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Author Topic: My Own Private Funeral  (Read 14242 times)

Offline OTN1

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My Own Private Funeral
« on: March 06, 2007, 06:43:51 PM »
I think this story makes a lot more sense if you read this one, but I guess it can be a stand alone.  This is not what I intended to post next, but I listened to a sad song this afternoon at work and ended up with this.  I spent the evening fixing it up.  Every time I swear off this world, I come back to it.


My Own Private Funeral

My eyes opened slowly, naturally.  No alarm clock woke me up this morning.  I looked around my room in the darkness.  The sun had not yet risen, although the faint beginnings of light were showing themselves.  The sun was just below the horizon, waiting patiently to appear.  Everything was still young, untouched by the aging light of day.

I rolled over onto my side and stared at the wall, my mind a blank.  The whiteness of the plaster was going to be bright within half an hour.  Bright like a fluffy cloud in the sky.  Now, though, it was a muted off-white, looking no more appealing than the sky on a cloudy day.

I took a deep breath in and closed my eyes in order to properly picture such a sky.

I looked up at the grey sky and saw the light struggling to get through but failing.  A slight shadow was cast on the land and the trees, but not a depressing one.  It simply dulled the shininess a slight bit.  People could hardly notice it.  The uniform cloud across the sky was not threatening, but comforting.  Protective.

I continued to stare up at the sky, imagining I could see through the clouds and out into space.

I looked back down to the land and saw trees, grass, and mountains.  A river in the distance.

It was a foreign land that I had never been to, although it did not surprise me to be here.  It was interesting.  Everything smelled different and the mountains were huge.  Much bigger than the ones I grew up around.  I looked at them, awed by their enormity.  The tops were capped with snow.  They were impenetrable fortresses.  The perfect border for a country with so much to protect.

The clouds that covered every corner of the sky seemed to bend and shape themselves around the mountains in a blatantly impossible disregard of the rules of weather systems and nature.  I was not a scientist, however, so I did not particularly care.  "It looks neat" was the best way I could describe it.

I carried on watching the sky.  I saw a break in the cloud cover.  A sole ray of sunlight thrust itself through, and as if setting a trend, more rays followed, seeming to widen the tear in the cloud.  A bit of warmth emerged and touched my face.  I smiled as the heat travelled through my skin and into my bones, heating them up in a pleasant way.  I felt at peace with everything in the world.  I was comfortable where I stood, comfortable in my skin.  I was truly and simply happy.

My peace was shattered by a terrible sound - a loud rumbling like a train - making me cringe.  From behind me it came like a charging bull out of control, rabid, leaving behind it a trail of dust so thick it could choke up an ocean.

As the plane passed overhead, it seemed to screech out words I could not understand.  Maybe it was the people inside yelling.  I watched in horror as the plane headed straight for the mountain.  I knew that it would never clear it.

I was right when the plane crashed nose first right into the side of the mountain, high up where the snow started.  It hardly made the sound I thought it would.  It was so far away that it sounded like someone had blown up a paper bag and popped it and then muffled the echo.  A few mini explosions occurred and I saw a small fire start up.

Watching the scene unfold, I stood paralysed with fear, my stomach churning and making me feel sick.  I could swear that I heard screaming from the wreckage.  People begging for help...  But it would have been impossible to hear any voices from such a distance.

I was helpless.  I could do nothing.  I did not even have a cellular phone.

I overcame my paralysis and started to run, mapping out in my mind an impossible mission to scale a mountain with no equipment, no proper clothing, and no experience.  Each step I took I felt the sinking fear in me become worse and worse.  I was going to find something I did not like.

This did not stop me, though, for every step I took also made my sense of urgency increase tenfold.  I needed to get to my goal.  I needed to know some things.

I somehow scaled the mountain.  It was like I flew.  The wreckage of the plane was in my line of sight.  We were on the same level now.

I crawled over to it, exhausted, my hands and legs freezing up in the snow that covered the ground.

The fire I had seen break out was on the opposite end of the plane.  Conveniently, the side I was on was untouched by the flames.  There was a huge tear in the body of the plane where the wing had once been attached.  There was a perfect space beside it to crawl inside.  I did so.

The plane had been tipped over so that the wall of windows had become the floor.  As I reached the entrance, I could see bodies scattered along it.  They must have not had their seatbelts buckled up properly.  I ignored the disgust I felt welling up at the back of my throat and I crawled through the bodies, which I soon found were in fact dead bodies.

I kept going, looking for something.

I heard a whimper.  I looked sideways immediately.

There she was strapped into her seat, hanging from the "side" of the plane like a dead rag doll.

But she had made a sound.  She was alive.

I stood up quickly and undid the buckle at her stomach.  She started to tumble down, but I grasped at her, my hands slipping unexplainably as I helped her down safely.  I put her on an empty space on the windows, resting her on her back.

Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing.  Shallow, infrequent breaths.  She whispered something.

"What?" I asked, my voice sounding hollow.

"Water..." she rasped out.  I could not help but break out into a smile.  She could at least speak and evaluate her position.  She felt thirsty.  She knew she needed wa-

"W-water?" she repeated, this time in English.  I frowned.  "And... ex...tra blanket?  Please..."

I felt her forehead.  She was burning up.  She was delirious with what felt like fever but what was more conceivably shock and pain.  She did not know what had just happened.  She was speaking nonsense, probably repeating the phrases from her Learn English in 20 Minutes Per Day CDs.

When I brought my hand away from her brow, I noticed sticky blood on my fingers.  There was a lot.  Oddly, I did not feel hurt.  I inspected my hand for a cut, but I could find none.  I realized with a sinking heart that it was not my blood.

I pulled back to take a full look at the incapacitated girl.  Her shirt was wet.  Scared, I reached out to touch it.  It was cold and sticky.  When I pulled my hand back, my fear was confirmed by the blood that coated my fingers.  This was why my hands had slipped about when trying to help her down.

I pulled her torn sweater and shirt up ever so slightly and peered under, almost gagging in horror.  Something must have fallen in her lap during the crash.  There was a vicious, gaping wound in her stomach that I knew could not be repaired in time.  I pulled her clothes back down and looked for something to stop the bleeding.  I found a blanket and pressed it into her stomach.  I am sure that was not what she had wanted when she had asked for an extra blanket.

"Just keep breathing," I said quietly as though I were a paramedic.

"Water," she choked out, this time in her native tongue.  Then a miracle happened - she opened her eyes and looked right at me, tears of pain in her eyes.

"Help me," she pleaded in a weak, pathetic voice.  

Gone was strongest girl in the world, replaced by a feverish child who could barely breathe on her own.  My heart, had it not already broken, would have broken at that sight alone.

What did you say to someone when you knew her fate was sealed?  She knew what was to come, too.  I could tell.  The fear in her eyes was not born from nothing.

I nodded and I could not help starting to cry.  The tears overflowed and fell as I blinked them away.  My vision became blurred from too many tears.  I had to wipe my eyes quickly with one of my blood-covered hands.  My other hand took hers and squeezed.

"I'm helping you," I cried, my voice breaking.

"Water..."

I shook my head.

"I don't have any."

She suddenly gripped my hand in a surprisingly tight hold and looked directly into my eyes, her eyes wide open.  With a reserve of strength like that, maybe she would be all right and pull through...

"Mama," she whispered.  "Mama, I'm scared..."

I could not even begin to react to being mistaken for her mother because her hold on my hand slackened in an instant and she stopped breathing.

I shook her gently and then put my ear to her chest.  I could hear nothing.  No heart beat.  I put a hand over her mouth, but nothing happened.  No warm breath emerged.

She was dead.  No hope.  

I knew it.  I knew it before I had reached the crash site.

That is why I did not scream out her name, nor tell her to hang on and demand that she wake up.  She was fated to have gone, and nothing I could do would change it.  I resigned myself to this fact.

I touched her forehead once and then stood up, looking down at her.  She looked like she was in such pain.  Her eyes open in terror, her body twisted in an awkward position.

But she did not feel a thing.  Not a thing anymore.  She was off somewhere, flying to some other place where nothing could hurt her anymore.  Somewhere where she did not have to remember the pain she had just gone through.  It could be endless darkness and nothingness or it could be eternal light and bliss.  I did not know and did not presume to judge what did or did not happen after death.  All I knew was that she was there and I was not.

I left her body there.  I was not meant to bring it with me.  I walked out of the plane and out into the cold mountain winds.

I walked away from the plane.  I knew that it would eventually burn up.  The remaining fuel in the engine's tanks would make certain of it.  It would convert everything in that small flying machine into the elements that would float up into the sky and become smaller parts of the universe once more.  In a way comforting, in a way upsetting.

I walked to the edge of the cliff and looked out across the Italian Alps, mountains being all I could see.  The sun had fully emerged from the curtain of clouds that had held it hostage, and it now warmed my cold hands.  The blood on them began to dry and crack.  The snow below me became saturated with little red flakes.  I knelt down in the snow and put my hands in it, scrubbing them vigorously.  The snow at my knees turned a pale red.  I stared and thrust my hands deep under, keeping them there until I felt such burning that I had to pull them out.  Tears of pain came to my eyes, but I ignored them.  

I stood up and looked behind me.  The whole plane was on fire.  I could feel the heat on my back.  I watched as Aya's body floated up to the sky as smoke.

Bye bye, I thought.  I blinked away more tears.

It was like my own private funeral.  Saying goodbye.  Burning the body.  Seeing off her ashes.

All the things I never had a real chance to do.

I opened my eyes.  I had dozed off and had the same daydream.

Correction.  It was a new dream, but it was a variation of an old dream of eight years.

The wall in front of me had become brighter.  The sun was peeking out over the horizon, signalling a new day.

A sad day for me.  The anniversary of a loved one's death was never a good day.  It seemed my subconscious was trying to help me overcome some of that remaining grief by giving me a sense of closure (albeit a strange one), but the grief would never be fully removed.  It could never be.

I turned over for the second time that morning and looked at the sunlight coming in through the blinds.  I lay in bed lazily, wishing that I had someone that would come in and yell at me for being so lazy.

But the one person who I would allow to scold me like that (besides my mother) was gone.  She had burned up into tiny atoms and floated into the sky along with two hundred strangers and a few tonnes of metal and fuel.

Maybe at night when I looked up at the stars, the brightest ones contained a bit of her in them.  She had always looked over me and taken care of me.  Maybe now she was in the position to take on the duty fulltime from above.

This was how I comforted myself.  Or maybe tricked myself.

Because I knew deep down inside that my dreams meant nothing.  My thoughts had no effect on the outside world.  Romantic ideas of souls surviving and guardian angels watching over me would get me nowhere.

So I heaved a sigh, rolled out of bed, and went to brush my teeth.  It was all I could do.  I was living in the world.

The End

bedtime. :yawn:

Offline coachie

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2007, 07:10:20 PM »
you did it again, turning me into a sobbing shuddering heap

oh and welcome back!

Offline Estrea

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2007, 07:34:13 PM »
Oh, the pain. As if my writing my own fic hadn't put me in enough pain! Oh sweet angst, how I love thee and how I hate thee. *clutches chest dramatically*

Anyway, it was good. It made me sad before going to bed. I hope you're proud of yourself for doing that! :P That's a compliment, btw. XD

永遠に咲き続ける花なんていない、すべてはいずれ枯れて朽ち果てしまう。

Currently writing:
- Lilium-related things. God save my soul.

On Hold:
- Everything Else. Too many to list.

I'm also on AO3!
http://archiveofourown.org/users/Estrea

Offline Mikan

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2007, 12:33:07 AM »
welcome back. I dared read this in a public place. I had to wipe on the sunnies to make sure no one got a look at my eyes.

I do like the title and I do like the story line. I was reading the other day a few messages about the ending of the last story regarding Miki and her dreams so this came up at a convinient time for me, really..

Its sad yet really sweet at the same time. Miki found closer for Aya but will I find it for Lovex2? Tune in next week to find out

Read the complete Doki Doki!!

Offline Brat-san

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2007, 12:46:44 AM »
Looks promising, I love how it started out. :3

I really like those storys where they describe everything around them, lets you get really good visions in your head. :kgreat:

Offline JFC

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2007, 02:58:24 AM »
Welcome back dude...fuckin' brilliant as always.

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline rndmnwierd

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2007, 06:21:03 AM »
How can I even find the words to describe what this story makes me feel? I'm speechless.

Offline OTN1

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My Own Private Funeral
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2007, 04:00:50 PM »
Thank you.  I feel very welcome here as usual.

That part was it.  That was my whole story idea.

But Brat-san planted the idea of continuing it.  Blame him/her for this next part.

2

I had never smelled burning flesh before and I had never seen a dead body, yet these things seemed so familiar to me.  I did not dream of them every night, but often enough to remind me of mortality.  My own, as well as that of all the people around me.  We were fragile things.

But I had learned long ago that the thing more fragile than the body was the heart.  Especially mine.  I had always thought I was so strong.  That I could keep my real emotions packed tightly within me, hidden from view.

My opinion changed when I met Aya.  I am sure she never meant to, but when she started to become my friend, her mere presence made me realize how weak I was.  How fragile my mind was.  Instead of seeing this as a bad thing, I came to see it as something special.  Something that was so human and essential.  It made me feel more like a person who was worthy of the pleasures of life.  As simple a thing as smelling a sweetly-scented flower became more of a treat when I thought of it her way.

Aya had two sides to her personality.  One side was incredibly easy to please.  That was the side that I appealed to more often, whether I needed to tell her something important or I just wanted to make her laugh.  That side also influenced me, relaxed me, made me realize that basic things had great value.  

The other side of her was tougher than me, and I wished anyone trying to reason with that side a dry "good luck."  That was the side that I appealed to when I needed strength.  That side also reasoned with me when I was doing something stupid.  It kept me balanced when I overreacted.  She was not always right, though, and I learned how to tell her that.  I learned how to talk to her so that she would listen to me and understand me.  Perhaps my greatest accomplishment in the world was that.

However, I only let myself become like that around her.  To the rest of the world, my attitude was closer to the cold and calculating bitch that I am sure many of my coworkers wished to publicly label me as.  If my natural reaction was too strong or too personal, I would hide it and pull out one of my set expressions or responses.  I tried to appear in control of myself every second of the day, although I did not go so far as to alienate myself from everyone.  Of course I had my moments of weakness.  Moments when I would cry, laugh uncontrollably, or show a friend or co-worker pity.  Genuine displays of those were infrequent, though, and after they happened, I would quickly revert to my composed self.  It was my coolness.  I gave myself a little more leeway on television.  Everybody knew TV was mostly an act anyway and that we were ordered around and scripted to no end.  I could not be held entirely responsible for the things I said and did there.

Over the years, Aya had been my unwavering post.  A dock where I could land and roam around free, anchored by nothing.  Thinking about it now, it was very therapeutic, especially after I became fully comfortable around her.  In all the years we stood together, I grew into a respectable person because of her.  I learned to love properly because of her.  Even if I had not been in love with her, she would have taught me how to use my heart.  If it had not been her I gave my heart to, whoever I did give my heart to would have Aya to thank for its ability to work.  We had a special connection that transcended everything else.  One that had nothing to do with romantic love.  We had just happened to take it that way.

If Aya-chan taught us and the people on this world how to do something, it was to love and how to use our hearts. I think you've learned the most out of all of us. Don't let that knowledge go to waste.

Shiba-chan's words echoed in my head.  She had spoken those words eight years ago, and I had forgotten them until recently.  Until last night, in fact.  I had taken a trip through my memories and had finally had the courage to sit quietly and think about my first conversation with Shiba-chan after we had found out about Aya's death.  Before yesterday, it was one of my most reviled memories.  I never let myself fully recall all of its details.  Since remembering every little detail the previous night, however, it had remained lodged like a stubborn thorn in my mind.  Those few sentences repeated themselves over and over in my mind.

With a start, I realized where I was.  I was kneeling on the floor of my kitchen and picking up some uncooked grains of rice that I had spilled the night before.  I had become lost in thought, something that happened often around this time of year.

I got up and threw the rice in the sink.  

Aya always yelled at me when I did something like that even when there was a little net in the drain to catch unwanted particles.  I smirked.  She was probably screaming her head off now if she was watching me.  I wished I could tease her about how uptight she was about that sort of thing, but of course I could not.  I felt a chill go through me as I sobered up and went off to make my bed.

Shiba-chan was absolutely right, I thought as I tucked the corners of the sheets under the mattress.  I should not let the valuable lessons I had learned from Aya go to waste.  I knew I would never find someone I could connect to the same way I did with Aya, but that should not have been something to stop me from finding new friends and finding a new environment for me to get along with people in.  I knew at the very least I should revive those feelings, remember how they tasted, and channel them into something useful.

It was easier thought than done.

I found myself standing beside my bed with the pillow in my hands.  I shook my head and continued fixing up the bed, putting the pillow where it belonged.

At 7:00am I took my jacket and left my apartment, walking briskly to the station.  It took me almost forty minutes and two transfers to get to where I was headed.  It was worth it, though.  The powerful feelings that welled up in me were a welcome change from the constant drone of halfway feelings.

I walked up to the concert hall doors and put a hand on one of the handles.  I knew it was locked so I did not try to open it.  I looked up at the building and tried to remember a day about fifteen years ago.  The day that I first met Aya.  The concert we had attended.  How we happened to find each other there and recognize each other.  We had clicked.  I had been polite and civil to her, but some sort of excitement had rumbled beneath my surface.  I knew who she was, and I had my assumptions about the kind of person she would be, but I had thrown away my expectations after a few moments in her presence because she was so much more than what people saw on television.  It felt like instant friendship.

I was wary for a while, of course, hardly able to believe that she could be such a good person.  I waited nervously for the day she turned on me and transformed into a horrific purple monster.  That moment had never come, and my fears dissipated and were forgotten.  She became my best friend.  I had never had one like her before.  Back home I had called some friends my "best friends," but they did not come even close to what Aya and I had.

I moved away from the doors and walked around the complex.

The first meeting.  Fifteen years ago.  We had lived on the earth while knowing each other for seven years.  That was hardly anything.  A couple of footsteps along a thirty kilometre long road.

I grit my teeth in anger.  I fought my anger on a regular basis.  I had been getting better at keeping it in, placating myself when I became distressed over the unjustness of the world, but it had a habit of lashing out from within at bad times.

My anger turned to pain and then into sadness.  I did not hold back my tears, however.  Not today.  I was allowed to cry, and so I did.  I stopped walking and sat down behind the building near a fire exit.  I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my chin on them, letting my tears flow with no worry of being discovered.

But I had trouble figuring out what I cried for.  Was I crying for Aya, a girl who had died prematurely?  Or was I crying for myself?   For my situation - my loneliness, my numbed state, my loss?

I grimaced at the thought of such selfish tears.  I was sickened.  I hoped that my grief went beyond that.  I tried to bring up my least favourite memories and aspects of Aya and cried harder because there was nothing I did not like about her.  Our most vicious of fights was better than nothing.  Her most biting words would be like a warm bath to me now.

I began to cry harder as I remembered her.  I let out a sob.  A little too loud.  I looked around to see if anybody was around.  I could not see a soul, but I began to not care.  I put my face down and wrapped my arms around my head, crying loudly into my knees.

The harder I cried, the more I began to understand that I was crying for the both of us.  I cried for myself because I was lonely and miserable without her.  I cried for her because she had been in the middle of living with such vigour and happiness when it was all torn away from her in a few minutes.  I cried for the both of us because if we were not together, then there were two hearts in the world that were incomplete and crying out for something.

"It'll never..." I squeezed out of my tight throat as tears wet my lips.  "It'll never..."

I could not finish my sentence because I was choking.  My throat constricted and I started to breathe spasmodically as I tried to control myself.  I was crying so hard I could not catch my breath.  I heard Aya's soothing voice in my head.

"Calm down.  Shhhh... shhh.... You're safe here."

She stroked my hair slowly and held my hand as I lay curled up in pain on my bed.

"Shhhh.  I'll stay here."
.

Whenever I became so depressed that I felt like I was going to suffocate, I would remember times when Aya had calmed me down when I was sick.  They were some of my most vivid memories because she was so perfect in them.  She did not tease me or make jokes.  She gave me one hundred and fifty per cent of her caring attention and would sit beside me, hold my hand, and tell me it would be okay.

My breathing slowed down and became steady again.  I stopped sobbing so hard.  I concentrated on the memory and imagined that Aya was here with me, leaning her shoulder against mine and letting me know that I was not alone.

I took a few minutes to compose myself before I stood up and continued to walk around the building.  My eyes must have still been red, but at least I could breathe again.

Aya was not coming back.  She had died eight years ago in a fiery plane crash in the Italian Alps after the plane had lost control in a bad weather system and veered off course.  When I had wordlessly said my goodbyes to her in Tokyo before she left for her three month business trip, I had not known that it would be goodbye forever.

My circle around the concert hall complete, I left without a look back.  Being there was too painful.  I wandered to my next goal.

I had done this same thing for the past seven years.  I had visited the places that had meant something to me and Aya.  They varied from year to year, but I always did go to a few.  I would visit where we first met, first took purikura, first went for coffee... One year I had even travelled down to Kobe and stayed at the same hotel we had stayed at after her nineteenth birthday concert.   Many firsts there, too.

That had been the most painful day.  I barely succeeded in containing my tears until after I had gone through the check-in process.  When I had reached my room - the same room we had stayed in - I had broken down and not moved for the entire night.  Maybe I had overreacted.  Now that I was on Tokyo soil, I could think so.  But I knew that once I was in the situation, it was hard to keep a level head and judge my behaviour.  In layman's terms (my preferred way of thinking), bad things happened and I got sad.

My next destination was reached.  It was the one place out of all that I went to every year.  I entered the coffee shop and ordered tea.  The place was one that we had gone to often because it was quiet and out of the way.  I could not remember the first time we had discovered it, but apparently we liked it enough to keep patronising it for many years.  I often wondered how it could still be in business after so many years.  I had expected it to suddenly go out of business and disappear without a word, much like many things in this city.

The owner of the place was somewhat of an enigma.  She had come to know me and Aya by sight, but she rarely spoke to us.  Occasionally she would ask if we were well.  When Aya had died, I did not visit for a year.  After, I would go infrequently.  At first I had been afraid that the staff would start acting strangely around me.  Aya's fame was not a secret from them, and neither was news of her death.  They did not say a word, however, and they treated me no differently than before.  The owner asked no questions about the girl missing from my side and continued to putter about behind the counter, asking me how I was every few months.  

There was one thing that the owner did do for me.  She had probably pieced together my tradition after the first two times, and from the third time I went there, I noticed that for that dreary week in October, she put fresh floral arrangements on all the tables.  Simple white flowers in small glasses.  Neither of us had said anything, but my continued patronage at that place said enough: I appreciated the gesture.

This year, the owner came and sat with me for the first time.

"Mind if I sit here?" she asked in her whispery voice.  She reminded me of an American hippie from the olden days.

I did mind, but I did not want to be rude.  I shook my head and she took a seat.

"I have a bone to pick with you," she started.

I sighed.  I did not want to fight on this day.

"What?"

"Why don't you ever order the recommended desert?"

"What?" I asked in surprise.  What kind of question was that?

"You order all of them except for the recommended one.  Why?"

I was at a loss for words.  There was no reason.  I just did not look at that part of the menu where the recommended desert was written.  I told the owner as much.

"Fujimoto-san," the owner began, addressing me by name for the first time in the ten years I had been going to her shop, "for the past six years I have struggled to come up with the most appropriate desert for this day especially for you, yet you have snubbed my efforts six times.  I've had enough!"

I looked at the woman in horror.  Had I snubbed her?  I had done no such thing!  

"I'm... sorry?" I apologised unsurely.

"Don't apologise.  Just order the damned recommended desert!"

I made an 'eep!' sound and ordered the dish.  

It was brought out quickly and placed in front of me.  The owner looked on proudly as I inspected it.

It was a slice of vanilla cake with white icing, served with white powdered sugar on a shiny white plate.

I'm sensing a white theme here, I thought sarcastically.

"I made it myself."

I nodded my thanks and tried it.  It was delicious.

But why had she been making deserts for me for the past six years?  Because I had lost my friend?  Was I really important enough a customer to be slaving away at the kitchen over?

I looked up at her to ask, but she was gone.  I looked around and could not spot her.  Had she disappeared into the back?  How had I not noticed her leave the table?

I poked at the cake with my fork.  At least the fork was silver.

But the cake was entirely white.  The flowers were white.

The colour reminded me of Aya.  Or rather, the interpretation of the colour reminded me of her.  

There were two ideas.  One was the obvious.  Death.  White was the colour of death.  Aya was dead.

The other was along the lines of pure and innocent.  Now, Aya was never the little goody goody everyone thought her to be, but her heart was good.  When she felt things, she did not go halfway.  She gave everything her all.  I could give a hundred examples (all involving me) of her complete lack of innocence, yet she had still sometimes retained a childlike view of things that would make me laugh as our roles reversed.

Sometimes I would picture her dressed all in white, floating above me like an angel in a movie, but without the religious connotations of one.  She would watch over me, guide me through trouble, celebrate with me in times of happiness, hold my hand when I was sad, and laugh at me when I was silly.

It was the same role as the one she had had when she had been alive.  That was part of what she had been for me.  A guardian.  She had taken care of me.

She had taken care of me!

I took a quick bite of cake and chewed thoughtfully.

She had taken care of me, and in my own way, I had taken care of her.  Now that she was gone, there was nobody there to take care of me.  Conversely, there was nobody for me to take care of.

That meant....

I chewed some more cake.

That meant...

The giddiness in me started to fade.  I had thought I was on the verge an idea.  Some sort of revelation that would make life from now on as perfect as it could get without Aya.  I was excited for nothing.  Nothing came of my thoughts.  There was no meaning behind the white flowers and white cakes.  The owner of the coffee shop was simply being hospitable and showing her respect, not trying to send me a message.

With a sigh, I finished my cake quickly, swallowing down my tears, and I left the shop without trying to find the owner to thank her.

I went back home and lay on the covers of my bed, staring up at the ceiling.  The white ceiling.  I turned on my side and looked at the wall.  The white wall.  I closed my eyes in frustration, but all I could see was the imprint of the white wall.  This presence of white was beginning to annoy me.  It meant nothing.  It was an empty symbol.

Except...

As I lay there with my eyes closed, I remembered a day almost ten years ago.  It was winter and we were lying on the carpeted floor, covered in blankets and reading magazines.

"Hey, Miki."

I looked up from my horoscope.

"It says here that when you die, all you see is white."

My eyebrow twitched.

"Why are you reading an article like that?" I asked.

"It's interesting.  You've read about near-death experiences before, haven't you?"

I nodded carefully.

"This talks about seeing white at the end of the tunnel.  Some people have survived it, but they guess that when the time comes and you die, you're thrown into a room of white light."

I had no good response.

"What do you think?  Don't you think that would be strange?  Closing your eyes and finding yourself in the light?"

I squirmed uncomfortably.

"Why are you thinking about this?  You're not dying anytime soon," I said, trying to brush off the scary topic.

"What do you think?" Aya insisted.

I shrugged.

"I think when you close your eyes, you see what you always see: black.  And bits of colour.  But eventually just black," I murmured.  I shook my head.  "Anyhow, when you die, your eyes stop working and you can't see anything.  The question is meaningless.  You wouldn't see white or black or anything."

"There you go being all practical," Aya grumbled.  Funny, that was usually my complaint about her.

"I just don't want to talk about dying.  It worries me," I said in a small voice.

She took the hint right away and closed her magazine, leaning over my shoulder to share mine.  I forgot about the conversation as she read horoscopes with me.

A room of white light.

Is that where Aya had gone?  Had she seen white after she took her final breath?  

I thought about it hard.  

I wanted her to have seen that white light.  To have seen black would have been too gloomy.  Too unforgiving.  

I wanted her to have been happy in her final moments.  

I wanted her to have smiled and to have had no regrets.  

I wanted her to have known that I would never forget a thing about her.

I would never know what really happened, though.  Thousands of kilometres and eight years lay between me and her.  An eternal distance.

The only thing I could do was remember.

So that is what I did on that day.  I remembered everything.  I remembered and cried.

Forever goodbyes were too hard.

end

It jumps around a lot.  Let's just say... Miki has trouble staying focused (when it's in fact ME who can't stay focused)
« Last Edit: March 07, 2007, 11:19:28 PM by OTN1 »

Offline Estrea

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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2007, 06:19:14 PM »
Oh. Wow. Loved the look into Miki's head. I went all :cry: at many parts. It was a very deep, very enlightening experience, a very illuminating journey through Miki's psyche. I'm impressed. Great job!

And you so have to write more. :P

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Offline rndmnwierd

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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2007, 06:54:33 PM »
It does seem very Miki-like in it's jumpiness, given the circumstances. You always write these two so well.

Offline Seagull

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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2007, 07:39:51 PM »
:MKcry1: really really sad *cries* but really good that everyone else have said

Offline Amarghetta

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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2007, 08:06:48 PM »
Oh, welcome back! The way you commented a few days ago, I didn't expect you to return anytime soon. :D

I was about to comment yesterday, but something happened. But I'm glad to do it now, since I got to read both parts at once...

I liked the surrealistic approach of the first installment, the sense of useless was adequately conveyed, IMHO.

In the second part, the interaction between Miki and the owner was funny. It's something that can actually happen, and that's why I considered it amusing. Your explanation of the thing about white and death is interesting, but also is your depiction of Miki's reasoning.

Offline Brat-san

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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2007, 09:08:48 PM »
I simply want to give Miki a hug right now.  Even if conciously I know Aya isn't dead. :ONtantrum:

Thanks for the Chapter! I needed to read something like this. :3

Offline JFC

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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2007, 10:15:31 PM »
:bow: :bow: :bow:

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline Tanachan

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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2007, 12:08:54 AM »
Holy crap. I actually cried during this. And trust me, it takes a LOT from a story to make me cry. A LOT. I don't even think I cried in "Red Dawn" and Aibon and Nono are two of my favorite characters!
If Helen Keller falls in the woods and no one is around, does she make a sound?

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Offline OTN1

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« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2007, 02:42:43 PM »
Stars?!
When the heck did this thing get stars?!
Thank you. :lol:
Quote from: Amarghetta;324200
I liked the surrealistic approach of the first installment, the sense of useless was adequately conveyed, IMHO.  
Thanks.  I'm glad it got through.
Quote from: Amarghetta;324200
In the second part, the interaction between Miki and the owner was funny. It's something that can actually happen, and that's why I considered it amusing. .
That coffee shop scene is a by-product of my Murakami worship.  Hah, his novels are filled with occurrences that have no deeper meaning.  I think it really works to inject a bit of randomness into the story.  It somehow makes it feel more real and normal to me.

I'm very lucky (and Tanachan's tear ducts are very unlucky) that I've got a lot of extra time lately.  Working very hard now to type this next part up.  I've been wanting to write a certain scene ever since I set it up in Love x 2.  Now it has a direction.

Offline Estrea

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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2007, 02:48:53 PM »
Quote from: OTN1;324778
Stars?!
When the heck did this thing get stars?!
Thank you. :lol:


*raises hand* Guilty as charged. XD You deserve them though. ;)

永遠に咲き続ける花なんていない、すべてはいずれ枯れて朽ち果てしまう。

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Offline OTN1

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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2007, 05:08:43 PM »
Much appreciated. =)
3

That memorial was a big waste of time.

That is what someone looking from a cold, rational point of view would think.

I did not believe that was quite true.  Yes, I got nothing practical done and I spent the entire day essentially moping, but it was cathartic.  I was able to cry it all out.

The following day was always hard to face.  This year I had to go into work, but bits and pieces of sadness still lingered in me.

Shibata e-mailed me.  She said hello, asked if I was well, and confirmed our late evening coffee date for next Thursday.  She mentioned nothing about the anniversary of Aya's death, but the act of sending an e-mail on that day (when she could have sent it much later) said it all.  Why say "I'm sad, too" or "I thought of Aya yesterday" when she could just poke her head in and remind me that I had someone to talk to.  Like I said time and time again about my friends, they knew what gave me comfort and what made me uncomfortable.  If Shibata had sent me an e-mail saying "I'm thinking of you," I would have felt embarrassed and she would have lost points.  She knew that.

Not once had Shibata asked what I did on that sad memorial day.  I had always preferred it that way.  I did not want to talk about something so personal.  However, for the entire week, all I had wanted was for Shibata to ask me.  This perturbed me, but made me even more eager to meet her.

I wrote back and said I was fine and that I would see her next Thursday.

The week passed by in a blur.  Thursday came quickly and I found myself standing in front of an Italian restaurant, waiting for the tardy Shibata.  We had both changed our coffee date to a dinner one at the last minute since neither of us had eaten yet.  She arrived running and her evident happiness outshone my own eagerness to talk to her.

We greeted, went inside, and ordered dinner.  As we started sipping white wine, we began to get into the meat of the talk.  I started us up.

"Okay, enough pleasantries.  What's your news?"

I was certain I knew what it was.  Certain.

"Well, you know I've been dating Yuya for four years," she started, her tone giddy, her face absolutely beaming.  

I smiled because of it.  I looked down to pick a piece of fluff off the table and then looked back up at her.

"Yes," I urged her on.

He asked her... He asked her...

"I asked him to marry me!"

My prepared exclamation of "congratulations" got stuck in my mouth and never made it past my lips.  

I had not expected that.

"Whh... you...?  You asked him ?"

"Mmhm," she responded in a peppy voice.

"And he said... yes?"

"Of course!  We've set the date for next summer," she grinned.

I groaned.

"Shiba-chan, you forgot the first rule.  Never ask him.  He's got to ask you.  That way you can be sure he approves of the idea.  Marriage is a big, scary deal for guys."

"I thought you'd be way more open-minded than that," Shibata sighed.

"Well, no.  I mean...  It's sort of..."

It was just the way I had grown up.  The way I had been taught to think.

"Besides, what would you know?" she deadpanned teasingly.

Double ouch.  She had a point.  But oh, how uncharacteristic of me it would be to simply accept my loss.

"I've been proposed to!" I cried out defensively, taking a nervous gulp of wine.

"Yeah.  By your sixty-three-year-old boss," she continued to tease.

"He was serious at the time!"

"You mean he was drunk at the time," Shibata corrected.  "But did his asking mean he was ready for marriage?"

"He's already married..." I said, feeling the need to argue dwindle.  I was losing this one fast.

"And your reply to him?"

"Was no..." I shrunk in my seat.

"Because?"

"I wasn't ready for it," I said defiantly.

Shibata laughed at my dismal attempt to save my pride.  I let her have her laugh before we moved on.

"I'm happy for you," I said genuinely.  

"Thank you."

We made a toast to happy summer weddings, and then I made her tell me all the details.  For twenty minutes I grilled her with questions and she answered.  Everything from the month of the ceremony, the proposed honeymoon destination, and even the wild idea of having children.

When our food arrived, we ate in silence for a bit, both hungry from a long day of work.  All the while, I begged some higher power to make Shibata ask me about last Tuesday.

"So what about you?" she asked.  I looked up and finished chewing.  "Anything new in your life?"

I knew she meant to ask anyone.

"No," I replied.  "Busy with work.  I'm recording an album.  No time for play."

I winked, but I guess the smile fell off my face a little too quickly.

"You know..." she said, her voice going into a certain zone that I knew was serious. "I think you need to lighten up."

Talk about being frank.

"I take plenty of time off.  Last Tuesday, for example."

It was my subtle hint to ask me what I had done, but she did not go for the bait.

"Ever since Aya died, you don't make any real effort," she said bluntly.

My stomach twisted at hearing the abrupt mention of her death and at the sounds of a fight I heard building up in Shibata’s voice.  We had had this argument before.  

I sighed.

"That's not true.  I make an effort," I responded, getting ready to list off my examples.  I could not get another word in edgewise, for she continued.

"No, you don't.  You sit around and think about the past.  You cry about it, but you don't make any effort to change it."

Never before had she bitten into me with such aggression.  It hurt me enough to make me want to cry, but of course I did not.  My defence mechanism started up.

"Well, what else can I do about it?  I can't change it.  The past happened.  You know that," I retaliated angrily.

"You could stand to learn from it.  Eight years, Miki.  Eight years and you haven't grown up one bit."

Why was she ragging on me now all of a sudden??  I hushed up and did not speak a word.  I sat there staring at her, fuming.

"You're still the same.  No... gloomier.  Destroying yourself bit by bit."

I swallowed my fear and looked at her through narrowed eyes.  She put her fork down and stared back.  We sat, locked in a battle of wills in a cozy Italian restaurant in Shinagawa.  It was not exactly an ideal situation.

What she had said... she was right.

But what did she know?  What kind of connection did she have with Yuya?  What did she understand?

"And if you think I don't understand what you and Aya had," she said, displaying her ability to read minds, "then you're right.  I don't.  But it doesn't mean I don't appreciate it."

I fought the urge to walk out of the restaurant.

"I know you hate hearing this kind of thing, but I do care about what happens to you.  There are lots of people around you who do.  If you would give us a chance, you could be happier.  Maybe be able to love some people a bit.  Don't think that associating with other people and being happy is some act of betrayal."

Inside I cringed.  Yet deeper insider, I agreed.

"I don't think it's a betrayal," I spoke tentatively.  "I just... I can't let go.  It hurts too much."

I was comfortable enough to admit that much.

"Of course it does," Shibata said, her tone doing a one hundred and eighty degree flip and turning soft and sympathetic.  "I told you already before that it's not easy.  But after a few steps, it gets better.  You have to make an effort."

I remembered her words.  Eight years ago.

"Remember how you told me that Aya had taught us - me - how to use our hearts?"

She smiled knowingly and nodded.

"And how you told me not to waste what I'd learned?  I think I've wasted it."

I could tell that she knew my admission hurt me.

"No you haven't."

But she gave me no further evidence.  I must have blown it big-time.

"Do you know what I did last Tuesday?" I asked, finally opening up the touchy subject myself.  

Shibata shook her head, so I explained.  I went on to tell her that I had done it every year for the past seven years.  She listened, holding her comments back.

"And so my whole life revolves around that one day.  My year is spent preparing to go on my little walk down memory lane.  You're right.  All I do is sit around and cry," I said bitterly.

"Miki-chan, I had no idea you did that every year.  All alone?"

"Yup."

She looked sad.

"You need to share it with someone.  You need to talk to someone," she said passionately.

I arched an eyebrow.

"The last set of friends I had that tried to convince me to see a shrink got the eternal brush off," I warned her.

"No, not a shrink," Shibata said in a repulsed way as though such a thought would never occur to her.  "I mean friends.  Friends!  Me, whoever else you talk to, family.  We can help you.  A shrink can't give you love, but we can."

I sighed for the nth time that night.

"I'd love to, but not many people know the whole story.  My best kept secret, remember?"

"I know it.  But people don't have to know the whole story to help."

"I can't," I said dejectedly, lowering my voice.

"Can't what?"

"Confide in you."

I truly could not.  The only person I could talk to did not exist in this world anymore.  I was unrelenting in my opinion about that.

"What do you think, Miki?" Shibata sighed.  "That Aya's going to come back?  That the universe is going to go 'oops, mistake!' and spit her back up?"

Gone was the niceness.  Back was her cold, hard tone.

Aya still alive?  I knew it was impossible.

But what if something crazy happened?  I did not go so far as to believe she would be resurrected, and I did not believe any sort of conspiracy theory that claimed Aya was an intelligence officer who had faked her death in order to go into deep cover (I had actually read a piece in a magazine that had suggested something so idiotic).

But what if...

What if this was all a dream?  A nightmare, rather.

Or what if she had survived but had lost her memory and was now living in a reclusive northern Italian village with a kind, adoptive family that had never seen an Asian before?

No, that was unlikely.  All I knew was that I could not let go for reasons that were unclear even to me.  It was a gut feeling that told me remembering Aya was important.  It was all that I was familiar with anyway.

"She's not coming back."

Hard words that felt like sandbags in my ears.

I knew it.  I understood it.  But the irrational part of me had had too many years to grow bigger and stronger.

"I know that," I scowled darkly.

We were silent as we ate for another few minutes.

"Miki-chan, have you ever been to Italy?"

"Excuse me?"

"Italy.  Have you ever been?"

Another one-eighty.  This time no anger.  Just curiosity.

"No," I answered.

"You should go.  It's a beautiful country.  I've been once."

Shibata took a casual bite of lettuce, the crunch clearly audible.

I nodded blankly.

"When Yuya's finished his dissertation, he's going to move to Tokyo."

More words out of the blue.  If she had been anyone else, I would have thought she was desperately trying to change the subject to keep the awkwardness away from our table.  But this was Shiba-chan, and she would never do something trivial like that.  She always had a point.  The trouble was sometimes it was hard to get.

"Oh?" I said politely.

I knew that Yuya was studying in a university in Kyushu.  He had six more months before his final paper was due.  Shibata's was due a term later.

"Then we can live together once our papers have been judged and the decision has been made.  We're just waiting for our universities to seal our fates,” she said with a chuckle.

"I see."

She smiled at me.

"And you're wondering why I'm suddenly saying all this."

I gave her a silent, affirmative look.

"Come on," she said, looking down at my plate to see I was finished.  "Let's get out of here and go for a walk."

She drained her glass of wine, wiped her mouth carefully on a serviette, and stood up.  I scrambled to copy her, following her to the cash register.  We paid for our meal and left.

We did not speak for some time.  Without warning, Shibata linked her arm around mine and walked in stride with me.  I became very uncomfortable.  She was not the overly-affectionate type.

"Why don't you take some time off work?" she asked.

"And do what?"

"Travel.  Go somewhere.  For example, Italy."

The symbolism of travelling to Aya's final resting place was not lost on me.

"Now's not a good time," I mumbled, reminding her that I was recording an album.

"Now is a perfect time," she insisted, playfulness working into her voice.

I shrugged out of her hold and walked alone once again.

"What are you angry at?" she asked as she walked a pace behind me.  I looked back at her.

"I'm not angry with you," I said quickly to kill any misunderstanding.

"No, you're angry at something.  What is it?  The mountain for being in the way?"

What a cruel, tasteless joke!  I could not believe she had just said that.

And yet she was right.  Was I angry at plate tectonics for creating the mountain that Aya's plane had crashed into?  The Earth for not being a flat plain?  The plane's manufacturer?  Whose fault was it?

Nobody's.

"No, it's not anybody's fault," I said quietly.

"And you don't have some sick, hair-brained idea that it's all your fault, do you?"

I laughed involuntarily.

"No, I'm not that stupid."

I had learned my lesson about being that insecure.

"Then why the anger?"

It was the only question I did not try to deny or answer.  I just looked at her without expression to show her I did not know the answer.

"Don't be scared," she said.

The last person who had said those words to me and had meant them was Aya.  And now, today, someone was saying them to me again and she meant them.

Suddenly I felt like a rotten, selfish, blind, hypocritical moron.  Here I was ignoring all of this girl's attempts to help me, while inside I was crying out for someone to listen to my fears.  Could I have been any stupider?

But I could not tell her this.  I did not know the words and the correct way to say it, so for the time being, I concluded, I had to keep silent.  

But perhaps I could do something - say something - to hint at what I was thinking.  To show her that I was going to take her advice from now on.

"Where in Italy do you recommend?"

She smiled widely and took my arm again, a hold that this time I willed myself not to squirm out of, as she began to single-handedly plan my trip.

I think she got my hint.

Offline Amarghetta

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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2007, 05:35:41 PM »
There's more? I mean, will there be more? :w00t:
This is becoming addictive...

Offline rndmnwierd

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« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2007, 06:41:04 PM »
Miki searches for closure and Shiba-chan sends her to Italy. I like.

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