At the End of the Day
(Edited because my absent-mindedness has struk again and I forgot to put the "Disclaimer:I do not own Digimon or any of its' characters" part in.)
The pain of losing a loved one never really leaves you, does it?
I'd already experienced it just over a year before that day, when my grandmother unexpectedly died of a heart attack. My mother and I were devastated, of course but at least we still had each other. We would get through this.
At least, that's what we thought.
Then one summer day that all changed. I'd gone to the library to get the next book in a series I'd just discovered. Mom was just getting out of work, or so I thought. It was just approaching sunset when I walked the remaining two blocks from the library, backpack full of books, only to notice a police car outside our apartment. I shrugged it off at the time. Our apartment building had multiple families living there. Police cars outside were slightly unusual, but nothing to panic over.
What was different was that the police car's door opened up as I moved around it. A police officer stepped out in front of me.
"Kouichi Kimura?" He asked. I got what could only be called a bad feeling in my stomach. My throat suddenly felt dry, and my voice didn't quite work. I could only nod mutely.
He sighed. "Your mother's been an accident. You need to come with us to the hospital."
That was when I found my voice. "I-is she going to be okay? What happened?"
"She was hit by a car just after she got out of work. I don't know how bad it is, but I was told to bring you to the hospital."
I gasped and moved to the car's other door. Mom was injured, possibly badly...Maybe even dying. A little voice inside of me told me I was a horrible person for going to the library. If I'd been at home instead, we'd be there already. I shuddered and put a mental clamp on that little voice. There was no way either of us would have known this would happen. I wasn't a horrible person.
But that didn't stop me from feeling horrible that whole ride to the hospital.
There was a white-coated doctor waiting for us when we got there. He waved down the police car, then opened the door for me.
"Kouichi, right?" He asked. I nodded. I wanted to ask how my mother was doing, but the doctor gave me no time. "This way," he said, and led me away from the car at a brisk enough pace that I had to nearly jog to keep up. We went like this through the hospital's lobby to the elevator. Once inside I finally got a chance.
"How bad is it? The police officer didn't know."
The doctor cleared his throat awkwardly. "Doctor Kurosawa is the one in charge of the surgery, he's the one to ask."
I blinked, that sinking feeling starting up again in my stomach. Nobody I asked knew how badly my mother was hurt. What if she was dying? What if she was already dead? What would happen to me? I felt my eyes pricking with unshed tears. Oh, please don't let her be dead, I thought. This had to be some kind of cruel joke. Or maybe it was somehow my fault...No! This wasn't my fault. There was no way either of us had known this was going to happen, I reminded myself. If we had, Mom would've avoided that car and right now I'd be at home curled up with that new book and Mom would be making dinner.
I was led into a waiting room, rather than an emergency room. That wasn't quite what I was expecting. Either they had decided that I was too young for a surgery, and had decided to spare me the sight, or...
...Or my mother was already...
I took a deep breath as the unshed tears threatened again. My hands went through my hair in an effort to stop them from shaking. There wasn't much point in panicking when I didn't even know what was going on. For all I knew, my mother was going to be fine.
I was invited to take a seat. That much at least I could do. I sat down, but didn't have too long to wait before another doctor came in. This one was female, older than my mother. Her graying hair was short, sticking up a bit like the feathers on a bird. She looked really grim. I looked up at her as she came to stand in front of me.
"Kouichi? Your mother...We couldn't save her..."
She said more, but I never did hear what it was. All I could think of was that my mother was dead, she wasn't coming back home to make dinner. She was gone, just like Grandma, and I was alone. The tears that I'd been holding back since I'd arrived at the hospital broke through in my overwhelming grief, and I completely broke down.
I don't remember too much of the hours that followed. I remember crying myself out on some person's shoulder. I think it was an orderly or volunteer. I can't remember what they looked like, or even if it was a man or woman. I think whoever it was just let me cry myself out.
It was the sun streaming through the window that woke me up the next morning. I sat there, wondering why I'd left the window shade open when I realized that this wasn't my bed at home. That was when the memories of last night, and the crushing grief, hit me like a ton of bricks.
I sat up and hugged my knees to my chest as the tears started again. Oh, Mom! I wanted to be with her so much...I wished I could go back in time and stop that car from hitting her. I wanted to go home. I wanted...
What would happen to me now? I wondered, more in an effort to keep myself from being drowned by the wave of grief and loneliness. Most likely I'd end up with my father, if they could track him down. My father...I hadn't thought of him in years. My parents had gotten a divorce when I was two, and try as I might, I couldn't remember Mom saying anything about him afterwards. He'd left us, I thought as the tears of grief became tears of bitter rage. If Dad had stayed with us, Mom wouldn't have had to work so much to support me, and she would've had a different job. She'd be alive now.
This was all my father's fault.
I took a deep breath to steady myself. What was I saying? It wasn't Dad's fault any more than it was my own. No, the only person at fault was the one who drove the car. Especially since Mom was a big stickler for crosswalks. I wondered what that person's excuse had been. Speeding...Driving while talking on a cell phone, perhaps. It had been a bit early in the day for alcohol, but I couldn't completely rule that out.
And what if they couldn't find my father, or if he didn't want to take care of me? I shuddered as more tears came down. I wouldn't end up in a foster home. Mom had friends from her job...Maybe some of them could take me in. Or my classmates from school. Or...I had no idea, but it was something to think about besides the grief. Something to think about...I glanced at the floor beside the bed. Sure enough, someone had placed my backpack there. A backpack with several books in it...And books meant something better to keep my mind busy, and the overwhelming grief away.
I was three chapters into the book when the door opened and a female nurse came in with a tray full of food.
"Kouichi? Are you feeling better?"
Now, that was probably the stupidest question she could ask. Of course, I wasn't feeling better, I'd just lost my mother! I gripped the edges of the book to keep my hands from shaking as she unfolded little legs on the "tray" to make a table, and put it down over me.
"I brought you some breakfast. The doctor says you might not have much of an appetite, but she says to at least try some. Your mother wouldn't be too happy with you if you starved to death, right? I'll be back in an hour."
The nurse was out before I could respond...Even if I wanted to. With a sigh I put the book down and mechanically started eating. I couldn't tell you how the food tasted, I was too busy trying to convince myself that I had an appetite. Reminding myself that life went on, even if my mother was...Was gone...
I swallowed down as much of the food as I could, then went back to curling up with that book. As she had said, the nurse was back an hour later to take the tray. She also had some news.
"Kouichi, we've gotten in contact with your father. He's going to take care of the funeral arrangements, and he'll also be taking custody of you." The nurse said that all matter-of-factly. I wondered if she'd just started her career in nursing. She clearly had no idea of what I was going through, and even less of what the situation with my father was like. And worse, she'd brought up something else I hadn't wanted to think about. The funeral. Here in Japan, we cremate our dead. The bones are traditionally picked out of the ashes by relatives. In fact, my mother and I had done just that a year ago for Grandma. And now I would have to do it all again. For my mother. Alone.
"...Your father will be here in about a half-hour," the nurse was saying, once again completely oblivious to the fact that my hands were clenched, and my shoulders were shaking with the effort to stifle tears. Or maybe she wasn't. Doctors weren't supposed to be emotionally attached to their patients. How could anyone get used to the thought of losing people? Even if it was their job to make sure those people stayed living.
Unemotional or new, it didn't matter. The nurse was just doing her job. I wasn't going to hold it against her. I politely thanked her, then waited until she left to curl up in my bed again as my body shook with suppressed sobs. It wasn't fair! My mother should've been at home, enjoying her rare day off! Not dead. Not on some table in an emergency room, or a crematory's slab, or wherever they kept the dead! I closed my eyes and leaned into the pillow, hoping to at least get some sleep. Now there was a thought. If I could fall asleep before my father could get here, I not only wouldn't have to deal with him, but I could forget about my mother...
...For a few hours, at least.
In the end it might have been better if I'd stayed awake. My sleep was filled with nightmares of my mother and grandmother, and being left alone with the cold emotionless faceless stranger that was my father. I awoke to find myself tangled in the blankets, then realized that I had left the world of my nightmares for something even more inescapable: Reality. My mother and grandmother were still gone, and I was still alone...A shuddering sob shook my body as that truth sank into me.
Then a hand gently settled on my shoulder. Probably some doctor or nurse. I closed my eyes as I felt the blanket being pulled over me. I must've knocked it off in my nightmares.
A cell phone rang from where the person behind me was. Wait, weren't cell phones not allowed in hospitals? That meant, I realized with a sinking heart, that the person visiting me was none other than my father. I stifled a gasp and lay still, pretending to still be asleep. There was a soft curse behind me as my father fiddled around with his cell phone, then the ringing stopped.
"Satomi?" Dad said, obviously talking to the phone. "Yeah, I'm at the hospital. He's asleep right now. How's Kouji taking it?"
I had no idea who Satomi or Kouji were, and at this point I really didn't care. I wanted to just put my hands on my ears to block out the conversation altogether, but that would prove I was awake, and I'd have to deal with my father.
"I know I know," my father sounded like he didn't want to deal with this situation, either. "I can't make any excuses about how I lied to both of you. All I can do is try to make up for what happened." There was another pause, then: "I understand. I'll see you later, all right?" Then there was the "click" of the phone hanging up. I heaved a mental sigh of relief.
"All right Kouichi, I know you're awake," my father said suddenly. I winced, but otherwise didn't move. I did not want to have anything to do with my father. Not unless he had a way to bring my mother back from the dead...
"I know you don't want to have anything to do with me right now," Dad continued. "Believe me, I honestly didn't expect the marriage to crumble so quickly after you were born. Your mother..."
"Please," I said, in a voice that sounded raspy to my ears. Probably from all the crying I'd been doing. "Just go away."
"I can't do that. Look Kouichi, whether we like it or not your mother is dead, and..." He paused, I think it was to choose his words. "The only family you have left is on my side. I don't want you to be alone, okay?"
I ignored him.
"There's something else I need to talk about, Kouichi. Did Tomoko...Did your mother ever tell you you have a twin brother?"
There was no way this was possible. Right? It couldn't be true. A brother...Come to think of it, I had once caught Mom looking at a photo album when I was little. When I'd gotten a glance at the book I'd seen pictures of what I'd thought was myself as a baby. Strangely I'd never seen that photo album again. She must have hid it up in the closet or something. And if the boy in the pictures hadn't been me, but a brother I never knew...
And hadn't my father mentioned someone called Kouji when he was on the phone?
I finally rolled over to look at my father. He wasn't the faceless, cold man that had shown up in my nightmares. Instead, he was a perfectly normal looking man. He also looked a bit like me. Mostly just the face, though. I didn't need glasses, for instance.
"B-Brother?" I could barely get the word out. "But...That's...Why didn't she tell me?"
"Probably for the same reason I never told Kouji about you until now," he told me. "With the divorce getting so ugly, it just hurt too much to talk about either of you, so I didn't. When Kouji asked about his mother, all I could say was that she was dead. And then everything came back to bite me in the behind."
I couldn't really say anything to that. The silence that followed suddenly go very awkward, and my father cleared his throat.
"A-anyways, I'm going to see who I can talk to about getting you out of here. You're technically not supposed to be here, since you aren't physically hurt but nobody wanted to send you home after all that." He got up to go but as he did I caught a glimpse of gold on his right hand.
A wedding ring.
It was bad enough that he had abandoned me and Mom, but to leave us for another woman? That was unthinkable! How dare he! I started shaking again, this time with suppressed rage. I couldn't forgive him for doing this to us. To me!
I was lost in my rage and grief that I hardly noticed when my father came back in a few minutes later.
"Kouichi? I'm gonna need your help for this...Kouichi?" A hand gently shook my shoulder. I turned my head to glare at him.
"You're married." I said it flatly. My father blinked, like he hadn't been expecting this. That if anything made me even angrier. "Was she worth leaving us for? Was she worth all this pain?"
"Kouichi!" My father actually had the nerve to sound shocked. At some distant level I too was shocked. I'm not normally the kind of person to explode like that, but at that point the rage was just too much. I got to my feet, fists clenched as I continued.
"You left my mother to raise me all by herself! If you hadn't divorced her she wouldn't have had to work so hard. She'd be alive now if you hadn't..."
And I couldn't say anything more. The tears were choking me; that was nothing compared to the crushing wall of grief, and I collapsed against him sobbing. Partly because of the grief, partly because of what I had just said. Was I really blaming my father for something he had nothing to do with? My father's arms wrapped around me.
"It's like there's a hole in your heart that can't possibly be filled," Dad remarked. "I can't really say I understand what you're going through, but when...The divorce happened, it was very similar. I lost both you and your mother, and couldn't do a thing about it. I didn't take it very well...I buried myself in my work, took every promotion they'd give me. I even moved around to keep busy. It wasn't until I met Satomi that I realized that moving all the time was even harder on Kouji. Every time he made friends, I got promoted, and we'd have to move again."
I felt the arms around me tighten.
"I'm only human...I make mistakes. So did your mother. If we'd found some way to make the marriage, or even the divorce, work out I'm sure your mother would still be here. I'm sorry it didn't work. I'm sorry we split you boys up. It always seems to be the good people that suffer the most, doesn't it?"
I gulped down another sob and looked up at him.
"D-Dad, I'm sorry too...I didn't mean what I said about you."
He smiled. "It's okay. You're going through a lot right now. Your brother called me worse, when he found out last night. He's going through a lot, too." He turned, taking one arm off my shoulder to pick up the papers he'd evidently dropped when I had started yelling. "Now let's get these papers done so we can get out of here and go introduce you to your brother."
"Y-Yeah," I said wiping my eyes. "And...Dad?"
He looked at me.
Author's note: I'm not normally the type of person to write sad stories like this. It was a...I think the phrase is "Plot Bunny" that decided to pay me a visit and wouldn't leave.
Anyways, I'd originally thought of this as a one-shot, if the Plot Bunny stays with me (Let's just say I've got a ton of half-written fics I'm struggling with because the plot didn't really go anywhere.) I might expand this. I probably will, since the brothers have yet to meet.
I hope I did this realistically enough. I consider myself fortunate to have never lost anyone I'm close to, but in the last six months I've had a friend and relative both lose loved ones. That sadly was what started the Plot Bunny in the first place. Real-life angst over not being able to do anything for a friend or relative beyond moral support. Yeah, I think most of us have been there at one time or another.
Oh, I should mention that the title comes from a Les Miserables song. One of those depressing songs with a hopeful ending. I'd just seen a live performance of Les Mis, and the music was still in my head.
That's enough rambling. Reviews are appreciated. Thanks for reading!
Edit: Looks like this isn't going to be one chapter after all. I'm working on chapter two right now.