there are no happy endings
"Yuui, where is your suit?" Ashura asked, sounding exasperated. "Chii-san offered to take it to the dry cleaners, remember?"
I turned away from his window and blinked a few times as I made my brain catch up with Ashura's question. I felt out of it, just then. I definitely knew that Chii-san had been around this past week to help Ashura with some spring cleaning because Ashura was busy with something. She didn't work at the house on a regular basis anymore, since there was only the three of us. What was this about a suit? I felt ashamed.
Ashura frowned at me, making the squirm in my belly even worse, then he sighed and walked over to put a hand on my forehead. "Are you sick? You're acting strangely. I've asked you about that suit three times now."
"For my graduation ceremony," I suddenly recalled. Yes, he had mentioned it. "I have it. It's in the closet."
"Can you get it out of the closet, and give it to Chii-san, please?" he asked, but he didn't remove his hand. "You do feel a little cold."
"I'm fine, Ashura," I said with a smile. "It is a little chilly today."
Ashura's frown didn't look angry, just troubled. He made the guilt worse without even trying. His hand moved down to cup my cheek, which I didn't mind much. "I'm worried about you. Have you even opened the test results yet?"
I had applied and tested for a university in another town. I would have liked to remain closer, with my family, but I couldn't help the feeling recently that I wanted to be out of this house. It seemed like I spent all my time at my bedroom window, daydreaming, my eyes looking in the direction of Sonomi-san's house. A few times, I'd carried a book out to the field where Kurogane and I used to practice and sat under that tree all day, sometimes reading and sometimes just remembering. I kept hoping that Syaoran wouldn't want me to take him swimming this summer. I didn't know if I could stand the ghosts of three childish voices echoing together on the banks of the creek.
It was beginning to be obvious that I really needed to spend some time away from here. Which meant I needed to be sure I got into that university. It was getting bad if Ashura was worried.
"I was waiting until you had time to see them with me," I lied. I wasn't sure what the truth was. The whole feeling of not knowing, of not having things decided . . . had felt good. I'd been savoring it, a little.
Ashura moved away, and sat down on the bed. He had a softer look on his face now, and he patted the space beside him. "Sit. Yuui . . . do you want to talk? I feel like I know what this is about, but I need you to talk to me."
I didn't really want to talk about it. Ashura had been leaving me alone these past few months, and I was too comfortable with not talking about it. "It" being Kurogane, which Ashura obviously knew.
It had felt like a mistake almost the moment Kurogane disappeared. A little coil of regret snarled up in the pit of my belly the moment Ashura turned away from sending him away, and there it lodged as a permanent fixture. I didn't know how to begin to say so, or if I should. I — We had made so many plans for how the next few years were going to be. It would be such a waste . . .
The past few months had felt empty.
I tested it out on my tongue. "It's not the same."
Ashura was patient beside me. It was like he already knew what I was going to say.
"Without him," I added, as if either of us needed the clarification. I'd stopped crying just before Kurogane left, and I hadn't cried since. It all came rushing up into my throat to choke me when Ashura put his arm around me. "Ashura—"
"You're all right," he said quietly, and let me lean into him.
"I don't know what I'm doing," I confessed. "I can't stay here without driving myself crazy, but if I leave then what was the point of staying behind?"
Ashura had stopped answering questions like that. I guess he wanted me to think them through on my own now.
"I'm not ready to be, you know, whatever it is that I need to be there," I said.
It was true. Maybe it wasn't true until I said it. The idea of joining Kurogane in his world, of being beside him as he rebuilt a province and a people . . . it still made my heart pound in the middle of the night, when I'd roll over half-asleep and miss the way his skin felt. It made me feel tiny and sick to my stomach. I didn't know what made him so much more ready than I—maybe he'd just always been more self-reliant or maybe it was the way he never leaned on Sonomi-san or Tomoyo the way I had leaned on my family. Maybe the real reason was just that he didn't have as much of a choice as I did about going to Nihon. No matter what the reason, he seemed to have made the last jump into adulthood without me.
Which wasn't his fault, and therefore I wasn't angry with him. At all. Not a bit.
"Then let's look at those test scores, shall we?" Ashura said, getting up and going to the desk to pick up the envelope. "You might not have gotten in, after all."
His eyes were twinkling, because my dad is a jerk and his favourite time to make fun of me is when I want to be coddled.
Of course I got in, and who needed to see the test scores to know that? I'm a genius.