had asked him were things she should have already known. If she was the person in charge of the case, why did she need to ask about what the corpses look like, what the scene looked like? Rin tried to push this thought away and tried to get some sleep, but it kept nagging at him. Finally, unable to sleep, he got up and dialed the number that Sasaki had given him to call in case he had any further questions or information he wanted to give them. The phone rang five times before he got a message.
“The number you have dialed is out of service…” He hung up the phone, suddenly chilly despite the warmth of the room. Why had this detective given him a number that didn’t exist? Quickly, Rin changed back into his clothes and crept silently downstairs so as not to wake his father. The odds of Sasaki still being there this late at night were slim, but it was worth a try.

It was midnight by the time Rin was walking into the door of the police office. There was a different person at the desk this time, a short, fat man with black hair down to his shoulders. His uniform barely fit.
“Hey there. What can I do for you?” He had a friendly voice, as if he were talking to an old friend rather than a stranger he had no connection to.
“H-Hi” stammered Rin. “I was wondering if detective Sasaki is still here.” The policeman shook his head sadly.
“No. I’m sorry. She left about an hour ago.” His tone was somber, as though he were telling Rin that Sasaki had just died rather than that she had left for the night.
“Oh.” said Rin. “Could I have a number to call her with?”
“Sure” the policeman wrote a phone number down on a piece of paper and handed it to Rin. “I don’t know if she’ll answer, but it doesn’t hurt to try.” Rin smiled gratefully.
“Thanks.”

        Rin walked back from the police station with many thoughts swirling around in his mind. Who was the killer he’d seen on his way back from school yesterday? Why had they murdered Kaiya? She was such a sweet girl. Was it related to the murder of the 5 students at his school? Probably. After all, Kaiya had also been a student from his school. So maybe the killer was a member of his school. In that case it had to be a student. But could a teenager really do those horrible things? They’d have to be fucking crazy!
As Rin boarded the subway home he felt a strange presence, as though someone was watching him. He scanned the train trying to discern who it was, but everyone looked to be absorbed into their own little worlds. As time went on, and the train began to empty of passengers, he noticed something strange. His stop, like Sakura’s, was near the end of the line, so he was almost always the last person off the train. However, today there was another person, and that person was staring right at him. It was the same girl who had been on the train that time he went home with Sakura, except this time, Rin recognized the girl as Aika Ito, a fellow classmate. She was quiet and fairly reserved, so he knew almost nothing about her except from the things he heard from his friend Yuki. He knew she didn’t interact with many people and as a result had poor social skills. He knew she did rather poorly in school, usually barely passing tests and quizzes.
He also knew her house was in the opposite direction. ‘Why is she on THIS train’ he wondered. Rin waved at her and smiled warmly. She continued to glare at him as though she knew no other expression. Rin shifted uncomfortably.
“Ummm, hey there” he tried. She glared at him. “Um… do you… want something from me?” She continued to glare at him.
“Now approaching Ikebukuro station”. Rin sighs with relief and hurries off the train, glad to be away from that icy stare. He started home and it finally came to him: what the look was in her eyes he’d seen before. It was hate… ice cold hate.

At school the next day, Rin can’t stop thinking about the five bodies he saw. He looked around him at the five empty desks. All of them had families, he thought. They all had dreams and aspirations for the future. They had people they loved. And now they’re gone. He clenched his teeth and tried to choke back tears. They were my classmates. They were MY AGE! Why did they have to die? He could see the rest of the class whispering to each other, speculating about the desks. It was rare for anybody in Chikako High to be absent more than a day, and to have the same five students be absent two days in a row had not gone unnoticed by students, nor teachers. Several times on his way here, Rin overheard teachers in the hallway talking about it. It seemed they had been notified about the deaths. Rin looked at his watch. Homeroom didn’t start for another 10 minutes. Exhausted, he laid his head on the table and fell into a half-sleep state, thinking.
Life is so fragile. It’s like glass; one wrong move and it’s gone. It’s so easy to forget, to be lulled into thinking nothing bad will happen. You hear about people dying in other countries, you hear about war, but you think “oh that will never happen to me”, and you forget that tragedy can strike anywhere at any time. Just because you have friends and family and aspirations for the future, it doesn’t make you immune to misfortune. Bad things happen to the nicest of people. People die who don’t deserve to. Just yesterday Rin thought that life would always go on the same, that they’d would always be a normal class full or normal people. He’d felt invulnerable to death. He’d never believed that his classmates, the same classmates with whom he’d shared his secrets with, the ones who he’d talked about girls with, who he’d played video games with, could die right in front of his eyes. He’d felt separated, protected from tragedy. But all that changed in the blink of an eye.
Halfway through the school day, there was an announcement. Rin wondered what it could be about, since announcements halfway through the day were extremely rare. The principal's voice came over the intercom. “Mr. Mutou?”
“Yes?”
“I need Mr. Yamada Takashi down in the main office.”
All eyes in the class turned to look at Yamada.
“Ahem”, the teacher cleared his throat, “Will someone please volunteer to escort Yamada-san down to the main office”.
Silence. Then Rikka, the class president, stood up.
“As class president I feel it is my responsibility to escort Yamada-san”. She grabbed Yamada’s arm and coaxed him out of his seat. “Come with me”, she ordered. The two left, Rena almost dragging Yamada along behind her. The door closed behind them. The room was completely silent, the tension in the air palpable. Everyone was afraid to speak. The spell was broken by the sound of the bell signaling the end of homeroom. The class scrambled to get ready for their next class. Takashi Yamada was now the last thing on their minds.
Chikako Daze (chapter 1)
So here's another thing. If you like it I might upload more. It's still a work in progress.
Story concept credit goes to a guy named Raspberry. He thought of the idea and setting. All I did was the writing.
This is one of the earliest pieces of writing I've done, so it might not be as good as my other stories.
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        They were everywhere. Everywhere, she knew, there were people, and they wanted to hurt her. They hid just out of sight, waiting, ready to come after her the moment she let her guard down. Nobody could be trusted. Of course, she knew if she tried to tell anyone, they’d just laugh it away. They’d go look in the shadows, point behind the bushes and say, “See, there’s nothing there.” But she knew better. She’d seen them slinking under the cover of darkness, dark shapes moving, scuttling around. As soon as she turned to look, they were gone, hiding from her. Hiding in the shadows. Hiding in the trees. Hiding in the bushes, all the time trying to get inside. Sometimes, while she slept, she could hear their scratching, fingernails on her window, trying desperately to get in. Her fingers closed around the cold steel of the gun she kept under her pillow, just in case one of them got in. Without it, she had no doubt that she would succumb to the insanity and terror that was always with her, dancing just outside her consciousness.
There was a knock on her door.
“Aiko, are you in there?” the muffled voice of her mother came through the door. It sounded exhausted, almost mournful. Aiko was silent. A sigh came from the other side of the door, full of hurt and grief and resignation.
“Dinner’s ready if… if you want to come out.” Aiko was still silent.
“We’re having curry tonight. You like curry right?” No response.
“Your father… he made it sweet, just the way you like it.” Nothing. Aiko’s mother sighed.
“You know we love you, right Aiko? Your dad and I… we love you. And we’ll still love you, no matter what. So… if there’s anything you want to talk about then…” She trailed off. She sighed again and spoke, her voice thick with tears just barely held back. “Please Aiko, come out.”
There were a few seconds of silence, and then she could hear the sound of her mother’s footsteps retreating from her door. And although her mother had tried to hide it, she had heard a sob escape her mouth.

        “Any luck?”
“No…” Aiko’s mother tried to wipe the tears from her eyes, but they were quickly replaced. She fell onto the couch next to her husband, leaning against him. The comforting weight of his arms encircled her shoulders, and all the grief she’d been trying to hold at bay suddenly burst out all at once. A sob escaped her lips. It was a terrible sound, full of misery and despair, an expression of hurt so profound words alone could not do it justice. She buried her face in his chest and sobbed and he held her and cried silently over her shoulder.
“She’s dead...! Shuuji, our daughter... is dead! And it’s our fault!” She struggled to talk through the tears and the sobs, drawing breath only to let it out again in a wail of misery.
“No she’s not. She’s very alive in there. And even if she wasn’t, it isn’t your fault, nor mine.”
“She is dead, Shuu, and you know it. Our daughter isn’t in there anymore. Her body eats, breathes, goes to school, but it isn’t her. The Aiko we knew is dead, and she’s not coming back!” Her husband waited patiently until her crying began to subside. She unburied her face and looked up at him.
“Shuuji… what did we do wrong?”
“I don’t think we did anything wrong. You need to stop blaming yourself, Mitsuko. It’s bad habit of yours. I’m sure what’s happening to Aiko is just a phase. It’ll pass if you give it time.” Aiko’s mother nodded, clearly unconvinced.
“She hasn’t been to school in days, she’s not eating, and I can hear her screaming in her sleep at night. I don’t think it’s a phase, Shuu. I think there’s something wrong with her. And if there is, it’s our responsibility as her parents to find out what it is and try our best to help her. I want my daughter back, Shuu. And if there’s any hope of that, I want to do anything and everything in my power to do it.” Shuuji was moved by the determination and passion in his wife’s voice.
“What do you suggest we do then?”
“I’m not sure. But I’ll think of something.”

That night, as Aiko got up to use the bathroom, her foot knocked against something hard. She looked down. A bowl of cold soup had been set in front of her door. Mom left dinner for me…
Picking up the bowl of soup, Aiko proceeded to the bathroom, dumped the soup into the toilet, and flushed. She felt no remorse, no sadness at the sight of the food her mother had set out for her as a way of trying to show her love being washed away in the toilet. Indeed she didn’t feel much of anything.
The empty bowl lay forgotten on the bathroom floor as the person for whom it was intended slept.

***

        “Naire? Are you in there?” Naire heard her mother knock lightly against her door. She didn’t have the energy to get up and go open it. She didn’t have the energy to do anything.
“Your teacher called today. He wanted to know if… if you were going to come to school this week. They’re preparing for the school festival.” Naire hid under her sheets, stripped naked due to the intense heat underneath the covers. She didn’t mind it though. The darkness felt good. It was soothing. Even if she was hot and sweating and disgusting, she was safe. Nobody could touch her while she was under the covers.
“Naire…”
“Mom, please. I don’t want to go. Can you just leave me alone for a while. I promise I’ll come out to eat. Just… let me be.” There was silence for a few seconds, then Naire heard the sound of her mother’s feet walking away. Naire felt like crying. She knew how much she was hurting her mother, how selfish she was being. But she just couldn’t bring herself to come out of her room for anything other than food. She could not bring herself to put on that uniform and face the hostility of the students at school. If only I could disappear forever.
This wouldn’t have happened if Fae were still alive. If Fae were still alive, if she still lived in Ireland, if she hadn’t met that boy, maybe she wouldn’t have to suffer like this. But Fae had insisted on moving to America to study. Her parents had discussed it and decided that the entire family should move too, so that Fae wouldn’t feel lonely or homesick (this was her mother’s biggest worry and no amount of arguing from Naire would convince her otherwise). Needless to say, Naire was the only person who had opposed this. Fae had been grateful and Dad… well, Dad just sort of went along with it. Naire could feel the sadness rise up again, the sadness and the anger and the helplessness she’d felt back then when her parents had told her that she was going to move to America, away from her hometown, away from her friends, from everything she knew and loved. She reached her hand out from under the covers, feeling around on her bedside table. After a few seconds, she found what she was looking for, and pulled her hand back in. The metal of the razor blade against her skin felt cold in comparison with the heat she was engulfed in. She pressed down… and stopped. For almost a minute she sat still with the blade pressed against her arm, trembling. It would be so easy. Just pull and… no. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t do it anymore. She took a deep breath and set the blade down beside her. Never again. She had to prove to herself that she could do this, that she could be strong. She looked at her arm. The scars were already starting to fade. Maybe, someday they would be completely gone. Naire looked forward to that day.

        As Naire’s mother set the table for dinner, she couldn’t help but remember Leannán. He used to always cook for her while she took care of the children. In fact, he was the one who’d taught her how to cook. It was one of the simplest, yet most important things he’d ever taught her. After he’d gone and died on her, leaving her alone with Naire, she’d needed to learn how to provide for her and Naire. And it was thanks to his lessons on how to cook that she and her daughter weren’t eating reheatable pizzas and convenience store meals. She went to knock on her daughter’s door to tell her that it was time to eat and she needed to come out of that awful cave of hers, but stopped. She could hear heavy breathing behind the door and… crying? Was her daughter crying? Quietly, she opened the door, peering into the darkness. Her daughter sat naked on the edge of the bed, a blade pressed against the inside of her arm. Naire’s mother’s eyes widened.
“Oh my god, Naire! Stop!” She turned on the light and ran for her daughter, taking the razor from her hand and placing it on the bedside table. Her daughter collapsed against her, shaking and crying.
“I’m sorry mom. I’m sorry. I tried not to. But…”
“Shhh. It’s okay. You didn’t. You didn’t do anything. You’re fine.” She stroked Naire’s hair, holding her against her chest. Her daughter’s body shook and she snuggled her face further into her mother’s chest.
“It’s okay.”
“Really?” Her voice was muffled
“Really.”
“I’m not… I’m not hurting you?”
“Of course not. Now come eat. It’s time for dinner. Are you up for it?” Naire smiled.
“Yes. Let me get dressed and I’ll... be right out.”

***

        “So, Aiko, tell me about these… uh… nightmares you’ve been having.” Aiko sat silently on the couch across from the man who was to be her new therapist. He was a thin, balding man with clothes that didn’t fit him very well. He wore small reading glasses in order to see the clipboard he held in front of him. Behind them, his eyes were a light blue color, the color of the sky. Aiko hated everything about him.
“Your mother told me you haven’t come out of your room in two weeks, not even to eat. And she told me that you’ve been having nightmares for several months now.”
Aiko sat for a few minutes, staring at him defiantly. He stared back, seemingly unaffected by her lack of response. Finally, he spoke
“Aiko, I’m here to help you. I don’t know what it is that has happened to you, why you’re having these nightmares. I need you to talk to me, to help me out here. If you don’t talk to me, I can’t do anything for you.”
“You can’t help me anyways. Nobody can.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I’ve seen countless people like you. I know how you people think. You don’t give a fuck about me, do you? You just want to collect my mom’s money and pretend to help me. You people are all the same. Claiming to help people yet doing nothing to help. So many people have claimed to be able to help me, and yet here I am not any better than I was last year. Not a single person has been able to do anything for me. You expect me to believe you’ll be any different?” The man was quiet. His blue eyes stared at her with an intensity she was not used to.
“Aiko, you have to understand something. It is not our job to ‘fix’ you. We can talk to you. We can help you, give you a place to talk. We can offer advice and guide you. But it’s ultimately up to you to choose to help yourself.” Aiko raised her head, looking directly into his eyes.
“What do you think I’ve been doing this past year?” Without waiting for a response, Aiko got up off the couch and walked to the door without a word. As she was about to leave, the man called out to her. Aiko paused with her hand on the door handle.
“Find somebody to talk to. If you find somebody you can open up to, you will feel better. I guarantee it. It doesn’t have to be me. It doesn’t even have to be your mother. But find somebody to talk to.” Aiko’s jaw tightened. Without a word, she left the room. Behind her, she heard the man sigh.

        “Done already?” asked her mother. Aiko just nodded and walked right past her and out the door to the parking lot. Because her back was turned, she couldn’t see the look of hurt on her mother’s face. She climbed into the back seat of the car and looked out the window. She didn’t look at or talk to her mother the entire half hour ride home. Rather, she thought about the conversation she and her parents had had last night…

        “Aiko. Come out of your room. We need to talk to you.” Aiko grudgingly opened her door but didn’t walk through it. If her parents wanted to talk to her, they could do it in here. Her mother sighed, seeming to understand that she wasn’t going to get her daughter to come out and walked into Aiko’s room. It was dark inside and cold; even though it was the middle of December, Aiko had all her windows open. Aiko sat in the only chair, leaving her parents to find the most comfortable place they could on the floor.
“Well? What did you want to tell me.” Aiko aimed her eyes down and to the side, taking care not to look at her parents.
“Aiko we were thinking of… we’re going to take you a therapist. We want to find the best way to help you get over whatever it is that you’re struggling with.” Aiko smirked.
“Well I hope he does better than those other failures you wasted money on.” Her mother flinched at those words.
“I just want to do what’s best for you. And me and your father… don’t know what to do.” Aiko could see her mother visibly shrinking as she spoke. Aiko laughed coldly.
“If you want to do what’s best for me, get out of my fucking life. You think you can do anything for me? You’re fucking wrong.” Her mother was trembling now, her hands squeezing the fabric of her dress so hard her knuckles were turning white.
“Aiko, please…”
“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help. Now get out of my fucking room, you pathetic excuse for a mother.” Aiko’s mother had started to cry long before her daughter had finished. Her father wrapped his arm around his wife and squeezed.
“Please Aiko, just give it a chance. One session, that’s it. If you never want to go back, you won’t have to. And… we’ll never make you go to another therapist again.”
“Because you don’t want to pay for it?” Her father’s mouth tightened.
“No. Because we want you to be happy. And if giving up on therapy does anything to help, we’ll do it for you.” For the first time, Aiko looked at her father.
“You mean it?”
“Of course. Will you go?”
“I’ll try it. But only once.”
“Fine.”
“Now get out.” Aiko pointed towards the open door leading out to the hallway. Her father guided her still-sobbing mother out the door. Aiko closed the door quietly and climbed into bed…

        Aiko was out of the car as soon as it pulled into the driveway. Her mother raised a hand to try to stop her, but gave up. It wouldn’t make any difference what she said. Aiko ran straight up to her room, closed the door, and climbed into bed. She was exhausted from going out today. It had been weeks since she’d set foot outside, and the stress of doing something new had taken it’s toll on her mind and body. She rolled over on her side and pulled the covers more tightly around herself. She reached under her pillow to make sure her gun was still there and closed her eyes. Darkness engulfed her, soothed her. She could feel her body relaxing. Maybe she should try it now. Maybe it would be easier now that she was more relaxed. Her hands crept down her stomach, between her legs and stopped, trembling in the air less than a centimeter away from their goal. Slowly, carefully, she extended a finger and stopped again. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could do this. She could…
Her finger went closer, closer until finally it touched. She bit down on her other hand to calm herself and keep from screaming. She pressed harder, dragging her finger up. Her breath caught in her throat. Fear filled her. No matter how often she did this, she was always reminded of him. The man who had hurt her, who had done this to her. She cursed silently. Over a year later and she couldn’t do this. She gave up, bringing her hands back up to her face, cuddling her gun the way a normal 10 year old would cuddle her stuffed bear. The things were back. She could hear the scratching on her window pane. Aiko squeezed her eyes shut and pulled her knees up to her chest, laying curled up on her side. The scratching grew louder, more insistent. Aiko squeezed the gun more tightly. She’d kill them. If any one of them managed to get inside, she’d kill them. She hated this: this constant fear, this constant feeling that she needed to defend herself against. There was a knock on her door. For a second, Aiko almost pointed the gun at the door, convinced it was one of the People. But then rational thought kicked in, telling her it was just her mother. Aiko relaxed her grip on the gun.
“Aiko? Can I come in?” Aiko didn’t answer, instead covering herself in blankets. Her mother seemed to take the lack of an answer as a “yes”, opening the door and coming inside. At least she didn’t turn on the light.
“Hey there. I just wanted to ask you what you thought about today.” No reply.
“He… seemed nice enough.” Aiko remained silent. Aiko’s mother continued, but in a slightly shakier voice.
“So… do you think you’d… want to go back?” Aiko sat in silence for a while before answering.
“No. I won’t go back.”
“Oh.” Her mother sounded deflated.
“He can’t help me.”
“Yes… okay… well, I guess that’s it. I’m sorry for making you go.” Aiko was silent. Her mother sighed and turned away. Just before she was about to leave, Aiko yelled, “Wait!”
Her mother turned around hopefully. Aiko took a deep breath.
“I… I want to go to school tomorrow.” Her mother’s eyes widened.
“You… what?”
“I want to go to school tomorrow.”  

***

“Hey there, it’s Naire. I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I was wondering if… if… ah, goddamnit!” Naire slammed her fist against her desk. It’d been 20 minutes since she’d sat down to practice what she was going to say and she still couldn’t even get through the first sentence. Tears of frustration and anger slid down her face and fell onto her desk, making dark spots where they landed. He was gone. There was no reason for her to want to talk to him, let alone see him anymore. And yet, for some reason, she couldn’t let him go.
“Hey there, it’s Naire. I know we haven’t talked to each other for a while, but I was… was… I… fuck.” She gave up, flopping down on her bed and staring at the ceiling. Her legs dangled off the side and she swung them back and forth, thinking. Maybe she should just call him. Get it over with. Obviously practicing wasn’t doing anything. But what if she tripped up? Naire rolled over on her side, sighing. Why did it have to be this hard? It was just a phone call. She wouldn’t even have to talk face to face with him. She took a deep breath and reached for her phone. Slowly, digit by digit, she typed the phone number she knew all too well. Naire’s finger hovered above the send button for a split second before pressing down. Her hands shook as she brought the phone up to her ear. It didn’t even ring once before she got his voicemail. “This is Alan. I can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave a message and I might call you back.” There was a beep indicating that it was time to leave a message. Naire took a deep breath, exhaled, and started talking.
“Hey there, it’s Naire. I know it’s been a while since we last spoke, but I was wondering if… if… if it would be okay for us to meet up sometime. There are so many things I want to talk about with you. So, if you get this message… when you get this message, please call me back. I’d love to hear your voice…” Naire clutched the phone to her ear. She needed to hang up soon; she didn’t want to let him hear her cry. She took another deep breath and whispered “I’m sorry” before hanging up. She let the phone drop to the floor. She’d done it. She’d called him. She looked up at the ceiling and laughed. She’s done it. Now all she had to do was wait and see if he’d call back. Her eyes drifted sideways to the school uniform hanging on the wall and made up her mind. If he called back, she’d go back. She’d face the taunts and jeers of her classmates. She wanted so desperately for things to work out again. Maybe if she saw him, even if it was just one more time, maybe she’d be able to make up the things she’d said to him. Maybe he’d find it within himself to apologize. That way, even if they never saw each other again, the bitterness wouldn’t be as strong.
Naire looked to the side, to her bedside table, to the thing on the bedside table. The blade of her razor glinted slightly in the soft light of her room, casting reflected light at the wall opposite it. The bed squeaked as Naire crawled across it to the table, picking up the razor. It sat in her hand, looking both evil and completely innocent, like a child who hurts without malicious intent. For almost 5 minutes she sat there, just looking at the tool in her hand, the blade she used to mutilate her own body. Then, before she lost the will to do so, she got up and threw it away. Never again. She would never do it again. Her scars were almost healed, and she wanted it to stay that way. Even if she was hurting, even if she was sad, she’d find a way to cope without hurting herself.
Aiko chapter 1
I got a few positive comments on my other writing, so I decided why not put up more for the two people who feel like reading it. This one is a little more mature, so I feel obligated to say "viewer discretion is advised" even though I know nobody will listen to me. 
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Part 3

          “I love my brother.”

She began to cry. I’d never seen her cry before. She was always so strong, so reliable; like a rock, she never changed, never wavered, never stopped supporting.

         “He’s the most important person in my life.”

Her body shook like a leaf in the wind. Her eyes were dull and lifeless, like windows into a dark, empty void. Her mouth was open, the corners turned down in misery. Her face was the most gut-wrenching expression of grief I’ve ever seen.

         “He’s the only family I have left.”

She was alone. She had nobody left. She’d lost her family, and they were never coming back. This final loss of that which she held dear finally managed to break the resilient spirit she possessed. The Hana I knew was dead. Who would have guessed it could happen so easily?
What cruel gods exist that caused this tragedy to be afflicted on her? What deed had she done to deserve this grief? Is this the reward she gets for her kindness? Is this her reward for all the good she’s done? What bitter world have we been born into that punishes the good, breaks the strong? What world is this that has destroyed my Hana?
There was a soft knock on the door.
“Hana-chan? Yuki-chan? Is everything okay in there?”
“Yeah mom. Everything… Everything’s fine.”
“Okay. I heard some shouting so…”
“Don’t worry, it’s fine. Oh, by the way, Hana-chan is staying over tonight.”
“Oh? Okay then, I’ll call her mom and…”
“No worries, we already did that.”
“Oh. Okay then. Well, sleep well! And have fun.”
“We will, thanks.” After I heard her footsteps fade away, I turned back to Hana.
“Hana, can you hear me?”
“Yes.” She seemed to be regaining her composure.
“You’re sleeping over tonight. I thought you might want to do that, since…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. We both knew what came next, but neither of us were willing to say it. So I left the subject to rest. Hana flopped down on my bed. She looked so sad; so very, very sad.
“How are you doing?”
“Not so great.” A soft, bitter laugh came from her direction.
“Do you want to watch me draw?”
“No.”
“Okay.” We sat in silence for a while before Hana spoke up.
“I’m going to sleep.”
“Okay.” I switched off the light and opened the door to go downstairs.
“Wait.”
“Hm?” I turned around, silhouetted against the bright background of the hall. A thin beam of light made it’s way past me and fell on Hana’s face.
“Will you… sleep with me tonight?” For a few seconds, I could not answer. She wanted me to sleep with her? The very thing I’d been dreaming of coming true before my eyes. The girl I loved needed me. I could see her pleading eyes, her body shaking despite the warmth of the room. I wonder if she could tell how I felt. Could she see my shock? My fear? My happiness?
At last I found my voice.
“Yes. Of course.”
I changed into my pajamas and quietly slid into bed next to her, wrapping my arms around her body and holding her and squeezing her and loving her.
And even if these feelings aren’t returned, even if this love is one-sided, I will keep on loving her and remember this moment for the rest of my life.

         About half an hour later, just as I was beginning to fall asleep, I was awakened by Hana’s voice.
“Hey, Yuki. Are you awake?”
“Yeah.” I could feel the rise and fall of her body under my arm.
“Yuki, is it okay if I… I ask something of you?”
“Of course.” I said, slightly confused. A nervous tingling had started in my stomach; if asked, I couldn’t say why.
“I need your help.”
“With…” She turned to face me, her eyes brimming with tears.
“I want to die.” I stared at her in stunned silence.
“You what?”
“I want to die. I have lost almost everything I love. My brother was the most precious person in my life. With him gone, I have no reason to live.” I felt sick. Could the death of a single person really break somebody this much?
“But… you still have me don’t you?”
“Yes. Which is why I was going to ask you to die with me. I know how hard it is to be the one left behind. I know that living is harder than dying. I don’t want to do that to you. I want you to come with me.” The reality of what she was saying finally hit me.
“Oh no. Oh nonononono. Hana, y-you can’t. I can’t. I can’t do that to myself or Hiroko or Mitsuko or anyone else. Do you realize how many people will miss you?”
“Of course. But that… I don’t know. Maybe I’m being reckless. Maybe I’m being selfish. But right now I’m hurting so bad. I don’t want this pain, this grief, and death is the only way I can think of discarding it. After all, the pain is in my head. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it on my own. I want to die, but I can’t do it. Which is the other reason I want you to come with me. I need your support.” I stared horrified at her face. Horrified that she’d think such things… and horrified at myself, because, for just a second, I actually thought about agreeing. I thought that maybe I should do it. For her.
“Please Yuki.” No. Don't give me that look. Don’t beg me with that voice. Otherwise, I…
“Yuki, You’re the only person I can turn to. You’re the only one I care about right now. I don’t want to leave you behind. And besides, it would make me happy to know that you were with me till the end.” I felt as though there were something stuck in my throat;  I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t tell her that yes, I wanted to go with her, but I couldn’t tell her that no, I didn’t want her to go.
What is it that I am feeling? What is it that I want? I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Nothing is certain in my mind anymore. I cannot imagine a world without Hana; I want to be with her forever. But is keeping her alive really the right way to do that? Or is that pure selfishness on my part? Is dying with her right? Or is that pure selfishness on her part? Is either option right? Is either one of them wrong? Would I be doing her a service by saving her life, or would that simply be selfish cruelty, forcing her to live just because I want her?
“I’ll think about it”, I said. She smiled through her tears. She said something, but I didn’t hear it.
I will probably never know what it was.

          Hana was still asleep when I woke up, snuggled up against me, hugging me, her face buried in my chest. She’s so cute. I couldn’t help myself and reached up to stroke her hair. She looked so peaceful in sleep. She didn’t look like the Hana who wanted to die. She didn’t look like the broken girl who just a few hours ago had sat crying on my bedroom floor. She looked more like the Hana I first met, way back when I first transferred here last month. It felt like so long ago. To think these feelings could develop in just a month. Love really is amazing. Even if it is unrequited. Unrequited love. I’d heard about it before; I knew what it was, although I hadn’t imagined it would be something I’d ever experience. To me, it had just been words on a page. It had never been real outside the world of fiction. It only happened to other people. And yet, here I lay, staring at the girl who will never love me back. She’s so close, so close she could be almost a part of me. But the distance between us could not be greater.
Hana looked up, perhaps in response to my gentle petting.
“Good morning Hana” I gave her the most cheerful smile I could muster.
“Good morning” came her bleary voice. I extricated myself from her arms to go put on my uniform. Showering was too much of a pain in the neck, so I just told myself I’d do it when I got home. And, depending on what I chose, I may not be around long enough for it to even matter. I heard rustling as Hana threw off the sheets and turned around. As she had not planned on staying over and none of my clothes fit her, she was still in her uniform. Oh well, nothing to be done about that.

         After a short breakfast that involved me eating toast with blueberry and blackberry jam and Hana staring quietly at the table, the two of us walked to school. Oh, the temptations, the longing, the desire to reach out and touch her, to hold her hand or hug her arm. I want her to be mine forever. Why is love so cruel? She turned to me.
“Yuki, are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. You’re crying.”
“I am?” Indeed I was; there were tears rolling down my face. I can only imagine what a mess I must look like. Furiously, I wiped my eyes. I didn’t want Hana to see me crying.
“I’m fine. We need to keep walking or we’ll be late.”
“Okay.” She bit her lip and then said, “Yuki, you can tell me if something’s bothering you.”
“Okay.”
“If something was bothering you, you would tell me… right?”
“Of course.” If only I could tell you.
“Let’s go.”
“Ok.”

         Hana seemed more reserved than usual at school today. I don’t know if anyone else noticed it or not; she was really quite good at pretending to be happy. But I could tell. She was still grieving, whether she showed it or not. She was hurt and struggling, putting up a cheerful front to hide her pain. She didn’t want to worry her friends (though whether this was because she didn’t want them getting in the way of her suicide or not, I wasn’t sure). I thought about her request.
“I want you to come with me.”
Should I do it? Or should I try to save her? Over and over I’ve heard people say you should never keep it a secret when someone wants to kill themselves, that you should tell some sort of trusted adult, but I can’t bring myself to do it. The need in her voice when she asked me to help her made me question whether stopping her was the right thing to do. If she wanted so badly to die, then why force her to live? If life was too painful for her to want to stay, was it right to keep her here? These thoughts scared me, for it meant I was considering letting my only friend die. For the first time, I realized the malleability of the ideas of right and wrong. Rather than opening my eyes to the path I should take, it only made me doubt my decisions even more. It was as if the more I learned, the less clear things became.
My frustration built as the day went on, as my brain got more and more exhausted from trying to think about Hana and focus on the classes. During art club I chatted with Hana and Hiroko (who had just recently joined) and Mitsuko, and laughed and talked. From the outside, it probably looked like nothing had changed.
But it had.
I think all four of us noticed it. Our talking was more subdued, our laughter more forced. Even Mitsuko I think noticed it: the subtle change in Hana’s behavior. But none of us had the courage to speak up and talk about it. Finally, unable to stand it, I said, “I’m going home. I have something I need to do.” I stood up and left before anyone could respond.

I cried all the way home for the happiness we’d lost.

         When I got home, Aoi-san was once again sitting next to the door, this time dressed as Ink Nijihara. She opened her mouth to give a cheerful greeting, but her expression changed to worry when she saw my face.
“Yuki. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing mom.”
“That’s not true. Tell me what’s wrong. It’ll make you feel better, I know it will.” I bit my cheek to keep from crying.
“It’s nothing.”
“Yes it is.” She said softly. “Come on. Please tell me.” I trembled torn between wanting to tell her and wanting to run up to my room and hide under the covers. Finally I said, “Fine.” Aoi-san looked relieved.
“Come on into the dining room. I’ll go change and then we can talk.”
“Ok.”
A few minutes later, Aoi-san came back downstairs returned in jeans and a white t-shirt with a picture of Sailor Moon on it. She was carrying two glasses of water.
“Here” She said, handing me one of them.
“Thank you.”
“So, tell me.” I took a deep breath and told her about Hana, choosing my words carefully so as not to give away her secret.
“I have a friend who’s in a lot of pain. She’s suffering and suffering and I don’t know how to help her. She asked me to do something, but I don’t know if I should or not. She really, really wants my help, but I don’t know if giving her what she wants is the right thing to do or not. But I don’t know if not helping her is right either. I want to help her, but I don’t know if I can.” The tears I’d been trying to hold back began to fall creating dark spots on the tablecloth. Aoi-san sat next to me and looked at me with an expression I couldn’t read. Was it sadness? Or pity?
“I was once in the same position you were.” She said. “I had a friend who wanted to kill herself due to bullying at school. I could understand why she wanted to; the abuse was awful and they never, ever stopped. They took every chance they could to ruin her life. But when my friend said she actually wanted to die, I was suddenly unsure. She was suffering so much. But I didn’t want her to go. And so I decided to report her. I told the school, I told her mom, I told everybody I could think of. I wasn’t thinking about her feelings, but instead trying selfishly to save her life. I didn’t know what it was she actually wanted, and because of that I hurt rather than helped her.”
“And what happened?”
“It ruined our friendship. From that moment on, she never talked to me again. And it didn’t even work. She killed herself anyways. I destroyed our friendship and her life for no reason.
“The point of telling you this story is so that you don’t make the same mistake I did. I don’t know what it is your friend asked you to do. But before you do anything, figure out what she really wants. Do not act recklessly or it could end up destroying both of you.”
“Okay. I’ll be sure of that.” I tried to smile despite my tears flowing down my face.
“Thank you mom.”
“Just doing my job.” She smiled and embraced me.

         Over the next week, I thought hard about what Aoi-san had told me. “Do not act recklessly.” But what did recklessly mean? Was dying with my best friend reckless? Or was saving her reckless? Was it worth destroying our friendship if I tried to help Hana? What if it didn’t work? What if it turned out like Aoi-san’s friend and all that happened was that she died bitter and resentful towards me? The more I thought about it, the more dying with her seemed like the best option. It would certainly make it easier. There was a good possibility she’d do it even if I didn’t go with her. In which case, my life would be over; I’d be feeling the same way she was right now. Death would be better than losing Hana, and if she were to die, then I’d like to go with her. I decided. I’d give Hana my answer on Monday. Come what may.

         That being said, the weekend was no less torturous, nor any more fruitful than the rest of the week had been. The two Yukis inside me still fought for dominance. Dying, living, helping, hurting, none of these were any clearer than they had been when Hana first told me about her wish. But I had to make a decision. I’d told myself that I would. Hana had asked me a few times during the week whether or not I’d decided yet, and every time I’d answered no, I had not. It was unfair to both of us for me to be like this. Decisiveness is a virtue. Or so I’d like to think.

         After what felt like forever, Monday came and with it my chance to see Hana. I hadn’t hardly seen her at all over the past week, and when I did we didn’t talk much. I’d been too lost in thought to do much of anything besides, well, think. But now came the time. Now it was time for me to be the decisive Yuki I’d always been striving to be. It may come to be that this is my last day on earth. I should at least try to do some of the things that I’ve wanted my whole life. Looking back, I suppose this has been a wonderful month and a half. It was short, and I didn’t spend much time with anybody except Hana, but that alone was enough to change my outlook on life, almost change my whole personality. She’d drawn me out. She’d taught me to laugh and smile. She’d taught me friendship and then love. I’d learned so many things from this girl I’d only known for six weeks. And now, we were going to be together forever. She was standing by my shoe locker when I walked in the door. I wonder how long she’s been standing there.
“Yuki!” She smiled and waved. It was the first real smile I’d seen since the news of her brother’s death. She must’ve already known what my answer was going to be.
“Hi Hana” I smiled back. It was the first real smile I’d made since the news of her brother’s death.
“Did you make up your mind?” She asked.
“Yes I did.” I took a deep breath. “Hana…. I will die with you.”
“Awesome. Thank you so much Yuki. You really are the best friend I’ll ever have.”
“I could say the same to you. Before I met you, I was always unhappy. You were the one who taught me how to be happy.”
“I’m glad I did some good in the world before I decided to leave it.”
“So when do you want to do it.”
“Today. During our lunch break.”
“Okay. I’ll be there.”
“Are you ready to die?”
“I’m ready to die.”




Part 4

         The wind was strong on the roof of the school, whipping around our skirts and tangling our hair. Hana and I stared over the edge to the street far below. The sidewalk looked very hard. For some reason I wasn’t afraid. Here I was staring over the side of a building, about to jump off, and there was no fear in me at all, but rather a peaceful nothingness; an acceptance that I was about to die. In a few minutes, a girl named Yuki Kizu, age 14, would vanish from this world forever. Would anybody miss her? Maybe. I mentally went through the list of possible candidates. Mitsuko and Aika? Probably not. I’d talked seriously with them them a total of two times. Every time we met it was nothing but idle chit-chat. I knew nothing about them and they probably knew nothing about me either. Looking back on it, I should have gotten to know them more. But perhaps my disconnection from them wasn’t such a bad thing. This way, they’d only lose one close friend instead of two. What about Aoi-san? She might miss me, and I regretted that. But we’d only known each other for two months. She’d get over me. So would Hiroko. Come to think of it, probably everybody would. They’d grieve, they’d cry, they may even get angry with us. But in the end, they’d move on. We’d become nothing more than a bittersweet memory, something from the past. In a way it made me sad that more people wouldn’t remember me. But I suppose that’s how it goes. Nothing lasts forever after all, not friends, not even memories. I was about to suggest it was time to depart before I remembered something important that I’d told myself I’d do before I died.
“Hey Hana?”
“What?”
“I have something to tell you before we go.” She looked at me quizzically.
“What is it?” I took a deep breath and leaned in close to her.
“...I love you.” I whispered to her. She held my hand, intertwining our fingers. Her lips moved and formed the last words I would ever hear her say.
“...I know.” Her voice was quiet, barely above a whisper. “I love you too. I was trying to figure out how to tell you, but I just couldn’t do it. I know it’s a bit late, but I hope you’ll forgive me. She gave a sad smile. “After all, these are our last moments on earth.”
“Yep. I suppose they are.” My voice was quiet too.
“Are you ready?”
“Can I ask you something first?”
“What is it?”
“Will you… could you kiss me? I mean, before we…” She looked me and smiled.
“Of course.” And she leaned in, her face coming closer and closer, standing on her tiptoes to reach me. I leaned forward.
Our lips touched and time seemed to slow down. It was magical, this moment, my last moment on earth. What a way to go, I thought. My dream is finally realized. Moments before death, and I finally got the thing I wanted to live for. The irony. And yet, somehow, I didn’t regret anything. Is this how all people feel when they’re about to die? Or am I just one of the lucky few who don’t have to die bitter or regretful? Is this how Hana’s brother felt?
Hana pulled away, and our kiss ended. The moment was over. But it had a lasting effect; now I could die happy. My face broke into a smile and tears of joy welled up in my eyes. Hana smiled back before looking down at the ground far beneath us. She took a deep breath, and squeezed my hand.
“Ready?” she asked.
“I suppose so.” I said smiling.
“Let’s go.” I nodded, and together we stepped out into the open air.

         Falling, faster and faster we descended, gravity taking hold, dragging us down, down, down. The air whipped past our faces. Windows flashed by too fast for us to be able to see anybody behind them. It was exhilarating, this last fall, this final fall. That’s what I’d call it, I decided: Final Fall. It sounded so lame, but I couldn’t come up with anything better while falling to my death. Regardless, it would end soon, and so would I. I turned around.  I may as well look at the sky one last time before I die. Oh, what a wonderful blue sky, the wonderful sun shining light upon the earth, growing things and killing things. What a crazy thing this is, life. It’s held in such precarious balance; one thing gets messed up and the whole thing fails. I remember suddenly a memory of a time long, long ago. Something I’d thought I’d forgotten. I was small, maybe six years old. It was a sunny day, just like today. Maybe that’s why I remembered it. I was swinging, the wind rushing past me. And daddy was pushing me. It was a memory of back when I used to be happy, back before our family was so broken. Back when I had a family. It was a nice memory. I was happy that that would be the last thing I thought of.
Suddenly I saw a figure silhouetted against the sun. I saw pale skin, long black hair, I saw… Oh my god, it’s Hiroko! She must have come up to find me. We always eat lunch on the roof after all. But to have her of all people see my final moments…
Her eyes opened wide in horror, a scream forming on her lips. I wanted to scream back, to shout to her, to tell her not to watch, but I couldn’t draw in enough air to make more than a whisper. Hiroko shook her head and screamed at me, but I couldn’t make out her words. I could see her face reflecting her broken heart as her friend fell to her death. I reached out my hand as though to touch her and–
WHAM! I heard the crunch of bones, felt a burning pain and then…

Nothing.

“Yuki? Yuki!? Hiroko, come here, I think she’s waking up!” Footsteps hurried across the room, tap, tap, tap.
“Is she awake?”
“I think so.” Why was I hearing sounds? Am I dead? Everything’s black.
“Yuki!” Is that Aoi-san? Her voice is distant and muffled, as though I were hearing it underwater. The blackness gives way to light as I open my eyes. I see blurry, abstract faces above me. Is this Aoi-san? So that girl next to her must be Hiroko. But… where was I?
“Yuki? Yuki, can you hear us?” I opened my mouth to tell them that yes, I could hear them, but all that came out was a low moaning sound.
“YES! I thought it would never happen!”
Thinking, thinking, trying to remember. Where was I? And why could I not see or hear anything clearly? I gave up. Thinking was beyond me right now.  I made another low groan. Sight and hearing were beginning to come back, as well as other senses I hadn’t been aware of before. I could feel sheets under my fingers. I could smell the sharp antiseptic smell that exists inside hospital rooms. The faces of Aoi-san and Hiroko were beginning to sharpen as though somebody were adjusting the resolution in my eyes. I felt a drop of liquid on my face. Finally, I could see clearly again.
The source of the liquid was from the girl, Hiroko, who was standing over me. She must of have seen the recognition on my face, because she suddenly burst into tears and fell to her knees, burying her face in the blankets next to my head. I hadn’t seen her cry like this since… since when? I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember anything. The more I thought, the less I realized I knew. Who was Hiroko? I knew the name. We must have been close. But… who was she? Where did we meet?
“Who are you?” I whispered. The girl named Hiroko looked up in horror.
“W-What? Don’t you remember me?”
“Not really… I remember your name and face. I remember we used to be friends.” Her face changed from one of joy to a painful depiction of despair and sorrow.
“We met at school. Remember? You sat next to me. You became my friend. You… you taught me how to be happy. Don’t you remember?” And yes, now that she mentioned it, I did. It was starting to come together, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I remembered Hiroko and Mitsuko and…
“Where’s Hana?” My speech was slow and deliberate, slightly slurred, but still recognizable at words. Everyone in the room looked at me gravely. I noticed there was a man in a white coat standing next to Aoi-san. Was he a doctor? Probably.
“What?” I asked. “Where’s Hana? We were together and…” And then it came back to me, the final piece of the puzzle, and I remembered. The wind, the ledge… the kiss. And the fall. Falling so fast and seeing Hiroko but then...
“Oh… Oh. Oh god. Oh no. No. No she’s not…” I looked desperately around the room hoping, praying that they would say that it’s fine and there’s nothing to worry about. Because that was true. There wasn’t anything to worry about because Hana was alive. She probably just couldn’t make it. Or she was in a different room. But she was fine, she had to be fine. Because she was Hana and Hana couldn’t be…
“Hana’s dead.” Aoi-san looked like she was holding back tears. “She died right after the ambulance arrived. It’s a miracle you’re still alive.”
“Ambulance?”
“Yes. Hiroko called one for you two. She saw you… falling.”
“Oh.” That’s right. I’d told Hana I’d die with her. But then why was I alive?
“Hana died shortly after they arrived. We thought you’d die too. You were asleep for so long…”
“Asleep?”
“Yes.” Hiroko, took my left hand, holding it in hers. She was quiet, but I could feel droplets on my hand. “You’ve been out for three and a half weeks.” I looked at the two of them, horrified.
“Three and half weeks?! But then have you been…?” Aoi-san nodded.
“Hiroko sat with you every day talking to you or reading to you. There were a few times she even got the doctor to let her stay overnight so she could sleep with you.” Hiroko squeezed my hand and let out a quiet sob. For the first time I noticed the stack of books sitting next to my bed.
“Hiroko…” She wasn’t looking at me. It was probably too painful. But to think that she stayed with me the whole time! I could imagine her sitting next to my bed alone, talking about school or art or friends or memories of what happened before The Fall. The strength of will it must have taken to read to your friend day after day, not knowing whether they would ever wake up is something I cannot even begin to imagine.
“Um…”
“What is it?” I drawn back to reality by Hiroko’s voice.
“The doctors… they told me that…” She fidgeted uncomfortably as though she had something she wanted to say but was afraid to say it. “Yuki…your legs don’t work.”
“What?” I didn’t understand.
“When you landed, you smashed up your body pretty bad. And they managed to do a little bit for you but…” she took a deep, shuddering breath. “They told us that you’re paralyzed from waist down. They don’t know if it will ever get better, and there’s a good chance that you’ll never walk again.” She took a deep, shaky breath. “I’m sorry.” There was nothing I could do but sit in a shocked silence. Never again. I will never walk again. Never again. But… that… how will I be able to do that? Will I be forever condemned to a wheelchair, always relying on others to help me move? Death would be preferable. But that would just hurt Hiroko. My selfish actions will hurt the people who care about me. I thought of Hiroko, day after day reading to me, talking to me despite having no idea if I’d ever come back, whether I could even hear her. I thought of the suffering I’d must have caused Aoi-san when she got the call.
I started to cry, both for myself and the others I’d hurt and vowed to myself that I would never do that to anybody again. The comforting weight of Hiroko’s body as she leaned over to embrace me reminded me of that time so many lifetimes ago when Hana was leaning over me, watching me draw.
I cried and cried and cried, overwhelmed by the feelings inside me, by the memories of what had once been. Was this how Hana had felt? Like the world had no meaning now that her brother was dead? Who knows? She’s not around anymore to ask. I felt Hiroko’s arms squeeze tighter, her face burying further into my neck. I felt her lips move, her hot breath on my neck. I could almost feel the vibrations of her vocal cords as she formed the words that I had once said to her.
“It’s okay to cry, Yuki.” My eyes widened, my breath caught in my throat. When I turned over to look at her, I could see it in her eyes too the significance of these words. The words that had changed the life of this girl coming back to save me from the brink of despair. I couldn’t help myself. Despite the pain in my heart and the tears flowing down my cheeks, my face broke into a smile and, for the first time since Hana had gotten the call, I laughed.

A month has passed since then. The doctors have already told me that the damage to my ability to move is permanent, not to anyone’s surprise. I suppose I’ll have to resign myself to my fate: unable to move in this world without love. Hana. A tear falls from my eyes. I will never fully forget what happened that day. I will never forget the girl who taught me how to live, how to laugh, how to talk. I will never forget my feelings towards her. I will never forget that kiss. I don’t think I will ever love somebody as much as I loved that girl. But I can still try to find happiness. Tragedies happen to everybody, but how I decide to deal with mine will influence the rest of my life. Do I move on? If I do, will I eventually forget Hana? Will she, as the years pass, fade in my mind, become less real with every passing year until she is nothing more than a name? Or do I stay stuck in the past like my mother? I may never forget Hana, but I may also never rediscover true happiness. Is there a third option, one where I can remember my friend and still move beyond her? If there is, then I have yet to find it. I cannot achieve anything without giving something up. If I am to gain happiness, I must give up that which I hold precious. But in order to forever remember that precious memory, I must forfeit the potential of a happy future. Neither one of them sounds good, as though no matter my choice, there will still be wounds. But I suppose I’ll just have to deal with that. After all, I’m learning to deal with this damned wheelchair. Perhaps there is still hope for me.
I then noticed Hiroko running across the grass to meet me. I was discharged from the hospital today and she said she’d come and get me.
“Hey Yuki! How’s it going?”
“Meh. I’m okay. I’m starting to get used to not being able to walk.”
“Well that’s good I suppose. It still makes me sad, seeing you like this, but I suppose I’ll just have to get used to it. Besides, now I am completely in control.” She gave an evil laugh and took hold of the handles on my wheelchair.
“Woah! Hiroko hold it! What are you doing?”
“Helping you!” She pushed me over to the parking lot and started pushing me in circles, laughing and jumping. There was no sign of the girl I’d met on my first day of school.
“We’re going to be waiting for Aoi-san to come and pick us up. So I thought I should play with you a little bit. You were looking so gloomy over there.”
“Okay, okay, but you didn’t have to do this! I’m getting dizzy.” Despite my protests, my laughter gave away how much fun I was having.
Aoi-san pulled up in a big, pink van with a skull and crossbones painted in black on both sides.
“Hey there, sorry I’m late!”
“No, no, don’t worry about it. We were just practicing a bit out here.” I glared at Hiroko.
“Practicing huh?”
“Yes, practicing. After all, it wouldn’t do for me to not know how to work a wheelchair.”
“Whatever.” I rolled my eyes and pretended to be angry. Aoi-san got out of the car and opened the back. A ramp came out so that I could be loaded into the van. There was a strange feeling of being packed up like furniture as I was pushed up the ramp and into the back of the van. The doors slammed behind me and Aoi-san started the van.
“Wait, what about Hiroko?” I asked. A hand touched my shoulder causing me to start.
“I’m back here.”
“Oh. Okay. Let’s go then I suppose.”

The hospital was only a five minute drive from Aoi-san’s house, so we drove there first; Hiroko said she’d called her parents earlier and told them that she’d be staying over at a friends house. Aoi-san stepped out of the car and signaled for Hiroko to wait. A few minutes later she poked her head out the front door and beckoned to us. Together she and Hiroko carried my wheelchair up the stairs and into the house.
“I’m so sorry about all this trouble I’m causing you.” I couldn’t help but feel bad for making them care for me.
“Don’t worry. Aoi-san and I are happy to take care of you.”
“Okay…” I was still unsure, but they’d told me they were okay with it, so my conscience was put to rest at least for a little while.
“Anyways, we have something for you.” Hiroko gave a little giggle. “You’ll like it, I’m sure.”
“Okay…” Aoi-san opened the door for Hiroko and she pushed me in and…
My senses were overwhelmed at first by the amount of color in the room. Rainbow confetti was thrown everywhere, huge banners swept across the ceiling, and there was a bright yellow tablecloth over the dinner table. But amidst it all, there were two things that stood out. First was a cake sitting in the middle of the table. And second was a huge banner that stretched the length of the room. On it were written the words: ‘Welcome Back!’ Tears came to my eyes.
“You guys…”
“We thought that we should have some sort of event in order to celebrate your recovery and discharge from the hospital.” Hiroko was talking almost as much as Hana used to.
“You guys… thank you so much.” It was all I could do to keep from dissolving into tears of joy. It was amazing. Who would have thought you could cry because you were happy?

Later that week, on my request, Aoi-san and Hiroko took me out to visit Hana’s grave.  Apparently Hana’s funeral was held while I was still in the hospital. It made me a bit sad that I didn’t get to see the funeral of my closest friend, but it was probably just as well. I didn’t need to feel any more than I already did. Visiting her grave was good enough. It took us a while to find it. It was snowing that day, the first snow we’d had in a while, and it sparkled beautifully in the afternoon sun. We all were bundled up in our warmest clothes so as to not be driven away by the ferocious cold. In my gloved hand, I carried a rose. We’d gone to a flower store before coming here to find something to put on her grave. Whether or not she liked them, I didn’t know, but in honor of her name, which meant “flower”, I thought I should bring some type of flower. The rose had caught my eye as one of the most beautiful flowers in the store.
It took some searching but we finally managed to find Hana. The gravestone was rather small, but to me it was perfect. I was glad that there was even a representation of my friend still present in this world. Maybe this way, I wouldn’t forget her quite so easily. Everybody was quiet when we got there. I was too, so choked with emotion when I saw her name on the grave I was afraid to speak. Finally, I got up the courage to try. My voice came out as a sob. Tears fell from my eyes and I didn’t try to wipe them away. I shouldn’t try to act strong in front of her anymore. Three times I tried to talk and three times I failed. My throat was so choked with emotion I couldn’t do anything but sob. I felt a weight on my back as Hiroko’s arms wrapped around me.
“Shhhhh.” She whispered in my ear. “Everything is going to be alright. Everything’ll be fine.” Hiroko crooned to me.
“She’s… not… coming back… is she? She’s really… dead.” I struggled to talk through the tears.
“She really is dead. But we’re not, Yuki. You still have friends here. There are still people who love you. Which is why everything will be okay.” I broke free from Hiroko’s arms and collapsed onto my useless legs in front of Hana’s grave, leaning my head against her stone, I stopped holding back and let myself be sad. I shook from the volume of emotion I felt, my body spasming with every sob, every wail of pain and misery.
“I’m sorry!” I sobbed. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Over and over again, I apologized until my sobbing overwhelmed the intelligibility of the words. I slid down off the gravestone and lay curled up on the hard, frozen earth. I knew it could never atone for what I did. And I knew that, no matter how much I apologized, no matter how many tears I shed on this grave, my friend was never, ever coming back.
Eventually my throat got hoarse and my tears ran dry. I don’t know how long I lay there on the grave. It felt like forever. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay here, become part of the earth that covered my friend. But I knew I couldn’t do that. I was part of this world, one of those left behind. And my job as the survivor was to take advantage of the second chance I had been given and live for myself and to those who are precious to me, just as Hana would have done.
“I’m ready.” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes. Aoi-san and Hiroko helped me back into my chair and we left the graveyard, back to the world to lead our normal lives.
“It’s cold, Yuki. Is there anywhere you’d like to go?”
“No, I think I’d just like to go home.”
“Okay.”

Back in the graveyard, on the tombstone of a girl named Itsuko Hana, lay a bright red rose and tied to the stem was a piece of red paper. Most people would probably walk right past it. But were you to take a closer look, you’d be able to see that on the paper, somebody had drawn a picture of a flower and a snowflake huddled together inside a beautifully drawn heart. Below it, written in beautiful curly handwriting were the words: If we are to be reborn, it'd be nice if we could become friends again. 






Three Years Later

         “Class, please welcome our new transfer student!” The teacher smiled and gestured for me to introduce myself.
“Hello everybody! My name is Yuki Kizu. I look forward to being a student in this class!”
“Yuki just transferred here from Chikako High. I trust you will be kind to her and teach her what she needs to know.”
“Of course, Ms. Mikoto.”
“Good. Yuki, go ahead and sit in the empty seat next to Hiroko.” I rolled my wheelchair to the specified seat at the back of the class and tried not to look too excited. The desk chair had already been moved for me, so I just had to maneuver the wheelchair into place.
“Hey there best friend.” I said.
“Hey there best friend. I wasn’t expecting you to transfer so soon.”
“Neither was I. The process went a lot faster than I would have expected. Not that I’m complaining.” Hiroko gave out a quiet laugh.
“Well then. I suppose I should welcome you to art school shouldn’t I?”
“Ms. Mikoto did tell you to be kind to the new transfer student.” We giggled.
“What did you use to audition anyways?”
“Oh, nothing special…” Just a picture of a girl with short, red hair in a school uniform that was slightly too big for her, bowing and offering her hand to the viewer. I smiled.
“I just drew a picture of something I loved. That’s what they told us to do after all.”
“Indeed it is. At any rate, welcome to art school, Yuki.”
“Thank you. It’s nice to see you again. I look forward to the next three years.”
Part 1

“Class, please welcome our new transfer student!” The teacher smiled and gestured for me to introduce myself.
“H-Hello... my name is Yuki Kizu. It’s nice to meet you all.” I stood shyly, fidgeting at the front of the classroom, wishing to be anywhere besides here, where the stares of 23 other students bored holes into me.
“Yuki has just moved here a week ago. She’s been out of school for a week, so I trust all of you will be good and help her. Right?” I couldn’t help but notice the emphasis she put on the word ‘right.’
“Yes Ms. Takayama.” The class chanted back to her.
“Good. Now Yuki, you can sit down there in the empty seat next to Hiroko.” I obeyed, and started walking towards my desk with my head down to avoid any stares from curious classmates. Glancing sideways at the girl next to me (was it Hiroko?), I saw that she too was looking down, staring fixedly at her desk; she looked just as nervous, if not more so, than I did. Her eyes flicked sideways to look at me, but when she noticed me staring back, she blushed and her eyes glued themselves back to her desk. Long, shiny black hair cascaded down her back in contrast with very pale, almost ghost-like skin. Her face was gorgeous, almost angelic, seeming to glow with some sort of inner light. Her eyes, a deep blue, almost black, shone as though reflecting distant stars. Long, thin fingers clutched her skirt with oval nails painted pink with light-blue flowers. My god, she’s beautiful. And yet there was something about her, something I couldn’t find the words to describe. As class started however, I put away these thoughts. I needed to focus on my classes; I couldn’t let my grades slip, or else Aoi-san would get mad. I didn’t want to disappoint my new mother just seven days after meeting her.

The students here were friendly, much more so than at my old school. Nobody teased me or laughed at me, and a few of them even smiled and said hello in between classes, before going back to their group of friends. After school, one of the girls came over to talk to me. She was tiny with short hair dyed red, wearing a uniform that was slightly too big for her. The girl walked up to me, and bowed dramatically. The gesture completely caught me off-guard; nobody had ever tried to socialize with me unless they absolutely had to.
“Hi there! I’m Itsuko Hana, but you can just call me Hana.” The girl straightened up and smiled at me. It was a friendly smile, a smile that radiated warmth. “You’re Kizu-chan, right?”
“Y-Yes…”
“Wanna walk home together? Our houses are in the same direction.”
“How did you…” I was about to ask how this girl who I’d never talked to before in my life knew which way my house was, but Hana cut me off.
“It’s so great, getting to walk with you. We don’t get many transfer students here, you see, and I just love meeting new people. So having a someone else who I haven’t known since, like, third grade is so cool.” Slightly overwhelmed by the volume of words coming out of this small girl, I just nodded and agreed with her to keep her talking. The individual words didn’t even matter anymore; I was enjoying the simple rising and falling of the girl’s voice.
“…clubs?”
“Hm?” I looked up.
“I said, are you joining any clubs?”
“Oh… um, I don’t know. I was never in any clubs before so I don’t––”
“Ohmygod, seriously?” Hana’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You have got to join a club.”
“But I don’t…”
“Let’s see… how about the art club? Are you good at drawing? Well, if you aren’t that’s fine, there are plenty of kids there who are just dreadful when it comes to art. It makes me wonder why they chose the art club in the first place. But I’ve got some friends in there I want you to meet. You just got here, so I assume you don’t have any friends yet?”
“N-No, I don’t. I’ve never had friends before. I wasn’t liked much at my old school, so nobody would talk to me.”
“Wow, that sounds rough. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be alone like that.”
“I wasn’t really alone. I had my drawings. I drew a lot back in my old school. At lunch, in class, before school, any time I didn’t have something to do.” Hana, who had been essentially leading me at this point, turned around and grabbed my hands.
“Okay, like, seriously, you have GOT to join the art club. Like, tomorrow. Come down to the clubroom after school.”
“Um, okay.”
“And bring some of your drawings with you.”
“Okay…”
“Awesome! My house is this way, so I’m afraid I can’t walk with you any further. Bye bye!” Hana turned and left, not looking back. Slightly relieved, I slowly walked the rest of the way to my house alone. I couldn’t help but caress the place where Hana’s hand had touched mine. A small smile appeared uninvited on my face.

        “I’m home.” I removed my shoes and closed the door behind me. No response from Aoi. She must be out still. I climbed the stairs to my room and flopped down on the bed, staring at the ceiling. A warm, tingly feeling was sitting in the pit of my stomach, a feeling I couldn’t quite describe. Was it Happiness? Excitement? Nervousness? Or was it a combination of all three. And there was another feeling mixed in there, a feeling that I had no name for. It was the feeling I got when something new and unexpected happened to me. Maybe Hana’s forthcoming attempt at socializing with me was what was causing it. Having someone approach me so suddenly caught me off guard. All my life, at least in school, nobody had talked to me unless they had to. Teachers never called on me, peers ignored me. It was sad at first, and painful. Very painful. But eventually, I’d gotten used to it, and learned to live with it. After I entered third grade, I became even more withdrawn, purposely pushing away anybody who would try to connect with me. It was during third grade that my depression began to worsen significantly. I missed a lot of school that year. Sickness and exhaustion were the main reason, although two weeks in the inpatient psychiatric ward had also contributed. Or I just didn’t feel like going; it didn’t feel like it was worth it. And besides, nobody really wanted me there anyways. About halfway through the year, I gave up on going altogether. Gradually, I’d managed to disappear in the eyes of others. But now here I was, my first day at a new school, and i was already meeting people. Fellow classmates approached me during lunch periods, acknowledging me as a person. It was new and unsettling, yet at the same time not entirely unpleasant. And then there was Hana-chan, a girl with enough energy in her to power a small house, coming over to talk to me! Of all people, she chose me. And not only that, but I’d been invited to join her club and meet her friends as well.

Friendship.

I wonder if that was what you would call this. Was Hana my friend? I didn’t know.
My thoughts had then wandered to that Hiroko girl. Maybe we could become friends as well. The girl looked shy and withdrawn and… lonely. That was it. That was what I had sensed in her before. She had the sad look of a person who had nobody. She’s just like me… I knew the pain of isolation. I knew how it could break you if you weren’t careful, if you weren’t strong... I’d experienced it and still wasn’t completely healed. And I realized that, even if I thought I’d been okay with being alone, it still had taken its toll on me. Without proper social interaction, I’d become empty, hollow. And that was how Hiroko had looked too. She was beautiful, but empty; seemingly alive on the outside, but near dead on the inside. She had the look of someone who had lost everything they cherished a long time ago. I should make friends with her. If I do, I’ll have gained another friend, and the girl might be a bit happier.
I took out my pencil and paper, intending to draw Hiroko. It was surprisingly easy, I found, to draw the girl. However, as the drawing unfolded, it began to deviate from what it was I was trying to make, taking on its own life. The room began to grow dark after a while. The clock’s short hand moved to five, then six, then seven, then eight. Finally, I put down my pencil and examined the finished product. It was not at all what I’d imagined it’d be.
In the picture was a small, lone girl. She sat hugging her knees, bound in chains, in the middle of an empty room except for a bed bolted to the floor, her eyes wide and terrified. There was a single window in the room, through which a bright light came, casting crazy, twisted shadows on the walls and floor. The shadow belonging to the girl was long and contorted, rising up off the floor and towering over her with dark malice. It was a picture full of terror and despair, a depiction of solitude so complete as to push the mind past the line that marked the border between sanity and madness. Why, I wondered, did all of my pictures have to turn out like this? Every time I sat down with pencil and charcoal, nothing came out except for pictures depicting horror and cruelty and terror and despair. Was I really incapable of drawing beauty? For every time I try, the beauty would be tainted by evil. Hana’s request came back to me. “Bring some of your drawings with you.” I had my doubts as to whether or not this was the best idea, but decided that it didn’t matter that much. Nobody had ever asked to see my art before. Indeed, very few people even knew about it. It was exciting and honoring to have someone care enough about me to ask to see the things I made. Was this normal between friends? I should ask Hana tomorrow.
The door slammed downstairs; Aoi was home.

Aoi is essentially my adopted mother. When I was twelve, my dad died. Winter had arrived a month prior, so the roads were in bad condition; if they weren’t wet with melted snow, they were slick with ice. He was on his way home from work and lost control of the car, flipping twice and landing upside down. The police told us he died instantly. His death tore apart the family; mom fell into an abyss within herself. She wasted herself away drinking, choosing to focus on the family she lost rather than the family she had. Just before my second year of middle school, I ran away, leaving my mother behind. I would go to neighborhood after neighborhood, knocking at the doors and asking for a home until finally I found Aoi-san. She became my Other Mother, tending to my needs and nursing my abused body back to health before sending me off to the local middle school.

I set down my art and raced down the stairs to meet her.
“Welcome home!”
“I’m back.” She smiled at me. She had a plastic bag in one hand.
“What’s in the bag?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing.”
“That’s not true.” Aoi laughed and rubbed the back of her head.
“You’re right. You really want to know?”
“YES!” she walked past me through into the house
“I’ll show you. Lemme sit down first though.”
“Okay.” She removed her shoes and walked past me into the dining room. She reached inside the bag and pulled out…
“TADA! It’s Madoka cosplay! They just came out with a new one, so I thought I’d buy it.” I sighed and gave her a tired look. “Mom, you already have an entire closet full of cosplay. Do you really need more?”
“But it was on sale!”
“Whatever.” Aoi smiled at me and giggled. “Would you like some dinner?”
“No thanks. I already ate.” When she got like this, I preferred to hide in my room, at least until she was done.
“Oh, ok. Sorry about coming home so late.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m gonna head up to bed.”
“Okay. Goodnight Yuki.”
“Night mom.”



The next day

        “DAN DADA DANNNNN! Welcome to the Art Club!” Hana stepped aside and bowed, gesturing dramatically towards the door. Nervously, I walked forward, one foot in front of the other until… YES! I’d made it into the clubroom. Such a small thing, and yet to me it felt enormous. I’d filled out my club application earlier that day and handed it to my homeroom teacher, officially joining the fabled club. I looked around the room. The sheer number and variety of the supplies was staggering. Boxes of colored pencils sat out on one of the desks. Next to them, every kind of pencil imaginable, in all shapes and hardnesses, neatly organized into individual compartments. Paints stood on a shelf on the far end of the room; oil paints and acrylic paints, watercolor, little tubes of gouache. In the corner was a kiln, although the clay was out of sight. And all around, people. There was a group of boys in the corner working on some sort of art-based role playing game. Another boy sat alone in the middle of the room painting picture after picture of cats. Hana led me over to a group of two girls standing in the corner.
“Yuki, allow me to introduce you. These my friends, Mitsuko and Aika.”
“N-Nice to meet you.” I bowed slightly.
“Nice to meet you!” Mitsuko spoke up before the other girl could say anything. She was a pretty girl, tall with sparkling green eyes that perfectly complimented her hair, which was also green. Her skin was smooth and babyish and her hair flowed like water down to her hips. She had an air of confidence about her than reminded me of Hana.
“Hana told us all about you. We don’t get many transfer students, so everyone's really excited.” Through this whole exchange, Aika didn’t look at me once. Ever since I showed up she’d been a lot more withdrawn. Neither of the two girls seemed to notice though and kept talking as though nothing was wrong.
“So Yuki, did you bring the pictures I asked for?”
“Hm? Oh, yes I did…” The thought of showing what I’d drawn to these girls whom I’d just met made me very nervous. What if they didn’t like them? I was used to judgement, but still…
Reaching into my bag, I slowly removed the pictures and handed them to Hana. Mitsuko looked over Hana’s shoulder to see my work.
“Jesus Yuki, what the hell…”
“What?” I walked around to see which drawing she was holding. It depicted a terrifying image of a young girl cowering in the corner of her bedroom while dark, vaguely humanoid shapes descended onto her. The girl was crying and holding up her arms to try to ward of the creatures.
“Oh, that one. I don’t really like that one. It’s not the best one I’ve done.” I handed them the drawing I’d made last night. “Here, this is my most recent one.” The girls stared, horrified, at the scene. Then, Hana smiled.
“This is absolutely amazing Yuki!”
“Wha…” This was certainly not how I had imagined this scene playing out.
“This art is so amazing! The shading is fantastic and the amount of detail you put into those shadows in absolutely incredible. I don’t think anybody here would be able to draw like this.” Overwhelmed by both the quality and quantity of the praise my art was getting, I could do nothing but blush and be silent.
“Well, I mean, that’s not really something I can argue”, said Mitsuko, “but look at the scene. Look at the character for god’s sake! That’s Hiroko!”
“Ohhh, you’re right. Wow, to be able to draw her that well…” Mitsuko gave a small yell of frustration.
“All you ever see is the art. Don’t you see the chains? Don’t you see the helpless girl about to be devoured?”
“Art is art, Mitsuko, and that is something I’ve been trying to tell you for ages now. Yuki is expressing her innermost feelings through this art, and you don’t have the right to criticize her for that.” For a second, I thought Mitsuko was going to strangle her, but she then looked relaxed, almost remorseful.
“You’re right. Yuki, I’m sorry for what I said about your drawing. Do you think we could still be friends?”
“Um, of-of course.” The sudden change in attitude from this girl and her ability to simply apologize and admit her mistakes shocked me. There wasn’t anything I could do but agree with her.
“Of course.”

       




Part 2

“Thank you so much for defending me like that.” Hana and I were walking home together again. Unfortunately, Mitsuko’s house was in the other direction, so we had to say goodbye to her when it was time to go home.
“Don’t worry about it. After all, the art really was good, and Mitsuko agrees, though she wouldn’t admit it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell her true feelings, since she closes herself off from everybody besides her closest friends.”
“But today, she didn’t hesitate to…”
“That’s just her persona, her character so to speak. At school she pretends to be cheerful and outgoing because she knows that that’s what people want. Actually I think she might have picked that up from me.” Hana laughed, sheepishly. “She’s not as shallow as she seems. So give her a chance, ‘kay? She really wants to be your friend.”
“Okay.” We walked in silence for a bit, but then I remembered something I’d been meaning to ask her all day.
“Hey Hana…”
“Hm?”
“What do you know about Hiroko? She’s always alone in class and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile, so I was wondering…”
“Oh her. I don’t know much about it either; I’ve heard that she’s the victim of some pretty severe bullying. I only saw it once, but…”
“But what?”
“But that time that I saw it, she was being tortured by some older girls in the bathroom after school.” She visibly shivered at the memory. “If I hadn’t stopped them, they probably would have killed her.”
“Jesus…”
“Yeah. She hasn’t been the same since.”
“I was thinking last night that… maybe I should try to make friends with her.”
“Don’t bother. I already tried. She pushes away anyone who tries to be friendly with her.”
“Oh…”
“Sorry, I know I haven’t been much help. As I said, I really don’t know much about her.”
“No, no that’s fine; thanks anyway.” I didn’t talk for the rest of the walk home, choosing instead to focus on finding a way to connect with Hiroko. When we reached the point where Hana and I had to separate, I didn’t even notice if she said goodbye or not.

        By the time I got home, I’d managed to think of a grand total of one idea, and I didn’t like it. But if Hiroko was at all like me, and it seemed that she was, then there might not be any other way to gain her trust.

        As it turned out, simply having the plan wasn’t good enough. It took me the entire rest of the week to muster up the courage to actually do it. Friday seemed to drag by. Each class seemed to take three times longer and by the end of the day I was so fidgety with nervous anticipation that I could barely keep myself from jumping out of my seat and doing laps around the classroom. I’d been waiting all week for this, and now that it was finally here, the fear and excitement of it all was overwhelming. Finally, after what seemed like a day that would never end, the bell rang signaling the end of school. I jumped out of my seat and ran down to the shoe lockers to wait for Hiroko. As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait very long; she emerged from the classroom seconds after me.
“Hiroko!” Terrified, she turned to look at me.
“W-What is it? What do you want from me?” She slowly began to back up. I had to convince her soon before she made up her mind to run away.
“I just want to talk to you. Would you be willing to walk with me for a bit?” She still looked hesitant, as though she wanted to trust me, but also wanted to run.
“Come on, please? You can trust me; I’m not gonna do anything bad to you. I promise I won’t hurt you.” Thirty seconds passed during which Hiroko struggled with the inner conflict of the desire to trust and the fear of being hurt. Finally she said, “Ok, I’ll walk with you…” YES!
“Which way is your house?”
“This way.” She pointed to the exact opposite direction of my house.
“Awesome! I walk that way too.”
“Really?”
“Yeah. I wonder why I never ran into you.”
“Y-Yeah, I wonder… Well, we should get going I guess.”
“Yep. I suppose so.” I gestured dramatically with my hand towards the road. “Lead the way.”
Her eyes, which had been glued to her feet through the whole conversation, finally rose. She looked me straight in the face… and smiled.

I waited until we were a good deal further away from the school before stopping.
“Hey, Hiroko.”
“Yes?”
“I, uh…  want you to be my friend. I don’t have that many friends as it is, and I think we’d both benefit from it.”
“I don’t want friends.” Her answer came fast and sharp. Hana had been right. She really did try to push everybody away.
“Yes you do.”
“No I…”
“Yes, you do. You’re lonely. I can see it in your eyes; I know you’re lonely, Hiroko.” Hiroko was silent, neither confirming nor denying it. Her lower lip trembled slightly. Finally she said, “I’m not worth it. I don’t deserve friends.” I knew that line would show up sooner or later.
“Hiroko.”
“W-What?” Her voice shook and when she looked up I saw her dark eyes shimmer and tremble. I had to do it now. Otherwise, I’d never have the courage again. Slowly, I hooked my trembling fingers under my shirtsleeve and pulled it up. A shocked expression came over Hiroko’s face when she saw the long lattice of scars covering my left arm. I don’t think that she herself knew she did it, but I then saw her fingers gently touch her own wrists.
“I was once in the same position you’re in right now. I was alone my whole life before I transferred here. That’s why I can tell that you're suffering, Hiroko.” Tears fell from Hiroko’s eyes creating thin lines on her face. Her face had the expression of somebody who had given up hope long ago. The scene was so heartbreaking. It was as though I were watching a nine-year-old Yuki, alone and suffering. The resemblance was frightening.
“When I look at you, it’s like I’m looking back in time, looking back at my elementary school self. I can’t do anything to go back and help her. But I can do something to try to help you now, because nobody should have to suffer what I went through, or what you’re going through. I just want to help bring happiness back into your life. Don’t you want to be happy?”
“Y-Y-Y-Ye-Ye-Yes” She could barely speak from the effort of trying to hold back the tears.
“And will you trust me to help you do that?”
“Y-Y-Y-Y”
“Even if that means accepting my offer of friendship?” She just nodded. She’d started to hyperventilate; the ability to talk was beyond her at this point. Her body shook so violently it seemed she would fly apart at any moment. I realized then that she’d probably never tried to think about it before; she’d suppressed these feelings to try to keep her mind intact. It made my heart hurt to see someone suffer as much as I had.
“One more thing.”
“Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-Wh-What...”
“It’s okay to cry, Hiroko-chan.”
Something inside Hiroko shifted right then. Her face twisted and let out a sobbing wail. She fell to her knees, tears pouring from her eyes, her mouth open wide; staring at the ground, sobbing and wailing as though a dam had finally broken releasing the emotion she’d tried so hard to hide. I knelt down next to her and hugged her, holding her as a mother would hold a child. She would calm down and seem to be ok, only to start once again.
Twenty minutes we sat there, me holding her, her holding me and crying more violently than I had ever seen another person cry. Finally, she calmed down enough to talk.
“I’m sorry… I…”
“Shhh. Don’t apologize. You’re not doing anything wrong.”
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Done what?”
“Made you deal with me.”
“It’s fine. I wanted to.” She looked at me. Her eyes were still shining. She leaned forward and hugged me, whispering in my ear: “Thank you.”
And with that, she got up, grabbed her bag, and ran home.

        “I’m home,” I called. Aoi should be home by now. I was out pretty late.
“Ohmygod, I was wondering if you were EVER going to get back.” To my surprise, Hana then stuck her head out from the dining room. “Where were you today? We missed you at the art club.”
“Oh I was um… I had something I had to do.”
“Did it involve Hiroko by any chance?”
“Maybe…” I fidgeted a little bit, uncomfortable with how Hana was standing, like a parent about to chastise her child. But then she relaxed, her body changing fluidly from one stance to another.
“So what came of it? Did you manage to make friends with her?”
“Well,” I said, “We’ll find out tomorrow.” Aoi-san appeared from around the corner.
“Oh, Yuki. Welcome home! Your friend came over today looking for you, so I invited her to stay for dinner.”
“Oh. Okay…” Although I was very happy so see Hana, I was a little taken aback and slightly irritated that Aoi would just invite a kid from school to eat with us. Dinner felt like a special event that Aoi and I got to celebrate every night. Inviting somebody else so suddenly was a little…

        As much as I hated to admit it, dinner tonight was lots of fun, despite (and possibly because of) Hana’s presence at the table. Though she was energetic, she wasn’t overwhelmingly so, like she sometimes could be, and had managed to make us laugh and smile through the whole meal. To her, the food was luxurious, since all she ate was convenience store meals and instant ramen. In my room, after dinner she explained to me the reason for this diet of frozen meals every day.
“My parents died when I was very little, so right now it’s just me and my older brother. Although we have enough to pay for basic living expenses, we’ve never had enough money to be able to have a meal like this. Literally, I haven’t had food that good in my life!”
“Hana, it was just Nabe. There’s nothing special about that.”
“Yes there is. You just don’t realize it because you have an awesome mom who knows how to cook and enough money to buy all these ingredients. My brother and I, we almost never get to have meat.”
“What?”
“We just don’t have the money for it.”
“Wow. That’s… I want to adopt you. Can I adopt you and feed you delicious food every day?” Hana laughed.
“As tempting as that sounds, I’m afraid the answer has to be no. I love my brother too much. He’s the most important person in my life. He’s the only family I have left.”
“Oh. Okay.” For some reason, I felt deflated. Did I really think that Hana would love me more than her brother? Was I hoping for her to like me more?
“God, I’m so stupid.” I whispered.
“What was that?”
“What? Oh, nothing. It was nothing. Just… talking to myself.”
“Oh, ok. I do that sometimes too.” she smiled at me, a warm, radiant smile and for the first time I realized just how beautiful she was.
“Anyways, I wanna see you draw!”
“What???”
“I saaaid, I want to see you draw. You’re such a good artist, and I was hoping to be able to see you at work.” I blushed.
“Um… o-okay I guess.” Sitting down at my desk, I took out my eraser, pencil, and charcoal and set to work while my best friend sat next to me, staring intently at the page. And so we sat for the rest of the night till she had to go home, me drawing, her leaning over and on my shoulder.
Why, I wonder, did the weight of her body feel so good? And why did my heart hurt so much when I had to wave goodbye? Why did I want her to stay with me forever?
Is this what they call friendship? Or is it something more?

        That night, as I fell asleep, I couldn’t think about anything besides Hana. Oh, how wonderful it would be to have her here right now; how good it would feel to hold her close; how comforting it would be to have her arms around me as I drifted off to sleep. Desire for this girl burned within me, a fire that threatened to consume me. Tears fell silently from my eyes.
Is this what they call friendship? Or is this what they call love?

And why, I wonder, does it have to be so painful?

        School the next day was rather boring, and by that I mean I wanted to be in the art club, not sitting in a classroom learning about Japanese literature. Time dragged by. Seconds became minutes; minutes turned into hours; hours became impossible amounts of time in which it seemed time stood still. At lunch time, I avoided Hana. I wasn’t ready to talk to her just yet, not when I was still trying to work out how I felt about her. I instead decided it’d be nice to eat with Hiroko. While everyone else had migrated to their respective social groups, Hiroko sat alone. Even though she was just one desk away, she seemed to be in a different world. I pulled my chair over so I could sit closer.
“Hey, Hiroko.”
“Oh. Hello Yuki.”
“Would you like to eat with me? It’s nice outside, so we can sit on the roof.”
“O-Ok. Let’s um... go then.”
She walked awkwardly next to me as we climbed the stairs, while I tried to pretend not to notice the yellowing bruise under her left eye.

        We spent most of our lunch period talking about nothing. It was so simple, yet we both thoroughly enjoyed it; Hiroko even laughed a few times. Really, my only goal in this was to coax Hiroko out of her shell and, thankfully, it seemed to be working. Who knew? Given time, maybe I myself could help this girl get over her fear of interacting. It was unlikely that me, a 14-year-old girl, would be able to change the personality of somebody else. But still. It didn’t hurt to dream.
A sudden BANG! caused both of us to jump. In front of the door that lead to the stairs stood, of all people, Hana. In most cases, this would have undeniably made me happy, but right now it filled me with dread. This was exactly what I’d been trying to avoid. I wasn’t ready for this. I don’t have a plan. Oh god, what if she finds out… I didn’t even know my own feelings yet, but somehow I knew that I didn’t want Hana to know about them.
“Oh thank GOD! I thought I would never find you. I’ve been looking all over the school.”
“What? How come?”
“Because,” she said, plopping down next to me, “you didn’t come to sit with me during lunch. I was worried. That’s like, your favorite part of the day. Ahp. Stop trying to deny it.” She cut off my attempt to protest. “But I see now that you were just eating with Hiroko instead.” She smiled at me. “That’s fine. But try to make it to art club, alright? We missed you yesterday.”
“Okay. I’ll try.” I tried to smile. She was right, I should go to art club today. It wouldn’t make me feel any better to keep avoiding her. All it would do was hurt Hana.
“Let’s go. Class is starting.”

        The rest of the day passed quickly. Days like this were my favorite, the days where nothing happens in class. It makes time go so much more quickly.

        I skipped art club again today. I don’t know why. Was it because I wanted to avoid her? I tried to tell myself that that wasn’t why. I had tried to come up with other excuses as to my avoidance of the club, but couldn’t come up with anything. I was tired of drawing; I was tired and needed to get home; I had work to do. But no matter what I told myself, the fact is that I was trying to avoid Hana. There was no point in trying to fool myself into thinking otherwise. It would only end up coming back to hurt me later. Tomorrow. I’d go tomorrow. I needed today to think. To think about my feelings, how I really felt about this girl.  The sound of footsteps behind me made me turn around.
“I knew it… I… knew you were going… to skip.” Hana was running towards me panting.
“I, um… I…”
“You don’t need to make excuses. I’m not upset.”
“Okay.” I blushed.
“But I am going to follow you home.”
“What?! Why?”
“Because I know the reason you’re skipping is because you’re avoiding me. And I want to know why.” I started to panic. There was no way I could tell her the real reason. But I had to.
“Fine. I’ll tell you when we get home.”
“Okay.” At least this would buy me some time.

        By the time we’d arrived home, I still hadn’t thought of any way out of this situation. And so, I decided that I would tell her the truth, come what may. Even though she’d probably think I was disgusting and creepy, I still had to tell her.
“I’m home.” I opened the door and looked in.
“Ah, girls. Welcome!” Aoi-san was sitting by the door, almost as though she’d been sitting there waiting for us. Or rather waiting for me.
“What a nice surprise to see you here, Hana-chan.”
“Yes, I know, such an awesome surprise to see her here.” I said. “Well, I guess we’ll be going. Nice to see you uh… waiting for us.” I pulled Hana along and up to my room. If I was going to say it, I didn’t want anyone else to know.

        “So,” said Hana after I’d closed the door, “tell my why you’re avoiding me.”
Here it was. This was the moment I’d been anticipating and dreading ever since seeing her after school today. Come on Yuki. Don’t mess this up. I took a deep breath, exhaled and said, “Hana, I–” The sound of her phone ringing cut me off.
“--uhp. Whoops; sorry, I need to take this.” She opened her phone.
“Hello, this is Hana. Oh, hey Mitsuko, what’s up? ...WHAT? What happened to him? Oh….Oh god.” The phone fell from her hands, hitting the carpet with a soft whack.
“Hana? Hana, what’s wrong?” She didn’t answer, just kept staring into space. She fell to her knees, her arms hanging limply by her side. Her face didn’t change; it still had the look of shocked horror on it.
“Hana? Hana!? HANA, ANSWER ME! Please, Hana, answer me!” I was almost shouting, fear taking over my mind. I couldn’t stand to see her like this. Hana, the outgoing, cheerful, beautiful girl who had spoken to me my first day here should not look as dead as the girl in front of me. Her eyes should not be as blank. Her body should not look as fragile.
I grabbed her shoulders and shook her in desperation, not knowing what to do, just knowing that I had to do something. Tears spilled from my eyes. I let go of her shoulders and fell to the ground in front of her, collapsing into a heap. Look at me. I’m a mess.
“Please, Hana. Stop it.” I sobbed.
“...He’s dead.”
“What?”
“My brother….He’s dead.”

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Sparkle1princess
Sakura
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Just some guy who likes to write.
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:iconroxyabsinthe:
RoxyAbsinthe Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student Digital Artist
Sparkle, guess what?
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:iconsparkle1princess:
Sparkle1princess Featured By Owner 15 hours ago
What?
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:iconalinamizuki:
AlinaMizuki Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2016
thx for the watch :heart:
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:iconsparkle1princess:
yw <3
btw, the way you draw nathan it really nice. I think Jacob could learn a bit about how shadows work from you. 

You might wanna change the way the girl's nose looks a bit. It looks like she could impale somebody on it >.< Or maybe that's just me.
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:iconalinamizuki:
AlinaMizuki Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2016
thank you :heart:
also I draw noses like that because I guess I have that from watching Soul Eater its one of my favourite animes. ^^
but yeah maybe I should mention her nose at her ref sheet as a second weapon or something XD
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:iconsparkle1princess:
Sparkle1princess Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2016
Look at Riverspirit456. She drew my profile picture and the way she draws noses is one of my favorites.

riverspirit456.deviantart.com/… Just look at Frisk's nose there. Or Mettaton's. idk, I guess it's all up to personal preference.
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