Things That Can Be Broken
Part One - Promise
For Author's Notes please see my bio.
In order to move forward, reader, we must go back.
The boy closed his eyes and centered all of his concentration on forcing his burning lungs to fill once more. The thin stream of cool air he was able to suck in was a welcome balm, but it wasn't enough. His mouth and throat were becoming unbearably dry and sore, and his head felt painfully light. Fatigue was exploding behind his eyes and skewing his vision. He'd have to stop soon, or he'd pass out.
The boy's name was Hiroaki. He was a scrawny, unassuming creature that looked to be about eight, even though he was actually ten, almost eleven. He was small, with unruly brown hair and pasty skin that never took on color. His coffee brown eyes were unnaturally large in comparison with his other facial features, and they were wide and watery, giving him an uncanny resemblance to a small, quivery animal.
He hardly seemed of any interest to most, but, as I'm sure you have been taught, appearances are not what they seem, and there is a reason why this story is about Hiroaki, just as there is a reason why it starts here, in this forest under the cool, damp, shade of the trees. In fact, there is a reason for almost everything in this world, but reasons, like secrets, are tricky things, and most of them will never be known.
"Hiroaki!" A pleading cry from his pursuer rang out behind him, followed by the one word he did not want to hear, "Wait!"
This only spurred him onward. The last thing he planned do was wait. He gritted his teeth and forced his feet to carry him forward as fast and far as they could possibly go, despite the scorching tightness gathering in his chest. The lack of oxygen to his head made his legs seem disconnected from his body, as if they were moving mechanically, and it was less painful that way.
Up the next hill he staggered, until that hill ended, sudden and steep, into a drop he could never hope to live through. There was nowhere left to run. He could not escape, and his ineffectual body would not cooperate. He choked and struggled to breathe, gasping like a fish out of water. Furious with himself, he sank to his knees, taking frantic, shallow gulps of air. Relief would not come fast enough, and he could not get away.
"Hiroaki!?" The voice was closer now, and panting slightly from the effort of keeping chase, "Are you alright?"
"Go away Takehiro!" He hissed between wheezes, "I . . . hate you."
His sight was blurring. Shapes and colors were beginning to wash together, and his ears were ringing with the clanging sound of his rapid heartbeat. He fell forward on his hands and stared into the grass. He tried in vain to pick out the forms of individual blades and found that his new position was giving him a sickening sensation, like he was sinking forward into an endless expanse of green.
His sharp words caused Takehiro to visibly flinch as if he'd been stabbed, but he did not retreat. Trembling, he moved closer to his brother. Nervously, he pushed a thin wisp of blonde hair out of his eyes and spoke again.
"I'm sorry," He whispered the words so quietly that the slight breeze all but swallowed them up, "I'm really sorry."
Hiroaki did not speak, even though he could think of a million cutting words to say. He locked his jaw and fought against the terrible feeling of vertigo and anger welling up and constricting against his chest. He had a nauseous urge to either vomit or collapse, whichever came first.
"Hiroaki," Takehiro pleaded with fearful eyes, "Say something."
Hiroaki stared at his younger brother without bothering to veil the contempt in his expressive eyes. If it were physically possible, he would've seriously considered unleashing his temper and shoving him off the precipice they were standing on.
Takehiro was four years younger than him, and the last of four children born to Keisuke Ishida. His other two brothers were both considerably older than Takehiro and him. They were products of his father's first marriage to a young Japanese woman who had divorced him after three years of marriage. Mitsuo and Masahiko were both well into their twenties now and living in their own places. He hardly ever got an opportunity to see them. Takehiro, on the other hand, was always around and always annoying.
The baby of the family, he was spoiled rotten. He also got more of his looks from their American mother, making him exotic and interesting to other kids his age. Even at six, he was extraordinarily handsome, with fair, wheat blonde hair, deep hazel eyes that had a more western shape to them, and a perfectly proportioned face that looked nothing short of angelic, making it all the easier for their mother to pamper him. He was also tall, tan, and naturally skilled at anything athletic.
Hiroaki envied all of these things. He envied so deeply that it caused him physical pain. For it was a sad reality that Takehiro would always be stronger, better, handsomer, and loved more. Imagine, if you will, how it would feel to know that your own parents don't love you as much as they love your brother. And what if you knew exactly why? What if you could find no reason to blame them? Of course, you and I know that it will never be alright for a parent to bestow their affections on one of their children and not the other, regardless of strengths or talents. But Hiroaki had never been told this, and as far as he was concerned, his faults left him unworthy of attention or praise. He envied Takehiro, because he had what was required to be loved by another human.
And he was angry because Takehiro had committed an unspeakable crime.
"You, killed her," The words tasted awful on his raspy tongue, but saying them was strangely empowering, condemning even.
Up until today there had been one soul who had loved Hiroaki unconditionally. A small white mouse who not only adored him but relied on him for food, water and every other necessity. He had provided all of these things and more, pampering the tiny creature with all the love and affection he had to give, because she was the only one who gave it entirely in return. In that sense he had found a truly symbiotic love, and love, even if it is for something as insignificant as a mouse, makes life worth living.
Takehiro ruined that too. He was fascinated by the black button eyes, motorized, pink nose and soft white fur that she flaunted with pride. He'd always wanted a mouse of his own, but their parents said he was too young, leaving him to watch Hiroaki's delicate little pet with inquisitive eyes and a thin semblance of self control. He had never been faced with something that wasn't given to him on a silver platter, and he couldn't understand why Hiroaki would want to keep her all to himself. Love has only the wispiest of meanings in the mind of a six-year-old, and most of their understanding revolves around getting and taking. Wanting and having.
No good had come of it, and today the temptation had proven to be too much for the younger brother. He decided that his brother's rules meant nothing in the face of his desire, and had taken her out of her cage when Hiroaki was still at school. He hadn't meant to cause harm, but his small hands and uncoordinated movements had squished the life out of her, and no amount of repentance could reverse something as final as death. Hiroaki, on hearing of the tragedy, had fled. Takehiro had pursued, leaving them where they were now.
"I'm sorry," Takehiro's repeated as his eyes began to flood with unshed tears, "I just wanted . . . She was so soft. I just wanted to hold her."
"And you're never careful!" Hiroaki's own eyes burned with an angry sadness, threatening to make him cry too, but he was too weak to cry, and for once, he was thankful, "I told you not to touch her!"
Just saying those words made his hatred intensify, and it was because of this hatred that several fervent wishes were born. He wished, with each shallow breath he took, for Takehiro to suffer for what he'd done. He wished to be strong enough to outrun him. But most of all, he wished that someday he would have something that Takehiro would be envious of. Something he'd want desperately but could never have no matter how hard he tried.
An unbreakable cage around his love.
That, he decided, would make him happy.
But wishes as well as being wonderful, can be absolutely absurd, because there is no way of knowing what you've truly wished for until your wish has been granted. And therein lies the problem. For at this point Hiroaki could never have known that these three wishes, made in anger, would indeed be granted. He also couldn't have known then how desperately he'd wish he'd never wished them. But wishes are just what they are. Wishes. And they often don't obey anybody.
"Hiroaki, If you'll forgive me, I promise you this," Like Hiroaki's wishes, Takehiro's next words would haunt him for the rest of his life, "I'll never touch anything important to you again, as long as I live."
And indeed he did not, but promises, just like wishes and envy, can cost a man his life.